As some of you may well be aware, I have spent my entire working life as a computer professional. Inevitably, in this incredibly fast changing field, I have seen many advances – but to my mind, the most significant of all has been the internet. This has opened up communication in a way we never previously considered possible and, as a Freemason, I am often delighted by the quality of the material that is now available and that Brethren forward to me. I mention this, because tonight’s address was triggered by an email I received a month or two ago from Wor Bro Tony de Villiers.
When we made our obligation as an apprentice, Brethren, we all swore to observe the commandment “Do unto others as you would they do unto you”. In Bro Tony’s email, attention is drawn to the fact that this is the one central philosophy that is promoted in all religions.
A number of examples are provided and these include Buddhism, which instructs it’s followers to "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Confucianism, which teaches "Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you." Taoism "Regard your neighbour's gain as your own gain, and your neighbour's loss as your own loss." Zoroastrianism "That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself." Judaism "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire law." Christianity "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets." Islam "No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." Brahmanism "This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you".
This magnificent principle, which our Order promotes to a newly initiated Brother right at the outset of his Masonic journey, is clearly subscribed to in the teachings of many of history’s wisest and most learned men. It is so sound and, indeed, such obviously relevant common sense, that you have to ask why it needs to be taught at all. Surely all men must realise that if we do nothing else but treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves, everything must fall into place. It must be the recipe for an ideal world.
The problem is, that reality is not that simple. Sadly, man, by his very nature, is all too often selfish and uncaring. While it is easy to exhort the application of the principle of treating others as we would be treated when we are in need, it tends to get forgotten when we are not. And yet, that is precisely when applying this beautiful philosophy is at its most important. It is when our lives are going well and we are enjoying the blessings of the GAOTU, that we really need to consider how we would want others to treat us if our circumstances were less fortunate. It is during the good times that we need to examine ourselves and identify and implement changes to our behaviour that could enrich our contribution to society as a whole. I would like to suggest that this, indeed, is what this philosophy may really be all about.
As Freemasons, Brethren, we are part of a very special fraternity. Our Order provides us with so many opportunities to promote the grand principles of Truth, Morality and Brotherly Love. We are instructed in ways of improving ourselves as human beings and surround ourselves with fellow men who share our aims. Taking our generally fortunate circumstances into account, I would urge you to never forget the promise that you made to “Do unto others as you would they do unto you”. Examine it’s import and, when faced with people who are perhaps in less fortunate circumstances than you might be or hold different opinions to yours, try to understand them better. Get into the habit of asking yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation – and treat them accordingly.
Applying this promise could also, incidentally, enrich so many of our Masonic activities. Lodges who wished to receive visitors, would visit more; those looking for new members, may ask what most appeals to the current Brethren; and how much easier it would be to resolve some of the petty conflicts that occur!
“Do unto others as you would they do unto you”. This simple, but beautiful philosophy, when properly applied can enrich both our own lives and those of all around us. Remember it Brethren – it’s part of the first promise you made as a Freemason and it should never be forgotten.
R Wor Bro Geoff Edwards
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