who through e-technology frequently communicate with others of like mind will be
aware of the dangers of humour! That is to say, what appears to be humorous in
culture may not necessarily translate in an intended way. Idiom does tend to
have a life of its own.
common humorous enquiry in English is, “How many XXXs does it take to change a
light bulb?” The intention of the prescribed answer is to provide insight into
weaknesses and limitations within the XXX group. Hence the answer(s) to the
question, “How many freemasons does it take to change a light bulb lays bare
to the world what manner of people we are; there are two possible responses that
come to mind.
first is that it takes three; an entered apprentice to change it, a director of
ceremonies to oversee it and a senior officer to say that isn’t the way we
used to change light bulbs. The second possibility is to respond by spluttering
“What! Change! Indeed,
perhaps it is the case that both are revealing what manner of people we are;
perhaps both are really alternative forms of the same answer.
looking at these early renditions of the ritual the cry goes out; why change?
Candide is beginning to believe that a freemason can either take an interest in
the early/originally printed versions of the various rituals or can have a
normal life – but that you can’t do both! When looking at these early
renditions of the ritual the cry goes out; why change?
Finch’s Masonic Treatise of 1802, in catechetical form and pertaining to the
Second Degree, contains the response; Diligence,
assiduity and application are qualifications for the Second Class in which an
accurate elucidation of science, both in theory and practice is given, human
reason is cultivated by a due exertion of our rational and intellectual powers;
nice and difficult theories are explained, fresh discoveries are produced, and
those already known are beautifully embellished. Wow! They don’t write
like that any more. Perhaps in our age of technological bedazzlement we cannot
see the light for the strobes; perhaps we cannot see if the light bulb needs
changing, or not.
cannot be denied that in our masonic legacy there is a celebration of nature;
that is to say, an awe and wonderment of Nature - the world, the universe - as
described by scientific method. We are permitted, enjoined even, to
differentiate between “Nature” the object of our study and “science” the
methodology by which we pursue the study. This study takes the form of
describing Nature in terms of prediction and control; that is to say the human
management of Nature - we live in the age of the Anthropocene.
the light bulb has to be changed for one of much lower power consumption but of
for what purpose do we seek to understand and manage Nature? As freemasons, we
are what we do, committed to the work ethic and are aware of the ultimate
reality which is, that we need food, clothing and shelter for, without which, we
will surely die. This world is a workplace where we cooperate to produce food,
clothing and shelter. Our peculiar system of morality has emanated, not from
beyond space and time, but rather from the workplace and the values that are
required for the successful production of food clothing and shelter are those
that we apply to the rest of life. It is only by a functional connection with
work and production that morality is possible. Yes, it is from the material that
our peculiar system of morality derives. Oh how true; Satan finds work for idle
hands to do! Deviance is the path
of those who are without a functional connection to work.
1802 Finch provided in catechetical form a basis for the masonic respect of
Nature as described by scientific method. It may be the case that by 1802 the
synergies between the Grand Lodge of England and the Royal Society were no
longer darting their rays in full meridian splendour. Yet the élan remained,
and remains to some extent, captured within the ritual. Properly understood the
Freemasonry of the 18th Century is modern and relevant and applies to
the world today as much as ever. Perhaps more so given what we know, the light
bulb has to be changed for one of much lower power consumption but of higher
in this light of this we can usefully consider diligence,
assiduity and application, the moral imperatives required by the mason
aspiring to the Second Class. It goes without saying that these terms pertain to
the world of work. The root thought of the term “diligence”
is love – diligence a labour of love. Its legal force is that it describes the
quality of work as being beyond any possible claim for negligence and the worker
beyond reproach. Both work and worker are fit for purpose.
our light bulbs are hidden in the bushel of the lodge room
term “assiduity” picks up on
diligence requiring it to be both consistent and constant. “Application” indicates “to fasten” and here is the reality of
the masonic oath, a total commitment to square work, the indivisibility of good
work and a good person – the mason is what he or she does in the workplace –
no more and no less! Perhaps these can be summarised as being honesty and
fairness. Hence the labourer is worthy of his or her hire.
values of the workplace are applied to the rest of life as the world can be
understood to be a workplace in which food, clothing and are produced and
distributed. This distribution has also to be fair and as one sixth of the world
are starving the view could be taken that the moral challenge of fairer
distribution, more than anything else, should be informing the actions of masons
and lodges in their communities. Perhaps our light bulbs are hidden in the
bushel of the lodge room – they don’t need changing - just the walls of
exclusion taken down and the light allowed to shine and lead in communities.
many masons does it take to change a light bulb?” ….“all of them”.
in the workplace develop and progress; this is sublimely captured by Finch when
speaking of the description of nature by scientific method he speaks of already
known, both nice and difficult theories being beautifully embellished and fresh
discoveries being produced. That the work and the worker must be fit for purpose
does not change but how this is achieved will change – call it moral
relativity if you will. However, it must be remembered that it is inappropriate
for ecclesiastical organisations, that have fixed views, to endorse
“discoveries” old, new or embellished as clearly what is learned about
Nature through scientific method is matter in motion.
Changes in the way that food clothing and shelter are produced will
effect changes between the relationships of people in the workplace and those
changes will apply to the rest of life. “How many masons does it take to
change a light bulb?” The answer can only be, “all of them”. That is to say, in the workplace each person has their role
and contribution to make. If a man or woman is not clear about their role it is
a duty of care to shed light on the subject. In the workplace this duty of care
takes the form of (i) seeing the person; (ii) celebrating their abilities; and
(iii) developing their potential. Surely this is recognised by all those with
managerial responsibility. But, if this is true in the workplace then surely
there is the moral imperative to apply it to the rest of life. Yes, as masons we
all must look at the rest of humankind to see each as a person, recognise their
contribution and ensure that they are bettered by our interaction.