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.
MASON BY NAME ALONE
Bro. Bruce Hogle
I would like to think that I was invited here, not so much for some of the controversial positions I have taken during my career in the broadcasting business but because, underneath the exterior of this man called Hogle, dwells a concerned Mason. One who hopes through the editorial stands he takes to try and make this a better world for all of us but a world where that WON’T COME TRUE, brethren, if we persist in being Masons by Name Only.
Part of the problem, of course, is sheer ignorance of the massive problems throughout this globe. Oh, admittedly, we’ve all seen, heard and read about the problems in Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains but really don’t know, or want to know, the magnitude of those problems. Oh, I know we all say we care and we do to a limited degree and we’ll bring cans of food for those in Ethiopia and donate money for this or that charity. But we always put our own problems first — and those of our families. And we do so because of the sheer ignorance or oblivion of the cold hard facts of life for others in this crazy world of ours with over 4 billion residents. A world which continues to increase at the incredible rate of 200,000 every day — or 2.2 every second.
That means, my brethren, that some 150 acres of new farm land must be found daily to feed these people. This at a time when 1/4 of the world’s population is starving and living in misery; 55% of the world’s people over 10 years of age have never been to school; some 44% of the world’s population over 15 — close to 1.7 billion — are completely illiterate. And knowing that 4.3 million Canadians are also living in poverty plus well over a million Canadians unemployed — how, pray tell, is the world going to find 630 million new jobs for Third World children when they come of working age in the next 15 years. Or is that a concern for others alone? Not we who are here tonight and our blue lodge members elsewhere in the world. As far as the general public is concerned, I just don’t think they’ve thought for a moment if Masons should be concerned with such problems.
Because, quite frankly, they don’t know who we are or what we stand for. While many members of the Craft might like the “Status Quo” remaining just as it is, that’s simply not good enough for 1985 and the future. I don’t seem to be alone with this thought.
Wor Bro. R.D. Shaneman of the United Grand Lodge of England, told last year’s investiture of the Grand Lodge, and, I quote, “I am beginning to wonder whether our stonewalling attitude is necessarily the best for the interests of the Craft.” R.W. Bro. H. Astbury of the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan is even more blunt. He told the Banff Conference five years ago that, quote, “Masonry is being reduced to a mere shadow of its historical greatness and we, as Masons, are to blame.” He adds, “Unless we practice what we preach, we will become an endangered species — The Invisible Craft.”
What is it then, Brethren, that we should be practising as we preach — especially if we don’t want to be known and remembered as Masons by Name Only.
Well, I have to first of all agree with R.W. Bro. Astbury, that in recent years we have done everything possible to obliterate our order as a viable, effective organization. Where we have shunned not only publicity, but recognition, we have done little or nothing in the name of Masonry to aid and assist any segment of our communities at large — the aged, the sick, the disabled, the indigent. And, just as importantly, I think all too many are putting the wrong interpretation on the solicitation of new members and we can’t understand what’s happening to our ranks.
Permit me to deliberately digress at this moment and tell you about one aspect of the television industry in Canada. It’s a unique industry in many, many ways — not the least of which is the way by which the public tell us what a good, or bad, job we are doing. Four times a year across Canada, various residents receive what is called a personal diary from the Board of Broadcast Measurement, of BBM as we call it in the trade. And four times a year, Canadians are asked to mark down in detail how much television they watch, what programs they like or dislike, the same for news, sports, personalities, etc. The results of those surveys are then sent to TV stations across Canada so that we can tell exactly what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong as far as children, teenagers and everyone else is concerned. The surveys are brutally frank, candid and honest. And I think that’s good, because it tells me, for example, where CFRN Radio and Television in Edmonton has to pull up its socks. Where it is slipping and failing as far as the public is concerned and also where we are succeeding. In other words, my brethren, the BBM survey four times a year tells us exactly the way it is and where it all hangs out. I am sure that many of you here tonight have participated in such a survey regardless of where you live and I thank you for your response. At the same time, I wonder what the response would be if I was able to arrange to have the approximately 550 radio and TV stations in Canada combine their resources and find our what kind of a job we’re doing in our homes and in our Lodges.
As a husband and father, would my survey mark you as being excellent, good, not bad, so-so, mediocre or could do better? As a worker, would my surveys mark you as being industrious, hard working, pretty good, can’t complain or a pain in the petoot? As a Lodge member, would my survey mark you as being innovative, open to new ideas, welcoming good debate, discussing ways and means of building the membership and even questioning what Grand Lodge is doing with all its money? As a neighbour and member of the community in which you live — knowing you’re a Mason — would my survey find you truly practising what you preach treating everyone the same, not losing your temper on trivialities, not telling or laughing at racist jokes, and not being the least bit reluctant to openly discuss our ideals. And lastly, what would your answer be to the question: ARE YOU A MASON BY NAME ALONE?
On this question, let us first of all start within the Lodge itself and the attendance, or lack of same, within those Lodges. We all know that any prospective candidates must be “unbiased by the IMPROPER solicitation of friends”, but it does not mean “unbiased by the solicitation of friends.” I wonder how many officers and members have taken it upon themselves to interpret that phrase to imply that all solicitation is improper.
R.W. Bro. Astbury of the Grand Lodge of Saskatchewan sums up my feelings entirely when he states, “Solicitation of a man possessing the necessary qualifications for membership is entirely proper — and should be encouraged — provided it is done from pure motives and without undue persuasion, coercion or promise of financial, social, political or other tangible gain. “It is not after all”, adds R.W. Bro. Astbury, “reasonable or logical to assume that a rational and sincere man would attempt to join any organization about which he knows nothing, that he does not see at work in his community, whose achievements and accomplishments are hidden from view and which he had not been invited to participate in or join.
I recall personally last year when the Scottish Rite held their national convention in Edmonton. It was only then, and only because I was assisting with their publicity, that I learned of the incredible work the Scottish Rite Foundation is doing in the area of research in all types of mentally deficient diseases. I was impressed as a Mason. I was impressed as a citizen. I was also very impressed as a member of the media who very often is chastised by being asked; “How come you guys don’t cover the good news?” I had wanted someone last Fall from that great organization to go on one or two radio open talk shows in Edmonton to tell the world what they were doing but I was told, “No” and that was that. I accepted their decision though I did not necessarily agree with it.
That incident reminded me of the one that happened when I first arrived in Edmonton and started working at CFRN exactly 20 years ago this month. I hosted a weekly public affairs show called “Face the Newsmen” and my very first guest was the then crusty mayor of Ottawa — Dr. Charlotte Whitton. Miss Whitton almost walked off the show prior to it starting when I explained that we sometimes had public service announcements during the show, such as, Red Cross, C.N.I.B., V.O.N., etc. But when I also mentioned UNICEF and Dr. Lottie Hitchamanova, Dr. Whitton exploded and accused that individual and that organization of never properly revealing their financial statements. Pretty strong accusations, so when I found out that Dr. Hitchamanova was coming to Edmonton, I made arrangements to do a “Face the Newsmen” with her. She agreed. We lined up the panel and were set to record this 30 minute show on a Friday afternoon, but when Dr. Lottie hitchamanova of UNICEF found out she wasn’t just going to show slides and talk of her work... when she discovered that she was going to be questioned on all aspects of her work... she walked our of CFRN. And, gentlemen, to this day, the UNICEF organization will not appear on any public affairs show or radio open line program. I make no accusations. I make no alibis. I make no explanations. I offer the facts as they are.
I don’t suggest for one moment there is any analogy between what I’ve just told you and the refusal of the Scottish Rite to do an open line program, but I do say; if we’re not going to talk about some of the magnificent work done by some members of our Craft, is it any wonder why there is little interest, or knowledge about our Order. Compare that to the United Kingdom where everyone — not just members of the Craft alone — are so pleased and thrilled with the magnificent work of the Royal Masonic Hospital which serves all mankind. And yet, in Western Canada, about 30 years ago, a Grand Master solicited funds to furnish a new wing in a hospital. He then had a suitably engraved plaque mounted on the door indicating the furnishings had been supplied by Masons. Many felt this was breach of masonic propriety and the plaque was taken down. To this day, it has never been replaced and no Masons, either individually, or collectively, have received public recognition for this benevolent act, but they do in the U.K. thanks to the Royal Masonic Hospital.
Keep that in mind as I tell you about the 9th Annual Masonic Spring Workshop in 1974 when the brethren in charge invited a non-Mason as their theme speaker, namely, the Ven. R. B. Crowder. He asked, quite bluntly, quote: “Because of your secrecy and your ability to keep your functions secretive, are you becoming ingrown and destroying your Masonic Lodge rather than building it or making it a creative element in society? If society is benefitting from your work — why are you hiding what you are doing? The Ven. R. B. Crowder added in his address here 11 years ago, “I know that Masons do good work. I have worked and do work with Masons but, please, give us a straight forward answer to what you are doing.”
“How about a straight forward open declaration for what the Lodge stands. What are your aims in life as a community and as individuals? What do you do for each other, and, especially, what are you doing for the society to which you belong? If you want an answer to membership then perhaps you should tell what the situation is on an individual basis and make people see and know that you are Masons and that through your personal lives show a standard of living which people will appreciate and admire.”
Prior to coming to Edmonton 20 years ago, I had taken a two year sabbatical from being a journalist to set up a public relations program for the doctors of Saskatchewan during their hot and controversial medicare crisis. My point in specifically mentioning doctors is to single out the Oath of Hippocrates which all physicians and surgeons take the world over. This oath, which describes the duties and obligations of our medical doctors, is named in honour of Hippocrates — the Greek physician who is called the father of medicine. The Oath of Hippocrates, like the Oath of Masons has not changed over the years. But the art and science of healing has. Laser beam surgery, artificial hearts, organ transplants, limb replacements, new eyes, new medicine and new techniques are almost daily being revealed by this dedicated profession. Tuberculosis, diphtheria and polio are almost unheard of in the western world today. Whooping cough and measles epidemics have disappeared for the most part. So while the Oath of Hippocrates remains unchanged — the lives and workings of the members who take that oath have indeed changed and the Public is the better for it, with our lifespan being extended incredibly.
Can the same honestly be said for we Masons here tonight, or do we remain Masons by Name Alone and, if what I say is true, what should be done?
While I would not change one word of the oath we take, the pledges we assume and the rituals we conduct, that’s not to say we shouldn’t look at ourselves in a hard objective fashion — the way it is in 1985.
I know we’re all concerned about the many obvious problems; the 1 of every 3 Alberta marriages going on the rocks; the tension and pressure which results in suicides and breakdowns for so many; the problems of drugs; the dilemma of unemployment; the tough economic spiral which has seen 20 Alberta families lose their homes every day for the last two years. but that’s all the more reason, brethren, why we need some positive thinking and some positive public statements by us, who are in this room tonight. What is so wrong with this great and glorious Order, for example, using radio and television public service announcements across this Province and Nation to help Canadians regain the shattered confidence they once had? The Alberta Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Commission has done an incredible job with radio and TV announcements aimed at reducing drinking and driving by our young people. Churches and other fraternal organizations have also done the same thing with good solid messages promoting the value of life, fighting racism and bigotry, the value of the family unit, and the worthwhileness of each and every individual. We know by the survey I mentioned earlier in my speech that these approaches have gotten through and that those who one considered themselves neglected and forgotten now feel that “someone out there” does indeed care for them.
Gentlemen, the young men and women of Alberta and Canada are out there waiting to hear from us.
Three weeks ago, CFRN TV went out of its way to do a story on 25 students from a class at Britannia Junior High School in Edmonton who were doing an actual 10 minute videotape story in which they expressed their fears about a nuclear holocaust. They did this because they felt no one was really listening to them. Well, they did and we assisted with that production and it was sent to the USA and to the Kremlin. The letters we got from those kids simply pointed out to me that it’s obvious someone else had better start listening. Someone like we Masons. Without infringing on any of the oaths we have all taken, why can’t we tell Canadians in a positive up-beat solid style what a great country we still have despite the problems. Why can’t we tell them that Masons do indeed care about them regardless of their race, colour or creed, and if many say initially, as many will, who are Masons — so much the better. I’ve always followed the personal creed that one will always stumble and fall occasionally during your lifetime, but IT’S WHAT YOU STAND FOR THAT COUNTS. I learned an extremely valuable lesson early in my life which I’ve never forgotten. A physician friend said he could teach me, or anyone else in this room, how to perform a simple surgical procedure within 90 days. That’s not to say I would become a doctor, merely, that he could within a three month period teach me how to perform a simple medical procedure. If all we Masons were to follow that particular theme. I maintain there is nothing we can’t do to enter the 20th Century as Masons and, at the same time, openly promote the virtues that we all espouse and if that means, my brethren, that, eventually, the message gets across that Masons care — then I for one, will be very happy, because I’ll know then we have finally reached that very desirable goal of not being MASONS BY NAME ALONE.