Masonic Meals

By: Ed Mortensen, Secretary

Some of the best fellowship is to be had at meals. There are formal meals and informal meals in Masonry. Some require you to be a Mason; some are for everyone.

The Steward’s Dinner

Every month, before the Lodge business meeting, the Lodge (especially the Stewards) hosts a dinner. For $10, you join members and those investigating the fraternity in a meal usually prepared by a Lodge member.

This is an opportunity for fellowship and finding out more about the fraternity and the brothers.

The Table Lodge

Just for members of the fraternity, this formalized dinner is a combination meal and business meeting.

The format of the meal and meeting differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but is a tiled affair. This means that the event is formally opened under one of Masonry’s degrees and is only attended by members of the fraternity.

Some business is typically conducted, and there are formal toasts as part of the program.

The Festive Board

Not necessarily for just members (although typically so), the Festive Board is another formalized dinner, this time scripted (in Utah) and is a celebration of the craft.

There are typically seven toasts throughout the meal, and these can be with alcohol or other beverage. (It is up to the Junior Warden to remind the Brothers of temperance.)

This meal can be catered or prepared locally, but it is a big deal and should be a feast.

The meal is served in courses and often has an educational feature.

Menus

Meals in the fraternity are a big deal and should be a feast to celebrate the craft.

Damascus Lodge prefers to make these meals ourselves (but we do occasionally cater).

It is tough to really go all out on a budget, but frugal Brothers have often outdone themselves and served a really great meal.

The menu can be as simple as a salad, spaghetti, garlic bread, or as fancy as a crab boil. We have had chicken tikka masala, stir fry, curry, fajitas, Dutch oven fare, and J Dawg style premium hot dogs.

As a Fundraiser

Typically, fraternity meals are zero-sum affairs, but occasionally we go all out with the meal, host a big-name speaker, and charge double to benefit a charity.

There are a few Masonic charities (sponsored by the Grand Lodge Almoner’s Fund, Scottish Rite, Shriner’s, and York Rite) or an “outside” charity.

This can be a Burn’s Supper or other annual events to benefit a tax-exempt community charity.

Charitable Works

By: Ed Mortensen, Secretary

Masonry isn’t just about hanging out as guys and diving into the esoterica of the symbolism of the order; it is also about service and bettering yourself.

One way to do that is to get involved in the community. Not as a recruiting tool, but to be better as a human being and to be of service to our fellow man.

The Master Builder Program

There is an annual award available to Lodges called The Master Builder Program. This is a list of things a Lodge should do to show it is vital and active.

One of the items on the list is service to the community. This service is important enough for the state organization to call it out as a vital activity of a well-functioning Lodge. This is a big hint as to its importance.

Spending Time in the Community

Perhaps the most critical element of charitable works is to spend time in the community.

Some argue that this raises awareness of the Fraternity and is a valuable recruiting tool.

I argue that we aren’t enough about charity to use this as a recruiting vehicle. Community involvement isn’t really what we are about to use as an apt representation of the Fraternity.

Spending time in the community is more about making better men.

Where should this personal time be spent? Well, Damascus Lodge has served breakfast to the homeless community. Here is an excellent example of selfless service.

Another thing we’ve discussed is volunteering at the local Food Bank. This is particularly apt during this time of COVID-19 and the resulting need in the community.

Saint Andrews Lodge keeps up a local Masonic graveyard. Not precisely our target audience, right? But it is service to the memory of Masons that have gone before us.

There are several charities in the community, many of which need bodies to continue their good works.

Spending Money on the Community

Charities also need money to continue to operate. Look at how they spend their money and how much goes directly to their work. Some have such massive overhead that they might not be the most effective way to spend the modest amount of money we have that is available to the community.

One thing Damascus has discussed is, again, the local Food Bank. $500 is a big chunk of our available funds but will go a long way to helping the community. A Food Bank can really stretch a dollar, and it would be money well spent by the Lodge.

Damascus also has something that other Lodges don’t have, the Condie Fund. The Bruce and Katy Condie Fund sets aside up to $6,000 a year to serve the community, $500 from there for a Food Bank is an excellent way to spend that money. The Condie Fund also benefits local college students, especially those related to Masons. Both of these make a significant impact.

CHIP ID and Bikes for Books

Two initiatives by the Grand Lodge are the CHIP ID program and the Bikes for Books program.

Both of these serve the local community.

The CHIP ID program works with local law enforcement to record data like photos and fingerprints of community youth should the worst happen and go missing. Here is a packet of information that parents keep should this ever happen. The cost is relatively low, and a booth can be set up at a local fair. 

Despite the name, this program is not a data chip like that which is injected in a pet. 

One argument is that it raises awareness of the Fraternity, but I argue that that is not the program’s primary value.

The other is the Bikes for Books program. This encourages literacy by entering students into a lottery for each book they read during the school year.

There is much debate in the Lodge about how effective this is, who it really benefits, and how. We haven’t reached a consensus about this, but it is on our radar.

Utah County Taxes

Something that has just come up is that Utah County is moving to start charging property taxes on non-profit organizations’ buildings.

We need to be able to argue that we are doing service to the county’s population and charities if we are going to effectively argue against such taxes.

These taxes are not budgeted for and would either dramatically raise our dues or risk losing our building.

By tracking dollars and time spent in the community, we might prove our value and convince the county to waive these taxes.

This is closely watched by the Grand Lodge since other Counties may follow Utah County to tax our Lodge buildings.

If we spend money on taxes, we have much less to spend in the community.

Extending Charity… To Yourself

By: Lance Card, Senior Deacon, Damascus Lodge #10 F&AM of Utah

Faith, Hope, and Charity. These are the three Masonic Graces most commonly displayed to the Public. Of these three, the greatest is Charity. Often, when we think of charity, our many philanthropic associations come to mind, or the lessons learned in the Entered Apprentice degree are what we focus on. Within this article, I’m going to recommend to you another kind of Charity. A charity is often one of the most difficult to give. Charity to yourself. 

Overcoming the Impression of Selfishness

The thought of applying charity to oneself is likely mistaken as selfishness. Indeed, when the subject of charity is brought up people tend to think of the most common definitions of the word; organizations whose design is to generate money, food, clothing, housing, etc. for people in need; volunteering time, money, or goods to such organizations; even generosity in judgment, a kindness, and consideration of a fellow human being. Each of these definitions is pointedly external in nature. The noble characteristic of charity seems to be solely the domain of the exterior, a gift to others, certainly not to be applied to oneself.

My contention is that without applying charity to yourself, you cannot fully apply it to others and are then thusly incapable of fully and genuinely understanding the principle as it is taught in Freemasonry.

As an organization bent on the singular purpose of guiding good men along the path of becoming better men, we naturally attract those who are subject to introspect. Men who consider their own shortcomings with open and honest eyes truly need the leniency of Self Charity, for there isn’t one amongst us who can claim perfection. Every day brings with it new opportunities to improve, but it also delivers to each of us a laundry list of errors in behavior, thought, and assumption.

A man once said to me when considering joining the Fraternity, “I am already very aware of my failures, why would I want another organization to point them out to me?” Various iterations of this phrase are birthed in the minds of men on a more frequent basis than we are likely aware. We must learn to daily apply compassion, kindness, tenderness, understanding, and gracious forgiveness to ourselves. We must practice Self Charity.

The Power of Self Charity

One changed heart can be a light for many. – L.M. Fields

Our exterior reflects our interior condition. Our spiritual health and growth are equally as important as our physical and mental condition. When our spirit is shadowed and harried by self-deprecation, self-loathing, self-doubt, self-disappointment, or any other negative pallor, such is the ambiance of our character. We exude the paint of our soul. Some call this an aura, some accept it as mood, others still associate this feeling as, “something just isn’t right with that person.” 

When we are light of heart, having forgiven ourselves our shortcomings, we become approachable. We are liberated from the burdens of error, repentant of our mistakes, and painted in warmer, more inviting colors of the soul. People with which we interact are aware of this disposition and are drawn to it. Unladen, we make great strides in self-improvement—markedly so—and this too is recognized by our associations. 

People are drawn to Light, and when we apply Caritas to ourselves, we can glow.

How To Apply Self Charity

A simple concept, Self Charity, yet many struggle against their own minds when attempting to engage in the practice. Dr. Robert Enright, Ph.D., wrote, “Self-forgiveness is not quite the same as forgiving other people, although both have common features. When forgiving others, you struggle to be good to those who are not good to you. When you self-forgive, you offer, perhaps for the first time in years, a love for the self even though you let yourself down by your actions.”

That’s the first step; you must forgive yourself, and this could very well be a daily or even hourly process. Obviously, this is an exercise in and of itself, and there are many books, Ted Talks, and podcasts that cover various methodologies. Compiling information from these different sources results in the following:

  1. Two of the greatest enemies of growth and change are arrogance and ignorance. Zen Buddhists have a great proverb that illustrates this: “Face reality and effortless change will take place.”
  2. Be intrigued by your behavior, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. Be detectives who explore the mystery of the self. One Ted Talk suggests, when the inner critic starts pounding away, know that your inner nurturer is a refuge and an ally. Observe and note the way that your inner critic behaves and chart courses that lead you around those reefs to the safe harbor of your inner nurturer. You must be the Jane Goodall in your own mind. Make a record of your responses and behaviors, don’t run from them, don’t hide them. You will only overcome through the application of a scientific remedy that nurtures your soul, and you can only achieve this through a scientific process.
  3. Talk to yourself and about yourself, the way you talk to someone you care about. Inner monologues happen all the time. Take control of the monologue, remove the inner critic from the driver’s seat. Try regarding your inner critic as something that lacks credibility—imagine it as a ridiculous character, like a silly cartoon villain. Argue against your inner critic to win. 
  4. Recognize that beliefs do not equal truths. Beliefs and feelings better serve you as supporting characters in your play of life. Too often, human beings allow their feelings and their beliefs to drive their actions and words when the better method is to establish a position from logic and develop your ideas from this position. When you do this—again, debating against the inner critic—you begin to see truths, and these truths win over self-condemnation.
  5. Embrace the concept of “good enough.” Perfection is the domain of deity. Yes, striving for perfection is admirable, but to think you can attain it in this life is foolish. Inventory your strengths and learn to accept compliments. The next time someone compliments you, try saying, “thank you,” and stop there.

    Years ago, I was designing websites for a living. The company’s sales team was very adept at selling these sites, and we were extremely backlogged. The expectation was to have five designs accepted by clients every day. Coming from a more traditional approach to design, I scoffed at the idea. Then, it was pointed out to me that the nineteen-year-old who sat behind me was doing nine to ten designs a day that was being approved by the clients. Keep in mind, this is just the design stage, no coding or programming yet. The secret? Settle for “good enough” and let the client either approve it or guide me to an approval. Once I accepted this concept, I was designing and having accepted fifteen to sixteen a day. I’ve applied this concept to other aspects of my life, and it has been advantageous.
  6. If you hate yourself for mistakes you made, make amends. Psychologist and self-compassion researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., explains: “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings. After all, whoever said you were supposed to be perfect?” Self-hatred is often focused on the past—a painful moment or emotion like shame or guilt, anger or embarrassment, or a sense of powerlessness. In that space, there is no room to forgive ourselves or embrace who we are.

    Do your best to stay in the present and focus on how far you have come. This may feel uncomfortable or different, but over time, it will help you to decrease self-hatred and gain self-compassion.

    If you have people in your life who always remind you of your past failures, it is time to trim the fat. Remove them from a position of influence. If necessary, remove them from your life.

Have you heard of the term, gamify? 

gam·i·fy

/ˈɡāməˌfī/

verb

verb: gamify 3rd person present: gamifies past tense: gamified past participle: gamified gerund or present participle: gamifying

apply typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to (an activity), typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.: “I like to gamify parts of my life to keep things fun” “to really gamify the process, you’d need to equip the cameras with guns.”

To keep myself on track, I’ve gamified my life. Each night during self-assessment, I review my behaviors, thoughts, and words as far as I can remember them and, based on a simple scoring system, determine what level of Manliness I achieved for the day. Boy, Dude, Guy, Man, or Gentleman. Do what you need to do, but take action today. Even if you don’t think you are hard on yourself, you may be surprised once you start observing.

Summary

The purpose of Freemasonry is to provide a means by which good men can become better men. We do not actively recruit. We do not invite. We are an advertisement. We are the recruitment office. If the office lights are out, everyone will think it closed. To keep the lights on, practice Charity on yourself.

The Educational

By: Ed Mortensen, Secretary

The educational is the purview of the Senior Warden. It is up to the Senior Warden to arrange for speakers for Lodge meetings and nights of education like our Gordian Academy.

What goes into an educational? Well, a speaker can talk on any interesting topic, but here are a few ideas and my thoughts:

The Manly Arts

We had a speaker talk about Men’s Health once. Very interesting, but that’s only one man-related topic. A speaker can talk about anything that is man-related: the history of the beard, shaving, being a father or husband, or how to have a good workout and stay healthy. The website “The Art of Manliness,” Meditation, the psychology of the lie, or just about anything.

Esoterica

Another series of topics we have had has been on Masonic symbols and the mysteries of the fraternity. These can be monitorial or secret and are often best served up in a tiled meeting of Master Masons.

Masonry

There was a conference on “Masonry in the Future.” The conference was a bust, but the germ of a great idea was there. What will Masonry look like in the future? There are some cutting edge practices already in existence: virtual Lodges, social media, computerization, and modernization.

And what about Masonry in the past. One interesting topic is fees. How much did it cost to become a Mason in the past, and what were annual dues in the 1800s? What was a Lodge meeting like, what about the Steward’s dinner? Did they drink? What did they talk about and the like?

No-Nos

And what should an educational not be about? 

Our immediate past Master has a thought on this: They shouldn’t be thinly veiled promotions of appendant bodies: no recruiting. I would add that they should not be calls for fundraising… The Masonic Services Association is a significant cause, but an educational should be (and was recently) a discussion of their excellent work alone.

The Speaker

The speaker can be from the host Lodge, but a good Lodge is already a platform for their ideas, and they should be discussed weekly. A good speaker comes from outside of the Lodge, perhaps even from out of the State.

Think published authors, regular members of a podcast, business leaders that have brought business rigor to Masonry, and the like.

Look around the jurisdiction for speakers. There is already a move to form a catalog of speakers and their expertise. This needs to be used and fleshed out. So if you have a couple of topics that you are expert in, sign up.

Time

A guest speaker addressing a Lodge meeting should only take 15 to 20 minutes, in my opinion, 30 at the outside. But that doesn’t stop you from having a dedicated night where a good speaker regularly takes 30 to 60 minutes at a dinner or an event like our Gordian Academies.

Media

And lastly, think outside the box. Bringing in an out-of-state speaker is expensive, with airfare and lodging. We’re talking about having a virtual speaker remoting in over the Internet and projected on a screen with a sound system to fill a meeting room remotely. For a fraction of the cost of flying someone in, you can pay, say $100, for a top-notch speaker, and they can attend from the comfort of their own home office.

10 Reasons Why You Can’t Be A Freemason

So, you want to be a Freemason. Let me tell you why you can’t. 

1. You’re Looking for Fame and Fortune

The idea that Freemasons rule the world, that you can gain untold wealth and power within the Fraternity, that Masonic connections will get you ahead in life is tripe. Anyone who attempts to enter our organization for any of these purposes will be sorely disappointed if they can even get past the initial interview.

Do we offer wealth untold? We certainly do, although not of the kind you’re probably thinking. Our wealth is that of knowledge. Knowledge of self, to be precise. Knowledge of the Universe. Knowledge of moral ideas and philosophies unburdened by religion and politics. Wealth unmatched and of far greater value than gold or credit.

2. You’re Too Lazy

Freemasonry takes work and if you don’t put your time in, you won’t receive your wages. It is a profession, a career, that takes up time and energy. To be a Freemason, you cannot coast by—you should not! The wages to which I refer are not given in charity though Masons espouse that great attribute as the greatest of all. 

To think that you may enter an esteemed organization such as ours and not contribute is ludicrous. Nothing of worth is delivered without a price and work is required to honorably earn that which is of worth.

3. You Don’t Have The Time

Time is a commodity that is precious and should never be traded for worthless pursuits. Thus it is with Freemasonry. To be a Freemason, one must dedicate time to the endeavor. In some instances the time committed is minimal. In others, it is consuming. Although Freemasonry is never to interfere with your necessary vocations, duties to God, your family, or your neighbor, you must still practice and work. 

The development of your mind and consciousness requires that you devote time, and time devoted to improving oneself is never wasted.

4. You Don’t Want To Participate

Freemasonry does not need an audience. Participation is key to everything in Masonry. If you aren’t a person who can engage in the work, the brotherhood, the quality growth of the Lodge and Freemasonry in general, you’ve no business being a part of this austere organization. 

Engaging in Masonic activities includes behavior outside the Lodge when you are required to represent the Fraternity to the Public. Engagement within the Lodge includes actively participating in Masonic education and filling in roles where you will best serve the Lodge. Freemasonry should benefit from your participation as much, if not more than you benefit from being a Brother. Selfish pursuits aren’t welcome.

5. You Don’t Have A Belief in A Supreme Being

This is a mandate of our Fraternity and will not be overlooked under any circumstance. A belief in a supreme being means that a person may be bound to their moral obligations. You are holding yourself to a higher standard of honor and integrity because God is always watching, He is always present, and you are not to disappoint the Supreme Architect of the Universe. Trust in a Brother is paramount to brotherhood and this trust extends to the knowledge that your Brother isn’t going to misrepresent the organization, reveal any of its secrets, or take advantage of another Brother. 

6. You Have An Ego

Everyone has some ego. Without Ego, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish much in life. But I am not referring to your self-esteem when I say that Ego isn’t welcome in Freemasonry. The part of Ego that I’m referring to is a desire for power, unworthy advancement for the sake of title and prestige, a position of absoluteness that your opinion should reign supreme, or that you deserve more than the respect that is due all men.

We meet upon the Level and that equality extends beyond the walls of our temples and buildings. Humility, open-mindedness, and the charity of acceptance are what is required.

7. You Can’t Accept The Landmarks and Tenets Of The Fraternity

Freemasonry is an ancient and honorable organization that is steeped in tradition both in ceremony and practice. We stand for Good, Morality, Dignity for All, and all of our ceremonies are designed to promote the education of these attributes in Men. These traditions may seem cumbersome to those who have no patience for the historical conventions of our forefathers but to a wise man, the ceremonies and modus operandi found within our halls are ripe with lessons. If you cannot respect the landmarks and tenets of Freemasonry, you might as well look to a different organization for membership.

8. You Think Freemasonry Is A Chauvinistic or Racist Organization

Speaking of tradition, there are some very real misrepresentations of Freemasonry in existence even within recognized dispensations. Along with these misrepresentations which suffer from a misunderstanding of landmarks made by past and present cultural leaders exists misconceptions about the reason traditional Lodges do not allow women to be members. If you perceive our intentions to be chauvinistic or exclusionary for the sake of bias, you are sorely mistaken in your ignorance. 

If you’ve been made aware of Masonic Lodges where minorities are not welcome, know that these are a misrepresentation of Masonic Law. Immoral and ignorant cultural tradition has been cultivated within lodges who should not be able to claim the venerated association with mainstream Freemasonry. These are in dire need of restructuring and their jurisdictions should be fast about that work.

As for our reason for not allowing women admittance into the Fraternity, the word Fraternity should be a decent enough explanation. Men and women are different creatures, not that one is better than the other for without one the other is left wanting by nature of the divine plan. Each desire and needs to spend time with their own sex; a scientifically proven fact that supports the idea of same-gender, platonic time for the improvement of a man’s health, mind, soul. 

Is Freemasonry entirely exclusionary of females? No. There are many appendant bodies that include women, focus on the excellence that is women, and promote the well-being and growth of the female spirit. And while, at one time, the reasoning was likely due to the ignorance and self-importance of men as well as restricting social roles, it is now upheld in traditional Freemasonry purely out of respect for the concept of fulfilling the needs of its members. Guy’s time where like-minded men can get together and philosophize, engender morality, and influence its membership in good and just ways.

9. You Don’t Understand The Difference Between Our Fraternity and Greek Fraternities

Perhaps you believe the jokes and misconceptions surrounding Freemasonry that involve goats and a lot of alcohol. If so, you’ve been influenced by anti-Masonic propaganda designed to injure the highly-regarded reputation of our organization from people who were jealous of membership or hateful of members. Such is the absurdness of these concepts that Masons have taken to sarcastically joking along with society rather than defending the Fraternity.

Colleges have adopted the concept of Fraternity from the ancient craftsmen fraternities wherein apprenticeships and sponsorships assisted in establishing skills and careers. Unfortunately, the rash and brazen nature of youth have caused the reputations of these Greek Fraternities to become seriously tainted. Movies, news stories, books… they have all painted this picture of college fraternities and sororities in a negative light. 

Freemasonry is not a Greek Fraternity. Established in a time where being a part of a guild or fraternity was one of the main ways to gain a proper education, Freemasonry has kept its purpose, moving past the practice of Operative Masonry and focusing its efforts on the merits of Speculative Masonry for all good men who wish to become better men.

Alcohol distribution at the lodge is prohibited and though sobriety is left to the individual concern of each Brother, drunkenness is highly discouraged and frowned upon within the Fraternity. One of our charges is to “avoid all intemperance and irregularities that may impair one’s faculties or debase the dignity of your profession.” The profession to which this is referring is that of being a Freemason. Once again, this alludes to maintaining the respectable image of Freemasonry both inside and outside of the building.

Note: Rules about alcohol consumption and sales within Lodges vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. All jurisdictions that I’m aware of do not allow alcohol within a Lodge while at work.

10. You Have No Desire To Improve

If your sole purpose to join Freemasonry revolves around the potential for social interaction, partying, playing games, and “hanging out” then you’ve come to the wrong place. While Brotherhood does involve many of those activities, the primary purpose of Freemasonry is to provide education, culture, and associations that will assist a good man in becoming a better man. The very slogan that is presented to the public in so many forums and from so many platforms is “Making Good Men Better.” So if you are not interested in improvement, do seek another organization. 
In summary, as an organization, we accept individuals who have determined longevity in the pursuit of self excellence, service, and the gaining of knowledge. Freemasonry is not a career for the average person. We require the cream of the crop, quality men who esteem their God, their families, and themselves enough to work at becoming the men that the Supreme Architect of the Universe has planned for them to become. Are you that man, or am I right in telling you that you cannot be a Freemason?

The Master’s Message

By: Worshipful Master, Jess Worwood

As we start into the Masonic year, and the holidays of 2019, I’d like to say a couple things about what I hope for our Lodge for the coming year.

I hope we can keep attracting and engaging good men like we’ve been doing, and it is my hope that the Lodge may become even more known as an example of the kind of loving camaraderie that the craft is supposed to be. We do good degree work, and we have a Lodge with a significant number of active Brothers who work hard in all their stations. I hope we can keep doing that, keep building the Lodge, and keep being an example for people not just in other Lodges, but for the community at large.

Granted, your average everyday person driving past the building likely wouldn’t notice us even if the building was spewing fireworks and catapulting flaming pinatas across their hoods as they drove past. People still hear about us, though, and instead of some cult-like conspiracy theory, I hope they will start to associate the idea of Masonry with the good times we have and the good people that we count as our members.

The people we have and the experiences we offer are what makes us different and why people would want to join our Lodge. Not just over other Lodges, but why they’d want to join us, period.

I think we’re starting the year in a good place, and I hope that with all of us working together throughout the year, we can keep getting even better looking towards the next few years.

– Jess Worwood, Worshipful Master

The Past Master

By: Chad Powell, P.M. Damascus Lodge #10

Brothers work diligently through the line, they prepare meals, clean, and plan for meetings and activities. Each step through the progressive line hopefully builds the Brother up so he is ready for the next seat. In the non-progressive line, a Brother continues to labor in a seat in which he is the best suited until he is ready for another seat and then serves there, both ways preparing him for another seat until at last, he reaches the East. Then, through a term of hard work, constant diligence, and many restless nights, he is done.

No lesson, seat, or lecture in Masonry fully prepares a man for this lesson Masonry and the Lodge has to offer. This is the lesson of a Past Master, the day after when a Past Master does not receive an email or a call. There is no immediate task to be completed, no follow up on designated duties, no sickness or distress to address because he has handed the mantle to another. The lesson is of humility and true self-worth. The Fraternity loses many Brothers to this lesson because they were in fact never truly Masons in their hearts. The titles, accolades, work, and recognition for their work was fine but suddenly feeling like they are not needed, seeing the realization that one’s Lodge will continue after they are done, that in fact, they are not the best thing since sliced bread in their Lodge is perhaps the hardest lesson the Fraternity offers. 

In truth, a healthy group of active Past Masters is pivotal for a successful Lodge and Lodge programs. A new Worshipful Master could do nothing better than confer in private with his Past Masters and sit in council with his immediate Past Master and Wardens often. However, the Brothers of the Fraternity do not often follow this model. A Past Master, like any other Brother in the Lodge, needs to be involved, to know that his work is valued, and to be a fully participating, actively engaged member of the Lodge. When a Lodge puts their Past Masters out to pasture, the Lodge is putting their program on life support.

Ultimately, the Lodge’s success and programs aside, the sooner the Brothers in a line realize that the Lodge is more important than the individual and the true lesson of a Lodge is how to be helpful and stay humble, the sooner Light will be fully restored and Masonry will thrive. Luckily, many Lodges are full of Brothers who follow and live in this selfless manner. May we all continue to come together in brotherly love and unity while supporting each other on our own individual journeys through Masonry.

S&F,

Chad Powell, P.M. Damascus Lodge #10

Further Discourse on Freemasonry and Stoicism

By: Lance Card, Senior Deacon

Do Freemasons practice Stoicism? Is the ancient Greek philosophy a cemented foundation of the teachings of our ancient and honorable society? Or, is it the other way around? Did the Stoics adopt principles of Freemasonry? Can these two philosophies work in concert or are they different enough that they are ultimately incompatible? 

“Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person’s own life.” – Epictetus, Discourses 1.15.2, Robin Hard revised translation

The Basics

Zeno of Citium Stoicism was introduced by Zeno of Citium around 300 B.C. as a more acceptable doctrine than Cynicism which was founded by Antisthenes, a student of Socrates. If we are to assume that Freemasonry was operating at the time of Solomon (circa 953 B.C.) then we can also assume that the wisdom and knowledge inculcated within Masonry were taught amongst the educated craftsmen of that period across the known world. Could this education have made its way to Greece? Perhaps even influencing the philosopher, Zeno of Citium? 

Stoicism

If we are to boil down the tenets of this philosophy, we can say with confidence that they are to develop self-control and endurance to conquer destructive emotions. Destructive being the keyword in that simplified explanation. Stoicism doesn’t strive to eliminate all emotion but promotes the voluntary avoidance of worldly influence enabling the use of reason. Stoicism promotes the unemotional approach and deductive reasoning, an escape from passion (or anguish, anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions). 

Keep in mind that the use of familiar words often found in the writings of Stoicism doesn’t necessarily mean what they do today. So, in the works of the philosophers, you might see the word, apatheia, and rather than being associated with the negative definition of modern-day apathy, it more correctly means to be objective and clear-minded. In being objective and emotionally unburdened, a stoic individual may better be able to decipher the natural universe, and in understanding the natural universe, be more capable of correcting the flaws within themself.

Stoics seek to improve their inner being, to become more ethical and establish greater moral well-being in accordance with Nature. Within Stoicism, all things are equal and the decision of an individual—driven by the detached nature of apatheia—still effects the world around them. In essence, the Butterfly Effect. The Stoic is unemotional, accepting of Nature, and uses the Natural Universe as a guide for morality focusing particularly on two traits of the Universe: Active and Passive. It is also important to note that the Universe is a blanket statement used to loosely define God or Nature. 

Active Substance: Fate or Logos, the aether or primordial fire from which everything is created including Man. All men are subject to Fate.
Passive Substance: Matter, the inactive substance which is waiting to be used. 

Additionally, Stoics propound the cardinal virtues espoused by Plato of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance in their ethics. Along with these ethics, Stoics view God or Nature as imminent and un-personalized, and there is neither a start nor an end, to time or the Universe. Within this logic, evil is a circumstance of ignorance. An individual who does not understand their universal reason is more likely to commit acts of evil and unhappiness but there is no such thing as inherent good or evil. 

Freemasonry

The philosophy of Freemasonry is that morality and virtue are achieved through knowledge and putting into practice charity. Of course, I’m attempting to summarize the deep mysteries and lifelong education of the oldest philosophy in the world. Freemasonry is about self-improvement, using logic and reason to study the works of the Celestial Grand Master, merging science, philosophy, and theology to seek Truth. The pathways to knowledge aren’t nearly as straightforward as a simple sentence—a Blue Lodge holds a lifetime of education without ever stepping foot into any of the appendant organizations.

To truly understand the world around him, a Mason must experience it using a balance of reason derived through critical thinking and emotional discernment. Freemasonry is about balance in all aspects—subduing our passions does not mean eliminating them.

Charity requires an understanding of self, a deep dive of your personal inventory. You cannot give something that does not exist within you. As well, Freemasonry arguably has always had a basis in God, most prominently the Abrahamic God, though we are non-denominational as a practice and not a religion by any means. While Charity is the greatest of the virtues we as Masons practice, we are purveyors of rational thought.

Openmindedness and a willingness to apply the principles of critical thinking to our studies provide Freemasons with a lens through which to view the Universe. We seek to understand the whole of existence by investigating the outside world, or extra se, while at the same time working to evolve and improve our interior self. Without internal improvement, we cannot begin to understand the external.

Summary

Stoicism was overrun by Christianity, which contained within it a more humane philosophy. Though modern Stoicism is still practiced it isn’t likely that this philosophy will make the same impact it once did. On its own, Stoicism is faulty and narrowing, even leading to selfishness and unhealthy individualism. I am convinced that Zeno, Diogenes, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius borrowed from the more whole philosophy of Freemasonry whether knowingly or unknowingly to create and elaborate upon the school of Stoicism.

This is bound to be an unpopular opinion amongst the supporters of Stoicism. An educated Mason will, however, see that the tenets of Freemasonry contain within them the best, most beneficent, virtues of Stoicism while also delivering a more complete view of the Universe and our existence.

Stoicism & Freemasonry

The cold of winter and the ceaseless rain
Come powerless against him: weak the dart
Of the fierce summer sun or racking pain
To bend that iron frame. He stands apart
Unspoiled by public feast and jollity:
Patient, unwearied night and day doth he
Cling to his studies of philosophy.

Unknown author, quoted by Diogenes Laertius

The Stoics
O ye who’ve learnt the doctrines of the Porch
And have committed to your books divine
The best of human learning, teaching men
That the mind’s virtue is the only good!
She only it is who keeps the lives of men
And cities, – safer than high gates and walls.
But those who place their happiness in pleasure
Are led by the least worthy of the Muses.

Athenaeus the epigrammatist, quoted by Diogenes Laertius

What is the association between Stoicism and Masonry? The Philosophical Society wrote an article on this very subject that is worth the read.

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”  – Seneca

In a recent Masonic Philosophical Society meeting, we discussed the likeness of Stoicism to Freemasonry. Seneca, Zeno, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius all took center stage. It was a lively discussion…

Read on. The results are worth the consideration.

The Good Mason

By: Lance Card, Marshall

“He who is worldly, covetous, or sensual must change before he can be a good Mason.” – Morals and Dogma, Albert Pike

Our public claim is that we make good men better. This is an interesting concept that Masonry, in and of itself, makes good men better. Such a claim is false when taken at face value. Masonry does nothing. Masonry is a philosophy, a series of lessons, moral direction depicted through symbols and allegory. A more correct statement would be, Masonry provides good men with the opportunity to be better. Whether the phrase used is the incorrect but sexier, “Making good men better,” or the more correct but clunkier, “Masonry provides good men with the opportunity to be better,” the follow-up question is inevitable, “How?”

All Masons should be familiar with Albert Pike. Whether you’ve actually read the book Morals and Dogma or just heard talk of it, whether you like his doctrine or find it pithy and filled with sarcasm, Brother Pike’s work is elegant and well written, and in one chapter, in particular, he discusses the merits of a good Mason.

Yet, even with outlines and guides, even with words written by men whom you could say are so involved in Masonry, their blood is the blue of their Mother Lodge, there are disparities amongst Masons as to what Masonry is. Jurisdictions change ritual, men disregard basic guidelines in favor of what suites them best, and egos play at politics with a disregard for the teachings of the Level. So, what ingredients genuinely make up a good Mason?

Are we to take the principle tenets of Freemasonry at face value and say, these are the ingredients? Brotherly love, relief, and truth alone cannot define the value of a Mason. Surely, there is more to the concept; otherwise, an honest man who practices charity and kindness could be considered a Mason. What then, is the need for the Fraternity if any man can behave in a way that is prescribed in Christian Scriptures, Buddhist Philosophies, and many other organizations of the same ilk and be considered following the tenets of Freemasonry? Why not just involve yourself in one of the organizations mentioned above and call it good? 

The answer lies in the volume of the work and the willingness of the individual to set themselves apart from the rest of society. Freemasonry is non-denominational and accepts all scripture as a part of the Great Trestleboard, providing that the message is Good. Where religion can give birth to bias, Freemasonry invites men to be free-thinkers willing to accept more than the unique teachings of a religious body. Still, free-thinking is not to be mistaken with acceptance of every way of life, every concept, and every theory. Discernment is an integral part of the operation of a Mason for without discernment; we are but the same as other men, easily influenced and corrupted. Through the wide berth of education that Freemasonry encourages, men are allowed to develop enlightened discernment that breaks through the cages of societal thinking.

It’s no wonder that a good deal of the most famous people in the world are Freemasons. They refused to accept the norm, were able to think beyond the stigmatism of social thinking, and produced excellent results. So, is it the ability to think freely and act with discernment that makes a good Mason? Not alone.

One of the basic teachings of our Ancient Fraternity is that of secrecy. This is not to promote clandestine meetings in which rebellious and cultish deeds are concocted and acted upon but instead is to test the honorable mettle of the man.

A mark of a good Mason is their ability to maintain their obligations to their Lodge, to their brother Masons, to the Grand Architect of the Universe, to their family, to their church, and to their vocations. Honesty, integrity, worthiness… each an attribute found within the fundamentals of a good Mason. To value your word as your bond, to treat your commitments as unbendable, unbreakable, and to be faithful to your obligations is vital to realizing Masonry. This begins at home, extends to the workplace, and is invaluable in your Masonic career. Without this trust, your Brothers, your family, your workplace associates, they will all recognize the color of your mettle. Your claim on the title of Freemason becomes loose and false, for you cannot be a good Mason without honesty and integrity. So, is it then the ability to think freely and act with discernment while acting with integrity and upholding your obligations that make a good Mason? Not alone.

I’ll return now to the quote at the beginning of this article and dissect the sentence. “He who is worldly…” In this case, Brother Pike isn’t referring to one of experience and sophistication, the first definition of the word, worldly. That is, in fact, what we strive for in our Masonic education. No. In this case, Brother Pike is referring to the second definition: of or concerned with material values or ordinary life rather than a spiritual existence. His ambitions for worldly success. Putting advancement or ego before your spiritual growth, before your relationship with the Grand Architect of the Universe, causes strife and inner turmoil. You forget yourself and your Masonic tenets in your pursuit of favor and glory. Does this mean that you shouldn’t strive to be the best you can be in every situation resulting in vocational advancement or being recognized for talents you hold and being asked to engage in leadership positions? Not at all. But to pursue it, to actively seek advancement for the vainglory that it provides—keeping up with the Joneses—this is where a man fails and what a good Mason avoids.

“Covetous…” is to have or show a great desire to possess something belonging to someone else. Envy, jealousy, greed… there are several synonyms for this, which is indicative of the very problem. The more words associated with the meaning, the more prevalent in our society. Such behavior is plebian and unfit of a Mason. To be a good Mason, a man must excuse themselves from such action, which is a problematic and on-going process.

“Or sensual…” gratification of the senses and physical, especially sexual, pleasure; one of the most difficult temptations to overcome, this is, perhaps, one of the most overlooked by would-be Masons. Fornication, gluttony, lust… unbecoming behaviors for any who strive to stand apart from the rest of society. These are not religious tenets to be cast aside by those who claim no affiliation with a church. These are fundamental spiritual sins to be overcome by the sophisticated and experienced Mason.

“If we are governed by inclination and not by duty; if we are unkind, severe, censorious, or injurious, in the relations or intercourse of life; if we are unfaithful parents or undutiful children; if we are harsh masters or faithless servants; if we are treacherous friends or bad neighbors or bitter competitors or corrupt unprincipled politicians or overreaching dealers in business, we are wandering at a great distance from the true Masonic light.” – Morals and Dogma, Albert Pike

So what makes a good Mason? Part of the answer lies again within the book Morals and Dogma.

“Masons must be kind and affectionate to one another. Frequenting the same temples, kneeling at the same altars, they should feel that respect and that kindness for each other, which their common relation and common approach to one God should inspire. There needs to be much more of the spirit of the ancient fellowship among us; more tenderness for each other’s faults, more forgiveness, more solicitude for each other’s improvement and good fortune; somewhat of brotherly feeling, that it be not shame to use the word, ‘Brother.’

“Nothing should be allowed to interfere with that kindness and affection: neither the spirit of business, absorbing, eager, and overreaching, ungenerous and hard in its dealings, keen and bitter in its competitions, low and sordid in its purposes; nor that of ambition, selfish, mercenary, restless, circumventing, living only in the opinion of others, envious of the good fortune of others, miserably vain of its own success, unjust, unscrupulous, and slanderous.”

To be a good Mason, a man must take advantage of the opportunities that Freemasonry provides to become enlightened and to put into action what education is received. To be a good Mason, a man must always seek further light, to be open-minded while applying the tenets and principles of Freemasonry to their critical thinking, resulting in cultivated ability to think freely. To be a good Mason, a man must regard himself as the walking advertisement for our Fraternity, living a life that is remarkably and exceptionally apart from society, that establishes the reputation of our organization and convinces the world at large of our good effects.

This is the challenge we Freemasons face daily, hourly, and by the minute. This is what sets our ancient and honorable Fraternity apart from other organizations. This is the draw of a Masonry to a good man seeking to be better. Ask yourself this, my Brother. Are you striving to be a good Mason?