by Dr. Oskar Posner, Kartsbad, Germany
The Master Mason - October 1925
The following thoughtful, even brilliant, article is an
example of the temper and attitude of the Humanitarian, or liberal,
wing of German Masonry, in contrast with the ultra-conservative,
ardently Christian and intensely nationalistic spirit of the old
Prussian Grand Lodges. It represents a group of Grand Lodges
which are enthusiastically humanitarian and international in their
outlook. The relations between the two groups were for a time
rather strained, but they have reached a basis of friendly, if rather
distant, fellowship. The old Prussian lodges tolerate the Republic,
but hate it; while the Humanity Lodges, as they are called, are
trying to interest the new Germany in the Craft - with what success
is not quite clear. The brogue is a little different from our Masonic
dialect, but it is not difficult to detect the fine conception of the
genius and purpose of Masonry which breathes through this article.
Translated from the Wiener Freemason, it will be read with interest
and profit by the American Craft, if only because it finds in
Masonry a basis of fellowship among men, as remote from
political parties as from theological affiliation: a "medium of an art
which strives to mold people whom life has separated so that they
can enter a new communion with one another."
FREEMASONRY is a community of interests, sentiments and
convictions. He who intends to join it must already possess these
sentiments and convictions. The initiation into the lodge is a test of
this possession of views of life, characteristics, motives of action
and receptivity of soul to community moods, indispensable to a
Before the candidate for admission, called Searcher, finally decides
whether he may join the Society, he should make a careful audit of
the contents of his own soul. He should examine himself whether
according to his own judgment he possesses those qualities which
render him fit for membership. He should study whether his views
of life and basic moods agree with the aims, arrangements and
manner of work of the Society.
To do this, he must know what the Society demands of him, and
what he may expect from the Society. This purpose of self-
examination is to be aided by the following dissertations. The
lodge should not be entered like a profane union. A relation of
continual duties and obligations is entered upon. Therefore, the
hour in which the membership is sealed is filled with special
The picture of Freemasonry can only be indicated here in outlines
and sketches. Only the essential is emphasized. Whether the
Searcher can bring his own spirit within these lines is left to his
own self-criticism. Freemasonry is work. It begins as work on
one's self the moment in which the Searcher expresses the wish to
become a Freemason.
THE DESIRE for union with those of similar aims and intents is in
the spirit of man. Numberless arrangements of human community
life serve this purpose of union. The circle of the natural
community, the family, is broken by super-ordained, collective
ideas which demand the individual for themselves. Horde, race,
people, nation are such super-ordained ideas. The man of today in
the midst of life is a member of some vocational communion, of a
class. He speaks a definite speech as member of a people or a
cultivated community. He is member of a church. By birth or
choice he becomes the subject of a state. His social instincts are
satisfied by voluntary union. His political convictions or the
persuasive arts of others make him a member of a political party.
Each of these groups has a special mark common to all. They want
their adherent exclusively for themselves. This leads to conflicts in
the individual ego and to the estrangement of men with each other.
The very fact that we speak of points of contact with others proves
the total insignificance of mental communion between
commonplace human beings. The various circles of interest
accidentally cross at some point. That is all which occasionally
unites men. The best members of the human race have always felt
this narrowing of relations to other human beings as depressing. It
needs something lacking in every-day life to break it. Life
separates man from man; to unite him again with man needs an art;
a means of this art, not the art itself, is Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is, therefore, the medium of an art which strives to
mold people whom life has separated so that they can enter a new
communion with one another.
JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE, who belonging to Freemasonry
with devoted enthusiasm, states its task in the following words:
"The Mason who was born humane and by the education of his
class, by the state and his other social relations, passes beyond it,
will, on this basis, again be molded wholly and entirely into a
Therefore, he who would become a Mason must recognize the
following principle: that there is something higher than those
visual forms under which human life daily appears, that this higher
thing is present in each human being and only needs developing.
This thought, which existed in ancient classic times, which speaks
in all religions (before they became church communities), was
nurtured by the scholars of the Renaissance who called themselves
Humanists, teachers of the humane idea.
The tenets of Freemasonry, which are closely related to this range
of ideas, are called the doctrine of Humanity, its content is the
valuation of Man according to his inner self and his union with
others as the culmination of Humanity.
The result of this teaching is that the Mason overlooks the
differences of class, birth, race, nationality, creed, world
philosophy, and judges men wholly by their moral worth.
Therefore, he who would become a Mason must make it clear to
himself that he is joining a Society in which the above differences
play no part. He must further know that in this Society he will meet
with representatives of all possible points of view and convictions.
He need not give up what formerly distinctively filled his life; he
only shows by his joining his wish to recognize the humane union,
to develop its principles in himself and arrange his active life in
accordance with its demands.
FREEMASONRY cannot be political, because it wishes to unite.
Its aim and manner of work is higher than the general average of
all political parties. It is true Masonic ideas directed to progress
and development have points of contact with progressive political
programs. But these can only affect the Freemason as a private
person, not as lodge member.
The Freemason sees in himself and in the human world in which
he lives something incomplete. He has the inner certainty that
according to eternal, unchangeable laws a process of development
takes place in man which makes its way slowly but unceasingly.
This development from simple to complex, from incomplete to
perfect, may be retarded by various handicaps, but the history of
man teaches that it cannot be held up permanently. The Freemason
sees the purpose of his work to be the conquest of all those
hindrances placed iii the way of human progress. He therefore
assists every activity which aims at liberating man from prejudices
and superstition, the most powerful hindrances of progress. Hence
he is a fighter for freedom of conscience, of spirit, of research and
He strives to confront the questions of human community life
without preconceived notions. He attempts, therefore, to recognize
the basic conditions of human communal life and separate them
according to their moral value. Because he confronts these
questions without prejudice, he denies all dogmatic belief. He sees
governing powers at work in the world which he strives to
understand, but he leaves to each co-worker the freedom to seek
the way of understanding for himself. The religion of the
Freemason is toleration. In his oldest historic constitution book,
The Old Duties, is the principle of "Religion in which all men
agree; that is, they shall be good and faithful men, men of loyalty
and honesty, in whatever sects or differences of belief they may
FREEMASONRY is in the conception of wide circles a secret
society controlling boundless means of power, which by
revolutionary intents places itself in opposition to state and church.
In this connection it must be said: First of all, the Society is no
secret society. It is a society confined to chosen members. All
Masonic lodges are societies locally registered. A secret society
hides not only its intentions, but its existence. Neither is the case
with Freemasonry. The world communion of Freemasons is a
spiritual one. Its bond is the humane sentiment, everywhere the
same. National character, constitutional forms, the course of time
may influence the forms of expression of this mood. A world
organization of Freemasons in the sense of a secret society with
uniform super-guidance, such as opposing journals maintain, does
not exist, nor could it exist.
The Freemason is in duty bound by basic principles willingly to
submit himself to the laws of the state in which he lives. The
Freemason acts by the guiding lines of his Masonic inclination
within the laws of the state. He loves his people and spends his
best powers for the welfare of his own people, but he knows how
to keep himself unfettered by overheated nationalism and
Chauvinism, and does not forget even in times of the most bitter
national controversies that there is a human bond of sympathy
between his opponents and himself. The ethical internationalism of
the Freemason, therefore, robs no one of his individuality as
member of a people's community. "Love of country is the Mason's
deed; world citizenship is his thought" (Fichte).
THE CHARACTER of the Mason is based, therefore, primarily on
the recognition of pure humanity which unites where life separates.
The Mason is a servant in the work of mankind. He is conscious of
his own humanity in the degree to which he seeks a brother in man.
He understands that life creates differences and knows how to
reckon with them. He is, however, always striving to seek and
develop the human bond in man. In ready confession of his own
imperfection, he seeks first of all to separate the generally human
in himself from the dross and train it upward. The development of
his own personality is for him only the first step of labor on others
and for others. He seeks to understand the world about him
lovingly, but dispassionately. The unrestrained mass instincts he
meets with sane understanding. His cry is not only forward, but
also upward. He who would become a Mason must, therefore, feel
within himself the ability to raise himself above the commonplace.
All normal men admit of the beauty of the world and its works.
The wisdom of life's conduct, the strength of energy, is united by
the Mason with the sense of beauty. Wisdom, strength, beauty are
for him a holy triad. He who would become a Mason must, in
Kant's sense, tremble at the thought of the moral law in his own
breast as lie reverently views the starry firmament.
The Mason places beauty into the form of his manner of work. The
lodge is the drill ground of Masonic sentiment. Its form of work is
borrowed from an old reverent custom which has come down from
the stone mason brotherhoods and by philosophic unions at the
beginning of the eighteenth century was filled with humanitarian
thoughts. These customs, the Mason exposes only for members of
the Society. He keeps them secreted from the profane. This
protection against profanation is the entire Masonic secret.
LET US NOW attempt a circumscription of the idea of
Freemasonry by way of exclusion. Freemasonry is no secret
society. It is no religious sect. It is not irreligious, not opposed to
the people. It is non-political, but its aims are much too serious to
be confined to a union in the usual sense. Therefore, the lodges are
not mere charitable unions, nor social clubs, relief, sick or death
registers. There are arrangements of this kind in many lodges, but
even there they are only means, not the main purposes.
The members united in the brotherhoods keep faith with each other
in all conditions of life. But membership in a union is no protection
in all conditions of life, for no brother may be called on for help
beyond his capability. Freemasonry opens no economic relations,
nor does it offer any opportunity to further material business. All
these purposes correspond so completely to arrangements outside
of the union that they do not need the Masonry.
MEMBERSHIP in the Society is limited to the age of maturity; the
seeker must not only have a good reputation, but be a free man.
Free here means able to determine for himself , mental freedom to
understand the aims of the Society is absolutely indispensable.
There must also be a certain economic freedom, for the lodge
needs material with which to carry on; this material must be
furnished by the members. The membership dues are so arranged
that no really suitable seeker need fear a refusal on account of lack
of funds. Freemasonry is no capitalistic order, but a spiritual
communion. The penny of the laborer or the man of middle class
has there the same value as the large contribution of the wealthy
WHAT THE Society expects from the seeker has been explained
in detail; what the seeker may expect from the Society depends in a
great measure on the seeker himself. He has the opportunity to
enter a community of men who, aiming for the highest goal,
accomplish what human imperfection renders possible. Their
reward is that even in such broken work they perceive their
up-building. The seeker unites himself with a chain of men that
encircles the earth and who have the same will and purpose as he
He may expect friendship and brotherliness, uplift in brotherly
communion, efficacious labor for high purposes and the
satisfaction which the individual gains from the power of
companionship in joint labor.
But all this will only become his if he comes with the honest
intention to give in order to receive and if he holds himself ready
voluntarily to try to be himself in little things what the Society
hopes to be to humanity. Hence the seeker finds at the door of
Freemasonry the old but never-aged words, "Know thyself."
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