Vol. XX No. 6 — June 1942


A cloud of glory resting between the cherubim on the mercy-seat in the Tabernacle as the symbol of the divine presence. A word not found in the Bible but adopted from the Targum by Christians.
— Standard Dictionary

Strict use of the word makes that which is tangible something which can be touched; that which is intangible, something that cannot be touched.

Here it is used in the larger sense; that which is tangible is physical; that which is intangible is of the mind and heart only.

It is necessary to have the definition exact if these pages are to be intelligible. Thunder and clouds cannot be touched, in the ordinary sense of the word, but they are tangible; credit at the bank cannot be touched but is hardly within the meaning of intangible as the word is used here.

In general, we think of that which as tangible as that which is physical, or made of matter; house, car, electric light, a day’s labor, cutting the grass, eating a meal are tangible things and actions.

We think of what is intangible in terms of love, hate, brotherhood, charity, honor, reputation, patriotism, liberty, culture, education, philosophy, etc.

For what are we fighting a war? For land, money, territory, gold, trade, material reward?

Or for liberty, patriotism, justice, equal opportunity, right, faith, freedom to worship as we wish?

It is begging the question to say “we are fighting for our homes and homes are physical.” We are doing nothing of the kind! Every home in America might be razed by fire and bomb and we but fight the harder. It is not the building in which we live, but the right to build, occupy, own, live in a home for which we fight. The home itself may be tangible; the right to build and own and keep it is intangible.

Freemasonry is built on, with, and by, intangibles.

Freemasonry has its tangible side. The Homes, hospitals, orphanages, schools and Temples which Freemasonry brings into being are tangible things. The Craft values them much, and cares for them greatly. But every Temple and every institution built by the Craft might be destroyed without destroying that which built them.

Freemasonry’s sole end and aim — building character in men — is an intangible because character is intangible; it cannot be touched, weighed, measured, seen, and heard.

Freemasonry’s great truths and teachings are wholly intangible. The Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man; temperance, fortitude, prudence, justice; faith, hope and charity; the liberal arts and sciences; geometry; fidelity; mutual dependence and mutual aid — these are all intangibles.

The Great Teacher put emphasis only on intangibles.

Man lives more by intangibles than by tangibles. Being human, composed of flesh and blood, needing food and drink to exist, man can never live without some touch with what is tangible. But the beasts of the field, which must eat and drink to live, live wholly by these things which are tangible. That which distinguishes man from the beasts are the intangibilities of life.

For what does a man live? Seldom for himself alone.

Poor indeed is he whose life does not give something of itself, without money and without price, to another. Love of wife and children, affection for friends, charity to the less fortunate, desire for good reputation, honor and probity; education, culture, music, art, literature, philosophy, science — these are all intangibles, yet they make up the most and the best of life.

Those things in life which are tangible and from which we derive pleasure, happiness, contentment, were themselves first only dreams in some mans mind. Before there was an automobile or a radio, a plumbing system or a paved road, a tin roof or a telephone, an electric light or a book, some man dreamed of a better way than the way he knew, and set about inventing or making it. In thousands of laboratories the world over, devoted men bend over microscopes and test tubes, make calculations, keep records, try experiments, not for monetary reward, but to discover one more facet of the diamond, truth; to find one more fact; to make plain one more law of nature. From their discoveries come great things of comfort and use, but the original urge was but a desire towards an intangible — truth.

Freemasonry is much, and rightly, concerned with the tangible evidence of its intangible teaching of charity. We give largely to our charity funds, our Homes for the aged, our schools for the children of the unfortunate. We sacrifice to build a suitable Temple in which to meet and practice our rites, knowing that a home makes for solidity of effort and unity of thought, just as the physical structure of a beautiful church aids in creating and extending religious feeling.

But take from the devout his church — and he still worships God. Take from the brethren their Temple — and they may still meet and commune, if only on a high hill or in a low vale.

Unfortunately, like all human beings, Freemasons sometimes fail to see the forest because of the trees, and cannot see the ocean because of the water! Sometimes we are so much concerned with the tangibles of Freemasonry that we lose sight and track of the far more important intangibles. To many, Freemasonry becomes a matter of dues, reports, Proceedings, meetings, degrees, debts, payments, dues Collection, books of the law, trials, Temples, mortgages, bonds. And these, alas, have lost the inspiration that the Ancient Craft has for all who will take of it.

But, at long last, Freemasonry always returns to her own. Today is such a time; a time when men need, as seldom if ever before, the uplift and the comfort that may come from what Freemasonry stretches forth her hands to give.

About every Masonic altar there glows a Shekinah — such as was softly brilliant about the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle — for him who hath eyes to see. Let no man say “I cannot see it, therefore it is not there.” If there be such a one, ask of him: “Can you see the warmth of the summer sunshine? Can you hear the pale fight of the moon? Can you touch the smell of roses in the garden? Why make seeing your test of reality? You say you see not the Shekinah — can you see the love of your child, or that of the friend of your heart?”

Aye, the Shekinah is there — it does not need to be seen to be known.

But it does need to be known to be used.

In every Masonic lodge meeting a spirit is present which is absent from all other gatherings, no matter how important or great. You may call it what you will; the Brotherhood of Man, the mystic tie, the invisible cabletow — it is there. In some lodge meetings it is all-pervading, filling the hall, overflowing from hearts, filling hearts to the brim, vital, alive, a benediction. In others it is feeble and weak. Where dissention exists it seldom shows. Where is too much emphasis on the material side, it fears to come into the open. But it is always there — much or little, it can be found.

It has to be searched for to be understood; it must be understood to be of value.

Today the emphasis of the nation is put upon production of material things: guns, planes, tanks, soldiers, training men, fighting battles, winning wars. To do these successfully, every man must do his best to be at his best. We must move faster, work longer, strive harder.

We live in a rather terrible time. Values of life which have been fundamental, ingrained, born into our consciousness, have crumbled beneath our feet. Foundation stones have turned over and destroyed that which we built upon them. Hate, passion, wrong, evil, cruelty, selfishness, murder, are loose in the world. Danger to all we hold dear is immediate, here, in the very instant of the present. Now!

Man cannot live happily or work efficiently without something to which to tie. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” So sang the Psalmist, and it is as true today as five thousand years ago. To dwell in unity we must have a common bond, a common tie, a common inspiration.

That bond, tie, inspiration is ours for the taking; Freemasonry has it, has always had it, has always given it to him who asked and took. Never has she forced it on any man; never has it been obtrusive or loud or blatant. It works only from Craft to human heart; from altar to soul; from brother to brethren. It is intangible as a sunbeam, as ethereal as the scent of a hidden violet, as difficult to catch as a breeze, as certain and dependable as sunrise and sunset, if we but open our hearts, stretch forth our hands, inviting it.

You can drive a horse to pull more than his share by whipping him unmercifully. You can lead a man to do more than his share by firing his imagination.

Here is Freemasonry’s great opportunity!

The great majority of grand lodges in this country have two tangible, physical ways of expressing brotherhood; their charity in Homes and institutions, or by means of charity funds and Foundation; their contributions to welfare for the armed forces.

But we had these before the nation was at war. Now, when every ounce is needed and strength to go the last long mile is what will win the war, Freemasonry has this great thing to offer — to make of lodge a holy place, not to some, but to all; to make of the Shekinah which glows about the altar, not an unseen light to be followed only by the mystic and the dreamer, but a brilliant illumination which will give to all brethren that inspiration and comfort, that perception of truth and knowledge of value which will carry them through the dark days and into the sunlight on the other side of the hill; which will make us see the Craft as an unknown brother saw her in the pages of the Western Australian Freemason: “In a world of greed and force Freemasonry teaches self-restraint and reason. In a world permeated with the spirit of selfish rivalry it teaches universal brotherhood. In a world of intolerance and bigotry it teaches tolerance and kindness. In a world of cynical disbelief it teaches reverence for Deity. In a world floundering in the depths of a great moral and spiritual depression it teaches industry and self-reliance and temperance and integrity. Its emphasis is always on the nobler point of view, the finer choice of conduct. In a changing and superficial world it points to the eternal and fundamental principles that have emerged unchanged from every transition era, even as the eternal mountains emerge from the drifting clouds that temporarily obscure them. It aids and comforts and reassures and inspires individuals. It leaps the barriers of race and space to draw together the finest aspirations of all men and unite them in a universal brotherhood.”

Such is the Freemasonry we can have if we will; the Freemasonry which is ours; the Freemasonry which needs but to be asked, to give.

How shall we get it, we of the rank and file?

Shall it be through grand lodge? Conceivably a grand lodge might so stress this that by means of committees and leadership, every lodge would have an inspirational speaker. And if every speaker were the best of his kind and every lodge had a full attendance, much good might be done. But such an effort, even if wisely and ably made, would flare up and die down again.

Shall it be done through lodge action? That means, in the last analysis, through action of the master. Luckily for the Fraternity, there are many good masters; brethren with vision and decision who try and succeed, more often than not, in making the lodge a vital factor in some lives. But good masters are often sandwiched in between those not so good, and the effort of one year bogs down in the year following. That lodge which is always an inspiration to her sons is as unneeding of these words as it is unusual in a world of lodges.

If not by grand lodge, or individual lodge, then how?

By the individual brother. By you, who read this, you who hear it read.

There is no other answer. You may lead a horse to water but make him drink you cannot. You can force a man to church but to worship you cannot make him. You can bring your brethren to hear all the speakers a lodge has, but if he opens not his ears, you cannot make him hear.

YOU are the only brother of whom you have full control. YOU can make of your lodge a place to inspire not only you, but your brethren. YOU can put emphasis on the spiritual, intangible things of Freemasonry so others will see them as you see them. Looking at the altar, seeing its Shekinah, you can so describe it that others will see it. You, and only you, can do this for yourself. And as it must be by a brother who has done it for himself that it is done for others, the responsibility is yours.

You cannot escape it. Your brother cannot escape it. The holder of the pen which writes these words cannot escape it. From grand master to the youngest tiler of the newest lodge; from eldest statesman to youngest Master Mason; from most cultured and best educated to humblest and most ignorant, there is no escape.

Freemasonry is built of, from, and by intangibles.

Inspiration, comfort, courage for her sons glows in the Shekinah about her altars.

Only by someone brother seeing it can she offer it to another. The only brother you can control is you.

It puts it strictly up to every one of us, does it not?

The Masonic Service Association of North America