|Liberal Arts Lodge, LA California|
Unlike today, it was once evident to others in society that Freemasonry had something to contribute to Civil Society. Mainstream Freemasonry may still hold onto that assumption, but whether it be correct or not, convincing modern society to share that belief becomes every day more difficult. Is there any truth to our assumption?
As the writer of this blog, it is safe to make some assumptions concerning my view. Looking back in time, one clear piece of evidence that Freemasonry was considered valuable are the number of legacy lodges with names such as University Lodge.
|University of Pennsylvania Regalia|
In Europe, at least in England and Scotland, Masonic Lodges may be found on a number of University Campuses, and generally Masonic efforts at outreach to university students there is less half-hearted than it is in the US.
However, there is another way in which Freemasonry is associated with Higher Education and in this case, it is beginning to advance rather than retreat. I am referring to Freemasonry as the subject of academic study.
When academics look at Freemasonry as an institution, and at its history, what passes for historic fact among some segments of both regular and liberal may not stand up to their objective scrutiny. "Regular" Masonic definitions of what constitutes Freemasonry will only be viewed as applying to "Regular" Masonry, and that will not be privileged over other forms of Freemasonry and vise versa. That is the objectivity of academia. Such views will inevitably impact the discussion and the literature on Freemasonry, and ultimately, however uncomfortable such "revelations" may be to some, they will aid in creating a more accurate and complete understanding of the institution.
What will be gained by the growth of academic scrutiny will be a more accurate understanding of the factual history of the Craft, and greater serious attention to its role, both historic and contemporary, in the development of civil society and social institutions. It is important to emphasize that this academic interest and scrutiny is already happening.
There are a number of Academic programs already in place or in development that deal either solely with Freemasonry or place it in the context of larger social or philosophical systems. Some of these will be noted here.
Under the umbrella of another advancing field in academic study, the School of Humanities at the University of Exeter, in England, offers a MPhil/PhD Western Esotericism and MA in Western Esotericism, under the auspices of their Exeter Center for the Study of Esotericism (EXESECO) (http://centres.exeter.ac.uk/exeseso/) For those unfamiliar with the structure of such disciplines, the following text taken from the Exeter Center's site should make it clear that such programs are not devoted to the practice of esotericism, although students may or may not persue such concerns personally, but rather are committed to examining the development and distribution of such systems in human society and their impact upon everything from religion, popular culture and politics.
Postgraduate and postdoctoral members of EXESESO will be able to pursue research projects with the support of the Centre's panel of distinguished scholars across a number of departments and disciplines.
There are three main objectives:
to document and analyse new subjects (figures, groups and movements) in the history of esotericism, thereby making an original contribution to scholarly knowledge.
to gain insight into the social, religious and philosophical changes, which are conducive to esotericism and to assess its influence on culture, politics and society.
to develop an understanding of the fundamental characteristics which define esoteric spirituality, which often manifests as a form of religious experience, while offering a perspective upon the individual soul in the context of nature and the universe. (http://centres.exeter.ac.uk/exeseso/)
Not to be outdone, such endeavors are not occurring only in Anglophone institutions of Higher Learning. The Spanish University UNED, through its Department of History of Law and Institutions, provides the following information about its programs:
Master in History of Freemasonry in Spain (60 credits)
Specialist College in History of Fraternal Philanthropic Orders, Corporations, Schools and Societies (40 credits)
University Expert in the History of Freemasonry in Spain and Latin America (25 credits)
This program provides a grant of 20% over the official price of tuition to all students enrolled during the academic year 2012-2013.
This modular program provides a rigorous and methodical knowledge of the history of Masonic associations in its various forms, orders, corporations, academies and scientific societies, cultural, philanthropic, fraternal, charitable, philosophical and developments. Particular reference is made to fraternal and philanthropic movements and utopian thought and modern and contemporary perennialism, studying its culture, both spiritual and ideological.
Gracias a Victor Guerra / Thanks to John Slifko.