The Meaning of Masonry

For One Long Time Aging Brother

By Wor. Bro. Frederic L. Milliken

I hear frequently asked the question, “Why did you want to become a Mason?”  But I hardly ever hear anyone ask why you are still a Mason.  What are you getting out of it now that you have been in it awhile and explored its philosophy?  What have you found out to be the “big thing” for you in Masonry now that you are a veteran?

These are questions that have been going around and around in my head lately. You see I am a very divided person, a Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so to speak. One part of me is very introverted, quiet and studious and another part of me is outgoing, gregarious and into community. And by community I allude to what M. Scott Peck wrote about in his book “The Road Less Traveled.” In case you have forgotten here is what Peck said:

Peck describes what he considers to be the most salient characteristics of a true community[7]:

  • Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
  • Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  • Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  • A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
  • A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
  • A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others’ gifts, accept each others’ limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others’ wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
  • A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.

A spirit: The true spirit of community is the spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a Higher Will. (

So , as a split personality, part of me is into esoteric stuff, spirituality, the connection between science & religion and the symbolism and hidden meanings of Freemasonry.  This part of me reads books, studies other Mason’s thoughts on attaining the “higher self” and contemplates and mediates on the meaning of it all.

The other part of me attends Lodge, partakes of Lodge social functions and gathers with Brothers individually to cement the ties of brotherly love and affection.

This dichotomy is reinforced by the two distinct styles I observe in Brothers.  Type A is a Brother who reads and studies and is into all the esoteric philosophy that is a kin to Freemasonry such as the Kybalion and Hermetic philosophies and the Rosicrucians. This Brother attends Lodge now and then but rarely becomes an officer.

Type B is a Brother who doesn’t read much, especially all that way out fancy stuff.  But he is a regular Lodge attendee, is or has gone through the chairs and participates in his Lodge’s activities and social functions all the time.  He also tends to be an excellent ritualist.  In addition he also has joined the York Rite and Scottish Rite and the Shrine and attends all those meetings regularly.

Type A does not have the time to attend all these functions and meetings on a regular basis, memorize ritual to a T and also be active in the Concordant Bodies AND have time to do all his research and study too.  Type B is so busy going to functions and meetings and taking a management position within multiple Bodies that even if he liked to read, research and study he wouldn’t have the time for it.

MY PROBLEM IS I AM BOTH – type AB.  In addition I take a very active part in reading, researching and writing about politics, so I have divided loyalties.  For me there is life after Freemasonry.

But while you are thinking I am patting myself on the back here what I am really doing is bemoaning the fact that I am a Jack of all trades but a Master of none.  Rather than seeing this as a plus I view it as a minus. Right now I am reading two Masonic books at once – “Nobly Born” and “The Lost Symbol.”  And they, like me, are works of opposite contrasts.  One is a historical documentary that sets the record straight and another is fanciful fiction from the dream world of an author with an overgrown imagination.  It is much like the difference between Operative & Speculative Masonry. One might tend to regard the other as good but secondary.

So that leaves the question still hanging and one which the reader knows that I want to answer – what’s the “big thing” for me now in Masonry? Considering all my drawbacks and all that I am missing because I refuse to be totally a Type A or a Type B what do I have to say as regards what has true meaning and benefit for me in the Craft right now in the year 2009. Which side am I going to throw more weight to – the A or B side?

Before I give you my answer I must tell you I was very influenced by reading a piece from H.L. Haywood.

“Freemasonry does not exist in a world where brotherhood is a mere dream flying along the sky; it exists in a world of which brotherhood is the law of human life. Its function is not to bring brotherhood into existence just as a hot-house gardener may at last coax into bloom a frail flower, though the climate is most unfriendly, but to lead men to understand that brotherhood is already a reality, a law, and that it is not until we come to know it as such, and practise it, that we can ever find happiness, together. Freemasonry does not create something too fine and good for this rough world; it “reveals” something that is as much a part of the world as roughness itself. In other words, it removes the hoodwink of jealousy, hatred, unkindness, and all the other myriad forms of unbrotherliness in order that a man may see and thus come to know how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. The hoodwink of cloth or leather that is bound over a man’s eyes is not the real hoodwink at all, but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink, and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man’s eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that make life unkind and unhappy. “Brotherhood is heaven; the lack of brotherhood is hell.”

So then for me as I approach the years of retirement, as to distinguish myself from a much younger Freemason, it is precisely COMMUNITY and RELATIONSHIPS that hold the greatest meaning for me. It is making friends so deeply, so closely and tightly bonded that the meaning of friendship itself has been changed. It is knowing not just one but dozens of human beings that you would be willing to die for without question. It is a joy one usually finds just with one’s spouse.  But I have been fortunate enough to forge many, many soul mates and I don’t think very many people outside the Craft could claim that. And it is what many soul mates collectively can experience in Community that blows my mind away.

And it is also very much about something that I wrote about in “World Peace Through Brotherhood.” The ability for men of different faiths, different cultures, different races, different political persuasions and different economic status to come together leaving their differences outside the Lodge door is what makes every Masonic Lodge a sanctuary of Peace in the world and what holds true promise for mankind as a model to be emulated by the rest of the world. It all comes down to something we all learn very early in the first degree – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity!”





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