The Master Mason - August
(Note the date this was written
and how much different is it today?)
HEREWITH we submit to the Fraternity
at large one of the most
challenging reports we have ever read, as made by the Committee on Masonic Education of
the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin to its Grand Lodge. Here is the exact situation of the Craft
in America today, set forth vividly and in the best constructive spirit, describing not a
theory but the conditions that confront us. Any thoughtful man must see that unless such
conditions are met and overcome, Masonry will sink from the high level it has hitherto
held to a level below the commonplace from which no antiquity can redeem it. These
brethren tell us the plain, unwelcome truth, and it behooves us to heed it and take steps
to meet the facts. Hear the report:
IN submitting its report, your Committee on Masonic Education
desires to direct attention to certain untoward conditions which we believe to be quite
generally recognized, which measurably impair the standing and influence of the
Fraternity, and seriously interfere with its ability to make a beneficial and lasting
contribution to national welfare and world civilization.
Be it understood that this report is offered in a constructive and
friendly spirit; is prompted solely by love and admiration for our
ancient and honorable Craft and a desire that it shall continue to be a very real factor
in establishing a world-wide brotherhood.
What are these conditions?
1. We have lost our perspective, our sense of relativity. We are
making the conferring of degrees the "be all and the end all" of our existence.
"Work," Masonically speaking, is purely ritualistic. It is acting, not living.
Such was not the case with our ancient brethren. To them ritual, so far as they had say,
was a means, not an end. They preferred a very real and enduring service for
2. Modern Masonry is so occupied with the Initiating, Passing and
Raising of candidates - with mere ritualism - that it has overlooked the most important
and higher duty of making real Masons. The noviate is hurried through the degrees, and
turned out into the world as a nominal Mason, with but a hazy understanding of what it is
all about, with no adequate knowledge of Masonry, with little appreciation of his
responsibility to the Fraternity or to society at large. Rarely does a candidate acquire
any real understanding of Masonic truth while receiving the degrees. To continue making
Masons without giving them an intelligent knowledge of what Masonry is, or what their
responsibilities are, is little short of stupid. Masonry was never intended to be a mere
degree mill. Initiation which ends with initiation, is fair neither to the
Fraternity nor to the individual.
3. For the great body of Craftsmen there is no work laid out, no
designs upon the trestle board, hence confusion and loss of interest. There is
"Work" only for the comparatively few who hold offices. Men will not
attend lodge night after night and sit on the benches listening to the same lines, be they
ever so beautiful and impressively rendered. Hence, it is inevitable that men lose
interest and drift away. But give them "Work" worth the doing and you will
hold them. Make them understand that through Masonry they may render a real service to
their community, and their fellowmen, and their interest will not abate. Because of their
inability to find in Masonry a field for service and fellowship, Masons everywhere are
serving as active leaders in Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist and similar organizations.
4. In our race for numbers we lose that fraternal spirit without
which Masonry is but a sham. Our lodges have in many instances
become so large that there is little opportunity for acquaintance,
much less for fellowship. Masons do not meet upon the level, or
part upon the square, in the modern metropolitan lodge. Officers
are too busy conferring degrees to devote much time to the social amenities, or to
instruct the less informed brethren.
5. Commercialism is not missing from the picture. The need or
desire for revenue has resulted in lax methods in the selection of
6. In other years Masonry has played an enviable part in the
building of this nation, and in the advancement of the human race.
In this we glory.
THIS is a challenge which we fail to accept at our peril. What
corporate contribution is Twentieth Century Masonry making to
world civilization! Does it speak with a living voice, that the world
will hear and heed, upon any of the vital issues that confront
humanity? What does Masonry mean today, beyond the conferring of degrees and the wearing
of jewelry? What real contribution is this venerable brotherhood making towards universal
brotherhood or world peace, the hope, the aspiration of the ages? What program does the
Masonic brotherhood offer, looking to the advancement of business ethics, of industrial
accord, the amelioration of social ills? With a subtle and pernicious propaganda,
boring from without and from within, weakening the foundations of the American Government
and its republican institutions, in a day of lawlessness and disrespect for authority, is
every Masonic Lodge in America standing militantly for loyalty to our country and its
institutions and respect for law?
In our day, as through the ages gone, is Masonry an aggressive
servant of country, of humanity and of God?
Believing that Masonry is not meeting its opportunities and
responsibilities, your Committee offers the following resolution in
the belief that, if adopted and carried out by this Grand Lodge, it
will tend measurably to remove the conditions complained of.
SURELY no Mason who cares a fig for the Craft can read such a
report, made by brethren who are as earnest as they are active in its service, and not
give it a long pondering. In this 150th year of the history of our country, we recall with
pride the part taken by
Masons in the early story of the Republic. But what is it doing
today - that is the question put by this report.
The series of questions under the sixth point of the report crack
like rifle shots, and they hit the mark; and the reasons for the
failure is set forth under the preceding points - mistaking ritualism
for reality, doing nothing but passing and raising candidates,
rendering no sort of service to the community; lack of knowledge
of Masonry, failure of fellowship and the scramble for numbers.
From the Masonic Journal of South Africa we read reflections of
the Editor after attending a meeting of the Rotary Club of his city:
AROUND us there were Masons in sufficient number to form a
Lodge, perfect and regular. Amongst them were Brethren whom
we had frequently met in Lodge. We had witnessed their
"workings" and sat with them at refreshment, but we had not been
acquainted with the real man - he was hidden behind a cloak of
dignity and decorum. Now, the cloak thrown aside, we saw, as it
were, the coals of Masonic brotherhood and benevolence fanned
into a flame by a current of enthusiasm from without - a current
engendered by the Rotary Spirit: Service above Self.
IN reflecting on this singular circumstance, our brother Editor is
moved to make some pungent remarks in key with the above report as to the failure of
Masonry in fellowship and service. Among other things he suggests that while we are
forming study circles to improve ourselves, we ought also to form service circles to
improve the lot of others. Then it will not be necessary for brethren to seek membership
in other societies in order to find scope for the practice of purely Masonic principles,
as is now the case.
If the old cry of "politics" is raised, the sufficient reply is
other societies do not mix in politics, but they do get something done, and, besides, the
really great things that need to be done have nothing to do with politics. At any rate
their meetings are alive with enthusiasm, rich in fellowship, and devoted to the interests
of the common good, not utterly self-centered and inane. These are sharp words, as our
brother admits, but they, need to be said, as we have said them in these pages time and
SUCH words are due not to impatience much less to irritation, but
to the eager desire to see the greatest of all fraternities bestir
itself and take its place and do its part in a time when every right
influence is needed. The composite mind of America is troubled,
confused, cut up into all kinds of cliques, torn by every sort of wild impulse, and needs
the wise, stabilizing power of real brotherly love revealed not in words but in
What will Masonry
do about it?