I’ve heard an awful lot lately about what freemasonry is and what it is not. I’m impressed (and not in a good way) by the numbers of people who want to force Freemasonry to fit their personal definition. In no other group I’ve belong to have so many people decided what should “change” and what shouldn’t. In addition, I listen to the people who want to change it and when I ask, what have you done to make it work, I get a blank stare. In addition, I’ve heard everything from Freemasonry should be totally free (i. e. make your own ritual) to a complete lockdown of lodges to be white and male-only. Talk about a varied spectrum!
There are so many Masonic and pseudo-Masonic organizations out there that there has to be something for everyone. I personally don’t understand why someone stays with something if they don’t feel a kinship towards it. If I didn’t like it, I would leave, or change to some other group that fit my needs better. It’s akin to religion – you don’t try to change the Catholic Church; you either are, or aren’t a congregant and if you don’t like it, you leave.
There are so many organizations that one must find something to make you happy. Whether you like to work with only men, only women, with a sacred text, without one, or even if you want to make up your own ritual, there’s something out there for you. Whether they are Masonic or not is up to interpretation, Landmarks, and the various obligations each person has taken. You find what works for you and you do it.
I think the problem is that some people want the title of “Mason” but don’t want to actually be part of a Masonic group. Again, it’s akin to religion. If you want to be called a Catholic, you don’t attend a Jewish Synagogue, right? You don’t follow a Buddhist path and want to be called a Muslim, correct? So why would you want to follow another path and be called a “Mason?” Does the title matter, or does the path matter? I’ve never really understood that.
Do I think all organizations can be made better? You betcha! It’s my goal to work hard within the confines of a group to make change, if I think it’s necessary. Yet, since I am not “in charge,” I’m not the end of the line. It’s the choice I make being part of a group. The president, the Grand Master, or whomever gets to make that decision, just like the country I live in. I can cast my vote for an elected official, I can say whatever I need to say within the boundaries of legality, but in the end, I have to accept the laws they create. It’s my choice to live here and I accept the basis of these rules.
Ah, choice. The greatest illusive concept we all face. Each day we breathe, we choose to do so. Everything we do is a choice. No one makes us do anything. No one makes us feel anything. No one stands on us and says do this or do not do that. Many people would say “what about war?” or “what about poverty?” They would say you can’t control the government, nor the weather. I’d say they are correct. What we can choose, and what we have always only been able to choose, is how we react to the actions and things in our lives. When we balance what we want versus what we have, we make a choice. That is the greatest freedom, and responsiblity, each of us can have. Someone wise once said “If we are truly knowledgable, truly wanting to see the divine, we have no choice. We know what must be done and we do it.” I’d say this is the advanced form of choice – one has to be in touch with who they really are, the divine within them, to find this specific truth. But, I digress…
I think choice is a big factor in Masonry. We choose to become members, we choose to stay, and we choose to leave. There should be no emotional issues – either you like it or you don’t. Either it fits you or not. Every group has its challenges and Masonry is no exception. It’s what we do with those challenges that defines our character, our connections, and our group as a whole. If we act with temperance, continue with fortitude, have the courage to love each other and still stand up for our convictions, we will find the right place.
I think Masonry is a path where we need to ask, why are we here? What do I hope to gain? Do I agree with the philosophy? With the teachings? Like any relationship, it needs questioning once in a while. It also requires a truthful answer from our own hearts. We have to own the choices we make and stand up for our beliefs – not at the expense of others. It takes a lot of courage to better yourself and to be a Mason, you better yourself with others. That takes even more courage. In the faces of others we find our true self.
I belong where I am. What about you? Have faith. Take courage. And then take the step, whatever it might be. Embrace what you choose with your whole heart, your will, and your wisdom. You will find that you get in equal measure what you put into your choice.