Vol. XXVII No. 7 — July 1949

The Dew Drop Lecture

This justly famous elaboration of the Prestonian lecture upon geometry, part of the Fellowcraft Degree, is less well known to present day Masons than its poetical content deserves.

Mackey mistakenly attributed the authorship to Albert Pike.

The late, great grand secretary of Mississippi, F. G. Speed, in whose jurisdiction the Dew Drop Lecture was for many years a part of the standard work, in 1916 stated:

This lecture was not written by Albert Pike, but was handed down a hundred years before General Pike was born. My father and grandfather were intimate with Brother Pike and my father made the above statement about the lecture. The lecture is used in our lodges quite frequently, but it is not a part of the adopted work now.

No modern student of Pike would agree that the Dew Drop Lecture could have been written by him. Pike’s poetic genius flashes constantly through his writings, but it is far more reserved than the enthusiastic, at times spectacular, abandon of the metaphors and similes of the unknown writer of the Dew Drop Lecture.

To modern ears his unrestrained dipping of pen into a sea of adjectives seems at times strained. Yet there is flashing loveliness in many of his phrases; too much to be lost sight of, even in a time when occasionally even Preston’s words seem gushing.

No Masonic scholar has yet ventured to explain why this elaboration is called the Dew Drop Lecture. True, “By geometry He rounds the dew drops" appears, but so do “pyramidal icicle,” “bow of beauty,” “starry gems,” “myriad circles,” and many other similar word juxtapositions, any one of which would title the context as well as “dew drop.”

The writer is unknown; the reason for the title is unknown, but the beauty is manifest.

Here is the Dew Drop Lecture; for the convenience of non-ritualistic readers, the non-Prestonian parts are printed in narrow measure.

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Geometry, the first and noblest of sciences, is the basis upon which the superstructure of Freemasonry is erected.

Regarding man as a rational and intelligent being, capable of enjoyment and pleasure to an extent limited only by the acquisition of useful knowledge, our order points him to the study of the Liberal Arts and Sciences[1] and to the possession of knowledge as the most befitting and proper occupation for the God-like endowments with which he is gifted.

Indeed, all who frequent our Masonic Temple are charged to labor faithfully in the wide and unbounded field of human improvement, from which they are assured of reaping a most glorious harvest, a harvest rich in happiness to the whole family of man, and in manifestation of the goodness of God. Your attention is especially directed to the science of Geometry, no royal road,[2] ’tis true, but to one prepared with an outfit it must prove more attractive than palace walks by regal taste adorned.

The ancient philosophers placed such a high estimate upon this science that all who frequented the groves of the Sacred Academy[3] were compelled to explore its heavenly paths, and no one whose mind was unexpanded by its precepts was entrusted with the instruction of the young. Even Plato, justly deemed the first of the philosophers, when asked as to the probable occupation of Deity, replied, “He geometrizes continually.”[4]

If we consider the symmetry and order which govern all the works of creation, we must admit that Geometry pervades the universe. If, by the aid of the telescope, we bring the planets within the range of our observation, and by the microscope, view particles too minute for the eye, unaided, to behold, we find them all pursuing the several objects of their creation, in accordance with the fixed plan of the Almighty.

By Geometry we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it we discover how the planets move in their respective orbits and demonstrate their various revolutions; by it we account for the return of the seasons and the variety of scenes which each season displays to the discerning eye; by it we discover the power, wisdom and goodness of the Grand Artificer of the Universe, and view with delight the proportions which connect the vast machine. Numberless worlds[5] are around us, all framed by the same Divine Artist, which roll[6] through the vast expanse and are all governed by the same unerring law of nature.[7]

Is there not more truth than fiction in the thought of the ancient philosopher, that God geometrizes continually?

By geometry He rounds the dew drop; points the pyramidal icicle that hangs from thatchbound roof; bends into a graceful curve the foaming cataract; paints His bow of beauty upon the canvas of a summer shower; assimilates the sugar to the diamond[8] and in the fissures of the earth-bound rocks, forms gorgeous caverns, thick-set with starry gems.[9] By it He taught the bee to store its honey in prismatic cells;[10] the wild goose to range her flight, and the noble eagle to wheel and dart upon its prey, and the wakesome lark, Gods earliest worshipper, to hymn its matin song in spiral flight.[11] By it He forms the tender lens of the delicate eye, rounds the blushing cheek of beauty, curves the ruby lip and fashions the swelling breast that throbs in unison with a gushing heart. By it he paints the cheek of autumn’s mellow fruit, forms in molds of graceful symmetry the gentle dove, marks the myriad circles on the peacock’s gaudy train and decks the plumage of ten thousand warblers of His praise that animate the woody shade. By it he fashions the golden carp, decks the silvery perch, forms all fish of every fin and tribe that course the majestic ocean, cut the placid lake or swim in gentle brook. Nay, more, even the glassy element in which they dwell, when by gentle zephyrs stirred, sends its chasing waves in graceful curves by God’s own finger traced in parallel — above, beneath, around us, all the works of His hands, animate and inanimate, but prove that God geometrizes continually.

But if man would witness the highest evidence of geometrical perfection, let him step out of the rude construction of his own hands and view the wide o’er-spreading canopy of the stars, whether fixed as centers of vast systems or all noiselessly pursuing their geometrical paths in accordance with the never-changing laws of nature. Nay, more, the vast fields of illimitable space are all formed of an infinitude of circles traced by the compass of the Almighty Architect, whose every work is set by the Level, adjusted by the Plumb, and perfected by the Square. Do this, my brother, and you must admit with Plato, that God geometrizes continually, and be assured with Job, that He who stretcheth the earth upon emptiness and fixeth the foundation thereof upon nothing, so it cannot be moved,[12] can bind the sweet influence of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion.”[13]

A survey of Nature, and the observation of her beautiful proportions, first determined man to imitate the Divine plan, and study symmetry and order. This gave rise to societies, and birth to every useful art. The architect began to design, and the plans which he laid down, being improved by experience and time, have produced works which are the admiration of every age.

The lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance, and the devastations of war, have laid waste and destroyed many valuable monuments of antiquity on which the utmost exertions of human genius have been employed.

Even the Temple of Solomon, so spacious and magnificent, and constructed by so many artists, escaped not the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. Freemasonry, notwithstanding, has still survived. The attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue, and the mysteries of Freemasonry are safely lodged in the repository of faithful breasts. Tools and instruments of architecture, and symbolic emblems, most expressive, are selected by the fraternity to imprint on the mind wise and serious truths; and thus, through a succession of ages, are transmitted, unimpaired, the most excellent tenets of our institution.

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  1. Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, German church historian, born 1694, wrote of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences: “The Seven Liberal Arts, as they are now styled, were taught in the greatest part of the schools that were erected in this century for the education of youth. The first stage of these sciences was grammar, which was followed successively by rhetoric and logic. When the disciple, having learned these branches, which were generally known by the name of trivium, extended his ambition further, and was desirous of new improvements in the sciences, he was conducted slowly through the quadrivium, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy, to the very summit of literary fame.”
  2. Non est ad astra mollis e terris via, said Seneca: “There is no easy road from the earth to the stars.” Said Euclid: “There is no royal road to geometry,” to Ptolomy when he asked if there was not an easy way to master the science.
  3. Academus was a Greek legendary hero. His name was given to a grove of trees not far north of Athens. It was here that Plato and his pupils held their disputations; hence the name of their school, the Academy. The author of the Dew Drop Lecture takes in much territory when he speaks of Plato as “justly deemed the first of the philosophers." To go no further back, Plato was pupil of Socrates, just as Aristotle was pupil of Plato. Thales, 624 B.C. is generally considered the “first of philosophers.” He lived some two hundred years before Plato.
  4. “He geometrizes continually.” This is not an actual quotation. “God is a geometrician” is quoted as a traditional saying of Plato, but the words are not found in his works. Others, however, have phrased the thought: “God is like a skillful geometrician.” “Nature geometrizeth and observeth order in all things. (Sir Thomas Browne) “God acts the part of a geometrician — his government of the world is no less exact than his creation of it.” (John Norris)
  5. “Numberless worlds” is unchallengeable, no one knows whether any stars other than the sun have planets.
  6. To “roll” is to advance by revolving like a wheel upon a surface; here used as a synonym for “move.”
  7. Poetical redundancy; not it tended to indicate that there are “erring laws of nature.” Later "never changing law of nature” the better expresses the thought.
  8. Sugar is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Diamond is crystalline carbon.
  9. Referring to the stalactites and stalagmites in caves. The reader must decide if the comparison is apt.
  10. All prisms are not necessarily transparent, as are optical prisms. Geometrical prisms may be of many sides, including six, the faces of the prismatic honey cell.
  11. Any bird may, none always do, rise from one level to other in spirals.
  12. A paraphrasing, not a quotation. Refers to Job 38:4, 5, 6: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hash laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the cornerstone thereof?”
  13. Job 38:31: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” Pleiades, the group of seven starts in the constellation Taurus (the Bull) was so called by the Greeks from plein, sail; they considered navigation safe after the Pleiades returned. Orion is the brightest constellation in the winter skies.

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