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masonic matters

Communications With Others

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"When we do the work that Freemasons are expected to do, and as we are expected to do it, we are conducting the best possible public relations program." Emessay Notes  

"Flattery is like a cigarette, it's alright so long as you don't inhale." Adali Stevenson  

Tonight on the news there was a piece about Internet safety. In particular they were saying that there were scoundrels out there sending bogus e-mails with instructions to go to a web site for well known and reputable e-companies, but when you click on it the link is to the crooks own site that just looks like the nationally known site, and then there are instructions to enter credit card numbers, bank names & numbers, then Social Security Numbers, and who know what all.  

When I heard the News Man tell about it I couldn't help remember a couple of things. The first thing I remembered was many years ago when I matriculated at the University of Minnesota, on the first day of orientation I was to be at a certain building along with a bunch of other kids. The person in front of all of us was a college student helping out for the day. He told us that a paper would be distributed to us, and when we got it to turn it over in front of us so the blank side of the paper was facing up, and as he said that he turned his copy of the paper over so the blank side was up on the table in front of him.  

After the papers were all distributed we were instructed to turn it over, and praised for not reading it until we were told to do so. (And in fact that was in bold type across the top of the page - In capital letters - DO NOT READ UNTIL TOLD TO DO SO!) Then our leader said; "Follow the instructions on the sheet of paper in detail. This is a timed test, and you will have only 3 minutes to complete it, Begin now!"  

Those words were essentially printed on the paper too. And we began. Well you may have seen this same thing already and it was really quite hilarious sitting in that room for the next three minutes. But I always remembered item number one of this "test." #1 said: "Read everything carefully before doing anything." For some reason that has always remained with me, and I always do read everything before proceeding.  

I hadn't really given that experience too much constant thought over the years, and then it was brought to mind again about ten years ago, when my mentor and Masonic Father died. I was given a workbook he had from a Masonic Leadership school he attended and in section 5 of the work book there was that same test. And it brought a smile to my face to realize my good friend had done exactly what every item on the "Test" said to do, except for the first item, which said "read everything carefully before doing anything."  

Item 15 on the "Test" says this: "Now that you have finished reading carefully, as you were instructed in Number 1, do only Number 2." In between item #1 & #15 were a variety of things, and some of them were quite silly. Knowing my good Brother as I did, I'll bet no one enjoyed the fact that he fell for it more than he did.  

I have a copy of that test on my computer now, and I'll attach a copy of it to this issue of Masonic Matters. Maybe you will be able to use it to do a little instructing here and here.  

What does all this have to do with Masonry? Good question, but I think it has to do with communication with others, and that is something we do in a Masonic Lodge is "Communicate." People will do more readily what they see the leader doing rather than what he says. That was illustrated to me again recently, while at a "Get Motivated" seminar. One of the speakers asked the audience to form the O.K. sign with their fingers and to touch their chin with those fingers when he counted to three, and to watch him. He counted; one, two, three, and placed his fingers with the O.K. sign on his "Cheek" and so did almost everyone in the audience. They followed what he did, not what he said.  

My reason for mentioning all of this is two fold. When you get an un-solicited email telling you to give out private information - don't.  

And when your in a leadership position in your Lodge remember that leadership training, including training in communication, is worth while and something to pay attention to.  

One of the most important traits of a leader is to be a good listener, to remember that our total behavior is involved in communication, and to remember that no matter what we say, or how we say it, not everyone gets quite the meaning we intend to deliver. That last part is illustrated frequently in our degree work, especially in the lecture of the degree, many times we need to see it and hear it many, many times before a lesson of it begins to sink in.  

Here is just a little bit on communication and how things get mixed up at times. There are some words, which can cause misunderstanding when we're speaking in a Lodge, whether we're an officer or not. They are words such as: A Little; many; soon; high; low; and several, possibly you can think of others.  

There is a story about how the one time editor of "Look Magazine," Gardner Cowles, had something written by advertising executive Arthur Kinder framed and hung on his office wall. Supposedly this was advice Kinder had given to his son on writing.  

Never fear big words Big words name little things All big things have little names Such as life and death, peace and war, Or dawn, day, night, hope, love, and home. Learn to use little words in a big way It is hard to do But they say what you mean. When you don't know what you mean - Use big words They often fool little people.  

"The three things we crave most in life - Happiness, Freedom, and Peace of Mind - are always attained by giving them to someone else." Unknown  

Furniture! In our ritual we are told the Furniture of the Lodge is the Holy Bible, Square, and Compass. It wasn't always that way, but do you know what is meant by calling the Three Great Lights furniture?  

Our Masonic Fraternity has come under fire in the past from Christian anti-Masons for referring to the Holy Bible as Furniture. The Anti-Masons who are not Christian usually don't mention this Furniture business, but they have plenty of other things to criticize us about. By the way, that word Criticize. Criticism is usually meant to someone, or some group to offer criticism to or about someone or something that the criticizer hopes will be made better by his criticism. But in the case of the real anti-Masons they aren't looking for Freemasonry to improve because of their criticism, unless their goal of Freemasonry becoming extinct could be considered an improvement.  

Back to furniture: The old archaic meaning of the word furniture is; "the act of furnishing, or the state of being furnished,"[i] and that's the way the word is used in our ritual. The modern-day meaning of the word might mean a chair, or a table, but that is definitely not the meaning we attach to the Three Great Lights being furniture. The meaning we have for that term is that the Lodge must be furnished with the Three Great Lights or it cannot be opened.  

What our ritual does not spell out is that the Three Great Lights are not the only thing that is the furniture of a Lodge. For instance, the Charter is, in that sense, furniture too, because it must be present, the same as the Three Great Lights or the Lodge cannot be opened.  

As I mentioned there were other things considered to be the furniture of the Lodge in times past. Some of the early lectures said that the Mosaic Pavement, Indented Tessel, and the Blazing Star were called additional furniture, but today they are referred to as Ornaments of the Lodge.[ii]  

"My feelings on my first entrance into a Masonic Lodge are very clear in memory. I was a young man and it was a great thrill to kneel before the altar of the Lodge to become a freemason." Brother Norman Vincent Peale  

Every once-in-a-while someone will mention that a Mason should be able to tell in his own word what Masonry means to him, but in a s few a words as possible instead of what would take up a page or two. Well in that vein I like what the United Grand Lodge of England has to say about what Masonry is, and if you're inclined to want to say what Masonry is in a few words you may want to use this for something to build your own explanation on. Here it is:  

"Freemasonry: An Approach to Life. Freemasonry offers its members an approach to life, which seeks to reinforce thoughtfulness for others, kindness in the community, honesty in business, courtesy in society and fairness in all things. Members are urged to regard the interest of the family as paramount, but importantly Freemasonry also teaches and practices concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need."  

Also there is another fine example of what one Mason had to say on the question of "What Freemasonry Means to Me." It comes from an article by Brother Norman Vincent Peale in the May 1986 issue of the New Age Magazine of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction.  

"To me, Freemasonry is one form of dedication to God and service to humanity. I too was a Freemason in my heart and so do I remain. I am proud to walk in fraternal fellowship with my Brethren. Why am I a Freemason? Simply because, I am proud to be a man who wants to keep the moral standards of life at high level and leave something behind so others will benefit. Only as I, personally, become better, can I help others do the same."  

"Patience is the companion of wisdom." Saint Augustine.  

Brethren, I mentioned I will attach a file for the "test" on following instructions, and I will. But since some would prefer not to open attached files I will also put it at the end of this issue of Masonic Matters.  

D O  N O T  R E A D  U N T I L  T O L D  TO  DO  SO !  


This is a timed test ------------------------you have three minutes only:  

1. Read everything carefully before doing anything.  


3. Circle the word "NAME" in sentence two.  

4. Draw five small squares in the upper left hand corner of this paper.  

5. Put an "X" in the lower right hand corner of this paper.  

6. After the first line, write "YES, NO, MAYBE."  

7. Put an "S" in the lower right hand corner of this paper.  

8. Draw a rectangle around the word "PAPER" in sentence 2.  

9. Draw an oval around the word "PAPER" in sentence 4.  

10. Loudly CALL OUT YOUR NAME when you get to this part of the test.  

11. Count out loud, in your normal speaking voice, from 10 to 1.  

12. If you are the first person to get this far, call out loudly,  


13. UNDERLINE ALL EVEN NUMBERS on the side of the paper.  


15. Now that you have finished reading carefully as you were instructed in number 1, do only number 2.  


[i] New Century Dictionary

[ii] Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia 1995 edition

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Last modified: March 22, 2014