Vol. XXV No. 7 — July 1947

For the Newly Raised

“Yes, I’m a member of a lodge, but don’t seem to get much out of it. I go, of course, but I take no part in it; a lot of brethren I know seem to get much more out of it than I do. I wonder why?”

If you have such a statement to make, you can find the answer easily by looking in a mirror. There you will find the reason; the man who "belongs” but makes no effort either to integrate himself with Masonry, or to become really a part of his lodge.

For in giving you the three degrees the lodge has done all it can for you in seeing that you are properly instructed in the ritual necessary to know in order to visit other lodges. During your progress through the degrees you were the focus of attention, you were material being formed, you were a rough ashlar being made perfect. Once raised, and belonging to the lodge, it is up to you to make your lodge belong to you.

The problem — if you have the problem — is twofold and therefore has two solutions. Inasmuch as you cannot well be a “good” lodge member until you are first a "good” Mason, the first part of your difficulty is to find the way to a knowledge of what Masonry really is.

It is many things to many men. To some, it is but a pleasant gathering of good friends; to others it is a way of life. To some it is a philosophy. To many it is an opportunity for service. But to all it is a brotherhood, and it is obvious that no one can expect others to be brethren to him who cannot or will not be brother to them.

Brotherhood is not one-sided, half-hearted, a oneway street!

To read this or hear it is one thing; to know it for oneself is another.

Here are some ways to find out by personal experience what Masonry may mean to you.

Visit other lodges. If in a small town, there will be but one lodge — but another will be in the next town. Go there. Pass an examination. See “how they do it.” Go in no critical spirit, but with an open mind. You will see some things you like, some you will find less to your satisfaction. If you can visit a lodge or lodges in another jurisdiction, you will greatly inform yourself, since neither the ritual nor the practices of lodge life is the same in any two grand jurisdictions in the nation.

In your own lodge you will hear reports by the committee on the sick. Make a note of names; get addresses from the secretary. Go to see some brethren who are ill. Go the more enthusiastically if you do not know them. Never the Mason who called upon an ill brother who did not receive more in personal satisfaction than did the brother visited! You must be ill yourself, and have some men you do not know call on you because of mutual lodge membership to understand the surprise and pleasure which such visits produce. But it is brotherhood in practice; it is carrying out the teachings of Masonry to stand by the man who, for, a while at least, cannot stand upon his own feet.

Get some Masonic books and read. This should not be a task, but a pleasure. Even in an encyclopedia of Freemasonry, always valuable for reference, is interest to be found. But you do not have to begin with a work of reference; choose a book which will yield the romance, the excitement, the interest which can be had in a readable volume. In your state is a grand lodge headquarters; very probably in connection therewith is a library. Ask that library for the names of good Masonic books and where they may be obtained. Some grand lodge libraries maintain a lending service, in which books may be borrowed by mail. Half a dozen good books on the history, jurisprudence, symbolism, romance, practice of Freemasonry will open a new world to the reader who has previously thought of his craft wholly as a matter of a lodge meeting once every week or two.

Your grand lodge publishes every year a volume of Proceedings in which all the actions of grand lodge are set forth, accounts rendered, and decisions reported. The secretary of your lodge will have a copy — ask him for it. He’ll be surprised — and so will you, for many of these volumes have much of interest to any thinking Mason. If in your grand lodge is that officer known as the “fraternal correspondent”; you will find his report, of the doings of other grand lodges throughout the world, of real interest. Reading this book yearly should be a “must” for every interested brother — alas, that so many miss the opportunity to find out at first hand what the Grand Lodge of which they are a part does to justify its existence.

In your state is probably published a Masonic magazine or newspaper. If there is one, subscribe to it. If there is none, get the magazine or paper from the nearest state; all of them carry some national news of Masonry as well as stories pertaining only to local affairs. A comprehension of Masonry as a worldwide as well as a statewide organization is most helpful, and your pride in your membership will increase as you learn of the extent and the good work of the Fraternity throughout the world.

Your grand lodge either maintains a Masonic home, orphanage, sanitarium, hospital, school or similar institution, or has a Grand lodge charity foundation which offers help to the helpless which they can get nowhere else. If you are in one of the thirty-six American grand jurisdictions which maintain such an institution, make it your business to visit it. Make it a vacation, if you will; take your wife and your car on a trip and go look-see. You will be happily inspired, pleased more than you can know, made joyful to find what gentle miracles of hospitality and comfort to the very old, the very young, the very ill, are made possible by your grand lodge — and, in the last analysis, by you, since it is from your contributions through lodge dues that these expressions of brotherhood in action are made possible.

Having done all this you are in a much better position to become a vital part of your own lodge than the brother who hasn’t taken the time or the trouble to find out "what it is all about.”

Your lodge needs your help in many ways. Masonry makes no demands; she provides opportunities, she gives you the key to a door, she opens a path to your feet, but she forces you neither to use the key nor travel the path. She beckons; you may follow or not as you please.

If you follow you will travel strange ways, but you will find them increasingly pleasant the further you go.

Presumably you remembered to thank your patient instructors for their help when you learned the necessary ritual to permit you to proceed from degree to degree. They put in considerable time and a lot of effort in learning to be instructors. They receive no pay, save the satisfaction of doing something for someone else. If ritual appeals to you; if you find ritualistic work intriguing, keep on with the learning until you, too, can instruct. You will be received with open arms by the lodge instructors if you are apt at learning and patient in teaching, and such work brings its own reward, which has to be experienced to be understood.

Of course if you are to be a real part of your lodge you must attend it. You must attend on the “off” nights when nothing special is planned as well as for the “big feed,” or the entertainment, or the speech. Officers who work hard to learn and satisfactorily to play their parts in the complicated matter of initiation, passing, raising, do better work, are inspired to greater heights, with a good audience than with a poor one. Recall when you first saw the light in a Masonic lodge; doubtless you were the more impressed if the audience which had assembled to witness the solemn and beautiful ceremony of initiation was large.

But if the audience was small do not as you were done by — do as you would be done by!

In your first few evenings in your own lodge, it is good so keep very still until you know what is going on. Any new member is as much a part of the lodge as the oldest past master and has as much legal right to get upon his feet and talk as the most venerable of brethren. But you are concerned with making yourself a part of the lodge, and making the lodge a part of you. A little discretion is indicated; you will find that lodges are not governed in the same way or by the same rules that apply to other organizations; you will find the objectives of a lodge quite different from those of a luncheon club or a chamber of commerce. It is wisdom to wait until you understand what is going on before trying to take part in it.

But once you are familiar with lodge procedure and practice and do know something of what is being discussed, then make up your own mind and speak your own thoughts. You may be opposed by practically everyone in lodge on some matter of interest to all, but all will respect and admire you for a sane addition to the discussion and a thoughtful presentation of your ideas.

Unless your Master has heart disease, and must, therefore, be shielded from shock, ask him for committee work. There are always committees on applications for the degrees and for affiliation; always committees on visitors; always committees on various matters affecting lodge life. Your Master will be delighted to have an applicant for such work, and, if he grants your request and puts you on a committee, you can consider yourself honored, committees, no matter for what purpose appointed, have in their charge the reputation of the lodge. It is an honor to be appointed; it is, therefore, honorable to seek such appointment.

There are usually some unwanted assignments in lodge. Few actions will make you more at home with your brethren than accepting one or more of these. Whether it is volunteering to be among the serving brethren on the night of a “big feed,” or a dishwasher afterwards, or a conductor of candidates in some specially important degree (which will mean rehearsals, which take time) or helping the tiler arrange the room, or whatever, tell yourself that there is no such thing as menial Masonic work and that service hangs about the neck of the giver a jewel which gleams no less brightly that it is invisible to the physical eye.

It goes without saying that you should not desire to supplant any brother, who, like you, is trying to serve. Curiously enough, some brethren actually like the jobs that no one else wants. If he has some work to do and does it well because he likes it, don t take it from him, even if you can do it better. Live and let live goes as much for labors in a lodge as in everyday life.

Take part in degree work. Few acts will so endear you to others, or bring greater personal satisfaction, than being a part of the team which confers any of the three degrees. It may be a very humble part with which you start, but someone has to do it. If your lodge has a Fellowcraft Team, join it. If your lodge confers degrees on more than one candidate at a time, your services as a conductor will be welcomed. Learn a part; learn to be a steward, a deacon, especially a senior deacon. If you are good at ritual your chance will come, and the more you know, the more parts you can take if necessary, the sooner the opportunity will arrive when you can “pinch hit” for the suddenly ill, or the officer called out of town.

Attend funerals. It is a real task to take some hours from a busy day to attend the funeral of a man you do not even know by sight. Too frequently is the duty neglected. Only the bereaved can testify to the solace given by a well-attended, well-conducted Masonic funeral, in which many brethren express their sorrow by their silent attendance at a ceremony which says a last farewell in this life to one who was a member of the Craft. Don’t say — don’t even think — “But I’m only one — I won’t be missed.” If all brethren say or think that, then the funeral service is robbed of its solemnity, and the sympathy expressed to the wife, parents or children is but a token, a mockery. It is not for the brother who has folded his apron and laid down his working tools that you go, but to offer the consolation to those who mourn — and this is real brotherhood.

The good lodge member pays his dues promptly. The secretary is a hard-working, self-sacrificing, unselfish brother. He has worries in plenty without being made to write extra letters, make extra telephone calls, pay extra visits to careless brethren who “forget” to pay their dues. The secretary has pride in the record of his lodge. He is charged by law with doing certain things at certain times; closing his books, making returns to grand lodge, making a report to the lodge. Help him by taking your dues off his books and his mind. One bill for dues should be enough; two includes one which should be unnecessary.

Finally, don’t play politics on your lodge. Don’t align yourself with any faction which is pro or con on any matter of election or appointment. Don’t permit yourself to be involved in any “gang” or “ring” or "clique” which attempts to be the tail which wags the dog! A healthy interest in elections and appointments is to be desired; a partisan attitude which helps split the lodge into two opposing factions is never healthy and is always a deterrent to harmony. And a lodge without harmony — what sort of a lodge is that?

In brief outline these are some of the ways in which a newly-raised brother can soon be “of” as well as “in” the lodge. It is not likely that any brother will use them all, nor need he do so. But here are the path, the door, the key — who uses enough to walk even a little way into the fair fields of lodge life will find himself a Masonic garden in which the East is bright and the blossoms fair!

The Masonic Service Association of North America