The Measure of a Man
Adapted, very slightly, by Bro. Norman McEvoy from a paper compiled by brother J.E. Blackmore, J.W. of Lodge 96. GL NSW (Aust)
There is no denying that men are often judged by the amount of worldly wealth they have amassed. We hear of a man described as a poor man; a rich man; a man of substance or property; a man of means or comfortably off. Quite often the measure of a man’s success in life is the measure of his material possessions.
Deep set in the heart of every man, there is an acquisitive instinct which compels him not only to surround himself with things which he regards as valuable, but also to defend the objects he has acquired, from anyone who would seek to deprive him of them.
Man is not to be blamed for this instinct. Mother-nature has endowed him with this gift as a necessary part of his self-preservation equipment. Man is, however, to be blamed for allowing his life to be dominated by one instinct instead of subduing his primitive impulses and harmonising them into a good working team, under the leadership of sweet reason. Undue attention to the acquisitive instinct leaves a man groping blindly for satisfaction in a world of plenty. He may even gain the whole world and lose his soul.
He is also to be blamed for measuring successful living by the amount of things acquired; but it is so easy to see and touch the tangible assets. To assess in terms of quantity is mentally easy, because the message is conveyed to the mind through the senses. This is known as perceptual or sensory thinking, and is thought on its lowest plane… the kind of thinking we share with the animals. It concerns itself almost wholly with the physical life.
One of the earliest lessons in Freemasonry instructs the candidate that riches and property do not form the basis of measurement of a man’s worth. There is the frank admission that in a society so widely extended as Freemasonry, there are members of rank and affluence and there is the still franker admission that there are many members who are reduced to the lowest ebb of poverty and distress.
Charity is inculcated as of paramount importance as the cementing power of brotherhood, or that trusteeship of material wealth, which enables the fortunate brother to share without condescension or patronage the burdens of a less fortunate brother. Every brother acknowledging the common Fatherhood of man must by sheer logic answer affirmatively the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
So every candidate for Freemasonry is divested of all moneys and metallic substances and is even deprived of the blessing of material light in order that he may be taught in a dramatic and symbolical manner what a good Freemason understands as the correct place in the scheme of things for worldly possessions. He learns that material wealth is incidental to living, and must indeed be regarded not only as a privilege but also a responsibility.
Henceforth as a Freemason, the gift of worldly possessions, like all other gifts must be purified and dedicated to a nobler purpose than self-aggrandisement.
He is taught in no uncertain terms that a man is not esteemed in a Freemason’s Lodge on account of his worldly possessions, for in the Lodge all men are equal. As brothers, this is obviously correct, for if there is a flaw in the logic of this tenet, then the whole system of Freemasonry would rest on a fallacy.
The only injunction regarding worldly possessions given to a man, young in Freemasonry, is that he shall dedicate himself to such pursuits as will enable him to continue respectable in his life. This is a very noble conception of the place of wealth in the scheme of life. It is to receive sufficient attention from a man, as to enable him to preserve his self-respect and hold his head up among his fellows, but is not to become a dominating and driving force in his life.
The initiate in a state of helpless indigence is properly prepared to receive the startling truth that in the Lodge all men are equal, meeting on the level and parting on the square. In the future he is to be as masonically rich as the monarch, who does not think it derogatory from his dignity to exchange the sceptre for the trowel. His equality with the brethren of the Craft the world over is explained to him in a very plain and convincing language.
It is that part of Masonic instruction, which is not veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
He is received into the Lodge, held firmly in the bondage of ignorance, and I think he must very soon after his entrance be comforted and thrilled by the request the brethren make on his behalf to the G.A.O.T.U.
“Endue him with such a competency of Thy Divine Wisdom, that assisted by the secrets of our Masonic art, he may the better unfold the beauties of true Godliness to the honour and glory of thy Holy Name.”
Here in one powerful supplication is the revelation to the candidate of the source of our equality, the store house of the wealth which the brethren are willing to share with him, and the purpose for which this new wealth is to be used.
Here he comes face to face with Masonic truth. There is a transference of emphasis from things material and temporal, to things spiritual and eternal. He finds that a man’s worth will be measured by the quality of his spiritual and mental worth. He has been received into a society of men, who prize truth, honour and virtue above the advantages of rank and fortune. No longer is the quantitative analysis important. The qualitative aspect has superseded it. Material things no longer count. Ideals take precedence and we have man’s motive taken to the higher plane of conceptual or constructive thinking, which is the differentiation between man and beast. It is that power which was given to man when he was made in the likeness of the Great Architect and it is for a full competency of that Divine spark which we supplicate.
The most important aspect of his entry into Freemasonry is that membership alone is not sufficient. It is not the brethren who will ensure for the candidate the blessing of a full and useful life. This task is left to the candidate himself. The wealth of a noble mind is not presented gratis to the candidate merely because he has joined.
Only the way is opened for him. The Personal Spiritual Journey.
He must do the travelling himself. In the supplication the words” that he may the better unfold” are significant. Indeed, he is told that the initiation ceremony is but the foundation on which he himself must build his own superstructure perfect in its parts and honourable to the builder. He has qualified by a general desire for knowledge, and by a sincere wish founded on worthy motives to be ranked among the members, and he has been well and worthily recommended as a fit man to participate in the richness of Masonic experience… but the task of attaining to that richness and fullness of life, is left almost entirely with him.
Freemasonry will assist him, but the effort remains as an individual one.
So we find in the ritual, instructions which are the last word in directness. The new brother is left in no doubt whatever, as to how the effort is to be made. He cannot at the end of any ceremony feel bewildered as to what is expected of him. The demands on his effort are unmistakable, direct and final. They are unequivocal.
First and foremost he is to use the V.O.S.L. not keep it as an ornament. He must regulate his actions by its divine precepts. Thus he can always know whether his effort to become rich, is proceeding according to the plan of unerring truth and justice. He is not told to understand or contemplate the moral, social, civic and domestic virtues, but actively to practice them.
So strong are the instructions that at one point he is told to be exemplary in the discharge of his duties…not merely faithfully obedient, but so active in interpreting the spirit of the law, that his conduct besides being correct is an example to others. He must keep his emotional life under control by following rigorously a prudent and well-regulated course of discipline, such as to preserve his mental and physical faculties in their fullest energies so that he can exert the talents with which he has been blessed.
He must keep within the length of his cable tow by making quite sure that none of his actions overstep the boundaries set down by the four cardinal virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice. He is to value education for its own sake….as a polish or adornment to the life of the spirit enabling him to delve more deeply into the hidden stores of rich and happy human experience. He is to study such of the liberal arts and sciences as fall within the compass of his attainments.
And so, one might go on showing, not only from the first, but also from the second and third degrees, examples of plain demands made by the Craft on a brother who would attain the great and valuable privilege of true Masonic living.
So many and so great are the efforts demanded that even in the first degree a man might be pardoned for thinking that the task set is beyond him. Were we gifted with a mortal life seven times the allotted span of three score and ten, we could never measure up to the Masonic ideal.
Herein lies the great strength of Freemasonry. The possibilities are unlimited. It is for each one of us to decide how far he will make his own the treasures of character which Freemasonry offers us. We enter the Craft of our own free will and accord, as free men, and we remain free.
At no time does Freemasonry reduce us to servitude to an institution. The exercise of free will is never taken from us. Each must decide for himself how great his effort will be, but each must also realise that his attainment will always be commensurate with his effort.
In the last analysis it is to the G.A.O.T.U. that we must measure up. The quantitative results of our earthly striving will remain behind. We cannot take them with us. We shall stand in the Grand Lodge above still in a state of helpless indigence, but we shall take with us the qualitative result of our earthly striving. As the spirit has grown, so will it stand for judgement. He will be a happy Craftsman who, on rendering an account of his stewardship in the Grand Lodge above, receives that highest of all commendations,
“Well done, true and faithful servant.”
Some readers are already aware that I have been, for a few years, working on a book/manual which is intended to provide the Freemason, whether old or new, with an Esoteric view of the Ceremonies he has undertaken to assist him in his “Personal Spiritual Journey”
This book/manual is now complete and awaiting the attention to some technical matters prior to sharing. Hopefully this will occur this month.
With this challenge almost complete, I have been searching for an Educational Paper that could explain what “A Journey to the Spirit” is all about, with little or no success. That is, till I opened my email this morning and found this incredible paper waiting for me. For those who believe in in-spirit-ation this is not surprising, for others “read the book”
My personal thanks to Brother Blackmore.
Have a Wonderful Day & God Bless