The beauty of our planet never fails to amaze and inspire me. No matter where one travels on this world, there is so much natural beauty to be seen and enjoyed –from the majestic beauty of the mountains, woodlands and deserts to the small, almost unnoticed complexity and beauty of a single woodland flower. Is it possible to stand on ocean shores, witness the crashing of huge waves, while at the same time contemplating upon the separate, hidden world contained within those waters and not be in awe of the power of the oceans that truly do give this planet life? Our home in this part of the galaxy is a most unique and special place.
My favorite time of the year is fast approaching. While I thoroughly enjoy all of the seasons, I especially love Autumn and living in Wisconsin’s beautiful Northwoods I have the opportunity to enjoy it in all its glory. Few things give me greater pleasure than being able to wander aimlessly, both physically and intellectually, in the forests at this time of year, free from annoying insects, and while there is still warmth from the Sun, the heavy heat of Summer is gone and often as not, there is a soft breeze to cool the face. Even the air has a special fragrance.
Change is in the air –one can both see, feel, and yes, even smell it. The trees will soon be changing and preparing to go into their winter “sleep”. The leaves, in their dying, paint the forest in the most intense palette of colors one can imagine. At times, their intensity of color actually appears to magnify the Autumn sunlight. The sadness is that such beauty is so brief; in a few short weeks, the leaves will turn to various shades of brown and return to the Earth to give nourishment to the very trees that gave them life.
The animals, instinctively knowing what is coming, are actively preparing for the cold Winter ahead. The squirrels and chipmunks hide acorns and other seeds in secretive niches in the ground. The animals that hibernate prepare their dens and slowly disappear from view. For the deer, their thick winter coats appear and their color changes from the red of Summer to the gray of Winter. The many birds that have provided such beautiful sounds throughout the Summer quietly disappear, and an almost lonely silence fills the Forest. Finally, the weather takes a decided turn toward the cold, the snows of winter come and the forest wraps itself for its long sleep. Year in, year out –this cycle continues.
In my wanderings through the forest, it is a time of reflection and contemplation. Humanity has been blessed with the ability to appreciate the beauty of this world and the intelligence to reflect on our role in the greater scheme. When I look at the natural world, I cannot help but feel small and insignificant, and at the same time realize that I am but a very small part of a larger whole, and that the whole of humanity as well is part of something far larger than itself.
From a fraternal viewpoint, the same can be said; that we are part of something that is greater than the sum of its parts –a thought worth contemplating for its own merits. Fraternally, we are stronger together than we are individually; and each draws his strength from the whole. In our Fraternity, as in nature, we also see interconnected complexity –in its detail, its interconnections; the whole mutually reliant on its parts. Therefore, as we must do with our world, so must we do with our Fraternity – we must carefully protect the whole in all of its diversity, while at the same time exploring and discovering the beauty of all of its various parts.
One part I never tire of exploring and debating is our symbolism, and I believe this is what the Founders wished for us to do and after four hundred years or more, we can still explore, discover and discuss new meanings of Freemasonry. An understanding of our Masonic symbolism is key to understanding the full meaning of our Degrees. For me, this will be a never-ending study. Listening to my Brothers discuss the meaning of our symbolism is a source not only of additional knowledge and understanding; it is a source of great satisfaction and comfort. Books by the score have been written trying to define and understand the complexity of our Degrees and to endeavor to explain the depth of their symbolism, and yet there is always more to discover, more to debate. The answers are constantly changing and evolving, continually adding to the knowledge and enlightenment that forms the collective body of Masonic wisdom and thought for all the ages. For all of us, Freemasonry should be a living, changing system that reveals new and different understanding and meanings to each succeeding generation, and this is as it was meant to be.
Freemasonry was never meant to become a stagnant, fossilized body, resistant to change, immune to different interpretations. To each generation, it will reveal new and wondrous things, and like nature, will continue to reveal its beauty to the “candid and industrious enquirer”. I believe that this is what the founders of our fraternity have been quietly telling us across the centuries – that each generation must go and search out the Light of Masonry for itself.
Brothers, let us then become those enquirers and search out the hidden Mysteries of this most amazing Institution. Let us continue to explore and reflect on the “Hidden Mysteries of Freemasonry”. The knowledge and wisdom of the Fraternity is still there; it is only waiting to be re-discovered and re-interpreted for the Modern Age.
As we continue our Masonic Journey, let us continue to:
Improve . . .”
William Beetcher, Grand Master