Freemasonry: It’s not about me changing them,
it’s about me changing me.
Freemasonry is a fraternity, that means its about men, associating together with common goals who support each other. That last sentence reads more like a mission statement, devoid of content but with flags raised high, so in the next few paragraphs, I want to try to define what Freemasonry means, at least to me.
If you have children, especially teen age children, what you want for your children is that they have good friends. We want out children to have good friends because we hope they will be influenced positively by those friends, and stay out of trouble. As freemasons, a fundamental characteristic OF Freemasons is that they are men of good character, honorable men, with a strong sense of integrity and a desire to be more serviceable before g-d and out fellow men.
By that standard, we choose to associate with good men. This association creates a kind of mass psychology, a peer pressure that is both intrusive and subtle. By intrusive I mean it is clear to us, overwhelming us with a desire to do what is right. We talk about ethics and morality, it is constantly on our minds as we carry ourselves in society, and we contemplate how our tenets fit into modern life.
Freemasonry also works on us in subtle ways. Because of our obligation, because of the good men we associate with, there are just things that we would not consider doing, actions we will not undertake, words we will not speak, thoughts we will not allow. We deliberately circumscribe our desires and our passions on a conscious and subconscious level.
The ritual, in part, also works on us in overt and covert ways. Sure, the ritual is a teaching tool, overtly we HEAR the lessons of the craft, we hear the lectures, its high words and sentiments. They echo in our minds so that out of the lodge we practice those great moral lessons inculcated IN it. We also learn great the great lessons of Freemasonry by participating in them.
Not just as officers, but as sideliners, we are caught up in the ritual, whether it is good, or bad, emotive or flatly delivered, when we are present in the ritual, which is carried out, or is supposed to be carried out that same way on each occasion. We work together, and in working together, toward a common goal, “… no contention, but that noble contention, of who best can work and best agree…” overtakes us.
The officers and the sideliners which for the best for each officer working the ritual, and each of us, in our minds and hearts, speaks the words and wishes good on our brethren. There is a word for good wishes, its prayer. We pray for the best, we wish for the best, and in our hearts, we become better men for thinking of and wishing for the best in each man.
This practice alone makes us better men! Then there is the candidate, for whom we are all working together, officers and sideliners as brothers all, focusing our attention on the candidate with the best intentions. We are all, symbolically, there at the altar with him, we all open our arms and welcome him into the lodge, we are all really THERE for the candidate, and in being there for him, we reaffirm our own obligations to the lodge, to each brother, and to the candidate.
A cogent argument can be made that even the brothers who do nothing but pay their dues and act as Masons in society are supporting the candidate. Not with their presence, which would be more than welcome, but with their money, which while a poor substitute, does make the ritual and the lodge possible.
The lodge has esoterics, and it has its fundamentalists (and of course, it has ring and pin brothers). The esotericists are seeking after the deeper meaning in ritual, philosophy, history, who enjoy the fraternal association and the mutual support. The fundamentalists see ritual as what it is, and argue there is nothing deeper, and enjoy the fellowship of the lodge for what it is, fraternal support.
One of the beauties of Freemasonry is that these two groups, at odds over the meaning of the craft, can still come together, and work together, for similar goals. After all, Freemasonry is a system of morality, a fraternity, a spiritual temple where a man can forge a closer link with the spiritual side of his nature.
The foundation of Freemasonry made this possible. As we look at the time when the speculative Masonry was growing, we can see that philosophical thought was dominated by the church, and science was seen as the work of the devil, and often contradictory to what the church was teaching. But science was taking hold and growing in the marketplace of ideas, while at the same time, the church was seeing its hold on the secular world slowly eroding.
The early speculative Freemasons were the thinkers, men of science who were stepping away from the rule of the church and into a secular world where they were free to think, to choose, to act and to speak. They were intelliegent, educated men of towering intellect for their time and they knew that science without morality would not serve society. They were not opposed to religion, historical facts show these early Masons to be religious men, and the craft itself shows the influence of religious thought and practice.
They KNEW that as they sought the freedom to think for themselves that danger could arise from that freedom if it were not balanced with morality, because ALL freedoms need to be balanced with responsibility. In Freemasonry therefore, men were taught morality, it was inculcated in the candidates and enforced in the lodges and in the minds of its members as a safeguard, that these men, in their newfound freedoms would never loose sight of the responsibility they had to g-d and to society, to their fellows. Hence the reference to the compasses, that their passions and interests should never stray outside the boundaries of right.
Freemasonry succeeded so well that today, the tenets of the craft are taken for granted like the air we breathe, and there is a whole COUNTRY founded upon those most excellent tenets. Of course here I refer to the United States, which was founded in large part, upon the tenets of the craft, whether because many of the founders were Freemasons, or because the tenets of the craft were taking hold in society as a whole. As evidence, look to The constitution's first “amendments” which enshrine these MASONIC rights: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, to petition the government for redress of grievances, to own guns to defend ourselves and to be secure in our property and our persons.
The effects of Freemasonry are all pervasive, affecting all levels of society, for the better. Today, society, at least in the west, IS Freemasonic in nature. Today, however, those freedoms are taken for granted, and the moral foundation upon which the stand is being eroded. at least until it started to eschew the moral values that Freemasonry insists upon. Today, Freemasonry is a bastion of Morality, a beacon of light toward the spiritual side of man, offering balance again. Men are seeking Freemasonry again, because they want meaning in their lives, they want to belong to something that is at once moral and intellectual, offering them what society, devolving into discussions based on 15 second sound bites and bumper sticker philosophy and "open morality" where oral sex is defined as not being sexual no longer offers them.
Once more, Freemasonry is a Beacon, but now it is a beacon of light to the spirit.
There are more eloquent definitions of Freemasonry, to be sure, but these are my words, how I feel about my Freemasonry. For me, Freemasonry is not just a fraternity, not just a club or a hobby, it is a way of life. It is a personal philosophy, it is how I live my life, how I conduct myself, how I balance my family, business, public life, and spiritual life.
I love my Freemasonry and my brothers, withersoever dispersed around the globe, whether we agree or not.
I am a Freemason.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular Masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!