PS Review of Freemasonry

Make this site your Home Page Print this page Send Masonic E-card recommend PS Review of Freemasonry Masonic Book Reviews Alerts Masonic News Alerts RSS News Feed
Serving Freemasons first
Search PS Review of Freemasonry

voltaire writing
"If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?"
- Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 6
Bro. Gerald Reilly
Spring 2008

by Bro. Gerald Reilly

Pietre-Stones February 2008 Poll of members made the intriguing assertion that “Freemasonry is an initiatic system of self-knowledge” and then asked, “According your experience, have the majority of the brethren really a lifestyle noticeably different from the cowans?” A not overly significant majority provided a positive response.


“…received into an organisation and entrusted with knowledge and experience…”


Whilst the question, inviting an evaluation of experience, might not be overly challenging, the assertion, might be considered to be more so. The assertion might be profound; perhaps it is profoundly meaningless. However, if as Freemasons we believe that we have been initiated it therefore it behoves us to understand what this might denote and if there are any outcomes that could be expected to flow there from.


Such a consideration cannot be undertaken in isolation and in light of this, it is suggested that a paradigm, meeting at the convergence of two of masonry’s tectonic plates, will prove to be helpful. The first is the issue considered in Candide’s Column in the previous issue of Pietre Stones Review and pertains to the question, is Freemasonry a peculiar system of morality? The second is the issue of Freemasonry vis a vis organized/revealed religion and begs the question, should members of a religion be initiated into something else?


Perhaps the term initiation” can be understood as indicating, from Roman times, the process of being received into an organisation and entrusted with knowledge and experience that is limited to its membership. There is no knowledge to be gained in the three degrees of craft Freemasonry that has not been available since 1952 to the millions of readers, world-wide, of Walton Hannah’s Darkness Visible; or during the last few years, downloaded from the Gospel of Google. In light of this, Freemasonry cannot claim to be introducing its new members to, or into, a body of new objective knowledge.


“…the cause of humanity…”


During the second stage, the initiate is informed that Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality. In so doing, a claim that there is a discrete behaviour code is being is being made and that is different to anything else that is around. To make any sense at all, and for initiation to have been effective, there will be an expectation that these behaviours will explicitly and demonstrably inform practice.  However, if Mackie is to be believed and Freemasonry is not a peculiar system of morality but is only for those who are already demonstrating a suitable behaviour code, Freemasonry will improve upon that practice by making a good man better. If this is the case it must follow that Freemasonry can hardly be initiatory in the sense of an admission to new knowledge but rather a “gee-up”, “buck-up” or “could do better” in ones previously professed moral code. This is achieved through an on-going process of knocking off all superfluous knobs and excrescences.  


If Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality then who decides if, as it is claimed prior to the Obligation,  it is compatible with ones civil, moral and religious duties. In the case of “civil” it is for the state to decide. “Moral” may well be individual based upon conscience and “religious” would be the decision of the leaders of a religion. And as most of them have denounced Freemasonry the claim of compatibility is, at best, perhaps a little odd!


The Grand Orient de France succinctly describes the initiatory dimension of Freemasonry as being the essential tool that allows the mason to discover a meaning to existence and to transmit this meaning into that of humanity striving towards emancipation. Lovely stuff indeed but surely, the basis of any religion is to provide a meaning for life and to transmit that meaning into some form of practice. But of course the GOdF’s direction of travel is the cause of humanity; in 1877 it came out of the cloisters, provided an alternative to a religious world-view and there is a clear delineation between its peculiar motivation and objectives and that of faith groups. However, striving towards the emancipation of humanity may well bring the values of Freemasonry into collision with the values of a nation state. To deny that this has happened, and continues to happen, is to deny history. It is the dishonesty of leaving the defence of a status quo out of a definition of politics and confining its meaning to challenging a status quo!


However, a majority of respondents to Pietre Stone’s February Poll believe that Freemasonry is an initiatory experience and that it leads to a lifestyle noticeably different.  The Poll question didn’t ask if this lifestyle is better or who it is that is to notice the difference. When I have posed a similar question the response has usually been on the lines of owing to Freemasonry (initiatic experience) I give more to charity. That is indeed fine and to be celebrated but surely Freemasonry has more to offer its initiates. They are taught in the First the interdependence of humankind, in the Second the need for the continuing study of nature gained through scientific methodology and in the Third the knowledge of ones self; that is to say, that life can have a meaning, or perhaps better, a worthy purpose.


“...a lifestyle noticeably different…”


If Freemasonry can instill into its new members a direction of travel that is unselfish, informed and provides purpose then indeed it can be described as a worthy initiatory experience. The basis of Freemasonry is the work ethic; without works belief is dead and it is by fruitful output that Freemasons should be recognized – not just as good citizens – but as practicing Freemasons! Surely this output is not to be confined within the Masonic Centre? No; it should rather be radiating out into a world that needs a Masonic input from Masonic initiates. Freemasonry has added to that person and outside of the lodge he or she is no longer what he or she was before – he or she is more. Masonic initiation has molded people into a role of potential leadership within their communities, and beyond, the masonic influence should be transparent. Yes, always being ready to give the reason for what is being done and why it is being done.


In a world in which half of the population is starving and half are slimming, the view could be taken that the production and distribution of food, clothing and shelter is capable of greater equity. Projects to redress local injustice and inequality are not new activities for Freemasons but are perhaps worthy of greater transparency on which, annually, the outgoing worshipful master could report. Who better than Freemasons to provide this local leadership? This would stamp the “R” of relevance on the forehead and heart of each mason and give them the self-respect that comes from knowing that their initiation is leading to daily personal improvement in the form of a lifestyle noticeably different, is serving the cause of humanity and is thereby leading to a better world

Home Page | Alphabetical Index | What is New | Freemasons World News
Research Papers | Books online | Freemasons History | Symbolism & Rituals
Saggi in Italiano | Essais en Langue Française | Monografias em Português | Planchas Masonicas en Español

| Sitemap | Privacy Policy | How to Contribute a Paper |

RSS Feed News Feed | News Alerts Subscribe News by Email

visitor/s currently on the page.