A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, How the Times Never Change

The Winter 2008-2009 edition of The Plumbline, the quarterly bulletin of the Scottish Rite Research Society, carried a reprint of an article by Albert G. Mackey, titled Reading Masons and Masons Who Do Not Read as was originally published in Voice of Masonry in June 1875.

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.

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.
Mackey did not let up on his condemnation of this third class as he concluded his article.
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.

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.
Oh, how the times never change.

Note: All quotes are from Mackey’s referenced article in the Winter 2008-2009 edition of The Plumbline.


47th Problem of Euclid said...

Thank you for reminding us of Mackey's remarkable article. The only difference between Mackey's era and ours is that Mackey is fearlessly outspoken about the lack of Masonic education he sees, and today we seem a bit more complacent, in my humble observation.

J.Luis CastaƱeda said...

You hit the nail right on the head in saying that this could have been written yesterday.

After being raised I was surprised to find brothers that had gone through the degrees, and attended Lodge regularly yet lacked any interest in furthering their Masonic education. It was even more surprising to see such individuals vying for Masonic honors along side those brothers who had made the effort to promote the teachings of Masonry.

I often make the analogy that this is akin to joining a baseball team, but never going to batting practice or doing anything whatsoever to become a better ballplayer.

Fraternally yours.

J.Luis CastaƱeda said...

From where I stand it seems that ambivalence towards Masonic education is looked upon as the norm.