The video for this rant can be found here: https://youtu.be/N0gvwBFsxuU
Masonic lodges are tender creatures, swift to feel the bite of frost. They require more attention and care than the most demanding of flowers. They grow slowly, wither swiftly, and, even when having survived decades or even centuries, are quick to fade if neglected. Nothing is more poisonous to a lodge than disharmony. When the members of the lodge forget they are brothers, bound together by sincere ties of affection, the lodge begins to die.
It is so easy for a man to simply decide it is too much effort to come home from work, change into a suit, and go to lodge. It is so easy for a man to decide that the lodge will do well enough without him. It is so easy for a man to slide from regular attendance at the meetings of his lodge, to occasional attendance, then rare attendance, and then not attending at all. And it is so much easier to do this when disharmony gives him reason to feel unwelcome in his lodge or uneasy about its proceedings.
Harmony, we are taught as Masons, is the strength of all institutions and especially of our beloved Fraternity. It is because of the desire to preserve harmony and order that the rules of parliamentary procedure were developed. In the British House of Commons, the distance between the benches for members of the government and the benches for the opposition are said to be just slightly more than two sword lengths apart, testimony to a time when debate on legislation might easily be pursued by means even more cutting than English wit.
We are only human and it is inevitable that even in our lodges we will sometimes disagree. Some may wish to carpet the lodge room while others want it to be tiled. Some may wish to have those old benches upholstered while others, their eye on the lodge’s account balance, want to put that off for a few more years. Brothers can disagree. Brothers do disagree. What matters is how we disagree.
Simple measure like addressing all comments to the chair are meant keep matters impersonal and focused on issues rather than people. The elaborate courtesies and forms observed in Houses of Parliament, in the US Congress, and in our lodges are meant to remind us to keep our passions within due bounds.
In legislative bodies, it is said that the rules exist to ensure the minority is heard and that the majority prevails. This is, to an extent, true in Masonic lodges as well. But we have the additional concern of ensuring the harmony and brotherly love prevail. For this reason, the Master of the lodge is given, in many jurisdictions, extraordinary powers to preserve the harmony of his lodge. No legislative body would tolerate their presiding officer having such powers. But in a lodge, where our care is not just for the rules but for our brothers, it is entirely right that the Master should be empowered to act to preserve the dignity and the goodwill of the members of his lodge.
The spirit of a lodge, its egregore, if you like, suffers greatly when voices are raised and anger stirs. A lack of good order, a failure to understand how a topic is debated and voted upon, can lead to confusion that causes hurt feelings. Poor communication increases the chances of hurt feelings. A lack of clarity in how matters are conducted increases the chances that someone will feel that they were treated unfairly. Good order, therefore, helps preserve harmony and protects the egregore of the lodge.
And, let’s face it, knowing the proper procedure and proper phrasing allows us to look informed, intelligent and capable. And isn’t that something we all desire?
Because lodges must exist in the profane world, with its concerns over real estate and paying electric bills, there will always be difficult issues pounding at the door. We should tile our lodges, however, against the contentiousness that marks the profane way of conducting business. Let us observe the correct forms. Let us offer the proper courtesies. And while we cannot always avoid having some of our brothers be on the “losing side” of a vote, let us remember that we are brothers and act with care, compassion, consideration, and genuine love towards all those with whom we share the title “Mason.”