A Progressive Science

by Thomas Hauder, PGM

Ritual tells us that Masonry is a progressive science and the phrase can probably mean many different things depending on your outlook on the practice of Masonry. One way to interpret this phrase would be that it tells us that what we learn and “know” about Masonry will change and grow as we progress through our lives.

The renowned New Testament author, scholar and university professor Marcus J. Borg expressed this idea of progressive learning as a three-stage process

Stage 1 – Pre-critical naiveté — In this stage, we hear and accept without question or effort that the information, in this case Masonic ritual, is true. Intellect and heart are not involved. This is a child-like acceptance and many people get stuck at this level.

Stage 2 – Critical Thinking – At this stage we begin to evaluate what we learned against our life experiences and modern knowledge. This is the stage where doubt and skepticism often arises. Unfortunately, this can then lead to disengagement with Masonry and disillusionment with the Craft.

Stage 3 – Post–critical naiveté – This difficult to achieve state is where one gains the ability to discern wisdom and insight in the metaphorically expressed “truth” of the myths and stories that make up Masonic ritual. The Brother begins to recognize that their truth does not depend upon their being literally or historically factual. Borg expresses this as an intuitive and trusting discernment of heart, mind and spirit.

Reaching this third level is difficult work, yet for Masonry to be a relevant and useful endeavor, we must engage in this work daily. The Fellowcraft charge encourages us to constantly be improving our minds by serious study and it is by this constant study that we can reach the third stage of understanding and learning from our ritual.

This can be done by investigating the underlying concepts taught in ritual, talking with other Masons and through the practice of ritual. Often times, a concept or lesson doesn’t become clear until it’s been heard multiple times.

Remember, we refer to Masonry as “work” because you have to actively be working at Masonry for it to have its effect upon your life!