Remarks delivered as the Visitor's Toast at Godolphin
Lodge No.7790, Cornwall UK, 18th August, 2005.
Diversity in Freemasonry?
© Bro. J.J.P. Goody ,
M.Phil., B.Ed.(Hons), C.E.
Brethren, why do we as Masons place so much value on, and make so
much effort to "Visit" another Brother's Lodge? Perhaps, it is simply
the friendship, camaraderie and enjoyment that we experience, perhaps,
as we search for further meaning in our Masonic understanding, or is it
the esprit de corps, of shared experiences, shared challenges and the
collective difficulties overcome in mastering the ritual. For many, one
of the most interesting facets of "Visiting in Freemasonry", lies in
examining the structure, layout and ornamentation of another Brother's
Lodge. Coupled to this, is the pleasure of observing the different
interpretations, which have developed over many years, in delivering the
ritual. As we learn in the first degree, Freemasonry is a peculiar
system morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
These symbols are predominantly architectural, celestial and
spiritual in character. They are an interesting amalgam of the
Egyptian, Israelitish and English Gothic traditions. Alongside these
icons, there exists, with a close and curious parallel, the literature.
Each carries a rational content inside their artistic form. Whilst the
images are essentially uniform, regular and orthogonal in nature,
emphasising for example, the perpendicular; the literature reflects a
fondness for the technical, using mostly old and out of the way
vocabulary. There is a distinctive operative craft bias in the text,
which is interspersed with ungainly and odd sounding phrases. And yet,
this archaic and obtuse literature is both philosophical and remarkable.
We all have our favourites piece, whether it be the 2nd degree working
tools, or Charge at the NE corner - both pieces of which are at one,
prosaic, profound and poetical.
Brethren, we have a most interesting juxtaposition; uniformity,
regularity, precision and ornamentation in the allegorical images we
find in the temple; contrasted to a style of literature, drawn from
diverse styles and forms; for example - craft masonry, architecture,
legal traditions, theology and the philosophical. And yet Brethren,
despite the obvious irregularity, there is a coherence to the content,
and we marvel at how the ritual can vary from the ungainly to the
Brethren, is irregularity so unusual in Freemasonry and should
diversity be condemned? Perhaps, you may think, the text should reflect
the same uniformity and orderliness of the imagery and icons? Brethren,
I would suggest not, in architecture cunning irregularity is both the
norm and of enormous worth, for example in visiting a local church we
may discover that
"...the carved leafage of some capital or spandrel strays freakishly
out of bounds with its Gothic mouldings; or the enrichment of a string
course in the building is not accurately spaced, or there was a sudden
blank in a wall, where a window was expected from formal
measurement." (T. Paulin, 2001).
And so within the ritual and imagery of Freemasonry we find the
unforeseen and unexpected, the text stresses principle rather than
structures syllable. It overlays the symbols with poetic texture rather
than poetic veneer, it emphasises the profound rather than the
inconsequential. Brethren here in, I would suggest to you, lies the
value of "Visiting" another Brothers Lodge. Not only are we challenged
by the different symbols we see, and the ritual we observe, but most
importantly, we learn that diversity and individual interpretation, is
the norm in Masonry, it is fundamental to the Craft, and to us, as
individuals in promoting our daily advancement in Masonic knowledge.
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