WHAT FREEMASONRY MEANS TO ME
AN INTERPRETATION (PART TWO)
Bro. J. CHERRY, M.M.
Croydon Lodge of Freedom, No. 5878.
It was during last October that I first received an invitation from the Governing Council to prepare and present to the Circle a Paper of my own. At that time I had been a M.M. for precisely two years and one month and my membership of the Circle did not span two full years. In these circumstances I was, naturally, touched by this evidence of the Council's confidence in my ability to prepare a Paper which could possibly be interesting and useful; but being keenly aware of my limited Masonic experience and of my lack of Masonic knowledge I was also rather overwhelmed. How could any Brother, placed in my position, feel otherwise?
Before I could accept that invitation it seemed to me that there were two questions I had to consider. The first was: What are the purposes which the Circle exists to serve? The second: Was there anything that I could do, in the form of a Paper, which might possibly be useful in helping in any serious way to further those purposes?
REDEEMING A PLEDGE
Every member of a Circle or Society such as ours is proving, by his very membership, his determination to redeem, at least in part, the first positive pledge that he gave to Freemasonry. In the earlier part of the ceremony of Initiation, when the candidate, after the first perambulation, is presented by the S.W. to the W. Master, there follows the interrogation during which the candidate pledges himself on his honour that he is prompted to solicit admission to the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry not simply because of his favourable opinion preconceived of the Institution, but by a general desire of knowledge and a sincere wish to make himself more extensively serviceable to his fellow-creatures. That, I say, is the first positive personal pledge every candidate must give in open Lodge before he is admitted into the Order.
We, and all those of our Brethren who belong to Masonic Study Circles and Societies, can, therefore, fairly claim that we are striving to fulfil that pledge, at least in part, because we are sincerely anxious to make real advancement in Masonic knowledge. We know that we cannot learn all that needs to be learnt about Freemasonry, with its many symbols and allegories, merely by hearing and seeing ceremonies regularly repeated in our Lodges, and we know that, by and large, despite their usefulness we cannot acquire sufficient of such knowledge, which we seek, in Lodges of Instruction. So, of our own free will and accord, we become members of Study Circles and Societies.
A FURTHER DUTY
But seeking knowledge for ourselves is not enough under the terms of our pledge we have a further duty. That duty is to attempt to recruit and enlist the interest of the Brethren in our Lodges who have not so far manifested any interest in what our Secretary, W. Bro. Arthur H. Bentley, has so properly described under the generic term "Masonic Education" — and that education is vitally necessary if the Brethren are to become fit members of the regularly organised society of Freemasonry. I have no statistics to offer — I know of no source from which reliable figures can be obtained — but judging by personal observation which is confirmed by Masonic students with whom I have discussed the matter — I hazard the opinion that possibly as few as one per cent. — and certainly not more than two per cent of all Masons belong to Circles or Societies devoted to the cause of Masonic education.
Our Brethren are decent men. But that possibly 98 per cent or more of them are satisfied that they are fulfilling their Masonic duties by mastering the Ritual, if they can: by being faithful to their Obligations of secrecy: by regular attendance at Lodge meetings, where perhaps they regard themselves more as spectators than as actual participants; by frequent attendances at Lodges of Instruction, and by generally behaving as jolly good fellows, cannot fail, in the long run, to inflict injury upon our ancient and honourable Institution.
We may be sure that Freemasonry will never suffer any great injury from the occasional scurrilities which are the outpourings of malicious minds; we may be sure that it will sustain no grievous damage from the serious and sincere criticisms that are sometimes raised against it by honourable, but misinformed, persons. But it can be damaged incalculably by the indifference of Brethren to its true nature and purpose and by their neglecting the duties they really owe to the Craft. The other serious danger comes from "the attacks of the insidious." Sometimes these attacks are not deliberately intended to be attacks at all — but they are insidious none-the-less. They take the form of unconsciously contemptuous patronage or good-natured banter.
A striking example of this sort of thing came my way a few months ago. It took the form of a review, in one of the weekly journals of opinion, of a recently published book which purported to disclose the secrets of Masonry, and bitterly attacked the Order. In its way, the review was a brilliant piece of work and the reviewer was plainly critical of the book. He wrote that in any comfortable residential district in Britain you will find John Smith — and his number is legion. John Smith is a man with the better sort of job and his income is substantially above the average. He maintains a comfortable home in a comfortable house. He is a respectable citizen who pays his way in the world, and, usually, is a good husband and father. He is an inoffensive chap who likes to look after his bit of garden, and he gets a little tipsy at Christmas and on other festive occasions.
But at regular intervals, John Smith, being careful to don a white shirt and collar and black tie, dresses himself neatly in a dark suit, picks up a little bag and sets out for the Lodge. Upon his arrival there, he puts on his apron and white gloves and promptly imagines himself to be in the ancient Temple of King Solomon; he addresses the other John Smiths present, who are his neighbours and friends, by strange titles which he would never employ in public; with them he then performs a series of rites, giving many strange signs and so forth. Later, when this part of the affair is over, the John Smiths all sit down to a most substantial repast, and a good time is had by all. The reviewer, after paying tribute to the Masonic charities, concluded that, at heart, John Smith was still a boy. Honest and respectable as he was he still derived pleasure from the idea of belonging to a secret society. After all we grown-ups all have queer little fancies of our own which it would embarrass us to have to confess to others. John Smith is doing no harm, so leave him alone. That reviewer, Brethren, was clearly intending to be fair, to be tolerant and kindly; what he wrote was, in fact, an unintentional but deadly attack on Freemasonry — an attack of the most insidious kind. I do not doubt that his opinion is shared by large numbers of men who, of course, are not Masons.
The blame, or responsibility, for this must rest upon the John Smiths of Freemasonry. They are, let me repeat, good fellows. They keep their word, as far as they understand it. When they are made Masons they do not go round proclaiming the fact from the house-tops. But we all know from our personal experience that the fact that we are Masons sooner or later becomes known among our circle of acquaintances who are not Masons. (If this were not true, none of us could ever have secured admission ourselves for we would never have known anyone willing to sponsor us). It thus comes about that general public opinion regarding Freemasonry is formed as the result of the way Masons themselves behave and how they are observed to regard the Craft.
It is part of our duty, therefore — as it is of all members of other Masonic Study Circles and Societies — to act as missionaries or ambassadors in the cause of Masonic education in our respective Lodges. There are various ways of discharging this duty, and the one to be adopted should depend upon our knowledge of the Brethren. In some cases, an invitation to attend a meeting of the Circle; in others, the passing to a Brother of a suitable Transaction. Again, arranging for the reading of excerpts from Transactions at Lodges of Instruction. Each of us can do something useful if we act with discretion. But methods such as these will be effective only with those Brethren who realise that there is more in Freemasonry than is to be encountered on the surface. What about the solid John Smiths?
Well — and this analogy is by no means absurd — suppose you set out to develop a taste for literature in a young child — a most excellent thing to do! You do not begin by forthwith putting into his little hands the works of, say, Gibbon or Erasmus. No; you begin by teaching him the alphabet. Then you teach him how to read and write short words and sentences. Next, you introduce him to the picture-book and fairy-tales, and later to the adventure story and the like. While this process is developing his vocabulary — his understanding of words is constantly growing, and you explain to him first the simple rules, and, later, the more complicated rules of grammar, which is the science of language.
Eventually, as his experience of life accumulates and is added to the learning, the taste for literature follows of its own accord, as it were, up to the limit of his capacity and you have done your job. And if the child, as he grows, feels that there is within him the vital creative spark, then sooner or later he will himself produce work, based upon the science of grammar, as a contribution to creative literature. It is thus that the science achieves its fulfilment in art. But you have to begin at the beginning, with the simple things.
THE SIMPLE THINGS
To complete the analogy, as I understand it, the Ritual of the three Craft degrees forms the elementary part of Masonic learning. The Lectures constitute the Grammar, while the deeper study of the esoteric significance of Freemasonry completes its full development. Our Brethren, the John Smiths, have the Ritual constantly before them, and they have easy access to the Lectures. What they are missing is the opportunity for deeper, more thoughtful study. But if we are to help them and encourage them we must begin with the simple things.
It was after much reflection along these lines that I felt I could properly accept the invitation which had been extended to me. If I were to sort out my own thoughts and set them out in logical order, if, in fact, I were to pour out the contents of my heart and mind, a simple, but useful Paper might result. So I was privileged to read that Paper — the first of the kind I had ever attempted before the February meeting of the Circle, and the warmth and kindness with which it was received left me in no doubt that I should accept the further invitation which followed.
Before I briefly recapitulate what I attempted to say in that Paper, in order that the remainder of this one may be logically linked up with it, there are two thoughts I would like to submit for your consideration. They are by no means original but they are nonetheless important, for if our John Smiths properly understood them they would at once have their eyes opened to the majestic dignity and supreme importance of Freemasonry, so much so, in fact, that I believe their attitude to the Craft would be revolutionised.
THE QUINTESSENCE OF CIVILIZATION
The first of these thoughts is that Freemasonry contains within itself the complete and true quintessence of civilization. We are all in danger at times, Brethren, of losing sight of the fact that true civilization has little or nothing to do with many of the facets of modern life. The cinema, the radio, television, the Dog Track, the Football Pool, despite their respective allurements, could all pass away and leave true civilization uninjured, while the atomic bomb and others of the diabolical and misbegotten fruits of modern science may well destroy it altogether. True civilization which had its beginnings in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, rests upon four cornerstones: the Ancient Mysteries: respect for Law and Order, which derived from Rome: the passionate pursuit of Truth for its own sake, which derived from Greece: and the great Judaic-Christian message of compassion and redemption which is common to all religious Orders, but is nowhere else so fully and so nobly expressed. Without these four corner-stones civilization would cease to be.
It is at once apparent that Freemasonry embraces them all. The Ancient Mysteries are really the Mysteries of Freemasonry which veils them in allegory and illustrates them by symbols. The respect for Law and Order is demonstrated by the gradations of Lodges from the Grand Lodge itself, though the Provincial Grand Lodge to our ordinary Lodges; by the regulation of the hierarchy of Officers in all Lodges; by respect for Masonic traditions, and strict and steadfast adherence to the Ritual. The pursuit of Truth is the very purpose justifying the existence of Freemasonry, and the devotion to the Judaic- Christian creed of compassion and redemption is proved by its system of Morality and its devotion to the causes of Benevolence and Charity. Freemasonry embodies all these fundamentals of civilization in beautifully symmetrical proportions.
The second thought is this: Freemasonry represents in itself the greatest journey of spiritual exploration ever undertaken by Man. When we become Masons, free and accepted, or speculative, we become spiritual explorers. We are striving to find "that which is lost." But "that which is lost" does not comprise the genuine secrets of the operative Master Mason: secrets which are symbolically disclosed in Holy Royal Arch Freemasonry. We are seeking for the genuine secrets of life itself — and not simply the secrets of our material existence here in earth.
A SURGEON'S BELIEF
A good friend of mine who is House Surgeon in a famous hospital, who has sincerely devoted his life to errands of mercy and who has a high reputation in his profession, has assured me of his conviction that, excepting only accidents and acts of God, the life-span of ever human being on this planet is predetermined from the very moment of conception. Not all medical men agree with him, of course; but he has assured me that, as the result of much study and long experience, he completely believes that the qualities of flesh, organs, bone-structure and constitution in every human-being, which are brought into due form during the period of gestation, and which reach their fullness in life itself and which determine the length of the individual lease of human life, are in themselves pre-determined at the very moment of conception. He assures me that in the course of a long career — he is now an elderly man — he has been confronted time after time by physical conditions in patients who have been under his skilled hands on the operating table, which he cannot rationally account for in any other way. As a mere layman, knowing little or nothing of the arts of medicine and surgery I can express no opinion about this, except to say that it may well be true and that if it is true we face still another of the hidden mysteries of Nature.
WHAT THE FREEMASON KNOWS
But what the sincere Freemason does know for certain is that, as the frail creature of God's Providence — and Providence, let us remember does not mean caprice, but Provision — there is housed, during his mortal existence, a spirit, a Soul, which is his real indestructible Personality Himself. And he believes that this Reality — the Soul, the he Himself — has a direct relationship to the Great Architect of the Universe. What that relationship truly is, he does not understand.
It is not given to us to know from whence we — our real selves — came. A cloud of darkness separates us from knowledge of the existence of the Self before it puts on mortal flesh, with its physical appetites and gregarious instincts, to equip it for this transitory life on earth. This ignorance of prenatal existence is attributed, in revealed religion, to the Fall of Man — to the fact that he succumbed to the temptations of his flesh. That, too, explains why our ancient Brethren in Biblical times believed the flesh to be unclean — why even the High Priest could enter the S.S. only once a year and then only after many washings and purifications.
There is but one thing we can safely postulate. It was expressed in noble language more than a century ago by William Wordsworth:
Not in utter nakedness
Not in entire forgetfulness
But trailing clouds of Glory
Do we come from God
Who is our Home.
I was very young when I first read these words, but their immediate effect upon me will never be effaced from my memory. They came as a blinding flash of Revelation, and I know how Saul felt on the Road to Damascus.
In another of his poems Wordsworth pursued this theme much further for he wrote :-
"That Man who is from God sent forth
Doth yet again to God return—
Such ebb and flow must ever be;
Then wherefore should we mourn?
I don't know whether Wordsworth was a Freemason but in these few simple and dignified words he expressed that faith which should live in the heart of every Mason. Our earthly existence is but a stage of transition in the life of the Spirit. From whence we came and to whither we go: these are the great Mysteries, and the key to these mysteries is "that which is lost." The re-discovery of the key is the quest and purpose of the Masonic journey of spiritual exploration. We are seeking for the Path along which we shall make the journey Home.
These, then, are the two thoughts which I have offered for your consideration: and I suggest to you that, if they are true, they embody within themselves the fundamentals of the Craft, of which all our Brethren should be aware. The very structure of the Masonic Order is erected on the quintessentials of civilization itself for the purpose of completing the journey of the Spirit of Man.
A PROGRESS REPORT
And now, Brethren, in order that I may give coherence to the rest of this Paper, let me remind you of what I attempted to do to the best of my limited capacity in my first Paper. I have another reason as well for reminding you. Being keenly aware of my lack of Masonic knowledge — a lack which I am earnestly trying to remedy — any Papers I may offer ought in fairness to be regarded as accounts of one Brother's personal Masonic journey. They will be, so to speak, one individual Mason's progress reports.
I began that first Paper by considering the conditions under which we enter into Freemasonry — by the help of God, being free and of good report. Belief in God is not a matter of form, or of dogma. Either it is a reality or it is nothing. The help of God is a living and vivid reality, the effect of which we should actually feel within ourselves, that we may the better be enabled to unfold the beauties of true Godliness to the honour and glory of His Holy Name. If we cannot feel that help, if we only say that we do as a matter of form, we are not truly fitted for admission into Freemasonry. This is vital, for it is from God from Whom we came trailing Clouds of Glory and to Whom we must, after our sojourn in mortal life, return. "Being free" in the true sense of the word means being absolutely untrammelled by convention or any other influence to the guidance and dictation of Conscience, informed and chastened by experience, for Conscience is the manifestation of the Soul — the Self — in earthly life. "Of good report" implies that we are not only solvent and law-abiding citizens: it means that we are of such spiritual stature that we are able and anxious to live and behave according to the highest moral standards. If we do not combine these three attributes within ourselves at the time when we seek admission we cannot hope to derive from Freemasonry the benefits of full knowledge of its mysteries and privileges.
I next went on to express my conviction that the three Craft Degrees are, in their order, related to the three great miracles all men must experience — the miracle of human birth, the miracle of human life, and the miracle of human death. I maintained that these events are miracles because of the great gifts which are our Divine Endowment and which elevate us far above the animal kingdom. By way of illustration I cited four — the gift of reason, the gift of memory, the gift of imagination and the gift of articulation. These gifts, which are manifestations of the spirit, enable us to shape our worldly destines and to harness the forces of nature to our service and not be blindly submissive to those forces.
THE SYSTEM OF MORALITY
Finally, I attempted an analysis of Freemasonry's "peculiar system of morality" especially as it is set out in the Charge at the end of the first Degree and which I called "The Sermon on the Square." I did my best to point out that it is not an abstract code of morals which might be regarded as a splendid but unattainable ideal, but that, on the contrary, it is a working system of Morality which it is our duty to practice day by day.
This comprehensive system of Morality has to be completely mastered so that it comes automatically to govern our thinking and behaviour. When it reaches this level Morality becomes the expression of the Soul in human action. As Bro. Rudyard Kipling wrote:-
Keep ye the Law — be swift in all obedience —
Clear the land of evil, drive the road and bridge the ford.
Make ye sure to each his own
That he reap where he hath sown
By the peace among our people let men know we serve the Lord.
Only when we have shown proficiency in the Morality system are we fit to make further progress in Freemasonry — fit to be passed to the Second Degree in which we are introduced to another and complementary set of values.
In the First Degree it is demonstrated to us that the system of Morality is the first necessity of life. It is the spiritual equipment without which our mortal existence will be fruitless. In the Second Degree at a different level symbolised by the steps of the W.S. we are instructed in the pursuits which should engage our energies in life — the study of the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science. If, so to speak, the First Degree shows us the ground-plan of Masonry, the Second Degree shows us the elevation.
THE LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENCES
In the explanation of the Second Degree Tracing Board — with its wild and whirling confusions of third-person pronouns! — we are told specifically to study the seven liberal arts and sciences. The important word in this phrase is the word "liberal." Of course, as it is used here it has no political significance. In its Masonic connection the word "liberal" is used to call attention to those arts and sciences — and art, as I have already tried to point out, is the flowering of scientific knowledge and method — the understanding of which helps to liberate the immortal Spirit of Man from enslavement by his mortal flesh, with its several appetites and longings. It is, I think, important to remember this, for nowhere in the Craft Degrees are we urged to study the physical sciences. In the Masonic literature that I have so, far read, it seems to me that not enough attention has been paid to the important relationship between the liberal arts and sciences and Freemasonry. That is a serious gap in existing resources of Masonic education. So I propose, very modestly — believe me, Brethren, I am painfully aware of my limitations — to say something about the subject which I hope will at least stimulate interest in it.
THREE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS
But, first of all, in order that the differences between the physical sciences and the abstract or liberal sciences may be properly contrasted, let me make some references to the physical sciences.
During the nineteenth century, in the sphere of scientific theory, there arose three revolutionary movements which were indirectly related to each other. Those three movements were associated respectively with the names of Charles Darwin, the German philosopher Hegel, and Karl Marx.
Darwin, in his "Origin of Species" and his "Descent of Man" advanced the theory of evolution as the method of progression in Nature. According to his theory — and Darwin never claimed that it was more than a theory, and it has never since been proved to be more than a theory — all life on this planet had a common origin, and that kindred species sprang from a common stem or stock. Thus Man and monkey, he asserted, developed from a common simian stock. Those species which could not adapt themselves to changes in their natural environment gradually became extinct; those able so to adapt themselves survived. This process he described as the survival of the fittest.
But the uninstructed — or uninitiated — popular conception of the Darwinian theory soon grew into a fantastic caricature of what Darwin had really advanced. The theory itself was treated as if it were established and proven scientific fact: Man was supposed to be descended from Monkey: and "the survival of the fittest" was taken to mean that the strong preyed successfully upon the weak. Man, therefore, as a living being could be no more than "the first of Nature's Primates," and the Soul was a myth. So said the Rationalists. Millions in succeeding generations have accepted that caricature as Truth, with the inevitable result, as we can all bear witness, of tragically declining moral standards.
Hegel advanced the theory known as "The Materialistic Conception of History." According to this theory God was a myth. The Soul of Man was a myth. Man lived in society without will and with no other purpose than the satisfaction of his various appetites, conditioned and limited only by his natural environment. The whole world itself was governed by the relentless operation of blind forces in which Divine Will and Divine Reason played no part. All the great movements in the broad streams of history, therefore, were no more than helpless reflex actions by human society to constantly changing natural conditions. This, I suggest, is the purposeless gospel of Life without Hope, for it strips Man of his reason and of every vestige of dignity.
Marx went further still, by seeking to interpret social relationships according to the established principles of what is called "Dialectical Materialism," principles upon which Hegel had largely relied.
The dialectical method is deeply rooted in the physical sciences. It operates by bringing into conflict substances containing opposite properties. One substance is described as the Thesis; the opposite is called its Anti-thesis; the result which emerges from the conflict is known as the Synthesis.
The simplest example that I can think of, by way of illustration, is the boiling of a kettle, full of water. We all know that water, in sufficient quantity, will put out a fire, just as we know that fire, in sufficient quantity, will cause water to evaporate. But in boiling a kettle, everything is under control. The quantity of water to be boiled is limited by the holding capacity of the kettle and the heat provided by the gas-ring is also controlled. The heat of the burning gas is applied to the water in the kettle until the temperature of the water is raised to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. When it boils, steam comes out of the spout. That steam is obviously a different substance from the water in the kettle, and it is different from the heat flames of the gas-ring, but it clearly contains some elements of both the water and the heat. The scientific explanation in this case would be that the water in the kettle was the Thesis, the heat from the gas-ring was its Antithesis, and the steam would be the Synthesis — something which was neither but a particularly proportioned combination of both. It was from such a simple beginning as this that the manifold uses of steam-power were developed.
The same principles are put to work in the operation of an internal combustion engine. A tiny drop of oil is fed into a combustion chamber by one jet while another jet simultaneously feeds into the same chamber a small quantity of air. The oil and air, both subject to compression, at once conflict, resulting in an explosive gas powerful enough to work the engine.
This dialectical method is frequently resorted to in the practice of medical science. Where diagnosis shows that a particular toxic condition has been set up in a patient by the infiltration into the blood-stream of a particular kind of germ, a doctor will deliberately inject into the blood-stream a germ serum containing germs known to be antipathetical to the germs which have caused the toxic condition. The patient's body thereupon becomes a kind of battle-ground between two warring germ formations which proceed to annihilate each other, thus restoring the body to normal health.
In the science of physics the principles of dialectical materialism are used perhaps more widely than in any other — the method which has already resulted in nuclear fission and the atomic bomb.
Now there are several things to be observed about this particular method employed in developing the physical sciences, and they are important.
First of all, there can be no definite rule governing which two opposite substances shall be called the Thesis and the Antithesis. Either can fulfil either role. Which is labelled which is simply a matter of convenience to the scientist so that he may readily distinguish the identity of one from the other. Secondly, he knows in advance what are the precise physical properties of the two substances he brings into conflict and he is in full control of the quantities of each that are to be used and of the method by which the conflict is caused. What he cannot know in the experimental stages are the precise physical properties which the result of the conflict — the Synthesis — will contain, nor the full extent of the usages to which it will subsequently be applied. Sometimes he never finds out. For example, there are many thousands of people who know all about the generating of electricity, but no-one knows the limits of its application, and there is not a man living who knows precisely and exactly what electricity really is. Think of that, Brethren. It is proof that it is within the power of Man to bring a substance into existence without knowing all that it can do and without precisely knowing exactly what it is!
Please don't think that I am criticising or condemning the methods of dialectical materialists within the fields of the physical sciences. These methods have often produced wonderful results which have helped to ameliorate the lot of Mankind. Sometimes, indeed, the scientist who has employed them in his search for one thing has discovered another far more beneficial to his fellowmen that would have been the case had he succeeded in his primary purpose. Human fallibility, our stumbling in the search for knowledge, often leads to unexpected glory for
We are such stuff as dreams are made on
And our little life is rounded in a sleep.
But this must be said: the principles of dialectical materialism depend entirely upon the artificial precipitation of conflict, and they have absolutely nothing in common — indeed they are irreconcilable with — any system of morality.
THE DOCTRINE OF CONFLICT
Nevertheless, Marx made these principles the basis of his revolutionary theory. He narrowed down the theory of Hegel. Like Hegel, he maintained that God was a myth: that the Soul of Man was a myth: that Morality did not exist as a force in life: that the individual, as such, counted for nothing, being the victim of natural forces beyond his control. But he did not agree with Hegel that those forces were blind natural forces. On the contrary he argued that those forces were within human control but not by individuals. He first postulated that the only motive which inspired human thought or action of any kind was the economic motive. To Marx, Man was completely the prisoner of his physical being. Anything which contradicted this point of view he held to be fraudulent. Thus he described religion as the opium of the people. The satisfaction of the economic motive, Marx said depended upon property. Those who owned property formed one class: those who did not formed another. It was solely upon this basis that humanity was to be divided into two classes — the propertied and the propertyless — whose interests were irreconcilable, and between whom the bitterest conflict must be fomented. The outcome of the struggle — the Synthesis would be a classless society in which the power of the State would wither away. But in the course of the struggle the end to be served would justify the means. If the truth would serve, very well; if not, do not scruple to lie; the only distinction between honesty and dishonesty was to be which would better serve the end. Sanctity of contract had no meaning. The distinction between right and wrong was not a matter of morality; it was a matter of convenience in serving the end to be attained. If a thing served that end, it was right regardless of moral consideration: if it did not, then no matter how moral it might be, it was wrong.
Now, Brethren, when you take account of the millions of our fellow-creatures in the world today who have either accepted or had forced upon them the caricature of the Darwinian theory; the theory of Hegel, albeit that they have never heard of his name, and the Marxian dialectic, is it any wonder that the world we live in is as divided as it is, and kept in a state of agonizing tension, born of hate, suspicion and few. Over all these hapless millions of human beings atheistic materialism has been forcibly enthroned and, so far as they are concerned, morality has been assassinated. They are like the ants and the termites: they are in Purgatory, but they do not know it.
A REFRESHING OASIS
By contrast Freemasonry provides for us a refreshing oasis of sanity, of charity and Truth. If we properly understand the essentials of its peculiar system of morality — if we have learnt to be "moralists all the time" — we can approach the liberal arts and sciences in a truly chastened spirit of humility and go forward on the second stage of our Masonic journey.
You will remember that the seven arts and sciences to which our attention is particularly directed are rhetoric, grammar, logic, music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. I have named them in this order because they fall naturally into two groups of three. Rhetoric, grammar and logic, comprise one group and arithmetic, geometry and astronomy the other. Music, as I shall attempt to show, is the hinge or connecting link between the two groups.
Now, let me say at once that I do not pretend to be able to talk about all seven in detail and with authority. Only a savant could do that. Indeed, Freemasonry does not expect us to master them all: we are expected to study only those which lie "within the compass of our attainment." I can but talk about them in general terms.
There are certain characteristic features which are shared in common by all seven of these liberal arts and sciences. All seven originated in the earliest times in Egypt and other Arab lands although there is some not very reliable evidence that music was first known in India and China. The foundations of all modern knowledge regarding these were laid in ancient Greece and they have come down to us bearing Greek names. The name of one particular Greek scholar — a man of towering intellect — who lived in the sixth century B.C. is prominently associated with them all, for he made notable contributions to the development of each of them. That man was Pythagoras — one of the greatest names in the world of learning. And there is, concerning them all, one staggering fact. That fact is their survival. In the fourth century A.D., Europe, including Greece and Rome, was completely over-run by the invading barbarous hordes and all learning was lost behind a veil of darkness. Those Dark Ages, long before the American and Australian continents had been discovered, lasted for nearly a thousand years — years about which even English history is indeed scanty and sketchy — before the age of learning miraculously revived. Those, then, are the common features: let us now look at a few of the distinguishing features.
Between them, rhetoric, grammar and logic collectively provide the means whereby we can employ what, in my previous Paper, I called the Divine gift of articulation.
During the inter-war years a famous British statesman, who was not himself a great orator, once referred to rhetoric as "the harlot of the arts." That description is true enough when rhetoric is used by the unscrupulous to play upon the fears and greeds, and pander to the vanities of the ill-informed and ignorant. But its proper definition, when rightfully used, was given by Aristotle as "the science of persuasion." It involves research into matters of fact, the marshalling of evidence and arguments in due form, and the good- mannered and scrupulously fair use of language. Thus either in its spoken or written form, a first-class piece of rhetoric really becomes a work of art. Only recently I came across a charming little example in the course of my reading. Its author was Thomas Carlyle, who so frequently employed the English language to thunder out his particular prejudices. Carlyle wrote: "One night, late, I rode through the village where I was born. The old kirk-yard tree, a huge old gnarled ash, was nestling itself softly against the great twilight of the north. A star or two looked out, and the old graves were all there, and my father and my sister, and God was above us all." Do you not feel the gentle kindly warmth of these grave and simple words? Do they not impress you as coming from the heart of a sincere and simple man? But if you would like to study a truly classic example of the charm and grace of rhetoric at its noblest, let me earnestly commend to you the Book of Ruth in the V.S.L. That is the most inspired and beautiful example that I have found in my own reading experience.
Grammar I have defined earlier in this Paper as the science of language. It includes much. The classification of words into the several parts of speech: their relationship one to another: the ordering of words so that they fall into their proper places in a sentence or phrase, and much else. It is not an easy science to master. Yet without reasonable knowledge of it literacy — real literacy — is impossible.
That is a matter of particular importance at the present time, for illiteracy is on the increase, and in my opinion may continue to increase. Available evidence shows that about 14 per cent out of all the young men called up for National Service are either illiterate or semi-illiterate and the proportion is growing. It is not hard to account for. The allurements of the cinema, of radio and television are often excellent, but they make it easy for people to learn what they want to know by the easy methods of seeing and hearing, so that there seems to be less need to read and write. In the same way, letter-writing, which was cultivated as a flourishing art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, has almost become extinct because of the ever-growing popularity of the telephone. Alas, most letters written today are business letters written in a particular jargon which is peculiar to a particular industry or profession. Hence, much of the cultured leisureliness of life has disappeared. Yet the great virtues of reading and writing — literacy — remain. They help to slow down the tempo of life which is now much too hastily and too thoughtlessly lived. They provide riches for the mind which are not to be had by other means, and they thus help to make mortal life much fuller and happier by increasing our understanding. The compilers of our Rituals were wise indeed when they included grammar among the liberal sciences.
Logic is the science of reasoning and is therefore of the greatest importance. Whether we reason inductively — that is, from the particular to the general — or deductively — that is, from the general to the particular — logic as a science impresses upon us the need for straight, detailed and fearless thinking, and it teaches us to ensure the validity in fact or spiritual truth of the premises from which we proceed to reason, for if the premises are wrong the final fruits of our reasoning cannot possibly be right. For example, there can be no doubt whatever that the Marxian dialectical theory is perfect in logic, but whether it is right or wrong must be determined by the truth or otherwise of its premises. If there is no God, if the Soul of Man is a myth, if individual conscience is a figment of the imagination, if Men are the prisoners of their bodies and the slaves of economic motives alone, then the theory must be right: but if those premises are not true, if in fact they are a tissue of nonsense, then the theory is hopelessly wrong and its operation in practice must end calamitous.
It is thus by some combined knowledge of rhetoric, the science of persuasion, grammar, the science of language, and logic, the science of reason, that we can make manifest our powers of articulation. It is thus that, in the pursuit of Truth, we can with integrity and goodwill communicate our thoughts and ideas to our fellow men.
Music is obviously a method of articulation. It is both an art and a science. It is the most elemental — not elementary — of the arts because it appeals to the emotions through the most readily responsive of the senses — hearing. Through the emotions it can appeal to and influence the spirit more powerfully than any other art. As an art it exists in a medium of its own, for while it can be written down in a score, it does not actually become music until it is produced in sound. Unlike painting or sculpture it has no existence in spatial dimensions. But to the ancient Greeks it included much more than it does today. Within their definition of music they included poetry — the music of words — and the drama — which to them represented the poetry or music of the Spirit of Man and the character of Man in action. Music is also closely related as a science to arithmetic, in that all the infinite variety of its countless cadences are measured arithmetically in rhythm and timing. Just reflect for a moment, Brethren, on its power. It can move you to tears; it can move you to anger; it can exhalt your spirit; it can inspire you to action. Think of the miracle of the stone-deaf Beethoven composing his Moonlight Sonata; think of the inspiring majesty and power of Chopin's work; reflect upon the enormous range reaching from the exquisite master-pieces of the greatest of all musicians, Mozart — he was a Freemason — to the latest productions of the Charing Cross Road, and remember that all of them are based fundamentally upon the simple octave which was first elaborated by Pythagoras 2,500 years ago; at its best, I submit, music is the greatest of all the creative achievements of Man as the child of God; at its best it is the noblest of all human achievements. It is indeed the connecting link between the liberal arts and sciences which aid our powers of articulation and those by which we may the better be enabled to comprehend the vastness of the Universe.
We might well ponder on Tennyson's "Fairy City"
"A city built
To music, therefore never built at all and therefore built for ever."
Arithmetic, the first science of the second group, we know is the science of numbers — the science of calculation. In its most advanced and purest forms it is most definitely an art, with mysteries of its own: but even these advanced forms must maintain intact the simple fundamentals laid down by the Greeks — the unvarying fundamentals of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. When you think of the vast importance of this science of exact calculation it is not easy to imagine what the world of Man would be like without it; but is not its exactness something about which to marvel? Although this science was derived from Greece it came to us, like most others, through the Romans. Yet the system of numerals we employ is Arabic. There is something of a mystery in this, too, but no doubt it is just as well it happened that way. Most of us would be lost if we were asked to multiply MCX by DLV. This sort of sum must have been done at one time for the Arabic numerals were not introduced into Europe until the eleventh century.
Geometry is now defined as the science concerned with the properties of space and therefore has much to do with astronomy. But in its original usages, as its name clearly implies, geometry was concerned with the measurement and boundaries of land. In ancient Egypt, when the Nile flooded its banks, the landmarks were washed away. Geometry was employed by Thales, I believe, as a device for securing to each man his own when the floods had subsided. The elements of geometry were brought into due form by Euclid in his axioms and propositions which, in all, fill twelve books: but centuries earlier the inevitable Pythagoras had a hand in the business. Between the elements of geometry and advanced, or pure, geometry there is an enormous gulf. Euclid would be staggered if he knew of the vast and complicated system that has grown out of the foundations he adumbrated. The most profound calculations are now made with accuracy but they are all based upon a point within a circle, equidistant from all parts of its circumference, and the fourth part of which is a square.
Astronomy in the original Greek means "the law of the stars" and it is the science of exploring and, as far as possible, measuring the Universe. It was first established as a Science by the Greeks, but the great advances made in it date from the sixteenth century, most notably through the work of Gallileo, Newton, Keplar and Laplace, who all braved ridicule and worse in the interests of Truth. It is a science having many branches, each of which can be made a separate life-study. Its real value to us as Masons is that from it, without any great learning on our part, we can comprehend something of the vastness of the Universe.
THE VASTNESS OF THE UNIVERSE
Just for the purpose of illustration, I will content myself with citing a few facts which are commonplaces in astronomy. What is called the solar system is but a small part of the known Universe, and the sun we see is but one of many. Nevertheless, within the solar system there are eight large planets and over a thousand minor planets spaced over vast distances. The planet nearest to the sun is Mercury at a distance of 37 million miles. The one furthest away is Neptune at a distance of 280 million miles. The earth is 93 million miles from the sun and the light from the sun takes about eight minutes to reach the earth.
It is known that, within and outside the solar system, there are not less than 3,000 million stars. One of the largest known is called Betelgeuse. The sun is more than a million times the size of the earth, yet compared with Betelgeuse it is small. This star is so far away from us that it takes its light, which travels at a speed of 186,000 miles a second, 600 years to reach us! And by comparison with others this giant star is relatively close to us, for there are known to exist stars whose light travelling at this same unthinkable speed takes 220,000 years to reach the earth. Brethren, the brain reels under the attempt to appreciate the vastness of such distances which nevertheless tell us so much — but far from all — of the great Universe whose Great Architect is our Creator.
PROGRESS THROUGH HARMONY
I have spent these past few minutes in considering the elements of the liberal arts and sciences, all of which are of the greatest antiquity, because, as I hope you will agree, a little reflection about them discloses an aspect of what Freemasonry is concerned with, to which too little attention is given. There is one feature they commonly possess which we know to be a distinguishing feature of the Craft, and which separates them from the physical sciences. Whereas the physical sciences make progress by deliberately promoting the dialectical conflict, the liberal arts and sciences make progress through the method of harmony. Surely a primary purpose of Freemasonry is to demonstrate that there is no conflict, but complete harmony, between birth and life and death; and thus its object is to help us to probe the Mysteries in which reside the secrets of that unique harmony.
If the physical sciences tend to suggest that Man is but the creature of chance and circumstance, it is the development of the liberal arts and sciences which proves that he is not.
I was much impressed by some words written by Professor Julian Huxley in his new book, "Evolution in Action." You will recall that his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley, was an outspoken controversialist and a great champion of Darwin. This is what Professor Julian Huxley says of Man: "He is entirely significant. In his person he has acquired meaning for he is constantly creating new meanings. Human society generates new mental and spiritual processes and sets them to work in the cosmic process: it controls matter by means of mind." And elsewhere in the book he adds that the meaning of Man's inner life cannot be understood without a study of the ancient Mysteries.
These two statements by Professor Huxley are, it seems to me, in complete accord with the Masonic philosophy — the belief that Man is a spiritual being and a creative force in the cosmic process whose sojourn on earth is but a transitory phase of his existence.
THE THIRD DEGREE
When I turn to the third of the Craft Degrees, I find it extremely difficult to convey my deeper impressions in words. With me, those deeper impressions are still emotional so that I have not yet been able to find a means whereby I can make them wholly articulate. I must ask you to pardon me, therefore, if what I have to say about the Third Degree should seem to you to be obvious and, perhaps superficial.
The immediate impression made upon me by the ceremony of Raising was the sheer literary grace and beauty by which it is characterised throughout. In this respect, for me at any rate, it by far transcends either of the preceding Degrees. Its fine cadences, its rhythmic measure, its exquisite imagery, all show it to be the work of finely educated and inspired minds. It contains many passages of poetic quality which will bear comparison with the finer of the Psalms of David, and its noble prose is equal to any in that literary masterpiece, the Book of Common Prayer. I could, indeed, talk at length of this ceremony sheerly as an example of the literary art. Its compilers were certainly masters of the science of rhetoric.
My next piece of observation was that in both the opening and closing in the Third Degree there are no Prayers, and I noted that the Prayer in the ceremony of Raising is said while the candidate, who is admitted into the Lodge on the F.C. knocks, is still himself an F.C. Once he is raised to the sublime degree of an M.M. there are no further Prayers. Of course this is quite logical. In the First and Second Degrees — the Degrees symbolising birth and life the Prayers have their proper places, for Prayer is the mortal means of spiritual communication with the Creator. But in the Third Degree we have symbolically left behind our mortal flesh and on another plane of existence have been restored to the former companions of our toils: that is to say to the spiritual companionship of premortal existence. Hence, as we are symbolically liberated from our flesh in this Degree there can be no true occasion for Prayers.
In the ceremony there is a great deal of recapitulation which is set out with moving eloquence. We are reminded that as E.A's entering upon our journey our first task was to absorb within ourselves the system of morality: that having done so we were fit to live our lives as F.C's: that, in fact, is the highest to which we can aspire in this transitory period of our existence: and that having done so to the best of our ability in the light of Masonic guidance by the help of God, we are finally and inevitably brought face to face with human death which has no terror for the just and virtuous man. We are taught in the Charge that "the light of a M.M. is darkness visible, serving only to express that gloom which rests on the prospect of futurity. It is that mysterious veil which the eye of human reason cannot penetrate unless assisted by that Light which is from above."
The secret of that great Divine Light is "that which is lost" to us during our mortal life: so we are symbolically raised on the substituted secrets of a M.M. — the F.P. of F. These illustrate once again the importance of the system of morality, for by it each of us learns not only the relationship of his physical being with his inner self but also his true relationship with his fellow-men at least within the great society of Freemasonry.
AN APPARENT CONTRADICTION
In the account given of the death of our Master H.A. and the subsequent Traditional History there is to be noticed an apparent contradiction with what we are told in the Explanation of the Second Degree T.B. From the latter, which accords with the account given in the V.S.L. the Temple at Jerusalem was completed. Yet in the Third Degree we learn that because of H.A's untimely death the genuine secrets were lost, before the Temple could be completed. But this apparent contradiction disappears if we remember that the explanation in the Second Degree is a factual one while the story told in the Third Degree is an allegory referring to the Temple of the Spirit which cannot approach completion during our physical existence.
For me, at least, it is summed up in the words of the Charge: "Let the emblems of mortality which lie before you lead you to contemplate on your inevitable destiny, and guide your reflections to that most interesting of all human studies, the knowledge of yourself. Be careful to perform your allotted task while it is yet day; continue to listen to the voice of Nature, which bears witness that even in this perishable frame resides a vital and immortal principle, which inspires a holy confidence that the Lord of Life will enable us to trample the King of Terrors beneath our feet, and lift our eyes to that bright Morning Star whose rising brings peace and salvation to the faithful and obedient of the human race."
THE MASONIC MESSAGE
It is in those words, I think, that we have so graphically put before us the great message of deliverance and hope which inspires Masonic teaching. It is for each one of us who, of his own free will and accord, has been admitted into the Craft to make it a reality for himself. If we can fulfil that teaching by our behaviour in life then our conduct in the sight of men, and the purity of our spirit in the sight of God, will be for us the distinguishing badge of a Mason.
Brethren, I am thankful and proud to believe that in this modern world, with all its greeds and hates and fears, with all its crimes and moral tempests and convulsions, our island home of Britain is essentially the great home of what is now world-wide Freemasonry, for as Freemasonry itself provides for us a place of refuge from moral anarchy and spiritual oppression, this island has been for centuries a sanctuary for the oppressed of all the world.
A MIGHTY SHIP
Joseph Conrad, who loved this country as much as he did his native Poland, once described it in unforgettable words. Conrad, who became a Master Mariner in the British Merchant Service, was driven from his homeland by oppression. He learned to speak and write French with flawless fluency. Then he achieved a miracle. He taught himself to write English prose in a classic style unmatched by any of his contemporaries to whom the English language was their native tongue. He found the process agonizing for, as he said, he had to beat it out of himself, not sentence by sentence but line by line. Yet he never learned to speak English, save in the most broken and halting way. Was it not a miracle that this man, who could not speak our language properly, should be able to describe Britain, in his story "The Nigger of the Narcissus," as being "like a mighty ship bestarred with vigilant lights — a ship carrying the burden of millions of lives — a ship freighted with dross and with jewels, with gold and with steel. She towered up immense and strong, guarding priceless traditions and untold suffering, sheltering glorious memories and base forgetfulness, ignoble virtues and splendid transgressions. A great ship! For ages had the ocean battered in vain her enduring sides; she was there when the world was vaster and darker, when the sea was great and mysterious, and ready to surrender the prize of fame to audacious men. A ship mother of fleets and nations! The great flagship of the race; stronger than the storms; and anchored in the open sea."
A SPIRITUAL FLAGSHIP
Is not almost every word of that equally true of Freemasonry? Certainly it is bestarred with vigilant lights and over the centuries has carried the burden of millions of lives; certainly it is inevitable that it is freighted with dross and with jewels in its vast membership; certainly it towers immense and strong in a turbulent world; in its long history there are glorious memories, and yet there must be examples of base forgetfulness; and it has endured the battering of the ocean of time, from when the world was vaster and darker. Certainly it is a great spiritual flagship, stronger than the storms, and anchored in the open sea of history and in the hearts of men.
Let us, each of us, strive to be worthy of our inheritance that we may hand it on undiminished in its power and glory to the generations that are yet to come.