The Man in Masonry
Bro. J.H. Laycraft
This, then is the man standing at the door of the Lodge awaiting the richer world that Masonry should offer him. He is created by God but equally he is created for God. though he can rise to the heights, so can he grovel in the depths of evil. Why does he stand at the door of Masonry? What is it that he seeks?
The answer to this question at first seems so simple that only on reflection does the duty we have undertaken to him assume its true proportion. He seeks growth. It is part of man's nature as a spiritual being that he must grow in stature. As a social being, the divine in man leads him to brother hood with all men. As a thinking creature he seeks growth in the realization of his intellectual potential. but above all, as a spiritual being he seeks to realize the Fatherhood of God.
Thus it is a vital moment for he who stands at the door of the Lodge and it should be a solemn moment for we who sit within to await his coming. First, we must admit our shortcomings for we have allowed Masonry to fail some men and our venturer at the door of the Lodge is aware of it. He has seen many a good man who honours his title as a Mason; let us hope that is why he is there. But he has also seen men who do not honour the Craft. He has seen those who are only nominally Masons and can conclude that we offered them too little to keep them. He will be taught that each of us is the brother of all men but he knows that bigotry is not unknown among us.
He has come to take us on faith for he knows little about us or of the teachings of our Order. It is said that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. This is so for he who waits. The fact that he is there at all speaks of the need within himself.
The Craft appeals to him as a social being. He will join a brotherhood that is interested in him as an individual. He seeks to achieve brotherhood first, and most simply with those nearest to him. In a larger sense he seeks brotherhood with all mankind in a world bedeviled by strife and bigotry. It is the divine in man and his belief in the Fatherhood of God which must create brotherhood.
The story is told of a beggar in a time of want who cried his need to a man passing by. But the man, too, was without bread and he said to the beggar, "My Brother, I have none". Then through his distress the beggar's face brightened for he had been given a great gift. There had been bestowed on him something more than bread -- the accolade "My Brother".
So we too have much to offer in the simple title, "My Brother".
He who comes to us in darkness also seeks growth in his intellectual attainments. Masonry with its use of symbols will lead him to a concept of ethics — to the contemplation of that which is good. The good man achieves the fullest development of his faculties, but happily he finds it a receding goal for as he increases in knowledge, he increases his capacity for knowledge. He seeks an opportunity to reflect, to study, to contemplate, to seek wisdom.
There lived a wondrous good and wise man named Socrates whose name has lighted all ages though he was executed as a criminal. When he received the news that he was to die he smiled. But they said "You should prepare for death". He answered, "I have been preparing for death through all my life for I have learned that true virtue is inseparable from wisdom. We must search for them but we will find them together".
So he seeks growth as a social being and embraces the brotherhood of man; and he seeks to grow in intellectual stature, but that which comprehends the whole is to grow in the knowledge of himself as a spiritual being. It is the inner spirit of himself, though a little less than divine, which is the great gift of God. He must learn the need to feel that above all creation is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve; sceptics do not contribute; cynics do not create. Faith is the driving force and that we must help him to perceive. He will not begin to climb the heights without the conviction that life is eternally important and that work well done, in whatever sphere, is part of the unending plan.
The moment before admission to the world of Masonry is a solemn moment for him. How much more is it for each of us lest we bear the burden that we blocked his path. His search will be barren if we make light of the ceremony or do not use the symbols of the Craft, in all their beauty, to instruct and inspire. Unthinking men may use the ritual as though only its form was important and to be letter perfect merely in its words a goal in itself. Unthinking men may have made the whole search more difficult by misleading him about the nature of the experience which is before him. Above all, each of us may fail him because we fail ourselves.
We await him on a foundation built by centuries of tradition and service, and so we will wait in confidence. That should not deter us from a constant and troubled re-examination of that for which we stand so that our Order will ever be a living force in a changing world. The lessons of our Order may be shouted to the world; it is the symbols by which we are taught that are secret.
It is fitting then, that almost the first words he will hear in Lodge will be a prayer — a petition for assistance. Let each of us there present echo that prayer that we fail him not and that we will meet our responsibility to him as he does to himself.
Man is an eternal being. This let us help him to know. There is divine in man "though Thou hast made him a little less than divine". This let us help him to know. He is made by God; he is made for God. This let us help him to know.
He is as old as his doubt. He is as young as his faith. By his faith he will surmount the doubts which besiege him on his journey. By faith he will make the search for that which endures in time and eternity. This is what he seeks. Let us not fail him.