Vol. XXII No. 4 — April 1944

Freemasonry after the War

“After the war” plans are much in the public press, magazines, discussed in various circles and forums. No matter how long the war may last, the question “what next, when peace comes?” agitates men’s minds and causes many to think, if not definitely to plan, “what next”?

With no thought that anything definite could be decided now, The Masonic Service Association nevertheless followed the general trend of public thought, and endeavored to ascertain what Masonic leaders were thinking about possible courses Freemasonry might take when peace should come again.

To that end a letter was written to all grand masters, deputy grand masters, grand secretaries and some fourteen hundred past grand masters and other Masonic authorities in every grand lodge asking ten questions.

From the five hundred twenty-five replies received in time and the numerous and lengthy letters which expressed the writers’ ideas, a Digest of opinion was prepared. That all interested may share in the thought-provoking conclusions reached, a summary of that Digest is herewith offered.

What follows in bold faced type is quoted from the questionnaire which resulted in the expressions of opinion set forth in the percentages.

A-1 After the war do you believe that Freemasonry should engage in some activities to assist Government, public, or Masonry to return to normal ways?

Yes 324 59.88%
No 38 7.02%

A-2 Continue its prewar course without reference to postwar conditions:

Yes 142 26.24%
No 37 6.83%

Inasmuch as “yes” to A-1 is equivalent to “no” to A-2, and vice versa, the percentages may be combined, resulting in:

66.71% “yes” for A-1

33.26% “yes” for A-2

Note that 66.71 + 33.26 = 99.97 only — the discrepancy is caused by not carrying percentages out to many decimals.

Two possibilities have been suggested as to what grand lodges might do individually, and two, acting through this Association: grand lodges individually might:

B-1 Establish employment bureaus to assist ex-service brethren in getting jobs:

Yes 262 83.97%
No 50 16.03%

B-2 Set aside and administer funds in an educational foundation to assist ex-service brethren in completing school or college work:

Yes 186 75.30%
No 61 24.70%

Through this Association grand lodges might:

B-3 Establish and administer a fund for the assistance of Freemasons abroad; specifically, to help them to reestablish their grand lodges and lodges:

Yes 238 83.50%
No 45 16.50%

B-4 Finance and conduct a thorough investigation of Mexican, Central and South American grand lodges, and some overseas, looking to a more universal recognition of these bodies in a Masonic “Good Neighbor” policy:

Yes 234 82.37%
No 50 17.61%

Will you indicate your beliefs as to which of B1, B2, B3, B4 is the most important, which second, which third and which least important.

Most Important: B-1 133
B-2 97
B-3 65
B-4 47
Second in Importance B-1 63
B-2 128
B-3 120
B-4 89
Third in Importance B-1 57
B-2 95
B-3 110
B-4 108
Least Important B-1 62
B-2 65
B-3 98
B-4 40

To get composite percentages for each of four questions out of these sixteen figures, an arbitrary scale of factors was used, by which most important was assigned the value of 4, second in importance the value of 3, third in importance the value of 2 and least important the value of 1.

Using the scale as a multiplier gave for

all B-1 figures 1,297
all B-2 figures 1,027
all B-3 figures 938
all B-4 figures 711

so that in this cross-section of opinion of relative importance:

B-1 is 32.64%, B-2 is 25.49%, B-3 is 23.60% and B-4 is 17.89%

Any scale might have been used; had 11, 12, 13 and 14 have the multipliers instead of 1, 2, 3 and 4, the resulting percentages would have been nearer alike; had the multipliers been 1, 5, 10 and 15, the spread between percentages would have been correspondingly greater. One, two, three and four were chosen as the simplest and perhaps as the most logical. No scale, whether steep or the reverse, will alter the order of importance disclosed in the composite percentages; B1 will still have the highest and B4 the lowest percentage, regardless of what scale is used.

C-1 Following the War between the States, the Spanish-American War, and World War I, many brethren desired a liberalization of the policy pursued by many grand lodges in adhering strictly to “The Doctrine of the Perfect Youth.” In recent years this policy has been liberalized in some grand lodges. Undoubtedly the same agitation will take place after this war, to aid the maimed men who may desire to become Masons. Is it your belief that Freemasonry will be better served by liberalizing the physical standards for admittance?

Yes 301 61.93%
No 185 30.07%

Immediately following World War I the influx of petitions and enthusiasm for returning servicemen were so large that many lodges threw down the bars, accepting petitions in great numbers. Many grand masters thought it wise to use their dispensing powers to permit the making of more than the statutory number of Masons at one time, with the result that Freemasonry experienced a large and sudden growth.

Succeeding years showed this to have been a mushroom growth and the net result was disaster for many lodges which lost Temples, built in the flush of enthusiasm caused by so many petitions, and a long and disheartening period for all grand lodges as year after year showed losses.

Several suggestions have been made as to what might be done by grand lodges to prevent a recurrence of these happenings following this war.

D-1 Do you believe grand lodges should limit the number of petitioners which any lodge might accept in one year to a certain percentage of the membership of the lodge when the legislation was enacted?

Yes 102 21.25%
No 378 78.75%

D-2 Do you believe grand lodge should request grand masters not to use the dispensing power to increase the number of candidates permitted at one communication?

Yes 224 53.97%
No 91 46.03%

D-3 Do you think grand lodges should raise the minimum fees for the degrees to such an amount as would prevent too great an influx of petitions?

Yes 174 29.94%
No 407 70.06%

Summarizing the summary disclosed that a majority of those who replied to the questions — and it must not be forgotten that these are the leaders of American Freemasonic thought — think that:

  1. Freemasonry should engage in some activities after the war to assist in the return to normal ways;

  2. Grand lodges might assist ex-servicemen in getting jobs; assist ex-servicemen in completing school or college work;

  3. The Masonic Service Association, as a servant of grand lodges, and at their command, might establish and administer a fund for the assistance of Freemasons abroad; might finance and conduct an investigation of Mexican, Central and South American grand lodges as a part of the “Good Neighbor” policy;

  4. Of the foregoing four ideas the most important is to assist ex-servicemen in getting jobs; next important, to assist ex-servicemen in completing school or college work; third in importance to assist Freemasons abroad and least important, to investigate grand lodges to the south of this continent;

  5. Physical standards for admittance to Freemasonry should be liberalized;

  6. Grand lodges should not limit the number of petitioners;

  7. Grand masters might be asked to restrain the use of the dispensing power to increase the number of candidates permitted at one communication;

  8. Grand lodges should not raise the minimum fee for the degrees.

In evaluating this compendium of opinion it must not be forgotten that not all who replied to the questionnaire answered each question. The percentages given are of the total number of replies made to each query.

Masonic opinion, like national, is in a state of flux. It changes from time to time, just as national opinion changes from time to time. Prior to Pearl Harbor the nation was heavily isolationist and for “peace at almost any price.” Prior to 1941 Masonic opinion was against the establishment of Masonic welfare work for servicemen and women. Now only a minority believes that the nation can ever again isolate itself from the troubles and problems of the rest of the world, and a heavy majority of grand lodges and brethren are confident that the welfare work for the armed forces is giving a great and joyous opportunity for Freemasonry to “stand up and be counted” among those who actively assist in the war effort.

Post-war thinking will probably be different from war thinking. Those who now sincerely believe that Freemasonry will have an opportunity after the war to assist ex-servicemen and women getting jobs and/or an education, may and doubtless will alter that opinion should the national government take over both tasks.

Every war in which this country has engaged within the memory of living men has brought liberalization of Masonic thought regarding the “Doctrine of the Perfect Youth”: The War between the States, the Spanish-American War, World War I, all resulted in a desire to ease the physical requirements for membership. The present war is no exception. Whether the tide of thought towards liberalization will recede, as it did some years after each of the preceding wars mentioned, is a question each reader must answer for himself.

For each of the questions and the present majority opinion, circumstances alter cases and war alters thinking. The length of the war, the cost in lives, money and altered living conditions, may easily alter Masonic thinking as to Freemasonry’s proper course when peace shall come.

The Digest of opinion, of which these pages are but a summary, was intended only to be provocative of thought and discussion; this Bulletin is for the same purpose. If the larger study — the Digest — and this summary of its findings lead any brethren to think of and discuss what Freemasonry might, could, should or will do after the war, the purpose of both will have been accomplished.

The Masonic Service Association of North America