Frequently Asked Questions for a Venerable Teacher :
How do you deal with conflict between two brothers (or two sisters or a brother and a sister)?
Although theoretically, there is no real stake in the Masonic approach, it is not uncommon for the climate of a lodge to be disturbed by oppositions between members of the same lodge.
There are generally two kinds of conflicts between members of a lodge :
an inconvenience related to relationships in the secular world for professional or personal reasons
a disappointment secondary to a disagreement in the operation of the lodge.
Before using the procedures provided for by the functioning of Masonic justice, the venerable can and must try to find an accommodation that mitigates the existing animosity and allows true conciliation.
This supposes for the venerable one :
to be careful not to encourage the emergence of clans,
to be vigilant and not to leave the beginning of a conflict unspoken,
to listen to the grievances and understand the reality of the conflict,
to bring the "belligerents" together and encourage the resumption of dialogue.
In many cultures, conflict resolution involves a ritual of forgiveness, which involves acknowledging the offence that may have been committed and accepting the request for forgiveness.
This ritual does not exist, strictly speaking, in Masonic rituals, although it is alluded to in some passages. It is for the venerable to "stage" to find the serenity necessary for the functioning of a lodge.
How to enforce the ritual?
Respect for the ritual should not be a problem since everything is written down and it is enough to follow it; and yet it is not uncommon for sisters and/or brothers to come out of certain outfits with the unpleasant impression that the venerable one has not been able to control its unfolding.
Several conditions facilitate a good respect of the ritual :
make sure that all officers know the ritual and do not discover it at the last moment; the ideal is to ask the officers to memorize their interventions as in the emulation rite; this effort of memory would deserve to be more frequent in the other rites;
Do not hesitate to rehearse;
not to put on the agenda questions that could be dealt with in other bodies (commissions, officers' college, master's dress, committee meetings, etc.).
limit speaking on the columns: these should only concern important subjects that cannot be dealt with otherwise.
suggest that "protocolary" interventions with its ready-made formulas are not indispensable to Masonic reflection.
to create a climate of reflection and meditation.
What is expected of me?
The Venerable One in the Lodge is the leader of the Lodge group. As such, he (she) must accept that everything is expected of him (her) and in particular to master the 10 rules of operation of the group to be able to create a climate conducive to reflection and meditation.
It is not an easy exercise although unlike other groups, the lodge benefits with the ritual of a more "easy" mode of operation.
Frequently asked questions for an officer :
How do I live up to my office?
Each function in a lodge has its importance both during and outside the dress code; among the most important are the following:
- the speaker must be familiar with the general rules of his or her obedience, the rules of procedure of his or her lodge, and also the general philosophy of the Masonic approach and the specificity of Masonic work, because as a last resort, it is he or she who can eventually correct errors of interpretation; this is a very important position which requires real experience.
- The expert is especially responsible for the respect of the ritual; he (she) must therefore know it very well and take steps to ensure that it is respected;
- the supervisors outside of their role as trainers must ensure that the brothers and/or sisters of their respective columns are well behaved; this requires tact and moderation;
- the secretary, through the regularity and accuracy of his or her work, is a precious support in the communication and preparation of outfits; he or she must find the ideal format so that the reports are both complete and reduced so as not to constitute an unpleasant burden.
- the role of the hospitaller supposes a great presence among the sisters and/or brothers to give fraternal support in personal difficulties which may arise and which out of modesty will often be hidden; this is one of the most often neglected posts and it is a pity ;
- the Master of Ceremonies helps to give to the outfits this ceremonial which, if misunderstood, can be a source of destabilization;
- the treasurer, the roofer, the master of ceremonies have equally important but more discreet functions;
- the person in charge of the harmony column by his or her judicious choices also influences the "atmosphere" of the work.
Apart from their respective roles, the officers have the onerous task of assisting the Venerable, advising and possibly deputizing for him/her.
All of this involves a great deal of personal work, the almost obligatory visit to lodges, and participation in regional and convents conventions.
It sometimes happens that the officer feels alone in the exercise of his/her task; this happens when the officer's colleges do not really play their role of exchange and listening.
What to do when my Venerable Master does not respect the ritual?
This is one of the most difficult situations to live through because the non respect of the ritual quickly leads to a cacophony worthy of the coffee of the trade in complete opposition to the specificity of Masonic work.
It is within the framework of the officers' college and also in master's uniform that one can approach the difficulties, try to understand them and find solutions.
How can I get help?
It is never dishonourable to ask for advice or help from older brothers or sisters or other members of other lodges but the first way to solve a problem is to talk about it calmly without passion or reproach and try to find the best (or least bad) solution in the interest of all.
Frequently asked questions for a sister (or brother) attending other "jurisdictions" or so-called "superior" workshops:
How do I situate myself in relation to the other members of my blue lodge who do not attend the high ranks?
A superior workshop is nothing but a lodge; the functioning is the same with different rituals, officers, sisters and/or brothers on the columns; the names change, the symbols change, but the essential remains.
The first justification for a higher workshop is to respect the rite in which one finds oneself; of course there is no obligation to want to access the different degrees of a rite.
The fraternal relations between brothers and/or sisters are the same whatever the degree in which one finds oneself. There is no reason to hide one's belonging to a lodge operating at a "higher" degree as long as one remains natural and fraternal.
There is an unpleasant "unspoken" that grants members of the higher workshops an influence on the functioning of the obediences; this "unspoken" developed at a time when it was said that the "careerist" path implied belonging to the higher degrees.
Let's forget this past deviation, which has nothing to do with Masonry.
Can an unbeliever attend the higher workshops?
Most, if not all, rites that include more than three degrees have been created for two main reasons:
a certain dissatisfaction as to the meaning to be given to the legend of Hiram which is specific to the initiatory process of the first three degrees; this dissatisfaction has led to the creation of other initiatory legends with a variable outcome according to the rites but always oriented towards the problem of the passage from the visible to the invisible.
the not always avowed will to create a hierarchy of titles and thus a possible control over the functioning of the rite.
Although in all the rites of the High Grades are deists and for many Christians, it is normal that the first condition for being accepted is to believe in a God; nevertheless, in certain obediences, insofar as a great freedom is allowed in the passage from agnosticism to atheism, there is no examination of passage to know if the candidate is a believer or not insofar as he shows his agreement ; but we do not see how a non-believer would have any interest in choosing a course specially written for believers, except of course to want to benefit from an intellectual interest or not!
How can I understand my rite?
Each rite has its specificity, on the one hand because of the historical and sometimes political conditions that prevailed at its creation, and on the other hand because the references to which it refers are particular.
Behind each rite, there are one or two pens that have written an overall "scenario" and particular scenes corresponding to the degrees; there are many borrowings, as well as disgressions; it is sometimes difficult to understand the common thread that links the degrees because the tradition of the "communication" of the degrees obliges one to follow a progressive approach in the knowledge of the scenario.
Fortunately, we are no longer at the time when the desire to understand was subject to authorization; all the more so as in the end everything is extremely simple.
To understand one's rite is therefore to reconstitute the scenario which goes from the first to the last degree of the rite; with the readings of the rituals and the Judeo-Christian sources, it is relatively easy even if it takes time.
The best interest of knowing the rites is to deduce the richness and originality of the legend of Hiram, a true common point for the entire Masonic community throughout the world.
From the legend of Hiram to the Masonic ideal there are all the contributions that have enriched it over the centuries.
The experience in the lodge
A relative solitude: alone in the midst of others is a feeling that can take precedence over other feelings depending on personal experience, worrying unspoken things or in the case of an introverted personality. This time of "loneliness" is a function of several feelings:
modesty with self-censorship or devaluation,
the sickly susceptibility that fuels preconceived notions,
a close relationship with certain members: this is the most frequent situation before entering the lodge and during the agape; it can also be seen on the columns.
Constraints generated by the group
Every human group functions in majority mode with tolerated minorities; both majority and minorities identify with elected or unelected leaders.
Group cohesion is based on the size of the majority group, submission to authority and the quality of the relationship established between the members of the majority group and its leader.
Holding the position of leader of a group or subgroup is often the subject of more or less expressed conflict between applicants.
It is customary to say that the group can be as pathogenic as it can be benevolent!
The Masonic Lodge falls within the framework of medium groups (15 to 50 members);
In plenary meetings, interpersonal relations are non-existent or very limited but they can be established within the framework of sub-groups (commissions or proximity of various interests for example);
The leader of the lodge can be the venerable but also informally another charismatic member;
Submission to authority is the general rule but members who participate in the constitution of informal minorities in opposition to the majority, more or less important.
The group's hold on the individual is discreet and punctual.
Majority and minority groups are formed around personalities who are recognized as leaders either because of their professions, seniority, community membership, oratory skills or others.