SIGNIFICANCE OF MASONIC COLORS
By Bro. Harold A. Kingsbury, Massachusetts
WHY is my Master Mason's Lodge said to have a particular color of transcending importance?" "Why is that particular color said to be blue?"
The Mason who pauses in his Masonic journey to ask himself these questions, or equivalent ones, has thereby set himself in the may of investigating yet another phase of Masonic symbolism. For, in the attempt to answer his two queries, the self-questioner's first thought is that the lodge is not possessed, in a physical sense, of a particular and transcendingly important color, blue or otherwise; and, when he reminds himself that there are rational explanations for practically everything in Masonry and that most of those explanations are founded in symbolism, his second thought is that a color, a particular color, is assigned to his lodge for symbolistic reasons, and that that color has a symbolic meaning. Thus he is brought to a consideration of the symbolism of colors and, more particularly, to a consideration of the symbolism of blue.
If, now, he investigates the matter very briefly, running over almost superficially the general subject of the symbolism of colors and considering somewhat more deeply the symbolism of blue, the inquiring Mason will, it is probable, arrive at substantially the following:
The assigning of symbolic meanings to colors is probably as old as symbolism itself. To cite but one set of examples from the practices of an ancient people: The Egyptians, those ancient masters of symbolism to whom the investigator of the symbols used in Masonry first looks for explanations of those symbols, made use of colors in their hieroglyphics to convey certain definite ideas, each color being expressive of certain conceptions. Hieroglyphs of the spirits of the dead were characterized by white. Men were marked out by having their flesh red, while the flesh of the women was yellow. Sapphire was the color of the Egyptian god Amon. Green was the color used for the flesh of the god Ptah, founder of the world, the active creative spirit and the divine intelligence, and was also the color used for the flesh of Lunus, the moon. Russet- brown was the color given to the flesh of Thoueri, the concubine of Typhon. And black was the color of Anubis, the god of the dead and of embalming.
The colors symbolically significant in Masonry are purple, red, white, black, green, yellow, violet and blue. Each color has for its purpose the teaching to the Mason of a valuable moral lesson or the calling of his attention to some historical fact of interest Masonically, certain of the colors serving both purposes at one and the same time.
Purple, being a mixture of blue and red, is, to the Mason, the symbol of fraternal union because it is composed of the color adopted for the Master Mason's Lodge and that adopted for the Chapter of Royal Arch Companions, these two Masonic bodies being indissolubly connected since the Royal Arch is an essential and component part of the present-day mutilated Master Mason's degree. For this reason purple is adopted as the proper color for the Mark, the Past, and the Most Excellent Master degrees, to symbolize the fact that those degrees connect the Master Mason's degree with the Royal Arch.
Red is the color of fire, and fire was to the Egyptians the symbol of the regeneration and the purification of souls. Hence, in the Masonic system, red is the symbol of regeneration. Thus red is the color assigned to the Royal Arch Degree since that degree teaches the regeneration of life.
White is the symbol of purity, the reasons for adopting this conception being obvious. Therefore, in Masonry it is, properly, the color adopted for certain of the garments of investiture of the candidate.
Black from the remotest antiquity has been the symbol of grief and such is its significance to the Mason.
Green, being the unchanging color of the various evergreen trees, shrubs, and so forth, is, in the symbolistic system of Masonry, the color symbolic of the unchanging immortality of all that is divine and true. This conception Masonry has received from the ancients, more particularly the Egyptians. For example, with the Egyptians, as noted above, Ptah was pictured as having green flesh. Also, the goddess Pascht, the divine preserver, and Thoth, the instructor of men in the sacred doctrines of truth, were both painted with green flesh. So the Mason, adhering once more, as he so often does, to the conceptions of the Egyptians, chooses for his symbol of the immortality of the soul which he knows to be divine and true an object, the acacia, whose color is unchanging green.
Yellow was to the ancients the symbol of light. Though unemphasized and seemingly almost unrecognised in Masonry yellow is, nevertheless, a true Masonic symbolic color since it symbolizes to the Mason that Great Thing to the finding of which his Masonic Search is devoted and to the source of which his Masonic pathway leads the Light of Truth.
Violet is the symbol of mourning, the Mason here adopting yet another of the conceptions of an ancient people, this time the Chinese.
Blue is the supreme color of Masonry. First, because it is that color which, among all those used in Masonry, is the unquestioned Masonic possession of every Mason. The Royal Arch Mason may attempt to appropriate to himself the red, the Perfect Master may feel himself the exclusive proprietor of the green and the black, and so on, but blue is acknowledged by every Mason to belong to us all and no Mason, whatever his degree, questions the Master Mason's ownership of blue. Second, blue is the supreme color because it has, coupled with its universality, a place in symbolism which, both as regards importance of lessons taught and as regards legitimacy as a symbol, is second to that of no Masonic color.
The use of blue in religious ceremonials, and as a symbol, comes to Masonry from many of the different peoples of antiquity. Among the Hebrews various articles of the high priest's clothing were blue. one of the veils of the tabernacle was blue. In his initiation into the Druidical Mysteries the candidate was invested with a robe one of whose colors was blue. The Babylonians clothed their idols in blue. The Hindoo god Vishnu was represented as blue. And among the medieval Christians blue was considered a peculiarly important color.
Blue was the symbol of perfection to the Hebrews, to the Druids the symbol of Truth, to the Chinese the symbol of Deity, and to the medieval Christians it was the symbol of immortality. So, for the Mason, the color of his Master Mason's lodge is the symbol of perfection, truth, immortality and Deity.
Finally and preeminently, and following the teachings and conceptions of the Egyptians aald the Hindoos, blue is the symbol of that which the Craftsman must, since he is a Mason, always revere and of that which his Master Mason's lodge must, when its work and its teachings are properly understood and accepted, cause him to Progressively revere the more Divine Wisdom.
- Source: The Builder July - 1919