Whither directing our course?
Three Extracts from the Address Given by Lord Northampton,
Pro Grand Master, United Grand Lodge of England,
at their Summer Conference 2005
Quoted from a paper written by the Pro Grand Master and published in October 2005, by the Cornerstone Society
The three degrees equate to body, mind and spirit, the three essential parts of man.
In the first degree the emphasis is on the physical and its objective is from darkness to light. It is symbolised by the rough Ashlar and the working tools are those implements needed to work on the unshaped stones brought to light from the darkness of the quarries. The consciousness of the first degree is at the level of instinct and its pillar represents physical strength and is therefore crowned with the terrestrial globe.
In the second degree the emphasis is on the powers of the mind and its objective is from ignorance to knowledge. It is symbolised by the smooth Ashlar and the working tools are designed to perfect and prove the stone after rude matter has been brought into due form. The consciousness of this degree is at the level of intellect and its pillar represents wisdom and is therefore crowned with the celestial globe.
In the third degree the emphasis is on the spirit and the objective is to build the Temple, not made with human hands, eternal in the Heavens. Its symbol is the blazing star, its consciousness is at the level of intuition, the voice of Nature, and its pillar is that of Beauty. Beauty depends on balance and harmony.
The objectives of the three degrees - illumination through the search for light, wisdom through the increase in knowledge, and transformation through the process of death and renewal - portray the story of the evolution of human consciousness leading ultimately to enlightenment.
I have read many booklets which have been produced by different Provinces to explain freemasonry to their candidates. So many of them, however, deal with the form and etiquette of the Craft and do not give any real explanation of its purpose and content. As a result, they convey knowledge but do not inspire the reader to want to explore further.
As Michael Walker, Past Grand Secretary of Ireland, said in his address to our Grand Lodge last year, there is nothing wrong with the content of freemasonry but there is definitely something wrong with the way we package our product.
We keep hearing that men today are searching for spirituality in their lives free from dogma and doctrine. Freemasonry undoubtedly has an answer to that search because it is one of the reasons it was founded, but it fails to sell itself on the back of its excellent credentials.
The truth is that the packaging of our product has become jaded. Society is very different to what it was, even a generation ago, but freemasonry has changed hardly at all. Is it any wonder that we appear irrelevant to our young candidates and so many of them subsequently leave us?
I repeat my conviction that the time has come to talk openly and freely about our rituals with anyone who is interested, the only caveat being that we take care not to dilute the effect the ceremonies will have on future candidates. If as a result we inspire our members to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge and attract men to join us because of its exciting message, we will be able slowly to turn the Craft in the direction for which it was founded.
Educating our members about the purpose of masonry should be a priority regardless of whether or not they wish to deepen their understanding of it.