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Article # 71
Inaugural Address

Author: M.W.Bro.Norman Thomas    Posted on: Thursday, June 19, 2003
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[It is customary in all Grand Lodges, for the M.W.G.M to deliver an address after his Installation as the Supreme Head of the Grand Lodge. That address is known as the Inaugural Address in most of the Grand Lodges. M.W.Bro.Norman Thomas was installed as the M.W.Grand Master on 14 th June 2003. The Inaugural Address delivered by him is a classic address. He has assumed the High Office with considerable rich experience not only in Masonry, but also as a great scholar, great Professor, regular and visiting. He has referred to the status of Freemasonry now and the action required to keep the light of

Freemasonry with all its splendour and effulgence available to any man, who wants to improve himself and show the world that to be a Mason is a matter of personal pride. His call “Awake it is the Day” is timely to all the Masons throughout the world. Please read on . . . . ]

Inaugural Address

Of

Norman Thomas

M.W.G.M. Grand Lodge of Alberta (2003-2004)

‘Awake it is the Day!!’ My Grammar School motto celebrates today’s events. The motto appears on the school crest in Cymraeg the ancient language of the Cymry otherwise known as the Welsh “Deffro maen Dydd”.

When I first joined the Grand Line, M.W.Bro.Gerald Webber enquired as to my theme. “Study the liberal Arts and Sciences” I replied without hesitation although I refer to it below by way of a familiar passage from scripture.

One’s exposure to the liberal Arts and Sciences usually occurs long before one attends school. Indeed I understand my first exposure to Music was in my mother’s womb where I enjoyed Gwen’s beautiful singing even before I was born. But it was at Grammar School that I began to study the Arts and Sciences in any detail. So I feel justified in joyfully proclaiming “Awake it is the Day”.

It is a fact that in Roman times the study of the liberal arts and sciences was permitted to Freemen alone while slaves engaged in less scholarly activities such as blood letting, urine tasting and faecal sniffing for the derivation of diagnoses and treatment of diseases. Of course there was the occasional Freeman like Dr.Luke who did both but he saw the light, wrote a Gospel and was made a saint.

I have learned over the past several years that an essential part of one’s education as a potential Grand Master is to pursue a minimum course of study extending over a period of six years as DDGM; Member of the Board of General Purposes; Theme Speaker at the ‘Spring Workshop’; Author of an original dissertation to the Western Conference of Masonic Jurisdictions; Service on numerous Committees; Originator of the dreaded Report on “The Condition of Masonry” and elected as Grand Line Officer under at least four Grand Masters before one gets a crack at the office of Grand Master itself. So bear with me again as I repeat for the third time: “Awake it is the Day”!!

So what does Norman Thomas intend to do with his day in the sun?

Before I answer that allow me to remind you that it was thirty years ago to the day that I attended my first Annual Grand Communication in this Jurisdiction, just nine months after my initiation into Griesbach #191, to witness the installation of an eminent soldier of the Edmonton Regiment, our longest surviving Grand Master of the day M.W.Bro.Gordon Armstrong who also happens to be a member of my Mother Lodge. Congratulations of the Day to you Sir.

The W.M. of my Lodge at the time of my initiation was R.W.Bro. Ed.Boyd Honorary Colonel of the said Regiment and adjutant to Colonel Armstrong before he was wounded during the liberation of Ortona, Italy. While recently appointed as a visiting Professor at nearby University of Chieti Jean and I were privileged to tour Ortona, a quiet seaside resort now, but even then as we looked Eastward across the Adriatic Sea a bloody war was being waged in Bosnia. Bro. Edgar Latimer Boyd was my mentor throughout my Masonic journey and he had hoped, as did I that he would be here to celebrate this Day. Man proposes God disposes.

It would be remiss of me if I did not also reflect on my other sponsor into Griesbach Lodge W.Bro.Lorne Proudfoot, Professional Officer at the Dental School, Edmonton where I was appointed in 1968 by Professor and Dean of the Dental School Bro.Hector McLean 33 degrees, A.A.S.R.

It was soon after my arrival on Faculty here that I found W.Bro.Lorne Proudfoot in a corner of the Common Room deep into a little blue book. I deduced from his heavenward gaze and the motion of his lips that he must be at prayer during a break from his arduous duties. I waited for him to conclude his vespers before making my presence known to him. That encounter proved to be the beginning of my Masonic journey. He later confided in me his expectation that I would become Grand Master one day. I smiled not understanding how he possessed such insight but he did and beyond my wildest imagination. So this is Lorne’s day too and I feel certain that wherever he is he is sharing in this new day with us.

I want to thank the Brethren around the Jurisdiction for their trust in bestowing upon me the stewardship of our honorable Craft for the ensuing year. Be assured I will serve you with heart and soul and will not shirk in my responsibilities to the Craft. To the Brethren of the Lodges of which I am a member including Griesbach#191, Dynamic#96 Fiat Lux Lodge of Research 1980 and Internet Lodge of Research I thank you for joining the perambulation before the Grand Master.

Brethren we have just completed what may prove to be the most significant Annual Communication of recent years. We have actually combined several Committees and streamlined the Board of General Purposes. Who said that Freemasons never change? I congratulate our outgoing Grand Master M.W.Bro.Terrence Drolet, the Grand Secretary and his staff as well as the many Chairmen and officers of Committees and the Task Force for their determinations which auger well for our future. I have greatly appreciated the friendship and bonding that has occurred between the Grand Line officers, the Grand Secretary’s Office and all the brethren who have given so generously of their time and effort on our behalf. May the Great Architect continue to prosper our united endeavours?

Under the direction of M.W.Doug Troock we have taken part in a truly uplifting installation. The excellent team of officers, elected and appointed, has promised to the man that they will take us with pride and determination through the penultimate year leading to the centenary celebration of our jurisdiction. I also want to thank all of the installing officers for contributing in such an inspired manner to what has proved a truly memorable event. To M.W.Bro.Sandy Milligan I extend my deep gratitude for personally leading me through the most important Obligation of my Masonic journey. To M.W.Bro Stan Harbin I offer heartfelt thanks for raising and seating me in the Grand East. This is undoubtedly the most prestigious throne I have had the privilege of filling. Bro.Harbin our paths in Masonry have merged at various times and in a variety of Craft and Concordant Masonic events and it has been especially important to have you confer the Honours to-day.

To my son and Brother Martyn sincere thanks for standing up for me today and ably representing your brethren. I am particularly proud of the fact that my five sons were able to rally around me on this special day. One of the five is my son-in-law married to our only daughter.

To Jean the mother of my children and wife of almost fifty years I affirm my love and deep affection. She has encouraged and cajoled me each step of the way and without her I would not have made it to this day.

We clearly see from our present perspective that the past one hundred years has been the most turbulent in the history of mankind. While our achievements have reached beyond the heavens, man’s inhumanity to man has plumbed the depths of depravity. Regrettably the phenomenal growth in our knowledge has not always been wisely directed and controlled according to the tenets of morality and ethics. Yet through it all the Rulers of the Craft in our Jurisdiction have set a right balance between conflicting opinion and innovation such that our gentle Craft has survived three world wars, a depression, several recessions and countless confusing new laws reversing established custom and accepted mores. Thank you brethren.

Man’s arrogance it seems knows no limits. The story goes that arrogant man said to the Great Architect. “We really don’t need you anymore. There is no limit to what we can achieve on our own. Why we are even capable of creating life.” “Then show me how you do that,” said God.

So man set about proving himself. He knelt down on the ground and began to form a pyramid from the earth. Whereupon God said “No. You create your own earth!”

At all times the Craft has stood firm and resolute against dogma and anti-masonic rhetoric in a world that has often considered Freemasonry as a secret satanic cult or a conspiratorial Illuminati planning to control the world. These unworthy accusations have included the blasphemous vituperation of ecclesiastical scholars in high places who should know better but who by failing to confirm the foundation for their belief dishonor themselves as well as those they represent.

But to day we are faced with a more significant threat not from without but from within our Order that is proving more devastating than any other at any time in our history.

The overall thrust of the ‘Condition of Masonry’ 2002 compiled from the DDGM reports in conjunction with the appended statistics are worrying to say the least. To simply sit back, do nothing, and ignore this threat because we have been to the mountaintop is to fail to appreciate the nature of the disease. Apathy like a bad apple in a barrel of them will eventually corrupt the whole. It would be so easy to say that all service clubs and religious institutions are failing and that it would be best to accept those things we cannot change in Freemasonry. I disagree.

Our Universities, Colleges, Corporate Boards, Officer training programs are cram jam full with yuppies eager to advance up the ladder of their chosen calling. One is offered fascinating courses of study, a bright future, value for investment of time and talent, a high salary, an excellent retirement package and personal prestige. “Just keep your noses clean”, you were told, “ swear loyalty to the firm and don’t rock the boat” One was, in effect, made an offer one could not refuse.

Those young yuppies soon learn that the cost of the key to the executive washroom is too high in terms of failing marriages, alcoholism, family breakdown, delinquency of their neglected children, drug addiction and loss of one’s sense of self esteem. Those self same young men are now seeking what we have to offer in Freemasonry but they either hear nothing about us or if in the unlikely event that they do they are turned off by empty lodges and an air of apathy and complacency. Are you prepared to work with us now and improve our situation?

In keeping with the exhortation found in the Charges given at the end of each of the three degrees I propose the following as the Grand Lodge theme for the ensuing year.

Study to show yourself approved…..a workman that need not be ashamed rightly dividing the Truth”.

The area of recommended study recommended for everyone is broad but exacting.

In the Charge to the first degree we read: “And as a last general recommendation let me exhort you…. to devote your leisure hours to the study of the liberal arts and sciences. …consider yourself called upon to make a daily advance in masonic knowledge”

Again in the Charge to the second degree we are told : “…. The study of the liberal arts…is earnestly recommended to your consideration – especially Geometry…(that) proves the wonderful properties of nature you are now bound to discharge”.

In the charge to the third degree we are strictly informed: “The ancient landmarks of the Order you are to preserve sacred and inviolable”.

In 1943 my paternal grandfather took me on my one and only visit into the coal black underground of Bedwas Colliery. That experience has never left me. By way of this Miner’s lamp he instructed me that study would be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. This lamp he told me had saved his life in Britain’s greatest mine disaster when 435 men perished underground at Universal Colliery, Senghenydd in 1913. Trapped by fallen rock William Thomas broke free of his prison tomb by pick and shovel and the light of his lamp. He made his way upward to safety by the path lit by his lamp and before the permeation of the poisonous gasses of the “after damp” would have its ugly way with him.

That is my message to you Brethren. We have been underground for too long and are about to be consumed by the toxic “after damp” of apathy and indifference unless we follow the lamp of learning. We need to walk in the sunlight once again and remove the cloak of unnecessary secrecy and show the world that to be a Mason is a matter of personal pride. Any man who wants to improve himself may find the opportunity within the hallowed halls of Freemasonry because we know that tuition within will make all men better!!

The Ancient Landmarks insist among other things that we maintain the secrets of our mysteries but that doesn’t mean that we cannot place the light of Freemasonry on high ground for all to see especially those young men who seek what we have to offer.

There is room here for all men not just for the elite and the wealthy but for all men who care to improve themselves and the society in which we live move and have our being. We only need to remember that each one we initiate will be involved in the useful study of a subject that will excite him and in which he can excel. There will be no passengers on board. We will develop a new paradigm in Freemasonry and no longer make everyone conform to the same mould. Variety is the spice of life and it is understood that anything less will lead to staleness, disinterest and withdrawal from the lodge which will not be tolerated unless for good and ample reason.

Every man has promised on the volume of his faith to uphold his obligations and we invite you to reflect upon those promises, as we will meet ours.

When I finally graduated from the University of Bristol in 1957 and obtained a degree in dental surgery prior to my twenty-fifth birthday I had effectively been a student for twenty years since first entering the Twyn Primary School. But even at that point the student was approved only to begin to learn and by no means could be considered an expert.

Sir Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the University and eminent Freemason declared as the graduates were awarded their degrees. “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning”. Sir Winston undoubtedly had in mind the situation when he received his prestigious degrees in Freemasonry and realized that Freemasonry is a lifetime journey and a Mason is never complete until he lays down his working tools because there are always new things to learn in this progressive science.

Study is not mindless repetition, it is a devotion to developing the mind. I once knew an individual who could recite the St John Ambulance First Aid Manual off by heart. When you asked him to list the signs, symptoms and treatment for a particular acute condition he would start at the beginning of the book and recite through it until he got to the particular condition he had been asked about by which time the victim had expired. His recitation was impressive but his ability to practice his vocation was deadly. That is not the way of the Freemason. He learns his lessons so that they may be useful to him as he travels on his journey through life.

Nevertheless we also need to realize that the young men of today who will be seeking entry into Freemasonry are essentially divided into a small group of left-brain individuals and a much larger right brain group as a result of present day educational methods. The few left-brained analytical individuals, exemplified by our generation will probably be pleased to initiate into Freemasonry as it now is and thrive there due to the predominance of the recitative approach to the Work of the Ritual. But today’s educational system aims at developing holistic attributes particularly of the right brain and under our present system we would probably not attract such individuals in any great number and even if we did they would retire from the Order in short shrift particularly if we insisted on letter perfect memorization of the Work.

Winston Churchill did badly in school under the old educational system and failed his school certificate examinations. But his literary and rhetorical skills were formidable. Albert Einstein on the other hand was a slow learner of language skills and was well advanced in years before he spoke sentences. Some of his schoolteachers thought he was slow witted and stubborn refusing to learn his lessons by rote. But he demonstrated genius in holistic functions such as music, geometry and science. Which of these God fearing men would you not want to see in Masonry.

If we are to succeed in initiating and retaining holistic thinking males we will have to develop a different paradigm in our approach to ritual learning and in the initiation and retention of such individuals. Rote learning has not been encouraged in the education of such individuals and a new approach to proving up as well as utilizing them in the degree teams must be sought.

I want to encourage every Lodge Master to extend his vision and actively seek, initiate and retain those qualities that will bring further distinction to our membership. Please get the message out and give us the benefit of your researches. And while I am on the subject Field or One Day classes are likely to be altogether more inviting for these bright young men as studies are beginning to show in the U.S.A. But this is Alberta and with your help and open-mindedness we will find the answer as to whether this is the way of the future in our Jurisdiction.

Holistic approach to study aims at gaining an understanding of a subject and provides the necessary incentive to learning. Memorization is secondary. Repetition driven learning however works the other way around that is memorization occurs first and understanding follows. The end point may be the same but the mental processing is quite different. The young man of to day is discouraged from approaching a vastly expanded knowledge base by memorization of detail first. He must be selective in what he remembers so as to avoid swamping of the cognitive processes. Consequently rote learning is probably not a sound basis

for recruitment and retention of today’s young Freemasons.

When the Freemason receives light at the altar of masonry before him lie the three great lights that includes the volume of the sacred law and the symbols of physical measurement. They are referred to as guides and boundaries and clearly represent the spiritual and scientific aspects of Truth. The study of the sciences are certainly exhorted and encouraged in the second degree of Freemasonry but rarely if ever are they given lodge room. This is because science was not really encouraged in the education of my generation although it eventually became the driving force of my life in academia. We in an age of exponential growth of scientific knowledge and it is passing us by in the Freemasons’ Halls and we must move on it now or it will be too late.

An understanding based on a balanced approach to degree work must be developed and this will materially depend on our willingness to experiment with innovation. I am not proposing innovation of our precepts but the educational methods by which we may increase the understanding of Masonry and further its aims. Freemasonry I feel should move away from its image of a one method approach to Ritual Work in which the all or nothing catechismal approach will continue to further reduce initiation and retention of members and worse of all contribute to apathy and complacency. To pursue the new approaches to education in collaboration with the old are consummate with the aims of Freemasonry that seeks to discover ultimate Truth as exemplified by: The Brotherhood of All Men under The Fatherhood of God. Awake it is the day. Study to show yourself approved. May God bless you all.

MW Bro.Norman Thomas was installed as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Alberta on June 14th, 2003 at Red Deer. He is a distinguished Doctor of Dental Surgery having graduated with honours and double Gold medals in 1957 from the University of Wales and an awardee of Nuffield Fellowship (Oxford) to complete an honours degree in medical sciences in 1960. Later he secured Ph.D degree and Fellowship of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. He then immigrated to Canada with his family in 1968 to assume a research and teaching appointment in Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine and Oral Sciences of the University of Alberta where he is now Professor Emeritus. In 1988, he was appointed Chancellor of the International College of Head and Neck Orthopedics and in that capacity he has lectured in USA, Europe, Australia and Asia and retired from clinical practice in 2002. He received the light of Freemasonry in 1972, when he was initiated, passed and raised in Griesbach Lodge No. 191 and elected Worshipful Master of Griesbach 1981 After occupying several offices he became the Deputy Grand Master, of the Grand Lodge of Alberta in 2002. He is a member of several Concordant bodies in Freemasonry.. M.W.Bro.Norman Thomas is a great Masonic scholar, alive to the realities of this fast changing world and his Inaugural Address brings out the efforts Freemasons throughout the world have to pursue. His address is timely and illuminating and it has been well received. We are very thankful to him for the generous permission granted by him to post the address in our web site. We also thank the web master M.W.Bro.Hugh Young PGM for securing the permission in a short time. We are very much beholden to both of them. Web master.


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