The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
SO, YOU ARE A MASON?
Bro. Richard A. Mitton
Last year, on a flight to England, I found our in the course of conversation with a complete stranger that he was also a Mason.
SO — you are a Mason.
So what? What if anything, does it tell me about him? Does it tell me that I could, and therefore should, accept him as a friend? As a man who perhaps could be my friend, yet reluctant to accept him as such until he is ‘tested’ in much the same way we might ‘test’ any person. Or do we think to ourselves, “Wow wee — they must have been hard up for Masons that year!”
In telling me that he is a Mason, has he actually told me anything? Is he saying, “I’m your friend — your brother — and can be accepted as such.” Should the fact that he is a Mason have special significance for me, another Mason?
Is that what being a Mason means? Do we know how to accept a Mason as a brother? Indeed, do we really accept that all Masons ARE our brothers? Do we really know what being a brother means, or what a brotherhood represents? Or do we now use the terms just because they are part of the Masonic tradition, and they really signify nothing?
Q. What is the difference between a Russian and Soviet fairy tale? A. A Russian fairy tale begins: “Beyond the mountains, the forests and the rivers, there once lived....”: A Soviet fairy tale begins: “Tass News Agency reports.....” Would a Masonic fairy tale begin: “Brother....”
In my years in Masonry I have all too often been made aware of the ‘many’ problems that apparently exist within Masonry. In fact one might be excused from thinking that there are more problems within Masonry than there are members!
However, it is my contention that there are NO problems within Masonry. Let me repeat that: that there are NO problems in Masonry.
Q. Why is communism superior to any other form of government?
A. Because under communism, problems are solved which do not even exist elsewhere!
Are we like this in Masonry? That we find problems which do not really exist? Communism appears to find superficial problems to cover up the fact that the basic principles of communism do not work. Is it not true we do this in Masonry: we FIND superficial problems to hide the fact that one concept basic to Masonry is, at best, seriously eroded, if not completely non-=existent; that we are NOT brothers, and there is NO brotherhood. And our problems, such as poor attendance, lack of leadership, and so on, are just the symptoms of this lack of true brotherly love.
And this condition exists today because we do not really know what is expected of us as a brother, and what our duties, our loyalties and our responsibilities ARE to the brotherhood.
This is what this paper is about; what do we expect — what SHOULD we expect — from each other as a brother.
* * *
So — YOU are a Mason.
If we accept what has previously been stated — that our concept of a brotherhood may not exist — the real question to ask is: “Are we Masons or are we cowans?”
Remember cowans? They are the dry-dikers that the Tyler is charged with ensuring are kept outside of the lodge. A dry-diker is one who builds without cement — the cement ‘that spreads brotherly love’.
If our answer is that we ARE cowans; that we see nothing in Masonry worthy of being well built, then let us get out of Masonry.
But if our answer is ‘Yes we ARE Masons’, then let us get together to do those things we are best capable of doing. As Masons our talent, our skill, is in being able to build. So if our structure is a little shaky now, is it a time to be worried? A time to be depressed? A time to moan? No! Instead we should be quietly rejoicing, for now we have the wonderful opportunity of showing our skills as builders, to build a strong brotherhood. And the first lesson to be learnt: “For goodness sake stop moaning because you find Masonry less than perfect.” Let us stop criticizing and start constructing. This then is our first expectation of each other: to be positive, not negative, in our thoughts AND actions.
In trying to rebuild our brotherhood we run into the greatest single construction problem of the day. Cost. Not the cost in terms of money (money is cheap), but in that more expensive commodity — TIME.
Time and the monthly Mason. As an entered apprentice, didn’t you wonder what the M.M. stood for after a Mason’s name in the register? Some will tell you it stands for Master Mason — but don’t be fooled. For some Masons M.M. means you no longer have to prepare for lodge nights, and be ‘proved’. Now you can find a quiet nook in the lodge and let the masonic world drift by. You only have to put out on Lodge Night. M.M. for some means ‘Monthly Mason’.
Yet a brotherhood NEEDS a brother’s time.
How much time is Masonry worth to you? For a brother’s time should be our second great expectation.
We are like stereo systems. Look in a catalogue advertising stereos. A chief factor in buying is the amount of power a system can put out. One catches your eye that puts out 200 watts. Tremendous! Then you read the small print headed, “Truth in electronics. When we say 200 watts we mean peak power, i.e. at one instant the system can produce for one hundredth of a second an output of 200 watts. However, in normal running, its continuous power is only 14 watts.”
Do we measure Masonic power in terms of our ‘peak power’ on Lodge Night? Can our brotherhood be built on ‘peak power’, or is it continuous power that is required to sustain and nurture it? The answer appears to me to be obvious.
The traditional Masonic word ‘brother’ refers to a man who has bee accepted into a circle of friendship by a moral and spiritual tie, as binding as the tie between blood brothers. Nothing else — nothing less. Yet in most lodges, this tie appears to exist only on one night of the month! It has been suggested that in our modern world perhaps Masonry would function more readily if we thought of each other as ‘friends’ rather than ‘brothers’. Should we? It would eliminate having to live up to an exacting standard, but would it also be the end of Masonry?
So how can we get continuous power? Many English lodges have traditionally grown around local taverns and inns. Today, many lodges still have a private room in an inn which is set aside for their use only. On any night, Masons can meet together socially and cement the ties of brotherly love.
What could we do to achieve a similar social interaction?
For example, is it feasible to have separate from the lodge, an ‘open room’ available and open to all Masons in the area? In cities where a number of lodges are relatively close, a room, someone’s basement, or a room above a store, open continuously for social meetings surely would not prove too expensive when balanced with the possible returns?
In rural areas where a separate room may not be financially feasible, why not have the lodge open one or two (or more) nights per week. Why not run the basement of the lodge in a similar fashion to a WELL RUN Legion or Elks Hall? Certainly a great spirit of comradeship can be found in such halls.
Or could we pay greater attention to encouraging members to visit other lodges more frequently. The social aspects would be most rewarding, but it has a drawback — many lodge meetings can be awfully dull unless they are well organized and run with imagination.
Here are three possible ways to increase our continuous power, and I’m sure there are many, many more ways in which YOU and YOUR lodge can improve its ‘togetherness’.
“We could do much with Masonry”, writes Kipling, “in the interest of the brethren.” Deciding that we have the time and the power, what can we all do in the interest of the brethren? My answer is simple, get involved!
Q. Which is the most neutral country in the world?
A. Czechoslovakia, she doesn’t even involve herself in her own affairs!
Are we like this in Masonry? Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In Masonry we strive to be good men, so let us get up, get out and become involved. Yet to what extent do we just allow things to happen? Allow our lodge to run without question? More to the point, to what extent are you going to involve yourself and your lodge in obtaining continuous power?
Of course it may be argued, “to what extent can we be involved in lodge affairs?” Are lodges set up in such a way as to allow for ideas to be assimilated?
How approachable is the Master of the lodge, and both his officers and Past Masters?
Applicants for the position of Commissar in Russia were given the test question, “What does two plus two equal?” As the applicants answered “four” they were rejected. On applicant replied, “what do you want it to be?” He got the job!
Are our Masters only interested in hearing what they want to hear? Do we only say those things which we know they want to hear? How easy is it to make new suggestions in your lodge and be listened to?
Do the older members of the lodge tend to suppress the enthusiasm of the young? You know the scene, a new Mason expressing an idea to an older Mason. Often he receives a condescending smile, and the remark, “You will learn,” which translated often means ‘you will go along with the old and established ways, or quit! Unfortunately this is often the case. As we become involved in Masonry we do not always see the wood for the trees. The new Mason may well see that which we have missed, and it is our responsibility in the interest of brotherhood to encourage all suggestions. Instead of cutting short an idea, why not set up an informal committee, such as part of the general purpose committee, to study all ideas and suggestions. though an idea may be rejected ultimately, at least it is treated seriously, and the Mason suggesting it would at least see the reason for its rejection. If there is no committee, why not encourage the brothers to present a paper on the issue, to the Lodge. Either way he will feel he has contributed, and the most important, he will not be turned off from making further suggestions. Getting a “good” hearing will also prevent some of the moaning about lodge affairs to other brethren, whilst outside of the lodge, and worse than this, to non-brethren outside of the lodge.
A Soviet citizen immigrated to the U.S.A. Reporters interviewed him about conditions in the U.S.S.R.
“How abundant are commodities?” they asked. “One can’t complain”, he replied. “How are prices?” “One can’t complain.” “How is the standard of living?” “One can’t complain.” “Then why did you come to the U.S.A.?” “Because here I CAN complain!”
Surely it is better to allow the brethren to “sound off” in Lodge, rather than complain elsewhere. And there is no value in expecting our brothers to think positively if we are not prepared to listen to them. This is another expectation we should have of each other.
I am advocating that we all become more involved in our lodge affairs, that we suggest new ideas and approaches that will benefit our brethren, that we push our ideas, volunteer them, and ourselves and not wait until they are asked for. My next concern is how far may you push your ideas? Have we the right to pursue our ideas to the detriment of our brothers? “If a man does not keep pace with his companions” wrote David Thoreau, “then perhaps it is because he heats a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.” Can we all march to a different drummer and still retain peace and harmony within the lodge. Is it not somewhat like the infatuated mother who, on seeing her unco-ordinated son marching in a company of recruits exclaims, “Look, all out of step by my son Bill!”
If we are true brothers then we know what is meant by peace and harmony, and therefore the limit to which we push our ideas is obvious — we do not go so far as to offend the feelings of our brothers, but try to keep in step with them. We do have brothers however, who are not so conscious of other brothers’ feelings, and feel that they are too restricted within Masonry, that they have no freedom within Masonry — what nonsense! first, the man has the freedom to choose Masonry to begin with. does a man who takes on a mortgage complain that he no longer has the freedom to spend his money the way he wishes? Secondly, freedom means the right to pursue the truth, and this is part of the Masonic philosophy, to seek ‘more light’ ! What greater freedom can a man wish for? And for the brother who goes beyond ‘peace and harmony’ — let him be treated with understanding, tolerance and charity, for Masonic charity is not just money. As said before, money is cheap, it is time which is expensive. Masonic charity in my opinion, is time to walk with a brother, understand him, and comfort him, and is not just the giving to the higher education fund. In this sense we all badly need and should expect, Masonic charity — the friendly warmth and guidance of a brother.
So — you are a Mason? So here are the expectations I have of you, plus one more which binds all the others together, that of Love. With our expectation of each other, and the spark of Love to kindle these qualities, we can build a strong brotherhood — and more.
An Old Chinese proverb expresses this:—
If there is love in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
A man walked up to a kiosk in Moscow, “Comrade, a packet of razor blades.” The clerk said they had none. When the customer had gone a second clerk asked, “Why say that we have none when in fact we have plenty?” The first clerk replies, “If he wants to address me as comrade let him act like a comrade — let him shave with a sickle!”
If we wish to be addressed as ‘brother’, then let us act like one. Let us take these expectations back to our lodges and our lives for all to see. Then others can say of you:
“So — you ARE a Mason.”