ADDRESS OF WALTER L. STOCKWELL
Grand Secretary Grand Lodge of North Dakota
And now for a few moments it is our desire to direct your thoughts to the consideration of some questions which seem to deserve more careful attention than is sometimes given by most of us.
First. Of What Does Masonry Consist? The Constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England says: “Pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.” This statement is made at this time to emphasize the necessity of getting back to fundamentals, at least occasionally. Anything else which is today grouped under the head of Masonic degrees or orders, may be put down as the outgrowth of the zeal, ambition, or the fertile brain, of some man or group of men to achieve fame for themselves, and possibly render a service to the seeker after higher light in Masonry. It is a well established fact that in the beginning the Royal Arch degree and that of Knight Templar, were conferred in a lodge of Master Masons. Hence, we repeat that the Symbolic lodge, the lodge of Master Masons is fundamental; and anything which cheapens or commercializes the institution is, in our judgment, a serious reflection upon the dignity and character of Masonry. How many men are there in your acquaintance today who are seeking admission into our lodges solely because of the attraction that Ancient Craft Masonry has for them with its wonderful lessons and its opportunities for service. Too frequently we fear there is something else in our present scheme of so-called Masonic degrees which attracts their attention. Do not get the idea that we disapprove of the Royal Arch degrees or the Temple Orders, or the Scottish Rite of the Shrine. We have them all, but it is our desire tonight to impress upon you the fact that when all is said and done, Symbolic Masonry it was that has stood the test of opposition, of prejudice, of the anathemas of the church, and unless Masonry in this form is kept strong and vigorous your whole scheme of higher degrees falls. And we may add that we cannot disassociate our membership in any of these other degrees or bodies with our capacity as Master Masons. May we urge that nothing ever be done in a public way which brings discredit upon Masonry in the eyes of the profane. Let us never forget that by conduct as men is our Institution judged. Our Masonry is not a cloak that can be put on and off at will, it must be a part of the life we live.
Second. Has Masonry a Message? To any one who has seriously reflected upon the lessons of our Order, there can be but one answer. It has. Possibly we may think it has many message for those seekers after Masonic light whose ears are attuned to catch them, but too often it is a case of having eyes that see not and ears that hear bot; but to us the one outstanding message of Masonry today is the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Men. The plural is used her purposely. No Mason can deny the existence of a God, the Creator and Father of us all; and acceptance of this fundamental tenet compels every true Mason to acknowledge the essential religious note in our teachings. It is not our intention to dwell so much on this elemental fact as that dependent and correlated idea which follows its: namely, the Brotherhood of Men. What is wrong in this old world tonight, with all its poverty and suffering, misery and woe, its hatred and its wars? Simply our refusal to permit the sway of this of Brotherhood in our lives, and if Masonry has any message worth while at this time it is this. In the mind of the Infinite, there are no divisions of races, nationalities, creed or castes. In the teaching of the Christ, there was neither Jew nor Gentile, bondman nor freeman, saint nor sinner, all were children of the Infinite and alike precious in his sight. May we suggest that the tremendous hold which that Man of Galilee has upon his followers, is due entirely to this fundamental doctrine of Brotherhood; and where, may we ask, is there a better place to inculcate that idea than in the Masonic Order. The only essential for membership is this simple belief and manhood. We do not ask from what race your sprung, we are not concerned with your antecedents, we ask no questions about caste or creed, or bank accounts or political affiliations. We care not whether you be Teuton or Frenchman, Scandinavian or Italian, English or Hun, so long as you are man free born, of good repute and well recommended. There are no distinctions of position, social or official. Masonry teaches brotherhood and democracy; democracy and brotherhood are the solutions to the world conflict raging today, and the extreme delicacy of our national position. May it not be our part to lead the world of out of the darkness which has fallen upon it. Let us not lose our sanity. May not this nation, in which all the old world elements and nationalities are being fused, show the warring peoples of Europe that there is no reason why hatred should rule in their lives; and in this time of our national crisis may we refrain from saying the word or doing that act which may imperil our safety and out solidarity. let us remember that there is but one name under heaven and on earth by which we may be designated, and that is “Americans.”
And has Masonry, with its nearly two million members in this country, nothing to do? It surely has. If we are not a sham, we must show to the world that there is an institution into which men of all races, creeds, occupations and nationalities may be united with mutual respect for and confidence in each other. We may not lead any propaganda, but we can wield a powerful influence upon public opinion if we but will. Has Masonry a Message? It has, and it is this: In true Brotherhood is contained the panacea for all our social, national and world-wide problems.
Third. Has Masonry a Mission? It must have, otherwise the reason for its existence ceases. Masonry must translate into deeds its message of Brotherhood. This is its mission. Somewhere in the Great Light in Masonry, if our memory plays no tricks, this idea of conduct is set forth: to deal justly, live righteously and act honorably, etc. In any even, we shall use this trinity of ideals for our purpose, for such must be the attitude of Masonry if its message of Brotherhood shall prevail. Justice, the blind goddess, whose scales are always held in equal poise, typifies the one thing which every man and every Mason believes should exist between men and nations. Justice says that the rights of every human creature shall be fully safeguarded. How far short we come of this mark, we shall not undertake to say tonight, yet, that we have come a long way on the path during the past decade or two, no one will gain say. While the passion and hatred of the present hour may check our upward march, still never has there been a time when so many men were concerned in an endeavor to right the wrongs of the weak, and see that justice in some measure was guaranteed. If Masonry has left the faintest impression upon our hearts, it will at least imbue us with a fellow those things which will insure his full measure of comfort and happiness. It will help put out of our lives those twin expressions of darkness, greed and avarice.
Righteousness — right-wise-ness, a knowledge of the Right. This means that knowing the right, we will do the right. In an issue between Right and Wrong, there is no middle ground, there ought not to be compromise, for in the end victory alone can rest with the banner of the Right. What has Masonry to do with this? Masons and Masonry must ever be found enrolled under the banner of Righteousness; and unless our Institution realizes once and for all time this prime essential of individual and collective conduct, it does not possess the enduring characteristics which so many of us have always believe it has. We shall not enter into any extended discussions of what is right and what is wrong, yet may we suggest that anything that undermines the character of manhood and womanhood, that takes from childhood its joy and opportunities, that tends to destroy the home, that weakens our hold upon fundamental religious faith and conviction, that makes for the downfall of democracy, and hence our national existence, are, in our opinion, essentially unrighteous; and Masonry cannot makes its message of Brotherhood concrete unless it takes a stand definitely and determinedly against such influences as these. May we plead with you brethren not to think such a program fantastic and impossible. It may be ideal, yet it is the ideal toward which we strive, and just in so far as we strive for the ideal we increase in strength of character and in stature as men and Masons, and as the individual so the Institution.
Honor, a word coming directly from the Latin. It has never been Anglicised or modified. It has stood the test of more than two thousand years unimpaired. If this be so, then there must be in this word significance of more than passing importance. It is told that once during the dark days of our Revolutionary Ward when Robert Morris, the financier of that struggle, went to some bankers in New York to borrow money with which to meet the pressing needs of Washington’s army, he was met with the question of security, and he replied: “My note and my sacred honor.” What is this honor about which we are concerned? It is that quality in men, in institutions, in states, in nations, which raises them above the common place and makes them in tune with the infinite. Once in our career as Masons, we heard the expressions, “My life you can have, my integrity, never.” We could with equal force substitute for “integrity” the word “honor.” We might dwell with much profit upon this there yet time passes. So we say that Masons must hold true to the highest standards of personal honor, and thus the Order may continue to attract to its membership the best men of every age, men whom the world delights to honor because they are honorable.
In conclusion may we ask, What of the future of Masonry? There can be no misgivings about that. This Institution, founded upon such principles as lie at the basis of Masonry, an Institution with so creditable a history, an Institution which such a message and such a mission must endure. So long as men seek fellowship, so long as the cry of the widow and the orphan is heard, so long as there are wrongs to right and wounds to heal, just so long will Fraternity endure.
Larger emphasis will be laid upon Symbolic Masonry. It will always stand for the highest ideals of Brotherhood. It will more and more associate itself with great social and moral movements of our times. It will concern itself ever and always with the best standards of manhood and personal conduct among its members. So that we as Masons may, indeed, be master builders here below; and this splendid Temple which we dedicate tonight may be as a beacon set upon a hill, giving light and direction to all who seek its sacred portals.
Transcribed by Tim Fleischer, Salado Lodge #296 from the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M., 1915, pages 237-240, Report of Committee on Correspondence.