Are you a Professional Mason?

In my journey through the world of the Freemasons, I have identified three different types of Master Masons, which are as follows:

ANONYMOUS MASONS

These are the Masons who loyally pay their test fees but are never seen in the Lodge.  They are either unable to attending (perhaps living too far away or whose interest has waned), or they joined for the Order in the hopes that it might help their public or private avocations. Lodge Secretaries are familiar with the Brother’s name, but cannot place a face to it.

AMATEUR MASONS

This Mason may occasionally make an appearance in the Lodge, send in a donation for a worthy Masonic cause, or read a book or article pertaining to the fraternity. They truly like being a Mason but fail to make a major commitment to it, such as becoming an officer bearer or serving on a committee.

Most do not progress beyond the Blue degrees decrying the appendant orders as not true Masonry and they are the first to complain when the test fees are increased or if the Lodge doesn’t look quite right. Instead of becoming more active and finding out the cause of any problems in the Lodge, they find it easier to complain from the sidelines thereby disrupting harmony.

PROFESSIONAL MASONS

In every Lodge there is a handful of Brothers you can count on for leadership and to lend a hand when the chips are down. They are intimate with the mechanics of the fraternity and do not hesitate to step forward when needed, they help mentor younger and less experienced Brothers so they may grow and take their place in the Lodge hierarchy.

The Professional Mason is not a zealous control freak with a huge ego, but rather is unselfish and appreciates the power of teamwork and the tenets of Freemasonry. He rightfully understands that Freemasonry is more about  the overall Brotherhood as opposed to the glory of a single individual.

In order to be a PROFESSIONAL MASON he must posses these Six Masonic Virtues:-

Balance, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Truth and Faith

To discuss the virtue of Balance we need only look to the mosaic pavement of a lodge, which is discussed in a lecture during the Entered Apprentice degree, where it is stated that it is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple and is emblematic of human life, chequered with good and evil.

Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry describes it as “The mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is classed among the ornaments of the lodge along with the indented tessel and the blazing star. Its party-coloured stones of black and white have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life.”

So the newly entered apprentice armed with this information, can see that the concept of duality has played a part in Masonic symbolism since the very beginning of the order. While this duality is not often discussed in blue lodge ritual, it is covered in the appendant order,  the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The AASR mentions this concept numerous times in its degrees and it  makes the ideas of dualism, or opposition, in the universe an important part of its degrees using elements and ideas from the Kabbala to discuss this concept in detail.

The lecture pertaining to the 15th Degree, Knight of the East and West, discusses the idea of duality or good and evil as a conflict. Albert Pike, the famous 19th Century American Freemason wrote “God is great, and good, and wise. Evil and pain and sorrow are temporary, and for wise and beneficent purposes, Ultimately, Good will prevail, and Evil be overthrown.”

But while this idea of duality and the conflict between good and evil are cause for contemplation, it can be confusing to understand how they apply to our actions as Freemasons.

When thinking about the idea of duality and the concept of good and evil, black and white, sacred and profane, an image that immediately comes to mind is that of the Yin-Yang. While this symbol has become a pop culture icon in recent times, its symbolism is deep and its meaning applicable to this subject. While it has numerous interpretations, the yin-yang demonstrates the concept of duality and balance.

Balance is an important term because of the position of the mosaic pavement : the floor, where the foundation of the erect human body may be found. When a Entered Apprentice the Mason is taught to avoid irregularity and intemperance and to divide his time equally by the use of the twenty-four inch gauge. These lessons refer to the importance of balance in a Mason’s life. Therefore, the symbolism of the mosaic pavement could be interpreted to mean that balance provides the foundation for our Masonic growth.

Maintaining balance allows us to adhere to many Masonic teachings. By maintaining balance, we may be able to stand upright in our several stations before God and man. The Entered Apprentice is charged to keep balance in his life so that he may ensure public and private esteem. It is also very interesting that the concept of justice is represented by a scale which is balanced and that justice is described as being the foundation of civil society in the first degree of Masonry.

To discuss our next four virtues, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Truth – we need to find an answer to the following question

Which is the greatest  The strength of wine, the power of Kings, or the influence of women?

Those of us that have been received as a Knight of the Red Cross of Babylon will recognize this question. In the degree, King Darius asks this question and a discussion ensues between Zerubbabel and the other guards on the correct answer. This answer to this question brings some major concepts to light for all Freemasons.

“And when they had eaten and drunken, and being satisfied were gone home, then Darius the king went into his bedchamber, and slept, and soon after awaked. Then three young men, that were of the guard that kept the king’s body, spake one to another; Let every one of us speak a sentence: he that shall overcome, and whose sentence shall seem wiser than the others, unto him shall the king Darius give great gifts, and great things in token of victory! The first wrote, Wine is the strongest. The second wrote, The king is strongest. The third wrote, Women are strongest: but above all things Truth beareth away the victory.” (1 Esdras 3:3-12)

Throughout the rest of the third and fourth chapters, the discussion relating to these questions take place. Not surprisingly, the man which states that “Truth beareth away the victory” is considered the victor.

For the Freemason, these four influences may be applied to the four cardinal virtues which are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice.

The strength of wine leads to disregarding the concept of temperance. This virtue instructs the Mason to “avoid excess, or contracting any licentious or vicious habit.”   However, the strength of wine encourages indulging in excess and creates vicious several vicious habits. The guard who claimed that wine is the strongest defends his thesis by saying:

“It maketh the mind of the king and of the fatherless child to be all one – It turneth also every thought into jollity and mirth, so that a man remembereth neither sorrow nor debt: And it maketh every heart rich, so that a man remembereth neither king nor governor; and it maketh to speak all things by talents: And when they are in their cups, they forget their love both to friends and brethren, and a little after draw out swords” (1 Esdras 3:19-22)

The power of kings requires that the virtue of fortitude be considered. The virtue of fortitude is described in Masonic ritual as “that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril or danger, when prudentially deemed expedient.”

The Guard who claimed that the king is the strongest, postulates about the king:

“And yet he is but one man: if he command to kill, they kill; if he command to spare, they spare; If he command to smite, they smite; if he command to make desolate, they make desolate; if he command to build, they build; If he command to cut down, they cut down; if he command to plant, they plant.” (1 Esdras 4:7-9)

These sentences can describe only one thing: absolute tyranny. Fortitude is that virtue which admonishes the Freemason to resist the efforts of tyranny to influence him to forsake his own morals. The strength of kings does not refer only the power of monarchs, but the power of any person who may use their influence for unscrupulous purposes.

The influence of women mandates that the virtue of prudence be observed. Masonic tradition states that this virtue “teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge, and prudentially determine, on all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness.”  Does not the lust for women cause the Mason to momentarily consider forgetting the dictates of reason or sacrifice a happy future for a moment of pleasure?

The man who makes this assertion says: “Yea, many there be that have run out of their wits for women, and become servants for their sakes. Many also have perished, have erred, and sinned, for women (1 Esdras 4:26-27).”

Certainly, the lure of peculiar form and beauty will influence a man to disregard the virtue of prudence.

However, the third guard who asserts that the influence of women defeats the strength of wine or kings also states that truth is the victor over all of these influences. This is consistent with the Masonic view of justice, which the ritual states “is the very cement and support of civil society.” For justice to be served, the truth must be ascertained. The man who introduces this argument to the conversation says that:

“As for the truth, it endureth, and is always strong; it liveth and conquereth for evermore. With her there is no accepting of persons or rewards; but she doeth the things that are just, and refraineth from all unjust and wicked things; and all men do well like of her works. Neither in her judgment is any unrighteousness; and she is the strength, kingdom, power, and majesty, of all ages. Blessed be the God of truth.” (1 Esdras 4:38-40)

Truth leads to justice and to overcoming the vices presented by the strength of wine, the power of kings, and the influence of women. Only through truth can the problems created by the influences be identified and corrected. It provides the support of civil society and is even symbolically represented by the feet, the foundation of the body. Therefore, truth is certainly the victor.

To discuss the virtue of Faith let us examine the following passage, which will more than likely spark the interest of those who have been consecrated as Knights of the Temple

The LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.  and I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” Isaiah 8:1

The name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz is defined in the New International Version of the Bible as

“quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.”

Considering the last part of the piece of scripture quoted above, this definition does not seem odd. But when considering its place in the Order of the Temple, this meaning does not seem to make much sense.

However, this passage from scripture is actually referring to information found in the seventh chapter  of the book of Isaiah. In this chapter, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah, son of Ramaliah King of Israel, have decided to fight Jerusalem and overtake the city. Ahaz, the king of Judah, is troubled by these events, but God sends Isaiah to tell Ahaz:

“It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Isaiah 7:7-9

These pieces of scripture are relevant to the period during the Order of the Temple when the candidate is symbolically serving his three years as a pilgrim warrior. A pilgrim is a person that is on a spiritual quest, a religious journey. He is a traveler who has humbled himself and whose piety has urged him to seek a holy destination. As a warrior, he is engaged in a cause or conflict. Therefore, the ninth verse of the seventh chapter of Isaiah couldn’t be more applicable: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

But what is faith? Is it that blind belief of something that can not be proven? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

However, this makes the word faith, as found in Isaiah, seem rather worthless. Considering this definition, without an irrational belief in something with no empirical evidence, you will not stand at all. But what if faith is something more?

The Knight of the Temple should exhibit wisdom, strength, and beauty in all that he does. If you have no faith in God, you have no wisdom; if you have no faith in yourself, you have no strength; if others have no faith in you, you have no beauty. Therefore, if you have no wisdom, strength, or beauty, you will not stand at all.

Perhaps the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz really means that without this wisdom, strength, and beauty your life will be easily plundered and spoiled.

Once the PROFESSIONAL MASON has demonstrated these six virtues I finally contend that these are the seven mistakes he must avoid making:-

1. Ritual Without Meaning

Far Too many ANONYMOUS or AMATEUR MASONS are more concerned about performing the ritual perfectly without a true understanding of what it means!

Ritual for the sake of tradition is worthless. Ritual for the sake of enlightenment is valuable.

An understanding of the ritual’s meaning is far more important than and ability to just memorizing it.

2. Fellowship without Frivolity

Whenever Masons decide to hold a function for fellowship, a discussion typically ensues about how to make the function have the smallest impact on the lodge’s finances and the wallets of the members. This results in paper plates, meager meals, boring and less well attended events. To spend money wisely in order to make fellowship a grand time is wise for the lodge that wants to be successful.

Also we do not have to be slaves to form, endlessly repeating the same toasts and replies – we should reward individuality and creativity in order to keep our meetings alive and fun!

3. Quantity without Quality

A lodge with seven PROFESSIONAL MASONS that believe in the Masonic ideals and actively strive to improve  themselves and their lodge is far better off than a lodge with one hundred ANONYMOUS or AMATEUR members.

4. Education without Philosophy

Many Masons tend to think of Masonic education as being a lesson on the local lodge’s history, a famous Mason, the history of the world wide fraternity, or how to do the ritual properly. But if no philosophy is covered in Masonic education, then little self improvement will be accomplished.

Discussing Masonic lessons in terms of philosophy, ideas, and a man’s conduct is what truly transforms men into Masons. It is important to discuss topics that are foreign to a lodge’s membership and it is sometimes even necessary to challenge our preconceived ideologies through Masonic education.

Not every valuable lesson can be taught in the craft lodges and many others are spread throughout the Appendant Orders – The purpose of the Craft lodges is to inspire Men to seek the Royal Arch and to take up the sword of the Templars!

5. Charity without Connection

Big charities often require that fund raisers be conducted and large checks written to the people that actually perform the charity. This type of charity offers no self improvement because it has no real connection to us or our life.

If we extend our hands to our needed Brethren and devote our own skills and time to their problems, then we are engaging in true, meaningful charity.

6. Frugality without Discretion

Frugality is not a tenet of Freemasonry, a cardinal virtue, or a Landmark. It is acceptable for the lodge to spend its funds on worthwhile activities that will enhance the Masonic experience of its Brethren.

Not everything should be done in the cheapest way, a habit to which we have become accustomed.

7. Leadership without Competence

A man does not deserve to be master of the lodge, chapter or preceptory solely because he has spent a certain amount of years attending meetings or because he is next in line. We elect our leaders without any regard for the skills that they possess in order to function in that capacity.

In the Craft Lodge,  80% of the work is performed by the PROFESSIONAL MASONS, and the remaining 20% is squeezed out of the AMATEUR and ANONYMOUS Masons.

Many Lodges suffer when they lose too many PROFESSIONAL MASONS and another danger is when an AMATEUR MASON rises and is elected to the East. This type of person is more interested in obtaining a Past Master’s apron, than doing anything of substance.   We must take care to ensure that only competent and qualified men are elected to preside over us.

Throughout this Blog I have referred to Craft Lodges as Blue Lodges, here is the colour scheme for all Freemasonry

BLUE the colour of the Symbolic Masons who were Initiated, Passed and Raised to construct the Temple of the Lord,

RED the colour of the Capitular Perfecters of the Temple who were Advanced, Acknowledged and Exalted with true knowledge,

GREEN the colour of the Cryptic Royal & Select Guardians who were Honoured. Chosen and Greeted to preserve the true knowledge for all the ages,

PURPLE is the colour of the Rosicrucians who Illuminate the hidden mysteries of science, nature and art,

BLACK the colour of the Chivalric Knights who were Received, Created and Consecrated to defend the Temple,

WHITE the colour of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests who tend the lord in the Temple.

A ANONYMOUS MASON will almost always be BLUE, a AMATEUR MASON will rarely advance above RED or GREEN but a PROFESSIONAL MASON will be ultimately driven through all the colours of Freemasonry, aiming one day to join the White Lodges.

So, the question arises, “What kind of Mason are you?”

I guess it ultimately comes down to why you joined the fraternity. If you are truly seeking further light, then you are on the right path and if care is taken to avoid the seven mistakes you will make a great and valuable Freemason.  If not, you will probably be nothing more than an AMATEUR or worse an ANONYMOUS Mason, and we have too many of them in the craft already.