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
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’s decaying before our 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:
- Stay and passively accept the status quo — representing total surrender.
- Stay and continue to try and change the system internally — impossible due to the political stranglehold Grand Lodges hold over the fraternity.
- Take a leave of absence — whereby the problems will still be waiting for you when you return.
- Resign and start a new strain of Freemasonry — which is very tempting but difficult to do on a large scale.
- 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.
Consider 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.