In my fourteen years as a freemason, I’ve spent countless hours in lodgerooms, bars, restaurants, parking lots, and on internet discussion forums debating any Masonic topic you can imagine. One topic has prevailed over all others. You’ve probably already guessed it. Yes, it’s standards of dress for lodge and, no, that’s not the subject of this column per se. The discussion of that topic is, however, representative of so many other Masonic discussions concerning food, proficiency, how to wear your ring, and other unregulated lodge customs and practices.
These discussions are predictable, boring, often contentious, and generally unproductive. Think about the last time you participated in a discussion on one of those topics. How many minds were changed? How much advancement in Masonic knowledge was gained on either side of the argument? Was this a good use of your time? For most of us, the answers to these questions will be zero, none, and probably not.
I’ve come to a few conclusions in regard to all of these various unregulated lodge practices that might be worth your consideration. It doesn’t matter whether a lodge likes pickled pigs’ feet or pheasant under glass, whether you dress in t-shirts and blue jeans or white tie and tails, or whether your proficiency requires simply knowing the signs, grips, and words or a twenty-page research paper. If you belong to a functioning, generally contented lodge of brethren of high moral character, who remain true to their obligation and exemplify the tenets of brotherly love, relief, and truth, you’re doing the real work of freemasonry. Don’t succumb to the wishes of others who would impose standards that are not realistic for your lodge. If, however, your lodge is experiencing serious problems, perhaps you need to contemplate making some changes and seek the counsel of brethren who belong to a flourishing lodge. If you feel like a fish out of water in your lodge, find another one or start up a new lodge. In some jurisdictions, it takes as few as ten brethren to start a new lodge.
For those of you who tend to offer unsolicited advice that is neither wanted nor needed under the guise of raising the bar, remember that we are a fraternity of men of every country, sect, and opinion. There are many paths to Masonic light. Celebrate not only the diversity of race, creed, and religion that we pride ourselves on, but also the diversity of customs and practices that make visiting and conversing with other brethren so enjoyable. When you encounter something that is not your particular cup of tea, but is not contrary to Masonic tenets and philosophy, exercise your freedom to ignore it.
It is always appropriate to remain vigilant in defense of our rules and to protect the reputation of the fraternity. It is our obligation to assist a brother purposefully seeking to improve his Masonic experience. At a time when our numbers are dwindling and our influence waning, we should take every opportunity to support and encourage our brethren instead of searching for ways to divide us.
One of the more common complaints I hear is that most freemasons don’t read much about the fraternity and I find that to be a valid complaint. I think it is important for a brother to have at least some knowledge of our history, philosophy, and symbols beyond what is offered in our rituals and lectures, as much of that is allegorical. Allegory- the Hiramic Legend, for example- is used to impart moral lessons and not to inform. Freemasonry has a rich history that goes largely ignored by many freemasons.
Not everyone has the time or inclination to conduct an in-depth study of Freemasonry. Although there are excellent books like Chris Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies or Brent Morris’s TheComplete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry that provide a cursory look at Masonic history and are written in a style that won’t induce slumber, many freemasons are loathe to pick up a book.
The Journal of the Masonic Society is a perfect alternative for a brother who might not invest the time necessary to read a book, but might take fifteen or twenty minutes once every month or two to read a 2500-word article on some aspect of Masonic history or philosophy. The Masonic Society will always cater to the more serious minded students of freemasonry, but we can also benefit the brother who is a more casual observer of the fraternity and perhaps even inspire him to pick up a book or two. Please share the benefits of membership in The Masonic Society with all of your brethren and help broaden the path to further light in freemasonry.
For those who regularly attend the annual meeting of The Masonic Society during Masonic Week, please note that next year’s event has been moved up a couple of weeks to January 28-February 1. The event will once again be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Reston, VA. The Masonic Society meeting and banquet is traditionally held on Friday night, which would be Friday, January 30. Registration information should become available in late October or early November. We will keep you up to date via the website and our Facebook page. Discussion at the 2014 meeting indicated that Masonic Week would once again be changing locations in 2016.
The officers and directors of The Masonic Society are actively discussing whether to sponsor the next phase of The Quarry Project. As most of you know, TQP was created to provide instruction for both novice and experienced Masonic researchers and preservationists. Phase I was held last September in Alexandria, VA at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and was an unqualified success. The conference was co-sponsored by the Masonic Library and Museum Association and the GWMNM. An announcement on Phase II will be made sometime in October 2015. To learn more about TQP, visit the website at www.thequarryproject.com .
It is with regret that I inform you that Bro. Gord Vokes has submitted his resignation as a member director of The Masonic Society. Many of you know Bro. Gord from his frequent postings on the TMS discussion forum. Bro. Gord has fulfilled his duties as director honorably and his contributions to TMS are greatly appreciated. He has graciously agreed to stay on until a replacement is appointed. Thank you, Bro. Gord, for your service to TMS.
James R. Dillman, FMS
President, The Masonic Society