Vol. XXXII No. 8 — August 1954

Tell the Applicant

A friend asks for a petition to your lodge; or your son desires to be a member of the lodge his father belongs to; you provide the petition.

Perhaps one of these comes to you prior to asking for a petition and says, “I think I’d like to be a Mason; if I petitioned and was accepted, what might I expect to receive?”

The inquiry is natural: — any prospective candidate will want to understand what may be expected; what rewards may come from membership.

How will you answer?

Culled from many reports of many brethren on how they have replied to such natural and well-justified inquiries are the following thoughts:

You may expect to make friends; new friends; good friends; friends who will have an especial place in your gallery of intimates because Masonic friendships have a different foundation and, at times, a broader base on which to grow than those otherwise made.

What a man is socially, politically, in religion, commercially, does not count in a Masonic lodge. “We meet upon the level” is genuine, and it does NOT mean that because “all men are created equal” they remain equal. The level of Masonic friendship is the level of opportunity and of character. The friend you make in Masonry may be either “above” or “below” in “social standing”; the banker may find the janitor or the janitor the banker as a friend and neither knows any essential difference.

The lodge provides the unique opportunity for a man to know other men as men, and not as bankers or janitors or professors or carpenters or ministers or automobile mechanics.

Slowly but surely, you will come to a consciousness that you have become a part of something big — something so large that you learn about it only little by little. Next to your country, it is perhaps the biggest field in which you will ever work and play. It is big not only in history — no man knows for certain just how old Speculative Masonry is, except that in some form or another it is more than a thousand years old — but in extent. It girdles the globe. Prior to the days of dictators and communism, it was a part of every civilized country in the world. It now exists in some hundred and fifty lands, has between six and seven million members and extends its gentle influence to a greater extent than can be chronicled. Masonic light, like Shakespeare’s candle, beams its light to far places.

It is of large extent, too, in its philosophy and its teaching. Men are actually not lions and lambs, but if they were, in a Masonic lodge they could gather together in safety and happiness. In Freemasonry there is no room for partisan politics or sectarian religion. The Muslim and the Jew, the Christian, and the Parsee, may happily foregather in a lodge with no conflict in their beliefs; the Democrat and the Republican, the Socialist and the World Federationist may spend hours in each other’s company, with no argument or dispute on political theories to mar their harmony.

You will come into intimate contact with Masonic ritual; some of it you will have to learn; all, eventually, will become a part of you and give you an entry into a “home away from home” in your travels. Masonic rituals differ only in non-essentials; words, phrases: clauses are differently phrased in different lodges working under different grand lodges. But there is a solid substratum of sameness in rituals; their essentials are alike the world over, so that when you visit another lodge in no matter what far country, you will find that which is familiar, and dear because it is familiar.

You will speedily learn that a lodge has several officers; normally at least twelve, and in some grand lodges, more. These are master, two wardens, two deacons, two stewards, secretary, treasurer, tiler, marshal (or master of ceremonies), chaplain.

You may aspire to one of these. If you are interested, take part, do the tasks assigned to you willingly and well, display any talent for leadership, you will inevitably be in those ranks from which — either by appointment or election — officers are chosen. The Short Talk Bulletin of September 1943 — “Formula for the Lodge Member Who Would Be an Officer” — contains the complete story of this ambition and the ways in which it may be satisfied; here it is mentioned as only one of many opportunities you will find in lodge.

Lodge membership brings duties and responsibilities as well as pleasures and opportunities. There is always “something to do” for a willing member.

Applicants for the degrees are investigated by committees appointed for that purpose by the master. Candidate committee work is vitally important; on the way members do it and on the reports they make, the lodge depends for the quality of its membership. You may wait to be chosen or you may ask for instructions and to be given the experience.

Lodges, alas, have funerals. To be laid to rest by his brethren is a privilege of every Master Mason. The appearance of the lodge in public, the size of the attendance, the performance of this simple, dignified and normally impressive ceremony, depends on the brethren. For the officers alone do not conduct the funeral; there are pall bearers, bearers of the great and the lesser fights, the custodians of apron, acacia, gloves, etc. who help the tiler and the marshal (or master of ceremonies) see that the lodge is properly clothed and in order for the ceremony. Many lodges, especially the larger ones, summon brethren for funerals; in such, attendance may be mandatory only once in one, two, or three years. In smaller lodges, while there are less opportunities for quiet Masonic grief, there are also less brethren to manifest it, and attendance will be asked more often.

Neglect it not; to pay the last tribute of respect and affection is often of untold comfort to widow and orphans. A Mason who will not help with these duties is remiss in his attitude towards his lodge and the fraternity.

In many lodges an opportunity is offered interested brethren to take part in degree work; this may, or may not, be a step towards officership. But for the member who loves ritual and is willing to master it, such opportunities provide an outlet for the dramatic instinct that is strong in many men, and give members a chance to do something for the lodge, which, in giving them the Sublime Degree, has done so much for them.

A lodge brings opportunities for service. To be of use to one’s fellow men is a joy to most; unhappy the man so selfish that all his efforts are for himself. There are charity calls to investigate, the sick to be visited, the troubled to be comforted. Particularly are those who are ill to be shown that their brethren neglect them not. No brother who makes a visit to an ill fellow member, especially if he is not in a circle of immediate friendship, but gets a reward all out of proportion to the effort involved. The surprise and the pleasure given a housed brother by an unexpected call from a fellow member is at times so great that the visitor feels overpaid; such promptly make it a rule to go at least once to see any and every brother reported

“Service” does not mean “scratch my back and I will scratch yours.” There is no obligation on a Master Mason to deal only with Masons and those who so conceive of their Masonry have a narrow and harmful-to- the-fraternity view point. Buy from your brother if he needs it and because you want to help him; buy never from him if you desire or expect special treatment because of your mutual lodge membership. Help your brother in his business when you can because he is your brother — never because you expect a discount or special favoritism. “We belong to the same lodge — I wonder what he can do for me” is the inside-out of the right attitude, which is, of course, "We belong to the same lodge — what can I do for him?”

Especially in the smaller lodges are opportunities of personal relationships and friendly intercourse that the larger lodges, by their very size, make difficult. That Master Mason who makes it his business to know his brethren by name, by business, by church and by social intercourse can, and often does, find opportunities of service denied those whose lodges are too large for such contacts.

In the lodge you will find romance — but you must uncover it for yourself. It is to be found in books, histories, stories, and the tales of the Craft that weave it into the warp and woof of our country. The part Masonry played in the writing of the Constitution; the Masonic implications in the Declaration of Independence; the “Boston Tea Party” staged and conducted successfully by Masons; Masonry in the Revolution, the Civil, the later wars; the part Masonry played in the expansion of our country; the carrying of the Square and Compasses west; the influence Masonry had in the epic journey of Brigham Young and the Mormons; Lewis and Clark and Masonry; the Vigilantes of Montana (conceived in a Masonic lodge); Masonry’s part in the epic that is the discovery and setting aside of Yellowstone Park and thus all other national parks — these are but a few of the thousand-and-one tales that make up the romance of Freemasonry.

There is beauty in the lodge; perhaps it is better to say there is beauty in Freemasonry and some of it is to be seen in a lodge. For anyone who finds joy in poetic expression, the ritual is a well-spring. For him who finds loveliness in united effort, Freemasonry is his special field, for from the beginning — a beginning so far back in time no man may set a date to it — Freemasons have shown the world the beauty of working many men together for a common cause.

Freemasons are builders or they are nothing. The operative Masons built the great cathedrals — the mightiest efforts man has made to create beauty in his greatest cause — expression of his belief in the Fatherhood of God. No cathedral ever built by Masons was erected with “see how cheap you can do it” as a background. Always there was hope of perfection. The best carvings and stained glass; the greatest solidarity, the permanence and a sweep and majesty of proportions — these were the goals.

Speculative Freemasons erect only cathedrals in the hearts of men. Freemasonry has but one end and aim — to create character and increase its stature. And herein lies its claim to beauty, for just as the operative builders, counting no cost and working for an ideal created loveliness by such thoughts and designs, so the Freemason who labors for perfection within creates a beauty that may be found in the lodge by him who perceives with an open heart.

In the lodge you may find a new perspective on life. Note that no promise is here made and no prophecy attempted — you MAY find it.

A farmer stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon, looked for a minute, and then said, “What a terrible place to lose a cow.”

A traveler stood at Artists Point in Yellowstone, looked for a moment on the incredible canyon and the falls and remarked, “Very pretty — when do we eat?”

Such as these would find no new perspective — in lodge or elsewhere.

But if there is an open mind and a desire for something beyond the ordinary; if the newly-made Mason can understand from the beginning that neither what he has seen nor what he has heard means only what it appears to be and what it says — that there is a concealed, a covered meaning to everything in Masonry that must be looked for, self-discovered and self-understood — then, indeed, he may find his new viewpoint and think of the canyons of Masonry as something beyond a “terrible place to lose a cow”!

Robert Burns sang of “The Mystic Tie” (See Short Talk Bulletin, October 1940).

It has never been wholly defined, but every Freemason who deserves his membership knows in part at least what it is.

This you will find in lodge. This you may wind about your heart, an invisible cabletow, never to be removed once its knot is tied. This you can guard and love as one of the chief, if intangible, richnesses of life.

For the Mystic Tie is riches; it is the gold of Midas, the pot at the end of the rainbow, the diamond of the heart to the Freemason who wants its bonds, knowing that — strangely enough for a bond — it means liberty of spirit.

Nothing in these few pages is exclusive. If there are a hundred different kinds of men in a lodge, they find each a hundred different joys therein. If there are a thousand, doubtless still does each find his own treasure. No list ofwhat may be expected of lodge membership can be complete, for no catalogue may know your needs or your capacities.

But this you may expect — what you ask of a lodge it will give you; what you need from a lodge is there for you to take. Ask little, want less, and that is what you get. Ask much, want more, and you will find that the cornucopia of the stewards — the “horn of plenty” from which pours riches — will pour for you; pour what you want and all you want, pressed down and running over!

The Masonic Service Association of North America