A Past Master once addressed a newly raised Master Mason: “Brother, as a Master Mason you have thrice been brought to light, and each time encouraged to seek further light, have you not?”
The new Master Mason acknowledged these facts.
The Past Master responded, “Since you have thrice been brought to light, and you are now being set free to seek it beyond the lodge, it seems to follow that you must know something about it. Please share your knowledge with me.”
The proud Master Mason said, “Being brought to light is but an allegory for enlightenment, and each time this ceremony reminds us that the true enlightenment is what we seek.”
“I see,” said the Past Master. “So the true enlightenment is your goal?”
“Yes, brother, it is.” replied the Master Mason.
“What is the true enlightenment?”
“It is the lightning-flash transcendence of self, liberation from illusion, and realization of the essential nature of reality.”
The Past Master shook his head. “My brother, I think you are making up stories. If you have not yet experienced true enlightenment, then how could you possibly know these things?”
“It is said that…” started the Master Mason, but the Past Master interrupted.
“’It is said’ or ‘It is written’ are at best only the recollections of others about their own experiences, and often they are only second or third-hand stories that someone else has also made up. From all these stories you have created a myth that you are trying to act out, believing that if your story is good enough, and if your acting is good enough, then you will create from yourself the truth that you hope exists beyond yourself. Now do you really think that is the way to Masonic light?”
Deflated, the Master Mason softly said, “No, my wise brother, it certainly seems foolish. But without a goal, how will I know what to do or not to do so that I might become enlightened?”
“My brother, do you know more now than you did just one minute ago?”
“Well,” said the brother, “I know that I don’t know what I thought I knew. I know that I don’t even know what it is that I am supposed to know.”
“So right now you have transcended some of your self-deceptions, and you are free of some of your old illusions. Do you not also feel closer to reality?”
“Yes, but I can’t say what that reality is.”
“Then is it not fair to say that you have indeed received more light, right here and now?”
The Master Mason grinned, “Yes, it’s clearly true.”
“Okay,” replied the Past Master, “but there is one more thing I’d like you to think about right now. You are still concerned about what it is you are ‘supposed to know.’ As long as you believe there is such a thing ahead of you, then you will continue to make up stories for yourself to act out. If you give up such notions, what is left to learn?”
“Nothing, I guess?”
“What? Was there anything about what you just learned that was part of your supposed goal?”
“No, at least not as I had imagined it.”
“But you did learn something?”
“Yes. OH! Yes, I get it. There is always more light to receive, but no particular form of it that we must go searching for. We get the light we need right here and now, if we would only see it!”
“Hmmm, very nicely said. Now why does our ritual teach us to ‘travel in foreign countries’?” grinned the Past Master.
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