Freemasonry finds itself in the peculiar conundrum that those who labor for it are under a vaguely understood contract, compounded by the fact that the compensation for these labors is rarely monetary and that the appreciation for the value of Masonic wages requires an intrinsic recognition, the rights and privileges of those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Thankfully, and by the Grace of the Great Architect, these faculties can be cultivated.
The application of the tools we are given is all that is needed to earn Masonic wages! There is a problem however; the explanation of the tools we are given is explicit with regards to what the tools are used for, yet is only implicit in the manner in which the tools are to be applied. This has long provided me a source of contemplation, and has also been the genesis for an entirely new vision of what the craft represents to me. That being said, I offer the following in the spirit that what I believe (at present) to be the truth (from my perspective, mind you) and my intention herein is to elicit discourse and the development of better understanding of the answer to the greater question: why do we do what we do?
Allow me to posit the following: the answer to the above question regarding what is in essence the “mission” of the craft of freemasonry is revealed in the Chaplain’s opening prayer: we gather in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe that we may reflect the order and beauty which rule forever before the throne of the Almighty.
Verily, since this is the only stated purpose given for our assembly, I believe it is also the very strength and support of Freemasonry, the “mission”, as it were. Let us entertain the preceding assumption is correct and that indeed the reason we gather in the name of the Almighty is to do His bidding. What then are the ramifications of this realization? The list is long, and worthy of great conversation and fellowship. Indeed, this is a dialogue that has proven worthy of the efforts of numerous scholars and has been the consuming passion of many a brother in our long chain of union. Surely the benefits to such a philosophy extend beyond the present limits of my appreciation, but of the myriad benefits I can identify I find there emerge general categories which I will attempt to encompass in this limited forum and my even more restricted attention span... I like shiny things… I digress…
The first and perhaps greatest benefit is that we approach our lodge as a temple, erected to Him and dedicated to the Saints John (we’ll explore an explanation of these in a future article). A temple built by and consisting of the very ashlars and ornaments we each represent, and bound by the cement of our brotherly love for each other, the relief we offer one another, and the truth we share. This approach at once demands the utmost reverence and offers the greatest impetus for jubilation. The lodge is not an object outside of its members but is a body comprised OF them. The lodge then, like the self, is an extension of our being, a tangible metaphor for our place in the Grand Design the Master has drawn upon the trestle board.
The natural extension of this first benefit I described is a sense of direction. Let us examine the metaphor of a seagoing vessel. A ship without the benefit of a destination is a useless contraption, afloat and adrift or at best circling the ocean without the safe harborage of port. Though by simply having the faith to set sail into the unknown one is assured an adventure, full of discovery and ripe with the possibility of new insight, it is also replete with peril, and amongst the few with the resolve to undertake expeditions into spiritual climes unknown, fewer still have survived the abyss to benefit from the undertaking. The safe passages have been mapped, the destinations delineated, and the tools of navigation have been handed to us.
So, how then do we sail? What will we need in order to increase the chances of our success? How will we measure our success?
We sail with the understanding that the Great Architect is at once the destination and the guide of our journey, and that the Master of the Lodge is the captain of the vessel, he trains his sextant on the North Star if you will, what the G suspended in the East represents. He tests his observations against the charts in the Volume of Sacred Law, he conveys the necessary corrections of navigation to the crew, and verifies that the commands have been duly executed. The first officers coordinate the efforts of the crew, and the sailors – collectively – serve the captain and the ship they sail on (their very lifeline) with freedom, fervency and zeal. Our success is measured by the progress we make and the riches of the ports we stop at, testament and acknowledgement of a proper course. As a result of our labor, we nourish our bodies with the fruits of foreign lands and repose in the memories of the most exotic, bizarre and wondrous of vistas.
The captain and his crew are offered no guarantee of safety, and similarly neither is the Worshipful Master or the lodge he serves. The journey is dangerous; there will be unforeseen obstacles and inclement weather. Some lodges will have lost sight of the North Star which guides them and will veer so far from course they will find themselves adrift in the doldrums, doomed to stagnate and ultimately sink in obscurity. The success of our voyage will depend on the diligence of its crew and an understanding of our responsibility. We don’t expect of the Master some wizardry or artificial bravado, what we expect is careful and studious observation of the Guiding Principles and the unerring landmarks. We don’t expect perfection of ourselves but similarly we are entrusted with diligent attention to the details and nuances of sailing.
Our lodge, by whatever metaphor you employ – and admittedly I’ve employed many herein – is an organization composed of individuals with the common goal of serving One Master and which assembles in His name to obtain the necessary instructions to pursue our labors and earn our wages. As long as we remain vigilant of our course and steadfast in our navigation, we will succeed and reach the goal we set out to achieve. I humbly request that you contemplate what assembling in the name of, and serving the Great Architect, looks and feels like, and really look forward to sharing the insights you glean… the wages of a mason!
Bro. de la Cruz is the Junior Warden of Sotoyome Curtis 123, Healdsburg, CA. He is also a 32nd degree Scottish Rite member as well as a Royal Arch Mason. He is a father of two, husband and resident of Windsor, CA.