Vol. XIX No. 10 — October 1941

Knock and It Shall Be Opened . . .

He had just been raised in his father’s lodge, and like many another son before him, was eagerly interested and very proud; interested because of what he had experienced; proud that he could now “go to lodge with Father,” a man among men, a brother among brethren.

“And just what may I expect of my new membership?” he inquired on the way home. “What may I look forward to, as a Master Mason? It is all so new and strange. . . .”

“It all depends,” was the answer, on what you do. “We — meaning the lodge — have done all we can. We have shown you the way, put a staff in your hand, opened the door to a new land of thought. If you enter in, work at it, take your place, become a part of the Fraternity, not just ‘belong,’ you may expect much.”

“But just what?”

Following is the answer he received —

To begin with, good times. We have good times in lodge. It is not all work by any means. There are entertainments, speeches, expeditions. Our lodge visits a neighboring lodge in another town once a year. Once a year that other lodge comes to us. Sometimes we have a lodge picnic. Once a year we try to stage a ladies’ night to which I may bring your mother, and you, your sweetheart. Even on nights devoted wholly to Masonic work, we have a little refreshment afterwards, a social hour, break bread together — and there we enjoy one of the greatest boons of the Fraternity — we make new friends.

Nothing that Freemasonry does for a man is greater than the gift of new friends. The great aim & object of the Fraternity is to build character in men; that is its sole program and its one great work. This program the Ancient Craft carries out in many ways, but in the last analysis, Freemasonry builds character. One of the means she uses is the gift of friends not otherwise to be made; friends who meet you on the level & become a part of you for no motive of place or power or wealth or position or influence. You may be a Masonic friend to a man for long years and hardly know what he does in the world, or what he has. But you will find that the especial kind and variety of friendship fostered in a Masonic lodge is of high grade & worth the making and the keeping.

You can expect the joy of sharing of yourself, even as others share themselves with you. A lodge is peculiarly a place in which a man may give for the mere joy of giving; not gifts of material things or of money, but gifts of self, of time, of effort. The only wages paid you are master’s wages — paid in no coin that eye may see or touch may feel, but paid, nevertheless, in a coin of value. For those master’s wages you will share of your time and your thought. You will work hard upon committees. You will be called upon to do something for others with no thought of “what do I get out of it?” And the delightful part of this sort of sharing is that you don’t want to “get anything out of it.” Indeed, if anyone offered to pay you in coin of the realm, you would be hurt to think that what you wanted to give could be bought.

You will learn to share of the riches of your life by services to those who, permanently or temporarily, have less. You will visit the sick — and until you have called upon a shut-in brother because of your mutual Freemasonry, you will not know all the joy there is in lodge membership. Should you be ill you will learn what the other side of that shield looks like, and take a quiet satisfaction that Freemasonry urged some man whom you may hardly know to take of his time and come to see you, merely because of his interest in you as a Masonic brother.

You will soon find yourself looking up to the “elder statesman” in the lodge and going to them for help in Masonic matters. Just when abrotherbecomes an “elder statesman” is hard to state, but pity the lodge which has none! They are the brethren who have borne the heat and burden of the day; old past masters, perhaps, their services in the East so long in the past that but few remember them. Perhaps they are men who never held office, but who, because of twenty-five, thirty-five, occasionally fifty years in the Craft, have a ripe experience and a long memory to draw upon. Lucky will you be if you so act and conduct yourself that these take an especial interest in your progress in Masonry.

You will learn some ritual. You cannot avoid learning it, even though you never study it. It sinks into you as you come evening after evening to lodge. Perhaps the “ritual-bug” will bite you, and you will want to learn it for the sake of knowing it all, of being of wider use in your lodge when able to instruct candidates, work upon visitors’ committees, perhaps fill in temporarily at times in place of some officer who is ill or away.

This may lead you to a position in the line of officers. Lucky the young Mason who gets such a chance! Ask any past master — he will tell you that being master of his lodge does something to a man which no other experience in life can do. Too intangible to express in words, it is a combination of the results of responsibility, of trust given and lived up to, of effort made selflessly for the good of the order. It has its roots in service, its branches wave in the gentle winds of give and take. It flowers in the sunshine of good will, and its autumn colorings are bright with the hues of the affection of many men. Being a good officer in a lodge is a matter of hard work. It neither begins nor ends with learning ritual. It requires the team-play spirit. You are but a cog in the machine at first, but you must function well. Even a little cog has to turn as the rest revolve if the machine is to run smoothly. You have to learn subordination, to do as you are told as if it was a joy to do; you have to learn to play your part so that other men may play theirs effectively. One miscast brother, and the whole line suffers, and so, the lodge suffers. Given a line of good officers and even a mediocre master may be a success.

An officer must assume responsibility. It is laid upon him when he is appointed or elected, but election or appointment is only the beginning. Having the chance, you must yourself decide its extent and yourself assume the duties and the responsibilities. As the slow years turn to swift ones, and when at long last you are elected master, you will find that the great giving of many years comes back ten-fold, for a lodge loves the officer who has well done his work, and supports him with enthusiasm and readiness to help which makes his year in the East a joy never to be forgotten.

When at the end you step up to join the ranks of past masters, you take with you an inner satisfaction to be had from no other labor, no other opportunity, no other responsibility that life affords.

You can look forward to a fife of service. Much misunderstood, some shrink from the idea that Masonry is all a giving, not at all a getting. It is decidedly a matter of getting, but to get the only way is to give. You cannot go to a store and buy a suit of clothes without payment of money, ora promise to pay money. Eventually you must pay the money or be discredited in the eyes of men. Money is but a medium of exchange for labor. You work at your job, the tailor works at his. Instead of building a house for the tailor, that he may makes clothes for you, you work at being a banker or a doctor or a manufacturer; people give you money for your work, which money you give to the clothier for his coat and trousers.

In the same way you must give to get, in a lodge. You must give of your time and effort — which is service — to get the effort and time of those who will give service to you. There is no other way.

Many who pay dues to a lodge give but little — they get little. It is an old and trite but always true saying that you get from Masonry what you put into it. But the statement does not go far enough. You do, indeed, get from Masonry what you put into it. But just as money you put in a bank bears interest, so what you put into Freemasonry also bears interest. The true statement is: “You get more from Freemasonry than you put into it — and the more you give of service, the greater the earned increment of love and affection & service which comes back to you.”

It is of such intangibles as these that character is built, friends made, affections cemented, place secured in the respect of your fellows. It is by such means and processes that a newly raised brother becomes a part of his lodge, not merely a member who belongs to it. And it is by such indefinable means that you get the real reward of being a real Freemason.

As you see and see and see again the sublime tragedy of the Master’s Degree you will learn that much is made of the Lost and the Substitute Words and the search for That Which Was Lost. Be assured that the search is not in vain. Many a good Freemason has learned for himself the Great Secret and knows the True Word.

But those who know cannot tell. It is not a matter of obligation or the Masonic necessity of secrecy — those who know are unable to tell, because there are no words in which to tell. For the ultimate truths taught by Freemasonry are as unreliable in words as any of those secrets of life which all men learn and none may phrase. How smells a rose? What does a glorious sunset look like? What is love for wife, sister, mother, father? You cannot express these things so another can understand. You may say the rose smells sweet — so do a hundred other flowers. You may say the sunset is beautiful — so are mountains and babies’ smiles and the receipt stamp on a paid bill for your home! You may love wife “much” and mother “greatly” and sister “a lot,” but so may you love money or golf or going fishing!

The words have not been invented to say the secret things that may enter your heart and the words have never been coined which express the real secrets of Masonry. But live and serve, work and play in the Masonic lodge which raised you; give as you would get, touch hands with Masonic friends and play your part, and as inevitably as day follows night, some day you will become conscious of the True Word and know the Real Secret.

When that day comes you will be able to say that except for home and church, no influence in your life has had the power of the Fraternity, and nothing you have received from the world — aye, though it be riches and place and power — has had as much value.

When the years which now stretch so long before you have passed — and pass they do, with accelerating speed as each one goes to join the days which come not back forever — you, too, may be an Elder statesman in the lodge. You, too, maybe looked up to, venerated, followed, consulted, asked for advice and counsel.

Then you will find that it has all been very much more than just worthwhile. For by that time a life of service will have become a part of your character, and you will find your greatest joy in being of some use in the world of men, other than those activities which are measured in dollars and professional skills, business success place in the political, civil or local community worlds.

This statement cannot have covered the whole of what you may expect. Just as there are many minds, all different, as there are men and brothers, all different, so there must be as many rewards for good Freemasonry, well-lived, as there are brethren who live it.

But there is one more item in the list of those joyful tasks and their rewards to which you can look forward, so be it you become a Freemason who works at his Craft.

You will find that Freemasonry is an anchor to windward in time of trouble, a rock which changeth not, a foundation on which to build when all else in life seems falling to pieces beneath you.

There is something solid, firm, enduring, dependable in the Freemasonry which a man really takes into his heart. As the Shekinah of old glowed awesomely about the Ark of the Convenant, so there is an aura which shines about the altar of Freemasonry, for those whose eyes have been opened that they may see. Alas, many the lodge members who have never seen it glow! But many a man has watched it and been comforted in the watching. In trouble and in grief, in sickness and in sorrow, in pain and in loss, that altar and what a man may take from it as he kneels before it — so be it he kneels as a good Freemason who has done his part in making it a sacred spot in his life as well as in the lodge — what such an one may receive from Freemasonry is as great as it is ethereal, as powerful as it is invisible, as vital as it is beautiful.

It is not of the earth, earthy. Freemasonry in a man’s heart is not of the earth, earthy. It is of another world, a world any Freemason may enter if he will; a place where a man’s spirit can be alone with that Diety who most intimately and greatly is his, not another’s.

These are those things to which any young Freemason may look forward, so be it he wills so to do.

The Masonic Service Association of North America