Why are the Two Saints John Important to Speculative Masons?
Even though there has never been a “Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem”, symbolically every Mason comes from this Lodge. It symbolizes the ideals of both the Saints John whichwe all should be striving to reach. When we use this phrase as a starting point in our Masonic career it means that each of us are dedicated to the principles which both of thesemen stand for. One is learned, that would be Saint John the Evangelist, and the other iszealous, Saint John the Baptist. Each of these men had virtues that enhanced the other and both of these men were Godly.
As it is told to all of us, by the Master of the Lodge, in the Historic Lecture of Entered Apprentice, when the Lodges changed from Operative to Speculative Masons we dedicated our Lodges to the memory of the Holy Saints John, Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
During the Entered Apprentice Degree the Master also spoke about a Point within a Circle, the Point being the individual Mason and the Circle representing the boundary line of his conduct to God and man. This Circle is bordered by two perpendicular parallel lines which represent the two Saints John, along with the Holy Scriptures at the top of the Circle, which make it very difficult to err materially if we keep within the borders. If we seek to understand the point within the circle we find that it reminds us of that one time in our lives, that important “Life-Event”, the moment we all were made Masons. If we had a birds-eye view of the Lodge while a Degree was in progress we would see how the Brother taking the Obligation is the Center Point within the Circle, the Holy Bible at the top and all the Lodge Brothers standing on each side of the Alter would remind us all of the Circumpunct adorned with the Parallel lines, the Brothers on either side are the two parallel lines representing the Holy Saints John, John the Baptist on the left and John the Evangelist on the right, with the Holy Bible above it, as in the drawing.
But, we are all ordinary men, preoccupied with obligations to Family, social and civic paths within our normal lives. To show us, as our destiny, a path of self-perfection and by asking us to follow the obligations, those who dare to see what Masonry holds for all of us. Because Masonry means PERFECTION and the serious pursuit of understanding in men, in truth, you cannot pursue these ways outside of the Craft, at least not with the same determination. You definitely will not have the same outcome outside of the Craft. For Masonry proclaims to all of us that there exists a higher, more shrouded path in Life than that which we normally walk upon. The profane world with its blind pursuits and empty rewards losses its attractiveness because it is void of our deeper needs. This is why most of us knocked upon the door of the world within. When the door opened and we began our Masonic Journey we received a taste of the Light, we had our beginnings charted and our progress was regulated by the qualifications and conditions of the forefathers of Masonry. This is the true intention of Masonry, to bring us to that higher path of Life when the secrets and mysteries of our true being are to be learned for Life!
Though this doesn’t tell us why the founding fathers of Masonry had chosen the two Saints John to dedicate all Lodges to. This requires us to dig a little deeper into why they are so important to us as Masons. So, here are some ideas that I came up with.
Saint John the Baptist brought people to a new way of thinking about how they are connected to each other and the GAOTU. Saint John the Baptist is a dedicant of Masonry because of his use of purification and consecration in Baptism in a river. He did this to introduce the symbol of moral purity which he so zealously inculcated. He was a plain humble man that held his obligation to the GAOTU constantly and above all else in this world. He preached repentance, virtue and humiliation which is why, I believe, he was chosen by Freemasons to be their first Patron Saint.
After a long period of time, somewhere in the 17th century, Saint John the Evangelist was also chosen to be a Patron Saint of Freemasonry. He was referred to as a “Saint of the Craft”. In his writings he was constantly advising the cultivation of “Brotherly Love”. He showed people that the GAOTU could incarnate in this world, he also helped those who could not help themselves. Both of these attributes are ideals of every Mason and how we should deal with the mundane world. In his Gospels he portrayed the GAOTU as “the Light of the world”. The main theme in all of his Gospels was Light. Even in his old age he was a man of great energy and poetic fire as well as Life. He was an example of Love and his doctrines, within the Holy Book, most assuredly they contain most if not all the fundamental doctrines of Freemasonry. Just as all Freemasons have placed their hand on the Gospel of Saint John, a Mason should never cease to love his Brethren agreeable to the doctrine of love contained in that sacred book.
Now, I’m not saying that we have dedicated ourselves to the Saints John as part of a religious order, but we are dedicated to them as eminent Masons, not as Saints but as devout and good men, not as teachers of a religious sect, but as bright exemplars of all the virtues by which we Masons are taught to respect and practice in the world. They were not Masons, but, the two Saints John exemplify all the principles of Freemasonry by their words and deeds. Both of these unpretentious men never engaged in the pomp and glory of the profane world.
Because of these reasons Masonry regards the character and internal qualifications of a man and not his appearance, which is a reason why we have made the Saints John the patron saints of our great fraternity. The Saints John have the internal qualifications that would make them true Master Masons. We honor them above all others because they were the living examples of the “Golden Rule”, which is the practice of virtue, love for your fellow man and love of the GAOTU.
Brother Norman Vincent Peale said, “To me Freemasonry is one form of dedication to God and service to humanity.” I believe this might be the very reason why the Saints John were chosen as our Patron Saints.
There is a saying by the Sufi Hazrat Inayat Kahn, “There are many forms of friendship. But the friendship formed in the search for truth, in the love of God, is greater than any other in the world.” Well Brothers that is the form of friendship that all Masons have for their Brothers. If they do not, then are they really Masons? Our hearts and mind should always be open to creative realization. [There must be a type of intelligence carried within the air around us that can transcend our personal thoughts and mind to help and guide us on our way to and through our actions.]
In closing let me just quote Brother Joseph Fort Newton, “History does not tell us why the Saints John were selected as the Patron Saints of Freemasonry. Whatever the facts may be surely it is in accordance with the fitness of things that honor in these two names, John the Baptist, the stern prophet of Righteousness, and John the Evangelist, the teacher of Love. Righteousness and Love – those two words do not fall short of telling the whole duty of a man and Mason.”