A LIVING MASON

A LIVING MASON: A tale of how we would rather have a Brother in lodge as you are versus not having a Brother attend because he worked late or doesn’t own “fancy” enough cloths. The man inside is more important.

His name is John. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He was the top of his class. Kind of esoteric and very, very bright. He became a Mason recently while attending college. After moving to his new town, he finds that down the street from his new apartment is a well-dressed, very conservative Lodge. One day John decides to go there after work. He walks in with shoes, jeans, his work shirt, and long hair. The Lodge has already started and so John starts looking for a seat.

The Lodge is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now the Brethren are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. John gets closer and closer to the East and, when he realizes there are no seats, he squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this Lodge before!) By now the Brethren are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick. About this time, the Secretary realizes that from way at the back of the Lodge, a Past Master is slowly making his way toward John.

Now the Past Master is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A good man, very elegant, very dignified, and very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid in the Lodge? It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy.

The Lodge is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The Secretary can’t even continue with the “Minutes” until the Past Master does what he has to do. And now the Lodge watches as this elderly man drops his cane on the floor. With great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to John and welcomes him so he won’t be alone.

When the Secretary gains control, he says, “What I’m about to say, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.”

AM I A BUILDER?

AM I A BUILDER?

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.

With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the sides fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled
And the kind you would hire, if you had to build?”

And he gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What other builders have taken a year to do.”

And I thought to myself as I went my way,
“Which of these roles have I tried to play?”

Am I a builder that works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square.

Am I shaping my deeds to a well made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down.”

The character of a Freemason.

The character of a Freemason.

The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflect; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessings he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principle.”

THE FUTURE OF FREEMASONRY’ REPORT IS PUBLISHED

“The Future of Freemasonry” report is the first ever independent study conducted by a non-Masonic body, and was commissioned as part of the build-up to the United Grand Lodge of England’s tercentenary in 2017.

Produced by the highly respected Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), an independent, non-profit organisation based in Oxford, which conducts research on social and lifestyle issues, socio-cultural trends and provides insight into human behaviour and social relations, the report suggests that, contrary to some misleading commentary, Freemasonry actually demonstrates genuine openness and transparency and it concludes that it is arguably more relevant today than ever before.

In particular, the report highlights that Freemasonry acts as a ‘constant’, providing members with a unique combination of friendship, belonging and structure, with many Masons saying they have made valuable lifelong friendships.

The report also highlights the importance that Freemasonry places on charitable giving, the part that many Freemasons play in their local communities and the central role of the family. As well as instilling in its members a moral and ethical approach to life – including thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things – Freemasons are the largest charitable givers after the National Lottery, and also make major contributions to international disaster relief funds.

The role of ritual is shown to be an important part of Freemasonry for many members, with the report concluding that it provides both structure and familiarity, in just the same way as the normal rituals of daily life do for many people.

Nigel Brown, who has been the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England since 2007 and is leading the plans for the tercentenary celebrations, says:

“This is just one step in our ongoing efforts to demonstrate our openness and transparency, and to inform people about the role we play in society.

“The tercentenary is a significant milestone for Freemasonry and while we’re keen to celebrate our first three hundred years, it’s also crucial that we look forward to ensure that we remain relevant and continue to grow our membership over the next three hundred.”

Peter Marsh, co-director of SIRC, said: “The “Future of Freemasonry” provides an insightful commentary, not just on the organisation, but also on modern society. Despite the many changes taking place – or perhaps because of them – our desire to be part of something and to help other people is undimmed. It’s here that Freemasonry has an important part to play.”

Nigel Brown concluded: “This report will form an important part of our discussions as to how best to ensure that Freemasonry continues to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of its members and also of wider society, while at the same time retaining the distinctive character and intrinsic values that have attracted members for centuries and continue to appeal to people today.”

Freemasonry as an organzation

“Freemasonry is an organisation of men who strive to live by the fundamental principles of truth, morality and brotherly love. It is a non-profit organisation and supports charity and community service. It unifies men of high ideals regardless of their colour, creed or worldly status.

There are several million Freemasons worldwide. The oldest Lodge under the Grand Lodge of South Africa was established in 1772 and the Order locally has withstood the tests of time as it has evolved to it’s present status of several thousand members. They are ordinary men, 21 years and over, of all religions and backgrounds, who share a concern for human values and moral standards and a respect for the laws of society and the rights of individuals.

There are many reasons why men choose to be Freemasons. It promotes brotherly love, self-development, family and community values. Freemasonry provides members with an opportunity for public service and hands-on involvement in charitable and community issues, as well as a chance for them to socialise with men from all walks of life without religious, political or social barriers.”
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa,
Most Worshipful Brother Armiston Watson

What Masonic Penalities Are Enforced?

 

 

The only penalties known to Freemasonry are reprimand: definite suspension from membership; indefinite suspension from membership; and expulsion from the Fraternity. To these must be added that intangible penalty which comes to any one who loses all or part of his reputation. Other penalties suggested in the ritual are wholly symbolic are not now and never have been enforced. They were legal punishments in the middle ages, designed with special reference to the religious beliefs of the time that an incomplete body could not “rise from the dead”; that a body buried in unconsecrated ground (as between high and low water mark) could not ascend into heaven. Some Grand Lodges offer an interpretation of the ritualistic penalties, in order to be sure the initiate understands the symbolic character of these otherwise difficult phrases.

Moral Leadership

Moral Leadership

By Charles M. Harper
Illinois Master Mason

“Do you demonstrate moral leadership?” This was the title of an article written by Edward Platt in the June 6, 2012 business commentary section of The Daily Journal newspaper. The paper states that Dr. Piatt, Ed. D, is a manager with the State of Illinois with 27 years experience and is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA andMOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. It also states he lectures frequently on emotional intelligence, organizational culture and leadership.

In the article, he references a statement from a leadership author, Mike King. Mr. King states, “As you know, leadership is about leading others and influencing them to behave a particular way. Moral leadership requires you to always look at what is right and lead others to the purpose. Moral choices come from a person’s character as well; they do not always come from rational thinking.”

Let us look at this statement in particular “Moral choices come from a person’s character as well.” At this point in the article, I have to wonder, how do you develop the character in the person to derive good moral to effectively lead? Is a person’s character taught? Can it be developed from its current state to a more evolved state?

The answer to these particular questions is yes and can be found within the wealth of knowledge contained in the teachings of our Masonic Institution. “We take good men and make them better” is the motto most heard to explain the purpose of our institution. More specifically, through the use of allegories, or codes, symbols and memorization of material in a specific manner, contained within our rituals, based on a belief in Deity, and a desire to understand the philosophic, social, spiritual and psychological way we reflect on our state of being, we can create a plan of growth that betters our character.

This better character is exhibited by our actions, which is illuminated from us, to our society. “Better men do make a better world.”

A Master Mason and Lodge Brother of mine was recently placed in a position of trainer of a new co-worker, for the instruction of the work procedures at his place of employment. The new co-worker was still on his probationary period. The behavior of this gentleman was off-putting to many of his co-workers and those in management that he could very easy be laid-off once the probation period passed.

My good Brother, also bothered by the gentleman’s behavior, sat him down, and in a friendly manner explained how his negative attitude and comments have been noticed by those around him and the negative effect it was having on future employment. Though only being a Master Mason for a year, he had put in a lot of time studying our lectures and discussing the philosophies with many other Brethren. This reflection of our studies paid off in how he related to the new co-worker. The co-worker did a 180° with his behavior. And, through the consistency of his newly adopted attitude, and by understanding the effect it was having on those around him, he has been able to sustain his employment.

The Brother called me while on his lunch break that day with a question. He asked, “When we are taught to circumscribe our actions and keep us within due bounds, that doesn’t just include Masons, does it?” “No” I said. “We must reflect on our character in relation to all mankind.” He then asked, “If we discover a person who in need of assistance, we must extend our hand, if we think we can be of assistance to them, right?” “Yes” I said. “Our ability to extend our hand is not limited to Masons alone, it is to all mankind.”

“I got it!” he exclaimed. “I really am starting to understand what it is to first be a Mason, then apply the teachings of “How” to become better by subduing my passions and carving away my superfluities and vices, and applying this knowledge in various situations in my everyday life!” Charity is not limited to financial giving, but the giving of assistance in the proper manner that enables another to become a better person as well. This Masonic Brother demonstrated Moral Leadership and it was made possible by the consistent display of good character.

But, exactly HOW is this feat of bettering a man’s character accomplished in the Fraternity of Freemasons? The answer is simple. The application of the answer takes each individual man a lifetime to accomplish.

If a man can identify where he stands in relation to his book of moral law, the Volume of the Sacred Law of his particular Faith, he can locate a point to begin the task of rectifying his behavior. One only needs to ask themselves, are they in accordance with the divine moral laws of his Faith? Once this task has been accomplished, the true work of improving character can begin. As my friend Dr. John S. Nagy, Master Mason and Masonic Author often says, “Now that you have crossed the bourn between knowing where your behavior was and where it needs to be improved, it is now time to put in the work. At this point, you can no longer behave as if you don’t know where your self-improvement begins.”

A man must then study the Masonic Rituals and Lectures. I mean, really study them. Dissect them, if you will. He must ask what they are saying, and more importantly, what they mean to him. The lectures are filled with timeless philosophy from the ancient Greek philosophers. It encompasses in its teachings historic lessons from various faiths. The symbolism is derived from various sources, in particular, ancient Egypt and Mayan civilizations. A man must consistently ask the question, “Why” and then seek the answers, using the road map located in Masonic symbolism and allegories.

Now that we have looked at the character, let us look at leadership. Let’s return to the aforementioned article. Piatt introduces power as it relates to leadership. He states, “All forms of leadership utilize the components of power; however, power does not need to be coercive, dictatorial or punitive to be effective within the organization. Power in the moral leadership model should be used in non-coercive manner to choreograph, mobilize, direct and guide your members to pursue the goals and objectives of the organization in an ethical manner.”

Piatt also goes on to state, “Power always acts within and is responsible to a field of responsibilities and tasks.” He notes a quote from leadership expert James MacGregor Burns, “Leadership must engage its followers, and not just merely direct them. Leaders must serve as models, not martinets.”

I recently attended the Grand Master’s Town Hall meeting of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. Along with many matters concerning the direction of our Grand Lodge, a focus presented that I feel is important is leadership training. The success of a Lodge is dependent strongly on the ability of the leader to motivate the Craft in a positive and fruitful direction.

Albert Pike, in the first chapter and first page of his book “Morals and Dogma” stated, “The blind force of the people is a force that must be economized, and also managed, as the blind force of steam, lifting the ponderous iron arms and turning the large wheels, is made to bore and rifle the cannon and to weave the most delicate lace. It must be regulated by Intellect. Intellect is to the people and the people’s force, what the slender needle of the compass is to the ship-its soul, always counseling the huge mass of wood and iron, and always pointing north.”

What this means is that leadership is power. However, that power must be controlled by intellect. This intellect, in relation to Freemasonry, is an understanding of our tenets, obligations and rules and an effective demonstration of them in practice, and not just lip service. The leadership of a lodge, is highly dependent on the understanding of the will of the Craft, the abilities of the Craft and the insight of the Worshipful Master to assemble his plans within due bounds of its Lodge members.

Our Masonic Lodges are composed of many brilliant men, both blue collar and white collar individuals. Each man brings a certain ability and talent to the Lodge. They also bring different opinions and levels of dedication. The leadership of the Lodge must effectively employ each Mason in relation to his talent for his best chance of success. It is like a puzzle. Each member is a piece that will fit together with the others. If the pieces are assembled in the right order, the picture, or goal of the Lodge for example, will show its true beauty when displayed in its entirety.

Deputy Grand Master Barry Weer stated at the Town Hall Meeting that we must practice leadership by succession if we are to have longevity in the positive forward direction of our Craft. In the same article from the Daily Journal I have earlier referenced there is a statement that supports Brother Weer’s statement. Leadership author Abraham Zaleznik states, “Leadership is based on a compact that binds those who lead with those who follow into the same moral, intellectual and emotional commitment.” Meaning, if I am the Junior Warden, it is not only my duty to support and learn from the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master, but I must also instruct the Senior Deacon on the performance and expectation of my office, which he is to next occupy.

One Brother should constantly be helping another Brother. Freemasonry is an unselfish institution. The partnership we enter into when we are advancing through the chairs is to support the officer in front of us and assist the officer following us. This partnership is not limited to the officers, but it must exemplified by the officers to the entire membership of the Craft. One cannot expect to lead with the respect of his Brethren if he has not exhibited the same humbleness of supporting the officer he has followed in his line of advancement to the Oriental Chair.

Piatt provides sound suggestions for effective leadership. He states:
· The leader must create and communicate a clear vision of what they and the organization stand for.

· The leader must try to make their fellow constituents aware that they are all stake-holders in a communal partnership that cannot succeed without their involvement and commitment.

· Leaders must advocate and demonstrate trust, which allows those relevant stakeholders in the organization to be treated and respond like adults.

· Leaders must allow those with whom they lead to make mistakes. This gives the followers the hope that they dare to succeed by learning from those mistakes, and therefore, not be afraid to take risks.

· And finally, as Burns stated, “leadership is grounded in conscious choices among real alternatives.”

Piatt closes his article with this statement, “The ultimate outcome is to lead with a moral compass and inspire others to follow that compass.”

We, as a Fraternity, are taught how to be good moral men. We are charged with exhibiting this as an example to society of how men should conduct themselves. We derive our moral compass by the Volume of Sacred Law. We enact the restraint of our passions through Masonic education and understanding through discussions, therefore increasing the goodness of the quality of our character. With this ever evolving good character, we are employed in our lodges with tasks that promote leadership qualities, such as serving on committee’s as chairmen, and/or working our way through the chairs as a Lodge Officer to one day being elected as a Worshipful Master of a Lodge.

In the book by J.G. Clawson entitled, “Level three leadership: Getting below the surface” Clawson wrote that the industrial Revolution shifted America’s economy from an agriculture base to an industrial one and, thereby, ushered in a change in how leaders would treat their followers. The Industrial Revolution created a paradigm shift to a new theory of leadership in which “common” people gained power by virtue of their skills.

Moral leadership is a steady evolving trait that is learned. The process of this learning is made available to every Mason starting from the Entered Apprentice Degree, through that of a Master Mason and beyond in his career in the Masonic Institution. The information for this learning is not new for Masons. It has been taught and practiced since time immemorial in every regular Masonic Lodge. As it seems society has just starting to see the benefit of moral leadership in business at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. All one needed to do was look at the Masonic Institution for guidance. We have been here teaching it the whole time.

I close with one of my favorite quotes about Freemasonry.

“Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics of philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man”
Douglas MacArthur
General US Army

Brother Charles M. Harper Sr
Illinois Master Mason

Volume of Sacred Law

 

The Holy Book must be opened upon the altar before a Masonic Lodge may be opened. Freemasonry is not concerned with doctrine or dogma or sect or denomination, but only with “that natural religion in which all men agree.” Therefore, the Holy Book is called the V.S.L. or Volume of Sacred Law or the Book of the Law. If the members of a Lodge are Christian, Moslem, Jewish or Buddhist, the V.S.L. of their particular belief is opened upon their altar. The V.S.L. is, therefore, a symbol of the revealed will and teachings of the Great Architect of the Universe – a name under which any Freemason can worship that Deity in Whom he puts his faith and trust.

 

Is Masonry a secret society?

 

Is Masonry a secret society?

No. It is sometimes said that Freemasonry is a “Society with secrets, not a secret society.” In point of fact, however, any purported Masonic “secrets” were made public several centuries ago in London newspapers, and today can be found in the Library of Congress, on the Internet, and in many books on the subject. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The great secret of Freemasonry is that there is no secret at all.” But some say the one great secret of Freemasonry… is finding out who YOU really are.
askafreemason.org

What about secret handshakes, ritual, and passwords?

 

What about secret handshakes, ritual, and passwords?

Freemasonry, often called the “Craft” by its members, employs metaphors of architecture. Following the practice of the ancient stonemason guilds, Freemasons use special handshakes, words, and symbols to not only to identify each other, but to help, as William Preston said in 1772, “imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.”

Although every Freemason takes an obligation — and vows to keep the secrets of Masonry — it doesn’t matter to him that you can find the secrets in print; what matters is that he keeps his promise. And the secrets he is protecting are only used to help Masons become better men; and there’s certainly no secret surrounding what it takes to be good and true.
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts