Why Your Partner Is Involved in FreeMasonry
I. J. Weir. P.G.H.
DGIW. Dist No.6., United Grand Chapter of Queensland
LADIES AND COMPANIONS:-
It is my pleasure to welcome you into our Chapter this evening and I consider it a privilege to have this opportunity to address you. However, before I introduce the topic itself, may I direct your attention to your immediate surroundings. You are seated within a Royal Arch Chapter, furnished in every respect as it would be were we to exalt a Candidate into the Royal Arch Degree.
You will note, among other things, an Altar, an Arch, a series of Ensigns and Banners, a Crowbar, Pick and Shovel, a Volume of the Sacred Law, a Sword, a Trowel, a Square and a pair of Compasses. The Arch relates to the building of King Solomon's Temple around which much of our philosophical teachings revolve. The Ensigns and the Banners take us back to the Twelve Tribes of Israel who play a prominent part in the Historical aspects of our Order. Each of the tools you see is of the common or garden variety — articles which can be found in most homes, but to a Royal Arch Mason each also has a deep symbolical meaning.
I direct your attention also to the various Officers of the Chapter. Each is seated in a special position and each has a special responsibility. Most of them are wearing distinctive clothing which I'm sure you can relate, without any great stretch of your imagination, to the dress of the Regal, Vice-Regal and Attendant Ceremonial Officers of the Royal Courts of yesteryear.
Whilst all of these play an important part in our Ceremonies, they have little bearing on my Topic tonight which is "Why your Partner is involved in FreeMasonry; Particularly Royal Arch FreeMasonry." This topic is, of course particularly directed to the Ladies, to whom I offer a special welcome, but it could also offer a challenge to the Companions to make a critical analysis of themselves, and perhaps enable them to arrive at a better understanding of themselves. Let me first of all spend a few moments on what Masonry is and is not.
One of the more common definitions of Masonry is that it is a peculiar system of Morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Note the words, "morality", "allegory" and "symbols".
According to the Dictionary, "morality" concerns itself with "goodness" or "business of character or disposition", or with "the distinction between right and wrong." A "symbol" is something regarded by general consent as naturally typifying, representing or recalling something — especially an idea or quality. Each of the tools to which I directed your attention earlier is a symbol. An "allegory" is defined as "a narrative description of a subject under the guise of another having similarities to it."
In summary then, Masonry deals with morality, with the distinction between right and wrong and with the building of one's character. In other words, it endeavors to teach good men to become better men. However, it does not adopt an evangelical approach of "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not." Remember its teachings are veiled in allegories. For example... A chisel, to a Mason, at least to a Royal Arch Mason, is not just a tool used by a carpenter or stone Mason. A chisel is a symbol which represents a relationship between education and the development of the mind. Instead of saying education develops the mind, so read well, read wisely and you will become a better educated person, a Mason might present a candidate with a chisel, compare the uneducated mind with a rough or unpolished stone, and say, "As a chisel, in its application to the surface of the stone quickly uncovers the stone's hidden beauty, so education reveals the latent qualities of the mind." Here we've used a chisel, a symbol and an allegory to present a well known truth.
I have already stated that Masons, in their teachings do not adopt an evangelical approach. Masonry is not a religion. It never can be a religion and in no way can it be a substitute for a religion. On the other hand, "the Volume of the Sacred Law is the very foundation on which rests the whole Masonic structure. The doctrines contained therein are given and accepted as standards of truth and justice." We embrace its purest principles of morality and virtue, of brotherly love, relief and truth, and also the three graces, faith, hope and charity. Masonry does not dictate to any man what his religious beliefs or secular followings should be. Rather, it supports and strengthens his existing religious beliefs.
Masonry is often proclaimed, by the uninitiated and ignorant, to be a secret society and one possessing all the attendant connotations of evil associated with such societies. Nothing can be further from the truth. Our centers and meeting places are clearly defined and indeed many are open for public inspection. Our Constitution, Laws and Regulations can be found in many Libraries. Our ceremonies of Rededication, Consecration and Grand Installation are now open for all to share. You are presently seated in a fully furnished Royal Arch Chapter with all its symbolism fully displayed. We are not a secret society, but we do have secrets. Secrets which are shared only with those who belong to the Order just as you share your personal and private secrets with those members of your immediate family.
But let's leave this thumbnail sketch of what Masonry really is and tackle the real question of what there is in the above which maintains the interest of your man.
First of all, let me hasten to assure you that there is no single, definitive answer to the above question. Different people join Masonry and maintain their interest for various reasons. Ideally, one would hope that the original motivation to join our Order came from a favorable, preconceived opinion of the Institution and what it does — to be a part of something which someone else, for whom one holds a deal of respect, is already a member. Often this is a father, father-in-law, grandfather or friend etc. Those who join merely out of curiosity, without commitment, or in the misguided belief that membership of the Order will gain them materialistic benefits or preferent treatment, discover their error and drop out.
Some gain enjoyment merely by having an opportunity to meet and mix with men from other walks of life. In Masonry, all men are equal. There are certainly differences in rank and fortune, but we are taught early in our Masonic career that eventually "the time will come, and the wisest knows not how soon, when all these distinctions will cease, save those arising from the exercise of goodness and virtue." In other words, Masonry, it's what we do, not what we think we are, that counts. So, we meet on the level and part on the square.....There's that symbolism again.
Masonry gives us the opportunity to mix freely with those with whom we would not normally come in contact, during the course of our own social or professional life, and to some, this social interaction is sufficient to maintain their interest.
Masonry is, however, a progressive science... progressive in this sense, meaning "on-going" and so, for some of us, once having taken the first step, there is an urge to go on, to take the next step and the next. It's somewhat like reading a gripping suspense novel. Once your appetite has been whetted, you want to hurry on to unravel the plot, to find out what happens next, to satisfy your thirst for information..... and so it is with Masonry!
Further, most men respond or react to a challenge, so let's look at the challenge in Masonry. There's the challenge for the Candidate to understand that which he is being taught, but for every candidate or student of Masonry, there must also be a teacher and therein lies a further challenge. There's the challenge of first of all understanding ourselves what it is we are trying to teach to the candidate. There's the challenge of being able to memorize the ritual which conveys the message; the challenge of being able to stand in front of an audience and deliver that ritual in a manner which will enable others to share in the interaction. For some, Masonry provides the first and only opportunity for speaking in public.
But being a good ritualist is more than just being a good speaker. To really convey the true meaning of the word, one has to be somewhat of an actor or dramatist to be successful, and again, we all know there is a little bit of an actor in all of us. Masonry, then, provides an opportunity to express oneself — to go on stage, as it were. Accepting this challenge of memorizing ritual, reproducing it and knowing that the candidate has got the message brings an enjoyment of its own and helps maintain the interest of others in our midst.
But not all men enjoy this aspect of Masonry. There are some who get more enjoyment from just listening to the story unfold. Certainly they have heard it all before but so has the four year old who wants Mum to read again and a gain, his favorite story. I'm not for one moment suggesting that Masons have the mentality of a four year old, but there is comfort and assurance and pleasure in knowing what comes next.
There's also the opportunity for leadership, for administration and for organization. Many Companions earn their living by exercising these skills in daily life. To them, the needs of Masonry afford them the opportunity to give of their expertise for the benefit of others. Some, who are the "doers" rather than the "shakers" in life, gain enjoyment by developing untapped skills in those areas as they progress through the various offices of responsibility.
What about Ceremonial? In all our degrees, there is a deal of movement around the room. This is done with an emphasis on dignity and decorum which is what would be expected in all ceremonial procedures. Role playing it might be, but this too has an appeal and helps maintain interest.
Still another reason expressed by many Masons for their continued involvement is that they feel a sense of belonging. Consider the thrill of discovering that whilst traveling overseas or far from home, the person in the seat beside you comes from the same town as you do, or that the stranger across the street went to the same school as you did all those years ago. You have something in common on which you can, if you so desire, further develop a relationship... and so it is with Masonry, no matter where you go in this or any other country, you will find other Masons. No matter what their colour, race or creed, their station in life or their lack of it, we have a common bond. We have all passed through the same experiences and shared the same knowledge and teachings. We belong to a world wide companionship of brotherly love, relief and truth.
Now whilst I have touched on some of the reasons for our continued involvement, there are as many more again for which time will not permit further elucidation. I haven't really explored the thirst for knowledge, the need to understand and explore all the symbolism and allegories, the love of history, the desire to know oneself and become a better person, the drive to seek promotion to a higher rank in the Order or even the thought that after all, it may only be habit which brings us back month after month.
Suffice it to say, Masonry is many things to many men. Conversely, Masonry provides something for every man. Somewhere along the continuum of reasons I have drawn, lies every Mason — Maybe on just one point, maybe on two or three and maybe on many. You Ladies present, knowing your man much better than I do, might like to attempt to categorize him and place him where you believe he fits best.
In conclusion, let me use-another allegory to explain what I' am trying to say.
Masonry can, I believe, be likened to a stained glass window. When looked at from the outside, no matter how intricate the pattern or how large the frame, it appears to an observer as an imponderable conglomeration of bits of coloured glass of differing shapes and sizes, all joined together by uninspiring lines of grayish-black material. It has no meaning; it lacks interest and it is easily dismissed as inconsequential. But, once inside the room, and looking from the inside out, one experiences not only the superficial beauty of that same multicoloured glass, with the sun streaming through. to accentuate the nuances of light and shade, but there for all who care to look, experience and search., is the light of knowledge and the understanding of what the story inherent in the window is intended to convey. There is no doubt some will see more than others; some will gain more enjoyment than others and sadly the enjoyment gained whilst looking from the inside cannot be shared with those who gaze only from without.
And so it is with Masonry.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:
- Words enclosed with inverted comas are either extracts or adaptations from various Masonic Rituals.
- The allegory, "the stained glass window" was used by M.Ex.Comp. G. W. Miller in an address to the Companions of Waratah-Tyrian Chapter No.15 on the occasion of their Amalgamation. 21 June, 1997. It has here been considerably expanded.
- Address for a Master Mason's Meeting Conducted by a Royal Arch Chapter. Rt.Ex.Comp. J. H. McKone PDGZ. June 1995.
- Masonry an Ancient and Unique Fraternity. V.Wor.Bro. J. H. McKone. AGSW. 1995.