Old Tiler Talks

The Old Tilers talks first published in 1925, by Carl Claudy, is a series of short anecdotal stories told in the setting of a new member asking an old tiler for his opinion on various masonic topics. These short articles are still very relevant, 100 years on, and hopefully provide some insight to new members today. 

The New Brother leaned against the wall near the Old Tiler and lighted a cigar. “We would do more good in the world if we advertised ourselves more,” he said.

“Why?” asked the Old Tiler.

“So that those not members of the fraternity would know more about our work.”

“Why should they?”

“The more people know about us, the more regard they have for us, the more men would want to be Masons, the larger we would grow, and so the more powerful we would be!” answered the New Brother.

“You would advertise us until all men became Masons?”

“Well- er- I don’t know about all men; but certainly until most men applied.”

“If all men were Masons at heart there would be no need for Masonry,” answered the Old Tiler. “But not all who call themselves Master Masons are real Masons. What we need to do is advertise ourselves to our brethren.”

“But we know all about Masonry,” protested the New Brother, “the world at large does not.”

“Oh, no, we don’t know all about Masonry!” cried the Old Tiler. “Even the best-informed don’t know all about Masonry. The best-informed electricians do not know all about electricity; the best-informed astronomers do not know all about astronomy; the best-informed geologists do not know all about geology. We have much to learn.”

“But electricity and astronomy and geology are sciences. Masonry is- is- well, Masonry was made by men, and so men must know all about it.”

“Can a man make something greater than himself?” countered the Old Tiler.

“Our ears hear sounds- translate vibrations of air or other material to our brains- as noise or music.

But the ear is limited; we do not hear all the sounds in nature; some animals and insects hear noises we cannot hear.

We have eyes, yet these imperfect instruments turn into color and light but a tiny proportion of light waves.

Scientific instruments recognize vibrations which physical senses take no account of- radio and x-ray for instance.

Yet our whole conception of the universe is founded on what we see and hear.

Very likely the universe is entirely different from what we think. The ant’s tiny world is a hill; he has no knowledge of the size of the country in which is his home, let alone the size or shape of the world.

A dog’s world is the city where he lives; not for him is the ocean or the continent or the world.

The stars and the moon and the sun are to him but shining points. Our world is bigger; we see a universe through a telescope, but we can but speculate as to its extent or what is beyond the narrow confines of our instruments.

“Masonry is like that. Our hearts understand a certain kind of love. Prate as we will about brotherhood of man and Fatherhood of God, we yet compare the one to the love of two blood-brothers and the second to our feelings for our children. We measure both by the measuring rods we have.

“Real brotherhood and real Fatherhood of God may be grander, broader, deeper, wider, than we know. Masonry contains the thought; our brains have a limited comprehension of it. If this be so then we know little about Masonry, and what even the most learned of us think is probably far short of reality.”

“All that may be so,” answered the New Brother, “and it is a most interesting idea; but what has it to do with advertising to the profane?”

“Does a scientist make any progress by advertising his science?” countered the Old Tiler.

“Will a geometrician discover a new principle by advertising for more students? Will the astronomer discover a new sun by running placards in the newspapers? Will a geologist discover the mystery of the earth’s interior by admitting more members to the geological society?

“Masonry needs no advertising to the profane, but advertising to its own members. I use the word in your sense, but I do not mean publicity.

Masons need to be taught to extent Masonry’s influence over men’s hearts and minds. We do not need more material to work with, but better work on the half worked material we already have.”

“Masonry is humble and secret; not for her the blare of trumpets and the scare head of publicity.

To make it other than what it is would rob it of its character.

To study, reflect, and labor in it is to be a scientist in Masonry, discovering constantly something new and better that it be more effective on those who embrace its gentle teachings and its mysterious power.”

“Oh, all right!” smiled the New Brother. “I won’t put it in the paper tomorrow. Old Tiler, where did you learn so much?”

“I didn’t,” smiled the Old Tiler. I know very little. But that little I learned by keeping an open mind and heart- which was taught me by-“

“By your teachers in school?”

“No, my son,” answered the Old Tiler, gravely, “by Masonry.”

Article by: Carl H. Claudy

Carl Harry Claudy (1879 – 1957) was an American author, magazine writer, and journalist for the New York Herald.

His association with Freemasonry began in 1908, when, at the age of 29, he was raised a master Mason in lodge Harmony No. 17 in Washington, DC. He served as its master in 1932 and eventually served as Grand Master of Masons in the District of Colombia in 1943.

His Masonic writing career began in earnest when he became associated with the Masonic service Association in 1923, serving as associate editor of its magazine, The master mason, until 1931.

Under his leadership the service Association was brought to a place of predominance through his authorship and distribution of the short talk bulletin which made his name familiar to virtually every lodge in the country.

Old Tiler talks (Paperback)

By: C. H Claudy (Author)


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