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Mediocrity in Masonry…Shame on us!

How long have we been talking about boring business meetings, poor food, lousy fellowship and run down Masonic buildings?

The answer is since Chris Hodapp and friends published Laudable Pursuit, and that was way back in the 90s. But we don’t seem to learn form our mistakes nor do we seem capable of doing what the ancient mystery schools were most adept at doing, namely providing knowledge that lead to wisdom leading to actually making  a better man. We don’t teach Masonic philosophy anymore and for that reason many Masons don’t know that we are a very special and unique society.

Writing today expressing the same theme is renowned author, speaker and Masonic leader – Robert G. Davis, 33° – Grand Cross

Mediocrity in Masonry . . . Shame on us!

By Robert G. Davis, 33° – Grand Cross

Robert Davis, 33 – Grand Cross

One of the questions that occasionally eats at me when I am driving home from a Masonic event, degree, or function that has been woefully mediocre is how our members can sit through such Masonic happenings month after month and still believe our fraternity is relevant and meaningful to men’s lives? How honest are we in claiming we make good men better while persistently repeating practices and behaviors which are so distinctively average, or worse? Self improvement involves some form of positive change. It requires some level of progress; entails some elevated sense of being. Explain to me how a lodge facilitates self improvement by offering its members a venue that doesn’t “feel” any different when they are inside the lodge than outside of it.

Perhaps many of us come into Masonry looking for nothing more than fraternal association. But, if that’s the case, it ought to be the best fraternal association we have ever had!

Cheap Duse and Cheap Meals equal a Dead Lodge

Once we encounter the preparation room, or make our progress through the degrees, it is hard to dismiss the awareness that we are engaged in something wholly different from our other community experiences. We quickly learn that Masonry has a higher calling which requires that we make an ascent into the very center of our being.

An endeavor of such high importance and due solemnity is not a run of the mill undertaking. It becomes clear there is nothing mediocre about Masonry. So why do we make it that way?

Here’s the problem. Accepting mediocrity in our lodge practices is the same as living a mediocre life. By making un-extraordinary acts and behaviors our ordinary practice, we entrap ourselves from knowing how precious life really is. We don’t use opportunities that come our way as a means of expressing how special we really are. Instead, we walk the walk with the rest of the herd and soon find ourselves in such a deep rut of limitations we lose sight of our own value. We become trapped in mediocrity.

Regrettably, this too often seems the condition in which lodges, Scottish Rite Valleys, York Rite Chapters, Councils and Commanderies find themselves. When nothing extraordinary, educational, insightful, compelling, intellectual, contemplative, spiritual, or fraternal occurs in our private, sacred, fraternal spaces, then we become only another ordinary, average, run of the mill, dime-a-dozen organization. It is hard to see how this kind of Masonry takes good men and makes them better.

 

It is not the kind of Masonry we should want to share with our friends.

I believe that if we truly want to move “from the square to the compasses,” we have to dare to be different. And we can’t dare to be different by following someone else’s expectations. When a lodge does the same thing year after year, it is accepting by default someone else’s expectations. There is nothing creative, inspiring, or different about parroting ritual, paying bills, and going home. That’s doing only what many others have done before us.

To distinguish ourselves among men and organizations, we first have to perceive in our own minds that we have something to do which will ultimately set us above the average. We start by thinking about the choices before us.

Do we choose what is safe rather than what is right? Do we only do things right, or do we do the right things? Do we set out on a new path, or take the same old, comfortable way? Do we bring credit to our teachings, or debit them as ideals of the past? Do we become the examples that young men want to emulate, or do we seem to them as just another group of ho hum guys?

You see, the choice always controls the chooser. To be exemplary men, or an exemplary organization, we have to be exceptional in our awareness of who we are, what we are here to be doing, what we know, and how we practice what we know. We have to have the courage to be different from the rest of the crowd—nobler in our expectations and more refined in our state of mind.

Because that’s just the way Masonry is.

He who wants milk should not sit himself in the middle of a pasture and wait for a cow to back up to him.

Want more? Listen to his appearance on Masonic Central in 2008.

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 (6)

  • I couldn't agree more with Worshipful Brother Davis, but would like to add my comment(s) to his. We, the older members of Masonry need to readjust our thought processes as many of us are still living in the 1950's and 60's. Masonry has to evolve if we are to increase our membership and stay afloat. Years ago the Masonic Lodge was the center of social activities, today we have the internet, hundreds of television stations and sports abound.

    Young people find this far more interesting than sitting in Lodge listening to some of the older Brethren complain about a possible $5.00 raise in yearly dues.

    We need to be allowed to actively recruit members (2B1ask1) that bumper sticker was fine years ago but not today. Young people today ask, "What does Masonry offer my family and I?". Our answer, "Well, your wife can join the OES and you can bring your kid's to the stated meeting dinner". This is hardly the answer a 34 year old possible candidate with a wife, two kids and a 60+ inch flat screen TV at home wants to hear.

    Personally, I feel we are our own worst enemies. We forbid many things people enjoy doing. When was the last time we had "Las Vegas Night" or Bingo with real money at a Lodge? Many of our Lodges put on great dinners but we cannot charge for them we must ask for "donations" when in fact, if it's worth eating it's worth paying for, especially when you can feed a family of four for $40.00 or less at Golden Corral in Lawton, OK.

    During one of my terms as Master I had an idea of inviting local wineries to use our large dining room to conduct a wine tasting. The uproar was monumental against it and yet attendees at wine tastings are for the most part young professional men of the caliber we would like as members of our Fraternity.

    So many lost opportunities to grow and it's our fault totally, it's time we entered the 21st century. In our community, some years ago, we had many fraternal organizations, Elks, Odd Fellows ETC. now they are gone. If we are to survive we need drastic change in our ideas and ideals while maintaining the basic tenets of Free Masonry.

  • I believe that Isaac Newton "spoiled the cream" of the cow in the pasture of Freemasonry. Perhaps men are deceiving themselves, for insofar as Newton suffered "phrenitis" for a period of 18 months, his blinded disciples partake of his madness. Will these same deluded men one day learn to use "gravity" to ATTRACT the milking COW to themselves? We laugh in derision, as one who has Melchisedec as High Priest above all. Amen.

  • Unfortunately it seems that Freemasonry is becoming the same around all the world. Here in Brazilian masonic lodges, is the same. But, as Marthin Luther King said "what worries me is the silence of the good", we, as good masons, can't silence. Let's be strong and loud the purposes of the masonry.

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