As the members of Quesnel Lodge #69 prepare to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of their Lodge a series of articles are being written in this column to provide our community with more insight into history of Freemasonry in Quesnel, the masonic family, its charities and the organization itself. This is the second part of a two-part article intended to provide a simple explanation as to what Freemasonry is all about.
Most North American masonic lodges are composed of less than a hundred members of which perhaps thirty are active and will come out regularly to the one or two meetings a month. Each meeting is opened and closed following a particular form of ritual and then run in a manner closely resembling Robert’s Rules of Order for the purpose of conducting its business to keep the membership apprised of the workings of the lodge: paying of accounts, charitable works in progress, assistance to sick or distressed brethren, and the like. Some meetings are also used for the conferring of one of the three degrees of Freemasonry. Many lodges also organize socials, dances, outings, dinners and sporting events for their members and families.
Why are the rituals and ceremonies secret? Tradition, more than anything — there have been times and places where promoting equality, freedom of thought or liberty of conscience was dangerous. Also, a lesson that must be earned may have a greater impact. Most importantly though is a question of perspective. Each aspect of the ritual has a meaning. Freemasonry has been described as a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Such characteristics as virtue, honour and mercy, such virtues as temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice are empty clichés and hollow words unless presented within an ordered framework. The lessons are not secret but the presentation is kept private to promote a clearer understanding in good time.
It is also possible to view masonic secrecy not as secrecy in and of itself, but rather as a symbol of privacy and discretion. By not revealing masonic secrets, or acknowledging the many published exposures, freemasons demonstrate that they are men of discretion, worthy of confidences and they place a high value on their word and bond.
But the true secrets of a freemason are not contained in the ritual. A freemason who is true to his obligation will not reveal the modes of recognition, but they are not truly secret; this is demonstrated by the number of exposures that have been published over the centuries.
The secrets of a freemason are those personal, private and lawful aspects of a man’s life that he may choose to share with a brother, a brother who will keep those secrets. This is not secretiveness; this is discretion. There is also that secret which is not kept secret but is only revealed to those who realize the happiness that comes from living a good life.
In preparing this column, I have taken very liberally from a paper presented on the website of the Grand Lodge of BC and Yukon.
The complete paper and many other articles covering a wide range of topics about Freemasonry may be found on that website www.freemasonry.bcy.ca.
Contributed by Bill Cave, a member of Quesnel Lodge No. 69 and a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of BC and Yukon.