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This speech was given by a member of Imperial College Lodge, who has over fifty years in Freemasonry:
At the time our Worshipful Master asked me if I would deliver a short, maximum of 5 minutes talk on "Freemasonry - Why do we join?" I thought it would be easy.
Knowing our Worshipful Master, I should have known this was not the case and as I started to think about the subject I realised that in the fifty enjoyable years I have spent in the Craft I have never tried to put into words the answer to that most important question.
The R.W. Bro. Tom Jackson - Vice President of the Masonic Restoration Foundation and Secretary of the World Conference of Masonic Lodges - in one of his papers suggested that the principle objective of Freemasonry is "to make good men better".
How do we make good men better? We cannot aim to improve the technical or professional skills of a Brother so what should we be doing?
The answer is, I believe, we should be developing his charitable instincts in the broader sense of the word charity. That is his love and compassion for mankind in general and his Brother Masons in particular.
We achieve this in a large part during the ceremony of the three degrees where we remove all the social, political, and religious barriers of the world outside and create an atmosphere of unfettered Brotherly Love. Where he feels that every Brother in the temple is "on his side" and willing him, and the officers involved, through the ceremony whilst they all forgive any small errors that may occur. All they all want is that the candidate experience something he will remember, and can build on, for the rest of his days.
If this is the objective of Freemasonry then we should be joining because we, ourselves, wish to become better men.
If we are fortunate, as I was, we will have met, worked with and become friends with men who exhibited charity in this broader sense of the word and for whom we developed a great respect. They were not saints, far from it, but were honest, hardworking, individuals who were always available to provide advice and support when needed without thought as to the personal cost of same. We then discover they had one thing in common - they were Freemasons. This would then provide the best possible incentive for wanting to join the Craft.
Alternatively a Brother might get to know someone whom he thinks would make a good candidate for Freemasonry and raise the subject with him.
The less fortunate are only aware that Freemasonry exists, generally believe it to be a charitable organisation in the financial sense, and possibly a good dining club which they could be interested in joining.
It is the duty of the Brethren to engage with every such possible aspirant and meet and talk with him over an extended period so that he might get a better understanding of what Freemasonry is and the Brethren might decide if he is a suitable candidate. That is he believes in a Supreme Being, is a good man who will fit in with the ethos of the Lodge and has no other ulterior motives.
Freemasonry has always been, and should continue to be, extremely selective. Not every aspirant is suitable material.
So Brethren, the answer to "Freemasonry - Why do we join?" - should be because we are good men, who wish to be better.
This, I well realise, may be simplistic and may better be expressed as a wish to become involved with a group of men who demonstrate kindness, understanding and all the other broader aspects of charity to one another, and to mankind in general, and as a result - to use another Masonic expression - "are happy in what they do and communicate happiness".