Vol. XXXVII No. 11 — November 1959

All Sons of One Father

Conrad Hahn

What is the power that holds men to Freemasonry? Nothing about the Masonic brotherhood arouses more curiosity, and in some quarters, more suspicion or resentment, than the attraction that induces a large number of intelligent men to give so much time and energy to the affairs of Freemasonry.

Why do Freemasons sacrifice so much of their leisure to the service of their lodges and other Masonic activities? Why are Freemasons so willing to travel, sometimes even great distances, just to spend a few hours with other men whom they call brothers, many of whom they do not even know personally? Why do Freemasons cheerfully support great projects for charitable and benevolent purposes, as well as magnificent buildings for their meetings and assemblies?

Much has been said about “the secrets of a Master Mason”; but to those outside the fraternity, to those who are termed Masonically “profane,” the great and unfathomable mystery of Freemasonry is the remarkable devotion of its adherents. The secrets of a Master Mason may arouse the scorn and suspicion of those who see in the great brotherhood “a secret society” whose purposes they wrongly imagine to be offensive or even dangerous. But the great secret of Freemasonry, the great incomprehensible to those who remain aloof or outside the brotherhood, is the force that draws and holds Freemasons together.

Even though the secret has been named, even though it has been revealed in the words and acts and lives of countless Master Masons, the force that activates Freemasons is still a mystery to many, and by a few it is regarded with suspicion or with scorn. Brotherhood, the real “secret” of Freemasonry, is much too simple an explanation for those who have never enjoyed the particular fellowship and companionship of a Masonic lodge. It seems to be too innocent a motive to those who will not be convinced, because of their own concern for power, that an association can exist for such a purely philosophic, moral goal. It is too naive a designation for the cynical interpreters of modern life in a fearful, materialistic world.

The belief in the possibility of genuine universal tolerance, of improving men’s relationships to their fellow man, is basic to the Masonic “secret” of brotherhood. Growing out of the Judeo-Christian concept of the Fatherhood of God and the corollary idea that we are all sons of one Father, brotherhood in Masonic philosophy has always been an inclusive ideal, which has attracted to the Craft men of all vocations and professions, men of the most diverse political beliefs, and men of all kinds of religious faiths, in spite of the fact that their daily private interests lie in the most widely separated and even contradictory planes.

Freemasons have experienced a compulsion to become united, to be at-one-ment with their fellow-men in the recognition and experience of a potentially all-embracing brotherhood. They have seen the possibility of a universal understanding in the language of Masonic symbols, which everywhere and in every age have taught the same high standards of conduct and morality that make brotherhood a reality. This is the force or power that commands the allegiance of men who call themselves Freemasons.

Of course, no one expects that an ordinary human being will feel a natural liking or sympathy for every other person with whom he comes in contact. No one really believes, and no one should expect, that all the people whom he meets will think, feel, act, and interpret the affairs of life exactly as he does. No intelligent person really supposes that all differences of taste, inclination, action, and reaction can be completely harmonized where men live together and organize themselves into communities. Is it not true even of families; it is impossible for whole tribes or nations.

Nevertheless, or just because of that fact, Freemasonry maintains that there are unifying agents that are fundamental to healthy social organizations. They are ideas, i.e. ideals, which to Masons seem best expressed by the great commandment of spiritual action, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Brotherhood becomes the exemplification of that ideal, regardless of individual differences in the way men earn their living, of the places in which they were born, in the political organizations that they support, or in the relationship to God that they have chosen to profess.

Consequently, Freemasonry sincerely believes that brotherhood is a way of thinking-feeling that makes possible a universal appreciation of mans potentials for good. Brotherhood is a mode of conduct that “hopeth all things, endureth all things,” and that can ultimately vanquish the divisive forces that keep men in bitter opposition or conflict.

Yet every thoughtful idealist recognizes the problem of individuality in such a vision of ultimate harmony and appreciation. Even a Mason may or may not be sympathetic with the personality, prejudices, and behavior patterns of another Master Mason. No man can love equally well all other men. But for men who call themselves brothers in a spiritual endeavor to build a symbolic temple of respect and understanding, the supreme law of action must always be: no matter who he is, no matter what he is, remember, he’s a brother! And just because he is a brother, it is incumbent upon me not merely to accept him as such, because it s a Masonic custom, but to regard him and to believe in him completely as a brother! brotherhood “hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

In daily life we meet some people to whom we re not attracted, and some we think we cannot bear. It is natural to feel that we wouldn’t want to invite some people into our homes, or sit down to dinner with them. It makes no difference what the source of such dislikes may be. It’s a fact we have to five with.

But for a Mason it creates a special problem if such a person, with whom he’s had a personal disagreement, comes knocking on the door of the lodge for admission. A decision is required, which tests the individual’s capacity for brotherhood, a decision that is made by a choice of black or white in the ballot box.

However, when a decision is made by the rest of the brotherhood and such an individual is elected to membership, that choice must be respected. Once a man has become a brother, he must be accepted and regarded as such, no matter how strong one’s personal antipathy or prejudice may be. Personal dislikes are sometimes mere reflections of personal vanities or weakness.

This is the reason for the great goal of Masonic education: to learn to respect a man because he’s a brother, and if possible, to love him. This is the purpose of learning “to subdue my passions.” No one can be required to love equally all those who stand in the mystic circle; but every Mason must strive to learn to respect all his brothers, to enhance that respect by justice and appreciation, and to acknowledge it unhesitatingly and gladly. That is a Mason’s obligation; that is his duty.

This is the ultimate purpose for which we have received more light in Masonry, but that light must be earned; it must be deserved. Otherwise, we are unworthy to wear the lambskin apron, to serve as builders who spread the cement of brotherly love and affection in erecting “a house not made with hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1), the temple of mankind’s mutual respect and understanding.

A truly zealous Mason will always test his progress in “the royal art” by the quality of his thinking-feeling toward those he calls his brothers. Masons speak often of their labors to smooth the rough ashlar. As a symbol of the individual Mason, the ashlar is always a test of the self. Am I still an imperfect stone, whose rough edges, the superfluities of envy, prejudice, and selfishness, still need chipping away before its surfaces can acquire the polish of friendship, love, and appreciation? Can I place the You of every brother above the Me of self, or at least upon the same level? Real brotherhood “hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

It’s really not easy to be a Freemason; and the Craft has good reason to insist on a careful and discriminating selection of those who are to be their brothers. The spiritual strength required to labor in the building of the Temple of Brotherhood is no ordinary quality; and of it will be demanded a serious and exhausting effort to discipline the emotions and the will to appreciate and to understand.

Brotherliness, however, is the essential qualification; and a mans ability to enjoy the labors on the temple is not dependent on his social status, his vocational competence, and his religious convictions. All these help to suggest the kind of man who knocks upon the door of the lodge for admission; but his zest for the experience of Masonic brotherhood can be known to but a few.

This is the reason why the spirit of brotherhood declares with the force of an immutable law: If any brother sincerely believes another man worthy of initiation, and officially approves his application for membership, it is my duty to trust him, just because he is my brother. No personal antipathy or disagreement would justify my blackball. Only moral turpitude, unlawful actions, or irreligious unbelief require my positive objection. Every Master Mason was elected because of the recommendation of a few brothers, whose words of approval were trusted by their brothers. As we were accepted and relied upon as worthy, we must extend that confidence and faith to the brother of a brother. For brotherhood “hopeth all things, endureth all things”; and out of that hope and because of that trust there have grown that remarkable devotion and loyalty that perplex so many who are not yet Masons.

No man can be certain when his brotherliness may be tested. Some challenging situations can be clearly foreseen, but others will occur with a startling suddenness. These are the moments when brotherhood is on trial, for such situations usually arise in public. These are the opportunities that real brotherhood seeks; these are the builder’s allotted tasks for laying the symbolic stones of justice, of truth, and of love.

Freemasons, therefore, cannot reserve their fraternal understanding and individual appreciation to those whom they call brothers. Freemasons cannot be brothers just in the lodge room. Tolerance and harmony are needed in wider fields of human endeavor. Freemasonry’s benevolence and search for the truth of brotherhood must be primarily a spirit that changes the quality of life all around it.

The influence wrought by Freemasons in the events that led to the founding of our great nation is significant not merely because patriots like Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Lafayette, Randolph and others were Masons, but chiefly because of the ideals that Freemasons helped to infuse into the concepts of freedom and government. The right to protest and even to rebel against injustice and tyranny; the inalienable natural rights of the individual; the respect due every man as a son of the Creator; the courtesy and dignity to which all men are entitled; the harmonizing of contrary opinions by means of deliberative assemblies; the right of every man to say respectfully what he honestly believes; the absolute freedom of conscience and religious practice; the sanctity of agreements: most of these principles were applications of the Masonic ideals of justice, truth, and brotherhood that had been fermenting for more than a century.

The most remarkable fact about the winning of American independence was the “tone” set for it by its most distinguished leaders, a spirit of noble contention that has earned for a man like Brother George Washington universal respect and acclaim. In spite of enmity and bloodshed, in spite of suffering and privation, in spite of bitter partisanship, the founding fathers displayed an unusual confidence in man’s potentials for brotherhood and understanding. They had a vigorous passion for liberty, truth, and justice. They conceived of a nation wherein all men might enjoy the freedom to accept the responsibilities of self-discipline and self- government. They dreamed of a brotherhood of well-informed citizens; and they labored with tolerant forbearance to bring it into being.

This is the great lesson that those early American patriots struggled to learn and teach: no matter who he is, no matter what he is, remember, he’s a brother! Modern Freemasons can learn much from those ancient brethren, who took up the sword to win a freedom in which brotherhood could prosper, to assure to every man the right to all the truth that makes men free, and to establish a system of government in which power and justice would be derived from the people. Imperfect as they recognized their handiwork to be, they trusted in the wisdom and the brotherliness of future generations to perfect the instrument that they had fashioned. They sincerely believed that brotherhood “hopeth all things, endureth all things,” — and eventually assures the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” to which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

And because Freemasons still share that hope and that confidence in the possibility of a universal tolerance and understanding, modern brothers still find in Masonry a compelling interest, an inspiring activity. In spite of persecutions, hydrogen bombs, and the fears of atomic extermination, Freemasons insist that man has a deathless spirit with infinite potentials for good. That is their hope and their driving spirit. That is the “secret” of a Master Mason.

The Masonic Service Association of North America