Like most Freemasons, I have a lot of Slipknot songs in my iTunes account. ;) The song that prompted this discussion was “Before I Forget”, and the chorus specifically says:
“I am a world before I am a man
I was a creature before I could stand
I will remember before I forget.”
While the three stages may be slightly out of chronological order for musical necessity (music being one of the seven liberal arts), I was still struck by the allusion presented.
First (chronologically), he states “I was a creature before I could stand.” This is the beginning of the first stage of man, the age of the profane. This is the newborn who has not yet learned to reason. He is dependent on others for every basic need, not yet a man, just a creature living by instinct.
The next line states “I am a world before I am a man.” Anyone who has raised a child can probably see where I am going with this; at this stage, just moving into manhood, the boy believes that not only does the world revolve around him, but that he IS the whole world. While this stage is amazingly annoying to others, it is still necessary as part of the learning process. As Pike often reminds us, we must learn ourselves before we can hope to know God.
The final line reminds us “I will remember before I forget” and represents man in age. Anyone who lives long enough will experience the curse of memory loss, but before this happens it is a blessing to remember what you have learned, and to pass it on.
This reminds me of how surgeons are taught a new procedure: watch one, do one , teach one. Freemasonry has a similar allusion: see it, do it, pass it on. This not only applies to ritual, but to the values and teachings of the order; as important as it is to learn our values, it is equally important to pass them on to the next generation.
The divisions of the three levels are not distinct; I can say that sometimes I feel like I am in different stages in the same day. We progress and regress through them all the time.As Master Masons, we must often go back to the lessons we were supposed to have learned in the Entered Apprentice degree. A Fellowcraft still has much to teach.
Apprentices are given an overview of the tools they will use, Fellowcrafts are taught how to use the tools, and the Master is taught how to make his own tools. However, just because the Master knows how to use and make the tools, his education isn’t truly complete until he has passed his knowledge on to an Apprentice. A pianist may practice his entire life, becoming proficient at playing all of the classic compositions, however if he never shares it, never contributes anything new, can he truly be said to be a master of the instrument? No. He has achieved old age, believing himself to be a master, but he never truly learned all of the lessons of an apprentice.
One final line from the song that strikes me as an apropos lesson for the Master Mason: “All I ever do is delay. My every attempt to evade the end of the road is my end.” As Master Masons were are taught to face death bravely, not cower before it. The end of our road approaches, and there is nothing we can do to delay the inevitable; take this time, then, to practice these lessons and pass your own knowledge on.
WB. David is a member of Lancaster Lodge #54 in Lincoln, Nebraska where he served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and has since served as Tyler. He is also a member of the York Rite and Scottish Rite where he is one of the founding members of the valley's Knights of St. Andrew. He is one of 13 living people who enjoy reading Albert Pike.