The Study of Freemasonry is supposed to be a lifelong labor of self-improvement. The lessons that it offers its initiates cover the width and depth of the morals, ethics and lessons needed to live in this tumultuous world.
We are instructed to seek Masonic Light as we travel through each of the degrees. And even the oldest Past Master can continue to learn the lessons of the Craft. We should never stop learning and seeking more light. We should listen to the lectures and study the Ritual to glean the moral and ethical lessons found in this wonderful work.
It seems like we sometimes seek to reduce things to the lowest common denominator. We want to make things easy to understand for ourselves and our successors. This even happens in the realm of Freemasonry, we oversimplify lectures and symbols that are supposed to be profound lessons in life. An example of this is what is known as the “Penny Lecture.”
At one point in the Ritual, the new Entered Apprentice is asked for a small token “…not on account of its intrinsic value but that it might deposited in the archives of the Lodge…” We often call this the “Penny Lecture” and rush past it to the Charity Lecture without exploring the significance of this event.
At this time, in this place, the Initiate is Destitute, which is why this is rightly called the “Rite of Destitution” and is truly one of the most important lessons that is imparted to the new Entered Apprentice Mason in the entire Ritual.
When the demand for a deposit is made, if he was “duly and truly prepared,” he cannot meet the request. For one desperate moment, he realizes, maybe for the first time in his life, what a man feels like who is actually destitute. If done well, it impresses on his mind and emotions, the confusion and possibly the humiliation of one that is impoverished and cannot act on his own behalf. Then, when this has begun to sink in, he is surprised, is a way not to be forgotten, by the lesson of the Golden Rule and the duty of a man to his fellow in need.
This is not a lesson that he hears; it is a lesson that he experiences. He does not need to imagine the feeling, he feels the shame of having nothing to contribute, he is put into the place of the man in need making his duty even more real and vivid. This should make the lesson of the Charity Lecture more impactful and vital for his life.
The beauty and completeness of our Ritual should be pondered and studied so we do not lose any of the vital lessons and we do not remove and oversimplify the profound elements of the Craft.