“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.”



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.