Religion and Spirituality
In your heart
And in your heart shall Masonry always be.
Brother Harmon Weston recently posted this on the Blue Lite Forum.
In The Farmers Almanac for 1823 published at Andover, Mass., the following was printed under the heading, Definition of a Freemason:
The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflect they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessings he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge. because he is honest upon principal.
The sentiments expressed go a long way in explaining what makes Masonry so special. Masonry has much to offer, its camaraderie, its helping others in need expecting nothing in return, its pursuit of the truth and knowledge in a moral-ethical setting. But these are only the manifestations of what underscores the entire underpinnings of the Craft. And that is the transformative power of Masonry to influence the heart. Once you pass through that door of your own free will and accord you are born again into a new way of life, a life whereby your thoughts and actions are always on the square. Your mind is no longer in control of you. Your heart, your spirit, your essence is the source from which all instructions will govern the overall systems of your body. Once you give yourself over to the transformative power that Masonry has to offer, you live a life that plays itself out in paths and choices guided by the spirit within you that has been reprogrammed.
No other organization, society or group can offer that if you chose to accept it. That means that you cannot be a superficial Mason but must study and assimilate those teachings that have been passed down from one generation to the next from time immemorial. Once you have allowed Masonry to influence your spirit you will be a new, reborn person. Instead of rules to alter your behavior Masonry offers a state of being whereby rules, codes and creeds are not needed. As a Mason you instinctively know how to govern yourself and you govern yourself accordingly.
The only other transformative group that can match Masonry is your House of Worship. Sometimes, however, the message is so fraught with regulations and so wrought with promises to come that the earthy message gets lost in the shuffle. But not with Masonry. In reality it is the hand of the GAOTU that spreads Light. It is His interpretation not ours which shapes things to come. The GAOTU works through Masonry also which is why a belief in Deity is essential to the practice of the Craft. Furthermore, you don’t change hearts and spiritual essences without a belief in such.
In 2005 I wrote and delivered a rather lengthy paper titled “World Peace Through Brotherhood.” In it I proposed that if we made a majority of the population Masons, then there would be no more war. Peace and harmony would prevail around the globe. As a student of history I have already read about what Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, to name a few, have done with their chance to insure world peace. But I have not yet seen what Masonry can do. It is my firm belief that if we are truly all one, than if we all really become one that which divides us will have disappeared.
Is that not how our Masonic Lodges operate? All political, religious, cultural, racial and philosophical differences are left outside the door to the Lodge room. Every Masonic Lodge is an oasis of peace. All of us meet on the level and part on the square. So let us entice the rest of mankind to do the same.
Masonic Leaks reports a major battle with possible purges within The Philalethes Society. It appears that The Philalethes Society is self destructing in a rush to put itself in allegiance with only the Conference of Grand Masters chartering a similar course as The Masonic Society. This leaves only Phoenixmasonry as a major contender in the big three as a truly independent Masonic voice.
On Monday January 31st at 1:00pm, only ten days before Bro. Jack Buta was expected to be elected the Society’s President (he was the only person on the ballot and the organization allows for no floor nominations), the President, Terry L. Tilton, issued the following letter as a referendum to remove Bro. Buta from office.
To: The voting members of the Executive Board
In the past day, our First Vice-president Jack Buta has aired private correspondence between Board members without permission, called for a division of the Society based up untrue or unfactual statements, and openly challendge the intergrity of the your President and our Soceity officers. Under any circumstances this constitutes insubordination and derilection of duty.
Ed Halpaus has moved to ask for the immediate resignation of Jack Buta as First Vice-president and I have seconded this motion. I am asking all Board voting members to respond with a “yes” or “no” vote to this motion. If and when we have three votes in the affirmative I will correspond with you privately to determine our next action.
I am deeply saddened and chagrined to have to accept this motion two weeks prior to the Annual Meeting. It was my most fervent hope to have an orderly and peaceful transition. Jack has obviously chosen to not allow that to happen.
Terry L. Tilton, FPS, President 2009-2011
The Philalethes Society”
He was removed from office by a 3 to 2 vote of the Executive Board of the Philalethes Society. Those voting for Dismissal were Terry Tilton, Ed Halpaus, and John Cooper III. Certainly if the charges alleged by Tilton were factual then the motion had merit, but were they?
See Masonic Leaks for the rest of a rather long story with many attachments.
The Beehive has received a tip from an anonymous source in the know that the Conference of Grand Masters through unknown financial sources is privately picking up the Philalethes’ Society financial shortfall and this is the reason for all the ballyhoo about keeping the books secret.
The conference of Grand Masters has become increasing alarmed of Masonic Leaks and the up and coming Foundation Of Universal Freemasonry. Derek Gordon ( Masonic Wiki [now archived]) and Stephen Quest have become thorns in the side of Mainstream Masonry and are being taken seriously enough for their organizations to be mentioned in COGM’s annual report. Perhaps Mainstream Masonry feels a bit stronger now that it most likely has finished what the 2007 Philalethes coup failed to accomplish thanks to Nelson King.
Does Mainstream Freemasonry have a psychological problem? Has it grown like the Catholic Church to be too big, too unwieldy, too bureaucratic and top heavy with hierarchy? Is there an explanation for the continuous jockeying for power and never ending horror stories emanating from the Craft? Perhaps we should put Mainstream Freemasonry on the couch for a moment.
If we take a look at what is of paramount importance to those active in the Craft will we come away with a disappointing conclusion? It seems to this author that what is foremost in the mind of the average Freemason today is title and rank and advancing into the hierarchy into a position of power and therefore prominence. Should not the emphasis be on instruction, learning and then living Freemasonry? In a previous article the Beehive laid out a formula of what Freemasons should be in pursuit of. It looks like this:
But in order to achieve the benefits of Freemasonry that we know is a way of life and a society that can further our personal development, we need to place our time and effort into learning and studying the Craft and then applying it into our daily lives. If this, then, is the highest calling of Freemasonry what in the world are we doing with a bloated bureaucracy that is more concerned with money and power? Have we grown so large that our leaders are only proficient in administration, not in teaching and disseminating the philosophy of Freemasonry?
In essence what we are asking here is what is more important, the philosophy or the structure? Once again we are right back to the example of the Catholic Church and how it dealt with the pedophile priest problem. In the beginning the Church covered up and hushed up the problem. It said that the problem was to be kept in house. And it further iterated that no matter what the Church had done, no matter what evil was within its ranks, that the first and foremost duty was to protect the Institution to ensure it lived another day. Protecting the institution meant keeping the civil authorities out of church business, telling the abused to just shut up, grin and bear it and to keep the mess out of the media, to avoid all publicity so that the general public would not realize what was going on. That might have worked had the Church actually policed itself and solved the problem itself. Instead it just transferred the abusers from one post to another, attempted to rehabilitate rather than punish and remove the offenders and in many cases just turned a blind eye to the whole situation.
But like a pressure cooker where the heat is never reduced, sooner or later the lid blows off and then it becomes a nationwide scandal. In the end that hurt the Church the most as the full blown scandal cost the Church the respect of the public never mind millions of dollars. Church property had to be sold to pay for huge court verdicts. All because the Church put the institution ahead of human beings.
And in the end the Church had to change its ways. It realized that it must cooperate with civil authorities, that it must institute programs within the Church to screen for abusers, that generally it must seriously alter its approach to the problem.
The Beehive has received much criticism from past stories exposing the wrong doings of Mainstream Freemasonry. Why do you keep writing about Freemasonry’s problems, exposing its faults? Are you trying to destroy Freemasonry, they wail? Masonic problems should be kept in house and dealt with internally. Letting the public know our shortcomings is traitorous.
Sound familiar? It is the same approach that the Catholic Church took initially with its pedophile problem. Bury it, hush it up, keep it in house and let Freemasonry solve its own problems without involving the courts and civil authorities. And once again it might work if Freemasonry was really serious about policing itself and getting rid of those who are ruining the good name of the Craft. But alas, like the church, it refuses to act. We cannot even criticize other jurisdictions never mind mess in their affairs to correct their wrong doings. You see the rules count more than people. And the institution of Freemasonry must, above all mans, be protected. The abused Masons? You see they need to just grin and bear it for the good of the Craft.
I have a good Canadian friend very active in the Craft. He has risen to eminence in Blue Lodge, York Rite and elsewhere. I run a lot of thoughts and concerns by him for his view. It is helpful to solicit the opinion of one who is on the outside looking in. Early on he seemed to be on the side of Grand Lodges and handling problems internally. But upon further investigation and the proliferation of one horror story after another he changed his view. It seems as if Freemasonry in the States is becoming dysfunctional, he says. Maybe the answer is to do away with the Grand Lodge system altogether, he advises. And that is a very radical solution coming from a very Conservative Mason. But when you think about it, where are most of the horror stories coming from – individual Craft Lodges or Grand Lodges? And couldn’t a Masonic Lodge function very well without being a member of a Grand Lodge? Perhaps, then, we could return the emphasis on the practice of Freemasonry to its philosophy not its politics.
And as to the question of whether publicly exposing Freemasonry’s faults will lead to the decline of Freemasonry, the answer is quite evident. If Freemasonry will solve its own problems internally there is no need for an expose. But since it refuses to do so then the scenario will follow the path of the Catholic Church. The failure to police itself will lead to problems becoming worse and worse and more frequent. One day the lid will blow off and the civil courts will mandate reforms Freemasonry will not do on its own. And then the person to blame is not he who speaks the truth but he who covers it up and turns a blind eye. Freemasonry has only itself to blame for the mess it is in.
If you subscribe to the religious doctrine of the fall of man (OK-humankind), which is told across many different religious traditions, then that which was lost was a oneness with God, a perfect relationship with the Grand Architect of the Universe. The next question, logically, is then how do we restore that which has been lost? We will leave that question unanswered for awhile, but come back to it in the end.
From “Freemasonry And The Doctrine Of Reincarnation” on Masonic World we find this:
The great drama of the Greek Mysteries enunciates, as well as veils, two cardinal verities: the Fall, and Redemption from that Fall. Thus from the sad and woeful state into which Persophone falls she is finally rescued and restored to the supernal abodes; but not until the coming of the Savior, represented in the Hermetic parable under the name of Osiris (“the risen from the tomb”)- the Man Regenerate. This Redeemer, himself of divine origin; is in other allegories represented under other names, but the idea is always defined, and the intention obvious. Indeed, Osiris is the Jesus of our Christian doctrine, the supreme Initiate or “Captain of Salvation”; He is the reflection and counterpart in Man of the supreme Lord of the Universe (Greek – Dionysos, Hebrew – Adonai), the ideal type of humanity. He is represented as in all things “instructed” and directed by Hermes; famed as the celestial conductor of souls from the “dark abodes”; the wise and ubiquitous God in whom the student recognizes the Genius of the Understanding, or Divine Reason, the “nous” of Platonic doctrine – and the mystic “Spirit of Christ”.
One of the aspects of Freemasonry that needs not to be forgotten when we look at this question is its mystical nature and identification with the ancient mysteries, the Egyptian, Greek and Roman mystery schools, with the Kabbalah, alchemy, Gnostic thought et al.
They (students of the mystery schools) were further given instruction concerning the different levels and graduations of the Universe, some of them material and some ethereal, the planes and sub -planes, upon which the great scheme is being carried out; which levels and planes, all progressively linked together, constitute one vast ladder of many rounds, staves, or rungs, a veritable “Ladder of Life”. Candidates thus came to understand that the Universe consists of embodied consciousness, and that these embodied consciousness exist in a practically infinite gradation of varying degrees of perfection – a real “Ladder of Life” or “Stair of Life”, stretching endlessly in either direction, for our imagination can conceive no limits except a hierarchical one; and such hierarchical limitation is but spacial, and not actual, qualitative and formal. They were shown that the “Ladder of Life” is marked at certain intervals by landing places, so to speak, which the Mysteries called “planes of being” (different spheres of consciousness, to express the idea in alternative terms). Candidates in the old systems were given instruction in these matters before being admitted to. Initiation, and the knowledge gained served to explain to them their own nature and constitution, and their place in the World-system. Today, Freemasonry, perpetuating the ancient teaching, exhibits to the Brethren a simple ladder, a symbol which when properly interpreted is calculated to open widely the eyes of their imagination. It is true that the ladder portrayed on the T.B. of the First Degree is given a moral significance in the Instruction lecture, but, as students of Hebrew mysticism are well aware, “Jacob’s Ladder” is also a symbol of the Universe with its succession of step-like planes reaching from the heights to the depths. Indeed, we learn from the V. of the S.L., that the Fathers House has many mansions, many levels and resting places for His creatures in their different conditions and degrees of progress; and it is these levels, these planes and sub-planes, that are denoted by the rungs and staves of the symbolic ladder.(Masonic world).
There is a whole component here that is often overlooked. And the reason it is snubbed is that today’s poorly instructed, social Mason sees no application to his daily life that is plausible.
So that which is lost will not only remain lost but will be doubly deeply buried.
The last three articles on The Beehive about Lodge renewal has triggered some soul searching. Not one of these articles even remotely alluded to the importance of the mystical nature of Freemasonry.
Next we must ask the question of how do we make good men better? Most Masons will tell you that it is simply a matter of adhering to the virtues and morality of Freemasonry. But how do the virtues and ethics of Freemasonry differ from most religions one might choose to practice? What, then, is so special and superior about Freemasonry? How can a society that purports all kinds of lofty development of character reveal that its secret is to follow a morality readily available in any house of worship? What is so Gnostic about that? And where does Freemasonry’s mysticism fit in? Is it just some sort of occult offshoot of troubled and hallucinogenic minds?
Too many Masons today regard the mystical traditions of their Fraternity as heretical and a corruption of the Craft. But if you read somebody like Wilmshurst in The Meaning Of Masonry, you can see how he sees symbolism on top of symbolism on top of symbolism and meaning behind meaning behind meaning.
The problem with today’s Freemason is that he refuses to look beyond his nose, wants everything cut and dried and handed to him on a silver platter, and refuses to apply any contemplation and meditation as to how Freemasonry might help him get back what has been lost.
Another religious concept we need to throw into the mix here is that of reincarnation. In its general application, not associated with any particular religious tradition, we have in this concept reliving life experience over and over again with the purpose of attaining a higher and higher plane, nearer and nearer to the Creator. If reincarnation is heretical to your belief system, if we only live one life, then we can squeeze that higher plane attainment into a shorter span, one lifetime. Perhaps we can say that a man who works at it at 70 years old is on a higher plane than he was at 60, and at 60 higher than when he was 50, and at 50 higher than when he was 40 and so forth.
The general hypothesis of pre-existence (under which the special doctrine of reincarnation falls) does not, it is true, solve the fundamental problems but it pushes back some of the initial difficulties. It furnishes an ampler ground for the development of the individual than the cribbed, cabined, and confined area of one short earth-life, and by providing a stage or series of stages for the acts and scenes of the age-long drama of the man-soul prior to the present existence, permits us to entertain the notion of a law of moral causation conditioning our present relation to circumstances in a way that does not clash with our innate sense of justice. (Masonic World)
If Freemasonry is really unique, if it really has something to offer no one else has, then let’s find out what that is and elevate ourselves from being just another mundane society. Let’s dig deeper, think harder, meditate stronger and search longer.
Ásk and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened unto you.”
A deep thinker in Freemasonry recently told me that what a Mason should endeavor to gather from his fraternity is WISDOM. But that’s not the complete answer. And the reason that more do not come up with the full complete answer is because there is such a prohibition, such a fear of turning Freemasonry into a religion that the mystical experience has to be denied. Thus, today, Masons can only think in terms of individual, earthly improvement. WISDOM is as high as we can go.
So what is the real secret of Freemasonry buried under symbolism on top of symbolism on top of symbolism? The answer is the solution to the question, how do we get back that which was lost, oneness with God.
The answer we are now ready to give is SOUL DEVELOPMENT. By incorporating Freemasonry’s mysterious, mystical ingredient into our awareness and conduct we rise to a higher and higher plane, closer and closer to the “I am that I am.” Whether we do it over many lives or just one is immaterial.
Again from Masonic World:
To enable us to grasp clearly the Ancient Wisdom teaching, it is essential to bear in mind the distinction which is made between the individuality and the personality, between life and form, spirit and body. The Secret Doctrine presupposes that man is a spiritual Being or Ego, with the triple powers of WILL, WISDOM and CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE, and that he enters into relationship with matter in order to shape for himself a succession of bodies which constitute his successive personalities, and by means of which he gains the experiences that are essential for mental, moral and spiritual growth, until gradually his real nature shines out in all its Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Accordingly, the personality is deemed to include the soul (as this is understood in our modern terminology) as well as the body, or, stated alternatively; the personality embraces expression as well as the form. The soul, then, being the reflection of the three-fold nature of the Spirit necessarily has also three attributes (modes of express ion), and these are the familiar thoughts, feelings and actions of the human personal consciousness.
So what should a Lodge be doing and what are the Masonic steps to greater spiritual attainment? It looks like this:
Now go forth and govern yourself accordingly.
Brother Junius adds his 2 cents to How Freemasonry is Missing the Boat.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!!
This essay makes a good point. The “trick.” if I may so term it, is to lead the nation in a broad and benevolent sense without, in fact, drifting into distinct political and social philosophies – socialism, capitalism, big government, small government, more taxes, less taxes and so on and so forth. This is not an easy thing to do, although it may be easy to say or suggest.
Secondly, I think something else was or is involved, and it is rather difficult to put into words. From about the late ‘sixties until, perhaps, the first five years of this century, we have dealt with a generation of men who were not, by-and-large, “joiners,” in the sense of entering clubs, church congregations, service groups and, of course, Freemasonry. It seemed as if that kind of interest had largely evaporated into thin air, so to speak.
Even as late as 1990 there was talk of large-scale “coccooning,” in our society, where people wrapped themselves in the private world of their increasingly spacious and luxurious homes, communicating externally by the Internet and importing entertainment, news and even conversations with others using all the new communications technology even then evolving. People ” went to meetings,” without ever leaving the house; they “travelled” all over the world and within the nation by high definition, 50″ flat screen televisions; they “went shopping and to the bank,” on the Internet and at places such as E-Bay; they “went to the movies,” with Netflix and movie channels – and so on and so forth. Many even “went to work” all or most of the time in the home-based study, or operated businesses out of the basement or the garage!
There is evidence of this in the decline of all kinds of groups other than Masons, such as the Loyal Order of Moose, the Oddfellows, Lions, Optimists and so on.
At the same time, the minority who were joiners were attracted to organizations, which, by their own nature, were not compatible with or were even hostile to Freemasonry.
I also approve of the mention of multiple causation: it was not only the economic and social equality of women, but partly; not only the rise of all kinds of exciting, absorbing and available alternate forms of free-time entertainment, but partly; not only increased physical mobility over distance, and more frequent migration from one area or town or city to another, but partly; not only a combination of religious fundamentalism and active evangelism on the one hand and the decline of so-called mainstream, older denominations on the other, but partly; not only fewer and fewer male children per married couple, but partly.
I do agree that trying to market Freemasonry as if it was some sort of commercial product, such as soap, a vacume cleaner, or even a car, was and is a mistake.
In a similar vein, the centralized organization of large and very public Masonic charities may well have done a great deal of good socially, and while not necessarily invalid in itself, had little or no effect on long-term, steady increase in membership.
There is some indication that the world may be about to turn yet again. Here, in Ontario, our Grand Lodge appears at least to have stopped the bleeding – last year, and the year before, we had a modest net increase ( 2% or so) in total membership for the first time in decades. Partly, this might be attributed to an active Friend to Friend program the lodges have been encouraged to use at the lodge level, involving personal friends of Masons, and often their wives or fiancees, dining together and having a presentation in the Lodge rooms about Freemasonry – a bit of its history, some of its ideals, and information about costs, time and so on.
However, having said that, I think something else is going on. One way to put it would be the old idea that success feeds on success, and one happy, inspired new member is likely to produce more, given a little time. Doing good ritual is an example. We have found that lodges consistently doing good ritual are lodges that the younger brethren are proud of, and are something they do not hesitate to talk about with their non-Masonic friends or colleagues at work. Younger members also appreciate the following:
- Social events involving the ladies, however modestly run: BBQ, wine and cheese reception, restaurant dinner, dinner-dance evening, and so on.
- Immediate opportunities to lead in the life of the lodge – Education, running the web site, acting as social leader, auditor, long range planning chairman, and so on
- Getting started into the Chairs asap.
One other point: it is becoming increasingly evident to me at least that there are a lot of younger adult men out there who are looking for some group or organization that has a philosophic or even a spiritual dimension, but without a formal, restrictive theological system. If this be so, and I believe it is, then Freemasonry is poised to provide what is desired. In essence, “we have an appfor that.”
A friend stopped by to visit with me the other day. He is a non Mason and a man of deep faith. Eventually the topic got around to Freemasonry and he asked me why I needed another church as he knew I was quite active in mine. Now I have been aware for quite some time that there is always this tendency to classify Freemasonry as a religion and then critique or judge it on those grounds. Of course I protested vehemently that Freemasonry was not a religion and didn’t pretend to be one.
“Just the same,” he said, “even if I grant your point that Freemasonry is not a religion, what can it do for you that your church cannot do or is not already doing?” Now I muddled through with various platitudes spiced with an equal amount of protestations but I felt that I was continually on the defensive.
In the days since I have had time for reflection on the subject and I am now ready to take the offense. What is Freemasonry doing for me?
I started by looking at the tenets of Freemasonry – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Practicing Freemasonry is a pursuit of knowledge in a moral context, always seeking that which was lost, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Organized religion is likewise in a similar pursuit of truth – revealed truth that will put the seeker in a right relationship with the Grand Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry incorporates religious activity in its practice and most Masons would tell you that religion incorporates Freemasonry in its practice. While Freemasonry concentrates on the here and know, organized religion concentrates more on what’s to come. Yet they both offer a pathway to the good life. So it wasn’t here that I could find my answer.
Freemasonry preaches charity to all mankind without expecting anything in return. So does organized religion. The missions of my church in relieving pain and suffering and abject poverty are well documented. My answer was not to be found here either.
Freemasonry celebrates the tight bonding that comes from practiced camaraderie and my church offers a similar fellowship in the faith. It seems as if I had struck out. But upon further reflection the camaraderie/fellowship thing just didn’t seem to be interchangeable.
In my entire life outside of Freemasonry and excluding my family, I have met one person, one friend who I am so close to that I would die for and he would willingly give up his life for me. Actually to classify that kind of a relationship as friendship is not doing justice to the bond that has been formed. Soul-mates might be a better word but it is most often used in a committed male-female relationship. But in this relationship that you would die for, you are close to being one person. You know what each other is thinking, you know what the other wants often before it is asked and you never hesitate to rise to the other’s needs. It’s a oneness that brings with it much joy and much sharing of life’s ups and downs.
Within Freemasonry I have six additional friends I would die for and a couple of dozen more, if the association could be more often, would develop into such. But nowhere else has any other organization, society, group, institution or association spawned a kind of closeness that seems to be a vital part of what that organization offers, as Freemasonry has.
Fellowship in church is a shared activity centering on a relationship with God. Personal connections within that faith observance can be strong bonds – but of appreciation of mutual commitment rather than two humans merging or melting into one. There is a difference in being close to someone in the flesh and being close to someone in faith. They are two different experiences. Only the relationship with God transcends either.
But the stronger human to human relationship is that which is found in Freemasonry. As my mother used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.” You will find in the great Masonic book, House Undivided, by Allen Roberts that during the Civil War, the most difficult time in the history of our nation, this ugly conflict sometimes split families into two warring camps; that it split churches into two warring camps but it didn’t divide Freemasonry. A Confederate Freemason and a Union Freemason still held that strong bond of camaraderie and love for each other even on the battlefield.
Therefore I conclude that Freemasonry offers to me the most deep rooted relationships, outside that bonding with God and family, which I can obtain nowhere else. And that is something not only to die for but to live life at its fullest for.
A recent communication with an old friend got me thinking. My dear old friend told me that he was out of Freemasonry and into the Community doing the things that need to be done and that Masons only sit around and talk about. Now what follows will in no way be a chastisement for my friend’s decision. Who am I to criticize another’s choices in this journey we call life. I embrace every path chosen by every friend and Brother for only he knows what’s best for him and only he can make the vision that God has sent before him a reality.
Yet at the same time I have to wonder whether the expectations of Freemasonry are distorted and misplaced by many, many Brethren. I had an opportunity in 2005 to visit and speak in Alberta, Canada. There in one of the two papers I delivered I offered my Canadian Brethren the thought that we are not human doings, we are human beings. And it is OK just to BE. In fact it is most important to have your heart and soul in the right place before you go about doing. This thought might be likened to the ongoing Christian argument – are we saved by Grace or good works. My personal belief is that we should have both but in their proper order. Good works don’t get us grace but grace gets us good works. It was Jesus who said that it is what is in your heart which is of most importance. The public display of piousness exhibited by the Pharisees and Sadducees did not make them holy according to Jesus. Better to go home, enter the closet, close the door and give thanks and praise to your heavenly Father. So if you wished harm to come to another, fomented violence against another in your heart, well you might as well have beat him over the head with a baseball bat because your thoughts were equally guilty as your actions.
Now realizing that not everyone subscribes to these views and not wishing to impose my personal beliefs on others let’s see how this correlates with Freemasonry. The Craft is not an action committee gauging its worth on how much it can do for society – nor should it feel guilty in what it does or doesn’t do for the community. It is not the actions of Freemasonry as a community that mean as much as the change in the heart of each and every Brother who studies and subscribes to is virtues. Once imbued with the philosophy of Masonry each individual Brother then goes into society with a changed heart and gives back to the community, coming from the new person that his fraternity has made him. And this is much better than Freemasonry acting as a whole because it comes from the heart and it is that which is given without ulterior motives, expecting nothing in return nor has it the presence of Pharisee and Sadducee like puffed up ostentatious grand standing. But you can see here there is a logical order of accomplishment, first things first.
Thus the first priority of Freemasonry is to instruct, teach and educate its members in a philosophical thought that many have claimed has been handed down through the ages. Some say that from the ancient Egyptian mysteries, to the Essenes, to the schools of Pythagoras and other Greek mystery orders to Mithraism and other Roman mysteries, the special orders of Christendom, the Knights Templar and beyond, there has been a certain frame of thought, some call higher knowledge, that has lived on down through the ages, regardless of the political or civil structure of society, which espouses a God given right to liberty and freedom, to brotherhood and peace, to knowledge and virtue. And Freemasonry is the latest expression of these long held mystery beliefs, some say, which might explain why you will find an inordinate number of Gnostics within the Craft.
The ancient mystery schools were not chastised for their lack of involvement within the community or gauged by the amount of charity that they doled out. Rather what was of utmost importance was the development of each individual member and the knowledge once imparted that could change his life.
So let us think of modern Freemasonry in these terms. First and foremost, then, we are a philosophy, a body of knowledge to be communicated to every Brother that signs on. And yes we sit around and talk about it. It is OK to just be a human being. And by so doing in meetings we reinforce the values to which we subscribe. We have a need to internalize the external newness that is being taught us. I go to church every week to worship God and give him thanks and praise. I do not need to go to church to hear the same thing over and over again. I could do my worshiping at home or in a special holy place only I frequent in holy solitude. But by participating in a group I become further motivated and inspired. It is the special attributes that Scott Peck describes as “community.” It is one of the reasons group therapy is so effective.
So, secondly, let us think of Freemasonry as a gathering place for some special bonding. In the process we are going through in our education as Freemasons we find a commonality not only in purpose but in just being. In my address in Alberta, Canada I also quoted from that rebellious spiritual thinker Neale Donald Walsch who repeatedly made the observation that we are all ONE! We are not divided or separated but we are all just one. The same point has been made by Scott Peck in his discussion of “community.” Others might say that we are all children of God. But it is precisely the Masonic act of leaving your sectarian beliefs and rigid viewpoints at the door of the Lodge room and entering as all one, as Brothers united, that creates a special bond that cannot be duplicated alone by oneself. In so doing Masons have discovered the special feeling present in Brotherhood.
Then let us declare that we are first and foremost both a philosophy and a Brotherhood. We change hearts, we bond and only then can we realize the fruits of our labor and benefit others.
My friend could remain a Freemason realizing that all he is now Doing is a result of his Being and that Being came from being a Freemason. But he has his path and I have mine. And yours?