Passing and Raising Ill-Prepared Brothers are Egregious Acts against your own Faith and that of your Brothers.
At first, I thought it was a fluke. A well-known and very active Brother who had been in the Fraternity for some time had openly and blatantly denounced his affiliation with it, along with his Obligations and his Brothers. His letter of declaration was available for all to see and it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with the Organization, ever again.
Early in my Fraternal membership, I had no clue about Craft things that more experienced Brothers took for granted. I didn’t know how to respond to family and friends who asked me about the organization I joined. I didn’t know much about its history. I didn’t know how things operated. I knew even less about the principles and philosophies that the Fraternity espoused. All I knew was that I was a Master Mason and that I was supposed to be proud of carrying that title.
I was more fortunate than other Brothers in that my family and friends knew even less than I did. I didn’t have to go into too much detail about the organization. I didn’t have to field any in depth questions about its philosophy and its principles. I didn’t have to explain much because, without question, my family and friends trusted my judgment in making good choices in life.
They were very satisfied with me stating with great confidence that “they make good men better”. They never took their questions one step further by asking, “How do they do that?” And that was most fortunate for me, in one respect and very unfortunate in another.
Being a member of the Organization for over a decade, I can say without reservation that others have not been so fortunate. I base this upon many observations but mostly upon direct statements from Brothers who sought to share their experiences.
The main theme conveyed was how utterly unprepared the Brothers felt they were. They didn’t feel Masterful. They didn’t feel “better”. They didn’t feel they achieved anything of significance. These feelings occurred even though they were Master Masons and had passed all the Proficiencies required of them by their Brothers.
They also felt disappointment, especially when they were told by their Brothers that they shouldn’t feel the way that they felt. These dismissals only added to the feeling that something was not right. To have their concerns invalidated by their Brothers made their feelings all the more disturbing. It was clear by their comments that there was a hole that was not being filled.
I first took notice of Brotherly unrest after reading open and honest posts placed upon on-line forums and through other forms of communication now widely used by the Craft. The unrest was not coming from those who shared their feelings about their ill-preparation or from those who had decided to leave the Fraternity due to perpetual disappointments or perceived conflicts. It came forth strongly from Brothers who did not want to hear them.
The typical responses from Brothers making effort to shut down these discontented voices took different forms. Many opted to dismiss these Brothers as an anti-mason who, they imagined, had come into the Fraternal Fold with hidden agendas. Others dismissed these Brothers as being weak minded individuals who were easily persuaded by outside influences and therefore it was truly good for the Craft that they left. The irony in this type of dismissal does not take very long to spot. Still other dismissals took the form of subtle to outright ad homonym attacks upon the individuals doing this unwelcome sharing.
The shame of it all was that nowhere did any of these dismissing Brothers see any Organizational accountability for Brothers leaving. Moreover, no responsibility was taken either for taking effective steps toward remedying the situation. Furthermore, those Brothers who openly shared their truth soon discovered their disclosures were used as cannon fodder in some very aggressive and ugly discourse. The outcomes of such exchanges are rarely Brotherly.
On the other hand, many often expressed concerns were by individuals with strong family ties into religious organizations. Equally present were expressions of disappointment toward the organization for having too superficial a focus to bring about any significant benefit for those who came into it for something of substance. With simple well-directed Perpending one shall see that both of these concerns would be addressed quite appropriately if the Organization actually required specific Work before Progression.
Brother O.T. Ledge[i]
Most recently a newly Raised Brother, O.T. Ledge, was sharing his concern about a specific Scriptural verse. It was a legitimate concern and he was looking for Brothers to assist him in addressing it. His concern was specific. He believed that he was not supposed to do things that he believed Scripture proscribed. He couldn’t reconcile what he believed he thought Scripture said with the Philosophy that he thought that he participated in within Open Lodge. With all this on his mind, he was clearly On The Ledge[ii].
Had Brother Ledge been required to do the Work that Ritual directs all Brothers to do, he would have been Properly Prepared to begin the process of reconciliation between what he read within his Holy Book and the Philosophy that he was Obligated to participate in and adhere to as a member of the Organization.
Under Heaven: Nothing New
The reconciliation challenge faced by this and other Brothers is not new. It was also faced by scholars in Europe many years ago. At that time, there was an influx of Classical Philosophy making its way into their scholarly circles. At first glance, this new wave of information appeared to conflict dramatically with the accepted Theology of the day. Most all of the conflicts had to do with the misunderstanding of the metaphors and symbols used within the two.
They soon realized that the problem was their Lack of In Depth Pattern Recognition. They could not reconcile the differences between the two because they were incapable of even superficially understanding the materials in the way that the original writers intended them to be understood. They could only understand the materials based upon false and uneducated assumptions. As a result, they were misled by their own naivety and ignorance. They eventually concluded falsely and chose very unwisely due to their Lack of Proficiency.
The problem at that time was no different than the one our Brothers face today – they don’t know what they don’t know. The problem shall continue into the future and the solution is the same today as it was back then – one must meet the challenge of developing one’s heart and head so that they are both well-founded and in alignment with each other.
Brotherly concerns need clarity and directness! Diverting problems occur when either tries to prove the other wrong. No Brother shall convince, persuade or invite any other Brother into thinking differently by proving them wrong. Should you try this, you shall be met with resistance, and why not? You're resisting their pleas! You can only open doors for them by knowing the topic well enough to answer their questions Heart-fully and Knowledgably -- and without fear. The only way of doing this is studying the words, the culture and the times and carefully discerning the Intent of the writer. This requires Brothers to get their own heads and hearts well-founded and to get them in alignment with each other so that true reconciliation can then be undertaken.
Unfortunately, none of this Preparation Work is required of our Brothers. As a result, many Brothers are given title, along with their Traveling Papers and sent forth to venture with fully loaded diapers. They go back into the Profane world and into the clutches of those who would do them harm. And we willingly help facilitate this as an Organization.
It’s terrible watching it unfold. Brothers who have not done the Degree Work eventually succumb to intellectual and emotional blackmail and torment from those who know their weaknesses – many that should have been dealt with long before they were Passed or Raised.
Had these Brothers been required by the Mature Souls of the Fraternity to dedicate time to do 1) the Emotional Management Work that they were directed to do by the First Degree, and 2) the Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric studies required of them by the Second Degree Staircase, they would have been Properly Prepared.
Properly Prepared Brothers can easily and effortlessly deal with such coercion. They are fully capable and firmly willing to deal swiftly and effectively with the unbelievable social stresses and pressures administered and employed by manipulating henchmen masquerading as well-meaning family, friends, co-workers and congregants. They shall also look back to their Brothers with thankful hearts for assuring that they were Properly Prepared.
If you do not want to see your Brothers fall prey to this insanity, do the Work yourselves so that these Brothers shall see what Mature Souls are capable of Being. It is only when this generation leads by example that future generations shall be led by Cultivated men!
The Degrees offered to men within the Symbolic Lodge introduce them to specific Development Work that, when done, Transforms them from Good men to Better men. It also Properly Prepares them for Life as Mature Adults.
This Betterment starts with Cultivating a deeper Understanding of The Self, continues with Cultivating a deeper Understanding of The Universe and ultimately turns toward Cultivating a deeper Understanding of The Word as exemplified through their chosen Faith.
When men join and choose not to do the Cultivation Work that these Three Symbolic Degrees Directs him toward, they shall receive only unfulfilling and dissatisfying Substitutes that they might try to make sense of by futilely Seeking Further Light in other Degrees. Unfortunately, each shall remain unfulfilled until he actually Does The Foundational Work that Properly Prepares him for any Further Light. This Proper Preparation saves Brothers from unnecessary frustration and disappointment.
Points to Perpend
1) Do you properly address the concerns of your Brothers, or do you summarily dismiss them because they reflect poorly upon the organization?
2) Toward what Worthy Solutions are you Contributing?