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The Psychology of Freemasonry

by John A. Johnson, PH.D.
Talk delivered to Garfield Lodge #559, DuBois, PA, February 5, 1987

The title of my talk tonight, brethren, appears in the meeting announcement as the "Psychology of Freemasonry." Actually, tonight I plan to describe two psychologies of Freemasonry--an outer psychology and an inner psychology. The "outer" psychology I will share with you is that manner in which a non-initiate psychologist might describe our activities. The "inner" psychology I will then describe can only be fully understood by a man initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry.

First, then, what would an ordinary, non-Masonic psychologists say about the things we Masons do at our lodge meetings? More than likely, he would look at our activities as an expression of ancient, universal drives, motives, and impulses that date back to the dawn of human history. Psychologists have noted that in every single culture--from the most ancient and primitive--to the most recent and civilized--men seem to be motivated or driven by three basic instincts or impulses:

1. An instinct to gather in groups to enjoy each other's company. Men, in particular seem to have an instinct to meet in groups that exclude women.

2. An instinct to arrange the groups in a status hierarchy, or chain of command, from high to low. Again, men seem to be more interested in power and politics than women.

3. An instinct to make life predictable through structured rituals. The rituals can be either sacred or profane. The ordered activities in sacred rituals are supposed to help us feel closer to the divine order. Profane rituals, like a morning coffee break, simply make everyday life predictable and comfortable.

Let's look at these three instincts to see whether they do indeed apply to us. First, the instinct to gather in groups. Clearly, this is something we do every month, and most of us enjoy chatting and visiting with each other. Like many other groups, ours is an exclusive group that does not admit just any person. Therefore, to be accepted into a Masonic lodge is makes us feel a special sense of belongingness and importance.

What about the instinct to arrange our group in a power structure, from high to law? Again, this seems to be the case. Our hierarchy or chain-of-command places God first, as our spiritual head, followed by our various earthly leaders, from the Grand Master of Pennsylvania through our District Deputies to our Lodges' Worshipful Masters, Senior and Junior Wardens, and other officers.

What about the instinct for order and structured rituals? Again this instinct seems to apply to us; we can find in our activities both sacred and profane rituals. We believe that God is the Great Geometrician of the universe, and through our sacred ritual work we learn secret words which are keys to understanding the Great Geometrician's order. We also have profane rituals such as business meetings conducted by Robert's Rules of Order and the traditional refreshments after the meeting.

Now, a most important question--can Freemasonry be reduced by psychology to nothing more than an expression of ancient instincts? Are we simply re-creating a period of human history where men fought other men for leadership of a group that left women back at the campground to go off and hunt and to participate in secret religious rituals?

I think that perhaps this is true for some individual Masons. Some of us—and when I say "some of use" I mean Masons in general, not necessarily individuals in this Blue Lodge—some of us attend Lodge only to escape from our wives and to visit with other men. Some of us may indeed be motivated primarily by ambition, desiring the awesome power of Worshipful Master--or even Grand Master. And, some of us are comforted by the predictability of our meetings and ritual work in the same way we are comforted by the predictable order of worship in a church service. As in a worship service, we really don't understand the real significance of the rituals, although we have a sense that something important is happening, and that makes us feel relaxed and comfortable.

Hopefully, Freemasonry has for us a higher and more noble purpose. We are motivated by an inner psychology, not by the common motives of the uninitiated. What is this inner psychology? This inner psychology cannot be described in a single meeting--there is simply too much to discuss. Also, some of this inner psychology may be beyond words—it must be personally experienced. I will, however, give you one example of the inner psychology of Freemasonry in the activities of the officers at the opening of the Lodge.

The seven Lodge officers represent the seven faculties of the mind. As they carry out the activities of the Lodge opening, we should be opening our minds and heats to God. The officers are dramatizing this psychological process of opening our minds and hearts. The Worshipful Master represents what is highest in us—the Spirit, the Divine Spark, or what St. Paul called "the Inner Christ." He directs the opening of the lodge, but cannot do it alone. The officers must work together, and so must our own psychological faculties work together to open us to God.

The opening begins with the Worshipful Master directing the Pursuivant--or Inner Guard—to see that the Lodge room is tyled, or sealed off. The Tyler—or Outer Guard as he is sometimes called—keeps a watch at the outer door to prevent nonMasons from entering. The Tyler represents our outer senses, our link to the mundane, profane world. As the Tyler guards the door and the Pursuivant seals the Lodge, so should we also be sealing off our minds to our lower natures, to prepare to turn to higher things.

Once the Lodge is tyled, any communication with the outer world is channeled through the Pursuivant, or Inner Guard. As the Tyler represent our outer senses, The Pursuivant represents our inner senses, or intuition. Should an alarum be heard at the door of the outside world (our lower nature), the Pursuivant is directed to attend to that alarum with sword drawn, to deal with it, so that the harmony of the Lodge (our mind) is not disturbed.

The opening is completed when the Worshipful Master (Divine Spirit) communicates a desire to open the Lodge through the Senior Deacon to the Senior Warden (who represents our Soul). The Soul, like the moon, has no light of its own, and needs light from the Divine Spirit to become illumined. So should we also link our souls to God, else they will not shine. The Senior Deacon then communicates the Master’s desire to open through the Junior Deacon to the Junior Warden (who represents the enlightened intellect). As Joshua prayed for the Sun to stand still so he could conquer his enemies, so should we also pray that our intellect remain enlightened throughout the Lodge meeting, so that we may continue to dispel any remnants of our lower nature.

Thus, the activities of our officers reflect--or should reflect--processes within the seven faculties of our minds. Only when the faculties of our minds work in harmony can we find God. For further reflection on the harmony of the seven mental faculties, I refer to you for study Revelation chapter 1, verses 12 to 20.

Much more can be said about the inner psychology of Freemasonry. I have not talked about the significance of the greater and lesser lights, nor the rituals of the three degrees. Perhaps, at some other time

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