Monthly Archives: October 2013

Secrecy & Fidelity to Trust

Part 3 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.

In antient times, stonemasons protected the secrets of their trade so that only qualified, skilled workers were employed. They also developed passwords and signs so that members could travel to other guilds, even without knowing anyone. Those traditions are still practiced by today’s Freemasons. The idea of keeping a handshake or a password a secret is to prove trustworthiness and honor.

Things like honor and integrity are important in life. Life doesn’t mean much without them.

A candidate will take an oath of silence, reflective of trust and faith. As he goes through the degrees, he is exposed to more knowledge and more secrets. The teachings are universal and therefore are subjective, which is why it’s important not to rush through. The craft promotes learning and can help a man to uncover numerous amounts of secrets, although this should be done on his own. Freemasonry is about self-improvement and self reflection is private by nature. Therefore, we should remember that secrecy and silence are not simply for the benefit of others:

Among the ancients, silence and secrecy were considered virtues of the highest order. The entire fabric of the universe is founded on secrecy, and the great life force which vivifies, moves and beautifies the whole, is the deepest of all mysteries. We cannot fix our eyes on a single point in creation which does not shade off into mystery and touch the realms of eternal silence. In this respect, as in all others, we see that our institution conforms to the Divine Order of things. (Church, 1880)

human-space-universe-cosmos

A candidate is charged to look at himself through self-reflection and contemplation. That’s not something that can be done on a public platform. True secrecy consists of things like intimacy, emotions, aspirations and private opinions between brothers who have grown closer through the support and strength that Freemasonry imparts. Many different kinds of men are able to call each other Brother. Some of them truly do become like brothers, forming lifelong friendships through trust, sharing trials and tribulations, accepting one another and making, sharing and keeping secrets all the while. That’s life. That’s the secrecy of Freemasonry.

When an operative mason hews a stone it must be made square to support other stones placed around it. That way it can play its part as a piece of the temple. To check the work, he will use a tool called a square to determine if the stone is perfect. As Freemasons we use the term “on the square” to refer to our trust in one another. Any man who is on the square is honest and reliable and has a strong character to those around him. Sometimes “on the square” can also be used to describe a Mason telling another Mason something in confidence.

Masonic lodges often have matters which are private or personal and that are not disclosed outwith the lodge. These can often concern matters of members. For example: embarrassment about attendance, a tiff between two members, financial difficulties or difficulty in coming to lodge.  As lodge brothers, we make these matters our personal business as well. Although in the case of rejecting an applicant, privacy is of the utmost importance; members may state their reasons for black-balling someone, but only to another brother in private, not in open lodge and never in public. Even though they were black-balled, we still respect and protect their privacy.

In Freemasonry we often use the word “fidelity,” which is Latin for keeping one’s word. Practicing fidelity helps a man to build character, because it’s only through honesty and promise keeping that others can trust him or that he will even be able to trust himself. Faith in others and ourselves is built on the virtue of fidelity, as is human society as a whole. Freemasonry takes fidelity to a new level, not only through trust of each other, but also the loyalty and faithfulness involved in that trust to make a bond that cannot be broken. This bond is often symbolized by the joining of two right hands – a handshake.

binding

The way the craft is structured gives us opportunity to exercise fidelity and trust among the brethren. That may be something difficult to understand for someone who isn’t a mason. It would seem almost unnatural for secrecy to be a virtue, but the secrets themselves aren’t what are important. Handshakes and passwords are actually of little value, it’s the act of keeping those secrets that is important.

A man is considered rich if he has true character. Not all men can become well known leaders, but each man can have a pure heart and be faithful to his principles. One of the greatest influences the craft has is that of integrity. It has always taught self-respect and fidelity towards our convictions and standards, while giving spiritual strength and moral fortitude. Freemasonry wouldn’t be what it is without its principles; therefore we have the right to those principles and integrity rather than indifference and betrayal.

We see truth as divine and the basis for all virtue, so being a true person is more than just a charge – it’s a command. The Masonic teachings of fidelity are so frequent that it’s commonplace to refer to them, as we are supposed to be “inflexible in our fidelity.” We shouldn’t ignore rules, but rather learn and uphold them in our actions. We should always use reason and conscience when setting a good example for others, and it will also make us feel better about ourselves.

Freemasons believe in honor and integrity, as men of character who act morally and keep their word. We are a family. We rely on and trust each other through time honored values to live by. We should not say unkind things about a brother behind his back if we are to uphold the tenet of brotherly love:

The explanation is surely that Masonry aims at developing Brotherly Love and in order that this may be achieved one of the first essentials is confidence in each other. If one brother finds that another has been passing on unkind remarks about him, the fact is sufficient to mar the harmony of the lodge and destroy mutual confidence. It is not merely that a trifling incident passed by word of mouth from man to man tends to be distorted and exaggerated, although this is a fact which cannot be denied, but even more that as brothers we ought to avoid doing anything which may harm another’s reputation or hurt his feelings. (Ward, 1926)

secrecy

If we are given information “on the square” about another brother then we should hold it in the repository of our faithful breast. But what if danger is approaching? Should we warn that brother or keep it secret?  And what if it concerns the lodge? Should we warn them as well? Some serious questions indeed. Simply put, we need to remember that if we are trusted with a secret then we should not violate that trust, otherwise we will have violated our obligation and will no longer be considered trustworthy. Remember that a properly run lodge will work things out according to Masonic traditions and rules.

If the only fidelity we keep is handshakes and passwords then non-masons will see that trust as purely superficial. In order to show them what true fidelity and trust are, we must act accordingly towards ourselves and anyone we might endow that trust upon. We must reinforce our determination to keep our promises ever bearing in mind that we made such an obligation in the presence of God and our brothers. How are we supposed to be trustworthy in life if we can’t be trusted within the lodge?

Hiram Abiff is a great example of fidelity. Even in the face of death, he kept his promises and remained loyal. There are times when we are pressured or even tempted to break a promise or reveal a secret, but we must remember that no matter what the consequence may be, someone trusted us – and that trust must not be betrayed:

There is one important lesson on this subject which is apt to be overlooked, namely, that the opportunity for the display of this virtue seldom occurs except in times of sorrow and defeat. It is when the foemen ring the castle round, the last food is eaten, the last water drunk and the walls are crumbling before the assaults of the attacking party, that the soldier is able to prove his loyalty. It is when false friends forsake a man, when troubles creep in on every side, that the true friend shows himself in his real colors.

secrecyIt is when a cause is lost, when victory rests on the banners of the enemy, when cowards fly and false friends prove traitors, that loyalty shines out as a glimmering ray amid the darkness. It is tragic, but true, to say that the real test of loyalty is usually on the brink of an open grave, and often the loyal man does not live to receive the reward of his virtue in this life, It is, therefore, in some ways one of the most unselfish of virtues, but it leaves behind it a fragrance sweeter than myrrh and a crown which is truly celestial. (Ward, 1926)

Church, Frank. (1880). Freemasonry’s Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The Voice of Masonry. University of Michigan.

Couch, Tim. (2007). A 32° Degree Mason Reveals the Truth of Freemasons Secrets. Missouri, USA.

Dryfoos, Gary L. (2002). What’s the deal with Masonic secrecy, anyway? Cambridge, MA.

Good Morning America. (2006). Secrets of the Freemasons. ABC News Network.

Grand Lodge of Estonia. (2007). Masonic Secrets. Excerpted from “What is Freemasonry?” Tallinn, Estonia.

Herd, Robert. (2012). Trust and Fidelity. Colorado Springs, USA.

Maertens, J.W.S. (2007). Symbols, Secrets and Fidelity. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Masonic Information Center. (2005). Masonic Public Awareness. Silver Spring, MD.

Ward, J.S.M. (1926). The Moral Teachings of Freemasonry. London: Baskerville Press.

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Task Force Smith Ride

This past weekend the Widow’s Sons had their annual Task Force Smith Memorial Ride. They rode from Pyeongtaek to the TFS Memorial at Osan Air Base and then back to the Keystone Lounge for a barbeque.

To learn more about the Widow’s Sons Riding Association and Task Force Smith, click here.

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Faith & Belief in a Supreme Being

Part 2 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.

A Freemason is recommended to his “most serious contemplation the Volume of the Sacred Law.” What that religious or philosophical text may be is up to each Freemason to decide for himself. We don’t tell others what to believe in. We meet around an altar that may have a few or more texts placed on it, knowing that we all have something in common. It’s not about what we believe in, but rather the fact that we believe in anything at all.

It’s vital for a mason to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but at the same time keep his religious opinions to himself, thereby allowing others to unite with him in friendship. Since antient times, masons have always been charged in this way:

A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance. (Anderson, 1723)

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In regular Freemasonry belief in a Supreme Being is the number one requirement for joining. In order to be admitted, a man’s spirit needs to reach out to Deity, otherwise no obligation would be regarded as binding. Not just that, but belief is what creates an experience that feels real and leaves a lasting impression on a candidate.

Without the Grand Architect of the Universe, Freemasonry simply doesn’t make any sense. Take for example the following working tools:

24InchGauge

The Twenty-four Inch Gauge represents the twenty-four hours of the day, part to be spent in prayer to Almighty God, part in labour and refreshment and part in serving a friend or brother in time of need, without detriment to ourselves or connections. This is a reminder to the Initiate that he is mortal, that he has so many years of life, with so many days to each year, and so many hours to each day. It is only the immortals that do not have to concern themselves with time, for to them it no longer exists; for us mortals each day has twenty-four hours. Later we may learn the secrets of immortality, but first we must make full use of our mortality. In other words, time and space are given to us with all their limitations to prepare ourselves for the ampler freedom of after life. Time is but the gateway to eternity, and by learning to use our time, we prepare ourselves for eternity. (Henderson, 1996)

pencil_history_centered_oldest_known_wood_cased_pencil

With the Pencil the skilful artist delineates the building in a draft or plan for the instruction and guidance of the workmen. Our building has been delineated in a draft or plan for our instruction and guidance by the Great Architect of the Universe. It is for us to understand what is meant by each detail of the design, so that our life, when considered in the time to come, and in the light of that plan, will be judged by its conformity to that plan. (Henderson, 1996)

Without a Supreme Being, the twenty-four inch gauge and pencil would serve no purpose. It’s necessary that Freemasonry be theistic. We are constantly invoking the aid of Deity in our rituals and ceremonies, and we conduct our meetings in peace and harmony with the divine presence.

We are charged to give God that “reverential awe which is due from the creature to his Creator.” If Freemasonry was just a regular fraternity with no religious component, belief would not be important. But it is important. As candidates we are required to put our trust “in God,” thereby showing the brethren in lodge that our faith is sound. Just within moments of entering a lodge for this very first time, we must affirm our faith in Deity.

Freemasonry brings men from all walks of life together under one “starry firmament,” as we are all in pursuit of truth and brotherly love. Although it’s great having several Volumes of the Sacred Law on an altar, it’s not the differences that are important. What’s important is what we have in common as we are all brethren under the fatherhood of God. It doesn’t matter how we see Him. What matters is how He sees us – as children, all equal in His eyes. That’s what really counts:

It is universal religion, which it inculcates; that religion which is essential everywhere to the true character of man; that sense of obligation and final responsibility which affords the only security for the faithful observance of its own pure principles, and its solemn and sacred vows; a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, His justice and goodness, and the immortality of the soul are the elements of religion which it requires of its votaries, while it heeds not the dogmas and specific articles of faith which men have set up and called the only true religion. (Church, 1880)

faith

Freemasonry allows for this universality of faith as all religions preach righteousness. Faith should be a constant focus in our lives.  We don’t find faith in Freemasonry, but in whatever it is we believe in. Freemasonry offers no salvation, but it teaches that faith is important in order to have a good life. Faith secures our reasoning for being moral and upright:

For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection … think how great a Proportion of Mankind consists of weak and ignorant Men and Women, and of inexperienc’d and inconsiderate Youth of both Sexes, who have need of the Motives of Religion to restrain them from Vice, to support their Virtue, and retain them in the Practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great Point for its Security; And perhaps you are indebted to her originally that is to your Religious Education, for the Habits of Virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it.

– Bro. Benjamin Franklin, Date Uncertain.

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If man loses faith in God, then the basis of his moral conduct strays from the divine authority. When that happens, morality becomes man-made and divine law loses its effectiveness and meaning. People will have no standards, they’ll become unstable and eventually descent.

Freemasonry isn’t a religion; it simply builds faith and encourages interest in the nature of God and man’s relation to him. An atheist will declare himself as such without really knowing why and dismiss spirituality altogether, while Freemasonry makes us seriously consider these difficult questions that are important in figuring out who we are and whence we came. It allows for a journey that is personal for each brother, as he is able to choose his own path of faith:

That religion which requires us to recognize a “First Great Cause;” that religion which requires us to invoke the aid of Deity in all our laudable undertakings; that religion which commands and requires us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, and leaves us within the range of these duties and landmarks to adopt our own form of worship, to approach the throne of the Almighty in our own way, and adore him under whatever name we choose. (Church, 1880)

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The lessons of the craft are based on the Volume of the Sacred Law, and founded on the principles of the universal brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God, thereby acknowledging a Supreme Being. It doesn’t compete with religion and sets itself apart from any particular religion, requiring its members to respect and tolerate each other’s beliefs. Masonry unites rather than divides, but still allows each brother a right to his own opinions and truth. It basically all boils down to two things. Love of God and love of man. That’s why it has survived since antient times, as a meeting place for different minds and a reminder of that final union in the celestial lodge above.

A person of faith knows right from wrong, not because of some man-made laws but because of the direction they receive from their spirituality:

The moral laws are not man-made conventions but Divine commands, which man should be able to recognise as such by means of the Divine Light within him. (Ward, 1926)

faith

Masonry cannot support and unite us without a shared belief in Deity. Masonry would not be a worldwide fraternity without that shared belief. Nor could a godless order help a man think about the true meaning of his mortal existence. Freemasonry is a way of life in a profane world that sometimes rejects its teachings. So we must ever remember to not only have faith in Deity, but also ourselves and others. As men of faith, we use moral truth to service others:

When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song – glad to live, but not afraid to die!  Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world. (Newton, 1923)

Anderson, James. (1723). THE CHARGES OF A FREE-MASON. EXTRACTED FROM The Ancient RECORDS of LODGES beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the Use of the Lodges in LONDON.

Church, Frank. (1880). Freemasonry’s Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. The Voice of Masonry. University of Michigan.

Henderson, Kent. (1996). The Working Tools. Excerpted from “Masonic Education Course.” Victoria, Australia.

Lorente, Darren. (2009). Belief in a Supreme Being. St. Mary Islington Lodge #5451, United Grand Lodge of England.

Newton, Joseph F. (1923). The Spirit of Freemasonry. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.

Rubin, Joshua L. (2008). For No Atheist May Be Made a Freemason. Pythagoras Lodge of Research, Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, USA.

Sparks, Jared. (1840). The Works of Benjamin Franklin, (Boston: Tappan, Whittemore, and Mason), Vol. X, pp. 281-282.

Taine, W.H. (2005). The Seven Virtues. The Masonic Trowel.

Ward, J.S.M. (1926). The Moral Teachings of Freemasonry. London: Baskerville Press.

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