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GIVEN TO THE BRETHREN
[Lodge Stirling Royal Arch (No.76) situate and meeting
in Bannockburn, Stirling, is one of the ancient Lodges under the Grand Lodge of
Scotland. The Lodge meets on the Second and
Fourth Monday. Bro. Bruce J. Kinnear is
the R.W.M of the Lodge. The Lodge has in its web site posted
the lecture, which was delivered in 1927 about the necessity to provide
more Masonic Education. The views of the author are very relevant even now as it
was several decades ago. Please read on…..]
Given to Brethren (
Bro.T.W.R. JOHNSTON. P.M.
casual remarks concerning Masonic Education, which I made when proposing the
Toast of Grand Lodge of Scotland and Provincial Grand Lodge of Stirlingshire at
our recent St.John's Festival, has apparently, met with some degree of
sympathetic reception among our own Brethren. Although reminded now of those old
sayings about your chickens coming home to roost, and your sins finding you out.
I am pleased to see, judging by the number of Brethren, who have spoken to me on
this subject, that we have in Lodge 76 a large proportion of Members who are
more than superficially interested in Freemasonry.
idea of the R.W.M. in the meantime, is to devote say 15 to 20 minutes at the
close of a Second Degree to a short paper, or discussion, on some topic of
Masonic interest, provided of course that there is a general desire for the
scheme : From my knowledge of the capabilities of a number of our Brethren, I
can assure him of ample material within the confines of his own Lodge.
order to give the scheme some kind of a start and as I suppose as a judgement
upon me for raising the question, the R.W.M. commanded me to prepare a sppech to
inflict upon you tonight. I think however that, purely as an introduction to the
intended scheme, but forming no part of it, I should confine myself to an
amplification of my original remarks at St.John's Festival and examine the
question from the following standpoints.
1. The Lack of Masonic Education.
The responsibility for that Lack.
A few suggestions as to how that lack might be made good
of the most claimant needs of the present day throughout the whole domain of
Freemasonry is a properly regulated Masonic Education, not only for those who
are newly admitted into the Craft, but as well for those who claim to be 'old'
masonically. This demand has been voiced very emphatically within recent
times in our own country, in the U.S.A. and in New Zealand. A clipping from an
American publication which I received recently appears to me to be an accurate
reflection of the opinion of a great many of our own Brethren on this subject,
'Our Brethren in England', (by which I presume the Editor means Britain), "
the younger group especially, are becoming concerned about the problem of
Masonic Education. Facts show that a great number of men who came into the Craft
during the war period, hardly one-third have retained their interest in it. The
Ritual is not enough to hold them. There are signs however of a new spirit
arising, and of a desire to know the meaning of Masonry and an intent to make
practical use of it."
writer, this time from New Zealand, gives expression to the feeling of
dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs, in these words : "
The pressure of business in most Lodges is usually so great that members have
but few opportunities of increasing their knowledge of Masonic principles and
practice. Initiates are enjoined to make a daily advancement in Masonic
Knowledge, but the majority, treat the injunction rather lightly, and it is
disappointing to find how much indifference exists even among Brethren who spend
much time memorising the Ritual without endeavouring to comprehend its
meaning". I think the same condemnation could, with full justice, be
applied to a very large number of Lodges under our own Constitution.
Brethren might be inclined to question the absolute necessity of this idea of
further Masonic Education, to pigeon-hole the subject as being one of those
passing phases which every institution and every organisation of note
experiences, especially in slack periods of their history. I am definitely
opposed to that view and, without unnecessarily labouring the point would argue,
that as one of the objects of our Ancient and Honourable Order is the
enlightenment of mankind, this can only be promoted to the degree of knowledge
possessed by its members.
2. Taking it for granted we are convinced that there does exist a
lamentable lack of Masonic Knowledge among Brethren these days and an equally
lack of any attempt on the part of the Lodges to educate members, the question
which naturally arises is ' Who is responsible for this state of affairs?'
know that I am treading a delicate, if not dangerous, ground here, but after
viewing the question from every angle I fail to place the blame on any one
particular section of our organisation. I am however prepared to attribute the
responsibility to every section - Grand Lodge, Prov. Grand Lodges, Daughter
Lodges and Individual Members - and even to apportion that responsibility in a
ratio corresponding to the relative importance of each of these sections to the
Craft as a whole.
yielding precedence to no one, either in appreciation of the work performed by
Grand Lodge and Prov. Grand Lodge, or in my unqualified allegiance and
submission to these bodies, I feel justified in laying a great portion of the
responsibility on their shoulders, and in support of this would contend myself
with one quotation; It is the considered opinion of that well known Scottish
Masonic scholar and historian, the late Bro. D. Murray-Lyon who for close upon a
quarter of a century was the predecessor of our present Grand Secretary, Bro.
David Reid. In his History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No.1. which
embraces an account of the rise and progress of Freemasonry in Scotland, Bro.
Lyon writes :- (of Grand Lodge)
"Devoting itself almost entirely to legislation and to the
administration of its Laws, to the settlement of differences between brethren on
Masonic points and the management of its finances, Grand Lodge does little of
nothing to instruct in the practise and History of Masonry."
point is that so far as instruction in the practise and History of Freemasonry
is concerned, Grand Lodge has not progressed one step since the days of Bro.
Lyon. One more reference before leaving this point. A committee of the Grand
Lodge of Texas, U.S.A. on Foreign Correspondence recently reviewed the
proceedings of no fewer than 64 sister Grand Lodges and the members concluded
from their survey that the danger to Freemasonry did not lie in active numerical
growth, even though that growth be considered abnormal, but in the want of
attention and care accorded to the newly-made Master Masons.
I am prepared to acknowledge that in as so far as the majority of Lodges under
the Scottish Constitution are concerned, the rendering of Ritual ceremonial has
reached a very high standard of perfection, but, in these Lodges, the candidates
after receiving congratulations on their admission to the full benefits of the
Order cease to become objects of attention. They are dismissed with the
half-understood words of the final charge, and on receipt of the Grand Lodge
Diploma are considered fully-fledged Freemasons, and herein lies a danger. The
candidate may likewise consider themselves full Masons when in reality they are
such but in name, not having as yet appreciated the great moral truths
underlying our signs and symbols
For the purpose of my remarks I have divided all those admitted to the Craft
very roughly into two classes.
Those who found nothing in the Degrees to sustain their interest in Freemasonry
- if real interest did exist at any time - this class does not come under my
The second class, with which I am more concerned tonight, consists of Brethren
who are regular attendees at our meetings but remain quite content with the
simple, but accurate, rendering of the Ritual. Among this section there are a
number of Craftsmen who, intellectually and financially, are well able to pursue
research work, and give the Craft - through their Lodges - the benefit of their
labours. To these Brethren, however, I apportion the least share of the blame,
as in the past, their only encouragement to delve below the surface has been
their own individual interest and enthusiasm in that abundant store of tradition
and lore with which Freemasonry abounds, but as regards encouragement from
Lodges (I refer particularly here to Lodges under the Scottish Constitution)
they have received practically none.
3. Thus far I have indulged in what might be termed distinctive
criticism, but with a definite object, Viz., to try and prove that the apathy
which exists among Brethren generally regarding the acquisition of further
Masonic Knowledge makes for a decided and even dangerous weakness in our system.
alternative then have I to offer that would tend to eliminate this weakness?
us consider what is the mission of Masonic Education, and what field of labour
that term offers. Briefly I would say that the mission is
To educate Brethren to use their Masonry, beyond the limits of a Lodge room.
To help Brethren to understand the true meaning of our signs, symbols and
To kindle a general desire for Masonic Knowledge, which would lead Brethren to study
the history of Freemasonry and thereby appreciate their noble heritage more
fully, the symbolism of Masonry by which they can understand its teachings, and
the philosophy of Masonry, which is the chief reason for its existence.
And its Scope:-
Education in fundamentals, is the essential elements in Freemasonry.
that heading might come e.g.
The ideals of the Order.
The Ancient customs and usage’s of the Craft.
The Ancient Landmarks of the Order. (just a word in passing on that last point)
one of us has had the Ancient Landmarks of the Order entrusted to his care with
the injunction to keep them sacred and inviolable, how many of you have ever
given a thought as to what exactly was entrusted to your care? I'll even go
further and ask, how many Masters and Past Masters if asked by an inquisitive
Brother to enumerate the Ancient Landmarks could do so? Try and see if you can
get the same list from any two!
(2) Education in Ritual work.
is essential not only for elected or active office-bearers but also for
prospective office-bearers. In this connection much more liberal use could be
made of the Lodge of Instruction. I would suggest for instance that any Brother
aspiring to office should be trained before hand so that no new office-bearers
would be an apprentice but rather a trained Craftsman.
(3) Education in the History and Lore of Freemasonry.
we have an extremely wide and interesting field for research. For instance, why
not a lecture some evening by Bro. Bruce on the Association of the Ancient Craft
Guilds with Freemasonry, another, Freemasons as Cathedral Builders, we are told
that we are not operative but Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons. Why
should Bro. McDougall not undertake the task of explaining to us when, how, and
under what circumstances did Operative Masonry give place to Speculative Masonry
and do we as Speculative Masons retain any of the Ancient Landmarks of our
And Lastly, How this type of work could be assisted.
England there are Lodges of Research, in the U.S.A. the Masonic Service
Association. These organisations publish the lectures that are delivered by
eminent Masonic Scholars at their occasional meetings. Why can not the Grand
Lodge (they are in amity) come to some arrangement whereby these lectures would
be published and circulated to every Lodge, say with the Quarterly
Communications. I have already indicated how individual members might render
useful work, but as the source of information on most of these subjects is
scattered through many volumes and these are expensive to acquire, the Lodge
could assist by a gradual formation of Masonic Libraries. The added knowledge
which the Brethren would thereby be able to glean would be ample compensation
for the expenditure involved and above all we could then make claim to be doing
something to produce the sound stones so essential to the building of our