Bulletin - 19
A Mason is
sometimes asked by a friend, a neighbour, or a business associate, "What
do the Masons do?" The question may be worded more generally, "What are
In either case, the Brother is
challenged by the realization that there is no simple answer which he
can rattle off "from the top of his head," because the questioner is
really asking him for a comprehensive explanation about what organized
Freemasonry is, what its principles and purposes are, what programs it
is engaged in, how it carries them out, and what satisfactions the
individual Mason derives from his Masonic membership.
Some of these considerations
arouse the fraternal doubt that "you can't tell that," or "that's
secret," so that the Brother's reply is marked by hesitation or
reluctance to explain.
Puzzled by the difficulty of
knowing what facets of the vast subject of Freemasonry the questioner is
really inquiring about, the Mason "just doesn't know where to begin, "
and too often may avoid a simple statement of facts. He isn't sure of
what to say.
Or, knowing that his questioner
is a "practical man of affairs" who measures outcomes quantitatively, in
materialistic terms, he realizes that Freemasonry's reputation cannot be
explained by charts, statistics, or financial statements, because the
Fraternity's real worth can be expressed only in spiritual terms, and
that is rather difficult to explain to the uninitiated. Masonic
terminology, the most comfortable words with which to reply, seems
inadequate or out of place. Masonic "secrecy" gets in the way.
Embarrassment is probably the
commonest cause of a Brother's difficulty in replying to the question.
He is embarrassed because he realizes that he doesn't really know enough
about the Fraternity to give a good simple reply. He knows that there is
much more Masonic activity going on in other lodges all over the country
and throughout the world, but he has never taken the time to experience
some of it or to read about it with real interest. He hasn't given much
thought to the subject. He never expected to be asked such a question by
a non-Mason outside the lodge. Even though he has experienced Masonry,
he has never tried to express in words just what Freemasonry means to
A well-informed Brother,
therefore, will prepare himself for the possibility of being asked such
a question. Even though no one ever asks the question, he will have the
confidence of knowing what Freemasonry means, especially to himself.
First of all, he will determine
to give a Masonic answer, one which asserts the real nature of the
Fraternity as a spiritual force, as "a way of life" which seeks to
improve men morally and spiritually, by associating with other
idealistic men who want to improve the quality of life around them by
means of a brotherhood which emphasizes the Fatherhood of God.
In an age which derides ideals,
absolutes, the concepts of law and order, and advocates relativism
instead of standards of excellence, which angrily demands rights instead
of responsibility, and which preaches a nihilistic doctrine of
individualism (doing your own thing), Masons find it difficult to
explain the Fraternity's idealism and its charitable and educational
purposes. But it must be done. A Mason must give a Masonic answer to the
question, "What are the Masons."
There are really so few
"secrets" which a Mason is required to keep, and so much that he should
be proud to proclaim to others, that his principal concern in answering
questions is probably the doubt that he can give an adequate Masonic
The esoteric parts of the ritual
work, the grips and pass-words of the three degrees, these are really
the only "secrets" which should be kept inviolate. Because it is
impossible to communicate to the uninitiated the joys and satisfactions
of brotherhood experienced in "the labors of the lodge," this too
becomes a secret because it is inexpressible.
But there is so much that can be
told about Freemasonry, about the particular lodge, about the individual
Mason, that the real problem in answering the question, "What do the
Masons do?" is to say only enough to satisfy the questioner without
boring or distracting him.
He can point out that
Freemasonry is an educational organization. By means of the ritualistic
ceremonies and other educational programs, Masons learn and teach the
truths of morality, justice, patriotism, and the necessity of brotherly
love to achieve those universal ideals. Reverence for the Great
Architect is inculcated because men are brothers only if they are
related to God as the, sons of the Creator Father.
He can explain that Masonic
meetings, while resembling the meetings of any organized society, have a
distinctly Masonic character.. They are opened and closed with prayer.
They are patriotic because the nation's flag is kept in an honored place
in the lodge and properly saluted with the pledge of allegiance. They
are opened and closed with Masonic ceremonies to remind the members of
the principal purposes of the Fraternity, which are to develop brotherly
love and respect for truth, not the truths of scientific facts or
history, but the truths which guide a man to live happily and
harmoniously with his fellow man.
For that reason Masonic meetings
do not permit the introduction of discussions about sectarian religious
differences or partisan political opinions. A Masonic lodge, if it is
working seriously, teaches its members the principles involved in
attaining a universal Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.
A Mason is also free to explain
that Freemasonry is a charitable organization, which acts to relieve the
distress of local individuals who are victims of calamity, and that it
has created programs and institutions to care for its needy senior
citizens, or to provide scholarship aid for worthy and needy young
people in college. Masonic Homes and Hospitals, Grand' Lodge Scholarship
Programs, Charity Funds, and the Hospital Visitation Program of the
Masonic Service Association are examples of such achievements.
Freemasonry is also, but not
primarily, a social organization, which arranges special meetings to
which are invited wives, children, neighbors and friends for the
purposes of entertainment and sociability. Masons seek the pleasure of
associating with other members of the community, hoping thereby to
reveal the serious and idealistic nature of the Fraternity's objectives.
There is so much that a Mason
can tell about his beloved Fraternity. But the way in which he tells it
is more important than what he tells. When a Mason is conscious and
proud of the moral and spiritual achievements he has made through
Masonry, when he has been inspired to display the beauties of
friendship, morality, and brotherly love, when he realizes that his own
personal life is the most important evidence he can give to show what a
Mason is, he usually finds it very easy to talk about the Fraternity to
his non-Masonic friends. When he knows that his lodge is a spiritual
force, when it is learning and teaching its members the universal ideals
of the Craft, when it is actively promoting charitable programs and
pursuing truth, he will tell what Freemasonry is with conviction and
But he must know what he is
talking about. This essay suggests only in general terms what he can
talk about. He should be prepared to fill in the details. When he is
convinced that he can supply those details, he is ready to answer the
questions, "What do the Masons do?" and "What are the Masons?"
When he is asked the question he
must then decide on how much or how little to say. A brief but adequate
reply is advised, for if the questioner is not satisfied, he will
undoubtedly ask for further information. The following answer is only a
"Masons are men who voluntarily
asked to join a lodge. They were accepted because they were good men who
believe in God and hold high ethical and moral ideals. They go to
meetings which they call the lodge, in order to learn and to teach what
'friendship, morality, and truth really involve, and to practice on a
small scale the reality of brotherhood. They also have meetings open to
their wives, children, and friends where they promote an understanding
of the serious nature of the Fraternity by entertainment and
sociability. Prac tical programs for charity and relief are planned and
executed. The special kinship they feel for each other as a brotherhood
is their deepest satisfaction."