[Square & Compasses]

Why did you become a Freemason?

From: "John Carroll" <jgcarroll@ozemail.com.au>
To: <masonry-ask@mit.edu>
Subject: Why I Joined Freemasonry
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2001 22:51:48 +1000

Although it has many imitators, the Fraternity of Masons remains unique.

Although not a religion (or a substitute for religion), it absolutely insists that a Candidate believe in a Godhead. How an individual perceives the Godhead is his own affair, but he must believe wholeheartedly that he was created for a purpose, and that the implicit belief in a Supreme Being reinforces that concept.

Having acknowledged that a Supreme Being has put him on Earth for a purpose great or small, the astute individual instinctively looks for that purpose: few of us are able or willing to become contemplative scholars or hermits, indeed this kind of withdrawal from society might spoil a lifetime rather than enrich it. The Search for Meaning could be more useful all around if the searcher remained in the worldly sphere, making a practical contribution to it.

To me, that is where Masonry comes into the picture. A candidate for initiation is asked point-blank whether he has a genuine wish to "be more extensively serviceable to his fellow creatures". At that point, he might, or might not, know exactly how he can do it, but (without going into detail) the initiation ceremony will help him to appreciate that wish more closely than other clubs or fraternities with charitable intentions can. A Mason has passed a test of his genuine intent and does so on a pledge of his honour as a man and a believer in One greater than himself.

Because Masonry is not a religion, it has no doctrines or dogmas. The rituals don't tell you what to believe, or what must be believed. If you are accepted as a candidate, you already have the basic beliefs that make you acceptable. The purpose of the rituals is to reinforce those basic beliefs, in a way that suits you best --- and in a way that helps you to use them in a practical way.

So, how does an apparent remnant of a medieval builder's union achieve this?

By metaphor, and by example.

Great structures are not built haphazardly. Poorly built structures won't last for centuries. A structure that lasts requires many skills --- a quarrymaster who chooses and extracts the best available material; skilled workers to shape up the rough material from the quarry; sculptors to carve the embellishments; engineers to bring the building into line with the physical laws of nature; builders to cement the pieces together; tilers, plasterers, painters and others to provide the finishes --- and above all, a skilled architect to design the work and see it through to completion.

This symbolic building doesn't just need competent workers. It needs materials of good quality, too. You can be one of the solid stones in the building; you can be the cement that holds them together. You can be anything, as long as it contributes to the whole. In the Craft, you can be either a thinker, a doer or both, but hopefully, both. As a Mason, you'll recognise how important you can be to a diverse, but cohesive organisation --- and to the rest of society --- because the symbols tell you something about yourself as well. You can build your own character within yourself and become a Man in Three Dimensions.

Just as the combination of qualities in skills and materials results in a lasting structure, we aim in our Lodges to work together towards a common goal of friendship among ourselves and usefulness to our communities. We reinforce the spirit of friendship by forbidding discussions of religion and politics in our gatherings, because these are the most common causes of strife and discord among males. We also try to leave another masculine trait--competitiveness--outside our lodge-room doors. Thus we aim to come together, and part, in Peace, Love and Harmony. From there, we aim to carry our ideals into the community at large.

Masons come from all walks of life and all age groups. A Lodge that has a mix of members is a blessing to everyone in it. The older members, especially, are still there! They're the proof that the ideals of Masonry still have meaning, because they haven't given up. Also, Masonry has kept them active after retirement. Decades of experience have convinced them that Masonry is worth holding on to. It's kept their minds and spirits alive. They're waiting and willing to share their knowledge--and the wisdom which experience and perseverance brings. Far from being "spent old farts", the older Brethren in your Lodge can be mentors and an inspiration in your life, as well as in the Craft.

And, most importantly, Masonry is a Brotherhood of all men. As long as a man has the basic beliefs and agrees with the ideals, he is eligible. Race, religion or other considerations are simply NOT an issue. If a man --- ANY man --- is worthy of being a Brother Mason, he need only "Ask 1 2B 1" and the door will be opened.

In summary, Masonry augments our individual religious beliefs and, by mutual support and encouragement, strengthens our inclinations towards morality and virtue. It does this by:

  • reinforcing our existing belief in the Godhead;
  • giving us symbols we can relate to;
  • helping us to understand our duties to God and Mankind via those symbols;
  • giving us an opportunity to meet, and work together, with like-minded men in Peace, Love and Harmony;
  • giving us role models to carry the good work forward;
  • refusing to discriminate against any man who genuinely seeks admission, unless he is an atheist, an agnostic or morally unworthy.

That, my Brethren and friends, is why I am a Mason.

Sincerely & Fraternally,

Bro John Carroll
JW, Lodge Fire Brigades #940, UGL of New South Wales, Australia

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