The Acacia

The gifted American Assyriologist, Professor Stephen Langdon of Oxford University, recently announced the translation of a clay tablet in the museum of the University of Pennsylvania as a Sumerian declaration, made not less than 5,000 years ago; that Noah, not Adam and Eve, caused the fall of man, by eating the forbidden fruit of the cassia tree. The mystifying discrepancies raised by this curious statement of one of the world’s greatest investigators of ancient lore are likewise typical of the vast confusion pertaining to almost everything Masonic; due to the acceptance of theological dogma as authentic history, without analysis as to the origin and purport of the various legends that perpetually clash along the road of time.

If we will but regard the wonderful old Hebrew legends as versions of age-old nature myths which achieved expression in analogous legends among other and neighboring Semitic peoples, we shall come closer to historical truth. There is a reason, lying away back at the dawn of human culture for getting Adam and Eve and Noah mixed. This reason cannot be imagined by taking the characters as historical personages, as described in the later writing of the book of Genesis. One must revert to the ancient speculative doctrine of the archetypal, androgynous man, called by the Phoenicians “Adam Kadmon,” for the true elucidation. These are big and hard words to most of us; but they are the keys to explanations that will be found in good encyclopedias.

Another Assyriologist, translating tablets, announced not long ago that Noah was “a lady;” which seems to make it still worse. Nevertheless there is still a bottom to the mystery, or rather series of connected mysteries; for it is all part of an identical system in the meshes of which we are still unwittingly entangled.

The standard Masonic references to the acacia are principally those of Mackey, who identifies it with the shittim wood of Scripture (from which gum Arabic is obtained), and of Pike, who says it is the erica or thorny tamarisk. Both exhibit well-grounded reasons for their contentions, with the burden of evidence in favor of the latter, who was an excellent Talmudic scholar. and knew the old Hebrew legends concerning the tamarisk.

Antique Russo-Greek crucifix, 400 years old, from authors collection . Note the acacia at the bottom . This oriental shape is the foundation of most Masonic Cruciform signs

Antique Russo-Greek crucifix, 400 years old, from authors collection . Note the acacia at the bottom . This oriental shape is the foundation of most Masonic Cruciform signs

The fact is that in ancient mythos there is quite a body of arboreal legends, and in the course of time a number of these have become mired or distorted to fit trees more familiar to certain districts than to those where they originated. The Garden of Eden contained two notable trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Both of these have become irretrievably mixed among those ignorant of the origin of either. The “Garden of Eden” arose from the ancient Sumerian legend concerning the origin of God’s own people -i.e.: the Sumerians themselves- in the valley of the Euphrates.

The ancient name of Babylon was Tin-Tirki (“Place of the Tree of Life”), and the country round it was called Kar (or Gan) Diinyash (the “Garden of Dunyash”) or Adon Yesha (the Builder of the Universe), eventually to be called Dionysius or Bacchus. Critical analysis of the Babylonian Tree of Life, which is depicted in countless archaeological remains, shows it to be a representation of the sun and twelve signs of the Zodiac displayed as what are called “palmettes,” a fan-shaped figure copied from a palm tree motif.

This is not, however, the acacia from the Masonic standpoint; yet the latter is contemporary, and will be quickly identified by examination of the cylinder seal called that “of Adda the Scribe,” which is No. 89,-115 in the British Museum at London, and about 5,000 years old. It shows the myth to be that of the “evergreen” in general; which, unlike the other verdure of the earth, does not despair, droop, and wither at the annual death of the sun-god, but announces confidence in his return by retaining her flourishing appearance, when all else in nature seems to have succumbed. The character of the evergreen shrub varies according to locality ; but the myth is everywhere the same.

As philosophy progressed, the myriad ramifications of trees suggested mathematical processes, and the conical shape of the conifers, the equilateral triangle of the geometer, and so we find the Angel of the Lord, in the burning bush, paralleled by the head of Ahura-llazda, in the midst of 10 flames, arranged as a Pythagorean tetrax, on the Persian fire altars of Sassanian times. So there is also an intimate analogy between the Christmas tree and the 36 C’Hanukah candles of the Israelite.

To go back to the question of Adam as the archetypal man, the finest remnant of the old original story that remains to us is one begun in the Talmud and embroidered on by the Byzantine Christians of the time of Constantine. It is as follows:

When Adam died, his son Seth, before burying him, placed a seed of the Tree of Life, this time the thorny tamarisk, on his tongue. The seed sprouted, burst through the coffin, and grew into a stately tree. When, centuries later, the Roman soldiers were looking for a suitable tree from which to construct the Cross of Calvary, they happened on this particular one, cut it down, and made it the instrument of death. As any object employed in an execution was abhorrent, the crosses were subsequently buried in the spot where the tree had stood, where they remained until the time of Emperor Constantine the Great.

The mother of this emperor, the pious Helena, dreamed that the spot was revealed to her by heavenly visitants, and thereupon prevailed on her son to send an expedition to Jerusalem to recover the sacred relic. Constantine was so sure of success that he caused beacons to be placed on hilltops all the way from Constantinople to Jerusalem, around his dominions in Asia Minor, to signal back the news of the discovery.

Singularly enough, it all happened just as Constantine, Helena, and their monkish counselors had figured out. They found the precise locality, disinterred the three crosses, and in the course of excavations also recovered the skull of Adam.

This adventure, called in Romish annals the “Invention of the Cross,”- and never was a word better adapted to express the truth, is commemorated by the placing of a tiny skull and crossbones at the base of the Roman Catholic crucifix; but the Greek church displays it, at the foot of its crucifixes, not only the skull, but a sprig of acacia.

It was from this Adam’s skull tradition that the name Golgotha (“Place of the Skull”) was derived. Brother Albert Pike tells us, in Morals and Dogma that the “Crown of Thorns” was of this same thorny tamarisk tree.

Now another connection must be sought in an old Jewish cabalistic legend also in the Talmud. The latter says that the name “Adam” was spelled “A-D-M,” because it thus contained the initials of three successive incarnations of the same spiritual ego, i.e.: Adam-David-Messiah. While the facts prove this to be a late rabbinical hypothesis, because the premises are wrong, it nevertheless demonstrates the legendary identity of the archetypal man of primitive legend, the Adam Kadmon, with David, who is Thoth, Hermes, or Mercury, and the Messiah, together with the medieval notion of an Acacia tree marking the spot where the last should rise from the grave of the first.

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