THE M. S. A. NATIONAL MASONIC LIBRARY presents in a series of volumes of uniforms binding and competent craftsmanship, the best results of Masonic research by masters of the Craft in America and abroad. The LIBRARY will cover every aspect of Freemasonry, its ritual, its symbolism, its philosophy, its past history and present activities and development. Representing all recognized schools of Masonic thought, it will bring the best literature of the Craft within reach of lodges and members.
Almost ten years have come and gone since this little book began its labors as a Workman on the Temple, and it is still busy, telling its story in different lands and languages. An edition is soon to appear in the Syrian tongue in Damascus, the oldest city in the world. It is here placed in the M. S. A. National Library, in order to have its part and do its work in the greatest co-operative undertaking in the history of American Masonry.
Oddly enough, The Builders has made its own way, unhelped by advertising or review, by virtue of its own spirit and purpose. Aside from a kindly greeting by Arthur Edward Waite in London, and another in the Masonic News of Detroit, it has had no special notice. None the less, by using the old Masonic method, "from mouth to ear," it has passed through more than forty editions. Brethren read it, liked it, and passed the word along; and so it has journeyed from land to land, weaving a web of goodwill.
Such a ministry makes the author hoth humble and happy, the more because he has been able to do somewhat in the service of our ancient and noble Craft, whose mission it is to do good, only good, always, and everywhere - Love its spirit, Truth its power, Fellowship its genius, since no one can learn the highest truth for another, and no one can learn it alone. "We must all hope much from the gradual progress of Brotherly Love;" and let him that hath that hope in him purify his heart.
The request for an English edition of this little book is most gratifying, for many reasons, not least of which is the opportunity which it offers the author of expressing the joy he has found in the fellowship of his British Brethren, whose sincere courtesy and brotherly thoughtfulness have added so much to his life in London. Next to this personal fortune is the daylight, not unmixed with surprise, that this story and study of Freemasonry should have found such favor with Brethren both in England and Scotland; not only because it is a token of appreciation of labor done in behalf of our gentle Craft, but the more so because it reveals the unity of the Order, its identity of interest, aims, and ideals, in every land where it has been true to its great tradition.
Surely, in a world torn by strife and divided by so many feuds of race, religion, and nationality, we have a right to rejoice in a fellowship, at once free, gentle, and refining, which spans all distances of space and all differences of speech, and brings men together by a common impulse and inspiration in mutual respect and brotherly regard. Truly it needs no philosopher to discern that such a fraternity, the very existence of which is a fact eloquent beyond words, is and influence for good no one can measure in the present, and a prophecy for the future the meaning of which no one can reckon; and doubly so because, by its very genius, Freemasonry is international, and therefore ought to be responsive to the ideal of world-fellowship which will surely emerge from the tragedy of world-war.
For that reason, in the reunion of English-speaking peoples upon which the future freedom and peace of the world so much depend, among the many ties of language, literature, love of liberty, respect for law, historical inheritance, and a common conception of civilization that unite us, must be counted a common and great Freemasonry. By the same token, upon us rests an obligation, only equaled by the opportunity, to have an influential part in promoting fellowship, interpretation, and intelligent sympathy between two peoples in whose histories our Craft is so deeply interwoven, and of whose unity it is itself a tie, a token, and a prophecy. Our differences are superficial; our unities fundamental. Such variation as exist between Freemasonry in Britain and in America - like the differences between the two peoples B are interesting, albeit insignificant, like the variations of accent and inflection, of dialect and brogue; its basic truths and principles are alike, and its spirit is the same in its breadth, beauty, and benignity.
Any study of Freemasonry must inevitably have to do with many questions about which there are, and probably always will be, differences of opinion among Masonic students both as to the facts and their interpretation; so that the author cannot hope to win the assent of all his fellow-students. Indeed, such an agreement with respect to debated issues would not give him half as much joy as to know that his brief and rapid survey of the origin and development of the Craft, written from an American point of view, and seeking not only to tell its story but to interpret and make vivid its exalted purpose, its high intellectual quality, its noble morality, and its wise spirituality, had served to reveal, in any measure, that which is the real bond of our race both in ideal and in destiny.
For, to say no more, our English-speaking race, by its historic genius no less than by its Freemasonry, is committed to the principle of the Commonwealth, the application to the field of government and social policy of the law of human brotherhood, of the duty of man to his neighbor, near and far, wherein lies our only hope of a world fit for free men to live in, where fraternity can flourish and the spirit of goodwill grow and be glorified.
Fourteen years ago the writer of this volume entered the temple of Freemasonry, and that date stands out in memory as one of the most significant days in his life. There was a little spread on the night of his raising, and, as is the custom, the candidate was asked to give his impressions of the Order. Among other things, he made request to know if there was any little book which would tell a young man the things he would most like to know about Masonry - what it was, whence it came, what it teaches, and what it is trying to do in the world? No one knew of such a book at that time, nor has any been found to meet a need which many must have felt before and since. By an odd coincidence, it has fallen to the lot of the author to write the little book for which he made request fourteen years ago.
This bit of reminiscence explains the purpose of the present volume, and every book must be judged by it and purpose, not less than by its style and contents. Written as a commission from the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and approved by that Grand body, a copy of this book is to be presented to every man upon whom the degree of Master Mason is conferred within this Grand Jurisdiction. Naturally this intention has determined the method and arrangement of the book, as well as the matter it contains; its aim being to tell a young man entering the order the antecedents of Masonry, its development, its philosophy, its mission, and its ideal. Keeping this purpose always in mind, the effort has been to prepare a brief, simple, and vivid account of the origin, growth, and teaching of the Order, so written as to provoke a deeper interest in and a more earnest study of its story and its service to mankind.
No work of this kind has been undertaken, so far as is known, by any Grand Lodge in this country or abroad B at least, not since the old Pocket Companion, and other such works in the earlier times; and this is the more strange from the fact that the need of it is so obvious, and its possibilities so fruitful and important. Every one who has looked into the vast literature of Masonry must often have felt the need of a concise, compact, yet comprehensive survey to clear the path and light the way. Especially must those feel such a need who are not accustomed to traverse long and involved periods of history, and more especially those who have neither the time nor the opportunity to sift ponderous volumes to find out the facts. Much of our literature - indeed, by far the larger part of it - was written before the methods of scientific study had arrived, and while it fascinates, it does not convince those who are used to the more critical habits of research. Consequently, without knowing it, some of our most earnest Masonic writers have made the Order a target for ridicule by their extravagant claims as to its antiquity. They did not make it clear in what sense it is ancient, and not a little satire has been aimed at Masons for their gullibility in accepting as true the wildest and most absurd legends. Besides, no history of Masonry has been written in recent years, and some important material has come to light in the world of historical and archaeological scholarship, making not a little that has hitherto been obscure more clear; and there is need that this new knowledge be related to what was already known. While modern research aims at accuracy, too often its results are dry pages of fact, devoid of literary beauty and spiritual appeal - a skeleton without the warm robe of flesh and blood. Striving for accuracy, the writer has sought to avoid making a dusty chronicle of facts and figures, which few would have the heart to follow, with what success the reader must decide.
Such a book is not easy to write, and for two reasons: it is the history of a secret Order, much of whose lore is not to be written, and it covers a be wildering stretch of time, asking that the contents of innumerable volumes - many of them huge, disjointed, and difficult to digest - be compact within a small space. Nevertheless, if it has required a prodigious labor, it is assuredly worth while in behalf of the young men who throng our temple gates, as well as for those who are to come after us. Every line of this book has been written in the conviction that the real history of Masonry is great enough, and its simple teaching grand enough, without the embellishment of legend, much less of occultism. It proceeds from first to last upon the assurance that all that we need to do is to remove the scaffolding from the historic temple of Masonry and let it stand out in the sunlight, where all men can see its beauty and symmetry, and that it will command the respect of the most critical and searching intellects, as well as the homage of all who love mankind. By this faith the long study has been guided; in this confidence it has been completed.
To this end the sources of Masonic scholarship, stored in the library of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, have been explored, and the highest authorities have been cited wherever there is uncertainty - copious references serving not only to substantiate the statements made, but also, it is hoped, to guide the reader into further and more detailed research. Also, in respect of issues still open to debate and about which differences of opinion obtain, both sides have been given a hearing, so far as space would allow, that the student may weigh and decide the question for himself. Like all Masonic students of recent times, the writer is richly indebted to the great Research Lodges of England - especially to the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No.2076 - without whose proceedings this study would have been much harder to write, if indeed it could have been written at all. Such men as Gould, Hughan, Speth, Crawley, Thorp, to name but a few - not forgetting Pike, Parvin, Mackey, Fort, and others in this country - deserve the perpetual gratitude of the fraternity. If, at times, in seeking to escape from mere legend, some of them seemed to go too far toward another extreme - forgetting that there is much in Masonry that cannot be traced by name and date - it was but natural in their effort in behalf of authentic history and accurate scholarship. Alas, most of those named belong now to a time that is gone and to the people who are no longer with us here, but the are recalled by an humble student who would pay them the honor belonging to great men and great Masons.
This book is divided into three parts, as every thing Masonic should be: Prophecy, History, and Interpretation, The first part has to do with the hints and foregleams of Masonry in the early history, tradition mythology, and symbolism of the race - finding its foundations in the nature and need of man, and showing how the stones wrought out by time and struggle were brought from afar to the making of Masonry as we know it. The second part is a story of the order of builders through the centuries, from the building of the Temple of Solomon to the organization of the mother Grand Lodge of England and the spread of the Order all over the civilized world. The third part is a statement and exposition of the faith of Masonry, its philosophy its religious meaning, its genius, and its ministry to the individual, and through the individual to society and the state. Such is a bare outline of the purpose, method, plan, and spirit of the work, and if these be kept in mind it is believed that it will tell its story and confide its message.
When a man thinks of our mortal lot - its greatness and its pathos, how much has been wrought out in the past, and how binding is our obligation to preserve and enrich the inheritance of humanity - there comes over him a strange warming of the heart toward all his fellow workers; and especially toward the young, to whom we must soon entrust all that we hold sacred. All through these pages the wish has been to make the young Mason feel in what benign tradition he stands, that he may earnestly strive to be a Mason not merely in form, but in faith, in spirit, and still more, in character; and so help to realize somewhat of the beauty we all have dreamed - lifting into the light the latent powers and unguessed possibilities of this the greatest order of men upon the earth. Everyone can do a little, and if each does his part faithfully the sum of our labors will be very great, and we shall leave the world fairer than we found it, richer in faith, gentler in justice, wiser in pity - for we pass this way but once, pilgrims seeking a country, even a City that hath foundations.
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