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
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
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
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
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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