MWB Vern Wertz, PGM of Oregon,
The Short Talk Bulletin, April, 2015
Gold! Gold! That cry has echoed across the ages. It started migrations across oceans and continents. Men have killed for gold, dug for it, hoarded it, and it just may have some meaning for Freemasons.
What is gold? It is a basic substance, an element, one of 92 naturally occurring substances that can’t be broken down into anything else.
Gold is prized for its beauty, usefulness, and rarity. For centuries, men have searched for gold; in fact, gold jewelry has been found that dates to 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia.
It has some very unique properties. It can be hammered into sheets so thin that they are transparent. One ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 50 miles long. It doesn’t corrode, rust, or tarnish.
Well now, all of that is interesting, but what is gold’s connection to Freemasonry? As a yellow metal, none! I’ll be honest, to make a connection, you need to make use of a bit of imagination. You also need to understand that words can have more than one meaning, and gold is an example of that as it can be used as a synonym for rare, valuable, and meaningful.
So I am not shouting, “There’s gold in them thar hills.” I am, however, going to proclaim, “There’s hold in them thar words!”
The words I want to dig up are found buried in our Masonic ritual. What I seek is not always obvious; it tends to be hidden away, easily passed over, and you have to go deep to find the meaning hidden within the words.
I am always amazed at the beauty in our work. The simple truth is that no author, poet, or writer of plays ware more talented with words than the Brothers who originally penned our ritual. Much to the benefit of untold millions, they buried in the strata of Freemasonry sparkling bits of light that are golden treasury of the human mind.
Please join me in this search.
Freemasonry stresses the passing from youth into manhood and that concept is an ingot of pure intellectual beauty. Consider the Brother who is just starting a profoundly significant journey, and is told: “Now you must pray for yourself.” Prior to hearing those words, the Brother was a Masonic youth and he received a lot of support. Now manhood beckons, and the time for standing on his own two feet has arrived. His Brothers are not abandoning him. Rather, they want him to recognize the importance of a man-making and then acting on his own decisions. It is a subtle lesson, but it is there and, like much of Freemasonry’s teaching, it is a rare flake of pure gold.
At one point, a soon-to-be Brother is told, “Follow your conductor and fear no danger.” The message, although not at all obscure, may be one of the great lessons in Freemasonry. I read it thus! The candidate can trust a Brother to not lead him into danger, nor allow him to stray from the path that leads to light, or fail to finally stand before the world as a just and upright man and Mason. The strength of Brotherly love and guidance given to the candidate by his conductor is a vein of pure gold; and is the immutable example all Brothers should follow.
An Entered Apprentice, when being instructed about King Solomon’s Temple, hears that “Each part fitted with such exact nicety….” Today, we would probably say, “it went together okay.” The second is a bland nothingness, while the first is a nugget of rare beauty and wealth of meaning.
How does one get things to fit together with exact nicety? I was trained as a scientist, so my answer would tend to stray from the useful rules of architecture. My Dad was a carpenter, and he would have had a ready, crystal-clear answer. I think he would of have said, “Well, it involves a lengthy apprenticeship, a set of blue prints, and a devotion to excellence in each detail of the crafting of every piece, every part of the building.”
Now, I don’t want to belabor the obvious; but I believe that is exactly how Freemasonry teaches a man to construct himself. Did I earlier mention a “nugget?” I think that I may not have enough facility with the English language to adequately, of fully, describe how rich of a mother lode is buried in the concept of parts fitting with exact nicety.
I have always thought that one of the most remarkable bits of buried treasure are these words spoken to an Entered Apprentice, “…and be it known to you that no Atheist can ever become a Mason.”
Does this mean that no Atheist have ever joined a Lodge, taken the obligations, paid his dues? I think not! I also think that by themselves, those things do not make a man a Mason. Since an Atheist rejects a belief in God, it is impossible for him to complete the journey that chances a man into a Freemason.
Is there any greater lesson than that Freemasonry is a progressive science and, in order to arrive at Journey’s end, each step MUST be completed? In simplest terms, a paid-up dues card does not make a Mason. There really is a very large difference between being a member and being a Mason. And that is a golden truth well worth mining.
Consider the three Fellowcraft Masons, who are discussing the men, whose voices they have just heard. Two of them were concerned about the risks involved in the capture of these ruffians. The third was a bit of a hero; his attitude was: lets get at it because “our cause is just.” Those four words are what is called a major strike and we are talking about pure gold.
I think that here is a clear message that a Freemason must opt for that which is right and decent and honorable: a just cause! But more than that, a Mason must take action. I find nothing in Freemasonry that teaches or encourages its votaries to sit on the sidelines. There is, I think, much that tells him to enter the fray on the side of truth, honor, and that which is just.
I believe that Freemasonry is a treasure trove of ideas that can enrich a man’s life. Some of them are in plain sight, some are buried deep. All are worth the effort of discovery and, when found, they all emit a golden light that illuminates our way and makes it easier to travel on that rocky road we call life. The searching, the struggle to understand, the sharing of what is unearthed, and the certain knowledge that there is yet more to discover, gives an entirely new meaning to the term, “gold digger.”
I have described to you a few of the things I have found in many years of roaming the pages of my ritual. I do not claim that my thoughts are in some way special, exclusive to me, or that they represent some ultimate truth. I do claim that it was, and is, a grand adventure un-covering them and then sharing the light found within.
One final point: Why is so much of Freemasonry hidden? Why is so much knowledge veiled in allegory, concealed in symbols, and hidden among all the words in our ritual? The answer is an elemental Masonic truth: The hidden beauties and the “secrets” (read that as knowledge, understanding) of Freemasonry are, in fact, reserved for those who are willing to diligently search for meaning in all those allegories, symbols and words.
Are you fearful that your search may lead you astray, cause you to interpret the work wrongly? Relax! There is no correct interpretation, for there is no one authority on the meaning or our ritual. Understanding Freemasonry is truly a thing of the individual; and the correct interpretation of Masonic ritual, so far as an individual Brother is concerned, is the one he finds. And that, I sometimes think, is the thing I most love about this gentle craft that so affects so many men; and to me that is more precious than all the gold in the world.