Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Kneel Where You Now Stand

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

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

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

Do not defer prayer.

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The Compasses

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What come you here to do?

The second question we ask Entered Apprentice Masons is, “What come you here to do?” Most of us remember the answer, “To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Freemasonry.” This is quite a statement. It demonstrates that, when we petitioned a Lodge for the Degrees of Freemasonry, we recognized that there were things about ourselves that we needed to improve. It is said that the first step towards recovery (improvement) is recognizing that you have a problem. I would hazard a guess that most of us did not fully understand the magnitude of the change that Freemasonry can make in us, if we will work within her precepts and doctrine. I confess that I did not completely understand the journey on which I was embarking when I asked my Father-in-Law for a Petition. Yes, I came of my own free will and accord, but I did not have a lot of knowledge of the Craft, I just knew that my Wife’s Father was a Mason and he was a good man and I wanted to be like him.

There are some important lessons to be learned by this simple question and answer: Q: What come you here to do?” A: “To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Freemasonry.” First, we come, we are not brought, it is our choice and we enter into this of our own volition. No one can force us to become Masons, and, if they did, we would not properly learn the lessons of Initiation.

Second, we come to learn. To say ‘Masonic Education’ is redundant; Freemasonry IS education. Every step of our journey from profane candidate to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and beyond involves learning lessons that should dramatically change our lives and our perspectives on how we treat each other, ourselves and our God.  We should never stop learning as long as we can study the writings of great Masons, listen to lectures in the degrees or attend a Lodge Meeting. I have had Mason’s in their 80’s and 90’s attend Masonic Education events; they never want to stop learning.

Third, we come to learn to “subdue our passions.” What passions? Ambition, avarice, lust, anger, envy, hatred, malevolence, intolerance, revenge. These are the passions that infest the heart of Man; against which Masonry has always warred. One of the lessons that we learn is that we cannot overcome these passions without the aid and support from on high; only through the grace and help of God can we ever hope to overcome these passions.

Fourth, we come to “improve myself”, we do not come to ‘Perfect’ ourselves. The best and greatest Freemason is not perfect, because it is not possible for any man to be perfect. Pike tells us that when we achieve the Degree and title of Master Mason, we should have attained the ability to use our Moral Sense and Reason to have Habitual mastery of our passions. This does not mean we will never err, it means that our normal disposition does not include the lower passions. We can usually control ourselves, and when we do not, we quickly recognize our faults and seek redress with anyone we have offended.

Fifth and lastly, we seek to improve ourselves through Freemasonry. Freemasonry, as an heir to the Ancient Mysteries, is uniquely suited to this purpose. We cannot lose sight of the fact that Freemasonry is an Initiatic fraternity, which is designed to strip bare the old man to build a new man in his place. The white lambskin apron symbolizes this purity of soul that we seek to achieve. How does Freemasonry help us to improve ourselves? By systematically tearing down our old convictions and teaching us lessons of conduct and understanding whose roots are as ancient as our Race. While we perform our Rituals in a Corporate manner, the lessons are intensely personal and can only be achieved by us as individuals, opening our conscious to the teaching of the Ages. For some, this understanding will be evident on the night they are Raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason; for most of us this is a long journey that can last a lifetime, for we are always in need of more improvement. No man can impart the true secret of Freemasonry; we must all find this for ourselves.

What come you here to do? To learn to subdue my passions and to improve myself in Freemasonry.

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Members or Masons?

One day classes, rushing through degrees, no mentoring program; it seems like modern Freemasonry is dedicated on getting as many men in the Fraternity as possible, not just the best men that are willing and capable of understanding the true philosophy of the Craft and our Rituals. When a man petitions a Lodge, do we ensure he understands that this is not a “men’s club?’ Do we sit down with him and answer his questions? His wife’s questions? Do we at least give him the Pre-Initiation book from the Lodge System of Masonic Education? I know that many consider the term Masonic Education to mean stale, boring talks about a portion of the ritual read in monotone in a Lodge Meeting. Masonic Education begins with the Brother that answers the question, “What does it take to become a Mason?” Our entire reason for existing as an organization is to educate men to become Masons. We do this through a series of three Initiations.

Are we truly educating a candidate if he is Initiated, Passed two weeks later and Raised to “The Sublime Degree of Master Mason” two weeks after that? Just how sublime do you think his experience is with this compressed timeline of such momentous events? He can repeat the catechism, but probably cannot explain what any of it means. We have made a member, but not necessarily a Mason. I can tell you from experience that this does not make a man a Mason. Yes, he has a dues card, yes he knows (or thinks he knows) the “secrets” of a Master Mason, yes, he can sit Lodge and visit other Lodges. But can he describe the ways in which Masonry changed his life? Ours is an initiatic order; all ancient initiatic orders were established to teach great truths and to enable men to change and grow in all aspects of their lives and their understanding of the true nature of Man and God.

If our rituals and ceremonies do not affect this kind of change in our candidates, they would be better off joining Kiwanis or the Rotary Club. Mason’s are not appointed, they are evolved. It is my desire to see our Lodge helping men to become Masons, not just Members.

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