Meaning of Cable Tow?

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by hanzosbm, Feb 20, 2020.

  1. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    I recently came a possible origin and meaning of the world cable tow, which, at least in my opinion, makes FAR more sense than a lot of the other theories I've heard.

    The Hebrew word חֲבֹלָתוֺ is transliterated as Chabelatow. It is found in Ezekiel 18:7 and translates as 'his pledge'. Considering that a candidate is released after his obligation because his new obligation is stronger than his cabel tow, this seems to make a lot of sense.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    חֲבֹלָתוֺ = rope... interesting

    Also, "a pledge; his pledge"...

    Nice play on words for those in on the game.

    He's released from his pledge by taking upon himself a solemn and binding moral obligation...

    [EDIT] The meaning of the cable tow at present, at least in the circles I hang in, focuses upon obligations outside the Craft related to God, Family, Work and Faith ever reminding us that Freemasonic obligations don't interfere with our civil, moral or religious obligations.

    On the other hand, your cable tow represents outside obligations (and limitations) that will interfere with your freemasonic activities.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2020
  3. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

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    Locally the first degree penalty involves a cable tow length below high water - thus putting the burial under naval law.

    Towing another vessel uses a cable tow. If the cable tow is not sufficiently long then there is no connection between the vessels.
     
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  4. Ross Thompson

    Ross Thompson Site Benefactor

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    I've heard this when being advised on joining too many lodges and explained as "don't let your cable tow get so long that you no longer have connection at any lodge."
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
  5. Number4

    Number4 Registered User

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    The nominal length of a cable tow is said to be three miles - the distance a man can walk in one hour. It's a reference to your solemn obligation about 'signs and summonses' ;)
     
  6. Luigi Visentin

    Luigi Visentin Registered User

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    I have found that the idea to refer to ebraic to explain ancient Masonic words and symbol lead always to confused and usually wrong explanations. In this case, anciently, cable tow was used mainly in relationship with the penalty for having betrayed the secrets of the Craft and its lenght was much less than 3 miles (from Masonry Dissected (1730) "... to be buried in the Sands of the Sea, the Length of a Cable-rope from Shore, where the Tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 Hours ..."). This phrase indicate some particular places, that is the tidal plains, or mudflats. In the Tirrenian Sea, for example, it would not be possible.
     
  7. Number4

    Number4 Registered User

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    A cable rope in marine terms is 600 feet. It would be nonsense to assume one could ignore a summons or assist a distressed brother by traveling on foot (remember your MM obligation) if he was further than 200 yards away. Some of us would not even get off their own driveway! :)
     
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  8. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

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    The lodge in which I was raised uses similar wording, but as other brothers have pointed out, this explanation falls flat when considered literal.
    To say that it is to designate a distance from shore for the obligation assumes that all geographies are the same. The tidal range is different everywhere. I grew up in a coastal town and at some places, low tide and high tide might only be a few feet different, but in other areas, it could literally be miles (we have a river that floods at high tide and goes miles inland, but which can be walked across at low tide). Combine that with the distance between "shore" (however you define that) and the center of the tidal range, and you could be talking about a distance of a few feet to a few miles.
    In short, in my opinion, this meaning does not make sense.

    However, many early uses talk about fulfilling an obligation or helping if it's within the length. If we go back to the idea that it is instead a measure of one's pledge to uphold a Mason's fidelity, then this is basically saying that you should attend lodge/answer a summons/help a brother/etc if it is within reason to your obligation.

    A real world example: my mother lodge consolidated with another lodge a few years back. The secretary of the new lodge didn't know me or anything about it and I was sent a summons. The problem was, I was living 2200 miles away. I wasn't about to buy a plane ticket to answer a question that could be handled over the phone. My obligation, however, said that I should. By adding the modifier of "if it be within the length..." essentially gives me an "out" if it's not reasonable.

    At least, that's one way to look at it. The fact of the matter is, none of us were around to ask the Brothers writing the ritual what their intent was. At this point, it's all a matter of opinion.
     
  9. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    <sigh> Much like the words "amen" and "SMIB", being said to be synonymous because it is translated to "so be it", the order and inclusion/exclusion of words changes the meaning of terms, cable-tow and cable-rope should not be taken as synonymous.
     
  10. Luigi Visentin

    Luigi Visentin Registered User

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    Basically the matter is confused: in early eighteen documents was used the term "cable-rope". The use of "cable-tow" started later. However the matter is complicated by the fact that there was a mixture bewteen two different uses, one for the penalty and one for the question about the "Key of the Lodge" where the "lenght" is much shorter. Unfortunately the tradition of transmitting orally the teachings has lead to many multiple versions of the same terms and the matter is complicated from the fact that, is some cases, new meanings have been introduced on old traditions. Therefore it is not strange to find the same word written in different ways like, for example, the ancient word associated with the Master Degree, which existed in many different version.
     
  11. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    Hence the post.
     
  12. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

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    All interesting theories and points well taken. This is exactly what I like about this site.
     
  13. jermy Bell

    jermy Bell Registered User

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    It's a meaningless word if it isn't exercised...
     

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