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The Builder

Graphic courtesy of Stephen McKim
Graphic Courtesy of
Stephen McKim

The Builder was published by the National Masonic Research Society from 1915 - 1930. It stands, nearly a century later, as one of the greatest Masonic publications.

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The Flag of Peace

By Joseph Fort Newton

Tis said that the Flag of our Republic was born in 1777, but that cannot be true. It was stitched into form at that time, in a little back parlor, but he who would know its origin must look far into the dim, pathetic, aspiring past. It was woven on the Loom of Ages- -woven of the dreams and heartbeats of humanity, of the warp of sorrow and the woof of hope--by a Great Hand stretched out from the Unseen. All those who on red fields of war died that their sons might be free; all who in dark prison cells suffered for the rights of man; all who in the long night of tyranny toiled and prayed for a better day, added threads to our Flag. It floats to-day in the blue sky, swayed by happy winds, held aloft by innumerable hands of the living and the dead, at once a history and a prophecy.

In old mythology Minerva and Ceres presided over the laboring classes --robed in flaming red, and that color became their emblem; but it was an emblem of blood-making, not of blood-letting; symbolizing the victories of peace, not those of war. Color in ancient Rome separated plebeian from patrician--blue the color of the aristocracy, white the war symbol, and red the emblem of labor and peace. All these colors are blended in our Flag, making it the sanctifying symbol of Unity, Fraternity, and Good-will among men. So may it ever be--Flag of Freedom and Friendship--woven of "the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land," proclaiming the time-glorified principles wrought out by the tears and prayers of our fathers.

Let all those who stand under it join hearts in one faith, join hands in one purpose--for the safety and sanctity of this Republic; for the rights of man and the majesty of law; for the moral trusteeship of private property and public office; for the education of the ignorant; for the lifting of poverty, through self-help, to comfort; for the dignity of the home and the laughter of little children; for social beauty, national glory, and human welfare. Long may it wave, rendered for all ages holy by the faith of the men who lifted it up, and the valor of the men who defended it in an hour of madness and peril. May it never again float over a field of war, but ever and forever over scenes of peace, honor, and progress.


"The Mason's ways are
A type of existence,
And his persistence
Is, as the days are
Of men in this world.

The future hides in it
Good hap or sorrow;
We press still through it--
Naught, that abides in it,
Daunting is--onward.

But heard are the voices,
Voices of the sages,
Of the worlds and the ages,
'Choose well, your choice is
Brief, but endless.'

And silent before us,
Veiled the dark portal,
Goal of all mortal;
Stars silent rest over us,
Graves, under us, silent.

'Here eyes do regard you,
In eternity's stillness,
Here is all fullness,
Ye brave to reward you,
Work and despair not.'"



"Keep, in Thy pierced hands,
Still the bruised helmet;
Let not their hostile bands
Wholly o'erwhelm it !
Bless my poor shield for me,
Christ, King of Chivalry.
Keep Thou the sullied mail,
Lord, that I tender
Here, at Thine altar-rail !
Then--let Thy splendor
Touch it once--and I go
Stainless to meet the foe !"

--Alfred Noyes. Sheerwood.


The depth and dream of my desire,
The bitter paths wherein I stray,
Thou knowest Who hast made the Fire,
Thou knowest Who hast made the Clay.
One stone the more swings to her place
In that dread Temple of Thy Worth--
It is enough that through Thy Grace
I saw naught common on Thy earth.
Take not that vision from my ken;
Oh whatsoe'r may spoil or speed,
Help me to need no aid from men
That I may help such men as need.

--Rudyard Kipling.

"My New Cut Ashlar."


"Freemasonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in Man, by the Divine; the conquest of the Appetites and Passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory--when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear the well-earned laurels--is the true Holy Empire." --Albert Pike. Morals and Dogma.

GIVE ME YOUR HAND. "Brother, if your Christ be the Atoning Lamb, The Only-Begotten of the Great I Am; The Rock of Ages cleft for you; And you say my Christ would never do, Follow your Christ--but give me your hand. Brother, if my Christ be the great Ideal, The possibility of the race made real, The lowly Man of Galilee, And I say, your Christ would not help me, Leave me my Christ--but give me your hand." --John White Chadwick. LIGHT SHINETH IN DARKNESS. "The Past is the Fate of the Present; Is the realm that no change knows; Is the Lawgiver of the future, The Source of its joys and woes; The dead years are diadem's Monarchs, Whom the years that come after obey; And yesterday is as remote from us As the stars are far away." --Albert Pike.


For your own information, read carefully the inside back cover of this issue. It contains data which will clear up some misunderstandings which appear to be general, in spite of our efforts to the contrary.

"Believe after observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and conducive to the gain and good of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. When pure rules of conduct are observed, then there is true religion."

-- The Imitation of Buddha


WASHINGTON, the Mason, renouncing a crown to be the Father of a great Republic, is one of the sublime figures of human history. Thackeray was not wrong in saying that it was one of the supreme feats of mortal greatness, as heroic as it was prophetic. The revolution which gave birth to this nation was the work of the people, but their leader so incarnated its spirit, its struggle, its purpose that it almost seems to have been the work of one man. Had Washington fallen in battle, or been captured by his foes, so far as human insight can see the fight of our fathers would have failed.

Alas ! that a man so noble, so heroic, so humanly lovable should have faded, as he seems well nigh to have done, into a mere statue in the Hall of History. Yet so it is. Today we look at his picture and see a great face indeed, but it is more like the Sphinx than a man, from which almost every flush of life has vanished. Parson Weems with his little hatchet did his pious part to turn a hero into a prig, and the Stuart portrait ironed every human wrinkle out of his face. As a result, we see a man of giant strength who carried the burden of a nation, Atlas-like, upon the shoulders, half hidden from those who owe him the homage belonging to the mighty spirits of the race.

There are those who say that Washington was not a genius. It is true that no separate faculty, or federation of faculties, stood out in him in such splendor as amazes us in Alexander or dazzles us in Napoleon. Th'e quality of his genius, like that of Alfred, was moral, and his greatness lay in the symmetry of useful, reliable, unpyrotechnic powers. There was in him a moral magnificence more rare and precious than the radiant gifts of other men. Frederick the Great said that the Trenton campaign was the most brilliant of the century, and it was the century of himself and Marlborough. If Washington was not a genius, he wassomething better - a brave,true, strong man who picked his way amid the intrigues of friends and the treachery of foes, and led a people to victory, peace, and honor; bringing forth "on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

The people did not trust Jefferson, much as they admired him; Hamilton did not trust the people. Had it not been for Washington, who towered above all parties, our republic would have fallen between two partisan stools. He alone out-topped Hamilton and Jefferson, having a greatness unlike either, and which cornmanded the homage of all. Such a man the times demanded, and such a man in the providence of God was given to his country and his race. It behooves us to keep the image and spirit of Washington alive in our hearts, and tell his story, with all its vivid human color, to our children, and to those who knock at our gates. True patriotism may sometimes despair of republican institutions, but fear is folly so long as our soil can grow men who, like Washington, are proof to place and gold and show a manhood neither bought nor sold.

Washington came up from Virginia, Lincoln came down from Illinois. They came with one faith, one spotless honor, one high, disinterested patriotism, each to do the work set for him to do. They were maligned, villified, and defamed, but they revealed the same dignity, patience, and courage. As we see them now on the distant slopes of fame, they seem akin, and we make a high profession of ideals when we pay them tribute. Neither could have done the work of the other. Each was a man sent from God in an hour of great need. Divided at time, as in temperament, they stand together in the grateful and venerative memory of a l:tepublic which they founded and defended. They were providential personalities, and this nation, united and free, is at once their monument and theirmemorial.


Alas, it seems that Mexico, so long a cock-pit of anarchy, may yet inject an ugly element into our political life. Stories of indignities visited upon clergy and religious of the Latin Church by the followers of Villa and Zapata multiply. They are driving out the priests and monks and nuns, and even killing them, it is said. Naturally the men of that faith among us are deeply stirred, and rightly so, as every civilized mortal must be.

Unfortunately, in their indignation not a few Church papers have laid it all at the door of Masonry in Washington and Mexico. Nonsense ! The fact is that the Church has been in politics in Mexico on. the side of Huerta and the landlords and the exploiters of the peons, arid is punished for its politics, not for its religion. Even Father Phelan, in the "Western Watchman," admits as much in discussing the subject. If the Church has been with the landlords, the scientificos, and against the people, as Villa says it has, it must expect to have short shrift from the revolutionists.

For the root of all the trouble in that unhappy country is not religion, but the land - taking the land away from the people and giving it to a few - and there will be no peace until the disinherited masses come into their own again. The revolution for the right to live upon the land will not end till the land is won. No doubt there is some exaggeration in the reports of iniquities and atrocities. For all that, the actual facts are horrible enough, and no one likes to read of dealings with monks and nuns after the manner of Carrier and les Noyades in the French Revolution. It is infernal.

Object lessons could not be plainer, and if we are wise, instead of fanning a feud among ourselves, we shall have regard to the real facts and causes of anarchy in Mexico, and avoid importing into our public life the sinister spirit which has wrought so much ill at our doors. Living as we are in a world of strife, when the whole world seems to have gone mad, it becomes us to keep our heads clear, our hearts kind, and our hands ready to help. The injection of a religious issue into our politics is un-American. It is un-Masonic. It will evoke passions profoundly unreligious. Let us have done with it.


"Say now Shibboleth; and he said, Sibboleth; for he could not frame to pronounce it aright," (Judges 12:6); and for his failure he paid with his life. Another instance in which a word-test was proposed occurred in the great massacre of the French on Easter Monday, 1282, known as the Sicilian Vespers. Then the words were "ceci" and "ciceri," and again he whose tongue slipped was put to death.

After all, life is largely a matter of the right accent. In the last resort a man is judged, not by his deeds or words, but by his emphasis upon the right syllable, and an imitated accent always betrays itself in a crisis. The note of reality is the finest music that breaks upon the human ear. There is a melody in it which all the trills of Tetrazzini cannot accomplish. The real Mason does far more than keep the commandments and nourish "a fugitive and cloistered virtue." His daily life speaks with the accent of reality and the authority of righteousness, and men know him by the tone of his character.


Remarkable beyond all expectations, both at home and abroad, has been the response of the Craft to the spirit, purposes, and aims of the National Masonic Research Society. At the present rate, the Society promises to have twenty thousand members, if not more, at the close of the first year of its history. Even before the first issue of the journal appeared it had well nigh one-fourth of that number, making it the largest body of organized Masonic students in the world. These facts tell us two things, at least: first, that there was a deep need and desire for such a movement; and second, that the spirit and plan of the Society appeal to the Craft as not only worthy, but wise and workable. Such a response makes one proud of the Order, and it opens a field of opportunity, alike for good-fellowship and mutual instruction, to which no one may set a limit.

From all over the Union have come letters bearing assurances of the most hearty and enthusiastic cooperation, and they are still coming from men of every rite and jurisdiction. While from abroad, men like Gould, Thorp, Crawley, Revenscroft, Waite and others have sent words of congratulation and goodwill - and, it may be added, they have been most gracious in accepting the invitation of ye editor to contribute to these pages, as subsequent issues will reveal. Once more we invite free and frank discussion of issues raised, or policies proposed, as well as suggestions for the strengthening of the Society and the improvement of its journal. If ye editor goes awry in his facts or conclusions, he begs to be set right, and will listen with an open mind to what his brethren have to say.

If in this issue of The Builder we strike the patriotic note, making plea for a world-outlook and aspiration, it is because events now transpiring must have deepened the gratitude of every American for this Republic as established by the wisdom of our fathers, every year making us more aware of its mission of leadership in the direction of world-liberty and worldpeace, and its high service to humanity. Also, it may serve to show that this Society is concerned, not only with the history of Masonry in the past, but also with its present influence and future development - most of all, and always, for the application of the spirit of Masonry to the life of man, individual, social, and national.


'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.
These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart strings of a friend.
Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders - oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.
Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will, but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool !

- Edward Rowland Sill.


"Well, if God saved me alone of the seven,
Telling me you must be damned, or you,
'This,' I would say, 'This is hell, not heaven!
Give me the fire and a friend or two!' "

- Alfred Noyes.
Tales from the Mermaid Tavern.


"Blend of mirth and sadness, smiles and tears;
Quaint knight-errant of the pioneers;
Homely hero, born of star and sod;
Peasant-prince - a masterpiece of God."


HERE is a big little book - thin in form but fat with thought - worth its weight in gold; of a beautiful clarity of style, not unlike Henri Bergson himself, of incandescent brilliancy; such a book as one seldom finds amidst the ruck of print these days, "Science and Religion," by C. J. Keyser. (Yale University Press) There are places in it where the writer reminds you of the "forlorn splendor" of Plato, as he soars out into that circumscribing Circle which bounds all the infinitude of squares and triangles that science - or Masonry - can construct within that Circle. And it is there, in the realm where the Square fails forever to equal in content the Circle this thinker places Religion. That is to say, science pursues the finite until it is lost in the infinite, and reason goes so far and then senses the ungraspable of which it cannot hold the thread.

Keyser asserts, nay, he demonstrates, the Overworld. No doubt it is all pure Plato, but its restatement is modern, and the charm of it lies in the way of approach from the known to the unknown, but immanent - and, if we had eyes, the imminent. Truly, it is a golden chain he weaves, and he threads jewels of prose at frequent intervals, the while he shows us how much poetry lies hidden in mathematics. There plays over and through the words of this little book just the subtlety of large suggestion which makes the argument of the author so convincing, and his conclusion so triumphant, that "aspiration is not mocked."

There is a class of books - many of them today, owing to the revival of mysticism now going on - which vex the soul of ye scribe almost beyond words. Not that he is an enemy of mysticism, far from it; nor yet because he is a materialist, but because, since he must live here amid these "short days of sun and frost," he would fain keep his feet upon the earth., So far from being a mere rationalist, he holds by the wise lines of dear old Cullen Bryant:

"I would not always reason; the straight path
Wearies me with its never varying lines,
And we grow melancholy. I would
Make Reason my guide, but she should sometimes sit
Patiently by the wayside, while I traced
The mazes of the pleasant wilderness
Around me. She should be my counsellor,
But not my tyrant; for the spirit needs
Impulses from a deeper source than hers;
And there are motions in the soul of man
That she must look upon with awe."

Exactly; and because there is that in life which inspires awe, we should not seek to invade it with our analysis, lest we be found dancing where angels dare not tread. In short, if we go in quest of the white presences on the hills, we ought to leave our kodak at home.

"Does God think?" asked a Persian pupil, greatly daring, of the wise Master at whose feet he sat.

"Man thinks because he does not know; God knows, and so he does not think," was the reply.

Being only human - very human, alas - ye scribe must needs put on his thinking cap betimes, and he believes that the Greeks were wise when they advised us to "think as mortals." What he finds amiss in such a book as "The True Mystic," by H. E. Sampson, (Rider and Con, London) which is only one of many of its kind, is that it knows so many things that, so far as evidence is concerned, are not so.

Reading the first chapter, one feels that, after all, the mysticism advocated by the author lies at least tolerably near to our common life; but in the very next chapter it careers right away to lost continents, buried temples, and the seventh heaven. We read of Asceticism, Akstasis, Initiation, Intuition, and the like - every other word in such books begins with a capital letter - as the various stages along the Mystic Way, which in this instance had better been called the Milky Way.

At first there seems to be a kind of appreciable understandable nucleus, and then a fringe which fades away into remoteness, impalpability, and what to an ordinary mortal appears to be but fine filigree of wordspinning. For we are made to witness an initiation in the "Seven Planetary Temples of Initiation," where we see the earth as it was in the beginning, "beautiful with a beauty in contrast with which the present beauty of nature is as a bad dream ;" and we are also shown etherradiant substance, and self-luminous globes, and opalhued essences, transcendent glory of immortal vegetation, deo-morphic men, Adamic Mediators of Divine Magneticism, and so on.

Well, all this may be true enough - ye scribe does not gainsay its much less ridicule it, though it does read like news from nowhere - but he thinks that it is not so much Mysticism as mystification; and that the author ought to give heed to certain danger signals hung out for our behoof, lest we lose all touch with the actual. But what we find it hard to endure - and this is the way of such books - is the habit the author has of calling attention to the importance of the revelation he is about to make, exciting our curiosity to the last pitch, and then proceeding to utter something perfectly clear and obvious - so commonplace, in fact, that Noah must have known it in the Ark. Even that would not be so bad, if he did not thereupon go on to lament that he has probably been talking over our heads!

Howbeit, if we have noticed this book less for itself than as a specimen of a species, it is but fair to add that there is much more in it than that which is bound to sound to ordinary ears wildly fantastic. If the reader will discriminate, keep his wits, and not be put oif by strange forms of speech, he will find much to interest and instruct. Happily, the secret of life is much nearer and simpler than this volume would lead us to imagine; much more human and therefore more divine.

How refreshing to come down from those misty mid-regions to the chapter on The Mystics in so lucid and well-written a book as "Freemasonry Before the Grand Lodges," by Brother Lionel Vibert, (Spencer & Co., London.) Here we are on the earth where it is good to be, while the author sifts out the facts from huge tomes of Masonic lore - chiefly the Transactions of the Lodge Quatuor Coronati - and gives us the net result in compact and readable form. We think he is in error in not regarding the altar emblem unearthed at Pompeii as Masonic; but no matter, he gives the gist of what is known about the Collegia and the Gilds, the legendary history of the Order and its oldest documents, the operative Masons and allied associations, and the growth of our symbols and ritual prior to the Grand Lodge of England.

Still, the total impression of this book is to the effect that Masonry came into being by spontaneous combustion, so to speak; for the author has almost more to say-about where it did not come from than where it had its origin and how. Too little is made of the Comacine Masters, and we hardly think the thesis of Brother Revenscroft is fairly dealt with - whereof he will soon speak for himself in these pages. However, the chapter on the Mystics is excellent, albeit not always correct, as we see the facts. The book is most timely and instructive, simply and clearly written, and it will be of great aid to those who are beginning the study of Masonry.

From a different point of view, and in quite a different manner, "Symbolic Teaching, or Masonry and its Message," by Dr. T. M. Stewart, (Stewart & Kidd Co., Cincinnati) is very well worth while. Made up, as it is, of essays and articles published at various times in Masonic journals, the volume has the advantages and defects of collections of the kind. Some repetition was inevitable in a number of papers dealing with the same general theme, and brought together from different times and occasions. One of the best essays in the book is that entitled, "A Portion of the Field of Masonic Study," offering, as it does, a practical plan for one evening a month devoted to research and discussion by each lodge. Most interesting, too, is the account given of the Cincinnati Masonic Study School, founded in 1910, its by-laws being identical with those of the Fargo, South Dakota, Masonic Study School, organized two years earlier. Indeed, the enthusiasm of this book in behalf of Masonic Research is so infectious, so eager and insistent withal, that it will be a wholesome rebuke to such as have imagined that there is little to know about Masonry, and that little hardly worth studying.

Dr. Stewart holds, and rightly so, that Masonry has a great history - far greater than Masons realize - and a profound philosophy, and that the ritual is largely a riddle unless we know how it came to be, what lies hidden within it, and what depths it reveals to those who have eyes to see. Of the opportunities open to Masonic research, not only for instruction, but for strengthening the Order and deepening its influence, the author writes with the ardor of one who believes that Masonry has a message for mankind and a work to do in the world - never more needed than today.

For the rest, if any Brother wishes to read the greatest modern novel - incomparably the greatest novel written in the twentieth century - let him make haste to read "Jean Christophe," by Romain Rolland. Here is a book not for a day, or an hour, but for all time. It is not concerned with the trivial and transitory; it is made up of the immortal stuff of human souls. It is steeped in life from the first page to the last; life in all its phases, its glory, its infamy, its grandeur, its tragedy, and its farce. Not only is it the best and most wonderful psychological study of genius ever written, but it is a mirror held up to our age, reflecting all the tendencies of thought, all the problems of art and ethics that torment us. Hear these words from the preface:

"I have written the tragedy of a generation which is about to pass away. I have in no wise tried to conceal its vices or its virtues, its heavy sadness or its chaotic pride, its heroic efforts and its deep dejection under the crushing burden of a superhuman task. The whole world, the reconstruction of the world's morality, its esthetic principles, its faith, the forging of a new humanity - that was our work.

Men of today, young men, it is your turn now. March over us, trample us under your feet, and press forward. Be greater, be happier than we. As for myself, I say good-bye to my past soul. I throw it behind me like an empty shell. Life is a series of deaths and resurrections. Let us die, Christophe, to be born again."

Genius is a rare wonder, and happy the age that can count one, or at most, two of them. And Rolland is a great genius. He sees life in the large. He has no grievance against the universe. He wears the star of no cult on his breast; no clique or party owns him. He has no ism to air, no fad to flaunt, no plaster wherewith to cure the world. He stands for humanity; the whole of it, not a faction - the little as well as the great, sorrow as well as joy, sin as well as virtue, laughter and tears, light and shadow, ever struggling, falling, rising, unconquered to the end. Sell your bed and buy this book, and you will make a bargain.

THE BUILDERS: A Story and Study of Masonry.(*)

By Joseph Fort Newton.

(This little book, written at the request of the Grand Lodge - of Iowa, was approved and adopted by that Grand Body, June 10th, 1914, the intention being that a copy of it should be presented to each candidate upon whom the degree of Master Mason is conferred in the Grand Jurisdiction of Iowa. Several Lodges in other jurisdictions have already adopted it for a like purpose, and are so using it. Instead of being an innovation, this is in fact a return to the oldest custom and practice of the Order - the Old Charges being a brief history of the Craft read or recited to the candidate in the days of Craft-masonry.)


Grand President, The Acacia Fraternity.

"The Builders" is the book that I sought for shortly after my initiation into Freemasonry, and was unable to find it. It is the book that I shall give to my friends at the time of their initiation.

"The Builders" is a carefully prepared history of symbolic lodges from the earliest times, with special reference to the history of modern Freemasonry since the organization of the grand lodges in England. The chapters covering the history of the craft are followed by chapters on the philosophy of Masonry, and the book is ended with a chapter on the Spirit of Masonry that is, in itself, an essay of very high literary standards.

The author has undertaken a very great service in the preparation of his chapters on the development of symbolic and ritualistic organizations among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. These chapters give abundant evidence of the careful work of the scholar, but the historical presentation is unusually free from technical references. The fundamental doctrines of the ancient philosophies are presented in a graceful essay style, easily readable and understandable by men who have not given their time or attention to the study of philosophic works.

The story of Freemasonry throughout the mediaeval period, and especially the treatment of the orders of operative Masons, constitutes a real contribution to Masonic thought. The author is also to be congratulated on his candor in discussing the formal organization of Masonry under grand lodges in England, and the extension of Masonry. He has dared to tell the truth, but he has told it in a manner that adds rather than detracts from the dignity of our beloved organization.

Here is a book on Masonry that is in itself a contribution to Freemasonry. I know of no book that is comparable to it. It has been written at the invitation of the Grand Lodge of Iowa for the information of young Masons. There are few Masons in the world who cannot read the book with great profit, and who will not find in it information that they have long desired to know.

The author states that it has been his intention to stimulate thought and to invite further research. This his book will unquestionably do. The reader finds himself reluctantly finishing each chapter. It is to be hoped that the author may find time and opportunity to prepare a similar work covering capitular Masonry and Knights Templar.

* Published by The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Price $1.25 delivered. Lodges in Iowa receive presentation copies at 76 cents each. Lodges outside the Grand Jurisdiction of Iowa may receive it at $1.00 each, in lots of more than twenty-five.

- Source: The Builder February 1915

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