Vol. XXII No. 8 — August 1944

“. . . Returns Again to the Fountain”

“Cliché” — literally, a stereotype plate — is a word of scorn for the too often used expression. But it is not on record that many printings from one stereotype plate affect the truth of what is printed! Neither does scorn for the obvious affect the truth of the obvious.

The commonest cliché of Freemasonry is: “You get out of it just what you put into it.”

It has been said to weariness! It has been said so often that the reality behind the repetition is lost to sight. Perhaps it may be worthwhile to examine and see just what the individual can put into Freemasonry and just what he gets out of it as a result.

“You can’t get money out of a bank unless you put it in.” This is only a half truth. You can get out what you put in plus interest. And if you establish credit you can get out of a bank much more than you have put in, plus interest. To say “You get out of Freemasonry just what you put in,” is also a half truth. There is not only an “earned increment” (like interest on a deposit in a bank) which results from “deposits” made by the individual in Freemasonry, but often the “depositor” (the interested worker in Freemasonry) may “borrow” and receive much more than he put in, just as the depositor with good credit in a bank may borrow a larger sum of money than he has in his account.

What is it that a brother may “put into Freemasonry?” Interest. Enthusiasm. Work. Effort. Unselfishness. Attendance. Desire to serve for the sake of service, not for place, position or power. Friendliness.

Lodges enter, pass and raise brethren; during the process the initiate is made much of, instructed, made to feel important. As soon as he is raised he is literally turned loose and allowed to sink or swim. Here and now he may, if he will, begin to “put in” to the lodge that he may “take out” in the future. Lucky the newly-raised brother who understands that equal rights with the rest of the brethren in lodge bring equal responsibilities,

His first "deposit” is usually interested and constant attendance. If there is a Fellowcraft Team or Club within the lodge, the chances are that he will be asked to join it; if not, he may ask of his own motion. From this to learning some ritual is a short step. The word speedily gets around “This Brother Jones we just raised — he’s really interested. Give him a job!” The Master promptly begins to put him on committees.

Committee memberships mean work. Whether it be committee on the sick, committee on a petition, committee on entertainment or whatever, a committeeman worth his salt has work to do. Again the word gets passed — “Jones is a hound for work. Make him chairman of something.”

Jones is made “chairman of something.” The “something” is well done. The Master gives him another job. Again it is well done. By now everyone in lodge knows that Jones is a dependable brother, interested in his lodge, anxious to work, willing to take responsibility.

This brief outline is but one of a hundred paths a brother can travel to the bank of Freemasonry in order to make his deposits. Others go in different ways. Some develop a love for symbolism and, after much reading, interest and instruct their brethren. Others become “ritual hounds” and both learn and teach, sometimes “fill in” for an absent officer, eventually get appointed in line. Still others become plan-makers and great helps to Masters in devising picnics, entertainments, outings, visits to other lodges, putting on Masonic plays, staging debates or contests. Some brethren get reputations of being the “George” of "Let George do it” — the lodge errand boy who is willing to accept and do any thankless job which no one else wants. Another may be by nature, and thus soon in lodge, a “glad hander” whose cheerful smile, readiness to meet and greet, ease of conversation soon makes him friend to and of everyone who attends.

There is small limit to the method of deposit and less to the amounts to be made, although a deposit in the Masonic bank may be in any one of a thousand currencies.

Edmund Vance Cooke wrote:

’Tis the spirit in which the gift is rich
  As the gifts of the Wise Ones were,
And we are not told whose gift was gold
  Or whose was the gift of myrrh.

MacDonald said “In giving, a man receives more than he gives; the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.” Here “worth” is not to be translated "value.” That which is of least worth, Masonically, may be of high value to the treasury; and what is of most “worth” as a Masonic deposit may have no “value” in coin of the realm. Anyone who has been ill and had some brother in lodge whose name he hardly knew come to pass a cheering half hour with him, knows what it was “worth,” though it had no “value” in money.

“The dust we tread upon was once alive,” said Byron. In lodge you may tread upon a carpet. Who remembers how it came upon the floor? It did not jump there from the store! Someone planned it. Someone brought the matter up in lodge. Someone may have interested himself to show many brethren that the lodge treasury couldn’t afford a new carpet, but that it really was needed — “Let’s put in a bit and buy it, whaddaye say?” Someone then opened the subscription list to buy the new carpet. Finally the carpet was bought. Many brethren bought it. One man pushed it through; one committee measured and went shopping and bargained. Today “the dust we tread upon was once alive.

Few will dispute that one takes out what one puts in. Some may question that more can be withdrawn than was deposited. If a paraphrase of Rittenhouse’s beautiful philosophy may be ventured:

I worked for menial’s hire
  Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I asked of lodge,
  Lodge would have paid.

Anyone can “take out” all he will, so be it he puts in enough to get some “credit.”

We take out in friendships. The associations formed in lodge may be casual acquaintances only. Or they may ripen into the closest and dearest of friendships — friendships which have a quality (because begun with a mutual background) a little different and often a little dearer than those formed in any other way. He whose deposits in the bank of Masonry are paid in the cashed checks of friendships will never argue that he worked for menial’s hire.

Why, then, work for less? His lodge will pay any wage the Master Mason asks.

Is it the respect of our fellow members that we want? Go to any lodge and ask the most venerable brethren “Which among you is your most respected member?” We will learn that he is that brother who has given most largely of his interest in and his labor for his brethren. He may be a past grand master. He may be the old tiler at the door. He may be the inconspicuous brother who always sits in the second row in the northwest corner but whose ears are keen to hear the first announcement of any brother ill, that he visit him on the morrow. He may be that past master who has been chairman of the instruction committee since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, who cannot calculate and would not want us to figure, how many hours he has put in on this thankless but essential service. We will not find the most respected brother to be the rich man, the banker, the mayor or the chief of police, unless these happen to be the principal depositors in their Masonic bank.

What laborer’s hire would you have? A position in the official line, that you may eventually become Master? True it is that appointments in some lodges, like kissing, go by favor not by worth! But usually a Master wants to be remembered in after years as the leader who appointed a brother who in turn made a good Master. Therefore, most Masters try to pick for appointment the brother who shows most promise of leadership, ritualistic ability, and popularity. You have only to demonstrate these qualities by depositing enough time, interest and ability and the lodge will pay your deposits back in any official position you desire.

Men love Freemasonry for so many reasons a catalog would be wearisome. The particular reason germane to getting something out because something has been put in, is the personal satisfaction which many receive from doing something well for the pure love of accomplishment. The man who collects rarely finds a sympathetic audience, yet one will hunt for years for the one missing stamp in a set, or the one missing early glass decanter of a certain period and find infinite satisfaction in his final success. The brother with a mechanical turn of mind who fixes all the broken toys in the neighborhood is doubtless paid in childish smiles of pleasure. But if he fixes hundreds whose owners he never sees he still finds his joy in the sense that something useful has come into beingwhere before was only a wreck; the joy is in the accomplishment itself, not in the gratitude or pleasure the accomplishment gave to others.

A brother may learn the ritual of all degrees with no idea he will ever be called upon to render it; he wants only to know if he can conquer a poor memory. His satisfaction is in the knowledge that he could. If he is called on to fill the place of an officer suddenly drafted and his ritual becomes of real use to his lodge, his main joy from it is still in what he had done for the sake of the doing: Many men do love lodge and Freemasonry because there is so much which may be done which gives satisfaction from the mere doing as well as in the pleasure, instruction or benefit which may come to others.

But the contrary should also be mentioned; many who would never trouble to learn ritual for the fun of conquering it will study with a will if it helps out their fellows. What does the physician, who gives hours of his time to a clinic serving the poor without money and without price? He gives of his knowledge and skill for the sake of others. So also does the busy man who agrees to accept membership on the lodge committee on the sick and loyally goes to see every member reported ill. So does the brother who finds time to captain the Fellowcraft team or be chairman of the entertainment committee or undertake to audit the lodge books or become private chauffeur to brethren too old and feeble to come to lodge in any other way.

These receive back what they have put into their Ma sonry in the satisfaction that comes from unselfish giving Freemasonry has but one aim; to develop character in men. Her whole force and fire are devoted to that one end. One of her methods is to provide the opportunity for brethren to make their deposits in Freemasonry’s bank that they may receive back the laborers hire, the interest on the investment, or make it possible that her devotees borrow against their Masonic credit.

Therefore, he who puts into the organization, and may thus take out, receives as interest on his deposits the undoubted effect which good, true, unselfish and brotherly acts have upon his own character.

What is to be done is best done quickly; there is wisdom as well as warning in the sundial’s motto: “It is later than you think!"

The Pilgrim Way

John Oxenham

But once I pass this way.
And then — no more.
But once — and then, The Silent Door
Swings on its hinges, -
Opens . . . closes
And no more
pass this way.
So, while I may,
With all my might,
I will essay
Sweet comfort and delight,
To all I meet upon the Pilgrim Way.
For no man travels twice
The Great Highway,
That climbs through Darkness up to Light, -
Through Night
To Day.

John Oxenham knew. Martial knew, too, but said it in much shorter form: “‘Tomorrow I will live’ the fool dost say. Today itself’s too late — the wise lived yesterday!”

We never know when we will need money badly. Hence life and fire and health insurance; hence making deposits in a bank. We never know when we will most want to take from our Masonic account; hence putting in now, that we may take out tomorrow, seems only common sense.

To sum up, and ease the curiosity of any who wonder at the title, it is not only in friendship, and respect, and preferment for line, and satisfaction in doing for the sake of the job, and joy in accomplishment because it has made another happy, that we receive back our deposits with interest. It is also in affection, as the gracious and gentle Henry Longfellow knew:

Talk not of wasted affection! Affection never was wasted!
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
That which the fountain sends forth, returns again to the fountain.

The Masonic Service Association of North America