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This is an expression of very significant suggestion to the thoughtful Master Mason. If the Word is, in Freemasonry, a symbol of Divine Truth; if the search for the Word is a symbol of the search for that Truth; if the Lost Word symbolizes the idea that Divine Truth has not been found, then the Substitute Word is a symbol of the unsuccessful search after Divine Truth and the attainment in this life, of which the first Temple is a type, of what is only an approximation to it. The idea of a substitute word and its history is to be found in the oldest rituals of the eighteenth century; but the phrase itself is of more recent date, being the result of the fuller development of Masonic science and philosophy.
The history of the Substitute Word has been an unfortunate one. Subjected from a very early period to a mutilation of form, it underwent an entire change in some Rites, after the introduction of the high Degrees; most probably through the influence of the Stuart Masons, who sought by an entirely new word to give a reference to the unfortunate representative of that house as the similitude of the stricken builder (see Macbenac). And so it has come to pass that there are now two substitutes in use, of entirely different form and meaning; one used on the Continent of Europe, and one in England and the United States.
It is difficult in this case, where almost all the knowledge that we can have of the subject is so scanty, to determine the exact time when or the way in which the new word was introduced But there is, as Doctor Mackey believed, abundant internal evidence in the words themselves as to their appropriateness and the languages whence they came the one being pure Hebrew, and the other, in Brother Mackey's opinion, Gaelic, as well as from the testimony of old rituals, to show that the word in use in the United States is the true word, and was the one in use before the Revival. Both of these words have, however, unfortunately been translated by persons ignorant of the languages whence they are derived, so that the most incorrect and even absurd interpretations of their significations have been given. The word in universal use in the United States has been translated as rottenness in the bone, or the builder is dead, or by several other phrases equally as far from the true meaning.
The correct word has been mutilated Properly, it consists of four syllables, for the last syllable, as it is now pronounced, should be divided into two. These four syllables compose three Hebrew words, which constitute a perfect and grammatical phrase, appropriate to the occasion of their utterance. But to understand them, the scholar must seek the meaning in each syllable, and combine the whole. In the language of Apuleius, we must forbear to enlarge upon these holy mysteries
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