Disillusionment with Freemasonry

The following was shared with me with much trepidation and concern over its reaction. Ironically, I’ve heard these same words from others in recent months, and it struck me that they were not isolated or merely dissident voices in the wilderness – rather that they were a real malaise that is overtaking the once previously engaged.  Disenchantment, disenfranchisement, disappointment, no matter what bucket you quantify it into, I am hearing about these feelings more and more.

Always looking for the silver lining, this would be a good jump off point to explore the sentiment as we proceed to get at its roots.  Do you share this same feeling?

Disillusionment with Freemasonry
Anonymous

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After serving the fraternity for over ten years now, I’ve stopped to look back as to what I accomplished and how Freemasonry has changed.  I’ve been through the chairs and served my Lodge faithfully, participating in several work parties, fund raisers, and other events.  I’ve been found proficient in degree work and recognized for work in Masonic Education.  I have also participated in several district and state level functions.  Thanks to the Internet, I have corresponded with Masons from around the world, listening to their problems as well as their advice. Whenever a Brother asked for help, whether near or far, I leant a helping hand.  My Masonic knowledge and experience led me into a position where I was frequently consulted for advice and leadership.  It also led me into petty politics where I was confronted by those jealous of my notoriety and stubbornly undermined any effort to upgrade the Lodge and fraternity.  I now look back and ask, “Did I make a difference?  Is the fraternity or Lodge better off than when I was first initiated?” I have slowly come to the realization that the answer is “No.”

I think the reason for this is because I suffered from a false perception of what Freemasonry was all about.  As I entered the fraternity, I was under the impression that a True Mason was a man of character, integrity, honor, who possessed an intellectual curiosity about life, a person whose word is his bond.  In other words, I perceived Masons as the bedrock of society.

Unfortunately, this is not what I discovered.  I have traveled around quite a bit and met many Masons, most of whom are not of this stereotype.  In fact, I would estimate less than 1% of our total membership can be characterized in this manner.  And therein is where the bubble burst for me.

With the exception of those Brothers attempting to establish Traditional Observance (TO) Lodges, I have learned the vast majority of Masons are not serious people.  They are more concerned with slapping backs as opposed to doing anything of substance.  A lot of Masons will scratch and claw just to get their next apron or title.  I tend to believe this is because they never did anything noteworthy in their professional careers and crave attention.  In other words, they are trying to build their self-esteem at the cost of their Lodge, a sort of “While Nero fiddled Rome burned” phenomenon.  I guess this is why I find it amusing to hear conspiracy theorists try to warn the public of how Freemasonry is trying to dominate the world.  Too funny.

The fraternity is dying and nobody is doing anything about it, least of all at the Grand Lodge level.  Freemasonry is an institution who stubbornly clings to the past and resists any attempts to change and modernize.  It is decaying before our very eyes.

Disillusionment comes when expectations are not met, when beliefs are not realized. Disillusionment leads to frustration which often leads to anger.  At some point though, you have to deal with it.  As I see it, there are only a few options available:

  1. Stay and passively accept the status quo – representing total surrender.
  2. Stay and continue to try and change the system internally – impossible due to the political stranglehold Grand Lodges hold over the fraternity.
  3. Take a leave of absence – whereby the problems will still be waiting for you when you return.
  4. Resign and start a new strain of Freemasonry – which is very tempting but difficult to do on a large scale.
  5. Resign, lick your wounds and move along with your life.

This last option, unfortunately, is what many men opt to do as opposed to fighting the powers that be.

US Masonic membershipConsider for example our free-falling decline in membership.  Aside from death and transfers, think about those members suspended for nonpayment of dues which in some grand jurisdictions is on the rise.  One cannot help but ask why this is occurring. Because of the economy?  Perhaps.  More likely they are not getting anything meaningful out of Freemasonry.  Even when Grand Masters offer amnesty programs to encourage members to return to the flock, very few do.

Those men who would normally take an active role in Masonry are being driven away in droves due to complacency, apathy, and politics, three ugly words that unfortunately characterize Freemasonry today and causes disillusionment.

Freemasonry has become more of a philanthropy than a fraternity, a political playhouse as opposed to a true brotherhood.  It is sad to see a once noble institution crumble before our eyes into an irrelevant institution.

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts below.

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About Greg Stewart

An artist by nature and vocation, Greg pursued the sublime degrees of Freemasonry in 1994. A 3rd degree Master and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, Greg is the author of the ebook What is Freemasonry and the print book Masonic Traveler.

Read more about Greg Stewart.

Comments

  1. Richard D. Little says:

    An interesting article that should be read and considered. It is unfortunate that some feel this way. Although, there are some that fall into the categories described, there are many who have not only studied Masonry but, all of the other mysteries of the original mystery schools. Even if you cannot get the support of your Lodge for e…ndeavor’s of worthiness, or studies that most masons have never considered, you can put your best foot forward. And, do whatever it is you like to support a worthy cause. Being a Mason is more than any one man, jurisdiction, Lodge, or Grand Lodge can determine. It is up to the Man to make the difference, not just the fraternity. Maybe one day the elders of Lodges around the world will realize that times have changed, and as much as they want to ignore what is happening, they will allow the one’s with great inclination’s and idea’s to bring the fraternity into this new age of men.(I posted this on Facebook as well)

  2. Keep the faith, brother. Such is the failure of humans, not Freemasonry. I believe that there is a bigger silent majority of Masons who apply Freemasonry in their lives, and these are not necessarily the same people you see at the lodge or on online forums.

    Aude, vide, tace,

    TJ

  3. Dictionary.com gives us the definition of the word obligation as:
    1.something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law, etc.
    2.something that is done or is to be done for such reasons: to fulfill one’s obligations.
    3.a binding promise, contract, sense of duty, etc.
    4.the act of binding or obliging oneself by a promise, contract, etc.

    In this note i shall talk about fraternal obligations more especially those masonic obligations which all members of our gentle craft are a costumed to. so let me break this down. you go into court for one reason or another to testify and must raise your right hand and swear or obligate yourself to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. the same here in masonry when a man places his hand/s on the Holy Bible in like fashion and promise certain things, such as to remain a peaceful citizen in the country to which the man lives under certain penalties (like suspension or expulsion). when going into the military service, personnel take an oath of allegiance or an obligation under pain of treason, or something to that affect.

    But from the very beginning in Masonry we have had our bad apples. their have been exposes which if it were not for we would have no clue as to the make up of work before the time of the printing press. but there are those who for unknown reasons are prompted by a high respect of the institution in order to better themselves to petition for membership with a masonic lodge. they usually take 1 or 2 degrees and decide it is not for them or they don’t have time, others take the third degree and later claim to be a born again Christian and claim to expose all the masonic secrets. these people have broken an obligation or two or three.

    Then there are men who become masons that originally had good intentions that later use the networking of masonry to for gain or personal profit and to exploit their own deeds. these people again have broken obligations.

    With all that said i am writing this now because i have heard to many people crying foul and a mason is caught up in the mix. now i’m not defending the one’s who have done wrong no no. i have taken an obligation to protect the innocent and defend the weak and weary. if i see a brother doing wrong i perform my brotherly duty to tell him “hey that ain’t right” and hope that he changes his course. i hate to see men suspended or expelled from masonry for bad conduct because that only looks bad on our investigation committes who i have to question myself…..are we doing enough looking at each of the candidates who petition for membership? Are we just flinging open the west gate just for new members? some lodges are lucky to see the three degree put on for one cadidate in a year, other lodges can’t get a break from all the degree work that needs to be done since so many members are joining. i myself am a member of one of said lodges, we are the busiest in the district. with an estimated membership of 400. i wish there were more TO lodges. and just last year my GL chartered one. but with it 250 miles away and only meeting quarterly i am unable to participate, but i do admire the TO lodges.

    From my very early childhood in Boy Scouts and Taekwondo we had obligations to live up too. and i still take them seriously. Then i joined the Order of DeMolay in which i took upon myself more obligations only this time i learned the lesson of secrecy in my obligations. when i turned 21 I solicited the lodge for membership out of inspiration from the good men in my life who were all masons. so yes about 99.99% of masons out there are trying to better themselves everyday. the other .01% are rotten apples that will be dealt with one day by the Supreme Judge.

    I love my family, my friends and i love the masonic lodge just the same but as in every organization it has it’s bad apples. That is why i live my life the way i do, to show the world around me that light still emanates from on high. Also there are still those who choose to walk the path of Knightly Virtues like me and we are not a dying breed.
    “For God, For Country, For Masonry”

  4. Mathew J. Smith says:

    From what I hear (and I think it makes sense,) is that after World War II, men got out of the military and were looking for something to rekindle that brotherly love that they built up in the military. They found a place for this in Masonry as well as a place to go to socialize, relax, and get out of the house.

    Then, their kids, the kids of messed up men left over from the war, overly strict fathers adjusted to the military way of doing things and kids who couldn’t relate to their fathers social activities as well as many more who fell in line with the whole peace movement of the 60’s were not only disinterested, but didn’t really want much to do with what their fathers were doing and I think this was the balancing of the huge influx that the post-war era gave to Freemasonry.

    I think the cost of that generation of disinterest left a lot of people in the 80’s and onward no visible trace of what Masonry was, and the “ASK12B1″ requirement and the restriction on inviting people kind of bit Masonry in the ass.

    Then came the 90’s. Then came the internet, then came cell phones. What was Masonry about in the post war era? If I had to guess, and that’s really all I am going off of, I would say that brotherhood, socializing and a retreat from family life would have been pretty big hits for Masonry.

    With the internet, who needs to leave the house for Masonry? With cell phones, who needs to wait until the next stated meeting to ask questions or get in touch? Everything is mobile, instant, and at your fingertips.

    So Masonry’s strengths in it’s prime are no longer needed. And it’s dying gracefully much like church is.

    So what can we do? I think all the turmoil in the past, the science, the invention and discovery have all mad it pretty easy to disregard the idea of God and spirituality. I think this is what is killing churches all by itself, but I think that the fact that there is this void at all leave the door open for Masonry to take advantage of the centuries of spiritual literature and theology that have been written in it’s name and rediscover itself as something of spiritual value, for those interested in digging deeper than others when it comes to the origins of theology and alternate avenues.

    Everyone wants to be different now, and a lot of people want to believe in God, but find themselves agnostic and refusing to believe in the mainstream ideals of God for various reasons. I think Masonry could offer these people something to prop them up and introduce them to new ideas. A lot of people think Masonry is all about enlightenment, but in this day, most lodges would be a disappointed when they find out its just some play acting and paying of the bills.

    When I was made a Mason, when I proved my proficiency on the third degree, I was given my apron, which was folded in half, with a giant nasty cracking crease in the middle, the “Raised” date had the wrong year on it and a pat on the back. Then it was business as usual. If I hadn’t done a lot of research into Masonry before becoming a Mason, I would have been pretty let down. Given what I’ve seen from other Lodges, we slack on that part. Other Lodges give lapel pins, containers for their aprons, dont damage the apron (It’s supposed to be important right??), certificates (Some excellent ones can be found on ebay) and various other things. These kind of things don’t cost much, but they show enthusiasm on the part of the Masons receiving the new Master Mason, it give Masonry a perceived value. It makes the Master Mason proud of what he has achieved, as opposed to an anti-climactic congratulations.

    And speaking of perceived value, I was at fourth lecture a while back with Holbrook and we were talking about Lodge dues. I have a friend who wants to join Masonry and he was concerned about weather or not he could afford it. I had the same concern when I was considering applying and then I found out how cheap it was. I was glad it was so affordable, but given the cost of other things, like cable TV, Netflix, one dinner, ext. Masonry is dirt cheap. I understand that the bulk of membership is older men at this point on fixed incomes and any hoke in the price could be disastrous to them, but if we found a way to fix the older generations cost some how and upped the dues for new members and those who can afford it somehow, I think the perceived value of Masonry will be a bit higher. It will have a bit more respect, and the fees would be looked at as an investment.

    There are Loges in Germany that cost as much as a thousand Euros for application and then a thousand Euros per year after that. Those Lodges are thriving right now, not dying.

    I wouldn’t say charge THAT much, but I think Masonry would benefit if it cleaned itself up and took some pride in itself and made people earn the privilege of being a Mason rather than hoping something happens to save it from the outside.

    Dan Brown just released The Lost Symbol not too long ago and from everything Ive seen reporting on the effects, a LOT of people discovered Masonry through that book and came to the Lodge doors wanting to be a part of it. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly what Masonry is. I hear Esoterica Lodge could be what they’re looking for, but how many other Lodges support this kind of thought?

  5. I’ve been in Freemasonry for about three years. I found out early on that I should not rely on it for all my esoteric / spiritual needs as it fails miserably in that regard for the most part. On the surface, it is little more than your typical Elks club, with Pancake Breakfasts, Funny Tie Night, a goofy things like that. But there are many good men involved in the organization at the exoteric level.

    There are many serious resources available for those wishing to pursue true light. I have branched out into the Societas Rosicruciana In America, Hermetic Studies, etc at various places on the internet.

  6. Gary Iverson says:

    I can see where the Brother is coming from. I also had these same thoughts. However, I recently reflected on the following:
    I have been involved with Boy Scouts for 30 years now. During that time the youth of America has decayed morally, spiritually, and ethically. I asked myself “Didn’t anything I did make a difference?”. My first inclination was to say no…Nothing I did made a difference. However, a different answer came to me recently. I had a chance encounter with one of my Scouts. James (not his real name) was never an outstanding Scout. As an adult James will never discover a cure for cancer, be the next NFL star, or become President. James has, however, become an outstanding citizen, a good example of fatherhood, and a nice guy.
    James taught me a valuable lesson. Sure Scouting or Freemasonry might cause a complete salavation of every boy or man in the world. However, if Scouting and/or Freemasonry can create even a small positive change then everything we do is worth all the effort.
    Mr. Anonymous and I came to the same conclusion that Masons are killing Freemasonry by the failure to change and adapt. I also now realize that maybe we can’t save Freemasonry from it’s members, but we just might be able to help some men become better men. Maybe, just maybe, that handful will make a difference. All I know is that we shouldn’t stop trying, and as another Brother said in reply to this article…’Keep the faith”. Giving up is not going to result in any positive results.

  7. Derek Stevens says:

    I have been asked by more than three brothers of my Lodge ” what is the point of all this” lately. This is a very troubling question, and supports the original post here. But to them I say this; Were it not for Freemasonry, that he and I would not have met, shared our individual insights and thoughts, learned from each other and had the benefit of a friendship that would not have occurred without having met at the Lodge. This is the benefit of Freemasonry, the conversations from a basis of mutual brotherly respect and though we may not agree on each and every point, or in some cases any points, healthy robust discourse takes place and from it we receive that which is all but gone in modern society, a face to face conversation on a wide range of subjects without an agenda other than the pursuit of knowledge.
    Now, in support of the original post, I will say that these conversation are not occurring during Lodge, or even at refreshment, and that is the wrong that needs be remedied. Lodges that only foster conversations about the next fish fry, lasagna dinners paying the bills and the like are not what I signed on for, and as I understand now from my conversations with my brethren, not what they came in search of either. I will not give up, and I will continue to have the time, a chair and a cup of coffee ready for any brother in need of that most important nourishment, Masonic mental stimulation.
    Come on by….

  8. Notice what option 2 was:
    #2 ” Stay and continue to try and change the system internally – impossible due to the political stranglehold Grand Lodges hold over the fraternity”

    The Beehive will have more to say about this in the future. Meantime consider that this is one of the major stumbling blocks to Masonic reform and Masonic retention. We all know that Freemasonry is not a democracy but few of us want to be involved with a tyrannical, dictatorial, power-hungry Oligarchy.

  9. I agree with your observation that only about 1% of the membership can be characterized as the type of men that you felt masons should be. I am of the opinion that the large membership of the past was not a desirable thing to begin with. In keeping with the outlook of the TO movement, Freemasonry should be much more strict in who is accepted for membership. As in Europe, it should be a lengthy process to petition and be balloted on, dues should be much higher, education requirements need to be observed, and the period between degrees should be significantly lengthened.

    Needless to say, that would also necessitate conducting business in the first degree, as is done in Europe. Freemasonry was never intended to be a mass movement, or a social club like it became in the United States in recent decades. I realize that this smacks of elitism, yet that position is entirely consistent with most of Freemasonry’s history. People do not appreciate what they get for little effort. That is a fact of human nature.

    Becoming a Freemason should be viewed as an honor and a privilege. One-day classes, billboards, and “2B1ASk1″ does not set a very high standard. Reforming Freemasonry would result in even more men leaving at first, but a small, high-caliber organization is preferable to millions working in mediocrity.

  10. Arthur Hernandez says:

    My Brother, I have been a Master Mason for well over 50 years. Yes I too have observed very much what you described. I have served well over 11 years as District Inspector, and 15 years as Secretary, and for the most part I have underaken Masonic study and research. I have come to the conclusion that Masons are HUMAN. I have also observed that real Masons wear “aprons” out of the Lodges. This is where we can judge the Mason for what he may be. I have served and I have been served quite well by many of my Brethren. Back slapping does not qualify the sincerity of a Brother. What he is out in the profane is what really counts. Keep the Faith and eventually you will see Masons from a different persective. Yes, we know, there are ruff stones that need some work, perhaps a whisper in their ears is all that really may work. Above all, be kind to yourself.
    Fraternal Love my Brother. ART

  11. There is a good deal of truth in the Brother’s comments, but I believe he is over-reacting. No human organization, be it an institutional Church, a government, or Freemasonry is capable of perfecting its members with respect to its highest ideals, mission statement or stated purposes.

    Not every Mason is able or should feel required to be a scholar, a ritual expert or a model of saintly virtue all day all the time all his life. Ideals are goals to aim at; high values are a compass we use to judge if we are at least trying to move in the right direction; ” a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

    While true evil cannot and should not be tolerated, let us always remember we are human, not divine, and as such we will often miss our way, stumble and fall, or allow ourselves to be driven by less than the highest of noble motives.

    Brother John

  12. “I think the reason for this is because I suffered from a false perception of what Freemasonry was all about. As I entered the fraternity, I was under the impression that a True Mason was a man of character, integrity, honor, who possessed an intellectual curiosity about life, a person whose word is his bond. In other words, I perceived Masons as the bedrock of society”

    The above quote, is a main reason Freemasonry and its practitioners become disillusioned. What you have labeled a “false perception”, is anything but false. This perception, and each individuals commitment to strive to such a lofty standard, is what will make masonry relevant in all ages and times. No promise of esoteric knowledge, self aggrandizement, networking, or any other newly adopted “idea” of what masonry should provide will substitute for the principles and virtues you have listed. The characteristics you have attributed to a “True Mason” are spot on. These characteristics are simple enough to define, but almost impossible to maintain in today’s society. If members of the Craft truly attempt to practice these principles, it will, in time, prove to once again be the catalyst that draws good men to our ancient institution. There are no shortcuts when it comes to practicing; brotherly love, relief, and truth.

  13. This anonymous author listed five options… I propose a sixth option and that is “Vote with your feet”. Move to a Masonic Jurisdiction that meets your physical and spiritual needs, i.e. I found a new home in Co-Masonry which has a flourishing membership! There are also the new Traditional Observance Lodges within MaleCraft Masonry and GOUSA is developing progressive TO Lodges as well. If you are a MM you have a right to travel and visit other Lodges! So get out there and do some traveling My Brother! Seek and You Will Find!

  14. D.M. LaGanis says:

    Could it be that because almost all Lodges are F.&A.M. in the U.S., that there is a lack of competition that makes that form of Freemasonry the only way to go for most? Yes, there is Prince Hall, but they are similar in structure and organization.
    Visit any European country and one is presented (though secretly) a variety of Grand Lodges within each nation. There are four official ones in Germany that are all recognized. There are Memphis Misraim and Grand Orient Freemasonic Lodges. But I have to say that the French Grand Orient is atheistic and would definitely conflict with most Masonic belief systems. Le Droit Humain is also secular, and has female members.
    With much research, I found out about the Ancient Primitive Rite of Memphis Misraim, which is for Masonic mystics.
    Perhaps our one-Lodge-fits-all situation gets members who sometimes are looking just for camaraderie, or food, with others who are seekers of knowledge.
    The seekers might leave and join other groups that have nothing to do with Masonry, which is unfortunate.

  15. We have 40 candidates in the pipeline at Aurora Lodge #156, Aurora, Co. This counts original applications to newly made Master Masons, completing their proficiency. We have raised quite a few this year. They range in age from 18 to their 50’s, with the majority being family men in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Most found us on the internet, walked in the door and started asking questions. Many have no Masonic affiliation in their past, some have a family member or friend. They are all great and have jumped in to participate in the degree work.

  16. Terence Roberts says:

    There are brethren who believe and think as you do brother. However there are brothers who believe in the oldest fraternity and everything that it is. Seek them out and you will find as you do that Masonry is a fraternity. A real one and not one about internal politics or being an elite group with special qualifications. These are but a small group of brothers who have lost sight of what being a Mason is.

  17. Interesting.

    I find many of the authors comments to be true, even if painful. In an organization the size of Free Masonry, anything sought after can be found.

    Here is another thought, and one I found to work for me. Find the 3 or 5 guys in Lodge you can associate with, become truly close to, the ones you can help in life, and can help you. Spend time with them, keep them close to you, stay close to them, and build your life from there. Forget trying to change the fraternity, forget trying to “make Masonry better”, and start working on making the Mason better. Look inside, not outside, on how to improve, forget changing others, unless they request your assistance in changing. Change yourself, and in turn, you will change the fraternity. This is a journey that starts from within.

  18. Like any other voluntary group, Masonry is scalable. I know retired brothers who give most of their free time to Masonry and enjoy it immensely. I know brothers who were embittered by trivial Lodge politics that were blown way out of proportion.

    In looking to European Masons as the trendsetters in the Craft, I think specialization and differentiation must be the future of American Masonry. The staid status quo is neither intellectually nor spiritually challenging, particularly for brothers like me who crave spiritual intensity and want to push Masonry past its current limits. I love the Old World civility of Lodge, but I also want and need rocket fuel. In my early Masonic career, it was all rocket fuel. Then, as I started through the chairs, Masonry’s famous “death by a thousand paper cuts” and the “not invented here” syndromes kicked in.

    I wrote a book. Based upon my book, I would like to use Masonry to ritually explore some new esoteric ground that is fully allowed by Masonic tradition, i.e. Speculative Freemasonry. What are my chances of California Grand Lodge giving me a research charter to explore new ground?

    How open is American Masonry to bold new excursions into ritual? Or does someone like me have to get a charter from Europe?

  19. Jeff – Why try to change Masonry? I believe Masonry is not here for us to change, but for it to change us. Maybe the premise is backwards? Instead of “changing someone else”, which is a task that always fails, why not “change ourself”?

    We can no more change another man than we can flap our arms and fly. And I think we see that “change for change sake” is a disaster in the making.

    What I found truly unique about Masonry, and indeed truly valuable, is it helps explain many of the “mysteries” man struggles with. Time and time again I hear people who are ignorant imply something is “wrong/broken/not working”, when instead it is exactly as it is, and the complaining Brothers simply do not understand what Masonry is designed to do. Masonry is a tool, a tool to make men better. It is not a tool to give “rocket fuel experiences”. Might as well be upset that a transmission jack is not such a great tool to change oil filters with.

    Examples of man not understanding his world, and the pain that comes from when he mistakenly does, abound… man made global warming is now known to be a scam, and excess government spending is known to cause the same effects of illegal drugs (an high followed by a crash), are but two current examples.

    Another route to take might have been “let me understand how the earth has warmed and cooled over the centuries”, or perhaps “I wonder why countries with sound financial management of government have higher standards of living”? And from there, implement what is known to be best practices?

    In terms of the man, why not seek out those who are further in life than you, and seek to learn what they did, and implement those things where possible? Seek out long term successful men in Lodges, learn from them, mimic parts of their actions, and in turn, reap the rewards they have reaped.

    Or try to change everything and complain about the “was not invested here” syndrome. Personally, I do not think Masonry was put here for every generation to try and change it, but I respect those who disagree.

  20. Brian Terry says:

    Brothers, look within not without. Never loose sight of the compass and it’s use. Be especially forgiving of your brethren. Master Masons especially will understand. Remember the Hiram Abiff.

  21. The time-worn and time-tested adage is true: You get out of Freemasonry what you are willing to put into it. If one wants to be active, there are certainly enough outlets for his activity. If he is concerned about intra- or inter-Lodge politics, well, what part of society is devoid of politics, however manifested? What Masons strive to do–or certainly should strive to do–is to rise above the pettiness and achieve the higher, more noble goals that are at the heart of our Fraternity.

    To be sure, trying to avoid hassles and friction is never easy. But if something is worth accomplishing, don’t the obstacles in the path that create the challenge make a positive result that much more rewarding?

    That our numbers are declining is an unfortunate reality. But it is one that affects every organization of which I am aware. The challenge is not to throw up our hands and give in to apathy or complacency, but to work to overcome inertia.

    Perhaps we need to be more selective in the admissions process. After all, we are not a civic club or social association. We are the Masons! The most talked-about and written-about organization in the history of Mankind. Walk into any library and ask to see publications on a civic or social organization and you might find a book or two. Ask about Freemasonry, and you will be directed to shelf upon shelf of material.

    Freemasonry traces its heritage back 3,000 years; latest research takes the masonic structure back to 7,000 B.C.E. Our fraternity has survived war, famine, pestilence, etc. I am absolutely certain it will survive some measure of apathy, frustration and other conditions that are evident in a rapidly changing society. The reason I believe this is because what we stand for and what we do is basic to the structure of humankindness and an ordered civilization.

    Of course we have problems. What creation of the human mind and heart is without any impurities. But we as Masons strive to a higher calling. Our belief or value system is whole. Our goals are noble and laudable. The value system that undergirds our Fraternity will overcome any political discord, any wave of apathy, any roadblock to our fundamental precepts.

    While some of the bricks of our structure may need attention, our foundation remains solid. The building may need repair, but it will not crumble.

    Keep the faith. Work hard. Practice what we believe. We will endure.

  22. My lodge does not even have a website. They have a telephone answering machine, but the “record a message” function has been de-activated, so that no one can leave a message. Masonry will not accept the technology of the 20th century. I am disillusioned as well.

  23. Michael Gillard says:

    Interesting opinions have been expressed here ~ my only comment would be to remind any Brother in Freemasonry that he will only “get out of Masonry what he is willing to put into it.” Yes, there are “politics” within Masonry. True, “not all good men are Masons, not all Masons are good men.” Fact, Freemasonry has had a most beneficent impact on humanity during the course of its’ existance.
    S&F in the bonds of this ancient Order, Michael Gillard, PM:.OPC:.KYCH:. & etc.

  24. If you are disillusioned with Freemasonry, it may be coming from your lodge. If you are disillusioned with your lodge – all I can say is find another lodge. I joined my lodge 6 years ago and when I joined I “shopped around”. To this day, we work hard to make our lodge one of the best lodges out there and we have visitors who come to our lodge, see us all dressed in tuxes, offer a GREAT meal (as we cater and charge our guests) and perform ritual as best as we can.

    We take this seriously and it took several Masters going through the line to get it where it is. It took a lot of youth, as we have a website, and a lot of energy on all our part. We have some bad apples and some who do not take it as seriously as others, but in the end – we’re family. I attend lodges all around and I see some lodges that if I were a member, I’d leave completely disillusioned as well.

    We run our lodges, not our Grand Lodges. Our Grand Lodges set up guidelines that we must follow but as far as putting the jewels in order, catering the food, welcoming guests and conducting the ritual – each and every one of us is responsible.

    Suggestions to Make a Good Lodge Great:
    1. Make sure your lodge treats people like paying customers. They’re coming in for a reason and have some expectations. Sit with the candidate and let them know what your lodge can and can’t offer them. At the same time, listen to yourself. If you don’t like what you’re hearing about your lodge – then it’s time to go. Lodges are made up by people from all walks of life and your lodge is one of many – it will have it’s ups and downs but the type of lodge it is will not change overnight. Sometimes it’s easier finding a lodge you fit better in rather than try changing your own.

    2. Not all lodges are equal and honestly…..don’t be so cheap! I’ve learned in life that most great things do not come cheap. In order to run a gala, or a dinner or anything where you want to dazzle people – you need to spend money. Raise your initiation costs, that’s a step, because that’s what separates the new candidates from those who want a hangout group to those who are truly looking for light. It’s got to be worth it and when you put a nice price tag on it – you make it worth it. If your lodge is really cheap, ask yourself if you were a business – how well you’re really doing.

    3. Build a GREAT Curriculum. While your lodge is making money off of its new members, try to support them by building a weekly mentoring/education system, do a monthly newsletter AND most importantly – find something to do outside of the lodge ONCE A MONTH. This is a social group and it’s not very social if you meet in some room once a month.

    4. Take the ritual seriously. I was raised Catholic and one thing I learned about being Catholic – dress nice for church. Do the same for lodge. What you put in is what you’ll get out of it. Next time you see a brother in shorts and sneakers, give him a hard time and remind him he’s stepping into a TEMPLE.

    Some things in life aren’t meant to change and it seems this article is caught up with matters of Grand Lodges. I think many people miss the point of their GLs. They provide guidelines, rules, booklets, curriculums, and tons of other benefits. Our personal objections with some of their rulings may exist but if you’re that caught up – brother, I tell you – take a vacation. NOTHING in Masonry should be so important that it puts you at odds with the Grand Lodge. That is way beyond your control.

    Masonry’s decline was inevitable as what happens when people stop taking something seriously. Make a model out of your lodge and if your lodge isn’t a good fit – embrace change and find the Lodge you would make a great fit!

    Cheers and good luck to all of you.

  25. I could not have put it better myself! I am afraid masonry is on the decline for all the reasons stated. I feel in a few years it will be a memory

  26. I read this article with much interest, because I was raised a master Mason in the US, while I was working in the country, before I moved back to my home country, Italy, where I reside now and where I have had the chance to attend Blue Lodge meetings. What stroke me most is that, despite of the constant decrease in membership that affects many Grand Lodges in the US, Freemasonry in Italy is growing, frankly quite quickly, by about 1000 new members every year. This made me ask myself some questions about what indications, if any, italian Freemasonry could offer to benefit Freemasonry in the USA.
    I firmly believe that the voice of Freemasonry must be heard, because its message is still very relevant to our society, to people, and I am saddened by the fact that fewer candidates are applying to join our Institution. I think that personal growth must be a prominent aspect of our Institution, to be appealing to potential candidates. And yet, although I met many valuable, good men in the american Lodges I had the chance to attend, this aspect was usually subordinate to the social dimension of Freemasonry. I know that many Grand Lodges offer one day classes to the Blue Lodge and Appendant bodies, although these shortcuts, as effective as they can be against the high rate of drop out recorded by many Lodges, do not benefit Freemasonry, nor the candidates themselves. Freemasonry is based on the progression through a series of degrees, that goes along with a journey of personal development. The shorter we make this journey, the less effective it risks to be, the less interesting it is a for a new candidate. Noticeably, a candidate in Italy cannot progress from one degree to another in less than 1 year. Actually, although I admit that, in my specific and quite unusual situation, I benefited from becoming a Master Mason in about 6 months, due to my limited sojourn in the US, this makes sense. A Mason is a traveling man and Masons enjoy traveling. This is proved, I believe, by the high number of Masons who, after being raised to the degree of MM, decide to seek further light in the Appendant bodies of Freemasonry. They want to keep traveling, they want to have a goal to strive to, a goal to accomplish. I believe they must have their time to savour their journey along the Masonic path, they must have the time to grow, and to be truly ready to be a MM when they are raised one. Of course, the rationale to quickly progress through the degrees is that, once you are a MM, you can fully participate to stated meetings. Yet, in Italy, and in some masonic jurisdictions in the USA, such as in Indiana, where I recently stayed for a few days and had a chance to attend a stated meeting, Lodges work on the EA degree, and all members, EA included, get a chance to attend the whole meeting. Obviously, certain orders of business that require the participants to be MMs can be discussed separately, in other meetings open on the MM degree. If Lodges work on the EA degree there is no reason to rush candidates through the degrees. I do not think that anybody is scared by the prospect of having to study a bit more and spend some longer time to become a MM, if they are in the company of good men and brethren. If they are scared, then they may not be such proper candidates to become one, in the first place. Let a candidate be an EA for all the time needed to grow as a person and as a Mason, let him attend the stated meetings and be part of the community, he wont drop out of Freemasonry because of that. Moreover, stated meetings should always be enriched by educational sessions, and according to my experience, this is not always done. there is no need for me to say here that stated meeting should not just be an occasion to discuss bills, but an occasion to grow, and improve our knowledge of Freemasonry and ourselves.

  27. It is interesting to read all the comments and responses to the initial post, I got some very impressions about this.
    1. We still have a lot of good masons and wonderful lodges around.
    2. Freemason is still very much active and alive.
    3. Yes, we need to make some adjustments here and there, every organization passes through their periods of ups & downs and Freemason is no exception.

    These are my suggestions;
    1. We can not start begging every male on the streets all over the world but what we can do is seek ways of assisting each other such that the idea of brother-hood is sustained thereby raising the quality standard of Masons all over the world.
    2. Introducing more Masonic education programs in lodges especially those that highlight the spiritual benefits of Masonic lodges and lodge workings.
    3. The esoteric principles of Mansory should not be neglected viz a viz the material benefits of being a member.

    The whole world is changing, people are loosing their moral values. If we can make Freemason lodges a home of morals and true human value then we may not be able to change the whole world but we would have improved on the quality of Masons all around the world.

  28. I entered into Freemasonry about one year ago. I became a mason in the winter of 2014. I am VERY displeased with the whole experience. I entered with a FULL head of steam. The only thing I initially sought to satisfy with Freemasonry was a sense of brotherhood and fraternity. Forget it. Oh sure, there are 2 or 3, literally, who will befriend you at first and acknowledge your existence with small talk but thats about it. Most time when I enter the lodge I could fall over and nobody would even notice. I have never left a stated meeting without feeling as if I just attended a parade that had no specific purpose or function. Way too much attention is paid to ‘where do we stand, what do we say etc’ in other words, the rituals which I think nobody totally understand. Its too bad that I feel this way I wanted to make masonry the center of my life and was very fervent about doing so. Now, I rarely think about it and will probably ‘resign’ in due time

  29. Until you have put your time in, stop complaining.
    there are people in our District that have been in Masonry for years and know how it should be run, it takes a group of like minded leaders to guide the Craft in the direction it needs to go and make sure that only the worthy are appointed to high office.
    You are like so many others, figuring you can sweep into Masonry and change it, well the Constitution of Grand Lodge forbids that. Adapt to the rules or leave.
    S&F
    Mike Adam

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