Mother Questions

Lexington Lodge No. 1, Masonic History & Study Group, Rubicon Masonic Dinner Club

During your journey through the Master Mason Degree, you probably realized there is little about the moral lessons within Freemasonry that were not taught to you by your mother, father or learned in Sunday school. Perhaps you even picked up many of the lessons from observing the actions of good men while in school or from relatives, men in your community or from men with whom you work in your business.

Frankly, while there are many lessons with more breadth and depth that await you by furthering studying Freemasonry and practicing it, the Craft doesn’t as much teach as it does remind us of where the principles, tenets, and philosophies, if practiced and followed with consistency, may lead and offer us a system through which to work toward a well-examined life, and even a more productive life. In fact the grand purpose of Freemasonry could be defined to be: to diffuse light; to banish ignorance; to promote peace and happiness among mankind; to relieve distress; to inculcate a wider knowledge concerning the existence of the Grand Architect of the Universe and of the arts and sciences connected with Divine laws. In offering such “reminders” through its lectures, ritual, and fellowship, the design is intended to make its members wiser, freer, better and consequently happier men.

We find Masons examining their exposure to the “reminders” in various ways. Some spend a lifetime exploring the principles to which they’ve been exposed from the Blue Lodge. Some seek membership to appendant bodies while others delve deeper into esotericism and look for more profound philosophies. There is no one, single right way to explore Freemasonry, but there is indeed a wrong way.

The wrong way is to expect that moving through three rituals and merely navigating Masonic degree classes provides you all you ever need to know about Freemasonry in order to practice it. Limited knowledge leads us to believe it to be the whole truth.

If we think back to a few questions that most all mothers and fathers have, at one time or another, asked their children we find most of the philosophies of Freemasonry veiled somewhere within those questions — questions that meant one thing to the child that hears it, and another to a mature man who reconsiders it. These four simple questions should cause us to examine ourselves, which, after all, is one of the primary reminders the Crafts promotes.

Now, the context in which a mother asks the following questions may be more in line with an inquiry after she discovers crayon scribbling on the walls, food spilled all over a new carpet or when caught in the act of doing something that is clearly unacceptable behavior.

The first question is What on earth have you done!?!

The second question is more of a theological one: What in the name of God are you doing!?!

The third question anticipates the future: What will you think of next!?!

The fourth question is the most penetrating: Who do you think you are!?!

Of course, children have no reasonable answers. Most go mute as soon as they are asked and at best will reply, “I don’t know…”

Most of the time, a child is telling the truth when they say that, but as an adult, are you? Kids are rarely thinking about what they are doing, much less why. This is a privilege of childhood, but it is far from a privilege of adulthood.

At some point in our lives, if we are lucky, we come to understand that the Mother Questions are, in fact, profound. They are the great Life Questions — questions of accountability.
When we ask ourselves in a calmer spirit, this line of inquiry makes perfect sense, provokes thought, and can even put your feet back on the ground.

It can be rather useful to inquire of yourself about the quality of your existence and your contributions to others. What is your record as a citizen of earth? What on earth have you done with your life?

Likewise, What in the name of God are you doing? queries your actions on behalf of all you say you believe and hold sacred.

And finally, the question with ongoing relevance: What will you think of next? This is a way of asking if your mind is a stagnant culvert of worn-out notions or if you are mentally active — still replacing archaic information with fresh and better ideas. Are you still thinking — still asking — still learning?

Who do you think you are? That’s really the big question, isn’t it? A flourishing life depends on how you honestly answer that. What you think of you matters.

Men who come to genuinely learn to subdue their passions and improve themselves through Masonry, need to remember these “Mother Questions” and how each question seamlessly blend into the journey a man undertakes to learn about himself and fine-tune his focus on what is important in his life.

It’s very difficult — no impossible, to separate the fundamental purpose of Freemasonry with those upright and resolute lessons we have all hopefully been exposed to from our parents and other good people. In this respect, Freemasonry and its laudable offerings can indeed help men improve themselves and may serve as the perfect reminder.

Unfortunately, there are many who never learn the early lessons from parents and other positive sources. Therefore, even reminders do not always serve well or work at all. This is one more reason our West Gate must be steadily and diligently guarded.

What you do with what you know today and in the future as a Mason is exclusively your choice. So, as a final question to consider in this writing, and at this point in your Masonic journey, you should ask yourself, What kind of Mason do you wish to be?

When we put all of this into context, we find this particular question appropriate as well — question we should be asking on behalf of the entire fraternity of Freemasonry: What Do We Want to Be?

Excerpts included in this paper taken from What On Earth Have I Done? Robert Fulghum, St. Martin’s Griffin, NY, 2007.