The working tools of a Freemason
Freemasonry uses the implements of operative masonry to teach moral and ethical lessons, but these are only the beginning of the Freemasons Working Tools.
To apply these rules to our working lives raises in my mind some very challenging questions. Which have to be answered before we can apply these rules. These are:
1. Do morals change with time?
2. Are morals influenced by fashions and fads? (Climate change deniers)
3. How are morals when compared to acceptance? What is moral and unacceptable today being moral and accepted in the past.
4. How should we look at others who we consider less moral than ourselves, at which point do we become judgmental.
The moral compass compared
One of the things that we believe in as society is that North is a constant, those of us have been taught navigation know that there is more than one North. The compass points to Magnetic North. There is however, also True North and North as indicated on a map or chart.
Over time the earth has moved on its axis and requires a calculation to find true North on a map.
Over time the moral compass of humanity has done the same, some Freemasons were in the past for example, slave owners but these were no less moral or good men than Freemasons today.
We need to ensure that we as individuals and Masons are comfortable with our own internal moral compass. We should use this to regulate our own actions not to judge or compare this to the actions of others nor their actions to ours. It is by our own example that we will engender change in others and ourselves, not by moralising.
When teaching I used to say to students that there are no incorrect answers only inappropriate ones.
I said this primarily to increase their confidence and to encourage thinking and debate.
Before fellow craft masons can apply the principles of the working tools they must contemplate the answers to the questions that these principles raise. This itself raises other questions which is are:
1. Can these questions actually be answered?
2. If they can be answered will the answers vary according to the circumstances?
We would all agree here that to take a life is wrong, but we invest that authority in our police and armed services, to take a life to protect others weaker than ourselves.
This has been judged as legally and morally acceptable as we have checks and balances in place to enable such a decision to be made, so, we should ask ourselves is it necessary to answer these questions at all?
Perhaps it’s better for a Mason not to try to answer these questions but to continually ask himself these questions?
Constantly reminding himself of the duty he owes to his brothers in masonry and to the world in general. We must endeavour to improve ourselves by considering these questions, constantly reminding us of their import with the view that there are no correct answers and that the answer will differ from person to person and circumstances to circumstance there are therefore no incorrect answers only inappropriate answers.
We are all going to make mistakes it is the rationale that we used to take these decisions that we constantly need to revisit and check against our own moral compass.
The difficulty comes as Edmund Burke says
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
I’m not advocating inaction, it is example that we set in the profane world that will combat the evil of moral decline and better ourselves in the process.
The use of the example given to us in the working tools morality, equality, justness and uprightness are the tools that can be used to improve ourselves by constantly questioning our own character and using these concepts to define ourselves, improve ourselves and by so doing influence the world around us.
Now, up the point where I say we influence the world around us it could be said that this is reasonable and achievable. However, to influence the world around us is a huge task, do we as individuals have this capacity?
Surely this is a task that no reasonable person would take upon themselves its an impossible task is it not?
“the journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step”
What I’m advocating is that we as Freemasons can, by our actions influence those around us, and by implication those around us go on to influence the people within their sphere
Newton’s third law says every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is an accepted scientific principle, I think that when dealing with people and not with science every action has a reaction which is not necessarily opposite. I prefer the analogy of the ripples on a pond.
We as Freemasons seek to improve ourselves, what we must not do is by thinking on our duty and contemplating our morals is to seek to impose them on to others.
What is moral today may be unacceptable tomorrow, what was moral yesterday, certainly is unacceptable today, we need to be understanding of the morals of others, we need to demonstrate and constantly question ourselves on the acceptability of that moral position, failure to constantly question will lead us to be judgmental an easy trap to fall into, very difficult to correct after the event.
As Masons we should seek to influence others and not judge others.
I will in closing take a quotation from a lectur given by a brother many years ago on the same subject which I think is relevant today.
In the construction of our great buildings the ideal is to have the Plumb-line right along the side of the wall from the top to the bottom. The structure of society
“To stand firm for Ever
requires that each person or stone is on the Plumb; then it follows that each person or stone must be on the Plumb with respect to each other – an integrated society built on the inherent worth of the individual members, each supporting the other and the whole standing as a unit.
When a building or character is absolutely upright, all the power of gravity helps to keep it that way. When a building or character begins to lean, all the force of gravity helps it to collapse. When the record of life is finished, a man is remembered with affection in exact proportion to the amount of useful service he has rendered to his Brother men inside and outside Freemasonry. Apart from this, he may be remembered with respect and admiration – perhaps with awe – but never with affection.
To build a character in which integrity, uprightness and Brotherly helpfulness are molded, is a task worthy of our greatest and most worthy endeavours.
I close by quoting a poem
I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of workmen in a busy town;
With a “Ho, heave Ho,” and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the side walls fell.
I said to the foreman: “Are these men skilled
And the type you would hire if you had to build ?”
He laughed and answered: “Why, no indeed;
Common labour is all I need;
For I can wreck in a day or two
What the builders have taken years to do.”
So I thought as I went on my way:
Which of these two roles am I to play ?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring my work with Plumb, Level and Square ?
Or am I a wrecker about the town,
Content with the task of tearing down?
By W Bro J T Robertson,
read to the Research Lodge of Otago, No. 161 (NZ)
on July 31st. , 1963.
Article by W.Br. Alan Jarvis
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