For a long time, Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada has been running a Masonic Newsletter featuring one paper that he sends out every Sunday. I have been a subscriber of his for years and we have become good friends. Recently he sent out a paper of mine which I had long forgotten that I had written. It was written on January 1, 2012. Perhaps you have read it before, perhaps you haven’t. I reprint it here as it seems to reflect thoughts that are universal and never go out of date.
Here is Anderson’s Sunday Newsletter paper that he sent out:
I want to wish each and every member of the Sunday Masonic Paper list a very Happy and Healthy 2016. Today’s paper comes from my long time friend, mentor and good Brother Fred Milliken.
My Masonic New Year’s Resolution
January 1, 2012 by Fred Milliken
Do you believe in coincidences? I don’t.
Do you believe in Angels? I do.
Guess you know where to classify me now.
Before I went to bed on New Year’s eve I read a piece from a friend and Brother who said that he was going to spend his New Year’s day in contemplation of what he had done in 2011 and what he had failed to do and how he could make 2012 Masonically better. Did he visit and help Brothers in need often enough? Did he listen and think about those Brothers who had asked his advice and those that had whispered in his ear? Did he walk the extra mile, did he let anyone down?
He asks himself:
Did I hold true to my values all year-long? Did I lose a friend through lack of communication to too much of it? Did I do all that was required of me in time of need? Did I make new friends? Did I create any enemies? Did I leave something undone that I could have finished, and many more questions that I ask of myself.
These are some of the things that he was going to cogitate on.
On New Year’s morning I read a piece from Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s Masonic Newsletter – Sunday Masonic Paper No. 611 – where Brother Doug Gray pondered:
As we approach the count down toward the end of 2011; and the beginning of a New Year, it is a time many use for some reflection! I just wanted to remind everyone that although Masonry is well known as a “Progressive Science”; it should also be remembered as a “Reflective Science.”
The true purpose and value in Masonry is to gain knowledge of ones self; and his own relationship with God.
We must use our Lodge time as a place to think, to consider our fellow-man, to become “Human” and to gain “Wisdom”.
Looking inward is the place to begin, evaluate shortcomings with respect to our obligation, our charges and our commitment to the working tools or each degree.
Brotherhood is our vision in Masonry. How well do you know your Lodge and District Brothers?
Buddha taught: Man is so entangled in the “Tragedy of Life”, they are bound together out of sympathy in a “Brotherhood of pity…” Zoroaster taught: That Men are Brethren because warriors in battle between “Light and Darkness” a “Brotherhood of Battle…” Confucius: Brothers because of “common obligations”, a “Brotherhood of Service.”
In my practice of religion I am quite familiar with “centering prayer” which is much like meditation. You take a symbol, a phrase, an idea or a short scripture reading and you meditate on it for hours, making sure you clear your mind of all else. You contemplate the thought you have chosen, repeating it over and over and listening for an answer. If your mind wanders onto something else you force it back often by repeating out loud your chosen thought. Over and over, hour after hour until you have an answer. Where the answer comes from I am not going to get into. That is up to your own personal belief system.
So not believing in coincidences and getting pushed by my Angel I decide to do some Masonic centering prayer/meditation on the Masonic symbol of the Point Within A Circle.
I cleared my mind of everything but the Point Within A Circle and began. Soon I found myself in a closed maze where I went around and around. At one end I bumped into St. John the Baptist at another end the Holy Scriptures and at a third point St. John the Evangelist. But what was the message, what were they trying to tell me? Over and over I pondered and meditated.
After some time it was clear to me that I was being strongly urged to make a Masonic New Year’s Resolution – a commitment to accomplish something in the coming year. But further meditation yielded no clue as to what that Masonic New Year’s Resolution should be. This was not going to be as easy as I thought.
Maybe this is where free will comes in. It’s all up to me. But I am not sure what I should choose. Perhaps you have some suggestions.
Wayne D. Anderson, FCF, MPS
D.D.G.M. Frontenac District, G.R.C. 2015-16
On November 6, 1860, prior to Abraham Lincoln’s election for United States President he declared that, “Government cannot endure half slave and half free.” He was referring to the common practice during those times, mostly within the southern states, of human slavery. However, these causes weren’t a full or primary cause of this war. If the Confederacy were successful in their efforts the Union, as being the United States would no longer be able to avail the benefits from those southern states with their productions, especially of cotton textiles and bountiful food crops without paying tariffs to a separate nation.
The American Civil War was started in 1861 and it ended in 1865. The Confederacy of the southern states prepared itself for war starting on February 4, 1861. It consisted of eleven states who aimed to secede from the Union and establish itself as a separate and independent country.
The war’s first battle was on April 1, 1861 at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. But it wasn’t until January 31, 1865, that the United States Congress abolished slavery by passing the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution.
On May 10, 1865 President Andrew Johnson officially ended the American Civil War after the surrender was declared at Appomattox, Virginia.
Thousands of lives were lost and many had been badly wounded and would suffer until their eventful death relieved their pains.
Estimates are that at least 110,070 were killed in battles or later died from the wounds inflicted in battles, and another 199,790 or so from diseases that were attributed in some way due to that war.
However, these reported testaments of compassionate acts by the Freemasons show a brighter side of those four years of strife and the unusual ways of war; often fathers and sons fighting on opposite sides as were blood and fraternal brothers and friends was far too common. This allowed the “Light of Masonry” to shine brightly even during those troubling times.
During that Civil War, approximately 410.000 soldiers were interned in prison camps and it has been estimated that about 56,000 of them were Freemasons. There are recorded stories that indicate how these Masons were true to their Masonic obligations and to our Masonic teachings, even while performing their duties as military fighting men. When they were confronted with a wounded and distressed brother, they did all they could to provide comfort and compassionate assistance. I’ll here cover just a few examples of those reports that demonstrate the kindness and concerns shown for their Masonic Brethren, in some cases for others without regard for which side they were fighting. The Masonic sign of distress was witnessed and responded to quite frequently during those troubling times.
Lt. Col. Homer Sprague, an 13th Connecticut Volunteer was taken prisoner. During a long march to the prison, Sprague became so exhausted that he collapsed into a ditch. A Confederate Officer allowed him to ride in the ambulance for the remainder of the journey. With some difficulty, he was able to climb into the vehicle. He there learned that the driver was also a Brother Mason.
This Brother said to Sprague,
As a Mason I will feed you to the very last crumbs of my food, but as a soldier I will fight you till the last drop of my blood.
I hardly know which to admire most, your generosity as a Mason or your spunk as a soldier.
In 1863 Hunter McGuire, a physician and commissioned officer in the Union Army, resigned his commission and enlisted in the Confederate Army as a Private. This was because while still serving within the Union Army and while trying to evade capture by Confederate forces, he tried to jump his horse over a fence. Both he and the horse went down and were captured. He gave the Masonic sign of distress. A Confederate officer recognized the sign and ordered a temporary cease fire while he and his horse were cared for. This event convinced him to resign his commission in the Union Army.
There was many times in which the Masons demonstrated compassion for the suffering of their Brother Masons. Union soldier John Copley with the 49th Infantry was captured by the Confederate troops and confined in a military prison camp. It was soon after his capture, that all of the Masons in the camp were gathered up and moved together into a separate barrack where, thanks to the Masons of the local area, they also had somewhat of a plentiful and better diet than did the other prisoners.
Being known as “The White Apron Men” as the Freemasons were often referred to in those days, were known to remain true to their Promises, they were allowed the liberty of roaming about the camp based solely on their word to not attempt escape. On one occasion a Mason was approached by a non-Mason who stated that he and his friend were very hungry, not having eaten in three days.
Without comment, he walked on, but in the afternoon he again spotted the man, and without saying a word to him, dropped a package at his feet. When the man opened it, he saw food and drink, plentiful enough for both he and his friend to nourish them.
After the war, one of those men wrote,
I was not a Mason during the war, but what I observed of the compassionate ways of the Masons, I was induced to join this beneficent order, and I was made a Mason in 1866. I vowed to pattern my conduct by what I had there observed, especially of how they truly cared for each other. Those Masons were treated with respect, and they were trusted based on their integrity of character.
He went on to say that it was just as well that he had not been a Mason at that time. Not being bound to such a promise, he was able to escape and made his way to safety.
These 3 stories are from the Heredom Series of books produced by the Scottish Rite Research Society.
In my web searches and from my private library, I also found several interesting accounts of Masonic compassion being demonstrated during that War. One story was of an Alabama Artillery group, who were resting from a hard fought battle during the day prior that had lasted into to the late night hours, several being killed or wounded. After traveling to a field on the edge of a thicket of trees, they having assumed it to be a fairly safe place to rest and refresh them selves for the next battle.
The surviving men were exhausted and some fell into a deep sleep, while others engaged themselves in conversations, some inspecting their weapons and ammunition supplies, while yet others were attending the wounded.
A Corporal lay back against the trunk of an old pine tree, watching a flock of birds overhead while contemplating his thoughts of how he would prefer death, rather than being incarcerated in a Yankee prison camp, and at the same time admiring the Navy Colt pistol he had taken from the dead body of a Union Captain during the last battle.
He caught a glimpse of a reflection among the trees that he believed might a weapon. Now being of the highest rank, since the Commissioned Officer had been killed in the last battle, he called out to the men, “To your guns boys, git ready.”
He silently prayed;
Thou Oh God, know our down sittings and our uprisings, and understand our thoughts from afar off, shield and defend us from the evil intent of our enemies.
He grimaced in pain as he arose from the scaly bark of that old pine tree. He had been wounded twice in previous battles, the first time by a painful flesh wound to a leg, and the other by a piece of shrapnel from an exploded shell that hit him in the chest, knocking from his feet. When he finally looked at the wound he saw a jagged gash extending from the nipple to the collar bone.
He refused a hospital stay, choosing to remain with his comrades and within his duties as a soldier.
The Corporal again patted the Colt pistol in his waist band with assurance that he would do better with it, rather than with a heavy rifle. As he arose he looked with pride at the Masonic ring his father, now his Masonic Brother, had presented to him when he was made a Master Mason. He again called out to the troops, “Prepare for battle.”
He was suddenly confronted by a Yankee Lieutenant who from the tree line had noted what he perceived to be, a much weakened condition of the Corporal, and was apparently intent on capturing him alive if possible. They were now bound together in a death grip, both men showing unbelievable strength.
There’s probably no greater human horror than to be locked together with a person whom you know will kill you, if you don’t kill him first. “To kill or be killed” was a simple and familiar saying; but to actually be in that situation gave it much more meaning.
He was struggling to get to the Colt pistol, but being so tightly bound body to body, it was impossible. He somehow garnered a moment of extra strength, and as he pushed on the Lieutenant’s chest, he caught sight of a Masonic emblem, and without hesitation he muttered sounds into the ear of what he now believed to be a brother Mason. On the Lieutenant’s hearing the sounds, the death grip quickly became a brotherly embrace, both men now with tears in their eyes, for what could have resulted had not the discovery been made.
Another interesting story was of two opposing Generals, John Gordon of the Confederate Army and Francis Barlow of the Union Army. During a raging battle, General Gordon was crossing the bloodied field of battle, where he came upon General Barlow who had just received what was assumed to be a mortal wound. Even though the fierce battle was continuing all around them, Gordon took the time to show compassion for a fallen brother. He gave Barlow a drink of water and inquired as to what he might do for him. Barlow asked him to write a letter to his wife, which he dictated the words of his supposed, impending death.
Upon receipt of the letter his Lady traveled to retrieve his remains, but by then he had received medical care and was recovering to fight again. Several years later these two men met in Washington, D.C., both having assumed that the other had died during the war.
They enjoyed Masonic fellowship, sharing brotherly love and affection while remembering their many experiences. Their close friendship and brotherly love continued until death.
The practice of brotherly love, friendship and morality were also demonstrated in lesser famous military actions. In 1863, gun boats including the Albatross, were shelling a small Military port near Mandeville, Louisiana. The Captain of the Albatross was J. E. Hart who had been made a Mason in a Lodge in New York. This Brother had been suffering with pain, fever and delirium for several days, and during that ongoing battle, to ease his misery, he shot himself in the head, taking his own life.
A friend and Masonic Brother assumed command, and with much grief for the loss, he under a flag of truce, went onto land among those troops they had just been shelling, to inquire of any Masons among the troops and in the town. He asked them to assist him in the performing of Masonic Last Rites for a fallen brother. And whether it would have been considered proper or not, they gave him a most impressive Masonic Funeral. His remains were ceremoniously interned to their long home.
The Masons of the area placed a marker at the head of the grave, with the Masonic Square and Compasses most prominent, in honor of this departed Brother.
There are many reasons why freemasonry, more than any other fraternal organizations, has survived and thrived throughout the ages. Our tenants and devotions to them have made this possible. Our rules and customs have encourages us to show kindness and compassion for others, without expectations of anything in return.
The mental structure of which our Ancient and Honorable Craft is constructed, transcends all that would most likely cause a division among non-Masons.
We must live by our Masonic teachings and our values while looking to the inner goodness of a man, rather that that of the outer appearances, or any other distinctions. We must show love and compassion, assist the needy, lift up the downtrodden and spread Masonic love toward all of God’s people, without regards for ones religious faith, political leanings or any other personal differences that are of no business of our Fraternity, then we will have become the Masons we so desire to be.
These acts of brotherly love and compassion as mentioned herein, are just a few examples of how we Freemasons have demonstrated our devotions to the teachings of our Symbolic Craft, in wars as well as in times of peace.
May we, by use of the symbolism of the Masonic trowel, continue the spreading of that cement which units us into one common band of brothers and fellows, and may it some day become common among all good people throughout the world. Let the love and caring we share as Masonic Brothers never cease; and may it always be most predominate. May every moral and social virtue continue to bind us as a Masonic Fraternity of friends and brothers, with a spirit of charity imbedded in our hearts, much so as it was so well demonstrated by our Masonic Brothers, during that Civil War.
May love and compassion continue be observed by we Masons for the world to see, and hopefully it will someday be emulated by all of mankind around the world. And may these practices of love among mankind forever be observed.
Amen and so mote it be.
This piece comes to us from Brother W. B. Paul Weathers from Arizona. Br. Weathers was initiated, past and raised in the now defunct William Whiting Lodge in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He has been a member of Oasis Lodge #52 in Tucson, AZ for many years and is affiliated with the Grand Lodge of China (Valley of Taipei, Orient of Taiwan) under the Scottish Rite. He is a two term Past Master, Cryptic Mason/York Rite, member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, Eastern Star, Sabbar Shrine, High Twelve and the Sojourners. Active with the Grand Lodge of Arizona, Br. Weathers also manages a chest of medical assist devices for the elderly and needy and organizes a quarterly outing for Masonic widows and elderly couples.
The term which Freemasons apply to each other. Freemasons are Brethren, not only by common participation of the human nature, but as professing the same faith; as being jointly engaged in the same labors, and as being united by a mutual covenant or tie, whence they are also emphatically called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”
When our Savior designated his disciples as his brethren, he implied that there was a close bond of union existing between them, which idea was subsequently carried out by St . Peter in his direction to “love the brotherhood.” Hence the early Christians designated themselves as a brotherhood, a relationship unknown to the Gentile religions; and the ecclesiastical and other confraternities of the Middle Ages assumed the same title to designate any association of men engaged in the same common object, governed by the same rules, and united by an identical interest.
The association or Fraternity of Freemasons is, in this sense, called a brotherhood.
As the third writer on Freemason Information I’ll jump in with both feet and take a stab at this question. Both Tim & Greg have attempted to define Freemasonry as an intellectual enterprise of definition devoid of the feelings of individual Freemasons. And it is precisely those feelings that help define the Craft. Sometimes what counts is not reality but perception. One needs to get a sense of what motivates a person to join Freemasonry. Those reasons shed a lot of light on how Freemasonry is perceived, and how it is perceived is really what it is to flesh and bone human beings. The Craft then becomes not what one wants it to be but what it really is to its practitioners.
That is not to take to task my fellow writers for I do not disagree with their conclusions. I come not to bury Caesar but to praise him, which is a little twist on a famous quote. I just don’t think they take their cases far enough. Stewart tells us:
“As a fraternity, Tim’s conclusion is that while not a club, philanthropy, religion or political action committee, Freemasonry is a place where, and I’m paraphrasing here, moral men meet on common ground to act rightly to one another. He concludes saying that men gathered like this for no more reason than to associate so.”
“While I can’t find a disagreement on that conclusion, one has to ask gather to for what end?”
That’s a good question I will ask again and answer later. I don’t think Stewart ever really answered it. But first I would point out, as I have done many times before, that Freemasons are on different levels of Masonic development and practice. What one Freemason sees in the Craft another does not. What one man practices in Freemasonry another shuns. Some see Freemasonry as a philosophical society, some as a social organization, some as just a means to networking, some as a claim to prestige, some as a way of life and some as a bonding of like thinking human beings. I think what Stewart was saying is that they are all right.
What we perceive is shaped greatly by our personal experiences, our environment. I have had the pleasure to experience Prince Hall Freemasonry, unlike Bryce and Stewart who have not. And in that experience I have had the joy of some very tight bonding. Brothers in Prince Hall hug or embrace each other, always and often. There is a real concern for a Brother’s well being. We not only pray for a Brother in distress or mourning but we do the same for our sisters in OES and HOJ. We will not hesitate to provide direct aid. We tend to work together on projects outside of Freemasonry. There is one big word to describe this experience – FAMILY. In Prince Hall we are all family.
Now I am by no means putting down Mainstream Freemasonry in this regard. I am sure there is the same concern there. But to me and for me its “stiff upper lip” standoffness is a sharp contrast in demonstration of that concern.
I am at once reminded of the words of H.L. Haywood:
“Freemasonry does not exist in a world where brotherhood is a mere dream flying along the sky; it exists in a world of which brotherhood is the law of human life. Its function is not to bring brotherhood into existence just as a hot-house gardener may at last coax into bloom a frail flower, though the climate is most unfriendly, but to lead men to understand that brotherhood is already a reality, a law, and that it is not until we come to know it as such, and practice it, that we can ever find happiness, together. Freemasonry does not create something too fine and good for this rough world; it “reveals” something that is as much a part of the world as roughness itself. In other words, it removes the hoodwink of jealousy, hatred, unkindness, and all the other myriad forms of unbrotherliness in order that a man may see and thus come to know how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. The hoodwink of cloth or leather that is bound over a man’s eyes is not the real hoodwink at all, but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink, and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man’s eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that make life unkind and unhappy. “Brotherhood is heaven; the lack of brotherhood is hell.”
So Freemasonry is a brotherhood with camaraderie. OK, but what difference does it make what it is, isn’t it really all about what it does, especially for the individual Freemason? So what does Freemasonry provide to its members?
Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others’ gifts, accept each others’ limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others’ wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
I think Bryce & Stewart are trying to make the symptoms the disease.
So if Freemasonry is Community we are back to Stewart’s question we promised to answer, for what purpose? First of all to be Community. That’s enough of an explanation in itself. But to personalize it more to Freemasonry, to be a very special Community of morality and purpose with a message, to practice all of the above – all that has been written in all 3 articles on this subject.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts on what Freemasonry is in the comments below.
Freemasonry cannot serve two masters, the world and itself. The biggest mistake it has made is to listen to the whining attacks made by its detractors. Freemasonry just benefits Freemasons they say as if they had some claim on what we are, what we do and what we say. Our critics have embarrassed us, claiming that we are an exclusive, snobbish, selfish group that exists exclusively for the betterment of its members and that we show so much favoritism for each other that the result is a discrimination of the rest of society.
Thus post Vietnam War Freemasonry changed the focus of the Craft. Some of the changes came right after WWII but the Vietnam War era marked the rapid decline in membership that swung the pendulum of modern day Freemasonry squarely into the camp of Masonic revisionism.
What that involved is taking Freemasonry from a contemplative, learning, value orientated society to one of action, action for the betterment of society as a whole. Freemasonry did this partially to appease its critics and partially to adopt the Shrine model of recruitment. But appeasement didn’t work for Chamberlain in dealing with Hitler and it hasn’t worked to appease our detractors. Our critics are as vocal as ever. Meanwhile we have diluted and corrupted our beloved fraternity in order to try to please others or to take the easy way out in the area of growth.
The ancient mystery schools of Egypt, Greece and Rome, on which Freemasonry is modeled, did not try to be something to everybody. Rather they concentrated their efforts on improving their members through knowledge, instruction, brotherhood and spirituality.
Does that mean Freemasons should be a cloistered sect of Monks having no dealings with the outside world and no right to comment on anything civil or spiritual? The answer is No! We, as Freemasons, can get behind ideas but not policies. No marching in the streets or sponsorship of legislative bills for Freemasonry. Instead we can seek to educate the public on the ideals of political freedom and democratic government, public education, religious freedom with the separation of church and state and the worthiness of the individual. These were ideals imbued into Freemasonry from the Enlightenment from which Freemasonry arose.
Three main corruptions have come out of post Vietnam War Freemasonry.
Increased power of Grand Lodges at the expense of local Lodges
The marketing of Freemasonry
Charity to all mankind
In the modern era Grand Lodges and Grand Masters have assumed powers never before granted to them. Some Grand Lodges are running wild squashing dissent, stifling creativity and purging the ranks of any and all who do not toe the line. In the process they have, in order to save the fraternity they tell us, foisted upon Freemasonry the evils of marketing Freemasonry which removes from Freemasonry the ability to practice Freemasonry and extensive Self Perpetuating Institutionalized giveaways to civil society that is bankrupting the fraternity. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is a prime example of a Grand Lodge so into Institutionalized charity and running a complex health system out of multiple locations that it has had to drastically increase Grand Lodge dues and assessments to its charted Lodges in order to pay for its excesses. See Massachusetts to Double Dues?
Do we have to beg the community to notice us and in the process try to market Freemasonry or do we create a better Order internally and let membership grow by word of mouth? Do we have to try to convince someone to become a Mason or do we create such a good product that the worthy uninitiated will come in large numbers knocking on our door of their own free will and accord? Do we have to try to save the world or can we be content with taking care of our own without being made to feel guilty? Do we exist to march in parades, raise funds for the Cancer Society or the Heart Fund and run CHIP programs for civil society or are we here for Brothers in need, our widows and orphans and scholarships for our young? Do we intend, forever, to let our critics portray us as a religion? Do we intend to let non Masons set the agenda for Master Masons? Can we learn how to survive as we downsize?
Plainly we are not an action society; we are a self improvement brotherhood. The road to sustainable growth is returning Freemasonry into a sharing Brotherhood who cares for itself and revives itself by doing a better job of inculcating its ideals, virtues and tenets into its membership, by decentralizing its governance, by stop trying to sell Freemasonry as one sells used cars and by leaving the saving of the world to others.
Once upon a time, organizations like Freemasonry were one of the most common forms of entertainment. Fraternities and community organizations offered a getaway from the daily routine and a chance to network with individuals that a person might not typically meet. Regardless of how much Freemasons talk about the necessity of education in our lodges—which is an issue that I regularly address—the truth is that the success of Freemasonry and other organizations is largely attributed to the fact that men are social creatures.
It seems that every time I attempt to answer the question “Why are you a Freemason?” I try to answer it by talking about my desire to seek self improvement through Freemasonry’s philosophy and allegorical lessons. But after stumbling through a long dissertation on that particular subject, I almost always come back to an easier reply: “Because Freemasonry has given me the opportunity to meet and associate with men of the finest character.”
Since I have become a Freemason, the constant focus of the Masonic organizations that I have been involved with has been how to attract new men to the fraternity and bring Brothers that don’t attend lodge back to our meetings. Many Brothers blame the fact that there are many other forms of entertainment available in today’s society. There is a lot of truth in this assumption because the way that people socialize has changed with technology. There was a time when a man would have to join an organization like Freemasonry in order to have a place to go and converse with other men sharing the same interests. Now, people can get home from work and plop down in front of the computer to spend an evening on Facebook.
I have heard a lot of my Brothers claim that the people who would rather spend time on Facebook or any other form of social media than come to a lodge meeting don’t know what they are missing. But what are they missing? Let’s take a look at what Facebook offers. There are no awkward introductions with Facebook, if you want to add someone as a friend you simply have to click your mouse. Anyone that has filled out a petition for Masonry knows that it can be intimidating to be the “new guy” and many seasoned Freemasons have to admit that visiting an unfamiliar lodge can make you feel like you don’t fit in. When you lose contact with a friend on Facebook, it is simple to write a brief message on their wall or check their status. If you lose contact with your Masonic lodge, it can sometimes be difficult to stay up to date with all of the lodge’s events. Finally, Facebook offers each person the ability to proudly show off their individuality. A person can proclaim everything about themselves on Facebook and show who they are as an individual. Unfortunately, our lodges don’t always offer this same opportunity to our Brothers. We show up, conduct our meeting, and leave without giving us a chance to show who we are or learn about the lives of our Brethren.
So when a man must make a decision between spending an evening on-line checking up on all of his Facebook friends or going to lodge only to make awkward conversation with somebody he doesn’t know very well and be just another Mason sitting through another lodge meeting, which one will he choose?
Maybe our lodges should be a little more like Facebook. Maybe we should spend a little less time having meetings and a little more time socializing. We should spend more time getting to know who our Brothers are, what they do for a living, and what they do for fun. The more we learn about our Brothers, the more likely it is that we will find that we have something in common. When we have something in common, we might just find that we can have a more interesting evening at the lodge than spending an evening on Facebook.
Let’s make sure that our lodges are reading and writing on the figurative Facebook wall of our Brothers’ lives. Let’s make fellowship and social networking a focus in our fraternity.
We have heard over and over that Freemasonry is a Brotherhood. That it is a fraternity. We use the term Masonic Family when referring to the group of organizations associated with Masonry. But it often seems that we use these terms out of habit, without any sense of meaning behind the words that are coming out of our mouths.
I can think of countless lodge meetings that I have attended where we recognize men as Brother Smith or Worshipful Brother Jones. We use the term Brother so often that we become desensitized to its meaning. Soon the word ‘Brother’ becomes little more than a substitute for ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir.’ Perhaps this is a failing of our institution’s protocol or perhaps it is our own fault for overusing this word. But in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’d like to talk a little bit about what the word ‘Brother’ means to me.
A Brother is your next of kin. He is more than a friend, he is your own flesh and blood. A man for which you would lay down your life. In the Masonic lodge, the term refers to the men of that mystic tie, that solemn obligation which we have all taken. This obligation is more than just a formality or organizational oath. The obligation is a pledge to be true to God, to yourself, and to your neighbor. The obligation is our promise to live and act virtuously and to love our fellow man. When we assume this obligation, we are declaring that we wish to be in the company of men who share the same values and ideals. By uniting ourselves with this honorable pledge, we become Brothers of that ancient and honorable clan: the Freemasons.
Unfortunately, we find that throughout history that relationships between brothers have not always been worthy of emulation. Two of the greatest examples of this are found in the Old Testament. We read of Cain murdering Abel in Genesis and when God inquires about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain replies “Am I my Brother’s keeper?” We learn that Jacob was willing to trick his father Isaac in order to obtain Esau’s blessing. We need not look far to see similar actions occurring today. Our Masonic lodges are full of Brothers who resent each other out of jealousy or are too proud to meet each another upon the level. We have arguments and feuds over lodge business and we often neglect our fellow Masons in need of relief.
During the Christmas holiday, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus who would grow up to become a leader that espoused the ideals of Brotherhood. Of all the lessons that Jesus taught, the most important is undoubtedly his new commandment: love one another. This is exactly what we as Freemasons and as Brothers should do. For if we love one another we will act by the square, we will circumscribe our desires, and we will give relief to our worthy Brother Masons. If we use the word ‘Brother’ not out of habit, but out of love, we will truly be a Masonic family. And by loving one another, we can understand the spirit of that solemn obligation.
One of the tenets of our profession is Brotherly Love and I propose that we all make this theme our focus for the new year. Let us make love a bigger part of the Masonic equation and let us focus on the meaning of being a Brotherhood.
My Brothers, love one another.
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Early last year I lost my father, a 57 year Mason. I had the pleasure of calling him “Brother,” as he raised me to the sublime degree of Master Mason many years ago. He was a loyal Mason and we gave him a Masonic Memorial Service that was well attended by Brothers from Florida’s Districts 20 & 21. His home lodge, Lodge of the Ancient Landmarks No. 441 F.& A.M. of Buffalo, New York was also represented. This was certainly appreciated by my family and I know my father would have liked it.
Having said this, my thoughts turn to Masonic funeral services in general. I have attended many such services over the years and I have found them to be greatly appreciated by the families of the deceased. Many are overwhelmed by the love and support the Masons express during the service. As far as I’m concerned, attending a Masonic service is the very least we can do for a Brother, regardless if he is a local member or from a distant jurisdiction. I am always amazed how some Brothers are unwilling to attend such a service. Many mistakenly believe they have to belong to an Acacia/funeral committee in order to participate. In reality, it is our duty as a Mason to attend such a service whether we know the Brother or not. I realize some services are performed during the day when many of us are working and unable to attend. But aside from this, if there is a Masonic service to be performed, and our cable-tow permits us, we should be in attendance.
Many claim they simply are unaware of the passing of Brothers. All you need to do is browse the obituaries of the local newspapers, either the printed form or on the Internet. As for me, I have bookmarked the obituary sections of the local newspapers and regularly scan them using keywords such as “Mason” and “Lodge.” When I come upon a Brother from a northern jurisdiction, I e-mail the obit to his Grand Lodge and, if I can find it, his home Lodge. As a past Secretary myself, I know this is very much appreciated.
Regardless if you scan the obits on the Internet or in the printed version, there should be at least one person in your Lodge charged with monitoring the passing of Masons. Although the Worshipful Master should be made aware of the passing of a Brother, the responsibility is typically delegated to the Secretary, the Chaplain, or the chairman of your funeral committee.
Also Brothers, please dress properly for a funeral. In Florida, for example, it is customary to wear a dark suit and tie; a tuxedo is not considered appropriate, nor are dungarees and shorts. Plain white aprons are the norm, not Lodge officer or Past Master aprons. Funeral committees usually make aprons available to Masons attending the service, but you may also want to bring your own in case they run short of aprons.
Prior to the funeral, the Brother’s Masonic background should be verified by his home jurisdiction, so that we might know more about the Brother and assure he is in good standing with his Lodge.
If you become involved with a committee charged with performing a Masonic funeral service, be sure you know your responsibilities, your lines (if any) and how to deport yourself during the service. Rehearsals are invaluable to assure the service comes off polished and dignified. Further, talk with the clergy or funeral directors involved prior to the service to assure the ceremony is well organized and runs like clockwork.
Attending or performing a Masonic service is not complicated, nor is it time consuming. And I can tell you this, a little dignity, a little polish, and a little sympathy is very much appreciated by the family of our departed Brother.
Keep the Faith.
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS email@example.com Palm Harbor, Florida, USA “A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry” Originally published on FmI in 2007
NOTE: As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
Before reading this article, I would like to make one more plea asking you to fill out my York Rite Survey. The results of this survey will be used to help me develop a program to help the York Rite in my jurisdiction and hopefully the benefits will extend beyond my state. Anyone can fill it out, it is crucial that I get more responses from non-York Rite Masons. Please provide me with some brotherly relief and take two minutes to fill out this survey. Thank you.
I was having my coffee and enjoying my Sunday morning while watching a recent rerun of an episode of The Colbert Report when the show suddenly caught my attention. Colbert’s guest was Robert Wright who has written a book entitled The Evolution of God. This is a topic that I have long been fascinated with because as I have studied the Bible over the years, I have noticed how the depiction of God evolves throughout the history of the Hebrews and eventually gets a huge makeover when Jesus begins to teach.
The God that Abraham served was extremely personal and was even willing to appear to Abraham as a human, almost like a personal angel. The God of Moses was wrathful. The God of David was often a warrior. Then as the Bible transfers to the New Testament, God becomes a universal being who exists for all of creation. This evolution is not unique to the religions which look to the books of the Bible for enlightenment, mankind is continually making God into a more loving and universal creature. Polytheism and idolatry are types of worship which continually keep disappearing and our society is now starting to make the leap from Deism to agnosticism and eventually atheism. While I have not yet read Robert Wright’s book, he explains that he came to a similar conclusion in his interview with Colbert.
This is a topic that is very relevant to Freemasonry. As Freemasons, we have carried the banner of universality in spirituality for nearly three centuries. There are very few places in the world where men of all creeds can sit in harmony and recognize each other as equals and not judge a man based on his own religious choices. Oh sure, there are plenty of examples of Freemasons that don’t understand this and erroneously regard Freemasonry as a Christian organization, but the knowledgeable Mason understands the fallacy of this idea. It is crucial that Freemasons understand the critical role of the organization in creating peaceful relations among men of all beliefs.
In this age of combative 24-hour news and increased divisiveness in issues such as religion and politics, it is crucial for Freemasons to remain the peacemakers. This is an idea that Albert Pike expounds upon in the 6th degree of the Scottish Rite and the American York Rite gives an example of peaceful religious relations in the Order of the Red Cross, when Darius offers his protection to the Jews so that they can rebuild the temple of their God. Of course, these ideas are well covered by the symbol of the Master Mason’s trowel. As society evolves and the perception of God evolves with it, Freemasons should be happy to be at the forefront of the fight for religious understanding and equality.
Today’s men can use a place to go to escape from religious and political bickering and enjoy fellowship with men of all walks of life which are bound to aid, support, and protect each other. I plan on buying a copy of the book The Evolution of God and gaining some insight into mankind’s perception of Deity. After all, couldn’t understanding someone else’s perspective do us all some good?
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