by Jason E. Marshall
(This Piece was originally published in the Nov 2012 Edition of Living Stones Magazine)
The question of what we are in pursuit of is posed to each Mason throughout his initiatic journey. While there is generally a canned response, this question, and the true response that each mason has in his heart, has profound implications on a personal level, as well as what the fraternity has become, and what it can become in the future.
During my E.A. degree, I was asked this seemingly simple question; however, my conductor was asleep at the wheel, and instead of providing me with the normal M:.L:. response, he left me hanging out to dry. So there I stood, alone, blind, destitute, in a wholly alien environment, full of apprehension. As I stood there in a cold sweat, I tried to come up with an honest response, my mind raced: What did I really want? Why had I come to the door of the preparation room? Was I there because both of my grandfathers were active Masons? Was I there in order to fulfill a need for fraternal belonging? Was I there to gain some deep hidden knowledge? Did I truly have any idea why I was really there?
After what seemed like an eternity I had an epiphany, a true anagnorisis moment, where I truly understood why I had come there, what my intentions were, and where I intended my future path to go, so I firmly responded, “divine knowledge to understand myself and my creator”. I was of course quickly provided the correct canned response of M:.L:., and on went the initiation.
Throughout the masonic system, and in several other esoteric groups and orders I belong to, the seemingly simple question of what my intentions are, is almost always asked during the initiatory process. While there may or may not be an appropriate canned response, I always take the opportunity to truly use the question to reflect upon what my intentions are. Why am I joining that order or group? What do I hope to gain from my membership or involvement? Am I joining just to join, and add another dues card to my wallet? I also, use the question in my life outside of the Tyled lodge room, to really get to the core of my desires and intentions. Why do I want to take that job? Why do I want to start or end a friendship? Why do I want to take on or deny a project or responsibility?
When I am confronted with this question, or I hear it asked during the degrees, I always flash back to my E.A. degree, and the accompanying anagnorisis moment. Anagnorisis in classical Greek literature is the moment when the character has a sudden flash of realization regarding his/her true nature and place in the world. Aristotle defined anagnorisis as, “a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune”. In my moment ofanagnorisis during my E.A. degree, I came out of the darkness of my own ignorance regarding my true intentions, into the light of KNOWING what my desires truly were.
The realization on what my intentions were upon my first admittance into a Lodge room, has had a profound effect on my masonic journey. Since my true purpose for wanting to join was in order to gain a deeper understanding of myself and the Creator, I have naturally gravitated towards the esoteric and inner-work aspects of our Craft. Had I primarily wanted to join for the social or fraternal aspects of the craft, then I would have naturally gravitated towards those aspects.
The declining membership numbers and participation levels that our fraternity is currently experiencing, is due in large part to unfulfilling experiences that leave many members, new and old, wanting and frustrated. Regardless of your esoteric or exoteric leanings, something brought each of us to the door of the preparation room. We each were looking to have some need fulfilled in our life; and let’s be honest, I highly doubt that any of us knocked on the door of the preparation room for dully performed ritual, and boring recitations of minutes and bills.
It is often said that the purpose, or underlying objective, of Freemasonry is to “Make good men better”. However, in order to accomplish that goal, it is essential to understand what men are truly seeking when they join, which is why the seemingly simple question regarding the initiates true desires is so essential. While our fraternity offers many paths to its initiates, depending on their particular interests, it is essential that the initiate truly understand why they joined the fraternity to begin with. What brought them to the door of the preparation room? Because, if one does not have a firm understanding of what they seek within the Tyled walls, it is easy to get lost in the myriad of paths offered, or simply to become disinterested and disengaged. Also, if the fraternity does not have a real understanding of what its membership is seeking, then it cannot effectively meet the desires and expectation of its membership.
In order to make ourselves the best person we can be, and the fraternity the best that it can be, we must be honest in answering the question of what we are in pursuit of on individual basis, as well as for the fraternity as a whole. If a man has esoteric leanings, then he should be directed to groups and lodges that will fulfill that desire, without fear of being shamed or shunned. Similarly, if a man seeks to join for the social or philanthropic aspects of the fraternity, he should be directed to the proper channels, without fear of being looked down upon. There shouldn’t be a tug-of-war between camps of “esotericists” or “exotericists”.
By clearly and honestly defining motivations, intentions, and expectations, members can get the most fulfilling experience possible, and the fraternity can regain relevance in the lives of its members, and society at large. Therefore, we must continually ask ourselves, “of what are we in pursuit?”, and we must be willing to work and strive to make the fraternity a place where those desires are met in a harmonious and fulfilling fashion.
Thank you for reading The Laudable Pursuit! If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share it on social media sites, or with your Lodge.
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