by Robert Herd
I’m sort of the contemplative, meditative type and anytime I’m not speaking in Lodge I’m usually sitting there deep in thought. The other night while at a meeting, I was particularly focused and drawn to our three burning tapers. The tri-luminaries, or three “lesser lights” as we normally refer to them, have multiple meanings symbolically ascribed to them. For instance, in most jurisdictions of Freemasonry they are the Sun, the Moon, and Master of the Lodge. Now I know that, sadly, not all jurisdictions use real burning candles anymore, so for some this may not be anything more than a rambling due to a situational difference. But for those I still offer it as worthy of at least conceptual consideration.
Well, while sitting and being in my contemplative mood that night, I found myself staring at them and fell into a near hypnotic meditative state. This is not entirely special, for thousands of years many cultures have used candles as objects of meditation to do exactly as I had just done without even thinking about it. I found my consciousness sort of mulling over how funny it is, that in a large part, the symbolism of our candles (or at least what parts are explained in our ritual) don’t seem to have much in common with any physical attribute of the candle and began thinking on what I might find as physically parallel, or physically symbolic, of those candles.
Now, I don’t normally have “visions” or big epiphanies often, and I don’t want this to sound overly dramatic, but I felt an odd sense come over me and three particular examples came to me almost simultaneously and quite instantly, enough so that I literally questioned if it was my own mind and conscious that had these thoughts. I really felt this was some Divine idea that was shared with me. I know that there is a fine line between “vision” and “hallucination” and I assure you I had not yet even had my customary Scotch “night-cap,” but I just can’t describe the feeling that came over me that made this more than just an idea that popped into my head. It was more of a spiritual event that was “telling” me there was a connection I should make regarding these candles that I was staring at. Ok, enough drama, let me just get to what came to me. Three things came to me nearly simultaneously: three amazing (in my humble opinion) mysterious, physical attributes of the candle(s) and their flame(s) that relate to each of us in our QUEST to bring LIGHT to the world.
1. The first of these amazing, physically symbolic attributes of the candle is found in the act of using one flame to light another. Isn’t it symbolically important that when using one flame to light another, the original flame is in no way diminished by this action? A candle LOSES NOTHING in lighting another candle. An old Chinese philosopher once explained, “If I have an apple and you have a different apple and we exchange apples, we each still only have one apple. HOWEVER, if I have a wise lesson and you have a different wise lesson and we exchange lessons, do we not both then have TWO wise lessons?” Think of yourself as a Light Bearer or one who has had a wise lesson bestowed upon you by our Craft. You are a single candle with a burning flame. That burning flame represents the Light of Wisdom and we are instructed to share that light. Mathew 5:15 “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” Many times though, for reasons such as shyness, fear of ridicule, or whatever, we hide our light. We should remember this example so that we boldly, and freely, share our Light, our Wisdom, with others not fearing that our candle will be in any way diminished.
2. This sharing of Light, or Wisdom, brings us to the second part. The communion or coming together of Light Bearers for the common goal or common good. Think about what physically takes place when two or more separate burning candles’ wicks come close enough together. Do they interfere with each other? Are they in anyway envious, jealous, or do they push each other away in any manner? NO, in fact they immediately, seamlessly, and selflessly come together as ONE in performance and action. So, my Brethren, should WE so selflessly come together in our performance and execution of our common goals, our actions for the common good.
3. The last thing that came to me was more of a singular aspect of the flame itself. Flames have from Time Immemorial been a nearly mystical thing to man. They are hypnotic in their unceasing performances. Think about this for a moment, how the flame always burns in an upright manner. No matter how you adjust, move, or position the candle stick, the flame always points to the heavens as if it is yearning to re-integrate with a Divine Flame from above. Should we as Freemasons not be similar? Are we not taught in our Wise lessons to be ever striving for betterment to make ourselves “Living Stones for that house not made with hands eternal IN THE HEAVENS”? The material world and “rat race” of life is certainly always trying to affect our metaphorical candlestick, pushing us one way, turning us another, but if we keep that symbolism of the Flame in mind, we find that it IS possible to remain focused on the higher, to ascend as we are meant to, to “keep all our Thoughts, Words, and Actions in accordance with our professions as Masons” regardless of those many outside distractions and influences.
My Brethren, I hope you find these thoughts Enlightening, as I did when they came to me. Physical yet powerfully symbolic reminders of our actions on this journey and maybe some things we can do along the way to make it continually meaningful.