Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest secular fraternal societies.
Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: it seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
In this TED talk he posits the possibility that humans evolved the religious impulse as an adaptation to assist group selection. In simpler terms, we are hard-wired to have transcendent experiences because it makes us co-operate instead of acting selfishly.
Haidt uses the staircase as a metaphor for self-transcendence which should surely have resonance for freemasons who have taken their second degree. He states:
“The staircase takes usfrom the experience of life as profane or ordinaryupwards to the experience of life as sacred,or deeply interconnected”.
Suppose you have joined freemasonry recently and are working through the three ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising. You enjoy their uplifting admonitions to personal improvement and want further reading, as it were, to broaden your understanding of the ideas presented in the degrees as well as the intellectual currents that informed them.
Reading, though, is so twentieth-century. You want to listen to easily digestible podcasts that deliver the thinking of top-drawer academics in no more time than it takes walk to commute to work. What you need is BBC Radio 4’s programme on the history of ideas, In Our Time.
What follows then is an entirely unofficial, biased(!) and personal list of IOT episodes you could listen to in the days immediately following each of the three degree ceremonies, with a general category to give a flavour of some of the ideas that inform masonic culture.
If you’re a mason, this is the book to give your friends who ask you what freemasonry is. Well-informed and written with sufficient detachment to inspire confidence, the tone is neither reverential nor apologetic, and makes needed criticism of the institution where it’s deserved.
Familiar anti-masonic claims are debunked efficiently, placing their origins in historical context.