by Daniel D. Hanttula
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of “The Cryptic Freemason” (Vol. 3, No. 8).
My Companions, I am honored to have been greeted, years ago, as a Select Master by Norman Council No. 27 of Norman, Oklahoma. That day, the number twenty-seven was innocuously printed on my dues card but, since then, this mysterious sum has repeatedly called out to me and Cryptic Masons everywhere. In the Select Master ritual and our opening ceremony, we learn that a Council of Select Masters can only be comprised of 27 and no more. We open and close our councils with knocks of 3 × 3 × 3, or three to the third power, the sum of which is 27. Coil’s Encyclopedia has precisely six words on this topic: “3 × 3 × 3 is significant in some High Degrees,” while Macoy’s Masonic Dictionary is silent on this value. How can a significant number be left with so little explanation? Did Henry Wilson Coil not understand Cryptic symbolism or was he trying not to reveal them to any but the truly Royal and Select? To further study and understand our gentle craft, I took it upon myself to explore the meaning behind this numeral of particular importance in Cryptic mysteries; the number twenty-seven.
The earliest documented conferral of a degree with similarity to our current Select Master degree was called the “Select Mason of 27.”i And, in true Masonic tradition, some authors believe that 27 members of the first council were made up from one of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, the three workmen who discovered the triangle hidden by Enoch before the flood, our three Grand Masters and nine Grand Masters of the Arches. These Grand Masters are the “Mysterious Nine” to which our ritual also alludes. According to Mackey, “Select Masters, therefore, work in secrecy and silence that they may prepare and preserve the sacred deposits of truth until the time shall come for its full revelation.”
In some degree systems, there were 27 Masters who pursued the murderers of Hiram. And to prolong our dip into the macabre, J. Boehme a 16th century German Christian mystic and theologian, calls this number “the death.” And, indeed, he may very well be correct, as modern society has created the “27 Club” a term that refers to a number of popular musicians who died at age 27, usually because of substance abuse, or through violence such as murder or suicide. More than fifty musicians populate this list, including, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Cobain’s death in 1994 brought considerable media attention to the 27 Club and in 2011, the media attention returned since Amy Winehouse had expressed a fear of dying at age 27 several years prior. To add fuel to the 27 Club fire, there is a conspiracy theory that a cult organization has caused these deaths. Yes, some believe that the Illuminati may have been responsible for cutting short the lives of these famous icons. But perhaps the most famous and relevant of all the icons is that it is even said that Jesus completed 27 missions before leaving his corporeal shell on Earth.
At first glance, all this may appear a little creepy and merely coincidental to Masonic traditions. But, the number 27 is clearly meant to serve as a symbol for Cryptic Masons, and like all important symbols there is the surface meaning, and then there is the deeper meaning that lies below the surface, which we can use on a personal and/or spiritual level. 3 × 3 × 3 or three-to-the-third power, is a perfect cube, which Cryptic Masons call the cubical stone. Two hundred years ago, the cubical stone was used as the altar for Cryptic Masonry, and the ark of imitation (that ark which we see in the Select Master degree) rested upon it. Mackey says “the cubical stone in cryptic masonry represents God, and thus, must also represent divine truth.” Bible numerologists say that the number 27 links strongly with the Holy Spirit who enlightens us with the Light of God. In fact, for Raymond Abellio, author, and a student of the esoteric and astrology, twenty-seven is the number of the Holy Spirit, while according to Alfred Weysen, researcher and author, 27 is a lunar symbol, indicating the light in darkness; the symbol of the divine light.
“We live in a Trinity of Trinities: Romans Chapter 1 Verse 20 says, ‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…’
The three qualities of universe are each three:
• Time is one yet three: Past, Present, Future
• Space is one yet three: Height, Width, Depth
• Matter is one yet three, Solid, Liquid, Gas
To exist, all three are required.”ii To put it in our Masonic parlance, “when composed of three only, of these, our universe must consist.”
The Select Masters of 27 degree was “given free of expense, to those brethren who are high enough to originally understand them.” This checkpoint– being found worthy by other Freemasons– is one of the most lasting traditions of Freemasonry but for Cryptic Masons, this is a quintessential moment. It marks the turning point when the candidate transitions to the understanding of the second temple legend and thus the higher degrees. This is the moment, when standing in the rubbish of your first temple, where you must shed that rough exterior (the imperfect ashlar) that you’ve developed in a 3 × 3 × 3 dimensional world, to truly let your spirit shine. This is the initiatory test that, for the uninitiated, comes at the physical age of 27 while, in the York Rite mysteries, that test is the ninth degree in the third body of Freemasonry (Lodge->Chapter->Council).
In the Cryptic degrees each of us has been operatively shown that the divine light within you cannot be destroyed. As Mackey states, “Thus it is said that the truth of the Lord ‘reachest unto the clouds,’ and that ‘His truth endureth unto all generations.” The Select Master degree is the ritualistic substantiation of this statement. Do not forget, as we begin our cryptic journey, the third portion of our being, the master builder, has left. And we are to replace him upon the throne of three that sits in the East of all Councils of Cryptic Masons.
Finally, Companions, I direct your attention to the three hours that every Select Master toils, which our ritual tells us begins at nine at night and last three hours before the bell of low twelve rings. During this time we are to work as Grand Masters of the Arches under the foundation of the temple, toiling in secrecy and silence; only letting our work speak for itself. Now, when we purge a council to begin our labors, and find our numbers to be 27 and no more, we are actually saying that all the men present have passed the test of maturity. All the men present are tested and proven; men whom have found the light in the darkness; who have unlocked the power of the holy spirit in themselves, and truly are the “Select” so that, when our council is composed of men only of that nature, our Council truly is “complete.”
So to return to where we all began (The Alpha), now that we have reached the end (The Omega), it wasn’t that Coil didn’t understand the importance of the number twenty-seven in Cryptic Masonry, but rather like all good mystery schools, he understood that this truth must be hidden until the candidate is ready to comprehend it. Those who morbidly joined Club 27 by leaving our world in the prime of their life were not ready to face the challenges placed upon them in a heightened state. But when the alarm of the Mysterious Nine calls us all to labor, we must all become humble and silent to work on that higher effort to which we have been called by the spirit within us all.
i A Brief History of Cryptic Masonry in North Carolina http://bit.ly/cfn-history-nc (Accessed May 10, 2016)
ii What is Biblical Numerology? http://bit.ly/cfn-numerlogy (Accessed May 10, 2016)
The Book of Splendours: Inner Mysteries of Qabalism and Its Relationship to Freemasonry, Numerology and Tarot by Eliphas Levi
Dead Gods: The 27 Club by Chris Salewicz
The Jesus Mission by Steven K. Scott