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Masonic Education in the Philippines

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Source: Phoenixmasonry
From "The Builder Magazine" May 1930 - Volume XVI - Number 5


In his address to the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands at its last Annual Communication, M. W. Bro. Seldon W. O'Brien, the retiring Grand Master, had something to say upon the pressing subject of Masonic Education. The Cabletow, Manila, published this part of the address in full, from which we take it with due acknowledgments. The editor of the Cabletow remarks that if the program outlined by Bro. O'Brien is carried through in the proper manner that the Craft will reap incalculable benefit from it. One of the greatest difficulties that American Masonry has to deal with is the lack of continuity in any eonstruetive plans owing to the constant changes in the executive officers of the Fraternity. This affects both the Lodges and the Grand Lodges. Under existing circumstances continuity can only be attained by putting such activities in the hands of permanent committees or boards. But this is really only a makeshift after all. We hope that Bro. O'Brien's successor in office will carry out the plans here outlined.


TO my way of thinking, one of the greatest problems that confronts Masonry in the Philippines today is the education of its membership in the history and philosophy Of Freemasonry. The ideals and principles of this great institution, which we would implant in the hearts of our brethren and have them apply in their daily lives are expressed by symbolism. If we hope ever to weave and build into the character of our members the steadying and balancing influence of those purifying principles and tenets, and thereby ennoble and beautify their lives? they must know and comprehend the true meaning of those symbols. In the ceremonies of our initiation, we do not attempt to do more than to indicate the pathway to Masonic knowledge, to lay the foundation for the Masonic edifice. The initiate is left to pursue the journey or complete the structure for himself through contact with his brethren of the Lodge and by reading and reflection. The natural result of our initiatory ceremonies, if correctly and impressively conducted, with a proper understanding of their meaning, is that the new member is impressed with the seriousness and high purpose of the Order. He leaves the Lodge Room fired with enthusiasm and eager to forward its noble objects. He is inspired by a glimpse of the spirit and meaning of the words of the ritual. But, as the weeks and months pass by, he receives little or no encouragement in his pursuit of knowledge; his enthusiasm becomes dulled; his keen interest wanes, and he finally drops into the easy rut of inactivity and fraternal inertia. It is from this lethargic attitude that so many of the members of our Lodges need to be aroused. There is need for reinspection, a rekindling of enthusiasm, a reconstruction to the principles of Masonry, on the part of many hundreds of our membership. Among them, there must be a revival of the true Masonic spirit. I believe that the surest way, although slow and tedious, to accomplish this is through a definite and concrete program of education in the fundamentals of Freemasonry.

Considerable thought has been given to this subject in the hope that I might be able to offer you some practical suggestions. It would seem that the only feasible way for the members of the Craft to obtain the knowledge which they ought to have of what Masonry is, its history, its philosophy, and its symbolism, is through their own well-directed individual efforts. They must be caused to educate themselves in the possibilities of the Order, inspired by the knowledge of what others are doing, what can be done, and what must be done to fulfill what we believe to be the noble purposes of the Fraternity. In order to bring this about, there must be created a self-consciousness on the part of the leading members of the Order that education is essentially necessary to the welfare of Freemasonry, and, along with that, some practical method must be developed to bring to the membership the knowledge which they should have. This I conceive to be a proper function of the Grand Lodge. The officers of the subordinate Lodges must be not only good ritualists, but wide readers and keen students of the inner meaning of the ceremonies which they perform, so that they may sot the Craft at work under good and wholesome instruction, and create in them a renewed interest for further light in Masonry. If they are to possess these qualifications, the most important requisite is that they be provided with the best Masonic literature in order to enable them to take the knowledge which has come from highly authenticated sources and remake It into a form which the average member of the Lodge can understand and which will give him some enthusiasm for the organization of which he is a part. With these ideas in mind I would propose, merely as a basis of our future Masonic educational program, the following:

Recommendations

1. That the present Special Committee on Masonic Study and Research be abolished, and that there be created in its stead a permanent Committee on Masonic Education to assist and cooperate with the officers of the subordinate Lodges in devising and adopting some practical plan for the education and enlightenment of our Masonic brethren along the lines herein suggested.

2. That this Committee make every effort to encourage and stimulate Masonic research and study on the part of the officers and members of the subordinate Lodges, and for that purpose, to prepare and furnish to them suitable courses of study on Masonic subjects, with information as to where the literature on the various topics mentioned therein may be found, in order to facilitate their studies.

3. That a general Masonic library be established in Manila and maintained by the Grand Lodge with a suitable and convenient reading room, under the supervision of the new Committee on Masonic Education, with an ample appropriation for that purpose and that an effort be made to obtain the co-operation and support of our constituent Lodges and the York Rite and Scottish Rite Bodies of Manila at least to the extent of the use of their present libraries in this worthy object.

4. That in relation to the general library and under the super" vision of the same committee, there be established what is known as "Travelling Libraries" for the use and benefit of our provincial brethren, who will not be able to avail themselves of the books in the general library.

5. That the subordinate Lodges be urged to purchase and place in the hands of each of its candidates a copy of the presentation edition of M. W. Brother Oliver Day Street's "Symbolism of the Three Degrees". The set consists of three volumes – one for each degree – and the volume pertaining to each degree should be presented to the candidate when he is learning the lecture of that degree.

6. That for the purpose interest in this educational program, a Prize Essay Contest be held each year under the supervision of the Past Grand Masters of this jurisdiction similar to that of the Scottish Rite Bodies in 1925, with suitable prizes to be awarded to the winners of first and second places in the contest.

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