Monthly Archives: February 2014

Reverence & Dignity

Part 11 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.

Freemasonry is probably one of the earliest forms of tolerance, freedom of religion and respect for the opinions of others within society. Mutual tolerance and respect have always been key aspects in Freemasonry’s system of morality. As it is an international order, a brother can go into any regular lodge in the world where beliefs and backgrounds differ and share in the peace and harmony that prevails. In this way, trust and brotherly love begin with respect:

Every person has a basic need for both self-respect and the respect of others. When our friends show, by word or deed, that they hold us in low regard, we may react as strongly as if we were threatened. On the other side, we would do almost anything for a person who holds us in high esteem. Thus, respect is both the least honor that we require and the highest honor that we can hope for in our dealings with our fellow men. It encompasses our words, our actions, our appearance and even our thoughts. Inside the Lodge and outside of it, we should strive to demonstrate in every way our respect for a Brother’s honor, feelings, efforts, hopes and any other part of his life that we may contact.

– Committee on Masonic Research and Education of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota, 1986.

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As our members are drawn from every race and from every creed, we commit ourselves to respect one another and work together to achieve common goals. We are even able to become good friends with those who have opposing opinions from us, because we never demand them to conform to our personal beliefs. The only beliefs we don’t condone are those that include intolerance, tyranny and lack of respect. Rather, we promote things that are common, good and true, and accept differences of opinion in all things, including religion and politics. No matter what we believe, we all meet upon the level:

So Masonry teaches us equality of regard. On the floor of the Lodge all men are equal and brothers – equal in our regard, and brothers in the great brotherhood of man. (Henderson, 1996)

Our ritual teaches us that it’s the “internal and not the external qualities that recommend a man to Freemasonry”. That’s because sometimes we may be the same on the outside, but it’s inside that makes us who we are and gives us a nature unique to ourselves. That in itself gives us the right to respect and dignity. In a free society this is essential, as it is that which the rights of humans rest on. We can survive on basic needs, but in order to thrive we need to be able to satisfy our curiosity and spirit. Freemasonry allows for this freedom of growth:

Freemasonry stands and has always stood for freedom of political thought; for freedom of religious thought; for the dignity, importance and worth of the individual. In Freemasonry there is neither high nor low-“We meet upon the level”. (Claudy, 1949)

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We are all members of the same human family, under the fatherhood of the Deity. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we need that entitlement and consideration for our thoughts and feelings. That “temple not built with hands” is a universal theme among humans, and when we see it not only in ourselves but also in others, human dignity becomes not only essential but natural as well.

To give someone the dignity they deserve we need to recognize their freedom to choose their values as they see fit, and also to recognize those values which we have in common that transcend the material world. This lesson is critical if we are to evolve as Freemasons:

Liturgies and creeds, articles of faith and rules of discipline, stain the rubric pages of history, and speculative points of doctrine have occasioned more misery in the world than all the crimes for which nations have been punished and recalled to their duty.

We arraign no man’s political opinions, nor do we interfere with his religious creed.

To himself and his country we leave the one, and to his conscience and his God we commit the other. To the altar of Masonry, all men bring their votive offerings. Around it all men, whether they have received their teachings from Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster, Mahomet, or the Founder of the Christian religion; if they believe in the universality of the Fatherhood of God and of the universality of the brotherhood of man, here meet on a common level.

freemasonryThe rich man, the poor man, the sovereign, the subject, are lost in the common Brother. The Christian returns to his Temple, the Jew to his Synagogue, the Mohammedan to his Mosque, each better prepared to perform the duties of life by the association of this universal brotherhood. It is to this Institution, born of heaven in the gray of the world’s morning, before poets sang or historians wrote, that I am privileged to accord you a Craftsman’s greeting.

– Address by M.* W.*. Edward M. L. Ehlers, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of the State of New York. June 24, 1913.

 Chakmakjian, Pauline. (2009). Respect For Freemasonry. University of Wales.

Claudy, Carl. (1949). Why Freemasonry Has Enemies. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.

Committee on Masonic Research and Education of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota. (1986). Standard of Masonic Conduct. Short Talk Bulletin.

Henderson, Kent. (1996). The Nature and Purpose of Freemasonry. Excerpted from “Masonic Education Course.” Victoria, Australia.

Martinez, Carlos A. (2009). Human Dignity and Freemasonry Nowadays. Mexico.

Unknown. (1925). Charity. Short Talk Bulletin. Masonic Service Association of North America.

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Valentine’s & Farewell

On Friday, February 14th, 2014 Lodge Han Yang participated in a Valentine’s Date Night at the Navy Club on Yongsan Garrison. The food was delicious and everyone had a lovely time.

The next day, the Widow’s Sons held their meeting and a farewell for Painter at the same venue.

Safe travels Painter. You will be missed.

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Justice & Judgement

Part 10 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.

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Justice holds a scale. The scale assures fairness in all actions. In the marketplace, a businessman gives fair value and a true accounting. But resting by her side is Justice’s sword. Injustice should meet swift and sure punishment.

– Bro. Richard D. Marcus, P.M.

We are taught that justice is “that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction”. We shouldn’t take things that we’re not entitled to, and we should give to others what is rightly theirs. For example, give credit where credit is due – don’t take credit for something you didn’t do, for that is the act of denying justice. As Freemasons, we must never deny justice.

This virtue is not only consistent with divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society; and as justice, in a great measure, constitutes the really good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principle thereof. (Sickels, 1868)

Justice determines what is right and what is wrong. The true Freemason will always do what is right, and act upright towards all others:

The exercise of this principle incites us to act toward others, in all the transactions of life, as we wish they would act toward us; and as, in a great measure, it constitutes real goodness, it is therefore represented as the perpetual study of an accomplished Freemason. Without the influence of justice, universal confusion would ensue; lawless force would overcome the principles of equity, and social intercourse would no longer exist. (Sickels, 1868)

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Usually justice is depicted as blind, indicating impartiality. But in Freemasonry her eyes are wide open. In the world of the profane, justice is impartial based on the laws of the land. In Freemasonry however, it always favors righteousness because it is based on divine law. Likewise, we should consciously act in an unselfish manner and be self-sacrificing to do and stand up for what is right, while at the same time acting honorably towards others. A man who demonstrates this virtue is of high moral character:

Justice consists in rendering to every man his due, and is a virtue which gives an especial nobility and excellence to the character. Justice, indeed, is one of the glorious attributes of God himself. (Paton, 1873)

Not only does justice imply a strict interpretation of divine law, but it also reflects the greater good of mankind. For the Freemason justice symbolizes equality. We should govern our actions, be openly judged by others and never lead them into deception. We should do things not because we have to, but because we want to and adopt a selfless attitude.

We must do what is right, fair, appropriate, and deserved – all without prejudice. To give someone another’s due simply because we favor them more is unjust. We also need to remember to always settle our debts. To give something that is deserved, not just in the material sense but also in a moral sense. Equity, honor and fairness should be constantly practiced when dealing with others. It’s easy to look for weaknesses and flaws in others, but rather we should look for the good in everyone and believe that they are honest and sincere in their actions. Justice is balanced, it is not critical nor does it detest evil so much as to disregard man. We should be upright in everything and deal with others in a just manner.

As Freemasons, we’ve all been charged to be upright and act justly towards ourselves, our brethren, and the world – thereby showing others that we and our Fraternity are honorable. Not only that, but justice will also bring about truth and peace – inner peace, communitarian peace, and peace on a much larger scale as well. We need to remember to live by our Masonic obligations and morals in all things, and allow them to guide us within and outwith the lodge.

It’s also important to note that we cannot make sound judgments based on loose information. If justice is truly to prevail, then the truth needs to be brought to light in an appropriate manner:

You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.

– Bro. Harry S. Truman, date uncertain.

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You can’t really make an informed decision about any issue when you only hear one half of the story. As Freemasons, it’s extremely vital that we listen to and understand each other, educating ourselves before reaching a consensus instead of surrounding ourselves only with opinions that we agree with. Truths and solutions always lie somewhere in between two opposing sides.

Another good example of dispensing justice in lodge is that of the black cube. We have to remember that there’s a difference between doing what is right and doing what we would prefer to be done:

The black cube is a thorough test of our understanding of the Masonic teaching of the cardinal virtue Justice, which “enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction.” We are taught of justice that “it should be the invariable practice of every Mason, never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof.”

Justice to the lodge requires us to cast the black cube on an applicant we believe to be unfit.

Justice to ourselves requires that we cast the black cube on the application of the man we believe would destroy the harmony of our lodge.

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Justice to the applicant–we are taught to render justice to every man, not merely to Masons–requires that no black cube be cast for little reasons, small reasons, mean reasons.

And justice to justice requires that we think carefully, deliberate slowly, and act cautiously. No man will know what we do; no eye will see, save that All Seeing Eye which pervades the innermost recesses of our hearts, and will, so we are taught, reward us according to our merits. Shakespeare said, “O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant!” (Claudy, 1929)

When in deadlock, it’s better to concentrate on what is agreed upon rather than arguing over different opinions in order to move forward. It’s really not all that hard as long as we use some common sense to do what is right and do no harm. If something is questionable, whether it is lawful or not – it’s better to simply just not do it. As Freemasons we are charged to always do right. Our ceremonies and rituals teach several virtues to the candidate who we believe to have basic moral character and whose heart is open to the reception of those lessons.

There are few tools we can use to teach justice and judgement. For example, the gavel reminds us to ever be mindful of knowing what is right and what is wrong:

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The Gavel, we are told, represents the force of conscience, which, of course, is the voice of our own soul, or as our ritual puts it “the voice of nature” and the “centre from which we cannot err”. It is this inner voice that is ever ready to warn us when without it we would err. If we let conscience guide us, and are prompt to heed it, we will find its voice becoming stronger and clearer with every day of our lives; but, if we fail to heed it, failure becomes a habit, and its voice will eventually become so weak that it is barely audible, so that finally there is no warning at all and its owner becomes a really evil person.

Conscience, like the Gavel, will “knock off all superfluous knobs and excrescence’s” so that the rough stone of our character will become the Perfect Ashlar fit for the Temple. (Henderson, 1996)

And then there’s the plumb rule, which teaches us to act with integrity in all our dealings:

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The Plumb Rule is the emblem of integrity, and with the man of integrity we can entertain no doubt. We know how he will act, and what he will do, because he stoops to nothing mean or petty, a debt of a few cents is just as sure to be paid as one of a thousand dollars; where his attendance is expected there he will be. The man of integrity is ruled by duty and loyalty, and will never take an unfair advantage.

The Plumb Rule consists of a weight hanging freely at the end of a line; the principle that actuates it is the influence of gravity. No matter where it is placed, it always points to the centre of the earth. So it is in the spiritual world, but here it points unerringly to God.

A man of integrity does not envy the wealth, the power, or the intelligence and good fortune of another, nor does he despise those less fortunate than himself. He harbours no avarice, injustice, malice, revenge, nor an envy and contempt of mankind, but holds the scales of justice with equal poise. (Henderson, 1996)

And Also the compasses, which reminds us to have balance in order to secure good judgement:

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They are not drawing, but measuring, instruments and their function is proportion and symmetry.  By means of the compasses, a distance of one side of a centre-line can be readily marked off on the other side of the line, and thus the designer is enabled to maintain balance and symmetry in his design.

Symbolically, a balanced viewpoint and a sense of proportion are essential attributes of good and sound judgment and of the mature, sterling character which is our Masonic ideal.

We are told in our ritual that the Compasses “remind us of His (God’s) unerring and impartial justice.”

The ideal Master Mason is a well balanced and just man, and one in whom, to quote Shakespeare, “mercy seasons justice.” (Croft, 1974)

Knowing right from wrong and having common sense is naturally inherent in people as divine law that was given to us from the Deity. Freemasonry helps us to understand and put into practice its lessons and precepts. Using common sense and doing what is right should be our constant rule and guide when exercising judgement. In this way we can set good examples for our brothers and inspire them to practice justice as well.

Remember that we are charged to “neither aggravate nor palliate the offenses of our brethren” and to “judge with candour, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with mercy.”

Black Hawk Masonic Lodge. (2001). Cardinal Virtues of Freemasonry. Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Claudy, Carl. (1929). The Black Cube. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.

Creason, Todd E. (2012). Freemason Wisdom: Harry Truman On Judgement. Danville, Illinois.

Croft, Phil J. (1974). The Compasses. Published in MASONIC BULLETIN, BCR.

Denny, M.M. (2007). Freemasons and the Four Cardinal Virtues: Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice. Yahoo! Contributor Network.

Grand Lodge of Texas. (2001). The Four Cardinal Virtues. The Masonic Trowel.

Grima, Michael. (2011). Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Muskoka Lodge #360, Parry Sound, Ontario.

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

Marcus, Richard D. (2001). What Fortitude Achieves. Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, USA.

McEvoy, Norman. (2007). Four Cardinal Virtues. Victoria, British Columbia.

Paton, Chalmers I. (1873). Freemasonry: Its Symbolism, Religious Nature and Law of Perfection. London: Reeves and Turner.

Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. (2001). Four Cardinal Virtues. Florida, USA.

Record, Allen W. (2008). Our Cardinal Virtues. St. George Utah Visitation.

Ronayne, Edmond. (1917). The Cardinal Virtues. Excerpted from “Handbook Freemasonry.” Chicago: Ezra A. Cook.

Sickels, Daniel. (1868). Great Tenets of a Freemason. Excerpted from “The General Ahiman Rezon and Freemason’s Guide.” New York: Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Co.

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

Wojtas, Bill. (2011). Justice, Brotherhood and Truth. Chicago, Illinois.

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Burns Voyage

On January 25th, Lodge Harry S. Truman celebrated Robert Burns‘ Birthday in the Keystone Lounge in true Scottish Fashion with haggis and poetry.

It was a great time had by all.

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The next day, Lodge Han Yang had a going away party for Bro. JM.

Bon voyage brother. You will be missed.

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