The Temple We Must Build

A Lecture by V. Wor. Bro. Rev. Canon W. G. Hilliard, Grand Chaplain delivered in The Sydney Lodge of Research on Tuesday 16th August, 1932.

Freemasonry has been defined as "a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols," and on closer inspection we find that this allegory veils itself, and this symbolism finds expression in a dignified and beautiful ceremonial which is chiefly based upon the circumstances attending the erection of K.S.T. The Temple is, therefore, naturally a prominent idea in the mind of every Mason. As he gazes on the starry heavens, or standing on the mountain top, looks out over the many miles of land and sea, he remembers that "the Universe is the temple of that Deity whom we serve," and this picture of the celestial dwelling of the Eternal finds a symbolical reflection in the name and appointments of the building where the Masons meet to receive instruction in the practice of their art. That also is a temple, and there too are the pillars that support, there they are reminded of the celestial canopy of divers colours, and above all is the dominating symbol of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe. The Mason is moreover, taught to build his own life into a temple, and to co-operate with others in building the great temple of humanity on earth. It is of this stupendous, but inspiring, task — the Mason's true life-work — that I propose to speak to-night.

It is worthy of a man's most earnest energy, this enterprise of making his own character and the whole of human life the temple of the Most High, but how shall he accomplish it? Well, in the first place, since the atmosphere of the temple is the atmosphere of reverence, he can strive for an ever increasing spirit of reverence among men for the sacred things of God, and this is an idea that is prominent in the teachings of the Craft. Our Lodges stand on holy ground, they are closely tyled to guard the sacred precincts from the unworthy and the intruder, candidates are so prepared as to have impressed upon them the appropriateness of humility in the presence of the Most High, the secrets of each degree are carefully guarded and conferred only upon those who in reverent mien and spirit solemnly undertake to keep them sacred, and the distinguishing badge of a Mason reminds him that entrance to the Grand Lodge above cannot be secured without purity of life. Surely, too, the absence of all instruments of iron in the quiet building of K.S.T. is intended to be a picture of the reverent hush in which the social structure should be raised; so different from the bitter strife of tongues, and discordant party cries with which we are unfortunately only too familiar in our day and generation.

It seems to me that there are three main directions in which this reverent attitude of mind and soul needs to be pursued. I have already indicated one, namely, the sphere of political and other social activity. Another is the approach to knowledge. The scientific discoveries of these modern days have been so wonderful and so extensive as to dazzle many minds, the revelation of the Eternal's glory through the splendours of His creation has blinded some to the person and the presence of the great Creator Himself. Men have been enabled to explain so much that they have sometimes imagined that God has been explained away, and this is most unfortunate, for it is to miss the secret of life and to bar the gate that leads to the higher knowledge, the experience of the Most High. After all, the body of human knowledge won by patient scientific research, though considerable, is incomplete. When the doctor has described the whole development of a human being from the moment of conception till the time of birth, he still needs to postulate the human parents to account for the existence of the child; and when the scientist has explained the whole evolutionary process from the original protoplasm to the most highly developed forms of life, he leaves us with a similar postulate to be made. When science has unfolded its whole wonderful story of processes and methods, it still leaves us with questions as to Maker and Origin in our minds, and then the voice of revelation speaks: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said: 'Let there be light and there was light'."

"A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod:
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God."

It is all a matter of angle: from the point of view of method and process, it is evolution; from the point of view of Maker and Origin, it is God. Similarly: —

"A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite tender sky,
The ripe, rich tints of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high,
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden rod:
Some of us call it Nature,
And others call it God."

The beautiful garment is Nature, but it is wrought by the living God.

If we were always reverent in our approach to knowledge, we should appreciate it more and apply it better, with less selfishness and more conscience in the application. Well may Tennyson sing : —

"Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock Thee when we do not fear;
But help Thy foolish ones to bear:
Help Thy vain worlds to bear Thy light."

Only that man who has made himself acquainted with the principles of moral truth and virtue is properly qualified to extend his researches into the hidden paths of Nature and Science. Any other will miss his way, and may even become a menace to humanity like the man whose only application of his knowledge of chemistry is to the manufacture of poison-gas.

In all our social activities, therefore, and in our approach to knowledge we need a reverent attitude; we also need a greater reverence for the old moral sanctions if life is to be kept wholesome and sweet. The foul demon of lust has laid its contaminating hand on the sacred marriage-tie, the world has pushed open the door of the home and obtruded its boisterous presence into that sacred atmosphere, the priceless innocence of little children has been ruthlessly besmirched by the sights and sounds of our daily life, and there has been a growing disregard for sacred times and sacred things. A greater spirit of reverence is needed in life if the temple of God is to be raised in our midst.

A second element in the building of the temple is the cultivation of the sense of fellowship with God, for a temple is a building that aims at helping the worshipper to realise there that Divine presence in his life. Is it not so in our own temples? There is a sacred symbol in our midst, there is a sacred volume recommended to our most serious study and contemplation, the primary duty of prayer and meditation is urged upon us, and the blessing of God is invoked on all our undertakings. The very first question which the Master asks the candidate suggests the same idea, and after his reply he is immediately sent forth upon a path of fellowship; the whole world has become for him a temple, and at the end he is taught to seek the Divine aid in all his lawful undertakings and to look up to the Eternal for comfort, guidance, and support in every emergency.

This fellowship with God is a priceless boon that the world around us needs to cultivate to-day. We were brought very near to him when in our distress we called to Him from time to time in the days of the Great War, but our memories are notoriously short. And it is hard to escape the conviction that just as we demobilised our various fighting units when the need for their services had passed, so we strove to demobilise God, because relief had come from the pressure of distress. But we can never do without God — all history tells us that — and life is terribly impoverished when we make the futile attempt. There is a beautiful symbolism in the temple of King Solomon, the visible reminder of the presence of the Invisible King in the midst of His faithful people. As that temple was the centre of their national life, so should it be our aim to make the whole of our social life thrill with the sense of the presence of God. We should struggle after the universal recognition of loyalty to Him in all the varied relationships of men.

This would help us to the realisation of the third of the elements in the temple we must build, namely the effective recognition of the Brotherhood of Man. In a temple where all realise their sonship of the Common Father, they cannot but remember the Brotherhood of Man, and this, of course, is a Masonic principle, nay, one of the grand principles upon which our Order is founded. It is, moreover, referred to over and over again. We pray that our labours may be conducted in harmony and closed in peace, and that our candidates may become true and faithful brethren among us. At the supreme moment in his initiation the candidate is impressed with a symbolical expression of brotherhood, he is admitted to fellowship in a crusade, he is invested with a badge of friendship, and is bidden not to enter a Masonic assembly whose harmony his presence may disturb. The duty of brotherly charity is forcibly impressed upon him in an earnest charge, he is taught that his duty to his neighbour demands the practice of the Golden Rule, and is reminded that the time given to necessary refreshment and rest should not cause us to neglect the exercise of kindly aid and charity to our brethren in need.

Thus he is taught to do his share in building into our daily life an element it most sorely needs. The world is crying out for brotherhood to-day. In the international sphere we have statesmen trembling with dread lest another world-conflict should break out, transcending in terror the catastrophe of 1914, and wiping out our Western civilisation from the earth. Only the spirit of brotherhood that looks upward to the heavens for its inspiration can ensure that the resources of modern science shall be a blessing rather than a curse to the sons of men. In our political, our economic, our industrial life there is the same clamant need of human brotherhood, divinely inspired, that will enable men to rise above their sectional interests and seek only the welfare of the whole. I like to think of a picturesque description I have read of the last night of the International World Conference of Youth, at Helsingfors in August, 1926. Two hundred and thirty boys of twenty-six different nations approached the Fire of International Friendship, each group bearing its own national flag and singing its own national song, and each group going away with these inspiring words: "We leave this fire with a vision of a great Christian fellowship, conscious of differences, but resolved to love." That is the spirit that will save the world; that is the spirit that thrills through the temple; that is the spirit we must build into life.

Reverence, the sense of fellowship with God, the realisation of the brotherhood of man — these are three of the characteristics of that human attitude which would turn the world into the Temple of God. The fourth characteristic is a sense of consecration. Vows are made and lives are dedicated in the temple, and only those who are animated by a sincere wish to render themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow-creatures are welcome candidates for our mysteries. They are given an apron and working tools, bidden measure time with unswerving regard to eternity, and taught so to regulate their lives that they may be enabled to devote the talents wherewith God has blessed them both to His glory and to the welfare of their fellow creatures. There is a great call to this spirit in our life to-day, to so go about our daily task that we may in very truth be Masons working according to the plans, under the direction, and in the inspiration of the G.A.O.T.U.

I suppose you have heard the story of the three Masons engaged upon the work of building St Paul's Cathedral, to whom a visitor put the question: "What are you doing?" Their answers were indicative of their general outlook on their work. One is reported to have said: "Working for my wages, of course," and another: "Squaring this stone, can't you see?" But the third man answered: "I am helping the great architect, Sir Christopher Wren, to build a cathedral." It is this last attitude towards work that we need to cultivate. There are people whose main — if not only — object in working seems to be the wage that comes at the end of the week; work has for them no interest or value in itself, no great significance for mankind at large, no place of importance in the development and expression of the personal soul; their daily task has chiefly, if not merely, a monetary value to themselves. Of course, wages, dividends, and prices are important, but they ought to be put in their proper place.

There are other folk, a host of unimaginative souls, who cannot see beyond the particular task they have in hand, who never seem to appreciate its relation to other tasks, its place in the whole finished scheme of things, and this criticism applies not only to the wage-earner, but to the big man of business when his only object is the building up of his own concern without much thought of its place in the common life of the community as a whole.

From both the mercenary and the unimaginative outlook our task of temple-building calls us to the broader vision laid the nobler attitude of helping the G.A.O.T.U. to build the temple of a consecrated humanity — to do our work, whatever it may be, to the the glory of God, and the welfare of our fellow men. To such a splendid task the idealists of the centuries have given themselves with a consuming zeal ; to such a noble enterprise they challenge us to-day. Let us reply in the words of William Blake: —

"I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall the sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land."


V.Wor. Bro. W. J. Williams:

We have had a wonderful opportunity to-night of listening to an astonishingly inspiring address, one which I am sure has been very helpful to us all. I do not attempt to criticise it, as it is quite beyond criticism in any way. Our Grand Chaplain has led us through our ritual, and taken out of it a great number of golden thoughts, which we have been able to listen to and to dwell upon, and upon which we will be able to think and meditate still further at some future date. It is glorious to be taken through our ritual by means of various lectures such as we have enjoyed to-night, by one who is so well acquainted with the ideas connected with it. Shall we not say that it has been good for us to be here this evening, because we have been able without any doubt to delve into the spiritual side of Freemasonry. In our Lodge room, although we should meet in a spiritual atmosphere, sometimes it is missing. It should always be present, and if the Brethren could think, as we have been thinking to-night, I believe our ceremonies would be on a much higher plane than some of them are. It is only by thinking of those ideals and those beautiful jewels of thought which are in the ritual and only want bringing out, that we can make the very ceremonies through which we go from time to time as spiritual as they should be. For surely it is in the Temple life of the Mason that he comes so closely in contact with God Himself. The lecturer would have us realise that we are nothing more nor less than temples of the Living God, as St. Paul tells us.

I am thankful to the Grand Chaplain for his lecture this evening. I can remember the days when he was the W.M. of his Lodge, and I was District Inspector, and he gave me words of great encouragement on the occasions when I visited his Lodge. Not only that, but in another sphere of action, the Canon was able by some words which he has perhaps long forgotten, to be of considerable help to me.

V. Wor. Bro. R. S. Robertson:

I desire to express my appreciation of the delightful manner in which the Grand Chaplain has presented to our minds the beautiful attributes of reverence, fellowship, consecration and dedication, and also the necessity for giving due and strict attention to sacred things. I think that very often, we as Masons in our ordinary Lodge room, become somewhat casual. If we only entered into the right spirit at the very opening of our Lodges, we would realise the beauty of the prayer of invocation we offer — that all our work may be begun, continued and ended in Him Who is our Almighty Creator.

I think the Lecturer somehow struck a note of pessimism when (speaking very reverently), he said that he was afraid that we, as a British Nation, had at the close of the war, practically told the Almighty Being that He was no longer wanted — just as we had demobilised the troops and told them they were no longer wanted. In the Great War to which he referred, there were leaders raised up by God from every nation to lead the forces of right to conquer; and I think you will agree with me, that even in the present day there are leaders of thought in the Church who are strong men and brave, and just in their own way as capable and as ardent in their profession in directing their congregations in various cities and among different nations to the thought and worship of our Almighty Father.

In connection with the beautiful address we have listened to to-night, I have just jotted down a few thoughts. Our third degree is really the initiation to the hidden mysteries. The true Mason is not like the Pharisee of old. He does not, say, "I am here to instruct the brethren, and to reform them," but it seems to me that with true humility he realises that he requires assistance much more than those with whom he is coming into contact and is called upon to instruct. So that brings home to him the necessity and the realisation that he must improve himself intellectually and otherwise, and that he must take the beam out of his own eye before he can think of trying to remove the mote out of his Brother's eye. So he must cultivate the qualities of self-improvement and self-abnegation. As they are worked out in one's character, one feels that he must do good to others, and that brings before us the principles of faith, hope and charity; faith in our Almighty Creator. Faith inspires in us hope, not only for this life, but for that which is to come, and that brings us to the last — charity. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

In building our own characters we realise that Masonry is not a religion, but it is founded upon the purest religious principles. So without conflicting with the so-called creeds or religions of the world, we as Masons acknowledge the G.A. whether known to us as Jehovah, Abba or Our Father.

In closing, I would like to express my deep appreciation of the way in which the lecturer has directed our thoughts upward.

Bro. Glanville:

I wish to add my tribute of appreciation to those who have spoken previously with regard to the address we have had this evening from V. Wor. Bro. Hilliard. Many of the themes that he brought out so clearly to our minds were themes of which we had been dimly conscious as we have tried to follow the ritual month after month in our respective Lodges, but we have not been able to think them out clearly for ourselves. They were things we wanted to know, but had never been able to grasp them. Bro. Hilliard has brought to us the realisation of those things to-night.

To my mind, the address may be summed up under three rather than four headings, and those are, Wonder, Vision and Venture. He called Wonder, reverence, with regard to the Universe in which the Creator has placed us. He placed before us all the wonders and workings of science as they have been revealed to us, and he asked us to wonder as to what was to be the outcome of the political and social movements of the world to-day — movements which are causing all earnest people a great deal of anxiety. A man is not to be called a pessimist because he faces these things seriously. Everything of a material nature is emphasised. Every argument can be produced, but where have we heard anyone ask, "What is the will of the Creator?" Economic, social and political questions, statesmanship and statecraft, all these things are being emphasised, but not once in our public life, not even in great conferences such as is being held at Ottawa, is there any mention of the will of God. After all, the will of the Creator ought to be supreme, and people ought to be anxious to know what it is. There should be the right spirit of wonder as to how the Creator will enable us to get out of our difficulties.

Philosophy and history tell us that the Creator has not scrupled to put on to the scrap heap civilisations as great as those we have built up for ourselves in the present day. Long ago there were civilisations which were the wonder of the world, and are the wonder of those archaeologists who, to-day, try to pick up threads of knowledge about them. Those mighty empires went into oblivion, and were forgotten. Is that going to happen to our own western civilisation?

Bro. Hilliard took us to that other attitude of Vision. He showed us how the spirit of Freemasonry, carried out in daily life and lived by us individually, would help not only to create the temple of our own lives, but the temple of humanity, which, like Solomon's Temple, must be magnifical. Freemasonry can do it, and if anything is going to save our western civilisation, it is the spirit that is in Freemasonry, together with that in the Churches.

Then the Lecturer referred, in other words, to the spirit of Venture, that as Masons we should risk something, that we should step out in Faith, that we should have courage for that Consecration he spoke of.

Those are the things the world needs at the present day. The outlook is gloomy enough. The state of affairs gives great cause for concern. If that were the only part of the lecture, it would have been useful, but he has given us a Vision, and he has challenged us to venture to consecration. He has made our ritual live, and has put it before us to-night in such a way as will make its truths continue to live in our memories, and stir us up to noble actions. For that reason I desire to add my tribute of appreciation, and to say how much I am indebted to V. Wor. Bro. Hilliard.

The W.M.:

I would like to give expression to the very deep gratitude we feel towards V. Wor. Bro. Hilliard for his eloquent and inspiring address. The close and rapt attention which was given to him must have been an assurance to him that his words were sinking into our hearts. He showed that perhaps some of us thinking so hard about the allegory, and trying to find out the meaning of symbolism, were inclined to lose sight of the simple elementary truths that have been impressed upon us in our ritual. Those lessons of reverence, fellowship and consecration are given to us very simply and definitely in our ritual. We pledge ourselves to them very simply and solemnly. Sometimes we think so much of the deeper meanings of the symbolism, and try so hard to interpret the allegory, that we lose sight of the simple truths.

The literary aspect of this address has been very delightful to us all, and the real Masonic part of it will, I am sure, be a great inspiration to us. It certainly made me realise in some measure some of my own Masonic deficiencies, and I feel that it will have the same effect on other brethren. Up to the present this year we have had five lectures, three of which have been given by Brethren in the Ministry. We have two more this year, and one of those will be given by another minister. It shows us that our Brethren in the ministry take Masonry very seriously.

V. Wor. Bro. Hilliard (in reply):

W.M. and Brethren, I thank you heartily for your very generous words. I have keenly appreciated the kind remarks both of yourself and the Brethren who have spoken this evening. I am very grateful to them, and in particular to my friend, Bro. Glanville, for the way in which they have supplemented and interpreted some of the things that I have said.

The number present never concerns me very much. I have spoken to vast gatherings, and I have sat in a wireless station and spoken to nobody in the room except the announcer, and I confess that is rather an eerie experience. Yet I have learned that it is not always to the big gatherings that one is able to say things that are of some help. Sometimes the atmosphere is against it.

With regard to the particular things that have been said, I am far from taking a pessimistic outlook upon the general position of the world. I believe it calls for honest facing of facts, but when you have faced all the facts, and when you have taken into consideration all the trends of thought in the present age that are against the ideals for which we stand, when you think of all the difficulties that make the task of building the temple an onerous one, your mind goes back to the days when Haggai roused his people to resume the work of building the temple. They were living in an age very like ours, a generation suffering from disillusionment. They had dreamt while away in captivity of the glory of their native land, and they came back and found the walls broken down. They were up against great obstacles in the way of opposition by the Samaritans, and difficulty in getting building materials, and in being allowed to proceed with the work. They were suffering from bad harvests and economic depression.

We, to-day, find ourselves with the same currents and trends of thought; the sex outlook of the present generation, the materialism, the aggressive, well-organised and militant godlessness — all these are difficulties which we must face with an honest heart. And then we have the economic depression. But I believe the message comes to us as it did to those people of old, through Haggai. He says, "Be strong, 0 Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, 0 Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work; for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts."(Haggai, 2-4.)

It is a challenge to realise that in the midst of all these facts that are against us is the great fact of God. It is God Who calls us to the task. "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." When we look around us and remember that fact, pessimism departs. We begin to remember other hopeful signs in the situation. I believe this very depression is a great opportunity for those of us who hold these higher principles. You remember when the Prodigal Son came to the huska, he next came to himself, and said, "I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned."

I believe the fact that we have been driven to look facts and realities in the face by means of sheer economic necessity is likely to drive us to ourselves, and make us with penitence turn to God. When this generation of ours does turn to God, what a wonderful generation it will be! The Great War has shown us what an extraordinary capacity this generation has for the virtues of service and sacrifice, and brotherhood! Capitalism may have done many wicked things, but it has organised the material wealth of the world, and scientific discoveries annihilating space have put into the hands of this generation wonderfully organised resources. How golden the future is, and how tremulous with hope for the building of that temple, if we can get this generation to see the light and the spirit of Masonic truth.