Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

“We” Can Get Things Done

Older Masons and Past Masters often tell younger Masons who seek Education and Philosophical enlightenment in Freemasonry that “that is not Freemasonry.” They say that Freemasonry is about Charity and Fellowship. As a steady reader of Masonic literature and the Librarian of a decent Lodge Library, I have searched for books that describe Freemasonry as a Charity or a Social Club. Oddly, I cannot find books covering these topics. As far as I can find, no one published a book on the importance of reading Minutes, supporting non-Masonic charities, giving blood or identifying children. At this point, I am expected to say that these are all either necessary or good endeavors, and I will not disagree; but they are not Freemasonry.

The books I find, both old and new, discuss Masonic Philosophy; History; Leadership; as well as Symbolism and Ritual. These books range in topic from Masonic History, Etiquette, Leadership, Morality and Philosophy. Many of these books are in our library and can be purchased through the normal booksellers; many are actually free downloads on the internet. With this unprecedented access to materials, it is astounding that we still have a general ignorance of the history and purpose of our Craft. Some of this I attribute to the general stasis of our organization; the inability to consider that beyond which we were taught by our Mentors in the Fraternity. Our lectures are ripe with symbolism, philosophy and morality; and in them, we are charged to look deeper and learn more. We do not actively promote this learning and make it a lifelong process within our Masonic Halls and Lodge
Rooms.

My theory on how we arrived at our current situation runs counter to conventional wisdom which looks at the post-World War II membership spike as the greatest period of Freemasonry in America based on the numbers alone. I feel that this rapid increase in membership did great harm to the true tenets of our Fraternity. These great men that fought and won WWII came back to civilian life and longed for the bonds of brotherhood that they felt with those men that fought alongside them to defeat tyranny. Many of them turned to the various Fraternal organizations to try to make these connections: Moose; Elks; Knights of Columbus; and of course the Freemasons. They were interested in the fellowship, the comradery, the feeling of “belonging” that they had felt in their military units. Many of them were not interested in the esoteric meanings behind our symbols and philosophy. It is not so much that they rejected them, many of them just gave them no thought past the Ritual and felt that their needs were met in the Organization and the fellowship it offered. When they became the elder leadership, they mentored new members in the Freemasonry that they knew and loved; fellowship, charity and strict organization.

Then came the 1960s and the young men of that generation rejected the ideas and morality of their fathers. Rebellion and the feel-good culture caused many to drop-out or never join the “establishment” organizations of previous generations. The generational gap lasted for decades. I am in my 50’s and there are very few in my age group in Freemasonry; or they came to the Craft late in life. This caused there to be a gap in new leadership with new ideas, the old guard had to keep the fires burning. Don’t get me wrong, I am not negative about these brethren, I thank them for keeping the spark of Freemasonry alive until I and a new generation could emerge from the darkness in search of Light. I need these brethren to teach me what it means to be a friend and a brother; I can learn a lot about fellowship from them, as well as the strict rules of the Ritual and procedures of conducting a Lodge meeting.

The newer generation of Freemasons is looking for more than fellowship. We are looking for the Light of Freemasonry; the philosophies; moral instruction and life-changing knowledge hidden in our Symbols that will help us to become better men. We are not here for Minutes, rote repetition and arguing about dues. Most younger Masons are not put-off by higher dues as some older members might be, we realize that we should pay our bills without having a fund-raiser. Most of us came to the Craft out of curiosity, but it is an informed curiosity. As I mentioned earlier there is a treasure-trove of Masonic books and Articles in the public domain and for purchase, and Freemasonry has been featured positively in some recent fiction books and movies. Younger Petitioners have read about Freemasonry prior to ever asking for a Petition; they have expectations about Freemasonry as an educational and growth organization that will help them become better men. When they come to us and complete their initiatory degree, they are often disappointed in the lack of Masonic discussion, education, learning and Mentoring. If they do not just leave, they are often told that their ideas are not Freemasonry and not necessary. The elder leaders of their Lodges are the very ones that kept the spark of Freemasonry alive, but now they try to keep it a spark, rather than let the younger generation build it into a blaze to light the way for the Brethren.

As a kind of intermediary between the elder and younger masons, due to my length in the craft and my still relatively young age, I often see something I think should be done and I just do it. I inform, but do not ask for permission, I request support, but do not wait for it to show up. I can do this because I have put in my time in the Quarries; I have done the work and I continue to do whatever my Lodge and Brethren require of me. I do not worry about what “They” will say. To my younger brethren, I know you have heard: “They” won’t let you do that; “They” say that is not Freemasonry.

No one ever admits to being “They.”

I charge you to become the WE. “We” are going to conduct Masonic Education. “We” are going to show respect to our Lodge, our Worshipful Master and our Brethren. “We” will Mentor our new Brethren. “We” will guard our West Gate.

We should not do this in an adversarial way, we need and love our elder brethren; work with them to do things a little differently. Demonstrate your ideas before you try to implement them. Volunteer to be a Coach or a Mentor, show the new brothers that you care and teach them what you wish had been taught to you. If you do the work, you will gain the respect and will be able to positively affect the Lodge experience. Masonry is work: do the work.

“We” can get things done.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book Review – The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation

The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, by Robert Lomas, San Francisco, CA, Weiser Books, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781578634903.

Robert Lomas’ book, The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, explores the more esoteric aspects of Masonic Initiation and delves into the use of Freemasonry to teach the ancient Mysteries. He believes that, if truly understood, the Masonic Initiation is a transformative experience. Not just in the sense of “making a good man better” but in a physical and physiological sense. Lomas argues that Masonic Initiation, being tied to the ancient Mysteries, actually transforms us spiritually and intellectually into a different stream of consciousness from normal men. He states that the greatest men of all ages that have worked for the advancement of mankind have been initiates of the ancient Mysteries. These ancient Mysteries can be seen in the rites and legends of the Ancient Egyptians, the Phoenicians and all of the major religions of the world which have had their secret initiatic orders, apart from their public religion.

While I found this book interesting, I kept wondering why my Initiations into Freemasonry had not had the major transformative effect on me that Lomas describes. I guess I am just “not there” yet. I do not fully agree with his description of the esoteric side of the degrees, but I do agree that Freemasonry can be transformative. Perhaps as I conduct further research and study I can get closer to Lomas’ views on our initiations and their true purpose. I will say that I have read other, similar, books since I read this one; books such as Hall’s The Lost Keys of Freemasonry and             Steinmetz’s book, Freemasonry – Its Hidden Meaning, which discuss the same theories as Lomas, but with a slightly different take on the process of initiation. I would suggest reading Lomas’ book, but I think it would have been better to start with Steinmetz, Hall, Wilmshurt and then move to Lomas; perhaps then I would have been more ready and attuned to his message.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book review – Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning

Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning, by George H. Steinmetz. Richmond, VA, Macoy Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., 1948, 1976. ISBN-13: 978-0880530491.

In Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning author George H. Steinmetz introduces the reader to the more esoteric and philosophical meanings of the three degrees and Freemasonry in general. This book was written to be a Primer for the Master Mason who desires a fuller understanding of the Craft without delving too deeply into the deeper meanings of the Ritual. Mr. Steinmetz wanted to discuss the hidden meanings of the Freemasonry in a way that would encourage brethren to move on to study more than we get in the various lectures and catechisms of the three degrees. He feels that if you dive straight into Pike, Mackey or Waite you may become confused and discouraged. This book is a step towards more light.

Mr. Steinmetz’s writing is straightforward and easy to understand, he explains complicated subjects using the very words of our Masonic Monitors and other published sources. He breaks down the word definitions for many aspects of the degrees to explain their base meaning and how they can often be misinterpreted, or have a deeper meaning than we initially understand. He is careful to not reveal any of our “secret” ritual or work, but is able to still give incredible insight to the ritual. While this book is fairly basic, as Masonic Dissertations go, it is obvious that Steinmetz is a student of the Art and understands the full implications of the Ancient Mysteries which he claims Freemasonry to be a direct descendant.

I made two pages of notes to investigate further based on my reading of this book. I feel that Mr. Steinmetz did his job of providing me with many answers to my questions, but he also in triggered even more questions in my quest for more light and understanding of Freemasonry. I recommend this book to any Master Mason that wants to begin his journey into understanding the true philosophy of the Craft. Whatever your age as a Mason, this book can be enlightening and open your mind to further revelations in the writings of Hall, Waite, Pike and Mackay.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book Review – The Lost Keys of Freemasonry

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry: Or, The Secret of Hiram Abiff, by Manly P. Hall

N.Y. New York, Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2006. Pages: 352. ISBN-13: 9781585425105

 

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, by Manly P. Hall seeks to tie the modern Masonic Initiations to the Ancient Mysteries of the Egyptians, Persians and other ancient civilizations. According to Mr. Hall, Freemasonry is the continuation of the Ancient Mysteries. It is esoteric in nature; the exoteric only serves to point us towards the esoteric. All of the world’s great religions of the past (and present) have had Mystery Schools in which certain deserving individuals gained deeper knowledge and insight to their specific creed. Hall tells us that these are all interrelated and point to the same Light; the one true God, The Creator and Builder.

To bring a little light to the subject; Exoteric refers to knowledge that is outside of, and independent from, a person’s experience and is capable of being ascertained by anyone. Esoteric, on the other hand, refers to knowledge that is understood by, or meant for, only the select few who have special knowledge or interest, intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group. Within Freemasonry, we are already a select few, those that have chosen, and been accepted into our ancient order, removed from the “profane” the non-initiated. But we can go farther, most Freemasons never get past the Exoteric meaning of our symbols and rituals. Hall describes how we can go beyond the surface to break free of the prison of our own making and discover the true transcendent nature of the Craft. The true Initiate (candidate) should be one who realizes that there is life and liberty available through reason and logic and the application of true thought turned toward that light that dimly shines within his self. Many of us may never delve into the esoteric meanings of our ritual, for those that do not this may be, as Hall says, “To the rest of their brethren within or without the lodge their sacred rituals must remain, as Shakespeare might have said, ‘Words, words, words.’ (Hall 2006, 66)

The basis of this study is that the spirit of life in Man is killed by three ruffians; thought, desire and action (perverted thought, uncurbed emotions, and destructive action.) When perverted they form a prison, when purified, they are the most glorious powers for good in the world. “These three form the Flaming Triangle which glorifies every living Mason, but when crystallized and perverted they form a triangular prison through which the light cannot shine and the Life is forced to languish in the dim darkness of despair, until man himself through his higher understanding liberates the energies and powers which are indeed the builders and glorifiers of his Father’s House.” (Hall 2006, 38)

I found this book very interesting and compelling. Hall’s writing moves easily through very complex ideas and theory of the basis of modern Freemasonry. Hall takes us through the deeper meanings of the legend of Hiram Abiff and ties it into the Ancient Mysteries that have captured Man’s attention for all of recorded history. His graduated steps from the Candidate to the Qualifications of a True Mason are rife with great examples of how we should conduct ourselves as men and Freemasons. Even if you do not buy into the transcendent nature of our ritual, there are lessons to be learned. In one of our lectures we mention “light added to the coming light;” The Lost Keys of Freemasonry by Manly P. Hall is definitely light added to the light already received. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to get a glimpse of what Freemasonry can be if we open our minds, spirits and consciences to the Light.

“Truth is not lost, yet it must be sought for and found.” (Hall 2006, 14)

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