A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry does not require particular belief in the afterlife, only the immortality of the soul -- that some part of who we are continues in some way after bodily death. Reincarnation is not a belief common in traditional Western religions, but surveys show that at least a quarter of Christians believe in it. Some say this is a contradiction, while others find confirmation or at least hints of the belief in Judeo-Christian scripture. The idea was also not unknown to Jewish and Christian mystics, likely from contact with India since the time of Alexander the Great. Regardless, the viewpoint of living life after life has profound implications consistent with Masonic values.
One consequence is that of legacy. Where most of us want to leave a better world for our children, those who believe in reincarnation are also making the world better for themselves. Whatever world they make they will have to live in it again. It is not merely a passing on of the torch, but a continuation of work. From contemplating this viewpoint, we can ask ourselves -- even hypothetically if you do not believe in reincarnation -- what do we want to do in this lifetime that we would want to continue in the next, or reap its benefits? What mark could you leave on the world so significant that being randomly cast into another life would guarantee being affected by it?
Another implication is the idea we have many chances, or steps, to perfect the rough ashlar, and our work can only be turned in after we submit a stone that is true and square. This is an excuse to aid in the reformation of others and ourselves, considering few, if any, to be beyond redemption. And what better way to be humbled than to know our spiritual work is greater than our single lifetime. Masonry, like the Operative Craft of the cathedral builders, teaches us we begin what others will finish and finish what others have started, spanning lifetimes and generations. We can't expect to do it all during our short years and should not lament it as a personal shortcoming. How odd would it be in Deity's great design that we should only live and die, when more glorious purposes require time leaning toward eternity, whatever form the rest of our travels take.
Reincarnation is also the reverse of the YOLO ("You Only Live Once") culture of the libertine, or the materialist-atheist. Like a belief in immediate heavenly reward, those embracing reincarnation do not live for the moment, except as a prelude to a future. What we do now has real consequences, to our future in this life and the next (and the next).
Perhaps it is a sensible idea to us or even one in which we already believe. Or perhaps it doth seem strange to us, but the sentiment ought to be familiar to our core beliefs, where we travel "from life to life". Or perhaps we reject the notion of reincarnation, but still can learn its lessons. The Roman poet Seneca says, "Live each day as a separate life." Each day, or life, presents us with a new trestle board, and even if we can only see this day's work, we know we didn't start it, and it will continue long after the working tools of life fall from our hands. And maybe the tools will be waiting for us once again in the morning.
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.