Have We Lost Our Way?



HAVE WE LOST OUR WAY?

by Bro.  Howard Wyatt, P. Asst.  Prov.  G.M., P.M.
Grand Lodge of New Zealand
Reprinted from the Proceedings of United Masters Lodge No. 167,

The charges of a Free-Mason, Extracted from The Ancient records
of lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and
Ireland, for the Use of the lodges in London: To be Read at the
making of New Brethren, or when the Master shall order it.

1. Concerning God and Religion

A Mason is oblig'd, by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law: and if
he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid
Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine.  But though in ancient
Times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion
of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought
more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all
Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that
is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by
whatever Denominations or Persuasions they be distinguish'd;
whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of
Conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have
remain'd at a perpetual Distance.

(From the first book of Constitutions of the Free-masons 1723)


1. Concerning GOD and RELIGION

A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law; and if he
rightly understands the art he will never be a stupid atheist nor
an irreligious libertine. He, of all men, should best understand
that GOD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh at the outward
appearance, but GOD looketh to the heart.  A Mason is, therefore,
particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his
conscience.  Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it
may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believe in
the glorious Architect of heaven and earth, and practice the
sacred duties of morality.  Masons unite with the virtuous of
every persuasion in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love;
they are taught to view the errors of mankind with compassion,
and to strive, by the purity of their own conduct, to demonstrate
the superior excellence of the faith they profess.  Thus Masonry
is the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy
means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise
have remained at a perpetual distance.

(From the Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Antient,
Free and Accepted Masons of New Zealand-which is identical to
that found in the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Alberta, AF
& AM.)


Introduction:

At the meeting in May 1986 of United Masters Lodge Bro. Busfield
presented a paper to the lodge entitled 'The Final Forty Years of
Freemasonry?' In that paper he outlined the progress of the New
Zealand Constitution since 1890, and printed in the paper graphs
and figures to illustrate his lecture.  He presented statistical
evidence to prove beyond doubt that, unless steps were taken
promptly, the years ahead would be not only difficult for lodges,
but catastrophic for the Craft.  Bro.  Busfield documented
evidence ot appeals from leaders in the Craft for action to be
taken; a summary of reports, proposals, surveys etc, received and
discussed by the Board of General Purposes; also enthusiastic
statements from Grand Masters that were not born out by the
facts! All this he presented just to try to galvanize brethren
into action. 1987 he published a further paper on the subject
'Thirty Nine Years to Go?', which showed that very little change
had taken place and if anything the situation had deteriorated. 
From the figures presented the decline had continued and the only
bright note being action taken by some individual lodges.  He
again called for action from leaders, both national and district. 
In the commentary on that paper our Grand Secretary expressed the
opinion (was it at the direction of the Board of General
Purposes, or even the Grand Master?) that he was saddened by Bro. 
Busfield's "continuance as a harbinger of despair and
desperation". (On the facts and figures presented, what else
could Bro.  Busfield be?) The Grand Secretary did however point
out that there are other considerations (that is other than
numerical strength) which should be considered, and brought to
our notice the many District projects together with the
development of their District Trusts, Homes, other ventures and
the extended work of the Board of Benevolence.  All these
projects are commendable but it is wonder if through the
promotion of projects such as mentioned by the Grand Secretary we
may have lost sight of the aims of Freemasonry "to make good men
better men and for each brother to enjoy to the full the
fellowship of the brethren of the Lodge".  In this paper I would
like to examine the history (in relation to its main purpose) of
our Craft, and to see if we can find at least a partial answer to
our problems.

Foundations:

Freemasonry throughout the world has spread from the Mother Grand
Lodge founded in London in 1717.  Our knowledge of the form and
working of a lodge in the 18th century is mainly derived from the
minute books and records of old lodges, such as The Lodge of
Antiquity No. 2, The Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.
4 and The Old Dundee Lodge No. 18.  Other sources of information
available to us are exposures of Freemasonry.  Masonry Dissected
1730, Three Distinct Knocks 1760, Jachin and Boaz 1762, and the
early French exposures of the 18th century.  The records of the
Old Dundee Lodge particularly afford us a very good insight into
the workings of a lodge 250 years ago. This lodge was constituted
on 27 March 1723 and met at Wopping, near London. It worked under
the Grand Lodge of the Moderns as No. 9 and was given No. 18 at
the Union in 1813.  As the Grand Lodge of the Antients did not
commence working until 1751 our early knowledge of the Craft
derives mainly from lodges working underthe Moderns Grand Lodge.

Ceremonies:

The three degrees as we know them today are a development by
speculative brethren of the simple ceremony of the admission for
an apprentice and a formal ceremony of admission later to full
membership (with possibly a secret rite associated with the
membership) into the Guild system. By 1717, the year Grand Lodge
was formed, the ceremony had been divided up into two degrees,
and by the mid 1720s a third degree had been included into the
system.  The old manuscript charges vary, with each having its
idea of the proceedings at the admission of a candidate can be
obtained.  The meeting was opened with prayer.  The legendary
history of the Craft was then read.  Then the candidate was led
forward and instructed to place his hand on the V.S.L. (which was
held by one of the seniors) while the Articles, binding on all
Masons alike, were read, at the conclusion of which a brief
obligation was imposed upon the candidate.  Then followed the
Special Charges for an apprentice, concluding with an obligation,
by which the candidate bound himself to secrecy.  The secrets,
whatever they were, were then entrusted to him, and the
proceedings terminated.  Early speculative Freemasonry either
evolved from these Craft ceremonies changing gradually over a
lengthy period, or was created from these ceremonies by a group
of speculative brethren into the system we know existed in the
early 18th century.  Researchers into the history of our Craft
are divided as to which of these two theories is correct and it
does seem that, until fresh evidence is forthcoming, we cannot
state categorically by which method our speculative degrees came
into existence.  This particular point does not really matter for
this study, as we are concerned with the content of the
ceremonies more than the method of their coming into being.

Content of Ceremonies:

By the year 1730 the three degree system was firmly established. 
Before that date there had been several partial exposures of the
first and second degrees, but Samuel Prichard's Masonry Dissected
was the first and most famous of a long series of exposures,
setting out the three degrees, and appears to give a very good
indication of the ritual worked at that time.  For that reason it
is worth studying.  The first thing that strikes one is that it
is all in the form of question and answer, as we use in opening
and closing the lodge.  These questions and answers give us an
opportunity to understand the intent of the thought behind the
ceremony.  The first degree questions (some 90 odd in number) are
very similar in content to the lectures as we know them today and
cover the usual range of operative/speculative Masonry, with the
exception that the personal moral issues of our first degree are
not covered.  Perfect Points of entrance, squares and rectangles,
steps, signs, tokens and grips, perfect and regular lodges, the
form of the lodge, fittings, ornaments, lights, position of
officers, and an obligation with penafty, are all there but it is
worth noting that the three Grand Principles, brotherly love,
relief, and truth the moral lessons of the working tools-and the
North East corner are not mentioned and obviously came into the
ceremony at a later date.  Two areas of questions of interest:

Q. What do you come here to do?

A. Not to do my own proper Will,
But to subdue my Passion still;
The Rules of Masonry in hand to take, 
And daily Progress therein make.

and later

Q. What do you learn by being a Gentleman-Mason?

A. Secresy, [sic.] Morality and Goodfellowship,

At a slightly later date (1747) in "La Desolation des
Entrpreneurs" we find these questions:

Q. What do you learn being a Speculative Mason?

A. Good morals, to purlly our manners, and to make ourselves
agreeable to everyone.

and later

Q. What are the duties of a Mason?

A. To shun evil and to practise virtue.

Q. What are his qualifications?

A. Strength, Wisdom and Beauty.

Q. How are these three qualities united in him?

A. His strength lies in union with his brothers, his wisdom is in
his morals, and his beauty in his character.

The second and third degrees (of Masonry Dissected) both contain
about 30 questions.  Again, questions relating to the Craft, but
only an operative/speculative nature without any reference to the
moral lessons.  At this time we have no record of any charges
being given in the ceremonies but we do know that during the
"Manner of Constituting a New Lodge" (Anderson's Constitutions
1723) a "Short and pithy charge that is Suitable to the thing
presented" was given.  The content of these charges and also that
of one given to the new Wardens, were evidently left to the
individual brother presenting them, and probably have always
related to the particular subject (i.e. Constitutions, Lodge
Book, Instruments of Office etc.) being presented rather than the
morals conveyed by them.  A short charge to be given to the new
admitted brethren first appeared in print in 1735: A Pocket
Companion for Freemasons compiled by William Smith (who does not
lay claim to the authorship of any of the material in his book)
was the first of a long series of Pocket Companions which almost
took the place of the official Books of Constitutions.  This
magnificent piece of ritual has come down to us through the years
with very little change, and our charge after initiation follows
the form, content and substance of this original charge.

During the 18th century a number of other exposures appeared, the
most famous among them were Jachin and Boaz (1762) Three Distinct
Knocks (1760) Hiram (1760) Shibboleth (1765) Tubal Cain (1777)
and also some French ones, such as L'Ordre des Francs Macons
Trahi (1745) which was later translated and published in English
under the title of Solomon in all His Glory.

A study of these exposures shows that the ceremonies had been
considerably elaborated since Prichard's Masonry Dissected of
1730.  There are separate specific obs. for each degree,
questions about preparation (Reasons) and the beginning of the
North East corner charge, in the form of simple questions and
answers.  The prayer given is Christian and implores God to "add
to Godliness, brotherly Love".  This is the first reference I can
find to one of the Grand Principles although in the Royal Order
of Scotland ritual (said by some historians to have been
practised on and off since beginning sometime between 1725 and
1741) the three Great Principles of Masonry are given as we know
them today.  Whether they were in the original ritual of the
early eighteenth century or whether they were added late is
unknown.


The Lectures:

Bro. William Preston in 1772 organized his first Gala Meeting in
order to submit his work for the approbation of the Grand
Officers and leaders of the Craft.  An oration which he delivered
on that occasion was so well received that he decided to print
it, which with a description of the proceedings and other matter
formed the first edition of his Illustrations of Masonry 1772. 
He then proceeded to complete the lectures by adding the second
and third degrees and their delivery as public 'Lectures to the
Craft' took place at the Mitre Tavern, Fleet Street, during 1774
and were published as the second edition of the Illustrations of
Masonry in 1775.  These 'lectures', as they became known, were an
extension or an elaboration of the simple question and answer
form which we find printed in the exposures of the first half of
the eighteenth century.  Bro. Preston felt that the Freemason of
the eighteenth century required more than a simple degree
working, and the Questions and Answers that were then being
followed in rote form.  Brethren knew very little about the
Craft; had few books available to explain and elaborate on the
various words and references of the ceremony, and were in the
main intelligent men seeking further knowledge. His Illustrations
of Masonry when published, not only achieved success, but did a
great work for the Craft by bringing together material as a
complete unit in each degree and making it generally available. 
It presented Freemasonry in a dignified and worthy manner and
rendered it acceptable even to those who were not members of the
order.  Preston was the first 'Public Relations' man Freemasonry
had! There is no doubt that his publications did much to raise
the general concept of Freemasonry and, while many of the
sections detailing the history and theory of the Craft are not
now taken literally, there are useful lessons inculcated in the
lectures which are equally applicable today.

His Illustrations ran through twelve English editions during his
lifetime, and then, under the editorship of Bro.  Stephen James
and finally of Dr. Oliver, reached the seventeenth English issue
in 1861.  There were German and Dutch translations and American
re-issues.  In the English Craft it was frequently given to
initiates and became an almost indispensable lodge possession. 
By the beginning of the nineteenth century several lodges were
using the Illustrations of Preston, and working the Lectures of
the three degrees. At the union of 1813 Dr. Hemming was entrusted
with the task of revising them and the form we use today has come
down to us from his final revisions. By the middle of the
nineteenth century lodges took a more formal approach to the
ceremonies and in the course of the next hundred years the
lectures lost favour and few lodges today work them; they are
wordy by today's standards and, while they have a great
educational benefit, today's Masons seem to begrudge the time and
effort it takes to present even a section of one of the degrees. 
The members of those lodges that regularly or even occasionally
work the Lectures, normally attain a greater understanding of the
history (although not always accurate), teachings and philosophy
of Freemasonry.


Freemasonry Today:

Today a candidate of a lodge can look forward to being received
into the company of a group of brethren who attend their lodge
meetings and enjoy a short time together afterwards before
dispersing and going their various ways.  Some lodges do provide
a meal after their meetings, but usually the meal is sparse and
often the time spent is occupied with unnecessary speeches which
must have a detrimental effect on our members' views of
Freemasonry. For their fellowship to develop, brethren must be
able to spend time together, talking and listening to each other
and build up a bond of friendship over a period of time.  The way
our proceedings are conducted today, time and opportunity for
this to happen is impossible.  I believe our ceremonies are
achieving what was intended-'To make good men better men'-but are
we building that bond of fellowship between lodge members which
makes us feel we want to go to lodge to be in their company?-or
do we attend lodge simply to progress through the 'Chairs' then
continue attending hoping for an appointment to a Grand Lodge
Office.


Conclusion:

In the beginning of this paper I quoted the comment of the Grand
Secretary regarding our work on the caring and benevolent side of
Freemasonry.  While that is the result of the teaching of
Freemasonry it is not Freemasonry. By becoming a Freemason every
brother is taught the age-old lesson of morality which is common
to all great religions and through the lessons learned brethren
can, and indeed do, exert an influence for good in the community. 
Having been taught those lessons, it is only natural that the
brethren are motivated to apply a practical application of them,
and it is in the result of that application of those lessons that
we are seeing results in those avenues outlined by the Grand
Secretary.  These activities are the by-product of our system. 
Each brother will find his own particular interest in the Craft
(and there are many) but if we do not attract members how can our
order survive? Our members often quote Brotherly Love, Relief and
Truth, our three Grand Principles, as the basis on which our
order was founded.  This is not borne out by the facts as shown
in the first part of this paper.  While we all acknowledge those
principles today, it is quite evident that they were only
introduced into our ritual as the three Grand Principles some
time towards the end of the eighteenth century and probably not
until after the Union in 1813.  From the earliest days the
brethren of each lodge took an interest in their own members and
relief was extended to those in want.  The Mother Grand Lodge
instituted a charity fund and ever since has been to the
forefront in all forms of relief.  But this was not the object of
our early Freemasons.  Our lodges were formed by groups of
brethren who gained pleasure and enjoyment in each other's
company.  They met for fellowship and based their simply
initiation ceremony on the old operative stonemasons'trade.  Over
the years our ritual ceremonies have increased in length and the
festive Bond proceedings have diminished in importance to many of
our brethren.  I wonder, if we kept our business and ritual work
to a minimum (and there are ways this could be done without
altering our basic ritual or ceremonies) and made our refectory
proceedings more enjoyable (to enable real and lasting
friendships to develop), more brethren may be encouraged to
partake in an enjoyable and interesting form of Freemasonry.  It
is often been said that after the end of both of the last two
world wars, brethren were attracted to the Craft looking for the
comradeship and friendship they experienced in the forces.  This
is something that many of our lodges have lost, and may be one of
the aspects we are overlooking in endeavouring to maintain our
members' interest.  No one single answer will solve the
membership problem of the Craft but every avenue should be
considered.  I feel that too much importance is being placed by
senior members of the Craft on our benevolent activities, thereby
giving the impression that that is Freemasonry.  If prospective
members want to concentrate on that particular aspect that is
very commendable, but I do not think we should give the
impression that benevolent work which we willingly do, is the be
all and end all of Freemasonry.

(From the first Book of Constitutions of the Free-masons 1723)

Finally, All these Charges you are to observe, and also those
that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating
BROTHERLY-LOVE, the Foundation and Cape-Stone, 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 ... Saying or doing nothing
which may hinder Brotherly Love, and good Offices to be renew'd
and continu'd; that all may see he benign Influence of MASONRY,
as all true Masons have done from the Beginning of the World, and
will do to the End of Time.

AMEN SO MOTE IT BE.

(From the Book of Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Antient,
Free and Accepted Masons of New Zealand) [Alberta]

Finally.-All these charges you are to observe, and also those
that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating
brotherly love, the foundation and copestone, the cement and 
glory of this antient fraternity, avoiding all wrangling and
quarreling, 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 ... Saying or doing nothing which may
hinder brotherly love and good offices to be renewed and
continued, that all may see the benign influence of Masonry as
all true Masons have done from the beginning of the world, and
will do to the end of time.

AMEN.  SO MOTE IT BE.