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Profane

There is no word whose technical and proper meaning differs more than this. In its ordinary use profane signifies one who is irreligious and irreverent, but in its technical adaptation it is applied to one who is ignorant of sacred rites. The word is compounded of the two Latin words pro and canum, and literally means before or outside of the temple; and hence, a profanes among the ancients was one who was not allowed to enter the temple and behold the mysteries. "Those," says Vossius, "were called profane who were not initiated in the sacred rites, but to whom it was allowed only to stand before the temple--profane--not to enter it and take part in the solemnities." The Greek equivalent, had a similar reference; for its root is found in a threshold, as if it denoted one who was not permitted to pass the threshold of the temple. In the celebrated hymn of Orpheus, which it is said was sung at the Mysteries of Eleusis, we meet with this phrase, meaning I speak to those to whom it is lawful, but close the doors against the profane. When the mysteries were about to begin, the Greeks used the solemn formula, and the Romans, Procul, O procul este, profani, both meaning, Far hence, O far hence, be ye, ye outsiders! (see Vergil, Aeneid, book vi, line 258).

Hence the original and inoffensive signification of profane is that of being uninitiated; and it is in this sense that it is used in Freemasonry, simply to designate one who has not been~initiated as a Freemason. The word profane is not recognized as a noun substantive in the general usage of the language, but it has been adopted as a technical term in the dialect of Freemasonry, in the same relative sense in which the word layman is used in the professions of law and divinity.

Accepted as the word is for general use among Freemasons, its ancient meaning "outside the Temple, an outsider," may be misunderstood. A peculiar instance of this sort came up for consideration in 1926 at the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands. One of the Lodges objected to the use of the word profane, in either English or Spanish, when reference is made to persons not Freemasons, because it "has no proper place in modern Masonry." Accordingly the Grand Lodge adopted this resolution:

That the use of the word profane when reference is made to persons not Masons be avoided wherever possible ban the use of some other word or expression in its stead, such as uninitaited and non-Mason.

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