The Word – Obligation

Richard H. Ryder, 2017

The American Heritage Dictionary defines obligation as, “The act of binding oneself to a social, legal, or moral tie.  A duty, contract, promise, or other social, moral, or legal requirement that compels one to follow or avoid a given course of action.

The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, by Albert G. MacKey and Charles T.M. Clenachan, defines obligation as, “The solemn promise made by a Mason on his admission into any degree”.  Derived from the Latin word obligatio, meaning tying or binding, it is the obligation “that makes the Mason”.  MacKey and Clenachan go on to say, “Before the ceremony, there is no tie that binds the candidate to the Order so as to make him a part of it; after the ceremony, the tie has been completed, and the candidate becomes at once a Mason, entitled to all the rights and privileges and subject to all the duties and responsibilities that ensure in that character.”  Although not legally binding in a court of law, it is considered morally binding, enforced by one’s conscience.

The clauses of each degree are its points, which are either positive, requiring action; or negative, forbidding action. The points are preceded by an oath of secrecy, called a tie.  Together, these components form an obligation to God, spoken at his altar situated prominently in the center of the lodge room, and witnessed by fellow members of the Fraternity.  Unless spoken to God, the uttered words are not morally binding on the conscience of the man.  For this reason it is said that the obligation makes the Mason.