Friday, May 30, 2008

A Desire For Knowledge


Do you declare that, unbiased by friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries of masonry; that you are prompted to solicit this privilege by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be useful to your fellow creatures?




That first time you are in lodge and waiting in the preparation room is such a crazy experience. You really don't know what is going on (hopefully), sitting with men you don't really know, and are asked to arrange yourself in the manner required for the initiation. All of the sudden two dudes with staffs enter the room and start asking you questions which you answer without really pondering what is being asked because on the surface they are easy questions to answer. Those questions however are the single most important questions you will ever be asked, and in my opinion, the one above is crucial to the future of the fraternity in the United States of America because it is what separates us from all of the other fraternal or civic organizations out there.


The first part stems from our need that men come of their own free will and accord. Solicitation and recruitment produce members, not masons. You offer yourself to the mysteries of masonry not to the organization of Freemasonry. Ours is a fraternity for making men withdraw into themselves and seek, with the help of the divine spark that is within us all, the truth that underlies all things.


The next part reminds us that it is a privilege and not a right to be a mason. A privilege is something that needs to be maintained not something that is guaranteed. When you receive your drivers license after fulfilling the requirements of the state you live in you must obey the laws of the road or you may loose the privilege that was granted to you. If you violate the laws of the road too many times you can loose that privilege for life. Think about that. I have recently been reading the minutes of my lodge from back in the 1800's and found that it was much harder to maintain the privilege of being a mason back then. Trials and suspensions for unmasonic conduct happened often and I think if we demanded our brothers now to live up to the standards of the past many would fail and loose the privilege of being a Freemason.


The next part, is my favorite part, and is something that is as much a part of my being as breathing, a desire for knowledge. I have never known a time in my life when I did not have the unquenchable thirst of curiosity. I am not just curious about finding out what things are but also why and how. In the beginning of our history as a craft, knowledge was not easily attainable. Be it by the church or monarchy, knowledge was a thing to be controlled and be distributed as little as possible in an attempt to keep the people down. Back then a desire for knowledge was a desire for enlightenment, and freedom that was not the norm at the time. We live now in a time when knowledge is as easy to gain as a mouse click yet the majority of the populace, of this country at least, would rather use their time to be mindlessly (and usually tastelessly) entertained for a couple of minutes. A serious desire for knowledge is something that needs to be resurrected and inculcated in as many people as possible.


The last part becomes the result of living up to the others. After offering ourselves to the mysteries of masonry, maintaining the privilege of being one, and quenching our desire for knowledge we may be useful to our fellow creatures. Notice the word creatures and not man. If we live up to the promise and possibility that our order can produce in a man we live as the Great Architect of The Universe meant us to be, and we can be useful to all of its creation.

6 comments:

Justa Mason said...

You wrote:
Trials and suspensions for unmasonic conduct happened often and I think if we demanded our brothers now to live up to the standards of the past many would fail and loose the privilege of being a Freemason.

Really? Name some.

I'm being facetious here. But I'm really getting tired of the "we're not guarding the west gate well enough" stuff I keep reading. Rarely can anyone name whole rafts of people who should never have been accepted at the ballot. If they have specific people in mind, far too many times it seems to actually mean "so-and-so shouldn't be a Mason because I'm right and he's wrong."

I've read minutes from the late 18th and early 19th century. I can see why there were more suspensions. Masons met in pubs and it seems some members tended to overindulge a bit too much and engage in foul language in open lodge. Such you don't see today. Let's not romanticise "the past."

As well, the bulk of today's active membership has been active for a number of years. It's difficult to believe a bunch of grandfathers are going to suddenly waddle off the beaten Masonic path so late in their careers and do something that would warrant suspension.

However, whatever disciplinary body is in charge of cases of Unmasonic Conduct shouldn't sweep things under the rug; cases should be dealt with expeditiously (and it goes without saying, fairly).

Justa Mason

M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

Justa,
Have you read my "Higher Standards or Lack Thereof" Nov '07? That is where I'm coming from. Now, I am not advocating the return of the Salem witch trials just that we try to live up to the highest moral standards and conduct (which the Majority of my brethren do!). Masonic trials can go way wrong as Widows Son at the Burning Taper can attest to. I am not attacking anyone I just like to paint in broad strokes.
On a separate note, I am not getting the negative undercurrent I have been reading on the masonic blogosphere. I have seen allot of “I’m sick of this... I'm tired of that..." on posts and comments. We are all just trying to spread a little light and express ourselves from unique perspectives. It seems too many people take what is written personally. Blogging is a medium of personal thought. For me it is an exercise in writing skills that I like to hone on the go. I don't draft and re draft posts to make sure that everything is perfect I just write what masonic thought is on my mind at the time. 

Tom Accuosti said...

Trials and suspensions for unmasonic conduct happened often and I think if we demanded our brothers now to live up to the standards of the past many would fail and loose the privilege of being a Freemason.

3M, I wrote on this last year, and I have to agree with Justa. The reason that we have the rules that we do is because the average guys must have already been in the habit of doing those prohibited things.

I believe that it's a mistake to assume that all of our brothers "back in the old days" were like Ben Franklin or ol' Uncle GW. Freemasonry is a society that draws on the members of the community. That means your neighbors and friends and even your shiftless brother-in-law could have been members.

Yes, we've had some great and notable brothers in the past, but we remember those guys because we don't see the history of the other guys. If you're not seeing as many Masonic Trials as in the past, maybe it's not because the SW and JW aren't doing their jobs; maybe it's because people are just more tolerant, or perhaps because people are actually more observant of the rules.

M.M.M. From the North Eastern Corner said...

In life and masonry I am an idealist which by definition makes me impractical and a dreamer. I was on a stream of thought with the whole privilege/drivers license/trial and had just finished 1853-1865 of my lodges minutes which were certainly interesting to a history nerd like myself and I saw a lot of suspensions for unmasonic conduct in those 12 years. Maybe there were worse brothers back then as compared to now, but there were also some shining examples of gentleman that we should all aspire to reflect!

An Old Curmudgeon said...

The first part stems from our need that men come of their own free will and accord. Solicitation and recruitment produce members, not masons. You offer yourself to the mysteries of masonry not to the organization of Freemasonry. Ours is a fraternity for making men withdraw into themselves and seek, with the help of the divine spark that is within us all, the truth that underlies all things.

Well, yes, unless the lodge(s) are in decline. Attrition through death as well as loss of interest due to "politics" have forced some GLs to rethink this particular aspect of Masonry. Florida, for example, a few years ago started allowing the lodges to solicit potential candidates to repopulate the benches. Other methods used to facilitate expanding the memberships are also being allowed such as 1 day classes for Scottish Rite and York Rite. Even when I went through Scottish in Virginia in 1980 my class was condensed to a 2-day weekend.

My point: expediency has become the norm, expecially when the health and even existance of a lodge is in the balance.

Justa Mason said...

Tom wrote:
If you're not seeing as many Masonic Trials as in the past, maybe it's not because the SW and JW aren't doing their jobs; maybe it's because people are just more tolerant, or perhaps because people are actually more observant of the rules.

Tom, there may be another reason as well.

Despite the recent wave of applications, the bulk of the membership is elderly and has been in the Craft a long time. Generally, there aren't a lot of 75 and 80 year old men who suddenly turn criminal and get convicted of crimes that would result in them being expelled.

Btw, I don't always end up reading comments on sites and just now see MMM has responded to my comment from a month or so ago. I'll have to read his paper to get a better perspective on his point.

Justa Mason