MASONIC LODGE FUNDS
There are men here and there who look down their noses on those who must work to earn money. There are others who consider the subject of money to lie below them, and deem it too vulgar to mention at the dinner table. There are others of a supposedly spiritual sort, mystical, or metaphysical, or other-worldly, who condemn money because they look upon it as something crassly materialistic. Such men should never petition for the Degrees, because if they do they will be shocked by the Fraternity's frank and open acceptance of money, the need for it, its high place in men's lives, the honorableness of it; and not money in any Pickwickian, or evasive, or make believe, or occult sense but actual money, dollars, half-dollars, quarters, dimes, and pennies. They will find that the subject of wages is chock-ablock at the center of the Ritual, one of its great themes, and becomes as big as a mountain; and they will discover that the very sanctum sanctorum is nothing other than the place where a young Craftsman has ceased to be an Apprentice, working for nothing, and has become a Fellow of the Craft who can now earn wages. Freemasonry is neither backward nor abashed by the subject of money, but accepts it wholeheartedly with full frankness and an above-board enthusiasm.
If a man must have belongings, such as his hat, his clothes, his shoes, his handkerchief, and what he carries in his pocket, it is because he would perish without them - especially in winter. If he needs many possessions, furniture, utensils, tools, an automobile, etc., it is because he could not have a home or make a living without them. He is so made that without food, sleep, rest, remedies, and what not he will be unmade, but if he is to sleep he must have a bed, if he is to rest he must have a chair, if he is to eat he must have groceries and a cook stove, if he is to recover from his illness he must have medicine, if he is not to be rendered helpless by ignorance he must have schools, and if he is to retain his possessions and be able to continue to work he must have government. If such things are material, or physical, or external he cannot hate them or hold them in contempt or despise them without hating or despising himself, because they are as much a part of him as his own hands and feet.
There are hundreds of such things of many kinds and sorts; to make or produce almost any one of them is impossible without materials, equipment, special knowledge, or special skill-consider that a man must spend four years in college, four years in medical school, and two years as an interne before the law will permit him to feel your pulse or prescribe an aspirin tablet for your cold! Any given man is incapable of making or growing more than three or four of the things which he must have to live; it is for that reason that a man needs money. He must have it to trade with. Since he can make only a few of the things he must have, then he must be able to trade what lie himself makes or grows for the many things which he cannot make or grow. He must include money itself among the many things which he owns or he can own nothing; he uses his shoes to wear on his feet, and his hat to wear on his bead; lie must use money for a similarly necessary purpose, because without it he cannot trade for the necessaries which he cannot produce.
Through a long process of trial and error men have found that to date the best material for use as money is gold and silver, and more especially gold. These metals are convenient, durable, and everywhere in demand; they cannot easily be counterfeited (as other metals can), and they may be used in high units of value without bulk-sooner or later all usable money must be pocket money. The Latin terns from which we derived our word "money" meant "to mint," and it is this minting which distinguishes gold money from gold. To mint money a government fixes a standard quantity of a standard fineness of metal; stamps it into a fixed shape, which in modern times is always a disc; mills the edges to prevent clipping; and stamps on both sides the denomination, its seal, the name of the government, etc.; and then declares it to be official and compels every citizen to accept it as valid money.
It is a prevalent theory that every man who works desires to have what he produces, and is entitled to it in justice; in actual practice the world over a man seldom wants what he produces. If you have potatoes in the ground which are worth $40.00 where they lie, but you are not able to dig them, you can make an agreement with me to dig them for you; if after I have dug and sacked them the potatoes are worth $50.00 it is obvious that I now own one-fifth of those potatoes, or, say, ten bags. I could take these ten bags of potatoes home with me because they belong to me; but I already have more potatoes than I need, therefore you trade me ten dollars for them; or if you do not need them I can trade them to a third man for the ten dollars, and I can then in turn trade the dollars for things I do need. If you pay me the money instead of leaving me in possession of my potatoes that money is called wages, which is money paid for work. There are two very curious and illuminating facts about the wages you pay me they must be curious, because it has always been so difficult for men to see them, they must be illuminating because as soon as they are seen they clear up a thousand questions about wages. One of the facts is that you do not give me the ten dollars, still less do the ten dollars belong to you; the ten dollars are my property and when you "pay" them you are giving me something which already belongs to me-you are not out the ten dollars because the ten dollars did not belong to you; if you give me the ten dollars it is not because I have forced you to, or have taken from you something which was yours; they are mine, and you have lost nothing by turning over, to me, what is mine. The other fact is that there can be no competition between you and me because my work was done by agreement between us both. We both profit; you have your own potatoes dug, and you are that much ahead; I have my potatoes or my money and I am ahead; we both are ahead but neither is ahead at the expense of the other. It is possible for me to cheat you by not doing as much work as I agreed to, or for you to cheat me by not turning over in the form of wages what belongs to me, but cheating has nothing to do with the system of wages. Wages are an everlasting method necessary in the nature of things because by no other possible method can a man who works through the year producing or making one or two or three kinds of things trade them for the hundreds of other things which he must have; and by the same token it can never be true that a man who has money he did not earn is superior socially or intellectually to a man who must earn every dollar he has.
Next to religion and politics money has always been the most prolific source of public follies. The mid-Twentieth Century American who has become dazzled by the merry-go-round of economic theories, and to whom socialism, communism, and fascism have cone with an air of exciting surprise, cannot have read history; if he had, he would have known that those schemes have no newness except a new mask in this guise, and that in reality they are as old as the hills, and far less exciting than most of our American hills; history is a record of endless experiment with such economic theories. But nowhere in history have theories multiplied so rapidly, or taken so lunatic a form, or gone to such extremes of folly, as during that long period in Britain in the Middle Ages when Operative Freemasonry arose, and in which it took the form which out Speculative Fraternity inherited. This Medieval ignorance was most dense on the subject of money. Governments, such as they were, did not understand even the A B C's of it; they could see no difference between money and barter; thee fixed costs, prices, and wages by arbitrary and rigid law; if a king waged war he clipped his own coinage to steal the gold or silver out of it; they struck it out in awkward shapes and sizes; they farmed out the coining of it to private firms; and the honesty of governments was so rudimentary (honesty is what money means to character) that it took a microscope to find iteven Joan of Arc connived with her French king to clip his coin in order to pay her army.
No government understood wages, either, as is proved by the stupidity of the laws enacted to regulate then, for they took it that a workman's wages were largess, or a form of charity, paid by the employer out of his own pocket. The Church was even more unenlightened. Wycliff was only one of the great divines who thundered at workmen for being greedy enough to accept the wages they had earned; and he and all the other divines for a thousand years firmly believed that work is a curse, that money is a low-down thing because it is "material," and that wageearners were low-down men, belonging to the lowest castes of society. Employers were superior to employees even in God's eyes, and a rich man was more certain to go into heaven than a poor one because his riches were a proof in this world of God's favor, and therefore a warrant of God's approval in the world to come. The worst and most disastrous of the church's stupidities was its identifying interest with usury; you could let a man have the use of a $5,000 house for $30.00 rent a month, but to charge him rent on the use of $5,000 in money was a sin as well as a crime this was the tap-root out of which grew the hatred of the Jews, because Judaism permitted the charging of interest; and if Roman Catholics practiced their doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope not one of them would ever lend money at interest because for centuries one Pope after another issued thundering condemnations of it in a long succession of Papal Bulls. As for Operative Freemasonry itself it taught no economic doctrines, either orthodox or heretical, and came unscathed and unmarked through centuries of Utopian schemes about money, and "revolutionary" transformations; the whole history of Freemasonry's own economic theory may be told in the three words, "It has none."
Freemasons no longer work for wages. The member of a Lodge may work in it one, or two, or four nights a month but is never paid for his time. That system of wages which Operative Freemasons laid down as one of the cornerstones of their craft, and from which they always refused to budge, come Church anathemas or Royal thunders, is no longer practiced by Freemasons; they use it symbolically only. But their using it symbolically does not mean that they have turned money itself into make-believe, or have dissolved it into mystical or into occult dreams: on the contrary wages in the Ritual continue to be real wages, literal wages, wages earned by work and therefore belonging to the worker; the dollar is an actual dollar; the only difference between the use of money and wages by Speculative Masons and their Operative Masonic forbears is that Speculative Masons aver that what the Operative Masons knew, and taught, and understood about money and wages is true of money and wages everywhere. Instead of having a money theory peculiarly its own the Fraternity affirms that its money theory belongs to everybody.
Money has been described as that subject about which no two of its own experts ever agree; it is because, of the four factors of which money is constituted, three can be predicted but the fourth cannot be; it is a variable, an X. But this is not a complete explanation of that sense of mystery which almost every man has, at least once in a while, about the function and nature of a dollar; for there is yet a fifth factor, which is not in money but about it, and it is the factor of its function. For like Aladdin with his lamp a man can turn a dollar into any one of countless things. There is a magic in it. He can at will turn it into two pounds of meat; or a bouquet of flowers; or (if he have enough of them) into a pair of shoes; or into medicine; or into a subscription to his church; or into a book; or into schooling; or into science. And as a man usually does not value the product of his own work merely for its own sake but for what he can get for it, so he does not value a coin for its own sake but because he can trade it for innumerable things or services which in themselves are wholly unlike gold or silver.
This complete freedom a man has of turning a dollar into whatever he may need, or want, or desire, or fancy is in a Masonic Lodge brought under a restriction; this restriction is that Masonic funds can be expended only for Masonic Purposes; these latter are broad, they ramify in many directions, they have in them a large number of potentialities, nevertheless they are defined by law, and the fact is a key to the Fraternity's use of money. Unless a Lodge owns property from which it collects rents, or receives gifts, or has an endowment on which it is paid interest, a Lodge, strangely enough, has no income, and even more strangely, it charges no admittance fee to the Lodge Room, charges no price for conferring the Degrees, and charges no price for membership.
Yet if it is a true and living Lodge, and
is at work in a community where it is needed, it is never without
funds. The secret of it is that a Lodge pays out what monies are
needed to carry out the purpose of a Lodge, adds up the expenditures,
and has each man pay in his equal or his proportionate share.
If he is a Candidate he pays his apportioned share, which means
the sum apportioned to him as his share in meeting the expenses
incurred while conferring the Degrees, and this is called his
Initiation Fee it is not a price of admission, and it is not a
price at which the Degrees are sold, because no Lodge ever sells
its Degrees, but is, to repeat, a share in Lodge expenses. During
the year a Lodge must pay rent, must pay taxes, pays for light,
heat, and janitor service, postage, equipment, entertainments,
relief, and incidentals; the total is divided among the members
each of whom pays an equal share, called Annual Dues; and since
each member accepts responsibility for his share in a Lodge's
fixed expenses in the act of becoming a member, and since appropriation
for expenditures made through the year are made by vote, and he
has a vote. Dues are not a tax levied upon him from without, but
a charge assessed upon him by himself.
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