SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.I May, 1923 No.5
SPIRIT OF MASONRY
Outside of the home and the House of God there is nothing in this world more beautiful than the Spirit of Masonry. Gentle, gracious, and wise; its mission is to form mankind into a great redemptive brotherhood, a league of noble and free men enlisted in the radiant enterprise of working out in time the love and will of the Eternal. Who is sufficient to describe a spirit so benign? With what words may one ever hope to capture and detain that which belongs of right to the genius of poetry and song, by whose magic those elusive and impalpable realities find embodiment and voice?
With picture, parable, and stately drama; Masonry appeals to lovers of beauty bringing poetry and symbol to the aid of philosophy and are to the service of character. Broad and tolerant in its teachings it appeals to men of intellect, equally by the depths of its faith and its pleas for liberty of thought - helping them to think things through to a more satisfying and hopeful vision of the meaning of life and the mystery of the world. But its profoundest appeal, more eloquent than all others, is to the deep heart of man out of which are the issues of life and destiny. When all is said, it is as a man thinketh in his heart whether life be worth while or not, and whether he is a help or a curse to his race.
Here Lies the tragedy of our race:
Not that men are poor;
All men know something of poverty.
Not that men are wicked;
Who can claim to be good?
Not that all men are ignorant;
Who can boast that he is wise?
But that men are strangers!
Masonry if Friendship - friendship, first, with the
great Companion, of whom our own hearts tell us, who is always nearer to us
than we are to ourselves, and whose inspiration and help is the greatest
fact of human experience. To be in harmony with his purposes, to be
open to His suggestions, to be conscious of fello
Nor is the spirit of friendship a mere sentiment held by a sympathetic, and therefore unstable, fraternity, which would dissolve the concrete features of humanity into a vague blur of misty emotion. No; it has its roots in a profound philosophy which sees that the universe is friendly, and that men must learn to be friends if they would live as befits the world in which they live, as well as their own origin and destiny. For, since God is the life of all that was, is, and is to be; and since we are all born into the world by one high wisdom and one vast love, we are brothers to the last man of us, forever! For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and even after death us do part, all men are held together by ties of spiritual kinship, sons of one eternal friend. Upon this fact human fraternity rests, and it is the basis of the plea of Masonry, not only for freedom, but for friendship among men.
Thus friendship, so far from being a mush of concessions, is in fact the constructive genius of the universe. Love is ever the Builder, and those who have done most to establish the City of God on earth have been the men who loved their fellow men. Once you let this spirit prevail, the wrangling sects will be lost in the great league of those who love in the service of those who suffer. No man will then revile the faith in which his neighbor finds help for today and hope for the morrow; pity will smite him mute, and love will teach him that God is found in many ways, by those who seek him with honest hearts. Once you let this spirit rule in the realm of trade the law of the jungle will cease, and men will strive to build a social order in which all men may have the opportunity "To Live, and to Live Well," as Aristotle defined the purpose of society. Here is the basis of that magical stability aimed at by the earliest artists when they sought to build for eternity, by imitating on earth the House of God.
Our human history, saturated with blood and blistered
with tears, is the story of man making friends with man. Society has
evolved from a feud into a friendship by the slow growth of love and the
welding of man, first to his kin, and then to his kind. The first man
who walked in the red dawn of time lived every man for himself, his heart a
sanctuary of suspicions, every man feeling that every other man was his foe,
and therefore his prey. So there was war, strife and bloodshed.
Slowly there came to the savage a gleam of the truth that it is better to
help than to hurt, and he organized clans and tribes. But the tribes
were divided by rivers and mountains, and the men on one side of the river
felt that the men on the other side were their enemies. Again there
was war, pillage, and sorrow. Great empires arose and met in the shock
of conflict, leaving trails of skeletons across the earth. Then came
the great roads, reaching out with their stony clutch and bringing the ends
of the earth together. Men met, mingled, passed and repassed; and
learned that human nature is much the same everywhere, with hopes and fears
in common. Still there were many things to divide and estrange men
from each other, and the earth was full of bitterness. Not satisfied
with natural barriers, men erected high walls of sect and caste, to exclude
Barriers of race, of creed, of caste, of training and
interest separate men today, as if some malign genius were bent on keeping
man from his fello
The Spirit of Masonry! He who would describe that spirit must be a poet, a musician, and a seer - a master of melodies, echoes, and long far-sounding cadences. Now, as always, it toils to make man better, to refine his thought and purify his sympathy, to broaden his outlook, to lift his altitude, to establish in amplitude and resoluteness his life in all its relations. All its great history, its vast accumulations of tradition, its simple faith and its solemn rites, its freedom and its friendship are dedicated to the high moral ideal, seeking to tame the tiger in man, and bring his wild passions into obedience to the will of God. It has no other mission than to exalt and ennoble humanity, to bring light out of darkness, beauty out of angularity; to make every hard-won inheritance more secure, every sanctuary more sacred, every hope more radiant!
The Spirit of Masonry! Aye, when that spirit has
its way upon earth, as at last it surely will, society will be a vast
communion of kindness and justice, business a system of human service, law a
rule of beneficence; home will be more holy, the laughter of childhood more
joyous, and the temple of prayer mortised and tendoned in a simple faith.
Evil, injustice, bigotry, greed, and every vile and slimy thing that defiles
and defames humanity will skulk into the dark, unable to bear the light of a
juste, wiser, more merciful order. Industry will be upright, education
prophetic, and religion not a shadow, but a real Presence, when man has
become acquainted with man and has learned to worship God by serving his
Toward a great friendship, long foreseen by Masonic
faith, the world is slowly moving, amid difficulties and delays, reactions
and reconstructions. Though long deferred, of the day, which will
surely arrive, when nations will be reverent in the use of freedom, just in
the exercise of power, humane in the practice of wisdom; when no man will
ride over the rights of his fello
Having outlived empires and philosophies, having seen generations appear and vanish, it will yet live to see the travail of its soul, and be satisfied - When the War Drum throbs no longer, And the Battle Flags are furled; In the Parliament of man, The Federation of the World.
Manifestly, since love is the law of life, if men are to be won from hate to love, if those who doubt and deny are to be wooed to faith, if the race is ever to be led and lifted into a life of service, it must be by the fine art of Friendship. Inasmuch as this is the purpose of Masonry, its mission determines the method not less than the spirit of its labor. Earnestly it endeavors to bring men - first the individual man, and then, so far as is possible, those who are united with him - to love one another, while holding aloft, in picture and dream, that Temple of character which is the noblest labor of life to build in the midst of the years, and which will outlast time and death. Thus it seeks to reach the lonely inner life of man where the real battles are fought, and where the issues of destiny are decided, now with shouts of victory, now with sobs of defeat. What a ministry to a young man who enters its Temple in the morning of life, when the dew of heaven is upon his days and the birds are singing in his heart!
From the wise lore of the East Max Muller translated a parable which tells how the Gods, having stolen from man his divinity, met in council to discuss where they should hide it. One suggested that it be carried to the other side of the earth and buried; but, it was pointed out that man is a great wanderer, and that he might find the lost treasure on the other side of the earth. Another proposed that it be dropped into the depths of the sea; but, the same fear was expressed - that man, in his insatiable curiosity, might dive deep enough to find even there. Finally, after a space of silence, the oldest and wisest of the Gods said: "Hide it in man himself, as that is the last place he will ever think to look for it." And so it was agreed, all seeing at once the subtle and wise strategy. Man did wander the earth, for ages, seeking in all places high and low, far and near, before he thought to look within himself for the divinity he sought. At last, slowly, dimly, he began to realize that what he thought was far off, hidden in the "The Pathos of Distance, is nearer than the breath he breathes, even in his own heart.
Here lies the great secret of Masonry - that it makes a
man aware of that divinity within him, wherefrom his whole life takes its
beauty and meaning, and inspires him to follow and obey it. Once a man
learns this deep secret, life is new, and the old world is a valley all dewy
to the dawn with a lark song over it. There never was a truer saying
than, the religion of a man is the chief fact concerning him. By
religion is meant not the creed to which a man will subscribe, or otherwise
give his assent; not that necessarily; often not that at all - since we see
men of all degrees of worth and worthlessness signing all kinds of creeds.
No; the religion of a man is that which he practically believes, lays to
heart, acts upon, and thereby kno
At the bottom, a man is what his thinking is, thoughts being the artists who give color to our days. Optimists and pessimists live in the same world, walk under the same sky, and observe the same facts, Skeptics and believers look up at the same great stars - the stars that shone in Eden and will flash again in Paradise. Clearly the difference between them is a difference not of fact, but of faith - of insight, outlook, and point of view - a difference of inner attitude and habit of thought with regard to the worth and use of life. By the same taken, ant influence which reaches and alters that inner habit and bias of mind, and changes it from doubt to faith, from fear to courage, from despair to sunburst hope, has wrought the most benign ministry which a mortal may enjoy. Every man has a train of thought on which he rides when he is alone; and the worth of his life to himself and others, as well as its happiness, depend upon the direction in which that train is going, the baggage it carries, and the country through which it travels. If, then, Masonry can put that inner train of thought on the right track, freight it with precious treasure, and start it on the way to the City of God, what other or higher ministry can it render to a man? And that is what it dies for any man who will listen to it, love it, and lay its truth to heart.
High, Fine, Ineffably rich and beautiful are the faith
and vision which Masonry gives to those who foregather at its Altar,
bringing to them in picture, parable, and symbol the lofty and pure truth
wrought out through ages of experience, tested by time, and found to be
valid for the conduct of life. By such teaching, if they have the
heart to heed it, men become wise, learning how to be both brave and gentle,
faithful, and free; how to renounce superstition and retain faith; how to
keep a fine poise of reason between falsehood of extremes; how to accept the
joys of life with glee, and endure its ills with patient valor; how to look
upon the folly of man and not forget his nobility - in short, how to live
cleanly, kindly, open-eyed and unafraid in a sane world, sweet of heart and
full of hope. Who so lays this lucid and profound wisdom to heart, and
lives by it, will have little regret, and nothing to fear, when the evening
Such is the ideal of Masonry, and fidelity to all that is holy demands that we give ourselves to it, trusting the power of truth, the reality of love, and the sovereign worth of character. For only as we incarnate that ideal in real life and activity does it become real tangible, and effective. God works for man through man and seldom, if at all, in any other way. He asks for our voices to speak His Truth, for our hands to do his work here below - sweet voices and clean hands to make liberty and love prevail over injustice and hate. Not all of us can be learned or famous, but each of us can be loyal and true of heart, undefiled by evil, undaunted by error, faithful and helpful to our fellow souls. Life is a capacity for the highest - an eager incessant quest of truth; a noble utility, a lofty honor, a wise freedom, a genuine service - that through us the Spirit of Masonry may grow and be glorified.
When is a man a Mason? When he can look out over
the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own
littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and
courage - which is the root of every virtue. When he kno