52ND INTER-PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE OF THE OFFICERS OF THE FOUR WESTERN CANADIAN MASONIC JURISDICTIONS
In the Canadian Work, the Immediate Past Master, when asked; Why the Master is placed in the East?, responds that he is to "Open his Lodge and employ and instruct the Brethren in Freemasonry."
This seems to be a rather curious reply, unless it refers to only the duties immediately at hand. There is no inference of the duties of governance, administration, leadership, or due observation of the laws relating to the Lodges.
It is apparent in some cases that Masters, unprepared for their essential position of leadership, accept this reply as satisfactorily fulfilling the responsibilities of the office. The status quo is then maintained for the year by opening and closing the Lodge, repeating the ritual as required, reading the minutes, discussing committee reports and participating at the festive board.
Unfortunately, these Masters have neglected to read, or at least be cognizant of the other instruction and admonitions to the Master, throughout the "Work" and ceremonial. For example, the Installation Ceremony in usual allegory and symbolism, advises that the Brethren have committed the government of the Lodge to the care of the Master, and he is responsible for the proper discharge of the associated duties.
The Master Elect, in like manner, is encouraged to educate the members about Freemasonry; to practice in the community at large, benevolence, justice and the precepts of the Craft; and to observe above all the rule and guide of our faith, the VOTSL.
The Master Elect is further advised, that in order to successfully discharge his responsibilities, he should be firm in principle and able and willing to undertake the management of the work. A close scrutiny of various other publications of the Grand Lodge, will complete the list of expectations of the Master.
One would wonder, how much preparation was done by a Master Elect, aware of all these duties and responsibilities and would still arrive on the night of installation without any detailed plan to ensure a fulfilling and successful year.
The Master Elect can not be excused from his responsibility to undertake the management of the work, but first he must have as much or more knowledge about the work, as those, who he is to teach. But how and where does he gather the necessary information?
The Grand Lodge of Manitoba, as in other jurisdictions has the information available for the Master to use in understanding the full scope of his position. How many Masters actually take the time to seek out all this information? How many realistically have the time? To be adequately informed, a Master would have to review the following sources:
The Constitution of the Grand Lodge
The Bylaws of the Craft Lodge
The Lodge Officers' Handbook
The Book of Ceremonials
The Folio of Directives
The Manual of Protocol
And all similar publications
Many Lodges do not have an officer training program nor do the officers have these publications at their disposal prior to being installed as Master. The problem is obvious, the Master Elect is not adequately prepared and in this circumstance tends to imitate his predecessor or does the minimum to get by.
Much of the information on the duties of the Master is wrapped in the envelope of the ritual. There are many and varied views on the strict sanctity of the work. We are admonished to keep the confidentiality of what is written, but the Craft in general has learned collectively over the years that Masonic education requires an explanation of the message and so we have a great variety of Masonic books and literature discussing the system, within due bounds, would it not be appropriate to do in the same manner, a summary of the duties and responsibilities of the Master including those that originate in the work?
This would provide a giant step forward in the instruction of the Master Elect, without detracting from his enjoyment of using or listening to the original version in the work. This may also provide an opportunity to usefully employ the custodians of the work.
At this particular time in our history, with membership generally declining and some Lodge doors closing, the quality of leadership is particularly critical, with the advent of Masonic renewal in many of the jurisdictions, the responsibilities of the Master will become more onerous and time consuming The Master will have to be more innovative in Lodge activities and programs, for example, the Master must be committed to carefully allocating the use of time.
A significant factor indicated by research into the expectations of men, considering membership in a service or fraternal body, is the amount of time required to participate and what the time would be used for, ie: amusement, personal development, social activity, family involvement etc.
This is just one Of the important factors in the overall plan for the year to meet the requirements of an increasingly diverse membership. To be effective in his one year term of office, a Masonic education and leadership program dedicated to the Master should be mandatory, during his term as Junior and Senior Warden.
If a comparison were made between the organization chart of Grand Lodge and that of a private business corporation, we would find many similarities. The Grand Master, would be the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, with jurisdiction over the entire sales or service area covered. Assisting the Grand Master would be a multitude of committees and bureaucrats preparing and publishing various plans of instruction and directives. There would be a "Board of Directors" to scrutinize all suggestions from the hinterlands that might result in change. The District Deputy Grand Master would be the Region Manager, responsible to the C.E.O. for the efficiency of collecting delinquent accounts, supervising the labors of the volunteers and generally ensuring the harmony of the work place. The Master of the Lodge would be the local Branch Manager, accountable for whatever went wrong, regardless of where it happened. Sound familiar? Such is the way of progress.
While this is a frivolous comparison there is a valid point to be made. In real world terms, a C.E.O. responsible for the well being and contentment of thousand of company members, would never hire a Regional Manager or a local Branch Manager, without first providing them with a suitable education and leadership training plan. Masonic jurisdictions would be well advised to institute a similar practice.
The Grand Lodge of Manitoba in concert with the Masonic Renewal Committee of North America is actively developing a Masonic renewal plan for the jurisdiction. There is much confidence that this approach will directly improve and prevent recurrence of those problem areas that have been building over the last thirty years. There is much yet to do, but at least the problem is finally recognized and is being addressed.
Through the ages Masonry has withstood great adversity and survived, with some adjustments, to carry on, better than before - and it will again. The enduring life of Freemasonry is the system itself, the principles, tenets, the altruistic teachings, the beliefs of it's adherents and it's universality in brotherhood. We learn that the earliest manuscript constitutions began with a convocation to the Almighty Father in Heaven and subsequently included a series of what is now called - "The Old Charges" which was intended to govern the Craft and their behavior. These old charges also included procedures used to make a Mason and an obligation. The beginnings of Masonry, then included a religious connotation, moral instruction and an obligation. Through the Eighteenth Century, the ritual slowly took shape by the efforts of many minds until reaching full development following the union of the two English Grand Lodges.
The ritual is of vital importance, as it serves as a common thread throughout the Masonic world. Even through some variation in the wording and form of ritual is evident, they all exemplify the same fundamental truth. The great importance of the ritual is that it is an essential means of passing Freemasonry from one generation to another and of teaching the noble precepts which have served the Craft for hundreds of years. The Initiate, even though interested and impressed by the spectacle and quaint phraseology of the words, may view it many times but not fully grasp the essential message contained in the presentation.
It is necessary to live out the precepts set forth in the ritual to discover the full meaning of the teachings of Freemasonry. To just portray a good degree and leave the understanding to the new Brother, is not enough. The ritual must be explained to bring out the tenets and principles alluded to and then the full meaning of these must be conveyed to ensure understanding. This done, the candidate must be reassured of what he was taught by seeing in his new Brothers the exemplary attitudes and conduct that give visual expression to the principles taught.
I have found, that most newer Brethren have an interest in how Ancient Freemasonry really is, and how far back the teachings of the Craft can be traced. Some time ago, I came upon an historical record, that illustrates the point. Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland, sent in a letter to the Pope in 1320, a document known as "The Declaration of Arbroath", which really was a declaration of Scottish independence. The declaration outlined unjust interference of England in the affairs of Scotland, in which activity, England was being supported by the Pope. In an impassioned manner, the Scots declared they would protect their rights and liberties in these words;- "For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honor, but it is freedom alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose, but his life." The letter went on to gently remind the Pope that he was " Vice Regent of one who makes no distinction between Jews nor Greeks, Scots nor English."
When Freemasonry was de-christianized, five hundred years later, this prescript was introduced and became one of our most cherished principles that permitted Freemasons of many faiths to join together at the same altar, without compromising their freedom to worship the God of their choice.
I have touched on the requirement to not only teach the principles and tenets of Freemasonry, but it is equally important to teach the meaning of these fundamental precepts. The new Brother, as well as those of long standing, will appreciate further understanding beyond that which is given in the ritual. Not because the traditional intent is inadequate, but that we must at all times encourage the best possible enlightenment of the membership.
The teachings of Freemasonry are well founded and have remained the universal standard of good human relationships through good times and bad. As the cycles of history continue to be repeated, the morals and behavior of the masses are affected by the fashion of the day, but Freemasonry continues intact.
I never cease to be amazed, when I read of conditions and events long past, so different and yet similar to what is being experienced today. For example, a recent magazine article stated the following:
Abuse did not suddenly appear in the 1960s' with the feminist movement, as has been claimed. A British philosopher, John Stuart Mill, commented on the subject as early as 1869: "From the earliest twilight of human society, every woman was found in a state of bondage to some man. How vast is the number of any men in any great country, who are little higher than brutes, and this never prevents them from being able through the laws of marriage, to obtain a victim." In British Common Law, husbands were authorized to chastise their wives with any reasonable instrument. Later the law was modified so men could beat their wives so long as the weapon was no thicker than a man's thumb - which is how the phrase - Rule of Thumb -came into use. In the 19th Century, a judge stated: "if no permanent injury has been inflicted by the husband, it is better to draw the curtains, shut out the public gaze and leave the parties to forget and forgive."
Such was the views of those who were charged with guiding moral behavior of the public during the same time span when Freemasonry was confirming it's form " In perfect unanimity and accord, in which we all greatly rejoice, so may it long continue until time shall be no more."
It is a testament to the vision and vital purpose of those who framed and maintained the "Genuine Tenets of our Time - Honored Institution." In a period of greatly different public conception of ethics and morals. Translating what has happened in the past, we must make Masonic education, including the teaching of the meaning of our tenets and principles, first priority.
The Scottish Rite Bulletin in Minnesota published the Ten Commandments of Freemasonry, which was reprinted in the Freemason in November 1975. This is an excellent example of explaining the meaning of Masonic Terms:
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF FREEMASONRY:- are the key to those things which are fundamental of a way of life, which Masonry teaches, and endeavors to impress on it's members.
The first group of three may be termed - attitudes towards others - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
BROTHERLY LOVE teaches a proper respect and friendship for our fellow man.
RELIEF is that duty to render assistance to others who need our help.
TRUTH is that divine attribute which is the foundation of every virtue and which should be the guide in our lives for dealing with others.
The next group of three may be termed - The spiritual attitudes. These are Faith, Hope and Charity.
FAITH is the foundation of our belief in those spiritual and moral values which distinguish man from beast.
HOPE is that state of mind which leads man through dangers, trials and tribulations, to achievement of worthwhile goals.
CHARITY as distinguished from relief and alms giving, is that noble love of our fellow man which causes us to strive to achieve those things looking to the improvement of humanity.
The third group may be termed physical and mental attitudes. They are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
TEMPERANCE is that restraint the individual exercises in all matters which prevent the impairment of his faculties through over indulgence.
FORTITUDE is a steadiness of purpose which enables man to undergo perils, danger and even pain in order to accomplish worthwhile purposes.
PRUDENCE is that ability to reason, to plan ahead and to lay out a proper course for the accomplishment of those things which contribute to our well being.
JUSTICE is a virtue consistent with both divine and human law. Is that guide or standard by which we can determine what is right to be done and so to achieve a just and well regulated society.
These TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MASONRY present no new fundamental truths, but they simply present time honored standards of conduct which have in all ages contributed to a well ordered society.
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