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

 Previous Page 
 Next Page 

Ropes and cords were used in several ancient religious ceremonies. The candidate would be led into the temple by a rope, and if he fainted from fright he was dragged out by it! Druid priests wore either a cord or a chain about their neck or waist to symbolise spiritual rebirth.
    In some of the medieval courts, a rope or cord was tied about the neck or middle of the accused person to show that he was at the mercy of the courts.
    The ancient Egyptians used a remarkable and ingenious system to create right-angles when measuring their fields after the annual Nile floods that always washed away their boundaries. If you take a length of string and tie knots in it to accurately divide it into 12 divisions, with the two ends joining, the divisions must be equal and correct.
    Get three thin sticks just strong enough to stick into the soil. Stab one stick into the ground and arrange a knot at the stick, stretch three divisions away from it in any direction, and insert the second stick into the ground against the knot.
    Now place the third stick, so that it falls on the knot between the fourth part and the fifth part – or division – and this creates a 3:4:5 right-angled triangle. The angle between the third and fourth divisions is of necessity a right-angle or a square. So there you have it!
    Freemasonry has nothing in common with the ancient and savage superstitions regarding knots. In Rome, the human embodiment of the sky spirit Jupiter was not allowed to have a knot in any part of his garments.
    Moslem pilgrims to Mecca may not wear knots.
    Savage tribes believed that knots in the clothing of a bride prevented a true marriage, that it prevented childbirth. Some believed that a knot prevented a proper passage of the spirit of one in the throes of death.
    Freemasonry has preserved ancient symbolism in the cable tow of a pledge, promise or obligation, and a submission to the laws of character building.
    Much has been written about how long is a cable tow? But if the question is rephrased to asking what is a cable’s length, then the answer is a matter of fact, not opinion. Consider, for example, William Falconer’s Maritime Dictionary: Cable’s length – a measure of 120 fathoms – or of the usual length of the cable.
    The last eight words are something of a let-out clause, but by simple arithmetic a fathom is six feet or 1.8 metres. Therefore, a cable’s length will be 120 x 6’ i.e., 720’ or 216 metres.
    I cannot resist the mischievous thought of apprehending the next candidate immediately after his initiation to ask him: “By the way, can you tell me – what was the length of the cable tow?”
    Brother Arthur Powell wrote something which I consider to be a fitting conclusion to this subject:

What is it that strand that tugs at our hearts, taut when so many threads are broken in the rough ways of the world. He asks the question: ask what it is in the wild that calls to the little wild things?

What sacred secret things do the mountains whisper to the hill men, so silently yet so surely that they can be heard above the din and clatter of the world?

What mysteries does the sea tell to the sailor? The desert to the Arab? The Arctic ice to the explorer? The stars to the astronomer?

When we have answered these questions, maybe – just maybe – we can divine the magic of Masonry. Who knows what it is? Or how? Or why?
    Unless of course it be ‘the long cable tow of God running from heart to heart.

With acknowledgement to MSANA Ref: 09-50 Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge: One Hundred Short Talks on the Craft.

For further information contact The Freemason Ltd on 0870 922 0352 or go to:

 Previous Page 
 Next Page