In My Heart
"Why really does a man become a Mason?" asked the Very New Brother of the Old Past Master. "I know the prescribed answer to the question, of course. And doubtless every man who makes it, thinks he tells the truth. But I think he often lies!"
"Oh, no!" cried the Old Past Master. "He doesn't lie. Masonry doesn't make liars of men! But a man can tell something that isn't true without prevaricating about it, you know. You don't know? Oh, well, you are young.
"You worked pretty hard today, didn't you? Of course. You always do, don't you? I thought I saw you over at the City Club this noon. Yes, I know that gang of chaps; fine fellows gather there every day for a couple of hours. Then you went up to the gymnasium, didn't you, and exercised for an hour? And you read the paper this morning before you went at your desk? That accounts for about four hours out of eight, but you'd swear you 'worked very hard!' You don't mean to lie; you just forget, or disremember, or are so used to calling that a hard day's work you don't realize what an easy time you have!
"'Tis the same way with the man who tells where he first became convinced he was to be a Mason! He means it, but he doesn't know or realize the facts.
"Now, I've been a Mason for many, many years. I have seen men come and go and hope to, some more. And I'll tell you that most men do not seek Masonry 'because they have conceived a regard for the institution' or 'because they wish to benefit their fellowmen.' Most men become Masons because other men whom they know, are Masons, or because their fathers were Masons, or because they believe that Masonry means a certain patent of worth, or because they are curious, or even because they believe a Masonic membership will help them succeed.
"But those are not worthy motives," cried the Very New Mason.
"Perhaps not!" smiled the Old Past Master. "But we all do things from motives which are not worthy. You bought your wife a pair of theater tickets tonight and patted yourself on the back for being generous. Yet you know if you send her off to the theater with a friend she won't have a word to say about your coming home late from lodge! Do you call that a worthy motive? I call it a natural one, but St. Peter hasn't made a very large mark against your generosity score for the act!
"Now it would be glorious if all men wanted to be Masons because of the wonderful reputation which Masonry has among men. But if they did, Masonry wouldn't have nearly so much to do. And many men who become Masons for unworthy motives, remain to be taught to become very good Masons, indeed. I remember when I was twenty-one years old- bank clerk, I was- my boss said to me, 'Charlie, wasn't your father a Mason?' I said, 'yes.' 'Your father rose very rapidly in this business,' said the boss. That's all. So I applied for the Degrees. I didn't know it wasn't a worthy motive! I knew it as soon as became a Mason. And all my life I have wished I had had a better motive. But I didn't let my ignorance stop me from trying to be a good Mason.
'Many very good Masons take certain parts of Masonry more seriously than they are intended to be taken. They are the chaps who think a misplaced word in the ritual is an anathema and the forgetter a criminal! They will tell you that any man who applies for Masonry for any other reason than a reverent awe for the Order and a humble belief in its wonder also commits a crime and should be excluded. It would be fine if it were so, but we'd have about one candidate a year if we held to any such interpretation of the law.
"If I find a young fellow who wants to be a Mason because his father was, I say, 'Come on in and welcome home!' That's supposing he is otherwise all right of course. If I find a young fellow who says very frankly, 'I believe it will help me in business,' I don't condemn him to be a profane forever. I try to find out what he means. If he wants to use Masonry to bring customers to his store, I tell him to go and think it over and come back in a year. But if he says, 'Why, all the Masons are clean-cut, honest men and I need to know such men and a lot of them, that I, too, can be clean-cut and honest, and it must help any man to succeed to be associated with clean-cut and honest men, and I want to succeed so I can bring up my boys to be good men too,' I can't see but that he is first class material, supposing he's all right otherwise, of course.
"Look for the heart, boy, look for the heart! It's what's in the heart that counts, not what's on the lips. And that in my opinion, is what that question really means. 'Where were you prepared to be a Mason?' means, what sort of feeling have you in your heart? If it's a good feeling, I don't care how you analyze it; he who has it is welcome. If it's a bad feeling, then I don't care what fine words he mouths, it's enough to keep him away. I have known more than one man who joined through curiosity and yet became an ardent Mason. I have known more than one man who slipped in to aid him in business, became Master of his lodge and be a good one, too! Usually that man is the most insistent that all candidates have what he calls 'a clean mind' about becoming a Mason! The man who has had a change of heart after he gets in is always the most insistent on the statutory answer to the question as to where the candidate is first prepared to be a Mason! To me it is both funny and a little pathetic.
"My young brother, human nature is pretty much the same everywhere. Men are men in country and city, hamlet and metropolis. Most men make good Masons. A few make fine ones. Still fewer make poor Masons. Most men have quite human, ordinary, everyday reasons for wanting to be Masons. A few have fine reasons, a few have bad reasons. If the majority of men have just ordinary motives for becoming Masons, and yet the majority of men make good Masons, it's proof, isn't it, that Masonry is stronger than the motive, and it can change a man to her standards?
"I've lived a long time and the longer I live the more sure I am of the fertility of the soil in almost all good men's hearts, to the Masonic seed, and so I don't care nearly so much now, as I did forty years or so ago, why they want to be of us or where they were first prepared!
"Toleration, my brother, is a Masonic virtue. You'll feel that way too, when you've worn the apron as long as I have, and found, every year, as it grows closer to your heart, its strings of ritual and law and custom need bind less tightly."