Vol. XXXI No. 1 — January 1953


The Entered Apprentice is to serve his time “with freedom, fervency and zeal.” In the Charge to the Entered Apprentice he is cautioned “Neither are you to suffer your zeal for the institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it.”

The dictionary defines the word zeal as “passionate ardor for cause — disinterested eagerness.”

He who is zealous in the cause of Masonry, then, is disinterestedly eager to promote it, has a passionate ardor for its principles, but must not use either to defend it to the ignorant.

This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult courses of conduct for the newly raised and enthusiastic Mason to learn. Often he is so filled with admiration of newly acquired Masonry, so protective of the good name of the Fraternity, so anxious to draw his verbal sword in defense of its principles and practices that he rushes to the support of the Institution at the first word of criticism, ridicule or scoffing that reaches his too sensitive ear.

This Bulletin is not concerned with giving him the arguments to use, nor with arming him with weapons he is cautioned not to wield. It is intended to help him defend the fair name of Freemasonry to himself and himself only, and thus be enabled to smile and turn away from those who, knowing little of the Fraternity, criticize it greatly.

For Freemasonry has its critics. The so-called “intelligentsia” who make a cult of non-conformism and have a cynical standpoint about everything can, and frequently have, referred to the “puerilities and absurdities of Freemasonry.” Freemasons are not infrequently called Babbits, morons, hunters of titles, men who desire to be big fish in small puddles, mob-minded, silly and even worse.

Sometimes a Freemason who knows too little of the Craft he has joined maybe led to wonder at Freemasonry’s silence in the face of such criticisms.

Freemasonry does not need to defend herself. She can point to the record and let it go at that; Freemasons should be silent, except to themselves.

To themselves they may read these pages and repeat these truths.

Freemasonry is older than any existing flag, government or philosophical institution.

Something kept it alive. Something in it was a necessity to the men who cherished it. Some vital spark has kept burning in the face of ridicule, persecution, torture, anti-Masonic laws, inflamed public opinion, and oppression.

Is it logical for anyone of intelligence to dismiss an institution with such a life story as “puerile”?

Thousands of men have given an utter devotion to Freemasonry with little knowledge of that to which they attached themselves. Other multiplied thousands of men of the highest intelligence, greatest education and largest skills have devoted life-times to study of the Ancient Craft. Have these men been so deceived that they studied only an absurdity and loved only a joke?

Thirteen Presidents of the United States have been members of the Fraternity. Two of them (including Harry S. Truman) have been grand masters of Masons. Congress is invariably composed of men a majority of whom are Masons. Kings have been devoted to the Craft. Military and Naval officers, including five star Generals and Admirals are devoted Masons. Are these men all fooled by “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals”? Have they followed a will o’ the wisp? Does the critic of Freemasonry seriously aver that his intelligence, education, understanding, comprehension are greater than all of these, because he alone is able to see the “absurdities” of Freemasonry (while the leaders of nations, the legislature of our country, a majority of our state Governors, and our judges embrace the teachings of the gentle Craft?

Many of the founders of our nation were Masons — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, John Marshall among them. Hundreds of patriots served America — John Paul Jones, Lafayette, Sam Houston, Robert Peary for instance. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; many of those who drafted the Constitution were members of the Craft. Were these men whom even the scoffer dares not ridicule, all fools that they found something in the Fraternity that made them cherish it?

Some twenty-five thousand books have been written on the subject of Masonry. These books have found publishers. An immense amount of time has gone into their writing and a great sum into their printing and sale. Were all these authors and publishers and the purchasers and readers, greater in number than any armed force ever supported by the whole world at once, all of the mental age of a child?

Men are, indeed, often mistaken. Americas greatest mathematician, Simon Newcomb, “proved” that no machine made of materials that were heavier than air could ever fly. You may search any modern text book on physics and find no mention of the “ether” which for years was our only explanation of the means of travel of gravity, electricity, magnetism.

It may be that in the millennium to come man will find a greater philosophy, a more wholesome natural religion, a finer fellowship than Freemasonry now offers.

But it will not be discovered, formulated or made to grow by the iconoclasts who offer nothing in the place of the Craft at which they laugh.

Some ideas of an older day were scoffed out of existence only to come back more strongly in an age of better science. The alchemist searched for the philosopher’s stone that would transmute base metal into gold. The nineteenth century laughed him out of Court. The twentieth has accomplished in the laboratory that which he sought. The flying machine that Newcomb said could never fly today girdles the earth.

Within the past year or two some stories of Freemasonry have appeared in magazines of national circulation. The general tenor was that of a tolerant amusement on the part of writer and publisher. Many statements were made in these stories that were wholly or partially inaccurate. Neither writers nor publishers cared enough to investigate, consult authorities or obtain facts on which to base their ridicule. Nor was it brought out in such stories that Freemasonry supports forty-nine Masonic homes, hospitals or Charitable Foundations; that Freemasons who are Shriners support seventeen hospitals for the cure of crippled children of all races and creeds, that 16,000 lodges spend millions yearly in charity.

Cities support hospitals. Cities have many charitable organizations. In most cities in the nation are Community Chests to support many of these. Are the citizens who do this fools or do they just become fools when hospitals and charity are supported by them as Masons?

Freemasonry originated we know not either when or how. Our earliest document is dated approximately 1390. That our modern Speculative Society grew from a Masonry that was mainly operative but, apparently, always partly speculative, is an historical fact that ridicule can no more dispose of than it can of the fact the Declaration of Independence was written, caused a war and the birth of the American nation. Laughter can no more hurt facts than thunder can injure a man. Both laughter and thunder are only noise.

In its operative (and in the beginning, partly speculative days) Masons were concerned in building, among other things, great churches, cathedrals, monasteries, nunneries. The modern scoffer laughs loudest when religion or church is mentioned — an even louder laugh than he reserves for Freemasonry. But that does not alter the fact that unnumbered millions of human beings found the church, the cathedral, the monastery and the nunnery essentials of life and depended upon Masons to build them and upon the philosophy of Masonry to cause the builders to build well.

Both the inside and the out
Wrought they with the greatest care,
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.

was written of that careful and honest craftsmanship that made beauty as it wrought in magnificence.

The years became a long procession. Handcraft gave way to the machine age. Power appeared in the hands of men. The engineer and the architect and the contractor super-ceded the King’s master workman and his lodge of builders. As an operative craft, Masonry no longer fills the place of its ancestors. But as a Speculative Craft there are now, and have been for many years, more Freemasons alive on earth in any one moment than were ever, in all ages, devoted to building cathedrals.

The operative craft is in eclipse. The speculative side of Freemasonry is greater, more alive, more vital, with more roots in society and more reason for existence than it ever was in cathedral building days.

What has kept it alive? Why has it not changed? What did the speculative side of Freemasonry have in the Middle Ages, which lived and grew and expanded and became worldwide?

Something for the iconoclast to laugh off? Or a philosophy, a body of teachings, a promotion of a character, a bringer of sweetness to men’s hearts?

Freemasonry’s greatest gifts to the world have been accepted only in parts of the world and only in part, where accepted at all. It is to Freemasonry that the world owes the conception that labor is dignified and not menial. In this country particularly do the vast majority of men — even the iconoclast and the intelligentsia — work. We are workmen whether we keep or write or publish books, practice medicine or law, preach or proselyte, run a lathe, dig a foundation, sow and reap a field or act as president of a bank or chairman of the board of a steel company. It is only a few hundred years ago that all labor was menial and all laborers either serfs or slaves — actual or economic. It was Freemasonry that fought for and insisted upon a new conception of the essential dignity of labor and that the man who wrought not, lived not; who contributed not, really was not man at all.

It was Freemasonry’s idea and ideal that all men are equal, long before the patriots of Colonial days declared all men created equal, with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The equality of men — not of laborers — was a necessary corollary to the dignity of labor. The two marched hand in hand first to amaze, then to incense, and finally to be accepted by most of the civilized world.

Are these teachings to be thrust into the limbo of forgotten things by the ridicule of the uninformed?

Freemasons at times have themselves brought ridicule upon the Fraternity, even when engaged in what they believed to be honest propaganda. The Masonic press today occasionally repeats such fantastic claims as that all Washington’s generals were Freemasons, all presidents were masters of lodges, all members of Congress are Masons. Historians with good intentions and poor perspective have sought for the origin of Freemasonry in the Mystery religions of the ancient world, in the Crusades, in the efforts of the House of Stuart to recover the throne of England, and this in spite of the plain evidence that modern Freemasonry is a direct descendant of ancient operative Masons of the Middle Ages. Freemasonry’s Dr. Oliver, now cherished as a devoted Freemason but no longer an authority, traced Freemasonry to the Garden of Eden with Adam as the first grand master! He did not state Eve to be the first Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star; the ladies’ organization had not been invented when Oliver wrote.

Such claims, of course, could be laughed at by the well-informed, but the well-informed do not laugh at false claims; they pity them. It is the uninformed who scoff at the real claims.

“To be scorned by one that I scorn, is that a matter to make me fret?” asked Tennyson. The Koran states:

On the day of resurrection, those who have indulged in ridicule will be called to the door of Paradise and have it shut in their faces. They will be called to another door, and again, on reaching it, see it closed against them, and so on ad infinitum.

Freemasonry hath her faults. Her government is slow to move. In America many have come to believe that power lies in numbers and that making members is more important than making Masons. Not always are the forbidden subjects of politics and religion kept

from our actions in lodges even if they are unspoken. How can Freemasonry be perfect when it is made up of men? Is the church perfect? It too is made up of men. But no sensible man decries the church because a minister may fall from grace, and no sensible man can laugh away Freemasonry because Freemasons do not always follow the Craft’s teachings.

Some people go to church to show off new clothes, because it is the thing to do, to assure themselves of the esteem of their neighbors.

Some men join lodges to become leaders of a small group, to wear a sword and strive to win influence for their businesses.

But these are the exceptions. Most men, who support a church, love the church and try to follow its teachings. Most men, who become Freemasons and work at it, do so for an honest love for an organization that gives them something they cannot otherwise secure.

It is not the fault of the religion when the churchgoer fails.

It is not the fault of Freemasonry when the Freemason fails.

It is the fault of the men who fail.

Those who must laugh may legitimately do so at the hypocrites. When they include the honest in their laughter, it is themselves they make ridiculous.

In its last two hundred years, Freemasonry has offered a lesson to most, if not all the religions of the world, which still fight among themselves. Some of the most bloody battles of history have been fought over the proper name of God. The Inquisition tortured its thousands in the name of God. The two hundred and some Protestant sects of this country stand today divided, upon form, ceremony, belief, ritual, practice, and idea. It remained for Freemasonry not only to show but to practice that men of all faiths might kneel about a common altar and worship each his own God under whatever name he chose, and do so in peace and harmony and good will and fellowship and happiness.

If the critic will laugh away the church, religion, and God in one breath he may surely laugh away Freemasonry in the next — but does he not make himself the real laughing stock in his two breathings?

Our ancient brethren wrought first in stone and then upon the human mind and heart. Brethren of today carve no marble nor make stained glass windows, erect no flying buttresses and tile no roofs. But today Freemasonry carves the heart in a design of beauty, opens the stained glass window of the soul to more light and tiles the roof of man’s outlook on life with a glimpse of the starry-decked heavens, where the stars declare the glory of God and the heavens sheweth his handiwork

Let who will laugh.

Let none argue with the scoffer.

The Masonic Service Association of North America