The Rough Ashlar

Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Rough Ashlar - Thoughts from a Traveling Man

The Wages of a Master Mason

Rib night! - Masonic wagesWe had ribs the other night at Columbia Lodge and I got a nice take-home container. Thank goodness for overly enthusiastic stewards! This is a nice benefit to being a Mason – leftovers for life, since I am a life member. But what are the real wages of a Master Mason? We discussed this in lodge on rib night and I heard some interesting aspects that I had not heard before.

I spoke about the many friendships I have found over the years as a Mason. I have gotten to meet and get to know people from all walks of life, including generals and admirals all the way down to plumbers and even fellow writers, who are really just social pariahs and benefit greatly from the generous bonds this institution offers. Others spoke about the philosophical aspects and opportunities for continuing study and education as an adult, outside of the classroom.

One thing that especially struck me was a comment that Masonry is probably the only organization that teaches men to have relationships. I had never thought about that. I do not want to get into the differences between how men and women think because, frankly, I do not know how women think. I have proven that time and again through my relationships with them. However, many men’s organizations have an emphasis on doing rather than being. In the lodge, we sit and talk, or hear a presentation. We discuss ideas and have a great focus on building and sustaining harmony. We learn to get on well with each other, despite differences that might otherwise keep us at perpetual odds. I had never really thought of this in terms of learning to have relationships though. Definitely an interesting perspective and one I have valued as well, despite not thinking of it in those terms.

What do you think? What wages do you draw from your labors?

Wages for Workmen from the Temple

masonic gatheringWe talk a lot about working in the quarries, building the temple, and other sorts of things that relate to hard physical labor. Freemasons make reference all the time to allegory and symbolism related to the building of King Solomon’s temple. With all this work, there has to be some reward that makes it all worthwhile. In the time of King Solomon, workers were paid in various forms of currency – money, grain, salt, food, wine, oil, and more. Today, for our symbolic work and philosophical labors, our reward is different.

The wages of a worthy brother Master Mason are many, but most notably is the fellowship he feels and the joy in his heart that comes from sitting with his brothers. It is a lifetime of not having to be lonely, and of finding kinship on more than just the biological level in any city you travel to. It is about a network of brothers who help each other and enjoy each other’s company, regardless of how well they know each other at the outset. Having a group of friends and brothers to whom I can turn, even for just a social outlet, is something I would not trade anything for.

I recently hosted an event at which Most Ex. Jim Loudermilk, PDDGHP from Washington, DC, made some remarks and said that something he loved about being a Mason is that he can walk in a room and be surrounded by friends, even if he had not yet met them. I think that sums it up well. We are connected by an indissoluble chain of sincere brotherly love and affection. It matters not whether we know each other deeply, in passing, or at all. If we meet, we will be fast friends.

Loneliness is probably the greatest epidemic in the world. You can quote me on that and take it to the bank. Freemasonry provides the hope of relief from isolation and loneliness.

The friendships I have made through the fraternity are precious to me. You can keep your grain, salt, food, wine, and oil. Friendships are the real wages we earn through our Masonic labors. That is better than any other payment I can think of, although a little wine is nice as well.

Masonic Gathering by Oliver Soden, on Flickr.

Freemasonry and Generativity

House of ROMANOV-tree-frFor those of you who studied psychology in college, you know about Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. I am in my 40s and know that I am in Erikson's seventh stage, being that of generativity vs. stagnation. I feel like I have a good sense of generativity – the sense that I am leaving something positive behind for others to build on. It's not that I am dying and reflecting on my life, just that I know I have worked to build something meaningful. Most people get this from seeing their children grow up but I do not have children. For me, that sense has come about partly through Freemasonry.

This is a quick path to seeing something grow and prosper. I have had the benefit of teaching the catechisms to brothers even just a few years ago who have since gone on to be officers or otherwise active members in their lodges. It gives me a sense of pride to see that our junior warden, for example, who learned the catechisms entirely mouth-to-ear from me, has already taught others the same material and gone on to learn other parts of the ritual that I do not know. I got to see him prosper with what I had to teach him and also see him take his own direction. That is pretty darned fulfilling.

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What it Means to be Worshipful Master

19022009338The titles of Masonry can seem very affected and can even evoke a sense of self-imposed majesty on the bearers. We have worshipfuls, right worshipfuls, most worshipfuls, grand this and grand that, and other similarly high titles for the various appendant bodies. In fact, one friend laughed at me when I told her I was about to become Worshipful Master of my lodge. She thought the title was funny and pretentious sounding. I had to agree on some level. It is a bit pretentious sounding, but only to those who do not know what it means.

To be worshipful master of the lodge is to serve the lodge. It is not a role that is meant to be occupied and taken on with hubris or because it conveys a certain gravitas or level of power. In fact, it does come with power, but the man who aspires toward the oriental chair with visions of power is the man who should not be elected to the position. It is a station to be assumed with seriousness and reverence. It is a great undertaking to advance in the lodge and a great privilege and responsiblity to lead it.

The title Worshipful should not be worn as a mantle demanding authority, but as a mantle of piety. In the lodge meeting, the Master symbolically receives his authority from the Great Architect of the Universe. He who demands authority is unfit to wear the square. It is incumbent on him to be pious and worship and seek through prayer and devotion the guidance he needs to bring to the lodge. He is the one who worships most, at least in theory. The master of the lodge is worshipful, meaning full of worship, not meaning deserving of worship. The Mason who mistakes these two concepts has had the wrong instruction and guidance, but we are all rough ashlars in this mortal quarry, hoping to be found fit for use in the temple of Heaven. Misunderstanding these concepts is not a grave sin. Living in self-imposed darkness instead of seeking more light is the only sin in Masonry.

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