What is meant by ‘Travel In Foreign Countries?’
Our ancient operative Brethren desired to become Masters so, when they traveled in foreign countries, they could still practice their craft.
Speculative Freemasons still desire to “travel in foreign countries” and study their Craft that they may receive such instruction as will enable them to do so, and when so travelling, to receive a Master’s Wages.
But the “foreign countries” do not mean to us the various geographical and political divisions of the Old World, nor do we use the Word we learn as a means of identification to enable us to build material temples and receive coin of the realm for our labor. “Foreign countries” is to us a symbol.
Like all the rest of the symbols, it has more than one interpretation, but unlike many, none of these is very difficult to trace or understand.
Freemasonry itself is the first “foreign country” in which the initiate will travel; a world as different from the familiar workaday world as France is different from England, or Belgium from Greece. … Surely such a land is a “foreign country” to the stranger within its borders; and the visitor must study it, learn its language and its customs, if he is to enjoy it and profit thereby.
Freemasonry has many “foreign countries” within it, and he is the wise and happy Freemason who works patiently at the pleasant task of visiting and studying them. There are the Masonic “foreign countries” of philosophy, of jurisprudence, of history. No Freemason is really worthy of the name who does not understand something of how his new domain is governed, of what it stands for, and why. And, too, there is the “foreign” country of Symbolism, of which so much has already been said.
As a Master Mason, a man has the right to travel in all the “foreign countries” of Freemasonry. If he will but learn the work and keep himself in good standing, he may visit where he will. But it is not within the doors of other Lodges than his own that he will find the guide posts of those truly Masonic “foreign countries” to which he has been given the passport by his Brethren. He will find the gateways to those lands in the library, in the study club, in books and magazines, and, most and best of all, in the quiet hour alone, when what he has read and learned comes back to him to be pondered over and thought through.
The “foreign country” of Masonic symbolism has engaged the thoughtful and serious consideration of hundreds of able Masonic students, as has that of the history of our Order. Not to visit them both; aye, not to make oneself a citizen of them both, is to refuse the privileges one has sought and labored to obtain.
One asks for a petition, requests one’s friend to take it to his Lodge, knocks on the door, takes obligations, works to learn, and finally receives the Master’s Degree. One receives it, works for it…why? That one may travel in far lands and receive the reward there awaiting.
Then why hesitate? Why wait? Why put off? Why allow others to pass on and gain, while one stands, the gate open, the new land beckoning, and all the Masonic world to see?
That is the symbolism of the “foreign countries” … that is the meaning of the phrase which once meant, to Operative Masons, exactly what it says. To the Freemason today who reads it aright it is a clarion call to action, to study, to an earnest pressing forward on the new highway.
And at the end of the journey, when the last “foreign country” of Freemasonry has been traveled and learned and loved, you shall come to a new gate, above which there is a new name written … and when you have read it you will know the True Word of a Master Mason.
-Excerpts from “Foreign Countries” by Carl H. Claudy
Words to live by: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Leslie P. Hartley