The Several Secrets of the Letter G
By Illustrious Companion Benjamin Williams
Submission to the General Grand Council Education Committee
Illustrious Companion Benjamin Williams
In all regular and well-governed Lodges a letter “G” hangs in the East above the Master’s station. Some say it stands for “Geometry”. Others, that is stands for “God”. Some note that “G” is the seventh letter of the alphabet and allude, with mysticism in their eyes, that seven is a number familiar to Freemasonry.
Of course, each of these interpretations is correct. There is nothing to discount them. And why should we? They each have a valuable lesson to impart. The beauty of symbols, which inform and uphold the transmission of our Gentle Craft, exists in a type of cognitive resonance. Symbols become different things for different people, they evolve and change in the mind’s eye, never losing old associations, but gaining new ones. Symbols resonate cognitively, and often, despite the individual meaning ascribed to them, arrive at a common center regardless. So, in the nature of this symbolic resonance, to bring us to a center, I’d like to present to you just one of the several secret meanings of the Letter G.
Funnily enough, when we’re done, we’ll have ended where we started. There is much to be said for returning to the place from whence we came, and seeing it as if for the first time.
But, in order to introduce you to these ideas to explain them cogently, we will need to quickly recap a couple of points with which you may already be familiar. Please indulge me.
So, the Kabbalah, as you doubtless already know, is an oral tradition that interprets the scriptures and, indeed, reality, by using (among other techniques) a type of symbolic recombination to reveal that which cannot be seen by the eyes. This symbolic recombination, as I’ve termed it, is used to illustrate hidden meanings, meanings gleaned from symbols often hidden in plain sight. I refer, of course, to the practice of Gematria – a word whose first letter is, notably, “G”. Gematria is just one symbolic key, among so many, that are usable to unlock these hidden meanings. Our Brethren of earlier times were familiar with Gematria, indeed far more than the present day Mason it seems. However, that appears to be changing.
To continue, Gematria is a technique used most notably by Rabbis to numerically associate meaning between words. Please refer to the preceding article for a discussion of Gematria, its various types and uses, if you are not already familiar with the term.
In Hebrew the letter G is g (gimel – pronounced gee-mill). It is the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The letters comprising the word gimel are (reading from the right) gimel, mem, and lamed:
L m g
The numerical significances or which are (reading from the right): 3, 40, and 30. The sum of which is 73. The letter gimel, the Hebrew “G”, then, has significance with the numbers 3 (it’s own number) and 73, the number of its name.
Gematria seeks to pair words of like numerical value. So what is another word having the numerical value of 73 which is important to Masonry and also associated with the East, where we typically find the letter “G” in the Lodge?
The Hebrew word for wisdom is Hockmah. Hockmah has a value of 73 when we spell out the word and combine the numerical values represented by each letter.
H m k x
73 = 5 + 40 + 20 + 8
Wisdom, or Hockmah, is a word associated with the second sephira on the Tree of Life, the sephira immediately preceding the sephira Binah, understanding.
“The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth, by understanding hath he established the heavens…” Proverbs 3: 19. KJV
“He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his direction.” Jeremiah 10:12. KJV.
Thus Wisdom and Gimel are paired in Gematria, and, according to this practice, may be used as a code to represent each other.
The second sefira, Wisdom, on the Tree of Life, is also known as Ab, “Father”. Ab is comprised of the letters alef and bet – which have a significance all of their own, and represent creation through the blessing of God, and the bestowal of wisdom in the utterance of the Word. It should be noted, however, for the purposes of our discussion here, that the word Ab has the numerical equivalence of 3:
3 = 2 + 1
So again, the nature of Wisdom – the “father”, that which inseminates action to bear the fruit of good labor – is again paired with the letter gimel because the letter gimel itself is also the number 3. The name of the letter is the name of wisdom, in that the name of the letter springs from the letter itself in the same way as wisdom springs forth from the Father. Indeed, we know the letter by its name. And we know the Father by His Wisdom.
The symbolism of the number 3 in representation of Deity will not escape the thoughtful reader, no doubt.
Yet there is more. In many churches around the world we see a symbol of Deity illustrated by the eye in the triangle. The Great Seal of the United States also uses this symbol. Why? To explain one meaning pertinent to our discussion at hand, we must return again to the Kabbalah.
The triangle has long been a symbol of Deity in and of itself. The three sides of the triangle allude to the number 3, the triune nature of God in omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The Trinity of manifestation, that between two principles a third is evinced – between potential differences of opposite charge, for example, current manifests. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty (Hockmah, Gevurah, and Tifareth speaking Kabbalistcally). There are many more examples. Thus, we have the triangle like the three pillars on the Tree of Life itself, extending down from the void.
So why the eye? And what does this have to do with the letter “G”?
The Hebrew letter ayin is a letter used in the Kabbalistic code to allude to the quality of endlessness. Ayin is the endless, illimitable principle of what Plato called the Supreme Good. Ayin manifests as the endless, unlimited eternity from which the center was born and the effulgence of the Ayin Sof – the limitless knowing – the I am that I am – initiated. The Ayin Sof became the Ayin Sof Aur, and the limitless light of reason filled the heavens. Thus began the creation, so the Kabbalists tell, and the Tree of Life – the Sephiroth – extended into the void in a successive emanation into Being and the limited experience of the mortal, that ever changing cosmos set in motion, emerged in glory of the eternal and unchanging that all things could come to pass.
The Hebrew word ayin means “eye”. There is only one eye because there is only one Supreme Good. There is only one endlessness. That which is illimitable could never be two – for two is the end of one and the beginning of another. At the same time, that which is illimitable can not really be thought of as one alone – for that is a limit. Thus the one eye represents the totality – what the Gnostics called the pleroma – an endless, shining unity that encompasses all. Hence the eye – that which sees and bares witness. There is one eye, because there is One God.
So what is the numerical equivalence of the word ayin? The number of the word is 70. Ten multiples of 7. Ten multiples of 7 which, when added to the 3 of the triangle again make the number 73. Thus wisdom and Deity, as both a noun and a verb (in that Deity moves to create as symbolized from the eye in the triangle) are all associated with gimel, and, by extension of the Kabbalistic code, the letter “G”.
Remember, this is not gospel. This is just a harmonious resonance around a symbol which, we all knew, symbolized God to begin with. The Godhead radiant in the East – that angle of illumination from whence the Sun rises and the light of day makes visible all things in the world even while that same light itself remains invisible. I said we’d end up where we began. And we have. Better still, this is symbolized in the reduction of the number 73 by the addition of its component numbers 7 and 3. 7 + 3 = 10. The decad is again revealed, and 1 + 0 = 1, the preeminent Unity alone remains. For the rest is the illusion of separateness; through wisdom we return to God, there praise in Holy Silence the unending and unerring nature of All.