The Blazing Star, which is not, however, to be confounded with the Five-Pointed Star, is one of the most important symbols of Freemasonry, and makes its appearance in several of the Degrees. Hutchinson says "It is the first and most exalted object that demands our attention in the Lodge." It undoubtedly derives this importance, first, from the repeated use that is made of it as a Masonic emblem; and secondly, from its great antiquity as a symbol derived from older systems.
Extensive as has been the application of this symbol in the Masonic ceremonies, it is not surprising that there has been a great difference of opinion in relation to its true signification.
But this difference of opinion has been almost entirely confined to its use in the First Degree. In the higher Degrees, where there has been less opportunity of innovation, the uniformity of meaning attached to the Star has been carefully preserved.
In the Twenty-eighth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the explanation given of the Blazing Star, is, that it is symbolic of a the Freemason, who, by perfecting himself in the way of truth, that is to say, by advancing in knowledge, becomes like a blazing star, shining with brilliancy in the midst of darkness. The star is, therefore, in this degree, a symbol of truth.
In the Fourth Degree of the same Rite, the star is again said to be a symbol of the light of Divine Providence pointing out the way of truth.
In the Ninth Degree this symbol is called the star of direction; and while it primitively alludes to an especia1 guidance given for a particular purpose expressed in the degree, it still retains, in a remoter sense, its usual signification as an emblem of Divine Providence guiding and directing the pilgrim in his journey through life.
When, however, we refer to Ancient Craft Freemasonry, we shall find a considerable diversity in the application of this symbol.
In the earliest monitors, immediately after the revival of 1717, the Blazing Star is not mentioned, but it was not long before it was introduced. In the instructions of 1735 it is detailed as a part of the furniture of a Lodge, with the explanation that the "Mosaic Pavement is the Ground Floor of the Lodge, the Blazing Star, the Center, and the Indented Tarsal, the Border round about it!''
In a primitive Tracing Board of the Entered Apprentice, copied by Oliver, in his Historical Landmark (I, 133), without other date than that it was published early in the last century," the Blazing Star occupies a prominent position in the center of the Tracing Board. Oliver says that it represented BEAUTY, and was called the glory in the center.
In the lectures credited to Dunckerley, and adopted by the Grand Lodge, the Blazing Star was mid to represent "the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem, proclaiming to mankind the nativity of the Son of God, and here conducting our spiritua1 progress to the Author of our redemption. "
In the Prestonian lecture, the Blazing Star, with the Mosaic Pavement and the Tesselated Border, are called the Ornaments of the Lodge, and the Blazing Star is thus explained:
"The Blazing Star, or glory in the center, reminds us of that awful period when the Almighty delivered the two tables of stone, containing the ten commandments, to His faithful servant Moses on Mount Sinai, when the rays of His divine glory shone so bright that none could behold it without fear and trembling. It also reminds us of the omnipresence of the Almighty, overshadowing us with His divine love, and dispensing His blessings amongst us; and by its being placed in the center, it further reminds us, that wherever we may be assembled together, God is in the midst of us, seeing our actions, and observing the secret intents and movements of our hearts."
In the lectures taught by Webb, and very generally adopted in the United States, the Blazing Star is said to be "commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Savior's nativity," and it is subsequently explained as hieroglyphically representing Divine Providence.
But the commemorative allusion to the Star of Bethlehem seeming to some to be objectionable, from its peculiar application to the Christian religion, at the revision of the lectures made in 1843 by the Baltimore Convention, this explanation was omitted, and the allusion to Divine Providence alone retained.
In Hutchinson's system, the Blazing Star is considered a symbol of Prudence. "It is placed," says he, "in the center, ever to be present to the eye of the Mason, that his heart may be attentive to her dictates and steadfast in her laws;-for Prudence is the rule of all Virtues; Prudence is the path which leads to every degree of propriety; Prudence is the channel where self-approbation flows for ever; she leads us forth to worthy actions, and, as a Blazing Star, enlighteneth us through the dreary and darksome paths of this life'' (Spirit of Masonry, edition of 1775, Lecture v, page 111).
Hutchinson also adopted Dunckerley's allusion to the Star of Bethlehem, but only as a secondary symbolism.
In another series of lectures formerly in use in America, but which we believe is now abandoned, the Blazing Star is said to be "emblematical of that Prudence which ought to appear conspicuous in the conduct of every Mason; and is more especially commemorative of the star which appeared in the east to guide the wise men to Bethlehem, and proclaim the birth and the presence of the Son of God. "
The Freemasons on the Continent of Europe, speaking of the symbol, say: "It is no matter whether the figure of which the Blazing Star forms the center be a square, triangle, or circle, it still represents the sacred name of God, as an universal spirit who enlivens our hearts, who purifies our reason, who increases our knowledge, and who makes us wiser and better men. "
And lastly, in the lectures revised by Doctor Hemming and adopted by the Grand Lodge of England at the Union in 1813, and now constituting the approved lectures of that jurisdiction, we find the following definition:
"The Blazing Star, or glory in the center, refers us to the sun, which enlightens the earth with its refulgent rays, dispensing its blessings to mankind at large, and giving light and life to all things here below."
Hence we find that at various times the Blazing Star has been declared to be a symbol of Divine Providence, of the Star of Bethlehem, of Prudence, of Beauty, and of the Sun.
Before we can attempt to decide upon these various opinions, and adopt the true signification, it is necessary to extend our investigations into the antiquity of the emblem, and inquire what was the meaning given to it by the nations who first made it a symbol.
Sabaism, or the worship of the stars, was one of the earliest deviations from the true system of religion.
One of its causes was the universally established doctrine among the idolatrous nations of antiquity, that each star Was animated- by the soul of a hero god, who had once dwelt incarnate upon earth. Hence, in the hieroglyphical system, the star denoted a god.
To this signification, allusion is made by the prophet Amos (v, 26), when he says to the Israelites, while reproaching them for their idolatrous habits: "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chian your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.''
This idolatry was early learned by the Israelites from their Egyptian taskmasters; and so unwilling were they to abandon it, that Moses found it necessary strictly to forbid the worship of anything "that is in heaven above," notwithstanding which we find the Jews repeatedly committing the sin which had been so expressly forbidden. Saturn was the star to whose worship they were more particularly addicted under the names of Moloch and Chian, already mentioned in the passage quoted from Amos.
The planet Saturn was worshiped under the names of Moloch, Malcolm or Milcom by the Ammonites, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, and the Carthaginians, and under that of Chian by the Israelites in the desert.
Saturn was worshiped among the Egyptians under the name of Raiphan, or, as it is called in the Septuagint, Remphan. St. Stephen, quoting the passage of Amos, says, "ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Remphan'' (see Acts vii, 43).
Hale, in his analysis of Chronology, says in alluding to this passage : "There is no direct evidence that the Israelites worshiped the dog-star in the wilderness, except this passage; but the indirect is very strong, drawn from the general prohibition of the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, to which they must have been prone.
And this was peculiarly an Egyptian idolatry, where the dog-star was worshiped, as notifying by his heliacal rising, or emersion from the sun's rays, the regular commencement of the periodical inundation of the Nile. And the Israelite sculptures at the cemetery of Kibroth-Hattaavah, or graves of lust, in the neighborhood of Sinai, remarkably abound in hieroglyphics of the dog-star, represented as a human figure with a dog's head.
That they afterwards sacrificed to the dog-star, there is express evidence in Josiah's description of idolatry, where the Syriac Mazaloth (improperly, termed planets) denotes the dog-star; in Arabic, Mazaroth."
Fellows (in his Exposition of the Mysteries, page 7) says that this dog-star, the Anubis of the Egyptians, is the Blazing Star of Freemasonry, and supposing that the 1atter is a symbol of Prudence, which indeed it was in some of the ancient lectures, he goes on to remark ; ''What connection can possibly exist between a star and prudence, except allegorically in reference to the caution that was indicated to the Egyptians by the first appearance of this star, which warned them of approaching danger.''
But it will hereafter be seen that he has totally misapprehended the true signification of the Masonic symbol. The work of Fellows, it may be remarked, is an unsystematic compilation of undigested learning; but the student who is searching for truth must carefully eschew all his deductions as to the genius and spirit of Freemasonry.
Notwithstanding a few discrepancies that may have occurred in the Masonic lectures, as arranged at various periods and by different authorities, the concurrent testimony of the ancient religions, and the hieroglyphic 1anguage, prove that the star was a symbol of God. It was so used by the prophets of old in their metaphorica1 style, and it has so been generally adopted by Masonic instructors.
The application of the Blazing Star as an emblem of the Savior has been made by those writers who give a Christian explanation of our emblems, and to the Christian Freemason such an application will not be objectionable.
But those who desire to refrain from anything that may tend to impair the tolerance of our system, will be disposed to embrace a more universal explanation, which may be received alike by all the disciples of the Order, whatever may be their peculiar religious views. Such persons will rather accept the expression of Doctor Oliver, who, though much disposed to give a Christian character to our Institution, says in his Symbol of Glory (page 292), "The Great Architect of the Universe is therefore symbolized in Freemasonry by the Blazing Star, as the Herald of our salvation." Before concluding, a few words may be said as to the form of the Masonic symbol. It is not a heraldic star or estella, for that always consists of six points, while the Masonic star is made with five points.
This, perhaps, was with some involuntary allusion to the five Points of Fellowship. But the error has been committed in all our modern Tracing Boards of making the star with straight points, which form, of course, does not represent a blazing star. John Guillim, the editor in 1610 of the book A Display of Heraldirie, says:
"All stars should be made with waved points, because our eyes tremble at beholding them.'' In the early Tracing Board already referred to, the star with five straight points is superimposed upon another of five waving points. But the latter are now abandoned, and we have in the representations of the present day the incongruous symbol of a blazing star with five straight points. In the center of the star there was always placed the letter G, which like the Hebrew yod, was a recognized symbol of God, and thus the symbolic reference of the Blazing Star to Divine Providence is greatly strengthened.