Masonic leaders should make it a priority to provide
guidance for members beginning research and so encourage generally a greater
commitment to original Masonic research.
The interest of many Masons in the philosophy, history, and symbolism of the Craft cannot be denied. Research Societies and Lodges continue to proliferate and increase their numbers as membership in the Fraternity continues to decline.
My personal experience with the production of these research institutions is, however, disappointing. In a Research Lodge of which I am a member, only one paper of original research was produced in five years. The other presentations were summaries of work by others on a particular subject, e.g., the Morgan affair, the Thompson Masonic fraud, and the history of Freemasonry in Mexico. Such papers have an undeniable educational value, but they do not add to the corpus of material available for future generations.
Worse than this problem is the large number of members of Research Societies and Lodges who never present anything. They are content to be taught by others and feel no obligation to return the benefit. Our attitude as Masons toward these nonproductive members should be one of sympathy and support. Many of them have never done research and, as they often tell me, “don’t know where to begin.” It is the responsibility of the leadership of the Lodge to provide some guidance for the beginner. Projects for beginners may include book reviews or histories of Lodges or other Masonic organizations in their state, such as the Scottish or York Rites, Eastern Star, and DeMolay.
The novice in research may be led to compare articles on the same subject by different authors. What can be learned from the article on religion from Coil’s Encyclopedia in comparison with the same article from Mackey’s Encyclopedia? Even a comparison of the same article in different editions of the same work can be interesting. The aforementioned article on religion in the 1st edition of Coil’s Encyclopedia varies considerably from the same article in the 2nd edition which was written under the direction of the late Ill. Bro. Allen E. Roberts, 33.
The examination of controversial works such as Born in Blood or the newly published The Hiram Key would be sure to engender interesting comments from the audience.
Confidence and competence grow with experience. From such simple beginnings will surely come a greater commitment to original research. New Lodge histories will be written and old documents previously undiscovered will provide opportunities for interesting papers.
All skills are learned progressively. To begin with something
simple is perfectly legitimate and should be encouraged. Those experienced
in research should extend a helping hand to their less seasoned Brethren
for the mutual benefit of all.
The Scottish Rite Research Society is one of Freemasonry’s fastest growing research societies. By becoming a member in 1997, you will receive a complimentary copy of the second edition, greatly expanded and updated, of Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? a response to anti-Masons by Bro. Art deHoyos, 32°, and Dr. S. Brent Morris, 33°. In addition, you will receive the society’s quarterly newsletter, The Plumbline, and a free copy of Heredom, the society’s annual collection of essays by members. Membership is a bargain at $20 annually, and life membership (individuals only) is $300. Send checks payable to: Scottish Rite Research Society, 1733 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009–3103.