The Outliers of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Discovering the hidden logic in the blueprint for our potential
"Success" is divisive. We all have different meanings of the word. Wealth, power and position are the traditional definitions portrayed by public figures, world leaders, and in the media. Although 90% of Americans defined success as "attaining personal goals and having good relationships with family and friends" in a poll conducted by Strayer University's Success Project in 2014. It's interesting that publicly success is seen as a beholder of some lever of power, while privately, personal goals and families are of the highest value. Google uses Accomplishment, Attainment, and Achievement as the three words associated with success. In Freemasonry, success begins when we have presented our Masonic apron, its history is explained, we are told of its symbolism, and encouraged to take further steps in finding light.

When I began my Masonic career, I wanted to know what the connection is between successful men and Masonry. I tried to sort out my place in our fraternity's legendary figures. From Washington to 13 other US Presidents, the first American to orbit the Earth, a magician known for his great escapes and illusions, an actor who became 'the Duke' and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient --- all of these men were Freemasons. Did Freemasonry make men successful or did successful men make Masonry?

My search for the meaning of success deepened when I read Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success" before a trip to New York City for our Grand Lodge two years ago. Gladwell says he wrote this book out of “a frustration I found myself having with the way we explain the careers of really successful people.” Gladwell is an investigative author/reporter, and this book was exactly what I needed to better sharpen my view on Freemasonry's greatness. He started by examining the question we always ask about successful people. "We want to know what they're like — what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top.

Gladwell concludes that Outliers benefit from hidden opportunities that fall outside of the normal experience that we confuse for “lucky breaks.” His idea is, “to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date.”
What is an Outlier?

There are two definitions of an Outlier. The first is "something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body." The second, "a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample." From those points, one can conclude that not all men are Masons as Freemasonry is not right for every man. It could be argued that the necessary qualifications to be a Mason also present a connection to the hidden opportunities Caldwell illudes to, for members.

In the second chapter of his book, Gladwell lists of the 75 richest people in history as an example of “wealth” as a measure of achievement. Here's what’s interesting about that list; of the 75 names, only TWO are women who were monarchs. Historians start with Cleopatra and the Pharaohs and comb through every year in human history ever since, looking in every corner of the world for evidence of extraordinary wealth, and almost 20 percent of the names they end up with come from a single generation in a single country. What is also astonishing is that 14 of the richest people in history are American men born within nine years of each other in the mid 19th century. These men were the original titans of industry. One of them just so happened to be a Mason: George Pullman, member of Renovation Lodge No. 97, Albion, New York.

Brother Pullman was born at the right time and in the right place. He lived when the railways were built, when Wall Street emerged, during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. During the height of Pullman cars, all of the rules by which the traditional economy functioned were broken and remade. Pullman was also a man which gave him the distinct privilege to petition a Masonic lodge.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

When the recorded history of the Grand Lodge of England began in 1717, the term freeborn had two meanings: one was being literally “born free” and the other as in “freeborn rights,” the idea of John Lilburne --- not a Mason but his words inspired generations that followed. John Lilburne was born in 17th century England when King James was re-writing the Bible. During this time there is a push for the King to give the people more freedom. John Lilburne described himself as “a lover of his country and sufferer for the common liberty." Lilburne argued for “free-born rights,” rights that we are all born with, not given to us from a King or from the Government.

Lilburne's lifetime overlapped another great English philosopher, John Locke, who coined the phrase 'pursuit of happiness,' in his book An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke's concept of "pursuit of happiness" was not merely the pursuit of pleasure, property, or self-interest (although it does include all of these). It is also the freedom to be able to make decisions that result in the best life possible for a human being, which includes intellectual and moral effort. Lilburne lived before the Age of Reason; Locke was a prominent figure during the Age of Enlightenment. Both were non-Masons (although there is a debate on whether Locke was, he said he was in a letter. He died in 1704 with no recorded proof.) who had ideas that challenged the monarchy and were proponents of what revolutionists would call, “Liberty.” Like you and me, these were men, freeborn. As Masons, we embrace the idea that the Supreme Architect of the Universe has instilled in us the right to be free. To meet freely and share our ideas and opinions. We speak of The Light, which is knowledge. We share collective learning that enriches us with Masonic principles that guide us on everything from dividing our time to improving our character.

Canadian hockey players
"The Matthew Effect" is one of my favorite chapters in The Outliers because it plays to my love of data and logic. It comes from Matthew 25:29 which reads, "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have an abundance. But from him, that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. In this chapter, Caldwell examines the hugely disproportionate number of Canada’s professional hockey players who are born in January, February, and March. Why? In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for youth hockey teams is January 1st. For these players, their birthdate provides an opportunity to get more "ice time" than those who are younger, that, and they are bigger, faster, and stronger than those born after the winter ice melts.

Bro. Miles Gilbert (Tim) Horton, Kroy Lodge No. 676, Toronto, Ontario, was signed by the Maple Leafs when he was 18-years-old, ironically, the lawful age to petition a Lodge in the Great State of New York. Bro. Horton scored over 500 goals in his career that spanned almost 25 years! He was also one of the first professional athletes to think of a revenue source after his playing days, while he was still active. He lent his name to start Tim Hortons Drive-In and later, Tim Horton Do-Nut in 1963 after he won his second out of four Stanley Cups with Toronto. A year later, Tim Hortons had its first franchisee. When Bro. Horton dies from a car accident in 1974, there were 35 Tim Hortons locations. Today, there are close to 3,500 restaurants with his name on the sign.

Bro. Horton's age put him at a competitive advantage early in life on the ice. He also had the foresight to prepare for life after his hockey career. While he didn't petition a Lodge until his early 30's, there is a legal age to a petition that varies by jurisdiction. The reason why there is a lawful age is that it is the age of criminal responsibility. You are considered legitimate, competent, aware of your actions. As a Craft, we have established an age you must be to come to our altar and take your obligation. Before you can be a Mason, you must be mature enough to understand that your action, your words, make you accountable.

The Duke
The phrase “well-recommended” has Medieval Latin origins. It translates to: highly praised or commended. Master Masons are tasked with the role of voting on a candidate’s petition to join our Lodge. We must ask ourselves, “is this man ready to do the work?” In The Outlier’s, Gladwell explains the 10,000 Hour Rule: invest 10,000 into learning a skill, and you will master in it. One Brother's story demonstrates this rule.

Marion Morrison was born in Iowa in 1907, came West with his family in 1914, and picked up the nickname "Duke" from firefighters in Glendale, California who called him that because of his dog, Duke. He played Football at USC, but a bodysurfing accident ended his football dreams and led him to look for work in local movie studios during the Great Depression. He was part of the "swing gang," a prop man for films. He got to stand in as an extra, playing a football player in "Brown of Harvard" in 1926. That lead to his friendship with director John Ford.

Marion wanted to learn as much as he could about filmmaking from Ford who eventually introduced him to the director who gave Marion his first starring role in the 1930 film, "The Big Trail." The studio game Marion the name, "John Wayne" and throughout the 30's, John diligently and strategically honed his craft while starring in a series of less well-known Western features and serials, preferring to spend most of his time with stuntmen and real-life cowboys so that they could teach him the skills necessary to play a realistic cowboy on screen. He developed over this period his signature walk, a fist-fighting style, wardrobe preferences, and performed many of his own stunts. Then, in 1939, John Ford gave him his big break as the Ringo Kid in the classic film, "Stagecoach."

It was after winning an Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Marshall Rooster Cogburn in the movie “True Grit,” that John petitioned Marion McDaniel Lodge 56 in Tucson, Arizona to become a Mason.

Well recommended. The one part of Brother Morrison’s story that I found so intriguing during my research directly relates to being “high praised” or “commended.” Sure, we know John Wayne as one of the most iconic figures in American Pop Culture. John Wayne’s greatest legacy was his dying wish, which was that his family and supporters use his name and likeness to help the doctors fight cancer—a wish that led to the creation of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF) in 1985. Over the years, JWCF has supported research by funding the creation of the Cancer Institute that bears his name, education programs, awareness programs, and support groups.

When a man petitions our Lodge, we want his character to be one that is well recommended. This is where many of our stories on how we became a Mason is similar: we show an interest, we ask, we join. But it’s much deeper than that. You come to dinners, you meet with Brothers, and eventually, you ask for a petition. On that document, you list the names of personal references and a Brother of the Lodge who will sign for you - recommending you for membership.

We are Outliers
Being a Mason is our hidden opportunity. Why? Because we are a member of a worldwide organization of like-minded men who all have access to the collective knowledge handed down from the Ancients to the Revolutionists, to the Moderns. We are Outliers BY CHOICE. What makes us Outliers is the fact that not every man is a Mason, just as Freemasonry is not right for every man. We are the men who seize the opportunity to ask for Light. By coming to the door of Freemasonry, we knock, seeking the Light inside the Lodge. It is up to us, individually, to take that knowledge, those ancient teachings, and principles, and using the Working Tools, incorporate Masonry into our everyday lives.

As a Mason, we appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. We are a group of distinct individuals who each have a unique story of success. Let me share the rest of that passage from the Book of Matthew... "For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.