We are told: "Grand Lodge alone has the inherent power of enacting laws and regulations for the Government of the Craft, and of altering, repealing and abrogating them, in manner prescribed only by the Book of Constitution, always taking care that the Ancient Landmarks of the Order be preserved." [Rule 16 B. of C.]
The powers are not absolute, but must be exercised within certain bounds. Likewise it is part of the duty of the Grand Registrar: "to examine the Bylaws of Lodges and to certify to the Board of General Purposes if they are in accordance with the Book of Constitution and the Ancient Landmarks."
Other examples about with the Book of Constitution, which indicate that there are laws, regulations, powers and duties which apply to Grand Lodge, Lodges and Brethren, details of which are not found within the cover of the Book of Constitution. What are these other Rules and Regulations? Where can they be found? What is their importance when compared with the Book of Constitution?
The answer is to be found in that all embracing title "Masonic Jurisprudence" and my task is to here sketch an outline of its various sources.
The Dictionary tells us that "Jurisprudence is the science or philosophy of the law" . What then is "Masonic Jurisprudence?" Josiah Drummond, a leading American Masonic Jurist, defines it this way - "Masonic Jurisprudence is not the invention of new laws, or the procuring of their enactment, but the knowledge of the ancient usages of the Craft, and of the Landmarks and Laws of the Institution. Our laws are in many cases the usages of the Craft for many years, and it is only by a careful study of our history, policy and customs, that knowledge of these laws is obtained."
To assist in an understanding of this very complex and interesting subject I have prepared three charts analyzing the breakdown of Masonic Jurisprudence into various subjects.
'Masonic Jurisprudence' is divided into three principal groups named: Ceremonial Law, Moral Law, and Judicial Law. Refer to Chart A.
Ceremonial Law will not be touched except to enumerate the sources which create the rules making ceremonial law. They are Usages and Custom; Ritual; Masonic Etiquette; Order of Precedence; Edicts of the Grand Master; and the Decisions of the Ritual Committee.
I will for present purposes concentrate on the analysis of Judicial Law, although I note that Moral Law and Judicial Law are closely intertwined and regularly overlap. The source of Moral law are the Volume of the Sacred Law; the Ritual; and Custom. Let me turn my attention then to Judicial Law.
The most logical division of Judicial Law is into the Written Laws and the Unwritten Laws.
The Laws, customs and usages of Freemasonry may be classified, like the laws, customs, and usages of our Parliament into two divisions - the "written laws" and the "unwritten laws". Blackstone (a well known English legal authority) defines "the unwritten laws of England as those "whose original institution and authority are not set down in writing, as Acts of Parliament are, but receive their binding power and the force of law by long and immemorial usage, and by their universal reception throughout the kingdom"; and he defines "the written laws" to be the "statutes, acts or edicts made by or with the advice and consent of, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled."
These definitions are generally applied to the "written" and "unwritten laws" of Freemasonry.
1. THE UNWRITTEN LAWS
Although at present our law is shifting gradually to the written "enactment", the "unwritten law" is still by far the more important. In the first instance, we must rely upon it to meet all new problems, for the legislator acts only after they attract attention. But even after the legislator has acted, it is seldom if ever that his foresight extends to all the details of his problem or that he is able to do more than provide a broad outline. Hence even in the field of enacted law, the unwritten element of the legal system plays a chief part. We must rely upon it to fill the gaps in legislation, to develop the principles introduced by legislation and to interpret them. Accordingly the unwritten or traditional element of the legal system is and must be used even in an age of copious legislation to supplement, round out and develop the enacted element. Moreover large areas are often untouched by enactment, and here the traditional element is supreme. Here fundamental ideas change slowly, and may be held back at times in the interests of uniformity and consistency, through the influence of the traditional element. In Masonry, the most important of our judicial materials are in the "traditional element."
Firstly, we must rely upon the traditional element to meet all new problems. Secondly, we must rely on the traditional element to fill all gaps in Masonic Legislation. Thirdly, we must rely on it to interpret and to develop legislation and fourthly, above all, as we are a universal institution and ought to legislate cautiously, we must rely on the traditional element to furnish the principles of legislation and as a means of criticizing legislation.
The "unwritten laws" of Freemasonry may be summed up as comprising
What are "Landmarks"?
Numerous attempts have been made to enumerate and to define the Landmarks of Freemasonry but as one leading Masonic writer has said "No one has been able, or ever will be able, to compile a list of Landmarks that will prove to be acceptable or satisfactory to all concerned. The basic principles of Freemasonry, which are presumed to be embodied in the Landmarks, cause little trouble, for the Grand Lodges of English speaking countries are in practical accord in this respect. The chief difficulty lies in the determination of what a Landmark, and therefore binding upon the entire Craft and permitting of no departure from its provisions, and what is merely a regulation, subject to modification or repeal at the pleasure and judgment of Grand Lodges.
We should not, however, confuse "Landmarks" with Fundamental Principles. Landmarks are of human origin and fundamental principles are God's Law. As an example of something which might be universally accepted as a Landmark, perhaps the essential requisite for a candidate to believe in a Supreme Being before he may be admitted to the Craft, would be as good an example as any.
The Craft ritual contains many references to Landmarks. The Initiate is told that his fidelity must be exemplified by his strict observance of the Constitutions of the Fraternity and by adhering to the Ancient landmarks of the Order. The Fellow Craft is told in the course of a lecture that he may offer his opinions under the superintendence of an experienced Maser who will guard the Landmarks against encroachment. The Master Elect is required to be well-skilled in the Landmarks and has to promise that he will not permit or suffer any deviation from them and that it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make innovation in the body of Masonry.
Many of the best known Masonic writers have expressed themselves on the subject of Landmarks, all of whom acknowledge the difficulty in defining a Masonic Landmark. Just as there is no authoritative definition, so no Landmarks are named by Grand Lodge which, in its wisdom has neither defined nor specified them. It has been suggested that, if the Landmarks were approved by Grand Lodges, then the same authority could "disapprove", alter, change or obliterate the Landmarks - whereas Landmarks are unchangeable. Unfortunately there is a tendency to use the work "Landmark" as a convenient name or description of something not having definite meaning. Examples abound of attempts to correct a grammatical error in the Ritual as being classified as "the Landmarks being in danger" an incorrect usage of the term.
Masonic writers often quote a list of some twenty-five so called landmarks offered by the well-known American Mason, Albert G. Mackey (listed in an Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1858). Whilst I do not personally agree with all the "Landmarks" identified by Mackey, I would list the following, purely as examples of Masonic Landmarks:
We now come to the "Moral Law". It is suggested that there are three main sources from which a Freemason can obtain the answer to the question, "What constitutes Moral Law?" The sources suggested are ' The V.S.L., the Ritual and Custom.
Without going into the moral teachings contained in the V.S.L., or the Ritual, the term "Moral Law" is accepted by various authorities as resting upon an awareness of the difference between what is "right" and what is "wrong".
In these modern days of enlightenment there can be no excuse for normal people being ignorant of the difference between right and wrong. From childhood onwards we are surrounded by the influences of parents, home, friends, the school, church, etc., all of which agencies held up to know definitely what is right and hence as members of human society it is incumbent on us to do the right thing, if we except the same be done to us.
Thus, Masonically speaking, the "Moral Law" can be summed up in three principal duties -
Next we come to "Masonic Usage and Custom" or what may be called "Tradition". Tradition has been defined as "That which is handed down at all times, and in all places and by all persons". Tradition is one of the world's most powerful forces. Men of all ages and in every sphere of activity have to reckon with it. No one can move without encountering it in family and commercial life, in business and in society, in the legal world and in religion, as well as in Freemasonry.
Along with the Landmarks, the traditions which control and direct the usages of the Fraternity form no small part of its "unwritten law", and they are of considerable use in the interpretation of doubtful points of its unwritten law. The law which thus has antiquity, universality and common sense for its purport, must over-ride all subsequent laws which are modern, local and have only partial agreement.
A custom, once established and recognized, breeds authority both in belief and procedure. Their tenacity and insistency make it difficult and almost impossible to break away from them.
Tradition possesses the element of experience and it carries authority. There is no logical argument for perpetuating a custom because it is old, and yet one cannot get away from the act that tradition makes for orderliness and decorum. These customs develop inevitably and naturally into traditions, the worth of which we, as masons, are bound to recognize. They ultimately coalesce as unwritten laws through begin universally accepted over a long period.
Grand Masters Prerogatives
Annexed hereto in Schedule A are examples of the Grand Master's powers and prerogatives (not an exhaustive list) but from the examples you will no doubt more fully appreciate what is meant when, at the Installation of a new Grand Master, the Installing Grand Masters says - "you will be invested as Grand Master with powers and prerogatives which will be well nigh absolute and the interests of the Craft for weal or woe will be in your hands."
EXAMPLES OF SOME OF THE POWERS AND PREROGATIVES POSSESSED BY THE GRAND MASTERIt would not be possible to enumerate or define all the powers and prerogatives possessed by the Grand Master, but some of them are as follows:
As Worshipful Master he holds supreme power over his Lodge but no matter what the non-Masonic social rank of the Master may be, he should remember that although he is elevated beyond his brethren as what one writer has described as "an autocratic dictator, or an amiable Democracy" his only ambition should be to increase knowledge, foster intelligence, advance education, relieve distress, and promote all good and patriotic works, without reference to political opinion, personal motives, or religious creed.
One salient fact that must not be lost sight of, however, is that the Craft Lodge and its Master antedate the Grand Lodge and its powers, as the powers possessed by Grand Lodge have been transferred to it by the Craft Lodges. At the present time the constituent elements of a Lodge, the power of meeting, the membership of Grand Lodge, and uncertain broad lines of conduct, both of Lodges and of individuals are circumscribed by the regulations of Grand Lodge. However, there are ancient rights and privileges inherent in the office of Worshipful Master which remains as the peculiar powers of that office and no by-law may be passed which restricts those inherent powers.
Hereunder are examples of the powers of the Worshipful Master (again not an exhaustive list, but indicative only).
EXAMPLES OF THE POWERS OF THE WORSHIPFUL MASTER
The Volume of the Sacred law is no mere Addendum to our ceremonies - no mere acceptance of an old tradition. As one of the three Great Lights of Freemasonry it is vital to our whole structure and is the very foundation upon which everything else is built.
For the great majority of masons in the world the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible and it is not necessary to deal with the divine laws it contains as it is assuredly well known to all.
Edicts of the Grand Master.
In Roman times the Edict was a pronouncement by the "Magistrate" of the course which he proposed to take in the administration of his office. It was a sort of post-election platform from which the citizen might know what to expect from the officer in question. In this same sense we use it in Masonry. An edict is a general administrative (as distinguished form a judicial) order prescribed the conduct of masons is some matter of administrative knowledge.
Thus, the will of the Grand Master may become an Edict and as such it has the force of law. It is proclaimed, or promulgated, to the brethren throughout the Jurisdiction and it is incumbent upon them to obey any such Edict of the Grand Master.
Decisions of Grand Lodge
The functions of a Grand Lodge may be divided into three classes. They are:
Although by its legislative powers the Grand Lodge may make laws, these laws must never contravene the Landmarks ; for the whole power of the Grand Lodge, great as it is, is not sufficient to subvert a Landmark. The legislative powers are therefore limited only by the Landmarks, and beyond these it can never pass.
In its judicial functions, a Grand Lodge becomes the interpreter and administrator of the laws which it has enacted in its legislative capacity. In the performance of its executive functions, the Grand Lodge carries its laws into effect, and sees that they are duly enforced.
Whilst the Book of Constitution contains the laws and regulations enacted by Grand Lodge for the government of the Craft, brethren and lodges are just as much bound to abide by the decisions of Grand Lodge on matters which come before it. Although these decisions may not be embodied in the Book of Constitution they may be found in the printed proceedings of the Grand Lodge which are available to all members of Grand Lodge.
The Book of Constitution
The Book of Constitution contains the fundamental rules for the government and guidance of the Craft and Grand Lodge itself is bound by the Book of Constitution and must abide by its provisions. The Rules it contains are self evident.
The Ancient Charges and Regulations.
In 1722 the necessity for collating the many records containing the Ancient Regulations of the Fraternity was realized by the Grand Lodge of England and it was directed that they be collected and, after being properly digested, be annexed to the Book of Constitution. This was accordingly done and that portion in front of the Book of Constitution known as "The Charges of a Freemason" or "The Ancient Charges and Regulations" constitutes, by universal consent, a part of the fundamental law of our Order.
These Charges concern the moral conduct of a Freemason, and in their turn represent the crystallized public (Masonic) opinion of successive ages, since the experience of the ages has shown that certain courses of conduct are most conducive to personal happiness and general welfare.
"The mode of opening and closing a Lodge, of conferring the Degrees, of installation, and other duties", says Mackey, "constitute a system of ceremonies which are called the Ritual."
It is our proud boast that Freemasonry has existed from time immemorial, but our ritual has only been committed to writing within comparatively recent times. When Lodges were few and each one more or less self-contained, the language used in the ceremonial was handed down by word of mouth, and there was no need for a written ritual. When, however, owing to the increased popularity of the Craft, it became necessary to organize it under the direction of Grand Lodges, the need arose for uniformity in the ceremonial, so that a written ritual became necessary.
The origin of the Craft Ritual is thought to be in the lectures which were used by operative Lodges and which were continued and turned into ceremonial by the Speculative Masons who were becoming more and more numerous in the operative Lodges. Much of the symbolical teaching of today was consolidated by the end of the 18th Century.
Decisions of the Board of General Purposes
As our Grand Lodge only meets annually to transact business, many of its administrative powers are delegated to its Grand Officers, and to its various Boards and Committees.
This system had its origin in the Committee of Charity which was formed in the Grand Lodge of England in 1724. The duties of the Committee were, as its name indicates, the administration of the General Charity Fund of the Grand Lodge, and this Committee still functions under the name of the Board of Benevolence. This Committee evidently discharged its duties to the satisfaction of the Grand Lodge as it was not long before Grand Lodge took advantage of its existence to refer other questions to it for investigation, altogether outside its original scope. In fact, the general business of the Charity Committee soon over-shadowed its original special duties; with the natural result that a second Committee was formed for "general purposes". These two Committees have since been raised to the dignity of "Boards" and the younger body has now come to assume a very important part in the affairs of Grand Lodge.
The power and responsibility of the Board of General Purposes are many and varied and it has charge of the finances and the care and regulation of all the concerns of Grand Lodge, lodges and brethren.
Whilst the Board of General Purposes is entrusted with administrating the policy of Grand Lodge, all business transacted by it is, of course, subject to confirmation by Grand Lodge, unless the Book of Constitution otherwise provides.
Every lodge is permitted to make its own By-Laws, provided they do not conflict with the regulations of the Grand Lodge, nor with the ancient usages of the Fraternity. Of this, the Grand Lodge is the only judge, and therefore the original By-Laws of every lodge, as well as the subsequent alterations to them, must, after being adopted and confirmed by the members be submitted to the Grand Master for approval and confirmation before they can become valid.
Resolutions of the Lodge
A resolution has been called a formal expression of opinion by a legislative body or public meeting. A proposition, when first presented, is called a motion, and if adopted it becomes a resolution. Many Lodges adopt, from time to time, certain resolutions on important subjects, and these resolutions carry as much authority as the Book of Constitution or By-Laws until such time as they may be rescinded.
This introductory foray into Masonic Jurisprudence has identified the sources of the laws which affect the Craft and the brethren. If nothing else, I trust I have dispelled any myth that the Book of Constitution is a complete self-contained Code of Masonic Law. This preliminary overview, covering as it does a wide range of topics in a very condensed fashion, will undoubtedly do an injustice to some of the more complex areas of Masonic Jurisprudence, and may inadvertently have overlooked other areas. It is perhaps for this reason that Collected Ruling 50 was introduced into the "Written laws" of Masonic Jurisprudence.
Author: Bro. Mark Winger, G. Reg.
Published in United Master Lodge No. 167
An Introduction to Masonic Jurisprudence and the Laws of Freemasonry, United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, 1984
Freemasons Guide and Compendium by B.D. Jones
An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by A.G. Mackey
April brings us to Easter Day - the festival of Memory and Hope. That a day in spring should be set apart in praise of the victory of Life is in accord with the fitness of things, as if the seasons of the soul were akin to the season of the year. It unites faith with life; it links the fresh buds of spring with the ancient pieties of the heart. It finds in Nature, with its rhythm of winter and summer, a ritual of hope and joy.
So run the records of all times. Older than our era, Easter has been a day of feast and song in all lands and among all peoples. By a certain instinct man has found in the seasons a symbol of his faith, the blossoming of his spirit attuned to the wonder of the awakening of the earth from the white death of winter. A deep chord in him answers to the ever-renewed resurrection of Nature, and that instinct is more to be trusted than all philosophy. For in Nature there is no death, but only living and living again.
Something in the stir of spring, in the reviving earth, in the tide of life overflowing the world, in the rebirth of the flowers, begets an unconscious, involuntary renewal of faith in the heart of man, refreshing his hope. So he looks into the face of each new spring with a heart strangely glad, and strangely sad too, touched by tender memories of springs gone by never to return, softened by thoughts of “those who answer not, however we may call.”
Truly, it is a day of Hope and Courage in the heart of man. Hope and Courage we have for the affairs of daily life; but here is a Hope that leaps beyond the borders of the world, and a Courage that faces eternity. For that Easter stands, in its history, its music, its returning miracle of spring - for the putting off of the tyranny of time, the terror of the grave, and the triumph of the flesh, and the putting on of immortality. Men can work with a brave heart and endure many ills if he feels that the good he strives for here, and never quite attains, will be won elsewhere.
There is something heroic, something magnificent in the refusal of a man to let death have the last word. Time out of mind, as far back as we can trace human thought - in sign or symbol - man has refused to think of the grave as the coffin lid of a dull and mindless world descending upon him at last. It was so in Egypt five thousand years ago, and is so today. At the gates of the tomb he defies the Shadow he cannot escape, and asserts the worth of his soul and its high destiny. Surely this mighty faith is its own best proof and prophecy, since man is a part of Nature, and what is deepest in him is what nature has taught him to hope.
For some of us Easter has other meanings than those dug up from the folklore of olden time. Think how you will of the lovely and heroic figure of Jesus, it is none the less His day, dedicated to the pathos of His Passion and the wonder of His Personality. For some of us His Life of Love is the one everlasting romance in this hard old world, and its ineffable tenderness seems to blend naturally with the thrill of springtime, when the finger of God is pointing to the new birth of the earth. No Brother will deny us the joy of weaving Easter lilies with Acacia leaves, in celebration of a common hope.
The legend of Hiram and the life of Jesus tell us the same truth; one in fiction and the other in fact. Both tragedies are alike profoundly simple, complete and heartbreaking - each a symbol not only of the victory of man over death, but of his triumph over the stupidity and horror of evil in himself and in the world. In all the old mythologies, the winter comes because the ruffian forces of the world strike down and slay the gentle spirit of summer; and this dark tragedy is reflected in the life of man - making a mystery no mortal can solve, save as he sees it with courage and hope.
Jesus was put to death between two thieves outside the city gate. The Master Builder was stricken down in the hour of His Glory, His Prayer choked in His Own Blood. Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, just as the temple of Unity and Liberty was about to be dedicated. Each was the victim of sinister, cunning, brutal, evil force - here is the tragedy of our race, repeated in every age and land, as appalling as it is universal, and no man can fathom its mystery.
Yet, strangely enough, the very shadow which seems to destroy faith, and make it seem futile and pitiful, is the fact which created the high, heroic faith of humanity, and keeps it alive. Love, crucified by Hate; high character slain by low cunning! Death victorious over life - man refuses to accept that as the final meaning of the world. He demands justice in the name of God and his own soul. The Master Builder is betrayed and slain; his enemies are put to death - that satisfies the sense of justice. Jesus dies with a prayer of forgiveness on His lips; Judas makes away with himself - and the hurt is partly healed.
But is that all? On the mount of Crucificiton, by the outworking of events, goodness and wickedness met the same muddy fate - is that the meaning of the world? The Master Builder and his slayers are alike buried - is that the end? Are we to think that Jesus and Judas sleep in the same dust, all values erased, all issues settled in the great silence? In the name of reason it cannot be true, else chaos were the crown of cosmos, and mud more mighty than mind!
When man, by his insight and affirmation of his soul, holds it true, despite all seeming contradiction, that virtue is victorious over brutal evil, and Life is Lord of Death, and that the soul is as eternal as the moral order in which it lives, the heart of the race has found the truth. Argument is unnecessary; the great soul of the world we call God is just. Here is the basis of all religion and the background of all philosophy. From the verdict of the senses and the logic of the mind, man appeals to the justice of God, and finds peace.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust;
Thou maddest man, he knows not why, He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou has made him; Thou art just.
With what overwhelming impressiveness this faith is set forth in the greatest Degree of Freemasonry, the full meaning and depth of which we have not yet begun to fathom, much less realize. Edwin Booth was right when he said that the Third degree of Masonry is the profoundest, the simplest, the most heart-gripping tragedy known among men. Where else are all the elements of tragedy more perfectly blended in a scene which shakes the heart and makes it stand still? It is pathetic, It is confounding. Everything seems shattered and lost. Yet, somehow, we are not dismayed by it, because we are made to feel that there is a Beyond - the victim is rather set free from life than deprived of it.
Without faith in the future, where the tangled tragedies of this world are made straight, and its weary woe is healed, despair would be our fate. By this faith men live and endure in spite of ills. Its roots go deeper than argument, deeper than dogma, deeper than reason, as deep as infancy and old age, as deep as love and faith - older than history - that the power which weaves in silence, robes of white for the lilies or red for the rose, will the much more clothe our spirits with a moral beauty that shall never fade.
But there is a still deeper meaning in the Third Degree of Masonry, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is not explained in the lectures; it is hardly hinted at in the lodge. Yet it is as clear as day, if we have insight. The Degree ends not in a memorial, but in the manifestation of the Eternal Life. Raised from the dead level to a living perpendicular by the strong grip of faith, the Master Builder lives by the power of an endless life. That is to say, Masonry symbolically initiates us into Eternal Life here and now, makes us citizens of eternity in time and bids us live and act accordingly. Here is the deepest secret Masonry has to teach - that we are immortal here and now; that death is nothing to the soul; that eternity is today.
When shall we become that which we are? When shall we, who are sons of the Most High, born of His Love and Power, made in His Image, and endowed with His Deathless Life, discover who we are, whence we came, and whither we tend, and live a free, joyous, triumphant life which belongs of right to immortal spirits! Give a man an hour to live, and you put him in a cage. Extend it to a day, and he is freer. Give him a year, and he moves in larger orbit and makes his plans. Let him know that he is a citizen of an eternal world, and he is free indeed, a master of life and time and death - a Master Mason.
Thus Acacia leaves and Easter lilies unite to give us the hint, if not the key to a higher heroism and cheer, even “the glory of going on and still to be;” a glory which puts new meaning and value into these our days and years - so brief at their longest, so broken at their best, their achievements so transient, and so quickly forgotten. Sorrows come, and heartache, and loneliness unutterable, when those we love fall into the great white sleep; but the sprig of Acacia will grow in our hearts, if we cultivate it, watering it the while with our tears, and at last it will be not a symbol but a sacrament in the house of our pilgrimage.
What to you is Shadow,
to Him is Day,
And the end He Knoweth;
Thy spirit goeth;
The steps of Faith
Fall on a seeming void,
and find A rock beneath.
SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VII April, 1929 No.4
It has often been remarked how casually, if not accidentally, so many great movements seem to start. They seem to spring up of themselves, at the bidding of impulses of which men are only vaguely aware, and the full measure and meaning of which they do not know. As in the Alps a shout or the report of a gun may start an avalanche of ice, because of the poise of forces, so in history a little act often releases a vast pent-up power.
A perfect example is the "Revival" of Masonry in 1717, which not only gave a new date to our annals, but a new form and force to the Craft, sending it to the ends of the earth on its benign mission. So true is it that we may almost say that modern Masonry, in its origin and organization, is as much a mystery as ancient Masonry with its symbols and rites, and the mystery may never be solved.
Out of a period of dim half-light and much obscurity the new Masonry arose, and knowing what it is, we have a keen curiosity to know how it came to be what it is. How many questions we are eager to ask, answers to which are not bound, or likely to be found, unless unguessed records should leap to light. Anyway, our brethren of those formative days
practiced the Masonic virtues of silence and circumspection to an extraordinary degree, telling us very little of what we should like to know so much. How many Lodges of Masons existed in London at that time is a matter of conjecture, but there must have been a number.
What tie, if any, united them for common action and fellowship we do not know. Some were purely Operative Lodges, others seem to have been purely Speculative - there were such lodges, such as the one in which Ashmole was initiated as early as 1646 - while others, as we shall see, were mixed; made up of men part of whom were Accepted Masons and part actual working Masons. The Craft, as all agree, was in a state of neglect, if not disintegration. It enjoyed a period of prosperity in the re-building of London after the great fire in 1666, but as we read in the only record we have, "the few lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought it fit to cement under a Grand Master as the centre of union and harmony." Wren was the great architect of the day, the builder of St. Paul's Cathedral. Whether he was actually a lodge member or not is uncertain, but such was the reason given for the forming of a Grand Lodge. Gould, our great historian, in describing "the Assembly of 1717," out of which the first Grand Lodge grew, remarks that "unfortunately, the minutes of Grand Lodge only commence on June 24th, 1723" - six years after the event! For the story of those first six years we are dependent upon an account not written, or at least not published, until the second edition of the Constitutions of 1738 - twenty-one years after, the event to which it refers! Surely, no other movement of equal importance ever left so scanty a record made so long after the fact. Why no minutes were kept - or if kept at all, were lost - we do not know. Still less do we know why the first Grand Lodge was formed without a Constitution. The General Regulations did not appear until 1721, and the Constitutions in 1723. The impression is unmistakable that it was only an experiment, in response to a growing need of a "center of Union and Harmony," and that those who took part in it did not dream that they were launching a movement destined to cover the earth with a great fraternal fellowship. Four lodges united to form the Mother Grand Lodge, those that met:
1. At the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's Church Yard;
2. At the Crown Ale-house in Parker's line, near Drury line;
3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-street, Covent-Garden;
4. At the Rummer and Grape Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster.
In those days, as in our own day in London, lodges met in taverns and ale-houses - the hotels of the time. Their meetings were festive, and often convivial, in the manner and custom of the day. A rare old book called Multa Paucis asserts that six lodges, not four, were represented, but there is no record of the fact, though members of other lodges were no doubt present as guests. Indeed, we have a hint to that effect in the meager record, as follows:
"They (the four Lodges) and some other old Brothers met at the said
Apple-Tree, and having put into the chair the oldest Master Mason (now the
Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro
Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication
of the Officers of Lodges (called the Grand Lodge), resolved to hold the
Annual Assembly and Feast, and then chuse a Grand Master from among
themselves, till they should have the honour of a Noble Brother at their
Such is the record of the preliminary meeting - what would we not give for a full account of its discussion and proceedings! Diligent search has been made among the records, diaries and papers of the time, but few facts have been added to this record. Even the date of the meeting is omitted, but it must have been in the spring or early summer of 1717, as the meeting at which the Grand lodge was actually organized took place shortly afterward, in June of that year, and was held in the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul's Churchyard, near the west end of the Cathedral.
The old Ale-house had a long story, being one of the most famous in the city, whereof we may read in London Inns and Taverns, by Leopold Wagner. Before the Great Fire it had been called the Mitre, the first "Musick House" in London, and the meeting-place of the Company of Musicians, its sign being a Swan and a Lyre. Its master had gathered many trophies of travel, which he displayed, and which are said to have formed the nucleus of the Britain Museum. After the fire it was rebuilt on the same site, but the new sign was so badly made that the wits of the town called it the Goose
and Gridiron, and the name clung to it. The record goes on:
"Accordingly, on St John Baptist's Day, in the 3rd year of King George 1,
A.D. 1717, the Assembly and Feast of the Free and Accepted Masons was
held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Alehouse.
"Before dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge), in
the Chair, proposed a list of proper candidates; and the Brethren by a
majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, Grand Master of
Masons (Mr. Jacob Lamball, Carpenter; Capt. Joseph Elliot, Grand
Wardens), who being forthwith invested with the Badges, of Office and
Power by said oldest Master, and installed, was duly congratulated by the
Assembly, who paid him the Homage.
"Sayer, Grand Master, commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to
meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication, at the place that
he should appoint in the Summons sent by the Tyler."
So reads the only record that has come down to us of the founding of the Mother Grand Lodge. Who were present, besides the three officers named, has so far eluded all research; their faces have faded, their names are lost - but imagine the scene! The big room extended the width of the house, thirty feet one way and nearly twenty the other. In the center was an oak table, around which the delegates from the various lodges sat on chairs, smoking their pipes. The seat of Anthony Sayer was before the fireplace, with its polished brass fire-irons, with chestnut-roasters and bed-warmers hanging on either side of it. It was an hour of feast and fun and fellowship, as they sat down to dinner together, as English lodges do today. Each man had a rummer of foaming ale before him on the table, and as he drained it betimes it was refilled by a handsome maid, Hannah, whose name has survived long after others were lost. Only a few memories live of that event which divided the story of Masonry into before and after: the famous sign in front of the house, so ugly that a Swan and a Lyre were mistaken for a Goose and a Gridiron; the skittleground on the roof; the small water-course, a rivulet of Fleet Brook, for which a way had to be made through the chimney; the pillar that propped up the chimney, and - Hannah, the maid.
How strange that the Masons of England allowed the old Ale-house to betaken down in 1893 - it ought to have been kept as a shrine of fellowship and fun. But so little interest was taken in its fate that the historic sign was sold to a citizen of Dulwick, who put it in his greenhouse. Later on, however, the old relic was recovered, and it now has a place of honour in the Guildhall Museum, along with other tokens of a London that is no more. Alas, so little do men see, and so lightly do they value, what is passing before their eyes. What of the men who formed the Mother Grand Lodge?
They did not -could not - realize what they had done so casually and in a spirit of frolic, much less foreknow its meaning and future. They merely wanted to make a "centre of union and harmony," as they called it, between the lodges of the city. There was no thought of imposing the authority of Grand Lodge upon the country in general, still less upon the world, as is clear from the Constitutions of 1723, which are said to be "for the use of Lodges in London." Yet, so great was the necessity for a Grand Lodge, that, once started, the impulse spread to Ireland, Scotland, and the ends of the earth. Link was added to link until it put "a girdle around the earth." As a great man of the Craft has said so picturesquely, it is possible, and it is true, to say that Masonry was born in a Tavern, but it belongs to Almighty God; and so gentle was its spirit, so friendly and tolerant and wise withal, that it began to make the life of the Tavern like a vestibule for the life
of the church.
THE SHORT TALK BULLETIN OF THE MASONIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION
What Is a Masonic Apprenticeship?
If we want our newly Raised candidates to take an active part in Lodge life, we need at least to give them an introduction to Masonry. Ritual alone, no matter how well done, is not going to make a knowledgeable Mason or an active Lodge member. If we want a man who believes in Masonry, a man who is an active Lodge member, we have to take the time to show, to teach, to guide that new Mason to a clearer understanding of the tenets of his profession as a Mason. In short, we cannot just Raise a candidate and then drop him.
We have to start by making sure that we, ourselves, have a positive attitude. Masonry has much to offer. It has been a source of wisdom and personal satisfaction to millions of good men. Its principles and its benefits are as valuable and as timely today as they ever have been. Still, this question confronts us: Why are not more young men today interested in joining and participating in our Fraternity? I believe the answer, in large part, is that we fail to present Masonry in ways that appeal to a younger generation of men. The men we want are activity oriented. We want the men who would rather to do something than be something.
Let us look at some of the community activities which compete for young men's time. Service clubs are growing. They explain to men their community projects and how they raise money to fund them. They are able to show a committed group of people doing something to make a positive impact on their communities. Public safety groups, such as fire companies and rescue squads, are growing. They show young people the scope of their activity. They demonstrate their equipment and their training programs, and they show a committed group of members intent on doing something to improve their skills. Social clubs, usually centered around sports such as golf, tennis, hunting or fishing, have no trouble maintaining membership. They are able to show interested people their facilities, their schedule of events, and their activities. They are able to show a group of people who are passionate about their sport and about doing something to improve their performance. The success of these organizations gives us a clue. It tells us what appeals to good men today. They want to do something. They want to become more effective in what they do. They want to be involved with others, to be part of an effort, and to share goals.
Now, let us look at Masonry. What can Masonry offer? We can start with brotherly love, relief and truth. The elements of brotherly love are our perfect points: the obligation to go out of our way to serve a worthy Brother; the obligation to be ever mindful of the Brother in our meditations; the obligation to keep a confidence; the obligation to help a Brother and to protect his good name; and finally, the obligation to warn a worthy Brother of an approaching danger. We offer this bond to a man who is willing to reciprocate. Relief need not be material relief. It can be a helping hand or an understanding ear, a favor or a word of encouragement. The underlying commitment is a willingness to help another Mason or his family with the same level of concern that a man might show to his own brother. We can offer this commitment to a man who is willing to reciprocate. Truth is a value and a measure of the values we are committed to. Each of the three degrees of symbolic Masonry teaches by precept, allegory and symbol the virtues of fidelity, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice, all of which we hold to be true true today, true yesterday, and true tomorrow. We are willing to share the legends and the allegories and symbols which illustrate them with men who are willing to commit themselves to the virtues they represent.
Brotherly love, relief and truth require personal activity and commitment. We have to do something to put them into practice. Masonry can provide men with an opportunity to do something to improve themselves in pursuit of those truths. Let us look at ourselves in practice. Is our emphasis on just being a member or on thinking and acting as a Mason? Do we try to create new members, or do we try to show a man how he can live Masonry? The answer, of course, varies from Lodge to Lodge. A Lodge which wants to attract young men today needs to offer them an opportunity to do something which will give them personal satisfaction. Sadly, many of our Lodges offer a new Mason little or nothing to do unless he is interested in taking part in ritual work. Our own legends teach us that ancient apprentices and fellowcrafts learned to improve their skills under the guidance and tutelage of Masters. That was true in operative Masonry. It can become true in speculative Masonry. We should not permit a candidate simply to "take" three degrees. We should demonstrate to him that the tenets of his profession as a Freemason offer him a way of thinking and a way of living. Fine words you may say. Fine and high sounding words. But, just how would you go about instructing a candidate on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of living. I suggest a twelve-point apprenticeship plan to get new members involved, to give them something to do, twelve points which are closely related to the tenets of our profession as Freemasons.
Let us first consider Brotherly Love. The candidate must get to know his new
Brothers. Here is what a presiding Master can do:
Make sure the candidate's sponsor introduces him to everyone present the night he is initiated. I have seen a candidate prepared for his degree sitting alone in a room where a whole group of Masons were chatting with each other, none of whom had been introduced to him or had taken the time to introduce themselves to him.
Request the candidate and his sponsor to be greeters at the door the night of his second and third degrees. This is a good opportunity for him to speak to the members he met earlier and to meet additional members who are attending that evening.
Invite the candidate to help out on the first three suppers following his initiation. Remember, he sought membership because he wanted to do something. Involving him in the work of the Lodge will make him begin to feel a part of it.
Now, let us look at Relief. Each new Mason needs to learn firsthand some of the aspects of Masonic relief and caring.
Invite the new Mason to work on the first special ladies' night following his initiation and see that he personally meets several of them.
Include the new Mason on the team delivering flowers or baskets or whatever the Lodge may do for widows and elder Brothers during the holiday season.
Invite him to accompany the Master on a visit to a hospitalized Brother or to a Brother who is shut in.
Request him to attend the first two Masonic Memorial Services following his initiation to witness the concern our Fraternity feels for the family of a
Our third tenet is Truth. The candidate should be told that he is expected to obtain a basic familiarity with the legends and symbols which illustrate
truths we value.
Make sure the candidate has the benefit of the four instructional sessions outlined in our Instructor's Manual. We seriously shortchange a man if we make him a member of our Lodge but fail to give him a basic familiarity with the ritual which is at the heart of our Fraternity.
See to it that the candidate visits another Lodge three times as he progresses through his degrees, each time to witness the degree he has just taken. This will give him a better understanding of the degree he has just taken. It will also show him that he is part of a wider Fraternity, one that he can take with him wherever he goes. It goes without saying that he ought to be accompanied by his sponsor or Brothers he knows well.
Invite the new Mason to take a nonspeaking chair within a month or two after he is Raised either for a degree or simply for a stated meeting. He may never want to do it again, but it is important for him to do it at least once and have the opportunity to feel he is a part of that ritual.
Arrange for the candidate to give his third degree lesson either alone or with other recent candidates within the prescribed time. The rule, after all, is ours. We have many, many new Masons who feel that they have failed to do something they should do. They haven't failed. We have failed when we tell them they are expected to do something and then never follow up.
Brotherly love, relief and truth are the tenets of our profession as Freemasons. There is another characteristic of Masons that is as old as the history of our country. Every community in this country is a better place to live because of the public spirited Masons, who, in hundreds of ways, keep their communities and this country going. They contribute as volunteer firemen, rescue squad members, little league coaches, church deacons and Sunday school teachers, as members of boards of hospitals and libraries and in countless other ways. Masons are the bedrock of every community in this country.
Tell each new Mason, if he has not already done so, that we would like to see him identify one civic, community or church endeavor where he could carry into his community some of the lessons he has learned in his Lodge. Twelve points. We should tell a man who indicates an interest in Freemasonry what he would be expected to do in becoming a member. We might give him a pamphlet describing this apprenticeship plan so that he will understand in advance what it is, why we are asking him to do it, and how it will benefit him. Such a commitment might discourage a few donothing types who simply want to be known as Masons. I am convinced that men who want to do something are attracted to membership in organizations which clearly state their principles, which ask them to make a commitment, and which relate those principles to a specific plan of activity for them. Any presiding Master can do a great service to Masonry, to his Lodge, and to his candidates if he will just give them something to do.
We have the greatest Fraternity in the world, founded on the noblest of principles. But let us never forget that it is not enough simply to make a man a member. Our Fraternity will grow as an influence for good, our Lodges will prosper, and our members will grow as good men and Masons only if we focus our thoughts and efforts and the thoughts and efforts of our candidates on Masonry as a way of thinking and a way of living in which brotherhood is the vehicle, the mission, and the goal.
Author: Sir Knight Wayne T. Adams
Past Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Maine,
St. Amand Commandery No. 20, West Kennebunk, Maine.
Knight Templar Magazine, February 1996
Masonry is a system of morality, but what do we mean by Masonic morality, and if we can define it, how do we apply it. It was one thing for Max Plank, Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein to give us the theories about the atom; it was quite another for Enrico Fermi to split it.
In order to gain an understanding of Masonic Morality we must first reach an understanding of morality.
MORALITY IN GENERAL
Morality is a set of values. For most of us Masons raised in the United States, our values, and therefore our morality is written out for us in a book we keep open on the altar. We are self satisfied that all the morality we or anyone else could ever need is contained in that book we call a Bible.
Since morality reflects our values, we believe that there is but one morality and we see this morality as absolute. The very concept of morality demands that it be monolithic. After all, it is in the nature of any people to believe that their morality is what morality should be, because anything that does not reflect one's values is regarded as immoral.
The problem we sometimes fail to grasp is that not everyone subscribes to the Bible. Fully 2/3 or more of the world's population do not have Bibles, and how many who do really believe in them! Consequently, not everyone shares our concept of morality.
As an example of how easily morality can change, consider: amongst those who do have Bibles, there are Jews and Christians. We are all satisfied that the book we call Bible is morality. But beginning with the most elementary expression of belief, what happens when a Jew and a Christian enter a Synagogue or a Church? The Jew covers his head; the Christian uncovers his. Both act to show reverence for Deity. Both are saying the same thing, but while the value they are expressing - belief in omnipresence - is the same, their morality causes them to act in ways opposite to one another. This was just a simple example. We need not go into more complex problems of how men of good spiritual belief can differ in their means of expressing that belief.
On a quite different level, consider the moralities of nations. Some prize militarism, while other prize peace. Some are obedient to a single voice; in others each citizen is given a voice.
The point is that morality is not an absolute. It will vary with economics, politics, religion, social standing., geography and an host of other factors, too numerous to mention. Sometimes morality simply reflects expediency. If you live in a jungle, you have to kill to live. What is murder in times of peace may be heroism in times of war.
A MORE DEFINED PROBLEM
If then morality is not an absolute, is Masonic morality absolute? If two masons are given the same moral question, will they arrive at the same answer? If we are taught the same morality; if masonic morality is absolute, then the answer should be yes.
Let us first define Masonic morality, if that is possible. We sometimes see the term Moral Law crop up in our various writings and ritual. The duty to obey the Moral Law is the first landmark of a Worshipful Master. It is probably based on the assumption that Moral Law comes from the Bible. However, can we really expect the idea of a Moral Law to be viewed in the same way by all of masonry. If one mason believes that salvation is based on good deeds, and another believes it is based on belief in a savior, can we say that both men accept the same moral law, even if they share the same bible?. What if a mason reads only the Old Testament. Is he privy to the Moral Law? What is the Moral law to a Muslim?
As this writer sees it, and I can hardly claim to be the last word on the subject, Masonic Morality is the sum of all we we are taught in our ritual. If that definition makes sense, we had still better reconcile ourselves to recognizing that within our ritual there are direct quotes and borrowed concepts from both Jewish and Christian doctrine, and even writings by pagan authors.
Interestingly, some of what we take for granted to be Masonic morality is universal in origin and application, having no basis in Masonry. Before each obligation, we are told by the Master that there is no point in the obligation that will conflict with our duty to God, our Country, our Neighbor, or Ourselves. While Jefferson wrote of inalienable rights, Masonry recognizes these as universal duties, duties which are incorporated into Masonic morality.
If there is nothing in our obligations which will conflict with a man's duty to God (as he perceives that duty through his chosen religion) then are all the precepts of masonry expected to be adopted by all men of all monotheistic religions? Does masonry admit that some of what it has to say will not sit well with all men? Is this introduction before each obligation a disclaimer, a red flag, that while we all go the same way as all others before us, yet we can take from Masonry what we will and disregard what our own philosophies of God, Country, Neighbor and Self do not adopt? Is Masonic Morality a personal morality or as an absolute, is it uniform?
Having now given a definition (however brief, broad and probably controversial) of what constitutes Masonic morality, we need next to play it out in order to see whether it will resolve all moral questions in the same way.
One of the first lessons we learn in Masonry is that the institution appeals to men of every country, sect and opinion. We also know that Masonry is not a political institution. This second premise flows from the first. Masonry cannot be political because its constituency is too broadly based to be expected to follow any single ideology. If Masonry took a stand on any given issue, it would necessarily be in conflict with a part of its membership - every time. The institution could never survive. Every Grand Lodge election would have it party slogans and platforms on a scale that would dwarf the politics which we all know does not exist in Masonry!
Obviously Masonry does take a stand on some things. But when it does, it chooses problems of no political consequence. For instance, how controversial is Masonry when it supports AJust say no to drugs. The drug dealers have no lobby. But what would happen within Masonry if its policy were Just say no to tobacco. It would split the organization.
Now here is where the dilemma comes in . What is politics? Politics is the machinery through which we decide questions of morality as a matter of public policy. For instance, adultery has been decriminalized in any number of states. It is still grounds for divorce, but it is no longer a crime. Adultery is certainly a moral issue. It goes to the sanctity of the family structure. Its prohibition protects the blood line. What we are seeing is that legislatures have decided that adultery is an offense against marriage, an offense at the level of the individual, and therefore it passed a law that gives the offended partner the right to terminate the marriage. However, the legislatures have also determined that, in light of the general decline in morality and prevalence of extramarital sexuality, adultery is no longer a crime against society. In short, the legislatures have made value judgments which they have reduced to the form of laws through the political process.
The have expressed moral values in a blend of prohibition at the individual level and license at the societal level.
On a more familiar vein, the Commandment Thou shalt not kill is the law in every state of the Union, but it was a moral concept before it became a law.
So here is the dilemma. Masonry advocates morality, but lacks any form of political machinery to determine issues of morality. It is in this respect paralyzed by its inability to make decisions. It can only preach morality in the broadest sense, painting with the panoramic brush of the Bible, the Cecil B. DeMille Bible, without getting too specific. The following illustrates the dilemma in its practical consequences.
THE DILEMMA AT WORK
Two men kneel at the altar to become Entered Apprentice Masons. The man on the left is an MD with a specialty in OBGYN. He is a registered Democrat, a man of wealth, a man of some influence. The lodge is proud to have him as a member. This man holds to a political philosophy which in our culture is called the right of a woman to choose. In short, he runs an abortion clinic.
Next to him is an ordained minister; a registered Republican. He is not a man of means, but is highly respected in the community, and again the lodge is proud to have him as a member. He subscribes to both a political and religious philosophy which without any buzzword we understand as abortion is murder. He sits on the board of directors of an adoption agency tied to his ministry.
Within five minutes these two prominent men will become masons. How, then, can Masonry accept them both? How can Masonry allow men of opposite moral beliefs to sit in the same lodge room. In short; how can Masonry tell us to be moral, when Masonry cannot tell us what is moral!
So Much for Absolutism
The answer is that Masonic morality is not an absolute. Both of the men in the example given above are moralists, in their own right. If the problem were simplified, if there were only one issue, the fetus, then both men would necessarily arrive at the same moral value. However, life does not present one dimensional problems. There is a second consideration in the problem, and that is the competing interests of the mother. Her interests include the economics of being a single parent, of the prospects of never attracting another mate when tied down with a child, or the risks to her health or even her life that carrying the fetus presents.
Moral values usually arise through the resolution of competing interests. As the strengths of those interests differ from person to person, so the resolution of those factors results differently from person to person. It is easier for a man to oppose abortion than for a woman.
In physics we calculate the trajectory of an object by the resolution of the forces exerted upon it; the direction of the object in a linear path as pushed by the propellant as against the downward force perpendicular to the center of the earth which we know of as the force of gravity. The resolution of those forces usually produces an arc that follows neither of the paths exerted directly upon it. Politics as the means of determining morality works in much the same way. The resolution of political forces is called compromise.
Masonry, likewise, is composed of men of different values, because we are men of different experiences. If masonry wanted its morality to be an absolute, it could not accommodate men of every country, sect and opinion. It could not accommodate speculative masons, because the presence of freethinking is always a challenge to absolutism. If anything, Masonry's invitation to men difference creates the expectation that Masonry is a forum for conflicting values.
Masonic Morality is Relative to the Individual
The title of this paper is MASONIC MORALITY, A VERY SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY. Einstein taught us that the only absolute in the physical universe is the speed of light. In Masonry the only absolute is One God. From there on all of Masonic Morality depends on the individual or group interpreter. For example, belief in One God is fundamentally an agnostic idea. When we give God a name, ascribe attributes and Worship him, we have crossed over to the realm of religion, which is beyond the scope of Masonry's dictates. Therefore, the name of any man's Deity, the powers and manifestations that man perceives in Deity, and the way he worships, all are based on the individual's view of Deity. Just like time, speed and distance in Einstein's universe, all these properties of Deity are relative.
We all believe there is only one God, so we are all praying to the same God. Every man believes his own religion to be divinely inspired, through the medium of his prophet (which in the case of the big three monotheistic religion is Moses, Jesus or Mohammed). Every man believes he has received the true message from the true prophet, which goes to the heart of why we all believe that morality is absolute, as long as it is our version of morality. But when we see the forest for the trees, we tend to realize that if all religions cannot be correct in their description of Deity, then at least one of us has created Deity to suit his own definition. We do all pray to the same Deity. It is only our definition of Deity that may be wrong.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if when the Messiah arrives, men were judged by the sincerity of their beliefs rather than their blind adherence to the practices of their religion. Then the true believers in all religions rather than the hangers on to a true religion could find salvation. That would be a divine joke on all of us; if morality as applied to Deity were infinitely variable, rather than obsessed with the rigidity that has promoted so much slaughter in the name of God. What if we really were all His children, rather than having the vast majority of human life since the creation condemned to hell for not adopting the true religion. In short, Masonry affords each of us the right to view Deity and his relation to Him from his own position in the spiritual universe.
Now I do not want to sound like some new wave preacher. I am of course trained in the orthodoxy of my chosen religion. But then that is my point. It is after all, my chosen religion, and being from a minority, my views are not necessarily that of anyone else who may be reading this. When I sit in lodge with brothers who do not subscribe to my point of religious view, that view still exits, as does theirs. When lodge is open, we meet on the level and are not concerned with our differences. But when lodge closes and we again clothe ourselves with our differing views, we are each left with the question of religion as to who is the true believer and who is the heretic. Masonry does not resolve that question.
The same idea prevails in any test of morality. Each of us must be at least 21 years of age before becoming a mason. Why? So that we can first develop as human beings; develop a concept of Deity; get a job to become charitable; mature enough to appreciate what the degrees are talking about. But we all grow up differently and view the world through different eyes, from different points on the surface of the earth.
The abortionist is taken by the sufferings of his patient, the woman. The minister is taken by the affects on the souls of both the woman and the doctor, along with the deprivation of life to the fetus. Somewhere along the line, enough people line up on one side of the problem or the other to reflect society's moral view. When the sides are evenly spaced, the value cannot be reduced to a societal moral and conflict prevails.
So What is Masonic Morality?
Our ritual contains its own Commandments. Thou shall help aid and assist. Thou shall not violate. However, such Commandments are very few. For the most part we are expected to apply concepts rather than precepts in making moral choices. In the end, with the exception of those few ACommandments@ to be found in the obligations, Masonic Morality is not a set of preset laws, but instead it is an approach to moral problem solving.
Masonry's use of tools as moral metaphors is closer to the mark than we might realize. The lessons we are taught in Masonry are themselves tools to be applied to each problem we encounter. If we can approach each moral dilemma by asking whether it promotes or detracts from brotherly love, relief and truth, with a mind that we all exist under the umbrella of our concept of what Deity wants from us, then we have found Masonic Morality. The results from individual to individual will ultimately differ, and conflict is inevitable, but in the end to thine own self be true is the ultimate test of Masonic morality
Author: Howard Z. Kanowitz
Just when the pot of incense became an emblem of the third section of the Sublime Degree can not be stated with certainty. It is, apparently, and American invention or addition; both McKensie and Kenning say that it is not used in the English work. The Monitor of Thomas Smith Webb, who worked such ingenious and cunning changes in the Prestonian work, gives the commonly accepted wording:
“The Pot of Incense is an emblem of a pure heart; this is always an acceptable sacrifice to the Deity; and as this glows with fervent heat, so should our hearts continually glow with gratitude to the great and beneficent author of our existence for the manifold blessings and comforts we enjoy.”
Jeremy Cross prints it among the delightfully quaint illustrations in the “True Masonic Chart” - illustrations which were from the not altogether uninspired pencil of one Amos Doolittle, of New Haven. However the Pot of Incense came into American rituals, it is present in nearly all, and in substantially the same form, both pictorially and monetarily. If the incense has no great antiquity in the Masonic system, its use dates from the earliest, and clings to it from later, Biblical times, and in Egypt and India it has an even greater antiquity.
In the very early days, as chronicled in the Bible, incense was associated more with idolatry than with true worship; for instance:
Because they have forsaken men and have burned incense unto other Gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched. (II Chronicles, 25-34). To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me. (Jeremiah 6-20). Moreover I will cause to cease in Moab, saith the Lord, him that offereth in the high places, and him that burneth incense to his Gods. (Jeremiah 35-48).
However, when the worship of JHVH (Which we call Jehova) was thoroughly established, burning incense changed from a heathenish, idolatrous custom to a great respectability and a place in the Holy of Holies. Leviticus 12-16, 13 sounds this keynote:
And he take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:
And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he dieth not.
Later, incense was associated with wealth and luxurious living, as in the Song of Solomon:
Who is it that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant? (3-6)/ Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. (406). Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. Spikenard and saffron; caslamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. (4-14). In ancient Egypt incense was much used; sculptures and monuments of remote dynasties bear testimony to its popularity. Many a Pharaoh is depicted with censor in one hand, the other casting into it the oastils or osselets of incense. In embalming the Egyptians used all the various gums and spices “except” frankincense, which was set apart and especially consecrated to the worship of the Gods. In India incense has always been a part of the worship of the thousands of Gods and Goddesses of that strange land. Buddhism has continued its use to this day as a part of the ceremonies of worship - as, indeed, have some Christian churches - and in Nepal, Tibet, Ceylon, Burma, China and Japan it is a commonplace in many temples. The list of materials which can be incorporated into incense is very long; the incense of the Bible is of more than one variety, there being a distinction between incense and frankincense , although a casual reading of these two terms in many Biblical references makes them seem to be any sacrificial smoke of a pleasant odor. Ordinarily it was made of various vegetable substances of high pungency; opobalsamun, onycha, galbanum and sometimes pure frankincense also, mixed in equal proportion with some salt. Frankincense, a rare gum, is often coupled with myrrh as an expensive and therefore highly admiring and complimentary gift; recall the Wise Men before the infant Jesus:
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his Mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they opened their treasures, they presented him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2-11).” Where or how the use of incense arose, of course is a sealed mystery as far as evidence goes. Modern science, however, enables a reasonable guess to be made.
Of the five senses, smell is the most closely associated with memory and mood. To neither sight nor sound does the emotional part of personality respond as it does to odor. The scent of certain flowers so surely spells grief to many that they will leave a room in which tube roses or lilies fill the air with scent. Certain odors are so intimately identified with certain experiences that they become for all time pleasant, or the reverse; few who have smelled ether or iodoform from personal experience in hospitals enjoy these, in themselves not unpleasant smells; any man who has loved outdoor life and camping cannot smell wood smoke without being homesick for the streams and fields; he who made love to his lady in lilac time is always sentimental when he again sniffs that perfume, and the high church votary is uplifted by the smell of incense. In the ceremonials of ancient Israel doubtless the first use of incense was protections against unpleasant odors associated with the slaughtering of cattle and scorching of flesh in the burnt offering. At first, but an insurance against discomfort, incense speedily became associated with religious rites. Today men neither kill nor offer flesh at an altar, but only the perfume of “frankincense and myrrh.”
The Masonic pot of incense is intimately associated with prayer, but its symbolic significance is not a Masonic invention. Psalms 141-2 reads: “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Revelations 8-3 reads: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” The association of a sweet smell in the air, which scattered after it gave pleasure with prayers to an Unseen Presence is easy to understand, even that it arose in primitive minds. Prayer was offered and rose on high - so its utterers hoped. It was never seen of men. It returned not. Its very giving gave pleasure. These statements are as true of burning incense as of prayer. What is less obvious, although the ritual is plain enough on the subject, is that it is not only incense, but a “pot” which is the Masonic symbol. If the sweet savor of incense is like unto a prayer, so is the pot from which it comes like unto the human heart which prays.
Now prayer may come from an impure as well as from a pure heart. But incense is invariably sweet in smell, and so the pot from which it comes is an emblem of a heart pure, sweet and unsullied. Just what “purity” is as applied to a heart is a moot question. Very unfortunately the word “pure” has been debased - the word is used advisedly - in certain dogmas to mean “ignorant” - as a “pure” young girl; a “pure” woman. According to this definition a female may be a virago, a cheat, a liar, slander her neighbors, steal, even commit a murder; but, if she is a virgin, she is “pure.” Masonically, the word means nothing of the kind. In 1921 M.W. George H. Dern, Past Grand Master of Utah (Now Secretary of War) contributed some thoughts on “Monitorial Symbolism of the Third Degree and Its Application to Everyday Life” to columns of “The Builder.” Originally written for the Committee on Masonic Education of the Grand Lodge of Utah, these paragraphs were at once so practical and so pungent that the (then) great Masonic Journal gave them wider circulation.
Quoting the Ritual about the Pot of Incense, M.W. Brother Dern said:
“A sentiment so lofty is not easily applied to the practical, prosaic events of a busy day. To have a pure heart is to be true to yourself, true to your best ideals, and honest with your thoughts. “To Thine Own Self Be True. . . Thou Canst Not Then Be False To Any Man.” Living a life of deceit and double-dealing never made anyone happy. Riches or pleasures acquired in that way bring only remorse, and eventually the soul cries out in anguish for that peace of mind which is man’s most precious possession,. and which is the companion of a pure heart.
“Purity of heart means conscientiousness, and that means sincerity. Without sincerity there can be no real character. But sincerity alone is not enough. There must go with it a proper degree of intelligence and love of one’s fellows. For example, a man may believe that the emotion of pity and the desire to relieve the necessities of others is intrinsically noble and elevating, and he indulges in indiscriminate giving, without realizing the evil consequences, in the way of fraud, laziness and inefficiency and habitual dependence that his ill considered acts produce upon those whom he intends to benefit. Again, a man may be perfectly sincere in talking about the shortcomings of another, and he may justify himself by saying that he is telling nothing but the truth. But, merely because they are true is no reason why unpleasant and harmful things should be told. To destroy a reputation is no way to aid a brother who has erred. Better far overlook his mistakes, and extend him a helping hand.
“Without multiplying examples, let it be understood that the truly conscientious man must not simply be sincere, but he must have high ideals and standards, and moreover, he must not be satisfied with those standards. Rather he must revise them from time to time, and that means self-examination, to see if he possesses the love and courage that must go with sincerity in order to make progress in building character. For in this direction again there must be constant progress. To be content with what we have accomplished is fatal. As James A. Garfield once said, “I must do something to keep my thoughts fresh and growing. I dread nothing so much as falling into a rut and feeling myself becoming a fossil.” Many words in the ritual have changed meanings since they were first used. The Masonic term “profane,” for instance, originally meant “without the temple” - one not initiated, not of the craft. Today it means blasphemous, which is no part of the Masonic definition of the word. “Sacrifice” in our Monitor seems to come under this classification.
In the Old Testament, a sacrifice before the altar was the offering of something - burned flesh, burning incense, pure oil or wine - which involved the sacrificer giving something valuable to him; the sacrifice was an evidence before all men that the sacrificer valued his kinship with the Most High more than his possession of that which he offered.
In our ritual the word has lost this significance. The pot of incense as an emblem of a pure heart “which is always an acceptable sacrifice to the Deity” can hardly connote the idea that a Mason desires to keep his “pure heart” for himself, but because of love of God is willing to give it up. Rather does it denote that he who gives up worldly pleasures, mundane ideas and selfish cravings which may interfere with “purity of life and conduct” as set forth in other parts of the ritual, does that which is acceptable to the Great Architect.
Masonically, “pure” seems to mean honest, sincere, genuine, real, without pretense and “sacrifice” to denote that which is pleasing to the most high.
So read, the Masonic pot of incense becomes an integral part of the philosophy of Freemasonry, and not a mere moral interjection in the emblems of the third degree. For all of the magnificent body of teaching which is self revealed, half concealed in the symbolism of Freemasonry, nothing stands out more plainly, or calls with a louder voice, than her insistence on these simple yet profound virtues of the human heart lumped together in one phrase as “a man of higher character” . . .in other words, one with a “pure heart,” “pure” meaning undefiled by the faults and frailties of so many of the children of men.
SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.XIII May, 1953 No.5
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