Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Masonic preparation and education

Julian Rees has been decorated by the Institut Maçonnique de France with the Masonic Ordre de Lafayette. He is the author of Making Light: A Handbook for Freemasons.

Brother Rees, on Masonic initiation:
Preparation proceeds at different levels. We may regard the physical preparation of the aspirant as being important, in a symbolical sense, yet there are deeper levels of preparation which he must experience before the transformative influence of Masonic initiation can be fully effective. He must be prepared in his heart, since it is the intuition of the heart, the ability to gain insights into his own nature, which is supremely important, more than the gaining of academic knowledge. Intellect here then, is the intellect of feeling and sensing rather than that of accumulation of knowledge. Part of this preparation has to do with freedom, and this again relates to different levels and to different aspects. He must be, or intend to be, free of material bonds which may impede his progress towards spiritual advancement. He should be free of selfish impulses and passions, which might similarly hold him back. And he must be free to choose, not impaired by any outside influences.
On Masonic education:
In the 18th Century... the Brethren would sit around and discuss matters of scientific, intellectual, philosophical, moral, artistic interest. But nowadays, lodges of instruction have become lodges of rehearsal, making sure that the words and movements of the ceremony are learned in the most correct way possible. It’s like admiring the design on the chocolate box, without ever tasting the chocolates!
I have attended the local "lodge of instruction" several times, and commend Brother Warren Banks, who conducts it. He certainly knows his ritual.

Once, a "high-ranking" Past Master from my lodge also attended, one who thinks he knows his stuff.

I was shocked when he stood up in the middle of a class and loudly told the instructor, "No! The Senior Deacon comes ALL the way to the altar to announce the candidate, not halfway."

I was then impressed at the instructor's low-key, confident response: "You do it the way you want at your lodge. I'm simply telling you the correct way."

As the worshipful bigmouth brother was a self-proclaimed big shot at my lodge, he later "corrected" me during a practice session when I, as Senior Deacon, performed as I had learned at the school of instruction.

"That's the way we're going to do it here!" he shouted.

I did it his way.

At the practice.

I did it the right way when it was for real.

Call me a pot-stirrer. Or maybe a stickler for details. Perhaps I was guilty of admiring the design on the box of chocolates, but I figured if we were paying a man to teach us, and I'd spent 24 hours of my life (I went to the two-hour, four session school of instruction three years in a row) to learn the correct way to do the rituals, I'd try to do them the right way.

Worshipful Brother Bigmouth had a great desire to see that "his" lodge did it "the way we've always done it." It was much more important to him than doing it the way Masons for 300 years have always done it. or the way current rulebooks say. For example: "His" lodge had "always" prayed to Jesus, so by God, we're going to keep doing it "our way" no matter what the rules say, and no matter who it offends.

The bigmouth Past Master was later a key participant in the Masonic Ambush. I should have seen it coming.

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