Message from the East – Back to School

“The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and, while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge and the only security that freemen desire.”

— Brother Mirabeau B. Lamar, Second President of the Republic and the Father of Texas Education

The end of summer vacation is upon us and the children of Texas are returning to school. As you know, each March we provide a Lamar Award along with a scholarship to a graduating senior from each of the four high schools in RISD. But the ties of education go deeper in Texas Education.

In the Fellowcraft Degree, the Senior Deacon delivers an extensive lecture on our craft. He particularly points out the importance of the seven liberal arts and sciences, to wit: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. What purpose does this serve? These liberal arts (from the Latin “liber” meaning Free) were reserved for free men and were considered the sum of all higher learning. This learning was higher than and in contrast to the knowledge necessary to simply earn a living. These liberal arts trace their origins back to Pythagoras and even earlier. But, again, what more does it mean to a Mason?

Grammar is not just the tedious business of determining parts of speech. It is the art of writing and speaking. Logic concerns itself with correct thinking and the ability to rationally comprehend the things in our world and ideas beyond. And Rhetoric is the combination of these two. The art of using language to make the proper impression upon the reader or listener. Thus, a Master Mason uses Grammar to smooth rough ashlars, Logic to lay ashlar upon ashlar, and Rhetoric to construct a pleasing whole.

The sciences aid us in understanding the greater universe around us. The fifth science, Geometry, is so fundamentally a part of Freemasonry that our ritual tells us these two terms were originally synonymous. Geometry goes far beyond the simple weights and measurements of Arithmetic and deals with relationships from the minute to the Astronomical. By Geometry we may “discover how the planets move in their orbits and demonstrate their various revolutions.” By it we may “discover the power, the wisdom, and goodness of the Grand Artificer of the Universe.” It is no wonder Masons revere Geometry.

This leaves us with Music. Music has a natural relationship with numbers. Our ancient friend and brother Pythagoras was the first to record the mathematical relationships between the lengths of strings and the sounds made by their vibrations. He was first to record the concepts of harmonic intervals and the eight-tone division of the musical octave. For this, he is revered by many musicians as the father of musical notation and theory.

The seven liberal arts and sciences do more than educate. Taken as a whole, they lift us from the mundane and teach us to comprehend our relationship with God. The concealed message is that we should constantly seek to improve ourselves through study. We should constantly seek to further understand the universe created by the Great Architect and thereby constantly attempt to perfect our relationship with Him. This study is never complete for the Mason. And it carries on for our children and grandchildren. I pray this start of the school year reminds us to never end our educational journey.

-Christopher Livingston PM