Friday, June 1, 2012

The man who asks his friend to take his petition into his lodge touches his second Masonic symbol.  Only by the good offices of a friend may he ask for the privileges of Freemasonry.  Freemasonry differs, then, from the school, the college, the job, the business house, the life-assurance society; to these the stranger may apply, as indeed he may apply to many organizations.  To Freemasonry he may make not application without the good offices of a friend.  When his application is acted upon, a committee is appointed, charged with the duty of ascertaining what manner of man he is, whether he is of sound mind, sound body, free born, under the tongue of good report, a reputable citizen, able to support himself and family, and, in the words of the Old Charges, no "stupid atheist or irreligious libertine."
It is obvious that a man is not accepted at his face value by Freemasonry.  If Freemasonry does not accept a man from his general appearance, or even from his general reputation, it must be because she knows that a man is not always what he appears to be.  In the opinion of the fraternity man has both an inner and an outer aspect; he may be freeborn and sound of mind and limb; he may be "under the tongue of good report" so far as the friend who recommends him knows, but the fraternity insists upon further knowledge; it is the inner man for which she searches; it is the spiritual man she would understand, before she confers the benefits or her rites, her secrets, and her brotherhood.

Emphasis is placed on this preliminary symbol, this investigation, this searching, because it holds the keynote to all of Freemasonry's methods of teaching.  It appears a very obvious course to pursue, and ninety-nine out of a hundred accept it as such.  "Of course they want to know what sort of man I am!" argues the prospective candidate.  "They don't want to associate with bad men.  They don't want to accept an object of charity.  They want regular fellows; well, let 'em investigate!"  But the hundredth man pauses to wonder how Freemasonry came to know so well that there is an outward and physical and inward and spiritual man, and that it is the inward and spiritual only which must count in Freemasonry!

We who are old in the Craft know too well that the ideal is often toppled in the dust by the careless committee; that men quite otherwise than "good and true" get into the fraternity.  Perhaps more get in than we know; if so, then some of them are lifted up by what they find.  We may never learn their true character if they change it after they are subjects of Freemasonry's gentle art!  Perhaps it is the will of the Great Architect that we work always with some imperfect material to prove what manner of builders we are!  But the fact that men less than good do become Freemasons, at times, has nothing to do with Freemasonry's teaching, long before the door is reached, that man must not be judged by exterior alone, that even a friend may be mistaken about him, and that only a careful digging in the depths will reveal what he really is "in his heart."

Carl H. Claudy, Foreign Countries


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