Albert G. Mackey on the Ineffable Name, Part 5

The Ineffable Name Part 5
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.

In the mediaeval history of the Christian church, the great ignorance of the people, and their inclination to a sort of materialism, led them to abandon the symbolic representations of the Deity, and to depict the Father with the form and lineaments of an aged man, many of which irreverent paintings, as far back as the twelfth century, are to be found in the religious books and edifices of Europe. But, after the period of the renaissance, a better spirit and a purer taste began to pervade the artists of the church, and thenceforth the Supreme Being was represented only by his name—the tetragrammaton—inscribed within an equilateral triangle, and placed within a circle of rays. Didron, in his invaluable work on Christian Iconography, gives one of these symbols, which was carved on wood in the seventeenth century, of which I annex a copy.

But even in the earliest ages, when the Deity was painted or sculptured as a personage, the nimbus, or glory, which surrounded the head of the Father, was often made to assume a triangular form. Didron says on this subject, “A nimbus, of a triangular form, is thus seen to be the exclusive attribute of the Deity, and most frequently restricted to the Father Eternal. The other persons of the trinity sometimes wear the triangle, but only in representations of the trinity, and because the Father is with them. Still, even then, beside the Father, who has a triangle, the Son and the Holy Ghost are often drawn with a circular nimbus only.”

The triangle has, in all ages and in all religions, been deemed a symbol of Deity.

The Egyptians, the Greeks, and the other nations of antiquity, considered this figure, with its three sides, as a symbol of the creative energy displayed in the active and passive, or male and female, principles, and their product, the world; the Christians referred it to their dogma of the trinity as a manifestation of the Supreme God; and the Jews and the primitive masons to the three periods of existence included in the signification of the tetragrammaton—the past, the present, and the future.

In the higher degrees of Masonry, the triangle is the most important of all symbols, and most generally assumes the name of the Delta, in allusion to the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, which is of the same form and bears that appellation.

The Delta, or mystical triangle, is generally surrounded by a circle of rays, called a “glory.” When this glory is distinct from the figure, and surrounds it in the form of a circle (as in the example just given from Didron), it is then an emblem of Godʼs eternal glory. When, as is most usual in the masonic symbol, the rays emanate from the centre of the triangle, and, as it were, enshroud it in their brilliancy, it is symbolic of the Divine Light. The perverted ideas of the pagans referred these rays of light to their Sun-god and their Sabian worship.

But the true masonic idea of this glory is, that it symbolizes that Eternal Light of Wisdom which surrounds the Supreme Architect as with a sea of glory, and from him, as a common centre, emanates to the universe of his creation, and to which the prophet Ezekiel alludes in his eloquent description of Jehovah: “And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from his loins even downward, I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.” (Chap. 1, ver. 27.)

Dante has also beautifully described this circumfused light of Deity:—

“There is in heaven a light whose goodly shine

Makes the Creator visible to all

Created, that in seeing him, alone

Have peace; and in a circle spreads so far,

That the circumference were too loose a zone

To girdle in the sun.”

On a recapitulation, then, of the views that have been advanced in relation to these three symbols of the Deity which are to be found in the masonic system, we may say that each one expresses a different attribute.

The letter G is the symbol of the self-existent Jehovah.

The All-Seeing Eye is the symbol of the omnipresent God.

The triangle is the symbol of the Supreme Architect of the Universe—the Creator; and when surrounded by rays of glory, it becomes a symbol of the Architect and Bestower of Light.

And now, after all, is there not in this whole prevalence of the name of God, in so many different symbols, throughout the masonic system, something more than a mere evidence of the religious proclivities of the institution? Is there not behind this a more profound symbolism, which constitutes, in fact, the very essence of Freemasonry? “The names of God,” said a learned theologian at the beginning of this century, “were intended to communicate the knowledge of God himself. By these, men were enabled to receive some scanty ideas of his essential majesty, goodness, and power, and to know both whom we are to believe, and what we are to believe of him.”

And this train of thought is eminently applicable to the admission of the name into the system of Masonry. With us, the name of God, however expressed, is a symbol of DIVINE TRUTH, which it should be the incessant labor of a Mason to seek.

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

Mackey’s Symbolism of Freemasonry