Masonry; Past, Present and Future
A Short History of Freemasonry
In the book of human history Freemasonry has a chapter of its own. Men in all ages and in all lands have had secret societies, have made use of ceremonies of initiation, employed symbols, emblems and means of recognition. When Freemasonry came into existence-nobody knows how many centuries ago-it inherited much from such societies, certain of its rites and a number of its symbols. Along your path of initiation you will encounter them; their unspeakable antiquity makes them more holy in our eyes.
The oldest of all existing written records of our Craft is a manuscript written by some unknown Brother in England, about 1390. That was over six centuries ago! But the document itself shows that even then Freemasonry was already very old.
At the time this document was written all Freemasons were Operatives; that is, they were workers engaged on buildings. Such a builder was then called a "Mason." There were many kinds of Masons, but the evidence indicates that those who were called "Freemasons" were those builders of a superior type who designed, supervised and erected the great cathedrals and other marvelous structures in the Gothic style of architecture.
Those Operative Freemasons, as I have just said, designed such buildings as a whole and in each detail; dressed the stone from the quarries; laid it in the walls; set up arches, pillars, columns and buttresses; laid the floor and built the roof; carved out the decorations, made and fitted the stained-glass windows into place and produced the sculptures. Their work was difficult to execute; called for a high degree of skill and genius; and required of them a great deal of knowledge of mechanics and geometry as well as of Stone-Masonry. They were the great artists of the Middle Ages.
Training men for such work; called for a long period of severe discipline. Boys sound in body, keen in mind, and of good reputation were taken at the age of ten to fifteen and apprenticed to some Master Mason for a number of years, usually seven; in Freemasonry, this Master Mason was, his tutor, his mentor, his guide, as such almost like a father, who taught him both the theories and the practices of the Craft. At the end of his apprenticeship the youth was required to submit to exacting tests of his proficiency before being accepted into full membership in the Craft.
Where a number of Freemasons worked together on a building over a period of years they organized a Lodge, which might meet in a temporary building or in one of the rooms of the uncompleted structure. Such a Lodge was governed by a Master assisted by Wardens; it had a Secretary to keep its books, a Treasurer to keep and to disburse its funds, a charity chest from which to dispense relief to the members in accident, sickness or distress and to widows and orphans of Master Masons; it met in regular communication, divided its membership into grades, admitted members by initiation-in short, it was in all essentials what a Masonic Lodge is today.
The young beginner in learning the builders' art was called an Apprentice; after he had served as such a sufficient time to give evidence of his fitness his name was entered in the Lodge's books, after which he was called an Entered Apprentice. At the end of his seven or so years of apprenticeship he was called into open Lodge, his conduct was reported, and he was then set to prove his skill by producing what was called a "Master's piece." Hitherto he had been on probation; if now he passed his test satisfactorily he was made a full member of the Craft. In the sense that he now stood on an equality of duty, rights, and privileges with all others he was called Fellow of the Craft -the word "Fellow" meaning full membership; in the sense that he had now mastered the theories, practices, rules, secrets, and tools of his trade he was called a Master Mason.
Completing their work in one community these Freemasons would move to another, setting up their Lodges wherever they met. Other types of Masons were compelled by law to live and work in the same community year in and year out, and under local restrictions. A number of our historians believe it may have been because they were free of such restrictions that the Gothic builders were called "Freemasons."
Such was the Fraternity in its Operative period; and as such it flourished for generations. Then came a great change in its fortunes. Euclid's geometry was rediscovered and published, thereby giving to the public many of the Masons' old trade secrets. The Reformation came and with it the Gothic style of architecture began to die out. Social conditions underwent a revolution, laws were changed; all these, and other factors I have not time to describe, brought about a decline in the Craft. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Freemasons became so few in number that only a small Lodge here and there clung to a precarious existence.
Owing to these conditions the Freemasons, to recruit their members, adopted a new practice; they began to accept non-Operative members. In the old days only an Operative Mason in the literal sense could become a member; but during the two centuries I have just mentioned-our historians call them the "Transition Period"-gentlemen with no intention to become builders, and out of curiosity, for social reasons, or from interest in the Craft's ancient customs, were received. And because they were thus accepted they were called "Accepted Masons." At first there were few of these, but as time passed their number increased, until by the early part of the eighteenth century they exceeded the Operatives in both number and influence.
As a result of this the Craft took a step that was destined to revolutionize it and to set it on a new path of power and magnitude. On St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, four or more old Lodges of London and Westminster met in London and organized a Grand Lodge, and on the same day selected their first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer.
Within a few years of that date the Craft had transformed itself from an Operative Body into a Speculative Fraternity (by "Speculative" is meant Masonry in a moral, or symbolical sense), reorganized the old two Degrees into the three Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason; collected and collated the old Masonic manuscripts, produced the first Book of Constitutions, and was chartering Lodges in many countries, including our own, to take care of the Fraternity's membership, which began rapidly to increase shortly after the organization of the Grand Lodge. All this was the beginning of organized Speculative Freemasonry as we now know it.
In 1751 a second Grand Lodge was organized in England; prior to that Grand Lodges had been set up in Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent. Early American Lodges, of which the earliest known was organized at Philadelphia in 1730, were placed under the charge of Provincial Grand Lodges, which were ruled by Provincial Grand Masters appointed by Grand Lodges in England or in Scotland and Ireland.
As one of the results of the successful termination of the War of the Revolution, American Grand Lodges became sovereign and independent. It was a question at the time of that happening whether there should not be one Grand Lodge for the whole of the United States, but the wisdom of the Craft prevailed and any such scheme was abandoned.
As the years passed one Grand Lodge was organized in each State, being sovereign within its own limits, no other Grand Lodge having any right whatever to control Masonic affairs under its Jurisdiction. Today we have in the United States fifty Grand Lodges, one for each State except Alaska which is under the jurisdiction of the State of Washington, and one for the District of Columbia; on their rolls are more than 10,000 Lodges with almost two and quarter million members.
I have tried to make it clear that Speculative Freemasonry did not spring full-formed out of nothing in 1717, but came as a gradual development out of Operative Masonry. Through an unbroken line we can trace our lineage back to those builders of the early Middle Ages; we are masons too, except that where they erected buildings we try to build manhood; their tools we have transformed into emblems of moral and spiritual laws and forces; their practices and secrets we have embodied in the Royal Art of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; their rituals, mellowed, enriched, and made more beautiful with the passing of time, we employ in the entering, passing and raising of our candidates; all that was living and permanent in their Craft we have preserved and we use it in behalf of goodwill, kindliness, charity and brotherhood among men. Such is our heritage, and as a man enters into it he will discover it inexhaustible in interest, life-long in its appeal, a power in his life to enrich, to ennoble and to inspire.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MASONRY IN CALIFORNIA
You have already read a brief story of Freemasonry in the world and from it learned that the beginnings of our Craft go back to a very early period. Also you learned that Masonry in its modern Speculative form began with the organization of the first Grand Lodge and of the Grand Lodge system in London, England, in 1717, and that the earliest known record of an American Lodge is dated at 1730, only thirteen years after the constituting of the Mother Grand Lodge. I shall now attempt to help fill out that picture by giving you a brief story of Masonry in our own State.
The early history of Masonry in California is interlaced with the whole dynamic story of our early pioneers. It could not have been otherwise for in so many instances the men who were building a new empire beyond the ranges were Masons. They were men of sterling quality who dared to dream big dreams and who had the courage to live strenuous lives. In many cases these men had come West with Masonry definitely in mind. They came with credentials from Eastern Grand Lodges and Grand Masters authorizing them to set up Masonic Lodges in California. In four cases Eastern Grand Lodges had issued charters granting groups of Masons who were either in California or who were coming West the right to set up Masonic Lodges to operate under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodges issuing the charters. In a dozen other instances Grand Masters issued dispensations which gave groups of Masons the right to convene as California Masonic Lodges.
The four California Lodges which were organized on the issuance of charters by Eastern Grand Lodges are still in existence. The first of these charters was issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10th, 1848, and authorized the establishment of the Western Star Lodge No. 98. This Lodge was first located at Benton City, seventeen miles from Chico, but in 1851 was moved to Shasta City, where it still exists. It is now known, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California, as Western Star Lodge No. 2. Many valuable Masonic relics are in the vault of this old lodge.
The second charter, authorizing the establishment of a Lodge in the West, was issued by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. This was issued to California Lodge No. 13 which took San Francisco as its home. The oldest record of any California Masonic Lodge is the record of California Lodge No. 13. This Lodge is now known as California Lodge No. 1.
The third Western Lodge was organized under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut on January 31st, 1849. This Lodge was known as Connecticut Lodge No. 76 and was located at Sacramento. When the California Grand Lodge was organized in 1850 this Lodge became Tehama Lodge No. 3.
The fourth chartered lodge was Lafayette Lodge No. 29, organized under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. This charter was issued on April 20th, 1850. Interesting enough this was just one day after the Grand Lodge of California had been organized and is indicative of the slowness of transportation and communication of the time. Lafayette Lodge was located at Nevada City. In 1851 fire destroyed the Wisconsin charter of this Lodge and it was reorganized under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California and became known as Nevada Lodge No. 13. After over a century this Lodge still carries this name and number.
Of the eleven dispensations granted by Eastern Grand Masters to groups of Masons some resulted in permanent Lodges, others result in short-lived organizations, and some never materialized into organization of any kind. Many of these dispensations were given to groups of Masons preparing to go West and who had little notion as to where their wanderings would lead them. Thus, often the dispensation would be issued for a traveling lodge and the groups holding these would hold meetings while en route from one place to another. Naturally such groups were unstable and many of them gradually disappeared.
Of the eleven groups holding dispensations from various Grand Masters the following eventually grew into permanent California Lodges. The Pacific Lodge at Benicia, under grant from the Grand Master of Louisiana issued in 1849, became Benicia Lodge No. 5. This Lodge erected the first Masonic hall in California. It is still standing. The first jewels of this Lodge, used in 1850, were cut from tin cans. The old Bible, also first used in 1850, is still on the altar of this old Masonic Lodge.
The Davy Crockett Lodge of San Francisco, also holding dispensation from the Grand Master of Louisiana, became Davy Crockett Lodge No. 7. In 1852 this became San Francisco Lodge No. 7 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California. Reuben Clark, its Master in 1851, was the architect and builder of the capitol at Sacramento.
The Sierra Nevada Lodge, located at Grass Valley, held its dispensation from the Grand Master of Indiana, issued in 1848. This Lodge gradually disappeared but its members reorganized as Madison Lodge under a California charter.
Laveley Lodge, located at Marysville was organized by authorization of the Grand Master of Illinois, in the year 1850. This Lodge later became Marysville Lodge No. 9, and still later Corinthian Lodge No. 9.
Pacific Lodge, given dispensation by the Grand Master of Illinois, held its meetings at Long's Bar, two and one half miles from Oroville. It was organized in 1850 but did not continue for long. Its members, by authority of the California Grand Lodge, were granted membership in various California Lodges.
There were six other groups of Masons given dispensations by the Grand Masters of New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. Some of these were grants to traveling lodges and never materialized. Others organized but lived only a short time.
With the discovery of gold in Northern California and the consequent tremendous influx of population it was inevitable that Masons should multiply rapidly and that a completely organized Masonic unit would come to California. Many of the men in Eastern states who contemplated moving Westward felt the need for fraternalism amid the dangers of their future frontier homes. Great numbers of these man sought admission into Masonic Lodges before starting westward. Many others, of course, had long been Masons. So it was that a substantial part of early California immigrants were members of the Craft. Much of the leadership, so significantly important in a new country, can be accredited to the early members of our Order. Under these conditions, and in a rapidly growing community, it was natural that a Grand Lodge for California should be organized early.
The first attempt to form a California Grand Lodge was made in March of 1850 but because of irregularities in the proceedings this particular attempt came to naught. But one month later all the Masonic Lodges of California, and all past Grand Officers in the State were invited in regular manner to send delegates to a convention with the idea of forming a California Grand Lodge. This convention was called to meet in Sacramento on April 17th, 1850. California Lodge No. 13 of San Francisco, Connecticut Lodge No. 76, and Western Star Lodge No. 98, each holding a charter from some Eastern Grand Lodge, and as regularly constituted Lodges, presented credentials. Also, Benton City Lodge, New Jersey Lodge of Sacramento, and Benicia Lodge sent delegates. These three lodges held dispensations from Grand Masters but had never been chartered. Their delegates could not be seated as official representatives for the purpose of forming a California Grand Lodge, though they were invited to remain and to participate in the deliberations.
The convention for forming the California Grand Lodge of Masons proved successful in every particular. The Grand Lodge for Free and Accepted Masons for the State of California was duly organized five months before California actually became a state. Jonathan D. Stevenson of San Francisco became the first Grand Master. On April 19th, assisted by a full corps of officers, he opened the first session of the Grand Lodge of California in ample form.
The three Lodges involved in creating the Grand Lodge were assigned names and numbers under the California jurisdiction in accordance with the dates of the organization of these Lodges. California Lodge in San Francisco became California Lodge No. 1. Western Star Lodge at Benton City became Western Star Lodge No. 2. Tehama Lodge at Sacramento became Tehama Lodge No. 3.
After the formation of the Grand Lodge Masonry moved forward rapidly in California. When the Grand Lodge was formed in April of 1850 there were but three chartered Lodges in the state with a total membership of 103. By November of the same year Jennings Lodge No. 4 of Sacramento; Benicia Lodge No. 5; Sutter Lodge No. 6 of Sacramento; Davy Crockett No. 7 of San Francisco; Tuolumne Lodge No. 8 of Sonora; Marysville Lodge No. 9; San Jose Lodge No. 10; and Willamette Lodge No. 11 of Portland, Oregon, had been chartered by the California Grand Lodge. The membership was then 304.
During the next ten years the Masonic Lodges in the State increased to 128 with a membership of 5055. But there was ever a shifting population-the flowing of the human tide on the frontier of a new nation. By 1860 thirteen Lodges had surrendered their charters while two others had transferred to the Oregon jurisdiction. Two Lodges had lost their charters for cause. And so the story ran on, decade after decade, with the population becoming ever more stable, communities better established, and the new empire of the West more firmly entrenched. Now there exists a Masonic Lodge in practically every village in the State and many in each of our larger cities.
The names of some of the Masonic Lodges which grew up with the mining towns are interesting: There was Rough and Ready at a camp by the same name in Nevada County; Indian Diggings Lodge in El Dorado County; Saint Mark 's Lodge at Fiddletown; Oro Fino, at a town by that name in Siskiyou County; Violet Lodge at Spanish Flat; Rising Sun Lodge at Brandy City; Mount Carmel Lodge at Red Dog, Nevada County; and so on almost without end. Many of these passed into history as important mines failed. During the one hundred and forty-five years of Masonic History in California approximately three hundred Lodges have ceased to exist for one reason or another.
At the present time the number of Lodges in the State is approximately four hundred with a total membership that approaches one hundred thousand. During recent years much of this growth has been in Southern California, just as in the earlier days the growth was primarily in the North. Prior to 1860 there were but three Lodges in all Southern California. These were San Diego No. 35 organized in 1851; Los Angeles No. 42, organized in 1853; and Lexington No. 104, organized in 1855. Now approximately forty-five percent of the Lodges in the state are south of Tehachapi.
That you may have an idea of how Masonry fitted into the picture Brother John Whicher, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California, tells an interesting story of a characteristic mining camp in the early days of California.
"Of the numerous mining camps of early days, " says Brother Whicher, "one only need be noted. The largest mining camp in California was Columbia, in Tuolumne County, known as the 'Gem of the Southern Mines'. Gold was discovered there in the spring of 1850, and within one month the stampede from nearby camps resulted in a population of 6000 miners. Every week brought more treasure-hunters, and flush times counted 30,000 men madly digging in the hills thereabouts, 15,000 being in the city limits. By 1865 Columbia was dead. It contained forty saloons, a long street devoted to fandangos and hurdy-gurdies, four theaters, one Chinese theater with a stock company of forty native actors, three jewelry stores, a bull ring, 143 faro banks with a combined capital of $2,000,000, four hotels, two military companies, two hose companies, three express offices, four banks, four newspapers, two churches, a Sunday school, a division of the Sons of Temperance, and Columbia Lodge No. 28, of Masons. The principal bank was that of D. O. Mills, the steps leading to the building being of white Columbia marble, and the counters of mahogany. It contained huge gold scales with a capacity of $40,000 in dust and nuggets. The camp produced within a radius of three miles and shipped $125,000,000 in gold. The Masonic Lodge was a power in the work of maintaining order and decent government, but after the gold-fever and the mines had subsided, the membership fell to a low ebb, and in 1891 the old Lodge, established July, 1852, consolidated with Tuolumne Lodge No. 8, at the historic town of Sonora, where it still carries on. There are innumerable ghost cities on the Mother Lode, but Columbia was the gem of them all."
The value of Freemasonry to the young and rising civilization of the West of nearly a Century and a half ago cannot be over-stated. It was a tremendous influence for civic and moral righteousness. I commend this interesting history to you and trust that you will take occasion to further enlighten yourself.
OPERATIVE TO SPECTULATIVE
In the second section of the Fellowcraft Degree it is explained that "by Operative Masonry we allude to a proper application of the useful rules of Architecture, whence a structure will derive figure, strength and beauty, and from which will result a due proportion and a just correspondence in all its parts." This sentence furnishes us with a description of Operative Masonry as it is practiced today. By comparison with it Speculative Freemasonry teaches us how we may "learn to subdue the passions, act upon the square, keep a tongue of good report, maintain secrecy and practice charity." In one case a group of men makes use of a set of principles to erect a building, in the other another group uses the same principles to build character. The Art of Architecture means to construct according to design and purpose, to organize in proportion and symmetry; it continues to be architecture whether it is a building or a human life that is thus constructed. Operative Masonry is physical architecture; Speculative Freemasonry is human architecture.
During the first centuries of its existence both of these kinds of architecture were united within our Fraternity; every member was an Operative Mason, practiced the art as a trade and means of livelihood, and otherwise was not eligible to enter the Craft; at the same time, every member was in a real sense a Speculative Mason because he was equally concerned with the building of his own life, the construction of his own character. The chief difference between the Fraternity then and now is one of emphasis: in the early period the emphasis was placed on Operative Masonry, by which was dictated the form of organization, the Speculative side of the Craft being subordinate; in our period the emphasis is placed on Speculative Masonry, with Operative subordinate; but always through our history both kinds of Masonry have existed side by side. We must not therefore assume that because we today are Speculative Masons we have no use for Operative Masonry; on the contrary it remains necessary and very important to us.
Let us suppose that a young man twenty-one years of age comes into our membership eager to become a Mason in the real sense of that word. What do we tell him he is to do? We tell him that he is to build an upright character, to be a good man and true, and to learn how to live the brotherly life. Imagine that he agrees to this and replies that it is what he is most eager to do, but that he doesn't know how to set about it. His difficulty is not with the "what" but with the "how." What is the Fraternity's reply to this? It is of course that he is to observe how a building is constructed, not in detail but in principle, and to employ the same principles. There is nothing fanciful or far-fetched about this, for construction is always construction, building is always building, it matters not what is being constructed or out of what it is being built; the laws and principles apply everywhere and always. The art of architecture is the pattern he is to go by.
When he turns to study that pattern he will find it not at all difficult to understand or to follow. Let us examine this for ourselves:
Before an architect begins his actual work he must have a clear understanding of what it is he is to build, whether a dwelling, a store, a factory, a church, a school, a hospital, a bridge, a wall, a monument; every step he is to take will be dictated by that purpose. So is it with Speculative architecture. Our purpose is to build a certain kind of human life; in our ease this is the kind of life we call Masonic, that is, a life of sound moral character, to be lived in brotherly relations, and to be devoted to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. If when our Operative architect has before him a goal he is to work toward, we call it his "ideal, " then we may say that our ideal is the Masonic life.
The operative architect's next step is to lay out a set of plans. Long ago the builder discovered that he could not work by hit or miss, by rule of thumb, because a building is too complex to be worked out as one goes along, and also such a method is extremely wasteful because it lacks foresight. We Speculative architects must also use a plan; we divide our time, we decide on the tasks we are to do, we know it is infinitely more dangerous to trust to luck, aimlessness, chance, or drifting in building a life than in building a material structure. We lay out our lives in orderliness and then we stick to our plan through thick and thin, not stopping every time we grow discouraged, or quitting every time we grow wearied. If a man succeeds in building a sound character and a successful life it is not because he had good luck, but because he planned it.
The Operative architect's third step is to select his materials. How Important this is there is no need to explain: unless the materials are what they should be the building may collapse, regardless of how well it was been planned or constructed. The Speculative architect finds his materials in his own nature; they are his facilities, his habits, his physical senses and organs, his feelings and emotions, his ideas, his knowledge and his experiences; from these he must select those that fit into his plan and discard all others.
The fourth step taken by the Operative architect is to select and use the appropriate tools, which may be hand-tools, machines, or other devices. These are the practical means by which his materials may be given the desired structure, and each one is designed especially for the kind of materials it is to he used on, a hammer for nails, a saw for wood, a trowel for mortar, an engine for hoisting, a bit for drilling, etc.
The Speculative architect also needs tools, as we are reminded in each of the Degrees when the Working Tools are presented to the candidate, and those tools, or methods, also must be adjusted to the materials they are to be used on; they are not often material tools, like a saw or hammer, but in principle they are the same kind of thing. What are the tools to be used by the Speculative architect? Certain kinds of habits, such as the habit of controlling one's temper; certain kinds of practices, such as work in a Lodge, by which one learns brotherliness in a practical way; certain principles, such as justice, truthfulness, tolerance, charity; certain customs, such as prayer, visiting the sick, the practice of charity; certain kinds of work, such as study, assisting in the exemplification of the Ritual, serving on committees, etc. Suppose that a Mason is a victim of the habit of loss of temper; this makes for disharmony, loss of friendship, sacrifice of esteem, and therefore tends to defeat his effort to live the brotherly life; such a habit is like a knob or irregularity on a stone which prevents its use in a wall; to remove that excrescence the Mason must form a new habit, and that habit is a Working Tool.
The last step in Operative architecture is dedication, which may be informal or may signalized by ceremony. Up to this point the building has been under the control of the builder, beyond this point it is in control of those who will use it. The work of erecting the building is now completed; the work of employing the building for its intended purpose is now begun- this is what dedication means: setting a structure apart for its intended purpose. Our Speculative Fraternity makes much of this fact of dedication; the Fraternity as a whole is dedicated to the glory of God; a Lodge is dedicated to the Holy Sts. John; the candidate, standing in the northeast corner, is dedicated to the Masonic life; its Lodge-rooms, Centers, Halls and Temples are dedicated by solemn ceremonies to their use as a place of Masonic assemblies. When applied to the Speculative architect dedication takes the form of this question: Granted that a man has succeeded in building the kind of life he set out to build, what will this life now be used for? Freemasonry teaches that a man's life is not his own private and selfish possession, to be employed merely for himself, but that it belongs also to the Brotherhood and to all mankind, and if it is a right life it will be used and enjoyed by many others as well as by the man himself. A garage on a man's back-lot is used by the man himself, and by him only; Solomon's Temple was used by all the people of a nation for the greatest purposes of their existence. Both are buildings, the garage and the Temple, but in value how wide apart they are! The Mason 's dedication is to be like the dedication of the Temple-his life has value exactly in proportion to its number of uses, to the importance of its uses, and to the number of others who find in it pleasure, joy and satisfaction.
From all this you will see that the relationship between Operative Masonry and Speculative Masonry is very close. As a Speculative Mason succeeds in Speculative architecture it will be because he is also Operative. He has made a plan for his life, selected the materials with care, employed the tools with skill, and at the end dedicate himself to the greatest values and widest usefulness.
SPECTULATIVE TO APPLIED
As we prepare to go into the 21st Century, Freemasonry may enter a third stage called "Applied Freemasonry" as it begins to serve the human race, its true destiny.
Masonry has not yet achieved this goal partly because of complacent satisfaction in its superiorities and the atmosphere created by rituals and fraternal friendships. These are beneficial, but Masonry is not a secret society or a social club. The changes which will accompany Masonry's transition to the third stage when Masonic principles are put into practical and helpful use will not hurt the values which Masons hold so important and immutable.
Much of our Masonic secrecy is no longer needed. People today are not enchanted with secret societies. And there is nothing secret in what Masons do. The more the general public knows about Masonry the more useful the Fraternity will become.
Masonry must be more universally understood, both inside and outside as a way of life which has a helpful, practical, supporting purpose.
There are five stages of life in every organism: birth, growth, use, decay and death. This applies to life groups, to nations and races. It applies to religions and systems of government. The stage of usefulness should start during the stage of growth. Masonry is at the end of its growth stage and it must turn now to a state of usefulness.
In the new era Masonry should inspire all Masons to live a Masonic life. How a Mason lives outside the lodge is much more important than what he does in it. Taking another degree, another oath, learning a new sign do not necessarily evidence forward steps in Masonic living.
We need not change our rituals. What we need is a change in the understanding of them. We need not change precepts or doctrines or duties. What we need is to recognize their significance and how to apply them in practical and useful ways in our daily lives.
California Freemasonry has taken the first step in Applied Freemasonry with the adoption of an outgoing, aggressive program of support for the education of our children in the dangers of alcohol and drug use. Masons individually and collectively must lead the way in demanding higher standards of education, greater citizen participation in government, local, state and nation. Work for a cleaner environment, preservation of the Bill of Rights, morality in government and business.
Historically Masonry resists change. But humanity is changing and like it or not Masonry, consisting of human beings, cannot divorce itself from human life.
The change from Speculative to Applied Freemasonry will not harm Masonry any more than the change from Operative to Speculative. For Masonry to live on in the future, it must demonstrate its usefulness to mankind. Now is the time to start.
The above article by Ralph H. Head, Editor, of the California Freemason, was in the 1989 Spring Issue of that publication. There has been some movement in the direction of Applied Masonry by a few Lodges and individuals; nothing earth shattering however.
There are many ways of making "connections" between Masonry and the community so that the principles and concepts of Masonry can be "APPLIED."
First, and most important are our programs to promote the awareness of Substance Abuse and the training of CORE GROUPS of educators in the identification of AT-RISK children in the Public Schools. The majority of adults of families in the public school system are non-masons. This is an area where we could assist individual schools with projects of their choosing; supporting our Public schools by having fund raising breakfasts and dinners is and excellent method to meet non-Masonic family members and for those families to see Masons in action in our Centers, Halls and Temple buildings.
Second, it is possible to work with various civic-minded and other fraternal organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Lions Clubs, The Rotary, Elks, Odd Fellows, Kiawanas, Knights of Columbus, etc., in community projects designated to benefit the community as a whole. There are many Lodges who have a membership in local a Chamber of Commerce. Again, most of the members of these organizations are non-masons; there is not a better way to meet such people than working together on a project.
Third, most City Fire Departments have programs organizing and teaching the community to prepare for emergency situations. One such program is called the N.E.A.T. program or Neighborhood Emergency Assistance Team. Local Fire Departments are under manned and over worked and welcome any assistance in this approach of community involvement. Once again, most of the people you will contact in working on these programs will be non-masons.
Four, The Masonic Renewal Committee of North America has published work-book manuals and video tapes to assist the Lodges in Membership Development and Management. Please feel free to write or place a telephone call to The Masonic Renewal Committee of North America, Lake Falls Professional Building, 6115 Falls Road, Baltimore, MD 21209; (410) 377-0588, (FAX) 410-377-0591.
"Applied Masonry" will reduce our concern, and rightfully so, in regard to our public image. It will also give us the answers to the following questions:
What does the community and non-mason think and know about us?
How are we regarded by the man on the street, both as individuals and as a group?
How can we gain the respect of the non-mason as long as we are unable to give a good account or a reason for our existence?
Where will he get his inspiration to become a Mason?
How can we expect any worthy and honorable man to join our ranks without any knowledge of what his application will lead him into?
An enlightened and vocal membership active in the community, as well as the Lodge, will provide the incentive for a favorable, enhanced and exemplary public image.
We can proclaim by our actions that Freemasonry, in its every effort and purpose, strives to do charitable work within its membership and for society. Through its teachings it seeks to make good men better men. We can proudly state that the basic ethical principles as exemplified in our ritual and Lodge work are such as are acceptable to all good men. All of these lessons based on the Golden Rule, tolerance toward all mankind, respect for the Family and charity toward all, will not be visible in our communities until displayed by taking a third step, that of "Applied Masonry."
THE TEACHINGS OF MASONRY
Masonry's method of teaching is unlike that of the schools. Instead of employing teachers and textbooks and lessons in didactic form-instead, that is, of expounding and enforcing its teachings in plain words-it uses the method of ritual, symbol, emblem and allegory. This is not as easy to follow as the school-room method, but over that or any similar method it has this one great advantage: it makes a Mason study and learn for himself, forces him to search out the truth, compels him to take the initiative, as a grown man should, so that the very act of learning is itself of great educational value. The purpose of secrecy is not to keep a candidate in the dark, but to stimulate him to seek the light; the symbols and emblems do not conceal the teaching, they reveal it, but they reveal it in such a manner that a man must find it for himself; and it is only when a man finds the truth for himself that it can be or remain a living and permanent possession. I can only suggest to you what you will find by your own efforts, how you will find it, and where you will find it. Necessarily there cannot be any exhaustive exposition of Masonic truth, because in its nature it is something each man must discover for himself.
Freemasonry has three tenets, or great teachings, which are presupposed throughout; these are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. By Brotherly Love is meant that the relationship of blood brothers is a type of the relations of Masons with one another. By Relief is meant the principle of benevolence and charity. By Truth is meant, not only that which satisfies the mind, but also sincerity of conscience and soundness of character-truthfulness in act as well as in thought and speech.
Freemasonry is a Fraternity devoted to Brotherhood, exists to furnish opportunities to its members to enjoy it, for its own sake and not as a means to something beyond it; but this Brotherhood must be understood in a special sense. Freemasonry 's position is that Brotherhood rests on a religious basis; we are all Brothers, or should be, because God is the Father of us all; therefore religion is one of the foundations of Masonry.
Masonry is dedicated to God, the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. It keeps an Altar at the center of every Lodge-room. The Holy Bible lies open upon it. It begins and ends its undertakings with prayer. When it obligates a candidate he must be upon his knees. Its petitioners must believe in immortality. All this is genuine religion, not a formal religiousness; it is sincerely held and scrupulously upheld, and without this basis of faith the Craft would wither and die like a tree with roots destroyed.
But this religion of Masonry, like all else in its teaching, is not set forth in written creeds, or in any other form of words; the Mason must come upon it for himself, and put it in such form as will satisfy his own mind, leaving others to do likewise. This is Masonic tolerance, which is one of the prime principles of the Craft, and one protected by the Ancient Landmark that forbids all sectarian discussion in our assemblies.
Along with religion, Masonry teaches the necessity of morality, requiring of its members that they be good men and true, righteous when tried by the Square, upright when tried by the Plumb, their passions kept in due bounds by the Compasses, just in their dealings with their fellows, patient with the erring, charitable, truthful and honorable. Nor are these the words of a high-sounding but empty aspiration; a candidate must possess such a character to be qualified for admittance, and a Mason must persevere in it to retain his membership.
Of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity our Craft says, as did the Apostle, that "the greatest of these is Charity." Through the agency of the Lodge and of the Grand Lodge each of us is to give support to the charities maintained by the Jurisdiction, District or Lodge; but at the same time, and over and above this, each of us must stand ready at any and all times privately to extend a helping hand in relief of an unfortunate Brother, or of his dependents. Masonry, however, unlike some of the sects and cults, does not advocate a charity carried to the limits of fanaticism; there is such a thing as a Cable Tow, the extent of ability and opportunity, and we are not asked to give relief beyond the point where it would work damage to ourselves or hardship to our families.
Another of Masonry's great teachings is Equality, symbolized by the Level. This does not represent that impossible doctrine which would erase all distinctions, and holds that in all respects all men are the same, for it is evident that in many respects men are very unequal, as in physique, in talent, in gifts, in abilities, and in character; it is, rather, the principle that we owe goodwill, charity, tolerance, and truthfulness equally to each and all, and that within our Fraternity all men travel the same road of initiation, take the same obligations, pay the same dues, and have the same duties, rights and privileges.
A like importance is attached to the need for enlightenment. The motto of Masonry is "Let there be light"; almost the whole of the Second Degree is a drama of education; the Work of Masonry is called the Royal Art, and it is expected that our candidates beginning as Apprentices shall study to learn its practice, consulting with well-informed Brethren and making use of the Working Tools. Truth is one of the tenets. There is a Masonry of the mind as well as of the heart and of the hand. To reverence the wise, to respect teachers, to value and uphold schools, and to encourage the Liberal Arts and Sciences is one of our most ancient traditions.
Outside the Lodge-room the Mason is to be a good citizen, loyal to his government, taking no part in plots and rebellions, conducting himself as a moral and wise man, remembering in all things that he has in his keeping the good name of his Fraternity.
These teachings arise out of, and at the same time are bound together into, an organic unity by the nature and needs of that Brotherhood for the sake of which the whole system of the Craft exists. To endure through all vicissitudes, and to satisfy our natures, Brotherhood must have a spiritual basis, hence the all-importance of our foundation of religion. Brotherhood requires that men must be held together by unbreakable ties, hence the necessity for morality, which is a name for the forces that bind us in the relations of amity and accord. Differences of beliefs and opinions must not be permitted to rupture those bonds, hence the need for tolerance. Men cannot come together or remain together except they have the same rights and privileges, hence the necessity of equality.
Masonry teaches man to practice charity and benevolence, to protect chastity, to respect the ties of blood and friendship, to adopt the principles and revere the ordinances of religion, to assist the feeble, guide the blind, raise up the downtrodden, shelter the orphan, guard the altar, support the Government, inculcate morality, promote learning, love for God and man, implore His mercy and hope for happiness.