Derived from two Latin words meaning equal and voice, and indicating doubtful interpretation, something most questionable. To equivocate is to say something with the intention to deceive. The words of the covenant of Freemasonry require that it should be made without evasion, equivocation or mental reservation. This is exactly in accordance with the law of ethics in relation to promises made.
And it properly applies in this case, because the covenant, as it is called, is simply a promise, or series of promises, made by the candidate to the Fraternity to the Brotherhood into whose association he is about to be admitted. In making a promise, an evasion is the eluding or avoiding the terms of the promise; and this is done, or attempted to be done, by equivocation, which is by giving to the words used a secret signification, different from that which they were intended to convey by him who imposed the promise, so as to mislead, or by a mental reservation, which is a concealment or withholding in the mind of the promiser of certain conditions under which he makes it, which conditions are not known to the one to whom the promise is made.
All of this is in direct violation of the law of veracity. The doctrine of the Jesuits is very different. Suarez, one of their most distinguished casuists, lays it down as good law, that if any one makes a promise or contract, he may secretly understand that he does not sincerely promise, or that he promises without any intention of fulfilling the promise. This is not the rule of Freemasonry, which requires that the words of the covenant be taken in the patent sense which they were intended by the ordinary use of language to convey. It adheres to the true rule of ethics, which is, as Paley says, that a promise is binding in the sense in which the promiser supposed the promisee to receive it (see Mental Reservation).
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