The authors Preface from the book "Masonic Problems and Queries"
by Herbert F. Inman
A comment on the task confronted by the inquisitive new member to Freemasonry in his search for Light.
1001 Common Masonic questions and answers in A-Z format
Library #: M00_HER
Published year: 1933
DURING a long and varied experience as Preceptor of several Lodges of Instruction the present writer has been the recipient of a bewildering multiplicity of inquiries from his younger Brethren-inquiries by no means confined to matters connected with Ritual and Ceremonial but covering a vast range of subjects embracing Masonic History, Symbolism, Jurisprudence, Biography, Etiquette, and so on ad infinitum.
It is noticeable that the number of such inquiries tends to increase with each passing year a sure and healthy sign that the never-ending flow of recruits to our worldwide Fraternity consists of Brethren imbued with an earnest desire for knowledge.
It is to be feared that in some directions this laudable yearning for information meets with scant encouragement; yet surely such encouragement is due to the younger Brother who doggedly declines to accept the evasive statement that a thing is "because it is," and who wants to know the why and the wherefore thereof. Have not we all been reminded, when invested with our Master Mason's badge, that it calls on us to "afford assistance and instruction" to our Brethren?
Socrates has observed that "rhapsodists and even poets" have "no definite knowledge of the things they so powerfully represent." Perchance the philosopher's observations might be applied with equal force to-day to some members of our great Masonic Brotherhood, even to some who have won to positions of eminence in the Craft and other Degrees.
To whom is the Masonic novice of an inquiring turn of mind to look for "assistance and instruction" if not to his seniors in the Fraternity which has admitted him to its great and invaluable privileges? Meet the tyro's inquiries with those evasions which are, more often than not, no more than a cloak to conceal one's own lack of knowledge, and his ardour may receive an irremediable setback. Encourage him by endeavouring patiently to provide the information of which he is in search, and one may do much to create in him a craving far further learning which will carry him forward during his no-vitiate along the fascinating path of Masonic study, multiplying his usefulness, until the novice becomes an active and industrious member of our Order.
With a subject the ramifications of which are as vast and illimitable as those of the Science of Freemasonry, it would be seeking something in the nature of a miracle to expect even the most erudite Brother to be qualified to answer off-hand all the inquiries arising in the minds of the apprentices. Haw, then, can a humble, hard-working Preceptor who certainly makes no claim to be numbered among the pundits, aspire successfully to cape with the deluge of questions showered, upon him from time to time in his Lodge of Instruction? Is he to seek safety in evasion, or to let the matter end with the blunt answer "I don't know"'?
There is another way-to. find out.
The Preceptor is - or should be - sufficiently experienced to know how and where to seek reliable information. It will mean the sacrifice of a certain amount of time, but one has the consolation of knowing that satisfactory results are assured.
Many years ago the compiler of this volume resolved upon a practice from which he has never departed; whenever he has been "floored" by an inquiry from a younger Brother (it has happened many times) he has promised to "find out," and has forthwith started on the trail of the desired information. At times the task has entailed a good deal of laborious research, but, if the results have been helpful to others, they have been equally beneficial to the writer. By such research one adds to one's own store of knowledge.
It was while poring over voluminous notes collected from various sources during the search for replies to different inquiries that the idea originated of producing a book which, while convenient in size, might yet contain sufficient information to solve some of the multifarious problems constantly arising in the minds of inquiring Brethren.
It is frankly admitted that this volume is not intended for advanced Masonic students, but rather as a modest Handbook for the guidance of the younger Brother who has little opportunity - and possibly still less inclination - to explore ponderous works of reference in his search for enlightenment.
The preparation of such a Handbook gave rise to many obvious difficulties, not the least being the decision as to the most convenient form in which to present the material contained therein. It is hoped that the method finally adopted, of arranging the items in strict alphabetical order, will enable the reader instantly to locate any desired subject.
Another obvious difficulty was to compress the necessary material into reasonable limits; many subjects disposed of in a few words could with advantage be extended to several pages. In this connection it may be said that if the brief information provided on any subject is sufficient to inspire a Brother to pursue his investigations further, then the Author's object has been achieved. That object was not merely to provide concise replies to the questions asked, but rather to foster a desire for individual research on the part of the reader.
Limitations of space, again, precluded the mentioning in the context of the many sources from which the various items of information have been derived. The Author owes grateful acknowledgment to such eminent historians as
R. F. Gould
A. G. Mackey
W. J., Hughan
E. L. Hawkins
J. T. Lawrence
Dudley Wright, and many others.
Conscientious effort has been made to verify all statements of fact; but the amount of labour involved in compiling the book has been far greater than may be apparent at a casual glance. If imperfections are detected the Author will welcome suggestions from his Brethren, so that if future editions are called for such imperfections may be corrected.
H. F. I.