What Is Killing Freemasonry

Freemasonry cannot serve two masters, the world and itself. The biggest mistake it has made is to listen to the whining attacks made by its detractors.  Freemasonry just benefits Freemasons they say as if they had some claim on what we are, what we do and what we say. Our critics have embarrassed us, claiming that we are an exclusive, snobbish, selfish group that exists exclusively for the betterment of its members and that we show so much favoritism for each other that the result is a discrimination of the rest of society.

Thus post Vietnam War Freemasonry changed the focus of the Craft. Some of the changes came right after WWII but the Vietnam War era marked the rapid decline in membership that swung the pendulum of modern day Freemasonry squarely into the camp of Masonic revisionism.

What that involved is taking Freemasonry from a contemplative, learning, value orientated society to one of action, action for the betterment of society as a whole. Freemasonry did this partially to appease its critics and partially to adopt the Shrine model of recruitment. But appeasement didn’t work for Chamberlain in dealing with Hitler and it hasn’t worked to appease our detractors. Our critics are as vocal as ever.  Meanwhile we have diluted and corrupted our beloved fraternity in order to try to please others or to take the easy way out in the area of growth.

The ancient mystery schools of Egypt, Greece and Rome, on which Freemasonry is modeled, did not try to be something to everybody. Rather they concentrated their efforts on improving their members through knowledge, instruction, brotherhood and spirituality.

Does that mean Freemasons should be a cloistered sect of Monks having no dealings with the outside world and no right to comment on anything civil or spiritual? The answer is No! We, as Freemasons, can get behind ideas but not policies. No marching in the streets or sponsorship of legislative bills for Freemasonry.  Instead we can seek to educate the public on the ideals of political freedom and democratic government, public education, religious freedom with the separation of church and state and the worthiness of the individual.  These were ideals imbued into Freemasonry from the Enlightenment from which Freemasonry arose.

Three main corruptions have come out of post Vietnam War Freemasonry.

  1. Increased power of Grand Lodges at the expense of local Lodges
  2. The marketing of Freemasonry
  3. Charity to all mankind

In the modern era Grand Lodges and Grand Masters have assumed powers never before granted to them. Some Grand Lodges are running wild squashing dissent, stifling creativity and purging the ranks of any and all who do not toe the line. In the process they have, in order to save the fraternity they tell us, foisted upon Freemasonry the evils of marketing Freemasonry which removes from Freemasonry the ability to practice Freemasonry and extensive Self Perpetuating Institutionalized giveaways to civil society that is bankrupting the fraternity.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is a prime example of a Grand Lodge so into Institutionalized charity and running a complex health system out of multiple locations that it has had to drastically increase Grand Lodge dues and assessments to its charted Lodges in order to pay for its excesses. See Massachusetts to Double Dues?

Do we have to beg the community to notice us and in the process try to market Freemasonry or do we create a better Order internally and let membership grow by word of mouth? Do we have to try to convince someone to become a Mason or do we create such a good product that the worthy uninitiated will come in large numbers knocking on our door of their own free will and accord? Do we have to try to save the world or can we be content with taking care of our own without being made to feel guilty? Do we exist to march in parades, raise funds for the Cancer Society or the Heart Fund and run CHIP programs for civil society or are we here for Brothers in need, our widows and orphans and scholarships for our young? Do we intend, forever, to let our critics portray us as a religion? Do we intend to let non Masons set the agenda for Master Masons? Can we learn how to survive as we downsize?

Plainly we are not an action society; we are a self improvement brotherhood. The road to sustainable growth is returning Freemasonry into a sharing Brotherhood who cares for itself and revives itself by doing a better job of inculcating its ideals, virtues and tenets into its membership, by decentralizing its governance, by stop trying to sell Freemasonry as one sells used cars and by leaving the saving of the world to others.

 

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About Fred Milliken

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and former Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

Comments

  1. George L. Baldwin says:

    I have seen a lot in my 40yrs as a Freemason, but I keep going back to what one of my mentors taught me during my first year in the Craft…Quality before quantity…it is better to add one new quality member only, than 10 members with only 1 of them of real quality…just my view

  2. First let me state that I am a big fan of this site and the information that is posted. Thank you for all your hard work and research on Masonry.
    On the above article you list one of the corruptions as “Charity To All Mankind”. I would like to share my thoughts on this.
    I don’t think that we as Freemasons, or any other order for that matter, should be forced to do charity, but as a result of becoming a better man, wouldn’t charity to everyone be a side affect of that?
    We become better men by adheringing to the standards of God’s law. I agree that we should definitely take care of our own first, just like we would with family. But, if we have the means to do it, we are all brothers under God.
    We don’t do charity because we are Freemasons, we do charity because, sometimes, it’s the right thing to do.
    Just my opinion.
    Once again, thank you for all that you do for the Craft.

    S&F,
    Brother Michael Ifland
    Cookeville Lodge #266
    Grand Lodge of Tennessee

  3. Brother Ifland. I don’t disagree with anything you have to say. But I am not talking here about an individual offering charity to anybody in society. Our fraternity teaches charity and what you can do for anybody is a good thing.

    What I am talking about is Lodges and Grand Lodges performing charity. This occurs when Lodges and Grand Lodges assess each Brother money to be used in what they think is a charitable enterprise. That is far different than what an individual does outside the Lodge becasue of the tenets he has been taught inside the Lodge.

    When you think about it Lodges can’t be charitable; they can’t be hungry; they can’t be tired – they are an inanimate object.

  4. Jeff Stallard says:

    You say the fraternity has been corrupted since Vietnam. However, when you look at the number of US masons, corrected for population inflation, not only does the decline begin well before the Vietnam War, but the “bubble” everyone mentions in the 50s is a myth: a greater percentage of men in the mid 20s were masons than in the mid 50s. My point is that a steady decline, with the exception of the Great Depression and its resulting “market correction,” has been on-going since 1924, and I don’t see how your explanation accounts for that. I have no counter explanation, however.

  5. Brother Stallard,

    If you will read the book “Bowling Alone” by Professor Putnam it will be explained to you.

  6. Jeff Stallard says:

    Yeah, I’ve heard of it. However, if Freemasonry is a personal journey toward a better self, maybe community has nothing to do with it. I’ve never been a joiner of anything, and yet here I am, a newly-installed Worshipful Master. During my installation speech, I even quoted Henry Thoreau, a Transcendentalist, as my inspiration to become a mason, and the big thrust of that movement was against social structures on the basis that they corrupted individuality. So if Putnam’s research, factual though it may be, is applicable to Freemasonry, how does that explain me?

  7. You are an individual and an individualist and you have found that Freemasonry is all about the individual – how to build that house not made with hands – the Temple that is or own personal spirit and soul. Granted, that it adds to the meaning, the exemplification and the fellowship if we as individuals come together to rehearse it as a group.. But the majority of our time is spent in the outer world where we carry the teachings and the tenets with us, thereby putting into practice what we are taught.

    The problem comes when those in the fraternity try to push the fraternity into certain actions that they deem worthy. Once again I maintain that Freemasonry is a philosophy, a self development philosophy if you will, whose intention is self improvement. We make good men better, one man at a time. We don’t make good Lodges better, one Lodge at at a time.

    The practice of Freemasonry is what the individual does with the philosophy, not what the Lodge does with it. When we demand group action a certain amount of coercion comes into play. And when Freemasonry insists that as a whole, as a body of everybody, certain things must be accomplished – that is where the corruption starts.

  8. Abdul Wahid Osman Belal says:

    Freemasonry has exposed itself by going public and its secrecy/ts is/are no more a secret.
    Muslims see it as a Jewish and Zionist organization patronized by English Monarchs, American and Israeli Presidents/Prime Ministers and role of their puppets and stooges in Muslim countries with its objective as spying and reconstruction of King Solomon’s Temple.
    There was a book published by the name of “Jewish Conspiracy and The Muslim World.”
    Abdul Wahid Osman Belal

  9. I just have few comment when would freemason come to establish in my country nigeria? And me as a person i have been writing and asking how would i be a member of freemason and the answer have be silent for a long time. Am not too happy as an individual because i have never had any good reply freemason traveler mailing. Please i want a better answer to my plea. From Mark Amarato Victor.

  10. Dear Brothers remember this

    Moderation Silence Caution Mercy

    Fraternal Greeting Br. Henning.

  11. Jeff Stallard says:

    Beehive, that’s an interesting take. If I understand you, you’re saying that had we not placed the the lodge (aka the community) above the brother (aka the individual), we would not have become a victim of Putnam’s idea of loss of community. Am I reading your correctly?

  12. Fred, I think that you’re all over the place in this rant essay, and that you’re trying to connect too many things.

    First, I think that you’d be hard pressed to prove that GLs made many sweeping changes in response to our detractors, with a possible exception in the deep South (US) where smaller denomination Christian churches seem to have more sway in the communities. Rather, i suspect that many GLs, panicking over the decline of membership, made an effort to make Freemasonry look less like a stuffy men’s club, and tried to emulate what many other community groups had already been doing.

    I don’t have much of an opinion on GLs taking on more power, since I haven’t been around to see any major changes in that respect. But if other states are anything like Connecticut, we went from roughly 50,000 members in the 1950s to 15,000 at the turn of the Millennium. I can well imagine that many GLs needed to step up their degree of management in order to help the lodges still extant. But again, I haven’t been around for long enough to have a real opinion.

    I do agree that Freemasonry, in trying to improve their public image may be trying too hard with the huge pushes for public charitable works; if at some point we simply can’t get the help or the funding, those works will suffer, and we’ll look even worse, since nobody will remember the amount of time or energy that we put into them.

    That said, however, we now have 10 years of newer Masons who have joined because of the improved public image. You can’t tell them that we need to go back to the old days, because they don’t have the same perspective; to them, Freemasons are a groups of guys who band together to do Child IDs, clean up the parks, and who, yes, drive funny cars in parades.

    The fraternity has changed, but I suspect that if we could talk to members from 50 or 100 or 200 years ago, we’d discover that the fraternity is always changing, and what we practiced as little as 25 years ago bears little resemblance to what Ben Franklin practiced in his lodge.

  13. If I understand you, you’re saying that had we not placed the the lodge (aka the community) above the brother (aka the individual), we would not have become a victim of Putnam’s idea of loss of community. Am I reading your correctly?

    EXACTLY!!! Finally someone who gets it.

    You politically must be a Libertarian like me. Only a Libertarian has an easy take on this concept.

  14. As always Brother Tom I appreciate your comments even if we don’t always see eye to eye.

    Freemasonry never was a “stuffy men’s club.” One of the best books to get a background on what Freemasonry really meant to those who came before us is Allen Roberts “House Undivided.”

    I think you typify many Masons who haven’t traveled much outside their jurisdiction and therefore think that Freemasony in their jurisdiction is how it is done everywhere or should be done. That’s not a put down, believe me. I am just trying to understand what you don’t see in Freemasonry elsewhere and why.

    Perhaps you don’t see that in certain jurisdictions that you cannot be a Mason unlsess you are Christian. And in the same or others unless you are White. The abuse of Grand Lodge power is all around me. You have the expulsion of a Junior Past Grand Master Frank Haas in West Virginia. You have the Grand Lodge of Arkansas declaring a generic Masonic license plate to be clandestine and attempting to expel Derek Gordon without cause. You have Mike McCabe expelled in New Jersey, his Lodge closed down and all the consdierable bank savings confiscated. You have all the grief that the GL of Georgia has given Gate City Lodge No. 2 over the raising of a Black man.

    Emulating other community groups is exactly what has got us into trouble. Freemasonry is not a COMMUNITY GROUP. And those who have turned it into such have created its downfall. I think Freemasonry is special and has a special mission in life which much more bears upon working with the individual Brother rather than working with the community. We are not or wern’t meant to be a community aid group. We were designed to be a self improvement group. Where you interact with the community and society in general is by practicing the tenets of your profession outside the Lodge room as an individual.

    If, as you say, Freemasons are a groups of guys who band together to do Child IDs, clean up the parks, and who, yes, drive funny cars in parades, then we are in for a heep more misery. That’s not my Freemasonry and quite frankly I would point those who think that way to the Lions Club, the Elks, The Moose and others. If you are right then you ain’t see nothing yet as far as a decrease in membership. How about being 10% of what we are now?

  15. Beehive,
    Aaahhh, I see. I agree with you. I was looking at it from an idividualistic approach, and thought you were saying otherwise. I agree, the “lodge” should be a place to make Masons, and from there Masons act, individually, on what they have learned. We are definitely coming from the same point of view. I apologize that I misunderstood. Thanks for clarifying.
    Once again thanks, and keep up the great work.

    S&F,
    Brother Michael Ifland
    Cookeville Lodge #266
    Grand Lodge of Tennessee

  16. Ah, Fred – I didn’t say that Freemasonry was a stuffy men’s club, but rather that I think some GLs tried to counter that public impression by making it more like the Elks, Lions, or other public-oriented groups.

    I agree that my experience is limited to the Northeast US, where we are apparently a bit more progressive with regard to how modern culture impacts the fraternity. I fail to see, however, what point you were trying to make. Certainly, the Masonic networks have lately been full of what appear to be abuses of power. But my question, from a process standpoint, is this: If the Grand Lodge top officers are elected, then why aren’t the craft more proactive as to who gets into those spots?

    But on to what I think is really the heart of your concern: The evolution of Freemasonry from a self-improvement brotherhood into institutionalized charity. I sort of have to agree with you on this point; I didn’t join a lodge in order to donate time and money to various charities – I’ve got people hounding me every day for that (and indeed, I have some community projects that I happily volunteer for). I joined to be with like-minded people who were interested in self-improvement.

    But the push from GLs in the last 10 years or so to have more of a community presence (CHIPs programs, etc.) actually have resulted in more exposure, and arguably in higher membership numbers. Many of the new members that we see in Connecticut want that involvement with the community, and seem to be pretty happy in organizing and running various programs. These are all good men that are coming in, who obviously get something out of their activities. Are they improving themselves through charitable works and the fellowship that goes along with these functions? Well, maybe they are. Is that such a bad thing?

  17. Kenneth L. Miles says:

    No matter what never stop growing there is always light at the end of the tunnel for everyone in ?. Moving Forward

  18. “But the push from GLs in the last 10 years or so to have more of a community presence (CHIPs programs, etc.) actually have resulted in more exposure, and arguably in higher membership numbers.”

    We draw different conclusions. My thesis is precisely the last 10 years (really the past 30) that have turned American Freemasonry into more of a community presence and in more exposure have led to lower membership numbers than if they had not pursued that policy. I see three times the number of candidates that we routinely have now if this path had not been followed.

    And maybe the group you have now are enjoying Freemasonry as a Service Club – but if that is all you have to offer that’s all they can get out of the Craft. If that’s all they know then you are bringing in new members with a certain mindset groomed by those in positions of power now to think and act a certain way. How much more could you get if you ran the Craft with a different mindset?

    Let’s talk retention. Today we have less of a membership problem – that is new candidates – and more of a retention problem. We are losing members faster than we are bringing in new ones. Perhaps that is because candidates were expecting one thing and they were given something else. When we interview them we tell candidates all about self improvement, learning, Masonic ideals and virtues. Then when we got them hooked we bring them in to spend hours and hours working in community action projects, only giving lip service to the philosophy and making good men better. It’s called bait and switch. What about the men who leave because they don’t have the time or the inclination to spend all that is asked of them to work charitable undertakings?

    What about the money? Could we not spend that better on running seminars, study sessions, esoteric side clubs, better local libraries? Couldn’t Grand Lodges with multi million dollar coffers ever help out a hurting local Lodge with some financial aid?

    Lastly you have mentioned elections. I know a number of Grand Lodges where the elections are a sham. The oligarchy at the Grand Lodge hand picks its choice and then uses its influence and twists arms to see to it that that choice is approved. Then you have the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts which we noted in the original rant, er essay, that was $3 million dollars in the red and where the Grand Master proposed upping the Grand Lodge dues from $29 to $60 and the degree fees from $50 to $300. The Grand Master in Massachusetts is not elected. He is appointed by his predecessor. And he must be appointed from a pool of present or past Senior Grand Wardens and Deputy Grand Masters. The Deputy Grand Master is not elected in Massachusetts, he is appointed.

    So, basically Tom, I am saying that we could do it better and we could be much better off if we hadn’t chosen the path we are on now. That’s the basis of what I wrote.

  19. Fred, I think that you’re not completely understanding what I’m trying to say wrt new members and public works.

    First, we’re having a resurgence in new members, and that seems to hold true all over the US. I don’t have any numbers on retention, and since we don’t do exit interviews, I’m not sure that either of us could make a good case as to where the problem lies. I can make an educated guess that in Conn, we’re losing more members because of death and retirement (e.g., moving to Florida or other southern states) than because newer members aren’t finding what they were looking for — but I don’t know how true that is for other areas.

    I’m not sure how you can assert that our membership numbers would be as high as you pegged them, and I’d be interested to know how you figured that we’d have three times the number that is now typical.

    Speaking of which, has it really been 30 years since the GLs tried to move to a “service club” model? Considering the sheer inertia of most of the GLs in the US, I find it hard to believe that a bunch of GMs were sitting around at a conference, and they all decided to go in that direction. It might be interesting to compare the membership stats in a state-by-state list, as opposed to an overall USA number.

    As to the new members and public works – I’m not sure that what we’re doing is a bait and switch, at all. In Connecticut, we often have Masonic education programs, covering everything from history to philosophy, to a little (admittedly, not much) esotericism. While I, personally, don’t get much out of the public works that our fraternity supports (I prefer to pick my own works, thanks), it seems that many of the members actually *do* get something from them. That doesn’t mean we’re a service club at all, though. The lodge gives these men an opportunity to discuss what they get out of these works, and to talk about how it’s made them better in some way. Isn’t that what we’re trying to accomplish? Does it make a big difference if someone improves themselves by ringing a bell in the cold for a few hours, talking to children at a county fair, or by studying a point in a circle?

  20. “While it is true that the numbers of new members is shrinking, the main cause of smaller Lodges is that those who do become members stay for a much shorter period of time. The paper ‘The Missing Master Mason’ shows that of those members who depart, in the 1950s the average length of time that members stayed with a Lodge was over twenty years, in the mid 1970s this had fallen to under ten years and by the mid 1980s was below five years.”
    Freemasonry in context: history, ritual, controversy by Arthur DeHoyos & S. Brent Morris
    http://books.google.com/books?id=hXq4lJeX_DUC&pg=PA322&lpg=PA322&dq=Freemasonry+has+a+retention+problem&source=bl&ots=1Xa84KYoyG&sig=riI_RoZjlQOPejsHh6Sei073L0w&hl=en&ei=s2rMTq-tAu242QXSs_nODw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDcQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=Freemasonry%20has%20a%20retention%20problem&f=false

    I have been pouring over old Annual Communications returns in my Grand Jurisdiction and the numbers don’t lie. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the number of raisings was very consistent; the only difference was the number of withdrawn and stricken brothers. That trend continues to this day. Sure, we still have a number of brothers that are passing away but that number is outstripped by the number of demits and NPD’s.
    “I Propose” – The Millenial Freemason – http://www.millennialfreemason.com/2011/05/i-propose.html

    “Lodges that chase young members by offering the easy way in appear desperate and unattractive. The 20’s/30’s generation isn’t looking for the easy way, but for an organization that will truly benefit their life and schedule. They want to be associated with the traditions and dignity of the institution. This is empowering stuff folks.”

    “The young Masons I meet that feel empowered belong to active lodges. Ones that are disappointed by the minutia, no education, poor ritual, crappy food, and weak events, aren’t gonna stick around.”

    “And this has nothing to do with lodges or grand lodges getting out in the public eye. Why? Masonry does not have a recruitment problem, it has a retention problem. And that is a FACT”
    Mike Bayrak http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2010/01/kansas-article-dwindling-fraternal.html

    “What I meant to say was that I think it’s *odd* that the older members in the Eagles and the KofC believe the key to growing their popularity among the vast countryside of new *young* members is to pursue community service and pimp their charities. Freemasonry has discovered this doesn’t work, or at least the active lodges with *young* members have figured it out. People join fraternal organizations because they seek fraternalism. And they choose a particular brand because of their history, their rituals, their buildings, their reputation, or simply because they like the other people within the group. They don’t join because of billboards or PR campaigns or self-aggrandizing back-slapping over charities. If you want to give away your money, the United Way is more efficient than any fraternal group.”

    “Freemasonry is unique among fraternal groups. It needs to be treated as such by those of us who have inherited its reins.”
    Chris Hodapp http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2010/01/kansas-article-dwindling-fraternal.html

  21. “The young Masons I meet that feel empowered belong to active lodges. Ones that are disappointed by the minutia, no education, poor ritual, crappy food, and weak events, aren’t gonna stick around.”

    Well, I certainly agree with that one. Even in the short time that I’ve been a Mason, I can see this happening around the state. I also agree with the second to last paragraph, especially this:

    “And they choose a particular brand because of their history, their rituals, their buildings, their reputation, or simply because they like the other people within the group. They don’t join because of billboards or PR campaigns or self-aggrandizing back-slapping over charities. If you want to give away your money, the United Way is more efficient than any fraternal group.”

    I suspect that this is one of the reasons that we’re seeing such an interest in “Traditional Observance” style lodges, and in lodges with more specific focus on certain other aspects.

    So, now that many GLs have an established service model, how would you propose that we go about changing it to something more suitable?

  22. There is no magic bullet. My job is to educate, especially the new and upcoming leaders. And sometimes you overstate your case to make your point.

    I have always said that some people join Freemasonry for Social & business purposes. Others join it for its charitable outreach. And still others join it for its esotericism and philosophy. And that’s OK.

    But Errol Hinton once made a brilliant observation. He being from Vermont where the cows outnumber the humans, said that its like a three legged milking stool. You have 3 legs – the social leg, the charitable leg and the philosophical/education leg. All three legs have to be the same length or you can’t sit on the stool to milk the cow.

    All I want is for no one aspect to have the upper hand and the majority of Freemasonry’s mission.

    After that I would propose a Masonic University for each jurisdiction.

    Meanwhile it is important that good/influential Masons like you understand the nuances of the issues and stand up and make your views known. And I know you can do a lot for your state. I respect your ability immensely.

    Good luck

  23. “I have always said that some people join Freemasonry for Social & business purposes. Others join it for its charitable outreach. And still others join it for its esotericism and philosophy. And that’s OK.”

    Hey, I’ve always said that, too! We’re like twins, you and I.

    “But Errol Hinton once made a brilliant observation. He being from Vermont where the cows outnumber the humans, said that its like a three legged milking stool. You have 3 legs – the social leg, the charitable leg and the philosophical/education leg. All three legs have to be the same length or you can’t sit on the stool to milk the cow.

    All I want is for no one aspect to have the upper hand and the majority of Freemasonry’s mission. ”

    Errol is wise beyond his years. Of course, in Vermont, there’s plenty of time to cogitate on such matters. It will be different once they get electricity up there…

    Bro. Fred, you really need to visit Connecticut, where we actually have GL officers who have this same philosophy. It’s not perfect, and sometimes we get it wrong, but we keep trying.

  24. While I don’t disagree in principal with what is written here, I have a few observations on the role of religion and civil society and more specifically our role in the upholding of religion in that civil society.

    First, let me say that I do equate the practice of Freemasonry as a religion, but do so without ascribing any dogma. In other words – the practice is the religion and not necessarily the teachings.

    In present day terms, main line religious practice (main line meaning denominational Protestantism) is on a decline in the U.S. Churches across the country are tabulating a decrease of attending members, and likely as they true up their membership roles, they will likely record an even more shocking drop in members. The churches that are growing, or that seem to have a large congregational membership are non-denominational evangelical churches, think mega-churches here.

    So, without going to deeply into the why this is the case, let me offer this interpretation as it relates to Masonry. Like the main line denominational churches, Masonry is losing members in about the same percentages as Methodist, Baptist, and so on, which leads me to conclude that just as interest in “traditional” Protestantism is waning, so to is interest in “traditional” Masonry. I do not propose that Traditional Observance Lodges offer a viable ‘alternative’ to the mainline traditional lodge work, rather it functions as an adjunct extension of a system and as a form of practice that only appeals to a few.

    This conclusion leads me to some questions: Would a Charismatic branch of Masonry be a mediator to the impending change of the Masonic body (change being continued decline of membership). What would a charismatic branch of Masonry look like – ritual, education, or charity, something else? How does someone interested in exploring this option do so and remain in the body of fellowship? Is there a significant interest in society for the practice of a ritual from time “immemorial” when even more exotic or esoteric entertainments can be found on Netflix?

    Call me a heretic, but I don’t think there is a viable option within the framework that exists today. Especially not a framework that has been little changed for nearly 300 years in a world that has changed in ways unimaginable to someone in 1717.

  25. Funny you should mention this, Greg:
    First there was the dot.com bubble, then came the housing bubble, now prepare for the mega-church bubble

    Also, what’s this?
    “Especially not a framework that has been little changed for nearly 300 years”

    I’m not convinced that this is true. I’ve read elsewhere that at various points, Freemasonry (or at least, the lodges themselves) have ranged from being seen as benefit societies, to mystical fraternities for the educated, to (more recently) charitable institutions. The freemasonry that we practice today doesn’t look anything like Ben Franklin’s.

    While I don’t have a solution myself, I personally think that the *real* changes need to happen in the lodges themselves. The GLs are top-heavy, and concerned with micro-managing. I think that Masonry (at least in the US) is going to be “saved” lodge by lodge, as each discreet lodge finds it’s own path according to the wishes of the members.

  26. I think one of issue that is killing freemasonry is that of the act of openess, and secondly the ristriction of some persons not to be involed in the movement. There should be branches of freemason world wild. I mean every where in any part of the world just as the way other religion of there branches. Like myself am here in nigeria but am willing to be a member of mason but i find it very difficult to locate any. And that of the act descrimination either white or blact should be stoped.

  27. Tom, All interesting points.

    The frame work I’m referring to is the Grand Lodge system. Presently, I don’t think mainstream masonry will survive, let alone thrive, under the present configuration of the 300 year old structure of the Grand Lodge system. This seems like a sentiment you agree with in saying that the change needs to happen in the lodges themselves.
    The hurdle there is that lodge practice can’t change without a dispensation from the Grand Lodge. In other words, it can’t do what it wants without permission, and there in lies the problem.

    I don’t propose to have the magic bullet either, but I think that somewhere in the soup of Masons and lodges, there needs to be a place of freedom to try things and practice how you (a lodge of brothers) want to practice without fear of Masonic excommunication and a label of clandestine. Or, maybe that’s what needs to happen.

    In my thought, this rests in the concept of a church. Not necessarily a Mega church, but in the idea or Protestantism in general in that you have denominations of practice that do different things, ungoverned, and unrestricted to authority – ecclesial or otherwise.

    The way the system stands now, you (average lodge member) cannot innovate or change the dynamic practice, period. Sure light a candle, or with consent burn some incense, or maybe even have a few VSL’s on the altar, but outside of that if you want to do it differently you have to ask permission or be excommunicated from the fold if you get caught. Again, that’s the change that hasn’t changed in 300 years. Before the Holy Mother UGLE, lodges did it how they wanted, where they wanted, without warrant, without ‘authorization.’

    I think this is the type of change you’re suggesting, which is the same that I am.

  28. Once again I must say that monopolies do not make good organizations. They don’t work well in the civil business world and they don’t work well in the fraternal world. Competetion within jurisdictions would probably force Grand Lodges to be a bit more attentive to individual Brother’s needs and desires and allow that innovation and change that we all seem to be working for.

    What has given us the American Mainstream monopoly is the Rite of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction – the American Doctrine. It has to go. In order to survive in today’s world, Freemasonry is going to have to allow competition or it will be forced upon it.

    Look at France. They have 3 Grand Lodges – that’s competition and they seem to be doing pretty well. If you don’t like one GL you can switch to another. And they all know that. Therefore they are much more attentive to pleasing their members.

  29. Fred, your right, monopolies either work really well (the Catholic Church) or terribly (like Murdock’s News Corp). In both instances, they are subject to their own particular failings because they are so institutionally large.

    I will say, however, that instituting change isn’t really the answer. If the Catholic church allowed Luther to form his Protest Church and conduct it in harmony with Rome, I doubt it would of been so successful in pulling off the protestant reformation. Rather, my thought is that if change is due, it will come – with or without Doctrines or authority. To date, few have had the wherewithal or inspiration to REALLY do anything different and consequentially end up in the same predicament, low interest and even lower number of members. The outcome of the GoUSA is a prime example. What did they really offer that was different to incite innovation?

  30. Perhaps it will mean a new organization with a new name that borrows some of the tenets of Freemasonry but then works in a whole new mindset and way of doing things. You might see along this line an increased dependence on internet usage whereby some meetings might me held on line reserving face to face meetings for once or twice per year. They would then be more like Grand Sessions.

    One of the things I see even in Prince Hall that is a detriment is the tendency to do too much and for Freemasonry to compete with itself – two many Side Bodies, too many meetings, too many projects, too many programs.

    A new organization might have success by streamlining its organization to be only one Body with much of its business, teaching, learning, instruction and fellowship done online.

  31. Money, money and money. Every meeting, tiled or not, that all I ever hear. We have lodges in decline, membership issues and ritual problems. I will say in the brief time I’ve been a mason, I have noticed a difference but I’m not getting every thing I thought I would. Two stated meetings a month and both are about buisness, buisness, buisness. We haven’t done Masonic education since I joined. Twice I offered but the buisness took too long. I joined the York Rite and finally got what I was looking for. If I didn’t love my Blue Lodge do much xnd enjoy bring an active member, I’d probably only go to the YR and just send my dues in so I could stay in good standing.

    I’d love to see a TO of EC lodge in my hometown. Actually, let me rephrase, I wish my lodge was one.

  32. ronald chasteen says:

    very good fred——as an expelled mason—-20 year mason let me put my 2 bits in—what is wrong in my view—to start with you cant take the oblagations of a mason-then set back and let coruption take over your lodge or grand lodge—your better off being expelled for standing up to this —my lodge expelled me 2 years ago===most unmasonic trial in the state of arkansas by 4 cops===dont worry grand lodge helped them for the reason of the fine men i knew—politicks nothen more===then grand lodge refused me a trial to clear my name kept my perpetuail money==masonry==no==garbage==but im like no one else===i refuse to let garbage get away with sluring my name and my thought taking my money unrightfully==i owe to stand up to this for the sake of my family==and all the youge men i have lectured==then the older ones just run them off—-they wanted no change or they were not democrats ect ect—garbage nothen more–dont get me wrong-i have some of the most loving old brothers in my lodge–one will be 101 his birthday one 92 oldest ex sheriff of the state of arkansas—but 2 old 2 come to lodge–i take one to doc…the other i go see===my lodge no 21 of jasper==well you know the story===there busy==masons==no politicans–why do you think they got rid of me—i dont care if a person is a democrat or republican—whats that got to do bwith being a mason—in jasper 21 of jasper arkansas it meens every thing–if your not a democrat you aint nothen—grand lodge–i dont know—but i do know they do not do there masonic oblagations—no man should be denied a fair trial to clear his name–how can you say your a beliver in christ kiss the holy bible then let this happen–blows your mind—and yes the book ===house undevived===a must read for any mason old or young==

  33. I humbly suggest that what is really killing Freemasonry is that it no longer attracts the best and brightest of men, as it once did. And perhaps a significant reason is that it still clings to the theism that was first attached to Freemasonry in the late-18th century by clerics like Anderson.

    The best and brightest of our species, in the 21st century, are unlikely to believe that any particular god created us and everything else, whether by speaking the universe into existence, or making mud people, or stirring the cosmic river with his spear. Science and reason have soundly disproved those notions, just as they have proved that lightning is not really caused by Zeus hurling fire from Mt. Olympus.

    So now, to be a Freemason AND a nonbeliever in fairy tales about the origin and function of the universe, a man must lie, or pass Freemasonry by for another, less dogmatic fraternity. It’s a lose-lose situation for the Craft. And you don’t have to be psychic to see the trajectory of history; in a century, almost none but the most ignorant will believe in a GAotU.

    Today, to swear an oath in court, one no longer needs to invoke a god; we are taken at our personal honor rather than under threat of some divine surveillance and punishment. It’s time that Freemasonry took the obvious step that was first prepared for during the Enlightenment (the REAL source of Freemasonry): to put away childish things and face life and our mortality with dignity, honesty and maturity rather than fear and superstition.

  34. I have to preface this comment with – I haven’t read all of the other comments. As a Massachusetts Freemason I do however have to comment regarding the Grand Lodge dues increase.

    Our Grand Lodge assessment is increasing from $29 to a whopping $60. $31 whole dollars! Who would have thunk it? Please. My Lodge has gone way beyond that in the past three years alone. It’s simply a sign of the times. They are after all a business.

    The increase in dues is NOT to subsidize a health care system. That makes money on its own. We have a very able bodied CEO tending to that. In fact since he took over, the system has never been more successful. The increase in dues goes to paying for “Education” and other programs for the members of the fraternity – of which I will admit I have taken advantage of in the past.

    I will say (and I’ve told the Grand Master this) that we’re too focused on political Masonry. We’ve gotten away from the philosophy that it was founded on.

  35. Abdul Wahid Osman Belal says:

    A Companion book “Freemasonry-A Critical Study” to “Jewish Conspiracy and the Muslim World” by Misbahul Islam Faruqi was also published in about 1967/1968.

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