Vol. XXXV No. 1 — January 1957

Harry LeRoy Haywood

An Appreciation

It is a year since Harry LeRoy Haywood entered the Grand Lodge Above, February 25, 1956. This tribute has been purposely delayed for a twelve month period that a perspective of time might perhaps tone down the expression of an almost lifelong admiration and reverence for great accomplishment. What is here written and quoted then, is not the result of instant shock or grief, but a considered statement of what, to one student of Freemasonry, this remarkable man and mind came to be.

The Freemasonry of the entire world has received untold benefits from the “Great Three” American Masons, who shed the light of their learning, their labors and their spirit on the Craft — Mackey, Drummond, and Pike. Not even England, with her Hughan and Gould and Speth, has offered a greater contribution than these, the greatest American Masons of all time.

But scarcely lower than their eminence, some names should be written large — and history will so write them. Even as our small world of students, librarians, researchers and writers upon Freemasonry now feels a desolation too deep for tears at Haywood’s sudden death, so those who follow will, without the grief, rise up and call blessed the name of this most modest and unassuming of men, who made such an incredible, unbelievable contribution to Masonic literature, history, biography, poetry!

It has been estimated that Haywood wrote twenty million words on Masonic subjects, but surely those who provide the figures are emphasizing quantity and not quality. It is not how much he wrote but what he put on paper that immortalizes him.

And “what he wrote” was the result of long study, deep research, the investment of, first, his spare time, then his whole time, much of it spent in that magnificent source of Masonic information, the Grand Lodge Library of Iowa, at Cedar Rapids.

His early books — Symbolical Masonry and The Great Teachings of Masonry fine as they are even today, but faintly foreshadowed what this teacher was yet to do. Both of these volumes demonstrate that Haywood had the heart of a poet, although neither contains any of his verses. Indeed, he had rather a low opinion of his actual poetic efforts and differed gently, but with emphasis, with those who stated their beliefs that his “God’s Freemasonry” held a poetic content greater than any ever exhibited in Masonic poetry by Burns or even Kipling. Here the poetic flavor of much of his prose is emphasized as appearing in his earliest volumes. Read and enjoy this paragraph from Symbolical Masonry:

What is the equality of which Masonry has ever been so ardent and advocate? We may answer, first, that it is a task. In ways without number men are unequal by birth and by circumstances; one man is born in a city slum, another in a circle of wealth; one is endowed with talent, another is condemned to mediocrity; one seems to be bound in by an iron wall of disabilities, while another finds the gates of opportunity opening out on all sides. Our Fraternity’s solution of this problem of the inequalities of fate and fortune is to bring all the diverse men into a circle of brotherhood, where each can share with the others, the learned giving of his knowledge to his less enlightened mate, and the strong helping to bear the burdens of the weak. From this point of view the equality of Masonry is like that of a family in which the members may contribute little or much, but all share equally, and the law is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Haywood authored some thirty books, some fifteen hundred articles, delivered more than a thousand addresses (before a throat affliction caused him to give up speaking in his later years).

And let it be said here that no one who heard Haywood speak ever forgot it. He had and needed none of the tricks of the orator; he depended entirely on what he said, not on how he said it, to keep his audience on the edges of chairs. Poetic? Yes. Factual? Yes. Interesting? Always. But his especial spirit of speech was found in the conviction his hearers immediately received that here was sincerity and here was knowledge.

Of many authors many critics differ as to the most important or most valuable work; such judgments, being matters of opinion, naturally differ as between man and man, and mind and mind. But just as it is universally agreed that Mackey’s greatest contribution was the Encyclopedia, so, it appears, Haywood’s greatest offering to the Masonic world is his third volume of that work, a book of some 400,000 words, not counting the several appendices, which are almost as great in size as the volume itself. These are “Reader’s Guide,” “Biblical References,” “Glossary of Masonic Names,” “Masonic Dictionary,” “How to Use the Index,” “General Index” (to all three volumes), and “Index to Illustrations.”

Lest some reader read from the admiration expressed in these few pages that this appreciation is wholly a panegyric, let it be noted here that Haywood departed not infrequently from the impersonal standpoint of the true encyclopedist, to the editorial, even the personal standpoint, of a, at times, somewhat prejudiced commentator.

This was well recognized by his publisher in the Publisher’s Preface to Haywood’s Supplement to Mackey. This flaw — if it is a flaw! — in Haywood was recognized also by critics to whom this work had been submitted prior to publication.

In the light of Haywood’s achievements and the perspective of the decade since the Supplement was published, perhaps both publisher and critics might revise their views. Now that Haywood has joined the immortals, perhaps his Supplement to Mackey is the more, rather than the less, valuable, that there creep into it, now and then, opinions, beliefs, even hopes. At least these may now be considered to have the importance and the weight of an authority few have the right to question.

In all justice to Haywood, let it be said he does not attempt to disguise editorial opinion as fact. What he knows, he states; what he believes, he writes as a belief; no coward, Haywood, but willing to stand as strongly behind his considered opinions as behind his data. And this, considering the man’s gentle nature, retiring attitude and complete modesty, is a tribute to the courage and the manhood that inhabited the body and the mind of the scholar.

Of his later books, two — nay, three! — stand out above all his works in the opinion of most of those who depend on Haywood for accurate information.

Two of these are The Newly-Made Mason and More About Masonry.

Agreed that these are poor titles, one does not taste a feast by the name of its dishes!

One historian in a thousand has the strange mental gift of “total recall” — the ability to remember not a little, not a part, not a fraction, but a whole. The possessor of total recall reads a book and for all time can recall what he read, where he read it. And this strange faculty is seldom or never trusted by its possessors; he does not depend upon it for anything more than knowledge of “where to look” to confirm that which he recalls before he writes it.

Haywood had total recall in a very large measure. What he read he remembered; he did not have to study — one reading and what he had read was his.

Both of these books (copyright 1948) would have taken another writer two or three years to compile even in skeleton form. Merely to have made an outline, developed a table of contents of either book, should have taken any competent researcher, in a fine library, months, if not years, of effort. Haywood, with his grasp of facts — a human encyclopedia — could develop such a pair of volumes in a week or so and write each of them practically from memory in a couple of months.

Haywood had some predispositions in his thinking with which many Masonic authorities disagree. He gives too much emphasis, so say some of his critics, to the influence that the Polychronicons of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had upon Freemasonry. There are many who disagree with him in his conclusions about Lawrence Dermott and the supposed “schism” as the cause of the “Moderns” versus the “Antients” in London in the middle of the 18th century.

But few will dispute the breadth of his mental panorama of Freemasonry, or refuse the admiration that must always be given a tremendously impressive mural. And that is what these two books are — a great horizon, a far-flung plain, an enormous plateau, a towering mountain range. Make what comparison you will to nature, here in two volumes is the body and the mind of Freemasonry and enough short history to make the reader pant for more. As for Haywood’s expansive outlook, read just one paragraph from The Newly-Made Mason:

There is nowhere a Masonic type. In that moment when a Candidate becomes a member, he becomes a member alongside Easterners and Westerners, New Englanders and Southerners, Mexicans and Texans, Jews, Mohammedans, Hindus, Chinese, Malayans, sailors, bankers, farmers, loggers, actors, mountaineers, scholars, rich men, poor men, Democrats and Republicans, Monarchists and Commoners, White men, Black men, Yellow men; and when it is said that a Candidate becomes a member along with each and every one of those, words are used in their hardest and most liberal sense; whether near or far, or whatever station or language or religion or country, they are his fellow members in the same sense as, and as much as, the men in his own local lodge. If anything is true, it is that when a Candidate comes into Freemasonry he comes solely as a man; after he is in it, he is never anything more, or less, or other.

Before considering what this writer believes to be his most brilliant, as it was his last, published book, read for a moment a brief biography taken from the pages of the Indiana Freemason and Iowa Grand Lodge Bulletin:

Harry LeRoy Haywood was born near Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1886; spent a brief period in college but for the most part was self-taught (and what a brilliant job he did!); entered the ministry for a few years, then became a school teacher and in 1921 was appointed editor of The Builder the now extinct official publication of the National Masonic Research Society. He received his Masonic Degrees in Acacia Lodge No. 176 at Webster City, Iowa, being initiated May 3, 1915 passed May 17, 1915, and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason June 7, 1915. He affiliated with Waterloo Lodge No. 105 on December 12, 1916; later with Publicity Lodge No. 1000 in New York City; on May 4, 1951, he affiliated with Mizpah Lodge No. 639 at Cedar Rapids. He was a member of Zarephath Consistory at Davenport and Tabernacle Chapter, R.A.M., at Waterloo. He was also for some years editor of the New York Masonic Outlook.

In 1952, the writer of these pages conceived an idea for a short history of each of this nations forty-nine grand lodges; a history that would try to catch their spirit, rather than be devoted merely to dates and events. It was no stroke of genius; simply long knowledge of and a friendship with a great teacher of Masonry that turned this student toward Haywood for this job. For many years this Editor wrote to the Maestro as “Baloo” and Haywood to him as “Mowgli” (those who recall Kipling’s Jungle Books will remember Baloo the bear as teacher and Mowgli the “wolf-raised boy” as student!) Asking Haywood to write this history of what for lack of better words might be called the souls of grand lodges was inevitable.

The result was Well-Springs of American Freemasonry. Haywood was not only poetic in his writing; he had a “way with him” — an odd slant of mind, a choice turn of phrase, a microscopic eye to the inside of things and events; a single example from this extraordinary book will have to do here. It is the closing two paragraphs of his story of Vermont:

If a man could move outward far enough into space to be able to gather in the whole of American Masonry with the eye, he would search through it for a while to see what he could see, and would then study it, and ponder it, and at last would get the feeling of the whole of it. After a time he would notice somewhere in it a certain patch of greenness. It would be, in fact, a sort of evergreenness. After he had noticed how proudly it held its head, how it refused to be blackened by fires, or flattened by storms, or trampled by its enemies, he would recognize it.

It would be Vermont and he would know how good a thing it has been for American Freemasonry to have a Vermont in the midst of it.

And the book, the whole book? This pen has struggled to write his admiration and respect, and express his deep sense of obligation without repeating what he wrote as a Foreword. But with no success. His Foreword states his beliefs as no other words may do, so he repeats it here:

The Standard Dictionary distinguishes between “history,” as a record of events and “philosophical history,” as descriptive of the causes of events and the resulting consequences.

To the editor’s mind, this document is the most extraordinary ever written of American Masonic history. There is nothing like it in Masonic literature anywhere, in any age. Delightfully, it follows no historical format in its discourse. Masonic history is usually a compilation of dates, places, names, and events: "The Grand Lodge of Texayork was formed in 1827 when three lodges met in Hillsdale and elected John Doe as the first grand master.”

But why the lodges met, why John Doe was selected, whence came the impetus to form, what has been the mainspring that caused fife and growth — these are too often missing. Most Masonic chronicles drably recount only the skeleton of what was a newborn Masonic life that grew to become a vigorous and important Masonic body.

In these pages geography, people, surroundings, ancestry, difficulties surmounted, are vastly more important than dates, or even events. Here are causes of life and growth; herein is the spirit, the soul behind the organization. Few can define “the American way of life,” yet instinctively we know that the growth of this country from thirteen struggling colonies to a great nation was in essentials the result of courage, adventure, pioneering, curiosity, strength, all rooted in rugged honesty and consciousness of the rights of man and the dignity of the human being.

But few secular histories count these as important as wars, politics, elections, treaties, purchases of land, growth of railroads, increase in population.

Masonic history, no matter how accurately told — and few dispute the accuracy of Gould or Mackey — has lacked the motivation that has been the life-source of the spread and growth of the Ancient Craft.

Here it is set forth in brilliant words, in phrases that scintilate, in a conception of the driving force in men’s minds which demanded fraternal manifestation as a spiritual necessity essential to happiness.

Haywood is here offered a measure of admiration and respect bounded only by a far horizon, for having caught a sunbeam and pinned it to a page, captured a perfume and turned it into a song, laid the hand of accurate reporting upon intangibles and metamorphosed them into a tale as breathless in the reading as it is swift in the telling.

Here is a large and glowing canvas painted in forty-nine clear colors which limn Freemasonry in America as a great romance.

Could this pen award honors for great writing, to this author it would inscribe a diploma summa cum laude.

Some Books by Harry LeRoy Haywood

  1. Facts and Fables of the Craft. Dollar Masonic Library, No. 7.
  2. Famous Masons. Chicago: Masonic History Co., 1944.
  3. Freemasonry and Roman Catholicism. Chicago: Masonic History Co., 1944.
  4. Great Teachings of Masonry. New York: 1923.
  5. History of Freemasonry. New York: 1927.
  6. An Introduction to Freemasonry. Prepared and distributed by the Commission on Masonic Education of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. Detroit: 1925. Dollar Masonic Library, No. 1.
  7. More About Masonry. Chicago: Masonic History Co.
  8. Newly-Made Mason. Chicago: Masonic History Co., 1948.
  9. A Story of the Life and Times of Jacques DeMolay. St. Louis, Missouri: 1925.
  10. Supplement to Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (vol. 3). Chicago: Masonic History Co., 1946.
  11. Symbolical Masonry, an Interpretation of the Three Degrees. New York, 1923.
  12. Vest Pocket History of Freemasonry. Reprinted from The Builder, Anamosa, Iowa.
  13. Walrus and the Carpenter. Dollar Masonic Library, No. 9.
  14. Well-Springs of American Freemasonry: A Historian Looks at Our Forty-Nine Grand Lodges. Washington, D.C.: 1953.

Question Box

This column will attempt to answer questions about Freemasonry.

What is the significance of the Northeast Corner?

Cornerstones are laid in the Northeast corner — Entered Apprentices stand in the Northeast corner of the lodge. The point midway between the darkness of the North and the brilliance of the East was chosen by ancient builders as the point of beginning, a spot to mark a birth the commencement of a new structure. Obviously, he who stands in the darkness has no light; as obviously he on whom falls the whole light of the brilliant East and its rising sun is not in darkness. The point halfway between, then, is a symbol of a beginning — the traveller has left the darkness and moved towards the light. Those who build have left the “darkness” in which is no building, and progressed far enough towards the “light” to lay a foundation stone — a place that by its position symbolizes movement away from blackness into the day.

The symbolism of the Northeast corner in the Entered Apprentice Degree is taken from this ancient practice of laying the cornerstone in the Northeast corner. He who stands there in the lodge, "a just and upright Mason,” is himself a cornerstone of the lodge that will be. A lodge is erected not only by, but upon, her sons. The Entered Apprentice of today is the veteran Mason and lodge member of tomorrow.

Whence comes the due guard?

It is a symbol of obligation; a reminder by him who uses it to all who see him do so that he remembers his promises. Masonic authorities are not in complete agreement as to the derivation of the words, although they unite as to what the words signify. Mackey thinks the words mean “to duly guard against." Lesser authorities are convinced the phrase has a French derivation coming from “Dieu Garde” - God guard (me or you).

It is universally used as a salute to the master before the altar and to the wardens during the conferring of a degree.

The Masonic Service Association of North America