One of the most misunderstood, and often misrepresented terms we encounter as Freemasons is the word "philosophy." One's
beliefs, regardless of how they were arrived at, are often called one's "philosophy." The systems put forth by different
religious organizations are also called "philosophy" e.g. Christian philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, etc. So what is Philosophy?
If Philosophy could be synonymous with religion, why not just call it religion? The same thing goes for one's
personal beliefs, are they really a "philosophy" or has the word been hijacked into the service of making something sound grander than it really is?
Part of the confusion regarding the term is that it studies many of the same fundamental problems
as personal beliefs and religious structures, for example; what is reality, what is the scope of
knowledge, why do we exist, and what are just and proper virtues. While some of the questions may
be the same, the way in which these different systems arrive at answers are what makes all the
difference. Philosophy is singled out from other systems by answering these questions via logical
debate and dialectic, requiring critical thinking to arrive at a valid conclusion, and requiring
its adherents to be systematic in their approach to answering any question.
So what about faith, you might ask. After all, Freemasonry requires a belief in an afterlife,
and in a creator as one of it's core tenets. Philosophy seems to have little or no room for the
quality of faith or personal beliefs, so what could it have to do with Masonry? This may, at first,
seem like a valid argument, however, when one looks at some of the landmarks of the Craft, we
discover that a philosophical approach to the great fundamental questions allows us much more
freedom than many Masons enjoy in their public discussions. Masons were, and in many
instances still are, barred from discussing things like religion and politics amongst
themselves. It has been cited that these topics are simply too emotional and likely to
cause discord amongst the brethren. This view is quite understandable, and the potential
for discord is very real, yet religion and politics are two of the most vital beliefs in
the formation of an individual's character, so leaving them altogether out of the discussion
means that we will never be able to truly learn from one another in our pursuit of improving
ourselves. It is also fair to ask, if we can't manage to have a civil discussion among our own
brethren, how can we possibly expect to reach out to anyone not within the Craft in an effort
to spread the Masonic Light?
The Masonic Philosophical Society was born out of a desire to be able to reach out, not
just to the brethren of our own lodges, but to the community as a whole in the spirit of
sharing information and spreading the Masonic Light. While unorganized discussions are not
necessarily a negative, introducing a system of philosophical inquiry has proven itself to
be the most effective way of allowing people to share their ideas and learn from one another
while still maintaining a respectful atmosphere.
For the members of the Masonic Order the study groups that are held throughout the month
by the Master and Officers of the respective lodges have been, and will continue to be, one
of the best sources of information pertaining to the working of a Masonic Lodge. Therein lies
the problem, there is simply so much material that needs to be covered regarding the internal
discipline of a Lodge itself that a proper discussion of anything from the outside world is
just not feasible, as we all have to sleep sometime.
This poses a problem for the Freemason who wishes to spread the light. Unlike many organizations
Masonry does not hold the belief that it's members are "in the world, but not of the world." From
our very earliest foundations Freemasons have always espoused a system that is meant to
benefit the entirety of mankind and not just our singular organization or it's members.
How is this possible if your only source of Masonic education revolves around the inner
workings of the Lodge and not the greater workings of society as a whole? Of course, one can
not begin to spread the light of Masonry throughout society if one is out of touch with those
issues which are important to those in their own community. The leadership of American
Co-Masonry realized in the last years that we could not hope to do away with all
cause for division and strife if our membership was disconnected from the rest of their communities.
In our own declaration of principles it is stated that "American Co-Masonry seeks to destroy
ignorance under whatever form," and that each Mason must "help human beings to emancipate
themselves from the thralldom of passion and ignorance." While we have certainly established a
program that is effective in destroying ignorance within our own ranks, we have failed to
help other human beings who may not yet be ready to take their own Masonic journey.
Our day and age is one which is certainly ripe with the seeds of a new era in human
understanding and enlightenment. Where once we were limited in our access to information
by geographical and financial means we now have an unprecedented access to information and
education regardless of where we live or what kind of money we make. However, this access has
lead to new problems which we are not fully equipped to handle yet. With so much access to
information it has become increasingly easy to be taken in by charlatans and tricksters who
offer easy answers to difficult questions.The Masonic Philosophical Society, is not formated as
a lecture series or as a classroom for precisely this reason. It is an insult to those who come
seeking knowledge to say we have the truth and others are charlatans because we say so. The format
of the Masonic Philosophical Society study groups are design to allow for an open and engaging
discussion which fosters critical thinking from each participant. Rather than pointing out the
flaws in arguments, the membership of the MPS learns to spot them on their own so that they can
be truly free to navigate their own way through the vast networks of information with more confidence
than ever before.
The Masonic Philosophical Society is the structure that can bridge the gap between the membership
of American Co-Masonry and those who, for whatever reason, are not ready to take on that commitment.
It is the best structure with which the Masonic mission of destroying ignorance for all mankind can
be accomplished, and a refreshing take on interactive education in an increasingly isolated educational
environment. Of course, the Masonic Philosophical Society does not charge dues or fees for attendees to
come and experience all that we have to offer, so unless prejudice and ignorance are dear to your heart,
there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from experiencing the next study group for yourself.