Over the course of my tenure as a Master Mason, I’ve been asked this question countless times. Some are genuinely interested and engage in conversation asking follow-up questions as I explain my experiences. Others are skeptical. They’ve obviously grown up in an environment where social engagement, group education, and the bond of belonging are alien concepts or worse yet, they’ve listened to the negative propaganda about the Fraternity perpetrated upon the public by hate-mongers and politicians. I’ve patiently and excitedly explained my position to those who have asked because I love this Ancient Order and want to see it grow in people’s hearts and minds. Now, I’ll attempt to share this insight with my readers. I’ll caution you, however, that each man receives their own benefits as each person’s experiences are different, their insights are personal, and their devotion to the Craft unique despite—or perhaps because of—the traditional lessons taught within.
I am a religious man. Spiritual but not in the context that most people think of spiritualism today. I am not a strong proponent of organized religion as I believe that despite the best intentions, human beings will corrupt the revealed word of God allowing social pressures, cultural preferences, and personal agendas to take precedence. I do belong to a Church, however, and to be candid my membership is due in part to Freemasonry.
Some decades ago, I became disenfranchised with organized religion and the agendas, politicking, and egos that I encountered therein time and time again. I quit attending my church and asserted my position heavily upon my young family. This is both a deep regret of mine and a blessing for which I am extremely grateful. You see? Had I not chosen to walk that path; I may not have joined Freemasonry. And had I not joined Freemasonry, I would not be where I am today or likely even with who I am with.
I’m going to speed up the telling of this tale for the sake of time as only the results have any association with this article. Long story short, I spent years angry with an organization that taught goodness and light but rarely (in my youthful experience and pride) exhibited its teachings through the actions of its body. Eventually, I began feeling that desire to belong to something greater than just me—something that helped me be more than I was. Enter Freemasonry.
The night of my initiation was exciting for me. I was starting down a path that I knew would change my life for the better and I desperately wanted to get a move on. That night, the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden of my new Blue Lodge walked me to my car. They turned their discussion to their involvement in a subject that I find wholly unbecoming of a Mason and once again, I was turned off towards an organization that taught Good and Light but whose members were hypocrites. I called my mentor and friend—the man who introduced me to Masonry—and let him know how disappointed I was. These words of his changed my outlook:
“Judge the organization by its landmarks and teachings, not by the actions of the imperfect people simply walking their own paths within. If the organization teaches good and the people within struggle with implementing those teachings in their lives, then it is not the organization that is at fault.”
Why would I share this at the beginning of an article titled The Benefits of Being A Freemason? Because there are thousands of representatives of this Ancient and Honorable Fraternity in the world today and not one of us lives up to the whole expectation of the Masonic Education. The hope is that we are all striving to deserve the title of Freemason by earning the benefits each day through action, word, and thought. Have patience with us while we navigate these austere halls.
Being A Better Man
You have likely seen the mantra, Making Good Men Better, being tossed about in relation to Freemasonry. This is a bold claim and not entirely true in its truncated delivery. You see, one of the benefits of Speculative Masonry is that each one of us Masons has access to a structured education system delivered in symbolism and allegory as well as straightforward instruction. A goldmine of insight into what it means to be a better man, this system isn’t meant to teach me how to be better than you, or him, or that group over there, but it is meant to teach me how to be better than I was before I implemented the teachings in my life.
Within the Great Trestleboards (the Holy Books) of various religions to which Masons subscribe there are lessons given in multitudes. In general, it has been the purview of organized religions to not only translate the meaning of these teachings and put them in an understandable format for the layperson, but preach them to their followers, admonish them to follow the edicts within, and in many cases judge them as well. Throughout history and even today, there are zealous interpretations who mistake the prejudices and cultural demands that are filled with hate and loathing, orders for death and destruction, and judgment to be rained down upon those deemed heathens as the Word of God (or gods).
Masonry, in its pure unadulterated form, removes the hate, removes the inequality, removes the judgment of agendas of organized religion and delivers an alternate means of implementing the revealed word of God in a man’s life.
Freemasonry is not a religion, but it is a religiously focused organization. While there are bold claims floating about such as, Making Good Men Better, the truth is that the Man must take action by applying the lessons put together from the Great Trestleboards by philosophers, dreamers, and learned men who desired nothing more than to be better men, in order to become better men themselves.
Science has proven that men and women benefit from time spent with their own gender. Studies have shown that men should spend at least two nights a week with their guy friends (women should do the same with their girlfriends). The individual’s health and well-being are greatly improved if they do. Additionally, if the man (in this case) spends that time with his brothers doing things together that promote like-minded interests, their mental health is greatly improved. This is where the social benefits of being a Freemason come into play.
Human beings crave connections. The nature of the science is too great to get into here but suffice it to say, we long to belong, to be a part of, to participate in and with groups of people. Without this connection, our spirits deflate, or drives dwindle, and our sense of accomplishment falters. Even people such as myself who are introverts cannot maintain healthy lifestyles by being… well, introverted. Since the beginning of recorded time, we’ve sought out groups of people we could be a part of, friends, a spouse, etc. Societies, Clubs, Fraternities, Sororities, Classes, Politics, Churches, and even gangs… they exist because we desire to belong.
Within Freemasonry, men find brotherhood in social engagement, philosophical discussion, shared learning, similar goals, pride in belonging, and a knowledge that they always have a Brother who will come to their aid.
I have been asked before why I haven’t found these benefits in our Church membership and I’ve had to admit that for the most part, the feeling is so different that there’s no comparison. I can walk into a room of Masons and immediately feel accepted, bonded, and supported despite the many, many differences in personalities, personal life choices, politics, and religious beliefs. I’ve never experienced that within a Church. The argument has been made that you get out of it what you put into it and that I’ve not been the gregarious individual I am at Lodge at Church. To which I say, there’s a freedom at Lodge that doesn’t exist in a Church. Freedom to be yourself no matter your flaws, no matter your struggles, and no matter your faith. Masons meet upon the level and part upon the level, and this is a foundational aspect of our Fraternity.
Ceremonies and Goals
Take a real look at history and you’ll see that every culture, every society, has implemented ceremonies into their lives at certain milestones and after great achievement. Ceremony is a huge part of growth and many who study human behavior and mental needs will tell you that without ceremony, certain developmental milestones are delayed or missed altogether.
Setting goals and marking their achievements is life-affirming. When a young man reaches a certain age (depending on the culture) there is usually some kind of ceremony welcoming him to manhood. Birthdays are ceremonies of a kind, more casual than most, but still, a ceremony recognizing the achievement of surviving another year and celebrating the individual being born in the first place. The sad thing is that we are drifting further away from recognizing standard achievements through ceremony with each generation.
For whatever reason—be it technology or just genetics—we have become less and less capable of sitting through pomp and ceremony as a people despite the mental and spiritual benefits it provides. Young men no longer have that coming of age ceremony to mark their transition to manhood. There’s no Great Hunt for them to go on to prove themselves. The man’s Church might have certain achievements they can make, and some may even have solid ceremony to accompany them, but outside of Church, there are few organizations remaining today that implement meaningful ceremony into a man’s life. Outside of the Church, marriage is the biggest ceremony of a person’s life and even that is under attack these days.
Then there’s the simple concept of goal setting and achievement. When goals are set, they are most often in relation to finances, body, and getting that degree or certification. When a person does hit certain financial marks, there’s no ceremony that goes along with it. The recognition is often made by jealous people or hateful people and not positive at all. Body goals, such as those associated with weight-lifting, cross fit, etc. are great, but are again often recognized solely out of jealousy. And yes, there are ceremonies involved with getting a degree but often, having a degree means nothing in the real world. Companies are finding that colleges and universities can’t keep up with the industries, teach a person not to think for themselves but rather to think according to a curriculum, and box an individual into antiquated specializations. People without degrees are performing better in the workplace than those with a piece of paper. People with degrees are then reduced to a painful amount of debt and frustration which dampens the benefits of the ceremony and achievement.
Through the regimented and structured advancements in the degrees of Masonry, a man experiences goal setting and ceremony upon achievement of things that are useful in any man’s life so to positively increase his knowledge and self-worth.
These are a few of the benefits that I’ve witnessed and experienced within Freemasonry over the many years I’ve been a member. By conversing with other Masons, you’ll receive many different answers, I’m sure. Not all men will experience the same benefits in the same way as I have too, but I am absolutely convinced that Freemasonry has been the most positive influence in my life and wouldn’t give it up for anything. I encourage men to seek the knowledge for themselves whether the Fraternity is for them and recommend it for all good men seeking to be better who are willing to do the work.