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masonic matters

The right to Instruction, and the Duty to Instruct

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

“Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” Chinese Proverb

The Right to Instruction, and the Duty to Instruct

It has been said that there are times when people, because they are about to receive something they have wanted, will repeat words, or agree to things, without really listening, or understanding the words they repeat and agree to. A reason for this is that many people tend to only hear what is being said, while some others actually listen to what is being said; there is a difference. Business Consultant Adam Lieberman says; “There is a significant difference between hearing and listening. Hearing means that someone ‘hears’ what’s being said and then translates the message into a meaning for himself. When [a person] ‘listens,’ however, [he] takes an extra moment to think about the person who’s speaking. It is [by listening] that you have a clear understanding of what is trying to be conveyed.”

Freemasons, as thinking individuals, should be taught the difference between simply hearing and actually listening, so they are enabled to better understand and learn what they need to know. This is important for the candidate in the degrees when he is hearing the dialog, the obligation, and the charge of each of his degrees; but it is no less important for the Master Mason about to be installed into a chair in his Lodge.

In my jurisdiction the Mason being installed as Master places his right hand over his heart, repeats after the installing officer and agrees with the following statement: “I solemnly promise, upon the honor of a Mason, that in the office of Master of this Lodge, I will to the best of my ability, strictly comply with the Constitutions, Laws, Rules and Regulations of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota, the by-laws of this Lodge, and all other ancient Masonic usages, so far as they shall come to my knowledge.”

In other jurisdictions this kind of statement of agreement is also made, (varying slightly in the dialog.) The injunction about complying with the laws, rules, and regulations is a universal theme in Freemasonry, which Masons subscribe and agree to.

One of the things that are important, and a part of the Constitutions and By-laws, is the right of every Freemason to be taught the lessons that Freemasonry has to pass on to its votaries. Sadly there are times when it appears that some Masons consider the learning of the proficiency lectures and the mentoring of new Masons as optional; they aren’t.

In Minnesota, Masonic Law #7 says: “That Masonic instruction is, like charity, a reciprocal right and duty of Masons.” In other words we, as Masons have the right to instruction, and we, as Masons, also have the duty to instruct our Brethren. It’s obvious that our newer Freemasons need a mentor, but I will submit that all Masons will need a mentor as they journey through Freemasonry, and especially when they are placed in positions of responsibility in their Lodge and other Masonic offices.

The right and duty of our newer Brethren to receive instruction from a ritual coach and mentor is reiterated in the Masonic Code of Minnesota; in Section G5.02; it says:

“It is the duty of the Master, when a candidate is initiated or passed, to require that he be instructed immediately in the required proficiency of the Degree, that he pass a satisfactory examination of the same in open Lodge, and that he complete the educational program for each Degree before he proceeds to the next Degree.” It continues: “It is the duty of the Master, when a candidate has been raised that he be instructed in the proficiency of the Degree, that he pass a satisfactory examination of the same in open Lodge, and that he complete the educational program as soon as possible.” The learning of the proficiency and the portion of the mentoring process for each degree is required before proceeding to the next degree, and in the case of the third degree these need to be done as soon as possible after the degree.

The educational program that part of the Minnesota Masonic Code is speaking of is the ‘Mentor Program’ we have in our jurisdiction. The Mentor Program is something the Lodge Education Officer could help with, since he and the Mentor Program are all about Masonic Education.

Over the years our Grand Lodge has provided fine Masonic Education Programs for its Constituent Lodges to use to educate, or instruct, the new Masons of the Lodge: In the 1920’s & 30’s the Educational Program our Grand Lodge used was named “The Lodge System of Masonic Education.” In the 40’s an excellent Masonic Education Program called the “Councilor’s Program” was introduced. Our current, also excellent, program is called the “Mentor Program.” The wording in the Masonic Code makes it possible to change the name of the program without changing the wording of that section of the Code.

Over the many years of ‘New Mason’ education, each one of our programs has, when used in the Constituent Lodges, been good; our current Mentor Program is no exception: The key, however, is in the use of it.

There are times when a Mason will comment or complain that the new Masons today, and in recent years, aren’t learning what they need to know; if that’s the case it is truly sad, because the tools and programs to teach ‘New Masons’ are, and have been in place for a long time. In addition there are Masons serving our Constituent Lodges who are more than willing to help Lodge officers implement these programs to the Lodge’s best advantage.

If your Lodge is not prepared to help new Brethren by providing instruction in ritual coaching and by mentoring, please contact our Grand Lodge Office , so that your District Representative, Area Deputy, Custodian, the Mentoring Committee, and the Grand L.E.O. can be made aware of the need of their help: These Masons are willing and eager to help whenever they can; they will be pleased to meet with the Lodge officers to help things improve.

The right and privilege of Masonic instruction is also mentioned in Brother Mackey’s list of Ancient Landmarks. Landmark #24 says in part: “The foundation of a Speculative Science upon and Operative Art, and the symbolic use and explanation of the terms of that art, for the purpose of religious and moral teaching, constitute another Landmark of the order.” It is interesting that in the Halliwell Manuscript, dating from 1390, article #13 says; “The Master must instruct his apprentices in everything they are capable of learning.” All this emphasizes that the right and the duty of every Mason to receive and provide instruction to his Brethren has been a part of Masonry for centuries; this right and duty is why many ‘older’ Masons, who were mentored when they were ‘young’ in Masonry, are thought of as knowledgeable about things Masonic; it is a right and duty that is, and should be, taken very seriously.

“By Learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” Latin Proverb

From the Great light of Masonry = “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 9:9 NIV

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Last modified: March 22, 2014