LET THERE BE LIGHT
IRA GILBERT, PM, PDDGM
“In the beginning GOD created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of GOD hovered over the face of the waters. And GOD said; ‘Let here be light” and there was light . And GOD saw the light, that it was good.”
Thus began the creation of our worldly existance. The fact that The Supreme Architecct of the Universe saw fit to create light early on in His creation of life is an indication of how important light is. What is the Supreme Architect of the Universe actually creating when He creates light?
There is a Hebrew word, Midrash. This is defined as, an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures. I recently read a Midrash that reads as follows, “Before GOD created the world, there was only GOD. When GOD decided to create the world He pulled back in order to create a space for the world. It was in that space that the universe was formed. But now in that space there was no GOD. GOD created devine sparks of light, to be placed back in GOD’s creation. When GOD created light, and placed light inside of creation, special containers were prepared to hold it. But there was an accident. The containers broke. The universe became filled with sparks of devine light and shards of broken containers. “ This Midrash was meant to teach us that until the sparks of GOD’s light are gathered together, creation will not be complete. In the Hebrew language this is called Tikkun Olam, or repair of the world.
There are several connotations in the use of the term, light. For example: “To bring to light” or to “Come to light”
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines light as “the form of energy that makes it possible to see things”. This dictionary also defines light as a spiritual illumination, such as having an inner light or to see the truth. Light is also defined as a set of principles or opinions. Light is also defined as a set of principles, standards, or opinions. Finally, the term enlightenment is said to be the state of having knowledge or understanding. Enliughtenment is also the act of giving knowledge or understanding to others. It is these latter definitions that give light in its relationship with Freemasonry. Let us explore, then, the term light as it is used in Freemasonry. In the Masonic ritual there are many referrences to the term “light”.
The ritual of the degrees in our fraternity is symbolic of how Freemasonry makes good men better. In our ritual, as in the Book of Genesis, light is utilized as the first part of a candidate’s introduction into our brotherhood. When the Junior Deacon leads the candidate to the door of the preparation room preparing to bring him into the lodge hall for the first time, he is asked, “Who comes here.” The response is, “Mr. John Paul Jones, who has long been in darkness and now seeks to be brought to light….” The candidate is seeking to gain an understanding of what it means to be a Mason and what it means to become a better man. He is seeking the knowledge that will be imparted to him as he progresses through the degrees to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
The use of the term “light” is further prominent in the first degree. When the candidate is asked, “What do you most desire?” The candidate’s response to this question is “light”. In the second and third degrees the new brother responds that he seeks more light and further light. Of course, in our ritual nowhere does the brother answer that he receives all of the light. The search for knowledge does not stop when the brother is raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. This search will continue throughtout the brother’s Masonic lifetime.
There are several symbolic interpretations to the term “light.” Important in the furniture of the lodge are the three great lights in Masonry and the three lesser lights.
Let us first look at what the greatest of the three greater light teaches us. The greatest of the three greater lights is the holy book that rests upon the altar. The contents of the holy book teaches us the difference between right and wrong and gives information leading to the formation of proper character of mankind. Thus, the holy book is enlightening the brother as to the principles and standards of our brotherhood.
Our ritual teaches us that the square is to square our actions and that it is the square of virtue. The square is also an emblem of morality. The compass circumscribes us and keeps us within due bounds. Here, again, the new brother is being inoculated into the principles and standards of Freemasonry. He is learning what it means to not only be a Mason, but what it means to be a man.
The ritual goes on to tell us that the three lesser lights represent the sun, the moon, and the Master of the lodge. However, even more important is the fact that the three lesser lights illuminate the three greater lights. This allows us to better visualize the information imparted in the book of holy law and to better envision the meaning of the square and compass. It is the aura sent out by the lesser lights that illuminate the teachings of the holy book on the altar.
A quotation that I read states that, “knowledge is the greatest of all luxuries”. It is the never ending search for light, also defined as knowledge, that has given long life to our Masonic fraternity. The look for Masonic knowledge is a search for what it means to truly be a Mason in more than name only. That hunt can make a man more than just a Mason in name only. It will make him a true and just upright Mason.
To paraphrase the Book of Genesis, “Let there be light, not only in the visual sense, but in the knowledge that is imparted by the holy book and by our Masonic teachings”.