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In Hebrew, which the writer of Genesis connects with, balal, meaning to confound, in reference to the confusion of tongues; but the true derivation is probably from Bab-El, meaning the gate of Et or the gate of God, because perhaps a Temple was the first building raised by the primitive nomads. It is the name of that celebrated tower attempted to be built on the plains of Shimar, 1775 A.M., about one hundred and forty years after the Deluge, which tower, Scripture informs us, was destroyed by a special interposition of the Almighty.
The Noachite Freemasons date the commencement of their Order from this destruction, and much traditionary information on this subject is preserved in the degree of Patriarch Noachite. At Babel, Oliver says that what has been called Spurious Freemasonry took its origin. That is to say, the people there abandoned the worship of the true God, and by their dispersion lost all knowledge of His existence, and of the principles of truth upon which Freemasonry is founded. Hence it is that the old instructions speak of the lofty tower of Babel as the, place where language was confounded and Freemasonry lost.
This is the theory first advanced by Anderson in his Constitution, and subsequently developed more extensively by Doctor Oliver in all his works, but especially in his Landmarks. As history, the doctrine is of no value, for it wants the element of authenticity.
But in a symbolic point of view it is highly suggestive.
If the tower of Babel represents the profane world of ignorance and darkness, and the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite is the symbol of Freemasonry, because the Solomonic Temple, of which it was the site, is the prototype of the spiritual temple which Freemasons are erecting, then we can readily understand how Freemasonry and the true use of language is lost in one and recovered in the other, and how the progress of the candidate in his initiation may properly be compared to the progress of truth from the confusion and ignorance of the Babel builders to the perfection and illumination of the temple builders, which Temple builders all Freemasons are. So, when, the neophyte, being asked "whence he comes and whither is he traveling," replies, "from the lofty tower of Babel, where language was confounded and Masonry lost, to the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, where language was restored and Freemasonry found," the questions and answers become intelligible from this symbolic point of view (see Ornan).
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