Where Have The Other 75% Gone?
R. W. Brother Stuart W. Taylor
Past DDGM Prince Edward District
Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario
On The Occasion Of His Official Visit to Eureka Lodge A.F. & A.M. #11 GRC
Some whose curiosity has been aroused to the extent that they wish to know what is under the surface of Freemasonry, who wish an explanation of some of our inconsistencies, have asked what happened to nine out of twelve who are assigned an important task in our ritualistic work, disappear and are seen no more. Nine is 75 percent of twelve, so 75 percent of twelve Fellowcrafts give no assistance to the other three, the 25 percent. Not only that, but they give no hint that they are not on the job. They send no word as to why they are not participating. They do not even return, as some of today might do, to claim part of the credit when the task is successfully performed by the three faithful Fellowcrafts, the 25 percent.
I have no idea what happened to the nine, the 75 percent of the twelve who are seen no more and send no word to let the other 25 percent know the task has been left entirely to them. I am not particularly concerned about them. They probably showed up in time for refreshments or installations. But, it seems to me that the nine, the 75 percent who walk away and don't back, are symbolic of a lot of Freemasons we have made through the years. Important secrets are communicated to them. A task is given them. They make big speeches about what the ritualistic work has meant to them, what the teachings of Freemasonry are going to mean in their daily lives, what they are going to do to make themselves more worthy of being Freemasons. Soon they walk away and 75 percent of them are seen no more. They do not so much as let the Master know why they do not return. If there's a problem, maybe it can be corrected. They do not let the Master know why they do not perform the task assigned to them, why they do not perform the things they volunteered to perform.
As I said, I am not greatly concerned about what happened to the nine Fellowcrafts, but I am concerned about the 75 percent of those we raise and do not see again. They do not return with tidings. They do not perform the task assigned them. They do not even try. Some say the 75 percent were not interested in the Craft lodge in the first place; that the lodge was merely a stepping stone to something else; that the missing ones will be found working elsewhere. Of course, those who come here with their sights set on something else, with no intent to become interested here, shouldn't be admitted here, but I wish to punch some holes in the contention that those who do not return here are to be found interested elsewhere.
Some have suggested that those who do not return to the quarries here are to be found working in the quarries of the Royal Arch. If we can't interest them here, I should like to see the missing 75 percent active in Capitular degrees, so I have visited Royal Arch meetings looking for them, and the missing 75 percent aren't there. The percentage of attendance in Royal Arch chapters probably doesn't equal that of the lodges. Others have suggested that the missing 75 percent will be found in the Preceptorys, but they weren't there, either. A 10 percent or 15 percent attendance there is not too discouraging. Some have suggested that the missing 75 percent will be found busy as bees in the Scottish Rite, where there are 32 degrees to be worked, so I have made inquiries, but they are not there, either. Again, 10 or 15 percent is not too discouraging.
Many are certain that the missing 75 percent had their sights set all the time on the Shrine, so, as a last resort, I dropped in there, but the missing 75 percent hadn't shown up, and a 5 or 10 percent attendance for stated meetings was encouraging.
I didn't find the missing 75 percent anywhere, but I did find that of the faithful in these several bodies a large part of them are Past Masters or other Brethren who have been active in the Craft lodge. The point I wish to make is that we are failing to get the interest anywhere of the delinquent 75 percent. If we do not get their interest in the Craft lodge, then most of the missing ones are lost to us entirely.
In numerous Grand Jurisdictions momentum has been gained by what have been variously termed educational programs, Masonic Advancement programs, Information programs, Masonic Enlightenment programs such as Brother To Brother, Mentors and Lodge Officer Training programs. There has developed a greater desire than ever before noted, especially on the part of younger members, to know what makes Freemasonry tick, to know what is under the surface. There is no limit to the number who may participate in these programs. There is no limit to what there is to learn about Freemasonry, so there never will be a lack of new material. Grand Lodges and many individual lodges are answering this demand for education and inspiration, are even developing the demand. Every lodge should answer that demand and take a part in developing it. We must be sure that a Lodge does not get shipwrecked and sink because ~ there is no firm course or direction. Are some lodges just sailing along without any vision for the future? Lodge long range planning may be the answer. We may not be able to find and interest many of the missing 75 percent, but let us get the new Master Masons before their interest starts to wane. Let's not give their interest a chance to wane and we lose them on the shoals of humanity.
It is true, however, that a ship is never truly on its course. It is in need of constant correction. I don't know the author of the foregoing maxim, but it certainly contains the seed for a Masonic lesson of deep design.
Isn't a ship that is never truly on its course, that is, in need of constant correction from the shoals, symbolic of human life — Symbolic of the lives of Fremasons? Are we not constantly veering from the course we know we should follow? Are we not in need of constant correction? Do we not often find ourselves wavering from the true course and wasting precious fleeting moments doing nothing worthwhile when, if our course had been corrected by recollection of our responsibilities, of which some of us are aware as Freemasons, we might have used a part of that gained useful knowledge, or might have enlightened others? Do we not often find ourselves off the true course spending an evening to no purpose when, if our course had been corrected by a recollection of those Five Points, we might have taken cheer to a lonesome brother in a sick room? Do we not often get off the true course and slipping off for a dip in the pool or a game of golf on a Sunday morning when, if our course had been corrected by the spiritual lessons of Freemasonry, we might have astonished a member of the Craft as he greeted us at the beach or at his church? Do we not often find ourselves off the true course saying unkind things about a brother when, if our course had been corrected by a recollection of the Precious Jewels of a Fellowcraft Mason, we might have withheld the unkind word and, instead, given kind counsel to the offending brother?
"A ship is never truly on its course. It is in need of constant correction." It cannot be held truly on its course because it is influenced by the action of the elements through which it moves by the surface water, by the tidal and other currents. Undoubtedly, the moon, with magnetic power sufficient to move oceans back and forth, and cause the tides to ebb and flow, has influence upon the ship movements in the water. Is not the ship, influenced by the elements about it, symbolic of human life and symbolic of the life of a Freemason? Is not the direction we take influenced by the environment in which we live and move? Is not the direction we take influenced by those with whom we associate? Are we not influenced by things about us to move this way toward evil, or that way toward good?
We may find a symbolism here by letting the ship represent a human life. Each of us is the navigator of his own ship. The compass symbolizes those things and persons from whom we should take directions. The ship is safe so long as the navigator takes his bearings from known objects and landmarks, symbolized by Masonic precepts and landmarks, symbolized by Masonic precepts and landmarks, but when he puts these behind him and sails a course that makes him dependent upon others to point the way to what he believes will be new and better things beyond the horizon, he is in danger. In imitation of the mariner's compass, we may find those in whom we had faith influencing us away from a true course, but the deviations to be expected in the leadership of others have been charted for us. We must be ever ready to make the corrections that are constantly necessary. We alone can keep our lives coming back to the charted course, to the true course.
Is not the direction we take influenced by mental peculiarities with ourselves, just as the ship is influenced by its own magnetic character? Does not each of us have his own peculiar mental, even magnetic peculiarities? Is not one a mental grouch who makes miserable those around him, while another, because of mental and magnetic characteristics, is always cheerful and raises the spirits of those around him? In Masonry we see many such Brethren. Of a few close associates, is not one short of temper while another is of even temper? Does one live for self, devoid of ambition or thought for his fellows, while another lives for others, with ambition to leave the world better than he found it? As the ship's magnetic character is influenced by the direction in which it is moving, so our mental peculiarities are influenced by the direction our lives have taken, that direction taken either of our own volition or by accident of circumstances. As mechanical means have been found to compensate for magnetic peculiarities of the ship, so Freemasonry provides all that is necessary to compensate for our mental peculiarities and variations.
Each one of us will admit he frequently has been off the true course, and has been affected and influenced in the ways that have been suggested. To yield slightly to temptation is easy. No one has been able to follow an absolutely true course in doing the things he knows he should do.
In these mechanical days a ship is held to its course by automatic steering mechanism, but even this does not keep a ship truly on its course. The automatic mechanism merely keeps making the corrections that are necessary as the ship's course is influenced by the action of the water and air through which the ship is moving. As automatic steering mechanism makes the necessary corrections in the course of a ship, so should we use the lessons and teachings of Freemasonry, the symbols and allegories of Freemasonry, to automatically make for us the constant corrections that are necessary if we are to safely reach the port of duty performed, of obligations held inviolate.
We must stand tall and be true and faithful to ourselves, to our Craft, to our fellow man and to our God.