ISSUE 22, July 2007
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master : Address of the Pro Grand Master : Report of the Board of General Purposes
Historic: Architect to a King
Young Masons: Value of a warm welcome
Faith and Freemasonry: The twin supports
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
The Grand Secretary: Notes
   Travel: In the footsteps of the pharaohs
Inventor: Voice of the people
Human Rights Court Judgement: Landmark victory for Masons
International Conference: Masonic history unveiled
The Grand Chancellor: Special overseas role
Specialist Lodge: Prior Rahere and his legacy
Public Service: Serving the famous
Education: Events : Importance of the cable tow
Lbrary & Museum: Fraternal art
Masonic Charities: RMTGB : Grand Charity : RMBI : NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Masonic ritual uses very little in the way of cordage, or rope. In fact, only 23 words cover the subject of the cable tow in a brief explanation to the candidate during the initiation ceremony.
    What, therefore, can be written about the subject to justify an article?
    This is the fascinating thing about Masonic research – to delve into a subject that clearly has very little to commend it from the ritual creates a challenge. It also creates an opportunity for that daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
    In some Lodges the cord suspends banners, even jewels – and the best example is the plumb-line/plumb rule – and often it ties the apron. The Second Degree tracing board in one jurisdiction depicts a sheaf of wheat suspended by a cord on the banks of the river Jordan near to a waterfall.
    The operative construction process in laying walls of ashlar must have used ropes as part of the material handling process. It does not appear to get a mention.
    For example, in The First Degree tracing board where the word ‘Lewis’ is defined:

    The word Lewis denotes strength by certain pieces of metal dovetailed into a stone, and when in combination with some of the mechanical powers, such as a system of pulleys, it enables the operative Mason to raise great weights to certain heights with little encumbrance.

    But of the rope, there is not a word.
    This is extraordinary because there is Masonic symbolism in the very method of making a rope, the process of twisting many weak fibres together to make a strong, unbreakable cord.
    The weaving of many weak strands into a strong one is a symbol of a fundamental truth dating back to antiquity, and revered by the whole Craft in which the weakness of the individual – when brethren are banded together to some common purpose – is multiplied by the strength of millions.
    There is no Biblical reference in the ritual – but there is an allusion to it in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 4 verse 12:

    …and if one prevails against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

    Also from Chapter 12 (used in many Lodges as an oration during the Third Degree), there is the reference to ‘the silver cord’’ which alludes to the spinal cord – if broken it results in death.
    Some of these biblical connections should remind us of the first and fundamental truth learned at an initiation, when helplessness and dependence upon our fellow man teaches us that Mankind was made dependent upon each other for mutual protection and security.
    Edmund Burke wrote about the history of Parliament:

    The King and his faithful subjects; The Houses of Parliament of this realm – The Triple Cord that no man can break.

    From the earliest civilisation, man combated nature. In domesticating livestock, the rope was the means whereby man was able to control them. It was therefore not long before the material took on a moral significance with symbolic meanings.

© iStockphoto

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