Every one of us have our personal reasons for becoming a Freemason. And every reason is personally relevant. None of us who are active stayed in the fraternity because it was a nice club, did we?
But the real question is why was it formed in the first place? Our Masonic historians tell us it was for the propagation of free speech and free thought in the world schools of philosophy, science, and psychology. A few of our western students of Kabalah and mystics will tell us that it was for a place of safety to practice their crafts without persecution from the early church. These reasons are still relevant in some parts of the world today, although not as much in our country anymore. I think I can buy in on both of the these. But somehow, it doesn’t completely satisfy me. There is one missing element here. And if I’m right, it answers the question for me. It is the basic human need for affirmation.
Affirmation is the rarest and most demanded commodity of mankind. For as far as stories have been told about the struggle of humanity to be free and at peace, all the heroes, all the villains, all agony to survive, points to a common theme; that of the human psychological need for affirmation. The proclamation, laws, armies, and governments may be formed for protection, but communities are formed for us to find those who may be like-minded with us. Thus, affirming our own ideals, philosophies, thoughts and religious beliefs. The need for affirmation runs so deep that – even though religious institutions, academies, political parties change in ideology from generation to generation – they may never be void of membership. The very mime of it assumes its own living identity, so to speak, and will fight to the death to maintain its ideals.
In every vein of every Masonic degree, one can see the exhortation and admonishment for every member to encourage and affirm his brother. Loyalty, charity, support, honesty, chivalry, respect, tolerance, defense, sanctuary: all of these are a map leading to the solitary act of affirming one another physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially.
In recent hardships, I have had scores of brothers approach me with prayerful and mindful support and encouragement. Even though there was very little any could physically do to aid me, I was never left to feel I was alone. And none of the affirmations ever felt empty. To give back, I have also endeavored to encourage and affirm others when I saw opportunity. The paying forward has it’s own rewards because the psychology of doing so lifts one’s own soul to transcend one’s own troubles. It reveals the truth in the adage: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
So, an important – and probably one of the most lasting – relevance of Freemasonry is that it offers affirmation on the personal level and, in some cases, on the community level at its best performance. We are constantly examining our fraternity to find the relevance in changing society – as we should. We seek to find change that will reach out to each new generation in its own culture – and that’s fine. But sometimes, I think we look too far outfield for relevance and miss what is right under our noses. That is, for all generations we seek to affirm the members of our fraternity in every expression of philosophy, liberty, science, and religion. Can it always be done? If – as we are charged – we hold to the landmarks that are veiled in our three degrees, I think so.
Bud Gressett 32°