The Ashlar Company
For the good of the craft...
And Give Them Proper Instruction
"AND GIVE THEM PROPER INSTRUCTION"
by Alphonse Cerza
We are again indebted to Worshipful Brother
Cerza for providing a thought-provoking paper.
This is one he wrote many years ago, but which
bears the stress of time.
The Worshipful Master is constantly being
reminded by the ritual that he has a solemn du-
ty "to set the Craft to work and give them pro-
per instruction." The two key words ''work
and "instruction'' naturally go together. In re-
cent years, unfortunately, the word ''work"
has been applied only to the ritualistic work of
the Craft. In its broadest sense it really means
all types of Masonic work.
The aim of Freemasonry is to teach men to
live uprightly, do good in the community," and
by their work to set a good example. Since the
word "mason" implies work and Freemasonry
glorifies the dignity of work, we can reasonably
assume that the Craft should devote its atten-
tion to the kind of work which will help fulfill
There is no question that the Masonic ritual
is the foundation of the Craft. In it we find the
message that Freemasonry has for the can-
didate, its philosophy, and its moral teachings.
If one knows these lessons fully and complete-
ly, he is indeed a wise man. Too many of us are
concerned more with perfection of the words
rather than securing a full understanding of the
spirit and the meaning of the ritual.
Let us not make the mistake of believing
that the ceremony of initiation makes a man a
Mason. True, this ceremony is vital and
necessary, but unless the lessons of the
ceremony and the spirit of the ritual is
understood it is nothing. For example, for hun-
dreds of years in the ancient world there were a
number of associations that we now call the
Ancient Mysteries. These organizations had a
number of things in common. One element
stands out above all others: the belief that the
ceremony of the Mystery purified the can-
date. This basic belief more than any other fac-
tor brought these organizations to an end. Let
us learn one lesson from this page of history:
~he ceremonies of the three degrees are of no
value unless they are understood by the can-
didate and are grafted into everyday life.
An informed and enlightened membership
is a better and more successful one. This is not
idle talk. Brother William H. Knutt, in 1952, at
the Mid-West Conference on Masonic Educa-
tion, gave a report in which it was clearly shown
that when the great depression of the thirties
came along, the jurisdictions in which the Craft
had been offering educational programs lost
the least number of members.
The Craft should be put to WORK. That
there be perfection in the ritual, that members
receive instruction in the ceremonies of the
Craft, and that our degree work be retained is
of vital importance. No fault can be found with
the ritualistic work for it is the foundation of
our Order. Fault should be found with the view
that we stop our efforts with the conferring of
the degrees. We are amiss in our duty to the
Craft when we do not properly prepare our can-
didates and then abandon the newly-made
Mason to his own devices. Lodges that devote
their entire time to conferring degrees will soon
find that quantity is not a substitute for quality.
The quality of the membership is determined
not only by the careful screening of applicants
for the degrees but also in making the new
member Mason in fact. This can be done by
putting the new Mason to work.
What his work shall be must be determined
by the Worshipful Master. While the new
member is receiving his degrees someone should
try to ascertain his likes, his dislikes, his hob-
bies, his aptitudes, and his inclinations. If he
has a fondness for ritualistic work, by all means
put him to work in that field. If he likes to read
introduce him to Masonic literature. If he likes
to speak why not encourage him to become a
Masonic speaker? All this effort will help make
this member a better Mason for he will be
doing what he likes. And the Craft will profit
One method of discovering the talents of a
member is a questionnaire. Each member is
asked to answer certain questions so that the
lodge may have information on his hobbies,
whether he plays a musical instrument, likes to
sing, is interested in amateur theatricals or has
other interests. Thus the aptitudes, the likes,
the inclinations of the members are ascertained.
A resourceful Worshipful Master, by the use of
the cards, can put practically every member to
work at some time or other on a project to his
liking. (A sample form can be found in the
M.S.A. Digest, "Think Tank for Junior
Wardens . ")
The matter of giving the Craft "proper in-
struction" can take many forms. Each method
should be used to make sure that the Craft does
receive proper instruction.
Investigation Committee. Masonic instruc-
tion can start with the investigation committee.
The applicant for the degrees can be told about
our Masonic homes, about our Masonic
charitable activities, and he should be given a
booklet explaining the fundamental principles
of the Craft. (See STB, 5/83)
Candidate Booklet. Many Grand Lodges
have prepared a series of booklets for the use of
the lodges while the candidate is taking the
degrees. These booklets can serve a useful pur-
pose if they are placed in the hands of the can-
didates and meetings are held to discuss the
material in this manner it can be ascertained if
the new member is reading the booklets. It will
also give him an opportunity to ask questions
that have arisen in his mind.
Posting the Candidate. The member who
posts the candidate performs a most important
function. He can render a real service if he will
also discuss with the candidate the booklet he is
supposed to be reading at that particular time.
Discussion Groups. Discussion groups may
be organized on the District level. They should
be established primarily for the candidates, but
all members should be encouraged to take part.
The group could meet at different lodges in the
district in accordance with a pre-arranged
schedule. This would also help to encourage
more attendance by members and will bring the
lodges in the District closer together.
Speakers. A list of speakers should be
developed in each District so that they may be
available for the lodges in the District as occa-
sions arise. It may be discovered that there is
among the members a real student who can
from time to time make some valuable con-
tributions to Masonic thinking.
Book Clubs. Where there is a group of
Masons that like to read, one inexpensive way
to read Masonic books is to have each member
of the group buy a book and then exchange
books. In this way each member, for the price
of one book, will have the opportunity to read
as many books as there are members in the
Study Clubs. If we can have successful
ritualistic clubs, why can't we have successful
Masonic study clubs? That the ritualistic clubs
have done much to perfect the ritualistic work
of many members is well known. The same
could be done with groups that are desirous of
studying Masonic literature, history, and other
Research Lodges. There are a number of
research lodges in the United States. The name
is somewhat misleading. These lodges are really
Masonic literary societies. Their main purpose
is to study the history of the Craft and to issue
reports on various phases of Freemasonry. (A
listing of U.S. Research Lodges is available
Undoubtedly, there are many ways of set-
ting the Craft to work and giving them proper
instruction. Only a few of these are discussed
The ancient ceremonies of the Craft should
not be set aside. The basic laws of the Craft
should not be changed. The times, however,
call for a re-evaluation of the procedures of
the Craft in fulfilling its part of the life of the
community. What we need is more well-
informed Masons. This can be done by proper
instruction and by putting every member to
work at a task that pleases him.
Worshipful Brother Cerza resides at 237
Millbridge Road, Riverside, Illinois 60546.
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