The word “obligation” comes from the Latin word obligatus, meaning “bound.” In obligatus we find a form of the root word, ligare, a verb, which means “to bind.” When I obligate myself, therefore, I am being bound to something or someone.
Our ritual instructs us that our obligations make us Masons. Masons are referred to as “brothers of the mystic tie.” Albert Mackey quite eloquently wrote of this tie:
“That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”
Indeed, the obligations of The Craft are the cords that bind us both to The Order and to each other. Every man that has approached our portals, passed through the Pillars and, on bent knee, obligated himself, has forged an ethereal chain that lashes him to all those who have gone that way before and all that shall come that way tomorrow. This ligature is beyond the bounds of time and space (hence it is termed “the mystic tie”); As Masons, we are pulled together by it into that certain House Not Made With Hands.
As with all things in life, there are some who will take with the utmost seriousness the obligation and the things he promised and swore to perform; there are those who will do so to a lesser degree. Just as there are better and worse plumbers, doctors and teachers, there are Masons who more and less fully live up to those things to which they became bound at the Altar.
I, for one, endeavor to keep and perform all to which I have agreed. As surely as there breathes in California a man, born of the same womb from whence I myself issued, whom I call brother, there are some six million men around the globe whom I also call brother. Mark well: the blood-tie shared with that particular aforementioned Californian is to my thinking no stronger than that mystic tie binding me to any one of those six million far-flung brothers.
Consider those moveable jewels, the rough and perfect ashlars. Stones both, they are symbols of the craven and perfected man respectively, and are a powerful expression of the aim of our journey. The rough ashlar, worked by acts of will and intent and sculpted by contemplation and raisings of consciousness, is transmogrified into a useful object, fit to be joined with like stones to build up a glorious Temple of Light – a pulsing, electrified and holy spiritual Temple of the Almighty.
What shall bond perfected ashlars together? What shall take these several pieces and unify them into the Sacred Edifice? It is that which is spread with the Master’s trowel – the cement of Brotherly Love! But be cautioned; just as a building of stone built with a poor mortar is the weaker for it, so too shall our Temple of Glory suffer from lack of strength if our Brotherly Love is defective – if it is weakened by what are, effectively, various infidelities to our obligations that are frequently seen: quarrels, mistrust, piques and the like. It is not hyperbole to say that such things are utter and abject poisons, adulterating our mortar and hence the whole work.
As Freemasons, we have great labors before us and a high ideals after which we seek (see here for my conception of the true Master Mason: http://theblazingstart.blogspot.com/2012/09/kings-we-are.html
); let us not hamper the Great Work by giving place to discord in any form. Let us be quick to forgive. Let us readily look upon our fellow Craftsmen as our equals. Let us be slow to anger, and even slower to speak an ill word to a Brother. Let us be patient, tolerant and reflective. Let us not see our Temple come crashing down as a modern day Tower of Babel, victim to the meaner aspects of our natures and a polluted mortar. Rather, let us come together, in unity and frienship, so purely that not a single crack may be found in our edifice, permitting us to ascend to sublime stations, holy and on-high.