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Ill. Wim F.K.J.F. Frackers, 33°

Masonry’s spiritual dimension, as conveyed through our ritual, enhances the life of today’s man and his society.

Some years ago, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands mentioned in a speech the following thought: "Communal sense in our country has been partly lost because of the disappearance of trusted reliable structures. Selfishness undermines the natural commitment in housing, working, and living. Loneliness, criminality, and the exclusion of people are the result of a lack of interest in each other. Against the unity of the period after World War II of rebuilding, now stands the threat of a disintegrating community."

Presently living in a time of transition to a new millennium, we are flooded by information about the most diverse matters. For many, a wealth of information is obtainable through surfing the Internet. The development in this area has gone faster in the last 30 years than in the preceding 3,000 years. Does all this bring more satisfaction and understanding for our fellowman?

Today, desires seem to be more materialistic. A larger house, a more expensive car, more and longer holidays to even more remote places are the most frequently heard desires. To many, everything revolves around me, me, me! Modern materialistically orientated people have little interest in or concern for their fellowmen. The elderly, in particular, are sometimes living completely on their own, lonely and forgotten, so that it can happen that they are lying dead in their homes for weeks, unnoticed!

Is this the world we Freemasons long for?

Our age-old Masonic traditions, based on Greco-Roman philosophies enriched by Christianity that found its origin in the Jewish religion, seem incompatible with the new developments. Very few persons find an answer to their vital questions in the traditional and conservative churches, and many take refuge by joining strange societies and sects.

At the same time, membership in some very orthodox churches in The Netherlands has grown considerably over the last few years. Besides that, we are almost inundated by large groups of Islamic fundamentalists, mainly coming from Morocco and Turkey. All these groups are convinced that their way of thinking is the only right way to think. They do not tolerate persons with another persuasion, yet tolerance is one of the starting points of Freemasonry. That’s why we all, in our own way, not only must combat disinterest and moral decay, but also the ever-increasing trend toward religious extremism which some call fundamentalism. It is our Masonic duty to stand for tolerance and to support this stance with sound arguments. Tolerance is inherent in universal Freemasonry in general and in the Scottish Rite in particular.

People will always be searching for the meaning of life. We are obliged to the Order and to ourselves to ask if the forms and contents of Masonry still appeal to the modern man searching for life’s meaning. We must ask ourselves if Freemasonry is still able to give an answer to the many questions posed by young men on the threshold of the third millennium.

Many of us are rightfully worried by the supposed or real decrease of Freemasonry’s appeal. Statistics show that interest in traditional churches in Holland has declined over the last 30 years, while general religious and spiritual interest has not diminished. In fact, it is growing. At the same time, man does not want to be bound by dogmas.

Given this situation, we, as Masons, are obliged to come forward with our ideas and bring Freemasonry into the open. Masonry’s voice should be heard in that great flow of information on the Internet and throughout all areas of our modern society.

What is obvious to us is, of course, the help and, also, the influence we can offer our Brethren who work in the Symbolic Degrees. Let us assist those Lodges which presently have a shortage of experienced Master Masons and, as a result, have problems in filling the most essential offices necessary to guarantee normal Lodge proceedings.

Lodges need instruction that deepens understanding of the rituals of the Masonic Degrees among the Brethren. Direct help and support at the foundation of Masonry, the Symbolic Lodge, will bond these Brethren, who are now in their prime, to the future of Freemasonry and, one hopes, to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

Are we indeed not privileged because of our initiation in the Scottish Rite and are we not, in fact, extremely well trained to add enhanced value to the Masonic knowledge of our younger Brethren? In this way, we can be of concrete support to them in their search for Masonic Light. If we concentrate on them in our Lodges, we protect our own Scottish Rite future.

On the other hand, we must adjust our ideas, our customs, and our methods so that they communicate to the man of today. Are our rituals sufficiently modern to be able to transmit a sense of spirituality and inner growth to those who crave dialogue on the essential questions of life?

Are we capable to pass on to others our ideas or do we float away in that mainstream of increasing materialistic superficiality? Are our rituals sufficiently up to date to let that spark of spirituality jump over to the next generation and beyond?

This special sense of spirituality is exactly what Freemasonry has to offer and is mainly why Freemasonry has already existed for so long. Only our rituals can inspire us and give us new impulses to pass on the great work of our Craft and Order.

Moreover, each of us must endeavor to be true to himself, a man of inner riches who is, at the same time, a man of action and, as such, a strong influence for good in society and among all humankind.

This can only be achieved when the performance of our rituals is realized in such a way that a spark of spirituality ignites us all. By the term spirituality I mean spiritual development, a consciousness of the higher self that embraces universal values that transcend ethical and religious restrictions. Spirituality distinguishes itself from religion and religiousness as being neither doctrinal nor dogmatic. Spirituality is the inspiration to do good that originates from a consciousness of one’s inner moral self.

Spirituality is surely neither free from matter nor opposite to it, nor is it disassociated from the responsibilities of daily life. Rather, spirituality gives to daily reality an intensified sensitivity, making it thus possible to experience the here and how, the very moment, as intensely as possible.

This demands abandoning one’s own ego as much as possible. It means a dying-off of those materialistic desires, false ambitions, private frustrations, and personal prejudices. This process leads to harmony with the environment, with one’s fellowmen, and with the Absolute. It nurtures inspiration and reveals non-possessive love. Masonic Ritual, rightly performed and understood, emanates this inner strength, wisdom, and beauty—this spirituality.

Only a firm oneness—a close-knit unity between spoken word, dramatic acting, music and the silences occasionally required during a ritual performance—is the prerequisite for our Masonic ritual to produce such spiritual emanation. When we create such an atmosphere, then we can say "the Great Architect of the Universe is with us and in us."

That is when each Brother can be adorned with the victory wreath of laurel and olive. The laurel leaves are tokens of victory over passion; thus the Mason becomes a ruler over himself. The olive leaves are tokens of peace and unity; thus the Brother is in harmony with himself, with the world around him, and with T.G.A.O.T.U. This harmony will elevate us over the contradictions and divisions that divide us. This harmony makes us experience that ancient wisdom, contradicta complementa sunt, all contradictions are in fact each other’s complements.