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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 Builder January 1915

The Acacia Fraternity And Masonic Research

By Francis W. Shephardson
former Grand President

THE Acacia Fraternity is a society of college men who are Master Masons. It is not a Masonic body in the ordinary acceptation of that expression. It is not a side degree. It claims no antiquity. It seeks no recognition to which its inherent worth does not entitle it. It is exactly like any one of the thirty odd Greek letter fraternities which flourish in American colleges, except for the fundamental requirement for membership that one who is considered must be a member in good standing in some regularly authorized lodge of Master Masons. Membership comes from within by invitation. Candidates do not petition. Those students who have the good fortune to be offered membership pride themselves on the triple selection thus indicated, the selection from the great mass of high school students for the privilege of college education, the selection from the citizenship of their home communities for the rights and benefits of Masonry, and the selection for the social and intellectual joys of Acacia fraternity life.

The fraternity was founded at the University of Michigan, being incorporated on May 12, 1904. It was the outgrowth of a Masonic club at the University which had existed since 1894. It now has twenty-four Chapters, well distributed over the country. They are necessarily in the larger institutions where the number of Master Masons in attendance furnishes sufficient material for energetic existence. Most of these Chapters maintain Chapter houses in which the members make their home, several of these houses being owned by the local organization, but the majority being rented. The fraternity has an excellent standing among similar college societies. It is a recognized member of the national Inter-Fraternity Conference. It shares generally the privileges of local conferences of representatives of like organizations. During its ten years of life it has won much approval from college authorities because of its high average ranking in scholarship. As a member must be at least twenty-one years of age, and as, in many places, those who wear its badge are advanced students, there is a realization of the value of scholarship and right conduct which the younger members of other societies sometimes lack. The result has been that Acacia is highly regarded by the college administration wherever it has a Chapter.

From the beginning much stress has been laid upon the social life in the Chapter home. Much has been done to cement college friendships, stronger than the ordinary, perhaps, because of the Masonic tie. The Chapter houses breathe the atmosphere of sentimental affection. Group pictures of the members are found on the walls. Pennants tell of the other institutions where the fraternity has its branches. Individual portraits proclaim some one of exceptional interest or influence. Through Acacia, then, many a college Mason has hadhisyears of study made happier because of close fraternal ties. After ten years of life Acacia is marked by many of the sentimental characteristics which have made college fraternity Chapters powerful organizations.

But there has never been a time when through the Acacia fraternity membership there was not a strong desire to be of some service to the mother institution out of which it sprung. A substantial periodical, the Journal of Acacia, has been a helpful influence. It has published many articles on Masonic history and philosophy for the enlightenment and instruction of members. It has printed bibliographies and suggestions for Masonic study. It has urged members constantly to maintain their lively interest in the lodges, notwithstanding the immediate and pressing demands of the class-room and tine allurements of library and laboratory. Two or three definite results of such a sustained campaign of Masonic education are apparent.

There have been developed some splendid degree teams. The Acacia members comprising these have sought always to be letter perfect in the rendition of the ritual. In a good many lodges their aid in degree work has been received with enthusiastic praise. They have encouraged mass visitation of neighboring lodges and so the college boys have been brought into closer relationship with local craftsmen and have had their circle of acquaintanceship much enlarged Naturally they have been careful watchers of the ritualistic work and have profited by the errors made by less eager officers. If Acacia has done nothing more, it has greatly stimulated the Masonic interest of its own membership.

A natural sequence of this feature of the fraternity's activity has been that Acacians generally have ranged themselves on the side of those reformers who desire to remove from the accepted work those errors in grammar and faulty constructions in English which always grate upon the ears of one who has had the benefit of a training of the schools. They have attempted nothing iconoclastic, but in quiet ways have given their influence in favor of revisions certain to bring improvement to a time-honored ritual. And in seeking for the reasons for familiar shortcomings in the accepted work, they have been led into the attractive field of Masonic research.

A powerful influence in this direction has been exerted by Professor Roscoe Pound of Harvard Law School. He became a member of Acacia at the University of Nebraska. For a time he was a member of the faculty of law in the University of Chicago. He was one of the first to recognize the possibilities for Masonrv in this organization of eager and enthusiastic college men. He has devoted much time and attention to a series of lectures on Masonic history and philosophy which he has given freely, with great sacrifice of valuable hours, before Acacia Chapters and college Masonic clubs. His marvelous capacity for research and his exceptional ability in instruction has made of each of these lectures a wonderful stimulus to his hearers. He has planted the desire for Masonic research in many a student. He has guided the first readings of those who sought from him the way to the truth. His earnest pupils are found in more than one Acacia Chapter.

In a narrower field similar work has been done by professors Chester N. Gould and Charles Chandler of the University of Chicago. Teachers in an institution which maintains a large summer session they have exerted a stimulating influence upon college Masons from many parts of the country. Each is a keen student and lover of deep research and they have given to the fraternity the full benefit of their rich resources of mind obtained by thorough investigation of the hidden things of Masonry.

The Acacians in other parts of the country nave had the advantage of like encouragement from Masons of eminence who have been elected to honorary membership, or who, as faculty members, have been impressed with the opportunity of lecturing to such exceptional audiences as are furnished by college men, to whom the habit of research becomes almost a second nature. Without attempting to discriminate among members of this type, mention may be made especially perhaps of the late Lewis Cass Goodrich of Michigan, Joseph R. Wilson of Pennsylvania, William Homan of New York, and A. K. Wilson of Kansas. These mature men, well known Masonic workers, gave Acacia an impetus in the direction of Masonic research whose full effect cannot be realized for years to come. Perhaps it is enough to say that their helpful influence has been a powerful force in the first decade of the history of this college fraternity.

I look to Acacia for some splendid Masonic workers in the higher ranks of the great mother order. I expect to see the history and philosophy of Masonry made far more familiar in the lodges because of the inspiration given by those who have shared the privileges of Acacia Chapter life. The fraternity is young as yet. It is now in its eleventh year. It has just elected as its Grand President an enthusiastic Mason, Mr. George E. Frazer, of the administrative staff of the University Illinois. He is deeply interested in Masonic research. He has done much to stimulate support of the movement represented by this journal. I firmly believe that the Masonic order is to be greatly helped by this fraternity, not only in the quickening of the life of local lodges throughout the United States, but, notably, in the years to come, through the development of men of fine educational training who will find delight in delving into the storied past that they may interpret to others the beauties and the strength of the Masonic institution.

- Source: The Builder January 1915

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