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.


Bro. Stan D. Cook

Well, this must be Heaven. There are so many of you here that I didn’t expect to see. When your Committee asked me to act as one of the Theme Speakers, the first question that occurred to me was, of course; what kind of speech (knowing the subject, naturally) I was told that it must be:

H....umerous I....nspiring P....rovocative In other words, a HIP speech. Perhaps this is not quite what the Committee had in mind. Anyway -----

You know, it’s somewhat difficult to be the second speaker, especially when the first one says a lot of the things that you were going to say. It makes you feel a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth husband — “you know what to do... but, how do you make it interesting?”

You will agree that, bearing in mind the humor, inspiration and provocation, that it’s a tough assignment for you, sitting there listening to some fathead laughingly expounding gems of motivational wisdom that is designed to make you angry. So, I am not going to do that, but I may poke a little fun here and there. Rather, I would like to talk to you today about ... BEHAVIOUR. Not the dictionary defined word which is “the conduct of oneself in a specific way — manners — deportment” — but, what we, as men and masons act the way we do. Let us then, focus on the Man; Man the Hunter.

An author, named Lionel Tiger, in his book Men in Groups says, “only in the middle Pleistocene Age do we find evidence of a major change in early man’s adaption to plains living and that this change involved CO-OPERATIVE hunting. Man evolved as a hunter; he has spent over 99% of his species’ history as a hunter, and he has spread over the entire habitable area of the world AS A HUNTER.”

Carveth Read made the forthright proposition, that man has evolved as a PACK-HUNTING carnivore. and that this hunting bond was the basis of many of the central systems in contemporary society. Here’s a quote from a book call “The Naked Ape” by Desmond Morris, “Man is a hunting animal by nature and by ancestry”. Nowadays, however, food collecting techniques of modern agriculture have left the majority of adult males, in our societies, without any hunting role. So ... we compensate for this lack, by going to “work”.

Working has replaced hunting, but it has retain many of the basic characteristics: a) It involves a regular trip from the home base to the ‘Hunting Grounds’. b) It is a predominantly male or masculine pursuit, and provides the opportunity for male to male interaction and group activity. c) It involves taking risks and planning strategies.

The hunter then, or pseudo-hunter, speaks of the making of a killing in the City. He is said to be ‘bringing home the bacon’.

I’d like to stress the words “group” and “co-operative” “pack”, etc., because throughout history men have acted in groups to achieve a goal. Man in groups have a bond which is a genetic thing — a thing that is inborn. In other words, male togetherness, that inborn propensity for gathering in groups, has persisted despite our changes in society.” End of quotation.

Men still hunt, in the literal sense, but joining together for big-game hunts, African safaris, turkey shoots and fishing trips. Many, many men have been seen bird hunting — or at least bird watching down on our 8th Avenue Mall... Especially on a hot summer’s day... especially before the advent of the MIDI skirt. Still, other men, not quite so literal, had to find another outlet for that old hunting urge. you guts that thrive on golf, we know what you are usually hunting for.

It seems to have evolved quite naturally, that while hunting itself has been replaced, the quest then becomes a need to win over a rival. Look at what men in groups do when they are a hockey team, a football team or an Olympic swim team. The Montreal Alouettes, the Baltimore Colts or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Think of the verve, sheer courage and raw perseverance by man when he climbs a mountain... or when he gets married. Isn’t it curious that a man insists that his woman do the cooking and yet, at an outdoor gathering, he takes immense pride in slaving over a flaming, smoky barbeque, burning up large chunks of raw steak. that persistent genetic urge of the hunt, is fully satisfied when cooking the spoils of the hunt. Is this why we like and enjoy those shish-kabobs or enjoy flambe dinners? why does dining by candlelight appeal to us? What thoughts occur to us as we stare into a fireplace at those dancing flames.... The same natural setting as after the hunt?

Scientists tell us that early man used to drink the blood of his prey, from the skulls of that same prey. Strange, isn’t it, that that the practice, when men get together in groups, be it for bowling, cards, stag parties, fishing or the like, that when raising a cup to one’s lips, the word used is ‘SKOL’ which can be literally translated as ‘SKULL’. Makes you wonder, too, doesn’t it that the rivalry between men in groups, is concerned with cups; The Stanley Cup, The Grey Cup, or the cup for being the best in the bowling league. What man or boy, doesn’t show you with pride, his ‘trophy room’, with cups evidencing his prowess as a member of a hockey team, or other endeavour.

Scientists tell us that man has identified himself closely with only one other animal; the dog. Is it odd then, that in so many cases, men’s best friend is a hunting dog; a Springer, a Setter, a Brittany or Cocker Spaniel, or any one of a wide assortment of hounds? Horse lovers among you might disagree with me here.

Well, you wonder what all of this has to do with us.... Having put forth these statements that man’s hunting propensity, his inborn desire to mix together with other men, for a purpose, is inherent in the ‘work’ situation and we also find that it extends to his periods of relaxation. He joins an all-male club.

A quotation from the previous texts referred to is as follows: “There is a strong feeling of togetherness throughout the whole range of these clubs whatever they may be, trade unions, learned societies, fraternities, secret societies or teenage gangs. All have common characteristics: a) Powerful group loyalties are involved. b) Badges, uniforms and other identification labels are worn. Kinsmen have white hats and vest; Elks and the Shrine have fezzes; the Foresters have wooden heads. c) Initiation ceremonies are invariably carried out with new members. They are all primarily concerned with the male-to-male bond of the ancient co-operative hunting group.” Well, a question that we can ask ourselves is: What about this Club, how are we, as Masons, satisfying this hunting urge?

We have a powerful loyalty — our numbers here at this workshop alone is sufficient evidence. So has an army — an aggressive club. We wear identifying badges, BUT, so do teenage gangs of motorcycle hoodlums. We have initiation ceremonies, but so do fraternities — the bare bottomed runs through the gauntlet type of torture. Then how can we, recognizing this genetic nature of man, improve our lot?

There are several questions we might ask that might be dealt with at this Workshop: 1. What is our Hunt? Is it just a quest for ancient knowledge? 2. Could it be that we no longer offer a substitute or replacement for hunting. Is there no challenge?

It may be that our Ancient landmarks no longer serve to provide us with the exhilaration of the hunt — that togetherness. In the January issue of the Grand Lodge Bulletin, you may remember reading that, and I quote, in part: “A Masonic Landmark will fit in with hose definitions and may be: 1. A well-known characteristic that serves as a boundary between Freemasons only, and any other organization or fraternity. 2. An event in Masonic History that has served to be a turning point in the life of the Craft.” End of Quotation.

Perhaps we should cause an event, or at least be the instigators or ‘causers’ of an event that will serve as a turning point in the life of our Fraternity. How? Maybe we should consider the need to change our behaviour. Just mention change and right away you will get opposition from some quarters. Some approach change as cautiously as a nudist going through a barbed wire fence.

You know, the symbol of the Banff School of Advanced Management is Tyrannosaurus Rex. He was a gigantic creature, as big as 50 elephants and unlike the dinosaur, he stood on his hind legs. Horrible, a dangerous predator of immense strength and fearing no enemy. But old Rex has disappeared from the face of the earth, in spite of his strength, his power, fearlessness and after having lived for millions of years. Why? Because he couldn’t change. Because he couldn’t adapt himself to his changing environment.

Why not change ourselves to fit our changing environment, gosh, take a look at your kids (and what is more precious than our children) and try and deny that you don’t recognize how you have changed towards their behaviour and to their environment.

3. Do we serve simply as a diversion from the hunting situation?

Then, if we do, let’s put humor and music into our Lodge meetings, except for those whose solemnity are only good manners. Let us forget rank-consciousness. Aren’t we sometimes more interested in regalia that is worn, than the reason for wearing that same regalia? Aren’t some of us Masons more concerned with ‘going through’ the chairs than in filling one and conscientiously fulfilling the duties that go with that chair.

The hunt situation is a tough competitive one nowadays. If, indeed, we act as a diversion therefrom, let’s stop arguing about money at most of our meetings. As one man said to his wife, “Look on the bright side; we could be poor instead of just broke.” Some of our discussions about money matters lead exactly nowhere and yield nothing but the opportunity for everyone to speak that wants voice on the subject.

4. The fourth question that we might ask is “Do we simply seek to find goodness in man — or — to find good men and then initiate them into our ranks?

No attempt has been made here to answer these questions. perhaps they can be dealt with here at the discussion groups here at the Workshop. One way of solution seems to be contained in a single word:


Passive tolerance or dependence has no real place in Freemasonry. Neither have they during the hunt. You know, there was a convention in Calgary once, conducted by one of those sales-motivated people whose efforts always seem to be destined to sell the ‘sizzle’ not the steak. good humor, good nature, love thy neighbour was the order of the day. Who will deny that enjoyment calls for all of these things. Well, the Pepsodent smile was turned on, everyone was hand-shaken and back-patted, every delegate was issued with a name tag for his breast pocket. In addition, paper hatbands and paper slip-ons for neckties were issued with a printed message, in capital letters, on each:

O . B . A . I . E . O.B.A.I.E. — know what that means, well, let me explain...

Imagine all of that noisy you and noisy me being demonstrated when likely, in reality, all of those ‘oh boy’ fellows would have, in any other situation, made each other as welcome as rheumatism.

Wouldn’t it be preferable and surely more effective, if we were all to add enthusiasm, a generous measure of it, LOTS OF IT, perhaps in this way (here the tale of the fisherman on the ice was told)

That’s what I would call enthusiasm.

It is not high twelve....