5. The Master. A youth came into the Craft of Freemasons at about twelve years of age, anti for seven years "stood under" an experienced Master until he had "under-standed" one after another the many arts which went with the fine art of architecture; it called for toil, drudgery, duties, studies, and an obedience which under those stern and exacting craftsmen must often have been even more painful than the labor itself; then, his ability proved and his character approved, he was declared to have been "made a Mason," and was raised to the status of Master.
Our Speculative Fraternity is erecting no buildings, nor can it keep a young man at work for seven years; it uses the Mastership symbolically but it is for that very reason that the Ritual means by it the same actual and literal training for mastery that the Operative Freemasons demanded, and its purpose is to establish in every Candidate's mind the truth that the Operative Masons demanded the mastership as the indispensable qualification not because they were Masons but because they were workmen; had they been weavers, or smiths, or carpenters, or cooks they would have made the same demand.
From the standpoint of modern American customs in work and among workmen, there are two extraordinary facts about the system of apprenticeship and mastership, so extraordinary that we can scarcely picture what such a system would be if we were to adopt it now. One is the fact that each and every man had to acquire mastership in the work of his craft or he could not be, come a member of it, or even earn wages, and there were no exceptions to this law. The other is the fact that complete mastership was demanded; an apprentice was not permitted to learn one-third of the work, or one-half of it, or three-fourths of it, there were no various grades of membership in the craft with part of the membership doing the simplest work for the lowest pay, part doing the half-skilled work for half pay, and part doing the difficult work for the highest pay. There was no compromise; either a man learned his work completely, or he was not permitted to work; either he earned the same wages as his fellow craftsmen, or he earned no wages. Each workman was a master workman.
Such was the law of the crafts and gilds century after century. It was never a counsel of perfection or an unattainable ideal, but an established rule, and so old that it went so far back that no man's memory ran to the contrary. And yet, to us it seems incredible) We take it that a "master" is the exceptional man; he is the man pointed out; he receives higher wages; he acts with bravura; he is the "expert"; his chief distinction in our eyes is that there are so few of him; and as for other men, who are not "masters," they are "hands," or "helpers" or "employees."
Can we go on with our system of the untrained, the halftrained, with non-masters? If the history of work can be trusted as our guide, we shall have to answer that we cannot, and for two reasons. One of the reasons is that the use of untrained or half-trained men is too expensive, and it necessarily must be so, because while it is possible to cut any kind of work up into smaller and smaller pieces in order that any one piece shall be simple enough for an untrained man to do it, you cannot cut the workmen's needs into smaller and smaller pieces. The wife and children of a man who makes one-ninth of a pin must have as much clothing, and as many pairs of shoes, and as much food, and as much schooling as the family of the man who has mastered the whole craft of mechanics - it is useless to argue that families can live on less and less because there is one minimum below which they cannot fall without falling into degradation, and an absolute minimum below which they cannot fall without perishing; in the long run, and on the whole, over the whole nation and over the generations, men must be masters in order to earn as much as they need. The other reason is that the world's work cannot be done except by masters. Any kind of work is never like a set of steps where you can mount three steps or twelve steps, and do one as easily as the other, but is like an organism in which you must have the whole of it or none of it. Mastery is the adequacy of the workman to his work as a whole. If he lacks that mastery he falls out of the ranks of craftsmen, and becomes a craftsman's mere helper or servant; or, at worse, becomes one of those vagrants or hoboes in the world of work, who wander about from one small piece of employment here to another one there, thinking only of what in his slang he calls "jobs," a "job" being any piece of work too small for a whole man's ability; and therefore becomes rootless, and always sliding out from under, and can never have either property or capital of his own, and earns not wages but "pay." If these unmasterful job seekers and job holders multiply beyond that line at which the law of diminishing returns begins to operate they will cost the nation more than they are worth, and that nation will as surely perish as it would from plague or war, less painfully but with no less certainty, and the brilliancy of a few "experts," or a few "successful" men here and there cannot save it.
6. Light. Any seven-year old boy in the second grade would insist that nothing could be more obvious than the proposition that 2+2=4; he would demonstrate it on the spot and on the instant by holding up two fingers of one hand alongside two fingers on the other. He would be right about it, nevertheless when Russell and Whitehead came to write their Principia Mathematica they had to fill more than 200 pages with close reasoning about the nature of numbers and about the axioms, postulates, assumptions, and presuppositions of arithmetic before they were able to give a rigorously mathematical proof of the proposition that 2+2=4. Many of the truths which appear to be the simplest and most obvious are the ones in which lie the deepest and dizziest depths of thought. A Newly-Made Mason must keep this fact before him when he studies the symbols in the Ritual of the Three Degrees; let him not deceive himself by what may appear to be their obviousness or their simplicity or their smallness, because there is not one of them which is not as old as time and as extensive as space; they infinitize themselves, they are inexhaustible; each of them is such that when a student gains an understanding of it, the symbol itself says to him, "And now there is yet more in me; continue with your study."
The Operative Masons had a stern and a strict law against working at night, but they sometimes had to work or to assemble on a dark day or in a shadowed room; when they did they used large tallow candles set in floor pedestals, which they called Great Lights; when they needed illumination close up and on a small detail they used hand candles, which they called Lesser Lightsit is interesting to note that the translator of the Book of Genesis must have had these candles in mind when in the fourth chapter he says that God created the Greater and Lesser Lights in heaven.
It is to these visible and material lights that the symbolism of Light refers, and we in modern times could as well use kerosene lamps or electric bulbs, or else it refers to actual and material daylight or moonlight. The ponderable lamps or candles, visible to the physical eyes, are not turned into something other than themselves, into phantom lights, or mystical lights, or into ineffable illumination "never seen on land or sea," nor into metaphors, nor into occult mysteries.
It is obvious that it is in the Lodge that the Candidate is bidden to observe the Lights, and to find Light; there would be no purpose in having them there if they were not to be used there. If a man is seeking some species of mystical light, some initiation into a remote or mystical art, he ought to go elsewhere to seek it, because these particular Greater and Lesser Lights are in the Masonic Lodge, and are there for Masonic purposes. Craftsmen must have light to work by; a builder cannot work unless he can see; he cannot use his hands unless he can use his eyes; and he cannot see his material, or see into it, or understand how to work with it, or gain any knowledge of it unless he can get light on it. "Let there be light" is a motto, but it also is a direction because it means that the Apprentice must get his work into a good light or he cannot do good work on it. This recognition of the need for having light in order to work shows once and for all how absurdly mistaken is the notion that Freemasonry is a secret society in the sense of being a hidden society, or the rumor that Freemasons love the dark and conceal from view what they are doing, or are employed in practices too mysterious to bear the light of day. Indeed! If that were true how would these gossipers explain why a darkness-loving society chose "Let there be light" for their motto, or why it is that in the Ritual, in some fifty different rites, ceremonies, emblems and symbols have as their burden a man's need for light, for lights, and for enlightenment!
The Greater Lights and the Lesser Lights, then, are nothing more than the light a Mason needs for doing his own work. Where is he to find that light? The answer is itself extraordinarily illuminating to any man's mind; he is to find it in the Greater Lights and the Lesser Lights; and these are nothing other than the Craft itself, the world-wide fraternity with its arts and its law which is represented by the Square, Compasses, and Book of Law, and the Craft as it works locally, in a Lodge, as represented by the Master, the Sun, and the Moon, which means the Master of Masons, the working day, and the night for rest and recreation. In the language of words instead of symbols this means that the Apprentice is to find light on his work and for his work in his work - you learn the work by plunging into it, you gain knowledge of it by doing it, each step you take throws light on the next step, the work is itself the enlightener of the workmen, and it is in the work and not elsewhere that he learns to understand it. If this is true of the Masonic Craft it is true of the apprentice in any other craft, he becomes enlightened in it as he becomes engaged in it, and each craft is its own Great Light upon itself.
7. The Level. The Operative Freemasons, the majority of them, were more religious than we Speculative Freemasons are, although we may talk more about it. Their working on stones, and walls, and buildings with metal tools may appear to us to have been more material, or even more "materialistic," than our own Lodge work, and therefore farther away from what we call "spiritual." But was it in reality? The spiritual in man is not that which is least material, or the most remote from matter, but is that in a man by means of which he understands material things, can work with them, can use them, can master them for his own purposes. If we could go into the history of the Operative Freemasons thoroughly enough until we could get into their skins, and see and feel as they did, we should discover in the long run that they were deeply and sincerely religious just because they did work with material things. They dealt day by day with things which no man can make, with mathematical laws which men did not enact, they were at grips with forces which no man can alter, they had to conform to the nature of things; they knew that no man can alter the nature of things, they knew that the nature of things never alters itself to suit the desires of a man, and that men are all level, are all equal, so far as the nature of things is concerned.
When therefore the Lodge teaches the Candidate that he must meet his fellows "on the level" it is not an attempt to have him ignore with an amiable and sentimental lack of discrimination the fixed, the inevitable, the unavoidable differences among men in body, mind, ability, character, personality; the blurry and Utopian "leveling down" which is taught by the doctrine of equalitarianism is nowhere taught in the Lodge - how could it be where members are in grades, and officers have places and stations? The Lodge's command that the Candidate is to step out on the level is no gesture of amiability, rather it is a stern and ruthless injunction, and if the Candidate is a young snob or a self-conceited egotist, it can be a painful ordeal, because it does not imply that a Candidate is to step down to meet other men on the level, but is to step up.
"No exception will be made of you,
Brother Candidate. You will never have it easier than other men.
You may in the world outside be very proud of your 'who' but neither
you nor any other's 'who' makes any difference to the Master when
he sets the Craft at work. When you lift the stone it will be
as heavy as when another lifts it. If a tower falls, it will crush
you as quickly as any other. If you botch your work it will be
thrown on the rubbish heap, and thrown as quickly even though
the Master is your father, or the Senior Warden is your uncle.
Gravity is gravity for you, the same as for any other, a triangle
is a triangle. Cold is cold, rain is rain, the day's work is as
hard. Unless you have the manhood to stay 'all-square' with your
fellows, and the fortitude to stand up with them, and the ability
to come up 'level' with them, you have no business here."
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