OUR MODEL LODGE
 
THE MASONIC REVIEW - 1854
 
Perfection and human nature are, unhappily, inconsistencies; but
the more humanity strives to be better than it is, the less do we
suffer from the consequences of this inconsistency. Masonry is one
of the means whereby man may be exalted to a deeper sense of the
responsibilities of his life, and led to study more carefully the part
he is called upon to play in the varied theatre of the world's history.
 
Nothing, however, that is truly important, can retain its position if
it be' treated as a matter of indifference. If Masonry possesses the
powers we claim for it, viz., of elevating the character, of teaching
man to cling to man, not only for his own sake, but for that of his
neighbors, and of ripening the moral as well as the intellectual
faculties, it is clear that the duties of the Lodge-room are of a more
serious character, and that to be a "bad Mason," is to be a most
formidable and mischievous stumbling-block to the social welfare
of man.
 
In a word, the Master of a Lodge is, to no small extent, a custos
morum, and although kindliness and forbearance should be the first
promptings of a Mason's heart, a stern regard for propriety should
never be lost sight of, even for a moment. Let us, from some
careful observation of masonic matters, in a variety of quarters,
state candidly, but without the smallest desire to wound the
feelings of any one - still less of a masonic brother - what the
errors in practice are which we believe to be the chief drawbacks to
our possessing a " Model Lodge," such as every loyal and upright
Mason would wish to point to as the safest and truest of landmarks.
 
The first evil against which we must protest, is the admission of
very young men into Masonry, with little or no scrutiny as to
whether they possess the disposition likely to reflect credit upon
the Craft, or whether their position and prospects are likely to be
improved or deteriorated by their association with a public body. It
may seem a startling expression, when we insinuate that Masonry
can "deteriorate" any one; but it is a statement too frequently borne
out by facts to be easily disproved. A neglect of other pursuits,
necessary to the welfare, if not inseparable from the actual duties
of the individual, frequently leads to serious mischief; and
Masonry, fascinating as a study, becomes a dangerous quicksand
to those whose juvenile enthusiasm runs far ahead of their
discretion.
 
Moreover, there is another evil in close connection with the one of
which we are speaking, we mean the natural tendency among
young men to join Masonry, because they possess many friends
who have done so, and the indirect "proselytism" thence arising. It
too frequently happens; that the good nature of one brother
prevents him discouraging a friend from joining, who, though
perhaps free from positive disqualifications, possesses little that
should recommend him to such a society. The very delicacy of
feeling which must at all times influence our conduct, where the
ballot-box is concerned, should not operate exclusively; nor should
our willingness to see new brethren among us, and our anxiety that
no proper-minded man should be debarred from sharing in our
cherished pursuits, suffer us to degenerate into a state of laxity,
which may render it difficult to impose a proper check, even when
the necessity for so doing becomes so painfully evident.
 
Another evil, springing out of the first, is the system of taking
office in many Lodges. Young men are proverbially enthusiastic;
but this enthusiasm is their most dangerous, as well as their most
important characteristic. To our own mind, the steps to office in
Masonry should be so gradual, as to insure sound knowledge in
every department of the Lodge work, the lectures, &c. Nor is this
all that is required. The Master of a Lodge ought to possess a tact
and delicacy in his manner of .regulating the business, and
directing the subordinate officers, which can only be found in one
who has "worked up" steadily and progressively; not in one whose
money and influence have been considered, rather than his
aptitude, or who has perhaps been guilty of culpable and
mischievous neglect of other duties, in order to revel in the glories
of a Provincial apron, or a Past Master's jewel.
 
Such hasty promotion is not only injurious to the brethren, who are
thus thrust forward, but is inconsistent with the sound government
of a Lodge, or the fair advancement of the quieter and more
steady-working Masons. Unquestionably, many a fine young
fellow carries off the "chair" with a dash and brilliancy which it is
ever pleasant to witness, but in the deeper duties-of the office, in
the discrimination of proper objects for Masonry's greatest work,
her charities - in the etiquette, without which no society of
"gentlemen at heart" can be rightly maintained - and in that rigid
impartiality which should be the brightest light in the code of
masonic morality - young men, can scarcely hope to be grounded.
Four or five years' probation, if not a longer period, should be
required for every Master of a Lodge, except in the unfortunate
cases where the want of competent candidates renders such an
exclusive system impossible.
 
There is no question that both, practices, viz., the admission of
very youthful candidates, and the rapid promotion to office, are
favorable to the financial welfare of Masonry, and that its best
purposes are in some wise furthered by permitting some degree of
indulgence on both heads. But the mischief utterly counterbalances
the good. Not only does mistaken enthusiasm usurp the place of
real and steady, because gradually acquired knowledge, but the
work of the Lodge degenerates into a mere amusement, and,
eventually, into little else than a means of spending time which is
perhaps required for other occupations.
 
Besides this, there is a still more serious defect inherent in this
system of early taking office, viz., that it leads to young men, even
of promising abilities and superior education, confining themselves
to the mere getting up of set formularies, without ever diving into
the many subjects of deep and varied interest with which Masonry
is concerned. Fine as are the formularies (especially as developed
in the lectures, it is as great a mistake to suppose that the
enlightened study of Masonry ends with them, as it would be to
attempt to neglect them. They are the Alpha but not the Omega, of
Masonry. The whole history of secret societies - viewed, not
through the distorted medium of those who scoff at every thing in
the world of the ancients, and of our own forefathers - the progress
of art, as fostered by those who had a common interest in the
retention of a common secret; and the no less interesting, but more
painful and suggestive vicissitudes of the private life of public
men; such are but a few of the many studies which Masonry should
lead us to cultivate, if we would be thought "good Masons," in the
truest sense of the words. The Lodges of instruction on the
continent, take a wider range than those of our own country, and
instead of contenting themselves with the plain routine already laid
down, the brethren are glad to tax their own powers, and to bring
forward, or point out the sources of, fresh information in every
point to which their reading and reflection has enabled them to
furnish illustration. The same attempt has been recently made in
the "United Lodge of Instruction" at Oxford, and with a success
that seems likely to increase and fructify to the good of Masonry,
and the fair improvement of the brethren.
 
In connection with this important question, we must protest against
the habit of crowding too much business into a single evening,
thereby rendering the omission of the charges, and sometimes of
other interesting parts of the ceremony, almost unavoidable. Such
practices are not only unconstitutional in themselves, but deaden
the otherwise powerful impression of Masonic ceremonies. A thing
incompletely done, is always unsatisfactory; and, for this very
reason, the work at "Lodges of Emergency" is not unfrequently
better done than at the regular meetings, and conveys greater and
more lasting feelings of pleasure to the candidate. However
agreeable it may be to find Masonry on a perpetual and steady
increase, we .must still feel that too many initiations and other
ceremonies in the same evening, are rather a proof of the
persevering and praiseworthy patience of the worshipful Master
and officers, than a proof of the steady good management, which is
certain in its very slowness, and which works its way through
difficulties and prejudice without ever periling its credit by
rashness and impatience.
 
As a rule, we cannot help thinking that no candidate ought to be
initiated on the same night on which he is balloted for. We
remember being at a London Lodge, where the Master had actually
forgotten the name of one of the parties who was to be proposed,
and where no one present had any personal knowledge of either.
The mistake was rectified by the arrival of the proposer; but there
was not only much unnecessary delay, but a general feeling that
the proceedings exhibited carelessness - an impression heightened
by the fact of two or three excellent brethren walking about the
room, and chatting sotto voce during the sublime ceremony of the
third degree.
 
There is another matter to which we must make strong exception -
we mean the formation of small Lodges for the sake of thrusting
brethren into office, making them, in fact, a sort of escape - valves
for those who are in too great a hurry to assume the "pomp and
circumstance" of past officers. It is against all reason that a Lodge
should be held in the upper room of a tavern, in a village which
does not contain more than two or three Masons, and that whole
parties of the brethren should file away from a neighboring town to
play at office, when perhaps there may not be a single initiation
throughout the year. We have too many incompetent "past"
officers already; and it is to be feared, that for every really good
working Mason, to whom these "training stables" give an
opportunity of gaining his wished for dignity, we have half a dozen
who would never have been invested with jewel or collar, had they
depended on their own work. Moreover, these minor Lodges give
too many opportunities for canvassing, and indirect influence in
the obtaining of office. They also lead to a good deal of indirect
expense, both of time and money; and although they give the
opportunity for an occasional pleasant reunion, we must feel that
the good of which they are productive ends there. They have
neither funds adequate to maintaining the dignity of the Lodge
room, nor do they contribute efficiently to the great work of
charity, which should be the very first thought in the mind of every
brother, and to which all other considerations should be sacrificed.
 
In reference to the performance of the ceremonies, we can of
course write but little, and what we have already said as to the
fitness of candidates for office, embodies our wishes on the
subject. The musical question of the ceremony deserves a brief
notice, especially as it is the department most neglected in too
many of our Lodges.
 
Music has ever been a leading feature in the ceremonies of
initiation throughout the world. Indeed, the close connection
between such ceremonies and the rites of public worship, is
sufficient to explain the reason for the respect shown to this moat
charming of the liberal arts. In Masonry the organ has deservedly
been selected as the instrument most complete in itself, and moat
expressive of the feelings which should accompany our entrance
into a sacred and solemn obligation. No worthy brother can
remember, without feelings of awe, the impression which the deep
sounds of the organ produced upon him at his initiation, nor can he
deny that, few and simple as were those strains, they formed a
worthy introduction to the ritual that followed.
 
Many of the London Lodges possess excellent instruments, but
some are utterly unprovided, while, in others, the organ is so like
what is popularly described as a "box of whistles," that it adds but
a doubtful effect to the ceremony. It is hoped that some of the
prettiest Lodge-rooms in the kingdom, belonging to large bodies of
the most zealous and steady working Masons that could ever be
desired, will ere long possess instruments, worthy not only the
general excellence of their arrangements, but of the rising musical
taste, which every year produces so large a number of
accomplished amateurs. A moderate private subscription would,
we believe, enable sufficient money to be raised for the
reconstruction or thorough repair of many of the present bad
instruments, without trespassing on the general funds of the
Lodges to any undue extent. We sincerely hope, ere long, to hear
the realization of our wishes in many of our provincial towns:-
F.M.Q.Rev.
 
 
THE LODGE ROOM.
 
"The Masons on the continent of Europe have a prescribed form or
ritual of building, according to whose directions it is necessary that
every hall for masonic purposes shall be erected. A Lodge room
should always, if possible, be situated due east and west. This
position is not absolutely necessary, and yet it is so far so, as to
demand that some sacrifices should be made, if possible to obtain
so desirable a position. It should also be isolated, where it is
practicable, from all surrounding buildings, and should always be
placed in an upper story. No Lodge should ever be held on the
ground floor." - Mackey.
Masonry is one of the most sublime and perfect institutions that ever
was formed for the advancement of happiness and general good of mankind;
creating, in all its varieties, universal benevolence and brotherly love.
It holds out allurements so captivating as to inspire the Brotherhood with emulation to
deeds of glory, such as must command, throughout the world, veneration and
applause, and such as must entitle those who perform them to dignity and
respect. It teaches us those useful, wise and instructive doctrines upon which
alone true happiness is founded; and at the same time affords those easy paths
by which we attain the rewards of virtue; it teaches us the duties which we
owe to our neighbor, never to injure him in any one situation, but to conduct
ourselves with justice and impartiality; it bids us not to divulge the mystery to the
public, and it orders us to be true to our trust, and above all meanness and
dissimulation, and in all our vocations to perform religiously that which we ought to do
- DUKE OF SUSSEX.