Vol. XXXIX No. 1 — January 1961

Modern Education for an Ancient Craft

Clyde E. Hegman, PGM

This Short Talk was delivered by Brother Clyde E. Hegman, Past Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota, at a meeting of Educational Lodge No. 1002, Minneapolis.

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It is my hope that these views and ideas will stimulate thinking, planning, and action for a continuing advancement of Masonic education in Blue Lodges and among all individual brothers.

The word “modern” implies change. To us "modern” means up-to-date, twentieth-century, perhaps even new. Education is a process whereby we develop and cultivate ourselves both mentally and morally. By the teaching, the tenets, and the principles of an Ancient Craft, we are, through modern education, better enabled to meet the challenge of change by the practice of brotherly love under the Fatherhood of God. Operative masons learned to do by doing. They served long years of practice as apprentices and fellowcrafts before they were qualified to perform a master’s work and to earn a master’s wages. As speculative Masons today, by means of modern education, we learn to do by thinking, and by recognizing our opportunities to be men of goodwill and men of service toward all mankind.

In order to comprehend the broad scope of Modern Education in Masonry, let us consider the matter in three phases.

I. Education for the Petitioner, Candidate, and New Mason

What may a petitioner be told about Freemasonry? What can I tell my friends about the Fraternity? These questions are continually asked by thousands of brothers. The fact that such questions are asked, by our own members, is a serious reflection upon our methods of instructing candidates and the manner in which our work is done. The fact that men who have worn the square and compass for years still ask such questions is an indictment against our Fraternity and its system of Masonic education.

The first step in the “education” or enlightenment of a petitioner should start with the sponsoring brothers. Those who know the petitioner well enough to sponsor him as a man qualified to become a Mason should be prepared to answer his questions about the Fraternity before he fills out the petition. They should be the first to explain to him that Masonry is a way of life, a plan for living, which, if followed, will make a good man better — not better than someone else, but better than himself, a finer man than he was before he entered the lodge.

The second step in teaching a petitioner takes place when the investigating committee calls upon him. Each investigator should go alone to visit with the petitioner, preferably at his home, when his wife is there. Investigation should be a thorough job of checking a man’s character, integrity, habits, mode of living and all other factors fisted on the report form. However, the visit definitely should not be an inquisition. The committeeman has a golden opportunity to make it a discussion period, a time when he can be most helpful to the petitioner by enlightening — by educating — both him and his wife in a very personal way about Masonry, what it is, what it stands for, and what it does. Let us face the matter squarely. The future of America lies in the home, in the family, and its influence upon each individual member of the home. A wife’s knowledge of what her husband is doing when he decides to petition the Masonic lodge may in a large measure determine just what kind of a Mason and lodge member he will be.

The last step in enlightening the petitioner is his meeting with the lodge committee on petitioners. Practice varies among Blue Lodges, but very frequently such a committee is composed of several officers and several past masters. It has a dual function: to learn what kind of man the petitioner really is and how likely he is to be of mutual benefit to the Fraternity and to himself as a Mason, and to explain the workings of the lodge and to impress upon him the seriousness of the step he is about to take.

Following the conferral of the degrees, the worshipful master informs the candidate that he will be required to commit to memory, and pass examination in open lodge, what is frequently called the “passing lecture.” On three different occasions he is informed that the memorizing of these lectures is required so that he may be able to pass examination for admission into other lodges. This is all well and good. But when, if ever, have you heard a worshipful master say that this memorization is necessary so that the candidate, or newly-made Mason, may more fully understand and appreciate the meaning of the lessons of Masonry as portrayed in the ritualistic work?

Here we come pointedly to a consideration of “Modern Education” and "Modern Techniques for Educating a Masonic Craftsman.” It is a challenge to us to teach him to think Masonically, and to develop in his mind a love of learning.

In recent years grand lodges have recognized the need for informational booklets to be placed in the hands of a candidate or newly-made Mason immediately after the degree work. These booklets provide interpretations of the meaning and philosophy of the ritual, define words and terms, and generally serve as a primer of Freemasonry.

But merely placing booklets in the hands of the new Mason, leaving him to shift for himself, hopeful that he will return to the lodge of his own accord, is not good educational method. There is no better time to help a brother to learn the fundamentals of Freemasonry than when he is fresh from taking the degrees. Personal instruction and discussion with well-informed, devoted Master Masons is the ideal way to stimulate and hold a brother’s interest in Freemasonry and in the program of his lodge. For these reasons I recommend a “Counselor System” for personal Masonic instruction, planned and tailored to fit the needs of our Minnesota Masons. Much has been accomplished by Indiana, Ohio, and several other grand jurisdictions by the use of various methods for personal instruction.

Under this system, the worshipful master appoints well-informed Master Masons as counselors. A counselor is a brother who has prepared himself by reading, by discussion, by attendance at Masonic conferences and by many other means, to meet with candidates and new Masons for the purpose of instructing them in the fundamentals of Freemasonry, the degree work, ritual, its meaning and philosophy. A hard-working counselor will call upon his brother, or several brothers, volunteer to visit him and answer his Masonic questions, offer to pick him up, take him to lodge meetings, get him acquainted with other members, suggest or help him to acquire a real Masonic education, and urge him to take part in the program of the lodge. In its simplest form it is a “Big Brother System.” Master Masons who have already done this kind of work, even on their own and in a most informal way, attest to its effectiveness in keeping and interesting new brothers. Moreover, close lifelong friendships can grow from this fine relationship of counselor and brother.

II. A Continuing Program of Education for All Masons

This phase of Masonic education, encouraging all brothers to “think Masonically,” regardless of their age as men or Masons, presents many challenges. The subject divides itself quite naturally into three parts: educational programs, activities, and meetings sponsored by the lodge or presented in the lodge; those sponsored by grand lodge; and suggestions for an individual’s self-education.

First, let us consider educational activities sponsored by the lodge. Many ideas come to mind. One closest to my heart is the formation of a Masonic study club. This, I heartily recommend.

A study club should be an organized club, at least to the extent that it has two recognized leaders. Whether they be called president and vice president, chairman and co-chairman, or leader and assistant leader makes no difference. The point is that leadership is imperative. Membership should not be limited to local lodge members. Here is a grand opportunity to invite sojourning Masons who live in the area but hold their Blue Lodge memberships in other places. Club members will be found to be brothers who have a genuine interest, inquisitiveness, if you please, in learning more about the fullness of meaning of our ritualistic degree work, of Masonic symbolism, philosophy, origin and history, traditions, jurisprudence, and literature. Leaders should encourage members to study and discuss present day affairs in which Masons are interested. Examples are Freemasonry and Americanism, Freemasonry and the public schools, Masonry and communism.

Preparation by members for participation in a study session will entail reading of library books, Masonic periodicals, the Masonic ritual or code, and even current magazines and newspapers for up-to-the-minute subjects of interest. The study session should be so planned that the maximum of freedom of discussion by all present will be the first consideration. It may start with the reading of a paper prepared by one or several brothers, by review of a book, or magazine article, by a panel of three or four members proposing provocative statements or questions. The Masonic Service Association at Washington, D.C., has prepared a splendid manual titled Masonic Study Groups — Practical Suggestions for Organization and Function.

Let us consider other ideas for a program of education that may be of interest and inspiration to your lodge members. I suggest the formation of a Toastmasters Club, composed of members of your lodge or Masons from lodges in your area, who are eager to learn how to improve their speaking or just plain thinking on their feet. Weekly or monthly sessions conducted or patterned after the plan of Toastmasters International will attract younger Masons in particular, and all who may be in search of self-improvement in a very personal way. To start, find one brother who has been exposed to Toastmaster training. He will know how to set up a program tailored to fit your local needs. A Masonic Toastmasters Club on a state-wide basis will appeal to large numbers of brothers who welcome an opportunity for self-improvement, honest and friendly criticism from other members, and unparalleled good fellowship.

There are many other suggestions for educational events in your lodge. All can be used by a worshipful master or educational committee as parts of a planned annual program. Among these are the “Interpretation of Degree Work or Ritual.” A brother monitor, custodian, or one who has made a study of this subject, can give many challenging talks in the lodge explaining the significance of various phases of the work. These are attractive to young and old Masons alike.

“How to Investigate a Petitioner” is a topic for a program. Two brothers can be assigned to read all available pamphlets (there are many on the subject), discuss the matter thoroughly with lodge officers, and then exemplify a “Mock Investigation,” one of the prepared brothers representing an investigating committeeman and the other playing the part of a petitioner.

The reading, or better yet speaking, from one of the many hundreds of Short Talk Bulletins published by The Masonic Service Association is a real source of education and inspiration for all in the lodge. Every lodge should preserve in its library the copy it receives each month.

Exchange lodge visitations are always stimulating, especially if the visiting lodge members are given something to do or say. Some lodges have developed an especially fine reputation for performance of impressive degree work, often with five music. Such inter-lodge visitations are always to be encouraged.

In thinking further of educational features in the lodges, we must not forget the “Question Box” type of program. Questions may be written or oral, posed from the body of the lodge to a panel of specially qualified brothers. A brother who never spoke in lodge has been found to be a prolific writer of sound thought-provoking questions that taxed the ingenuity of a panel.

One last example, though there are many more possibilities, is the “Outside Speaker” brought in to give an educational or perhaps an inspirational talk to the tyled lodge, or even an open meeting including Masons, friends, and ladies. We have among our membership college professors, high school personnel, lawyers, judges, pastors, farmers, skilled craftsmen, business men, and brothers from all walks of life, many of whom are students of Masonry and eminently qualified to speak on specific subjects.

A second phase of Masonic education for all Masons relates to the services of the grand lodge. These include Masonic Area Conferences, District Fellowship Meetings, Schools of Instruction, Speakers Bureau, Film Library, and grand lodge publications, like The Minnesota Mason.

Masonic Area Conferences, to be held in eight different points in the state this year, are afternoon sessions of discussions on Masonic subjects, with all Masons and lodge officers invited, to take part in panels and forums under leaders selected from the group. These run from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. Brothers are urged to bring their ladies to attend a program especially designed for them, including cooking schools, style shows, flower arrangements, travel talks, book reviews, and readings. At 5:30 a social hour for all ladies and all Masons is sponsored by the host lodge. At 6:30, there follows a dinner and evening program of entertainment and speaking designed to appeal to all, including friends of Masons and their ladies. The grand master and other officers attend.

District Fellowship meetings, some for Masons only, others for Masons, friends and ladies, will be held in almost all thirty districts this year. Grand officers attend when possible. The evening program is one of fellowship with a strong flavor of Masonic education woven in.

Schools of Instruction in the Masonic degree work are held in every one of thirty districts for the benefit of all lodge officers and all Masons interested in having a part in the work. The schools and locations are arranged by District Representatives and approved by the grand master. They are conducted by, and are under the direction of members of the Board of Custodians. By exemplification, emphasis is placed on the proper ways of conducting all degree work in the most impressive manner for the benefit of the candidate. Points of appreciation and interpretation are stressed to inspire the best performance possible.

Our grand lodge committee on Masonic research and information has established a speakers bureau comprised of Masons particularly qualified on certain Masonic subjects. Recommendations will be made on calls from constituent lodges. Similarly, a list of films particularly suitable for showing in lodges is now available. Directions will be given by the grand secretary’s office how to obtain film rentals. In addition, this same committee is compiling lists of recommended Masonic books and reading materials that can be obtained on loan from several Masonic libraries.

The Minnesota Mason is a statewide publication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. It is a fine balanced publication carrying educational and inspirational Masonic writings as well as news stories and pictures of significant events in the lodges of our grand jurisdiction. It is also an effective means of communication between lodges and grand lodge.

Modern grand lodges will put to work some of the professional educators who are brother Masons. Young men today are being taught by entirely new methods and techniques, like the intensive conversational method of learning a foreign language and the “animated” films for teaching mathematics, science, and mechanics developed by the Armed Forces. One of the most modern techniques being developed in graduate schools of education is material for self-teaching devices like the “teaching machine.” Television has made this an age of visual communication. Freemasonry should set to work its professional educators to study the possibilities in all these modern techniques for more effective Masonic education.

A third kind of Masonic education for all Masons is that which an individual brother pursues for his own personal self-improvement.

Included in this category is the local lodge library. Most lodges have at least a beginning of one, and some have excellent shelves of very fine books and other Masonic literature. Such libraries are continually being expanded by gifts from generous brothers and often from widows of our departed craftsmen.

Every public library has something in the field of Masonic literature. It pays to visit the public library in your community to learn what is readily available to you.

Perhaps best known to Masons is the Iowa Grand Lodge Library at Cedar Rapids. It is well worth going out of your way to visit. It has thousands of Masonic books, pamphlets, clippings, and magazines for free circulation to any Mason in the United States or Canada; return postage is the only cost. “A Reading Course in Freemasonry,” compiled by the Iowa Masonic Library, is available to any interested Mason. I recommend this to you as an excellent list of fine Masonic readings.

III. Education for Lodge Officers

I recommend to every Blue Lodge officer, from the junior steward or marshal to the worshipful master, his personal consideration and use of the suggestions and ideas described in this paper.

I urge that masters in every lodge appoint at the beginning of the year a committee on education, to help plan and implement a positive constructive program of lodge activities and Masonic education that will be attractive to all brothers of the lodge and the sojourning Masons in the community.

There are available from several grand lodge libraries various handbooks for lodge officers. Inquiries directed to the grand secretary’s office will tell you how to obtain them. Moreover, I am pleased to tell you that our own grand lodge committee on research and information is planning to prepare for Blue Lodge officers in Minnesota a handbook specially tailored to fit your needs.

My brothers, the future of Freemasonry is in the hearts and minds of all of us today, who have seen the light of Freemasonry and are willing, not only to be guided by it, but to pass the torch of freedom of learning and thought to our youth — our Freemasons of tomorrow. Without new techniques and methods of Masonic education, we shall fail to transmit the ancient skills to modern craftsmen.

The Masonic Service Association of North America