From darkness to light is a term that is familiar to all Freemasons. We all hear the words, “you have been brought from darkness to true Masonic Light” at a certain point in our in our journey to become a Brother in the fraternity of Freemasonry. On that journey it is explained to us exactly what that term means, Masonically speaking. In this article I would like to share with you an instance of rising from darkness to Masonic Light that has completely changed a man’s life as well as the lives of his family members. This story has been told to some, and their responses to the story I heard things like; this is so inspirational, what an amazing story, a great example of a true Freemason rising from the darkness and one of my favorites from a very close Brother and friend in which he responded “Wow, I was extremely jealous of this guy, but now that I know the story behind it I see him as an inspiration not a man to be jealous of. I have shared a part of this story in my new book “Freemasonry Defined, Using History to Understand the Fraternity.” However I would like to share it with the readers of this magazine in the hope of helping a Brother out that may be in a similar situation as well as to show what a positive impact Freemasonry can have on a man and his family’s life.
The story begins some years ago when this man was waiting to be given the Entered Apprentice degree. He was new to the town that the Lodge was located in but knew his recommender quite well and trusted him. That first night and since the soon to be initiate had no idea where the Lodge in this town was located was told by his recommender to meet at his house and he could follow the recommender to the Lodge. Well, the candidate waited and waited and the recommender never showed up at the agreed upon time. Just as the candidate was about to give up and go home he tried one last time to get a hold of his recommender and to his surprise he succeeded. The recommender flat out apologized and said that he had completely forgotten about meeting him at his house. Needless to say the candidate was initiated after arriving thirty minutes late to the meeting. He reluctantly continued on to be raised to the sublime degree in this particular Lodge were he felt and was treated as an outsider that was new and not “one of the boys.” This man was raised in what I like to call a “Mason Mill” where there main focus is to initiate as many members as possible. On each of the three nights he attended his was one of six degrees given on each occasion. Upon receiving the title of Master Mason before this gentleman departed for home he asked one of the members of the Lodge if there were any books to read about Masonry and the response was “No there are no books, everything is strictly mouth to ear” the funny thing was this was well after Pennsylvania started printing their ritual. Needless to say, because of the way he and the other new Brethren were treated he never returned to a Masonic Lodge until much later in this story.
A couple years later the man I speak of moved away from the area back to his hometown due to a job. While working at his job he was involved in a very serious vehicular accident that almost killed one person and left himself in a perilous situation barely able to walk because of a seriously injured back and spinal cord. This Brother faced years of recovery and surgery to repair his spine. After the accident the Brother learned he had lost his job, between that and the realization that his life will never be the same and the worry of income for his family he fell into a very dark place emotionally speaking and it wasn’t helping that he was restrained to a bed for months on end because of the pain. One day his wife who was very supportive suggested he find some activity to occupy his time and take his mind of the dooming situation and bought him a tablet with internet access in hopes that this would help. One day he stumbled across the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s web site and was navigating his way around it, he came across a link for the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. To him this was great, he was not only a history enthusiast but he also learned that there indeed were books on Freemasonry. He enrolled in the Academy and soon began reading books and learning about the Fraternity he was a part of but not necessarily impressed with. The more he read and reported on his views and what he learned from these books the more he was amazed at what the Fraternity was actually about. As he progressed through the Academy he realized the requirements got harder and he could no longer just read and report on books to keep progressing, he had to write Masonic articles suitable for publication, make presentations on Masonic topics and attend Academy meetings in able to finish and earn the status of Master Masonic scholar. So, one of the first things he did to earn credit with the Academy was write an article and turn it in. He got a full credit with the Academy for the article and was told by a board member of the institution how much he liked it and was impressed by it, so the Brother decided to submit said article to one of the monthly Masonic Magazines he came across and to his delight the article was published.
This Brother continued to write many articles and to his surprise, every single one of them got published. To put it lightly because of the Academy and his articles being published in the magazine, the Brothers life was looking up, he had a sparkle back in his eyes so to speak. Moving on he knew he had to give Masonic presentations so once he was mobile enough to move around under his own power he began to look for Lodges to visit and hopefully one he could call home. He made many visits to many Lodges only to discover that the meetings were nothing more than boring business meetings and cold shoulder because he was not familiar with any of the members. This kept on for months, determined to find a Lodge that he liked and felt welcome in he kept on looking, because he knew in his heart that the Freemasonry he had read about surely had to exist somewhere. One night he visited a Lodge and immediately knew that this was the one. He was made feel welcome, every member went out of their way to talk to him and make him feel at home, it was very much like the Freemasonry he had read about. For the next few months he returned to visit this Lodge getting the same wonderful reception every single time. Shortly after he put in his papers to fully transfer to his new found Lodge from the “Mason mill” he was raised in. He was finally in good spirits, at least mentally and emotionally, his body however was still in rough shape.
For many months this Brother continued to write and have his articles published, give education presentation to his new found Lodge and read about Freemasonry. One day while on Facebook he saw a request for a Masonic library that also had an online publication asking if anyone was interested in reviewing and writing book reviews for the publication on all new books that came into the library. The Brother responded to the request and sent along several samples of his previously published article for the library to review before making their decision, he figured what the heck, I like reading books on Freemasonry and enjoy writing, why not? A few weeks later he got an email that said he had gotten the position of book review editor and was very pleased. He continued writing, reading and giving presentations for the Academy and the publications and one day he received a Skype call from a gentleman asking if he would have any interest in presenting a video lecture that would be hosted online for the world of Freemasonry to view and he gladly accepted. Not long after that he was staring down the need to find employment as his doctors told him this is about as your physically going to get, he was going to have back and spine issues the rest of his life along with the arthritis that had set in because of the injury, he slowly started going downhill wondering what he could do to support his family, as the articles, presentations and book reviews did not pay as well as the fact that due to his injuries he could never again continue the career he previously had because of the injuries. He was at a loss with no idea what to do and getting rejected from job after job because of his limitations. It all changed one day when he was on LinkedIn searching for some sort of opportunity when he stumbled across a representative of a Masonic book publisher that was looking for a freelance editor. The Brother thought what the heck I’ll apply, the worst they will do to me is say no. Surprisingly this person responded to him and asked for some examples of his writing and credentials. By that time he had achieved Master Masonic Scholar status with the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge, had, numerous book reviews written as well as lectures and had the one lecture posted on a website. This person from the publisher responded back and explained that they were looking for someone with a deep knowledge of Freemasonry and great writing skill and said that the Brother I speak of was perfect for the position. The Brother was ecstatic, he finally had a way to earn money for his family. Shortly after that the Brother finally got around to publishing a book that he had been working on for over a year and a half and his life was looking up.
Brethren, the man I have written about in this article is me, Shawn M. Gorley. I did not share this story lightly nor am I looking for any special attention from it. Those that know me realize I am a very humble man and I don’t go looking to be in the spotlight. I am just a regular guy and Freemason that tries every single day to be the better man that Freemasonry is helping me become. I titled this article, “From Darkness to Light” for a very simple reason and I hope you all realize that rising from darkness to true Masonic Light does not just happen when you are going through the degrees, it can happen every single day if you choose to rise from the darkness toward the light and be the best you can. From the one single decision I made to enroll in the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge up to now the only thing I have done to better myself is stick to the lessons I have learned from this wonderful Fraternity and apply them as much as possible. This Fraternity has truly changed my life along with the men associated with it. Yes I have had a little luck along the way to get to where I am today but it never would have happened if I had not done what I did. I hope that somewhere out there if there is a Brother in a bad spot in his life I truly hope he hears this story and realizes that if I can do it we all can! After all, I am nothing special, just a man and Freemason like the millions of others out there. I would like to offer a huge thank you to all of the Brothers and people associated with Freemasonry. Lastly, this was my story, now it is time to move on and give another Brother the same as I have received from this Fraternity.