Freemasonry as a social commitment. How the values of the Craft can change a Mason’s life and how a Mason can change the society
M. W. Bro. Ali Bongo Ondimba
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Gabon
Initiation, when not being a kind of a transition rite, is purely a personal and private matter. It is the case with Masonic Initiation : one knocks at the door of the Temple in order to get under way towards the research of Truth and Light, not to rise to a new class of age in the society, but with personal desire of improving himself morally and spiritually.
The spiritual odysseys of all the mighty Initiates that preceded us on the path and on the labor site haven’t had for aim social integration.
- Buddha wouldn’t have renounced to the golden tints of Royalty
- Socrates wouldn’t have accepted the risk and the reality of his sentence to death
- And Jesus wouldn’t have just as much assumed his crucifixion.
With regard to the society, Initiation is an uncommon approach that challenges it and Initiates are self assumed unconventional figures, socially differentiated characters. Because the one that feel the wish to initiate himself someday, experiences at that time the desire by boredom and weariness of everyday life to venture off the beaten tracks in order to discover something different that is out of the ordinary. To strive for Initiation is knowingly or not to seek with regard to the society to differentiate himself by desiring to get a breath of fresh air that would give another meaning to life.
The one that decides to Initiate himself strives after changing his life not the society. So how can Initiation be compatible with social commitment?
How the moral and spiritual transformation strived for by the Freemason can have a social impact and contribute to the social change ?
If we refer to the "Twelve points rule" Freemasonry is indeed and quite obviously a school that has nothing to do with apprenticeship of social commitment for it "bans within its assemblies any political debate or controversy…“
Those who want to have their first experience of social commitment need to turn towards the more agreed spaces that are NGOs and political parties.
To join Freemasonry is rather to come to learn to "Restrain our passions, our urge to covetousness, to rise above the cheap interests agitating the common crowd and learn how to still our evil inclinations" and so "make the firm decision of unceasingly working towards our moral and intellectual improvement" (cf. EA degree, Ritual 1802 Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
In other words, if he has a choice to make, the Freemason will always prefer the surroundings of the Chamber of Reflection to those of social and political forums and meetings.
The silent atmosphere of the Chamber of Reflection is to the Freemason more favorable to continue his first work as an Entered Apprentice, in fact the only work of any Initiate, that is to polish his stone.
For lack of a declared ambition to change the society, such as the one carried by political parties and ONGs, Freemasonry contributes to indirectly transform it by going fishing for profanes who freely desire to become their own sculptor.
It is in this sense that must be understood the fourth point of the Rule that, following the third one, states : "Freemasonry thus aims by the moral improvement of its members at the improvement of the whole mankind".
In other words, Freemasons not living in weightlessness, the social commitment of Freemasonry is a logical consequence of the commitment to a moral and spiritual improvement of its members.
The Initiate simply has a real vocation to polish his stone in order to insert it in a set, the society, of which he remains a part, and here we are.
There is, and it is inevitable, interaction in the influence between society and Man :
- Society works step by step through daily connections
- Man reacts and, in the same way, step by step, plays a part with more or less efficiency and it is this “more or less” that represents his piece of work, his mark.
Society influences all the more the individual that he is receptive to the message or capable to take hindsight. He may not be receptive because of a lack of personality or by fragility.
His ability to take hindsight allows him to adhere to the message he then perceive the value and sometimes personal interest.
Thus Man is able to act upon the society all the more easily that the society is receptive to his message, that he has the means of "his policy", among others medias and "metals", and that he holds a certain position by the fact of his social standing or the aura he knew to develop.
Be careful, in some cases manipulation is not very far…
In fact this influence occurs by "osmosis".
The topic really concerns on the one hand the Royal Art that advocates values and on the other hand the Mason, Initiated Man, educated under the guidance of the said values of the others.
Through lack of listing all the values, virtually unlimited, let’s concentrate on some, strong, essential, liable to change the society, of course for better the contrary being not at all conceivable on the part of Freemasons.
They can be summed up in the respect for nature and for the human dignity.
The Mason first and foremost has a duty to work upon himself and it is only when he has managed to the stage of cubic stone that the "contagion" is possible.
It is not through the exercise of the ex cathedra sermon that he can do it but through his daily behavior that is the one and the only able to set up the necessary conditions.
A proverb taken from the Italian wisdom teaches us that one does not point out the failings of someone else with a dirty finger, if it comes to our mind to set ourselves up as preachers, and another proverb so well-liked that its origin was lost, recommends to clean up our own backyard… before doing it at our neighbor’s !
To work upon himself the Mason has at his disposal a frame, the Lodge, and tools at the highest ranking we find the Holy Bible, the Square and the Compasses.
Of course some others do exist, material or immaterial, civil would we say, that under no circumstances he has no "excuse to ignore".
Indeed, the laws and regulations in force in countries and societies that grant him hospitality, protect him as much as they protect the others, those others "himself", and since his very first contact with the Order, on the day he was Initiated, he was strongly advised to conform to them.
To respect nature, a wise man, a Native American named Seattle, passed on to us the context : "We borrow the land from our children".
What monsters we would be to ignore it, at least as a good father should not !
To respect Man, that’s true, is complex but so exciting.
There is at the root of this respect something inevitable engraved in the Tables of the Law, and all that derives from, Moses received from God on Mount Sinaï :
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It ensues from those words the essential values that are Love, Tolerance, Respect, Fidelity, Solidarity, Generosity, Sincerity and Credibility.
Perhaps aside from the two last ones, the said values often compose the distinctive titles of Lodges within the majority of Grand Lodges, as much regular than irregular, all over the world.
As to Sincerity and Credibility, less frequently uttered in our cenacles, we have to admit that they have their place in them.
Indeed Sincerity is this value very popular in the business world to appreciate provided documents.
It is customary to have them certified by empowered institutions that will actually confirm the sincerity of the facts in comparison with their interpretation.
To say what we do is right but it gets all the more strength if we do what we say.
It is at this stage that plays a part Credibility that moreover drives to fame.
There is no way to reach fame apart from a steady checking of the gaps, that will have to be analyzed, between the goals and the achievements, the commitment of a Mason, properly made in his successive obligations, must be honored.
It’s true that Freemasonry develops all this values through presentations submitted and enriched in Lodge.
The Lodge works from noon to midnight thus confirming its universality.
It favors neither race nor religion and in its assemblies puts a ban on any debate proper to arouse differences to create divisions, those splits opportunists of all kinds shower us of so often.
The Mason must educate and format himself, search and find: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. !
Freemasonry certainly not has monopoly on those values, it only doesn’t know to slip away from them with penalty of losing its credibility.
From now on to worry of changing Man and society has an interest only if it is necessary.
In substance does the present state of Man or society proves a need of change ?
The world evolves, consumes more and more wealth to face up the population growth, a population itself more and more demanding on account of the development of its knowledge and the improvement of its living standards.
In the course of events those resources are running dry and replacements will have to be found sooner or later.
The resulting crisis, now occurring at quicker cycles, challenge balances that a little more than thirty years of prosperity generated.
On account of consequences are identity withdrawals as for their part due to the will to preserve some assets, as if games were always at sum zero, and the closing of borders the day after massive calls to immigration.
Within the States as an inescapable fate the wealthy become more and more rich and the poor more and more poor.
The answer to those crises proceeds from the creation of wealth for :
- the global increase of knowledge leads to a global improvement of life conditions ;
- the net growth of world population requires more resources in all places ;
- And, to make short, there is cause for facing the unavoidable loss of energy of every system.
Therefore Man must extend the knowledge barriers and this cannot be done at any price.
And if by any chance ethics did not exist it would have to be created.
In this debate, the Mason has all its place, place imparted to him by a profound thought he carries out regularly: the whys and wherefores of facts.
Moving on to the problem of wealth, the solution is not to proceed to its "fair" sharing out that, without fail, would drive to the spread of poverty, but instead by creating on a mankind scale the conditions for equal opportunities.
Freemasonry is help that gathers within the weak and the mighty, the rich and the poor, the able-bodied and the sick, in one word various intellects, and step by step the human condition would improve.