As leaders of the Masonic Fraternity in this district, you often are called upon to answer questions about Lodge practices and protocol. One question that sometimes has provoked discussion concerns what attire is deemed proper to wear when attending Lodge. In Virginia, the only guidance found in the Methodical Digest is in Section 3.01 titled, “How Brother Must be Clothed in Lodge,” and states quite simply “Every Brother must always appear in his Lodge properly clothed and in clean and decent apparel.” This leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. Clearly outrageous and provocative attire should not be accepted, but other differences should not lead to impolite or unkind behavior on the part of one Mason to another. In this regard, the views expressed by a Minnesota Mason – one who is quite an accomplished Masonic scholar and author – are shared with you.
Which attire to wear that is deemed as proper when attending Lodge, is a hot topic in many Lodges. There are times when one Brother thinks another isn’t dressed properly for Lodge, and says so to him or others. Of 1
course, once words have been voiced, it’s not possible to retrieve them. This behavior has caused stress to some Brothers and stress isn’t a good
thing: it can cause real problems – from strained relations to illness. Looking for actual instructions on how a Mason ought to be dressed is tough to find in Grand Lodge Regulations. In my jurisdiction, however, a hint on what to do when dressing for Lodge can be found in the Grand Lodge of Minnesota Quest Book, which has the very first instructions the newly elected petitioner for the degrees receives from the Master and the Lodge. The instructions on how to dress are good for a candidate to know, and, I think, also good for all Masons to keep in mind, as they prepare to attend Lodge. Here they are:
“Lustration, or the washing with water, was a rite practiced by our ancient Brethren, before any act of devotion. It symbolized the dissolution of past error and transgression, in preparation for the beginning of a new life phase.” “As you bathe, cleansing your body before you come to your initiation, think of the laving water as a symbol of such purification. Put on your freshest linen. Come as a suppliant.”
“Search your heart before you go to your investiture. Is there aught of hate, envy, meanness of spirit there? If so, do all that lies within your power to be rid of it. If you have any misunderstanding with any man, which can be corrected, do what you can to set this aright before you enter the Lodge.”
There is much to think about and learn in those two short paragraphs. To me, it seems reasonable to do our best to come to Lodge with a clean heart and body, to come with a pleasant outlook, eager and happy to spend time with our Lodge Brothers, to do our best to leave the work-a-day world outside of the Lodge building, and certainly outside of the Lodge room. Also, we should be dressed in our freshest linen. “Freshest Linen” is what a Mason should wear to Lodge. Freemasonry does not dictate a certain kind of clothes to wear. It simply says we should wear our freshest linen. There are some Lodges where the custom, or possibly the Lodge by-laws, will dictate that members and visitors dress according to a certain “dress ode”; if that’s the case, that’s just fine. I personally know of only one Lodge in my jurisdiction where there is a custom or a certain “dress code.” I like attending that Lodge; I have such a fine time there; it’s a Traditional Observance Lodge, and everyone attending wears either a tux or a dark suit. All visitors are informed of the dress code before they arrive, so it’s not a surprise to anyone. In the other Lodges I’m familiar with, Masons come dressed as they prefer. Most Lodges are eclectic in attire, as is the male population, so it’s natural to see the Masons wearing a variety of clothing when they attend their Lodges. Getting back to “fresh linen,” the natural question to ask ourselves is, how fresh is the linen or clothing I’m intending to wear to Lodge?
One of the complaints I have heard voiced quite a bit is that there are Masons who come to Lodge still wearing their work clothes. Some “work clothes” are easier to spot than others. Some men don’t own a suit or a tux, or if they have them, they prefer not to wear that kind of clothing, and do so only when they must. One Mason, as a result of an illness, could no longer wear his “good” clothes, so he came to Lodge in clean bib overalls with a clean shirt: Contrast this with another Mason; one who did not have the same physical problem, and wore a suit and a tie to Lodge, but he also wore that suit and tie to work, and would be working right up to the time he got into the car to drive to Lodge: If comments were made on how each of them were attired when they arrived at Lodge, who should the favorable or unfavorable comments likely be about? Who was wearing their work clothes? Who actually wore the “freshest linen”? As I mentioned earlier, when Masons comment – verbally or nonverbally – about how another Mason should dress for Lodge, it may cause stress, and a Mason should not experience stress when he attends his Lodge. In this regard, keep in mind another thing mentioned in Quest Book #1 is, “To a Mason, his Lodge is his Masonic home.” Being his home and the home of his Brothers, he and they should all dress in their “freshest linen,” and come into the Lodge with an open, accepting mind to enjoy the fellowship afforded by Masons assembling for enjoyment and for the learning that can and ought to be a part of every Masonic communication. I guess the lesson here is that, within reason, tolerating variation I guess the lesson here is that, within reason, tolerating variations in dress is more Masonic than embarrassing a Brother.
“HOW 2 DRESS 4 LODGE”
By Ed Halpaus,
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota
Many years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the bleak shores of New England, four logical routes were already recognized for a Canal across the Isthmus between North and South America and surveys had been made with the idea in view of creating a man-made channel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific, is believed to have been the first to conceive the idea of uniting the two oceans by a canal. In 1529 Alvaro de Saavedra completed plans for the building of an inter-oceanic waterway, but died before his plans could be submitted to his king. In 1534 Charles V ordered the Governor of the Region of Panama to make surveys of a route following the Chagres River, which is more or less the course of the present Panama Canal. This was done but the Governor reported that no monarch could hope to accomplish such a feat as joining the two oceans.
Nothing much was done for nearly two centuries until near the end of the 18th century, Baron Von Humboldt, the famous geographer, visited the Isthmus and became much interested in the matter. His writings were widely read in England, France, Spain, and the United States. In 1814 the Spaniard Cortez adopted a formal decree for the construction of the Isthmian Canal and authorized the formation of a company to undertake the work. Within a decade all of Spain's colonies in Central and South America established their independence and the possibility of Spain taking part in the great project faded away.
The first comprehensive survey by the French was made in 1843 by Napoleon Garella. He favored the Panama Route and submitted plans to utilize the waters of the Chagres River. He proposed a ship tunnel through the continental divide and a canal with 34 locks on the Atlantic slope and 16 on the Pacific. He estimated the cost of the canal with a tunnel at $25,000,000 and at $28,000,000 with an open cut.
Soon after numerous other explorations were made by the Government and private companies of the United States, Great Britain and France. Among the countless proposals made, none was more fanciful, considering present day ship traffic, than the ship railway proposed in 1881, by James B. Eads, capable of transporting, in a specially built ship cradle, ocean-going vessels of up to 5000 tons.
The first definite step toward the actual construction of the Panama Canal was taken on the morning of May 15, 1879, when there met in Paris a distinguished group of men of several nationalities to discuss and decide where and how the canal might be constructed. The movement to assemble this group was initiated by Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, the famed builder of the Suez Canal. A sea level canal was decided upon and the Compagnie Universalle du Canal Interocenique was formed with de Lesseps as President.
In January 1881, the first detachment of workers was sent out. Between 1882 and 1888 the work went forward with dispatch and much was accomplished, but at great cost of human lives and money. After seven years of work, it was found that a sea level canal was not feasible and a provisional change of plans was made which provided for a high level canal with a system of locks. Needless to say the work failed. The State of Panama revolted and declared its independence from Colombia on November 3, 1903. A treaty was negotiated between Panama and the United States and on May 4, 1904, Lt. Mark Brooke, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, acting in accordance with instructions received from the Secretary of War, went to the headquarters of the French Canal Company and accepted, in the name of the United States, the transfer of its properties for the sum of $40,000,000.
You are all familiar with the problems that the United States encountered so there is no need to go into details except to say that on August 15, 1914 the Canal was opened to traffic.
With that bit of background, let us get back to the main subject.
Masonry in the Canal Zone had its beginnings in 1898 when Sojourners Lodge No. 874 was founded in Colon, Republic of Panama, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. As more and more Americans arrived on the Isthmus to work for the Panama Railroad and the Canal, they began to apply to Sojourners Lodge as affiliated members or as candidates for the degrees. Over a period of years the membership in Sojourners Lodge became predominantly American. The long delays in communications between Scotland and the desire for closer ties with their homeland, led the members to seek a connection with a Grand Lodge in the United States. One of the Grand Lodges contacted was the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and on September 11, 1912, Most Worshipful Everett C. Benton, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, announced in the regular Quarterly Communication that "I have granted two dispensations for new lodges--one at the Canal Zone, Panama, called 'Sojourners Lodge' ...." At the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge held December 11, 1912, the Committee on Charters and By-laws recommended that a Charter be issued. This recommendation was unanimously approved by the Grand Lodge and Sojourners Lodge became the senior lodge on the Canal Zone.
On September 11, 1912, forty-three Masons submitted a prayer for dispensation to form Canal Zone Lodge on the Pacific side. The dispensation was issued on December 10, 1913. Prior to this the only lodge was on the Atlantic side which entailed travel across the Isthmus by railroad and a very long night.
Early in January, 1913, Most Worshipful Benton, accompanied by the Deputy Grand Master, Right Worshipful Herbert E. Fletcher and the Recording Grand Secretary, Right Worshipful Thomas W. Davis, journeyed to the Canal Zone and on January 18 opened a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the purpose of constituting Sojourners Lodge and installing the officers. It is recorded that there were present Masons from forty states, two dependencies and four foreign countries. There were 190 charter members in the lodge.
The following day, January 19, 1913, Most Worshipful Benton opened another Special Communication of the Grand Lodge at Ancon, Canal Zone, to pay a fraternal visit to Canal Zone Lodge at its first meeting under dispensation.
The following year, Right Worshipful Herbert Fletcher, now a Past Deputy Grand Master, returned to the Isthmus to open a Deputy Grand Lodge for the purpose of constituting Canal Zone Lodge and installing its officers on February 21, 1914.
During the forenoon of November 23, 1914, the USAT Buford docked at Pier 8, Cristobal, with the 5th U.S. Infantry on board. Among her passengers were 1st Lt. George W. Edgerly and many other Masons, both officers and enlisted men. The 5th Infantry was to be stationed at Camp Empire about midway of the Isthmus making attendance at either Sojourners or Canal Zone Lodges very inconvenient. As there were many Masons in this area, Brother Edgerly took it upon himself to call a meeting on April 27th for interested members of the Craft. Thirty-two Brethren attended and a petition was drawn up. It was voted to call themselves Army Lodge. The signatures of fifty Brethren were obtained and the petition forwarded. On June 8, 1915 the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson, granted the dispensation and appointed Brother Edgerly to be the first Master. On March 8, 1916 the Charter was granted but the formal ceremony of constitution was not held until May 20, 1916 at which time Worshipful John B. Fields, acting on a commission as proxy for the Grand Master, presided. More than three hundred Masons attended the affair.
In the latter part of 1915 a group of old-fashioned Masons, who had a desire for good fellowship and brotherhood, banded together to organize the "Twin City Masonic Club." The meetings of this Masonic Club were held regularly each month until May 4, 1917. In the latter part of 1916, they originated a Petition for a Dispensation to erect a Blue Lodge. This petition with fifty signatures was forwarded to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge. Their prayer was answered by permission to form Isthmian Lodge and met regularly under dispensation until May 31, 1918 at which time it was constituted.
In 1918 the Panama Canal moved the Lodge Building from Pariso to Pedro Miguel. In those days it was customary for the Canal Zone Government to furnish, for a nominal fee, a Lodge Hall in each community for meeting places for employee groups, unions, community and lodge meetings, etc.
Masonry continued to prosper and grow so that early in 1917, eighty- eight Master Masons signed a petition for a dispensation to start a lodge to be called Darien Lodge in Balboa. This was granted on May 16, 1917. At a Special Communication held on August 8, 1918 the lodge was constituted in full form according to the Ancient usages of the Craft. It was reported in the Communication of December 11, 1918, that a Special Warrant had been issued on December 6 to Worshipful Francis M. Easton and forty-three others to form Sibert Lodge (under dispensation) at Gatun, Canal Zone. The Charter for Sibert Lodge was approved by Grand Lodge on September 10, 1919 and the lodge was constituted by Right Worshipful Ralph Osborn, District Grand Master, on February 2, 1920.
The last lodge to be erected in the Canal Zone was Chagres Lodge which was warranted under dispensation on March 8, 1921. The Charter was approved on December 14,1921 by Grand Lodge and the lodge constituted at a Special Communication of the District Grand Lodge, February 6,1922, by Worshipful Clinton G. Garty acting as District Grand Master.
Seven lodges were constituted in the period 1912 through 1922. Masonry had expanded to the point where a close tie with the Grand Lodge was needed to expedite and handle the affairs in the Canal Zone.
In February of 1916 the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge gave the Grand Master authority to send someone to the Canal Zone to give attention to such matters connected with the lodges there as were demanding early consideration. During 1916 the Grand Master was unable to prevail upon anyone of suitable rank to undertake the trip to the Canal Zone. A petition for a dispensation for a new lodge at Pariso required careful deliberation and intimate knowledge of local conditions to assure a wise decision. Late in the year, the newly- formed Grand Lodge of Panama asked for recognition of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Accordingly, Most Worshipful Leon M. Abbott, immediately on being installed as Grand Master, prevailed upon Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson, his predecessor, to undertake the trip to the Canal Zone and issued, on January 4, 1917, a commission containing the following seven points: (l) To open a Deputy Grand Lodge for the purpose of the appointment and installation of a District Grand Master for the Canal Zone; (2) To deliver a dispensation to certain Brethren in Pariso, Canal Zone, who have petitioned to be formed into a lodge; (3) To hold one or more Lodges of Instruction or Exemplification of the work and ritual; (4) To make inquiry concerning the newly organized Grand Lodge of Panama and report to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts upon the advisability of recognizing the said Grand Lodge of Panama; (S) To negotiate the terms of a Treaty and execute a Protocol with the said Grand Lodge of Panama regarding the relations of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts with said Grand Lodge of Panama, such Treaty to have no force or effect until the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts shall extend Masonic recognition to the Grand Lodge of Panama and shall ratify such Treaty. Said Protocol may establish such relations temporarily and until such Treaty shall be ratified by both of said Grand Lodges or shall be rejected by either of them; (6) To do and perform all these acts for the good of the Craft in the Canal Zone as I should myself have power to do if personally present; (7) In all these matters our Special Deputy is to have power to act or refrain from action in the exercise of his discretion.
Most Worshipful Johnson set sail from New York on January 13, 1917 and after a stop in Cuba where he was entertained by officials of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, he arrived in Cristobal on January 21 where he was met by Captain Ralph Osborn, later to become District Grand Master. There ensued a number of meetings with local Craftsmen and sightseeing to an extent that Brother Stanley Ford recorded in the Canal Zone Orient that "Never in the history of the Panama Canal has any party seen more of the Canal Zone and the Canal in so short a space of time than did Mr. and Mrs. Melvin M. Johnson and their son, Maynard, Jr., and Mr. and Mrs. William H. L. Odell during their eleven days' stay with us."
On January 30, 1917 Most Worshipful Johnson met with the Grand Lodge of Panama and signed the Treaty which is still in effect after sixty years. This Treaty governs the relationships between the lodges of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the Grand Lodge of Panama.
On January 31, 1917 Most Worshipful Johnson opened a Deputy Grand Lodge at Cristobal, Canal Zone, at which his commission from the Grand Master was read in the presence of about three hundred Masons. Right Worshipful Herbert A. White was installed as the first District Grand Master of the Canal Zone Masonic District, the officers of Sojourners Lodge were installed, and the dispensation for Isthmian Lodge was presented to the committee of that lodge. Right Worshipful White was Judge Advocate for the Canal Zone, a Major in the Army, a Past Master of Army Lodge at Empire and of Hancock Lodge No. 311, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The evening ended with the exemplification of the second section of the third degree.
The term of Right Worshipful White was short, lasting only about one year as he was called by military duties to another theater of the World War. The report of the Grand Master on December 11, 1918 that Right Worshipful White had left the Canal Zone stated that his term in office was brief, "but his service most important. He had charge of affairs in the Canal Zone at a vital and critical period in the development of our work there and by his wisdom, sound judgement, and active as well as powerful personality, he was enabled to discharge the duties of his office with signal success, to his own honor and the advancement of the Fraternity. It is a cause for regret that conditions were such that he could not be at liberty longer to serve the Fraternity in this important position."
In a Special Communication of the District Grand Lodge held Friday, May 31, 1918 at Cristobal, Right Worshipful Ralph Osborn was installed (in English) by Most Worshipful Guillermo Andreve, Grand Master of Panama, and the officers of the Grand Lodge of Panama. The Grand Master reported that "The occasion was a very delightful one and marked another step in the development and strengthening of the cordial relations which exist between the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the Grand Lodge of Panama." On this same night Right Worshipful Osborn and the District Grand Lodge constituted Isthmian Lodge and installed its officers. On Thursday, August 8, 1918 a Special Communication of the District Grand Lodge was opened at Balboa to constitute Darien Lodge and install its officers.
In the early days of the District Grand Lodge, because of the relatively few lodges and numbers of Past Masters available to serve as officers in the District Grand Lodge, officers often served several years in the same office. From 1917 to 1954, a period of thirty years, there were only four District Grand Masters, two of whom served sixteen and fifteen years respectively. In 1954 after Most Worshipful Whitfield Johnson had made his visit to the Canal Zone, he reported to Grand Lodge that ". . . Although upon my election as Grand Master, I had no first-hand knowledge, after conferring with those who did, and after carefully weighing the various points of view, it seemed to me that there was a sufficient number of competent and qualified Brethren in the office of District Grand Master analagous to our Constitutional limitation of three years for the Grand Master ....".
It has been the custom for each Grand Master to make an extended visit to the Canal Zone, ten to fourteen days, once during his term of office, generally during the second year. These visits have taken the form of visiting two or three lodge groups in joint communication at which a degree would be conferred, visitation to the District Master's Reception for all Masons on the Isthmus and their wives, to meet the Grand Master and his official party. The visits have included meeting certain high officials of the Panama Canal and military, sightseeing in both the Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama.
In 1913 at the end of the Masonic year, September 30, there was a membership of 239. This continued to grow to a peak of 4,036 in 1962 and as of September 30, 1977, the membership stood at 3,542. The busiest years were during the period of 1943 to 1948, when a total of 2,127 were initiated. These were the years during and just after World War II.
York Rite Masonry was introduced as early as 1910 when a dispensation was issued for Canal Zone Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons, located on the Pacific side, and on October 30, 1916, one was issued for Canal Zone Chapter No. 2 located on the Atlantic side. Canal Zone Commandery No. 1, K. T. and Canal Zone Council No. 1, R. & S.M. followed in due time.
Scottish Rite, under the Southern Jurisdiction, followed along with the Shrine. Abou Saad Temple, A.A.N.O.M.S. has one of the largest Jurisdictions of any Temple, as it includes Central and South America as well as Puerto Rico.
There are now four Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star, two Chapters of DeMolay, and three Chapters of Rainbow for Girls. Two Chapters of National Sojourners and a Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine.
Masonry is still strong on the Isthmus but with the increased use of Panamanians in the Canal Organization and the resulting retirement of many Americans, attendance has decreased, resulting in the consolidation of Canal Zone and Isthmian Lodges into Canal Zone Isthmian Lodge in September, 1977.
RW Howard W. Osborn
Past District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge A. F. & A. M.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Short Talk Bulletin
Profane - from pro, without fanum, temple. Literally one before, or outside the temple. In the Masonic sense a profane is one who has not been initiated.
No, Im not a Mason. Ive never been asked to join!
How many times has this been said, usually with some indignation, in answer to the question, Are you a Mason? It comes to some men with a shock of distinct surprise that Freemasonry asks no man to join her ranks. In this refusal to proselyte - nay, in the distant prohibition of any proselyting - Freemasonry, curiously enough, joins hands with Brahminism, the religion of much of the Orient, which has the distinction among religions of attempting to make no converts. In its refusal to seek membership, Freemasonry stand alone among organizations. The reasons are dual: First, Freemasonry, greater than any man, no matter how important he may be, confers honor upon her initiates. She is never honored by any man seeking her mysteries. Second, it is an essential part of Freemasonry that a man come of his own free will and accord. The Fraternity obligates a candidate for all time. Once a Mason, always a Mason is a truth, no matter how little interest the member may take, no matter if he demits, no matter if he be dropped N.P.D. or even expelled; he cannot un-make himself as a Mason, nor can he avoid moral responsibility for the obligations he has assumed.
Could any man say: I joined under a misapprehension, I was over persuaded, I was argued into membership, he might think himself possessed of just such a cause and a reason for a failure to live up to the obligations which no longer interest him. But no man does so join. He must declare in his petition, and around a dozen times during the course of his progress through the degrees, that his application is voluntary. Were any persuasion used upon him before he signed his petition, he could not truthfully state that his entry was of his own free will and accord.
This is pretty well grounded in most Freemasons. But sometimes it has the untoward effect of making a Mason Chary of giving legitimate information about the Fraternity, properly sought for a worthy purpose. It is highly improper to say to ones friend I wish youd join my lodge, Id like to see you enjoy the advantages of Freemasonry. It is wholly legitimate to answer a serious question asked by some man who is considering making an application. Some good brethren when asked questions about Masonry by the profane are puzzled as to just how much they may tell. Knowing well certain matters of which they must not speak, they are not always sure just where these end, and where begins that which may not be told. Much more is tellable than is secret. Literally thousands and multiplied thousands of books have been written on and about the Ancient Craft; the Aporetta, or secrets of Freemasonry, could they be written at all, might be compressed within a few pages. Let us suppose then, that we are asked by a sincere man: Tell me something of Freemasonry. I think I would like to be a Freemason, but I know very little about it.
Such a query is the key which may legitimately unlock our lips about those outward matters concerning the Fraternity which all the world may know.
We may begin by assuring the questioner that Freemasonry brings as many duties and responsibilities as it does pleasures and rewards. The Freemason becomes a link in a chain; he must be as strong as the next link or we want him not. He who looks to the Fraternity to provides all, give all, and receive nothing, should apply to some other organization.
It is legitimate to explain the structure of Freemasonry to a seriously interested questioner. Freemasons gather together in lodges; local organizations chartered by, and holding existence under the Grand Lodge of the State in which they live and are. A lodge comes into being when the Grand Master gives a dispensation to meet, U.D. (Under Dispensation); it becomes a regular lodge when its Charter is granted by the Grand Lodge.
It is no secret that a lodge has a Master, two Wardens, two Deacons, a Secretary and a Treasurer, etc. It is not, perhaps, necessary to go at length into the several duties of these officers, but it may be wise to explain the essential difference between a Worshipful Master of a Lodge, and the President or other presiding officer of secular bodies. A Master, once installed, may not be removed by his brethren, only by the Grand Master or the Grand Lodge. Within bounds he is all powerful in his Lodge; not the servant of his brethren, as is the presiding officer of a club, but literally the Master, with power to control and limit debate, put or not put motions, open and close Lodge at his pleasure, call special meetings, and so on. All such matters are set forth in printed books and usually in the code or Ahiman Rezon of the Grand Lodge.
Lodges naturally and rightly attempt to guard their West Gates against the entry of men who desire only to receive Masonic charity. For this reason it is natural to look with especially careful eyes at the petition of the elderly man. When a man of mature years inquires regarding Freemasonry, we may well explain that while a Masons Charity is as boundless as his ability, Freemasonry. is not, per se, an eleemosynary institution. It does not exist primarily for charitable purposes, nor is charity its greatest work. In many Jurisdictions are Masonic Homes, Hospitals, Schools, Charity Foundations intended for unfortunate members of the Fraternity, their widows and orphans - sometimes their mothers and sisters. They are not designed for the relief of the poor who are not members of the Fraternity, and those unconnected to members by blood ties. Therefore the man who desires to become a Mason that he may take advantage of its charity is turned back long before he reaches the West Gate. The more an applicant appears as if he may in the future need help, the more carefully does the investigating committee work to discover the facts.
Totally misunderstanding the purpose and spirit of Freemasonry some men seek it for business advantages. Freemasons naturally frown upon such petitions. But scorn should not be meted out to an ignorant profane seeking knowledge. A man may be a good citizen, a good churchman, a good businessman and yet know nothing of Freemasonry. If such a one, in the course of his inquiry regarding the Fraternity, exhibits an interest in the business advantages which may inure to him through membership in a lodge, it is legitimate to explain - courteously but with emphasis - that Freemasonry is not a Board of Trade, a Chamber of Commerce, a Luncheon or Commercial Club; and that it makes no effort to aid its members in commercial relations. The man who wants to become a Freemason because he thinks Freemasonry can help him can never be a good Mason. He who desires Freemasonry because he thinks he can help his fellows is already a Mason in his heart.
Other things being equal, Masons usually prefer to have business relations with their brethren, in the same way a man may prefer to buy footwear from his blood brother who is in the shoe business. But no one will pay his blood brother ten dollars a pair for shoes he can buy for half price from a non-relative!
It is unquestionable true, and may be stated to the serious inquirer, that Freemasonry does play a quiet and unostentatious part in the business lives of its members. But it should be emphasized that this is a by-product of mutual friendship and association, and the he who seeks Freemasonry for this alone will be bitterly disappointed. We all know of popular members of our lodge who win and keep the business of their brethren because of their likability. But we also know that this is not the result of any effort by the successful brother to win that which is freely given him. The brother who attempts to make his lodge association a feeder for his vocation is invariably hit by the boomerang of an aroused antipathy which hurts as much as he hoped to be helped.
All this may be explained to the inquirer. We may well quote a part of the Charge to an Entered Apprentice, as it is printed in most Jurisdictions: If, in the circle of your acquaintance, you find a person desirous of being initiated into Masonry, be particularly attentive not to recommend him, unless you are convinced that he will conform to our rules, the honor, glory and reputation of the Fraternity may be firmly established, and the world at large convinced of its good effects.
Often a Mason is asked by a profane: What does Masonry stand for?
What does it do?
It is much more difficult to explain to one without the mystic circle what Masonry does, than what it is. What Masonry stands for should be easy for any Freemason to explain. We may inform the inquirer that the Fraternity stands for country, home and public school; for law and order; and decency; for honor, morality and religion; for brotherhood, relief and the inculcation of truth. Parts of our ritual are printed in books and in monitors. There is nothing secret about this; while we do not go about spouting non-secret ritual upon all occasions; there is no reason why we should not and many reasons why we should, to be able to point out by such quotations some of the principles of Masonry. The essential matter is to give a true picture of the Fraternity to all who express a desire for it. Freemasonry is not a secret society - although it is often incorrectly so called - but a society with secrets which is quite another matter. In a secret society the membership, existence and whereabouts is a secret. Freemasonrys membership, existence or whereabouts is no secret. Men proudly wear the emblems on their coats and watch chains. Many Grand Lodges publish lists of their members. Most Grand Lodges maintain card systems of all Masons in their Jurisdictions, so that it is possible to ascertain whether or not a certain John Smith is a Mason. Our Temples are proud buildings, well built, handsome monuments for all the world to see. Our printed Proceedings are to be had in every library. Newspapers carry notices of lodge matters, A flourishing Masonic Press carries news of the Craft far and wide. Obviously, we are not secret although we possess jealously guarded secrets. Any profane has a natural right to know something about Masonry that he may decide whether it is an organization with which he wishes to associate. If we refrain from advertising our activities it is not because they are secret, but because they are private; not because they must not be told when there is a reason for telling them, but because we do not wish to persuade any man to our doors. We want him to come, if he comes at all, from an inherent desire, from having conceived a regard for the Fraternity, from his belief that he has something to offer Masonry and that Masonry has something to offer him.
Such a man naturally asks questions of Freemasons. Once he has made inquiry, the door is opened and we may tell him much. Let us make sure that what we tell him is less, rather than more than the truth. Let us never soil our gentle Craft with horrid tales of goats and buttings of backing down and third degree tortures. Let us speak up like men and Masons and say roundly that there is nothing in Ancient Craft Masonry which is undignified, humorous, funny or playful; let us assure him with solemnity that our ceremonies are beautiful, impressive and instructive; and that behind and beyond the outward form of the degrees is a spiritual truth, a body of inner knowledge, an arena of wisdom which benefits any man who receives it, and in direct proportion to his ability to see behind the symbol to the reality.
Let us minimize the pleasures, and stress the duties when talking to a profane who wishes to learn of our lodges and their work. True, the innocent mirth of Freemasonry, to quote the Old Charge, is of interest and value to us all. Many a lodge is not only a center of union but a center of social intercourse in its home town. Its amusements and entertainments may be, and often are, of real value to the community. But a lodge does not exist merely to entertain and to amuse; in talking to the profane inquirer, let us lay less emphasis on the by-products of play, and draw his attention more to the serious and worthwhile sides of lodge life; charity, instruction, fellowship, mutual trust and dependence; religion without bias or doctrine - in other words, brotherhood.
So shall we give an intelligent and Masonic answer to an intelligent and Masonic question, and, perhaps, lay the foundation on which the bridge will be built over which a new initiate may walk from the North of darkness into the East of Masonic Light!
SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.IX September, 1931 No.9
With our population increasing rapidly, with the longest sustained era of prosperity in the history of our country, with shorter working hours and, consequently, more time for activities of one's choice, it would seem that membership in Masonry would be increasing steadily.
However, in most Grand Jurisdictions, we find year after year an alarming loss in membership. Many of our Brethren are laying aside the working tools of life. Many more are giving up their Masonic affiliation by simply refusing to pay their dues. When we add that each year finds fewer men petitioning for the Degrees, the overall situation presents a picture that is of grave concern to those of us who realize that no other organization, be it civic or fraternal, has as much to offer its membership as does the Masonic Fraternity.
Before we criticize our former Brethren too severely for allowing their membership in the Craft to lapse for non-payment of dues, perhaps we should take a long, hard look at Masonry as it is being exemplified in our Lodges today, particularly in relation to the leadership qualities of the officers in our respective Lodges. In doing so, let's attempt to ascertain the reason for our present dual dilemma of suspensions on the one hand and the lack of interest in the Fraternity by non-members on the other.
Today young men reaching their majority are better educated than those of any generation which has preceded them. They have been taught by us to spend their leisure time wisely and to affiliate with organizations that are run smoothly and efficiently by competent people with leadership ability. Is it any wonder that it is difficult to keep them interested in an inefficiently run Masonic Lodge? Have you ever observed a business fail when it seemed to have all the ingredients for a successful future? Not long ago a new business opened its doors in an excellent location. Its owner had ample capital for the venture, the products offered for sale were good, and the prices were competitive. Everyone predicted a bright future for this concern, but in less than a year it failed dismally. The owner did not have the leadership qualities necessary and would not employ the right kind of personnel to operate the business successfully.
We know that the mission of Masonry is laudable, that through its teachings good men become even better men. We have also experienced the warm fraternal fellowship which the association with our Brethren and their families affords us. In view of this, interest in Masonry, from both within and without the Fraternity, should be on the increase. Why, then, do we find the opposite to be true?
Perhaps the fault lies in the fact that we have allowed our Lodges in many instances to be run by Brethren who do not have the leadership qualities necessary for the efficient operation of any organization, more especially a Masonic Lodge. I have seen Brethren who would not even have been assigned the chairmanship of a relatively unimportant committee in a going venture of any nature because of their inability to get the job done effectively serving as Masters of Lodges with membership in the hundreds. Yes, in many instances Masonry is using for its leaders Brethren who would not be accepted for leadership anywhere else. This is not to cast aspersions against these Brethren. They are good men and good Masons, but Brethren who simply should not be allowed to become Masters of their Lodges because of their inability to perform the duties of the office in a satisfactory manner.
Find a Lodge whose Master and other officers are leaders in the true sense of the word, and you will find a Lodge in which the Brethren value their membership, participate in the activities of the Lodge, keep their membership active, and through their actions, in and out of the Lodge, attract other good men to petition for the Degrees.
Does the Masonic Fraternity have within its membership Brethren with leadership ability; and if so, why do we not put these Brethren's talents to active use in our Lodges?
In most Lodges the Master and other officers attempt only to use the Brethren for ritual assignments. A Lodge is fortunate if one out of ten of its members will accept a ritual assignment, and the other Brethren are usually not given anything at all to do.
Masonry without acceptable ritual in the opening and closing of the Lodge and in the conferring of the three Symbolic Degrees cannot fulfill its true mission as a Lodge. The Master who has real leadership ability will see that his Lodge is proficient in ritual. He will then devote his energies to other avenues of service, thus assuring his Lodge a well-rounded program of Masonic activity.
A pamphlet entitled "To Set the Craft to Labor" has been prepared for the use of Lodge officers in Arkansas. In this pamphlet the Master is urged to assign each Master Mason, within easy driving distance of his Lodge, one or more specific responsibilities. This is to be done through committee assignments. The work of some twenty-five committees is spelled out in detail for the Master's guidance. At the end of each committee assignment in the pamphlet space is provided for the Master to list the Chairman and the other members of that particular committee.
The size of a Lodge, the nature of the community in which it is located, and the type of activities conducted by the Lodge will determine how many committees are needed to carry on an active and sound program of Masonry. A small Lodge will adjust downward the number of committee assignments to those which can best fill its needs. A Lodge with a big membership may need to increase the number of committees in order to be certain that every member who lives nearby will have definite work to do for his Lodge. The idea is to give the general membership a job to do and then to exercise leadership by suggesting to them ideas, projects, programs, and activities on which they can work through committee assignments. For this plan to be effective, the Master should appoint his committees immediately after his installation and then call upon them for progress reports throughout the year.
Care should be exercised by the Master in choosing the Chairmen for the committees. A well-informed Brother, who is a skilled ritualist, should head up the Ritual, Lecturing, and Certification Committees. A Brother who enjoys preparing food and serving it should head the Dining Room Committee. A Brother who has the ability to write interesting news items should chair the Publicity Committee, etc. Once the membership is working actively for the Lodge, Brethren with leadership qualities will emerge.
It is high time that we in Masonry realize that the Master should be a man with aggressive leadership. 'For far too long we have used as a criteria for choosing Lodge officers Brethren who can quote a little ritual but who may otherwise evidence absolutely no leadership ability. These Brethren have never been called upon for leadership anywhere else and never will be.
In a thriving small town in Arkansas there was, until recently, a Lodge hall which was, to put it mildly, in a sad state of repair. The roof leaked, there were no rest room facilities, and
the Lodge was heated by unvented heaters. The Hall was on the second floor of a building with no cooling facilities, and in the summertime the heat was unbearable. For more than ten years the few faithful Brethren who attended Lodge tried as best they could to devise some method whereby they could build and equip a new Lodge Hall. Their efforts were in vain, and the Lodge continued its steady decline in both membership and general activity.
A man with leadership ability moved into this particular town and affiliated with the Lodge in question. As Master, he had served his former Lodge with distinction. In due time he was elected Secretary, and through his efforts some Brethren with leadership ability began to attend Lodge. The Lodge elected one of these aggressive young Brethren Master of the Lodge.
As his first order of business, the Master with the help of the Secretary examined the Lodge membership roll with a view to the selection of a committee to head up a building program. They found that the President of the Bank was a long-time member of the Lodge, that a successful building contractor and a prominent realtor, as well as other leaders in the community, were also members. A general meeting was called, and these Brethren with leadership ability and know-how in the fields of building and financing were invited to attend. Along with the faithful few who had held the Lodge together for years, they were asked to suggest ways in which a site could be secured and a Lodge Hall erected which would be a credit to both Masonry and the town. Within a very short time concrete plans were formulated, and a beautiful, functional Lodge Hall was erected. Today this particular Lodge is a credit to the community in which it is located, and Masonry benefits there from. Members with know-how qualities had been available for years, but lack of Lodge leadership had failed to generate interest prior to this time.
In many of our Lodges a Brother is expected to begin serving his Lodge as an officer in the station of Junior Master of Ceremonies. Normally this means that to work through the chairs and to serve as Master of the Lodge will take seven years. Most men with leadership ability are called upon in the community to give of their time and talents in many avenues of service. Because of this, many of these Brethren will refuse to give seven years' service to their Lodge, but would, in many instances, serve faithfully for three years. I submit to you that a real leader can contribute more to Masonry in three years than a great many of the of officers of our Lodges at present could contribute in three score years.
In summation, there is no easy way to attract leaders within the Fraternity. In fact, there is no easy way to attract a leader in any endeavor of any consequence. Yet, in our civic clubs leaders continue to emerge. In business, leadership asserts itself. In Masonry, we must learn the knack of involving our membership in our Masonic activities to the end that leaders will emerge.
If we do this, interest in Masonry from both within and without will increase to the end that our sons and those who come after them will have the privilege of becoming Master Masons in a Lodge in which they will value their membership.
MW Bro. Houston A. Brian
Past GM Grand Lodge of Arkansas
This Short Talk Bulletin was first presented at the 1969 Southwestern Conference on Masonic Education
In all the Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana (and many other Grand Jurisdictions) the Volume of the Sacred Law should be open at the Seventh Chapter of Amos in the Fellowcraft Degree. Why do we do this? This practice is not universal, but ours has the sanctity of long use and the sacredness of the familiar. Also, since one of the working tools of a Fellowcraft Mason is the Plumb, it is appropriate to open the Bible at the story about the plumbline of the Lord.
What do we really know about this man, the prophet Amos? Do we know why the Lord called him to deliver His message of judgment to His people of Israel?
Solomon received from his father, David, a powerful empire. During his latter years, however, it began to fall apart. Expensive building projects sapped the strength and loyalty of native Israelites. As the tributary nations saw the opportunity to assert their independence they did so and Solomon was unable to prevent the disintegration of the empire. Before Solomon's death the Aramaeans severed themselves from his kingdom, and shortly after he was succeeded by Rehoboam, a further split took place. With the breakdown of the monarchy, subject states declared their independence so that the territory once ruled by David was divided into autonomous units.
The portion of Solomon's empire north of Mount Hermon, extending as far as the Euphrates, revolted and formed the kingdom of Syria, with Damascus as its capital.
South of Syria was the kingdom of the ten tribes, known as Israel, or the Northern Kingdom, with its capital at Shechem. The Northern Kingdom included the larger portion of Palestine proper, an area of about 9,400 square miles.
The kingdom of Judah included the tribe of that name, a portion of Benjamin, and Simeon, which had been incorporated earlier into Judah. Kings of the Davidic line reigned over Judah until the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (587 B.C.)
Solomon retained control over Moab; but his successor found the Moabites hard to keep in subjection. Moab disappeared as a political power when Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the country.
South of the Dead Sea was the kingdom of Edom which had been conquered by David and remained tributary during the reign of Solomon.
The three kingdoms which developed from Solomon's kingdom in western Palestine--Syria, Israel and Judah--strove for supremacy. Wars were constant between Israel and Judah. With the threat to both Israel and Judah from the powerful Syrian state of Damascus, there developed a tendency for the two states to reconcile their differences.
During the reigns of Ussiah, king of Judah (783-742 B.C.), and Jeroboam II, king of Israel (786-746 B.C.), the sister states pushed their boundaries out to include the territories which once belonged to Israel under David and Solomon.
Many of the smaller nations were required to pay tribute to Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms collected tolls from the caravans that passed through their lands. In this period in both Israel and Judah there was a transition from an agricultural to a commercial way of life. Industries and cities sprang up which gave rise to a class of wealthy merchants and landholders.
This new wealthy class built winter and summer houses out of hewn stone elaborately adorned and decorated. They had couches inlaid with ivory, covered with the tiniest imported silk, upon which they reclined while eating prime cuts of meat, drinking wine out of bowls, and listening to strains of varied music.
But the presence of great wealth did not mean that there was no poverty in the land. The extremely rich had obtained much of their wealth by their merciless oppression of the poor, taking exactions of wheat from them. The merchants used false weights and measures in their business transactions, in addition to selling refuse wheat. Because these unscrupulous men were able to bribe the judges, no redress was left for the innocent .
The tragedy of all this was that Israel's social structure was completely disrupted. Israel had originally been a covenant community in which there was no class distinction. All men were equal before the law, God, and one another. Now all this had changed. Wealth, power, and affluence came to some in Israel. But the affluent, rather than using their wealth to benefit all of God's people, squandered it on luxuries and status symbols and used their newly gained power to keep their poor brothers in subjection.
One would think that, in the light of the conditions just described, there would have been little interest in religion in those days. Just the reverse was true. The people were very religious, especially the rich. Religious services were well attended; tithes and offerings were freely and punctually given; impressive festivals were held; and pilgrimages were made to the important religious centers. They thought they were in the favor of God and under His protection. However, just the opposite was true. The Lord despised their feasts and would not accept their sacrifices. Their worship was a profane travesty. It was an act of men and women morally unclean and unwilling to submit themselves to the searching discipline of God.
God had entered into a covenant with Israel. God had chosen Israel out of all the families of the earth. God had given her a land and had given her people special laws to guide them in the way they should go. It seems that Israel believed the covenant to be inviolable and that it gave her privileges and a license that no other nation had. But Israel broke her covenant. She used her freedom from bondage to enslave a large segment of her own people. The gift of the land she used for selfish purposes. She rejected the law of God and walked after lies.
What was God going to do in the face of Israel's sin? Would he ignore it? Would he wink at it? Or would he stop turning away the punishment from Israel? The answer was "No," he would stop turning away the punishment from Israel. The end had come upon Israel.
Was there no hope for Israel? Was there no way to escape the impending judgment of God? There was only a slight possibility--only that possibility found in the sovereignty of God. Here is where we begin the story about Amos.
Very little is known about the man Amos. He is never mentioned by any other biblical writer. All the information we have about him comes from the little book which bears his name. Amos' name probably means "burdened" or "burden-bearer."
Amos lived in Tekoa, a village in Judah about 11 miles south of Jerusalem and 18 miles west of the Dead Sea. Tekoa was located in a barren rockbound region surrounded on three sides by limestone hills and a breath-taking view of the Dead Sea.
Amos was a shepherd or herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees (wild figs). He was probably a very poor man since his sympathies were with the poor against their rich oppressors. Although he was a shepherd and one who performed menial tasks, he was by no means uneducated. His formal training might have been nil, but he was a keen observer of the ways of God and men. Awareness and sensitivity characterized the man. His literary style was free and pure.
Amos lived in the time of the earthquake, just as the Northern Kingdom of Israel was coming to a close. Seemingly before anyone else in his generation, Amos heard the lion's roar of God's wrath. He is generally recognized as the first of the writing prophets in Israel. He introduced a new element into Old Testament prophecy. He was the first to preach a message of judgment that meant the end of the kingdom of Israel.
At about 760 B.C. God called Amos to deliver His message of judgment to the people of Israel. In spite of his humble background, he was the one God chose to preach His message of repentance and warning to a rebellious nation. Amos possessed a sense of unquestioned obedience and a clear proclamation of God's message. He was committed to the Lord and His principles of holiness and righteousness.
Amos began his ministry with biting words of judgment against the six nations surrounding the land of Judah and Israel. Next he announced Cod's judgment against Judah, but Amos was only warming up to his main objective: a vivid description of God's judgment against the nation of Israel. Amos condemned the people of Israel for their oppression of the poor; worship of idols; rejection of God's salvation; and defilement of the Lord's holy name.
Twice Amos saw the judgment of God coming and interceded for Israel, and God turned away his judgment. But with the third vision of the plumbline, we come to the title of this dissertation.
"Thus He showed me: and behold the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand.
"And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, a plumbline. And said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel:
"I will not again pass by them any more. ' ' Amos 7:7-8
The prophet Amos was the prophet of righteousness and he saw the Lord God as judging Israel by means of the plumbline, signifying the unchanging standards of that righteousness.
Let us look further at this plumbline.
What is a plumbline? It is a simple tool made of a cord with a weight attached to one end. It is used by brick masons and other builders to test the verticality of a wall or other structures. If a wall or a foundation leans, it is out-of-plumb.
Why did God say, "I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel?" Because the plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our several stations before God and man. The people of Israel had sinned and in spite of the warnings of Amos, they had not reentered the fold. God made it very plain that each man must try himself by the unerring standard of the plumbline. The plumbline is the symbol of uprightness of character, of integrity, of honest and fair dealings among persons. To plumb one's life and actions is to test them by the eternal laws to God. In all these tests, the people of Israel had failed. That's why He said, "I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel."
So it is with Freemasonry. The real worth of a Mason can never be measured in the opinion of his fellows or in the Masonic honors he has attained. The standard by which a Mason must be judged is by his own evaluation of his conduct and by the principles which he knows to be the unerring and unchanging ones.
What can a Freemason expect to get from Freemasonry? The rewards of Freemasonry and the wages of Masons are endless, so long as a man is willing to strive for them. If he is content to be a "button Mason," paying his dues merely for the privilege of wearing a pin, this is just what he will get out of Masonry. If he is content to be a "knife-and-fork Mason," showing up at his lodge only when there is some type of banquet, he will receive only this from Masonry.
If, however, he measures himself by the plumb, and sets his standards accordingly, he will benefit from Masonic education, Masonic philosophy and from the association with the finest men in his community.
The standard by which a man judges himself as a Mason is the same unerring principle by which he judges himself as a family man, as a churchman, as a businessman, and as a citizen. He will learn to walk uprightly in all his endeavors, learning from the plumb the lesson of rectitude of conduct. Each man must stand by the plumbline which is set in the midst of God's people.
MW Bro. Ray W. Burgess
PGM Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana
Member Southern California Lodge of Research F & AM
This article was originally published in the Louisiana Freemason.
Colour is a fundamental element of masonic symbolism. It appears in the descriptions of aprons, sashes and other items of regalia, in the furnishings and wall-hangings of the lodge room for each degree or ceremony, in the robes worn in certain degrees, and in many other masonic accoutrements. The colours specified in each case appear to have no rational justification. As A.E. Waite wrote: "There is no recognized scheme or science of colors in Masonry. Here and there in our rituals we find an 'explanation' for the use of a certain colour, but this usually turns out to be merely a peg on which to hang a homiletic lecture about it, having little if any connection with the origins of its use."
This paper seeks to find some rationale behind the selection of colours as masonic symbols, restricting our examination to the Craft degrees, and those of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, with occasional reference to the Royal Arch.
It was early recognized that colours have a strong influence on the mind and therefore can be employed for certain moral or aesthetic ends, through symbolical, allegorical and mystical allusions. Newton wrote of 'the sensual and moral effects of colour,' where sensual must be understood as 'transmitted by the senses.' Goethe, too, wrote extensively on colour (over 2,000 pages! ).
Blue, then, is the Craft colour par excellence, used in aprons, collars, and elsewhere. Let us quote Bro. Chetwode Crawley. "The ordinary prosaic enquirer will see in the selection of blue as the distinctive colour of Freemasonry only the natural sequence of the legend of King Solomon's Temple. For the Jews had been Divinely commanded to wear...a 'riband of blue' (Numbers 15:38).' A modern translation of that verse in Numbers is: 'You are to take tassels on the comers of your garments with a blue cord on each tassel.' The biblical text, then, refers to blue cords to be incorporated in the tassels worn by pious Jews, while Bro. Chetwode Crawley is speaking of blue ribbons which somehow became the embellishments of aprons, sashes and collars.
Another suggested source of the colour men-tioned by Bro. Chetwode Crawley could be its association with St. Mary, mother of Jesus, 'so prominent a figure in the pre-Reformation invocations of the Old Charges, drawing in her train the red ensign of St. George of Cappadocia, her steward and our Patron Saint.'
Blue and red, the heraldic azure and gules are sometimes associated with the chevron of the Arms of the Masons' Company.
The Masonic Symbolism of Colours
White, the original colour of the masonic apron, was always considered an emblem of purity and innocence, exemplified in images such as the white lily or fallen snow.
Plato asserts that white is par excellence the colour of the gods. In the Bible, Daniel sees God as a very old man, dressed in robes white as snow (Daniel 7:9). In the New Testament Jesus is transfigured on Mount Tabor before Peter, James and John, when his clothes became 'dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them' (Mark 9:3). Officiating priests of many religions wore and still wear white garments. In ancient Jerusalem both the priests and the Levites who performed the Temple rites assumed white clothing. Among Romans, the unblemished character of a person aspiring to public office was indicated by a toga whitened with chalk. This is the origin of the word 'candidate,' from candidatus 'dressed in white.' Verdicts at trials were decided by small stones (calculi) thrown into an urn: white to absolve, black to condemn. White signifies beginnings, virtualities, the white page facing the writer, 'the space where the possible may become reality.' White is therefore understandably the colour of initiation. It is a symbol of perfection, as represented by the swan in the legend of Lohengrin. In this aspect it is related to light or sky blue, which in Hebrew is tchelet and may be connected semantically with tichla (perfection, completeness) and tach-lit (completeness, purpose). (See also the obser-vations on the symbolism of blue.) Among the Celts the sacred colours of white, blue and green were understood to stand for light, truth and hope. Druids were robed in white.
White is also connected with the idea of death and resurrection. Shrouds are white; spirits are represented as wearing white veils. White, rather than black, is sometimes the colour of mourning, among the ancient kings of France, for instance, and in Japan. White, finally, can signify joy. Leukos (Greek) means both white and cheerful; as does candidus in Latin. The Romans marked festive days with lime and unlucky days with charcoal.
Blue is the colour of the canopy of heaven:
azure, cerulean or sky blue. 'Universally, it denotes immortality, eternity, chastity, fidelity; pale blue, in particular, represents prudence and goodness.' In the Royal Arch, the Third Principal is told that it is an emblem of beneficence and charity.
In biblical times, blue was closely related to purple. Generations of scholars have puzzled over the correct meaning of tchelet (light blue) and argaman (purple), usually mentioned together, without reaching satisfactory conclusions. Only recently has the problem been final-ly solved in the course of far-reaching research into the dyestuffs and dyeing methods used by the ancient Phoenicians and Hebrews. Both colours, it turns out, were produced with dyeing materials extracted from murex, a shellfish abun-dant on the coast of Lebanon. The tchelet was obtained from a short-variety (murex trunculus); the argaman came from two kinds: the single-spined murex brandaris and, to a lesser extent, the Red-mouth (thais haemastoma).
Some historians have concluded that, in the Middle Ages in Europe, blue was low in popular esteem. The favourite colour was then red because the dyers could achieve strong shades of it which brought to mind the prestigious purple of the ancient world. Towards the end of that period, blue gradually became recognized as a princely colour, the 'Royal Blue' which dis-placed red at court, red then being used by the lower classes and so regarded as vulgar. Blue and gold (or yellow) then became the colours of choice for shields, banners and livery.
It may not be by chance, therefore, that the Master was said to be clothed in 'yellow jacket and blue breeches,' in the famous metaphor first used in an exposure, 'The Mystery of FreeMasonry,' which appeared in The Daily Journal in 1730. The traditional explanations of the phrase relate it to the compasses, the arms of gold, gilt or brass and the points of steel or iron. (Steel can certainly appear blue; iron can not!)
Blue was used royally in France noticeably as the background to the fleur-de-lys. It became associated with terms of prestige such as blue blood, cordon bleu (originally the sash of the Order of the Holy Spirit), blue riband (of the Atlantic) and blue chip.
Purple is a symbol of imperial royalty and richness but can also relate to penitence and the solemnity of Lent and Advent in the seasons of the Christian church.
Although described (in the Royal Arch, for instance) as 'an emblem of union, being com-posed of blue and crimson,' I believe this to be a somewhat contrived explanation. But an interesting fact, which appears to have escaped most writers on this subject, is that in the Cabbala, the Hebrew word for purple, argaman, is a mnemonic, representing the initials of the names of the five principal angels in Jewish esoterism.
Red or crimson, the colour of fire and heat, is traditionally associated with war and the military. In Rome the paludamentum, the robe worn by generals, was red. The colour of blood is naturally connected with the idea of sacrifice, struggle and heroism. It also signifies charity, devotion, abnegation--perhaps recalling the pelican that feeds its progeny with its own blood.
In Hebrew, the name of the first man, Adam, is akin to red, blood and earth. This connection with earth may explain, perhaps, the connection of red with the passions, carnal love, the cosmetics used by women to attract their lovers. It is the colour of youth. Generally, it represents expansive force and vitality. It is the emblem of faith and fortitude and, in the Royal Arch, of fervency and zeal. It has also a darker side, connected with the flames of hell, the appearance of demons, the apoplectic face of rage.
Scarlet was the distinctive colour of the Order of the Golden Fleece, established in 1429 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (1419-67). Not only was the mantle scarlet, but also the robe and a special hat--the chaperon--with hanging streamers.
Green has been directly associated with the ideas of resurrection and immortality...The aca-cia (the masonic evergreen) has been suggested as a symbol of a moral life or rebirth, and also of immortality. To the ancient Egyptians, green was the symbol of hope.
The Grand Lodge of Scotland has adopted green as its emblematic colour, and, in varying shades, it is incorporated in the dress and furnishings of degrees and Orders beyond the Craft in English, Irish and Scottish Freemasonry.
Yellow is rarely seen in lodge, except perhaps on the Continent. It is an ambivalent colour, representing both the best and the worst, the colour of brass and honey, but also the colour of sulphur and cowardice. Yellow is the perfection of the Golden Age, the priceless quality of the Golden Fleece and the golden apples of the Hesperides. It is also the colour of the patch imposed on the Jews as a badge of infamy. In the sixteenth cen-tury, the door of a traitor's home was painted yellow. A 'jaundiced view' expresses hostility, but the most memorable symbolism of yellow is that it reminds us of the sun and of gold.
The three fundamental colours found in all civilizations, down to the Middle Ages in Europe, are white, red and black. These, too, may be regarded as the principal colours of Freemasonry: the white of the Craft degrees, the red of the Royal Arch and of certain of the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, and the black of some of its others, and of the Knights of Malta. The other colours of the rainbow find limited uses; they serve only to frame or line the white lambskin upon which so many aprons are based, or for sashes and other items of regalia.
Traditionally, black is the colour of darkness, death, the underworld although it was not introduced for mourning until about the middle of the fourteenth century, such use becoming habitual only in the sixteenth. The 'black humour' of melancholy (atara hilis) the black crow of ill omen, the black mass, black market, 'black days': all refer to negative aspects. The Black Stone at Mecca is believed by Muslims to have been at one time white; the sins of man caused the transformation.
Black has also a positive aspect, that of gravity and sobriety; the Reformation in Europe frowned upon colourful clothing. Formal dress for day and evening wear continues to be black. It is associated with the outlaw and the banners of pirates and anarchists, but also with rebirth and transformation.
In the French and Scottish Rites, the lodge in the third degree is decorated in black and is strewn with white or silver tears, representing the sorrow caused by the death of Hiram Abif.
A review of the traditional explanations for the choice of certain colours in masonic symbol-ism reveals their weaknesses. In considering the use of blue in the English regalia of a Master Mason, it has been possible to find a connection between one of the Hebrew words for that colour and the Holy Bible.
Bro. Leon Zeldis
Bro. Zeldis is the editor of "The Israel Freemason." This STB is part of a paper printed in the 1992 Vol. lO5, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Transactions.
THE Fellow-Craft is introduced to the wonders of his world of art and science through portals flanked by two massive pillars. Detailed description of these pillars in the Books of Kings indicates a style of design common to Egyptian architecture, where a pillar terminates in a capital representing a conventionalized lotus blossom, or the seed pod of that sacred lily. Such twin pillars are frequently found among Egyptian and Sumerian archaeological remains.
The pillars of King Solomon's Temple, and in fact that entire group of structures, were the work of Phoenician artists, according to the Biblical account. From other sources we gather that these same designers and craftsmen, initiated Dionysiac architects, were responsible for the magnificent palaces and temples at Byblos, the cultural and esthetic center of ancient Phoenicia. The Phoenician realm occupied an area roughly the same as that of modern Syria and Lebanon, and in Biblical accounts is usually cal led Tyre, from the name of its then capital city. Byblos, also known as Gub'l or Gebal, the present-day village of Jebeil, was particularly famous for architects and sculptors.
The twin pillars symbolize the dual nature of life and death, positive and negative or rather active (establishment) and passive (endurance), male and female, light and dark, good and evil, uniting in a central point of equilibrium, the apex of an equilateral triangle; a circle between two parallel uprights. Isis represented standing between two pillars of opposing polarity, the Ark of the Covenant between two Cherubim, Christ crucified between two thieves, are all symbols of the same trinity, the complete ness and perfection of Deity.
That the twin pillars resemble the conventional symbol for Gemini, third sign of the Zodiac, is no accident, but rather due to the common ancestry of the two apparently unrelated symbols.
In some lectures the pillars are said to be 35 cubits high, the height given in II Chronicles, King James Version. Another version of the same source gives the height as 120 cubits. Since the height of the first or outer chamber was probably no more than 30 cubits, the measurement given in I Kings: 18 cubits, seems more likely to be correct. The addition of map globes atop the pillars is a modern invention, with little Biblical or other authority and serving little purpose but to permit the lecturer to h arp upon the advantages of studying astronomy, geography, etc., worthy pursuits but wholely unrelated to the symbolism of the pillars.
Whether the three chambers of the Temple were connected by stairs is debatable. The best-informed scholars believe the Temple roof was flat, in which case the successively decreasing heights of the chambers, plus the somewhat sloping configuration of the site, would require approach and connection by means of either stairways or of some sort of ladder and trapdoor arrangement. Certainly the fantastically elaborate many-storied versions of the Temple depicted by some well-intentioned but ill-informed Bible illustrators and Masonic artists are so illogical and at variance with the few known facts and testimony of both the Bible and history as to seem the figments of a disordered imagination. Josephus stated that the Temple was of Grecian style which implies entablature and consequently a flat roof, although he had the cart before the horse, since Greek architecture was derived from Phoenician, not the reverse.
In any case, the stairway of our lectures is purely symbolic, consisting as it does of the significant numbers 3, 5, and 7. In such a series, 3 symbolizes such qualities as peace, friendship, justice, piety, temperance, and virtue. 5 represents light, health, and vitality- 7 is a symbol of control, judgment, government, and religion.
H. Jordan Roscoe
PM Moriahyama No. 7, GL Japan
THE NEW AGE - JANUARY 1964
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