Ten years or so ago, which now seems like a lifetime, I took a philosophy class at my local community college. Being a self taught student of philosophy I was so excited to take the course, that I was the first person to arrive for every class, notebook in hand, with a head full of ideas and opinions to share with my first organized class of one of my favorite subjects. It became a terrible disappointment. Unlike some of the other classes I took, where there was allot of discussion and creative thought, the philosophy class was more of a read what they wrote, understand, and reiterate.
I had significantly different opinions than that of the philosophers we studied and I was constantly challenging the professor with counterpoints from my own personal philosophy. I also challenged the fact that the whole course revolved around the history Greco-Roman philosophy. I did not want to throw out their ideas, but I wanted to also discuss the philosophies of the rest of the world, particularly the Eastern philosophies that I had more of a spiritual connection to. For our final paper the professor asked for an essay on our own philosophy based on what we were taught that semester.
I wrote a paper on my philosophy based on what I believed. It was full of well thought out arguments on our existence and purpose, and also full of what I thought was wrong with the philosophies our Western civilization was founded on. He gave me a C, which ruined my perfect grade point average up to that point. I was very disappointed because it was a really good paper, but it was just not what my professor wanted. Looking back I wish I had lifted some of the blinders of stubborn personal thought and opinion and listened a little more to the Greco-Roman philosophies. When I read them now, with the much less prejudicial view that comes with maturity of thought, I can appreciate them much more. Although I still have my own opinions on philosophy, I can now hear their voices more clearly now that I have learned to subdue my own passions and turn off my own opinions while listening to someone else, no matter how much I may disagree with them.
This skill is definitely one I did not have before my entrance into Freemasonry and I am all the more better for it.
I am currently reading about the ancient philosophies and mystery schools and gaining great light from those schools of thought that I had previously been so opposed to. This is part of my "I'm Gonna Swing The Hammer" mantra this year. Many of my readers implored me not to give up reading all together after reading that post because that was kind of how the post sounded. That was not my point. Instead of reading the thousands of books about the craft, its history, and its symbols, I am doing what our ritual asks of us. I am turning inward and improving myself with the study of the liberal arts and sciences. As or ritual states:
"The internal, and not the external qualifications of a man, are what Masonry regards."
It will be through the study of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy that I will polish my rough ashlar, this year and from now on, not someones history or explanation of our order. Amazon need not fear the loss of my revenue!
Masonic Education need not be a lecture on a subject given on the floor of the lodge. It should be discussions that send the brethren home thinking of how they can polish their own rough ashlar. If more brethren did what I am doing, lodge would be an amazing place to go to, a place where you would not have to find an excuse to go or not, you would not want to miss a meeting.