The Five Points of Fellowship, as every Master Masons knows, contain the essence of the doctrine of brotherhood. But many a new brother asks, pertinently, why are they called Points? In the Old Constitutions, as explained in the Hallowell or Regius manuscript, are fifteen regulations, called points. The old verse runs:
Fifteen artyculus there they soughton And fifteen poyntys there they wrogton.
Translated into easy English, this reads:
Fifteen articles there they sought And fifteen points there they wrought.
Phillips New World of Words, published in 1706, defines point as a head, or chief matter. Moreover, an operative Masons points the seams of as wall by filling in the chinks left in laying bricks or stone, thus completing the structure.
In older days of the Speculative Art there were twelve original points as we learn from the old English lectures, done away with by the United Grand Lodge of England at the time of the reconciliation of 1813. They were introduced by the following passage:
There are in Freemasonry twelve original points, which form the basis of the system and comprehend the whole ceremony of initiation. Without the existence of these points, no man ever was, or can be, legally and essentially received into the Order. Every person who is made a Mason must go through these twelve forms and ceremonies, not only in the first degree, but in every subsequent one. The twelve points were: Opening, Preparation, Report, Entrance, Prayer, Circumambulation , Advancing. Obligation, Investure, Northeast Corner and Closing; and each was symbolized by one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel for ingenious reasons not necessary to set forth here.
The twelve original points were never introduced into the United States, and are now no longer used in England, although the ceremonies which they typify, of course, are integral parts of all Masonic rituals.
Our Five Points of Fellowship are not allied to these, except as they are reflected in the word points. We also find this relationship in the Perfect Points of our Entrance, once called Principal Points. Dr. Oliver, famous, learned and not always accurate Masonic student and writer (1782-1867) sums up the Five Points in his Landmarks, as follows:
Assisting a brother in his distress, supporting him in his virtuous undertakings, praying for his welfare, keeping inviolate his secrets and vindicating his reputation as well in his absence as in his presence. by which it will be seen that in Olivers day the Five Points were not exactly as they are with us now.
Strange though it seems, a change was made in the symbolism of the Five Points as recently as 1842, at the Baltimore Masonic Convention. Prior to that time, according to Cole, the Five Points were symbolized by hand, foot, knee, breast and back. After 1842, the hand was omitted, and the mouth and ear tacked on as the fifth.
Mackey believed that:
The omission of the first and the insertion of the last are innovations and the enumeration given by Cole is the old and genuine one which was originally taught in England by Preston and in his country by Webb.
Some curiosities of ritual changes, though interesting, are more for the antiquarian than the average lodge member. Most of us are more concerned with a practical explanation of the Five Points as they have been taught for nearly a hundred years. For they have a practical explanation, which goes much more deeply into fraternal and brotherly relations than the ritual indicates. A man goes on foot a short distance by preference; for a longer journey he boards a street car, rides in an automobile, engages passage on a railroad or courses through the air in a plane. Service to our brethren on foot does not imply any special virtue in that means of transportation. The word expresses the willingness of him who would serve our own pleasure and refuse to travel merely because the means is not to our liking would hardly be Masonic. We assist our brethren when we can; also we serve them. The two terms are not interchangeable; we can not assist a brother with out serving, but we may serve him without assisting him. For a wholly negative action may be a service; suppose we have a just claim against him and, because of our Fraternal relations, we postpone pressing it. That is true service, but not active assistance, such as we might give if we gave or loaned him money to satisfy some others claim.
How far should we go on foot to render service? Nothing is said in the ritual, but the cabletow is otherwise used as a measure of length. That same Baltimore Masonic Convention defined a cabletows length as the scope of a brothers reasonable ability. Across town may be too far for one, and across a continent not too far for another. In better words, our own conception of brotherhood must say how far we travel to help our brother.
Mackey expressed thus:
Indolence should not cause our footsteps to halt, or wrath to turn them aside; but with eager alacrity and swiftness of foot, we should press forward in the exercise of charity and kindness to a distressed fellow creature.
The petition at the Altar of the Great Architect of the Universe before engaging in any great and important undertaking is sound Masonic doctrine. To name the welfare of our brother in our petitions is good - but not for the reasons which the good Dr. Mackey set forth; the great Masonic students pen slipped here, even as Jove has been known to nod! He Said:
In our devotions to almighty God we should remember a brothers welfare as our own, for the prayers of a fervent and sincere heart will find no less favor in the sight of heaven because the petition for self intermingles with aspirations of benevolence for a friend. Apparently we should pray for our friends because God will look with favor on an unselfish action on our part - which is un Masonic and selfish! Cole, writing years before Mackey (1817) said of his Third, our Second Point:
When I offer up my ejaculations to Almighty God, a brothers welfare I will remember as my own, for as the voices of babes and sucklings ascend to the Throne of Grace, so most assuredly will the breathings of a fervent heart arise to the mansions of bliss, as out prayers are certainly required of each other.
This seems to be interpretable as meaning that we should pray for our brethren because we love them, and because, knowing our own need of their prayers, we realize their need of ours. Anciently, it was written Laborare est orare, - to labor is to pray. If indeed prayer is labor, then to pray for our brethren we may labor for our brethren, which at once clarifies the Second Point and makes it a practical, everyday, do-it-now admonition. To work for our brothers welfare is in the most brotherly manner to petition the Most High for him.
We often associate with the idea of a secret something less than proper; He has a secret in his life, He is secretive. He says one thing but in his secret heart he thinks another are all expressions which seem to connote some degree of guilt with what is secret. We keep our brothers secrets, guilty or innocent, but let us not assume that every secret is of a guilty variety. He may have a secret ambition, a secret joy, a secret hope - if he confides these to us, is our teaching merely to refuse to tell them, or to keep them in the fine old sense of that word - to hold, to guard. to preserve. The Keeper of the Door stands watch and ward, not to keep it from others, but to see that none use it improperly. Thus we are to keep the secret joys and ambitions of our brethren, close in our hearts, until he wants them known, but also by sympathy and understanding, helping him to maintain them.
Even without this broad interpretation, the keeping of a brothers confidence has more to it than mere silence. If he confides to us a guilty secret, since to betray him may not only make known that which he wishes hidden, but places him in danger. To betray a trust is never the act of a brother. In ordinary life an unsought trust does not carry with it responsibility to preserve it; in Freemasonry it does! No matter how we wish we did not share the secret, if it has been given us by a brother, we can not suffer our tongues to betray him, no matter what it costs us to remain silent, unless we forget alike our obligation and the Third Point. Do you stumble and fall, my brother? My hand is stretched out to prevent it. Do you need aid? My hand is yours - use it. It is your hand, for the time being. My strength is united to yours. You are not alone in your struggle - I stand with you on the Fourth of the Five Points, and as your need may be, so Deo volente, will be my strength for you.
So must we speak when the need comes. It makes no difference in what way our brother stumbles; it may be mentally; it may be spiritually; it may be materially; it may be morally. No exceptions are noted in our teachings. We are not told to stretch forth the hand in aid If, and perhaps, and but! Not for us to judge, to condemn, to admonish . . . for us only to put forth our strength unto our falling brother at his need, without question and without stint. For such is the Kingdom of Brotherhood.
More sins are committed in the name of the Fifth of the Five Points than in the name of liberty! Too often we offer counsel when it is not advice but help that is needed. Too often we admonish of motes within our brothers eye when our own vision is blinded by beams. What said the Lord? (Amos VII, in the Fellowcrafts Degree.) Behold, I will set a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.
In the midst of my people Israel - not in the far away land; not across the river; not up on the mountain top, but in the midst of them, an intimate personal individual plumb line! So are we to judge our brethren; not by the plumb, the square or the level that we are each taught to carry in our hearts, but by his plumb, his square, his level.
If he build true by his own tools, we have no right to judge him by ours. The friendly reminders we must whisper to him are of incorrect building by his own plumb line. He may differ from us in opinion; he may be Republican where we are Democrat, Methodist where we are Baptist; Wet where we are Dry; Protectionist where we are Free trade;
League of Nations proponent where we are biter enders - we must not judge him by the plumb line of our own beliefs. Only when we see him building untrue to his own tools have we the right to remind him of his faults. When we see a brave man shrinking, a virtuous man abandoning himself to vice, a good man acting as a criminal - then is his building faulty judged by his own plumb line and we may heed the Fifth of the Five Points and counsel and advise him to swing back, true to his own working tools. And finally, we do well to remember Mackeys interpretation of the Fifth Point:
. . . we should never revile a brothers character behind his back but rather, when attacked by others, support and defend it. Speak no ill of the dead, since they can not defend themselves might well have been written of the absent. In the Masonic sense no brother is absent if his brother is present, since then he has always a champion and defender, standing upon the Fifth Point as upon a rock.
So considered - and this little paper is but a slender outline of how much and how far the Five Points extend - these teachings of Masonry, concerned wholly with the relations of brother to brother, become a broad and beautiful band of blue - the blue of the Blue Lodge - the True Blue of Brotherhood.
SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.IX May,1931 No.5
Why do we wear an apron, and what is its significance? Our Order is founded on Operative Masonry, and operative Masons in common with most other artisans, wear aprons for the protection of their clothing. Different trades used different types of aprons, each suitable for the purpose. Originally the Entered Apprentice wore an apron with a bib secured with a tape around his neck. The bib was to protect the upper part of his clothing when clasping a heavy stone, such as a pillar, with both arms. Later, as he became proficient in his trade, he became an artisan and his job was then to smooth and prepare the stone for its place in the building. He then had no use for the upper portion of the apron, so he let it hang down over the lower part--thus we have our own badge with a triangular piece overlapping thesquare portion. There are several explanations of this triangular portion of the apron all or any of which may be correct, but the following seems the most logical of them.
The significance of the apron is "servitude." Certain dignitaries of the Anglican Church wear an apron as part of their clerical dress. Thus a person signifies the service that is expected of a Freemason to his neighbor. When investing the Entered Apprentice with the badge he is informed that it is more ancient than the Golden Fleece and more honorable than the Star and Garter. The main object of my talk is to tell you something of these orders. First, the wording of the investiture was compiled in about 1717 (in the Grand Lodge of England or its Lodges) and was revised in 1813.The Golden Fleece According to Greek legend, King Pelias of Thessaly had ousted his brother Aeson and to rid himself of Aeson's son, Jason he persuaded the lad to fetch the Golden Fleece which hung on an oak tree at Ares in Colchis. It was
guarded by a dragon. The adventures of Jason and his fifty companions, who sailed with him make one of the finest stories of Greek literature. (The fleece came from the mythical ram on which Phrixus and Helle escaped from death and was hung in the Grove at Ares by Phrixus, who alone survived the flight from his native land.)
The Order of the Golden Fleece was founded by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, in January, 1429, on occasion of his marriage to Isabella, daughter of King John I, of Portugal. The order was instituted for the protection of the Catholic Church. Th fleece was chosen as the emblem because wool was the predominate product of the lower
European countries in which the order flourished. The number of knights of the order was twenty-four. In 1433 the number was raised to thirty-three, all gentlemen by birth. In 1477, on the marriage of Mary of Burgundy with Duke Maximilian, the grand mastership of the order passed to the House of Hapsburg. The last chapter of the original Order was held by Philip II of Spain in the cathedral of Ghent. Up to that time the knights had filled the vacancies by their own votes, but Philip II obtained permission of Pope Gregory XIII to nominate the knights himself. After the Spanish Netherlands were ceded to Austria in 1713-14, the Austrians claimed the office. The resulting dispute split the order into two parts--one in Austria and one in Spain. The jewel of the order (which differs slightly in the two countries) is a golden ram hanging from a ring which is passed around its middle. This is suspended from a scroll in very elaborate design with the motto, (in Latin) The reward of labor is not trifling. The jewel, in turn, is attached to a golden collar made up of links. Each link is in the form of a capital "B" with rays issuing from it. The collar is usually worn with full dress. On ordinary occasions a broad red ribbon collar is worn in its place. Since its inception this order has been considered as the most important and highest of all civil orders on the European continent. The order has no standing in England, hence we hear little of it. No British subject is
permitted to accept this, or any other foreign order, without special permission from the sovereign. At the time of the dispute over the order between Austria and Spain in 1714, speculative Masonry was gaining a firm footing and its ritual was then revised and prominence given to the Golden Fleece. The Roman Eagle The Roman Eagle also has an interesting history. The eagle was highly esteemed among the Romans. It was usually depicted with outstretched wings, sometimes of gold and silver, but most frequently of bronze. It was carried at the head of a staff in the same manner as a banner. The eagle borne upon a spear appears to have been used first by the Persians. The Romans took the idea from them, and used it as an emblem of honor, to be carried before the chief ruler. In 1804, Napoleon had metal eagles carried
before his army. Austria and Russia both had double eagles as a symbol of their empires. The symbol of the United States of America is the bald eagle. In 1701, Frederick I of Prussia founded the Order of the Black Eagle. The number of knights was limited to thirty, exclusive of the princes of royal blood. The revisers of our rituals probably selected the reference to the Roman Eagle as it was the highest emblem of dignity, honor and power of that famous empire. Order of the Garter
The Order of the Garter is, of course, something we know more about, being a British Order. It is the highest order of knighthood in Great Britain, and is considered the most honorable and exclusive in the world. Its full title is "The Most Noble Order of the Garter." According to tradition, King Edward III, who was dancing with the Countess of Salisbury at a ball held on January 18, 1343, picked up a blue garter that had dropped from her leg and tied it around his own. Observing the queen's
uneasy glances, and the consternation of the countess, he returned it to its owner with the remark, Evil be to him who evil thinks. At this time the king had been successful in the French campaign and was contemplating a second expedition. He resolved to institute an order of knighthood in honor of his success, as well as a means of rewarding his army favorites. He placed the order under the protection of St. George. For 179 years it remained practically as instituted by Edward III but in 1522, Henry VIII revised the statutes. The color of the emblem was blue, which at that time was the French national color. The motto translated, Let him be dishonored who thinks ill of it, was appropriate whether applied to the French expedition or to the order itself. Formerly, the knights were elected by the members, but since the reign of George III all appointments have been made by the reigning sovereign. Originally it was called the Order of Saint George. It now consists of the sovereign, who is the grand master, the Prince of Wales and twenty-five knights companions. In addition it is open to all English prices (lineal descendants of George I ) and foreign sovereigns as may be chosen by the king or queen. On occasions, other companions are admitted for special reasons so that the whole order usually numbers about fifty. The insignia consists of the garter, the collar, and the great George; the star, the ribbon and badge, or lesser George. The garter is of blue velvet ribbon--the particular tint being known as "garter blue." The ribbon is edged with gold and fastened by a gold buckle on the left leg below the knee. It bears the motto of the order in letters of gold, or sometimes in diamonds. When the sovereign is a woman, it is worn on the left arm above the elbow. The collar consists of twenty-five pieces alternately gold love knots and buckled garters enameled in blue, enclosing roses. From the center link of the collar hangs the badge of the great George. It is a figure of St. George as a knight in gold enamel and set with jewels. He is depicted on horseback, overthrowing the dragon with a spear. A star was added by Charles I in 1692. It consists of eight silver rays encrusted with diamonds, issuing from a buckled garter bearing the motto and enclosing a white field of enamel with the red cross of St. George upon it.When the collar and great George are not worn, the "lesser George" as it is called, is used. It is similar to the g;eat George but much smaller and hangs from a broad blue ribbon which passes slantwise over the left shoulder. The robes of the order are of equal magnificence. The order became prominent in the 17th century after Charles I added the star to the insignia. On ordinary occasions the star is worn on the breast and the garter below the knee. Full regalia is only worn when grand chapter meets, or at a ceremony such as a coronation. The order meets at Windsor Castle.
So, Brethren, we have our badge of white for purity--of lamb's skin for innocence; more ancient than the Golden Fleece, which was founded in 1429, and the Roman Eagle, which was instituted in 1701; and more honorable than the Garter, which is the highest order of knighthood in the world. I repeat the charge given by the Senior Warden when investing the badge--Never disgrace that badge, for it will never disgrace you.
Lodge of the Quest No. 587
Virginia Masonic Herald--May-June, 1964
A Masonic Lodge is a symbol of the world as it was thought to be in the olden times. Our ancient Brethren had a profound insight when they saw that the world is a Temple, over-hung by a starry canopy at night, lighted by the journeying sun by day, wherein man goes forth to his labor on a checker-board of lights and shadows, joy and sorrows, seeking to reproduce on earth the law and order of heaven. The visible world was but a picture or reflection of the invisible, and at its center stood the Altar of sacrifices, obligation and adoration.
While we hold a view of the world very unlike that held by our Ancient Brethren - knowing it to round, not flat and square - yet their insight is still true. The whole idea was that man, if he is to build either a House of Faith, or an order of society that is to endure, he must initiate the laws and principles of the world in which he lives. That is also our dream and design; the love of it ennobles our lives; it is our labor and worship. To fulfill it we too need wisdom and help from above; and so at the center of the Lodge stands the same Altar - older than all Temples, as old as life itself - a focus of faith and fellowship, at once a symbol and shrine of that unseen element of thought and yearning that all men are aware of and which no one can define.
Upon this earth there is nothing more impressive than the silence of a company of human beings bowed together at an Altar. No thoughtful man but at some time has mused over the meaning of this great adoring habit of our humanity, and the wonder of it deepens the longer he ponders it. The instinct which thus draws men together to prayer is the strange power which has drawn together the stones of Great Cathedrals, where the mystery of God is embodied. So far as we know, man is the only being on our planet that pauses to pray, and the wonder of his worship tells us more about him than any other fact. By some deep necessity of his nature he is a seeker after God, and in moments of sadness or longing, in hours of tragedy or terror, he lays aside his tools and looks out over the far horizon.
The history of the Altar in the life of man is a story more fascinating than any fiction. Whatever else man may have been - cruel, tyrannous or vindictive - the record of his long search for God is enough to prove that he is not wholly base, not altogether an animal. Rites horrible, and often bloody, may have been part of his early ritual, but if the history of past ages had left us nothing but the memory of a race at prayer, it would have left us rich. And so, following the good custom of the men which were of old, we set up an Altar in the Lodge, lifting up hands in prayer, moved thereto by the ancient need and aspiration of our humanity. Like the men who walked in the grey years agone, our need is for the living God to hallow these our days and years, even to the last ineffable homeward sigh which men call death.
The earliest Altar was a rough, unhewn stone set up, like the stone which Jacob set up at Bethel when his dream of a ladder on which angels were ascending and descending, turned his lonely bed into a house of God and a gate of Heaven. Later, as faith became more refined and the idea of sacrifice grew in meaning, the Altar was built of hewn stone - cubical in form - cut, carved and often beautifully wrought, on which men lavished jewels and priceless gifts, deeming nothing too costly to adorn the place of prayer. Later still, when men erected a Temple dedicated and adorned as the House of God among men, there were two Altars, one of sacrifice, and one of incense. The Altar of sacrifice where slain beasts were offered stood in front of the Temple; the Altar of incense on which burned the fragrance of worship stood within. Behind all was the far withdrawn Holy Place into which only the High Priest might enter.
As far back as we can go the Altar was the center of human society, and an object of peculiar sanctity by virtue of that law of association by which places and things are consecrated. It was a place of refuge for the hunted or the tormented - criminals or slaves - and to drag them away from it by violence was held to be an act of sacrilege, since they were under the protection of God. At the Altar, marriage rites were solemnized, and treaties made or vows taken in its presence were more Holy and binding than if made elsewhere, because, there man invoked God as witness. In all the religions of antiquity, and especially among peoples who worshipped the light, it was the usage of both Priests and people to pass around the Altar following the course of the sun - from the East, by way of the South, to the West - singing hymns of praise as a part of their worship. Their ritual was thus an allegorical picture of the truth which underlies all religion - that man must live on earth in harmony with the rhythm and movement of heaven.
From facts and hints such as these we begin to see the meaning of the Altar in Masonry, and the reason for its position in the Lodge. In English Lodges, as in the French and the Scottish Rites, it stands in front of the Master in the East. In the York Rite, so called, it is placed in the center of the Lodge - more properly a little to the East of the center - about which all Masonic activities revolve. It is not simply a necessary piece of furniture, a kind of table intended to support the Holy Bible, the Square and Compasses. Alike by its existence and its situation it identifies Masonry as a religious institution, and yet its uses are not exactly the same as the offices of an Altar in a Cathedral or a Shrine. Here is a fact often overlooked, and we ought to get it clearly in our minds.
The position of the Altar in the Lodge is not accidental, but is profoundly significant. For, while Masonry is not a religion, it is religious in its faith and basic principles, no less than in its spirit and purpose. And yet it is not a Church. Nor does it attempt to do what the Church is trying to do. If it were a Church its Altar would be in the East and its Ritual would be altered accordingly. That is to say, Masonry is not a religion, much less a sect, but a worship in which all men can unite because it does not undertake to explain, or dogmatically to settle in detail, those issues by which men are divided. Beyond the Primary, fundamental facts of faith it does not go. With the philosophy of those facts, and the differences and disputes growing out of them, it has not to do. In short, the position of the Altar in the Lodge is a symbol of what Masonry believes the Altar should be in actual life, a center of division, as is now so often the case. It does not seek fraternity of spirit, leaving each one free to fashion his own philosophy of ultimate truth. As we nay read in the Constitutions of 1723:
A Mason is obliged, by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, not an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of the Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and True, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.
Surely those are memorable words, a Magna Charta of friendship and fraternity. Masonry goes hand in hand with religion until religion enters the field of sectarian feud, and there it stops; because Masonry seeks to unite men, not to divide them. Here then, is the meaning of the Masonic Altar and its position in the Lodge. It is first of all, an Altar of Faith - deep, eternal Faith which underlies all creeds and over-arches all sects;
Faith in God, in the Moral Law, and in the Life Everlasting. Faith in God is the Cornerstone and the Keystone of Freemasonry. It is the first truth and the last, the truth that makes all other truths true, without which life is a riddle and fraternity a futility. For, apart from God the Father, our dream of the Brotherhood of Man is as vain as all the vain things proclaimed of Solomon - a Fiction having no basis or hope in fact.
At the same time, the Altar of Freemasonry is an Altar of Freedom - not freedom From faith, but Freedom Of faith. Beyond the fact of the reality of God it does not go, allowing every man to think of God according to his experience of life and his vision of truth. It does not define God, much less dogmati-cally determine how and what men shall think or believe about God. There dispute and division begin. As a matter of fact, Masonry is not speculative at all, but operative, or rather, co-operative. While all its teaching implies the Fatherhood of God, yet its ritual does not actually affirm that truth, still less does it make a test of fellowship. Behind this silence lies a deep and wise reason. Only by the practice of Brotherhood do men realize the Divine Fatherhood. As a true-hearted poet has written:
No man could tell me what my soul might be;
I sought for God, and he has eluded me;
I sought my Brother out, and found all three.
Here one fact more, and the meaning of the Masonic Altar will be plain. Often one enters a great Church, like Westminster Abbey, and finds it empty, or only a few people in the pews here and there, praying or in deep thought. They are sitting quietly, each without reference to others, seeking an opportunity for the soul to be alone, to communicate with mysteries greater than itself, and find healing for the bruising of life. But no one ever goes to a Masonic Altar alone. No one bows before it at all except when the Lodge is open and in the presence of his Brethren. It is an Alter of Fellowship, as it is to teach us that no man can learn the truth for another, and no man can learn it alone. Masonry brings men together in mutual respect, sympathy and good will, that we may learn in love the truth that is hidden by apathy and lost by hate. For the rest, let us never forget - what has been so often and so sadly forgotten - that the most sacred Altar on earth is the soul of man - your soul and mine; and that the Temple and its ritual are not ends in themselves, but a beautiful means to the end that every human heart may be a sanctuary of faith, a shrine of love, and Altar of purity, pity, and unconquerable hope.
SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.II February, 1924 No.2
The Worshipful Master is constantly being reminded by the ritual that he has a solemn duty "to set the Craft to work and give them proper instruction." The two key words ''work and "instruction'' naturally go together. In recent years, unfortunately, the word ''work" has been applied only to the ritualistic work of the Craft. In its broadest sense it really means all types of Masonic work. The aim of Freemasonry is to teach men to live uprightly, do good in the community," and by their work to set a good example. Since the word "mason" implies work and Freemasonry glorifies the dignity of work, we can reasonably assume that the Craft should devote its attention to the kind of work which will help fulfill this aim. There is no question that the Masonic ritual is the foundation of the Craft. In it we find the message that Freemasonry has for the candidate, its philosophy, and its moral teachings. If one knows these lessons fully and completely, he is indeed a wise man. Too many of us are concerned more with perfection of the words rather than securing a full understanding of the spirit and the meaning of the ritual. Let us not make the mistake of believing
that the ceremony of initiation makes a man a Mason. True, this ceremony is vital and necessary, but unless the lessons of the ceremony and the spirit of the ritual is understood it is nothing. For example, for hundreds of years in the ancient world there were a number of associations that we now call the Ancient Mysteries. These organizations had a number of things in common. One element stands out above all others: the belief that the ceremony of the Mystery purified the can-
date. This basic belief more than any other factor brought these organizations to an end. Let us learn one lesson from this page of history: the ceremonies of the three degrees are of no value unless they are understood by the candidate and are grafted into everyday life. An informed and enlightened membership is a better and more successful one. This is not idle talk. Brother William H. Knutt, in 1952, at the MidWest Conference on Masonic Education, gave a report in which it was clearly shown that when the great depression of the thirties came along, the jurisdictions in which the Craft had been offering educational programs lost the least number of members.
The Craft should be put to WORK. That there be perfection in the ritual, that members receive instruction in the ceremonies of the Craft, and that our degree work be retained is of vital importance. No fault can be found with the ritualistic work for it is the foundation of our Order. Fault should be found with the view that we stop our efforts with the conferring of the degrees. We are amiss in our duty to the Craft when we do not properly prepare our candidates and then abandon the newly-made Mason to his own devices. Lodges that devote their entire time to conferring degrees will soon find that quantity is not a substitute for quality. The quality of the membership is determined not only by the careful screening of applicants for the degrees but also in making the new member Mason in fact. This can be done by putting the new Mason to work.
What his work shall be must be determined by the Worshipful Master. While the new member is receiving his degrees someone should try to ascertain his likes, his dislikes, his hobbies, his aptitudes, and his inclinations. If he has a fondness for ritualistic work, by all means put him to work in that field. If he likes to read introduce him to Masonic literature. If he likes to speak why not encourage him to become a Masonic speaker? All this effort will help make this member a better Mason for he will be doing what he likes. And the Craft will profit thereby.
One method of discovering the talents of a member is a questionnaire. Each member is asked to answer certain questions so that the lodge may have information on his hobbies, whether he plays a musical instrument, likes to sing, is interested in amateur theatricals or has other interests. Thus the aptitudes, the likes, the inclinations of the members are ascertained. A resourceful Worshipful Master, by the use of the cards, can put practically every member to work at some time or other on a project to his liking. (A sample form can be found in the M.S.A. Digest, "Think Tank for Junior
Wardens . ") The matter of giving the Craft "proper instruction" can take many forms. Each method
should be used to make sure that the Craft does receive proper instruction.
Investigation Committee. Masonic instruction can start with the investigation committee. The applicant for the degrees can be told about our Masonic homes, about our Masonic charitable activities, and he should be given a booklet explaining the fundamental principles of the Craft. (See STB, 5/83)
Candidate Booklet. Many Grand Lodges have prepared a series of booklets for the use of the lodges while the candidate is taking the degrees. These booklets can serve a useful purpose if they are placed in the hands of the candidates and meetings are held to discuss the material; in this manner it can be ascertained if the new member is reading the booklets. It will also give him an opportunity to ask questions that have arisen in his mind.
Posting the Candidate. The member who posts the candidate performs a most important function. He can render a real service if he will also discuss with the candidate the booklet he is supposed to be reading at that particular time.
Discussion Groups. Discussion groups may be organized on the District level. They should
be established primarily for the candidates, but all members should be encouraged to take part.
The group could meet at different lodges in the district in accordance with a pre arranged schedule. This would also help to encourage more attendance by members and will bring the lodges in the District closer together. Speakers. A list of speakers should be developed in each District so that they may be available for the lodges in the District as occasions arise. It may be discovered that there is among the members a real student who can from time to time make some valuable contributions to Masonic thinking.
Book Clubs. Where there is a group of Masons that like to read, one inexpensive way
to read Masonic books is to have each member of the group buy a book and then exchange
books. In this way each member, for the price of one book, will have the opportunity to read
as many books as there are members in the group.
Study Clubs. If we can have successful ritualistic clubs, why can't we have successful
Masonic study clubs? That the ritualistic clubs have done much to perfect the ritualistic work
of many members is well known. The same could be done with groups that are desirous of
studying Masonic literature, history, and other subjects. Research Lodges. There are a number of
research lodges in the United States. The name is somewhat misleading. These lodges are really
Masonic literary societies. Their main purpose is to study the history of the Craft and to issue
reports on various phases of Freemasonry. (A listing of U.S. Research Lodges is available
***List of Masonic Lodges of Research***
Undoubtedly, there are many ways of setting the Craft to work and giving them proper
instruction. Only a few of these are discussed here.The ancient ceremonies of the Craft should
not be set aside. The basic laws of the Craft should not be changed. The times, however, call for a re-evaluation of the procedures of the Craft in fulfilling its part of the life of the community. What we need is more well-informed Masons. This can be done by proper instruction and by putting every member to work at a task that pleases him.
We are again indebted to Worshipful Brother Cerza for providing a thought-provoking paper.
This is one he wrote many years ago, but which bears the stress of time.
Worshipful Brother Cerza
237 Millbridge Road, Riverside, Illinois 60546.
The ancient traditions of Freemasonry permit you to influence your qualified sons, friends and co-workers to petition for the degrees. There is absolutely no objection to a neutrally worded approach being made to a man who is considered a suitable candidate for Freemasonry. After the procedure for obtaining membership in a Masonic Lodge is explained, there can be no objection to his being reminded once that the approach was made. The potential candidate should then be left to make his own decision and come of his own free will.
One of the most misunderstood of the laws of Freemasonry is the rule that prohibits the solicitation of a candidate by any Mason. Every man who enters the portals of a Masonic Lodge must come of his own free will and accord but he can only come if he knows of the opportunity.
So far ingrained in our Masonic law is the rule against solicitation that it has unquestionably caused most Masons to refrain completely from discussing Freemasonry with friends and acquaintances who are not Masons. Dont let that happen to you.
The failure of the Masonic institution to make known to the public, that is to non-Masons, its principles and its purposes has, in the past, resulted in both suspicion and antagonism toward Masonry. People are naturally inclined to be suspicious or fearful of those things of which they are ignorant.
Freemasonry is not a secret society, but is rather a society which possesses certain secrets. A really secret society is one in which the membership is not known. Freemasonry is quite well known to the uninitiated. We do not attempt to hide our membership. A large percentage of our membership wears pins or rings bearing well-known emblems of the Craft. We do not meet in secret places. We meet in Temples which are well marked as Masonic - often times with neon signs bearing the square and compasses - and we meet at meetings which are quite well advertised.
What is actually supposed to be secret about the institution of Freemasonry is its ritual. Dr. Mackeys 23rd Landmark, The secrecy of the Institution, embraces nothing more than its ritual, which we must conceal and never reveal. The fundamental principles of Masonry which are taught by that ritual, however, are, or could be, well known, and most of them are not even principles peculiar to the Masonic institution.
The candidate for the mysteries of Masonry must always come to us of his own free will and accord, unbiased by friends and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, and he must so formally declare before he enters a Lodge room. It must be his own personal desire which as brought him to the point of petitioning for the degrees of Masonry. An explanation of the charitable and character building attributes of Freemasonry to a worthy and wellqualified person is not solicitation.
Probably the first question that would come to the mind of the uninitiated would be What is Freemasonry? We define it as a progressive moral science divided into different degrees. This definition probably would not satisfy and would mean practically nothing to the Non-Mason. Freemasonry might be defined to such a person as a fraternal society which is based on certain moral and religious doctrines; the moral doctrines including Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth; Temperance, fortitude, Prudence, and Justice; and the religious doctrines comprising a belief in god and a future existence; sometimes shortened to the statement of a belief in the fatherhood of god and the brotherhood of man.
There is no reason at all Why this subject should not be discussed quite freely with a non-Mason. The fact of the matter is that the philosophy of Masonry is freely discussed in thousands of printed volumes available to Masons and non-Masons alike.
One question which often comes from non-Masons is this: How does one become a member? Why have I not been asked to join? In any such discussion, of course, the non-Mason should be told that, unlike the members of other fraternal organizations, Masons are forbidden to solicit any one to become a member, and that any prospective member must apply of his own free will and ac-cord; and further, that he must pass a unanimous ballot for admission. It must be free will and accord on both sides.
One question which any non-Mason might ask, and which can be freely discussed with him, is the relationship of Masonry to religion and to the churches of any denomination Masonry has two fundamental religious tenets - a belief in God and a belief in a future existence, or, as it is phrased in Mackeys Land-marks, a belief in the resurrection to a future life.
The inquirer should be told that Masonry is not a religion in any sense of the word; but it is religious, and that no atheist can ever be made a Mason. As the Old Charges approved in 1723 put it, If he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. In those charges, under the heading of Concerning God and Religion it was said:
But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, what-ever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is, to be good men and true. or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the centre of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must else have remained at a perpetual distance.
Masonry does not require membership in any church as a condition of membership in a Lodge. On the other hand, membership in any church is no bar to admission to Masonry. There is nothing in the requirements of Masonry to prevent a Roman Catholic, a Mohammedan, a Buddhist, a Mormon, a Protestant, or a member of any religious sect from becoming a Mason. Any bar is one prescribed by the church to which he may belong. For in-stance, while Masonry is not anti-Catholic, nevertheless until recently the Roman church had itself set up the ban of excommunication of any of its members becoming Masons, which edict had been repeated by the Popes since the year 1738. There is nothing wrong in telling a non-Mason that, or telling him that the discussion of sectarian religion is prohibited in every Masonic Lodge.
One might also ask whether Masonry is a political organization. He should be told that no political discussion would be permitted in any Masonic Lodge.
This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted from a pamphlet published by the Grand Lodge A.F.& A.M. of Illinois
A blog dedicated