PREFIX TO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS [c]
TO THE RITUAL AND CUSTOMS OF THE GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND IN 1976
In the Masonic Year of 1976-1977 the Education Committee of Toronto
Masonic District No. 3 Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of
Ontario, under the direction of R. W. Bro. Frank J. Bruce P.D.D.G.M.
complied 47 questions which were sent to the late W. Bro. Harry Carr
P.J.G.D., Past Secretary and Editor of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
United Grand Lodge of England. These are his answers. It is to be
noted that the answers refer to the Ritual and customs of the Grand
Lodge of England in 1976.
This transcript of the Questions and Answers edited by W. Bro. Nelson
Question 1. What is meant by the term "Symbolic Degrees" and
Answer 1. If we look at the whole panorama of Masonry as it has
developed in the last 600 years, we find dozens of Rites and hundreds
of Degrees with an infinite variety of headings under which they
could be classified or grouped. Many of them have been rearranged;
many have disappeared.
If I try to answer the question as simply as possible, I would
say that the term "Symbolic Degrees" is a synonym for the Craft
Degrees, as distinct from the so-called "Capitular Degrees," e.g.,
those associated with Rose Croix and Knights Templar.
Personally I greatly prefer the title "Craft Degrees," because
they are the only Degrees which owe their origins directly to
operative Masonry and which developed entirely out of the Mason Trade
itself. All the others are either offshoots or appendages.
Question 2. Is there any documented account of the date or year
when Masonry, as we know it today, was first practiced?
Answer 2. The essences of this question lies in the words
"Masonry, as we know it today." Our present system was virtually
standardized in England around 1813-1816, from materials that had been
in existence since the 16th century, materials which had been
gradually amplified, and later overlaid with speculative
interpretation, especially during the second half of the 1700's.
I believe it would be impossible to prove the existence of
more that one single ceremony of admission during the 1400's.
A two degree system came into use during the early 1500's and
in 1598-1599 we have actual Lodge minutes [in tow Scottish Lodges] of
the existence of two degrees, the first for the "Entered Apprentice,"
and the second for the "Master of Fellow Craft" with evidence that
they had been in use for some time.
Outside the Lodge, the Master was an employer and the Fellow
Craft was an employee; but inside the Lodge they shared the same
ceremony, which was conferred only upon fully-trained masons. This
point is very important when we come to consider the inevitable
appearance of a system of three degrees.
The earliest minute recording of a third degree was in a
London Musical Society in May 1725, and highly irregular. The
earliest record of a regular third decree in a Masonic Lodge is dated
March 25, 1726 at the second meeting of Lodge Dumbarton-Kilwinning,
[now No. 18 on the register of the Grand Lodge of Scotland].
Question 3. What is meant by the "Perfect Points of Entrance?"
Answer 3. They were first mentioned in ritual text dated 1696,
when they clearly referred to secrets of the Entered Apprentice
ceremony. In a series of questions asking how a mason could prove
himself the first answer was; "by signes [sic] tokens and other points
of my entrie [sic]."
In those days the first Point was "heill [sic] and conceall
[sic]" and the second point was the penal sign of an Entered
Apprentice. In effect, the "Points of Entrance" were a brief
summary of essential elements in the initiation ceremony, but they
developed eventually, into a series of "trap-questions," with very
In the late 1700's, Preston in this "First Lecture of
Freemasonry" defined the "Points" as comprising the ceremonies of
"preparation, admission and obligation." In another version of the
same Lecture, he gave the Points of Entrance as a set of code-words,
"Of, At, and On," and the question ran:
Question: Of what?
Answer: In relation to apparel,
Question: At what?
Answer: The door of the Lodge.
Question: On what?
Answer: On the left knee bare.
The "Of, At and On" became firmly established in our English
Lectures in the next 20-30 years, until they eventually settled into
the form in use to this day.
Question 4. What are the Points of Entrance?
Answer 4. Of, At and On.
Of what? Of my own free will and accord.
At what? At the door of the Lodge.
On what? On the pint of a sharp instrument
presented to my N. L. B.
Question 5. The "three lesser lights" are placed in the East,
South and West. Why is there none in the North?
Answer 5. The answer to this question is in the First Lecture,
Section III; "....because the Sun darts no ray of light from that
quarter to our hemisphere." And the search for light is a major
inspiration in our ceremonies.
Question 6. What is the meaning of the word "Cable-tow?" What is
meant by the reference to its length?
Answer 6. The Oxford English Dictionary contains a number of
cable combinations, e.g., "cable-rope, cable-range, cable-stock,"
etc., but does not give "cable-tow."
The word tow has another significance, in addition to pulling
or dragging, it also means the fibre of flax, or hemp, or jute. A
cable might be made of plaited wire, or of metal links, or of manmade
fibres, but the combination "cable-tow" which seems to be of purely
Masonic usage, implies almost certainly the natural fibre from which
the rope is to be made.
The "cables length" is a unit of marine measurements, 1/10th
of a sea mile, or 607.56 feet. We use the term "cables length" in two
1. "A cables length from the shore," implying that
anything buried at that distance out at sea, could never be recovered.
2. "If within the length of my cable-tow." In operative
times, attendance at Lodge or assembly was obligatory and there were
penalties for non-attendance. Early regulations on this point varied
from 5 to 50 miles, except "in the peril of death." In effect, the
length of the cable-tow implies that masons were obliged to attend, so
long as it was humanly possible to do so.
Question 7: Why does the Candidate wear the cable-tow while taking
his Obligation? He comes of his own free will, yet the cable-tow is a
symbol of restraint.
Answer 7: With us, the cable-tow serves the practical purpose of
restraint. As a symbol it has several different meanings. I suggest:
1 . The implicit duty of regular attendance, 'if within
the length of my cable-tow, as noted in another question and in the
Obligation of the 3rd degree.
2. Humility, it, the frame of mind in which one enters
3. Submission, to the regulations, tenets and principles
of the Craft.
4. The bondage of ignorance until one sees the light,
Question 8: What is the meaning of the word "hele?"
Answer 8: To hide, conceal, keep secret. The Oxford English
Dictionary quotes the earliest English use of the word in c. 975 over
a thousand years ago.
Question 9: Why must the Brethren be convinced that the Candidate
has no metal about him, "or else the ceremony, thus far, must have
Answer 9: The reasons given in the "Charity Lecture" are
adequate and complete. The reason for this deprivation arises from an
ancient superstition of "pollution by metals" as shown in the
account of the building of King Solomon's Temple. [1 Kings, 6 & 7]
"...there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the
house while it was in building." The proof or test is required,
because all other points in the "preparation" of the Candidate are
readily visible during the perambulations, but the absence of metals
would not be visible, hence the special test.
Question 10: Explain the significance of the Candidate's dress in
the 1st Degree. Why does he bare his right arm, left breast and left
knee and why is he slipshod? When did this first originate?
Answer 10: The sum total of these procedures were not
standardized in England until 1813-1816. The individual items came
into use at various times and the records are very scanty, e.g. The
"left knee bare" appears in the Dumfries No. 4 M.S. dated 1710. The
"Naked Left Breast" appears in Masonry Dissected 1730 and the
Wilkinson MS, 1730. Slipshod, and other hints relating to clothing,
appear in a curious question and answer in Masonry Dissected:
Question: How did he bring you?
Answer: Neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod.
The French exposures, from 1737 onwards, say that "he is made
to wear his left shoe as a slipper." The bare right arm, came in much
later and I have found no explicit record of that until the 1780's, in
Preston's First Lecture. The Graham MS, 1726 says "poor
penniless and blind..." and also "half naked, half shod, half
barefoot, half kneeling, half standing." As to the reasons for these
preparations etc. The stands on Holy Ground [Exodus III, v. 5] and to
confirm the bond in the Obligation [Ruth IV. v 7. 8.] The bare right
arm. to show that the Candidate carries no weapons. The naked left
breast to ensure he is male, and the left is nearest the heart. The
left knee because Christian Brethren. take their Obligation on the
left knee. These are the traditional reasons, but practices are not
uniform in different countries.
Question 11: Why is Ruth IV used as a base for Obligation in the
Answer 11: I am not no sure if I understand the Question. The
Book of Ruth was designed to demonstrate the quality of David's
ancestry. When the childless Ruth was widowed, the law required that
her husband's nearest kinsmen should marry her, that she might bear
children "to raise up the name of the dead'. [Ruth IV, 5]. The nearest
kinsmen was unable to accept the obligation, and, in witness that he
had relinquished his rights, he slipped his shoe [Ruth IV, 8]. Boaz
"a mighty man of wealth" and also a kinsmen, claimed the right,
married Ruth and they became the great-grandparents of David. [See
"Slipshod" in Question 10.]
Question 12: What is the significance of the tracing Board?
Answer 12: The earliest reference I have been able to find, is in
the minutes of the Old King's Arms Lodge, No. 28, London. On Dec. 1st,
1735, the Lodge resolved...that the Foot Cloth made use of at the
initiation of new members should be defaced. The Lodge was ten years
old in 1735, and the Foot Cloth must have been worn out. The Tracing
Board, or "Floor Cloth" evolved from the early custom of drawing on
the floor of the Lodge, a collection of symbols relevant to particular
degrees. Originally, it was the Tyler's duty to draw the designs in
Chalk and Charcoal, and the Candidates duty at the end of the
ceremony to wash out the design with "mop and pail." Later the designs
were drawn or painted on "Floor Cloths" for more permanent use, and
the collected symbols became the basis for the speculative
interpretation of the ceremonies, which were eventually standardized
as the Lectures on the Tracing Boards. As to the significance of the
Tracing Board's; in the course of time the "Lodge Board" became "the
Lodge" and acquired a quality of sanctity. "The Lodge stands on
Holy Ground" and none were allowed to stand or walk on it. Finally,
when the Consecration ceremony came into use, the essential elements
of consecration, Corn, Wine, Oil and Salt were poured on "the
Lodge", i.e. on the Tracing Board.
Question 13: Where does the Penal Sign of the First degree
Answer 13: It appears in several of our oldest ritual documents
from 1696 onwards. In England this [and several other familiar
penalties] appear to have been in use as Naval punishments,
authorized by the Admiralty from C. 1451 onwards.
Question 14: What is the symbolism of the Rough Ashlar and the
Answer 14: The more or less official symbolism of the Ashlars [as
given in the first, Lecture Section 5] says that the Rough Ashlar is
for the Entered Apprentice to work on, and the Perfect Ashlar is for
the use of experienced Craftsmen when they test or adjust their tools.
But symbolism in Freemasonry is a very personal matter, and I believe
that we enter the Craft to build spiritual Temples within ourselves.
For me the Ashlars are our symbolic foundation stones. In English
practice, the Candidate is placed in the North East part of the Lodge
[where the Rough Ashlar rested in former times] and he stands at his
own spiritual foundation stone, to hear the Charity Lecture, one of
the great lessons of Freemasonry. In the Second Degree, he stands in
the South East corner, for a similar exhortation. Broadly, I equate
the two stones with the Candidate, upon his entry and progress in the
Craft. He comes, in rough, unpolished condition, unaware of what the
Craft holds for him, and ignorant of its teachings. Later, the
polished stone marks his progress in the Craft and his greater
understanding of its objects, duties and responsibilities. I should
add that the Ashlars belong to an era when there were only two Degrees
[Entered Apprentice and Master or Fellow Craft], and this may explain
why the Perfect Ashlar, representing the peak of Masonic
experience, comes in the second Degree. Finally, there are my own
personal views and I do not speak with the voice of authority. A few
moments of speculation may lead you to other ideas, so much the
Question 15: What is the origin of the Tyler and what were his
Answer 15: Originally "tiler", one who lay Tile. The spelling
"Tyler" is said to be obsolete, except in Masonic usage. The duties of
the Tyler have been many and various, but some of them have
disappeared since that Office first came into practice in the early
1700's. They are listed here, roughly in the order in which they
 To guard the door of the Lodge, or Grand Lodge.
 To deliver the Lodge Summonses.
 To "draw the Lodge" i.e. the Tracing Board.
 To prepare the Candidates for each Degree, and
 To take care of the Clothing, Jewels, and
 To take charge of the Signature Book to ensure
that all signed it.
 To give the Tyler's Toast at the end of the after
Question 16: The year on an Application Form is shown as A.L. Why?
Answer 16: The A.L. - Anno Lucis [the year of light] appears on
many Craft Documents. Our system of Masonic chronology is based on a
pre-Christian tradition that the Messiah [Christ] would be born 4000
years after the Creation of the Universe, so that the calendar, in
early Christian times, counted the Creation [Anno Lucis] as 4000 B.C.
Question 17: Where did the word Cowan come from?
Answer 17: The Oxford English Dictionary says "Derivation
unknown," and defines it as "One who builds dry stone walls [i.e.
without mortar] ... applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a
mason, but who has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the
trade." The word is probably of Scottish origin, and it appears, in
that sense, in a large number of Scottish Masonic documents from 1598
onwards [For further details see Carr's, "The Freemason at Work,"
Question 18: What is the meaning of symbolism in Masonry?
Answer 18: Symbolism in Freemasonry is the means by which we
explain or interpret the tenets, principles and philosophy of the
Craft. The answer to Question: 14 may perhaps serve as an example.
Question 19: What is the peculiar characteristic of the colour Blue
in Craft Lodges?
Answer 19: The question seems to imply a quest for the symbolism
of the two shades of Blue used in our [English] Craft Regalia, and I
answer in that vein. The M.M. Apron in use today, was first prescribed
in the Book of Constitution, 1815, by the newly United Grand Lodge. It
was then "plain white lambskin ... with sky-blue lining and an
edging 1"/2 inches deep, "virtually identical with today's Apron which
is officially described as with "light blue lining and an edging not
more than 2 inches in width ..."
Before that time there seems to have been total freedom of
choice, both as to the colour of lining or edging, and of the various
decorations, printed, painted, or embroidered with which they were
frequently adorned. On 24 June 1727, the Grand Lodge prescribed that
Masters and Wardens of private Lodges should "wear the Jewels
of Masonry hanging to a White Ribbon"; there was no mention of Aprons,
which were Presumably of white skin. On 17 March 1731, Grand Officers
were ordered to wear "blue Silk Ribbons" [ie Collars] and "Aprons
lined with blue Silk". A note in the Rawlinson MS. c. 136, dated 1734,
makes the earliest mention of "Garter Blue Silk" for the Grand
Masters" Aprons and from this time onwards Grand Officers' Collars and
Aprons are always linked with Garter Blue just as they are today. It
is important to observe, however, that until 1745 at least, the blue
Robes of te Garter Knights were of "a light sky-blue" and there
is useful confirmatory evidence that this was the original shade of
Grand Officers' regalia, sky-blue! In 1745, the light sky-blue was
altered by King George ll to the present rich Garter-blue, to
distinguish his Garter Knights from those who received that honour
from the Pretender. Our present use of the "garter-blue" so prescribed
in the modern Constitution dates back to c. 1745. Finally, it must be
emphasized, that in all the scanty evidence on the choice of colours
of English regalia, there is never any hint "that the colours of
Freemasonry were selected with a view of symbolism". [For the details
in this, I am mainly indebted to a valuable paper, Masonic Blue: in
A.Q.C. 23, pages 309-320, by the late Bro. Dr. W. J. Chetwode
Question 20: What is the basis of Masonic Chronology?
Answer 20: See Question: 16.
Question 21: What are the Landmarks of Masonry? How many are there?
Answer 21: The best definitions of the term as applying to the
[a] A landmark must have existed from "the time whereof the
memory of man runneth not to the contrary."
[b] A Landmark is an element in the form or essence of the
Society of such importance that Freemasonry would no longer be
Freemasonry if it were removed. With such strict definitions it would
be difficult to compile a list that genuinely conforms to those
standards. The U.G.L. of England does not have a list, though many
lists have been compiled [ranging from five to fifty items] and
adopted by various Grand Lodges. The best known list in the
Western Hemisphere was prepared by Albert Mackey who actually used the
two definitions quoted above. His list of 25 items was adopted by
several USA jurisdictions, even though the majority of them could not
possibly pass the strict test which he had himself prescribed. To
illustrate the difficulty, I quote two of Mackey's Landmarks which
cannot be Landmarks because we can actually date the period of their
first appearance in Masonry. From the "Freemason at Work" p. 264,
Mackey's No. 1 ... and Mackey's No. 2 ...]. To avoid a lengthy
discussion of the kind of rules, customs and privileges that could
never qualify as Landmarks, the following is a Code of Landmarks
adopted by the newly formed Grand Lodge of Iran in 1970, Which I
compiled for them at their request:
a] Belief in God, the G.A.O.T.U.
b] Belief in the immortality of the soul.
c] The V.S.L. which is an indispensable part of the
Lodge, No Lodge may be opened without it and it must remain open and
in full view while the Lodge is at labour.
d] Every Mason must be male, free-born and of mature
e] Every Mason, by his tenure, expresses his
allegiance to the Sovereign or Ruler of his native land.
f] The Landmarks of the Order can never be changed or
repealed. [For further details see Carr, "The Freemason at Work" pages
Question 22: What is the essential use of Tokens in Freemasonry?
Answer 22: To provide a virtually invisible means of proving
oneself a Mason and of testing a stranger. The ritual says that they
can be used "by night as well as by day".
Question 23: What does the word Free signify when connected with
Answer 23: The origin of the term has given rise to much debate.
In the earliest attempt to regulate building wages in 1212, the
freemason's [sculptores lapidum liberorum] were distinguished from
"masons" [caementorie] as separate classes of workmen, notably in
their wages. Masons were paid 1.5 to 3 pence per day; freemasons
received 2.5 to 4 pence, and in numerous later building accounts, the
"freemason" [in a variety of spellings] are regularly distinguished
from "rough masons", layers, rough hewers, hard hewers, etc.
Originally, the term "freemason" is undoubtedly connected with
"freestone" [franche pere in Old French, where the "franche" means of
excellent quality]. Freestone was a fine-grained stone that could be
worked in any direction and could be undercut, lending itself
particularly to the carving of foliage, images and mouldings,
vaulting, window-frames and door-ways. The skilled worker in
freestone was an artist and a precision worker, so that the
designation "freemason" denoted "superior qualifications in the mason
trade" Confusion arises however, when the titles are occasionally
interchanged doubtless through carelessness. It is not surprising,
perhaps, that when the character of the Craft began to change by the
admission of "Accepted "or non-operative Masons, the title Freemasons
was adopted, quite unofficially, for men who had never worked in
stone. When Elias Ashmole recorded his admission on 16 October 1646,
he wrote in his diary: "4:30 p.m. I was made a Freemason at
Warrington, in Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Mainwaring, of
Karincharn in Cheshire". Two other uses of the word Free arise in the
records of the mason trade:
 Free, ie not a bondman, who would not be eligible
for admission even as an apprentice.
 Free of the trade: it was customary in the London
Masons Company as in many other crafts, for an apprentice at the end
of. his indentures to buy his "freedom by the payment of certain fees.
He then became "free of the trade" and was entitled to set up as a
master. I am satisfied that neither of these connected with the title
Question 24: What is cubit measure?
Answer 24: Originally, the distance from the elbow to the
finger-tips [Oxford English Dictionary] varying at different is and
places, but usually about 18-22 inches.
Question 25: What is veiled allegory?
Answer 25: There is an error in this question. It is not the
allegory that is veiled. We use the allegory to veil our teachings.
The best simple definition will explain my meaning: Allegory: to
describe one subject in the guise of another,
Question 26: What do the references to the Golden Fleece and Roman
Eagle mean in our Apron Charge?
Answer 26: The Order of the Golden Fleece was one of the most
illustrious Orders of Knighthood in Austria, Spain and Flanders,
founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and the Netherlands in
1429. The insignia, or Jewel of the Order is a golden sheepskin with
head and feet, resembling a whole sheep hanging the middle from a gold
and blue flintstone emitting flames. The Eagle was to the Romans the
ensign of Imperial power. In battle it was borne on right wing of
each Roman legion. It was held in veneration by the soldiers and
regarded as affording sanctuary. We cite the Golden Fleece and Roman
Eagle to illustrate the respect and veneration that we owe to the
simple white lambskin Apron.
Question 27: What is the significance of the Wardens Columns being
raised and lowered?
Answer 27: In Three Distinct Knocks, 1760 we find "Calling Off"
and "Calling On". It begins with a series of whispered questions,
carried by the Deacons, from the Worshipful Master to the Senior
Warden and Junior Warden, after which the Junior Warden declares with
a loud voice that "this lodge is called from Work to Refreshment;
then he sets up his Column, and the Senior Warden lays his down; for
the care of the Lodge is in the Hands of the Junior Warden while they
are at refreshment." Here we have the earliest details relating to the
raising and lowering, of the Columns and the reasons for those
procedures, showing that they were designed to draw a readily
noticeable distinction between the Lodge when open and when "Called
Off ", This would have been an important matter in those days, when
"Work and Refreshment" [ie, ceremony, drink and dinning] all took
place in the same Lodge room. The raising and lowering of the Columns
is standard usage today but the whispered instructions have been
replaced by a brief catechism spoken aloud.
Question 28: Why is the Sun over the Junior Warden's chair and the
Moon over the Senior Warden's if the Senior Warden is in charge during
the work of the Lodge and the Junior Warden is in charge during
Refreshment or not at work?
Answer 28: Two unrelated problems are linked here, which were not
designed to fit logically with each other, though they are not really
incompatible. Perhaps the best explanation will appear if we trace
how the Sun and Moon, Junior Warden and Senior Warden got into those
positions. In our earliest ritual documents, we read frequently of
"three lights," candles, standing in various indeterminate positions
An exposure of 1724 said that they stood "Right, East, South and
West", [clearly implying the course of the sun at sunrise, at meridian
and at sunset, though this was not mentioned in the text.] In Masonry
Dissected, 1730, the "Three Lights" are still situated "East South and
West" and they represent Sun, Moon, and Mason, and the same text says
that both Wardens stand in the West, In operative times, when the
masons worked with hammer and chisel, there was only one Warden in
charge of the craftsmen; he was "progress-chaser" and it was his duty
to ensure that nothing disturbed the progress of the work. In
non-operative Lodges certainly before 1730 there were two Wardens and
sometime between 1730 and 1760, when for ritual purposes it was deemed
advisable to allocate specific duties to each, the Senior Warden
remained in charge of the Lodge at labour, and the Junior Warden was
placed in charge of the Lodge at Refreshment. The earliest ritual text
that describes this is Three Distinct Knocks, 1760, where the
Worshipful Master is in the East, and for the first time the Junior
Warden is in the South and the Senior Warden in the West. In the
Opening ceremony the Junior Warden's duty is:
The better to observe the Sun, at high Meridian to call the
Men off from Work to Refreshment and to see that they come on in due
time. Notice the Junior Warden, only called the Lodge to Refreshment
at the midday break and it seems to me that the points raised by the
question are not incompatible.
In the course of this lengthy answer I have tired to show:
 How the three lights, East, South and West con to
represent the daily course of the Sun.
 How the Junior Warden and Senior Warden arrived at
the South and West, and acquired the Sun and Moon emblems on their
 How the Junior Warden's duties came to be allocated.
The real problem is how to reconcile the East, South and West
with the "Sun, Moon and Master," the traditional reply which still
appears in our modern ritual. After much study, I am convinced that
if we said "South, West and East," that the problem would disappear as
Question 29: Do the Tassels have to have lights in them, and why?
Answer 29: Sorry, I have never heard of lights in Tassels.
Question 30: [a] Are there any Lodges that use the Tracing Boards?
[b] Did they have one in the olden days of Masonry, say
Answer 30: [a] Yes. About 7,500 in England alone and in most
Lodges in overseas jurisdictions that follow English usage.
[b] Yes, with ample evidence from 1735 onwards. [See Question
12] But we only use then in the speculative sense, to explain the
symbols of Masonry.
Question 31: What shape is a parallelepipedon and how does it
relate to Masonry?
Answer 31: The Oxford English Dictionary. defines it as: A solid
figure contained by six parallelograms, of which every two opposite
ones are parallel. This is my pet abomination in Masonry. There ought
to be a law against words of more than 3 or 4 syllables! It appears in
the First Lecture, Section III in answer to the Question asking "The
form of the Lodge". The same question in 1730, had the answer "A long
square", and I feel that the man who decided to use the
Parallelepipedon ought to be shot!
Question 32: Why does the Junior Deacon conduct the Candidate?
Could any other Officer do this job?
Answer 32: In 1730, it was the Warden's job [and Deacons were
rather rare]. Since 1813 it has been the Junior Deacon's duty, but
any other Officer could be deputize for him in his absence [or by
Question 33: Is there any significance in the Right Arm laid bare
etc.? If not, why bother?
Answer 33: Certainly there is; [See Question 10] It would be fair
to say that there is "significance in every item of clothing,
equipment and procedure, sometimes very important, sometimes almost
trifling. But what is trifling to you, may be important to me. In
matters of symbolism and interpretation, the significance that you
work out for yourself is what really matters. Try it sometime; you
will find it an interesting exercise. As for the Right Arm, it is bare
to show that the candidate carries no weapons.
Question 34: Did they have mosaic pavement in the Temple? Where?
Answer 34 No. See 1 Kings V 15, which says that Solomon
"...covered the floor of the house [ie. the Temple] with planks of
Question 35: Was Boaz really the great-grandfather of David, a
Prince and Ruler in Israel?
Answer 35: Boaz was "a mighty man of wealth" and he was neither
Prince nor Ruler. The ritual would be less confusing if we said:
"...great grandfather of David, who became a Ruler in Israel."
Question 36: When does a man become a Mason, after his First or
Answer 36: Under the United Grand Lodge of England, and in many
jurisdictions that follow our usages, the Candidate becomes a Mason at
the end of his Initiation, and I believe that this is probably true
in most of the recognized Grand Lodges. In several Grand Lodges in the
USA a Mason does not become a Member of his Lodge until he has passed
his Proficiency Test in the Third Degree and in most of those cases he
cannot enjoy the privileges of the Craft [eg, Masonic Funeral, etc.,
etc.] until he has signed the Lodge Register following the
Question 37: Is there any record of a Candidate's death in the
First Degree by impaling himself on the sword presented at the door of
Answer 37: Positively no!
Question 38: What is to be done if the Candidate declares himself
unwilling to take his Obligation?
Answer 38: You must not try to persuade him. That would be a
Masonic "crime", because he comes of his own free will. If this ever
happened in my presence, I would see the Candidate courteously
returned to the Preparation Room and as soon as he was ready [without
a word of criticism] see him out and call a taxi for him.
Question 39: If the penalties are not intended to be carried out,
what is their purpose?
Answer 39: They are traditional, based on 15th century Admiralty
penalties for treason. Nobody has ever suffered those penalties and
their contents have been a source of worry to Masons and Grand Lodges
in many parts of the world. In 1964, The English Grand Lodge resolved
to approve "permissive changes" in the Obligations [plural] and in the
relevant passages in the ritual relating to the Obligations by which
the Candidate undertakes now to "bear in mind" the "traditional
penalty, that of having the..." Note, the Candidate does not undertake
to suffer the penalty, or to inflict it, he only promises to bear it
in mind. The permissive changes were "permissive" in so far that no
Lodges were ordered to adopt them; they could only adopt them by a
majority vote in the Lodge. A large number of Lodges adopted the
changes; many still adhere to the earlier forms. [see Carr's, "The
Freemason at Work", pages 38-45]
Question 40: Why does the Entered Apprentice Apron not contain one
Answer 40: It is not necessary. The Entered Apprentice Apron is
always described as "a plain white lambskin" and every English Mason
would know that it designates Entered Apprentice status. In the USA
especially [but probably elsewhere too], only the Lodge Officers wear
ornamented Aprons and all visitors and members wear a plain white - as
emblems of equality - and in many jurisdictions, the grade of the
wearer, Entered Apprentice Fellow Craft, or Master Mason is indicated
by turning up the corners of the Apron or some similarly
Question 41: What does the "Broken Column" signify?
Answer 41: It is an emblem of mortality and it has no place in
our English ritual. In many of our Lodges, it is used as a
collecting-box for Alms, but it has no status as a Masonic symbol. In
the USA it appears with other symbols in many of the monitorial
workings, associated, I believe, with the Master Mason Degree.
Question 42: What does the "Hoodwink" symbolize?
Answer 42: The purpose of this term is to ensure that in case a
Candidate refuses to undergo the ceremony, he may be led out of the
Lodge without discovering its form. [First Lecture, Section Il]. The
symbolism of the Hoodwink is the darkness of ignorance until the light
of Masonry is made known to the Candidate.
Question 43: What effect did the "Papal Bulls" have on Masonry?
Answer 43: The whole story would require a very long answer and I
must be brief. In the 240 years or so since the first Bull against the
Masons was promulgated in 1738 by Pope Clement XII and reissued by
many of his successors, in various forms during the next 150 years,
they have prevented millions of good and respectable Roman
Catholics from joining the Craft. Throughout the centuries no real
attempt was made to bridge the gulf that separated the Freemasons from
the Church of Rome, until after the Second Ecumenical Council. Some of
the more liberal ideas that emerged from the Council, began to spill
over into other fields and within a few years, spontaneous efforts
were being started among sympathizers in France, Germany and the
U.S.A., all working in their own fashion in the hope of reaching an
accord between the Craft and the Roman Catholic Church. I myself was
deeply concerned in the work, writing and lecturing on the subject
and I had several important interviews with the Late Cardinal Heenan,
who helped the cause very considerably in his approaches to the
Papal authorities. The full story covering the public efforts and
private negotiations has not yet been published. Suffice to say that
in July 1974 Cardinal Heenan received a communication from the Holy
See announcing that the Papal ban had been lifted. Roman Catholics
everywhere [but not Officers of the Church of Rome] are now able to
join the Craft without the penalty of excommunication and already a
number of excellent Roman Catholic Candidates have joined the
Craft in England. [See Carr's, "The Freemason at Work" pages 277-281].
Question 44: What is the limit of a Mason's charity?
Answer 44: In its pure original sense, e.g. man's love of his
neighbour, kindness, affection, with some notion of generous or
spontaneous goodness [Oxford English Dictionary] there is no limit to
a Mason's charity. In its more common sense of alms, or more
substantial gifts to the poor or to institutions, the English ritual
specifies the limit, ie, "without detriment to yourself or
connections." [dependants] .
Question 45: What is the exact meaning of the word Cowan?
Answer 45: The Oxford English Dictionary says "Derivation
unknown", and defines it as "One who builds dry stone walls [ie,
without mortar] - applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a
mason, but who has not yet been regularly apprenticed or bred to the
trade". The word is probably of Scottish origin, and it appears, in
that sense, in a large number of Scottish Masonic documents from 1598
onwards. [For further details see Carr's "The Freemason at Work"
Question 46: During the Master Mason Degree the Chaplain recited
"Or ever the silver cord be loosed..." What is meant by the "silver
Answer 46: The words are from Ecclesiastes XII which describes,
in great detail, the decline of man in old age, and the failure of his
senses, limbs and faculties. I would quote from my annotated
Geneva Bible, which says that the "silver cord" is "the marrow of the
backbone and sinews". It may be pure coincidence, but I am forcibly
reminded of a passage in the Graham MS. , 1 726, which, after
describing the earliest raising within a Masonic context,
contains the word "Here is yet marrow in this bone".
Question 47: Distinguished between Hiram. King of Tyre and Hiram
Abif? The Bible refers to only one.
Answer 47: The question is wrong. Both are mentioned several
times in the course of the two Old Testament versions of the building
of King Solomon's Temple. Hiram King Tyre appears in I Kings V, 1, as
Hiram, King of Tyre and several times in the same chapter as Hiram.
Hiram Abif, the "widow's son" appears first in I Kings VII, 13, and
again in the same chapter in verse 40, where the name appears with two
slightly different Hebrew spellings. This has given rise to a theory
that there were two craftsmen named Hiram [Quite apart from Hiram,
King of Tyre]
Hiram, King of Tyre appears in the Chronicles version [in ll
Chronicles 11, 3] and he appears again as Hiram, King of Tyre in the
same chapter, verse 11. In verse 13 he writes to Solomon saying that
he has sent him a skilled craftsman, "a cunning man, endued with
understanding, of Hiram my Father's."* these last four words in
English are the translation of the Hebrew words "Le-Haram Aviv"
and this sentence is the source of our words "Hiram Abif. It was
Luther who first used this name [Hiram Abif] because he could not make
sense of the Hebrew "of Haram my father's."
Note: In ll Chronicles, IV, 11, we find the name of Hiram, the
craftsman, again with two different Hebrew spellings, suggesting that
there were two craftsmen of the same name, a father and a son. It is
impossible to solve this problem more especially because, unlike our
Hiramic legend - which is pure legend - there is no Biblical record of
the death of Hiram, the marvellous craftsman.
*Footnote: More correctly "of Hiram his father".
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