The Cable-Tow

V.W. Bro. Harold W. Hughes

There are many symbols used in our ceremonies, the real meaning of which can only be known if we give some thought and study to them.

The interest in crossword puzzles has no doubt increased the knowledge and widened the vocabulary of many thousands of people simply because they found it necessary to refer to the dictionary for the words which are described in the puzzle and which will fit into the required number of spaces.

The same facilities for the study of masonry are freely offered in our Masonic Libraries, and if the brethren want to extend their knowledge of things Masonic, and get a better understanding of those familiar symbols and thereby find greater interest in our ceremonies, I would urge you to make use of the facilities available to you.

We have often witnessed that beautiful Master Mason degree which in its charges and lectures, so clearly points out to us that most important of human studies, the know- ledge of ourselves; and I would like to discuss with you for a few minutes tonight, seven words taken from the middle of a sentence in part of that degree.

The seven words are: "IF WITHIN THE LENGTH OF MY CABLE-TOW". When you and I repeated those words for the first time, they probably conveyed little or no meaning to us. Later, when we heard them several times, we may have decided that the reference was to the cable-tow which is used in the first degree.

To my mind, the meaning goes much deeper than just the symbol of restraint as it is referred to at that time. It might be more fittingly thought of as a symbol of that great mystic tie which masonry spins and weaves between men, making them brothers and helpers of one another.

Upon that thought, masonry stands and has stood through all the ages.

What is the length of my cable-tow?

The question is personal. Does it only extend to my mother lodge, when and if it is convenient for me to attend? Am I bound by it only to those brethren who are members of my own lodge, or does it extend to all those whom I am permitted to befriend or assist?

It would appear that it is patterned after the words of the poet who wrote:

"There is an unseen cord that binds
The whole wide world together;
Through every human life it winds,
This one mysterious tether."

Masonry is a brotherhood that covers the four divisions of the globe, and the well-being and happiness of the brother who lives in the Far East or Far West is just as much our concern as is that of the brother who may live next door.

Of course our particular interest is and should be more closely related to the brother whom we know personally than to one who lives in some far-off land. But fact remains, that we are bound to him by that "unseen cord" just as surely as we are bound to the brethren of our lodge.

The length of your cable-tow is, I think, governed to a large extent by the elasticity of your conscience, that in- definable something that the G.A. of the U. placed in man to distinguish him from the other animals of the earth.

That still small voice which returns time and again to reproach us after we have done something mean or petty, or when we have neglected to do some kindly thing, when the opportunity presented itself.

Fortunately, the voice of conscience is a still voice, one which we alone can hear or I fear the most of us might fall somewhat in the estimation of those who think they know us best.

Our cable-tow is not something to restrain or hold us back, but rather that strong tie which induces us and enables us to reach out and help our brethren when they are in need or in distress. It is like the tow line at sea which enables one ship to pull another into harbor when, after some unfor- tunate accident, it is likely to flounder or drift into the rocky shore.

A lifeline that is not measured by feet or rods or miles, but by goodwill and willingness and ability to reach out to the brother who needs our assistance and support.

That is the cable-tow of masonry and that is the measure by which we should judge its length.

No one can measure it except yourself. It will be as long or as short as your concept of life, with all its blessings and responsibilities.

Let us then gradually lengthen our cable-tows by exercising those virtues which we now profess to admire and even at a little inconvenience or sacrifice to ourselves, endeavor to make the lives of those with whom we come in contact a bit more pleasant and happy.

Grand Lodge of Ontario 1957