|The Masonic Legend
See also:Degree XII — Questions
The Masonic Legend My Brother, the history of this Degree is brief as its ceremonies are simple. After the murderers of our Grand Master Hiram Abi had been discovered, apprehended, tried and punished; his monument and mausoleum completed by the Board of Intendants of the Building; and the matters which concerned the revenue of the realm provided for: King Solomon, to assure uniformity in the work and vigour in its prosecution and to reward the superior and eminent science and skill of Adonhiram the son of Abda, appointed him to be Chief Architect of the Temple with the title of Grand Master Architect, and invested him with that office as sole successor and representative of the deceased Grand Master Hiram Abi; and at the same time made him Grand Master of Masons and the Masonic Peer of himself and King Hiram of Tyre. Afterwards the title was conferred upon other Princes of the Jewish Court as an honorarium, and thus the degree became established.
There are many things in us of which we are not distinctly conscious. To waken that slumbering consciousness into life, and so to lead the soul up to the Light, is one office of every great ministration to human nature, whether its vehicle be the pen, the pencil, or the tongue. We are unconscious of the intensity and awfulness of the life within us. Health and sickness, joy and sorrow, success and disappointment, life and death, are familiar words upon our lips, but we do not know to what depths they point within us.
We seem never to know what anything means until we have lost it. Many an organ, nerve and fibre in our bodily frame performs its silent part for years, and we are quite unconscious of its value. It is not until it is injured that we discover that value and find how essential it was to our happiness and comfort. We never know the full significance of the words property, ease, and health; the wealth of meaning in the fond epithets parent, child, and friend, until the thing or the person is taken away; until, in place of the bright, visible being comes the awful and desolate shadow where nothing is: where we stretch out our hands in vain, and strain our eyes upon dark and dismal vacuity. Yet, in that vacuity, we do not lose the object that we loved. It becomes only the more real to us. Our blessings not only brighten when they depart, but are fixed in enduring reality, and friendship receives its everlasting seal under the cold impress of death.
So the soul, however given up to the occupations of daily life, cannot quite lose the sense of where it is and of what is above it and around it. The scene of its actual engagements may be small, the path of its steps beaten and familiar, the objects it handles easily spanned and quite worn out with daily uses. So it may be, and amidst such things, that we all live. So we live our little life: but Heaven is above us; Eternity is before us and behind us; suns and stars are silent witnesses and watchers over us. We are enfolded by Infinity. Infinite Powers and Infinite spaces lie all around us. The dread arch of Mystery spreads over us, and no voice ever pierced it. Eternity is enthroned amid Heaven's myriad starry heights, and no utterance or word ever came from those far-off and silent spaces. Above is that awful majesty; around us, everywhere, it stretches off into infinity; and beneath it is this little struggle of life, this poor day's conflict, this busy ant-hill of Time.
But from that ant-hill, not only the talk of the streets, the sounds of music and revelling, the stir and tread of a multitude, the shout of joy and the shriek of agony go up into the silent and all-surrounding Infinitude; but also, amidst the stir and noise of visible life, from the inmost bosom of the visible man, there goes up an imploring call, a beseeching cry, an asking, unuttered and unutterable, for revelation; wailingly and in almost speechless agony praying the dread arch of mystery to break and the stars that roll above the waves of mortal trouble to speak; the enthroned majesty of those awful heights to find a voice; the mysterious and reserved heavens to come near; and all to tell what they alone know, to give us information of the loved and lost, to make known to us what we are and whither we are going.
Life is no negative or superficial or worldly existence. Our steps are evermore haunted with thoughts, far beyond their own range, which some have regarded as the reminiscences of a pre-existent state. So it is with us all, in the beaten and worn track of this worldly pilgrimage. There is more here than the world we live in. It is not all of life, to live. An unseen and infinite presence is here: a sense of something greater than we possess; a seeking, through all the void wastes of life, for a good beyond it; a crying out of the heart for interpretation; a memory of the dead, touching continually some vibrating thread in this great tissue of mystery.
We all not only have better intimations, but are capable of better things than we know. The pressure of some great emergency would develop in us powers beyond the worldly bias of our spirits; and Heaven so deals with us, from time to time, as to call forth those better things. There is hardly a family so selfish in the world but that, if one in it were doomed to die — one to be selected by the others — it would be utterly impossible for its members, parents and children, to choose out that victim: but that each would say, "I will die; but I cannot choose". And in how many, if that dire extremity had come, would one and another step forth, freed from the vile meshes of ordinary selfishness, and say, like the Roman father and son, "Let the blow fall on me!" There are greater and better things in us all than the world takes account of, or that we can take note of, if we would but find them out. And it is one part of our Masonic culture to find these traits of power and sublime devotion, to revive these faded impressions of generosity and self-sacrifice, the almost squandered bequests of God's love and kindness to our souls; and to induce us to yield ourselves to their guidance and control.
Upon all conditions of men presses down one impartial law. To all situations, to all fortunes high or low, the mind gives their character. They are, in effect, not what they are in themselves but what they are to the feeling of their possessors. The King may be mean, degraded, miserable; the slave of ambition, fear, voluptuousness, and every low passion. The Peasant may be the real Monarch, the moral master of his fate, a free and lofty being, more than a Prince in happiness, more than a King in honour.
The faculty of moral will, developed in the child, is a new element of his nature. It is a new power brought upon the scene, and a ruling power, delegated from Heaven. Never was a human being sunk so low that he had not, by God's gift, the power to rise. Because God commands him to rise, it is certain that he can rise. Every man has the power, and should use it, to make all situations, trials and temptations instruments to promote his virtue and happiness; and is so far from being the creature of circumstances that he creates and controls them, making them to be all that they are, of evil or of good, to him as a moral being.
Life is what we make it, and the world is what we make it. The eyes of the cheerful and of the melancholy man are fixed upon the same creation; but very different are the aspects which it bears to them. To the one, it is all beauty and gladness; the waves of ocean roll in light, and the mountains are covered in day. Life, to him, flashes, rejoicing, upon every flower and every tree that trembles in the breeze. There is more to him, everywhere, than the eye sees; a presence of profound joy, on hill and valley and bright dancing water. The other idly or mournfully gazes at the same scene, and everything wears a dull, dim and sickly aspect. The murmuring of the brooks is a discord to him, the great roar of the sea has an angry and threatening emphasis, the solemn music of the pines sings the requiem of his departed happiness, the cheerful light shines garishly upon his eyes and offends him. The great train of the seasons passes before him like a funeral procession; and he sighs, and turns impatiently away. The eye makes that which it looks upon; the ear makes its own melodies and discords; the world without reflects the world within.
To the gentle, many will be gentle; to the kind, many will be kind. A good man will find that there is goodness in the world; an honest man will find that there is honesty in the world; and a man of principle will find principle and integrity in the hearts of others.
But to the impure, the dishonest, the false-hearted, the corrupt and the sensual, occasions come every day and in every scene and through every avenue of thought and imagination. He is prepared to capitulate before the first approach is commenced and sends out the white flag when the enemy's advance comes in sight of his walls. He makes occasions; or, if opportunities come not, evil thoughts come, and he throws wide open the gates of his heart and welcomes those bad visitors and entertains them with a lavish hospitality.
The business of the world absorbs, corrupts and degrades one mind, while in another it feeds and nurses the noblest independence, integrity and generosity. Pleasure is a poison to som and a healthful refreshment to others. To one, the world is a great harmony like a noble strain of music with infinite modulations: to another, it is a huge factory the clash and clang of whose machinery jars upon his ears and frets him to madness. Life is substantially the same thing to all who partake of its lot. Yet some rise to virtue and glory; while others, undergoing the same discipline and enjoying the same privileges, sink to shame and perdition.
Thorough, faithful and honest endeavour to improve is always successful and the highest happiness. To sigh sentimentally over human misfortune is fit only for the mind's childhood; the mind's misery is chiefly its own fault, and appointed under the good Providence of God as the punisher and corrector of fault. In the long run, the mind will be happy just in proportion to its fidelity and wisdom. When it is miserable, it has planted the thorns in its own path: it grasps them and cries out in loud complaint; and that complaint is but the louder confession that it planted the thorns.
Believe that there is a God; that He is our Father; that He has a paternal interest in our welfare and improvement; that He has given us powers by means of which we may escape from sin and ruin; that He has destined us to a future life of endless progression towards perfection and a knowledge of Himself: believe this as every Mason should, and you can live calmly, endure patiently, labour resolutely, deny yourselves cheerfully, hope steadfastly, and be conquerors in the great struggle of life. Take away any one of these principles, and what remains for us? Say that there is no God, or no way opened for hope and reformation and triumph, no heaven to come, no rest for the weary, no home in God's bosom for the afflicted and disconsolate soul: and we are but the sport of chance and the victims of despair, hapless wanderers upon the face of a desolate and forsaken earth; surrounded by darkness, struggling with obstacles, toiling for barren results and empty purposes, distracted with doubts, and misled by false gleams of light; wanderers with no way, no prospect, no home; doomed and deserted mariners on a dark and stormy sea, without compass or course, to whom no stars appear, tossing helpless upon the crashing waves with no heaven in the distance to invite us to its welcome rest.
The religious faith thus taught by Masonry is indispensable to the attainment of the great ends of life, and must therefore have been designed to be a part of it. We are made for this faith, and there must be something, somewhere, for us to believe in. We cannot grow healthfully, nor live happily, without it. It is therefore true. If we could cut off from any soul all the principles taught by Masonry — the faith in a God, in immortality, in virtue, in essential rectitude — that soul would sink into sin, misery, darkness and ruin. If we could cut off all sense of these truths, the man would sink at once to the grade of the animal.
Faith in moral principles, in virtue and in God, is as necessary for the guidance of a man as instinct is for the guidance of an animal. And therefore this faith, as a principle of man's nature, has a mission as truly authentic in God's Providence as the principle of instinct. The pleasures of the soul, too, must depend on certain principles. They must recognise a soul, its properties and responsibilities, a conscience, and the sense of an authority above us: and these are the principles of faith. No man can suffer and be patient, can struggle and conquer, can improve and be happy, without conscience, without hope, without a reliance on a just, wise and beneficent God. We must of necessity embrace the great truths taught by Masonry, and live by them, to live happily. Every thing in the Universe has fixed and certain laws and principles for its action — the star in its orbit, the animal in its activity, the physical man in his functions. And he has likewise fixed and certain laws and principles as a spiritual being. His soul does not die for want of aliment or guidance. For the rational soul there is ample provision. From the lofty pine, rocked in the darkening tempest, the cry of the young raven is heard: and it would be most strange if there were no answer for the cry and call of the soul, tortured by want and sorrow and agony. The total rejection of all moral and religious belief would strike out a principle from human nature as essential to it as gravitation to the stars, instinct to animal life, the circulation of the blood to the human body.
God has ordained that life shall be a social condition. We are members of a civil community. The life of that community depends upon its moral condition. Public spirit, intelligence, uprightness, temperance, kindness, domestic purity, will make it a happy community and give it prosperity and continuance. Widespread selfishness, dishonesty, intemperance, libertinism, corruption and crime will make it miserable, and bring about dissolution and speedy ruin. A whole People lives one life: one mighty Heart heaves in its bosom; it is one great Pulse of existence that throbs there. One stream of Life flows there, with ten thousand intermingled branches and channels, through all the homes of human love. One sound as of many waters, a rapturous jubilee or a mournful sighing, comes up from the congregated dwellings of a whole nation.
The Public is no vague abstraction; nor should that which is done against that Public, against public interest, law or virtue, press but lightly on the conscience. It is but a vast expression of individual life; an ocean of tears, an atmosphere of sighs, or a great whole of joy and gladness. It suffers with the sufferings of millions: it rejoices with the joy of millions. What a vast crime does he commit — private man or public man, agent or contractor, legislator or magistrate, Secretary or President — who dares, with indignity and wrong, to strike the bosom of the Public Welfare, to encourage venality and corruption and shameful sale of the elective franchise, to sow dissension, and to weaken the bonds of amity that bind the Nation together! What a huge iniquity he commits who, with vices like the daggers of a parricide, dares to pierce that mighty heart in which the ocean of existence is flowing!
But we are not insensible brutes who can refuse the call of reason and conscience. The soul is capable of remorse. When the great dispensation of life presses down upon us, we weep, suffer and sorrow. And sorrow and agony desire other companions than worldliness and irreligion. We are not willing to bear these burdens of the heart — fear, anxiety, disappointment, and trouble — without any object or use. We are not willing to suffer, to be sick and afflicted, to have our days and months lost to comfort and joy and overshadowed with calamity and grief, without advantage or compensation; to barter away the dearest treasures, the very sufferings of the heart; to sell the life-blood from failing frame and fading cheek, our tears of bitterness and groans of anguish, for nothing. Human nature, frail, feeling, sensitive and sorrowing, cannot afford to suffer for nothing.
Everywhere, human life is a great and solemn dispensation. Man, suffering, enjoying, loving, hating, hoping and fearing; now soaring to Heaven and exploring the far recesses of the Universe, and now sinking to the grave, is ever the creature of a high and stupendous destiny. In his bosom is wrapped up a momentous and vast experience, to be unfolded in ages and worlds unknown. Around this great action of existence the curtains of Time are drawn; but there are openings through them which give us glimpses of Eternity. God from on high looks down upon the scene of human probation. The wise and the good in all ages, and above all the Great Master, have interposed for it with their teachings and their blood. Every thing that exists around us, every movement in Nature, every counsel of Providence, every interposition of God, centres upon one point — the fidelity of man.
And though the ghosts of the departed and the remembered should come at midnight through the barred door of our dwellings; though the sheeted dead should glide through the aisles of our churches and people our Masonic Temples: their teachings would be no more powerful than the dread realities of Life; than those memories of misspent years, those ghosts of departed opportunities that, pointing to our consciences and to Eternity, ever cry in our ears, "Work while the day lasts, for the night of death cometh in which no man can work".
And yet the mind and soul of man have a value which nothing else has. They are worth a care which nothing else is worth; and to the single, solitary individual, they ought to possess an interest which nothing else possesses. The stored treasures of the heart, the unfathomable mines that are in the soul to be wrought, the broad and boundless realms of Thought, the freighted argosy of man's hopes and best affections, are brighter than gold and dearer than treasure.
And yet the mind is in reality little known or considered. It is all which man permanently is, his inward being, his divine energy, his immortal thought, his boundless capacity, his infinite aspiration: nevertheless, few value it for what it is worth. Few see a brother-mind in others, through the rags with which poverty has clothed it, beneath the crushing burdens of life, amidst the close pressure of worldly troubles, wants and sorrows. Few acknowledge and cheer it in that humble lot and feel that the nobility of earth and the commencing glory of Heaven is there.
Men do not feel the worth of their own souls. They are proud of their mental powers: but the intrinsic, inner, infinite worth of their own minds they do not perceive. The poor man admitted to a palace feels, lofty and immortal being as he is, like a mere ordinary thing amid the splendours that surround him. He sees the carriage of wealth roll by him, forgets the intrinsic and eternal dignity of his own mind in a poor and degrading envy, and feels as an humbler creature because others are above him — not in mind, but in mensuration. Men respect themselves according as they are more wealthy, higher in rank or office, loftier in the world's opinion.
The difference among men is not so much in their nature and intrinsic power as in the faculty of communication. Some have the capacity of uttering and embodying their thoughts in words. All men, more or less, feel those thoughts. The glory of genius and the rapture of virtue, when rightly revealed, are diffused and shared among unnumbered minds. When eloquence and poetry speak; when those glorious arts, statuary, painting and music take audible or visible shape; when patriotism, charity and virtue speak with a thrilling power — the hearts of thousands glow with a kindred joy and ecstasy. If it were not so, there would be no eloquence: for eloquence is that to which other hearts respond; it is the faculty and power of making other hearts respond. No one is so low or degraded as not sometimes to be touched with the beauty of goodness. No heart is made of materials so base as not sometimes to respond, through every chord of it, to the call of honour, patriotism, generosity and virtue. The poor African Slave will die for the master or mistress, or in defence of the children, whom he loves; and such love in him is common. The poor abandoned outcast woman will, without expectation of reward, nurse those who are dying on every hand, utter strangers to her, with a contagious and horrid pestilence. The pickpocket will scale burning walls to rescue child or woman, unknown to him, from the ravenous flames.
Most glorious is this capacity! A power to commune with God and His Angels; a reflection of the Uncreated Light; a mirror that can collect and concentrate upon itself all the moral splendours of the Universe! It is the soul alone that gives any value to the things of this world; and it is only by raising the soul to its just elevation above all other things that we can look rightly upon the purposes of this earth. No sceptre nor throne, nor structure of ages, nor broad empire, can compare with the wonders and grandeur of a single thought. That alone, of all things that have been made, comprehends the Maker of all. That alone is the key which unlocks all the treasures of the Universe, the power that reigns over Space, Time and Eternity. That, under God, is the Sovereign Dispenser to man of all the blessings and glories that lie within the compass of possession or the range of possibility. Virtue, Heaven and Immortality exist not, nor ever will exist for us, except as they exist and will exist in the perception, feeling and thought of the glorious mind.