Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry


Qualifications ⬩ Quests in Masonry


The true Mason is made in the heart before he is made in the Lodge This is the great catholic qualification, and it goes much deeper than even the familiar answer to that pregnant question: “Where were you first prepared?” In the heart truly; but he who is not made also therein will never be made in the Lodge, though he may go through all the forms. So also, unless he is prepared in the heart there is no room adjoining the Lodge, however convenient, in which he will be prepared properly. Here are evident points; but over and above these there is another which is self-evident and cannot be gainsaid, though—so far—it has never entered into the mind of Masonry to conceive it. Whosoever is capable of election to the Kingdom of Heaven is a fit and proper person to be made a Mason. We dispose in this manner of several ineptitudes and crudities belonging to the dark night of the Goose and Gridiron, and the kind of exclusiveness which was practised at the Rummer and Grapes. In fine also we enable the Apple-Tree Tavern to forget a certain misdemeanour connoted by that Tree of Knowledge with which it was identified in name. Pace the four old Lodges who met at these historic houses, and pace the late Mr. Woodford who, in a memorable sentence, once bracketed together the woman and the lawbreaker in a common disqualification, the maxim here laid down opens the doors to womanhood. It does not open them to minors because their time is not yet, nor to the mens insana because that—qua mens insana—is not capable of election to the Kingdom of Heaven: it belongs to another jurisdiction in other worlds of progress, where those who are disqualified here can earn their titles. I am concerned only with a question of principle and the logic of a free mind; I am setting no axe to work. It must be indifferent to me whether women in the time to come are recognised or not as eligible, for there are other doors open by which they enter into the privileges of greater things. It must be recognised, moreover, that every free institution has the inalienable prerogative of deciding whom it will receive and whom it will deny; but I detest the profanum vulgus of ridiculous and insincere explanations, like the appeal to Operative customs, where the question never arose and would be void of all present effect if it had. We have elected to be Speculative Masons: it is open to us as such to rule that our wives, mothers and sisters shall not share with us the advantages of our “system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”; but to affirm that there is any sound or tolerable reason why they should not is to stultify our own Masonic values. If our so-called “system” can make better men, it can make better women. As regards slaves and bondsmen, the question does not arise in this modern world; but if it did, the persons to disqualify would be those who owned them as chattels. There is one more point of egregious nonsense—that a Candidate shall “have his right limbs as a man ought to have”—but the great War of the world has written a sufficient commentary thereon, and I presume that this rule is in the limbus from henceforth and for ever.

Religion and Morality.—Other qualifications fall into two divisions—Religious and Moral: (1) Belief in God and in resurrection to a future life—the latter not connoting physical resurrection—are conditions in the absence of which no person can be made a Mason. This is the rock on which Latin Freemasonry has split and its symbolic ships have foundered. The morality of Masonry has reference to a certain standard, and that standard is Divine. (2) The moral qualifications are that Candidates should be just, upright and of good report, free from mercenary motives in seeking admission and acting of their own free will and accord in so doing. As to most of these, it is obvious that God is the judge: our sponsors can testify only to the best of their knowledge and belief.

Quests in Masonry

We have seen that the old Instituted Mysteries are illustrations after their own manner of two time-immemorial folk-lore motives, being (1) exile and return and (2) quest. Times out of number they are married together in folk-lore, and so also in the Mysteries. Now, Masonry in all those departments and all those Rites which deserve a life in symbolism is—practically without exception—a Mystery of Quest. The Craft Degrees lead up to and communicate a Quest of the Lost Word; in the Royal Arch, by its hypothesis, the research is crowned. In the Degree of Mark Master Mason there is a vestige only, but petra illa admirabilis is lost and sought and found: herein is the life of the working. There are also the Cryptic Grades—leading up to the Royal Arch—where that which is lost on the surface is found in the hidden depths. Their maxim is therefore that of the wise Hermetists: Visita interiora terrae. The Rose-Croix is a great Grade of quest, which typifies the travail of the whole creation, seeking the Sabbath of its rest, the soul’s travellings, the soul’s ascent, the coming into Mansions of the Blest and the Blessed Vision of Union. In the Religious Order of the Temple there is also a quest of life—in pilgrimage, warfare and penance—the end of which is integration in the chivalry of Christ: the Ritual significance of this Militia Templi is greater than the Templars know. Again there are the Grades of St. Andrew in the Rectified Régime Écossais, where the kind of quest is that which is fulfilled in work, as in Ars Spiritualis Latomorum; but in L’Ordre Interieur of Novice and Knight Beneficent it must be said that there is no quest: there is only that finis qui coronat opus, because the work is done and this its reward—namely, that life of service of which those only are capable who have graduated in the science of God. Hereof are the quests in Masonry and hereof also the attainments: if it must be said, they belong to the Lesser Mysteries. Master Masons and Companions of the Royal Arch, Knights of the Pelican and Eagle, Excellent and Perfect Princes, Illustrious Brethren and Inspectors General, acknowledging all your titles, it remains that there is another way, which is that of the Greater Mysteries. It is at once of exile and return, of quest at once and attainment, the path of a hidden life and the end in God. It is the way of Christ Mystical, and the highest heaven of symbolism has lent its stars thereto, until that state is reached—which is neither of space nor time—when all the signs dissolve, when—at once very far and near—there is Vox clamantis in Paradiso, and that which it utters is: Ecce, Regnum Dei intus.

In such state the voice is heard in the heart. This is the end of quest, and thereafter will be no more seeking without for that which is within. It is the end also of symbolism, ritual and the pageants thereof. In so far as such a state is adumbrated by any of the Instituted Mysteries—and I know of one Rite only—here is the point at which they dissolve utterly and take off all their vestures. The last words on the threshold of perfect stillness are and can be only: Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus Omnipotens.