R. W. Bro. Thomas W. Jackson
Executive Secretary of the World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges
My brothers, we have come to the closing of the XIII World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges. It also is the end of my 16 years as Executive Secretary. It has been a challenging and stimulating experience. Its greatest reward for me has been the opportunity to expand the horizons of many Masonic leaders in much of the world along with the number of impressive friends I have made during that period of time.
I wish to express my most sincere appreciation to all of those Masonic brothers who have contributed to this experience. It has not been an easy trip, and frankly I am not sure that I would want to repeat it, but I leave with no regrets for having made it.
Sixteen years ago, I was elected to the position. I did not seek it nor did I even want it. Indeed, the morning following the election a Grand Master objected to my election, stating that a sitting Grand Secretary would not be able to give the time necessary to fill the position. I volunteered at that time, to let anyone who wanted the position, have it. When a second vote was called for and cast, I was unanimously elected.
When I was elected, I had been a member of the craft for 38 years and was serving my 19th year as Grand Secretary of the largest Grand Lodge in North America. I had presided over 13 Masonic bodies, had written over 120 reviews of Masonic books, had spoken to over 200 Masonic bodies and had many published papers on Freemasonry. What I learned in a very short time is how little I truly understood about Freemasonry.
After serving 16 years as Executive Secretary, I now have been a member for over 52 years, completed 20 years as Grand Secretary, and 2 years as Grand Secretary for Foreign Relations, presided over 16 Masonic bodies, have written reviews of almost 300 Masonic books, have spoken 400 to 500 times, to both Masonic and non-Masonic audiences and have had many more papers published on Freemasonry. I serve on numerous boards of directors and/or advisors for Masonic organizations. In addition, I have had the privilege of traveling and speaking in over 30 countries, have met with many government officials and have responded to numerous requests for TV, radio and press interviews or appearances. What I know now, my brothers, is that I continue to remain a neophyte in the total knowledge available concerning this craft.
I am not sure that anyone inside or outside of Freemasonry comprehends the full impact this organization has had on the development of civil societies through three centuries by the influence it had on the individual brother.
Freemasons can and should be justifiably proud of what our brothers who have preceded us accomplished, but we must limit placing our emphasis on past accomplishments for it is seriously curtailing our potential for influencing society in the future. We must concentrate on the present for it will prepare our future and that is where we will all spend the rest of our lives.
At the risk of sounding repetitious, permit me to reiterate the cautions regarding our future that some of you have heard me express in the past.
Whereas our greatest challenges that we faced in the past have been from outside the craft and principally found within oppressive government and religious leaders with the desire to either restrict or exterminate those who did not fully support their way of thinking. This is not the greatest challenge that we will face in the future. Indeed, it's not the greatest challenge we face today. Our greatest challenge to our survival is not external to the craft today, it is an internal challenge. It is a challenge existing due to the lack of knowledge and within the inflated egos of some of the leaders of the Craft.
My brothers, in spite of how great we may think we are, we must comprehend that most of us will leave no great mark on this world. Indeed, many of us will not even leave evidence that we were here. One of the greatest attributes to be found within the character of many of the greatest men who have passed through this world, has been the humility they displayed, not the greatness a proclaimed.
I became Grand Secretary in 1979 and have watched with great alarm the decrease in the quality of our membership in parts of the world, which out of necessity, resulted in the decrease in the quality of the leadership. At the same time, I have observed an increase in egos, which is inverse to the quality of the member. Schism's within grand lodge operations have been the concomitant result.
Leaders of organizations appendant to Freemasonry are increasingly creating dissension within the ranks of our fraternity, both in newly consecrated and long-established grand lodges. They are greatly interfering with the potential success that characterized the craft of the past in influencing the evolution of society. Let us never forget no matter how high the degree number, there is no higher degree than the third, that of Master Mason.
The expansion of irregular and/or unrecognized forms of Freemasonry and our willingness, through ignorance, to recognize and accept it, is undermining the visible image that we try to project to society. Most of these forms of Freemasonry are not restricted by the protocols which we accept nor do we want displayed to society.
My brothers, I have been emphasizing these concerns at our World Conferences for years. However, the liberal thinking of far too many of our under-qualified young brothers along with the pressures of today's political correctness attitude , coupled with the lack of knowledge of much of our leadership is a serious threat that we cannot continue to ignore.
In my second year as Grand Secretary, I wrote a little prayer that said simply, "Dear God, let me never forget where I came from and let me know when to quit." I trust I have succeeded in the first part, and I hope I have not remained beyond the second.
If I have accomplished nothing more in these past 16 years, I hope that I have struck a chord in your psyche and stimulated your thinking to contribute to the preservation of Freemasonry for the next three centuries.
I again express my very sincere thanks for granting me the opportunity to serve the Craft. It has been a privilege.