written and edited by Brother Robert Olivier
Containing selections from various addresses of Most Worshipful Joseph Earl Perry, 33°,
Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts 1938-1940
There are those who are currently arguing that Masonry will survive only if a few
changes are made to the brotherhood: They advocate increasing
Masonic membership as an end in itself. They seem to feel
that membership is dropping because memorization takes up too much time so
young men won't bother to join. They basically claim that the
Fraternity must change - through the reduction of proficiency
requirements - in order to keep up with the 1990's. Some advocate
soliciting for members, cutting down on memorization requirements,
allowing cipher-books, and eliminating the 28 day waiting period
between degrees. Some are even going so far as to advocate classes
that offer all three degrees in one day.
This line of thinking may be well intentioned, but it is chipping away at the foundation of the Brotherhood. All of the elements that are viewed as "problems" are each a fundamental part of Masonry and were originally instituted for a reason.
If there were very few people of "good character" on the planet, Freemasonry would not lower its "good character" requirement in order to attract more members.
Much of the rest of society is compromising its standards in response to the overall decline in morality, integrity, trust, and other traditional values. It is giving in to the disease. One of the purposes of Freemasonry is to provide a non-compromising haven and source for these values until such time as society again seeks them out.
Whether Masonry shall survive the distractions and competitions of these modern times may well depend on the clearness with which we recognize our proper sphere, the importance we ascribe to that sphere, and the fidelity with which we meet the challenge. No great leader ever won loyal support by minimizing the sacrifices he would demand of his followers. No great cause ever prevailed except as it demanded consecration on the part of its adherents.
That is the reason why the real leaders of Freemasonry have tried to emphasize quality of membership rather than numbers. That is the reason why Freemasonry shuns publicity, and why it forbids its membership or its principles to be perverted to mercenary or selfish purposes. Nothing must be allowed to detract from its high purpose or confuse its objectives.
Our teachings and the ways in which they are taught are the crystallization of the spiritual wisdom of all ages and all races.
The significant thing is that we keep pre-established and inflexible standards. The square is a very old-fashioned thing and a very unyielding thing. It makes no compromises to mere up-to-dateness or popularity.
The original Masons were men who possessed substantially all the wisdom then known in the arts and sciences, who preserved their wisdom as trade secrets, and who developed great skill and had high standards of integrity in their workmanship. They were careful to admit to their craft only men who could be trusted to do honest work, and these they put through long training with gradual promotions from apprentices to master workmen. Theirs was a hazardous calling. Many were the widows and orphans who needed help. Many a worthy brother needed counsel or financial or other assistance. Above all, the finest individual integrity was imperative, so a progressive course in morals and ethics was developed.
I do not use "progressive" in it's modern context of "weighted" (as in, "a progressive income tax"), but in it's traditional meaning of something that moves or travels from one location to the next. So a "progressive course" is a journey. Obviously, the destination of that journey is very important, but the journey itself even moreso. The 28-day waiting period is for a reason. Perhaps it is to allow the student time on his journey, to meditate and reflect upon what he has so far learned - letting it take root, strengthening his knowledge in preparation for the next level. Having a high-level degree is not an end in itself. The journey that one had to go through in order to get there is what makes it significant.
If something is learned quickly, it will be forgotten quickly. A strong foundation must be built slowly, so that it will last and not be weak from rushed, shoddy workmanship. The finest level of individual integrity can not be rushed - achieving it is a slow, step-by-step journey.
Freemasonry never solicits members. No one is ever asked to become a Mason. Anyone who wishes to join must make the first advance and apply for admission, for the Fraternity has no interest in a large membership as such, but is interested only in the quality of its members.