is ignorance in masonry a crime?

by John Edwin Mason, M.D.

All Masons naturally seek for "more light." If they love the principles of Freemasonry, they cherish a desire to learn more of the history and literature of such a noble Order, and become acquainted with the law, usages, and jurisprudence governing Freemasonry at the present day.

They desire to give information to their less informed brethren, who have just been obligated on its holy altars.

As "education makes the man," so it also makes the Mason. The obligation taken on the holy altar does not virtually make a man a Mason. The Masonic world acknowledges him as such, but if he has no knowledge of Masonry, and does not seek to obtain any, he is simply a fraud upon the Craft, and has no rights that Masons are bound to respect. He is a living monument of the folly, so common at the present day, of making Masons of all applicants, without regarding their mental qualifications. A wide distinction should be made between candidates for Masonry and the idiotic asylum.

Mr. Pointless makes application to be made a Mason, because he finds that Masonry is very popular, and he thinks he will be able to sell more cabbages in the market. A correct prognosis would make very little difference between his head and the cabbage heads he sells in the market. Both are harmless specimens of verdancy, unequalled in the vegetable kingdom.

Mr. Pointless never had an idea above an oyster in all his life. Two distinct ideas never crept into that head at the same time, because it would cause an explosion. The boiler would burst, like any other boiler. It was a wise provision of nature that such boilers should burst.

He fully realizes that "The wise are happy, nature to explore; The fool is happy that he knows no more." The committee call upon Mr. Pointless, and find him an honest, truthful, upright man, with no bad habits, and an exemplary member of Rev. Mr. Blowhard's church. The committee  make a favorable report, and Mr. Pointless is made a Mason in due and ancient form.

No one could measure his appreciation of the degrees by the quart or gallon. As years roll by, his knowledge of Masonry is just about the same as that he possesses of the differential calculus, of Socrates, or Hippocrates. He cannot be stimulated to learn anything, because he invariably says he "has no larnin'." He dies in good standing, without ever having been able to prove himself a Mason, or even give the passwords.

The question arises, when Mr. Pointless dies, did Masonry make him a better man, or make him serve his fellow-men as the Bible teaches? All must reply in the negative. Mr. Pointless did not profit by the valuable lessons taught in Masonry, because he knew nothing about them, and was too ignorant to learn them. But can he be blamed for his ignorance? Most assuredly; for in this country schools are free, and education flows like the mountain streamlet, and he who refuses to drink at its fountain is a criminal.

The ignorance of such a man casts a stain upon Masonry. No such person can be considered a worthy candidate. His life was not only a blank to Masonry, but an actual disgrace. The dangerous classes are always ignorant men. Mobs and riots originate among these classes. Ignorant men are dangerous to Masonry. They must be kept out. In the dark days of anti-masonry, it was the ignorant men in the Craft who rose up and took the life of our beloved Order. If dark days come again, the same class will do the same thing. We can only judge the future by the past. Anti- masonic conventions have been held the past year in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; and in various other places. The cloud is now no larger than a man's hand, but it may increase, until it bursts into a storm that will sweep all before; it, as it did forty years ago. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

There are too many drones in the Masonic hive, whose negligence is only surpassed by their ignorance. They have passed through all the degrees, but never visit their Lodges, Chapters, Councils, or Commandereries (Preceptory). They howl once a year, when they pay their dues to the secretary, otherwise they do not disturb the harmony of the Craft. As they joined Masonry in order to benefit themselves, they never give a dollar for charity. They look upon Masonry as a popular Order, but should a storm arise and its popularity be shaken, these men would be the first to leave the ship. Then they would declare that they never had a good opinion of it. Such hypocrites are always ignorant men, and their ignorance is a crime in Masonry.


We have also a class of sincere and enthusiastic Masons, who are not ignorant in one sense, yet they are in another. They have committed to memory the ritual, so they can confer almost any degree, and yet they know so little of the history, literature, and jurisprudence of Masonry, that any profane would make them blush for shame if he asked them very common questions. Their senseless gabble over the ritual makes the Craft call them "Parrot Masons," because they learn Masonry as the parrot learns a language. Darwin would say that their origin could be traced back to a parrot. With contracted and narrow ideas about Masonry, they oppose the publication of anything on Masonry in newspapers or periodicals, and have a cold chill whenever they see a word in print about Masonry. They have an idea that Masonry is something like a black coal-hole, in which no light should enter. They foster ignorance, by opposing everybody in the Order whose ideas are not as narrow as their own. They oppose Masonic books and papers, because they educate Masons to know more than they ever hope to possess. All their long lives they have been

"Dropping buckets into empty wells, And growing old in drawing nothing up."

Some of the most ignorant even go so far as to oppose the calling of Masonic meetings through the daily newspapers, or the simple announcements what degrees would be worked. They can give no reason for such foolish and ridiculous assurances, and only refer to the fact, that King Solomon did not publish such notices, as no newspapers then existed! If they followed King Solomon in other things as closely as in this, they would each possess more wives than Brigham Young. Would that be Masonic also?


"Where ignorance is bliss 'Tis folly to be wise."

All the above-named classes need -more light," in accordance with the strict meaning of that term in Masonry. This light is simply more knowledge. The great question to meet now, face to face, is how this Masonic information can be imparted. It is, perhaps, the most important question now discussed by learned Masons all over the world.

A diagnosis of this disease in Masonry has been made, the prognosis given, and now the remedy must be applied. There is a specific that stands ready to cure ignorance in any form, no matter how virulent. It is reading, study, and thinking. If Masons will only do their own thinking, and not hire it, done by the job, there will be a radical change. If they will study Masonry as a science, they will glean rich gems from her precious mines. If they will read the history and literature of Masonry, they will be astonished to find so rich a harvest. Well-informed Masons often say that Masonry has no literature. The proceedings of Grand Lodges, Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies (Preceptory) all over the world, the different Masonic events that are celebrated by addresses, orations, poems, &c., all furnish a rich current literature of Freemasonry.


The reports on foreign correspondence, in all the Grand Bodies in the United States, compare favorably with our best magazine literature. Here is a rich field, in which to gather information, and to obtain all the Masonic news in every State. And yet how few Masons carefully peruse them! The writer reads annually over three thousand pages of proceedings of Grand Bodies, and two thousand pages of Masonic addresses, poems, and newly- published books on Masonry, and yet feels ashamed that he only has time to read these five thousand pages.

The other sources of Masonic information are all good, but cannot compare with a monthly magazine. This is unquestionably the best. Such varied information is obtained, that any Mason who takes a monthly or weekly Masonic publication, and reads it carefully, is generally the best educated on all Masonic subjects, and knows also what is being done by his fraters abroad. He finds answers to all the questions that naturally occur to an inquiring mind, and finds it is his best Masonic companion.





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