The acacia, which, in Scripture, is always called Shittah, was esteemed a sacred wood among the Hebrews. Of it Moses was ordered to make the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the table for the shewbread, and the rest of the sacred furniture.
The acacia, then, has always been consecrated from among the other trees of the forest by the sacred purposes to which it was devoted. By the Jew, the tree from whose wood the sanctuary of the tabernacle and the Holy Ark had been constructed. The early Masons very naturally appropriated this hallowed plant to the equally sacred purpose of a symbol, which was to teach an important divine truth in all ages to come.
The acacia, in the mythic system of Freemasonry, is preeminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL – the important doctrine that is the great design of the Institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower, which “cometh forth and is cut down,” reminds us of the transitory nature of human life, so the perpetual renovation of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly presents the appearance of youth and vigor, is aptly compared to that spiritual life in which the soul, freed from the corruptible companionship of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth.
Hence we see the propriety of placing the sprig of acacia, as an emblem of immortality, among the symbols of that degree, all of whose ceremonies are intended to teach us the great truth that “the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour by the prospect of Eternal Bliss.”
The sprig of acacia, then, in its most ordinary signification, presents itself to the Master Mason as a symbol of the immortality of the soul, being intended to remind him, by its evergreen and unchanging nature, of that better and spiritual part within us, which, as an emanation from the Grand Architect of the Universe, can never die.
Compiled by Jack R. Levitt
Past Grand Master of California