Monday, April 7, 2008

Intermediary Musings

Nearly a month has gone by since my Fellow Craft degree, and this week I will be raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.

I have not stopped by the lodge to work on the FC lecture as much as I did after my EA degree - this has been partly due to sheer busyness, and partly due to the fact that I now know what to expect in terms of my lodge's requirements for "suitable proficiency". My understanding is that in my jurisdiction (The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts), the criteria for suitable proficiency is left up to the individual lodge. At my lodge, the requirement is that candidates just be able to read through the cipher.

(I will pause here for a moment to let the blood-curdling howls of protest and indignation subside.)

I'm a little disappointed, myself; last June I wrote that I wasn't interested in becoming a Master Mason if all I had to do was show up for a day and hand somebody a check. There has definitely been more to my journey than "showing up for a day", but the work is not nearly as demanding as I had expected based on other first-hand accounts I have read. My disappointment is somwhat tempered by the GL's "Lodge of Instruction" program, whereby candidates are required to sit down with an instructor and review some of the meaning and symbolism behind what they experienced in the preceding degree.

As I read through Wilmshurst's The Meaning of Masonry, I am interested by his comments about the ritual having been carefully designed by its creators to hide its deeper truths from the more casual Mason willing to accept the words and symbols at their shallowest level, while at the same time showing the way to true Light for Brothers who dig deeper and open their minds to the hidden knowledge within.

In more practical terms, Wilmshurst writes at the beginning of Chapter I,
A candidate proposing to enter Freemasonry has seldom formed any definite idea of the nature of what he is engaging in. Even after his admission he usually remains quite at a loss to explain satisfactorily what Masonry is and for what purpose his Order exists. He finds, indeed, that it is "a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols," but that explanation, while very true, is but partial and does not carry him very far.
Does not having to go through a rigorous demonstration of proficiency make me less of a Mason? At one level I feel as though it does... taking the long view, however, if I become deeply involved with the fraternity for the rest of my days, work my way through the chairs to become Worshipful Master, explore the appendant bodies, and quietly seek my own path towards Light, I don't think my overall experience will have suffered too much compared to someone who memorizes the lectures down to the last semicolon but stops going to lodge as soon as they are raised.

The conclusion I am reaching is that the answer to the big, elusive "What the heck is Freemasonry?" question is kind of like Curly's monologue about the meaning of life in City Slickers; it's just One Thing, but that one thing is different for everyone. Better to be concerned with my own quest for Light, than the validity of everyone else's (and vice versa.)

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