A Bold Imaginative Experience through the Liberal Arts
The Masonic life is symbolically described as a journey from west to east in search of intellectual and spiritual light. This journey requires not one but two distinct paths: one moral or spiritual, the other educational or intellectual. This is the result of a common misunderstanding of the ultimate objective—understanding. Both science (the intellectual mechanism) and religion (the spiritual mechanism) seek the same thing: an understanding of the totality of existence; a final definition of reality, the universe, and man’s place in it.
In the oldest literature of Assyria (abt. 1300 B.C.E.), we find evidence of this spiritual quest. A half millennium later it is obvious in Pythagoras’ search for the meaning of life through the divine understanding of numbers and their relationships, and two millennia after Pythagoras, Galileo, Pascal and Leibnitz echo him as they refer to mathematics as the speech of God. This search for the ultimate answer, the final authority, had as its most powerful impetus the search not only for the divinity, but also for the very nature of man—the meaning of life.
In the late seventeenth century, three English Protestants laid the foundations for physics, psychology, and biology as part of this spiritual quest. Isaac Newton saw God’s speech in the great laws of physics and celestial gravitation. John Locke defined the self, theorized that the mind was a blank slate, and that knowledge is obtained logically through the senses and our perceptions of reality. And John Ray, a minister with no pulpit who is considered the father of English natural history, classified plants according to similarities and differences that emerged from observation thus advancing scientific empiricism. In this search for natural history, the perfection of the Divine Creator was deemed both obvious and benevolent.
But while most contemporary scientific and spiritual movements tend to make rear focused allusions telling us what has gone wrong and even hinting at some unbounded previous catastrophe, the Masonic quest looks forward. We endeavor to make good men better by looking to the future. We emphasize a stability and firmness of principle to fully discover ourselves and the world in which we live.
In the second or Fellow Craft Degree, the intellectual part of this quest is explained in terms of the liberal arts, the five senses, and the orders of architecture. The liberal arts, often considered synonymous with the introductory courses in the university curriculum, provide us with the foundation necessary to our intellectual quest. The five senses, as Locke noted, provide us with the information essential to the final objective—understanding--and the five orders of architecture speak to the orderliness of the quest as well as to the artistic and creative potential of man.
Anciently, the liberal arts (artes liberales) were considered the essential skills required for a free person--a citizen--to participate in public life. These arts made the citizen truly a free man. In modern times, the term most often refers to the disciplines of literature, language, philosophy, history and mathematics, as well as to the social and biological sciences.
In the classical world, the liberal arts were divided into the Trivium and the Quadrivium.
The Trivium included grammar, logic (also named dialectic), and rhetoric. The Quadrivium included arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Arithmetic and geometry along with trigonometry and other numerically based studies now fall under the rubric of mathematics, and astronomy, now based on observable, replicable science, was anciently known as astrology and included the auguries of that pseudo-science. Let us take a closer look, however, at the liberal arts and consider them as an experience essential to reaching the Masonic goal of enlightenment.
The first goal of the liberal arts is to give the individual the ability to reason well and to recognize when reason and evidence are not enough. The liberal arts give us the ability to be creative—to connect two previously unconnected concepts in a new and novel way or to find a previously unknown connection between already joined concepts. They encourage in us serendipity and analysis. The key to reason is to recognize fully when more evidence is needed.
Grammar enables us to read, write, and speak with some level of distinction and style. Reading the words alone is not sufficient to knowledge. Writing simple sentences does not create understanding on the part of the reader because it does not sufficiently express the thoughts of the author. Simply speaking words does not make one a great orator. Grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the way in which we speak and write. It consists of morphology, syntax, and phonology as well as phonetics, semantics, pragmatics, spelling, and punctuation. Grammar is the rules which make understanding and communication possible. Properly constructed language enables us to engage in probing analysis by enabling the mind to synthesize the information inherent in the written or spoken word. It is the key to understanding human communication which enables us to function in a societal framework, and it governs our thought process. It is the primary skill which renders us truly human.
George Herbert Mead, a social psychologist, contended that mind, self, and society are one—the social act—and that communication—the use of grammar—was part of that act. He described humans as far advanced creatures capable of rational thought. It is through language—significant symbols—Meade suggests, that man sees himself as others see him and, in turn, the individual internalizes these perceptions and structures his behavior to be consistent with them. The structure of our brains directly impacts on our perceptions and the grammatical structures of our language. Language may be created within the individual in terms of how an object is identified, but for that definition to be shared, it must be placed into an agreed upon grammatical structure.
Rhetoric or dialectic refers to the reasoned use of dialogue and the art of logical discussion. It is the ability to communicate effectively with appeal and impact. From ancient times, rhetoric has been valued in direct relation to its involvement in the political forum. The purpose of rhetoric is to find the truth. It requires not only that the speaker speaks well, but that the audience listens well. One of the oldest manifestations of rhetoric may be found in the Socratic Method which tests beliefs through questions as it examines the structure and reason behind the belief or idea. Rhetoric focuses not just on persuasion but also on truth seeking and requires that the audience reflect critically on the topic. Rhetoric, when properly and effectively used, can and does change opinions.
Propaganda is part of rhetoric but is most often examined as a threat to human society. It is, in fact, an objective human phenomenon which employs rhetorical tools to impact on public opinion (tendency to an action). Education employs propaganda as part of its tool-kit, but the issue arises as to how to differentiate falsehoods propounded through propaganda from truths propounded through education. Essentially, this is done through the human capacity to evaluate the propagandists—to reason. Who is he? What are his organizations, occupation, political position, prior statements, prejudices, and the like? What are his background, education, experience, and personality? What are his resources and his objectives? Can the listener, through deliberation and reflection, discern intentions and possible unforeseen consequences? For propaganda, is the message disseminated through media and, if so, what is the nature and agenda of that media? What are the underlying themes as determined through an analysis of frequency of usage and prominence of wording? Is the message received or perceived? What is learned, relearned, unlearned, or not learned? Rhetoric is intended to persuade; not to propagandize in the negative sense.
The liberal arts help us understand and utilize numerical data. This enables us to make sophisticated responses to arguments and positions which depend upon such information. Mathematics introduces us to risk, instability, orders of magnitude, confidence levels, and uncertainty. They give us the ability to grasp and analyze the information presented in a logical manner—not being deceived by appearances. Much in the modern world is expressed in mathematical terms and, without the ability to understand and analyze the propositions presented, we are unable to determine if the conclusions (or answers) are valid. There is a common saying in mathematics: anything can be proven by the manipulation of numbers especially when the audience lacks the basic computational skills implied in this part of the liberal arts. Even though the original Liberal Arts classified arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy into separate classes, an overview of the subject suggests that they are interrelated.
For Freemasons, both geometry and astronomy hold special significance. Geometry treats the magnitude, shape, size, position, and properties of space. The word comes from the Greek geo meaning earth and metron meaning measurement. It is the foundation of our Craft. As an academic study, it dates to at least the sixth century B.C.E. and by the third century B.C.E. it was a well-established part of the curriculum. Its practical applications far precede its study as is evidenced in such architectural marvels as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (destroyed by earthquakes between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries), the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse at Alexander (felled first in 1303 with destruction completed in 1480). Archimedes used geometry to calculate areas and volume by displacement. “When I get into a tub,” he reasoned, “water comes out. There must be a relationship between that outflow and the size of my body.” He extended that observation as well as the importance of scientific control to the case of the two crowns. The king had a new crown. It looked like gold, it felt like gold, but was it gold? Archimedes solved the problem by obtaining a piece of gold and a piece of silver with the same mass. He placed the gold into a container of water and measured the outflow. He did the same with the silver. Both metals had the same weight, but silver, being less dense than gold, had a larger volume. Subsequently, Archimedes obtained a piece of pure gold of the same weight as the crown and placed both into water, one at a time. The crown displaced more water than the gold thus enabling him to rule that the king had been cheated.
Practically, geometry enables engineers to survey, measure, construct, evaluate, and create. Relationships common to circles, triangles, cylinders, spheres, and pyramids are demonstrated. It further provides evidence of the relationship between points, lines, and planes. Geometry is at the same time a function of numbers. Numbers provide coordinates as well as data about size, and through numbers, geometric shapes may be realized and analyzed by using their algebraic representation. Anciently, the focus of geometry was on relative position and spatial relationships. Modern geometry expanded the understanding of nature by demonstrating that Euclidean space is only one possibility and contributed directly to the development of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Geometry further considers the properties of dimension and symmetry. Symmetry is emblematical of the principle of duality in which points and planes meet with, lie within, and contain each other. Symmetry is classical Euclidean geometry of congruence and motion. It transforms straight lines into curves and suggests the duality of existence—space and time.
Astronomy is a natural science and possibly the first science known to man. The oldest known star chart is carved in Mammoth ivory dated to about 30,000 B.C.E. It is a drawing of what scholars accept to be the constellation Orion known in the ancient world as the heavenly shepherd. Also dating to about the same period is a drawing of the Pleiades found in the Lascaux caves in France. The Nebra sky disk, found in Germany, dates to the Bronze Age about 1600 B.C.E and is considered the oldest concrete depiction of the cosmos. Astronomy is the law or culture of the stars. It is the study of celestial objects, their physics, chemistry, evolution, and phenomena. It includes celestial navigation, chronology, and astrophysics. Its earliest manifestation was in observation of motions of celestial objects using the naked eye. It is found in all ancient civilizations including Mesopotamia, Greece, India, China, Egypt, and Central America. The earth, in these ancient cosmologies, was at the center of the universe. One of the earliest and most important astronomical discoveries was made by the Babylonians who, using mathematical and observational astronomy, noted that lunar eclipses occurred in a set cycle which repeated itself.
Until the later middle ages, the study of astronomy, hidden deep in astrology (a pseudoscience) was stagnant throughout Europe though it did flourish in the Islamic world. The Catholic Church in Europe contributed financially to the advancement of astronomy during this period, but the focus was on using the science to establish not the situation of the stars or the size or shape of the earth but the date of Easter.
During the Renaissance, Copernicus proposed the heliocentric solar system. His work was confirmed by Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler. For Copernicus, the Catholic Church was mainly silent. The main condemnation of his work came from Martin Luther in his Tischreden or Table Talk Diary when he wrote:
There is talk of a new astronomer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving a carriage or shop might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walk and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it most needs be best! The fool wants us to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.
And though Luther referred to Copernicus as “a fool who went against Holy Writ,” the general response to his theory was indecisive and the Catholic Church remained hostile but generally silent. The principle responses to Copernicus came from Protestant theologians who, utilizing conventional methods including conversations and sermons, organized essentially an anti-Copernican campaign. It was Galileo, some 90 years later, was tried and condemned by the Roman Catholic Inquisition which declared heliocentrism heretical. On February 24, 1616, the Qualifiers speaking for the Church unanimously held that the idea that the sun is stationary is “foolish and absurd.” And while Copernicus’ works were not banned outright because of their usefulness in setting calendars and establishing the date of Easter, Galileo’s writings supporting Copernicus were condemned and banned. By 1758 the Catholic Church had dropped its general ban on teaching heliocentrism and in 1835 Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogue were removed from the Index Librorum Prohibitorum or List of Prohibited Books. In 1992, the Catholic Church finally vindicated Galileo noting “The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scriptures.”
Astronomy, speculative and scientific, has not answered, nor may it ever answer, all the questions posed about the nature of the universe such as what is its origin and nature of stellar mass? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? What caused the universe to form and how does this impact on its demise? What is dark matter and dark energy? What are black holes and how do they relate to the formation and destruction of galaxies? And ultimately is the universe eternal? It does, however, address the logic of universal structure and attempts to provide understanding of the evolution of the heavens. Astronomy has also contributed to the study of ancient cultures through archeology, and anthropology. It works with the biological sciences to answer questions about the creation and evolution of biological systems in the universe as well as on earth. Forensic astronomy utilizes astronomical methodology to solve problems proposed by law and history. Astrostatistics attempts to analyze the vast amount of data available and to apply that analysis it to predict the future.
The sixth of the classical Liberal and Sciences is music or the study of sound which through pitch, melody, harmony, rhythm, meter, articulation, and the dynamic qualities of timber and texture impart meaning and impact upon emotions. Flutes—musical instruments—are among the oldest artifacts of human existence dating back 40,000 years or more. The ancient civilizations of the Indus valley display musical traditions, and the earliest and largest collection of musical instruments was found in China and dates to about 7000 B.C.E. The oldest notational music comes from Amorite city of Ugarit dating to approximately 1400 B.C.E. In ancient Egypt, the god Thoth was credited with the invention of music and harps, flutes and cymbals, and a form of clarinet that was dated to the Old Kingdom period. Genesis 4:21 identifies Jubal, seven generations removed from Adam, as the founder of music. His half brothers and sister created other mysteries or sciences: Jabel—husbandry and herding; Tubal Cain, metal work; and Naamah, weaving and cloth work (see Chapter I and the Legend of Noah). While the first five books of the Old Testament are virtually silent on the utilization of music in Jewish life and religion, I Samuel suggests the use of large, organized, trained musicians and choirs, and Amos is written with audience response as part of the rhetorical scheme with the figure Amos providing Yahweh’s responses and admonitions to the peoples’ questions—see Amos 6, 7 and 8. This is similar to the sing out camp meeting style popularized during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States wherein the pastor or preacher sang out the words line by line to be followed by the congregation.
By the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the impact and place of music in daily life had vastly increased, especially with the introduction of modern sound reproduction technology. Phonographs led the way followed quickly by movies, radio, television, and the internet. New rhythms became common with improvisation, syncopation, and other innovations leading to a fusion of styles and forms of expression. Basic to the philosophy and study of music, however are simple questions. How do we define music? What is the relationship between music, mind, and emotions? What does music reveal to us about the world and about ourselves? How does music communicate? Does music have meaning and how does that meaning relate to human life?
Music is a mathematical phenomenon with cosmological dimensions. It is about hearing and experiencing; about beauty and enjoyment; about sensory perception and revelation. It also delves into feelings and responses; excitement and exaltation; sadness and bewilderment. The central theme of music is its ability to express and excite human emotions. Music effects not only our emotions, but also our intellect and psychology. “It wraps us in melancholy and elevates us joy; it dissolves and inflames; it melts us with tenderness and excites us to war.” Yet, “through its powerful charms the most discordant passions may be harmonized and brought into perfect unison.” Plato in The Republic states that music has a direct effect upon the soul. It is an investigation of human skill, creativity, intelligence, psychology, and social behavior. It is lyrical and harmonic; it is hypnotic and emotive; it is playful and colorful; but above all it is a human expression of an inward condition. In music, each note has its distinctive message.
As humans, we must understand our history and the consequences of past actions as well as the uncertainty of human society. The more sophisticated our understanding of our past, the better prepared we are to deal with the complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty of the present and the future. This is the intractable condition of human society. George Santayana wrote: “A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.” He also wrote: “"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." An understanding of our history—not just names, dates and events, but outcomes and long-term consequences—is essential to the full and productive public life of a free man.
What would the world be without the arts, letters, and sciences? Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan wrote:
Nature hath made man so equal in the facilities of body and mind . . . and as to the faculties of the mind . . . I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength . . . Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man . . . no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. . . Reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the laws of nature.
These laws become known to man through the liberal arts experience.
When man emerged from what Kant referred to as his nicht alt or nonage during the 17th century (which also saw the beginning of what we now commonly call Freemasonry), a new spirit permeated his thoughts. It was this spirt which led thinkers and philosophers in Europe and America to question every given from the past. In politics, religion, science, art, learning, even in government, new forms of thought were developed and new skepticisms appeared. This was, as the Germans called it, Aufklarung which translated perfectly into the English word enlightenment. It was a time in which the liberal arts impacted directly on human culture in the West.
The liberal arts imply, but do not explicitly state, that an understanding of the scientific method is essential to the individual’s grasp of the reality of the world in which he exists. The use of the scientific method enables the individual to explain what he observes. It uses a system of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, correcting previous information, and integrating new observations with those previously made. It is based on empirical and measurable evidence, and is subject to repetition and confirmation. It has characterized the study of natural science since the seventeenth century. An individual using the scientific method seeks to let reality speak for itself and allows it to either support or disprove the proposition.
Francis Bacon (1561-1616) proclaimed the basic tenets of science which led to the understanding of the interrelation of all natural phenomena. His writings created a link between nature and science. He turned man outward to the stars and inward to the molecule. Although his association with and direct influence on Freemasonry is in doubt, Bacon is credited with being the first person to illuminate the scientific method and to use it to solve problems. Some authors have claimed that he was initiated and an active speculative Mason, but there are no known records except the spurious link made by Christoph Nicolai who wrote that Bacon had possibly read some writings of John Andrea, the founder of Rosicrucianism, and that his ideas heavily influenced Elias Ashmole.
The scientific method requires that the researcher observe some aspect of the universe; hypothesize an explanation of that observation; use this explanation to make predictions; test those predictions through experiments; repeat steps three and four until all discrepancies have been controlled; and report the results. A common criticism of the method is that it does not accommodate for those things which cannot be proved through observation and experimentation. This is a misrepresentation of the method. When a theory is adopted or accepted, it is done so because it has correctly explained the phenomena observed, but it is constantly in the mind of the researcher that old theories may fail, that new experiments may be developed, and that different observations may be made. The scientific method is not an issue of faith and does not present a single, incorruptible explanation: it is always open to its own analysis. Finally, the scientific method is cross-cultural. The method provides a theory of gravitational forces that apply equally to all. Jump and it is verified.
Throughout history science has served to enhance and clarify the liberal arts. The use of the scientific method increases our understanding of our world, the universe, and how it and we function. It has enabled man to arrive at specific solutions to world problems in medicine, energy production, and the improvement and increase of the food supply. At the same time, it enables us to identify and defend against scientific fraud (the spurious link between vaccines and autism, for example). To fully participate in modern civilization, the study of art, music, literature, history, and the humanities is assumed. Yet we gain a more in-depth understanding of the human condition through biological and physical sciences. We do not have to teach calculus, combinatorics, or mathematical physics to every student, but basic numeracy is essential to success. The scientific method teaches one to utilize observation rather than indoctrination to arrive at solutions to problems.
Yet knowing the science is not sufficient. Alexander Pope wrote “the proper study of mankind is man.” It is not sufficient to know just the science. Let us consider medicine as an example. Ambrose Pare, was a French master barber-surgeon who lived in the sixteenth century and is considered the father of modern surgery. Pare wrote “I dressed him, and God healed him” thus noting that part of the healing process beyond which no physician can take a patient. A good physician is a student of both science and humanity. The physician must understand not just quantity—how long we live—but must also understand quality, meaning, and enjoyment—why we live. That is why the liberal arts are essential. They enable us to go beyond science and find truths about how humans flourish because they speak to the human need for moral and spiritual meaning.
Inherent to the liberal arts experience is the ability to make ethical choices and to assume responsibility for those choices. Ethical choices are defined as those choices that enable us to live together as one family regardless of race, creed, national origin, or political persuasion (see Chapter IX). Ethics involves a methodical procedure for developing, systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of correct behavior. Ethical decision making is essential to the survival of any society. Inherent also within the liberal arts is an understanding of values and the ability to use them to make sound ethical choices. We must learn how to make real choices. Yet, we must be comfortable with our personal behavior and, more importantly, know why we behaved in such a manner. Our vision must be bolder, more energetic, and filled with leadership. Values are everywhere; the liberal arts lead us to prevail in a new era. They provide us with sound guides for the future.
Inherent to ethical decision making is the ability to assume responsibility for one’s actions, behaviors, and choices. In a world where a common excuse is the devil made me do it, the strength of character exhibited in the ability to assume responsibility is paramount to our success both in our individual lives as well as in our Masonic journey.
Art describes a wide range of human activity to include the visual arts--painting and architecture, for example--as well as music, theatre and dance. In the seventeenth century, art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from crafts or sciences. One essential of art is its ability to have a direct impact on our psychological as well as physiological responses as is so eloquently described in the lecture of the Fellow Craft Degree’s explanation of the science of music. Through art, we are enabled to hear more, see more, experience more, and to do all at a significantly deeper level.
The liberal arts encourage sequential learning. As we learn to read beginning with simple three and four word sentences then progress to more complex expression, so all learning is sequential and based on the firm foundation of the liberal arts. Sequential learning is essential to the great leaps of imagination that generate new and great discovers from the structure of DNA to the complexities of the atom and the modern iPhone.
Along with sequential learning, we must also develop a grasp of the technological advancements that so rapidly overtake us. At the same time, we must understand how these advancements are to be applied in terms of their capabilities and limitations. The modern computer, for example, is a marvelous machine, but it still requires a significant degree of human input and imagination to function. It must also be managed by the human psyche so as not to become addictive or lead to destruction.
Finally, the liberal arts are guides to international understanding between men of every country, sect, and opinion. Freemasonry through the liberal arts provides insights and understanding of the human condition which enable us to better grasp that which is outside our immediate experience and comfort zone. They empower a wider comprehension of the universe as they prepare us for what is surely to come.
The totality of the liberal arts experience may be expressed in three related statements:
1. To create insights and understanding not only of our world but of the rest of the world as well;
2. To develop the ability to see the world as it really exists and to understand what we see; and
3. To understand that change comes not necessarily through innovation, but through new ways of seeing. The liberal arts give us those new ways.
At age sixteen, Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic surgical techniques, enrolled at University College in London to pursue his medical education. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from that college in 1847. Lister, a devout Quaker, had excelled at the Quaker schools he attended but, because the Society of Friends would neither take an oath nor subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Episcopal (Church of England) faith, he was not eligible to enroll at universities such as Oxford or Cambridge. University College of London was called “the godless college” because it did not consider social rank or religious belief among its admission criteria.
Lister the younger was well versed in the Quaker world view of directness and honesty, and like many of his faith, was attracted to science. The Society of Friends waited upon the Lord and believed in the inner light of God in everyone. They were hardworking people adept at business, investing, education, and science. Rickman Godlee, Lister’s nephew wrote that it was common to find the intellectual man of high science “serving behind his own counter.” Joseph Jackson Lister, the younger Lister’s father, wrote to his son in 1844 informing him of the importance of a sound general education prior to beginning his medical studies, counsel even more important in the twenty-first century than in the nineteenth.
How, then, do we utilize our educational experience to learn to live a virtuous life and to make sound ethical decisions? First, we define. We do this using grammar: the key by which alone the door may be open to the understanding of speech. We further define our terms and our propositions through rhetoric: speaking and arguing the proposition eloquently and without disparagement. This is aided by the science of Logic (which can be performed mathematically) and directs us to form clear and distinct ideas of things, and thereby prevents us from being misled by their similitude or resemblance. We then analyze our results using mathematical procedures common in both hard and social sciences. Analysis leads to conclusions based upon evidence—not on emotions—which, in turn, provides guidance for improvement. Finally, as in every scientific experiment or advancement, there must be a strong element of control. Control provides the reference point to determine what change (if any) occurred when some part of the process was modified. Control is essential to the ability to generalize the outcomes to a larger population. We evaluate our educational outcomes by controlling for each part of the process to determine which worked, which did not; which led to the desired outcomes, and which led elsewhere.
The Masonic journey or quest for light (enlightenment) is often described as a trek that culminates when the traveler reaches the top of the mountain and attains a significant degree of self-knowledge. It may, however, be better to describe it as the exploration of a dense and entangled forest where it is easy to walk at some levels and on some paths, and difficult at others. The traveler’s problem is how to shift for himself. He is searching for direction rather than height. In this forest, some paths are tangled thickets, some overgrown from disuse, some fashionably clear and easy, and others interwoven. The challenge is created by this complexity and divergence.
Masonry, through its utilization of the liberal arts experience and its spiritual foundation, provides the guiding light essential to successful progress. It removes the ear-plugs and blinders. It enables the traveler to grasp and utilize the complexity and diversity to one’s benefit. In that sense, the forest and the mountain are one. We all travel in the same land; the terrain is difficult, the routes varied; but the goal is common to all mankind, especially Masons.
The arts and sciences, especially the sciences, are not of human invention, writes Thomas Paine. All science has its basis in a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as is those which govern the movement of the heavenly bodies. Man cannot invent things which are eternal any more than he can prevent an eclipse. The principles which man uses to determine that eclipse are contained in trigonometry, astronomy, and geometry. And while a man may draw a triangle, a triangle is only the image of the principle, not the principle itself. In a like manner, man can make a lever, but he does not create the principle by which the lever functions. Man participates in and witnesses the effect, not the principle.
If man does not make principles, then, where does he gain his knowledge of them? It is through observation of the structure of the universe, Paine writes, that man has discovered these principles. The structure was pre and ever existing, but it was through mathematics that man learned its principles, harnessed them, and made them useful to himself. “It is only by contemplating what he calls the starry heavens, as the book and school of science, that he discovers any use in their being visible to him . . . but when he contemplates the subject in this light he sees an additional motive for saying, that nothing was made in vain.”
Richard Pogge. “An Introduction to Solar System Astronomy”, The Ohio State University, www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast161/unit3/response.html, retrieved July 3, 2015.
Pope John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano N. 44 (1264) — November 4, 1992.
George Santayana & William Holzberger (ed,). The Letters of George Santayana, Book Five, 1933-1936: The Works of George Santayana, Vol. V. (Boston: MIT Press, 2003), p. 162.
Marianne Wokeck & Martin Coleman (eds). The Life of Reason: Introduction and Reason in Common Sense: Critical Edition, Vol. 11. (Boston: MIT Press, 2003), p. 172.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hobbes/thomas/h68l/chapter13.html, retrieved, July 9, 2015.
Sherwin Nuland. Doctors: The Biography of Medicine. (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 107.
Thomas Paine. Age of Reason: The Definitive Edition. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Michigan Legal Publishing, Ltd., 2014), p. 33.