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TO SET THE CRAFT TO WORK
No statement of the Worshipful Master's duties is more familiar (or more comprehensive) than the oft-repeated phrase of our title. It's the Master's job to set the individual Craftsmen to work. Nothing in Masonry today underlines "the crisis in leadership" more sharply than the failure of Masters to set the Craft to work and to give them good and wholesome instruction for their labors.
Many a Master thinks he's doing that by going through the motions of conducting regular business and exemplifying degrees. If that's all that happens in a lodge, a few members are active - as line officers or members of committees. The Master is satisfied that the work of the lodge is getting done. (What is the real work of a lodge of Master Masons?)
If work is the exertion of one's skills or faculties to accomplish something, if work is a purposeful expenditure of energy, just how many Masons are really working at Masonic tasks? One of our troubles is a confusion of thought concerning work. Too often it is merely a synonym for drudgery.
In a mechanized age in which many men labor at dull routine tasks for which machines produce most of the energy, the creative nature of work is lost sight of and forgotten. A cabinet maker runs wood-working machines; be doesn't create an artistic chest of drawers or piece of furniture. What has become of the individualistic stone-carvers who fashioned a distinctive cherub or a leering gargoyle for the ornamentation on a mediaeval cathedral? Routinized Masonic "labor" has become a drudgery to be shunned.
"We work as Speculative Masons only." Unfortunately, we don't always realize that speculative work cannot be organized and structured like the production lines of a modem factory. Freemasonry has no mold for shaping individual members into a standardized product which can be recognized everywhere by a union label, "Made by the Masons."
By definition, Speculative Masonry concerns itself with ideas, not dogmas; with theories, not mechanized patterns; with conjectures, not hardened prejudices - although Masons may at times exhibit dogmatic aptitudes or seasoned prejudices. The fundamental principles with which a Speculative Mason concerns himself are Brotherly Love, Relief (Benevolence), and Truth. To work in those areas - to promote real brotherhood; to give help, aid, and assistance, spiritually as well as economically; and to search for and to collaborate in the discovery of truth, especially the spiritual truths which give meaning to the first two principles - this is the work of a real Master Mason. This is the kind of employment which a Worshipful Master should provide for the Craftsmen in his lodge.
Obviously, it has to be individualized. A Master Mason is "made" individually His obligations require individual action. His constructive labors, he was promised, are to be aimed at the moral and spiritual improvement of one individual - himself. His speculative work, therefore, must be planned for that individual. His tasks must be suited to his needs and understanding. "Good and wholesome instruction" for his labor must be individualized ---for him.
There is only one propitious period for setting the individual Craftsman to work - when "instruction" and "practice" will complement each other naturally - and that is the time of initiation, from the first moment of application for membership to the completion of all the requirements after the conferral of the Master Mason degree. Consequently, the suggestions in this Bulletin are all prompted by the needs of a newly admitted Brother. They are few, intended only as suggestions. The Worshipful Master should use his imagination to plan the work for each individual candidate.
Nor is this pamphlet intended to be "a programming aid." There are many such manuals and guides for helping the officers of clubs and organizations. They have been compiled and published by experts. They are available in well-stocked bookstores. Many a Grand Lodge Committee on Education and/or Lodge Service has made such booklets available in its Jurisdiction.
This Short Talk is intended only to emphasize the need for individualized instruction and "learning by doing" on the part of every new Mason. We live in an "activist" age; men want to do something to show that they belong. Speculative work, however, cannot be a stereotyped performance, endlessly repeated by each new member. It should be a task that challenges his interests, his needs, and his background. It should be a response to instruction which is good and wholesome for him.
When, for example, is a Brother most in need of a vivid clincher to the lesson of Masonic charity as exemplified in the rite of destitution? Right after the first degree, of course. This is the time for one of his sponsors to see that he visits the Masonic Home for a first-hand demonstration of Masonic benevolence at work. He should also be encouraged to visit some of the Brethren there.. If there is no Masonic Home within the state, the Brother should be informed of the Charity Fund administered by his Grand Lodge to help worthy distressed Masons, their widows and orphans. He should be told of specific instances in which members (or their families) of his lodge were beneficiaries of the Grand Lodge Charity Fund. In like manner, he should be fully informed of the lodge's own Charity Fund and what it has accomplished locally. As soon as possible after he has been impressed by the challenge to deposit something of a metallic kind, the candidate should discover that Masonic obligations are at work to provide relief from distress.
The new Brother may be the kind who likes to participate in fund-raising campaigns for community service, such as the United Givers Fund, the Heart Fund, the new hospital, etc. Capitalize on that enthusiasm by promising him a job on the lodge's next or current fund-raising committee; but let it be a meaningful promise. There must be a real project going on, or about to begin. Such new members can strengthen a lodge's efforts to restore or build a temple, to reach a quota for a new building at the Masonic Home, for voluntary contributions to the Hospital Visitation Program of the Masonic Service Association, or to complete the lodge's goal in contributing to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial's endowment funds. But even if the new Entered Apprentice is not a fund-raiser, he should be challenged to understand the meaning of his promise "to help, aid, and assist." Make sure he understands what he is contributing to lodge charity funds in his initiation fees. To the Grand Lodge Charity or Benevolent Fund. To the George Washington Memorial, etc.
But let him also understand at this time that Masonic benevolence is not intended merely to relieve the distress of the unfortunate or the misery of the poor. Masonic benevolence is intended to provide one of the ingredients of that cement which unites all mankind into one great brotherhood - the cement of mutual forbearance and appreciation. The kindly word, the self- denying compliment, the generous praise, the withholding of angry criticism, the "blessedness" of the peacemaker - all these are proper tools for the benevolent builder to use in his speculative labors. A reading of Joseph Fort Newton's short passage, "When Is a Man a Mason?" would help the initiate to realize that Masonic benevolence is not merely the giving of alms. The attentive ear is an important tool when used benevolently - to listen sympathetically to another's needs and troubles.
The ceremonies of the Fellowcraft degree are intended to impress on the mind the importance of all useful knowledge which a Master Builder needs in order to superintend a worthwhile construction. To Speculative Masons who build a house not made with hands the knowledge so essential to their labors is the moral and spiritual knowledge which underlies Truth.
What better moment to start a new Mason's speculative labors in the search for Masonic truth than right after the impact of the Middle Chamber lecture? Here is true speculative work a search for knowledge, for further light and the new Fellowcraft should have it pointed out to him clearly.
By this time his sponsor or mentor should know what has aroused the greatest interest in the candidate - the ritual, the historical background of Freemasonry, its principles, or its philosophy. The instructor, the lodge education officer, or the committee on Masonic information should be given specific instructions into what areas of Masonic literature to lead this particular candidate. The lodge librarian should be consulted for suggestions about specific books and other sources of in formation available within the lodge. Grand Lodge libraries within or beyond one's own jurisdiction may also be contacted.
This is the time for the initiate's sponsors to make sure that he has acquired a rudimentary understanding of Freemasonry and its organization, by means of the candidate instruction booklets which are now published and have become required reading in almost all Grand Lodges. The Worshipful Master should personally question the candidate about them and point out the wide areas of Masonic knowledge which they have opened up. Masonic history, for example, could become a lifetime study.
Men are naturally curious. The impressive ceremonies they witness while undergoing Masonic initiation stir up many memories of earlier literary and educational experiences. They are eager to learn more; Freemasonry opens some doors. But unless the initiate is steered into one or more of those doors through which he glimpses an interesting field of knowledge, he will probably not make the effort while "waiting to see what happens next." And after he's "raised," he will probably lose his eagerness for the quest; he'll be a Master Mason, entitled to all the rights, lights, and benefits of that degree.
The time to challenge his curiosity is before the third degree. The Worshipful Master himself, with the assistance of the officers named above, should give the candidate some specific tasks to perform in the acquisition of useful Masonic knowledge. This might be the reading of a book or some Masonic periodicals. It could be attendance at a school of instruction or Masonic symposium. It should include reading brief histories of his lodge and Grand Lodge.
In the case of a keen young man who is obviously reacting to the ideas espoused in Masonic ritual, it could be a request to prepare a paper for future presentation to the lodge; on a topic of concern to the younger intellectual of today. For example, the President of Yale said recently, "Faith has ceased to touch a majority of young men of privilege. Inherited patterns of success have, for many, lost their allure." That statement opens up a wide area for speculation on the meanings of faith, privilege, success, inherited patterns (like Freemasonry), etc. We do a disservice to the younger generation in Masonry if we believe that they have no interest in such a search for truth.
Many an initiate is of the young executive type, who believes in community service and activity, whether it be his church, the Rotary Club, the P.T.A., his political party, or anything similar. He may find Freemasonry's lack of direct involvement in politics and sectarian differences disappointing and frustrating. He needs a good mentor to teach him the unifying objectives of the universal tenets of Freemasonry. He might be encouraged to report to the lodge from time to time both sides of a community problem. He would undoubtedly improve thereby his attitudes and understanding of justice and impartiality. "Harmony being the strength and support of all societies."
Brotherly love, of course, is a difficult skill to teach by assignments. Situations deliberately created to test an individual's brotherliness generally seem artificial, contrived. They lack the sincerity of naturalness.
Nevertheless, there are activities in which a newly admitted Brother can share to acquire the feeling of belonging to a special group of "friends and brothers." One of these is to "sit with a sick Brother." As soon as possible, an initiate should be asked to call on a bedridden Brother of the lodge. His first experience should never be alone. He should go with someone who has made frequent calls as a member of the sick committee, one who is always welcome at a sick bed. No other experience will give the new Mason that special feeling of the power of the mystic tie as this one - visiting the sick.
To give the new Brother a feeling of brotherliness, the Master should see to it that when he has been raised to the sublime degree and is about to take "a convenient seat" among the Brethren, his sponsors have reserved such a seat for him and that they personally receive him with warm congratulations. At his first "festive board" be should be treated as a special and thrice-welcomed guest! Instead of risking the all too frequent embarrassment of the newly-made Mason, the wise Master will not call upon him for remarks as soon as the ceremonies are over. He will have notified the new Brother some time in advance that such remarks are "optional," what they may consist of, and that they may be given during the closing ceremony when the Master inquires if any Brother wishes to offer anything "for the good of the lodge." Many Brethren find it awkward to speak about their impressions and feelings, especially the very solemn ones. They appreciate advance notice and anonymity if they prefer it.
Brotherliness may take many forms; kindness, considerateness, thoughtfulness, affection, and regard for the feelings of others are surely among the most appreciated. A Worshipful Master will teach this tenet most powerfully by example.
Most men are naturally sociable and take pleasure in the activities of refreshment. This is the area in which it is probably easiest to set a new Craftsman to work. It should not be difficult to think of many jobs for the workmen to do in promoting the social life of the lodge. Always, however, the planning and the tasks assigned should be truly Masonic in purpose, in spirit, and in performance. They should help to make a man a Mason.
It would, of course, be most helpful to Worshipful Masters to set down a long list of tasks which they could assign to individual Masons "to set the Craft to work." But the gravest danger is to give a newly-made Mason any task (which a big supply of ready made assignments would encourage) instead of a particular job which is suited to his personality, his experiences, and his ability. A Mason is an individual. He must build his own, his individual temple.
Freemasonry takes a man, one at a time, and encourages him to become a significant individual in his community by means of his benevolence, his moral strength, his spiritual understanding. That kind of philosophy of Masonic education will help a Worshipful Master to set the Craft to work and give them good and wholesome instruction for their labors.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014