Herndon Lodge #264

Short Talk – January 2014

Masonic Education


Worshipful Master…..Brethren……thank you for this opportunity to serve you as Herndon’s Lodge Education Officer….

My first question to each of you is this…..and note you cannot say they are equally important ….….if you had to pick one….which is more important to the vibrancy, participation, and individual growth in a Masonic Lodge…..Masonic Ritual or Masonic Education??

I am not sure I can provide you the answer but let me provide you a few things to think about….

Brother Conrad Hahn, a most distinguished Mason, once observed and I quote:  “The lack of educational work in the average lodge is the principal reason for the lack of interest and the consequent poor attendance in Masonry over which spokesman have been wringing their hands for at least a century.”

This quote stirs one to think about the importance and value of Masonic education within our Fraternity. It should further stir us to think about why this important aspect of Freemasonry has been so badly overlooked.

We must not kid ourselves into thinking that Masonic education is playing the prominent part in Freemasonry that by right I think it should.

This leads to the all important question, “Why has this situation come about?” The real problem in trying to answer this question is that there is no easy answer. We, as a Fraternity, have reached the point where far to few of our members have even the faintest idea of why they are Freemasons, let alone, have any real knowledge about our history and heritage.

To those of you who are “ritual purists” please do not let my next statement shock you. But the real truth of the matter is we have come to depend on the ritual as the basis for Masonic knowledge. The ritual does not make Masons. It only makes members! We cheat, wrong and defraud any candidate who is left hanging at the end of the 3rd Degree, having heard a lot of words and really not knowing what they mean. Until the Degrees are explained to the candidate he has no idea of what he has gone through. To suggest that the explanation is complete with the lectures of each Degree is again burying our head in “Masonic Sand.”

Let me stress no one loves the ritual more than I do. The ritual has an important place in the life of the person who is becoming a Mason. But, that place is not the “throne from on high” from which there is no more to learn. In my opinion, it is far easier to memorize and recite the ritual than it is to study the history and meaning of Freemasonry. So, we tend to be far more comfortable in working the Degrees than in working with the candidate to teach him what our beautiful craft is all about.

Has this always been so? The answer, of course, is no. For those who may recall, back in 1999 MW George Chapin introduced the concept of Masonic Education as an alternative approach to initiating, passing, and raising candidates. To this day his approach still causes great debate and controversy. I would argue that we have drifted so far away from true knowledge within our Fraternity that now it is very difficult to try to turn the tide. But we are going to have to do that very thing!

What are in fact the origins of Freemasonry? Where did it begin? How did it reach the present state in which we find it today?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could answer these questions in ten words or less? We cannot. We can only surmise what in fact may have happened. Historically, of course, Freemasonry did not begin with the forming of a Grand Lodge in London in 1717. Quite obviously, there had to have been Lodges to be formed at that time. So, they must have had some history prior to that date. When did it all begin? We simply don’t know.

So now let me leave you with something to think about…..

Some Masons will argue that to understand Masonry you need to fully understand the ritual…..our dear brother Dick Walk used to always say that Masonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols. He would say that you need to take Masonic symbols as discussed in the ritual and then apply them to your personal life to fully understand and appreciate the lessons…..the question I will leave you with this evening and it is one I heard WB Dick ask at a Lodge meeting last year….if you believe Masonic education is important to Masonry, why is it that to be the Worshipful Master of a Masonic Lodge, you have to first acquire a Warden’s Certificate?  The Warden’s Certificate is grounded in Masonic ritual but there is nothing equivalent to Masonic education. I would question why is it that to be Master of a Lodge you need to be able to memorize and repeat back ritual but you do not have to prove you have any understanding of the meaning behind the words?

Fiat Lux….Let there be Light….

THANK YOU Brethren!