Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
"Where were you prepared?" The answer made to that question opens for our vision a way into one of the secrets of Freemasonry. We must prepare ourselves in order to receive any teaching whatsoever, for we see only, as Goethe has expressed it, "that which we carry in our hearts." For this reason many of the Ancient Mysteries insisted on a long period of preparation, as do many churches to-day. For the same reason the Masonic lodge should see to it that the candidate is as fully prepared in mind as he is in body before he is given admittance to the door. In some parts of Europe, I have been told, an experienced Master Mason is appointed sponsor, or godfather, to a candidate; and lodges of instruction are held in which the petitioner is taught something of the history and principles of the Order. Surely this is a wise custom! Many a man—you yourself, perhaps, were one, as was I—has stepped into the First Degree without the slightest inkling of what "it was all about," with the consequence that he has been too bewildered to know whether to laugh or to cry. And how often it happens that a candidate passes from one degree to another as rapidly as he can learn the lectures, moving all the while in too great haste to comprehend the simplest rudiments of the great ideas and teachings that are dramatically presented to him moment after moment! To be "prepared in the heart" means that within one's own mind
and feelings he is experiencing the meaning of that which he does and sees; if a candidate is hustled along too rapidly to be able to have any such understanding of the degrees, how can it be said that he is duly and truly prepared to be a Master Mason?
The Ritual itself is wise in these connections because it recognises the fact that a man must be prepared in the heart as well as in the preparation room. Except a man's mood be right, except his will be in the appropriate attitude, except he act from true motives, and in a reverent prayerful frame of mind, the "work" will be to him as meaningless as an old wives’ tale. It is necessary that every lodge arrange to prepare the candidate's mind by previous instruction; and it is equally necessary that it build about the preparation room a wall of secrecy and sanctity in order to ward off the jest or careless word that may lead a candidate to approach the door in light or flippant mood.
Being in Masonic ignorance, a seeker after light, and a representative of the natural untaught man, it is fitting that the candidate be made to walk in darkness by wearing the hoodwink which Mackey has well described as "a symbol of secrecy, silence, darkness, in which the mysteries of our art should be preserved from the unhallowed gaze of the profane." The use of the blindfold goes far back among secret societies, even to the Ancient Mysteries, in which the candidate was usually made to enter the sanctuary with eyes covered. The Cathari, whom Innocent III tried so hard to annihilate, and who were at bottom Christian mystics, were accustomed to call those seeking initiation into their mysteries "hoodwinked slaves," implying that the eyes of the soul were still blind
in ignorance and lust. Our own use of the device is in harmony with these old customs and ideas. The purpose of the hoodwink is not to conceal something from the candidate, for it has another significance: it symbolises the fact that the candidate is yet in darkness, like the babe lying in its mother's womb. Being in darkness the candidate is expected to prepare his inmost mind for those revelations that will be made to him after the hoodwink is removed.
I have used the word "revelations" advisedly in this connection because the entire symbolism of the hoodwink is a beautiful and pregnant suggestion of the methods of revelation, and of the part played by it in the larger life of man. Literally signifying "an unveiling," revelation carries within itself the meaning of something that is hidden behind a veil, and of the removing of the veil. If one stands before a blinded window a great sweep of the Sierra Madres may stretch before him but he will not see them any more than if they were not there; but the moment the blind is lifted the mountains appear, lifting their eternal sheaves of snow, and the apparition is like a piece of magic, as though they had been suddenly created. "The lifting of the blind"—that is revelation, whether in religion, science, art, or in Freemasonry.
In the Volume of the Sacred Law we read of Jesus that he "brought life and immortality to light"; these words do not mean that Jesus brought life and immortality into existence, as though before him they were not: the true life had been knocking at the hearts of men from the beginning, and immortality had always awaited them beyond "the narrow house"; Jesus was among the first to open the eyes of men to see these realities. Men
had always been brothers; God had always been the All-Father; love had always been the law of the world, and purity the law of the heart: it was the great mission of Jesus to be one of the way-showers of men who could lift from their eyes the hoodwink of unseeing. He was an unveiler, and therefore a revealer.
It is ever thus with revelation. Gravitation existed before the first man came to be, but it was not until Sir Isaac Newton came that men saw this thing that had been about them always: he lifted the blind, and men saw gravitation. The sidereal universe is from eternity, but nobody "saw" it until Copernicus, after gazing at the stars from his narrow cell for many years, uncovered the majesty and meaning of the heavens. Steam had always been at work along with fire and water, like an unknown genie, but it took an Isaac Watt to discover ("discover" means to uncover, and is very similar to "reveal") its presence. And so it ever is. Realities more wonderful than gravity, steam, or stars are, perhaps, playing about or within us all the while, but we, wearing the hoodwinks of ignorance, are blind to the great presences. The prophet, the leader, the mighty teacher of the race is one who, born into blindness as are we all, somehow has been able to get the hoodwink from his eyes and is then able to cause us to see. He does not create; he confers the power of vision.
It is in the sense thus explained that we may describe Freemasonry as standing among men to reveal to them the real brotherhood lived in the bonds of eternal life. It has created neither brotherhood nor eternal life, for these have always been facts; it reveals them to its adepts and thus enables them to avail themselves of the powers and
privileges thereof. Brotherhood is a reality; it is a law of the race; but there are many, alas too many, who have not discovered that fact. They are like those who lived in the days before Watt learned to harness steam; steam was about them but they made no use of it. So with the uninitiated (using that word in a very deep sense); brotherhood is at their side but they do not see it and therefore can make no use of it. When Masonry comes into them, it is not that brotherhood has for the first time been created, but that for the first time the man is made to see it and to avail himself of it.
The kingdom of heaven may be defined as, "Mankind living happily together." The one way in which mankind can live happily together is through the use of brotherhood. This was true when the first savages ran naked about the forest, some of them, perhaps, eating each other. It was true then, but the primitive folk could not discover or see it, just as electricity was about them without their knowing of it. But know it or not, brotherhood was the fixed law of human association, and they progressed toward harmony with each other only in so far as they learned to discover and to practise brotherhood. And so is it to-day. It is not brotherhood that is in question, but ourselves; brotherhood is a law, a reality, like gravitation; it is in proportion as we recognise and make use of it that we progress. Until we learn and practise it we shall be unhappy in our living one with another, for happiness is impossible where brotherhood is not.
Freemasonry does not exist in a world where brotherhood is a mere dream flying along the sky; it exists in a world of which brotherhood is the law of human life. Its function is not to bring brotherhood into existence just as a hot-house gardener may at last coax into bloom a frail flower, though the climate is most unfriendly, but to
lead men to understand that brotherhood is already a reality, a law, and that it is not until we come to know it as such, and practise it, that we can ever find happiness, together. Freemasonry does not create something too fine and good for this rough world; it "reveals" something that is as much a part of the world as roughness itself. In other words, it removes the hoodwink of jealousy, hatred, unkindness, and all the other myriad forms of unbrotherliness in order that a man may see and thus come to know how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. The hoodwink of cloth or leather that is bound over a man's eyes is not the real hoodwink at all, but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink, and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man's eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that make life unkind and unhappy. "Brotherhood is heaven; the lack of brotherhood is hell."