Last night I visited another lodge, Lodge 500, in Dublin. The work in the lodge room was kept brief to allow time for their Installation dinner. It was an enjoyable evening in the presence of the Brethren and the Deputy Grand Master, and it was of particular interest to me, as such an occasion is often used to look at the current state of affairs in a broader perspective. Lodge 500 certainly seemed like a healthy lodge, with a good age mix (and last year Irish freemasonry experienced a slight net increase in membership).
I also got to thinking about some of the differences between freemasonry in Denmark and Ireland (beyond the obvious differences in ritual), based on what was emphasised. Three things seemed central: fellowship, charity and ritual. Where as in Denmark I would consider these two things the biggest motivations to become a freemason: fellowship and self-improvement.
So fellowship – freemasonry being a universal fraternity – seems to be the backbone for both. And you might rightly say that self-improvement is also important to Irish masons (and they are not in my mind that different from most other Anglo-Saxon mainstream masons), but it is more implicit: It is expounded in the ritual and expressed through charity. In Swedish Rite it is much more at the forefront, and on an evening such as this, it would be unthinkable that it wasn’t at all addressed in some philosophical way. These moral and (in the case of Swedish Rite) spritual lessons are also not so much taught (through the words of the ritual) as exemplified and experienced – it is more of a personal journey that invites reflection. Swedish Rite doesn’t have the same emphasis on word-perfect ritual, as we use ritual books and don’t go through the chairs – it is a means rather than an end.
This is something that I will be contemplating further, and can only touch upon slightly at this point. They are not huge differences, but they do make it clearer to me what I am missing. I should probably emphasise that I in no way am saying that one is better than the other – but I joined for a particular brand of fremmasonry, and I am coming to realise that this tradition is rarer than I had thought.
This was also the last Dublin chapter, as on Tuesday we head out for Boston …