What came you here to do? It is a reasonable question. If you have made it thus far, and your lodge is doing its job, then the Fraternity should have the expectation that you have an idea of your purpose, certain desires and expectations are necessary. If you have a goal, then how can you achieve it at all, if you have not a plan? If you have no goal, then what is the purpose?
It has become common place in the Fraternity, for the sake of false harmony, to claim that the Fraternity is all things to all men and that any and all symbols mean only what the particular viewer intends for them to mean. Worse, foolish statements such as, “You can’t truly define the Craft” have become the norm in a sea of idle minds that would rather leave the Craft with no definition than have the courage to define it for themselves, or more courageous still, discover what the actual definition is.
False tolerance has become the mantra of the liberally minded and fear of failure causes even the most brave to keep their definitions to themselves, all to the detriment of the Craft.
Freemasonry is extraordinary. It changes lives, it builds buildings, it establishes governments when we want to be honest about it. It is the best of teachings and one of the most just and beautiful philosophies that has ever existed, and we, as its guardians and tylers of enlightenment, refuse to define it for the purpose of false harmony.
In fear of offending those who have never and will never appreciate the philosophies of Masonry, we have removed our mystical tradition to the point that we know it not. So, even the most loving men in lodge, with good intentions, refuse to assign meaning to a symbol so that a man who might assign a different meaning might not be offended. Or, worse, the Brother is afraid that he is weak minded and might be found wrong by someone who he considered intellectually superior. Intellectual cowardice is the sin of the man who should have never been allowed in the first place, for the sword is as much a Masonic working tool as any other.
It is the first working tool, presented to the tyler, by the symbolic mind of the lodge to guard the psychological work of betterment when the lodge is in session. This is to say, symbolically, that the layout of the lodge and the positions of the stations and places are symbols in and of themselves of the human consciousness and the first working tool of the lodge is a sword to guard it during its work. Courage is necessary so that moral relativism never creeps in.
Those who have little of the second working tool of Masonry, patience, often rush to the Eastern philosophies for fast food enlightenment, and after an elementary introduction to comparative religion, believe they have found truth, or with a Google search begin assigning Buddhist meanings, or other such traditions, to the rich and deep philosophies of Masonry. The tragic result is often some bogus teaching or preaching that morality is subjective, than there is no duality, and that each man must decide for himself how to interpret Masonry. Skuvbalon! As the Apostle Paul might have said.
Masonry is definable. It is labor. Its philosophies have absolutes and some of them include:
1. There is a God
2. There is right
3. There is wrong
4. There is good
5. There is bad
6. There is moral
7. There is immoral
Masonry, by design, provides a path to discovering how duality and unity exist in a material universe that should not be shrugged off for some fake and unworkable philosophy that does not assign importance to the material existence or pretends that all things are relative. Part of the journey the neophyte or initiate is on teaches one to learn and assign value to himself, to others, to his world, and to God.
Masonry assigns symbols or implements with meanings. The supreme importance in the meaning of a symbol, is the meaning assigned by the creator of that symbol in a given circumstance. In other words, we must try to determine the meaning assigned to the symbols by the original creators of Masonry to determine what mysteries were hidden in the degrees for us to discover. If we do not believe there was an original intent for the symbols and rituals of the Craft, then we are left with belief that they were randomly thrown to together for everyone to judge for themselves the point of the entire thing. I find this idea intolerable and foolish. Masonry teaches, in its own degrees, a reference for order and definition. It states within its rituals time and again, continent to continent that Geometry is revered by Masons. Our symbols themselves are often blatantly referencing systems of order, foundation, and structure. We refer to the Mason himself as a Temple that must be designed, built, and improved upon.
So let us briefly examine the symbols and emblems presented, the archetypes they represent, and define Masonry; less it remained undefined and without value.
The candidate for Masonry is first instructed to be silent. He has others who speak for him in most regards, he is told to trust his God and his conductor, he is advised to organize his time, and to rid his life of vice.
Then, after proving that he is dedicated to silent service to God, he is placed upon a foundation where he is told that duality is necessary. He is given pillars as symbols of duality and he is first allowed to observe them, them pass through them, and then enter into the heart of them beyond. He is told that the pillars contain the secrets of Masonry within them. This teaching stems from the oldest of the Masonic Noachite legends and ancient mystical traditions concerning the secrets of society and psychology wherein the original pillars were brick and bronze. These substances having a meaning of their own. It is upon this journey that he travels into the heart of the earth, for it is necessary to journey across the mosaic of life and material existence understanding and inculcating all she has to truly appreciate the spiritual spark within us.
We learn that it is within OUR middle chamber that the next phase of our journey begins and that once there we are to labor. The pillars contain emblems of earth and creation, the symbol of the pillar and globe symbols of generative force, wisdom as a crown upon the symbol of raw intellectual power. We were first shown the very nature of the earth in chalk, charcoal and clay. We are lectured as to her powers of nature to both poison and heal. As as Fellowcraft we journey through the earth, through ourselves, through the universe and recognize the power of duality and the importance of study and work. We are told that if we study the nature of things, that we will understand Nature and Things.
Foolish statements can not be born in the earth, for she never lies regardless of our beliefs or personal norms that we call truths. The earth and Nature never wage in ridiculous discussions of what is truth. For her, they are a constant and they never error. We can believe that we can fly, and she will have as fall as we leap. We can believe that we can breath underwater and she gently drowns us with the truth. She is real, beautiful and constant. She knows of evil, of good, of right and wrong. Incorrect statements of the none existence of evil elude her lips. She is born in reality, and the spirit is a very real part of that reality.
It is in our final approach to a new beginning that the material, the old way of looking at things dies a horrible death and returns forever to the earth and remains with her. Our material self, which was a good man to begin with we should remember, is honored in death and buried nearer the temple with honors, this is to say that it remains forever a part of us and it was for a short time during our awakening that we misunderstood this until the symbol of the evergreen and immortality reminded us of it.
The symbols of our personal evils; those of want, impatiences and a lack of disinterestedness are brutally killed removing the error of harsh and foolish speech (the symbol relating to the throat), the error of an impassioned and unreasoned emotion (the heart) and intentional ignorance (the gut, the place of intuition and at one time seat of the soul or mind in ancient mystical traditions which is why we still say ‘gut instinct’).
This ushers in a time of a Substitute Word. A time when we live in the world and not of it. A time when a shadow of the True Word can be felt, but never fully comprehended. In reality, this is the closest we get in our present convention. The Craft lodge degrees end there because in this world there is no True Word. We bear the material as our burden on this road, it must be embraced and realized, so it can be utilized with self control.
Masonry teaches that our lives in this present existence should not be discarded and despised with hopeful wishes of an afterlife. It does not take time with decisions of the Gods and discussions of salvation.
Masonry is a philosophy of the here and now and it teaches us that we are working tools, to be loved, to be worked, to be worn. That God is closer than we think and the journey into the earth, is as much a journey within our selves.
It teaches that if we want to know God we can find him, but that once we admit a love for him and a trust for him, we must labor in this present existence. Masonry despises the lazy and has little use for the fools, the stupid, and the false.
Masonry is a philosophy of personal awareness and enlightenment with definable symbols, realtime lessons and a real life application.
So Brethren, next time someone says that Masonry is hard to define, define it for them. If we fail to define the Craft, then the Craft has no meaning. There is a very material, administrative, real danger in assigning no definition or no meaning to Masonry. It would mean that by default Masonry has no value. When this occurs statements like, “Masonry is many things to many men” is perverted into a belief that Masonry must be all things to all men. Then dues are reduced or remain artificially low so that Masonry can be fiscally of no consequence or sacrifice. Petitions are prostituted as waste paper and liter the tables of every lodge so that anyone might find one and fill itout. Members are sought like cattle instead of cultivated like an important commodity.
Define Masonry my Brethren, or you will lose it.