Bearing the Torch to Illumine the Human Mind
Masonry is not a mere collection of symbols or moral platitudes that exist only to aid in self-development. It is a living, breathing organism and has as its beating heart a conversation that has been carried on for millennia. This conversation is the conversation of human history. Not history in the way we think of it now, as names and dates and battles to be memorized, as the history of the victors of the terrestrial struggles of human beings. Instead it is the distilled experiences of human beings, their struggles, their pains, their victories and joys and exultations. These are the true fabric of human history, lived experience that has been faithfully transmitted in the safe and sacred repository of myth and legend.
The characters of myth and legend are not to be taken as unreal or imaginary. This is not to say that they are accurate representations of people that truly lived but they do not inhabit a realm of falsehood either. The figures of our many myths and legends represent archetypal truths, they are amalgamations of many real people who inhabited the time and circumstances that their myths describe. Any time we tell a story we cannot help but tell it with the materials we have at hand. Thus every story is in some way a reflection of reality.
Freemasonry, by the ancient and original definition of the term, is essentially a philosophy. It is the love of Wisdom as it has been revealed to Man by Nature. The Nature that its receives its knowledge from and whose mysteries it seeks to penetrate is the Human Nature, that inescapable essence that lies deep within each human heart. This essence is imprisoned within the rough stone upon which a Mason conducts his labor and the tools by which he accomplishes this work are the tools of moral philosophy. By upright living, by honesty and a ready hand are his works completed and it is the unrelenting love of Truth that allows him to swing his hammer with the same determination that allowed Socrates to drink his hemlock without a second thought.
For what is philosophy but knowledge put into action? Love is an action not a sterile concept or comforting idea. It is work, it is pain and it is heartbreak punctuated by the greatest exhilaration that a human being can experience. So too is philosophy. Philosophy is an unending quest that will push the true seeker far further than they could have conceived their feet would carry them. Philosophy too requires action, if the principles revealed by diligent study are not acted upon then the philosophy they espouse is stillborn will haunt the one who clings to an ivory tower of empty concepts and forsaken ideals.
As Bro. Manly Palmer Hall once wrote: “…they only are heathen who, having great ideals, do not live up to them… Every soul is engaged in a Great Work – the labor of personal liberation from the state of ignorance. The world is a great prison and its bars are the Unknown. Each is a prisoner until, at last, he earns the right to tear these bars from their moldering sockets and pass, illuminated and inspired into the darkness, which becomes lighted by that presence.” This is the Great work of Freemasonry and every Initiate is expected to attempt his or her escape from the prison house of ignorance with the fierce intention available only to those who are fighting for what they love.
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