I want to provide a pattern and a purpose for what I have to say to the various Lodges during my term of office as your District Deputy Grand Master. On social occasions I hope to comment on some aspects of Masonry which, I believe, should be public knowledge. As some of you know I have already started to do this. On my official visits I propose to discuss some Masonic symbol or teaching which relates to our individual problems of living, which, in other words, relates to Masonic things we live by. Sometimes these can have reference to the degree of the evening but tonight, as this is my first official visit, we begin at the beginning.
When each one of us first saw a Masonic lodge in session, there was, in our immediate view, a group of three things, things which we call "the Three Great Lights" - nearest to us a symbol of the common problems of mankind; beneath it a symbol of the scope of the universe which surrounds and contains us; and underlying both a symbol of a divine message.
Applying the term "light" to the square which we use to remind us of our proper relationship to our fellow men has a genuine basis. Light brings us knowledge first of our immediate environment. Satisfactory knowledge of our surroundings, both material and personal, that is knowledge satisfactory at the time to us, is essential to our own confidence. Light thus becomes a symbol of confidence and I think we will all agree that it is only on the basis of mutual confidence that reasonable, let alone ideal, human relationships can be maintained.
The principal conflicts in the world today are each primarily characterized by a lack of mutual confidence. Between Israel and the Arab States mutual confidence is almost zero, between Muslim and Hindu it is highly tenuous, between the communist and non-communist worlds it is improving but still low, between negro and white it has been deteriorating rapidly, between Roman Catholic and Protestant it has, thanks to Pope John, improved enormously. I suppose most Anglo Saxons would say that De Gaulle has never had confidence in anyone but himself. Closer to home a maintenance of a reasonable mutual confidence between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians is essential to Canada's future.
The square however is too true, too 90°-ish, too exact to be really human. It symbolizes the desirable but not the humanly attainable. By its very rigidity it separates an unrealistic perfection from all the degrees of human imperfection.
This was recognized at the dawn of Masonry, hence in our apprenticeship we soon see the mosaic pavement. Light and darkness, said Zoroaster, are the world's eternal ways. So, masonically, the term "light" involves the whole problem of good and evil. The colour white, representing the harmoniously balanced totality of light as viewed by our eyes, has become the colour of good, of the ideal, of those "clothed in white raiment". The complete absence of light renders anything black. "Black" is thus separate or apart from our comprehension. It is not a colour but is indicative of the supreme sin of separateness from man and God alike.
We each have our own mosaic based on our own experiences and personalities and we must not expect even our brother's mosaic, let alone a stranger's, to be identical with our own. One time I remember listening in on a small group discussing,rather smugly and piously, the merits of the golden rule. They were shocked out of their smugness when a friend inquired how they knew that the other fellow wanted to be done by the same way that they did.
In our own mosaic let us also note with Aldous Huxley that
Experience is not a matter of having actually swum the Hellespont, or danced with the dervishes, or slept in a doss house. It is a matter of sensibility and intuition, of seeing and hearing the significant things, of paying attention at the right moments, of understanding and coordinating. Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
On this basis we will perhaps more fully appreciate the light shown to us many years ago by Milton:
He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain and yet distinguish and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian.
I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out to see her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for not without dust and heat. - that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary.
So as a Masonic-thing-to-live-by I give you the square on the mosaic pavement. To my mind they are inseparable. The square will act through your own conscience on the mosaic. The mosaic is always individual for you, for your brother, for your neighbour, and for the stranger. And, remembering that "experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him", may you tread your mosaic as the dictates of right reason prompt you, cultivate harmony, practice charity and live in peace with all men.