Man has always been a builder, and nowhere has he shown himself more significantly than in the buildings he has created. When we stand before them—whether it be a mud hut, the house of a cliff-dweller stuck like the nest of a swallow on the side on a canyon, a Pyramid, a Parthenon, or a Pantheon—we seem to read into his soul. The builder may have gone, perhaps ages before, but here he has left something of himself, his hopes, his fears, his idea, his dreams. Even in the remote recesses of the Andes, amidst the riot of nature, and where man is now a mere savage, we come upon the remains of vast, vanished civilizations, where art and science and religion reached unknown heights. Wherever humanity has lived and wrought, we find the crumbling remains of towers, temples and tombs, monument of its industry and its aspiration. Also, whatever else man may have been—cruel, tyrannous, vindictive—his buildings always have a reference to religion. They bespeak a vivid sense of the Unseen and his awareness to it. Of a truth, the story of the Tower of Babel is more than a myth. Man has ever been trying to build to heaven, embodying his prayer and his dream in brick and stone.
Here, then, are the real foundations of Masonry, both material and moral: in the deep need and aspiration of man and his creative impulse; in his instinctive faith, his quest of the Ideal, and his love of the Light. Underneath all his building lay the feeling, prophetic of his last and highest thought, that the earthly house of his life should be in right relation with its heavenly prototype, the world-temple—imitating on earth the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. And as he wrought his faith and dream into reality, it was but natural that the tools of the builder should become emblems of the thought of the thinker. Not only his tools, but, the very stones with which he worked became sacred symbols—the temple itself a vision of the House of Doctrine, that Home of the Soul, which, though unseen, he is building in the midst of the years.
Joseph Fort Newton