THE VALUE OF MASONIC LIBRARIES
Short Talk Bulletin, February, 1996

By: Michael S. Kaulback

Bro. Kaulback is a Past Master and current
Treasurer of Charles W. Moore Lodge,
Fitchburg, MA. He is a graduate of Fitchburg State
College and is serving the Samnuel Crocker
Lawrencme Library, of the Grand Lodge of
Massachusetts as its Library Technician.

As you read this STB please hear in mind that
as Bro. Kaulback talks about The library in
Boston he is really describing all Masonic
libraries.
Editor

ARE YOU A MASONIC STUDENT?

Masonic ritual teaches us to be general
lovers of the arts and sciences, particularly
geometry or Masonry. We know ourselves in
this day and age as speculative Masons, not
operative, as in the Middle Ages when the
great cathedrals of the world were built by our
brothers of long ago. What does the term
speculative mean and how does this relate to our
lives, both in and out of the lodgeroom, today?

The definition of speculative, is: "1.
Pertaining to, the nature of, or characterized by
speculation, contemplation, conjecture, or
abstract reasoning. 2. Theoretical, rather than
practical." Simply stated it means to think and
to study. We are all under an obligation to be
Masonic students; from the moment we take
the Entered Apprentice Degree, we cannot
advance in Freemasonry without learning and
reciting the lessons taught in that degree. As we
proceed through the degrees in Masonry, many
lessons are put before us to be learned, and
more importantly, understood, before we can
advance further. It is this continual learning
process and our putting the lessons we have
studied to use that makes us better men and
better Masons. The true precepts of Masonry
are meaningful only when put into practice and
used in our day to day lives.

One of the more famous names connected
with modern Masonic literature is John
Robinson. Mr. Robinson's book "Born in
Blood" was written long before he entertained
any thought of becoming a Freemason. He
studied Masonry and became knowledgeable
in its history and its philosophy. He became
well known for his defense of Freemasonry on
the radio and in print. When asked why he had
not joined Freemasonry his response was "I
can do a better job explaining Freemasonry
without being a member and have more
credibility by not joining." Mr. Robinson eventually
did join the fraternity because he admired its
principles after years of having actively studied
them. Here was a man, not even a Mason, who
took the time to look into Masonry and its
principles and philosophy and was so impressed by
what he found that he undertook to defend
Masonry without even being a member
himself.

The work of Masonry is to study! It is
noble work which purifies the heart and
clarifies the mind. The house of Freemasonry has
many rooms; each room teaches different
lessons such as brotherly love, charity for all
mankind, love of deity, morality, truth, and
tolerance. Freemasonry is a philosophy that
teaches and brings out all that is good in man.
That Masonry is a philosophy, a way of life, is
the very essence of what sets us apart from
other organizations. It is for this reason that all
Masons should be Masonic students and we
should all strive to read and study Masonry and
put what we learn to use. It is the lessons of
Masonry that unite us as brothers in the world
wide fraternity of Masonry, for we know that
we share a common philosophy.

It is an interesting feeling to be asked by a
non-mason "What is Freemasonry?" It is even
more interesting when you, yourself, realize
that you really don't know what it is. This can
and does happen.

Do you know if your Lodge or Grand
Lodge has a library? If it has, have you visited
or contacted it? Are you familiar with the latest
books on Masonry and where to locate them'?
Do you know what the latest anti-Masonic
books are and where to locate them? This last
is an important question, for it is here that the
study of Masonry shines through the clouds
that the advocates of anti-Masonry would have
us believe exist. To answer the questions and
charges brought against us as Masons we must
understand clearly who we are, and be able to
defend what we stand for. The only way to
accomplish this is to read and study not only
what we are but what we were in ages past,
who were the Masons of long ago and how did
they meet these questions.

Our Masonic Libraries and Museums must
be able to educate the public at large about our
craft. They must serve as information sources
to dispel the rumors and outright lies that are
told to the public. Many of the people who
disseminate this wrongful information do not
understand Freemasonry and have themselves
been given information that is skewed and
twisted. We as the keepers of the Masonic
Flame of truth must be the leaders in dispelling
these rumors and be a source of light to the
public.

In a paper entitled "Working Tools Less
Used," John Platt, Director of the Masonic
Library and Museum in Philadelphia explores
the trials and tribulations of Masonic libraries
and librarians. Here in Boston we have what is
believed to be one of the best Masonic research
libraries in North America. The libraries at
Philadelphia, New York, and Iowa are also top
ranked, as are several others. Masonic libraries
serve the fraternity and act as "keepers of the
flame" of Masonic literature and philosophy.
We have the history and knowledge of
Freemasonry at our fingertips, yet how many in
the fraternity make use of this wonderful and
useful "working tool"?

The Boston Masonic Library has had a
long and useful 181 years of helping to spread
the light of Freemasonry in this state. In a
report to the Grand Master in 1988, Bro.
Robert A. Gilbert of Bristol, England, wrote:
"Although the library of the Grand Lodge of
Massachusetts is among the most important of
Masonic Libraries, this fact has not generally
been recognized as it is both under-utilized by
Brethren, and Masonic Libraries have yet to be
integrated into the accepted academic and
institutional library systems."

Our Masonic Libraries are begging for
Masons to make more use of them, but the sad
truth is that the vast majority of Masons do not
read or study about the Fraternity or its history.
We here in Boston have a collection of over
100,000 Masonic titles and close to 50,000
non-Masonic titles in our library, also over 60
drawers of clippings, Lodge histories,
biographical materials, sheet music, book plates,
postcards, and philatelic material all relating to
Masonry. We otter not only reading material,
but also video and audio material. We have a
mailing service that all masons in the state can
make use of and receive books or other materials
delivered to their front door by mail. We are
open to the general public and have been able
to help many college students who have elected
to study some aspect of Freemasonry for
papers they work on. Their interests are many
and varied, from Masonic artifacts to the study
of Masonic philosophy itself. We also have a
Masonic museum that contains items from
1733 on. Our history in this state has many
famous names connected to it including;
Joseph Warren, Paul Revere and other well
known patriots.

We in Boston are working towards the
goal of computerizing this library to make it
more "user friendly" and to enable the
exchange of information between libraries
both Masonic and non-masonic throughout
the United States. This goal is most important
to the "Masonic Library and Museum
Association," an international organization of
Librarians, Archivists, Curators, and Directors,
under the leadership of John Platt of
Pennsylvania - President, and Cynthia Alcorn
of Massachusetts - Vice President. This organization
represents Masonic Librarians and
Curators from all over the world and is active
in solving the problems that are common to
Masonic Libraries .

It is exciting to see that the younger
Masons that are joining are very interested in
the written literature of Masonry. They seem to
understand that Freemasonry is a study society
and must be researched at length to be appreciated
to its fullest extent. These young Masons
are actively looking into the symbolism of our
craft and looking for the deeper meanings of
our rituals. Did you know that in some
European Countries not only do the Candidates
wait at least a year between degrees, but they
have to write a thesis on how they spent that
year as a Mason practicing the virtues of the
degree they are working on? Then they have to
read the paper before the lodge and have it
approved before they advance to the next
degree.

In conclusion, let me reaffirm the
importance of being a Masonic student and making
use of your local Masonic Library. We must
read, study and practice the lessons we are
taught in the lodge in order to be better
Masons, and better human beings. Take time
out of our busy life, even if it is only 10 -15
minutes a day, to study Masonry and its
philosophy, read a Masonic book, or discuss
Masonry with a brother. You won't regret it!
Pass this thought on to other Masonic brethren
and introduce them to the "light" that we all
seek as speculative Freemasons. We must
remember that each and every one of us represent
a link to the public and to potential members
that may never have heard about
Freemasonry until we talk to them about it. We
must be our own publicity agents and salesmen
if we expect to survive. In the past
Freemasonry has always been an agency for
good that was quiet, but represented a forceful
presence that was well thought of. Today many
people do not know of our existence, let alone
the good we do in our charitable work every
day. We all must read, act, and think as
Masons each day to be true to our noble and
gentle Craft.

Visit your local Masonic Library and take
out a book or two to read, you won't regret it.
You will find some very knowledgeable people
in your libraries that can help you to become
better and more informed Masons, so don't be
afraid to ask questions and discuss the topics
that interest you, that is what we are there for.
We are here to help further your Masonic
Education and better prepare you to tell the
world at large what our Craft is all about and
what we represent.


A human being cannot stand immovable and
uninfluenced in the midst of life as
a rock stands in the wash of the tide. His
life goes on every moment influencing and
being influenced. And life is full and rich,
happiness comes, when we so understand
ourselves, and the world, and the forces of
nature that we can harmoniously adjust
ourselves thereto. The report of what
nature, the world, life really are, that is
truth; and the items of information which
we need to have in order to know the truth,
that is knowledge. A wise man desires truth
and seeks knowledge, not in order to pose
as a scholar or a learned man, but in order
that he may live happily.

H.L. Haywood

 

 

         

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