The Parrot Mason
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert H. Johnson, PM
One who commits to memory the questions and answers of the catechetical lectures, and the formulas of the ritual, but pays no attention to the history and philosophy of the Institution, is commonly called a Parrot Mason, because he is supposed to repeat what he has learned without any conception of its true meaning. In former times, such superficial Freemasons were held by many in high repute, because of the facility with which they passed through the ceremonies of a reception, and they were generally designated as Bright Masons. But the progress of Freemasonry as a science now requires something more than a mere knowledge of the lectures to constitute a Masonic scholar."
The topic raises several questions and also, high emotions. I believe what Mackey was trying to say is that one should endeavor to understand what he is reciting rather than just reciting it alone. There is no understanding in rote memorization. Understanding the lessons of the degrees and what happened in them is what matters.
I believe somewhere along the line we as Masons had to ask ourselves, "How do we know this Brother is ready for the next degree?" and the answer lay somewhere in the memorization of the catechism. I suppose this is fine in a perfect world. A world where there is a direct correlation between memorizing and understanding. A brother over all, needs to understand the words, the degree and the lessons before he progresses, but in today's practice its more of a "here is the degree here is the catechism memorize it and move on..." mentality. This leaves men ill-equipped to handle what true Freemasonry is about, truth, love and brotherhood.
Mackey wrote a paper called "Reading Masons And Masons Who Do Not Read" in which he further addresses this issue. You can read that piece here.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.