In asking Freemasonry to share with you its past, present, and future
You must bear in mind that the relationship is a reciprocal one.
As a Freemason, certain things are expected of you.
One of the things that I have addressed many times that I don't like being said to a candidate after his Third Degree even though I believe it to be one hundred percent true is... "You get out of Freemasonry what you put into it." I don't like this being said to a candidate because I believe that it can be taken out of context and used as an excuse in their mind to justify not returning to the lodge. I would rather hear something like: "You must bear in mind that the relationship with Freemasonry is a reciprocal one."
I also believe that this expectation which is being talked about is referenced in this Ritual from the Entered Apprentice Degree: "My Brother: it is hoped and expected that you will apply yourself to the study of masonry as Entered Apprentices served their Masters in ancient times, which was with Freedom, Fervency, and Zeal ." I think it's important to understand that Freedom, as it's used above, is not used to define a state of not being dominated, enslaved, or otherwise restricted. Nor does it mean the power of self-determination, to choose your own action independently. Rather it is used in the archaic sense, which is: a frankness and generous willingness to work or perform one's duty. In this case, how a Freemason is expected to act towards the Worshipful Master and his lodge. Fervency is warmth, friendliness, earnestness, or intensity of feeling, in this case, the Freemason is expected to show a passion for learning and working in Freemasonry, and doing so with warmth and friendliness towards the Worshipful Master and the Lodge. Zeal is defined as having great energy or enthusiasm in devotion to a task or objective. A Freemason is expected to have unbridled enthusiasm towards fulfilling a task or objective that is ordered by the Worshipful Master or at the consent of the Lodge.
The calling of a Freemason is a high one, and your personal conduct should always reflect this.
Throughout the degrees, there are numerous references to how a Freemason is supposed to act, but I think the best summary of this is found in the Charge to the Fellowcraft, which states: "Your general reputation affords satisfactory assurance that you will not suffer any consideration to induce you to act in any manner unworthy of the respectable character you now bear; but, on the contrary, that you will ever display the discretion, the virtue, and the dignity which become a worthy and exemplary Mason." If you are a longtime reader of the blog, you will find many articles from many different authors that have all addressed the same issue, which is that our behavior outside of the lodge room is more important than our behavior inside of the lodge room. All it takes is for one of our brethren to do something against our teachings in the profane world, get caught on video doing it, and depending on the severity of what is done, we could be looking at the next Morgan Affair.
While some of you probably think I'm being dramatic, I'm not. I want you to think about how easy it would be for Freemasonry to be held accountable for one member's actions in today's age. We are statistically from a membership standpoint predominately Male, (Yes, there are women who are Freemasons, and while they are considered "Irregular", they practice "Regular" freemasonry see this article "Confusion in the Temple by Elias Akram: https://issuu.com/grandlodgedc/docs/voice_2019_issue_02-final/s/10836370
) and have an average age in the low to mid-sixties. This is a statement of fact, and not an attempt to disparage our Fraternity, but rather it is to say that we are one bad member away from potential ruin. How we conduct ourselves in the Profane world matters more now than at any other time in history. In today's world, perception is reality, and information, especially in the form of video, can be shared instantaneously with a wide audience. Subduing one's passions matters more for Freemasons now than at any other point in history because the court of public opinion has a much larger jury, and that jury isn't going to care about how much money we spend on charity per day. They're going to care about what they see on that video, and there is going to be instant accountability for their actions.
It also should be a guide to who we allow into our Fraternity. Signing a potential new member's petition after knowing them for an hour over dinner isn't guarding the West Gate. It's the equivalent of lighting a match near the powder keg. Every time we strike that match, we're not sure if we're going to be blowing up the Fraternity or not, yet we have members that continue to do so with abandon. If you care about Freemasonry, then realize that Freemasonry was not designed for everyone. If someone wants to be a Freemason, then they need to work for it. Invite them back to dinner several more times, and if you are not in one of those jurisdictions that require background checks for potential members, think about doing one. Make them do some work to become a member and make sure that you act with due diligence on our end. Are some bad apples going to infiltrate our hallowed halls? Sure. You can never really know what is inside a man's heart. But the odds of getting one are lowered dramatically when you require them to put in an effort to join. The ones that really have the desire to become a Freemason are going to put in the work.
Loyalty to home, to country, and to the Fraternity is expected of you at all times.
The charge in the Entered Apprentice Degree gives specific instructions on Mason's duty to his home, his Country, and Freemasonry. To home: "As an individual, you are charged to practice the domestic and public virtues. Let temperance, chasten, fortitude support, prudence direct you, and justice be the guide of all your actions. Be especially careful to maintain, in their fullest splendor, those true Masonic ornaments - brotherly love, relief, and truth." To country: "As a citizen, you are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties., by never proposing or countenancing any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws under whose protection you live, and by never losing sight of the allegiance due to your country" To the Fraternity, you are charged to: "Be faithful to the trust committed to your care, manifest your fidelity by a strict observance to the principles of the Fraternity; and by refraining to recommend anyone to a participation in our privileges unless you have strong reasons to believe that by a similar fidelity, he will ultimately reflect honor on our ancient institution". Furthermore, in our Master Mason Degree, we are reminded that the Master Masons apron is worn in the manner of the operative Master Masons to admonish us the our actions toward all mankind should possess the perfect figure of a square, "To symbolize the integrity of your service to God, and to remind you of your fourfold duty to your country, your family, your neighbor and yourself." Interestingly enough, we find the Ancient Charges printed by Anderson in 1723 have similar instructions. Regarding behavior at home, and in your neighborhood it states: "You are to act as becomes a moral and wise man, particularly, not to let your family, friends and neighbors know the concerns of the Lodge, & c., but wisely to consult your own honour, and that of the ancient Brotherhood, for reasons not to be mentioned here. You must also consult your health, by not continuing together too late, or too long from home after Lodge hours are past; and by avoiding of gluttony or drunkenness, that your families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working."
To Country, under the section, Of The Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate, it says: "A Mason is a peaceable subject to the civil powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by war, bloodshed, and confusion, so ancient kings and princes have been much disposed to encourage the craftsmen, because of their peaceableness and loyalty, whereby they practically answer’d the cavils of their adversaries, and promoted the honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish’d in times of peace. So that if a Brother should be a rebel against the state, he is not to be countenanc’d in his rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy man; and, if convicted of no other crime, though the loyal brotherhood must and ought to disown his rebellion, and give no umbrage or ground of political jealousy to the government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his relation to it remains indefeasible."
Yet, Freemasons have played prominent roles in the revolutions in America, France, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Philippines. The liberal values (which I will address shortly) promoted by Freemasonry obviously had some degree of impact on these individuals. Our American Masonic Icon, George Washington, would have been tried and executed for high treason by the British Crown had he been captured. Other individuals involved in the revolutions above would have suffered the same fate if captured by the parties they were rebelling against. It's hard for Americans, let alone those that consider themselves patriotic, to look at him as someone who was committing rebellion. Yet, we need to carefully at what the Ancient Charges state if a brother is not loyal to his Country, then we find that he should not be supported but pitied as being unhappy by his brothers, and as long as they are not convicted of any other crime, (I'm assuming other than that of being a rebel, which most likely would carry a penalty of death), and his brothers must disown his actions and not support them, but that they can not deny him a place in the Lodge.
And to the Fraternity, the Ancient Charges ask every Mason to observe "and also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating brotherly love, the foundation and capstone, the cement and glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding all wrangling and quarrelling, all slander and backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest Brother, but defending his character, and doing him all good offices as far as is consistent with your honour and safety, and no farther."
Patriotism is a duty. You should not approve of disloyalty or rebellion.
of speech, of the press, of association, of peaceable assembly, and to
be able to petition one's government for a redress of grievances is a
set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, which comprises
what can be referred to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has
written that this freedom is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom." Without it, other fundamental rights of citizens could wither and die. Participating
in any of the above should be considered Patriotic because the framers
had the forethought to grant these rights under the First Amendment of
our Constitution, and therefore participation in Civic (or as the
ancient charges call them Civil) duties should be seen as Patriotic. I
will discuss more regarding the freedom of expression in the discussion
about the idea of Liberty below.
The idea of patriotism within Freemasonry is a complex one, especially here in America. Miriam Webster defines Patriotism as love for or devotion to one's country. One
of the most obvious displays of Patriotism we display as Freemasons, at
least here in Illinois, is reciting the pledge of allegiance to the
flag of our country prior to opening a Blue Lodge meeting. The idea of Patriotism has been put to the test in the United States of America seems to be continually put to the test. Recently, due to politicization of events where a citizen or citizens have expressed their opinions by exercising their First Amendment rights, the idea of being Patriotic has become politicized. Because of the politicization of civic virtues like Patriotism, it's a subject that I was hesitant to write about, especially given the political polarization of our society. However, I think that we as Freemasons must be an example of showing unity in our displays of Patriotism, regardless of our person political inclinations.
It is my personal belief that a Freemason must take the view that performing our civic duty is to be patriotic, and every Freemason must accept everyone's rights are the same under the First Amendment regardless of their personal beliefs and that the exercise of those rights is in itself a patriotic act. This does not mean that a Freemason can not be opposed to something that is being expressed either through speech, the press, peaceable assembly or redressing of grievances , but rather that he upholds the rights of those that he might otherwise disagree with on sectarian topics. An example of this from the not-too-distant past is one that happened in the State of Illinois. In 1977, the ACLU took on the case of defending a group of Chicago Area Nazis who wanted to hold a demonstration in downtown Skokie, which is a suburb of Chicago that was at that time the home to hundreds of survivors of the Holocaust and has a large Jewish population. Ultimately, the Nazis decided to assemble in a park in Chicago instead. While a Freemason should find the beliefs held by any Nazi abhorrent, Freemasons must also understand that they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as every other citizen under the First Amendment.
Yet, there is a distinction that needs to be made between exercising one's First Amendment rights, even when the majority of citizens would rather suppress any expression of it they might find offensive and violent Mob action. Anytime the actions of individuals who are exercising their Constitutional rights become violent, then those rights are rescinded, and by proxy, those actions can no longer be considered Patriotic, and must be considered criminal instead. Using the example above, the ACLU warned the Nazis that any attempt to incite or participate in violence would mean that they would no longer be able to defend them on First Amendment grounds.
Due to the politicization mentioned above, the idea of being Patriotic has also been co-opted to be equated with the idea of Nationalism. To quote Charles DeGualle: "Patriotism is when love of your country comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first." Nationalism is: “the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.” Nationalism is a term used when political ideologies and movements that a more extreme and exclusionary love of one’s country—at the expense of foreigners, immigrants, and even people in a country who aren’t believed to belong in some way, often racial and religious grounds. It is a direct contradiction to Patriotism. Patriotism is not nationalism. The lessons of Freemasonry are in direct contradiction to Nationalism. Look no further than what has happened to Freemasons under Totalitarian rule to see an example of this.
Freemasonry stands for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Not only for other Masons but for all humanity.
All of the above is what should be considered Freemasonry's core liberal values. From a Masonic viewpoint, Liberty is the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed on one's way of life, behavior, or religious/political views. Equality is the concept that all humanity is equal, but further that no man be denied rights, privileges, or opportunities because of their birth, class, caste, religion, color, race, gender, or social standing. Fraternity is the idea that all of humankind is the same. Being a Freemason means that you not only uphold the above and fight for these rights for other Freemasons, but for everyone.
Freedom of thought, speech, and action is supported by Freemasons so far as it is not incompatible with the rights of others.
The idea of Liberty is to allow freedom of thought, speech, and action. It is the idea that all men should be allowed to think, say or do as they please as long as that thought, speech, or action does not infringe on the rights of others. Much like the example I gave above regarding the idea of practicing Patriotism in the expression of one's fundamental right to protest via peaceable assembly, the above covers the other rights we have under the First Amendment. This can be difficult sometimes for a Freemason to do, especially when they have an understanding that their political or religious beliefs may be against that thought, speech, or action. Ultimately, in these cases, I would ask one to simply follow that Golden Rule, the truth of which resides in some form in every holy book, which is the simple act of treating others how you yourself would want to be treated. You personally do not have to like what they think, say, or do; but as a Freemason, you should support their right to do so as long as what they are thinking, saying, or doing is not infringing on those same rights that you or other citizens have.
Every Freemason is the enemy of ignorance, bigotry, oppression, superstition, and all mental and spiritual darkness.
Being an enemy of ignorance, bigotry, oppression, superstition, and all mental and spiritual darkness is someone who is aware of and fighting against the spread of ignorance (lack of knowledge, education, or awareness which leads to the spreading of misinformation), bigotry (prejudice against a person or group of people based upon their race, religion, sexuality, gender and their expression of such), oppression (prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control usually of a particular group), superstition (a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief), mental darkness (the condition of being uninformed or uneducated) and spiritual darkness (the absence of belief in a deity).
A Mason champions the cause of the widow, the fatherless, the weak, and the oppressed.
Championing the cause of the widow, the fatherless (orphans), the weak, and the oppressed is supporting and contributing to the relief of those less fortunate than ourselves. It is practicing Charity towards all mankind, not only in monetary form but as being someone who actively is working to make the world a better place. It can be as simple as a random act of kindness in the profane world towards those less fortunate than ourselves. It is helping someone if they ask for help, without the expectation of any reward. Contributing one's relief means to help soothe whatever affliction or problem they are facing.
He challenges the arbitrary assumption by anyone of the power to dictate any group or individual's actions, beliefs, and destinies.
This is again the idea of supporting Liberty as the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or religious/political views. All Freemasons should recognize a case of a group or individual using an ideology of bigotry to deny the liberties of a minority individual or group as being wrong and should challenge that group or individual. Yet, Liberty is another idea that has been politicized due to recent events. What is a Freemason supposed to do when the definition of Liberty isn't so cut and dry?
Ultimately, that answer is up to every Freemason. As Freemasons, I would hope that we would not be willing to allow another brother to operate a motor vehicle if we observe them to be intoxicated. While this infringes on the individual Brothers' liberty, taking their keys away could ultimately save not only their life but the lives of others as well. In such cases, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one as Mr. Spock famously stated in the movie Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan? I would say that we as brothers are obligated to protect each other from harm and that we also would not want to harm anyone else. So while we should challenge infringements upon any individual's or group's liberty, it is my opinion that we should also recognize that in situations where others could be harmed or killed by allowing Liberty to be exercised, a Freemason would be like Spock, and understand that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.
The above liberal values of Freemasonry align with the idea of having a society that is open and inclusive for everyone. Freemasonry teaches us that the immovable jewels of the Square, Level, and Plumb teach morality, equality, and the rectitude of life. Morality is a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational people. Equality is, again, the concept that all humanity is equal, but further that no man be denied rights, privileges, or opportunities because of their birth, class, caste, religion, color, race, gender, or social standing. Rectitude of Life is the act of living a life that is correct, upright, and honorable. This is in step with the idea of the Freemason exercising Brotherly Love which teaches us: "To regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, rich and poor; who as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance."
These time-honored virtues so cherished by our forefathers are still relevant.
Humility, patience, charity, and gentleness are among the hallmarks of purity and integrity of character.
That is what Freemasonry expects of you.
Freemasonry is still relevant. The world needs our values now more than ever. There will always be a need for mature masculine role models. Time will tell if Freemasonry survives, but when we do not act according to our tenets, and we sully the reputation of Freemasonry, we are hurting the chances of its survival. Like I said above, we are only one bad apple away from the next Morgan affair. All it takes is one Freemason to not hold up his end of the bargain, to not act according to the above in the profane world, and for that act to be horrendous, go viral on Tik Tok, and it all comes crumbling down like the walls of Jericho. It's really that simple. So remember that if you choose to wear a Masonic ring or Masonic apparel in public that you represent the entire Fraternity. That is why Freemasonry has these expectations. Live up to them.
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.