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- Be Proud of Your Masonic Association
- Why Freemasonry in Nigeria suffer so great troubles

by W.Bro. Chris Aniche Okorafor
Past Deputy District Grand Master, Hon. Grand Senior Deacon
Founder Member and Past Master of Lodge Aro #1772,Arochukwu
Lodge Meridian #1742, Umuahia
District Grand Lodge of Nigeria - Grand Lodge of Scotland



Our Lodge Though Regular, Just and Perfect, Needs Some “Life Support”


From our 2001/2002 Year Book, there are 1,150 Daughter Lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of the Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland. Of these, 68 are in Nigeria. World-wide, there are hundreds of other Grand Lodges recognized by our Grand Lodge as regular.  Some have as many Daughter Lodges under their jurisdiction as our Grand Lodge. Here in Nigeria, we have Daughter Lodges chartered by the United Grand Lodges of England and Ireland in which several of our Brethren are affiliates. Worldwide therefore, our Lodge is but one other precious little drop of water in the mighty and majestic ocean of Regular Freemasonry. This our jeweled position notwithstanding, a study of our summonses, indicates a long list of our Brethren who were very eminent Masons only a few years back but who unfortunately, do not associate any longer with the Order.  They have since stopped attending our meetings.  A few still acknowledge signs and are often the first to give them. The sad aspect in their renouncing fellowship is that some few of them who had attained to very lofty heights in the Craft have turned out to be great scandals to younger Masons, some few of whom had unfortunately followed their footsteps. The result is that our summonses end up securing just enough to form and work our Lodge. These not withstanding, we are by the grace of the Great Architect of the Universe, still Regular, Just and Perfect.  By Lodge numbering, the youngest Lodge in the 2001/2002 Year Book of Scottish Freemasonry is Lodge Fort Nassau No. 1819 S.C. The inference is that some 669 chartered Lodges (ie: 1,819 minus 1,150) under this Constitution may as at that date be moribund. More of their members than in ours, have for unavoidable misfortune and calamity, experienced sub-marginal glows of enthusiasm towards the Craft.  


There is no justification for our seeking solace in Dr. Oliver’s erudite quote that  if you have a good Lodge, keep it select, great numbers are not always beneficial.”   There is nothing wrong with a big, prosperous Lodge. All that is desirable and strictly so, is that we keep our Lodge select, namely, that our applicant-acceptance procedure be as genuinely thorough as our antient Brethren had always insisted. To what may we attribute this backsliding and loss of membership?  What are some remedies which ought to be tried?



Hostile Environmental Factors


Only very few of our Brethren are willing to be known and addressed as Freemasons to the knowledge of members of the outer world.  This is a reflection of the changed perception of the Craft in the modern, politically complex society in which economic and profit motivation as well as competitive business concepts even dominate transactions in traditionally sacrosanct organizations.  In some open societies, enemies of Freemasonry hiding behind the veil of these organizations have charged the Order of catering for only its members to the detriment of non-masons.  Some of those open societies have in some measure yielded to pressure to require Masons in positions of public trust to officially declare and register their membership of the Craft.  In Nigeria, the government had at sometime required public officials to renounce and declare their renunciation of membership in the Order.  Some religious organizations in Nigeria have also indicated to their members, that associating with the Craft is not only ill advised but categorically evil.  Any member of their church organization found to still retain his membership of the Order, is denied participation in the Communion Service, is not recommended for Knighthood, and may not receive the church rites at death.


Within this environment, some Masons have found it difficult retaining their membership of the Craft.  The reasons are many and varied but may be counted on the fingers of one hand under the following major categories:


To the first category, family pressures to receive the Knighthood in order to be seen in preferred cathedral and church pews, solemnly attired with their wives in accompaniment, were so much of an inducement to impel their backsliding from Freemasonry.


The second class, to whom the glamour of church knighthood hold no attraction, and who also had a more in-depth appreciation of the virtues and principles of Freemasonry, a strictly enforced denial of participation in Communion Service and burial rites were equally not enough reasons for renouncing Freemasonry. But having advanced in age, and for reasons beyond their personal control, did not create adequate capital to sustain them in their retirement, they are compelled to fall back on their families for sustenance. Invariably in these circumstances where the purse-bearer-family member is in the group that erroneously classify Freemasonry as irreligiously worshiping a false god, these Masons are coerced to renounce membership in order to benefit from the family’s conditional “christian charity.”


Another identifiable group of backsliding Masons consists of those who according to our rituals, “sought Freemasonry from biased and improper solicitations against their own inclination and/or influenced by mercenary or other unworthy motives.”  As soon as they find out that the Order does not involve itself with canvassing for pecuniary or other worldly benefits for its members, they get frustrated and unceremoniously quit.


There are sub-sets of the third category just discussed.  These are those searching for easy solutions to their problems.  They are usually of the impression that “the secret to wealth and success” can be found in Freemasonry. They also believe that this secret is though not revealed to members until they shall have attained a certain high level of membership. In such instances one observes persons in this group quitting after attaining the Chair, or in a few instances, after receiving some of the non-Craft higher degrees.


The other group worth mentioning consists of those who on identifying that a person of substance whose friendship and trust they would want to nurture and exploit to selfish advantage is a Mason, promptly seek admission.  They are usually deceptively very enthusiastic at these initial stages of their Masonic life.  As soon as their initially perceived advantage is fully exploited or lost, these ‘mercenary-masons’ cease from associating with Masonry and in some instances, profess to have renounced the Order. This also happens when some Brethren canvass an individual with no other good qualification than that he is wealthy or has access to the corridors of power.



Are There Any Remedies or Palliatives?


In all the above categories, the backsliding Brother most often fails in our prayer that he lives many years to wear the distinguishing badge of a Freemason with pleasure to himself, usefulness to the Craft, and honor to our Lodge.  He also fails in our exhortation never to disgrace that badge, which he was assured will never disgrace him.  We can only strive to minimize the rate of decline in membership. All the causes of backsliding we have identified are principally attributable to ignorance or lack of adequate knowledge of Freemasonry on the part of our lost Brother and members of his immediate family.  Our Lodge should recognize the importance of information in the life of every entity.  It is information to the tree that harmattan (in our own climate system) or winter (in the further northern climates) is approaching, that makes it shed its leaves in order to survive that season.  In business management, information is assigned a very high premium. We need therefore to appropriately and continuously educate Brethren and ourselves on the tenets of the Craft. 


One approach and the most important, is to be much more meticulous in our processing of applicants for initiation.  We are almost all guilty of imprudently filling out the right side of that center-spread page of the “Application For Initiation Form.”  This relates to information required of the Proposer and the Seconder.  What efforts do we make to confirm that the applicant is conversant with the first two and a half pages of the Application Form which in summary dealt with “What Is Freemasonry?”, “What Freemasonry Is Not,”  “Who May Become A Freemason,” and “What Freemasonry Expects Of You?”  Do we really appreciate the import of the time-honored Dr. Oliver’s admonition that we be very cautious whom we recommend as a candidate for initiation?  One false step on this point may be fatal.   This fatality may lead not only to matters detrimental to the governance or even the subsistence of our Lodge but to dishonor of the Craft in general.  We ought to strive to ensure that as far as lies in our power, the candidate we sign his application form is in the language of our Order, “of good report.”  Philosophers agree on a few maxims.  One generally accepted principle is, “When in doubt, withhold decision.”  If we have the slightest doubt as to the good qualities of an applicant, or any misgivings that he would not be a good Mason, we are then bound to decline to sponsor or second his being proposed for admission.  Most importantly, we ought now to request to meet with his immediate family to discuss his application and explain to them all those issues indicated in the Application Form. This should be compulsory.  It was shocking to learn only at the installation of a Brother in one of our Daughter Lodges, that his wife did not even know that he is a Mason. This only became known when Brethren wanted to know why he wanted his post installation banquet held in the Temple premises under contract catering, while being resident with his wife and family in the city where the Lodge meets.


In some Lodges, they have adopted a requirement that the applicant first submits in his own handwriting, a formal letter of intention to apply for membership, before he is given the official Application For Initiation Form.  In the letter, without any prompting from a Mason, he indicates his incentives for seeking admission and that his immediate family has been appropriately informed. These are preludes to confirming the declaration the applicant would later make on the floor of the Lodge, that he is prompted to solicit the privileges of Freemasonry from a favorable opinion, preconceived, of the institution, a general desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to render himself more extensively serviceable to his fellow creatures.  It is also hoped that the letter would limit the amount and content of ‘testimonies’ the Brother may be tempted to make if he backslides and becomes a ‘born-again’ in one of the money spinning churches that now spring up in Nigeria.



Lack of Instructions to an initiate


It is observed that as soon as one is initiated, he is totally left on his own to recollect and appraise whatever he may have remembered of the very lengthy lectures he was given, most of which were during the time he was in a state of darkness.  The result is that he is not thereafter, assisted in appreciating the importance of the ceremony he had undergone.  This abandonment by his sponsors and other Brethren is brought out succinctly when prior to his being made a Fellow of Craft, he stutters through the only eleven usual questions related to the ceremony of his initiation.  This happens at least one calendar month after his initiation and ought to be very expertly answered by him, if we had been good Brethren to him, guiding and instructing him on the tenets of Freemasonry related to his rank as an Entered Apprentice Freemason.  We should appreciate the import of his being known and addressed as an Apprentice, and therefore undertake to teach and inform him accordingly.  The Right Worshipful Master should on coming to the level to extend a hand of fellowship to him also charge his sponsors to make it a point of their Masonic responsibility to make out time to duly instruct the Initiate on related matters.  The same process should be undertaken with newly made Fellows of Craft and Master Masons. We should now no longer hesitate in making a copy of the Ritual available to an initiate.  This is available at some bookstores to all who may want to pay for it.  The printing press that produce them as well as the bookstores that retail them employ all and sundry who are not necessarily Masons.  In passing, I would also suggest that we no longer hide the contents of our regalia box from our wives and children.  This unnecessary secrecy to even our immediate family members is often misinterpreted to infer that Freemasonry is satanic.


With respect to the newly made Fellow of Craft Freemason, we forget the charge that we expect him to make “the hidden mysteries and nature of our science his future study so that he may be enabled the better to discharge his duties as a Freemason, and estimate aright the wonderful manifestations of the Almighty Architect’s Plan.”  To complicate matters more for him, he is told that he will now be permitted to extend his researches into the more hidden mysteries of the Craft.  If any Fellow of Craft later recalled these admonitions and charges, he definitely would be troubled with the extent of the immediate meaninglessness of the long lectures.  To extend a research implies that some form of research is already being undertaken, and there he stands, wondering what he had missed in the first degree.  Here again, the Lodge owes him a duty of care, to assign some Brethren to meet with the Fellow of Craft and explain to him the import and implications of this second degree in Freemasonry.


At the Master Mason’s stage, the situation is bleaker.  Entered Apprentices and Fellows of Craft uninformed as to the nature of their engagement, anticipate that these “mysteries” would be made clear at the Master Mason’s degree.  Here again, the Exhortations may be well delivered, but the candidate neither fully appreciates the meaning, nor the significance of subsequent rites of his raising.  Instead, the Senior Warden and the Worshipful Master now give him a very enormous responsibility in his investiture charge.  There he stands in his ignorance of the world of Freemasonry and is being informed that he has attained “full Masonic manhood.”  He is further embarrassed in his ignorance by being charged to recognize “his own superiority” which calls on him “to afford assistance and instruction to E.As and Fs. of C.” 


Let each and every one of us reflect on our mood when we were so addressed, vis-à-vis what we then knew of Freemasonry.  To worsen our embarrassment at that time, if we really were listening and comprehending the import of the words, the charge after raising talked about our “zeal for the Institution of Freemasonry, the progress” we have made in the art and our conformity to the general regulations which it claims, pointed us “out as a proper object of” Masonic favor and esteem.”  We must have felt that these were references to our regular attendance at meetings with shiny shoes and well pressed out three-piece suit since after our initiation.  Otherwise, what did we then know about Freemasonry to merit such accolades?  Did we really possess those qualities?   Whatever level of knowledge we then possessed was not even adequate for instructing EAs and Fs. of C let alone meeting challenges from the detractors of the Order.  It though, was not our fault as newly made Master Masons.



The Onus of Information Dissemination


The entire responsibility for these lapses falls squarely on the Right Worshipful Master.  Each time prior to his Lodge being opened, he is reminded by no less an official than the IPM (Immediate Past Master), that it is his duty “to open the Lodge, and to employ and instruct the Brethren in Freemasonry.”  His appointment to the office was predicated on his being “an expert brother” elected from among the members of the Lodge to preside over it.  He is elected because he is “well skilled in our science, and a lover of the Craft.”  Among the Charges and Regulations he submitted himself to uphold as all good Masters have done, is “to propagate the knowledge of the art of Freemasonry.”   Furthermore, he was required as part of his obligations and responsibility in the discharge of the duties of his high office, “to communicate the light of Masonic knowledge and instruction to his brethren, and fan the flame of enthusiasm and zeal for their Lodge and for the Craft.”  It is upon his skill and assiduity that the honor, the reputation, and the usefulness of his Lodge will materially depend.  The happiness of the Brethren of his Lodge will also “be promoted in proportion to the zeal and ability with which he promulgates the genuine principles of the institution.”  He is though as Master, empowered to delegate some aspects of these duties of his important trust to appropriately qualified Brethren, particularly Past Masters of his or other Regular Lodges.  As Past Masters they had been similarly charged on their respective installations and therefore fall within the rank that “must of necessity rule and teach.”



Teaching Opportunities


The fact that the Master opens his Lodge to employ and instruct the Brethren in Freemasonry, implies that he must during the course of business in each such opened Lodge, devote his time not only in employing the Brethren in what is usually the working of one of the degrees, but also in instructing them by way of a talk, a lecture, or a question and answer session.  With this understanding, permit me to state that a Master definitely fails woefully in his duty if he engages in what is termed an “open and close” meeting.  A topical well-researched lecture of fifteen minutes duration would liven up meetings, improve the knowledge we charge the EAs, Fs of C, and MM to acquire and utilize, and induce Brethren who thirst for knowledge to attend.  A question and answer session would elicit from Brethren the areas in which they may need assistance for comprehension.  It would also assist in determining areas of assistance in dealing with persons of the outer world who are not Masons.  In each case, the Right Worshipful Master would engage his expertise to ensure that Masonic prohibitions regarding discussion on religion and politics are strictly observed.   Reduction of lectures to hard copies thus enabling Brethren refer to them later for greater understanding is recommended.  Brethren who have the facility may have the lectures sent to them via their e-mail addresses.


While Freemasonry is not a religion, it strictly insists that its members must be astutely religious.  This among others, distinguishes us from irregular lodges and each brother should be very knowledgeable in the differences. Where each brother is sufficiently versed in the nature of our science that is founded on the practice of every moral and social virtue;


whose members uphold the name of the one, true and living God with that awe and reverence due from the creature to his Creator, imploring his Divine aid in all their lawful undertakings, and looking up to Him in every emergency for comfort and support;


relate to their neighbor in a like manner as they would expect from him;


practice such virtues as prudence and discipline which may best conduce to the preservation of their corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy thereby enabling them to exercise those talents wherewith God has blessed them;


pay due obedience to the laws of any State which may for a time become their place of residence; and,


practice every domestic as well as public virtue,

then we shall expect that he would be adequately informed to rationally counter the opposition from his immediate family members and therefore those of his larger society.


Such a brother will be equipped to detail the explanation that Freemasonry is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion; and is not a charitable or insurance institution, nor does it lend itself to the promotion of selfish or mercenary interests or connected in any way with a political creed.  Most importantly, the Freemasonry we practice is regular as distinct from irregular Lodges with whom we share no association.  Often, some family members may refer sarcastically to a brother they know to have some socially undesirable habits.  An enlightened brother should be able to proffer adequate explanation that the observed anomie would have been worse were the fellow not a Mason.  Furthermore, no society of humans can claim to have a totality of its members conforming to the prescribed path of virtue enshrined in its precepts.  If more of us are knowledgeable and persevere in the practice of the principles and virtues of pure and unsullied Freemasonry, and exemplify them to the world at large, in our homes, neighborhoods, work places and churches, our detractors will be considerably disarmed.



The Indigent Group


We are left with one category of deserters, who cannot be very easily helped through the suggested continuing education program.  These are those who fall into the misfortune of relying for sustenance on family members who harbor false religious principles.  Masonry teaches us to work while it is yet day.  We have noted the charge that we practice such virtues as prudence and discipline which may best conduce to the preservation of our corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy thereby enabling us to exercise those talents wherewith God has blessed us.  In the first degree, the Order employed the 24inch gauge to instruct us to adhere to the dignity of labor.  These not withstanding, most often age, ill health, economic depression and inflation may combine to render a brother indigent and in need of financial support.  Where he has failed in the period of his economic independence to convince his immediate family of the excellence of Freemasonry, he may then be at risk of being pressurized to renounce the Order if he is to expect financial assistance from them.   Most often their flimsy excuse is that whatever assistance he gets from them would be expended in his Lodge membership dues and levies.  Knowing that membership in Freemasonry can be expensive, they hope that a build up of arrears on his financial obligations, would compel him to minimize and later abandon his attendance at Masonic meetings. To some extent, they may add-in several other icings to the cake, by indicating willingness to replace his worn out car and secure him a knighthood in the church.  To compound the matter, they may also make reference to the absence of visitations by his Masonic brethren.


As individuals, we may only take note of this later class.  Chances are that also as individuals or groups, we may find avenues of assisting such distressed brethren.  There have been some instances where this has been successfully done.  Modalities for easing such distress on true and faithful Masons, should be our continual care.



Be Proud of Your Masonic Identity


At each installation, the Order demands of us a “just though unobtrusive pride in our Lodge”. Being proud presupposes having relevant knowledge of the object for which one is proud of. This entails being fully informed on what Freemasonry is and is not.  Unfortunately, on yet another aspect, not many of us will want to be seen in a public Masonic assembly in which wearing of regalia has been sanctioned.


Let us reflect on our recent past. Here in Nigeria, the early nascent Christian churches particularly Anglican and Presbyterian, owe a great deal to dedicated Freemasons who were either missionaries, school principals and masters, or colonial officials and merchants for their dedication to the principles enunciated in our Antient Charge namely – “never to act against the dictates of his conscience…and to strive by the purity of their own conduct to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they” profess as good Christians.  The practice of holding Masonic meetings in the college chapel was not new to them. In Scotland where the Presbyterian Church has its beginnings, there are records of Lodges holding their meetings in parish churches. One such Lodge is Lodge St. John Kilwinning which held some of its initiations in St. Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington.  Today in Scotland, Ireland and England, several Lodges still hold special services in their parish churches.


In some Nigerian cities, Maiduguri, Kano, Zaria and Jos all in the Moslem dominated north, Lodges were chartered and worked as early as 1939. In Calabar in the Christian south, Lodge MacDonald 197 IC was erected in 1896 much before the birth of the nation Nigeria in 1900, and had for its members the core personnel of the Presbyterian Mission and Secondary School in the town.  The same can be said of several primitive urban centers in Nigeria, particularly Lagos, Onitsha, Port Harcourt and Ibadan.  Archbishop Leslie Gordon Vining, was along with other local Clergy in the then Province of West Africa, a dedicated man of God and Mason. He was the District Grand Chaplain to both the Nigerian Scottish and English Constitutions. The Vining Memorial Church in Lagos is named after him.  The same goes for his other associates as Bishops A. W. Howells Sr. and A. W. Howells Jr.   A Street in Aba, Howells Crescent takes its name from the Howells that was the Bishop of Aba diocese. When Lodge Ekwulu No.1665 S.C was erected, a solemn service was held at the high brow All Saints Anglican Church, GRA Enugu in which the Masons worshiped in full regalia.  The photograph taken in front of the Church with the Clergy is a testimony of the reality of the amiable relationship between Freemasonry and the Church much before some of our present church leaders became more religious than their predecessors in office.


It is instructive to know that the first black American Freemason, Prince Hall (1748-1807), was a Methodist Minister.  A majority of the Methodist ministers were then Freemasons and included the famous Josiah Henson whose character inspired the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. They were simply in the footsteps of the Wellesley ‘Brothers’ – Rev. John, Charles and Samuel. A Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Farther Fransisco Calvo, introduced freemasonry in Costa Rica in 1865. Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, one of the best-known Protestant clergymen in America and author of several best selling psychology texts, was a member of Millwood Lodge No. 1062 Brooklyn N.Y.  Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a member of Nauvoo Lodge, Illinois.  The Mormon’s Temple Ceremonies are known to be adaptations from Freemasonry.  Swami Nerendramah Datta Vivekananda an Indian ascetic and leading exponent of both Hinduism and Yoga in the west is a member of Hope and Anchor Lodge No. 1 Calcutta.


I have no hesitation in concluding with the a High Court judge in South Africa who said that “in listening to this evidence I believe Freemasonry is the handmaiden of the Church.” (Quoted in GL of Scotland Quarterly Communication report 1st November 2001 at page 163).  There is no need for further digression to the early beginnings of Freemasonry and its close association with the Church.  These are well documented and evidenced in the several cathedrals built and hymns composed by true and faithful Masons.  Franz Josef Haydn, was  the first symphonic composer, famous for his Masses and Chamber music.  His most commonly known and admired oratorios are ‘The Creation’ and ‘The Seasons.’  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a member of Lodge Zur Wohltatigkeit, Vienna, introduced him into Freemasonry and he was initiated also at Vienna in 1785 in Lodge Zur Wahren Eintracht.  The preface to the first edition of the Christian Community Bible which is very much in circulation in Nigeria, published 1998, has a section titled “From the Apostles to Us.”  In it, it states that “Mozart’s music has opened a fresh Christian awareness to more people than some great missionaries.”  What a humble appreciation of the great contributions of this Christian and Mason to his religion!  This is but a tip of the iceberg.


There is a general consensus that no astronaut can be an atheist.   John Glenn who in 1962 became the first American to orbit the earth in the space ship Friendship 7, is a member of Concord Lodge No. 68 Concord, Ohio.  Leroy Gordon Cooper, the astronaut who made record-breaking flights in Mercury 7 in 1963 and in Gemini 5 in 1965, is a member of Carbondale Lodge No. 82, Colorado.  Virgil Grissom a member of Mitchell Lodge No. 228 in Indiana in 1965 undertook the first manned maneuver in space.  He died in the explosion of another mission in Apollo 1 in 1967.  Col. Edwin Aldrin who in 1969 co-piloted the first landing on the moon of the Apollo II lunar module was initiated in Lodge Progresso No. 4 Valparaiso.  James Benson Irwin, a member of Lodge Tejon No. 104, Colorado Springs, piloted the lunar module “Falcon” on the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 and spent with David R. Scott nearly 67 hours on the moon surface. Others are Thomas Patten Stafford and Wally Shirra.


These and many more from all works of life, several with intimidating record of achievements, others as monarchs, kings, and princes with silver spoons in their mouths, and yet thousands more with modest achievements ranging from Presidents, Prime Ministers, Judges and personality giants in various fields of honorable human endeavor, were all Masons true and brave.  We should be prudently proud and happy in the awareness that no society of men has produced series of excellent individuals as our noble Order.


Just recall the information given to all applicants for initiation relating to “What Freemasonry Expects of [them].”  It reads: “The privileges of Freemasonry are no greater than the responsibilities of its members.  Your obligations will not conflict with those you have already assumed by virtue of your membership in modern society.  On the contrary, Freemasonry reiterates, reinforces and re-emphasizes them. Thus, in asking Freemasonry to share with you its past, its present and its future and all the privileges of its Brotherhood, you must bear in mind the fact that the relationship is a reciprocal one.”  Let us all creditably stand to be recognized. As we stand out, in our daily lives, demonstrating the principles and virtues of our fraternity, our associates of the outer world would be prompted to long to belong and thereby come to “knock” on our door.


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