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Without Form, and Void

Today in Masonic History we present a discussion of "Without Form, and Void."

"Without Form, and Void" is taken from verse 2 of the Book of Genesis.

It should come as no surprise to any Freemason, whether you have had your first degree or your third degree, that there are many biblical references throughout our ritual. Although the references may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction many use a portion of the first few verses from the Book of Genesis. Recently, I and some fellow Freemasons found ourselves sitting around a table discussing the meaning of some of those words and specifically, how they translate to Freemasonry.

Specifically we were discussing the first few words of verse 2 of the Book of Genesis which says "And the Earth was without Form, and Void." We began with a breakdown of the words "without form, and void."

"Without Form" in a literal translation means something in a moment before it coalesced into something with structure. Looking into the more spiritual sense, it may be someone who is looking for a moral structure something that they can begin to apply a greater purpose to, something that they can build upon.

"And Void," as our discussion went on, seemed to contradict the "Without Form." "Without Form" seems to imply there is something there, a void is something that contains nothing, an empty space. In the biblical verse, this more than likely refers to the state of the newly formed Earth, that Earth is void, unoccupied by anything living. On the surface this doesn't seem to fit the concepts of Freemasonry.

One of our newer brothers came up with an interesting view of this verse as it pertains to Freemasonry. His idea was that we, as men seeking to better ourselves are perhaps the formless, void that is referred to in the verse. Then we recognize that the Form we seek is to be better men and masons it becomes our job to fill the Void with good works. It is not until later in verse when "God, said Let there be light" that we understand the good in the world and the universe is ours to pursue.

Now this is an interpretation that a group of masons, sitting around a table in a corner of the world came up with to explain a deeper meaning. Overall it brings up a good point. Much of our Masonic ritual is not meant to be taken literally. As Freemasons we deal in symbols, which are opened to interpretation which can easily mean 10 different things to 5 different people. It brings to mind what some use as a definition of Freemasonry which is "a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

The above definition needs to be interpreted a bit, needs to be thought about and discussed to be understood, as does Freemasonry as a whole. The words in our ritual cannot be taken on face value, their meaning must be explored. Without looking at the deeper meaning of our ritual we become mimics reciting the same words over and over, never improving ourselves or those around us..