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Here there Be Monsters

Masons come to Lodge expecting certain things. Many come for the fellowship and the comradery of being a “Brother.” Some come for the purpose of providing charity to others; some are hoping for a transformational experience, a spiritual awakening of the Mystic Tie. While all are valid reasons, some are more mainstream, and others looked at as fringe. When something is different, or not what they expect to get from freemasonry they are uncomfortable.

We should explore the known and unknown world of Freemasonry. In early days of exploration, the European explorers made maps of their travels. Areas that had yet to be explored or were unknown to them, they left blank. The mapmakers actually showed the edge of the earth, the sea just cascading into an abyss and sometimes they lettered a warning across the void: “Here there be monsters.” The unknown can be frightening and full of dangers, real and imagined.

To many Masons, Freemasonry only consists of what they know, what they have experienced and what they want, they have no desire to explore the deeper meanings of the Working Tools and Symbols of Freemasonry. The Ritual tells them what those Symbols mean, and they do not warrant further investigation, some actually think it is not masonic to attribute meanings different than those included in the lectures. They like the routine of business meetings and mediocre Ritual combined with visiting with their brethren (buddies) during the meal and voting for the Lodge to send money to some worthy cause. They roll their eyes when a less-traditional brother suggests, or worse yet, brings Masonic Education, or discusses Book Clubs or Lodges of Research. Perish the thought! They suggest that these brethren try York Rite or Scottish Rite but even there, study beyond the ritual is sporadic.

Some Brethren, like the explorers of old, choose to push beyond the boundaries of the known world, to study, to learn, to grow. When they move past the imaginary barriers, they do not fall off the face of the earth, instead they discover fertile lands (ideas) of incredible beauty and riches. They look back whence they came and see that the monsters were not before them but behind them. Not the brethren that sought to discourage them, but the real monster, “That’s the way we’ve always done things.”

The hope and dreams for the search for more light is swallowed easily by the monster,

Routine.

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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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Preparation

Preparation: the action or process of making something ready for use or service or of getting ready for some occasion, test, or duty

How do you make yourself ready for Lodge? How do you help your Lodge become ready to carry out the will of the Worshipful Master?

Freemasonry is, at its core, a self-improvement organization. We have lessons and philosophies that a Brother can use to “…improve him(my)self in Freemasonry.” It is your responsibility to prepare your heart, mind and spirit for a lodge meeting. You do this by praying, studying and thinking on the lessons learned in the Craft. If you come to Lodge without any preparation, the only thing that will have meaning to you is the fellowship with the Brethren; it will be hard for you to consider the deep lessons that are thinly veiled, even in our Opening and Closing Ritual. How do you prepare your heart, mind and spirit for a lodge meeting?

The business of the Lodge is mostly done outside the formal Lodge meeting. Committees appointed by the Worshipful Master should meet to act on his Plan; to work on the more difficult problems and come to a consensus on what to present to the Lodge for a vote. Brethren are encouraged to provide their input to the committee while they are in discussion so that when they bring something before the Lodge, there will be little dissension or conflict. This hearkens back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple. The trees were hewn and prepared in Lebanon, away from the Temple Mount. The brass and golden ornaments for the temple were cast in molds in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredatha, and the stones were perfected in the quarries. The building was constructed without the sounds of instruments; all parts fitting perfectly. Freemasonry should take this to heart and do our work by quiet and orderly means, “without the hammer of contention, the axe of division, or any tool of mischief.”

The working tools of Freemasonry are many, but they are divided based on the three degrees. As we learn from WB Kent Henderson, “Each of the nine tools has a moral significance: The Twenty-four Inch Gauge, the Common Gavel and the Chisel of the First Degree are the tools of preparation; the Square, Level and Plumb Rule of the Second Degree are the tools of proof; the Skirret, Pencil and Compasses of the Third Degree are the tools of plan.” In the workings of the Lodge, it is the Worshipful Master who employs the tools of Plan to lay upon the Trestleboard the plan for the lodge during his year.

We as Craftsmen in the Lodge are to employ first the tools of preparation. We are to look at the plans laid upon the Trestleboard and do our due diligence in ensuring that the Master and the Lodge (Brethren) have the best base materials with which to work to build our edifice. This is true for the internal and the external preparation that we should accomplish. We provide our Master with the advice and ideas to help him maintain a perfect plan.

As skilled Craftsmen, we then use the tools of proof to assess our work and that of our Brethren. It is our duty to ensure that their work, and ours, meets the needs of the Plan of the Master. We do this on the Square and Level, and always by the Plumb, showing us that line of Rectitude to which we must adhere. We also must work with humility. While at work building a previous edifice, we may have been selected by the Brethren to serve as the Master; now it is our opportunity to serve and advise the brother selected by the Fraternity to lead us in the building of our current edifice. We must do this with grace and equanimity. The plan is his and it is our duty to work within his plan.

As stated previously, most of this is done outside the regular meeting. By the time of the Communication of the Lodge, we should work as one, with no sound of Discord to be heard in the confines of our Lodge Room.

How well are you using the tools of preparation?

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