Bro. Jon Patrick Sage
The continuous improvement, the building of our Masonic edifice, is what should occupy the majority of our time as Masons. By doing this work to ourselves, with our bodies as living stones, we are not acting in a selfish manner. This is because, quite simply, if we are to improve ourselves, we will naturally contribute to the improvement of those around us. However, it is impossible to contribute to the improvement of anyone or anything unless you- yourself- are first grounded in reality, and aiming towards that perfection which, though unattainable in this lifetime, is still the laudable pursuit.
Consider the ashlars: there is a rough one, as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state; then, there is the perfect ashlar, which has arrived at that state of perfection, which we all hope to arrive at, by its builders own endeavors, a virtuous education, and the blessings of God. Of the two stones, both began as rough ashlars, and before those were brought free from the mass of stone- as a rock formation, possibly as bedrock- but now, one is more advanced. The question now becomes by what model we fashion our rough ashlars into perfect ones. At this point, it is important to remember that the operative builders of old would have wanted the perfect ashlars to be somewhat, if not entirely, uniform in nature; for the simple purpose of creating true walls and other structures. If they were to build with stones of varying dimensions and quality, the overall outcome of the building would almost certainly be called into question. As such, it follows that there is a model for all of us modern day operatives to fashion our living stones.
Although the investigating committee may be the first real glimpse that a candidate perceives as members of a Lodge… of Masons, and as the Worshipful Master obligates and then brings him to Light… These individuals may or may not be the ones who offer a model for learning, a method and a means for each new Brother to find and utilize his own personal blueprints for the fashioning and refining of his own rough ashlar into a perfect. The mentor, and other elder members of any Lodge, are to be those models! If this were not true, then how- without examples of prime-time Masonic behavior, can we ever expect the newly made Mason to begin to grow, to build, to chisel perfect sides and to make true the corners of his now improving ashlar. The true teaching of mouth to ear are essential in the beginning stages of any Masonic edifice.
It is also the responsibility of the Mentor, to not only teach, but to begin to know, on a spiritual and Brotherly level, the new Brother. Without this understanding, the Mentor might very well, and very easily, steer a Brother in a skewed direction. Creating, in effect, a warped ashlar, which bends and twists according to the teachings laid down by that Mentor, and which would not necessarily adhere to the usages of our Fraternity, or fit the individual needs and/or capabilities of that student.
Consider that notion. The job of the Mentor is NOT only to teach and make certain the memorization of Ritual!!! The job of a Mentor is to make the Ritual able to be understood, to enable the newly made Mason to become receptive to our teachings, and then, somewhere along the way, to be memorized. Without understanding, there is no substance. If any have ever heard a Brother in Lodge give a lecture, with his mouth firing out the words as a machine gun would, it does not take too long to understand two things.
1.) That particular Mason has either lost the meaning of the Words contained in the lecture, and/or he never really understood the meanings and applications of the words in question. Instead, he is now just spitting them out as quickly as possible, as a memorized piece, so that he may have “participated” in that degree Work.
2.) That particular Mason does NOT need to be a Mentor. In fact, someone should probably Mentor him! Indeed, at this point, and under this type of lens, it becomes apparent that memorization is NOT enough to claim to know the Work. Memorization is purely superficial. We want for our Masonic edifice to be sturdy, strong, and true; much more than a fascia of beautiful rhetoric.
The Mentor, and the Ritualist (who may be a “Public Mentor”), should strive for their contributions to be memorized, AND conversational! The lectures, any and ALL lectures, if done properly, could – on their own, stand as examples of Masonic Education. If you doubt me, read the “Letter G”, and then imagine the number of Brethren in YOUR home Lodge who, if it were read to them slowly and with purpose, would nearly certainly admit that they had, in spite of sitting through many FC degrees, never really “heard” the whole lecture! The Letter G is but one example, but if it were slowly and methodically pared down, a beautiful picture of the rise of civilization, the study of the arts, human behavior, and praise of the Deity would become as evident as the clear blue sky. However, too often we hear that, and other lectures given so quickly (and so badly), that the meaning is lost in the rush to be finished.
Teach the Ritual to be memorized, but also that it be understood. Then, go a step or two farther, READ those “extra” lectures, those beyond the “Working Lecture” to your charge, allow him to begin to learn to wade out into the not so obvious areas of Masonic philosophy, understanding the language, learning the prerogative behind the wording and structure. For a new Brother, the Monitors that they receive are written out, in something other than cipher… But, it is still necessary for them to understand the Landmarks, the several lectures… let them read the graveside prayer, the Apron lecture… If you have a copy of the Masonic Memorial Service, read that to them. Coupled together, the Apron lecture and Masonic Memorial drive home a powerful message, having to do with every single one of our principles and the Tenets of our Profession.
As each Builder, Operative and Speculative, endeavors to erect his building agreeable to the designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe, in the Book of Life; we, as Mentors, must also offer a blueprint to be used by our New and/or uninformed Brethren, to view and to then begin to fashion their ashlars. Without any example, and certainly without any kind of worthwhile Masonic example set forth by the Brethren of the Lodge, that newly made Mason has little chance of finding his way… even though he has received Light! Indeed, as was the case at the beginning of the World, the Light is but a beginning, with all learning and growth taking place after that original and beautiful break from the darkness!