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masonic matters

Question Box

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

"They bore him barefaced on the brier; hey non nonny, hey nonny; and in his grave rained many a tear." Shakespeare  

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember: And there is pansies, that's for thoughts." Shakespeare  

"Long live living long, and loving every minute of it." Jack LaLane  

Within the Grand Lodge of Minnesota the Education Committee has what we like to call the "Question Box." The 'question box' is just a way of encouraging Masons to ask a question of our committee if they would like to. It seems it is very frustrating to many people to wonder about something and not have anyone to ask for information and/or insight on a question. Because of the 'question box' we do get some good questions; we like to get questions because it gives us another great opportunity to do some research and to pass on some information that is meaningful to at least the Mason who asked the question, and chances are it will be interesting to more than only the questioner. By the way our committee welcomes questions from Masons and non-Masons from anywhere in the world; we don't profess to have all the answers, but we are willing to do the necessary research and share what we learn in the process.  

We get some great questions, and one of them is what induced the theme of this article:  

"It appears to me that there is a distinction, as King Solomon when speaking to the GSW King of Tyre, which he also refers to the GJW as "their Grand Master.  When I asked some brothers about this, the answer was supposed that since the GJW was also a King - perhaps he and King Solomon were not members of the Craft or at least attained a position where saluting would be inappropriate. This explanation seems inadequate. Also According to ritual traditions: Is there a reason for the inconsistency regarding the salutes and the way that the Grand Master Hiram Abif is referred to?"  

There is so much to enjoy in Freemasonry: Many of us like the fellowship afforded with our Masonic Brethren no matter where we happen to reside or to travel. Some like to plan and work in the Lodge to see the plans carried forward, (this too is a form of fellowship; spending time with our Brethren in worthwhile endeavors.) Some enjoy the ritual; participating in it and seeing others participate in it, and that is what this issue of Masonic Matters is about.  

There is more than one way to enjoy the ritual; many times we think of enjoying the ritual only by participating in it in one way or another. Maybe that might be a correct statement because when a Mason attends Lodge for a degree everyone present will be participating in it; even those of us who watch from the sidelines have some participation; in the opening, in the degree, and in the closing of the Lodge. In Freemasonry every Brother is important and all present take part. Another way to enjoy the ritual is to study and understand it. We can do this by watching, participating and studying; we can enjoy it by analyzing the ritual or parts of it.  

Every Brother who has been proficient in the degrees of the Blue Lodge, whether actually certified in any or all degrees or not, will gain a better understanding of the meaning behind the allegories of the ritual, and because of that he will get questions from time to time: Many of the questions are about the second section of the 3rd degree; such as, why the G.S.W. does not salute when he is spoken to by, or addresses, K.S. Others will also ask about why the words 'our,' 'their and 'your' is used by the G.S.W. and K.S. when referring to G.M.H.A.  

I don't profess to have all the answers when it comes to questions about our ritual, but I have wondered about parts of it myself and have done some research into my questions as well as into questions other Masons have asked. So with that in mind I would like to put forward some of my thoughts regarding the particular question above.  

Have you ever thought about in the second section of the third degree that the G.S.W. does not salute K.S. until he does so after being instructed by K.S. when they are at the grave of H.A.?  

These salutes come as a result of his attempts to comply with an order, and then he salutes only with the salute of the first and second degree. This leads to the question some Masons have about whether in the G.S.W. and/or K.S. were really members of the Craft or not. The Masonic ritual does not teach history it teaches lessons, as illustrated by ritual, so according to the ritual and the legend used in Freemasonry they were; however, whether they were in actuality is not important to the story communicated in the ritual. A play that teaches a lesson does not need to be historically accurate to covey a good story and a moral. By the way, in the ritual of the Hiramic Legend, the Master portrays King Solomon, the Senior Warden; Hiram King of Tyre, and the Junior Warden; our Grand Master Hiram Abif. In the degree itself and also in the lecture of the degree we are told who the three principal officers are and that they were our first three Grand Masters, so, for our purposes, they were members of the craft.  

The first reference in the second section of the degree, which is a play, is when King Solomon addresses the Grand Senior Warden immediately after he quiets the confusion. The answer the G.S.W. gives includes the word 'our' when referring to the Grand Junior Warden, (the third of the three original Grand Masters.) When the G.S.W. addresses the Craftsmen he uses the word 'your,' and then again uses 'our' when he makes his report to K.S. When the Craftsmen make the search they use the word 'our' when they ask about Grand Master Hiram Abiff's whereabouts. So as to the words 'your' and 'our' I think the meaning is the same.  

When the G.S.W. uses the word 'your' when speaking to the brethren he is not implying anything other than conveying an order to search for their G.M., but upon his report he is saying that said G.M. is his Grand Master too, by using the word 'our.'  

[This is just an aside: I have always thought it was appropriate for the Master of a Lodge to refer to the Senior and Junior Warden, Secretary and Treasurer, as 'our,' since he along with everyone else in the Lodge has the privilege of voting during their election. Even appointed officers are appointed as officers of the entire Lodge, so 'our' is, to me, appropriate when referring to them also. Using the word 'my' is also appropriate; an example of this might be that M.W. Brother Ray Christensen is our Grand Master, (Meaning the Masons of Minnesota,) buy he is 'my' Grand Master, (meaning me personally.)]  

I think there is consistency in the parts of the ritual when the brethren of the craft are addressed or referred to and the word 'your' is used, because when the G.M H.A. is referred to by anyone not connected with giving direction or orders the term 'our' is used. It is interesting to note that K.S. does not use the word 'our,' but then his words are generally in giving orders, direction, or information. The presiding officer of the degree, as the W.M. and not as KS, does use the word 'our' when explaining the G.H.S.D. What many times is missed is that the presiding officer of the degree ceases to portray K.S. when the candidate hears the G.M.W. There is a big change at that point; the candidate no longer portrays H.A. and the Master is no longer portrays K.S. The play is essentially over, and it is now the W.M. explaining some things to the newly made Master Mason.  

It is important to remember that the Hiramic Legend is just that, a legend, and as a legend it is designed to convey lessons to be learned. Freemasonry teaches lessons of morality and leadership to name just two things, it is not teaching history. So if some things don't line up historically that isn't a problem, because the lesson is other than history or fact.  

In the play there is no officer sitting in the Junior Warden's Chair, because in the play the G.J.W. is being portrayed by the candidate for the degree. Also in the legend it is the G.J.W. that is the architect, the Master Workman in directing the efforts in the building of the Temple. As such he was the one who was who oversaw everything connected with it, which means he was over all of the workmen; the 70,000 Entered Apprentices or bearers of burdens, the 80,000 Fellow Crafts in the mountains and the quarries, the 3,300 Masters or overseers of the work, and so when he cannot be found there is mass confusion - because there are no orders from him to the master workmen so that they could pass this on to those in their charge.  

As we learn these E.A.'s and F.C's were elevated to more responsibilities according to their skills and merits by the three legendary original Grand Masters. As the Three Grand Masters, who were in possession of the G.M.W., and who were the leaders of the craft of Masons, they were members of the craft.  

As to the saluting; with exception to the Junior Deacon, who salutes as a Master Mason, the only salutes given during the play are given as Fellow Crafts. The Craftsmen salute always as Fellow Crafts, and the Grand Secretary when he rises when called on by K.S. also salutes as a Fellow Craft. I think there is no reason to read anything into the fact that the G.S.W. does not salute when speaking to K.S., he does give the salutes when they are all at the grave, and they are returned then by K.S.  

To me there is no inconsistency in the words used in the ritual. I think the word 'their' as used by K.S. is right, because the three principal officers are the three original Grand Masters; i.e. K.S.; H. K.T., and H.A. So, it is natural to use the word 'their' when referring to the craft and one of those three, especially by K.S. who is the king of the country in which they all reside. It appears that the choices of words are too deliberate to be an oversight.  

"His means of death, his obscure burial, no trophy, sword, nor hatchment o'er his bones, no noble rite nor formal ostentation." Shakespeare - Hamlet  

From the Great light of Masonry = "The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." 1Samuel 2:6 NIV

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Last modified: March 22, 2014