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Freemasonry instills in its brothers a set of core principles that guide them through life and allow them to be ethical, moral, and just. Masons are expected to be thoughtful of others, particularly those in need, be kind and charitable to members of their family and the broader community, and courteous and fair in all matters.
We know that four essential values help define a brother’s path through life, and they are Integrity, Friendship, Respect, and Charity. These guiding values are interlinked to the principles taught within Masonic rituals and set Masons on the right path through life to help them become enlightened.
However, in addition to these core values, a significant element of Freemasonry is spirituality. In this post, we’re going to explore the importance of truth and belief within Masonic teachings and ascertain how they influence the Masonic understanding of spirituality.
What do we mean by truth?
Truth is at the crux of the Masonic experience. For many people, at least in a philosophical and religious sense, the search for truth is the real object of Freemasonry. Truth in the Masonic sense is symbolized by the world, and from the first minute a candidate becomes an Entered Apprentice, his search for truth in the universe begins.
Truth is attained through experiential learning and by engaging with the age-old Masonic rituals and ceremonies. But truth is also found in meaning and by living life by the Masonic code and values that facilitate a virtuous existence.
In fact, in the Entered Apprentice’s lecture, a brother learns that truth is the foundation of every other virtue. Although this introduction to truth is of paramount importance, it refers to truth regarding the third principle tenet, alongside brotherly love and relief.
While this conceptualization of truth teaches the importance of truth as opposed to deceit, it should not be confused with the Absolute Truth of Freemasonry. While concrete truths are all relative; Absolute Truth is unchanging.
The fundamental difference is that we cannot know the Absolute Truth of anything; we can only search for it. Freemasons order their lives in pursuit of this Absolute Truth, the purity of the soul that can only be achieved by living a virtuous life and incorporating the Masonic teachings into our daily practice.
What do we mean by belief?
We are concerned here with belief in its simplest form; that is, what do Masons accept as truth. This is why truth and belief must be considered in relation to one another. During their search for the Absolute Truth of the universe, Freemasons identify with a core set of beliefs and values that shape their view of the world.
Masonic beliefs are wide-ranging and interpreted from a variety of sources. Still, often they can be identified in the following three simple concepts that have already been alluded to in this post:
- Brotherly love – For Masons, this means they must show love and kindness to everyone they interact with, not just their fellow brothers within the lodge.
- Relief – This encompasses the charitable spirit that is expected of Masons, and they should enact this by providing mutual aid to others.
- Truth – As has already been touched upon, truth is the search for answers to the universal questions of morality and the salvation of the soul.
Belief in the Supreme Being
For any candidate wishing to join Freemasonry, they must profess belief in the Supreme Being as a pre-requisite. Many on the outside of Freemasonry mistaken this profession of belief in a deity as being religious in nature, but it isn’t.
While it would be amiss to describe Freemasonry as secular, it is not a religion. Belief in the Supreme Being is essentially the cornerstone upon which all other Masonic beliefs and teachings are layered, which is why the emphasis is placed upon this requirement before a candidate is permitted to join a lodge.
Freemasonry prides itself on being inclusive to all religions, and it doesn’t stipulate who or what the Supreme Being is. Many people mistakenly believe that Freemasonry automatically insists upon belief in the Abrahamic God, but this is not the case.
So long as a candidate professes belief in a Supreme Being, that is enough. When they enter the lodge, the Supreme Being is then referred to as the Grand Architect of the Universe, which is testimony to Freemasonry’s affiliation to the medieval stonemasons and their ancient craft.
Although ‘God,’ as many of us conceptualize it, is not discussed within Freemasonry, many of the rituals and ceremonies used to educate brothers about enlightenment are taken from the Holy Scriptures and have a theoretical grounding in religion.
The most prominent example of this in Freemasonry is the allegory of King Solomon’s Temple and its premier architect, Hiram Abiff. While it is not mandatory for Masons to believe in the Christian God, you can appreciate from this example that knowledge of the Christian scriptures may aid a brother in his Masonic journey.
In addition to the allegory of King Solomon’s Temple, you will find an altar in the center of Masonic lodges across the world. Placed on top of the altar will be a religious book of some kind, very often the Holy Bible or Quran.
Again, such practice feeds the misconception that Freemasonry is a religion, or at least affiliated with one of the world’s largest religions, but this is simply not the case.
As we understand it, believing in the Grand Architect of the Universe’s existence enables us to open our minds to the pursuit of truth and allows us to purify our minds and souls. Undoubtedly, if a brother didn’t believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, he would find it difficult to rationalize the fundamental Masonic teachings.
Within Freemasonry, the search for truth begins with a belief in the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is an omniscient presence that guides a brother through life, and his quest for Absolute Truth would be futile without the guidance of the Grand Architect of the Universe.
The intersectionality between truth and belief
Within Freemasonry, truth and belief cannot be understood as stand-alone entities. As we have learned, one of the core beliefs of Freemasonry is truth, and according to many Masonic scholars, the search for truth is the very essence of Freemasonry.
When thinking of truth in a Masonic sense, we must recognise that it can mean something different to every brother, and no one search for the Absolute Truth of the universe will be the same.
From the first ceremony of the Entered Apprentice, the new brother may seem confused or slightly lost, as he is entering a world that he knows very little of for the first time. The fact that he is blindfolded when he first enters the lodge is significant because it represents the fact that he is seeking enlightenment.
For Masons, light is an extremely important symbol. A brother’s search for enlightenment begins at the lodge, and light represents a man’s search for truth in the universe. Throughout a brother’s journey, although they are guided by Masonic teachings, they ultimately must search for the light on their own and carve out their own virtuous path.
Masons are not necessarily able to point to one ceremony or ritual that provides the ultimate truth. Still, collectively, Freemasonry seeks to inspire brothers to search for a collective truth that will help them on their journey to enlightenment.
Masons define their own paths
Perhaps the key takeaway from this post is understanding that Masons define and discover their own path through life. While it will be shaped by shared learning and experience, there is no uniform Masonic experience of truth.
This is due to the subjectivity of a man’s pursuit of truth. Before a brother becomes an Entered Apprentice, he brings with him his unique experience of life thus far. These experiences have shaped him as a man and have informed his pre-existing understanding of the universal truth.
While Freemasonry seeks to mould brothers into exemplary men of virtue, it is not a panacea to the challenges men have faced in their lives before they joined the fraternity. It is up to every individual to reflect upon their lives before they become Masons and do everything in their power to shape their future towards seeking the Absolute Truth.
While defining their own path, one of the central components of the Masonic experience is enlightenment. Masons cherish the pursuit of wisdom and appreciate it as an exploratory process filled with trial and error. Brothers are encouraged to challenge reality to become better men and search for the Absolute Truth.
Enlightenment is a journey that is aided by the symbols, rituals, and allegory of Freemasonry. A brother’s attendance at his lodge enables him to progress on his journey and learn from his fellow brothers’ experiences.
By striving to live with virtue and compassion and by maintaining an ongoing curiosity about the universe, Masons continue to embody the spirit of enlightenment and are continually seeking to understand the Absolute Truth of their existence.
In addition to enlightenment, another way in which Masons define their own path is through betterment in their personal lives. Striving for personal growth is a core tenet of Freemasonry.
As a brother progresses through the craft, he discovers different aspects of life that they may not have thought about before. Through Masonic symbolism and allegory, they develop a new-found understanding of their very existence.
As part of this process, they are likely to realise new skills they didn’t know they even had. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of each brother to refine these skills and put them to use in their daily experience of life. They can do this by sharing their experiences with their fellow brothers, but also by operationalising their Masonic values within their communities.
Within Freemasonry, the opportunities for betterment are immeasurable, whether it’s helping a brother in need or supporting the broader community through selfless acts of charity and compassion. Whatever a brother’s contribution, his unique experience of life is what makes Freemasonry so vibrant.
The final element of truth-seeking that it’s essential to allude to here is the development of leadership skills. Throughout their journey, brothers develop core leadership skills that inform their ideas and enable them to become more-rounded, virtuous individuals.
While there isn’t really a system of hierarchy in Freemasonry (other than the degrees), brothers are encouraged to live by the virtuous examples that they set for one another and guide one another to the realization of the Absolute Truth of the universe. Within the Masonic teachings, there are ample opportunities for a brother to develop their leadership skills and inspire others to become better Masons. Ultimately, if the Masonic truth is to be realized, brothers must lead by example and be willing to discover, reflect, and challenge the information they are provided with.
Conclusion: the importance of truth and belief in Freemasonry
As has been explored throughout this post, truth and belief are vital aspects of the Masonic experience. For many Masons, the pursuit of truth is the very essence of Freemasonry and is the primary reason for many joining the fraternity.
Indeed, Masons realize this truth by carving out their own individual path through life and by harnessing the crucial lessons taught by the Masonic rituals and ceremonies. Their belief in the Supreme Being or the Grand Architect of the Universe underpins the Masonic search for truth and is of paramount importance.
While a brother is never likely to realize the Universe’s Absolute Truth, life is a process of enlightenment, and the true value is in constant improvement and developing virtues that align with the core Masonic teachings and concepts.