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What Is Masonry?

Originally Published in Carl H. Claudy's Old Tiler Talks - 1925

"I've been a Mason six months now and I ought to

know something about Masonry. But there are more

secrets in the fraternity I don't know than those I have

been told!"

The New Brother was puzzled. The Old Tiler laid

down his sword, picked up a half-smoked cigar and lit

it, and settled back in his chair.

"Get it out of your system," he invited.

"Is Masonry a religion," continued the New Brother,

"or a system of philosophy, or a childish getting

together of men who like to play politics and wear

titles? I have heard it called all three. Sometimes I

think it's one and sometimes the other. What do you


"It isn't a childish getting together for the love of titles

and honors," answered the Old Tiler. "Men would

soon invent a much better organization for the

satisfaction of such purposes. In fact, he has invented

better ones. Men who want to play politics and be

called the Grand High Cockalorum of the Exalted

Central Chamber of the Secret Sanctorum can join

these. If Masonry were nothing but play, it wouldn't

live, and living, grow.

"Masonry isn't a religion. A religion, as I see it, is a

belief in deity and a means of expressing worship.

Masonry recognizes Deity, and proceeds only after

asking divine guidance. But it does not specify any

particular deity. You can worship any God you please

and be a Mason. That is not true of any religion. If you

are a Buddhist, you worship Buddha. If a Christian,

Christ is your Deity. If you are a Mohammedan you

are a worshiper of Allah. In Masonry you will find

Christian, Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist side by


"Masonry has been called a system of philosophy, but

that is a confining definition. I don't think Masonry has

ever been truly defined."

"Or God," put in the New Brother.

"Exactly. A witty Frenchman, asked if he believed in

God, replied, 'Before I answer, you must tell me your

definition of God. And when you tell me, I will answer

you, no, because a God defined is a God limited, and

a limited God is no God.' Masonry is something like

that; it is brotherhood, unlimited, and when you limit it

by defining it you make it something it isn't."

"Deep stuff!" commented the New Brother.

"Masonry is 'deep stuff,'" answered the Old Tiler. "It's

so deep no man has ever found the bottom. Perhaps

that is its greatest charm; you can go as far as you

like and still not see the limit. The fascination of

astronomy is the limitlessness of the field. No

telescope has seen the edge of the universe. The

fascination of Masonry is that it has no limits. The

human heart has no limit in depth and that which

appeals most to the human heart cannot have a limit."

"But that makes it so hard to understand!" sighed the

New Brother.

"Isn't it the better for being difficult of

comprehension?" asked the Old Tiler. "A few days

ago I heard an eminent divine and Mason make an

inspiring talk. I hear a lot of talks; nine-tenths are

empty words with a pale tallow-tip gleam of a faint

idea somewhere in them. So when a real talker lets

the full radiance of a whole idea shine on an

audience, he is something to be remembered. This

speaker quoted a wonderful poem, by William Herbert

Carruth. I asked him to send it to me, and he did;

please note, this busy man, president of a university,

and with a thousand things to do, didn't forget the

request of a brother he never saw before!"

The Old Tiler put his hand in his pocket and took out a

much-thumbed piece of paper. "Listen you," he said,

"'till I read you just one verse of it:

"A picket frozen on duty;

A mother, starved for her brood;

Socrates drinking the hemlock,

and Jesus on the rood;

And millions who, humble and nameless,

The straight hard pathway plod;

Some call it consecration

And others call it God.'

The New Brother said nothing, held silent by the

beauty of the lines.

"I am no poet," continued the Old Tiler, "and I know

this isn't very fitting, but I wrote something to go with

those verses, just to read to brothers like you." Shyly

the Old Tiler continued:

"Many men, banded together

Standing where Hiram stood;

Hand to back of the falling,

Helping in brotherhood.

Wise man, doctor, lawyer,

Poor man, man of the hod,

Many call it Masonry

And others call it God."

"I don't think it makes much difference what we call it,

do you?" asked the New Brother.