And Other Essays
on Freemasonry from the Middle Chamber
By Terence Satchell
In December of 2007, a Masonic web log
appeared on the internet entitled The Middle Chamber. It featured the
writing of the mysterious Silence Dogood. This was my first foray into writing
Masonic literature. The articles spanned my interests of Masonic education and
symbolism, leadership development, and current events. The Chamber
featured over 160 posts while it was updated from December of 2007 until
February of 2009.
This document features what I feel were
the best articles to be featured on The Chamber. These are 24 articles
which illustrate and offer solutions to many issues affecting the fraternity
in the 21st Century. They feature the events of the penny-pinching
Treasurer Ol' Leroy McKrank, the ambitious young Brother Brian, as well as a
cast of other characters. You will also find essays on how to be a better
leader in your lodge or deliver an educational presentation.
I hope you find this compilation of The
Middle Chamber's best articles enjoyable and helpful.
The Miracle on 34th Street
newly appointed Senior Steward, Brian was very anxious to properly execute his
duties. He had been appointed by the Junior Warden as the head of the Good
Will Committee for the Holidays. It was a wonderful little assembly, the focus
of which was to find those Brothers and widows who were alone and perhaps
afflicted with some ailment and provide them with a token of good will from
The Junior Deacon had served as the head of the committee the previous year
and presented Brian with a list of people which the lodge had visited or given
some token of appreciation before. The list was noticeably worn and judging
from the several different types of handwriting which performed the
corrections on it, Brian assumed that it had been handed down from year to
year. Being rather ambitious, Brian sought out the complete membership list
and widow's register from the secretary to construct a new roster for the good
He discovered that the names on the good will roster accounted for every
Brother and widow, except for one. A Brother by the name of Warren Phillips,
who lived just a few blocks from the lodge, was absent from the good will
list. Brian noticed that Warren's birth date indicated that he was nearing the
age of eighty and asked the Secretary why he wasn't on the list and why he had
never seen Warren in lodge. The Secretary told him that he was a widower, who
had lost his wife about twenty-five years earlier. After his wife passed away
he moved into a small apartment over on 34th Street, then shortly afterward,
stopped coming to lodge. The Secretary explained that Warren had become quite
upset with the lodge a number of years ago and had stopped attending. The
lodge had heard he suffered a stroke, but never was able to make any contact
Brian decided that he was brave enough to go visit Warren, so he purchased a
small gift and set out to visit this unfamiliar Brother the next evening.
Brian was a bit nervous, but he didn't think that anyone would be
unappreciative about the gesture. He found the apartment building and walked
up two flights of steps to the apartment listed as Warren's address on the
lodge's roll. He knocked three times.
Brian waited for what seemed like an eternity and then, figuring no one was
home, turned to leave when he heard the door open behind him.
"Can I help you?" said the elderly man standing in the doorway, gasping for
breath. He was dressed in slacks and a cardigan sweater. His feet were covered
by some well-worn moccasins and he had a tube feeding oxygen into his
"Are you Warren Phillips?" Brian asked apprehensively.
"Well yes, but who wants to know?"
"Well, I am a member of your Masonic lodge and I am here to visit you and
bring good tidings from the lodge," he paused, "it's so nice to meet you!" He
extended his hand to shake Warren's hand, but the elderly man just stood there
looking at Brian inquisitively. He was silent for a second, then spoke.
"From the lodge...hmmm...well I figured that they didn't care no more. Hell, I
haven't attended lodge in almost twenty years and haven't spoken to any
members during that time either. I appreciate what you're doing young man, but
I just don't understand why they are reaching out to me now. I feel bad that
you wasted your time and I appreciate the thought, but you can go on and enjoy
the rest of your evening," Warren wheezed as he moved to shut the door.
"WAIT!" exclaimed Brian, "I brought you a little something, have a Happy
Holiday season, Brother." Brian forced a smile, nodded his head, and then
slowly walked away.
Warren studied the package, a rectangular box covering in blue wrapping paper
with the square and compasses drawn on it, and then closed the door. Once
inside, he opened it to find a box filled with various cheeses and cured meats
and a box of crackers. He noticed that a card was taped to the upper corner of
the box. He struggled to put on his reading glasses and read it. It appeared
to be the name and phone number of the young man that had just visited him. On
the bottom of the card was written:
Please call me if you ever need anything. Your Brother, Brian
January came and Brian had just gotten home from work. He was rushing to
change out of his work clothes and put on his suit for lodge. He was running
late and needed to be at the building to help serve dinner. Suddenly, the
phone rang. Brian answered and heard the voice of an elderly man on the other
end of the line.
"Hello, is this Brian?" the man wheezed.
"Yes it is."
"Are you the fellow from the lodge that came by to visit me during the
Brian was surprised to hear Warren had called him. "Why, yes! Is there
anything I can do for you, Brother?"
"Well, it has been a long time since I've been at lodge and I suppose it is
time for me to get my money's worth out of my dues. Would you mind giving me a
ride to lodge? I don't have a car and I ain't fit to walk."
"Can I pick you up in a half hour for dinner?" asked Brian.
"Yup, that'll work." Warren abruptly hung up.
Brian was very pleased. It appeared that his committee had spread some good
will after all.
Leroy McKrank was a man who lived up the street from me when I was younger.
Leroy didn't spend a dime he didn't have to; he seemed to give an engine
overhaul to his 1958 Chevy pickup every month just to keep it running, he only
ate beans to be sure that he could get both his protein and vegetables for a
low price, and he even split the two-ply toilet paper to make sure that not
one extra dime was spent for any unnecessary reason. He had worked as a
mechanic for many years and made a good living, he had built up a nice bank
account, but refused to use it. Ol' McKrank also happened to be the treasurer
of the local Masonic lodge.
In the lodge, Leroy was no different. Not a single bill went uncontested, he
believed there was no need to spend more that 50 cents per person for Masonic
dinners, and made sure that the heat was not set one degree above the level
needed to keep the pipes from freezing. Ol' McKrank had been a Mason for over
50 years and he had never seen the need to spend on anything extra and now was
no time to start.
His lodge was barely able to open, on good nights 7 or 8 Brothers (all well
over 70) gathered to open the lodge in dreary fashion, read minutes, pay
bills, complain about the lack of participation, and close. Twice a year, on
the Feasts of St. John, they ate a humble meal of beanies and weenies. The
Brethren worked very hard on pinching every penny that they could to keep
their extremely important organization open.
Every once in a while, a new member would come along and would be initiated,
passed, and raised. Usually, they would enter the craft with some enthusiasm,
but once they discovered that no frivolity of any sort would be allowed, they
sought out other forms of entertainment.
Last month, I was visiting my parents and decided that I would go up to the
lodge on the night that I knew they met and visit it. I was surprised to find
out that the lodge had surrendered its charter and the building was being
foreclosed. It appears that Ol' McKrank's methods of preserving the lodge
through only providing absolute necessities was its undoing.
McKrank and the Banquet Committee
Leroy McKrank was certainly not happy in the winter of 1995. You see, Leroy
had been an integral member of his lodge for nearly 50 years by that time and
knew just about everything there is to know about being a Mason. Yet, a group
of middle aged men had decided that some things needed to be changed in order
to improve lodge attendance. They decided that the cold bologna sandwiches
simply weren't attractive enough for their regular lodge meetings, so they
proposed that lodge dinners be catered and paid for out of the pockets of the
The arguments for and against the motion were fierce. Ol' McKrank didn't
understand why no one had asked him for permission to even bring this up.
"I've been here fifty years and we didn't need no fancy schmancy dinner. Y'all
grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth and think you can just rewrite
Freemasonry! Hah! Not on my watch!" The brow beating didn't end there, in
fact, it went on for a good half hour. "You expect us to pay for a meal?"
asked the Brethren, "Don't you know we have to keep costs down?" It was
obvious that they preferred that the Brethren who were not in attendance would
pay for their cold bologna sandwiches rather than have a nice sit down meal.
The group of middle aged men later affiliated with a lodge a few miles down
the road. A vibrant lodge which had a nice, but modest, meal before meetings
and was not afraid to spend a couple of cents. It was no surprise to them that
McKrank's lodge closed a few years after they left, they knew that you
couldn't run a business without investing in it. As Leroy locked up lodge upon
its closing he muttered to himself, "These dang people around here got no
respect for tradition, they ain't willin' to do anything to help out their
McKrank Visits Another Lodge
Leroy McKrank wasn't one for vacations. They were unnecessary expenditures as
far as he was concerned. But the persistent nagging of his wife finally
convinced Leroy to do the unthinkable and take a vacation. So Leroy loaded up
his meticulously maintained 1958 Chevy pickup and drove Margarete thirty miles
up the road to the Motel 6 in the city. Margarete wanted to go someplace
classy and he wasn't going to fork out the money for the Ritz Carlton. He
figured if he was going to take a vacation he might as well do something
worthwhile. So he attended a lodge meeting that was taking place in the city
He entered the lodge in his normal visitor attire: a maroon colored three
piece suit that he wore to his high school prom. It was quite a departure from
his overalls that he wore to his home lodge meeting. Leroy was immediately
appalled by what he saw. He saw expensive paintings, a full and well kept
library, and a table full of refreshments. A Brother walked over to greet
"Well, you fellas sure are a fancy bunch, just how d'ya afford this kinda
place on 25 dollars a year?" Leroy was perplexed.
"Well, our dues are 150 a year, but my name is Brad, I'm serving as master of
Brad was a young man, around the age of thirty. He was sporting a pinstriped
suit and some of the most ornate Masonic regalia Leroy had ever seen. It
appeared as though his apron had come right out of its packaging.
"Well, I suppose a man like you could afford it, eh sonny? You can just give
me a good old fashioned white apron, one that has a little yellowing on it.
That'll be fine," Leroy seemed displeased with all this excess.
Leroy sat through the lodge meeting which featured a speaker on the teachings
of the Kabbalah, a lodge of instruction on the Emulation Ritual, and a report
on the upcoming table lodge, which would feature fine wines and cigars. The
lodge spent little time on business matters and discussed the points of the
educational presentations. There were about twenty men in attendance, all
under the age of sixty. All of them were dressed in some sort of dark suit.
After lodge, they invited Leroy to accompany them to the restaurant downstairs
and join them for a meal. Leroy obliged, out of morbid curiosity. Besides, the
master said that he would pay for Leroy's meal. It wouldn't be very frugal to
pass that up.
When they sat down to eat, Brad asked Leroy what he thought of their lodge.
Leroy didn't hesitate to give his opinion.
"Well, son, I don't know what the heck you all were taught when you became
Masons, but that is no way to run a lodge. You got too much stuff for
starters! Who needs a library or attractive regalia! And I've never heard of a
lodge meeting where people talked about the Kabbalah. Is that some sort of
song by them Beatles? And just what the heck is the Emulation Ritual?! Our
Grand Lodge gives us all the doggone ritual we need and I sure was upset by
all that talk of intoxicating beverages for your table lodges. Boy, I'll tell
you, you all need some learnin'! How can anyone afford all that!"
Brad answered patiently and politely. "Well, it is what the members want. We
can afford all those nice things because one of our lodge members owns this
restaurant and gives us a cheap rate for rent. Our Brethren listed Masonic
education as their most important reason for Masonic involvement. It all comes
down to what the Brothers want. They are willing to pay the extra dues, and
most contribute extra sums of money, because they feel that the lodge is worth
it. We are all really good friends and we all feel that the education makes us
better men at the end of the evening."
"Well, I'll tell ya what ya need," replied Leroy, "ya need some minutes and
real business to discuss. The Grand Lodge sends plenty of letters full of
things your lodge needs to do. Then ya need to ignore all that hippie
education! Do away with the books and paintings. Then afterwards, y'all can
enjoy some weak coffee and hard cookies. I could get you down to 25 dollars a
year dues. Now that is Masonry!"
"Well, I'm glad it works for your lodge, but that method almost killed ours."
Brad replied, still shocked by what he was hearing.
"I'll tell ya what, when I get home tomorrow I'll call the Grand Master and
get him over here to help ya out. Don't worry, ol' Leroy will get you squared
away!" Leroy slapped his knee and cackled at his play on words. He found it
He finished his dinner and put the extras in a to-go box. He figured that
those leftovers would be the fancy vacation meal that Margarete had always
The Book Upon the Altar
had only been a Mason for a few years. He had joined the fraternity while he
served in the military in Korea. He was made a Mason in a military lodge that
was properly recognized by a regular Grand Jurisdiction. He had just moved to
the Midwest because he had been hired as an information technology specialist
for a university in the region. The friendly atmosphere of the Midwest was a
nice change from the hostile inner-city streets where he had spent his
childhood and he was glad that the change of scenery would benefit his young
One of the first things he intended to do in his new city of residence was
find a Masonic lodge to attend. So he gathered his dues card, brushed up on
his modes of recognition, and grabbed his Koran to visit a lodge after work.
You see, Kareem was a Muslim and wished to have his book of faith open on the
altar, with the lodge's permission, of course. It had been normal in his
military lodge to see multiple Volumes of Sacred Law at the center of the
lodge and he assumed that this lodge would be no different.
Kareem arrived at the lodge and walked in the front door. The Brethren noticed
him immediately and asked what they could do for him. He explained that he was
there to visit and told them about his Masonic history. The Brethren were
quick to tell him how they had accepted PHA as regular a long time ago, but
Kareem explained to them that he was not a PHA Mason. They didn't seem to
understand and continued to talk about how they had come to recognize that
group of Masons. They were quite proud of their tolerance. They examined him
in the usual form and found him to be worthy of entering lodge. While Kareem
adorned his apron, he asked the Senior Deacon of the lodge if they would mind
placing the Koran on the altar alongside the Bible. Suddenly, the lodge's
friendly atmosphere changed.
The Master of lodge didn't know if the request could be granted by the
statutes adopted by the jurisdiction. The secretary informed him that Grand
Lodge by-laws did allow any Volume of Sacred Law to be placed on the altar.
However, two of the most vocal Past Masters in the lodge spoke up in
opposition to the idea.
"I just don't understand the reason for it, is the Bible not good enough for
him?" said one.
"Would his people open the Bible for us?" said the other.
The Brethren seemed to be evenly split, half were perfectly fine with placing
the Koran upon the altar, but the other half decided that it was certainly not
Christian and probably un-Masonic. Kareem felt bad because he hadn't realized
the trouble that his request would cause.
Feeling like a trouble maker, Kareem quickly apologized for his request and
informed the lodge that he would be satisfied with the Bible alone on the
altar. The Master thanked him for his willingness to avoid such a
controversial subject, one in which the Master did not want to get involved.
Kareem sat down in the north part of the lodge, alone, and enjoyed the
meeting. When the time came for education, one of the Past Masters who were
against the Koran sitting upon the altar got up to speak. He proceeded to
teach the lodge why the Bible sits upon the altar and no other book. Then he
turned towards Kareem.
"And obviously you understand that the Bible is the greatest book since you
came to the decision to not have your book upon the altar," he said with a
"Actually, if I may address that comment, Worshipful Master" Kareem looked
towards the Master, who gave him a nod. "The reason I decided to not place my
book upon the altar was to preserve the harmony of the lodge. I am proud of my
faith and find it meaningful to have my book of faith on the altar. However,
while in lodge I am a Mason and not a Muslim, we are all Brothers who are
seeking the same thing. We may have different paths, but our goals are the
same. If the presence of the Koran deprives me of the Brotherhood I share with
my fellow Masons, I would prefer its absence."
The lodge fell silent, the Past Master giving the education lecture seemed to
be struggling to find something to say. Suddenly, the other Past Master who
had opposed the presence of the Koran spoke up.
"My Brother, earlier this evening I had boasted about this jurisdiction's
willingness to accept Prince Hall Masonry and I guess I thought we were pretty
great for doing that. But it appears that perhaps prejudices of skin color
pale in comparison to prejudices of faith."
He walked across the lodge to Kareem and asked him for the Koran. Kareem
handed it to him and he placed it upon the altar, resting the square and
compasses upon it. The he returned to where Kareem was seated and sat next to
The Master, realizing the significance of the events which had just taken
place announced, "I don't think I have ever learned so much during a lodge
meeting." He rapped his gavel and proceeded to close the lodge.
Kareem did return to the lodge and became a contributing member and he was
allowed to do so with his book upon the altar.
What is All This Secrecy About?
down on a bench and pulled out my pipe. I rubbed out a flake of my beloved
Virginia tobacco, struck a match, and puffed as I contemplated the subject of
the meeting I was about to have with a Brother. He was new to the lodge and
had questions, so I had agreed to meet him in the park between our places of
business. I noticed him approaching me, smiling and waving as he progressed
along the sidewalk.
"Good afternoon," he said, "I really appreciate you taking the time to meet me
here. I have so many questions about the degrees, but everyone else seems to
change the subject when I bring them up."
"Well, that isn't much of a surprise," I replied, "chances are that they lack
the knowledge to give you a proper answer. Their silence is the best way to
maintain their intelligent reputation. What kind of questions do you have?"
"Well, I'm kind of ashamed, but I don't really get the whole concept of
secrecy...I mean, what is secret and what is not. My wife is constantly
bugging me about what we do in lodge, but I guess I don't know what to tell
her. I am excited about the lodge and want to share my excitement with
someone, but well...you've heard the, uh, penalties, and I don't need to be
going around getting myself into trouble." He had a sincere expression of
anxiety on his face. "So, just how secret are we?"
I chuckled at his nervous demeanor. The older members had certainly put the
fear of God into this lad. It is always an unfortunate side affect of the
rigid atmosphere that some of our stalwart members brought into lodge.
"First of all my Brother, the penalties are symbolic. They are simply meant to
represent the sincerity with which you hold your obligations. You needn't be
worried about them, as long as you walk upright and life and strive to be a
good Mason and don't go around announcing our secrets, you will be a welcome
member of our fraternity."
"But, what are those secrets? How do I know when I am announcing them to
everyone if I don't know what they are?"
I paused for a second and watched as a businessman hustled by, munching on a
hot dog. "Well, are the ideas of equality, truth, enlightenment, and honor
hidden from the world?"
"Absolutely not!" he replied with enthusiasm.
"Well, just as these are not hidden from the masses and are also taught in a
Masonic lodge, so are all of the lessons and concepts which the order teaches
common knowledge. There is nothing secret about the lessons we teach. Many
people believe in God, morality, and the immortality of the soul, there is
nothing esoteric about that. You can tell your wife all about what you learned
in lodge and how it has made you a better man."
"That's a relief," he said as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead with
a handkerchief,"so what is off limits?"
"What makes Masonry esoteric is the forms by which we teach these lessons. The
system of hieroglyphic moral instruction which we use to teach these lessons
is secret. Symbolism has long been the best way to express abstract concepts
and you witnessed that. There are doubtlessly many lessons taught to you in
Masonry that you were already aware of, but their presentation deeply
imprinted them upon your mind."
I stopped to relight my pipe, the still, humid summer air had caused the
embers to be extinguished. "Go on..." my friend said.
"So, we keep the forms secret so that they may have the maximum impact upon
you. Also, they are how we can identify one another, lest someone undeserving
of our lessons receive them and misinterpret their meaning. These are known as
the modes of recognition, you didn't think that it was just a silly handshake
did you? Everything in Masonry has a special meaning. I am still learning many
of those and you will continue to learn, as well. We never become true Master
Masons, because we are always improving our craft. The secrets are simply the
esoteric symbols and forms by which we may know a man to be a Brother. This
teaches us to be trustworthy and protects our craft from fraud."
"Oh, I see, so I can tell my wife all about the lessons which have improved my
character, but I just can't show her how they were taught to me!"
"You got it!" I replied with a grin. I always enjoy watching the Masonic light
burn in a new Brother's eyes.
"My lord, I am famished, I haven't eaten a thing all day. I'd better grab a
frank and get back to work!"
"You'd better do that," I said, "I hope I helped out a bit."
"You sure did, say you want to meet here tomorrow?"
"Absolutely," I replied, "but next time, bring your lunch!"
If You Don't Stir the Pot, The Soup Will Burn
up to the altar, saluted the Master, and then rushed to a seat on the
sidelines. Bryan had to stay at his office longer than he normally does and
was late for his lodge meeting. He leaned over to ask Worshipful Brother
Langerman what the lodge was discussing.
"Well, they are discussing their scheduling," said Brother Langerman, "some of
'em feel that we need to start dinner at lodge a half hour later because they
can't make it here at six."
"I guess if that is what we have to do to get everyone here, it is just what
we'll have to do," said Bryan.
Brother Langerman grunted, moved in his chair a bit, and snorted. He seemed to
agree, it was hard to tell. Across the lodge room, another young Brother was
addressing the lodge in favor of the time change. Langerman sat quietly, his
fingers fidgeting in his lap. When the Brother sat down, he stood up
immediately and voiced his opinion.
"I think it is all great that you want to be here for dinner, but I think the
idea of changing the time is just a bit ridiculous. I mean, if you don't start
dinner til six thirty, how are you gonna start lodge at seven. It just don't
The secretary spoke up, "Well, if that is the case then we will just vote to
change the by-laws to allow us to start the meeting at seven thirty. I think
it is important to continue having our dinners and we have to have people
there to keep doing them."
"Well ain't it a bit ridiculous changing by-laws just so you can all eat a
little slower? We used to have a sayin' when I was in the military, chew it
now and taste it later."
The younger Brothers in the lodge rolled their eyes at Langerman, the man was
over eighty, they knew he really didn't understand. Bryan felt that Langerman
was wrong, but he was the kind of Brother who voted whichever way the wind was
blowing hardest. Langerman was pretty well respected and seemed pretty upset
about the whole thing. Bryan didn't want to anger him and screw up his changes
of moving into one of the line offices, so he remained quiet.
The Master put the motion to move the meal time to a vote. Out of the fifteen
Brothers there, seven raised their hands in favor of the time change. Bryan
wanted to move the time, it would allow him to catch a little dinner before
lodge and insure that he wouldn't be late anymore, but Brother Langerman would
be disappointed. He sure had a lot of influence. The Master made eye contact
with Bryan to see how he would vote, Bryan decided to just shake his head and
voted against it.
The rest of the meeting went without a hitch. Bryan felt like he had made the
right choice. He didn't rock the boat and he figured that none of the younger
Brothers who were supporting the measure had much influence anyway. It was
much better to just agree with the old guard, it would make life easier.
A few months later, Bryan was late for lodge again. He saluted the Master and
rushed to his seat. He began listening to the issue that the lodge was
"It appears that we only have three Brothers attending most of the dinners,"
announced the Master, "I feel that there is no reason to continue spending
money on food if nobody can come and I move that we cease serving dinner."
Langerman spoke without standing. "Well if that's what you gotta do, that's
just what you gotta do."
The Brethren voted unanimously, there was no discussion. The issue passed
without much concern from the lodge, but Bryan didn't feel that it was without
cause for concern. He felt as though he had stopped the dinners by his own
"I should have said something," he thought to himself.
Perception and Reality
been appointed by his lodge as a representative to the local Masonic building
commission, an esteemed position. He had long been desirous of assisting in
improving his lodge's facilities and was quite excited about the appointment.
He had just arrived at the lodge building for a commission meeting. He met
Virgil, the commission president, out in the parking lot with a handshake and
followed him into the building. They went up the stairs to Virgil's office in
the dark, the light in the stairwell no longer worked. As they stumbled
through the office door, Virgil flicked on the light to reveal a dingy room
that was in dire need of a new paint job. The unseasonably warm weather had
made the room a bit uncomfortable and Virgil moved to the window and opened
it, disturbing several of the dead flies on the sill and the deceased insects
dropped to the floor. Virgil then plopped in his office chair, sending a plume
of dust into the air.
Ryan felt that he should use the time before the meeting to start gathering
support for his agenda. "Well, since I was appointed to the commission, I
thought I'd do a little research on the situation of the building," he said,
"and I think I've got it down to two choices."
"Oh you have?" said Virgil, suspiciously. "What are the choices?"
"Well, either we need to raise some serious cash to clean up the building and
bring it up to code or we should sell it."
"Hmmm...I don't think you'd better be spreading that kind of thinking around,"
said Virgil, "some people may take offense to it!"
"Oh, I am sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone, I just thought..." Ryan got
"Well you see Ryan, there are a lot of people who are pretty attached to this
building and have worked hard to keep it for many years. Take Bob, for
instance, he cleans it every week and has been our maintenance supervisor for
years. The problem is that a lot of our newer members don't seem to care about
taking care of the building. Several of us older guys are down here a couple
of days a week doing something."
Ryan was trying to think of a nice way to present his rebuttal. He was staring
at the entrance to the attic, which was wide open because the door had been
broken. A piece of insulation was dangling from the entrance and looked like
it could drop onto Virgil's desk at any moment. Then he glanced at the other
corner of the ceiling where there was a large water stain. Finally, he looked
back at Virgil, but was distracted by the pile of picture frames and old
banners behind him.
"I guess I just didn't realize the dedication that you all have to the
maintenance of this building," said Ryan.
Being a representative to the commission was going to be a harder job than he
In Like Destitute Circumstances
Ryan was sitting alone at a bar stool in
the Denver airport. He was quiet, staring into his scotch and water; he
appeared to be deep in thought. His eyes were bloodshot, with dark circles
around them accentuating a rather gaunt appearance. His hair was ruffled and
his shirt wrinkled. He hadn’t shaved in at least a couple of days and it was
obvious to any casual observer that something must be wrong. But in the hustle
and bustle of the busy terminal, no one seemed to stop and take notice of his
disheveled appearance. No one seemed to care that he had just lost his wife to
an aneurysm or that he was leaving his two story Englewood home to return to
his native New York and attempt to piece his life back together.
A man in a grey suit sat down next to
him, he wore black cowboy boots and a wide brimmed hat. He ordered a beer,
looked at Ryan and waited for his drink. When it arrived he turned to Ryan and
“You look like you could use a friend
son,” he said in his slow Midwestern tone.
Ryan wasn’t looking for some patronizing
business man to make him feel better. “Well, it has been a pretty bad week for
me. I don’t suppose you’d be able to understand what I’m going through even if
I told you.” His voice was fatigued, but he was noticeably agitated.
“Well, my flight's delayed and I got
time, if you’ll do the talking,” said the Midwestern cowboy.
“Look, my wife died, she was only 32.
How can something like that happen?” Ryan tried to remain strong, but his lip
began to quiver and a tear ran from his eye. The cowboy sat quietly. Then Ryan
He talked about the phone call earlier
that week, how he didn’t believe his wife’s boss when he told him about the
situation. He talked about his arrival at the hospital, when he found out that
she had expired and that there was nothing that the doctors could have done to
save her. He discussed their future plans, their jobs. How she wanted to open
up her own restaurant and how he was going to become a partner in a law firm
and then they would retire to a house in the mountains.
Then he revealed how they had met at the
coffee shop, where she worked as a barista. When she brought out his drink,
she stumbled and spilled coffee all over his law school application. She
wanted to buy his coffee for him, but he insisted that she let him take her to
dinner. They began to date and got married with just their friends and family
in attendance. When he finished law school they ran away from New York to
start their life away from dreary scenery of the Hudson River.
He drank the last of his scotch and
exhaled slowly. Ryan looked relieved to have someone to talk to.
“But now I guess I’ll just have to
slowly get my life back together and be thankful for the memories that I
have,” he said, “but I don’t understand why you would listen to all of that
and still be sitting here. Why are you being so kind to me?”
Ryan glanced over at the Midwestern
cowboy for the first time and immediately saw a familiar image on his lapel.
It was a golden square and compasses. Ryan glanced back at his own right hand
and saw that he was wearing his Masonic ring. The Midwesterner was silent and
paid for both of their drinks.
“Let’s just say, I once found myself in
like destitute circumstances.” He got up and put his hand on Ryan’s shoulder,
“Come on, I’m famished, let’s get something to eat.”
The Weather Outside is Frightful
hated these winter storms. The wind could become so violent that some of the
snow would blow through the tiny cracks in the seems of the windows and doors.
She was busy rolling up towels and stuffing them below the front entry to keep
the draft out.
It had been three years since her husband, Frank, had passed away. He was a
good man, the chief executive at the local bank and a stalwart member of every
community organization. He died of a heart attack, just one week after he had
retired. Margaret was heartbroken, but saw no reason to quit living at the age
of 72. She found ways to keep herself busy. She would often walk to the
grocery store twice a day, splitting up her grocery list to insure multiple
trips, just to pass the time. She volunteered at the senior center, but it
didn't stop the lonely feeling that she had in the evening.
Her children only visited her once a year. They were very focused on their
careers and family. Her daughter Julie was a lawyer in Chicago and spent most
of her free time shuttling her children to their violin lessons. They just had
to get a scholarship to a prestigious school. Bernie, Margaret's son, was busy
finishing his Ph. D. at Berkeley and rarely called. She was lucky to talk to
them every couple of months.
Frank belonged to a lodge that used to send members over to visit her. They
would shovel the snow from her driveway and stop by to say hello. But those
visits had stopped, Margaret was sure that they had better things to be doing.
There was a knock at the door. Margaret went to open it, the mailman was
"Sorry to bother you ma'am, but your mailbox is frozen shut. I thought I'd
just hand the mail to you," he said.
Margaret thanked him and took the envelopes he held in his hand. She glanced
through them, noticing that there was an envelope with the local Masonic lodge
as the return address. Somewhat excited and unsure of what it was, she opened
the envelope and read the letter inside. It read:
You are cordially invited to the annual Thanksgiving banquet for Silverton
Lodge #98. We are excited to invite all members of the Masonic family. It will
be held on Friday, Nov. 23 at 7:00 P.M.
There will be a special presentation to remember our fallen Brothers and
their surviving family members and well as a performance by our lodge's very
own Barbershop Quartet.
Alex P. Rosenbaum, Secretary"
A little tear came to Margaret's eye and she was filled with joy.
"Oh, what will I wear!" she exclaimed.
Lodge by Candlelight
of them had made the trek through the snow and ice to the lodge building. This
blizzard was one of the worst that the group had seen, but all of the members
in attendance happened to live within walking distance of the lodge and felt
that they should attempt to attend.
The lodge had been experiencing a rather tempestuous period. There had been a
Masonic trial to expel a long time member which had created a schism between
many of the Brethren. There was a prolonged argument over who should be
elected to the Junior Warden chair, some of the Brethren had felt that the
lodge's choice was too inexperienced to serve in that capacity. The Master of
the lodge had recently discovered that he had cancer and lacked the ability to
place his focus on the lodge. To add to the lodge's troubles, the bank had
threatened to foreclose on the lodge building, because the Brethren had been
unable to make their two last payments. It certainly was not the best of
The meeting started as usual, the lodge was opened, minutes and correspondence
read, and then the old business was discussed. Just like all of the recent
lodge meetings, the lodge erupted in argument. But this night wasn't like the
previous nights, for in the middle of the argument, the electricity suddenly
failed. The lodge went dark.
Except for the three burning tapers in the center of the lodge.
Silence fell among the Brethren. The sound of the chilling gale outside echoed
through the hall. Then someone spoke.
"Brothers, I think we all have learned something. Darkness may surround the
us, but as long as the light of Masonry shines in our hearts, it will never be
dark within our lodge."
The Master felt that nothing more needed to be added. He offered a prayer for
the lodge and closed it. The Brethren shook hands and greeted each other
warmly, then exited the lodge.
Do You Know Your Brother?
one of those bitter cold winter evenings. The Brethren were now entering
through the door of the lodge, each of them taking the time to give a shiver
or ask if we were ever going to turn on the heat. I had just put on my apron
and was sitting down in my chair. I was asked to fill in as a Steward for the
evening and I agreed to do so, but the truth is that I just wanted to sit on
the sideline, finish the business, and go home. As I was waiting for the
Master to rap his gavel, a man that I was not familiar with entered the lodge
room wearing an apron. The Brethren immediately welcomed him and it became
clear to me that he was a well known member of the lodge.
Throughout the meeting, the other Brethren sitting next to him were in
constant, hushed conversation. The Master took the time to introduce him as a
great Mason who had been forced to miss lodge due to a change in jobs.
Throughout the meeting, Brethren would make facetious remarks that would get a
chuckle out of him. He seemed to be a pleasant gentleman, but I was in no mood
Before the closing of the lodge, I excused myself to help set out
refreshments. The Brethren came down the stairs once the meeting had been
adjourned and proceeded to enjoy a hot cup of coffee with rich chocolate cake
that the Senior Steward's wife had so graciously made. I noticed that most of
the Brethren stopped for some conversation with the Brother, who's name I had
already forgotten, each of them starting out the exchange with with some sort
of friendly remark, followed by a look of concern at whatever he was telling
them. He never seemed too upset, however, and I thought nothing of it.
A couple of months later, our Secretary announced that he had a death to
report. It seems that the Brother had passed away. He had been afflicted with
terminal cancer and had come on that cold evening to let everyone know. I
attended his memorial service and was in awe of the large number of Brothers
who came to pay there respects. It seems as though he was an outstanding
One of the Past Masters walked up to me and asked "Did you know our fallen
"No," I replied.
"That's too bad," he said, "He was one of the best Masons I have ever known,
it is really unfortunate that you didn't get a chance to meet him. He always
seem to brighten my day."
"It certainly was unfortunate," I mumbled to myself, "it certainly was."
Waiting for the Master
isn't like him to be late!" exclaimed Brother Ron as he looked at the clock
and saw that it was fifteen minutes past seven o'clock, the time that their
lodge meeting was suppose to start.
Other members were starting to get anxious as well, offering up comments like
"What will we do if he doesn't show?" and "Are we going to have to postpone
the degree?" There was certainly a lot of confusion in the temple and everyone
seemed to be waiting for someone to tell them what to do if the Master didn't
darken the door of the lodge that evening.
The Lodge Secretary, a two-time Past Master, felt that it was time to bring
some order to all of the chaos. "Alright fellas, here is the deal, the Master
did not contact me today about missing tonight's meeting and I couldn't reach
him at home a few minutes ago. Perhaps he is stuck in traffic or something.
However, there is no reason we cannot start the degree. Brother Amos is our
Senior Warden and I know he is prepared to open the lodge and confer an
Entered Apprentice degree. I know we weren't all prepared for this and it may
be a little rough-going at points, but we can do this degree."
Brother Ron, the exasperated Senior Deacon, was still not satisfied. "But who
will do the lecture? The only person in this lodge who does the Entered
Apprentice lecture is our missing Master! Amos, you haven't learned that yet!
You can't do the part!"
The members of the lodge quietly offered their agreement and the Senior Warden
admitted that he could not do the lecture. The Lodge Secretary admitted that
they may not be able to do the degree. After further discussion, he
recommended that the Tyler go inform the candidates in waiting that there
would be no degree. But just as he got up to inform the candidates the Lodge's
Junior Steward, Steven, spoke up.
"I can do the lecture," he said very softly, almost as if he was telling a
"Are you sure? Have you practiced? Can we even let you?" Brother Ron quickly
and rudely asked him.
The Lodge Secretary quickly calmed Ron down and calmly asked "You have learned
this lecture on your own?" Steven quietly nodded. "Do you want to perform it
this evening?" Again, Steven quietly answered in the affirmative. "Well, let's
go for it then!" said the Secretary.
The Brethren seemed to quietly grumble about this decision, but went about
conferring the degree anyway. When it came time for the degree, Steven stepped
up and began to deliver the lecture. The look of suspicion most of the
Brothers gave him at first dissolved as he delivered one of the most inspiring
lectures that they had ever seen. After he had finished, the Brethren
Brother Ron approached Steven and apologized for his rash behavior before
Lodge, "I should have never doubted you, I learned more from that lecture than
from any other I have listened to. You did a great job!"
The Junior Deacon announced that there was an alarm at the outer door, it was
the Master, who had apparently been rear-ended in traffic and had left his
cellular phone at home. The Brethren were quick to tell him how well Steven
had performed the lecture and how he had saved the degree night.
The Master replied, "Well that is what I have been talking about, we need
several people to learn each lecture so that we don't have to depend on one
person to put on a degree. It appears that Steven here is the only Brother who
paid attention to my comments on the subject last month."
The Brethren all agreed and several volunteered to learn lectures. It appeared
as though the Master was tending to his flock even in his absence.
quiet as I lay there in the dark, wrapped in the mysterious shroud which
separated me from the rest of the world. I overheard voices somewhere
expressing deep sorrow and regret for that which had been lost. It seemed like
a deathly calm had fallen over the universe and I was somehow in the center of
this massive mourning. The uncertainty of what would come next caused my heart
to palpitate rapidly, yet my faith in The Almighty brought me comfort in this
Then, there was silence. A soft voice raised a prayer for strength somewhere
in the darkness. Suddenly, my veil was lifted and I was taken by the right
hand into the deep embrace of Brotherhood. As I looked over the shoulder of
the king, I saw the soft glow of the morning twilight.
"Travel towards the East," a voice beckoned me.
My search for light had begun.
The Morality of Tangents
The rhythmic plodding of the horses' hooves echoed through the hollow streets
of Edinburgh. It was a cool fall night, the full moon shining bright, the
slightest breeze winding its way through his thick beard. Ian MacGregor was
deep in thought as he drove his carriage home in the wee hours of the morning.
The faint, yet pungent aroma of whisky on his breath was teasing his olfactory
senses. The topic of the evening’s lodge meeting was based on the moral
applications of geometry. Ian never understood arithmetic well and he
understood geometry no better. Nevertheless, Ian was a Mason of the finest
character. No man’s wallet had contributed as much to the relief of his fellow
Brethren, nor had any man ever attended more lodge gatherings to help out with
the customary work than he. Ian was a simple man, he knew his trade well, but
the liberal arts had never been his expertise.
It was on a night like this, not long
ago, that Ian had come across a man in bad shape. It seemed as though the
stranger had lost his employment, as well as his family. Before too long, he
had resorted to petty crimes such as picking pockets and petty theft, to feed
his hunger. It was never any man’s desire to be in such dire straights. As Ian
passed him by, the stranger caught a glimpse of the noble square and compasses
shining in the moonlight on Ian’s lapel and he asked him for help. You see,
the stranger was the son of a Mason. He had never joined lodge, but he thought
that perhaps Ian could help him. Ian took pity on the man and gave him
quarters and employment at his printing press. Ian helped him to get back on
his feet and over time, the stranger, his name was Brian, felt that he owed a
debt to Masonry and became a member. Like Ian, rarely did a man contribute
more to relief or the regular work of the lodge than Brian.
Ian was nearly home before he understood
the lesson on geometry for the evening. While he was passing around the circle
of life, all the while paying close attention to the boundary line of his
duty, he remembered the teachings of the Good Samaritan in the Holy Scriptures
and the necessity to be a disciple for Freemasonry like St. John the
Evangelist. Like John the Baptist, he had symbolically baptized Brian by
giving him the ultimate renewal, a second chance to have a fulfilling life.
while a Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible he should
materially err,” he thought to himself.
Ode to a Mentor
Eli was one of the finest Masons I have
ever met. He was a two-time past master, never missed a lodge function, always
treated every Brother with respect, and mentored every single candidate who
received the degrees of Masonry for an entire decade. I was lucky enough to be
one of his pupils during this time. After each degree, Eli would come up to
me, hand me his phone number, and say, “Call me when you are ready to study
this a bit, I have all sorts of time on my hands.” The next day, I would place
the phone call and would be graciously invited to his humble abode that
evening to work on my proficiency.
When I would arrive, I’d always forget
that I was not to ring the doorbell (his wife was asleep). However, Eli
wouldn’t dare scold me for it, instead he would politely remind me, “Just give
three distinct knocks,” then he’d slap his knee and give a good hearty cackle.
Once inside, we would sit down and go through the catechism. Eli would never
hesitate to correct me, “No honey! You do it this way!” His enthusiasm was
infectious and his love for Masonry was great. We would also discuss a
plethora of other topics ranging from the history of the lodge to current
events of the day. I would always learn a lot and many times Eli and I would
chat until well after eleven o’clock.
When the time would come for me to prove
up in lodge, Eli would always tell everyone how studious and impressive I was.
He did that with all the candidates, but you’d feel like you were the only
person he had ever said that to before. As we went through the questions, Eli
would smile and nod every time I answered correctly. After we were through, he
would lead the lodge in a thunderous applause. Eli always made you feel
I was invited to a lodge banquet while I
was still a Fellowcraft. When I arrived, everyone was already seated and I
felt like a fish out of water. Then I heard, “Well if it isn’t my number one
student! Come and sit down, honey!” Eli would then proceed to introduce me to
everyone and made sure that I was involved in every conversation. When we
would part for the evening, Eli would always remind me, “We love ya’ Brother,”
and would give me a pat on the back.
Now, I am the one mentoring our new
Brethren. Everything I do is almost an exact reflection of how Eli treated me.
I consider myself one of his disciples and our job is to make every Brother
feel welcome and well informed. Last week, I was examining a new Fellowcraft
in lodge. I automatically told everyone how impressed I was with his studies.
Eli grabbed me after lodge and said, “If
I remember right, I said the same thing about you when you were going
I put my arm around his shoulder and
replied, “You don’t suppose I took a few lessons from an old pro do you?” I
winked and Eli smiled.
were climbing into our cars Eli yelled out, “Love ya’ Brother!” That is when I
realized that I had finally found the secret of Freemasonry.
Setting the Standard
I had stepped into the anteroom to
dispose of my empty coffee cup. We had just finished with an officers’ meeting
that I had to attend as the Senior Deacon. I noticed that Ferris Thompson, a
Past Master and the current chaplain was setting down his brief case and
haphazardly packing his pipe. “I suppose I’ll join you outside for a
cigarette,” I said. We stepped into the chilly winter night, the sky was clear
and the wind was blowing stiffly from the northwest.
While I pulled one of my Winstons out
and lit it, Ferris asked me how the officers’ meeting went. “Well, it was
okay,” I responded, “but I can’t understand why most of our officers refuse to
fulfill the duties of their chair.”
“I share your frustrations,” Ferris
said, absent mindedly puffing his pipe, “It doesn’t seem as though some of the
men who desire to be important necessarily appreciate the responsibility. They
love the title, the attention, but lack the true desire to lead. I’ve seen it
throughout my thirty years in the fraternity. Past Masters who never return to
lodge after they have that feather in their cap, men who are officers in every
organization and are never around to do the work, and especially those who
can’t even perform the simple task of being proficient in opening and closing
Ferris paused to tamp the dying embers
in his Stanwell; I considered the fact that this had been a problem for quite
some time. “What can we do to stop it? I mean, just because it has become the
norm doesn’t mean it is right.”
“Well that is the rub isn’t it?” he was
looking up at the stars. “We stay silent in hopes of preserving harmony, yet
if we were as skilled in the art of leadership development as we are in the
art of silence we could set a new standard. You are an up and coming officer
in the line, don’t let those who succeed you fall short of your expectations.
Teach them their office and how to perform their duties. Then, when you become
Master, you will have a line full of competent and helpful officers.”
“What if some of the officers refuse to
learn what I teach them?”
“Simple, you ask that the Worshipful
Master halt their advancement. Harmony is one thing, letting the blind lead
the blind is another.” He placed his pipe in his pocket and opened the door.
“I guess I have a bigger responsibility
as Senior Deacon that I thought I did.” I said.
depends,” he replied, “are you going to set a new standard?”
Music: The 6th Liberal Art
well known among Masons that geometry is the basis of the art of Masonry and
the most essential of the liberal arts among Masons. Geometry is a very exact
science and it has been used to develop calculus and explain the most
intricate designs of molecular chemistry. However, it would behoove Masons to
understand its relation to music, the art of combining tones in melodic,
rhythmic, and harmonic order.
The simplest forms of music are based on the simpler science, arithmetic.
Notes, played one at a time, require counting. One must add to move through
the scales and use fractions to determine the timing of each pitch. But if a
more advance view of music is made, the musician must enter into the realm of
The major chord is developed by adding the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a scale,
forming a beautiful triangle of tones. One will notice that of the notes in
the scale added to the 1st, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th form the strongest, most
resolved sounds. Similarly, the 3,4,5 triangle is revered as being the
strongest of all shapes. However, when these four notes are played to
together, they produce a major 7th chord, which has some conflict within it,
but if the 4th is doubled to create the octave we once again have a beautiful
chord and can now form a simple truss, or tent shape, which is once again a
structure with great resolve.
We can view the beauties of the circle in the beautiful round, where a simple
melody is played continuously, or eternally, to form intricate patterns of
notes representing the beauties of the eternity of God's creations. Or the
arch, with the beautiful ascending flurries of the scales reaching the
keystone and then descending as smoothly down the opposing side.
It is also true that music can be played in the minor, with a sort of
melancholy sound. This is achieved by stepping on those tones that seem so
pleasant by themselves, but when mixed in with the rest of the symphony form
disharmony and depression. A phenomena that is the defining trait of the music
known as the Blues. So should we ever be reminded to walk only on those stones
of the path with which the Divine Creator will find true pleasure from our
Music must be defined by those very times and seasons, years and cycles which
the astronomer sets with geometry. For it is by these times that music forms
its subdivisions into 1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, and even the 1/128 note, or can
form the odd time interval of the triplet. Without geometry music would know
Our ancient friend and Brother, Pythagoras, studied and enjoyed music. Hence,
the invention of the Pythagorean scale. It is no coincidence that a man so
proficient in geometry should also be so gifted in music. The latter being an
art based on an operative science.
Therefore, as geometry is the language of God, so shall music be his art and
pleasure. May we as Masons ever endeavor to read His Divine literature and
perform, for His pleasure, His beautiful art.
The Five Orders in Architecture
It is little wonder why part of the
Fellowcraft degree discusses the classical orders in architecture. By
tradition, speculative Masonry descended from operative Masonry and having
some understanding of our ancestors' craft is certainly important. It also
serves as a gateway to place an interest in each new Fellowcraft in the
subjects of architecture and geometry as well as in the other arts and
However, as with everything in Masonry,
there certainly is a deeper symbolic meaning. While there are more concrete
explanations for their symbolic meanings, I am going to give my personal views
of the orders in architecture.
There are five orders in architecture:
the Tuscan, the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, and the Composite. However,
we are taught that the ancient and original orders in architecture are only
three: the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian. These were invented by the
Greeks. This is very important, because the ancient Greeks are the inspiration
for Western culture. Notice the Masonic ideals that ancient Greece
personified. They were one of the first democratic societies; they championed
education, and were one of the most progressive societies of their day. Greece
was an inspiration for the Roman Empire and we learn that if we wanted to
understand the roots of Masonic ideals, we would not look to Rome, but rather
The original orders in architecture
refer to the three degrees. The Doric represents the Entered Apprentice, it is
simple and effective. While it is aesthetically pleasing in its own right, it
also gives the appearance that it is yet to be completed and requires further
development. The ionic represents the Fellowcraft, it is much more technically
proficient and more complex that the Doric. We can see its beauties beginning
to take shape and blossom into greater things. The Corinthian reveals its
further intricacies which show the complexity of the spiritual aspect of the 3rd degree.
Now, what is the point of the other two?
The Tuscan is the Doric in its earliest state. This refers to the profane
world. Before being initiated into Masonry we are happily ignorant of the
beauties which it will reveal to us. We are simple minded and only concerned
in what we find practical to our individual lives. Likewise, the Tuscan is
simple and practical, unconcerned with the complexities of Greek architecture.
The Composite is more ornamental that the Corinthian because it is the Master
Mason who is now blossoming by seeking light beyond the degrees. He is
learning about the complexities of the spiritual world as well as the earthly
arts and sciences. He is a complex creature fully aware of the limits of his
knowledge and seeks light and truth with zeal. The Composite represents the
man who is drawing from the lessons in each degree to form a more beautiful,
perfect, and complete whole.
my own perspective of the orders in architecture. As we become more practiced
in Masonry, our pillars become more and more intricate and we develop deeper
and more pleasing designs. It is through this practice of virtue that we
become more proficient in our own personal architecture.
The Late Brother
Abi's Disenchantment with American Freemasonry
Here he lays, cold and mute, wrapped in
the icy cloak of death. Our late Brother Abi, setting his working tools down
for the last time. His long life in Masonry comes to such a lonely end after
such auspicious beginnings. Brother Abi was there in the beginning, at the
small meetings held in the back of a local tavern. The best and most noble men
from the town would meet to feast on Cornish game hens, stuffed mushrooms, and
tankards of ale. They would discuss the issues of the day and enjoy fellowship
with their closest friends. These men were few in number, but had incredible
prestige. Only men of the finest character were allowed to become members of
the Royal Craft. Kings, generals, and philosophers had long been promoters of
the craft, leveling themselves with common men who shared the same values. It
was the most beautiful of societies, completely Utopian, in a world where men
often were more interested in persecuting those with different opinions.
Brother Abi worked hard to learn his
work, it was not always perfect, but he advanced through the chairs with a
true effort. At that time, not everyone was deemed qualified to be Master of
the Lodge. He memorized and retained the floor work, the opening and closing
ceremonies, and a good share of the Masonic lectures. He even devoted himself
to learning the Masonic funeral ritual and took the time to impart the same
knowledge on his younger Brothers. The beauties of the lessons in the Masonic
ritual were important to him and he took the time to make sure that he was
able to communicate them properly. When he was not in Lodge he took the time
to individually relieve his distressed Brethren. He would visit the ill, run
errands for widows, and insure that no Mason in need of some brotherly love
was left wanting. This was how Masonry was: a beautiful set of rituals
designed to instill morality on the minds of good men and to promote
brotherhood and individual charity.
Masonry changed throughout Brother Abi’s
life, however, and developed into something different. The Brethren began to
champion large numbers of members, regardless of the quality, and seemed to
adopt the idea that no one was undeserving of Masonry. They allowed anyone
through the west gate, often allowing men without a true love of Masonry’s
tenets into the lodge. The Masons used these greater membership numbers to
fund grand buildings and even grander charitable programs. This led to
meetings consisting solely of business and Brothers bickering about the
finances of the building. Philosophy, brotherhood, and even ritual were no
longer important. It was perfectly acceptable to read the ritual and not
understand it. Where Masons once were able to engage in the beautifully
archaic language of proficiency, new Masons would respond with “Oh I didn’t
know I needed to remember the grip.”
This empty shell of the formerly grand
society had to be filled. The unenlightened called for chili feeds, organized
charities, and fund raisers. Perhaps if Masonry looked enough like the local
Kiwanis or church group it would flourish. Men no longer helped out their
fellow Brothers, Masons were too busy exploiting another charity in an attempt
to gain new members and too busy putting on another dinner to beg for a few
more cents from the public to keep their building open. It was no longer the
job of the Masons to improve society, but rather the job of society to keep
the Masons alive. Masonry had become an abstract portrait of what it once was.
Brother Abi lost interest. When he
became bedridden, no Brothers came to comfort him. The majority of the
membership didn’t know who he was. This man, who had spent so much time
teaching his younger Brothers and working to be the best Mason he could be, a
Mason who had carried the flame of the order for so long and had attempted to
provide his Brothers with all the rights and benefits of the society has now
shuffled off this mortal coil. There will be no Masonic funeral rights,
because no one knows them. There will be no Brethren at his side, because they
are too busy preparing for a spaghetti dinner to fund their lodge building.
Here lays the body of the late Brother
Abi, SO MOTE IT BE!
The Power of
Here is a
topic that I have often discussed with fellow Masons. As many of you know, the
art of proficiency work has become somewhat rare in modern Freemasonry. The
memorization of questions involving the meanings of Masonic symbolism, ritual,
and modes of recognition are no longer deemed important by many Masons. I have
heard many arguments for and against the requirement of new Masons to turn in
proficiencies for the three degrees. However, it remains my belief that these
tests of knowledge on the preceding degree are absolutely essential for many
First and foremost, it is difficult to investigate visiting Masons who have no
one to vouch for them and discovering that they know none of the signs, words,
or grips. They expect to be admitted by their dues card alone. Granted, some
were simply never informed of the necessity of knowing this information which
is a failure of the lodge in which they were raised. Had the Brother been
required to return his proficiency and memorize this information, it would not
be an issue. However, many have decided to water down the fraternity in order
to fill our membership roles with dues paying members. Yet, many of these
members do not even know the very secrets they were obligated to keep. A very
effective way to maintain secrecy is to insure that the secrets are never
understood by our new Brothers! Trading in quantity for the very backbone of
the fraternity is no way to make Masonry grow.
Secondly, the proficiency raises the bar for the expectations we have of new
members. I have watched a fair amount of Entered Apprentices avoid making time
to learn the proficiency as well as several of them simply not attempt to
memorize it in hopes that the lodge would just forget. When we remove the
requirements to earn the next degree, we are simply removing the feeling of
achievement when the next degree is obtained. Suddenly, the Master Mason
degree is no longer a day of rejoicing about a new Brother's dedication and
maturity in the order, but is rather a long and dull day of seemingly
meaningless ritual just to join a civic organization. Accomplishing the
memorization of proficiency shows that Masonry is important to the new Brother
and places a sense of high importance and deep solemnity in the ritual which
separates Masonry from all other societies.
Finally, anyone who is a Mason in his heart first, which all who enter our
West Gate should be, will not only be more than willing to learn the
proficiency, he will relish the education and friendship that his mentor
provides him. It will be an incredibly important part of his life and will
instill the value of the fraternity deep within him. Once the proficiency is
learned, and the plethora of subjects which are developed in consequence of
learning the proficiency are conversed upon, the new Brother will have an
insatiable desire to do his duty for the order and to learn everything he can.
Without providing him this service, we are only disappointing his expectation
of the importance of Masonry. After all, if we accepted everyone who
petitioned and required nothing of them just to increase membership, why would
a good man with Masonry in his heart feel that it really is special?
Brethren, the information provided in the proficiency and the Masonic
mentoring that comes with it is one of the most important aspects of our
order. It distinguishes us from the rest of the community and marks our
consequence among Masons. It stirs our passion for knowledge and forms deep
friendships with others within the lodge. That, my Brothers, is the power of
The Complete Lodge
has a number of roles to fill. It is a place of learning, a place of
fellowship, and a place for charity. So how can we insure that our lodges are
adequately fulfilling all of these roles? As Masons, we are taught to hold the
number 7 in high estimation, as it is the number of completion and perfection.
So, in the spirit of that esteemed number, I am offering seven characteristics
of complete lodges.
What was the last time that your lodge actually had an educational
presentation? The lack of education is commonly the result of some members
believing that they know everything about Masonry and too many Brothers
feeling intimidated by delivering educational presentations. Master Masons
should, at a minimum, understand the secrets of Masonry and how to communicate
them, have the ability to summarize the subjects presented in the several
Masonic lectures, and have a firm understanding of the symbolism of the
Fraternity. These are subjects that an alarming number of Masons have no
knowledge of and are not difficult to present to lodge members. Depending on
the lodge, presentations on academic subjects, philosophy, and history may be
very well received also. All Brothers wish to improve themselves in Masonry
and that involves educating members on the principles of the order.
2) RITUAL WORK
A lodge cannot be complete without presenting ritual in an impressive and
proper form. Lodge must be opened proficiently and the degrees must be
presented in a manner that absolutely floors the candidate. Without the
performance of good ritual, a lodge will never bring younger Brothers to seek
out the beauties of Masonry. Time should be taken to rehearse ritual and
insure that all Brothers taking an office are proficient in their part and to
require them to memorize at least one of the lectures. If these steps are
taken, opening and closing the lodge, as well as performing the degrees, will
encourage members to perform their best at all times. It will also communicate
the important symbols of our order much more effectively.
A lodge must offer numerous opportunities for Brothers to form close bonds and
enjoy the company of their fellow Masons. Banquets, ice cream socials, movie
nights, and even meeting at the local tavern for stiff drink can encourage
good relationships among Masons and make it fun to be with their Brothers. If
Masons enjoy being in the company of their lodge members, they will be more
likely to participate and contribute to the lodge.
Yes, the greatest of these is charity, for it extends beyond the grave
throughout the boundless realms of eternity. But we are not discussing the
shallow idea of organized charities to gain new members, we are talking about
Masons helping Masons. What was the last time that your lodge supported a
Brother in need? Not only with money, but with time and moral support? How
many of us visit those Brothers who cannot make it to lodge? Or contribute to
the relief of the widows and orphans? I believe that we do not do this nearly
enough, it should be our number one concern as Masons to relieve our Brothers
who are going through hardships. A complete lodge aids their Brothers in need
by financial help and good will visits to improve a Brother's morale.
5) FINANCIAL SECURITY
A lodge that cannot function financially offers nothing for its members.
Lodges cannot continue to rely on bean suppers or pancake breakfasts just to
keep their lodges alive. Lodges should be able to provide refreshments,
educational material, and aid to poor, distressed, worthy Brother Master
Masons without having to ask for an extra donation or do a fund raiser. Dues
should be set at an amount that will allow all these things to be taken care
of throughout the year. Lodges should have the foresight to use part of those
dues to develop an emergency fund (for building repair, unexpected expenses)
as well as a relief fund (for the relief of distressed Brothers). A little
financial planning would create funds that would be able to cover any
A lodge without leaders will wonder around aimlessly in the dark, groping for
the light switch. As Master Masons, we are designated as overseers of the
work. Every Master Mason should be a leader. Officers should fully assume the
duties of their office and go above and beyond the call of duty. How many of
us are guilty of holding an office where we merely knew our part during the
opening of the lodge, but never attended to any one of our other duties?
Lodges should encourage leadership development by pulling in outside expertise
on the issue. Lodges need to mentor new Brothers so that they can take
leadership roles and the experienced members (such as Past Masters) need to
fulfill their role as the mentors of the lodge members. Masons must be willing
to step up and lead activities in their lodge rather than sitting on their
hands saying "Well, I certainly think someone should do it." Master Masons
must develop the attitude of "Here I am, send me, send me!"
That's right, a lodge needs a purpose. Most of us can agree that our purpose
involves making good men better, but have we really made that our mission? Or
do we conduct business to pay the bills without ever moving forward? A lodge
should constantly strive to improve men morally, professionally, spiritually,
and charitably. If a lodge makes this their mission and follows the
necessities listed above, it will achieve great things.
Masonic Leadership Procedures
I am just going to say it, WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH STRONG LEADERS IN MASONRY!
That is a fact and those who are honest about the state of the fraternity
would agree. However, we need an answer to this problem and that is why I am
going to follow along with a popular trend by using the U.S. military's method
in leadership. The only difference is that these Troop Leading Procedures (as
they are termed in the military) are going to be adapted for lodge use. So it
is with this background information that I give you the Masonic Leadership
1. Conception of the Plan
The first step in performing anything as a Masonic leader is coming up with
something to do. This can be anything from holding a feast for Thanksgiving to
putting on a degree to the presentation of 50-year pins. Brainstorming must
occur to come up with some activity for the lodge or any group of Masons to
2. Issue a Warning Order
You must warn people immediately about what you intend to do. If you plan to
put on a degree in one month, you must immediately let your lodge members know
as much information as possible. In particular, you must inform them of the
mission, the time at which it will be executed, who will be in charge of what,
and when you will have the completed plan. An example of this is:
Brethren, we will be holding an Entered Apprentice degree on the third
Wednesday of next month. Brother Senior Warden you will be in charge of
putting together the degree team. We will have all the necessary information
ready to be communicated to you at our stated meeting on the first Wednesday
of next month.
3. Make a Tentative Plan
Put together a list of names to help out at the activity. Who will cook the
food? Who will do the lectures? Where will you hold the dinner? That way you
have a good starting point to work from. You can contact individuals and
either put their position in cement or find someone else to do their part. The
tentative plan is meant for you to start thinking about how you will
accomplish the mission and allows you to make changes to it as needed.
4. Start Necessary Action
Do you need to make reservations at a restaurant? Do you need to call
lecturers in your area? This step requires you to start performing those
necessary tasks to be able to execute the mission at hand.
5. Reconnoiter (Check out your facilities, for you civilians)
In this step, you make sure the building or area you are holding the event in
will accommodate you. Does the lodge you are putting on the degree at have all
the materials needed? Is it big enough for the dinner you are planning? Will
you need to purchase or fix anything to make the event go off? It is a lot
better to find out that there are no clean garments for candidates the week
before the degree than the night on which you are holding it.
6. Complete the Plan/Issue the Plan
Alright, you have gotten all the Brothers you need to commit to the activity,
the facility will work, and all the kinks are worked out. Now, you take all of
the information and let everyone know what is happening. Tell them who is
doing each of the parts for the degree, who is cooking the dinner, etc. Be
detailed, give the members hard times for everything that is happening and who
is doing what.
That's right, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Do rehearsals for the degree you
are going to put on. Heck, you may even want to have people show up and walk
them through the kitchen and dining room to make sure they know where
everything is when you put on that dinner. Getting your eyes on the objective
is always important, the more chances that the Brothers have to see how the
plan is going to be executed, the smoother it will be executed.
Alright, it is time to execute. As the leader, you can't have your head down
in the pancake batter, make sure you are in a position to make sure everything
is happening properly. Don't be the leader who is still brushing up on his
part while the candidate is improperly clothed, be ready to perform quality
control. The Brothers need to be able to go to you for answers when problems
arise and you need to be able to take the time to correct the issue.
Steps 1 and 2 are the only two that must happen in order. The others are
interchangeable and you must constantly supervise. If you follow these
procedures, whether you are sitting in the East or just some guy who
volunteered to serve dinner, you will be successful at accomplishing your
action. You might just become the valued leader that our Fraternity needs!
the problems plaguing our fraternity is the absolute absence of Masonic
education in our lodges. Unfortunately, developing an educational presentation
for your lodge can be an intimidating task.
Many men receive the degrees of Freemasonry and perform the proficiency
examinations pertinent to those degrees and that constitutes their initial
education in the fraternity. While this will make them proficient in the
rituals of the degrees and the modes of recognition, they still know very
little about Masonic symbolism and history as they haven't been exposed to a
whole lot of it yet. This is commonly the only education that our Brothers
receive during their time as a Mason.
Many lodges have discussed the fact that there is no Masonic education
conducted within their walls. So perhaps they appoint a Brother that has been
educated in the aforementioned manner to provide an educational session at the
next meeting. This is where some problems are presented.
First, the Brother has no idea of what is expected for the presentation. How
long should it be? What kind of information should be covered? Perhaps the
Brother has no public speaking experience and is nervous about presenting in
front of crowd. There is a good chance that this brother could be as mortified
about delivering an educational presentation as he is excited about it.
Secondly, he has to find a source of information on the subject of his
presentation. Not only must he determine the subject of which he will speak,
but he will have to figure out how to research it. He has three primary
options for his research: materials provided by his Grand Lodge, hard copies
of Masonic literature, and the world wide web. Grand Lodge materials can be
hit and miss. A few Grand Lodges have excellent materials and short talks for
which their members can use to develop presentations. However, many Grand
Lodges do not possess these excellent materials. Either there are no
educational materials available through the Grand Lodge or they are
ridiculously shallow in their information.
The next resources available are hard copies of Masonic literature. Most
lodges do not have an extended library and most Brothers are not wealthy
enough to possess their own catalog of Masonic books. If his lodge does have a
library, it is most likely not well organized and he will have to spend hours
looking for information on his chosen subject. Perhaps he will dive into some
of the more common Masonic tomes in circulation. Imagine he opens a copy of
Morals and Dogma only to read the first sentence, "Force, unregulated or
ill-regulated, is not only wasted in the void, like that of gunpowder burned
in the open air, and steam unconfined by science; but, striking in the dark,
and its blows meeting only the air, they recoil and bruise itself." If this is
his first foray into deeper studies on Masonic symbolism, he probably already
has a headache! Whether the book is by Albert Pike, Albert Mackey, Manly Hall,
or JSM Ward, he will probably be quite confused by its contents and decide to
look elsewhere for his presentation's information.
Finally, he resorts to the Masonic information available on the web. Perhaps
he will enter a forum only to be thrown in the middle of a discussion about
the ancient initiatic orders or he will find a incredibly detailed account of
Masonic history in the 17th Century or maybe he will read about the
recognition of Antient Scottish Freemasons in Southern Burma on a blog. All of
this can seem to be above and beyond the subject matter that he expected to
present to his lodge.
So now we have a Brother who is deeply confused by everything he reads about
Masonry, still has no further information for his presentation, and might as
well throw his hands in the air in frustration.
For the average Mason, my self included, there seems to be a massive jump from
the business oriented meetings where the only education during the gathering
is a thirty second oration on George Washington which was found in the
Reader's Digest to the complicated works of Masonic research. Just look at two
of the titles found in the 2007 Volume of Heredom: The Transmission
of Esoteric Knowledge & the Origins of Modern Freemasonry: Was Mackey Right?
by Mark E. Koltko-Rivera and Freemasonry in India: The Intersection of
Hindu and Masonic Teachings by Naresh Sharma, 33° & Guy L. Beck, 32°.
Anyone who has any social sense knows that discussions on the subjects
presented in these papers are likely to make the average Mason's head spin if
he is not used to reading such material. Therefore, it would certainly be
courteous and proper to find a topic more suitable for an educational
presentation at lodge.
Masonic education can be a very intimidating thing, so how can you develop a
good educational presentation for your lodge?
First, it is crucial to understand how to properly present an educational
lecture. If you remember nothing else about this article remember this: never
take more than fifteen minutes. Why? Your audience begins to drift off after
fifteen minutes. You can have multiple presentations, but no single subject
should require more than fifteen minutes to explain. Just make sure you don't
make it too short either, your presentation should be at least ten minutes.
When presenting it is crucial to use a visual aid to assist your Brethren in
understanding the subject. This can be in the form of handouts, a chalkboard
or white board, or a Powerpoint presentation. This gives the audience
something to look at and assists them in understanding the subject by
highlighting the main points of the presentations. Also make sure that you do
not read your presentation. It is best to make notes on the subjects that you
want to cover and then speak extemporaneously on each point. This will allow
you to maintain eye contact with the crowd (don't forget to smile!). After you
finish presenting, be sure to ask if there are any questions. Questions open
the subject up to discussion and the real learning can begin. If you are not
sure that someone will ask a question, specifically ask one of the Brethren to
ask one before you begin your presentation. If one person asks, several will.
Now, moving on to the subjects that make good educational presentations. LI
have talked about subjects being either too shallow or beyond the interests of
most Masons. It may seem difficult to figure out what subject you will
research and present to the lodge. A good rule of thumb is to select a subject
that interests you and view it as your chance to learn more about it. If you
are interested by a subject and enjoy learning about it, it will probably
appeal to your assembly. However, you do need to be the judge of whether a
subject is appropriate or not. Don't present on subjects that are likely to
cause conflict or make tempers flare. Also, don't talk on subjects which are
not likely to interest a large group. While you may find studying the link
between Confucianism and Kabbalism and their effect on the opening and closing
rituals of the lodge, subjects like this are likely to alienate your audience.
Remember, no matter how enlightening the subject is to you, if your lodge
members are counting the specks in the ceiling plaster during your
presentation no one benefits from it.
So where can you find good information for Masonic education? Last time we
mentioned that some Grand Lodges have excellent sources, if this is the case
in your Grand Lodge, do not hesitate to contact them to find resources for
your presentation. Another method is consulting hard bound sources. If you
choose to do this, you will have to spend some more time finding information
relative to your subject. Perhaps you don't know what you want to present, but
don't have access to a computer. In this case, I always suggest finding part
of a book or a short paper that interests you and read it. Then, present on it
just like you did back in school. That's right, give a book report. There is
nothing wrong with that.
Finally, if you are using the internet, you are very lucky. There is a wide
range of options for you to examine in order to find information. If you are
using the internet, determine what you wish to speak about. It may be Masonic
history, Famous Freemasons, symbolism and ritual, jurisprudence, or a variety
of other subjects. The key to using the internet is knowing what you are
looking for. So, pick a subject that interests you and you want to research.
Then, make specific searches on your topic. Just remember, when using the
internet you are not required to formulate your own Masonic research paper.
You can use it much like you would a book, find a paper or article that you
like and do a book report.
Remember, the key to an effective presentation is feeling passionate about
what subject you are presenting and feel confident about the information that
you have gathered. Never present on a subject that you are uncomfortable with.
Making an education presentation is nothing out of the ordinary. It is simply
taking time for individual study and then reporting on the knowledge that you
gained so that others can be enlightened.
If you want to resolve your education intimidation, it isn't hard to do.
Simply keep your presentation short, fun, and informative.