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What Masonry means to people

Their thoughts on the Meaning of Masonry

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Turning The Hiram Key

Find out what Masonry means to Robert by reading his latest book, Turning The Hiram Key.

- Robert's own thoughts about his new book
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Meaning of Masonry

As Shakespeare so aptly stated, in 'As You Like It'; “one man in his life plays many parts”, one time spoiling cricket pitches as a personal protest and later defending The Rule of Law as Leader of the House of Commons. And so it is with Freemasonry as attitudes change over one's lifetime.

As inevitably, talk of spiritual paths will enter this discourse, it may be useful to trace one own path. All Sundays in my early years consisted of compulsory attendance at church, more by edict than parental example. The net result of this was a complete antipathy to matters ecclesiastical for the next 30 odd years, (but that is another matter.)

I had, over the years, observed my father sallying forth to his lodge (which at that time met at the Boar's Head public house in Radcliffe) along with his friends, who in the main, seemed a genial lot. In the early 1950s, he became a founder of a lodge which was formed and met in Salford. The whole thing seemed to a callow 21 year old to be a special conclave with secrets only they had access to, as well as being fun. Fun and sociability there was in plenty, to a level I have never encountered since, but only on the surface. Underneath, there was a constant battle going on among factions of past masters in particular, and this is still evidenced in my current lodge where the same people go 'through the chair' up to five times (so far) in order to exclude others. This is known as 'Brotherly Love'. The most notable thing at this time was, although the ceremonies were performed with great sincerity and solemnity, there was total lack of interest in what those ceremonies meant or why we performed them. True, at that time, there was a greater respect for authority which was often held in awe, and even ones contemporaries were aghast if one questioned aspects of the ritual. There was still much of the schoolboy feeling that “We know something you don't know”. Much of this continues today in the importance that UGL attaches to civil honours so that the peasants will know their place.

Moving on, after even a little research into the origins of Freemasonry, it becomes clear, contrary to the official prevailing wisdom, that it is rather more than a set of mediaeval building regulations. Whilst Masonry consolidated in the 18th century, it symbols were very old, from 'time immemorial' and it seems to have been formed by philosopher-scientists as an outlet for their spirituality in the face of a church hostile to both theological heresy and science.

Whether Masonry can fulfil this role in the present climate is doubtful, although in individual cases this may be so. The climate to science and theology has changed since those early days and it is the church as a whole which is more on the defensive, and I say this without relish. Take the example of Wilmshurst, recently resurrected by Lomas in his recent book, 'Turning the Hiram Key'. Up to the 1950s in one lodge, Wilmshurst's work was kept alive, but after that time, an infiltration of Christian Science occurred, the members, few of whom study, were unaware of this and accepted it wholeheartedly. The struggle of factions still goes on in spite of the prevalent feelings of moral superiority over 'outsiders'.

In summary, a spiritual approach to Freemasonry is possible but there are considerable dangers to be guarded against, and only if behaviour is modified into that of true brotherly love, of which I have seen more evidence in non-spiritual lodges.
By Anonymous Master Mason
I believe that Masonry is a process of revelation, of slow dislosure perhaps, in which each participant undergoes a form of discovery about himself and the wider universe in which he lives. Because it is a process - a sort of unravelling - rather than an instant arrival, it tends to be slow, though the speed at which it happens will vary, depending on the candidate; and the manner in which it happens will differ for the same reason. Masonry means different things to different people.

For my part, the initiation ceremony was not something that could be distilled easily or qualified in rational terms, because it was such an overwhelming occasion, especially in the earlier stages. All such analysis would be for me retrospective. The primary feature of the ceremony was an awakening of awe - true awe - and it was not without trepidation, fear and dread. But the awe did not dwindle as the fear evaporated, to be replaced by a feeling of confidence: by the time of the delivery of the charge, the rational brain was awakened again, in the light of the emotional experiences it had shared in.

The impression of the next stages of the Craft, that of passing and raising, asked more subtle questions, though that of the third surpassed the drama of the initiation. The second ceremony was the most cerebral of all three, and I enjoyed it most, since it spoke of the importance of understanding and studying nature and science.

What then, do I think of Masonry? Two simple things: first, that patience is rewarded with time, and one's understanding grows with each new visit to the lodge, or spent in contemplation in the meantime; secondly, that Masonry subconsciously or consciously provides or assists in the following - controlling one's emotions, developing one's intellect and rationale, and finally preparing oneself for death. In this way, fear is removed or at the least confidence grows, and one has a better idea about one's calling - though that calling may be whatever suits the individual (for Freemasonry is not prescriptive). That last bit, in the brackets, is actually the most important of all!
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