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Gratitude

At the 235th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Georgia on October 27th, 2021, MWPGM Clyde E. Griffin Installed Donald C. Combs as the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Georgia. During the Installation, MWB Griffin repeated a Charge to the incoming Grand Master that included this phrase: “Duty, honor and gratitude now bind you to be faithful to your trust.”


My gratitude goes further; I am grateful to those men, Brothers and Mentors that have helped me grow in the Craft. From coaches to Lodge Officers, to wise men on the sidelines, they continued to invest in a fertile mind and willing spirit to help mold me into the man and Mason that I want to be. This journey is not complete and will never be complete. I have learned from older Masons, younger Masons, even from candidates asking the question that makes me delve deeper into the mystic art and my own beliefs to provide an answer.


I was recently honored to be elected to the 33° in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Not only that, but I was the Exemplar at the Degree for the Orient of Georgia. My gratitude knows no bounds. As I entered the auditorium, I noted that the room was full of Brothers each of whom I hold in great esteem. All of these men that have achieved great success in our Fraternity were gathered there and many had studied and practiced in order to be able to confer the most remarkable degree I have ever experienced. They were there for me and my fellow candidates. How could we not be grateful?


We are bound to our Craft, our Lodge, our Brethren by the gratitude that should inspire us to do the one thing that is required of us: Do the Work.

Most Worshipful Grand Master Donald C. Combs is one of those that does the work.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

I Buried a Brother Today

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

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

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

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Do Just One Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Maintaining Fellowship during Social Distancing

I have often quoted a Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times.” I have since discovered that this is probably not a Chinese curse at all, but the sentiment is still the same. Interesting times are rarely calm and peaceful. Well Brethren, I believe that we are living in “interesting times.” In order to try to protect ourselves from the possibility of a Pandemic, we have virtually shut down our society, and our Society. Our sacred band or Society of friends and Brothers have been directed not to meet face-to-face for a period of time, awaiting further guidance from the Health Officials.

How do we maintain fellowship with our Brethren during this time of Social Distancing and Quarantine? Be deliberate; have a plan. Do not leave it to chance encounters or leave it to others to do. If you are coming up on a time that, under normal circumstances, you would be attending a Lodge Meeting, or other Masonic-related function, call the Brethren with whom you would normally interact. Set a Conference call or Video Conference to discuss items of interest or just to visit with your Brethren. There are many free options that will facilitate these types of meetings. If you do not use the various versions of Social Media, communicate by text, email or best of all, a phone call.

Challenge your Brethren to consider a part of the Ritual (that can be discussed outside a Tyled Lodge) and hold virtual discussion groups. Send out a link to an interesting Blog Post or Masonic Article (better yet, write your own) then gather your Brethren together, virtually, to discuss. At the scheduled time for our last meeting of Clarence H. Cohen Daylight Lodge 749, we held a meeting via Zoom to respond to questions posed in advance. Brothers Forrester and Moore initiated a Video Cast to share Masonic ideas with the Brethren that login. You are only limited by your imagination, and the Grand Master’s Ruling.

Remember to call and check on your widows and shut-ins (which is most of us now.) Worshipful Masters should develop a calling tree and task his Officers to call and check on all members of the Lodge.

On the other hand, use this time to spend time with your family, as important as Freemasonry can be, it is not more important than your family.

Finally, make plans for a major time of fellowship when we are allowed to gather once again. Make it a purely social event so we can reestablish those bonds of friendship and brotherhood in person.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Always be Prepared – or – Be careful What You Ask For

I like to travel to different Lodges to visit the Brethren and to see Freemasonry in action in different environments. Through various positions held, I have had the opportunity to visit almost all of the Lodges in my current Masonic District, the 10th, and many other lodges around the Jurisdiction. Regardless of the size of the Lodge or the number of Brethren in attendance; I present myself to the WM prior to the meeting and let him know if I want to make any announcements or remarks and offer my assistance to the Lodge. I often have the honor and opportunity to sit in an Officer Chair for meetings. I mean it when I say honor; I think that being asked to take a part in the opening and closing of a Lodge is important and I am honored when a Lodge allows me the privilege of assuming a Station.

Last night, I visited Gibson Lodge #257, a Lodge with a long, distinguished history. I knew that they were conferring a Fellowcraft Degree, this was part of the reason for my visit. When I asked WM Davis If I could help, he asked if I could fill the Senior Warden Chair; I accepted. A few minutes later, he let me know that their Senior Warden for the Degree was not able to attend, so he asked if I could do the Senior Warden’s part for the Degree. This falls under the category “Be careful what you ask for.” I have to admit, I was not mentally prepared to take this role; I had expected to sit on the sidelines and watch the Degree Conferral (and slip out early…). I did accept the position and started running through the parts in my head, hopefully to not embarrass myself. In attendance were Brethren from several Lodges, including MWPGM Gary Leazer and Brethren from both of my lodges in the 10th District, including the Uncle of the Candidate.

Here is where the “Always be prepared” maxim comes into play. I pay attention to the Ritual. I attend Schools of Instruction. I care about good Ritual and doing the best job possible for the Candidate. So, with a little quick memory refresh, I assisted the Lodge in Passing a fine young man to the Degree of Fellowcraft. I do think that the Brethren believe that I do not know my right from my left, especially when it comes to taking steps and tucking apron corners.

One of the greatest privileges of a Master Mason is the ability to travel in foreign countries; visit other Lodges. Take the opportunity to travel as much as your schedule will permit, you will not be sorry.

And always be prepared to accept the work you ask for.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Brethren, Attend Lodge Prayer

According to the Masonic Manual of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, “The labors and duties of the lodge must begin and end with prayer. The brethren cannot be too often reminded of their dependence on the Grand Architect of the Universe for every blessing they enjoy.” This reminds us that the Lodge Room is a sacred place and should be respected as such. When we enter the Lodge while it is at Labor, we are symbolically entering the Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum, of Solomon’s Temple. That space was built to be the residence of God on earth. If you cannot internalize and understand this symbol, I wonder if you can truly understand any of the symbols of Freemasonry.

In the Masonic Manual, there are two versions of opening and closing prayers. Most Lodges use the shorter of the two for each, I find this disheartening. We are so interested in shortening our time in Lodge that we use the shorter version that is not nearly as rich in praise and supplications to our Creator.

The opening prayer which should be used is this:

Most holy and glorious Lord God, the great Architect of the Universe, the giver of all good gifts and graces, in Thy name we have assembled and in Thy name we desire to proceed in all our doings. Grant that the sublime principles of Freemasonry may so subdue every discordant passion within us, so harmonize and enrich our hearts with Thine own love and goodness, that the Lodge at this time may humbly reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before Thy throne! Amen! Response: So mote it be!

In this prayer we acknowledge that God is the Creator and the giver of all that is good; we state that we are meeting in His name. Think a minute about what that means, everything we do or say while in lodge assembled is done or said in His name and should be uplifting to each other, society and should glorify Him. Do we live up to this? Do we even try?

We pray that the “sublime principles of Freemasonry” should soften our hearts and minds and allow us to be in complete harmony with our Brethren. When we say the sublime principles of Freemasonry, when we call the Master Mason Degree the sublime degree, we are saying that Freemasonry is of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth. Our Lodge is to be a reflection of Heaven itself. Although this is a corporate prayer, we make it personal and accept it as our own when we respond, “So Mote It Be” we are agreeing and declaring it our personal prayer.

Note that the alternate version does not do nearly as well at putting us in the mood of reverence as the longer prayer:

Supreme Ruler of the Universe, we would reverently invoke Thy blessing at this time. Wilt Thou be pleased to grant that this meeting, thus begun in order, may be conducted in peace and closed in harmony! Amen! Response: So mote it be!

Consider well the atmosphere that you want to create as you open the Lodge as a sacred place of worship.

The closing prayer is equally reverent as the opening prayer; it addresses our interactions while in lodge and our obligations to each other and the world while outside of the lodge.

Supreme Architect of the Universe, accept our humble praises for the many mercies and blessings which Thy bounty has conferred upon us, and especially for this friendly and social intercourse. Pardon, we beseech Thee, whatever Thou hast seen amiss in us since we have been together, and continue unto us Thy presence, protection and blessing. Make us sensible of the renewed obligations we are under: to love Thee supremely and to be friendly to each other. May all our irregular passions be subdued and may we daily increase in Faith, Hope and Charity, but more especially in that charity which is the bond of peace and the perfection of every virtue. Wilt thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may so practice. Amen! Response: So mote it be!

We start out thanking Him that for his mercy and for the blessings he has bestowed on us. We then thank him for allowing us to meet together as Masons and friends. We should remember to always acknowledge what He has allowed us to do and what we do through Him. We should thank him for each other; our Brethren are a blessing to us. We ask for forgiveness for anything we may have said or done that does not lift each other up nor glorify Him. Our prayer is that we remain under His care and protection.

We are reminded that we renew our obligations to Him and to each other every time we open and close the Lodge. We pray for help in subduing our irregular passions and increasing in Faith, Hope and Charity. We hope to demonstrate virtue with the aid of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, to put aside the imperfections that are inherent in Man. We are not trying to suppress all of our passions, just our irregular passions. Some passions are to be desired: bravery; study; music; faith, etc. Irregular passions are when we let our passions (anger, lust, envy, greed, etc.) overcome us and we act outside of laws rules or customs of our Craft or society in general. We need Him to influence our hearts and minds to meet this goal. We should take the sacredness of the Lodge room to the world so that they can get a glimpse of the Divine.

The shorter version also calls on Him to help us to practice the tenets of our Craft outside the Lodge. It reminds us that we are to learn great moral duties and that we should revere the Word of God and study and obey His laws.

Supreme Grand Master, Ruler of Heaven and Earth: Now that we are about to separate and return to our respective places of abode, wilt Thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may each practice out of the Lodge those great moral duties which are taught in it; and, with reverence, study and obey the laws which Thou hast given us in Thy Holy Word. Amen! Response: So mote it be!

Let us never forget that we should always turn to Him before we enter into any great or important undertaking; like getting out of bed, going to work, dealing with our family, driving our car, shopping for groceries or attending Lodge. In everything we do, let us try to reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before the throne of God.

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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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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

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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