We are living today in a throw away age, a period where obsolescence is a built in feature of almost everything around us. Cars, electrical appliances, cell phones and fashion are just to mention a few. ”So called” progress creates redundancy as the world moves on. It is said that one thing one thing is certain that is all things will change.
Socially too, things have changed; people used to keep their jobs and even received long service awards. Today the average person will change their career 4/5 times in their lifetime. Then there were dances with orchestras, today it’s DVD’s discos and raves. There was a time people got dressed up, today they walk in the streets in their swimwear. Union Castle ships were the means of getting to UK today we are searching faster modes of travel. What happened to family picnics, Sunday visits and so we could go on. Sadly things have changed and past stored only in our memory. That is obsolescence and redundancy and it all now seems irrelevant.
We are living in a changing world - where change is regarded as progress.
As we look around us today what do we find? Frustrated individuals, unhappy people, people demanding more rights
Many of these demands in the modern world have brought new moral dilemmas to confront us such as euthanasia, abortion, birth control, narcotics on demand, the role of women, divorce and so on. Some changes are for the good and so we must acknowledge that change must take place. Some politicians are slow to realise this, as failure to make change will ultimately lead to their downfall.
Freemasonry is part of the fabric of society yet we cling to a manifesto that was created for us some 300 years ago. In many cases We note with despair the decline in the Crafts position of power and prestige in the community. This is not a local phenomenon. We see Lodges handing back their warrants and cannot help but ask the question. Is Freemasonry still relevant in our ever-changing modern society?
Membership and poor attendance is a subject on all our lips. Looking back into the minutes of our Natal lodges we see that there were workings each and every month. Times have changed and it seems to be appropriate to ask.
SO Is Freemasonry still relevant?
Let us put some meat on the bones and firstly establish using the age old definition; what is Freemasonry? ‘It’s a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols'. We are a movement designed to fulfil mans need to coexist for the betterment of society as a whole, our members are joined together in an association based on brotherly love, relief and truth. Derived from this definition are the virtues of faith, hope and charity - all supported on the three great pillars of wisdom strength and beauty - we learn this as we pass through the degrees.
The question of relevance arises when discussing the state of our lodges and the way they function. Do we simply look on in despair. The problem is that we tend to focus on the negative rather than the real objective of Freemasonry
Sadly we are not living in a perfect world. Wars, tyranny, slavery are ever present in our society.
Nations have not perfected the art of getting along with one another and this starts with the individual. On a grander and more sophisticated scale, corruption, cheating, crime are an every day occurrence, we read about it daily in our newspapers.
Our immediate ancestors the operative Masons were workers with their hands in order for us to be relevant we need take this idea of work and convert it into a symbol, building a symbolic structure of character, that house not built with hands, eternal in the heavens, thereby helping to build a better world.
Every person is entitled to the pursuits of happiness, this does not guarantee happiness; that is an individual matter. It is up to you, the individual, to use your God-given skills so that you can work with them and secure real happiness. This is the aim of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry seeks to create the feeling of “belonging” this is a vital part of every man’s being. No one can be an island unto himself. To be happy we must belong to a family or a community. Freemasonry offers an opportunity for social contact, and the development of friendship spreading the light of Peace, love and harmony across the world. Freemasonry is the best group for this purpose because of it’s glorious past, the great men who have been Masons, the lessons it teaches to it’s members, and the opportunity it affords to the service of mankind.
Moral lessons maybe taught in schools and in the church, but the method of teaching it in the lodge is unique. Masonic lessons are taught without reference to sectarian creeds or dogmas. Freemasonry teaches that man can best worship God by rendering service to our fellow man. We are taught tolerance in all things. We are taught that honesty is the best policy
Freemasonry is a blend of many of the characteristics of churches, social clubs, and ethical societies; but while resemblances with such organisations can be noted, none is exactly like the great organisation the world knows as Freemasonry.
To summarise this in a few words and answer the question – IS FREEMASONRY STILL RELEVANT? – as briefly as possible . Freemasonry offers mankind an emphasis on the importance of the individual, the belief in the Brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, the concept of the dignity of work and the necessity for the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to realise one’s social aspirations in a morally constructive way and a philosophy of life which can lead to individual and therefore community happiness
Freemasonry would be irrelevant if it could be replaced with something more meaningful. I have searched but can find nothing. Freemasonry has stood the test of time as a relevant organisation In the 21st Century the world really need Freemasonry more than ever. As a relevant organisation Freemasonry has stood the test of time and will continue to be such.
The real question that needs to be answered - “IS FREEMASONRY STILL RELEVANT TO US TODAY?” You will notice that I have added the words TO US. ( you an me)
This question needs to be answered, as Freemasonry works through the individual member. It is not a ‘mass medium’. There are no group initiations; each member is taken alone and taught the lessons of a good life so and so it is up to the individual to apply the lesson. Do we apply the lessons we have learned, the answer to this question can only be found by searching inwards
How would you answer if you were asked by a non–Mason “What benefits do you receive from your Masonic Membership? The situation can be further complicated if the person asking erroneously believes that Freemasonry is a “secret” society.
For Freemasonry to be relevant to you, you must have a clear picture of what the Craft expects from you. This must be engraved on your mind as to be relevant it should be the path along which you are travelling. Freemasonry gives you the answers and if you are unable to furnish a reply when called upon to do so – then who is irrelevant you or the Craft.
Most important for you to be a relevant Freemason; good morality should be practiced as the norm. You may be law abiding but how do you rate on the non–legal virtues, chastity, truthfulness, kindness, cheerfulness, benevolence, prudence, temperance, and fortitude?
In my last paper to you dealing with “SYMBOLS” I told you that man has a “SOMETHING” beyond nature call it conscience. It is that power which warns the person when they are doing wrong and to a certain extent, a force to make the person do right. In other words the measure of relevance is measured by the conscience.
In the 300 or more years that Freemasonry has been formalised the composition may have changed radically. Numerous Brethren have joined under the banner of Freemasonry are of diverse social, religious, cultural, economic and educational backgrounds, from many nationalities, and each sought fulfilment of different emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs.
Still there are variations in conscience among nations and amongst individuals in each nation. In the West, emphasis appears to be shifting away from social morals to individual morals resulting in a 'pick-and-mix' morality.
The morality of Freemasonry requires Masons to deal justly with others, not to defraud, cheat or wrong them of their just dues and rights. A Mason is therefore particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience.
One thing is certain - freemasonry will become irrelevant to a brother who does not apply what masonry teaches.
There is another equally correct definition can be applied to Freemasonry; that is we are an organisation believing in the FATHERHOOD OF GOD AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN, using builders tools as symbols to teach basic moral truths, thereby impressing upon the minds of it’s members the cardinal virtues of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, which should applied to daily life.
These are fundamental parts of Freemasonry which cannot be altered without destroying the identity of Freemasonry itself. This is confirmed each time we hear the ancient charges read out.
It means that we place on another person the highest possible value as a friend, a companion, an associate, a neighbour.
There is an old Arab saying which states that 'man's love for a woman waxes and wanes like the moon but man's love for his brothers shines eternal like stars in the heaven'.
Brotherly love is an essential element that binds the Brethren to each other, as they have pledged themselves to exercise it and it is one of the greatest duties of a Freemason. On this principle, Masonry unites people of every country, sect and opinion and conciliates true friendship. Brotherly love also manifests itself in the second tenet of relief, which is one of the forms of charity. Masonic relief takes for granted that any man may be in temporary need of a helping hand. It can take many forms, such as alleviating misfortune, soothing calamity, helping to restore peace to a troubled mind, and so on. This is one of the natural and inevitable acts of Brotherhood.
The third of the principal tenets is truth, which is a vital requirement if Brotherhood is regarded as eternal, absolute and immutable. To be good and true is the first lesson taught in Freemasonry. On this theme, Masons should endeavour to regulate their conduct in order to eliminate hypocrisy and deceit. In Freemasonry, truth is accepted as the foundation of every virtue. The three principal virtues are faith, hope and charity.
Freemasonry is said to be supported by three great pillars called wisdom, strength and beauty, each have allegorical meanings.
In pursuing knowledge, the Mason will find that knowledge, in itself, is insufficient but if coupled with understanding it will produce wisdom. In turn, wisdom gives an inner strength and these two combined will engender beauty, not the beauty of adornment, but the inner beauty of insight. The fact that knowledge expands through time should be a stimulus to those who pursue it.
Freemasonry flourishes in societies wherein Brethren have a deep belief and a sense of commitment. Freemasonry cannot flourish in a society in which there exists an atmosphere of apathy due to the view that nothing can be done to change injustice, nor where man feels alienation. It is imperative that Freemasons cease paying lip service to the principles, translate them into action, and live by them
More so than ever before in our modern society, Freemasonry can contribute to a better social atmosphere and a greater sensitivity to the needs of all members of that society. As Freemasons, we should be proud of this. We are truly members of a very real and relevant society. As an organization, we refrain from getting involved in political and religious affairs, but Freemasons - as private people - are a part of an international fraternity of men who have expressed their commitment to certain moral principles and to upholding them at all times. Our members are men who could influence society by giving a good example. We do not preach, nor do we publicise our contributions. On the other hand, we have undertaken to check and re-check ourselves constantly. We should be ready at all time to be more attentive to others and more critical of ourselves. Through this, our own life will become richer. If we are Freemasons in deed and in thought the relevance of Freemasonry will be firmly implanted in us The very fact that Freemasonry has not merely survived, but has actually thrived over the years is sufficient proof for me that its philosophies continue to be relevant to all men at all times It is we ourselves that have to be convinced that our belonging to the Craft is of value to us as individuals and ultimately all mankind.
Freemasonry gives us the power of choice. Man has been consistently tempted to stray from the path of virtue. The moral teachings of Masonic Ritual help him to prefer the good instead of the pleasant and to redirect his course towards perfection.
I am sure and I hope you will not only is Freemasonry relevant, but is the essential rock on which to anchor our faith, belief and conduct in this changing society.
Just how this should affect each and every one of us in our daily life??
Well! I leave this to each one of you to think it over.