Freemasonry does not require any specific belief in the afterlife, only that the soul is immortal — that some aspect of who we are continues in some way after physical death. Although reincarnation is not a widely held belief in traditional Western religions, surveys show that at least one-quarter of Christians believe in it. Some argue that this is a contradiction, while others believe that Judeo-Christian scripture confirms or at least hints at the belief. The concept was also familiar to Jewish and Christian mystics, most likely as a result of contact with India since the time of Alexander the Great. Regardless, the perspective of living after death has profound implications that are consistent with Masonic values.
One of the consequences is a Legacy. Whereas the majority of us want to leave a better world for our children, those who believe in reincarnation are also improving the world for themselves. They will have to live in whatever world they create. It is more than just a passing of the torch; it is a continuation of work. From this perspective, we can ask ourselves – even hypothetically, if you do not believe in reincarnation – what do we want to do in this lifetime that we would want to continue or reap the benefits of in the next? What imprint could you leave on the world that would ensure you were affected by it if you were cast into another life at random?
Another implication is that we have many chances, or steps, to perfect the rough ashlar, and that our work can only be submitted after we submit a true and square stone. This is an excuse to assist in the reformation of others and ourselves, as few, if any, are beyond redemption. And what better way to be humbled than to realize that our spiritual work is bigger than our single lifetime? Masonry, like the Operative Craft of cathedral builders, teaches us that we must start what others will finish and finish what others have begun, spanning lifetimes and generations. We can’t expect to accomplish everything in our short lives, and we shouldn’t bemoan it as a personal failing. What a strange thing it would be in God’s grand plan for us to only live and die, when there are more important things that need time to move toward eternity, no matter how the rest of our journeys turn out.
Reincarnation is also the polar opposite of the libertine’s or materialist-YOLO atheist’s (“You Only Live Once”) culture. Those who believe in reincarnation, like those who believe in immediate heavenly reward, do not live for the moment, except as a prelude to a future. What we do now has real ramifications for our future in this life and the next (and the next).
Perhaps it seems like a reasonable idea to us, or perhaps we already believe it. Alternatively, it may appear strange to us, but the sentiment should be familiar to our core beliefs, where we travel “from life to life.” Or perhaps we reject the concept of reincarnation but can still benefit from its lessons. The Roman poet Seneca advises, “Live each day as if it were a separate life,” Each day, or life, presents us with a new trestle board, and even if we can only see the work of the day, we know we didn’t start it, and it will continue long after the working tools of life have fallen from our hands. And perhaps the tools will be waiting for us in the morning.
by Midnight Freemason
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski
Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.
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