more light #67
The Black Cube
by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota
Excerpted and adapted from The MSA Short Talk Bulletin Nov. 1929.
By Brother Tim S. Anderson
Unfortunately, no hard and fast rule can be laid down on the use of a Black Cube
when balloting. There is no way to explain "this is a good reason, but that is
not a good reason" for casting a black cube. Each Mason has to judge the reason
for himself. Yet some suggestions may be given.
We know a man we dislike. He has different ideas from ours. He belongs to a
different "set." He is not the type that we admire. Our dislike does not amount
to hatred, nor is it predicated upon any evil in the man's character. He and we
are antipathetic; we rub each other the wrong way. When he applies to our lodge
we must decide this question: will the unpleasantness to us, in having him as a
member, be greater than the good to him which may come from his reception of the
Masonic teachings? Are we sure that we cannot accept him as a brother merely
because we "have never liked him?"
We all know cases like this; the president of the bank turns down Johnson's
application for a second mortgage. Johnson makes the matter personal. He "has it
in" for the president. The president applies for the degrees. Someone casts a
black cube. It may or may not be Johnson. No one knows. But later perhaps we
hear Johnson's boast "I got even with that son-of-a-gun who turned down my
loan!" He doesn't say how he "got even," of course. But we are pretty sure we
know. Such a use of the black cube is, of course, utterly un-Masonic. It is a
misuse of a great power. We might as well turn down the minister of the Baptist
church because he doesn't agree with our minister, who is a Methodist! Or turn
down the automobile dealer because he refused to give us a larger allowance on
our old car! To turn the Masonic black cube into a secret dagger for personal
revenge is un-Masonic and indefensible.
Freemasonry works some curious miracles. A self-made man applied five times for
the degrees in a certain lodge. The man was rather uneducated, yet a commercial
success. He had, literally, raised himself by his bootstraps from the poverty of
the streets to a business position of some prominence. Yet he was rather raw,
rough and ready, even uncouth. No shadow of personal unworthiness rested upon
him; he was honest, upright, a good citizen. In this lodge a certain Past Master
(as was discovered in after years) voted four times against this applicant. The
Past Master left the city. On the fifth application the petitioner was elected.
Something in Masonry took hold of his heart. Through Masonry he was led to
acquire some of the education that he lacked; through Masonry he was led into
the church. In time he made such a reputation for himself as a Mason that he was
put in the officer’s line, and finally achieved the solemn distinction of being
made Master of his lodge. He is still regarded as one of the best, most
constructive and ablest Masters that lodge has ever had.
In the course of ten or twelve years the absent Past Master returned. In the
light of history, he confessed (which strictly speaking he should not have
done!) that it was he who had kept this man out for what he really believed were
good reasons. He thought the "rough neck" would detract from the dignity and
honor of the Fraternity. Yet this same "rough neck," through Masonry, became
educated, a good churchman, a fine Mason and an excellent officer.
Had the Past Master, whose black cubes were cast with honest intention to
benefit the Fraternity, not left town the blessings of Masonry might forever
have been denied to a heart ready to receive them and society, the lodge and the
church been prevented from having the services of a man who gave largely of
himself to all three.
The black cube is the great protection of the Fraternity; it permits the brother
who does not desire to make public his secret knowledge, to use that knowledge
for the benefit of the Craft. It gives to all members the right to say who shall
not become members of their lodge family. But at the same time it puts to the
test the Masonic heart, and the personal honesty of every brother who
deliberates on its use.
The black cube is a thorough test of our understanding of the Masonic teaching
of the cardinal virtue, justice, which "enables us to render to every man his
just due without distinction." We are taught of justice that "it should be the
invariable practice of every Mason, never to deviate from the minutest principle
Justice to the lodge requires us to cast the black cube on an applicant we
believe to be unfit. Justice to ourselves requires that we cast the black cube
on the application of the man we believe would destroy the reputation of our
Through justice to the applicant we are taught to render justice to every man,
not merely to Masons. To symbolically cast no black cube for little reasons,
small reasons, mean reasons. And justice to justice requires that we think
carefully, deliberate slowly, and act cautiously. No man will know what we do;
no eye will see, save that All Seeing Eye that pervades the innermost recesses
of our hearts, and will, so we are taught, reward us according to our merits.
Shakespeare said, "O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is
tyrannous to use it like a giant!" The black cube is a giant's strength to
protect Freemasonry. Used thoughtlessly, carelessly, without Masonic reason, it
crushes not only him at whom it is aimed but also him who casts it.
A well-used black cube goes into the ballot box.
Ill-used, it drops into the heart and blackens it.
Remember: Always vote for the good of the Fraternity.
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