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A Thought on Masonry

The Mason who stops studying will never become an educated person, no matter how much knowledge he may acquire.

Every Mason needs some source through which he can associate with his fellows under circumstances that will enable him to exchange thought with them for the sake of mutual understanding and friendship.

Freemasonry seeks to improve the individual by advocating self-discipline.  Self-discipline cannot be had for the mere asking, nor can it be acquired quickly.  It is the product of carefully established and carefully maintained habits which, in many instances, can be acquired only by many years of painstaking effort and only after an understanding of the teachings of Masonry.

Education is the way by which we try to prepare ourselves to gainfully improve.  But education results only when individuals are induced to guide their thinking in compliance with established moral principles.

The value of lessons taught in Freemasonry lies entirely in the thoughts and inspirations they stimulate in the minds of those receiving them. It is therefore essential for the good of Freemasonry and its members that Masonic information be made available and presented in such manner as to be impressive and understood to all listening. The contents of this booklet are designed to provide information about our principles, symbols, and allegories that is not contained in the ritual or in the explanatory lectures.

Significance of Symbolism  

Masonry is “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” because these are the surest ways by which moral and ethical truths may be taught.  It is not only with the brain and the mind that the initiate must take in Masonry but also with the heart.

Mind speaks to mind with spoken or written words.  Heart speaks to heart with words which cannot be written or spoken.  Those words are symbols, words which mean little to the indifferent, much to the understanding.

The body has its five senses through which the mind may learn; the mind has also imagination.  That imagination may see further than eyes and hear sounds fainter than may be caught by ears.  To the imagination symbols become plain as printed words to the eye.  Nothing else will do, no words can be as effective.

Each mason can and should analyze for himself each symbol, each allegory, and form his own personal and moral philosophy.  Through a study of its symbolism he will learn the meaning of  Masonry, and his own life will be enriched thereby.

The significance of symbolism is emphasized in the following quotation from Oliver Day Street's Symbolism of the Third Degree:

“It may be asserted in the broadest terms that the Mason who knows nothing of our symbolism knows little of Masonry.  He may be able to repeat every line of ritual without an error, and yet, if he does not understand the meaning of the ceremonies, the signs, the words, the emblems and the figures, he is an ignoramus Masonically.  It is distressing to witness how much time and labor is spent in memorizing ‘the work' and how little in ascertaining what it all means.  Far be it from me to underrate the importance of letter-perfection in rendering our ritual.  In no other way can the symbolism of our emblems, traditions, and allegories be accurately preserved.  But I do maintain that, if we are never to understand their meanings, it is useless to preserve them.  The two go hand in hand; without either the beauty and symmetry of the Masonic temple is destroyed.”

Take from Masonry its symbols and but the husk remains, the kernel is gone.  He who hears but the words of Masonry misses their meaning entirely.

Masonic Culture  

“The advancement of high moral and intellectual forces in an environment of harmonious social interaction.”

The expression “knowledge is power” was well known even to ancient civilizations, and with the development of mind, so-called “enlightenment,” was a paramount ambition among them. Symbols of moral power were clothed in “mysteries,” in order to indelibly impress their lessons upon initiates to the philosophical orders.  For similar purposes, Freemasonry's ritual has preserved the essence of these elegant traditions.  Beyond the candidate level, however, it becomes a brother's duty to continually study and reflect and teach, not only Masonic history and philosophy, but also the liberal arts and sciences.

The brethren should proudly discourse on Freemasonry's mission as an instrument of friendship, benevolence, and compassion toward others; as a model for man's plans, purposes, hopes and striving to be better, and as a platform to strengthen and express a belief and devotion to God.  Such are the tenets of brotherly love, relief, and truth!

The true purpose, therefore, of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us; to develop to their fullest extent the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us has endowed us.

WHAT CAME YOU HERE TO DO?  To learn, to subdue our passions, and to improve ourselves in Masonry.

TO LEARN - Do you read Masonic periodicals and books?  What have you taught your brethren and candidates?

TO SUBDUE OUR PASSIONS - Has your understanding and appreciation of our beautiful ritual enabled you to apply its lessons in your daily life at work, at home, and at leisure?  Do you exemplify the four cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice, so that others notice behavioral changes in you?

TO IMPROVE OURSELVES IN MASONRY - How else have you made yourselves better men?  In an expression of brotherly love or caring, how many ill brethren have you visited?  Have you personally transported a nondriving or inactive brother to the lodge?  Have you contributed to Masonic and community charities?  How have you demonstrated that you are a good neighbor and a good citizen?  How have you shown reverence to God?  Does spirituality enter your every-day life?

WHAT SHALL WE DO? - exclaimed by the triad of Fellow Crafts exemplifies the importance of fraternal caring and concern, and to promote dependence upon one another in collective effort.  But, as conversation proceeds, they remind us that ultimately we are accountable for our actions and must report to a higher authority.  “Agreed!”

The degree then teaches us the importance of independent thought and action.  “Hold!  Before we return and report, let us separate,” ostensibly for individual experiences.

But, “let us keep within hailing distance,” that is, within the same context, so we may once again “meet and consult should any important discovery be made.”

CBS Sunday Morning aired a segment about Freemasonry presented by journalist Mo Rocca. This piece proved to be a fun, well balanced, and informative look at the fraternity. Among those interviewed were distinguished Masonic scholar and UCLA professor Margaret Jacob, as well as renowned Masonic author and editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, S. Brent Morris. Watch the video segment about Freemasonry via CBS Sunday Morning and view their accompanying piece, "9 things you didn't know about Freemasonry".
© San Jose Lodge no.10 Freemasons