WHY ATTEND LODGE
George I. H. Mason, MPS
From the Philalethes Society, April, 1998, reproduced with Permission
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Those who attend Lodge get more out of Freemasonry than those who don't That's an axiom; everyone knows it. So why don't more attend or attend more often? Do they think they've received most of what Lodge can offer, and the extra value isn't worth the extra time? But if those who do attend more do believe the extra is worth the time, what is that extra? What are they getting that others aren't? And just how much extra value does it have?
To find out, there's no point asking those who don't attend often. How could they possibly know? True, you can get a lot out of reading about Freemasonry. You can buy books, subscriptions, memberships in research lodges, an Internet connection, and stay home and read. But does all the light available from Freemasonry shine full brightly through its words alone? Ask those who attend Lodge often. They say no.
They say there's more, much more. They first remind you that we're a fraternity, a brotherhood, a collection of tens of thousands of places where Freemasons meet, greet and share; that they get extra value out of the extra activities of meeting, greeting and sharing; meeting Lodge members and visitors; going to other Lodges and meeting more Freemasons in neighboring towns, in nearby jurisdictions, and in Toronto, London, Sydney and Hong Kong; and greeting each other with that special camaraderie that comes from having shared the experiences of the Degrees and the Oaths and Obligations and Examinations, and the decisions in votes and ballots on Candidates and Officers; the Degree and Installation rehearsals and teamwork, and attendance at Divine Worship services and annual banquets and Grand Lodge Annual Assemblies, and visits from Grand Masters and from Grand Lodge Representatives from other jurisdictions all over the world, that remind us we're the oldest and largest international fraternity that believes in universality; in which millions of members all share beliefs in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God and the immortality of the soul; the shared experiences and beliefs that lead to strong bonds of friendly and caring relationships, the mystic tie that binds us in what our Memorial Service describes as "the reciprocal intercourse of kind and friendly acts to mutually promote the welfare and happiness of each other."
You can get all that by reading about it?
No, say those who attend Lodge often. You get it through sharing. We share a flowing stream of mutual experiences; a frequency of new and renewed friendships; a sharing of ritual work and refreshing companionship; and a sharing of the knowledge imbedded in the fabric of Freemasonry, in its rituals and the design of how Lodges operate; knowledge concerning important truths about life and living; knowledge that leads to clearer comprehension, deeper understanding, the light each of us sought in Freemasonry; the light which some come to see more clearly than others, and prize more dearly, and want more ardently to share with more of their Brethren; who wish more would attend Lodge more often so the sharing could be as boundless as it was meant to be.
Fine words. Pleasant rhetoric. But what's the real substance? What can you get through frequent attendance at Masonic Lodges that you can't get elsewhere, or some other way? You can get clearer answers, for one thing. Answers to questions every thinking Freemason asks himself as he goes along. At least asks himself and often asks others. Or hears them discussed. Questions about the origins of the institution and rituals and symbology of Freemasonry; about why it developed, why it lasted through centuries, and why it has attracted millions of members generation after generation, grandfathers and fathers and sons and cousins and unrelated men who might otherwise have remained strangers to each other. Questions about the meanings of the words and phrases in the rituals; about the reasons for choosing them; about the allusions and references and quotations, that some say can lead you back in time to the origins of all the great philosophies and theologies and religions to the answers our ancestors thought deeply about.
Some say? Who say? Those who attend Lodge often, that's who say. They say that's the whole purpose of Freemasonry to encourage you to ask questions and consider answers, a long process of helping you travel your journey towards your own happy conclusions.
Long process? Yes. The light Freemasonry offers is not shed all at once in one blaze of Degree experiences. It's not contained only in the ritual words and phrases and allegories and allusions. It's contained as much or more in the design and effect of the process the process of attending Lodge and participating in its activities through years and years.
Few of the ideas expressed in the words and actions of Freemasonry are unique or exclusive. But the ways in which they're put together and presented the ritual ways there's nothing else quite like it anywhere, not in potential effectiveness.
Potential effectiveness. There's what we're talking about. Freemasonry can have an enormously beneficial effect in making a good man better and happier, if he fully exposes himself to all its potential, to its process, over time. It's just too complex, too deep and wide to absorb in a few sittings, or even in a few years. It works its magic, spreads all its light, and weaves its mystic ties, through a process which requires time, time for questions to come to mind; time to ask them; time to realize many answers aren't written down, and aren't easy to express; time to hear and consider the alternative answers; time to draw personal conclusions.
Is there really more to the rituals than most people seem to realize? That ought to be one of the first questions. And the answer given by those who attend often is a resounding yes. If symbols, allusions and allegories are used by Freemasonry as teaching tools, as the Ancient Mysteries did, and as all great religions still do, have I attended often enough to learn how to understand and use the tools of Freemasonry? Do I understand the symbolisms as well as I could? Have I asked others about them, discussed them, debated the possible interpretations?
If Freemasonry is a way of life founded on a philosophy proved beneficial throughout the ages, do I understand that philosophy, that way of life? Could I understand it better by observing more often how my Brothers demonstrate it in Lodge?
Am I as proud of being a Freemason as my Brothers are? If not what am I missing?
Do I feel and fully understand the mystic tie that binds all Freemasons together? Am I sharing that sense of close friendship that obviously exists between other members?
If I haven't fulfilled the desire I had when I first approached Freemasonry, why do those who continue to attend feel that they have? what am I missing? Can I explain to a potential candidate the feeling one receives from the handclasp and words of welcome and good cheer offered by so many Brethren when I attend lodge?
Can I explain the Masonic meaning of the word Brother?
Have I received all the light Freemasonry has to offer? If not is that because Freemasonry doesn't really offer as much as it claims; as much as I expected when I joined? Or is it because I haven't worked with it enough, or haven't given it full opportunity to work with me.
If some Brethren say they get more out of Freemasonry than I think I do, can I get that extra value without attending more often?
Ask yourself those questions, sincerely. Some, for certain, you won't be able to answer without attending Lodge - and that's one of the most important answers!
Seek more answers. Seek them in the Lodge Room. The great aim of our institution is to enable you to discover how to find them, to make you so much happier you'll want to share that happiness with others, and thus to enrich your journey through life and theirs
God bless your traveling.