The real object of Freemasonry, in a philosophical and religious sense, is the search for truth. This truth is, therefore, symbolized by the Word. From the first entrance of the Apprentice into the Lodge, until his reception of the highest degree, this search is continued. It is not always found and a substitute must sometimes be provided. Yet whatever be the labors he performs, whatever the ceremonies through which he passes, whatever the symbols in which he may be instructed, whatever the final reward he may obtain, the true end of all is the attainment of Truth.
This idea of truth is not the same as that expressed in the lecture of the First Degree, where Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth are there said to be the "three great tenets of a Mason's profession." In that connection, Truth, which is called a "Divine Attribute, the foundation of every virtue," is synonymous with Sincerity, honesty of expression, and plain dealing. The higher idea of truth which pervades the whole Masonic system, and which is symbolized by the Word, is that which is properly expressed to a knowledge of God. There was an Egyptian goddess named in the Hebrew, Thm, or Thme, meaning integritas, or Justice and Truth.
This one of the three great Masonic principles is represented among the Egyptians by an ostrich feather; and the judicial officer was also thus represented, "because that bird, unlike others, has all its feathers equal," Horapollo. The Hebrew word ion, signifies an Ostrich, as also a Council; and the word Rnne, is interpreted, poetically, an ostrich, and also a song of joy, or of Praise; hence, "the happy souls thus ornamented, under the inspection of the lords of the heart's joy, gathered fruits from celestial trees." In the judgment in Amenti, the soul advances toward the goddess Thme, who wears on her head the ostrich feather. In the scale, Anubis and Horus weigh the actions of the deceased On one side is the ostrich feather, and on the other the vase containing the heart. Should the weight of the heart be greater than the feather, the soul is entitled to be received into the celestial courts. The forty-two judges, with heads ornamented with ostrich feathers, sit aloft to pronounce judgment (see Book of the Dead ).
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
It is an odd fact that Freemasonry’s direct teaching in regard to
Truth is less important than her indirect teaching.
In the entered Apprentice’s Lecture we learn of Truth as “the
foundation of every virtue. To be good Men and True is the first
lesson.” etc. But these teachings regarding the third Principal
Tenet are of Truth in its narrower and more restricted sense - that
use of the word as a synonym for sincerity, right dealing, absence of
deceit, straight forwardness.
Philosophers distinguish several verities of Truth - logical truth,
the conformity of reasoning to premises; ontological, metaphysical or
transcendental truth - the doctrine that the existence of Deity is
proved by the very idea of his existence; absolute truth - the
reality behind the appearance or idea.
These conceptions of Truth have led to the more common use of the
word, as that which is believed to be so, as distinct from that which
is known to be opposite of the fact. The witness who swears to tell
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth indicates no
more than his intention to state that which is known to him, believed
by him; that he will not intentionally deceive. A witness may
testify to something which is not a fact and be unperjured, provided
it is a fact to “him.” A man, ignorant of astronomy may truthfully
testify that the sun moves from east to west between morning and
night. His testimony is the truth as he knows it. That actually the
earth moves beneath the sun, while the sun stands still, does not
make him untruthful.
The truth is not always easy to define. Some questions have several
answers, all correct. Other questions cannot be answered, “as
asked,” correctly. For instance, “how many feet in a mile?” has
only one true answer: 5,280. But “what two whole numbers added
together make 5,280” has 2640, answers, “all” correct! “What are the
“only” two numbers, added together, that result in 5,280” cannot be
answered correctly, “in the terms in which it is asked,” because
there are not “only two” numbers, the addition of which so result.
In mathematics are many conceptions which have no actual truth behind
them. By the very laws of mathematics, we cannot imagine a square
root of “minus one.” A root, multiplied by itself, must give the
number of which it is a root. No number, plus or minus, multiplied
by itself produces a minus quantity. Yet this very conception of the
square root of minus one is constantly in use in mathematics, though
it has no objective existence and no mathematical answer.
The entered Apprentice Lecture teaches of truth as opposed to deceit,
truth as a foundation of character, truth in the moral sense. In
this sense Truth really is the foundation of every virtue. There is
no justice without truth; there is no philanthropy without truth;
there can be no self-sacrifice, no bravery, no rectitude - no virtue
of any kind - without a foundation in that which is sincere and
honest, as opposed to that which is lying and deceitful.
This aspect of truth is only part of the Third Principal Tenet. It
is vitally important, it must be learned, pondered and observed, but
it compares with the absolute Masonic Truth as compares the moon to
To grasp the idea of Absolute Truth is not given to many, All
abstract ideas require real mental labor to formulate. The thought of
fundamental, unchangeable, inescapable verities behind the form,
substance and phenomena of life, is not easy. Yet difficulty but
makes the idea the more precious when it does become a part of a
Freemason’s mental concepts.
A manufacturer is to make a table. Before he puts pencil to paper he
forms an idea of what a table looks like. He reduces this idea to a
drawing and specification; it then becomes an idea made manifest, so
that others can understand it. But it is not yet a table. When the
wood-worker constructs the table from materials, cutting and fitting
them from the plans, the idea becomes embodied. The table is now all
three - idea, idea manifest, and idea embodied. To the observer it
is possessed of form and substance. is hard, varnished, throws a
shadow, and can support other objects - in fact, a table.
The Absolute Truth of the table is probably quite different. For all
its seeming solidity and weight, we know that it is far more space
than matter. We know that its atoms are composed of electrons,
whirling at inconceivable speeds about a central proton, and that if
we could see it as it “really” is, not as it appears to the human
senses, it would be a collection of bounding, moving, swinging,
revolving particles of electricity, the force of which, if all were
suddenly let loose, would be sufficient to wreck a city.
But not a single scientist can yet even imagine what an electron
“really” is - the Absolute Truth of it escapes the laboratory.
Freemasonry is not all concerned with proving the verity of Deity.
She accepts a Great Architect as Truth. But as we have seen, Truth
has more than one classification. The Absolute Truth of Deity can no
more be known to man on earth than the Absolute Reality of the table
can be realized by those who use it. Our perception of the world and
life is sense bound. From seeing, hearing , touching, tasting and
smelling; we reason, think and believe. Many aspects of physical
things do not touch our five senses - for instance, the speed of the
electron, the size of the atom. And unimaginable aspects of Deity
cannot enter our minds, because a finite mind can never comprehend
that which is infinite.
Freemasonry teaches that the True Word was lost. She offers a
substitute. To search for That Which Was Lost is the reason for
Masonic life. While we know that the search must be as fruitless as
it must be endless, we find joy and usefulness in the effort, not in
the results. Important to the Freemason is not the comprehension of
the idea of the Absolute, but that he seeks it in his conception of
the Most High.
The great Freemason, Lessing, said: “Pure Truth is for God alone” -
phrasing in six words both the impossibility of mortals ever finding
it, and the reason we should seek it! Cicero, too, knew why we must
seek. When he said; “our minds possess by nature an insatiable
desire to know the truth” he uttered a truism, no matter what aspect
of Truth is considered. Chesterfield capped them both with his
famous “Every man seeks for truth - God, only, knows who finds it.”
“Our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras” was poet,
philosopher and scientist when he stated “Truth is so great a
perfection that if God would render himself visible to man, he would
choose light for him body and truth for his soul.”
Few men are able to tell others of the eternal verities, even if, at
long last, they win them. To “Tell The Truth,” meaning to state the
fact or belief as known, is easy. But to tell the Truth unto men is
like singing music to the tone deaf, teaching differential calculus
to six year old child, speaking in a language the hearer does not
understand. He who even thinks he knows the Lost word may never tell
it - no syllables formed by mortal tongue may speak it. Listen to
John Ruskin, sage of sages: “Childhood often holds a truth with its
feeble fingers which the grasp of manhood cannot retain - which it is
the pride of utmost age to recover.” the very young and the very old
know that which they cannot tell to us of the middle years. As
Freemasons, we know a Truth we cannot tell even to the initiate, who
must find it for himself in the midst of our symbols and our
The great light holds a thousands truths - and one great Truth.
Alas, that some are so blinded to the latter that, finding an
apparent failure of conformity between page and page, they see not
the Truth behind. Such men cannot sea the water for the waves, or
find the forest because there are too many trees! A collection of
books, the Bible has been translated and retranslated. Our Bible has
come down to us through the hands of thousands of willing, devout
workers, each with the faults and frailties of mankind. Some copied
well, some copied ill; some historians were accurate, others allowed
play to their imaginations. “Of course” in this mighty literature
are self contradictions; “of course” different prophets, historians,
singers and inspired leaders saw different aspects of the truths they
taught, and so taught differently. Recall the story of the two
knights of old who fought to exhaustion over the color of a shield,
one saying it was black, the other white. When the contest was over
they examined the shield together and found one side white and the
other black. So with these different manners of teaching in the
Great Light - each teaches the Truth as its writer saw it. The
“real” truth, the “whole” truth - the “Absolute Truth,” is to be
found in no verse, chapter or book, but in the Book of Books as a
From the beginning of time man has attempted to visualize that which
he cannot imagine! He would put into words, write upon paper, limn
on canvas, shout to the housetops, that which he cannot conceive.
What is the conventional idea of heaven? Place of Golden Streets,
flowing with Milk and Honey! Why? Because gold is precious and
beautiful, and milk and honey good; and hard for the lowly and poor
to get. Injustice oppressed man for centuries; justice became a
hope. A just judge, no matter how severe, was far better than an
unjust judge. Hence we have an early conception of God as a strict,
stern, implacable judge. Later on - much later - came the idea of a
merciful judge, a loving, kindly, compassionate father.
As man has grown and learned, so has his conception of Truth of the
Great Architect of the Universe grown more beautiful. Will any
contend that man is perfect? Nay, man humble or exalted, man learned
or ignorant, man wise or foolish, can not conceive the unthinkable
majesty and beauty, the stupendous power and glory, the unphraseable
marvel, which must be the Absolute Truth of the Great Architect.
The dearest hope of all mankind since the first man cried the birth
cry, was agonized down the centuries by Job: “If a man die, shall he
live again?” And the centuries have given a hundred answers.
Immortality in men’s minds is as different as the men! To some it is
rest; to others opportunity to do all that life denied them; to some
it is pleasure; to others it is knowledge; to yet others it is
formless, ageless, boundless contemplation, the Nirvana of the
Buddhist. But no thinking man believes that his most glorious
conception of immortality can compare to whatever may be the Absolute
Truth of that Magnificent belief.
Concrete truths are all relative; Absolute Truth is unchanging. We
think of men as good or bad, moral or unethical, wise or ignorant
only as compared to others. Absolute goodness, morality and wisdom
we cannot know here; we cannot know the Absolute Truth of anything.
“But we may search for it.” We may so order our lives, so read the
Great Light, so follow the teachings of the ancient Craft that our
quest of “That Which Was Lost” brings us one step nearer to the
barrier which forever separates mortal eyes from Immortal Truth.
That he who quests earnestly and seeks sincerely will, at long last,
pass that barrier and with his own eyes see that the Absolute is the
magnificent Truth of Freemasonry.
“SO MOTE IT BE!”