by Bro. "P.Q."
Why Should I? I must explain that I am not making any breach of confidence in the remarks which appear in this article, for not only was a free consent given to the opinions expressed by the speaker, "if you think it will do any good to help men like myself." Moreover, the opinions are not those of one but of several who have been to me lately to know my advice on the question of becoming a Freemason. I have, therefore, at least mentally brought applicants into an entity as regards position in life, mentality and sincerity, and I found it odd that their views and difficulties might be summed up in the phrase " Why should I?"
In each case the enquirer came of his own accord to get my opinion because I was known to be a big Mason, although they were unable to describe how or why I was entitled to that description. Anyway, they had the ordinary sources of information, they were right and partly wrong. "Ah!" said he, "that is why I have come to see you". I have found that the scraps of information were generally wrong. "Quite so," I said, "that is because the people you gone to know probably less, and it is a case of blind leading the blind, and even where your informant member of the Craft (that is our name for Freemasonry) he has probably got a wrong idea of what entitled to tell an enquirer, and so puts him off by a sort of cloud of ignorance or mystery.
"If I ask you to tell me now, what would be your reply, based on actual experience or sound information, what would you tell me?"
"Oh, I think it must be a jolly good thing, because it raises such a lot of money, according to the papers, the purpose of magnificent schools for children and pensions for old people."
Another enquirer said that may be very true, but the money is spent only on Masons or orphans of sons, and "I reckon they ought to spend the money on any deserving case outside what you call the Craft."
I said "That is where your information is short, but could only fill that up if you were a Mason. But are not the schools and pensions which cost voluntary subscriptions of Masons running into £300,000 a year sufficient cause for admiration?"
"My word, yes!" said the first man, "for while I was on my holiday I saw a magnificent lifeboat which I was told was one of several given and maintained by the Masons, and you must have seen the other day that the Freemasons gave 1,000 guineas to the Lord Mayor's Fund for the distressed areas and on many other occasions for different purposes."
"That's all very well, but you must remember that Freemasonry is not a benefit society where you pay so much a quarter for certain benefits which are sure to come at sickness or death. All the benefits in this respect are free and voluntary. If you are left with an orphan, it by no means follows that you can get the child into a school, or if you are old and worn out (you don`t look it, now), you have no right to a pension except for the generosity and goodwill of the members.
Now what does all this suggest to you, or what is there left to help to obtain a good opinion of the Craft? You have to pay a subscription which is managed by other people on what is known as the principles of the Craft, and as you can't be expected to know exactly what these are till you are a member and have gone through the whole of the ceremonies I cannot very well explain them at length, but this I can tell you, that what I have said about the freedom of its generosity is at least a reason for thinking that Freemasonry means love towards its members, the desire to help them in distress, and one other point, a straighter dealing between Masons and the ordinary man. Is think that enough, but there, you see there is much more be told, and if this is not enough, I must tell more later."
"Here! but are there not fees to pay every year else how could it carry on?"
"Good man! these fees go in administration of Lodge and to Grand Lodge, and for printing and the like; some pay the cost of dinners or part of them and in keeping up a private Lodge benevolent fund. Apart from these fees the contribution to the schools, etc., are quite voluntary."
"Hold on a minute. What has that Freemasons` Hospital and Nursing Home in the Fulham to do with all this charity?"
"Oh, that is purely the outcome of the generous feeling of many Brethren who found not many years ago that there was not a hospital in London Masons could be exclusively treated for reasonable fees. It was formed by a good many Masons years ago, and has proved so beneficial that it is not large enough, and will have to be rebuilt in the suburbs to hold about 120 ordinary patients beside nursing home patients, all of whom must be Masons, children or near relations of Masons.
"There now! Go away and think about the answer your own question."