Leadership : Leading Brethren in Freemasonry
The day a man enters a Masonic Lodge, and asks to be initiated, he begins a passionate journey of self-discovery, and ultimately could be called to a leadership role within the Order. Leadership within Freemasonry, however, is unlike the leadership roles traditionally come across in business or society generally.
The word initiation from the Latin initium; a beginning, a birth, a coming into being.
Leadership in a Lodge
The government of a Masonic Lodge is essentially tripartite. A Master governs the Lodge, but a good Master relies on his wardens. The Junior Warden sits in the South of the Lodge, and symbolically marks the Sun at its meridian; calls the Brethren from “labour to refreshment, and from refreshment to labour, that pleasure arid profit may be the result”. The Senior Warden sits In the West, symbolically to “mark the setting Sun”, and assists the Worshipful Master in opening, working, and closing the Lodge. Likewise, “As the glorious Sun rises in the East to open and illumine the day, so stands the Worshipful Master in the East to open the Lodge, and employ and instruct the Brethren in Freemasonry”. In essence, the three principal officers of a Lodge lead the brethren in the pursuit of Freemasonry.
St. Francis of Assisi used to say that “What a man (man) is before God, that he (she) is and nothing more”. Francis is undoubtably correct, but to look at the other side of the coin, “What a man (woman) is before God, that he (she) is and nothing less”. Freemasonry teaches a person to respect the inherent divine dignity of others. Distinctions of rank may be necessary in secular society, but within a Masonic Lodge, all are equal, “Meeting on the level, and departing on the square”.
We have been privileged to attend Lodge both here in Australia and overseas, and have normally been made very welcome. We’ve sat with business executives, tradesmen, community leaders, doctors, salesmen, lawyers, and a whole host of others. No other organisation has such a diverse membership base as Freemasonry. Reflecting on the basic principles of Freemasonry leads us to the inescapable conclusion that there are many names and faces to God, and many paths to the one reality.
The requisite leadership attributes, therefore, are different from secular leaders. Masonic leaders ideally possess all the qualities that make a good leader, but they also need to: know themselves; be focused on God; be focused on their brethren.
Challenges Peculiar to Freemasonry
Freemasonry, in its initial degrees, is a moral allegory. It uses the imagery of the tools used in building and construction to teach a moral message. Thus, you hear terms like, “Square conduct, level steps, and upright intentions”. On the surface this is simplistic, until one starts to meditate upon God and one’s life. The simple moral message of Freemasonry is profound, and cuts across the teachings off all the great religions. It recognises that all men and women are created equal, and in the end death— the great leveller of human existence—will reduce us all to the same state. What will matter is not how much money and power we have accumulated through life, but the way we have lived our life.
Progressing through the stages of Masonic Leadership
As each Freemason progress through the Chairs of Inner Guard, Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master, he learns different things about himself and develops different skills. Roy McNulty’s book on Masonic Symbolism goes into this. We all have various voices that are at work in our minds, but only in a Masonic Lodge are these voices set out for us to perceive clearly. The various officers of the Lodge are either situated or placed for various reasons. What are those reasons? Each Freemason is free to interpret those distinctions in his own way.
To give a couple of examples, the constant place of the Junior Warden in the Lodge is in the South. He is situated there to “mark the Sun at its meridian, to call the Brethren from labour to refreshment, and from refreshment to labour, that pleasure arid profit may be the result”. Similarly, the Senior Warden is placed in the West, to “mark the setting Sun”.
From the moment a man enters a Lodge, he is called to leadership. When he becomes a Master Mason, he is reminded that he is henceforth authorised to correct the errors and irregularities of Brethren and Fellows, and to guard them against any breach of fidelity. Moreover, his constant care is to improve the morals and correct the manners of men in society.
A Mason is taught to persist in his journey of self-discovery with fortitude and with prudence, to develop the highest within him with “fervency and zeal”. In the Entered Apprentice’s Degree the initiate is taught the necessity of a belief in God; of charity toward all mankind, “more especially a brother Mason”; of secrecy; the meaning of brotherly love; the reasons for relief; the greatness of truth; the advantages of temperance; the value of fortitude; the part played in Masonic life by prudence, and the equality of strict justice.
He is charged to be reverent before God, to pray to Him for help, to venerate Him as the source of all that is good. He is exhorted to practice the Golden Rule and to avoid excesses of all kinds. He is admonished to be quiet and peaceable, not to countenance disloyalty and rebellion, to be true and just to government and country, to be cheerful under its laws. He is charged to come often to lodge but not to neglect his business, not to argue about Freemasonry with the ignorant but to learn Masonry from Masons, and once again to be secret.
Culmination and Challenges of Past Mastership
At the end of the progression through the Chairs of a Masonic Lodge is a career of being a past master. In fact, the progression through these Chairs could in itself be considered an initiation.
On being installed in the Chair of his Lodge, a Mason consents to a comprehensive list of instructions as to his attitude and behaviour. The underlying principle is that by entering Freemasonry and his acceptance and practice of its tenets and precepts he becomes a credit to himself and an example to, and benefactor of, others.
Freemasonry is therefore an intellectual and philosophic exercise designed and intended to make an individual’s contribution to society, and extension of himself, greater than they ought otherwise have been had he not had the opportunity of developing his capacities and capabilities through membership of the Order.
Freemasonry depends on the development of wisdom in individuals. The wisdom of each Freemason contributes to the whole in a unique way. Why? Each Freemason is free to choose his own interpretation of Masonic symbolism; there is no dogma or enforced conclusion. Freemasonry is not in itself a religion, but relies on each Freemason bringing his own religion to the Craft. The pursuit of Freemasonry is the pursuit of harmony through a common, while unique belief in God. God is at the Centre of Masonic leadership.
© 2001 Dr. Lionel Boxer and Stephen Lourey