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Masonry: A Life Philosophy

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

12 December 2005

By Rear Admiral Joseph L. Howard 32
Published originally in The New Age magazine April 1971 for the Scottish Rite S.J.

Masonry is founded upon the idea of the Brotherhood of Man.

It is a way of life that stresses public service, patriotism, and a profound belief in God.

The idea we find in Masonry is best described by the word harmony. We recognize differences in opinion. We recognize that our members go to different churches, engage in different pursuits, pursue different personal interests.

Yet, as Masons, we can work in harmony, not only among ourselves, but with others who are not Masons.

We know that Masonic Lodges all over the country are deeply engaged in vigorous programs of public service, of private charities, of social improvement, and youth opportunity projects.

All these things are worthwhile human projects. They are the results of efforts by people to raise the state of civilization.

These things are vitally important to all of us. But they are creations of people. And it is the people who are most important.

Thus, the vital thing that Masonry does is to inspire people by creating an environment in which good works and public service are respected and honored.

Masonry appeals to the conscience of men. It reaches to the innermost convictions of individual men. It is an uplifting force that gives real meaning to such ideas as personal integrity, honesty and the higher motivations of mankind.

It offers, in short, a philosophy by which men can be guided, a set of standards to which men can aspire, a way of life with which men can readily identify and work hard to fulfill in the process of everyday living, on the job, at home, in sports, at leisure, and in contemplative thought.

It is inspirational, for people. And this is what makes Masonry so vitally important in our times. And this is what makes Masons, as individuals, particularly important in communities throughout the world.

Masonry is doing a lot of good things, in its quiet and unobtrusive way, in its many programs. But the total contribution of Masonry, to the well being of our country, extends well beyond these worthy endeavors.

The purposes to be served by Masonic programs transcend the immediate and important problems of local interest.

In fact, the ultimate contribution of Masonry can have a significant bearing on the destiny of our country and, perhaps, the future of the world.

We are living in a time of completely new dimensions; new dimensions in speed, in distances, in time projections. We even have new measurement terminologies.

And things continue to change. We are witnessing new magnitudes of change and a quicker rate of change.

Some of these changes have radically altered our way of life. Man travels faster. He sees more. Television brings him right into the heart of happenings on the other side of the world. And we can now make complex computations at fantastic speeds.

All these things are changing our outlooks and our attitudes as well. Some of these have shaken the very foundations of our thinking.

The bomb, the pill, the computer, the satellite, the moon shots, new heights in the sky, new depths in the sea, all present a dazzling array of human accomplishments. And there's more yet to come.

Modern technology has shattered many of our previous physical premises. And because of this, many of our spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, and philosophical premises have also become suspect to some people.

Across the country, we see evidence of the abandonment of basic values men have honored for centuries.

Witness the rioting, pillaging, and burning in our cities, the violence on our campuses, the reckless consumption of drugs, the alarming rise of crime in our streets, the protests and demonstrations that become anarchy and sedition.

On the other hand, among otherwise responsible citizens, we see growing dismay, a sense of withdrawal, the avoidance of commitment, and cynical respectability in such phrases as "count me out," "don't get involved," "it's somebody else's problem."

Now, more than ever before, there is need for each of us, individually, to reaffirm our belief in the values that have brought us, as a people, to a position of leadership and influence in the world.

These are the values we have traditionally placed in truth, personal integrity, self-respect, professional ethics and the respect we have always had for justice, reasonableness, common sense, and the rights of all individual human beings.

Most of all we must cherish our belief in the supremacy of man over machines, of people over institutions, of the basic dignity of the individual person. Each of us has his own contribution to make.

We all depend on one another. This is the nature of a higher order of society.

Our interdependence is the companion of our higher state of civilization.

None of us can withdraw. And for that reason, we all have a stake in the philosophy by which everyone else is guided.

This is the point at which Masonry faces its magnificent opportunity.

Masons can lead by example, because they are inspired by a philosophy that raises men's sights to a higher plane.

Masons are taught, and they live by, precepts of human conduct that place high values on integrity and on respect for the basic dignity of the human spirit.

This is the kind of thinking, and action that must be applied in solving the larger problems of our society. It is precisely the application of the precepts of Masonry that is needed, not only in dealing with the broader national problems facing us, but in the international arena as well.

Well, how do we achieve this? It can be done primarily by the commitment of individual Masons to spread, by word and deed, the philosophies they live by under Masonry.

Each of us, individually, should bring the message of Masonry into broader arenas. We should all make the broader commitment to speak to various groups, to the local service clubs, to school groups, labor organizations, young peoples' groups.

In short, Masonic patterns of thought, and habits of action should be made visible in areas well beyond the circle of our own lodges, so that the good ideas of Masonry can take root and flourish far and wide.

Masonry has so much that is good, and solid, for the benefit of the whole world.

This is the great contribution that Masonry can bring to the world today. It is in the rearticulating of the principles by which we live. It is in the reaffirmation of our belief in those same Masonic values that contributed to the creation of the United States in the first place.

The things we have all done, over the years, in the name of Masonry, have been the result of much hard work by many dedicated Masons.

Today, we face a new challenge. And that is to carry the philosophy of Masonry to the far corners of the earth, and carry it, not in the name of Masonry, but as individuals who live and act according to Masonic teachings. This is not a challenge to Masonry as such. It is a challenge to Masons, as individuals.

The United States is a strong, virile, and vigorous Nation. We need only to marshal our resources and to bring the power of our best ideas to bear on all the problems facing us today, at home as well as abroad.

This is not a job for just one man. It is not a job for a hundred men. Or a thousand.

It is a job for 200 million Americans. Masons can provide magnificent leadership in this endeavor because ours is a philosophy that brought forth a Nation founded upon human freedom.

It is upon the foundation of Masonic philosophy that the Nation began. It is upon that same foundation that we can build a greater Nation for the future and contribute to a better world for all time to come.

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