I tend to be quite a bit of a bookworm, it was while reading "The Secret Psychology of Freemasonry" by Cliff Porter where I got the idea for this blog post and I don't want to miss giving credit where it is due, so thank you Cliff for inadvertently planting this idea in my head.
In chapter two of this book, the author touches on the subject of the first societal unit known to man, which was created by Cain after he slain his brother Abel. I decided to investigate this topic a little more than was discussed in the book because I appreciated the relationship it had with the teachings and allegory in Masonic lessons and I sensed their was something more to this example than was discussed in the book.
I hope this will open the readers eyes a bit as to why a Masonic education can be beneficial and I ask that just like we are supposed to do with the degree work and the charges, don't just merely read what I am writing, think about it and let it resonate with you because there are a lot of Masonic ties to it that most of us may have never noticed before, including myself until I looked at it from a Masonic perspective.
First let me throw out a few questions that I would like you to think about while reading this, 1) Am I my Brothers keeper? 2) What do Ashlars have to do with anything? 3) What do we learn from the first society?
The first societal unit known to man stems from the story of Cain and Abel which is found in just about every version of the volume of sacred law. Cain and Abel were brothers, sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was the elder of the two as well as the first human born on planet Earth, Abel was born a few years after Cain. The brothers, one day offered a sacrifice to G-d in which Abel's offering was more favored than that of Cain's. This subsequently made Cain very angry and jealous yet G-d gave Cain the opportunity to reflect on his actions and emotions and to change his attitude, but he didn't. He let anger and jealousy control him and in a fit of rage he murdered his younger brother with a stone. The account continues when G-d was unable to locate Abel or his body and he gives Cain yet another chance to admit his wrongdoing and take responsibility for his actions, by asking him if he knew anything of the situation. Cain, still refusing to let go of his passions denies knowing anything about the situation and says to G-d, am I my brothers keeper? This is a phrase that should be quite familiar with Freemasons and it is also the answer to the first question I asked above comes into play. As Freemasons, are we our Brothers keeper? Absolutely we are, we are to aid in our Brothers reformation and whisper good council to his ear when we fear he is straying off course, we are also to be joyful and glad of our Brothers good accomplishments and give him praise when he has done good. If this had been done, if Cain would have been glad of Abel's accomplishment of his offering, and if Abel would have whispered good council to Cain when he noticed his anger and jealousy overtaking him this story would have had a much different ending, but it didn't so we continue on.
As a punishment for murdering his brother, Cain was cast out of Eden into the world to become a wanderer. It was while he was a wanderer when Cain married his sister Awan, (when you are the first humans on earth the pickings for a mate are pretty slim!) soon after the couple had a son and named him Enoch. Soon after that Cain build a city and named it after his son. The city of Enoch was said to be built in the land of Nod, which was east of the Garden of Eden where Cain had been cast out of. Building this city as well as naming it after his son seems to suggest that Cain had come to realize the importance of family and community. (Did anyone else notice that Cain traveled East and it was in the East that Cain gained this knowledge, sounds familiar doesn't it?) We as humans are indebted to Cain for building the first material society, but has Cain learned his lesson? Not yet, and this is where the Ashlar comes into play as well as the importance of chipping away at our rough edges to become the smooth, square building block needed in our societies, metaphorically speaking each one of us is the stone or ashlar.
The final lesson we learn from Cain is one he paid dearly for because it resulted in his death. Although Cain had learned the importance of family and community he still had yet to learn to control his passions. When he built the city of Enoch, he was very passionate but he built the city out of rough stone as a result of that passion and it was his passion that killed him. The city of Enoch, poorly built by an overly passionate man out of rough stone collapsed on top of Cain and it was by the stone that he died, just like his little brother Abel.
Be your Brothers Keeper, don't let your passions take control and keep chipping away at your rough edges in order to become a better building block for your family, community and Lodge.