We received an interesting question regarding the Masonic use of the term profane; the asker questioned why Masons use it to insult non-Masons.
The History of the Term
Profane comes to us from the Latin profanus, connoting (both anciently and today) unholiness, vulgarity, irreverence, and so on. This is likely where the asker’s premise of the term being insulting comes from.
However, there is another meaning that was anciently attached to this term: that of being uninitiated or (literally) outside of the temple.
It is in this second sense that Masons over the past few centuries have referred to non-Masons, as non-Masons have not been initiated in the degrees of Masonry.
The term has somewhat fallen out-of-use in the modern-day among Masons; I have personally seen it used by Masons on social media, but only by a small handful of them.
I see it far more often from conspiracy theorists, and only by them have I ever seen it used as a derogatory term.
That said, I am open to the possibility that there exists at least one Mason out there who is intemperate enough to misuse it as an insult; I have not come across him yet, but not all of us are perfect (nor do we claim to be).
In general, however, this term (when used in a Masonic context) should not be taken with offense at all, as this is not the intention behind it.
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