by an "Old P.M."
It is a strange thing that Freemasonry at once an institution universal in its scope, unifying in its aims, and uplifting in its ideals; should have in its followers men who are strangely obsessed with one idea of its purposes.
Masonry itself in all its aspects may with some become an obsession but I have noticed that in such cases the principles and tenets of the Craft are invariably used to emphasise the principles and practices of highly mundane action. In such cases the obsession is of value, and tends to the solidarity of human effort and advancement. So far, good, and if all the devotees of the Craft were so minded we should be in greater measure than we are a force for good, a greater support to all those endeavours which are animated by a great and generous desire for the good of others, and indeed for the advantage of humanity at large.
But the obsessed ones discount the value of the Craft universal, and hamper its fullest activity and influence. The reason for this is these Brethren are afflicted by myopia of the intellectual variety and can only see one object, not at a time but the same object at all times. This object, they cling to, nurse, fondle and parade with a vigour and enthusiasm worthy of a better cause! They do as Freemasonry is said to have done two centuries ago "taken a run" but without the saving grace of running themselves out of breath. Their influence and example are not of, or for, the best. The limit the activity of others and tend to create in some the lack of interest, indifference, and inattention discernible on many hands. Freemasonry is not to be "cribb`d, cabin`d and cofin'd" but it is, and must be maintained broad and deep and glorious.
It may be said that while this latter is the view and aim of wise Master Builders, all cannot attain to their perfection. That it is better to do one thing well, than to make a poor attempt at doing several things unsuccessfully. But this is a fallacy. All Freemasons of whatsoever rank and attainment are builders - they must go on building, not with one stone but many, not at one part of the building but throughout its whole course.
The evidence of the existence of Brethren obsessed by one objective is not far to seek nor is it needful to go into many details on the subject. It mat be said that there are but few such, and their presence may act as a spur to others. True, there may be few of them, but even so there are too many and their spurring only directs the spurred into a similar course of action and not into any wide or general progress. Besides Freemasonry is not effective if a spur is needed for it is necessarily slow and gradual in its movement, and takes the lii1e of least resistance being founded on love, patient, kind and long suffering.
Let us look at a few examples where these principles may well be substituted for the spur. Take Ritual, it is no doubt one of the most difficult subjects to deal with, being a well-ridden, over-ridden hobby horse to many. Your enthusiast loses no opportunity of correcting others, and of advertising, supposed superior virtues and powers of his own pet mount, which would rapidly become like "Uncle Tom Cobley's Grey Mare" if everyone invited took a seat on the proferred saddle.
Apart from essentials as to which I say nothing, I suppose there is not, never was, and never will be, anyone set form crystalised, unaltered or unalterable applicable to the whole Craft. One too often hears ritual enthusiasts correct the officers on words in open Lodge and at times even corrections from several different quarters. Oh, what a lamentable state of affairs! It would be like having a correctional committee who mistook the place and occasion for a Lodge of Instruction. There is ample room for patience, and broadmindedness here.
The Dinner which in many places succeeds the Lodge is an opportunity for a hobby horse rider to display his powers. He may be an authority on a good menu which by the way I have never yet found has ever been satisfactory to him. Or he may be a judge of fine wines, their bouquet and flavour, and remains unsatisfied with what is provided. There are other directions in which he may direct his prancing steed, and dictate to others what they ought, or ought not to do or have. The verbose speaker to, or after, a toast is much the same. He forgets, if he ever realised, that "Dinners were meant for eating and not talking." He winds out a speech of twenty minutes, or longer, duration while a five minute good speech would have a greater and more lasting effect on the minds of the hearers, than a twenty minute poor speech. I am entirely on the side of moderation and temperance in all things.
There are other directions where a broader view of things should be taken. The specialist in the use or demand for, the full titles and prefixes, and indications of rank. In their proper place and on proper occasions this is commendable, but Brother is a comprehensive and fraternal term more often than not. The stickler for wearing all the emblems, badges, and jewels he possesses might well revise his views and actions in accordance with a recent pronouncement by authority. The wearing of Masonic collars at dinner, the still too frequent "challenging" in general, and in particular without regard for the rank of the challenged Brother all need attention to prevent the spread of individual fads and practices. The most enjoyable Masonic Dinners I have experienced are those where these things are entirely taboo.
There are other directions too where the broad view should be taken, where symbolism, and exposition of principles should be carefully restrained and much in the conduct and conversation between Brethren be carefully watched. But I have said enough I think to indicate some directions where Brethren can and should widen their sphere of activity, of thought, or of practice. Where these should be tempered with fraternal feeling for others, where the real principles and tenets of the Craft as a whole and not in one particular, may be exhibited and carried into effect so that the "stately and superb edifice" may continue to be erected on the true foundation and be perfect in all its parts and honourable to the Builders.