Is our Fraternity just a little too common?
Thoughts about the fraternity from the 19th Century---------
“A real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestricted rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflict; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessing he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principle.”
— The Farmer's Almanac, 1823
Are we ashamed today to think that our fraternity is an elite organization? Or, perhaps, we do not believe that it is!
We have high standards; admit no one who is not moral, upright before God and of good repute before the world. We do “good works” throughout the United States that are worth billions of dollars. The secret is that it is okay to be elite; but we should not be elitist. Elite is to have high standards; elitist is to consider yourself better than everyone else and to let them know it.
To be an elite organization requires constant effort. It can never be satisfied with the status quo; the standards can always be lifted.
Masonic meetings are places of learning, a fostering of ideas, and the lodge is a sanctuary for nurturing and developing friendship. It is where we go to celebrate our brotherhood. In the 18th Century, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Mozart all joined a Masonic Lodge to be with gentlemen who would debate the great questions of the day.
We must understand who we are and the road we’ve traveled. The philosophy of Masonry required centuries to develop and should be understood and venerated by all members of the fraternity.
Each lodge should have high standards. We need to foster the joys of gentlemanly behavior. Not phony gentlemanliness, but genuine fraternal good behavior. Consequently, at times, it may be necessary to give good counsel to a brother. This can be difficult, especially when it is misunderstood as criticism.
As gentleman, we should advocate a minimum standard of dress. When initiating, passing and raising a candidate, think of just how important an event that new man will consider it to be if the entire lodge membership looks first-class and is dressed for the occasion.
Good behavior is essential. We should not allow rude, coarse behavior among Masons. There was an Internet discussion recently regarding whether a brother, who showed up at a funeral home in jeans and a golf shirt to perform the solemn Masonic funeral service, should have been excluded. It should not be necessary to even discuss proper dress at a funeral, and it is sad that lodge members would condone such a lack of respect to a deceased brother and his family.
One may rationalize that society is more casual now. And some would add that it is "the internal, not the external qualifications of a man that Masonry regards."
We also say that our providence is to make good men better. If we are to polish the rough ashlar into a perfect one than we must conduct ourselves as the BEST men in society.
I have previously written that the Masonic fraternity is “out of step” with current society because we have higher standards. In other words, we should not lower ourselves to the behavior of the common group. If we are to be elite, when the world around us is rude and common, it should be our stated purpose to improve that world by improving men.
In Europe, Freemasonry is taken seriously because Freemasons take themselves seriously. We should also feel that our fraternity is solemn, noble, exclusive, dignified and special.
I am not advocating that our lodges should be stern, joyless places of strict, dreary ritualists. Not at all! A lodge should be, first and foremost, a place of brotherhood, of friendships, and close personal bonds. It is not a degree mill to be opened, closed and fled.
The degrees of Masonry should be formal, sincere, instructive and enlightening.
The business meeting should be brief.
The Feast, Philosophy and Fellowship should be the centerpiece.