Unfortunately many words in our English language have more than one meaning. It is necessary to appreciate such words in the context of the phrase, or the lecture within our ritual and ceremonies in which it the word is used to discern the instructive meaning for a Mason.
For example, Masons are instructed to “pay due respect to the laws”. While the common man might give thought to obey a law when it suits his purpose, or only some of the time, a Mason is given the proper context as the lecture is delivered. Just as ‘go due North’ means to travel exactly and precisely North, so too does ‘due respect’ mean conforming to the intent as well as the letter of the law.
Similarly Masons hear that their lodge meeting is where every Brother will receive his “just due”. A common man may give thought to retribution or come-uppance when hearing this. For a Mason such a thought is dismissed as the ceremony continues and makes clear that there is fair and equal opportunity for every Brother of the Lodge to contribute to the happiness of the Lodge; even to actively preserve the usages and customs of our gentle Craft.
With this one word – ‘due’ – a diligent Mason will recognize the value of further study of several of the liberal arts and sciences; specifically grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
The common man may have been told he is zealous if he is devoted to a hobby or activity to the exclusion of other considerations. For example, fans of a sport might be zealous as their favourite team competes for a championship and go so far as to be rowdy! But being told to act with zeal?
This is an expression used within our tyled recesses and might cause concern to he who hears it for the first time.
How is a Mason to act with zeal? By the example of others we know that the observant Mason demonstrates zeal for our Fraternity by developing the fundamental principles or tenets of the Order within himself, by learning and practicing the leadership skills inherent in each Office or Chair, by promoting the happiness of his fellow creatures, and by advancing the cause of good.
The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia welcomes Masons to gather online at a scheduled time. Each week we are welcomed by a Past Grand Master, and a skilled Brother running the technology. And we enjoy social mirth! There are Brethren attending from across the province of Nova Scotia, across Canada, across the Caribbean, across the United States, and from places far across the seas.
I had the opportunity to address these Brethren in this forum. My presentation to them was on just one word: “parallelepipedon”. This is the word used in the Ritual I know (the Canadian Ritual) to describe the form of the Lodge. In some other Rituals, the form of the Lodge is described as an oblong square.
So for those who use the word parallelepipedon, my lecture added to their understanding of just one word in the lecture to the new Mason. And for those who’ve never heard the word before, well, it was just fun!
I am grateful that the Brethren who organize and support the online gatherings recorded my presentation and made it available to me.
In 1933 a Masonic Lodge Seal was presented to my Lodge. The explanation with it said it was for a regimental lodge with an Irish warrant. And that the lodge had to disband after the Battle of Waterloo. In 2014, with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approaching, I decided to check the explanation and remind the Brethren of my lodge that we had an artifact about 200 years old.
I discovered that the story of the Masonic Lodge Seal wasn’t completely accurate. I shared what I had found out at meetings of my own Lodge, and The Heritage Lodge No. 730.
It is true in this case that ‘no study of history is ever complete’.
Early April 2022 found me sharing more of the story of the Masonic Lodge Seal. The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia host a Sunday evening informal gathering. My presentation was delivered, and well received. Here is the link to the recording:
The educated man, and the Mason who has heard this word in our Ritual, understands it to mean a habit. Indeed, within our Ritual we hear the phrase ‘wonted custom’, which tells us how very important a regular practice is the recurring action being described. Later in the Ritual the Initiate is reminded to emulate that person who has that ‘wonted custom’.
We should emulate his fidelity to our Fraternity, and develop our own ‘wonted custom’ that is described in the Ritual.
“Palliate” is a word that probably never comes up in polite conversation. Maybe amongst medical professionals who discuss relief of symptoms without achieving a cure of the illness.
But within the context of instruction to a Mason in the middle of his journey, ‘palliate’ has a different meaning. As he receives instruction about our laws and regulations, he is directed how to address errors. Once a mistake is recognized, it is not to be disguised or covered up or excused.
Instead the initiate is reminded to use candor, friendship, and mercy, to bring about a satisfactory resolution.
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.
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.