"Masonry is contradictory!" sighed the Young Master Mason at refreshment. "I am sure I will never get the right of it in my stupid head!"
"It is something to recognize that it is contradictory!" smiled the Old Past Master. "But just what particular contradictions are worrying you now?"
"Oh, a whole lot of them. For instance, we do not recognize negro Masons, yet I am told there is a lodge composed of negroes in this country, which is a part of, and works under, one of the regular, recognized State Grand Lodges. I read that there are women Freemasons abroad and yet we are taught that no woman can be a Freemason. I have just read the wonderful story of Roosevelt Lodge in Providence, R.I., and thus found out that there are lodges which refuse to admit foreigners and Jews; yet we teach and claim that Masonry is universal and without sect or creed. Kipling, in his Mother Lodge poem, has a Roman Catholic a member of it, yet everywhere I hear that Masons are opposed to Catholics. I am told in Lodge that there is no religion honored in Masonry, yet there is a Grand Lodge, I am informed, which bases itself and its teachings on Christianity!"
"Well, you are rather up against it!" smiled the Old Past Master. Yet is really very simple. Let me ask you a few questions."
"Shoot! If questions will help me, I'm here to answer!"
"What do you regard as the most civilized nation on the face of the earth?"
"America, France, England, I don't know which."
"What is the abiding principle of Christianity?"
"What is the fundamental of all foundations of this government of ours?"
"Freedom, liberty, I suppose."
"Is war civilized?"
"Certainly not! It is barbarous."
"Is murder a matter of love?"
"Gracious no!. Matter of hate, I should say! What are you getting at, anyway?" asked the Young Master Mason.
"Can you think of any examples in our national life in which liberty is abridged, either within or without the law?"
"Plenty of them!"
"Well, then," explained the Old Past Master, "we have civilization which is contradictory, government which is contradictory and the greatest and most far reaching religion which the world has ever known, contradictory!"
"Oh, no!" cried the Young Master Mason. "Because we made war doesn't mean civilization is a failure; we failed civilization. Because murders are committed by Christians doesn't mean Christianity failed; the murderers failed. Because some people violate the laws of liberty doesn't mean our government fails; they fail."
"You are a bright scholar!" admitted the Old Past Master. "And because there are contradictions in Masonry it doesn't follow that Masonry is contradictory, but that Masons contradict each other! It is true that we do not recognize negro Masons, as a general rule. It is true there is a recognized Negro lodge under a Grand Lodge of one of our States. It is the exception which proves the rule. History tells you how it happened.
"According to our ideas, no woman can be a Freemason. It is unthinkable as to suppose a woman could be a father. But some foreign Masons have made what they call woman Freemasons. Their apostasy doesn't affect any one but themselves. It is too true that some lodges in this country won't have Jews or foreigners in their membership. That is their privilege. But that doesn't make Masonry contradictory; it makes those Masons contradict what they were taught. There is no Masonic reason why a Roman Catholic cannot be a Freemason; the reason they cannot is because their Church forbids them to join oath-bound societies outside of their own. Some Catholics in foreign countries have done so; honor the lodge broad-minded enough to receive them! We do not receive them; we contend that a man owes his allegiance to where his faith is given; if a Catholic applies to us, knowing that his Church forbids it, it is evidence that he is ready to disobey where he has promised obedience. Therefore, we don't want him.
"Masonry opposes the Catholic hierarchy. We defend American institutions from Papal encroachment. It is their organization, their political ambitions we oppose; not that they choose to worship God in ways which are strange to us.
"Masonry is not Christian. It is not Mohammedan. It is not Buddistic. It is not of any faith or creed. Because some one lodge or Grand Lodge declaims that it is, does not make it so. Masonry does not contradict itself; Masons contradict themselves!
"Men are not perfect. If they were, there would be no need of Masonry. Masonry could not function in a perfect world of perfect men. There would be no use of a system of morality when all men were moral; no need of teaching anything by symbols or any other means if all men were wise. But men are not perfect; they quarrel and disagree and take exceptions to each other's ideas and beliefs. But it is the men, not the Masonry, which contradict!
"Life is all a compromise, my brother. Practical Masonry is a compromise. Never can we all be perfect. And one of the greatest teachings of Masonry is toleration; toleration of the other fellow's idea, his viewpoint, his belief. When you are intolerant of these contradictions, you are yourself a contradiction of Masonic teachings. If I taught you that Masonry contradicted herself, I would be a contradiction!"
"I will not contradict you!" smiled the Young Mason, "unless you say I am not grateful."