By: Jon Patrick Sage
Having to do with the notion of Masonic Education
Within Freemasonry, there is a thought process that some edict handed down from any particular Grand Lodge, and then utilized as “Masonic Education”, will absolutely make the Craft “better” Masons. However, “Masonic Education” is a rather generic term, including sometimes very different items and approaches to various ideas. And so, in each jurisdiction the educational efforts are different. Some require a half of an hour presentation to be given in open Lodge, usually during a Stated meeting or degree Work. Others might simply insist upon a mailer, or brochure to be sent out to the members of said Lodges, in the false hope that some words of wisdom from Newton, or Mackey… possibly Pike– will inspire the individual Brothers to seek out new and exciting vantage points of Masonic insight.
For many of what I have come to term the “unfortunates” among the Craft, this is the whole extent of any attempt at Masonic Education that is ever offered to them. In many cases, the Worshipful Master is either unwilling or unable to conduct a worthwhile exercise in philosophy in his Lodge. Likewise, the junior officers are equally inept, and, taking their cue from older members and the almighty Past Masters, are often instructed that to delve into “too much spirituality” is not within the purview of the Lodge as this would intrude on any number of churches– which are evidently doing an extraordinary job in the maintenance of the souls of men.
Concerning the missing element of Spirituality in Craft Masonry
Accordingly, these Brethren who are left to the devices of the church of their choosing (if they even have one), are giving the same milk-toast and happy go lucky doctrine which might insist that salvation is the extent of earthly, and thus– human matters. Indeed, in many faiths, to go over and beyond what the cleric has handed down from the pulpit could amount to sacrilege, and therefore the humble parishioner carries a subtle reminder to “listen” for the voice of God, and to “ask” for guidance. These are methods of prayer, of that we are certain. However, they are very passive forms and I fear often failed attempts at communication with the Deity.
The communication between the Deity and Man is easy– and it occurs through serious self-introspection. It has been termed as God within Man, talked about by the likes of Tolstoy. Even the sacred RED lettering of the New Testament has Christ describing to the Pharisees in Luke 17:21 that the “kingdom of God is within your midst”. Is this ONLY the Pharisees– or is it applicable to all? The only answer is that that God may be evident to all, and Jesus as a messenger of that Truth was neatly timed. This Author considers it a shame that so many other ideas have precluded the supposed speech of the Christ, and insist that man must look for the divine, and for divine blessing, in places other than his own soul.
God is Within Man… whether man likes it or not. We need not look further
Masonry insists, upon the first entrance into the Lodge, that while men may seek divine blessings in their undertakings– we still are entreated and determined to succeed. If God grants the victory, that is fine. However, if man accomplishes some feat on his own accord that also might very well be counted as God’s will. We do not, and we should not, sit about and WAIT passively for anything, let alone for a course of moral instruction. Especially when the moral and/or Masonic Education is often little more than historical anecdotes. In my estimation, it makes little to no difference what Presidents, Musicians, Actors, or other notable types are or were Masons. Likewise, I do not need to hear a tired tale of the Mason who contributed to the relief of some unknown widow, later finding her to be the widow of a departed Brother Mason– with the conclusion coming at the recognition of a Masonic ring on the Samaritan’s finger. These are only examples of what should be accomplished as a result of Free Masonic membership and Masonic fellowship. However, a good deed for a fellow Mason, simply because he is a Mason, is not at the root of the Masonic purpose in this life. The difference is that the Free Masonic functions are the functions of Fraternal behavior, while the truly wonderful effects in life are the functions of expanded and a continually renewed spiritual pathway, leading towards enlightenment– in other words, the results of Masonry.
The foundations of Masonic Philosophy run deep into the annals of history, and are based in many different cultures and thought processes, in many different forms of spirituality and certainly in many different pathways to the Almighty. The Greeks believed that we are spiritual at our core, and as a snail sheds its shell; our souls inhabit and then eventually shed our physical bodies. This follows directly in line with the Hiramic legend, which plainly discusses the eternal features of our soul, necessarily transcending our existence on this Earthly plane.
A Mason’s Soul and His Deity
Masons are Builders, that much is true; but what else could Speculative Masons be building other than foundational elements to accommodate their souls for this and ensuing lives. We hold the key to our own Eternal bliss. Heaven, Hell, Good & Evil– all lie within the carefully constructed, tested, and perfected heart and Soul of the Mason. This idea of soul building MUST be the central idea of Masonry. If it were not, then even the furniture of the Lodge would be out of place and of absolutely no use. At the center: the Volume of Sacred Law, the Square and Compasses, all resting on an Altar. The bearings of our morality are taken from these. These, the most important pieces of furniture in a Mason’s Lodge, must also be carried daily in the Mason’s heart, and will act as an ever evolving and always up to date Trestle Board of instruction.
The checkered pavement, surrounding the Altar, is often said to representative of the good and evil found throughout human life. And yet, we often forget that this was also the same pavement in the Temple upon which the High Priests walked. In that time, the High Priests were the ONLY ones that were in communion with God, and were the only ones permitted inside of the Holy of Holies. However, in the Mason’s Lodge, WE walk upon the checkered pavement, while approaching the Altar, and then as we continue towards the East. At this point, we are akin to high priests, and we are in direct communion with our Maker. Masonry has taken any middle man, any superfluous doctrine, any divisive directives, OUT of the equation, and placed the soul as the pivoting point upon which the Mason is able to commune with his own self, to rest in his own inner sanctum, and in so doing, to commune with God. In truth, none of the elements of Masonic furniture are symbolic, but are very real markers to be used and reflected upon in our daily Masonic walk.
Walking as a High Priest before our Collective God~ The Masonic Ideal
Consider this for a moment and then ask yourself– what has my Lodge done to prepare ME– throughout the 3 degrees of a Craft Lodge, to walk upon the checkered pavement as a High Priest in the presence of the Grand Architect of the Universe? I fear that far too many Brethren would answer that they have not even HEARD of this concept, that many more might find the concept contrary to their religious affiliation; thereby rejecting it. If either be the case, then they certainly have not been duly educated and prepared to walk in this true upright manner, before God and man. This aspect of an interaction with the Divine is at the root of “duly and truly prepared”.
~From the Indiana Monitor and Freemason’s Guide, an excerpt from A Talk To A Newly Made Mason:
“Masonry, therefore, is constructive in its teaching; it seeks to build rather than tear down. The world need builders, and we welcome you to our ranks. If you study Masonry it will become a part of your very being, for every symbol and every observance has some application in your own life.
You have now completed all of the work which the Lodge requires of you in order that you may be admitted to full membership. You are now entitled to vote, hold office, serve on committees, and demit. If you feel that in your initiation, passing, and raising, you have experienced the height of your ambition, then all that is necessary in order that you may continue to enjoy these privileges is that you pay your dues promptly each year and continue to live a respectable life.
We hope, however, that in your progress through the degrees, even in your limited experience of Masonry, you have caught a glimpse of value far beyond the mere privileges of membership; something greatly to be desired, something worth striving for, something which can become a vital force in your life. Masonry is truly a progressive science; and as we advance in knowledge, our obligations to ourselves and to our brethren correspondingly increase. No man has been able to go far enough into the past to find the beginnings of Masonry, nor has he been able to look far enough into the future to see its ultimate goal. No man has ever climbed to the highest peak of Masonic experience or dug to the deepest depth of Masonic truth.
If Masonry is to mean all to you that it should, you must first of all regard it as a philosophy of life relationship and be willing to give it the steady loyalty that such an important matter deserves. With loyalty there must be an inquiring mind, insisting upon knowing something of the structure and purpose of Masonry, the meaning of its symbols, its tolerance, and its great lesson of Brotherhood– a Brotherhood not limited to the confines of a Lodge or of the state of even of the nation; for Masonry is a World Brotherhood.
If you have in some measure caught the deeper significance of the ceremonies in which you have participated, you may perceive upon your own personal trestle-board the shadowy outlines of a new structure, a Temple which you are to build, a Temple of character, a spiritual Temple which is to be your life work.
In building, you will use, symbolically, the working tools of Masonry; remembering always the two great lessons taught in the majestic legend of the Master Mason degree: courage and fidelity.”
This passage is only a small portal given, and a relatively tame one at that, which seeks to instruct the newborn Mason of all that is available to him above and beyond the confines of the earthbound Fraternity of Freemasonry. However, it is imperative that we all remember that the Free Masonic Order is only that– an earthly Organization. Masonry, on the other hand, is the eternal quest; Masonry is the Holy Grail; Masonry is the Deity, Masonry is the Alpha and the Omega…. Masonry exists from time immemorial. Masonry is literally at the heart of every matter. Masonry is all that we are, if we are anything at all.
Freemasonry is a conduit for Masonry. However, Masonry is the first conduit, the lasting conduit, the only conduit and the best process of understanding between God and Man.
Masonry is God and Man simultaneously. Masonry is the philosophy and the being of the universe. Masonry is to be one with all, it is the only true science, the last pure art.
The Altar of Masonry does not discriminate, she is accepting and welcomes all; whispering to those who choose to discover… Brethren and Friends… that all possess God within– God within Man.