Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are Illiterates Raising Illiterates?

Building Hiram - 03/04/09

Hello Fellow Travelers!

If you’re old to the Education offered by Lodges, you know that, for the most part, “average formal Grand Lodge backed” Masonic Education programs exist today as:

  1. Memorizing Degree Catechism
  2. Learning Ritual and floor work
  3. Reviewing the Digest of Law and taking exams based on it
  4. Reading Pamphlets
  5. Perusing Degree Handbooks
  6. Following Officer Manuals
If you’re more fortunate than most, you may even have some Brothers show up at Lodge once in a while to provide some interesting tidbits on Freemasonic history.

These are all important to some degree and they collectively form a stable foundation to continue the necessary support that Freemasonry requires to survive. What is missing though is the kind of education that many Brothers are starving for and which Properly Raises them toward levels that Freemasonry was intended to have.

This is a bold statement and one that requires some explanation so let me ask the obvious question, “What are they starving for?” They starve for the truly important aspect of Masonic Education most missing today: how Masonry applies to their lives overall. Without this firm understanding as to how Masonry manifests in our lives, what it means and how it helps us Build better lives, the applicable Masonic lessons are lost, leaving Brothers unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

The sad part of this situation is that this is caused by self-sabotage. Brothers are held back because they have falsely labeled themselves for years. What’s needed to move forward is an earnest effort to dismiss this notion that members are merely “Speculative Masons.” This is blatantly misleading.

Let me place something firmly before you to consider: All Brothers who use Masonry to help themselves Build Better lives are Operative Masons;” Masons today do work in and on Stone; a "Living Stone"!  Unfortunately, it’s not recognized as (Working upon) Stone though, and that is part of the problem. Most Members don’t understand the Symbols before them! Every Working Tool mentioned in Freemasonic Ritual has Authentic Application in the real world.

What is missing is a Foundational understanding as to the application of these tools toward our Living Stones in their lives today. They don’t see this because the very Symbols that are shared within Ritual do not speak to them today as they did in years past. In this respect, Freemasons being Raised today are Symbolically illiterate. They do not have a sufficient Symbolic Education to be Raised Properly; which leads me back to the statement I wrote earlier, most Freemasons are not Properly Raised.

Let me run a few frank statements past you to consider further.
Masonry Builds Builders. Sound Building is based on the ability to properly Understand and Work with Symbols. The basis of Symbolic Education is stated within Freemasonic Ritual. The final Steps Masons must take to prepare themselves for being Properly Raised are alluded to in the FC lecture. The first three of the final Steps are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Words; the last four are in preparation for understanding and using Symbols as Numbers. These last Seven Steps are important because without a firm Understanding of Symbols, Freemasons metaphorically die of hunger in a grocery store jam-packed with food for lack of an ability to access that which is immediately before them.
These last seven Steps are Symbolic in Masonry and are known as the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. They were initially used as preparation for serious study in Philosophy and Theology. Without their Foundation, the training in Symbols, one could not properly deal with Symbols, also known in some circles as “the Word” or “the Logos.” Members may go through the motions of being Raised, but until they are capable of Raising their level of understanding above the actual words and numbers, they are Symbolically Illiterate, hence they’re unable to read what is before them.

In this respect, Freemasonry has failed as an organization.

As truly successful as Freemasonry is in preserving its “food locker of symbols,” its Members starve and loose interest because they lack access keys to this locker. The saddening aspect of this is that few Brothers understand this; fewer still are willing to work toward changing this. In general, Members as a whole look at increasing numbers, retention of members and ability to “repeat back without firm understanding” as key indicators of our success. They will never be indicators of success – ever!

The challenges that the Society is faced with are based in educating its members in Symbolic Understanding and Use; the problems are based in its Educators not focusing on this; the troubles that are focused upon today are a symptom of the Society not meeting the challenge before it; they are not the cause but every Member has to live with them until the Society changes its focus.

People support what they can “make sense of” and “use” in their lives.

What’s more, when others outside the organization see how well things are working for its Members, it will attract others in kind. Ironically, if it sticks with the basics and educates its Members in Symbolic understanding and application, it’ll attract far more members than it could ever imagine.

Let’s make a unified effort to give our Brothers the keys to the Masonic locker. All that is required is taking seven simple Steps.

Fraternally, Coach N


Jason C Smith said...

Brother John you hit the nail on the head. I love that you are offering solutions and not just complaining. Your understanding of Freemasonry will help us all to the "Level". Thank you for giving a clearer understanding of what we all wish to obtain.

Kurt Morauer said...

Bro. John, the real irony is that even if a senior Mason understands the symbolic understanding, they are fearful to teach it thinking that they would scare new Brothers away.

Coach John S Nagy said...

yep, or that what they teach will not be understood by those who are in their care.

Jeffrey Blaisdell said...

This! So much This! My GL wonders why our numbers are falling, why we lose them 3-6 years after making them. The answer is right here.