Saturday, March 31, 2012

Building with living stones - Part 1

The presentation at our recent 309 dinner sparked some interesting discussion with our Fellowcrafts last Sunday. The statements that follow as well as the questions I may ask are a result of those two events.

When interviewing potential candidates, many of us have been stressing that “You JOIN the Elks…you are MADE a Mason.” In addition we discuss that the greatest secret of Freemasonry is the inner transformation that should occur while one is undergoing the initiatory experience of the three degrees. Research has solidified that fact with me as a dissection of each degree illustrates a deliberate sequence of events and a deliberate timeline of the introduction of concepts and symbols.

This brings me back to a concept I had written about a few years ago – Masonic Formation (also known as Applied Freemasonry). Just as a man cannot enter a religious order (i.e. the Franciscans) without undergoing a process of formation, it would seem that this type of process would be essential for the proper formation of a candidate into a Brother. Our current work on Masonic education of new Brothers is one aspect of our movement towards a formative process – but it shouldn’t stop there. Further Light is obtained (or should be) in an ongoing way. This cannot be done passively, but must be done actively.

I am currently researching information which will (I hope) develop into a formal presentation on the concept of Masonic Formation/Applied Freemasonry. To that end, I have the following questions:

1) If a goal of the fraternity is “to make good men better”, how do we – as Master Masons – define “better?”

2) The formation process would seem to develop over the course of the three degrees (including some initial orientation). What do you feel is important at each of these steps? How can a Brother show himself to be “proficient” in a tangible way?

3) What for you were important milestones on your journey so far? What would have been useful to you while you were undergoing the formative process?

4) What do you feel is the essential mission of Freemasonry? If our purpose is to “make Masons,” what are your thoughts on how we go about doing that?

5) What, in your opinion, would help to spark some appropriate intellectual, physical or spiritual Masonically-oriented debate in our Lodge? Why, in your opinion, is there such a malaise among members to share their research?

It is my hope that I will get some feedback (more than just a “sounds good” kind of reply) on these questions. We continue to complain that we need to do something and yet, we make little to no effort to move forward. As one who has been tasked with the responsibility of training our new Brothers, it is essential for me to know how they should be shaped – so that they may better fit our “spiritual building.”

Please send me your thoughts - either to my email (on my profile) or post them here. If you feel that there might be other helpful questions, please note them as well. It is my intention to coordinate a Lodge gathering to discuss my findings at a future date and will post my findings on this blog. Thank you in advance for your time and assistance.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dinner Lecture 03/21/12

Bro. Backhaus (L) & Bro. Di Natale (R)
The 309 Society held its 4th Dinner Lecture on 03/21/12 at the Great Valley Masonic Temple in Great Valley, New York. The evening was a testament to brotherhood.

Our featured speaker of the evening was supposed to be WBro. Andrew Hammer, author of "Observing the Craft."  Plane tickets were purchased, hotel reservations made, food purchased and reservations received.  Like all best laid plans - this one had a twist.  WBro. Hammer was forced to cancel at the last minute due to illness. Bro. John Backhaus, being the stalwart coordinator that he is, worked together with Bro. Daniel Di Natale of Harmonie Lodge #699 in Buffalo to ensure that the evening would go on as planned.  Bro. Di Natale offered an  interesting lecture that brought together elements of the work of MWBro. Dwight Smith, the Knights of the North and the work of WBro. Andrew Hammer.  The subject was a need for an examination of the state of the Craft and a return to our traditional missions and objectives. 

The gathering had representatives from two different states.  There were two Pennsylvania Districts and three New York Districts represented.  After the lecture, the Brethren had the opportunity to sit together and share a meal along with stimulating conversation.

The Society wishes to thank Bro. Di Natale for stepping in and helping to ensure the success of the evening.  Stay tuned - the next lecture will be held in the Fall of 2012.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Untempered Mortar

In the several degrees of Freemasonry we are taught that the workmen of the Temple wore their aprons in different ways.  Apprentices at the Temple were said to wear their Aprons in the peculiar manner that they might protect their clothes from being soiled by untempered mortar. This is mortar which has not been properly composed of the correct ingredients or in which these ingredients are improperly mixed. In operative Masonry this results in a weak and defective structure which will not properly stand. Therefore, untempered mortar, or improperly mixed mortar, was not to be used. The proper knowledge and understanding of how to properly mix the ingredients was essential if the apprentice wished to become a master of his craft.

For speculative Masonry, "untempered mortar" became a symbol of passions and appetites not duly restrained. This untempered mortar is also symbolic of improper mixtures in the building of one's character or the employment of bad materials in moral, ethical and spiritual architecture in the construction of the institution of Freemasonry.

Not tampering with untempered mortar is critical for the new Apprentice as well as seasoned Master Masons. It is imperative that we are creating a spiritual building - "that house not made with hands" - that can withstand the test fo time. In doing so we must ensure that our thoughts, words and deeds provides that cement which will contribute to building a spirtual ediface that is stable, beautiful, and lasting. Every action - every choice - we make either adds to the strength of the mixture, or weakens it. We must not only remain knowledgable, but use that knowledge wisely.

J.L. Haywood said:
“The innocence of a Mason is his gentleness, chivalrous determination to do no moral evil to any person, man or woman, or babe; his patient forbearance of the crudeness and ignorance of men, his charitable forgiveness of his brethren when they willfully or unconsciously do him evil; his dedication to a spiritual knighthood in behalf of the value and virtues of humanity by which alone man rises above the brutes and the world is carried forward on the upward way.” The lambskin apron presented to the initiate during his entered Apprentice Degree should be for all his life a very precious possession; the outward and visible symbol of an inward and spiritual tie."

So, as the operative mason wears their apron to prevent soiling his clothes, the speculative Mason wears his to remind him of that rectitude of conduct, strength of character and spirit of unity that is imperative toward avoiding "daubing with untempered mortar" in the building of our inner temple and thus ensuring its stability and that it will stand the test of time.