by Stephen Knight
(The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight p. 236-240)
In the ritual of exaltation, the name of the Great Architect of the Universe is revealed as JAH-BUL-ON -not a general umbrella term open to any interpretation an individual Freemason might choose, but a precise designation that describes a specific supernatural being - a compound deity composed of three separate personalities fused in one. Each syllable of the 'ineffable name' represents one personality of this Trinity:
JAH = Jahweh, the God of the Hebrews.
BUL = Baal, the ancient Canaanite fertility god associated with 'licentious rites of imitative magic'.
ON = Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian god of the underworld.
Baal, of course, was the 'false god' with whom Jahweh competed for the allegiance of the Israelites in the Old Testament. But more recently, within a hundred years of the creation of the Freemason's God, the sixteenth-century demonologist John Weir identified Baal as a devil. This grotesque manifestation of evil had the body of a spider and three heads - those of a man, a toad and a cat. A description of Baal to be found in de Plancy's Dictionary of Witchcraft is particularly apposite when considered in the light of the secretive and deceptive nature of Freemasonry: his voice was raucous, and he taught his followers guile, cunning and the ability to become invisible.
In 1873, the renowned masonic author and historian General Albert Pike, later to become Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Supreme Council (of the 33rd Degree) at Charleston, USA, wrote of his reaction on learning of Jah-Bul-On. He was disquieted and disgusted by the name, and went on: 'No man or body of men can make me accept as a sacred word, as a symbol of the infinite and eternal Godhead, a mongrel word, in part composed of the name of an accursed and beastly heathen god, whose name has been for more than two thousand years an appellation of the Devil.'
I have spoken to no less than fifty-seven long-standing Royal Arch Freemasons who have been happy to talk to me, to help me in my ambition to give Freemasonry 'a fair crack of the whip'. Most of them spoke quite freely, explaining without hesitation their views, reactions and answers to the criticisms and queries I raised. However, all but four lost their self-assurance and composure when I said, 'What about Jah-Bul-On?' Some, although they had previously told me they had been exalted to the Royal Arch, and therefore must have not only received the lecture on the name but also studied the passages and enacted the ritual relating to Jah-Bul-On, said they had never heard of it. In most cases the interviewees very rapidly brought the meeting to a close when I asked the question. Others laughed unconvincingly and extricated themselves from having to reply by jauntily saying such words as, 'Oh, that old chestnut', and passing quickly on to some other subject, normally going on the offensive with something like, 'Why are you so interested in Freemasonry in particular? Why don't you look into Christianity or something? Why do people always pick on Freemasonry?' -thereby diverting the conversation from the course I had plotted. If I insisted on returning to Jah-Bul-On, almost invariably the interview would be unceremoniously terminated. Others said that although they had heard of the word, they did not know what it meant. To them it meant God, and previously erudite Freemasons, with a precise knowledge of every other aspect of Masonry we had discussed, suddenly became vague and claimed ignorance of this most central of all Freemasonic subjects. While professing an almost total lack of knowledge of Jah-Bul-On, several dismissed it as of no real importance.
Charles Stratton, one Royal Arch Freemason for whom I have the utmost admiration, told me this of Jah-Bul-On: 'No one ever has time to think about its meaning, you're too busy trying to remember your words. As far as I know it's just another name for Jehovah.'
Acute silences, chiefly of embarrassment, followed my question on many occasions, as happened when I spoke to a most co-operative officer both of Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter.
We had been discussing whether or not Freemasonry was a religion, and I had run through my customary list of religious terms used in Freemasonry. Then I added, 'One comes across the phrase, "the sacred tenets of Freemasonry". This seems to imply that Masonry thinks of itself as a religion.'
The Grand Officer replied, 'No, I haven't said that. .. the sacred tenets?'
'Well, the word sacred means holy.'
'Yes. Then there's the "Holy" Royal Arch.'
He paused. When he began to speak again it was much more slowly.
'Yes. The Holy Royal Arch. They are all expressions of ... religion in its fullest sense, not in a masonic sense. I cannot stress too strongly the fact that there is no masonic religion, no masonic god, deity or someone or something to which a Freemason must swear loyalty. No.'
'What about Jah-Bul-On?'
He was obviously taken off-guard. He said nothing for nearly ten seconds and looked most discomfited. At length, proceeding with the extreme caution of a man feeling his way through a thicket of thorns, he said: 'These are ... Hebrew words which are ... murdered from their original. And Jah is the Hebrew word for God, so it's God again. You come back to God, the real God. But these - ha! [he chuckled] - these are ways in which we express our loyalty to God.'
'It's interesting you should choose only to define the first syllable, which is of course the most acceptable to those with religious convictions. But what about the other parts of that word which are, are they not, Baal and Osiris?'
Another long pause. 'I don't know them. That's the higher echelons of Freemasonry.'
'That's in the Royal Arch, isn't it?'
'I don't do Royal Arch. I do Chapter, but not Royal Arch.'
This was the first lie he had told me, and I could see it was unpleasant for him.
I continued: 'It is established that Jahbulon is a composite name for God, made up of Jah—'
'Bul is Baal and On is Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead.'
'Pike was outraged when he heard that name for the first time and saw it associated with Freemasonry, which of course was so dear to him. He said that nothing would induce him to accept as the name of God a word which is in part the name of a pagan god and for more than two thousand years an appellation of the devil.'
'I agree on that, but I... I... I don't know about it. It's not that I don't want to. I don't know about it so I really can't comment. You'll have to ask someone who knows.'
'Does it worry you?'
'In one of the higher degrees they use Jesus Christ.'
'Yes, there are several masonic orders which are exclusively Christian - the Knights Templar, the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the Societas Rosicruciana, the Knights of Malta, the Order of Eri. But does the name Jah-Bul-On worry you?'
'Many Masons wouldn't subscribe to those Christian degrees.'
The implication was clear: if Christ was an acceptable part of Freemasonry even to a non-Christian, why not the devil as well? Unacceptable though he might be to most initiates, he has his place.