The Mason Word

                               THE MASON WORD 

                         by  Richard B. Baldwin, PM 

    In the summer of 1977, I was in South Florida in a very enjoyable 
    military assignment, and thinking about nothing in particular, when 
    the phone rang.  It turned out to be my assignments officer at the 
    Army's Military Personnel Center in Washington, DC, who informed me 
    that I had been back from overseas for some eight years and was 
    currently at the top of the roster to go again.  As things 
    developed, I was headed for Saudi Arabia and in January, 1978, 
    found myself at the Army Language School in California studying the 
    Arabic language. 

    It was in the course of this study that I stumbled on an Arabic word 
    which has, ever since, sparked my interest in the possible 
    relationship between the Arabs and the Fraternity.  That virtually 
    all thinking researchers discount the theory that Freemasonry 
    actually originated at the building of King Solomon's temple as 
    stated in our ritual is not questioned. That the Near East, 
    however, may have been a real influence on the development of 
    Freemasonry seems to me to be more and more a possibility or 
    perhaps even a probability.  The word in question is one of the 
    many Arabic greetings and is heard hundreds of times a day in Saudi 
    Arabia. I used it myself countless times in dealing with the Arabs.  
    It means, simply, "welcome". 

    A cautionary note is perhaps necessary.  The Word is given in 
    varying forms in most of the manuscripts, exposures, and other 
    evidentiary material originating in England and on the Continent of 
    Europe.  Inasmuch, however, as the subject deals with one of the 
    most sensitive pieces of esoterica in our ritual, the quoting of 
    the Word itself has been carefully avoided.  Citations are 
    provided, however, to the most relevant of these documents and the 
    reader is urged to consult these sources for more complete 


    There is dearth of information, in the literature, concerning the 
    Mason Word itself and, frankly, most explanations which do appear 
    center on convoluted explanations attempting to tie the word, or 
    part of it, to ancient words, or concepts, primarily of Scottish or 
    Hebrew origin.  None of these are plausible, none have even so much 
    as an indirect relationship to the ritual of the Third Degree, and 
    none have the comfortable ring of authenticity. 

    First, there are many mistakes made in regard to language, not the 
    least of which is a rather widely held conviction that the language 
    of Christ was Hebrew @"@ it was not Hebrew, but rather Aramaic, now 
    extinct.  Words and concepts are not easily translated from one 
    language to another, and the sound of a word in one language 
    obviously does not have the same meaning in another language.  
    Certain of the existing approaches stumble badly on this point. 

    Second, the great towers of strength in Masonic history, Gould and 
    Mackey are strangely silent on the subject of the origin of the 
    Word.  Harry Carr, a contemporary Masonic historian of great 
    stature, was of opinion that the word was probably Hebrew in origin 
    and, as such, would consist of a noun part and a verb part.[1] 

    The lead article on the subject of the Word is the Prestonian 
    Lecture for 1938, by Douglas Knoop, MA, and PM of Quatuor Coronati 
    Lodge of Research No. 2076, London.[2]   In this article, Knoop 
    cites several of the old manuscripts and exposures where the known 
    Word appears, in some cases perhaps as a mnemonic.  He states that 
    "Although it is almost certain that the area to which the Mason 
    Word applied was Scotland, its age as an institution is more 
    problematical."  He cites as an early reference to it, a metrical 
    account of the city of Perth, Scotland and its environs, entitled 
    "The Muses' Threnodie" by Henry Adamson in 1638 which includes the 
    phrase "We have the Mason Word and second sight."  While no clue is 
    given as to what the Mason Word was, it evidently did exist in some 
    form at that early date. 

    Knoop believed that the Mason Word implied much more than a mere 
    term.  Its value, in the operative days of the sixteenth and 
    seventeenth centuries in Scotland, was to distinguish an Entered 
    Apprentice from a mere apprentice serving his first seven years in 
    the operative craft.  Both the Schaw Statutes of 1598 and the 
    minutes of lodges at Edinburgh, Perth, Melrose, Aberdeen and 
    Dumfries support the concept of the entrusting occurring at the 
    successful conclusion of the initial apprentice period. Its use was 
    to clearly distinguish and identify those who had completed their 
    initial period of training and were free to seek work independently 
    of the masters to whom they were, up to that point, bound. 

    Virtually all of what we know of the origin of our great Fraternity 
    is drawn from two sources: The so-called "Manuscript Constitutions" 
    which are our earliest records as to the manner of receiving new 
    members commencing in the operative period with the Regius MS of 
    c.1390, and extending into the speculative period as late as 1750; 
    and the so-called "exposures" commencing in 1723 and apparently 
    written by disgruntled former members for varying reasons which are 
    not always apparent. These latter are, of course, immediately 
    suspect in regard to authenticity but nonetheless must be accepted 
    as being at least reflective of lodge practices in general as of 
    their date of publication. 

    In reviewing the more significant of the early manuscripts 
    pertaining to the Craft and its evolution, including the Edinburgh 
    Register House MS of 1696,[3]  the Sloan MS of 1700,[4] and the 
    Trinity College Dublin MS of 1711,[5] we find references to the 
    Word, which through time, is gradually debased.  More important to 
    us, however, is the Graham MS dated 1726.  It comes after the 
    formation of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717, and interestingly, 
    while it describes a raising, the ceremony has to do with Noah and 
    not Hiram Abiff.  Thus, as late as 1726, the Hiramic legend had not 
    yet made its official appearance.  In the ceremony described, the 
    three sons of Noah decide to exhume his body in order to determine 
    if there was anything on or about it to give them a clue as to the 
    secret of how Noah knew what things would be needed in the new 
    world after the Flood and thus placed them in the Ark.  After 
    exhuming the body and raising it masonically, we find this 

    "Father of heaven help us now for our Earthly father cannot so laid 
    down the dead body again and not knowing what to do - so one said 
    here is yet marrow in this bone and the second said but a dry bone 
    and the third said it stinketh so they agreed for to give it a name 
    as is known to free masonry to this day . . . ."[6] 

    The first and most important of the exposures in which the Word is 
    explicitly discussed is Prichard's "Masonry Dissected", which 
    appeared in 1730 and was reprinted several times, perhaps attesting 
    to its accuracy for use as an aide-memoir.  Further, however, it is 
    our earliest evidence of three full degrees and of the adoption of 
    the Hiramic legend. Here the word is given but there is no 
    explanation offered as to its meaning.[7] 

    We then pass to the French exposures occurring during the thirty 
    year gap of such material in England from 1730 to 1760.  Only one 
    such exposure is included for our story; it being from the "L' 
    Order des Francs-Masons Trahi, et Le Secret Des Mopses Revele", 
    translated: "The Order of the Freemasons Betrayed and the Secret of 
    the Mopses Revealed", commonly referred to as the "Trahi." Here the 
    Word is given in two ways: Once signifying "Word of the Master" and 
    later signifying sacred.[8] 

    Back to the English exposures, in "Three Distinct Knocks", published 
    in 1760 and alleged to represent the Antients' working at that 
    stage, the word is given and a meaning supplied,[9] as is the case 
    with "Jachin and Boaz", appearing in 1762, and alleged to represent 
    the Moderns' working;[10] except that no explanation is supplied in 
    this latter case. 

    In this country, we have William Morgan's exposure of 1827, 
    entitled "Illustrations of Masonry", which launched the so-called 
    Morgan Affair with its disastrous effects on the Fraternity. Morgan 
    gives the word almost as in "Three Distinct Knocks".[11] 

    While perusal of these sources attests to the use of a single word, 
    variously spelled in the sources cited, a major question remains 
    unanswered: What is its origin?  While the evidence is admittedly 
    incomplete, I believe it possible that it could have evolved out of 
    the Middle East.  If so, how was it obtained? 


    First, let us examine the Arabs and the world of Islam.  The story 
    begins with the Prophet Muhamed.  (A word here on E(Espelling: The 
    Arabic language uses characters, not unlike our letters, but of a 
    distinct and different form and proceeding from right to left 
    rather than the reverse to which we in the West are accustomed. 
    There is utterly no direct correlation between any of their 28 
    characters and our 26 letters.  Thus, we spell Arabic words in 
    English as the "sound" to us in Arabic and there is no absolute 
    spelling in English of an Arabic word.  There are great variations 
    in the spelling of the Prophet's name, in the word Muslim or Moslem 
    and in the English spelling of their cities.  This phenomenon is 
    not restricted to the Arabic language but to any language where the 
    characters are different from our letters.  Thus, the Chinese city 
    is variously known as Peiping, Peiking, or Beijing.  Only the 
    Chinese spelling, in their own characters, and their own 
    pronunciation of it, which varies with dialects, remains constant.  
    To illustrate this point, R. E. Lawrence, in writing the "Seven 
    Pillars of Wisdom", devised a total of seven different ways to 
    spell in English the name of the city of Jiddah in Saudi Arabia, 
    and used the seven indiscriminately in his text to hammer home the 

    Back now to the Prophet.  He was born at Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 
    AD 571, a poor member of the high ranking Quraysh tribe which was 
    the custodian of the Kaaba, a shrine to some 350 deities. Muhamed 
    was orphaned at the age of six and married a wealthy widow at the 
    age of 25. 

    At about this time, he began secluding himself in a small cave 
    above the city of Mecca and was perplexed by the observation that 
    while the Jews and the Christians each had a book of sacred 
    writings, the Arabs had no book and were comparatively backward.  
    Directly, he heard his first call: "Recite then in the name of the 
    Lord who created" recorded in Koran, 96:1.  The speaker was not the 
    God of the Jews and the Christians, but the angel Gabriel speaking 
    for that God. One of the most common misconceptions of Islam is 
    that the term Allah refers to a Supreme Being separate from the 
    Supreme Being of the Jew and the Christian.  Conversely, it is 
    indeed the same Supreme Being.  Allah is merely the Arabic word for 
    God, literally "The One". Thus, the well known declaration of the 
    Muslim should not be quoted in the West as "There is no God but 
    Allah and Muhamed is his Prophet", but rather "There is no God but 
    God and Muhamed is his messenger." 

    Muhamed began to take his message of the one God to his Quarishi 
    tribesmen and exhort them to forsake their multitudinous deities 
    and embrace the new religion with its promise of Paradise for the 
    true believers and of hell for those who refused.  (Sound 
    familiar?) There were, of course, few early adherents.  The Koran 
    itself was not written during the lifetime of the Prophet. Rather, 
    he memorized what Gabriel told him and handed it onto his followers 
    who likewise memorized it and handed it on. (Sound familiar?)  Even 
    to this day, many Muslims memorize the entire volume of the Koran. 

    In AD 622, the Prophet left Mecca and went to Medina.  The reasons 
    given for this so-called migration vary.  One is that his message 
    struck at the economic heart of his tribesmen who made their money 
    selling icons and other paraphernalia associated with the many 
    deities.  Gold, frankincense and myrrh, by way of interest, were 
    all used in various ceremonies associated with the false deities.  
    The Prophet's message rendered two of these materials almost 
    worthless, for they had no other worthwhile economic purpose. 

    One of the other reasons given for the migration was that it was 
    contemplated for over two years in order to find a more amenable 
    population for the new religion.  In any event, Muhamed went to 
    Medina on September 24, 622 (AD) and it is from this date that 
    Arabs measure time, it being year 1, and termed Al Hegira, or Year 
    of the Migration. 

    At one point, the Prophet travelled to Paradise, being instantly 
    transported from the Kaaba in Mecca to Jerusalem and thence to 
    Paradise.  His departure site was no other than Mount Moriah where 
    Solomon's Temple was erected, and the Dome of the Rock on that site 
    houses a footprint in the rock made by the winged horse which is 
    said to have carried him on his visit to Paradise.  Thus did 
    Jerusalem become the third holiest city to the Arab world after 
    Mecca, where he was born and died, and Medina where he flourished 
    and is buried. 

    In connection with Jerusalem, we in the West tend to view the 
    Crusades of the Middle Ages as a correct and proper campaign to 
    wrest the Holy City from infidels.  In fact, they were not 
    infidels, but worshiped the same God as the Christian.  They, also, 
    viewed the fight as protecting their Holy City from the outside 
    infidels of Europe.  The Arabs point is that their side of the 
    story has never been correctly told.  Education produces 
    understanding, my brethren. 

    Muhamed returned to Mecca in 632 AD (10 A.H.), became desperately 
    ill and died on June 8.  His sermon during that Farewell Pilgrimage 
    includes these words: 
         "O ye men!  Harken unto my words and take ye to heart!  Know 
         ye that every Moslem is a brother to every other Muslem, and 
         that ye are now one brotherhood.  It is not legitimate for any 
         one of you, therefore, to appropriate unto himself anything 
         that belongs to his brother unless it is willingly given him 
         by that brother."[12] 

    The concept of the level, my brethren, is very real to the Arab.  
    Each man is utterly and absolutely no better and no worse than 
    every other man, a message which should have some meaning to the 

    Muhamed created a theocracy in Medina, and made a community with no 
    priesthood, no hierarchy, no central see. The idea of a King has 
    been accepted in the 20th century as modern life has pushed itself 
    into Saudi Arabia, but there is no crown or State jewels, utterly 
    nothing to set him apart from his brother Muslims.  All who see him 
    address him or call to him "Ya Fahd, M . . ." - "Hi Fahd, welcome!" 

    The Islamic religion has five tenets or pillars: The profession of 
    faith (There is no God but God, etc.); fasting during the month of 
    Ramadan; Alms Giving (interestingly, 2.5% of one's income or 
    acquired property); praying five times each day; and a pilgrimage 
    to Mecca once in a lifetime provided it does not otherwise deprive 
    one's family.[13] 

    Subsequent to the death of the Prophet, he was replaced by a 
    succession of Caliphs, or Successors.  The concept grew that they 
    must propagate the faith to the outside world, and by sword if not 
    otherwise possible.  Thus arose the concept of the "jihad", or holy 
    war, which was raised to the level of being virtually a sixth tenet 
    of the faith.  "Make war . . . upon such of those to whom the Book 
    has been given until they pay tribute offered on the back of their 
    hands, in a state of humiliation" (Koran 9:29).[14] 

    These words and concepts sound perhaps barbaric to the Westerner, 
    yet one must remember that the Christians are also enjoined to 
    propagate the faith, albeit not necessarily by the sword; further 
    we do not have to look beyond the currently raging battles in 
    Northern Ireland, the actions of the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay 
    Colony concerning Roger Williams, and the Inquisitions of the Roman 
    Church to recognize the Christians also have made frequent use of 
    the sword. 

    The Arabs, in their zeal, came boiling out of their desert home in 
    the century following the Prophet's death and subdued most of the 
    known world.[15]  They had no great civilization of their own, 
    providing little more than their Book and their language.  However, 
    unlike some other world conquerors, who left little but destruction 
    and desolation in their wake, the Arabs soaked up like a sponge the 
    culture of their subjugated populations including classical 
    literature, Hellenistic thought, Byzantine institutions, Roman law, 
    Syriac scholarship and Persian art.[16]  In fact, it was the Arabs 
    who maintained the vast bulk of the world's knowledge through what 
    we know today as the Dark Ages, and they became the source of the 
    European renaissance occurring between the 14th and 15th 


    In their conquests, they proceeded first North reaching 
    Constantinople (Istanbul to the Arab), but never subduing it, East 
    to what is now India, and West through Egypt, across North Africa, 
    reaching Europe via Gibraltar, subduing Spain, and across the 
    Pyrenees into France where their advance was finally halted at the 
    great Battle of Poitiers (or Tours) in 732 AD, by one Charles 
    Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne.[18]  
    Martel was a titular king of France and, more importantly, a patron 
    of the stone masons.  Brother Denslow informs us in "10,000 Famous 
    Freemasons', that according to legend, Martel sent many stone 
    masons into England, and it is certainly possible, indeed, perhaps 
    even probable, into Scotland as well, and we begin to see how an 
    Arabic word may well have traveled into the British Isles.[19] 

    A word, perhaps, is necessary on Arab customs.  The Arabs, 
    particularly in the area from which the Prophet came, produced 
    perhaps little of importance to the world with the exception of 
    their language.  It is a beautiful sounding language and amongst 
    their customs is the matter of the extended greeting.  We in the 
    West pay little heed to greeting one another beyond "Hello", "Bon 
    Jour" or "Guten tag".  The Arab, however, will spend as long as ten 
    minutes greeting, and being greeted by, a friend, beginning with "a 
    salaamu alayacum" (familiar words to the Shriner, and meaning "The 
    Peace be upon you"), the response being "wa alaycum musalaam" (and 
    upon you be the Peace); "Ahalan was sahalan" (welcome), the same in 
    response meaning, this time, welcome, I am glad to know you; "Kayf 
    Hayalak" (How are you); "Tayyib" (good, fine); "Haalakum" (your 
    condition?), "Tayyabyn al Hamdu lil)laah" (fine, fine, thanks be to 
    God); "faddal istariyh" (please have a seat); "shukran" (thanks); 
    "afwan" (you're welcome), "was sholhak" (and how are you?), "B-
    Khayr" (in good health), "M . . ." (welcome to my home, office, 


    It is my thesis that the word used by the Arabs for the latter 
    purpose, that is "welcome", having been heard many times by the 
    Franks from 732 AD onward, was carried, probably as a curiosity, by 
    the French Stone masons into Scotland, or perhaps to England first, 
    and was adopted by the operative masons as a unique word of 
    identity symbolizing, probably, welcome to the ranks as an Entered 
    Apprentice, handed on to the Speculatives and has come down to us 
    unaltered.  And, if you think about it, in our present third 
    degree, what better way to greet the new mason, or any brother, 
    than with the word "welcome".  Welcome back from the dead, welcome 
    to the Lodge, welcome to the Fraternity. 


    [1] Carr, Harry, "The Freemason at Work", London, 1976, P. 9.

    [2] Knoop, Douglas "The Mason Word", Prestonian Lecture, 1938, 
        appearing in "The Collected Prestonian Lectures", 1925-1960, 
        editor, Harry Carr, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, London, 1967, 
        pp. 243-264. 

    [3] Knoop, Jones and Hammer, "Early Masonic Catechisms", Quatuor 
        Coronati Lodge No. 2076, London, 1975 (hereinafter referred to as 
        EMC) p. 32. 

    [4] EMC, p. 48

    [5] EMC, p. 70

    [6] EMC, p. 93

    [7] Prichard, Samual, "Masonry Dissected", Masonic Book Club, 
        Bloomington, IL, 1977, p. 29 of the reproduction.

    [8] "Early French Exposures", ed., Harry Carr, Quatuor Coronati Lodge 
        No. 2076, London, 1971, p. 254 and 267.

    [9] Carr, Harry, "Three Distinct Knocks and Jachin and Boaz", Masonic 
        Book Club, Blooming, IL, 1981, p. 62 of the reproduction of "Three 
        Distinct Knocks".

    [10] Ibid., p. 46 of the reproduction of "Jachin and Boaz".

    [11] Morgan, William, "Illustrations of Masonry", as reproduced in 
         "Three Distinct Knocks and Jachin and Boaz", op. cit., p. 84 and 
         85 of the reproduction. 

    [12] Hitti, Philip K., "The Arabs", Gateway Editions, LTC, South Bend, 
         IN, Second revised paper back edition, 1970, p. 30-41.

    [13] Ibid., pp. 49-54

    [14] Ibid., p. 59

    [15] Rogers, Michael, "The Spread of Islam", Elsenier Phaidon, Phaidon 
         Press, Ltd., published in the US by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 
         1976, p. 24. 

    [16] Badeau, John S. et. al., "The Genius of Arab Civilization", New 
         York University Press, New York, 1975, pp. 5-8.

    [17] Ibid., p. 215.

    [18] Rogers, op. cit., pp. 24-25; and Hitti, op. cit., p. 91.

    [19] Denslow, William R., "10,000 Famous Freemasons", Missouri Lodge of 
         Research, 1957, Vol. 1, p. 200.

    [20] Defense Language Institute, "Saudi Arabic Language and Cultural 
         Familiarization Course", 1975, Vol 1, pp. 1-4 and p. 79.