SHORT TALK BULLETIN
Vol. I No. 3 — March 1923
From day to day, from generation to generation, the Great Architect of the Universe draws upon his Trestleboard the designs for the slowly-rising Temple of civilization. Mankind are his workmen, and Freemasons, by training and equipment, should be Master Workmen, capable of the highest character of workmanship and the greatest degree of loyalty and understanding of all who toil upon the Temple or contribute of their means and leadership to its completion. As the Temple arises, as the magnificence and beauty of the structure become more apparent, and as the number of workmen increases, numerous and perplexing problems develop, especially as to the mutual relationships and rewards of those in authority and those who toil. Envy of and ambition for power, impatience, selfish greed for quick rewards, enter into the minds and shape the motives of men, making them forget that no one class can build the Temple without the other; that honest workmen seek and receive rewards only for work well done, and the contention and strife always result in tragedy — and in a roll call of the workmen inevitably discloses and condemns the contentious and unfaithful.
There is today a great confusion in and about our modern Temple of Industry, and out of it problems present themselves which can only be solved in the light and spirit of fundamental truth: The spirit and intent of Freemasonry have ever been directed to the search for truth and its applications to those problems which continually effect the welfare of mankind. It is, therefore, entirely within the scope of Masonic thought and present day Masonic service to turn our attention, as men and Masons, to the immediate and very acute problem of the relationship between Capitol and Labor, between the man who toils with his hands and the man who toils with the problems of investment and organized production. Not only is it consistent with the spirit of Freemasonry that we study the problems that confront us in this field of human endeavor, but it is imperative that we make our contribution to the righteous solution of those problems.
As a Fraternity we are not strangers to the field in which these problems are found, and in which they must be solved. No organization is more logically equipped to discuss the questions involved in the relationships of Capitol and Labor than is Freemasonry, for we are a fraternity which, from its ancient beginning, and all through the succeeding centuries, has exalted the supreme value of constructive industry.
We are historically equipped to discuss the problem, for in the fact of our origin and in the symbolism of our degrees we are builders. We are not concerned with the time honored scholastic controversy as to the accurate link between brethren of the three-fold covenant of today and the ancients. It should be sufficient that, whether our descent can be traced without a break or not, we are inseparably the descendants in tradition, in much of form, and in more of the spirit of men who were toilers and whose whole fellowship and scheme of fraternal association was based on toil. Essential Freemasonry began in Solomon's day in a unique, efficient, and fine-spirited industrial organization. That tradition was embodied in the remarkable record of the Craftsmen's guilds and the companies of Cathedral builders who so united faith and imagination with skill as to give us those majestic edifices which some one has fitly described as being "Music, frozen into stone." In modern times our ranks have known men who labored physically as well as men whose industry was real though they were workers with the stuff of mind and heart. Few are the Freemasons who have not known at some time what it means to labor operatively as well as speculatively. Such men as Washington, Franklin, Marshall, and all our statesmen and public servants, were toilers whose mental and moral industry laid well the stones in our Temple of human freedom and happiness.
We are committed to the thoughtful consideration of the social phases of industry by reason of our idealism and our fraternal philosophy. Our body of truth and our program of ideals are both defined and set forth in the terms and symbols of the toiler; for the material uses of the gauge, the mallet, the square, level, plumb, compass and trowel bring to us a practical social, moral and spiritual message.
Nor is it too much to say that we are compelled to the consideration of this theme by reason of our own present fraternal ambition and aspiration; for no field of human accomplishment demands so clearly and insistently a program of constructive thinking and real service as does that of industry. By the memory of our past and by the need of our present we are called to the attainment of better and happier social relationships. That attainment is the goal of all fraternal effort and the lack of it the cause of all strife in the social and industrial scheme of things.
If all this be true, then what possible message can Freemasonry bring to all men in these days of complicated industrial and social anxieties? It is recognized that Freemasonry has a wealth of truth to draw upon and that the Institution is qualified to voice many essentials which seem altogether applicable. In the first place Freemasonry must declare without qualification that there is a solution for the problem. Holding the principles which we hold as a Fraternity, we must steadfastly assert the possibility of a solution and as steadfastly we must be dedicated to the attainment of that solution. We must be practical and aggressive idealists. We must be constructive and persistent optimists. We must proclaim the possibility of better things in the domain of human relationship. We are challenged by the supine pessimism of those who assert that industrial conditions can never be otherwise than contentious. They take the attitude of tolerant cynicism, and would have us believe that strife is the normalcy of industrial conditions. They argue for inevitability of friction in the world of production, even as sixty years ago men argued that slavery might be regulated but never wiped out. But pessimism and the tolerant and smiling sneer of the cynic have no real place in the program of forward-moving Freemasonry. The spirit of Freemasonry asserts that industrial quarrels can find the norm of peace. As individuals we may hinder or delay the solution, or we may aid its speedy and happy attainment; but the right adjustment between the man who toils at the top and the man who toils at the bottom will and must come. To deny this is to deny the very hope upon which fraternalism is founded, for we are in existence that we may organize and make effective that "society of friends and brother among whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree." To assert or surrender to the contrary is to discourage the chief effort and to deny the chief objective of our idealism. If a right solution is not possible and attainable, then Freemasonry in the domain of Fraternalism is erected upon a false premise and is pursuing the mockery of a foolish dream.
"It is in the power of Freemasonry, secondly, to point out the way which leads to the solution of the difficulties between Capitol and Labor." We may not be wise enough to authoritatively prophecy the exact form of the final solution, When evolved — and it will be evolved, not created — it will be the cumulative product of many minds and the program of a unified and sympathetic wealth of wisdom. We may be confident, however, of the direction in which the solution may be found, and much of the certainty of our conviction we owe to the lessons learned at the Altar of our Fraternal Covenant. We can best express that conviction first in its negative form. A right social and industrial relationship and a lasting industrial peace will not be attained by the enforced ignorance of the toiler. Many there are who assert that the demands of the organized laborer are due to the fact that he is over-educated. Few utter the doctrine aloud, but secretly they recognize that the more ignorant the mass of men the more supine and quiescent they remain under social and political inequity. They are right as to ignorance being a state which tends to that sort of peace which is founded upon crushed souls, stunted intellects, and brute surrender to the crack of some industrially autocratic whip, which results from the abject darkness of ignorance. Freemasonry cries out:"This is no solution! 'Ye Shall Know The Truth, and the Truth Shall Make You Free!' We seek that high and holy peace which arises from the equitable agreement of free men — men who are free in speech, in faith and in franchise!"
Nor will our problem be solved by the erection of some experimental and untried system of human government. The faults which we seek to remedy are not found in the mechanical arrangement of government. We challenge our Bolshevist neighbor with the statement that the faulty operation of the plumbing is not remedied by burning down the house. Political, social, and industrial wrongs will not be corrected by the destruction of constituted authority and the substitution of untried and fanatical experiments. A sure remedy is possible under our present government and with the right use and direction of our present essential and time-proven institutions.
In still another direction will we vainly seek peace. It will not be found upon the road to violence. Peace will not be obtained by the use of force or compulsion as a working tool in the hand of either party to our present industrial situation. It will not come by ignoring public interest, by murder, sabotage, boycotting, or intimidation of free men on the one hand; nor by punitive legislation, the employment of troops and armed guards, the threatening flash of bayonets, or the imposition of judicial mandate on the other hand. Grant that these may now seem to be the inevitable incidents on the present abnormal and strained status of society; but surely any intelligence can perceive that victories thus gained and a peace thus established are both alike but temporary. One does not cure some surface eruption by a surface medication. That may suffice for the moment to arrest the breaking out. To permanently cure you must seek and treat the hidden point of focal infection. When we turn, then, to the source of controversy and hateful dissention we enter the realm of the moral and spiritual; and we find that "our process of cure is a process of education. We shall achieve industrial peace only by education." Not education of just one side but of both sides. Not education of a part of the man but education of the whole of the man. Not merely or even principally an education of the minds of men, but supremely an education of the hearts of men. Our only hope is the creation of a right spirit in the very life of the race; and that is more largely a matter of the heart than of the head.
We recall an ancient legend that delineates the pitiful and sordid folly of some discontented workmen. Three of them plunged into the degradation of crime and the shame of violence, not because they were not skilled workmen, not for any lack, so far as we know, of some portion of "Brains," but chiefly because their spirit was wrong. Their attitude was wrong. Their hearts were wrong. They had not the vision of sanctity, the dignity and the true reward for workmanship. They were working not for the joy of work and its productive result, but solely for the wage they proposed to demand. They came asking a full days wage for only a partial return. The Temple was not finished, but they must be paid, whether or no; and, dominated by their passion for personal advantage and reward, they plunged into the black darkness of crime and treachery. When the roll was called it was found that there were twelve others who did not follow the three into that awful experience because they were workmen who suddenly had a vision of the real meaning of it all. They recanted not only because of some cold calculation of intellect but because the right spirit entered into their hearts. A something deep within them responded to the appeal of loyalty. The high call of faith and duty did not sound within their ears in vain; and they remained loyal to the leadership of one who was not merely a King but a Brother and who led them out into a larger, finer, and more splendid service. They redeemed themselves by the new spirit in which they took up their task.
If the hearts of men are right, then in the ultimate social and industrial formula true justice and a real fraternity will be dominant factors. Not some shallow and empty conception of justice and fraternity, not a mere gesture of affection, but a great, deep passion in the hearts of men for equity and happy fellowship. What we most need is a real spirit of toleration, a spirit of toleration which, while not nullifying the right to personal opinion and conviction, yet shall save us from being so intent upon personal advantage as to lose sight of our love for the person and the rights of our brother. Such a conception of fraternity disseminated among all men will aid us to love each other more than we do our several social, economic, religious or political doctrines. In that spirit we shall find readjustment, and the resultant details of wages, hours, organization and privileges will inevitably be sound. We are in no danger from men who disagree in judgment, but we may well fear an antagonism of hearts marked by hate and evil or selfish motive.
The achievement of this ideal will be accomplished only when the rule of love shall hold its sway over us. Not an empty imitation of affection or a mere pose, but a love which is first of all a reverent affection for and trust in God who is Father of us all and the resultant consciousness of our kinship with all mankind. Though the centuries Freemasonry has been one of the potent factors in keeping bright in human hearts that Light of Love, that Beacon of Brotherhood, which long ago issued forth from the Great Heart of Creation. It is now the supreme privilege of every Freemason to hold that flame of hope high and unextinguished. At this very "Tide in the affairs of men" we are passing through dark days of strife and perplexity in our industrial and social world, but in the fundamentals of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man we have light enough to see us through the shadows. A great soul once caught the vision of the real source of true optimism and courage when he cried out:
"If I Stoop, Into a dark, tremendous sea of cloud, It is but for a time; I press God's lamp Close to my heart; its splendor soon or late Shall pierce the gloom; I shall emerge somewhere." Let us repeat that verse in the plural form, and thus epitomize the optimism that must be ours: "If We Stoop, Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud, It is but for a time; we press God's lamp Close to our hearts; its splendor soon or late Shall pierce the gloom; we shall emerge somewhere." The point of that emergence is hidden as yet in the silent mystery of human destiny, but if we will courageously hold up God's lamp of love and brotherhood, we are justified in the assurance that mankind will eventually emerge into a social order which shall know not only a "Living" but a "Loving" wage; a social order where the public well-being and the common prosperity shall be based upon the surer foundation of a sacred public trust and an exalted sense of unselfish service.