The common man hears this word and thinks it means something is odd or strange. The educated man realizes there is a context in which there may be a peculiar meaning.
Indeed, those who study the origin and meaning of words note that in the early 1700s the word ‘peculiarly’ took on the meaning of a quality or characteristic unique to an individual or group. Thus, the Initiate is being told that certain excellences of character are expected of a Mason, because he is a Mason.
These attributes may be found in others, but the charge to the new Mason provides esoteric knowledge that is unique — or peculiar — to our Fraternity.
The common man watches mysteries in movies or television shows; he reads books in the mystery genre. These are typically crime stories! He might even use the word to express an opinion about someone: “it is a mystery how politicians can be so wrong!”. In this sense, a mystery is an uncertainly that can be understood with diligent investigation.
A religious man appreciates the additional meaning that a mystery is a description of a belief that is divinely revealed; something that the eye of human reason cannot see alone.
The educated man knows as well that at the time of operative masons creating the great cathedrals that a skilled tradesman or member of a guild would refer to his craft, his work, his occupation, as being his ‘mystery’; it is his occupation and how he conducted himself.
The applicant at the door of the Lodge might think he will be admitted and learn some secret knowledge and share in the mystery of Freemasonry. The initiated Mason begins to appreciate the deeper meanings of the mysteries, or Work, that he does in Lodge; and why he takes those actions in a just, perfect, and regular Lodge.
It must also be noted that the Oxford English Dictionary includes mention that ‘mysteries’ are “a secret of Freemasonry” and this use entered the language in the mid-1700’s.
In our world that is torn by conflicts and warfare, we understand that a professional soldier who is hired to fight, without regard for what is right or which nation employs him, is a mercenary. He may be of great skill in combat, but his reason for taking up arms is to be rewarded with money, not peace.
So it is odd to the common man who knows only this meaning that we ask every Candidate for our mysteries about mercenary motives.
The educated man understands that there are some men who are motivated purely by the desire for rank and fortune. These are mercenary motives. These are reasons to exclude a man from our Fraternity. Such men will not appreciate the lessons of Freemasonry.
The common man may equate this word with ‘magnanimous’ as a synonym for ‘generous’.
The educated man, and a Mason, learn that there is a more profound meaning.
More than one dictionary defines ‘magnanimity’ as having a well-founded positive confidence about himself, that is demonstrated to others by a generous nature, a noble purpose in life, and great courage in the face of challenges. These are the themes of the three established degrees in Freemasonry. These are the qualities of character that are elaborated in the lecture embracing the word ‘magnanimity’.
Thus, in one word that is well-placed in our Work, we understand the qualities of character expected of every Mason.
An educated man appreciates that this word is applied to the poor, the marginalized, the homeless of our country. They experience poverty on a daily basis.
The man becoming a Mason in our tyled Lodges is reminded that charity and benevolence are truly Masonic ornaments. And the Mason reflecting on all the steps of his Masonic career will appreciate that he entered the Fraternity in a state of indigence when he was prepared in the anteroom.
It is through experiencing the lessons of the three established degrees that his poverty is relieved and he is made whole – and made a Mason.
The Masonic Library and Museum Association is a membership-based association of those who work in, use, and support Libraries and Museums. Of course there is a Masonic focus!
There are many members across North America and some members from Europe.
The article describing how to write a Lodge history is a collaboration. Three experienced Masons who have shared experiences, even while living and working a great distance from each other, have commented and compiled their thoughts. We hope and trust that the article is useful to you!
What a delight it is to learn that someone respected my research enough to use it as the basis of a presentation of Masonic Education!
Bro. Trevor McKeown is an esteemed and well-regarded Mason, active in the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. He was present for an online meeting of a lodge in his jurisdiction when I presented my talk on ‘The Master’s Emblem Explained for Masons’.
Recently he addressed an online meeting hosted by the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia. Bro. McKeown shared some anecdotes and wonderful photos of the Past Master’s Jewels that are part of the archives of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. Then he shared some of the research on the Master’s Emblem.
Bro. McKeown is very familiar with Masonic history and research. He has earned the respect of internationally-renowned Masonic scholars and holds membership in the premier Masonic research Lodge: Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (UGLE).
In his presentation Bro. McKeown cited my research, and added several points from his own consideration of the writings of others.
What connected the first part of his presentation on the Past Master’s Jewel, and the Master’s Emblem, is (of course) Euclidean geometry. The Past Master’s Jewel is well-known to represent the 47th Problem of the First Book of Euclid. And the Master’s Emblem can also be traced to the First Book of Euclid. I detail that connection in the book.
There are two prepared talks in the book ‘The Master’s Emblem Explained for Masons’. So additional research is not needed. The talks may be delivered — as is — in a Masonic Lodge.
As the author of ‘The Master’s Emblem Explained for Masons’, I am available to provide an online presentation during this time of pandemic. I have already delivered the talk to several Lodges in several jurisdictions. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss a presentation to you or your Lodge.
To the uninitiated man, a hoodwink is an object. It is that cloth device used to cover the eyes. Perhaps he recalls a scarf tied around his head for the children’s game of ‘blind man’s buff’.
A well-read man may recall stories of a person being deceived, or hoodwinked, into believing a falsehood.
The educated man, and an initiated Mason, will appreciate an older meaning of the word ‘hoodwink’. In the years before speculative Freemasonry as we understand it came to be, a hoodwink was understood as the act of concealing knowledge from a man; and it was aligned with the word ‘hele’.
In our ritual then, the hoodwink is an object applied to the Candidate to conceal from his view the knowledge that is revealed when he sees Masonic light.
Ireland is known as ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’. What a grand opportunity it must have been for young James Agar to enter Trinity College in Dublin on this day (May 6) in 1775! Now Trinity College is home to the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland — The Long Room Library. But in 1775 the focus was on a complete education in literature, scripture, Latin, and geometry.
(This is a photo of me with a textbook from the 1790s at the Trinity College Rare Book Room)
When spoken this word sounds the same as ‘heal’ or ‘heel’. In the ritual it rhymes with words around it such as ‘conceal’, and ‘reveal’. Indeed, the initiate hearing the word hele for the first time will begin to understand that it probably has a meaning connected to secrecy. The educated man has learnt that ‘hele’ is a proper word of the Scots language, and that this word means to keep a secret.
Thus the initiated Mason learns that he is being instructed three times over to respect secrecy.
And the sources of our Masonic ritual are better appreciated.
I do note that in some places the word hele is pronounced as ‘hale’ or ‘hail’. There are explanations for this pronunciation that are — in my opinion — separated from the elegant simplicity, rhythm, rhyme, and context, of the lecture.