A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

What is the Purpose?

As do many of those outside of the Fraternity – be they potential petitioners or not - almost every Freemason eventually asks the question, “What is the purpose of Freemasonry?” Though the question may not always be vocally offered up, it would be hard to find a member of the oldest fraternity that has not entertained this question.

In many cases, each Mason is left to his own devices when it comes to discovering an answer to this often asked question and one also finds that different Masons develop different answers – each according to his own needs and experiences. Sadly, there are those that never arrive at an appropriate response to their inquiry. These men can often be found on the rolls of lodges though they do not attend any meetings or events. Even more regrettable are the ones who demit or are suspended from the order because they see no value in their membership. In other words, they could never arrive at a satisfactory answer to the “what is the purpose” question. There is most certainly another group of Freemasons that get the answer wrong and look at the Freemasonic order more as a social club than as what it is truly intended to be.

It may be very possible that an explanation as to why some Masons can not arrive at a proper or suitable answer to the “purpose” question lies in the fact that some men are just not capable of grasping the teachings of the Fraternity and should not have been admitted into the organization in the first place. There are others that, though capable of understanding the answer, never voiced the question to other Masons or – if they did – there was no experienced Freemason available to help them in their quest for a purpose behind the Fraternity. If the latter is the case, then one can be very certain that such an inquiring Mason belongs to a lodge made up of members who do not know the answer themselves or have gotten the purpose wrong – i.e., the social club subscribers.

There is no one correct answer to the “purpose” question. As mentioned earlier in this article, different Masons often arrive at different conclusions and there is a certain amount of flexibility built into Freemasonry that allows for such. Each Freemason has the opportunity to be a cog in the Freemasonic machine and all cogs are not of the same size and each cog serves its own purpose towards the operation and betterment of the machine. There have been attempts throughout the years, however, to define – even codify – the purpose of Freemasonry and a brief examination of some historical documents may be in order.

In 1939, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina adopted a “Declaration of Masonic Principles” that – in part – stated,
Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear.

Through the improvement and strengthening of the character of the individual man, Freemasonry seeks to improve the community. Thus it impresses upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with that feeling of charity, or good will, toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.

To that end, it teaches and stands for the worship of God; truth and justice; fraternity and philanthropy; and enlightenment and orderly liberty, civil, religious and intellectual. 1
The General Regulations of 1721 touched on another possible answer in Regulation I.
…whereby Masonry becomes the center of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance. 2
Another hint to a possible answer to the “purpose” question can be found in Albert G. Mackey’s Landmarks.
XXII. That all men in the sight of God are equal, and meet in the Lodge on one common level. 3
These quotes touch upon the ideals of the Fraternity as are displayed to the public. But what of the esoteric purpose that so many Freemasons search for? Those purposes exist – but only in a format that requires the individual Mason to find them for himself. No article or book can explain this aspect of Freemasonry or provide the answers. Those possible esoteric answers to the “purpose” question are buried deep within the secrecy of the Fraternity and require intense self study to be discovered. Such self study ultimately leads to different conclusions or answers to the question – as has now been mentioned thrice in this article. The individual Freemason may be able to glean some insight into the esoteric purpose of the Fraternity by way of discussions with experienced and knowledgeable Brothers but – ultimately – it is up to the individual to discover these answers for himself.

That self discovery, and the path to it, may – in all actuality – be the true purpose of Freemasonry.

1. Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, Ahiman Rezon, Lexington, S.C.: 2007, pp. 486-487.
2. Grand Lodge of England, General Regulations, 1721, Regulation I.
3. Ahiman Rezon, p. 457. (See also: Mackey, Albert G., M.D., A Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence, New York: Clark & Maynard, 1872, Chapter I).

1 comment:

47th Problem of Euclid said...

I just finished reading Masonry in Texas, by James D. Carter. He makes the assertion that the patriots who rebelled against British rule in the Colonies did so to defend Masonic principles, that the Constitution was built on Masonic principles, that the Mexicans who rebelled against Spain were originally inspired by Masonry, but allowed their version of Masonry get too political, and deviated from the Andersonian vision of Masonry. The Anglo-American Texas colonists, in Carter's interpretation, stood up for Masonic principles against the tyrannies of Mexican centralist control, and when their attempts to work within the law were exhausted, rebelled and won their independence. He claims that the Texas Constitution was written entirely by Masons, and intended to govern by Masonic principles, and that the Texas Republic was heavily influenced by Masons in its government, ultimately leading to a peaceable annexation of Texas by the USA. At every step, he asserts that Masons helped build three nations, exerting far more influence than their tiny representation within these populations would ordinarily suggest, and that these nations flourished only to the extents that their people honored virtue and that their masons honored their masonic obligations.

While we are all aware (or should be) of the effect of Speculative Masonry on the individual psyche of the mason who practices this art and science diligently, we speak far less about the effect Masonry has on nations. Instead, we allow anti-Masons to dwell on this subject uncontested, twisting and corrupting the interpretation of the good works of peaceable men to their own aims and goals. While we have been cautious not to take a triumphalist tone about our accomplishments in nation-building, we need not be silent about our contributions in this regard. Indeed, our work in this field is part of the purpose of Masonry.