Friday, February 3, 2012
We Meet UP, On The Level
This way of life had existed since the dawn of man. No matter what god given talents an individual was blessed with, if he or she was born in a certain class of society, the chances of raising ones status or quality of life was slim to none. The number of bright and talented humans that must have had their natural spark extinguished by a dreary labor filled existence must be countless. The reality of the lives of the common man revolved around scratching out a meager living, and whole hearted devotion to a church that was complicit in keeping them down, then came a revolution in thought.
Somewhere in the early 18th century Reason began to replace Religion and small groups of like minded individuals started to meet in closed spaces to discuss ideas that if discovered, could cost them their lives. It has been theorized that this wellspring of radical thinking began as a way to justify the Protestant Reformation. Democracy replacing Monarchy, Liberty replacing Dogma, are key ideas that caught fire in the minds of individuals that had been repressed from birth to death. The lower classed people wanted to become better, and they used a tool that they had been given at birth that sat unused for the most part, their mind.The advent of the printing press and the growth of literacy spread to the repressed people like wildfire.
But where could the intelligent farmer and the smart blacksmith meet with the merchant and the ship captain to discuss these blasphemous ideas that made so much sense? Not church. Not on the town green. No, men of increased intelligence needed to meet in secret to elevate themselves and society.
In France they met in Salons, in England it was the public house or coffee house. From these back rooms the challenge was put forth to educate and illuminate the people. Debate, discussion, and dissemination occurred between men and women who wanted to learn and grow in thought and spirit. It was not a place to grumble about their lot in life, but a place to dream about what they could attain if they used their god given gift of reason and higher thought.
Enter Speculative Freemasonry, what was a guild for the association of men who built in stone, became a social meeting place for men who would build in spirit and thought. The lodge was the earliest form of pure democracy. Liberty, fraternity, and equality were the values that cemented the forum where the lowest man could elevate himself to be a master. The constitution and laws of the order and elections of the men who were championed to lead it, were a micro-society that formed a model that would change the world. Freemasonry was a nonreligious venue to make cross societal contacts in an effort to make good men better.
This phrase “making good men better” is the ten cent answer that most members of the craft use to explain what the purpose of Freemasonry is. It is a blanket statement that only touches upon what the purpose of the fraternity is meant to be. What exactly does going to a Masonic meeting or going through the three degrees do to make a man who is “good” “better”.
In modern times, does listening to arcane enlightenment language in itself lead to making a “better” man? Does voting on how and when to pay for the dinner you eat at the meeting bring a brother to a higher level of thought? Is the ritual of opening a lodge to do business then promptly closing it in the same way, a way to enlighten the minds of the gathered brethren? Is the reason a man goes through three degrees of “initiation” only, to sit on the sideline to watch more initiations?
The answer to these questions is a resounding NO! The ritual of Freemasonry was meant to be used as a tool to unlock the greatness that lies in some men. The degrees of the order were meant as a means to weed out those, who would by their association in the fraternity, bring down the “level” of their fellow members. Long times between degrees and requirements of demonstrating an understanding of the ideals of the fraternity were once the norm, although in the name of numbers this practice has generally disappeared in the United States.
Masons meet on the level, by the plumb, and act on the square. The idea of meeting on the level has been subverted into the belief that we must bring ourselves down to the level of the lowliest brother. Like the American society we live in, efforts to make oneself better are misconstrued as being elitist and that term has been perverted into a bad word. The smartest and the brightest are ostracized and it is more acceptable to make yourself out to be like the lowliest type of person, a full reversal of what the enlightenment had achieved hundreds of years ago. In the name of egalitarianism we are made to believe that all men are created equal and that equality transcends the actions and intentions of a man his entire life.
All men are created equal. After creation, it is up to the individual to live up to the standards and laws of the highest form of nature that surrounds them. Equal creation does not mean equal existence. The Great Architect of the Universe, has laid out for man an amazing world for which greatness is possible of attaining if only his creations strive to recognize the divine in what surrounds them. The mystical practice of Freemasonry when lived by its supplicants to the highest level possible, can elevate the men who knock on its gates. The format is there but the practice is missing in American Freemasonry.
“The Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God” is another Masonic axiom that has been turned around on itself. In a familial context we can better understand this idea. A man is born onto parents who he will devote his life to. If the parents have another child, it is accepted into that devotion. A man will take care of his brother before he takes care of a stranger. Associations of like minded individuals became like families to those who met and shared together, and the endearing term to use between these group members became what they already used to call their siblings, brother or sister. The Masonic saying of a Brotherhood of man under a Fatherhood of God does not encompass all of God’s creations, only those of which we can find that familiar bond to call Brother. Even in our fraternity it is hard to find men who you would consider your actual brother, especially since West Gate was turned into a floodgate.
The good thing about the order of Freemasons, is that it is a beacon that draws some men of that higher calling, not as many as it used to, but it still does. Like a light in the dark that attracts all types of insects because of its resemblance to the sun, the light of Freemasonry draws all types of man. It is up to the individual Mason to distinguish between the ones who come out of curiosity, or in simple awe of light, and the ones who look at the light and want to know why it shines. Only by associating with the ones who are striving to understand and truly become “Better” can we meet upon, or more correctly UP on the level.
Like the pyramid that starts on the ground with many stones and drives up towards the heavens, on each successive course there are fewer and fewer blocks. The higher it reaches the closer and smaller the groups become, until it reaches a single point and in that single point lies infinity. We must level UP.