THE INNER VOICE OF FREEMASONRY
Njördur P. Njardvik 33°
Past Grand Master
of the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain
In the huge headquarters of the United Nations in New York, there is a small room arranged by its former Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. This small room, which has only eleven chairs, is called the room of silence. In the centre there is a polished dark stone illuminated by a single shaft of light, and on the wall facing the entrance, an abstract painting in soft colours. That is all.
The idea was to create a sanctuary for men and women to meditate, to seek some form of inner peace, where there was nothing to divide them, nothing which was connected to a particular religion, yet still giving a feeling of sacredness.
When I first entered this room as a young Freemason I immediately sensed a sacrosanct atmosphere and thought of the similarities with Freemasonry. Here I was in the headquarters of one of the biggest organisations of the world, where delegates from all continents are dealing with serious problems of humanity, and yet one can go into this small room like an inner core with peace and silence, as if entering the inner reality of humanity itself, and of yourself. All this, the effect of a polished rectangular black stone, a shaft of light, and absolute silence, was for me a symbol of the creative force of the universe.
At the opening of a Lodge with the Continental Ritual (used in the United States), the Master says: ‘We are no longer in the profane world; we have left our metals outside the door of the Lodge’. We have stepped from the outside world with its conflicts into the sanctuary of the masonic realm where we seek knowledge of our own inner reality and inner peace, seek to touch our inner core with understanding; from here we can contribute to the unification of humanity. It is essential that there be nothing divisive, nothing calling attention to any special form of religion or dogma, only the symbolic masonic furniture with its unspoken meaning.
When we enter the Lodge at our initiation we undertake a symbolic journey into ourselves which offers the opportunity of a real transformation of realising who we really are. The key to this is change. If our initiation and our masonic progress through the degrees does not change us then the whole masonic undertaking is in vain. We have not been able to hear the silent inner voice of Freemasonry, or hearing it, have not heeded its message.
The symbolic furniture in the Lodge act like landmarks in the unfamiliar masonic landscape; the ritual is our guidebook for finding our way through the mysterious labyrinth of inner reality to our innermost core, to the inner voice which is innate in every human being.
This journey is not one of movement in the usual meaning of the word, therefore we are symbolised by a stone which must fit into the walls of the Temple of Humanity. We use the gavel and chisel on ourselves; we are never told to use them on others. And it is painful to use them on ourselves: we must not act too brutally as the stone might shatter; it must be a careful process. But only by hammering and chiseling away our faults can we progress to become a supporting stone in the Temple, always remembering that we can lose our carefully chiseled shape if we are not constantly vigilant.
The movement of our masonic journey is an inward movement through conduct, feelings and thinking. We are guided by the three lights on the pillars of Beauty, Strength and Wisdom to achieve beauty of conduct, strength of controlled emotions, and wisdom of thought. It may seem unattainable but this is the direction of our symbolic journey. In time we move inwards through our thinking: from where do our thoughts come? The brain is an instrument for thinking but what is this mysterious phenomenon called mind? What is its true nature? Through contemplation we come closer to our innermost core.
This is an arduous and difficult journey and even if we succeed in reaching this far, it is neither the aim nor the end of our masonic quest. It is only one side of it, the personal, interior part, where we explore what Teresa of Avila called the Interior Castle, following the command of the Oracle of Delphi: know thyself.
The aim of our masonic quest is to realise on earth the moral, intellectual and spiritual development for all people. Simply, we can say that the First Degree deals with moral development, the Second with intellectual and the Third with spiritual but in reality we are required to consider all three aspects simultaneously in everything we deal with.
Our final aim is not only for ourselves or our masonic Brothers and Sisters but for humanity as a whole. The Light we have received in Freemasonry, the Inner Voice that has spoken to us through the rituals, is not for us to keep for ourselves – although we guard its ancient secrets – but to spread so that this light can eventually illuminate all human beings.
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest. (Luke 8:16-17).
The inner light when once discovered will shine out from its source in a limitless manner revealing that there are no boundaries between interior and exterior reality; that one is an integral part of everything; that everything in the universe is interconnected, from the tiniest parts of an atom to the galaxies and the clusters of galaxies – and beyond.
No one owns his or her life. All lives and living beings are interconnected. Similarly, every thought, every feeling, every action, has cause and consequence. Kindness echoes and reverberates – as
does evil action.
My personal perception of Freemasonry is to explore the interior castle to find the essence of my own being, to be able to contribute in a humble way; to dip one finger into the ocean of human life in the hope that a kind action will lead to other kind actions, remembering the words of the Talmud: ‘He who saves one life saves humanity’; to consider in all things the moral, intellectual and spiritual aspects; to face the immense difficulties in reconciling the perfection of our ideals with the imperfection of ourselves as human beings.
I believe that the key to this is compassion, kindness of heart. In the words of Antoine Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince: ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye’.
These words could be the whisper of the inner voice of Freemasonry.