SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.V February, 1927 No.2
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT
For some of us nothing in Masonry is more impressive than its very
first rite, after an initiate has told "In Whom Do You Put Your
Trust." It may be easily overlooked, but not to see it is to miss a
part of that beauty we were sent to seek.
Surely he is a strange man who can witness it without deep feeling.
The initiate is told that he can neither foresee nor prevent danger,
but that he is in the hands of a true and trusty friend in whose
fidelity he can, with safety, confide. It is literally true of the
candidate, as it is of all of us.
As a ceremony it may mean nothing, as a symbol it means everything,
if we regard initiation as we should, as a picture of a man pursuing
the journey of life, groping his dim and devious way out of the
unreal into the real, out of darkness into light, out of the shadows
into the way of life everlasting.
So groping, yet gently guided and guarded, man sets out on a mystic
journey on an unseen road, traveling from the West to the East, and
then from the East to the West by way of the South, seeking a city
that hath foundations, where truth is known in fullness and life
reveals both its meaning and its mystery. How profoundly true it is
of the way we all must walk.
From the hour we are born till we are laid in our grave we grope our
way in the dark, and none could find or keep the path without a
guide. From how many ills, how many perils, how many pitfalls we are
guarded in the midst of the years! With all our boasted wisdom and
foresight, even when we fancy we are secure we may be in the presence
of dire danger, if not death itself.
Truly it does not lie within a man to direct his path, and without a
true and trusted Friend in whom he can confide, not one of us would
find his way home. So Masonry teaches us, simply but unmistakably,
at the first step as at the last, that we live and walk by Faith, not
by sight; and to know that fact is the beginning of wisdom. Since
this is so, since no man can find his way alone, in life as in the
lodge we must with humility trust our Guide, learn His ways, follow
Him and fear no danger. Happy is the man who has learned that
No wonder this simple rite is one of the oldest and most universal
known among men. In all lands, in all ages, as far back as we have
record, one may trace it, going back to the days when man thought the
sun was God, or at least His visible outshining, whose daily journey
through the sky, from East to the West by way of the South, he
followed in his faith and worship, seeking to win the favor of the
Eternal by imitating his actions and reproducing His ways upon earth.
In Egypt, in India, in Greece, it was so. In the East, among the
Magi, the priest walked three times around the Altar, keeping it to
his right, chanting hymns, as in the Lodge we recite words from the
Book of Holy Law. Some think the Druids had the same rite, which is
why the stones at Stonehenge are arranged in circular form about a
huge altar; and no doubt it is true.
What did man mean by the old and eloquent rite? All the early
thought of man was mixed up with magic, and he is not yet free from
it. One finds traces of it even in our own day. By magic is meant
the idea that by imitating the ways of God we can actually control
Him and make Him do what we want done. It is a false idea, but it
still clings to much of our religion, as when men imagine that by
saying so many prayers that they have gained so much merit.
Masonry is not magic; it is moral science. In the Lodge we are
taught that we must learn the way and will of God, not in order to
use Him for our ends, but the better to be used by Him for His ends.
The difference may seem slight at first, but it is really the
difference between a true and a false faith - between religion and
superstition. Much of the religion of today is sheer superstition,
in which magic takes the place of morals. In Masonry morality has
first place, and no religion is valid without it.
As might be expected, a rite so old, so universal, so profoundly
simple, has had many meanings read into it.. The more the better; as
a great teacher said of the Bible, the more meanings we find in it
the richer we are. Some find in this old and simple rite a parable
of the history of Masonry itself, which had its origin in the East
and journeyed to the West, bringing the oldest wisdom of the world to
bless and guide the newest lands.
Others see in it a symbol of the story of humanity, in its slow,
fumbling march up out of savagery into the light of civilization; and
it does lend itself to such a meaning. Often the race has seemed to
be marching round and round, moving but making no progress; but that
is only seeming. It does advance, in spite of the difficulties and
obstructions in its path.
Still other think that it is a parable of the life of each
individual, showing our advance from youth with its rising sun in the
East, which reaches its zenith in the meridian splendor of the South,
and declines with the falling daylight to old age in the West. It is
thus an allegory of the life of man upon the earth, its progress and
its pathos, and it is true to fact.
All of these meanings are true and beautiful; but there is another
and deeper meaning taught us more clearly in the old English Rituals
than in our own. It offers us an answer to the persistent questions:
What am I? Whence Came I? Whither Go I? It tells us that the west
is the symbol of this world; the East of the world above and beyond.
Hence the colloquy in the first degree:
"As a Mason, whence do you come?"
"From the West."
"Whiter do you journey?"
"To the East."
"What is your inducement?"
"In quest of light."
That is, man supposes that his life originated in this world, and he
answers accordingly. But that is because he is not properly
instructed; he has not yet learned the great secret that the soul,
our life-star, had elsewhere its setting and comes from beyond this
world of sense and time. It is only sent into this dim world of
sense and shadow for discipline and development - sent to find
itself. So, in the Third degree, the answers are different, for by
that time the initiate has been taught a higher truth:
"Whence do you come?"
"From the East."
"Whither are you wending?"
"To the West."
"What is your inducement?"
"To find that which is lost."
"Where do you hope to find it?"
"In the center."
Ah, here is real insight and understanding, to know which is to have
a key to much that we do and endure in our life on earth; much which
otherwise remains a riddle. Our life here in time and flesh is a
becoming, a chance to find ourselves. It is as Keats said, a vale of
soul-making, and the hard things that hit and hurt us must be needed
for our making, else they would not be.
Nor do we walk with aimless feet, journeying nowhere, as the smart
philosophers of our day tell us. It is not a futile quest in which
we are engaged. And Masonry assures us that we are both guided and
guarded by the Friend who knows the way and may be trusted to the
end. Its promise is that the veils will be removed from our eyes and
the truth made known to us, when we are ready and worthy to receive
it. But, not until then!
It is a goodly teaching, tried by long ages and found to be wise and
true. Alas, it is easily lost sight of and forgotten, and we need to
learn it again and again. Here too, Masonry is a wise teacher; it
repeats, line upon line, precept upon precept. In every degree it
shows us the march of the soul around the Altar, and then beyond it
up the winding, spiral stair, and still beyond into the light and joy
of the Eternal Life.
Save by the old Roman Road none attain the new.
From the Ancient Hills alone we catch the view!