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    Categories: Sojourners

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’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:

  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.

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.

Greg Stewart: A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.

View Comments (59)

  • 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)

  • 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

  • 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"

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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....

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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