The Ashlar Company
For the good of the craft...
MASONIC MONTHLY - 1864.
THE human species have tenanted this planet for several thousands
of years. For what purpose has been this long occupancy of the
earth? Has this purpose been accomplished? or does the grand
result, as discernable in our day, exhibit, what may be construed,
as being the accomplished purpose of human existence on this
earthly sphere? These are great and grave questions, and most
difficult to answer, if answerable. If the existence of mankind for a
period so extended has any purpose towards itself as a total, then
that purpose can scarcely yet have been achieved, so the human
mind would reason, for the general condition of our race is so
unequal, so wanting in its approaches to perfection, as to require
many thousands of years, judging from the slow rate of our past
progress, before that end, if it be the end, can be reached.
What has been accomplished by those vast movements of
mankind, some of which history has recorded, others of which it
has entirely passed over, towards solving the problem of human
destiny? The innumerable wars, emigrations and immigrations,
revolutions and reformations, destructions and reconstructions of
races and societies, to what extent have these aided towards the
consummation of Heaven's purpose with us? Who can give answer
to these weighty queries? These questions, or kindred ones, have
occupied the leading minds among men in all ages, and it will be
the destiny of such minds for ages yet to come, judging from the
past, still to ponder these great problems and find them still
unsolved. Then what utility is there or can there be in raising such
questions? We can only answer that the human mind as constituted
inevitably and of some peculiar necessity propounds these riddles
to itself, and it may be that in seeking to unravel them, it is
securing that development of its faculties which may be a leading
if not the main purpose of its existence. The Sphinx well
symbolizes mankind, which is both riddle and answer combined,
for as Shakespeare hath well said, "the greatest mystery to
mankind is man."
But what has all this to do with Freemasonry? Has civilization any
higher purpose than to furnish us with all the modern conveniences
of life? - If it achieves nothing more than this, for ourselves we
would prefer a little of barbarism and its more positive manners.
What is the end and aim of all education ? As to the individual it is
to develop him to the fullest extent in all his faculties, and as to the
race, it is to elevate mankind to its highest attainable condition
short of that perfection, which we do not believe possible of
attainment on earth or in this life.
From the birth of the first pair of human beings until this present
instant, the anxious student has been painfully poring over problem
after problem with but one object, namely, hour to realize his
highest ideal. Every power in church and state, lawful or unlawful,
he has invoked towards this end. Often has he appealed to the
sword, yet the sword has rendered him no assistance. Philosophy,
science, art, religion, every institution that ever existed has been in
turn appealed to with this ever present purpose in view, and every
institution has been weighed in the balances and pronounced either
competent to assist or found wanting in ability to assist towards
this continual aim.
Whatever answer may be given to the questions with which we
started, it does seem to us that the worthiest object which mankind
can seek is its own highest happiness both here and here-after, and
that this is only attainable through the development of all our
faculties both individually and socially to their fullest extent.
Whether or not in following this object we are in the dark as to the
proper purpose of our existence on earth, as individuals or as a
race, here we have an object worth pursuing here we have an end
in view, however distant, yet worth living for and striving for.
Further, we think it fair to judge of the value of every human
institution, whether in church or state, by the amount of service it
can render to us towards the promotion of this grand aim. In
whatever particular, the church, the state, the college, the literary
society, civilization itself in any of its departments, fails to help us,
or succeeds in hindering us in our progress, as to that particular, we
may safely and properly pronounce each and all of them defective
and in need of reform and improvement.
Among the institutions which mankind has tried, none has longer
been sustained, none has tested his patience more thoroughly than
Freemasonry. More ancient than the oldest of existing
governments, older than the oldest of churches extant,
Freemasonry has maintained its life among men. By what peculiar
property has been secured this wonderful freedom from that death
and decay which has overtaken and obliterated so many of the
institutions of antiquity? Must there not be in the system of
Freemasonry a wonderful adaptation to the wants of man through
all ages and under all circumstances to secure this unparalleled
perpetuation of itself? Through storm and sunshine, from under the
frowns of the mighty, and out of persecutions as severe as have
overtaken any institution, it has descended to us from the remotest
antiquity, and now in this day it exhibits as much life and vigor, if
not greater vitality and force than ever before in its history.
"What has Freemasonry to do with the great problem of human
progress to which we have alluded? What is a lodge? The ancient
charges answer "a lodge is a place where Masons assemble and
work." What is their work? Whatever tends to benefit mankind,
whatever tends to its elevation, whatever is promotive of human
progress in all its phases, is true Mason's work. - Never in all
history has it been ranged on the side of tyrants against the people,
never has it aided superstition and priestcraft in their warfare
against freedom of thought, but, always allied with the friends of
humanity, ever devoted to the inextinguishable light of truth and
fraternity, it has been one with the life of mankind itself, and
therefore imperishable. "Progress," the poet sings, "is the rule of
all," and if this progress be among the purposes of our race here
below, then is Masonry intimately associated with human destiny,
and has its glorious work in the world.
Masonry has been variously defined as an art and a science, and as
a system of morality veiled in allegory. Masonry is all these, and
more than these. It is one of the worthily working institutions of
the world. It is one of the few institutions among men which has a
work to do, in harmony with that progressive development of
humanity which seems to be the great purpose of existence, and
appears to be becoming more and more important as one of the
instrumentalities by which that development is being affected.
And how does Masonry accomplish its work? By a process as old
as the oldest lodge Freemasonry is sifting community and selecting
such material as is calculated for the labors of the Craft. This
material is then led through an impressive initiation, passed and
raised to the grade of Master, and, in the language of the Ancient
Charge, made to feel "the benign influence of Masonry, as all true
Masons have done from the beginning of the world, and will do to
the end of time." Masonry accomplishes its work by taking hold of
good men and making them better, by giving them an ideal and an
aspiration which would lead them ever upward from the lowest,
even to the highest round of that ladder, symbolical of all the
virtues, whose bottom rests on the earth but whose top reacheth
unto the heavens.
To the lodges one word in conclusion would we add - see to it that
ye turn out nothing but true Mason-work.
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