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“A Well-Regulated Institution”

We often talk about how important “Peace and Harmony” are to our Fraternity and, more especially, to our individual Lodges. We often leave out the rest of the statement “all well-regulated institutions.” Too often Brethren try to maintain Peace and Harmony by not speaking out against bad ideas or against bad behavior of our Brethren. This does not maintain Peace or Harmony; it leads to public and private piques and quarrels that can cause irreparable harm to your Lodge.

              Harmony, once destroyed, severs unity and all bonds of love and Fraternal relationship and the pillars that constitute the strength and support of all institutions, and especially ours, are recklessly sacrificed. Do you wonder that the lodge loses its vigor and ceases to prosper? It would be stranger to believe it can survive at all.

              How do we maintain Peace and Harmony? With the Regulations of Freemasonry. When we discuss a well-regulated institution, we are speaking of our by-laws, rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge and the specific lodge. As a body, we debate and enact these rules to guide and govern our individual and collective behavior as Masons and Lodges. We charge each other to follow these rules and we especially charge the Worshipful Master and the Grand Master to enforce them. This is part of the sacred obligation we take to our Brethren and the Craft. Every good mason should strive avoid censure due to his actions, and should submit, with contrition, reprimand when deserved. We swear to remain above reproach.  

              It may seem archaic or old-fashioned to think that merely being chastised by his equals or losing his reputation as a good man should motivate a man to act right, but that is truly the only punishment that Freemasonry offers. Expulsion from Freemasonry, our most severe punishment, is just saying, “You are no longer worthy to associate with good men.” This was, and should still be, a strong motivator to do the right thing.  Many of us heard from our fathers that the only thing we have is our good name and our reputation; this should still be true today. This is why we are admonished to “whisper words of counsel and comfort in his ear.” We are to quietly try to help a brother that has strayed from our agreed-upon rules of behavior, not publicly rebuke him, talk behind his back, or argue with him on Social Media. If we do these things, perhaps it is we who deserve admonishment. We can assist the Brother to correct his error without fanfare or negative repercussions.

              Every Master of a lodge knows how easily discord may creep in among the members of a lodge, unless guarded against with a tireless zeal. A minor difference of opinion on a seemingly trivial matter, once allowed to begin can then become the ‘beginning of the end;’ it may start small but, if not monitored, it is extremely difficult to stop. While the Worshipful Master is responsible for the Lodge and the actions taken therein, it is the responsibility of all Brethren to provide that brotherly whisper in the ear of an erring Brother. It is also our responsibility to not be that erring Brother and to accept that counsel and comfort when offered by a well-meaning brother.

              Finally, let me say that I think that any man that introduces discord into our Lodges is an enemy to the Craft. He needs to be dealt with at once, hopefully through the gentle admonishment of a Brother; if evil is allowed to establish roots and grow, it can quickly destroy an institution so important to every genuine Mason and our communities. As stated earlier, to a great extent, this depends upon the Master. He oversees everything that is allowed in his Lodge and can refuse at his pleasure. While this seems a great responsibility, he accepted the office and all that goes with it. He must carefully study the Royal Art and the rights, prerogatives and responsibilities of the Oriental Chair and then do the right thing. His Lodge will support him, and his conscience will be clear. His Brethren and his Grand Lodge will say, “well Done.”

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Oversimplification

The Study of Freemasonry is supposed to be a lifelong labor of self-improvement. The lessons that it offers its initiates cover the width and depth of the morals, ethics and lessons needed to live in this tumultuous world.

We are instructed to seek Masonic Light as we travel through each of the degrees. And even the oldest Past Master can continue to learn the lessons of the Craft. We should never stop learning and seeking more light. We should listen to the lectures and study the Ritual to glean the moral and ethical lessons found in this wonderful work.

It seems like we sometimes seek to reduce things to the lowest common denominator. We want to make things easy to understand for ourselves and our successors. This even happens in the realm of Freemasonry, we oversimplify lectures and symbols that are supposed to be profound lessons in life. An example of this is what is known as the “Penny Lecture.”

At one point in the Ritual, the new Entered Apprentice is asked for a small token “…not on account of its intrinsic value but that it might deposited in the archives of the Lodge…” We often call this the “Penny Lecture” and rush past it to the Charity Lecture without exploring the significance of this event.

At this time, in this place, the Initiate is Destitute, which is why this is rightly called the “Rite of Destitution” and is truly one of the most important lessons that is imparted to the new Entered Apprentice Mason in the entire Ritual.

When the demand for a deposit is made, if he was “duly and truly prepared,” he cannot meet the request. For one desperate moment, he realizes, maybe for the first time in his life, what a man feels like who is actually destitute. If done well, it impresses on his mind and emotions, the confusion and possibly the humiliation of one that is impoverished and cannot act on his own behalf. Then, when this has begun to sink in, he is surprised, is a way not to be forgotten, by the lesson of the Golden Rule and the duty of a man to his fellow in need.

This is not a lesson that he hears; it is a lesson that he experiences. He does not need to imagine the feeling, he feels the shame of having nothing to contribute, he is put into the place of the man in need making his duty even more real and vivid. This should make the lesson of the Charity Lecture more impactful and vital for his life.

The beauty and completeness of our Ritual should be pondered and studied so we do not lose any of the vital lessons and we do not remove and oversimplify the profound elements of the Craft.

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As the social distancing and self-quarantines stretch on, Freemasons are feeling the itch to get out and have some fellowship with their brothers. While not quite the same as sitting around a table and chatting over coffee or an aqua vitae, many Freemasons have already found a way to indulge in discussion with like-minded brethren […]

via Don’t sit alone in the dark – where to go for your Freemasonry fix — The Tao of Masonry

Don’t sit alone in the dark – where to go for your Freemasonry fix — The Tao of Masonry

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Book Review: The Alchemist

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, HarperOne; Anniversary edition (September 9, 2014) ISBN-13: 978-0062390622

The Alchemist is an interesting story of a young shepherd’s journey to find a treasure at the Pyramids in Egypt. His quest brings him many adventures and he encounters interesting people from whom he learns the lessons of life.

One of the most valuable lessons I took from the book is that, “people fail to recognize the food things that happen in their lives every day as the sun rises.” We often look at the negative, what we do not have, instead of appreciating what we do have. While we should appreciate what we have, we should not be satisfied, if it does not match our dreams. We know and are obligated to achieve them. According to Coelho, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”.

This book is best understood to be a parable of our journey through life and how we should engage the messages we learn along the way.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book Review: Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry

Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry, By Samuel Friedman, Fairport, NY, SelfPublished, 2015,. ISBN-13: 978-0996652803.

Samuel Friedman has written a thought-provoking book, Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry, to help the Craft understand the needs and wants of the next generation of Freemasons. As a new Mason and a Millennial, he is well-suited to address this topic. He does a pretty good job describing the Millennial Generation; I came away with a better understanding of this group. This understanding is important as we hope to attract this very large generation into our ancient Fraternity.

Mr. Friedman describes how Freemasons were involved in many of the democratic revolutions of the past, including the American war of independence from Great Britain. He feels that Freemasonry has abdicated our responsibility of being a beacon of moral and philosophical light to our communities and nation.

The Observance Lodge concept is discussed and Mr. Friedman believes this to be an important aspect of the lodge experience going forward, especially for the Millennial Generation. He feels that this generation will find the solemnity and structure of an Observant Lodge appealing and meet their needs.

While I enjoyed the book overall and found items that will be useful for me to take and try to enact in my lodges, I do not agree with some of his conclusions. This is most true when he discussed that we should not have National Flags in the Lodge and also touched on other social issues that Grand Lodges are struggling with in today’s changing times. I recommend this book for any Brother trying to better understand the next generation and how to shape our Craft to meet their needs.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Lessons from the Scottish Rite on Isolation

We are in the midst of a crisis, we cannot hold Masonic meetings, we cannot meet together in person for any reason. Tonight, was the scheduled Regular Communication of the Valley of Augusta Scottish Rite; we all missed the fellowship and activities of our Fraternity. Our Degrees of the Scottish Rite have lessons that we can use during this time. As Masons, what are we called on to do during this period of isolation? How can we toil in the Quarries when we are apparently being forced to be idle?

For some, this may feel like a welcome respite, a time for rest and recovery from our labors, and it can be; but it can also be an opportunity to labor in different quarries, or to move from the Quarry to the Trestleboard and lay down designs, rather than following the designs of others.

In the Scottish Rite, we learn many lessons throughout the Degrees of our Craft. The 13th Degree, Royal Arch of Solomon, discusses the idea that work is not just toil; it provides us with the things that make life worth living. We learn the lesson that we should not be idle, we should work for the betterment of ourselves and others. Since many of us are away from our usual vocations, we have time to do some work on our avocations. The 26th Degree, Prince of Mercy or Scottish Trinitarian, we are taught to study so that we may learn and so that we may pass knowledge and wisdom to others. It is not a suggestion, it is a Charge, an Obligation, to continue to improve in knowledge and to share that knowledge with our Brethren.

The 22nd Degree, Knight of the Royal Axe or prince of Libanus, teaches us that Masonry is work. Our primary example in Freemasonry is the Craftsman, the Builder, not either of the two kings that are depicted in our Ritual. We take this lesson: Work is sacred, we are called on to do our work as if we are doing it for our Creator, for we are. One of the lessons of the 32nd Degree, Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, is that to work is to worship. The 32nd Degree also teaches to put all things in balance.

So, back to the original point, what work can we do while we are isolated from each other? Brethren, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few:

  • Spend time with your family, do those things that make them feel happy and loved. Remember, they are also going through trying times.
  • Spend time with your God in Prayer, reflection and study.
  • Call your Brethren, let them know you are thinking of them. Emails and Social Media are nice, but nothing beats a familiar voice.
  • Pull out a Ritual Lecture that you want to learn and work on it to help your Lodge and your Brethren. They can be obtained from your Director of Work or from the Masonic Manual.
  • Read a Masonic Book, if you do not have any, there are many that can be downloaded from the Internet.
  • Read Masonic Blogs or listen to Masonic Podcasts.
  • Pick something in Freemasonry that you love and write about it. Do not worry about being a great writer, just get your thoughts out on paper. This will help you flesh out your thoughts and gain a better understanding of the topic.
  • Set up virtual meetings using Free Teleconference, Zoom or some other application. Some phones will let you conference call on the phone, avoiding any outside applications. Discuss your thoughts on a specific Masonic topic, or just “talk amongst yourselves” for some fellowship.

Brethren, our labors must never cease. We can accomplish much, even in these circumstances.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Improve Myself in Freemasonry

One of the first lessons we learn in Freemasonry is that we are here to “Learn to improve myself in Freemasonry.” We also say that we “take good men and make them better.” If this is true, when does it stop? At what point have we improved enough to consider that we have accomplished this task? Has Masonry made you better, so you do not have any more to do?

Were you finished when you were Initiated, Passed and Raised? What is the one thing that you learned that made you say,” Great! I am better! I am done!?” When you were Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, the heavens parted and the Great Architect of the Universe inspected you with the symbolic Square, level and Plumb and declared you perfect? NO? Then it is possible that you had/have more improvement to make? That you have more lessons to learn?

Our goal in Freemasonry is not to be better than others, but to be better than ourselves. While I might be better than the self I was 5 years ago, there is still room for me to be better than the self I was yesterday. Anything that stops growing dies. I have presented Masonic Education to Brethren who were in their 80s and were wise, but they wanted to learn more. Improvement never ends, we should strive to continue to travel from the west toward the east, in search of even more Masonic Light.

The first thing required for Freemasonry to help you improve yourself is your presence. How can you improve yourself in Freemasonry if you are not present? Not just physical presence, but active presence in the lessons of the Ritual and the Fellowship with your Brethren. I know that you can learn much about Freemasonry by reading the thoughts of others, but you can learn even more by discussing those thoughts, and your own thoughts, with your Brethren in a Corporate setting. Freemasonry was never meant to be a solitary event, men organized themselves into groups to help each other and to learn from each other. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. Another translation says, “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” It is important to gather with your Brethren. The Fellowship is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that you learn to trust each other, so you are willing to listen when a Brother points out an area where you many need to work on your continuous improvement. If I do not know you well, I may be upset or hurt if you point out a fault, but I should be able to accept this whisper of counsel and comfort from my Brother.

If you will be open to the lessons of the Craft and the thoughts of your Brethren, you can improve yourself even during a boring business meeting. How? By actively listening to the Ritual, by taking a part of the normal opening and closing and pondering, “What does this mean to me?” It is much more satisfying than pondering whether we should buy a new refrigerator for the Lodge. I improve myself in Freemasonry every time I attend Lodge or Masonic events. The idea for this article came to me while I was at the District Custodian’s School of Instruction. It wasn’t that I was not paying attention to what was being taught, but that I WAS paying attention and I heard things I needed to hear. Even in the repetitious ritual we were practicing.

How can you improve yourself in Freemasonry? Read your books; listen to the Ritual; learn from your Brethren.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Kneel Where You Now Stand

Early in an Entered Apprentice’s Masonic journey he is told that we should invoke the aid of Almighty God before entering upon any great or important undertaking. He is told to kneel where he now stands to receive benefit of Lodge Prayer

Lodge prayer is corporate prayer where we actively pray for each other. As with everything in freemasonry, there is a lesson here. How often have you told someone or had someone tell you, “I will pray for you.”  Do you remember to pray, do you think that they always remember to pray for you?

The lesson is to pray “where you now stand.” Stop and pray where you are when you or someone needs prayer.

Do not defer prayer.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

I Buried a Brother Today

Today, I buried a Brother. Not a blood relative, but a Brother, nonetheless. He was a Freemason. at 6 pm in the evening, I was called by the Grand Secretary, asking if I could gather some of the Brethren in the area to conduct a Masonic Funeral Service for a Brother from South Carolina. Due to travel restrictions imposed by the ongoing virus scare, his Lodge was unable to attend their Brother’s funeral.

We hastily gathered a group of four that were able to attend on short notice, with WB Jarrod Coffey prepared to conduct the Service with WB Jeremy Wilson, Brother Lee Benedict and myself. We assembled at the graveside, in the character of Masons with our Brother’s family and friends to pay our respects and give him honor. We wept with his family as the Bugler played Taps and the Soldiers folded his flag of honor and presented it to his family. We deposited the sprig of evergreen in his grave and ensured he was clothed in the Character of a Mason.

We did not know this man, but he was our Brother. We cherish his memory here, we commend his spirit to God who gave it, we consign his body to the ground.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Do Just One Thing

Lately, I have thought and written about the duties of a Lodge to the Brethren, the duties of a Mason to his Lodge and getting things done. I want to discuss a few things that we can do to improve ourselves and our Lodge experience. Before we discuss this, we need to define the Lodge. A Lodge is not a building; it is a group of Freemasons meeting under the Authority of a Charter. So when we discuss our duties, we are talking about the duties we have for each other.

First: Attend Regular and Called meetings, it is hard to know and care for your Brethren if you are not here. If you have been absent and might be a little rusty, give me a call, as Director of Work, I can get you back up to speed on ritual, etc.

Second: Try to spend time in fellowship with a Brother that you do not normally spend much time with, you might find that you have something in common and can build stronger bonds.

Third: Attend planned  fellowship  nights,  game  nights,  dinners,  anything we  can  do  to  build  stronger  bonds with our Brethren.

Fourth: Think about what Freemasonry means  to  you. Consider presenting these thoughts to your Brethren, we can all learn from each other.

Fifth: Tim Bryce, a Masonic and Business Blogger, has some great advice: “Do just one thing.” If all members did “Just One Thing” for their Lodge, it would be a better place.

I am not suggesting we do anything extremely labor intensive; perhaps it is something as simple as making coffee;  greeting  every  member  when  they  arrive;  calling  Brethren  to  remind  them  of  Lodge  Meetings; preparing and presenting Masonic Education; covering an Officer’s Station when there is an absence; helping to clean up after breakfast. The options are endless. If we all did “Just One Thing,” the Lodge, overall, would be better, and we would be better, because we are the Lodge. ☀

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