Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Spirit of the Craft

Uh oh Brothers...I'm in trouble. One of my fellow Ruffians made a point that I was on my soapbox when I posted the blog 'All Those Empty Seats.' He said I might as well be looking for a hymn to sing...and I should be passing around the tray for donations.

I think it should be said that I love Freemasonry. I am a dedicated...dyed in the wool...Craft Brother. And that is why I like to poke it and prod it and goad it and smack ideas around it. It is an all too simple thing to just complacently address the Craft...to keep up with the status quo as it were. But, in my opinion, that kind of 'going with the flow' attitude would be the very ruin of my passion for the Order. I want to stir things up because I think that Freemasonry is a great enough institution to deserve a vital future.

Freemasonry teaches many things. It teaches its Brothers, and mankind in general, to be true to one another. It instructs us to recognize the equality and worthiness of all approaches to the Divine, all races, all nationalities. Masonry extolls charity and freedom...patriotism and duty. We are taught as Brothers to be kind, patient, tolerant and generous.

Brothers...I just can't find a better way to be than that.

If you want to know the history of the Order then read some books! There is no shortage of books on the Craft. Start with 'Born in Blood.' Read 'Morals and Dogma' or a litany of other worthy works. Get to know the myths, the traditions and the ideology of Freemasonry.

When I joined the Order I made a specific point to join every aspect of the Craft as immediately as I could. I joined the Scottish Rite...the Royal Arch, the Cryptic and the Knights Templar. I followed that with the Shrine. I have so many dues cards that my wallet is bursting!

So why did I do that? Am I just a glutton for punishment? Seriously...that is one heavy load of initiations. I have been initiated so many times that when I sleep with an eyemask at night I sometimes find myself walking in circles around my bed!

The reason I joined all of those Craft bodies is simply because I wanted to know what Masonry was really about. I wanted to check out everything I could. I had heard all of the good and all of the bad as well. And since I'm not the kind of guy to pass judgment without truly knowing something...I wanted to know it as well as anyone could.

If I had found that Freemasonry fit the mold of the anti-masonic claptrap on the web or that it stood for something in opposition to the Light it speaks of then I would have walked away. But I found a Fraternal body that instead represented the best hopes of men...and the highest ideals of mankind.

Thus...I remain a Freemason. And I am very proud indeed of my association with so many fine Brothers as I have found while I too have been 'traveling to the east.'

I hail from the generation of the Arcade. I played Pac-Man and Donkey Kong on an upright. I remember my first Atari. And I remember how jealous I was of my friends Intellivision. He had 'Tron' and 'Boxing' after all. I played football in a Texas field and chased girls in a corvette. I listened to Boston, Led Zeppelin and thought David Lee Roth was a chick magnet role model.

Freemasonry was something I heard about here and there. Then I read some books that spoke of all things Masonic, Qabbalistic and Hermetic. I shelved them. There was stuff to do and girls to chase!

Over the years...I put some real life under my belt. I built businesses. I lost businesses. I married the girl of my dreams and then I watched her fade away. I grew up I guess. I looked around the world and saw a lot of chaos, antagonism and ignorance. I hoped there was an answer. I longed for something that would make sense of all of the meaninglessness I experienced.

Now I'm not going to say that Freemasonry is the answer to the Universe. As a Mason...I agree that those answers are up to you. But I will say that Freemasonry struck a chord with me. It isnt that it offers the answer to the trials and experiences of life. It isnt that it offers the only road to enlightenment or personal salvation. Again, that is up to each of us to find.

What Freemasonry offered me was validation. I always thought that personal freedom of thought and religion was important. And Masonry agreed with me. I always believed that men were equal in the sight of God no matter what color they were or what nation they hailed from. And, again, Freemasonry agreed. I thought God was God. There are lots of names for God...lots of descriptions. But at the end of the day...God...was God. It or He or She is One Being, or One Nature or One Order or Something...maybe All Things that we humans approach in the best ways that we know how. And we call those ways religions. And Masonry said we shouldnt hate each other or judge each other for our different approaches.

That sounded like love. Too much of what I had heard outside of that sounded like bigotry. Masonry didnt tell me what to believe. That isnt the point of it. It allowed for me to come as I was.

Therefore, in consideration of everything that I have found about the Craft, it is easy for me to defend those kinds of ideals and tenets. Those Masonic truths may seem simple...but they are priceless to the human spirit.

Masonry isnt a religion or even a simple philosophy. Freemasonry is a kind of Code. It is a Rule of virtue and honor...of duty and humanity. It beckons us each to that Greater Light whilst it implores us to make a home for that Light within and so shine it forth for the benefit of all.

And now.........to my soapbox Brothers.

Real Freemasonry is much, much more than just Ritual or Charity or Dinner with the new candidates.

Dont get me wrong...the Ritual tradition is a must...and a tried and true framework binding us to our roots. Charity is the most glorious of Angels and the finest crystalline virtue that we may keep in our hearts. And dinner before or after any Masonic get together is no small thing to a man with my appetite. Bon Appetite!

Even so, the real value of Freemasonry lies in its simple moral virtues and ideals. Indeed, they are so very simple that we often take them for granted. And yet, countless men have lost their very lives defending these basic truths and freedoms. We are almost bored with these virtues. A good many Brothers pour over book after book searching for the 'lost word' of a Master Mason while they roll their eyes singing the National Anthem or yawn when we say Masonry is a 'Beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.'

Did you get that? Nevermind the lost word. Masonry is a 'system of morality.' Oh...and what's missing today? People treat each other like enemies...like things. A system of morality full of tolerance and love and meted out with faith, hope and charity might be just the shot we need for what ails us.

It was certainly an oasis for this wandering Noble. I'd rather believe in honor and stand for something virtuous than uncover any idol of power or temporal gain. For we will all fade in time. But our footprints may remain...if even for a while...to lead our children and our brothers home.

I'm going to lodge tomorrow. It's time for another stated meeting. We'll have some coffee and pork. I'll rib our Tyler, Dean, about his fig newton Tyler cookies. I'll greet my Brothers. I'll sign the book, wear my apron, salute my flag, and sit through the same ritual as I have heard it time after time before.

As long as my Brothers believe in good...believe in the Virtues and Morals of the Fraternity, I will sit in support of it and them. I'm not there for the very letter of the Charge.

I am there for the Spirit of the Craft.

4 comments:

2 BOWL CAIN said...

It is tough to be a ruffian and gently prod the craft along!

One thing I feel is missing from the lodge, the meetings, ritual and pork meals are exercises in building and strengthening "brotherhood".

Yes, its principles are simple, but the appendage bodies, and men clamouring for "titles" and wanting to be introduced as such, creates an "unlevel" environment and the lowly blue lodge mason does not want to hear about so and so at the valley of the cottish rite stiffing so and so for a nomination, or what the Commandery guys are up to, etc.....

the blue lodge needs to be be all and end all of masonry. All the other organizations need to be offered in the blue lodge as education for master masons, not title bearing nor dues paying. Eductaion for master masons. Then the chairs would be filled, and interesting lodge meetings would be had.

Lets get back to promulgating Equality, and levelling the Lodge rooms again. Make Blue masonry have value within the masonic community.

Keep up the good work brothers!

Justa Mason said...

FS mentioned:
I'm going to lodge tomorrow. It's time for another stated meeting. We'll have some coffee and pork. I'll rib our Tyler, Dean, about his fig newton Tyler cookies. I'll greet my Brothers. I'll sign the book, wear my apron, salute my flag, and sit through the same ritual as I have heard it time after time before.

This is fine for fellowship, but will there be something for the mind as well, such as a debate or a speaker with a Masonic topic?

Justa Mason

Freestyle said...

Nope Justa.

A speaker or a debate is something I would like to see though.

Two Bowl has some good points. More emphasis needs to go on activities and works within the Blue Lodge.

According to 'Born in Blood' we are closest to being real Knights of the Order upon becoming Master Masons. The Master Mason degree is, in fact, the highest degree in Masonry as you well know.

The values of Masonry are certainly simple enough. The operation of the Order is what's getting complicated.

Justa Mason said...

Hi Freest..

So long as people push a concept of a "Masonic family" and give every concordant body equal billing and have joint conferences with them, part of what Two Bowl's saying simply isn't going to happen. And it's too late to change it now.

I joined 25 years ago and in my jurisdiction, you were out of order if you mentioned a concordant body at a meeting. It wasn't considered Masonry. But now you have all kinds of people from the top down promoting the idea that "we have to work together."

As for education, we have had a number of guys within the Lodge make presentations at meetings. Unfortunately, in some cases, they merely regurgitate someone else's work, but it's better than nothing. A FC volunteered to write and present an original paper in Lodge. I'm sure it's the first time that's happened in the jurisdiction.


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