PS Review of Freemasonry

Make this site your Home Page Print this page Send Masonic E-card recommend PS Review of Freemasonry Masonic Book Reviews Alerts Masonic News Alerts RSS News Feed
Serving Freemasons first
Search PS Review of Freemasonry

Gary Kerkin
"...without neglecting the ordinary duties of your station endeavour to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge."


VW. Bro. Gary Kerkin is PM Lodge Piako No 160
PM Waikato Lodge of Research No 445
Past Grand Lecturer, Grand Lodge of New Zealand
Grand Lecturer (2009), Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Zealand, Northern Division.

Words! Words! Words!

I'm so sick of words!

I get words all day through;

First from him, now from you!

Is that all you blighters can do?

“My Fair Lady”, lyrics by Alan J. Lerner

         Just how important are words?

         What do they do for us? What do they convey?

         Early in 2005 my wife and I visited the south west corner of the USA starting and ending in Los Angeles where we stayed a few days with friends. He is a retired Lt Col (USAF); she is an actress. The night before we returned to New Zealand they hosted a dinner party in our honour. Most of the guests were actors and actresses, all of whom had appeared in numerous stage productions, movies, and television situation comedies. At one stage during the evening one of them (a male) asked my wife what she did for recreation. Without thinking she replied “Tramping”.

         The look on his face was absolutely delightful.

         “Tramping?” he exclaimed, “Tramping?”

         “You go tramping?”

         By now my wife was showing a stunned expression and the table exploded!

         The word “tramp” has a vastly different connotation in the United States. A “tramp” is not, as we would think, a hobo, or itinerant, or a walk through mountains and bush, but rather it implies a lady of, shall we say, somewhat relaxed morals.

         Had my wife replied that she went “hiking” he would have understood immediately and completely what she meant.

         And we would have missed a magical moment of mirth.

         As some of you will know, I prepare the summons for Lodge Piako (which is available on my web site,, and each month I endeavour to develop some small snippet of educational material. Some time ago I wrote about a pet “hobby horse” – the mispronunciation of words. This was picked up at the Grand Lodge office in Wellington and I was asked if I would permit it to be published in The Freemason. It was – and it forms the basis for this lecture.

         I don’t consider myself to be a word smith although I have developed what I like to think is a keen sense of the use of words over the years. I used to suggest to my students that they should work with a dictionary beside them – not to ensure that they have spelt a word correctly, but to ensure that they have selected a word which will convey precisely the meaning they intend. I used to tell them that what they wrote had to be intelligible and sensible – that it was pointless undertaking any work if they could not convince someone to read their reports.

         So what is it that is so important about words that we should strive to ensure we get them correct? If we don’t understand the words we use – or if we get them confused with other words – our understanding of ritual and philosophy will also be confused.

         I want to take a few examples – if you like, those that started these considerations – and then explore some of the words we use in our rituals.

         Under the title “And how do YOU pronounce some words?” in the article that appeared in The Freemason[i], I wrote:

         Our rituals have certain words in them that many of us have difficulty with because, certainly for some of us, as we get older our ears do not hear them properly, or our eyes do not read them properly.

         However, it is not always the fault of our various infirmities that give rise to misuse or mispronunciations of them. Sometimes it can be attributed to carelessness or even laziness on our parts. Carelessness, because we hear someone else mispronounce them and, possibly inadvertently, we copy their example. Laziness because, even if we suspect the pronunciation may be incorrect, we do not bother to look at it in the ritual, and correct ourselves accordingly.

         Two examples occur early in the First Degree Ceremony. You will recall that immediately after the Candidate is introduced into the Lodge the Chaplain reads or recites a blessing in which he says "... Endue him with a competence...". How many times have you heard the word "endure" substituted for the word "endue"? These words have completely different meanings. My Concise Oxford Dictionary describes endure as meaning undergo (as in pain), submit to, bear, last (as in survive), while it describes endue as meaning put on (as clothes); clothe; furnish (with qualities). Changing the word substantially changes the meaning of the paragraph.

         A little further on the Candidate is told "... is invoked we trust no danger can ensue." Again, you will often hear the word "ensure" substituted. In this case, however, not only is the meaning changed, but the sentence becomes incomprehensible. Are we really saying that "no danger can happen afterwards" (the dictionary meaning of ensue) or are we trying to say that such a belief will make sure that danger will arise? I hope not!

         If you listen carefully, you will hear other examples of such misuses and mispronunciation of words, but perhaps the most obvious to my ear is the misuse of the word "tenet". You will often hear it pronounced as "tenant". The meanings of the two words could not be further apart! Freemasonry, being based on a philosophy of life, it follows that we would want to base our education on tenets (principles, dogma, doctrine). On the other hand it is quite likely that Lodge Treasurers would welcome tenants (persons who occupy lands or tenements under a landlord and pay rentals for such) as a means of supplementing Lodge income!

         I am sure we can all think of other examples of misuse of words. For example how often have you heard the word “fervent” mispronounced something like “ferverent”.

Subsequent to the appearance of that article and a discussion on the Second Degree, a further discussion developed in Lodge Piako about the language of certain charges. One of my Brethren contended that the language was archaic and needed to be “modernised”.

         Following that discussion I wrote, in the Lodge Piako summons under the title “DO WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR RITUALS?

         Recent, informal, discussion in Lodge Piako has questioned the language of the Rituals and has raised the question of whether or not the language should be "modernised". It can be argued, particularly by those who endeavour to adhere to the tradition of reciting Ritual, that the use of certain "difficult" or "unfamiliar" words makes it easier to remember them. Others, not so wedded to the recitation of Ritual, might argue that the more "difficult" or unfamiliar a word the harder it is to read and pronounce it.

         The Rituals form a foundation for teaching the philosophy of Freemasonry and, whatever the outcome of the debate, any changes to the wording of the Ritual must NOT change the meaning and intent of it.

         As an example consider the following sentence. "You are not to palliate or aggravate the offences of your Brethren, but in the decision of every trespass against our rules judge with candour, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with mercy."

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the meanings of these words as:

         Palliate: extenuate, excuse

         Aggravate: increase the gravity of an offence, exasperate.

         Decision: settlement, conclusion, formal judgement; resolve.

         Candour: open-mindedness, impartiality; freedom from malice; frankness.

         Admonish: exhort; give advice; warn; inform, remind.

         Reprehend: rebuke, blame, find fault with.

         The sentence could therefore be rewritten "You are not to excuse or add to or increase the seriousness of the offences of your Brethren, but in settlement or judgement of every trespass against our rules judge with impartiality and without malice, warn or advise with friendship, and rebuke with mercy."

         If this sentence appears clearer than the original, it should be noted that it uses 12 more words to achieve it. That is twelve more words for the traditional Ritualist to learn; twelve "easier" words for those who would rather read it.

         Some would welcome such a change, arguing that the more "modern" language is easier to understand in today's world, and that it is easier to learn.

         Others will suggest that those who drafted the Rituals chose words carefully to convey the meaning intended effectively and with an economy of words. They might argue that critics of the language of the Ritual have not tried to understand the meanings of the words, and why they were selected.

         So, should we change the Ritual? Or can we make better efforts to understand it?

         You will note that in this I expressed one only firm personal opinion: that if any changes are to be made, it is imperative that the meaning remain unaltered.

         But that is not where it stops, is it?

         In another snippet, under the title “Words and Procedures” I wrote:

         Certain combinations of words seem to give rise to difficulties, possibly because of similarities with other phrases

         For example, in the opening of a Lodge in the First Degree, the Junior Warden states that part of the duty of the Outer Guard is " see that the candidates are properly prepared." Just inside the door of the Lodge the Inner Guard states that part of his duty is to "...receive candidates in due form ...” Occasionally these two phrases are interchanged - or repeated.

         Often the duties of the Junior and Senior Deacons are interchanged. The duty of the Junior Deacon includes "To carry all messages and communications of the Worshipful Master ...” while that of the Senior Deacon includes "To bear all messages and commands of the Worshipful Master ...."

         In the opening of a Lodge the Worshipful Master asks the Junior Warden what the first care of every Freemason is, and the Junior Warden responds, usually with complete accuracy, that it is to see that the Lodge is properly tyled. However, in the closing of the Lodge when the Worshipful Master asks the Junior Warden what the constant care of every Freemason is, the Junior Warden should reply that it is to prove that the Lodge is close tyled. Often prove is replaced by see and close is replaced with properly. Interestingly the words in the opening are not often mixed up, although it does happen from time to time.

         Even more commonly, the queries and responses to alarms tend to be muddled. When the Junior Warden reports an alarm to the Worshipful Master, he is instructed to "...inquire who seeks admission." However his instruction to the Inner Guard is to "...see who seeks admission." These words are often interchanged. It is worth repeating the General Instruction (from what is probably the least read section of the Ritual Book) which relates to reports:

         5. A report is "taken" when it is announced by the I.G. Except where the Ritual otherwise prescribes, the J.W. replies: "Bro. I.G., you will inquire the cause of the report," or he may give one k..., which is taken to carry the same meaning. If the moment is inopportune he makes no reply. If, in order to avoid interrupting the business, the I.G. has delayed announcing a report, the J.W., when the time is convenient, may sign to the I.G. to do so, or say: "Bro. I.G., you will now take the report," and the I.G. announces it in the customary form.

         In this process it should be noted that quiet communication is desirable if the business or ceremony underway is not to be unduly interrupted. The Inner and Outer Guards ought to keep each other informed as to progress and, in particular, when reports are appropriate. The Inner Guard and the Junior Warden need to be particularly astute at judging when a report should be given and/or accepted. In this regard their control of interruptions is paramount.

         Why certain words should prove difficult and why they should be interchanged is probably a result of carelessness and inattention. Once a bad habit is formed, it is very difficult to reverse.

         The importance of the words should not be underestimated because they have different meanings in different places.

         Commands of the Worshipful Master to the Wardens are passed through the Senior Warden and, historically, were conveyed by the Senior Deacon to the Senior Warden. The latter then communicated it to the Junior Warden via the Junior Deacon. In case there was a response to the command, the Senior Deacon had to wait upon the return of the Junior Deacon to the Senior Warden who received any such response before passing it to the Senior Deacon who then returned to the Worshipful Master with the reply. The process sounds rather long-winded and superfluous in modern times. But in the context of our allegories the Supervisors in major building projects would probably have had just such a process to convey commands and other communications.

         The choice of words in dealing with alarms is equally as important. The Junior Warden is not going to see who wishes to enter the Lodge. That is the job of the Inner Guard. So the Worshipful Master instructs him to inquire and he instructs the Inner Guard to see. An alarm arises because the Outer Guard is unsure of the status of the person who is seeking admission and therefore needs assistance in determining that the person is entitled to enter. On the other hand if he is satisfied that the person seeking admission is entitled to enter the Lodge, he signals a report and the Inner Guard does not need to see who it is - he merely needs to inquire the cause of the report.

         Again, we can probably all think of other examples from the rituals of the Craft.

         Let’s look at some other words, some of which are “difficult” or “strange”.



AHD[1]: (Accept) 1. To receive (something offered), especially with gladness or approval. 2. To admit to a group, organization, or place. 3a. To regard as proper, usual, or right. b. To regard as true; believe in. c. To understand as having a specific meaning. 4. To endure resignedly or patiently. 5a. To answer affirmatively. b. To agree to take (a duty or responsibility). 6. To be able to hold (something applied or inserted). 7. To receive officially. 8. To consent to pay, as by a signed agreement. 9. Medicine To receive (a transplanted organ or tissue) without immunological rejection.


COD[2]: a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. Greek allegoria, from allos ‘other’ + -agoria ‘speaking’.

AHD: 1a. The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form. b. A story, picture, or play employing such representation. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Herman Melville's Moby Dick are allegories. 2. A symbolic representation: The blindfolded figure with scales is an allegory of justice.


COD:1 a history of events year by year. 2 a record of the events of one year. from Latin annales libri ‘yearly books’

AHD: 1. A chronological record of the events of successive years. 2. A descriptive account or record; a history: “the short and simple annals of the poor” (Thomas Gray). 3. A periodical journal in which the records and reports of a learned field are compiled.


Archaic form of ancient.

COD: adjective 1 belonging to or originating in the very distant past. 2 chiefly humorous very old.  noun 1 archaic or humorous an old man. 2 (the ancients) the people of ancient times. Old French ancien, from Latin ante ‘before’


AHD: 1. A name, title, or designation. 2. A protected name under which a wine may be sold, indicating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district. 3. The act of naming. Middle English appelacion, from Old French appelation, from Latin appellati


AHD: 1. An expression of warm approval; praise. 2. Official approval. Latin, from approbare ‘approve’.


AHD: 1a. A squared block of building stone. b. Masonry of such stones. 2. A thin, dressed rectangle of stone for facing walls. Middle English assheler, from Old French aisselier, board, from aissele, from Medieval Latin axicellus, from Latin assis.


AHD: 1. The state or quality of being kind, charitable, or beneficial. 2. A charitable act or gift. Latin beneficentia, from beneficus, beneficent

Cable Tow

Cable COD: 1 a thick rope of wire or hemp. 2 an insulated wire or wires for transmitting electricity or telecommunication signals. 3 a cablegram. 4 the chain of a ship’s anchor. 5 Nautical a length of 200 yards (182.9 m) or (in the US) 240 yards (219.4 m).

Tow AHD: To draw or pull behind by a chain or line: a tugboat towing a barge.


Harry Carr (The Freemason at Work):

         “The cable-tow has a primarily practical purpose which is defined in the ritual and I cannot trace a single text in which its length is prescribed. In addition to its practical use, it is also capable of a wide-ranging symbolism, e.g., submission, and the bondage of ignorance.

         “The Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 1710, has two ‘rope’ questions in its catechism:

Q. how were you brought in?

A. shamefully with a rope about my neck …

Q. why a rope about your neck?

A. to hang me if I should betray my trust

         “This is believed to be the earliest allusion to a rope, as a piece of equipment then used in the preparation of the Candidate. It did not appear again in early ritual documents until 1760, when it was first described as a ‘cable-tow’.

         “The Length of my Cable-tow. This is really a modern symbolical allusion to one of the oldest operative regulations, which obliged the medieval masons to attend the annual or triennial ‘Assemblies’, except in sickness, or in ‘peril of death’. The later versions of the Old Charges often mentioned the distance within which attendance was obligatory, and the variations on this point range from three to fifty miles!

         “Nowadays the Candidate’s obligation to answer a Lodge Summons ‘if within the length of his cable-tow’ is a simple promise to attend the Lodge so long as it is in his power to do so, and no specific distance is involved.”


COD: 1 an organization set up to help those in need. 2 the voluntary giving of money or other help to those in need. 3 help or money given in this way. 4 tolerance in judging others. Latin caritas, from carus ‘dear’.

AHD: 1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving. 2. Something given to help the needy; alms. 3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy. 4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity. 5. Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See synonyms at mercy. 6. often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one's neighbors as objects of God's love. Middle English charite, from Old French, Christian love, from Latin cariats, affection, from carus, dear.


AHD: 1. A document issued by a sovereign, legislature, or other authority, creating a public or private corporation, such as a city, college, or bank, and defining its privileges and purposes. 2. A written grant from the sovereign power of a country conferring certain rights and privileges on a person, a corporation, or the people. 3. A document outlining the principles, functions, and organization of a corporate body; a constitution. 4. An authorization from a central organization to establish a local branch or chapter. 5. Special privilege or immunity. 6a. A contract for the commercial leasing of a vessel or space on a vessel. b. The hiring or leasing of an aircraft, vessel, or other vehicle, especially for the exclusive, temporary use of a group of travellers. 7. A written instrument given as evidence of agreement, transfer, or contract; a deed.


COD: 1 an official authorization enabling the police or some other body to make an arrest, search premises, etc. 2 a document entitling the holder to receive goods, money, or services. 3 justification or authority. 4 an official certificate of appointment issued to an officer of lower rank than a commissioned officer.

At first sight the use of the words in conjunction appears tautological, and yet they are not quite the same. So why would we use them in the same breath?


Z[3]: One who works as a mason without having served a regular apprenticeship. [Scot.]

Harry Carr[ii] cites the Oxford English Dictionary as defining a cowan as ‘One who builds dry stone walls (i.e., without mortar); a dry-stone-diker; applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a mason, but who has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the trade’. My Concise Oxford Dictionary (4th edition, dating from 1951) defines it as ‘Working but unqualified mason; (hence) intruder on a freemason’s lodge.’ The Compact Oxford Dictionary ( and the American Heritage Dictionary ( do not return a result from a search for the word.

Carr Writes:

         “Cowan is an essentially Scottish trade term, and it belongs to the time when lodges, as trade-controlling bodies, put restrictions against the employment of cowans, in order to protect the fully-trained men of the Craft from competition by unskilled labour. The earliest official ban against cowans appeared in the Schaw Statutes in 1598:

         “Item, that no master of fellow of craft receive any cowans to work in his society or company nor send any of his servants to work with cowans, under the penalty of twenty pounds so often any person offends hereunder.

         “The first record of a breach of this rule is the olderst surviving minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) dated 31 July 1599; [word for word, in modern spelling]:

         “George Patoun, mason, granted and confessed that he had offended against the Deacon and Masters for placing of a cowan to work at a chimney-head for two days and a half ...

         “He made ‘humble submission’ offering to pay whatever fine might be imposed. Having regard to ‘his estait’ the offence was pardoned, but with a strict warning to all future offenders. The minute suggests that the Edinburgh masons were very well behaved in this respect, perhaps because of the limited and clearly-defined area under the control of the Lodge. At Kilwinning, where the Lodge had jurisdiction over a very wide territory, with consequent difficulties of proper supervision, a large number of breaches were recorded and substantial fines were paid in each case. Cowans also appear regularly in the minutes of several other old Scottish Lodges.

         “Nevertheless, there are several records for Edinburgh Castle, in 1616 and 1626, where cowans were permitted to work, apparently on certain special duties and when no masons were employed in the same weeks. Some of these unspecified jobs must have been exceptional, because ‘One cowan received 16s. 8d. a day, one 13s., one 12s., one 10s., and two 6s., as compared with a mason’s normal rate of 12s. a day on the same building operations. ....

         “In 1705, the minutes of Lodge Mother Kilwinning indicate that although there we still some restrictions, the employment of cowans was occasionally to be permitted in the territory under its jurisdiction, but always depending on the availability of labour. The Lodge resolved:

         ... that no man shall employ a cowan, which is to say without the word [i.e., the Mason word] to work; if there be one mason to be found within fifteen miles he is not to employ a cowan under the penalty of forty shillings ... ”

         [The emphasis is Carr’s and all quotations are word-for-word but in modern spelling.]

         At this point we have an indication of why we should “keep out all cowans and intruders” from our modern Lodges. They do not have the “Mason’s word”!

         Carr indicates[iii] that intruder and eavesdropper are used synonymously, despite their “widely different meanings.” He writes:


COD: noun 1 (in Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Churches) an ordained minister of an order ranking below that of priest. 2 (in some Protestant Churches) a lay officer assisting a minister. — ORIGIN Greek diakonos ‘servant’.


AHD: To think it appropriate to one's dignity; condescend.

On the other hand the COD writes: (deign to do) do something that one considers to be beneath one’s dignity.


Z: Any small cubical or square body. (Arch.) That part of a pedestal included between base and cornice; the dado.

COD: a device for cutting or moulding metal or for stamping a design onto coins or medals. Old French de, from Latin datum ‘something given or played’

It would appear that the writers of our Rituals took a little liberty and used the word in an adjectival sense.


COD: lacking in self-confidence. Latin, from diffidere ‘fail to trust’.


COD: adjective (archaic or literary) of varying types.

AHD: various; several; sundry.

Not to be confused with diverse also an adjective meaning (AHD) 1. Differing one from another. 2. Made up of distinct characteristics, qualities, or elements; or (COD) widely varied. AHD indicates it comes from Middle English (divers) but COD indicates Latin diversus.


COD: use of ambiguous or evasive language


COD: noun respect and admiration.  verb 1 respect and admire. 2 formal consider; deem.  Latin aestimare ‘to estimate’


COD: 1 serving as a desirable model; very good. 2 (of a punishment) serving as a warning.

AHD: 1. Worthy of imitation; commendable: exemplary behavior. 2. Serving as a model. 3. Serving as an illustration; typical. 4. Serving as a warning; admonitory. From Middle English exaumplarie, exemplere, an exemplar. [exemplar 1. One that is worthy of imitation; a model. See synonyms at ideal. 2. One that is typical or representative; an example. 3. An ideal that serves as a pattern; an archetype. 4. A copy, as of a book.


AHD: 1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief. , trust. 3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters. 4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. 5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith. 6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Hebrews {11:1} Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


COD: 1 continuing faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief. 2 the degree of exactness with which something is copied or reproduced. Latin fidelis ‘faithful’


Harry Carr[iv]

“The ‘Fire’ seems to have been adapted from the military custom of firing guns or muskets after toasts. The records of the Preston Gild Merchant describe an annual procession by the Mayor, with an escort of soldiers and representatives of the Trade Companies, to each of the city gates, at which toasts were drunk, each health being followed by a ‘volley of shott from the musketiers attending’. One of the earliest descriptions of Masonic ‘Fire’ appears in Le Secret des Fancs-Macons, a French exposure of 1742, from which the following extracts are drawn:

“All the terms they use in drinking are borrowed from the Artillery … The Bottle is called Barrel … Wine is called red Powder, &[Water] white Powder … The Routine which they observe in drinking does not permit the use of glasses, for there would not be a whole glass left after they had finished: they use only goblets, which they call Cannon. When they drink in ceremony, the order is given: Take your Powder; everyone rises, & the Worshipful says: Charge. Then each of them fills his goblet. The commands follow: Present Arms: Take Aim. Fire. Grand Fire. … On the first they stretch their hands ot the goblet; on the second, they raise them as though presenting arms, & on the last, they drink … they all watch the Worshipful so that they keep perfect time throughout. When taking up their goblets they carry them forwards a little at first, then to the left breast & across to the right: then in three movements, they replace their goblets on the Table, clap their hands three times & every member cries out three times Vivat. … there is no Military Academy where the drill is performed with greater exactitude, precision, pomp, & majesty … you will see no Stragglers … the noise as they place their goblets on the table is quite considerable … a clear & uniform stroke, hard enough to shatter any but the strongest vessels …”

Carr also discusses the knocks and silent fires.


AHD: Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage. Latin fortitudo, from fortis ‘strong’.


COD: adjective (freer, freest) 1 not under the control or in the power of another. 2 permitted to take a specified action. 3 not or no longer confined, obstructed, or fixed. 4 not subject to engagements or obligations. 5 not occupied or in use. 6 (free of/from) not subject to or affected by. 7 available without charge. 8 generous or lavish. 9 frank and unrestrained. not subject to the normal conventions; improvised. (of a translation or interpretation) conveying only the broad sense; not literal.  adverb without cost or payment. verb 1 make free; release. 2 make available.

The historical use in Freemasonry could mean an operative craftsman out of his indentures and therefore not bound to a particular master. It might also mean the ability of a man to make decisions free of any restriction. We could speculate that it relates to freedom of thought.


AHD: 1. A small mallet used by a presiding officer or an auctioneer to signal for attention or order or to mark the conclusion of a transaction. 2. A maul used by masons in fitting stones. Origin is unknown but COD refers to a “stone mason’s mallet”


In the Masonic Ritual, God is called “the Great Architect of the Universe.” For me, this is a simple metaphor; the universe is like an immense mansion or temple, and the Creator of the universe is compared to the builder. Nothing secret or disrespectful about that! But in 1986 a Canadian religious magazine called The Presbyterian Record published an attack on Freemasonry, saying that the Great Architect of the Universe was the name of the false god “that the Masons worship at their altar.” And two years ago, Dr James Larry Holly, the man who orchestrated the Southern Baptist campaign against the Masons, said that to call God a Great Architect “is derogatory to the True God’s creative omnipotence. An architect only puts together from the materials already at hand. God creates from nothing.” Actually a bit of research discloses that the term “Great Architect" was introduced into Freemasonry in 1723 by the Presbyterian minister, James Anderson, and that he got it from the works of John Calvin, one of the founders of Presbyterianism. The modern dogmatists are attacking an expression that was used by one the great theologians of all time! Wallace McLeod, F.P.S.[v]


Z: Cites Chaucer – Hide and hele things.

Harry Carr writes[vi]:

The Oxford English Dictionary gives two basic definitions:

1.      (Obsolete except in dialect) To hide, conceal; to keep secret (with examples from c. 825).

2.      To cover, cover in. Still in use, especially in the senses:

a.      To cover (roots, seeds, etc.) with earth (with examples from c. 1200);

b.      To cover with slates of tiles, to roof (with examples from 1387).

“… It will be noted that the definition under 2b has a slight relationship with the mason trader but, since it refers to the specialized skills of a kindred trade and not to the mason trade itself, I believe that it was not used in our ritual in that sense but, more probably in the meaning as given in 1 above, ‘To hide, conceal; keep secret’.”


AHD: 1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill. 2. To teach (others) by frequent instruction or repetition; indoctrinate. From Latin inculcare, inculcat-, to force upon : in-, on + calcare, to trample (from calx, calc-, heel).

Interestingly, this word precisely defines the main way that we teach our philosophy in the Orders of Freemasonry – that is to say, by repetition.


COD: verb 1 bring (goods or services) into a country from abroad. 2 Computing transfer (data) into a file or document. 3 archaic indicate or signify.  noun 1 an imported article or service. 2 the action or process of importing. 3 the implied meaning of.


COD: never tiring or stopping. Latin indefatigabilis, from fatigare ‘wear out’.


COD: adjective 1 morally right and fair. 2 appropriate or deserved. 3 (of an opinion or appraisal) well founded. adverb 1 exactly. 2 exactly or nearly at this or that moment. 3 very recently. 4 barely; by a little. 5 simply; only. Latin justus, from jus ‘law, right’.


COD: 1 an object or feature of a landscape or town that is easily seen and recognized from a distance. 2 an event, discovery, or change marking an important stage or turning point.

No 16 of the Rulings of the Board of General Purposes[vii] states:

Grand Lodge has never presumed to define the Landmarks. It is inappropriate for a Lodge to lay down Masonic Law in a way not authorised by Grand Lodge.

And yet the ritual we use in our ceremonies mentions the word several times:

·         Charge after Initiation: “Your fidelity must be exemplified … by  adhering to the ancient Landmarks of the Order.”

·         Charge after Passing: “… under the superintendence of an experienced Master, who will guard the Landmarks against encroachment.”

·         Charge after Raising: “The Antient Landmarks of the Craft, which are here entrusted to your care, you are to preserve sacred and inviolate …”

·         Obligation of Master-elect: “ … I further solemnly promise that I will not … permit or suffer any deviation from the Antient Landmarks of the Order.”

         It is possible that a Candidate may ask the meaning of the word in the context of Freemasonry. What do you answer?

         Michael Botelho in the Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasons, Southern Jurisdiction, USA writes that “Landmarks” was defined by Albert Mackey as “those ancient and universal customs of the Order, which either gradually grew into operation as rules of action, or, if at once enacted by any competent authority, were enacted at a period so remote that no account of their origin is to be found in the record of history.” He also cites William Preston as suggesting that “Landmarks” is synonymous with established usages and customs.

Harry Carr[viii] lists the following:

1.      A Mason believes in a Supreme Being

2.      The VSL is an essential and indispensable part of the Lodge

3.      A Mason must be male, free-born, and of mature age

4.      A Mason owes allegiance to the Sovereign and the Craft

5.      A Mason believes in the immortality of the soul.

Botelho also cites the preferences of Roscoe Pound:

1.      Belief in a Supreme Being

2.      Belief in persistence of personality (?)

3.      VSL is an indispensable part of the furniture of a Lodge

4.      The Hiramic legend of the Third Degree

5.      The symbolism of the operative art

6.      Male, freeborn and of age.


AHD: dovetailed iron tenon made of several parts and designed to fit into a dovetail mortise in a large stone so that it can be lifted by a hoisting apparatus.

Harry Carr (The Freemason at Work, p77) writes that the origin of the term is obscure and that several authorities have examined the possibility of a French origin, being derived from louve [=she-wolf] and louveteau [=wolf-cub]. He suggests that it may be more than coincidence that louveteau appears in French Masonic usage, in the 1740s, describing the son of a Mason, at about the same time as the English word ‘Lewis’ acquired a similar significance.

The word ‘Lewis” appears in the index to the Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand referring to rule 52. The word, however, does not appear in that rule, or, indeed, in any other rules or rulings of the Board Of General Purposes.

52. Age and Other Qualifications of Candidates

a. No person shall be made a Freemason except as provided in subclause (c) of this Rule while under the age of twentyone years.

b. Every candidate must be a free man, and in reputable circumstances.

c. The Grand Master may by dispensation authorise the admission of the son of a Master Mason in good standing and repute from the age of 18 years.


Liberal Arts and Sciences

Grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy


COD: instead (of). French, from Latin locus ‘place’.


Why do we call basic grouping a “Lodge” – why not a “Chapter” as in the Royal Arch and some other Orders; a “Conclave” as in the Secret Monitor; or a Council as in the Cryptic Council ?


The Compact Oxford Dictionary (COD) defines it as: 1 a small house at the gates of a large house with grounds, occupied by a gatekeeper or other employee. 2 a small country house occupied in season for sports such as hunting and shooting. 3 a porter’s quarters at the entrance of a college or other large building. 4 an American Indian tent or other dwelling. 5 a beaver’s den. 6 a branch or meeting place of an organization such as the Freemasons. Old French loge ‘arbour, hut’, from Latin lobia ‘covered walk’.

The American Heritage Dictionary (AHD): 1a. A cottage or cabin, often rustic, used as a temporary abode or shelter: a ski lodge. b. A small house on the grounds of an estate or a park, used by a caretaker or gatekeeper. c. An inn. 2a. Any of various Native American dwellings, such as a hogan, wigwam, or longhouse. b. The group living in such a dwelling. 3a. A local chapter of certain fraternal organizations. b. The meeting hall of such a chapter. c. The members of such a chapter. 4. The den of certain animals, such as the dome-shaped structure built by beavers.


COD: 1 a main division of a book. 2 a particular period in history or in a person’s life. 3 the governing body of a cathedral or other religious community. 4 chiefly N. Amer. a local branch of a society. Old French chapitre, from Latin capitulum ‘little head’.

AHD: 1. One of the main divisions of a relatively lengthy piece of writing, such as a book, that is usually numbered or titled. 2. A distinct period or sequence of events, as in history or a person's life: Steamboat travel opened a new chapter in America's exploration of the West. 3. A local branch of an organization, such as a club or fraternity: The Chicago chapter is admitting new members this year. 4. Ecclesiastical a. An assembly of the canons of a church or of the members of a religious residence. b. The canons of a church or the members of a religious residence considered as a group. 5. A short scriptural passage read after the psalms in certain church services. 



COD: Meeting-place, assembly, of Cardinals for election of Pope; private assembly. The etymology can be tracked back to the Latin clave meaning a lock-up place from clavis meaning a key.

The AHD is a bit more expansive: 1. A secret or confidential meeting. 2. Roman Catholic Church a. The private rooms in which the cardinals meet to elect a new pope. b. The meeting held to elect a new pope. 3. A meeting of family members or associates. Middle English, private chamber, conclave of cardinals, from Latin conclave, lockable room: com-, com- + clavis, key.

From our point of view “lodge” is perhaps appropriate for an organisation which is styled upon a craft of tradesmen and artisans and which used to be organised in “lodges”.


AHD: Notes 39 separate definitions including units of currency and inscriptions or designs. The one of interest to us is - To give attention to; notice. The origin is from Old English.


COD: noun 1 a man in a position of authority, control, or ownership. 2 a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity. 3 the head of a college or school. 4 chiefly Brit. a male schoolteacher. 5 a person who holds a second or further degree. 6 an original film, recording, or document from which copies can be made. 7 a title prefixed to the name of a boy. adjective 1 (of an artist) having great skill or proficiency: a master painter. 2 skilled in a particular trade and able to teach others: a master builder. 3 main; principal.  verb 1 acquire complete knowledge or skill in. 2 gain control of; overcome. 3 make a master copy of (a film or record). Latin magister.




1 A circle of constant longitude passing through a given place on the earth’s surface and the poles. 2 Astronomy a circle passing through the celestial poles and the zenith of a given place on the earth’s surface. 3 any of twelve pathways in the body, believed by practitioners of Chinese medicine to be a channel for vital energy. Latin meridianum ‘noon’ (because the sun crosses a meridian at noon).


AHD: 1. One that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding; an enigma: How he got in is a mystery. 2. One whose identity is unknown and who arouses curiosity: The woman in the photograph is a mystery. 3. A mysterious character or quality: a landscape with mystery and charm. 4. A work of fiction, a drama, or a film dealing with a puzzling crime. 5. The skills, lore, or practices that are peculiar to a particular activity or group and are regarded as the special province of initiates. Often used in the plural: the mysteries of Freemasonry; the mysteries of cooking game. 6. A religious truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation. 7a. An incident from the life of Jesus, especially the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion, or Resurrection, of particular importance for redemption. b. One of the 15 incidents from the lives of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as the Annunciation or the Ascension, serving in Roman Catholicism as the subject of meditation during recitation of the rosary. 8a. also Mystery One of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. b. mysteries The consecrated elements of the Eucharist. 9a. A religious cult practicing secret rites to which only initiates are admitted. b. A secret rite of such a cult. Middle English misterie, from Latin myst rium, from Greek must rion, secret rite, from must s, an initiate, from m ein, to close the eyes, initiate.

1. Archaic A trade or an occupation. 2. Archaic A guild, as of merchants or artisans. 3. A mystery play.


COD: • adjective 1 functioning; having effect. 2 (of a word) having the most relevance or significance in a phrase. 3 relating to surgery.  noun 1 a worker, especially a skilled one. 2 a private detective or secret agent.


AHD: 1. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true: the paradox that standing is more tiring than walking. 2. One exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects: “The silence of midnight, to speak truly, though apparently a paradox, rung in my ears” (Mary Shelley, The Last Man 1826). 3. An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, though based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises. 4. A statement contrary to received opinion. Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter sing. of paradoxos, conflicting with expectation


(Z) noun: a prism whose bases are parallelograms [syn: parallelepiped, parallelopiped, parallelopipedon]


AHD: adjective 1. Unusual or eccentric; odd. 2. Distinct from all others. 3. Belonging distinctively or primarily to one person, group, or kind; special or unique. Noun 1. A privilege or property that is exclusively one's own. 2. Chiefly British A church or parish under the jurisdiction of a diocese different from that in which it lies. Latin peculiaris ‘of private property’, from peculium ‘property’.


AHD: adj. 1. Hanging down; dangling; suspended. 2. Projecting; overhanging. 3. Awaiting settlement; pending. Middle English pendant (influenced by Latin pendens, pendent-, present participle of pendere, to hang), from Old French.


adjective  1 having all the required elements, qualities, or characteristics. 2 free from any flaw; faultless. 3 complete; absolute: it made perfect sense. 4 Grammar (of a tense) denoting a completed action or a state or habitual action which began in the past, formed in English with have or has and the past participle, as in they have eaten. 5 Mathematics (of a number) equal to the sum of its positive divisors, e.g. the number 6, whose divisors (1, 2, 3) also add up to 6.  verb  1 make perfect. 2 bring to completion. Latin perfectus ‘completed’


COD: a round tropical fruit with a tough golden-orange outer skin and sweet red flesh containing many seeds. Latin pomum granatum ‘apple having many seeds’.


COD: 1 a general rule regulating behaviour or thought. 2 a writ or warrant. 3 Brit. an order issued by one local authority to another specifying the rate of tax to be charged on its behalf. From Latin praeceptum ‘something advised’.

AHD: 1. A rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct. 2. Law An authorized direction or order; a writ. From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin praeceptum, from neuter past participle of praecipere, to advise, teach.

Often coupled with example

COD: 1 a thing characteristic of its kind or illustrating a general rule. 2 a person or thing regarded in terms of their fitness to be imitated. From Latin exemplum, from eximere ‘take out’.

AHD: 1. One that is representative of a group as a whole. 2. One serving as a pattern of a specific kind. 3. A similar case that constitutes a model or precedent. 4a. A punishment given as a warning or deterrent. b. One that has been given such a punishment. 5. A problem or exercise used to illustrate a principle or method.

These are two words that are often also thought of as tautological, but there is a subtle difference.


COD: adjective 1 arranged or recurring in a constant or definite pattern, especially with the same space between individual instances. 2 doing the same thing often or at uniform intervals: regular worshippers. 3 done or happening frequently. 4 conforming to or governed by an accepted standard of procedure or convention. 5 usual or customary. 6 Grammar (of a word) following the normal pattern of inflection. 7 (of merchandise) of average size. 8 of or belonging to the permanent professional armed forces of a country. 9 chiefly N. Amer. of an ordinary kind. Geometry (of a figure) having all sides and all angles equal. Christian Church subject to or bound by religious rule. Contrasted with SECULAR. informal, dated rightly so called; absolute: this place is a regular fisherman’s paradise. noun 1 a regular customer, member of a team, etc. 2 a regular member of the armed forces. Latin regularis, from regula ‘rule’.

However it is used somewhat differently in Freemasonry. Three possible uses appear in the Book of Constitution of the GLNZ.


2 p. "Regular meeting" means a meeting the date of which is fixed by the Charter or Bylaws of the Lodge.


Which relates to definition 2 above (uniform intervals).


22. Necessity for Charter

a. No Lodge, except while acting under dispensation from the Grand Master, can meet without a Charter.

b. No Brother shall assist or take part in any meeting within the territory of Grand Lodge which is held by a Lodge or by persons purporting to meet as a Lodge, unless it is held under the authority of a regular dispensation or Charter.

c. This Rule does not apply to existing Lodges meeting under a Charter granted by a recognised Grand Lodge.

Clause b relates to definition 4 (accepted standard).

31 c (Rulings of the Board of General Purposes).

 Members of Lodges should be careful not to become involved with Masonic bodies not recognised as regular by Grand Lodge. Lodges should impress upon their members not to make Masonic contacts overseas with Masons of other jurisdictions without first having ascertained from the Grand Secretary the existence of regular Masonry in the country concerned, and the address to which Masonic enquiries in that country should be directed.

Which may relate to 4 and/or 5. The real question for Freemasons is how ‘regular’ is defined in this context – and that is not easy to find. Possibly the firmest indication of some sort of definition is that Grand Lodges recognized by the UGLE – which is to say Lodges which have similar organization, hierarchy, and ritual.


 COD: noun 1 a feeling of doubt as to whether an action is morally right. 2 historical a unit of weight used by apothecaries, equal to 20 grains.  verb hesitate to do something that one thinks may be wrong. From Latin scrupus, literally ‘rough pebble’, (figuratively) ‘anxiety’.


AHD: 1. Of, characterized by, or based upon contemplative speculation. 2a. Given to conjecture or speculation. b. Marked by inquisitive interest: raised a speculative eyebrow. 3a. Engaging in, given to, or involving financial speculation: speculative brokers; speculative stocks. b. Spent in speculation: speculative funds. c. Involving chance; risky: speculative business enterprises.

Laurence Gardner in “The Shadow of Solomon” writes[ix]

         “It is only since the 18th century that the term ‘speculative’ has fallen into common Masonic use since its inclusion in a letter from the Deputy Grand Master of the premier Grand Lodge in London to a colleague at The Hague on 12 July 1757. Significantly, however, an earlier building trade publication in 1703 had used the term in a very specific way, explaining:

         “Some ingenious workmen understand the speculative part of the architecture or building. But of these knowing sort of artificers there are few because few workmen look any further than the mechanical, practick or working part of architecture; not regarding the mathematical or speculative part of building.

         “In architectural terms, a building is speculative before it becomes a physical reality. That is to say, when it is the province of the speculator – the architect – rather than the builder. At that stage, when at the drawing board, the architect is free of the masonry, but must have knowledge of all the operative practicalities. This includes not just an awareness of stone and building materials, but also the scientific aspects of stresses, stains and other such matters. The true free-mason is therefore the architect, just as Hiram was the architect for King Solomon’s Temple, while in a broader sense the Supreme Being of Freemasonry is defined as the Great Architect of the Universe.

         “Historically, architects and surveyors have often been practical builders too, and have certainly operated as site overseers or masters of works. In this sense, speculative masons are not, therefore, a product of modern symbolic Freemasonry. Back in 1620, when operative members were ‘admitted’ into the Worshipful Company of Masons of the City of London, it was stated that speculative members were also ‘accepted’.”


1 a person who looks after the passengers on a ship or aircraft. 2 a person responsible for supplies of food to a college, club, etc. 3 an official who supervises arrangements at a large public event. 4 a person employed to manage a large house or estate. 5 chiefly historical an officer of the British royal household, especially an administrator of Crown estates. Origin Old English

Harry Carr writes[x]:

“ … from about 1600 onwards, when we begin to have two Wardens in each lodge, the J.W.’s principal duty seems to have related to itinerant masons, visitors, etc. Much later, in the 1770s when we get first details of the actual words of the Investiture of Officers, those duties relating to the care of visitors, etc., are allocated to the J.W. in print, and this continues into the middle decades of the 19th century.

“Stewards, responsible for the organization of the lodge feasting and feeding are recorded in the 1720s and this suggests the possibility of confusion in the duties of Stewards and Junior Wardens.”

Carr refers to the Junior Warden as “ostensible” steward.


COD: belonging to this world rather than a better or more spiritual one. Latin sublunaris, from luna ‘moon’.


AHD: 1. Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. 2. A printed or written sign used to represent an operation, element, quantity, quality, or relation, as in mathematics or music. 3. Psychology An object or image that an individual unconsciously uses to represent repressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses. Middle English symbole, creed, from Old French, from Latin symbolum, token, mark, from Greek sumbolon, token for identification (by comparison with a counterpart)


Z 1: having a checkered or mottled appearance 2: decorated with small pieces of colored glass or stone fitted together; "a mosaic floor";  Latin tessellare, from tessera.


 noun 1 a thing serving to represent a fact, quality, feeling, etc. 2 a voucher that can be exchanged for goods or services. 3 a disc used to operate a machine or in exchange for particular goods or services. adjective 1 done for the sake of appearances or as a symbolic gesture. 2 chosen by way of tokenism to represent a particular group. Old English, related to teach.


Z: A doorkeeper or attendant at a lodge of Freemasons.

Harry Carr[xi]:

         “The OED shows, beyond doubt, that the tiler’s craft got its name from the actual work of making tiles, or from the covering, or roofing, of buildings with tiles. … The spelling ‘Tyler’ appears to be a purely Masonic usage and OED quotes from Hone’s Every-day Book (1827), ‘Two Tylers or Guarders … are to guard the Lodge with a drawn Sword, from all Cowens and Eve-droppers’ [in c. 1742]

         “Early operative records are not very informative, but it is impossible to imagine that the masons on a large-scale building job would continually have the services of a tiler at their disposal to guard their lodge during meetings. The tilers only came on to the job at the end, when virtually all the structural work was finished; theirs was the final stage in the works.

         “This purely practical consideration leads to the conclusion that ‘Tyler’ in speculative Masonry was simply the name of the office: it was not the trade of the man who held the office. Moreover, the name ‘Tyler’ was not universal.”

The name does not appear in the 1723 Constitutions of Anderson but does in the 1738 edition. In that year a portrait of the Grand Tyler, Montgomerie, calls him           “Garder of ye Grand Lodge’.

         “Eventually the title ‘Tyler’ did come into general use for that office, which comprised a variety of duties in the 18th century, including the ‘Drawing of the Floor Designs’, delivering notice of meetings to members of the Lodge, and the preparation of the candidates. The Tyler was virtually a handyman or odd-job man for the Lodge.”


COD: adjective 1 vertical; erect. 2 greater in height than breadth. 3 strictly honourable or honest. 4 (of a piano) having vertical strings. adverb in or into an upright position. noun 1 a vertical post, structure, or line. 2 an upright piano


AHD: 1. To give personal assurances; give a guarantee 2. To constitute supporting evidence; give substantiation. 3. To substantiate by supplying evidence; prove. 4. Law To summon as a witness to give warranty of title. 5. To refer to (an authority, for example) in support or corroboration; cite. 6. To assert; declare. Middle English vouchen, to summon to court, warrant, from Anglo-Norman voucher.


COD: give, grant, or disclose in a gracious or condescending manner.

AHD adds the additional word: deign.


1 a person responsible for the supervision of a particular place or procedure. 2 Brit. the head of certain schools, colleges, or other institutions. 3 chiefly N. Amer. a prison governor. Old French wardein, guarden ‘guardian’.


Words are important. Use the wrong word and you run the risk of offending someone; or of giving them completely the wrong message. Pronounce it incorrectly and you either change the meaning of a sentence, or render it incomprehensible.

Perhaps the most important lesson in communication is to ensure that your listener has properly heard the words and the message you are trying to convey because “What you thought you heard me say, wasn’t what I meant when I said it.”


[1] American Heritage Dictionary: accessed through

[2] Compact Oxford Dictionary:

[3] Zebrawords:

[i] “The New Zealand Freemason”, quarterly magazine of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand.

[ii] “The Freemason at Work”, Harry Carr, A Lewis (Masonic Publishers) Ltd, 6th ed. 1981, p. 86

[iii] ibid. p.88

[iv] Ibid., p124

[v] Wallace McLeod, “Masonic Symbols: Their Use and Abuse” (Delivered at the Annual Banquet of the Allied Masonic Degrees, 25 February 1995)

[vi] Harry Carr, ibid. p 326

[vii] Grand Lodge of New Zealand

[viii] Harry Carr, ibid. p 263.

[ix] Laurence Gardner “The Shadow of Solomon” Harper Element 2005 ISBN 13 978 0 00 720761 9, ISBN 10 0 00 720761 1, p 73.

[x] Harry Carr, ibid. p 378

[xi] Ibid. p. 282

Home Page | Alphabetical Index | What is New | Freemasons World News
Research Papers | Books online | Freemasons History | Symbolism & Rituals
Saggi in Italiano | Essais en Langue Française | Monografias em Português | Planchas Masonicas en Español

| Sitemap | Privacy Policy | How to Contribute a Paper |

RSS Feed News Feed | News Alerts Subscribe News by Email

visitor/s currently on the page.