“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read but one page.”
“This is the very perfection of man, to find out his own imperfections.”
“Hear the other side.”
– Saint Augustine
The injunction against the discussion of religion in a Masonic Lodge is not meant to preclude discussion of religious and sacred things. Rather, it appears to be directed more against members proselyting for a particular creed.
There is much to be gained from reviewing, with an open mind, the various tenets of religious doctrines, doctrines spawned from around the world and across all ages. Verily, through the intersections of so many transcribed circles, a secret center may be revealed.
The candidate, before his eyes behold even the forms and ceremonies of the Lodge, is specifically instructed that Masonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, to impress upon the mind wise and serious truths transmitted through a succession of ages. Wise and serious truths, this author presumes, cannot mean the inevitable paying of bills, guffawing from the sidelines, or mere quibbling over ritual.
Albert Pike writes explicitly in his chapter on the Royal Arch of Solomon, in that great Masonic Tome, Morals & Dogma, that:
Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teaching are instructions in religion.
And where better to present manifold doctrines of faith which reveal, from a multitude of perspectives, the Inevitable Source from which all has sprung? Are Masons not couched in tolerance? Is not the Lodge a sacred space, divided among the Brethren united in Brotherly Love, to afford free and open discussion? Are not the Officers’ Stations situated to direct and administer peaceable discussion among the members of the Craft? Peace and harmony prevailing?
The fact is that Masonry is naturally a pluralistic and inclusive Fraternity. It is exclusive only in selecting quality in its members, but those members are taken to include men of all faiths who aspire to become better than themselves.
The ability to entertain contrary opinions is a first step toward any lasting discovery. Education cannot be properly effected if everything approached is already agreeable to a particular student. Think about it, if you had been able to choose simply those classes you wished to study in school, for your own sweet fun, your education would have been stilted by that which you already understood. One does not go to school to reinforce preexisting opinions, but to learn that which was previously unknown. Personally, I have consistently discovered the greatest lessons precisely where I never expected to find them.
(Perhaps there is a reason for adversity and failure, here?)
Regardless, an open mind remains a necessary first step in the journey to knowledge, and only by being open to contrary and differing perspectives can the whole horizon of human experience be even partially glimpsed. Then one may select the best view, with the foreknowledge that one is looking in the right direction, relative to where one has elected to stand. Look around Brother, and find God everywhere!
Through tolerance comes understanding. Through understanding comes wisdom. Wisdom is not merely concerned with what is, but also with what is not.
In understanding comes peace – understanding another’s opinion reduces the unfamiliarity of that opinion, sheds new light where previously shadows where perceived, and creates in man the natural bonds of empathy. The unknown creates fear, and unfamiliarity attaches such fear (often erroneously) to our perception of another’s creed. We then see him as a projection of ourselves, of our fearful self, rather than a true reflection of what he may actually be.
“I don’t believe in the God that you don’t believe in, either,” I say to the Atheist.
Masons, as builders of a tolerant community, are uniquely positioned to entertain such discussion as to the nature of the sacred, in all its trappings, sewn and tailored among humanity’s mixed metaphor. Why argue over the clothing we make for God? Can’t we tease through each garment and find a common breast?
If we take our obligations seriously, then the discussion of religion – absent specific proselytism – in any Lodge is not to be discounted. Rather, perhaps it should be encouraged? After all, exercising tolerance makes us more tolerant. And the ability to agreeably disagree is a necessary skill in any deliberation where the majority may rule over a minority opinion.
We must be prepared to travel through new intellectual landscapes with open curiosity, and not be dismissive of alien or unfamiliar ideas. We must seek the world in every grain of sand, heaven in every wild flower.
After all, everything adds up to One, anyway.
In the meantime, we can at least check the math, together, as geometricians – revealing points from the intersections between the lines.