What is Freemasonry? If this question was asked of ten different Masons, there would very possibly be up to ten different answers returned. Undoubtedly, Freemasonry means many different things to its different Brothers on the surface of their consciousness and thoughts. But what if individual Masons were asked to boil down Freemasonry to its core purpose after much reflection as opposed to going with the answer that may readily come from the surface of their thoughts? Discovering Freemasonry’s core purpose – if there is one – would define its true meaning and reason for existence.
Like many Freemasons, I have contemplated on this subject for years. I have found that my classification of the core purpose has changed more than once over time as I have studied, pondered, and consulted with other Freemasons. It was this process that ultimately resulted in a personal “light bulb” moment. This process of studying, contemplating, and learning was itself the core purpose. Freemasonry is a school.
Unlike traditional schools and though specifics can sometimes be identified in the lessons, Freemasonry does not primarily teach specific knowledge. It does not teach the specifics of geometry, logic, music, or any other subject. Instead, it teaches its students how to learn and it does so in a very non-traditional manner.
It is non-traditional in that it is not readily obvious. Freemasonry’s teaching method forces the willing student to think outside of the normal educational paradigm. It attempts to educate its students on the art of learning and that all of one’s senses and resources should be brought to bear. But it does not, however, overtly identify this goal to the Masonic student. It only hints at this process of, for lack of a better phrase, self education. Willing students are forced to become their own professors that are, ideally, consulting with others that are also their own Masonic professors. Freemasonry’s school is also non-traditional in that one can never graduate from it. Diplomas of graduation are not issued and there are no officially identified teachers. All of its students are also its teachers.
Once a student of Freemasonry recognizes the teaching method and begins to practice it, the other possible purposes and meanings of Freemasonry began to make sense and concepts of such things as Brotherly love, charity, etc can be better understood in their proper context.
Of course, the school of Freemasonry does have an administration and a structure in place. This is absolutely necessary in order to preserve, protect, and promote the somewhat unusual teaching method and the ritual behind such. Without the structure and the administrators, Freemasonry’s school would quickly find its foundations eroded and the real purpose would, therefore, be lost.
Of course, I may have this all wrong. That is why I will stay in school for the rest of my days.