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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Importance of Visitation: Bro Charles Harper

I wonder how many Brothers may realize the impact of that right for a Master Mason in having the ability to visit a Master Mason’s Lodge in a foreign jurisdiction, or what that statement truly denotes. “To work in foreign countries and earn a Master’s wage.”

In the days of the operative Mason, before speculative Freemasonry was organized in 1717, it is taught to us that an operative mason was taught the trade of a stone mason by becoming an apprentice to a journeyman. After his apprenticeship was over and he had mastered his trade, he was given the password and grip to prove he was a journeyman to other stonemasons. He was therefore free to travel to foreign countries and earn a wage. The grip and password weeded out those who had not mastered his craft from gaining employment under false pretense. Thus, the integrity of the trade was protected.

“The Freemasons worked according to a set of rules and regulations of their own, centuries old, among them being Landmarks, and such questions of organization or of work arose in any given Lodge were settled according to those rules; and since the same rules were in force wherever Freemasons worked, and each Apprentice and Fellow was under an oath never to violate them, it was this body of rules which gave its unity and consistency to a Fraternity which had no national organization or national officers. And until the fourteenth century, they did not even have permanent local organizations, and which at the same time preserved its rules and trade secrets in the memory of its members and taught them to Apprentices by word of mouth.”- [The Masonic Trowel]

Because the stonemason was able to travel away from his homeland in his protected trade, it enabled him to learn differences in how he labored compared to other workman in other lodges in other countries. Although basic knowledge was similar, the application of formation of cathedrals had small differences from one area to another depending on the architect and his training. The structure was engineered with the basic principals of weight distribution with right angles, horizontals, and perpendiculars. But, the sculpture and layout varied according to the vision laid out on the trestle board for each building by the designer.

A humble master, who always sought to better his skill, enjoyed traveling. It allowed him to expand his skills by obtaining knowledge of techniques that were different than the ones he had already mastered. So, by traveling, versus staying in one area his whole career, he could better appreciate the potential of the creativity that dwelled inside him. He could better express his ability and individuality by the reflection of his collective intake of the many ways of creating a masterpiece he witnessed in so many other different places.

 We, as speculative masons, are afforded the same ability and privilege. Through our system of defining regularity and establishing recognition with foreign jurisdictions, we are taught how to prove ourselves as master‘s of our speculative trade. The continued use of passwords, grips and add to that signs and dues cards, allows us the opportunity to visit other Lodges throughout the world and experience the differences in ritual and the varied personalities of different Lodges.

This experience of visitation benefits us in many great ways through the use of reflection. The journey of betterment of a man in the application of the lessons we learn in Freemasonry is only possible when he reflects on his past experiences in life with trusted others and compares them with the ideals of what he envisions himself to become. But, if he only exposes himself to only his Lodge and the members contained therein, the reflection of his behavior is biased. There will come a point when you will realize that there is no outside input to test if any changes in your thoughts or actions in being a mason are within bounds of ALL mankind.

 Although we are not stonemasons, roughing designs out of stone with the physical tools of this tradesman, we continue to shape our spiritual self with the symbolism of the tools this workman used. Each Lodge uses the application of symbolism in ever slightly different ways. It may be the way that a lecturer might deliver a charge, or the passion a Worshipful Master who gives an obligation that might charge you to make a change in yourself that had not occurred to you before. You may share some insight of what a certain meaning in Freemasonry may mean to you. A more experienced Mason may happen to point out something that hadn’t occurred to you. Or, you may teach an older Mason something he had not thought of before by the benefit of fresh perspective.

All of these examples of the ability to share thoughts and experiences for the purpose of becoming a better man are made possible by Lodge visitation. We must not allow ourselves to become comfortable in staying within the confines of just our Lodge. It truly limits our exposure to great learning and expanded fraternal friendships. To travel in foreign countries IS to visit other Lodges than your own. To earn a master’s wage is to gain knowledge and experience due to visiting these other Lodges and reflecting on the shared information in your visit. This enables you to gain a more rounded insight into your own thoughts and actions. Which, the result of an improved self is benefited not by just yourself, but your relationship with your family, friends and even your co-workers.

 Remember, the vary nature of a Lodge is for like minded men to come together for the purpose of the promotion of shared thoughts and ideas in a trusted confined space. To know that you can share your opinions with strangers, of whom actually aren’t because we are all bound by the same obligation of assistance to a worthy Brother Mason, is one of THE most valuable privileges a Master Mason can take full advantage.

So, the next time you are out of town on a business trip and find yourself flipping the remote in your hotel room, find the local Lodge and give them a call to visit. You might find, as I often do, that the fraternal bond of being a Freemason allows an instant connection with Brothers you have never met before. It seems that every time I visit another Lodge, I meet Brothers for the first time that feels like I’ve known them forever. And before long, you like I, will find a Brother, a friend and a home away from home in every place you visit. For no good man is ever traveling alone.


Humbly submitted,

Brother Charles Harper
Tupelo Masonic Lodge No. 318 F&AM
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