From Albert Pike’s writings:
It is easy to see why men of intelligence and education have little or know respect, even when they delude themselves by believing that they do have a great respect, for the symbols and the explanation of the symbols of Freemasonry.
When a rope is put around the neck of one of these, of what can he suppose it to be a symbol, but slavery, degradation, the chocking of live out of a malefactor? If he submits to it, hoping to learn its symbolic meaning by and by, what estimate mst he set upon the symbolism of Masonry, when he is told afterwards that the purpose of putting it around his neck was that if he should refuse to proceed in the Degree, he might, by means of it, be taken out of the Lodge and into the street without making a disturbance, that is, if he resisted, he could be chocked down by it and dragged out.
I do not suppose that it has ever occurred to one Mason in a thousand and ask whether “Cable-Tow” is an english word at all: or one in a thousand has ever been moved to inquire what he had sworn to, in swearing that he would do certain things “if within length of his cable-tow,” And if one in a thousand ever ask the meaning of this phrase, I venter to say that, as he had not known what the phrase meant to which he had solemnly sworn to Almighty God, under an awful penalty, to conform his conduct, so neither did any one of those who exalted it from him know its meaning.
Cable -tow is a word not met in the English language outside of Masonry. It is not treated or spoken of a a symbol in Masonry; and the use which in case of need it was, as I was told, intended to be put, divests it even as a sembalence of a symbol.
In Hebrew, Khabel meant “a rope, cord, cable attached to an anchor”; in proverbs 23:34, and tu or to as a suffix meaning “his.”
In Ezekiel 18:12-16 and 23:15 and in Job 22:6, the same word, Khabel meant “binding” or “a pledge” and “to bind as with a pledge.”
And in Ezekiel 18:7, is the word Khabel-to, meaning “his pledge.”
The length of ones’ Cable-tow means therefore the scope and intent and the spirit of one’s pledge; and this is hinted at when at the alter the candidate is relieved of the halter around the neck, the Master saying, “he is now bound to us by a stronger obligation.”