“Hood” goes back to old German and Anglo Saxon, in which it referred to head covering, as in hat, hood, helmet, etc.; “wink,” in the same languages, meant to close the eyes, “wench,” “wince,” etc., being similarly derived. A hoodwink was therefore a headdress designed to cover the eyes. The popular use of the word is believed to go back to the old sport of falconry, once so popular, in which the falcon had a hood over its eyes until ready to strike at its prey.
- Source: 100 Words in Masonry
A symbol of the secrecy, silence, and darkness in which the mysteries of our art should be preserved from the unhallowed gaze of the profane. It has been supposed to have a symbolic reference to the passage in Saint John's Gospel (I, 5), "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." But it is more certain that there is in the hoodwink a representation of the mystical darkness which always preceded the rites of the ancient initiations.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
Articles On The Hoodwink On This Page
By Bro. Henry Taylor, Missouri
In the candidate's experiences of initiation the hoodwink plays a larger part than we are wont to think. To him it is one of the most impressive of the things that are done to him. Being darkened, his other senses are all the more alert; what he touches, hears or smells takes on an added significance. His imagination is aroused, everything becomes magnified, so that some of the simplest things done about him, steps taken or words said, assume almost terrifying magnitudes. His fears and apprehensions are abnormally active. In this state he is, so far as his emotions and mind are concerned, in a state of such impressibility that every stage of his experience leaves behind it an indelible memory. The reader may verify this for himself by recalling his own impressions, especially of his First Degree, though there were times afterwards when his being in darkness possessed an even greater power to move him to fear and awe. It is, no doubt, because darkness heightens all the sensibilities, and thereby increases the effect of the ceremonies, that the Hoodwink is used. It is an instrument of psychological effect.
This was early discovered by those in charge of initiations, for it is a matter of record that in the most ancient ceremonies the candidate was made to walk in darkness, either by shutting all light from the room or by the use of the Hoodwink. It was so in the ceremonies of Eleusis, of Isris and of Mithras; it was doubtless so in a hundred other secret fraternities of which no records remain to us.
As regards our own rites, it should be carefully noted that the purpose of the Hoodwink is not to hide things from the candidate. There is nothing to hide. Moreover, all that there is is later on revealed, for the Hoodwink is removed in the early part of the ceremonies. The Hoodwink is a thing to be used to bring about a certain state of mind, and to suggest certain ideas, and may, therefore, be classified as a symbol.
Like the manner in which the candidate finds himself clothed, and the way whereby he finds himself rendered helpless and utterly dependent on his guides, the Hoodwink may be considered as a symbol of the weakness and destitution of the uninitiated. Initiation is a process of birth into a new world, or into a new relation, or into a new order of experience: relative to that new world into which he is about to enter, the candidate is like the babe unborn, a helpless creature lying bound in its mother's womb. Accordingly he is in darkness: not yet born he has no use of his eyes, and no light whereby to see if he could use them.
The effect and meaning of the Hoodwink, as the candidate himself knows and feels it, may be thus interpreted, but there is a larger meaning to the Hoodwink, considered as a thing apart, as one of the many symbols of the lodge, which, if we will consider it aright, will lead us into an order of ideas from which much light flows. Indeed, I have come to believe, after some study of the matter, that the Hoodwink, and the rites and experiences attendant upon it, deserves a place among the outstanding landmarks (if I may thus use a word usually reserved for other connections) of our system of symbolism.
In searching for its meaning as one of the major symbols it is significant to note that the Hoodwink is removed (symbolically, that is) by the declaration that there must be light, and that there is light. When the light comes the darkness flees away. The lodge does not cause anything to come into existence that was not already there; it creates nothing; it furnishes the candidate with no new faculties or senses; it furnishes nothing but light.
All this is true in a great way of human experience everywhere. The "profane" is one to whom a thing has not yet been revealed; he cannot see. But it is not because anyone has deliberately and arbitrarily forbidden him to see; his blindness is in himself, and is his own fault. There at his side is the object of his search, or, it may be, the great truth of which he has dreamed, but he sees nothing of either because his eyes are holden. When he has learned how to open his eyes, light comes and he can make his own that for which he has searched. The real initiation is an internal awakening whereby he who before was blind to that which lay before him can now behold it, who now can make his own that which he needs.
In another order of speech this is fitly called "revelation," which word carries within itself its own truest definition. Revelation does not create that which did not before exist; it lifts the veil and makes apparent. One stands before a window which opens out upon a range of the Alps, but the blind is drawn and the mountains are as if they were not; then the blind is lifted and the mountains stand forth to the eye. That is a picture of what takes place in revelation.
When the first man drew breath in this life it was true that objects acted toward each other in that invariable manner which we describe as gravity, but this gravity was as though it were not until at last, in this far end of history, Sir Isaac Newton found his Hoodwink lifted and his eyes opened. That same first man walked about upon a spherical earth which turned upon its own axis and revolved about the sun, but it was not until Copernicus and his followers learned to see this which had so long existed that for us it became a fact. In both cases nothing was created, a blind was lifted.
When in our own lodges the candidate is brought to light it is in order that he may have unimpeded vision of the Great Lights of Masonry, which same lie before him as symbolized by the Holy Book, the Square and the Compasses. Now there is no need here that we undertake an interpretation of these symbols; it will be understood what are the realities represented by them. The point is to note that the things for the sake of which Masonry exists are things that Masonry did not bring into existence and which are in no sense its private property. Always and forever God is, and God is the Father of us all; always and forever man is the brother of man, whatever man himself may believe about it; always and forever the human being is immortal, and all the laws of righteousness are as universal and immutable as gravity itself. But just as the law of gravitation was hidden from human minds for millennia of time until there came minds capable of seeing it, so with these matters, the purpose of the Masonic initiation is to "open the young man's eyes" in order that he may be brought into possession of those truths. Masonry does not create, it reveals, and the removal of the Hoodwink symbolizes that fact.
In the case of the scientists above mentioned the act of vision came after a long intellectual preparation. That intellectual preparation was to them their own proper internal initiation. In making one's own those moral and spiritual realities of which Masonry is composed, and which is its function to put into the possession of its initiates, something more than intellectual preparation is required, though it must ever be remembered that Masonry is a patron of education and the sciences, as well as of the moral and religious life. A preparation of the whole man is needed, of the hands, the ears, the emotions, the memories, as well as the intellect.
For it is true that, as the old saying attributed to St Francis has it, "We know as much as we are." In proportion as a man grows impure all that is meant by purity ceases to exist or grows remote and apparently unreal. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." In proportion as a man develops the habit of lying and of being a lie, the truth will fly from him and seem to vanish. The pathway to moral reality lives through character.
This, I believe, holds true of that which is the search of searches, the one Grand Object of all Initiation - the knowledge of God. Why is it that to so many men God is as though He were not? It is not because God Himself sets out to conceal Himself from His own children; it is not because, for some profound reasons of providence or creation, it is necessary that God veil Himself. It is because these men have never made that internal preparation whereby alone God can be known. The path to Him is the most secret of all paths, not because He has arbitrarily chosen to make it so, but because it leads through the hidden motives of the heart and the innermost chambers of the soul. One of our poets has written of this with penetration:
"I made a pilgrimage to find the God;
I listened for His voice at holy tombs,
Searched for the prints of His immortal feet
In the dust of broken altars; yet turned back
With empty heart. But on the homeward road
A great light came upon me and I heard
The God's voice ringing in a nesting lark;
Felt His sweet wonder in a growing rose;
Received His blessing from a wayside well;
Looked on His beauty in a lover's face;
Saw His bright hand send signal from the sun."
We can afford to ignore the note of unreal sentimentality in these lines in order that they may furnish us with a concrete picture of that which is the ultimate secret in all initiations whatsoever. As you read, as I write, God is about us each; He is here as surely as He is in any other world whatsoever; we are as well able to find Him here and to know Him here as we shall ever be. There is no veil between us and some other world in which He dwells; this world in which we live is as much His world as any, and He is here if only we can learn to know Him. And we can learn to know Him if we rightly practice the profound saying that the pure in heart shall see him. The gentle Linnaeus inscribed over his doorway the sentence, "Live innocently, God is present." We might, without irreverence to that wise teacher, reverse the saying to read, "If you live innocently God will be here." For all knowledge comes to us through the soul, and if the soul itself is veiled and clouded by passion and untruth, how shall we know? How shall we know anything that is worth knowing? "If thy heart were right," says Thomas a' Kempis, "all creatures would be to thee a book of holy doctrine."
These reflections have conducted us to the true meaning, I venture to believe, of esotericism, or of Occultism. There is and can be no esotericism in the sense that God has whispered into the ears of a few favourites the ultimate truths and left the rest to us, the uncounted millions of the rest of us, outside the closed circle of those knowing ones. There is no esotericism in the sense that in order to discover any truth we must join some secret society. No secret society in existence, one may venture to say with a touch of dogmatism, possesses any truth that the wise men of the earth have not long ago discovered. The truths taught by all the occult fraternities are truths that men tell each other on the street corners. But there is a true esotericism, one may say that it is almost an eternal esotericism, for it is inconceivable that it will ever cease to be, and it consists in this, that truth is possessed only by those who are inwardly prepared to possess it. A man who possesses the light may help another to see it; may teach him many things that help him to open his eyes, but after all is done the major part remains to the seeker himself. He must open out the paths through his own mind and heart; he must inwardly prepare himself. Until he does the light cannot be his, and to him those who do possess it are living in an esoteric privilege.
Of the inward and constitutional lack of faculty, the Hoodwink is the fitting symbol. It stands for that darkness which is due, not to accident, or to tyranny, but to a lack in the soul itself, which the darkened one alone has the means to remove.
- Source: The Builder - September 1923