At a certain high school, a professor asked students in a social science class to identify the reason why there is so much divorce in our society. One student replied that the reason for divorce was marriage. We could apply this same joke to our Masonic Fraternity: The reason why many brothers were dropped for NPD or dropped themselves out by submitting a demit was because they were Masons.
A decent portion of many prospective Brothers knocking at our door have no idea as to what to expect upon joining our great Fraternity. We indeed ask those candidates lingering in the darkness such questions as, “What came you here to do?” More often than not, we prompt them to give the right answer that they use in the same way a parrot back without conceiving or penetrating any depth of the actual meaning. And once these newly-minted Masons are within our portals, many beat about in the darkness seeking little instruction or guidance, and they begin to wonder why they are here in the first place. Eventually, without direction and suffering from the heavy weight of boredom, these men consequently give up on Masonry.
No less than Albert Pike, writing in Morals and Dogma, reminds us that “the Degree of Apprentice raises a corner of the veil” (p. 219, classic edition), and we should find it highly troubling that candidates are unaffected or have a blasé attitude as they begin to see revealed behind the veil the beauty and mysteries of Freemasonry, though only partially. All this should whet the appetites of our candidates for more Light in Masonry.
In order to rectify the situation whereby members join only to lose interest, it is imperative that we leave off worrying about numbers, and instead be seriously concerned about the quality of people we select whom we would be proud to call “Brother.” As many worry about the decrease in membership among the Craft, I worry rather about the increase. I would prefer to mingle with a few Brothers and students of our Royal Art than a multitude of those who do not comprehend, internalize, and reflect what we claim to be. If gold existed in as much abundance as copper or iron, then it would not be costly or unique in value. In fact, it would cease to be a precious metal.
My strong recommendation is to undertake a diligent search about those who are knocking at the West Gate, and if we find them worthy and of kindred spirit, then we should pay our utmost attention to them. We must explore their motives for becoming Masons. Let us assign them the task of telling us, in their own words, what Masonry is about, rather than our telling them who we are. Let us get a serious and concrete commitment from them about how they can contribute to the Fraternity. Let us ensure that they are truly open to receiving rather than having forced upon them the precious gift of Masonic knowledge, that they may ingest it and become part of our living Temple.
Brethren, it is incumbent upon us to maintain the high standards of our institution. Please safeguard the high qualities of our magnificent Brotherhood, sponsor discerning candidates, and impress upon our petitioners the importance of Education, Ethics, and Empathy in order that we may define who we are and where we stand.