Freemasonry is a very individual journey, while all of us go through the same rituals and initiatory rights, once we’ve been Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, we’re all free to explore our interests in Freemasonry individually. It’s like a Choose your Own Adventure book…for those of you old enough to get that reference. We have Brothers who become ritualists, Brothers who go off and explore the various Appendant Bodies, and Brethren who are perfectly content to stick with the Blue Lodge experience. None of that is the wrong way to Freemason, again the goal of each Mason is to make themselves a better man, husband, father and citizen, how they do that is up to themselves. A key aspect to Freemasonry though, or at least in my opinion is the educational component. Unfortunately this is an aspect that has been set aside in place of ritual, community service and social events up until recently. Like the varied interests within just the Craft itself, you’ll find the educational interests vary from Brother to Brother as well; some Brethren are interested in the history of the Craft, and sitting in on an Esoteric program won’t interest them one bit. Then you have Brethren who belong to the Rosicrucian Body, and they eat up the Esoteric programs, papers and presentations. When it comes to coming up with a years’ worth of programs as you prepare to sit in the East of a body, this can sometimes make it tough to please everybody. In an organization like the Knights Templar, this problem becomes a bit easier, as a Masonic organization with a Christian and knightly theme you can focus your educational programs within those narrow parameters. But as a Master of a Blue Lodge (local Lodge) it is a tighter balance trying to cater to all the different interests among your Brethren. Balance (some might even call it equilibrium) is key here, you don’t want to focus too heavily on one particular topic over the course of a year and risk turning your Brethren off to the educational aspect. Rather, going with a balanced approach, pulling from a wide variety of topics will keep your members engaged throughout the year, you also run the possibility of a Brother who has been solely interested in one topic, finding interest in another and expanding his sphere of interest. The point I’m trying to make is, the days of showing up to a meeting, talking about the bills, voting on which lights to replace in the Lodge and then wrapping up are over. The men walking through our doors want education as a part of our meetings, they CRAVE it. It is up to us to give it to them.
So, what’s my story? Well, I actually started out as a ritualist before becoming an avowed Masonic education guy. When I was Raised back in 2007, I took to the Ritual immediately. I dove into working with multiple Candidates, helping them learn the Ritual to return their Catechisms and set a goal for myself that I was going to get my Gold Card. But then something changed, in 2010 I joined my local Scottish Rite Valley in Alexandria, as a part of the days events they were selling a book, and its corresponding educational program to all new members. The book was ‘Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor & Guide’ by Arturo de Hoyos, and the educational program was the Southern Jurisdictions first course of the Master Craftsman program. Now, I had taken the first course of the Grand Lodge of Virginia’s Correspondence Course, but this was on a whole different level, and my course in Freemasonry was forever altered. I just soaked it up; I quickly finished up that first course, then quickly moved on and completed the second (now discontinued due to a reorganization of the program). I took a year or two off from the program due to work and family commitments not allowing me the time, and then completed the Esoterika course, and am now working my way through the course that uses Albert Pike’s ‘Morals and Dogma’ as its source material. My junior year in college I took a class on comparative religion, remembering back on that class I did enjoy it as it exceeded my expectations on what I would be getting out of it. But I also would by lying if I said I took that class at the time because I was genuinely interested in the topic. I wasn’t, I was looking for something (that I thought) was easy and that would give me a break between other more difficult classes. If the Kevin of 2002 ever thought that the Kevin of 2019 would be completely enthralled with Morals and Dogma, which itself is a deep dive into comparative religion and even esoteric topics, well he would have told you, you were smoking something fantastic.
I mentioned in a previous post of mine that the millennial generation currently joining the fraternity are doing so with the intent of seeking knowledge. What many of these Brethren are finding however when they enter a Lodge is business meetings with bills, the reading of minutes, and IF they’re lucky, maybe an old, generic three to five minute program that could loosely be called “Masonic education”. In my own personal statement on the issue of “Grand Lodges wondering why we have a problem of bringing men in, who show up for roughly a year, and then don’t return” is it any wonder why we have this problem? If we’re not interested in learning what the Brethren of our Lodges want, and giving them that experience, why should we expect them to join us? Lodges are dying all around wondering why while the answer is right in front of their faces. But when you’re asking the wrong question you’ll never come upon the right answer. Thankfully though, Masonic Education is getting a much-needed infusion of Brethren providing the type of high-quality education people are looking for, and we’re hopefully slowly turning the tide.
Before I proceed, I’ll put this disclaimer out. I don’t THINK I’m violating Medium TOS here because the event I’m about to talk about has just finished, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t sell you a ticket. But I just finished a weekend with three other awesome Brothers running a Masonic Esoteric education conference. You always go into events like this with that self-doubt of “are we going to be successful” but we absolutely got it right. The demand was there, we had 140 attendees, and we had to turn people away because we reached capacity. We proved that the hunger for this type of Masonic education was there, in spades. You might think I’m bragging, and I am. I am because I’m really damn proud of what my Brethren and I were able to accomplish in our inaugural effort. But, there’s a more important reason I bring this up. I bring this up, because as we were in the planning stages for this event one of my colleagues was told; “you need to be careful with this esoteric stuff, because that’s not how we do things here. We do traditional Freemasonry here”. Never mind that Freemasonry as it was founded, as its Degrees are conferred, draws upon VERY Esoteric principles of meaning hidden by allegories, I will point you back to the top of the article here where I talk about Masonry being a personal journey. There is no place for telling another Brother what kind of education they can, and cannot seek within Freemasonry, and again, it’s a wonder that Brethren somehow stop coming around with attitudes like this, especially coming from the highest levels. But I bring this up for an even MORE important reason that directly effects my Grand Jurisdiction, and that is because we had many attendees from my Grand Jurisdiction that came out for this event. The common thread among all those Masons who attended was genuine thanks for holding this event, thanks because they had been looking, but couldn’t find this type of education. In one weekend we proved that Masons in my Grand Jurisdiction want this, we proved that A LOT of Masons want this type of educational programming. Why can’t “traditional” Freemasonry co-exist with those of us who have a thirst for esoteric Freemasonry?
For those of you Freemasons in doubt that Freemasonry can be about education (and I’m talking ALL education here) don’t fret, you are not alone. There are other Brethren out there seeking the same thing you are. There are Brethren out there putting together what you are looking for. The great thing is, it doesn’t even involve having to travel, although those types of things are fun, its easy enough to get your fix locally as well. Find like minded Brethren in your Lodge, or across your District and start up local interest groups. Meet at a bar, a Brothers house, any place really and have discussions or book groups to learn about these topics you’re interested in. This is something I do with Brethren in several Lodges in my area, and we’ve found great success in doing so. But if you’re looking for the larger gathering type event, well there’s plenty to cover you as well. We modeled our event after Masonic Con, started in 2016 by Brethren from Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro Massachusetts, and held annually features speakers and programs on a broad range of Masonic educational topics. The Grand Lodge of Ohio hosts annually their Camp Masonry program, a two-day program featuring Masonic speakers, Degree work and general Masonic fellowship. But Masonic light doesn’t stop there either, from podcasts; The Masonic Roundtable, The Winding Stairs Freemasonry Podcast and Whence Came You podcast to a slew of Masonic blogs; The Midnight Freemasons, From Darkness to Light and The Laudable Pursuit. My point in this is to say don’t be discouraged as a Mason if you’re not getting your fixes at every Lodge meeting; certainly don’t settle for the status quo and do your best to effect change locally, but you can certainly get whatever you’re looking for Masonically if you look for it, and the sites and events and ideas I mentioned above are great starts.
To you, the Mason looking for more light, looking for more light than the reading of minutes, looking for more light than a three to five minute program, you need not fret. A movement is growing, a movement is coming that is going to get Freemasonry back on an educational track. I certainly don’t feel I’m saying this lightly, I say this because I experienced it first hand, I experienced it because I helped put something together that Brethren were yearning for, something they had been waiting to get but were not being given by their Lodges or Grand Lodges. If you’re craving something more than the typical Lodge meeting, you’re not alone, so don’t give up hope. Find it online, start up local groups, and do something big from there! To borrow a phrase mentioned at the Esotericon, “are we doing Freemasonry for the Lodges, or are we doing Freemasonry for the Candidates” (and I’d add Brothers) of our Lodges? A popular statement to Petitioners during their investigation generally revolves around how Masonry is different from other local beneficent groups such as the Rotary, Elks, Kiwanis, etc. I think it is a statement that USED to be true, but not so much anymore because the majority of American Lodges these days aren’t doing anything different than what those organizations are doing. There is however a growing wave of Brethren actively working to make that a true statement again. Freemasonry is an organization that makes good men better, and from its inception this was through a balance of ritual and education, as of late we’ve gotten out of balance, but the tide is turning, and equilibrium is coming.
This article in no way represents any official Grand Lodge position or opinion. The writings here are mine, and mine only.