Freemasonry is ultimately about a thirst for knowledge. There are different types of knowledge, and Masonic knowledge may be explained three-fold as the “Triple E” of Education, Ethics, and Empathy. We must urge ourselves to work for years to come in furthering and promoting these principles.
The mind is like a diamond in the raw. It is rude and unpolished, but using a chisel, we bring out its beauty with great dedication through Education. As the Masonic scholar Albert Mackey phrases it in his Symbolism of Freemasonry:
"The rough and unpolished stone is a symbol of man's natural state -- ignorant, uncultivated, and, as the Roman historian [Sallust] expresses it, ‘groveling to the earth, like the beasts of the field, and obedient to every sordid appetite;’ but when education has exerted its salutary influences in expanding his intellect, in restraining his hitherto unruly passions, and purifying his life, he is then represented by the perfect ashlar, or finished stone, which, under the skilful hands of the workman, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its appropriate place in the building." (Italics for emphasis mine.)
One way in which Education has a benevolent influence is by bringing Light -- intellectual and moral -- to educate those who have not had a chance to learn Empathy. We must ever “walk the extra mile” and do our duty as Masons in order to encourage Empathy in our sphere and world. Empathy is charity -- not in the sense of mere money, but rather in the exercise of brotherly love. Sometimes it is just a smile towards a person who is depressed or ill. The practice of Empathy is enshrined everywhere in our Ritual. The Masonic philosopher Albert Pike, writing in Morals and Dogma, notes that a nexus between empathy and compassion extends back to time immemorial: “Sensibility, above all, and compassion for the misfortunes of others,” Pike writes, “were precious virtues, which initiation strove to encourage.” What better source is there from both Ritual and Masonic experience is there than the Initiation, in which we are reminded to look out for the welfare of a distressed worthy Brother?
Empathy, of course, is closely intertwined with ethics. Indeed, we walk as upright by following a code of ethics. While many see ethics as restrictions on conduct, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza reminds us ethics is "a way leading to freedom." Spinoza writes this in his Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata, a title which translates appropriately for us as Masons interested in Geometry as “Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometrical Order.”
Like Empathy, we receive our ethical education and its concomitant “way of leading to freedom” via Ritual. This underscores the importance of memorizing ritual! Memorizing Ritual makes it and the ethical lessons it teaches a part of us, rather like prayer itself.