Saturday, June 24, 2023

‘Haight speech at White Plains Lodge!’

At the George Washington Birthday Parade
in Alexandria, Virginia four months ago. That’s Andrew at left.

W. Bro. Andrew Haight was installed in the East of White Plains Lodge 473 on June 7. The installing team was led by none other than MW Bill Sardone (who, I think, will do likewise at The ALR on Tuesday), and the new Master then delivered a wonderful speech to the brethren and Masonic family. Sorry to say I couldn’t be there, but here is the Worshipful Master’s address. Oh, before I forget: Happy St. John’s Day!

Being the will of Divine Providence that I achieve the end of my laborious journey Eastward, I have arrived at this Station standing before this public assembly as Master of Masons. I bow my head in modesty and offer my humblest thanks to the Supreme Being.

I must also thank those earthen-bound individuals, to whom I owe the highest honors:

  • To Most Worshipful Brother William Sardone for his support on this occasion by serving to install myself and the Officers of White Plains Lodge No. 473, I owe my most heartfelt gratitude.
  • To Right Worshipful Brother John G. McAloon and Very Worshipful Brother Raphael S.C. Wong for not only discharging the roles of Installing Chaplain and Installing Marshal, but also for their wisdom and guidance during the years that have led to this point.
  • To Worshipful Brother Stephen Mark Petty, Jr. for his leadership of the Lodge which has not only yielded fond memories and new traditions, but has also supported me as a treasured mentor, preparing me for this very moment.
  • To all the Past Masters of White Plains Lodge for their invaluable advice, their trust, and for paving the way.
  • To the newly installed Officers of the Lodge for their support and effort in faithfully carrying out my designs for the Lodge.
  • And to all the family and friends, Brothers, and mothers, who have joined us today for contributing their goodwill and gladness for the occasion at hand.

Thank you!

Especially to Daniela Petty, wife of Past Master Stephen Petty, who so graciously allowed Stephen to build a better future for White Plains Lodge: I thank you.

Understanding is what led me to knock upon the doors of this Lodge. It was the quest to reconcile the yearning within my heart to understand the divine spark within my soul—that impulse that rings true in each and every one of us to build the life that God has laid out for us, to create a legacy of noble deeds for the sake of posterity, to achieve the blessing of immortality that led to my becoming a Mason, in this very room.

But what takes place within this room? What is accomplished for the sake of the Lodge that calls the attention of so many devoted husbands, fathers, students, actors, composers, businessmen, authors, escape artists, prime ministers, kings, astronauts and, until this point, no less than fourteen U.S. presidents? The likes of Voltaire, Henry Ford, George Washington, or Mozart wouldn’t have been swayed by simply a supper club with a proclivity toward pancake fundraisers and hot dog cookouts, right? So, why would they join?

“Good men, by nature, wish to know.”
Leonardo da Vinci

The Lodge is where a Man comes to know himself. He enters apprehensively, trusting that he be in the faithful, capable, hands of men who will endeavor to make him better. Through his experience, over time, the wisdom of his brethren begins to take root; his desire to know Truth unfolds before him as he is guided by his predecessors and learns their thoughts and their ways. When at last the man is made to stand on his own two feet, the work of the evening completed, the Lodge is set to close, dispersing the diverse men of the Lodge back into the world, to mix back into their cultural roles, as if nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary had occurred at all. This is Masonic Love.

The Lodge teaches Love: to Love God, to Love yourself, to Love your family, to Love your neighbors, to Love your country. Masons are taught to Love one another, as only such a pure emotion can call together so many different men, scattered about the lands, to gather themselves for the sake of making another man a better man. While the fruits of that Masonry may, for the time being, go unseen, the Mason knows he has done his portion of labour, and he will never tire of being useful. 

“Zeal is the fire of love, active for duty—burning as it flies.”
W.R. Williams

Now that everyone knows Masonry takes good men and makes them better, I’d like to offer a few of my own reflections, adapted to my own personal interests and inclinations, expressive of a heart truly Masonic, on what it can mean to take a good man and make him better. If you indulge me with attentiveness, I will proceed with candor about Alchemy.

Alchemy may call to mind the manufacture of the Philosopher’s Stone. Its associated activities may seem a bit “Harry Potter” on first thought, however, I assure you that about six hundred years ago the students of medieval Alchemy, were on the cutting edge, searching for immortality as fervently as I had been when I knocked upon the door of this Lodge, and, if they had discovered the substance which turns lead to gold, the need for absolute secrecy would be paramount. So, how can we alchemize?

Solve et Coagula or, separate and join together (or “dissolve and coagulate” in strict Latin) is a line from the practitioners of medieval Alchemy, which is only to say that nothing new can be built if, not before, we make space, breaking the old.

Alchemy is an ancient proto-science tradition, a precursor to modern inorganic chemistry. C.G. Jung saw it as a Western psychology dedicated to the achievement of individuation, as substances, physical states, and molecular material processes could be metaphors for metaphysical matters, spiritual states, and, ultimately, transformations.

Solve et Coagula is the essential alchemical process. “Solve,” or “solutio,” refers to the breaking down of elements; “Coagula” refers to their coming together. In the process of transmuting base metals into gold, this contained both a literal and a metaphorical meaning. “Solve” referred to the dissolving and vanishing of hardened, or calcified, positions and negative states of body and mind. “Coagula” referred to the coagulation of dispersed elements into an integrated whole, representing a new synthesis, of sorts.

We find that this procedure is like the biological process of metamorphosis, where the ability of a physical body to decompose and recompose is highly involved. Many observations have indicated that programmed cell death plays a considerable role during physiological processes of multi-cellular organisms. We find particular interest in Goethe’s phenomenology approach to the subject of plants. Although his ideas of transformation were about the continuous metamorphosis of living things and did not relate our contemporary ideas of transmutation, he did arrive at a sophisticated view on changeability and drew the conclusion that organisms may have within itself the ability to take on the shape which is most suitable for its surrounding conditions.

The idea of survival variability also may describe the tendency of certain chemical classes to combine with certain substances in preference to others. In his novel Elective Affinities, Goethe describes people as chemical beings whose amorous affairs and relationships were like the pairings of Alchemical classes. Alchemists state that there exist in nature two opposing forces. Such energies come from a single source and manifest in all aspects of creation, like mercury and sulphur; sun and moon; feminine and masculine. Two apparently opposite realities that complementary transcend duality.

This eternal binary opposition is a factor of everyday life. In order to make good men better, Masonry teaches men to overcome, and re-integrate in an exalted state. The Philosopher’s Stone, however, is the earthly, not spiritual, treasure of the Alchemists, and is described as a physical substance, which is concentrated, purely divine energy that can be used for performing miracles. If God has made it for us, then it must be possible to achieve.

Alchemy, in this context, can be seen in the simple metaphorical sense of drawing out the divine which is already within us. It is to this end that I dedicate my work, as Master of this Lodge, to reinforce, research, recognize, and achieve. It is my goal, that by endeavoring to manifest the perfection of the Supreme Being, the Brethren of this Lodge may come to understand the beauty of creation promised in a single stanza of William Blake’s poetry:

To see a world in a grain of sand—
and a heaven in a wild-flower.

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand—
and eternity in an hour.

By accepting this Charter, it has become my duty to lead this Lodge and instruct its members that it may prosper and foster the spirit of Masonry, that its good effects may be felt beyond the walls of this Temple. To support our entire jurisdiction, and the community from which we proudly take our name, White Plains Lodge No. 473 will realize its destiny and claim its reputation, as not merely a well-run benevolent institution, but as a model, most faithful to the Great Architect’s design, of what Masonry should be, and, in its course, what Masonry will be. For in my mind, excellence is what my Brethren deserve from me, it is what the Lodge deserves from its Brethren, it is what the community deserves from its Lodge of Freemasons, it is what God deserves for making it possible and bringing us together here tonight. As understanding can elicit the divinity within mankind, so must we call upon the Almighty to set us up, as was intended.

In a specific sense, doing what I see plainly as my charge, I formally announce that White Plains Lodge No. 473 establishes a commission to determine in what capacity the resources and history of this Lodge may be leveraged, that we may attend our Patriotic duty to Country, by participating in the semi-quincentennial of American independence in 2026. It is a natural course for us, being the oldest building in the downtown City of White Plains, and with a Lodge history that stretches back even further, we will reveal ourselves for the historic institution that we are.

With more than three years to research and develop the role we may play, I believe the timing is right to coordinate with neighboring Lodges, municipalities, and our Grand Jurisdiction, to put forth our most excellent effort in organizing the 250th anniversary of rejecting tyranny, proclaiming liberty, and the founding of the Country that God has favored: the United States of America.

I have the firmest confidence that the Officers have paid strict attention to the charges and duties of their stations and places, and will happily labor for the harmony and benefit of the craft. Like the mechanism of a watch, each part of us is essential.

I will always lead us toward the wonderful future that awaits us, and I invite you to follow. Our course to be aligned with a bright star in heaven, there is no storm we cannot navigate. If I were to leave you with a statement or quote that will define this is year, it is simply this: 
“Do good. Have fun.”

Our work can be austere and solemn, requiring our attention and focus; we must do good. However, God wants man to be happy, and life was made to be enjoyed. As a heart free from regret is easily filled with gladness, it opens the mind to cheerfulness and the body to delight. I thank each one of you for making this night so special. Having now attended our duties and accomplishing the ceremonies of the evening, the good has been done. Now, let’s go have fun!

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