Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Freemasonry is Alive

In the Army we had a writing style that said put the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). In keeping with that philosophy; I do not believe that Freemasonry is dying. To paraphrase Brother Samuel Langhorne Clemons (Mark Twain):

The report of Freemasonry’s death is an exaggeration.

I have read with interest many articles, blog posts and emails describing the imminent demise of Freemasonry. Some say that Freemasonry will be dead in 20 years, other say we are already dead and we just have not realized it yet. Many of these writings have impressive analytics, showing us the raw numbers and the percentages of membership, I admit that it is hard to argue with the logic in the numbers presented. I will say that, while Logic is part of the Trivium(1) and one of the Liberal Arts and Sciences which we are called to study, Logic alone is not what is required to evaluate our Fraternity. Freemasonry is not just of the head, but also of the heart. The benefits of membership in the Masonic Order cannot be listed as finite items; I believe that our Craft reaches into the infinity of our thoughts, our ethics, our behavior, our spirit. The three Masonic Initiations are meant to fundamentally change us, to allow us to better understand ourselves and our place in the cosmos. The uninitiated (and some of our Brethren) can look at the Compasses and say that they are used to draw circles and arcs and can be used to measure distances on maps. The initiated should look at the Compasses and consider how to use them to circumscribe our desires and put boundaries on our passions. But we should not stop there, we can consider other uses for this tool, which is but a symbol for us to interpret. As I stated earlier, we move into the infinite when we consider the symbols and words in Freemasonry.

Taken logically, Freemasonry is in trouble based on these well-researched analytics. Our numbers are in steady decline from the days of high membership numbers in the 1950s. I have long stated that this should not be our benchmark, it was an artificial increase based on men returning from World War II and longing for the bonds of brotherhood that they felt with those men that fought alongside them to defeat tyranny. They were interested in the fellowship, the comradery, the feeling of “belonging” that they had felt in their military units. (2)  If we need to compare ourselves to previous generations, we should compare ourselves to the late 1800s to the early 1900s; a period of serious Masonic Scholarship. Why? Because most men I know that have entered the Fraternity in the last few years are looking for the kind of Freemasonry that it seems was practiced in those days of old. We want the scholarship and research; we want the communications that they had in the many Masonic publications like The Builder Magazine. Many of the articles I mentioned earlier state that the true decline is not due to deaths, but men leaving the Fraternity through Demits and Non-Payment of Dues. They quit. Even in my own lodge, the losses we posted this year were due to a Demit and a withdrawal of Dual Membership. Why are men that showed enough interest and curiosity about the Craft to find a Mason, request a petition, endure investigation, travel once, twice, thrice about the Lodge and learn and pass the three catechisms leaving in droves? Because Freemasonry was not what they expected. Now, some of them may have had grandiose expectations, but most were just disappointed that we hold boring meetings that do nothing to help them become better men or answer any of the mysteries of the universe. Change is needed.

But what should we change? Should we follow the advice of those who say Freemasonry is too easy, too cheap and too informal? Do we establish Dues that are more than are required to pay our bills, just to show the importance of the Craft? Do we wear tuxedos and gloves and square our corners during Ritual? Do we elect the same Brother as Worshipful Master for ten years in a row because we are convinced that he is the only one that can lead our lodge? Or do we say that dressing for Lodge is elitist and asking men to dress properly (Jacket and tie) for Lodge will drive men away? In my opinion, the statement that “it is the internal not the external,” is not describing our clothing but our positions outside the Fraternity. It means that a tradesman is the same as a Banker in the eyes of Freemasonry. It does not mean that I should accept polo shirts and jeans in a Masonic Lodge meeting. But I digress. Does it mean that we accept mediocrity in our Ritual and have fund raisers to pay our bills to keep dues down?

Actually it means different things to different Lodges. A Lodge is a group of Masons operating under a Charter granted by a Grand Lodge. It is not the building. Therefore, a Lodge of Masons should reflect the wants and needs of the men associated with it, within the precepts of Freemasonry’s Ancient Landmarks. If you are not comfortable with your Lodge you need to determine if it is them or you. Meaning, is there a greater number that think that you should focus more on Education than other aspects of the Craft? If you are a lone wolf, perhaps you should find a Lodge that is more in line with your needs; do not just cut and run. If you find you are in the majority, make effective changes to move in the direction that the majority wants to go. I do not mean that you leave behind those that have different needs, but the focus of the Lodge should be that of the majority, not a vocal minority. I am not in the camp of thinking that Lodges need to close or consolidate. If I am not a member, I try not to form opinions, and if I do, I keep them to myself. I do not judge the work of a Lodge; it is not my place. If someone asks my opinion, or my help, I give it in private.

I try to look out for my Lodges, meaning the Brethren within. In my three Lodges Masonry is alive and well. I am very involved in two of them, distance keeps me away from my Mother Lodge, but I keep in touch and I know what they are doing. I try to support, teach, mentor, learn from my Brethren.  As long as I am alive, Freemasonry will be alive. While one of my Lodges is small and we do not have a lot of active members, we are doing Masonry. When I learn from my Brethren, Masonry is alive. When I teach them, Masonry is alive. When I see my Brethren growing in Freemasonry and in life, Masonry is alive. I see Freemasonry growing all the time, in the lives of the members of my Lodge. They are growing in their knowledge of the Craft, and as this knowledge increases, so does their thirst for more!

Freemasonry is not dying. We have challenges, but Freemasonry is alive.

 

  1. William Arnold, The Trivium & Quadrivium or 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences, http://suffolkmasons.com/the-trivium-quadrivium/
  2. Brian Coffey, “We” Can Get Things Done, 11/24/2018, https://parkinglotmason.wordpress.com/2018/11/24/we-can-get-things-done/
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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

“We” Can Get Things Done

Older Masons and Past Masters often tell younger Masons who seek Education and Philosophical enlightenment in Freemasonry that “that is not Freemasonry.” They say that Freemasonry is about Charity and Fellowship. As a steady reader of Masonic literature and the Librarian of a decent Lodge Library, I have searched for books that describe Freemasonry as a Charity or a Social Club. Oddly, I cannot find books covering these topics. As far as I can find, no one published a book on the importance of reading Minutes, supporting non-Masonic charities, giving blood or identifying children. At this point, I am expected to say that these are all either necessary or good endeavors, and I will not disagree; but they are not Freemasonry.

The books I find, both old and new, discuss Masonic Philosophy; History; Leadership; as well as Symbolism and Ritual. These books range in topic from Masonic History, Etiquette, Leadership, Morality and Philosophy. Many of these books are in our library and can be purchased through the normal booksellers; many are actually free downloads on the internet. With this unprecedented access to materials, it is astounding that we still have a general ignorance of the history and purpose of our Craft. Some of this I attribute to the general stasis of our organization; the inability to consider that beyond which we were taught by our Mentors in the Fraternity. Our lectures are ripe with symbolism, philosophy and morality; and in them, we are charged to look deeper and learn more. We do not actively promote this learning and make it a lifelong process within our Masonic Halls and Lodge
Rooms.

My theory on how we arrived at our current situation runs counter to conventional wisdom which looks at the post-World War II membership spike as the greatest period of Freemasonry in America based on the numbers alone. I feel that this rapid increase in membership did great harm to the true tenets of our Fraternity. These great men that fought and won WWII came back to civilian life and longed for the bonds of brotherhood that they felt with those men that fought alongside them to defeat tyranny. Many of them turned to the various Fraternal organizations to try to make these connections: Moose; Elks; Knights of Columbus; and of course the Freemasons. They were interested in the fellowship, the comradery, the feeling of “belonging” that they had felt in their military units. Many of them were not interested in the esoteric meanings behind our symbols and philosophy. It is not so much that they rejected them, many of them just gave them no thought past the Ritual and felt that their needs were met in the Organization and the fellowship it offered. When they became the elder leadership, they mentored new members in the Freemasonry that they knew and loved; fellowship, charity and strict organization.

Then came the 1960s and the young men of that generation rejected the ideas and morality of their fathers. Rebellion and the feel-good culture caused many to drop-out or never join the “establishment” organizations of previous generations. The generational gap lasted for decades. I am in my 50’s and there are very few in my age group in Freemasonry; or they came to the Craft late in life. This caused there to be a gap in new leadership with new ideas, the old guard had to keep the fires burning. Don’t get me wrong, I am not negative about these brethren, I thank them for keeping the spark of Freemasonry alive until I and a new generation could emerge from the darkness in search of Light. I need these brethren to teach me what it means to be a friend and a brother; I can learn a lot about fellowship from them, as well as the strict rules of the Ritual and procedures of conducting a Lodge meeting.

The newer generation of Freemasons is looking for more than fellowship. We are looking for the Light of Freemasonry; the philosophies; moral instruction and life-changing knowledge hidden in our Symbols that will help us to become better men. We are not here for Minutes, rote repetition and arguing about dues. Most younger Masons are not put-off by higher dues as some older members might be, we realize that we should pay our bills without having a fund-raiser. Most of us came to the Craft out of curiosity, but it is an informed curiosity. As I mentioned earlier there is a treasure-trove of Masonic books and Articles in the public domain and for purchase, and Freemasonry has been featured positively in some recent fiction books and movies. Younger Petitioners have read about Freemasonry prior to ever asking for a Petition; they have expectations about Freemasonry as an educational and growth organization that will help them become better men. When they come to us and complete their initiatory degree, they are often disappointed in the lack of Masonic discussion, education, learning and Mentoring. If they do not just leave, they are often told that their ideas are not Freemasonry and not necessary. The elder leaders of their Lodges are the very ones that kept the spark of Freemasonry alive, but now they try to keep it a spark, rather than let the younger generation build it into a blaze to light the way for the Brethren.

As a kind of intermediary between the elder and younger masons, due to my length in the craft and my still relatively young age, I often see something I think should be done and I just do it. I inform, but do not ask for permission, I request support, but do not wait for it to show up. I can do this because I have put in my time in the Quarries; I have done the work and I continue to do whatever my Lodge and Brethren require of me. I do not worry about what “They” will say. To my younger brethren, I know you have heard: “They” won’t let you do that; “They” say that is not Freemasonry.

No one ever admits to being “They.”

I charge you to become the WE. “We” are going to conduct Masonic Education. “We” are going to show respect to our Lodge, our Worshipful Master and our Brethren. “We” will Mentor our new Brethren. “We” will guard our West Gate.

We should not do this in an adversarial way, we need and love our elder brethren; work with them to do things a little differently. Demonstrate your ideas before you try to implement them. Volunteer to be a Coach or a Mentor, show the new brothers that you care and teach them what you wish had been taught to you. If you do the work, you will gain the respect and will be able to positively affect the Lodge experience. Masonry is work: do the work.

“We” can get things done.

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Book Review – The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation

The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, by Robert Lomas, San Francisco, CA, Weiser Books, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781578634903.

Robert Lomas’ book, The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, explores the more esoteric aspects of Masonic Initiation and delves into the use of Freemasonry to teach the ancient Mysteries. He believes that, if truly understood, the Masonic Initiation is a transformative experience. Not just in the sense of “making a good man better” but in a physical and physiological sense. Lomas argues that Masonic Initiation, being tied to the ancient Mysteries, actually transforms us spiritually and intellectually into a different stream of consciousness from normal men. He states that the greatest men of all ages that have worked for the advancement of mankind have been initiates of the ancient Mysteries. These ancient Mysteries can be seen in the rites and legends of the Ancient Egyptians, the Phoenicians and all of the major religions of the world which have had their secret initiatic orders, apart from their public religion.

While I found this book interesting, I kept wondering why my Initiations into Freemasonry had not had the major transformative effect on me that Lomas describes. I guess I am just “not there” yet. I do not fully agree with his description of the esoteric side of the degrees, but I do agree that Freemasonry can be transformative. Perhaps as I conduct further research and study I can get closer to Lomas’ views on our initiations and their true purpose. I will say that I have read other, similar, books since I read this one; books such as Hall’s The Lost Keys of Freemasonry and             Steinmetz’s book, Freemasonry – Its Hidden Meaning, which discuss the same theories as Lomas, but with a slightly different take on the process of initiation. I would suggest reading Lomas’ book, but I think it would have been better to start with Steinmetz, Hall, Wilmshurt and then move to Lomas; perhaps then I would have been more ready and attuned to his message.

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Book review – Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning

Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning, by George H. Steinmetz. Richmond, VA, Macoy Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., 1948, 1976. ISBN-13: 978-0880530491.

In Freemasonry: Its Hidden Meaning author George H. Steinmetz introduces the reader to the more esoteric and philosophical meanings of the three degrees and Freemasonry in general. This book was written to be a Primer for the Master Mason who desires a fuller understanding of the Craft without delving too deeply into the deeper meanings of the Ritual. Mr. Steinmetz wanted to discuss the hidden meanings of the Freemasonry in a way that would encourage brethren to move on to study more than we get in the various lectures and catechisms of the three degrees. He feels that if you dive straight into Pike, Mackey or Waite you may become confused and discouraged. This book is a step towards more light.

Mr. Steinmetz’s writing is straightforward and easy to understand, he explains complicated subjects using the very words of our Masonic Monitors and other published sources. He breaks down the word definitions for many aspects of the degrees to explain their base meaning and how they can often be misinterpreted, or have a deeper meaning than we initially understand. He is careful to not reveal any of our “secret” ritual or work, but is able to still give incredible insight to the ritual. While this book is fairly basic, as Masonic Dissertations go, it is obvious that Steinmetz is a student of the Art and understands the full implications of the Ancient Mysteries which he claims Freemasonry to be a direct descendant.

I made two pages of notes to investigate further based on my reading of this book. I feel that Mr. Steinmetz did his job of providing me with many answers to my questions, but he also in triggered even more questions in my quest for more light and understanding of Freemasonry. I recommend this book to any Master Mason that wants to begin his journey into understanding the true philosophy of the Craft. Whatever your age as a Mason, this book can be enlightening and open your mind to further revelations in the writings of Hall, Waite, Pike and Mackay.

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Book Review – The Lost Keys of Freemasonry

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry: Or, The Secret of Hiram Abiff, by Manly P. Hall

N.Y. New York, Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2006. Pages: 352. ISBN-13: 9781585425105

 

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, by Manly P. Hall seeks to tie the modern Masonic Initiations to the Ancient Mysteries of the Egyptians, Persians and other ancient civilizations. According to Mr. Hall, Freemasonry is the continuation of the Ancient Mysteries. It is esoteric in nature; the exoteric only serves to point us towards the esoteric. All of the world’s great religions of the past (and present) have had Mystery Schools in which certain deserving individuals gained deeper knowledge and insight to their specific creed. Hall tells us that these are all interrelated and point to the same Light; the one true God, The Creator and Builder.

To bring a little light to the subject; Exoteric refers to knowledge that is outside of, and independent from, a person’s experience and is capable of being ascertained by anyone. Esoteric, on the other hand, refers to knowledge that is understood by, or meant for, only the select few who have special knowledge or interest, intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group. Within Freemasonry, we are already a select few, those that have chosen, and been accepted into our ancient order, removed from the “profane” the non-initiated. But we can go farther, most Freemasons never get past the Exoteric meaning of our symbols and rituals. Hall describes how we can go beyond the surface to break free of the prison of our own making and discover the true transcendent nature of the Craft. The true Initiate (candidate) should be one who realizes that there is life and liberty available through reason and logic and the application of true thought turned toward that light that dimly shines within his self. Many of us may never delve into the esoteric meanings of our ritual, for those that do not this may be, as Hall says, “To the rest of their brethren within or without the lodge their sacred rituals must remain, as Shakespeare might have said, ‘Words, words, words.’ (Hall 2006, 66)

The basis of this study is that the spirit of life in Man is killed by three ruffians; thought, desire and action (perverted thought, uncurbed emotions, and destructive action.) When perverted they form a prison, when purified, they are the most glorious powers for good in the world. “These three form the Flaming Triangle which glorifies every living Mason, but when crystallized and perverted they form a triangular prison through which the light cannot shine and the Life is forced to languish in the dim darkness of despair, until man himself through his higher understanding liberates the energies and powers which are indeed the builders and glorifiers of his Father’s House.” (Hall 2006, 38)

I found this book very interesting and compelling. Hall’s writing moves easily through very complex ideas and theory of the basis of modern Freemasonry. Hall takes us through the deeper meanings of the legend of Hiram Abiff and ties it into the Ancient Mysteries that have captured Man’s attention for all of recorded history. His graduated steps from the Candidate to the Qualifications of a True Mason are rife with great examples of how we should conduct ourselves as men and Freemasons. Even if you do not buy into the transcendent nature of our ritual, there are lessons to be learned. In one of our lectures we mention “light added to the coming light;” The Lost Keys of Freemasonry by Manly P. Hall is definitely light added to the light already received. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to get a glimpse of what Freemasonry can be if we open our minds, spirits and consciences to the Light.

“Truth is not lost, yet it must be sought for and found.” (Hall 2006, 14)

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

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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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

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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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

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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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

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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