I wasn’t entirely sure what I should call this post. A response to “The Beehive in Freemasonry” was the best I could do, and I’m not really certain it’s even that. Bro. Greg Stewart, over at Freemason Information, recently released a short video — The Beehive in Freemasonry | Symbols and Symbolism. In that video, he touches on a few of the historical aspects of the symbol. Being one of my favorite symbols, I figured that since it had been brought up for discussion, I might share a few of my thoughts on it as well. Maybe my contribution will help carry the discussion a little further. And if it can’t do that, maybe it’ll help build some bridges between me and others whom I haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet.
Bro. Stewart quotes a passage in Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and makes a connection to the Old Charges.
“Hence looking at the regulated labor of these insects when congregated in their hive, it is not surprising that a beehive should have been deemed an appropriate emblem of systematized industry. Freemasonry has therefore adopted the beehive as a symbol of industry, a virtue taught in the instructions, which says that a Master Mason” works that he may receive wages, the better to support himself and family, and contribute to the relief of a worthy, distressed brother, his widows and orphans. In the Old Charges, which tell us that “…all Masons shall work honestly on working days, that they may live creditably on holidays.”
This is certainly one of the lessons that most Master Masons discern from the Beehive. Understanding how we fit within our communities — and that we should be contributing members to society — is important. Beyond this, however, the Beehive touches upon industry in a broader sense. The problem is that as you read through the explanation of the symbol, it’s very easy to glide past this notion without giving it much consideration. So, what am I talking about?
An excerpt from the Monitor:
[The Beehive] Is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile of the dust.
In the context of the above, “industry” is stated to be a virtue.
Merriam-Webster gives a few different definitions for “industry”. The third, and my favorite, is:
The habit of working hard and steadily
In other words, to be industrious is to be diligent. It is my view that the first portion of the Beehive’s explanation charges us to be diligent as a matter of virtue in all things. Not just in your career. Apply diligence toward all things.
There’s an old proverb that I really like a lot, and I even heard it brought up on a recent Masonic Roundtable podcast:
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
This is exactly the sentiment that I find within the Beehive and industriousness being used as a virtue.
Diligence is the foundation of all progress within the world. It’s the backbone to all improvement. While we never directly impart this lesson in the first three Degrees, the lesson is implied repeatedly. It’s in the Beehive. We find it in the Entered Apprentice’s Working Tools. The Charcoal and Clay. The Northeast Corner Lecture. Almost the entirety of the Second Degree is built upon a backdrop of implied diligence. And depending on which lessons you see in the Third Degree, I find it to be one of the defining lessons there, too.
Everything I’ve said may have already been apparent to many Master Masons, but it was all foreign to me when I first realized what I was reading in the symbol’s description. Of all the symbols within Freemasonry, this one was probably the first to “click” with me. It was the first real stepping stone I had into making inroads into the Craft. It helped gently drive me toward consistently contributing Masonic Education within my Lodge. It has been the force behind making this blog. And really, it hasn’t been the Beehive itself — it has been the concept of applying diligence as a virtue.