Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Minnesota

Rochester Lodge No. 21

Old Tyler's Talks

by Carl H. Claudy

The Temple Publishers, Washington, D.C. 1949 

The timeless wisdom of the Old Tiler makes
these talks a must read for every Mason.

"The Old Tyler" first appeared in print in August, 1921 when the first of four hundred and fourteen "Old Tyler Talks" were printed in the Fellowship Forum, a fraternal newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

In 1925 the publisher asked the author to select a few of the best of the talks and thirty-one were accordingly made into a little volume, copyrighted that year.  The book, which sold for a dollar, ran into two editions of five thousand copies each.

By the time they were all sold the Fellowship Forum ran head on into the depression and disappeared and with it the Old Tyler.

His homely philosophy, sharp tongue and common sense, however, had made a place for him in the hearts of readers; demand for the book has never ceased, although it has lessened in the twenty-four years since the Old Tyler first spoke from between the covers.

At long last the Old Tyler sits again before the door of his lodge, there to repeat the tales which made him liked so long ago, and, from the wealth of material of his hundreds of homilies, make thirty-nine new talks to the book, a total of seventy in all. . .

. . .The author does not always agree with the Old Tyler -- perhaps it is the Old Tyler who disagrees with the author!  Some to whom that statement is made make answer:  "Why don't you make him say what you think?  You are the boss man!"

All who have written know that, if they live, pen and ink characters have minds and thoughts of their own, sometimes to the benefit, sometimes to the grief of their fathers!

Therefore, with what is hoped is becoming modesty, this invitation is extended; whatever you like in the Old Tyler's talks, credit to his creator; if his sharpness or his ideas offend, blame the Old Tyler not.

The Author
Old Tiler Talks by Carl H. Claudy
The Temple Publishers, Washington, D.C. 1949 

" I�ve been a Mason six months now and I ought to know something about Masonry.  But there are more secrets in the fraternity I don't know than those I have been told!" The New Brother was puzzled.  The Old Tiler laid down his sword, picked up a half-smoked cigar and lit it, and settled back in his chair.

"Get it out of your system," he invited.

"Is Masonry a religion," continued the New Brother, "or a system of philosophy, or a childish getting together of men who like to play politics and wear titles?  I have heard it called all three.  Sometimes I think it's one and sometimes the other.  What do you think?"

"It isn't a childish getting together for the love of titles and honors," answered the Old Tiler.  "Men would soon' invent a much better organization for the satisfaction of such purposes.  In fact, he has invented better ones.  Men who want to play politics and be called the Grand High Cockalorum of the Exalted Central Chamber of the Secret Sanctorum can join these.  If Masonry were nothing but play, it wouldn't live, and living, grow."

"Masonry isn't a religion.  A religion, as I see it, is a belief in a deity and a means of expressing worship.  Masonry recognizes Deity, and proceeds only after asking divine guidance.  But it does not specify any particular deity.  You can worship any God You Please and be a Mason.  That is not true of any religion.  If you are a Buddhist, you worship Buddha.  If a Christian, Christ is your Deity.  If you are a Mohammedan you are a worshipper of Allah.  In Masonry you will find Christian, Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist side by side."

"Masonry has been called a system of philosophy, but that is a confining definition.  I don't think Masonry has ever been truly defined."

"Or God," put in the New Brother.

"Exactly.  A witty Frenchman, asked if he believed in God, replied, 'Before I answer, you must tell me your definition of God.  And when you tell me, I will answer you, no, because a God defined is a God limited, and a limited God is no God.'  Masonry is something like that; it is brotherhood, unlimited, and when you limit it by defining it you make it something it isn't."

"Deep stuff I" commented the New Brother.

"Masonry is 'deep stuff,'" answered the Old Tiler.  "It 's so deep no man has ever found the bottom.  Perhaps that is its greatest charm; you can go as far as you like and still not see the limit.  The fascination of astronomy is the limitlessness of the field.  No telescope has seen to the edge of the universe.  The fascination of Masonry is that it has no limits.  The human heart has no limit in depth and that which appeals most to the human heart cannot have a limit."

"But that makes it so hard to understand!" sighed the New Brother.

"Isn't it the better for being difficult of comprehension?" asked the Old Tiler.  "A few days ago I heard an eminent divine and Mason make an inspiring talk.  I hear a lot of talks; nine-tenths are empty words with a pale tallow-dip gleam of a faint idea somewhere in them.  So when a real talker lets the full radiance of a whole idea shine on an audience, he is something to be remembered.  This speaker quoted a wonderful poem, by William Herbert Carruth.  I asked him to send it to me, and he did; please note, this busy man, president of a university, and with a thousand things to do, didn't forget the request of a brother he never saw before!"

The Old Tiler put his hand in his pocket and took out a much-thumbed piece of paper.  "Listen, you," he said, "till I read you just one verse of it:"

"A picket frozen on duty;
A mother, starved for her brood;
Socrates' drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight hard pathway plod;
Some call it consecration
And others call it God."

The New Brother said nothing, held silent by the beauty of the lines.

"I am no poet," continued the Old Tiler, "and I know this isn't very fitting, but I wrote something to go with those verses, just to read to brothers like you."  Shyly the Old Tiler continued:

"Many men, banded together
Standing where Hiram stood;
Hand to back of the falling,
Helping in brotherhood. 
Wise man, doctor, lawyer,
Poor man, man of the hod,
Many call it Masonry
And others call it God."

"I don't think it makes much difference what we call it, do you?" asked the New Brother. 

The New Brother sat near the Old Tiler in the anteroom, crossed his legs and took out his cigar case.

"Have a smoke and unpuzzle me."

The Old Tiler accepted the proffered cigar with a smile.

"I am often puzzled, too," he sympathized.  "Tell me."

"I am quite crazy about Masonry.  I love it.  So do a lot of other men.  And I don't know why.  I can't find anyone who will tell me why.  Old Tiler, why do men love Masonry?"

The Old Tiler got up and crossed the room to a bookcase, extracted a volume and returned.

"I read that question in this little book, 'The Magic of Freemasonry,' by Arthur E. Powell.  Let me read to you -- "  The Old Tiler fluttered the pages.  Finding his place he sat and began:

"Why do men love Masonry?  What lure leads them to it?  What spell holds them through the long years?  What strand is it that tugs at our hearts, taut when so many threads are broken by the rough ways of the world?  And what is it in the wild that calls to the little wild things?  What sacred secret things do the mountains whisper to the hillman, so silently yet so surely that they can be heard above the din and clatter of the world?  What mystery does the sea tell the sailor; the desert to the Arab; the arctic ice to the explorer; the stars to the astronomer?  When we have answered these questions mayhap we may divine the magic of Masonry.  Who knows what it is, or how or why, unless it be the long cable tow of God, running from heart to heart.' "

The Old Tiler closed the book and waited.

"The cable tow of God," repeated the New Mason.  "That's a beautiful phrase."

"It's more than a phrase, I think," the Old Tiler answered.  "As I see it, the heart of Freemasonry by which all manner of men are attracted and held, is just that-the longing for communion with the Most High."

"Oh, you must be mistaken.  Men who want God go to church."

"Do you go to church?"

"Er, oh, well, sometimes."

"Yet you never miss coming to lodge."

"No, I don't, but --"

"Never mind the 'but.'"  The Old Tiler smiled:  "A lot of them come to the lodge who do not find heart's case in the church.  The lodge is not a substitute for church.  Masonry is not a religion, although it has religion.  If the church fails, occasionally, it is because all human institutions must fail at times.  No minister or church can satisfy all men.  Some men find communion with the Most High in Masonry a greater satisfaction than in a church.  I think that is the real reason some men love Freemasonry so much."

"You give me credit with being a lot more religious than I do," retorted the New Mason.

"Men are incurably religious," asserted the Old Tiler.  "Many don't know it and refuse to call it by that name, like you, for instance!  In a church, men are told various things about God.  In a lodge they are allowed to tell themselves what they will.  In a church you are taught a creed, a dogma.  In a lodge there is neither.  In a church you are quiet and respectful and whisper if you speak at all.  It is kept high, unspotted from the world.  A lodge is more intimate, personal.  You can be jolly in a lodge, except during a degree.  Here are just other men, brothers.  They think as we do; they believe in the one God, as we do.  They repeat the same words, think the same Masonic thoughts, do the same Masonic acts, as we do.  We feel at home with them in consequence."

"Through years of simple, profound degrees, we weave the Mystic Tie.  We cannot say of what it is composed.  We cannot put a name to it.  St. Augustine, asked of God, answered, 'I know until you ask me-when you ask me, I do not know.'  In your heart you know, and I know, what the Mystic Tie is-what Freemasonry is.  But you cannot say it, nor can I.  It is too deep for words.  It is the reason we use symbols, for words cannot express it."

"Deep in us is something which understands what brains cannot think; something which knows what our minds cannot comprehend.  Masonry speaks to that something in its own language.  If we must put it into words, God is the only syllable which seems to fit.  But when we say God we mean no special deity, but all that is beautiful in life, in friendship, in charity, in brotherhood."

"So, my brother, there is no reason for you to be puzzled; no man can answer your puzzle.  Freemasonry is loved by men because it strikes deep into the human heart, and supplies the answer to the question, the food for the hunger, which the tongue cannot express. . ."

"Unless it is the tongue of a wise, wise Old Tiler," finished the New Brother thoughtfully.  "And thank you.  I am not puzzled now." 

"We ought to revise the ritual. It has so much in it that doesn't apply nowadays. . ."

"I have heard that said about the Bible, too," the Old Tiler interrupted the New Brother.  "What particular part of the ritual do you want changed?"

"Well, for instance, 'and pay the Craft their wages, if any be due.'  That doesn't mean a thing today.  We pay �wages� or dues to the lodge - the lodge doesn't pay us wages of any kind."

"Haven't you been present at a Craft payday yet?  You sure are out of luck," answered the Old Tiler.

"Why, what do you mean?  Have I missed something?"

"If you have been a member of the Craft for six months and haven't received any Masonic wages, you must be among those the fathers of Masonry had in mind when they wrote 'pay the Craft their wages if any be due.'  Evidently no wages are due you, or you would have received them."

"I have been a Mason so long I forget what it's like not to be one.  I receive my Masonic wages regularly, and always have.  Most members of the Craft get their wages regularly.  It's a shame you don't work so that some are due you."

"Masonic wages are paid in many coins.  Last week my son-in-law lost his job through a misunderstanding.  He is not a member of the Craft.  He asked me what I could do.  I told his one-time boss the story as my son-in-law told it to me.  The boss asked me, 'Is this on the square?'  I told him it was."

"'I know you for a true four-square man,' he answered.  'Tell the boy to come back.'"

"Last year Brother Michby, President of the First National, was in the hospital.  I went to see him two or three times.  Michby never had much of an idea about Masonry before he was so ill; he seldom came to lodge.  Now he never misses a meeting.  And he never fails to chat with me going and coming, or when I meet him on the street.  He is one of my wages; a small act of brotherhood brought Michby to appreciate that the lodge wasn�t just words.  I don't know how much good he has done since he has been really interested, but I do know that he lays it all to my visiting him."

"Over my bed is an electric light.  I can read before I go to sleep and reach up and turn it off when I am tired.  Both it and the books I read came from Brother Tome, librarian at the big temple.  Tome heard me trying to explain the meaning of a symbol and asked me if I had ever read Mackey.  It sounds foolish now, but then I hadn�t and I said I had never heard of him.  The light and the books were the answer.  Now I am never without a book of some kind, and it's astonishing, what even in Old Tiler can read if he reads long enough.  Masonic wages, my boy, are worth much fine gold."

"Two years ago my little granddaughter, was all smashed up in a street car accident.  After I got over the first shock I began to wonder what could be done.  It looked like a long illness and a hospital, and nurses and doctors and expenses beyond her father's and my means."

"But I didn't trust the lodge enough.  We have seven doctors on the rolls.  One of the seven was at the hospital every day.  Jim, the florist, kept her room a bower.  Maxie, the preacher, brought a different young girl to see her every other day, until she had a wonderful circle of friends.  Boys I only knew by sight stopped me on the street or came to the house or hospital, and when she was strong again she always said it was as much because of the loving care everybody took of her grandfather's girl as because of the surgeons.  Masonic wages beyond my deserts, boy, but Masonic wages nevertheless"

"I never learned much in the way of a trade or business.  I'll never be much of a financial success.  But is there a man in this town who can call more big business men by their front names than I?  I once thought it was just because I was Tiler.  Now I know it isn't.  Michby and Lawyer Repsold and Doctor Cutter, and Harrison of the big department store have asked me to their homes to chat Masonry.  I've gone as gladly as to the bricklayer arid the crossing policeman and the elevator man.  When men like these tell me I've meant something in their lives that money can't buy, I don't care so much that I never earned much cash."

"Don't revise the ritual.  Masonic wages are those which are paid in love and brotherhood and mutual help and information and inspiration and charity and assistance and being pals.  They are worth much more than money.  Take the Masonic wages out of a lodge and you would need to revise the whole fraternity.  The payment Masons make to Masons is the most valuable which a man can receive.  And you want to revise it out of existence!"

"No, I don't," answered the New Brother.  "Now I'll tell you something.  Brother Maxie, the preacher, told me to say that to you.  He started by telling me how grateful some brother was because I had helped him out of a hole.  Maxie asked me if I'd received any Masonic wages yet.  When I said I hadn't, he said you were paying off and that the way to get mine was to talk to you about the ritual and - I�ve been paid."

"You are a pair of rascals!" growled the Old Tiler, but his eyes looked as if he smiled inside. 

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