Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Meaning of Masonry


What does it mean to be a Mason? This seems to be a real question these days...between Masons themselves. Outsiders always ask that question. And, no doubt, many of them endeavor tirelessly to answer that question on their own - outside the lodge. They argue and conjecture as to the inner workings and hidden mysteries of the Great Fraternity. But even within the Fraternity the question continues to come up. And answering this is not always easy to do.

These days, an Entered Apprentice can advance to the degree of Master Mason simply by watching the Fellowcraft and Master Mason rituals performed over a Saturday during the local Chance to Advance meeting at the lodge. People are too impatient. This generation of XYZ wants things N.O.W. I argue that something is truly missing here. For, above all things, Masonry is about the Journey and so a title or degree must not be an end in itself. It is well and good for a man to be a Master Mason; but does that man appreciate this noble distinction of character? And has he taken the time to reflect on his own journey through the degrees and what they allude to in his life and in the lives of his Brothers? I wonder if we of the Craft are not failing ourselves and our Masonic mission as we pander to the times we live in out of fear of extinction.

Depending on where you live in the world or even what part of the country you live in, you will find a kind of Masonic Relativism as well. Again and again, I hear Brothers castigating 'Morals and Dogma' by Albert Pike for its 'outdated language' or for being too 'far out' for their personal liking. This seems odd to me as 'Morals and Dogma' is a classic of Masonic literature invaluable to the development of the Scottish Rite and formidable in its laborous exploration of philosophical thinking and comparative religion. Still, Masonry is changing with the times and clearly being adapted to those times and to the mores of the region in which the Craft resides.

I assert that one of the best attributes of Freemasonry is that it allows men the freedom to think and believe freely. The Blue Lodge Mason may approach the Divine Essence as a Christian, Jew, Moslem or from any other faith. Correctly, Masonry discourages political and religious talk in the lodge but this is merely the extension of an ideal. In this regard, Masonry is asserting that on the 'plane' of the lodge all men are equals before God and that there is no political or religious division to seperate them.

Still, many Masons are indeed very different from one another outside the lodge. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. In fact, this is a strength of the Order; that it binds together so many differences and accepts them. However, these many differences should not oust the soul of Masonry in favor of their own.

Masonry does have a soul. It does have a dogma. Freemasonry substitues tolerance for tyranny. It advocates love, charity and truth before God and between all mankind. Masonry advances an Ideal and rests its ancient foundations on timeless virtues. Thus, whatever time may pass, whatever nations may rise and fall, Masonry extolls the virtues of a man's life and bids that he embrace them.

All too many men seek the Mysteries of Freemasonry for social gain or personal power. Others seek to expose them as something dangerous that they are not. And others demand that these Mysteries be changed or altered into the image of their own personal beliefs.

These men have lost the True Masters Word. These men have forgotten that freedoms are hard won and virtues define a man's life. What greater power is there than to live a steadfast life of principle through which one's thoughts and actions lie in accordance with a man's individual truth as he aspires to become a reflection of that Divine Light? In Masonry a man certainly must reflect the Light he receives and this is Masonry's highest meaning to be sure.

Freemasonry 'makes good men better men.' And so it does. If men reflect upon the hidden mysteries then they are looking into their own hearts and minds. And just how many of us are really still only Entered Apprentices in this way? Are we Master Masons? Do we understand the Mystery of the Lost Word as it is revealed in time? We, as Masons, simply cannot understand it if we have sold out our personal journey of introspection for dues cards, car emblems and titles.

So, at last, what does it mean to be a Mason? We can all take so much from it and we will all take something different as we have that free right. But Masonry is something in particular. Freemasonry is an ideal; love, relief, truth, tolerance, charity. Indeed, this is the secret to climb the stairway to heaven that the alchemists and philosophers challenged. For the nearer we approach the semblance of the Light, the nearer to the Light we come.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I have been saying these things and I AM only entered apprentice.

and I know and feel exactly what your saying


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