Freemasonry has many curiosities, and indeed, many mysteries as yet unsolved. Among the former are several often misunderstood words with odd or involved meanings.
ABIMAN REZON is the title still used by South Carolina and Pennsylvania for their Books of Law. It was used in years gone by also by Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland and Nova Scotia. It was the title given by Dermott to the Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge (Ancients) of England. Presumably the words had an Hebraic origin, but no one has as yet settled on a translation so authoritative that all are satisfied. "Will of Selected Brethren", "Secrets of a Prepared Brother", "Royal Builder", "Brother Secretary", "Intimate Brother Secretary", "A Prepared Brother", are all suggested meanings by various scholars who adduce various Hebrew words and their compounds as possibilities for the meaning Dermott had in mind when he first used the syllables as a title. Scholars also dispute the pronunciation. Ah-HIGH-man REE-zon is common, but the better scholarship seems to indicate that properly the second word should be pronounced with the accent of the second syllable--Re-ZON
LEWIS is an iron tool inserted in a cavity in a large stone, which expanded as it is pulled upwards, holds the weight of the stone firmly as it is swung through the air by a derrick so its position in the wall of a building. Both the term and the invention are very old. Pennsylvania used it as a symbol of strength, but as such it is absent from the symbolism of other Grand Jurisdictions. Masonically, the word is universally used to denote the under-age son of a Freemason. Obviously the term has so applied because the strength of a man's later years is in his sons, and the lewis, in England as in Pennsylvania, is a symbol of strength. In England a dispensation may be obtained, permitting the initiation of a lewis under twenty-one years of age. In Scotland any lewis may be initiated at eighteen. In North Dakota, a lewis may apply to a lodge before his is twenty-one, but cannot be initiated until he has reached man's estate. The Classic instance of a lewis being initiated in this country is George Washington, who was only twenty years and some months of age when he became an Entered Apprentice in "The Lodge at Fredericksburgh" (Virginia), November 4,1752 In France the term is not lewis but louveteau, but has the same meaning.
The ABIF of Hiram Abif does not appear in the Bible. The word Abi or Abiw or Abiv is translated in the King James version both as "his father" and "my father" - using the word "father" as a term of respect and not as denoting a parent. Hiram, the widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali, was "my father" in the same sense that Abraham was "my father" to members of the tribes of Israel. The thought that the two syllables are a surname is obviously in error. The legend gains, not loses, in appeal when Abif becomes a title of honor. Just when and how it came into the Masonic terminology is still a moot point; it does not appear in the Regis document (oldest of our Constitutions, dated approximately 1390) but does appear - only as one name among many - in the Dowland manuscript of 1550. Apparently the term was not in common use until after the King James Bible (1611) had become familiar in Masonic circles. The story of Hiram Abif as told in the Masonic tale is not found in the Bible, nor is there any meaning in the word which can be construed as port of the story as Masons tell it, except that of veneration.
DUE GUARD is two words, forming one, which scholars fight over and Masons accept as a matter of course. Every Mason knows what it is. None apparently, really knows where it came from. Mackey says that it is a contraction of "duly guard". According to the great authority it is an Americanism and not used abroad now to mean what we mean, even though two hundred years ago it was the name given to a sign. Some who dare to raise their small voices against the thunder of the great Mackey are convinced that the words are a ontraction or alteration of "Dieu-garde" -- "God guard" -- of the french. Haywood gives both Mackey and the immediately foregoing as a choice; Dr. Pease is wholly on the side of Mackey. Authorities with less fame still cling to a derivation from the French words, probably because of their poetic content more than any etymological foundations. Universally in this country a ritualistic difference is perceived between the due guards and the signs, but as a matter of actual practice a due guard is a sign and cannot be taken from the category of signs by a mere definition; even the ritualistic definition of a sign does not preclude the due guard from the classification.
COMPASSES-COMPASS. From the standpoint of the dictionary, these are two words with totally different meanings. A COMPASS is a suspended magnet so balanced that it may turn upon its pivot and orient itself with the North magnetic pole and thur (with the aid of tables and mathematics), point out the true North. COMPASSES is the word used to describe that instrument which draws circles and/or measures small distances; sometimes COMPASSES are called dividers. Like trousers and scissors, COMPASSES is always plural when meaning the instrument-except in six Grand Lodges of the United States which use the word COMPASS in the same way as their neighbors use COMPASSES. COMPASS is form the Latin Com (with) and passus (a step) --an instrument which is used "with a step"-- in other words, dividers. Masonically, it appears to be more a measuring than a circle drawing instrument, although reference to its Masonic use includes "circumscribe desires." But its position, open sixty degrees upon a quadrant, as in the symbol of a Past Master, would seem to indicate that it is more as dividers than as an instrument to draw arcs of circles, that it is important Masonically. With the square it forms two of the three Great Lights of Masonry, and has become so universally recognized as a symbol of Freemasonry that courts have forbidden its unauthorized use or its being copyrighted or trademarked for commercial purposes.
Few wholly Masonic words have been so much talked about and so little understood by the average Mason as "COWAN". Every one understands that it is a term of contempt; that it denotes some one wholly without the Masonic circle; but just what its real meaning may be, where the word came from, how it came into our system, is disputed to this day by Masonic scholars. It is generally - not wholly - agreed that it has a Scotch ancestry. certain old Scottish books lend color to the theory. according to these tomes a COWAN is a man who builds walls without mortar-as any farm hand in America may do, piling into a wall the stones from nearby streams or turned up in ploughing. From this the term cane to be used as meaning an uninstructed Mason, a self-taught builder, one not of the trade. Apparently its earliest appearance is in the Schaw Manuscript, dated 1598. It appears in the second, or 1738 edition of Anderson's constitutions. Scott puts the words into the mouth of one of his characters. Whence came the word? A Greek work KUON means dog, and in early church days infidels were called dogs, probably because of such passages as Matthew 7:6-"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs." old Swedish KUJON means a silly fellow. The French word COYOU means a coward, a base person. Mackey had a different theory; that COWAN was either a derivation of, or the ancestry of the English word "common". Old English spelled the word both coen and comon. If this is correct, COWAN, meaning common, is still a term meaning the lesser, vide "common people," also the English "House of Commons" as distinguished from the House of Lords. However derived the word is now wholly the property of the Fraternity, not otherwise used, and means to moderns an uninstructed and ignorant person, one not of the Fraternity, just as eavesdropper means to us one who attempts to gain the secrets of Masonry unlawfully.
Moderns do not go as far as bloodshed over the word "HELE" (pronounced HAIL), but in spite of the determinations of philologists and Masonic authorities who may well be considered final, now and then some more or less learned Freemason wishes to change either the meaning of the word or its pronunciation, or its spelling, or any two, or all three! HELE is almost invariable associated with the word "conceal" (as it should be) and "HELE and conceal" may be translated by transposition-"conceal and HELE". "HELE" is old Angle-Saxon belan, meaning to conceal. "Conceal" is Norman, and means to hide. Dr. Pease has well brought out that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries language in England was part Norman-French and part Angle-Saxon and that early ritual writers, desiring to make sure that no misunderstanding was possible, often expressed ideas in word pairs, one word from each language. Hence such phrases as "HELE and conceal", "parts and points", "Free will and accord", etc. To the objections of those who contend that "HELE" should be pronounced "heel" because it rhymes with "conceal and reveal" the answer is that in the early days of the language, our "conceal" was pronounced "consayle" and our "reveal" was pronounced "revayle". The word "HELE" (meaning to hide) has no connection with the word "heal", meaning to make whole again, or Masonically, make legitimate, nor with the word "heel", meaning part of the foot, or with the word "hale", meaning in good health, or the word "hail", meaning to call to, or greet.
Few words are more wrongly used, at least in Masonic circles, that "oath". A candidate takes upon himself a solemn obligation to do certain things and to refrain from certain actions. the word "OBLIGATION" is from the Latin-of (to) and ligare (to bind). It is a tie, a bond, an agreement, a profession of intention, a responsibility, a duty agreed upon, a constraint of action, a pledge, an acknowledgement of promises made. In no such definitions can be found any similarity to the meaning of the word "oath", which is the concluding phrase by which the assumer of the OBLIGATION calls upon that which he holds sacred to witness his vow. In a court of law the witness swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is an assumed OBLIGATION. He ends "So help me, God" which is the oath, attesting to the sincerity of his OBLIGATION. In taking both OBLIGATION and attesting it by the oath, the witness is required to raise his right hand, a curious throwback to ancient days in which a man offered his right hand to be cut off if his oath was broke,. Still more an oddity is the small boy's attestation "by golly" made without knowing that he is offering the ancient "gol"(hand) if he tells not the truth! The Masonic OBLIGATIONS are high-minded duties voluntarily assumed by candidates as their part in becoming brethren of the Ancient Craft. the oath which they take is their attestation of the validity of the covenants the thus make. To speak of the whole as a Masonic "oath" is to name the whole for a minor part.
Words change in meaning as the centuries pass. The classic examples are the word "hell" and "hellfire" which in the King James Version (Mark) mean a place where refuse and garbage are burned and in more modern eschatology becomes a place of punishment, somewhat worse than the sheol of the old testament. Among words much used in Masonry two-PROFANE and LIBERTINE - have changed in meaning with the passage of the years. Anciently "PROFANE" came from "pro" (without) and "fanum" (temple) and signified one uninitiated, not within the circle of the Craft. "LIBERTINE" was once a free thinker, one who did not subscribe to the doctrine of the church ". "PROFANE" in common parlance is now one given to taking the name of God in vain and the "LIBERTINE" is a licentious person. Masonically a profane is merely one not initiated, and an "irreligious libertine" is an agnostic or an atheist, and not a man of promiscuous habits.
Anciently the word "TOKEN" (from the Anglo-Saxon tacn, a gesture, a sign and art) was properly used as we use it Masonically. But through the years it has changed, in common parlance; now may be an offering of flowers to a lady or a box of cigars to a man. In Biblical days the word was used to signify a memorial or other reminder of a covenant or promise as the rainbow was "a TOKEN of a covenant". In Freemasonry the TOKEN is never a thing, always an act.
As the famed magician was shackled and then lowered upside down into the water-filled Chinese Torture Cell, gazing through the glass front illusion at the immersed man, the audience sat transfixed knowing that unless escape was possible within precious minutes certain death by drowning would result.
His very name conjures up visions of magical miracles, thrilling escapes, death defying stunts and a mysterious persona capable of the impossible. While he died three quarters of a century ago, the average person still thinks of Houdini when asked to name a famous magician. What aura of greatness, mystique, and depth of charisma encompassed this man, rising from humble beginnings to the rarified pinnacle of glory, to have left such an indelible imprint on the pages of history.
In truth, there were two Houdinis; the performer as the world saw him, and Eric Weiss the man and Freemason, a personality obscured from view by the public persona. Born Erich Weiss in Budapest on March 24, 1874 [the usually cited date is April 6 of that year in Appleton, Wisconsin, the date his mother had claimed]. If the date and location have been the subject of confusion, recent research clearly indicates the Budapest origin.
Circumstances surrounding the family's departure for America remain cloudy, although anti- Semitism undoubtedly played a major role. Harry Houdini was a complex personality, a romantic ever willing to embellish his rather mundane and plain beginnings. Throughout his life, there are clear instances where he invented and/or "embroidered" events to enhance both his personal and professional image, having an incessant need to "color" events that there might be an aura of mystery and glamour involved.
With Hungarian friends in Appleton, Houdini's father had accepted a Rabbi's position there. Unfortunately, being old world conservative, he was unable to adapt to more liberal American ideas and the family relocated, first to Milwaukee, and then to New York. The family always in need of money, young Eric took a variety of odd jobs to help out. With virtually no formal education, he left home at age 12 to "make his fortune" but after a year or two eventually relocated to New York where his family now lived.
At age 17, he was captivated by the memoirs of the great French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin and it's perhaps not surprising he was drawn to what he believed to be the glamorous world of entertainment and magic where he might find fame and fortune. He was so impressed by Houdin's life that when a stage name became necessary he simply added an "i" to Houdin becoming Houdini.
Houdini and his brother Theo began a magic act playing grubby beer halls, lodge banquets, dime museums and any other bookings they could obtain, but the early years were a struggle. In the famous Coney Island, N.Y. amusement park, for example, they worked for coins thrown into a hat and in the 1892 Chicago World Columbia Exposition, Harry gave 20 shows daily at a sideshow for $12 a week. During his early years, working carnivals and similar venues, he gained a world of information and experience in show business.
As an adult, Houdini was somewhat shorter than average, about 5'4", with blue eyes, dark curly hair and with a rather careless appearance, yet his face seemed to project a burning handsome intensity. Immensely strong both in mind and body, through exercise and balanced living, he developed his physical state to an amazing degree of fitness with literally muscles of steel and a determination of mind to match. An outstanding swimmer, he also developed an extended underwater breath control technique which, together with his superb physical condition, would prove so essential in later years as an escape artist.
Different versions surround Houdini's meeting of and marriage to Wilhelminia Beatrice Rahner, or "Bess," and separating fact from fiction, like much of Houdini's life, is a difficult task. What is certain is that the Houdinis always celebrated June 22, 1894, as their anniversary. A match between rigidly Catholic and Jewish families might seem improbable, but it proved both successful and enduring for the Houdinis.
After the marriage, Bess replaced Theo in the act becoming the principal assistant. Success was still a fleeting entity, however, and they continued working traditional areas such as sideshows, circuses, beer halls, etc., often working ten to twenty shows daily. At one point, in Nova Scotia in 1896, with no funds left for a room, they were forced to sleep in a hallway and Houdini even considered giving up show business.
It was in 1895, looking for something different from other entertainers, that he thought of a challenge to local police stations on his ability to escape from their handcuffs and jail cells. By 1898-99, primarily as a result of these successful escapes, his reputation began to spread, better bookings followed, and after years of struggle things began looking up.
Then, booked into a large vaudeville circuit by an important impresario, the turning point arrived. Big-time vaudeville was then the most popular form of entertainment, the fledgling motion picture industry not yet the phenomenon it would eventually become. For the Houdinis, it was their "breakthrough" and an end to one-night stands and burlesque days.
Houdini spent years learning the mechanics of locks and handcuffs until he was one of the world's experts in the field. A master of opening secure devices of all types, he possessed a skill the likes of which has not been seen since and likely never will again. Additionally, Houdini had an amazing ability and brought charisma and sheer magnetism to his presentations, mesmerizing audiences until they "believed" in his miracles, a rare talent indeed.
There was also the publicity he created to enhance his image. He developed not only into a performer of unsurpassed ability, he could almost be said to be the creator of the modern "hard sell" so extravagant were his methods and claims. The great showman Barnum touted his circus acts-Houdini touted himself. It's possible no greater exponent of self exploitation and advertising has ever lived. If "Chutzpah" were a marketable commodity, Houdini would have been worth billions!
The French conjurer Robert-Houdin wrote: "A magician is not a juggler. He is an actor playing a role---the role of a sorcerer." Houdini played the role to magnificent perfection. So baffling were his methods considered, some even attributed his legendary escapes to occult or supernatural powers. No less a respected individual than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed Houdini had the power to dematerialize himself in one place and reappear in another.
If a modest success was being achieved, it was not yet total success for Houdini. Thus, in 1900 he and Bess sailed for England where other American magicians had done well, a gesture of immense confidence since he had no English bookings. London was not initially a "pearl" in his oyster. However, through perseverance, a bit of luck, an escape from Scotland Yard's cuffs and a trial appearance at London's famed Alhambra Theater he was on his way.
In time and with helpful publicity, successful engagements followed in France, Holland, Germany and Russia and he and Bess would spend the next five years enjoying their European success. As his fame grew, he broke all existing attendance records in city after city becoming the most outstanding, sought after, and highest paid vaudeville entertainer on the Continent and British Isles. His ego was of monstrous proportions, however, suffering few imitators. He had "arrived" and believed he was the best!
As a consequence, he was fiercely jealous, not only of any contemporaries who also performed escapes, but indeed competitors of any kind. Through the years, he devoted much time and effort "fighting" against those who either "attacked" his act or who he felt debased the escape art through the use of trick or "gaffed" items quietly failing to mention his own use of similar hidden methods. Needless to say, he garnered tremendous publicity in the process.
Amazingly generous and thoughtful of retired or destitute magicians or their families, he carried his largess to such measures he often paid their rent or otherwise extended aid. He also gave benefit performances at charity hospitals and orphanages. His generosity, while often kept in the shadows, was legion. Possibly he felt he, too, would someday be in need, possibly he was simply implementing the Masonic tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Charity, or perhaps it was a bit of both.
The Houdinis never had a home life or settled down in the conventional sense of the word, spending much of their life "on the road" performing at one venue or another, their residence a series of rooming houses and hotels. Their life was the theater, the circus, or wherever they happened to be performing. While he bought a twenty-six room New York townhouse and moved his mother there, it was little more than a storehouse of magic and a place he occasionally visited.
The years were rolling by and Houdini realized he could not always dangle upside down high above the ground freeing himself from a strait jacket. He needed new worlds to conquer and so in 1919 he moved into movies, first in a "cliff-hanger" serial and then "cliff-hanger" feature films. He would invariably be chained, roped, or otherwise immobilized by villains in sequences which required his imminent release to escape death and rescue the heroine from an equally perilous situation. Needless to say, he always prevailed.
WW-I naturally put a stop to his European appearances and fiercely patriotic he tried to enlist in 1917 but at age 43 was rejected as being too old. Not to be derailed, for the next two years he performed at military benefits, canteens and training camps usually at his own expense, often working with stars such as Will Rogers, Tom Mix, and Jim Corbett. Also active in selling "Liberty Bonds," he chalked up sales of $1,000,000 virtually single handedly.
Interestingly, while he later began to expose spiritual charlatans, he had himself followed the same path and had given psychic presentations early in his career, spiritual ism then in vogue. In time, he became embarrassed at the gullibility of his audiences and revised the act to emphasize magic and escapes rather than spiritualism. Could mediums communicate with the Netherworld? While keeping an open mind on the subject, he developed a total aversion to psychic fraud, spending years both studying and lecturing on the issue and became a fervent crusader in exposing fraudulent mediums.
A member of the Craft, Houdini was not alone among Masonic magicians, a group which included such notables as Harry Keller, Howard Thurston, and Harry Blackstone. Initiated in St. Cecile Lodge, N.Y., July 17, 1923, he was Passed and Raised July 31 and August 21 and in 1924 he entered the Consistory. Immensely proud of his Masonic affiliation, he gave a benefit performance for the Valley of New York, filling the 4,000 seat Scottish Rite Cathedral and raising thousands of dollars for needy Masons. In October 1926, just weeks prior to his untimely death, he became a Shriner in N.Y.'s Mecca Temple.
On October 22, 1926, during an engagement at the Princess Theater in Montreal, a first-year college student asked permission to test the entertainer's abdominal muscle control and strike the magician, a part of Houdini's act. Houdini, accepting the challenge, mumbled his assent, whereupon the student struck before the necessary muscles could be tensed, obviously a critical requirement. Houdini ignored later stomach pains in the tradition of "the show must go on."
Arriving in Detroit the next day, he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis but again insisted on performing. Finally, with a temperature of 104, he was taken to Grace Hospital where a ruptured gangrenous appendix was removed but peritonitis had unfortunately set in. Despite medical predictions of imminent death, his strong will to live was such he held on almost a week, finally succumbing the afternoon of October 31, 1926, at the age of 52, Halloween Day. Perhaps a symbolically magical date for his final curtain.
His body was taken to New York with funeral services held at the W. 43rd St. Elks Lodge Ballroom with some 2,000 in attendance. The impressive service included eulogies by Rabbis, a Broken Wand Ceremony by the Society of American Magicians, tributes from the National Vaudeville Artists and Jewish Theatrical Guild, rites by the Mt. Zion Congregation, the Elks, and Masonic Rites by St. Cecile Lodge. Burial was then in Machpelah Cemetery, Brooklyn, a site Houdini had personally selected.
The Literary Digest called Houdini "the greatest necromancer of the age-perhaps of all time." Be that as it may, before Houdini died he said he would send a message to his wife from beyond the grave if it were possible. Many seance attempts have been made to bring Houdini's spirit back but none have succeeded.
In the Middle Ages, Houdini would likely have been burned at the stake by the Church as being a "sorcerer" in the same manner Protestants were burned, charged by the Church as being "heretics." By the beginning of the 20th Century, however, history had moved on and in today's world the magical arts enjoy unprecedented prestige.
There is little doubt Houdini presented his "death defying" escapes in a dazzling manner, one peculiar to his own personality and to the era in which he lived. He was, after all, a showman first and foremost, a product of a particular era, an era ready to "believe," and perhaps in some respects an era unworldly and naive by comparison with today's technological wonders.
As Sherlock Holmes said: "We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow." Sometimes, however, in lieu of fading, the shadow endures and becomes an all pervasive reminder of a unique figure whose larger than life persona lingers on. Houdini's shadow not only endures, but his name has entered into the hallowed realm of legend.
Bro. William E. Parker
Past Grand Senior Warden
French National Grand Lodge
Of "the few Lodges at London," as the record puts it, who constituted themselves a Grand Lodge in 1717, only four are named. If other lodges were invited, it maybe surmised that they either had not been notified of the purpose of the meeting, or if so, that they declined to associate themselves with the undertaking. Or perhaps no one knew what was afoot when the meeting was held, and the idea of a Grand Lodge was born of the spirit of the hour.
The phrase "time immemorial," used to denote the age of the four lodges taking part, is all a blur, telling us no authentic story of their history. On the Engraved List of Lodges of 1729, the Goose and Gridiron Lodge No.1, known after as the Lodge of Antiquity, is said to have dated from 1691. Of the others we have no early knowledge at all, except the part they took in founding the first Grand Lodge. Even the Lodge of Antiquity pursued an uneventful career until Preston became its Master in 1774, when it was involved in a dispute with Grand Lodge.
The lodge, which met at the Crown Ale-House, Parker's Lane - No.2, of the original four - played no part in Masonic history, and died of inanition twenty years later; stricken off the roll in 1740. No Mason of any note seems to have belonged to it. The Apple-Tree Tavern Lodge - No.3 - gave the Grand Lodge its first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, who apparently appointed two members of his own Lodge as Grand Wardens - so at least we may conjecture. The lodge moved to the Queen's Head, Knaves Acre, about 1723, and, if we may believe Anderson, it was loath to come under the new Constitution adopted in that year.
These two lodges seem to have been Operative Lodges, or largely so, composed of working Masons and Brethren of the artisan class. Clearly, then, the new Grand Lodge was made up, predominately, of Operative Masons, and not, as has so often been implied, the design of men who simply made use of the remnants of Operative Masonry the better to exploit some hidden cult. Still, it may be argued that, even if Operative Masons were in the majority, the real leadership of the movement came from Accepted Masons, and that is quite true. But anyone who knows the ingrained conservatism of Masons of every sort, will be slow to admit that any designing group could have imposed anything not inherently Masonic upon such an assembly.
The premier lodge of the period, which seems to have initiated and led the formation and policy of the new Grand Lodge, was No.4, meeting at the Rummer and Grape Tavern in Channel Row, Westminster. It was almost entirely a Specu-lative Lodge, made up of Accepted Masons, and almost all the leading men of the Craft in that formative time were members of it. The other lodges had perhaps twenty members each, while No.4 had a roll of seventy, among them men of high social rank, including members of nobility. Had it not been for such a lodge, the only one of is kind and quality in London, the chances are many that no Grand Lodge would have been formed, and the story of our Craft, if it had any story at all, would have been very different.
Besides Dr. Anderson, to whom, Gould says, we may safely attribute the authorship of the Constitutions - as well as much else, some of it rather fantastic - and Dr. Desaguliers, to whom tradition ascribes the refashioning of much of the ritual, the second and third Grand Masters were men of that lodge. It also furnished a Grand Secretary, William Cowper. The lodge continued to hold first place in numbers, social rank, and influence until 1735, when a decline set in, both in attendance and contributions, and in 1747 it was decreed that the lodge "be erased from the Book of Lodges." Four years later the lodge was restored, but it never regained its former power, and twenty years later appeared to be once more on the edge of extinction, from which it was rescued by being merged with the Somerset House Lodge founded in Dunckerley.
The Goose and Gridiron Lodge, No.1, is the only one of the original four lodges now in existence. After various changes in name it is now the Lodge of Antiquity, No.2, having lost its proud position of first on the list when the lodges were renumbered by the casting of lots, at the time of the union of the two rival Grand Lodges, in 1813. It seems to have been a mixed lodge, part Operative and part Speculative, and this fact, no doubt, made for continuity and stability in its long history and service.
Not much is known of the first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer, whose life seems to have been uneventful, if not unimportant, save for the "accident," if we may call it such, of his election to his high office. About the only record of him - save the story of his ill fortune in later life - is to be found in the Anderson version of the organization of the Grand Lodge in the 1738 edition of the Constitutions. Nothing is known of his previous history, except that he is described as a "gentleman," in the old English meaning of the word, and that he was a member of the lodge meeting at the Apple-Tree Tavern. He was a Warden of his Lodge in 1723; apparently he had never been its Master, or if so, there is no record of it.
Sayer served as Grand Master for one year, and in June, 1718, was followed by George Payne; he was made Grand Senior Warden in 1719. Later he fell upon evil days - Never, it would seem, having been a man of much influence or position in the world - and more than once was aided by the Craft over which he was the first to preside. He became Tyler of Old King's Arms Lodge, No.28, and it is reported in the records that he was assisted "out of the box of this society." He was also aided by Grand Lodge, in spite of some kind of irregular conduct of which he was accused in 1730, the nature of which is not known, for which he was called to account by Grand Lodge. The finding amounted to a verdict of "not guilty," but don't repeat the offence;" and Sayer did not again approach Grand Lodge for aid until 1741, when he received help.
After that one finds no allusion to him in the records of Grand Lodge, or anywhere else, until his death the following year, 1742, which was announced in the London papers - both in the "Champion" and in the "Evening Post. From these accounts we learn that his funeral was attended "by a great number of gentlemen of that honorable society of the best quality," and that he was buried in St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden - where his widow was buried a few months later in the same year. The vague impression of Sayer that is left us, almost too vague to be perceptible, is that of an amiable but rather ineffective man rescued from utter oblivion by the one brief honor of his life. Hardly more than a name, no biography of his has been written, and no materials for one exists - if indeed so obscure and colorless man deserved to be celebrated at all.
Shortly after his death, probably in 1744, a portrait of Sayer was painted by Joseph Highmore, which was engraved by John Faber, a Dutch artist, both men of the Craft, as an appendix to a Masonic History, in which Highmore was interested. Bromley, in his Catalogue, issued in 1793, assigns the year 1750 as the date when the picture was published, with the legend, "Anthony Sayer, Gent, Grand Master of Masons." Of this engraving many copies have come down to us, which are highly prized as giving us the only image and likeness of the first ruler of our gentle Craft.
So much for the first Grand Master, of whom we know so little, not even the place or date of his birth. It is plain that the real work of the Grand Lodge, in those critical and creative years, was done by other and stronger men. They wrought well, but, excepting Anderson, and less certainly Desaguliers, we know very little of what part each took in the work. Nor does it greatly matter, as it is the building and not the builders that is the goal of our labors, and it is an eloquent fact that Masonry, even in its modern form, which took shape in the First grand Lodge, is a cooperative enterprise, in which no names out-top their fellows.
Let us be grateful that it is so, remembering the wisdom of Goethe, one of the greatest men in the annals of our Craft, who, as he grew older, took comfort in the beautiful feeling that entered his mind that only mankind together is the true man, and that the individual can only be happy when he has the courage to feel himself in the whole, and lose himself in it.
One of the most frequently corrected errors in lodge procedure is the failure of a Warden to raise or lower his column appropriately. Let an absent-minded Junior Warden forget to lower his column when the lodge is called from refreshment to labor, and many a frantic gesture from the side lines will remind him of his dereliction!
Almost every Brother sitting in the lodge room knows the proper position of the Wardens' columns during labor or at refreshment, and will hasten to signal a Warden if the emblem of his office is awry. "Up in the West during labor; down in the West at refreshment. Down in the South during labor; up in the South at refreshment." Every Brother knows that simple rule for positioning the Wardens' columns.
It is generally believed, as stated in Mackey's Encyclopedia, that the Senior Warden's column represents the pillar Jachin, while the Junior Warden's column represents the pillar Boaz, those having been impressive adornments on the Porch of King Solomon's Temple. Their names signify Establishment and Strength.
If asked for a symbolic explanation of these pieces of furniture, the average Craftsman will reply that the Junior Warden's column represents the pillar of beauty, the Senior Warden's, the pillar of strength. But what has become of the Worshipful Master's column? He represents the pillar of wisdom, "because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings."
Some Brethren will explain further that the Wardens' columns are miniature representations of the pillars usually stationed in the West, where at one time both Wardens sat, one in the shade of Boaz, the other in the shade of Jachin. Such an arrangement of the Wardens' positions may still be found in some European lodges whose rituals have come from Continental sources.
There is no simple explanation of the origin of the Wardens' columns nor of what they represent. Like much in Masonic ritual, they are the result of some interesting changes; yet all welt-informed Brethren will agree that today they are emblematical of the offices of the two Wardens, and represent their authority, of the Senior during labor, and of the Junior while the lodge is at refreshment.
As a matter of fact, the raising and lowering of the Wardens' columns made their first appearance in Masonic ritual as late as 1760, well into the period known as Speculative Masonry. The Three Distinct Knocks, a well- known expose of Masonic ritual published in London that year, contains the first description of the Wardens' use of their columns. An almost identical description of the Wardens' raising and lowering their columns appears in another expose, Jachin and Boaz, published in 1762.
Unfortunately, there has been comparatively little written about the Wardens' columns and their uses to show when they were allocated to those officers, or how and when the raising and lowering of these miniature pillars became a part of the proper procedure in Masonic lodges. It is only from such exposes as those noted above that one can assign an approximate date to the beginning of the practice.
Curiously, William Preston in various editions of his Illustrations of Freemasonry (1792 - 1804), in the section dealing with Installation, assigns the columns to the Deacons. Since the columns had belonged to the Wardens for at least thirty years earlier, and since many of the Craft lodges in England did not appoint Deacons at all, Preston must have been in error, or was introducing an innovation, which the passage of time has shown to have failed. Preston also taught that the Senior Deacon's column was to be raised during labor, and the Junior Deacon's at refreshment.
To those who like Masonic traditions neat and historically logical, it may be disconcerting to learn that in some lodges the Wardens did not have columns on their pedestals. They had truncheons, whose modern function is to serve as billy clubs for policemen. An Irish lodge in the 18th century had a by-law reading: "there is to be silence at the first chap of the Master's hamer, and likewise at the first stroke of each Trenchen struck by the Senr and Junr Wardens." The Rev. George Oliver (1782-1867), a prolific writer about Freemasonry, quotes an inventory of a lodge at Chester, England, in 1761, which includes "two truncheons for the Wardens." There are still lodges today which denominate the Wardens' emblems of authority as truncheons, not columns.
There can be no doubt that the Wardens' columns are the result of Freemasonry's interest in the art of building, of architecture and its allied skills and sciences. The operative masons devoted much time and thought to the design, construction, and ornamentation of columns and pillars. The orders of architecture were an important body of knowledge with which they were continuously concerned.
The mediaeval cathedral builders, however, attached greater significance to the ancient pillars erected by the children of Lamech than to those on the porch of King Solomon's Temple. On these ancient pillars were engraved all the then known sciences to preserve them from destruction by fire or inundation. As such, they symbolized the esoteric importance of the knowledge of the builder's art to be guarded and preserved by faithful craftsmen.
In many of the earliest documents of the Craft, the so-called "Old Charges" or "manuscript constitutions", some of which antedate the period. of Speculative Freemasonry by at least 300 years, those primitive pillars of the sons of Lamech are a part of the "history" of the operative Craft. The Temple of Solomon is inconspicuously mentioned, but the two pillars on the porch of that temple do not appear at all.
It was not until approximately 1700 that King Solomon's Pillars began to appear in Masonic writing and ritual documents. The Dumfries, No. 4 MS, usually dated 1700-1725, mentions those pillars and gives them a strong Christian symbolism. It also answers two test questions about pillars as follows: "How many pillars is in your Lodge? Three. What are these? Ye square, the Compas and ye bible."
Because of the secrecy maintained by Masons about ritualistic matters, it is on the ritual texts of 18th century exposes that we depend for knowledge of the part played by pillars in the development of the Craft's rituals and ceremonies.
The Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, 1724, mentions the pillars of Solomon's Temple, but gives them this significance: they represent the "Strength and Stability of the Church in all ages."
Samuel Prichard's Masonry Dissected, 1730, the first expose to reveal a third degree in Masonic ritual, refers to "Three Pillars" that "support the Lodge . . . Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty." This seems to be the earliest mention of those three virtues symbolized by pillars, which of course had no reference to those in the "Old Charges" or to those on the Porch of Solomon's Temple. They were purely symbolic; they had not yet become a part of the lodge furniture.
In those early days of Speculative Masonry, the Wardens' duties were probably different from those they have now. Some writers believe they had duties similar to those of the Deacons today. They had no pedestals or pillars, because the latter were usually drawn on the floor, or "floor cloth", to be referred to during ritualistic instruction, but were certainly not then a part of the Wardens' equipment.
The other interpretation of the Wardens' columns as representations of Jachin and Boaz, the two pillars of Solomon's Temple, was also introduced into Masonic ritual at an early period of Speculative Masonry. Again, it is in the exposes of the early rituals that this development can be traced.
In A Mason's Examination, 1723, appears this test question: "Where was the first Lodge kept? In Solomon's Porch; the two Pillars were called Jachin and Boaz." Nothing, however, establishes a connection between the pillars and the Wardens. The Grand Mystery, etc. mentioned above also names the two pillars Jachin and Boaz. A number of other such publications in the 1720's and 1730's also identify them by those names.
How miniature representations of Jachin and Boaz came to the pedestals of the Senior and Junior Wardens is still a matter for speculation; obviously it is a part of the variegated development of Masonic ritual in the 18th century. As symbols of the pillars on the Porch of King Solomon's Temple, or as representations of the three principal orders of architecture which the three principal officers of a lodge symbolize, they are to be found in the earliest catechisms and lectures of Speculative Freemasonry.
Undoubtedly, as suggested by contemporary references and illustrations, the pillars soon became artistically designed pieces of furniture to stand in the lodge room as objects for study. There was probably no uniformity of practice in this development. Some lodges had large columns, some small, some drew them on the floor cloth. Some had no pillars at all.
From the creation of such pillars, and from their association with the three principal officers of the lodge undoubtedly came the columns of the Wardens. They are relics of those earlier larger pieces of lodge furniture. From the traditions of operative craft lodges had lingered the conception of the Senior Warden as the officer in charge of the workmen; his column naturally represented his authority and superintendence. To give the Junior Warden some similar authority, an imaginative speculative ritualist probably hit on the idea of putting him in charge of the Craft during refreshment. That idea had been foreshadowed in Anderson's 1723 Constitutions, Regulation XXIII put the Grand Wardens in charge of the annual Feast.
By 1760, as suggested by the publication of Three Distinct Knocks, the Wardens of a lodge had acquired miniature columns representing the pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which they carried in processions and raised or lowered on their pedestals to indicate whether the lodge was at labor or refreshment. That procedure was apparently confirmed by the Lodge of Promulgation which paved the way for the union in 1813 of the "Modern" and "Ancient" Grand Lodges in England.
Thus the raising and lowering of the Wardens' columns became sanctioned by custom and Grand Lodge approval. It is not a complicated or mysterious symbolic act; it is a simple means to indicate silently to entering Brethren the status of the lodge.
Since the Junior Warden's column is erect during refreshment, logic suggests that it be similarly arranged when the lodge is closed, i.e., not at labor. Generally, however, the Wardens' columns are left just as they happen to be placed at the time of closing, except in those Jurisdictions whose official ritual has decreed a proper positioning of the Wardens' columns at closing.
An eminent sculptor was once asked: "How do you carve such beautiful statues?" He replies, "It is the simplest thing in the world. I take a hammer and chisel and from a massive, shapeless rock, I knock off all the stone I do not want, and there is the statue. It was there all the time."
In every Masonic Lodge room there is, or should be, the Rough Ashlar and the Perfect Ashlar. These two and the Trestle Board constitute our Movable Jewels. What is their significance? What do they have to do with Masonry?
In our monitorial work we are taught that the Rough Ashlar "is a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state" and that the Perfect Ashlar "is a stone made ready by the hands of the workman, to be adjusted by the working tools of the Fellow Craft." The Rough Ashlar was not a stone that was merely picked up somewhere. It was a stone that has been selected. Some work was done upon it. It was apparently a good stone. It was a stone that showed good prospects of being capable of being made into a Perfect Ashlar. If it had not been a good stone, it would never have been cut out from the quarry.
So it is with our prospective member. He cannot be merely picked up somewhere. He must be selected. Before he is ready to be initiated some work must be done upon him. He must stand certain basic tests. He must be apparently of good material. He must be a man who shows good prospects of being capable of being made into a good Mason. If he had not been a good man, he should never have been proposed for membership.
In changing a Rough Ashlar into a Perfect Ashlar, the workman takes away and never adds to. He chips and chips. He cuts away the rough edges. He removes the visible flaws, he does not create by chemical means or otherwise, a new material. He takes that which is already there and develops it into the Perfect Ashlar.
The stone from which the Venus de Milo was carved by an unknown sculptor of ancient times, lay since the beginning of time in the rocks of the Island Milo. A common, unknown workman may have cut a hugh piece of marble from the quarry. But it took a master artisan to carve out the beautiful statue. It took a good piece of marble and a skilled artist to produce the Venus de Milo.
Not many operators in Masonry can make a Perfect Ashlar. So there are not many perfect Masons in our Lodges. In our Ritualistic and other work, we can take away much of the roughness, remove the sharp points and obliterate the visible defects. We can produce as good a Mason as there is within our power to produce. But the essential thing is to have a good material upon which to work.
This statement is applicable to all mankind, but to us as Symbolic Masons, it is pregnant with meaning, for, was not each one, at the commencement of his Masonic career, placed in the Northeast corner as an example stone, in the hope that the stone so placed would, in the fullness of time, be wrought into a thing of beauty acceptable to the builder?
What does the poet say of the stone? Isn't it strange that Princes and Kings And clowns that caper in sawdust rings, And common folks like you and me Are builders for eternity? Each is given a kit of tools, A shapeless mass and a book of rules: And each must make, ere life is flown; A stumbling block or a stepping stone.
These are very true words. The kit of tools are those talents with which God has blessed us to enable us to fulfill our mission in life. We are told in the Volume of the Sacred Law that one man received five talents, another, two talents, and yet another, only one talent, so that our duty is for each to discharge his alloted task to the best of his ability, and help those who have not been so well blessed as himself. Thus each will be assisted in carving out the "Grand Design" of being happy and communicating happiness and thereby of being more "extensively serviceable to his fellow creatures."
The shapeless mass is a man's character, and each one of us is his own Architect, Builder and Material, and like our predecessors, the Operative Masons, we each must show our craftsmanship in working out a perfect "Ashlar" fit to be tried by the square of his own conscience.
The book of rules is the V.S.L. "That great light that will guide us to all truth, direct our steps in the path of happiness, and thus, point out the whole duty of man."
Let us pause for a moment and earnestly ask ourselves, which are we making--stumbling block or a stepping stone? If a man's life is such that he cannot "join in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness to others," then he is a stumbling block, not only to himself, but to all those with whom he is associated. If that man is a Freemason he should study the ritual and discover the inner meaning, so that he can learn to perfect his stone.
Let us trace whence comes this perfect stone. An ancient charge provides that a mould stone shall be given to a visiting Operative Mason to enable him to demonstrate his craftsmanship. The stones were selected individual stones from the quarries to suit the requirement of the material building. As Speculative Masons, we obtain our mould stones from the quarries of life. Thus, when we receive an application for admission to our Lodge it is our duty to carefully scrutinize all the credentials of the applicant from every angle, so that only approved material is admitted to the Craft.
Freemasonry can and does improve good material, but it cannot make bad material good. As with the Operative Mason, poor material would have endangered the material structure. So with us as Speculative Masons, a faulty Ashlar will endanger the Spiritual temple we are endeavoring to build.
Having found, by the strictest inquiry, that the applicant, or mould stone, is suitable, we have, by those inquiries, knocked off some of the irregularities which surrounded him, and after his initiation, he is represented as the "rough Ashlar," that is, the stone is no longer the mould stone, but it is approximately a cube which still requires a considerable amount of "dressing" before the "perfect Ashlar" which is within it can be brought to light, and the candidate is given him to "knock off rough knobs and evanescence," of his character.
Later on he finds that, although the common gavel and chisel are suitable for reducing the roughness they are not capable of achieving perfection. As a Craftsman he receives another set of working tools, one of which is essential to perfection, namely, the square, and here he learns that it is only by continual grinding and many applications of the square that the stone can be brought to a true die, or cube.
In his capacity as a Craftsman and as a man of the world, he is continually coming into contact with his fellows and he learns to control his passions and to recognize the rights of others, with the result that the stone he is working upon, namely, his character, is gradually taking shape as a perfect Ashlar.
Later, he is called upon to hand his stone over to the Builder, who cuts a beveled hole at the top, so that the stone can be attached to a lewis and be hoisted up ready to be placed on the base assigned to it by the Builder. Thus, he is reminded that the rope, the lewis, and the crane represent the all sustaining power of God, and that if he has discharged his duty faithfully and in accordance with the precepts laid down in the V.S.L., he may rest assured that when his final summons comes he will find that the great Builder will have prepared a place for him in that "Great Spiritual Temple not made with hands eternal in the Heavens."
Finally, let us consider this "perfect Ashlar" from a geometric point of view. Looking at the perfect "Ashlar," as it stands in the Lodge we notice that it has six equal and exactly similar sides, and that no matter how it is placed down, on the level, it must stand on one of its faces and present a similar face to the observer, from any point of view. It is the only geometrical body which requires no support from its fellows, but when placed in line with similar cubes, demands it own space, and lines up with the others on top, bottom and sides.
Author: J. Fairbairn Smith, Editor Emeritus
Detroit Masonic World
OUR BASIC FUNCTION. The basic function of a Masonic Lodge is to make Master Masons. This does not mean the formality of raising candidates. It extends far beyond that period in the life of a Mason. The task of making Master Masons must be directed toward all of us, those who are Master Masons and those who are in the process of becoming Master Masons. The fruits of our efforts to teach and to learn about Freemasonry, the interest that we show the candidates as we welcome them into the new world of Freemasonry, will be evident in the years to come. If we sow well, we are bound to reap well.
BEING WELL AND DULY PREPARED. Being "Well and Duly Prepared" is a Masonic expression. Masons understand its significance in the Lodge Rooms. However, they may also interpret it outside the Lodge. No Mason enters even the ground floor of the Lodge unless he is "Well and Duly Prepared." So simple is his dress that it provokes no envy. He is dressed properly for the occasion, and everyone so dressed feels perfectly at ease among his Brethren. No place here for the rich to boast of fine raiment and resplendent jewels, nor for the poor to envy his more fortunate Brother or covet his wealth. Their clothing in each case symbolizes labor and innocence. With hand and brain, each is ready to serve his fellowman; with forbearance and toleration, each is willing to forgive the crude and ignorant everywhere. To carry the symbolism of Masonic investiture still further, every Mason should be clothed in the habiliments of truth. His wardrobe should contain the robe of justice, with which to protect those who, for any reason, have been deprived of their just rights; the mantle of charity, with which to comfort those made destitute, many times by no cause of their own; the tunic of toleration, with which to hide the weakness of the wayward, and help them to the road of recovery; the cloak of mercy, with which to cover the wounded and suffering in mind or body with unstinted sympathy and kindness. These garments are all of genius quality, measured and cut by a Master Tailor. They are serviceable and in good taste on every occasion. They, too, may be had without money and without price, and, the man who wears them is truly "properly clothed," and "Well and Duly Prepared" as a Master Mason.
FREEMASONRY IS MANY THINGS. Freemasonry is a Story of Life; with all its joys, its heartaches, its failures and its final triumph over all earthly things. Anyone can read it, in countless books. Its teachings, its symbols, and its ambitions, are open for general observation. They are practiced in the light, and held up for all the world to see. Freemasonry is not practiced in the dark, neither are its teachings the dogma of some for- bidden cult. We, as Freemasons, are required to reflect the light; to practice its teachings and love by their direction. No greater thing can be said of Freemasonry than that it is an ideal way of life. No other fraternity offers such profound lessons in its Ritual or Work as does Free- masonry. Each word and each act in the ceremonies of the Lodge carries a true lesson to each of us, if we will but open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and hearts to accept. We can study Freemasonry for years, as we attend its meetings, and each time we stop to think on the things said and done, we get a new meaning and inspiration from them. There is a never-ending source of pleasure in the various shades of meaning that can be read into each line of our work. Each new meaning and interpretation that we put into some word or act will make that passage live for us, and we will begin to see Freemasonry for what it is intended. Great men have devoted many years of study and meditation to the cause of Freemasonry and when their work is finished they realize that they have only begun to see the light and that they have only started to uncover the true meanings of the work. Freemasonry has been talked of and written about by countless men in every country of the world. Its members have been persecuted in all lands at one time or the other, but is still grows and flourishes as no other fraternity on earth today. There must be something good and great in Freemasonry, for it to stand through the years as a beacon of light to its members and as a symbol of the true way of life for all to see and follow. Its greatness is not due to its secret teachings, its mysteries or fanfare of its deeds, but rather to the profound lessons taught to its members and to the comfort, inspiration and enlightenment brought to all who will but study
Freemasonry frowns on advertising its good deeds, preferring to let those who benefit from them reflect its goodness, that others might have hope and desire the better things of life. Freemasonry offers comfort to those who sorrow, hope for those who despair, wise counsel for those who err, and the joys and contentment of life to all.
SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND. The making of a Freemason consists in a continued course of education, and of character forming. While it may be accepted that it is an innermost desire, followed by obligations that makes one a member of the Craft, yet in a truer form did better sense, a man is never a Freemason until he truthfully and loyally lives up to his obligations. And he cannot do that until he understands them, and eventually knows their scope and real meaning. Freemasonry can very well be divided into many phases. Its landmarks, its customs, its constitution and its laws, just to mention a few, if studied and mastered, can provide a most interesting course for the Master Mason seeking Masonic knowledge. Its historical background can provide an interesting program of investigation to the member attracted to a desire for research. One peculiarity about Freemasonry is that it will stand investigation. The deeper the research, the more extensive the knowledge of its hidden art and mysteries, the more highly it is appreciated. A member of the Craft who merely takes his degrees in a listless, careless sort of manner, and then remains as just a spectator at Lodge meetings, may hold to the opinion that Freemasonry differs little from other societies. To the contrary, the Master Mason who delves deeply into Masonic literature, takes a lively interest in every part of the Ritualistic and lodge Work, and learns the origin, meaning and moral bearing of its symbols, cannot possibly fall into such an error. To him Freemasonry has a refining and elevating influence not to be found in the ordinary run of organizations . The philosophies of Freemasonry, when discovered and then accepted and practiced, provide that simple but profound solution to the problems of human relationships. May it be accepted that Freemasonry is a way of living to the Master Mason who is interested enough to appraise and value the wealth that is his, and his alone, by virtue of his Masonic Member- ship. The best informed Master Mason is the Master Mason who reads and studies. Consequently, if we want Freemasonry to be of practical usefulness and cultural attainment, we, as Freemasons, must not neglect our Masonic reading, our Masonic studying and our research for more Masonic Light.
NEEDED: A KNOWLEDGE OF FREE- MASONRY. At no time in Masonic history has there been a greater need for understanding of what Freemasonry is and what it stands for than there is today. Much has been left undone in the education of Members of our Lodges. The first essential in Masonic education is that desire to become interested and enthused in Freemasonry followed by a thirst for knowledge as to what Freemasonry is all about. Here is where the instructors can serve well and can influence the candidate in a continuous search for more Masonic Light. The qualifications for instructing are less exciting than may be imagined. What is essential is a basic knowledge of Freemasonry by the instructor. In this day and age, with so many counter attractions, it becomes more evident that greater efforts must be put forth to instruct our new Members in the ideals and fundamentals of Freemasonry. Every Lodge should have a definite pro- gram along authentic Masonic educational lines. We must understand what Freemasonry really is before we can practice Freemasonry in our lives. We must remember that Freemasonry is judged by the actions of its individual members. We must set an example to those out- side the Craft at all times. The need for Masonic knowledge is often evidenced in our Lodges, This can be alleviated where dedicated members qualify as instructors and then serve in teaching the principles and fundamentals of Freemasonry to all who will listen.
What is Masonry? by Bro. Walter H. Bonn, Victor, Iowa
It's not a sign or handshake, a hall where tilers sit, It's not a guarded building, where passwords will admit, It's not a place of symbols, which Wardens oft display, It's not a lodge of members, who meet in white array.
It is the home of justice, of liberty and truth, Of loyalty to country, of sympathy for youth, Of succor for a brother, of gentleness and cheer, Of tolerance for neighbors, whose life is often drear.
Author: Bro. William A. Carpenter
Work always has been an important concept and word to Americans and to Freemasons. Our pre-eminence among nations of the world is the result of a superabundance of natural resources, the willingness of our people to work converting these natural resources into useful things to make life comfortable, and a governmental form which encourages individual effort in a climate of freedom to develop one's inherent abilities. The most important of these factors is the utilization of one's talents at work. In Freemasonry we utilize the work constructing King Solomon's Temple as a symbol to build character. It takes work to prepare to teach the candidate the catechism; and it takes work by the candidate to learn the catechism and secure the needed proficiency to advance from one degree to the next. All terms connected with the tools and work of the operative masons are used as symbols in the Craft .
Therefore, work is the foundation stone in Freemasonry and the work ethic is the foundation stone of the American Way of Life. As a practical matter, it is well to observe that everything is the result of work by someone. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the shelter we use to protect us from the elements are all the result of work engaged in by many persons. It involves planning, the securing of the natural resources, and work to convert the material into the finished product. Likewise, it is work that makes a candidate into a member. First, it takes work by many members to prepare themselves to be able to confer the degrees with skill. It takes work by one or more members to learn the catechism and to teach it to the candidates. It takes work by the candidate to learn the catechism to gain proficiency to advance to the next degree. And, if the lodge is doing its work well, it will retain an interest in the new member after he receives the third degree and will teach him many fundamentals about the Craft, its philosophy, its heritage, and its organization and work. This is the method whereby the lodge can convert a member into a Freemason. There is a vital difference between being a member and being a Freemason. Following the formalities of receiving the degrees makes the candidate a member, but he does not become a Mason until he has learned about our heritage, has an understanding of the philosophy of Free- masonry, and has adopted the lessons of the degrees into his everyday life. It takes much additional work to bring this about, but it is a necessary part of the work of every lodge which has been neglected for too many years in too many places.
Conferring the degrees does not complete the work of Freemasonry. It is just the beginning. Unfortunately, for too many years the word "work'' when used by Masons has described only the ritualistic work conducted by the lodge. And in most places lodge instruction on ritualistic matters, ritualistic schools, teach- ing by Grand Lecturers and other instructors have done a creditable job in this area of Masonic work.. Some have been critic of our Masonic leaders on the basis that there has been too much emphasis on perfecting the ritualistic work of the lodge with the thought that this is the only thing that matters in order for the Craft to be successful. There is no question that the ritualistic work of the lodge is of vital importance for it contains the philosophy of the Craft and is the vehicle used to teach the candidate the Lessons that are the foundation of Freemasonry. Doing good ritualistic work is important because it is the first exposure of the candidate to the Craft and the first impressions are always lasting ones. The trouble is that so much emphasis is placed on this phase of our work that everything else is neglected. Placing so much emphasis only in the form has caused us to neglect the substance contained in the degrees. It has been the easy way out for many officers who find it easy to work by rote and to give no attention to the meaning or to the purpose of the ritualistic work.
There is a need for additional work with the candidate before he is initiated, after he has received each degree, and after he has completed all the formal steps to become a member. Some Grand Lodges have recognized this need by establishing Educational Commit- tees which have devised programs to give each candidate additional instruction beyond the ritualistic work of the three degrees. Many of these committees have prepared booklets for the candidates which are excellent and serve a useful purpose. (Sec M.S.A. Digest, "Tried and Proven.") Placing these booklets in the hands of the candidate is fine, but what assurance do we have that the candidate will read the material and that when he reads it he will fully understand it. What we need is more time spent with the new member either personally or in group meetings to answer their questions and to inform them about the nature of the Craft and its work. These additional activities are valuable to the candidate and new member, but they are also important to the lodge, because they enable the officers to set additional members to work. A working member is always an interested member.
It is the duty both traditional and expressed of the Worshipful Master to set the Craft to Work and to give it proper instruction. In too many places for too many years this duty has been interpreted too narrowly and has been confined only to the conferring of the degrees. As a result of this attitude and interpretation there has been too much Masonic unemployment among our members. The apathy that has existed within the Craft in recent years and the continual net loss of members year after year would seem to indicate that more work is needed to make the Craft an important part in the lives of its members.
As in the business world where productivity has been declining each year for some time, we are paying the price with loss of members and apathy. When productivity is reduced in the market place, we have fewer good results from the lesser work performed. It will eventually mean fewer jobs because persons cannot afford to pay the resulting higher prices. With fewer goods purchased, social tensions increase. Reduced profits result and we have more inflation. Everyone is hurt as a lower standard of living results. There has been too much under-achievement per worker in the United States for too many years. Likewise, there has been too much Masonic unemployment because we have not utilized the talents of each of our members by putting them to work on projects that will make him an interested and involved member working for the benefit of the lodge and its members. (See June, 1980 Short Talk Bulletin, "What's Your Line?") There seems to be a contagious co-relation between the causes that reduce productivity in the market place and in the Masonic organization. So it is worthy of note that if we can bring about an increase in productivity in the market place and in the Craft everyone in our country and in our Fraternity will receive valuable dividends. In the words of Brother James A. Garfield, twentieth President of the United States, "If the power to do hard work is not a talent, it is the best possible substitute for it."
How can we improve this situation within the Craft? It all boils down to the fact that more work will have to be done by everyone involved, apply themselves with diligence in the performance of their duties; to be determined to do a better job than has been done in the past; and to expand the scope of their work and that of the lodge. It means that the officers should consider ways and means of improving conditions in the lodge and its work. It means that the officers must change their point of view that the word ''work'' is restricted to the ritualistic effort of the lodge. The officers must take a genuine interest in each resident member as these two elements will give some indication of the abilities of the members and what their individual interests may be. Each person is different and is not interested in the same thing. We must recognize that not all of our members are interested in the rote learning of the lectures and the degree work and will not spend the time doing something in which they are not interested. When these individual interests and talents are ascertained they should be utilized by the lodge by assigning proper work to the member. It is surprising how members favor- ably respond to requests to work for the lodge within the areas of their interests. To be singled out to perform a task and to be recognized for the abilities that one possesses is always flattering. This will make the member a better member and the lodge also will benefit from the work done. As the skills, abilities, and talents of the members are explored, it is likely that the lodge may find it necessary to adopt new beneficial programs to put these members to work.
It cannot be said at any time that we have all the workers we need and that there are no new programs or work to be done by the lodge. The use of a little imagination will often disclose new important areas in which the lodge can function for the benefit of the members, the lodge and the community. There is always room for Masonically unemployed members to become employed. Specific suggestions cannot be made that will apply everywhere. To be taken into consideration is the type of members who belong to a specific lodge, local conditions, what has taken place in the past, and how much the unemployed members can be motivated to take an active part in the work of the lodge. There may be a need of having new committees appointed. It is also likely that the committees that exist must be converted into working committees rather than existing in name only. Giving the member a title and duties to perform plus a bit of recognition may be enough to get him to work.
It should not be hard to find things that need attention. You can start by considering the physical condition of the premises where the lodge meets. Do the premises need to be painted? Do the grounds need to be spruced up with a lawn, flower beds, bushes, a flag pole, etc.? Are there widows of deceased members who have been neglected? Are there sick members who need some attention? Does the lodge need a library with Masonic books? Are there members with hobbies such as stamp and coin collections with items of Masonic interest that ought to be put to work in organizing a display of these items at an open meeting? Do you have a member whose hobby is gourmet cooking who can be put to work preparing fancy dishes for lodge dinners? Do you have able members who are students who can be put to work preparing talks on Masonic subjects? These are some of the questions that come to mind at once as one explores areas to create work for the Masonically unemployed members.
Here are some suggestions that might be considered. If you have a number of retired members with time on their hands, why not adopt the "welcome wagon" idea of the business community? Form a Welcome Committee in your lodge, arrange to get the names and addresses of all new families which move into the community, and have these retired members call on them to welcome them as neighbors. Visit with the new family and let them know that if they need any help or information that the lodge is ready to help. This sort of project will create much good will with the new residents and the working members will get a "lift" from the work.
Hospitals are always in need of volunteers and this area should be explored with the thought of having some of the lodge members act in this area. If there is a Veterans Administration Hospital within a reasonable distance with an M.S.A. Field Agent there, a talk with him may disclose areas in which he can be helped in his work. He may need help in wheeling patients to church services Sundays. He may need Masons to visit with patients who seldom get visitors.
There is always need for expanded educational activity in our lodges. The scholars, teachers, and readers of Masonic literature have been neglected by our lodges. These members should be put to work studying various phases of Masonic history, the lodge records to find interesting items, the philosophy of the Craft with the view of having them present talks to the members. Study Clubs might be considered on the lodge level or community level. Forums and round table programs should be considered as a means of creating work for Masonically unemployed members.
There is much work to be done by the lodge and its members. And with the increase in the amount of work done everyone will profit.
Author: Bro. Alphonse Cerza Grand Historian
Grand Lodge of Illinois
At the end of the first harvest in the new world, the Pilgrims at Plymouth along with Chief Massassoit and a party of 90 friendly Indians joined in a celebratory act that consisted of “three days of prayer and feasting.”
The Mayflower passengers that signed the agreement that became known as the “Mayflower Compact” stated they had come to the New World to escape religious persecution and “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian faith.” They endured a stormy voyage across the Atlantic Ocean at the worst possible time of the year and later participated in that festival to give thanks to Almighty God. The Pilgrims were thankful they had survived a stormy voyage, endured a terrible winter, and had been blessed with a good harvest that provided them with food.
Food was scarce during that terrible winter, their first in the new world. Hezekiah Butterworth, an American author of the last half of the nineteenth century, passed on information that the daily ration of food was five grains of parched corn. During that winter, 47 members of the original 102 died, and at any one time, only “six or seven were in proper condition to attend the sick and bury the dead” on Cole’s Hill. Yet, in spite of the hardships they endured and the sufferings they experienced, those sturdy Pilgrims at Plymouth, after inviting the friendly natives to join them, paused to celebrate and to give thanks to God for his providential care.
Lest we forget, this is the heritage the Pilgrims passed on to us.
A national holiday, celebrated with a festive turkey feast, commemorates it, but the heritage of those sturdy Pilgrims reminds us that true thanksgiving is more. While surrounded by an abundance of things which are the accouterments of an affluent society, we must not forget that back of these things there is the providential care of Almighty God, and like the Pilgrims, we are recipients of that care.
To see life from this perspective is to see that God’s mercies, new every morning and fresh every evening, are more than we can number. So, gratitude rises in the heart, and we are thankful.
Author: W. Howard Coop, KCCH
Nov/ Dec 2010 Scottish Rite Journal
“. . . travel in foreign countries and receive Master’s Wages.” Our Operative brethren received their Master’s Wages in coin of the realm.
Speculatives content themselves with intangible wages - and occasionally some are hard pressed to explain to the wondering initiate just what, in this practical age, a Master’s Wages really are.
The wages of a Master may be classified under two heads; first, those inalienable rights which every Freemason enjoys as a result of fees, initiation and the payment of annual dues to his Lodge; second, those more precious privileges which are his if he will but stretch out his hand to take.
The first right of which any initiate is conscious is that of passing the Tiler and attending his Lodge, instead of being conducted through the West gate as a preliminary step to initiation. For a time this right of mingling with his new brethren is so engrossing that he looks no further for his Master’s Wages. Later he learns that he also has the right of visitation in other Lodges, even though it is a “right” hedged about with restrictions. He must be in good standing to exercise it. It will be denied him should any brother object to his visit. If he is unaffiliated, in most Jurisdictions, he can exercise it but once in any one Lodge. If private business (such as election of officers or a lodge trial, etc.) is scheduled, the Master of the Lodge he would visit may refuse him entrance. But in general this right of visiting other Lodges is a very real part of what may be termed his concrete Master’s Wages, and many are the Freemasons who find in it a sure cure for loneliness in strange places; who think of the opportunity to find welcome and friends where otherwise they would be alone, as wages of substantial character.
The opportunities to see and hear the beautiful ceremonies of Freemasonry, to take from them again an again a new thought, are wages not to be lightly received. For him with the open ears and the inquiring mind, the degrees lead to a new world, since familiarity with ritual provides the key by which he may read an endless stream of books about Freemasonry.
The Craft has a glorious history; a symbolism the study of which is endless; a curious legal structure of which law-minded men never tire’ is so interwoven with the story of the nation as to make the thoughtful thrill; joins hands with religion in the secret places of the heart in a manner both tender and touching. These “foreign countries” have neither gate nor guard at the frontier . . . the Master Mason may cross and enter at his will, sure of wages wherever he wanders within their borders.
Master’s Wages are paid in acquaintances. Unless a newly-made Master Mason is so shy and retiring that he seeks the farthest corner of his Lodge Room, there to sit and shrink into himself, inevitably he will become acquainted with many men of many minds, always an interesting addition to the joy of life. What he does with his acquaintances is another story, but at least the wages are there, waiting for him. No honest man insures his house thinking it will burn, but the insurance policy in the safe is a great comfort, well worth all that it costs. It speaks of help should fire destroy his home; it assures that all its owner has saved in material wealth will not be lost should carelessness or accident start a conflagration.
No honest man becomes a Freemason thinking to ask the Craft for relief. Yet the consciousness that poor is the Lodge and sodden the hearts of the brethren thereof from which relief will not be forthcoming if the need is bitter, is wages from which comfort may be taken.
Freemasonry is not, “re se,” a relief organization. It does not exist merely for the purpose of dispensing charity. Nor has it great funds with which to work its gentle ministrations to the poor. Fees are modest; dues are often too small rather than too large. Yet, for the brother down and out, who has no coal for the fire, no food for his hungry child, whom sudden disaster threatens, the strong arm of the Fraternity stretches forth to push back the danger. The cold are warmed, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the jobless given work, the discouraged heartened.
Master’s Wages, surely far greater than the effort put forth to earn them.
Relief is not limited to a brother’s own Lodge. In most Jurisdictions there is a Masonic Home, in which, at long last, a brothers weary body may rest, his tired feet cease their wandering. No Freemason who has visited any Masonic Home and there seen old brethren and their widows eased down the last long hill in peace and comfort; the children of Masons under friendly influences which insure safe launching of little ships on the sea of life; comes away thankful that there is such a haven for him, should he need it, even if he hopes never to ask for its aid.
Stranded in a strange place, no Freemason worries about getting aid. In all large centers is a Board of Masonic Relief to hear his story, investigate his credentials and start the machinery by which his Lodge may help him. In smaller places is almost invariably a Lodge with brethren glad to give a sympathetic hearing to his troubles. To the brother in difficulty in what to him is a “foreign country,” ability to prove himself a Freemason is Master’s Wages, indeed.
Freemasonry is strong in defense of the helpless. The Widow and the orphan need ask but once to receive bounty. All brethren hope to support their own, provide for their loved ones, but misfortune comes to the just and unjust alike. To be one of a world wide brotherhood on which widow and child may call is of untold comfort, Master’s Wages more precious than the coin of gold.
Finally is the right of Masonic burial. At home or abroad no Freemason, know to desire it, but is followed to his last home by sorrowing brethren who lay him away under the apron of the Craft and the Sprig of Acacia of immortal hope. This, too, is Wages of a Master.
“Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due . . .”
To some the practical wages briefly mentioned above are the important payments for a Freemason’s work. To others, the more intangible but none the less beloved opportunities to give, rather than get, are the Master’s Wages which count them.
Great among these is the Craft’s opportunity for service. The world is full of chances to do for others, and no man need apply to a Masonic Lodge only because he wants a chance to “do unto others as he would others do unto him.” But Freemasonry offer peculiar opportunities to unusual talents which are not always easily found in the profane world.
There is always something to do in a Lodge. There are always committees to be served - and committee work is usually thankless work. He who cannot find his payment in his satisfaction of a task well done will receive no Master’s Wages for his labors on Lodge committees.
There are brethren to be taught. Learning all the “work” is a man’s task, not to be accomplished in a hurry. Yet it is worth the doing, and in instructing officers and candidates many a Mason has found a quiet joy which is Master’s Wages pressed down and running over.
Service leads to the possibility of appointment or election to the line of officers. There is little to speak of the Master’s Wages this opportunity pays, because only those who have occupied the Oriental Chair know what they are. The outer evidence of the experience may be told, but the inner spiritual experience is untellable because the words have not been invented.
But Past Masters know! To them is issued a special coinage of Master’s Wages which only a Worshipful Master may earn. Ask any of them if they do not pay well for the labor.
If practical Master’s Wages are acquaintances in Lodge, the enjoyment of fellowship, merged into friendship, is the same payment in larger form. Difficult to describe, the sense of being one of a group, the solidarity of the circle which is the Lodge, provides a satisfaction and pleasure impossible to describe as it is clearly to be felt. It is interesting to meet many men of many walks of life; it is heart- warming continually to meet the same group, always with the same feeling of equality. High and low, rich and poor, merchant and money-changer, banker and broom-maker, doctor and ditch-digger all meet on the level, and find it happy - Master’s Wages, value untranslatable into money.
Ethereal as a flower scent, dainty as a butterfly’s wing, yet to some as strong as any strand of the Mystic Tie all Freemasons know and none describe, is that feeling of being a part of the historic past. To have knelt at the same Altar before which George Washington prayed; to have taken the same obligation which bound our brethren of the Mother Grand Lodge of 1717; to be spiritually kin with Elias Ashmole; to feel friendly with Oliver, Preston, Krause, Goethe, Sir Christopher Wren, Marshall, Anthony Sayer to mention only a few; to be a brother of Craftsmen who formed the Boston Tea Party; to stand at Bunker Hill with Warren and ride with brother Paul Revere; to be an apprentice at the building of St. Paul’s; to learn the Knot from a Comacine Master; to follow the Magister in a Roman “Collegium,” aye, even to stand awed before those mysteries of ancient peoples, and perhaps see a priest raise the dead body of Osiris from a dead level to a living perpendicular - these are mental experiences not to be forgotten when counting up Master’s Wages.
Finally - and best - is the making of many friends.
Thousands of brethren count their nearest and their dearest friends on the rolls of the Lodge they love and serve. The Mystic Tie makes for friendship It attracts man to man and often draws together “those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”
The teachings of broth-erly love, relief and truth; of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice; the inculcation of patriotism and love of country, are everyday experiences in a Masonic Lodge. When men speak freely those thoughts which, in the world without, they keep silent, friendships are formed.
Count gain for work well done in what coin seems most valuable; the dearest of the intangibles which come to any Master Mason are those Masonic friendships than which there “are” no greater Master’s Wages.
The first Grand Lodge was formed in London, shortly after the suppression of the Jacobite rising in 1715. Anderson's New Book of Constitutions of 1738 records that a few lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement together under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony, viz. (here follow details of the four lodges at the Goose and Gridiron, Crown, Apple-Tree, and Rummer and Grapes).
They and some old Brothers met at the said Applerree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a GRAND LODGE pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (call'd the Grand Lodge) "resolv'd to hold the Annual ASSEMBLY and Feast, and then to chuse a GRAND MASTER from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head."
The first meeting was held at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house on 24 June, 1717, and Antony Sayer was elected and installed as Grand Master, before the brethren proceeded to dinner. The Grand Master commanded that the Masters and Wardens of lodges meet the Grand Officers every quarter in Communication. In fact the Grand Lodge only met annually for the feast for several years. Nevertheless, each meeting was called a Quarterly Communication, at whatever interval it met, and the Grand Lodge of England still maintains a quarterly Communication . The brethren who established the Grand Lodge claimed, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Anderson reported that they claimed, to be reviving the Grand Lodge. In his somewhat imaginative history of the Craft, Anderson mentions several assemblies of masons, but there is no real evidence that there had ever before been such a thing as a Grand Lodge. Probably they had in mind the annual gatherings of the great London Companies, and wanted to establish something similar for themselves.
These box societies, masonic or otherwise, usually admitted new members with some form of ceremony, and had secret means of recognition. They met for social occasions, and carried out at least some form of charitable work for their own members. Most of them, like the guilds before them, were purely local in character.
Masons from very early times had been accustomed to travel in search of work, and to expect assistance from lodges wherever they found one. Dr. Robert Plot in The Natural History of Stafford-shire written in 1686 mentions the peculiar customs of the Masons, the fact that they had admission ceremonies and secret means of recognition, and the right to claim assistance from brethren anywhere in the country.
Whether the founding lodges revived or formed Grand Lodge, there can be no doubt that they did not intend to establish an authoritarian body that would undertake the government of the Craft. Had such a thought occurred to them, most of them would almost certainly have voted against the proposal .
However the four founding lodges may have viewed the matter, it was inevitable that when such a body existed, it should come to be regarded as the head of the Craft. At first its jurisdiction was limited to the cities of London and Westminster, a comparatively small area, but gradually it began to receive requests for recognition from further afield. Probably the first sign of this authority was in the formation of new lodges.
Modern Grand Lodges
What is the purpose of a Grand Lodge today? First and foremost it is an organization that can guarantee the regularity of the lodges under its control. Without the authority of the Grand Lodge, no mason traveling in another Grand Jurisdiction could hope to be received into lodges in the course of his travels. A primary function is diplomatic recognition. The necessary consequence of this function is that the Grand Lodge must ensure that all of its lodges are regularly formed and managed, and that they continue to adhere to the Ancient Landmarks .
Few Grand Lodges have attempted to define these Landmarks. Masons would probably differ in any list they might produce, but I doubt if many would have difficulty in recognizing things which clearly transgress those Landmarks. In case of doubt, Grand Lodge must decide whether a particular custom does or does not conform to the Landmarks, and by so doing it prevents any small group from taking over a lodge, and ensures that its Lodges remain regular, and therefore acceptable to other Grand Lodges.
Another major function is in organizing and managing the charitable side of the Craft. Charity has been a feature of Freemasonry from the very beginning of its organized existence. What is now the Fund of Benevolence in England was started under the name of the General Charity in 1727, and by 1731 all the lodges which had accepted the government of the new Grand Lodge were already paying into a central fund for the relief of poor masons and their families. Masonic Homes, scholarship funds, hospitals, drug and alcohol abuse programs, childhood illness clinics are all examples of charities handled at the Grand Lodge level through Grand Lodge. In short, Grand Lodge administers the various charities which masons subscribe to, which are not controlled by independent boards.
Regular organized meetings of Grand Lodge are a feature of Masonry under all jurisdictions, and have been from earliest times. Many masons are critical of the Annual Communication as a waste of time and money. I believe that such meetings, not only for the transaction of masonic business, but also for the exchange of views and for social purposes are valuable, and help to strengthen the fraternal bond.
The power to constitute a new lodge belongs to Grand Lodge, the function of consecrating it is vested in the Grand Master.
Grand Lodge's legislative function is to pass laws for the good government of the Craft, and in its executive capacity, to administer them. It also has power to determine in its judicial capacity disputes over masonic matters, and to discipline members who transgress the rules. This is no different from the powers of any other club or society. In carrying out those functions, Grand Lodge appoints Executive Boards, appoints and employs officers, maintains records, and of necessity levies fees to pay for its work.
In the interests of reasonable uniformity, it lays down rules as to regalia, and ritual, the way in which its lodges are governed, the term of office of the Master, and the records the lodge must keep. All Grand Lodges have rules covering most of those points. Some rules are matters of masonic tradition, some are inserted, for example, because they provide a simple rule book for the guidance of secretaries and treasurers, most of whom are not professional record keepers.
Purpose of Craft Lodges:
The original purposes of lodges of non operative masons were to offer support and encouragement in time of difficulty, to provide a vehicle for charity, and to dispense financial help where needed, to encourage good principles, and to meet the need of all men for congenial society. I do not think the purposes are any different today.
There are many reasons why different men join, or remain in lodge, but I think that there are several which all of us will recognize.
For most, the ritual is a continual source of joy. It is generally good, and sometimes superb prose, something that today we are starved for. The Church no longer supplies it, radio sometimes, and television and modern literature almost never. Yet the appeal of good writing is revealed at any meeting in the breathless hush when one of the great charges is well delivered, or the injunction to charity, or the address to the Master at the Installation. (as examples)
Where, today, does the average man receive any instruction in ethics and good conduct? From the Church, if he attends, probably, from radio sometimes, but from television and modern literature, with their emphasis on evil, degradation, lust and violence, almost never. Contrary to what we are led to believe in the press, television, and literature, the majority of people prefer good to evil, seek to do the best they can, enjoy the beauty of the world, weep when they must, and laugh when they can. Yet virtue does not spring full armed in the soul of man. It is learned, as the prophet tells us, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, and in that way Masonry leaves its imprint on the souls of the men who listen to, and try to observe its precepts.
Another need for most is the opportunity to do something for others. I believe that lodges should be putting more emphasis than they do on the charitable work of the Craft.
We have not kept pace with the times, and much of the apathy that exists in lodges is quite simply because we have drifted, and have not presented worthwhile challenges to our brethren.
Like the societies from which we sprang, we should be careful to offer comfort and support to our brethren and their families in time of trouble and affliction. This is not the duty of the Almoner, in exoneration of the rest of us, but a duty imposed by our membership in the Craft. Each of us should make sure that we are aware of the troubles of our fellows, and ever ready to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted, and to drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a brother.
At a different level, masonry is a means of self improvement. Most of us are not orators, and all will remember the trepidation when first we raised our voices at instruction. To learn to speak so that we are heard, to think on our feet, and not be paralyzed by nerves when called upon to say a few words is surely a worthwhile use of time.
Finally, all men need relaxation and social life. Why did masonry prosper in the fifties and sixties? Surely because men enjoyed their masonry, and spoke enthusiastically about it so that others wanted to join. Let us bring the fun back into masonry. Let us enjoy the present time, without looking over our shoulders at a vanished past, or dreading a future which may never come. If we learn to make our gatherings pleasant and enjoyable social occasions, which we remember and talk about with pleasure, it is just possible that the world will once more seek to join us, because it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity.
PM A. W. Wood
United Masters Lodge No.167
Auckland, New Zealand 1990
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