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An old Past Master: For love or money

25 March 24

‘I’m afraid we are not going to have the pleasure of hearing Professor Filson’, said the young mason to the old Past Master, sitting beside him in the ante-room.

‘Oh, it’s money of course. Filson always gets a hundred dollars a lecture, and the lodge cannot afford to pay it. And of course Filson cannot afford to lower his price, and that’s it!

‘Why doesn’t Filson give the lodge the lecture for nothing?” asked the old Past Master.

‘Why, why should he? That isn’t business. The electric light company doesn’t give us light, the printer charges us for all printed matter, the furniture store charges us for carpets; why should Filson present us with his wares?’

‘Seems to me that there is a difference,’ suggested the old Past Master. ‘Brother Filson, I suppose, comes to the lodge to spend an evening at times. When he does, he spends as much time here without paying, sitting or standing up talking. The electric light company could not give us current without spending money to produce it, the printer must pay his printers, the furniture man must buy his carpet, but brother Filson would not have to spend any money to give his lecture; all he would have to spend would be a small part of what we have spent on him.” ‘I don’t think I understand that last – what we have spent on him?’

‘Thousands of years, millions of thoughts, untold effort, careful planning,’ was the prompt response. ‘Have you ever stopped to think just what Masonry is and does? Masonry is the product of the most unselfish thinking, the most wholehearted and selfless effort the world has ever known. Through it a universal brotherhood of millions of men has been brought into being, to anyone of which you and I and brother Filson have the right to turn, sure of sympathy, understanding and some help in time of need.’

‘It has evolved a system of philosophy and that philosophy is taught to all brethren of the third degree, without money and without price. Through it we learn charity, toleration, courage, fortitude, justice, truth, brotherly love, relief. Through it we learn decency, patriotism, high thinking, honour, honesty and helpfulness. Through it we are made better men, better citizens, better husbands, better fathers, better legislators and better followers of our several vocations.

‘Masonry may only penetrate a fraction beneath the skin of its followers, but by that fraction the man who takes even a little of its blessings to himself is a better man, and so the world is a better place for the rest of us. In some it strikes deep. We become soaked through and through with masonic ideas, and strive, in our feeble human way, to show forth to the world whatever measure we may accomplish of the perfection for which Masonry strives. Those of us who take it seriously and who love it much also make the world a better place for the rest of us.

‘The lodge provides a spiritual home for brethren who may have no other. If one has another in his church, the lodge gives him a second spiritual home to which he may occasionally go and feel more strongly, perhaps, than in his church the close touch of his brother’s hand, the smile

of a brother’s love, the supporting arm of a brother’s strength. To me, my lodge is a rest, a haven, a harbour for a tired mind. ‘When I come to this lodge, whose destinies I guided so long ago, and which I have watched grow from a little fledgling to a mature organisation, I find myself uplifted, strengthened, made whole again. I may come tired, worn, weary with the day; I leave refreshed, invigorated, helped with the reviving of old truths, the remaking of old vows, and the renewing of old ties.

‘Our ancient brethren had “cities of refuge,” to which the fleeing man, criminal, or oppressed, might run for safety. Masonry is our modern “city of refuge,” to which we, oppressed with injustice and cruelty may fly for spiritual comfort and safety, knowing that within the four walls of a lodge is rest, peace and comfort.’

‘All this has the lodge in particular, and Masonry in general, offered since the beginning, to all upon whom Masonry lays her gentle hands. You are the recipient of her bounty, as am I. And so is brother Filson. We three – and all within these walls – take generously and without stint from Masonry’s storehouse of loveliness, beauty, of rest and comfort and love.

‘Often I ask myself “what have I done for Masonry, which does so much for me?” Never do I feel that I have done enough. And Brother Filson, whom I do not know, might well ask himself that, before he thinks of what he might do for the lodge in terms of dollars and business.

‘If he has done one-tenth for Masonry and for the lodge, what lodge and Masonry have done for him, he may hesitate. But if he is like the great majority of masons, content to take much and give little, willing to receive all and give nothing, careless of the structure which millions have raised in the past that he might benefit, unable to understand that in his hands is committed the torch that those who come after may see clearly, he has need of open eyes, and an understanding heart, which alone may show him that for Masonry, which does so much for men, no man may do enough.’

The old Past Master ceased and sat silent. From a chair across the ante-room a brother rose and came slowly forward. ‘I do thank you, my brother,’ he said, ‘from the bottom of my heart. The lodge will certainly hear that lecture as soon as the Master wishes it. My name is Filson.’

This short story is from "The Old Past Master" by Brother Carl Claudy. Which appeared in the Freemasons Magazine Pg 38, December 2012.


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