Why is it that when the word esoteric is mentioned, most brothers want to either laugh it off or skirt the subject at all cost.
Last year I read W. L. Wilmshurst's "The Meaning of Freemasonry", which I thought was quite a good exploration of the more esoteric aspects of The Craft. I remember wanting so bad to discuss some of the more thought provoking subjects in the book at Lodge, but there is almost never a chance during our meetings for discussion. The majority of our time in Lodge is spent initiating new brothers, or preparing to do so. Sometimes it seems to me the whole purpose of my lodge seems to be bringing in new brothers. Now don't get me wrong. My lodge like many others, is growing greyer by the day and absolutely needs new blood to keep things going. But initiating and advancing new brothers cant be the end all be all of our existence. Other than curious specimens like myself, that will keep at something even when there is not much to be had, most young men my age need something other than a meal and small talk and a degree to stay interested in the craft. Again, degree work is very important to the Craft, but I would like to know what happened to the Masonic scholarship that seemed to occur within our walls in the past. Sure we have some education nights, but they almost always revolve around some aspect of the ritual.
What happened to the Masonic thinking of the past that sparked the minds that enlightened the world. Why is it so hard for men, particularly brothers, nowadays to sit around and discuss the more thought provoking aspects of our time. We live in a world that our forefathers could not have even imagined, where communication is easier than eating and yet it seems the best things we can talk about are sports or entertainment. Maybe I am a left over soul from days gone by but there is nothing more interesting or fun for me than to have a discussion of heavy subjects with people who I respect and love.
Our institution is set up perfectly for this purpose. By removing the subjects of politics and religion, which can separate the best of friends, the founders of our order created an ideal forum for the exchange of free thought and information. I have read about traveling Masonic orators packing temples with men and can only imagine how exciting it must have been to be a Freemason back then. When I read transcripts of those speeches I am always amazed by the eloquence and thought of people, who on the majority did not have one tenth of the resources for learning that we take for granted.
The reason we go through the trouble of opening the lodge is to raise the attention level of all present, and to remind us that we are, at that time, not just a bunch of guys hanging out in a hall wearing fancy aprons and jewels. We are Freemasons bound by oath and obligation, committing ourselves to higher work. If we wanted to join just a charitable organization we could have joined the Exchange, Kiwanis, or Lions club or any of the many fine clubs that do just that, but we did not. I looked to join something that was much more than a social club that does charitable work. Did we go through three different initiations with heavy obligations just to get together twice a month and pay the bills or initiate someone new? We are not supposed to. We go through our opening to get us to a different place than the everyday world we live in and to do greater work for the benefit of our brotherhood and our fellow man.
Esoteric by definition of the Merriam-Websters Dictionary is:
1 a: designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone (a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo)
b: requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group (esoteric terminology); broadly : difficult to understand (esoteric subjects)
2 a: limited to a small circle (engaging in esoteric pursuits)
Freemasonry is by these definitions an esoteric society that uses tools of the builder to teach moral lessons to a select few who are initiated into our order. Sometimes I think that the brothers who run away from the term "esoteric", when it comes to our fraternity don't even know what it means. When someone mentions that they are interested in esoteric aspects of Freemasonry around my lodge they are almost always directed to the two philosophical research lodges in our state. If those are the only lodges in Connecticut doing real Masonic work, why do the rest of the lodges in my state bother opening and closing for meetings?