Freemasonry is an excellent fraternity that provides its members an opportunity to meet and become friends with many other like-minded men. It is a chance for men to meet once or twice a month, have a nice meal together, and get to know one another. It is also a means to provide charity to those in need of it. It can be a vehicle for men to learn to exert themselves, achieve goals, become leaders, and grow more comfortable talking to a group. It can be all of these things, but the truth is, there are other organizations out there that provide men with these opportunities. These groups exist without the need for rituals and lectures that have to be memorized in order to be performed, which is even more difficult considering the time period most of this work is from. With this in mind, why do we keep participating in Masonry? Why do we learn these things from Freemasonry if there are other clubs that also make similar offers?
Freemasonry does not replace one’s religion, but it certainly supplements its teachings for a man. Our principle supports are faith, hope, and charity. The first two deal exclusively with God. We learn to honor God through all things. Everything we do begins and ends with prayer. The Volume of Sacred Law is so essential that we cannot meet without one opened on our altar. The belief in God is a requirement to be considered for membership within regular Freemasonry, and it is also an immutable landmark of the fraternity for its members to continue to believe in. Without that belief, everything we do, all the lessons taught in our degrees, becomes frivolous.
We also believe that there is more to us than flesh, bone, or primal survival instincts. There is a Divine Spark within us that is eternal, and bound for another existence. We are unique creatures in Nature. We have the ability to dream, to contemplate, and to work out complex problems. These traits separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but that does not mean that we do not have animalistic instincts. Animals act on these instincts without thinking, or considering the consequences of their actions (for the most part). Man can also act on these instincts, or more precisely, his passions. To overcome this, we tune in to our spiritual side, where we learn to think before we act, to do things for good rather than our own pleasure, and most importantly, to act in a way that attempts to perfect our soul to become worthy of the Kingdom of God. This awareness and improvement of this soul within us, is man operating on his highest form--one that is aware of his spiritual, Divine Spark and that work is needed to return it to its Divine Source.
We also learn how we should interact with one another, and the world at large. We learn that charity extends beyond financial relief or lending a helping hand to those in need. We learn that charity is unconditional brotherly love and affection for all mankind, no matter of one’s race, creed, religion, or social and financial standing. We learn that everyone should be treated the same. We can disagree with a person on any number of things, but we should still love them as one of God’s children. This is perhaps the single hardest thing for us as Masons, and especially mankind itself, to apply to our daily lives. The symbols, lectures, and teachings are there for us as a constant reminder.
We learn of virtues in addition to those mentioned above to help us in our daily lives. We learn to have fortitude, or the courage to do the right thing, even though there may be overwhelming pressure to do the opposite, or go with the crowd. Prudence teaches us that we should never act rashly or emotionally, but should react or speak only after careful thought and introspection. Temperance tells us to not overindulge in anything that could lead us down a path of bad behavior. This not only applies to things like alcohol, overeating, or swearing, but perhaps any action that can be overdone. Finally, justice teaches us to reward or punish those based only on their actions or words, not any preconceived notion or prejudice, and that all should be treated equally with these virtues.
We learn the values of patience and perseverance. Just as going through the degrees takes time, so too does improving ourselves. The Staircase Lecture symbolizes our lifelong pursuit of knowledge. We cannot see where we are going, and must be patient as we ascend. The work never truly ends for us until the day we die. We must also persevere. During the course of our travels, we will constantly meeting obstacles blocking our path-if the path were easy, we would never truly earn improvement through our labor. We must always remain worthy of further light. Perseverance is also taught in the story of the Master Builder, who kept his integrity and moved forward despite the obstacles he faced. Lastly, we learn that despite our best efforts, we will not receive the Divine Word, the Truth, until the light of this life is extinguished, and the light of our next life is lit-if found worthy.
Freemasonry stands out from other organizations because of the shared initiatic experience of our ritual. It supplements Biblical teachings for a man, and serves as a reminder to ever be working towards perfection. Perfection in this life is not attainable, but it is still a worthwhile endeavor because man improves as he works toward perfection. Practicing our teachings and living by their example makes us more worthy to receive God’s Light. The Ephramite Lecture teaches us that God’s Light can be given to us, but we must be worthy to receive or understand it. It is a Spiritual Nourishment of plenty, but we must make ourselves capable of internalizing it. Freemasonry teaches us to ever pursue these labors for our own self-improvement. Freemasonry can mean different things to different brothers. For some, it can mean all of these things. While it is great to have an outlet for social gathering, the performance of charity, and duty through the administration of the fraternity, we should never disregard the teachings our ritual opens to us. This is the Light of Masonry, and for those that can internalize these lessons and make them a part of their daily life and practice, self-improvement is an inevitable consequence. The more we as Masons can do this, the more our Lodges and Grand Lodges can improve, the more we can attract men to the fraternity looking for the same thing, and lastly, the more we can improve our communities and society as a whole. Fiat Lux, Brethren.
Bro. Mark St. John was raised April 12, 2018 in Urim Lodge #111 in Calhoun, Louisiana, and is currently serving as Senior Warden. He is also a member of Graham Surghnor Lodge #383 and serves as its Junior Deacon. He serves the Fourth District of Master Masons of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana as it’s Senior Deacon. Mark is a 32° Master of the Royal Secret of the Valley of Monroe, where he serves as the Knight Warden (Sr Warden) of the Valley’s Chapter of Knights of St. Andrew. He is also a Noble of the Barak Shrine Temple of Monroe, Louisiana.