That which I believe to be the central idea in the whole Hiram Abiff drama, and consequently the profoundest interpretation of it, is that embodied in the term used as the title of this section. I have chosen to consider it in a section apart, not only because its importance is deserving of such emphasis, but also because the truth of Eternal Life is so confused, so mingled with other very different ideas in the minds of men, that we have need of a careful analysis of the matter.
By Eternal Life we do not mean quite the same thing as we meant by a Future Life. Future Life, by virtue of the very words used to describe it, is a life that is supposed to lie in the future, beginning after death; Eternal Life will be lived in the great future, true enough, but is something more than that.
Nor is Eternal Life the same as Immortality, for Immortality means deathlessness that is, an existence of endless duration. It suggests a picture of life lived on a level line, of which line there is no end. Eternal Life includes this conception of infinite duration but it also includes much besides.
Again, Eternal Life is not to be identified with Resurrection. According to this latter hope the man who dies will be raised from the dead and will be the same man that he was before death. This also may be true, in some sense doubtless is true, but the idea is not the same as that meant by Eternal Life.
What, then, do we mean by Eternal Life? Briefly it may be put thus—there is something in every man, call it spirit, soul, a divine spark, or what you will, which even now belongs to another order of reality, and is not to be numbered among the things that go "into that utter passing away from which there is nothing to return." It is possible for a man to discover in himself those things that are most akin to God, and to keep these things at the centre of his being: and it is possible for him to do this here and now, and under the very conditions which seem to us so broken and so unfavourable to high living, and not wait until after death. All of God, and all of the Universe, and all of the powers of human life—these are present with us now, and it is not necessary to postpone real life until after death.
It is the great tragedy in the life of many men that they so entirely devote themselves to the body's needs that they forget, or neglect, the spirit's needs. Giving themselves up to the search for temporalities, they leave the divinest cravings in them to go unsatisfied; as a result they become materialistic, self-centred, vain, greedy, and animalistic; the soul becomes dissatisfied, God becomes unreal, and the future life uncertain; and they even fall into the fatal habit of making such Goodness, Truth and Beauty as they do find in themselves or others into a mere means to temporal gains. Such a man's whole life revolves about himself; he becomes his own world and his own God, and out of such a state grow the fears, doubts, superstitions, quarrellings, graspings, prejudices, envyings, and hatreds, which so often make life a mere scramble after the things of self. In other words, small things are set at the centre of existence so that all the man's life is made up of temporalities.
The one remedy for this condition is to change the centre of gravity so that the spirit is master, and body is servant, so that search is made for the eternal things instead of wholly for the things that pass away. When this occurs, selfishness, envy, and materialism, vanish; the soul becomes the great reality; God draws very near and becomes very certain; the perspective of life is changed, and its scale of values is reversed. To be honourable and true, to love others, to live in pity, charity, and kindliness, to know eternity as present and the present existence as a brief phase of an endless life, all this becomes for such a man the great ideal toward which all his energies are bent. Loss and disease may be serious but they are not fatal; even death is robbed of its terrors because the man's treasures are out of the reach of destruction.
This is Eternal Life. This is the "life of God in the soul of man," eternity in the midst of time, a divine-human experience possible in the Here and Now. To reach such an existence is in the power of every man; nay, it is the birthright, the God-intended plan, of every child of the race.
Herein, it seems to me, we have the reality of which the Lost Word is the mystic symbol; and he who has found that word within himself is victorious always, whatever betide. If he is betrayed by the friends in whom he has trusted, waylaid by ruffians, put to death in the midst of his creative and benignant work, and thrown into an unmarked grave, he is not defeated or destroyed; the God-like spirit within him, dedicated to the Eternal Values, raises him up from the level of death to the perpendicular of the life that is endless.
If this be the true interpretation of the Raising, we can no longer agree with those who see in it merely a ceremony in witness to the Future Life of the soul. How could it be? The Raising is not accomplished on the other side of the grave but on this; out of the very disaster that overwhelmed him, out of the midst of that dreadful "masterful negation which men call death," the master is lifted up and made victorious. The Spirit is conqueror even Here.
Furthermore, and as I have already hinted, this interpretation makes void the theory which would have us believe that the Lost Word must be sought outside the Blue Lodge Ritual. When is the Master raised? Is it not in the Third Degree? Is not the very Power that raises him itself the thing we mean by the word? It is true that no word of a certain number of letters is given us; it is true that the secret is elaborated and made plain in a higher degree, but the power, the actual upraising energy of which such a word must be a symbol, is present, and does its work, inside the limits of the Degree!
As this understanding came home to me, and opened up within my mind, the whole of the Blue Lodge Ritual, nay, the whole of Masonry itself, became transfigured. Dark places filled with light, and obscure symbols, often so cryptic and dim, became eloquent with endless meanings. I found that every ceremony, from the first simple acts of the preparation room to the climax of the tragedy of the Third Degree, arranged itself in a solemn order that moved easily to its predestined goal. Freemasonry rose in my vision to the most divine heights, and I saw that it has in its heart an Eternal Gospel which gives it a place among the great witnesses to religion, and among the noblest of all the philosophies where through men have sought for light on the brief, broken, bewildering mystery of existence; and strength to live, unconquered and unashamed in the midst of so many enemies and defeats.
What makes a man a Mason, O brother of mine? It isn't the due guard, nor is it the sign, It isn't the jewel which hangs on your breast It isn't the apron in which you are dressed It isn't the step, nor the token, nor the grip, Nor lectures that fluently flow from the lip, Nor yet the possession of that mystic word On five points of fellowship duly conferred. Though these are essential, desirable, fine, They don't make a Mason, O brother of mine.
That you to your sworn obligation are true -- Tis that, brother mine, makes a Mason of you. Secure in your heart you must safeguard and trust, With lodge and with brother be honest and just, Assist the deserving who cry in their need, Be chaste in your thought, in your word and your deed, Support he who falters, with hope banish fear, And whisper advice in an erring one's ear. Then will the Great Lights on your path brightly shine, And you'll be a Mason, O brother of mine. Your use of life's hours by the gauge you must try, The gavel of vices with courage apply; Your walk must be upright, as shown by the plumb, On the level, to bourn whence no travelers come, The Book of your faith be the rule and the guide, The compass your passions shut safely inside; The stone which the Architect placed in your care Must pass the strict test of His unerring square. And then you will meet with approval divine, And you'll be a Mason, O brother of mine.