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Albert G. Mackey on the Ineffable Name, Part 2

The Ineffable Name Part 2
Provided by the Oklahoma Chapter and Council Education E-Newsletter (
Extracted from the
According to Mackey Column in the November 2022 Issue

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.

From the sacredness with which the name was venerated, it was seldom, if ever, written in full, and, consequently, a great many symbols, or hieroglyphics, were invented to express it. One of these was the letter י or Yod, equivalent nearly to the English I, or J, or Y, which was the initial of the word, and it was often inscribed within an equilateral triangle, thus:


the triangle itself being a symbol of Deity.

This symbol of the name of God is peculiarly worthy of our attention, since not only is the triangle to be found in many of the ancient religions occupying the same position, but the whole symbol itself is undoubtedly the origin of that hieroglyphic exhibited in the second degree of Masonry, where, the explanation of the symbolism being the same, the form of it, as far as it respects the letter, has only been anglicized by modern innovators. In my own opinion, the letter G, which is used in the Fellow Craftʼs degree, should never have been permitted to intrude into Masonry; it presents an instance of absurd anachronism, which would never have occurred if the original Hebrew symbol had been retained. But being there now, without the possibility of removal, we have only to remember that it is in fact but the symbol of a symbol.

Widely spread, as I have already said, was this reverence for the name of God; and, consequently, its symbolism, in some peculiar form, is to be found in all the ancient rites.

Thus the Ineffable Name itself, of which we have been discoursing, is said to have been preserved in its true pronunciation by the Essenes, who, in their secret rites, communicated it to each other only in a whisper, and in such form, that while its component parts were known, they were so separated as to make the whole word a mystery.

Among the Egyptians, whose connection with the Hebrews was more immediate than that of any other people, and where, consequently, there was a greater similarity of rites, the same sacred name is said to have been used as a password, for the purpose of gaining admission to their Mysteries.

In the Brahminic Mysteries of Hindostan the ceremony of initiation was terminated by intrusting the aspirant with the sacred, triliteral name, which was AUM, the three letters of which were symbolic of the creative, preservative, and destructive principles of the Supreme Deity, personified in the three manifestations of Bramah, Siva, and Vishnu. This word was forbidden to be pronounced aloud. It was to be the subject of silent meditation to the pious Hindoo.

In the rites of Persia an ineffable name was also communicated to the candidate after his initiation. Mithras, the principal divinity in these rites, who took the place of the Hebrew Jehovah, and represented the sun, had this peculiarity in his name—that the numeral value of the letters of which it was composed amounted to precisely 365, the number of days which constitute a revolution of the earth around the sun, or, as they then supposed, of the sun around the earth.

In the Mysteries introduced by Pythagoras into Greece we again find the ineffable name of the Hebrews, obtained doubtless by the Samian Sage during his visit to Babylon. The symbol adopted by him to express it was, however, somewhat different, being ten points distributed in the form of a triangle, each side containing four points, as in the annexed figure.


The apex of the triangle was consequently a single point then followed below two others, then three; and lastly, the base consisted of four. These points were, by the number in each rank, intended, according to the Pythagorean system, to denote respectively the monad, or active principle of nature; the duad, or passive principle; the triad, or world emanating from their union; and the quaterniad, or intellectual science; the whole number of points amounting to ten, the symbol of perfection and consummation. This figure was called by Pythagoras the tetractys—a word equivalent in signification to the tetragrammaton; and it was deemed so sacred that on it the oath of secrecy and fidelity was administered to the aspirants in the Pythagorean rites.

Among the Scandinavians, as among the Jewish Cabalists, the Supreme God who was made known in their mysteries had twelve names, of which the principal and most sacred one was Alfader, the Universal Father.

Among the Druids, the sacred name of God was Hu—a name which, although it is supposed, by Bryant, to have been intended by them for Noah, will be recognized as one of the modifications of the Hebrew tetragrammaton. It is, in fact, the masculine pronoun in Hebrew, and may be considered as the symbolization of the male or generative principle in nature—a sort of modification of the system of Phallic worship.

This sacred name among the Druids reminds me of what is the latest, and undoubtedly the most philosophical, speculation on the true meaning, as well as pronunciation, of the ineffable tetragrammaton. It is from the ingenious mind of the celebrated Lanci; and I have already, in another work, given it to the public as I received it from his pupil, and my friend, Mr. Gliddon, the distinguished archaeologist. But the results are too curious to be omitted whenever the tetragrammaton is discussed.

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

Mackey’s Symbolism of Freemasonry

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