Monday, October 1, 2007

Esoteric.... Run for the Hills!

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?


Tom Accuosti said...

Hey there, NE. Welcome to the world of Masonic blogging. I'm proud to see that Connecticut is so well represented.

Why is it so hard for men, particularly brothers, nowadays to sit around and discuss the more thought provoking aspects of our time.

Ah yes, I've had a similar lament.
NE, most of the time these are he conversations that you have with a small, intimate group of brothers over some scotch and cigars, an hour after most of the lodge has gone home. And in some lodges, these conversations never happen at all.

The esoteric is a large part of what attracts the modern, younger Masons. Unfortunately, it's not what attracted many of the older grey-haired brethren; they joined because of the fellowship, the desire for community, or to be a part of something historic. And frankly, these are all great reasons to join - there's nothing saying that Freemasonry has to be all about the symbolism and allegory.

You may find more like-minded discussion in the research lodges; there is one based in Cromwell and one in the Bridgeport area.

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.

Note that this was back in the days before tv, radio, and internet. People packed auditoriums all the time, and traveling or touring speakers were much more common.

Don't become discouraged. And also keep in mind that some men, while they don't discuss the esoteric aspects, they will internalize those values. No, it's not as exciting, but at some point you learn to adapt.

It's kind of like the difference between reading about Taoism and practicing Taoism.

M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

Thanks for the welcome Brother Tom. I hope I didn't come across too negatively I was just getting some frustration off of my chest. I know that in the past there was no other form of entertainment but I think that live exchanges of thought are just so exciting and are needed nowadays more than ever before (which is ironic being typed into the great digital unknown). I certainly have enjoyed some of those smaller conversations and just wish they occured more often.

FD2L said...

As an esotric geek myself, I find that I agree with you in regards to the membership. Education nights never happen in my lodge, and there is so much for men to learn. In my opinion if you aren't learning something new in every lodge meeting, then opening and closing lodge and paying the bills gets old, and members gets bored. IMHO it's the work and the esotric education that keeps members intrested.

Tom Accuosti said...

No, you're not whining, you're just wondering "Is this all there is?" We all do that. Well, most of us.

Oh, BTW - I co-opted your Meez idea. I did one a while back, but never put it on the blog, and in fact, forgot all about it until I saw yours.

Now I've just got to find an apron ;-)

My email address is on my blog - drop me a line and let me know what lodge you're from. If you're in central Conn, maybe we should grab Movable Jewel and come for a visit.