LEO Document Repository
A wide array of Masonic education materials can be downloaded from here.
Individual Education and Training
- “Freemasons for Dummies” by Christopher Hodapp and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Freemasonry” by S. Brent Morris. Another recent book that is well written is “American Freemasons” by Mark A. Tabbert
On-line training to become a leader and better mason:
THE 34th DEGREE
By Paul V. Marshall, Sr.
Your time on Earth, spent in service. A shining example of a Man to be. But, you’re now needed in the Heavenly Lodge. Time has come for your 34th Degree.
Leaving behind the ones you Love. Are the dues that you must pay. From afar, you can watch over them. A part of your obligation this day.
This is the farthest you can go. The highest point of Masonic Life. No higher an honor can be sown. In God’s Lodge, you must now stride.
God in the East, King Solomon, the West. They open the Lodge for you this day. You go the way as Masons before. To sit with Pride, and stand with Praise.
The Alter shows the Love you felt. Brotherhood of Man, One and All. Your deeds reflect like shining Gold. The jewel you wear is none too small.
You now stand, before this Alter. Deserving of the rest you now seek. No longer to toil the labors of life. Grand Masters’ wages are yours to keep.
Those of us you’ve left behind. Will carry on the work for you. Your dedication will shine for all. A memorial you leave for all to view.
So, gather your wages, rest for now. Lay back in the shade of Gods’ great tree. You’ve earned the honor, now bestowed. MASONS in HEAVEN, THE 34th DEGREE.
Abe Lincoln’s Axe
By Jim Tresner The Oklahoma Mason April-May, 1995
The story is told of a historian, recording folk history in Illinois in the 1970’s. Several people in the countryside had told him of a farm family which possessed the axe Abraham Lincoln had used when splitting logs for a living as a young man.
The historian finally found the farm, and found the farmer in the yard splitting wood for the living room fireplace. He asked him about the story.
“Yes,” said the farmer, “it’s true. Abe Lincoln lived around here as a young man, and he worked for a while splitting wood for my great-great-grandfather. Happened he’d bought a new axe from a peddler the day before Abe Lincoln came to work here, and he gave it to Lincoln to use. We’ve kept it ever since.”
“That’s a real historical treasure,” said the historian. “It really ought to be in a museum. Would you mind going into the house and bringing it out so I could see it?”
“Oh we know it’s important,” said the farmer. “I take it to the school from time to time and tell the kids about it and Lincoln. Seems to sorta make him real for them. But I don’t have to go into the house, I’ve got it here.”
He handed the horrified historian the axe he had been using.
“You mean you’re still USING it?!”
“Sure thing. An axe is meant to be used.”
The historian looked it over carefully. “I must say your family has certainly taken good care of it.”
“Sure, we know we’re protecting history. Why we’ve replaced the handle twice and the head once.”
In many ways, Masonry is like Abe Lincoln’s axe. All of us tend to assume that Masonry has always been the way it was when we joined. And we become fiercely protective of it in that form. But, in fact, we’ve done more than replace the handle twice and the head once.
For example, the Eulogy to Mother was added to the stairway lecture in Oklahoma sometime between 1924and 1930. Almost no other state uses it.
When Oklahoma Territory and IndianTerritory merged to form the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, major changes in the ritual (both esoteric and exoteric) were made for at least 6 years as the two rituals were combined.
When Brothers George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere (and the other Masons of their era and for decades to come) joined the Fraternity, they did not demonstrate proficiency by memorizing categorical lectures. Instead, the same evening they received a degree they sat around a table with the other Brethren of the Lodge. The Brethren asked each other questions and answered them for the instruction of the new Brother. They asked him questions, and helped him with the answers. The discussion continued until they were confident that he understood the lessons of the Degree. They then taught him the signs and tokens, and he was proficient. In many cases, he took the next Degree the next night. The system of demonstrating proficiency by memorizing categorical lectures is less than about twice as old as the average Mason in Oklahoma–not too long a span in the 1,000 year history of the Fratemity.
The custom of allowing 28 days to pass between Degrees came about for no other reason than the fact that most lodges only met every 28 days, on the nights of the full moon. There was no mystery behind that. Very few horses come equipped with head- lights, and only on nights of a full moon could people see well enough to leave their homes in the country and come into town for a meeting safely.
The names of the 3 ruffians have changed at least 3 times since the Master Mason Degree was created around 1727.
More importantly, the nature and purpose of the Fraternity has changed radi- cally over time. It certainly is no longer a protective trade association, nor a political force amounting almost to a political party,but it has been those over its long history.
So yes, Masonry changes. It changes fairly frequently and sometimes dramati- cally. Far from being a bastion of conservative resistance to change, through most of its history it has been a major change agent–fostering revolutions in political life (the American revolution, for example) and social life. It created the tax-supported public school system. It created homes for the elderly and orphanages, and then worked for the sort of social legislation to make those wide-spread. It sought economic development for states and communities.
Until the late 1940’s and 50’s, it was one of the most potent forces for change in America.
And Masonry is like Abe Lincoln’s axe in another way. For, although the handle and head had been replaced, that axe was still the one used by Abe Lincoln in truth if not infact. The farmer used it to teach. He told children about it and about Abe Lin- coln. He helped make the past real to them, so that they could learn the great values of honesty and hard work which Lincoln typified.
It’s the same with Masonry. In spite of the many changes which have already hap- pened and the changes which are bound to happen in the future–for Masonry, like any living thing, must change and grow or die–it is still the same. It’s essence–the lessons it teaches, the difference it makes in the lives of men, that great moment of transformation which is the goal of Masonry, when a man becomes something new and better than he was when he came in the door as a candidate–that essence cannot and will not be lost, as long as Brothers meet in the true Masonic spirit, to work and learn and study and improve themselves and the world.
That’s Masonry. And like Abe Lincoln’s axe, it was meant to be used, not to rust away in a museum case. That use keeps it bright and sharp and Masonic, no matter how often the handle and head need to be replaced.
THAT ANCIENT SQUARE
What one symbol is most typical of Freemasonry as a whole? Mason and non-Mason alike, nine times out of ten, will answer, ” The Square!” Many learned writers on Freemasonry have denominated the square as the most important and vital, most typical and common symbol of the ancient Craft.
” -In Masonry or building, the great dominant law is the law of the square.” Newton’s words glow: ” Very early the square became an emblem of truth, justice and righteousness, and so it remains to this day, though uncountable ages have passed. Simple, familiar, eloquent; it brings from afar a sense of wonder of the dawn, and it still teaches a lesson we find it hard to learn.” Haywood speaks of:
” -Its history, so varied and so ancient, its use, so universal.”
It is impossible definitely to say that the square is the oldest symbol in Freemasonry; who may determine when the circle, triangle or square first impressed men’s minds? But the square is older than history. Newton speaks of the oldest building known to man: ” – A prehistoric tomb found in the sands at Hierakonpolis, is already right angled.”
Masonically the word ” square” has the same three meanings given the syllable by the world: (1) The conception of “right angleness” – our ritual tells us that the square is an angle of ninety degrees, or the fourth of a circle; (2) The builder’s tool, one of our working tools, the Master’s own immovable jewel; (3) That quality of character which has made ” a square man” synonymous not only with a member of our Fraternity, but with uprightness, honesty and dependability.
Authorities have differed and much discussion has been had, on the ” true form” of the Masonic square; whether a simple square should be made with legs of equal length, and marked with divisions into feet and inches, or with one keg longer than the other and marked as are carpenter’s squares today. The French Masons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other, thus making it a carpenter’s square. The American Masons, following the delineations of Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches, thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not. It is simply the ” trying square” of a stonemason, and has a plain surface, the sides embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and it is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.”
The symbolism of the square, as we know it, is also very old; just how ancient, as impossible to say as the age of the tool or the first conception of mathematical ” square-ness.” In 1880 the Master of Ionic Lodge No. 1781, at Amot, China, speaking on Freemasonry in China said:
” From time immemorial we find the square and compasses used by Chinese writers to symbolize precisely the same phrases of moral conduct as in our system of Freemasonry. The earliest passage known to me which bears upon the subject is to be found in the Book of History embracing the period reaching from the twenty-fourth to the seventh century before Christ.
Independently of the Chinese, all peoples in all ages have thought of this fundamental angle, on which depends the solidity and lasting quality of buildings, as expressive of the virtues of honesty, uprightness and morality. Confucius, Plato, the Man of Galilee, stating the Golden Rule in positive form, all make the square an emblem of virtue.
In this very antiquity of the Craft’s greatest symbol is a deep lesson; the nature of a square is as unchanging as truth itself. It was always so, it will always be so. So, also, are those principles of mind and character symbolized by the square; the tenets of the builder’s guild expressed by a square. They have always been so, they will always be so. From their very nature they must ring as true on the farthest star as here.
So will Freemasonry always read it, that its gentle message perish not from the earth!
The Cable: A Paper
By: Bro. Garth Cochran
Calgary Lodge, #23
Grand Register of Alberta
Considerable discussion has been generated on the difference between a cable and a cable tow, and on whether the burial in the rough sands of the sea (or is it coarse sands) is a cable’s length or a cable-tow’s length from shore.
Bro. Cochran explains why such a burial is a cable’s length from shore, and further explores the analogy of the cable and cable tow in Masonic allegory.
As Freemasonry started in Britain, what are the traditions there and at that time that would affect the development of the Craft. Clearly, the naval tradition which made Britain a major power from the time of Elizabeth I would have been paramount.
In fact, the concepts of cable, cable-tow and the burial in our first degree penalty come directly from that naval tradition.
To explain, first what is a cable or rope? We start with fibers, which are just a jumbled mess of short pieces or oakum, without direction or form. If we twist these fibers together, we can make them into a yarn. That yarn, however, is a long way from a rope or cane. In fact, we twist several yarns together to make a strand. A number of strands, usually three, are “laid-up” to form a rope. Three such ropes laid up together makes a cable.
Now, all the cables on board a ship are all the same length. That’s because of the length of the rope walk where they are made. Some are 100 fathoms, some could be as long as 130 fathoms. In the British Navy, the standard length of a cable is one hundred fathoms, or six hundred feet. That was chosen because it is one-tenth of a nautical mile. Thus, the cable is also used as a measure of distance.
Now we come to the burial. Life in the British Navy from the time of Elizabeth I to this century was governed by the Articles of War. Each Sunday these Articles were read to the men so that they were constantly reminded of their duty and of the penalties for shirking it. Included in these articles is the penalty for treason. A man found guilty of treason would be hanged from the yardarm and, after being left there for a suitable period of time, would be taken down and buried. To ensure there is no honor to the traitor, the Articles of War specified that burial will be a cable’s length or 600 feet from shore.
Burial on the tidal flats is neither an honorable burial at sea nor on land. This is where the garbage of both land and sea is thrown together to rot. So when burying a traitor, the navy looked for a large tidal flat and dumped the body a cable’s length from shore. In fact, both main anchorages at the time of sail – Spithead and the Nore at the mouth of the Thames and at Portsmouth – had such extensive tidal flats. They were also the only places where enough Captains could be brought together to hold a Court Martial.
That covers the cable, and the burial. But what about the cable-tow? When a tug is towing a ship, they are almost always more than six hundred feet apart. That’s because a cable and a cable-tow aren’t the same thing. The cable is a rope of a specific length. When we make up a tow, we might tie or “bend” several cables together. The number of cables needed to make up a tow depend on several factors.
First, how heavy is the tow? A light object isn’t hard to move, but a heavy one is. A short rope has very little give in it, very little stretch. If you attach it to a light object, it will pull it. But if you tie it to something heavy it will break before it starts to move the tow through the water. A longer rope has more stretch and give in it. So, too, with the cable-tow. The tug’s force is applied more slowly, giving enough time to overcome the inertia of the disabled ship and get it moving before the cable snaps. If the sea is rough, then a longer cable is needed. The tow may be trying to climb the back of one wave while the tug is surging down the front of another. If the tow is too short, then there isn’t enough give in it to allow the tug and the tow to send apart. The rope will snap.
The point is that the terms we use in Masonry today have their basis in real terms and in real penalties. That gives them both a strength and a sense of purpose to anyone who comes to understand their origins.
Let’s look at the use of a cable as a metaphor in Masonry. As the cable is made of many parts put together for a common purpose, so might we look at Freemasonry. A Masonic Cable is made from individuals who form a Lodge. Lodges organize into Districts. Districts unite in a Grand Lodge. And as three ropes entwined produce the strong cable, so too does Virtue, Morality and Brotherly Love give strength to Masonry.
Further, a cable gains its strength from three equal ropes, laid together. Each rope is as important to the whole as the other. So it is with the three degrees of Freemasonry. One should not be tempted to forget the lessons of the Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft just because he has been raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
As a strong cable is made of three ropes entwined, the strength of a Lodge comes from the Three Great Lights, the Three Lesser Lights, the three principal officers and the three pillars denoting Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
A cable’s great strength is only apparent when it is put to use. So it is with Freemasonry. The strength of our craft remains hidden until it is put to use. We can also think of the cable-tow as the bond connecting the individual Brother to his Lodge and to Grand Lodge, those venerable institutions that give direction to a Brother in his journey through life.
Consider what we have just learned. The cable-tow, which connects the tug to the barge at sea, is not of a specific length. Our Masonic cable-tow is that bond that binds a Brother to his Lodge and to the Craft.
What about the Brother who finds himself encountering stormy seas or who finds the burdens of his responsibilities bear heavily on him? Undue pressure from the Lodge or from his Brothers to attend meetings, participate in degree work or to “be a good Mason” may cause his cable-tow to snap and sever his bond to the craft.
Once the nautical cable-tow is severed, the state of the seas or the poor condition of the disabled ship may make recovery of the tow impossible. The ship is therefore lost while the tug stands by – helpless. So might a brother be lost to the craft and Masonry would be thus impoverished.
The Pledge of Allegiance By Red Skelton
Red Skelton, a native son of Indiana was one of Americas favorite Clown comedians. His Masonic journey started in 1939 at Vincennes Lodge #1. He completed all memory work in three days. Some of the Masonic rewards Red received over the years were the Caleb B. Smith Medal of Honor from the Grand Lodge of Indiana, The Gourgas Medal (Scottish Rite), Scottish Rite 33 degree from Valley of Evansville Indiana, Medal of Distinguished Achievement from the Grand Lodge of New York and the 50 year Award of Gold from Vincennes Lodge #1.
As a schoolboy, one of Red Skelton’s teachers explained the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class. Skelton later wrote down, and eventually recorded, his recollection of this lecture.
I?Me; an individual; a committee of one.
Pledge?Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.
Allegiance?My love and my devotion.
To the Flag?Our standard; Old Glory; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody’s job.
Of the United?That means that we have all come together.
States of America?Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states.
Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.
And to the Republic?a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives, chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it’s from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people for which it stands.
One Nation meaning, so blessed by God.
Indivisible Incapable of being divided.
With Liberty Which is Freedom; the right or power to live one’s own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
And Justice The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.
For All which means, boys and girls, it’s as much your country as it is mine.
Since then, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God.