Thoughts on the Fifth Degree

Fifth Degree, Perfect Master, painting by Robert H. White, 32°

May-June 2012

Painting of the Fifth Degree Perfect Master (By Robert H. White, 32°)

By Bryan S. Franklin, 32°

The Fifth Degree, Perfect Master, teaches us that idleness is the burial of a living man. Since Scottish Rite Freemasonry is progressive and each degree builds on the previous one, we find in this degree the themes of self-motivation and defeating procrastination logically follow and augment the themes of duty and labor from the Fourth Degree, Secret Master.

Being the father of eight, including three teenagers, I am fully experienced with the battle against procrastination. Also serving as a career Army officer, I understand the importance of reminding my fellows to stay on task. Duty is indeed about drive, focus, mission accomplishment, and personal satisfaction. However, oftentimes we find ourselves distracted, unmotivated, or without hope. In my life’s journey, I find it helps to survey the world’s various philosophies, religions, and literary works to find the inspiration and drive to press onward and accomplish tasks, objectives, and goals.

Many authors share their thoughts as fun clichés which are well known and easy to remember, such as: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Lao-tzu, and “You may delay, but time will not,” Benjamin Franklin. Others are deeply philosophical in their offerings: “Procrastination is the thief of time; year after year it steals, till all are fled, and to the mercies of a moment leaves the vast concerns of an eternal state. At thirty, man suspects himself a fool; knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; at fifty chides his infamous delay, pushes his prudent purpose to resolve; in all the magnanimity of thought, resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same (Edward Young),” and “You must not procrastinate. Rather, you should make preparations so that even if you did die tonight, you would have no regrets. If you develop an appreciation for the uncertainty and imminence of death, your sense of the importance of using your time wisely will get stronger and stronger,” the Dalai Lama.

Regardless of how one best remembers the encouraging phrases, there are many from which to choose. This Master Craftsman II lesson inspired me to research the great works and authors thereof, to produce an anthology of quotes echoing the mantras of duty, preparation, hard work, and doing things now, without delay. Here are just 18 of the most succinct and relevant passages which complement the degree of Perfect Master.

By using these quotes as reminders to get going, a Scottish Rite Perfect Master will hopefully become motivated, and as a result, industrious and accomplished in all things, especially in his service to God, his country, and his fellow man (and most especially to his fellow Master Masons).


“Therefore say to them, thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.” —Ezekiel 12:28

“Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. Today’s duties put off tomorrow give us a double burden to bear; the best way is to do them in their proper time.” —Ida Scott Taylor

“If and When were planted, and Nothing grew.” —Proverb

“In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” —Bro. Theodore Roosevelt

“We must be diligent today. To wait until tomorrow is too late. Death comes unexpectedly. How can we bargain with it?” —The Buddha

“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.” —Denis Waitley

“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness; no laziness; no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” —Lord Chesterfield

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” —Anne Frank

“The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, and productivity. You can be, too.” —Bro. Norman Vincent Peale, 33°

“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.” —General Omar Bradley, 33°

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” —Bro. Winston Churchill

“Time wasted is existence; used is life.” —Edward Young

“Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” —Bro. Benjamin Franklin

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.” —Lee Iacocca

“Perhaps the most valuable result of an education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.” —Thomas Huxley

“Deliberando saepe perit occasio [The opportunity often slips away while we deliberate on it].” —Syrus

“Time drinketh up the essence of every great and noble action, which ought to be performed, and is delayed in the execution.” —Vishnu Sarma