Let There Be Light

By: Jason K. McDonald

*October 2015 TLP Community Contest Winner*

I didn’t feel anxious until lights went out under the door.

It was the night I was initiated an Entered Apprentice. I had looked
forward to it for months. What did I feel walking into the lodge that
night? Excitement? Yes. Dear friends and near-strangers shook my hand,
smiling as they asked, “Are you nervous?” No. I couldn’t get started fast
enough. “No reason to be nervous. No reason to be afraid.” Why would I be
afraid? “Just remember everything will be okay.”

They escorted me into a small room and told me to sit. Soft music played
from somewhere around me. And was that incense? A small candle in the
corner, another on a shelf, and the light under the door, were all that
illuminated the room. They told me to reflect on what was about to happen.
They told me it would help me spiritually prepare.

What was I going to find? Why was I doing this? I had tried answering that
for my wife. For people at work. For myself. I *knew* it mattered. I *knew*
I was there for more than just curiosity. But every time I tried putting
the yearning I felt into words I found that everything slipped away. I
thought I understood why I was doing this . . . when you didn’t ask me
about it. But forced out of the hidden recess of my consciousness, my
reasons fled.

And then the light went out under the door. From the lodge room I could
hear talking. I couldn’t make anything out, just voices rising and falling.
The crack of a gavel. And I felt nervous. How did they know I would?

The door opened. They asked me questions. They slipped a mask over my eyes.
No, that wasn’t nervous before. This was nervous.

I can’t describe what happened next as *slow*. No, it was as if I didn’t
realize how frenetic my life had become until this ritual shifted time back
into its proper track. Why did circling the room feel so comfortable? Oh,
the tension was gone. I slipped into an almost-familiar pattern. My whole
body exhaled. I knelt at the alter. I was asked what I most desired.


Oh. There was my answer. The reason I was doing this. The substance of what
I hoped to find. Why did I try so hard to explain it to others? Light. How
could I say more? All the words that escaped my grasp were concentrated
those five letters. But I cannot see how I will ever exhaust their meaning
before I die.

It was over. It was wonderful. But it was also remarkably ordinary.
Ordinarily remarkable? No. No need to be clever. It was light. My spirit,
which had been standing one-half step outside my body for years, was
finally, firmly planted back where it belonged.

What was it I felt then? Contentment? Serenity? Tranquility?

Was that all?

What else was there? Why would I want more?


Brother Jason McDonald is an active Master Mason in Damascus Lodge #10, Provo, UT. A student of the esoteric aspects of the craft, one of his primary interests is how Masonry is an expression of the human creative spirit.

Professionally, Brother McDonald holds a PhD in instructional design and currently is the director of digital publishing at a regional publishing house in the western United States. He is a passionate researcher and writer, and a lover of wisdom in all its forms.







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The Universal Search for Light

                                                                                                                           Atrium- Guthrie SR Temple

In a world so often torn by religious division and strife, the Masonic fraternity stands as a beacon of universal love and brotherhood. The Masonic fraternity truly is a universal brotherhood of men under the fatherhood of God. However, the universal nature of our fraternity often makes it a peculiar institution to those outside of the fraternity, and sometimes even to those within the fraternity. The universality of our fraternity has often been the basis for various conspiracy theories and slanderous claims from outside groups and individuals, and the impetus for ill-informed and misguided power-grabs and exclusionary policies by those entrusted with positions of power within the fraternity. Masonry at its core depends on its universality, because the universality of our craft allows the Light from the myriad of religions and traditions practiced by the individual brethren to come together to further illuminate the paths of all of its initiates. Also, the search for Light that all Masonic initiates have professed to be seeking mirrors the journey that all initiates and true seekers have undertaken since time immemorial. Therefore, the universal search for Light allows for our fraternity to not only be beneficial to the individual member, regardless of his particular faith, but also to society as a whole.

While most Masons will agree that universality is essential to our craft, it is important to explore what allows for universality to exist. What is it about our fraternity that allows men of all races, creeds, and backgrounds to come together for the betterment of not only the individual member, but for the betterment of society as a whole? While most “religious people” wouldn’t dare step foot in another’s house of worship, nor engage in any meaningful conversation with someone of a different faith, what is it that allows Masons of all faiths to come together and meet on the level of equality, act according to the plumb of rectitude, and part upon the square of virtue and morality?

To begin with, the Ancient Landmarks of our fraternity explicitly allow for universality to not only occur, but prosper. The Landmarks of our fraternity, are intentionally vague as to what version of sacred law must be on the alter, and so long as the brother honestly believes in a supreme being, and can submit himself to the rules of our order, his particular creed is of no importance. In discussing the qualifications for membership in his 1856 work Jurisprudence of Freemasonry, Brother Albert Mackey stated,

“The Landmarks of Freemasonry are so perfect that they neither need nor will permit of the slightest amendment. Thus in the very instance here referred to, the fundamental law of Freemasonry requires only a belief in the Supreme Architect of the universe, and in a future life, while it says, with peculiar toleration, that in all other matters of religious belief, Freemasons are only expected to be of that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves. Under the shelter of this wise provision, the Christian and the Jew, the Mohammedan and the Brahmin, are permitted to unite around our common altar, and Freemasonry becomes, in practice as well as in theory, universal.” [1]

In this quote Brother Mackey explicitly states that, “Freemasons are only expected to be of that religion which all men agree”. However, given that there are over 22 major religions currently practiced in the world today, how can it be said that there is any religion to which all men agree? The answer to this question depends on one’s perspective. Many religious people take an “exclusive” view on religion, thus leading them to view their own particular religion as being superior to any other. This exclusive view is what has lead to the constant state of strife amongst many religious people throughout history. However, if one can set aside dogma, and take a step back in order to take an objective look at the teachings of the world religions, the various religions actually have a great deal more in common than they have differences. Therefore, the Masonic system takes an “inclusive” view of religion, and instead of focusing on the differences between particular creeds, it focuses on, and enhances, the universal truth contained in all world religions.

Too often, religious labels are used to create barriers between “us” and “them”, which naturally creates conflict. Also, when religious labels are used, prejudices of various forms can easily come to the surface. Furthermore, when an exclusive view of religion is taken, there can never be true harmony or cooperation, because the individual holding an exclusive view will always feel superior to someone of a different faith, thus creating a constant state of imbalance. Therefore, the Masonic fraternity doesn’t seek to attach religious labels to its initiates, nor does it seek to dissuade men of a particular faith from joining. This allows all Masons to truly meet on the level of equality, so rather than being a “Christian Mason”, a “Muslim Mason”, a “Buddhist Mason”, a “Wiccan Mason”, etc., we refer to one another by the simple yet sacred appellation “Brother”.

The Masonic teachings involving moral rectitude, virtue, brotherly love, and relief are universal in nature, and mirror the “Golden Rule” that is almost universally taught by all world religions. Since the moral teachings of our craft are mirrored in the religions of the world, each brother can subscribe to and emulate the teachings without any conflict to his particular faith. In fact, the teachings of our craft should reinforce the teachings of virtue and morality found in each member’s individual faith; and the particular teachings of one’s faith, should reinforce the teachings of the craft, all working together in order to bring about further illumination. When properly applied the teachings of our fraternity lead one to treat each brother, and all of mankind, with dignity, empathy, equality, respect, and love.

What then, is Brotherly Love? Manifestly, it means that we place on another man the highest possible valuation as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbor. ‘By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family.' We do not ask that, from our relationship, we shall achieve any selfish gain. Our relationship with a brother is its own justification, its own reward. Brotherly Love is one of the supreme values without which life is lonely, unhappy, and ugly. This is not a hope or dream, but a fact. Freemasonry builds on that fact, provides opportunity for us to have such fellowship, encourages us to understand and to practice it, and to make it one of the laws of our existence, one of our Principal Tenets." [2]

The teachings of universal love, morality, virtue, and charity, are all part of the Light that the Creator has bestowed upon mankind. Each initiate and seeker naturally seeks to gain an understanding of Light, and a true master uses the virtues learned to better not only himself, but all of mankind. The Masonic system gives its initiates a path to learn these virtues so that the individual member can better refine his spiritual ashlar, as well as reflect these virtues, true Light, back out into the world. Therefore, the Masonic fraternity welcomes seekers from all faiths, because in the end all seekers are in pursuit of Light, and the Masonic system serves to focus and add further illumination to aid its initiates on their path.

Masonry speaks to men of all races, creeds, and backgrounds, because the search for Light that is so essential to all Masons is also important to all religions and all true aspirants. The search for Light is the force that compels men of all creeds to begin and maintain their individual spiritual journeys. Therefore, Light is the force that compels the Masonic initiate to begin and maintain his Masonic journey. Finally, Light, and the brotherly love that it creates and supports, is the tie that unites seekers of all faiths into the sacred band of brothers that compose the Masonic Fraternity. Therefore, the true Mason joins his fellow initiates in the universal search for Light, whereby his single candle of insight and Light is joined with the collected Light of all of his brethren, and thereby the individual and the fraternity are enriched. According to Brother Manly P. Hall,

The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth.”[3]

The Masonic system also reinforces man’s search for Divine Light. To use a metaphor, the search for Divine Light is like a man confined to a dark room that is filled with beautiful and extremely valuable objects, there is a lit candle that has been constantly burning, but its light is obstructed, and there is also a key in the room that if found would allow him to escape. Without the light of the candle, the man is in perpetual darkness, and while he may know that there are beautiful objects in the room, he cannot see them or truly enjoy them, he can also never hope to find the key that will allow him to escape; instead, he can only grope and stumble about in the darkness. Now then, if the object obstructing the candle falls away, the man will naturally seek out the source of the light. Once the man discovers the candle, he can use it to explore the room, which will allow him to fully appreciate the beauty of its treasures. The man can also use the candle to light other candles to further illuminate the room, and eventually with enough light the man will discover the key that will allow him to escape the room entirely. In this metaphor, the man in darkness would represent an uninitiated man, stumbling through life in the darkness of ignorance. Ignorance is the object that obstructs the Light of the divine, and once the veil of ignorance is pierced, man naturally seeks out the source of Divine Light in order to reunite with his creator. The Masonic system provides a way to guide its initiates towards the Light of the Creator, so that they may not only discover the Light of the divine, but use that light to further illuminate the world and their fellow man, and when the time comes to leave this world, they can escape the bonds of sorrow and darkness entirely.


The Masonic system does not discriminate, nor prefer, one religion over the other, because every religion contains the teachings of morality, love, and charity that form the cornerstone of Masonic teachings. To discriminate against a particular religion that teaches morality, love, and charity would create conflict where none should exist. Freemasonry doesn’t seek to convert anyone, nor does it replace one’s religion, it merely enhances one’s spiritual path. The craft is universally attractive to seekers from various faiths, because Masonry enhances the path that seekers from all faiths have undertaken since time immemorial. Every Mason benefits from the universality of the craft, because each member’s Light is added to the Light of his other brethren, which helps to illuminate all of the craft, as well as the world at large. Light added to Light.

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End Notes:

[1] Mackey, Albert, Jurisprudence of Freemasonry, 1856, P. 58-59.

[2] Grand Lodge of California, The Masonic Scholar: A Manual of Masonic Education for Candidates, 2008.

[3] Hall, Manly P., The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, 1923, P. 65