Something to Ponder: Mysteries and Privileges

“A poor candidate… humbly soliciting to be admitted into the mysteries and privileges of Ancient Freemasonry.”

You’ve heard the line a few dozen times or more from the EA degree, but how many times have you paused to consider what those mysteries and privileges actually are? The truth is there is no good answer to this question. There is no single answer.

If anything, this is one of those open-ended statements that gives Masons fits trying to interpret its meaning. Probably this has to do with the fact that there are no defined privileges or mysteries mentioned in our rituals.

There are some basic concepts, some rules, some guidelines by which to live, and other stuff like that, but nothing so concrete that it precludes independent thought. Perhaps the true privilege is that each brother is permitted to define what those mysteries are; that he is allowed to determine which of the concepts, rules, guidelines, etc. are most applicable to his life, and which of our ideas he can best utilize to his own satisfaction and delight.

There is no one way to be a Freemason; the tools are there to use as each brother sees fit, and with them he can define the mysteries and privileges himself.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: Symbols

“But I must premise for your generation information that all squares, levels and perpendiculars are true and proper signs by which to know a Freemason.”

Are they really, brethren? Well yes, if you see that they are created by a man who uses the square, level and plumb to erect the kind of superb personal edifice that we are exhorted to build in the Entered Apprentice degree.

Using these tools in our daily life enables us to create the kind of intellectual, philosophical and emotional structure that allows us to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Nobody is blessed enough to entirely avoid the many bad things that try to trip us up in our life’s journey, but by applying the principles of the square, level and plumb we can temper the worst of these troubles by making ourselves ready.

If you see a man utilizing these tools then you are viewing one who is applying Masonic principles to his life. He may be a Freemason, in which case a few simple tests will identify him as such, and you can  greet him as a brother.

If he is not yet a Freemason, then you have an opportunity to introduce him to our fraternity so that he will have the opportunity to work with more of the tools we have to offer.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: More Obedience

“Your obedience must be proved… by a ready acquiescence in all votes and resolutions duly passed by a majority of the brethren, and by perfect submission the Worshipful Master and his Wardens, while acting in the discharge of their respective duties.”

Brethren, Freemasonry is a quasi-democracy in that we vote on many things as a lodge, and allow the WM a free hand in many areas. But in order for the lodge to function properly, the brethren must buy into the decisions that are made, and must accept them without causing a fuss or attempting to subvert the will of either the lodge or the WM.

This does not mean the brethren should have no opportunity for input into decisions. A good WM will solicit the opinions of his brethren prior to making a decision, and any situation requiring a vote in open lodge must afford the brethren a chance to express an opinion prior to said vote.

However, once that vote is taken, a brother who refuses to accept the will of the lodge simply because it doesn’t agree with his inclination is in error. As well, a brother who attempts to force an issue by trying to do an end run around the normal decision-making process cannot be said to be acting Masonically.

Essentially, it is incumbent on all brethren to follow the same rules for a lodge to function effectively.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: New Members

“… and by refraining from recommending anyone to a participation in our secrets, unless you have strong grounds to believe that by a similar fidelity he will ultimately reflect honour on your choice.”

Brethren, this except from the charge at initiation is, on the surface of things, rather self-explanatory. Consider, however, that there is more to it than the obvious.

For instance, consider that while this statement instructs you to always be on your guard against those who are unworthy to be Freemasons, the unstated inference is that you are always to be searching for men who would make good Masons.

After all, an organization cannot simply guard against those not suitable for its ranks; it must also keep an eye open for those it deems worthy of joining, or how else can it replenish its membership roster.

I wonder how many of us actively look at the men we know with the thought that they might make good Freemasons? When we meet a man, do we size him up as potential Masonic material?

Perhaps 2016 is the year to start sizing up your family, friends and acquaintances for their Masonic potential, and then figuring out a way to get them into the craft. The key will be being prepared to talk about Freemasonry yourself.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: Secrecy

“At my initiation I was taught to be cautious, but with you I will either letter it or syllable it.”

Brethren, the meaning of this phrase from the presentation of the secrets during the EA degree is self-explanatory. Essentially, the new brother is acknowledging that he will protect the secret word of the degree – just one of the demands repeatedly made of him throughout the degrees to protect the secrets of Freemasonry.

But what do these demands mean in a world where anyone can find everything they want to know about Freemasonry from books and the Internet. What secrets is the brother actually protecting when all of those so-called secrets are already out there for everyone to see? What’s the point of the oaths?

Once upon a time it was so much easier to protect the words and modes of recognition, but I think the “secret” we’re protecting today is something much more important… our personal integrity. Yes, those other secrets are readily available to anyone who wants them, but today the test for each brother is to prove to himself that he can still stay true to his word, and maintain the dignity of Freemasonry, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of information.

The true “secrets” of Freemasonry are not the words, etc., but what they mean to us as Masons, and our willingness to guard that – so that it doesn’t become tainted – is the true purpose of the demand for vigilance.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: Obedience

“Your obedience must be proved… by a ready acquiescence in all votes and resolutions duly passed by a majority of the Brethren.”

Brethren, the meaning of this instruction from the charge at initiation seems self-explanatory at first blush, but there it is actually a very important lesson to contemplate. Freemasonry’s structure involves a quasi-dictatorship in the sense that we invest the mantle of leadership upon one brother for the space of a year, expect him to make many of the decisions required for the proper functioning of the lodge, and defer to his judgement.

However, we also keep the true power of the lodge in the hands of all the brethren by ensuring that the most important decisions – such as membership and money – are handled by ballot or vote. Naturally, not all brethren will agree with every decision decided by vote, but it is important that all brethren abide by those decisions for the peace and harmony of the lodge.

Too many lodges have been ripped asunder by brethren who have taken it upon themselves to disobey this charge, and to create chaos because they believe they are right and the rest of the brethren are wrong. Freemasonry is about learning to compromise; sometimes you win the point, and sometimes you don’t.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

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Something to Ponder: Membership

“Your fidelity must be exemplified… by refraining from recommending anyone to a participation in our secrets, unless you have strong grounds to believe that by a similar fidelity he will ultimately reflect honour on your choice.”

Brethren, this is part of the Charge at Initiation, and informs the new brother that he must not indiscriminately bring potential candidates to the lodge, but must ensure that each person he is prepared to sponsor is someone he feels would be a good Freemason… someone who will “reflect honour” on his choice.

The reality is, not everyone is cut out to be a Mason… and there is no shame in that. We strive to turn solid, upstanding men into something better, by giving them the tools to achieve such lofyy heights. Not everyone, however, is able to transcend his daily life, or to look beyond himself.

For some, it’s not the right time; for others, it will never be the right time. It is our duty to the craft to ensure that only those who can contribute positively, and who will never dishonour our noble institution, are admitted to the fraternity.

Something to Ponder is a little feature I pen for my lodge notice each month. Each typically starts with a bit of the ritual to which I add some (hopefully) educational commentary.

 

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