The Masonic Trowel

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a revolutionary suggestion

by D. McN. Lowe, M.M.

In the ancient cathedral days when Operative Masonry was at its height and Operative Lodges had formed that pattern on which our rituals of today are based Lodges were truly places of instruction.

The supervisors who formed the officers of the Lodges were well skilled craftsmen who had earned their position by a study of the principles of their craft.

Not to be found among them were men solely engaged and only interested in the shaping of stones in the quarry or the laying of these stones in seried tiers, content with the accomplishment of the routine task and the collection of the daily wage.

Only those who, with greater ambition, studied the then difficult sciences of algebra and geometry and who had proved themselves master craftsmen by their knowledge of the fundamental principles of Architectural science could hope to achieve the position of Overseer or aspire to that of the principal officer of the Lodge.

Is it not time that we went back to that ancient and salutary custom?

Today too often we promote up the ladder of Masonic advancement too many who are only layers of stone tier on tier, their Masonic knowledge nothing but the ability to repeat, word perfectly, the lectures and the various portions of the ritual laid down for ther guidance, who, Masonically, have never progresed beyond the ancient hewers of stones and layers of blocks.

Like those ancient workmen interested only in placing their stones along the strict lines set by the chalk line and the plumb line they have no vision of the beauty of the finished structure on which they work. Content with perfection in the repetition of ritualistic phrases the search for the meaning and the message behind those phrases is too often regarded as of secondary importance.

As the overseers of the ancient Operative Lodges had to prove their knowledge and their grasp of the fundamentals of their craft why should not the prospective officers of our Lodges have also to prove that they are not merely layers of stone in line but fitted to act as leaders and teachers?

All we ask of our initiates is a parrot-like repetition of ceremonial details and too often, that same parrot efficiency is sufficient passport to the highest office.

Nowhere in the procession which leads to the East is the man who is so raised in order that 'He may instruct his brethren' ever called upon to prove that he has looked beyond the symbols and ritual he so correctly repeats to fathom the lessons which they convey.

Is it too late to return to the practice of our ancient operative brethren by calling upon any member who has ambition for advancement through the chairs to present before the Lodge a paper on some aspect of Masonic symbolism or ritual as a pre-requisite to election or appointment to office?

The idea is not impossible of attainment. Ample literature is available for the man who has incentive to study. Most lodges boast libraries although too often the key to these might well be lost without anyone being aware of the fact. Fortunately, too there are few lodges, which do not count among their members some students of Freemasonry, its history and its meaning, able to aid the brother who aspires to office in the lodge.

With leaders so prepared Masonry will then take a tremendous step toward becoming that moral force in the world which should be its destiny.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014