In an effort to describe Freemasonry to the uninitiated one common phrase, or some variant thereof, that has been used is that “Freemasonry is a Progressive Moral Science.” But what does that mean and how can we further explain why we do what we do in Freemasonry?
Too often the word science will mean little more to a man than perhaps unpleasant memories of some grade school class. It is imperative to understand that science is, at its core, any systematically organized body of knowledge on any particular subject. It is the intellectual and practical activity that surrounds the study of any topic. In this way, Freemasonry is a science.
But why progressive, and in what way? Why must a person be Initiated, Passed and Raised, then to perhaps continue further into the higher degrees? Because a foundation must be laid. A system must be followed to provide general knowledge which then is further tuned into a more precise understanding over time. It is the scientific approach.
A firm foundation provides us with two benefits: A sure understanding to further build upon, and a place to return to should our attempt to progress to further understanding not come to fruition. Take, for example, The Mysterious Ladder of Kadosh.
Here is symbolically represented the need to form a solid foundation in one aspect of learning before climbing to the next – How Grammar must proceed Rhetoric, Rhetoric before Logic, and so forth. In such a progressive and scientific approach, should our learning falter at any step, we can “take heed lest he fall” and return back to our last solid foundation, ever to try again.
As such, no man can simply be told, “Here is a moral man, be like him”. It is the same as saying “There is a building, build another like it”. The man must learn how to become a more moral, better, man. As the architect must learn the many sciences that come before him being able to construct his plans and execute his designs into a structure, so must a man learn, scientifically, the steps to treat himself as a living stone, becoming increasing improved upon over time.
In this scientific approach to progressively become moral men we must certainly practice patience. Too often are we ready to progress quickly, just as the man who does not understand why he would be required to take steps in Freemasonry. But taking these steps provides a foundation and direction that is imperative to our growth. Perhaps with this explanation any man could learn to subdue his passions for knowing the last step before even taking the first and truly begin his path to a better understanding.
By Jared F. Stanley, 32°
Originally Published in the July-Sept 2017 Meridian Valley Scottish Rite Bodies Newsletter