What to expect of Masonic initiation?
The motivations which trigger the request for affiliation to a Masonic lodge are very diverse and most often after a few months or years, the question arises of the correspondence between these motivations and the reality of the experience!
It is normal that a reframing is carried out and that the principle of reality allows us to take a step back!
Let's recall an obvious fact: the Masonic Lodge does not have the function of offering a group therapy to personal problems! The depressed and the anxious, the psychopaths and the perverts, will remain what they are and the Masonic initiation will not bring them any modification of their personality or their character!
If the Masonic approach talks a lot about fraternity, it must be admitted that this is first of all a declaration of principle and that its implementation obeys the laws of interpersonal relations, which presupposes time, learning and an affective context that is necessarily random!
Masonic belonging must be understood as one of the constitutive elements of the life of the Freemason or Freemason and as such it may or may not fit into what the American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) called the hierarchy of needs!
Broadly speaking, Maslow defines five categories of needs that we try to satisfy:
1 - Primary, physiological needs
2- The need for security
3- The gregarious need
4- The need for social recognition and esteem
5- The need to surpass also means accomplishment
Depending on the subjects and individual situations, Masonic membership could very well contribute to many of the needs described by Maslow, but three categories seem to be preferable because Masonic membership responds particularly well to these needs:
In the first place, the gregarious need; other forms of grouping, particularly in the associations, exist, but the Lodge, by the rhythm of the meetings (at least two per month), the quality of the meetings and the attachment to the Masonic group, brings a real answer to this gregarious need. Let us recall that the gregarious need incorporates the festive need and the search for non-conflictual collective conviviality.
Secondly, the need for social recognition and esteem: it is conventional to hear that the Masonic Lodge promotes the social integration of its members; this is done naturally by learning codes that promote listening, respect and tolerance; the practice of ritual also facilitates integration into other structures; Freemasons are generally considered to be well-mannered people.
And the need to surpass ourselves; surpassing our habits, searching for perfection, even spirituality, are fundamental needs to give meaning to our lives. In the Lodge, the study of symbolism, the search for social progress and the universalism of our approach are strong motivations for Masonic commitment.
This reflection also has the benefit of identifying needs that require research:
- The need to practice intellectual research and philosophical reflection,
- The need for ethics and moral values,
- The need for spirituality,
- The need to share.
The ability of the Masonic Lodge to provide a real response to the need for gregariousness also explains the interest in the Masonic approach even if the rate of resignation after initiation is globally high enough (nearly 30%) to justify real concern.
The initiation offers as well other contributions which they depend much on the personal investment that the neophyte will be able to carry out:
- an opening on a multitude of issues: philosophical, existential, spiritual, social, etc.
- a potential for very enriching human encounters if one agrees to travel, visit other lodges and attend various events,
- a great stimulation to read, get informed and try to explain what is not obvious!
The Masonic Lodge is a reception structure that offers an opening to this universe of reflection, but it would be wrong to believe that it will work miracles. Like any human grouping, it functions with the hazards of human nature; but personal Masonic work is not completely dependent on the dynamism or not of the lodge. This work is done in and out of the lodge.
In the end, to this question, "What to expect from Masonic initiation", one could answer "a personal commitment". Initiation provides a structuring framework in which the initiate will develop his own investment. If the commitment is superficial and limited to a presence, the return will be limited to a conviviality with a variable geography according to the integration in the human group of the lodge. On the other hand, if the personal commitment is real, its consequences on one's own personality can be very positive on the path of acquired wisdom.