Interpretation & Limitations

by MasterMason
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After considerable deliberation I have decided to share the Questions & Answers from “The Freemason at Work” by Harry Carr.  The following partial excerpt from this book should set the stage for future issues.

 Symbolism :  Interpretation & Limitations

Symbols are a mode of communication; they teach by implication, or recollection, or interpretation. But symbolism is not an exact science; so far as I know. There are no rules by which we can measure the authenticity, or logic, or the accuracy of one’s interpretations.

Our estimation of truth or accuracy, in dealing with symbols, will be governed entirely by how far a particular explanation or interpretation is in accord with our previous convictions, or how far it may succeed in satisfying us in our search for understanding.

Hence I agree that every man is fully entitled (and should be encouraged) to work out his own symbolism and, when he has done this to his own satisfaction, his symbolism is valid for him regardless of the arguments of extraneous logic.

For myself, I prefer interpretation at it’ simplest level and, whenever possible, in the actual words of the Ritual, e.g. “The Square teaches us to regulate our Life and Actions…..“, but it is obvious that teaching can be conducted on various levels, and should be, if that will give the most effective results. To illustrate the necessity for this kind of approach, imagine the teacher-child relationship. There may be many different ways in which a particular point or problem could be explained. One of them may be the generally accepted one, on which most teachers are agreed. GOOD ; but for the child of slower perception it is the teacher’s bounden duty to try another and another until the point is clarified.

For the brilliant child, it would be the teacher’s duty to go beyond the normally accepted interpretation, especially if that would enable the child to achieve an even wider understanding. No teacher could justify neglecting a particular level of instruction if it enables him to teach a lesson effectively.

I have only used the “teacher-child” relationship in order to emphasize my point. The same reasoning would apply to one’s own interpretation of symbolism, i.e., a system of self teaching which has, and should have, no specific limits, no object except enlightenment and understanding.

As to symbolism that was “never intended”, I believe that the chronological objection cannot fairly be raised or sustained, e.g. we all accept the symbolism of the Hiramic Legend as a part of our teachings, regardless of its late introduction.

Nevertheless, I must put on record a deep-rooted dislike for aberrations in symbolism, extremes of interpretation which have no justification in the symbol itself and only mislead the reader or succeed in bemusing him. Some time ago a paper on the Meaning of Masonry was submitted to me for criticism.

The writer was clearly a “Teetotaller” with strong views on the drink question and in two separate pieces of interpretation of Masonic ritual he showed what they meant, respectively. “the virtues of teetotalism” & the “evils of drink”. He was probably astonished when I pointed out that he was not giving an interpretation of Masonry, but of himself!  Similarly I am convinced that real damage is done by those inveterate symbolists who need the dimensions of the pyramids, the mysteries of the heavenly bodies, the Tarot Cards, the Zodiac and other equally complex paths toward truth.


For those unfamiliar with the term “Teetotaller is means the total avoidance of anything with an alcoholic content.

As I am aware that these papers are being shared with wives and families, the content of same will always remain within what can reasonably be shared and understood by all.

My position in approaching content in this manner is to hopefully not only clarify & expand on who we are to ourselves, but also to those near and dear to us, thereby developing an even better level of understanding and support.

Why do we say That

Caught Eavesdropping!!!!

There are lots of stories in the news today about “Phone-tapping” and “bugging devices”.  People who do this are the high-technology counterparts of the centuries-old “Eavesdropper” –someone who listens in to other people’s private conversations.

The eaves of a house are the parts of the roof that stick out over the walls, protecting them from falling water & rain.  The space on the ground was originally referred to as the “eavesdrip” and later as the “eavesdrop”.  This was the area where people like blackmailers, or even detectives, would hide, hoping to hear what was going on in the house.  Such people became know as “eavesdroppers”.

Personal Observation & Comment

Brethren, as we approach the beginning of another Masonic Year, and the strategic planning for Installations, effective meetings, education, social evenings etc, begins, I wish to share the following with you.  Please note that I have adapted this old saying for Masonic use.

There are three types of Masons within our Fraternity.

1.   Those who make things happen

2.   Those who watch things happen

3.   Those who ask “What Happened”

There may be one other type in our Fraternity that says

“I have done my bit and it is time for someone else to step forward and take over”

May I suggest to those in Category #4 that somewhere in YOUR Lodge there is at least one relatively NEW Mason that would love the opportunity to “Make Things Happen” but is uncertain of the process.

That is where you come in as a MENTOR and GUIDE. For the benefit of us all, please take this wonderful and important step and through your wisdom & experience harness this enthusiasm for the Good of Freemasonry in General & Your Lodge in Particular.


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