Brother Lodge Education Officers
This Library area is intended to serve as a repository of your work, either found or composed. Many of our Education Officers are doing excellent work monthly in our meetings, restoring our gatherings once again to Masonic meetings rather than business meetings or committee meetings, since the true business of a Masonic meeting is Masonry.
Share your work and let other Education Officers have the benefit of it by publishing it here. The new ideas that will make Vermont Freemasonry grow will come out of our Lodges, will come from you. We don’t need polished prose, but if your Lodge enjoyed your presentation, other Lodges will too.
An Unpretentious Wooden Box
“The simplest method of painlessly imparting Masonic knowledge is to follow the method launched a year or so ago by Royal Alexandra Lodge No. 104, situated on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada. In the anteroom of this Lodge fastened to the wall in a prominent position, is an unpretentious wooden box with a slot on top in which can be
slipped an envelope or even a simple sheet of paper. Above this box isa small but visible sign worded as follows: “Don’t be a Masonic Illiterate All questions pertaining to Masonry deposited in this box will be answered in open lodge at next meeting. Write yours before you forget.
After each meeting the Secretary opens the box and turns contents over to the chairman of an Educational Committee. This Committee meets before the following meeting and prepares concise answers. It happens that the Committee of three in charge of this work is well versed in Masonry-but most questions are mostly elementary and can easily be answered. Should questions that are difficult to answer come up, it is referred to the local study club which is attended by most Masonic researchers in the Montreal area, and an adequate answer is soon provided which can then be used by the local Committee. There is also a Masonic Light Association in Montreal which will gladly answer such difficult answers by mail, in time for your meeting.
This method ensures the protection of the anonymousness of the inquirer, he therefore does not signal himself to the attention of hiscolleagues as a Masonic ignoramus. Most answers will rarely take more than 10 minutes. Thus all members benefit and add to their Masonic knowledge – and very often one question suggests another, so that there are always three or four queries to be answered at every meeting.”
-submitted to the Ed committee by Robert Powlus
Parkinson’s Law in Masonry
by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”
“You get out of it what you put into it.”
“There is nothing more unproductive than to build something efficiently
that should not have been built at all.”
– Bryce’s Law
“Parkinson’s Law” was devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, noted British historian and author. His original book, “Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress,” was introduced in 1958 and was a top-selling management book for a number of years (it is still sold today). The book was based on his experience with the British Civil Service. Among his key observation’s was that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Basically, he suggested people make work in order to rationalize their employment. Consequently, managers create bureaucracies and superfluous work to justify their existence, not because it is really needed (aka, the “making mountains out of mole hills” phenomenon). As an aside, CEO’s clearly understood Parkinson’s Law, which became the driving force behind the flattening of corporations during the 1990’s.
We see this same phenomenon occurring in Freemasonry, particularly in our Stated Communications and in the general operation of the fraternity. For example, in a Stated meeting we invent routines to fill the time. This becomes somewhat habit forming and we continue to say the same tired things over and over again, thereby putting the Craft to sleep. Administratively, we manage membership records and finances using techniques from a bygone era. Our rationale for doing so is typically, “That’s the way it has always been done.” Is it possible that Freemasons can no longer innovate? Let’s hope not.
In my consulting practice, I preach a simple concept, “Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency.” Whereas efficiency addresses the speed and accuracy by which we perform a task, effectiveness addresses the necessity of the task itself. Here’s another way of thinking of it: Effectiveness asks “Are we doing the right things?” and Efficiency asks “Are we doing things right?” Let me give you an example; on an assembly line, we may elect to use industrial robots to perform a weld (which is a very “efficient” means for performing the task), but if we are performing the weld at the wrong place or at the wrong time (“effectiveness”) it is certainly counterproductive.
In Freemasonry, there is little emphasis on effectiveness or efficiency, just Parkinson’s Law. To illustrate, our degree work, lectures, and charges are certainly important, but are there better ways to teach these lessons? After you have gone through a degree, your mind is full of thoughts and ideas in terms of what you have just experienced. You then have to sit through a lecture and charge which teaches some important lessons. Unfortunately, you tend to be overwhelmed by the amount of content and do not really absorb the concepts and principles (I call this “buffer overload”). A few years ago the Grand Lodge of Ohio put their lectures on a DVD which I thought was a rather imaginative way of conveying the information in a professional manner. Masonic purists have a problem with this and prefer the tradition method of lecturing. I ask what is more important: the message or how it is presented? To me, it’s the message. Maybe a DVD is a good way of presenting the ma terial and maybe it’s not, but it shows some initiative in terms of presenting the material in an effective and efficient manner.
Administratively, Lodges have been using paper logs and journals for a number of years. True, many Lodges have started to use the computer to help in this regard, but there are still many more Lodges using manual methods to handle these tasks simply because, “That’s the way it has always been done.”
I am certainly not suggesting we turn Freemasonry on its ear in terms of how we implement it, but I would suggest we routinely challenge the status quo in order to make progress (which doesn’t exactly endear me to traditionalist Masons). Nonetheless, I encourage all of us to reexamine the “effectiveness” and “efficiency” issues. In many cases, we have been doing things wrong so long, we think it is right. Instead, I ask “Are we really doing the right things?” and “Are we really doing things right?”
Keep the Faith.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
Article reprinted with permission of the author.
Does This Sound Familiar?
“My faith in the value of Masonic symbolism had been rudely shaken at the very beginning, by the explanation in the Apprentice’s Degree of the purpose for which I had been subjected to the gross indignity of having a halter knotted round my neck, though it was called by the more euphonious name of “cable-tow” and it seemed to me that I had heard and read all the monitorial explanations, that most of the symbolism was of the nature of that of a bush over the door of a wine shop.
“Of some things that I saw and heard, no one could give me an explanation at all; and indeed, it did not seem ever to have occurred to some of those of whom I asked light that they had any special signification. No one could tell me what the length of a cable-tow was, or the symbolic meaning of the halter round the neck. No one had thought that there was any special meaning in the sacred numbers, in the pass words, in the substitute word, or in certain phrases.
“And no one could resolve my doubts and difficulties. Of course I could learn nothing in the Lodge. No one ever learns anything there, in regard to the meaning of the symbols, after he has received the degrees. If he desires to know more, which most Masons do not, he must seek to find it in books printed to be sold to anyone, Mason or profane, who may wish to purchase; and these I bought and eagerly read, finding here and there among the rubbish of useless writing, a clue now and then, which lead me towards the truth.”
Bro. Albert Pike
(published by the Scottish Rite Research Society)
A Mason’s Christmas
“The Old Past Master” by Carl H. Claudy- 1924-1957
“I don’t believe in a Christmas celebration by the lodge. I don’t think we ought to have one, or be asked to contribute to one or in any way engage in Christmas festivities.” The Junior Mason spoke emphatically and with marked disapproval of the little ante-room group nearby, making happy plans for Yule-tide.
“That’s very interesting,” commented the Old Past Master. “I like to hear points of view unfamiliar to me. Would you mind telling me why?”
“Of course not. It’s very simple. Masonry is not Christian. King Solomon, of course, wasn’t a Christian, nor were either of the Hiram’s. Masonry admits to her ranks any good man of faith; Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan, Buddhist… it makes no difference, so he has a Faith.
Then, as a lodge, we celebrate a holiday belonging to one faith. Now I personally am a Christian, and of course I celebrate Christmas. But my brother across the way is a Jew, who does not recognize Christianity. To ask him to spend his proportion of lodge funds in celebrating the birth of a Leader in Whom he does not believe would be exactly like asking me to celebrate, with my proportion of lodge money, the birth of Confucius. Of course, I have only one vote and the majority rules, but when it comes to personal contributions to a Masonic Christmas celebration, my hands will never come out of my pockets.’He shoved them deeper in as he spoke to emphasize his intention not to spend.
“Hm!” answered the Old Past Master. “So you think your Jewish brother across the way doesn’t recognize Christianity? Don’t you mean he doesn’t recognize Christ as the Son of God? Wait a minute… Oh,Brother Samuels.” The Old Past Master called across the ante-room. “Here a minute, will you?” The Jewish brother rose and came forward. “I just wanted to ask you if you are in favor or against the lodge Christmas celebration?” asked the Old Past Master.
“Me? I am in favor of it, of course, both for the lodge appropriation and the individual contribution.”
“Thank you,” nodded the Old Past Master. Then as the Jewish brother went back to his seat, he turned to the Junior Mason. “You see, my son, our Jewish friend is not narrow. He does not believe in Christ as the Redeemer, but he recognizes that he lives in a country largely Christian, and belongs to a lodge largely Christian. To him the Christmas celebration is not one of His birthday, but of the spirit of joyousness and love which we mean when we sing, at Christmas time ‘Peace on earth, good will towards men!’ If you argue that ‘peace’ is only a Christian word, he might even quote to you the words of One who said ‘I bring you not Peace, but a Sword.’
“Now let me explain something to you. The Jew has just as much right to refuse to recognize Christ as the Son of God, as you have to refuse to consider Mohammed the Prophet the followers of Allah say he is. But as an educated man, you must know that Mohammed was a good man, a devout leader, a wise teacher. As an educated man, you admit that the religion founded by Buddha has much in it that is good, and you admit that Confucius was a wise and just leader. Were you in the land where the birthdays of any of these were celebrated, would you refuse your part in the people’s joy in their Leader, simply because you followed another? I trust not. Well, neither do our Jewish brethren or our Mohammedan brethren, desire to be left out of our celebration. They may not believe in the Divinity of Him we, as Christians, follow, but if they are good men and good Masons… they are perfectly willing to admit that the religion we follow is as good for us as theirs is for them, and to join with us in celebrating the day which is to us the glad day of all the year.
“Believe me, boy, Christmas doesn’t mean Christ’s birthday to many a man who calls himself Christian. It is not because of joy the He was born that many a good man celebrates Christmas. It is because his neighbor celebrates it, because it is a time of joy for little ones, because it is a day when he can express his thanks to his God that he is allowed to have a wife and family and children and friends and a lodge, because of that very ‘peace on earth’ spirit which is no more the property of the Gentile than the Jew, the Chinese or the Mohammedan. “It is such a spirit that Masons join, all, in celebrating Christmas. It is on the Masonic side of the tree we dance, not
the Christian side. When this lodge erects its Christmas tree in the
basement and throws it open to the little ones of the poor of this town, you will find children of all kinds there; black, white, yellow, and brown, Jew and Gentile, Christian and Mohammedan.
And you will find a Jew at the door, and among the biggest subscriptions will be those from some Jewish brethren, and there is a Jew who rents cars for a living who will supply us a dozen free to take baskets to those who cannot come. And when the Jewish Orphan Asylum has its fair, in the Spring, you will find many a Christian Mason attending to spend his money and help along the cause dear to his Jewish brethren, never remembering that they are of a different faith.
That, my son, is Masonry.” “For Charity is neither Christian nor Jewish, nor Chinese nor Buddhist. And celebrations which create joy in little hearts and feed the hungry and make the poor think that Masons do not forget the lessons in lodge, are not Christian alone, though they be held at Christmas, and are not for Christians alone, though the celebration be in His honor.
Recall the ritual: ‘By the exercise of brotherly love we are taught to
regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, the rich and poor, who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other’. “It is with this thought that we, as Masons, celebrate Christmas, to bring joy to our brethren and their little ones, and truly observe the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, whether we be Jew or Gentile, Mohammedan or Buddhist.” The Old Past Master ceased and stood musing, his old eyes looking back along a long line of lodge Christmas trees about which eager little faces danced. Then he turned to the Junior Mason. “Well,” he said smiling, “Do you understand?”
“I thank you for my Christmas present,” came the answer. “Please tell me to which brother I should make my Christmas contribution?”