By Kind Permission of:
Bro. Rev. Peter Price, C.B.E., Past Grand Chaplain, Senior Provincial Grand Chaplain, Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire (Middle Ward).
At the Provincial Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire Middle Ward Seminar, which was held in Baillieston on Saturday 31st. May 2008, Bro. Rev Peter Price, Senior Provincial Grand Chaplain presented a Paper “In whom do you put your trust?” Since the Seminar, many Brethren have asked if the Paper could be reproduced, Bro. Rev. Peter Price has agreed that it can be published in full for the information and education of our Brethren.
In the 18th. Century, Britain was overwhelmingly Christian: now it is multicultural, and it is evident that the influence of religion in society has declined. What sense does it make to ask a candidate for our Order if he believes in a Supreme Being?
In all likelihood this is very probably the first time in his life that he has been asked this question. Do candidates today actually believe in God – or do they say that they do in order to become eligible to join the Craft? they asked the candidate from Fife;
In times of difficulty and strife,
Tell us, you must,
In whom do you trust?
The initiate replied, “In the wife!”
Nevertheless, when a candidate is to be initiated and before the degree proceeds the first question put to the candidate is, “In whom do you put your trust? The question is confirmation of that question put to him at his Enquiry Meeting, “Do you believe in a Supreme Being?” However, whatever the present state of society, it can be shown that a belief in the Supreme Being is one of the oldest and most fundamental of the ancient Landmarks of the Order. This belief in God as a requirement for membership is no new tenet of the Craft. Ancient records demonstrate that this is a LANDMARK of the Order. The term LANDMARK is biblical in origin. The term is found, for example, in Deuteronomy 27 : 17 :”cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark.” Or in Proverbs 22 : 28 where it is said, “Remove not the ancient landmarks which the fathers have set”.
In early times, prior to the development of modern surveying techniques, and the recording of the position, shape and size of land areas, it was very difficult to establish the permanent boundaries of a farm, estate, or other piece of land. Almost the only known way was to fix upon some prominent feature, such as a hill, a stream, a rock, or even a tree, and from it draw a line to some other static feature, and thus establish the limits beyond which a man’s property could not, or should not go. Later, more or less permanent marker stones with identifying marks cut into them were set up, and their self explanatory name was LANDMARKS.
In Freemasonry, there are certain principles, practices, traditions, usages and laws which are considered to be significant to the ESSENTIAL IDENTITY and NATURE of FREEMASONRY. These things, which are spoken of as ancient LANDMARKS of the Order are irrevocable and unchangeable. (how many LANDMARKS there might be is a matter of some debate which is not our concern now) However in all the lists of LANDMARKS there are elements which are common to each of them. These are: that a Mason professes a belief in God, the Supreme Being, the G.A.O.T.U.
Secondly, that the VSL is an essential and indispensable part of the Lodge, and must be open in full view when the Brethren are at labour. The third element is an afterlife which is spoken of in Rituals though is not specified as to what type of future awaits the believing mason.
John S. Simons, in “The Principles of Masonic Jurisprudence” defines LANDMARKS in this way: “We assume those principles of action to be LANDMARKS which have existed from time immemorial, whether in written or unwritten law: which are identified with the form and essence of the society: which the great majority agree cannot be changed, and which every mason is bound to maintain intact under the most solemn and inviolable sanction.” It is clear that this DEFINITION is comprised of three necessary elements which define a LANDMARK as such:
1. It exists from time immemorial.
2. It expresses the very form and essence of the Craft.
3. Therefore it follows that it can never be changed.
According to William Preston, LANDMARKS, are boundaries set up in order to check all innovations, as now expressed in the 10th. Regulation to which the Master-elect is required to assent, namely: “You admit that it is not in the power of any man, or any body of men, to make alteration or innovation in Freemasonry”. Well then, has belief in God always been a requisite for membership of the Masonic Order? When operative lodges started to accept non-operative masons, and the building of a spiritual temple became the main goal, there arose the need to set agreed boundaries. In other word, only LANDMARKS which served the aims of speculative masons were chosen from among the customs and usages already existing in the operative lodges. The connection between speculative Masonry and operative Masonry having been largely verified it is important to note that the documents of the mediaeval masons show that belief in God was a requirement of the Craft Guilds. Throughout these MSS there are clear indications that it was the duty of every mason to worship God in accordance with the doctrine of the then established church. And it is hard to imagine any deviation from this when we remember that these were the Craftsmen who built our ancient cathedrals and churches.
The next documents in chronological order are those Masonic title deeds known today as the “OLD CHARGES”. There are over 130 texts in existence, all very similar in content, from which it may be deducted that they all derive from a common source, invoking the blessing of the Trinity. After setting out the legendary history of Craft Masonry, the Old Charges recited demands which were binding on the Master and the Fellows concerning belief in God. Again, throughout the Middle Ages there were in most towns in England and Scotland , Guilds of Masons, and many of their ordinances have been preserved. From these it is clear that a mason was required to profess the religion of the established church, and to acknowledge belief in the Trinity. However, we ought to be aware that the subject of belief in God was one of great controversy in the 17th century.
Britain was rife with religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and between the various non-conformist denominations and the established church. In that same volatile period the beginnings of what we now think of as modern science began to challenge certain aspects of religious worldview, and the “Enlightenment” or Age of Reason was born. Modern masonry emerged out of this social and intellectual ferment. In the centuries prior to the establishment of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 Masonic Lodges were governed in accordance with the “Old Charges”. Then, a candidate for admission into Freemasonry was required to be of the Christian Religion, and to declare a specific belief in the Trinity. This practice continued until 1723 when the new BOOK OF CONSTITUTIONS was introduced. This version contained several significant changes which caused great concern and dissention among the brethren of the time. At what date the Christian faith ceased to be a requisite we cannot say with certainty, but it was the work of Dr. James Anderson, a Presbyterian Minister, in completing the 1st. edition of the Book of Constitutions, that the first real change can be seen. – “Though in ancient times masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation ... Yet `tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree”. i.e. Belief in God was still required, but the religion of the established church was no longer mandatory. From now on a candidate was not asked about his own particular religion: the only question of a religious nature asked at the beginning of the candidate’s initiation was: “In whom do you put your trust?” with the reply being, “In God”. Thus as a mason he was free to interpret Masonic symbols, allegory, and actions according to his own conception of their spiritual meaning, whether he be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or other religious persuasion.
So it may confidently be claimed that “Belief in God” can be said to be a LANDMARK of the Craft, having existed from time immemorial. Although there was undoubtedly some ambiguity in the wording of the Charge concerning God and Religion, yet the mass of contemporary evidence available indicates an adherence, at all times , to a belief in God as one of the inflexible, unquestionable and unalterable tenets of Freemasonry. The redrafting of this Charge in the Constitutions of 1815 removed such ambiguity as may have existed, and a faithful belief in God was once more clearly shown to be a LANDMARK of Craft Masonry.
The question which must now be addressed is: what is the relationship between Masonry and religion? Freemasonry is a system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols. It is a philosophy of ethical conduct which imparts moral and social virtues and which fosters brotherly love. Freemasonry stands for the values that are supreme in the life of the Church, and expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his duty to God above all other duties. Though religious in character Freemasonry is not a religion, nor a substitute for one, The Mason who says “Masonry is my religion” does not know what he is talking about. As Masons we are proud that our Order practices universal tolerance regarding religion, so that any man may sit in a Masonic Lodge whatever his religion. All discussion on the topic of religion is banned in the Lodge, along with politics, or indeed any subject which is liable to create animosity and personal difference. When prayers are offered in the Lodge Masons understand that regardless of the person speaking, the words and manner of prayer are being offered to THEIR Supreme Being. There is nothing in Freemasonry that is opposed to the religion a man brings with him into the Masonic Lodge. Neither does Freemasonry assert, nor teach that one religion is as good as another. It simply does not make this judgment. Freemasons believe in religious freedom, and that the relationship between the individual and his God is personal, private and sacred. We do not apply a theological test to a candidate. Our only religious test is to ensure that he believes in a Supreme Being. Belief IN God is faith: Belief ABOUT God is theology. As Freemasons we are interested only in a man’s faith, not his theology.
It is important to emphasize again that Freemasonry is not a religion nor a substitute for religion. Certainly I have met Masons who have made the Craft their God – but then again you can make a god out of anything! A man does not subscribe to a new religion, much less to an anti-Christian religion, when he becomes a Freemason, any more than when he joins a political party or a Rotary Club. We insist that Freemasonry is not a religion because it lacks the characteristics that make up religion. Nowhere in the Ritual is “LIGHT” implied to mean anything more than knowledge, - and certainly NOT salvation. Our critics suggest that because we have prayers in our Rituals this supports their contention that Freemasonry IS a religion. But the House of Commons begins its day with prayers, but no one suggests they are practicing a religion. Freemasonry has its Rituals which are allegorical plays which teach lessons; but rituals do not equate to liturgy. We have no dogma or theology; no creed or profession of faith. The Order offers no sacraments, does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned only with the modes of recognition, and not with the means of salvation. The only item in the Lodge which could be deemed to be associated with religion is the altar. The dictionary defines “altar” as a flat topped block on which are offered sacrifices to the deity, - or in Christian usage, a Communion Table. However there is absolutely nothing in our Rituals or ceremonies to connect them with either of those definitions. The altar in a Masonic Lodge is simply a resting place for the VSL on which a candidate takes his Obligation.
The only religious item in the Lodge is the VSL which is the holy book pertaining to the country’s own religion. In places like India, it is common for various books to be on view in the Lodge of men of various religions. In Britain the majority of masons would claim to be Christians, and therefore the VSL will be the Bible, - probably the King James Authorised Version. A Mason may be presented with a “Masonic” Bible by family or friends, but this Bible will be exactly the same kind of Bible as that used in the Lodge as the VSL. It is only a “Masonic” Bible because it also contains a brief history of Freemasonry, and a glossary of Biblical references relating to Masonic Ceremonies. Masons who are not Christians will bring their own holy book for their initiation. Freemasons are religious men, but Freemasonry is not a religion. However Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice it expects each member to follow his own faith seriously and sincerely, and to place above all other duties his duty to God – by whatever name he is known.
The Lessons Freemasonry teaches in its ceremonies are to do with moral values, and not religious doctrine. The principles of the fraternity are based on the same moral absolutes that form the foundations of all true faith. Because it is universal in scope, and inclusive in membership the Craft provides a philosophy and a fraternity, where good men can “meet on the level and part on the square” The names used for the Supreme Being enable men of different faiths to join in prayer to God as each sees him, without the terms of the prayer causing dissention among them. There is no Masonic God. A Freemason’s God remains the God of the religion each member professes. The Order makes no attempt to produce a conglomerate god – a lowest common denominator god, created from various aspects of the gods of the world religions. Masonry leaves it to the individual mason to choose his own pathway to God. A mason is expected, quite properly, to get that spiritual guidance from his own church/denomination/cult, which, in turn, he is encouraged to support with both his energy and his personal finances.
Nevertheless, it has been charged not only that Masonry is a religion, but that Freemasonry’s god is called JAHBULON. This accusation appears in the book, “The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge” , written by John Ankerberg and John Weldon. The name of this “god”, allegedly means “Jehovah-Baal-Osir”. The two men base their charge on Stephen Knight’s anti-Masonic books “The Brotherhood” and “Darkness Visible”. This secret name is said to describe God in the Royal Arch Degree. It is true that a similar word is found in some associated degrees, but it is not a secret God, or a secret name for God. The suggestion is that this may be a poor attempt to present the name of God in three languages. Such as “Dios-Dieu-Gott”. However Freemasonry has constantly stressed the fact that Freemasonry is NOT a religion, and this means that, in fact, there is no Masonic God, secret or otherwise. However, everything in Masonry has a reference to God, implies God, speaks of God and points to God. Every degree, symbol, obligation, lecture, charge, finds its meaning and derives its majesty from God, the GAOTU. “In all cases of doubt , difficulty and danger, in whom do you put your trust?” The answer, “IN GOD” demonstrates that with a faith so well founded a candidate for Freemasonry may advance on his journey with a firm but humble confidence.
To sum up: I believe it can be conclusively shown that “ Belief in God” is a Landmark of Freemasonry, and which expresses the form and essence of the Craft, and has existed “from time immemorial”. However that may be, the question is: Do all candidates today actually believe in God, or do they say they do, in order to be able to join the Craft. When speculative Freemasonry took hold religion was very much part of society: now it is multi-cultural, and there is no doubt that Christianity has declined in influence, as well as numerically.
What then does it mean:
a) to ask the question today, and b) to answer it, in the required way?
A well-known lecturer on Freemasonry was asked by a mason, in view of his interest in the Craft, whether he was not minded to join. He replied that he was an atheist: to which the mason, allegedly, replied, “Don’t worry about that, I’ve been an atheist for thirty years!” Does the question about belief in a Supreme Being still have the same force that it once had? Ought the question to be put more firmly in the Enquiry Meeting? And does that not suppose that the questioner is as firm in his belief as he claims to be?
Belief in God is a Landmark of the Craft, and underlies everything in Freemasonry, and so the vital question is still the same:
In whom do you put your trust?”
The RWM of Lodge Whifflet St John 963, along with the Brethren of the Lodge, would wish to thank Bro. Rev. Peter Price for allowing us to use this paper on our website for the benefit of information and education.
Bro. Rev. Peter Price, C.B.E., Senior Provincial Grand Chaplain
Ritual in Freemasonry - Its importance
A Paper delivered in Lodge Dunedin, No.1316.
by Bro. Robert B. Reid,
Right Worshipful Master, No.1316
Past Master, No.442
The word that I take up this evening is RITUAL. Here is the very basis of Freemasonry. I would not go as far as saying that RITUAL is what Freemasonry is all about, but without RITUAL we would not have Freemasonry as we know it. RITUAL has been described as the be-all and end-all of Freemasonry - it is not and never has been. Yet without RITUAL there is no such thing as Freemasonry. What is RITUAL?
You have all heard the Brother described as a good ritualist; the Brother admonished for not knowing his ritual; the Lodge which attracts visitors by virtue of its ritual work; the Lodge which is characterised by ritual books clandestinely slipped out of pockets, hurriedly glanced at, or secretly propped up for the convenience of the Brother who had not learnt his ritual before coming to the meeting. What is RITUAL?
For most people RITUAL is something they can recognise happening but cannot really explain. It is a word they use but only use in the vaguest sense. It is not confined to Freemasonry. It is part of all human experience. Indeed such a statement has to be amplified lest it is too lightly dismissed. Ritual is part of all human experience. It is probably an essential part of all human experience. Man cannot live without ritual - not just Masonic man, not even just modern man - but man at all times in history, and in all societies from the most primitive to the most modern, has needed and practised rituals. What is RITUAL?
RITUAL is the practising of RITES. That is a smug and self-satisfying definition. It is also most unhelpful. RITUAL, if we can simplify it, is the performing of certain acts in order to demonstrate some mystery. As a definition that again is no doubt very accurate, but it does not tell us what RITUAL really means. Let us rather approach the definition by examples. There are elementary rituals in social living. When we see a friend, we wave - not merely to exercise our muscles, but as an indication of friendship. When we greet a lady, we doff our hat - or at least we did when we wore hats and in the days when there were ladies. Presumably, we did not doff our hat to show off our waves or the sheen on our bald pate. The act of raising the hat conveyed our notions that somehow ladies were beings of another kind from us, who merited some show of respect. What we could only feel without expressing in words, we expressed in action. Similarly the salute exchanged between warriors shows a mutual regard and admiration for each other's skills and attributes - but you try explaining this to old soldiers and stand back. These then are three simple rites, actions of a particular kind each conveying a deeper meaning.
Let us move on to deeper rituals. These rituals referred to are those practised between man and man and meaningful to each. There are other more significant rituals which indicate relationships not between man and man but between man and God. Those of you who are members of a Presbyterian church know that the service begins with the Beadle carrying in the Bible. This is the last remnant of ritual. The Bible is needed for the service. It could be brought into Church at any time during the week or left at the lectern from Sunday to Sunday. Instead it is brought in a dignified manner each time the service is about to commence. The simple physical act is charged with meaning. The act tells us that the service is concerned with proclaiming the Gospel as contained in the Scriptures. Because the Beadle is aware of the enormity of the message, he carries the Book with dignity and solemnity. The act of Communion likewise is a sharing of bread and wine, a simple act indeed. Yet it is treated with solemnity. It is carried out according to certain prescribed rules which in themselves have no sanction other than what those sharing in the rite give them. In the Roman Church the mere act of raising the bread or the cup of wine are charged with meaning and significance - the full force of sharing in such a Communion is not derived only from the acting out of a sequence but from how the sequence is acted out.
Ritual is weakened when the manner in which it is practised is divorced from the reason for its being practised. When the old soldier throws a salute and it is acknowledged in an offhand manner by a subaltern are they always seeing their actions as an exchange of compliments between warriors? The salute soon loses significance.
The ritual is weakened. When the Beadle thinks what a splendid figure he makes as he enters the church carrying the Bible has he not undermined the significance of the entry? The ritual is weakened. When the priest holds up the bread before the congregation a bell rings to draw attention to the act. But what happens when the act and not its meaning becomes the thing? We all know the phrase "hocus-pocus". When anything is trivial or magical in a childish sense it is dismissed as so much "hocus-pocus". Likewise no children's party appears to be complete without a magician who will say "abracadabra". Without "abracadabra" the spells will not work and the children will not be mystified. But how many people know that "hocus-pocus" derives from the action of the priest elevating the host, or the bread, before the people. He accompanied it with the words, "Hoc est corpus," Latin for "This is my body." When the meaning of the action was lost in the action itself, hocus-pocus was the derisory comment. In an obscure religious sect, long since forgotten, it was the practice to wear badges in the form of an equilateral triangle containing the opening words of their great prayer against the powers of darkness. The words of the prayer were "abracadabra"; what came after is long forgotten and the significance of it all has been reduced to stage magician-ship.
We meet this evening in a Freemasons' Lodge. We constituted ourselves according to certain practices accepted by us and inherited by us. We would normally have welcomed a new member among us according to forms practised in this room for over fifty years and introduced into this room by those who had learnt these forms elsewhere and before they came. In these ways we have practised rituals. But then there are numerous bodies of men who meet, who constitute themselves, who welcome new members. In these things we are not unique. In these things other bodies have their rituals. They seek to show by handshakes or applause their friendship one to another. The rituals of most other bodies are human rituals. They belong to the plane of man-to-man relationships. The rituals of Freemasonry have a much deeper significance.
Freemasonry is nothing without man-to-man relationships. We lay stress on friendship. Indeed we push it further and refer to Brotherhood. But the rituals practised in a Masonic Lodge seek to give us an awareness of something more. There is another dimension to our thinking. Freemasonry seeks to illustrate truths which stretch beyond the here and now. The practice of Masonry is not confined within the walls of our Lodge room. Nor is it merely extended to the practice of rituals within any Lodge room or all Lodge rooms. Freemasonry seeks to demonstrate the truths of life itself. It is a man-made organisation and seeks to reveal to all who join those things which cannot be put clearly into words, those truths which underpin society. It realises the inadequacy of words and understanding. The words and actions of a Masonic Degree are both essential. Words require understanding intellectually; actions can often be appreciated more immediately. The philosopher who would hold forth and explain life, what it is about, what it means, and what is man's place in the scheme of things will use words. The Freemason searching after the same truths uses pictures and actions. He tells stories. He uses object lessons.
Two yardsticks can be used to measure the value of any action: will it lead to an improvement in the lot of mankind generally; will it lead to an improvement in the one who performed the act? Supposing we apply this criteria to our Masonry, does our ritual contribute to the sum of human happiness, will it lead to an improvement in the lot of mankind generally, and will it make those who perform it better people? I believe it can do both. It will be better able to do both if we all seek to realise the significance of what we are doing. When we know that everything we do, everything we say is meaningful, and then our ritual will be worthwhile. When we believe that what we are doing is worthwhile, then we will apply ourselves to the practice of our ritual. When we apply ourselves to the ritual, we may find our own experience enriched. It may be then that on Monday at work we will all be the better for having been in the Lodge on Friday evening. If we cannot be better men through joining any organisation, it is, in my mind, not worth joining. If men can look at your actions and praise them saying, "He's a Mason!" then you have succeeded and the Craft has succeeded.
What is Ritual? Ritual is the performing of common acts in such a way that they show forth eternal truths and mysteries.
A classic Masonic writing offers insights for every age.
"I have been a Mason for a year now," remarked the Young Brother to the Old Past Master. "While I find a great deal in Masonry to enjoy and like the fellows and all that, I am more or less in the dark as to what good Masonry really is in the world. I don't mean I can't appreciate its charity or its fellowship, but it seems to me that I don't get much out of it. I can't really see why it has any function outside of the relationship we enjoy in the Lodge and the charitable acts we do.
"I think I could win an argument about you" smiled the Past Master.
"An argument about me?"
"Yes. You say you have been a Master Mason for a year. I think I could prove to the satisfaction of a jury of your peers, who would not need to be Master Masons, that while you are a Lodge member in good standing, you are not a Master Mason.'
"I don't think I quite understand," puzzled the Young Mason. I was quite surely initiated, passed, and raised. I have my certificate and my good standing card. I attend Lodge regularly. I do what work I am assigned. If that isn't being a Master Mason, what is?"
"You have the body but not the spirit," retorted the Old Past Master.
"You eat the husks and disregard the kernel. You know the ritual and fail to understand its meaning. You carry the documents, but for you they attest but an empty form. You do not understand the first underlying principle, which makes Masonry the great force she is. And yet, in spite of it, you enjoy her blessings, which is one of her miracles. A man may love and profit by what he does not comprehend."
"I just don't understand you at all. I am sure I am a good Mason."
"No man is a good Mason who thinks the Fraternity has no function beyond pleasant association in the Lodge and charity. There are thousands of Masons who seldom see the inside of a Lodge and, therefore, miss the fellowship. There are thousands who never need or support her charity and so never come in contact with one of its many features. Yet these may take freely and largely from the treasure house which is Masonry."
"Masonry my young friend is an opportunity. It gives a man a chance to do and to be, among the world of men, something he otherwise could not attain No man kneels at the altar of Masonry and rises again the same man. At the altar something is taken from him never to return his feelings of living for himself alone. Be he ever so selfish, ever so self-centered, ever so much an individualist, at the altar he leaves behind him some of the dross of his purely profane make-up."
"No man kneels at the altar of Masonry and rises the same man because, in the place where the dross and selfish were, is put a little of the most Divine spark which men may see. Where before was the self-interest, is put an interest in others. Where before was the egotism, is put love for one's fellow man. You say that the 'Fraternity has no function' Man, the Fraternity performs the greatest function of any institution at work among men in that it provides a common meeting ground where all of us--be our creed, our social position, our wealth, our ideas, our station in life what they may-may meet and understand one another."
"What caused the Civil War?
Failure of one people to understand another and an inequality of men which this country could not endure.
What caused the Great War? Class hatred.
What is the greatest leveller of class in the world? Masonry.
Where is the only place in which a capitalist and labourer, socialist and democrat, fundamentalist and modernist, Jew and Gentile, sophisticated and simple alike meet and forget their differences In a Masonic Lodge, through the influence of Masonry.
Masonry, which opens her portals to men because they are men, not because they are wealthy or wise or foolish or great or small but because they seek the brotherhood which only she can give."
"Masonry has no function? Why, son, the function of charity, great as it is, is the least of the things Masonry does. The fellowship in the Lodge, beautiful as it is, is at best not much more than one can get in any good club, association, or organization. These are the beauties of Masonry, but they are also beauties of other organizations. The great fundamental beauty of Masonry is all her own. She, and only she, stretches a kindly and loving hand around the world, uniting millions in a bond too strong for breaking. Time has demonstrated that Masonry is too strong for war, too strong for hate, too strong for jealousy and fear. The worst of men have used the strongest of means and have but pushed Masonry to one side for the moment; not all their efforts have broken her, or ever will!"
"Masonry gives us all a chance to do and to be; to do a little, however humble the part, in making the world better; to be a little larger, a little fuller in our lives, a little nearer to the G.A.O.T.U. And unless a man understands this, believes it, takes it to his heart, and lives it in his daily life, and strives to show it forth to others in his every act-unless he live and love and labour in his Masonry-I say he is no Master Mason; aye, though he belong to all Rites and carry all cards, though he be hung as a Christmas tree with jewels and pins, though he be an officer in all Bodies. But the man who has it in his heart and sees in Masonry the chance to be in reality what he has sworn he would be, a brother to his fellow Masons, is a Master Mason though he be raised but tonight, belongs to no body but his Blue Lodge, and be too poor to buy and wear a single pin."
The Young Brother, looking down, unfastened the emblem from is coat lapel and handed it to the Old Past Master. "Of course, you are right" he said, lowly. "Here is my pin. Don't give it back to me until you think I am worthy to wear it."
The Old Past Master smiled. "I think you would better put it back now," he answered gently. "None are more fit to wear the Square and Compasses than those who know themselves unworthy, for they are those who strive to be real Masons."
"Jones is a nut!" remarked the New Brother to the Old Tyler. "I went with him yesterday to look up an applicant for membership. I didn't know much about such things, so I let him do the talking. And the questions that man asked!"
"What did he want to know?"
"First, he wanted to know what kind of job the applicant held, how long he had been there, where he had worked before, was he satisfied, did he like his boss, how much he made and whether he saved any of it or spent it all!"
"Quite right, too," commented the Old Tyler. "He wanted to know if the applicant was a solid citizen, able to pay his dues and unlikely to become a charge on the lodge. The chap who holds a job today and leaves it tomorrow for another is apt to be an applicant for charity."
But that's one of the things a lodge is for - charity," said the New Brother.
"To its members who are in need, yes," answered the Old Tyler. "But no lodge willingly takes in members who may need charity. Masonry is not a crutch for the indigent. It is a staff for those who go lame in life's journey, but when a man starts out lame he has to get crutches from some other institution.""He asked, 'Why do you want to become a Mason?' that seemed to me an impertinence. A man's reasons for wanting to join Masonry are no business of ours."
"Is that so!" answered the Old Tyler. "Son, you know so many things that are not so! I have been on the petitions of a great many men and that is always my first question. I have heard many answers.
Some men want to join because their fathers were Masons. Some think it will help them in life. Some frankly say they want to make friends so they can be successful. Others think that Masonry will help them in their religion. Still others want to be Masons because they want to belong to a secret society."
"But why is that our business?"
"A man who wants to join a fraternity because his father belonged, is good material," answered the Old Tyler. "He wants to imitate his father. As his father was a Mason it is probable that he was a good man. If the applicant desires to imitate a good man, and thinks we can help him, his motives are worthy. The man who wants to become a Mason to stiffen his religious belief is not a good candidate. Masonry demands no religion of its applicants, merely a belief in Deity. A man with religious convictions which are slipping and looks for something to prop them up should go elsewhere than the Masonic Altar. Asking nothing but a belief in God, we have a right to demand that that belief be strong, well-grounded, unshakable, and beyond question.
"The man who says he wants to join the Masonic order because he wants to belong to a secret society doesn't get asked any more questions! He is through right there. Masonry is no haven for curiosity seekers. The chap who thinks Masonry will make him friends who will help him in his business gets nowhere with a good committee. Masonry is not a business club. Imagine a man going to a minister and saying: 'I want to join your church so I can sell lawn mowers to your members.' Would the minister want him? Masonry is not a church, but it is holy to Masons. Masonry is a bright and shining light in a man's heart which must not be sullied by profane motives. To attempt to use Masonry for business is like using the Bible to sit on- diverting from the proper purpose that which should be held sacred.
"The man who answers that question by saying, 'I have always heard of Masons as men who receive help in being good men; I would like to have the privilege of becoming a member,' is approaching the matter in the right spirit. Masonry doesn't hunt the man; the man must hunt the lodge. And he must hunt with a pure motive, or cannot join any good lodge, with a good committee. The motive is vitally important. We want to know if he can afford $50 for a fee and $5 a year for dues. If they have to rob their children to join we have no use for them. We want to know if a man stands well with his fellows outside the lodge; if so he is apt to stand well with them inside. If he has few friends and those of doubtful character, the chances are he is not good timber for us.
"Masonry is what we make it. Every good man who comes into a lodge helps the fraternity, however every insincere man, every scoffer, every dishonest man who gets into the lodge, injures the fraternity. Masonry can accomplish good in the hearts of men only as it is better than they are. When it becomes less good than the average man, the average man will not want to join, and Masonry's power will be gone. "The price of liberty, so we are told, is eternal vigilance. The price of quality in a lodge is eternal care by the investigation committee. An important job, it should be approached with the idea that the future of the lodge and of Masonry to some extent rests on the man making the investigation.
"Hmm. Thanks. See you later."
"You're welcome- but what is your hurry?"
"Got to find Jones and tell him I'm the nut. Then ask the Master to let me go with him again and see if I can't see something else in his questions besides foolishness!" answered the New Brother.