Freemasonry and Fraternalism

      Freemasonry and Fraternalism
      by Don Sargent -  Gray Lodge #329
       San Antonio, Texas
          July 1993

  I make no pretense that it is a piece of scholarly research.  It 
surely is not.  This paper is, however, my thoughts and opinions on the 
topic of fraternalism as it relates to the Fraternity.  These thoughts 
and opinions, if not those of a scholar, have been arrived at after much 
thought and soul searching.  Perhaps they will be of some benefit.
  I shall not dwell upon the mere forms of Masonry, but I shall 
endeavor to emphasize some of the deep significance of the truths which 
these forms represent.  For let me say to you, my brethren, with all the 
earnestness of a profound personal belief in what I say, that no 
organization, whatever its antiquity, whatever its pretensions and 
ostensible purposes, whether it be church or state or fraternal order, 
has any valid reason for existence, any just claim upon the 
consideration of any man, unless it exist not merely as an end in 
itself, but as a living vital means of some worthy end.  If, therefore, 
our beloved order has and shall continue to have any valid reason for 
existence, that reason must be found in the vast membership of Masonry 
grasping, practicing, and exemplifying in their daily lives as men and 
citizens the true spirit of fraternalism which gave birth to Masonry and 
which every symbol of Masonry is intended to typify.  For after all, 
fraternalism is a spirit rather than a method.  And it is not the 
peculiar privilege but the very duty of Masonry, as the dean of 
fraternal orders, to preserve, develop, and exemplify this spirit of 
fraternalism as a vital reality in the shaping of lives of men.
  What is this spirit of fraternalism?  It is too big for definition, 
for surely it is impossible to define a spirit.  Every definition 
implies something of an analysis.  But one cannot analyze a spirit any 
more than it is possible to paint a sunbeam or mark the limits of 
infinity.  But we do recognize the glory of sunbeams when we see them, 
and when we look forth into limitless space, we recognize the boundless 
immensity of the infinite.  And so it is with this spirit of 
fraternalism.  While it is so vast and all pervasive as to defy adequate 
definition or analysis, we are able, never-theless, to recognize and 
appreciate its manifold manifestations in every relationship of 
life.  It involves mutual respect and mutual toleration.  As has been 
well said by one of my mentors, "it involves mutual respect of class for 
class, race for race, church for church, individual for individ-ual."  
It involves mutual toleration for each other's views, mutual respect for 
each other's feelings, mutual regard for each other's rights, mutual 
interest in each other's welfare, mutual desire for each other's 
prosperity, mutual regret for each other's misfortune.  It involves 
helping the weak, needy and oppressed, as well as counseling, forgiving, 
and redeeming the erring.  It is exemplified in the observance of every 
commandment of the decalogue amplified by the broader injunction of 
Jesus "that ye love one another"  Fraternalism is the parable of the 
Faithful Steward, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the parable of 
the Prodigal Son.  It is the golden rule-that we do unto others as we 
would that others do unto us.  It is to be just, but it is to temper 
justice with mercy.  It is to be merciful, but it is to supplement mercy 
with justice.
  These are a few of the things involved in this spirit of 
fraternalism as it ought to be exemplified in the simple relationships 
of man to man.  But it is not confined to these the simpler 
relationships of life.  It involves also the relationships of the 
individual to the community, the state, and the nation.  Just to the 
extent that the individual citizen shall come to grasp the true spirit 
of fraternalism as a guide to his own person conduct, just to that 
extent will he meet the duties and responsibilities of citizenship in 
that exalted spirit which recognizes the common wel-fare as paramount 
and superior to his own personal ends.  Just to the extent that a 
decisive majority of the people of any community shall become imbued 
with the spirit of fraternalism, just to that extent will that community 
give evidence of the high civic spirit which unhesitatingly subordinates 
the interests, or the supposed interests, of any particular class to the 
promotion of the common good.  Just to the extent that the citizenship 
of any state shall come to think in terms of fraternalism, just to that 
extent will the institutions and laws of that state reflect as a 
prevailing motive the greatest good to the greatest number.  Just to 
that extent will its penal laws and institutions embody the idea of 
social protection through social reformation rather than through social 
vengeance.  Just to the extent that the nations of Earth shall come to 
recognize this spirit of fraternalism as the only sure and safe guide, 
not only in their own internal affairs, but in their rela-tionships with 
each other, by grasping its basic thought in the common brotherhood of 
man through the common fatherhood of God, just to that extent will 
international injustice, jealousy, hate and warfare with all of its 
bitterness, brutality, and bloodshed, want, waste and wrong tend to 
vanish from the face of the Earth.  When we consider the all persuasive 
force and movement of this spirit of fraternalism, is it any wonder that 
it deifies adequate definition or analysis?  And is it any wonder that 
we find ourselves forced back to the simple but all comprehensive words 
of the Man of Galilee when turning to his followers-simple fishermen and 
others of the lowly to whom no system of ethics, no scheme of life up to 
that time promulgated had offered an incentive 
or unveiled a hope-and said, "All ye are brethren."?
  And now, what is the meaning of this spirit of fraternalism to us as 
Masons?  In pursuing this inquiry it behooves us ever to bear in mind 
that not only every symbol of our order but its very name is derived 
from a purely constructive science.  Whatever difference of opinion may 
exist as to how far back into the shadows of remote antiquity we may or 
may not be able to trace our origin, it is obvious that our fraternity 
is based on ties, real or invented, to practical builders-architects and 
artificers.  Whether we trace this beginning back to the Dionysian 
Architects who were, according to legend, transplanted from Egypt to the 
Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon and from there to a body of workmen 
under the direction of Hiram, the widow's son, sent by another Hiram 
(King of Tyre) to aid King Solomon of Israel in the construction on 
Mount Moriah of the first great temple to the one living God; or whether 
we trace them to the architec-tural guilds of the middle ages; or 
whether we trace them to Knights Templar fleeing an unjust persecution, 
it makes no difference.  In any event, today's Masonry is based on the 
builder's trade and the legends surrounding it.  Today's Masonry is no 
longer concerned with the building of actual buildings, but with the 
building of character and self respecting manhood.  That is what Masonry 
means and has meant for more than two hundred years.  (We know that the 
Fraternity has stood for since it "went public" in 1717).  That broadly 
is what the true spirit of fraternalism ought to mean to every Mason 
today.  Ever Mason should be as distinctively a builder now as were the 
Masons that built the great Gothic buildings.  He should be a builder of 
manhood and character, a builder of that self-respecting self-reliant 
citizenship which is the true foundation of collective effort without 
which no nation long can stand. The Lodge should be the school of 
manhood and citizenship, the school of patriotism.  It should be the 
school of democracy and equality.  For in the lodge room men from every 
walk of life, rich and poor, the exalted and the lowly, meet on the 
common plane and square of pure democracy.  Of the fact that Masonry has 
been, indeed, the school of liberty, the history of our own nation 
furnishes ample evidence.  George Washington was a Mason, and of the 
important generals and commanders who served him, from that battle 
scarred veteran, Israel Putnam to that beardless stripling, LaFayette, 
all were Masons.  Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, 
perhaps the most enlightenedly democratic document every penned by man, 
many were said to be Masons.  Every one of those generals and statesmen 
was a builder.  Not one was a mere iconoclast.
  Since the Masons past and present, by past tradition and present 
purpose were and are builders, there is no room in Masonry for pure 
negations.  While one of the great missions of Masonry is to combat 
error, that combat should be waged not in any spirit of wanton 
iconoclasm.  Its aim should be to combat error by the constructive 
process of building up the truth.  Faith, hope, and charity should be 
the cardinal virtues of every man and more especially every Mason.  They 
are positive virtues.  They contain no element of pure negation.  No 
atheist can be made a Mason.  To be a Mason a man must have faith.  
Faith in God, faith in his fellow men, faith in the boundless 
possibilities of human development.  No Mason can be a pessimist.  He 
must have hope.  Hope for mankind.  No Mason can be a misanthrope.  He 
must have charity.  Charity which covers and excuses the weakness of his 
fellow men born of a conscious need for charity for his own 
shortcomings, charity which covers a multitude of sins.  No man can be a 
builder, and therefore no man can be a true Mason, unless he possess 
these three cardinal, positive virtues.  For without faith he will have 
no incentive to build either in the field of material or of ethical 
things.  Without hope he will have no reason to build for the present or 
the future.  Without charity he cannot build even for himself, and much 
less for others, for selfishness fur-nishes too narrow and mean a 
foundation to sustain any lasting superstructure.
  So long as the spirit of fraternalism as exemplified in Masonry 
shall find its well springs in these cardinal virtues with their 
inexhaustible incentive to high achievement, Masonry cannot die.  It 
will live because it ought to live.  For whatever may be said as to the 
truth or falsity of the postulate of the survival of the fittest, as 
taught in the doctrine of material evolution, the truth must be granted 
as to things ethical, else there is no faith, no hope, no charity.  
Unless we can believe in the final survival of truth, justice, and 
morality-simply because they are the fittest and most enduring of the 
incentives of human action-we must abandon our faith in God, our hope 
for mankind, our charity and love for our fellow man.
  But if Masonry is to survive it must live up to its constructive 
traditions.  It must be forward-looking and progressive.  Progressive 
but not in that radical and iconoclastic spirit which would break 
completely with the past.  Such a course would be to cancel that 
greatest as-set of civilization found in the accumulated experience and 
knowledge of the ages.  Forward-looking, but measuring every step 
against the example of the past.
  Civilization may well be likened unto a vast edifice not yet 
completed but which has been in process of construction throughout all 
the ages since man's creation.  It has progressed thus far through 
infinite labor.  Its component parts have been shaped in the toil and 
cemented by the blood and tears of countless generations.  Its 
foundations lie deep rooted in the experience of the past.  Its topmost 
pinnacle must pierce the distant future.  Every age must contribute to 
its con-struction.  No age can ignore this foundation without marring or 
wrecking the whole edifice.  There can be no constructive progress 
without cooperation.  There can be no true cooperation without an 
observance of law and order and a proper regard for duly constituted 
authority which is the very corner stone of the social compact.  The 
spirit of fraternalism in its all pervasive ram-ifications is a spirit 
of cooperation.  If, therefore, the Masonic order is to fulfill its high 
mission as the great exponent and exemplar of that spirit, every Mason 
must be taught not only to be a law abiding citizen but that he should 
cast his influence on the side of law and order.
  No age has ever offered such vast possibilities for usefulness 
through the application of the constructive principles of Masonry as the 
does the present.  The edifice of civilization is now being shaken to 
its very foundations by the most relentless, ruthless, and destructive 
contest that the world has every known.  If peace, blessed and lasting 
peace, is ever to come after that great conflict it must come under 
Almighty God through a final recognition of the spirit of fraternalism 
as the great constructive and cohesive principle which is the true 
mission of Masonry to teach, practice, and exemplify.