Vol. XLIV No. 1 — January 1966

Who Are You?

Conrad Hahn

In the Acts of the Apostles there is recorded a thought-provoking story about Paul, on the occasion of his visit to Ephesus, the city in Asia Minor famous for one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple to the Diana of the Ephesians. While this anecdote has a specifically Christian origin, its moral application is universal.

Chapter nineteen informs us that Paul “did extraordinary miracles,” so that “handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Just what these miracles were is not explained to us specifically. To modern psychiatrists there is probably no more of the miraculous in Paul’s cures than they can see daily in a well-staffed and properly equipped psycho-neurological institute.

What seems to have been the important element in Paul’s technique of healing the mentally sick and disturbed, the “casting out of evil spirits,” was his dynamic belief in the power of Jesus Christ to save men from spiritual death and disability.

With an almost superhuman intensity, he would address the spirit of the sick man and say, “I adjure you in the name of Jesus the Christ to come forth!” And to those who had felt the over-powering conviction of Paul’s faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, there came release from pain and dark confusion — the miracle of a spiritual transformation that modern medicine has begun to recognize and make use of.

At the same time there were in Ephesus some “itinerant exorcists” — traveling fakers whose closest modern counterparts would probably be the barkers of patent medicines who monopolized the outskirts of our county fairs a half century ago. These conjurors had a patterned “spiel” by which they worked upon mentally disturbed people to achieve a temporary exaltation in which they seemed to be cured. Having collected their fee, the exorcists quickly sought another corner to ply their trade and to distract the crowd from their temporary successes.

Paul’s healings, however, seemed to be more conclusive, more permanent. The exorcists, being “good businessmen” in an enterprise that depended on the huckster’s technique, studied Paul’s methods to discover the secret of his power. Since his method was so much simpler and direct, they concluded that Paul’s power lay in a magic formula of words, an incantation that they thought he was uttering when he cried out, “I adjure you in the name of Jesus to come forth!”

So, mistaking the verbalism for the power of the spirit that Paul was able to communicate, the seven exorcists “borrowed” his words of adjuration to win more “suckers” for their get-rich-quick scheme.

Approaching one of the troubled Ephesians, the leader of the seven, the sales-manager, so to speak, cried out in a loud voice, “I adjure you by the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come forth!”

“But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’” (Acts 19:15)

And then in a frenzy, the madman leaped upon the seven exorcists with a maniacal fury, so that they were forced to flee, their clothing all tattered and torn, their faces scratched and bloody.

It’s a trite observation that “this is a crazy world.” A little knowledge of elementary psychology leads the average student to think that everyone might be scrutinized for signs of mental aberrations or slight psychotic disturbances. One is reminded at this point of the old Quaker who said to his friend, "Everyone is a little queer, except thee and me, and sometimes I think thee is a little queer too.”

Consequently, the thoughtful Mason shouldn’t be too surprised at the reaction, if he should ask this question of a brother, “The Great Architect of the Universe I know, and a Master Mason I know, but who are you?”

The average man in these perplexing times would probably change the subject as quickly as possible. Anyone who asks a question like that must be “a nut,” sanely unbalanced, or calmly disturbed, since he doesn’t leap wildly on his listener to emphasize the doubts contained in his question.

Yet, there is a point to the question, “Who are you?”

“A brother Master Mason,” would be the usual reply, “who pays his dues regularly and tries to help out once in a while.”

But is that enough in these days of confusion and doubt? The restless, fearful world we live in seems distressingly disturbed in its manifestations of maladjustment and ignorance. Can Masonry wield any significant influence to bring harmony to such a world merely by making dues-paying members? There is another familiar query “What makes you a Master Mason?”

The answer to that question carries us far beyond the external requirements for Masonic membership. It takes us into the area of ideals and solemn commitments, the obligations assumed by every Master Mason at the altar of his lodge. What are those commitments? Are the Masons really fulfilling their solemn obligations?

Do we Masons convey to “the crazy world” around us a deep spiritual conviction akin to that of the Apostle Paul, when we call upon the spirit of brotherhood in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe? Do we Masons act as if we had laid hold of a dynamic principle of action, so potent and intense that our troubled world beseeches us “for handkerchiefs or aprons,” to heal the sick and unhappy victims of our confused and fearful society?

The answer seems rather obvious. In spite of the magnificent and heroic examples of individual Masons here and there who really change the quality of life around them because of the almost “superhuman intensity” with which they “live their Masonry,” the seething masses of men are largely untouched by the lives and actions of the majority of Master Masons. And until Freemasons engage in such a dynamic crusade in the name of brotherhood, until such a missionary adventure captivates the enthusiasm of millions of Master Masons, the world will probably regard us as “itinerant exorcists,” whose secrets are meaningful only to ourselves for private satisfactions or personal gain.

As long as we are individually ineffectual in the problems that affect “this crazy world” universally, we must not be surprised at the mocking question of the nihilistic voices of our time: “We’ve heard about a Great Architect; we’ve heard about brotherhood; we’ve heard about the Masons — but who are you?”

The Masonic Service Association of North America