I FEEL I OWE my readers a profound gratitude for welcoming this website with open arms and for their beautiful comments and questions that come along with the praise.
Both are heartwarming and humbling, a true indication of their belief and confidence to the information I publish, and to my dependability and consistency as both a brother Mason and a writer.
As a matter of policy, I believe those questions should be published as well as the answers, that others with the same queries will be helped.
Please note that, except for the location where the questions originated, the senders’ identifications were intentionally protected to discourage any unfavorable exchange of ideas later.
They are as follows:
Q: What does “a tongue of good report” means? (Newly raised brother, Idaho)
A: Being “under the tongue of good report” is equivalent, in Masonic technical language, to being of good character or reputation.
Q: If “truth” is one of our principal tenets, why not, during the balloting of a candidate, just raise our hands instead of casting balls or cubes in that big shoe box? That way, we’ll know who is disagreeing and why (Upset Uncle, from California, whose nephew was voted out thrice in two years).
A: The secrecy of the ballot is as essential to its perfection as its unanimity or its independence. If the vote were to be given “viva voce,” it is impossible that the improper influences of fear or interest should not sometimes be exerted, and timid members be thus induced to vote contrary to the dictates of their reason and conscience.
Hence, to secure this secrecy and protect the purity of choice, it has been widely established as a usage, not only that the vote shall in these cases be taken by a ballot, but that there shall be no subsequent discussion of the subject.
Not only has no member a right to inquire how his fellows have voted, but it is wholly out of order for him to explain his own vote. And the reason of this is evident.
If one member has a right to rise in his place and announce that he deposited a white ball, then every other member has the same right; and in a Lodge of twenty members, where an application has been rejected by one black ball, if nineteen members state that they did not deposit it, the inference is clear that the twentieth Brother has done so, and thus the secrecy of the ballot is at once destroyed.
The rejection having been announced from the Chair, the Lodge should at once proceed to other business, and it is the sacred duty of the presiding officer peremptorily and at once to check any rising discussion on the subject.
Nothing must be done to impair the inviolable secrecy of the ballot.
There are so many Lodges around where your nephew could be accepted, why stick to just one Lodge!
Q: Which is more correct: Square and Compass, or, Square and Compasses? (A wily Brother, New York)
A: First, let’s differentiate the two: A “Compass” is a device with a needle that points to the magnetic north; A “Compasses” is an instrument used for drawing circles, usually with two legs joined at one end.
As in Operative Masonry, the compasses are used for the admeasurements of the architect’s plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which ensure beauty as well as stability to his work.
So, in Speculative Masonry, is this important implement symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter.
Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only measure of a Mason’s life and conduct. As the Bible gives us light on our duties to God, and the square illustrates our duties to our neighborhood and brother, so the compasses gives that additional light which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves – the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions and keeping our desires within due bounds.
Q: What do you mean by “external qualifications”? (Curious Brother, Philippines)
A: The external qualifications of candidates for initiation are those which refer to their outward fitness, based upon moral and religious character, the frame of body, the constitution of the mind and social position.
Hence they are divided into Moral, Religious, Physical, Mental and Political. The expression in the ritual, that “it is the internal and not the external qualifications that recommend a man to be made a Mason,” it is evident, from the context, refers entirely to “worldly wealth and honors,” which of course, are not to be taken “into consideration in inquiring into the qualification of a candidate.”
Q: What do you mean by foot to foot? (Newly Raised Prince Hall Mason, Arkansas)
A: The old lectures of the last century descanted on the symbolism of foot to foot as teaching us “that indolence should not permit the foot to halt or wrath to turn our steps out of the way; but forgetting injuries and selfish feelings, and remembering that man was born for the aid of his fellow creatures, not for his own enjoyments only, but to do that which is good, we should be swift to extend our mercy and benevolence to all, but more particularly to a brother Mason.”
The present lecture on the same subject gives the same lesson more briefly and more emphatically, when it says, “we should never halt nor grow weary in the services of a brother Mason.”
(to be continued)