Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book Review: Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry

Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry, By Samuel Friedman, Fairport, NY, SelfPublished, 2015,. ISBN-13: 978-0996652803.

Samuel Friedman has written a thought-provoking book, Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry, to help the Craft understand the needs and wants of the next generation of Freemasons. As a new Mason and a Millennial, he is well-suited to address this topic. He does a pretty good job describing the Millennial Generation; I came away with a better understanding of this group. This understanding is important as we hope to attract this very large generation into our ancient Fraternity.

Mr. Friedman describes how Freemasons were involved in many of the democratic revolutions of the past, including the American war of independence from Great Britain. He feels that Freemasonry has abdicated our responsibility of being a beacon of moral and philosophical light to our communities and nation.

The Observance Lodge concept is discussed and Mr. Friedman believes this to be an important aspect of the lodge experience going forward, especially for the Millennial Generation. He feels that this generation will find the solemnity and structure of an Observant Lodge appealing and meet their needs.

While I enjoyed the book overall and found items that will be useful for me to take and try to enact in my lodges, I do not agree with some of his conclusions. This is most true when he discussed that we should not have National Flags in the Lodge and also touched on other social issues that Grand Lodges are struggling with in today’s changing times. I recommend this book for any Brother trying to better understand the next generation and how to shape our Craft to meet their needs.

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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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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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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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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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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry

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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