Oath or Obligation

Few words are more wrongly used, at least in Masonic circles, than oath.

A candidate takes upon himself a solemn obligation to do certain things and to refrain from certain actions. The word ” OBLIGATION ” is from the Latin-of ( to ) and ligare ( to bind ).

It is a tie, a bond, an agreement, a profession of intention, a responsibility, a duty agreed upon, a constraint of action, a pledge, an acknowledgment of promises made.

In no such definitions can be found any similarity to the meaning of the word ” oath “, which is the concluding phrase by which the assumer of the obligation calls upon that which he holds sacred to witness his vow.

In a court of law the witness swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is an assumed obligation. He ends ” so help me God ” which is the oath, attesting to the sincerity of his obligation. In taking both obligation and attesting it by the oath, the witness is required to raise his right hand, a curious throwback to ancient days in which a man offered his right hand to be cut off if his oath was broken. Still more an oddity is the small boys attestation ” by golly ” made without knowing that he is offering the ancient ” gol ” (hand) if he does not tell the truth.

The Masonic obligations are high-minded duties voluntarily assumed by candidates as their part in becoming Brethren of the Ancient Craft. The oath that they take is their attestation of the validity of the covenants they thus make. To speak of the whole as a Masonic ” oath ” is to name the whole for a minor part.

The Token

Token: A thing indicative of some other thing, a sign, tangible proof of a statement, a pledge, a gesture.

Anglo-Saxon – (tacen) a sign or type of Great Light. In Freemasonry the token is the special handclasp, the sign, the gesture that a Brother gives to another. It is called a token because it represents the covenant of friendship and fellowship, the making of which is part of the inner heart of the Masonic degrees.

But through the years it has changed, in common parlance now being an offering of flowers to a lady or a box of cigars to a man. In Biblical days the word was used to signify a memorial or other reminder of a covenant or promise as the rainbow was ” a token of a covenant “.

Author Unknown
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  1. Thank you. It is always good to know what words really mean. Especially, when it relates to Masons… since we are under such scrutiny a lot of the time, anyway.

    God Bless,
    Brother Jerry

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