A church, a lodge: Fraternal twins pt 3
G.M. Howard L Woods
I have heard many sermons, good sermons, and I try to see some Masonic lesson in each one. Over the past few years, I have seen the tide turn, as a lot of ministers now refrain from attacking the Masonic Fraternity. I have had the opportunity to speak in churches where some in the congregation were against Freemasons for one reason or another. While all were not convinced of the sincerity of most Prince Hall Masons, it did start them to thinking for themselves. This is the ultimate goal of this writer, to start people, Masons and Non-Masons alike, thinking.
THE UNIVERSALITY OF MASONIC TEACHINGS
One of the main problems found in anti-Masonic writings and beliefs is the idea that people of several faiths are allowed to join the Lodge, which is true. In my own local Lodge, I have seen a Black Muslim preside as Master not once, but three (3) times. I have seen a member of the Catholic Church serve as Master in my Lodge with no major problems, and attended the funeral ceremonies of a Past Master-turned Buddhist, and a very great learning experience was received by all Masons in attendance. This was my first time witnessing such event, but with my knowledge of deeper Masonry I was exalted more so in the broad aspect of the universality of Freemasonry’s teachings of “love God, love your neighbor.”
God is known by many names and His word is universal, and therefore, “Love God, Love your neighbor” is universal as well, exemplified by the two points of the Compass. This universal idea, quoted from Jesus, should be received as an idea that can be accepted by all Masons no matter the religious belief. In the Prince Hall Masonic Family, we read of “God” with a big G, in most Christian organizations, even though “God” is not a name, but a title, distinguished by the capital G. We use the name Jehovah in the Royal Arch, as well as the Great I Am. In the Knights Templar, He is called Emanuel or the Supreme Commander. In the Consistory, He is called Adonai or Yaweh and Ya He Va He (the tetragammaton). In the Shrine, He is called Allah or the Grandest Potentate. Through it all, He is the Grand Architect of the Universe, Father of us all. In my sermons I intersperse sometimes, all of the above.
It stands to reason that the religion of the majority in a Lodge is the religion most quoted in a Lodge peopled by members of that religion. In my jurisdiction, the majority of prayers are opened with the salutation, “Almighty God” and more than likely concluded “in the name of Jesus.” A ‘sho nuff’ Mason has no problem with that, and if his religion is so fragile as to be offended by the salutation or the conclusion, then he has no tolerance and certainly no understanding. It is no disrespect to anyone for a Mason to salute or conclude in his religious manner if he is called upon to offer prayer. Ignorance does not care where it lives, and consequently, there are some ignorant Masons in the world as well as some ignorant Non-Masons. I thank God that He has allowed me to not be choked up in a religious quagmire so as to not understand my brother. If I am to be a Prince Hall Mason, I will not and I shall not fall out with anyone, fraternal brother or not, because he has called on his God by some other name than what is accepted in this country.
What would happen when you visit a Lodge in Japan, or China or some country where God is known by other names that you are not familiar with? Is that a reason to be upset, or did you go there for some other reason other than to “fellowship with these my brethren?” If so, one should rethink the level of the individual’s Masonic beliefs. It has been said that “if you do not believe as I do, you are not my brother.” How ignorant! Who are we to decide whom God accepts? Who are we to sit in judgment of others in their worship of God when their lives are not commiserate with their words? There are universal truths that are polluted by the doctrinal and theologian renditions and thus have divided humankind more so than any political ideologies.
God’s names are Holy and Righteous, and some theologians say that He has more than 360 different names, and it stands to reason that the Masonic Fraternity would be open minded enough to recognize at least five of them, or ten, or twenty. Rather, think on the proposition of increasing your own knowledge of Him and your fellow Masons, “wherever dispersed around the Globe.” The many wars that have been fought are and are being fought, are not being done in the name of God, but rather an individual’s interpretation of what he has been taught by another whose interpretation was off kilter in the first place. Then too, a religion’s doctrine may run contrary to the principles of “Love God, Love your neighbor.” I believe that any religion in this day and time that teaches hate in any form, is not a religion ordained by the God we profess to serve.
THE MASTER OF THE LODGE
A Master of a Lodge should be the one to show the craft that all are brothers, even the one that does not believe in Masonic Fraternities for whatever reason. He should show the five higher levels of Brotherhood:
- Action: Show the craft by words and deeds of your ability to lead in a moral manner.
- Boldness: Be strict, yet fair in your decisions regarding discipline of your members.
- Committed: Commit yourself to doing the best job as Master that you can, no shirking.
- Dedication: You are Master 24/7/365. No matter the occasion, rise to it.
- Enthusiasm: If you are not excited by your Mastership, who else will be?
A good Master, or should I say, an efficient Master, should know the levels of leadership as given to him in an age-old pecking order:
- Strategy: It emanates from the Grand Lodge/Grand Master, the parents of all Lodges.
- Tactical: Comes from the Grand Lodge officers, i.e. District Deputy Grand Masters and/or Grand Lodge Officers.
- Implementation: Comes from the individual Masons, especially when these same principles are applied in his everyday life, especially his religious life. It is my firm belief that a church-going Mason is going to be one of the best church-workers in the church, be he a preacher, officer, teacher, etc.
With God in your life, you experience a great amount of sensitivity through the following:
- Recognition: Knowing that the Church and the Lodge are Fraternal Twins, not Maternal Twins.
- Happy: Knowing the difference in the two bodies, but being faithful to both.
- Successful: Working well in both, thereby enticing other men to want to emulate you.
- Assessing: When you are able to step back and know you are working well in both.
- Accomplishments: Worthy accomplishments are in your favor, but do not be satisfied.
The Lodge should not and really cannot be a substitute for the Church, for it offers not plan of salvations, and the Lodge’s teachings by themselves cannot insure a place for the soul’s immortality. Therefore, each one, the Lodge and the Church, are fraternal twins, separate and distinct, similar but not identical with each other, interwoven with each other as two siblings should be. The Lodge, even though it has no plan of salvation or immortality, it does seek to instill in its members those ideals that are incorporated in the religious veins of God’s words, even though not necessarily adhered to by its followers. Such is the universality of Freemasonry’s teachings. The Master of the Lodge, or some well-informed brother acting on orders from the Master of the Lodge, should dispense that necessary light received in the Master Mason’s degree of “love God, love your neighbor.”
Each major religion has in its creed the above statement, for it is the root of what the relationship of God and man and vice versa, mean to the individual and more especially the Master Mason. He is supposed to know what the universality means to him and exemplify that meaning in his ways and actions, not hypocritical as others may be of “not doing what I do, but what I say do.” I would rather see a Mason conclude a prayer, or speak in a religious manner favorable to his belief, than to see that same brother offended by words concluding a prayer and exemplify hatred for brothers of other religious beliefs. Who are we to sit in judgment over those that are “not one of us.” Consider the Good Samaritan, an outcast, considered an abomination unto God yet he was the only one that showed compassion to one in need. The Samaritan did not ask what religion the man belonged or what Lodge, or anything that man has used in the past to discriminate against each other.
Prince Hall Masons should relate to this equally so, for we have been discriminated against, have been the victims of double standards by both Black and White Masons. Now, I am asked to believe that as a Christian, I am to forget my religious beliefs simply because my words may offend a Masonic Brother or a fellow churchman. No! No! No! Consider my actions and judge me by them. Nor will I be offended simply because a Mason, being Jewish or Moslem or Buddhist calls God by another name or prays in a different manner. How does he treat me? God is too big to worry about what you call Him and I try to be big enough to understand, not just tolerate, why he or they may do it. Would I not be just as big a hypocrite in my religious fervor, if I, as a supposed-to-be well informed Mason and minister, should sit in judgment when I do not understand my brother’s religious beliefs? As a Past Master of my Lodge, I have a greater level of religious thought than to be guilty of such! We really should study all religions for understanding.
A-S-K (ASK, SEEK AND KNOCK)
When I joined my Lodge some 35 years ago, I immediately fell under the spell of older, experienced and well-informed Masons, like John Harston, Charlie Bunn and Matthew J. Caruth, men deceased now, but men whose legacies still live with me, surrounding me with their wit, their wisdom and certainly their brotherly love, relief and truth. What they saw in me I cannot tell even today, but each one, in his own way, contributed to my understanding as a Mason, and my love for the VSL’s of the several religions I had heard about but was not fully aware of. As I progressed though the various degrees I was taught the levels of understanding that caused my religious responsibilities that I owed to the people around me, those I would meet, as well as those I would never meet or know. I was taught about that broad mantle of charity that all Masons should know and spread.
The 24 inch gauge was the measurement of how I spent my time, giving reverence to my God, giving myself to my usual vocation and spending my hours of refreshment in moments of attaining usable and useful knowledge before retiring to a bed of pleasing sleep. The common gavel reminded me that I was no angel, and found none in Church or Lodge, and that I was possibly a devil with angelic ways, or maybe an angel with devilish ways, but there was a chance for me to be transformed rather than conformed to the way I once was. I stayed in the vein of an Entered Apprenticed Mason for a long time, even after I was ‘passed’ and ‘raised’ in due form. Even today, I am in that vein, for after attaining the highest levels of degrees in York and Scottish Rite, as an EA, I am still a babe, as I ask for more light from my God, seeking His divine will as it relates to me, and knocking at the door of any opportunity to spread the knowledge of what truths I may know to those of unclear minds.
In the Church and the Lodge, there are found the rudiments of truth that are covered over sometimes by man’s doctrines and dogmas. Yet, they are covered by age old ideas and are never exposed to man in their entirety, but are revealed piecemeal over eons of time, for man is not ready for the full truth. Truth is an attribute of God, and one cannot understand that attribute when his mind, when his being is persuaded by the tempting wiles of humankind’s philosophies and ideas or interpretations. There must be orderly formulas to cause man to seek and find that truth is like a shadow in the night, there but hidden by darkness (ignorance). Consider what is needed:
- Discipline: Set your intellectual goals and stay the course.
- Integrity: Be filled with it and display it.
- Vision: Keep your members from perishing because of stagnation.
- Courage: Keep it in the good path and go forward.
- Wisdom: Knowledge is needed, experience makes it practical.
- Patience: Remember you are but one; hear others.
- Tact and Diplomacy: Tell the aginners where to go, but make them glad to buy a ticket.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
I love my Church and my Lodge, for they are Fraternal Twins, symbolized as those parallels of the two Johns, both teaching, but giving me purpose and direction through their lives as they relate to their fellowmen. What higher ideals can one have than to serve his fellowmen? What better purpose than to believe in the good spirit that can be found in every human, even in the midst of the evil that occupy similar space. There are higher ideals than the doctrines and dogmas of humankind, and where can we find them? In our Churches, and in our Lodges, recognizing that one is the sun, the other the moon, one higher and brighter, the other lower and weaker, yet both give light to a darkened world.
Everyone cannot be a Master Mason, just as everyone cannot be a true adherent of the religion they swear by, but the way is open to all, and if we live up to the religious principles and ideals we confess to, then there will be the peace that we all need whether we truly seek it or not. Then again, there are things in a Lodge that are not emphasized in some Churches but they are there for the asking and the taking. They are found in the Churches and Lodges in some manner, very similar to those things that make for success.
- Symbolism: Brain and Heart
- Benevolence: Soul
- History: Flesh
- Jurisprudence: Muscles
- Philosophy: Bloodstream
- Ritual: Skeletal Foundation and last,
- Spirit: No dedication without Education:
Such is the human body as related to life itself. Each component makes for the better person and with each, higher levels of ideals are garnered. The true self of man lies just below the outward appearance of man, not so deep it cannot be called upon to reveal itself in times of need. It is the God-self that lives in all of us, the kind of spirit that has been breathed into our mortal beings thereby causing us to have a part of immortality within. This is the image that God would have us to display rather than the man-self that is without the human frame dwelling in what can be seen, felt, or heard rather than what the spirit of the God-self says on behalf of those in need. “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly” is not just there for beauty in sounding, but is there for purpose, for direction, for life. With a new type of education, religious education, your understanding will surpass the knowledge of what you once thought and the wisdom that you were ignorant of what your God-self was all about in the first place.
As we were created in the image of God, it stands to reason that we should be loving toward our fellowmen, kind to our downtrodden and patient and forgiving towards our enemies. Where would we be if God’s love was restricted to just one or two religions? We would be in a world of trouble. Therefore, we, as Master Masons, should “walk upright in our several stations; act on the square and remember that we are all traveling on the same level.” Such is the way of a man! Such is the way of a Mason!