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Lessons from Kipling

10 September 23

The Grand Master’s theme was laid out in the December 2018 edition of the Freemason. The theme Integrity, Loyalty and Respect should now appear prominently in the notice papers of all lodges throughout the jurisdiction.

…the philosophy of Freemasonry should be so strong that a mason will be able discuss, or even debate, with others without getting upset…


Collectively the theme pillars what it means when a person takes the step so to speak to become  a Freemason. The embodiment of the theme lies in the Charges and Obligations we take on ourselves when we enter the Order – obligations which entail collective as well as personal responsibilities.

Obligations which call on us to apply the principal virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity:

Obligations which call on us to apply the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice: to be prudent in our deeds and thoughts; to temper our actions with wisdom; to accept life’s tribulations and burdens with equanimity; and above all to be just in our dealings with others, but not to be judgemental.

The Grand Master’s theme makes so much reference to what should be the daily practice of masons and masonic philosophy, and every line, bar one, of Kipling’s poem, If–, summarises the qualities to develop the hearts and minds of every Freemason.

If– by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

A mason should be a calm, thoughtful, strong person able to cope with adversity and panic and hold together those who are succumbing to the pressure.

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

A mason will be ‘big’ enough to understand that others will place blame where it best assuages their consciences and feelings – to cover themselves from that blame, recognising that it is human nature to try to protect one’s self, and be prepared to assist them through their own difficulties.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

A mason will have confidence to continue on the path he knows is correct. But he will understand that others do not necessarily have that same confidence and is prepared to accept that his path may well be questioned by others.

But make allowance for their doubting too,

A mason will be just but not be judgemental about how others are acting and reacting, giving them the benefit of doubt and lack of understand- ing, or even, misunderstanding. He will not surrender his moral values.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

A mason will be patient and pre- pared for however long it may take for understanding and acceptance to emerge in others. He will use his patience and time to assist others.

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

A mason will remain true to his values and will never use the tactics that others may adopt: ensuring that he remains truthful at all times and striving to preserve his integrity – no matter how much others may impugn him. Above all, he will not reduce himself to their level. He is a mason and he will not be ashamed of feeling elite but he will remain humble.

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

A mason will retain a sense of humility and not yield to the temptation of thinking that he is ‘better’ than his brethren or anyone else: to be humble can also be considered a virtue, but not to the extent that his values are prejudiced in any way. He will recognise the difference between humility and submission.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,

A mason will dream, but he will ever be pragmatic about those dreams. He will not allow them to dominate him or supplant the reality of his life. He will have a firm grip on reality and will be comfortable with his life and surroundings.

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

A mason will think clearly and rationally and ‘outside the square’ should it prove necessary. But he will not allow his thoughts to deflect him away from the reality he finds himself in. He will not allow his thoughts to become dreams which have no real chance of coming true.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;

A mason will understand that life will always present him with a mixture of good and bad – a dichotomy of oppo- site conditions and yet he will be able to balance his life and treat both success and failure with equanimity: ‘… turning neither to the right nor to the left from the paths of virtue; …’

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kippling.jpg

A mason will know and understand that sometimes others will take what he has said, and which he truly believes to be true, and twist it often through ignorance but sometimes with deliberate malice. But he will be able to bear it with fortitude and will have the courage to endeavour to correct the misapprehensions and damage.


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