"I HAVE HEARD THAT MASONRY......."
Another in the series of informational booklets intended for possible new Masons. By the G.L. of the District of Columbia
Before an aspirant for Masonry petitions for membership, he learns one lesson — he must seek Masonry voluntarily. "Free will and accord" is a phrase occurring in all degrees in the Blue Lodge. It is placed there for the express purpose of reminding the applicant for the Masonic Degrees that he comes of his own volition and not as a result of persuasion or coercion by a friend who is a Mason.
To many Masons, an answer such as "No, I'm not a Mason as no one has ever asked me to join" is familiar and a little touching. The purpose of this presentation is to provide guidance whereby you may assist that man, whom you feel "should be a Mason, to voluntarily seek a petition.
When the subject of Masonry arises, by all means, DO NOT divert conversation into other channels or retreat into silence. This is an opportunity to discuss the fine traditions of Masonry. Don't try to "sell" it; if the inquirer is sufficiently interested, it will "sell" itself
A friend, showing an interest in Masonry, opens the door for you to brief him on the general facts concerning the Fraternity, but until he asks for a petition (or otherwise conveys to you the solid impression that he wants to join, but doesn't know how to go about it), detailed information is unnecessary.
Many of you have gone through the experience of, "I have heard that Masonry..." is a secret society; is a religion of sorts and is a bitter enemy of Roman Catholicism; is a rich man's fraternity, exclusive and Protestant; wields great power in politics; forbids its members to discuss Masonry with non-Masons; teaches its members that, right or wrong, a member must defend another at all costs; takes very strict obligations of a questionable nature; provokes unhappiness in homes because Masons are out evenings and do not tell their wives anything; is good to join for business and prestige; and so forth.
What could be further from the truth? Masonic Temples are to be seen in all principal cities and towns and even in small villages. The buildings are usually well kept and distinctly marked with a printed sign or the symbolic Square and Compass. Most are prominent buildings on main thoroughfares.
Notices of meetings for ritual, business or special occasions are publicized by newspaper, radio and TV. Frequently, meetings are held to which the public is invited. Family gatherings are on the schedule of most Lodges.
Secret? No. Secrets? Yes. Masons have (1) their own modes of recognition; (2) degree work which is not made known in the world at large and; (3) symbolic methods of instructing members (in the ways of neighbourliness, the Golden Rule, patriotism, charity, etc.).
Far greater are the secrets of Government, college fraternities, and even families, but none would acknowledge these to be "secret". The word "secret" has come to be known as "sinister", "shady", "a fraud" by those who do not know or understand societies. Very emphatically we can say that Masonic Bodies are just the opposite; i.e., they are benevolent, moral, and proper.
Masons proudly appear in public to lay cornerstones of buildings; to attend other ceremonial and public functions; to attend funerals for deceased members; and to worship in a body at Divine Services. They openly declare themselves and their purposes.
Few are the Masons who do not attend and support some recognized Church, Synagogue or Temple. Every Mason takes his obligations in the name of God and is urged to attend a place of worship of his own choice. Many ministers, rabbis, deacons, Sunday School teachers, Church lay leaders and workers are Masons. Far from being a bitter enemy of the Church, Masonry is the particular friend of ANYONE professing a belief in a Supreme Being. Masons worship God in their religious edifices; they do not go to Lodge for that purpose. Masonry is religious to this extent; every Mason must believe in a Supreme Being; the immortality of the soul; the Fatherhood of God; and the Brotherhood of Man. These are first line requirements.
A man's wealth is of little interest to Masonry and certainly is no requirement to membership. Masonry does not deny the presence of highly paid executives and professional men on its rolls. Their memberships are as beneficial and desirable as are others. However, Masonry points with just as much pride to those Brothers whose vocations are train conductor, salesman, welder, cowboy, butcher, truck driver, etc. The latter group of men outnumber the former by a vast majority.
The initiation fees are most modest; the dues per year are usually much less than for country clubs or professional societies. Moreover, the initiation fee and Lodge dues structure may be discussed with your friends in dollars and cents as applicable to your particular Lodge.
Exclusiveness may well apply to Masonry. However, it is "exclusive" only in its moral requirements. No man of good character who comes to Masonry of his own free choice will be refused a petition. Any qualified man may apply and few are rejected.
"Protestant Organization" is one of the most common misconcepts of Masonry and it is one that is totally without foundation. Besides Protestants, hundreds of thousands of our members are adherents to other faiths. (Jewish, Roman Catholic, Mohammedan, Hindu, etc.). In fact, the faith that any man has in a Supreme Being qualifies him to petition; this then, truly makes Masonry a fraternity of and for all mankind. No atheist may be a Mason.
Masons, while in Lodge, are prohibited from discussing politics or any other subject which may cause dissension in its ranks. This is a landmark which is strictly observed. As citizens, Masons are encouraged to vote for candidates or parties of their choice, to hold appointive and elective offices and to express their views on political issues. Masons are good citizens. Their power in politics is in direct proportion to their numerical vote, keeping in mind that Masons are Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Independents, etc. Their votes are spread as much as their political beliefs differ. They do not vote in a body.
RIGHT OR WRONG
There is no more defense for a Mason who does wrong in a civil, criminal or moral offense, than for any other person. A strict adherence to all the laws of God and of man is required by all Masons. They are bound to uphold the laws of the land in which they are located and to be true to their own Government.
And more to the point, a Mason who is alleged to have broken a moral, criminal or civil code may be brought before the Lodge and so charged. He is, of course, entitled to counsel in order to properly defend himself. If adjudged guilty he may be subject to the consequence of private reprimand, expulsion from the Fraternity, or one of the other penalties from the lightest to the most severe judgment.
In all Lodges, the Mason promises to uphold his Government, obey the Civil Magistrate, be of high moral character, practice brotherhood and benevolence, uphold the rights of all good men to freedom and happiness.
MASON'S HOME LIFE
A Mason, like any other person, makes his home life according to his own views and circumstances. Most Masonic households are as congenial as the average, if not more so. Masons are not required to spend any time at Lodge — evenings or otherwise. (In olden days, small fines were assessed for non-attendance at meetings). To the contrary, they are told that while their presence is desirable and welcome at Lodge, they are admonished that the Lodge should in NO WAY conflict with their own home or business life. When a Mason attends Lodge, it is of his own free will and for his own enjoyment of the brotherhood to be found there.
It is true that many Masons do not tell their families the whys and wherefores of Masonry, the older Masons being more reticent than the younger ones. Masons of today are not only urged to converse about Masonic courses of conduct, but their families are encouraged to attend Lodge functions. Certainly, every Masonic wife should know and appreciate the purposes of Freemasonry.
As a matter of information in reference to the home or family aspect of Masonry, other bodies have been organized to interest not only wives, but also sons and daughters in Masonic families. These include Orders such as the Eastern Star, White Shrine, DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, and Job's Daughters. Local public libraries carry many books about Masonry and its family of related organizations.
Anyone detected trying to join the Masonic Fraternity for business reasons will not be given a petition. A petitioner who anticipates joining for commercial advantages (and a few do pass without detection) may be bitterly disappointed in Masonry as they expect financial gain rather than brotherhood. These men may drop out after a few years.
As with other fraternities, clubs and even vocations, no man gets more reward from it than the effort he affords to it. Masons do buy from other Masons, certainly, but usually because of better service and friendlier relations, not because of Lodge affiliation.
The search for prestige, as a reason for joining, may also be a source of disappointment. However, we must admit that a man joining Masonry for proper reasons will soon find that he does have more prestige in his community, but only because he has consciously (or unconsciously) become the better type of man which Masonry endeavours to make of him.
These are some of the facts which you may share with any person who is not a Mason. There are, of course, many other facts about Masonry, which you may discuss. If in doubt about discussing any phase of Masonry, consult with the Master of your Lodge or other person well versed in ritual and rules.
In any conversation when non-Masonic friends are present, under no circumstances allow the discussion to get out of hand or controversial. Broadly speaking, Masonry is as open as the Bible upon its Altar.
So Mote It Be!