Fred and Charlie are mere fictional creatures drawn from within my fevered brow, writes their creator Michael Lee, an experienced Freemason from Wiltshire. Their relationship, if any, to known human beings is entirely accidental. If inadvertent identification has been alleged then the parallels about monkeys randomly typing Shakespeare come easily to mind.
When trying to discuss many Masonic themes there is rarely a Stygian black or a pure Snow White – there is just a palette of shades of grey (considerably more than fifty, I might add!). In a monochrome one-person-me-write-your-read type of article discussion tends to be wordy and, frankly, often unconvincing. I decided many moons ago that to hold the attention of my Lodge of Instruction I needed to devise a dialogue format. In Masonic brotherhood sharp opposites aren’t appropriate so a complementary pair had to be envisaged. What better way than to make the protagonists two masons with which my Lodge of Instruction could identify – enter stage left a Past Master who doesn’t know it all but knows where to find it and, enter stage right, an enthusiastic younger mason who has an enquiring mind and a thirst for knowledge.
The choice of names – Fred and Charlie – came straight from an article written in another lifetime about the C13 builders of Salisbury Cathedral. Fred’s been a Freemason for a couple of decades; Charlie’s much younger and newer to it. They’ve struck up a friendship, and this series will allow us to eavesdrop on their Masonic communications. This month: ‘A testament to wisdom’.
Charlie had called in at the chemist to collect Fred’s prescriptions. They sat amiably on the patio in the sunshine quietly enjoying the signs of Spring – the first house martins, an orange tip or two, primroses and cowslips adding a creamy richness beyond the freshly cut green lawn then, as a cumulus drifted past, a beam of sunshine suddenly illuminated the flowering cherry into an explosion of pinks and whites.
‘God’s in His Heaven’, reflected Fred
‘…when seen by the light which is from above‘, quipped Charlie.
Fred smiled in recognition of the source. ‘It’s fascinating to see how closely the ‘Exhortation and Charge’ in the Third and the message of the Royal Arch are interwoven’. He paused. ‘While Hiram Abiff’s murder was apocryphal though, the authenticity of the Royal Arch story is pretty compelling’.’
‘You know, Charlie, the Old Testament tales about Solomon and Zerubbabel and all their moral lessons were once familiar in every Sunday-school… but those days are long gone. We no longer study the Old Testament at school and for many it’s as remote as, say, Milton or Shakespeare. We tend to focus on the symbolic part of the Holy Royal Arch story, not the great truths on which it was founded. I would argue that if they were given a clearer explanation of the Royal Arch sources Companions would find an increasing enjoyment in the ceremony every time they see it.’
‘I hear you, Fred’, said Charlie‘but then why don’t we get rid of those two long extracts from the Old Testament. They just interrupt the flow of the story for the young chaps’.
But, my dear Charlie, those two readings arethe story! They provide the VSL’s authority for the rest of the ritual. Perhaps they don’t receive the attention they deserve because they are expressed as C17 poetry, not in our more familiar prose. For example the reading from the Book of Proverbs, by King Solomon, suggests it makes sense to reach out and learn from our Creator – He can help us understand more about ourselves so we can live a fuller life. (Could you pass me the ‘red book’, please.)’
‘Look, suppose I express that passage as follows: ‘‘My son – listen to me and take notice. If you listen and try to understand what I am saying, if you do that diligently with enthusiasm as if you were searching for hidden treasure like gold and silver, then there are great rewards to be had.
Knowledge, wisdom, understanding do not come easily but with God’s help you can find them and they are more precious that rubies.
It will be worth the effort because in finding them within yourself, you will become happier, better understand right and wrong, be more confident and be able to make sound judgements in your journey through life.
You don’t have to believe me – just look around you. It was the Creator’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding that made the heaven and earth and gave us light”.
‘True. Look at the stars on a dark, clear night, Charlie; Creation is pretty impressive’.
‘As for second reading, from Haggai, he is telling us that the new Temple will be not just a physical one for the Jews but it will also be a spiritual home for all of Mankind. We might express it this way:
”Listen all of you, those of you who can remember the Temple at Jerusalem before it was destroyed, what a spectacular sight it was. Well look at it now, it’s a ruin. Come on, smarten up, get on with the re-building. Come on Z, come on J, let’s just do it. The Lord will move heaven and earth to help you. The Lord will involve everybody; all nations will want to help and be part of it. It will be bigger and better than the last one; all nations will be welcome there, not just Jews but everybody on Earth and He will bring peace to all Mankind’.’
Charlie nodded. ‘Well if you express it that way it makes sense – but we don’t, do we?’
Fred sad sadly: ‘Those Old Testament passages are poetry. Too often they are read hesitantly and without any expression. Such a message will never reach home. The sentences have to be expressed slowly and with feeling. They need just as much rehearsal as any other part of the ritual. In fact,’ Fred added, ‘I sometimes think they need all the more practise – because the inner meaning needs to be revealed.’
‘I came here with some pills’, reflected Charlie. ‘and I leave with a pep talk. Ah well, that’s my daily advancement…’