Welcome to my column, The Banks of the Euphrates. You may recognize the title from a location mentioned during the Holy Royal Arch degree. During the journey which the candidates of that degree are required to take, they find themselves along the River Euphrates. While the river doesn’t play a prominent role in the degree, I always thought of it as a sort of oasis or resting place for the travelers on such a demanding pilgrimage. Such times of rest and refreshment often bring us the most important lessons in life.
Masonry is a craft. It requires the initiate to work to reap the harvest of its fruitful fields of knowledge. Albert Pike says in Morals and Dogma that “Masonry is action, and not inertness.” We are given working tools and taught their meaning in order to construct that house not made with hands. Certainly, Masonry is a society which lauds the occupation of the speculative quarryman and recommends that he do his work faithfully. Nevertheless, sometimes it is worthwhile to step back from the work of Masonry and examine the whole of that edifice which we are constructing.
Many traditional stories have told of monumental realizations which took place during a time of rest. An old story says that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head while he was resting under a tree. Jacob was provided with a Divine vision while he lay fast asleep. Mohammed was meditating when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. It is true that many examples of eureka moments occurred during a time of rest and while most of us have never had a Divine revelation or developed a new scientific theory, we have all unexpectedly found knowledge when we simply wished to rest our eyes or quench our thirst.
It has often been said that more Masonry can be found in our fellowship halls than in the lodge room. We find that when we let our guard down and engage in casual conversation that many of our Brothers, friends, and family have a bit of knowledge which can enhance our lives. Perhaps it is only an anecdote about something that happened many years ago or perhaps it is a much needed admonition to examine our personal conduct. Sometimes it is a triumphant statement about the joy of life by a Brother in an unfavorable situation. One of the most memorable lessons that I have learned while taking leave from my Masonic work was from a Brother who taught me how to eat dinner and live my life. He said, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” It is a moment of enlightenment that I will never forget.
When I thought about what I wanted this column to be, I realized that I wanted to create an opportunity for Masons to loosen their ties and learn something about Masonry. Perhaps it will be a short piece on Masonic symbolism or history. Perhaps it will be an article about a possible solution to a lodge problem. Perhaps it will take the form of an allegorical story. Regardless of its form, I want the content to lend some ideas to my fellow Brethren who can consider the information presented here and find it an enjoyable opportunity to add to their Masonic experience. There is a large body of Masonic work out there which resembles a quarry and requires the reader to diligently attend to his work. Many of these are great works which deserve a wide readership and much discussion. However, I hope that this column may more closely resemble its title and serve as a place for the reader to sit in the shade, refill his canteen, and quietly ponder the teachings of Freemasonry.
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