Warily Unaware

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro.Steve Leapman

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has given us the mind and heart to distinguish between night and day!  - taken from pp. 18-19 The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications, 1984 / 2001 & with this writer’s adaptation

O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!  Such a power or ability would save us a lot of bother and foolish notions; … from “To a Louse by Brother Robert Burns https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Louse

Sometimes we don’t realize the force of a moment until it is passed. I place my ego on the sidelines and acknowledge this happens far more often than I wish to admit. Yet, I also believe Masonry’s practices and principles hone my awareness. Through Masonry, I may live a life of response, not reaction. Each moment and every day awaits us as Masons for we actively attend those 24 hours. We honor them in our very first Degree through the Common Gauge. We are not to be workmen whose greatest load is the annual dues card carried in our wallets. 

The rough ashlar is an ample allusion in assisting our cultivation of skills for the journey from novice to artisan. An actively aware Mason studies his progress from Initiate to Mason; wakefulness of your years is not to trifle with your feelings but to fortify you for purpose with perspective. This acuity does not arise from a life devoid of curiosity. “Actively aware Masonry” is but a synonym for willful dedication. The actively aware Mason cannot evade a keen sense of duty which compels him to act to heal a fractured world. The obtuse life is not well suited to an actively aware Mason. 

The stone that needs shaping is a sufficient metaphor for those traits we polish to adorn character. I wish to speak on this gift of “awareness.” The well-honored passage by Brother Burns bespeaks the blessed knowledge of how we are seen. The ancient rabbinic petition praises God for gifts of intellect and soul allowing each of us to make distinctions in the natural domain and amidst those timeless realms of sanctity and morality. 

One is justified to assert Freemasonry’s call to Character mandates Duty. Such is the Faithful Breast obedient to the Attentive Ear. To hear the Word is to convert Speculative awareness to Life’s redemptive Labor. Inner qualifications now recommend external quantifications. Actively aware Masons acquire merits. They apply the Soul’s insights realized through action. 

Neither “intentions” nor “preoccupations” fit the bill. Masonry is after all a Craft. Each Brother daily turns to his Trestle-Board in search of that day’s revealed hence required service. “Required?” Really? Certainly so!

There are certainties beyond our minds and opinions. Masonry enthusiastically welcomes each man’s explorations. Neither Operative nor Speculative Masons can build without absolutes and standards.

This has ramifications Mason's risk at grave peril. When or where, why, or how Masonry concedes God is limited to human “suggestions” or what we “feel” “comfortable with” a question arises to confront the intellectually honest Mason. Can such an Architect be “Grand?” If so, what of we who invoke such Grandeur? 

No! To abandon absolutes is to abandon Geometry itself let alone The Grand Geometrician honored in the Opening Prayer for the Fellowcraft Lodge. Contemporary Masons have no right to remove Deity from the Trestle-Board to which we turn if we evict a Deity why retain obligations? Eroding The Presence is the cost of such concessions. It is why many never return once Raised. They have not been aroused by Awe! They are bereft of Reverence. 

As each labors in community and toils in the care of kin we evolve within as men humbly but confidently aware of the Fatherhood of God. Granted, our semantics vary as they should in a Free Society. Our theology is personal. Our faith must be well-founded. No policy nor marketing scheme can promise this.

A Freemasonry that deserves to endure as our lasting legacy is not about giving away this shiny pin, that ribbon, a badge, a hat, or a title. Imagine explaining to a Medieval Stone Mason, whose grandchildren might see a Cathedral begun by a great-grandparent, that in four or five centuries you only need to spend one day to become a Master Mason and pick up Scottish Rite to boot, breakfast and lunch included! Actively aware Masons are not first and foremost charity workers or case managers. We are not here to gather numbers but to gain the Numinous. The reward of truly Masonic Life is to live in Masonic Light. 

We dare not waste precious moments or material demeaning ourselves and our spirits amidst one-day classes. Our Operative Ancients honed the patience of centuries as they assembled Sanctuaries still inspirational today. Neither Wisdom nor Strength nor Beauty are overnighted to our doorsteps by Amazon Prime! Authentically aware Masonic workmanship exhibits an attention to detail we meagerly comprehend in our age of Internet and Instant Messages.  

Just as the fires of a well-tended domestic hearth comfort all therein, the glow of Divine Glory within man’s sacred privacies fosters healing. Thus, as actively aware Masons, we display resolve when Honor is called to step forward. An authentic Mason is a man aware of who he is and more so Whose he is! A man who is Masonically aware, is one whose behaviors are dignified and dignifying. 

One may know our ceremonies and esoteric forms letter, syllable, and word yet conduct himself so shamefully, belittle other men and Masons so shamelessly as to nullify all the nuances of our beautiful rituals and inspirational rites. Titles shall not hide truths daily demeanor depicts beyond doubt. Are we aware there must be little if any gap between word and deed? Our character marks our figure beyond equivocation or mental evasion. 

 A man must emulate that refined awareness of self and centeredness of soul Grand Master Hiram Abiff displayed. On the day he gave fully of himself he faced danger without warning nor hesitation. Those clarities which crisis coalesced in his soul were beyond doubt. GMHA would neither suffer degradation nor diminishment when conscience called out. 

No conscientious Mason sets to his labors in a frenzy. To do this would present a case study in passions run amok. Had our ancient Operative Brethren done so they would not have found ready steady employment. The Cathedrals we cherish today would have collapsed long ago. Lethargy nor shoddiness allow us to cement Living Stones. 

The Compasses serve to circumscribe zeal as they focus on productive ambition. Indeed, man's passions unrestrained breed destruction. Forceful barbarism would never have been able to destroy what could never been built had idleness forestalled Solomon’s plans and deterred King David’s dream. A life without purposeful awareness is the grip and word for entropy.

It is the astutely aware Speculative worker whose edifices we enjoy and cherish. Once the heat of effect cools we find time, space, and place for the Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic intrinsic to the Fellowcraft Degree, its mindset, and our way of life.  We must abandon the woeful immaturity that St. Paul recognized as an encumbrance of growth. 

Those possessing such silliness are not sufficient to pass through our West Gate. Real men of worth, merit, nobility, and character disdain being “marketed!” One cannot sheep-steal souls! Those easily distracted or eventually disinterested will wander in and soon off. Talk about “off or from!” Watch for it! Wait for it! Masons and Masonry must be honest with and within ourselves. When we are unaware of our proximity to Truth we endanger this Grand Fraternity.  

Let us choose otherwise. Let us choose wisely. Let us be actively aware. As Masons we ask, seek, and knock to be molded and guided, taught and inspired by men of dignity, centeredness, and at peace with themselves for they are at peace with their God. As Traveling Men, we tread lightly yet confidently beyond denomination or dogma, unconcerned with political positions and polling. 

What then are our labors? Better question: How then, can we determine what tasks should earn our energy. As Masons, who are actively aware, we see our task beyond doubt is to focus on the soul’s maturity cut, squared, and valued over time. This is why men finally vocalize to a trusted friend or relative, “I think that I’d like to be a Mason! What do I do? Who do I talk to?” 

It is this passion, which we form as the clay from which each individually worthy and well-qualified Brother journeys towards his East. This is the work and worth of an actively aware Mason. We are not some puerile “frat” best suited to an adolescent’s nonage. Rather, Masons await a man’s nascent adulthood as acuity sharpens. As adolescence recedes Moral Geometry guides the emerging adult. The Speculative Astronomy of the Fellowcraft Degree presents stars to steer by. “Active awareness” expands. We navigate by the “G” not by impulsivity.  

Not everyone should seek that vaunted recommendation. As we have bemoaned a lack of readiness at Life’s earliest days, so too one impaired by an aged psyche, experiencing a dotage far less of years than of yearnings. Complacency has constricted one’s morality. The pulse of Life has slowed. Hearts and mentality harden. 

Such souls emulate Exodus’ Pharoah or the unfairly indicted “Pharisees!” No, these were hollow men who lost their mission. Such capitulations to compromise or kings besmirch every ethnicity, era, culture, and cause. It is fallacious anti-Semitism to assign this trait to any singular tribe, certainly not my own. Masonry will demean no man’s religion, dictate no man’s religiosity, and certainly not belittle any man’s faith. Actively aware Masons are Geometrically Correct. 

These “authorities” in truth were far less than valid nor reliable. They were far less sages than stultified minions of institutions collapsed by their betrayals of original intent. We see them vibrant and repugnant today as then! Pray God one’s own soul does not imitate their folly.

Freemasonry’s enterprise is the development of a man’s finest essence. Freemasonry will not surrender to social correctness for we are neither primarily nor preferentially “social.” Masonry is about the man, the citizen, the adult member of his country and culture.

Unaware and toting vices and superfluities of an image, business connections, pins, garlands, lapels, and letterheads, we might balloon numbers. However, these men are soon gone with the winds of disciplined commitment, vital proficiencies, Floor Schools, individual study, and personal prayer. Is this nothing other than a denial of Godliness if not God of which our teachings warn? One seeks Masonry as it appeals, promises profits, and promotes sales! How sorrowful. How blindly empty. How fatal a plague.

The refusal to recognize or revere Our Creator deludes one. He anoints himself as the measure and maker of individual Destiny. Intentional? Probably not! Yet it is detrimental. This is to live as a libertine. Lusts seize tightly the helm aboard the ship of soul. One lives unaware moving hither and thither, helter-skelter through darkness derived the Light Masons revere to illuminate our travels.  Such an unaware soul paves no trail. He stumbles upon it. 

Well, if “awareness” is crucial state it plainly! Did “awareness” as a virtue and trait get lost in the turmoil during those closing moments of Hiram’s life? Maybe! It was a heinous murder! Though wretched chaos was rampant Solomon ruled. Actively aware Masons buttress the narrative of our Grand Master’s death. As we study Masonry we are not literalists. Our search for Wise Awareness depicts a laudable pursuit. Hiram was a servant of his awareness. He told the assailants, “Better my mortality than your morality!” 

“Active awareness” redeems the atrocity of Hiram’s last moments. Did it tumble away dropped due to a “nerveless grasp? Where is “awareness” listed amongst our Tools? Why doesn’t it appear in the “Furniture of the Lodge?” Can a Mason be authentically Masonic lacking attention to detail, dull to curiosity, or decision-making? Can one be an evolved Mason when only reactive to circumstances? Our charges envision an educated, reflective, involved, and decisively participatory citizen. Such is one aware! Masonry fosters this!

The Masons we wish to find and refine, retain, and become make “active awareness” a prized “internal qualification” one-day programs cannot guarantee. We must advance our capacity to do what our Lodge Secretary accomplishes when he makes a “correct record of all things proper to be written,” as he will “carefully observe the proceedings of the Lodge.”  (Texas Monitor 2023, page 160). 

Post-Script: Now it applies to me and my duty to see! 

Two fine men and exemplary Masons have shown and taught me the impeccable wisdom of The Fellowcraft Lecture. PM Dave Wood of South Bend IN’s Council Oak #745 and JW Kirk Otto of San Antonio’s Perfect Union # 10 are these teachers. Though they have never met their passion for our Craft compels me. In their honor, I learned the Texas Fellowcraft Lecture. I gave it one evening at Triune # 15 here in San Antonio. 

Texas ritual places the delivery of that exquisite prose in the East. The Brother rendering this Lecture is expected to duly use and properly deploy The Gavel. At the point where the WM gathers The Lodge to rise to glorify Deity, I did my duty. I never until this moment “gaveled the Lodge up” as we say here in Southern Texas. So eager to enact the ritual respectfully I was obtuse to my own experience. 

An entire day passed before I realized I had never stood in the East in this fashion. I needed a few days for my ego to surrender to my mind and then onward to my soul. The significance those moments held for me linked me to my father and a man whose years in this life have passed yet his legacy reaches into my days and decisions.  

Once home I pondered the gavel owned and used by Dad’s best friend PM Jack Lawson who in 1977 stood in the East at Abraham C. Treichler # 682 in Elizabethtown, PA. This gavel now rests with esteem in my home. Brother Lawson and his Blue Lodge line are photographed as another heirloom preserved on the wall of the room where I type these words. 

Dad was a local merchant. Decades after Dad and PM Lawson entered the Celestial Lodge I learned a secret. It was my Dad who supplied and engraved the gavels many years ago for Abraham C. Treichler # 682 of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. 

I thank God for the gift of awareness. I thank God for a dawning sense of my ability to contribute. I thank God for how awareness evolves for our Masonry provides implements as metaphors to instruct our expansion of perception.  

I am observant of my time to serve. I am aware of Whom I ultimately serve. It may be in The East, yet I must be in The Lodge we each necessarily build daily. I humbly ponder the photo of Brother Jack. I consider the lessons of word and work he imparted to his officers, Dad, and me. 

Masonry helps me pay my finest attention. To “pay” is to render one’s due share. Masonry beckons me: Cultivate the best man I hope to be. Perhaps I will honor my father and PM Jack as they blessed me. Jack would not reveal any secrets but once he tried to share the Craft he loved so well and loyally! He smiled at me saying fondly, “Stevie, there’s a lot of the Bible in Masonry!”


Steven M. Leapman was raised in 1996 at what was then Blackmer # 442 in San Diego, CA when serving as a Navy Chaplain. He sees himself as a “returned Mason” come home to active participation in Masonry through MW John R. Heisner Lodge #442. He joined Council Oak Lodge # 745 in South Bend, IN serving as Junior Warden when in 2021 he and his wife moved to San Antonio, TX. There he was warmly welcomed into the Masonic community once again and has become a member of Davy Crockett # 1225 where he serves as Lodge Chaplain. He also serves as Senior Deacon at Antonio’s Triune # 15. He is a member of Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and Southern Masonic Jurisdiction as a 32d Degree Mason. As a member of the San Antonio Scottish Rite community has served as Degree Master for Prince of The Tabernacle 24th Degree and supports the presentation of other degrees during Reunions. He actively attends monthly Continuing Masonic Education Zoom sessions and hopes to write deserving reflections on our beloved Craft. Brother Steve attended American University in Washington, DC in 1981 and 1984 earning degrees in Literature. He attended Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion where in 1990 he graduated with a Master’s in Hebrew Letters (MHL) and was ordained a Rabbi in Cincinnati, OH in 1991. Brother Steve served in the US Navy/ USMC Chaplaincy from 1993-2000. Later he returned to the military community as a mental health professional with the Veterans Administration in Indiana and Texas. He graduated from Indiana University South Bend in 2008. He has been involved with Civilian and Military/Veterans’ Care since then.

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