AM A MASON WHY?
by R.W. Bro. A.O. Aspeslet,
Lodge of Alberta
34th Annual Inter-Provincial Conference
of the Officers of the Four Western
Masonic Jurisdictions 1974
When it was suggested that I
present a paper at this conference, the subject matter
was left open. Being a lazy individual, I chose the topic
suggested for this meeting by M. W. Brother George Sterling last
winter entitled "I am a Mason. Why?"
At first glance it
appeared that it would not be too difficult to explain "why" I am
a Mason. However, upon closer examination it was found to be a
rather difficult subject. In consideration of such an
important undertaking it is not sufficient to deal
in platitudes; one must look at the reasons in a critical
manner. Most of us, I suppose, are inarticulate where matters
close to our hearts are involved. Where Freemasonry
is concerned there are probably only a few who could explain
why they knocked at the door and sought admission. I must confess
that I am one of the multitude.
The title of this paper
appears to infer that I consider myself to be a Mason. Well, it
is true that I have been subjected to the three Craft degrees,
and so, I suppose, I can be excused for assuming that I am a
Mason. I am reminded here, however, of that moment when the
candidate appears before the W.M. of the lodge during the second
section of the York Rite M.M.'s degree, wearing the J.W.'s
jewel. At this point, he is asked if he feels that he is now a
M.M. In many cases the candidate answers in the affirmative. The
W.M. then replies, "However natural such a supposition, it is
erroneous, neither do I know that you will ever be one -you have
along way to travel-that is extremely perilous." This
must certainly make one stop and think about this craft of
ours called Freemasonry.
Legally, by our constitution, a man
is a Mason when he has taken the obligation of an E.A.
Contrary to many, I consider the combined three degrees to be
Masonic initiation, for one degree is not complete without the
other two. Be that as it may, the E.A. is a newcomer in a strange
environment. By the time he has been passed to the F.C. degree
and raised to the sublime degree of a M.M., he will have gained
some experience of Freemasonry, and the foundation upon which
to build, will, hopefully, have been well and truly
It seems to me that to become a M.M. in the true and
practical sense is the work of a lifetime. It is work that should
not just be confined to the lodge room, but MUST be taken out
and practiced in the profane world. We, being only human, and
subjected to the pressures of daily living, the way is
indeed long and perilous. Neither do I know at this point in
time that I will ever be a Master Mason.
In looking at the
question "Why am I a Mason?", it seems to me that one must
first examine the reasons for seeking admission. At the time
of completing my application for initiation I am afraid that my
knowledge of Masonry (and I am sure this is true of many) was
very limited. Of course I was aware that it was a fraternal
organization of men. As to their aims and objectives, however, I
was blissfully ignorant. It is true that over the years I had
met many men who were Masons. One observes these Masons converse
with one another, in terms only they can understand, and one
feels left out of something. Perhaps these Masons have something
I am missing. Thus, it would appear that the first reason for
seeking admission is prompted from sheer curiosity. We hope to
discover what knowledge these Masons have that is absent
It is for this reason that at times
I disagree with the idea, prevalent in some quarters today,
that to obtain members we must completely inform the
prospective candidate about the aims, objectives, etc.
of Freemasonry. I have a strong feeling that we would be much
better off if we were to maintain the mystery of
Another possible reason may have been the desire
for a feeling of fraternity. It has been mentioned above that I
was aware that Freemasonry is a fraternal organization of men.
From the very beginning of time man has been a creature who needs
association and loyalty. Being gregarious in nature, man
was never intended to live alone. We learn this fundamental
truth by reading the very first page of the V.O.T.S.L. Genesis
Chapter I, Verse 27; "So God created man in his own image, in
the image of God created he him, male and female created he
them." And in Genesis Chapter II, Verse 18; "And the Lord God
said, it is not good that man should be alone."
beginning man's first loyalty and association was to his family,
subsequently to the tribe and finally to the nation. At the
present time these loyalties are somewhat more numerous and
complex, but they are none the less essential. Is it not possible
then that another reason for requesting membership may have
been to share in the fraternity of other men, with whom
hopefully, one could share ideas and companionship.
there other reasons? I am sure there must be. It would seem to me
that, however slight ones knowledge of Freemasonry is, he
must first have obtained a favorable opinion of the Order,
from association with its members; otherwise one would have no
desire to apply. But, because we are an organization
where members are very reticent, and because we do not solicit
members, it is suggested that curiosity and, hopefully, a
curiosity based on a favorable opinion preconceived of
the Order, is basically the prime reason for seeking
admission. There are many organizations that one may join today
and obtain companionship of men. The aims and principles of
many of these organizations are known prior to joining because
they actively solicit membership.
Now, having made
application and being raised to the degree of M.M., why does one
remain on active Mason? To find the answer to this question
one must make a study of the three degrees.
As one stands
ready to pass through the inner door to the E.A. degree he has
nothing to go on; all is new and strange. And I suppose
to many, even when the degree has ended, he is somewhat
bewildered, wondering what it is all about and what comes next.
He is a man in the process of being born into the world
of Freemasonry, so different from the world from which he
came. He finds here that it is a brotherhood of likeminded men,
who are sworn to practice brotherhood and charity. He
finds that Masonry is a way of life that will help him to
shape his own life at all times. He finds that he has bound
himself to do and not to do certain things, upon his honor as
a man. He is taught where to obtain information with regard to
his duties towards his God, together with his duties towards his
neighbor and himself. The E.A. will, in all probability, find
the work strange and mystifying. This, however, I suggest, is
one of the appeals of Freemasonry. The working tools have all
been explained and it is left up to him to put them to good use.
If the candidate is sincere in his undertaking he should be
awakened to the fact that somewhere in this great institution is
food for mind and soul, and he will make an earnest effort to
understand the E.A. degree. A successful initiation being really
a new birth, the importance of a proper impression being
made on the candidate, at this his first reception cannot be
over-emphasized. His entire idea of the institution is formed at
this time. The E.A. degree opens the eyes of the candidate, he
has come into a new life and he will never pass out of the lodge
quite the same man as when he entered.
however, is a progressive science, so we pass him to the F.C.
degree, after proper proof of his proficiency in the former
degree. Unfortunately the F.C. degree is regarded by many to be
just a stepping stone to that of a M. M. That is
unfortunate because it is in this degree that the
Mason attains manhood, that part of a mans life where he
should be able to contribute the most to society. He has left
behind the faltering footsteps of Masonic childhood. As a man
it is his responsibility to raise a superstructure perfect in its
parts and honorable to the builder. In the first degree the
candidate learns the lessons of moral truth and virtue. In the
second degree he is taught to seek the TRUTH, by a study
of nature and science. By concentrating on the liberal arts
and sciences we are enabled to penetrate the hidden meaning of
our mysteries and thus learn a very important lesson;
our moral responsibilities to our fellowman.
recall that in the E.A. degree the candidate is taught the
symbolism of the ladder with the three rounds, FAITH, HOPE
and CHARITY. In the F.C, degree the most important symbol is
that of the winding staircase. I suggest to you that there is
a similarity here, with the latter being probably more deeply
symbolic than the former. Due to the fact that the Mason
has now attained manhood, he can be expected to be able to
analyze this deeper symbolic problem. In both, he is taught to
rise above the ordinary, to seek more light, or in other words
to strive for TRUTH. The winding staircase is typical of man's
progress through life. As he puts his foot on the first step,
the topmost one is around the bend and far above out of sight. So
it is in life, when he sets forth on his journey he knows not
where it will lead. What he shall accomplish is out of sight.
However, fortified by FAITH and sustained by HOPE he must
press on to the unseen goal. That for which he is striving lies
hidden from his view until he can prove his worthiness.
Thus, by study, experience and reason, which it is his duty to
acquire, the F.C. wild learn to govern and control his actions.
Thus, travelling ever onwards and upwards, he will eventually
arrive at the middle chamber, where he is to receive his
What then of his wages and how will he receive
them? He is told that F.C.'s received their wages without
scruple, knowing that they had justly earned them, and
without diffidence, from the unbounded confidence they placed
in their employers. Now our employer is T.G.G.O.T.U. His
integrity is unquestionable. But what will be the wages
to which the F.C. is justly entitled? This is the great
question that every F.C. must ask himself, for it is certain he
will get only that which is justly due. It is also a question
that must be considered long before he enters the middle chamber,
for by then it will be too late. Only with a liberal education
and a judicious application of the working tools throughout life
may he then hope to receive his just dues.
So much for the
second degree. By far the most popular of the degrees in the eyes
of many Masons is that of M.M. This popularity is not
surprising, for it is the conclusion of completion of Masonic
initiation. It will not, however, in my opinion, stand on
its own. The former two must be exemplified in order for the
third degree to complete the ceremony. Having passed through the
physical and mental degrees we are now prepared for
a spiritual revelation. In the third degree the candidate is
raised above the common human level of that of a spiritual life,
or a real M.M. i.e., perfection by regeneration.
allegory of Hiram Abiff is full of deep symbolism. I shall only
touch on it very briefly. For those interested in a
very complete coverage of the M.M. degree I would refer you to
the 1969 minutes of this conference.
The candidate is
taught in this degree that the most important of all human
studies is the knowledge of oneself, that he has, a soul that
The Hiramic legend reveals the way in
which the soul of man gains strength to recover from the
tragedies of the human failures and misfortunes. The enemies of
Hiram Abiff are symbols of the lusts and passions that
make war on his life. The work supervised by Hiram is a symbol
of the work that the M.M. must supervise, in directing his own
life during his term here on earth; with the hope that by the
assistance of the M.H. his just dues will be eternal life in that
temple not made by hand, but eternal in the heavens.
a summary of what has been said in this paper, I am a Mason
1. It gives me a greater opportunity to work with
2. It teaches tolerance and harmonious
living with all men. Thus, it helps all men to cooperate with
each other without rancor or jealousy.
3. The brotherhood
of Freemasonry, based on a belief in God, provides an aim in life
to which all men should subscribe.
4. It helps one to get
to that certain point of self-confidence which will help him
to become an effective instrument in society.
Freemasonry teaches the doctrine of the dignity of the human
individual and the sacredness of his work.
develops leaders who can stand up and express their ideas with
beauty and precision.
7. Freemasonry asks no member to
believe in anything which his mind does not tell him
Brethren, the Craft does not write out
its lessons in great letters for all to see. It conceals them
in symbol and allegory. Symbolism and allegory are a language
that is old and universal. It is always alive. It sets the
mind free and hopefully makes every man think for himself. In
this manner we hope to learn the TRUTH, which none of us
may learn from another and no one may learn alone. To draw
aside the veil from these symbols and allegories is Masonic work,
and he who applies the working tools of his trade to this
purpose will receive great reward.
Masonry cannot teach; it
can only point the way. Each one must, by his own study
and contemplation, decide what it means to him. Each of us has
a duty to assist in this great work.
You and I in the
first instance initiate candidates. Therefore, they are man-made.
Let us hope that in carrying out this great work we may do it
well and that those Masons we make will be HEAVEN
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