The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
THE IMAGE YOU PRESENT TO THE UNINITIATED
Bro. Harold M. 'Pat' Paterson
Thank you Brother Tony for your kind introduction. I would like to add my welcome to all of the brethren present at this Seventh Annual Banff Springs Workshop, and I hope all of us will gain much inspiration and fellowship from it.
The main purpose of my talk is to ask you to so live your Masonry, that in the eyes of the uninitiated, they might be impressed with the image you present, and show a desire for more knowledge and enlightenment, even to the extent of petitioning for membership.
In order to live our Masonry let us first remind ourselves what Masonry is. Briefly, Masonry is a system of Morality, teaching through allegories and symbols the ethical philosophies of life, and founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization, religious in character, based on the principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. It does charitable work in the community, and among its brethren, and through its teachings and ceremonies, seeks to make good men better, and thereby make the world a better place in which to live. A Freemason is a man of honour, of good morals, submissive to the laws, devoted to humanity, to his country, to his family, kind and indulgent to his brethren, and a friend of all virtuous men.
These are high ideals, and some might say these ideals were alright for the old days when and since Masonry came into being, but the world is changing fast and men might ask if these principles are still right for these times. I think we could truthfully say that these ideals reach back through history to the earliest noble thoughts of man, and must be projected forward into the future of all mankind. They are infinite in their depth and meaning, and we who cherish such emotional and intellectual ideals are obligated to keep them alive and pass them on to those who will follow after us, and they in turn will be obligated to keep them alive and pass them on to those who come after them.
In the light of these statements we begin to realize why Masonry is such a vital force. It has been a way of life for men of integrity from the dim past to the present. It is built on these sound fundamental principles of Truth, Charity, Harmony, Faith in God and Man. But we must realize that a lot of values once thought enduring are being discarded in this modern world.
Who then is going to accept the responsibility of keeping Masonry alive in this changing world? You, as dedicated Masons are, of course, if you accept this in our hearts as a mission. You must actively work to maintain mankind’s sanity as the eternal struggle between good and evil goes on. We have reason to show concern for the trends of this age, where man’s inclination to choose good over evil is being severely tested. we wonder how we can best fit into this picture, or how we can best translate our obligations into action which will produce a measure of the perfection and tranquillity which all men seek and should share and demonstrate our presence as good men striving to be better.
While we are on this subject, let us look at some of the problems facing us in the world today. There is a terrific amount of complaint and unrest. Most of those who have a complaint seem to agree on one thing — they want a change. They start with the thesis that change is inevitable, change is overdue, change will make everything right, and as the song says, “They are going to change our world.” What they don’t realize is that change can more often than not be for the worse. There are those who threaten and seek to obtain their ends by force, violence and riots, accompanied by looting, arson and murder. Sadly we note there has been a code which defines the burning of university buildings as ‘creative destruction’, which proclaims that a better rule of life is to live only for today and that God is Dead. Throughout the world ring the sounds of rights, rights, rights, we want “our rights”. Never a word about duties, responsibilities and obligations and the rights of others. They are replacing freedom with license — license for civil disobedience, injury to innocent people and damage to property. Has any age seen such a paradox as confronts us at this moment? We have more affluence, yet more restlessness; more success, yet more unhappiness; more freedom, yet more rebellion.
Some of our younger generation, unfortunately, through too many material benefits accumulated by their forebears, are wasting their too precious time on drugs, dissipation, idleness and misdirected living. Permissive morality, vandalism and crimes of violence become the end result. To further confuse the situation, we have been and still are in a technological revolution, the like of which, man formerly never even dreamed was possible. We have gone from a rural economy to a highly industrialized urban economy which has caused extreme social changes. Today we don’t even know many of our neighbours’ names, let alone what they do, with whom they associate or what they believe. And anyone in financial distress goes to various government agencies for relief, and very few of their neighbours even know, much less care about it. What do you know about your neighbours and what sort of image have you presented to them?
Also in this materialistic age we find the constant threat of inflation and spiralling costs with constantly increasing wage demands and prolonged strikes to obtain these demands, and many other desperate ways to get rich quickly by such fearsome methods as hi-jacking planes without any regard for human life.
You should recognize these circumstances, not as a dilemma, but rather an opportunity which challenges you to a response for which you are specially prepared. while some might argue about their rights to overthrow the establishment and disregard laws not to their liking, let US not be deluded. Justice, Truth, Mercy and Love are simple, clear and plain. Your strength is in your unity, not in someone else’s division; in the correctness of your philosophy, not in the error of another. Well, so much for the problems facing you in the world today.
Now let us consider for awhile the image you, as Masons, can present to the public in such times as these, or how you can best display Masonry to the uninitiated, that they might be suitably impressed with Masonry and our endeavors, and even prompted, perchance, to join us. For if Masonry is to survive we will always need new brethren to replenish our ranks. There are a lot of good unobligated men around, whom we need and who would be great assets to our fraternity, but who have not joined the Craft, not because we have not invited them which is not by Masonic law our privilege, but simply because we have failed to properly advertise our existence, or to present our worthwhile features in a manner that would invite interest, enquiry and closer inspection.
Let us for a moment take a look at the conditions for applicants to Masonry. We know Masonry has always required that a man must enter of his own free will and accord, or that he was not subject to improper solicitation. All well and good. But does not the very fact that we stipulate there must be no IMPROPER solicitation imply conversely that there must be a PROPER way to present our worthiness to others in order to invite a favourable response from them. For them to petition in ignorance is almost expecting too much, and is far from desirable and may in fact cause disillusionment if they do not find what they seek. Yet how does one form a favourable opinion of something that is supposed to be secret? We have so created the illusion of secrecy that many of our members will not discuss Masonry with their own sons, let alone their friends and business associates. How far, brethren, from the teachings of our fraternity can we stray? Freemasonry is secret only insofar as our obligations, and certain signs, symbols and rituals are concerned. We do not try to keep secret our association with Masonry. We publish bulletins; our Temples or Lodges stand open in our cities and towns; the citizens know we meet there — we make no attempt to conceal this. True, like most fraternal organizations we have our secrets, but we are not a secret society.
I said before, we are going through difficult times, but we are not alone in this regard. Even churches are modifying their rules of conduct to appeal to the new generation, and some fraternal organizations are finding it difficult to survive in this age. Our former method of operation may possibly have to undergo some changes to conform to his new age. Let each one of us seek to improve our projection of the image of Masonry before we allow ourselves to stagnate, for stagnation carries with it the implication of death. Our purpose is to serve society, not to be aloof from it. You must seize the present opportunity to appeal to the uninitiated. You must share your Masonry with others by exposing them to what Masonry really is. You must live the kind of life and present the kind of image YOU would most admire in someone else.
There are other ways you could impress the would-be petitioner. What better way than to have each member proudly wear a Masonic emblem that could not be overlooked or misunderstood. YOU could strive to impress outside associates with the happiness, the friendships, the leadership ability, knowledge and understanding you gain personally from your Lodge associations. Better still, you could ask them at times to help you out in some Masonic activity, such as acting as a spare on your curling rink when you’re short-handed, or filling our a golf foursome. Such invitations would expose them to Masonic fellowship under favourable conditions, and hence could prompt interest and even enquiry for membership without direct solicitation.
I was closely associated with many active Masons for years before becoming a Mason, but it was not until I was actually asked, as a non Mason, to help out in a Grand Lodge pageant, that my interest was finally aroused to the point of petitioning for membership. The point I am trying to make is that I became a Mason because I WAS GIVEN A JOB TO DO, which brought me into a participating contact with Masonry, which in turn prompted further investigation on my part. so it is not just enough to let our friends and business associates know we attend Lodge and are regular in our attendance, we have to whet their appetites, excite their curiosity and heighten their interest. We have to be enthusiastic about our Lodge meetings and social events, make them sound inviting. Speak with enthusiasm on the Masonic activities we enjoy — our golf and curling leagues, picnics, barbeques, fraternal visits and workshops. Talk about all the interesting things we do, and publicize outstanding happenings of particular note by other news media beside our own bulletins.
Two months age we witnessed in Perfection Lodge in Calgary, the unique experience of seeing three members secure on the same night, their sixty year bars from The Most Worshipful the Grand Master. This outstanding performance was even surpassed about a month ago at Calgary Lodge, when no less than four of their members received their 60 year bars in a similar presentation by the Grand Master. Surely such rare and unusual records of loyalty and service would not fail to impress outsiders and make them realize there must be something definitely appealing in our order to make such achievements possible.
From the Centennial Pageant I spoke about previously, before I became a Mason, I wrote a parody on that well-know song from “My Fair Lady” entitled “Why can’t the English learn to Speak”, only changing it to “Why Can’t a Mason Learn to Tell”. Here is a portion from that parody:
There are many in our population haven’t got a clue about a Mason,
See them round you everywhere asking with a puzzled start,
“Why can’t the Masons teach their members how to tell
Tell about their Order, so others may know as well.”
If other folk, they say, were told just what one has to do, Other folk might like to become Masons too. We Masons have a secrecy that others find quite vexing The way we quietly carry on is to others most perplexing. They feel if we have something we would really like to sell Then why can’t the Masons learn to tell For there are many people who would really like to know Just what we have to offer or what makes the whole thing go, Instead of keeping it a secret, why not put it out on show.
Why can’t the Masons learn to tell you how to join their flock, Other fraternities do so with much high pressure talk. Their invitations for membership sound positively thrilling, Qualifications don’t matter actually, as long as one is willing. Some will take you in with the speed of summer lightning. And others charge right at you, which is absolutely frightening. But try to join the Masons — that’s a secret guarded well, So, why can’t the Masons, why can’t the Masons, learn to tell!
Now, since joining, I know there are certain things we cannot tell, but still I feel we must tell all we can about Masonry. You CAN tell that Masonry is not a religion, but it is religious in that one cannot become a Mason unless he believes in God. you can tell that the degrees of Masonry consist of a ceremony of a strictly serious nature, which teach basic moral truths in an impressive manner. You can tell that the ceremonies contain a philosophy of life on which members can build a hope that is eternal. You can tell in general terms that each candidate is given a ceremony of initiation, is then advance to the second degree, and later promoted to the third degree. You can tell that promotion from one degree to another depends on his proficiency in learning certain things relative to Freemasonry, its ethics and its philosophy. Certainly, you can tell that no man ever took the degrees without becoming a better man.
You can tell that the basic ethical principles exemplified in the ceremonies of the degrees, are such as are accepted by all good men. They are lessons based on the Golden Rule, tolerance towards all men, respect for one’s family, charity towards all, and love for God and his manifold blessings. You need not be afraid to discuss Masonry with non-Masons. You can tell your non-Masonic friends that Freemasonry is one of the great organizations of the world, and a steadying influence in a faltering world. You can share Masonry with your family by being better husbands and fathers. Let them know Masonry stands for truth and honour and brotherly love. You can share Masonry with the youth of our community by supporting our Higher Education Bursary Fund, and promoting DeMolay and Job’s Daughters. You can share Masonry with the general public by taking an active part in civic endeavors, by respecting law and order, and by being public examples worthy of the name Mason. Even though Freemasonry cannot and does not ask anyone to join its ranks, still your high example, and your efforts to make life wholesome will not go unnoticed.
Let us review what we have been talking about. I said at the outset, the purpose of this talk was to ask you, the Mason, to present a good image to the uninitiated. We have attempted to define Masonry and the Mason. I have briefly outlined our glorious past. I have touched on some problems besetting us in these times. I have tried to point out ways of sharing our Masonry with others. I have tried to show the need for publicizing our Order and exposing others to it.
To sum up, it seems evidently clear, that we as Masons since we cannot make a direct approach of solicitation to our non-Masonic friends, have a far more meaningful way of enticing them into the fold — and that is by the happy attitude we display as we go about our daily tasks, demonstrating by our lives and actions the deeply satisfying and abiding qualities of the Masonic way of life, that all right-thinking men and boys will desire to be like us. In fact the Installation General Charge says that our MAIN AIM is to be happy ourselves and to communicate that happiness to others.
In other words, You the Mason, must present such an image to the uninitiated that you do not actually have to invite them to drink at the fountain of Masonic knowledge — but rather, by your own example of good living make them so thirst for it, that they cannot help but come to you of their own free will and accord.