Albert G. Mackey on the Ineffable Name, Part 4

The Ineffable Name Part 4
Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (
Extracted from the
According to Mackey Column in the November 2022 Issue

Albert Mackey
Albert Mackey
(Public Domain)

The following appears as Chapter XXIV on pp. 176-197 of the 1869 edition of “The Symbolism of Freemasonry” by Albert G. Mackey.

We know, for instance, from the recent researches of the archaeologists, that in all the documents of the ancient Egyptians, written in the demotic or common character of the country, the names of the gods were invariably denoted by symbols; and I have already alluded to the different modes by which the Jews expressed the tetragrammaton. A similar practice prevailed among the other nations of antiquity. Freemasonry has adopted the same expedient, and the Grand Architect of the Universe, whom it is the usage, even in ordinary writing, to designate by the initials G.A.O.T.U., is accordingly presented to us in a variety of symbols, three of which particularly require attention. These are the letter G, the equilateral triangle, and the All-Seeing Eye.

Of the letter G I have already spoken. A letter of the English alphabet can scarcely be considered an appropriate symbol of an institution which dates its organization and refers its primitive history to a period long anterior to the origin of that language. Such a symbol is deficient in the two elements of antiquity and universality which should characterize every masonic symbol. There can, therefore, be no doubt that, in its present form, it is a corruption of the old Hebrew symbol, the letter yod, by which the sacred name was often expressed. This letter is the initial of the word Jehovah, or Ihoh, as I have already stated, and is constantly to be met with in Hebrew writings as the symbol or abbreviature of Jehovah, which word, it will be remembered, is never written at length. But because G is, in like manner, the initial of God, the equivalent of Jehovah, this letter has been incorrectly, and, I cannot refrain from again saying, most injudiciously, selected to supply, in modern lodges, the place of the Hebrew symbol.

Having, then, the same meaning and force as the Hebrew yod, the letter G must be considered, like its prototype, as the symbol of the life-giving and life-sustaining power of God, as manifested in the meaning of the word Jehovah, or Ihoh, the generative and prolific energy of the Creator.

The All-Seeing Eye is another, and a still more important, symbol of the same great Being. Both the Hebrews and the Egyptians appear to have derived its use from that natural inclination of figurative minds to select an organ as the symbol of the function which it is intended peculiarly to discharge. Thus the foot was often adopted as the symbol of swiftness, the arm of strength, and the hand of fidelity. On the same principle, the open eye was selected as the symbol of watchfulness, and the eye of God as the symbol of divine watchfulness and care of the universe. The use of the symbol in this sense is repeatedly to be found in the Hebrew writers. Thus the Psalmist says (Ps. xxxiv. 15), “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry,” which explains a subsequent passage (Ps. cxxi. 4), in which it is said, “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris, their chief deity, by the symbol of an open eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all their temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne, to which was sometimes added an abbreviated figure of the god, and sometimes what has been called a hatchet, but which, I consider, may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square.

The All-Seeing Eye may, then, be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence—his guardian and preserving character—to which Solomon alludes in the Book of Proverbs (xv. 3), when he says, “The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, beholding (or as it might be more faithfully translated, watching) the evil and the good.” It is a symbol of the Omnipresent Deity.

The triangle is another symbol which is entitled to our consideration. There is, in fact, no other symbol which is more various in its application or more generally diffused throughout the whole system of both the Spurious and the Pure Freemasonry.

The equilateral triangle appears to have been adopted by nearly all the nations of antiquity as a symbol of the Deity.

Among the Hebrews, it has already been stated that this figure, with a yod in the centre, was used to represent the tetragrammaton, or ineffable name of God.

The Egyptians considered the equilateral triangle as the most perfect of figures, and a representative of the great principle of animated existence, each of its sides referring to one of the three departments of creation—the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral.

The symbol of universal nature among the Egyptians was the right-angled triangle, of which the perpendicular side represented Osiris, or the male principle; the base, Isis, or the female principle; and the hypothenuse, their offspring, Horus, or the world emanating from the union of both principles.

All this, of course, is nothing more nor less than the phallus and cteis, or lingam and yoni, under a different form.

The symbol of the right-angled triangle was afterwards adopted by Pythagoras when he visited the banks of the Nile; and the discovery which he is said to have made in relation to the properties of this figure, but which he really learned from the Egyptian priests, is commemorated in Masonry by the introduction of the forty-seventh problem of Euclidʼs First Book among the symbols of the third degree. Here the same mystical application is supplied as in the Egyptian figure, namely, that the union of the male and female, or active and passive principles of nature, has produced the world. For the geometrical proposition being that the squares of the perpendicular and base are equal to the square of the hypothenuse, they may be said to produce it in the same way as Osiris and Isis are equal to, or produce, the world.

Thus the perpendicular—Osiris, or the active, male principle—being represented by a line whose measurement is 3; and the base—Isis, or the passive, female principle—by a line whose measurement is 4; then their union, or the addition of the squares of these numbers, will produce a square whose root will be the hypothenuse, or a line whose measurement must be 5. For the square of 3 is 9, and the square of 4 is 16, and the square of 5 is 25; but 9 added to 16 is equal to 25; and thus, out of the addition, or coming together, of the squares of the perpendicular and base, arises the square of the hypothenuse, just as, out of the coming together, in the Egyptian system, of the active and passive principles, arises, or is generated, the world.

The full text of the 1869 edition of Mackey’s “The Symbolism of Freemasonry” may be found at:

Mackey’s Symbolism of Freemasonry