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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