John C. Naquin, 32, K.C.C.H.
Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Maryland
To see what society registers as a Mason, look in the
Image; A mental representation of something not perceived at that moment through the senses; a mental picture.
So says Mr. Webster, and quite nicely in defining the word image. We all know what a mental picture is. We have all had our daydreams or closed our eyes and tried to imagine what something, someone, or someplace would look like even though we couldnít actually see that something, someone, or someplace. What we imagined was not really what happened, nor did it look like the actual person, place or thing, but in our own minds we were sure we had it right.
In like manner, the general public may have never seen true Masonry, but many people can describe it to you in great detail because they effectively close their eyes and imagine what it is. They form an image. Now, much as I have formed an image of King Solomonís temple solely on the basis of my reading and the teachings of the Masonic Degrees, so has the general public formed an image of Masonry solely on the basis of the information available. Each person has access to certain information on any given subject, each person makes his own interpretation of that information, and each person acts upon that interpretation according to his own standards.
There is, of course, a wealth of information concerning the teachings and philosophy of Masonry available to the public-some of it true, some of it half true, some of it wrong, and some of it deliberately false. Anyone interested enough to research the subject can become acquainted with every point of view and every argument for or against Masonry. But few non-Masons and probably not too many Masons will take the time to do this. Unless we have something tangible to gain from acquiring a complete understanding of a subject, we tend to get lazy and base our knowledge of the subject on hearsay, casual reading, personal observations, or a combination of these.
M.W. John C. Naquin, 32, K.C.C.H.
Letís assume that the non-Mason takes the easy way out in forming his image of Masonry. He may read an occasional article that mentions the Fraternity, or he may hear something about Masonry in his church, another fraternal organization, his social group, his workplace, or from any number of casual sources. He may form his image solely upon his acquaintance with a man he knows to be a Mason. He certainly doesnít get much official information from us. Generally, we donít speak about Masonry in public. In every age, however, there have been anti-Masonic movements, literature, and orators addressing the alledged evils of Masonry. These detractors donít seem to have any problems going public with their accusations. We, as Masons, are able to separate the wheat from the chaff and to discount the misguided ramblings of the uninformed. We can even rationalize these distorted assertions as having resulted from fear of the unknown, misinformation, or pure jealousy.
But who will explain Freemasonry accurately to the public? Who will bring to them the true meaning and philosophy of this gentle Craft? How will they know what Masonry really is? How do we assure ourselves that the public image of Freemasonry is a true and correct representation of the most excellent tenets of our Fraternity?
The answer to all of these questions is obvious. We must contribute to the formation of the general publicís image of Masonry. We must present them with indisputable facts that convey to them the message that Masonry is good, that it is not an evil cult, and that they have nothing to fear and much to gain from Masonry. We must show them that Masons are good citizens, loyal to their country, and dedicated to family and community. They must learn from us that men can live and work together in peace and harmony without regard to religious, political or philosophical differences. They must be made to understand that our philosophy of toleration unites men of every nationality and creed under the banner of brotherly love and friendship and that no other motives guide our thinking.
In our efforts to establish this favorable image, we must be extremely careful that we give not the slightest appearance of attempting to discredit any institution or belief to which they may subscribe. Our only goal must be to put Masonry before the public in its true light.
The manner in which we seek to achieve our goal is vitally important. We must not rush headlong into verbal or literary combat with the detractors of Masonry who vehemently denounce us. Fanaticism cannot be reasoned with, and many of those who denounce us are fanatic in their campaign against Masonry.
No, our only approach must be to show the world at large by our own exemplary conduct who we are and what we stand for. We must make a conscious effort to live by our vows, to avoid intemperance and excess at all times, to contribute to the well-being of our community at every opportunity, to regard every man as a brother, and to be faithful to the laws of our country, and the decrees of the Supreme Architect.
Finally, and most importantly, we must loudly and proudly proclaim our Masonry. It has been said that if you want to see what the true image of a Mason is, look in the mirror. True in a sense, but only for a fleeting moment and only obvious to you. You are the only one who sees that image, and when you move away for the mirror, the image goes away, but you remain for all to see.
To all within your circle of friends and acquaintances who know you to be a Mason, you are the image of Masonry, and your words and actions are the personification of the image. If that image is kept within the precepts of our institution, the public will be truly impressed and will form and keep a favorable image of Masonry.