The MM's OB and the FPOF

This act of consecration is contained in the M.M.'s OB. The candidate dedicates himself to those duties which every Mason owes to his brethren. The various parts of the body are used as symbols to illustrate the lessons of brotherly love, in which are encompassed all the duties man owes to his brother. These are known to Masons as the F.P.O.F. Their original place was in the F.C.D. but in the course of time they were given their present position to emphasize the duty and beauty of fellowship.

The desire for fellowship is primitive and powerful. At one time membership in a tribe was essential for protection.

The human story is the story of the breaking down and building up of human associations; for, while people find it difficult to live together in harmony, they find it even more difficult to live apart. Out of the warmth of human contact there has come the ability to speak and to write; to appreciate the good, the beautiful, and the true; to delve into the realms of philosophy and science; to scale the heights of art and religion. Fellowship may begin as a matter of human necessity but it can become the source of human grandeur. During the ceremonies of all three degrees, and especially in the M.M.D., the candidate is made aware that harmonious fellowship is the salient purpose of the fraternity. Seldom do we find the various elements of fellowship demonstrated so effectively as they are exemplified for every M.M. in the OB. and ceremonies of the third degree. Here is the central theme of Masonry summed up concisely, and communicated symbolically by reference to various parts of the body. The elements of genuine fellowship are without number, but they are classified for every M.M. under F. headings, known throughout the fraternity as the F.P.O.F.

The first P. is related to the H. and reminds us of the common manner of greeting, especially in Europe and America. "H. to H., I greet you as a brother." We cannot overestimate the significance of the human hand in the bodily organism. In biblical times it was regarded as the organ of mediation and transference. Consecrations, ordinations, healing, and blessings are communicated by the imposition of hands. Hands are clasped in token of a contract and also as a pledge of friendship.

Certainly the clasp of the hand indicates an absence of malice. It shows the absence of any harmful weapon that a hand might conceal and demonstrates a trust without which fellowship is impossible.

The second P. is related to the F. and reminds us of our duty to stand with our brethren or to accompany them for their good as well as for our own. It is commonly held that man's principal needs are food, clothing, and shelter, but there is a fourth without which the other three are meaningless.

This is companionship, which is to be distinguished from the broader concept of fellowship. It may be regarded as a segment of fellowship. It is dramatized for Masons in the second of the F.P.O.F. the expression "F. to F." conveys the idea that we stand together. Some of us have had periods of loneliness which help us to appreciate the tragedy of being unattached. When a man becomes a Mason he knows that he is not alone. Standing with his brethren he is saved from the pangs of desolation. This blessing requires us to remember always, for our good and the good of others, that we stand together "F. to F."

The third of the F.P.O.F. is related to the K. and emphasizes our need for reverence. Behind man and all his achievements is the work of a divine Creator before whom we can only ask, "When I consider Thy heavens, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man?"

A genuine fellowship among human beings is not possible if we stress our own accomplishments, but only as we acknowledge our dependence upon a power greater than ourselves. Such recognition binds us into a fellowship and the accepted symbol in our Masonic teaching is the K. bent in reverence as we pray for our brethren and for ourselves.

The fourth of the F.P.O.F. is related to the B. and reminds us of man's need of a friend and brother to whom he can entrust his secrets. The B. is regarded as the repository of a man's heart and soul. Here a man's inner self is securely insulated from all the other selves around him. He has an inner being, a private self, to which he must be true. He must be his own man. But too much privacy may lead to morbid and exaggerated introspection.

Besides privacy, a human being needs sociability. He must keep himself open to others so that he may enjoy a measure of communion with them. But this too has its danger. His individuality may become dissolved in the unconsciousness of mere community life.

The Fourth P. in the Masonic analysis of fellowship provides the remedy. A man opens his heart, not to the whole world, but to a brother and friend in the confidence that what is said will be kept inviolable. Confidentiality is the qualification to which he is bound in the OB. of the M.M.D. The pressure of B. against B. assures him that his inner self is not forfeited, nor has he cut himself off from full communion with his fellow men. To experience fellowship on this level is a precious privilege and to betray it shocking villainy.

The Fifth and last of the F.P.O.F. dramatized in the M.M.D. is symbolized by the B. This portion of the body is associated in our minds with bearing burdens, lending support to those in need, and remaining staunch under all circumstances.

The strength of a man's B. is regarded as the measure of his independence, his self-reliance, his initiative, and his personal responsibility.

To be told that one is a man with backbone elicits a sense of pride in all of us that we are not leaning on others but carrying our share of life's burden.

Every old soldier knows that he is expected to carry his own pack. He must not push it off on someone else's back. But in the same sacred volume there is the instruction to "bear ye one another's burdens". This is no invitation to forfeit our independence, but rather an invitation to add a new dimension to life. No man must stagger on alone until he sinks under the load that life places upon him, when the shoulder of a brother might ease it for him. This is the meaning of the H.O.B.; it symbolizes the support we owe to a brother, when he is threatened by the variety of burdens that may be laid upon him. In particular, we must protect his reputation from idle gossip or malicious slander, especially when he is absent and cannot defend himself. This calls for loyalty, courage, and discretion of a very high order, and epitomizes the spirit of fellowship required of every M.M. Thus the various parts of the body, the H., the F., the K., the B., and the B. become valid symbols to assist us in understanding the various qualities of fellowship in our Masonic fraternity.

From: Beyond the Pillars, Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario

Abridged by: R.W. Bro. Stan Payne, Starbuck Lodge No. 180 G.R.M.