Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
All the emotions and thoughts aroused in me on the night I took my "Second" are still fresh in my memory after these many years, but nothing remains more vividly than my surprise at the elaborate lecture about the Five Senses. "What," I kept saying to myself, "does all this mean? In what possible way can our sense apparatus have anything to do with the Masonic life?" I remained nonplused over the matter until I began to ask myself what part these senses play in life outside Masonry and then it dawned upon me that the Ritual would be incomplete were it to omit the Senses from the scope of its illumination. I began to see that an interpreter could write whole libraries about the senses from the Masonic point of view; and I began to believe that it would require a long lifetime for a man thoroughly to Masonize his Five Senses.
Consider the part played by the Senses in a Man's life! At the centre of the man is his consciousness, a lonely, isolated, invisible centre of awareness; outside the man, surrounding him on all sides, is the universe, with its limitless number of things and happenings; the senses are nothing other than the channels—perhaps the only channels—through which the outside universe gets into man's consciousness. He is an island; the senses are the bridges over which he passes to the mainland, and over which the mainland sends its messages into him. Every impression,
every experience, every sensation, every word must pass by way of them. If you could control a man's senses then you would be able to determine how much of the universe gets into him and how much of him gets into the universe. This is the idea at the bottom of the great series of wall paintings in the Congressional Library at Washington wherein a picture is devoted to each sense. Since this is true it follows that the man who would make his mind the home of goodness, truth, and beauty, will be the one who sees to it that his senses are trained to do their work effectively, and that he permits nothing to travel back and forth over their bridges except that which is good, or true, or beautiful.
This, I take it, is the chief point made in the Second Degree lecture; a Mason is to make his five senses into five points of contact with his fellows by seeing to it that only good-will, kindliness, and all the fine things of brotherhood are permitted to travel back and forth between him and them. This implies the further point—and it is one that we shall need to elaborate—that the senses, like every other faculty of a man, may be trained and improved, so that the man who has been making a bad use of them can learn to make a good use. If this seems far-fetched or even impossible to us we need only direct our attention to each sense in turn to be convinced that it is always being done.
"What is more or less than a touch?" says Walt Whitman. Touch is the first, or original sense, and is employed in the lowest forms of life, such as the jelly-fish, long before separate organs are dreamed of. As the living creature grows more and more responsive to the world outside it the general sense of touch grows more and more
defined until it gradually breaks itself up into the other senses of smelling, tasting, seeing, and hearing, and by so doing the creature rises in the scale of life. From one point of view, at least, it is not too much to say that the whole process of physical evolution consists of splitting up the general sense of touch and of refining and specialising each of the split-offs. Even when we get to man, the highest in the scale, this development and improvement of the sense of touch need not stop; a musician or an artist can carry the development of it to the utmost limit of refinement.
At the back of the tongue is a series of little organs, called taste-buds; when any object is brought against them they give to the consciousness a feeling of flavour. This sense, also, may be developed. Only a few days ago I watched a "tea taster" at work determining the quality of various kinds of tea. He sat at a revolving table on which were several cups of the beverage from each of which he sipped in turn; it was only a mouthful but it sufficed because his taste-buds were so accurate that he could tell where the tea had been grown and what it was worth.
In lower animals the sense of smell is often unimaginably acute. Henri Fabre describes a moth which can detect the presence of another rods away in a forest at night merely by the odour. This is the sense of smell raised to the nth degree of acuteness, for the naturalist himself was unable to detect the slightest odour even in a jar full of the insects. We cannot smell as the animals can because we do not need to; nevertheless, like the other senses, one can develop this faculty, as is demonstrated by the perfumery expert who can detect the various kinds and grades of perfumery quite as easily as my tea taster can judge of tea.
When we make sounds, either by speaking or by striking against some object, waves travel through the atmosphere
in all directions; when these waves strike against the tympanum of the ear they give us the experience of hearing, so that hearing itself is a kind of touch. The extent to which hearing can be developed and educated is shown by the expert musician who can detect subtle variations of sound wholly lost on others of us.
"Seeing is touch at a distance." The sun, or some artificial light, sends waves through the ether; these strike against the retina of the eye and give us the sense of seeing. If the waves are of one length and speed we see one colour; if of another we see a different colour. The Indian who can see an antelope grazing afar off on the prairie, the pilot who can detect the smoke of a coming ship in the remote distance, are examples of men who have raised this sense to an extraordinary degree of perfection.
In this discussion, which may seem to some almost schoolboyish, I have had it in mind to emphasise the fact that we humans have a considerable degree of control over our senses, and that, if we choose, we can improve them by right training. From the point of view of general culture this means that we can greatly enrich our lives, and that is surely worth while; from the point of view of Masonry, which is necessarily our chief concern, it means that the senses may be so used as to Masonize our lives. The candidate is urged to touch, taste, or smell nothing that would injure himself or brethren: he is, in the language of the V.S.L., to "take heed how he hears," lest some word of slander against a brother be given admission to his mind; and he is to see nothing in his fellows except their better selves. How much it would mean to every lodge, by way of avoiding friction and of
increasing brotherhood, if every Mason would train his senses to ignore the things that divide or injure, and to heed only those things that increase brotherly love! This is a high ideal, truly, but, then, Masonry itself is a high ideal!