LESSON OF THE MASTER'S DEGREE by CHAS. A. MERZ.

The American Freemason - 1914 Part 1 of 2 THAT matchless lesson of the Master's Degree! When one contemplates its sublimity, its beauty, its majesty, well may he exclaim with the illustrious Fichte -"I raise my head to the threatening rock, the raging flood and the fiery tempest, and cry, 'I am eternal, and defy your might; break all upon me; and thou Earth, and thou Heaven, mingle in the wild tumult; and all ye elements, foam and fret yourselves, and crush in your conflict the last atom of the body I call mine; my WILL, secure in its own firm purpose, shall soar unwavering and bold over the wreck of the universe; for I have entered on my vocation and it is more enduring than ye are - it is eternal, and I am eternal like it!"' In that hour of darkness and dread, when pride is humbled, when fear of unknown and untried depths lays bare all of human frailty, its lesson comes to the ever hungry soul of man with the promise of eternal life and advancement. It is here that immortality is presented, not as a general truth, but as one individualised. God sits serene and unchangeable beyond that awful and mysterious veil; and man, in humble faith and submission, must yield up the germ of immortality within him, to Him in whom the dead live and to whom all flesh shall come. When his courage and fortitude must need be tried by Miolner's murderous representative, with its impartial, resistless, crushing force, and the chamber of longest tarrying yawns for his reception; in the hour of death, of judgment, of retribution, he must tread the wine-press alone! In its own strength or weakness, clothed or unclothed, in its own robe of submission and penitence, must the soul wage this dreadful conflict. Alone in the Judgment of Amenti, must the soul, unveiled and self-knowing; its depths of memory and consciousness broken up; the secrets of the heart laid open, advance toward the Goddess Thumme, while Anubis and Horus weigh the actions and mete out the sentence which consigns it to unknown woe or to joy unspeakable. This latter we read on an inscription: "Found favor before the great God; they dwell in glory, where they live a heavenly life; the bodies they have quitted will forever repose in their tombs, whilst they rejoice in the life of the supreme God." On the one side, the ostrich feather; on the other the human heart. The lesson of the Master's Degree is burdened with symbolic meanings of the most sublime and exalted character, It teaches "the hope of a blessed abode, where the sun grows not dim, where the shadows gather not; where there is a sea of glass, a great white throne, the marriage supper of the

Lamb, white robes and golden harps-all imagery that brings over the soul multitudinous and transporting thoughts of splendor, glory, joy and praise. "In this definite outline does the hope of Heaven end? Nay it does not here begin. Not in the hope of a blessed abode not in the hope of eternal rest by houris fanned - but in the hope of the glory of God-in the hope of eternal advancement - yea, even in the knowledge that there is no home, nor stay, nor station on the wild bright way we know not whither, we shall spurn these heavens of the dull imagination. From the colonnades and temples, in gardens Elysian, where fancy hears the footfalls of the loftiest of time, past thrones, principalities and constellations, past crowns whose jewels win the lifted eyes of Gabriel and Michael, up through laws and harmonies which it hath not entered into the heart of man or angel to conceive-which are to music as is music to the grating of a dungeon hinge, shall rise the flying soul-and the blessed air shall echo in her shouting, far o'er the lost ideals of this world, Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving to the Lord God Almighty, who calls and calls us through the Universe of Glory." Save for the avowal of his belief in a Supreme Being, Masonry asks nothing, demands nothing. She seeks to enforce no dogma, no theology. Each has his conscience, his reason, will and understanding, to make diligent search for himself; to choose, to reject, to believe, to consider, to act - each must answer for himself alone. God made man perfect, but not immutable. His heritage is to persevere. His will is ordained, by Nature, free and untrammelled by inextricable fate or any necessity whatsoever. The future life, clearly revealed as a reward, not alone to the philosopher, but to every humble, pious and enquiring soul, means far more than the mere prolongation of conscious existence in the form of human life. Deep down in the heart it is written, "If a man die, he shall live again." A voice within us whispers the words, "Man shall never die." All around is change, revolution and dissolution, but no death. Day follows night, stars set and rise; the Summer fades into Autumn; Winter with his icy blasts, blows golden Autumn away and melts into Spring. Can it be that man alone, for whom all else revives, shall know no evolution? Immortality banishes all pain, all fear, all time, all tears and hymns into our souls the enchanting words, "Thou livest forever." Wondrous and alluring to man is this question of immortality, with its correlative speculation upon his inability to pass beyond the region of matter and space.

With all his reason and logic, man has never been able to demonstrate that physical phenomena can be explained by the mere external elements presented. Furthermore, there must always be acknowledged the existence of a force or power outside of the physical or material. Matter cannot spring spontaneously into being - for no matter how fundamental or microscopic the ultimate subdivision from which it springs - there remains unexplained the mystery of its existence. Man is compelled to fall back upon the Creator of Matter and the Giver of those laws, in obedience to which it assumes its manifold forms. Without this Creative force, he is in the open sea of Logic and Geometry - very remote from the world of realities. Every Religion and Philosophy has shown a constant tendency to soar away into realms of absolute idealism or to grovel in the grossest of materialism, What, after all, is human life - knocking every hour at death's door - closing at last in darkness and despair? There can be found no more pathetic nor genuine record of human existence than that which the Book of Ecclesiastes offers. Its story is wrung from the very heart of one who had followed the round of worldly pleasures, who had revelled in the resources of knowledge and fame, power and wealth, the feast and the dance, in laughter and mirth, but who sums up the whole as "vanity and vexation of spirit." In his gloomy retrospect, there was nothing upon which he could gaze with satisfaction-nothing in all that paegantry of greatness. He was a slave, in bondage and dependence, and he reviled the weakness that made him such a slave. He had strayed from his integrity. There was in his past of sensual dreams nothing upon which his eye could repose with satisfaction, naught that filled his soul with pleasure or left a fragrance behind. What tears, what blots when finis comes. What, after all, is man's life but a series of definite and successive changes of structure and composition, taking place within him without destroying his identity-the twofold internal movement of composition and decomposition, at once continuous and general? Our inability to consider Matter as being or becoming non-existent, is an immediate consequence upon the nature of thought. Thought itself consists in the establishment of relations. It is as impossible to think of something becoming nothing as it is to think of nothing becoming something-for the reason that "nothing" can never become an object of consciousness. The annihilation of Matter is unthinkable for the same reason that the creation of Matter is unthinkable. Nothing of all that dies, dies forever. Neither has anything that is born received a fundamentally new existence. Nothing which is dead can ever begin to live, and nothing which lives can begin to die. Life cannot die any more than can Matter be destroyed. What then is death? Nothing! Death can make an end of life, but not of existence. It has been said that the man who thinks his existence is limited to his present life is

an animated nothing. We say "I am" but in saying this, we express only onehalf of the sentence, the other half of which is "I am not." It is utterly impossible for man to have a thought of "being" apart from its opposite of "non-being." Also it is utterly impossible for a man to know that he is alive-without at the same time distinguishing, in thought, the opposite of life, and, "knowing the one equally as well as the other, and, so far as being is in knowing, being one as well as the other." In our acceptation of the term Life, Death would be the very opposite of it, but he who has not perceived that Life and Death are equal, has not rightly understood his philosophy. This, the Master's Degree, is then the transcendent Degree in Ancient Craft Masonry, than which there is and can be no higher. To live by Faith, looking beyond manifest good and evil in this life of unceasing change. To live by Hope - the hope of a future existence which serves to equalize human conditions as to their capacity for happiness and enables man to cast aside doubt and fear. To live by Charity - with a ready heart and hand for the needy, the suffering and the erring. To be conscious of an inward longing and desire after things that are true and excellent. Faith, Hope and Charity, their gifts sealed by a conscience void of offense-it is by these things that man should live - in these alone is to be found the consummation of and the highest Degree in Masonry. The day must come when Nature's trust will fail. This Earth and Heaven now in their age-long Spring, will have their Autumn and Winter; when the stars will fade and fall like leaves; when the Sun will cut short his circuits; when the visible monuments of Creative Power will cease to be; when all things fashioned by man for his comfort and pleasure will decay as the current of time sweeps on, undermining and engulfing him and all his plans, but "Geometry, the first and noblest of sciences, the basis on which the superstructure of Masonry is erected," will remain unchangeable, eternal. Its truths are the same yesterday, today and forever, and they will exist though the earth be removed and the Heavens be no more. Its truths are immortal and eternal. Geometry does not concern itself with the essence of natural bodies; it fixes upon the notion of extension, a notion independent of the senses and with this perfectly ideal and abstract datum, developes the vast series of its constructions and theorems. The object of Geometry is not any being in itself-it is an idea. This constitutes the peculiar solidity and uncontested certainty of the science. We learn from the Harleain Manuscript - "The fifth Science is called Geometry and it teaches a man to mete and measure of the earth and other things - which Science is Masonrie." There are objects which appear to defy the boldest doubt, supposing that doubt to be sincere. Such are Mathematical and Geometrical truths, Extension in general, Number, the Angle, Time and the like. "For whether I wake or sleep, two

and three always make five and the square never has more than four sides; and it does not scam possible that truths so clear and apparent can be suspected of any uncertainty or falsehood." "The opposite of straightaway is return. But return on the same line were not so opposite as on a different line, if it be the least different; the record of this is the acutest angle. But to effect return, we must make another angle to the point of departure. Perpendicular departure and return are now recorded in three angles. We find the result justified - a triangle contains two right angles. Euclid is for us; who can be against us?" POTS Freemasonry is a science of symbols, in which, by their proper study, a search is instituted after truth, that truth consisting in the knowledge of the divine and human nature of God and the human Soul. - DR. A. G. MACKEY. George Helmer FPS PM Norwood #90 GRA PZ Norwood #18 RAM MBBFMN #362

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