No term throughout the entire range of Masonic symbolism so completely clenches the connection between Freemasonry and the Ancient Mysteries as this most important link. The number nine is a part of the great harmony of the universe, and as such was recognized longer ago than man has history. A study of the peculiarities of this number will soon set at rest any wonder as to why it has secured such a paramount place in symbolism.
Nine-that is to say, the nine digits-is the basis of number, and therefore of time, space, and proportion, which cannot be expressed in any terms but those of numbers. The ancient number philosophy was the basis of every symbolic system of expressing the nature and attributes of Deity that the world has ever known. Even where important number symbols are apparently independent of nine, it will be found that they are based thereon. Its connection with geometry is fundamental.
The archaeological proofs that this system possessed no geographical limits, but was as common to Mound Builder, Aztec, and Inca as to Chaldean, Hebrew, Persian, Egyptian, Greek,
Phoenician, Mongol, Druid, and Hindu, are irrefutable. The symbols of “Three Times Three” among all these peoples are so much alike as at once to arrest the attention of the antiquarian.
It is well known that any number, great or small, multiplied by 9 will give a product the sum of whose digits will exactly equal nine. This mergence of everything into 9 was likened to consumption by fire, which caused 9 to be termed the number of Vulcan, which latter name was derived from Tubal Cain, the Semitic “spirit of fire,” that which resolves all that it attacks into its original elements.
Nine thus stands in the great old number philosophy as the representative of the primordial substance from which all emanated and to which all must eventually return. The remaining eight digits were accepted as the elements of the “dual principle,” embracing positive and negative, spiritual and material, male and female, odd and even, etc. The spiritual or “male” numbers were the indivisible- “odd” ones; while those representing matter, the female principle, were “even” and divisible.
Multiplying each of the first eight digits by 9 gives us 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, and 81, the sum of which is 396, a number greatly reverenced by ancient mystics because, among many reasons, added to the number 270, the period of human gestation in days, it produced the sacred 666, and indicated the incarnation of the solar logos in humanity.
From earliest times the letter M, with the value of 40, has been the mystical character of this incarnate “Word.” In the Hindu triglyph A.U.M., in which the first, last, and middle letters of the sacred alphabet stand for Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu, the creator, destroyer, and preserver, or “youth, old age, and manhood,” M is the symbol of this preserving manifestation of Deity, whose material emblems are the lamb, the corn, and the vine, and is shown in connection with wheat-ears and grapes on the Syrian coins of B. C. 360, from the figure on which the
Greeks copied their conception of Zeus or Jove, while it appears in various ways elsewhere, especially in the religious ornaments of the Byzantine Empire. In “Orient” Masonry the letter M is employed instead of G in connection with the square and compasses. The Manifested Word is the World Builder or Great Architect, the Rab Bone of the Essenes, or Nazorim, the Chaldean Seers (see Hebrews i, 1-3 ; St. John xx, 16) . Another designation is that of the “Alpha and Omega,” the two supplementary letters of A. U. 3I. (Revelation i, 8 et seq .)
Let us see where we now stand with regard to the connection with these particular circumstances of primitive Freemasonry.
The letter M (40) represents 396 because it is the sum of 18 and 22 which multiplied together produce it. The ancients made frequent use of words each letter of which was the initial of another word, the whole forming a sentence. Thus the Romans constructed from A.U.M. Arcifex Universus Mundi, or “Architect of the Universe of Worlds.” The founders of our modern ritualistic formulas – even if they have given us no intimation – have at least left it for us to discover the use of the same formula in the term G:.A:.O:.T:.U:., in which the letters G, T, U, respectively, are 3, 9, and 6, reducible to 40 or M, the remaining two being the Alpha and Omega.
We shall profit by one or two sage oriental reflections upon this wonderful figure 9. The “Nikita Karma,” or Brahmin sacred book of occult science, says, “It is now time for the virtuous father who possess a son, over whose head has rolled three times three years, the figure of the tutelary spirits, to perform the ceremony of the Oupanayana” (introduction to the study of the liberal arts and sciences). “He should then contemplate the infinite perfection of Brahma. He should ponder the Three Triads which have sprung from Him and have created the 8,400,000 creatures, at the head of which is man.”
The care of the sacred fire in the temples is always entrusted to nine Brahmans.
The nine fold constitution of the universe was set forth by the ancients as follows: Three forms of matter, gaseous, liquid, and solid; three forms of motion, from a center, to a center, round a center ; three magnitudes of bodies, length, breadth, and thickness.
The great French Masonic mystic, Ragon, in writing of this expression, says, “If the number ‘three’ was greatly esteemed by the early sages, the number three times three -has not been less celebrated, because, according to them, every one of the elements that go to make up our body is triple,-water containing both earth and fire, earth containing both igneous and aqueous particles, and fire being tempered by globules of water and earthly corpuscles, which serve as its food . As not one of these elements is thus ever found simple and without admixture of the others, all material beings, being composed of these three elements, each triple, can therefore be designated by the figurative number three times three; hence it became the symbol of incorporation. Hence also the name of ‘nine fold envelop’ given to matter.”