He looked and acted as though he was very important wearing his dark blue apron with gold braid and a gold chain across his shoulders. He paced up and down the black and white squares on the carpet with great confidence in that tired old masons’ temple in one of the south-eastern suburbs. He volunteered that Freemasonry was a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. He went on for some 20 minutes or so…“…brotherly love, relief and truth” and all those other clichés that then were so meaningless to me. He was addressing about 20 friends of Freemasons including me who I suppose were invited as prospective members. But that was as far as he was prepared to go.
When he put down firmly the first question about something in the lodge room with “…you will learn more about that if you join” there were no more questions. When we went downstairs for a cup of tea he enjoyed being the centre of attention among masons and made no effort to talk to the visitors. Nobody noticed when I and others quietly thanked our hosts and departed. I did not seek to be a member nor did anyone else so I was told – I was later told the new members’ day was a failure. It seems to be all about the importance of the speaker. I still cringe today in the company of active Grand Lodge officers like him and they are still around. But the unanswered question then remained –“what is Freemasonry?”
Freemasonry means different things to different brethren. For some it is a way of serving the community, some like the ritual – the theatre, the pomp and ceremony, others like the administrative responsibility, some simply want something to fill their lives each day during the evening. All of these things and other reasons are important to the individual but there is a common thread through all masonic activities.
You will always be with men with whom you are likely to be comfortable. In a Lodge you will always be wanted and missed when you do not attend. The tasks, whilst not too demanding, will keep your mind active. It is a great “equalizer” – there is always someone there who has been blessed with more fortune than you and always somebody who is worse off. There is always someone to emulate and someone worthy of your assistance or compassion. You will meet people of all ages, races, cultures, religions and you will be able to improve your understanding of mankind and have the basis for self examination. You can travel and visit under the banner of Freemasonry, expanding your experience and enjoyment as in no other way. You will be able to lift you head as a mason, knowing that you are part of a worldwide benevolent fraternity, steeped in history and tradition and of immense standing today. None of these things are masonic secrets.
If I, as a friend of a mason, had been told this all those many years ago in different circumstances I would have tried to join immediately.
Fraternal best wishes to all