“What come you here to do?” It’s a question we are asked to consider in our Entered Apprentice degree, and while the answer is provided for us, it is up to each of us to determine what that means in our own lives.
There are two nearly identical answers to the question, depending on your jurisdiction, and the only grammatical difference is the placement of a comma. The difference in your stated purpose, however, is radical.
Some jurisdictions (my own included) do not have a comma in the answer, and as such it reads “To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry.” When read this way, you are here for two purposes: to be taught how to control your passions, and to become a better Mason.
It’s possible that, in those jurisdictions without the comma, Albert Pike stole the comma for use in his writings.
Some other jurisdictions have the comma inserted, so that your purpose is “To learn, to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry.” Now your purpose is threefold: first and foremost, to learn, second to control your passions, and third to become a better Mason.
It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Under this text, you aren’t just learning how to subdue your passions, you’re learning about a myriad of subjects. In addition, the focus is much more on action; you are actively seeking to subdue your passions, not just learning how to do so.
While I would never say that the ritual in my jurisdiction is incorrect, I will happily admit that I like it with the extra comma better. It puts more emphasis on working hard to be better men, and doesn’t limit the scope of your learning to a narrow field.
At the risk of committing a grave Masonic offense, I would put forward that there is an even better way to word it, and one that I hope you will keep in mind:
“What come you here to do? To learn, to subdue my passions, and improve myself THROUGH
We often say that our fraternity exists to make good men better. We don’t say to make better Masons, because Masonry is a collection of tools we should be using to turn ourselves into better men both inside and outside of the fraternity. If our goal is only to make better Masons, we should solely be focused on things such as improving ritual work, and learning to love the reading of the minutes.
Masonry is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and perfection, and in the final tally, any improvement we make is worth the effort put in. With that in mind, what come YOU here to do?