If you’re old to Masonic Education you know that, for the most part, “average formal Grand Lodge backed” Masonic Education programs exist today as:
- Memorizing Degree Catechism
- Learning Ritual and floor work
- Reviewing the Digest of Law and taking exams based on it
- Reading Pamphlets
- Perusing Degree Handbooks
- Following Officer Manuals
If you’re more fortunate than most, you may even have some Brothers show up at lodge once in a while to provide some interesting tidbits on Masonic history. These are all important and form a stable foundation to continue the necessary support that Freemasonry requires to survive. What is missing though is the kind of education that many Masons are starving for and which Properly Raises them toward the level that Freemasonry was intended to have.
This is a bold statement and one that requires some explanation so let me ask the obvious question, “What are they starving for?” They starve for the truly important aspect of Masonic Education most missing today: how Masonry applies to their lives overall. Without a firm understanding of how Masonry manifests in our lives, what it means and how it helps us Build better lives, the true Masonic lessons are lost, leaving Masons unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
The sad part of this situation is that it is caused by self-sabotage. We Masons are held back because we have falsely labeled ourselves for years. What’s needed to move forward is an earnest effort to dismiss this notion that we are merely “Speculative Masons.” This is blatantly misleading.
Let me place something firmly before you to consider: All Masons who use Masonry to help themselves Build better lives are “Operative Masons;” Masons today do work in and on Stone; it’s not recognized as Stone though, and that is part of the problem. Most of us Masons don’t understand the symbols before us!
Every Working Tool mentioned in Masonic Ritual has Authentic Application in the real world. What is missing though is a foundational understanding as to the application of these tools in our lives today. We don’t see this because the very symbols that are shared within Ritual do not speak to us today as they did in years past. In this respect, Masons being Raised today are symbolically illiterate. They do not have a sufficient Symbolic Education to be Raised properly; which leads me back to the statement I wrote earlier, most Masons are not Properly Raised.
Let me run a few frank statements past you to consider further.
Freemasonry is Building Builders. Sound Building is based on the ability to properly Understand and Work with Symbols. The basis of Symbolic Education is stated within Masonic Ritual. The final Steps Masons must take to prepare themselves for being Properly Raised are alluded to in the FC lecture. The first three of the final Steps are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Words; the last four are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Numbers. These Seven Steps are important because without a firm understanding of Symbols, Freemasons metaphorically die of hunger in a grocery store jam-packed with food for lack of an ability to access that which is immediately before them.
These last seven Steps are Symbolic in Masonry and were once considered the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. They were initially used as preparation for serious study in Philosophy and Theology. Without their foundation, the training in Symbols, one could not properly deal with Symbols, also known in some circles as “the Word” or “the Logos.” Masons may go through the motions of being Raised, but until they are capable of raising their level of understanding above the actual words and numbers, they are Symbolically Illiterate, hence they’re unable to read what is before them.
In this respect, Masonry has failed as an organization. As truly successful as Masonry is in preserving our “food locker of symbols,” our Brothers starve and loose interest because they lack access keys to this locker. The saddening aspect of this is that few Brothers understand this; fewer still are willing to work toward changing this.
In general, we Masons as a whole look at increasing numbers, retention of members and ability to “repeat back without firm understanding” as key indicators of our success. They will never be indicators of success – ever!
The challenges we are faced with are based in educating our members in Symbolic Understanding and Use; our problems are based in our Educators not focusing on this; the troubles that are focused on today are a symptom of our not meeting the challenge before us; they are not the cause but we’ll have to live with them until we change our focus.
People support what they can “make sense of” and “use” in their lives. What’s more, when others see how well things are working for Masons, we will attract others in kind. Ironically, if we stick with the basics and educate our members in Symbolic understanding and application, we’ll attract far more members then we could ever imagine.
Let’s make a unified effort to give our Brothers the keys to the Masonic locker. All that is required is taking seven simple Steps.
You can hear an interview with Br. Nagy on Masonic Central!
Dr. and Br. John Nagy is the author of the new book:
Building Hiram Uncommon Catechism for
Uncommon Masonic Education Vol. 1.
Under the Grand Lodge of Washington State no one has to memorize anything. Catechisms have been replaced with an “open book” test. It is what it is.