Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fiat Lux

My most recent Masonic milestone, the voting of my petition by the lodge two nights ago, was predictably anticlimactic. I'm not sure what I may receive in the way of formal notification, but given that my first degree was scheduled before the vote I am going to assume I have been accepted.

(I will be very chagrined and humbled indeed if that turns out not to be the case, but the Secretary's e-mail last week removed most of the few doubts I had on the subject.)

I spent the evening of my vote visiting with my 95 year-old grandfather, and I had what I would call my first "adult" conversation with him. It's been years since I actually had a one-on-one conversation with him... the last time was probably some 16 or 17 years ago when I was in high school, over a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts. More often, though, there are other family members present when I'm visiting, and conversation doesn't run as deep or personal.

It wasn't long before we got onto the subject of metaphysics, and it was in that context that I told him I had decided to join the Freemasons. For the first time, I got a reaction other than the mild, bemused puzzlement the rest of my family and friends have expressed... grampa was as surprised as everyone else, but he was downright excited and told me several times how pleased and proud he was. For a moment I thought he was going to reveal that he himself was a Mason, but that was not the case.

He told me that as a younger man he had been extremely interested in becoming a Mason, but that he had never been able to get any of the Masons he knew to answer any of his questions. Being the methodical, pragmatic man he has always been, he wasn't going to join without knowing more about what he was getting into. Because he couldn't find any answers, he never wound up joining, much to the detriment of the Freemasons! I described how easy it is to find information now, and I was tempted to remind him there's nothing stopping him from petitioning himself. With with his increasingly limited mobility and failing eyesight, though, I think such an undertaking would be too overwhelming for him. It's my hope that within the bounds set by the oaths, I can at least answer most or all of the questions he has had all these years!

As a young man of 19 he did briefly join the Knights of Pythias at a friend's urging, but did not find what he was looking for. This would have been in the early 1930s, but the comment he made about the repetitive rituals sounded rather a lot like complaints about the state of Freemasonry in 2007.

What was it about the Freemasons that has always intrigued my grandfather, and made him so happy to learn that I'm joining?

The search for light.

As I learned the other night, it's a quest he has made more or less on his own in all the years since his childhood. He rejected the fire-and-brimstone preaching he was subjected to as a youth, but not his belief in God. He has spent much of his life searching for a framework with which to examine and understand his beliefs, and to become a better person for it.

He was also impressed by the fraternal and charitable aspects of the order, but the quest for light was clearly the thing that impresses him most about the Freemasons, and makes them "the best" (his words) of all the fraternal organizations out there.

He has not been exposed to the countless blog posts and essays bemoaning the current state of Freemasonry, nor of the conspiratorial claptrap that now passes for documentary on the Discovery or History channels, and through him I got to see firsthand the high, noble reputation the Freemasons once held in this country. It rekindled some of my passion for the loftier ideals I had in mind when I first petitioned a lodge. I have been exposed to a lot of those blog posts and essays in the months since I decided to join. They have been instructive in their own way, but they have also been a bit of a distraction from my original inspiration for joining the Freemasons.

When I take the degrees, it will now be as much for grampa as for myself. If I am frustrated or discouraged by the state of Freemasonry as I find it, I will endeavor to remind myself of how proud and vicariously excited my grandfather is, and of the opportunity he never got.

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