Old Leo Letters and Talks
Issue # 6 – April 15, 2011
L.E.O. – Leadership – Education – Oratory!
“When you shoot an arrow of truth, dip its point in honey” Arab Proverb
Pleasing Methods or Pleasing Results
By Ed Halpaus, FPS
In the lecture of the third degree the Mason learns about the Bee Hive. It is one of the eight monitorial emblems of Freemasonry, and it is well worth hearing about in the lecture and then studying after one learns about it. It’s not part of the ‘so-called’ secrets of Freemasonry, nor should it be. To quote a small part of the lecture:
“The BEE HIVE is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven, to the lowest reptile of the dust. It teaches us that as we came into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down contented while our fellow-creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them, without inconvenience to ourselves.
“When we take a survey of nature, we view man, in his infancy, more helpless and indigent than the brutal creation; he lies languishing for days, months and years, totally incapable of providing sustenance for himself, of guarding against the attack of the wild beasts of the field, or sheltering himself from the in clemencies of the weather.
“It might have pleased the great Creator of heaven and earth to have made man independent of all other beings; but, as dependence is one of the strongest bonds of society, mankind were made dependent on each other for protection and security, as they thereby enjoy better opportunities of fulfilling the duties of reciprocal love and friendship. Thus was man formed for social and active life, the noblest part of the work of God; and he that will so demean himself as not to be endeavoring to add to the common stock of knowledge and understanding, may be deemed a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy of our protection as Masons.”
In that short comprehensive explanation of the Bee Hive there are more than a few subjects of Masonic interest worthy of study, such as: the Bee as an insect, industry, relief, beasts of the field, The Great Creator of heaven and earth, and knowledge. But for now I would only like to look at ‘the bee as an insect’ and ‘industry.’ Industry goes right along with labor and labor is significant in Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a fraternity that teaches and honors – honest intelligent labor. Evidence of this is repeated each time a Lodge is commencing to go to, or retire from, labor in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Lodge. We are then reminded that the Master is to set the craft to work and give them good and wholesome instructions for their labors. In the old Masonic Manuscripts it was a universal charge that “all Masons shall work honestly on working days that they may live creditably on holy days.”
The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament,[i] which was the first translation into popular Greek before the Christian era, says: “Go to the bee, and learn how diligent she is, and what a noble work she produces: Whose labor kings and private men use for their health. She is desired and honored by all, and though weak in strength, yet since she values wisdom she prevails.”
The Ant and the Bee as insects are both noted for their industry; “but the Bee is the one mentioned as ‘a noble work’ since in her labor she renders service, and is therefore better fitted to symbolize that virtue as taught by Masons. The labor of the bee was looked upon as an important part of wisdom: That higher wisdom which looks beyond the transient pleasures of the pleasant hour to the needs of the future, and to the welfare of others.”[ii]
The Bee it seems to me is one of the original teachers of a powerful truth, and that is the difference between pleasing methods or pleasing results. As Masons we know that to get the results we want we cannot always employ only pleasing methods – working hard and working smart leads to pleasing results, and the results Masons strive for are the kind that will benefit our fellowman without regard to any Masonic connection.
The Ant in its instinct and industry surpasses most other insects, and since the ant was an insect that was in great abundance in Israel during King Solomon’s time, as it is here in all parts of America today, it is mentioned in the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible; Proverbs 6:6 & 30:25.
Those Bible passages do not tell us that we should never rest, because the Great Architect of the Universe has given us the Sabbath, but the Ant is used as an example because the Ant uses its energy and resources economically and from its example we can learn about preparation.[iii] You might also find this interesting: Coneys (Badgers) teach about wise building; Locusts about cooperation and order; and Lizards about fearlessness.[iv]
The Masonic symbol for industry is the Bee Hive and not the Ant Hill. The bee’s noble work Freemasons take as an example of honest intelligent labor, which Freemasonry honors and encourages; in our fraternity idleness not labor is a curse. The Latin expression “Laborare est orare” means “to Labor is to pray,” which Brother Mackey says is the great truth and which he teaches; “labor is worship.” In Freemasonry we learn that as God himself is a builder, (as in Great Architect of the Universe,[v]) we as men can only prosper through industry.
Mackey says that one of the most beautiful features of Freemasonry is that it teaches not only the necessity, but the nobility of labor. From the time of opening until the time of closing, the Lodge is said to be at Labor. “This is one of the numerous instances in which the terms of Operative Masonry are symbolically applied to Speculative Masonry.”
“Labor is an important word in Freemasonry; indeed we may say the most important. For this, and this alone, does a man become a Freemason. Every other object is secondary or incidental. Labor is the accustomed design of every Lodge meeting. But do such meetings always furnish evidence of industry? The labor of an Operative Mason will be visible, and he will receive his reward for it, even though the building he has constructed may, in the next hour, be overthrown by a tempest. He knows that he has done his labor, and so must the Freemason labor. His labor must be visible to himself and to his Brethren, or, at least, it must conduce to his own internal satisfaction. As we build neither a visible Solomonic Temple nor an Egyptian Pyramid, our industry must become visible in works that are imperishable, so that when we vanish from the eyes of mortals it may be said of us that our labor was well done.”[vi]
In the book of Exodus it is said that the promised-land is a land flowing with milk and honey.[vii] The dry climate of that part of the world, the rocks that prevail there and the flowers that bloom there provide an ideal place for Bees to live and work. In ancient times, as it is today, the honey produced by Bees could be harvested, and back then as it is today honey was used as merchandise, something that’s harvested, sold, and bought.
By the way, the name Deborah is the Hebrew name for Bee. As you know Deborah was the name of the fourth and only woman to be a judge of Israel, one of the lessons we can learn from her life is that we should spend our efforts on what we can do rather than what we cannot do. This is also a lesson to be learned from the Bee.
There is a poem by John Oxenham that I like. It is sometimes used in the little pamphlets that are given out at funerals. To me this poem provides the sentiments some Masons might have when the time comes to enter the Celestial Lodge where the Great Architect of the Universe presides.
Lord, when Thou seeist that my work is done,
Let me not linger on, with failing powers,
Adown the weary hours – a workless worker
In a world of work.
But, with a word, just bid me home,
And I will come – right gladly –
Yea, right gladly I will come.
“Hope is the only Bee that makes honey without flowers.” Robert Green Ingersoll
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Some articles and publications by Ed Halpaus can be read at: http://halpaus.blogspot.com/ and http://sites.google.com/site/edsmasonicmatters/ and Ed’s Face Book page – Ed Halpaus (“The Old Leo”).
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Words to live by: “They, whom truth and wisdom lead, can gather honey from a weed.” William Cowper
Grand Lodge Officer
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of MN
Political Freedom, Religious Tolerance, Personal Integrity; Freemasonry – it’s not for everyone.
[ii] Masonic concordance of the Holy Bible #699C
[iii] Zondervan Life Application Study Bible – note on Proverbs 30:24-28
[v] In the Great Light of Masonry there are many examples of this which can be found in a good Concordance.
[vi] Gädicke in Mackey’s revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Clegg edition 1929
[vii] “Land flowing with Milk and Honey means the traditional and proverbial description of the hill country of Cannan. The Hebrew word for honey refers to both bees’ honey and the sweet syrupy juice of dates.” NIV Study Bible, Zondervan