Tuesday, May 29, 2007

'We never had any mystic secrets'

Taking advantage of the renewed interest in Freemasonry that Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and upcoming The Solomon Key has inspired, members of Masonic lodges around the world are giving interviews to wide-eyed reporters.

I've read dozens of them.

Without fail the interviews stress the many Masonic good works and charitable acts. Works of kindness and charity are all well and good, but is that all there is to Freemasonry?

Most interviewees say the same thing: "We're not a secret society; we're a society with secrets."

Yesterday I read yet another one of these articles, this one from Ontario, Canada, titled "Masons shed mysterious side." It quoted not just a lodge member or Worshipful Master of a lodge — it featured the "authority" of Ontario's Grand Master M. W. Bro. Gary Atkinson.

The title of the article is rather misleading. Apparently there is no mysterious side of Freemasonry to be shed.

Bro. Atkinson laughed in response to a question, and said, "We have never had any mystic secrets."

Is he misinformed, or am I? If he's right, what's with all the "hidden arts, parts and points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry" I swore not to reveal? Is there no mystical secret we're supposed to seek through Freemasonry?

The article calls Freemasonry "a men's social club....," adding that "the Masons also bill themselves as a group through which men can grow as people."

Is that all we are? A Lion's Club with aprons instead of yellow vests?

This dumbing down of Freemasonry to increase membership and "improve the public's perception" of Freemasonry is going to backfire, just as surely as did the Scottish Rite's attempt to attract members by sponsoring a NASCAR team earlier this year.

Men aren't going to swarm towards Masonry so they can be charitable. They aren't going to give up their leisure time to attend lodge meetings and learn the rituals just so they can drop a few dollars in the penny box to feel good about themselves.

The men attracted today to Freemasonry are being driven by a sense of adventure, a desire for something deep and meaningful in their lives, not to sponsor Little League teams or be a part of a "men's social club."

What will they find when they join? How long will they stay around for W. Bro. Atkinson's "receptions and workshops for members, informing them about programs the Masons are involved with"? Today's seeker isn't seeking gold chains and meaningless titles and award plaques.

Image: "The Charity," an oil painting on canvas by Bartolomeo Schedoni, 1611, from the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

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13 comments:

  1. Really?
    Are you sure about your idea of Freemasonry, WS?

    If all our leaders at the Grand level keep spewing this mantra, it must be true. Who would KNOW more about the fraternity, Grand Poohbahs who have elevated to Grand titles for loyalty and time invested into the frat, or genuine men who want to pursue the history of our frat and try to resurrect the mood of th e1700's that inspired the greatest minds alive to "want" to be apart of this group?

    I'm sure if Franklin and Voltaire just wanted a social engangement to shoot the sh*t, they never would have joined freemasonry or Franklin would not have taken a stand to not be part of the "Antient" Grand Lodge system if Freemasonry was to be just a social group.

    The mysteries of Freemasonry are trying to remain buried by our uninformed leaders as to the "TRUE" meaning and purpose of Freemasonry.
    Sad....

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  2. Can't help but disagree with the GM.

    But then, is it the same secret for all of us?

    I see nothing wrong with promoting the esoteric side of the work.

    TM

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  3. i have to agree. while charity is certainly a noble cause, it is only a byproduct of masonry - yet it seems charity has been given emphasis in nearly every description of masonry ive come across

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  4. The way I see it, the greatest and truest of Masonic secrets are not the ritual, signs, grips or words that may be described, printed, or given. The greatest Masonic secrets are the Signs of Friendship, the Grips of Fellowship, and the Words of Brotherly Love that cannot be spoken, shown, or given, but must be felt by the heart from one Brother to another.

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  5. The article calls Freemasonry "a men's social club....," adding that "the Masons also bill themselves as a group through which men can grow as people."

    I'm with Bro. Josh on this. I think that what we are seeing is part of the PC-ish frenzy that hit the Grand Lodges in the last decade. To me, it's part of that paranoia about public relations that has made us in Conn change our phone book listings from Masonic Temple to Masonic Lodge. Can't risk freaking out the profanes, you know.

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  6. From what I've heard, it's one of the Grand Masters who believes that freemasonry is only a social club and is blind to the rest...

    Thing is, maybe that's what the previous generation of masons was looking for, but it's not what the new guys want.

    We want those hidden mysteries and are deeply interested in the esoteric work. Well, most of us are anyway...

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  7. I agree with Anonymous above. The previous generation are undenialby the conservative, safety seeking generation. The new generation want adventure, mysteries, esoteric and powerful philosophies. Charity is just a small bonus.
    Plus we have to ask ourselves.. Whatever happened to teh backbone of the Craft? From boasting about being full of secrets even while fighting off critics, to changing rituals, words and the shruggging off of the 'mysterious' side of Freemasonry due to the paranoia of crackhead conspiracy theorists. This is becoming too pathetic. I know the new generation wont stand for this attitude so lets hope we can change this as fast as we can... if we can.

    85e

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  8. > > The new generation want[s] adventure, mysteries, esoteric and powerful philosophies.

    If so, the "new generation" of Masons is going to be sadly disappointed.

    If there's a trait that's common to all mankind, it's curiosity. Early "speculative" Masons realized that, and took advantage of it. By implying that Masons knew things other people didn't, they aroused the curiosity of non Masons, who were induced to join in order to find out the "mysteries" for themselves.

    It reminds me of an old circus sideshow ruse. A closely guarded tent with the words "Man eating Chicken" emblazoned on it, was located in a prominent place along the promenade. Outside, the barker would say all sorts of things to arouse the curiosity of onlookers: "Most horrible thing you've ever seen," "grown men run away in fear," etc. When a sucker finally ponied up the admission fee, he was allowed to enter the tent where he saw a man seated at a table, eating from a plate of chicken -- a "Man eating chicken."

    Understandably, a few who felt cheated would want their money back, but the greater majority would want to make their friends feel as stupid as they did. They'd tell them anything to get them to waste their money too, and see a sight that can be seen in any restaurant, on any night of the week.

    Freemasonry is no different. If Masons really had any "valuable secrets," why haven't they used them? Like psychics who sell lottery numbers to their customers, if they really had the power to pick the right lottery numbers, why wouldn't they use them to win the lottery themselves, rather than selling their "valuable numbers" to their customers?

    Show me an example of a Mason who's hundreds of years old, and has obviously learned the secret of extended life. Show me a Mason who's at the top of his profession, or the top of his business world. Is Bill Gates a Mason? Is Warren Buffet a Mason? Is Donald Trump a Mason? Is Oprah Winfrey a Mason? No! But if Masons really knew any "valuable secrets" and the answers to the "mysteries" of life, how come none of them developed the "Windows" operating system, or became international superstars?

    Sure, there ARE some famous Masons, but not in disportionate percentages to the number of Masons in the population. If 5% of the adult men in society are Masons, and 5% of the business and financial leaders are Masons, the fraternity has had no influence; their representation is the same in leadership circles as it is in the population at large. If Masons composed 50% of the leaders in US society, or business, etc., THAT would be a reason to believe they might have learned things other people haven't, but it isn't the case in real life.

    The Grand Master in Ontario was perfectly candid and honest when he admitted that Masons never had any "mystic secrets." They don't know how the pyramids were built, how Stonehenge was erected, whether or not the Shroud of Turin was really the burial cloth of Jesus, and they certainly don't know the "secret" to extended life. Truth be told, most Masons don't even know the names of their own lodge officers, or what they're having for dinner at their next lodge meeting.

    I understand the appeal of the "quest," but Freemasonry isn't going to provide any answers to any of the profound "mysteries" of life. The whole organization is set up like an onion, with layers inside other layers, but at the center, it's still just an onion, and no one is ever going to find a diamond in the center of an onion.

    The best anyone can hope to find in Masonry is friendship, but equivalent friendships can be formed in any church, any branch of the military, any other fraternal organization, any athletic team, any deer camp, any duck lodge, or any country club. There are some good people in Masonry, but no more than can be found anywhere else one's willing to search for true and lasting friendship.

    Masons are not saving souls, curing cancer, or taking over the world; they're just guys who like to get out of the house for a while, and enjoy each other's company. That isn't a "bad" think, but it isn't necessarily a "profound" one either.

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  9. It might be the case today that only "5%" of successful or influential are Masons -according to Anon. But this doesnt seem to be the case 100 or so years ago, when Freemasonry consisted the Elite.
    And maybe that is what the problem is today. The fact that somewhere along the way things were changed, held back, forgotten or even kept secret which turned Freemasonry into the "social club"for men we see today.
    And this is possibly what the two Anon's above are referring to when they claim the new gen. are in persuit to bring the old mood back ?

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  10. if this is simply a "boys club", i want out.

    but i know for a fact from my own lodge (and mother lodge at that) that this is just a load of crap.

    theres more mysticism and esotericism in freemasonry than this "GM" is obviously aware.

    how disheartening.

    as a young freemason (im 25) i hope for nothing but a fresh, progressive future for freemasonry.

    but i WILL NOT ignore the obvious mysticism in the craft just to grab new members or to "assure" the wider community that freemasonry has something to "hide".

    we have nothing to hide - yet i see no reason to divulge the secrets.

    hell, didnt i take an oath?

    peace and blessed be,

    c z . . .

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  11. Nicely put CZ,
    Let's hope the usual trickling down of faulty Americanisms into Australia excludes the world of Masonry. Or else we will be asking ourselves if we are part of a 'boys club' heading no where.

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  12. Anonymous writes:

    > It might be the case today that only "5%" of successful or influential are Masons -according to Anon. But this doesnt seem to be the case 100 or so years ago, when Freemasonry consisted the Elite.

    100 years ago, there were fewer people and more Masons in the US, which translates to the fact that Masons made up a higher percentage of the overall population. At one time, it's claimed that about 20% of the white adult male population of the US were Masons.

    But really, it becomes a "chicken and egg" question. Did successful men ordinarily become Masons, or did Masonry help ordinary men become successful? It's probably a little of both, but mostly the former.

    Masons have always "favored" other Masons, and helped each other with promotions and politics, but that accounts for only a small portion of their overall success. The greater truth is that most Masons of the past were highly successful before they joined the lodge, and their success is actually what allowed them to gain admission.

    Masonic lodges 100 years ago, wouldn't have accepted 90% of the people who apply for membership today. Back then, there were actually more members of the Odd Fellows than there were Masons, and other fraternities like the Knights of Pythias, the Grange, and the Woodmen of the World, enjoyed similar numbers.

    During the "golden age" of fraternal organizations, probably 80% of all adult men in the US joined a "club" of some sort. With so many applicants, all lodges could afford to be a lot more selective, and Masonry was at the top of the social ladder.

    In a typical American town a century ago, the Mayor was probably a Mason, as was the Superintendent of Schools, the President of the bank, the doctor, the druggist, the Chief of Police, the owners of mercantiles and manufacturing concerns, etc. Male teachers, bank and postal clerks, business managers, etc., were more likely to be accepted by the Odd Fellows, the Woodmen of the World, or some other "second class" fraternity.

    Masonry was the "elite" gentleman's organization at a time when ordinary men stood a better chance of getting accepted into other fraternities. As interest in all fraternities waned, however, the decline hit the "lower class" lodges hardest. The few men who still wanted to join lodges, realized they had a better chance of being accepted in Masonry than ever before, and that's where they applied. By then, even Masonic lodges were taking virtually all applicants, and a lot of the "lower class" lodges simply went out of business.

    Today, Masons are rightfully proud of "their heritage," but the majority don't realize they wouldn't have made the cut as Masons during the time Masonry was populated by Roosevelts and Astors.

    It was a different fraternity back then; Masonic leaders weren't out to "prove anything" through Masonry, because they'd already proven themselves in the real world. They didn't have to stab and claw their way to the top, because they were already successful in their own right, and were comfortable with their stations in life.

    The unfortunate truth is that today, the majority of Masonic "leaders" have little leadership ability, and in most cases, no leadership experience. They view the lodge as their chance to be a "somebody," rather than the "nobody" they are in the real world, and they'll step over their dead mother's body to get ahead.

    Needless to say, such situations don't present the best prospects for a bright future, but by and large, that's what's going on in American Masonry today. I don't think it's a "secret" to most of the men involved in it, but they probably hope it is to the rest of the world.

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  13. "Needless to say, such situations don't present the best prospects for a bright future, but by and large, that's what's going on in American Masonry today. I don't think it's a "secret" to most of the men involved in it, but they probably hope it is to the rest of the world. "

    I wonder if this is the same around thw world. We seem to hear about American Freemasnry's decline a lot, what about British,European,Australian, Asian, etc. Not many of these members seem to be crying foul.. .Do you think it would differ in different cultures?
    Can anyone input some ideas, I'm really intrigued.
    -EF

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