Freemasonry: The System and the Organization- Who Turned Out the
By M.W.G.M. Howard L Woods - Grand Master of Arkansas
Well I remember the night of my Raising in (Prince Hall) Trinity Lodge #33 in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 17, 1966, for it was the foremost turning point in my 37 years upon this earth. Well I remember the words, "Many have started out on this journey, but some fell by the wayside. "You are not now a Master Mason, and may never be................... Then, the lights went out!
In the ensuring years, I have had the opportunity to meet and greet many men of great Masonic Stature, and have learned many things, ritualistically and philosophically from them. One great common lesson was gleaned from them all: Masonic knowledge is of the highest order, especially when you work within the organization, using the lessons learned from the System of Freemasonry. The two, the system and the organization, are separate but not necessarily distinct, but, the organization will not work well without the system, and the system will not be perpetuated without the organization.
Many Masonic and non-Masonic scholars have depended on the written work to seek the hidden answers of the Masonic Fraternity, and many versions have been published as asthenic history. We learn much from these dissertations and treatises, and I am appreciative of them all. Because of their writings, I have traveled from one end of the earth to the other. Because of the information, I have sought the Holy Grail, as well as the Lost Word of a Master Mason. I have given signs and grips to those that knew little of me or my background and have found a worthy friend and brother in the exchange of tokens, always seeking for light, further light and more light.
Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the work of truth, says Paul in his Second Timothy 2:15, and all Master Masons are charged to do just that, remembering all the while the Grand Master's check word, Truth. But what is Truth?
From the pages of our Entered Apprentice lecture, Truth rings out loud and clear, Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true are the first lessons we are taught in Masonry, and on this theme we contemplate and by its dictates, endeavor to regulate our conduct. If this were so, then who turned out the lights on this profound wisdom and interjected the organization of Freemasonry as the most important part of our fraternity? What started out as a moral, historical, ritualistic and philosophical journey of the mind, has become a trip through the physical trappings of buildings, signs emblems, different Masonic Houses, expensive jewelry, meaningless meetings, and plenty of fun, fun, fun!
Consequently, by forgetting the system and uplifting the organization of Freemasonry, Truth has been hidden like a shadow in the night. Who turned out the light?
I come to challenge this group of free-thinking Masonic Brothers, writers, officers, and members all, to turn back to the ways of what makes us Freemasons in the first place, that of building Moral Character, rather than putting so much emphasis on the materialistic trappings of the order that will not make one member a better man, and in the mean time, he may never be a Mason! In the way of the character building, we can remember the lessons of the working tools of walking upright before GOD and fellowman, acting on the square, and traveling on the same level of morality as our fellow creatures. This will make us worthy to be called Brother, which to me is the highest title you can have. I come to challenge this group to turn back to the deep spiritual study of the VSL, not only the Holy Bible, but all of the religious foundations of this world. Freemasonry is not limited to just the Free World, but can be found in> all climes and spheres, wherever men seek their creator.
Truth then, can come out of darkness and once again, be a beacon of light, further light and more light for the young Masons groping in the darkness of materialistic trappings, such as empty lodge halls, decaying temples because of a lack of attendance, rituals that lack understanding, laws that are outdated, signs and gripes misunderstood.
With the uproars over the Albert Pike statue, the separateness of Caucasian and Prince Hall Masons, the misuse of this thing we call history (written), I believe in the future of Freemasonry, because, it is bigger than both of us! So, why fight it? We are not in a Masonic, but we are in a Masonic System, utilized by Masonic Organizations! The two are necessary and we have to live with that, but we do not have to live with the attacks on our system when the organizations are at fault.
The system did not segregation us, the organization did!
The system did not give us a bad name; the organization did!
The system did not cause members to leave; the organization did!
The system did not mis-write history; the organization did!
The system did not get blamed for the Morgan affair the organization did!
The system is not accused of Devil-worshiping; the organization is!
The system did not turn away from morality; the organization did!
The system did not fall out with various churches the organization did!
The system is not accused of plotting against governments the organization is!
The system did not forget brotherhood; the organization did!
The system did not turn away from the Creator! The organization might!
I believe that a great hurt was put upon the System of Freemasonry when we put dampers on our Masonic Thinkers. Where are the modern philosophers in the Masonic Fraternity; we have plenty of Masonic writers though, but they are mainly limited to what has already been written. Where are the great religious thinkers, the forerunners of Philosophers, the ones that can expound on the two great laws of bbrotherly love? They are here, but the organization of Freemasonry refuses to listen to new thoughts, new ideas on our ancient and honorable institution, calling them innovations. Where are the ones to challenge the status quo of literary freedom? Not the kind that allows you to down grade your fellow craftsmen, but the freedom to explore the out-reaches of heretofore, thought.
Freemasonry has not, and will not be found in the materialistic trappings of the organization for how could these things survive the ages? How could the beams of higher thoughts transcend the eons of time that have elapsed? Therefore, Freemasonry has to be something higher, something closer to the Creator, the Grand Architect of this Universe.
Freemasonry is a system of character building, and it is to this end that we must look, rather than the superficial explanation given through the physical signs and symbols. Surely there is a higher calling in the Master Mason raising than just riding a goat or simulating death, burial and resurrection as Hiram Abiff. Surely, there is a higher lesson than the three burials of garbage, dirt and ashes-in-an-urn. When the system is explored thoroughly, one can see the short-comings of the organization, and those short-comings are enhanced, not only by the zeal of the craft to be recognized as such but that enhancement could too make up for the absence of any wisdom the individual or group may be looking for.
Freemasonry the system, is so far above the organization, that there is no explanation of the basics of Ancient Cultures in many countries and religions that formed the Freemasonry of old as well as the Freemasonry we know as the system today. The organization is peopled by members while the system is peopled by Masons.
Every Mason is a member, but every member is not a mason! How can that be, one may ask, when all have been initiated, passed and raised?
Consider your condition when you were hoodwinked: you were groping in the dark, and it was like someone had turned out the lights! Has anyone turned them on for you?
Consider this paraphrase: In the beginning, the Grand Architect created a habitat for man, his highest creation, and the habitat was full of ignorance (innocence) .............And GOD said, let there be intelligence, and there was intelligence.......but it was hidden in darkness.................