Interestingly, Mackey addressed some of the very same issues that Masons discuss today – one hundred and thirty-four years later. In fact, one could probably remove Mackey’s name and the date of publication from the article and then easily pass it off as something written yesterday.
Mackey’s article contains his opinions about the title seekers in Freemasonry and the multitude of Freemasons who do not seek self enlightenment via personal research. Mackey divided Freemasons into three classes as follows.
1) Those that petitioned because they felt membership in the Fraternity would “personally benefit them” in their business, political, or other profane endeavors.
2) Those that applied for admission into Freemasonry due to a “favorable opinion conceived of the Institution, and a desire of knowledge.”
3) Somewhere between the first two classes are those that believe all of the Masonic teachings are imparted by their initiations into the various degrees.
Mackey felt that the first group is without hope. “They are dead trees having no promise of fruit. Let them pass as utterly worthless, and incapable of improvement.” He referred to the second group as the “shining lights” of Freemasonry and then concentrated on discussing the third group.
Mackey plainly felt that this third group was the most dangerous to Freemasonry.
Such Masons are distinguished, not by the amount of knowledge that they possess, but by the number of jewels that they wear. They will give fifty dollars for a decoration, but not fifty cents for a book.Mackey did not let up on his condemnation of this third class as he concluded his article.
These men do great injury to Masonry. They have been called its drones. But they are more than that. They are the wasps, the deadly enemy of the industrious bees. They set a bad example to the younger Masons – they discourage the growth of masonic literature – they drive the intellectual men, who would be willing to cultivate masonic science, into other fields of labor – they depress the energies of our writers – and they debase the character of Speculative Masonry as a branch of mental and moral philosophy.
The Masons who do not read will know nothing of the interior beauties of Speculative Masonry, but will be content to suppose it to be something like Odd Fellows, or the Order of the Knights of Pythias – only, perhaps, a little older. Such a Mason must be an indifferent one. He has laid no foundation for zeal.Oh, how the times never change.
If this indifference, instead of being checked, becomes more widely spread, the result is too apparent. Freemasonry must step down from the elevated position which she has been struggling, through the efforts of her scholars, to maintain, and our lodges, instead of becoming resorts for speculative and philosophical thought, will deteriorate into social clubs or mere benefit societies.
Note: All quotes are from Mackey’s referenced article in the Winter 2008-2009 edition of The Plumbline.