I recently experienced a sad exchange where a Brother told me he liked Masonic education, but he didn’t want to hear about any rainbows and unicorns ie: esoteric stuff. His Freemasonry had no room for such nonsense, even though he heard it in several appendant bodies. He went on to tell me I was part of only a fraction of Freemasons, maybe twenty percent at most, that even cared about the deeper esoteric meanings of symbolism and ancient mysteries because “Freemasonry is a Fraternity”, a Brotherhood.
He had a valid point. Freemasonry was seriously diluted about a hundred years ago with the influx of membership into a social fraternity. This is true. The old lodge records of long discourse of philosophy during lodge show we used to encourage deep thought and reflection on Masonic symbolism. That changed. Mackey, Wilmshurst, et. al. wrote extensively about what they termed “Parrot Masons” who are perfect ritualists and can recite the basics of what each symbol means, but what about these same Masons who are so admired for their memory work and delivery? They never seem to take it to the next level of contemplation and understanding. Yet we give these Masons rewards. We give them cards where they might proudly show others that they have tested and passed with only a handful of mistakes. Many Masons simply stop there.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed another sad exchange between Brothers again looking to remove a Brother from a group conversation because he had a different opinion that grated against the first individual. This is hardly the first exchange I’ve witnessed of a Brother looking to ostracize another Brother for not doing Freemasonry the way another Brother thought it should be done. I am saddened that societal influences crossed over into the fraternity to the point I see Brothers looking to kick out or censor other Brothers’ opinions, no matter whether good or bad. The point is an open debate, dare I say, open rhetoric? A difference of opinion is healthy, and all the way back to the early great works of the thinkers, open debate is the mark of civilization. I may not like your opinion, nor your particular view on some moral issues, but to censure or expel based on opinion and views?
The same Brothers who were wanting to ostracize another Brother may be shocked to see they belong to the (very vocal) minority. Eighty percent of the Fraternity is not as esoteric as these Brothers would like us all to be, and attempting to ostracize those who don’t practice Freemasonry, in the same way, would backfire. Those pushing would then be the ones pushed out. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. There, I said it. Maybe the esoteric Masons who are pushing their opinions and beliefs on others SHOULD be kicked out of the Fraternity. After all, are not these esoteric hot heads the ones being closed-minded as to giving the freedom to other Masons to do as they wish?
That’s a lot to take in for the moment. My position is to highlight the folly of both positions or opinions. Expulsion from this Fraternity should be the VERY LAST RESORT and never spoken of in normal conversation. Censure and other means of Masonic discipline exist for a reason, and they also should never enter a normal Masonic conversation. What I witnessed in both extremes of not wanting any esoteric education, as opposed to kicking people out or shunning them for not being esoteric enough is just silly. Both extremes are just childish. We are Freemasons. We are those set apart from society who are charged with approaching concepts and philosophies on the level, and that means being level-headed too. I don’t see any explanation except neither side spent enough time working on Entered Apprentice lessons, and they speak from pop culture lessons and social values, not from Freemasonry’s philosophical teachings.
We must take a step back from both extremes of philosophical approaches, and that requires a gentle touch. Ritual is important, and how you approach your own personal ritual is even more so. Esoteric symbolism is important, and how you approach your own understanding of your relationship with Deity? How is that not the most important part of your life and work as a Freemason?
The gentle touch might be too subtle for some. We must go back to silence being the first lesson and simply listen. What would happen if we held on to our opinion for just 24 hours of contemplation before stating it to others? How much more powerful would it be to analyze our own opinions of Rainbows and Unicorns before telling others we are closed-minded to symbolism and philosophy? Conversely, how much more powerful would it be to analyze our own opinions of those less esoteric before pushing the narrative the less esoteric should be expelled for not thinking the same way? We do not live in the shoes, or lives, of our Brothers, and we must not push our beliefs onto others. We are taught to use a very quiet whisper in the ear, almost never censure, and where would that leave expulsion? Whether the other Brother wants to change? Not ours to make happen, but we can and should always remember each other in our prayers.
Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.