Three, five, and seven
3 5 7
By Stan Shapiro MD, Grand Lodge Education Officer G.L. of MN
“You get out of Masonry only what you put in it.”
WHATEVER BECAME OF THE MASONRY WE ONCE KNEW? by W.B. Ken Baril and R. W. Brother Richard E. Backe, PDDGM, Grand Lodge of Connecticut
In June of 1966 and October 1971, we were raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. They were evenings we shall never forget. The experience will live in our hearts and minds until time is no more. We believe it was one of the proudest moments of our life. Surrounding us that evening, were brothers who really took an interest in us and each one offered their assistance to us while we were learning what needed to be learned? The warmth, the feeling of belonging, the brotherly love and the genuine concern for us was overwhelming. We will never trade those moments for anything in the world.
The ritual work was done to perfection. All the officers who took part in the degrees were extremely proficient. The pride they had in their work was quite evident and the deep feeling of accomplishment was written all over their faces. They walked straight, squared their corners, and held the staffs at the correct angle. What impressed us the most was the fact that no ritual book, not one single book, (except for the designated prompter) was open during each degree. While the degree was being exemplified, there were no other sounds within the lodge-room. All brothers were concentrating on the candidate while also focusing on the officers performing their speaking parts. It was almost like being in a cathedral. It was a spiritual experience to say the least.
We were also impressed by the fact that when a brother reached the Oriental Chair, he had learned everything in that book from cover to cover. There is a difference between learning the ritual and memorizing it. Only if one travels toward the East is that evident. Even those who sit on the sidelines should recognize this distinction.
After taking each degree, our mentors called to schedule a class of instruction and to see if we would be available to attend any special event that might be taking place. The personal interest shown in our well-being and us was gratifying, for in a world where there are more takers than givers, this was unique. In a society in which man feels so alone, so alienated, it is comforting to be with others who share the same ideals, emotions and experiences. Feelings of warmth, friendship and potential comfort in times of distress are always present, yet they appear most readily in lodge. After becoming a member of my lodge, we found men who treated us with brotherly love, which relieved the stress of the day. In lodge, we met old and new friends who demanded nothing from us, and thus we demanded nothing from them in return.
When attending lodge, the brothers were always well dressed; their shoes were shined, their slacks were pressed and their appearance was always impeccable. It was assumed that proper attire (shirt, tie and jacket) would be worn while attending lodge. Now members attend lodge as if they were going to a company picnic, some in shorts, muscle shirts and t-shirts, others in stained blue jeans. Sneakers, athletic shoes, sandals and all sorts of other footwear have replaced shoes. We suppose it is a lot easier not having to shine your shoes. Socks appear to be optional. Ties are a thing of the past. Open collar shirts and golf shirts have replaced the traditional dress shirt. I truly believe that when Masonry states that, ‘it is the internal and not the external qualifications of a man that Masonry regards,” it does not apply to a dress code. We can readily understand there are circumstances where a brother has just come from his place of employment where jacket and tie are inappropriate and he does not have enough time to return to his home to change his clothes. This should be a one-time, exceptional occurrence. There is no reason why the proper attire could not be left at the lodge or kept in one’s car. When we mentioned this to a brother, his answer was, “since when do I have to bring my wardrobe to lodge?” We realized, at that point, it was not in the best interest of all parties to pursue the subject. So Mote It Be.
Now, forty-four and thirty-nine years later, respectively, we sit in lodge and cannot believe the drastic change that has taken place. We now have Grand Master’s One-Day Classes where a candidate can take all three degrees in one day and then leave with his dues card in hand and a Masonic lapel pin on his jacket. He has taken the degrees in succession with no opportunity to digest the preceding degree. The theory is that the candidate has a mentor to explain the degrees and answer any questions that may arise. This is nice in theory but the reality is that many mentors know less than the candidate.
We have also noticed that many line officers do not have the pride in their work that once existed. Having the ritual book open during a degree is the norm, and on many occasions, officers cannot open or close the lodge without reading their respective parts. We both attended a lodge meeting one evening where the Chaplain, (a Past Master, no less) had to read the prayers. Even while doing so, he had to be prompted by another Past Master because he had difficulty reading the prayer properly. What a shame! When mistakes are made, they are followed by a shrug of the shoulders, a nonchalant facial expression or a simpering laugh. This has the effect of drawing more attention to the error than just continuing with the work. After all, the candidate will not know that a mistake was made unless attention is called to it.
We were also in attendance for a Master Mason Degree when, during the second section, the Senior Warden read his part from a script and made no attempt to conceal this from those brothers present. Compounding the felony, the District Deputy Grand Master for that lodge attended, (not as an official visit,) and did not attempt to stop the degree or reprimand the officer in question after the degree. This is certainly ludicrous and sets a poor example for the officers and all brethren present. Still we have the audacity to ask, “Whatever became of the Masonry we once knew?”
The Craft today does not appear to be as proud of Freemasonry as it ought to be. Masonry is the most wonderful institution in the world. Think of its historic past. Since coming into existence, dynasties have fallen, thrones have tottered, empires have tumbled and crowns have vanished, but our grand order lives on with eyes undimmed, greater, more exciting and more influential than ever. Today, when so many imagine that history began with their own birth certificate and that compassion for their fellow man is unnecessary, belonging to an order with a great historic past and with the tenets of brotherly love, relief and truth is not only fulfilling, gratifying and uplifting but also, to some of us at least, necessary. Masonry has a great mission to fulfill in the present age, and a great contribution to make to the future of humanity. It is the last vestige of civil behavior in a world gone mad.
Another problem that is prevalent today is the language that is used in some lodges, especially in the banquet hall or lobby. Profanity is the norm during conversations. Some brothers are under the impression that bar room language is acceptable. IT IS NOT! Once we heard a Master use the most vulgar language possible when addressing the secretary. This was during open lodge with the Three Great Lights in full display. At first we did not believe what we had heard, and was too shocked (like those around us) to bring our dismay to the Master’s attention. What kind of impression are we giving to those in attendance? Is this the reason our older members no longer come to lodge? Is this the reason many new brothers do not return?
Some brothers, seem to forget the fact that when others know they belong to our fraternity and act in a non-Masonic manner, that eyes are upon them, and their language and actions are a direct reflection on the whole fraternity, especially us. These brothers do not think before they act or speak and when they are driving their cars, and someone cuts them off or irritates them in any way, they should have the decency to remove their Masonic ring before they “flip the bird.” When your car has a Masonic emblem pasted to the rear window or on the trunk, remember you represent the entire fraternity and not just yourself — ACT ACCORDINGLY.
Another incident we witnessed was while a candidate was kneeling at our Altar of Obligation, one brother sitting across the room, threw a piece of hard candy across the lodge room, over the Altar, to a brother on the other side of the room. This is totally unacceptable! On several occasions one of us said, “If this was my only example of a Masonic lodge, I would have joined the Knights of Columbus.” Some recommendation!
We can no longer be content to be members of the “silent majority.” Members are reluctant to express their constructive criticisms in open Lodge. They have no such problem expressing these concerns in the banquet hall after the meeting when it is no longer relevant. Furthermore, in most cases these concerns are not voiced to the offending party. Every time we hear a brother complain about an incident or problem, one of us mentions to him that he should bring it up in open lodge because it is the right of every member to state his concerns. Whether right or wrong he still has that right, and, in fact, IT IS HIS DUTY! As long as he presents them in a respectful and brotherly manner, he CAN and MUST be heard. Most often, the brother states that he is afraid that voicing his criticisms will be regarded as un-Masonic conduct. This is completely erroneous. The charge of un-Masonic conduct should be leveled against the offending brother and not on any brother who may complain.
Identifying and developing successful candidates for line positions within the lodge, is one of the greatest challenges confronting our fraternity today. Furthermore, given the breadth of interest in the continuing goal of achieving, more pressure is being placed on Masters to identify capable brothers and to accelerate their development to fill these positions with greater responsibilities and leadership.
Masters must stop appointing brothers to line positions just to have warm bodies filling chairs. It should be evident that a brother’s qualifications should be top priority when being considered for a line position. If a brother is to be appointed to the line, it must be impressed upon him that he has specific duties and responsibilities. The Master must be certain he understands. The brother must be evaluated periodically as to his proficiency, his goals, his leadership and his management skills. He must be one who works well with others. If, after consultation and training, these attributes are weak or non-existent, he should be diplomatically informed that unless he shows improvement in those areas in which he is deficient, he would not be advanced to the next office. The Senior Deacon’s office should be the last chair he can occupy if most of those attributes are not evident. Allowing a brother to continue under these circumstances causes embarrassment not only for the lodge, but also for brother in question. Why waste the lodge’s and the brother’s time?
Some jurisdictions have required that prospective Masters be certified that they can open and close lodge properly before they are installed as Master. Nice thought, but if the person doing the examination does not do it properly, what’s the use. District Deputies, Lecturers, District and Lodge Education Officers and Grand Line Officers should have a clue as to proper Masonic protocol, procedures and ritual before they attempt to examine or chastise any brother. Moreover, just because the person being examined is a Past Master doesn’t mean he knows the ritual. He SHOULD but that doesn’t mean he does.
The brethren cannot honor the honorable station of Worshipful Master if its possessor does not honor it.
Brethren, we would not want to leave you with the impression that all in present Freemasonry is negative. Ours is an exciting, unique organization, with long traditions, profound philosophical teachings, and a haven for right-thinking men in our present world, so torn by the ills of poverty, war, terrorism, hunger and crime. We must move forward with enthusiasm, our spirit strengthened by the knowledge that we still have much to teach society, and that we have the tools to assist us in bringing to fruition our human potential.
Words To Live By: Researchers are mostly in agreement about what motivates people to be happy: Money isn’t the key to happiness. What really gives people meaning and happiness is a combination of four things: Control over what they’re doing, progress in what they’re pursuing, being connected with others, and being part of something they enjoy that’s bigger than themselves.
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The latest Masonic Monday Question, and some of the past questions, can be viewed at www.Lodgebuilder.org and at www.mn-masons.org