by Brother William A. Carpenter, R. W. G. M.
From a "Masonic Culture" handbook issued by the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania we have extracted several items which came from the inspired pen of Brother William A. Carpenter, the current Right Worshipful Grand Master, written many years ago. They stand the test of time.
OUR BASIC FUNCTION. The basic func- tion of a Masonic Lodge is to make Master Masons.
This does not mean the formality of raising candidates. It extends far beyond that period in the life of a Mason. The task of making Master Masons must be directed toward all of us, those who are Master Masons and those who are in the process of becoming Master Masons.
The fruits of our efforts to teach and to learn about Freemasonry, the interest that we show the candidates as we welcome them into the new world of Freemasonry, will be evident in the years to come.
If we sow well, we are bound to reap well.
Being "Well and Duly Prepared" is a Masonic expression. Masons understand its significance in the Lodge Rooms. However, they may also interpret it outside the Lodge. No Mason enters even the ground floor of the Lodge unless he is "Well and Duly Prepared." So simple is his dress that it provokes no envy. He is dressed properly for the occasion, and everyone so dressed feels perfectly at ease among his Brethren. No place here for the rich to boast of fine raiment and resplendent jewels, nor for the poor to envy his more fortunate Brother or covet his wealth. Their clothing in each case symbolizes labor and innocence. With hand and brain, each is ready to serve his fellowman; with forbearance and toleration, each is willing to forgive the crude and ignorant everywhere. To carry the symbolism of Masonic in- vestiture still further, every Mason should be clothed in the habiliments of truth. His war- drobe should contain the robe of justice, with which to protect those who, for any reason, have been deprived of their just rights; the man- tle of charity, with which to comfort those made destitute, many times by no cause of their own; the tunic of toleration, with which to hide the weakness of the wayward, and help them to the road of recovery; the cloak of mercy, with which to cover the wounded and suffering in mind or body with unstinted sympathy and kindness.
These garments are all of genius quality, measured and cut by a Master Tailor. They are serviceable and in good taste on every occasion. They, too, may be had without money and without price, and, the man who wears them is truly "properly clothed," and "Well and Duly Prepared" as a Master Mason.
Freemasonry is a Story of Life; with all its joys, its heartaches, its failures and its final triumph over all earthly things.
Anyone can read it, in countless books. Its teachings, its symbols, and its ambitions, are open for general obseration. They are practiced in the light, and held up for all the world to see.
Freemasonry is not practiced in the dark, neither are its teachings the dogma of some for- bidden cult. We, as Freemasons, are required to reflect the light; to practice its teachings and love by their direction. No greater thing can be said of Freemasonry than that it is an ideal way of life.
No other fraternity offers such profound lessons in its Ritual or Work as does Free- masonry. Each word and each act in the ceremonies of the Lodge carries a true lesson to each of us, if we will but open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and hearts to accept.
We can study Freemasonry for years, as we attend its meetings, and each time we stop to think on the things said and done, we get a new meaning and inspiration from them. There is a never-ending source of pleasure in the various shades of meaning that can be read into each line of our work. Each new meaning and inter- pretation that we put into some word or act will make that passage live for us, and we will begin to see Freemasonry for what it is intended. Great men have devoted many years of study and meditation to the cause of Freemasonry and when their work is finished they realize that they have only begun to see the light and that they have only started to uncover the true meanings of the work.
Freemasonry has been talked of and written about by countless men in every country of the world. Its members have been persecuted in all lands at one time or the other, but is still grows and flourishes as no other fraternity on earth today.
There must be something good and great in Freemasonry, for it to stand through the years as a beacon of light to its members and as a symbol of the true way of life for all to see and follow. Its greatness is not due to it.s secret teachings, its mysteries or fanfare of its deeds, but rather to the profound lessons taught to its members and to the comfort, inspiration and enlightenment brought to all who will but study
Freemasonry frowns on advertising its good deeds, preferring to let those who benefit from them reflect its goodness, that others might have hope and desire the better things of life.
Freemasonry offers comfort to those who sorrow, hope for those who despair, wise counsel for those who err, and the joys and contentment of life to all.
SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND. The mak- ing of a Freemason consists in a continued course of education, and of character forming. While it may be accepted that it is an innermost desire, followed by obligations that makes one a member of the Craft, yet in a truer torm dnd better sense, a man is never a Freemason until he truthfully and loyally lives up to his obliga- tions. And he cannot do that until he understands them, and eventually knows their scope and real meaning.
Freemasonry can very well be divided into many phases. Its landmarks, its customs, its constitution and its laws, just to mention a few, if studied and mastered, can provide a most in- teresting course for the Master Mason seeking Masonic knowledge. Its historical background can provide an interesting program of in- vestigation to the member attracted to a desire for research.
One peculiarity about Freemasonry is that it will stand investigation. The deeper the research, the more extensive the knowledge of its hidden art and mysteries, the more highly it is appreciated. A member of the Craft who merely takes his degrees in a listless, careless sort of manner, and then remains as just a spec- tator at Lodge meetings, may hold to the opi- nion that Freemasonry differs little from other societies. To the contrary, the Master Mason who delves deeply into Masonic literature, takes a lively interest in every part of the Ritualistic and lodge Work, and learns the origin, meaning and moral bearing of its sym- bols, cannot possibly fall into such an error. To him Freemasonry has a refining and elevating influence not to be found in the ordinary run of organizations .
The philosophies of Freemasonry, when discovered and then accepted and practiced, provide that simple but profound solution to the problems of human relationships. May it be accepted that Freemasonry is a way of living to the Master Mason who is interested enough to appraise and value the wealth that is his, and his alone, by virtue of his Masonic Member- ship.
The best informed Master Mason is the Master Mason who reads and studies. Conse- quently, if we want Freemasonry to be of prac- tical usefulness and cultural attainment, we, as Freemasons, must not neglect our Masonic reading, our Masonic studying and our research for more Masonic Light.
NEEDED: A KNOWLEDGE OF FREE- MASONRY. At no time in Masonic history has there been a greater need for understanding of what Freemasonry is and what it stands for than there is today. Much has been left undone in the education of Members of our Lodges.
The first essential in Masonic education is that desire to become interested and enthused in Freemasonry followed by a thirst for knowledge as to what Freemasonry is all about. Here is where the instructors can serve well and can influence the candidate in a continuous search for more Masonic Light.
The qualifications for instructing are less exciting than may be imagined. What is essen- tial is a basic knowledge of Freemasonry by the instructor. In this day and age, with so many counter attractions, it becomes more evident that greater efforts must be put forth to instruct our new Members in the ideals and fundamen- tals of Freemasonry.
Every Lodge should have a definite pro- gram along authentic Masonic educational lines. We must understand what Freemasonry really is before we can practice Freemasonry in our lives. We must remember that Freemasonry is judged by the actions of its individual members. We must set an example to those out- side the Craft at all times.
The need for Masonic knowledge is often evidenced in our Lodges, This can be alleviated where dedicated members qualify as instructors and then serve in teaching the principles and fundamentals of Freemasonry to all who will listen.
BY Bro. Walter H. Bonn, Victor, Iowa
It's not a sign or handshake, a hall where tilers sit,
It's not a guarded building, where passwords will admit,
It's not a place of symbols, which Wardens oft display,
It's not a lodge of members, who meet in white array.
It is the home of justice, of liberty and truth,
Of loyalty to country, of sympathy for youth,
Of succor for a brother, of gentleness and cheer,
Of tolerance for neighbors, whose life is often drear.