Observing the Craft, A Book Review

“The Pursuit of Masonic In Masonic Labour and Observance”

By: Burks Norrod
Junior Warden
Sandoval Lodge No. 76
Observing the Craft

There are very few books that have made a solid impact on my Masonic journey, as most I’ve read have been historical in nature, helping me to understand where a piece of ritual originated from, or how the Masonic Apron evolved. While merely trivial to most – my curiosity behind everything that is in our Craft is part of the reason why it led me to knock on its doors a decade ago, in 2012 while living in Northern Virginia, the D.C. Area.

As a newly minted Master Mason, I stumbled upon the book Observing the Craft while looking for Masonic books of interest – and ordered it due to it’s intriguing title and book cover. “The Pursuit of Masonic In Masonic Labour and Observance” on it’s cover page caught my eye – after reading the book – my thoughts have never wavered from it, influencing me in my journey all the way through. It is my hope that you – whether you’re an Entered Apprentice, or one who’s been in our Craft for quite some time, will take the time to get this book, and maybe obtain a refreshed view of how our beautiful Craft we call Freemasonry can, and should be observed.

It’s a short book – only 145 pages – nothing as nearly as complicated as any writings by Brother Albert Pike or some others of his era … it’s written by a Past Master of the Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, a Lodge in Alexandria, Virginia. I had no idea that the author was the Secretary of this Lodge at the time … so I reached out to him, letting him know I read his book and that I would be visiting his Lodge, which was located maybe 30 minutes away due to traffic. A fantastic conversation was had after an enlightening experience at his Lodge – that was followed by a ‘Festive Board’ as they called it, not a dinner. It was also a catered meal, and thus had my eye opening discussion with WB Andrew Hammer over meat and drink. And – we discussed the matters of the Craft that he outlined in his book, that contained 8 Chapters.

In Chapter 1, titled “Why Does Observing the Craft Matter?” – I especially liked the paragraph that I think summarized this:

“Observing the Craft is understanding the things we do definitely have meaning, and when we discover that meaning, we understand why it is important that the meaning be observed and respected as we go about our Masonic labour. It is not resigning to the response of ‘That’s just the way it’s always been done’, but endeavoring to find out, even if we might never be sure, why it might be done that way. The men who established our rituals and codified the structure of the Craft would be appalled at the notion that nothing was ever to be questioned, studied or understood, but merely followed in a manner more befitting sheep than seekers of light.”

Because I myself tend to question everything – this right here resonated with me – and kept my interest throughout – as I could see the author and myself were like minds. Observance is focusing on the 3 Degrees of the Blue Lodge … so much that we learn not only our rituals that allow us to progress through the Degrees, but to take it a step further and to learn the lectures, charges, and other ritual – as it is said that to be able to memorize something, you can internalize it.

This book talks about the ‘distractions’ that we as Masons are often having to deal with. These are not too obvious to most, as many are knocking on the doors of Freemasonry due to wanting to contribute to their community, or otherwise associate our ancient fraternity as an organization of good men who do good deeds, and want to be a part of it. There’s nothing wrong with this thought process – but if that becomes the main focus, there’s no distinction between the many wonderful other fraternities that exist – take the Veterans or Foreign Wars club, or the Elks that are 2 doors down from our own Lodge. “To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, and to provide for its government.” – sound vaguely familiar? It’s the mission statement of the Elks.

There are quite a few other examples of groups that are considered ‘Masonic’, yet either don’t subscribe to the principles laid out in the ‘Symbolic’ Lodge for one reason or another – or groups that are formed in order to expand Masonry into the profane world. This can lead to a watering down of what Speculative Masonry set out to be. William Preston said it best in his Illustrations of Masonry, “Were the privileges of Masonry to be common, or indiscriminately bestowed, the design of the institution would be subverted; for being familiar, like many other important matters, they would soon lose their value, and sink into disregard.”

WB Andrew Hammer puts his book together in a very easy to read compilation that consist of 8 chapters, consisting of:

  1. Why Does Observing the Craft Matter?

  2. What is Observance?

  3. Dealing with Distractions

  4. The Pursuit of Excellence

  5. Dress

  6. Ritual

  7. The Festive Board

  8. The Observant Lodge

If you’ve been a Freemason for any period of time AND feel that there’s something missing from the lessons learned from the first 3 Degrees of the Craft … this book may be worth going online and getting, to see how you yourself can see what issues (if any) there may be … and more importantly, see how you yourself can be an Observant Mason in an ever growing environment where Freemasonry seems to be no different than those many other do-good fraternities that abound /G\

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