Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An old man's doughnut and coffee club

Brother Greg over at Masonic Traveler blog wrote recently of a Masonic statue atop what is now a bank building. He touched on how our heritage, the work of many Masons who preceded us, is being junked or sold off, and how the Fraternity itself is shrinking.

I left the following comment on his blog, and thought I'd share it here, too.

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I'm afraid with Masonry, more and more is going to slip away. Mainstream Masonry has many problems these days, as I'm sure you know.

We're daily trashed by wacko and rabid anti-Masons and conspiracy nuts, plus we've done quite a bit of damage to ourselves, having become in many places nothing much more than an "old men's doughnut and coffee club."

Young men have in general avoided becoming Masons, or fled soon after being Raised, having found nothing in the fraternity to hold their interest. Educated and professional men not only find nothing to interest them, they're often shunned by those less educated brothers who feel threatened by New Thought.

Inside the fraternity, the study of esoterica has been frowned upon. Focus is placed on learning and reciting ritual without attempting to understand its meaning, holding charity events, and slapping each other on the back.

Freemasonry is indeed at a crossroads; perhaps not the first one, but a crossroads nonetheless. Decisions made today, by each of us, will affect whether Freemasonry thrives or dies in the 21st Century.

Widow's Son
The Burning Taper


  1. You are absolutely correct. However, I don't think it is realistic to expect to ever see Freemasonry reach as deeply into society as it did between the 1920's and 1950's.

    Back then fraternal life was completely interwoven throughout American culture. Today? Not so much.

    Sometimes it is best not to discuss the issue as being ‘about Freemasonry' but rather as being about culture as a whole.

    It's not just Freemason lodges that are meeting the wrecking ball. Many other institutions are as well, not the least of which is the 'general store'. The Masons used to be the bulwark of a community. It was comprised of the best and brightest, and members of society strived to be accepted into the order.

    Now, we have bull-dozed the buildings, sold them out to Walmart and, in so doing, have lost the culture that we once had.

    No, I do not think Freemasonry is ever going to be what it once was because I don't think we can resurrect the society we once had.

    Our society is something new now. And, the new Masons are not joining for the reasons the old Masons did.

    The old Masons, God love them, are all going to be gone in twenty years. What will Freemasonry evolve into in that time frame?

    Something different I believe; something good.

    So long as we always keep the ritual intact, our one stable force, I think we will be fine.

    I do not believe Freemasonry 'has to be' as big as it once was. I don't really think it is about quantity as much as it is about quality. Sure, it is sad when these great buildings are lost. However, why are just we fighting for those buildings? Where is the rest of the community? Where is the historical preservation society and others championing these great monuments?

    I suppose they are all working, playing video games, or selling out so corporations can take the land.

    In our state we have an option where a brother can pay for an endowment membership. He pays $500, which goes into a trust, and his annual dues are drawn from the interest bearing account. Of course this doesn't nearly cover what the full cost of his normal dues would be; that is, at least, while he is alive. What is promising is when you realize that his dues will be paid to that lodge *forever* even after he is gone. If every single Mason in America became an endowed member, then there would not need to be nearly such anxiety about fluctuations in annual membership. I have seen a number of institutions preserved simply because someone left a large trust in their will. When you have enough Masons leaving an endowment as part of their last will and testament, I believe we can go a long way towards preserving our temples.

    I have this suspicion that Freemasonry will become a 'fad' in the next few years. I think we are ripe for it to happen again as it has in the past. Please do remember that Freemasonry was a 'fad' back in the 50's. Members joined for all kinds of reasons that had nothing to do with esoterica.

    I believe it will become a fad for an accumulation of the following reasons:

    * Public awareness is being raised dramatically but certain books and movies.

    * A substantial percentage of human beings will always be 'seekers of spiritual truth' by nature and will not be satisfied with the pre-packaged answers provided by certain religious institutions. Some will go to the East but some will be drawn to the West.

    * Freemasonry still simply 'works'. As more of the old guys leave and more of the young guys breathe new life into the institution it will spread from there. As new members gain more power in the institution they can shake off the cobwebs and start new, thus attracting new members to the craft. (I don’t mean to sound critical of the senior Masons; especially since everyone I have met in all of my lodges has been incredible and are great friends. However, I have heard that this is not necessarily the rule everywhere.)

    At least these are my rambling thoughts this fine morning.

    Brother John

  2. In Wisconsin, we're seeing a resurgence of Freemasonry. My thought is this:

    As times get harder, you'll start to see men of like mind band together. Men who want virtue without religion, who want to know that the men they support will also support them, will join. Others will not, or will leave.

    Freemasonry is always strongest when times are hardest, and most flashy when times are good.


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