Friday, February 6, 2009

Are We Truly Masons? By Jack R. Levitt, PGM

There continue to be emerging problems in our modern society. Changes are being effected improperly by violations of standards and rules.Changes are necessary but should be attained legitimately by legislation or other appropriate means.

When the foundation of trust is shattered by scorn for rules, the result is a fragmentation of trust of the basic fabric, which results in ultimate loss of values. Unhappily, pervasive dishonesty is prevalent, not only in society, but in our beloved Fraternity. An organization is known not only by its members' abilities, but also by their attitudes. The history of our Fraternity is the judgment of our Fraternity. The world judges us as they perceive us. To select those ordinances and tenets of Freemasonry we wish to comply with and violate others is not only a direct violation of our obligations, but is to continue a Fraternity built upon sand. Whether violations concern liquor or raffles or advertising or any other prohibited activity, the rules relating to them lose their force as a result. More importantly, our standards begin to crumble.

The most precious wealth in the world is that of established character. While not all of us can become famous leaders, each of us can be pure of heart and faithful to our principles. The greatest influence of Freemasonry is the eloquent influence of integrity.Our great Order has at all times religiously preserved the teachings of moral self-respect and fidelity to our trusts and ideals. It has endeavored to endow us with spiritual strength and moral fortitude. Our principles are the fundamental basis of our Fraternity. We have the right to demand deeds of principle and integrity rather than the negligence of indifference or the treason of violations.

If truth is truly a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue, then to be good and true is more than a charge, it is a command. Our teachings of inflexible fidelity are so extensive that to make reference to them is to state a commonplace.

The first degree charge refers to our Order as honorable, as tending to make all men so who are strictly obedient to its precepts and that we are to manifest our fidelity by a strict observance of the Constitution of the Fraternity.

The second degree charge demands that our laws and regulations be strenuously enforced and that we should always be ready to assist in seeing them duly executed.

The third degree tells us that duty and honor alike bind us strenuously to enforce by precept and example a steady obedience to the tenets of Freemasonry. We are therein also told to caution the inexperienced against any breach of fidelity and that no motive should make us violate our vows.

The 1960's and the 1970's youth revolt against adult society and its rules produced weakened and off -beat standards. This may explain the permissive attitude of non-freemasons, but Freemasons themselves should remain unaffected by such lowered standards. To reason - I might as well cheat because others do", or sell raffle tickets when prohibited because it is for a good cause, or hold a special or stated meeting in a prohibited place, is to collaborate in the tearing apart of the fabric of trust and the dismantling of the basis of our structure.

The best hope of reversing the trend toward ignoring rules and to restore those standards which form the cornerstone of our nation and our Fraternity is to understand that we are indeed mandated to be inflexible in our fidelity and to familiarize ourselves with our rules, which we swear to uphold, and then to act in conformity with them. If we do so, we will not only be heeding the prompting of right reason and the voice of conscious, but we will be entitled to self-esteem and we will set a good example for others to emulate.

If we cannot justify them by abiding by Freemasonry' s moral and philosophical principles, how can we expect non-Freemasons to accept them or to join us to learn them? Individual wills or desires, and even those which are collective, cannot be imposed irrespective of lawfully enacted ordinances, because to do so is divisive and decline results. Remember, what we do today has a significant impact on our future.

To remain, or once again become, obedient to our rules cannot be accomplished solely by urging or by enforcement, but by our own self-control as well. To be unwilling to commit or tolerate a violation must originate from dislike of the violation, not from indifference or fear of the consequences of being caught. Motivation comes from within and is limited only by the mind. No law is real until it is inscribed in the heart.

Only when our pure principles and mandatory duties become the reigning reality of our thoughts and the inspiration or our acts can Freemasonry be the influence intended - to make us masters of ourselves.

Thomas Jeffersons's observation - "Always commit an act as though the world were looking at you" should be our watchword. To secure the inward blessing of our won consciences rather than submitting to the pressure of our peers or the expediency of the moment should be the guideline of our actions. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that the integrity of our own mind is the only thing that is sacred.

Whether it be in conjunction with a Lodge or a concordant or appendant body, or even independent of a Masonic setting, all of us must abide fully by the same high standards that are required of us as Master Masons by our Constitutions, ordinances and obligations. Intentional failure to prevent violations can be as corrupt as a direct violation itself. Our second degree instructs that we are not to palliate, condone nor aggravate the offenses of our brethern.

A Persian proverb reminds us that weakness is indicated by being silent when it is proper to speak. We must not continue to allow another enemy of Freemasonry to weaken us from within by the decadence of our own members. We must accept the burdens and responsibilities of our great Fraternity as well as enjoy its benefits and privilieges.

The Master poet said it well - "Keep the young generation in hail,bequeath to them no tumbled house".

Moderator's Notes: MW Bro Jack R. Levitt is a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California and a foremost Masonic scholar.

MWBro Levitt discusses "...violations concern liquor or raffles or advertising or any other prohibited activity." A note not familiar with the Grand Lodge of California [GLC], and for the most part most [but not all] US Lodges are "dry". Meaning, any liquor is not allowed inside the Temple or Masonic Lodge even in its so-called social halls. This is the case even in my Lodge in the Philippines [Lincoln Lodge #34], which we know is generally hailed GLC as its mother Grand Lodge and not the Spanish Grand Lodges.

But let it be known that other Grand Lodges permit the serving of alcohol inside the social halls [not inside the actual Temple or where Masonic meetings are held]. For example most English, Scottish and Australian lodges serve alcohol in their fellowships and the "toasts" are part and parcel of these fellowships.

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