What are the Duties of a Lodge to the Brethren?

I recently posted an article by Vincent Lombardo from the QSA Members Forum for Masonic Research entitled, “What are the Duties of a Mason to his Lodge?”. I went back and noted that their site allows copy for personal use and study, but not for printed reproduction. I deleted my post, by you can read the original work by Brother Lombardo here: http://www.freemasonryresearchforumqsa.com/duties-of-a-mason-to-his-lodge.php.

Regarding the subject of this post, “What are the Duties of a Lodge to the Brethren?”, I believe it would take a library of writings to fully expound on this subject, so I will cover a few things in this post and possibly others in the future.

First, let us identify what we mean by “a Lodge.” The Lodge is not the building; it is the Brethren. Freemasons meet as a Lodge not in a Lodge, although Masonic premises may be called Lodges, in days gone by you will note that the Minutes of most Lodges state that a Lodge of Master Masons met in the Masonic Hall, not Lodge. So we are talking here about what the group of Brothers that make up a Lodge owe to each other.

The first thing that we owe a Brother is to properly investigate all applicants. This may sound odd, but we owe it to all of our Brothers to know the quality of the men that want to join our Fraternity. Remember, when he takes the threefold Obligations, we are obligating ourselves to him as much as he is obligating himself to us and the Craft. We have a right and more importantly, a duty to allow only good men into Freemasonry. We have a tradition of being a society that meets and teaches virtuous standards and we expect that to continue. We have the responsibility to investigate whether a man’s past behavior violates the virtuous standards inculcated in our traditions. We also have the responsibility to tell the petitioner that this will be expected of him.

Secondly, we must educate not just the petitioner and candidate, but all Brothers about the standards that are expected of a Freemason. Freemasonry is a lifestyle and philosophy that is meant to help a man subdue his passions and improve himself. He is to use the lessons of the Craft to learn to make these improvements. The core of these lessons is virtue. The Brother should receive encouragement to assess himself and his behavior and lessons and examples to allow him to learn and grow. The Lodge exists to support each Brother and hold him accountable to work towards this growth and learning; to support him in his Journey.

Third, the Lodge is responsible to track the Brother’s progress in his corporate and self-education in Masonic Principles and his actions. If there are lapses, struggles or outright problems, the Lodge is responsible to help, aid and assist the Brother in his growth. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable, it can require a discreet whisper of counsel and comfort in his ear. Sometimes the approaching danger can be due to his own actions. If the Lodge is truly a Brotherhood; we must be there to support our Brother as he struggles with the passions that infest the hearts of men. These struggles are personal, but we can help the Brother through an attentive ear and, hopefully through our example.

I know that none of us is perfect; sometimes the Brother that needs these lessons is me. If we are to maintain the virtue of our beloved Craft, we need to do this work in the quarries to try to perfect our Ashlars and to teach others the lessons that will help them to do the same.

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CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

“…and to improve myself in Freemasonry.”
Adapted by Brian C. Coffey from “Continuous Improvement” by Tim Bryce
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Reprinted and modified with the author’s permission.

I start with this truth: the responsibility for improving yourself in Freemasonry rests with you, not your Brethren. Your Lodge may offer Education but more than anything you are responsible for your development, not anyone else. You must take the initiative. Often, your Lodge will assist you in your development, but you must show your willingness to learn and improve.

Regardless of your “age” as a Mason, your perceptions of the Craft will change over time. This is because as you mature, your needs change and perceptions change; what was vital 10 years ago is now routine and you have moved to other areas where you need self-improvement. Improvement is a normal part of growth. You must either evolve and adapt, or be left behind.

There are numerous sources available to you for ongoing Masonic development:

1. Personal Observations – There is probably no better instructor than your own power of observation as you will be able to watch others succeed and fail in their positions in the Lodge and other Masonic Appendant and Concordant Bodies, their work habits and ethics, as well as their interactions with others. This requires an attention to detail, the ability to detect changes, and an inquisitive mind that constantly asks “Why?”
When studying people, consider their strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them, their character, and their formulas for success or failure, e.g., what worked and what didn’t? Never hesitate to ask questions, particularly as a new Mason.

2. Masonic Journals and Magazines – Just about every Masonic body has some form of publication, either printed or in some electronic format, to report news and discuss trends. These are invaluable in order to stay abreast of what is going on in your organization.

There is also considerable information made freely available to you over the Internet, such as the Grand Lodge web sites, along with pertinent blogs, discussion groups, and podcasts. Use discernment to determine if the information is accurate, if you have questions ask a well-informed Brother for help.

The important point here is that you should develop a habit of staying current. It also helps to associate with Masons from outside your Jurisdiction to gain different perspectives, understanding that the rules of your Jurisdiction are your Law.

3. Lodge Education – Your Lodge should have Masonic Education sessions at each Regular Lodge Meeting. The Worshipful Master is charged to “set the Craft at Labor under good and wholesome direction or cause the same to be done.” If your Lodge is not conducting Education, work with your Worshipful Master to institute it; teach it yourself if necessary. You will grow by the research and study to present topics to others.

4. Participation in Research Lodges and Masonic Study Clubs – Most Jurisdictions have Research Lodges that delve deeper into the philosophical, esoteric areas of Freemasonry. If there is no Masonic Study Club in your area, start one. Such groups typically offer its members monthly/quarterly meetings to listen to guest speakers, workshops and seminars, and access to a library of research papers. More importantly, it provides a venue for its members to network and compare notes pertaining to their Masonic journey. Participation in such groups is a great way to support your continuing education.

5. Visit – Travel to other Lodges in your area, visit Lodges in other Jurisdictions. Meet your Brothers that you do not know; your life will be enriched. Find those things in other Lodges that you can use to enhance your own. The Craft grows stronger, as a whole, through the free flow of ideas and the exchange of practices.

6. Leadership Training – The Georgia Masonic Leadership Conference is an excellent instructor-led workshop held annually under the auspices of the Masonic Education and Leadership Development (MELD) Committee of the Grand Lodge. It is open to Senior and Junior Wardens and Senior Deacons to help them prepare for the possibility of leading their Lodge as Worshipful Master.

7. Certification Programs – The Masonic Education and Leadership Development Committee has six self-study Certification courses: Georgia Masonic Code; Georgia Masonic History; Masonic Etiquette; Georgia Masonic Manual; Symbolism of the Three Degrees; Masonic Rules of Order. They also offer Instructor led Certification courses: Masters and Wardens Workshop; Deacons and Stewards Workshop; Masonic Investigation; Masonic Mentor.

These programs train you and authenticate your level of knowledge in a subject area. As a new Mason, you should pursue these programs. Not only will you personally benefit from it, but it could greatly benefit your Lodge and Brethren as well.

8. Mentors – In the Grand Lodge of Georgia, we are required to assign mentors to Masons chaperone them on their journey through the Degrees and beyond. According to the Georgia Masonic Mentor Manual, a Mentor is “’a wise and faithful adviser, friend or teacher.’ In the old operative Lodges of Scotland, the officer entrusted with the task of instructing the new apprentices bore the title of Intender. It was his duty to intend, increase and intensify the knowledge of the new Craftsman. The Mentor, in our present system, will seek to expand and intensify the Masonic instruction imparted by the ritual, adding many other points which will enlarge the new brother’s understanding of Freemasonry and its relationship to life in this twentieth century.” I know that this program has not been properly executed in many of our Lodges, or for us as we began our Masonic journey’s, but the Grand Lodge feels strongly enough about it to include it in our Masonic Code.

A mentor has three primary duties to perform:

Role Model – a mentor has attributes the subordinate wants to aspire to attain.
Teacher – a mentor has to be able to teach, not just academic or technical lessons but also those pertaining to Masonic life; e.g., etiquette, ethics, history, organization, etc.
Guidance Counselor – to guide the new Mason on their journey through their Masonic life.

Very importantly, both the mentor and the new Mason must realize the mentor will not have all of the answers, but should be able to point the Brother in the right direction to get the answers they need. The mentor also has to know when their work is complete and they can move more to the role of Brother than Mentor, but in Freemasonry Mentorship should be for life.

9. Other Vehicles – there are a variety of other ways for perpetuating development in your Lodge:
Member education or roundtable discussions – held on a regularly scheduled basis to discuss pertinent subjects. In other words, your own in-house study group. The only problems here are: scheduling (we are all very busy), and getting people to participate (many of whom will not attend outside of Regular Lodge meetings.) But if you can develop such a forum, it can become invaluable as a learning aid.
Private Blog or Discussion Group – to use as a clearinghouse to discuss your journey and learn from the journeys of others.

Again I remind you, your improvement is up to YOU, not your Lodge. In most cases, your Lodge will encourage and support you in your self-improvement, but they cannot spoon-feed you. YOU must show the initiative. To quote my Senior Warden, Brother Jerry Wood, “The process isn’t just about YOU changing YOURSELF. If you have a real and genuine interest in Freemasonry, you will inevitably change your Lodge, your mentor(s), and your Brethren for the better, too. Learning is reciprocal; it’s a two-way street. When we set out to learn, invariably, we also teach through the process.”


The Author, Tim Bryce, is a writer and management consultant who writes commentaries about the times we live in be it in the corporate world, the Masonic world, or our personal lives. His writings are well known on the Internet and are humorous, educational, and at times controversial. You won’t always agree with him, but Tim will definitely get you thinking. For more of Tim’s columns, see timbryce.com

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Active Thinking in Freemasonry

When I was in the Army, I attended training to learn to be a Cryptanalyst; one who decrypts encrypted information. I saw a picture of William and Elizabeth Friedman and their team that broke the Japanese code “Purple” during World War II. On the wall behind them was a sign that simply said “Think.” This always struck me; whatever we are engaged in, we should think. I can’t say that I have always lived up to this, but I try and it has helped me in my vocations and avocations. Sometimes my thinking got me in trouble, I used to think of ways to blow my boss’s plan out of the water, I always told him that it was to help him build a better plan; but sometimes it was just to be a jerk.

I like to bring this level of thinking into my Freemasonry as well. I try to think about why we do certain things; this has led to moments I like to call, “Oh wow.” When something finally makes sense, you finally ‘get it.’ We are told that Freemasonry is “a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” We can never fully understand the lessons embodied in these symbols and allegories, if we do not think about their meaning. The most fascinating and well-balanced Masons I know all have one thing in common: they think about Freemasonry. They do not just hear the words of the Ritual and wonder how long the meeting will last. They ponder the meaning of the words that are spoken. They use Active Thinking to make their Masonic experience more meaningful.

Our thinking is either Active or Passive.  Passive thinking goes on without much effort; in Freemasonry, the ‘familiar’ does not require thought…we know the ritual. Our memories aid us in letting these lessons pass by us without giving them much thought. We go through our meetings in a fog, perking up only when someone gets the words wrong, and then we pay attention. We wait, almost eagerly for the business portion of the meeting, even though that is not why we are there and we complain about it taking too long. We can learn by Passively listening to a lecture, the repetition can help us to ‘remember’ maybe even ‘understand’ but it will not help us with higher level skills, applying what we have heard or learned. We can even look at learning our catechism for Proficiency as Passive Thinking; while we had to memorize the words spoken, we did not necessarily actively think about the meaning of these words. We accept whatever we hear, our goal is to memorize answers. What do we have to know to pass proficiency? Catechism = brain dump.

Active Thinking involves questions. What does the Ritual mean? What is the goal of the lessons inculcated in the three degrees? How does this information guide me in transforming myself into a better man? How might I use this information in the future? Active thinking is a form of critical thinking. It is analyzing information that is being projected to the individual by external stimuli. This is much deeper than passive thought. Rather than letting something pass by unexamined, sent to the subconscious, Active Thinking permits us to analyze the thought or situation. The result is that we truly understand ourselves and our ritual.

I challenge you to listen critically to the Ritual; think about the things said. Ask why, ask what, and think about what things mean. What lessons should we learn from the Three Great Lights?  What is the meaning of our Working Tools, why do we do the things we do? Once you have learned to do this and subsequently learned the lessons of our Craft, you can continue to build the structure you began when you stood in the Northeast Corner of the Lodge as the youngest Entered Apprentice Mason. When you have taken the time to ponder the Ritual and the meaning of all we do, you can sometimes rest from your labors. Sit back and let the words of the Ritual wash over you without thinking about their meaning, you don’t need to think, you will know.

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The Line

In other Jurisdictions, there are various Working Tools of the Degrees that we do not use in our Ritual. The Chisel is added to the Common Gavel and the Twenty-four Inch Gauge in the First Degree, these are the tools of “Preparation”; the Second Degree is still the Square, Level and Plumb, these are the tools of “Proof”; the Third Degree working tools are the Skirret, Pencil and Compasses, the tools of “Plan”.

I will save the discussion of the symbolism of these working tools for another time, what I want to talk about today is the “Line.” The Line is not a tool, it is the product of some of these tools, specifically the Plumb, Skirret, Pencil and Compasses.

The Plumb Line is well-known, it instructs us to live our lives according to that upright line demonstrating rectitude of conduct. As the Fellowcraft Working Tools Lecture tells us, “The plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations before God and man.”

In the Masonic Graveside Service, the Worshipful Master says, “Let us so regulate our lives by the line of faithfulness, rectitude and truth, that in the evening of our days we may be found worthy to be called from labor to refreshment, and be well prepared for translation from the terrestrial to the celestial Lodge to join the fraternity of the Spirits of just men made perfect.”

The other key reference to the Line in our Ritual or Lectures is in the Installation Ceremony for the Worshipful Master. When installing a newly elected Worshipful Master, the installing officer references several items: The Holy Writings, the Great Light in Masonry; The Square; The Compasses; The Rule. These are all familiar, but then he says this to the new Worshipful Master, “The Line teaches us the criterion of moral rectitude, to avoid dissimulation in conversation and action, and to direct our steps to the path which leads to immortality.” Where does this line come from and what is our use of it in Speculative Freemasonry?

The Skirret is better known today as a Chalk Line. It is used to lay a center line from which all other measurements are taken. It must be accurate and unmoving; any deviation can cause irreparable harm to the rest of the structure. This line symbolizes the line we must draw to help us keep our promises and obligations: to stay with the Plan. To stay on the Straight and Narrow. In today’s world of moral ambiguity and laxness, this line will be not just a guide, but also a lifeline.

So, what do the Pencil and Compasses have to do with the Line we have been discussing? The Pencil is used by the Master to draw the designs upon the Trestle-board for the Craft to go about their labors. For the Lodge, the Worshipful Master is responsible to “set the Craft at labor” using the designs he has laid out on the Trestle-board. The pencil is symbolically used to communicate and describe the work to be done. The Master draws his lines upon the trestle-board; but with a difference from the Line laid down by the Skirret. The Master can use the Compasses, with the Pencil, based on his Wisdom to inscribe arcs, circles and other designs to make the structure Stronger and more Beautiful. In our lectures we learn how Geometry allows us to go from a Point to a Line, from a Line to a Surface, and from a Surface to a Solid. We describe Geometry as the first and most noble of sciences, “it is the basis on which the superstructure of Masonry is erected.”

As individual Masons, we also use these tools to lay out the plans for our own actions. We learn in the Northeast Corner Lecture, that the edifice we as Speculative Masons are building is our own Moral and Upright life. We are using the tools and symbols of the Craft to build ourselves as better men better fathers and fonder husbands.

The Pencil is used for more than drawing on the Trestle-board. We use it to learn, to teach and to communicate. What is the truth of what you learn, teach and communicate? “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on and neither all your piety nor wit can lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash away a word of it.” The Pencil should be a reminder to us to communicate in love and forbearance in keeping with our vocation as Master Masons.

The Pencil allows the architect to draft a plan for a building or to give instruction to the craftsmen. The Great Architect of the Universe laid His plans upon the Eternal Trestle-board for us to follow. We must interpret and understand His plan for the details of the design for our lives and we will be judged by our adherence to His plan. We need good light in order to read His plan; we find that light in the Great Light of Freemasonry, the Holy Writings.

Let us consider how we use these tools to draw the Line of conduct that we should follow and the example we should give those less informed. Stay on the Line, stick with the Plan.

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What is Masonry?

What is Masonry? Masonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

If Masonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, are you truly a Mason if you have never looked deeper at the allegory and symbols of the Craft?

What are we to do to gain further light? What is the light we are seeking? If I ask this of most of my brethren, they will say that it is the light of knowledge, the gnosis, Fiat Lux. If the statement above is true, none of these answers is correct.

The light we are seeking is Morality. Not just any Morality, but the Peculiar (distinctive) Morality of Freemasonry. This Morality is spelled out in some ways in the words of the Ritual; it includes Brotherly Love, Morality, Relief, Truth, Temperance Fortitude Prudence and Justice. But the true emanations of the light we seek are veiled, we see through a glass darkly. We must peel pack the layers, we must study and interpret the symbols of Masonry to attain the true light.

I will caution you, this is a lifetime pursuit. As we grow, the symbols will reveal new insights; our ideas of their meanings will change as we see more clearly and as we grow as men and Masons. Not only the symbols, but the Ritual itself will provide great light if we will but listen to the words and think upon their meaning.

Why do we approach the East upright? Why do service to Almighty God and a distressed worthy Brother occupy the same 8 hours on the 24-inch Gauge? At what degree are the Compasses properly extended? A study of these and all other areas of our Ritual will illuminate our ignorance and bring us closer to the light.

I often say that our Ritual is written for purpose; not a word is wasted or out of place. It is our job to listen and use active thinking to ponder the ideals set forth in our various lectures to tear the veil to the truths behind the allegory.

What is masonry? What should it be? Are you a Mason in your heart, or only a member of the Lodge?

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Disturber of the Peace

During the recent Grand Lodge of Georgia Masonic Leadership Conference, I presented a program about Lodge Renewal. I told the Conference attendees that I do not attend lodge for fellowship or charity or community service, in fact, I do not care about those things. I care about improving myself through Freemasonry. If I present education, I have improved myself and hopefully the brethren who heard me. I had to research, put my thoughts together and prepare to get up in front of the brethren and impart a small bit of knowledge to them. I have done my work, hoping to inspire others to do theirs. Do not get me wrong, it is not that I think that fellowship, charity and community service are not important, it is just that these are not my reasons for being a Mason. These are logical outcomes of Freemasonry, as we improve ourselves, we want to spend time with like-minded brethren, we want to take care of others and serve our communities.

My primary focus is Leadership and Education. I have stated many times that the term Masonic Education is redundant: Masonry IS Education! Without a good program of Masonic Education, Brethren forget the tenets and lessons of the Order, they drift away from the Craft looking for meaningful fulfillment elsewhere. I have had conversations with Brethren from all over the State and it seems like our problems are very similar. I do not have a single idea that will solve all of our problems, but I do have a lot of ideas that will solve many of our problems. The first is, “Do Masonry, it works every time it is tried.” Of course, now you must define for yourself and your Lodge, “What is Freemasonry?” We say it is to make good men better. I say that we give good men the tools to make themselves better. A definition often quoted is, “The design of the Masonic institution is to make its members wiser, better, and consequently happier.” Notice that “wiser” comes first. My basic definition of Freemasonry is that it is an Initiatory Order that teaches lessons of philosophy and morality using the tools of the builder with a focus on labor. None of this comes to you, you must work for it.

I have had brothers that say they want the same thing out of Freemasonry that I do demonstrate extreme negativity when I make suggestions. “That won’t work.” “We can’t get the old guys or the current power structure to do that.” “Let me know when you figure out how to make that happen.” I tell you this; I do not wait for the old guys to agree nor do I buy that something won’t work; at least not until we try. I also know that you cannot try once and quit because you did not get support. I have seen improvements in several lodges in the area based on shared ideas and leadership. I have had discussions with the “old guys” and convinced them not to oppose all ideas. If you cannot describe what you want to do and why, you are probably either not committed or not serious about making change or you have not done your research about what you want to do. If you want huge changes, look at smaller things you can do to move in that direction. I was assigned to a Bylaws Committee; I came to the committee meeting with a fully developed, written plan. Every one of my suggestions was accepted, because no else had done that level of work, and because I only did what was good for the Lodge. But I included adding Masonic Education to the Order of Business; now the WM cannot decide we do not have time, we always have education of some kind at every Regular Communication.

If you want lodge to be more serious, be more serious about lodge. If you want leadership, lead. Don’t sit on the sidelines and accuse those who have accepted positions of leadership of not doing anything. If you want change, be the change.

I am sure that somewhere, someone has labelled me an official “disturber of the peace.”

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The Compasses

 

“Freemasonry takes good men and makes them better.” We have all heard that for our entire Masonic careers, I have always focused on the ways that Masonry helped me to deal with those around me.

As Entered Apprentices we are taught the lessons of the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry: The Holy Bible, Square and Compasses. The Holy Bible is given us as the Rule and Guide for our faith and practice, the Square to square our actions and the Compasses to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds.

The Holy Bible tells us how the Supreme Architect of the Universe deals with us. The Square teaches us how we are to deal with other men. I never gave the Compasses much thought. I understood that they were to help us to curtail our worldy passions, but I never delved into the spiritual meaning behind the third of the Great Lights. While visiting a lodge recently, a Brother gave a short talk on the Compasses and it was like light added to the coming light. I had to take a whole new look at the Compasses; the Compasses teach us how to deal with ourselves.

I searched several sources and found some fascinating and varied thoughts about the Compasses from different Masonic Scholars. Even though the writers do not agree on everything, most agree with Arthur Edward Waite’s description in A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, “…the Compasses are perhaps the most spiritual of all the working tools: it is found everywhere in Craft Masonry, and is also in other degrees.” (Waite, p xv) Before I began this study, I would have considered the Holy Bible would have been seen as the most spiritual of the Three Great Lights. After all, it is The Great Architect of the Universe‘s revealed Light to us, his children. As I have learned, this is not the case. The Holy Bible is given to us, we do not necessarily need to do anything other than receive it, and use it as our guide. All men, not just Freemasons can receive the Light provided by this most holy of books. The Compasses, on the other hand, require us to take action. We must use the Compasses to put bounds on ourselves, not let our passions rule us, but to use Reason in our actions.

In The Craft and its Symbols, Roberts tells us that, “The Compasses symbolizes spirituality. It is interesting to note that the Compasses are symbolically hidden when you are first brought to light in Masonry. This signifies that man is hoodwinked by the senses and must grope his way, slowly from the darkness of ignorance to the light of truth. As the square cannot be corrected without a circle circumscribed by the compasses, man cannot find Divine truth outside the circle of law and love.

The most spiritual of all the working tools of Freemasonry is the Compasses. As an Entered Apprentice you are taught a valuable lesson. The Compasses should remind you to “circumscribe your desires and keep your desires within due bounds.” And you are not to confine these duties to your brethren alone, but to all men.” (Roberts, Ch. 3, P 33)

As we can see, the Compasses are a vital tool for us to use, in conjunction with the other Great Lights and the Working Tools, to improve ourselves in Freemasonry. “The square is a reminder to walk uprightly, and not turn aside into the inviting paths of error. Passing from the square to the compasses is a reminder to rise above the level of the mundane and climb the skies of spiritual and philosophical knowledge.” (de Hoyas p141)

As we delve deeper into the symbolism of the Compasses, we can see more esoteric meanings. The Compasses are symbolic of that soul, given us by the TGAOTU, but not just a passive soul; the living soul of Man, with the Divine spark given us by our Creator.

The Compasses interlaced with the Square are the symbol of the Spirit of the Soul, its functional energy or Fire. Of itself, the soul would be a mere inert passivity, a negative quantity unbalanced by a positive opposite. Its active properties are the product of the union of itself with its underlying and inspiring Divine basis, as modified the good or evil tendencies of the soul itself. God “breathed into man the breath of his life and man became–no longer a soul, which he was previously–but a living (energizing) soul.” This product, or fiery energy of the soul is the Spirit of man (a good or evil force accordingly as he shapes it) and is symbolized by what has always been known as the Fire Triangle (with apex upward and base downward), which symbol is approximately reproduces in the Compasses.
To summarize: the three Greater Lights emblematize the inextricably interwoven triadic groundwork of man’s being; (1) the Divine Word or Substance as its foundation; (2) a passive soul emanated therefrom; (3) and active spirit or energizing capacity generated in the soul as the result of the interaction of the former two. Man himself therefore (viewed apart from the temporal body now clothing him) is a triadic unit, rooted in and proceeding from the basic Divine substance.
Observe that in the First Degree the points of the Compasses are hidden by the square. In the Second Degree, one point is disclosed. In the Third Degree both are exhibited. The implication is that as the Candidate progresses, the inertia and negativity of the soul become increasingly transmuted and superseded by the positive energy and activity of the Spirit. The Fire Triangle gradually assumes preponderance over the Water Triangle, signifying that the aspirant becomes a more vividly living and spiritually conscious being than he was at first. (Wilmshurst, Ch. III, P113.)

Another way of looking at the Compasses is that they give us a grounding point; we place one point at our Center and use it to help us to draw limitations. The center point is our true self, from which we should not deviate. The circle made by the other point of the Compasses as we travel through life can never be separated from our center. Worshipful Brother J. S. M. Ward, a controversial author and spiritualist illuminates this point in his book, The Master Mason’s Handbook.

The Compasses, moreover, are the instruments with which geometrical figures are created, and more especially the Circle.  By means of two circles the triangle, emblem of the triune nature of God is produced, while the Circle itself is the emblem of Eternity and therefore of Spirit. A point within the circle forms the symbol for the Hindu conception of the Supreme Being, Paramatma, whence we have come and whither we shall all ultimately return. At the centre of the circle rests all knowledge; there shall we find every lost secret. Now such a figure can only be drawn with the help of the Compasses, and in drawing it the following significant symbolical act takes place. One point of the Compass rests at the centre, and the other makes the circle of the Infinite. No matter how far the legs of the Compass be extended, or how large the Circle, the fact remains that one leg is always at the centre. Thus the Compasses, while they travel through infinity, are at the same time never separated from the centre, and from that point cannot err. This instrument may therefore be considered as standing for the Divine Spark in Man, in all its manifestations. One of these is conscience; but the Divine Spark has many attributes and names.
But the Divine Spark within us is never really separated from the Great and All-Pervading Spirit. It is still part of it, though its glory is dimmed by the veil of flesh. Therefore, just as one arm of the compasses ever rests on the centre, no matter how far the other leg travels; so however far we may travel from God, and however long and hard may be the journey, the Divine Spark within us can never be  truly  separated from Him, or err from that Centre.  Thus the point of the Compasses at the centre of the circle may be considered to be the Spirit, the head of the Compasses the Soul, and the point on the circumference the body. (Ward)

I find it comforting to know that we can never truly be separated from our Creator, that small bit of Divinity breathed into Adam by God and transmitted to us all will keep us in contact with the GAOTU.

We see every day the vices of Man on full display, through some of the vile things that are called entertainment, through ways that men treat other men with no respect, and some men do not even show themselves the respect that they are due as children of God. Men are celebrated for being foul-mouthed, for showing deviancy in their personal lives; women are celebrated as single mothers because the men that fathered their children refuse to care for their own offspring. The lessons of the Three Great Lights are more vital now than ever before, we as Masons must not keep these Lights under a bushel. We must shine these lights in our communities, in our places of work and within our families. As WB Bruno says in his Sunday Masonic News, “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Mason some people will ever meet.”  We are instructed that Brotherly Love, Morality and Relief, the three greatest Tenets of Freemasonry are contained between the points of the Compasses when properly extended.

As in Operative Freemasonry, the compasses are used for the measurement of the architect’s plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which will ensure beauty as well as stability to his work; so, in Speculative Freemasonry, is this important implement symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter.

Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only, measure of a Freemason’s life and conduct. As the Bible gives us light on our duties to God, and the square illustrates our duties to our neighborhood and Brother, so the compasses give that additional light which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves-the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions, and keeping our desires within due bounds. “It is ordained,” says the philosophic Burke, “in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters.” Those Brethren who delight to trace our emblems to an astronomical origin, find in the compasses a symbol of the sun, the circular pivot representing the body of the luminary, and the diverging legs his rays. (Mackey)

As we lay our plans upon the Trestleboard of our lives, we need to use the Compasses to set bounds on our desires and passions. Let us not be as the profane world, letting our emotions and passions rule our conduct. Let our oaths and our working tools forge our futures with the illumination of the Three Great Lights.

 

Bibliography

De Hoyas, A. Scottish Rite Ritual and Monitor, 2nd Ed. The Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, 2009.

Mackey, A., Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences, New York, N.Y., The Masonic History Company, 1914.

Roberts, A. The Craft and its Symbols, Richmond, VA, Macoy Publishing, 1974.

Waite, A. E. A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry. New York, University Books, 1970.

Ward, J.S.M., The Master Mason’s Handbook,

Wilmshurst, W.L. The Meaning of Masonry, New York, Bell Publishing, 1980

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