A couple months ago I was reflecting on what kind of a mason I was when I first joined. Lemme tell ya, it wasn’t top tier.
Oh, I came to all the meetings. I learned the lectures and the rituals. I was a smart mason. Too smart. Too smart for my own good, because like many young men I lacked a principle quality for success: humility.
In Freemasonry and its related bodies we tell a lot of stories with a purpose. Ask any copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces and it’ll tell you that stories are how humanity learns character. Good character, ideally, but we also learn from those who have bad character.
One particular story features an antagonist with a particularly bad character. And in what I suppose would be the complicating incident of the tale he utters something to the effect of “that which I say, I will do.”
Alchemy is and isn’t Freemasonry. Think of it like this: a long time ago, well before the Enlightenment, possibly even all the way back before the beginnings of civilization itself, Man had been perfecting a singular craft. This Ancient Craft, even and Art or a Science if you will, was called “Believe Everything I Tell You To, Or I’ll Poke You With This Pokey Thing.”
A tool we learn early on in Freemasonry is the Common Gavel, which we use as a reminder that we always have to break off the corners of our rough stones. Put more plainly, you always needs to work on improving themselves by fighting their own personal bad habits, character flaws, and personality traits that hold them back from being who you really are. Because you are not your flaws or unnecessary excesses. You don’t need your pain; doesn’t make you who you are. The various pains you have, the issues that could fill a magazine rack, they’re nothing but excess flack, covering your true self. Like Michelangelo said, the masterpiece already lives within the stone; just remove the superfluous pieces.
There was probably a time in world history, maybe even recent history, where the idea that you shouldn’t stab someone in the face for a minor slight against the character of your family pet was a revolutionary philosophy. Now it seems pretty common sense to most people. Well, depending where you live, I suppose.
There are three types of Freemasons I’ve found in my travels. Those who are new to Freemasonry and are confused by what all of this is supposed to mean to them; those who have been Freemasons for ages and are confused as to what all of this is supposed to mean to them; and those who are so egotistical as to think they know what Freemasonry means, and get visibly upset when you don’t understand what they’re talking about.