WHAT DOES MODERN FREEMASONRY TEACH?
R.W. Bro. C. G. McMynn
Freemasonry seeks to meet the needs of the people living today and our modern time. To enlarge the sphere of social happiness, and its grand object to promote the happiness of the human race.
The universal appeal of Masonry attracts men of all races, religions and colours — men who live in different lands and under different types of governments. Masonry has existed for generations and has served those different generations according to their needs and standards. Thus we see that Masonry is in itself a living, growing thing, capable of adapting itself to changing conditions. It recalls to our mind Goethe's wise observation that "men change, but man remains the same."
In the same way Masons change and new men take the places of those who pass beyond and bring with them new ideas of life and manner of living, but Masonry remains the same. Because Masonry has this ability to change and adapt itself to conditions under which its members live we can picture this organization going on endlessly, serving at all times the needs of humanity.
However, we should not look upon Masonry merely as following in the wake of progress and adjusting itself to new conditions as they arise. Quite the opposite! I believe that Masonry serves as a guiding light which leads the way to better conditions under which its members live and instead of following the times it is actually in the foreground, providing inspiration and leadership for an era of human understanding. For this reason it appears Masonry has much to contribute to our own age and its guidance is particularly valuable in an age of unrest and unsettled conditions.
In the old days Masonry was concerned chiefly with the trade or craft which provided employment for the member. These were the days of operative Masonry. It was in the year 1717 that speculative Masonry was introduced. This refers to building a life along moral, intellectual and spiritual lines.
These are the things which concern us today. If there has been any really outstanding and remarkable change in our viewpoint toward Masonry during the past generation, I think it has come about in the recognition of the individual's obligations and responsibilities to his fellow men and society. The old idea of speculative Masonry was for a member to be good. The new idea, according to modern teachings, is for a member to be good and also to be good for something. It is no longer enough merely to be good because goodness in itself is rather a dull and inanimate sort of accomplishment.
One of the best examples of this modern intention to do good is the charitable program of our Order, which through Grand Lodge Benevolent Funds and other Funds, takes into account a large number of social and philanthropic enterprises. Along this line, I would mention such things as a home for the aged, bursaries and scholarships to further the education of youth, flood and disaster relief, and assistance to distressed brethren, their dependents, widows and orphans. These and other worthy causes are representative of Masonic charity.
Masonic charity is different from the ordinary meaning of the word charity. The ordinary meaning of the word charity is the hand-out of a few cents, or a few dollars either from the kindness of the heart, or due to outside pressure, which is the same thing as having someone's hand reach into your pocketbook and take out some money against your will. Masonic charity is nothing like this.
Charity, according to the teachings of modern Freemasonry, demonstrates itself in some financial form when money or other practical help is provided a needy friend or a worthy cause. Yet this is only one phase of Masonic charity. There are other phases, such as friendship, brotherly love, kindness and fraternity.
In Masonry we learn the meaning of brotherly love and devotion to our fellowmen. We learn the meaning of the secrets of the Bible which pointed out the responsibility of the individual to those about him and particularly to those with whom he is banded together in a common trust and common interest. In Masonry we find inspiration for the better things of life, and in the modern teaching of Masonic charity we have revealed to us the ways and means and opportunity to turn such inspiration into a practical nature and supply the money needed to carry on the good work to which our Order is dedicated.
During the many years that Masonry has existed, we have seen many changes come about in our civilization. Progress has been made. Along some lines the kind of progress which we have made may be described as making bigger and bigger circles to run around in. Certainly the human race has been running around in awfully big circles lately.
The teachings of Masonry are to help us escape from these vicious circles. In Masonry there is a spirit of hope, sympathy and comradeship. Masonry helps to dig down into the spiritual life of the individual and bring forth the rare treasures and hidden gems of character. Masonry makes man better, easier to live with, and the kind of person anyone would be proud and happy to call brother.
Perhaps more so today than at any time in history has man faced the prospect of isolation in spite of the rapid growth of cities, and development of science. Radio and television have served to keep man in his home instead of visiting neighbours. The auto, which has proven a blessing in many ways, has at the same time served to isolate man further in his own family group. The large cities filled with people are also filled with prejudice suspicion and distrust. Frequently one is more isolated in the very centre of a metropolis than on a good sized farm.
Modern Masonry meets the modern conditions and modern needs. It endeavours to bring people together and to break down the barriers of isolation. which keep them apart. Modern Freemasonry teaches us to be a friend, and to recognize the obligations of brotherhood in our Order.
Friendship is promoted by working with others and being of service. It is not necessary that a person neglect his own work and deny himself or his family his association and material possessions in order to find happiness through his work and relationship with other people. Modern Freemasonry teaches us that these things go together.
In teaching us to be of service to others and to be a brother in the highest meaning of the term brotherhood, it is not the aim, or purpose of Masonry to deny that self-preservation is the first rule of man. It is the purpose to point out that self-preservation may be accomplished through cooperation, fair play honesty and service to fellowmen. The idea that service means self-sacrifice is not true. You do not have to sacrifice yourself to serve someone else. Service is not charity. Service without profit means bankruptcy and bankruptcy means the end of further opportunity to serve. Our Masonic ideals do not advocate that we serve other according to our capacity to do so, and be a friend to others in every way that is convenient and in keeping with our time and means.
Modern Freemasonry teaches us to revive the interest of our members in the problems of youth. We must remember that the early history of our organization emphasises the fact that the Order of Masonry was primarily interested in teaching and training youth. The relationship between the Master Mason and the Apprentice was a close tie extending over a long period of years. Master Masons sought to teach and train young men in a trade, and in the proper ways of life.
We are being instructed now not to lose sight of our obligations to youth in our modern application of Masonic principles. We do not generally undertake this activity directly through the Masonic Order. Rather the Order urges Masons to serve youth in many ways open to them through community action, through the schools, the church and the home.
Ever since the time of recorded history we find that the older generation has always bemoaned the changes which take place among the younger generation, and have condemned the youngsters. Our generation is a little bit different. We recognize the fact that perhaps it is us and not our children who should be criticized. We recognize that they possess a better education, a wider knowledge and perhaps greater powers of reasoning than we have. We know that they need help and guidance through out interest in their activities and in the many things we can do to be of benefit and assistance to them.
Modern Freemasonry teaches us to build a better life for ourselves as an individual and better for our family and society. There is a direct relationship between religion and Masonry. It is the relationship of working together to gain a better understanding, of God and an interpretation of His word. Masonry seeks to give practical application to the teachings of religion. There may be some who say that religion is theory — teaching and guidance, while Masonry is practical action or religion that is lived in one's dally life. Three things which Masonry seeks to teach us are morality, intelligence and sense of life everlasting.
Modern Freemasonry gives emphasis to those things and teaches us to make a better life for ourselves and everyone around us.
It is because of the fact that Freemasonry adapts itself to the needs of each generation and changes without itself being changed that it makes possible its continued existence, and its continual progress. That is why Masonry will endure as long as our present civilization continues.