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masonic matters

Questions Answered

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

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others it’s the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

“Example is Leadership. Albert Schweitzer

“A good example is far better than a good precept.” Dwight L. Moody

Dear Masonic Student,

“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.”  Edmund Burke

I received a question from a Brother that was interesting. To me the interesting part was that it seems most Masons accept the fact that we don’t walk between the Master and the 3 Great Lights when the Lodge is at Labor, except, of course, some do during degree work: That was the question, ‘Why is this allowed when the custom is not to do it?’

In some jurisdictions the Altar and the Great Lights of Masonry may not be in the center of the Lodge Room where someone might walk between the Master and the Great Lights, however, here it is, and that’s where the question comes from.

Another way of looking at not crossing between the Altar with The Great Lights disposed upon it  when the Lodge is at Labor, is to say we do not interrupt the Master’s line of sight of the Holy Bible, Square, and Compass. The reason for this custom is because; it is supposed that the Master draws inspiration and wisdom from them when he presides over the Lodge. we also keep this in mind when the Master steps down on the floor of the Lodge, as in a degree, or for another purpose; we don’t cross between him and the Great Lights. Think of a time when the Masons form lines or a circle as part of a degree. But as far as crossing the Master’s line of sight in a degree is concerned, the simple answer is that the Senior Deacon is doing so because he is carrying out the Master’s orders.

The entire degree is held on the order of the Master, and to do it properly there must be circumambulation; the S.D., as the assistant to the Master, conducts the candidate in that circumambulation. So, for degree work there are some allowances made by the Master to this rule of not crossing that line between the Altar and the East.

A longer answer is that the S.D. and the Candidate are not the only ones who cross between the Master’s line of sight and the Altar: So do a certain 3 individuals, and 9, (at least symbolically,) more, as far as circumambulation, and degree work are concerned: Even if the Master participates he, like the rest of us, has the altar in plain view on his right hand.

The question was a good one: It will lead the Masonic student into exploring the symbolism of the 3 Great Lights, why they are Great Lights, the symbolism of the Altar, Circumambulation, and the stops the candidate makes on his passage in each of the degrees.

“I don’t know any other way to lead but by example.” Don Shula

Leadership and Mentoring by example

I have been asked a few times to write an article on attitude and how it has an impact on our lives. I have mentioned attitude in passing from time to time in some articles. I was asked again recently. The question came up after the Brother was telling me about quite a bit of strife in a couple of Lodges, how it was affecting the entire Lodge, and the devastating effect it was having on the ‘younger’ Masons in the Lodge.

If you would like to read some great papers, or hear some great talks on attitude check out those by Earl Nightingale. Even though Mr. Nightingale has passed many years ago his company and his books and CD’s can still be found at:

William James wrote: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” The Great Light of Masonry reinforces what he wrote. Rev. Mac Hammond says that the apostle Paul “exhorts us to keep our attitudes humble, positive and pure. For those who do, the Bible promises peace, increase and fulfilling relationships.” John Maxwell, Minister and motivational speaker, calls attitude “the speaker of your present and the prophet of your future.” So as Earl Nightingale has said: The Magic Word is Attitude.

You may remember that great poem of Brother Edgar Guest, called “Sermons We See.” It’s a wonderful poem, and it conveys a very good message to Masons and non-Masons alike on being an example. An example – that’s what we all are most of the time; sometimes we’re good examples and possibly there are times we aren’t. Being a good example is an important part of being a good and effective mentor and leader. Every Mason will have his attitude manifest itself in the words and actions he chooses. As a friend and Brother of mine says ‘ the newer, and some not-so-new Masons tend to emulate what they see us ‘older’ and more seasoned Masons do and say.

Thankfully, most of us ‘older Masons’ don’t present anything other than what is right and proper for younger Masons to see and hear. But there are times when one observes words and actions by Masons in and out of Lodge that make one wonder what kind of example we are giving our younger Masons.

I don’t think that this is a modern problem because the “Old Charges,” written Rev. and Brother James Anderson back in 1723, address behavior by Masons both in and out of Lodge. I won’t go into the Old Charges here, because they can be read in Many Masonic Books and also on-line. However, I will say that they are well worth reading, and I think as a minimum they should be read at least once a year by all of us; sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know.

I mentioned that poem by Brother Guest, and you may know it, but when you read it as a Freemason you will likely see that it could be called a Masonic Poem: It speaks about lectures and information on conduct, which to me seems applicable to our Masonic degrees and charges. I truly believe it speaks to those of us who have been initiated prior to the Brothers we have initiated into our Lodges over the past few years: Those of us who are supposed to have learned the lessons of Freemasonry. There are not many who would argue against mentoring our Brethren who are ‘younger’ in the craft, but argue or not, our attitudes and actions can be supportive of teaching the lessons and meanings of the allegories in Freemasonry, or they can have the opposite effect. It’s up to us individually every day: It’s true, we can and do choose our attitude; every Freemason gives to those he interacts with an impression of Masons and Freemasonry.

Before I reproduce the poem below I’d like to remind us all of a quote by Emerson; “What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”

Sermons We See

Edgar Guest

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; / I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. / The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear, / Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear; / And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds, / For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. / I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done; / I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run. / And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true, / But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do; / For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, / But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live. / When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind. / When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind / Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me / To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be. / And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today / Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way. / One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold; / One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told. / Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear, / For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear. / Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say, / -I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.

Words to live by:  Precept guides, but example draws.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014