Good morning gentlemen and Brethren.
I was given instructions that as this gathering consisted of Freemasons, soon to be Freemasons and friends of Freemasons, my presentation was to be appropriate for such a diverse audience.
In thinking about this I wondered why would this gathering be considered diverse. Diverse means widely varied and I therefore considered which group of us would account for this diversity.
Soon to be Masons and friends of Masons are not yet Masons so the only real difference or variety in the mix are the Freemasons in the gathering. The question to be asked therefore is what makes Freemasons different, if we are in fact different. My submission this morning is that we are not a diverse gathering at all, as there is nothing significantly different or widely varied about a Freemason and a non Mason who is a good man and I repeat, not just a non mason, but a non mason who is a good man. From a cursory look at this gathering I feel I can safely say that we are a gathering of good men here assembled.
To support my submission or conclusion, I think a good place to commence this mornings’ presentation is to examine what is Freemasonry and who is a Freemason and then the verdict will be yours as to whether there is any difference between a Freemason and a good man.
Freemasonry is defined in our ritual book as a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, whose grand principles are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. This definition when broken down means that Freemasonry defined: As a system of morality promotes ethics, goodness, virtue, good behavior, righteousness, rectitude, uprightness, morals, principles, honesty, integrity, propriety, honour, justice, high standards and decency.
Veiled in allegory means that its tenets and principles are communicated cautiously, figuratively and symbolically by way of parables, analogy, metaphors and emblems.
Illustrated by symbols means that it is demonstrated, elucidated, clarified and emphasized by way of signs, tokens, images, figures, characters, marks and letters.
Brotherly love means to be friendly, devoted, to show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and to behave with kindness and understanding to your fellow creatures.
Relief means to console, comfort, alleviate, relieve, assuage, palliate, allay, reduce, liberate, release, to practice charity and benevolence and to care not only for your own but also for the community by charitable giving, voluntary efforts and works; and then
Truth - What do I have to say about truth. It is one of the virtues we learned from we were toddlers. It encompasses everything moral and in addition it means veracity, honesty, candour, correctness, verity, sincerity, authenticity, accuracy, validity, reality, actuality, factuality, certainty and principled.
So as Freemasons we are taught to exercise at all times the grand principles on which the Order is founded i.e. brotherly love, relief, and truth. Freemasonry also teaches us national equality, mutual dependence, universal beneficence, charity, humility, consolation and a resignation to the Will of our God.
But if you think about it carefully are not these most, if not all, of the principles that our parents sought to inculcate in us when we were growing up? So you will realize therefore that what Freemasonry really serves to do is to re-emphasize and reinforce these old principles not to necessarily teach new ones. Hence it has always been said that Freemasonry does not always make a “bad man good” but certainly always makes a “good man better”.
This is reinforced by the fact that it is a requirement that fit and proper persons to be made Masons are just, upright and free men of mature age, sound judgement and strict morals, i.e. good men. I am sure you will agree with me that it is the wish of everyone here to be governed by these principles. Thus in terms of our principles we are not diverse at all as our universal aim is to be good men.
Yet the Concise Oxford English Dictionary would have you believe that a Freemason is different, in that he is defined as someone who is a member of a special international order, established primarily for mutual help and fellowship, which holds elaborate secret ceremonies. This definition reflects to some extent some of the public’s perception of Freemasonry, which is rather superficial as you can see, from the definitions which I have already given. We are certainly not only concerned with mutual help and fellowship and secret meetings. We are a lot more than that. In the overall we are taught to be good, happy men who communicate happiness, who practice brotherly love, relief and truth whose conduct, actions and inclinations are guided by the rule of rectitude and principles of morality and propriety. We are taught to be meek, humble and resigned, to be faithful to our God, our laws and our country, to drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a brother and to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted. This, gentlemen and Brethren is Freemasonry.
The two major criticisms I have heard of Freemasonry is that it is secretive and that it has no reliance on God. In fact some uninformed fanatical fundamentalists have actually said it amounts to devil worship.
The criticism of secrecy arises from the veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols component and the fact that only members are permitted to attend meetings and only members can comprehend what Freemasonry is really all about. It is this, why some say we are different to others – Diverse, but I will also illustrate the fallacy of these criticisms as well.
In relation to secrecy all our tenents, principles and procedures are public. You can read about the workings of Lodges in the three degrees and the meanings of the symbols and signs, in books which are in general circulation and online. There are certain details however which are still private and are restricted even to Masons until they progress to the various stages in their development in Freemasonry. But isn’t this the case with all forms of education. One cannot comprehend what one has not learned. So while you can read about Freemasonry you may not understand or appreciate fully what it means until you have learned the fundamental teachings of our fraternity at the various stages of your development in masonry.
Attendance at meetings like in any members club or society is limited to members. In Freemasonry it is not limited to members in a particular Lodge but to the fraternity in general as we encourage visiting of other Freenmasons Lodges in all three Constitutions, the English, the Irish and the Scottish.
The component of proceedings being veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols adds to the drama, elocution and significations of the proceedings. Because we are not operative Masons but rather free and accepted Masons, we apply the tools of Masonry which are some of our emblems, to our principles, for example the square and compasses which are tools of an operative mason, which every Freemason is known by, are applied to our morals. All our ritual work is conducted by way of parables (stories), analogy and metaphors this is known as allegory.
So there is nothing secretive about Freemasonry even though it may be private and be progressive in its teachings. But what is wrong with privacy and what is wrong with progressive teachings, all education is based on the communication of information in a progressive manner.
The next criticism is that the order or fraternity is not God centered. This is absolutely not true. In fact it is exactly the opposite. At the core of Freemasonry is a resignation and an adherence to the will of God. God plays a central role in all our lives, our teachings and our meetings. The role play which forms an integral part of our ritual work has its foundation in God and many Biblical characters. In fact Freemasonary requires its members to trust in God, to rely on the help of God, seek His aid and to give gratitude to the Most High. All undertakings are conducted in His name and a part of each day is to be spent in prayer to our God. We are taught to give serious contemplation to the volume of the sacred Laws, to understand the duties we owe to God, to respect Him and seek His comfort.
Further many heads and members of religious faiths, congregations and assemblies which are God based are Masons.
You know that often times persons who criticize the most do so out of ignorance and Freemasonry suffers in a significant manner from this, as we do not campaign publicly about the good that we do or to dispel these criticisms. But in all things it is the truth that sets us free; We are indeed Freemasons.
Another critism you sometimes read or hear about is that Freemasonry is at the core of the New World Order. This criticism dates back to time immemorium. It is complex and finds its root in the history of recent civilization. These suspicions and critisms arise out of the fact that many world leaders political, philosophical and religious were and are Freemasons and a number of our symbols appear on national and international monuments and currency. It would take a much longer time than we have here this morning to even begin to contemplate this critism, but suffice it to say that the New World Order has been in the making long before any of us were born and is still in the making. What it does however confirm though, is that Freemasonary has always been at the heart of national and international progressive, philosophical and intellectual thought processes.
The aspect of Freemasonry that I am presently most involved in, is Charity and Benevolence. This is a significant aspect of Freemasonry and Freemasons get some of their greatest satisfaction in Freemasonry by practicing this virtue. Charity it is said has the approbation of Heaven and Earth and like its sister mercy blesses him who gives as well as him who receives. Charity is defined as the virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart.
Benevolence and Charity are defined as those truly Masonic ornaments. Charity it is said comprehends the whole and the Mason who is possessed of this virtue in its most ample sense may justly be deemed to have attained the summit of his profession. So if there is any characteristic that distinguishes a Freemason it is his charitable nature and this certainly does not make us different.
So really why would a good man not want to be a Mason and conversely how can a Mason not be a good man.
So far this morning I have spoken for many minutes and all that I have been able to do is to give you a mere snap shot of a Freemason, a mere snap shot. But I came across a poem written by a distinguished Brother Rev. Joseph Fort Newborn entitled “When is a Man a Mason” which Rohan Hay an outstanding Lodge Mentor shared with me recently which illustrates in verse more than a snap shot of a mason. It illustrates the essence of a Freemason.
A man is a Freemason:
Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.
So Brethren and Gentlemen, though we may not be different we are nonetheless distinguishable by the fact that by our virtuous, amiable and discreet conduct, we are known to the world as persons to whom the burdened heart may pour forth its sorrow, to whom the distressed may prefer their suit, whose hands are guided by justice and whose heart is expanded by benevolence. This should not make us diverse, this should instead be the recipe for being good and happy men. So Brethren and gentlemen the verdict is yours. Is there really any diversity at all?
So inclosing I will end where I begun and by now I am sure you all agree with me that there is no real difference between a Freemason and a good man. What distinguishes us however is our constant quest to be better and happier men. I hope you have found my presentation if not enlightening, at least interesting. For Masons I hope it serves as a reminder and for non Masons as encouragement .
I thank you for your attention and I thank the Royal Lodge for giving me the opportunity of sharing these few thoughts with you. And in further closing they have also permitted me to inform you a little about the District Board of Benevolence of the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands of which I am the President and about our Grand December Ball which is to take place at the Pegasus Hotel on December 12, 2014 at 6:30 p.m…. That is next Friday evening. The District Board of Benevolence is the main arm of the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands which deals with benevolence and charity.
The District Grand Lodge administers the affairs of English Freemasonary in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and the District Board of Benevolence administers its benevolence and charity functions. It contributes to the healthcare and living expenses of indigent and distressed Freemasons and their families, it assists with the education of their children and assists with funeral expenses when they die. It assists with retirement planning for its members and the general care and well being of old, sick and dislocated masons as well as those in distress financially and emotionally.
The Board also contributes significantly to many national charities. The National Children’s Home, the Cancer Society, and the Salvation Army to name a few.
As you are all aware, it takes cash to care and although we raise funds from our members to carry out this mission and have established a capital Fund to do so, the income still falls far short of what is required. So this year we have decided to put on a Grand December Ball to raise some much needed funds to augment the amount which we presently have to carry out our very necessary and worthy mission.
And now here is the paid advertisement:
This Ball is a Black Tie affair at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Friday December 12, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. It is going to be an evening of elegance, sophistication and enjoyment under the patronage of our District Grand Master, Walter Horatio Scott, Queen’s Counsel.
You will have the best cocktails on offer in the foyer with background entertainment provided by a Mento Band playing traditional folk music.
Then there is Dinner with a five (5) course meal which will be a gastronomical treat and delight, with beautiful background Keyboard music and drumming provided by the renowned Masonic pianist Dr. Anthony Lewis accompanied by a Friend on the drums.
There will be a cabaret performance by the popular Fifty 50 Band after that; and then our renowned humorous, eloquent and sharp witted Master of Ceremonies, Derek Jones will act as auctioneer, when we will auction many pieces of art, ceramics and gift baskets and finally we have dancing to the sweet sounds of the Fifty 50 Band until 1:00 p.m. or until you say when.
The cost for this all inclusive event is 10,000 Kingston Dollars per person and $20,000.00 per couple.
We need your support. I have tickets with me here. I accept cash, cheques or even just your pledges with your promise to pay. We are trying to sell 300 tickets and have sold about 230 so far so I look forward to your support and to seeing you there.
Thank you all.
Stephen M. Shelton, Q.C.
President of the District Board of Benevolence
6th December, 2014