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The Penalties - March 05, 2013
PRESENTED TO: Shuniah Lodge A.F. & A.M. No. 287 BY Kaministiquia Lodge A.F. & A.M. No. 584
THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO
To the Worshipful Master, Officers and Brethren of Shuniah Lodge No. 287.
Tonight I have the honour of presenting to Shuniah Lodge No. 287 the Travelling Square. Since March, 1958, the travelling square has held us to our obligation and bounded us to act thereon.
A Master Mason who is afraid to face the truth is not a good Master Mason. In all three of the obligations which the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason take upon themselves are certain penalties. No man can be ignorant enough to believe that such penalties were ever or are now put into effect by a fraternity which begins in love of God and ends in patriotism, charity, toleration and education has any business in Freemasonry
If the penalties are not to be taken literally, obviously they are symbols and, as such, subject to the same liberal interpretation that other Masonic symbols may have. If penalties taken literally are entirely abhorrent to the gentle teachings of Freemasonry, if they are but a survival of the brutal laws of hundreds of years ago, why should they not be expunged from the ritual and their place taken by others, equally as drastic, perhaps, but appealing to our minds and hearts rather than to our animal fears?
Many have advocated such a course. Yet as all Freemasons know, the substance of the penalties is preserved in certain ways through all Masonic life. There is never a lodge meeting that reference is not made to them. They also have the sanction of an antiquity which has succeeded in making even more unusual matters respectable.
A man takes off his hat in the presence of a woman, to greet a friend, a relic of days when he doffed his helmet of steel to show he felt no fear of bodily harm. A man offers his hand to his friend in token of friendliness. It must be the bare hand without gauntlets protecting it or weapon concealed in it. A gallant bends low before a woman and kisses the back of her hand. He salutes with bent bare head in token of belief that no blow will descend upon it. A man walks between the woman he escorts and the street. In olden days curbs were non-existent and the walk merged 'with the road. If' there was mud, it was the man who must walk in it, not the woman.
Yet there is no agitation for a new system of salutation, of greeting, of escort. Our present practices are but pleasant symbols of respect and brotherly feeling though they had their origin in a time when every man was his own keeper and danger lurked on every hand.
The penalties in our obligations, then, are symbols. These penalties should be taken symbolically, each man reading for himself. "I have taken an obligation. In it is a penalty by which those who framed it intended to inspire terror; to be binding upon those who then took it through fear. I fear what? The contempt of my fellows; the loss of my self-respect; the wrath of a God blasphemed; the horror of a sin than which is none greater, breaking faith pledged in honour. These are what the penalties really mean. These are the real consequences to me if I violate my solemn obligations. These are what 'will be done to me if I fail in living up to the covenants I made with my brethren. And may all this be done unto me,' in full measure, should I fail my brethren" .
Presented to Shuniah Lodge No. 287 G.R.C. by R.W. Bro. Eric Johnson on 5 March, 2013.