“Hoodwink” means what?

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.

Land of Saints and Scholars

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)

I’ve not heard that word before…

Hele

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.

Go big…

The word ‘dilate’ is usually heard in a health-care setting. When you visit an optometrist you may receive some drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils. The common man understands this is a verb, an action.  It is to physically make something wider or larger. 

A Candidate receiving his first instructions within the tyled recesses of a Masonic Lodge may simply accept that there is a further meaning.  And indeed, when he explores this word with his sponsors and mentors he will learn that there is a further meaning. 

As Masonry comes to us from an earlier age, an older meaning is intended of the word ‘dilate’ in our lectures.  That meaning is to describe something, or to speak about something in detail and for a long time.  Within the context of the lecture that deals with a virtue that is close to every Mason’s heart, it is hoped that the virtue is so well understood by the Candidate that we do not have to pause and give examples.  Rather, we can immediately continue and see that virtue demonstrated by the Candidate.

“Do it with Enthusiasm” means something else to a Mason

Enthusiast.

Today we want things done with enthusiasm, and we see an enthusiast as someone who is happy to do something.  The educated man understands that this was not always the meaning, and our Ritual draws from this earlier time to offer a warning.  Early in the 1700s there was a religious movement recognized as heretical, or contrary to then-current religious dogma.  Adherents were called enthousiastes and met with opposition by ecclesial authorities.  Knowing this earlier meaning and the circumstances that gave rise to it allow the initiate and Mason to properly appreciate the full meaning of the lecture describing the plumb rule.

What is a cardinal?

Here is a definition of a word found within Masonic ritual that is not common outside of our Lodge rooms.

Cardinal

Look!  Is it a red bird?  Is it a baseball player?  Is it a leader of the Catholic church?  No.  It has something to do with virtues.  How can that be?  An outdoorsman, or navigator, or one who has worked with a compass to determine a direction might recall the four cardinal points of the compass being north, east, south, and west.  It is the educated man who understands that a ‘cardinal rule’ is the most profound rule, and that the ‘cardinal virtues’ are those natural virtues which are so important that all other virtues derive from them.  The cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, can be traced in both religion and philosophy to earliest times.  They are so fundamental, crucial, and important, that all other virtues hinge upon them.  The newly initiated Mason learns that when the four cardinal virtues are practised together with the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), then within our fraternity may be found the three great social treasures of fraternity, liberty, and equality.  The cause of good then hinges on the cardinal virtues.

Provided for your daily advancement in Masonic knowledge from the Sarnia District Masonic Library.  Wor. Bro. Marshall Kern, Librarian & Historian. 

What is ‘Preferment’?

Here is a definition of a word found within Masonic ritual that is not common outside of our Lodge rooms.

Preferment. This is a uncommon word today and someone hearing for the first time might think it is a ‘preference’ or a sign of favouritism.

Indeed, such a misunderstanding could feed into conspiracy theories about our Craft, or the false idea that to become a Mason is a path to fame and fortune. To the educated man well-studied in English history or well-read in English literature, ‘preferment’ means one who has received an appointment to a higher position in the English court or the Church of England.

In this sense, a preferment is synonymous with a promotion. A well-studied Mason will recognize within our Ritual that we congratulate a candidate for his preferment and remind him that his behaviour and actions have earned the honour which leads him to have a new character or identity. It is not favouritism. To a Mason the word ‘preferment’ means a rank he has earned by his own labour and with the assistance of his Lodge. The challenge to all Masons is to assure ourselves we are assisting each candidate for our mysteries to attain their preferment.

We should honour those who by merit and ability have earned preferment and rank as Grand Lodge officers.

Is it just fantasy?

A Brother made a comment on a social media platform that is, in my opinion, quite valid.  He observed that explanations of old Masonic artefacts are often just fantasy.  No one can claim “this gavel was used when building the Temple at Jerusalem”.  I agree, and can add that doing any good Masonic research is hard work.  It demands time, creative problem-solving skills, and then communication skills to be able to share the result.

There are two goals with any good Masonic research.  One is to share knowledge, to inform, and to educate other Masons.  This is visible when the end product of research is delivered.  Whether in a tyled Lodge meeting, or published somewhere, good research adds to the body of knowledge of all men, and more particularly to the knowledge of Masons.

The second goal is to make a change in yourself.  This is achieved by ongoing examination of the process and products of research.  In my own case, it is easy to say that I have traveled down many false paths, and collected lots of irrelevant information, as I’ve looked at artefacts, and ideas.  I think my skills have improved, and my confidence grows that I am supporting the fundamental principle of truth.

So when I share my research I also share my sources of information. 

My article on a Highland Lodge Seal includes mention of my contacts with the current Regiment, and with the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

My biography of James Agar includes over a dozen of the most relevant primary sources of information so others can confirm my research.

My small book regarding the motto Audi, Vide, Tace has 20 references in the footnotes and 3 pages of images.

My book The Master’s Emblem Explained for Masons has 7 pages listing my sources.

But back to the observation of the Brother.  I am glad that he made the comment because it means he is looking for Masonic education.  He is searching for truth, for knowledge, and for understanding.  I commend him for doing so.  I hope that my efforts in Masonic education assist him in his researches.