Sunday, September 21, 2008

Triangle and Pentalpha

An Address presented by R. Ex. Comp. K.G. Wells at Research Royal Arch Chapter on 23rd February, 1988.

The Triangle.

A Triangle is described as a geometric figure composed of three points, called vertices, not lying in a straight line, with three straight lines joining them. This is the simplest of plane figures in the science of Geometry. It is impossible for this figure to have all sides equal and all internal angles unequal. The sum of the internal three angles within the figure always equals 180 degrees, or two right angles. If the three internal angles are each 60 degrees, i.e. equal, then the three sides joining them must also be of equal length, and the figure is known as an equilateral triangle, which is one of the most potent figures known to mankind, being the accepted figure of the Diety.

The triangle is used extensively by architects when setting out designs, especially Gothic, by builders when erecting buildings for bracing and finding centres. Most roof structures are triangular in form for strength, to reduce stress and strain, to facilitate, drainage and to combat winds. The painter and the artist use triangles in setting out the scenes of their pictures. The designers of all fast mechanical machines, the aeroplane, motor vehicles, boats, etc. all use the configuration of the triangle for strength and to reduce wind resistance. our universe is controlled by the triangle formed by the Sun, Moon and Earth as the three vertices, the variations in their respective positions and angles produced giving us the phenomena we take for granted, e.g. day and night, heat and cold, the tides, control of our ecology, our food and drink, and in fact, our very existence.

The triangle is prominent as a symbol denoting danger. It is used extensively in road signs and in marking the position of fire fighting equipment. It is also a musical instrument. In fact, the triangle is a facet of our daily lives.

Egyptians, Greeks and other nations of antiquity considered the triangle as a symbol of the creative energy displayed in the active and passive principles of their product. The Egyptians especially considered the equilateral triangle as the most perfect of figures and representative of the great principle of animated existence, with each of its three-sides referring to one or the departments of creation , animal, vegetable and mineral. It has also been referred as representing the past, present and future.

As the equilateral triangle has always been a symbol representing the Diety, to the Egyptians it was natural that their final resting place should be so formed, hence the triangular sides of the Pyramids.

Pyramids have been used as burial mounds for as long as civilisation has existed. In Peru, pyramids have been discovered which date back prior to the Incas, 1,000 years before Columbuls discovered America. These pyramids are not of the grand scale of .those in Egypt. Nevertheless, they were used as graves, and vary in height from a few inches to several feet. They are to be formed all over the 'southern continent adjacent to ruined villages, etc. and have been dated from 50 to 500 AD, all having triangular sides.

In a work written by William of Malmesbury about 1129, concerning the ancient church at Glastonbury built in the 7th century, there was a floor inlaid with polished stone "in the pavement, on either side of which the designs were interlaced in triangle and square, figured with lead, under which I believe some sacred enigma to be contained."

There is no symbol more important in its significance, more various in its application or more generally diffused throughout the whole system of Freemasonry than the triangle.

The form of the lodge in the craft degrees shows the three principal officers, the W.M., S.W. and J.W. forming a triangle, with the base line passing down the centre of the lodge room between the W.M. and the S.W. In the old lodge, both Wardens sat in the west, with the W.M. forming the apex in the East. This format is followed in most of the "higher" degrees in Freemasonry. For instance, in the Royal Ark Mariner, Red Cross and Cryptic series, the triangular form with the apex in the East is used. One might ask why, in the Royal Arch, where equilateral triangle is so potent, the three principal officers are seated in a straight line. The Royal Arch Chapter with its three greater and three lesser lights forming triangles, the working implements, the Sacred Word placed on a triangle, the three principal officers 'When opening the Chapter, their sceptres when closing, the jewels of the Chapter encased in triangles, the signs, secrets and words given and exchanged in triangular form, the final charge in the Royal Arch degree making extensive use of triangles and jods so placed why then aren't the three Principals seated in a triangular configuration?

Some scholars say that the formation of the three principal officers and the three sojourners with the altar in fact form four triangles, with the altar bearing the word forming the apex for each. Thus, the three principals form one baseline, the three Sojourners another, the 2nd Principal and the 3rd Sojourner the third, and the 3rd Principal and the 2nd Sojourner the fourth. In the higher degrees, the triangle is most important of all the symbols, assuming the name of Delta. The Delta, or mystical triangle, is generally surrounded by a circle of rays called a Glory, which is a symbol of the Architect and restorer of Light.

When the rays form a circle around a triangle, it is an emblem of God's eternal glory. When the rays emanate from the centre of the triangle, it is emblematic of Divine Light. The perverted idea of the pagans referred these rays of light to their Sun God and their Sabian Worship.

The equilateral triangle is the symbol of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, with the three sides suggesting the three divisions of the Godhead -God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. The letter "G" within the triangle, as in the Royal Arch, is an ecclesiastical custom which goes back to the 16th century.

It is said also to represent Faith, Hope and Charity, and is the principal design of the Masonic Benevolence Jewels. These jewels have the equilateral triangle within which are facsimiles of the widow and orphans.

Crossing of wands over the candidate when taking his obligation form two sides of a triangle, as well as a crude representation of a cross, symbolising the passing through a gateway to a new life.

Whilst the triangle has long been considered as a symbol of the Trinity, the interlaced triangles were little known until medieval times. The Royal Arch knows them as the Hexalpha, which forms a six pointed star. There are some scholars who say that the interlaced triangles should not be associated with anything esoteric, as in the operative days, it was simply a Mason's mark or signature.

When renovations were undertaken in the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament in London in 1949, Mason's marks in the form of interlaced triangles were found in the Crypt of St. Stephen, which was built between 1135 and 1154.

The symbolism of the hexalpha is most comprehensive. It stands for the Universe, representing the sun and the planets. To the Hindu, it meant fire and water, the destroyer and the creator.

Countless works on astrology, occultism, magic and so on published between the 16th and 18th centuries contain reference to this symbol, and attribute to it many extravagant meanings. It is used as a protection against fire. as a symbol for a Jewish restaurant, and when worn as an amulet, as a safeguard against disease. King Solomon, it is said, used the hexalpha to confine a genie in a bottle. Hence it became known as the Seal of Solomon.

There is however, some confusion between the hexalpha and the pentalpha, which is a figure comprising interlaced triangles forming a five pointed star. There is a parish church at Lawnton, Bicester, England built in the 13th century, which has a tower, one face of which is decorated with a pentalpha in stone measuring 8 feet across. It is said that the Masons who built this church also built another in an adjoining parish whose tower is decorated with an hexalpha. Both the hexalpha and the pentalpha appear as seals on a curious old manuscript roll of vellum, dating from the 17th century, of German origin, possibly Roman Catholic and Rosicrucian, bearing a great number of seals showing magical devices. Under each seal an explanation is given: "against thunder and lightning" "against poisoning" "against sudden death" "against the bite of an insect or snake" "against despair" and the last of them "when a person is imprisoned and he carry this about with him he will be set at liberty."

Going to Masonic application, the hexalpha has been found on several Masonic implements: Measures, levels, plumb rules, etc., all dated around the 16th and 17th centuries. It is therefore obvious that the hexalpha had some Masonic significance at an early date. Why the Royal Arch adopted the interlaced triangles is not known. The hexalpha which is a Jewish symbol does not appear in the Scottish or Irish Craft rituals. The pentalpha has been found on sarcophagi and on ancient carvings, and has along association with religion and with superstition, including necromancy. It is a magic sign in astrology, alchemy and cabalistic law. As a christian symbol, the pentalpha with one point upwards is said to be a reminder of the five wounds of Christ, but inverted -two points upwards - it signifies the devil and black magic.

Interlaced triangles are regarded as Christian emblems. Before the union of the Antients and the Moderns, the Antients appear to have used the pentalpha whilst the Moderns used the hexalpha. It would seem that the Grand Chapter of the Moderns was chiefly responsible for adopting the hexalpha in the Royal Arch. The earliest hexalpha jewel in the Grand Lodge museum in London is dated 1775.

The triangle viewed in the light of the doctrines of those who gave it currency as a divine symbol, representing the Great First Cause, the Creator and Container of all things, as one and indivisible, manifesting Himself in an infinity of forms and attributes in the visible universe K.G.W. Wells. 23.2.88.

[154] The “Pua” Game of Atiu.

Pentalpha on Pua-bowl from Atiu Island.

In note No. 147 (Vol. X. p. 206 and in note No. 153 above) will be found an account of the bowls used in this game at Atiu Island (north part of the Cook Group). The five-pointed star there referred to has excited some interest, and consequently Colonel Gudgeon was written to asking him to ascertain if this really was a bona fide ancient mark used by the natives. He now replies, I have at last managed to discover that the pua bowls are marked with the three triangle cypher under an old superstition that the bowl so marked would in the natural order of things have an advantage over others marked in a different manner. Of course the people do not know why they should have been so impressed, but clearly it is an interesting survival.

An enlargement of this figure will be seen in the margin, the length of the side of each triangle in the original is 0.5 inches. It is clearly the Pentalpha of very ancient times. The Rev. J. W. Horsley, M.A., in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. XV. Part I, p. 51, thus refers to it, This second symbol goes by various names, derived from its shape or use. Pentalpha it is called because it can be formed by five capital alphas or As superimposed. Pentagram or Pentaentum Solomonis refers again to its shape, and the latter term shews that medival and modern Kabalists considered it (not necessarily on sure grounds) the design on Soloman's signet. With them, the five points refer to the Spirit, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. With them also it is taken as the sign of the Microcosm, man, as the Hexalpha denoted the Macrocosm, or the universe, and whereas in modern Hermetic Magic the Hexalpha refers to the sun and planets, the Pentalpha refers to the elements as given (above). . . . From old Greek times the Pentagram has been the symbol of Hygeia and Health, and is mentioned by Pythagoras, &c. The Encyclopdic Dictionary refers to it thus (and gives a sketch identical with the figure on the Pua), Pentageron, a mystical figure produced by prolonging the sides of a regular pentagon till they intersect. It can be made without a break in the drawing, and viewed from five sides exhibits the same form as the Greek A. (Pentalpha). According to Lucian, it served the Pythagoreans for a salutation and symbol of health. In German Mythology it was regarded as the foot-print of swan-footed Nornen, till, as Christianity gained ground, these beings were looked on as witches and evil spirits.

Henceforward this sign was, with the sign of the cross, placed at the door to prevent the entrance of Druden and witches, but any break in the figure caused it to lose its virtue (cf. Gthe: Faust, pt. i.).Ed.

[155] The Leina-Kauhane in Hawaii.

With reference to note No. 149 (Vol. XI. p. 44), I send you with this a sketch of the west end of the Island of Oahu, showing the position of the Leina-Kauhane (Maori: Reinga-wairua) as related to that portion of the island. From this you will see that it is on the land near the shore line, about three-quarters of a mile from the western end of the Island of Oahu, known as Ka Lae-o-Kaena, or Kaena Point. The Leina-Kauhane is a large rock on a level plain, overlooking the sea with its sandy shore. On passing it the other day in the steam-cars, I was surprised to see a couple of little straw huts leaning against it. I presume they must have been erected by Japanese fisherman, for it is difficult to believe that any native Hawaiian would think of spending a night there where the spirits are supposed to pass.

J. E. Emerson.

[156] Canoe Making in Olden Times. See note No. 152 J.P.S. Vol. XI.

A similar case has come under my notice to that mentioned by the late Mr. Tone. I am informed by my son that on the property of Mr. Jennings, of Motueka, Nelson, there used to stand a hollow totara tree. The Maoris said this was caused by their people in years gone by purposely cutting out a strip of bark so that the sap would be exposed and decay set up, resulting in that side of the tree becoming hollow as described in Mr. Tone's note, and very greatly lessening the labour required in transposing the tree trunk into a canoe. This particular totara tree had not been used for a canoe for the reason that the top had died out and a growth of branches had sprung out lower down the trunk, thus shortening and spoiling its use for canoe purposes.

W. H. Skinner.

[157] Canoe Making in Olden Time.

I have seen a whole group of totara trees thus marked in the Oxford bush, Canterbury. The trees were growing close together, nearly on top of a hill about a mile and a half from the outskirts of the forest. About six were scarfed; whilst I noticed the marking, examining it carefully, I concluded the object had been to kill the wood on one side of the tree, and thus make it quite easy to either burn or hollow it out when the tree was to be made into a canoe. The marking consisted in cutting out an oblong piece of bark, about three feet long and one foot wide, and chipping the sap wood above and below to a depth of about a quarter of an inch. The stone axe marks were quite plainly visible on the dead wood, though the living wood and bark had grown all round the scarves to a height of several inches. Most of the trees were dead, or hollow on the scarf side, one in particular must have been hollow for nearly its whole length. The trees were comparatively young, from one and a-half to two feet in diameter, and quite straight. Totara trees are rather scarce in Oxford forest.

T. N. Brodrick.

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