The Meaning, Purpose and Symbolism of Freemasonry
W.Bro. A. H. Bentley, PGStB, PPGJW (Surrey)
Those of us who give any thought to the more hidden things of this life and believe that there is something more to our being on this earth than the effort to obtain more material possessions than our neighbour cannot but be concerned at the way that things are shaping themselves when we look around and see all the turmoil, the bad feeling, the terror, the cruelty and the utter selfishness which is besetting so much of life on this earth today. The various forms of news media do nothing to allay our fears but seem to do all that they can to make everybody more aware of what is going on around us. And in so doing pay far more attention to the bad, the evil and the unpleasant. Bad news is the only news as far as the press is concerned. The good things of life are seldom reported.
Under these conditions is it not to be wondered at that those of us who give our minds to such things are deeply concerned as to what is to happen within the next 50 years or so. I have no children of my own to worry about but I do concern myself with all the young people that are growing up in the world under these conditions and fear for what may be their lot by the time that they have reached my age. People talk of the bad old days of the past but were they any worse than the bad old days of the present?
Oh yes, you may say, but is not society more affluent and better able to enjoy the pleasures of this world today than it was fifty years ago. More affluent, may be, in some directions, but is it really any happier. What are the so called pleasures of this life but mere effervescence to be dissipated in a moment. True happiness can only come from a mind that is at peace. One that can shut itself off from the world at will. To be able to do this, however, one must have certain fundamental beliefs and the most important of these is that one can put one's trust in a Supreme Being. We in Freemasonry have averred that we have such a belief but thousands, perhaps millions of our contemporaries these days are without such a belief or at best one which is not strong enough to be of much help to them and consequently they are like a ship without a rudder tossed hither and thither by the winds.
Most members of the Craft have been brought up with the idea that they must not talk about Freemasonry outside their Lodges or in association with those they know who are not members of the Order. Maybe there is some safeguard in this but it is not entirely true. Freemasonry has certain spiritual truths to teach and there is nothing to prevent members of the Craft from talking about the message without talking of the source. Truth is universal. It is not the sole property of Freemasonry. The essential qualification for Freemasonry is a belief in a Supreme Being and the essential qualification for a happy life on this earth is a similar belief.
People seem afraid one with the other to talk of Religion and Freemasons are said to be banned from discussing it within their Lodges. This is not so really. Freemasons are banned from discussing Sectarian Religion but true Religion, that basis of belief on which all agree, is the common property of us all.
Freemasons are instructed to be good to all. Therefore it is the duty of all members of the Craft to be of service to all men not only those who are members of our order. And how better to be of service than to help them to discover within themselves that same basis of spiritual understanding which we endeavour to foster in those we accept for membership of the Order.
The future may be in the hands of those who today are members of the Craft. Do not run away from the responsibility, brethren, but meet it as you should and take up the challenge to be of service to your fellow men.
If Freemasonry means anything at all it is something more than meeting periodically to Initiate, Pass and Raise men to become members of our Order. Brethren, our duty as Freemasons is not discharged by merely attending Lodge Meetings. There is much more to learn from it than memorising ritual. Much more than meeting periodically for social intercourse, much more than subscribing to our Masonic Charities, laudable as these objects may be.
Freemasonry is a life to be lived and in the living we are expected to help others to live in the same way be they members of our Order or not. First, therefore, brethren, each one should endeavour to learn what Freemasonry is all about and having learned try and apply that knowledge in your daily living and finally endeavour to pass on that message to all men. who knows what the effect of this may be on our fellow human beings.
The trouble is that so many who are nominal members of the Craft are perfectly content just to accept all that the Craft has to offer in the way of sociability and of charity without giving any consideration to the deeper implications of our Craft System. On the other hand the official organisation of the Craft does little to inform the brethren that there is any other purpose. It is left to a few brethren who accept their responsibilities more seriously, and to a few Study Groups and Research Lodges who endeavour to make known the vast field of enquiry which is available to Freemasons who hope to find something more than just a succession of formal ceremonies which unless they are properly understood are little more than a charade performed with regularity at successive meetings of brethren of the Craft.
It is difficult to know just where to draw the line. Freemasonry does not proselytise for members. It does not advertise what it has to offer to humanity — and I would not have it otherwise. It acts upon the belief that to those who are truly seeking to find something more in life than is just apparent on the surface. their steps will be led to make contact with those who are able to help them. The Eastern saying that when the pupil is ready, the master will appear is undoubtedly true.
All men (which, of course, really includes all women as well for although our organization is purely masculine and can therefore offer no help to those of the female sex, such women have their own organisation from which they must obtain their knowledge), all people, then, are on differing steps of the ladder of evolution. Such evolution is based on the idea that Man has at some stage fallen from the high estate of Union with Deity as it would seem is indicated in the story of Adam and Eve as explained in the V.S.L. and that he has been forced to work through a long period of evolution to try and get back to that state of union again, at-one-ment with Deity. This being so, it would appear that our life (or as I believe lives) on this earth, or even perhaps on some other sphere, are devoted to this process of evolution. This could explain why it is that we are not all at the same stage of evolution.
To appreciate the problem properly we also have to understand and appreciate (although not necessarily to accept) the theory of Re-incarnation and of Karma. Re-incarnation would imply that many lives are necessary to achieve the proper state of being which makes a man worthy of union with Deity. Karma carries with it the idea that in each of these successive life-times we incur certain debits and credits according to the manner in which we have faced up to the various trials and testings which we have experienced in those lives. These debits and credits are carried forward from one life experience to the next until all the debits have been wiped out and all the credits have mounted to such a figure as make us worthy of achievement. Then as St. Paul says "there is no more going out. " There is much more to these ideas involving a possible explanation of the many difficulties which face all of us during our sojourn on this earth but I will say no more about it now because I do not wish to emphasise an idea which may not be acceptable to some of you.
However, to come back to where I was just now. I believe that when an individual has fairly placed his feet upon the road that eventually leads to at-one-ment he is led into paths which will hasten his evolution. Such a pathway, I believe, is Freemasonry. The Craft is the Master who will lead the candidate to fresh fields and hasten his evolution. It is the Master which appears when the pupil is ready.
But the message from the V.S.L. is ever Seek and ye shall find; Knock and it shall be opened unto you. So having sought and been led to the Craft, the candidate must knock which indeed he does when he comes for his Initiation and the door will be opened for him to continue his search.
The Initiate must, however, continue to search and again, if he is genuine and sincere in his desire to learn, he will be led to where he can obtain the answers to the questions which are uppermost in his mind.
As I said just now, Grand Lodge makes little or no effort to afford instruction. The only official lectures which are given the Prestonian Lectures reach only a minority of the Craft and, as a rule, the subject matter is usually more a matter of historical research than an effort to explain to the brethren of the Craft the interpretation of the symbolism which our ritual uses to give its message. They are factual rather than "speculative," forgetting perhaps that we are all Speculative Freemasons.
It is perfectly true that there can be no "official" explanation of a given piece of symbolism. Each must accept for himself the interpretation which most appeals to him, but unless the alternatives are put to him and the possibilities explained one who is unused to the uses of symbolism will be unaware of what the ritual and the ceremonial are trying to say.
Therefore, to me, the message is clear, Grand Lodge (and, of course, that includes Provincial Grand Lodges) should, in my opinion, do all that they can to encourage Lodges to devote some time at each of its meetings to short talks, or alternatively devote some of its meetings to lectures. Incidentally, far greater use can be made of the meetings of the Lodges of Instruction for this purpose. Not only will this encourage the Masonic education of the brethren but it will also add interest to those brethren who from time to time complain that they are tired of the endless chain of meetings which merely repeat in a monotonous succession the First, Second and Third Degree ceremonies. Lodges of Instruction, or more properly Lodges of Rehearsal serve an extremely useful purpose, but real Masonic instruction is equally important and in my opinion more consideration should be given to this matter by the Masters of Lodges on whom rests the real responsibility for is not the Master told every time the Lodge is opened that it is his duty to employ and instruct the brethren in Freemasonry.
If then, there is a difference between the learning of ritual and the learning which I have referred to as masonic knowledge or masonic instruction, what is it that we have to teach our brethren.
To my mind, much of the chaos, the ill-feeling, the selfishness, the materiality and lack of spirituality, the permissiveness, the fact that so many individuals are imbued with the thought "I am the only one that matters. I must have freedom to do as I wish and the devil take everybody else." To my mind all this is due to the breakdown in moral values and the failing in the minds of most people to have any real thought for the meaning of life itself.
It has been said that consideration for others and a measure of self control provide the signs whereby we may discern true gentlemen. One might almost paraphrase this in accordance with our ritual and say that such qualifications are also true and proper signs by which to know one who has eternity in view and becomes possessed of a temperament which enables him to take all things in his stride. He realises the truth of immortality and is therefore able to take a more balanced view of life, for, those who are eternity minded are more stabilised because they realise that nothing really disastrous can happen to them, that the ups and downs of life have a more fundamental basis and that real progress is ever onwards and ever upwards.
So many of the young people of today are not satisfied with the teachings of orthodox religion but yet they seem to have nothing to put in its place and without a sheet anchor of any kind one tends to lose all consideration of the difference between right and wrong, between yours, mine and ours. Many of them turn to drugs in the hope that they will provide them with the palliative they desire and will allow them to live the kind of life which they feel is their right usually, it seems, a life where everything is provided for them and where they cannot believe that they have any obligation to society.
The taking of drugs is the attempt to take a short cut, so that knowledge of higher things can be obtained more readily. This reminds us of the Garden of Eden story. At that stage of his evolution man was not entitled to the knowledge which he sought and therefore he was forbidden to eat of the "fruit" of the tree of knowledge. Having thus tried to take a short cut to knowledge and so disobeyed he was punished accordingly. So with the use of drugs. If punishment does not follow immediately it will surely follow eventually and the disillusionment and degradation is plain to see on those who become habitual addicts.
So much for the young — at least some of them. People in the middle age groups are all so much concerned in making a place for themselves in society and gathering around themselves the trappings of materialism which they believe will give them happiness things which are really of no use to them in terms of eternity they have no time to stop and think of anything of a religious or philosophical nature. They seem to find no happiness except in incessant activity and endless excitement.
Older people are so concerned in their efforts to survive in this fast moving, fast living and financially affluent society, that they can only stand aghast when viewing what is going on around them. Amidst all this Freemasonry stands as a refuge to all those who are able to put their trust in its teachings, but even among the ranks of the Craft there are those who are still finding it necessary to ask questions.
What seems to be missing in the world today is some scheme of adult education which will teach men and women the true objects of life, man's place in the scheme of things, what is really worth doing in the world and what is believed to be the future after death. These were the real teachings of the Ancient Mystery Systems and when properly understood I believe that Freemasonry can find the answers to many of these questions.
Freemasonry has been defined as:
A body of men banded together to preserve and propagate by means of a ceremonial, certain basic truths which are the property of the whole human race but which man normally tends to put into the background of his consciousness. These basic truths are concerned with the Man in his relationship with Deity and man in relationship with his fellow man. Thus its primary teachings are Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth and Spiritual and Moral Virtue. It teaches man's dependence upon God Who is referred to as the Great Architect of the Universe and also man' s obligation to assist his fellow man.
With regard to the last remark it is important to remember that the answer to the question "Am I my brother's keeper" is undoubtedly "Yes."
No man can live to himself alone and as the ritual states "He that is placed on the lowest spoke of fortune's wheel is equally entitled to our regard" and in this respect the lowest spoke is not necessarily occupied by those who are poor in a financial sense. No one else can be you but there are many who can help you. Conversely, there are always many who would welcome your help and remember that even the most humble can offer and be of some help because even, for example, the brilliance of the surgeon is of little avail unless it is supplemented by the humbler ministrations of the nurse.
But Freemasonry does not make all its teachings obvious. Much of its ritual and ceremonial consists of teaching which is veiled so that only those who are properly prepared are able to understand its meaning. Indeed, by its own definition, it states that it is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbol.
Hence it follows that not all those who are members of the Craft are properly able to understand the full meaning of its teachings and perhaps it can be considered as a criticism of the Craft that it makes very little effort, officially, to draw aside the veil presumably from the opinion that those who truly seek will find and that as each must search for himself he will in due course find the answer to that for which he is seeking.
In my experience, more and more brethren today are seeking and asking questions and it is a pressing problem of the day for the Craft to find from among its ranks those who are able to help and those who are able to provide answers to the questions.
Among the members of the Craft there are those who complain that they have no time to learn the ritual who say that their business commitments will not permit them to go on. These are the ones who are not yet spiritually prepared to proceed on the Masonic Path. They are not yet properly prepared. The man who is ready and anxious to proceed will find the time.
On the other hand there are the enthusiasts who are anxious to learn, who are anxious to take office and are willing to be taught by those who have more experience. These are the ones who ask the questions, the ones who are anxious to know the meaning and purpose of our Masonic system.
I believe that Freemasonry is a spiritual science based upon man's religious ideas which have existed from all time. It is a true descendent of the Ancient Mystery Systems and as such can be said to be an Order which has survived because enshrined within it is Truth. In one of our ceremonies we are told that God has never left himself without a living witness among men and Freemasonry when properly understood is, in my opinion, such a witness although obviously not the only one.
Freemasonry, however, is not of itself a religion and is therefore not to be numbered among the great religions of the world, yet it contains the fundamental truths which are common to all of them. Religion, in its many aspects, has been likened to the different facets of a single diamond. There is no reason why this should not be so but in my opinion, Freemasonry can be likened to the diamond itself and I believe that it is time that someone started to draw attention to the diamond as a whole. Doubtless this is why we are forbidden to discuss sectarian religion within our Lodges.
In the Charges of a Freemason as printed in the Book of Constitutions we read under the title "Concerning God and Religion:"
Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believe in the glorious Architect of heaven and earth and practice the sacred duties of morality.
Seeing, therefore, that men of all religions can accept Masonry and Masonic principles does it not follow that basically all religions are the same and it is only the dogmas adopted by the different religions which prevents them from becoming one world religion. Perhaps sometime in the future Freemasonry may be able to be the force which will bring them all together.
I hope, therefore, that my words may make you begin to appreciate the full significance of Freemasonry in the Modern World and the latent power perhaps influence would be a better word seeing that the word "power" seems to have a sinister meaning these days a latent influence for the future welfare of the world and the people in it.
Unfortunately, there are so many people in the world today who seem to have no fundamental religious belief at all, and there are many who although nominally calling themselves Christians, when questioned are quite unable to explain the basis of their belief. The poet has said somewhere — "God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world." How much better it would be if we could say: "God is in the hearts of all men." It would certainly be all right with the world then.
Freemasonry, then, has to be understood as a philosophy of life and to those who rightly interpret its symbolism it enables them to understand and appreciate the meaning and purpose of life itself, and provides us with some sort of explanation of the trials and tribulations which some seem to suffer in this life.
As was written by one Masonic writer whose name unfortunately I have omitted to record: "Behind the more elementary and obvious symbolism of Freemasonry, behind its counsels to virtue and conventual morality, there exists the framework of a scheme of initiation into that higher path of life where alone the secrets and mysteries of our being are to be learned."
Having now, I hope, made out a case in which I have endeavoured to show how important I regard the function of Freemasonry to each one of us as individuals, let us for a few moments try and get some sort of idea as to how our Modern Speculative Freemasonry came into being and endeavour to see what might have been in the minds of those who may have been responsible.
Many writers have written on Masonic origins have sought to suggest how our Modern Speculative Freemasonry came into being and to name those who were responsible for its early ritual and ceremonial. There are those who have written of Anderson, of Desaguliers and there are those who have sought for documentary proof of the names of our Founders. But no one yet, it seems, has been able to find this conclusive evidence.
Is this not strange? Those who are desirous of forming a new group especially of one which apparently had such high ideals as that of Modern Speculative Freemasonry usually gather together a few enthusiasts and their thoughts and aspirations are usually recorded so that at least they serve as a basis for the future conduct of the Body which they hope to bring into being. But in the case of Freemasonry no such record seems to exist. We therefore have to speculate upon the identity of our Unknown Founders.
To quote some words written by Bro. Lt. Col. Eric Ward in the Prestonian Lecture of 1971, "In the beginning was the Word," was the title of the lecture:
To me the way in which Speculative Masons have drawn upon material from former times, from the Freestone Masons, the Bible and from ancient sources unconnected with either, is little short of amazing.
Indeed, it is amazing and in my opinion it proves that those who were responsible must have been men of great intelligence and a high degree of spirituality.
At this point, I would like to quote from a Paper which I had the pleasure of reading to some of my brethren of the Hadrian Lodge about two years ago.
To those who have made any study at all of the recorded history of Freemasonry, the hundred years prior to the formation of the First Grand Lodge in 1717 forms one of the most interesting and intriguing periods in the whole of our masonic history. It is, at the same time, a period over which much controversy rages as to what actually did happen during those years when we are told that Masonry changed from Operative to Speculative. Students such as you and I are only able to form our own opinions by reading what others have already written. Unless we have had the opportunity of seeing for ourselves such documentary evidence as is available. Seeing that I was not present in London in 1717 as far as I am aware or was I? Some say we pass this way but once, others many times. However, in my present awareness I have no recollection and therefore I am unable to speak of these things first hand. I can therefore only form opinions from what I have read, and as Dr. Boswell is reputed to have said to Dr. Johnson "the greatest part of a writers time is spent in reading in order to write."
Obviously, therefore, specific proof of any particular theory is not available and each must fall back on his own ideas and hold to that theory which most appeals to him. Masonic writers have produced many books and the cold light of reason has proved many theories groundless at least to the satisfaction of the writers concerned. For my part, I believe, that most of them have considered Masonry as something which has existed as Masonry from time immemorial and have sought to trace its progress through the ages. Others have regarded the Operative Craft as the fore-runner of Speculative Freemasonry and have thought that the latter developed out of the former. Of course, I may be wrong, but in my opinion, Modern Speculative Freemasonry has no connection with the Operative Craft except that for purposes best known to those responsible it became grafted on to the Operative Rite some time during the 17th century. I believe that a process of infiltration took place during those years culminating with the formation of the Grand Lodge of 1717. Some writers have referred to this as Operative Lodges taking in "honorary members." In my opinion, it was a deliberate attempt to infiltrate the Operative Lodges with a definite purpose in mind.
In my view, therefore, I discard all theories which suggest that Speculative Masonry was a development" out of Operative Masonry. I believe that Modern Freemasonry was intended to be a purely mystical and spiritual science and that those who sought to bring this about wrote their rituals and grafted these teachings on to the Operative Rite during the 17th century.
In this sense Speculative Freemasonry is a direct descendent of the Ancient Mystery Systems and it is in this sense that Freemasonry has existed from Time Immemorial. From earliest times man has always sought for that which he has lost his divinity and the quest which goes on during his efforts to effect a return from whence he came is the story of Freemasonry.
H. H. Schultz in the foreword to that excellent book entitled Freemasonry Its Hidden Meaning by G. H. Steinmetz says:
It must not be forgotten that although the Grand Lodge system dates from 1717 Masonry, or that thing called Masonry, has existed from the beginning of man.
Again, S. M. Mills in one of his Five Minute Talks on Freemasonry writes:
It seems to be suggested that because there was no operative masonry to keep the masons employed they became Speculatives. Such, I think, is an entirely incorrect assumption. Speculative Masonry was the name given to a more modern version of the Ancient Mysteries. A version more in keeping with the times of the eighteenth century and which only now is becoming recognised for what it really is.
If one examines the period of English history immediately before 1717 shall we say one hundred years 1600-1700 — one finds that it was a very dark period both morally and spiritually and I believe that certain men of learning and discernment and possessing a high degree of spirituality seeing that masonry offered a fruitful field in which to foster the spiritual growth of the people, grafted on to the ritual and symbolism of the Operative Craft a Speculative system which has now become our Modern Speculative Freemasonry.
These unknown founders fully realised that with such a foundation the Craft must, even if it took many years, eventually achieve the purpose which they had in mind, namely, the spiritual enlightenment of humanity. I will not go so far as to say that such spiritual enlightenment could not have been obtained by any other means, but I do suggest that these unknown founders, being as I have already suggested men of great discernment, realised that symbolism based on the building craft represented one of the finest possible methods of teaching these particular truths. One of these days I hope, indeed, I am sure that we shall learn who these unknown founders really were. Those of whom we read in our masonic histories such as Dr. Anderson and the Rev. J. T. Desaguliers, were, I believe, only the instruments. To use a modern expression, the backroom boys, who were really responsible had far greater minds and were men far more spiritually advanced.
I would, however, like to draw your attention to the name of Sir Francis Bacon, who, in his great work New Atlantis, a name which in itself gives great cause for careful contemplation planned the formation of The Royal Society for the Advancement of Learning. Sir Francis Bacon died in 1626 but the seed had been sown and we are told that a meeting was held in the rooms of Sir Christopher Wren at Gresham College in November 1660 at which plans were put into operation for the formation of the Society. It was finally chartered 15th July 1662 and its first President was Sir Robert Moray.
I believe that there is a great link between the formation of the Royal Society and the formation of Speculative Freemasonry; the one concerned with the advancement of material science and the other with spiritual science.
The view has been expressed by many masonic writers that Elias Ashmole was the first Speculative Freemason but it has also been recorded that Sir Robert Moray was made a Mason five years before Elias Ashmole. It could not, I think, be suggested that Sir Robert Moray would be an operative mason and therefore we must assume that he was made a Speculative and he, as was mentioned just now, was the first President of the Royal Society.
There is thus, to my mind, a tangled web which is of absorbing interest to these with the time and opportunity to try and unravel. Within that web are the names of Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Robert Moray, Elias Ashmole, The Rosicrucians (of whom we are told that Sir Francis Bacon was a member) The Invisible Society, The Royal Society for the Advancement of Learning.
Whether, therefore, our Modern Speculative Freemasonry is descended directly from The Rosicrucians or from those who are usually referred to as The Cabalists or whether it was due to the personal ideas of those whom I have named I will not go further into on this occasion.
So just what the real explanation of it all is I cannot say but the thought which I wish to leave with you is that Freemasonry has something far more fundamental in its origin than a mere development from an Operative Rite and that its true purpose is the spiritual advancement of humanity just as the Royal Society was formed for the furtherance and advancement of scientific knowledge.
In order to achieve this, however, it was necessary for the Craft to be able to build itself up into a world-wide organisation with a worldwide influence and this it has now done. In the same way, however, as the transition from Operative to Speculative took, as I have suggested, some fifty years or so to become effective, so now the period when the true knowledge and purpose of the Craft can be learned and understood by all members of the Craft must also take perhaps a similar period of time. The Craft has the organisation, it now awaits the knowledge and instruction.
Those brethren who were present at the corresponding meeting last year will remember that my talk on that occasion centred around the interpretation of masonic symbolism. I pointed out that although one must not be dogmatic it was necessary that brethren should have put before them something in the nature of guide lines to enable them to exercise their own ideas and thus to formulate an interpretation which was satisfying to them. In this connection I set out what I believe to be the meaning of the ritual and ceremonial relating to the three ceremonies of Craft Masonry together with the ceremony of the Holy Royal Arch.
I shall not therefore repeat to you what I said on that occasion if you desire you may at the close of this meeting obtain copies of that particular talk out in order to round off my talk today and also in order to adhere to the practice which we adopt in the Study Circle of always bringing in something relating to the interpretation of symbolism in our talks I want to take just one episode of our Initiation ceremony and show how it bears on what I have been trying to tell you today. I refer to what is the climax of the ceremony — the restoration to light, and I want to quote from one of my papers delivered to the Dormer Masonic Study Circle some time ago.
Light is the first principle of all created life without which there can be no growth or development. The restoration to light is the climax of the ceremony and is symbolic of the acquisition of the spiritual enlightenment that acquisition of knowledge and truth which is the goal of all those who tread the chequered floorwork of this mortal life whether the search is conducted consciously or unconsciously. Note particularly that it is always described as a "restoration" to light, implying that at some previous time light was present. Those who are satisfied with the material explanation see only the obvious in this, but to those who seek to explain the symbolism it emphasizes man's fall and his subsequent struggle; his journey back whence he came.
The hoodwink itself is merely symbolic of the darkness which in our early years clouds the understanding of us all. Thus, its purpose is not so much to hide from the candidate what is going on around him but to remind him that until the Lodge grants him light he is still walking in masonic darkness and that means not a darkness of bodily vision but an unillumined state of the mind. In all the kingdoms of nature from mineral to man there is a gradual dawning of consciousness and in the stage which we believe to be super-human Truth becomes known in all its fulness. In the words of the well known Pastern prayer:
"From the unreal lead me to the Real From darkness lead me to light From the mortal bring me to Immortality."
The "fire" at this point of the ceremony is of some importance as signifying that "moment of vision," that moment of transition from darkness to light, and a breaking of the tension which up to this point should have held all those who are witnesses of the ceremony. The point is sometimes raised that if the restoration to light is representative or symbolic of the awakening to truth and knowledge it should not be sudden because unfoldment comes gradually. This would suggest that the snatching away of the H.W. is wrong. Against this we have the idea of a sudden flash of inspiration. Inspiration usually becomes revealed suddenly. Remember, God said, Let there be Light, and there was Light. This suggests a single and instantaneous action. In any case at this point the ceremony has worked up to a climax and the action of the H.W. together with the fire given at this point emphasises a symbolic act. Perhaps in order to reconcile both ideas we can think of the following episodes as the gradual unfoldment but the actual restoration as that flash of knowledge wherein we know that we stand on the very brink of true knowledge be still and know. Remember also what the V.S.L. has to say about the conversion of Saul and the important part played by light in this episode. Indeed, symbolically, Saul is in precisely the same position as our candidate in the Initiation ceremony.
The candidate's reaction to the restoration to light is dependent on the candidate himself. Such an experience will have a psychological effect rather than an actual physical effect and in any case the effect will not be visible immediately. As previously stated Freemasonry is a spiritual science and its effects are spiritual. It will therefore depend upon the candidate's spiritual development as to the effect which this part of the ceremony has upon him."
That is the end of the quotation and the point that I particularly want to make is that in our ceremony we are emphasising the nature of light and referring it symbolically to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. In all that I have said to you this afternoon I have expressed the view that what is needed in the world today is a similar awakening on the part of all people. I feel, and I feel strongly, that Freemasonry has a great part to play in this spiritual awakening. It does not mean that you and I must go around telling men that they must join Freemasonry in order to participate in this great movement. That would be entirely wrong, but it does mean that you and I must take every opportunity among our fellows to talk to them of the more fundamental things of life. But in order to do this we must have a thorough understanding of the meaning and purpose of the Freemasonry to which we belong and this cannot be achieved unless we are prepared to give some of our time to the study of our ritual and ceremonial over and above what we do in order to perform our ceremonies adequately in our Lodges. If we do this, not only shall we individually make ourselves more aware of the real purpose of life and in so doing achieve a better balance in our thoughts and be able to view the happenings of this life with a feeling of equanimity, but by our own actions we shall also be able to exert a better influence on our fellows.
It therefore becomes necessary that we should consider one or two things:
- Take every opportunity in our Lodges and Chapters of having short talks explanatory of the real meaning and purpose of Freemasonry. This afternoon for obvious reasons I have limited my remarks to Craft Masonry.
- That we should join some study group which is devoted to the object of achieving this end. Dormer is one such group, but there are others.
- We should, among ourselves form a group of our own where we can meet and discuss and endeavour to solve the problems which we meet with in our study.
I therefore end my talk to you this afternoon with a promise that if any of you require assistance either for yourselves or in the formation of a group, all of us in the Dormer Masonic Study Circle will be ready and anxious to give you all the help that we can.