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Finding the Meaning of Freemasonry

by David M. Daugherty, Jr.

Ever since becoming a Freemason, I have been nagged by my conscious for the meaning of Masonry. Not happy with the parroted answer, “Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morals, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols”. I wanted to know why I had joined and what’s Masonries place in society.  

Yes in deed, If Freemasonry is the answer, What is the Question?  

What was I seeking?  

Communal Identity?  

An ends beyond myself?  

Will I every find ultimate reality?  

Will I find out how my mind works?  

Is not this reflection into the meaning of life, of life’s value, a theology without a God?  

I have faith but yearn for the understanding.  

Yes it is a system of morals, yes we use symbols and yes the metaphors, mythologies (stories that teach), and allegories keep use lost in the maze of our minds.  

But there is something else. That some thing else that bonds us, (and not just our obligation we took) that makes us live the way that we do and not proselytize.  

The saying “for no One man can define Freemasonry” is seared into my mind.  

But then how many men can?  

There were three men that spoke to me on my journey, words I now share with you.  

“The Oversoul”:  

Let us learn the relation of all nature and thought; that the Highest dwells within us, that the sources of nature are in our minds.  

As there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so there is no bar or wall in the soul where we, the effect, cease, and god, the cause, begins.  

I am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher origin for events than the will I call mine.  

There is deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is accessible to us.  

Every moment when the individual feels invaded by it is memorable.  

It comes to the lowly and simple; it comes to whosoever will put off what is foreign and proud; it comes as insight; it comes as serenity and grandeur.  

The soul’s health consists in the fullness of its reception.  

Forever and ever the influx of this better and more universal self is new and unsearchable.  

Within us is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson  

[To me this embodies the teachings in masonry, the equality of our souls.  For it is the internal qualities not the external that make a man a Freemason.]  

Wish there was a collection of the talks he gave at Masonic Halls.  

“A Comprehensive view of Freemasonry”p.234  

Freemasonry in its Broadest and most comprehensive Sense, is a system of morality and social ethics, a primitive religion, and a philosophy of life, all of simple and fundamental character, incorporating a broad humanitarianism, and though treating life as a practical experience, subordinates the material to the spiritual; it is a religion without a creed, being of no sect but finding truth in all; it is moral but not pharisaic; it demands sanity rather than sanctity; it is tolerant but not supine; it seeks truth but does not define truth; it urges its votaries to think but does not tell them what to think; it despises ignorance but does not proscribe the ignorant; it fosters education but proposes no curriculum; it espouses political liberty and the dignity of man but has no platform or propaganda; it believes in the nobility and usefulness of life; it is modest and not militant; it is moderate, universal, and so liberal as to permit each individual to form and express his own opinion, even as to what Freemasonry is or ought to be, and invites him to improve it if he can.  
---Henry Wilson Coil  

[This Definition seems to capture the seeming chaos that prevails in our organization. A chaos created as our members express their own ideas of what Freemasonry ought to be and, Yes, even leading us to that taboo of proselytizing. You might even say that this is a good example of the new mathematic genius of Chaos. Thus we begin to see the Order of our Chaos.  

Yet, it conveys guidance to the individual to that which is important in life yet giving him the freedom to chose what is best for him or best for his understanding. One of the many catch phrases that is used in Masonry is that it “makes good men better”. Now my mother would argue that the fraternity has nothing over on her. For she followed that philosophy handed down by the Greeks that the people you associated with has more to forming you desires and imitations of behavior. So I guess the association of those men in the fraternity have and will unconsciously continue to influence how I behave].  

“Morals and Dogma” p 691  

Human wisdom must always be limited and incorrect; and even right opinion is only a something intermediate between ignorance and knowledge. The normal condition of man is that of progress. Philosophy is a kind of journey, ever learning, yet never arriving at the ideal perfection of truth. A Mason should, like the wise Socrates, assume the modest title of a lover of wisdom; for he must ever long after something more excellent than he possesses, something still beyond his reach, which he desires to make eternally his own.  
---Albert Pike  

[What a true and humbling statement, stripping away our personal façades of greatness and wisdom. In every tradition there is that empty chair, symbolizing the continual search for the perfect friend, the perfect idea, perfect leader and or an invisible leader. These vacuums, each, expressing the idea that no matter how hard we try, our human fragilities will always be with us and keep us from the ideal.]  

My journey is not complete [unending you might say].  

But thank you for your company.  

The broken column holds new meaning for me.  

Was it ever whole before it was broken?  

With Brotherly Love,

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Last modified: March 22, 2014