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Freemasonry is a fraternity within which symbols feature prominently and are of the utmost importance to communicating critical teachings, ceremonies, and rituals. Many of the symbols within Freemasonry originate from the Holy Scriptures, whereas others have their place in ancient history in various parts of antiquity.
Within Masonry, the anchor and the ark are often used together, representing a life well spent and a deeply rooted hope. This post will introduce the Masonic ark and anchor’s significance and understand how they are represented within various Masonic teachings.
As always, this writing does not represent the views and opinions of Freemasons Community, but is merely the reflections of one Mason.
The Masonic Anchor
In its simplest form, the Masonic anchor is a symbol of hope. Historians agree that it was first found on tombs among the catacombs located in Ancient Rome, and it is from there that its usage has evolved throughout time.
As an early Christian symbol, the anchor was placed on tombs to represent the hope we have in Christ beyond this life and was, at the time, a fitting inscription for a Christian tomb. Christians believe the anchors use on catacombs and tombs comes from the following verse:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6: 19-20
The anchor can be found in the first-century cemetery of St. Domitila, the second and third-century epitaphs of the catacombs.
In antiquity, Christianity was regarded as a stormy and difficult voyage, and those that arrived safely at the end of their journeys were glad that it was over. It is from here that the anchor became a symbol of grounding in otherwise tumultuous times and is the reason that the anchor was carved into ancient graves and tombs.
From this perspective, the anchor signified that the person was finally free from the troubles of life and was now in a place of eternal rest and peace and was ready to meet his maker.
More generally, the anchor is a Christian symbol of hope, patience, and permanence. ‘Anchor’ is commonly used in everyday lexis to represent one’s grounding in a particular state or place, and it is here that the anchor is understood within Freemasonry.
The Masonic Ark
Within Freemasonry, the anchor is usually represented alongside the ark. The ark represents a brother’s voyage through life but is not confined to Christian theology and has meaning for people worldwide.
That being said, the Masonic ark is most likely derived from the story of Noah:
“The Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Genesis 6:9 – 9:17
The story of Noah’s ark is one of the most famous biblical tales told to children the world over. Yet, in Masonic symbolism, the ark represents a brother’s journey across tumultuous waters and guides them to safety.
In the Masonic third degree, the ark and anchor symbolize a well-spent life and a well-grounded hope. They showcase the fact that the divine ark will carry brothers across the rough sea of life, and the anchor will offer a place of rest and peace.
What of Other Arks within the Bible?
Within the Masonic teachings, we learn of two significant arks of importance:
- Noah’s ark as built by Japhet, Ham, and Shem.
- The Ark of the Covenant constructed by Moses.
The word ‘ark’ has its roots in the Latin word ‘arca,’ which is a chest for storing valuables. In the example of Noah and his ark, we can see that the valuables stored within represented the future of humankind and all of the animal species on planet earth.
When you think of the etymology of the word, you realize that very little is more significant than the preservation of life on earth as we know it, which indicates that Noah’s ark played a vital role in the continuation of life under the guidance of God.
Of further interest when considering Noah’s ark are the dimensions of the ark given in the Bible. They exactly correspond to the ratio of measurements of the human physical form – 30:5:3 in length, width, and depth. It is rational to argue that God specified such dimensions to carry humankind’s consciousness into the world after the flood.
Moving onto the second reference of the ark, Moses is instructed to construct the Ark of the Covenant by God in the following way:
“Have them make an ark of acacia wood – two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” Exodus 25:10
Within this ark were to be placed the tables of the law which God was about to give to Moses, or, as they became known, The Ten Commandments. The ark was designed to symbolize God’s presence amid his followers and is the common teaching of the Old Testament that still resonates with Christians across the world today.
Like Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant carries incredibly valuable contents, as it is the manifestation of the word of God on earth. For Masons, the Ark of the Covenant is also important to understand, as Masons are required to live a life considered virtuous by the Grand Architect of the Universe, and therefore follow the rules laid down by the supreme being.
The sons of Noah after the flood.
After the flood, the sons of Noah lived everywhere and were, according to ancient legend, the holders of the hidden mysteries of nature and science. These men passed on the great mysteries of the universe to each succeeding generation, and it was through this medium that the history of the world was told.
Historians believe that many of the most profound truths of the great mysteries come from the lineage holders in Ancient Egypt. Egyptians believed that the divine power could be found at every person’s heart, even the lowest of the low and the least Holy.
They believed that there was light within every person, and it was the task of each person to find illumination and seek the purpose in their lives and build upon it and strengthen it.
Within Freemasonry, we know that the initiate begins his journey towards enlightenment when he seeks the path which leads to the gateway of initiation, or the portal to the secret Temple of the Most High. The purpose here is always to bring hidden knowledge into the present and understand the universal truth’s inner sanctums.
Throughout each brother’s individual journey through life, we will experience different grades of enlightenment, and some will understand many of the mysteries and treasures within the Masonic ark.
Regardless of how successful a brother is at understanding the secrets hidden within the Masonic ark, he aims to ignite the flame within and conquer the storms created by his very existence. By doing this, a brother can become a Son of Noah and be closer to mastering Masonry’s teachings.
The ark reminds us about the difficulties we face in our daily lives and the fact that we can’t do anything about things that occur outside of our control. Summoning a great flood reminds us that God is in charge, and his will is absolute. As his servants, we must live a life following his values to traverse the dangerous waters in front of us successfully.
The ark gives us hope that despite the hardships that we will all face in our lives, there is salvation available for those of us that act with integrity and live virtuously, which are critical teachings within Freemasonry.
Conclusion: the Masonic Ark and Anchor
As has been explored, the ark and anchor are important symbols within Freemasonry. They are undoubtedly taken from early Christianity, as many of the Masonic symbols we know and learn today also are.
When considered in relation to one another, the ark and anchor remind us of the importance of living virtuously, even through the most significant challenges we face in life. If we do, we have a chance at salvation and finding our ultimate peace when our journey comes to an end.