When The Top Line Is The Bottom Line
C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33
Sovereign Grand Commander

Freemasonry in all its aspects is a top-line, people-oriented institution.

A radio ad for a major corporation recently proclaimed “our bottom line is our top line.” The ad went on to explain that the company considered its people--its top line--to be more important than its bottom line--its profits--because its people created the profits. There is food for thought here.

Surely, Freemasonry, in all its aspects, must be a top-line, people-oriented institution. Of course, financial problems are real and pose definite constraints and practical matters which must be addressed. There is an economic “bottom line” in that sense. But Masonry is about people, about each individual Mason, about Masons as a group, and about the people of the world.

We are concerned with each, individual Mason because Masonry is an individual, yet shared, quest. It’s like individuals sitting down to a banquet. You can’t eat for the person sitting next to you. Each person must eat for himself or starve.

In the same way, each individual Mason must go on his own quest for insight and self-development. No one else can do that for him. And here the bottom line, in a sense, is “profit,” for each individual Mason profits by realizing his true potential as a human being. On the other hand, Masonry prospers as each individual Mason grows in understanding, in moral stature, in self-control, and in self-development.

Masons as a group are also both top line and bottom line. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” sings the Psalmist (Psalms 133:1). In most Grand Jurisdictions in the United States, the candidate for the Entered Apprentice Degree hears those words as he is conducted about the Lodge room. For just as Masonry is an individual quest, it is a group activity. Masons meet in Lodges. The Degrees of Masonry require a group to perform them. Masonry’s great philanthropies endure because Masons, as a group, fund them, work for them, and promote them. Masons enjoy working together, being together, and getting things done together.

Finally, the people of the world are Masonry’s bottom line. If Masonry is an individual quest, which takes place in a group activity, it expresses itself as a universal benefit. Albert Pike said that Masonry must do something in the world if it is to amount to anything. He was right. I hope you have read or will read Masonic Philanthropies: A Tradition of Caring by Dr. S. Brent Morris, 33, a book just updated and reprinted this summer.* It will give you some idea of the good Masons do in the world, the benefits we bring to people other than members of our Fraternity. I say “some idea” because it is impossible to include all the individual acts of charity and compassion by the members of Blue Lodges, nor the help made possible by contributions to the Almoner’s Funds in our Valleys, nor the thousands of similar acts which take place each year by Masons everywhere.

In these charitable acts, people are truly the bottom line. How do you put a price on providing a child with the ability to walk and run and play again, to overcome language problems, and to be able to lead a normal life? How do you assign a dollar value to hope, or tears of gratitude, or comfort in time of sorrow and loss?

Yes, in Masonry, our top line, our people, is our bottom line. And, as we all know, it’s the bottom line that counts.

Visitors Welcome
It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors to the House of the Temple, 1733 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3103. Located on Sixteenth Street between R and S Streets, seven blocks NE of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, Red Line, the Temple is open to Brothers, guests, and the general public for tours from 8 am to 2 pm on weekdays. The Temple is also open on weekends and holidays for groups of 25 or more provided special arrangements are made in advance with the Grand Executive Director's office (202)232-3579. Visitors are requested to register at the door.