NOCSE TE IPSUM
"Excuse me, sir" said the Petitioner as he plopped down next to the Old
Tiler. "I know you're a Mason from some of your writings I found on the
Web. I was wondering if I could talk to you about the Masonry."
"Sure, I'm proud to be a Mason and I like to talk about it" the Tiler said
with a smile. "But you look like you've got something on your mind."
"Well, yes -- a bit. You see, I've just started the process. I only turned
in my petition last week but my local Lodge is pretty busy. They've said
it's probably going to be three or four months before I even find out if I'm
going to get the opportunity to join. In the meantime, I have all of these
thoughts and feelings about the Masonry that for the moment don't really
have an outlet. I thought that if you and I could have a couple of
conversations, it might help me to clarify my thoughts and also help pass
the time while I'm waiting."
"I think that sounds like a good plan" said the Old Tiler with a grin. "I
know you know that I won't necessarily be able to give you any insights into
the Masonry until you become an apprentice. But I think that pulling your
thoughts together is a proper approach. The Greeks said "Nosce te ipsum",
which means "Know thyself". If talking to me helps you do that, then I'm
more than glad to help. Why don't you start with telling me why you'd like
to become a Mason."
"I guess for me it starts with my family. My father and my grandfather were
Masons. So in a very real sense I want to be a part of the history of my
family, and I guess my initial interest was just that. More importantly
though, I have come to believe that the Masons have a technology that will
help me become a better man."
"I'm not quite sure what you mean by a technology."
"In this sense," explained the Petitioner, "a technology is basically any
tools or techniques used to accomplish a goal. I think that the symbols and
the rituals of the Craft can provide just that."
"How so?" asked the Old Tiler, with a somewhat knowing look.
"Well, I read a lot of the work Carl Jung did on analyzing the medieval
alchemists. Jung's theory was that though the alchemists were performing
actions in the physical world, the real work they were doing was internal.
The alchemist's rituals were all of the chemical experiments they were
doing. On the surface, they were trying to create the sorcerers stone that
would allow them to turn lead into gold. But what they were really doing
was trying to turn the 'lead' of the unenlightened soul into the 'gold' of a
soul raised to communion with God. It seems to me that the analogy with
Masonry is very similar."
"I think you're right about that. One of our metaphors is that we are
constructing a temple to God in the human heart using the traditional tools
of the stonemason, so there is something very much in common with Jung's
alchemy. But tell me a bit about the lead in your life that you'd like to
turn to gold."
"I think that there's a bit of a paradox in that a good man never thinks
he's good enough, whereas a lesser man tends to feels he's in pretty good
shape. While I'm waiting to hear about my petition, I am really examining
my character to see if I am 'good enough' to become a Mason. Don't get me
wrong, I am a decent man. I have a fine wife and family and I hold a steady
job. And, while I do have some 'baby boomer debt' from the 80's, I'm
keeping my head well above water. Still, I am well aware of how far short I
fall from even my own model of the ideal man. I'm not giving enough, I'm
not patient enough. And just last month, a man cut me off on the highway
and I flipped him the bird. Not exactly behavior in keeping with Masonic
"I'm not sure any of us humans feels as good as we'd like to be" reassured
the Old Tiler. "Still, I think it's quite normal to do some hard
self-evaluation while you're waiting. It's very intimidating to know you're
about to be evaluated by an order of good men and its not surprising that
you have some anxiety about the process. One of the things I'd like you to
consider is that this self-examination is part of the real work of the
Masonry. It's true that you may be turned down by the Lodge for one reason
or another. But the real work of Masonry, just like the real work of the
alchemists, occurs not in the Lodge but in the mind and heart of each Mason.
So, no matter what the outcome of your petition, you are doing the work."
The Old Tiler put his hand on the Petitioner's shoulder and said "And I
promise you this. Even if you are denied acceptance into a Lodge, so long
as you are committed to the real work of becoming a better man, you will
still be part of the true brotherhood of Masons. I hope you'll be accepted
because it sounds like your moving in the right direction."
"Thanks" said the Petitioner. "I feel we've gotten our conversations off to
a good start and I look forward to talking to you again soon!"
(c) 2000, Steven M. Hudson
with thanks to Carl Claudy