Truth Is a Divine Attribute
"Truth is a divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue. To be a good man and true is the first lesson taught us in Masonry." Now this may well be the first lesson taught us in Masonry and, hopefully, in the moral code of our churches, but apparently this first lesson does not make too great an impression on many of our Masonic speakers.
There are many offenses committed against our newly made Masons but one of the worst, if not the worst, if that committed by many Masonic speakers when they stand before an audience, containing young and impressionable Masons and reiterate some hoary untruth which they have heard or have seen published in one or another Masonic periodical.
Most of these untruths can be refuted with the most superficial checking. Merely because something has been published in a Masonic publication, even if many times repeated, does not, of necessity, guarantee its authenticity.
A good example of this is the world's most complete collection of falsehoods which was published by Colonel James Churchward. This group of prevarications deals with the supposed existence of Freemasonry in Ancient India, in pre-historic South America and makes the statement that Freemasonry came from the legendary and mythical "Lost Continent of Mu."
It would appear that no one, possessing even the most rudimentary intelligence, would give the slightest credit to such fantastic tales. Yet, within the last two years, all of these works of Churchward's have been republished in paperback editions, are on the newsstands, and are selling at a good rate. If someone with a high Masonic office purchases one of these books, copies some of the statements which it contains, and uses them in a speech, an audience must conclude that the speaker is putting his stamp of approval on these statements. It is difficult to imagine anyone, who has the qualifications to succeed to high office, doing this, but it has been done and has been done more than once.
We can't list every falsehood which finds its way into our Masonic speeches but we can closely examine a very few. These are indicative of the rest of the errors.
Continuing with the false antiquities of the fraternity, a brother, in one of our Southern states, holding a high Masonic position, and who is apparently overly impressed by the supposed antiquity of the Masonic institution, has begun teaching all of the newly made Masons with whom he comes in contact, that Freemasonry is so very old, that in Central America, on buildings which are over 25,000 years old, Masonic symbols can be found. Most of the assertions which he makes are based on the works of Churchward and, no doubt, he makes these statements in good faith. If only he had taken the time to make even a superficial investigation, he would see the absolute incongruity of his position. The Smithsonian states, and a number of archeological treatises concur with their statements, that the oldest known man-made buildings are of Sumerian origin and are between 6,000 and 8,000 years of age.
Of course, these are not elaborately decorated Temples and certainly do not contain any Masonic symbols. Any design on these ancient artifacts which may be construed by some well-meaning, but uninformed brother, to be Masonic, is merely wishful thinking on the part of that brother.
The earliest constructions in the Western Hemisphere are all less than 2,000 years of age and again, these do not bear any Masonic symbols.
There was a correspondence a few years ago with a minister who had supposedly seen a letter "G" on one of the Mayan Temples in Yucatan and who wanted to know if this meant that the Mayans were Masons. He didn't even take into account that the Mayans would not have used the letter "G" and even if they had known the letter they would not, under any circumstances, have assigned to it the same value which we assign to it.
Consequently, when he was informed that there could not possibly be any connection, he asked if this meant that there could be mistakes in the works of Colonel Churchward. When he was informed that the works of Colonel Churchward were a tissue of lies, he volunteered the information that he had been making talks to various lodges, as the clergy has a habit of doing, and using the works of Churchward as the basis for these talks. If a minister can be this easily taken in and then be so naive as to use these works for the basis of Masonic speeches, it should be much easier to deceive the normal candidate of our fraternity. However, if a young, intelligent, college educated man is told this type of occult drivel, it is of little wonder that he will come to the conclusion that all of Freemasonry is shallow and superficial, when brethren, who are supposedly "well informed" brethren, present such asinine assertions and endeavor to convince him of their veracity.
Another instance which has received fairly widespread publicity recently concerns a story which is being circulated by one of the highly placed members of our fraternity. Since it is considered bad taste to openly pillory a living brother, this brother shall remain nameless.
We will therefore refer to him as "Brother Nameless" of Fallen Arch Lodge No. 1313 of Peculiar, Missouri. Actually, "Brother Nameless" has a title long enough that a giraffe would have trouble trying to swallow all of it. "Brother Nameless," in his travels throughout the country, makes the assertion that there is a Masonic lodge in Kowloon, China which has existed since 20 A.D. and that, since the 19th century, it has held and worked under a charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The year books of the Grand Lodge of Scotland for the last 100 years would seem to refute this extravagant claim and much correspondence with friends from both China and Japan can furnish no basis for the tale. He (Brother Nameless, that is) also tells a wild, weird and wooly story about a supposed visit of Jesus to both China and Japan, which is not only impossible to verify, but so puerile that it would seem implausible that anyone would give the least iota of belief to it. Yet the followers, wanting to believe, they believe "Brother Nameless" using the high position which he holds to make these ridiculous assertions, continues to purvey false information through Masonic periodicals.
There is a book for sale in one of our Masonic shrines which must, undoubtedly, be the worst Masonic book ever written. There are only three types of Masonic books, good books, bad books, and this book. The volume, which was published by one of the vanity publishers (The reason for this type of publication will become apparent once you read it), is a collection of the most ridiculous puerilities which have ever been the misfortune of any Mason to read. No assertion is too fantastic, no incident is too far-out for the author to chronicle. He makes the most unbelievable types of assertions and does not offer a single iota of proof for any of them. Nearly any high school freshman would dismiss the entire collection as a group of fantasies if not outright falsehoods. Yet the organization continues to peddle the volume thereby putting an apparent stamp of approval on it. By selling and by making this book available to the Masonic public, at least tacit approval of the organization must be deduced. If newly-made Masons buy the book, and if they are thereby induced to believe these false statements, the organization must be prepared to shoulder most of the blame.
With the bi-centennial celebration approaching within the next few years, the Masonic fraternity is making plans to assist in this great celebration. Unfortunately, some zealous brethren are of the opinion that the entire War of Independence was a Masonic-sponsored and Masonic-backed enterprise. One of the oldest and one of the most false statements ever made about the American Revolution is the one that 53 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons. Brother Ronald Heaton of Pennsylvania, in his first book. "Masonic Membership of the Founding Fathers," which is published by the Masonic Service Association, gives all the known facts about the signers. Brother Heaton was able to authenticate only eight of these signers as members of the Masonic order. Since that time Brother James R. Case of Connecticut has proved the membership of one more, William Ellery. This makes a total of nine Freemasons, which is quite a difference from 53.
Yet, at a banquet of one of the most prestigious of the appendant orders, the speaker, a Supreme Court Justice, made the statement that 53 of the 56 signers were Masons. The Judge hadn't done his homework. However, the thing which compounded the offense and made it nearly a crime was that the editor of one of our leading Masonic periodicals not only complimented the Judge on his speech, but obtained a copy and published it verbatim. Now this is a crime against Masonic education. If the editors of our Masonic magazines do not take time to check out the articles which they receive and publish possible controversial articles without endeavoring to authenticate them, then they deserve any criticism which may come their way. We have had far too much of the Andersons, the Olivers, the Bucks, the Pikes, the Waites, the Kinnamons and other Masonic myth makers; and simple justice to the fraternity makes it imperative that we endeavor to keep the research articles which we publish free from error. Anything in this general area which applies to Masonic publishers applies also to Masonic speakers. They should be judged by the same criteria. Regardless of how impressive a speaker may be, if he is endeavoring to impart information, he should do his utmost to verify the authenticity of that information. Mistakes, errors, and misstatements, in our ritualistic work can be easily explained and the misinformation of our ritual makers can be forgiven, but a man, speaking to a group of young Masons and, either intentionally, or through ignorance, purveying false information, is hard to forgive. The young people of our country today find it extremely difficult to take anything on blind faith. When they finally check on some of the statements which they have heard our Masonic speakers make, they are apt to condemn the entire fraternity for the erroneous statements of one or two brethren. Then, when a young man feels that he has joined an organization, which insults his intelligence, we are going to lose him.
No matter how hard we try to educate him, no matter how hard we try to eradicate the bad impression made by some speaker. we will find it difficult, if not impossible to do so. First impressions are lasting and if some Masonic speechmaker makes a bad first impression, this will most probably be the impression which the young Masons retain.
It is not his this difficult to authenticate one's sources. If a Masonic speaker will only take the time and trouble to cross check his work and to check any statements which he may wish to use, his speeches may lack some of the flamboyant statements which he has used at previous times, but they will have something much better, they will have truth.
If our fraternity is to continue to be a force for good, if we are to attract men of high caliber and high intelligence, we must be particularly careful not to insult that intelligence, by telling them a group of unbelievable tales. We must ascertain that we have used our utmost endeavors to see that the statements which we make to our newly admitted members are the truth and nothing but the truth, for "Truth is a Divine Attribute and the Foundation of Every Virtue."