This post is an edited excerpt from the Short Talk Bulletin podcast, V36N12. This podcast is excellent, and this particular episode I found to be better than most. The following is a distillation of the most salient points.
From the first moment the candidate walks into the lodge, he is almost completely dependent on others. This is the first and one of the most important lessons to be learned in life. Occasionally, you may hear of the idea of a “self-made man”; a man who has achieved success all by himself.
The factors that make for wealth are land, labor, and capital. Land is everything in the way of physical resource that we depend on for production. Air, soil, gas, iron, and the sea. A self-made man needs all of these things for success. So too, he needs the labor and participation of others, and several forms of capital. How much of it did he bring with him, or create after he got here? When one considers it carefully, there is no such thing as a self-made man.
More fundamental than inter-dependence of men, is the dependence on God. If we were to insist on affirming what we believe about God, we would be divided. This is why we have no theology; belief in god unites. But belief about god divides. If you believe in God, you may come in. What you believe about God is not our affair. It does not make any difference to Freemasonry what a man believes about God provided that it allows him to rise to the level of the best in character in his own life, and the best in brotherhood in his relations with others. It must be a faith, that is an acknowledgement of our duty to do the will of God in all life.
The third universal truth is one word: obligation, coming from the Latin obligare, which means to bind. What is symbolized in this degree is that there can be no life without obligation. Follow a man who claims to have no obligation, and you will find that there are some things, good or bad, to which he is bound. He may have not taken an obligation to serve those things, but he is bound, nonetheless. Man cannot get away from obligation.
It is therefore of utmost importance that the obligation he takes, be to the highest. Once taken, he must evaluate decisions in light of the obligation he has taken. Make no mistake about it: someone suffers when an obligation is broken.
As we come to the end of the degree, we find that it is like a fabric with a single thread of gold running throughout. There is one basic emphasis that we cannot miss: the emphasis on others. We are dependent on others. Obligated to others. And it is in the rite of destitution that this comes to a climax. The memory of our own destitution will prompt us to be charitable to others.
If a man cannot practice the principles of brotherhood, with all of their implications, in his own home, then Freemasonry has taught him nothing, and regardless of his proficiency in ritual, he is no Mason.
In this degree we learn that the dimensions of the lodge are the dimensions of the Universe, and that our charity should extend in equal dimension. There is no place to stop.
Live and let live was the call of the old.
The call of the world when the world was cold.
The call of men when they pulled apart.
The call of the race with a chill on the heart.
But, live and help live, is the cry of the new.
The cry of the world with the dream shining through.
The cry of the brother world rising to birth.
The cry of our God, for a comrade-like Earth.Edward Markum