Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
Bearing in mind all this manifold significance of the lodge and all that is implied by membership therein we can understand that entrance into its precincts is a step having something of the importance and the dignity of birth. Accordingly the candidate is placed in the care of trusty friends who will see that he is duly prepared; and he is given necessary instructions by one of the Officers of the Craft who is careful to ascertain that he comes with no unworthy motive. When he steps inside the door and enters for the first time into a tiled Masonic lodge he may well feel a certain awe, or even tremble a bit with apprehension; for he is about to participate in a rite, and to stand in the presence of symbols, over which hovers the awful impressiveness of centuries. The badges of rank, the tokens of distinction, the costumery of the world, the manifold ties of the temporal and external order now stand him in no stead, and he is thrown back on the resources of his own naked and essential humanity. The will to do, the mind to know, the heart to love, the imagination to conceive—these and these only can serve as the materials out of which his own Masonic temple can be built.
If he must knock for entrance into this world it is to remind him that everywhere and always he must knock for entrance into any of the great worlds of existence. God in His unsearchable wisdom has ordained
that, except for the involuntary entrance into physical existence, every birth comes from our willing to have it so. The world of nature, the various worlds of literature, of science, of art, of religion, lie about man, but the doors leading therein never open except a man knock once, twice, thrice. It is only after the blows of his hammer, after his tireless, patient study of details, that the heavy portals of the rocks open their secrets to the geologist; it is only after the student has a hundred times implored in toil and prayer that music can be persuaded to swing back her ivory wickets of sweet sound. Over the lintels of every realm of great achievement the Infinite has carved His irreversible law, "Knock and it shall be opened unto you."
At the time of his entrance the candidate is given a definition of Masonry. This definition is beautiful and true as far as it goes, and that in the nature of the case cannot be far, but we shall be wise to press toward a more complete understanding of the matter than the Ritual makes possible. If such a definition as may be fashioned here falls far short of its purpose one can comfort himself by the reflection that the truer and more vital a thing is the less capable is it of definition, and that Masonry in this regard is in the same case as religion, or friendship, or art.
In discussing the "mission of Masonry," Brother A. S. MacBride ("Speculative Masonry," p. 1) defines mission as "the aim and purpose of anything." Of Masonry he writes, "The word carries with it through all the variants known to us, the idea of unity. To mass a body of men or troops, for instance, is to bring them into close touch or united action. From this view it
appears that Masonry is the building together of various units, such as stones, bricks, wood, iron, or human beings, into a compact mass or structure." Speculative Masonry he defines as "the building morally of humanity into an organised structure, according to a design of plan."
Of similar purpose is the definition given by Thomas Green: "True Speculative Masonry teaches a man by the industrious application of the principles of Eternal Truth and Right to the untaught material of humanity, to shape its thoughts and actions so as to erect from it a spiritual building, on sure foundations, with intelligence and purpose, and admirable to contemplate."
The Royal Arch lectures give the definition a religious turn: "The glory of God is the grand object of our mysteries." Dr. J. D. Buck, who interpreted Masonry from the mystical point of view, states that "Masonry is really a school of instruction and preparation for the most profound wisdom ever opened to man." A. E. Waite, another mystic, albeit of a different school, says that "Masonry, in its proper understanding, is a summary of the quest after that which is divine." In connection with these it will be well to carry in mind the time-tried definition long accepted by the Craft: "Masonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." These several definitions are all acceptable in their way as would be many others that might be cited.
For myself I have long thought of the Masonic life being, in one of its principal aspects, a quest for that which is divine in the universe and in the human soul; this purpose is expressed, it seems to me, in all our symbols, now in subdued whispers, and again in eloquent, ringing voices. And, because our ceremonies represent the combination of at least three streams of symbolism, it would be possible to set this purpose forth from as many points of view.
If we study the matter from the point of view of the architectural symbolism we may say that Masonry is the attempt to release in us those materials of our nature which are most divine and to build them into a temple fit for the indwelling deity; and that, in turn, the individual is to be used as a living building stone in that larger temple of human brotherhood which is now building, sometimes in the day and often in the night, among the children of men.
There is also in our Ritual a stream of symbolism representing the Mason as on a quest after that which is lost. This may be understood as a secret once in our possession but now escaped; or it may be known as the ultimate Truth, Goodness, and Beauty which lie behind the veils of time and sense. Of this latter significance of the quest, Brother MacBride has given us an illustration of rare appropriateness: "There is an ancient Gaelic poem called 'The Poem of Trathal' part of which describes a mother playing a harp to her children, and which translated runs thus: 'Two children with their fair locks rise at her knee. They bend their ears above the harp as she touches with white hands the trembling strings. She stops. They take the harp themselves but cannot find the cord they admired. Why, they ask, does it not answer us? Show us the strings where dwells the song. She bids them search for it until she returns. Their little fingers wander among the wires. And so with the children of men. Their fingers wander among the wires of the harp of life. They say 'show us the string where dwells the song.' We search for the lost song, the lost harmony of the soul."
Again, we have in our Ritual a symbolism that hints of a death, and a rising again to life. Let this not be
understood as a rising up after the death of the body; the raising is done in the present. It signifies that there is in each of us, here and now, that which is truly Eternal, that which the old Christian Mystics called the divine spark in the soul. "Within thyself," declares the Bhagavad-Gita, and truly, "thou hast a sublime friend thou knowest not. God dwells within all men." To this heart-subduing truth all the seers have borne witness, and all the Ancient Mysteries, and all religions. It is Masonry's chief mission also to hear that same witness, for Masonry is, I believe, a drama of regeneration.
Let us consider this a moment! There is that in a man which serves only his private, his physical, and his present temporal needs; food, clothing, drink, riches, these have almost wholly a reference to the body, and the body's desires, and for that reason are transient only, for "the flesh passeth away and the lust thereof." But there is also that in a man which has reference to the needs of his spirit, which craves Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. For these the spirit will be searching long after the body lies a heap of dust within its narrow house, will be searching and finding in all the worlds and in all the Eternities. It is the misfortune of the merely natural man, of him whom the prophets have called the unregenerate, that in his life the merely physical, the merely temporal, are in command; it is the great privilege of the new-born man, the regenerate, that in him the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, that is, the Spiritual, have full control, so that in the midst of the fleeting days, while he walks through the shadows of the earth life, and everything about him is steadily falling away into oblivion, he is already living "the life that shall endless be." To teach men the secret
of this present Eternal Life is, I am convinced, Masonry's chief and greatest mission; and I may say that this interpretation can carry with it the weight of the authority of Albert Pike, whose brain was made like a continent, and whose soul towered like a Himalayan range: a farther-reaching, a deeper-going definition of Masonry than the following was never written:
"Freemasonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in man by the Divine; the conquest of the Appetites and Passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle and warfare, of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory—when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear the well-earned laurels—in the true Holy Empire."