Worshipful Master's Remarks on the occasion of the 125th Installation of Officers for Centralia Lodge No. 63, Free and Accepted Masons of Washington.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Centralia Masonic Temple, Centralia Washington
Cameron M. Bailey W. M.
At our last installation Lou brought Elvis himself to you. Today I fear that you are stuck with me, but I hope that you will find something of value in what I have to say.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to specifically thank two groups of men here today.
First I would like to pass along my sincere thanks to the brothers who drove down from Snohomish County to participate today. Each of you, in your own way welcomed me into Freemasonry, and through your words and actions, you taught me the meaning of Masonry. You didn't just teach me what Masonry is however, much more importantly you taught me what Masonry should be. For that I am eternally grateful. I fondly remember sitting in Andre's living room, drinking his expensive Scotch on many occasions as we discussed and debated the fine points of Masonic philosophy. Likewise I well remember sitting down with our Grand Master, then a District Deputy, trying to learn the words of our Posting Lecture.
Secondly I would like to thank the brothers from Thurston and Lewis counties, most especially the members of Centralia Lodge. It wasn't very long ago that I showed up down here with little more than a brief and second hand introduction. I didn't know any of you, and certainly none of you knew who this guy from Snohomish, with his own ideas about Freemasonry might be. I thank you for welcoming me into your fellowship, for listening to me with minds open, and today, for trusting me with the future of this old and venerable lodge.
What is Freemasonry, and what should it be?
These are, I think, questions of vital importance, not just to our lodges, but to the world at large. These questions deserve to be contemplated, and should be discussed. That is my aim here today.
Freemasonry is exceedingly difficult to define. Unquestionably, it is a fraternity that holds a unique philosophy. Beyond that however, things tend to get a bit muddy. The greatest students and authors of Masonry can't even agree on what exactly it may be. Albert Pike saw in Freemasonry a great an all encompassing political philosophy, yet others claim that politics has no place in a Masonic Lodge. Albert Mackey quite openly defined it as a religion, but it has never been accepted as such by any lawful Masonic authority.
When contemplating it, I think that we can best define Freemasonry by looking back in history to a time in which Freemasonry did not exist. To a time commonly known as the dark ages. Since its founding Freemasonry has had an extraordinary impact upon the thoughts of man. Prior to its founding men spent their lives huddled in fear, living in darkness. The few rich, who owned everything on the land, including the people, could and would kill those subject to their whims at any time, and for any reason. If the secular lord didn't get you, the church wasn't far behind, gleefully torturing and burning anyone who dared to disagree. Knowledge itself was deemed evil and everyone from King to lowest peasant lived lives of ignorance and superstition.
The details and dates of the founding of the first Masonic Lodges are lost to the mists of time. We do however know that they were existing, underground during the reign of the Tudors in England. These Tudor monarchs are perhaps the very best example of why our world needs Freemasonry, and of the positive impact Freemasonry has had upon it.
King Henry the 8th was certainly an interesting guy. When he came to power there were Protestants within his realm. He however was a great supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, so he dealt with these thought crimes as any good tyrant would. He tortured and murdered the Protestants in an effort to ensure that everyone thought about spiritual matters in exactly the same way he did. The big trouble for his realm however came about when he decided to become a Protestant himself. Now he had to torture and murder all those with whom he had previously agreed. This problem didn't end with his death, for he was eventually succeeded by a daughter, affectionately known to history as Bloody Mary. Queen Mary was a Catholic. She felt it necessary to murder all those pesky Protestants. That would have been fine, but her successor was Queen Elizabeth and Elizabeth considered herself a good Protestant. You can guess where that led.
In England under the Tudors, perhaps it was best to be a Protestant on Monday and a Catholic on Tuesday for admitting to any conviction was certainly a death sentence. The trouble was of course, who could know, from day to day whether or not this was the day he was to be Catholic or Protestant. The earth reeked with the blood of innocents.
Meanwhile, while Kings and nobles were gleefully massacring the very people they were sworn to protect, Masonic Lodges were working, underground, in secret, spreading the philosophy that would eventually change the world.
That philosophy, at its most basic level is:
"The Brotherhood of Man."
Just what do we mean by that term, The Brotherhood of Man?
We mean that we are to treat every man, under the canopy of heaven, as a brother. As a man deserving of our respect, our charity, and our love.
We, as men, and as Freemasons are to regard every man as our brother, irrespective of his spiritual or political beliefs.
Eventually, as time passed, and our philosophy became more and more accepted, Freemasons would no longer be considered enemy's of the state subject to execution, in England anyway, and a group of the old lodges in London came out of hiding and publicly proclaimed their existence in 1717.
Freemasonry has spread throughout the world, existing in every country and holding devoted adherents among every nation. While some ignorant people still consider Freemasons to be somehow evil, no government or church has systematically murdered Masons in the name of God or of the State since the 1940's when Germany attempted to exterminate all of the Freemasons within Nazi borders.
While tremendous progress has been made throughout our world, under the influence of our gentle philosophy and craft, much more remains to be done.
In the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and in parts of Asia people continue to be murdered by the thousands, by fanatics claiming to be somehow committing these crimes against humanity in the name of God. War, fanaticism, blood, and death are the norm in our world instead of the peace and prosperity that all men should enjoy.
Freemasonry recognizes and teaches that God seeks the murder of no man. Contrary to the beliefs of those fanatics who murder in the name of God or of the State, God chokes upon the blood of man, weeps at seeing the slaughterhouse we have made of our world.
Freemasonry is the great peace society of the world. It is older and more honorable than any government upon the face of the earth and unlike every government that has ever existed Freemasonry never achieves its aims through violence and death, it achieves its goals through gentle persuasion and the good example of its votaries.
Freemasonry is the only institution in the world where one altar of God can hold the Hebrew Scriptures, both Catholic and Protestant versions of the Holy Bible, the Noble Koran, and any other Scripture, without rancor and with equal reverence. That in which elsewhere in time, and elsewhere in the world is cause of the death of millions is an acknowledgement of spiritual unity within the protective confines of the Masonic Lodge.
None of this is to say that Freemasonry is without problem. It certainly faces a major crisis today as membership is falling, and lodge doors are closing.
That crisis has come about because Freemasonry has forgotten how to dream.
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest, richest, most powerful, organized body of men existing upon the face of the earth.
For most of a century however, we have done little to nothing with that power. We do little because we dream little. It wasn't always that way, and it certainly doesn't have to be that way, we simply have to recognize our power for good within the world, and exercise that power for the good of humanity.
During Western Europe's Dark Ages brilliant men dreamed of a time and a place in which men of all faiths and all creeds could join together as brothers with the goal of working together to improve the lot of man. These men formed the first Masonic lodges, taking the building of King Solomon’s temple as the basis for our allegories, and reviving the teachings of the Ancient Mysteries as our philosophy.
Later men dreamed of a time in which Freemasonry and its philosophy could be accepted by the world at large and through their efforts a time did come in which Masonry could publicly announce itself and in which Royalty would even embrace it. Through their diligent efforts they succeeded, and even to this day the Masonic Order in the United Kingdom is headed by a Royal.
In 1717, when Freemasonry made its public appearance society the world over was stratified. Lords and commoners, rich and poor, society was divided into castes and the classes didn't mix. Didn't mix anywhere but within the Masonic Lodge that is. There every man was considered equal to every other, and men met upon the level. Even sitting President Theodore Roosevelt sat in Lodge as a brother while his gardener served as Master.
Taking the lesson of equality learned within the Masonic Lodge, men the world over began to chafe under the strict class system within society, and grew to object to the tyranny of Kings. Around the world Freemasons dreamed of a new kind of society, a society that would be based upon merit instead of birthright, a society that would offer everyone liberty and equal opportunity.
Eventually these dreams would be carried forward by Freemasons throughout the world who would rise up, throwing despotic rule aside to become the very fathers of nations. Freemason George Washington became the father of the United States. Freemason Benito Juarez threw off European rule becoming the father of a new and free Mexico. Freemason Giuseppe Garibaldi founded the State of Italy. Freemason Emilio Aguinaldo became the first President of the Philippines after throwing off Spanish Rule. Simon Bolivar was an extremely busy Freemason, and an extremely big dreamer. He threw off European rule from Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and of course Bolivia, ensuring freedom from European tyranny throughout Central and South America.
Throughout the world Freemasons fought for independence, home rule, equality, and democracy. A review of the Masonic membership of signers of the Declaration of Independence, and our nation's Constitution clearly shows just how great an impact Freemasonry had on the founding of this nation, but that massive impact was felt everywhere that men struggled to be free.
Perhaps Emilio Aguinaldo said it best when he opined:
"The successful revolution of 1896 was Masonically inspired, Masonically led, and Masonically executed, and I would venture to say that the first Philippine Republic of which I was its humble President was an achievement which we owe largely to Masonry and the Masons."
We, the men in this room, and in rooms like it throughout the world truly are The High Priests of Democracy.
Freemasonry's big dreams did now however end with governance. They extended further to encompass all aspects of life.
For example, when Freemasons saw a need for free health care for the children of North America they didn't just sit around complaining about it, or run off and lobby the government to do something about it. No. Freemasons, through the Shrine and the Scottish Rite founded a chain of hospitals throughout America, Canada, and Mexico. Hospitals that provide the very highest quality, and totally free services to every child who can benefit from them.
Let's consider the Shriner's Hospital for Children just down the road in Portland. No child or child's family has ever been asked to pay a nickel for health care received there. If a child's life is saved in that Shrine hospital Alan pays the bill, Ray pays the bill, Lou pays the bill. They do this out of their own sweat and their own treasure and they do so without ever mentioning it. That is real charity, that is Masonic charity.
On a very local scale, in the 1920's the Freemasons of Centralia had a dream. It wasn't an overwhelming dream like Freemason George Washington's dream of founding a new nation, but it was a big dream nevertheless. They dreamed of building a Masonic Temple.
They dreamed of building a Masonic Temple large enough and beautiful enough so as to properly reflect the importance of Freemasonry and bring good feelings toward our gentle craft throughout our community. They dreamed this building and they built it.
Our world today needs Freemasonry just as badly as it was needed in times past. Today the earth remains a slaughterhouse filled with destruction, murder and war. Instead of face-to-face combat we have terrorism and death from the sky, but the result is the same. No one today can look around the world and claim that we are on the right track, that freedom and liberty are on the rise. Even in America's own back yard children are walking, thousands of miles to escape unbelievable violence within their homelands of Guatemala and Honduras.
Freemasonry is needed today, and Freemasons everywhere must work for the betterment of humanity.
We don't seem to be doing that with much energy though.
Today it seems that our world is being ruled by the bloodthirsty and the incompetent. We do not see Freemasonic statesmen like Washington and Juarez; instead glorified warlords like Putin take center stage. Why do we as Masons allow it?
Freemasonry isn't really founding new hospital chains or other massive charities today. Rather we are re-trenching, hoping to hold on to that which our ancestors created for as long as we possibly can. Why are we as Masons allowing this to be the case?
Even right here in Centralia where those who came before us built this beautiful building. We can't even afford to properly maintain that which those who came prior to us built. How can we, as Masons, tolerate this?
I've got to tell you. The challenge Freemasonry faces today is not financial. Our fraternity, around the world, controls vast wealth. This building alone is worth a small fortune. The challenge we face is not manpower. Freemasonry has as many adherents today as it did when this building was erected.
The challenge Freemasonry faces today is a lack of vision, a lack of dreams. Sometime over the last 100 years Masonry surveyed all the good it had done since the renaissance and decided to rest. It had brought freedom and equality to men, it had instilled within man a love of knowledge and a support for education. It had founded charities, it had founded nations, and its reach extended deeply into every city and hamlet not only in this country, but around the world. The fraternity saw the good it had done and rested.
Decades have passed, and Freemasonry is still resting.
It is time to wake up.
It is time to revitalize our lodges as centers of equality, of learning, of philosophy, of light. It is time to seize that which we have been given and use it for the good of our world, for the positive progress of humanity.
It is time for this fraternity, for our lodges to dream again, great dreams, world changing dreams, and to pursue those dreams with an unmatched will, just as the Freemasons who came before us did. Working together, we can, fulfill the promise of Freemasonry.
I want to state here today that I am humbled and honored to have been selected to lead this lodge into the future. Each and every member of this lodge is a good man whom I am proud to call a brother and I will do my very best to make everyone of you proud.
I am blessed with an amazing line of officers, men who will come after me and assure that this lodge will continue its great and positive momentum for years and years to come.
I am also blessed with my friends throughout this great Masonic jurisdiction, men whom I know will help and support me as we move forward. That has been clearly shown by your willingness to install me into office today.
Centralia lodge has had some good years, and it will continue to get better and better. The sun has truly risen, in the east, over this lodge and we will face an ever-brighter future together.
Centralia lodge will dream big dreams. It will help this community in countless ways over the years to come, building upon all that has been done in the past.
This lodge will not sit around once a month over some bad food, bitching about paying the bills. This lodge is active, creative, growing, and working for the betterment of our world. We may stumble often, but as our newest Entered Apprentice Mason reminded me recently, when something doesn't work out as we expect, it is an opportunity to learn from our mistake and redouble our efforts. We will never stop striving to make ourselves better Freemasons and our lodge the finest lodge within this great jurisdiction.
To steal a phrase from our Most Worshipful Brother, the Freemasons of Centralia will work everyday, and in every way to better themselves, their families, their community, and thus humanity.
Thank you everyone for being here today. Your support means more to me than words could ever express.
At this time I would like to invite our Most Worshipful Brother to the East to say a few words.