– Can it no longer change and adapt?
Read a response to this piece in a A Fresh Perspective of Freemasonry from a Grand Master.
As a Freemason who has had more than one run-in with with Grand Masters, I have become a lightning rod for others who are no longer satisfied with the institution, both in and outside of my jurisdiction. I am not sure I can help other than to listen to their problems and offer some sympathy. Recently, I heard from two Brothers in my jurisdiction who called to complain about what was going on in their Lodge, or more specifically, what wasn’t happening. One was in his early 30’s, the other in his mid-70’s. Remarkably, their complaints were similar. Both fervently believe in Freemasonry as a concept, but have difficulty accepting how it is physically practiced in their jurisdiction.
They both love the concept of brotherhood, its heritage, the practice of morality, and working together to make communities better. However, they find attending Lodge meetings to be repetitive and boring with little effort to make it interesting and worthwhile. It almost seems like it is designed to fail. Both Brothers said to me, as well as many others, “This is not what I signed up for,” and are in the process of emitting.
Instead of Lodges embracing the concept of Brotherhood, Freemasons have grown weary of the petty political struggles where people feverishly work to earn an inane object such as a fancy apron or a new Masonic title, e.g., Worshipful, Right Worshipful, Most Worshipful. I am often asked, “What is wrong with the plain white apron and simply being called ‘Brother’?” Instead, they lament Freemasonry is practiced as a Good Old Boy Club whereby, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This suggests an individualistic approach based on favoritism, not one based on collective teamwork.
One of the Brothers noted, of all the people who were raised with him during his year, only one has returned to Lodge. Most simply disappear, move on to other endeavors, and drop out. This suggests the Lodge is not offering anything of value to its members, such as stimulating discussions and meaningful social interaction.
Like many other jurisdictions, we have watched membership here erode over the past fifteen years, losing over 1,500 on an annual basis. This is perplexing to the Brothers I talked with who commented while membership dwindles, the aprons and titles never abate. I tend to refer to this type of phenomenon as “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic” – in other words, people tend to worry about the wrong things.
The Brothers had hoped to find a place for the free expression of ideas and debate, of stimulating discussion and mental gymnastics, to be curious and learn, but this is typically frowned upon by both the Lodge officers and Grand Lodge who are quick to squash such discussions. Consequently, Lodge is no longer “a place of enlightenment,” and people quickly exit it at the conclusion of a meeting. They further note sub-par floor work by apathetic officers during the conferring of degrees, some simply laughing off their performance. This distracts from impressing on the candidates the importance of the lessons embodied in the degrees.
They admit to having met some fine people along the way, true believers in the Craft, but also a lot of petty people who become jealous over the success of others and undermines them. Such backstabbing tends to make people paranoid and not comfortable in their own Lodge. As one of the Brothers explained to me, “A Masonic Lodge is a place where people prefer to speak behind your back, as opposed to your face.”
The Brothers also sought further light in Masonry from other institutions, such as the Scottish Rite and York Rite. Again, they didn’t find it stimulating, just “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Maybe this problem is unique to their jurisdiction, but I doubt it.
I find it difficult to console such Brothers as I have always contended Freemasonry requires a major overhaul (see my “Masonic Manifesto” written years ago). Having fought the immovable object though for so long, all I can advise them is, “You cannot fight city hall.” This inability to adapt to change is the single biggest reason why the Craft is losing members, by frustrating good Masons and causing them to abandon the fraternity.
It is not my intention here to appear too negative, but we can no longer afford to cover up our blemishes and hope they will go away on their own. If we truly believe in the concept of Freemasonry, we can ill-afford to be reactive and become pro-active instead. This all begins by admitting we have a problem. It has long been an axiom of ours, “You cannot treat a patient if he doesn’t know he is sick” (Bryce’s Law).
Keep the Faith!
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