As presented at the home coming Visitation of the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of Utah, 2011.
I’ve always found it intriguing, in our Initiation we make a promise in front of G*d, to all Freemasons, and the whole of the Created universe not to speak on the secrets of Freemasonry; lest we pay a steep penalty. Upon agreeing to the terms of this contract, each of us was promptly invested with … not one secret pertaining to our mysteries.
Have you ever wondered why this is?
Some argue this is a test of your fidelity. If you can’t keep an open secret, or patiently wait for a secret, how could we trust you with the ‘real’ secrets? There is some truth to this; we do wish Initiates to remain silent.
I argue that this is apparent inconsistency, is actually one of the secrets of Masonry, and is a key that unlocks the initiatory experience
Like all initiatory systems, Freemasonry seeks to build wisdom, not knowledge or facts, into its adherents. Wisdom is acquired from practical experience – thus the participatory experience of the Degrees themselves. The participatory experience of the EA degree is silence.
Yes, the participation part, the action of an Entered Apprentice is silence. Certainly any teacher understands this; to still make the ears ready, close the mouth. But like all things hermetic, there is a deeper application of the lesson of silence. We understand this deeper meaning in Masonry as well: the attentive ear, hears the sound from the instructive tongue, and the secrets of Freemasonry are safely Lodge in the repository of the faithful breast.
Above the portal to the Pythagorean School knows thy self. We all know this. Freemasons love to quote this. What Masons neglect to mention, is that the first five years after initiation, the Pythagorean Initiates took an oath of silence, and were referred to as hearers. The lesson in the Pythagorean School is that in order to know thy self, you first had to be silent.
These ancient Pythagorean initiates learned, as some yogic practitioners say to still the oscillations of the mind.
So the key to the moral instruction of Masonry – the faithful breast – is to engage to attentive hear – which is done by the initiate practicing silence. But like any Great Work, it isn’t that simple, which is way the Pythagoreans and yogis take years to learn their art.
Just make a diamond requires time and pressure. To polish and adorn ourselves Masonically, is no different. The pressure is to be silent, but you must do so for a time. Just because the ears are open, doesn’t mean the lessons are making it to the breast. Closing the mouth is the first step. Anyone who practices mediation, or athletes or musicians, or great Masonic ritualists can corroborate the following. If your mouth is going, the brain is active meaning it is getting in the way. You get so good at some skill, you can do it in your sleep, but if you stop and think about it, the brain gets in the way and you cannot complete the task.
This failure ultimately stems from fear. You are afraid you might do it wrong. You are afraid of embarrassment. You are afraid of disappointment in yourself and others. Your passion of fear causes you to fail.
Silence of the mouth, with time and training, engenders silence of the mind/passion and ultimately stills the soul, or the oscillations of the mind. Or, as we say subdue or passions. Fear, anger, jealousy, even love, but be tempered. It is no accident that to subdue my passions, comes after to learn, in the answer to the question, what came you here to do.
And subjugation of the passion takes time, and practice, or inculcation – to learn through repetition – to master.
I find the best parallel of this in Genesis, Chapter 1, Verses 1, 2 and 3.
In the beginning G*d created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of G*d moved upon the face of the waters.
And G*d said, Let there be light: and there was light.
If the waters, representing us individually, are disturbed by ours passions, then our internal reflection of Deity distorts. We can’t see his face upon the waters. The light breaks, and reflects, and never forms a coherent image. However should we quiet our mind, if we subdue our passions, then the face of the water stills, and upon its mirror like surface, a near perfect image of G*d is captured, and thusly in our hearts – the faithful breast – and we are improved [in masonry].
What does it mean for us as individual Freemasons?
I offer this thought: Look to our patron saints, specifically the example Saint John the Baptist, a Christian Saint. Traditional Christian belief holds John was present at the Crucifixion. Some religious denominations vary on this thought, but predominately, during the formative years of modern Speculative Freemasonry, this was the belief. I’m not here to argue whether or not this is theologically true, only it is important, because to understand the importance, we need to put ourselves in the context of our ritual author; and our ritual authors believe John was there.
John is unique within the Christian milieu in the United Kingdom during this time. While having divorced itself politically from the Vatican, the Church of England nevertheless remained part of the apostolic succession, and thus contained the doctrine of the two churches – the church of Peter and the Church of John. This doctrine is reduced as; while Peter was the leader of the Church official – the body – the guiding and animating force – the spirit – was John for he had laid his head upon the chest, and heard the beating heart of the Master of Nazareth.
Brothers, in your Initiation, you were instructed to be silent, that like John, you too could hear the beating heart within yourself. You could see the face upon the waters of your soul. This mystery, this initiation, this knowledge, when it occurs will transform you. It will motivate you to new ends, you will have no choice by to surrender to this joy, willing comply with it, and seek to be a guardian of your fellows: to unite with them in universal Brotherhood. To transmit to them the Light you’ve found. And make a good man better.
And this secret, this is the ultimate lesson of the Entered Apprentice degree.