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The Membership Problem
The Importance of Gloves
Freemasonry in Society
Praying in the Lodge
So Mote it Be!
The Meaning of Blue
The Letter G
The Cable Tow
The History and Meaning of the Apron
The Membership Problem
Back to index
was one of the myriad-minded men of our race, and a devout member of
our gentle Craft. When he lay dying, as the soft shadow began to fall
over his mind, he said to a friend watching over his bed : "open the
window and let in more light!" The last request of a great poet-Mason
is the first quest of every Mason.
If one were asked to
sum up the meaning of Masonry in one word, the only word equal to the
task is - light! From its first lesson to its last lecture, in every
degree and every symbol, the mission of Masonry is to bring the light
of God into the life of man. It has no other aim, knowing that when the
light shines the truth will be revealed.
A Lodge of Masons is a House of Light. Symbolically it has no roof but
the sky, open to all the light of nature and of grace. As the sun rises
in the East to open and rule the day, so the Master rises in the East
to open and guide the Lodge in its labour. All the work of the Lodge is
done under the eye and in the name of God, obeying Him who made the
great lights, whose mercy endureth forever.
At the centre of the Lodge, upon the Altar of Obligation, the Great
Lights shine upon us, uniting the light of nature and the whiter light
of revelation. Without them no Lodge is open in Due Form, and no
business is valid. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, as the
stars are seen only when the sun is hidden, so the Lesser Lights follow
dimly when the Greater Lights lead.
To the door of the Lodge comes the seeker after Light, hoodwinked and
groping his way - asking to be led out of shadows into realities; out
of darkness into light. All initiation is "Bringing Men To Light,"
teaching them to see the moral order of the world in which they must
learn their duty and find their true destiny. It is the most impressive
drama on earth, a symbol of the Divine education of man.
So, through all its degrees, its slowly unfolding symbols, the ministry
of Masonry is to make men "Sons Of Light" - men of insight and
understanding who know their way and can be of help to others who
stumble in the dark. Ruskin was right: "To See Clearly is Life, Art,
Philosophy and Religion - All In One." When the light shines the way is
plain, and the highest service to humanity is to lead men out of the
confused life of the senses into the light of moral law and spiritual
To that end Masonry opens upon its Altar the one great Book of Light,
its pages glow with "A Light That Never Was On Sea Or Land," shining
through the tragedies of man and the tumults of time, showing us a path
that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. From its first page to
the last , the key-word of the Bible is light; until, at the end, when
the City of God is built it will have no need of the sun or the moon or
the stars; for God is the Light of it.
And God Said, Let There Be Light; And there was light.
God Is Light, And In Him Is, No Darkness At All. Thy Word Is A Lamp
Unto My Feet; And A Light Unto My Path. The entrance Of Thy Word,
Giveth Light. The Lord Is My Light And My Salvation;
Whom I Shall Fear. There Is No Light For The Righteous, Gladness For
The True. The Lord Shall Be To Thee An Everlasting Light. To Them That
Sat In Darkness, Light Is Sprung Up. He Stumbleth Not, Because He Seeth
The Light. I Am Come A Light Into The World, While Ye Have The Light,
Believe In The Light. Let Your Light Shine Before Man.
To find the real origin of Masonry we must go far back into the past,
back before history. All the world over, at a certain stage of culture,
men bowed down in worship of the sun, moon and the stars. In
prehistoric graves the body was always buried in a sitting position,
and always facing to the East, that the sleeper might be ready to
spring up early to face the new and brighter day.
Such was the wonder of light and its power over man, and it is not
strange that he rejoiced in its beauty, lifting up hands of praise. The
Dawn was the first Altar in the old Light Religion of the race. Sunrise
was an hour of prayer, and sunset, with its soft farewell fires, was
the hour of sacrifice. After all, religion is a Divine Poetry, of which
creeds are prose versions. Gleams of this old Light religion shine all
through Masonry, in its faith, in its symbols, and still more in its
effort to organize the light of God in the Soul of Man.
Such a faith is in accord with all the poetries and pieties of the
race. Light is the loveliest gift of God to man; it is the mother of
beauty and the joy of the world. It tells man all that he knows, and it
is no wonder that his speech about it is gladsome and grateful. Light
is to the mind what food is to the body; it brings the morning, when
the shadows flee away, and the loveliness of the world is
Also, there is a mystery in light. It is not matter, but a form of
motion; it is not spirit, though is seems closely akin to it. Midway
between the material and the spiritual, it is the gateway where matter
and spirit pass and repass. Of all the glories in its gentleness, its
benignity, its pity, falling with impartial benediction alike upon the
just and the unjust, upon the splendour of wealth and the squalor of
Yes, God is light, and the mission of Masonry is to open the windows of
the mind of man, letting the dim spark within us meet and blend with
the light of God, in whom there is no darkness. There is "A Light That
Lighteth Every Man That Cometh Into The World," as we learn in the Book
of Holy Law; but too often it is made dim by evil, error and ignorance;
until it seems well nigh to have gone out. Here now some of the most
terrible words in the Bible: "Eyes they have, but they do not see." How
many tragedies it explains, how many sorrows it accounts for.
Most of our bigotries and brutalities are due to blindness. Most of the
cruel wrongs we inflict upon each other are the blows and blunders of
the sightless. Othello was blinded by jealousy, Macbeth by ambition; as
we are apt to be blinded by passion, prejudice or greed.
With merciful clarity Jesus saw that men do awful things without seeing
what they do. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
The pages of history are blacker than the hearts of the men that made
the history. Man is not as wicked as the wrongs he has done. Unless we
see this fact, much of the history of man will read like the records of
hell - remembering the atrocities of the Inquisition, the terrors of
the French Revolution, and the red horror of Russia. It is all a
hideous nightmare - man stumbling and striking in the dark.
No, humanity is more blind than bad. In his play, "St. Joan," Shaw
makes one of his characters say: "If you only saw what you think about,
you would think quite differently about it. It would give you a great
shock. I am not cruel by nature, but I did not know what cruelty was
like. I have been a different man ever since." Alas, he did not see
what he had done until the hoodwink had been taken off. More and more
some of us divide men into two classes - those who see and those who do
not see. The whole quality and meaning of life lies in what men see or
fail to see. And what we see depends upon what we are. In the Book of
the Holy Law the verb "to see" is close akin to the verb "to be," which
is to teach us that character is the secret and source of insight.
Virtue is vision; vice is blindness.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see god."
Thus our gentle Masonry, by seeking to "Bring Men to Light," not simply
symbolically but morally and spiritually, is trying to lift the shadow
of evil, ignorance and injustice off the life of man. It is a benign
labor, to which we may well give the best that we are or hope to be,
toiling to spread the skirts of light that we and all men may see what
is true and do what is right.
What the sad world needs - what each of us needs - is more light, more
love, more clarity of mind and more charity of heart; and this is what
Masonry is trying to give us. Once we take it to heart, it will help us
to see God in the face of our fellows, to see the power of a lie and
its inherent weakness because it is false, to see the glory of truth
and its final victory - to see these things is to be a Mason, to see
these things is to be saved.
Back to index
The Importance of Gloves
are used and worn in many Lodges. In our own ritual, we are required to
wear white gloves, something we rarely do and which I hope more of us
will do. So why do we wear white gloves? We
know that white, like the color of our aprons, represents purity. By
using gloves, we show that every action we take should also be as pure.
The Templars, for example, knew three classes: the knights, the
sergeants, and the Clerics. Clerics were priests who acted as Chaplains
to the order, and wore gloves at all times, to keep their hands clean
for "when they touch God” in serving mass.
are also seen as a symbol of power. Its first application were probably
more for military use, as the carrying of heavy weapons such as spears
and axes, required a stronger grip. Hence, giving someone a pair of
gloves meant giving them certain powers. Kings and Queens were given
gloves as part of their coronation ceremony. As part of the ceremony
making priests Bishops, a glove is bestowed on them like other high
clergy, and they often have oversized rings made to wear over the
glove. The right hand glove has often been given a special meaning, as
it is a custom to remove the glove when approaching a person of higher
rank, an Altar or the Lord - it symbolizes disarming oneself before
one’s superiors, and since the right hand pertains to the voice and to
the rationale side of Man, it is a custom which suggests candor and the
frank disclosure of one's mind.
The Knights Hospitallers burned their gloves to prevent them from being used for profane purposes.
therefore exhibit a duality. It protects (the hands) but can also
symbolize destruction (for it can better carry weapons and the like).
In court etiquette, if a gentleman gave a lady perfumed gloves, and she
accepted, it established a special relationship between the two. On the
other hand, condemnation was signified by the throwing of one’s gloves,
as medieval judges did by throwing their gloves to convicts.
in French and German Masonry, a newly made Mason is given not one, but
two pairs of gloves - one for himself to "perform his work in the
Lodge", but the other for his wife or women he most esteems, who shares
in his understandings and labors of life.
1780, having been “given the light” at the Amalia with the Three Roses
Lodges in Weimar, Goethe sent a pair of gloves to Madame de Stein with
a letter containing the following words: “ Here is a rather modest
present, but is one that a man can give only once in his life.”
Back to index
Freemasonry in society
his initiation, the Brethren are assured that the candidate is 'living
in good repute amongst his friends and neighbours.' He is therefore, or
should be, a peaceable and law-abiding citizen who gets on well with
others. A little later on, the candidate affirms that he comes 'with a
preconceived notion of the excellence of the Order, a desire for
knowledge and wishing to make himself more extensively useful amongst
his fellow men.' Later again, on being charged, he is told that the
foundation of Freemasonry is 'the practice of every social and moral
virtue.' He is exhorted to learn how to discharge his duty to his God,
his neighbour and himself, to be an exemplary citizen and that, as an
individual, he should practise every domestic as well as public virtue
and maintain those truly Masonic characteristics, benevolence and
Following his second degree, he is told that he
should 'not only assent to the principles of the Craft, but steadily
persevere in their practice.' Finally, following his third degree, he
is told that 'his own behaviour should afford the best example for the
conduct of others.'
Later still, at the peak of his Craft career, on being installed in the
Chair of his Lodge, he consents to a comprehensive list of instructions
as to his attitude and behaviour. All in all, the entire underlying
principle is that by entering Freemasonry and by his acceptance and
practice of its tenets and precepts he should become a credit to
himself and an example to, and benefactor of, others.
It is expected and hoped that Freemasonry will bring about this state
of affairs but that, in his daily life, a Freemason will interact with
others as an individual and not in his capacity as a Freemason.
Freemasonry is therefore an intellectual and philosophic exercise
designed and intended to make an individual's contribution to society,
and development of self, greater than they might otherwise have been
had he not had the opportunity of extending his capacities and
capabilities through membership of the Order.
What Does Freemasonry Provide?
Election to membership of a Lodge and initiation into that Lodge are an
overt indication and confirmation of one's worth or value; and
recognition of such, by the Brethren. In itself, this should increase
self-esteem and hopefully generate a conscious or sub-conscious desire
to prove worthy of others' confidence and trust. Subsequent promotions
through the second and third degrees are symbolic of the Brethren
demonstrating their satisfaction that their original choice and
decision were correct and that the candidate is worthy, both innately
and by virtue of his zeal, interest and proficiency in the symbolic
Craft, for such promotions. These additional and consequent marks of
esteem should engender in the candidate further personal satisfaction
The Lodge teaches many skills, often untaught, or not experienced,
elsewhere. A Brother must speak in public, think on his feet, make
decisions, vote on issues, and chair meetings. These are invaluable
assets in all other aspects of his life and for many this may well be
the only opportunity of learning, practising and perfecting these
skills and techniques.
Is Freemasonry a Charity?
Freemasonry is not a Charity, but as in any fraternal setting, the need
of a Brother or his dependents, will receive the sympathy and support
of his Brethren, not always or necessarily, financial. Charity is a
natural off-shoot of Brotherly Love and is promoted explicitly in the
Masonic ethos, but it is not the 'raison d'etre' of the Order.
The Purpose of Freemasonry
The purpose of Masonry is 'self-improvement'-not in the material sense,
but in the intellectual, moral and philosophic sense of developing the
whole persona and psyche so as, in the beautiful and emotive language
of the ritual, 'to fit ourselves to take our places, as living stones,
in that great spiritual building, not made by hands, eternal in the
Heavens.' Such a hypothetical whole, developed, complete person must,
in his journey through life, and in his interaction with others, make a
more extensive contribution to society in general, thus realizing and
fulfilling his expressed wish on initiation, to become 'more
extensively useful amongst his fellow-men.' Such are the lofty, lawful
and laudable aspirations of the Order.
As world changes happen faster, and in more complex and unpredictable
ways, our natural needs for security, control, certainty and
predictability- are being undermined. This type of environment is a
breeding ground for what is now termed the 'Achilles Syndrome' where
more and more people who are, in fact, high-achievers, suffer from a
serious lack of self-esteem-men apparently more so than women. This is
gleaned from an article on the work of Petruska Clarkson, a consultant
chartered counsellor and clinical psychologist.
Dr. Donal Murray, former Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin and now Bishop of
Limerick, identifies 'a hunger which is not being satisfied. People
need to feel they belong; they need to feel they can be fully committed
to something. The prevailing mood, in Ireland and elsewhere, is one of
disillusionment and cynicism. We have come to see ourselves as living
in a world of institutions and structures-we think of ourselves as
belonging not to a country but to an economy; we think of our national
life and resources in terms of statistics and of the machinery of
Government, rather than of people and culture.'
Dr. Murray goes on to say 'it is increasingly presumed that the ideal
citizen possesses no strong religious or moral beliefs, or at least has
the decency not to intrude them into the public arena. Strong moral
beliefs are, we are told, divisive; religious belief is, at best,
embarrassing. In other words,' he continues, 'one is not meant to
participate in national life with one's whole self, with one's
religious beliefs and moral convictions. These are private matters. We
are in danger of trying to build a culture which regards as irrelevant
the very realities which make people tick. Divisiveness results only
when religion and morality are misunderstood. The individual conscience
is worthy of respect because it seeks the truth, as every human being
is obliged to do.'
Freemasons will hardly fail to notice these references to ethics,
morality and truth the very foundation of Masonic teaching and
endeavour. But these cultural jewels-without-price are coming under
increasingly powerful destructive forces which are eroding the
foundation and base on which they rest. Conor Cruise O'Brien-a
distinguished Statesman and commentator-says that 'for as far back as
we can go in history, human discourse concerning ethics has been
infected, in varying degrees, with hypocrisy.' Another commentator
states that the term 'business ethics' is fast becoming an
oxymoron-that is a contradiction in terms; and the Bishop of Waterford
felt it necessary to denounce publicly 'the Cult of Excessive
What is needed, in all this, is some form of mental sheet-anchor-a.
sort of fixed navigational point like the pole-star which, when the
clouds pass, can be seen and provides the traveller with the means to
identify his exact position and thereby the knowledge to return to the
Freemasonry - A Part of, or Apart from, Society
Every individual, on occasion, is forced to be a little introspective
and ask himself 'who am I and where am I? Even an organization such as
the Masonic Order must also occasionally ask itself 'what are we and
where are we'? What we are has, to some extent already been dealt with.
We are a fraternal organization, the aims of which are brotherly love,
the relief of our distressed Brethren and their dependents and the
search after 'Truth' which we may express as, and expand into, public
and private morality, the knowledge and fear of God and, following on
from that, respect for, and love of, our neighbour. This respect
includes toleration of his personal viewpoint, his religious beliefs
and his political opinions. If we pursue the aims of the Order, our
search should widen, yet focus our vision, while ever making us more
deeply aware of, and closer to, the Great Architect of the Universe,
heightening our spirituality and deepening our insight into that which
we may never hope fully to understand-and something like the search
after the mystic Grail as sought for, and fought for, by our possible,
even probable operative forebears, the Knights Templar who followed on,
in their own way, from the mythical Knights of the Grail Romances and
Arthurian Legend. There is so much more to Freemasonry than the shallow
depth of today's assessment and its scant inspection by today's
society, obsessed as society is with material success for the
individual rather than his contribution to society.
Into the Next Millennium
I have endeavoured to identify who we are, what we are and where we
are-now it is time to speculate on where we go from here. We are an
unfashionable group whose numbers are falling-not perhaps in the
developing countries, but in the developed world we are viewed as an
anachronism with an ethos which may represent an embarrassment to many
of today's moral lepers. 'Whence comest thou Gehazi'? You will remember
Elisha's devastating question to his servant who had run after Naaman,
seeking to profit from his Master's-that is, someone else's performance
and use of his talents.
As those who joined Freemasonry in great numbers after the Second World
War, because they found it the closest alternative or substitute for
the fellowship and support they found within the Forces, now pass on to
their reward, there is no surge of candidates to replace them. So
recruitment becomes a necessity, though the means and emphasis must be
very carefully gauged.
We must try to correct the false perception of us by, in particular,
the media and the Churches for they are the agencies who can and do
formulate and direct public opinion; and both are highly suspicious
What I am trying to emphasise is that as we move into the next
millennium we must be steadfast in our adherence to the Aims and
Principles and not attempt to obtain public acceptance through
promoting or pursuing non-Masonic activities which can only, in the
long term, prove our undoing. We must be patient and bide our time for
we will come again. I have heard it said that the pace of life and its
stresses will get even more frenetic than at present and that while we
may be able to cope with this intellectually, it is questionable if
many can cope with it emotionally. In these circumstances with the
Internet bombarding us with a Quatermass-like availability of ethical
and unethical information in the privacy of our own homes, I believe
that Brother Michael Yaxley, President of the Board of General Purposes
of the Grand Lodge of Tasmania is quite correct when he writes 'Society
does have a need for a body such as Freemasonry. I believe that this
need will increase rather than decrease. In the next century the work
place will not offer fellowship and camaraderie sufficient to satisfy
the social instincts that people have. Many people will work at home,
linked to the office by computer and telephone. Others will work in an
office with complex but nevertheless inanimate equipment. The irony of
the Age of Communication is that people spend, and will spend, more
time by themselves.'
As the American writer, Henry Adams saw it, 'The Indian Summer of Life
should be a little sunny and a little sad, and infinite in wealth and
depth of tonejust like the season.'
I think that pretty closely describes Freemasonry today-a little sunny
and infinite in wealth and depth of tone-we all can sympathise with
that. A little sad too with memories of past greatness; and quieter
more settled times when bogeymen were not found everywhere and
Freemasonry was a recognised, accepted and fashionable part of society.
Will our time come again? I think it will-not perhaps an exact replica
of the past, for we cannot turn back the clock, but a slimmer, trimmer
version with new vigour and enthusiasm ready to meet the new millennium.
But remember, Brethren, as we enter and endure 'the Winter of our
discontent' we must maintain our standards and our dignity. There can
be no compromise with quality in any facet of our Institution. One of
Ireland's greatest actors and one of its best-known characters, Michael
Mac Liammoir, was once accused by a critic of being ,square. ' 'Yes'
said Mac Liammoir, 'perhaps you are right, but so much better to be
square than shapeless.' How appropriate for Freemasonry at this
time-let us hold firm to the symbolism of the square and the compasses
and let them be the means of restoring Ordo ab Chao - order out of
mental and moral chaos--as we strive to readjust emotionally to the
crushing pressures and stress of modem life.
Now Brethren, let me close on one final exhortation taken from the
beautiful language of our ritual - 'See that you conduct yourselves,
out of Lodge as in Lodge, good men and Masons'; and remember those
immortal words of Polonius giving advice to his son Laertes as he
departs from Denmark, on his return to France, in Shakespeare's
greatest play, Hamlet 'This above all, to thine own self be true; and
it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to
Almost the entire Masonic ethos can be found in those few words-so easy to remember, so difficult to put into practice.
Back to index
Praying in Lodge
of Freemasonry often ask, "Do Masons worship Yahweh, the God of the
Bible, when they join in Masonic worship with Hindus, Moslems, and
members of other faiths?" Let me begin by pointing out that this
question suggests "worship" occurs in Lodge meetings. This question is
intended to set a certain bias against Masonry before the question is
seriously considered. Worship does not take place in Masonic Lodge
meetings. Worship is the function of a religion. Thomas E. Hager, Past
Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee, said in an April 22, 1994, letter
to Baptist Press , the official press service for the Southern Baptist
Convention, "Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for
a religion." Earl D. Harris, Past Grand Master of Masons in Georgia,
has clearly said, "We do not go to Lodge buildings to worship" (Masonic
Messenger, July 1995, p. 34). Lodge meetings might be compared to
business meetings held in some churches where minutes of the last
meeting are read, bills are paid, and old and new business are
The question is a great example of a
"circular argument." This logical fallacy begins with the conclusion:
that Masonic meetings are worship services where men professing various
faiths join together to worship a God other than "Yahweh, the God of
the Bible." The argument simply travels around in circles until it
comes back to its original statement, concluding that Masons worship a
God other than Yahweh (or Jehovah).
Praying in Lodge Meetings
Prayers voiced in Lodge meetings do not make the meeting a worship
service. If so, then sessions of the U.S. Congress would be "worship
services" as a chaplain or invited clergy leads in prayer to open the
session. Congress has been accused of many things, but never of holding
worship services. If prayers make a meeting a worship service, the same
criticism could be levelled against organizations such as the Lions
Club, the Boy Scouts, and the VFW.
Until recent years, prayers were offered at high school ball games by
clergy in the community. Courts have repeatedly ruled that prayers may
not be offered before such events. Critics complain that "God has been
taken out of public school" because prayers may not be given by
administrators or visiting clergy at the beginning of a school day.
Students, however, are allowed to pray on their own initiative, either
alone or with other students who wish to join them in prayer. Masons
alone have been singled out by critics for praying in meetings while
these same critics complain that the official prayers are not allowed
in public schools.
Praying in Jesus' Name
Some Masonic critics are not opposed to prayer in Lodge or other
meetings, even when non-Christians are present, but are opposed to the
prayer when it does not conclude with the specific words, "in the name
of Christ." They cite John 14:13-14, where Jesus said to his disciples,
"I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be
glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask for anything, I will do it"
Bailey Smith, a recent president of the Southern Baptist Convention,
made headlines in 1980 when he said God does not hear the prayers of a
Jew. Smith's position and that of Masonic critics is that God only
hears prayers ending with "in Jesus' name" or prayers of repentance.
Preschool-age children are taught to pray simple prayers. They seldom
end it with the phrase "in Jesus' name" and most have not made what
evangelical Christians call a profession of repentance and faith in
Christ. Do Masonic critics believe God hears the prayers of these
children? Are we misleading children when we tell them God hears their
prayers? I believe God hears the prayers of every sincere person, and I
do not think we are misleading children when we tell them God hears and
answers their prayers.
It was drilled into my head by my professors during seven years of
theological education that a correct interpretation of a biblical text
requires examination of the surrounding text, which often helps an
individual understand the text in question.
John 14:13-14 can be better understood if we examine the setting for
Jesus' statements. Although his disciples had been with him for nearly
three years, they still had doubts about him. Philip asked him in John
14:8, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." That is the
key verse to understand Jesus' teaching in John 14:13-14.
Jesus responded to Philip's question, "Have I been with you all this
time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has
seen the Father. How can you say 'Show us the Father'?'
When Jesus said in verses 13-14, "1 will do whatever you ask in my
name," he was claiming deity. He was saying, "God will hear your
prayers if you pray in my name because "I am in the Father and the
Father is in me."
Jesus did not mean that unless a person concludes his prayers with the
words, "in the name of Jesus," God would not hear nor answer prayers.
William W. Stevens, my theology professor at Mississippi College, wrote
in his Doctrines of the Christian Religion (1976), "'In my name' means
according to his will and purpose, in direct union with him. It implies
unity of thought and interest. One cannot pray in the name of Jesus and
pray selfishly" (p. 269).
The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Vol. 9, p. 146) says, "Me phrase 'in
my name,' however, is not a talisman [magic object] for the command of
supernatural energy. He did not wish it to be used as a magical charm
like an Aladdin's lamp."
Men look on the outward appearance and judge others by the words used
in a prayer (Matthew 6:5-8). God looks at the heart. He knows what we
need before we ask. If the prayer is a genuine desire to talk to the
Father of all creation, He will hear and answer the prayer, whatever
words are or are not used. That is the kind of God I know from my
reading of the Bible and from hours spent on my knees talking to Him.
During my ministry as a chaplain supervisor in the Olympic Village
during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, chaplain volunteers from six
major world faiths joined together in prayer every day. Chaplains
rotated leading the group in prayer. Out of respect for chaplains who
did not share our faith, we did not always verbally close our prayers
"in Jesus' name."
Rev. James Draper, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's
LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board),
resigned from Estelle Lodge No. 582 in Euless, Texas, in 1984 after
election for his second term as president of the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC) and as the Masonic controversy was heating up in the
SBC. He had transferred his membership from Dell City Lodge No. 536 in
Oklahoma when he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Euless.
In his letter of resignation, Draper, who served one year as chaplain
of his Lodge, said he always concluded his prayers "in Jesus' name."
Praying to The Great Architect of the Universe
Masonic critics have long and loudly argued that Masons do not pray to
Yahweh when they pray in Masonic Lodges. Masonic critic William
Schnoebelen refers to the "generic" god of Masonry,
"God-to-the-lowest-denominator" and "Mr. Potato-Head God" when speaking
of the Great Architect of the Universe (Masonry: Beyond the Light, pp.
Another critic, John Ankerberg, quotes from Coil's Masonic
Encyclopaedia to argue that Masons believe Yahweh (or Jehovah) is
inferior to "the universal god of Masonry" (The Secret Teachings of the
Masonic Lodge, pp. 113-14). Ankerberg's quote is not in the 1995
edition of Coil's Masonic Encyclopaedia, the most recent edition,
except for a single sentence, "The Masonic test is [belief in] a
Supreme Being, and any qualification added is an innovation and
distortion." This sentence is simply a requirement that men who desire
to become Masons must believe in one God (monotheism). Monotheism is
affirmed in biblical statements such as Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, 0
Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" No statement in Coil's
Masonic Encyclopaedia suggests that Masons believe Yahweh is an
The phrase Great Architect of the Universe came into Freemasonry as
early as 1723, according to Coil's Masonic Encyclopaedia, when it
appeared in James Anderson's Book of Constitutions. Anderson, a
Scottish Presbyterian minister in London, did not invent the phrase. It
was repeatedly used by Reformed theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). "In
his Commentary on Psalm 19, Calvin states the heavens 'were wonderfully
founded by the Great Architect.' Again, according to the same
paragraph, Calvin writes 'when once we recognize God as the Architect
of the Universe, we are bound to marvel at his Wisdom, Strength, and
Goodness.' In fact, Calvin repeatedly calls God 'the Architect of the
Universe' and refers to his works in nature as 'Architecture of the
Universe' 10 times in the Institutes of the Christian Religion alone"
(Coil's Masonic Encyclopaedia, p. 516). If we accept the logic of
Masonic critics, then Calvin must have believed the God revealed in the
Psalms and elsewhere in the Bible is a false god. This, of course, is
absurd, as are all of the Masonic critics' arguments.
Federal Reserve Notes ($1 bills) proclaim "In God We Trust." The U.S.
Mint has not defined "God." It is used as a generic name for the
Supreme Being. Individuals may define God as they wish. In our
religiously diverse nation, individuals of different faiths will define
who they believe God is. I do not hear people calling for the removal
of "In God We Trust" from Federal Reserve Notes because not everyone
defines God as they do.
Praying with Persons of Other Faiths
On February 9, 1999, Baptist Press posted a story about several
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary administrators and faculty
members visiting mosques while on a trip to North Africa and the Middle
East. Baptist Press states the administrators and faculty "were awed by
the mosques which provided an atmosphere for prayer. Though the local
worshipers gathered to pray to Allah [the Arabic word for God],
Midwestern groups removed their shoes [as is the custom in mosques] and
spent time praying to the God of their Christian faith."
Mark Coppenger, president of Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City,
Missouri, was one of the Baptist visitors to the mosques. Coppenger
said, "As we sat, and knelt, and stood [Muslims perform specific
rituals which includes standing, kneeling and bowing while praying to
Allah] in these moments of praise, confession, petition and
intercession, it occurred to us that Christians would do well to have a
similar location, atmosphere and posture for prayer." "It is a pity
that non-Christians and sacra mentalists [Roman Catholics] have
appropriated the notion of houses of prayer, when ours is the heritage
of orthodox prayer," Coppenger continued, referring to mosques and
Roman Catholic cathedrals and retreat centres. "We have let them lead
in an emphasis on prayer by default."
When the group returned to Kansas City, Coppenger decided to provide a
place for prayer similar to that in mosques for seminary students. He
removed hundreds of portable chairs from the chapel and laid down rolls
of carpet. Students were asked to remove their shoes when they entered
the "house of prayer," and a kneeling position was recommended.
Coppenger, his administrators, and faculty joined Muslims at prayer in
a mosque. They reported they were able to pray to Yahweh even while
Muslims were praying to God whom they call Allah. Coppenger and his
team even followed the Muslim practice of bowing, kneeling, and
prostrating themselves during the prayer ritual and still found they
could pray to Yahweh. I have never felt I could not pray as my chosen
faith leads me while standing next to someone in a Lodge meeting who
does not share my faith.
Freemasons Do Not Worship in Lodge Meetings
In conclusion, Masons do not worship in Lodge meetings. Each Mason
freely prays as his faith dictates, regardless of who is leading the
group prayer, because prayer is ultimately a personal encounter and
conversation between a man and his Creator.
Back to index
old Greek philosopher, when asked what he regarded as the most valuable
quality to win and the most difficult to keep, he replied: "To be
Secret and Silent." If secrecy was difficult in the olden times, it is
doubly difficult today, in the loud and noisy world in which we live,
where privacy is almost unknown.
Secrecy is, indeed, a
priceless but rare virtue, so little effort is made to teach and
practice it. The world of today is a whispering gallery where
everything is heard, a hall of mirrors where nothing is hid. If the
ancient worshipped a God of silence, we seem about to set up an Altar
to the God of Gossip.
Some one has said that if Masonry did no more than train its men to
preserve sacredly the secrets of others confided to them as such -
except where a higher duty demands disclosure - it would be doing a
great work, and one which not only justifies its existence, but
entitles it to the respect of mankind.
Anyway, no Mason needs to be told the value of secrecy.
Without it, Masonry would cease to exist, or else become something so
different from what it is as to be unrecognizable. For that reason, if
no other, the very first lesson taught a candidate, and impressed upon
him at every turn in unforgettable ways, is the duty of secrecy. Yet,
strictly speaking, Masonry is not a secret society, if by that we mean
a society whose very existence is hidden.
Everybody knows that the Masonic Fraternity exists, and no effort is
made to hide that fact. Its organization is known; its Temples stand in
our cities; its members are proud to be know as Masons. Anyone may
obtain from the records of a Grand Lodge, if not from the printed
reports of Lodges, the names of the members of the Craft. Nor can it be
said that Masonry has any secret truth to teach, unknown to the best
wisdom of the race.
Most of the talk about esoteric Masonry misses the mark. When the story
is told the only secret turns out to be some odd theory, some fanciful
philosophy, of no real importance. The wisdom of Masonry is hidden, not
because it is subtle, but because it is simple. Its secret is profound,
As in mathematics, there are primary figures, and in music fundamental
notes, upon which everything rests, so Masonry is built upon the broad,
deep, lofty truths upon which life itself stands. It lives, moves, and
has its being in those truths. They are mysteries, indeed, as life and
duty and death are mysteries; to know them is to be truly wise; and to
teach them in their full import is the ideal at which Masonry aims.
Masonry, then, is not a secret society; it is a private order. In the
quiet of the tiled lodge, shut away from the noise and clatter of the
world, in an air of reverence and friendship, it teaches us the truths
that make us men, upon which faith and character must rest if they are
to endure the wind and weather of life. So rare is its utter simplicity
that to many it is as much a secret as though it were hid behind a
seven-fold veil, or buried in the depths of the earth.
What is the secret in Masonry? The "Method" of its teaching, the
atmosphere it creates, the spirit it breaths into our hearts, and the
tie it spins and weaves between men; in other words, the lodge and its
ceremonies and obligations, its signs. tokens and words - its power to
evoke what is most secret and hidden in the hearts of men. No one can
explain how this is done.
We only know that it is done, and guard as a priceless treasure the
method by which it is wrought. It is the fashion of some to say that
our ceremonies, signs and tokens are of little value; but it is not
true. They are of profound importance, and we cannot be too careful in
protecting them from profanation and abuse. The famous eulogy of the
signs and tokens of Masonry by Benjamin Franklin was not idle
eloquence. It is justified by the facts, and ought to be known and
"These signs and tokens are of no small value; they speak a universal
language, and act as a password to the attention and support of the
initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost so long as
memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated,
ship-wrecked or imprisoned; let him be stripped of everything he has in
the world; still these credentials remain and are available for use as
"The great effects which they have produced are established by the most
incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of
the Destroyer; they have softened the aspirates of the tyrant; they
have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor
of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and
"On the field of battle, in the solitude of the uncultivated forests,
or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the
most hostile feelings, and most distant religions, and the most
diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a
social joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief
to a brother Mason."
What is equally true, and no less valuable, is that in the ordinary
walks of everyday life they unite men and hold them together in a
manner unique and holy. They open a door out of the loneliness in which
every man lives. They form a tie uniting us to help one another, and
others, in ways too many to name or count. They form a net-work of
fellowship, friendship, and fraternity around the world. They add
something lovely and fine to the life of each of us, without which we
should be poorer indeed.
Still let us never forget that it is the spirit that gives life; the
letter alone is empty. An old home means a thousand beautiful things to
those who were brought up in it. Its very scenery and setting are
sacred. The ground on which it stands is holy. But if a stranger buys
it, these sacred things mean nothing to him. The spirit is gone, the
glory has faded. Just so with the lodge. If it were opened to the
curious gaze of the world, its beauty would be blighted, its power gone.
The secret of Masonry, like the secret of life, can be known only by
those who seek it, serve it and live it. It cannot be uttered; it can
only be felt and acted. It is, in fact, an open secret, and each man
knows it according to his quest and capacity. Like all the things most
worth knowing, no one can know it for another and no one can know it
alone. It is known only in fellowship, by the touch of life upon life,
spirit upon spirit, knee to knee, breast to breast and hand to hand.
For that reason, no one need be alarmed about any book written to
expose Masonry. It is utterly harmless. The real secret of Masonry
cannot be learned by prying eyes or curious inquiry. We do well to
protect the privacy of the lodge; but the secret of Masonry can be
known only by those who are ready and worthy to receive it. Only a pure
heart and an honest mind can know it, though they be adepts in all
signs and tokens of every rite of the Craft.
Indeed, so far from trying to hide its secret, Masonry is all the time
trying to give it to the world, in the only way in which it can be
given, through a certain quality of soul and character which it labours
to create and build up. To the making of men, helping self-discovery
and self development, all the offices of Masonry are dedicated. It is a
quarry in which the rough stones of manhood are polished for use and
If Masonry uses the illusion of secrecy, it is because it knows that it
is the nature of man to seek what is hidden and to desire what is
forbidden. Even God hides from us, that in seeking Him amid the shadows
of life we may find both Him and ourselves. The man who does not care
enough for God to seek Him will never find Him, though He is not far
away from any one of us.
One who looks at Masonry in this way will find that his Masonic life is
a great adventure. It is a perpetual discovery. There is something new
at every turn, something new in himself as life deepens with the years;
something new in Masonry as its meaning unfolds. The man who finds its
degrees tedious and its Ritual a rigmarole only betrays the measure of
his own mind.
If a man knows God and man to the uttermost, even Masonry has nothing
to teach him. As a fact the wisest man knows very little. The way is
dim and no one can see very far. We are seekers after truth, and God
has so made us that we cannot find the truths alone, but only in the
love and service of our fellow men. Here is the real secret, and to
learn it is to have the key to the meaning and joy of life.
Truth is not a gift; it is a trophy. To know it we must be true, to
find it we must seek, to learn it we must be humble; and to keep it we
must have a clear mind, a courageous heart, and the brotherly love to
use it in the service of man.
Back to index
call has gone out, near and far, that the kingdom is in trouble. You
would think the Saracens were at the threshold ready to beat down the
door. The Generals are all in a tither, the engineers are labouring
over their plans, the Bishops are whipping the people up into a frenzy.
"More members, More members!!!"; the chant has begun. And if all goes
well, we will soon have an army of strapping young men ready to go...to
If we are bringing in new members to
"save Masonry" or to keep our lodges from "going under" then we are not
only doing a disservice to the new members, but in the long-run we are
hurting ourselves by diverting our resources to the wrong front.
It takes time and energy to give degrees to these new members. And most
of the time, it's the same brethren who show up to give the degrees as
showed up in the 1940's & '50's. Where are the others? Home asleep?
Yes, and why shouldn't they, they might as well sleep in their own bed
rather than on a hard lodge pew.
From the '40's to the mid '50's Masonry just about tripled in
membership in many states; now its about where it was back in the '40's
again. Have any of our Masonic teachings changed during this rise and
fall? Has the need for our teachings changed? Have all those men who
became Masons died? Where are they?
If every Mason moved out of his mother state, then other Masons would
be moving in...then gain and loss should be about equal...unless they
are simply not coming back to lodge at all. Thus, a successful Masonic
membership revival may give us another 20 year surge, but unless we
fortify our real substance, the Saracens will defeat us by the
thousands, rather than by the hundreds.
What is our substance? It is our teaching and philosophy. Our Ritual.
We have depth. We have myth. We are unique from every other fraternity.
We are the oldest and we have carried with us the best from the past
and we preserve it for the future. And it doesn't take thousands to do
this; only a few of the best.
Allow me to recant a myth from the Crusades, known to our Masonic
Knights Templar affiliates. In 1118 an order was created by Hugh de
Payens known as 'The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of
Solomon'. This order took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience;
devoting themselves to the military protection of Christian pilgrims
from bandits and of course the dreaded Saracens.
They vowed never to retreat from battle lest they were out-numbered
three to one. For nine years their heroic fame and adventures grew to
mythical proportions inspiring all of Europe. There were only eight of
In my home state of Illinois there are over 115,000 Masons. That's
15,000 more members than the original army amassed for the First
Crusade. I don't think the issue and concern should be over more
members, but better membership by those already within. Maybe the value
of a vow has changed since 1118.
Those original eight Templars had depth, they had an internal heroic
myth that gave them strength and immortality. Maybe it's because there
is no threat of a 'Mad Caliph' riding horse-back through our backyards
that we aren't motivated to 'amass' into our lodge temples. It's easier
to sleep and watch television. Talking about the 'old days' while
complaining about the new.
Well in the 'old days' one would have their head struck off by now.
While we talk about using new media to 'reach' new members, we forget
our old substance, our identity. How can so many be so involved in
bringing in new members into a system they hardly adhere to?
What do you think would have happened in the days of Hugh de Payens,
the first Grand Master, if more than two thirds of the army refused to
report? And this is what happened here in Illinois in 1992. Only 200 of
676 lodges bothered to send in their trestle board as directed by the
Grand Master, most in open rebellion.
There are many opinions about the state of Masonry and which remedy
would do best. But making a mockery of the lessons of the third degree
isn't what's called for. One might as well throw a brick at our Grand
Masters' head for all the respect our state has given him. We must
remember that this office exists because ultimately we want someone to
lead. But if we disagree with him, it is dishonourable to walk off the
As 'Master' Masons, we are leaders. We have been given the tools to
lead and are taught valuable lessons about leadership. Many of us have
become Masters of our lodge, an opportunity to achieve experiences in
leadership. But do we lead? If so, to where?
The vary nature of our order has its roots in the heart. The journey
begins in the heart and ends in the heart. By this is meant the
internal. The Knights of old stood above the common soldier because
their inner myth, their belief. We must stand erect in our many
stations, and this is no easy thing. For some, it may even be heroic.
How can one lead in an internal journey...? By example.
We must discover the myth within Masonry, learn from it, and live by
it. We must believe in it, and pass it on, as our flame and light. This
process excludes the measure of numbers and media events, for the inner
myth is very different from the outer draping put on by those who sell
the craft. Masonry is not a commodity to be sold by advertising/media
and public relations specialists. For which aspect will they use for a
Would they promote that most of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence were Masons? Not true, only a few were. That x number of
presidents have been Masons; partially true, most were only honorary
not having taken a single degree.
That the fellows from the Boston Tea Party were Masons and that Masonry
has played a large part in the formation of this country; not so, for
Masonry has never recommended any particular political activity and the
Tea Party enthusiasts acted as individuals, not as a lodge (they knew
better). The only truth in these things is that Masonry promotes
Lets not even bring up the hundred different external myths about the
beginnings of Masonry which have been used to sell Masonry to the
masses in the past, each story gets better per telling. I have even
heard that Masons have been hoarding and disseminating the vast wealth
of the Templars for centuries and that's why so many are so rich.
How about the one that says that Masons give a million and a half
dollars a day to charity!? When was this, in 1955? I think that's when
they started saying that. Once the ball starts rolling, its hard to
Lets return to the heart of the matter, Brotherly Love, Relief and
Truth; and to the Virtues. These things are found within and are shared
within. How many Master Masons can even remember the Brothers that were
there the night they were raised, do you know where they are now? When
you lost contact, did it concern you? Have you tried to look them up?
Did they pass on, did you even know?
They were the men that for a time took you in as one of their own.
Accepted you as a brother and shared their table with you. This is a
matter of the heart, it was never meant to be a social event.
Sociability and charity should be fruits of good Masonry, not the ends.
If you never knew this experience, then you never found nor lived the
great Masonic myth and you will not receive your wages.
I am not against there being more Masons, but the health of Masonry
should not be measured by its numbers. For while less Masons do not
imply a higher quality, likewise, neither do more Masons imply
well-being. Measure not by number, but by 'understanding'. Do we as
Masons comprehend what has been given to us from the past? There are
quite a few symbols and allegories that have been handed down to us
Have we made them a part of our lives? Enough to go out and teach
others? Are we prepared to change the paths of other men in the world
into our craft? Who and why? Where will they be led? Just some and not
others? Which ones? Who will we reject or can just about anyone enter
anymore? Who shall we deprive of what we have or is the value of what
we have not that important? Wouldn't the Moose or Elks serve a better
vehicle for simple association? Are the tenets of Masonry really the
first thing on our minds? It must also be realized that not everyone
agrees with what is in the depths of our teachings.
All rhetoric aside, I think that public relations methods as proposed
by so many these days are good. Radio interviews, video tapes, books,
pamphlets for wives, in fact, all forms of communications are good for
Masons to reaffirm and deepen Masonic self-discovery, and are good for
the non-Masonic general public. But it is so easy to get lost in this
external panorama of activities; caught between the depth of
self-discovery and the song and dance of self-explanation to others.
We must constantly ask why we are bringing in a new member into our
lodges. While our teachings are ethical and moral, they are not
evangelical. For generations we have resisted hook and crook techniques
of bringing in new Brethren. "They must first ask...of their own
freewill and accord" has always been the hallmark of Masons. A matter
of pride. While we revere the bible, we are not 'bible-thumpers'
standing on street corners. And the more we stand in the public eye, be
aware that the anti-Masonic attacks will also increase.
Well I think I hear the hoof-beats of the Saracens coming over the
hill, I had better Fortify with great Prudence. We have quite a few of
those new 'strapping youths' to train before they arrive. I hope I have
enough time to get to know them before the "demise of Masonry". Perhaps
one day there will only be one lodge left in all the world, and if they
have truly assimilated all the teachings of Masonry, I'll bet they will
never go out of existence - let alone be intimidated by a few hundred
Back to index
So Mote it be!
familiar the phrase is. No Lodge is ever opened or closed, in due form,
without using it. Yet how few know how old it is, much less what a deep
meaning it has in it. Like so many old and lovely things, it is so near
to us that we do not see it.
As far back as we can go
in the annals of the Craft we find this old phrase. Its form betrays
its age. The word MOTE is an Anglo-Saxon word, derived from an
anomalous verb, MOTAN. Chaucer uses the exact phrase in the same sense
in which we use it, meaning "So May It Be." It is found in the Regius
Poem, the oldest document of the Craft, just as we use it today.
As everyone knows, it is the Masonic form of the ancient AMEN which
echoes through the ages, gathering meaning and music as it goes until
it is one of the richest and most haunting of words. At first only a
sign of assent, on the part either of an individual or of an assembly,
to words of prayer or praise, it has become to stand as a sentinel at
the gateway of silence.
When we have uttered all that we can utter, and our poor words seem
like ripples on the bosom of the unspoken, somehow this familiar phrase
gathers up all that is left - our dumb yearnings, our deepest longings
- and bears them aloft to One who understands. In some strange way it
seems to speak for us into the very ear of God the things for which
words were never made.
So, naturally, it has a place of honour among us. At the marriage Altar
it speaks its blessing as young love walks toward the bliss or sorrow
of hidden years. It stands beside the cradle when we dedicate our
little ones to the Holy life, mingling its benediction with our vows.
At the grave side it utters its sad response to the shadowy AMEN which
death pronounces over our friends.
When, in our turn, we see the end of the road, and would make a last
will and testament, leaving our earnings and savings to those whom we
love, the old legal phrase asks us to repeat after it: "In The Name Of
God, AMEN." And with us, as with Gerontius in his Dream, the last word
we hear when the voices of earth grow faint and the silence of God
covers us, is the old AMEN, So Mote It Be.
How impressively it echoes through the Book of Holy Law. We hear it in
the Psalms, as chorus answers to chorus, where it is sometimes
reduplicated for emphasis. In the talks of Jesus with his friends it
has a striking use, hidden in the English version. The oft-repeated
phrase, "Verily, Verily I Say Unto You," if rightly translated means,
AMEN, AMEN, I say unto you." Later, in the Epistles of Paul, the word
AMEN becomes the name of Christ, who is the AMEN of God to the
faith of man.
So, too, in the Lodge, at opening, at closing, and in the hour of
initiation. No Mason ever enters upon any great or important
undertaking without invoking the aid of Deity. And he ends his prayer
with the old phrase, "So Mote It Be." Which is another way of saying:
"The Will Of God Be Done." Or, whatever be the answer of God to his
prayer: "So Be It - because it is wise and right.
What, then, is the meaning of this old phrase, so interwoven with all
our Masonic lore, simple, tender, haunting? It has two meanings for us
everywhere, in the Church, or in the Lodge. First, it is assent of man
to the way and Will Of God; assent to His Commands; assent to His
Providence, even when a tender, terrible stroke of death takes from us
one much loved and leaves us forlorn.
Still, somehow, we must say:" So it is; so be it. He is a wise man, a
brave man; who, baffled by the woes of life, when disaster follows fast
and follows faster, can nevertheless accept his lot as a part of the
Will of God and say, though it may almost choke him to say it: "So Mote
It Be." It is not blind submission, nor dumb resignation, but a wise
reconciliation to the Will of the Eternal.
The other meaning of the phrase is even more wonderful; it is the
assent of God to the aspiration of man. Man can bear so much -
anything, perhaps - if he feels that God knows, cares and feels for him
and with him. If God says Amen, So it is, to our faith and hope and
love; it links our perplexed meanings, and helps us to see, however
dimly, or in a glass darkly, that there is a wise and good purpose in
life, despite its sorrow and suffering, and that we are not at the
mercy of Fate or the whim of Chance.
Does God speak to man, confirming his faith and hope? If so, how?
Indeed yes! God is not the great I Was, but the great I Am, and He is
neither deaf nor dumb. In Him we live and move and have our being - He
Speaks to us in nature, in the moral law, and in our own hearts, if we
have ears to hear. But He speaks most clearly in the Book of Holy Law
which lies open upon our Alter.
Nor is that all. Some of us hold that the Word Of God "Became Flesh and
Dwelt Among Us, Full Of Grace and Truth," in a life the loveliest ever
lived among men, showing us what life is, what it means, and to what
fine issues it ascends when we do the Will of God on earth as it is
done in Heaven, No one of us but grows wistful when he thinks of the
life of Jesus, however far we fall below it.
Today men are asking the question: Does it do any good to pray? The man
who actually prays does not ask such a question. As well ask if it does
a bird any good to sing, or a flower to bloom? Prayer is natural and
instinctive in man. We are made so. Man is made for prayer, as sparks
ascending seek the sun. He would not need religious faith if the
objects of it did not exist.
Are prayers ever answered? Yes, always, as Emerson taught us long ago.
Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered - and that
is as far as we need to go. The deepest desire, the ruling motive of a
man, is his actual prayer, and it shapes his life after its form and
colour. In this sense all prayer is answered, and that is why we ought
to be careful what we pray for - because in the end we always get it.
What, then is the good of prayer? It makes us repose on the unknown
with hope; it makes us ready for life. It is a recognition of laws and
the thread of our conjunction with them. It is not the purpose of
prayer to beg or make God do what we want done. Its purpose is to bring
us to do the Will of God, which is greater and wiser than our will. It
is not to use God, but to be used by Him in the service of His plan.
Can man by prayer change the Will of God? No, and Yes. True prayer does
not wish or seek to change the larger Will of God, which involves in
its sweep and scope the duty and destiny of humanity. But it can and
does change the Will of God concerning us, because it changes our will
and attitude towards Him, which is the vital thing in prayer for us.
For example, if a man living a wicked life, we know what the Will of
God will be for him. All evil ways have been often tried, and we know
what the end is, just as we know the answer to a problem in geometry.
But if a man who is living wickedly changes his way of living and his
inner attitude, he changes the Will of God - if not His Will, at least
His Intention. That is, he attains what even the Divine Will could not
give him and do for him unless it had been effected by His Will and
The place of Prayer in Masonry is not perfunctory. It is not a mere
matter of form and rote. It is vital and profound. As a man enters the
Lodge as an initiate, prayer is offered for him, to God, in whom he
puts his trust. Later, in a crisis of his initiation, he must pray for
himself, orally or mentally as his heart may elect. It is not just a
ceremony; it is basic in the faith and spirit of Masonry.
Still later, in a scene which no Mason ever forgets, when the shadow is
darkest, and the most precious thing a Mason can desire or seek seems
lost, in the perplexity and despair of the Lodge, a prayer is offered.
As recorded in our Monitors, it is a mosaic of Bible words, in which
the grim facts of life and death are set forth in stark reality, and
appeal is made to the pity and light of God.
It is truly a great prayer, to join in which is to place ourselves in
the very hands of God, as all must do in the end, trust His Will and
way, following where no path is into the soft and fascinating darkness
which men call death. And the response of the Lodge to that prayer, as
to all others offered at its Altar, is the old, challenging phrase, "So
Mote It Be!"
Brother, do not be ashamed to pray, as you are taught in the Lodge and
the Church. It is a part of the sweetness and sanity of life,
refreshing the soul and making clear the mind. There is more wisdom in
a whispered prayer than in all the libraries of the world. It is not
our business to instruct God. He knows what things we have need for
before we ask him. He does not need our prayer, but we do - if only to
make us acquainted with the best Friend we have.
The greatest of all teachers of the soul left us a little liturgy
called the Lord's Prayer. He told us to use it each for himself, in the
closet when the door is shut and the din and hum and litter of the
world is outside. Try it Brother; it will sweeten life, make its load
lighter, its joy brighter, and the way of duty plainer.
Two tiny prayers have floated down to us from ages agone, which are
worth remembering; one by a great Saint, the other by two brothers.
"Grant Me, Lord, ardently to desire, wisely to study, rightly to
understand and perfectly to fulfill that which pleaseth Thee." And the
second is after the manner: "May two brothers enjoy and serve Thee
together, and so live today that we may be worthy to live tomorrow."
"SO MOTE IT BE"
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The Meaning of Blue
and meaning of color is a very wide category of which numerous
interpretations exist. However, throughout my research, the most
relevant comments in my opinion are that blue stands for the vertical
and the spatial, in other words height and depth, or the blue sky
above, the blue sea below. It symbolizes that Masonry is as wide as
these dimensions. It is also interesting to note that blue is
considered to be "between black and white", also commonly identified
with two opposing forces, good (white) and evil (black). Thus blue
is considered the most neutral of all the colours. As Masons we are
equal in our position with other members, regardless of colour, rank,
title or any other status, and it is very appropriate that blue would
represent this equality. We can also say that this world is the neutral
area, and we seek a deeper world, for the higher you go to heaven, the
darker the blue sky becomes. In the same way, the deeper you go in the
blue ocean, the darker it becomes.
is also commonly used to represent religious feeling, devotion and
innocence. Blue was one of the primary colours used to adorn the
Tabernacle (see Exodus 26:1). To the Egyptians, blue was used to
represent truth. The Egyptians had two theories about the creation of
the world; one, that was created by Thaut, who when he uttered any word caused the object to exist, and two, that it was the work of Ptah, The Great Artificer. Ptah's father was called Kneph,
(also Cneph or Nef), and while many of the Egyptian Gods were adorned
with different colors, Kneph is always depicted in blue. Kneph
journeyed to the lower hemisphere, which appears to symbolize the
evolutions of substances which are born to die and to be reborn. Isn't
this similar to our belief in the immortality of the soul?
is also considered the colour for the spirit and the intellect.
Jesus teaches in a blue garment, and the Virgin Mary is usually
depicted in a blue mantle, as is the Norse god Odin. Vishnu of ancient
Indian mythology is blue, and one of his incarnations, Rama, is
blue-skinned, symbolizing his vastness as deep as the heavens. In
Europe, the Blue Flower was the symbol of the greatest aspiration of
French, the word "bleu" is used as a substitute for the word "Dieu",
which means God, as swearing, was punishable in the Middle Ages by
death. As such swear words such as "morbleu", "sacrebleu" and "parbleu"
became popular substitutes in those times. The French royal family was
associated with the colour blue, because blue was associated with a
celestial origin, and the royal family, like many royal families,
also claimed to stem from this origin. As such the royal family was
referred to as "de sang bleu" or godly blood. Even today, a substitute
expression for aristocracy is "blue blood".
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The letter G
a stranger, entering a Masonic Lodge Room, as he may do on a public
occasion, must be struck by a mysterious Letter which hangs over the
chair of the Master in the East. No one need tell him of its meaning;
it is a letter of light and tells its own story.
no stranger can know its full meaning, much less how old it is. Indeed,
few Masons are aware of all that it implies, either as a symbol or
history. There it shines, a focus of faith and fellowship, the emblem
of the Divine Presence in the Lodge, and in the heart of each Brother
When the Lodge is opened, the mind and heart of each member should also
be opened to the meaning of the Great Symbol, to the intent that its
light and truth may become the supreme reality in our lives. When the
Lodge is closed, the memory of that Divine initial and its august
suggestions ought to be the last thought retained in the mind , to be
In English Lodges its meaning and use are made clearer than among us.
There it shines in the center of the ceiling of the room, and the Lodge
is grouped around it, rather than assembled beneath it. Below it is the
checkerboard floor, symbol of the vicissitudes of life, over which
hangs the whiter light of the divine guidance and blessing, so much
needed in our mortal journey.
Also, in the Degrees its use is more impressive. In the First and
Second degrees the symbol is visible in the roof, or sky, of the Lodge
Room, like a benediction. In the Third Degree it is hidden, but its
presence is still manifest - as every Masons knows - since the light of
God is nextinguishable even in the darkest hours. In the Royal Arch it
becomes visible again, but in another form, and in another position,
not to be named here.
Thus, in the course of the degrees, the Great Letter has descended from
heaven to earth, as if to show us the deep meaning of Masonry. In other
words, the purpose of initiation is to bring God and Man together, and
make them one. God becomes man that man may become God - a truth which
lies at the heart of all religion, and most clearly revealed in our
own. At the bottom, every form of faith is trying to lay hold of this
truth, for which words were never made.
In all the old houses of initiation, as far back as we can go, some one
letter of the alphabet stands out as a kind of Divine initial. In the
Egyptian Mysteries it was the "Solar Ra," a symbol of the Spiritual Sun
shining upon the mortal path. In the Greek Mysteries at Delphi it was
the letter "E" - Eta - the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet; five
being the symbol of man, as evidenced by the five senses.
Hence also the pentagram, or five-pointed star. In olden times
Fellowcraft Masons worked in groups of five, and five Brethren now
compose one of their Lodges. Plutarch tells us in the Greek Mysteries.
the Letter Eta was made of wood in the First Degree, of bronze in the
Second Degree, and of Gold in the Third - showing the advance and
refinement of the moral and spiritual nature, as well as the higher
value to the truth that was unfolded.
Many meanings and much history are thus gathered into the Great Letter,
some of it dim and lost to us now. In our Lodges, and in the thought of
the craft today, the Letter "G" stands for Geometry, and also as the
initial for our word for God. Now for one, now for the other, but
nearly always for both, since all Masonry rests upon Geometry, and in
all its lore Geometry is the way of God.
Of the first of these meanings not much needs to be said. In the oldest
Charges of the Craft, as in its latest interpretations, it is agreed
that Masonry is moral geometry. What was forfelt by philosophers and
mystics in ancient times is now revealed to us by the microscope. It is
an actual fact that Geometry is the thought-form of God in nature, in
the snowflake and in the orbits of the
Since this ancient insight is confirmed by the vision of science, in
the most impressive manner the great Letter may stand as the initial of
God, not alone by the accident of our language, but also and much more
by a faith founded in fact. There is no longer any secret; it cannot be
hid, because it is written in the structure of things, in all forms
which truth and beauty take.
Nor does Masonry seek to hide the fact that it rests in God, lives in
God, and seeks to lead men to God. Everything Masonry has reference to
God, every lesson. every lecture; from the first step to the last
Degree. Without God it has no meaning, and no mission among men. It
would be like the house in the parable, built on the sand which the
floor swept away. For Masonry, God is the first truth and the final
Yet, as a fact, Masonry rarely uses the name of God.
It uses, instead, the phrase; "The Great Architect Of The Universe." Of
course such a phrase fits into the symbolism of the Craft, but that is
not the only - nor, perhaps the chief - reason why it is used. A deep,
fine feeling keeps us from using the name of Deity too often, lest it
lose some of its awe in our minds.
It is because Masons believe in God so deeply that they do not repeat
His Name frequently, and some of us prefer the Masonic way in the
matter. Also, we love the Masonic way of teaching by indirection, so to
speak; by influence and atmosphere. Masonry, in its symbols and in its
spirit, seeks to bring us into the presence of God and detains us
there, and that is the wisest way.
In nothing is Masonry more deep-seeing than in the way in which it
deals with our attitude toward God, who is both the meaning and the
mystery of life. It does not intrude, much less drive, in the intimate
and delicate things of the inner life - like a bungler thrusting his
hand into our heart-strings.
No, all that Masonry asks is that we confess our faith in a Supreme
Being. It does not require that we analyze or define in detail our
thought of God. Few men have formulated their profound faith; perhaps
no man can do it, satisfactorily. It goes deeper than the intellect,
down into the instincts and feelings, and eludes all attempts to put it
Life and love, joy and sorrow, pity and pain and death; the blood in
the veins of man, the milk in the breast of woman, the laughter of
little children, the coming and goings of days, all the old, sweet, sad
human things that make up our mortal life - these are the bases of our
faith in God. Older than argument, it is deeper than debate; as old as
the home, as tender as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death.
Men lived and died by faith in God long before philosophy was born,
ages before theology had learned its letters. Vedic poets and
penitential Psalmists were praising God on yonder side of the Pyramids.
In Egypt, five thousand years ago, a poet King sang of the unity,
purity and beauty of God, celebrating His Presence revealed, yet also
concealed, in the order of life.
No man can put such things into words, much less into a hard and fast
dogma. Masonry does not ask him to do so. All that it asks is that he
tell, simply and humbly, in Whom he puts his trust in life and death,
as the source, security and sanction of moral life and spiritual faith;
and that is as far as it seeks to go.
One thinks of the talk of the old Mason with the young nobleman who was
an atheist, in the Tolstoi story, "War and Peace." When the young count
said with a sneer that he did not believe in God, the old Mason smiled,
as a mother might smile at the silly saying of a child. Then, in a
gentle voice, the old man said:
"Yes, you do not know Him, sir. You do not know Him and that is why you
are unhappy. But he is here, He is within me, He is within you, even in
these scoffing words you have just uttered. If He is not, we should not
be speaking of Him, sir. Whom dost thou deny?" They were silent for a
spell, as the train moved on.
Something in the old man touched the count deeply, and stirred in him a
longing to see what the old man saw, and to know what he knew. His eyes
betrayed his longing to know God, and the old man read his face, and
answered his unasked question:
"Yes, he exists, but to know him is hard. It is not attained by reason,
but by life. The highest truth is like the purest dew. Could I hold in
an impure vessel that pure dew, and judge of its purity? Only by inner
purification can we know God."
All these things - all this history and hope and yearning which defies
analysis - Masonry tells us in a shining Letter which hangs, up in the
Lodge. It is the wisest way; its presence is a prophecy, and its
influence extends beyond our knowing, evoking one knows not what
memories and meditations. Never do we see that Great Letter, and think
of what it implies, that we do not feel what Watts felt:
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope in times to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
"SO MOTE IT BE"
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The Cable Tow
first thing most of us do when encountering a new word, is reach for
the nearest dictionary. Although other variations, such as Cable-length
and Cable-laid were found, the word Cabletow, could not been found outside of Masonic publications, despite trying different spellings and different (older) dictionaries.
Breaking cabletow down, we find the word cable and tow. Webster's lists three words in this context, namely tow-line, hawser, and cable. It defines a tow-line as 'A small hawser, used to tow a ship', a hawser as 'A small cable; or a large rope, in size between a cable and a tow-line', and a cable as ''A
large strong rope or chain, used to retain a vessel at anchor; composed
of three strands; each strand of three ropes; and each rope of three
twists. A ships cable is usually 120 fathom, or 720 feet, in length.' Furthermore, the encyclopaedia of knots describes a cable as three hawsers, twisted so that they spiral to the left.
any case, it is clear that the one of the main purposes of a tow-line,
hawser and cable is to pull and secure heavy objects, and is an
essential piece in construction. Ancient builders used cables
extensively, and although it is unclear exactly when the term cabletow
came to be used in Masonry, it is no stretch of the imagination to
suggest it came from terms and equipment operative masons were using
which speculative masons then adopted.
Symbolism of ropes around a neck:
religions and societies have used a device similar to a cabletow in
their religious ceremonies, commonly referred to as a halter, or a rope
put around a candidate during religious ceremonies, presumably as a
symbol to indicate the mercy of the candidate to whatever was awaiting
him after an initiation.
However, the main symbolism of having a rope around one's
neck, is submission. Many cultures put halters, or collars, around
prisoners and slaves, an example of which can be seen in the
Usages in Masonry:
seems that the first time the word Cabletow came in use was 1730, when
it was described as a cable rope, and also as a tow-line. Part of the
FC obligation is that 'wi an al du si an re su se me fr a Lo of Fe Crs or gi me by a Br of ths de, if wi the le on my ca-tow'.
This usage probably stemmed from the fact that Medieval Masons were
required to attend their annual or triennial assemblies except in case of sickness or in peril of death. Others have said that certain assemblies specified what that distance was, ranging from 3 to 50 miles.
What is interesting is the term is used as 'my cabletow',
implying that it is an individual thing, and hence unique. If so, many
have said that the length of ones cabletow, and hence the ability to
attend Lodge, depends on the individuals circumstances, like work
obligations, family, distance and the like.
is also interesting to note that in some Masonic ceremonies, the number
of times the cabletow is bound around a candidate increases as the
candidate progresses higher in the degrees, symbolizing the increasing
importance of the lessons therein taught. The opposite also exists,
where the number of times a candidate is bound decreases, signifying
the increased "trust" the candidate receives as he progresses.
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We know that the ashlar is important in Freemasonry because we know it to be one of the moveable objects referred to in the 1st
degree lecture, but what significance does it have? What does the
ashlar symbolize? The rough and perfect ashlar, are two of the most
significant symbols in Freemasonry, yet is only barely mentioned in the
rituals. What does the ashlar signify, and why is it so key to Masonry?
dictionary defines an ashlar as nothing more than "hewn or squared
stone." At first this seems to show the historical connection between
Freemasonry and operative Masons, however, in our EA ritual we are
taught that "the rough ashlar we are reminded of our rude and imperfect
state by nature, by the perfect ashlar, of that state of perfection at
which we hope to arrive......."
we cannot say that the rough ashlar (both literally as a stone, or
symbolically as man) is imperfect, for both were created by the Grand
Artificer of the Universe, that created nothing imperfect. The ashlar,
therefore, can be seen as symbolizing our mind, which becomes more
"perfect" the more effort we exert individually. The chisel and other
tools therefore can be seen as representing education, past experiences
of others, lessons learned and the like.
EA is said to represent the rough ashlar, who, by expanding his mind
(remember the symbolism of the compass) becomes a perfect ashlar, or a
MM, ready take his place "in the house of God." In some Lodges, a newly
initiated EA is asked to symbolically chip away a piece of the rough
ashlar, to signify that his learning, and expansion of the mind, has
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The History and Meaning of the Apron
The Ancient Aprons
The Apron is not a modern invention; in fact it is the most ancient of
all garments. In the 3rd Chapter of Genesis these words are written:
"and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they were naked,
and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons."
Aprons have been used in religious rites since time immemorial
especially when delivering burnt offerings and blood sacrifices of
various animals to the altars of ancient gods. On monuments and wall
paintings in Ancient Egypt a garment, which can best be described as a
triangular apron with the point upward, is depicted, in circumstances
indicating that the wearer is taking part in some kind of ceremony of
initiation. In connection with this fact, it is interesting to note
that in Egypt it was customary to bestow a ‘collar of office’ on those
whom the Pharaoh wished to honour. Such collars were circular in shape
and on many occasions the Pharaoh himself is depicted wearing one in
addition to his crook and flail as a symbol of his high office.
In China, some of the ancient figures of the gods wear semi-circular
aprons, very similar to some of Scottish aprons, and some of these gods
are often depicted making the sign of a well known ‘High Degree’.
In Central America the ancient gods are constantly sculpted wearing
aprons. Tepoxtecatl, the preserver, for example, is depicted wearing an
apron with a triangular flap, and on his head he is wearing a conical
cap on which can clearly be seen an embroidered skull and crossbones,
finally he holds in his right hand a hammer or gavel.
Examples of ancient gods wearing aprons can be found spread over the
four quarters of the globe. It will be no surprise therefore that
priests wore similar aprons as a sign of their allegiance to the 'gods'
and as a badge of their authority. The earliest ceremonial apron known
to have been used in Palestine was introduced by the Canaan Priest-King
Melchizedek. Dated to around 2200 BC, the Melchizedek Priesthood began
to make its ceremonial aprons out of white lambskin. White lambskin was
eventually adopted by the Freemasons who have used it for their aprons
ever since. Therefore when the Senior Warden exhorts the candidate that
the apron that has been invested with is ‘more ancient than the Golden
Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honourable than the Star or Garter, or any
other Order in existence’ he is not simply exaggerating to make a
point, he may actually be stating an actual truth.
In any case, there is a legend describing why Freemasons use lambskin
aprons and not that of any other animal and this legend can be traced
back to the building of King Solomon’s temple:
"When the construction of King Solomon's Temple was commenced, workmen
were selected to carry out the different trades. Hiram, the widow's
son, proclaimed that before entering upon the undertaking the aid of
God should first be invoked, and as the Temple was to be God's Holy
House and erected to Him, each workman having a part in its
construction should offer a sacrifice to God on the Altar of Burnt
Offering. The Lamb had in all ages been deemed an Emblem of Innocence
and was offered as a sacrifice. With the exception of the skin, the
whole of the lamb was consumed. The skins were properly prepared and
Hiram caused aprons to be made of them. One apron from the skin of each
lamb sacrificed, one apron for each mason under him."
Finally the Templar Rule forbade any personal decoration except
sheepskin, and further required that the Templar wear a sheepskin
girdle about his waist at all times as a reminder of his vow of
chastity, a context within which purity and innocence are vital.
The old Masonic Apron
As we have seen aprons have throughout the ages possessed a religious
and symbolic meaning, a fact that is well applied to our own present
apron as I will shortly demonstrate. However, there is little doubt
that the Masonic apron evolved from those worn by operative masons to
protect their clothes from becoming soiled. In medieval times all
masons, whether Freemasons or Guild Masons, used aprons when at work,
and the former also wore white leather gloves to protect their hands
from the lime.
This type of apron used by the speculatives had changed very little in
the middle of the 18th century from those used by the operative
counterparts. These aprons were long, coming down to below the knees,
with a flap or bib to protect the chest.
It was the speculative masons who at some point in the 1750’s began to
decorate their aprons with designs, usually painted by the owner’s own
hand. A number of these examples can still be seen in the Museum and
Library of Grand Lodge, but we must remember that at this time no
definite scheme existed and each brother was free to adorn his own
apron as he saw fit, usually including all the symbols of all the
various degrees he had attained. Therefore, many of these designs
included symbolism of such degrees such as the Mark, Chapter and Ark
Mariner in addition to those of the Craft. In due course however,
certain designs became more popular and more standardised. The two
pillars with the letters that represented them, and often the names
were even given in full became an accepted model for most aprons. To
this central motif were added various other emblems such as squares,
ladders and so forth which can be found in the 1st degree Tracing Board
and Masonic Certificates issued to all Master Masons advanced to the
The Modern Masonic Apron
The Union of the Grand Lodge of England between the Ancient and Modern
branches of English Freemasonry in 1813 brought into many effect many
changes in dress and ritual which still prevail to this day. The
deviation from certain aspects of the ritual is in my opinion
regrettable but outside the boundary of this lecture. However, in
respect to the Masonic apron it was felt necessary to have these
standardised and the resulting effort are the aprons we have in use
today. Nevertheless, even though we may assume that today’s aprons are
but a shadow in respect to the decorative beauty of 18th century aprons
they still contain much Masonic symbolism and inner meaning which I
will now proceed to explain. However, before I do so, I must point out
that the Masonic apron I am going to refer to is strictly that as worn
by Masons of the English Constitution and not to those of the other
constitutions. For example the Dutch wear an apron bordered with black
and with a skull and crossbones on the flap. Scottish lodges each have
their individual right to choose the design, colour and shape of their
aprons; some employ a tartan, while many others have a circular rather
than a triangular flap. This is the reason why all four Scottish lodges
dress in different regalia whilst all English lodges have adopted the
same model. Irish aprons appear to be a bizarre attempt at
standardization with tinges of individualisation in the apron borders
and embroidery. To the eye Irish aprons may well appear the same, but I
have yet to see two which are exactly the same.
Returning to the English apron, many Brethren still believe that the
present apron was the result of an accident and that no deliberate
attempt at symbolism was envisaged. However, by the end of this
explanation of the hidden meanings and symbolism of our present apron
you too will I am sure come to the conclusion that those who designed
it had a much deeper knowledge of symbolism than the apparently
‘simple’ Master Mason apron leads us to believe.
Firstly, let us consider the colour of the Master Mason’s apron, which
is that of Cambridge University, and likewise that used by Parliament
when fighting King Charles, has a much deeper significance than is
generally known. It is closely related to the colour of the Virgin
Mary, which in itself has been brought forward from Isis, Astarte and
other Mother Goddesses of the ancient world, whose symbol was always
the moon and seven stars. You may have noticed that many statues of the
Virgin Mary show her wearing a diadem or crown of seven stars on her
head and her cloak is light blue, the colour of our Masonic apron. In
contrast, the aprons of District and Grand Lodge Officers have Garter
Blue, often connected with certain Orders of Knighthood, but also this
blue is the colour of Oxford University, and the colour associated with
the Royalist cause during the Civil War. Thus the two aprons in use
amongst Brethren of the English craft employ the colours of the two
great Universities of England. The dark blue colour therefore can be
said to represent the rulers in the Craft, and represent the masculine
element. Light blue, on the other hand, represents the feminine or
passive aspect, and is most appropriate for the ordinary Master Mason,
whose duty it is to obey and not to command. The other significant
emblems representative of the female aspect are the three rosettes,
symbol of the rose itself, itself a well known substitute for the
Virgin Mary herself as the Mystic Rose. The three rosettes on a Master
Mason’s apron are arranged so as to form a triangle with the point
upwards, interpenetrating the triangle formed by the flap on the apron,
alluding to the square and compass. The two rosettes on a Fellow Crafts
apron stress the dual nature of man and have a clear reference to the
two Pillars. The two rosettes also point out that the Fellow Craft has
not yet a complete Freemason as it requires a third rosette to form a
triangle. The Fellow Craft’s apron thus represents the wearer’s status
as being superior to an Entered Apprentice but inferior to that which
in due time he will attain and which the third rosette will invariably
complete in the form of the interlaced square and compass. As the
Master Mason advances and becomes Master of his Lodge, the rosettes of
his apron give way to three Tau or levels as they are generally called.
The Tau is the symbol of the Creator and also the symbol of the Royal
Arch to which all Masters had to be exalted to that supreme degree
before he could accept the Chair in a Craft lodge.
Another important feature of the apron was the tassels which originally
represented the ends of the string used to tie the apron round the
waist. It was only a matter of time before these strings were decorated
with tassels and even today certain aprons, such as those worn by
members of the Royal Order of Scotland use this type of string with
ornamental tassels which when properly tied together at the front cause
the two tassels to stick out from under the flap. Craft aprons have now
replaced the string or cord with a band attached to a hook and eye and
so tassels have been replaced by two strips of ribbon on which are
attached seven chains. The seven chains themselves are full of symbolic
meaning and represent various Masonic allegories such as the 7 liberal
Arts and Sciences, the number of Masons required to make a perfect
lodge, the number of years it took king Solomon to build the temple,
etc. The two ribbons and chains are also representative of the old
pillars that used to adorn the apron before these were replaced with
the existing form.
Finally we arrive at the band with the hook and eye attachment that
perhaps nobody may be aware is also full of symbolic significance. It
is no accident that the snake was selected for this purpose. The snake
is the traditional symbol of evil, but it is also associated with
wisdom. Thus the serpent in our apron denotes that we are encircled by
Holy wisdom. You will also notice that the serpent is biting its own
tail, thus forming a circle which has always been regarded as the
emblem of eternity, and more especially the Eternal Wisdom of God.
As you can see Brethren the apron is not just a piece of regalia we
wear simply to distinguish the different grades of Freemasons or even
for cosmetic effect and pomp. It is a vital part of our ritual and why
any Mason in a lodge who is not wearing his Masonic apron is considered
quite rightly to be improperly dressed. Thus it will be seen that our
apron is a very honourable garment, one that we should treasure. It is
an apron made of lambskin, pure white, without fault or stain - the
colour of the Soul as mortal man sees it. It is ours and it now depends
upon each of us to keep it without blemish - to keep it as a mirror of
our soul that we may stand the final test when we reach into Life
Eternal - which is just beyond.
WBro. Keith Sheriff
Belgium. - The Grand Lodge Aprons are of light blue silk, embroidered
with gold fringe, without tassels. The collars are embroidered with
gold with the jewels of office, and with acacia and other emblems.
Egypt. - The Grand Orient uses the same clothing as the Grand Lodge of
England, but the colours are thistle and sea green. The rank of wearer
is denoted by the number of stars on his collar.
France. - The Grand Orient has aprons very elaborately embroidered or
painted and edged with crimson or blue. In the third degree, blue
embroidered sashes are used lined with black.
Greece. - In recent years the clothing has become exactly identical
with that worn in England, although formerly silk and satin aprons
painted and embroidered with crimson were worn.
Germany. - Aprons varied greatly in size and shape, from square to the
shape of a shield. Some bear rosettes and others the level. There is no
uniformity and German Lodges had jewels apparently according to the
taste of each.
Holland. - Each Lodge selects its own colours for aprons and the
ribbons to which the jewels are attached. Individuals may use
embroidery, fringes, etc., according to their own fancy.
Hungary. - The members of Grand Lodge wear collars of light blue silk
with a narrow edging of red, white and green-their national
colours-from which are suspended five pointed stars. The Grand Lodge
Officers wear collars of orange colour edged with green and lines with
white silk. They are embroidered with the acacia and the emblems of
office. The aprons have a blue edging with three rosettes for a Master
Italy. - The Entered Apprentice apron is plain white silk. The Fellow
craft is edged and lined with a square printed in the centre. The
Master Mason wears an apron lined and edged with crimson, bearing the
square and compasses. He also wears a sash of green silk, edged with
red, embroidered with gold and lined with black on which are
embroidered the emblems of mortality in silver. It must be remembered,
however, that Freemasonry for some time past has been suppressed in
Italy, the reason being that it intermeddled in national politics.
Iceland. - Plain white aprons, edged with blue, bearing the number of
the lodge. At the Annual Communication lambskins are worn with a narrow
silver braid in the centre of the ribbon. In former days, the
Worshipful Master always wore a red cloak and silk hat.
Portugal. - The apron of the Grand Lodge Officers are of white satin,
edged with blue and gold and with three rosettes. The collar is made of
blue silk with the acacia embroidered in gold.
Spain. - The apron of the Entered Apprentice is of white leather,
rounded at the bottom, with a pointed flap, worn raised. The
Fellowcraft wears the same with the flap turned down, and the Mason
(Master) wears a white satin apron with a curved flap, edged with
crimson, and embroidered with a square and compass, enclosing the
letter G. The letters M and B, and three stars also appear. It is lined
with black silk and embroidered with the skull and crossbones and three
Switzerland. - The clothing is simple. The Entered Apprentice apron is
white with the lower corners rounded. The Fellowcraft has blue edging
and strings, and the Master Mason has a wider border and three rosettes
in the body of the apron, while the flap is covered with blue silk. The
apron of the Grand Officers is edged with crimson, without tassels or
rosettes, except in the case of the Grand Master, which has three
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