Musings Of An Apprentice
By Brother Greg Swanepoel
“To expose heart, bend knee and bow head. To fall into rank and file with Men of men was incredibly significant and emotional for me. Finally here was a place I could lay down my defiance and fear of authority. Here was a place I could heal old hurts.”
I had searched my whole life for a place that commanded respect and reverence without making me feel less of a man.
Has Freemasonry fulfilled my desire for a place to come home to? Has it lived up to my expectations? Do I feel the Brotherly love? As with life and its journeys, nothing is quite so simple.
Firstly, the basic premise of the First Degree is to “Know Thyself”: a strange edict for a man who has truly lived life. I felt I knew myself well. Having being subjected to many of Providence’s decrees, I had subjected myself to a great deal of self examination, purification and sanctification!
As I attended Workings and Management meetings, supped and bonded with my brethren, immersed myself in Masonic life, I found my questions begging answers.
Before I was initiated into the First degree, I posted my BBM status, quoting one of the 7 Hermetic Principles (more correctly, a version of it). It read ‘As above, so below, as within, so without’.
Somewhere on my short Masonic journey, I realized the truth of this principle.
The place I seek to sate my wounded heart, the fulfillment of my expectations, the brotherly love? They live within me. I have always had access to them. The Masonic rituals revealed a core truth to me; our lives have order and structure, purpose and meaning. I was not looking beyond the repetitiveness of ritual or life in the profane world, I only saw the mundane, the treadmill. Behind the ritual was a story so profound; a story not just of Freemasonry but of Life. “As within, so without”.
Masonry was not just about where the cushion is or who says what and when. It is about life and how we should live it. It has a meaning that is so esoteric in its nature I missed it completely in my ignorance and self indulgence. You get out of it what you put in. Life, Freemasonry, Marriage, Relationship and most importantly, Yourself.
My First degree has been a catalyst, the ‘coming together’ of a fragmented ideology, the meeting of parallel lines. I have spent a lifetime reading esoteric and metaphysical works; Buddhism, Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita, Lao Tsu, Hermes Trismegistus, Joseph Murphy, Richard Bach, Kundalini and Tibetan Meditations plus many more books/philosophies which have sated, to a degree, my curiosity of the unconventional or Ancient. What a revelation to find all aspects of these thinkings embraced by Freemasonry. More significantly, after I had overcome my emotional indulgence, I discovered the Masonic world of Allegory, Symbolism and the Esoteric. It had been there all the time, however with the Masonic Self Knowledge, came the revelations.
Finally I have found a way to reconcile my Christian upbringing and all the guilt that goes with it to a more encompassing Great Architect. The reverence and the fact that T.G.A.O.T.U is the source of all things resonates deep within me. A place where the VSL is a symbol of Great Truth and Instruction but not the actual Instructor. The principles of the Great and Small Lights, The Lodge and its Pillars, our Jewels and our Labour.
How much more instruction does a good man need to become better? ‘To be of Irreproachable conduct, by a mind free from prejudice and by true friendship towards his Brethren based on moral principles’.
How else will we make the world better if not through Good men? How else will we overcome religious, political and personal intolerance, if not by being tolerant, of Irreproachable conduct?
Now the journey begins…
The Apprentice Degree is just that, one of being an apprentice. A time to sit still and learn. Watch, be diligent, learn, find your way through the myriad of Titles, Charges, Symbols, Signs, when to stand, when to sit, walk, sing, who to call what, who sits where and why all of this done in the first place!
Through all this and more, I ask myself the questions; have I gained Self Knowledge, Have I learned what man is and what man may become?
Have I been awoken to the fact that Knowledge is available and by knowing it I will be a better man? Am I inspired to seek further for this knowledge?