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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Masonic Ritual And Symbolic Terms

Masonic Ritual And Symbolic Terms Cover If it is difficult to decide on matters of Ritual it is equally difficult to understand a good many things which one experiences in Masonry. I have called them anomalies and peculiarities.

To begin with Freemasonry and Masonry seem synonymous terms, but are they? There was an Art, or Trade (whatever it may be called) of Building and this was Masonry, so called because of the product of the labours of those skilled in the fashioning and putting together pieces of stone. Freemasonry was, or is, the association of persons for certain character building purposes, and regarding the individual members of the association as typified by stones then there may be some synonymity. Freemasonry of to-day has nothing in common with the Buildings or Builders of to-day except in the use of symbols derived from the Builder's tools.

Freemasonry is said to be a Secret Society, but go where you will, you see Masonic Temple, Freemasons' Hall, and even Freemasons' Arms. There are well-known Freemasons' Institutions for Girls, Boys and Old People, and Freemason's' Hospital. You see men carrying odd shaped cases r bags, some who wear emblems on their watch chains, or you go to dinner as a visitor at a Ladies' Night, or see the members assembled at a Church Service. You know some relative or friend is a member, and perhaps gaze with wonder at his Apron. How then is it a secret? it isn't. It is properly a Society having secrets, to obtain or share in which you must join, or be made a member.

You think you would like to become a member, but no one asks you to do so. When you approach a friend you know is a Mason you don't seem to get on with it. He tells you about fees, subscriptions and so on, but not what it is or does - or why it is, or does it. Perhaps you are told you are free to do as you like, and you think that is why it is called Free. You are not quite wrong, but you ultimately go into it without any real idea of the nature of its ceremonies, unless some would-be wit tells you a great deal you find is wrong.

You join of your own free inclination, but before long you find yourself bound to certain principles, and have given up you freedom of selfishness for a bounden duty to serve your fellows. Freedom is not unrestrained license.

Freemasonry is said to be ancient, and derived from Time Immemorial, but no one can tell you when or where it really began, but for that very reason it is from Time Immemorial.

You come across some strange words which you may not have heard of before. HELE, surely it isn't English? No, not of to-day, but it is an Anglo-Saxon survival and is used in Cornwall, Sussex, and elsewhere and means to cover up or conceal. For instance, in Sussex a house with a new roof is said to be newly heled. The hard sound which is sometimes given is not AngloSaxon but German, i.e., hehlan, having much the same meaning. MOTE is an Anglo-Saxon word, from Motan, to be allowed, and the tense shows it to mean "So may it be."

MARK. This perhaps in two senses, one to make a mark, or sign on something, and the other to observe, or watch. Hence, to mark the Sun, etc., means to observe its position as indicating time. It may be thought that the position of certain officers whose backs would apparently (and perhaps actually) be toward the Luminary whose progress they were to mark, was an anomaly. So it would be, if visual observation of the orb was desired, but it is now figurative, and it may also be pointed out that the altitude could be ascertained by means of the shadow of a pole, or gnomon (used in early days for that purpose) necessitating the observer's back to the source of light, although it is true that in earlier (but comparatively recent times) the position of these officers was not the same as now.

HIGH TIME, OR HIGH TWELVE indicates noon, the period of the Sun crossing the meridian. Low twelve means midnight, a time of gloom, and has been adopted by certain American Masons to name a kind of Benevolent Association or Club, for the instant relief of a Brother or his family.

ON THE SQUARE really implies membership of the Fraternity. The terms Fraternity, Order, Craft, Institution, Society, Association, are variously applied to the organisation of which you are a member. The best title is Fraternity which means a Brotherhood for all Freemasons are regarded as Brothers. Moreover, it is the official title as on your Certificate.

GOOD STANDING. This means you have paid up all your dues and fees and performed your duties in that respect.

UNATTACHED - not a member of a Lodge - one who has resigned, and no longer subscribes to a Lodge. No Mason should remain in this position longer then can be helped. He loses privileges and advantages as well as the right of visiting Lodges often being limited to not more than one visit to the same Lodge.

CLOTHING. It is a matter of necessity for a Brother attending a lodge to wear the appropriate masonic clothing. This means in general an Apron (omitting matters of mundane dress) and this should be that appropriate to the degree of the wearer. It sometimes happens that by adverse circumstances the wearer's own is not available, and if one cannot be borrowed, then perchance a M.M. (or even greater personage) may have to wear one of a lesser degree, which causes anxiety to officers at certain times. It should be remembered that there are other styles of Apron than those used in the English Craft, and an acquaintance with them should be made.

BY-LAWS. The nature of these is generally known, but you may be surprised at hearing them read- not as a whole, but the first and last - or the marginal titles of them. This is wrong, they should be read in their entirety.

ANCIENT CHARGE. This is a term wrongly applied to a certain part of the Ceremony. Ancient Charges appear in the Book of Constitutions with the direction that they are to be read at the making of a new Brother or when the Master may direct. Now this is a direct and plain Instruction to read a definite set of officially prescribed injunctions and admonitions or explanations. If they were ritual then we are not only directed or ordered to read them, but they would be an official part of the ritual. But in the majority of Lodges this is not done, and I may say that I have never heard it done anywhere, although this statement is a confession of my own default. Still, the Ancient Charges if read would be a very interesting experience for all its hearers and ought to become the invariable custom.

CLOSING THE L. gives rise to an anomaly in some of them, as where one is informed that it "is closed ....." and the "meeting adjourned," etc. This cannot be the case for those same Ancient Charges state that the L. is an assembly of Brethren met to do certain things, and there is official authority for the statement that when the L. is closed the meeting has ended so that you cannot adjourn a meeting which has ceased to exist.

MAY GOD PRESERVE THE CRAFT is a pious aspiration of every member whether it is expressed verbally, or only voicelessly appreciated. Its use is superfluous as a moment's consideration of an almost immediately antecedent part of the Ceremony would indicate. If the true ritualistic idea of collective Participation in the Ceremony is entertained, a more expressive form has been used. Some points more nearly allied to ritual may be mentioned. The expression "enable you to become" (S. and L.) is not particularly happy, for no one who was not, could possibly be contemplated as eligible "enable you to be" (E. and O.) is better "to remain" (W.) is best. Then in reference to recommending anyone - we get "your choice" and for the choice is that of the person recommending, and only the ultimate acceptance of that recommendation is "our" business. Then a variation is found of those "in" and "from" the N., E., S. and W., which suggests two thing, "in" that those being addressed are actually situate at the cardinal points which they all cannot be, or "from" that they have assembled from every point of the compass, which seems more possible and suggestive of mediaeval times. A peculiarity which caused me some hesitation when I first participated in that part of the Ceremony is the statement "constantly revolving around it on its axis" (W., O., L.), and it is not improved by "constantly revolving round it on its own axis" (S.) revolving on its axis in its orbit (E.) is nearest to being correct, it does revolve on its axis, the latter produces night and day, and also the phenomenon referred to at this point.

BENEVOLENCE AND CHARITY. These are not integral parts of the Masonic structure, strange as this statement may appear. They are distinctly stated to be "truly Masonic Ornaments," and rightly so for character which does not adorn itself by the practice of virtue is unworthy of itself or the Fraternity.

There are many other things I should have like to mention, but they must remain untouched, and so be subjects for consideration and investigation by those who are attracted by or notice them.

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