SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VI April, 1928 No.4
Power is the ability to act so as to produce change and cause
events. Purpose is the idea or object kept before the mind as an end
of effort or action.
Modern science has uncovered so much power that thoughtful men fear
it will work for the destruction of civilization unless a
commensurate humane purpose is developed for its direction.
The day and generation in which we live pulsates with power, the
world is held in place by dynamic appositions, the universe is
vibrant with force and man is a part of the Divine energy. The
greatest thing in God's created universe is man. In him, according
to the teachings of Freemasonry, is the Eternal Flame, the
indestructible image of the living God. The power of man cannot be
defined, cannot be fenced in, because it transcends all finite
standards of measurement.
Power directed by a bad purpose is positive destruction. Alexander
the Great was the most powerful man of antiquity. With an Army of
35,000 men he flung himself against a Persian horde of over one
million. He conquered the world, but could not master himself.
Intent on lust and luxury, dissipation and destruction, his purposes
were bad, and at the age of forty-two he died in a drunken fit.
Charles the First of England insisted on the Divine right of Kings.
He had his courts decree that the King could do no wrong, he filled
the Tower of London with political prisoners, tortured and
decapitated his enemies, claimed the right of life and death over his
subjects. and exercised the unlimited power of an absolute monarch.
His purposes were bad, and under Oliver Cromwell his career was
canceled, the executioner swung his axe and the head of Charles the
First rolled in the dust.
These were unusual men occupying exceptional positions, but the power
of destruction is terrific in the most ordinary life. Czolgocz, the
Polish anarchist, was a man of low order in the social scale; without
wealth, without influence and without education; from the casual
viewpoint ignorant, insignificant and weak. His mind was a breeding
ground of crazy purposes, but he had sufficient destructive power to
shoot William McKinley and assassinate the Chief Magistrate of the
greatest nation on earth.
Power directed by a good purpose is constructive, and results in
achievement. It keeps the cars on the tracks and the wires in the
air; it turns the wheels of man's industry and carries the commerce
of continents as upon a mighty shoulder.
Warren Hastings was born in 1832; his mother was a servant girl who
died when the baby was two days old; his father deserted him, so he
grew up as a charity child. He had a hungry mind and obtained an
education as best he could. When eighteen years of age he shipped
for India, working for his own passage. He had a purpose in his life
and there came a power that enabled him to establish the Bengal
Asiatic Society, to found colleges out of his own funds and in his
own name. Disraeli and English supremacy in India was the direct
result of this man's work. Today the memory of Warren Hastings is
linked with the greatness of the British Empire.
David Livinston was a humble Scotchman, the son of a weaver and
himself a worker at the spinning wheel. Into his soul there came a
great purpose of life, and he went to South Africa as a missionary.
He was frail of body, never physically strong, but with a purpose
there came to him a power to brave danger and endure privations. For
a period of twenty years he blazed a trail of light through a dark
continent, destroyed the slave trade in Negroes, and convinced the
world that the salvation of Africa was a white man's job. In that
commission he surrendered his life on his knees in supplication to
God. His body was carried thousands of miles by a black man through
jungles, over rivers, across land and seas; last summer at West
Minster Abbey I stood before his mortal remains buried and honored in
the sepulcher of Kings.
In his early manhood Abraham Lincoln stood before a slave market in
New Orleans. Upon the block was a young woman, stripped to the
waist. He heard the auctioneer describe her fine points and estimate
her value. He became conscious, not simply of a black form, but a
life divinely given. His soul responded to the challenge of a
supreme purpose and he said: "If I have a chance to strike this
institution I will strike it hard." Through the years there came to
him the power to blaze out the path and light up the way for a new
baptism of human freedom, finally to seal that purpose with a
martyr's blood and ascend to the throne of God with four million
broken fetters in his hands. Now the whole world joins in a myriad-
voiced chorus of love and honor to his memory. In every land and
under every clime he i
History preserves in the clear amber of immortality the record of
men, who, set on fire by some sublime purpose and dedicate the power
of their lives to its prosecution.
The lesson is definite and practical. The twenty-four inch gauge and
the common gavel speak to every Mason the language of constructive
purpose and personal power. They mean that a Mason should cherish
his ideals, the beauty that forms in his mind, the music that stirs
in his heart, the glory that drapes his purest purpose, for out of
these things he has the power to build for himself and a new world in
which to live.
The Level is an instrument used by operative Masons to prove
horizontals. It is trite to say that it is a symbol of equality.
The Declaration of American Independence proclaims that all men are
"Created Equal." With most of us this is a glittering generality,
born of the fact that we are all made of the same dust, share a
common humanity and walk on the level of time until the grim
democracy of death blots out all distinctions, and the scepter of the
prince and the staff of the beggar are laid side by side.
It is apparent that men are not equal, and cannot be equal either in
brain or brawn. There is no common mold by which humanity can be
reduced to a dead level. The world has various demands requiring
different powers; brains to devise great and important undertakings;
seers to dream dreams and behold visions; hands to execute the
designs laid down upon the Trestleboard; scientists to adorn the mind
and reveal the glories of the universe; poets to inspire the soul and
play music on human heart strings; pioneers to blaze out the path,
and prophets to light up the way to a land where the rainbow never
The equality of which the Level is a symbol is one of right and not
one of gift and endowment. It stands for the equal right of every
man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the equal right of
every man to be free from oppression in the development of his own
faculties. It means the destruction of special privilege and
Freemasonry presided over the birth of our Republic and by the skill
of its leaders wrote into organic law of this land the immutable
truth of which the Level is a symbol. In a Masonic Lodge George
Washington was taught that the Level is a symbol of equality. In the
darkest hour of the Colonial cause, the soldiers, in a moment of
despair and desperation, would have placed on Washington's head the
crown of a King. Hayden says, "The overthrow of the rump of
Parliament by Cromwell, the breaking up of the imbecile directory by
Napoleon were difficult tasks compared to the ease with which the
divided Continental Congress could have been dispersed." Washington
was not fighting for Royal Rank, nor for coronation. As a champion
of human rights, he was fighting for exact justice and equality of
opportunity, and so the kingship and the crown were rejected with
indignation and contempt.
I remember reading a story of the great flood that came upon the
Ohio. In the gray of the morning some men saw a house floating down
the river and on its top a human being. Going to the rescue, they
found a woman whose life they wished to save, but she said, "No! In
this house I have three dead babies I will not desert; I am going out
with them." To most of us that act would verge on the immorality of
suicide; to her it was the expression of a mother's love deeper than
despair and death; her conduct corresponded with her conscience. We
cannot place ourselves in her circumstances and in charity should
refrain from judgment.
Jean Valjan was a great hulk of a man, young and strong, ignorant and
big hearted, tramping the streets of Paris in search of work, trying
to care for a widowed sister and her family of seven little ones.
There was no work to be had. He could not bear to hear the voices of
starving children so he came home late at night, thinking they would
be sleep. But hunger gnawed, and when he came in they were wide-
awake and cried, Oh Uncle Jean, have you any work? Oh, Uncle Jean,
we are so hungry!" Madness seized the man; he went to the nearest
bakery, broke the window and stole a loaf of bread. Jean was
arrested and sent to Toulon as a galley slave. In the eyes of the
law he had committed the immoral act of theft. But his eyes saw
pinched-up faces, his ears heard cries of hunger and, regardless of
consequences, his conduct corresponded with his conscience in a deed
of moral heroism.
Back of all the temporary circumstances and conditions of men and
transitory moral codes evolved by human minds are certain positive
standards of morality which the Divine Intelligence has impressed
upon every particle of matter and every pulsation of energy. They
are the same for all mankind, regardless of place, time, race or
religion. Of these standards the try-square is the Masonic
mouthpiece. Freemasonry is defined as a beautiful system of
It is a woven tapestry of great moral principles and purposes.
Whenever a Mason fails to live up to the best that is in him,
whenever he blots out the Divine light of his conscience, whenever he
is recreant to right as God gives him to see the right, he is false
to the trying square of his profession, for by this symbol
Freemasonry teaches a morality that masters manners, molds mind and
makes mighty manhood.
The plumb is an instrument used by operative Masons to try
perpendiculars. In speculative Freemasonry it is a symbol of
righteousness, that is, an upright life before God and man.
It has been said that, in the art of building, accuracy is integrity.
If a wall not be perpendicular, as tested by the plumb line, it is a
menace to the stability of the structure. Likewise if a Mason is
ignorant of this symbol as an active principle in his life, he is a
danger to the standing of the Fraternity in the community where he
Righteousness is not a sanctimonious word. It means rectitude of
conduct, integrity of character, and deathless devotion to the truth.
The Psalmist asked, "Lord, who shall abide in Thy Tabernacle?" and
this was his answer: "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh
righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart." When correctly
understood, the truth symbolized by the Plumb constitutes a challenge
In the sixteenth century Giordano Bruno taught a plurity of words;
for this he was accused of heresy. He was tried, convicted and
imprisoned in a dungeon for seven years. He was offered his liberty
if he would recant, but Bruno refused to stain the sanctity of his
soul by denying that which he believed to be true. He was taken from
his cell and led to the place of his execution, clad in a robe on
which representations of devils had been painted. He was chained to
a stake, about his body wood was piled, fagots were lighted and on
the spot in Rome where a monument now stands to his memory he was
consumed by the flames. Without the hope of heaven or the fear of
hell he suffered death for the naked truth that was in him.
The Great Light of Freemasonry contains this promise:
"The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Men of
tremendous power, men of creative genius have passed into oblivion,
but the righteousness of pure and noble character, of unselfish and
Divinely inspired life finds perpetuation in the clear amber of
immortality. Of the righteousness the Plumb is a symbol in
Unrighteousness has wrought the destruction of peoples and
civilizations, but "Righteousness exalteth a nation."
Symbols are not academic playthings, they are intended to provoke and
Fellowcraft Working Tools present to the mind basic ideas of
equality, morality and righteousness.
All the implements of Masonry are assigned to the use of the Master
Mason. The principal one is the Trowel, an instrument used by
operative Masons to spread the cement which unites the building into
one common mass. In Speculative Freemasonry it is a symbol of
Paul stood on the Mars Hill and said to the Athenians, "God hath made
of one blood every nation of men." That is not an expression of
sentiment but the announcement of a fact, whether men desire or deny
it, whether men cherish it in their hearts or crucify it. Man's
ignorance does not change the laws of nature nor vary their
irresistible march. God's laws vindicate themselves; they crush all
who oppose and break into pieces everything that is not in harmony
with their purpose. In the light of this truth it can be safely
asserted that no nation, no civilization can long endure which does
violence to the Divine fact of human brotherhood.
Fraternity is the basis of all important movements for the common
good and the general welfare of society.
Freemasonry has been called a "society of friends and brothers
employing symbols to teach the truth." The Trowel is a Masonic
symbol of love, and with it we are to spread the cement of brotherly
affection. Next to faith in God, the greatest landmark in
Freemasonry is the "Brotherhood of Man." We call each other
"Brother," but we sometimes fail to realize that brotherhood is a
reciprocal relationship. It means that if I am to be a brother to
you, then you must be a brother to me. It is exceedingly practical;
is it not only for grateful gifts and happy hours, but for use when
the soul is sad, when the heart is pierced and pained, when the road
is rough and rugged, and the way seems desolate and dreary.
The sentiment of brotherhood in a man's heart is a futile thing
unless he can find avenues for its external expression. So far as I
have been able to discover, there are three such avenues.
The first is sympathy. Not intellectual sympathy that passes by on
the other side of the street and expresses sorrow, but a red-blooded
sympathy that lifts a man up who has fallen down and speaks the light
of a new hope into his face. Dr. Hillis said that sympathy is the
measure of a man's intellectual power. Sympathy is more than this;
it is a measure of a man's heart-throb and soul vision. The great
painters, poets, preachers, physicians and patriots whose names
illuminate the pages of history, excelled their contemporaries in
this one quality of human sympathy.
The second avenue is service. I have read somewhere, most likely in
one of the writings of Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, a statement that all
over the vast Temple of Freemasonry, from foundation stone to the
highest pinnacle, is inscribed in letters of living light the Divine
truth that labor is love, that work is worship and that not indolence
but industry is the crowning glory of a man's life whether he be rich
or poor. In all the annals of human progress the men who have
accomplished works which have lived after them, which have come up
through cycles of time a blessing to succeeding generations, had not
before their eyes Gold or Fame, or Selfish aims or Sordid gain; but
had hung upon the walls of their minds great ideals of human service
to which they remained devoted until the light faded and the day
The third avenue is sacrifice, the most radiant word in the history
of our race. The sacrifices of father and mother for the education
of the child, the sacrifices of son and daughter for the old folks
back home, the sacrifices of the patriot for the homeland and the
Flag, the sacrifices of the great servants of humanity; have through
the ages made music in the souls of men. He who would take sacrifice
out of human life would steal from maternity its sacred sweetness,
expunge the wrinkles from the face of Abraham Lincoln, and obliterate
the stripes of red in our National Flag.
Every advance in civilization involves a victim.
Before the progress of the world stands an Altar and on it a
Back in the centuries Socrates, with a cup of hemlock poison to his
lips, offered himself upon the Altar of human sacrifice for the
Divine right of liberty in man.
The words of Patrick Henry before the Virginia Assembly: "The next
gale that blows from the north will bring to our ears the resounding
clash of arms. I know not what course others may take, but as for
me, give me liberty or give me death," lifted the soul of Colonial
America up to the coronation of a supreme sacrifice and made this
Republic of the West a possibility.
In the world crisis, American soldiers and sailors, as the champions
of civilization, laid their all, their hopes, their aspirations,
their ambitions, their home ties and affections upon the altar of
human sacrifice to insure our National safety, defend our National
honor, and vindicate the ideals of American independence on the
battlefields of Flanders and France.
In a little country school I was taught that our National Flag stands
for the graves of men and the tears of women, for untrammeled
conscience and free institutions, for sacred memories and great
ideals; that is red stands for the blood that bought it, it white for
the purity of the motive that caused it to be shed, its blue for
loyalty ascending to the sky, and its stars for deeds of bravery
brighter than the stars of a faultless night. But when I think of
George Washington and Gen. Joseph Warren, and Capt. John Paul Jones,
and that heroic band of Masonic patriots in the American Revolution,
and cast the utility of out Craft against the background of its
history, I can see its stripes of red baptized in the sacrificial
blood of our Fraternity, and its stars of glory illuminated by the
deathless light that shines from a Masonic Altar.
In Freemasonry we are familiar with the ancient drama of sacrifice
made in the name of faith, fortitude and fidelity.
These three; sympathy, service and sacrifice are the avenues for the
external expression of the sentiment of brotherhood in man's heart.
In proportion as we are inspired by this ideal and use these avenues
of expression, our Fraternity will contribute to human good and
happiness, and answer the end of its institution.
Tools have been called "The evangelists of a new day."
They are teachers not less than college and cathedral. Just as the
Twenty-four inch Gauge and Common Gavel stand for purpose and power;
the Level, Square and Plumb present basic ideas of equality, morality
and righteousness; so the Trowel is Freemasonry's symbol of unity and
brotherhood among men.