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[ The third and the last part of the Book
The Builders is posted here. This completes the book ]
Part III --Interpretation
What is Masonry
I am afraid you may not consider it an
altogether substantial concern. It has to be seen in a certain way, under
certain conditions. Some people never see it at all. You must understand, this
is no dead pile of stones and unmeaning timber. It is a Living thing.
When you enter it you hear a sound--a
sound as of some mighty poem chanted. Listen long enough, and you will learn
that it is made up of the beating of human hearts, of the nameless music of
men's souls--that is, if you have ears to hear. If you have eyes, you will
presently see the church itself--a looming mystery of many shapes and shadows,
leaping sheer from floor to dome. The work of no ordinary builder!
The pillars of it go up like the brawny
trunks of heroes; the sweet flesh of men and women is molded about its bulwarks,
strong, impregnable; the faces of little children laugh out from every corner
stone; the terrible spans and arches of it are the joined hands of comrades; and
up in the heights and spaces are inscribed the numberless musings of all the
dreamers of the world. It is yet building--building and built upon.
Sometimes the work goes on in deep
darkness; sometimes in blinding light; now under the burden of unutterable
anguish; now to the tune of great laughter and heroic shoutings like the cry of
thunder. Sometimes, in the silence of the night-time, one may hear the tiny
hammerings of the comrades at work up in the dome--the comrades that have
C. R. Kennedy, The Servant in the House.
What is Masonry
What, then, is Masonry, and what is it trying to do in the world? According
to one of the Old Charges, Masonry is declared to be an "ancient and honorable
institution: ancient no doubt it is, as having subsisted from time immemorial;
and honorable it must be acknowledged to be, as by natural tendency it conduces
to make those so who are obedient to its precepts. To so high an eminence has
its credit been advanced that in every age Monarchs themselves have been
promoters of the art, have not thought it derogatory from their dignity to
exchange the scepter for the trowel, have patronized our mysteries and joined in
While that eulogy is
more than justified by sober facts, it does not tell us what Masonry is, much
less its mission and ministry to mankind. If now we turn to the old, oft-quoted
definition, we learn that Masonry is "a system of morality veiled in allegory
and illustrated by symbols." That is, in so far, true enough, but it is
obviously inadequate, the more so when it uses the word "peculiar" as describing
the morality of Masonry; and it gives no hint of a world-encircling fellowship
and its far-ramifying influence. Another definition has it that Masonry is "a
science which is engaged in the search after divine truth;"
[Symbolism of Freemasonry, by Dr. Mackey.]
but that is vague,
indefinite, and unsatisfactory, lacking any sense of the uniqueness of the
Order, and as applicable to one science as to another. For surely all science,
of whatever kind, is a search after divine truth, and a physical fact, as
Agassiz said, is as sacred as a moral truth--every fact being the presence of
Still another writer defines Masonry as "Friendship, Love, and
Integrity--Friendship which rises superior to the fictitious distinctions of
society, the prejudices of religion, and the pecuniary conditions of life; Love
which knows no limit, nor inequality, nor decay; Integrity which binds man to
the eternal law of duty." [History and
Philosophy of Masonry, by A. C. L. Arnold, chap. xvi. To say of any man--of
Socrates, for example--who had the spirit of Friendship and Integrity, that he
was a Mason, is in a sense true, but it is misleading. Nevertheless, if a man
have not that spirit, he is not a Mason, though he may have received the
Such is indeed the very essence and spirit of Masonry, but Masonry has no
monopoly of that spirit, and its uniqueness consists, rather, in the form in
which it seeks to embody and express the gracious and benign spirit which is the
genius of all the higher life of humanity. Masonry is not everything; it is a
thing as distinctly featured as a statue by Phidias or a painting by Angelo.
Definitions, like delays, may be dangerous, but perhaps we can do no better than
to adopt the words of the German Handbuch
as the best description of it so far given, “ Masonry is the activity of
closely united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the
mason's trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving
morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal
league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale”
[Vol. i, p. 320. The Handbuch is an
encyclopedia of Masonry, published in 1900. See admirable review of it, A. Q.
C., xi, 64.]C
Civilization could hardly begin until man had learned to fashion for himself
a settled habitation, and thus the earliest of all human arts and crafts, and
perhaps also the noblest, is that of the builder. Religion took outward
shape when men first reared an altar for their offerings, and surrounded it with
a sanctuary of faith and awe, of pity and consolation, and piled a cairn to mark
the graves where their dead lay asleep. History is no older than
architecture. How fitting, then, that the idea and art of building should be
made the basis of a great order of men which has no other aim than the
upbuilding of humanity in Faith, Freedom, and Friendship. Seeking to ennoble and
beautify life, it finds in the common task and constant labor of man its sense
of human unity, its vision of life as a temple "building and built upon," and
its emblems of those truths which make for purity of character and the stability
of society. Thus Masonry labors, linked with the constructive genius of mankind,
and so long as it remains true to its Ideal no weapon formed against it can
One of the most impressive and
touching things in human history is that certain ideal interests have been set
apart as especially venerated among all peoples. Guilds have arisen to cultivate
the interests embodied in art, science, philosophy, fraternity, and religion; to
conserve the precious, hard-won inheritances of humanity; to train men in their
service; to bring their power to bear upon the common life of mortals, and send
through that common life the light and glory of the Ideal, as the sun shoots
its transfiguring rays through a great dull cloud, evoking beauty from the brown
earth. Such is Masonry, which unites all these high interests and brings to
their service a vast, world-wide fraternity of free and devout men, built upon a
foundation of spiritual faith and moral idealism, whose mission it is to make
men friends, to refine and exalt their lives, to deepen their faith and purify
their dream, to turn them from the semblance of life to homage for truth,
beauty, righteousness, and character. More than an institution, more than a
tradition, more than a society, Masonry is one of the forms of the Divine Life
upon earth. No one may ever hope to define a spirit so gracious, an order so
benign an influence, so prophetic of the present and future up-building of the
There is a common notion that Masonry is a secret
society, and this idea is based on the secret rites used in its initiations, and
the signs and grips by which its members recognize each other. Thus it has come
to pass that the main aims of the Order are assumed to be a secret policy or
teaching, whereas its one great secret is that it has no secret.
[Much has been written about the secrecy of
Masonry. Hutchinson, in his lecture on "The Secrecy of Masons," lays all the
stress upon its privacy as a shelter for the gentle ministry of Charity (Spirit
of Masonry, lecture x). Arnold is more satisfactory in his essay on "The
Philosophy of Mystery," quoting the words of Carlyle in Sartor Resartus: "Bees
will not work except in darkness; thoughts will not work except in silence;
neither will virtue work except in secrecy" (History and Philosophy of Masonry,
chap. xxi). But neither writer seems to realize the psychology and pedagogy of
secrecy--the value of curiosity, of wonder and expectation, in the teaching of
great truths deemed commonplace because old. Even in that atmosphere, the real
secret of Masonry remains hidden to many--as sunlight hides the depths of
Its principles are published abroad in its writings; its purposes and laws are
known, and the times and places of its meetings. Having come down from dark days
of persecution, when all the finer things sought the protection of seclusion, if
it still adheres to secret rites, it is not in order to hide the truth, but the
better to teach it more impressively, to train men in its pure service, and to
promote union and amity upon earth. Its signs and grips serve as a kind of
universal language, and still more as a gracious cover for the practice of sweet
charity--making it easier to help a fellow man in dire plight without hurting
his self-respect. If a few are attracted to it by curiosity, all remain to pray,
finding themselves members of a great historic fellowship of the seekers and
finders of God. It is old because it is true; had it been false it would have
perished long ago. When all men practice its simple precepts, the innocent
secrets of Masonry will be laid bare, its mission accomplished, and its labor
done. [Read the noble chapter on "Prayer as
a Masonic Obligation," in Practical Masonic Lectures, by Samuel Lawrence
Recalling the emphasis of the foregoing pages, it need hardly be added that
Masonry is in no sense a political party, still less a society organized for
social agitation. Indeed, because Masonry stands apart from partisan feud and
particular plans of social reform, she has been held up to ridicule equally by
the unthinking, the ambitious, and the impatient. Her critics on this side are
of two kinds. There are those who hold that the humanitarian ideal is an error,
maintaining that human nature has no moral aptitude, and can be saved only by
submission to a definite system of dogma. Then there are those who look for
salvation solely in political action and social agitation, who live in the
delusion that man can be made better by passing laws and counting votes, and to
whom Masonry has nothing to offer because in its ranks it permits no politics,
much less party rancor. Advocates of the first view have fought Masonry from the
beginning with the sharpest weapons, while those who hold the second view regard
it with contempt, as a thing useless and not worth fighting.
[Read a thoughtful "Exposition of Freemasonry," by Dr. Paul Carus, Open Court,
Neither adversary understands Masonry and its cult of the creative love for
humanity, and of each man for his fellow, without which no dogma is of any
worth; lacking which, the best laid plans of social seers "gang aft aglee." Let
us look at things as they are. That we must press forward towards
righteousness--that we must hunger and thirst after a social life that is true
and pure, just and merciful--all will agree; but they are blind who do not see
that the way is long and the process slow. What is it that so tragically delays
the march of man toward the better and wiser social order whereof our prophets
dream? Our age, like the ages gone before, is full of schemes of every kind for
the reform and betterment of mankind. Why do they not succeed? Some fail,
perhaps, because they are imprudent and ill considered, in that they expect too
much of human nature and do not take into account the stubborn facts of life.
But why does not the wisest and noblest plan do more than half what its
advocates hope and pray and labor so heroically to bring about? Because there
are not enough men fine enough of soul, large enough of sympathy, sweet enough
of spirit, and noble enough of nature to make the dream come true!
There are no valid arguments against a great-spirited social justice but
this, that men will not. Indolence, impurity, greed, injustice, meanness of
spirit, the aggressiveness of authority, and above all jealousy--these are the
real obstacles that thwart the nobler social aspiration of humanity. There are
too many men like The Master-Builder, who tried to build higher than any one
else, without regard to others, all for his own selfish glory. Ibsen has shown
us how The Pillars of Society, resting on rotten foundations, came crashing
down, wounding the innocent in their wreck. Long ago it was said that
"through wisdom is an house builded, and by under-standing it is established;
and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with pleasant and precious
riches." [Proverbs 24:3, 4.] Time has
shown that the House of Wisdom must be founded upon righteousness, justice,
purity, character, faith in God and love of man, else it will fall when the
floods descend and the winds beat upon it. What we need to make our social
dreams come true is not more laws, not more dogmas, not less liberty, but better
men, cleaner minded, more faithful, with loftier ideals and more heroic
integrity; men who love the right, honor the truth, worship purity, and prize
liberty, upright men who meet all horizontals at a perfect angle, assuring the
virtue and stability of the social order.
Therefore, when Masonry, instead of identifying itself with particular
schemes of reform, and thus becoming involved in endless turmoil and dispute,
estranging men whom she seeks to bless, devotes all her benign energy and
influence to ennobling the souls of men, she is doing fundamental work in behalf
of all high enterprises. By as much as she succeeds, every noble cause succeeds;
by as much as she fails, everything fails! By its ministry to the individual
man, drawing him into the circle of a great friendship, exalting his faith,
refining his ideals, enlarging his sympathies, and setting his feet in the long
white path--Masonry best serves society and the state. [While
Masonry abjures political questions and disputes in its Lodges, it is all the
while training good citizens, and through the quality of its men it influences
public life--as Washington, Franklin, and Marshall carried the spirit of Masonry
into the organic law of this republic. It is not politics that corrupts
character; it is bad character that corrupts politics--and by building men up to
spiritual faith and character, Masonry is helping to build up a state that will
endure the shocks of time; a nobler structure than ever was wrought of mortar
and marble (The Principles of Freemasonry in the Life of Nations, by Findel).]
While it is not a reformatory, it is a center of moral and spiritual power,
and its power is used, not only to protect the widow and orphan, but also, and
still more important, to remove the cause of their woe and need by making men
just, gentle, and generous to all their fellow mortals. Who can measure such a
silent, persistent, unresting labor; who can describe its worth in a world of
feud, of bitterness, of sorrow! No one needs to be told that we are on the eve,
if not in the midst, of a most stupendous and bewildering revolution of social
and industrial life. It shakes England today. It makes France tremble tomorrow.
It alarms America next week. Men want shorter hours, higher wages, and better
homes, of course they do, but they need, more than these things, to know and
love each other; for the questions in dispute can never be settled in an air of
hostility. If they are ever settled at all, and settled right, it must be in an
atmosphere of mutual recognition and respect, such as Masonry seeks to create
and make prevail. Whether it be a conflict of nations, or a clash of class with
class, appeal must be made to intelligence and the moral sense, as befits the
dignity of man. Amidst bitterness and strife Masonry brings men of every rank
and walk of life together as men, and nothing else, at an altar where they can
talk and not fight, discuss and not dispute, and each may learn the point of
view of his fellow. Other hope there is none save in this spirit of friendship
and fairness, of democracy and the fellowship of man with man. Once this spirit
has its way with mankind, it will bring those brave, large reconstructions,
those profitable abnegations and brotherly feats of generosity that will yet
turn human life into a glad, beautiful, and triumphant coöperation all round
this sunlit world.
Surely the way of Masonry is wise. Instead of becoming only one more
factor in a world of factional feud, it seeks to remove all hostility, which may
arise from social, national, or religious differences. It helps to heal the
haughtiness of the rich and the envy of the poor, and tends to establish peace
on earth by allaying all fanaticism and hatred on account of varieties of
language, race, creed, and even color, while striving to make the wisdom of the
past available for the culture of men in faith and purity. Not a party, not a
sect, not a cult, it is a great order of men selected, initiated, sworn, and
trained to make sweet reason and the will of God prevail! Against the ancient
enmities and inhumanities of the world it wages eternal war, without vengeance,
without violence, but by softening the hearts of men and inducing a better
spirit. Apparitions of a day, here for an hour and tomorrow gone, what is our
puny warfare against evil and ignorance compared with the warfare which this
venerable Order has been waging against them for ages, and will continue to wage
after we have fallen into dust!
Masonry, as it is much more than a political party or a social cult, is also
more than a church--unless we use the word church as Ruskin used it when he
said: "There is a true church wherever one hand meets another helpfully, the
only holy or mother church that ever was or ever shall be!" It is true that
Masonry is not a religion, but it is Religion, a worship in which all good men
may unite, that each may share the faith of all. Often it has been objected that
some men leave the Church and enter the Masonic Lodge, finding there a religious
home. Even so, but that may be the fault, not of Masonry, but of the Church so
long defamed by bigotry and distracted by sectarian feud, and which has too
often made acceptance of abstract dogmas a test of its fellowship.
[Not a little confusion has existed, and still exists, in regard to the relation
of Masonry to religion. Dr. Mackey said that old Craft-masonry was sectarian
(Symbolism of Masonry); but it was not more so than Dr. Mackey himself, who held
the curious theory that the religion of the Hebrews was genuine and that of the
Egyptians spurious. Nor is there any evidence that Craft-masonry was sectarian,
but much to the contrary, as has been shown in reference to the invocations in
the Old Charges. At any rate, if it was ever sectarian, it ceased to be so with
the organization of the Grand Lodge of England. Later, some of the chaplains of
the order sought to identify Masonry with Christianity, as Hutchinson did--and
even Arnold in his chapter on "Christianity and Freemasonry" (History and
Philosophy of Masonry). All this confusion results from a misunderstanding of
what religion is. Religions are many; religion is one--perhaps we may say one
thing, but that one thing includes everything--the life of God in the soul of
man, which finds expression in all the forms which life and love and duty take.
This conception of religion shakes the poison out of all our wild flowers, and
shows us that it is the inspiration of all scientific inquiry, all striving for
liberty, all virtue and charity; the spirit of all thought, the motif of all
great music, the soul of all sublime literature. The church has no monopoly of
religion, nor did the Bible create it. Instead, it was religion--the natural and
simple trust of the soul in a Power above and within it, and its quest of a
right relation to that Power--that created the Bible and the Church, and,
indeed, all our higher human life. The soul of man is greater than all books,
deeper than all dogmas, and more enduring than all institutions. Masonry seeks
to free men from a limiting conception of religion, and thus to remove one of
the chief causes of sectarianism. It is itself one of the forms of beauty
wrought by the human soul under the inspiration of the Eternal Beauty, and as
such is religious.]
Naturally many fine minds have been estranged from the Church, not because
they were irreligious, but because they were required to believe what it was
impossible for them to believe; and, rather than sacrifice their integrity of
soul, they have turned away from the last place from which a man should ever
turn away. No part of the ministry of Masonry is more beautiful and wise than
its appeal, not for tolerance, but for fraternity; not for uniformity, but for
unity of spirit amidst varieties of outlook and opinion. Instead of
criticizing Masonry, let us thank God for one altar where no man is asked to
surrender his liberty of thought and become an indistinguishable atom in a mass
of sectarian agglomeration. What a witness to the worth of an Order that it
brings together men of all creeds in behalf of those truths which are greater
than all sects, deeper than all doctrines--the glory and the hope of man!
While Masonry is not a church, it has religiously preserved some things of
highest importance to the Church--among them the right of each individual soul
to its own religious faith. Holding aloof from separate sects and creeds, it has
taught all of them how to respect and tolerate each other; asserting a principle
broader than any of them--the sanctity of the soul and the duty of every man to
revere, or at least to regard with charity, what is sacred to his fellows. It is
like the crypts underneath the old cathedrals--a place where men of every creed
who long for something deeper and truer, older and newer than they have hitherto
known, meet and unite. Having put away childish things, they find themselves
made one by a profound and childlike faith, each bringing down into that quiet
crypt his own pearl of great price
The Hindu his innate disbelief in this
world, and his unhesitating belief in another world; the Buddhist his perception
of an eternal law, his submission to it, his gentleness, his pity; the
Mohammedan, if nothing else, his sobriety; the Jew his clinging, through good
and evil days, to the one God who loveth righteousness, and whose name is "I
AM;" the Christian, that which is better than all, if those who doubt it would
try it--our love of God, call Him what you will, manifested in our love of man,
our love of the living, our love of the dead, our living and undying love. Who
knows but that the crypt of the past may become the church of the future? [Chips
from a German Workshop, by Max Müller.]
Of no one age, Masonry belongs to all ages; of no one religion, it finds
great truths in all religions. Indeed, it holds that truth which is common to
all elevating and benign religions, and is the basis of each; that faith which
underlies all sects and over-arches all creeds, like the sky above and the river
bed below the flow of mortal years. It does not under-take to explain or
dogmatically to settle those questions or solve those dark mysteries which
out-top human knowledge. Beyond the facts of faith it does not go. With the
subtleties of speculation concerning those truths, and the unworldly envies
growing out of them, it has not to do. There divisions begin, and Masonry was
not made to divide men, but to unite them, leaving each man free to think his
own thought and fashion his own system of ultimate truth. All its emphasis rests
upon two extremely simple and profound principles--love of God and love of man.
Therefore, all through the ages it has been, and is today, a meeting place of
differing minds, and a prophecy of the final union of all reverent and devout
Time was when one man framed a dogma and declared it to be the eternal truth.
Another man did the same thing, with a different dogma; then the two began to
hate each other with an unholy hatred, each seeking to impose his dogma upon the
other--and that is an epitome of some of the blackest pages of history. Against
those old sectarians who substituted intolerance for charity, persecution for
friendship, and did not love God because they hated their neighbors, Masonry
made eloquent protest, putting their bigotry to shame by its simple insight, and
the dignity of its golden voice. A vast change of heart is now taking place in
the religious world, by reason of an exchange of thought and courtesy, and a
closer personal touch, and the various sects, so long estranged, are learning to
unite upon the things most worth while and the least open to debate. That is to
say, they are moving toward the Masonic position, and when they arrive Masonry
will witness a scene, which she has prophesied for ages.
At last, in the not distant future, the old feuds of the sects will come to
an end, forgotten in the discovery that the just, the brave, the true-hearted
are everywhere of one religion, and that when the masks of misunderstanding are
taken off they know and love one another. Our little dogmas will have their day
and cease to be, lost in the vision of a truth so great that all men are one in
their littleness; one also in their assurance of the divinity of the soul and
"the kindness of the veiled Father of men." Then men of every name will ask,
when they meet:
Not what is your creed?
But what is your need?
High above all dogmas that divide, all bigotries that blind, all
bitterness that beclouds, will be written the simple words of the one eternal
religion--the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the moral law, the
golden rule, and the hope of a life everlasting!
The Masonic Philosophy
Masonry directs us to divest ourselves of
confined and bigoted notions, and teaches us, that Humanity is the soul of
Religion. We never suffer any religious disputes in our Lodges, and, as Masons,
we only pursue the universal religion, the Religion, of Nature. Worshipers of
the God of Mercy, we believe that in every nation, he that feareth Him and
worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. All Masons, therefore, whether
Christians, Jews, or Mahomedans, who violate not the rule of right, written by
the Almighty upon the tables of the heart, who Do fear Him, and WORK
righteousness, we are to acknowledge as brethren; and, though we take different
roads, we are not to be angry with, or persecute each other on that account. We
mean to travel to the same place; we know that the end of our journey is the
same; and we affectionately hope to meet in the Lodge of perfect happiness. How
lovely is an institution fraught with sentiments like these! How agreeable must
it be to Him who is seated on a throne of Everlasting Mercy, to the God who is
no respecter of persons!
WM. HUTCHINSON, The Spirit of Masonry.
Hast any philosophy in thee, Shepherd?" was the question of Touchstone in
the Shakespeare play; and that is the question we must always ask ourselves.
[As You Like It (act ii, scene ii). Shakespeare
makes no reference to any secret society, but some of his allusions suggest that
he knew more than he wrote. He describes "The singing Masons building roofs of
gold" (Henry V, act i, scene ii), and compares them to a swarm of bees at work.
Did he know what the bee hive means in the symbolism of Masonry? (Read an
interesting article on "Shakespeare and Freemasonry," American Freemason,
January, 1912.) It reminds one of the passage in the Complete Angler, by Isaak
Walton, in which the gentle fisherman talks about the meaning of Pillars in
language very like that used in the Old Charges. But Hawkins in his edition of
the Angler recalls that Walton was a friend of Elias Ashmole, and may have
learned of Masonry from him. (A Short Masonic History, by F. Armitage, vol. ii,
Long ago Kant said that it is the mission of philosophy, not to discover
truth, but to set it in order, to seek out the rhythm of things and their reason
for being. Beginning in wonder, it sees the familiar as if it were strange, and
its mind is full of the air that plays round every subject. Spacious, humane,
eloquent, it is "a blend of science, poetry, religion and logic", a softening,
enlarging, ennobling influence, giving us a wider and clearer outlook, more air,
more room, more light, and more background.
[Some Problems of Philosophy, by William ]
When we look at Masonry in this large and mellow light, it is like a stately old
cathedral, gray with age, rich in associations, its steps worn by innumerable
feet of the living and the dead--not piteous, but strong and enduring. Entering
its doors, we wonder at its lofty spaces, its windows with the dimness and glory
of the Infinite behind them, the spring of its pillars, the leap of its arches,
and its roof inlaid with stars. Inevitably we ask, whence came this temple of
faith and friendship, and what does it mean, rising lightly as a lyric, uplifted
by the hunger for truth and the love for beauty, and exempt from the shock of
years and the ravages of decay? What faith builded this home of the soul, what
philosophy underlies and upholds it? Truly did Longfellow sing of The
In the elder years of art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and hidden part,
For the gods see everywhere.
If we examine the foundations of Masonry, we find that it rests upon the most
fundamental of all truths, the first truth and the last, the sovereign and
supreme Reality. Upon the threshold of its Lodges every man, whether prince or
peasant, is asked to confess his faith in God the Father Almighty, the Architect
and Master-Builder of the Universe. 1
That is not a mere form of words, but the deepest and most solemn affirmation
that human lips can make. To be indifferent to God is to be indifferent to
the greatest of all realities, that upon which the aspiration of humanity rests
for its uprising passion of desire. No institution that is dumb concerning the
meaning of life and the character of the universe, can last. It is a house built
upon the sand, doomed to fall when the winds blow and floods beat upon it,
lacking a sure foundation. No human fraternity that has not its inspiration in
the Fatherhood of God, confessed or unconfessed, can long endure; it is a rope
of sand, weak as water, and its fine sentiment quickly evaporates. Life leads,
if we follow its meanings and think in the drift of its deeper conclusions, to
one God as the ground of the world, and upon that ground Masonry lays her
corner-stone. Therefore, it endures and grows, and the gates of hell cannot
prevail against it!
While Masonry is theocratic in its faith and philosophy, it does not limit
its conception of the Divine, much less insist upon any one name for "the
Nameless One of a hundred names." [ In 1877
the Grand Orient of France removed the Bible from its altar and erased from its
ritual all reference to Deity; and for so doing it was disfellowshiped by nearly
every Grand Lodge in the world. The writer of the article on "Masonry" in the
Catholic Encyclopedia recalls this fact with emphasis; but he is much fairer to
the Grand Orient than many Masonic writers have been. He understands that this
does not mean that the Masons of France are atheistic, as that word is
ordinarily used, but that they do not believe that there exist Atheists in the
absolute sense of the word; and he quotes the words of Albert Pike: "A man who
has a higher conception of God than those about him, and who denies that their
conception is God, is very likely to be called an Atheist by men who are really
far less believers in God than he" (Morals and Dogma, p. 643). Thus, as Pike
goes on to say, the early Christians, who said the heathen idols were no Gods,
were accounted Atheists, and accordingly put to death. We need not hold a brief
for the Grand Orient, but it behooves us to understand its position and point of
view, lest we be found guilty of a petty bigotry in regard to a word when the
reality is a common treasure. First, it was felt that France needed the aid of
every man who was an enemy of Latin ecclesiasticism, in order to bring about a
separation of Church and State; hence the attitude of the Grand Orient. Second,
the Masons of France agree with Plutarch that no conception of God at all is
better than a dark, distorted superstition which wraps men in terror; and they
erased a word which, for many, was associated with an unworthy faith--the better
to seek a unity of effort in behalf of liberty of thought and a loftier faith.
(The Religion of Plutarch, by Oakesmith; also the Bacon essay on Superstition.)
We may deem this unwise, but we ought at least to understand its spirit and
Indeed, no feature of Masonry is more fascinating that its age-long quest
of the Lost Word, ["History of the Lost Word,"
by J. F. Garrison, appendix to Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry, by
G. F. Fort--one of the most brilliant Masonic books, both in scholarship and
the Ineffable Name; a quest that never tires, never tarries, knowing the
while that every name is inadequate, and all words are but symbols of a Truth
too great for words--every letter of the alphabet, in fact, having been evolved
from some primeval sign or signal of the faith and hope of humanity. Thus
Masonry, so far from limiting the thought of God, is evermore in search of a
more satisfying and revealing vision of the meaning of the universe, now
luminous and lovely, now dark and terrible; and it invites all men to unite in
One in the freedom of the Truth,
One in the joy of paths untrod,
One in the soul's perennial Youth,
One in the larger thought of God.
Truly the human consciousness of fellowship with the Eternal, under whatever
name, may well hush all words, still more hush argument and anathema.
Possession, not recognition, is the only thing important; and if it is not
recognized, the fault must surely be, in large part, our own. Given the one
great experience, and before long kindred spirits will join in the Universal
Prayer of Alexander Pope, himself a Mason:
Father of all! in every age,
In every clime adored,
By Saint, by Savage, and by Sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
With eloquent unanimity our Masonic thinkers proclaim the unity and love of
God--whence their vision of the ultimate unity and love of mankind,to be the
great truth of the Masonic philosophy; the unity of God and the immortality of
the soul. [ Symbolism of Masonry, by Dr.
Mackey (chap. i) and other books too many to name. It need hardly be said that
the truth of the trinity, whereof the triangle is an emblem--though with
Pythagoras it was a symbol of holiness, of health--was never meant to contradict
the unity of God, but to make it more vivid. As too often interpreted, it is
little more than a crude tri-theism, but at its best it is not so. "God thrice,
not three Gods," was the word of St. Augustine (Essay on the Trinity), meaning
three aspects of God--not the 'mathematics of His nature, but its manifoldness,
its variety in unity. The late W. N. Clarke--who put more common sense into
theology than any other man of his day--pointed out that, in our time, the old
debate about the trinity is as dead as Caesar; the truth of God as a Father
having taken up into itself the warmth, color, and tenderness of the truth of
the trinity--which, as said on an earlier page, was a vision of God through the
family (Christian Doctrine of God).]
Amidst polytheisms, dualisms, and endless confusions, they hold it to have been
the great mission of Masonry to preserve these precious truths, beside which, in
the long result of thought and faith, all else fades and grows dim. Of this
there is no doubt; and science has come at last to vindicate this wise insight,
by unveiling the unity of the universe with overwhelming emphasis.
Unquestionably the universe is an inexhaustible wonder. Still, it is a wonder,
not a contradiction, and we can never find its rhythm save in the truth of the
unity of all things in God. Other clue there is none. Down to this deep
foundation Masonry digs for a basis of its temple, and builds securely. If this
be false or unstable, then is
The pillar’d firmament rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble.
Upon the altar of Masonry lies the open Bible which, despite the changes and
advances of the ages, remains the greatest Modern Book--the moral manual of
[ The Bible, the Great Source of Masonic
Secrets and Observances, by Dr. Oliver. No Mason need be told what a large place
the Bible has in the symbolism, ritual, and teaching of the Order, and it has an
equally large place in its literature.] All through its pages,
through the smoke of Sinai, through "the forest of the Psalms," through proverbs
and parables, along the dreamy ways of prophecy, in gospels and epistles is
heard the everlasting truth of one God who is love, and who requires of men that
they love one another, do justly, be merciful, keep themselves unspotted by
evil, and walk humbly before Him in whose great hand they stand. There we read
of the Man of Galilee who taught that, in the far distances of the divine
Fatherhood, all men were conceived in love, and so are akin--united in origin,
duty, and destiny. Therefore we are to relieve the distressed, put the wanderer
into his way, and divide our bread with the hungry, which is but the way of
doing good to ourselves; for we are all members of one great family, and the
hurt of one means the injury of all.
This profound and reverent faith from which, as from a never-failing spring,
flow heroic devotedness, moral self-respect, authentic sentiments of fraternity,
inflexible fidelity in life and effectual consolation in death, Masonry has at
all times religiously taught. Perseveringly it has propagated it through the
centuries, and never more zealously than in our age. Scarcely a Masonic
discourse is pronounced, or a Masonic lesson read, by the highest officer or the
humblest lecturer, that does not earnestly teach this one true religion, which
is the very soul of Masonry, its basis and apex, its light and power. Upon that
faith it rests; in that faith it lives and labors; and by that faith it will
conquer at last, when the noises and confusions of today have followed the
tangled feet that made them.
Out of this simple faith grows, by inevitable logic, the philosophy which
Masonry teaches in signs and symbols, in pictures and parables. Stated briefly,
stated vividly, it is that behind the pageant of nature, in it and over it,
there is a Supreme Mind, which initiates, impels, and controls all. That behind
the life of man and its pathetic story in history, in it and over it, there is a
righteous Will, the intelligent Conscience of the Most High. In short, that
the first and last thing in the universe is mind, that the highest and deepest
thing is conscience, and that the final reality is the absoluteness of love.
Higher than that faith cannot fly; deeper than that thought cannot dig.
No deep is deep enough to show
The springs whence being starts to flow.
No fastness of the soul reveals
Life's subtlest impulse and appeals.
We seem to come, we seem to go;
But whence or whither who can know?
It's all in that one syllable--
God! Only God. God first, God last.
God, infinitesimally vast;
God who is love, love which is God,
The rootless, everflowering rod!
There is but one real alternative to this philosophy. It is not
atheism--which is seldom more than a revulsion from superstition--because the
adherents of absolute atheism are so few, if any, and its intellectual position
is too precarious ever to be a menace. An atheist, if such there be, is an
orphan, a waif wandering the midnight streets of time, homeless and alone. Nor
is the alternative
agnosticism, which in the nature of things can be only a passing mood of
thought, when, indeed, it is not a confession of intellectual bankruptcy, or a
labor-saving device to escape the toil and fatigue of high thinking. It trembles
in perpetual hesitation, like a donkey equi-distant between two bundles of hay,
starving to death but unable to make up its mind. No, the real alternative is
materialism, which played so large a part in philosophy fifty years ago, and
which, defeated there, has betaken itself to the field of practical affairs.
This is the dread alternative of a denial of the great faith of humanity, a
blight, which would apply a sponge to all the high aspirations and ideals of the
race. According to this dogma, the first and last things in the universe are
atoms, their number, dance, combinations, and growth. All mind, all will, all
emotion, all character, all love is incidental, transitory, vain. The sovereign
fact is mud, the final reality is dirt, and the decree of destiny is "dust unto
Against this ultimate horror, it need hardly be said that in every age
Masonry has stood as a witness for the life of the spirit. In the war of the
soul against dust, in the choice between dirt and Deity, it has allied itself on
the side of the great idealisms and optimisms of humanity. It takes the
spiritual view of life and the world as being most in accord with the facts of
experience, the promptings of right reason, and the voice of conscience. In
other words, it dares to read the meaning of the universe through what is
highest in man, not through what is lower, asserting that the soul is akin to
the Eternal Spirit, and that by a life of righteousness its eternal quality is
revealed. Upon this philosophy Masonry rests, and finds a rock beneath:
On Him, this corner-stone we build,
On Him, this edifice erect;
And still, until this work's fulfilled,
May He the workman's ways direct.
[Read the great argument of Plato in The
Republic (book vi). The present writer does not wish to impose upon Masonry any
dogma of technical Idealism, subjective, objective, or otherwise. No more than
others does he hold to a static universe which unrolls in time a plan made out
before, but to a world of wonders where life has the risk and zest of adventure.
He rejoices in the New Idealism of Rudolf Eucken, with its gospel of "an
independent spiritual life"--independent, that is, of vicissitude--and its
insistence upon the fact that the meaning of life depends upon our "building up
within ourselves a life that is not of time" (Life's Basis and Life's Ideal).
But the intent of these pages is, rather, to emphasize the spiritual view of
life and the world as the philosophy underlying Masonry, and upon which it
builds--the reality of the ideal, its sovereignty over our fragile human life,
and the immutable necessity of loyalty to it, if we are to build for eternity.
After all, as Plotinus said, philosophy "serves to point the way and guide the
traveller; the vision is for him who will see it." But the direction means much
to those who are seeking the truth to know it.]
Now, consider! All our human thinking, whether it be in science, philosophy, or
religion, rests for its validity upon faith in the kinship of man with God. If
that faith be false, the temple of human thought falls to wreck, and behold! we
know not anything and have no way of learning. But the fact that the universe is
intelligible, that we can follow its forces, trace its laws, and make a map of
it, finding the infinite even in the infinitesimal, shows that the mind of man
is akin to the Mind that made it. Also, there are two aspects of the nature of
man, which lift him above the brute and bespeak his divine heredity. They are
reason and conscience, both of which are of more than sense and time, having
their source, satisfaction, and authority in an unseen, eternal world. That
is to say, man is a being who, if not actually immortal, is called by the very
law and necessity of his being to live as if he were immortal. Unless life be
utterly abortive, having neither rhyme nor reason, the soul of man is itself the
one sure proof and prophet of its own high faith. Consider, too, what it means
to say that this mighty soul of man is akin to the Eternal Soul of all things.
It means that we are not shapes of mud placed here by chance, but sons of the
Most High, citizens of eternity, deathless as God our Father is deathless; and
that there is laid upon us an abiding obligation to live in a manner befitting
the dignity of the soul. It means that what a man thinks, the parity of his
feeling, the character of his activity and career are of vital and ceaseless
concern to the Eternal. Here is a philosophy which lights up the universe
like a sunrise, confirming the dim, dumb certainties of the soul, evolving
meaning out of mystery, and hope out of what would else be despair. It brings
out the colors of human life, investing our fleeting mortal years--brief at
their longest, broken at its best--with enduring significance and beauty. It
gives to each of us, however humble and obscure, a place and a part in the
stupendous historical enterprise; makes us fellow workers with the Eternal in
His redemptive making of humanity, and binds us to do His will upon earth as it
is done in heaven. It subdues the intellect; it softens the heart; it begets in
the will that sense of self-respect without which high and heroic living cannot
be. Such is the philosophy upon which Masonry builds; and from it flow, as from
the rock smitten in the wilderness, those bright streams that wander through and
water this human world of ours.
Because this is so, because the human soul is akin to God, and is endowed
with powers to which no one may set a limit, it is and of right ought to be
free. Thus, by the logic of its philosophy, not less than the inspiration of its
faith, Masonry has been impelled to make its historic demand for liberty of
conscience, for the freedom of the intellect, and for the right of all men to
stand erect, unfettered, and unafraid, equal before God and the law, each
respecting the rights of his fellows. What we have to remember is, that before
this truth was advocated by any order, or embodied in any political
constitution, it was embedded in the will of God and the constitution of the
human soul. Nor will Masonry ever swerve one jot or little from its ancient and
eloquent demand till all men, everywhere, are free in body, mind, and soul.
As it is, Lowell was right when he wrote,
are not free: Freedom doth not consist
In musing with our faces toward the Past
While petty cares and crawling interests twist
Their spider threads about us, which at last
Grow strong as iron chains and cramp and bind
In formal narrowness heart, soul, and mind.
Freedom is recreated year by year,
In hearts wide open on the Godward side,
In souls calm-cadenced as the whirling sphere,
In minds that sway the future like a tide.
No broadest creeds can hold her, and no codes;
She chooses men for her august abodes,
Building them fair and fronting to the dawn.
Some day, when the cloud of prejudice has been dispelled by the
searchlight of truth, the world will honor Masonry for its service to freedom of
thought and the liberty of faith. No part of its history has been more noble, no
principle of its teaching has been more precious than its age-long demand for
the right and duty of every soul to seek that light by which no man was ever
injured, and that truth which makes man free. Down through the
centuries--often in times when the highest crime was not murder, but thinking,
and the human conscience was a captive dragged at the wheel of the
ecclesiastical chariot--always and everywhere Masonry has stood for the right of
the soul to know the truth, and to look up unhindered from the lap of earth into
the face of God. Not freedom from faith, but
freedom of faith, has been its watchword, on the ground that as
despotism is the
mother of anarchy, so bigoted dogmatism is the prolific source of scepticism--knowing,
also, that our race has made its most rapid advance in those fields where it has
been free the longest.
Against those who would fetter thought in order to perpetuate an effete
authority, who would give the skinny hand of the past a scepter to rule the
aspiring and prophetic present, and seal the lips of living scholars with the
dicta of dead scholastics, Masonry will never ground arms! Her plea is for
government without tyranny and religion without superstition, and as surely as
suns rise and set her fight will be crowned with victory. Defeat is impossible,
the more so because she fights not with force, still less with intrigue, but
with the power of truth, the persuasions of reason, and the might of gentleness,
seeking not to destroy her enemies, but to win them to the liberty of the truth
and the fellowship of love.
Not only does Masonry plead for that liberty of faith, which permits a man
to hold what seems to him true, but also, and with equal emphasis, for the
liberty which faith gives to the soul, emancipating it from the despotism of
doubt and the fetters of fear. Therefore, by every art of spiritual culture, it
seeks to keep alive in the hearts of men a great and simple trust in the
goodness of God, in the worth of life, and the divinity of the soul--a trust so
apt to be crushed by the tramp of heavy years. Help a man to a firm faith in
an Infinite Pity at the heart of this dark world, and from how many fears is he
free! Once a temple of terror, haunted by shadows, his heart becomes "a
cathedral of serenity and gladness," and his life is enlarged and unfolded into
richness of character and service. Nor is there any tyranny like the tyranny
of time. Give a man a day to live, and he is like a bird in a cage beating
against its bars. Give him a year in which to move to and fro with his thoughts
and plans, his purposes and hopes, and you have liberated him from the despotism
of a day. Enlarge the scope of his life to fifty years, and he has a moral
dignity of attitude and a sweep of power impossible hitherto. But give him a
sense of Eternity; let him know that he plans and works in an ageless time; that
above his blunders and sins there hovers and waits the infinite, then he is
Nevertheless, if life on earth be worthless, so is immortality. The real
question, after all, is not as to the quantity of life, but its quality--its
depth, its purity, its fortitude, its fineness of spirit and gesture of soul.
Hence the insistent emphasis of Masonry upon the building of character and the
practice of righteousness; upon that moral culture without which man is
rudimentary, and that spiritual vision without which intellect is the slave of
greed or passion. What makes a man great and freed of soul, here or any where,
is loyalty to the laws of right, of truth, of purity, of love, and the lofty
will of God. How to live is the one matter; and the oldest man in his ripe age
has yet to seek a wiser way than to build, year by year, upon a foundation of
faith in God, using the Square of justice, the Plumb-line of rectitude, the
Compass to restrain the passions, and the Rule by which to divide our time into
labor, rest and service to our fellows. Let us begin now and seek wisdom in
the beauty of virtue and live in the light of it, rejoicing; so in this world
shall we have a fore gleam of the world to come--bringing down to the Gate in
the Mist something that ought not to die, assured that, though hearts are dust,
as God lives what is excellent is enduring!
Bede the Venerable, in giving an account of the deliberations of the King of
Northumberland and his counsellors, as to whether they should allow the
Christian missionaries to teach a new faith to the people, recites this
incident. After much debate, a gray-haired chief recalled the feeling, which
came over him on seeing a little bird pass through, on fluttering wing, the warm
bright hall of feasting, while winter winds raged without. The moment of its
flight was full of sweetness and light for the bird, but it was brief. Out of
the darkness it flew, looked upon the bright scene, and vanished into the
darkness again, none knowing whence it came nor whither it went. "Like this,"
said the veteran chief, "is human life. We come, our wise men cannot tell
whence. We go, and they cannot tell whither. Our flight is brief. Therefore, if
there be anyone that can teach us more about it--in God's name let us hear him!"
Even so, let us hear what Masonry has to say in the great argument for the
immortality of the soul.
"But, instead of making an argument linked and strong, it presents a
picture--the oldest, if not the greatest drama in the world--the better to make
men feel those truths which no mortal words can utter. It shows us the black
tragedy of life in its darkest hour; the forces of evil, so cunning yet so
stupid, which come up against the soul, tempting it to treachery, and even to
of saving life by giving up all that makes life worth living; a tragedy which,
in its simplicity and power, makes the heart ache and stand still. Then, out of
the thick darkness there rises, like a beautiful white star, that in man which
is most akin to God, his love of truth, his loyalty to the highest, and his
willingness to go down into the night of death, if only virtue may live and
shine like a pulse of fire in the evening sky. Here is the ultimate and final
witness of our divinity and immortality--the sublime, death-defying moral
heroism of the human soul! Surely the eternal
holds true at the gates of the grave: he who loses his life for the sake of
truth, shall find it anew! And here Masonry rests the matter, assured that since
there is that in man, which makes him hold to the moral ideal, and the integrity
of his own soul, against all the brute forces of the world, the God who made man
in His own image will not let him die in the dust! Higher vision is not given us
to see in the dim country of this world; deeper truth we do not need to know.
Working with hands soon to be folded, we build up the structure of our lives
from what our fingers can feel, our eyes can see, and our ears can hear. Till,
in a moment, marvelous whether it come in storm and tears, or softly as twilight
breath beneath unshadowed skies--we are called upon to yield our grasp of these
solid things, and trust ourselves to the invisible Soul within us, which betakes
itself along an invisible path into the Unknown. It is strange: a door opens
into a new world; and man, child of the dust that he is, follows his adventurous
Soul, as the Soul follows an inscrutable Power which is more elusive than the
wind that bloweth where it listeth. Suddenly, with fixed eyes and blanched lips,
we lie down and wait; and life, well-fought or wasted, bright or somber, lies
behind us--a dream that is dreamt, a thing that is no more. O Death,
Thou hast destroyed it,
The beautiful world,
With powerful fist:
In ruin ’tis hurled,
By the blow of a demigod shattered!
The scattered p. 279
Fragments into the void we carry,
The beauty perished beyond restoring.
For the children of men,
Build it again,
In thine own bosom build it anew!
O Youth, for whom these lines are written, fear not; fear not to believe that
the soul is as eternal as the moral order that obtains in it, wherefore you
shall forever pursue that divine beauty which has here so touched and
transfigured you; for that is the faith of humanity, your race, and those who
are fairest in its records. Let us lay it to heart, love it, and act upon it,
that we may learn its deep meaning as regards others--our dear dead whom we
think of, perhaps, every day--and find it easier to be brave and hopeful, even
when we are sad. It is not a faith to be taken lightly, but deeply and in the
quiet of the soul, if so that we may grow into its high meanings for ourselves,
as life grows or declines.
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
The Spirit of Masonry
The crest and crowning of all good,
Life's final star, is Brotherhood;
For it will bring again to Earth
Her long-lost Poesy and Mirth;
Will send new light on every face,
A kingly power upon the race.
And till it comes we men are slaves,
And travel downward to the dust of graves.
Come, clear the way, then, clear the way:
Blind creeds and kings have had their day.
Break the dead branches from the path:
Our hope is in the aftermath--
Our hope is in heroic men,
Star-led to build the world again.
To this event the ages ran:
Make way for Brotherhood--make way for Man.
EDWIN MARKHAM, Poems.
Outside of the home and the house of God there is nothing in this world more
beautiful than the Spirit of Masonry. Gentle, gracious, and wise, its mission is
to form mankind into a great redemptive brotherhood, a league of noble and free
men enlisted in the radiant enterprise of working out in time the love and will
of the Eternal. Who is sufficient to describe a spirit so benign? With what
words may one ever hope to capture and detain that which belongs of right to the
genius of poetry and song, by whose magic those elusive and impalpable realities
find embodiment and voice? With picture, parable, and stately drama, Masonry
appeals to lovers of beauty, bringing poetry and symbol to the aid of
philosophy, and art to the service of character. Broad and tolerant in its
teaching, it appeals to men of intellect, equally by the depth of its faith and
its plea for liberty of thought, helping them to think things through to a more
satisfying and hopeful vision of the meaning of life and the mystery of the
world. But its profoundest appeal, more eloquent than all others, is to the deep
heart of man, out of which are the issues of life and destiny. When all is said,
it is as a man thinketh in his heart whether life be worthwhile or not, and
whether he is a help or a curse to his race.
Here lies the tragedy of our race:
Not that men are poor;
All men know something of poverty.
Not that men are wicked;
Who can claim to be good?
Not that men are ignorant;
Who can boast that he is wise?
But that men are strangers!
Masonry is Friendship--friendship, first, with the great Companion, of whom
our own hearts tell us, who is always nearer to us than we are to our-selves,
and whose inspiration and help is the greatest fact of human experience. To be
in harmony with His purposes, to be open to His suggestions, to be conscious of
fellowship with Him, this is Masonry on its God ward side. Then, turning man
ward, friendship sums it all up. To be friends with all men, however they may
differ from us in creed, color, or condition; to fill every human relation with
the spirit of friendship; is there anything more or better than this that the
wisest and best of men can hope to do? Such is the spirit of Masonry; such is
its ideal, and if to realize it all at once is denied us, surely it means much
to see it, love it, and labor to make it come true.
[Suggested by a noble passage in the
Recollections of Washington Gladden; and the great preacher goes on to say: "If
the church could accept this truth--that Religion is Friendship--and build its
own life upon it, and make it central and organic in all its teachings, should
we not have a great revival of religion?" Indeed, yes; and of the right kind of
religion, too! Walt Whitman found the basis of all philosophy, all religion, in
"the dear love of man for his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend" (The
Base of all Metaphysics). As for Masonic literature, it is one perpetual paean
in praise of the practice of friendship, from earliest time to our own day.
Take, for example, the Illustrations of Masonry, by Preston (first book, sect. i-x);
and Arnold, as we have seen, defined Masonry as Friendship, as did Hutchinson
(The Spirit of Masonry, lectures xi, xii). These are but two notes of a mighty
anthem whose chorus is never hushed in the temple of Masonry! Of course, there
are those who say that the finer forces of life are frail and foolish, but the
influence of the cynic in the advance of the race is--nothing!]
Nor is this Spirit of Friendship a mere sentiment held by a sympathetic,
and therefore unstable, fraternity, which would dissolve the concrete features
of humanity into a vague blur of misty emotion. No, it has its roots in a
profound philosophy, which sees that the universe is friendly, and that men must
learn to be friends if they would live as befits the world in which they live,
as well as their own origin and destiny. For, since God is the life of all that
was, is, and is to be and since we are all born into the world by one high
wisdom and one vast love, we are brothers to the last man of us, forever!
For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, and even
after death us do part, all men are held together by ties of spiritual kinship,
sons of one eternal Friend. Upon this fact human fraternity rests, and it is the
basis of the plea of Masonry, not only for freedom, but for friendship among
Thus friendship, so far from being a mush of concessions, is in fact the
constructive genius of the universe. Love is ever the Builder, and those who
have done most to establish the City of God on earth have been the men who loved
their fellow men. Once let this spirit prevail, and the wrangling sects will be
lost in a great league of those who love in the service of those who suffer. No
man will then revile the faith in which his neighbor finds help for today and
hope for the morrow; pity will smite him mute, and love will teach him that God
is found in many ways, by those who seek him with honest hearts. Once let this
spirit rule in the realm of trade, and the law of the jungle will cease, and men
will strive to build a social order in which all men may have opportunity "to
live, and to live well," as Aristotle defined the purpose of society. Here is
the basis of that magical stability aimed at by the earliest artists when they
sought to build for eternity, by imitating on earth the House of God.
Our human history,
saturated with blood and blistered with tears, is the story of man making
friends with man. Society has evolved from a feud into a friendship by the slow
growth of love and the welding of man, first to his kin, and then to his kind. [The
Neighbor, by N. S. Shaler.]
The first men who walked in the red dawn of time lived every man for himself,
his heart a sanctuary of suspicions, every man feeling that every other man was
his foe, and therefore his prey. So there were war, strife, and bloodshed.
Slowly there came to the savage a gleam of the truth that it is better to help
than to hurt, and he organized clans and tribes. But tribes were divided by
rivers and mountains, and the men on one side of the river felt that the men on
the other side were their enemies. Again there were war, pillage, and sorrow.
Great empires arose and met in the shock of conflict, leaving trails of
skeletons across the earth. Then came the great roads, reaching out with their
stony clutch and bringing the ends of the earth together. Men met, mingled,
passed and repassed, and learned that human nature is much the same everywhere,
with hopes and fears in common. Still there were many things to divide and
estrange men from each other, and the earth was full of bitterness. Not
satisfied with natural barriers, men erected high walls of sect and caste, to
exclude their fellows, and the men of one sect were sure that the men of all
other sects were wrong--and doomed to be lost. Thus, when real mountains no
longer separated man from man, mountains were made out of molehills--mountains
of immemorial misunderstanding not yet moved into the sea!
Barriers of race, of creed, of caste, of habit, of training and interest
separate men today, as if some malign genius were bent on keeping man from his
fellows, begetting suspicion, uncharitableness and hate. Still there are war,
waste, and woe! Yet all the while men have been unfriendly, and, therefore,
unjust and cruel, only because they are unacquainted. Amidst feud, faction, and
folly, Masonry, the oldest and most widely spread order, toils in behalf of
friendship, uniting men upon the only basis upon which they can ever meet with
dignity. Each lodge is an oasis of equality and goodwill in a desert of strife,
working to weld mankind into a great league of sympathy and service, which, by
the terms of our definition, it seeks to exhibit even now on a small scale. At
its altar men meet as man to man, without vanity and without pretense, without
fear and without reproach, as tourists crossing the Alps tie themselves
together, so that if one slip all may hold him up. No tongue can tell the
meaning of such a ministry, no pen can trace its influence in melting the
hardness of the world into pity and gladness.
The Spirit of Masonry! He who would describe that spirit must be a poet, a
musician, and a seer--a master of melodies, echoes, and long, far-sounding
cadences. Now, as always, it toils to make man better, to refine his thought and
purify his sympathy, to broaden his outlook, to lift his altitude, to establish
in amplitude and resoluteness his life in all its relations. All its great
history, its vast accumulations of tradition, its simple faith and its solemn
rites, its freedom and its friendship are dedicated to a high moral ideal,
seeking to tame the tiger in man, and bring his wild passions into obedience to
the will of God. It has no other mission than to exalt and ennoble humanity, to
bring light out of darkness, beauty out of angularity; to make every hard-won
inheritance more secure, every sanctuary more sacred, every hope more radiant!
[If Masons often fall far below their high ideal, it is because they share in
their degree the infirmity of mankind. He is a poor craftsman who glibly recites
the teachings of the Order and quickly forgets the lessons they convey; who
wears its honorable dress to conceal a self-seeking spirit; or to whom its
great and simple symbols bring only an outward thrill, and no inward urge toward
the highest of all good. Apart from what they symbolize, all symbols are empty;
they speak only to such as have ears to hear. At the same time, we have always
to remember--what has been so often and so sadly forgotten--that the most sacred
shrine on earth is the soul of man; and that the temple and its offices are not
ends in themselves, but only beautiful means to the end that every human heart
may be a temple of peace, of purity, of power, of pity, and of hope!]
The Spirit of Masonry! Ay, when that spirit has its way upon earth, as at
last it surely will, society will be a vast communion of kindness and justice,
business a system of human service, law a rule of beneficence; the home will be
more holy, the laughter of childhood more joyous, and the temple of prayer
mortised and tenoned in simple faith. Evil, injustice, bigotry, greed, and every
vile and slimy thing that defiles and defames humanity will skulk into the dark,
unable to bear the light of a juster, wiser, more merciful order. Industry will
be upright, education prophetic, and religion not a shadow, but a Real Presence,
when man has become acquainted with man and has learned to worship God by
serving his fellows. When Masonry is victorious every tyranny will fall,
every bastile crumble, and man will be not only unfettered in mind and hand, but
free of heart to walk erect in the light and liberty of the truth.
Toward a great friendship, long foreseen by Masonic faith, the world is
slowly moving, amid difficulties and delays, reactions and reconstructions.
Though long deferred, of that day, which will surely arrive, when nations will
be reverent in the use of freedom, just in the exercise of power, humane in the
practice of wisdom; when no man will ride over the rights of his fellows; when
no woman will be made forlorn, no little child wretched by bigotry or greed,
Masonry has ever been a prophet. Nor will she ever be content until all the
threads of human fellowship are woven into one mystic cord of friendship,
encircling the earth and holding the race in unity of spirit and the bonds of
peace, as in the will of God it is one in the origin and end. Having outlived
empires and philosophies, having seen generations appear and vanish, it will yet
live to see the travail of its soul, and be satisfied--
When the war-drum throbs no longer,
And the battle flags are furled;
In the parliament of man,
The federation of the world.
Manifestly, since love is the law of life, if men are to be won from hate to
love, if those who doubt and deny are to be wooed to faith, if the race is ever
to be led and lifted into a life of service, it must be by the fine art of
Friendship. Inasmuch as this is the purpose of Masonry, its mission determines
the method not less than the spirit of its labor. Earnestly it endeavors to
bring men, first the individual man, and then, so far as possible, those who are
united with him, to love one another, while holding aloft, in picture and dream,
that temple of character which is the noblest labor of life to build in the
midst of the years, and which will outlast time and death. Thus it seeks to
reach the lonely inner life of man where the real battles are fought, and where
the issues of destiny are decided, now with shouts of victory, now with sobs of
defeat. What a ministry to a young man who enters its temple in the morning of
life, when the dew of heaven is upon his days and the birds are singing in his
heart! [Read the noble words of Arnold on
the value of Masonry to the young as a restraint, a refinement, and a
conservator of virtue, throwing about youth the mantle of a great friendship and
the consecration of a great ideal (History and Philosophy of Masonry, chap.
From the wise lore of the East, Max Müller translated a parable, which
tells how the gods, having stolen from man his divinity, met in council to
discuss where they should hide it. One suggested that it be carried to the other
side of the earth and buried; but it was pointed out that man is a great
wanderer, and that he might find the lost treasure on the other side of the
earth. Another proposed that it be dropped into the depths of the sea; but the
same fear was expressed--that man, in his insatiable curiosity, might dive deep
enough to find it even there. Finally, after a space of silence, the oldest and
wisest of the gods said: "Hide it in man himself, as that is the last place he
will ever think to look for it!" And it was so agreed, all seeing at once the
subtle and wise strategy. Man did wander over the earth, for ages, seeking in
all places high and low, far and near, before he thought to look within himself
for the divinity he sought. At last, slowly, dimly, he began to realize that
what he thought was far off, hidden in "the pathos of distance," is nearer than
the breath he breathes, even in his own heart.
Here lies the great secret of Masonry, that it makes a man aware of that
divinity within him, wherefrom his whole life takes its beauty and meaning, and
inspires him to follow and obey it. Once a man learns this deep secret, life is
new, and the old world is a valley all dewy to the dawn with a lark-song over it.
There never was a truer saying than that the religion of a man is the chief fact
concerning him. [Heroes and Hero-worship, by
Thomas Carlyle, lecture i.]
By religion is meant not the creed to which a man will subscribe, or
otherwise give his assent; not that necessarily; often not that at all, since we
see men of all degrees of worth and worthlessness signing all kinds of creeds.
No, the religion of a man is that which he practically believes, lays to heart,
acts upon, and thereby knows concerning this mysterious universe and his duty
and destiny in it. That is in all cases the primary thing in him, and creatively
determines all the rest; that is his religion. It is, then, of vital importance
what faith, what vision, what conception of life a man lays to heart, and acts
At bottom, a man is what his thinking is, thoughts being the artists who give
color to our days. Optimists and pessimists live in the same world, walk under
the same sky, and observe the same facts. Sceptics and believers look up at the
same great stars--the stars that shone in Eden and will flash again in Paradise.
Clearly the difference between them is a difference not of fact, but of
faith--of insight, outlook, and point of view--a difference of inner attitude
and habit of thought with regard to the worth and use of life. By the same
token, any influence which reaches and alters that inner habit and bias of mind,
and changes it from doubt to faith, from fear to courage, from despair to
sun-burst hope, has wrought the most benign ministry which a mortal may enjoy.
Every man has a train of thought on which he rides when he is alone and the
worth of his life to himself and others, as well as its happiness, depend upon
the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the
country through which it travels. If, then, Masonry can put that inner train of
thought on the right track, freight it with precious treasure, and start it on
the way to the City of God, what other or higher ministry can it render to a
man? And that is what it does for any man who will listen to it, love it, and
lay its truth to heart.
High, fine, ineffably rich and beautiful are the faith and vision which
Masonry gives to those who foregather at its altar, bringing to them in picture,
parable, and symbol the lofty and pure truth wrought out through ages of
experience, tested by time, and found to be valid for the conduct of life. By
such teaching, if they have the heart to heed it, men become wise, learning how
to be both brave and gentle, faithful and free; how to renounce superstition and
yet retain faith, how to keep a fine poise of reason between the falsehood of
extremes; how to accept the joys of life with glee, and endure its ills with
patient valor; how to look upon the folly of man and not forget his nobility--in
short, how to live cleanly, kindly, calmly, open-eyed and unafraid in a sane
world, sweet of heart and full of hope. Whoso lays this lucid and profound
wisdom to heart and lives by it, will have little to regret and nothing to fear,
when the evening shadows fall. Happy the young man who in the morning of his
years makes it his guide, philosopher, and friend. [
If the influence of Masonry upon youth is here emphasized, it is not to forget
that the most dangerous period of life is not youth, with its turmoil of storm
and stress, but between forty and sixty. When the enthusiasms of youth have
cooled, and its rosy glamour has faded into the light of common day, there is
apt to be a letting down of ideals, a hardening of heart, when cynicism takes
the place of idealism. If the judgments of the young are austere and need to be
softened by charity, the middle years of life need still more the reinforcement
of spiritual influence and the inspiration of a holy atmosphere. Also, Albert
Pike used to urge upon old men the study of Masonry, the better to help them
gather up the scattered thoughts about life and build them into a firm faith;
and because Masonry offers to every man a great hope and consolation. Indeed,
its ministry to every period of life is benign. Studying Masonry is like looking
at a sunset; each man who looks is filled with the beauty and wonder of it, but
the glory is not diminished.]
Such is the ideal of Masonry, and fidelity to all that is holy demands that
we give ourselves to it, trusting the power of truth, the reality of love, and
the sovereign worth of character. For only as we incarnate that ideal in actual
life and activity does it become real, tangible, and effective. God works for
man through man and seldom, if at all, in any other way. He asks for our voices
to speak His truth, for our hands to do His work here below, sweet voices and
clean hands to make liberty and love prevail over injustice and hate. Not all of
us can be learned or famous, but each of us can be loyal and true of heart,
undefiled by evil, undaunted by error, faithful and helpful to our fellow souls.
Life is a capacity for the highest things. Let us make it a pursuit of the
highest, an eager, incessant quest of truth, a noble utility, a lofty honor, a
wise freedom, a genuine service--that through us the Spirit of Masonry may grow
and be glorified.
When is a man a Mason?
When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with
a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet
have faith, hope, and courage, which is the root of every virtue.
When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as
divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive,
and to love his fellow man.
When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in
their sins--knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.
When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them and above all how
to keep friends with himself.
When he loves flowers, can hunt the birds without a gun, and feels the
thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.
When star-crowned trees, and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters,
subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead.
When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his
aid without response.
When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of
divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that
faith may be.
When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and
into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.
When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope.
When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow man, with his God; in
his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song, glad to live, but not
afraid to die!
Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it
is trying to give to all the world.
[The literature of Masonry is very large, and the following is only a small
selection of such books as the writer has found particularly helpful in the
course of this study. The notes and text of the foregoing pages mention many
books, sometimes with brief characterizations, and that fact renders a longer
list unnecessary here.]
Anderson, Book of Constitutions.
Armitage, Short Masonic History, 2 vols.
Arnold, History and Philosophy of Masonry.
Aynsley, Symbolism East and West.
Bacon, New Atlantis.
Bayley, Lost Language of Symbolism.
Breasted, Religion and Thought in Egypt.
Budge, The Gods of Egypt.
Callahan, Washington, the Man and the Mason.
Capart, Primitive Art in Egypt.
Carr, The Swastika.
Catholic Encyclopedia, art. "Masonry."
Churchward, Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man.
Conder, Hole Craft and Fellowship of Masonry.
Crowe, Things a Freemason Ought to Know.
Cumont, Mysteries of Mithra.
Da Costa, Dionysian Artificers.
De Clifford, Egypt the Cradle of Masonry.
De Quincey, Works, vol xvi.
Dill, Roman Life.
Encyclopedia Britannica, art. "Freemasonry."
Fergusson, History of Architecture.
Findel, History of Masonry.
Finlayson, Symbols of Freemasonry.
Fort, Early History and Antiquities of Masonry.
Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks.
Gould, Atholl Lodges.
Gould, Concise History of Masonry.
Gould, History of Masonry, 4 vols.
Gould, Military Lodges.
Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion, art. "Freemasonry."
Hayden, Washington and his Masonic Compeers.
Holland, Freemasonry and the Great Pyramid.
Hope, Historical Essay on Architecture.
Hughan, History of the English Rite.
Hughan, Masonic Sketches and Reprints.
Hughan and Stillson, History of Masonry and Concordant Orders.
Hutchinson, The Spirit of Masonry.
Jewish Encyclopedia, art. "Freemasonry."
Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions.
Lawrence, Practical Masonic Lectures.
Leicester Lodge of Research, Transactions.
Lockyear, Dawn of Astronomy.
Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
Mackey, Symbolism of Masonry.
Manchester Lodge of Research, Transactions.
Marshall, Nature a Book of Symbols.
Maspero, Dawn of Civilization.
Mead, Quests New and Old.
Moret, Kings and Gods of Egypt.
Morris, Lights and Shadows of Masonry.
Morris, The Poetry of Masonry.
Oliver, Masonic Antiquities.
Oliver, Masonic Sermons.
Oliver, Revelations of the Square.
Oliver, Theocratic Philosophy of Masonry.
Pike, Morals and Dogma.
Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride.
Preston, Illustrations of Masonry.
Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Transactions, 24 vols.
Ravenscroft, The Comacines.
Reade, The Veil of Isis.
Rogers, History of Prices in England.
Ruskin, Seven Lamps of Architecture.
Sachse, Franklin as a Mason.
Sadler, Masonic Facts and Fictions.
St. Andrew's Lodge, Centennial Memorial.
Schure, Hermes and Plato.
Scott, The Cathedral Builders.
Smith, English Guilds.
Stevens, Cyclopedia of Fraternities.
Steinbrenner, History of Masonry.
Tyler, Oaths, Their Origin, Nature, and History.
Waite, Real History of Rosicrucians.
Waite, Secret Tradition in Masonry.
Waite, Studies in Mysticism.
Watts, The Word in the Pattern.
Wright, Indian Masonry.
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