Masonic Education


Masonic Education

Address given by Bro. J.A. Evans, M.D., P.M., P.Z.

Before the Toronto Society for Masonic Study and Research, September 20th, 1930.

Progress is a necessary result of natural law. It has been well said, "that he
who stands still goes backward", and this saying long antedates Einstein and his
law of Relativity. However, it is true in a relative sense only for it can quite
easily be imagined that, under some circumstances to stand still would be to
advance relatively, provided that all the others fell back. In the main, the
statement remains unaltered and can be accepted. However, in accepting it there
is a danger that must be kept in mind. Progress means to go forward, and while
it is generally understood that this forward movement is towards a goal that
will bring beneficial results upon its attainment, nevertheless, circumstances
may prove later that the results are distinctly disastrous. Movement is not
always progress in the general acceptance of the term.

Progress, like efficiency, has become an obession of the present age. The world
flatters itself that it has improved greatly over past generations, and gives
numerous undebatable examples to prove the contention. It may be true. It
undoubtedly is true in some cases. But it may not be in all. In this connection,
we know that every well-managed business concern, at stated periods, usually
once a year, stops its operations for a brief period to do a little inward
searching. This process is called "stock-taking" and it would prove of
inestimable value if every person, institution and even the world itself, if
such were possible, were to "take stock." The Craft is no exception. Freemasonry
of to-day is not exactly what it was two centuries ago. This no person can deny.
Has the change been a true advance or has it been a retrograde movement? Masonry
should "take stock" and make an honest attempt to answer this question fairly
and frankly, and then be guided accordingly. But before this Herculanean task
can be undertaken, there are certain factors and conditions that must be given
due consideration.

There is evident, in all quarters, a psychology, a ruling psychology, one could
actually say, of the effervescent political type. Catch words and expressions
become slogans and as such direct men's actions, while at the same time meaning
nothing, or worse still, being capable of interpretations of meaning within wide
limits. The world to-day is dealing largely with superficialities and
unimportant details. Man, in general, has neither the time nor the inclination
to dig beneath the surface and unearth the basic laws. So if this "stock-taking"
in Masonry is to take place, who is going, to do it? In other words, what are
the qualifications necessary in those who are to undertake it?

Efficiency experts can be dismissed before even entertaining their application
for the job. No man can gain an adequate knowledge of any business unless he has
spent years of patient study and consideration of the basic principles and
details of that business. Efficiency experts will energize anything from farming
to high finance, from preaching to "bootlegging," all by the same rule of thumb.

Then we have the specialists. These are the men who by dint of application have
obtained a more intimate knowledge of details than is possible to a man of wider
experience. Moreover, this increased knowledge is gained, not infrequently, at
the expense of the perspective. Specialists are useful, but by virtue of their
very training, they must not be permitted to lead; their activities must be
directed and controlled by a governing hand. Specialism is rife to-day. We have
specialists for this and specialists for that, specialists who were unknown a
decade ago, and specialists who will be unknown when science changes the diurnal
habits of the human race. We have specialists in name and specialists in fact,
specialists who have graduated from their own school and those who have
graduated from the schools of other specialists, and so the dance of
specialization goes merrily on and the world, at large, signs of the dotted line
- and pays. Specialism is the direct result of the superficial mental attitude
of the day, or is it a cause? Unbridled specialization is a curse, though it may
prove of untold value when properly directed. So let us beware how we handle the
specialists whom we engage to assist in this study, and not let them get out of
control. Specialists are like fire, good servants but poor masters.

How then can we approach this subject of "stock-taking" of Masonry? First, it
must be definitely determined just what Freemasonry is to-day, its basic
principles, its many and varied aspects. Second, it must be equally determined
what Masonry was two centuries ago, at the time of the "revival" and the
formation of the first Grand Lodge. Third, an honest endeavour must be made to
ascertain the antecedents of Masonry, so that we may know the fundamental
principles that it was intended to perpetuate in the new organization. The man
who can fulfil these requirements must, first of all, be a Masonic student. But
he must be more. He must be endowed by nature with the analytical and judicial
faculties. He must have a broad viewpoint arid a wide experience in life to
prevent him from being led astray by details. He must be able to separate the
wheat from the chaff and be capable of directing his mind, uninfluenced by his
emotions, his personal attractions or his antipathies. If not so endowed and
trained, his conclusions will be tainted by his own feelings and opinions, as
history so conclusively proves.

It is not within the power of the Craft to present any man with these desired
natural qualities. But Masonry can give to her votaries an experience with men.
Masonry can give, to a still greater degree, instruction, and it must be
admitted frankly and fearlessly that in the one thing in which it is possible
for Masonry to excel, it has failed, and failed dismally at that. This is not a
pleasant thought but there is no use in playing ostrich, when there is work to
be done. The whole argument boils down to one basic truth, Masonry, to fulfil
her mission, must educate here members. We hear it said, on all sides, that the
Craft is clamouring for instruction. Actual experience proves this to be
scarcely in accordance with the facts. [In the not distant past, a special
invitation was sent to the Master of each lodge in and around the city, to
attend an instructive address to be given at this Society. Of the eighty Masters
invited, a reply was received from but one, and he expressing his regrets at
being unable to attend.] Masonry has succumbed to this baneful influence of the
age and has become the servant of the times, instead of being, as it should, the
rnaster, or at least, a beacon to guide the traveller on his path. Masons are no
more clamouring for instruction than is the average healthy schoolboy on a
perfect summer's day when the fields, the old "swimmin' hole," and the ball
games are irresistibly calling him. Most Masons, as far as instruction is
concerned, must be treated in much the same manner as the schoolboy, taken by
the ear and spoonfed with knowledge. Those who have no mental appetite or whose
mental stomachs rebel against this nourishment are in the wrong place and would
be better out, for Masonry can do little for them. From this it is easily seen
from where the leadership and instruction should come, and this automatically
brings us to the first. step to be taken in the "stock-taking." Every office
should carry responsibilities, as well as honour, and if those responsibilities
are discharged honestly and efficiently, the officer becomes honourable, if not,
the office is belittled, and besmirched.

Masons are not clamouring for instruction, but the necessity for instruction is
being shouted from the housetops and he must indeed be deaf who does not hear
it. The time has come when the term "officer" should really mean a man capable
and willing to give instruction; the higher the office, the greater should be
that capability and willingness. Officers should be chosen for their mental
qualifications and not the "glad hand" facility. Popularity does not mean
ability and herein lies the fundamental weakness of democracy - and Masonry is a
democracy.

Now what is that necessary capability, that instruction? In other words, what
constitutes Masonic education? Let us pause briefly and "take stock." There are
many words which, during the passing of time, change their meanings, so that in
time they come to mean something quite different from the original purpose. Such
a word is "education. This word comes to the English language from the Latin,
rather from two Latin words, "e ducere," meaning "to lead out," and therefore
meant "to lead out the individual from his personal or selfish contemplation to
knowledge of his environment, family, clan, country, race; and as the process
developed, to a knowledge of the universe." Consequently the more facts outside
of himself with which man became acquainted and conversant, the better educated
he was. It makes no difference how these facts were acquired, whether in an
organized teaching institution or in the "university of personal experience."
Merely passing the required examinations in a school, college or university does
not constitute real education. Many a man has been well educated who never
attended more than the lowest grades of school, and in a few cases, none at all,
but by making the most of his opportunities has developed himself to a truly
astonishing degree, and conversely there are those who have had excellent
opportunities but leave college with the same narrow outlook and undeveloped
mind with which they entered - wasted energy, and worse, for such always cast a
stigma upon true education. Education, no matter what kind, should breed in the
student a love of knowledge. Any system of instruction which does not engender
this desire, fails utterly. How often we see the young man or woman leaving
college, graduated, finished, with a distaste for study and a firm intention to
never again open a text book. Such certainly has not proceeded far along the
"leading out" path. It may be the system that is at fault, it may be the
student, it may be the teacher, the result is the same in all cases - calamity.

Education should be a series of intellectual gymnastics by which the mind
develops and grows stronger and bigger, so that with the training, the mind
becomes capable of dealing with bigger and more difficult problems, in a more
efficient manner. Father's millions and mother's social status can never give
the conceited fop mental development. Personal effort is indeed necessary. "work
and each tomorrow find us further than to-day." Masonry teaches this great
truth. The entire Masonic system is based upon it. Work is the duty of the
Mason; he is presented with the working tools and he must use them. No one else
can do it for him. And it depends upon how conscientiously he uses those
implements, how perfectly he will shape his ashlar. The rough ashlar will
forever remain a rough ashlar, if the Mason sits idly by and does not use those
tools in the manner in which they are intended to be used. By no other means
than by work can the Mason prepare his stone for the building. The most
elaborate implements are useless without labour, and moreover, that labour must
be prompted by perseverance. Knowledge, labour, perseverance, there is no
symbolism in that. It is hard, cold, cruel fact. To take these tools
symbolically is to be a Mason symbolically, and that is a travesty on the name
which nothing can remove, be it rank or money, no, nor even morality.

The great Sir William Osler, than whom none greater has ever existed in his
chosen profession, said, in speaking of education, "The master word is work";
his life exemplified it, and his success proved the truth of it. Listen to that
mind noted for its beautiful thoughts, Robert Louis Stevenson, who says,

"Contend my soul, for moments and for hours,
Each is with service pregnant, each reclaimed
Is like a Kingdom conquered where to reign."

Masons must work, not merely symbolically but actually and in fact, if they are
to be real Masons and not merely of the symbolic type. Candidates must be made
to undergo real initiation not merely symbolic initiation as so many do, and
which accounts for the long and growing list of suspensions and demits seen each
year. The governing bodies are worried over this growing number of demissions,
and well they might because it shows unequivocably the failure of initiation as
practised. The cause is clear, the solution as definite, failure to accept and
act accordingly will simply mean a continuance of the disease which is eating at
the very vitals of the Fraternity. Banquets and song, platitudinous speeches and
hurrahs never made anything, and cannot make Masonry. Work, and lots of it, work
properly directed, work along educational lines, educate the membership, make
Masonry really mean something and a new day will dawn. But to educate the
members, educators must be found. Education, like charity, must begin at home,
the uneducated officer cannot instruct the new initiate. There is an apt though
trite saying, "To train a dog it is necessary to know more than the dog." And do
not forget the old Latin proverb: "Ex nihilo, nihil fit."

There is another type of lost Mason about whom I wish to interject a few words
at this point. His name is found generally amongst the demitted class, seldom
amongst the suspensions. This type is usually a man of no mean parts, of some
intellectual attainments, has had considerable experience in the world of men
and who has given some consideration to the problems of life. He realizes the
value of education and is willing to devote more or less energy to the search
after knowledge and in the quest of wisdom. He is not expecting any magical gift
of wisdom because he knows much better. Such a man comes to Masonry rightfully
anticipating that he will find some assistance within the Craft, some direction
to his researches. He comes up for initiation and is met by some ill-advised
brother who tries to be witty by making some inane remark about what is going to
take place in the approaching ceremony. This type of wag should he guillotined
and quartered as he has done more to ruin candidates than almost any other.

One of two things may now happen, or worse still, both. The ceremonies may be
run through by officers whose elocution is, to say the least, faulty to an
extreme, and as expressionless. The ceremonies, through pressure of time, are
not given "in extenso," for the banquet waits. There are speeches to be made,
toasts to be honoured and music, oh! shades of Epicurus and Demosthenes! what
speeches; what music'. Our brother is attracted in spite of it all, and realizes
dimly how beautiful it could be. On the other hand, the rendition may be
excellent. The candidate is unquestionably impressed and he feels that there is
a reasonable hope of his finding that of which he is in search. He gets up his
work and is given the remainder of the degrees, usually rushed through at an
emergency meeting. Still hope leads him on, he is willing to work. There is much
work to be done that night, the sublime degree is rushed through and he is
finished, graduated, a full fledged Master Mason, able to look after himself and
left to his own devices, no instruction, no advice, no help given.

He flounders, he becomes discouraged, feels disillusioned and fails to attend
the meetings. But at some later date we find this same brother a very active
member of some other organization, devoting those same energies he would so
gladly have devoted to Masonry. He should never have been lost, the fault is
with the lodge. Many dozens are lost annually in this manner, the best types of
men, the very men Masonry cannot afford to lose. These must be saved or else the
Craft will slip still further down the broad highway with ever increasing speed.
bring the character of the lodge meeting up to his level and he will stick,
.incidentally raising the tone of the lodge still higher. A little Masonic
education given right at this time would act almost as a specific for this
malady. Back slapping won't cure it.

There is one thing else needed, a little beside the point, but badly needed, and
education will only partially help to supply the want, that is frankness,
admittedly an archaic virtue that has no place in the twentieth century. We are
living in an age of sham, intensive advertising and high pressure salesmanship;
things are not what they seem, or rather what they are represented to be;
extravagant speech, extravagant clothes, extravagant motor cars, and worse
still, extravagant morals, any of which taken at one-tenth of their expressed
value would mean to be defrauded. What the world needs, and Masonry is not
exempted, is frankness, honesty and sincerity. But some say it does not pay to
be frank, to be honest. Yes, it does; cast aside all pretensions, stand on your
own worth. To do this will lessen the show to the world and you will have to
increase your value by development, by education, and this is exactly what you
should do.

It certainly does pay to be honest, frank and sincere, that is, if you are
conscientiously striving to fulfill your highest destiny of self development in
the pursuit of the ideal. You will often be misunderstood and criticized by the
undiscerning and even maligned by those actuated by selfish motives, but there
need be no occasion for worry on this account as you are in excellent company,
the very best possible. Galileo was persecuted by organized Christianity for
displaying these virtues. On the other hand, it does not pay if you are merely
seeking popularity for personal aggrandizement, for such necessitates pandering
to the weaknesses of human nature, whether it be of the oligarchy or the
populace. Herod chose the body of Salome and the head of John the Baptist.

It should be interesting to Masons, more than to all others, to see that
education implies, in addition to the purely intellectual development, a moral
growth, a lesser consideration of self with a greater consideration of others.
This is what is meant by a liberal education. It would be more correct to say a
liberating education, because it enables a man to "lead out" from the narrow
confines of his own soul and to free himself sufficiently so that he can bask in
the radiance of the universal spirit. Masonry realizes this great truth, and to
the unfolding processes taught in the Craft there is added moral instruction. In
fact, to so great an extent does Masonry appreciate this, that moral admonition
is given prior to the more intellectual instruction of the Fellow Craft and
Master. He who sees this accompaniment or preparation only and thereby makes the
Craft a system of morality and nothing more has missed the true spirit and
central purpose of the Fraternity, no matter how beautiful that morality may be.

Moreover, there is a great danger to this restricted, and therefore incorrect
conception of Masonry, a danger from which the Craft has suffered in no small
measure, for no sooner is Masonry made merely a system of morality than it
becomes an appendage, not to religion, but to any intolerant and bigoted sect
whose members may unfortunately gain admission into Masonry. We have seen
numerous examples of such. True morality is invaluable, but not that sickening,
sob-sister type which is the outgrowth of ignorance and selfishness. Every
religious (term used in ordinary acceptance and not the true, original sense)
man should be moral but we know only too well that such is not the case. Every
truly moral man is religious. (Term used in original sense). This statement will
be met with vociferous contradiction, so let us examine it briefly. The word
"moral" comes from the Latin word "mos" meaning "a custom, fashion, use or law."
In the plural form "mores" it means "character, or behaviour." The character or
behaviour may be either good or bad, but the word has come to be generally
accepted in the sense of good behaviour, so that rather than say such a man has
bad morals, the expression "no morals" is more frequently heard. Accepted in
this sense, a moral man is one who lives in such a manner as to avoid injury to
his fellows, that is unselfishly, and this is the very essence of true religion,
irrespective of what the peculiar faith may consist. There are other more
restricted meanings to this word but they are so obviously separated from the
present subject as to require no consideration at this time. With this, the
moral aspect of the question will be laid aside to take up the main issues and
to which morality is but an accompaniment and a preparation, important though it
may be.

What then is Masonic education? First of all, it should be a leading out
process, an unfolding, a development; secondly, that development should be along
lines indicated by the Craft teachings. The most cursory examination will
disclose the fact that Masonry is basically founded upon just such an idea,
because it is divided into stages or degrees, each stage being (or supposed to
be) indicative of some developmental phase through which the neophyte is
required to pass or attain. There is no royal road to learning, knowledge is
absolutely valueless to the individual until he has made it his personal
property. To do this means hard, consistent labour, and in the absence of this
labour, the acquisition of knowledge is an absolute impossibility. Many Masons
appreciate the value of knowledge but lack the necessary energy to knuckle down
to the hard work necessary to acquire it. These rush through degree after
degree, hoping that by some magical means, supreme knowledge will be given to
them as a gift from the gods, and thus enable them to reap the full benefits of
knowledge without having to subject themselves to exertion of any kind. But the
receiving of degrees does not necessarily mean development. True a man must be
mentally poverty stricken if he does not receive some benefit from witnessing
the beauty of the various degrees found in Masonry, but that is not real
education because there is not sufficient effort put forth by him to give rise
to any development. Such persons are mentally lazy. No man can become a champion
boxer from merely reading a book on the gentle art. Personal effort is
necessary, and that is just where people fail by the thousands, that is where
the leadership has failed. Masons must be compelled to put forth a personal
effort and any Mason who is unwilling to make this effort can never obtain any
development. This compulsion must come from the governing bodies. They will
become very unpopular, at least temporarily, but if any governing body is going
to evade its duties on the plea of unpopularity, then that organization can
immediately proceed to the Mortician and make arrangements for its own
interment. The danger to Masonry is from within, a dry rot, not from outside
sources. These latter need not cause us one moment's trepidation, but. the
former is a very real source of apprehension to every intelligent Mason. The
results are already becoming unquestionably manifest.

To consider the question more in detail, the education which every Mason should
acquire need not be purely Masonic, it is better not, but it is the Masonic
branch that concerns us more particularly here. Our ceremonies tell us along
what lines the Mason should direct his education, along what lines he should
develop himself as a Mason.

Morality, this has already been dealt with but there is another aspect that is
worthy of consideration. Whilst repeated admonitions to practise morality are
not only advisable but necessary, nevertheless, it must be granted that there is
no moral instruction given in a Masonic lodge that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
It would even be safe to say that there is no moral instruction given to any
candidate in this jurisdiction, but what has been given to him under more ideal
circumstances, and at a more impressionable age, that at his mother's knee. To
make Masonry merely a school of moral teaching, is to make the Craft absolutely
a superfluity. Imagine a group of grown men dressing themselves up in fancy
regalia, observing meticulously elaborate ceremonies merely to tell the
candidate that he must obey the moral law. Such information he already has.
Imagine it; did I say grown men? What a horrible waste of time, money and energy
to pander to the vanity of those who wish for personal elevation over their
fellows. No; ten thousand times no. Masonry has a greater value for the true
initiate. But morality is necessary, because if the knowledge that it is
possible to obtain in Masonry, were to be used for ulterior and selfish
purposes, great harm would result. Knowledge is power and power must be given
only to those who will use it aright. How much better the world would have been
if the expert chemical knowledge had never fallen into the hands of the war
lords; how many lives, how much human suffering would have been saved. By all
means practise morality. This is the first step in Masonic development.

Having proved himself worthy by the practice of morality, the Mason is now
permitted to extend his researches into the hidden mysteries of nature and
science. This is where the true intellectual education should begin. The Mason
must unfold himself, lead himself out and acquire a knowledge of the universe,
its phenomena, its laws. Any chosen path may be followed, but a general
knowledge is first advisable before specialization, otherwise the general
relationships will be disturbed and details given undue importance, thus
spoiling the concept and leading to narrow-mindedness, intolerance and bigotry.
In this connection, the Mason should devote a certain amount of labour to the
study of purely Masonic subjects, Masonic history in general as well as that of
his own Grand Lodge and Lodge. History is a most valuable study, if undertaken
properly. To know how men acted under certain circumstances in the past is to
know pretty well how they will act under the same circumstances in the future.
Herein lies the practical value of history.

Symbolism, that wonderfully rich field of thought, there is no limit to the
possibilities of this study and the many absorbingly interesting bypaths into
which the student is led. . No better commencement can be made in symbolism than
a careful and detailed study of our ceremonies. The possibilities here are
unlimited and the pleasure untold. But the Mason should not confine his
attention to purely Masonic subjects. He should endeavour to gain as much
information regarding human activities in other walks of life as is possible.
This will increase his general store of knowledge, his mind will develop; his
viewpoint will become broader, and in direct ratio, the danger of his falling
into those destructive vices of intolerance and bigotry lessen.

In order to discharge his Masonic duties properly, he should know something of
law in general, our Constitution in particular. He should have a skeletal
knowledge of the principles of government and governmental institutions so that
he can become an intelligent citizen. Then having, through the practice of
morality, justified his possession of knowledge, and by labour having acquired
such knowledge, the Mason is now in a position to enter upon the greatest study
of man, philosophy, that science which deals with the ultimate and first cause.
This field is difficult, years of preparation are necessary, honest hard labour
alone will qualify a man to enter upon this rich but treacherous study. But if
the Mason has followed the lessons given him in the practice of morality, and
has conscientiously made his researches in the hidden mysteries of nature and
science, then he can approach the final instruction without the least misgiving.
If he has failed to live up to the requirements of the preceding stages, then he
had better go no further, the fruits are not for such as he. Nor, even now, is
the reward handed out freely, only the road is indicated, the labours must
continue. He who labours for reward never gets it. The reward, that is the
development, resides in the labour itself, so the mentally lazy who chases after
magic words, open sesames and superhuman wisdom, finds nothing but ashes in the
Sanctum Sanctorum. This is his own fault, nature cannot be defrauded of her due.

Address given before the Toronto Society for Masonic Study and Research