THE STORY OF AULD LANG SYNE
Undoubtedly, millions of people throughout the world will sing Auld Lang Syne to see out 1995. Few will know all the words and fewer still what they mean.
They are attributed to Robert Burns who apparently picked up the tune and some of the words from an old man singing in the dialect of southwest Scotland. Auld Lang Syne has become the international song of departure, and is sung by more people than any other.
The possibility is that Burns only wrote two of the five verses. But, as he did with numerous other Scottish songs, he modified them and, in some cases, purified them.
It seems likely that the song was first sung either in Poosie Nancy's Tavern in Mauchline, or the Bachelors Club in Tarbolton located a few miles away.
The song was initially centred on two young men who drifted apart after their early schooling, and who, after re-uniting, reminisced about their earlier times together, the happy experiences they had together and the kindly folk they met.
When Burns became a Freemason at the age of 23 he quickly absorbed the superb symbolism of the Craft.
Conviviality was, for Burns, one of the most important virtues. For him, Auld Lang Syne is a concrete expression of his love of mankind and his ideal of International Brotherhood.
The Masonic routine is to from a circle in which everyone is equidistant from the centre, demonstrating they are all equal. In this regard, the practice adopted in some lodges by placing the masters or other distinguished brethren in the centre defeats the purpose of the ceremony associated with the song.
At the beginning of the song the brethren stand with hands by their sides, symbolising they are relative strangers.
The early verses should be sung (or hummed) very softly as brethren reflect both on cherished memories of earlier times together and on those brethren who have since passed to the Grand Lodge Above.
When they come to the last verse, "And there's a hand, my trusty frier (friend)...", each brother then extends his right hand of fellowship to the brother on his left, then the left hand to the brother on his right.
This symbolises two things: firstly, that they are crossing their hearts; secondly, that they automatically form a smaller and more intimate circle of friendship. Now they have an unbroken chain of brethren who are close friends.
The tempo should then rise and, to the tapping of feet, all enthusiastically sing the final chorus.
At non-Masonic functions the foregoing routine should be followed as far as is practicable. If necessary, small circles can be fommed around tables.
At Scottish functions they usually wind up by singing "O we're no' awa' tae bide awa'," form a "snake" and move round the hall in increasingly smaller circles. Then the leader reverses the movement and all participants revert to a large circle.
The preceding is excerpted from an article that appeared in the Autumn, 1995 issue of the VICTORIAN FREEMASON, written by T. G. Patterson. It was reprinted as a Short Talk Bulletin in the Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry by Brother Bruno Gazzo
R. W. Bro. Patterson, the founder of Victoria's Rhetoric Lodge of Communication #831, is a noted authority on Robert Burns. He was born in Mauchline, Ayrshire, where "Auld Lang Syne" had its genesis.
"I don't believe in a Christmas celebration by the lodge. I don't think we ought to have one, or be asked to contribute to one or in any way engage in Christmas festivities." The Junior Mason spoke emphatically and with marked disapproval of the little ante-room group nearby, making happy plans for Yule-tide.
"That's very interesting," commented the Old Past Master. "I like to hear points of view unfamiliar to me. Would you mind telling me why?"
"Of course not. It's very simple. Masonry is not Christian. King Solomon, of course, wasn't a Christian, nor were either of the Hiram's. Masonry admits to her ranks any good man of faith; Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan, Buddhist... it makes no difference, so he has a Faith.
Then, as a lodge, we celebrate a holiday belonging to one faith. Now I personally am a Christian, and of course I celebrate Christmas. But my brother across the way is a Jew, who does not recognize Christianity. To ask him to spend his proportion of lodge funds in celebrating the birth of a Leader in Whom he does not believe would be exactly like asking me to celebrate, with my proportion of lodge money, the birth of Confucius. Of course, I have only one vote and the majority rules, but when it comes to personal contributions to a Masonic Christmas celebration, my hands will never come out of my pockets.'He shoved them deeper in as he spoke to emphasize his intention not to spend.
"Hm!" answered the Old Past Master. "So you think your Jewish brother across the way doesn't recognize Christianity? Don't you mean he doesn't recognize Christ as the Son of God? Wait a minute... Oh,Brother Samuels." The Old Past Master called across the ante-room. "Here a minute, will you?" The Jewish brother rose and came forward. "I just wanted to ask you if you are in favor or against the lodge Christmas celebration?" asked the Old Past Master.
"Me? I am in favor of it, of course, both for the lodge appropriation and the individual contribution."
"Thank you," nodded the Old Past Master. Then as the Jewish brother went back to his seat, he turned to the Junior Mason. "You see, my son, our Jewish friend is not narrow. He does not believe in Christ as the Redeemer, but he recognizes that he lives in a country largely Christian, and belongs to a lodge largely Christian. To him the Christmas celebration is not one of His birthday, but of the spirit of joyousness and love which we mean when we sing, at Christmas time 'Peace on earth, good will towards men!' If you argue that 'peace' is only a Christian word, he might even quote to you the words of One who said 'I bring you not Peace, but a Sword.'
"Now let me explain something to you. The Jew has just as much right to refuse to recognize Christ as the Son of God, as you have to refuse to consider Mohammed the Prophet the followers of Allah say he is. But as an educated man, you must know that Mohammed was a good man, a devout leader, a wise teacher. As an educated man, you admit that the religion founded by Buddha has much in it that is good, and you admit that Confucius was a wise and just leader. Were you in the land where the birthdays of any of these were celebrated, would you refuse your part in the people's joy in their Leader, simply because you followed another? I trust not. Well, neither do our Jewish brethren or our Mohammedan brethren, desire to be left out of our celebration. They may not believe in the Divinity of Him we, as Christians, follow, but if they are good men and good Masons... they are perfectly willing to admit that the religion we follow is as good for us as theirs is for them, and to join with us in celebrating the day which is to us the glad day of all the year.
"Believe me, boy, Christmas doesn't mean Christ's birthday to many a man who calls himself Christian. It is not because of joy the He was born that many a good man celebrates Christmas. It is because his neighbor celebrates it, because it is a time of joy for little ones, because it is a day when he can express his thanks to his God that he is allowed to have a wife and family and children and friends and a lodge, because of that very 'peace on earth' spirit which is no more the property of the Gentile than the Jew, the Chinese or the Mohammedan. "It is such a spirit that Masons join, all, in celebrating Christmas. It is on the Masonic side of the tree we dance, not
the Christian side. When this lodge erects its Christmas tree in the
basement and throws it open to the little ones of the poor of this town, you will find children of all kinds there; black, white, yellow, and brown, Jew and Gentile, Christian and Mohammedan.
And you will find a Jew at the door, and among the biggest subscriptions will be those from some Jewish brethren, and there is a Jew who rents cars for a living who will supply us a dozen free to take baskets to those who cannot come. And when the Jewish Orphan Asylum has its fair, in the Spring, you will find many a Christian Mason attending to spend his money and help along the cause dear to his Jewish brethren, never remembering that they are of a different faith.
That, my son, is Masonry." "For Charity is neither Christian nor Jewish, nor Chinese nor Buddhist. And celebrations which create joy in little hearts and feed the hungry and make the poor think that Masons do not forget the lessons in lodge, are not Christian alone, though they be held at Christmas, and are not for Christians alone, though the celebration be in His honor.
Recall the ritual: 'By the exercise of brotherly love we are taught to
regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, the rich and poor, who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other'. "It is with this thought that we, as Masons, celebrate Christmas, to bring joy to our brethren and their little ones, and truly observe the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, whether we be Jew or Gentile, Mohammedan or Buddhist." The Old Past Master ceased and stood musing, his old eyes looking back along a long line of lodge Christmas trees about which eager little faces danced. Then he turned to the Junior Mason. "Well," he said smiling, "Do you understand?"
"I thank you for my Christmas present," came the answer. "Please tell me to which brother I should make my Christmas contribution?"
The Old Past Master by Carl H. Claudy
There could be no better advice to men who are taking, as you are, their first step in Masonry, than that they should take due heed of all that upon which they enter. You have entered this evening as apprentices into the greatest school of morality and spiritual knowledge to be found in the world by men who are as unprepared as you are. Masonry is the school in which you are taught how scientifically to live your life in accordance with the will of God and how to regulate your conduct so that every act, word and thought shall be in harmony with the divine laws. By a cheerful and conscientious compliance with those laws and with the precepts of Masonry you will reach that point where death will have no terrors; where, when the call comes, you can, without fear and without improper regret, "draw the drapery of your couch about you and lie down to pleasant dreams;" where your ears will be attuned to the harmony of the spheres and your eyes will see the light which "never was on land or sea." By a cheerful compliance with the laws and precepts of Masonry you will reach such a point of development as you cannot believe even to exist in your present condition and with your present knowledge.
Masonry teaches by signs, symbols and ceremonies. Every word, motion, and even your very foot-prints since you first appeared at the door of this lodge room have been full of a profound meaning; and these very words, motions and steps, together with the symbols which you see displayed about you, have hidden in them that mighty wisdom which was revealed by the Great Creator to the men who lived before the flood--the primitive revelation which guided the footsteps of the ancestors of the patriarchs. When you come to see and to understand the beautiful and yet simple system of Masonic philosophy you will find a new happiness and every leaf and stone will contain for you a new delight.
It is impossible for me this evening to give you any explanation of many of these most important symbols. Therefore, we are compelled to leave for future study the plumb, the level, the square, the compasses, the Holy Bible, the pillars, the altar and many other of the symbols of Masonry, and we will confine ourselves to the Apron, which is perhaps the oldest of all symbols. After the Fall, as it is called, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of leaves, and the girdle and apron have been ever used as symbols of profound truth. The deepest of these meanings you are not perhaps capable of understanding, as to know all the meanings of the apron would require a most extended knowledge of ancient religions, ancient philosophies, astronomy, geometry, history and ethnology, and as you are just come to us from the outer darkness, to throw upon you too much light would have the effect that too much light ever has--it would blind you and would be worse than the darkness from whence you came. However, some of the external meanings of the Apron can be given to you and may be the means of inducing you to seek for the further and deeper significations of this wonderful symbol. Pulling up the bib and pulling down the skirt you see a triangle with the point upward and a square. The square in this aspect of the Apron symbolizes matter, physical matter, the earth and the appetites and passions which belong to the physical body. The square in its various aspects and forms has many other meanings which you will learn when you are entitled to know them. The equilateral triangle with the point uppermost, symbolizes God in existence, while the right angle triangle, such as this is, with the point uppermost, signifies God in action and also the works of God and as man is considered to be among His greatest works it signifies the soul of man which is the spark from God. This is sometimes represented by a flame, the flame representing the triple nature of man, the fire, the light and the heat, representing the soul, the spirit and the body--three in one--and the point being upward as a flame, indicates aspiration. To quote from the old hymn:
"Rivers to the ocean run,
Nor stay in all their course; Fire, ascending, seeks the Sun,
Both speed them to their source. "So the soul that's born of God
Longs to see His heavenly face; Upward tends to His abode,
To rest in His embrace."
In the Apron you thus see the representation of the soul and spirit in the triangle reaching upward to the highest things and the body, represented by the square, which hold!i it down to earth.
It is the purpose and object of Masonry to teach you how to conform your life by the practice of the virtues of morality--honesty, charity, brotherly love, relief, truth, purity in heart and thought, so that the body may be raised to a higher rate of vibration, a higher condition, and be made a fit dwelling place for the Mighty Spirit, the spark from the divine fire which the Great Creator placed there at your birth. In order that this body may be a fit temple for God, you must cleanse and purify, removing from it every trace of intentional wrong-doing and making it clean and sweet and pure and holy, so that the glory of God may descend upon it and illuminate it, and that you may become a beacon for the guidance of all those who are seeking light.
You may think that this is an ideal and not capable of practical demonstration. You may be surprised to learn that the half has not been told you of the capabilities of the human soul for development, growth and understanding, and that in the course of one short human life you can reach to heights which in your present condition you are incapable of conceiving.
Masonry is a scientific school. It does not depend upon theory, but every single point of its instruction has been tested by the experience of millions of men in all ages of the world. Not a single man ever lived in accordance with the Masonic tenets that did not get accurately, scientifically and impartially the absolute compensation for every single good act of his life. And there can be no safe, sane or permanent spiritual growth except on the lines laid down by Masonry. Because the teachings of Masonry are founded on the eternal truth.
Masonry has known for hundreds of years that the thoughts of the heart make us what we are, and that it is possible for man to control those thoughts, to keep out the bad and call in the good and by controlling those thoughts we can control every act of our lives and be no longer mere derelicts tossed about and blown hither and yon by every passing wind, but we can move forward grandly, steadily and irresistibly toward that goal of happiness which can be reached only as the result and reward of honest effort.
There is another meaning of the Apron. The square is used to symbolize the receiving faculties, and the triangle the giving powers. ln this Apron you can see your life history in that heretofore you have received far more than you have given. Masonry has long ago discovered that happiness consists in giving not less than we receive. Heretofore you have received more benefits than you have conferred, but by this symbol you are told that you cannot keep this up. You must confer at least as much as you receive. Emerson says in his wonderful essay on Compensation: "Benefit i~ the end of nature. But for every benefit which you receive, a tax is levied. He is great who confers the most benefits--to receive favors and render none. In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."
Heretofore Masonry has had no concern with your conduct. It has had no obligation to you, and you have had none to it. You are now accepted into membership in the oldest society or association in the world, and from the moment of your reception here, every member of that society throughout the world owes you obligations of vast importance. Your reception here may be truly said to be the greatest benefit which has ever been conferred upon you in your whole life. Do not forget that from this moment you owe Masonry a most sacred duty. This Apron, which is presented to you freely by the lodge to be your own property, and which we trust you will preserve and cherish until it shall be laid at last about you when your body shall be placed in the grave-this Apron, for the first time tied about your waist tonight, is the emblem of purity and innocence. Not the innocence of the infant who cannot think evil, nor, if he could, can he carry it into effect, but the innocence of the strong man, that innocence which is better expressed by the word "harmlessness;" the innocence of him who knows wrong and can do it, yet chooses the right because it is right.
This Apron you may remove when you leave the lodge room, but symbolically it will ever be tied about you, and to your dying day you can never remove the obligation which this garment symbolizes. If you disgrace it by dishonesty, stain it by impurity or by any of those things which are immoral, you will be inexpressibly base, for you will violate your own most sacred promise and also--and now since you know it, it will be a deliberate violation--one of the fundamental laws of nature of God.
You are thinking that some Masons do not live as they should, and that if they do not live right, you, too, can be excused for failure to perform your duties and discharge your obligations. Yes, my Brother, some men do fail to do right, and this is found not only among Masons, but among other classes as well. But do you think it any excuse for the murderer that other men have committed murder, or to the thief that other men steal, or to the deserter that others have basely left their duty in the face of danger? No, my friend, you are now to try to live by higher rules; not to be as good or better than others, but to be better than yourself.
Purify your heart, therefore, my Brother. And remember that purity of heart is a condition to happiness and spiritual growth. For when the great day of judgment shall come, if you have to offer to the Most High for a temple a dwelling place, only a mind full of lust and filthy imaginings and a body de based by impurity and evil practices, what will be your condition? If, instead of a fit dwelling place, you can offer to the King of all the earth and sky but a pig wallow, will you not in that day call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon you and hide you from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne?
But if you can truly say on that day, "Dear Lord, here is myself, as a living temple, swept and garnished by labors for others, purified both within and without by love, charity, and truth, plumbed by the plumb of justice and right, level with the level of brotherly love and humility, and square with the square of virtue," then indeed will the Divine Spirit enter into your heart and dwell there and give you peace.
Therefore, guard thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life and death.
HOW TO USE THIS SHORT TALK
There are several ways in which this Short Talk can be used effectively in Lodge .
It can be read! However, this is the least preferable way.
It can be memorized and recited as a lecture. If this is done, it would be wise to preface it with an explanation that it is in the phraseology of the early 1900's.
It can be used as a tool in providing Entered Apprentices with added instruction for them to "study at your leisure." Possibly it could be used to stimulate their interest and provide them with added material for discussion.
Probably the greatest use will be for this Short Talk Bulletin to be used as the basis for other talks by Masonic Speakers. It contains a variety of thoughts which can be elaborated and built upon.
Masonic Study Groups will find it a useful tool in generating discussions and exchanging thoughts.
However it is used, it will serve the Craft in providing "more light" and more insight into the application of Masonic teachings into our daily lives.
M.W. John L. Travis
Grand Master of Masons Georgia 1938
June 20th officially marks the summer solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is our longest period of daylight, which will then diminish from this point, somewhere between 30 seconds to 2 ½ minutes daily, until we reach December 21st, the winter solstice with the shortest period of daylight – and after that date, once again lengthening. So, over the course of six months, here in Virginia, that’s a 5 hour, 8 minute and 8 second shift in our daily light (from 14 hours to 9 hours).Of course, at the polar ends of our earth they see a complete change from 24 hours sunlight to 24 hours darkness – for weeks at a time - while at the equator they see no change at all: 365 days with 12 hours of sunlight. Needless to say, while the equatorial natives were little concerned with solstices, from ancient times, those living at the northern and southern ends of our planet carefully, even fearfully, marked this shifting from light to dark and celebrated the days of turnaround. In the Christian world, the Church decided to mark the turnaround from shortest day, traditionally December 25th as the birthday of Jesus the Christ. No one really knows on what day Jesus was actually born, our best guess from Biblical evidence would be in the springtime near Passover. But for theological reasons, in an attempt to eclipse the pagan festival of Saturnalia (the return of the solar Sun), the Church decided to celebrate instead the birth of God’s newborn Son. Then two days after that, on December 27th, the Church added the festival day of John the Apostle also known as St John the Evangelist – because he bore witness to Jesus as the “light shining in the darkness – that could never be overcome.”
The Church then placed the birthday of John the Baptist on June 24th – six months ahead of Jesus’ birth - since Scripture does record that John’s mother, Elizabeth, was already six months pregnant when the Virgin Mary conceived. Of course this places John the Baptist’s birthday in line with the Summer Solstice. Why do I bother you with these two men and these celestial dates? Because in the Christian world, all of our Blue Lodges are dedicated to the Holy Saints John – the evangelist and the baptist – recognizing this pair as their patron saints, and making a point of celebrating their festival days of December 27th and June 24th.
The persons of the evangelist and the baptist also play a significant symbolic role in Masonic thinking, serving as models of true Masonic character. I agree that you can probably find no better character models than this pair who represent the balance of heart and mind, passion and thought, in the life of a Mason or anyone. So let me tell you a bit more, from the Christian tradition, about these two Saints John. According to the Bible, John the Baptist was conceived and born six months ahead of his cousin Jesus. And yes, they were cousins, how close we don’t know, but Elizabeth was identified as Mary’s relative. It is highly likely that with the closeness of their births that John the Baptist and Jesus spent much of their early childhood as playmates and friends. Interestingly Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was a Levite (of the priestly tribe of the Hebrews) and was actually serving his turn in the Temple when the Angel told him of John’s conception. While Mary’s husband Joseph was from the tribe of Judah – the kingly line of Israel but – since Rome had taken charge – they no longer recognized such kings. Of course, the Magi, those Persian Astronomers who came looking for the baby Jesus, knew of this heritage and innocently informed Rome’s appointed ruler, Herod the Great of their opinion that once again a true King had been born for Israel.
But let’s return to John the Baptist.
In a normal life, this young priestly class child would have followed his father into temple service and perhaps spent his adult years serving as a local rabbi – teaching Torah to the villagers. But in the Christian tradition, God had other very special plans for John. From birth, John would be filled with the Holy Spirit. In addition, like the prophet Elijah before him, in whose role he would one day come upon the scene, John was to be raised in the wilderness as a Nazarite – far away from the rest of the world – a person wholly dedicated in person and mind to the service of God. So, when the adult John later shows up in the Jerusalem countryside, an unknown and passionate preacher, eating locusts and wild honey, wearing rough clothing and proclaiming a baptism of repentance, his hearers knew that, just as it was last promised by their last prophet Malachi, that Elijah had returned to herald the coming of the Messiah. John was a man of passion, a man of total dedication. With the Baptist there were no compromises. He saw the world in black and white and he gladly would let you know right where you stood in your relation to God: he boldly called the most publically religious people of his day a brood of snakes, and he taunted their less than sincere desires to hear his preaching. John also publically criticized Herod Antipas for his divorce and incestuous remarriage. This of course led to John’s arrest and eventual beheading, but not before he had accomplished his appointed task of turning many hearts back to God and of heralding Jesus as the coming messiah.
So, let us turn to the other: John the Evangelist. What most people don’t know is that John and his brother James, who were among the inner circle of Jesus disciples, were also his close cousins (their mother Salome and Mary being sisters). These two brothers grew up in the same neighborhood with Jesus and were probably also childhood playmates. So, when the adult Jesus invites James and John to drop their nets and follow him, he is not talking to strangers but to friends who knew him all their lives. Further, if you know your Biblical history, you will know that while James becomes the second martyr to the Christian faith, about fifteen years after the death of Jesus, his brother John eventually lives for over one hundred years becoming the last survivor of the original twelve apostles. It is interesting to note that in Masonic symbolism, just as John the Baptist represents heart and passion, John the Evangelist comes to represent mind and reason. But at the start you would never have expected that of the young disciple. This is because while the Baptist’s passion was mature, trained, and focused wholly on God, the young John was perhaps equally passionate, but in an unfocussed, immature, and violent sort of way. For this reason, he, along with his brother James, earned the nickname “sons of thunder” because they had once wanted to call down lightning from Heaven to annihilate a town for being less than hospitable to Jesus’ traveling band.
So how did John the Evangelist come to represent reason and thought? It was only after a series of events:
• As he grew and watched his friend and mentor Jesus live, die, and rise again from the grave,
• Then as he took on the personal care and protection of Mary his
aunt and Jesus’ mother,
• He subsequently watched his own brother beheaded for the faith and in their turn all the other apostles also die bearing witness to the Lordship of Jesus.
• He was tortured (supposedly boiled in oil) and then exiled to the island of Patmos for that same faith.
• And finally, he wrote his Gospel account, his letters to the Churches, and that final treatise which he titled as “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” – although John would never take credit for authorship of this final book. Only through a long life of trial and struggle for the faith would John the Apostle become a man of wisdom and quiet reflective strength, known to the Church as the Apostle of love. So, there you have the Biblical accounts of the Holy Saints John – the patron saints of Christian Masons. In the Christian realm, they have always formed a unique pair standing beside Jesus.
But now let us go a bit further to explore what the pair have also come to represent within the Masonic universe. In these two saints, Masons are given the balanced dualism of John the Baptist: young, passionate, dogmatic, an outspoken man of action, willing to die for his principles, and John the Evangelist: mature, loyal to the last, a man of deep nuanced thought and carefully chosen words. Together these two saints represent the realm in which a Mason (or any person for that matter) should live: balancing youthful zeal with maturing knowledge.
Our Masonic literature depicts this balance as a certain point within a circle bordered by two parallel lines.
• These lines represent St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist;
• And upon the top rest the Holy Scriptures.
• The point represents the life of the individual brother;
• The circle, the boundary line of his duty, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, interests, or prejudices, to betray him.
In going around the circle, we necessarily touch on the two parallel lines, as well as the Holy Scriptures. There is a time for thought and a time for action all guided by reflection upon God’s holy word. If a Mason, or again any person, keeps himself circumscribed within
these due bounds, it is impossible that he should materially err. But let me show you another way in which representations of the two Saints John show up in the Mason’s life. Saint John the Baptist standing in the river Jordan, pouring water over penitent’s heads, or dunking them completely if it was just after the spring floods – is often represented by the inverted pyramid, the Alchemical sign for water, representing the spiritual and emotional love. Saint John the Evangelist, who wrote of the light shining in the darkness is represented as the pyramid pointing up symbolizing fire that is the drive and will of action. And when placed together, they symbolize the perfect balance of darkness and light, life and death, passion and constraint, will and emotion, winter and summer: unity and wholeness of life. Together both represent the interlocked Star of David, and also the Masons Square and Compass. So, whenever you look at the Square and Compasses,think of the Holy Saints John and live your life accordingly.
By Rev. John Salley
Bedford Presbyterian Church
The subject calls for an appraisal of the place of the Ritual in the program of education, and implies that its future is, in some measure at least, dependent upon its growth and development, past and present. The inference, therefore, is that we begin at the beginning, and that while the intent is to think in terms of the speculative craft, we cannot detach ourselves from antiquity. We must necessarily begin with the operative guild which gave us birth.
Masonic ritual, in the broadest sense, incorporates any and all ceremonies or rites from the opening of the lodge to its closing, including the conferring of degrees. To trace the beginning in either particular would be next to impossible, and it is not our intent to DWELL in the past. We can be reasonably certain, however, that the first speculative lodges inherited their modes and customs from the operative guilds and thus began their existence with a ritual sufficient for their needs - a ritual which probably provided for a ceremony of opening and closing and the administering of an oath of allegiance. This is understandable in view of the fact that mediaeval lodges opened with prayer, after which each workman had his daily labor assigned him and received the necessary instruction to complete the work in detail. We further learn that in or near that same period, an investiture with Masonic secrets, the building secrets, that is, was, perhaps, originally conferred in one of the abbey rooms near which the Cathedral, or other sacred edifice was being erected, until the superstructure had so far advanced as to cover the church crypt, and offered a safe asylum for the craft to congregate in, for the purpose of working the rites appurtenant to the several Masonic degrees. With the passing of time, the working tools of the operative craft became the symbols of the speculative, and in order that they might be understood and their significance properly related to the living of a life acceptable to God and in a more perfect relationship with one another, it became necessary to devise a means of instruction which gave rise to ritualistic form. As speculative Masonry grew and spread to other parts of the old world and eventually to America, its ritual became further enriched with allegory and symbols to the point where it became an art in itself, but never losing its original purpose and intent-that of imparting knowledge to the initiate.
There have been times in the history of the craft, however, when ritualism became the whole aim and end of Freemasonry. The effects of war, which made its mark upon society and life in general found no exception in the Masonic Fraternity. Lodges became likened to "6 mills" in turning out Masons (or numbers), and the ritual suffered as a result, due partially to haste, and partly to indifference and ineffectiveness on the part of undedicated officers. Then, too, in America, there has been a tendency to lengthen the ritual to accommodate the so-called ritualistic orators, and a further tendency to exploit the ritual, for the amusement of the brethren at the sacrifice of the more important task of imparting knowledge.
In more recent years, through various programs of candidate instruction, with the ritual as the foundation and basis of that instruction, there has been a growing tendency to restore the ritual to its proper place in the total program of Masonic education. Newly-raised Masons today have at their disposal a greater understanding and appreciation of the historically and life-molding significance of the ritual, and the emphasis in rendition is gradually changing from the 'I' dotter and the "T' crosser to the more meaningful rendition which causes men to think, to feel, and to act.
This is not to condemn good ritualism. The preservation of ritual in its purest form is most important and imperative. Good ritualism is an honor; poor ritualism is always pernicious. Good ritualism is worth the best efforts and highest aspirations of any Master; poor ritualism is unworthy of any Master. Good ritualism is one of the great assets of a lodge and a potent advertising medium; poor ritualism is an efficient hypnotic.
However, our subject does not concern itself with ritualistic rendition, but rather the place of the ritual in an educational program. We have already indicated the tendency on the part of many Grand Jurisdictions to initiate a program of candidate instruction, and it is our opinion that such instruction cannot divorce itself from the ritual as the basis and foundation of that instruction. As for its place in the future, it is our feeling that there are unexplored resources in the symbolism and allegory of our ritual commensurate to, and of about equal magnitude with the space age in which we live, resources which will help mankind to better understand his place in the world as a creature of one Almighty Parent, and endowed with powers beyond his most imaginative dreams. If we are to make men, through our ritualistic teachings, better able to deal with the problems of life in their relations toward the Supreme Architect of the Universe and their fellow man which is our major task in the building of spiritual temples, then we must utilize the resources at hand.
To say that we have exhausted this field would be preposterous and indicative of Masonic ignorance, because, as any one of you sufficiently versed in Masonry very well know, there is no end to the great well of information which lies buried in the antiquity of our Order. The potential in space is limitless-so also is the potential in Masonic research.
Some of these are so obvious that we hesitate to call them to your attention. WHY CAME YOU HERE? To seek Good that makes us Men, and the love that makes us Brothers. WHAT CAME YOU HERE TO DO? To discover myself, and how to rule and use the strange powers within my nature, that the Rough Ashlar of Youth might be wrought into the Perfect Ashlar of Manhood. WHAT DO YOU MOST DESIRE? To walk in the light, to know the Truth, to live in the glory of an illumined world, to ascend the Winding Stair of knowledge, to enter the Court of the Temple of Imagery where the symbols of God hallow our mortal life. BY WHAT RIGHT OR BENEFIT? By the Right of a man to know the meaning of life, so brief at its longest, so broken at its best; and by the benefit of a need too deep for tears. WORDS? Yes. But meaningful words that can be read into our symbolism and allegory.
And what of the even more obvious teachings left unexplored in our Ritual? The search for the Lost Word - the Rite of Destitution - The Altar - The Great Lights, and the Lesser Lights - the letter "G" - the Hiramic Legend. We could go on and on, illustrating where we have but scratched the surface in our program of education. But, behind, before and underneath it all lies the ritual, so rich and abundant in life-building, and soul-building resources as to defy the most searching and scholarly mind.
What of the place of the ritual in any program of education? It is, as always, past, present and future, the foundation stone upon which we not only MUST build, but through the grace of an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God, we are so privileged as men and as Masons.
This from a thought-provoking paper presented at the Seventh Annual Northeast Conference on Masonic Education and Libraries in 1962 by Past Grand Master, Aubrey L. Burbank of Maine
Consideration of the Working Tools of Entered Apprentice
Greetings, my Brothers. I greet you from the South, a fitting place to begin these musings. Quite some time ago, I had decided that I needed to share my particular views about the working tools that we are all given when we first clothe and present ourselves as Entered Apprentices. This was a direct result of what was considered by many to be my … overzealous assumption of what constituted proficiency. As many of the brethren who know me well will attest, I hold none to the standard I set for myself. I had often mentioned to one of the Masters who presided over my own initiation, passing and raising that I had still considered myself an Entered Apprentice
as, to me, I had not yet shown suitable proficiency in the use of the working tools, thereof. Here, it is some years later, and I can, finally, and truthfully, declare, that I am now proficient in their use, to a level I consider to be suitable. It begins with a self-realization, and ends with this address, through which I
hope to convey my own thoughts of these tools of the operative mason’s craft, and the more noble and glorious purposes to which we are taught to employ them.
I came to the realization that I have become more inclined to use metaphor to convey, to the end-users, so that they may fully comprehend, the more complicated technical issues that I encounter in working on their systems. In addition, it had become readily apparent that my skill in so doing has become rather adept. I give full credit to these changes in nature to my own practice of assisting the lodges with which I work with the delivery of the historical lectures. Note I say “credit.” Clear and concise communication is a benefit for all of society, particularly for those in my field. How such a realization would apply to the tools at hand may seem obscure, to some, but I assure you, it is a
fairly straightforward path, one that heads west. As Entered Apprentices, our masters presented us with our working tools, and instructed us as to the more noble and glorious purpose that we are to use them. One tool is to measure, and the other to shape. What could be simpler, no? No. The tools are used in conjunction and require careful inspection for their use. To measure, one must inspect what is being measured, and one must carefully inspect and delineate the rough surfaces, to determine precisely where to the land the blow or blows to achieve the desired shape. I came to my realization because I am constantly inspecting the ashlar with which I have to work.
I made my comments, originally, regarding my own proficiency or lack thereof at a time when I was commuting to the city on a daily basis. This added 4 to 5 hours to my already overworked schedule. I was given justification that since I spent the majority of my time studying ritual while on the train, I could measure that time as service to the GAOTU, and did so, but I had a further problem. I worked hard, and played hard. I knew deep-down that I not only overran my vocation allotment, but
overran that of my refreshment, as well. I strove to bring that under control, but realized that in doing so, I was alienating my family, to a degree, as not all playtime was for me. I made an adjustment, and repositioned the gavel. I had learned that being a proper husband and father is also part of the divine plan, and
corrected my earlier measurement. Though perhaps I don’t have as much time to serve outside the lodge room, I do what I can in and among them, and through my work with my church so I, at least, am acceptable of my current layout, if not fully content. Make no mistake, my brothers! The gauge is a dangerous tool. Though the gavel might deliver the blow, it is the gauge that is used to determine where. Human nature is such that it is often difficult for us to take an objective look at our own selves. I liken this to asking Velma, of Scooby-Doo fame, to mark the right spot, AFTER she’s lost her glasses. Like all other things,
and as I tell everyone regarding my delivery of the lectures, it takes time and practice. Using the tools, as instructed, after all, is what enabled me to find the time to prepare this address, thus
lending my own personal views that they may aid you, my Brethren, in your own endeavors in aiding in the construction of that house, not made of hands, as we all leave the west in search of light.
The astute among you may have noticed that I earlier mentioned that I was acceptable of my “current layout.” I do not say have, in deed, achieved a balance of life whereby are found three equal parts. I do not know that I will ever achieve such. I will consistently strive to do so, however, as I can see the Wisdom of the design, even if I have not the Strength to execute it properly. In addition, I am sure that there are some that may gaze upon my ashlar and feel that it is misshapen, and believe that the gavel should fall in other places. This, however, does not concern me, as I am shaping this particular ashlar by the light I have found, as I there (gesture to Great Light) have found it. I can only counsel they do the same. It is also by that light, however, that I have come to see that though I may not have found the three equal parts, in seeing such, I have proven that I have, in deed, made suitable proficiency in the use of the tools I have been given, tools that have enabled me to give this address before you now. After all, being proficient in the use of a tool does not imply that the work is finished, merely that it may begin properly. I would like to thank all the brethren here present for taking the time to bear witness to these considerations of mine. I am honored by the courtesy extended to me by the Lodge, through the Worshipful Master. Much as I am grateful for every opportunity I am presented with to deliver a historical lecture, as it helps focus my mind toward those ideals that lay the foundation of our Institution, I am equally so for this. I especially would like to thank those Brothers who may decide to join me on this perhaps newly illuminated path. If we are Free
in the honest measure of ourselves, have fervency in our use of the gavel, and are zealous in their practice, I am certain we will master these tools. Thank you.
W John Scapaticci
Dongan Patent Lodge No. 1134 F & A M
Grand Lodge of New York
Just before closing John Blair Lodge No. 700 in its last meeting of the summer, Bro. Hugh Jones spoke up when Worshipful Master Dick Smith asked if any brother had anything to offer. The Master recognized him somewhat reluctantly because it had been a kind of draggy year in the lodge and Hugh was always wanting the lodge to do something besides just meeting. Besides it was a warm night, and the brethren seemed anxious to get out so they could have refreshments downstairs in the dining room.
Worshipful Master, began Hugh, I wonder if any plans have been made for us to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Constitution in September.The Master stuttered a bit. He remembered that the lodge secretary had read the proclamation from the Grand Master calling for a lodge observance of the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution on September 20.
No, Brother Hugh, he replied, I was going to get around to it, but I guess I just forgot it.
Brother Jones pressed his point. Worshipful Master, he explained, the way our meetings come, well have just one communication in September before the 20th. If were going to get anything done, its going to have to be in shape before that time. I think we ought to have a special committee make plans for this, but we ought to have a little discussion about it before the committee is appointed.
Worshipful Sir, said Jim Post, the Senior Warden, we've had lots of committees that never functioned. When we went to the Grand Lodge Leadership Seminars this past year, they said we ought to call them Action Teams. That way you'll expect them to do something.
The Master noticed that several of the brethren were sitting up in their chairs while others were squirming a bit as if they wanted to get out of the meeting. He felt that the subject was getting away from him, so he had better take charge again .
Ill appoint the committee or action team or whatever, he asserted, but I think you'd better give them some direction.
There was a momentary hesitation on the sideline, and old Worshipful Brother Golightly was heard to mutter, We've never done it this way before. Brother Samuels, who was a deacon at the church down the street, laughed and declared, That's what they said about our church when somebody proposed something new. They called it the seven last words of the church. Maybe its time the lodge did something new.
Several of the brethren were nodding assent to this, so the Master felt he ought to follow up by making the appointments.
Hugh, since you brought this up, he addressed the brother, I'm going to make you chairman of the committee, or lets just call it an action team.
A wild thought came into the Masters mind. Perhaps there were some brethren who had the ability to work with Hugh and make a go of this thing. It might turn out a good way to wind up his term as Master of John Blair Lodge. Besides some of the newer members had been wanting some special activities which would make the lodge more visible in the community.
I'll also appoint Brothers Sal Minnicello and Hardy McClellan, Worshipful Master Smith announced. Hugh, you get them together.
A brother objected, Sal hasn't been a citizen too long. He just came from the Old Country several years ago.
Thats a lot of hogwash, argued Bro. Samuels. He probably knows more about the Constitution than most of us because he had to do this studying before he became a citizen.
Another brother spoke up, I hope we'll make this an open program on the 20th. Perhaps we can get people to come to the lodge who've never darkened the door of the temple.
Yes, added another brother, gaining enthusiasm, we certainly ought to invite the ladies, for that matter, maybe the general public.
He turned to Junior Warden Tim Kelog. Maybe your wife would bake or get us a cake with red, white and blue icing for refreshments.
I think we ought to have a speaker, said Jim Post. Maybe we could get Prosecuting Attorney Hill to speak. He pays dues at this lodge, but we never see him except in election year.
Worshipful Master, I have another suggestion said Hugh. It might be fine to have Brother Hill make a short talk on the Constitution then, but we might have another short talk by Mr. Walker, the history teacher at the high school.
He's not a Mason, objected another brother.
That's true, Hugh replied, but he could talk to us about the history of the Constitution. Besides he had always indicated some interest in Freemasonry, and this just might be a way to lead him to ask for membership.
Brother Brown, who was the Chapter Dad of the local DeMolays, spoke up:
We might have the DeMolay boys come and present the colors and lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Others around the hall nodded assent to that.
Lodge Secretary Rider had been searching through his desk drawers while all this discussion was going on. He triumphantly held up a handful of booklets.
Here, Worshipful Master, he almost shouted. I knew I had some pamphlets on this. Heres Famous American Freemasons and a Lodge Cuideror Celebrating the Bicentennial of the US. Constitution. I'll bet there are some other books out in the lodge library. Maybe the committee, excuse me, action team, can use these.
Old Brother Golightly, who generally was so contrary, stood up with a new interest in his face. Worshipful, he said, the old timers used to tell us that this lodge was named for John Blair, who helped sign the Constitution along with George Washington and the others. You know, this town of Blairsville was founded last century by settlers from Virginia, and John Blair was a Grand Master of the state. We've got a lot of history right here in the lodge and this town. We know what it means to say WE THE PEOPLE. Were the ones they made that Constitution for, and were the ones who are going to have to keep it.
After a bit more discussion, Worshipful Brother Smith closed the lodge, but everybody knew that the spirit of Freemasonry was going to keep alive and well over the summer. The brethren had great things to look forward to in the fall.
When the members parted in a little while, Hugh Jones found himself thinking about the Masonic phrase, who have gone this way before me and he also thought about those names on the plaque in the anteroom, brothers of another day who had lost their lives in the struggle for freedom. Perhaps their September 20th celebration could be a little way of saying Thank you for a country and a Constitution like this.
How did the program turn out? Well, you'll have to wait and see how John Blair Lodge No. 700 and dozens of other lodges around the country did. Its pretty important because I don't reckon that any of us are going to be around to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Constitution.
* * * * * * * * * *
The preceding story is fiction. John Blair Lodge No. 700 does not exist. The characters are reflections of the authors imagination. However, the action of the story could have taken place in any of thousands of lodges. ..maybe yours! A master is faced with many challenges, not the least of which are preparation and planning. He must be prepared for any eventuality. There are many aids and tools which are available to assist him. He must have clearly defined objectives and a firm timetable of intermediate goals to reach them. To do this, he must communicate with his officers and members and get them all involved. Before he can motivate the membership, he must himself be motivated. That's leadership!
There are literally hundreds of Masonic publications which can be used to assist lodge officers. Unless they are used, they don't do a bit of good especially if buried in the Secretary's desk .
All of us want to feel that our lodge is the best lodge. We want and expect our lodge to be active, involved and needed. To accomplish this, we must follow the example of those master builders who erected the beautiful cathedrals with such exactness. They laid out their designs on their trestle boards and followed each detail in the construction. Just as the Builders were working at their Craft, so must we be workers in preserving our Craft.
The keywords are WORK and ACTION.
This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted from an article in Fall 1987 edition of The Freemason, official publication of the (Grand Lodge AF & AM of Missouri and is used with the kind permission of its Editor.
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