by Bro. Carl H. Claudy
THE MASTER MASON – AUGUST 1925
The question, “Why do men wish to become Freemasons?” is of little importance. But the subsequent query, “Why do Freemasons remain such – why do Freemasons love Freemasonry?” is of such great and far- reaching importance that almost every Masonic writer and philosopher has tried to answer it; a perfectly normal procedure, as there appear to be almost as many reasons as there are men to give them.
No answer which seems adequately to cover the whole question has as yet been formulated.
Although the reasons given are very numerous, they fall naturally into certain broad classes.
We are told that men love Freemasonry because it teaches the brotherhood of man, and that man is hungry for fraternity. There is none to question the truth of the statement, yet it seems to lack much as an adequate explanation for the love of the Order which we find everywhere. Freemasonry is not the only organization which teaches the brotherhood of man. There are many fraternal orders, the teachings of which are founded wholly or in part upon this basis. All churches teach the fatherhood of God and, either directly or by implication, the brotherhood of man. Freemasonry’s hold upon her members is from some quality she possesses, or service she renders, which many men do not easily find elsewhere. As brotherhood and its teachings can be found in many other orders, it seems inadequate as an explanation of a Freemason’s devotion to his Craft.
We are told that the hold which Freemasonry has upon men comes from the sense of the mystic which is common to all men; that the search for That Which Was Lost is intriguing to the detective instinct in us all; that from the dawn of history the hunt has been a passion of men; the man hunt, the beast hunt, the food hunt, the hunt for gold, for power, for truth, for discovery; and that to seek is implanted in our blood. Therefore, argue these philosophers, Freemasonry’s hold upon her initiates is due to her holding ever before them an endless search after an unknown something of value which was once possessed and has now passed beyond mortal ken.
But Freemasonry is but one of many activities in which man can search. The most ardent Freemason is no more energetic in his search for That Which Was Lost than is a churchman for that peace of God which passeth understanding. The most ardent Freemason is no more anxious to find the Lost Word than is the physician to discover the cure for cancer, the remedy for old age, the fountain of youth. The most ardent Freemason has no more ardor for his quest than the scientist in his laboratory, the business man after material success, the pleasure-hunter after joy. Freemasonry is but one of many activities in which the hunter may find an elusive quarry. Inasmuch as it requires some philosophic preparation and some background of Masonic knowledge really to engage in such a quest, it may well be doubted if this reason is one which affects the majority of those who love the Order.
We are told that it is the pleasure in being one of an old, old line of brethren; that men take joy from their lodge in the knowledge that they are brotherly kin to kings of an olden time, to workers of a day that is gone, aye, even to Solomon and the Three Grand Masters. Undoubtedly there is a great pleasure to be had from this sense of being, as it were, a real kin with the departed of other times. To be lodge brother to Washington and Lafayette must thrill any patriot; to feel that we have an unbroken descent from our forbears of the Goose and Gridiron Tavern of 1717 gives us a sense of stability which is most pleasurable. As we go further back in time, while the record gets increasingly scarce and difficult to read, and becomes less and less documentary and more and more legendary, still there is no doubt whatever that Freemasonry does remain, to this day, the repository of the symbols and the teachings of ancient societies which may well be as old as Solomon, or older.
Of course, no well-read Mason today believes that the ritual of the Building of the Temple and the organization is to be taken literally. To the informed it gains, rather than loses, from its symbolic character. But there are thousands of earnest Freemasons who know nothing of the real history of our Order, who devoutly, believe that the First Grand Lodge was presided over by Solomon, King of Israel; that Hiram, King of Tyre, was another Grand Master, and that a Third was the original of our pillar of beauty. To them, undoubtedly, the sense of kinship with the very ancient is a strong bond; none the less strong that it is founded on a misconception.
But a man need not embrace Freemasonry to be kin with what is old. The churches have a much more traceable history than has Freemasonry. So has science. Mathematics was old when Hero of Alexandria and Euclid lived and wrote. The geologist can make anything human seem as of yesterday. Allowing full value for the “pull” which her antiquity makes upon the hearts of her sons, Freemasonry must search further and dig deeper to find the reason which holds so many, many men to her banners and makes their love for her something beyond their own explaining.
There are numerous lighter, more personal reasons why many Masons love their lodge. Some, because it is a gathering place of good fellows. Some, because they find it helpful socially or in a business way to “belong.” Others, because it provides an outlet for man’s love of ceremony. Still others, because it gives entertainments, picnics, ladies’ nights, free feeds! Many love Freemasonry as they love a dozen other fraternal orders, because it gives them a chance to “dress up,” to wear a sword, to win a title, to be invested with a show of authority. To many men Freemasonry is the antidote to an inferiority complex!
But no such reason made George Washington love the gentle Craft, or caused sturdy old Ben Franklin to devote his time and talents to being Grand Master in Pennsylvania. And no such reasons actuate the larger proportion of the membership.
The reason which binds in a common love the man in Calcutta and the man in London, the man in Hong-Kong and the man in Boston, the man in Colon and the man in Madrid, must be something much more fundamental than any of these.
The writer has been eighteen years a Freemason, has written several books dealing with Masonic subjects, has been and is now the wielder of a couple of Masonic editorial blue pencils, and has read a reasonable amount of Masonic literature in the pleasant task of endeavoring to supplant an abysmal ignorance by a small amount of knowledge. These facts are mentioned with no idea that they provide him with the right to speak with authority, but to serve as a background against which he may set forth some conclusions regarding the real, inner reason as to why Freemasons love Freemasonry with a love which has been the amazement of the profane world for generations.
The most profound fact which any mind can know is God.
It is necessary that the reader accept this statement as a fact, for the time being, regardless of his personal convictions, if this argument is to be developed to its conclusion. It has been said that “man is incurably religious,” a statement which puts a truth in rather ambiguous language, since few men can agree on what religion is. It might be less confusing if it were said that man is incurable in his longing for God.
This is true of all men; the atheist and the non-believer, the criminal and the light-minded, the sinful and the lawbreaker, are all incurable in their inner longing for God. Many of them do not know it; yet many of them have proved it in moments of stress or danger. The most determined of atheists will pray on his knees if his first-born is dying before his eyes; the most hardened criminal goes to his execution with his eyes asking comfort of the spiritual comforter whose hard duty it is to try to help him out of this life into . . . what ?
The vast majority of men are neither atheists, non-believers, criminals, light-minded, sinful, or law-breakers. The vast majority of men are honest, truthful, law-abiding, hard-working, good citizens. Even those who embrace no creed, go to no church, read no religious books, want God. It is as natural for a man to want kinship with God in his life as it is for him to want air, or food, or love, or children. He cannot help it; his whole racial history commands it; his very nature demands it.
Where does a man find God? Everywhere! To some He is in nature; some find Him in the church. Others look for Him in the Bible or the Holy Books of other faiths. Some seek Him in the laboratory and some through the telescope. Some find Him in the stars, and others in the microbe. The common, everyday man finds Him in humanity and in charity, relief, pity, mercy, hospitals, the Red Cross. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” is really “One touch of God makes the whole world kin.” The earthquake in Tokyo which called so many dollars instantly from America; the starving children of the Near East who lived because of pity in America, were examples of that “touch of God” which makes us all one family.
The Masonic lodge in particular, and the fraternity in general, is built upon the idea of, and erected to, God. Not any particular god; not the god of the Christian or the Hindu, the Jew or the Parsee, but just the ideal of Deity.
There is no forcing of God upon any Freemason. So be it he believe in Deity, he can erect His image as he pleases; an anthropomorphic God with a white beard and a host of harp-playing angels, a Great First Cause, or any in-between conception he pleases.
Freemasonry teaches no creed, dogma, or theory of religion. She protests no special message given it by God in olden time, nor claims to be a personal messenger of heaven. She offers no “facts” which must be taken on faith, because her Masters or Wardens are divinely appointed to be the viceroys of God on earth.
But she does surround her sons with symbols, each one of which cries out of God. Everywhere in the lodge is a reminder of the Great Architect. Lodges are erected to God. Initiates kneel to God. On the Holy Altar is His Word. Once a Freemason must pray for himself. There are “threes” throughout the lodge; three officers, three steps, three pillars, three who met a seafaring man, three gates, three degrees, three obligations! Three is everywhere. And three is the number which denotes the triangle and, since the dawn of symbolism, the triangle has been the symbol of Deity.
Nothing is done in a Masonic lodge which is not reverent. Nothing is taught there which is otherwise than reverent. Every symbol in Freemasonry tells of God, or some quality in a man which should be God-like.
But God is not preached in a lodge. Freemasonry does not dogmatize about God. She provides the framework, and ,he Freemason fills it in to suit himself. She gives the symbols and the Freemason interprets them for himself. According to his wit, according to his ability, according to his vision and knowledge, does the Freemason read from Freemasonry’s symbols what truths of God he can assimilate.
This, so it seems to the writer, is the real answer to the question, “Why do Freemasons love Freemasonry?”
Freemasonry leads her sons to tell themselves about God.
It is not difficult to be told about God. There are many churches; many faiths; many religions. In all of them the devout are told of God by learned ministers and teachers who have spent their lives in the work. To a great many people this is entirely sufficient. But to some it is not a complete satisfaction of the heart hunger which is deep in mankind. A very large number of consistent church attendants and church members are also interested and enthusiastic Freemasons. For it appears that there are some truths about God which no man may teach another; nay, not though his learning is great and his faith strong, his willingness to serve most brotherly, and his abilities of the highest. Apparently, God has implanted within the deeps of human nature – and we are only beginning to suspect how very deep those depths may be – not only a hunger to know of Him but an ability to satisfy that hunger through draughts from the well of inner consciousness.
Freemasonry makes it easier for a man to call up from his nature’s depths that which his nature knows; Freemasonry makes it possible for him to draw above the level of consciousness those faiths and those facts which racial memories have implanted there for uncounted generations.
Freemasonry teaches in symbols. Symbols are words in a universal language, which all men understand partially and no man understands wholly. The teaching and the preaching of God which comes to us all in Bible and book, in church and school, through creed and faith, is supplemented and made clearer by what we teach ourselves from the symbols of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry forces nothing; there is no force used in a lodge. It is all a gentle leading. We may follow as fast and as far, as little and as slowly, as we will.
The symbols are there; they speak with whispers or in a voice of thunder, -according to our wit, our knowledge, our willingness. But they never thunder when we wish a whisper, or speak soft and low when we want the crashing force of a great fact in our ears.
The symbols of Freemasonry are all things to all men; great for the greathearted, deep for the wise, easy for the simple, stern for the strong, and gentle for the weak.
Each man may read them as he will, yet can read them only as successive steps towards God. Freemasonry leads rather than teaches. She persuades men to teach themselves rather than to accept the wisdom of other men. These are the reasons which make up the reason why Freemasons the world over, be their country, their color, their faiths, their politics, or their church affiliations what they may, love Freemasonry.
Men love Freemasonry because she leads her sons to teach themselves those truths of Deity which a man may tell only to himself.