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Significance to our lives as Masons

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

Lecture in Lodge Fidelity No EC 5779 March 26th 2005


This lecture will rely on what we all already know from the Craft Rituals in use in this country. In this talk, I will only attempt to link them up in developing the subject topic of this evening.


At initiation, we were instructed that “ institution can boast a more solid foundation than that on which Freemasonry rests ....” An opening prayer or as in our culture, the breaking of the kola nut, in any assembly must of a necessity inculcate the object of such an assembly. This comes in handy in identifying the goal of our Masonic Initiation, namely,

                                 i.      that we may so dedicate and devote our lives to God’s service;

                               ii.      become true and faithful brethren within the Order;

                              iii.      and be better enabled to unfold the beauties of true godliness.


Soon after initiation, as we study the catechism given to us as a preparatory process to our further advancement in the Craft, we come to the awareness of the three grand principles on which our Order is founded namely “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”.  The text also affords us a summary and ingenious definition of Freemasonry as “a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”.


It is much later in our enjoined “extended research” that, we begin to appreciate that Masonry is indeed “a progressive science,” in which we must “distinguish and appreciate the connection of [the] whole system, and the relative dependency of its several parts”[1]. As one therefore contemplates these three grand principles, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, he cannot but recall and therefore appreciate the teaching that Virtue, Morality and Brotherly Love are “the principles which lie between the points of the Compasses


On both counts we have three principles highlighted, namely;

  • Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth as the three grand principles;

  • Virtue, Morality and Brotherly Love as the three principles that lie between the points of the Compasses.


The two lists cannot embody any contradiction in terms. We shall therefore reconcile the lists as follows;-


  • Brotherly Love            - Brotherly Love;

  • Relief                          - embodying Virtue;

  • Truth                           - encompassing Morality.


We may just cursorily mention the four cardinal virtues indicated in the First Tracing Board as Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice, issues that can only better be addressed in a separate lecture. These virtues are to direct, chasten, support and guide us in all our actions in the practice of the three grand principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.


I am inclined to visualize the three grand principles as forming a pyramid with TRUTH as the foundation or base, BROTHERLY LOVE as the superstructure and RELIEF as sandwiched in between or a link to the other two.



One can view this pyramidic form as a pair of Compasses which the First Tracing Board instructs us “belong to the Grand Master in particular”. Some early artists had expressed this concept in their several works in which the Great Architect of the Universe is illustrated as meticulously holding a pair of compasses. I will therefore address the topic in this order, beginning from the foundation and rising to the top, namely Truth, Relief and Brotherly Love.



The concept of Truth has remained a problem among philosophers. Among the Greeks, there were some like Carneades the founder of the Third Academy, an extension of the Second Academy of Plato a disciple of Aristotle’s First Academy, who taught that though it exists, truth has no criterion and is therefore not knowable. On the opposing side of this skepticism, was the simpler thought that held that truth can be known. They also held that "A thing is not true because Aristotle has said it; but Aristotle could not reasonably say it unless it was true”.  Some of us have had problems determining the answer to “what is truth?,” and have often based our premise on the presumably un-answered question of Pilate in John 18:38 of the VSL in use in this Lodge.


Incidentally, John the author of this book is very revered in association with St. John the Baptist in Freemasonry. In some old rituals they are substituted in the explanation of the first Tracing Board, for Moses and King Solomon in the definition of the two grand parallel lines bounding the North and South of “all regular, well-formed, constituted Lodges”.  "One finished by his learning what the other began by his zeal, and thus drew a second line parallel to the former." As an aside, it was on the feast day of the Baptist June 24, 1717 that the first Grand Lodge of record was formed by four Lodges that met at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse.  The final reconciliation of the Antients and the Moderns took place in Freemasons' Hall in London, on St. John's the Apostle’s Day, December 27, 1813. These dates ideally approximate the summer and the winter solstices and were deliberately chosen for reasons not within the confines of this lecture.


In the VSL, we read that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God[2]; and that “thy word is truth” [John 17:17].  We face a situation where THE WORD is GOD; THY WORD is TRUTH.  The conclusion is obvious and is embodied in the statement that Truth is a “divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue[3]. Virtue includes Brotherly Love and Relief.  

This also rhymes with our pyramidic icon in this Truth is depicted as the foundation. Every attribute of God is by definition eternal and absolute. 

The truth that is referred to as one of the three grand principles in Freemasonry therefore relates to God.  To be true, and to seek to find and learn the Truth, are the great objects of every good Mason[4]. We had referred to this at the initial part of this lecture when we identified the goal of Masonic initiation. The ancient axiom is, “to thine own self be true”.  Masonry emphasizes and dramatizes this in the 3o address where certain emblems are proffered as guide to our “reflections to the most interesting of all human studies, the knowledge of” ourselves, – emblems we cannot further deliberate upon as a result of the present composition of this Lodge embodying Brethren who are yet to receive that sublime degree.


Every activity in Masonry is begun in God’s Name, continued to His Glory in obedience to His precepts[5].  Masonry ensures that each new initiate believes in God and assures him that trust in God was an assurance that “no danger can ensue” in all his laudable undertakings.  It also presents to each initiate the VSL of his own faith, with a recommendation that he studies it with a “most serious contemplation” and charging him “to consider it as the unerring standard of truth and justice and to regulate” his actions by the divine precepts it contains with respect to his duties to God, his neighbor and to himself.  To enable us fulfill this injunction, Masonry instructs us on how to purify our hearts from every baneful and malignant passion and fitted only for the reception of truth and wisdom, which are divine attributes of the Great Architect of the Universe. One of the various essential qualifications for the office of Master of a Lodge is that he “must be true”. The Scottish ritual includes that he must have “an earnest seeking after truth”.


An interesting diversion is the now growing habit by a few of our Brethren in ascribing such Antient Masonic symbols as “Working Tools” to banal issues, much to the disinformation and scandalization of newly made Masons and the discomfiture of senior Masons. This attitude in not in consonance with Truth. We should not ever loose sight of our being considered fit and proper for admission into Masonry based on “a tongue of good report” that indicated that we were “just, upright” men of “sound judgment and strict morals”. The Charge after Passing further admonishes us “to preserve our ancient usages and customs sacred and inviolable, and induce others by example to hold them in veneration”. We should therefore take courage and consolation that the reward for abiding by the Truth is “that when we shall be summoned from this sublunary abode, we may ascend to the Grand Lodge above, where the world’s Great Architect lives and reigns for ever”.



I had identified relief as a virtue. It forms the central figure in our pyramidic icon. Masonry informs the candidate for its mysteries that the Craft ”is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue”. It “prizes honor and virtue above the external advantages of rank and fortune”. In the NE Corner Charge, it calls on the new initiate “to exercise that virtue which may justly be denominated the distinguishing characteristic of a Freemason’s heart”.  Wor. Bro. J.S.M. Ward in ‘The Moral Teachings of Freemasonry’ writes that “To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, particularly Masons, who are linked together in one indissoluble chain of sincere affection; hence, to soothe the unhappy, sympathize in their misfortunes, compassionate their miseries, and restore peace to their troubled minds, is the grand aim we have in view; on this basis we establish our friendships and form our connections. To encourage this virtue, Masonry further instructs that we should “seek the solace of our own distress by extending relief and consolation to our fellow-creatures in the hour of their affliction”. To our neighbor, relief enjoins us to always act towards him ”on the square, by rendering him every kind office which justice or mercy may require, by relieving his necessities and soothing his afflictions, and by doing to him as in similar cases [we], would wish he would do to [us]”.


These clearly define the wide expanse of the duty of relief. Relief does have some qualifications. The first is that the person to whom it is being granted must be a worthy Brother. Secondly, we are to extend relief to the utmost of our power, but without detriment to ourselves or to our connections. Relief need not necessarily imply financial or material assistance. A visit to a brother in distress to share company, proffer kind and consoling words is as much the virtue of relief as a cheque or cash gift.  A brother who solicits and invites others to share a ride to visit a far out country Lodge with dwindling membership provides an illustrious example of relief to the Brethren of the Lodge visited.  


I shall briefly here allude to what I understand as “a worthy brother”. He must qualify in the full meaning of the class indicated in the Constitution and Laws of the Grand Lodge as “a member in good standing”. He must be seen to have abided by the recommendations in the Charge after Initiation, particularly by living “such a prudent and well regulated course of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of his corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy, thereby enabling him exert those talents wherewith God has blessed him”. He must also have “dedicated himself to such pursuits as may at once enable him to be respectable in life, useful to mankind and an ornament to Masonry”. In effect there must be evidence that the brother had played his part well to personally relieve himself of his needs. There is though an awareness that “man proposes, and God disposes” equally brought out in the native Arochukwu proverb that “uche onya awughi uche onye gbara ya[6]. This is recognized in the NE Corner Charge allusion to “circumstances of unavoidable calamity and misfortune” which results in want and distress among worthy brethren who had done all the good that are in the books to earn and maintain a comfortable living.


Brotherly Love:

Masonry teaches the immutable law of the Brotherhood of Man deriving essentially and necessarily from the Fatherhood of God. Our Order strives to unite and conciliate into this true brotherhood, all men of every race, nation or creed who believe the Supreme Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance[7]. The expression of this amity it preaches and practices from time immemorial, is Brotherly Love.  I had quoted J.S.M. Ward  who said that:

By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human race as one family –the high, the low, the rich, the poor - who, being created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, ought to aid, support and protect each other. …. To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with them in their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds is the great aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.”[8]


Masonry classifies this expression of Brotherly Love as Charity.  Charity is the greatest of all virtues.  All the great religions Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism etc., recognize and encourage the duty of affording relief in aid of the less fortunate. The VSL glamorizes it in several books. In the Koran, Sura ii: 110 recommends “regularity in charity”: as whatever good we perform in charity finds favor “with God: for God sees well all that [we] do”. The same Sura in 177 includes charity as one of the indications of righteousness – “to spend of your substances, out of love for God, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves;..” There are at least twelve references to Charity in the Koran. This is understandable in view of the third pillar of Islam being zakat, or almsgiving recognized as a religious obligation and considered an expression of devotion to God. It represents the attempt to provide for the poorer sectors of society including orphans, widows and slaves and it offers a means for a Muslim to purify his or her wealth and attain Paradise.


Another VSL in use in regular Lodges of this country is the Christian bible. It is equivalently surfeit with the beauties of Charity which in recent translations is rendered as “Love”.   Peter wrote in his first letter, - “Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins[9]. Another passage informs us that “above all these things put on charity which is the bond of perfectness[10]. In the NEC charge the initiate is informed that he represents the foundation stone on which he is to raise a superstructure perfect in its parts and honorable to the Great Architect of the Universe. The initiate is thereupon put through a very dramatic and moving test of his Brotherly Love. The New Jerusalem Bible props up the NEC Charge with an appropriately relevant rendition of 1Cor 8:1 by stating that “it is love that makes the building grow”.


St. Paul who most reflects the teachings of Masonry in the VSL, took up this evidence of Brotherly Love extensively and beautifully in his writings. The highlights are particularly in the first letter to the Corinthians beginning with Chapter 13 and climaxing in the 13th verse - “the greatest of these is charity”. This is also indicated in the First Tracing Board whose explanation states that “the third and last, being Charity comprehends the whole, and the Mason who is possessed of this virtue in its most ample sense may justly be deemed to have attained the summit of his profession”.  While counseling his young initiate Timothy, Paul tells him that “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart”. In the New Jerusalem Bible, Paul used the term “brother’ in 147 verses of his letters. His teachings on Brotherly Love run as if directed at Freemasons.


One of the sure evidences of Masonic insistence on Brotherly Love is gleaned from the extended address to the new initiate on being clothed with the white lambskin.  He was advised on how to redress issues with a Brother with whom he may be at variance so that they may have the moral right to sit at Lodge “and work with that love and harmony which should at all times characterize Freemasons”.  All through our progress in Masonry, we are consistently reminded of the necessity of Brotherly Love.  In the lecture on the first tracing board, the symbolism of Jacob’s ladder is introduced in illustrating the excellence of Brotherly Love. The ladder stands on the VSL which rests on the upper part of the Circle “from which no Mason cannot err“.  This ladder defined as “the way by which we, as Masons, hope to “ascend to the GL above..” is composed of three principal staves or rounds – Faith, Hope and “Charity with all men....which comprehends the whole, and the Mason who is possessed of this virtue in its most ample sense may justly be deemed to have attained the summit of his profession:  figuratively speaking, an Ethereal Mansion veiled from mortal eyes..” This Mansion is later in the same lecture identified as “not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens”. Here the worthy translated Mason will meet “Him who would not deceive us, neither will He suffer deception”.


It will not be possible to fully detail the expected requirements of the implications of Brotherly Love on our behavior.  A summary injunction is “May Brotherly Love and affection ever distinguish us as men and as Masons. … Hence we learn … to drop a tear of sympathy over the filings of a Brother; and to pour the healing balm of consolation into the bosom of the afflicted[11]. Brotherly Love enjoins us “to correct the irregularities of [our] less informed Brethren; to fortify their minds with resolutions against the snares of the insidious, and to guard them against every allurement to vicious practices[12].  Probably this is directed at the “handbags” and the mis-titled “working tools” that now seriously and forcibly prevent our Brethren from attending our post-installation banquets with our wives or fiancées.  We owe these Brothers and Sisters a duty of care in Brotherly Love to cutoff these “allurement to vicious practices” which predispose us to attend with persons whom we cannot visit a Brother’s home with. The more we expose our Sisters to our assemblies, the more they appreciate Masonry and spread the good news they learnt to their circles of friends and associates in the outer world. We are in the ceremony after raising, charged “to preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied" and in another, to exemplify the beauties of Masonry “to the world at large” in our daily living.


Brotherly Love implies that we treat others in all respects as we would like to be treated. We should reflect on how hastily we are prone to condemn others, to confirm if we would have acted differently from what they did, had we been placed in precisely the same situation as they were.  Our attitude should in prudence, be in consonance with the Charge after Passing –namely:

You are not to palliate nor aggravate the offences of your Brethren … you are to judge with candor, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with mercy.  .. You are to encourage industry, and reward merit, supply the wants and relieve the necessities of Brethren and Fellows to the utmost of your power and ability, and on no account to wrong them, or see them wronged, but timely to apprise them of approaching danger, and to view their interests as inseparable from your own.”


We can “encourage industry” by accessing the other side of the coin of “apprising one of approaching danger”. We often occupy circumstances where we foresee job or appointment opportunities and this Charge inputs a responsibility to apprise relevant worthy Brethren of this approaching income prospect.  One other objective for a Mason to demonstrate Brotherly Love to the outer world is “so that the world may know that he is one to whom the burdened heart may pour forth its sorrow, to whom the distressed may prefer their suit, whose hand is guided by justice and whose heart is expanded by benevolence[13].


The ultimate demonstration of Brotherly Love is expressed in the VSL by one of the patrons of Masonry – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13].  We do not envision or wish that such a dire circumstance may arise among us, but it illustrates the limitlessness and boundlessness of the emblematical mathematical points between the points of the Compasses which we are taught, symbolically enshrines Virtue, Morality, and Brotherly Love.  Consequently, within the limits of our “utmost power” and “so far as may-fairly be done without detriment to ourselves or connections”, we owe a worthy brother all the duties of care that we owe ourselves. Masonry repeatedly reminds us of these and very much dramatizes it in the ancient but beautifully instructive Five Points of Fellowship which for time and circumstance I cannot dilate upon in this lecture.



In conclusion, may I please observe that Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth are such as may better be dealt with in three separate lectures.  We had illustrated the three principles in a pyramidic form with Brotherly Love as the crown.  Our patron St. John the Apostle in his first letter, typifies this foundation of love on God thus:

Beloved brothers, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love…. My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. ….. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him. Love will come to its perfection in us when we can face the day of Judgment without fear…... because to fear is to expect punishment,…….Anyone who says, 'I love God', and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us, that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.”[14]


The popular aphorism is that “to whom much is given, much is expected”.  Masonry has made us very much “acquainted with the principles of Moral Truth and Virtue” by which “we hope to ascend to a higher realization of that Immortal Principle, whence all goodness emanates.”   We should therefore be aware that we shall be judged by a standard commensurate with our exposure to these principles. We are all very conversant with the esoteric significance of the Square, the Level and the Plumrule as well as that revealed to Amos in his third vision –

This is what the Lord Yahweh showed me: a man standing by a wall, plumbline in hand.  'What do you see, Amos?' Yahweh asked me. 'A plumbline' I said. Then the Lord said to me, 'Look, I am going to measure my people Israel by plumbline; no longer will I overlook their offences.”[15]


We therefore now ought to bear in mind the standard with which The Great Architect will Mark our works. In cluding this summary exposé on the three grand principles on which our Order is founded, I plead that “we all unite in acting and working in a manner becoming the dignity of the Craft, [in Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth] so that the Blessing of TGAOTU may rest upon and protect [our] Lodges [from those that malign us] and sanctify [our] labors.”



As part of proof for efficiency in the first degree, a candidate for the second degree is asked to name the three grand principles upon which the Order is founded. His answer is “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”. It is customary for stationery letter-forms of Daughter Lodges to bear this answer thereby spotlighting its importance.  Often this is glossed over by most Brethren and the few that pay attention to it may not have a reasonably near comprehensive awareness of its implications. The Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Fidelity No. EC 5779 invited Bro. Prof. Chris Aniche Okorafor, Honorary Grand Senior Deacon; Past Depute District Grand Master (Nigeria – Scottish Constitution) to give a talk on this subject to Brethren and guests of his Lodge on March 26th 2005. This is the lecture as delivered in its full length.


[1] The Exhortation: - 3o

[2] John 1:1

[3] Charge after Initiation - Grand Lodge of Nevada Ritual

[4] Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, prepared for the Supreme Council of the Thirty Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States: Charleston, 1871 by Rev. Albert Pike 

[5] Prayer in E.L. of I 2o

[6] The best strategy of a trapist, does not often result in his trap catching a game

[7] An Antient Charge

[8] Wor. Bro. J.S.M. Ward: THE MORAL TEACHINGS OF FREEMASONRY: "A peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

[9] 1Peter 4:8

[10] Colossians 3:14

[11] Address to the Brethren at Installation

[12] Charge After Raising

[13] Address to Master at Installation

[14] 1John 4: 7- 21

[15] Amos: 7:7-8


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