What is a “perfect” mason?
What is a “perfect” mason?

What is a “perfect” mason?

By Paul R. Swanson, 32°

John S. Nagy, 32°, author & consultant

Oct 18, 2023

In 2023 the core message from our Grand Master of Masons in Florida is that the business of Freemasonry is to make new masons.

While the business of a Freemasonic lodge is to make new members, it is the sacred labor of each member to employ Masonry to make themselves better men by using our ritual as a guide for self-improvement towards “perfection” and mastery.

Freemasonry is intended to provide a Lodge which has an atmosphere of mutual support and encouragement when they gather for good men to become better men.   This can only be accomplished through the process of Masonic education pointed out by our ritual while also using reason and allegorical understanding in finding for themselves the “light” everyone claims is used in making good men better.

Masonry is a path to enlightenment for those eager to pursue the light offered in the rituals in Masonry!

There is no political slogan or shortcut to self-improvement offered in our rituals. There is work and progress only for the willing and able.

How do you know when you have completed the Apprentice Work pointed toward in the ritual?

Drawn from The Craft Perfected: Actualizing Our Craft, By Brother John S. Nagy is an answer that I felt reflects our current reality. We learn in this book many things, among them that when our ritual was compiled the word “perfect” didn’t mean flawless as it is used today. It meant “well-informed, sure, certain.” I love this lesson!

Being a Master Mason has in the past been an image of refinement and one of a complete man, able-bodied and a reliable citizen. He is a leader and can be counted on as loyal while being seen as reliable by his friends, business partners, and his family. He has achieved mastery of self and beyond.

How does this compare to the entered apprentice ritual demands? Are the expectations of an EA reviewable and can you address any shortcomings you discover?

This idea for self-improvement can be compared to the idea in business of a 360-degree personal review, where your direct reports as well as your superiors and perhaps your supervisor also participate in your growth by providing constructive feedback on your leadership as well as your management abilities.

For Masons, self-analysis is one of the main ways this would work with peer review as a close second. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that many willing participants will feel at home with this kind of thinking, particularly those who have not been exposed to the continuous improvement methodologies of Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, or the Navy’s total quality leadership program.

How do you evaluate yourself then?

Coach Nagy in his book cited above provides 28 points for self-analysis and review in Masonry with a score of 1 to 5 for a general assessment.

Can anyone take the assessment and provide all the criteria flawlessly? That is unlikely. But “flawless perfection” was never the goal. “The goal was to…

  1. Lay the foundation, and
  2. Put these activities on autopilot….

…so that you can continue to mature in other directions!”

Masons continuously improve their character with all opportunities afforded them. The EA degree is only the starting point.  It is then followed closely by the several steps of the FC degree.

A Scottish Rite Research publication, the Plumbline, Winter 2019 edition, Volume 16, No. 4 published an article titled, The Future of Freemasonry: Who We Are and What We Have to Offer. In it a survey of 2,300 Masons was cited and reviewed. The core issue still facing us is that one of four Masons surveyed has NOT found what they wanted or expected when they joined, producing what businesses call churn or customers lost from the group.

What are those Masons who are leaving not finding?

From the survey, nearly 90% of brothers consider Masonic education to be either important or very important. (Note: This is not the Masonic Digest or Lodge Leadership training currently being emphasized)

Over 90% consider themselves moderate or very spiritual. Lastly, and most importantly, over 90% appreciate and look forward to the camaraderie of the lodge.

The camaraderie of a lodge is not the act of voting on business meeting items either. It would be much more efficient if a committee with electronic reports handled the business items sent out before the meeting, freeing that time for membership-driven Masonic education that fills a void many brothers are seeking, followed by informed and well-directed discussions. Pick topics that are fun for your presentations!

A “perfect” mason is not flawless!  He is “well-informed” or what used to be termed well-read, as well as kind, loyal, and reliable. This is not an unattainably high bar for most of us to reach, especially with the wide range of accessible materials that we have today at our fingertips. If we are to take good men and help them to become better men and masons, it is the path.

As a practicable matter, each group or lodge could purchase the book cited and use it for each member to self-analyze and then put into place an individual self-improvement path using the processes in the ritual.

Each lodge could create a Masonic self-improvement workbook if the demand was great enough or commission worthy brothers to create one for each grand lodge.

Let’s dig into the churn and stem the losses of members while helping to “perfect” our membership.