Here is the first "Masonic Musings" from me following a year off from the LEO role whilst I was engaged in "other Masonic duties". My sincere thanks go to WBro Paul Matthews for the great job he performed by filling in for me whilst I occupied the Chair of King Solomon - much appreciated Paul.
There has been some recent discussion about the use of the honorific title of "Worshipful" when referring to the Master of a Freemasons Lodge - with particular reference to this ancient usage being a potential bar to some prospective candidates. The logic behind the argument is that some candidates of specific religious beliefs can worship only one god and cannot in any form or manner be required to "worship" a man - regardless of his status in life. There is no doubt that this type of argument was partially behind the 2004 decision by all the various jurisdictions of magistrates and district courts in Australia to remove all references to magistrates as "Your Worship" and replace the title with a national wide title of "Your Honour". There were certainly numerous cases of objections by different ethnic groups (some recently arrived in Australia and others more long term established) to the use of the term "Your Worship" and the change was seen by some commentators as being deliberately aimed at pacifying these groups.
We, in Freemasonry, however still use the honorific "Worshipful" in our traditional ranks and forms of address within the Lodge system. In doing so, I raise the question, are we inadvertently alienating some potential candidates from joining our ranks because the true meaning of the term is misunderstood or misinterpreted?
The following short article was written in December 2009 by an American brother, WBro Ed King PM and provides (what I consider) an excellent summary of the use of the word. Bearing in mind, most of the objections in the USA to the use of the term come from a group of anti-Masons who are primarily (and I am generalising here) from what would be referred to as the extreme right wing of the Christian community.
Enjoy - Fraternal regards,|
Neil Cheney IPM71
Lodge Education Officer
The Worshipful Master
The Master of a Lodge - who, when addressed, is given the honorific title of
"Worshipful" - presides over the meeting of Masons.
His duties in the functioning of a lodge are quite similar to that of the President of the local
chapter/branch of any other state or provincial organization except as explained below.
Anti-Masons argue: "No man can serve two masters...."
Religious Intolerants try to make much out of the title "Worshipful" arguing in turn that Masons:
* are required to do the Master's bidding in all things;
* are worshipping a man rather than Jesus;
* or/and are part of some sort of cult where a 'worshipful master' presides.
The further argument is taken out of context from the Biblical translation found in Matthew 6:24
"No one can serve two Masters; for he will hate the one and love the other or
he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."
Of course, the "master" referred to in the Bible was one who had
total control over the life of the servant/slave.
Such is FAR from the situation in Freemasonry!
At the outset, let's be very clear: the term is one of respect and has nothing whatsoever
to do with 'worshipping' of an individual OR with 'serving' him in any way.
Used in Freemasonry, it's reference is to an ancient word usage with
a meaning similar to the honorific "Your Honour".
Use of the word 'worshipful' continues today in titles such as
"The Worshipful Lord Mayor of Dublin"
- who is not worshipped in the traditional sense nor is he necessarily a secular Lord
- and is certainly not a Lord in a religious sense by anyone's stretch of imagination.
One must wonder why the religious intolerants, most of whom fall back
on that Biblical phrase aren't out in force to have the titles of
various government officials changed after these several centuries.
We'd also suggest that anyone who holds two jobs would have the same conundrum
- if this foolish interpretation were applied to more than just Freemasonry.
It would probably be uncharitable to suggest that many of those
who spend their hours on the internet most likely don't have two jobs
(and perhaps not even ONE!) so they simply don't 'get it'.
Obey your Master!
Masons are required to obey the Master of a Lodge about as much as but no more
than any member of any voluntary association or organization
is required to obey the President of that organization.
There is nothing more and nothing less involved.
Can the President of the local softball club order you to commit murder?
Of course not - and neither can the Master of a Lodge!
Can the Chairman of your Community Club direct how you
should live your daily life? Of course not.
Would he or she compel you to do anything against your
religious beliefs or patriotic intentions? Hardly....
What about that claim that Masons are 'worshipping' a man rather than Jesus
- as some of the dogmatic 'religious intolerants' would assert?
Just as you wouldn't worship the president of the local condominium group,
neither would any Mason 'worship' the person who is essentially the 'president'
of their lodge - and then only for a year or two at the most.
(Just think about all the hurt feelings of those who were 'worshipped'
for a few seasons but aren't now. Don't you think they'd be awfully hurt?
It should make you giggle when you actually contemplate the foolishness of it.)
Considered rationally, it's a total non-issue.
It is, however, one of the hooks religious intolerants
will try in order to damage Freemasonry's reputation.
The charges are - simply - foolish.
As anyone who has served as Master of a Lodge, (including yours truly) can assert:
you have only as much power as your own individual personality can bring to bear.
After a year (or perhaps two) the Master leaves office and a replacement is elected,
generally by secret ballot, from amongst the membership.
From then on, the former Master is - in effect - a 'has-been', albeit an appreciated one!*
Didn't get 'worshipped' when he was in office and won't a year later....
"Masonic authority" pertains to lodge matters alone, such as when a lodge meets,
who is eligible for membership, what size and colour apron members can wear, etc.
(And then, such decisions are not made by the Master but are,
rather, governed by written by-laws and prior decisions,
copies of which are available for ANYONE to purchase at nominal prices.
In my jurisdiction, all of the books are available for free online!
"Masonic authority" can not tell you how to run your personal life,
such as what to eat, where to shop, when to sleep,
who to invite over to watch football,
whether to pay your light bill, and so on.
It really is quite that simple - and if you look closely at those making the claim,
they simply cannot provide a single example to support
their misreading of rituals or their flights of fancy.
None of this has ANYTHING to do with controlling another's life.
What it has a LOT to do with, however, is selling books
and videos to the unsuspecting or the gullible.
Neil Cheney IPM|
Lodge Education Officer No 71
8th May 2011