Thursday, September 2, 2010
FREEMASONRY CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Freemasonry can change your life. The very act of initiation, comprising as it does various interlinked stages, leads the aspirant from preparation, inward as well as outward; admission to the temple past the Wardens; a pilgrimage round the lodge culminating in the approach to the east; emblematic trials; the gaining of inner freedom; the gaining of light, both material and spiritual; acquaintance with tools to help him in his building.
Preparation proceeds at different levels. We may regard the physical preparation of the aspirant as being important, in a symbolical sense, yet there are deeper levels of preparation which he must experience before the transformative influence of masonic initiation can be fully effective. He must be prepared in his heart, since it is the intuition of the heart, the ability to gain insights into his own nature, which is supremely important, more than the gaining of academic knowledge. Intellect here then, is the intellect of feeling and sensing rather than that of accumulation of knowledge. Part of this preparation has to do with freedom, and this again relates to different levels and to different aspects. He must be, or intend to be, free of material bonds which may impede his progress towards spiritual advancement. He should be free of selfish impulses and passions, which might similarly hold him back. And he must be free to choose, not impaired by any outside influences.
Admission to a Freemason’s temple is not gained by prior knowledge or some qualification entitling the aspirant to proceed. It is gained by certain specific qualities in the person himself – poverty, free will, humility. Poverty implies in this sense that the aspirant is willing, even eager, to relinquish material wealth and gain if it stands in the way of his own advance towards enlightenment. Free will implies that there has been no undue pressure brought to bear on him to make him want to become a Freemason, and that he expects no material gain as a result of membership. Humility implies not that the aspirant is humiliated by the mode of his preparation, which would be a passive act on his part, but rather that he acknowledges the need for an active humility in order to make moral progress away from the darkness of unknowing towards the light of knowing. He must acknowledge that pride has no place in his life, that whereas in his business or other life outside the temple an assertive demeanour will open doors for him, here the reverse is the case.
The aspirant is subjected to a series of pilgrimages. In ancient times a man from the plains who found himself in the mountains, would be outside the realms where the gods who guided his destiny had the power to do so. He would go on a pilgrimage back to the plains seeking God, intent on seeking inner truths and a quest for one-ness with God. In the course of such a pilgrimage, such a man learns about the world, but first he must learn about himself. Only then, only when he has validated his own Self will he be best able to relate to the world around him, and to be in harmony with all men. Figuratively, the pilgimages in Freemasonry represent this life’s journey, culminating, in the first degree, with the aspirant’s approach to the Master, to the three great lights. It is there that the light of knowledge, the knowledge of himself, is restored to him.
On this journey he will be subjected also to symbolic trials. The Wardens, who are there to control his entrance and his progress, represent the need for verification – is the aspirant a worthy man? does he have the right intentions? does he come presumptuously or in humility? does he recognise the need for material poverty? does he understand his own spiritual poverty and the need to rectify that? has he the approbation of the members of the lodge? can the members rely on him to be a good and faithful member of the fraternity?
The aspirant may then hope, by turning his back on material concerns, by turning his back on selfish impulses and passions, to gain a measure of inner freedom, thus making him a Free Mason. Part of that gain will also be the gaining of light, and the removal of the blindfold may represent for him, figuratively, the gaining of spiritual light, of gnosis, knowledge of himself, through which, in the words of Pythagoras, he may then ‘know the universe, and God’.
Freemasonry is an experiential journey, not one that can be absorbed by reading about it, and is of little value to those who have not been, or are not about to be, initiated into ‘the mysteries and privileges of Freemasonry’. The true secrets have little to do with signs, token and words. They are those secrets gained through unveiling, decoding, interpreting the allegories which are given to us in the form of ornaments, jewels, working tools, geometric forms and hidden insights. The wearing of the apron is an outward, tangible sign of the inner change which the person undergoes through initiation. The journey he embarks on is a journey towards the centre, a journey towards knowledge of himself, of which the first degree is but a constituent part.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY W. BRO. JULIAN REES