‘While the vaccine discovery was progressive, the joy I felt at the prospect before me of being the instrument destined to take away from the world one of its greatest calamities [smallpox], blended with the fond hope of enjoying independence and domestic peace and happiness, was often so excessive that, in pursuing my favourite subject among the meadows, I have sometimes found myself in a kind of reverie.’ – Edward Jenner.
Last week I had a conversation with a brother about the uncertain times we live in; political uncertainty, war, the shrinking of the middle-class, how hard it is for people to get by these days, all manner of things came up. Then another conversation with another brother touched on a similar line of thought; that we live in dark days, and what would our Masonic brethren from the past who had changed the world in their time make of today’s world? Are there any Masonic heroes today? Are there heroes today such as Edward Jenner, Alexander Fleming, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Winston Churchill?
They were men who did great things, moralistic men, and as Freemasons, they seemed to keep down all vain and unbecoming thoughts and just get on with the job. When Alexander Fleming published his discovery of penicillin in 1929, little attention was paid to his article, but his discovery has since saved countless lives. They searched for the light, sometimes fighting against the odds, be it fighting for what was right, fighting against tyranny or be it researching to gain that knowledge that would forever change mankind for the good.
Freemasonry does indeed teach us to make a daily advancement in our Masonic knowledge, to keep searching for the light, and in learning our ritual, we aim for perfection. So did Freemasonry assist in helping these men achieve their goals? I believe it did help; they all doggedly fought on and achieved their objective – it was hard, but they changed the world for the better and they still inspire the world today. For me, that is how we can learn from Freemasonry; we must continue to search for the light, to strive to bring it into in the darkness, and to be influenced by the great men who were Freemasons before us.