The traitors of the Third Degree are called Assassins in Continental Freemasonry and in the advanced Degrees. The English and American Freemasons have adopted in their instructions the more homely appellation of Ruffians. The fabricators of the high Degrees adopted a variety of names for these Assassins (see Assassins of the Third Degree), but the original names are preserved in the instructions of the York and American Rites. There is no question that has so much perplexed Masonic antiquaries as the true derivation and meaning of these three names. In their present form, they are confessedly uncouth and without apparent signification.. Yet it is certain that we can trace them in that form to the earliest appearance of the legend of the Third Degree, and it is equally certain that at the time of their adoption some meaning must have been attached to them. Brother Mackey was convinced that this must have been a very simple one, and one that would have been easily comprehended by the whole of the Craft, who were in the constant use of them.
Attempts, it is true, have been made to find the root of these three names in some recondite reference to the Hebrew names of God. But there is in Doctor Mackey's opinion, no valid authority for any such derivation. In the first place, the character and conduct of the supposed possessors of these names preclude the idea of any congruity and appropriateness between them and any of the divine names. And again, the literary condition of the Craft at the time of the invention of the names equally precludes the probability that any names would have been fabricated of a recondite signification, and which could not have been readily understood and appreciated by the ordinary class of Freemasons who were to use them. The names must naturally have been of a construction that would convey a familiar idea would be suitable to the incidents in which they were to be employed, and would be congruous with the character of the individuals upon whom they were to be bestowed.
Now all these requisites meet in a word which was entirely familiar to the Craft at the time when these names were probably invented. The Ghiblim are spoken of by Anderson, meaning Ghiblim, as stonecutters or Masons; and the early amounts show us very clearly that the Fraternity in that day considered Giblim as the name of a Mason; not only of a Mason generally, but especially of that class of Masons who, as Drummond says, "put the finishing hand to King Solomon's Temple"-that is to say the Fellow Crafts. Anderson also places the Ghiblim among the Fellow Crafts; and so, very naturally, the early Freemasons, not imbued with any amount of Hebrew learning, and not making a distinction between the singular and ph1ral forms of that language, soon got to calling a Fellow Craft a Giblim.
The steps of corruption between Giblim arid Jilbelum were not very gradual; nor can anyone doubt that such corruptions of spelling and pronunciation were common among these illiterate Freemasons, when he reads the Old Manuscripts, and finds such verbal distortions as Nembroch for Nimrod, Eaglet for Euclid, and Aymon for Hiram. Thus, the first corruption was from Giblim to Gibalim, which brought the word to three syllables, making it thus nearer to its eventual change.
Then we find in the early works another transformation into Chibbelum. The French Freemasons also took the work of corruption in hand, and from Giblim they manufactured Jiblime and Jibulum and Habmlum. Some of these Freneh corruptions came back to English Freemasonry about the time of the fabrication of the advanced Degrees, and even the French words were distorted. Thus in the Iceland Manuscript, the English Freemasons made out of Pytagore, the French for Pythagoras, the unknown name Peter Gower, which is said so much to have puzzled John Locke.
So we may through these mingled English and French corruptions trace the genealogy of the word Jubelum; thus, Ghiblim, Giblim, Gibalim, Chibbelum, Jiblime, Jibelum, Jabelum, rind, finally, Jubelum. It meant simply a Fellow Craft, and was appropriately given as a common name to a particular Fellow Graft who vas distinguished for his treachery. In other words, he was designated, not by a special and distinctive name, but by the title of his condition and rank at the Temple.
He was the Fellow Craft, who was at the head of a conspiraey. As for the names of the other two Ruffians, they were readily constructed out of that of the greatest one by a simple change of the termination of the word from um to a in one, and from um to o in the other, thus preserving, by a similarity of names, the idea of their relationship, for the old works said that they were Brothers who had come together out of Tyre. This derivation to Doctor Mackey seems to be easy, natural, and comprehensible. The change from Giblim, or rather from Gibalim to Jubelum, is one that is far less extraordinary than that which one half of the Masonic words have undergone in their transformation from their original to their present form.
As every Mason knows, at the heart of our mysteries lies a legend, in
which we learn how three unworthy craftsmen entered into a plot to
extort from a famous Mason a secret to which they had no right. It
is all familiar enough, in its setting and sequence; and it is a part
of his initiation which no Mason ever forgets.
In spite of its familiarity, the scene in which the Ruffians appear
is one of the most impressive that any man ever beheld, if it is not
marred, as it often is, alas, by a hint of rowdy. No one can witness
it without being made to feel there is a secret which, for all our
wit and wisdom, we have not yet won from the Master Builder of the
world; the mystery of evil in the life of man.
To one who feels the pathos of life and ponders its mystery, a part
of its tragedy is the fact that the Great Man, toiling for the good
of the race, is so often stricken down when the goal of his labors is
almost within his reach; as Lincoln was shot in an hour when he was
most needed. Nor is he an isolated example. The shadow lies dark
upon the pages of history in every age.
The question is baffling: Why is it that evil men, acting from low
motives and for selfish aims, have such power to throw the race into
confusion and bring ruin upon all, defeating the very end at which
they aim? Is it true that all the holy things of life - the very
things that make it worth living - are held at the risk and exposed
to the peril of evil forces; and if so, why should it be so?
If we cannot answer such questions we can at least ask another nearer
to hand. Since everything in masonry is symbolic, who are the
ruffians and what is the legend trying to tell us? Of course we know
the names they wear, but what is the truth back of it all which it
will help us to know? As is true of all Masonic symbols, as many
meanings have been found as there have been seekers.
It all depends on the key with which each seeker sets out to unlock
the meaning of Masonry. To those who trace our symbolism to the
ancient solar worship, the three Ruffians are the three winter months
who plot to murder the beauty and glory of summer, destroying the
life-giving heat of the sun. To those who find the origin of Masonry
in the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt, it is a drama of Typhon, the
Spirit of Evil, slaying Osirus the Spirit of Good, who is
resurrected, in turn rising triumphant over death.
Not a few find the fulfillment of this oldest of all dramas in the
life and death of Jesus, who was put to death outside the city gate
by three of the most ruthless Ruffians - the Priest, the Politician
and the Mob. Which of the three is the worst foe of humanity is hard
to tell, but when they work together, as they usually do, there is no
crime against man of which they have not been guilty.
A few think that Masonry, as we have it, grew out of the downfall of
the Knights Templar, identify the three Assassins, as they are called
in the Lodges of Europe, with three renegade Knights who falsely
accused the Order, and so aided King Phillip and Pope Clement to
abolish Templarism, and slay its Grand Master, A very few see in
Cromwell and his adherents the plot-ters, putting to death Charles
It is plain that we must go further back and deeper down if we are to
find the real Ruffians, who are still at large. Albert Pike
identified the three Brothers who are the greatest enemies of
individual welfare and social progress as Kingcraft, Priestcr-aft,
and the ignorant Mob-Mind. Together they conspire to destroy
liberty, without which man can make no advance.
The first strikes a blow at the throat, the seat of freedom of
speech, and that is a mortal wound. The second stabs at the heart,
the home of freedom of conscience, and that is well-nigh fatal, since
it puts out the last ray of Divine Light by which man is guided. The
third of the foul plotters fells his victim dead with a blow on the
brain, which is the throne of freedom of thought.
No lesson could be plainer; it is written upon every page of the
past. If by apathy, neglect or stupidity we suffer free speech, free
conscience, and free thought to be destroyed either by Kingcraft,
Priestcraft or the Mob-Mind; or, by all three working together - for
they are Brothers and usually go hand in hand - the Temple of God
will be dark, there will be no designs upon the Trestlboard, and the
result will be idleness, confusion and chaos. It is a parable of
history - a picture of many an age in the past of which we read.
For, where there is no light of Divine Vision, the Altar fire is
extinguished. The people "perish" s the Bible tells us; literally
they become a mob, which is only another way of saying the same
thing. There are no designs on the Trestleboard; that is, no
leadership, - as in Russia today, where the herd-mind runs wild and
runs red. Chaos comes again, inevitably so when all the lights are
blown out, and the people are like ignorant armies that clash by
Of the three Ruffians, the most terrible, the most ruthless, the most
brutal is the ignorant Mob-Mind. No tyrant, no priest can reduce a
nation to slavery and control it until it is lost in the darkness of
ignorance. By ignorance we mean not merely lack of knowledge, but
the state of mind in which men refuse, or are afraid, to think, to
reason, to enquire. When "The Great Free-doms of the Mind" go,
everything is lost!.
After this manner Pike expounded the meaning of the three Ruffians.
who rob themselves, as they rob their fellow craftsmen, of the most
precious secret of personal and social life. A secret, let it be
added, which cannot be extorted, but is only won when we are worthy
to receive it and have the wit and courage to keep it. For, oddly
enough, we cannot have real liberty until we are ready for it, and
can only become worthy of it by seeking and striving for it.
But some of us go further, and find the same three Ruffians nearer
home - hiding in our own hearts. And naturally so, because society
is only the individual writ larger; and what men are together is
determined by what each is by himself. If we know who the ruffians
really are, we have only to ask; what three things waylay each of us,
destroy character, and if they have their way either slay us or turn
us into ruffians? Why do we do evil and mar the Temple of God in us?
Three great Greek thinkers searched until they found the three causes
of sin in the heart of man. In other words, they hunted in the
mountains of the mind until they found the Ruffi-ans. Socrates said
that the chief ruffian is ignorance - that is, no man in his right
mind does evil unless he is so blinded by ignorance that he does see
the right. No man, he said, seeing good and evil side by side, will
choose evil unless he is too blind to see its results. An
enlightened self-interest would stop him. Therefore, his remedy for
the ills of life is knowl-edge - more light, and a clearer insight.
Even so, said Plato; it is all true as far as it goes. But the fact
is that men do see right and wrong clearly, and yet in a dark mood
they do wrong in spite of knowledge. When the mind is calm and
clear, the right is plain, but a storm of passion stirs up sediments
in the bottom of the mind, and it is so cloudy that clear vision
fails. The life of a man is like driving a team of horses, one tame
and the other wild. So long as the wild horse is held firmly all
goes well. But, alas, often enough, the wild horse gets loose and
there is a run-away and a wreck.
But that is not all, said Aristotle. We do not get to the bottom
truth of the matter until we admit the fact and possibil-ity - in
ourselves and in our fellows - of a moral perversity, a spirit of
sheer mischief, which does wrong, deliberately and in the face of
right, calmly and with devilish cunning, for the sake of wrong and
for the love of it. Here, truly, is the real Ruffian most to be
feared - a desperate character he is, who can only be overcome by
Thus, three great thinkers capture the Ruffians, hiding somewhere in
our own minds. It means much to have them brought before us for
judgment, and happy is the man who is wise enough to take them
outside the city of his mind and execute them. Nothing else or less
will do. To show them any mercy is to invite misery and disaster.
They are ruthless, and must be dealt with ruthlessly and at once.
If we parley with them, if we soften toward them, we our-selves may
be turned into Ruffians. Good but foolish Fellowcra-fts came near
being intrigued into a hideous crime. "If thy right eye offend,
pluck it out," said the greatest of Teachers. Only a celestial
surgery will save the whole body from infection and moral rot. We
dare not make terms with evil, else it will dictate terms to us
before we are aware of it.
One does not have to break the head of a Brother in order to be a
Ruffian. One can break a heart. One can break his home. One can
slay his good name. The amount of polite and refined ruffianism that
goes on about us every day is appalling. Watch-fulness is wisdom.
Only a mind well tiled, with a faithful inner guard ever at his post,
may hope to keep the ruffian spirit out of your heart and mine. No
wise man dare be careless or take any chances with the thought,
feelings and motives he admits into the Lodge of the mind, whereof he
So let us live, watch and work, until Death, the last Ruffian, whom
none can escape, lays us low, assured that even the dark, dumb hour,
which brings a dreamless sleep about our couch, will not be able to
keep us from the face of God, whose strong grip will free us and lift
us out of shadows into the Light; out of dim phantoms into the Life
Eternal that cannot die.
"SO MOTE IT BE"