C. Fred Kleinknect
Sovereign Grand Commander
"Get a Life: Thoughts on Freemasonry and Religion" is a new pamphlet published by the Masonic Information Center. It is reprinted in this issue. I’m proud to say the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite had a strong hand in its preparation. Its major themes of aspiration and toleration are certainly central to the philosophy of our Order. But I was especially struck by this passage from the pamphlet: What are some expectations Freemasons have of their Fraternity? Masons have many expectations of their individual faiths, but these are entirely personal matters outside the scope of a fraternity. What a man expects of the Masonic Fraternity is clear.
I wonder if some of us err by expecting too little from Masonry. Certainly Masonic writers and thinkers have told us over and over again that we will find what we seek in the Fraternity. Perhaps we do not always seek enough.
I know from my own experience and from the experiences of Masonic friends that the list of expectations above is realistic. I have the privilege of knowing men from many different backgrounds -- good men it is a pleasure to know and whom I would never have met without the Scottish Rite. I have experienced the humbling but very healthy experience of seeing great men and great ideas portrayed in our Degrees. As with all thoughtful men, Masonry has helped me realize my shortcomings as well as my strengths. I have become a better person because of Freemasonry.
At the same time as it enhanced my sense of who I am and what I can become, Masonry has given me many opportunities to make a difference for good. The genius of our Fraternity is that it gives that opportunity to every Mason who is willing to take it.
The other expectations are real, too. And they are truly met by the person who seeks them. The Fraternity does all this well, but it can do it better! As we plan for the 21st Century, there are two basic questions we must ask and answer:
The 1998 Scottish Rite Leadership Conferences have addressed those questions. The Strategic Planning Subcommittee of The Supreme Council, chaired by Ill. C. B. Hall, 33°, S.G.I.G. in West Virginia, has also addressed these issues in its excellent report during the 1997 Biennial Session. Similarly, thoughtful men in Grand Lodges, Scottish Rite Valleys, Masonic Districts, and local Lodges across America are wrestling with the same crucial matters.
Just asking the questions is nearly a Masonic miracle. For generations, the questions would have been unthinkable. Now we have come to understand the great truth that “the future will happen; the only question is whether it will happen with us or happen to us.”
That future will be determined by our expectations. Expectations are among the most powerful shaping forces in the world. Imagine what would have happened if Mozart’s father and teachers had expected him to be only an indifferent musician, or if Illustrious Brother Harry S. Truman’s parents had expected him to be a shopkeeper all his life, or if the father of Arnold Palmer had expected him to be just an average athlete. We all know of instances in which the expectations of a single teacher have raised the performance of an entire class.
Our future is limited only by our imaginations. Thus, we must form great expectations of ourselves and of Masonry, and then work to realize those expectations.