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

     

     

     

    Masonic Civility and Personal Opinion in the Age of Social Media

    All of us know the importance of civility in our interactions and conversations with our brothers. We have been famously counseled in regard to the discussion of politics and religion among brothers at masonic activities in order to prevent ill will or hurt feelings. We need no reminders that we are to respect one another, and keep our tongue when our words would do more harm than good. These are all just common sense and we all have those unfortunate memories in our minds when that line of courtesy and politeness gets crossed and damage to the craft and individuals results sometimes with unintended consequences.

    Certainly our parents, teachers, and society in general spend time teaching us throughout our lives why we need to be kind, courteous and attentive in regard to our communications with one another and provide us a framework of family values and rules. Our workplace has a Human Resource department for these matters, our churches have theological tenets, our schools teach social behaviors to follow such as sportsmanship and our community leaders create civil laws to make certain that we treat one another respectably, regardless of age, creed, color, gender, special needs, etc. So why is this of particular concern to the mason if it’s already being handled? Why it is that “civility” takes a unique role in our masonic world when it seems to be a part of everyone else’s concerns?

    As initiates and as brothers, each of us has been set apart and additional expectations have been placed on us both between one another and our sphere of influence to every human being through our masonic obligation that we agreed to when we stood before our great common alter. Our masonic life lived should stand out as man’s ability to love one another regardless of the differences we may have and it is in the ability to find civil agreement between those differences around our alter that causes our unique example to shine through and above the rest. The world needs an example of what it is to work together without tyranny or oppression. To show by our example, how we can disagree and yet remain not only tolerant but affectionate towards one another.

    Anyone with a television, radio or newspaper knows that civility in our nation is being challenged. The rules established in many of the categories mentioned have broken down. The divorce rate is up, violence plagues our schools, dogma attacks one another’s sacred beliefs openly, even violently and we all know what has happened to a government divided by opposing values who appears as though it has lost its ability to work with civility at all causing gridlock and then fanned by the news media who thrive on conflict, we are bathed in examples of discord, anger, hostility, and fear. As never before, masonry’s example of civil discipline is needed and its great message of working together civilly is the answer that society needs now above all other examples.

    Having said all of this, it is an important reminder that we have been set apart for this great work of creating a perfect society, a temple built without hands and that through our example, we will lead the world to its golden potential. We must examine ourselves in this day of Twitter, Facebook, email and text and be conscious of the fact that not only the words we share mouth to ear need to be filtered through our grand obligation but that every hashtag, Facebook post, email forward, or text associated with us requires our attention and scrutiny. When we wear the square and compass as a part of our identity we take on a larger persona than just that of our own personal opinion. We represent a philosophic empire that spreads across the globe. Each of us are obliged to one another and to the craft that we represent to communicate with respect, the highest degree of integrity, and the deepest concern for the feelings and welfare of others.

    Certainly each brother is welcome to his own personal opinions and sharing those publically and clearly is the right of every free man but the manner in which the opinion is expressed is where civility needs to be checked. We must ask, are we being reasonable, kind, intelligent and beneficial? Are we allowing comedy, sensationalism, or cleverness to supplant our concerns not to be divisive, cruel, or mean spirited? Are we more concerned about respect for our personal views than we are about the views of others?

    Masonry is an ancient a beautiful craft whose higher standards have the opportunity through each of our mindful efforts to be the guiding example in our social media world that is in great need of our philosophic teachings and inclusiveness, especially today when even our leaders have not been the examples of civility we would like. It makes it ever more important to be the higher example to others that masonry calls us to be and is something we can do every day to create the world we all know we all want and need and as masons, have been charged to create. Let’s all pause and examine how we express our opinions in the maelstrom of social media and ensure our rhetoric is something we are all proud of for our craft and others to imitate.

    May the Great Architect give us wisdom and strength to be the light and example for others to follow.

    Most fraternally,

    W. B. John Lawson

    Grand Chaplain,

    Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

    Featured photo source: Flickr.com

    An Encouragement for Generosity this Season

    Brethren,

    As Grand Chaplain for the state of Washington of Freemasons it is my humble honor to focus our attention on the spiritual nature of our craft, reminding each of us during this season of giving that beyond the lofty titles that we bestow upon one another, whether it be Worshipful, Illustrious, Grand, Noble, Sir Knight, Worthy Matron, etc., we must always remember where we have all first been made a Mason, in our hearts. We have not just been given flowery titles but have obligated ourselves to the aid and support of our kind offices to every human being who may have need of our assistance as far as our cable tow can reach.  

    We should all take great pride in the amazing good our craft in its many lodges, rites, chapters, assemblies, bethels, courts, shrines, etc, have contributed to those lives that are touched by our efforts and without us, would not have the quality of life they do today. 

    As a fraternity, we stand peerless in our generosity in our programs, hospitals, and funding but we must not let the larger fraternity, of which we are a part cause us to become complacent in our individual lives. 

    Each of us who have stood at the alter of Freemasonry have promised that we will demonstrate our masonic ideals in all our actions. Please consider taking personal action by contacting your lodge or chapter secretary, master, or worthy matron. Make contact with your Washington Masonic Charities representative and see what needs have come to their attention where you may be able to assist.

    I hope each of you will demonstrate personally your generosity this year. Get involved with your communities and share in their efforts such as angel trees, shelters, food banks, coat and clothing gathering, and on and on. Be the difference in your sphere of influence and let this time of giving and this coming new year be for you the great blessing it can be with your help. Be light and love and let your personal lives and actions contribute to the betterment of others. May the Great teachings of our fraternity shine in every decision that you make.

    “…There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

    There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward and there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth….” – The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

     

    May the Great Architect favor all your actions this holiday season and may you be blessed through this coming year.

    Grand Chaplain, W. John Lawson

    Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Freemasonry and Accepted Masons of Washington

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    Prayers for Dallas and our Nation

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    By Worshipful John Lawson,

    Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

    "Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." —Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

    “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”
    —Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

    Our beautiful country of diverse individuals making up a masterpiece of mosaic hope, peace and harmony can on occasions such as these shocking recent tragedies be lost in the horror of blind hatred, pitting us one from the other.

    Our democracy requires vigilant effort on each of our parts not as much in the streets of protest but within our minds and hearts to hold fast to those values that we believe in as Americans and to always let love guide our actions and not let the …darkness overcome our light.

    Masonic brother Norman Rockwell saw this country with a beautiful perspective and shared his talents in reminding us of the great gift we have been given in America to demonstrate to the world the strength of the one made out of the many. Each with its irreplaceable value to the next.

    As we pray for those who have been unjustly killed in these most recent events, let us not forget the Golden Rule that is taught by every race and religion around the world. May the Grand Architect protect us from ourselves in our times of weakness and remind us of our strength and obligations to another.

    W.B. John Lawson
    Grand Chaplain,
    Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
    Of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

    Masonry Has the Answer

    There has scarcely been a time in world history that man has not waged war against his brother or his neighbor. A sad fact that no one can dispute. But what of the great religions of the world?Surely they must contain within their pages the remedy for such continual conflict. Ironically it has been said and sadly accurately that more blood has been shed in the name of God than for any other single reason in all the history of mankind. How can this be, we rightly ask? So much destruction, hatred, and death from the now more than the estimated 4,200 religions in the world today that ironically advocate love and peace! In fact that very observation and question such as this is at the top of the list for those who have chosen to give up on a god altogether. After all, just pick up a paper from any shore and you will find conflict between one man’s god and another’s.

    Do we as masons have an answer to this vexing conundrum that has plagued mankind and brought it to the brink of disaster over and over again? At the quiet heart of masonry, I say, yes! Thank God yes, we as masons, who have nobly been given charge over the repository of ancient wisdom and been given this peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols that transforms good men into better men and it has within its tents all the light that the world needs to free itself from the bondage and blindness of dogma. In our teachings we are shown the universality in which all men can unite. As MWB Albert Pike states so eloquently on page 52 of Morals and Dogma, “….its principles are as wide as the world and as high as the sky. Nature and Revelation blend in its faith; its morality is rooted in the order of the world, and its roof is the blue vault above. 

    He continues with this statement which even today has been a reoccurring concern in our own Washington State Masonic legislation in regard to the Volume of Sacred Law or Holy Bible; “…Like everything else in Masonry, the Bible, so rich in symbolism, is itself a symbol – that is, a part taken for the whole… Thus, but the very honor which Masonry pays to the Bible, it teaches us to revere every Book of Faith in which man has found light and help and hope. In a Lodge consisting of Jews the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the Altar, and in a Lodge in the land of Mohammed the Koran may be used, according to the law of the mother Grand Lodge. But whether it be the Gospel of the Christian, the Book of Law of the Hebrew, the Koran of the Muslim, or the Vedas of the Hindu, it everywhere Masonically symbolizes the Will of God reveled to man, expressing such faith and vision as he has found in the fellowship of the seekers and servants of God. 

    At once masonry answers the question of universality and brotherly love. Masonry offers the brothers the freedom of self-expression of personal ideals while at the same time, affording a common alter with fraternal ties in which every bother is accepted of their own understanding and yet not just accepted but his right to those beliefs are held to be sacred itself. How the world could profit from these timeless and powerful lessons! Pike goes on, “Such a fact, such a spirit, helps us to see what the Religion of Masonry really is, prophesying an order of fraternity not yet attained, a spirit of fellowship not yet realized; a distant but slowly dawning day when man will discover that humanity is one in nature, in need, in faith and duty and destiny, and that God is the Father of us all. (pp.93-95)

    In these previous lines, we are reminded that this is not an arrival but a journey, an evolution both within ourselves as an example to our brothers, but then also to the brotherhood as an example to mankind as a whole. Imagine a world in which freemasonry was looked to as the path to peace, to security, to happiness. Imagine how the great gifts of masonry’s wisdom would one day be seen as the trestle board that leads humanity to balanced blueprint of harmony and unity. The blueprint for a world that although diverse in culture, language, and beliefs, can find within its tenets the strength for unity instead of war and destruction. 

    It begins with each of us, allowing the craft to transform us from good men to better ones, an alchemy of spirit, setting our personal agendas and egos aside, becoming light and shining that light within our personal sphere of influence at home, at work, and within our lodges. Associating and illustrating through our personal actions both small and great, masonry’s square and compass with the attributes of brotherly love expressed in tolerance and understanding for everyone regardless of personal beliefs, expressed in relief, in the knowledge that everyone is worthy of our kind office and finally, expressed in truth, respecting and aiding the seeker to find a common light along our individual paths. These fundamental truths set us apart from every other organization that has ever existed on the face of the earth. We are more than just a fraternal order, we are the answer the world so desperately needs today and we are more relevant today than we have ever been in history. Let us set to work brothers.

     

    John Lawson Profile Pic 2016May God add His light.

    Most Fraternally,  

    Worshipful Brother John Lawson

    Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

     Featured photo source, labelled for reuse.

    A Message from the Grand Chaplain, in the wake of the attack in Orlando

    Brethren all,

    As the new Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, I take no pleasure to mourn with you and all of our citizens around the entire country over the senseless loss of life in Orlando Florida during this last weekend in the largest mass shooting in American history; a crime of hate and terrorism. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends and loved ones targeted for their personal choices. When there is fear, superstition, and ignorance, the three great enemies of man, there is the greatest of needs for the wisdom and leadership that our ancient craft can provide to our society through each of us. That isn’t always accomplished by great orations nor of national actions alone, but in our daily small exchanges in the marketplace of ideas, in conversation, in the lunchroom, the drinking fountain, the dinner table, in our workplace, parking lot conversations, and even in our own minds during our quiet times of contemplation Our great fraternity is the sum of our parts and it is in times such as these that our values and our tenets become the most important and need to be checked and reinforced.

    As a brother, we are obligated to bring light into our world, to square our actions, to walk uprightly and be on the level with every person, holding no prejudice and illustrating through our lives the great principles of our craft and BEING THE DIFFERENCE whenever and wherever opportunity avails itself to us. I implore each of you to shine your masonic light with all of those within your circle of influence. Let your wise council balanced between the two pillars of mercy and severity, guiding your thoughts and your tongue to offer our unique masonic message of brotherly love, relief and truth into your personal conversations wherever that may be.

    May each of us hold true to our obligations and be guided by the golden rule that we should love one another, to avoid divisive conversation and uphold the rights of every human being, regardless of our individual choices and personal beliefs. Let each of us as masons be even more so in these times, the light and hope to a world that too often seems lost and dark and driven through blind hatred to such tragedy. Let us be warriors against the darkness first in our own minds and hearts and then by example to those around us demonstrate the acceptance of every human being to live in peace and harmony.  

    Image-9561585-261641486-2-WebSmall_0_f9f094143c066e423ddf5edc46d3b827_1-picsayCivility is the mark of enlightenment and the fruit of a balanced mind. The altar of freemasonry is strong enough to be encircled by men of all faiths and persuasions, making us a unique example to the world and each of us have the opportunity and an obligation to take that unity out into the world.

    Above all, be ye all of one mind, live in peace and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with you and bless you.

    Most Fraternally,

    Worshipful Brother John Lawson

    Grand Chaplain,

    Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington