Monday, May 5, 2014

Rough Ashlar No. 14: It's all in a word...

It's all in a word, isn't it? In English, most words have multiple meanings, and the language is so loopy that there's often a chance that two meanings of the same word will be seemingly opposite, in implication if not in intent. Add to the mix the vagaries of common usage, and things can really get loopy. Take loopy, for instance. The first time I used the word, I was thinking of the physical action of looping as in boolean loops, a repetitive motion that cycles back upon itself. The second time I used it, I had the profound insanity of the English language in mind. Loopy, as in barmy, loco, nutty, crazy, maybe even masonic.

The last adjective was considered for inclusion because the only people more capable of coming to insane conclusions about Freemasonry (which they have absolutely no understanding of) than the anti-masonic conspiracy crowd, are the Freemasons themselves.

Let's look at another word. Let's examine the different meanings of the word speculative, as in Speculative Masonry.

I have no doubt that the original intent when non-operative Freemasons staged their coup d'etat vis a vis the Masonic order was to use the term speculative to mean, as the Merriam Webster Dictionary notes "involving, based on, or constituting intellectual speculation; also :  theoretical rather than demonstrable"  (n.b. This really refers to England, in Scotland, the birthplace of modern Freemasonry, operative masons had engaged in speculative, and even occasionally dubious activity for a long time before they began admitting non masons to their ranks. Was that act one of their speculative ideas, or just a dubious one? Conversely, operative masonic skills were common far longer among speculative Masons in Scotland than in England; presumably because of the shabby building practices of the English).

However, since the Victorian error, that time of great costumes, pomposity, pseudo-scholarship and excess verbiage (both in ritual and literature), most Freemasons at least in the Anglophone world, and for the few French Masons who have failed to get the joke, it would seem have opted to embrace that other definition for the word, to wit, "based on guesses or ideas about what might be true rather than on facts."

For those members of the august orders, who find my words having an adverse effect on their blood pressures, I recommend looking up the word "humor" in the dictionary.

My real intent is not to defame Freemasons, although we need to laugh at ourselves a little more, and certainly take ourselves less seriously some of the time. God knows, everyone else has stopped taking us seriously, we need to catch up with the times. No, my real intent is to suggest to those members of the craft who are more comfortable believing the myths and fictions of the 19th Century than they are willing to consider the far more engaging historical research that is going on and which promises to turn much of what we thought we knew about Masonry on its head to speculate on that alternative.  I for one speculate that this should be a welcome thing for those seeking more light.

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