A Page about Freemasonry: What's YOUR Answer?
From the Short Talk Bulletin of the Masonic Service Association of the
WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER?
A Mason is sometimes asked by a friend, a neighbor, or a business
associate, "What do the Masons do?" The question may be worded more
generally, "What are the Masons?"
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
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 himself.
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 reply.
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
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
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 enthusiasm.
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 suggestion.
"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. Practical programs for
charity and relief are planned and executed. The special kinship they
feel for each other as a brotherhood is their deepest satisfaction."
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