Vol. XLIV No. 8 — August 1966

Short Short Talks for Special Occasions

Conrad Hahn


Brethren, we will soon elect the officers of the lodge for the ensuing year. That thought prompts me to make a few observations about leadership. We choose the kind of leadership we have in each succeeding year. That's not only a right to enjoy; that’s a serious responsibility. What the officers do will affect not only the quality of our labors and achievements during the next twelve months; it will have its consequences in the future, when others take up the working tools that we lay down.

By custom our officers “move up the line”; but this doesn’t necessarily assure the best results from leadership. The only requirement(s) for advancement to the worshipful master’s chair may be found in our code (or rules and regulations, Ahiman Rezon, etc.) (Here the speaker reviews the requirements in his jurisdiction.) Since he is a Master Mason and a member of the lodge, it is assumed that he possesses the moral and spiritual qualifications that will enable him to be a master, or overseer of the work.

At times such assumptions are wrong and may lead to trouble or inertia in the lodge. Of course, the time to check such possible outcomes is at the time a brother is first elected to the line. Most appointive officers serve “at the master’s will or pleasure”; the lodge is not obligated to advance them to elective stations. That should happen only when the lodge believes that such appointees have the qualities of leadership that will assure its progress and prosperity.

In my opinion, the fundamental spiritual quality in a good master is humility. I don’t mean a Caspar Milquetoast fearsomeness; neither do I mean a fawning insincerity like Uriah Heep’s repeated whine, “I’m an ’umble man.” Humility is the demonstration of a man’s understanding of these Masonic phrases: “We are descended from a common stock”; and “We meet upon the level.” A humble person is selfless because he is sincerely interested in others. He doesn’t brag about his doings because he’s never satisfied with his own performance and is always consciously appreciative of the help of others. A humble man is always aware of the difference between himself as a person and the office that he holds. The dignity and authority of the office are never permitted to suffer; but neither are his brotherly love and friendship for every one of the brethren. Humility is most frequently observed in the master who encourages others and who seeks every opportunity to know each individual member of the lodge more intimately.

In the area of acquired skills, I believe that the most important qualification for a good master is his understanding of Freemasonry. Note that word. I didn’t say “knowledge”; I said “understanding of Freemasonry.” A brother reveals that understanding by the ways in which he uses his Masonic knowledge and experience.

For example, does he know the by-laws of the lodge? Has he used that knowledge to help the lodge stay on the right track? Or is he a born obstructionist, who is always quoting this law or that regulation just to win an argument? There won’t be much healthy exchange of opinion in a lodge governed by such an embryo dictator!

Is the prospective master’s knowledge of grand lodge law and practice wide enough to make him a good ambassador to other members of the grand lodge, i.e., other lodges, as well as an able delegate to the annual communication of grand lodge? Is his knowledge of Masonic history, philosophy, and symbolism deep enough to enable him really to give the lodge some good and wholesome instruction? In other words, does he care whether the lodge will grow in Masonic wisdom and understanding?

While I have emphasized just two qualities in these brief remarks, I don’t want you to think that I am ignoring energy and enthusiasm, organizing ability, ritualistic proficiency, etc., in my analysis of leadership. I too would look for those things in a prospective leader. But all other things being equal, I would vote for a leader who possesses humility and understanding. He's going to make me a better Mason.

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The Fellowcraft Degree

My brother, your symbolic journey through the various apartments of the Temple has undoubtedly filled you with wonder and left you with a host of impressions that seem bewildering because of their variety and intricate expression.

Your state of mind is perfectly natural. It is the common experience of every initiate who has achieved the rank of Fellow of the Craft. You may be confident that much of your perplexity will disappear as your impressions are sorted and arranged in your mind when you learn the lectures of this degree. Some study on your part, to make sure that you understand the words and phrases of the instruction you listened to so attentively, will ensure your understanding of the experience.

Suffice it to say for the present moment, you have been introduced to the elementary knowledge that in the 17th and 18th centuries constituted the areas of learning embraced by the liberally-educated man. The archaic and impressive language in which that knowledge was sketched comes directly from that period of Masonic history. It has been retained in our modern ritual, not to confuse you, but to preserve the dignified and formal modes of communication of our ancient brethren.

Freemasonry is sometimes described as an educational institution. It does not, however, promote a rigidly organized curriculum or transmit a specific body of knowledge. It encourages the individual to improve himself by appropriate studies of all worthwhile knowledge, especially the principles of morality and spiritual truth. The underlying purpose of the degree in which you have just taken part is to foster in you a respect for knowledge and truth, especially for the means by which such a reverence may be developed, by study, by scholarship, by research. It reminds every Mason that a Speculative Builder must enlarge his skills by continued efforts to learn.

Freemasonry tries to promote and encourage in its individual members the desire and ability to think. This degree points to all the beauty that can be seen in the power and creation of the Great Architect, in the world, in nature, and in man himself, provided a man will study “the divine plan.”

No other degree suggests quite so strongly one of the principal means by which a good man can make himself better — to inquire and to learn, to reverence knowledge as a gift from the Creator. This is the essential meaning of the Fellowcraft Degree. Let not its purpose be lost upon you, my brother, as you continue your journey in search of knowledge and Masonic skill.

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Presenting a Bible

Not every Mason is a Christian. To a non-Christian a Bible presentation would be inappropriate. However, frequent requests for a presentation address of this kind have prompted its inclusion in this pamphlet.

My brother, the worshipful master has graciously requested (permitted) me to present to you this Holy Bible, a gift from ______. In Masonry, this Book is referred to as the Volume of the Sacred Law, which should be the rule and guide of your faith as a Mason and as a religious person.

The Volume of the Sacred Law rests upon the altar of every Masonic lodge, where it supports the Square and Compasses. With those two symbols of Masonic philosophy and moral conduct, it is designated as one of the three Great Lights, of which this Book is the greatest.

The Holy Bible opens when the lodge opens; it closes when the lodge closes. No lodge can transact its business, much less initiate candidates into its mysteries, unless the Volume of the Sacred Law lies open on its altar. Thus the Book rules the lodge in its labors as the sun rules the day, making its work reverent and spiritually significant.

Let not the image of the opening and closing of this Book be stretched too far. It is not meant to suggest that you open and close this volume only when you come into the lodge room.

The Volume of the Sacred Law is the prime source of that spiritual Light for which every Speculative Mason is seeking. As such, consult it on every convenient occasion, for within its pages you will find, for example, the historical account of the building of Solomons Temple, the foundation stone of Masonic ritual and teaching.

But more than that, from a perusal of its sacred pages, you may learn the fascinating stories of God’s chosen people, who gave to the world the concept of the one true God and His expectations of the children of His creation, of the age-long conflict between kings, priests, and prophets, wherein the kings did battle for or against the cause of Jehovah, while the priests estab- fished ritualistic forms for religious observances, and the prophets re-emphasized the spiritual meaning of lives lived for God.

In the New Testament you will find the story of One who suffered and died to establish a new idea — the Law of Love — and the account of a small band of men who changed the world by means of that idea and their own indomitable courage.

No Mason really needs to be told of the significance of the Holy Bible in Freemasonry. It is central and sovereign — the dazzling light of spiritual revelation and the steady beam of moral illumination.

Upon this Book you reverently placed your hands when you took the obligations of a Mason. Those vows are sacred because of their association with this holy volume. Every time you witness the pledging of a newly admitted brother, you will silently renew the vows that you have made, until their language and their imagery become more and more eloquent in binding you to the great moral commitments that you made on a Volume of the Sacred Law.

This Book is yours, my brother, to consult throughout a long and useful life for Masonry and for mankind. Read from it regularly and often, for only by its guidance will you find the Light that will ultimately reveal “that which was lost,” the goal of our spiritual seeking.

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Lawful Age

A candidate is said to be "of lawful age” if he has reached a specified birthday, usually twenty-one. In some jurisdictions "lawful age” is eighteen for a lewis, the son of a Mason. Usage has differed in various countries as to the time when maturity of age is supposed to have arrived. Today that age is generally twenty-one, Masonically as well as legally.

Unfortunately, the stress on a certain number has tended to deemphasize the importance of the word maturity in any definition of “lawful age.” Many of us tend to think of it as a technical requirement that can be satisfied merely by the passing of a certain number of years.

The founders of Speculative Freemasonry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries emphasized the internal qualifications that make a man “of lawful age.” The old regulations and charges specified that a candidate for initiation must be “of mature and discreet age .”Those adjectives obviously describe the quality of a man, not the number of years he has lived.

In giving his brethren some good and wholesome instruction, the Grand Master Mason in Scotland made clear this distinction.

This may be the candidates age, but are his sponsors satisfied that he is mature? Is the candidate really capable of understanding our principles and does he know what will be expected of him when he takes his vows?

Sir Christopher Wren, the builder of St. Paul’s Cathedral, defined a Freemason very well when recommending his assistant Kemplar, also a Mason, as “an honest man, upright and truthful, and best of all, to be relied upon.”

When you return to your Mother lodges, would you go over the complete roll of your membership, say aloud the name of each member in turn and ask the question of each, “Can he be relied upon — to help the lodge, to assist the distressed brother and his widow, and really to take his place as a polished ashlar in our Masonic Temple?”

What a Roll Call Night that would make! But it does underline the meaning of the word lawful as mature, as capable of doing a Builder’s work.

Are we of lawful age?

The Masonic Service Association of North America