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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Unity (Reprinted with the Author's Permission)

Unity - An Essay
By Joseph F. Giunta, PDDGM
31 January 2012
Some years ago while serving as a District Deputy Grand Master, I was privileged to be an instructor at a Fourth Masonic District Instructional Meeting, at which I addressed the newly elected Lodge Masters in this District. While I was in the process of teaching what I believed those brothers should know, within the very short amount of time allotted for that purpose, a question arose regarding lodge harmony, more specifically how it is achieved. Recognizing the importance of that question and recalling the years I had spent in leadership positions, I devoted precious time to answering it. I went on to explain that we are all obligated to do certain things according to law, and that a Master who leads by exemplifying the law to which we obligated ourselves is a Master who will have harmony, hence unity, in his Lodge. It is this theme of unity that I want to address this evening, based upon law, ritual, landmarks and other Masonic guidelines that have been provided to us over a number of years. Some of what you will hear will be quoted from the Ahiman Rezon. 

Unity has been expressed in a variety of ways, not the least of which are: “United we stand, divided we fall”, and these words from Psalm 133 recited during the circumambulation of the Entered Apprentice Degree: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” From the very beginning of ritual we hear words that should prompt us to direct our inquiries into unity. To achieve unity is to exemplify leadership. To exemplify leadership one must first learn how to follow, and the Masonic learning process can begin by reading the guidelines provided to us by way of our book of constitution and code. 

I believe that some of us are not able to achieve unity, because some of us are not able to define Freemasonry--despite the number of years that we have been members of lodges, or have had the privilege of serving in a variety of positions in those lodges or even by serving as Grand Lodge officers. To some it is an opportunity to serve with humility, to teach with a passion and to believe that the practice of the principles that define our fraternity as they are provided to us is to live a life pleasing to God.  To others it is a social club or an opportunity to glow in the spotlight of ego.  You’ve probably heard the old saying that if you put ten brothers together and ask them to define Freemasonry you will get ten different answers. That should never happen.  In 1939, our Grand Lodge recognized the need to define our Craft and adopted a Declaration of Masonic Principles. That declaration that defines South Carolina Freemasonry can be found beginning on page 486 of the Ahiman Rezon. Those principles tell us: “Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.”  Admittedly, not all of us can afford to make charitable contributions, and our benevolent nature may extend no farther than the inclination to do good.  Masonic education is best accomplished by learned men, who teach those whose intellect and desire to learn are at the same level, which is not always the case.  Where we are a religious Craft, Freemasonry is not a religion. The all-encompassing nature of our Craft, however, does provide an opportunity for each of us to choose his own level of comfort and contribute to the Craft as best we can. That declaration goes on to define the social nature of our fraternity in these words: “It is a social organization only so far as it furnishes additional inducement that men may foregather in numbers, thereby providing more material for its primary work of education, of worship and of charity.”  In that statement is the definition of Masonic social clubs here in South Carolina, which provides the guidelines needed for the writing of club bylaws.

I must admit that my passion for and love of our fraternity has caused me to speak out at times when others were silent, and to invoke the words of the Charge at Closing that makes us responsible to: “remind him of his errors and aid a reformation.”  That Charge is not only a beautiful piece of work, it is also binding upon us. It is a charge! How can we achieve unity if we choose to overlook the mistakes of others, especially when those mistakes violate the law to which we are obligated?  To allow a brother to have his own way just because he exerts the power of ego is to allow our fraternity to become disorganized, thus lacking unity.   And to allow a brother to teach about or act upon what he thinks is a good idea may be allowing that brother an opportunity to violate Masonic law, thus causing disagreement, discontent and disunity, and could subject that well intentioned brother to Masonic disciplinary action that includes expulsion.  I once told a group of Past Masters that I would probably call upon one or more of them for advice while I served as Master of my lodge. I also went on to admonish them that when they came to me with advice they had better have their Masonic references open in their hands. In other words what I wanted them to understand is what I want you to understand that there is only one law to follow. 

Some months back, Right Worshipful Brother Grayson W. Mayfield III wrote an article that asked: Should All Good Men Be Made Masons? In that article he expressed his deep rooted feeling that only those who have the intellectual capacity to understand the nature of the craft by way of its teaching should be initiated into its mysteries.  Needless to say there were and still are some brothers who disagree with that sentiment. In an encyclical letter written by Brother Albert G. Mackey, then Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, there are words that support the Right Worshipful Brother’s opinion. Brother Mackey told us: “Neither is an ignorant or uneducated man desirable as a candidate for our mysteries. Without some intellectual culture it is not likely that he will appreciate the symbolic character of our institution, nor would he be able to become a very useful or honorable member of the craft.” Those words also infer that to admit men simply because they are of a good nature is to cause the fraternity to entertain the notion that we must educate differently in order to accommodate the differences in the educational achievements and intellectual capacities of its membership. To entertain that notion would, by its very nature, cause disunity. 

In the Charge at Closing we are also instructed to: “…be ye all of one mind.” Hence another instance where the need for unity is stressed.  I am going to ask that you review what might be considered the beginning of unity within our fraternity, namely the Twenty-Five Landmarks Of Freemasonry as observed in this Grand Jurisdiction. At the end of those Landmarks is a statement that stresses unity: “These constitute the Landmarks, or as they have sometimes been called, “the body of Masonry”, in which it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make the least innovation.” Those Landmarks unite us, and we are further reminded by way of words taken from the presentation of the Working Tools of the Third Degree, which tell us that we are united as “one sacred band or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist but that noble contention or rather emulation of who can best work and best agree.” Agreement equals unity. 

Above all, unity is stressed by way of our obligation to obey the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge, an obligation taken in the presence of lodge assembled, with our hands on the Holy Bible –an obligation which ends with a promise to remain steadfast and to keep the content of that obligation ever in our senses.  We all made that promise to God Himself by way of these words: “So help me God!”  We therefore obligated ourselves to unity through obedience to established law and promised the Grand Architect that we would ever be faithful to that promise. 

The importance of unity should never overshadow the need to recognize individual talent, nor should that talent be used in an effort to diminish or defeat the principles of a society that has withstood the test of time. Here we find an illustration of the fundamental lesson stressed throughout the teaching of our Craft, the lesson of equilibrium as symbolically represented by the level worn by the Senior Warden.

From the teaching of Freemasonry we hear many references to the number three. We are also prompted to consider the importance of the number one. My guess is that it took only one Mason to influence you to ask for a petition, and on that petition is a question that asks if you believe in the existence of one God. The number one united us from the very beginning, even before any of us was received into the beauty and form of a lodge, and it continues to unite us by inculcating these basic precepts, that there is one God to worship, one law to follow, and one correct way to do things. One equals unity, and unity is not only a hallmark of leadership, it is the key to survival of our beloved craft.

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