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masonic matters

Purpose of a Lodge

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

“Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love.”
Mother Teresa

For a long time I have maintained that the purpose of a Lodge is to teach and learn. I have felt this way since I petitioned my Lodge for the degrees of Freemasonry, and which was reinforced when I appeared at the Lodge to take my First Degree.

When I appeared at the Lodge for that degree I was asked some questions by the Senior Steward[i] and one of the questions was; “Do you seriously declare upon your honor, before these gentlemen, that you are prompted to solicit the privileges of Masonry, by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire of knowledge, and a sincere wish of being serviceable to your fellow creatures?” A desire of knowledge – that stuck in my mind, and I was sure that my expecting to learn what Masonry had to teach was a well founded expectation.

Then very soon in the Senior Steward’s talk he mentioned something to the effect that Masonry consists of a course of moral instruction, taught by various methods. There was that word ‘Taught’, I knew then I was in for a great learning experience. Well in my Lodge my expectations were fulfilled, thanks to the Brother who signed my petition[ii], and took me under his wing, so to speak. He introduced me to other knowledgeable Masons, and helped me find in Masonry what I had hoped to find.

How did he know what I had hoped to get out of my Masonic journey? He got to know me better as he coached and mentored me and learned what I was interested in, and then led me to find what I had hoped to find.

If Freemasonry is a course taught according to ancient usages, by types, emblems, allegories and allegorical figures, and if Freemasonry is first and foremost an educational institution, we need to have Masons who are willing and able to teach our Masons the lessons that Masonry has to pass on to them, so that their life might be better for having become a Mason.

There are many things under the heading of “Knowledge” that can be passed on to a Brother and one of those things that seems to be either overlooked, or side stepped, is Self-Knowledge.

A Mason is said to be a good Brother “who has studied and knows himself,” and who has learned the first lesson of Freemasonry; to subdue his unworthy passions and try his best to eliminate all the vices, errors and imperfections from his life.[iii]

Our Past Grand Master Neil Neddermeyer has a saying; “Turn on the Light!” Well that is what a Masonic Lodge is supposed to do for the members of the Lodge, and since a Masonic Lodge is a certain number of Masons duly assembled it is the Lodge members who are to help other members turn on the light for themselves.

To Freemasons Light Means Knowledge and some of the knowledge we as Masons are to obtain is self-knowledge. Every Freemason should study himself, because “he who does not know himself; his moral weaknesses, his desires, his powers of toleration, and his real, not his imaginary, spiritual strength, cannot live as the order requires that he ought to live; in the bonds of the closest fraternal love with the whole brotherhood.” [iv] “He who has thoroughly studied himself, and is susceptible to all good impressions, will be subject to much less evil than others.”[v]

Brother George Oliver in his Dictionary of Symbolical Masonry has a section under the term “knowledge,” titled Know Thyself. In that section he says a Mason will despise no man because of his country or religion, and who will always be ready to convince the world that Truth, Brotherly Love, and Relief, are the grand principles on which he acts.[vi]

One of the things I hear regularly when I’m lucky enough to visit Masonic Lodges is that Masons want to learn about things Masonic. I have learned that Masons want to have a good program of Masonic Education in their Lodge Communications, and they want to have Schools of Instruction, and practices on the rituals and ceremonies of Masonry. In fact, when Masons are asked what they need as a Lodge of Masons, or as individual Masons, you will invariably hear that there is a great need for Lodges to provide information on things that are strictly Masonic, the kind of information they can only receive in a Masonic Lodge, or from Brother to Brother.

If the Master of a Lodge would like to have a school of instruction for the Masons of his Lodge he should be able to have one, and the best one is a District School of Instruction. Schools of Instruction are ordered by the Grand Master,[vii] but it is the duty of the Custodian of the Work in charge of that area to do what he can to assist the Masters of Lodges[viii] and the District Representatives to have schools and practices in the Lodges and districts. It is the job of the Lodge Education Officer to make sure there is a program[ix] of Masonic information on the symbolism and story behind the allegories of Masonry. Allegory means story, and there is, it seems to me, always more to the story than meets the eye.

Being a new Mason so many years ago, I thought every Mason was experiencing what I had been experiencing, and I honestly believe many were, but as I matured in Masonry I found that not every Mason was getting out of Masonry what he had hoped to get.

As it says in the Minnesota Masonic Manual; “as it is from those, who are capable of giving instruction that we can properly expect to receive it.” We must have Masons who are capable of giving instruction, and those of us who are - need to do what we can to be certain there are Masons in the future who are capable too.

“Self-knowledge is best learned, not by contemplation, but by action. Strive to do your duty and you will soon discover of what stuff you are made.”
Brother Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

At the 59th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Wyoming held at Lander, Wyoming on August 23rd & 24th of 1933 Brother Joseph M. Lowndes gave a report on some jurisdictions from around the world.

Over the years there has in some circles been interest in how the Masons, who were Jewish, were treated in Germany during the Nazi’s elimination policy of the Third Reich.

Right Worshipful Brother Lowndes, as the Grand Secretary, and the one who handled foreign correspondence, in his report included information on Freemasonry in Germany.

“Dissolution of the Masonic Lodges in Germany and their reformation on a ‘purely Christian basis’ was announced in Berlin on April 19 of this year, by the Grand Lodge. The new name will be ‘National Christian Order of Frederick the Great,’ and Jews will be excluded from membership. One million members will be affected. If it is a Christian Order which they have organized on a purely Christian basis, they must teach those things that were taught by the Master Jesus. I wonder where they get the idea that He ever excluded anyone from the religion He taught. If I remember rightly, He said, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.’ I do not find any mention where the Jewish children were exempt.”

“What we need today is God’s church, teaching God’s word, doing things in the name of God and believing in the God whom Jesus taught us to believe in.”

“The child is the father of the man.” Wordsworth

Here is some information of a Masonic Nature that is not new to most Masons, but it is still interesting. If you are fortunate enough to be traveling to Great Britain with R. W. Brother Andy Rice next June you may want to take some of your time to visit Salisbury Abby because there is evidence there of Freemasonry dated as early as the Square found at Baal’s Bridge in Ireland. However, the Abby at Salisbury, (commonly called Salisbury’s Abby, which is not too far from Stonehenge,) has some words chiseled in the stone above the door to the Abby. The engraving is thought to date from the early 1500’s: “As the compass goes round without deviation from the circumference, so, doubtless, truth and loyalty never deviate. Look well to the end, quothe John Murdo."

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.” Brother Oscar Wilde

What I Want
By Brother Edgar A Guest

I don’t want a pipe and I don’t want a watch,
I don’t want cigars or a bottle of scotch.
I don’t want a thing your money can buy,
I don’t want a shirt or a four-in-hand-tie.
If you really would make this old heart of mine glad,
I just want to know you’re still fond of your dad.
You women folk say, and believe it I can,
“It’s so terribly hard to buy things for a man!”
And from all that I’ve heard I am sure it must be.
Well, I don’t want you spending your money on me,
The joy that I crave in a store can’t be had.
I just want to know you’re still fond of your dad.
Get on with your shopping: Give others the stuff!
For me just a hug and a kiss are enough!
Just come in at Christmas with love in your eye
And tell me you think I’m a pretty swell guy,
With all that for my gift I can never be sad.
I just want to know you’re still fond of your dad.

From the Great light of Masonry = “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged, [grandparents,] and parents are the glory of their children.” Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

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“Does Freemasonry have a ‘system of ethics’ peculiarly its own? It does not because no society can have one, any more than one people, or religion, or language can have one. What truthfulness is everywhere else is what truthfulness is in Masonry; its honor differs from no other man’s honor because honor cannot differ.” Brother H.L. Haywood

[i] W.B. Dallas Olson, who was the Master of Mora Lodge #223 when I was the Senior Warden.
[ii] W.B. Frank G. Johnson.
[iii]M.W. Brother George Oliver, Dictionary of Symbolical Masonry
[iv] Masonry Defined, Johnston 1930 edition
[v] ibid
[vi] Brother George Oliver, Dictionary of Symbolical Masonry
[vii] Minnesota Masonic Code – Section G18.09
[viii] There are knowledgeable Masons who are Monitors of the Work to help Lodges.
[ix] That is why I write and Publish T.F.S

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Last modified: March 22, 2014