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Albert G. Mackey on the Ineffable Name, Part 3

The Ineffable Name Part 3
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.

Elsewhere I have very fully alluded to the prevailing sentiment among the ancients, that the Supreme Deity was bisexual, or hermaphrodite, including in the essence of his being the male and female principles, the generative and prolific powers of nature. This was the universal doctrine in all the ancient religions, and was very naturally developed in the symbol of the phallus and cteis among the Greeks, and in the corresponding one of the lingam and yoni among the Orientalists; from which symbols the masonic point within a circle is a legitimate derivation. They all taught that God, the Creator, was both male and female.

Now, this theory is undoubtedly unobjectionable on the score of orthodoxy, if we view it in the spiritual sense, in which its first propounders must necessarily have intended it to be presented to the mind, and not in the gross, sensual meaning in which it was subsequently received. For, taking the word sex, not in its ordinary and colloquial signification, as denoting the indication of a particular physical organization, but in that purely philosophical one which alone can be used in such a connection, and which simply signifies the mere manifestation of a power, it is not to be denied that the Supreme Being must possess in himself, and in himself alone, both a generative and a prolific power. This idea, which was so extensively prevalent among all the nations of antiquity, has also been traced in the tetragrammaton, or name of Jehovah, with singular ingenuity, by Lanci; and, what is almost equally as interesting, he has, by this discovery, been enabled to demonstrate what was, in all probability, the true pronunciation of the word.

In giving the details of this philological discovery, I will endeavor to make it as comprehensible as it can be made to those who are not critically acquainted with the construction of the Hebrew language; those who are will at once appreciate its peculiar character, and will excuse the explanatory details, of course unnecessary to them.

The ineffable name, the tetragrammaton, the shem hamphorash,—for it is known by all these appellations,—consists of four letters, yodhehvau, and heh, forming the word יהוה. This word, of course, in accordance with the genius of the Hebrew language, is read, as we would say, backward, or from right to left, beginning with yod [י], and ending with heh [ה].

Of these letters, the first, yod [י], is equivalent to the English i pronounced as e in the word machine.

The second and fourth letter, heh [ה], is an aspirate, and has here the sound of the English h.

And the third letter, vau [ו], has the sound of open o.

Now, reading these four letters, י, or I, ה, or H, ו, or O, and ה, or H, as the Hebrew requires, from right to left, we have the word יהוה, יהוה, which is really as near to the pronunciation as we can well come, notwithstanding it forms neither of the seven ways in which the word is said to have been pronounced, at different times, by the patriarchs.

But, thus pronounced, the word gives us no meaning, for there is no such word in Hebrew as ihoh; and, as all the Hebrew names were significative of something, it is but fair to conclude that this was not the original pronunciation, and that we must look for another which will give a meaning to the word. Now, Lanci proceeds to the discovery of this true pronunciation, as follows:—

In the Cabala, a hidden meaning is often deduced from a word by transposing or reversing its letters, and it was in this way that the Cabalists concealed many of their mysteries.

Now, to reverse a word in English is to read its letters from right to left, because our normal mode of reading is from left to right. But in Hebrew the contrary rule takes place, for there the normal mode of reading is from right to left; and therefore, to reverse the reading of a word, is to read it from left to right.

Lanci applied this cabalistic mode to the tetragrammaton, when he found that IH-OH, being read reversely, makes the word HO-HI.

But in Hebrew, ho is the masculine pronoun, equivalent to the English he; and hi is the feminine pronoun, equivalent to she; and therefore the word HO-HI, literally translated, is equivalent to the English compound HE-SHE; that is to say, the Ineffable Name of God in Hebrew, being read cabalistically, includes within itself the male and female principle, the generative and prolific energy of creation; and here we have, again, the widely-spread symbolism of the phallus and the cteis, the lingam and the yoni, or their equivalent, the point within a circle, and another pregnant proof of the connection between Freemasonry and the ancient Mysteries.

And here, perhaps, we may begin to find some meaning for the hitherto incomprehensible passage in Genesis (i. 27): “So God created man in his own imagein the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” They could not have been “in the image” of IHOH, if they had not been “male and female.”

The Cabalists have exhausted their ingenuity and imagination in speculations on this sacred name, and some of their fancies are really sufficiently interesting to repay an investigation. Sufficient, however, has been here said to account for the important position that it occupies in the masonic system, and to enable us to appreciate the symbols by which it has been represented.

The great reverence, or indeed the superstitious veneration, entertained by the ancients for the name of the Supreme Being, led them to express it rather in symbols or hieroglyphics than in any word at length.

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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