Fourth Degree: Have A High Conception
Every one will see in Freemasonry that which the faculties he possesses enable him to perceive. One beholds merely a social organization and appreciates more the "Fourth Degree," which is "the hour after" the Lodge meeting, than the grand truths taught in the First Degree, or the impressive lessons of the Second. He misses the true aim of the institution.
The "Fourth Degree" of the Lodge is only incidental to the pleasant associations of Fraternity. The true meaning and import of the institution are found in the sublime teachings of the symbolism of the degrees. All men have not the power of appreciation, or the faculty of looking beneath the surface of rites and ceremonies. They make comedy of tragedy, and farce of reality. There is neither comedy or farce in Truth. They look upon life itself as a frivolous pastime and are serious about nothing. They go with the multitude who keep holiday, and, spending as they go, alike in material things, mental things, and spiritual things, they fail to find the true essence of the fraternity. Such men are Masons only in name. They may be active in the Lodge, be able to confer degrees smoothly, and be praised as good workers, but their degrees and their work fail of their true purpose. The parrot and the magpie chatter away, but neither the parrot nor magpie have any conception of what they say. The parrot and magpie are without any heart or soul in their utterances, hence they jabber and jabber away. Precisely so with those who see words, and only words in the sublime, beautiful, impressive and well-nigh divine lessons of Freemasonry.
He appreciates the fraternity who beholds in it a comprehensive system of the highest ethics, the noblest sentiments; a wise exposition of the old truths of philosophy and religion; a code of the honored precepts of chivalry; an instrumentality of the Deity himself to make men wiser and better, and to fit them for the enjoyment of life here with its blessings of civil and religious liberty, and lead him to prepare for the enjoyment of happiness hereafter. How the mind of man longs for the blessedness of immortality! How his God-like spirit revolts at the mere suggestion of annihilation, and how it pants for a realization of its lofty aspirations. This globe which we inhabit is far too small to satisfy the desires of the expanding soul. The more we learn the more we feel our littleness, and the circumscribed existence we have in this world. What are the stars? What is the firmament above? What is eternity? These questions crowd upon the mind and remain unanswered. God, eternity, immortality, are serious things that Masonry considers; and if there is a God, whose existence is from everlasting to everlasting; if man has a soul immortal and aspiring, it is the part of wisdom that we give heed to everything that will lead us to a proper appreciation of their importance. It is the aim of Freemasonry to aid in this appreciation.
The great temple of our existence lies beyond the vestibule, which is this life. As we approach the doorway through which we are to be admitted to the temple, we should see to it that our raiment is in proper condition to stand the strong light that shines from the glorious East of the Celestial Lodge, and that the rents made by our sins and the patches upon our character may not appear in glaring accusation. Our shoes should be cleaned of the mire and fifth of the highways of wickedness, for nothing that will pollute or make unclean will be admitted there.
Appreciate properly Freemasonry, for it will surely aid you to prefer for admittance into the Temple of Life. "The mission of Freemasonry is not obscure," wrote the late George C. Connor. "It is not to make imaginary masters, but to teach devotion to one another, the necessity of preparing the final ending of all things earthly, and the ascent of the soul, when delivered from the environment of the flesh, into that peace which remaineth to the people of God. An organization having such a mission may well be devoted to its calling."
-Source: The Canadian Craftsman, Sept. 1898