Senior Grand Lecturer
The GLP Monthly Masonic Education Program for Masonic Year 2019-2020 will focus on the Master Mason’s Obligation. A cursory look at our 3rd degree Obligation will reveal that each paragraph contained therein focuses on a particularly principle which the Craft aims to teach its adherents.
Furthermore, a more in-depth analysis of the Obligation suggests that the wordings of our 3rd degree Obligation are deeply-rooted in the principles and tenets of the Craft and any untoward deviation or mistranslation of its meaning will distort the very aims that it enjoins.
DGLs delivering the program in their respective lodges are enjoined to limit their presentation to 5 to 8 minutes, with the bulk of the time (4-5 minutes) providing their own context to the principle delivered.
To facilitate learning and dialogue, DGLs during this Masonic Term are given the discretion to recite within the tyled Lodge the specific paragraph of the Third Degree Obligation that is the subject of that month’s lecture immediately before they begin with their presentation.
MAY 2019: PREPAREDNESS TO ASSUME THE OBLIGATION
Principle: As expressly provided in our liturgy, no candidate will be allowed to recite and assume our obligations, unless he puts himself in the proper position.
Undertaking Masonic obligations must always be done in front of the Altar and in the middle of the lodge. This is done so that the obligations become binding and that the candidate feels a connection with the Great Creator who is the source of light and wisdom in the Universe.
The month of May coincides with the District Turnover ceremonies across our Masonic jurisdiction, when the assigned DDGMs, DGLs, and GLIs of every district will take their respective offices. The new Grand Master and his leadership team come to set the tenor and theme for the Masonic Term. Just as in Operative Masonry no edifice may be erected without laying the proper foundation, so it is in Accepted Masonry that no Grand Master’s program may achieve full realization without laying the necessary guidelines and principles for their implementation.
Foremost before all, the readiness to assume one’s duty and obligation, not only as a master mason but also as an officer of one’s lodge or the Grand Lodge must originate where all Master Masons are first prepared to enter the Craft — in the heart. Being duly and truly prepared, he can then be exposed and taught the various rituals and teachings of our Institution in order that his mind may be prepared to move forward towards greater Masonic Light.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must illustrate the above with how he came to be a Master Mason, and what he now understands about our Craft compared to when he first knocked on our doors.]
Reflection: Was I duly and truly prepared to become a Freemason when I entered the Craft?
JUNE 2019: FAITHFULNESS TO DUTY – KNOWINGLY, TRULY, AND FULLY
Principle: The first paragraph of the Third Degree Obligation ensures faithfulness and obedience to the promises and vows that a Master Mason manifests in front of the Altar. Couched in Old English, the dialect from which modern English arose, the wordings of the first paragraph declare the candidate’s willingness to comply with the succeeding obligations to be enumerated. Thus, whatever duties and responsibilities he assumes thereafter, the world can be assured that such was made out of his free will and accord.
Sometimes, Brethren take the seriousness of the Obligation only during the time they have uttered it and, thereafter, they find such to be meaningless words in their vocabulary. In other instances, absurd interpretations of the phrases in the Obligation are proposed. This leads to conversations that accentuate one’s masonic vocabulary yet are empty of the significance that the phrases suggest.
It may be time to put the Obligation into proper perspective, as this is what summarizes our duties as masons.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must explain what the Third Degree Obligation personally means to him.]
Reflection: Did I knowingly, truly, and fully commit to my Masonic Obligation as a Master Mason of my own free will and accord?
JULY 2019: WILLINGNESS TO ANSWER THE CALL OF SERVICE
Principle: In the second paragraph of our Obligation as a Master Mason, we are introduced to the willingness to answer the call of service to the Craft. Yet often when the need arises, only a handful answer the call. In many cases, we find lodges devoid of attendance simply because members find it inconvenient to attend stated meetings or participate in conferrals. What happened to the individual between the time when he was seeking the degrees of Masonry up to the moment he assumed his last obligation in Ancient Craft Masonry? Do the Brethren need to be periodically reminded of the bond that they have with their mother lodges, with their districts, to the Grand Lodge, and to the Craft?
We would like to believe that our Brethren are men of apt discernment; that they are well aware of what they should be doing inside the Craft and what needed to be done; that there should be some urgency in answering the call of service to the Craft. Unfortunately, rare have become the days when a brother would make every effort to forego the multitude of everyday inconveniences simply to address his Masonic duties, such as the call of his own Mother lodge. But isn’t this what made Freemasonry so attractive when he first knocked?
Context: [The DGL lecturing must provide pointers from his own Masonic experience of how to continue to be active and grow in the Craft.]
Reflection: Am I as active in the Craft as I need to be? How can I keep growing as a Freemason?
AUGUST 2019: CHERISHING AND PROTECTING OUR OWN
Principle: Charity and service knows neither time nor day. This is what Freemasonry has taught us in the 3rd paragraph of our Third Degree Obligation. The underlying rationale of this specific paragraph is to emphasize that we have a CONTINUING obligation to our worthy brothers in distress and their kin, regardless of their and our disposition in life. In brief, we are there for our brothers no matter what life may bring, and our brothers are there for us.
A brother remains a brother thru the twists and turns of life. As such, the people that he loves likewise deserve our care and consideration. We love and care what our Brethren love and care for. There is a saying that charity begins at home. How can we expect the world to revere us as a noble institution when we ourselves cannot care for our Brethren and their loved ones? At times, when a brother drops his working tools, his widow and orphans become footnotes in lodge histories and are later alienated in subsequent lodge activities and events.
We must make the care of our fellow Brethren and their kin a priority, and aim to ensure that we will not forsake their needs when the time comes and such arise. This means we must willingly invest the time and attention to know and familiarize ourselves with each other and each other’s families. Only then can a genuine concern for the welfare of all Brethren and their kin be safeguarded.
In this regard, the manner we process candidates at present often leaves much to be desired. Some lodges have the tendency to rush their candidates, while others try to exclude the family from lodge social events and public activities. While some lodges place emphasis on family-oriented activities, many instead focus on fund-raisers and other events that exclude or minimize family participation.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must describe how he and/or his own lodge involves family members in Freemasonry; as well as provide suggestions on how the lodge almoner and sunshine committee (if constituted) can be more effective. If the lodge has no sunshine committee, the DGL lecturing should provide suggestions on how to set one up.]
Reflection: Do I personally know the families of my fellow Brethren in the Lodge? Have I reached out to at least one member I relate to who has not been attending and ascertained the cause of his absence? Do I know of a lodge member who needs the help of his fellow Brethren?
SEPTEMBER 2019: THE SANCTITY OF SECRECY & PRIVACY
Principle: In this age of digital information, the duty to keep secret our rituals and modes of recognition has become a daunting task. Nevertheless, the ability to keep a secret and safeguard the privacy of our affairs are skills expected of each Master Mason.
Such a duty traces its origins to the ancient guilds of operative masonry—when true trade secrets of master builders were protected and given only to those worthy of receiving them. There are reasons why the Craft keeps certain aspects of itself a mystery that needs to be discovered by the profane and uninitiated when he becomes worthy to behold them. Our Craft contains many allegories which, when presented unguided before the world, may conceive a wrong image of our beloved institution. Thus, these aspects are only revealed to men of discernment and discretion.
Most importantly though, secrecy as understood in our Craft involves the PRIVACY necessary for us to practice Masonic reflection, as we continue our search for Masonic Light in order to build the temple in our hearts. Such search is hampered and greatly curtailed if unnecessary attention is created by certain interests outside the Craft, who only seek to sow intrigue for their own entertainment or selfish partisan agendas.
Hence, before you post that picture of your lodge activity on Facebook, ask yourself whether your resort to social media may be used to sow confusion by those with a motive to do so.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must either provide (a) a narrative of how he came to constructively address an instance of Masonic prejudice and ignorance from one outside our Fraternity brought about by a failure to observe appropriate discretion and/or privacy; or (b) discuss the appropriate use of social media in Freemasonry, as guided by policy set by the Grand Lodge.]
Reflection: Do I understand and value why secrecy in general, and privacy in particular, is important to the proper development of the Craft? Have I been appropriately discrete when using social media in relation to my activities in the Craft?
OCTOBER 2019: OBEDIENCE TO THE CRAFT AND GRAND LODGE
Principle: The fifth paragraph of our Third Degree Obligation pertains to maintaining obedience to the Craft and the very institution that represents it. This also pertains to being true and compliant to the rituals, traditions, laws, and regulations that emanate from such institution.
Not being a religion but a practical philosophy, Freemasonry allows its members reasonable discretion to think and interpret its tenets for themselves. The aim of this is to allow them to better appreciate its teachings and applicability to their own lifelong journey towards Masonic Light.
But like all things that we place under the circumspection of the points of the Compasses, the parameters for interpretation must be subject to limits, lest we distort the very nature of Freemasonry for partisan ends. Hence, our liturgy, traditions, laws, and regulations are the enduring essence of the Craft, for which innovation should be treated with great caution.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must either provide (a) a specific instance in his experience involving a discernable deviation in our liturgy, such as our degree work or installation ceremonies, and link why such deviation should be corrected given the principle discussed; or (b) discuss the significance of Masonic Obedience and why we cannot fraternize with irregular masons.]
Reflection: Do I understand the concept of Masonic Obedience to the Craft and to the Grand Lodge? Have I ever promoted innovation with our liturgy, rules, and/or practices without researching or seeking to understand the rationale underlying such traditions?
NOVEMBER 2019: GUARDING AGAINST THE UNQUALIFIED OR UNWORTHY
Principle: Over the years, the call to guard our West Gate has become prevalent and continues to persist across various masonic fora. Due to the benefits and privileges that Freemasonry professes to grant its members, men with mercenary motives—those that take more than what they give - find their way among our ranks.
The text of the 6th paragraph of our 3rd Degree Obligation enjoins us to guard the doors of Freemasonry and ensure that no cowans and eavesdroppers may approach it. Members are also reminded of their duty to ensure that those with mercenary motives do not gain admission to the Craft, as the acts of its members reflect upon the reputation of Freemasonry before the general public.
At present, we have members who abuse their privileges. Worse, there are even some scalawags who, not being able to gain admission to our ranks, boastfully pretend to be members of our institution. These unsavory practices must be appropriately addressed. We should all endeavor to represent to the world that Freemasonry is a noble fraternity and not a ‘boys club’ of the privileged.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must relate from his own experience (a) how to properly screen candidates, with emphasis on detecting those not worthy nor qualified to enter our Fraternity; or (b) how we behave in public influences those who seek to knock on our doors. Alternately, the DGL lecturing can discuss an instance involving the detection and exposure of a pretender to our Craft]
Reflection: Do I contribute to ensuring that those who consider entry to the Craft are truly worthy and well qualified? How do I model such appropriate behavior to the general public? Have I been vigilant against pretenders who attempt to defraud others or me by misrepresenting that they are members of our fraternity?
DECEMBER 2019: THE VALUE OF INTEGRITY AND FAIRNESS
Principle: The seventh paragraph of our Third Degree Obligation focuses on the value of integrity and fairness. Integrity pertains to truth. And as what our ritual emphasizes, “truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Freemasonry.”
It is hard to imagine an upright mason cheating his own brother. Such would be akin to cheating a member of his own biological family. As masons, we are bound by that indissoluble bond or mystic tie which we violate and break by cheating on one another.
A man of integrity makes a good mason and being fair is consistent with being on the level and parting upon the square. Furthermore, the values of integrity and fairness also apply to people outside the walls of the Fraternity. If we cheat, the whole world will perceive our Craft as a den of conmen. If the members therein however exemplify the values of integrity and fairness, then the public is assured that any dealings with a mason has the earmark of truth and equity to it.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must highlight both a common instance where a lack fairness has led to lodge disharmony as well as an example of lack of integrity leading to expulsion from the Craft.]
Reflection: Do I strive to be a mason of integrity and fairness in all my transactions and activities? Has there been an instance where a lack of these values has caused disharmony in my lodge, and how was such disharmony addressed?
JANUARY 2020: PROTECTING THE HONOR OF OUR WOMEN
Principle: Despite being an organization of men, women are revered in the Craft. Women often depict our tenets and virtues. Thus, the eight paragraph of the 3rd Degree Obligation enjoins us to be gentlemanly in how we interact with women related to our Brethren.
As craftsmen, we toil in our daily lives to provide for and protect our families and loved ones. Wives and mothers of masons have been instrumental in the care of brethren. The mother is a mason’s first guide in life and is crucial in the member’s value formation. On the other hand, sisters and daughters are also influential in every decision that a mason makes. Thus, our obligation mandates utmost respect for the women in a mason’s life.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must explain from his own experience how he promotes the participation of female relatives in the social activities of our Craft.]
Reflection: Do I appreciate and protect the women who support our Brethren? Do I exert effort to minimize misunderstandings and make them appreciate our Fraternity better?
FEBRUARY 2020: SAFEGUARDING TRADE SECRETS
Principle: The ninth paragraph of our Third Degree Obligation pertains to guarding the modes of recognition of the Craft. This is in relation to guarding the West Gate. While the sixth paragraph enjoins us to be vigilant and ensure that only the worthy are received into Freemasonry, the ninth paragraph instructs us to be discreet in how we communicate such modes of recognition to protect the sanctity of our ancient traditions.
Often times, newly-raised master masons are too eager to tell the world that they are now members of the Craft. There are also senior members who, for one reason or another, often forget the importance of being discrete in our practices. There are thus times when such modes of recognition are displayed for the public to observe. Although we are not a secret society, there is a need to protect the privacy of our traditions and teachings, so that we can best focus on working on building the inner temple in our hearts. Brethren must be apprised of their responsibility towards this end.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must describe the personal significance of the modes of recognition to him, as well as the importance of keeping these traditions private.]
Reflection: Do I understand the significance of the modes of recognition of the Craft and why these traditions are best kept private?
MARCH 2020: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PROPRIETY IN FREEMASONRY
Principle: The tenth paragraph of the 3rd Degree Obligation pertains to propriety. A close review of the text of the paragraph states that not everything that one is allowed to do should be done all the time. In short, there is a time and place for everything.
As masons, we are expected to be proper and just. Timing is everything and being aware and mindful of one’s surroundings and context as well as the interests and concerns of others should become the hallmark of a true member of the Craft.
There are cases when we should take special consideration of the plight of others, especially of our Brethren, particularly when we request for their assistance. Hence, we should also remember that although we are presumed entitled to the benefits and privileges of membership in this fraternity, we should not assume that assistance would automatically be given.
Context: [The DGL lecturing must highlight an instance from his own experience when the cabletow was extended to a brother in the Craft far beyond what was appropriate given the circumstances.]
Reflection: Am I myself considerate when asking for some consideration from another brother?
APRIL 2020: PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Principle: The last paragraph of our 3rd Degree Obligation pertains to our duty to be accountable for all our actions. This paragraph enumerates in graphic but metaphorical terms the consequences that a mason is subject to should he fail in fulfilling his sworn obligation.
It is indeed hard to face the consequences of our actions but to escape them without any credible exempting circumstance is much more of an injustice than the act of not fulfilling our duties. As masons, we are taught the value of being responsible in our duties and acts. Furthermore, we are also taught to be responsible for the welfare of each other, of each other’s kin, and of course, the welfare of the downtrodden and less fortunate. How can people expect to trust us as members of the Craft if we shirk our duties and responsibilities? Personal accountability leads to predictability in behavior, which in turn leads to trust in us, which in turn allows us to be more personally effective in creating value for us and others.
In this light, as our Masonic Term concludes and our year-long reflection of the 3rd Degree Obligation culminates, we must frankly ask ourselves, have we used this time to indeed become better Freemasons thru each other? Have we held ourselves personally accountable in further progressing with our own personal journeys towards Masonic Light?
Context: [The DGL lecturing must illustrate from his personal experience contrasting examples where upholding one’s personal accountability facilitated more effective leadership, and demonstrating a lack of personal accountability led in turn to a failure in leadership.]
Reflection: How seriously do I consider and hold myself responsible for my actions? When has the presence or lack of personal accountability on my part had a discernable impact on my life?