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by R.W. Bro. A.O. Aspeslet,
S.G.W. Grand 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 laid.  

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 in ourselves.  

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 Masonry.  

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."  

In the 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.  

Are 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.  

Freemasonry, 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.  

You will 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 wages.  

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.  

The 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 never dies.  

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.  

From a summary of what has been said in this paper, I am a Mason because:  

1. It gives me a greater opportunity to work with like-thinking men.  

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.  

5. Freemasonry teaches the doctrine of the dignity of the human individual and the sacredness of his work.  

6. Freemasonry 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 is reasonable.  

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 BLESSED.

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