Much of our time, for those of us who live and work in urban areas, is spent rushing around busy streets, or diving in and out of trains, buses and taxis. Everywhere I go in this environment, I am assailed by images of ugliness, some of it incidental, some of it actively contrived and devised ugliness. Advertising images I find absorbing. There is a great deal of good, clever advertising, some of it pleasing to the eye. But there is much that is gratuitously offensive and ugly, on television screens accompanied by loud discordant music and banal and corrosive script and dialogue. An image of a man with bloodshot eyes and a hideous blue face; people in futuristic costumes, who turn out, on closer inspection, to be tailor’s dummies with perspex eye shields; monsters displaying gory entrails; a face grossly distorted as in a fairground mirror.
It doesn’t do to get too heavy about this, but advertising is so pervasive, it sometimes needs an effort of will to ignore it. And not all of it contributes to the inner sense of peace, oneness and beauty that I do try to nurture, and without which it can be difficult to keep my gyroscope upright. God knows, I don’t need advertising to depress me! I am already subjected to sights and sounds of disaster elsewhere, of hurricanes, floods, bombs. And sometimes of course other evidence of chaos, not always of the cosmic kind, such as sickness, bereavement and discord on a personal level.
Does any of this sound familiar? How are we coping with this? Do we have the tools with which to counter all this chaos? I believe we have.
Endue him with a competency of Thy divine wisdom that, assisted by the secrets of our masonic art, he may the better be enabled to unfold the beauties of true godliness …
Is it not interesting to note, that in this prayer we have mention of the three great pillars supporting a Freemason’s lodge? Divine wisdom. Endue with competency, proficiency and therefore strength. Unfold the beauties of true godliness.
Mention of godliness is a hint of our other nature, a nature beyond this, our physical, material nature. It refers us to a spirituality residing in each one of us which, once revealed, makes us one with God. Such godliness is enshrined in, and forms a part of, the beauty in the creation, so that by discovering, or remembering, those parts of ourselves where ugliness and discord have no place, we are enabled, or empowered, to focus on the positive aspects of our inner selves. But ‘unfold’ is the key to the whole phrase.
Godliness, and the beauty that attends it, is not, as we may have supposed, to be searched for outside, or obtained simply by rigorous religious observance, or constant self-denial, or other means. We will get nowhere if we search in the world outside for it. It resides in ourselves, and this key word, ‘unfold’, tells us that we can attain to godliness by the active work necessary to bring it forth, something that has always been a part of us. The competency, proficiency in God’s wisdom, is the divine aid we seek, and which the Master seeks on our behalf in reciting the prayer.
As if this powerful prayer were not enough, the Master then asks us
In all cases of difficulty and danger, in whom do you put your trust?
And now, as if we did not already know the answer, we reply ‘In God’. In a world full of harmony and peace, a so-called ideal world, of course cosmic tragedy would not exist, and we can go on – we should go on – hoping and praying for it. But when things do go wrong, it is in God that we put our trust, to access the still, small point deep within ourselves, a point from which we cannot err, a point where we have succeeded in unfolding the divinity that resides within us.
The Master’s injunction to the aspirant is:
Relying on such sure support, you may safely rise, and follow your leader with a firm, but humble confidence, for where the name of God is invoked, we trust no danger can ensue.
The ceremony of initiation changes at this point. From now on, the aspirant is embarked on the first stage of his masonic journey, a journey, circular in form, but leading inexorably to the east, a journey which he should pursue with firmness but humility, and it is this journey which will lead him to the light, physical and symbolic, reminding him of the light he finds in his own centre, the light of divinity.
All detractors of Freemasonry should take note, that it is to this place, our own centre, a place they might like to visit in themselves, where we go to seek answers and healing, a place of beauty where, amidst the loudest tumult and most divisive, strident discord and affray, we can find peace and harmony.
The excellency of every art is its intensity,
capable of making all disagreeables evaporate,
from their being in close relationship with beauty and truth.