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Right Hand

In addition to the facts drawn from the history of religion which are given in the article beginning at page 856, it is interesting to note that general philology, and etymology in particular, have been contributing new data to a subject which has become as engrossing to psychologists, physiologists, and specialists in education as it always has been to symbologists. The etymology of the oldest words in our language is a tricky and uncertain branch of scholarship, and long has been one in which it is fatal to dogmatize, but the origins of 'right' and 'left' have been worked out with what may be accepted as reliability. To the Latin- speaking Romans the name for 'right' in 'right hand' was dezzer, whence we have 'dexterity'; it in turn was probably derived from the Sanskrit daksh which meant 'to the strong, skilled, able', so that the right hand was believed to be the more skilled of the two. The word 'ambidextrous' therefore means literally 'two right hands' in the sense that one is as skilled as the other. The Latin name for the left hand as sinister. The English word 'left' is derived from a group of Teutonic words with the general meaning of 'weak'. In the French the word describing the left hand was gauche, from which comes our 'gawky,' meaning awkward, and our 'gaucherie' meaning 'awkward and clumsy in manners.' Because Latin-speaking peoples looked upon the left hand as the lower or more awkward, 'sinister' came to denote anything questionable, back-handed, threatening, treacherous; something of that old meaning is preserved in such phrases as 'left-handed compliment,' 'left-handed marriage' (morganatic), etc.; and the opposite is preserved in 'right-hand man,' 'good right arm,' etc. In the Sanskrit rju mas 'straight'; from it came the Latin rectus, as in 'direct,' 'correct,' 'rectitude,' ete., and the German recht, from which last was derived our 'right.' The French droit came from the Latin directus, went back through diestre to deltera, or 'right'; thus in modern French Droit becomes 'the law,' and is so named because law (or government) compels men to do that which is 'right.' In Greek the nord for 'right' was orthos, and is preserved in 'orthodoxy' ('right teaching') and a constellation of words with a similar prefix. In the beginnings of parliamentary government a chief or ruler sat before his council. Those who were favored by him, or u ho supported him against critics, he placed on his right; those who criticized him, or were in opposition, he placed on his left. This old political use of 'right' and 'left' came back into popularity between World Wars I and II during which time socialist, communistic, and radical politicians were 'of the left,' conservatives, defenders of the status quo, and reactionaries, were 'of the right.' In the emblems of the Third Degree clasped hands are the sign of fidelity, but it is nowhere apparent that the ancient ideas associated with the right hand are embodied in it. The symbolism of the 'right' or dexter side is found elsewhere in the Degree, w here the Worshipful Master extends his right hand to the Candidate, and in doing so calls the latter's attention to the fact that it is his right hand; but the symbolism in it does not refer back to the leing and his council, rather, as the language makes plain, it is a sign of fellowship, and there is no suggestion there (or elsewhere) that the membership in a Lodge ever is, or can be, divided into 'right' and 'left'; for where the lying extended his right hand only to his own friends and favorites, the Master extends his to each and every Candidate without exception. Man is by virtue of his anatomy right-handed. Statistics compiled by psychologists appear to prove that about ten percent of children are left-handed 'from birth' but anatomy makes this impossible to believe; it is almost certain that what occurs is that babies begin more to less accidentally to 'favor' the left hand over the right, and continue with the habit in later life. It is not only in his lands that he is righthanded; a man's whole body is so constituted as to make it the normal thing for him to use his right side, right arm and shoulder, and right leg and foot to do that which calls for more skill, although it does not follow that the left is unskilled--it is skilled in a different way, and its function is to support the right side.

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