A REGULAR PROGRESSION

Bro. G.E. HARRINGTON, M.M. No. 3525.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed". (II Tim. ii, 15.)

"The Rough Ashlar is a stone rough and unhewn as taken from the quarry until, by the industry and ingenuity of the workman, it is modelled, wrought into due form and rendered fit for the intended structure ". (5th Section-First Lecture).

In Transaction No. 81 "The Steps of Man" I tried to outline to some extent the progress pari passu in time, spiritually and materially, of mankind collectively. It is to be my humble endeavour in this Paper to mark individual progress spiritually and to relate thereto, our Masonic system and its Ritual, particularly that of the Second Degree. The Ceremony of this Degree has already formed the subject of a comprehensive Paper (Transaction No. 79) by our President. The reason that I am laying emphasis on the Second Degree in this Paper is because, although considered quite erroneously by many to be an unimportant part of our Ritual; a "nice little Degree" to work in the lodge of Instruction if suddenly called upon to take the Chair, or a Degree always to be worked with one of the others in the Lodge when there is plenty of work in hand; it is really an important Ceremony and to my mind most closely related to the fullness and vigour of our individual lifetimes; our forty years in the wilderness. Forty, you will remember brethren, is the number of a period of trial, tribulation and testing. It is recorded that Noah was in the Ark forty days, the Israelites in the wilderness and in the hands of the Philistines, forty years. For forty days morning and evening did Goliath present himself before the Israelites. Elijah was in hiding for forty days. It is further written that the Christian Master was forty days in the wilderness.

It is said that our physical organism is changed completely every seven years and I suppose that in the period between the end of the third seventh (age 21) and the end of the ninth seventh (age 63), a period of roughly forty years, we can best achieve our life's work; perform the labour that is assigned to us.

OUR ENTRANCE

In a state of helpless indigence, we make our entrance into this, our mortal existence, utterly dependent upon our parents for our nurture, care and protection. Indeed, without that, particularly the protection and loving care of our mother, our existence would be brief. All are partakers of the same nature - prince or peasant, duke or dustman, ancient slave or atomic scientist - all entered the world in the same state of helpless indigence. The earliest years of our lives are devoted to eating, drinking and sleeping and in exercise of the normal functions of our physical organism: The infant "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms" as Shakespeare says. And as we become proficient and eventually learn to walk and to talk we find that there is no longer any need to direct our attention all the time to our physical body but, that as we pass into childhood we give more play to our emotional and mental faculties. I doubt if any man has ever had any memory of the first two or three years of his life and how difficult it is for any of us when we reach manhood and pass on to middle-age to enter again into the spirit of our childhood. Wonderful is the mind of a child - not in the sense as we adults would measure it - intellectually - but in its power of boundless imagination and its measure of timelessness. Alice Meynell - who had a very good insight into the child mind - wrote a splendid essay entitled The Illusion of Historic Time in which she stated that a man's first ten years "gave him the illusion of a most august scale and measure. It was then that he conceived Antiquity." And she further wrote: "There is a long and mysterious moment in long and mysterious childhood which is the extremest distance known to any human fancy . . . a space not of long but of immeasurable time. It is the moment of going to sleep". Charles Lamb under his well-known pseudonym of "Elia" wrote an essay entitled Witches, and other Night Fears dealing with the thought - forms and night - fears of his childhood. Two extracts from this essay are worth quoting here, the one because it illustrates delightfully the whimsical style of Charles Lamb and the other because it shows the depth of his mind. If not, in the true sense of the word, a student of the Bible, Charles Lamb was well versed in its contents and often in his writings concealed, beneath a quixotic humour, a profound sense of the deeper aspects of its teachings and their application to daily life. He wrote in the essay that I have mentioned: "In my father's book-closet, the History of the Bible by Stackhouse, occupied a distinguished station. The pictures with which it abounds - one of the ark, in particular, and another of Solomon's Temple delineated with all the fidelity of ocular measurement, as if the artist had been upon the spot - attracted my childish attention. Stackhouse is in two huge tomes - and there was a pleasure in removing folios of that magnitude, which, with infinite straining, was as much as I could manage, from the situation which they occupied upon an upper shelf".

Later in the essay he wrote - after quoting from Coleridges Ancient Mariner (Lamb and Coleridge were friends and both old Christ's Hospital School-fellows) - "The kind of fear here treated of is purely spiritual - that it is in strong proportion as it is objectless upon earth - that it predominates in the period of sinless infancy - are difficulties, the solutions of which might afford some probable insight into our ante-mundane condition, and a peep at least, into the shadowland of preexistence ".

Certain it is, brethren, that in our childhood, princesses and warriors, fairies and witches, giants, ogres and little Tom Thumb, beanstalks and bears and so on, have a very strong hold upon our minds. Chimerical characters and fantastic forms are presented in a manner somewhat dramatic. These however are not just illusions of children to be dismissed by their elders as silly, stupid, childish nonsense. They are the outward forms of the powerful realities of a child's inner mind which will have nothing to do with the chains and prison-bars that crab, cabin and confine the adult mind. Even so, the adult has found it necessary to break through the chains and saw through the cold steely realities of mundane existence and thus we have the myth, the legend and the ritual - somewhat in dramatic form - the more forcibly to impress our minds. Hard, cold and grey indeed, would be life, especially in these days of so-called advanced science, if we were not able from time to time to free ourselves from our shackles and by the aid of such substituted secrets soar to those heights to which, in due time, by patient industry and merit, we hope all will attain - in reality. Many of the fairy tales of Grimm and Hans Andersen and the Nursery Rhymes contain within them in symbol, the presentation of certain verities. The late Wor. Bro. W.R. Cleland in his Paper "Freemasonry and Spiritual Disciplines" (Transaction No. 64), gave, what I might call, a comprehensive esoteric analysis of the Nursery Rhyme "Old Mother Hubbard went to the Cupboard". Consider, as an example also, the Nursery Rhyme "Jack and Jill went up a Hill" (the hill, a spiritual height - often thus literally depicted in cult, myth and religion, i.e., Mt. Parnassus, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Sinai: the Psalm "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills whence cometh my help" and there is the Sermon on the Mount).

"To fetch a pail of water" (water, the emblem of the outpouring of the spirit. Said the Christian Master, "Go ye into the City and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water, follow him" (Mark xiv, 13 and Luke xxii, 10). A man with the pitcher of water is the Sign of Aquarius).

"Jack fell down (the fall of humanity) and broke his crown (the crown of life) And Jill came tumbling after".

And like "Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall" - "All the king's horses and all the king's men " cannot restore us to our pristine state.

Characteristic of youth, is the impulse for play. Watch a kitten or a puppy, a lion cub or a child; all are playful and indicative of an unsullied and exhilarative joy.

"The Angel, who presided at my birth said- 'Little Creature, formed for joy and mirth, Go love - without the help of anything on earth'." (Blake)

It has been said that the Universe at work is the Universe at play. In the Eleusinian Mysteries there was a reference to a sacred basket which contained the play-things of Dionysus. In passing I would mention, that there is a reference to a basket of toys in one of the Craft Lectures.

An excursion into the countryside early on a fine Spring morning is an experience of the fact, that underlying and pervading all the vast processes of nature there is a keen joyousness.

"I will go unto the Altar of God, Even unto the God of my joy and gladness."

To a great thinker has been attributed the expression "God geometrizes" and an examination of the flowers of the field, especially with the aid of a lens, confirms the truth of this statement. Said the Christian Master:-

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, They toil not, neither do they spin; Yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Matthew vi, 28, 29.)

A lesson in both humility and beauty, so aptly crystallised in the words of Keats :

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know." (Ode on a Grecian Urn.)

Students of the Kabalah are aware of the position of Tepthareth and its import on the Tree of Life.

At this point I would like to quote at length one of the stanzas of Wordsworth's Ode on the Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:-

Our birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting, The soul that rises with us, our life's star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar; Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home, Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison house begin to close Upon the growing boy; But he beholds the light and whence it flows, He sees it in his joy; The youth, who daily farther from the east Must travel, still is Nature's priest, And by the vision splendid Is on his way attended; At length the man perceives it die away, And fade into the light of common day.

It is worth while pausing for a moment with this poetry fresh in our memory to recall to our minds parts of the Ritual of the Opening and of the Closing of the Lodge in the Third Degree.

"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!" "Shades of the prison house begin to close Upon the growing boy."

Imprisoned in a world of time and space, we have, in our childhood, to acquire the knowledge to use the proper working tools in that world; arithmetic, reading, writing and so on. Sooner or later, perhaps too soon in the present time, we have to give proofs of our proficiency by what is the bug-bear of our youth - examinations. After these we acquire a false sense of completion little appreciating that before us lie many, many searching and difficult examinations in our emotional, mental and spiritual worlds-examinations of far more importance.

Leaving behind the fair heights of childhood, daily farther from the East travelling, descending the difficult path of adolescence, we arrive at maturity and take our stations in the quarries of this life as both craftsman and material. A return from refreshment to labour and our station is the one that we have attained in our individual evolution and is the most suited for our spiritual progress if we will make use of it - this our Passing. Silently, without sound of metal tool must the work of rebuilding the unfinished and invisible Temple proceed and we must be careful to perform our allotted task while it is yet day. Our first work is that of ENTERED APPRENTICES.

"The Rough Ashlar" says the Fifth Section of the First Lecture, "is for the Entered Apprentice to work, mark and indent on. It represents man in his infant or primitive state, rough and unpolished as that stone". Before it can be modelled into the Perfect Ashlar, fit to be tried and approved by the Square of God's Word and the Compasses of the Craftsman's own self-convincing conscience, of true die, fair work and square, fit for that edifice, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, there is a very considerable amount of work to be done. There is first to be a cleaning up; a purification, a subjugation of our lower passions and as Entered Apprentices, with gavel and chisel, we must remove those knobs and excrescences, our crystallised conceptions, mental reservations and our comprehension of ourselves and the world around us as limited within the sphere of our own particular environment and contacts. All superfluities must be removed before the ashlar can be measured for its final proportions. Let it be noticed that the gavel, as used in our Lodges sets up vibrations representing three ascending grades of life: the body or physical life, the soul or psychical life and the spiritual life.

Modern scientific thought it must be remembered recognises that every phenomena is produced by and depends upon certain vibratory rate or vibratory sound. An explanation of the gavel is that it denotes the force of conscience. When the inner compelling power knocks upon our own being it should reverberate so that the three levels of spirit, soul and body vibrate in harmony to prevent the intrusion of inharmonious vain and unbecoming thoughts.

In other words, the E.A. has to undertake the work of self-purification not only physical and moral but mental as well. He must free his mind from those vibrations which keep it near to earth and by aspiration endeavour to bring it into harmony with higher values so that in due time he may as a Fellow-Craft "go up" - ascend a w..... g s..... e. In this he will be assisted by the advantages of education. By persistent knocks with gavel and chisel he may break down the superfluities and mark well his work for future progress.

One of the chief superfluities to be removed, a superfluity which is very common amongst us all is unnecessary, unimportant and futile talk - useless conversation and ceaseless chatter.

"There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes iii, 1-8). Inner silence is necessary for him who "having ears would hear".

With all the wisdom that permeates our Order it is not surprising that we find the motto of Grand Lodge to be "Audi, vidi, tace" - Hear, see - BE SILENT. Ceaselessly to be talking and chattering about all that goes on around us in the world - ever to be expressing our own opinions on all and sundry matters and confuting those of others; to be yearning, talking and the greatest evil of all - gossiping; is to dissipate our own enages and to set up disharmony in others. To express our own opinions when called upon is all right but to rush in on all possible occasions to express them, is all wrong. The world of men and women is suffering to-day from a great wasting by the continual flood of trivialities let loose from the press, radio, television and the cinema and last but not least, by ourselves. "Early and late we lay waste our powers."

By promiscuously pouring out idle words we let leak the oil of wisdom. In the V.S.L. we are told that the kingdom of heaven is likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish, they took their lamps and no oil, the other five took oil in vessels with their lamps. When the bridegroom was expected, the foolish virgins found that their lamps had gone out and sought to obtain oil from the wise. Eventually, they went off to buy oil but in the meantime, the bridegroom arrived and when the foolish virgins returned they were too late, the door was shut and admittance was refused them. It is not possible to "let your light so shine before men" if you have poured away the oil with which the lamp must be fed.

People who talk a lot about a little, not only waste energy and words, but they waste time and do not notice it. There is a story about Samuel Taylor Coleridge, that he not only talked a lot but that in his later days with failing sight he had the unhappy habit of holding his listener by a button of his jacket. Pressed for time, one of his acquaintances thus button-holed, became desperate and quietly took out his pocket-knife, cut off the button, and left Coleridge button in hand-still talking!

With a failure to appreciate the meanings of certain words and a continual and growing habit of using them as to divorce them from their original meanings, their true significance becomes lost to us. To our vocabulary we are ever adding more and more new words thus making it increasingly difficult for us clearly and concisely to convey to others exactly what we mean. Consequently we use words with our own subjective interpretation of their meaning and thus fail accurately to convey to others our true thoughts.

To return to the work of the Entered Apprentice: if he has learned the lesson of silence, he will pay attention to time and remember to measure his work. Part will be spent in prayer (obtaining the oil of wisdom), part in labour and refreshment (trimming the wick and cleaning the lamp) and part in helping another in time of need (thus lighting the lamp so that all men may see the Light and glorify its Source).

It is to be noticed that the Prayer in the Ceremony of Initiation has reference not to a condition of static morality but to an unfoldment of the beauties of true Godliness.

Emblematically the E.A. commences his work in the North-East - at the junction of the darkness of the North and the rays of Light from the East. In life it is up to us all as to which way we go. One thing is certain - move we must - we cannot remain still. All life is perpetual motion - nothing remains still - including our minds.

But we do not like change, and it is strange how we try to make time stand still for ourselves. We just hate to have our cherished plans for the future disturbed; we hate to be jolted in our ideas; we dislike a shock; we are always looking for a far off grand day when we shall be established in our way in the things that we want and the ideas that we cherish. We plan for ourselves and for others to travel along the road that we lay down and in the direction that we construct it and, if our road is destroyed or we are forced to take other paths or others take them, we are disappointed, aggrieved and feel that something has gone wrong - it should not have so happened. Feverishly, in an imaginary fight against time we try to build a nice level road but on shifting sand and at the foot of a cliff and we lose sight of the narrow, somewhat difficult path winding spirally upwards which alone is immutable, along which ultimately we must tread and which will lead us to safety and to timeless happiness.

And brethren, as a little fantasy, let us imagine that we can see that upward spiral path. It is divided into three tracks along each of which trudge three men clothed in white. Countless forms ascend before them and countless forms follow but they only see themselves and they look ahead as though looking for a sign post. Presently, before them appears a guide carrying a wand with the caduceus of Mercury at the top and he asks them severally, whither they wish to go. One, who carries with him scrolls of music and poetry, a flute and artist's colour brushes, replies "Towards Beauty". The second who carries fruits and kindly offerings, says "To seek to emulate the Good Samaritan"; and the third who carries books of Sacred Writings and of philosophy, a telescope and a microscope, essays "Towards Wisdom."

Their interrogator, satisfied with these answers instructs them to progress onwards still guided by the principles of moral truth and virtue but adds that in the course of such progression, they must needs change places and when each has trod in the others tracks they would emerge into a single path. For their further instruction he presents each with a scroll to read and then goes away. On the scroll are written four injunctions :-

(i) Know thyself. (ii) To know the Doctrine you must do the Will. (iii) Know, will, dare and BE SILENT. (iv) Seek not reward in Heaven or Earth.

In the above-mentioned little fantasy, I have used the words "progress onwards still guided by the principles of moral truth and virtue", as marking a regular progression - slow but sure. One cannot run up-hill without incurring the risk of complete exhaustion - a rash attempt to rush forward. Conversely however, one can run downhill, ever gaining impetus until there is a final crash into the abyss - an attempt equally fatal, unless the brethren on the way behind succeed in stopping one and - what is more important still - helping one again on the upward path.

As Entered Apprentices we are expected but to prepare the stone for the hands of the more experienced workmen, which indeed, we are to become ourselves. The Work (and I use the word advisedly) commences in the North-East. At this point, it should be noted brethren, we have the first reference to a stone, a building and a builder. A superstructure is to be raised, perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder. This is not just a piece of poetical effusion but emblematically has reference to matters metaphysical of great importance which must here be left for your consideration. I will, however, quote from the V.S.L. Ps. 127 (A Song of Degrees for Solomon) v. 1. " Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" and also from Chapter 2 of the Epistle to the Ephesians which has reference to the "building fitly framed together which groweth into a holy temple in the Lord . . . . In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit ".

It is significant too, that here comes the first reference to, and quite a long dissertation on, the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason's heart. It is necessary that we should endeavour to have some clear impression as to exactly what is meant - how we are to maintain in their fullest splendour those truly Masonic ornaments. "Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels and have not charity", said St. Paul, "I am become as sounding brass or inkling cymbals". The word charity has many synonyms such as, love, benevolence, liberality and generosity.

Perhaps charity could well be defined as "having a universal compassion for, and being in sympathy with all living things" - to exercise loving-kindness towards and a sincere regard for all and everything that treads in pain and pleasure the slow but ever upward winding path. To hold all dear and close to ourselves, We are to remember that he who is on the lowest spoke of fortune's wheel is equally entitled to our regard. When perchance, we rub shoulders with some of our unfortunate brethren - "Les Miserables" - sometimes sick, often poor, even sometimes dirty and repulsive, it is so easy to forget that injunction - so easy to pass by on the other side - so easy to give a coin or write out a cheque. In Light on the Path by Mabel Collins, appear the words "remember that the soiled garment you shrink from touching may have been yours yesterday: may be yours to-morrow, and if you turn with horror from it when it is flung upon your shoulders it will cling the more closely to you ".

We have to be on our guard against a weakness which, I suppose, is common to most of us. That is exercising charity towards, having affection for, the being and the things of our own choosing only - and that because they give us pleasure. We like certain people because we get on well with them or they are jolly. We like some animals in preference to others because we think them intelligent or they appeal more than others do to our aesthetic taste. We choose books because we get pleasure from them and their message fits in with our conceptions - right down our street as we might say. The average human mind it seems, is inordinately lazy - I might almost say - ASLEEP - we will not bestir ourselves and more often than not, rather than think and form our own judgments - rather than reflect or meditate - which seems to us to be non-productive in a busy world which must always be making and doing - and not making or doing very well at that - rather than reflect or meditate, we accept the opinions of others and worse still; armed with those opinions we blithely pass judgments as our own.

May I remind you of the description in The Light of Asia of an old and crippled man crossing the path of the fair Prince Siddhartha (who was later to become the Lord Buddha) and how the Prince from whose gaze such sights had been studiously kept, ordered his chariot to return to the house because he was profoundly disturbed and very unhappy to think that he could have such an unfortunate brother. This self-same Prince Siddartha it is earlier recorded, as a boy, drew forth the arrow from the wild swan that his cousin had hit, and seeing the cruel barb, the Prince "turned with tears to soothe the bird again". In the Long Closing we are enjoined that every human creature has a just claim on our kind offices. I would go further and say that every creature (human or not) has just such a claim and that we should eschew cruelty which, alas, to-day appears particularly rampant. It would seem that we humans are not satisfied to persecute, punish, maim and kill our own kind but we must inflict injury and suffering on our brothers of the lower kingdom whether they be four-legged, feathered or finned, and in many cases for no other reason do we do this than that it provides us with what we are pleased to dub "sport".

Magnificent are the lines of Wordsworth where he refers to life lower down the scale:

"To look with feelings of fraternal love Upon the unassuming things that hold, A silent station in this beauteous world." Of such is charity.

Having served our time as E.A.s (theoretically for a period of seven years) in the work of discipline, self-purification, self-control and education the bringing into due form of the outward self, we have prepared the stone for the hands of the more experienced workman who is to be none other than ourselves.

Hitherto our progression has been in a straight line on one plane but more advanced work cannot be done on the same level; to become more experienced workmen we must ascend to higher planes.

"In my Father's house are many mansions" (John xiv, 2).

There are many rooms as it were, full of great and valuable privileges but these are only obtainable by those who have the means to ascend to these rooms, only those who are properly prepared; for the privileges carry with them heavy responsibilities not the least of which is how and for what purpose they are to be used.

Mount from the earth, aspire! aspire! So pleads the towns cathedral quire "

We must seek our own advancement - we must ask for preferment. -

We must aspire but ... there is a warning - we shall be challenged.

We have been told before of the penalty of foolish, reckless haste or of arrant cowardice. Now we have to remember the fate of those who prevaricated and of those who had a defect in their aspiration.

What is our motive - for what and why do we aspire?

"... the right act,

Is less, far less, than the right thinking mind, Seek refuge in thy soul, have there thy heaven, Scorn them that follow virtue for her gifts." (So reads Sir Edwin Arnold's translation of The Bhagavad-Gita.)

Improvement in the work and our own skill to execute it, is not possible unless, from the centre of the building comes the direction that such improvement is desired and desired only for the glory of God and the good of man.

If and when we satisfy this requirement, then and then only, can we, as did our ancient brethren go up "with winding stairs into the Middle Chamber" (I Kings, viii, 6-8). Then, are we true CRAFTSMEN.

Yet we may find that our progress upward is impeded by the unnecessary clothing that we wear and which will hamper our passage through the door into the middle chamber even though we have satisfied its guardian by proper responses to his legitimate demands. The gaudy coat of self-esteem must be flung off. The robes of self-righteousness, spiritual pride and self-satisfaction must be discarded. Clothed with humility and docility we find that at this higher level we must leave behind the valuations we have acquired in the lower and mundane existence. We learn how poor, limited and erroneous have been our assessment of certain values and we recognise immediately the wisdom of the dictum "Judge not, lest ye also art judged".

On the First Degree Tracing Board there is depicted, a ladder - in Scripture called Jacob's Ladder.

"Jacob being weary and benighted in a dessert plain lay down to rest, taking the Earth for his bed, a stone for his pillow and the Canopy of Heaven for a covering. He there, in a vision, saw a Ladder, the top of which reached to the Heavens, and the Angels of the Lord, ascending and descending thereon " (4th Sec., 1st Lec.).

Symbolical, brethren, of Man, asleep, "even at the very foot of the Ladder which he can ascend", the principal rungs being Faith, Hope and Charity. This symbol is well explained in Transaction No. 24.

On the Second Degree Tracing Board in the place of the Ladder there is shown a w..... g s...... e, a spiral path. Such a spiral path are we to take to enter the M .... e C..... r - of ourselves.

In the Charge after Initiation we are enjoined to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.

What is Masonic knowledge? Certainly it is not just being able perfectly to memorise the Ritual. Neither is it even being able to work a Ceremony impeccably. If this was all that was meant and if one were able to do all this then one would just come to a full stop. You will notice that the word "advancement" is used - a "daily advancement in Masonic knowledge". According to the dictionary "to advance" is "to move forward or upward", "to progress", "to rise", Notice brethren "to move upward-to rise". ("And they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber.")

In the Introductory Address to the Second Lecture these words are used: -

"Masonry is a progressive science consisting of different Degrees calculated for the more gradual advancement in the knowledge of its mysteries; according to the progress we make, we limit or extend our enquiries and in proportion to our capacities we attain to a greater or lesser degree of perfection."

Let us analyse this statement. First we are told that Masonry is a science. The word "science" comes from the Latin "scire" "to know"; not just to have specialised information on one, two or more subjects, but - to know. It may be asked "What kind of science is Masonry - it has been referred to as the noble science and royal art - what particular science and what form of art?" When the word "science" is used to-day, there immediately comes to the mind the query "What branch of science; chemistry, physics, electricity and magnetism, medicine, or what?" The science of Masonry incorporates all these and much more - it is the science of the Spirit - the science of Being - the science of Life - and its practice is the Royal Art.

You will notice the reference to the more gradual advancement "in the knowledge of its mysteries" not its Ritual you will observe - but its mysteries. Then we get a very peculiar but telling phrase. "According to the progress we make we limit or extend our enquiries." This is quite true, and here we are thrown back to those words in the V.S.L. which are also incorporated in our Masonic Lectures. "Ask, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you," as indeed the door of the Lodge is opened to him who comes poor and humbly soliciting.

In the Second Section of the Second Lecture, the following dialogue is incorporated: -

Q. Why were you passed to the Degree of a F.C.? A. For the sake of Geometry, or the Fifth Science on which Masonry is founded. Q. What is Geometry? A. A Science whereby we find out the contents of bodies unmeasured by comparing them with those already measured. Q. Its proper subjects? A. Magnitude and extension or a REGULAR PROGRESSION of Science from a point to a line, from a line to a superficies, and from a superficies to a solid.

To return to the last phrase of that instructive sentence in the Introductory Address to the Second Lecture: "and in proportion to our capacities we attain to a greater or lesser degree of perfection": "capacity" means receiving or containing power and it will be remembered that the Christian Master said to his disciples "I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now" (St. John xvi, 12). They were not ready, they had not the capacity, they were not properly prepared, they had attained a degree of perfection but must needs make further regular progress for more gradual advancement.

To know the Doctrine one must do the Will and success in the Royal Art lies in its practice outside as well as within the Lodge. It is a pity that owing to the stress of modern life we have found it necessary to reduce our Ceremonies to a minimum length and to shorten the time between taking Degrees. Consequently too much is said and too little absorbed. We trust that the import neither is, nor ever will be effaced from the Candidate's memory without giving him the chance of properly absorbing it. For ourselves we hear the same injunctions so often and pay so little attention that whilst it would not be right to say familiarity breeds contempt it might be near the mark to say "repetition can dull response."

It is so easy to be lulled into a sense of false security, of inertia, of self-deception. So easy to like the things that appeal to us, to take the easier path and to avoid conflict. And in this, may I just say a word with regard to reading. We CAN read too much and we often do. Somebody once said that one should read for ten minutes and then think about what has been read for half-an-hour. We CAN and very often do, in reading skim off the pleasure and pour away the profit. We take a book on a subject with which we are in sympathy and have more than a passing interest, the matter is magnificently presented by the author, in expert and attractive form. We are entranced; we finish reading it; we close it, we put it down and then mentally we say "That is a wonderful and beautiful book - I must recommend Bro. So-and-so to read it - he will never have realised that such an expert book could have been written upon such a unique subject". And then we start searching round for another book by another author on the same subject. But were we given a sheet of foolscap paper and asked to write in concise form the tenor of the first book and the Author's presentation of ideas, how many us could do it?

Promiscuous reading without forethought and after-thought can be destructive of mind and thought power. If a book is selected, as it should be, with purpose, one should ask oneself before commencing to read it seriously: What is the nature of the subject treated by the author? What do I know about such a subject and what are my opinions and convictions thereon? Then the book should be read but not with the sole aim of finishing it.

It should be studied, lived with, and thought on, but when it is finished one should try and make a short precis of the contents. This impresses the subject well on the mind and is a very valuable exercise. Obviously with the millions of books printed life is too short for any one of us, however expert, to read any more than a very small fraction of them.

"And further by these my son", said the Preacher (v. 12 of the 12th Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes), be admonished:

"Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."

What is of the greatest importance is to ensure that the printed words as such are not transferred to our minds but that they are transformed into living mental images which we can express in words ourselves from any point of view chosen.

A matter, it seems to me, of fundamental importance in reading, religion and ritual, is the necessity of avoiding substituting the form for the meaning.

Probably the reason for the emptiness of some houses of religious worship is due to the fact that those responsible have allowed form to usurp meaning. The followers have asked for bread and have been given a stone.

Let it be remembered - and here I quote from Transaction No. 47 "The Great Work in Speculative Freemasonry", by Wor. Bro. R. A. L. Harland, that: "... our present Masonic system, is not one coming from remote antiquity. There is no direct continuity between us and the Egyptians or the ancient Hebrews. What is extremely ancient in Freemasonry is the spiritual doctrine which is concealed within the architectural phraseology of the Ritual; for this is an elementary form of the doctrine taught in all ages, no matter in what garb it has been expressed. To put it in another way; Freemasonry offers, in dramatic ceremonial, a philosophy of the spiritual life of man and a diagram of the process known as regeneration. This philosophy is not only consistent with the doctrine of every religious system taught outside the ranks of our Order, but it explains, elucidates and more sharply defines, the fundamental doctrines common to all religions of the world, whether past or present ".

Truly may we say brethren, "having subsisted from time immemorial".

Truly also can we appreciate - and I particularly want to stress this point - that our Work must go on and on. It cannot be confined within the time, shall we say, of our being Initiated into the Order, and of our becoming a Past Master or receiving Higher Rank. The Work has to go on always, until time shall be no more. Often have the following words been quoted within this Circle:-

Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the journey's end, Will the long journey take the whole long day? From morn to night my friend."

The question of distinction between outward form and inner meaning is of utmost importance. And if we are careful not to substitute the form for the meaning we shall realise that the import of the Second Degree is that we have "passed" to a higher and inner plane where our work truly must be in silence - without sound of metal tool.

Our Ceremonies in themselves are invaluable to our progress, the study of the right books in the right way, listening to lectures, etc., are great aids to our work, but in the final analysis, we are the Craftsmen and alone and unaided we must carry out the work on our own ashlars. When we are silent, when we have exercised ourselves in regular meditation along proper lines, when with reverential awe we have approached and entered that middle chamber of "ourselves" then and there shall we be taught to become experienced workmen and therein shall we receive our wages without scruple and without diffidence.

It has to be remembered beforehand however, that no work is ever carried on satisfactorily by fits and starts: Enthusiastic energy followed by lethargic languor or bothered boredom is no good at all. A splendid commencement that tails off into indifferent inaptitude is futile, and to abandon the work when once commenced is fatal. Remember the words of a Great Teacher:

"No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke ix, 62.)

The work is not to be thought of as a spare time occupation or as a hobby, to be picked up in a desultory fashion and put down again when it tires. If the stone is to take its place in the structure, it must be sound, it must be smooth and of true die, or the structure might be affected. There must be no blunders and it cannot be left. Rather than have to do the work all over again then, it would be better not to commence it until we feel capable. To quote again the Christian Master: -

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it.

"Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build but was not able to finish (Luke xiv, 28-30.)

One of the things that we have got to do in working on the ashlar is to keep a check to see that we do not keep working on one face only. Apart from the fact that we may fail to leave ourselves with sufficient energy to finish the other surfaces, we may make it lopsided, out of true die and therefore unfit for the building. We have to keep turning the stone round or go round it, so that we can see it on all faces. In other words we must see ourselves - and see ourselves properly, not just from one angle - as we think we are or like to think we are. We have to present many surfaces to life and by the friction, the conflict, the struggle, we are prepared, made smooth and perfected. It is quite common to hear it said of a man that "He has had the rough edges knocked off him". I mentioned earlier how we like to try to mould life for ourselves and others into fixed patterns: to impose these patterns on life and try and make them static. We do not succeed of course, and it is just as well that we do not. One has only to look round to see how all things in life have to oppose life - have to struggle. In men this is not only on the physical plane but on the emotional and mental planes as well. We none of us like the so-called "Yes" men. "There is only one meaning of life", it has been said, "the art of living itself". To know the truth, be the truth. Doubtless you are aware of the Hindu philosophy of the whole of Nature consisting of three forces or qualities, TAMAS - darkness or inactivity: RAJAS attraction or repulsion and SATTVA - the equilibrium of these two. And it is said that when these three are in equilibrium there is no manifestation - it is the Night of Brahma. One of the laws of mechanics states: "If three forces acting on the same particle can be represented in magnitude and direction (but not in position) by the sides of a triangle, taken in order, they shall be in equilibrium."

This friction, this constant struggle, this conflict appears to interfere with our progression, as indeed it does. We cannot proceed in the form of a mathematical geometrical progression. There cannot be progression in that sense. Life swings like a pendulum, backwards and forwards - war and peace, health and sickness, prosperity and adversity, etc., - a strange contrariety of events emblematically represented in our Lodges by the mosaic paving in reference to which the Fifth Section of the First Lecture says "To-day we may travel in prosperity, to-morrow we may totter on the uneven paths of weakness, temptation and adversity." But brethren we are also reminded that the Square pavement is for the High Priest to walk on, and who other is the High Priest, than ourselves:

"The youth who daily farther from the east, Must travel, still is Nature's priest, And by the vision splendid, Is on his way attended."

And we are indeed High Priests when we have attained the ability to walk on the Square pavement - in other words when we have learnt to be dispassionate - the same in pleasure or in pain, sickness or health, prosperity or adversity; a very high state and not easy to reach. Its attainment does not mean that we are going about the world always being the top dog, successful in business, victorious in sport, robust in body and healthy in constitution - on the contrary many will be the trials and tribulations to beset our path. It does mean that by our inner transformation of the impressions we thus receive we are not turned aside from our work, we remain poised and inwardly at peace. We find sanctuary in the middle chamber.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes ii, 1-5, it is written: - "My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation.

"Set thy heart aright (notice this Brethren - elsewhere it is written that 'thou shalt keep thy heart with all diligence') and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble.

"Cleave unto him and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy last end (a Regular Progression! ). Whatsoever is brought upon thee, take cheerfully and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate.

"For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity."

By frequent trials and approbation are we tried in the furnace of adversity.

As Fellow Crafts we are to work (theoretically at least) for five years. Five hold a Lodge of Fellow Crafts namely, the W.M., the two Wardens and two F.C.s. The Lectures, as I have already mentioned, refer to Geometry as "the Fifth Science on which Masonry is founded" and in this connection should be noted the Title given to the Deity in the Second Degree.

To the Deity in each of the three established Degrees generally and in the prayers particularly different Titles are given. These are all in effect titles which, subjectively we use to convey to our minds, some aspect, some understanding, some comprehension, of the Supreme Being. But they are not Names. It is not possible for man to objectify God. Nicolas Berdyaev wrote that "it is extraordinary how limited is the human conception of God". God is both transcendent and immanent and it is with very sound justification that the Israelites never allow themselves to pronounce the Name of God.

In Chapter 3, verses 13 and 14 of the Second Book of Moses, called Exodus, it is written: -

"And Moses said unto God, Behold when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me what is his name? What shall I say unto them?

"And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."

Referring once again to Transaction No. 47 "that what is extremely ancient in Freemasonry is the spiritual doctrine which is concealed within the architectural phraseology".

We can see, can we not, how necessary it is to beware of substituting the form for the meaning.

It is said, that Humanity in its evolution is now in the Fifth Root Race. We do not need to be told that Humanity is now also PASSING through a very, very difficult period. The old order is giving way to the new and the transition is extremely painful. As for Humanity, in its Passing, so must the individual Fellow-Craft in his, expect to pass through periods of particular strain and stress. Difficulties unexpected may dog his steps and frustration fall to his lot, but he is to be reminded that as earlier light was his predominant wish, so now must he pray for its continuance.

"Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows Like harmony in music; there is a dark Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles Discordant elements, make them cling together in one society, How strange that all The terrors, pains and early miseries, Regrets, vexations, lassitudes infused Within my mind, should e're have borne a part And that a needful part, in making up The calm existence that is mine when I Am worthy of myself." (The Prelude - W. Wordsworth.)

In Hindu terminology there are recognised what are known as FIVE Kleshas - or obstacles to spiritual progress. A "kleshe" is literally an affliction. To enumerate the FIVE Kleshas. They are:-

1. AVIDYA..... unwisdom.

2. ASMITA..... self-personality - the thought that the Indwelling Life IS that personality so that man begins to serve its interest instead of using it merely as an instrument for his spiritual advancement.

3 & 4. RAGA and DWESHA ... liking and disliking. Or attraction and repulsion. With some people, anything that disturbs them is bad anything which fits in with them and enhances them is good; even the weather for instance. I have already stressed this attitude earlier but its consideration is very important. Such an outlook in life does not harmonise with spiritual progress. After all-what is "good", what is "bad"?

5. ABHINIVESHA ... the state of being fixed, settled in, attached to the personality, or a form or a mode of life.

A wit, once said, that the only difference between a groove and a grave, was the use of vowels.

It is this last aspect however that I wish to stress with regard to our work. The danger of being fixed, settled. The danger of having one's consciousness over-charged with the form; the Lodge, the Temple, the Ceremonies, the Officers, the Candidates, the Ritual, etc., to the detriment of an awareness of the great and full import that lies behind it all.

In dealing with the fives, we must not omit consideration of the five major senses, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling. Through these senses come to us our impressions from without and this is where we must NOT be asleep to make sure that we do not mechanically respond to them but rather that we react to them properly and transform them within ourselves so that instead of being mere slaves to outward happenings we really do make our passions and prejudices coincide with our strict line of duty and in all our pursuits have eternity in view. We must look to the time when we can say with Henley : -

I am the master of my fate, I am captain of my soul."

But to do all this we must observe and criticise ourselves. There must be some introspection, not with a view to bewailing our weaknesses or even to strengthening our resolves but rather that like good craftsmen, we turn the stone round to examine the work we do on all its surfaces, and like great artists, pause, step back and criticise our work.

It is not my intention here to enter into any description of the meaning of our signs. Doubtless they are known to you, suffice it to say that they are of far-reaching importance, of profound significance and of great value when used with intention and awareness.

In the salutation to the newly installed W.M. with B.H.B. the mental, emotional and physical bodies are all signified and if we are to regulate our lives and actions according to Masonic line and rule and to harmonise our conduct so as to render us acceptable to that Divine Being from whom all goodness springs, then we must see to it that these three bodies serve us in harmony: that we do not allow any one of them to be used to the detriment of the others.

We have all sprung from the same stock, are partakers of the same nature and sharers in the same hope. I have already referred to our brethren on the lowest spoke of Fortune's Wheel, but some time ago I found Three Rules which seemed to me to be very adequate advice in our approach. I would like to give them to you: -

(1) Enter thy brother's heart and see his woe - then speak. Let the words spoken convey to him the potent force he needs to loose his chains. Yet loose them not thyself. Thine is the work to speak with understanding. The force received by him will aid him in his work.

(2) Enter thy brother's mind and read his thoughts but only when thy thoughts are pure - then think. Let the thoughts thus created enter thy brother's mind and blend with his. Yet keep detached thyself, for none have a right to sway a brother's mind. Learn thus to speak-learn thus to think.

(3) Blend with thy brother's soul and know him as he is. Only upon the plane of soul can this be done. Thus will he enter into life and know the work accomplished.

By the use of the infallible criterion do we ensure that our work is balanced.

The Greek word for righteousness meant - upright - between the opposites. "I come from between the pillars," said the Egyptian neophyte.

We are to turn neither to the right nor to the left - we are to be balanced - midway: not pulled one way or the other.

But this is not easy because we possess what is known as our personality, and so long as we hang on to and cherish our personality, liking our own standards of what is good and what is bad, our own standards of justice, our own standards of truth, our likes and dislikes, our angers and so on - so shall we tend to be pulled over to the left and then over to the right, the one will oppose the other and we shall swing like a pendulum from side to side.

We may attempt to get to the South only to be sent reeling over to the North. To remain steadfast in the East between the two, we must be free from our petty attachments, imaginations and stupidities and between the opposites, between the two thieves, our personality must die. The craftsman has prepared the ashlar and as a MASTER MASON must undergo that last and greatest trial that by the Lord of life he may be enabled to trample the King of terrors beneath his feet and lift his eyes to that Bright Morning Star.

Finally brethren, to depart for a moment from the architectural phraseology and imagery of our Masonic Order, may I just suggest to you: -

That we come into this world not for our own benefit alone: -

"Man lives not for himself alone, In others good he finds his own."

It was Thomas Arnold, I think, who told the boys of Rugby "that life was not lived amongst books but among men". Life is commitment. Life for each of us is a school. No man is another man's enemy: every man is the other man's tutor.

What you observe praiseworthy in others you should carefully imitate, and what in them may appear defective, you should in yourselves amend."

Life is a school and we each must seek a Master, learn our lessons and sit for our examinations. If we fail, then back to school we must go.

But over and above all this: over and above any spiritual benefit in life that may accrue to ourselves, over and above any benefit that we are privileged to bestow upon our brethren, is there not a Higher Source to which we must contribute, for which purpose our lives are really spent here? Is there not to be a transformation, a transmutation if you will, of our lower lives, our physical, emotional and mental bodies, into higher spiritual values?

In the physical world everything contributes to something higher than itself. The chemical and other substances of the earth feed the crops, the grass, the vegetables and the fruits which in turn feed animal and man: there are the sequences of the flowers, the bees, the honey: the wheat and the bread; the grapes and the wine and so on.

But we, who all come into this world, poor and penniless, and leave it in like manner, have we not too to contribute to something higher than ourselves?

Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come, From God, who is our home."

Then to God must we return, taking with us, the fruits of our spiritual life. The Rough Ashlar that was ours we have worked, marked and indented on: as more experienced workmen, by industry and ingenuity and having studied to be approved of God, we have modelled and wrought it into due form. It is now a stone of a true die or square, approved and passed on to the Builder to take its place in that glorious edifice not made with hands eternal in the Heavens.

Should we not brethren, be humbly thankful that we have had given to us, our great Order "having subsisted from time immemorial" to assist us in our Work: grateful, that we have this functional means of grace, this science of spiritual regeneration, this art of spiritual advancement.

"Ye are the salt of the earth," said the Christian Master to his disciples. "But if the salt have lost his savour wherewith shall it be salted." (Matthew, v, 13.)

If the Craftsman loses his skill, the Work may come to a standstill. Hence the supplication: -

"May the work begun in Thy Name, be continued to Thy Glory. And evermore be established in us by obedience to Thy Divine precepts."

SO MOTE IT BE.