KEYSTONES FOR THE TEMPLE NOT BUILT WITH HUMAN HANDS
Bro. David Freeman
Brethren of the Craft are aware of members who no longer
attend Lodge. It would be interesting to know how many men demit from their
Craft Lodge but jurisdictions are loath to provide the information even if
they track this data. Those members that do leave their lodge can be
classified into three groups. Those that remain members of the Craft Lodge pay
their dues but no longer attend. Those that have taken a demit from their
Lodge but still believe themselves to be members of the Craft and those who
for what ever reasons are at variance with the Craft. There is little that can
be said to or about the latter group but the two former groups deserve our
focus as do the Brethren who are contemplating taking a demit or not attending
Lodge as their experience in Masonry has proven to be hollow.
Time Magazine in their periodical "Secret Societies"
suggests until the publication of the books by Dan Brown Freemasonry was a
dying phenomena. A bit of fiction I think.
It cannot be denied membership in Freemasonry is
shrinking. Many rationales are offered. Demands in the labour market, family
commitments, other organizational and Masonic commitments, aging population
and so on. All of which suggest the loss of Brethren can be fixed by
organizational and structural modification or by societal change. The latter
is untenable and the former has not worked. Yet we continue to insist on
organizational modification as a solution to membership deficit. Similar to
many others I believed the structural solution argument until some month ago
when a Brother indicated in his opinion many in the Craft knew little about
the underlying Doctrine of Freemasonry. I simply let the comment pass until a
few days later when Brethren of my Craft Lodge signalled their disappointed in
their experience as a Freemason. Their speculation was there must be more to
the Craft than ritual, festive boards, charities and social events.
The writings of notaries (1) of our Craft tell us the
source for the retention of Brethren is the understanding of our Doctrine
which gives Freemasonry meaning. It was the search for Masonic Doctrine that
brought our forefather’s to our West gate; It was the search for this Doctrine
that brought the elder members of our Craft to our West gate and from speaking
to our newest Brethren it is their search for Masonic Doctrine that brought
them to our West gate. There will always be good men searching for what our
Craft bestows. Their quest and the pursuit of those Brothers already wearing
our symbols is rewarded within our ritual through the understanding of our
Doctrine. We have nothing to fear for the Craft if we regain our Doctrine as
our forefathers founded and Doctrine again becomes the rai·son d'ętre of our
Doctrine is a categorization of creeds, teachings and
instructions, provided to good men through the understanding of our belief
system. Doctrine can be said in one way to equal Truth.
We are men who belong to a spiritual organization. Our
history tells us this, our literature tells us this, our ritual tells us this
and our degrees tell us this. To support our ritual but to understand we are
more than ritual, to reignite the dormant charisma, enchantment and creed
along with the magic of our Craft is the calling of every Freemason.
Albert Gallatin Mackey wrote ten books concerning
masonic, law, meaning, and symbolism. You may be familiar with his
encyclopedia of Freemasonry. He says our usages and ceremonies are "subject to
extensive variations" and they "are not the sum and substance" of Freemasonry.
Mackey believed we confuse Doctrine with outward form and it may be suggested
from his writing that this confusion leads to the prioritization of form over
It is Doctrine that has always been the quintessence of
the Craft. Prioritizing form over Doctrine and failure to practice our
Doctrine denotes Freemasonry as nothing more than another social institution.
If we do not understand our foundational Doctrine, we will never see our
ritual as any thing more than an interesting way to open and close a gathering
and our degrees as fascinating narratives for membership. Prioritization of
form over Doctrine leaves Brethren searching for Masonic substance and finding
a void in their experience.
None of what we do in our Lodges, our lessons or our
degrees is random. Everything is a symbol and everything done in a Lodge is,
or should be a path to learning, understanding and living our Doctrine.
Everything we speak about, do or have is time certified.
The Lodge does not make good men better. The Lodge,
through our degrees and ritual, animates the tools to make good men better.
Our Doctrines are those tools. If we do not understand and practice our
Doctrines, we do not understand Freemasonry. Doctrine tells us who we are as
Freemasons. Form or ritual tells us how to get there.
The Doctrines of "Know Thy Self" of the first degree,
being "Pure of Heart" of the second degree and "Immortality" of the third
degree are the foundation for who we are and the establishment we are part of.
These are the keystone’s for building that Temple not constructed by human
hands. These principles have not changed in 500 years or 4000 years depending
on when you count the start of Freemasonry. The formula may have changed but
the Doctrine has not.
If you enter a lodge where an original Tyler’s’ chair is
located, you will see the doctrine "know thyself" imprinted on the chair. This
means more than how we put bread on the table. We often get asked "tell us
about your self". Our response normally is something akin to "I am married to
----, I have-----children I grew and went to school in------, and I work
as-----. This answer speaks about "what" we are. This is not the meaning of
"know thy self" which Freemasonry advocates. In the first degree the three
principle officers ask who is he who comes here not what is he. The answer
does not involve profession or family status.
Knowing self is being able to articulate abilities,
interests, values, and personality. It is looking into those clandestine
places we all have which we rarely share with anyone. These are places
well-appointed with our fear, desire, embarrassment, anger, disappointment,
regret, hope and many other emotions. Knowing self is the point where we start
our progression to perfection our ultimate goal.
Our history, experience, education, parents and many
other social events provides the emotional, physical, intellectual and
spiritual world we create and live in. From this creation we perceive and
judge, ritual, meaning, events and our Brethren. This created world controls
how we think, and what we believe. This is what the Craft aims to modify
through a pure heart.
In the Ancient Mysteries purity of heart and life was an
essential prerequisite to initiation, because by initiation the aspirant was
brought to a knowledge of God. The knowledge of God
being the object of our degrees. As a Freemason when in
Lodge we stand on consecrated ground. We are required to have clean hands and
a pure heart.
For the Freemason to be pure in heart means our motives
are unmixed or unadulterated. It means as Freemasons we do not have selfish
purposes. When we do things for unselfish reasons we climb a little higher to
God which is the journey of the soul. In our degrees where we use the term
heart we are referring to the spiritual centre of the Freemason. We are
striving towards where our thoughts, behaviour, emotions should be blameless.
No hypocrisy, no guile, no hidden motives. To be pure of heart is more than an
external purity of behavior; it is an internal purity of soul.
Our ceremonies are all about the pure heart. The
candidate is asked where was he first prepared. The answer in the heart. In
Freemasonry the left represents the heart and soul the right the mind. Our
ritual does not say to approach the alter left right left right. It says by a
step starting on the left foot of so many inches. Traditionally we stepped the
left and brought the right up. So we lead with our heart and soul and bring
the mind along.
Our Masonic apron reinforces being "Pure of Heart" as it
denotes simplicity and candour, innocence, truth and hope. It is, to us, a
constant reminder of that purity of heart and rectitude of conduct, of higher
thoughts and nobler deeds, which are the distinguishing character of a Free
and Accepted Mason. In our history if a Freemason put on his apron and has in
anyway not maintained the standard of our teachings he knew himself to be a
hypocrite and a liar.
We cannot speak of the spiritual side of Freemasonry as
Freemasonry is spirituality. The Doctrine of immortality is embedded in the
Old Charges our Landmarks and passes through all our degrees. The over riding
question for all the degrees and particularly the third degree is "If a man
die shall he live again". Our Degrees answer "yes". We have a soul. Though
real it is intangible. This principle is an unquestioned integral part of the
Craft. The third degree assures us life does not end with the physical body,
but continues through a boundless future. The Lion and the grip of the lions’
paw, a term in the ages of Freemasonry, demonstrates the doctrine of
immortality of the soul. The language and enactment of the recovery of the
soul in our third degree is a symbol of immortality accomplished by the grip
of the lions’ paw.
Our degrees and ritual consistently speaks about God and
our relationship to him. The new initiate asks the help of God to complete his
Masonic journey and he says that it is God on whom he relies. The V.S.L. as an
essential and indispensable part of the Lodge is a sign of our spirituality.
Our ritual compels us to reach out to God. The first degree lecture teaches
our lodge stands on holy ground. It is consecrated and is situated east and
west as are all places of worship. Our Lodge represents the universe which is
the temple of Deity. The Heavens stretched forth, the Earth as a footstool.
Formally the alter was referred to as the Lodge and it remained covered until
after the opening. In the first two degrees it is where the candidate takes
his obligation. In the third degree it becomes the Holy of Holies in the
temple of Solomon.
Our apron is a manuscript of our spirituality. It has
three rosettes each representing the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and
so indicates the passage from one state of existence into another which is the
journey of Freemasonry. Three is the number for male. A Freemason must be male
and freeborn. Three represents completeness the object of our three degrees.
For the Freemason the three rosettes point to the beginning of the
philosophical and spiritual synthesis or completeness. This synthesis is
synonymous with supreme intelligence and the Great Architect. It symbolizes
the threefold nature of the world, consisting of Heaven, Earth and Man
and the division of man into spirit, soul and body. The
Pythagorean school, called the number three the spiritually perfect number.
Consider this spiritual perfect number in our Lodge.
Three make a lodge, three principal officers, three supporting pillars, three
lesser lights, three greater lights, three movable jewels, three immovable
jewels, three raps, three steps on the Master's Carpet, three degrees and so
The tassels represent the second number on our apron.
Seven represents wholeness, the highest symmetry, mystery, and
comprehensiveness. The number seven symbolizes perfect order, the main virtues
freemasonry teaches and their opposite deadly sins.
The equilateral triangle of our apron is a divine symbol
representing, the Great First Cause, the Creator and Container of all things,
as one and indivisible. God manifesting Himself in an infinity of forms and
attributes in this visible universe. The apex pointing upward characterizes
the perfect man made in Gods image with the apex pointing to God. Triangles
pointed upwards are employed to represent ascension toward the spiritual
When the Flap of the apron is turned up it is a triangle
surmounting a square. This represents the two realities of a Freemason. The
square below the material man the triangle above the spiritual man.
When upright and downward triangles are put together,
they form the Creator's Star and symbolize balance and knowledge. The Creators
Star six points stand for the six days of creation, and also represent the six
attributes of God: power, wisdom, majesty, love, mercy and justice. Two
triangles entwined represents perfect man and God exemplifying the final unity
of God and the perfect divine man.
The apron teaches our progression is from the material
man to the perfect divine man with the soul made in Gods image. It teaches the
truth of our being on a journey to the return of our soul to deity. For us
there is only the affirmative direction. In the three degrees we are presented
with the assent to deity, Jacobs ladder, winding staircase, a veil which
separates us all indicators of this affirmative direction. Our spiritual path
within our Doctrine is birth, moral awakening, life, pursuit of knowledge,
experience, death of our old self and rebirth in perfection
Every lodge is on consecrated ground and our Doctrine
tells us we enter to know ourselves a little better, enhance our spirituality,
leave with a refreshed heart and to take one more step in the journey of our
soul to its creator. Brethren within the Lodge pursue a foundation on which to
build their Masonic and Personal life. Our Doctrine are their keystones. Our
doctrines are what make a good man better.
Our Doctrines of having a pure heart, immortality and
knowing our inner self are our tools. Every Brothers progress in the Craft is
dependent on whether he chooses to pick up these tools.
Our Craft has little to fear from our critics but has
much to fear from those within who continue to sponsor organizational
development, and social contracts as the Crafts impetus. Brethren who continue
to insist that form is Freemasonry and modifying form through organizational
structural change will rejuvenate the Craft have forgotten what our essayists,
history and predecessors have taught us. As my Brethren speculated, correctly
I might add, Freemasonry is more then organization. It is a faith of
confidence and trust in the Doctrine of the Craft that consistently has been
the attraction to our West gate. It is our Doctrine that seekers search for.
It is the 5
understanding of our Doctrine that Brethren are
soliciting and it is the understanding and practice of our Doctrine which
foretells the rejuvenation of our Craft.
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