Tidings from the West
Fraternal Greetings Brethren.
In October we were privileged to witness two new Entered Apprentices initiated into our Fraternity and the awarding of the Hiram Award to a worthy Brother of Unity Lodge Number 18. While these two types of events may seem unrelated, I assure you, that if we look closure, we will see a nexus between them, that of transformation.
MWGM William Beetcher, currently serving as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, in an article that he entitled “Lumber and Ashlars” writes of one of his great loves, woodworking. While I won’t relate to you the entire article, I will tell you what he has said that I think shows the connection between the aforementioned events of our Lodge. He talks of some Aspen wood that was left covered but stored outside for several years. He says, “I had no idea what to expect when I uncovered them, and was not overly hopeful or optimistic that they would be usable. Uncovered, it resembled lumber only by its shape. Seeing this, I assumed that the planks were destined for the burn pile. But then I thought, “Well, might just as well run one through the planer and see what comes out the other end have nothing to lose except a little time. After several passes and to my great surprise the wood was changing. After the third pass or so, the true character of the wood started to emerge, transforming from a questionable piece of wood into a clean, solid plank with the most beautiful natural coloring one could imagine.”1
MWGM Beetcher, tells us that the “Aspen, normally a wood with little noticeable grain in its unfinished state, started showing the early stages of “spaulting,” a process that in its early stages changes the color of the wood without destroying its strength. This bland lumber had slowly transformed into beautiful planks patterned with shades of brown…, its inner beauty hidden from view, waiting to be discovered. All that was needed was to plane them down to discover that inner beauty, finish them to protect from wear, the end result being a set of beautiful, naturally finished stairs…; and all of this from lumber I almost discarded. Now every time we use those stairs, we are reminded of the beauty that Nature…, gave to those boards. To this day, it gives me cause to reflect how, based on their outward appearance, I almost threw them away without even trying to ascertain if they were of any use, totally ignorant of the beauty and strength that lay within.”2
MWGM Beetcher, continues …, “As I was in my wood shop working on our stairs, a certain Masonic parallel between my project and the process of making a Mason came to mind. “When a new candidate is introduced to the Lodge, few have any idea what kind of Mason this new Brother will become. Perhaps we even think, from outward appearances, this may not have been the best choice for him or us. All we have is the “Rough Asher, the Unknown, his true potential hidden. However, we bring him into the Fraternity, and metaphorically and symbolically transform him in our “Masonic Workshop.” We confer the Degrees and recite the Lectures. We explain the meaning and use of the Working Tools, teach him our Tenets, the Cardinal Virtues, the Obligations, the subjects the subjects that are heart and soul of our Fraternity; and through this process, we see our new Brother, similar to my lumber, go through the transformative process so familiar to us. His inner character starts to emerge, and soon the Rough Ashlar starts transforming into the Perfect Ashlar. He inquires and endeavors to understand the lessons of the Craft, seeking to understand our Masonic teachings and incorporate them into his life. As he grows, he takes his place among us, doing as we all strive to do continually building and strengthening the inner spiritual temple, becoming a better man, husband, and father, a role model, respected and admired by all who know him (not by coincidence, the three areas that should be considered in recommending a member for the Hiram Award are: Masonry, family, and civic). In his turn, he becomes a “Master Craftsman, “teaching others the lessons he was taught. He becomes one to whom others go to for advice and counsel, a Pillar in his Lodge and our Fraternity, a friend and brother to all. And this, my Brethren, is truly what our gentle Craft is about. Once again, as has happened countless times, it “takes the good man and makes him better,” and throughout this development process, both he and our Fraternity are made stronger, more complete. To me, this is the true “Mystery” or Secret of our Fraternity – its ability to affect this type of transformation. Having experienced this in myself, and to see it happen in so many others is truly the “Mystery of Freemasonry” that we may never fully understand.”3
1. Beetcher, W., “Lumber and Ashlar”, The Short Talk Bulletin, August 2014, Vol. 92 No. 8, pp.3-7.
Jim Lee, Senior Warden