July 30, 2014
Visiting other lodges, particularly in different jurisdictions, is wonderful, and I have made it a point to do so whenever opportunity presents itself. But visiting is NOT what Masonry is about and a Mason who never visits a lodge other than his own is NO LESS a Mason than one who has visited thousands.
I find it sad, beyond words, when men who say they have received the Three Degrees of Masonry only think of it in terms of who can visit where. Sad because it seems they have completely missed the whole point.
Masonry is (designed to be) an Initiatic experience, that helps highlight the importance of Morality and Ethics in every aspect of a Mason’s life. What part of that has anything to do with visiting another lodge?
I know many fine, distinguished Masons, from Entered Apprentices to past and present Grand Masters. And we all know of countless more throughout history.
Not one has EVER distinguished himself by visiting another lodge. They ALL have distinguished themselves because of the moral and ethical character they have borne, and how they exemplified their character throughout their lives – in and out of Masonry. You don’t have to visit another lodge – or even sit in your own – to do that, and visiting a lodge (or sitting in your own) does not frequently even give you an opportunity to do that.
My advice to those who say they are Masons but get their underwear all in a twist about who can visit where is to go back to those Three Degrees you received and really study them. Really understand how much of those Degrees are about visiting and how much is about morals and ethics. Maybe that will help.
May 22, 2014
The One That Got Away
By Brother Gene Goldman, pm2
He came to this country, and learned some English along the way, from SouthEast Asia, as a teenager. When he was a young adult he applied for membership in my lodge. I was serving as Master at the time. One of his investigators mentioned that he didn’t seem to know much about the fraternity, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Not an unusual situation, so I planned to assign him one of our more thorough coaches, to make sure he was taught properly. I never considered the cultural aspects at play.
Imagine the situation here. We had two candidates that night. He was the second, so he waited in the lobby with our Tyler, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (who looked every inch the part). Of course, our Brother Gunny had his Tyler’s Sword prominently displayed, as is the custom. Our young friend seemed to take special note of the big brute of a Marine with the sword who stood watch over him.
The Stewards and Marshall came out to take the first candidate into the preparation room. Visualize this: our friend is being guarded by a Marine with a sword. Out come two more big guys with spears (actually, they are ceremonial staffs, but they do look deadly) and a guy with a billy club (we call it a Baton, but you get the picture). The three armed guys take the first candidate into the preparation room. The big Marine, and his sword stayed with our friend, like he was guarding him.
The Tyler said he never heard a peep and did not see how, but when they came back out to get our friend, he was nowhere to be found.
This is a true story, and happened while I was serving my Lodge as Master. As Master, I blame myself. I should have taken this young man aside and talked about the symbolic nature of our ceremonies. About how everything has a meaning, and that at no time would he ever be in any danger or even be made uncomfortable. I should have told him that all these symbols are presented strictly for their moral and ethical implications and none should be taken at face value. They should be appreciated for their personal meaning. I should also have shown him around the Lodge Room before we opened that evening.
I should have done these and other things, but I didn’t. And it haunts me to this day. So, every opportunity I get, I share the symbolic nature of our ceremonies, and how they are intended to create a transformational experience that will bring the individual from who he is to who he wants to become in a moral and ethical context. I have adapted the Lodge Walkabout guide I found to use with applicants. It takes only a few minutes and allows them to feel much more comfortable.
Especially with a candidate who is less familiar with us and what we do.
May 3, 2011
The Hiram Award is the single highest honor a California Mason may receive. It cannot be sought or applied for, but is awarded at the request of the individual’s Lodge, and bestowed by the Grand Lodge of California. The District Inspector makes the award presentation on behalf of the Grand Master.
The Hiram Award is an award presented to a Master Mason who has served the Lodge and the Masonic Fraternity with devotion over and above the ordinary. It is the highest honor (other than being Master of the Lodge) that can be bestowed on a member of a Masonic Lodge. The Hiram Award is not given for service as Master or any elected or appointed office or committee. The recipient is recognized by his brethren in Masonry for his service to the fraternity, because of his efforts to support one or more Masons, a Lodge or Lodges, a District, the Grand Lodge or the fraternity as a whole. It is a singular distinction, and indicates the esteem, respect and admiration of the members. A California Masonic Lodge may bestow a maximum of one Hyram Award each year.
I was invested with this distinguished recognition in 2004 and am grateful to the brethren of my lodge for this honor. Considering the brethren who have been so recognized before me, I did not, and to this day do not, feel deserving. Interestingly, I have never yet met a recipient of the Hiram Award who does – and I have met many.
Here is the text of the Inspector’s presentation:
Worshipful Master, Brethren, Friends and especially our Honoree.
It is an honor and privilege for me to have a part in presentation of the Hiram Award to our Honored Brother. While a good Mason does not work for the benefit of Honors or rewards, I am very happy that XXX Lodge Lodge has seen fit to nominate such a true and trusty friend and deserving mason to receive this award.
While we are all here to honor our distinguished brother by presenting him with the prestigious Hiram Award, there are probably some in our audience this evening who are unaware of the background of the Hiram Award. You may also wonder who Hiram was and what Hiram means to Masons.
Hiram is a biblical name meaning “Most Noble”. In the Holy Writings, 1st. Kings, Chapter 7, we read that King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram Abiff out of Tyre. Abiff is a Hebrew expression for father, a term of respect. Therefore, Hiram Abiff translated means “Most Noble Father”.
We also read that Hiram Abiff worked for King Solomon in the erection of King Solomon’s Temple, not only casting the metallic ornaments for the temple, but also as a master architect of the work.
According to legend, over 150,000 workmen were employed in the building of the temple which took approximately seven years to complete. To those workmen who labored faithfully on the project was promised the status of Master Mason upon completion.
But some time before the Temple’s completion, some of the workmen became dissatisfied and demanded the promotions which they had been promised, and conspired to extort them form Hiram Abiff.
In spite of their violent threats, Hiram steadfastly refused to yield to their demands. Reminding them of their obligation to King Solomon and his God, he resolutely insisted that they honor the contracts by which he and they were bound. Three of them, more brutal than the rest, conspired to attack Master Hiram to force the concession they were demanding; but he, being faithful to his trust, was more adamant in his refusal, and they in their wrath slew him in the unfinished Temple.
That, essentially is the legend of Hiram Abiff which has become in Masonry one of the most impressive ritualistic dramas of all time. The real importance of the story of Hiram Abiff is that it still stirs men to serve the truth, by steadfastly maintaining the necessity of those noble aspirations, even to apparent defeat in death.
The first award of this kind was presented to Brother Andrew Miller, P.M. of San Pedro Lodge No. 332 in 1932.
In February 1977, Galt Lodge No. 257 selected a worthy brother to be the honored guest for the evening, and presented him with and award called “King Solomon Award”. It was then suggested that the name be changed to the “Hiram Award”.
This was brought to the attention of the Grand Master, Kermit Jacobson, who felt it would be good for Freemasonry to promote this type of award, and the Hiram Award of today was accepted in the Grand Lodge of California in 1978.
The Hiram Award is the highest honor which can be bestowed upon a member who has unselfishly given of his time, talents and energy for the betterment of his Lodge and freemasonry. The Hiram Award is intended for the brother who, year after year displays his devotion to the Lodge and our beloved fraternity without asking for anything in return.
The real warmth and pleasure of being chosen for this special honor is most satisfying, because it comes directly from the Brethren and friends he has accumulated within his own community. The Hiram Award is simply the official recognition of a Brother by his own Lodge for his devoted service to the Lodge and to our Masonic principles in general. His is a labor of love for the fraternity. The true and steady hand of assistance which is that living cement that binds our Fraternity into a true Brotherhood.
I can think of no other name for this award that would mean as much as “Hiram”. We believe that the recipient of this award tonight is indeed worthy of the name, and is a Mason justly deserving of the Hiram Award.
While this Hiram Award Certificate is coming from Grand Lodge of California, it is this Lodge that has made the selection of the honoree. Therefore, on behalf of the Most Worshipful YYY, Grand Master of Masons in California, I am happy to deliver this Hiram Award Certificate to the Master of XXX Lodge for presentation to our Brother.
April 18, 2011
The History of Masonry before the Establishment Of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free And Accepted Masons Of California
Tradition vs. History
In each of our post-Degree lectures, two terms are commonly used. “Masonic Tradition” and “History”. They are specifically used because it is important to distinguish between what we know have recorded and what we believe.
A sharp demarcation occurs On St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1717. Remember that date. From then forward, what we have is History. Before it, we have Masonic Tradition.
Whence Came We?
There are scant few historical facts regarding our earliest beginnings. There are, however, many popular romantic notions, some with bigger followings than others. So-called “Secret Societies” and fraternal Brotherhoods have existed from the first formation of society. These organizations used ceremonies, symbols, emblems, private modes of recognition, promises or obligations and the concept of fraternalism or Brotherhood. Whenever and however Freemasonry was born, it employed these same, already-tested means of imparting its teachings and forming its bonds.
It is an undeniable fact that about 1390, an unknown Brother in England wrote a beautiful and lengthy manuscript, which described in some detail a fraternal society that we today know as Freemasonry. Even at that time, more than 600 years past, our Noble Craft was older than anyone could remember.
Freemasonry (or rather that philosophy that is at the heart of Freemasonry) has really existed from Time Immemorial.
When the Regis Manuscript was written, what existed was Operative Masonry. Our ancient Brethren worked with stone and mortar, building great buildings. They were called “Masons”, and those who were most proficient in their craft were called “Freemasons”, being free to work their craft withersoever they might travel. These “Freemasons” designed, coordinated and built the great Cathedrals and other stately edifices throughout Europe.
These massive undertakings often required years to complete, and the Freemasons that were employed in the construction organized Lodges to facilitate the every-day business necessary to allow them to do their Great Work. These Lodges normally met in rooms within the building. Each Lodge was governed by a Master and his Wardens, a Secretary maintained the books and records, a Treasurer oversaw the funds, a charity fund assisted the members provided relief for Freemasons and their families when in need. The Lodge met regularly, initiated members, and conducted its business.
The great artists of the Middle Ages did not work in oils, or pastels. They worked in marble, stone, and mortar. Their canvasses were not made of parchment, but of hillsides and valleys. The beauty of, and in, their work stands to this day as testimony to their skill, their genius and their knowledge of the arts and sciences, particularly Architecture, Mechanics and Geometry. They did not come by this expertise easily, or quickly.
From as early as the age of ten, young boys were selected for their physical, mental and moral attributes, and Apprenticed to a Master of the Work. They would begin learning the skills and philosophies of the Craft, and if they showed sufficient promise, their names were entered in the records of the Lodge, making them Entered Apprentices. For seven years or more, the Master was Teacher, Mentor, Father, Taskmaster, Supporter, Guide and Friend to the young apprentice. The apprentice learned, at the hands of the Master, how to select stones for form and beauty, work the stone into an Ashler and place it strategically in the edifice to become wall, arch, pillar, column, floor, roof, window, sculpture or decoration. At the end of their apprenticeship, once the skills had been mastered, the youth would be tested. His proficiency would be proven by presenting a “Master’s piece” to other Masters. If judged worthy, he would be accepted as a Fellow of the Craft.
When a building was finally completed, most Masons had to find other employment, or another building to build within the community. They were not permitted to move about. Freemasons were free to relocate, and would set up a new Lodge to facilitate building a new building.
This was Operative Masonry, and it existed for generations until Euclid’s Geometry was rediscovered and published, thereby revealing many of the Freemasons’ secret methods. The Reformation came, the Gothic style of Architecture went, laws changed, society underwent upheaval, and the Craft dwindled in number. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Craft had shrunk so, that only a few, widely scattered, lightly populated, Lodges remained.
Until the sixteenth century, in order to become a Freemason, a man had to be a worker in the building trades, an Operative Mason. In an effort to protect the guild, these Freemasons began to accept members who had other reasons to join their Lodges – curiosity, interest in customs, symbolism, or just wanted to associate with these Freemasons. Because these nonOperative Freemasons had never proven themselves with a Master’s piece, but had just been accepted as members without actually working as a Mason, they were called Accepted Masons. Because their work was more with the moral and symbolic teachings than the physical ones, they were alternatively called Speculative Masons. Gradually, by the end of the eighteenth century, there were more Speculative or Accepted Masons than Operative ones in Freemasons’ Lodges.
History takes over from Masonic Tradition on St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1717. In the back of a tavern in London, four or more old Lodges of London and Westminster met. They organized a Grand Lodge, and on the same day selected their first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer. Within a few short years, what had once been an Operative trade guild had become a Speculative fraternity. The two Degrees of Operative Masonry became the three Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Old manuscripts and writings were collected and collated and the first Book of Constitutions was written. This newly formed Grand Lodge began issuing Charters to constituent Lodges all over the world, including the thirteen colonies here. This is the beginning of Speculative Freemasonry, as it exists today.
Other Grand Lodges were formed in Scotland and Ireland and in 1751 a second Grand Lodge was organized in England
In 1730, a Lodge was issued a Charter in Philadelphia. Others in the Americas followed. Provincial Grand Masters were appointed by these Grand Lodges in order to oversee these Lodges so far from home.
In 1776, a war was fought in the Americas, as a result of which all controls from England, and elsewhere, were severed. The several American Grand Lodges had become Sovereign and Independent, beholden to no one. There was much discussion of forming a single National Grand Lodge, with Brother George Washington as Grand Master. Brother Washington’s recommendations and the collective wisdom of the Craft prevailed, and the plan was abandoned. As a result, at present, there are 51 Sovereign and Independent mainstream Grand Lodges in the USA.
In March of 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other free Black men were initiated into Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution. On September 29, 1784, a Warrant was issued to form African Lodge No. 1 in Boston, which eventually gave birth to Prince Hall Masonry. Today there are 39 Prince Hall Grand Lodges in the USA, and 32 of them have formed fraternal Amity with the mainstream Grand Lodges in their areas.
We know that the Masonry we belong to today did not just explode into existence in 1717. We also know that Adam and Eve were not members of our fraternity. Just as a man must go through several stages before he is a man, and just as a building must do the same, our fraternity learned, grew, developed, changed and evolved, adapting itself to the changing world around it, from before anyone can remember to the Grand and Noble Craft we have today. It was built by good men who sincerely wanted to belong to something greater than themselves. We, as the Speculative Freemasons of today, owe it to them to be aware of our humble beginnings, that our future will be even more glorious. We owe it to the principles upon which our superstructure is erected, Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Faith, Hope, Charity, Tolerance, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, to learn, grow, develop, change and evolve – like our beloved Craft.
BY BRO. DUDLEY WRIGHT, ENGLAND
THE BUILDER, August 1920
Although the Antient Charges forbid the admission or initiation of women into the Order of Free and Accepted Masons, there are known instances where as the result of accident or sometimes design the rule has been broken and women have been duly initiated. The most prominent instance is that of the Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger, or, as she afterwards became, on marriage, the Hon. Mrs. Aldworth, who is referred to sometimes, though erroneously, as the “only woman who over obtained the honour of initiation into the sublime mysteries of Freemasonry.”
The Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger was a daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile, a resident of Cork. Her father was a very zealous Freemason and, as was the custom in his time — the early part of the eighteenth century – held an occasional lodge in his own house, when he was assisted by members of his own family and any brethren in the immediate neighbourhood and visitors to Doneraile House. This lodge was duly warranted and held the number 150 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
The story runs that one evening previous to the initiation of a gentleman named Coppinger, Miss St. Leger hid herself in the room adjoining the one used as a lodgeroom. This room was at that time undergoing some alterations and Miss St. Leger is said to have removed a brick from the partition with her scissors and through the aperture thus created witnessed the ceremony of initiation. What she saw appears to have disturbed her so thoroughly that she at once determined upon making her escape, but failed to elude the vigilance of the tyler, who, armed with a sword stood barring her exit. Her shrieks alarmed the members of the lodge, who came rushing to the spot, when they learned that she had witnessed the whole of the ceremony which had just been enacted. After a considerable discussion and yielding to the entreaties of her brother it was decided to admit her into the Order and she was duly initiated, and, in course of time, became the Master of the lodge.
According to Milliken, the Irish Masonic historian, she was initiated in Lodge No. 95, which still meets at Cork, but there is no record extant of her reception into the Order. It is, however, on record that she was a subscriber to the Irish Book of Constitutions, which appeared in 1744 and that she frequently attended, wearing her Masonic regalia, entertainments that were given under Masonic auspices for the benefit of the poor and distressed. She afterwards married Mr. Richard Aldworth of Newmarket and when she died she was accorded the honour of a Masonic burial. She was cousin to General Antony St. Leger, of Park Hill, near Doncaster, who, in 1776, instituted the celebrated Doncaster St. Leger races and stakes.
The Papal Bulls against Freemasonry
Although the Roman Catholic opposition to freemasonry is common knowledge, it should be known also that there were originally a great many Roman Catholic freemasons in all the countries where freemasonry flourished, among them being priests and high dignitaries of the Church, a condition which held good for many years (indeed, all through the eighteenth century in some countries), even after Pope Clement XII in 1738 and Benedict XIV in 1751 had issued their Bulls denouncing freemasonry.
In Liége, Belgium (to cite an instance given by Count Goblet d’Alviella), the Roman Catholic Bishop Velbrück, who ruled his ecclesiastical Principality from 1772 to 1784, was a devoted freemason, as were many of his canons and officials. One of these, the Rev. Canon de Geloes, was founder and first Master of La Parfaite Intelligence, at Liége, which was first a French and later a Belgian lodge, while another, the Rev. Canon Nicolas Devaux, was Master of another Liége lodge, La Parfaite Égalité; other instances could be given. It is to be assumed that it was the comparative inattention paid to the Bulls in some quarters that led to a whole series of Papal edicts, beginning in 1821, confirming and renewing them.
The Roman Catholic objections to freemasonry are not difficult to understand, even though we, as freemasons, do not acknowledge their soundness. A pamphlet, Freemasonry (revised edition, 1935), published by the Catholic Truth Society, after describing Anglo-Saxon freemasons as “inoffensive and well-meaning people” and admitting that freemasonry is “beneficial to the country, or at any rate quite harmless,” then makes quite clear that the solemn oath of secrecy is one of the “two main grounds of objection,” the other and apparently more serious one being that freemasonry ” tends to undermine belief in Catholic Christianity by substituting for it what is practically a rival religion based on deistic or naturalistic principles.”
In reply it should be said that Freemasonry is not claimed to be a religion. It is a system of morality, of philosophy. A candidate for its privileges is entitled to hold what religious principles and beliefs he pleases; the Craft will not belittle them and will respect their holder as long as he brings into freemasonry just one all-essential part of his code-a belief in the “Glorious Architect of heaven and earth.” Freemasonry calls upon its members to practise the sacred duties of morality, and offers itself, as the Ancient Charges tell us, as “the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”
Aims and Relationships of the Craft
In this connection we may well give extracts from (but cannot reproduce entire) The Aims and Relations of the Craft, first issued by the English Grand Lodge in 1938 and since fully subscribed to by the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland: The first condition of admission into, and membership of, the Order is a belief in the Supreme Being; The Bible, the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in the Lodges.
Every Candidate is required to take his Obligation on that book or on the Volume that is held by his particular creed to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it; While the individual freemason has the right to hold his own opinion with regard to public affairs, neither in any lodge nor in his capacity as a freemason, may he discuss or advance his views on theological or political questions; The Grand Lodge has always consistently refused to express any opinion on questions of foreign or domestic State policy either at home or abroad, and it will not allow its name to be associated with any action, however humanitarian it may appear to be, which infringes this policy; The Grand Lodge refuses to have any relations with, or to regard as freemasons, any Bodies, styling themselves Freemasons, which do not adhere to these principles. In 1929 the Grand Lodge of England issued Basic principles for Grand Lodge Recognition; this foreshadowed the greater part of the above declaration and laid down that any Grand Lodge asking to be recognized by the English jurisdiction shall strictly observe the principles of the Ancient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the Craft; its membership and that of its individual Lodges shall be composed exclusively of men; there shall be no masonic intercourse with mixed Lodges or with bodies that admit women to membership; the three Great Lights of Freemasonry (the V.S.L., the Square, and the Compasses) shall always be exhibited when it or its subordinate Lodges are at work.
April 14, 2011
Many years ago, I was active in a few Masonic forums on the internet. I got an email from a Brother in the mid-west.
His dad’s best friend was living out here. He was a life member of a lodge back “home” in the mid-west, but never joined one here. Anyway, the man’s doctor advises him to make his final arrangements sooner rather than later. He really wants a Masonic funeral, so he calls a member of the lodge near his house.
The member – meaning well but doing the opposite – tells him all about the problems and issues involved with this sort of thing. This secretary has to call the Grand Secretary, who has to write to the Grand Secretary, who has to call the secretary of his home lodge, who has to do the research… it might take a month or two to sort it all out. he was very sorry, but he didn’t see how everything could get done, verifying his membership and everything, in time.
As far as the process and protocols were concerned, he was correct.The member said it could take a month or more, probably two. The doctor said he might have a couple weeks, more likely one.
The old man gets on the phone to the dad and starts crying. He is a 50 year member in his lodge and can’t even get a Masonic funeral.
That’s when the son contacted me, asking if there was ANYTHING I could do. Thankfully, I know a few people here and there, and don’t mind causing a stir. I got the Inspector for that lodge’s district on the phone (prepared to go higher if needed, but a good start) and explained the situation. My friend, the Inspector just about blew up! I won’t repeat his comments, mainly because I don’t think the terms of service here will allow such language. Did I mention that the Inspector is a very religious man? 🙂
When he calmed down, he asked me if he could call me back. I don’t know what he and the Master of that lodge talked about, but when he called back he told me that the funeral arrangements were completed – with the member’s deepest apologies.
The man got his Masonic funeral. I was both angry and sad when the son contacted me. I was relieved and redeemed when it was over.I saw two lessons-learned here. One, the member was willing to deprive this dying man of his last wish, because the paperwork and red tape was going to take too long.Two, happily, the inspector put Brotherly Love, Justice Charity, Relief and just plain old humanity ahead of the red tape.
Turned out the man was in good standing. But what would have happened if he wasn’t? Was the sky going to open up and spit lightening? Was the entire free world going to be placed in desperate peril? Or would someone have to say “Woops” and life go on?
Happily, I am a member of a fraternity in which the vast majority of members really do care – about each other and about everyone else. The events described here do happen sometimes, but whenever the tape gets too red, another Mason is always around to sort it out.
I remain happy to be a Mason.
April 11, 2011
By Gene Goldman with Robert E. Winterton
This paper will reveal one of the most tightly kept secrets taught in Masonry. This is a lesson that is so secret, and so fundamental to our nature, that it is not even spoken of in our ritual. However, it is taught just the same.
It is the secret of the Epsilon Chai Iota Tau. Four Greek letters, with so much significance an entire book could be written, and not even begin to explain the mystery contained within them. Sherlock Holmes would be hard pressed to find all their meanings. Philosophers could spend lifetimes delving into the depths of their significance, and still not scratch the surface. Their many lessons are never taught, but everyone knows them.
The story of “The Purloined Letter” teaches us that the best way to hide something is to place it in plain sight. It is interesting to note that this symbol, these four Greek letters appear in every commercial and government building in this country, and most people never take conscious notice of them. School children see them every day and never ask what they mean. Workers in businesses, customers in stores, patrons in movies, ball games and amusement parks see these letters, and read their hidden message every day and never realize it. After this, you will never again be without conscious knowledge of them, and their importance to you, in your life.
Epsilon Chai Iota Tau. The most simple, and yet most complicated, translation to these four simple letters is “When finished, come this way”. Each of us places our own meanings, assigns our own importance and develops our own picture of what this means.
“When finished, come this way”. For the businessman, when the deal is completed, fulfilment begins.
“When finished, come this way”. For the student, when the studies are finished, it will be time to apply what has been learned in order to make a positive contribution to the world.
“When finished, come this way”. For the employee, when the workday is done, it is time to go home, and be with family, rest and refresh himself, rejuvenate and enjoy the fruits of his labors.
“When finished, come this way”. For the theologin, when this life draws to a close, real glory awaits us in a brighter and better world.
“When finished, come this way”. For the Master Mason, when the Degrees are finished, it is time to take the lessons he has learned and start applying them in his life.
“When finished, come this way”. For you, reading this, when you are finished, it will be time to embark on a new topic or activity.
“When finished, come this way”.
Epsilon Chai Iota Tau
Symbolic interpretations of a commonplace image – to teach, influence, enlighten and inspire.
April 4, 2011
People have asked me from time to time, what I get from being a Mason.
What is it that I learned, or discovered in Lodge that makes it so
interesting or valuable to me? Why do I keep going back to Lodge,
paying Dues, serving as an Officer, spend so much time on the Internet
researching and discussing Masonry?
I don’t think anyone really learns anything new in Masonry. I know I
didn’t, though I really expected to. Much to my surprise I was, and
continue to be, reminded of several principles and virtues that I had
already inculcated as my own long before I became a Mason. Most, if
not all, Masons it has been my pleasure to meet also accept these
principles and Virtues as valid and true in their lives. What are
these Virtues? What are these Principles? I will enumerate and
describe them, as best I can, one at a time.
Brotherly Love: This Virtue admonishes us to regard the entire human
race as family. We were, after all, created by the same Creator, and
the tie that binds us is stronger than we sometimes think. In all
that we do, we should consider our family, known and unknown. What is
best for them, and for ourselves?
Relief: Whenever we encounter a fellow creature in need, particularly
at times when we are in abundance (but even when we are not), we
should never fail to do what we are able to relieve their distress.
Truth: This should always have the highest priority, above personal
agendas and disagreements. We must be always ready, not only to seek,
find and speak the Truth. However, we must be prepared to hear it as
well. This is not always easy. In fact, hearing an unwelcome Truth
is usually difficult. Still, hear it we sometimes must, and accept it
Faith: When we believe in something bigger than ourselves, something
greater than we can even aspire to becoming, we are humbled. Humility
inspires us to do our best. Not because we can equal the Creator, but
to imitate Him and make something of Beauty ourselves. Beauty gives
both pleasure and brings the following Virtue.
Hope: A better world awaits us. Even in this life, we may look
forward to an improved existence. Educating our Children will insure
that they will be able to make good decisions when it is their time to
do so. Here I speak not of an empty Hope, but a Hope based on the
secure knowledge that we have all done our best to make the world of
tomorrow better than it is today.
Charity: Beyond Relief (above), we should always work hard to improve
the condition of those around us. Where Relief leaves off, Charity
begins. Going beyond soothing an affliction or satisfying a need,
Charity is the act or acts designed to prevent those needs from ever
existing again. Preventing distress, not for the recognition, thanks
or acclaim, but because it improves some part of the world, is the
highest form of Charity.
Tolerance: By this principle of life and conduct we are reminded that
it is seldom necessary to prove someone else wrong for us to be right.
We do not have to cause another to fail in order to succeed. In the
60s, there was a term called win – win. Both sides of almost every
conflict can find a “middle ground” in which satisfaction may be a
shared commodity, if both sides are willing to allow the other to win
Temprence: Doing almost anything to excess is harmful. Charity, given
to excess, can leave one impoverished. Love, given to excess, may be
smothering. The effects of drugs and alcohol, when used to excess,
are well known. However, consider the effect of too much Truth.
Truth without tact (the knowledge of when NOT to say things) can hurt
feelings and even destroy friendships.
Fortitude: Without fortitude, no one can succeed. Everything gets
difficult sometimes, there is always the temptation to give in or give
up. When we show Fortitude, we learn to “stick it out” and overcome
obstacles to accomplish goals.
Prudence: The mark of a Polite person is knowing when to speak and
when not to. What to say and what not to. “To everything, there is a
season.” This is not only a quotation from Scripture, and a popular
song of a previous decade, but good advice as well.
Justice: Everyone deserves to have their fair due, whatever that may
be. Like Truth, we must be prepared not only to dispense Justice, but
to have it dispensed to us. We must be able to put aside our own
wants and sometimes needs in order to insure that Justice is served.
All these Principles and Virtues are bigger than ourselves, greater
than our personal desires. Observing and practicing them, we are
making this a better world, not only for ourselves, but for all who
This is what I get from Masonry. This is why I keep coming back. To
be reminded of these principles, and learn more about them.
Have I ever seen anything I did not like in the fraternity? Yes.
Masons are human beings and sometimes human beings do not behave as
they should. Sometimes they are small, petty, childish, spitefull,
even just plain wrong. I will say this, though. I have seen far far
less of these characteristics in Masonry and among Masons in any
setting than I have seen in Campfire, PTA, Scouting, religious
denominations (ever attend a Board Meeting at a House of Worship?) or
any of the other groups I have been a member of. I have found it an
honor and a priveledge to be associated with almost every one of my
Brethren. As for those very few that need to improve themselves in
Masonry and better learn the lessons taught in their Degrees, I can
only say that I do my best to teach by example and encourage my
Brethren and Fellows to do likewise. That, to me, is what the
fraternity is all about.
The above work is the sole creative property of myself. Any member of
the Fraternity may copy it in whole or in part of Freemasonry, of
whatever Degree and affiliation, for any Masonic purpose. The author
may grant use by others on request.
March 26, 2011
While serving my Lodge, I had occasion to call on one of our Entered Apprentices to ask about the reasons for his long absence from the Work. Like all too many men who join our Fraternity, he completed his initiation and then disappeared. He had several reasons; the demands of his business had picked up, some personal issues requiring his attention at home, scheduling problems with his Coach, etc. All these were valid, but there appeared more to this than he was letting on. After some more conversation the truth was revealed . . . he was concerned about his obligation, particularly about the penalties for revealing our secrets.
Our Brother is a man who is very interested in Symbolism, Metaphysics, and (what we call our) Esoteric Work. The reason he sought out a Lodge to join was to write some papers on our Symbolism! He explained that he became alarmed when taking the obligation. We never informed him of just what “secrets” he had just vowed to protect! We simply advised him of grave symbolic penalties for failing to protect them. This caused him concern, as it was his goal to bring some light to non initiates in his writings. Being a man of much honor, he felt it better to go no further in our mysteries to be free to explain some of our symbolism to non masons.
Symbolic vs. Pragmatic
We entered a discussion of the penalties. The need for protection of our secrets was, and is, self-evident . . . if everyone knows our secrets, we have none. Having none, we are no longer unique, or even special. Nothing then remains to induce men of good moral character to want to associate with us. We discussed the historic nature of the penalties. Without addressing the accuracy of our alleged descent from the Knights Templar, there have been other times in history when Masons have faced death simply for being Masons, and living according to Masonic principles. Hitler, Khomeni, and others have issued death sentences for freethinkers. We teach our candidates to be freethinkers by the nature of our ceremonies.
He was surprised to learn that, under Masonic Law, the strongest penalty a Lodge can impose on a member is simply expulsion from the Fraternity! Although to most Masons, separation from the Craft would be far worse than the grisly acts described in our Ritual. The term “no less a penalty” applies here, in great measure. The thought of revealing our secrets to the unentitled should cause revulsion in the minds of our membership.
The Secrets Themselves
What are our secrets? Today, in this country, our existence is well known. Rose Parade Floats, published phone numbers and meeting times, even the jewelry openly and proudly worn by many Masons is evidence of this. That we use mystic ceremonies, embedded with symbolism to impart moral and ethical lessons to our novitiates is almost as well documented. Any interested person could enter a specialty bookstore, purchase a book or two, and learn the essence of our ceremonies. At the Local Masonic Center in my area there is a book store, well stocked with books on and about Masonry, and writings by many Masons. Many of these clearly explain our ceremonies and the reasons for the manner in which we exemplify them. Within the same building there is a library containing hundreds of volumes of writings by countless Masonic scholars. Most of these discuss either the history of our Craft, or the Ceremonies and symbolism we employ in our Work. Who we are, what we do, and how we do it are clearly not secret.
We proudly refer to our modes of recognition as the only secrets in our craft today. In my library at home, I have books describing our ritual in detail. These books have clear English text and include our cherished modes of recognition (complete with diagrams). These books were purchased at a wonderful little bookstore in the Business district in my neighborhood. Any interested person, with a few dollars, can do the same. Though Masons treat the modes of recognition as secret, they could not be considered unknown outside the Craft.
Well, what does that leave? It sounds like it’s all out in the open. Our existence, methods, ritual, even the ways we recognize each other are known to any expressing an interest. The real secret of our Craft is the spiritual and emotional growth we encountered because of the experiences we shared. The true Mysteries of Freemasonry are contained within the acts of being conducted around the Lodge Room, kneeling at the Altar, first learning the Grips and Words of the several Degrees, and participating in the Third Degree Ritual. Experiencing this as we do (first hand) cannot be described in words. As with many other life experiences “you had to be there” to really understand it. Words could only confuse the issue, never explain it.
What this means to us, my Brother
What does it mean that we are required to keep all this secret? The prohibition against unlawful disclosure of these secrets is meant to protect our ritual from corruption. It is not prohibited to instruct a candidate in the Work. Proper instruction of Candidates is strongly encouraged by Lodges.
Candidates Coaches (the unsung warriors of our Fraternity ) spend hour after hour personally instructing candidates in a myriad of areas. The Ritual Work, the history of Freemasonry, even proper Lodge etiquette are topics of much discussion. They spend many additional hours sharpening their proficiency in the Work to do this more effectively. They patiently answer the hundreds of questions posed by Candidates. Officers spend evenings away from their families to attend practices to improve their Work. In California, Coaches and Officers are required to attend District Schools of Instruction, and when proficient, they are certified by District Inspectors. Inspectors are supervised by Assistant Grand Lecturers. These men come under the oversight of the Grand Lecturer. The Grand Lodge of California, and most of its constituent Lodges, have active committees on Masonic Education. This elaborate system exists to insure that Candidates receive proper instruction.
Work is done only in a tyled Lodge, by qualified Officers. Coaching is done in private settings, by skilled and dedicated men. In this way the Ancient Landmarks are preserved. If Degrees were to be conducted by the unqualified, errata would begin to seep in and Keystones would begin to change or disappear. The essence of the Work would change and those elements that make it what it is would be lost. Thus, it is easy to see why the admonition against unlawful disclosure of our Work exists.
The “flip side”
“That is it? All I have to do is leave things to the Officers and Coaches and I have fulfilled my Obligation?” Not at all! Remember promising never to reveal these secrets unlawfully? That promise contains a hidden injunction to reveal lawfully. Relate the emotions you feel in Lodge to your family and friends, and to the way in which you conduct your life. Share what Masonry means to you by your conduct out of the Lodge. Remind yourself why you are a Mason. Let the world see, by your actions, evidence of the growth you experienced. Promote your Lodge’s activities and invite non-Masons to social activities. They just might get caught up in the spirit of Brotherhood and ask “How may I become a mason?”. Then discuss the membership and degree processes with him. If he asks for a petition, help him fill it out. Introduce him to other members of your Lodge.
Lawful disclosure of our secrets
Signing a petition also carries with it a moral obligation. It obliges you to support our new Brother through his Masonic travels. Be present at his Degrees and Proficiency examinations. Patiently answer his questions, or refer him to his Coach. Sit with him at Lodge dinners and in Lodge. Be to him the friend you told your Lodge he was to you.
Being a member of a Lodge enjoins you to attend whenever you can, even if you are not an officer. A full Lodge room for an initiation expresses the love of the fraternity to the Candidate and encourages him to become more active himself.
Doing these things will go a long way to fulfilling your “unstated” obligation to lawfully communicate the secrets of Freemasonry. Become a True and faithful Brother and encourage others by your example.
Meanwhile, back at the Coaching Room
Remember our Candidate? As this paper is being written, he has actively resumed meeting with his Coach. He is looking forward to completing his Degrees, and writing many excellent articles on our Craft. I know he will be happy as he forever reveals, and never conceals much of the non secret information about our Fraternity. He will be happier still as he lawfully communicated many of our secrets.
I lost touch with this Brother after he relocated to another city, but before we lost contact, he assured me that his interest in, and enthusiasm for, Masonry continued unabated. GG
Gene Goldman served as Master of two Masonic Lodges in San Diego, under the Grand Lodge of California. Amity (ne’e Blackmer) Lodge #442 in 1993 and Black Mountain Lodge #845 as Master in 1998, after signing its Charter as Senior Warden in 1997.
He has served as a Trustee for the Institute for Masonic Studies, and in a variety of Grand Lodge committees, including Masonic Education, Officers’ Management Workshops, Mentoring, and Lodge Ambassador.