Nathaniel P. Warren

We Must be Charitable


Have you ever found yourself destitute?  I have.  I have been both destitute in terms of coin and of spirit.  It is was an invaluable experience, one which I hope to never find myself in again, but if I do, I fear it not.  My only hesitation with being destitute is that it hampers my ability to assist others.  You can never fully comprehend the power of charity, until you are the necessary beneficiary.  The feeling of being helpless and dependent upon another feels very vulnerable indeed, like standing in a crowded room without clothes and without the ability to dress.  You can feel exposed and weak.  It can feel like the whole world is looking on at our dire situation.

There was a time in Masonry in which this lesson was given to me.  At the time I understood it only from a financial standpoint.  Of course, I would contribute to a brother’s relief financially if that’s what he needs.  We are brothers, after all.  A few years passed after my initiation into the fraternity before this lesson would crack from the seed and implant roots into my soul.  I never met a brother in those first few years that needed any charity.  I had helped a few guys move and clear trees, but never any real need.  How fortunate.

It struck me one day that this charity must extend beyond money.  It must extend beyond the help to move from one home to another, providing an ear to listen, furnishing clothing, or granting a place to stay.  Our charity must be not only from a place of love, it must be love, manifested.  We must practice spiritual charity.  We must employ empathy and embrace the pain of others.  We must strip ourselves down and stand with those in need upon the darkened square. 

One day I came to realize that the practice of charity must apply to everyday situations with everyday people.  After this realization, I looked around and saw the suffering of others in a whole new way.  I saw people with body issues, people with inferiority complexes, people who were unsure of themselves, and people who withheld the beauty of who they are for fear that they simply were not good enough, as measured against what they perceived as normal.  I saw people who were told that they were different and that different was no good.  I saw people who didn’t feel like they could or should, write, speak up, or tell a joke in a crowd.  I saw these people all around me in daily living and I saw it within the fraternity.  My heart broke.

Charity is to include everyone, not just our brethren.  We must empower everyone to succeed, and we MUST make sure that no one stands alone with their emotions.  We as Masons are duty bound to help a brother as well as those who are not initiated.  We are to be a light in the community.  We cannot be content to rely upon the legacy of trustworthiness and generosity of our grandfathers, which we inherited by the donning the same apron, ring, and appellation of “FreeMason.”  We must act every day, in every way, as if our fellow humans are entitled to the full bounty of spiritual loving-kindness that we all muster for our brothers. 

We know that we will do just about anything that a brother asks, but if we are content with waiting until he asks we are missing the point.  The charity we need to be practicing cannot be measured in simple dollars or organizing festivities for a cause.  This charity is measured in feelings of worthiness, validation, comfort, smiles, gratitude and enlightenment.  We are in the business of being generous men, not for the sake of strengthening the bonds of brotherhood, but for strengthening the condition of the human spirit at large.  The goal should be to share a piece of yourself, of your spirit, and to truly connect with another person on a deeply personal and intimate level.  This is charity.  This is the warm feeling that washes over you when you first realize that your brethren are here to support you both inside and outside of Lodge.   This is the feeling of love.  To make another person that has been scattered upon the rocks of life feel like their plight is not a singular struggle; to comfort the ones that are shaky in their resolve, and to bring warmth to those that need it, is Charity.

Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity. [2] We must be charitable, brethren, or there is no point in being a Mason at all.  If we do nothing in this life to improve the lives of others, then we have done nothing.  This is why charity is the first great lesson of Masonry.


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 [2] The Official Monitor of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, State of Texas. Waco: Gayle Printing, 1921. Print.

Can You Step Back From Your Own Mind?


I was doing a little late night sitting tonight.  I have worked my body hard the last two weeks, all while fighting an illness.  Tonight I zoned out, watching the tip of a candle flame dance.  My thoughts came and went, smoothly, and without alarm.  I didn't even seem to notice when one ended and another began.  Eventually my mind flashed to Masonry, as it always does. 

I am a problem solver by trade, luckily, since I had already adopted problem solving as a way of life before I was ready to find a trade.  I often fight the impulse to step in.  I put a lot of thought into how and why I do things, and it is pretty difficult to not insert my way into someone else’s task.  My way is not always better, particularly when I am not the one completing the task.  Over the course of several years I began to develop protocol.  There is a certain way to do all things in my life, and I generally stick to those methods.  Sometimes I don’t though, and that is where the magic happens.

I developed these pathways in my brain, they were old and familiar.  Nary an obstacle dared to enter these roads, for they were well traveled.  I began to see the world a certain way because I believed one thing which happened to support another that supported yet another.  By the time I reached the third echelon of belief formation I was already in a pretty narrow spot.  There wasn't much to choose from.  Even though I had made these choices, I thought, I had little say in where my subconscious arrived.

Masonry blew the doors off of that cage.  From the day I began as an Entered Apprentice I often repeated the mantra “open your mind."  I purposefully challenged everything I thought I knew.  I questioned my religion for the sake of others.  I questioned my perception of personality types and stigmas.  I questioned myself all they way down to the deep dark core.  Everywhere I allowed myself to float, I found merit.  And everywhere I opened myself to new possibility I found something worth changing for.

Suddenly the world became more colorful.  Relationships and understandings deepened.  Where I found that my beliefs were substantiated there was richness and vibrancy.  The creator was in everything.  The creator was in me.  I found that he wasn't at the end of some long and arduous road of trials.  The creator was in my friends, nature, and my brothers; she permeated my life already.

When we allow people to be themselves, discover themselves, and act for themselves they become who they were intended to be all along.  Just as the perfection of nature cannot be improved, there can be no improvement made by an external source upon a person who is discovering themselves from within.  A goat cannot be a good or bad goat.  A tree cannot be a good or bad tree.  Likewise a person will become perfection if only all influence, both external and self imposed, is stripped away. If we can do that, we can connect in the truest and most intimate way with ourselves, each other, and more importantly our origin.  

We can begin to experience others, only after we first experience ourselves.  If we can find those sorts of connections, there you will find god.  It is a deep and rich wonderment, the beauty of the spirit.  When you glimpse yourself, late at night, when you are tired and a little beat down from the day, you are seeing the creator.  You begin to feel empowered, limitless, and strong.  This is who you were intended to be.  That reunion can be an emotional one, similar to embracing your lover after a long absence.  What is that feeling? Relief? Love? Happiness?  That feeling is the very reason for your forming the relationship to begin with.  We call it love, but really it is simply the experience of connecting with another person as we were intended to.

So often, especially in Masonry, we project ourselves.  We attempt to lead, but more often than not, Masonic Leadership is akin to herding or an attempt at conversion to the leader's view.  If we love our brethren, we must let them be.  If you are the one elected to lead you must lead yourself.  The lodge is not “your” lodge.  It is not “your” year.  The lodge is the lodge and this year is simply 2015.   It doesn't belong to you, or me, or the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the State.

We must step back from our own minds, brethren, and discover what perfection lies within.  We are all on the same path.  You might ask, “well what is the point of having a leader then?”  That is a very good question.  I believe that our Worshipful Masters are here to provide a spiritual center to the group.  The tone of the frail egregore is in their charge.  They are to take care to preserve and foster an environment where we may come together and learn from each other so that we may work upon ourselves more efficiently.  They are here to run the meetings and facilitate the structured business dealings we must attend to.  They are not here to dictate your Masonry.  We must be so very careful to maintain the space where spiritual experience can happen.  We must be attentive and wise to allow it to take different forms.  It is quite possible that the direction of the lodge will go in the complete opposite way than you imagined, no matter how noble your intention.  Give it space.  Be a student at all times; you never know what unknown experience will change you forever.




Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child's?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue. [1]


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End Notes:

[1] Tzu, Lao, and Stephen Mitchell. "10." Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. 23. Print.

You're an Entered Apprentice. So What?

You're an Entered Apprentice.  So what?

When is a man made a Mason?  I believe the phrase used in the Entered Apprentice degree is "you are now made a Mason."  This makes sense, because when we speak about it later we say we were "then" made a Mason;  therefore, once you have been through your Entered Apprentice degree you are now a Mason.  Congratulations. 

What follows; what does that mean for you; and, as the title suggests, what does it mean to me... or so what?

It means a great deal actually, and very few men have the true weight of how important this is communicated to them.  First off, you are my brother.  The primary, yet initially shallow, thing that binds us is our solemn obligation.  It is only as good as your honor.  As we grow together, sharing virtue and selves, that honored promise becomes all the more sacred.  It becomes seasoned with trial.  You will find that when you need your Masonic brothers, they will be there.  When you start seeing your sacred promise manifested it gets a little more serious.  I know, because I have seen it.  It is with that authority that I say, I will do the same for you.

You have sought us out.  We did not pitch it to you, or recruit you.  You asked.  You knocked.  You came to us.  Thank you.  The trust that you as an Entered Apprentice put into our hands is so humbling,  that I often feel unworthy.  The only reason that I am here, as a Mason, is because of Entered Apprentices.  Without Entered Apprentices there would be no Masonry.  It might last another sixty years or so, but no longer.  Masonry is the continuation of virtue passed down through the centuries.  The only way to get there is by initiating people like you, our precious and appreciated Entered Apprentice.  

Many men join the fraternity with some attachment in the form of nostalgia.  For some that is their primary motivator.  Along the way, though, most if not all will say that they want to be a better man.  Our members are men who are brave enough to look at themselves in the mirror for one honest second, drop their mask, and decide that their ego will no longer suffice.  As an Entered Apprentice you are already a hero for deciding that what was once good enough will stand no longer.  You have come to a place seeking help, strong influence, and answers.  You have come to slay the dragon and find the light.  There are many things that lead up to your initiation, but this alone is a task not suited for most men.  You are already enlightened, a little.  Me too, but just a little. 

We all came to the fraternity seeking greater truth and enlightenment.  Some wish to understand culture.  Some seek to unravel the mysteries of history.  All, sooner or later, come to realize that they are trying to understand themselves, and their place in this universe.

Manly P. Hall, in Words to the Wise, says, "All progress leads toward truth.  Progress, growth, and development are manifestations of the impulse toward truth, but the means should never be confused with the end.  When we refer, therefore, to the achievement of truth by external contact, we do not mean that reality itself is to be perceived outwardly, but rather that from certain outward contacts, we may gain instruments of comprehension and understanding by which we are better fitted to approach the mystery of truth itself."

We are here to seek truth, that we may know it for the first time.  As an Entered Apprentice you have traveled from the west to the East, seeking Light; however, that Light is not simply dumped on you by the Worshipful Master.  He will help and guide you, as will every brother of the lodge.  Just like when you become an Entered Apprentice you do not automatically gain enlightenment, the same goes for Fellowcrafts and Master Masons.  We are always traveling East.  Together.  In that aspect we are tied to one another.  We expose the spark of our being upon the altar, before the Creator, so that we might get out of the way of ourselves, alter ourselves, and evolve.

This is a journey of the spirit to discover the soul.  Who you are in the beginning makes no difference.  You have come to the sacred altar in hopes of finding the pure essence that lies within you.  We all have performed that act, and continue to do so daily.  This is our kinship.  This is our sacred tie.  It is so righteous and sublime.  Never feel that you are unworthy or outside the circle because you don't "understand the next degrees," or "aren't a Master Mason."  So what?  Do not feel out of place.  Do not feel uncomfortable or shy.  You are charged to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be ready to receive instruction.  This fraternity is here for you.  We have been waiting for you.  You have done the most important thing any Mason has EVER done.  You may have only taken your first step, but it is the most crucial step that you will ever take. You are so valuable.

We are all Entered Apprentices.  Welcome into our humble fraternity.  To those whose paths may cross with mine:  I cannot wait to see who you are, and grow together.

Brethren, be in order as Entered Apprentices.

Thank you for reading The Laudable Pursuit! If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share it on social media sites, or with your Lodge.

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