Anatomy of the Masonic Charge
A psychological and socioligical look at Masonry’s most valuable guide of conduct and its challenges for today’s mason
As I begin this commentary of my personal views and insights on what is arguably the most valuable of our landmarks, the closing charge, let me first say thanks to each of you who have, of your own free will and accord, chosen to walk the masonic path to enlightenment and accept the clarion call of the fraternity by striving to become a better man.
One of the distinctions of our craft is that we do not solicit for members. When petitioners come to our door of their own volition seeking membership, we take great care to examine each man to determine a proper fit for the order and for the individual. In the end, no brother within our ranks is without a genuine desire of his own free will nor without due examination by our fraternity.
One of the most rewarding benefits of this strategy in membership scrutiny is that we insure that we attract and retain like-minded men of high standard who have a love for fraternity and although are of diverse worldviews in life, have equal respect for one another and a mutual desire for the same basic values. But having said that, we are all works in progress and are always in need of improvement, chipping away the rough edges of our previously unexamined lives in an attempt to make smooth our own “rough ashlar” in order to find that better man inside of each of us. Nothing is a better reminder of the attributes we strive for than the values set forth in the closing charge that ends our meetings.
Not all masonic ritual is in cipher nor is it intended to be kept from the curious eyes of the world, and that is the case of our beloved charge. It is unapologetically what it implies, a list of final expectations and strong reminders of who we should be as masons and as men and how we should operate throughout our life both in and out of the lodge. It reminds us of the responsibilities we have promised to ourselves, our brothers, the craft, and finally to all of mankind. The charge is simple in its construction and it is straightforward in its expectation, perhaps so much so that we might glaze over its deeper meaning and be tempted to rush through it on a long meeting night. I will go so far as to say that our charge contains the distilled sum of our craft and so its tenets should not only put to memory by every mason, (officer or not), but understood as that good and wholesome instruction laid down by the master of the lodge specifically for our civility with one another and our example of genuine manhood to the world.
It may come as a surprise, but not every state nor country around the world present the closing charge to its brethren at the close of their meetings. As an example, England rarely has a closing charge and Scotland, Israel, Brazil and British Columbia, follow suit with England. Ontario, Canada has a short abbreviated version and there are a number of variations from state to state here in the United States including none at all.
The Grand Lodge of Washington upholds the practice of reciting the closing charge. It is typically presented around the altar by the Master of the Lodge just prior to the close. Occasionally it is given by the District Deputy or other lodge member when asked. I would like to take this opportunity to look closely with you, line by line, and explore the charge in detail, sharing thoughts you may or may not have considered through the filter of psychology and sociology. As you examine with me, you may find that you have not always given due thought to its necessity or appreciated why these reminders are so important especially in today’s world and the lodges of today. So let’s begin.
by VWB John Lawson
Deputy of the Grand Master & Past Chaplain
The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Washington