Masonic Symbols – Gavel, Scepter, Kabbalah and the Master of a Lodge of Freemasons


“And yet you are a man and not a god,

however you may think yourself

like a god.”

Ez. 28:2

God governs the world by authority and not by force. Were it otherwise, there would be no freedom or rule of law. One is free to be either believing, or unbelieving. Nothing and no one can compel any one of us to have faith. No scientific discovery, no argument of logic and no torture of body or mind can force us to believe anything, or even to accept the authority of the Supreme Architect of the Universe. However, once that authority is recognized and embraced, the powerless become powerful reminding us of the parable Jesus delivered about the mustard seed – a grain of faith is sufficient to move mountains.

The Master of a lodge of Freemasons represents that authority. During one segment of the ritual in a Masonic degree, the candidate is instructed that the Master is always stationed in the east, while the Senior and Junior Wardens are always stationed in the west and south respectively. The ritual does not explain why that is so and most sideline veterans of Masonic degrees are quick to suggest it is simply because that is the way it has always been. While that explanation is certainly true to a point, it is incomplete and wholly unenlightened.

To be something, to know something and to be capable of something is what empowers a person with authority, such as the Master of a lodge. When all is said, it is authority which is the true and unique power. Compulsion or force is merely an expedient which one may use to remedy a lack of authority. Where authority exists in its purest form one can sense and feel the breath of sacred magic filled by the fire of mysticism – the essence of that which is divine.

At his installation, the Master of a lodge is entrusted with a gavel and told by his installing officer that it is an emblem of his authority which he may wield on behalf of acts of great goodness, or greater evil. The point here symbolized is that true Masonic authority is wielded by the scepter and not by a weapon. Masonry’s first Most Excellent Grand Master Solomon, King of Israel, is reported in Masonic ritual to have wielded the scepter over Israel, not another weapon, and thus stands as the foremost example of how Masonic authority is, or should be exercised.

The Kabbalah teaches that all authority has its source in the ineffable name of deity -YHVH – and that all law derives from that name. The clear implication here, as well as in all Masonic lodges, is that the human bearer of authority does not replace divine authority. Rather, he renounces his own will and permits himself to conduct himself as a conduit for divine authority. Always stationed in the east, the Master renounces action, as opposed to obedience, ease in favor of duty and movement in favor of standing sentry. In other words, the Master is a guardian of his post and essentially guards the scepter.

The scepter is symbolized by the gavel, which further is symbolic of the restraint a Master must exercise, if his authority is ever to be effective. The Master who shouts down his opposition, yells to make his point, deviously politicizes his lodge, or blithely issues orders without logic or reason has not exercised that restraint. Instead, he has undertaken steps designed to deprive the brethren of freedom of the deity’s loving guidance. A Master who is mindful that the gavel represents the scepter withholds his naturally impulsive nature so that it does not intervene and replace God as the head of the lodge.

The lesson of such restraint is not new as it applies to the Master, it is merely applied equally to the brother with authority, as well as to the brethren obligated to follow. Thus, it is not the individual who is predominant when Masonic authority is considered: it is the Supreme Architect of the Universe. Candidates are instructed throughout their Masonic journey that the compasses is a valuable instrument for teaching that in his dealing with other men, particularly other Masons, he is to circumscribe his desires and keep his passions within due bounds. That form of restraint inures to the direct benefit of the brother or individual who comes into direct contact with a Mason. The form of restraint applied to the Master is intended to benefit the entire lodge, the whole body of brethren and, in turn, all those outside the lodge with whom each brother has contact.

When he obeys the responsible duty of always remaining at his station in the east, the Master signifies that he has made a place within himself for the divine name, YVHV, which is the source of true authority. He also signifies that he has not only renounced the freedom of physical movement, but also that of intellectual movement. It is intended within every lodge of Freemasonry that the void which results should be filled by the divine, that is movement physically and intellectually should only occur following prayerful consultation with the Supreme Architect.

By remaining at his station, the Master also signifies that he has renounced any personal mission, or effort to promote his own esteem. He has literally become anonymous. His name has given way to the ineffable name of the divine and he has thereby become the embodiment of lasting law and order.

A Master’s obligation to exercise such restraint may best be supplemented by the following commands:

(1) be humble and you will remain entire;

(2) be worn and you will remain new;

(3) be empty so that you may receive much from God;

(4) chase not rewards that you may not be embarrassed;

(5) avoid approving of yourself and become noted;

(6) give glory to those around you that you may excel; and

(7) compete not with your brethren, because there is no one who can compete with you – you have authority.