The Fundamental Nature of the Craft
We seem to have divided ourselves in the following three groups:
Group A. – This group believes that we are a social club and a support group. They believe that the Craft exists for bonding through events that are both member and family oriented. They support our concordant and appendant bodies and are very much in favour of public relations and new member initiatives. They may feel that the lessons learned from the ritual and the public charities that we support are valid but the main reason for us to exist is for fun and fellowship.
Group B. – This group feels that our sole function should be to support our philanthropies and our community service programs. It may be apparent to them that Masonic fellowship and teachings are compelling, but they are necessary in order to have an organisation in place for the continuation of public giving.
Group C. – These members of the Craft arc involved primarily to receive Masonic light. They believe that the histories and philosophies of Masonry are the principal reasons for our existence. They may feel that the best way to increase our membership is through word of mouth and that the mystery of the Craft is what sets us apart from other organisations. They seek introspection and edification.
These three groups represent the reasons that many of us give for Masonry to exist, namely Brotherly Love. Relief and Truth. These three groups are often at odds with each other as to how the Craft should be managed and lead. This becomes apparent when new ideas are explored and old customs are challenged. Of course the lines of definition that separate the three groups are sometimes vague and we may individually change our thoughts as to who we are overtime. Many true Masons, however, feel that we can equally serve all three beliefs. This is not, however, as easy as it seems.
Non–Members who examine the Craft may feel that these three concepts do not dispel rumours and false accusations that have been directed towards Masonry. They may feel that our purposes are not clear and that more explanation is needed. We have adopted a more definitive slogan that the public can more easily understand and can identify with. This motto comes from hundreds of years of Masonic tradition and explains much as to who we are and what we stand for. The motto is simply Religious Tolerance, Political Freedom, and Personal Integrity.
There is a need for each one of us to have a working definition of what Masonry is, not only as an explanation to others but also to ourselves. Each of us needs to decide what we personally feel the Craft is and how we fit in to it. We need to respect the opinions of other Masons who may not see the Craft in the same light. The fundamental nature of the Craft may be as simple as Tolerance, Freedom and Integrity. (Italics added) You decide.
By Neil Neddermeyer G.M, Minnesota
[Published in the March-April 2004 Louisiana Scottish Rite Trestleboard]
This is a reproduced portion of the keynote speech that the Grand Master presented at the Shrine Membership Seminar in Tampa on September 26, 2003.