You’ll Get Out Of It What You Put Into It

by: Bro. Mark Lea, PM.

We have probably said it, or heard this line, “You’ll get out of it what you put into it”. Maybe, we have even been asked the meaning behind it. I’ve always said that, like everything else, it can mean many things. After several years of thinking it over I think I’ve finally found my answer. What do we, as members, give The Craft? We each do different things: We study, participate in degrees, deliver lectures, teach, serve as guest speakers, do clean ups, run fundraisers, and some donate. The list goes on. At the root of all these thing, I believe the answer is time. All of these actions we commit to within the Craft takes time.

Time is the absolute one thing we will never get back. Ever. For someone to take the time to do their part is an investment in the Fraternity. Because not everyone can excel at ritual work. Some brothers may have struggled with their catechism and are not able to teach it. Perhaps it is easier for these brothers to take care of cleaning up the lodge building. Maybe they serve in a better capacity by being members of committees. Or they take charge of fund raising. I have always believed that every brother can find a way so best serve their lodge in a way that is best suited to their abilities. But for now I am talking about myself mostly and my experiences. To be able to watch a brother do whatever function that he performs with confidence and sureness is usually a sign that he has researched and studied and practiced his part. Watching that happen tells me that he has bothered to put into it. This is always a good thing. Even after he is done with whatever it is that he does, he will become a teacher and will pass on what he knows to a brother who is also studying and doing research and asking questions. In this fashion the teacher is still putting into it. The student is also, now, putting into it by learning.

As a student, I have had the privilege to learn from brothers who lived by our teachings. Sadly, I have had two different teachers called from labor. These men put into the Craft for decades and taught many brothers over the years. It has always been my hope that they felt they had gotten out of it what they put into it for so long.

But what is there to get out of it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but what I get out of it is when I am able to sit quietly on the side and watch with pride as one of my students delivers a lecture or confers a degree after many evenings of practice and studying. I get out of it when I examine a student of one of my students. This makes me feel like my time was well spent with this student.

Again, time comes back up. Like I said earlier, I’ll never get the time back. It helps to know that it is not wasted. Every time I place the hat on my head and take the gavel in my hand, my eyes pass along the tops of the walls where the pictures of the Past Masters are hung. I look out among the brethren and remember the faces that are no longer present. I hope that I made my teachers feel like they had gotten out if it what they had long ago invested in the Craft. I hope my teachers had made their teachers also feel like they had invested their time wisely as well.

I look forward to the day when my students can sit on the side and watch their students place the hat on their heads and watch their investments pay off.

Maybe they will feel that they have spent their time wisely. Perhaps they may even find their own ways of mentoring that is not just mine, but a piece of mine and a piece of another brother or several brothers who also serve as mentors. Perhaps one day my name will be remembered only as a picture on the wall of past masters. Maybe the methods that work best for me will either evolve or fall along the wayside as time marches on. Or perhaps my methods of teaching may continue. Perhaps the obscure lectures I bothered to find and commit to memory and teach my students to memorize as well may become the standard during the conferral of degrees. None of us can ever really know. All I can say about the matter is this. My name is Mark and I will continue to do my part and put in as much as I can.

--Mark Lea

Bro. Mark Lea, PM. is a Veteran of the US Naval Reserve. Thirteen year member of the Craft and has served as Master of Leesville Lodge #240 F&AM, Leesville, LA, in 2006, 2010 and 2011. Spends as much of his time as possible either learning more about masonry or sharing his experiences with newer members and visiting other lodges. Bro. Lea has always held the dream of being a writer to someday share what he has learned. He has recently began writing reviews for cigar review group composed of Brothers of the Craft who enjoy cigars and talking about them.

From One Mason to Another

By Guest Contributor: Bro. Christian Powe

When I became a Master Mason, I became one not as a sheep or flockling. I became a Master Mason as a man. I became a Master Mason as a man of Christian religious conviction who fears God and respects other people’s rights to seek God according to their own religious convictions. Religiously speaking, I have never thought of earthly ministers as absolute powers. I know that religion, no matter what religion, can be sustaining fire or a destructive blaze. In other words, I know how religious authority is often misused, and the mass confusion that can ensue when all someone has to say to back up baseless arguments is “God told me so” to gullible religious constituents. Like the gun, religion is a weapon which can protect and secure or it can abuse and manipulate. I direct the latter characteristics to the religious “authorities”, often self-ordained, that have used the “God told me so” punchline to bolster their own misinformed prejudices and market them as divine truth….sometimes even for profit…at the expense of the reputation of Masonry. Let me be clear, therefore. I am not anti-religion. I am anti-religious intolerance. My duty as a Christian man is to proselytize by way of daily exemplification. Within the doors of the Masonic Lodge, my focus is on fellowship with my Masonic brothers, a fellowship centered not upon a religious basis, not upon a political basis, not upon a racial basis, not upon a cultural basis, but upon a human basis. As a Mason I’ve been reminded through ritual the importance of integrity and fear of God. I’ve been reminded as a Master Mason that education, what we call “Light”, is the cure to superstitions based on radical religious assertions of nothingness…ignorance. Therefore, to my radical conspiracy theorist opponents, my only armament is my education…the sharpening of my mind with knowledge attained. 
But before we get to the good part, fellow Traveling Men, let’s take a couple trips back in time…

I remember the first time I ever asked about Masonry. My Uncle Ed Wilder, a Brother Mason in Central Jersey, would come to my cousin and little brother’s AAU basketball games wearing a windbreaker with the square and compass on it. Up until that point I had heard nothing about the Fraternity other than that it was a Satanic and occultist secret society that ruled the US and Western European governments and was planning world domination. Obviously, that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation as to what Masonry is. Be that as it may, the sight of a square and compass with a “G” in the middle of it (which I deducted must have meant “geometry”) on a casual windbreaker struck my curiosity. Something wasn’t adding up. Uncle Ed is a military veteran, retired at that. What strings could this guy have possibly been pulling? Even my brother, Kevin, an avid conspiracy theorist—who will boldly assert to anyone who asks that the government has satellites paying specific attention to my family and has clandestine agents profiling us—had to admit that the windbreaker was “hot”. Uncle Ed can’t be a Satanist, can he? He’s not even interested in politics, what government does he puppeteer?

I brushed it off. Those were questions which, quite frankly, I was too young—both physically and mentally—to worry about answering. For me it was easier to either just write him off or think that maybe he wasn’t “ranked in the Masons” high enough to have any say on matters that mean anything of national or financial consequence. Yes, that must be it. I was told that in Masonry there are specific levels of power called “degrees”, and that on the 33rd degree was the ultimate authority which dictated the on-goings of “lower-level Masons” often without them even knowing. Obviously that was the case with my uncle. 

Around the same time, there was an unusual resurgence of Illuminati conspiracy theory fervor, this time asserting that rap moguls like Jay-Z and Kanye West were lower level members. I agreed wholeheartedly. Carefully and masterfully drawn out theories connecting simple body gestures, flashes of light in music videos, and references to historic artists and philosophers to the overall Illuminati government boogeyman (which strangely enough now was a term interchangeable with Masonry) kept me captivated for hours. Those were hours of conditioning to think a certain way about a certain group. This is called prejudicial conditioning. In other words, bigotry. Of course, I didn’t know it was bigotry, because after all, I was one of the good guys. Good guys can’t knowingly be bigots and still call themselves good guys. I was and still am a political activist. As such, my responsibility is to note abuses of power, no matter how charming or endearing they may seem, in order to promote freedom, enlightenment, and justice. Therefore, for guys like me, I had a field day politically opposing the Illuminati. My religious opposition, however, was a different matter entirely. Here’s the backstory on that whole debacle. 

I don’t think I need to go into great detail as to how the right-wing conservative televangelist mega-ministries have relentlessly slandered the name and philosophy of Masonry. You hear it every day. Still, I will. There are various opponents to Masonry. The grand-daddy of them all is the televangelist machine, at one time spearheaded by Pat Robertson. Either way, their message of intolerance, misinformation, and—let’s face it—bold-faced lies are broadcasted to smaller evangelical ministries through literature and, more pandemically, television airways. Evangelical ministers with smaller ministries read this literature and, with the intent to honor God by exposing evil, inadvertently spread this misinformation to their church members. These church members normally don’t question their leaders or use their reason when they hear these theories which are promoted as divine revelation. You know how church folk think of themselves. The spiritual leader is the “shepherd” and the church folk are his “flock” or his “sheep”. Sheep don’t ask questions, they just follow. Sheep don’t reason, they act in whichever direction they are herded. So then, these sheep go into the workplace, to school, to regular outings, and basically make a cross with their two index fingers any time they see someone that they were told to stay away from.

I was raised in a right-wing conservative Pentecostal (or “evangelical”) family. My father has a towering persona, 6’5 in height. When he speaks, you feel the bass rumble in the floor beneath your feet. When you talk with him, he will more than likely go from casual conversation to an informal sermon, even if it is right in the supermarket. His language is English, his dialect is Scripture. He is a born leader, a persuasive and charismatic speaker…and a radical evangelist minister. He never really read much about Masonry from an actual Mason, now that I think about it. He always read criticisms of Masonry from “former Masons who were in that stuff for years” who—according to him—realized that Masonry was occultist and Satanic and “came back to Jesus”. He relayed those criticisms to me and my three other brothers. My mother, an English teacher, stands by his side accordingly. She admonishes him as the head of the house and the spiritual leader. (Since she’s the deputy, we will mainly focus on leadership as it pertains to the context of this article.) Therefore, the chain of information, as it was to me, is as follows: I heard from a guy (my father) who heard from a guy, who heard from a guy who heard from a guy that Masonry is the Illuminati and the Illuminati is the devil. I was expected to accept this as absolute truth, not because of careful study, but simply because I was told to by men who were told to by someone else. Dizzying, I know. As pandemic as I just depicted ignorance…would you not agree that ignorance is a sickness? When you need clarity, do you flip the light switch up or down? You flip it up so that light can help you understand your surroundings with clarity. Ignorance is darkness, education and clarity are Light. Keep that in mind.

Through casual text message conversation I told my mother that I was a Mason. I was at work at the time and my phone was on silent, so when she frantically called, she had to leave a voicemail. She then left a text message about how I had been “tricked by the devil and would continue to be blinded if I didn’t denounce that occult right now.” Harsh words from the deputy. Of course, she went and told my father. I told him we would speak on the phone after I got off work. When I called, the conversation began by him asking me why I had become a Mason. I told him because I agreed with literally every single one of the principles, that I had been studying Masonry from the outside looking in for almost two years, and enjoyed the ideals of humanitarianism, philanthropy, and religious tolerance. Finally when I finished, he began his sermon, “You don’t know, son. That stuff is not of God. I know people that were in that stuff for years that denounced that stuff and they say it’s not of God.” 

The long and laborious debate began. He was telling me things about ritual that I personally have been through and know to be untrue. He condemned the idea of men being united in a fraternity that requires a belief in a Supreme Being, because to him that requirement was not religiously exclusivist enough for any “real” Christian. He was upset about the secrecy of Masonry: “Y’all got secret handshakes and passwords. That’s not of God, son.” 

My counter-points, which I will demonstrate throughout the course of this article, went in one ear and out of the other with them. They had no intention of respecting anything I said. Because I held my ground, they said I was arrogant. Keep that also in mind. Finally, my mother resolved to say “Christian, if we send you some DVDs on that stuff (whenever I quote my parents, they will refer to Masonry as ‘that stuff’ quite often, just a heads up) will you watch them?” 

I accepted the challenge, because I knew that’s what it was, under the condition that they both had to read John J Robinson’s “A Pilgrim’s Path”, a book written by a non-Mason (at the time) to disambiguate and debunk much of the misinformation surrounding Masonry. Before they even mailed the DVDs I looked up the DVD series on the internet and watched them in their entirety that same night. You guessed it, it was a televangelist who I will not name, but whose fallacies I will gladly expose and clarify later on. That same night, I ordered a copy of “A Pilgrim’s Path” and had the shipping expedited to my parents. It was delivered. That was months ago. They haven’t mentioned the book since. Keep that in mind. 

So, let’s return back to Uncle Ed. The year is 2012 and I am a senior in undergrad. My curiosity had arisen once again. I messaged Uncle Ed on Facebook, this time being a little blunter. The conversation went something like this. 
“Unc, can I ask you a serious question?”


“I’m sure you’ve heard of the conspiracy theories surrounding your ‘organization’. People always say Jay-Z is a part of Masonry and that he is showing Masonic symbols in his music videos. Is this true? If so, why is he being so secretive, wouldn’t that be something to be proud of, given the great men in history who have been Masons? Also, are you the Illuminati and do Masons worship the devil?” [as you can see, I tried to butter him up in the beginning, then swing for the fence in the end…]

“First of all, I’ve been a Mason for over 30 years and not once have I even heard the word “Satan”, all Masonry teaches is for you to be a better man. There is absolutely no devil worship. Our ritual comes straight from the Bible. As for the Jay-Z thing, Jay-Z is not a Mason, and even if he was, Masonry is nothing to ‘brag’ about. If it’s really in your heart, you don’t need to brag. You would make a good Mason.”

Those last six words hit me hard. 

Years of being conditioned to oppose an organization I knew nothing of other than mere hearsay began to crumble. Entering four years of being a history major, a major in which arguments are only meaningful if they are backed by primary sources and reality, I neglected to do so in the case of my perspective toward Masonry. That day my Masonic journey began…though only in my mind. Needless to say, I was a little caught off-guard to think that this organization that I was taught to disparage could possibly have shared any remote philosophical or humanitarian commonalities with my own personal convictions. Perhaps, then, it was disbelief and a desire to prove him wrong that led me to research the history and philosophy of Masonry. Still, if for over 20 years I was raised to believe that Masonry was Satanist, Luciferian, paganist, and antithetical to Christian values, and all of a sudden someone says that I would make a good Mason, I would have to research for myself. In the end, I thought, someone would certainly have some serious explaining to do. Someone, though I didn’t know who, was giving me misinformation. Whether it was intentional or not, I was not really concerned with. I decided a different approach…to get my information straight from the horse’s mouth…or the Mason’s mouth, you get what I mean. What did Masonry stand for? Where did these allegations of Satanism, extortion, murder, and paganism originate? What’s with the secrecy? What were the Masons’ defenses against these allegations? How did these defenses fare with reality and historicity? Was Masonry really a religion? If it is not, then what is it? What is the structure of authority within Masonry? These were questions I needed answered, most of which would not immediately be, but through time would become clearer. Keep that in mind. 

That brings me to you, Brothers. To this current generation of newly raised Masons who have had similar experiences to that of which throughout this article I will describe, this is not a matter of one religion against another. Don’t be fooled, the opposition will try to frame it this way so that you can be made to believe that you are opposing God. Their misuse and misinterpretation of Biblical scripture in juxtaposition to their misuse and misinterpretation of Masonic literature and principles will have you questioning what you already know to be true in your hearts. They will cause you to unnecessarily question your faith. Our Masonic Fraternity has had a long history of turning the other cheek when libeled and slandered by the intolerant. That takes strength and patience. However, it’s easier to not care what allegations someone throws at you when you have no emotional attachment to them. It’s not so easy when your family members are the ones throwing them at you. It’s downright heartbreaking, I know. It’s difficult to visit your parents for the holidays and sit across the dinner table from the same people telling their church members that you’re a member of a satanic anti-government occult. It’s difficult to take your little brother out after you haven’t seen him for months and he suspects you to be a fraternal antagonist to the religion you strive so hard every day to adhere to. The most difficult part is when none of these accusations hold weight in reality. They are wild stabs in the dark at trying to slander an organization which has served the good of mankind for centuries. Therefore, this is not Masonry vs Christianity. This is not the Illuminati vs the Free World, this is Enlightenment vs Intolerance…Light vs Darkness…Education vs Ignorance. Keep that in mind. 

Hence the purpose of this article. If all goes according to plan, this will arm you with the mental defenses against allegations which often seem logical and Biblical, but upon deeper observation are incompatible even with common sense. It will help you. It will encourage you to stay the course and seek further Masonic Light. At the very least, this article will give us a basis of commonality so that we will be connected by the heart through a common hardship, though we may be miles apart. To those of you who have been Masons for decades, this may serve as a reminder of the persecution you had to endure when you first entered the Fraternity. I hope it does, so that it can possibly bridge any existing disconnects between older and younger Masonic generations. Let’s begin.

The Five Orders of Architecture; Which Are You?

By Guest Contributor: Bro. Andre Beliveau
Originally published in Livingstones Magazine; March 2015

Freemasonry, like most fraternal organizations, is composed of many different types of men. We all come from different backgrounds; we all have different personalities etc. But once we are made Masons we are all linked by our obligations and the many allegorical lessons we have been taught, so we’re all the same right? Even still, within our great fraternity there are different types of Masons just as there are different orders of architecture. Briefly summarized, the orders of architecture in my jurisdiction are described as the Doric, which is plain and natural, The Ionic, which bears a kind of mean proportion between the more solid and more delicate orders, The Corinthian, being very ornamental and the richest order, The Tuscan, which is the most simple and most solid, and the Composite, which is compounded of all the orders and found in buildings where strength, elegance and beauty are displayed. I’m sure sitting back and thinking, you can probably come up with some categories or orders to put some of your Lodge Brothers into or even yourself. Using this idea in a light-hearted way, let us examine the “Orders of Masons” that exist in our Craft today. 

“The Doric”
Doric Brothers are plain and natural Masons. They can be described as your “side line Brother.” While they may not hold the title of Worshipful or Right Worshipful, don’t be fooled, these Brothers are full of light. The Doric Brother has not reached the Chair of Solomon, and probably never will, but he has attended practically every meeting of the Lodge since he was raised. He may have served as an appointed officer at one time; he may serve on a committee or even do a small lecture here and there for degrees. These Brothers can often be seen quietly whispering the words of the ritual to themselves at Lodge meetings. They tend to be the back bone of the Lodge, filling in on committees and taking on minor responsibilities that some other overzealous Brothers may not want to fill. Doric Brothers are loyal members of the Craft, typically belonging to only one Blue Lodge. Some of them may be involved in a concordant body or two, and they fill the same role in those as well. These Brothers are too often over looked for the great work that they do. 

“The Ionic” 
Ionic Brothers are a great bunch filled with ingenuity. They are right in the middle between the more solid and more delicate orders. Ionic Brothers can be Past Masters or Brothers on their way to maybe be a Worshipful Master one day. This tends to be your most common order of Masons. These Brothers are very involved in the Lodge. They take on an officer’s chair early on in their Masonic career and do ritual quite well. These Brothers participate in almost everything that the Lodge does and often have some great ideas for the organization to improve. They enjoy learning about some esoteric and historical material. They enjoy fellowship and ritual just as much as they enjoy the pancake breakfasts and community service outreaches. The Ionic Brother gets just as much light from Freemasonry by being the Senior Deacon the night of a degree as he does by being involved with the Lodge’s charitable event or fundraiser. They tend to also be involved in multiple concordant bodies. In some cases, they may be Blue Lodgers only, but typically are affiliated with more than one Lodge. Sometimes the Ionic Brother is a notable member of the community, possibly a local elected official or popular local business owner. He can be a white collar businessman, a blue collar worker or a retired man. This Brother is filled with Masonic pride and he displays it every day by his actions as a man and on the bumper of his car. An Ionic Brother is your every day, run of the mill, blue blooded, multi-pin wearing, pancake flipping, check writing, active and engaged all American Freemason. 

“The Tuscan” 
Tuscan Brothers often challenge our ability to uphold our Masonic Obligations to them. I often feel that the Great Architect of the Universe has sent these Brothers to the door of our Lodges to keep us in check, to make sure that we will embrace the trowel and allow no contention to ever exist among us. These are indeed the most simple and solid of the five orders. They are simple in their approach to Freemasonry and solid enough that they will never change. These Brothers are the first ones to stand up and say things like “That’s not how we’ve always done it”, or oppose ideas and have no legitimate reason as to why they do. These Brothers can be anywhere from a side liner, to a Past Master, right up to a Right Worshipful somebody. They contemplate nothing esoteric in nature and building their inner temple refers to the amount of food they take in during collation. To them, the ritual work of the Lodge is just as profane as reading the minutes. They may know the ritual and can perform it, or even feel that is has some sort of importance, but to them the ritual and lectures are nothing that they would ever contemplate or think that there are benefits to be had from it, other than of course making someone a member of the Lodge. To this Brother, Freemasonry is no different than the many other service organizations and fraternities that exist for a grown man to join. This Brother is also a huge fan of wearing as many pins as his lapel can handle, collecting bumper stickers and boasts his own version of “Masonic pride.” Everyone knows at least one Tuscan Brother. 

“The Corinthian” 
Corinthian Brothers, like the architectural column itself, are adorned with great masterpieces of art. Their outward structure is ornate and rich, the purple of the fraternity for sure rests on their honored shoulders. This Brother has as many Masonic titles as there are members of a baseball team, and be sure to always address him with one of them or he will definitely remind you to do so in the future. Now, this is not to suggest that all who hold titles above that of Worshipful are of this particular order. There are many who hold great Masonic titles, who are leaders in our Craft that are great Masons and are knowledgeable Brothers who earned those titles and do great work for our fraternity. Those types of Masons are not what I mean here. The Corinthian Brother can be described as your “purple chasers.” These Brothers are only focused on titles, adding more aprons to their collection and having power. They may have a great exterior design; fancy aprons, big gold collars and a rank, but working on the design of their inner temple is almost forgotten about entirely. They are more like the Tuscan order, only having a prettier exterior. The philosophical purposes of Freemasonry are practically non-existent with these Brothers. Corinthian Masons are perfect examples, and reminders of the Masonic value of looking for the internal, rather than the external qualifications of a Brother. They may be good men and may in some way benefit the fraternity, but they are indeed lost travelers stuck in the material world. 

“The Composite” 
The Composite Brother is compounded of all that Freemasonry has to offer. In this order there can be found strength, elegance and beauty. These Brothers tend to be the movers and shakers in their Lodge and district. If they are not already Masters of their Lodges, they will be and they may even move on to be Grand Lodge Officers. These Brothers are not in it for the titles or for the glory; they are in it to better themselves as a man and Mason. They look out for the interest of their Lodge and for the entire Craft. They love to share Masonic knowledge and love to learn it even more! Whether they are the Worshipful Master or the Grand Master, these Brothers never lose focus. They nurture their minds and build up their inner temples, often contemplating things of an esoteric nature. Composite Brothers love the ritual and take pride in doing it as perfect as they can. These Brothers know how to balance Masonic relief and charity, with esoteric study and fellowship. Most of the time they tend to belong to several concordant bodies, but have a specific reason for why they joined each particular one. They are not afraid to stand up for their values and what they believe the tenets of Freemasonry are, even if it is not the most popular thing to say. These Brothers love tradition and history, and take pride in being Freemasons. We all know these types of Brothers; in fact most of us probably think that we are one of them even if we really aren’t. Some may even poke fun at these Brothers or point them out as the “Masonic nerds” and elitists. Our Tuscan Brothers tend to be the pointers most of the time. Composite Brothers simply observe the Craft as it should be observed, and arguably get the most out of Freemasonry. 

I’m sure there are many other “orders” of Masons out there and that one Mason could be a mix of all the five I’ve listed here. No matter which order we identify ourselves or identify another Brother with, it is important to remember that Freemasonry is still important to each and every one of us. We all may get something different out of it, or have different views as to what Freemasonry truly is about, but in its own beautiful way the Craft has touched and changed each one of us. In closing I’d like to share a poem titled “The Builder”, which happens to be one of my favorites and I think sums this all up quite well.  

"I watched them tearing a building down, a team of men in my hometown. With a heave and a ho and a lusty yell, they swung a beam and a sidewall fell. I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled as the men you’d hire if you had to build?” He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed, just common labor is all I need, for I can easily wreck in a day or two, what builders have taken years to do.” And I thought to myself as I went my way, which of these two roles have I tried to play? Am I a builder who works with care, measuring life by the rule and square, shaping my deeds by a well-made plan and patiently doing the best that I can?
Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town, content with the labor of destroying and tearing things down?" – Unknown


Discussions on the Porch:

“Where Masonry Happens” and the Value of Diversity and Tolerance of Thought and Belief in the Fraternity
By W.M. Jesse James Slater

There is a concerted effort in many lodges to jumpstart the educational aspect of our meetings, which is a great thing to see. These “official” educational events, such as guest speakers, presentations, and symposiums take a significant amount of planning and coordination to put on, and the value does show in the fruits of those labors.

It is interesting to consider, then, an aspect of Masonic education which is nearly defined by its spontaneity. That is, the fellowship and discussions which occur following the closing gavel. One of the aspects of going to lodge and Masonic events that I get the most enjoyment out of is this “afterglow”. One may even make the argument that this is “where Masonry happens”. The afterglow takes many forms, and may consist of small talk, committee planning, deep discussion or debate, or any combination of these and other types of fellowship. I have often called my wife after a meeting ends to let her know that I’ll be “out with the guys” for a certain length of time, adding, “You know that this is where the real work gets done.” With much of the lodge administration, that is indeed true.

But there are also the impromptu discussions which follow a meeting, many of which begin before one even leaves the lodge room. Regarding our mission for Truth, this is truly, I think, “where Masonry happens”. The formal education programming is training, the discussions are what you are training for. During the meeting there is an invocation of Truth and the Journey for it, leaving enthused brethren charged with a desire to pursue that journey.

The other night, I had the pleasure of attending Pontiac Lodge #294, A.F.&A.M. in Pontiac, Illinois. I know many of the brethren of Pontiac Lodge through the Scottish Rite, but I do not get to sit in lodge or fellowship with them on a regular basis. They were hosting Bro. Aaron Gardner for a presentation, and thus had some visiting brethren from further north that I get to see even less often.

After the meeting, discussion clusters broke off almost immediately. These clusters floated, combined, split off, and recombined as we talked on numerous topics. The whole process was entirely organic and without any forethought.

Early on, we talked about variations on the Hiramic legend in jurisdictions around the world. At other times, comparisons and contemplations on various religious traditions (past and present) was a predominant theme. These conversations have a similarity which I wish to expand on later.

We all know that talk of religion and politics are prohibited from the open lodge, as they are among the most divisive topics among men. This allows us to look to our similarities, not what divides us. While the rule does not technically extend to lodge dinners and similar events, I generally avoid speaking of them in those contexts as well as a courtesy. My rule of thumb is that such topics are best treated as a “consenting conversation”.

Here we were, though, brethren speaking freely and with the standards of Masonry in mind. We were not debating theology or having a “who’s right, who’s wrong” contest. We discussed the allegorical qualities of Greco-Roman myth. We compared the Christian view of Biblical Judaism with that of Judaism itself, as well as the cultural interaction and parallelisms between the Hebrew culture and the Ancient Near Eastern cultures which it interacted with. We discussed varieties of Gnosticism and the influence early Christian groups and writings had upon each other.

Masonic virtues bear fruit when employed. These can be seen specifically in the three facets of the Fraternity: Fellowship, Charity, and Truth. The more obvious fruit of diversity and tolerance is that of Fellowship – it allows for men who would otherwise be at a distance to come together in brotherhood. From this, we can see Charity in the work they accomplish together and for one another. For Truth, the fruit is in this exchange of ideas. As brothers, speaking on the level, we know that we are in a safe place to exchange ideas and share our thoughts, or even thoughts that we may not hold ourselves, but that we find interesting. I love discussing Masonry, its symbolism, and allegory with a brother of a different religious/spiritual background than mine. The same goes for the different perspective given by one who has had a different socio-economic background, or other factors of what develops our unique worldview. The insight a different lens provides gives us the chance to learn much from the varied personal interpretations and “Have you ever noticed…” musings that each of us holds.

It is in this even-handed, unprejudiced, academic discussion that we can see the similarity between the aforementioned discussion of Hiramic legends and these of religion and tradition. When hearing of elements foreign to our jurisdiction (such as those of South Wales, which a brother shared with us), the response is not “Well, that is wrong! It’s not how we do it,” but instead one of fascination, intrigue, and contemplation. Whether or not we, individually, choose to take this new information as a part of our own personal mosaic of thought, the knowledge of it has broadened our horizon and enriched our mind. We have gained knowledge. The same is true of gaining knowledge of the diversity of belief and thought, and the same method of learning is applied to the benefit of all involved.

Thus, brethren, remember not to run out of Lodge (or Chapter, or Consistory, etc.) as soon as the gavel drops. Often the best journeys are those which aren’t planned, and the same goes for journeys of thought.

W.M. Jesse James Slater is a member of Wade Barney Lodge No. 512, AF&AM, in Bloomington, IL, where he currently serves as Worshipful Master. He is also a member of the Valley of Bloomington, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ, and Bloomington Chapter #26, Royal Arch Masons. He is a founding member of the Veritas et Lucis Masonic Discussion Society, which promotes Masonic education in the Central Illinois region. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology at Illinois State University.