W.B. Jon Patrick Sage
In and among our gentle Craft, we speak often of Freemasonry, and the importance of upholding and bolstering support of that Institution. However, I fear that part of the issue with the perceived weaknesses that Freemasonry faces, i.e. Membership, Financial, Public Relations, go hand in hand with and are a direct result of concentrating TOO MUCH on the Free Masonic Order, and TOO LITTLE on what it means to BE a Mason! To some, this will sound like nit-picking, but–there is a difference!
My thoughts have always been that I was a Mason, or at least possessed a Masonic philosophy, long before I became a Freemason. And then, at some point, when I came to understand that the Institution which might best fit my “profile”, and might be agreeable to me, was Freemasonry–I Petitioned and then joined as a Freemason. By definition in order to “be Made” a Mason, a man must pass through some Ritual, and take an Obligation. At that point, we are all, each one within the Fraternity, known to the others, as a Brother Mason… a member of the Free Masonic Fraternity.
But, what–if anything… beyond what occurs in Ritual… makes you a Mason?
The answer lies NOT in any Ritual, or Obligation, or Institution whatsoever. “It” exists within each individual Mason, within our Hearts; which is after all, where we were first prepared to be made a Mason. This definition of what I call, the “Heart of a Mason”, is defined most eloquently by one of my favorite Masonic authors, Rev. Joseph Fort Newton. On the last page of the Indiana Monitor and Freemason’s Guide, we find these thoughts, on what “makes” a Mason, specifically:
“When Is A Man A Mason”
“When is a man a Mason? When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope and courage-which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, and to love his fellow man. When he knows how to sympathize with men, even in their
sins – knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds,-and still believe in them when they do not believe in themselves. When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt birds without a gun and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When star-crowned trees, and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters, subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he feels a social inequity as a personal sin, and a human calamity as a private bereavement-sharing the guilt and sorrows of his fellows. When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and see majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope, how to meet defeat and not be defeated. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow-man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song-glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.”
Brethren, when each of us has come to the understanding of ourselves that Newton writes of, the understanding and continuation of our Craft will begin to become automatic. Indeed, if each individual Mason were as introspective about why he became a Mason, and what Masonic traits he values; there would be no need to “Ask1ToBe1”. Those in question, who are without the gates, would see a Light shine, and make haste to “ASKYOU2Be1”! This is my sincere belief, and it is not meant to badger or beat down any among us. But- it must become apparent to ourselves, before we ask or encourage others to join … Why Are YOU A Mason? In short, other than just plain Ritual, what makes you A Mason? The answer, I believe, will be found to have existed within you long before a Petition was filled out and submitted in order to receive our Degrees. The answer– your answer, resides in your heart, and when recognized, will become the greatest membership drive tool that has ever been utilized.
With or without a membership drive in mind; as a Mason– Know Thyself, and all good things must follow.
 Indiana Monitor and Freemason’s Guide, XVI ed., Indianapolis: Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana, 1997.