Vol. XVIII No. 7 — July 1940

My Part

On the Editor’s desk a sheaf of letters front coast to coast and Canada to the Gulf, all ask the same question. They ask it in different ways, with different words, but all are concerned with one idea, ‘In the holocaust now engulfing the world, and the possibility of this nation being involved, even if only with ‘all measures short of war,’ what is my part as a Freemason?”

The Editor of these pages is sometimes honored with the opportunity to address lodges and grand lodges. After many recent appearances, brethren have crowded around to ask, not the usual questions regarding what was said, or about some Masonic curiosity or oddity, but the inquiry quoted above “what is our part to be, as Freemasons, if. . . ?”

In all humility, and with no idea that his ideas are either those of authority or of great value, but merely to hold a small candle as high as may be in the hope that its light may help some gravely concerned brother to see a bit further, these pages are written.

No thinking man but must envision a body of two and one half million Freemasons, taught the highest principles of patriotism and law and order; instructed in spiritual values and in those of citizenship, as a great asset to this nation; an asset greater in stress and strain than at any other time. Freemasons are a picked body of men; they are men of character, stability, sanity. But we are men; men are human; humans are imperfect. It is as easy for a Freemason to take the wrong attitude as for any good citizen who is not a Freemason, unless the Freemason keeps his eyes fixed upon a star and not upon the flickering lamp which has burned so dim in Europe; and which may flicker out entirely, even here in free America.

Could this writer have his wish every Freemason would answer the question “what is my part” somewhat in this way:

“My part is triplicate; I have a part to play in lodge; I have a part to play as a citizen; I have a part to play to uphold spiritual values.

“In lodge my part is to uphold that institution which has set before me the ideal of brotherhood, now so cruelly mocked abroad. To ‘uphold’ dues not mean only to accept it as a fact and think of it with comfort. It means an active participation. My part is to go to lodge, to take part in its deliberations, to create enthusiasm, to make it of wider influence and greater power in the community, by the only true Masonic method — the spread of the teachings of decency and justice, toleration and patriotism, religion and mercy, friendliness and mutual help.

“My part is to uphold the structure of my lodge and my grand lodge. Promptly to pay my dues and assessments. To believe in the charity of my lodge and grand lodge. To visit the sick and comfort the afflicted. To abjure all divisions and schisms. To see that my lodge is a unit, not a divided influence. To foster and keep flaming high the spirit of love of nation, and the ideals which actuated the Masons of the War of the Revolution; which made Washington trust his Masonic generals as he trusted no others; which brought Lafayette to this nation to fight for the right.

“Freemasonry depends upon the lodge as armies depend upon their front lines. While these hold, victory cannot be changed to defeat. The lodge is the front line of Masonry. While it lives — not merely exists! — Masonry lives. So my part as a Freemason must first be played in my lodge. It needs me now as never before. Masonry needs me now as never before. And so does my country need its Masonry as never before. . . .

“I have a great part to play in the civil life of my community, my state, my nation. The adjective is used intentionally. The part may not be ‘great’ in the sense that it will receive notice in the press, or a place in history. But just as one rivet breaking may topple the bridge; just as the smallest leak in a dyke may spell its destruction, so my part is great and important even though it be unnoted by my fellows.

“My part is to uphold my government. My part is to forget partisan politics outside the lodge as well as in it. Whether I am for or against the New Deal and the administration; whether I am isolationist, pacifist, interventionist or rattler of the sword, my part is to stand by my government. If I do not like it, I have my voice and vote at the polls to change it. But as my nation has decided through its representatives and its officials what its course is to be, it is my part as a Freemason to stand by those determinations whether or not they meet with my individual approval.

“The soldier in the ranks, the officer commanding a company, the colonel of a regiment, may all feel in their hearts that the order to advance or retreat is wrong. But wars cannot be won if soldier, captain, colonel, follow their own beliefs, even if those beliefs are right. Wars are won when soldiers obey orders. In its time of emergency this nation must have citizens who uphold constituted authority whether they like it or not. My part as a citizen is plain; as a Freemasonic citizen it is doubly plain — God give me the strength to see it and to do it.

“In civil life, as a Freemason my part includes encouragement and help for youth. That means free public schools, jobs for the graduate, sympathetic understanding of the problems of the younger men and women. It is every citizens job, but it is particularly my job, as a Freemason, because of my obligation to womanhood, to widow and orphan, to the young men who must fill the ranks of Freemasons as we who are older pass from the picture.

“And my part as a Freemason is to take what comes with a grin! If my taxes are to be doubled to provide protection for this fair land, not from me as a Freemason will come a squawk. If my business is curtailed, if my standard of living is lowered, if I must work longer hours for less pay so that the Stars and Stripes stay at the top of the flagpole, as a citizen I will take what comes, submit, pay; as a Freemason I will take what comes, submit, pay with a smile, and do it quickly.

“And finally, as a citizen I will keep that upper lip stiff and my shoulders back, but as a Freemason I will not be content with the outward signs of courage. I will have courage in my heart and my guts deep within me shall not be white-liver colored! I will keep my courage for the sake of my nation, my state, my town, my lodge, my family, and God help me, for the sake of the manhood within me, made the greater and the better by the gentle influence of the Masonic altar at which I knelt.

“My part as a Freemason in the spiritual side of Freemasonry? Perhaps no part is as important as this. For we live in a world which has thrown all spiritual values to the four winds of heaven, and face governments which know them not save as enemies. Honor and fair dealing, observance of treaties, international law, justice to minorities, good faith as between man and man, the ten commandments — all have been swept away in a mad passion for supremacy, for might, for power, for self. There are political parties in the world which openly proclaim the doctrine that from those that have must be filched the products of their lives’ works, to be given to those who have not earned it. There are political parties in the world which openly proclaim that the road to peace, security and happiness lies through mass murder, torture, imprisonment, devastation. There are nations which forget that a Greater Than They set before humanity the truth that man must not five by the sword, lest he die by the sword!

“These things are insidious. The air is full of them. The press is full of them. We hear them in conversation everywhere. No matter how coupled with horror and repudiation, the fact remains, when man is continually faced with battle, murder, death, destruction, evil, wrong, horror, treachery, dishonesty, lies, he comes in time to accept them — it may be only as a necessary evil, but he does accept them. History shows it; the happenings abroad prove it anew.

“Spiritual values are all that make life worth living. This is no plea for church or religion or even belief in a Great Architect. From atheist to the devout believer, life without spiritual values is not life, but death. Atheist and devout believer, Mason and non-Mason, presumably all love wife, child, and country. All do business on credit (which is faith). The one like the other presumably is honest and honorable and merciful and kind and just. It is my part as a Freemason to hold these spiritual values fast and hold them high. Agreed, it is also the part of the church and of religion; but here we speak of our part as Freemasons. Perhaps Freemasons have a right to believe that the Ancient Craft has been among the greatest influences in the preservation of those spiritual values which spring from the idea of brotherhood.

“By all means is it my part to uphold my church, to care for it, attend it, pay its bills, live it, love it. But there may be many Freemasons who are not affiliated with any church, yet who are as sworn to the decencies of life as the most unselfish man of God. Unless a Freemason does his part in the preservation of the spiritual values of fife, both Freemasonry and the lands which mothered it may perish from the ken of civilized man.”

A great historian was asked to express all human history in fifty words. His reply might well be emblazoned on the wall of every lodge, imprinted on the heart of every Freemason. He said:

The mills of the gods grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small: the bee always fertilizes the flower which it robs of honey; whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad; it is only after darkness falls that man can see the stars.

It seems to this writer that our part in upholding the spiritual values which are born of brotherhood, fostered in a lodge, taught to initiates and practiced by those who take Freemasonry into their lives, includes the pondering of these less than fifty words — and fitting the events of these emergent days into their pattern.

Could this writer have his way he would have every Freemason end his story of a Freemason’s part in life today with some such though as this:

My part must be played upon the earth. But God gave me eyes to lift up unto the hills. I will keep mine eyes upon a star. I will not ignore the mud in which I walk, and the blood in which so many victims bathe; I will trudge through one and lift from the other as a man should. But also will I continually remind myself that a man walks upright and that beyond the far horizons abideth peace — and God.

The Masonic Service Association of North America