Vol. XXI No. 8 — August 1943

Work of God

What part can Freemasonry play in the hearts of men in a mad and war-torn world?

What can Freemasonry do to make better the peace of tomorrow?

Everywhere thoughtful Masons are asking these questions; asking of their leaders, of their fellows, of themselves.

There are many answers. At long last the questions must be answered each for himself; no other answer will satisfy. Most men will follow good leadership far; most men will follow inspired leadership while strength lasts. Here, however, only a united opinion will follow the greatest and most inspired of leadership to the end of the road.

There is no thought that these few pages can answer the questions for the humblest brother; he who writes them has no certainty that he answers them satisfactorily for himself. But the answers here made have at least come from patient thought based on a long life within tiled doors. That the answers may be at least partially right is hoped. Wrong or right, if they lead any to real thought on the answers to questions pregnant with meaning, vital in importance, stirring with the birth pains of a better world to come, they will not here have been set down in vain.

There are those who believe that every human action is ordained by a Supreme Power; that the Great Architect is in complete control of humanity and all that humans may do, whether for good or ill.

Others conceive of an earth, and all who inhabit the earth, created to operate under laws ordained by the Great Architect; laws as immutable and unchangeable as those of the physical universe. No one blames the law of gravity if a man step off a roof, falls to the ground and is killed; he put himself in the way of a law of nature which is beneficent when obeyed; deadly when violated. Many believe that the heavenly laws of morality, truth, mercy, brotherly love, are also inexorable in action, beneficent to those who obey them, deadly to those who break them.

It is conceivable that all individual minds and hearts are small parts of a great whole; that there is a mass-mind and a mass-heart as well as an individual mind and heart. If this is so then a remarkable if terrible exhibition of mass-mind deranged is made by the world today. Millions of ordinarily kind, well disposed, decent human beings are engaged in plunder, torture, murder, pillage, rape and other crimes against people who have done no greater wrong than live in the path of armies on conquest bent.

Whether we think that God orders all human actions, or believe that He created laws and left it to us to conform or disobey, it is difficult to rationalize a murder which God might have prevented but permitted.

One conception may serve to clarify some wistful puzzling . . . it is at least possible that human life, human suffering, human fulfilling of human days is of less importance to the Supreme Intelligence than it is to us.

To almost all men life is the most precious possession, since to all men but one life is given. Once lost it returneth not again. In the Book of Job it is written; “All that a man hath will he give for his life.” (Job 2:4) John reports Jesus as saying, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

God’s perspective may be entirely different.

Considering an infinite number of lives over an infinite number of years, He may see the happiness or misery of individual lives as but one factor among many in the growth of mass humanity, mass-mind, and mass-heart.

The present war, dreadful as it appears, horrible in its suffering, terrific in what must inevitably be its aftermath, in terms of millions of human fives may be but a small incident in the great perspective of all human lives for all time to come.

The present war has produced and will produce much that is of use and value. Invention and discovery are stimulated. The post-war world will know a thousand new ways making for comfort, happiness, ease, opportunity. Great discoveries are being made in medicine, surgery, psychology, sociology; in material matters of fuels and planes and machinery and processes. This war is responsible for a great spiritual revival; it is making men seek church and religion as never before; it is responsible for an outpouring of the giving spirit, manifested in Red Cross contributions, the giving of blood to the blood plasma banks, the offering of thousands of young lives on errands of mercy by nurses, doctors, stretcher bearers, relief workers. From the dread horrors of war come new conceptions of love and pity and mercy and the Masonic tenets of brotherly love and relief.

It is thinkable, at least, that the multiplied effect of all that is good which come from a war, throughout the untold future may be greater in the Supreme Sight than the suffering, death and agony of millions of victims of today.

To the Christian, God gave his only begotten Son to die a lingering and painful death that all men who follow Him may be saved during all time to come. To those of other faiths it was only a man — noble and self-sacrificing but yet a man — who died upon the cross that others might be inspired by his courage and love to follow where He had led. In the great tragedy of Hiram, Masonry teaches that the supreme sacrifice is not in vain. Can we not conclude then that that sacrifice created many times its weight in devotion and inspiration to those who have known the mystic tie?

It is not possible for a finite mind to conceive of an Infinite Mind; neither is it possible for a finite heart actuated by no matter how great love, mercy, compassion and pity, to conceive of what manner of pity, compassion, mercy and love, are inherent in the Great Architect. In the Great Light it is written that man is made in the image of God. Imperfect though he is, he thus must have in imperfection some at least of those roots from which the tree of perfection grows.

If man is ever compassionate and merciful, loving and unselfish, kind and helpful, then by his own logic God must be in infinite measure that which man may be in finite measure and faulty attainment.

If, then, God ordains all human action, and thus commands war, pestilence, famine, rapine, murder, and torture, it must be because in His infinite wisdom He sees that the virtues which stem from these evils are of more worth to the world in the long years to come, than the cost to the world in the short years of the present.

If God has but set a world in the midst of laws which bring their own penalties for infringement, as they bring their own good results from obedience, then war and its evils must be explained by the mass insanity of those who break the laws and bring the suffering.

It is not possible to conceive God as inconsistent; as blowing hot and cold, condoning wrong one minute and condemning it another, making one law for one time, one law for another. We know beyond all doubt that in the physical world action and reaction are always equal. Obviously, in a universe completely ruled by Divine Laws, spiritual actions and reactions should also be equal.

Therefore as surely as night follows the day the pendulum of war with all its horror must inevitably swing to the other extreme and bring good from chaos equal to the suffering it has cost.

We may hope even further. The history of the race is a history of progress; infinitely slow, to be sure, but infinitely sure. From the days of the caveman, when a club in the hands of the strongest was the only law, to this day when in civilized lands and normal times the will of the majority is the law, man has struggled from savagery toward civilization. Slavery as an organized institution is no more. Individual freedom is no longer that of the strongest club; it is the freedom which must be exercised within the frame of freedom of neighbors and companions on life’s highway. Not many years ago the insane were criminals and suffered to rot and die in dungeons. A new law born of knowledge and mercy now cares for them tenderly. Torture was once the handmaid of religion which now assuages pain and grief.

The pendulum seems to swing further to the right than to the left. Action and reaction are equal in the physical world. In the spiritual, action has been less than reaction, as is proved by the slow but sure advance from ignorance to knowledge, from savagery to civilization, from cruelty to mercy.

This discussion is not concerned with what Masonry may do in practical service to its brethren, their sons and friends in the armed forces; with what part the Fraternity may play in the formation of public sentiment when the peace to come is put within a pattern. Here is concern only with what Freemasonry may mean to a man in the only place it was ever intended to mean anything — “in my heart.”

Freemasons live a story of something of value which was lost, and a search for it in the ruins of the temple. To tell this so that all brethren may understand it Freemasonry uses the tale of a brave man, a great sacrifice, a pure heart and a love for the Most High greater than a love of life.

In his beautiful book, The Religion of Masonry, R.W. Brother Dr. Joseph Fort Newton wrote words of the Master’s Degree which burn with living fire:

Masonry shows us a picture, a parable, a drama, the oldest and profoundest known upon earth and among men, revealing a truth for which words were never made. For depth, vividness and heart-shaking power, no drama can surpass the Third Degree of Masonry, and its appeal is felt by all who see it, whether it be in the grand lodge Temple in London or in a lodge of cowboys on the frontier. Starkly simple, gritty with the very stuff of fife, it gathers up into a black shadow the pity and terror of life, using the things which seem to destroy all faith to teach the highest faith of all. Like all great tragedy, it purifies and exalts, transfiguring dull death with an unconquerable hope.

No one is permitted to describe the scene; no description is needed. It flashes before us, leaving its meaning for such as have eyes to see and the insight to understand; and one may study it a lifetime without fathoming all its depths. It portrays the black tragedy of life at its brilliant worst; the forces of evil, so cunning yet so stupid, as they come up against the soul, tempting it to treachery — even the degradation of saving life at the sacrifice of all that makes life worth the living. When the shadow is at its darkest, and all the high values of life seem helpless, if not worthless, in face of brute force and foul fact, leaving us dismayed and appalled — heroic integrity stricken down and buried in the rubbish — there rises that in man most akin to God, his willingness to die that virtue may live.

For many the Master’s Degree is but a drama teaching fidelity. To the thoughtful who look below the surface it is a verification of the belief that truth cannot be slain. It can — alas, too often is! — struck down by error. Crime seems to triumph over justice. Evil apparently ascends over good. Wrong appears to supplant right. Cruelty gets the best of love. But only for a time. In the long history of the world are multiplied thousands of examples of the short life and ephemeral character of the triumphs of evil over good. For a while it seemed to Rome that the Man of Galilee upon the Cross was the end of the gentle doctrines Rome believed to be subversive.

But the Rome of power and place and circumstance and world leadership is gone with the days of ancient years; the humble Carpenter upon the Cross — whether human or divine matters not in this discussion — has become the symbol the world over of the triumph of love and mercy over ignorance and cruel superstition.

The lesson of the life and tragedy of Hiram is Freemasonry’s method of speaking to all men of all faiths, the fundamental truth that right conquers in the end. It is Freemasonry’s assurance that if that which was lost to man cannot be found in this life, in another it will be made plain. Truth apparently slain, love apparently dead; mercy apparently confined, cry from the grave with increasing voices . . . at last man hears. He who lay beneath the acacia was raised; in the hearts of multiplied millions of Freemasons he has taught them that truth, being of God, is immortal; all else is of man and eventually dies.

This, then, is what Freemasonry can do — Freemasonry can bring the comfort of assurance; it can bring the certainty of a better life to come, not only in the next world but in this; it can tell the mighty story which the race has writ in history for thousands of years. . . . In the long run, in the great span of time, in the whole picture of the earth and its inhabitants, God lives; God’s will is, at long last, done upon earth as it is in heaven.

If Freemasonry does the half of this for a tenth of her sons, then has she more than justified all the effort spent upon her by those who love and serve the gentle Craft.

The Masonic Service Association of North America