MASONIC DOCTRINE:

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 teaching.

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. 2

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 Doctrine.

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 3

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 4

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 many more.

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 world.

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.

(1) Oliver, Anderson, Morris, Wiggin, Lane, Paton, Allyn, Adams, Townsend, Watson, Mackey, Gould, Hall, Moore, Sherer, Pike, Preston, Waite, Wilmhurst, Claudy,

Sources.

Anderson., James, "The Constitutions of the Freemason’s"

Chalmers., Paton, "Freemasonry; its Symbols, Religious Nature, and Law"

Code., Samuel, "The Freemasons Library and General Ahiman Rezon"

Erskine., Neale, "Stray Leaves from a Freemasons Note-book"

Gould., Robert, "Collected Essays and Papers Relating to Freemasonry"

Mackey., Albert, "An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and it Kindred Sciences"

Mackey., Albert, "The Symbolism of Freemasonry Illustrating and Explaining Its Science and…"

Martyn., Charles "The True Principles of Freemasonry"

Moore., Cornelius, "The Craftsman and Freemasons Guide"

Newnham., P.H., "Freemasonry; What it is Not and What it is"

Oliver., George, "The Historical Landmarks and Other Evidences of Freemasonry"

Oliver., George, "The Antiquities of Freemasonry"

Oliver., George "Revelations of a Square"

Oliver., George, "Signs and Symbols Illustrated and Explained"

Oliver., George, "The Historical Landmarks and Other Evidences of Freemasonry Explained"

Paine., Thomas, "Common Sense"

Pike., Albert, "Masonic Origins"

Sherer., John. "The Masonic Ladder"

Waite., Arthur Edward, "The Secret Tradition of Freemasonry"

Webb., Thomas, "The Freemason’s Monitor: Or Illustrations of Masonry"

 

 

                  

               

Museum Home Page     Phoenixmasonry Home Page

Copyrighted © 1999 - 2017   Phoenixmasonry, Inc.      The Fine Print