Vol. XVIII No. 5 — May 1940

The Freemasonry of Utopia

Ah, Brother, could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits — and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

So sang the Persian poet more than eight hundred years ago; and since his day many a philosopher has tried, on paper at least, to remould the world nearer to that perfection which all seek and none attain.

Most famous “land of heart’s desire” is the Utopia of Thomas More (1516), the name of whose ideal country of perfection has been given to all those dreams of a realm of peace and plenty, where sin and strife abideth not, where all is happiness, and where indeed, “neither moth nor rust doth currupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Let us adventure into Utopia and examine the Freemasonry of that Land-That-Never-Was!

Every Freemason in Utopia is an interested brother. Sincerity and steadfastness of purpose are essential parts of the character of every Utopian; hence none apply for the degrees who do not know what they want. As every lodge in Utopia has splendid officers, and all lodge meetings are interesting, no Utopian Freemason ever stays at home on lodge nights to listen to the radio! He attends his lodge not only because it is of interest to him, but because the Utopian Freemason feels a sense of obligation to the officers who lead his lodge, and to the brethren with whom he has voluntarily assumed the ties of mutual aid. The Utopian Freemason knows that neither the master and wardens nor any of them alone can conduct a successful lodge meeting. He knows that every brother who attends his lodge adds by one to the joy and success of the evening.

The Utopian brother does not sit back in his seat and “let George do it.” Nor does he say. “What have we officers for? We elect ’em, let them do the work!” Every Utopian Freemason is a worker in his lodge. It matters not to him at what he labors: just so he has a job to do he is happy. For the Utopian Freemason knows well that only by giving can he receive; that he is happier for his labor. Hence he is always willing to act on any committee. He does not despise the little service. Perhaps he has paraphrased Wordsworths beautiful verse and recalls:

Small service is true service while it lasts
Of humblest tasks, my brother, scorn not one!
The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew drop from the sun.

He is perfectly willing to help wash the dishes after a lodge supper. The old tiler knows him as a willing helper to arrange the lodge room before a meeting and help put away the paraphernalia afterwards. His car is always at the service of some elderly brother to bring him to and take him from a lodge meeting. He always votes upon all candidates. He knows that masters get thirsty and sees that a glass of water is on his pedestal. His pencil and note book are in hand on “big nights” to note every visiting brother by name and lodge, to hand to master or secretary. His idea of a lodge meeting is, “What can I do to make it a success?” And then he goes and does it.

Even in Utopia, supposedly, not everything is of the heavens, heavenly. If Utopia is inhabited by human beings, no human is perfect there, any more than here, no matter how he may strive for perfection. So perhaps even in Utopia there may he criticism. But the Utopian brother exercises it only constructively. He does not say, “Well, the master might have known there would be a crowd and not waited until the last minute to think of extra chairs — mighty poor management!” Instead, he goes to the master to say, “Next time we have a big night in prospect, give me a helper and I’ll see that the extra chairs are in place before the program starts.” Never from his lips will you hear, "They ought to be ashamed of themselves, spending so much money we have to have a special assessment. For two cents I wouldn’t pay it. . . .” On the contrary, he states. “We’ve had our fun, now we have to grin and pay for it. But let’s have a budget next year, so we won’t run wild with our funds as we did this time. . . .”

The Utopian lodge member visits the sick — if there are any sick in Utopia. He doesn’t do this because he thinks some time he will be sick, when it may be pleasant to have a visitor; he does it because he conceives that brotherhood means acting like a brother. For the same reason he is never absent when lodge attends church or from a lodge funeral. The credit of the Fraternity in public is the appearance of his Fraternity. It may be inconvenient to go, but, after all, this man who was called to a Greater Opportunity was his brother — and to his funeral he goes.

If there are cliques in lodges in Utopia, the Utopia brother belongs to all or none. If there is “a gang running the lodge” he doesn’t sit on the sidelines and grouch about it — he joins it. If it is one of those lodges where “no one has a look in who hasn’t been a member at least ten years” he makes himself so popular and well-beloved that the “gang” wants him. If his lodge is one of those of which it is said, “Oh, Utopia Lodge! That lodge is run by the secretary!” He does not join the chorus but goes out to uphold the secretary’s hands if his “running the lodge” is beneficent, and to change conditions if the secretary assumes too much power and — authority to the detriment of the lodge.

Utopia Lodge has no financial troubles. Every brother pays his dues in advance. Do not say, “But that is but a dream.” It happens in some (not many!) lodges in the United States. There is no mystery about it nor yet any magic. Every Utopian brother pays his dues in advance because they buy him something different than he can purchase with the same amount elsewhere: friendships, contacts, a happy philosophy of life. Having paid his fees for the privilege of having the degree conferred upon him. He protects his investment as does any prudent man. He knows there is nothing which the amount of his dues — be they three or thirty dollars a year — can buy him, equal in joy to the satisfaction of being a real support to his lodge, a dependable brother whose word is as good as his bond.

If by any mischance he is in hard luck and has not the money to pay his dues, he does not permit the lodge to carry him without a word; he explains to the master why he cannot pay this year, knowing that the lodge will always remit his dues if it knows his case is worthy.

Utopia Lodge knows in advance what its spendable income is to be, because it can count on so much dues from so many brethren. Its fees, being a fluctuating amount, are never put into the general fund for purposes of running the lodge. All fees are covered into a special charity fund, from which the income alone is used.

Utopia Lodge runs strictly according to a budget. Before any new year the finance committee or the trustees or both together submit a budget for lodge action. This allocates the income between necessary expenses — rent, heat, light, salaries, supplies, entertainment, jewel for the retiring master, etc. A certain amount is set aside in the budget for charity. Charity being a demand which fluctuates, it is not possible, even in Utopia, to determine its amount exactly in advance, as is known of rent and supplies, etc. The budget sum for charity is the average of that needed during the past ten years. Inasmuch as budget charity money is supplemented by the income from the special fees charity fund, almost invariably the budgeted amount is greater than is needed, so that the new administration has a substantial sum to use, or to cover into the charity fund.

The Utopian brother knows that there is but one mental attitude worth considering when elections are the business of the meeting. If the Utopian lodge members are convinced that the candidate for office wants to serve for the love of service, and if to that he adds a natural ability to lead, to plan, to inspire and to enthuse, the candidate is elected.

Every officer in Utopia Lodge learns all the ritual and learns it well. They regard degree work as a great responsibility. They know that it is just as wrong to cheat or defraud a candidate of a solemn and impressive degree as to steal his money. The lodge officers feel, also that inasmuch as Freemasonry is a character building organization, and because no man can ever get to the end of the lessons taught in the degrees, good degree work, with impressive ritual and accurate floor work is a duty they owe the members on the sidelines as well as to the candidate.

Unlike members of far too many lodges, the members of Utopia Lodge do not drop the newly-raised Mason like a hot brick and leave him to shift for himself, a stranger in a strange land, the minute he has signed the by-laws! There is a special committee on new members in Utopia Lodge, and membership upon it is considered a great honor. Its duties include making the newly raised brother feel at home, seeing that he knows all other members by name, and instructing him in lodge behavior, Masonic usages and customs, the lore of Masonry. The lodge has a library, and every newly-raised member is given a card and suggestions are made to him which of the many fascinating volumes on the Ancient Craft he should read. The members of the committee talk to him of symbolism and try to show him how deeply some symbols may be read, how old they are, from whence they came. He learns from committee members enough of the history of Freemasonry to want to know more.

The result is that it is not long before the interest, excitement and pleasure of his initiation have been made permanent — and here is the secret of every member of Utopia Lodge being willing to make any sacrifice rather than miss a meeting with the brethren!

The entertainment offered the members of Utopia Lodge by the committee on entertainment is invariably Masonic in character. Not here will you find zither players, clog dancers, political big-wigs asked for their civic prominence to make a speech on "statesmanship in Abysinnia” or “My Travels in the Orient.” The members of Utopia Lodge know they can see a better picture show for a few cents outside the lodge; they can hear better civic speakers, see better entertainment in school and church, and so demand the one and only thing in lodge entertainment which can be had nowhere else in the world — and that is entertainment of a Masonic character.

Utopian entertainment committees know full well that this does not mean long-winded and dry speeches! They do not ask the mayor, the local Congressman, the President of the Board of Trade to speak on Masonry, merely because these gentlemen happen to be Masons. They know that such speeches usually include a reference to the love of the fraternity which the speakers aver they possess, then go on to a sermon based on “be good, follow Masonic principles, and you will be happy.” They know that such addresses usually wave the flag, include a touching reference to the old homestead and the speakers gray-haired mother; continue to exult in the little red school house, though it has long since given way to the Consolidated school almost everywhere, and end with a peroration which includes George Washington, the statement that all Washington’s generals, all signers of the Declaration of Independence, all Presidents of the United States were Masons, and concludes with a deathless pronouncement that while Masonry lives, Democracy can never die, or vice versa!

Utopian Masonic speakers know the romance and the interest of Masonic history and tradition and so interest their audiences!

Utopian Masonic entertainment includes Masonic debates, Masonic games, Masonic plays, Masonic speeches by men who know something of the romance, the history, the excitement, the intense interest of Masonic happenings. As a result, on nights when entertainments are produced in Utopia Lodge, not only do all resident members come as usual, but every Mason within visiting distance helps crowd the room, and each brother carries home something of a permanent nature to enrich his mind and heart.

Grand lodge in Utopia is not provided with a “steam roller” nor is its business always “cut and dried.” A hard working Grand East, of course, provides some members on every committee, since in the Grand East is knowledge of conditions that masters and wardens who come but once, twice or thrice to grand lodge cannot have. But masters and wardens are informed as to grand lodge affairs. They read not only the Proceedings of their own grand lodge but also the fraternal reviews of other grand lodges. They have full knowledge of the aims of grand lodge. If there is a Masonic home, they have visited it. If there is a Masonic charity foundation, they know its finances. They know something of Masonic law, and they take part in full and free discussions on the floor of grand lodge. When a vote is taken, the body as a whole knows the sentiments of all the brethren, not merely those of the committee which has brought in a report and "move it be received and the recommendations adopted.”

Members of grand lodge in Utopia do not starve their governing body. They know that a grand lodge cannot do good work with a pittance, that a Masonic home cannot run on the same meal-budget that might do for a prison or a poorhouse. They want the Proceedings to be well-printed volumes, full in reports, and not cut down to save a printing bill. Nor is there ever a lodge in Utopia in debt to the grand lodge; for it is a matter of universal practice to set aside the funds that belong to grand lodge as fast as they come into the particular lodge, instead of covering them into the general lodge fund, spending them without thought and then being suddenly faced with the need of paying grand lodge dues with no money in sight!

Odd as it must seem to some Freemasons who not only do not inhabit Utopia, but who have never even heard of it, no master, warden, past master, grand lodge officer or past officer ever leaves any Masonic meeting to grouch about what “they” did! “They” is “we” in Utopia, and the will of the majority becomes the purpose of all, when it is finally expressed.

It must be admitted that the Utopian Freemasonry pictured is indeed only to lie found in the Never-Never Land of Heart’s Desire. But there was never anything worthwhile accomplished without someone first dreaming a dream of something better. It does no harm so to dream — if even a part of the dream were made by any of us to come true, it would do great good.

Is it impertinent to suggest that we ask ourselves, each and every one: “Am I doing anything to bring the Freemasonry of Utopia to my lodge, my grand lodge — my own heart?”

The Masonic Service Association of North America