Sunday, January 2, 2011

Open Letter To Every Investigator

(Reprinted from The Cabletow, Vol. 82, No. 2, August to October 2005 Issue, pages 42 - 45)

Brother Investigator:


Your appointment as a member of your Lodge's Investigating Committee is a striking evidence of the Worshipful Master's implicit trust and confidence in your ability at investigative work, your good judgment, your zeal, and your concern for the welfare of your Lodge in particular and that of the Craft in general.

Your assigned task, to make a thorough, impartial, and unbiased investigation of whoever seeks admission into our ranks, is one of the most difficult but most important of Masonic work.  Youj and the other investigators throughout our grand jurisdiction and in the rest of the Masonic World are the first line of defense against the external enemies of the Craft as well as those who, through indifferent character, might be prone to bring discredit upon our ancient and honorable Fraternity.  On your fidelity to your trust greatly depends our fraternal security.  To you particularly applies the charge "to preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied should be your constant care."

You are to ascertain that the petitioner whose physical, intellectual, and moral qualifications you are investigating first has Masonry in his heart because if he does not, he is not likely to acquire it in the Lodge hall.

How far and how deep must you go during your inquiry?

You must go far enough and deep enough to satisfy yourself beyond any doubt that the petitioner is, indeed, worthy of consideration for Masonic membership.

Even if you are pressed for time, do not restrict your inquiry to contacting the petitioner's recommender and asking him for evaluation because when he brought in his recommendee's Petition, he already implicitly showed his satisfaction.  Nor should you ask the other members of the committee the results of their inquiry and "go along" with their reports.  You must make an independent inquiry and file your own report, regardless of what the others may do.

Just tell the Worshipful Master that you need more time, and he will grant you whatever reasonable time you need.  Masonry, after all, is not in a hurry, nor does it have any timetable. 

What the Worshipful Master wants is that you do your assigned task thoroughly, impartially, and objectively, and that you do everything required of you by the Lodge.

These requirements include the following:

- Sectarian religion and partisan politics being forbidden subjects in every Masonic Lodge, you should not probe into the petitioner's religious beliefs.  It is enough that he is willing to express a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, which is the only requirement of Masonry from whoever seeks its membership.  You should not inquire into the petitioner's political affiliation or persuasion, either.  These do not have any bearing on the evaluation of the petitioner's qualifications for admission into the Lodge.

- If after thoroughly and painstakingly making your inquiry and after exhausting all known sources of information, you are still possessed of doubts regarding the petitioner's qualifications, you should never hesitate to resolve in favor of your Lodge in particular and the Craft in general and not in favor of the petitioner.  Remember, no man has the right to become a Mason;  it is a privilege controlled by the ballot box. 

- Explore all sources of information which would lead you to have a complete picture of the petitioner.  Make sure that he is a man who, as was stated earlier, has Masonry in his heart, as well as a man of unimpeachable character - one who enjoys a good reputation among his friends, neighbors, acquaintances, associates wherever he is known.

- Clarify to the petitioner, as well as to his wife and even children, that if he is accepted into the Fraternity, he must sacrifice some time and energy to attend the meetings and other affairs of the Lodge.
- Make clear, likewise, to the candidate, as well as to his wife and even children, that the majority church in the country prohibits its members from becoming Masons, but that Masonry is not a religionn, although it is religious.

- Make sure, too, that the candidate is a man who has a record of paying his just debts and living up to his word, and that he is a man who has no record of living a dissolute life or having immoderate habits.  Cite, at this juncture, the monitorial charge for a Mason to observe"...such a prudent and well-regulated course of discipline as may best conduce to the preservation of your corporeal and mental faculties in their fullest energy, thereby enabling you to exert the talents wherewith God has blest you as well to His glory as the welfare of your fellow-creatures."

- Make sure, furthermore, that the petitioner is a man who has no criminal record, and that he has sufficient education to be able to grasp and retain the precepts of Masonry as taught him in the Lodge.

- Make sure, similarly, that the petitioner is literate and sufficiently fit physically to participate in the degrees, and that he has filed his Petition for the mysteries of Masonry of his own free will and accord and not from any improper solicitation of friends.

- Besides, make sure that he is not biased by any mercenary motives, and that he does not view the Symbolic Lodge as nothing more than a stepping stone for what he thinks is something more desirable or where he can have more fun.  Rather, he should view the Symbolic Lodge as a group of good and true men who expect him, if admitted, to "dedicate and devote his life to Thy (God's) service, and become a true and faithful brother among us," as well as to strive to be consistently a member of the Lodge in good standing.

Yes, you must explore in detail all these areas and others similar.  Conduct your inquiry with the utmost tact, discretion, and diplomacy.

If your report contains derogatory information, you must assist the Worshipful Master in reminding the brethren of the Lodge that such information should not become a subject or gossip and rumors and talk to the detriment of the petitioner.  This may result in his acceptance or rejection by the brethren.

Remember, Brother, that what you are looking for is positive statements attesting to the petitioner's good name, or his bad name, as the case may be.

Why should you conduct your investigation in an unhurried and thorough manner?

An investigation so conducted is a means of preserving the Craft's reputation, of ensuring harmony, of promoting our advancement and our progress in our service to God and man, of maintaining our reputation before the world, and of confounding those who oppose us by accepting none but good men and making better men of them - men whom we are proud to address as "Brother", men who can be counted on to practice fidelity even unto death, if need be, to keep the faith of our Masonic forebears and to pass on, unsullied, to those who will come this way after us.

You, Brother, are in the best position to help your Lodge make Masonry hard to get into or, to put it in another way, a "quality product", which is not to be sold cheaply.  You, as well as we, your Brethren, must make sure that only men who are worthy of Masonic membership are the only ones we want.  We cannot afford less.

Lest you forget, not only your Lodge, but also other Lodges - nay, the whole Craft - are counting on you to make unhurried, complete, impartial, and unbiased investigation of everyone who files a petition for Masonic degrees.

Do not ever lose sight of the universality of our Fraternity.  "The form of a Lodge is oblong.  It extends from east to west and from north to south, and it is said to be thus extensive to denote the universality of Masonry and teach us that a Mason's charity should be equally extensive; for in every country and in every clime are Masons to be found."

What affects one Mason affects all the others.  When, as a Lodge, we admit a man to join our fellowship and to acquire the status of a Master Mason, we are opening thousands and thousands of doors to him over the Masonic world.  We are giving his the right to wear the Square and Compasses and to have a claim upon the kindnesses of million of Masons.

All components of the Craft look to you, Brother Investigator, for the security and well-being of our ancient and honorable Fraternity.  You are under the gravest of obligations to discharge your duty as best as you reasonably can.  When you have efficiently accomplished this duty, you will have rendered us, your Brethren wherever dispersed, an invaluable service.  You will have complied with the dictates of your own conscience and the Masonic law that specifies your duty in this field.

What will be your compensation?

Besides being satisfied for having done your job well, you will know that you have been the eyes and ears of the Craft during this period.  We, your Brethren, may or may not tell you, but deep in our hearts we are sincerely grateful to you.

You, Brother Investigator, have a solemn responsibility.  Look well to it!

With fraternal respect and esteem,

Your Brothers in Masonry


Much of the foregoing "epistle" is based on the Short Talk Bulletin of the Masonic Service Association, November 1992.

For further information, read other pieces of Masonic literature on the subject, such as the following:

* "The Investigating Committee," Short Talk Bulletin, MSA, June 1988.
* "The Candidate," Short Talk Bulletin, MSA, May 1930.
* William C. Councell, PGM, "Masonic Investigation," in Freemasons for Unity & Amity.

- - - - - - - 
"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."                                                                                                       -Stephen Grellet


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