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In Search of Brotherhood
by Abraham Benjamin
I remember when I was a teenager my Grandfather had passed away. Several months after, my grandmother sat with me and told me some stories about my Grandfather. She told me that he was a Freemason. I always knew that he was a Freemason. What I found out when I became a Freemason was that there are more sons and grandsons of Masons than there are members in the Fraternity today. I have personally spoken to many of my friends about becoming a Mason. Their first response is usually, "Oh, my Grandfather was a Mason." There are many men out there whose Grandfathers were Freemasons, just like mine.
The Brotherhood that existed when my Grandfather was a Freemason does not appear to exist today, therefore, we need to go "in search of brotherhood" and find out what happened to it. Let me give you an example. During the 1930's my Grandfather lived in New York City. He had a daughter and she owned a dog. In New York City in the 1930's your dog had to be leashed any time it was taken outside. If not and reported to the police, they would arrive at your home with an order to take the dog to the pound to be put to sleep. A harsh penalty but it was the middle of the depression. Well, one day the dog got out without it's leash. A day or so later a policeman was knocking on the door and told my Grandfather that they received a report that the dog was outside without a leash. Under the law the dog had to be taken.
Of course the child, all of 6 years old, was in tears because she opened the door and let the dog out. The policeman noticed my Grandfather's Masonic ring, they had a conversation and identified each other as Freemasons. That police officer, that night, brought over to the house a dog that looked similar to my grandfather's dog. It was of the same breed. The next morning the police officer arrived at the house and in the witness of the neighbors he took the dog away (the one that the officer brought to the house that night).
This policeman risked his job to help a fellow Master Mason. During the depression you took your employment quite seriously. Before that meeting at the house these two men did not know each other. After this incident they became extremely good friends for the rest of their lives.
Another example was in 1928 when my Grandfather established his millinery business. Unfortunately, in 1929 the depression commenced and in November of that year he was in need of cash to keep the business going. So he went to the bank. Well, at that time the banks were not willing to lend money. Many were either folding or getting very close to folding. The banker whom my grandfather spoke with knew that his business was doomed to fail. But he noticed his Masonic ring. They spoke for a time and the banker, a Mason, made a loan to him. The banker well knew that he could loose his job because he gave a loan to a business that was destined for failure. But he did it anyway. The business did indeed fail 6 months later. My Grandfather was so indebted to his Brother Mason, the banker, that he paid back the entire loan to the bank. It took him 15 years to pay the bank and since his business failed he was not legally obligated. But morally, and masonically, he felt that he was obligated to help the Brother who helped him.
If you could go back and talk to men who were Masons during these years you would find similar stories about Masons helping each other. Do you have these same stories today? Well, I became a Mason at the end of 1984. In 1985 I took a trip to New Jersey for the weekend. As I drove home, with my wife and 6 month old child, the car overheated. I pulled off to the side of the road, raised the hood of the car and put out a white flag. As a newly raised Master Mason, I was proud to be a Mason and had all of the "decorations" on my car. A Masonic license plate and the auto tags for Blue Lodge and Consistory were proudly displayed. No car stopped for the first 15 minutes that we sat there. I counted numerous cars with Masonic auto tags and license plates zooming by us. I was astonished when I realized that over 24 cars passed me with these auto tags and Masonic license plates and none of them stopped to help me. A little bit later a car came to a stop and backed up toward us. It was an out of state license plated car with a Masonic emblem. A man got out of the car came toward me and asked me if he could help. We looked at the situation, we put some water in the radiator and he followed me 100 miles until I got off the turnpike and he went on his way.
I think that it is terrific that we have the Brotherhood in the Fraternity and that a Brother stopped to help me. But why did 24+ other Brethren pass me by? These were Brethren inside my own jurisdiction. It took a Brother from outside my jurisdiction to finally lend a hand. You would think a Brother of my own jurisdiction would be the first to stop and help. This is a sign of the decay of the Brotherhood that once existed in Freemasonry.
I also worked for a Mason in 1986 and we had a situation where a new boss was brought in and we found ourselves both reporting to this new man. We were both very upset about the situation and did not like this new man. We spoke on the level and square about the things we didn't like. In confidence I told him that I was going to look for other employment. I was called into the new boss's office one day and was astonished when the new boss told me that he was told that I was looking for other employment and that he would be more than willing to help me out (of course fire me on the spot). My Brother, the Freemason, told my new boss about my intentions. My new boss directly told me that my Masonic Brother told him of my intentions. I was shocked. Where was the Brotherhood in this situation? My Brother redirected the new boss away from him and towards me. Our confidential discussion was used against me to the benefit of my Brother.
It is not all that bleak out there in the Fraternity. I can also give you some positive stories about Brotherhood in Freemasonry. I have become good friends with a Brother of the Craft who was willing to come to my assistance without any regard for himself What I am trying to show is that this type of courageous Brotherly assistance is not as prevalent in today's, 1990's Freemasonry, as it was in the Freemasonry of the 1930's. The over majority of Freemasons will not "take the risk" to assist a Brother as they did years ago.
So, where was the Brotherhood? I could go on with many other examples. You can see the problems with the Brotherhood in your Lodges. You see them by the development and maintenance of "cliques." You see it when the newly raised Master Mason sits by himself at a meeting. You hear it when one Brother back stabs another Brother in idle gossip. Is this truly Brotherhood. It is want Freemasonry is all about today?
The leaders of the Fraternity must develop methods of reinstating the Brotherhood that once existed. Here a few ideas:
hese are but a few examples of how to rebuild the Masonic Brotherhood that we have lost. Freemasonry was know for Brotherhood. The public knew back in the 1930's and 40's that Freemasons took care of each other. Also, that the Lodge took care of a Brother's widow and helped his family. The attitude of "going out on a limb" for your Brother just doesn't exist today.
Today, we will help a Brother when there is little to no risk (with some remarkable exceptions). Part of getting the community at large to view our Fraternity as a prestigious organization again is to show them that Freemasons truly take care of each other. Brotherhood shows the non-Masons what they are missing. This becomes on of the true benefits of being a member of the Masonic Lodge.
Search for that Brotherhood where ever possible. Exemplify it whenever you can and it is warranted. Try to help Freemasonry turn around its tarnished image. We can return to the prestige that we so enjoyed in the 1940's and 1950's. It is all up to you.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014