Since the beginning of time man has sought
self-improvement and has obtained this in many material ways. His
progress starting with the primitive ages to where we are today is a
clear indication of his struggle. By in large his achievements have been
mostly material and not always attending to inward self-improvement.
In today’s competitive environment individuals are
becoming energised with the prospect of self improvement. In most cases
with the sole purpose of succeeding in business, believing that through
attending courses and seminars they will gain the recognition of their
peers and improve their standing in the community. They turn to these
motivational courses advertised in newspapers such as Dale Carnegie and
others. Unfortunately the feel good factor soon wears off.
The fact that should not be overlooked is that
Freemasonry has been teaching self-improvement for centuries. In
contrast with the short term effects of many of the motivational courses
offer, Freemasonry by contrast is a lifelong process of reinforcement,
repetition and encouragement that takes place every time we initiate,
pass and raise a new member or attend a Masonic meeting.
So, why aren’t people excited about Masonry and
beating down our doors to hear our message? Have we lost the real
"secrets" of our brotherhood? Have we lost the fundamental teaching,
self-improvement through education?
Masonry is like a wallet. You won’t get anything out
of it, unless you put something into it. It all begins with the
individual, He must bring the desire to grow, and must go beyond
memorising ritual to realise fully what that ritual means. The rate an
individual discovers Masonry’s value and accepts them as his life’s
goals differs from person to person. Yet each Brother must become aware
that he makes choices in his life, and that his choices should reflect
his values and personal goals, not so much what others think of him or
wish him to do. Masonry does not tell us what our values are, but causes
us to reflect and discover them for ourselves. This is the foundation on
which other lessons are built. As an Entered Apprentice represents a
youthful man entering the world to become a more active living and
thinking person, he craves direction and "light". In the Degrees, we
symbolically assist with these life’s steps. We spur thought in this
mans groping in his own moral and mental darkness. We help to realise
his own values and point him in a path that leads to duty and God.
On the scale of what individuals have control of, our
own self is the one thing we control the most. People who do not know
themselves and what’s import and to them are not as trustworthy as those
who do, and you cannot mask how well you know yourself. It shows. The
self confident person who knows where he is going and knows what his
values tell him to do in various situations usually exhibit calm in all
situations. Those who are not as sure of themselves do not exhibit this
same kind of calm.
As this type of calm is recognised by others, they
come to depend on this person. He begins to have more influence in his
interpersonal relationships. It all starts with the individual and his
own desire to realise his values. Thus Freemasonry starts in the Entered
Apprentice Degree with the individual asking questions and laying the
required foundation. The purpose of Freemasonry is to teach men to know
and practice their duties to themselves and their fellows the practical
end of the philosophy and knowledge.
We teach ours Masonic lessons by degrees and steps.
These steps, essentially, are to look within; discover your values;
determine to live up to them; and to make all our actions consistent
with these new values. This is known as building a character ethic and a
life’s philosophy that creates sound relationships by practicing right
The symbols of our Degrees have helped the Fraternity
capture important lessons. We should at all times endeavour to expand on
these lessons by adding our personal experience and knowledge It is up
to the individual to apply these principles – live them and share his
own examples of their application. This cycle of learning and then
teaching the lessons reinforces what we have learned. As you explain
something the light becomes even brighter.
Many lecturers in the business world today will have
you believe that time management is a new concept and is usually the
substance of every self-improvement course they offer. Whereas in
Freemasonry we have used the 24 inch Gauge as a key tool to teach us the
to balance our lives.
What are some of the other deeper lessons of our
working tools expressed in lay terms? The Common Gavel represents
moderation, the Plum uprightness, the Square virtue and morality. The
level equality, the trowel spreading good example within the compass of
our circle of influence. In Freemasonry there are numerous other symbols
and allegories, and these are possibilities to consider among deeper
meanings to be discovered by the individual. These teachings are far
from new and it almost seem as if all the manuals written regarding good
corporate governance have been extracted from the ritual and teachings
In Freemasonry, the individual takes an honest look
at himself, maybe for the first time in his life We are accustomed to
turning into what other people think about us, listening to what others
say and how they act towards us. We overlook the fact that this is their
opinion and very well could be wrong. They see our outside. Our vales
are within. We know more about ourselves than these reflections could
possibly capture. It is more important that we act based on our
perception of ourselves. – Our values – rather than what other people
seem to think about us.
As we begin to act based on our solid, self realised
values, and we exhibit a higher level of integrity and maturity. Couple
this with good balance and assumed level of competence in our own
business lives and the trust others place in us will naturally increase.
Our interpersonal circle of influence will enlarge. It doesn’t happen
overnight. Trust is gained by many acts and lost by only one.
The goal of Masonry, then, is truly to make good men
better. If we reach a man in the Degrees and cause him realise his own
values and commit to taking responsibility for them as he makes his
life’s choices, the Masonry has succeeded. But, are those lessons coming
through? Do our members leave our Degrees and get the coaching they need
to embark on this improvement process? Perhaps in some lodges more so
than others. We must never forget, however, that this is the purpose of
the Craft, and it is our obligation to understand and to be even more
dedicated to that purpose than many self-improvement courses sought by
men today. Tested by time and proven by generations of Brethren,
Freemasonry is the best self-help agent available to any good man
seeking to become better.