January 7, 2008
Some time ago I had the opportunity to sit in the East and confer the first degree of Masonry on a Candidate, now a Brother. Things were going quite well. I managed to get through the Obligation and what follows without a problem, and delivered the presentation of the working tools smoothly, despite the fact that I can get tongue-tied on the 'Rs' and 'Ls' of "rough and superfluous parts of stones" and the "superfluities of life". "Brotherly Love" is another one of those tongue-twisters that's as hard to say as it is to really understand - but that's the topic of a different education session.
Anyhow, we came to the part where I demand, "Do you find yourself entirely destitute?", and the Candidate, far from trembling before me in his "distressed condition", calmly responded, "I have my mind.", and that stopped me in my tracks.
"I have my mind." What a wonderful statement to make at that moment. There stands the Candidate, neither naked nor clad. He's just been through an awe-inspiring ceremony and now stands alone before that man with the hat who is definitely in charge and has been doing an awful lot of talking about things only partially understood and who now seems to be mad that there is nothing to give for the archives of the Lodge. Most Candidates mumble something and drop their eyes in uncertainty or shame at not being able to do what they have said they would do. I did, but not this one. Looking me right in the eye, "I have my mind", he said.
Here, I think in a flash, is a man, a Brother, on whom we can with utmost confidence, rely. Here is a demonstration of that steady and noble state whereby, as the Lecture says about fortitude, we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger when deemed prudentially expedient. He stands there, just and upright, even in his moment of privation, for he is secure and strong in the knowledge that he always has his mind, no matter how difficult life may become for him. And I realized at that moment, that, even though I was the man under the hat and supposedly giving an important lesson, I had just received an important lesson.
Before we proceed with the ceremonies of the degree, we take upon ourselves a binding obligation, which, we are assured, will not interfere with any duty we owe to God, our country, our neighbor, or ourselves. Let's reflect on that for just a moment. We owe duty to our God, our deity; that's faith in a higher power and observance of Divine law. We owe duty to our country, its established governmental structure, and its civic law. We owe duty to our neighbors, our Brothers in Masonry, and to the broader family of man throughout the world, its societal structure and its social laws of behavior. And, we owe duty to ourselves: to be true to our beliefs, to our internal rules by which we know ourselves and guide ourselves both when abroad in the world, and when in our private spaces.
The lesson I received from the Candidate was about this fourth duty, this duty we owe to ourselves to remain upright and just, to have faith and confidence in our internal structure and our ability to persevere, no matter what the external situation may be. Above all else, the Supreme Architect has given us minds with which to think and grow in our knowledge and faith. This ability allows us to remain centered and strong, secure in the knowledge that we can take on all comers and master all situations, because we are rational, thinking creatures, endowed as such by our Creator.
So, that was the valuable lesson, a lesson of spirit, taught from an unexpected source - as many of the best lessons are. This lesson opens our eyes to more light; the Supreme Architect of the Universe has given us our minds as a safeguard and security against the vicissitudes and inclemencies of life; we must remember that gift and exercise it in times of trouble.
"I have my mind." Say it once or twice to yourself. Consider both its lesson and its obligation, and then, give thanks to the Divine, from whence it comes.
Br. Stephen C. Harrington