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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.

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 Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

View Comments (35)

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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