What is a Freemason? How many times have I been asked this seemingly simple question? How then to answer it? It is a simple question with a not so simple answer.
For every time the question is asked there is a different answer. Yet behind each answer must be a grain of truth. Each answer must lead us back to that single grain or there is a serious flaw in the fabric of Freemasonry. When I look around the lodge room, I don’t see such a flaw.
Freemasons like humans in every endeavour suffer from the flaws of human frailty. Is a failed Olympian less of a person because of his failure to attain the highest honour in his chosen sport? Each man must answer in his own way and I will attempt to do just that.
I see Freemasonry on a number of levels. There is the club which provides us a sense of belonging. There is secrecy which attracts many to belong to something which furnishes them with a sense of exclusivity. The spiritual elements provide some with the sense of being nurtured in Gods grand design. The esoteric elements provide for some a sense of ownership of some special knowledge. Some individuals exist on all these levels and some embrace only a few of them.
I think there is little doubt that Freemasonry is a club. We pay dues. We move motions at our meetings and vote on them. We engage in debate and sometimes disagree. We have ideals as individuals and the club provides us with a mechanism to attain a degree of altruism which would otherwise be denied us. In unity we have strength and we have the means to apply this for the greater good of society.
We have secrets. These are not Earth shattering secrets. They contain nothing more than a method of fostering exclusivity. These secrets consist of handshakes and words. These do not have the power to bring a nation to its knees or push some ideology for world domination onto an unsuspecting world community. Such endeavours are the property of individuals and movements beyond the influence of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is not and has never claimed to be a religion. Yet it is definitely spiritual in its approach. This spirituality is universal, embracing all religions and creeds. It is this universality of belief which provides the impetus pushing us towards the esoteric. There have been writers far more learned than myself who have traced the origins of Masonic beliefs. Masonry adopted has many beliefs which by today’s standards and level of knowledge would be considered so mundane that they warrant no mention at all. Yet at the time of adoption they were considered by many to be heretical. There are many who still believe this.
So what is a Freemason? He is a man who suffers from the frailty of the human condition whilst striving to project himself beyond it. He seeks the greater good of mankind. He strives to attain in his private life at least some of the ideals that he espouses in the lodge room. He is like me. And he is like you.