One of the great strengths of Freemasonry is that we embrace in our membership men of a wide variety of backgrounds, education, professions, and viewpoints. Our membership is diverse and in places where Freemasonry is strongest, that diversity seems greatest.
For too long I have listened as Brothers have despaired because of the deep chasms between various factions of the Craft. They have cried that the Masons who are esoterically minded are elitist. They have lamented that those interested in community service are hostile to Masonic education. They have complained that those most interested in fraternalism have scant respect for our ritual.
And they are right — to some degree. All of that is true. Somewhat.
The truth is that there is room for every kind of Mason provided that he is willing to make room for others. The “fish-fry” Mason must also seek Masonic education. The Masonic educator must remember that charity is a virtue. The ritualist must remember that leadership in the Craft requires more than memorization. We must each give of our strengths and seek out our more skilled Brethren to support us and improve us where we are weak.
We also should acknowledge that not every man is suited for leadership in our fraternity and that success in the profane world is not necessarily a harbinger of success in Masonic leadership. We need men with an understanding of business and finances to put the business and financial aspects of the Craft in order. This is absolutely essential. Too many lodges are dying because no one is paying attention to the budget or the investments. However…
However, the truth is that Freemasonry is not a business. We are not “in the business” of anything. Not even the business of making Masons — if we were, we would stand on street corners begging men for the application fee and admit everyone who could afford it. We are a fraternity. We are a mystery school. We are a philosophical system. We help men develop a mature understanding of masculinity, we help them see their place in the universe and give them a sense of their relationship to the divine. Leadership in Freemasonry requires relying on good advice when it comes to budgets and investments and audits — but an understanding of the flow of money does not make you a good Masonic leader.
Equally, we put the esotericist in charge of the investment funds and we may soon find ourselves broke. If we spend all our time raising money only to give it all away, we will soon find ourselves in a world without Freemasonry.
The man with the greatest hoard of obscure esoteric titles who has collected every discontinued ritual is not necessarily a good Masonic leader. Leadership in Freemasonry requires an open and inquiring mind, a willingness to explore the symbolism of our Craft and the philosophies that have influenced it. While necessary, a good — even great — Masonic education is insufficient to ensure good Masonic leadership.
Masonic leadership requires looking beyond one’s self and finding the skill in others that may be put to use on behalf of Freemasonry. It requires a deep and sincere love of your Brothers. Good Masonic leadership is impossible without the humility that admits others know more and the willingness to learn from your more educated Brethren and the strength of character to publicly encourage others to learn from them.
A strong Masonic leader is a competent ritualist. It goes with the nature of the Society of which we are members. The ritual lies at the heart of what distinguishes Freemasonry from everything else. But while essential to some degree, it isn’t enough. You have to believe the words. You have to live the words. You have to delight in the study of the lessons of the degrees. You have to be able to bring light to others.
There is room in Freemasonry for every skill. The carpenter, the banker, the actor, the cook, the academic, the scientist… they all may find their place in the lodge and in the greater world of Freemasonry and be of service. We will not survive if everyone is striving to be exactly the same. We will not survive if we acknowledge the value of only one sort of Mason. We cannot ignore the budget, but bore the lodge with endless budget talk at our peril. We are a fraternity and good meals with our Brethren are essential. But we disparage our ritual as outdated or irrelevant at the cost of our essential identity.
Let us value one another, each contributing where he is best able, and then we will see “how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity”.