Was your entry into our fraternity of your own free will and accord? Did any one entice you into becoming a Freemason? When the Investigating Committee spoke to you and your significant other were you asked the reasons for your desire to become a Freemason? Were you offered a copy of “On The Threshold” a pamphlet that explains the journey that you are now undertaking or some other material given by your Grand Lodge?
As an extension of the query of your free will for entry into Freemasonry, you should have been informed that being a Freemason grants you entry into an elite fraternity of brothers. A Masonic Lodge is far more than being merely a social or charitable organization. The social and charitable activities of your lodge are important. You may be attracted to the social and charitable endeavors of the lodge. These are certainly laudable activities for every lodge to undertake. However, a Masonic lodge is also a place for moral and philosophical enlightenment.
As experienced Masons, we envy the path that lies ahead for you in our brotherhood of Freemasonry. After taking your obligation in the Entered Apprentice Degree, you heard an explanatory lecture on the symbolism and meaning of the ritual that you had just completed. In the ritual for each of the three degrees in Blue Lodge Masonry there are some ninety items that require symbolic explanation. The explanations presented to you in the degrees are only a start in understanding what Freemasonry really means.
Bro. Rollin C. Blackmer edited and produced a series of lectures about our fraternity. His book was entitled, “The Lodge and the Craft”. It was first published in the year 1923. In the first lecture Bro. Blacker remarked that in the year 1923 there were approximately 100,000 brethren in the State of Missouri. Of these 100,000 brethren only about 75 men had made a significant study of the symbolism, philosophy, and history of this Brotherhood to which they belonged.
He went on to state that it was a lamentable state of affairs that the majority of its members were ignorant of most everything connected with Freemasonry. There are many reasons for this regrettable state of affairs.
The first of these reasons lies in the fact that our fraternity is now approaching the 300th year of its existence. Much has transpired in the past 300 years. The fraternity cries out for its new brethren to take upon themselves a study of what the principles of our brotherhood really are and mean.
You have joined a group of men who are the elite of society. You should consider yourself a Masonic brother to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, thirteen signers of our United States Constitution, and nine signers of the Declaration of Independence. You are a brother to a myriad of other Freemasons, such as Gene Autry, Ernest Borgnine, W. C. Fields, Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, Davy Crocket, George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, General Douglas MacArthur and General Leonard Wood. I can go on and on listing the brethren who you can now call your brothers. You are fortunate, indeed, for having been welcomed into this great fraternity.
Were you duly and truly prepared to enter the Lodge hall to take upon yourself the obligations of Freemasonry. This query can be considered on two levels.
First of all, you were asked to divest yourself of all metals and wear a suit suitable to your degree. You were hoodwinked (blindfolded) and a rope (cable-tow) was placed about you. The meaning of these preparation and symbols were explained to you. In this context you were undoubtedly duly and truly prepared to enter to lodge hall.
However, were you also duly and truly prepared in your mind and ready to start your journey in Freemasonry? In Freemasonry, it is true that your family and means of earning a living are predominant. And, I do not mean to imply that you are expected to become a Masonic scholar, while this would certainly be a laudable accomplishment. But, it is important that you understand what it really means to become a Mason. Are you duly and truly prepared to attend the meetings of your lodge, to the best of your ability? A Masonic Lodge is only as good as the brethren that are active in its affairs.
Are you duly and truly prepared to learn what it means to be a Mason and live according to Masonic precepts? Freemasonry is an organization dedicated to making good men better. You are already thought to be a good man or you would not have passed the test of the ballot box and been admitted to your Lodge. A study of Freemasonry will give you the tools to become a better man. Properly implemented, your family and society, in general, will applaud your dedication to Masonic principles.
So, my Brother, I welcome you into our fraternity. There are many in your Lodge who will aid your quest into the philosophy, symbolism, and history of our Order. You should find something that piques your interest in our Brotherhood. There are five basic areas of interest in studying Freemasonry. These are history, philosophy, symbolism, law, and ritual (its memorization and meaning). Find an area that is of interest to you and pursue it. There are dedicated brothers who will help you as you take upon yourself the journey to learn what it really means to be a Mason.
My Brothers, I will close this presentation with a saying by the noted Masonic author, H. L. Haywood. His words may indicate to you the basic premise of Freemasonry, “Not More Men In Masonry, But More Masonry In Men”.
Bro. Ira Gilbert was raised on January 8, 1968 in Isaac Cutter Lodge #1073 and was Master in 1972. Isaac Cutter Lodge merged with Chicago Lodge #437 and he is now now a member of Chicago Lodge. Bro Gilbert is a member of A. O. Fay Lodge #676 as well. He is also a member of the Valley of Chicago Scottish rite. Bro. Ira's dedication to Masonic Education has afforded him the ability to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education and the Grand Lodge Committee on Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira comes from a Masonic family, his father being Master of Universal Lodge #985, now a part of Decalogue Lodge through a series of mergers. His father was also a Grand Lecturer. His main interest in our fraternity lies in the philosophy and history of our ritual and in Masonic Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira was a DDGM twice, once in the 1980's and once four years ago. He is also a fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research and the ILOR awarded him the Andrew Torok Medal as well.