March 2012 - Pro Grand Master's Address
14 March 2012
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
In December I mentioned that one of the many important aspects of mentoring was to give guidance to our members about how to talk about their involvement in Freemasonry, and Freemasonry generally, to those not involved, particularly their family and friends.
Very often one will be asked how one came to join Freemasonry. We will all have different stories to tell, no doubt, but in most cases it will have been knowing people who are masons and showing an interest in and asking questions about the subject, which naturally leads to the answer, “if you are interested why not come and see”.
The next stage then should have been to meet other members of the Lodge and for both sides to ensure that the various ramifications and responsibilities of being a member are out in the open. We must make it clear to everyone that when a new member joins us, there should be no surprises in respect of either his time or financial involvement that will come with his membership
I believe that it is important to let people know that we are not an organisation that goes hunting for members for the sake of numbers, but that we do encourage strongly those who show a genuine interest in finding out more about the subject. We should stress that Freemasonry is about the quality of the person who joins and not the number of people who are members.
We must not forget that anyone can go into Letchworths or other such shops and buy a copy of our ritual. If they read it, they will find very few aspects that are not fully explained as well as, of course, the vast majority of the words we use in our ceremonies. It is important to explain to people that there are very few thing we keep private in Masonry and these are restricted to a few words and signs.
Brethren, some people still try to ridicule us about such things as “funny handshakes”. There is no Masonic handshake. We know that they are confusing it with the modes of recognition in the three main ceremonies. I would suggest that the majority of Freemasons do restrict their use of these signs to the ceremonies rather than using them in everyday life and I would encourage that to be the case.
We must also acknowledge that the language used in our rituals is somewhat archaic, but we become used to it and enjoy it. However, some of the wording is not appropriate to explaining ourselves to outsiders. One of the obvious examples of this is that we would never explain to an outsider our relationship with another Brother as “doing unto him as we would that he would do unto us”, we would say something like “we try to treat others as we hope that they would treat us”.
Similarly we should not explain our objects as “Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth”, but would be rather more coherent perhaps saying “Respecting everyone, looking after others and being honest”.
In modern parlance this isn’t rocket science.
I am also often asked what benefits can be derived from being a mason. My first response is always to say what someone must most certainly not expect is an improvement in his business fortunes or any preferential treatment in any walk of life. There is no doubt that there is still a body of opinion that feels that a lot of business is conducted between Freemasons that is to the detriment of others.
I have done a lot of business with and for Freemasons, often without finding out until later that we were both members. Personally I have never seen a case where it has been to the detriment of others. It would be wrong for us to categorically deny that this has never occurred, as I have little doubt such things have happened in the past, but, dare I say, I am confident that this would be considerably less so among Freemasons than members of many other organisations.
We then move on to what benefits a member can expect and I think it is important to stress that people will find many different benefits the more involved and experienced they become. At the outset it is reasonable to expect that, if they join a Lodge, they will be amongst men who they will find to behave in a way in which they, themselves, would approve, share many of the same interests and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow man. In short, to be among like minded men.
As their membership develops they are very likely to find enjoyment in the more detailed aspects like the meaning of the ritual as well as the delivery of it, the ceremonial or, perhaps, the dinners, although I hope the enjoyment would not be limited to just the dinners.
You will be thinking to yourselves, very probably, that I have left out an important aspect – our Charities. Brethren we are not the only organisation that supports charities and people can easily be extremely generous in this regard without becoming a Freemason. It is all too easy, when asked what we do, to simply say “we do a vast amount of charitable work and raise a huge amount of money every year”. This is true but, as I have said before in Grand Lodge, Charity is not our reason for being. Having said that, Brethren, of course we should blow our own trumpets in this respect and, whilst Charity may not be our raison d’etre, it is certainly a most important part of Masonic life of which we should be and are hugely proud. Indeed, it is a very natural result of leading our lives according to the Masonic line and rule.
Our four main Charities are all something of which we should be hugely proud, but our overall charitable giving goes way beyond even that.
Brethren, I most certainly am not saying don’t talk about our Charities, quite the reverse, but what I am saying is don’t use our Charities to avoid answering more fully what we are all about. Above all stress that we are all in masonry for the immense amount of fun and enjoyment that we derive from our membership.