In his wonderful play, A Sleep of Prisoners, near its end, Christopher Fry forms and answers the vital question. The scene is in a partly bombed out church behind the German lines. Three bunks occupied by British prisoners are in the chancel. Planes can be heard and seen through the gaping holes in the roof. The organ is still capable of producing one-finger versions of "Now the Day is Over" and of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" The three prisoners in their anxiety and ignorance of their future have entered almost a dream state where ultimate values come, almost unconsciously to the fore.
Corporal Adams muses: -
Strange how we trust the powers that ruin
And not the powers that bless
But good's unguarded
As defenceless as a naked man-
To which Private Meadows, much the oldest of the three, gives immortal answer
Imperishably. Good has no fear;
Good is itself, whatever cones,
It grows, and makes, and bravely
Persuades, beyond all tilt of wrong:
Stronger than anger, wiser than strategy,
Enough to subdue cities and man
If we believe it with the long courage of truth
and, a moment later, he becomes inspired
The human heart can go to the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the Hoes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul man ever took.
Affairs are now soul size The enterprise
Is exploration into God
We, the human race, in this our endless enterprise, have reached many milestones and it is not accidental that these generally follow our seven liberal Arts and Sciences. I use the Quebec ritual which I learned in Quebec City in the early 1930s and which is far better than ours. Grammar "is the science which teaches us to express our ideas in suitable words" It is not a compendium of rules, it is the format of a living and, therefore dynamically changing language. Rhetoric "beautifies and adorns the words we use, giving them sound and speech. The Logic "instructs us to think and reason with propriety, and to make language subordinate to thought" Logic is at once a format for truth and a scourge for demagogues. Thus the first three liberal arts and sciences become a trinity to promote right communications within the human race.
Language, the very first step in our exploration, almost certainly antidated the first "Homo sapiens" whenever and wherever they existed.
The second step nay veil have been the initiation and the control of fire. The fires of old were sacred precisely because they were an exploration into the Ultimate, yielding some control to our ancient ancestors.
Our next liberal art and science was Arithmetic, "the science of computing numbers',' and then Geometry, "the application of Arithmetic to sensible quantities, and by which we are enabled to measure and survey".
Quite a few centuries before the Christian era the great discovery was made in the Himalayas that digital counting, counting on one's fingers, required a zero count to give a fully operational digital system Maybe the discovery might have followed a raid of wild dogs on the flock, which, in wild dog fashion, wiped out the entire flock. The shepherd was confronted wit a count of no sheep, it is only by recognizing that zero is a number that the science of computing numbers becomes possible. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a zero, and their Arithmetic was negligible as a result. If you wish to show your children or your grandchildren that zero is a number, start by asking how old they were their last birthday, then how old they were on their first birthday, and then hew old they were when they had just been born. The answer is, of course, zero years old, but they were certainly really here. The early Aztecs and Incas also had a zero. They counted both their fingers and toes and matured a scale of twenty. Their figures were elaborate hieroglyphics, with minor differences for each of 0 through 19, a very difficult system which probably only the elite could handle. But is was certainly a workable system. If we had been in the form of 6-toed slothes, we would have used a scale of twelve which has some interesting merits. I can't help being thankful that we are not in the form of centipedes
The first axiom of science is that "there is a quantitative order in things-as-they are so that we live in an essentially consistent governed, controlled, organized universe (please select your own words for the G.A.O.T.U.) Let me put this in the words of Robert Ardrey. He regards order as the primary concern of the particular part of the Universal Cosmic Management, when he calls "the Keeper of the kinds."
You may sense his presence in the star-scattered sky as, silenced, you stand on a lonely hill You ray sense his presence in the kind of matter called helium, which has forever, and will forever behave according to the rules and regulations of helium. You may sense his word in the second law of thermodynamics, or the patterned behaviour of brook trout in a clear New Zealand pool. You may find his word in cities and symphonies, of Rembrandts and fir trees and cumulus clouds. You may read his command in the regularity of turning things, in stars and seasons, in tides and in striking clocks. When a child is born or a man lies dead - There see his footprints, there and there.
There have been a number of major incidents and discovery which have altered, enhanced and, hopefully, broadened our concept of the G.A.O.T.U, and, it is suprising how rapidly these have cone to us since the days of Galileo. It took 500 years for Copernicus conception that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than vice versa, to produce experimental proof that this was indeed a fact. Galileo did this and, as he was not of the stuff of which martyrs are made (I do not blame him in any way) accepted the recantation imposed on him by the Inquisition, where the Inquisition made its mistake was not insisting on independent verification of the thought-shaking observations. But, in honesty, how could they? How was it possible for the Son of God to appear anywhere else than at the most important place in the Universe? This all-importance-of-earth doctrine is by no means past today. It is held, and for diametrically opposite reasons, by certain fundamentalist Christians and by Jehovah's Witnesses on the one hand and by humanistic atheists on the other. I, of course, concede to both the former their unquestioned right to their considered opinions. I disagree strongly with the latter. Regardless, the earth will never be as important again and I hold that man is not diminished thereby, but that God is greatly enlarged.
The voyage of the Beagle also must be included in our list. To me, we are part of an evolving universe I have to hedge sore of my bets on a literal Darwinism, in addition to admitting that is not possible, nor will it ever be possible to deny that the Universe was created, in six days or in six periods of time ex nihilo, complete with a built in record of the past, itself created as part of the creation. I can merely suggest that such a view is highly improbable (but not impossible) in terms of what seems to be the available evidence. I do become unorthodox in the personal view that God can himself evolve. I see nothing necessarily wrong in such a purely personal view. Nor does it, to me, diminish God in the slightest. I would be the last one here to say that this view is right. I merely submit it because I think that way.
Homo sapiens in general and scientists in particular, love to classify things into distinct classes. Four such major separating classifications have dissolved in the past two centuries, Rutherford in his work at McGill and at Cambridge, destroyed our concept of a solid atom. The electronic structure of electrons and nucleus changed all our thinking. Matter is as empty as the universe. If you blow the atom up to the size of the Skydome, the electrons would be small cherries and the nucleus not visible to the human eye. The vital part of things is concentrated in the smallest parts. We ourselves, in our bodies, share the space relations of all-things-as-they-are we too are part of the universe and are unified thereby.
Until the mid 19th century organic and inorganic chemistry were completely different systems. It was believed that a "vital force" was required to make organic things, Uhler united these disciplines forever when he synthesized urea, certainly an organic chemical, from purely inorganic materials, a great step in the unification of knowledge.
In the year I was born, Einstein established that energy and substance were united and interchangeable. His E = m c2 is the vital equation of our lifetime. Its application gives us the greatest power for good and the greatest power for evil that we had ever had. It has given us both the peaceful uses of atomic energy and the atomic bonb. We have become demi-gods in the power we have acquired, We can assist or we can destroy all living things. We have also made a great confirmation of the universal unity of all things-as-they-are.
Perhaps the most surprising of all has been the relatively recent synthesis of a simple protein. It has been made in the laboratory as a white crystalline ccrpound. It is the tobacco mosaic virus and when a crystal is placed on a tobacco leaf it beccnes its living self and causes the tobacco mosaic disease, Homo sapiens has created life and the difference between living and non-living things shattered forever. Don't be misled by the simplicity of the protein, More difficult syntheses will follow. Again all things are united.
There are three other things for me to note. Each involves the higher forms of Arithmetic and there is neither tire or desire to deal with that here, even to the extent to which I understand the methods and expertise.
Einstein's second great contribution, the theory of relativity establishes that all our measurements are relative only to their location in space and time. It sets the absolute boundaries for our knowledge that is communicated to us. Now is an instant behind which point there is an expanding past, and from which there is an expanding future into which our instant now can, and will, move. The theory of relativity is based on the premise that the speed of light is absolutely and always constant and that it is the highest at which there can be communication between places and events. Sere things do rove faster than light, but that does not necessarily invalidate the theory. The limerick has an element of reality in that incidents which move faster than light would always reach us before we could possibly be aware that they were coming.
There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was mch faster than light.
She set out one day In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night."
The Quantum Theory is vital to our knowledge of the atom and inposes limits in that when we define the position of an electron we cannot measure its velocity, and when we define its velocity we cannot locate it precisely.
The most recent is the mathematics of chaos. To me this is the mathematics of life, of things-as-they-are. It is, to me, not really chaos. It is a mathematical recognition that the impossible, the miracle, can and does happen. An aviator has been thrown from his plane in free flight and has landed on the wing of another plane in free flight, and hung on and landed and lived. A young boy has gone over Niagara Falls with just a life jacket and has survived without injury and been picked up by the Maid of the Mist. Yes there are miracles. The old words come back "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
Sixth of the liberal arts and science is music, "the science of harmony and of all good sounds". I an happy to confess that I love music more than any other of the seven. In one sense we have been dealing with music already, as we have been dealing with some universal harmonies. Pythagorus has been credited with words which, in translation, beccne "The word is number manifested in form. God is the supreme music the nature of which is harmony." J.S.Bach's superb nusic has grown with the years and is adaptable (and widely adapted) to every new form of instrumentation and sound production. Bach would have loved it that his music has found its inherent immortality and grows with the flow of time.
I do not know any music that conveys sustained evil. Schoenberg attempted to do this in his never completed opera "Aron und Moses" in the golden calf scene, but, to me, personally, it just does not one off. Incidentally, Schoenberg deliberately mis-spelled "Aron"' so that there would be 12 letters in the title of his 12-tone work. Music can really enshrine the good and, I hope you will agree with me that this is beyond debate. The Good Friday Spell music in Parsifal is pregnant with good. The air by Beethoven which is called by us "Creation's Hymn", "The Heavens are telling the Lord's endless glory" sings, even without any words of majesty and right. One of the especially remembered experiences of my life was in St. Catharines, listening, with the joyous approval and in the presence of the Bishop in his Roman Catholic Cathedral with its fine acoustics, to a Lutheran Mass and at least four members of our Mennonite community helping to create again the glorious sound and sing the traditional words. It was, of course, Bach's Mass in B minor. That was human brotherhood at its finest and best.
Music has been a vital part of my life and that of all ny family. I was playing the piano with more enthusiasm than skill when I was five. My wife was a superb music teacher of the young. All our children played and, for a brief few months, we had a piano string quintet making home music. Our grandchildrens' enjoyment include playing the piano, the French Horn, the Irish harp (authentically made from a design of a minstrels's harp by one of my sons), the electric guitar and, of course, singing. So our tradition carries on as part of our family harmony.
In our seven liberal Arts and Sciences, we now look to the last, Astronomy, "the extension of Geometry to the contemplation and measurement of the heavenly bodies" Today, with the Bubble Telescope and greatly improved abilities to measure things, we are perhaps close to learning the origins of all things, whether there was one big bang and much later one big crunch, or whether there have been several of these in different galaxies. We already know that our earth will be swallowed and burned by our sun in the normal course of the ageing of stars. But the staggering thing is that we must recognize the God of Galaxies. Mark Van Doren tells the story
The God of galaxies has more to govern
Than the first men imagined, when one mountain
Trumpeted his anger, and one rainbow,
Red in the east , restored them to his love.
One earth it was, with big and lesser torches,
And stars by night for candles. And he spoke
To single persons, sitting in their tents.
Now streams of worlds, now powerful great whirlwinds
Of universes far enough away
To seem but fog-wisps in a bank of night
So measureless the mind can sicken, trying -
Now seas of darkness, shoreless, on and on
Encircled by themselves, yet washing farther
Than the last triple sun, revolving, shows.
The God of galaxies - how shall we praise him?
For so we must or wither. Yet what word
Of words? And where to send it, on which night
Of winter stars, of summer, or by autumn
In the first evening of the Pleiades ?
The God of galaxies, of burning gases,
May have forgotten Leo and the Bull.
But I would hold that we are not lost The situation, to me, is not in Emily Dickenson's sad words
As all the heavens were a bell
And being but an ear,
And I and silence, some strange race
Wrecked, solitary here."
Rather it is right that we should grow ourselves. Van Doren says so too, for his poem concludes
But God remembers, and is everywhere,
He even is the void, where nothing shines.
He is the absence of his own reflection
In the deep gulf: he is the dusky cinder
Of pure fire in its prime; he is the place
Prepared for hughest planets; black idea,
Brooding between fierce poles he keeps apart.
These altitudes and oceans, though, with islands
Drifting, blown immense, as by a wind,
And yet no wind, and not one blazing coast
Where thought could live and listen - oh what word
Of words? Let us consider it in terror,
And say it without voice. Praise universes
numberless. Praise all of them. Praise Him!
Whither are we going? Each of us who would observe, who would discover, who would clarify, who would build, who would create, each of us becomes, by conscious choice, a music maker and a dreamer of dreams. I emphasized this in my Chancellor's lectures at Brock university twenty-five years ago and , again, when I received the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, at Queen's University at one of their convocations in 1980. I suggest that this can be no less an objective to the brethren of this, university Lodge, my Mother Lodge. It is, I dare to claim, a very special function which can become ours, if we so choose. I recognize that our close association with University staff is far less than when I joined. That makes it more difficult, but it is still feasible. So I challenge you to be able to say sincerely
We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the rovers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
We (yes, we, through the genes which we inherited, through the many million molecules in our body which existed in the bodies of all the greatest and all the worst of our race in past millennia, and many of more recent times.)
He, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
and Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them by prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth
For each age is a dream that is dying
Or one that is coming to birth.
We, you and I, have to be vitally concerned with the age that is coming to birth
Whither are we going? Christopher Fry was right when he said "events are now soul size" We are not merely in a time of change. We are in a time of great change. Change is inevitable as we evolve. But our new powers in atomic energy, in medicine, in genetics, in our unbelievably expanding scientific knowledge, give us powers for enormous progress and, equally, for the destruction of the human race. Homo sapiens, we, have become demi-gods who control our own fate and the fate of most living things on this earth.
Change, in itself, has never worried me. I have spent most of my life in research and development. I have been trying, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to change many things. Gut I have never tried to change things purely for the sake of change. There was, always, sons real objective. But I an deeply concerned with the quality of future change, of the criteria for freedom in the years ahead. Events ARE now soul size. Many forces will not just be satisfied with essential control of excesses. They will be too often successful in restricting the freedom vie need. This has been the experience of our fraternity throughout our years and there is no reason whatever to believe this will change.
Where does our beloved Freemasonry fit in ? I believe it has a real and very important role. First, and foremost, is because we are a Universal Brotherhood and, secondly, because we advocate, and try to practice, brotherly love. Our candidates enter our Lodge as human individuals. They leave if, and only if, we have done and continue our job, as brothers of their fellow Freemasons and, hopefully of all people of goodwill. We practice relief, and I especially commend to you our Grand Lodge Benevolent Fund and our University Lodge Scholarship Fund. We search, each in his own way, for truth as this is revealed to us or thought out by us as individuals, and with the united support of our brethren.
Our Lodges in the future in Canada will be far fewer in number, probably with fewer meetings, but each carefully planned and involving our families in our activities more and more. We will not hide our charitable work as we have done too much in the past. I pray, I believe, and we all trust, that our Craft can continue into the future as a great messenger of all that is good, of all that we hold most dear.
Our American Brethren know that we celebrate Thanksgiving much earlier than they do. Harvests mature earlier in more northern climes. We celebrated our Thanksgiving Day last Monday. Permit me to close with very special words, words from our childhood with which we are all familiar.
Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath wrought
In which this world rejoices.
Who from our parents' arms
Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of Love
And still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
Through all our lives be near us
With ever joyful hearts
And blessed peace to cheer us.
The One Eternal God,
Whom heaven and earth adore
For thus it was, is now
and shall be evermore.