Friday, December 24, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Masonic Education

Building Builders - 12/24/2010

Hello Fellow Travelers!
Freemason Education provides Light that supports Freemasonry – as in, “the Organization of Builders.” Masonic Education provides Light that Builds Builders. Masons should know the difference and act accordingly.
– Dr. John S. Nagy
There’s a recurring theme in Masonic Education that is wholly self-defeating in respect to educating Masons on Masonry. What masquerades as Masonic Education is not truly Education supporting Masonry. If we were to be honest about what it actually is, we would have to be choosier with our word use. If I were to hazard an educated guess as to what words I would use, I would change the word “Masonic” to “Freemasonry.” I believe that this would describe more accurately what is currently put forth to Brothers as Education.

To get a better grip on what kind of Education would better serve our Brothers, it would serve us well to consider what is currently offered. A quick survey of what pretends to be Masonic Education is largely focused upon Ritual, Organization and History.

1. Education is offered that focuses upon Ritual. It shows Masons how it is done right, when it is done wrong, what may not be done at all and sometimes how it is done elsewhere.

2. Education is offered that focuses upon Organization. It reflects structural aspects of Masonry. This means how the Lodge and Grand Lodge function, which does what-when-where-how (and by whom) and what makes participation possible or not possible. This last item usually includes both Masonic Tradition and Law.

3. Education is offered that focuses upon History. It talks about the when and where of Masonic involvement, how some Ritual and Organizational structures came about and why and who may or may not have been involved and when.
Upon review, it is clear that what is offered as Masonic Education is intentionally designed to solely support the continuation of the Organization of Freemasonry. It supports the Organization of Builders but does not further the Education of Builders.

What education might further the Education of Builders? Responses to this question are best served by examining what the current machine designed to support the longevity of the Organization tells us – more specifically, examining Ritual’s message.

Without any doubt whatsoever, Ritual continuously points toward the Education that Builders need to become Masterful. From the start, it points toward Work that we Builders need to both be aware of and that we must do to assure that we become those “better men.” This “pointing” continues throughout.

Reviewing each step along the way, we encounter clues that are indirect and direct. The indirect clues are too numerous to express in a short and purposeful writing like this. (For those interested in these, I’ve expressed many of them throughout my “Building Series.” Exploring each book in the series reveals this consistent theme along with the overt clues that we will here review in brief. )

Let me emphasize that the overt clues abound. The problem it that they hit us so gently that we may be tempted to gloss over them without a second thought. Let’s examination them more closely so that there are no doubts in your mind should you be tempted to dismiss them further.

The Entered Apprentice Ritual expresses exactly the Work we are to do prior to Passing to Fellow Craft. It points out that we are to Strengthen ourselves fully. It further expresses that this is a two-fold process. The first step is to unburden ourselves through divestiture of both Vices and Superfluities. The second step is to purposefully and with great diligence Build that Strength through the conscious practice of Virtue. Both are required to Build Strength. Both support each other. Both are necessary for what is to follow if the Fellow Craft Work is to be effective.

Examining the “Entered Apprentice” Work, it is easy to see that the Educational focus for such men entails preparing to learn. This means active participation in unburdening and Strengthening activities. To accomplish this, a Mason doing this Work must understand what Vices and Superfluities are, what they do, and how to constructively deal with divesting from them from his life. I venture to say that such Education is not offered in or through a typical Masonic Lodge's Educational or support activities. Perhaps this is because most men might assume that they already know all that they need to know about Vices and Superfluities. Perhaps they assume that, being men, knowing is the same as having put these issues in their lives to rest. I think it should not go unsaid that such assumptions erode the very foundation of what Masonry is supposed to be developing within our ranks. Furthermore, I would also venture to say that far too few “Raised” Masons have actually taken the time to educate themselves in these directions much less taken the time to apply what they have learned.

Examining the “Fellow Craft” Work, it is also easy to see that the Educational focus for such men entails learning how to learn. This means active participation in transforming the brain into a receptive vessel for learning. To accomplish this, a Mason doing this Work must understand what learning is, what they must do to learn, and how to constructively learn. Ritual points toward specific learning in its Staircase Lecture. I venture to say that any comprehensive Education dealing with the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences is not offered in or through a typical Masonic Lodge's Educational or support activities. As I stated before, perhaps this is because most men might assume that they already know all that they need to know about learning how to learn. Perhaps they assume that, being men, knowing that one needs to learn is satisfactory to continue along the path unhindered by any fact that they have not learned how to learn. I think it should not go unsaid here either that such assumptions also erode the same foundation of what Masonry is supposed to be developing within our ranks. Furthermore, I would also venture to say that far too few “Raised” Masons have actually taken the time to educate themselves in these directions much less taken the time to apply what they have learned.

Examining the “Master's” Work, it is also easy to see that the Educational focus for such men entails both learning which includes learning how to teach others how to both prepare to learn and learn how to learn. This means active participation in both applying what was learned and transforming behavior toward what helps nurture men. To accomplish the former, one must establish and execute a plan to learn what must be learned. This may include any facet of Philosophy or Theology, and there are countless facets to consider. To accomplish the latter, a Mason doing this Work must understand what nurturing is, what they must do to nurture, and how to constructively nurture. There is no doubt that Ritual points toward what Masters should learn. It points toward specific learning in its Monitorial Emblems. Masters have done the Work of the previous degrees. They will understand what the Monitorial Emblems point toward and they will engage themselves in those directions.

Ritual Legend also points toward what occurs to Masons who refuse to complete the Work of the previous Degrees. I venture to say that any comprehensive Education dealing with the Monitorial Emblems and what Work they point toward is not offered in or through typical Masonic Lodge's Educational or support activities. As indicated before, perhaps this is because most men might assume that they already know all that they need to know about what to learn. Perhaps they assume that, being men, knowing that one must learn is satisfactory to continue along the path unhindered by any fact that they are not learning what to learn much less learning any of it. I think it should also not go unsaid here either that such assumptions erode the foundation of what Masonry is supposed to be developing within our ranks. Furthermore, I would also venture to say that far too few “Raised” Masons have actually taken the time to educate themselves in these directions much less taken the time to apply what they have learned.

If you do not glean clearly what Masons should be educating themselves and their Brothers in, you can gain further insight into this by reviewing my Blog, “Building Builders” or through reading of some of the Masonic Education “Building Series” of books that I’ve previously put forth.

Fraternally and Sincerely,

Bro. Coach N