"I am a very much disturbed person!"
The speaker, a newly made Master Mason, addressed the Old Past Master earnestly.
"I have always believed, as I always believe my Bible, that the story of Solomon's being our first Grand Master was true. I have always believed that Masonry has come down to us through the ages substantially as it is now. I have always believed in the reality of the drama of the third degree. Now I find that great scholars say it isn't so!"
"Poor boy!" soothed the Old Past Master. "He has discovered that his dolls are stuffed with sawdust. Some one took away his Santa Claus! Fairies have been banished from his heart and he grieves!"
"I didn't think you would make fun of me!" protested the Young Mason.
"My dear brother, I don't make fun of you! I speak with all seriousness!" protested the Old Past Master. "You are exactly in the position of your young child who is robbed of Santa, who learns that fairies do not exist, who finds that a doll is made of powdered wood. But, like a child, you will outgrow the grief. If you go to your wife's most secret hiding place in the attic, the chances are ten to one you will find and old and much-loved doll. She knows it is only sawdust, but she loves it. And I bet a cookie that you send Christmas cards to your friends and like to go and see some one dressed up as Santa, distributing presents at Christmas. As for fairies, did you, or did you not, enjoy reading and seeing Peter Pan? The grief is gone; the joy remains!"
"But what has that to do with Solomon and Masonry?"
"A whole lot!" answered the Old Past Master. "The greatest truths have been taught by parables and stories. It is the best way of teaching, for it touches the imagination. For instance, it is obviously a truth that a man should remember his parents in their need, take care of his children, and be charitable. The far Easterner puts it in a fable. A man going to the bazaar buys seven loaves of bread. 'For what do you purchase so many, Oh, Effendi?' asked the merchant. 'Two I return, two I lend, two I give, and one I use,' answers the buyer. 'Explain, Effendi', begs the merchant. 'The two I return to my parents, who once gave to me. The two I lend are to my children, who will one day return to me. The two I give are for charity and the one I use is for myself.'
"Is not that a pretty way of teaching? And does it not make a far greater impression on your mind that the mere statement of fact?
"It is so with the Solomonic legend. We know that modern Freemasonry began little more than two hundred years ago. We trace well defined ancestors of Masonry through the Roman Collegia, the Comacines, the Steinmetzen of Germany, the Compagnionage of France, the Guilds of medieval England. We find Masonic symbols in Egypt and ancient Babylon. We find Masonic philosophy in many lands in remote ages. There is no doubt that the forebears of our own Masonry were very far back in time, perhaps even further back than Solomon. That there is any direct connection between Solomon, the King of Israel, and a modern Grand Lodge cannot be established.
"But neither can we establish any connection between Christmas and Santa Claus! How shall you teach a small child of the beautiful spirit of Christmas by telling him it is to celebrate the birthday of Christ? You can't. He cannot comprehend. How may you teach a newly made Master Mason all the history of Masonry, all at once? You can't. In either case you require a legend. And make no mistakes about it, my friend; the facts of the legend may be all wrong. But the spirit of both legends is entirely true!
"Now Freemasonry is not concerned with facts; 'twice two is four' is far less interesting to Masonry than 'he gives twice who gives quickly.' Masonry is wholly a matter of the mind, heart, spirit, will, character, desire, love, veneration of us humans. It is not concerned with heating or lighting or invention or armies or hay stacks. The spirits of the Solomonic and Hiramic legends are true; they are true to the heart, just as the Christmas myth is true to the child. You never saw a fairy, but your life would be the poorer without them! You never showed your little child a Santa Claus, but his life would be poorer without him. Masonry cannot show a direct, logical, provable, evidential descent from Solomon, but Masonry would be the poorer without the legend which teaches of her beautiful beginning in the erection of a Temple of God, and the wise guidance she had from the most learned man of all time.
"For, it is not the facts of our legends with which we are concerned, but what they teach. With the trowel we spread the cement of brotherly love. Did you ever feel, see, taste, smell, any of that cement? Did you ever see any one use a trowel to spread it? It is not true, in the fact sense, is it? Yet you believe it, I believe it, even when we know it is but an allegory, a symbol, a truth expressed in fiction.
"If the lesser lights be put out, can you see the Great Light? You cannot. The Great Light does not emit radiance for physical eyes. No one thinks it does. Yet its radiance makes Masonry.
"Trouble not your heart, my brother, that antiquitarians have let in the light and discovered the facts. We are always the better for facts. But your very searcher after Masonic facts would be the first to defend the legends. Masonry is old, old; old as the human heart. Lodges, degrees, Grand Masters; these may, indeed, be young. But the principles of Masonry are ancient as the world, and if we teach them with allegories of words as well as of symbols, it is because that is the best way to teach any heart!
"Personally, Solomon is as real to me as my fairies and my Santa Claus, and you, nor any other man can rob me of their spirit by denying to me their letter!"
"Nor to me, either, and more!" answered he newly made brother.