by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christian Garrett, 32°, K.T.
The beehive is a symbol introduced in the Master Mason lecture, representing industry, cooperation, and the idea that a group of individuals working together can accomplish great things. Bees, as creatures, have long been recognized for their remarkable work ethic and the highly organized and efficient social structure of their hives. For Freemasons, the beehive serves as a reminder of the importance of these values in their own lives.
In Masonic symbolism, the beehive is often depicted as a skep, the traditional woven structure reminiscent of an upside-down basket, or by the hexagonal structure of the cells created by the bees working together within. The hive is often shown with a door or entrance, through which the bees enter and exit. One of the primary lessons that the beehive teaches is the importance of industry. Bees are known for their tireless work ethic, spending their entire lives gathering nectar and pollen and constructing the honeycomb within the hive. Similarly, we as Freemasons are encouraged to work hard and diligently, both in our professional lives and in our Masonic pursuits. By ever being industrious, we as Masons can achieve great things, both individually and as a brotherhood.
Cooperation is another key lesson found within the symbolism of the beehive. As the bees work together in a highly organized and efficient manner, each bee performs a specific task that contributes to the overall success of the hive. This cooperation is necessary for the survival of the hive and the production of honey, which serves as a valuable resource for the bees and for humans. So too do we as Masons, strive to cooperate, utilizing our individual skills for the betterment of not only our individual lodges but our fraternity as a whole and thus the world.
By working together, Masons can achieve greater things than we could on our own. The beehive should also be a reminder of the importance of unity. The individual bees within the hive are all part of a larger community, working together for the common good. In the same way, Masons are part of a larger brotherhood, united by shared morals, values, ethics, and goals. Through unity, we can create a strong and cohesive brotherhood that benefits our members and communities alike.
Similarly, In the Old Testament, we see that bees and honey are often used as symbols of industriousness, cooperation, and abundance. For example, in Judges 14:8, Samson finds bees and honey inside the carcass of a lion, symbolizing the idea that even something that seems dead or useless can still contain valuable resources. Likewise, in Proverbs 16:24, Solomon wrote that "gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones," suggesting that kindness and encouragement can be a source of nourishment and strength, thus we are to choose our words wisely.
Finally, the beehive symbolizes the importance of order and organization. Bees have a highly structured social hierarchy, with each bee knowing its place and role within the hive. This order and organization are essential for the efficient functioning of the hive and the accomplishment of its goals. Similarly, we as Masons value order and organization, both within the fraternity and should strive to in our personal lives. But as our yearly election and installation ceremony remind us, we pass on these duties and responsibilities year after year, in a respectful transition of authority.
The Beehive and The Kabbalah:"A single bee cannot pollinate the field, but by the efforts of the hive, the world can fill with flowers." - Brother Stephen Webinga 32°
The beehive symbolism in Freemasonry can also be related to Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that seeks to understand the nature of the divine and the universe. In Kabbalah, there are several teachings that align with the lessons of the beehive symbol.
One of the primary teachings of Kabbalah is the concept of Ein Sof, the infinite and unknowable divine essence that exists beyond all creation. Just as the hive represents a community of bees working together for the common good, Ein Sof represents the unity of all things in the universe, working together in harmony to fulfill a greater purpose.
The beehive also relates to the concept of the Tree of Life, which is the central glyph in Kabbalah that represents the divine structure of the universe. The Tree of Life is composed of ten interconnected spheres, or sefirot, that represent different aspects of the divine, such as wisdom, understanding, and compassion. Each sphere is interdependent and necessary for the overall functioning of the Tree, just as each bee is necessary for the functioning of the hive.
In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is also associated with the concept of the soul, which is said to be composed of ten levels or dimensions that correspond to the sefirot. Each level represents a different aspect of the individual’s spiritual growth and development, and each level builds upon the one before it. The beehive symbol can be seen as a reminder of the importance of each individual’s contribution to the greater whole, just as each bee in the hive is necessary for the survival and success of the entire colony.
Lastly, the beehive can also be related to the concept of tikkun olam, which is a central idea in Kabbalah and Jewish thought more broadly.
Tikkun olam refers to the idea of repairing the world or making it a better place. This is accomplished through acts of kindness, justice, compassion, and by working together to create a more just and equitable society. The beehive in a similar manner represents the idea that by working together, individuals can accomplish great things and create positive change in the world.
In conclusion, the beehive symbol in Freemasonry can be related to Kabbalah through its emphasis on unity, interdependence, and the importance of working together for the greater good. By reflecting on the lessons of the beehive, we as Masons can deepen our understanding of the divine structure of the universe, our place within it, as well as our role in repairing the world to create a more just and compassionate society.
Christian Garrett is the current Worshipful Master of Cottage Grove Masonic Lodge #51in Cottage Grove, Oregon. He is also an affiliate member of Eugene Lodge #11 and McKenzie River Lodge #195 in Eugene, Oregon. A 32° member of the Eugene Valley of the Scottish Rite, Scribe of Cottage Grove Royal Arch Chapter #41, Secretary for Hiram Council #7 and Ivanhoe Commandery #2, Senior Warden of Goose and Gridiron Allied Masonic Degrees, and Deputy Director of Units for Al Kader Shriners.
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