Brother Upton was made a Mason in Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13 in Walla Walla, becoming its Master in 1892. He would apply his scholarship, his agile mind, and his industry to the study of Freemasonry. These combined with his rare gifts as a speaker and writer would soon mark him for Grand Lodge Leadership.
Upton was elected Junior Grand Warden in 1896, and would be elevated to the rank and station of Grand Master in 1898.
Our Most Worshipful Brother made many significant contributions to Masonry; his most significant being his committee report of 1897 on Black Masonry and his efforts as Grand Master passing a resolution recognizing Prince Hall Masons in the State of Washington. However the majority of the other white Grand Lodges in the United States and Canada withdrew Masonic relations with the Grand Lodge of Washington until the resolution was repealed. The resolution was reluctantly rescinded in June 1899. William H. Upton continued to write on this subject with conviction.
His work on Black Masonry was an important chapter in Masonic history. He died on November 3, 1906. Upton’s sincere interest was demonstrated by a provision in his will that no monument should be erected over his grave until “both colored and white Masons could stand over it as brothers.” In June 1990 the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington passed a resolution recognizing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. On June 8, 1991 Both Grand Lodges gathered to lay a marker on William Upton’s grave.
Side by side Masons from both Grand Lodges marched in a huge long line. When they got to the cemetery there were speeches and prayers and hugs and recognition of William Upton’s surviving family that were there that day.
Above all there was the ceremony of the tombstone dedication where members of both Grand Lodges using the working tools of a Master Mason declared the work of engraved stone square, level and plumb. As the veil was lifted from the stone all could read these words inscribed thereon: “This memorial commemorates the fruition of the last will and testament of William H. Upton MW Past Grand Master Wash. F & AM who desired that all Masons regardless of color, should dwell together as recognized Masonic Brethren. This was accomplished in 1990 by actions of both Grand Lodges MW GL F&AM of Wash. and MW Prince Hall GL F&AM of Wash. Dedicated June 8, 1991 AL 5991”
If you go to the Internet you will find very little information about William H. Upton even though he authored the work “Light On A Dark Subject”. Neither the Grand Lodge of Washington Mainstream or The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington show any material to this man on their websites. One of the few places that has anything solid on the man is Phoenixmasonry, that well run repository of so much fraternal history and objects. See: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/light_on_a_dark_subject.htm
That’s a crime. This Mason that should be revered and talked about and written about so that his story is within easy reach of any casual observer.
There is a hot new book out here on the Prince Hall scene, THE LOST EMPIRE, Black Freemasonry In The Old West (1867-1906) by Brother James R. Morgan III. This book tells the history of African American Freemasonry in the Old West as seen through the lens of Captain William D. Matthews and the King Solomon Grand Lodge of Kansas.
Morgan is The Grand Historian for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia and an active and experienced genealogist among many other glowing accolades.
He cut his teeth doing research for two other distinguished D.C. Masons and authors, Alton Roundtree and Tehuti Evans.
The book came about when fellow genealogist Denessia Swanegan asked Morgan to help her in her ancestral research and Morgan began a research project which became an article which became a Research Paper which morphed into a full-blown book. Morgan said that once he started down this path the research information just kept coming and coming until a book more or less had to be written.
Very little had been written about Black Freemasonry West of the Mississippi River in the Wild West years. This is the first work that ties many separate facts together into a cohesive whole so that a complete story could be told. The Lost Empire has much to say about Black Freemasonry’s National Grand Lodge or National Compact. Although I won’t reveal the details so as to not spoil the story, one interesting tidbit from James Morgan really surprised me. Morgan said that one of the big reasons that the National Grand Lodge was formed was because many bogus and clandestine Black Lodges and Grand Lodges were spreading like wildfire eventually far outnumbering those Regular Grand Lodges charted by the Grand Lodge of England and tracing their heritage back to African Lodge No 459.
Into the fray charged this swashbuckling, charismatic character named Captain William D. Mathews and his King Solomon Compact Grand Lodge of Kansas. But that is all we are going to tell you. Buy the book.
The Lost Empire is a well written well researched book (It has 106 pages of Appendixes) that fills a void in hitherto unknown and unpublicized Black Masonic activity in this part of the country in the Wild, Wild West era woven into a complete story. It is as much a history book as it is a Masonic book. That makes it a must for your Historical and Masonic Library.
I have, in my position as an old Past Master, mentored a Brother through the Degrees for the first time in a long time. And as his raising is imminent, I wanted to “send him off” with a good new charge. I love doing charges and have done numerous ones over the years. The most satisfying, seems to be the “On Yonder Book” charge.
But I thought it might be nice to write and deliver a new charge. One that has never been heard before. Yet what I have to say seems somehow incomplete. I just can’t seem to grasp a coherent fullness to what I want to say.
So, never one to turn down assistance, I appeal to the vast erudite Masonic audience of this website to chime in and give me a hand. What do I need to add or subtract? What do you like or dislike? What would make it better? Or should I just scrap the whole darn thing. Rip it up and start over or rip it up and forget about it?
My brother, it might seem to you that you have reached the end of your journey in the quest for Light. But that would be far from the truth. Masonry is a life long journey of learning, discovery and application,- a way of life that has many rewards for you yet to come.
For the moment let us concentrate on the Third Degree which has just been conferred on you. Its theme is Immortality. And that theme is so important for you to understand where Masonry fits into the grand scheme of things and how does it interrelate with other disciplines that guide you through this journey called “Life.”
It is vital for you to understand that Masonry is not a religion. It does not have a path laid out for your salvation. It talks about the Celestial Lodge Above, but it does not tell you how to get there. It just informs you that it is there for the taking.
Those that claim Masonry is a religion or use the Lodge as a substitute for church are operating under a mistaken concept that man can make his own religion, construct it as the Builders built the Temple. That a new designer religion called Masonry has been constructed for the benefit of the Brethren.
Even more important is the idea that Masonry is in conflict with religion and its practice thereof, that there is some sort of battle going on between the Church and the Lodge and that we must pick sides and declare a winner.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I stand before you today to dispel any such notion.
Masonry is actually sending you to your religion. It wants you to subscribe to both the Lodge and the Church.
The Legend of Hiram Abiff and the lesson of the Third Degree, immortality, cries out for you to discover HOW through your House of Worship. There is no prescription for the path to salvation in Masonry.
Masonry places upon its altar the Volume of the Sacred Law for the rule and guide of your faith. It does not interpret the Holy Book. It is there to encourage you to use it.
Masonry has other symbols to encourage you to partake of your faith. One that comes instantly to mind is “The Point Within The Circle.”
Masonry deals with the here and now. It explains what a Brotherhood is all about. One needs only to review the “Five Points of Fellowship” to realize what Masonry is teaching.
The Lodge teaches you the ways to form relationships with your fellow man
The church teaches you the ways to form a relationship with God.
Masonry teaches you how to be Noble.
Your religion teaches you how to be Holy.
Masonry is all about building character.
Your religion is all about caring for your soul.
They both have a place in your life.
But here is the moral to this story.
THEY ARE THE BEST ONE-TWO PUNCH IN MODERN TIMES.
For if you practice Masonry and apply it to your daily life while at the same time practice your religion and nurture your soul, then you will lead a happy and fulfilled life. Evil will not overtake your way of life. Notice I did not say you will be sinless. We are all sinners. We all “fall off the wagon” now and then. But practicing Masonry and a practicing _____ (fill in your religion) will send you down the path of righteousness and up the ladder to your destiny. One without the other is like a carriage without a horse. It’s a train with no railroad tracks.
Take due notice thereof, my Brother, and govern yourself accordingly.
I attended my good friend’s installation as Master of Stockyard Lodge No. 1244, Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM, Worshipful Michael Cote. Brother Cote was the Grand Lodge of Texas Grand Musician until this year. He is the only Grand Musician who has not been a piano or organ player. Cote has his own Music Company and band and performs all over in many different venues.
In an age when Masonic membership and Lodge participation are fading, Brother Cote put on a truly heartwarming example of the Masonic community coming together to celebrate Freemasonry! That is something near and dear to my heart. If we celebrate our Freemasonry, we encourage others to join in and inspire the Craft to new heights. This in an open Installation where the public can come and can be a very important means of attracting new Brothers.
Michael Cote Installed as Master
Brother Cote asked the current Grand Musician, Past Master Carl Chalfant to install him and the complete line of officers. Chalfant came all the way from Houston to do this for his good friend. Chalfant is a well-known piano player and can really tickle the ivories when it comes to Honkey-Tonk music, although he is well versed in all styles. In addition, well known Fiddle player and another old friend of Cote, Brother Tommy Hughes, who is a member of Glen Rose Lodge No 525 and a member of the Michael Cote Band, attended the installation.
DeMolay was represented, most notably by Brother Michael Cote II who is Master Councilor of Malvern Marks Chapter in Fort Worth and District Deputy State Master Councilor of District 2 of the Texas DeMolay Association.
Brother Michael Cote II is escorted into Lodge by Sister Kendal Clark
Rainbow was represented, most notably, by Sister Kendal Clark, the Texas DeMolay Sweetheart as well as the Grand Treasurer of the Grand Assembly of Texas.
DeMolay Brothers presented the colors to the Altar, US Flag and Texas State Flag and we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance to both. The Rainbow girls escorted each officer to be installed into the Lodge Room as their name and office was announced.
Also present were a large contingent of Eastern Star Ladies who prepared a nice selection of light food and Iced Tea.
DeMolay presents the Colors
Two presentations were made to the newly installed Worshipful Master. Sister Clark performed the Gavel Ceremony below. She did a fine job and all from memory and showed her outstanding qualities as a leader.
Worshipful Michael Cote, this gavel I hold in my hands is the age-old symbol of the authority of this office.
When you accept this gavel, you will accept all its wrappings. These wrappings, just like the color stations, are seven in number. They are invisible. You cannot see them, but they are just as real as the gold and the enamel that cover the wood (or plastic) of which this gavel is made.
The first of these wrappings is that of responsibility. This Assembly is now your responsibility. Your responsibility is to see that it thrives and grows while you are in office.
The second wrapping is that of loyalty. Members of this Assembly will without doubt be loyal to you, but it is far more important that you be loyal to them.
The third is that of love. Just as you have been reared in love, let that same love flow from you to all members of this Assembly. Love is like a pebble dropped in a still pond. The waves of love will radiate from their origin and will spread to encompass everything and everyone around you.
Then there is the wrapping of humility. Do not be overly proud, for you occupy this office, not by your work alone, but by the efforts of all those assembled around you.
The next wrapping you will find is the wrapping of those twins that always go hand in hand, justice and fairness. Just as a judge wields his gavel with those two great virtues in mind, so must you always strive to be fair and just.
And then, down underneath, you will find the innermost and finest wrapping of all is that of reverence. Our entire Order is founded on God. Without Him, you can do nothing. With Him, there is nothing you cannot do.
It is with deep humility, and yet with great pride that I now present, this gavel to you.
Sister Kendal Clark presents newly installed Master with his gavel
The second presentation was by yours truly:
I am Freemasonry by Ray V. Denslow
I was born in antiquity, in the ancient days when men first dreamed of God.
I have been tried through the ages and found true.
The crossroads of the world bear the imprint of my feet, and the cathedrals of all nations mark the skill of my hands.
I strive for beauty and for symmetry.
In my heart is wisdom and strength and courage for those who ask.
Upon my altar is the Book of Holy Writ, and my prayers are to the One Omnipotent God.
My sons work and pray together, without rank or discord, in the public mart and in the inner chamber.
By signs and symbols, I teach the lessons of life and of death and the relationship of man with God and of man with man.
My arms are widespread to receive those of lawful age and good report who seek me of their own free will.
I accept them and teach them to use my tools in the building of men, and thereafter, find direction in their own quest for perfection so much desired and so difficult to attain.
I lift up the fallen and shelter the sick.
I hark to the orphan’s cry, the widow’s tears, the pain of the old and destitute.
I am not church, nor party, nor school, yet my sons bear a full share of responsibility to God, to country, to neighbor and themselves.
They are freemen, tenacious of their liberties and alert to lurking danger.
At the end I commit them as each one undertakes the journey beyond the vale into the glory of everlasting life.
I ponder the sand within the glass and think how small is a single life in the eternal universe.
Always have I taught immortality, and even as I raise men from darkness into light, I am a way of life.
I am Freemasonry.
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
Past Master Frederic L. Milliken makes his presentation
The installation being over we posed for pictures and retired to the dining room for fun, food, and fraternalism
While dining, Past Grand Musician Worshipful Michael Cote, present Grand Musician Brother Carl Chalfant and Brother Tommy Hughes entertained us with some real down home music. Cote sang “King of the Road” and many of us joined in to sing along with him.
Cote, Chalfant and Hughes entertain in the dining room
All that was left was the cutting of the cake, the thank yous and the hugs and the promise to never forget the good time had by all and then making the intention of gathering again with Stockyard Lodge No 1244.
I lingered as long as I could not wanting this moment in time to end. Alas, all good things must end, UNTIL YOU DO THEM AGAIN.
On May 22, 2019 President Trump presented Police Officer, and brother, Brent Alan Thompson the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor posthumously, the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer. “An attack on our police is an attack upon our entire nation,” Trump said.
Brother Thompson was a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer on live duty July 7, 2016 in downtown Dallas, Texas where he was monitoring a peaceful demonstration. Suddenly, shots rang out and Brent was ambushed and killed by a sniper just two weeks before his 44th birthday. He took a position behind a pillar outside El Centro College after the shots. The gunman snuck up on Thompson and fatally shot him from behind.
Brother Thompson was just two weeks into a new marriage with fellow DART police officer Emily.
Brother Thompson was a former Marine and Police Trainer. The Website Heavy tells us about some of his accomplishments:
He was an international police trainer who mentored Iraqi and Afghan police in the concepts of “democratic policing,” training Afghan officers how to avoid an ambush, according to a 2006 New York Times article quoting him and his own LinkedIn page. He’d also previously trained American police officers in active shooters.
Thompson Taught Afghan Police Officers How to Survive an ‘Ambush’ & Also Mentored Iraqi Police in ‘Democratic Policing.’
Thompson was chief of operations for Southern Iraq for DynCorp International, a private military contractor. “I was responsible for the day to day operations conducted by our American police officers who trained and mentored the Iraqi Police,” he wrote.
“My area of responsibility was the Special Programs Units (Baghdad, Iraq), Training Teams located at the US Embassy (South), Camp Echo, Camp Delta, Basrah, and Babel. These teams covered Iraq from Baghdad to the southern border with Kuwait. I also worked in Northern Iraq: Mosul, Haman Al Lil, Duhook, Talifar.”
He also served in Afghanistan. “I also was in Afghanistan (Helmand and Khandahar Provinces); I was a Team Leader there and Lead Mentor to the Southern Provincial Police Chief. In all locations we mentored and taught our Iraqi/Afghan counterparts democratic policing, and assisted in the establishment of the police departments in those location.”
Thompson Taught Specialized Police Training Courses in How to Handle an Active Shooter
He wrote, “I patrol the Northwest sector for the DART systems. This area includes Lewisville, Texas; Carrollton, Texas; Farmers Branch, Texas; Irving, Texas; and Dallas, Texas.”
Thompson Wrote That He Was Motivated by a ‘Team Atmosphere’ & Finding Ways to Serve
On his LinkedIn page, Thompson wrote, “I am motivated by a ‘Team’ atmosphere. I enjoy working on challenging tasks and problem solving with my peers. I am constantly looking for different ways to serve the department, this helps to keep my work from becoming sedentary and boring.”
His funeral was held at The Potter’s House, a church that held 17,000 worshippers. Thousands off police officers from all over the nation attended in their dress blues.
His Pastor described him as a man who instinctively liked and was liked by nearly all who met him.
Emily Thompson told the congregation: “Tuesday, June 21, 2016 was one of the happiest days of my life. I married the most amazing, caring, loving, selfless man I’ve ever known. Brent showed me that even though I would doubt myself from time to time, I’m strong and can do anything. Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 8:58 p.m., that was all ripped from me in an act of senseless violence.”
Brent Alan Thompson was a Master Mason at Corsicana Lodge No 174, the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM. He was also a former member of the Black Gold Chapter of DeMolay, Corsicana, Texas. The officers of The Grand Lodge of Texas performed his graveside ceremony.
As a DART employee myself, in customer service, I had the honor of meeting and talking to Brother Brent in person on several occasions. It was only weeks before his death in a conversation we had that I leaned that he was a Freemason.
Sandra Hughes, a retired teacher who knew Thompson, told The Washington Post: When he became a grandfather, he “just lived for those little kids.”
“…He was in every way, every way, that you would want your son, and that you would want someone that you knew, to be like. You’d want him to be like Brent. Because Brent, he was just that special,” Hughes said, according to the Post. She described him as calm, never agitated, and “down-to-earth,” the Post said.
And that is exactly the characteristics you will find in most Freemasons. We are a quiet, nonviolent, honest, patriotic lot. We are gentle, nonjudgmental men who build bridges across our communities and preach the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God.
That is the way I remember Brother Brent Thompson. He was an inspiration to everybody he touched.
Good news. Brother Sheika is returning to Freemasonry and here is his story:
Why I Am Returning To The Masonic Brotherhood: Salman S. Sheikh
Disclaimer: This is of my own personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences and does not represent any Grand Lodge or its leaders/statements in any way. Please read with an open mind and don’t take anything out of context as I had several Masons review this before publishing. Thank You!
Greetings to one and all wherever you are reading this from. My name is Salman Sheikh and as you know I had an article that went viral when I resigned from the fraternity due to many issues which I felt did not meet my expectations of individuals I wanted to associate myself with. As you read this, I will try my best to break every subject I feel necessary to address in different headings so my message is understood rather than receiving criticism which is common for any Mason that cares and makes the effort to put it in writing. I found it in my heart to make the intention to return and reserved my right as a resigned Master Mason in good standing doing so. I want to clear the air on many things so I can return with a full heart. And away we go:
That is what I joined for to see guys learn something they can apply to their lives instead of repetitive meetings, lodge politics, and online arguments which is common now in the current environment.
My Background and Why I Left The Brotherhood
As I was growing up as a first generation American Muslim, I felt lost when I arrived to the USA at age 5 and did not know a word of English when I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to a local school which was a K-8 school and I am thankful to a teacher from India who took me under his wing and taught me English in terms of watching and reading all materials that presented itself in the required Lingua Franca. As time went on, I eventually made my way to the Greater Philadelphia area and have been here ever since. I was always misunderstood and found myself in trouble going through the school system and in middle school as I was only 1 suspension away from expulsion but was saved due to the advice I took from my 7th grade history teacher at the time who cared. I am thankful that to this day I maintain a clean record on all fields as a productive member of society especially growing up as a Muslim in the post 9/11 era. I am thankful to people like my Ohio Indian teacher and my 7th grade history teacher who showed up at the right times to guide me when they did so I could have a foundation to build upon. These individuals didn’t see me as a Pakistani Muslim but someone that they showed compassion for as a human being because I had always seen the world from outside the box and would often rebel against things I did not agree with. After finishing high school, I became the first person in my family to obtain a college degree and I am thankful of the opportunity of growing up in the USA and will always be thankful to my father who brought me here.
I was always curious about the world and humanity’s purpose in it as I would spend hours during my high school weekends searching Freemasonry including different secret societies, the occult aspects, and why things in our world worked the way they did in a script mode as I observed with the practice of Gematria/Kabalah. After high school, I operated a family business for a few years in the Philadelphia area while finishing my college and the thought of the craft had left my mind until the summer of 2015. I was working a summer job in the Upper Darby area when I had met an immigrant from Jamaica and a wonderful human being who showed up as a customer. I saw the square and compass on his hat and asked him that I wanted to join knowing the process myself that I had to ask with my own free will. He was old school and wanted to test me out for a bit as time went on of us becoming friends, hanging out, and learning from each other before He decided to present me with a petition to lodge. I was 23 at the time and really excited and went right away to my local Grand Lodge to take a tour. The night I became an Entered Apprentice, I was so excited because I never saw the sight of men of different backgrounds all sitting together and breaking bread. That’s when one of the Past Master’s of my former lodge who is a wonderful individual told me, “People will still be people.” I disregarded his words just like any youngster that talks to an elder but as time went on I came to appreciate his words more and more. I was initiated, passed, and raised by a Jewish Past Master who is often overlooked and I want him recognized for his awesome contributions to the craft and for the countless individuals he has raised. I thought to myself that where else in the world do you see this where we can all come together as one regardless of our faith, race, socio-economic status, etc?
I decided to faithfully attend all events of lodge which consisted of instruction(practice) nights, stated meetings, and extra meetings which is used for conferral of degrees. As soon as I was raised in the Spring of 2016 I was put into the Junior Deacon role which I faithfully honored with perfect attendance and effort till my Summer 2018 resignation. I also joined other appendant bodies and made the effort to honor all with participation, attendance, mentoring(education), bringing in worthy candidates which in my case still allows me to make an impact as one of the candidates I recommended for my former blue lodge is serving them in an exceptional way and things would have turned out differently for them had I not recommended this worthy individual so in the end I am thankful in many ways because we all have our parts to play to guiding each other to wherever we are meant to be and serve. I am no one special in the end but I am thankful to have played my role.
The one thing which amazed me was seeing men who would call me brother in lodge just for the sake of being there but would later post Anti-Islamic/Anti-Immigrant rhetoric on their social media pages or my spirit would be able to pick up on their vibrations on how they really felt about me. I tried to change them by showing them how a real Freemason makes a difference in the world. I made the effort to get involved in every appendant body and visited different lodges, went up to brothers that were sitting alone, and gave hugs to many as a I could to let them know that there was still some good left in the world including in the world of Freemasonry. The only way there will be a renewal in this brotherhood is when brothers like myself and others make the effort through action to show them how we can be a shining example of light to the world rather than empty words or promises. The doubts also started to cloud my mind is when how some brethren would make subliminal derogatory comments towards me in person and the way they conducted themselves on social media which made me more disillusioned no matter how many times I tried to stay active, help, do education programs, publish articles in Masonic magazines or any other Masonic effort I tried to make with a clean heart to spread unity in my short 2.5 years. I operated myself in a duality existence where I wore my Islamic prayer cap and kept my Masonic ring on as I had learned from the craft and the Scottish Rite Double Headed Eagle to represent all of our existence in a singularity because all other labels and identities are worldly illusions. My intention doing this living in USA was to show those I had interacted with that not all Masons and Muslims are bad and to erase the doubts in their minds through my own character. One thing I learned is that you can only influence and teach others through your displayed character which means a lot more than words.
I joined Freemasonry because I wanted to escape the judgemental attitudes I experienced in America and wanted to be with men who shared the same vision as me and great men in history like Haile Sellassie, Swami Vivekananda, Mustafa Kamal, and many other great revolutionaries that changed the world. I believe they only succeeded because they came together for a common cause and not petty issues like how I can make myself stand out from the next brother or who is taking the chair next year. If they had the attitudes we have today then maybe the USA would have never been created. I believe we leave all those fancy titles and honors behind when we face the creator because at that point the only thing that will matter is what good did you do for yourself, the world, and others? I can proudly say that I can face the creator with a clean heart and say that I loved my brothers, did right by all, and asked for forgiveness from all that were hurt by my actions unintentionally. That my beautiful brethren, I believe is true Freemasonry and I did not get that from those who are quick to make comments about the West Gate and how we need to better screen everyone. These are the same people who drive others out and maintain their own control as we see with the mass decline on how good of a job they are doing. My intention is to not condemn anyone or the fraternity but to raise the necessary awareness for revival and education because I saw no one else having the courage to stand up so please keep this in mind as you read on. If not me, then who?
I left Freemasonry because I did not like the corporate mindset that creeps into the lodge system. My intention of joining Freemasonry was to gain esoteric knowledge by spreading my own and humbling myself to learn from others also when required. I dedicated my heart and soul for all events and in the end I was called a liar, a spy, and other names by those who find it easier to criticize behind my back and on the computer screen rather than to my face because I chose to call out all those guilty of UnMasonic conduct rather than look away. These are the same individuals I called my brothers and they left me out to dry just like we see in the corporate world of the seller being nice to the client to gain as much as possible out of him but won’t hesitate to look the other way and walk right past them if they see any issue of any kind. I forgive them and moved on with my life peacefully and I hope they can become true Masons in all that they do because at the end no one is perfect but that should not be an excuse for lacking basic decency or empathy for your fellow man regardless of your biases, race, or religion viewpoints. The mindset of everyone being expendable needs to go away where focusing on numbers and petitions is the priority but not on why young men are leaving disoriented. Men come to the craft to learn and not appease those with a shopkeeper’s mentality who gets upset when you decide not to take a chair or anything else and won’t hesitate to replace you in a heartbeat. We see that as all the “higher ups” find it easier to hold fancy seminars about how to attract younger men and increase numbers(profits) while never talking about why did they join, how did we fail, and what drove them away? How you present yourself in person, on social media, and other things will determine if the young person joining will find you worthwhile or not to their spiritual growth. The young generation of today is keen with technology, Artificial Intelligence, and can flood the internet with memes in the seconds of any event happening in the world. These are the kids who are becoming leaders of tomorrow and the craft has to clean up the shopkeeper mentality who just needs enough bodies to keep the show rolling where whoever decide to show up is automatically assigned a chair. I am part of this generation and we won’t tolerate those who don’t practice what they preach on all venues. Hence, why I and others continue to leave as we see lodges with hundreds of members barely having enough to just open and close. This needs to change if the craft wants to survive beyond in to the 2030s and 2040s. The egos need to die down also as we see on all Masonic online platforms of just brethren arguing and fighting amongst many different issues in today’s environment of extreme polarization. I have also read many comments of my articles published which brethren degrade my faith, my value, and other lack of understanding and you can revisit them online and see how I handled them in response which was with brotherly love because I for one will never dishonor my oath and obligation regardless If I am an active Mason or not. I have the courage to look myself in the mirror everyday and tell those who are wrong on their face rather than look the other way.
Why I Am Returning
I created a lot of controversy when I resigned from Pennsylvania because I honored my obligation of standing up against injustice even if that meant losing everything I had worked for. I am returning because of great human beings like the current Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Bro. S. Eugene Herritt who personally called me and assured he would make things right. I first met RWGM Herritt at the Spring 2017 Academy of Masonic Knowledge lectures in Elizabethtown, PA. At the time he was a Deputy Grand Master and I did not know that as I just saw him a brother who was sitting by himself at the table during lunch. I felt something for him in respect to my oath and went up to him, gave him a hug, and took a picture with him and shared a nice moment as we took more pictures with our speakers, the speakers who also I both embraced because I know how special it is for those that gather to share knowledge with their fellow man. There are Grand Lodge leaders that probably don’t notice if your average Mason demits but RWGM Herritt truly cares for his fellow man and Mason and I want him recognized and honored for that from the entire global Masonic community including the growth of Masonic education under his leadership. There were those who said that I broke the trust of the RWGM with my resignation article that went viral that also had a picture of us sharing a moment together. Anyone with a pair of eyes can reread that article can see that I only mention the RWGM in their once where I respect him for the actions he was taking to better Pennsylvania and the fraternity in general. These are the same people who were quite and looked the other way when their clique friends laughed at me when I was going through my resignation process. I rest my case and those who have the eyes to see and the heart to feel know where I stand in my position without me having to provide any necessary justification as we see in the past of all individuals who made a difference branded as heretics or rebels. If anyone points a finger at you they too have to realize they are 10 pointing at least right back at you.
I am returning to honor great men like the current RWGM of Pennsylvania and others from the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodge of India who stayed in touch with me on a daily basis regardless of time zone differences. That changed my entire perspective as I was only used to receiving once a year birthday check up calls as an American Mason or the dues payment reminders. Through these brethren, I am petitioning the UGLE and eventually the Grand Lodge of India to become an active Mason again and am making the intention to visit these countries to speak and be a real traveler with Masonry being a unifier that can help me bridge issues between the India/Pakistan mentality also which are all just illusions and labels. My purpose in returning is only for bringing brethren together in different scenarios and Masonic education and not to play lodge politics or musical chairs. I won’t join any lodge here in USA until they show me by their actions on where they stand and not empty words, but with my restored credentials I will happily visit the lodges here if they need a good education program that I can speak on and help them learn something or be able to attend myself if someone else is spreading light. I am not denouncing Continental Masonry(USA) and won’t hesitate to join a new lodge here in Pennsylvania or anywhere else that I believe would be benefecial for me or if I see something that sets them apart from others. That is what I joined for to see guys learn something they can apply to their lives instead of repetitive meetings, lodge politics, and online arguments which is common now in the current environment. If I make my intentions clear on why I want to come back then the possibility of me being disappointed is low. We all have different talents we can contribute to the craft and the mentality of throwing everyone in a chair right after being raised and expecting them to perform perfect ritual is unrealistic. The effort needs to made to sit down with the brother and ask him what he joined for and what talent or skill he has that can teach someone as we remain true to being builders of selves and our fellow man, not everyone can be a ritualist so the emphasis on their personal talents need to be clarified so the new brother feels a purpose and belonging. I joined at age 23 as the first person in my family to do so and am returning at age 27 almost as a Master Mason in good standing and that is something no one can ever take away from me because at the end our faith is always in God through all good and bad times. We all need to be understanding of one another if we are truly being followers of God and I know the inevitable comments of criticism that I will get from this and I forgive you in advance because you are my brothers and I will always wish you well. I will leave my contact information below and I encourage everyone who agrees or disagrees with me of how I took action to meet with me in person rather than behind a computer screen. I will treat you to a coffee and be willing to learn from you by putting my ego aside and I hope you will return the same respect to me as I will not respond to any negativity or negative comments that get posted on my new piece here. I also want to quickly address those who scrutinized me for standing up to those who post Anti-Islamic/Anti-Immigrant content on their social medias. I support everyone’s right to what they believe but to me it’s crossing the line when you demonize others which inevitably turns into UnMasonic conduct. The whole concept of being divided by race and religion is an illusion in my humble opinion and we can’t lower ourselves to that mentality. I got my DNA test done as a Pakistani and had Indian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and Australian Aboriginal ancestry in which the aboriginal bloodline gives me Indigenous recognition in the US under International law pursuant to Aborigines American Indian treaties with Great Britain and the De Jure United States of America under UCC 9-311 and the UN International rights of the indigenous peoples signed by President Obama in 2010 along with being a naturalized American citizen as well in respect to the Pam Am Convention, and Organization of American States. I found a fifth generational cousin who was a Caucasian woman in Iowa in which proves my sentiment again that we are all connected by our spirits and love for one another as human beings regardless of how different we think we are from others especially those whether they are Masons or not that like to spread disunity and confusion. This is my point in addressing all this. I would like to conclude my thoughts with a quote from Hermes Trismegistus, “The excellence of the soul is understanding; for the man who understands is conscious, devoted, and already godlike.”
A lot of people have asked me why I keep putting my neck on the line and I tell them that I truly care about the future of humanity whether it be through my Masonic endeavors or other situations. My personal beliefs added with Masonic teachings taught me never to back down or look the other way no matter what happens or how strong the opposition. The climate of division in USA has gotten worse over the last few years and unfortunately those attitudes seep into the lodges as well which drives away younger Masons and I would like to tell those older brethren and others that being a Mason evolves around love and understanding in all that you do. Mankind is born into bondage as the baby gets branded with a name, socio-economic status, and ideology in respect to the area being born in. Then that same baby grows up defending those programmed beliefs that were never truly chosen by them in the first place. The real realization is that one must follow their own path to understand self and others and have that true human victory which should be our true focus as Masons rather than the hours we spend arguing online. I wrote to many leaders and heads of state including Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth, who responded to me within 2 weeks! If I as a suburban Philly kid can do all this to spread awareness to the very minimum then no one else should have any excuse on why they choose to look the other way. Masonry has to give the younger generation a purpose of understanding in today’s 24/7 surveilled environment where the concepts of human interaction, relationships, jobs, etc are all different compared to the times of our parents and grandparents.
Thank you all and may God always bless you all and remove all your sorrows in this year and beyond. Again, make the effort to sit down with me in person and look me in the eye if you disagree with my above mentioned article on why I am returning rather than describe me as bad person who got through the West Gate. As a 27 year old Sufi Muslim, Freemason, and man I realized that its either you do it from the heart or not do it at all and that includes looking someone in the eye and giving them genuine warmth of a smile and feeling of peace. Again, I reassure you that this article is not to condemn Masonry but to encourage its revival through honesty and dialogue with one another for only being honest we can honor Masonry and its universal tenants of earning rewards through pain and struggle. We are all imperfect and as brothers who often fall out and make up again, we to share that bond of humanity even if we are not related by blood. If I hurt anyone in any way shape or form through my actions of order out of chaos in Masonry, I apologize and I hope those who conspired against me or did me wrong have the courage to do the same. We don’t become smaller by doing what’s right because in the end we shall all be held accountable by the almighty creator, myself included. Please continue to love each other, your families, and apply the teachings of our degrees, charges, and symbols into your daily lives and keep your head held high because God and karma vindicate our soul/character in the end. May peace be upon you and yours always and may our love for humanity and each other get stronger.
Yours in brotherhood, Salman S. Sheikh
All Rights Reserved :: Email: SalmanSheikh911@gmail.com – Greater Philadelphia Area USA
Once again we bring the yearly Allocution from Royal Grand Perfect Matron R. Lucille
R. Lucille Samuel The 1st Royal Grand Perfect Matron Margaret A. McDow Grand Court Ladies Of The Circle Of Perfection Texas PHA
Samuel as she continues to inspire and lead her troops. This Sister spreads love and joy wherever she goes while at the same time holding tightly the reins of leadership. She is a Master at organizing, deputizing and inspiring those whom she leads.
I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage.
WHAT DO YOU BRING!
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
Again it is my honor and privilege to stand before you as we celebrate our 2nd year as the Margaret A. McDow Grand Court. We are blessed beyond measures.
I truly thank the membership for all the time spent in making this great body successful.
We have accomplished so much but we are still on that road to Perfection. I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage. We are on a Journey that has no destination. Our compass is set in the direction of continuous labor and service. The road may be rocky at times but the ride will be smooth.
Revelations 2:19 – I know thy works and charity and service and faith and thy patience and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Have you ever asked yourself What do I bring to the organization? How does the organization benefit from my presence?
Let’s start with communication. Are you the type that loves to share information or keep it to yourself? Do you feel well if I share then that gives them the upper hand on me. I can’t get to the top if I share my ideas of vision. Sometimes we have to set aside our opinions and selflessness in order for our organizations to thrive and flourish. In order for our mission to be complete support of each other is a must. We are here to serve not to be served. We made a pledge and promised to respect and assist when necessary. Those that came before us paved the way for our benefit. We must maintain the same enthusiasm and honor their memories.
Honesty is another attribute that is not popular in our Order. How can you expect members to respect you if they cannot trust your words? Honesty means being upright of character or action. Would you follow a person that constantly feeds you false information? Honesty is one of the most admired traits of a leader. Being truthful and honest shows respect and integrity. Remember you can pay for school but you can‘t buy class.
What about Flexibility? Are you willing to listen to ideas of others? Do you feel intimidated if someone has a greater idea or suggestion? Are you afraid that your position or title is in jeopardy?
Sometimes leaders become complacent and have a deaf ear to change. You may hear a comment such as you have not been a member long enough to have an opinion. You don’t have enough experience in the Order to have any new ideas. We are never too old to learn. Fresh ideas bring oxygen and motivation. Being able to work with others is a trait that we all must have in order to succeed. A positive attitude will take you further than negativity and animosity. Being the leader does not make you the expert and there is always someone else with more experience. We are an equal opportunist and there is no place in our organization for intimidation and old beliefs of exaggerated prejudice. Many times your attitude of superiority toward members can be the demise of your organization.
Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself am I the problem or the solution? Is my work in order? Am I organized? Am I qualified to be in this position? We need to practice what we preach or change our speech. If you can’t lead the song you don’t sing.
You can’t lead anyone if you don’t know how to follow. Using large intelligent words only fool people for so long. Your friends will only cover for you for so long and that smoke screen does not last forever. You can’t use $30 words and have a Dollar Store’s worth of common sense. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Don’t let these collars around your necks out weigh the efforts you put forth in serving the organization. Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Royal Grand Perfect Matron Samuel can be reached for comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently I have been reading some essays by Masons who are dismayed at all the talk about membership, dues, dress, Grand Lodge edicts and other issues that they believe bring into the mix undue discussion, debate and division — the three Ds.
For them the philosophy of Masonry, its symbolism, its virtues, its morality, its positive effect on the human soul, its way of life is the only thing that should be talked about within the Masonic Community. All this other “stuff” is divisive, irrelevant, and unneeded controversy that hurts the Craft. We can call these Masons the Philosophical Intellectuals. Who cares where we meet, what we look like and how many of us there are. Many of these PI (Philosophical Intellectuals) Masons are heavily into Internet Masonry and less involved with Lodge itself. They see Masonry as a philosophy that can exist regardless of its structure because a philosophy requires no administration or infrastructure. It requires thought, enlightenment and personal practice without encumberment. It does not need a building or a leader or authority imposed on it. Masonry is a thought that can live in the minds of humans forever. It is indestructible, a personal journey that need not be shared with others and an intellectual movement that only requires a personal commitment to its ideals and its life changing message.
On the other side we have the Structural Administrative Freemasons who tell us that high brow intellectual philosophers in the Craft are all well and good but a Society, a Brotherhood without structure is anarchy. It no longer becomes a Brotherhood they say because what is lost is the interpersonal relationships, the camaraderie that is lost by the lack of personal contact. These Freemasons may bemoan the fact that we have become slaves to “communication machines” that remove from us our ability to relate face to face with others and hamper our ability to verbally, visibly and hands on bond with others. They will say that the Intellectual philosophers in the Craft would if they could put themselves on a pedestal while shoving the more practical Freemasons to a place of obscurity in a place where they cannot be seen or heard by the vast majority of humankind. These Freemasons are being charged with destroying the peace and harmony of Masonry for the sake of personal gain or notoriety.
The Structural Administrators strike back with, well these Masons are like those who own a new fancy car and all they are concerned with is driving it around without concern for whether there is gas in the gas tank or air in the tires. They say look Christianity is the thought and churches are the communal application of the thought. And that is what is important here — the communal application, the three degrees performed by living, breathing human beings not a video on a screen, and that we practice Masonry together with others. And the power of the personal touch, the effect of face to face practice of a philosophy cannot be overstated. If you are going to have infrastructure, a building, a ritual, a dogma, a catechism, a specific set up, designated leaders and positions of official status then you are going to have rules, regulations and enforcement. Thus, issues like dues, budgets, dress, qualifications for membership, what constitutes heresy, what permission is needed, how we are constituted, what we can do, what we cannot do, who has what authority and so forth have to be decided and then rethought and reviewed as each new generation enters into the Craft. Sometimes there are issues that need to be addressed when those in authority or those without authority bend the rules or distort them. Sometimes past oversights or changes in how we view things in today’s world have to be brought up to date. For instance, should a Mainstream Grand Lodge recognize a Prince Hall Grand Lodge. As much as anyone of us would like to avoid conflict and keep Masonry pure and innocent, that’s not reality. And the failure to realize that may lead to a Brotherhood that is corrupted and even hijacked by others who want it to be something else.
Both sides have some good points to consider. If more attention was devoted to the study of Masonry, its symbolism, its virtues, how it ennobles men and how it leads us to the Great Architect of the Universe then membership would increase. There are seekers or searchers among the newest generations who want to add meaning and purpose to their lives, who want to make a difference in this world. We have that for them if we will only offer it to them. However, American Lodges failure to teach what it has to offer and only pay lip service to its philosophy is its biggest downfall. One need only compare most European Lodges who are philosophical Lodges with American Lodges who are rather Service Clubs or Social Clubs. The fact that we have this outstanding philosophy which leads Masons who practice it to a joyous and rewarding life yet in the United States we spend most of the Masonic time on fund raisers, family gatherings, community action, charity and Brand and cigar nights is exactly what is leading to our diminishing numbers. We have something great to offer yet we pass over it to practice the more mundane things that a person could get in any number of other organizations. The Philosophical Intellectuals have a great point. Masons have a philosophy that no one else has. It being the strength of our organization when we fail to give it due homage and instruct the Brothers in its ways and what it can do for them, then we are defeating the purpose of being a Mason.
Why don’t we just change the name to Distinctive Gentlemen and get on with it?
But that does not let the Philosophical Intellectuals off the hook. Burying your head in the sand when problems come up and pretending that they don’t exist to avoid controversy does not lead to long term peace and harmony. Racism, homophobia, Grand Lodge unlawful expulsions and pulling of charters, corruption, religious discrimination, Grand Lodge micromanaging can’t be swept under the rug. Deal with the problems now or let them fester. Unfortunately, in many cases we have done the latter which only makes the explosion down the line much larger than it should be, because we have these Masons who say ignore the problems, we don’t want the controversy. We will not listen. We are going to stick our fingers in our ears and hum when you bring up such subjects.
Masons are not meant to be Monks. We need to deal with the real world. And while I sympathize with the agony and the disruption of controversial problems I cannot condone doing nothing, especially when some Masons are abused by other Masons; especially when too much power is concentrated in too few hands and is used unwisely and immorally. Look at civil society today. You have those who consider President Trump great and those who think he is terrible and there is a whole lot of controversy going on. And some of it is violent. Now we, as Masons, are better than that. Yet the call for no controversy at all by ignoring problems that may be tearing our beloved Fraternity apart is a Utopian Fantasy World.
One of the problems we have in the United States is the plethora of Grand Lodges, more than Ninety (counting Prince Hall). And that is not even counting the Clandestine Operations. In much of the rest of the world there is One Grand Lodge per nation. In some others there may be two, three, four or five but nowhere near the number that we have. And believe me when I say that what one Grand Lodge does affects the reputation and the public evaluation of all the other Grand Lodges. In the Information Age none of us lives anymore in a vacuum. What I have recommended for some time is that we have some sort of National Constitution and Bill of Rights or National Masonic Code of Ethics that would codify Grand Lodge conduct. And that Grand Lodges pull recognition from those who refuse to sign it and those who violate it. If we all agreed on proper conduct, what makes a Mason, the Landmarks, the proper dispersal of power within the Grand Lodge system, the rights of the Individual Mason and the limits of Grand Lodge then there would be a whole lot less of controversy, bickering and arguing.
Further exasperating the problem are some Masons who now very rarely go to Lodge. These tend to be the Internet Masons and they tend to be Philosophical Intellectuals. If my Lodge won’t participate in the study and education of Esoteric Masonry, many say, then I can get what is lacking in Lodge by having thoughtful and educational discussions on the Internet. Unfortunately, their lack of participation in the physical Lodge is hurting Lodge Freemasonry. They have become like Monks, withdrawing from the physical practice of Freemasonry by living out the Craft in Chat Rooms, Facebook, Masonic Forums and Yahoo Masonic Groups. They produce and watch YouTube videos and Masonic Podcasts – the new rage – about Freemasonry and gain their Masonic knowledge from Social Media. But when Structural Administrative Freemasons enter these discussions the Philosophical Intellectuals balk and accuse them of a “bait and switch,” and of a deliberate attack and destroy mission.
Fortunately for the moment the Masons who divide themselves into just Internet Masons or just Lodge Masons are a minority. Many Masons still do both. Yet as the Information Age becomes all pervasive the gap widens. There is a solution to this dichotomy. The Lodge Structural Administrative Freemasons need to put back into Lodge Communications a healthy study and education in Esoteric Masonry. This must be the emphasis of the Lodge for this is what distinguishes Masonry from every other run of the mill organization out there. The Philosophic Intellectual Masons have to work with Lodge Masons in strengthening the Live Lodge Experience while at the same time helping to solve injustices, abuses, micromanaging, corrupting, watering down, dumbing down and hijacking of and in Freemasonry. In short what we need in American Freemasonry is more Masonry and Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
The biggest problem Freemasonry is having today is not membership but retention. New recruits come in and soon find out we are not serious about our philosophy. But that is precisely why they chose to join Freemasonry. But we don’t talk about our philosophy, we don’t teach it. So, they will take two course of action to demonstrate that disappointment.
They will quit and demit
They will become an Internet only Mason.
Yes, we need to listen to the Philosophical Intellectuals. The newer Generations are looking for meaning and making a difference in their lives. But they are not getting it from the Old Guard.
But today’s Philosophical Intellectual Masons need to recognize that they cannot attract new members in numbers when Freemasons are racist, homophobic, religious intolerant and misogynists. Today’s Generation just will not abide by these human failings. That’s right, you heard right. We are going to have to recognize and/or admit African Americans, Gays and Women. And just as the Structural Administrative Freemasons are going to have to admit a vastly increased Esoteric Masonic study into Masonry so also do Philosophical Masons need to help solve the problems of Grand Lodge despotism, racism, homophobia and misogyny without raising the bogeyman of controversy. When and if we attack both sides of the problem, the issues on both sides, then and only then will we once again have a thriving, growing Fraternity in the 21st Century with today’s Generation.
“To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep, No more;”
The articles by Brothers Sean Kennedy and Stephen Dafoe regarding the decline in Freemasonry has brought many responses across the Internet. In reviewing what comments were posted in various places it seemed as if everybody had an opinion but nobody commented on the data. In many cases passionate cases were made for debunking the whole idea that Freemasonry is in some sort of distress. Rosy colored glasses led to some even declaring an unreasonable aura of negativity permeated the air and even more extreme views that this author was some kind of miserable turncoat bent on the destruction of the Craft. So much for whispering words of advice in a Brothers ear; so much for Masonic tolerance; so much for the use of logic and reason instead of raw emotion.
Yet my Brothers, the data does not lie. The data is fact. What it means for our beloved fraternity, well that is open for interpretation. And that’s fine. But the idea behind publishing these articles is to help make Freemasonry better not to see who is right or wrong about conclusions drawn. The idea was to foster reformation not dissension. What became self evident is that these articles became an affront to some who felt that they needed to bury any discourse on improvement lest they admit that Freemasonry could use some improvement.
“The mission of the MRF is to assist and support, through education, communication, example, and coordination of efforts among lodges, Grand Lodges, individuals and groups of Masons belonging to regularly and duly constituted lodges; the overall improvement and happiness of the individual Mason and his fraternal relationships.”
“The goal of the foundation is to restore Freemasonry to the historical and philosophical intent of its organizational founders. We believe that in so doing, Masons will return to the development of a fraternal culture of learning and intellectual growth, which will not only benefit the individual Mason, but society as a whole.”
If Freemasonry doesn’t need improvement why is there a Masonic Restoration Society?
Of all the responses that I reviewed this one stood out as a Mason that did some logical analysis not just some emotional diatribe. And that was “The Other Mason,” Wor. Istvan Horvath from Canada. His website The Other Mason contains some very interesting content and is worth looking at.
TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE
by Worshipful Istvan Horvath
There is an article written by a Texas Mason that went viral and is discussed, dismissed and “fought” in all the Masonic forums and groups in North America. While the author is very careful to not attach any emotional comment to his findings, and even stated clearly he wasn’t judging only presenting the fact about the dwindling numbers of Freemasonry in America – all hell broke loose.
His article presented visual graphs showing the changes in numbers of Freemasons across America since 1959. And finally, looking at the general trend, the article presented a ‘projection’ (an otherwise valid tool for analyzing data) according to which the membership will collapse. While the title may sound controversial and definitely touches a nerve with present-day Masons, the analysis presented is not far-fetched: based on a 50-60 years time period it is logical to conclude the continuation of the trend, provided nothing happens to stop it or reverse it.
Generally, the reactions on the world wide web and social media can be put in three main groups, and interestingly (or maybe not) the reactions didn’t differ much in the USA and Canada.
Group A – These Masons consider the whole article bull*!#+ (BS), and putting their head in the sand, dismiss any findings. Lies, negativism, fake news – these are the charges brought against the author.
Group B – NIMBY. Which means Not in My Backyard. Admitting that such an issue of decreasing numbers might be of concern in other lodges, other districts or other jurisdictions… they bring anecdotal evidence that is not happening in their own “backyard”. We initiated last year X number of new Masons… Group C – the tiny group that would like to face the facts and to have a meaningful discussion about the causes, the possible remedies, the outlook and the inevitable changes that come with the changing times. Unfortunately, they are the minority everywhere…
A. The first is the worst group – despite their conviction that they act to “defend” Masonry against the negative thinkers. They are the most dangerous as well, not just based on the sheer numbers (i.e. being the majority in any lodge and jurisdiction) but because they represent en bloc all the issues today’s Freemasonry is suffering from:
lack of education
fear of being called the elite of the society
lack of ‘freethinker traditions’
literal belief in legends from movies, fictional books, pseudo-history
keeping dues artificially low, too low in order to make it ‘affordable’ for everyone
While we pride ourselves by enlisting all the historical celebrities from prime ministers, governors, army commanders to philosophers, scientists and poets… we almost get offended, if someone wants to see the Craft as the gathering place of today’s elite. None of these members is and will ever be able to mentor and educate new members… and even worse, if we let them do it, they will perpetuate this sad state of the Craft.
B. This group is always looking at it from the narrowest perspective: if it doesn’t happen in my lodge, it doesn’t exist. We are initiating a lot of young men. Our lodge is thriving… Even if the Ontario Grand Lodge lost 2022 members in the past year, bringing it up one is considered a negativist. The Craft is doing fine…
While the lodge members are claiming that they have so many candidates they need even emergent meeting because the monthly one meeting is not enough to initiate all those at the West Gate – the same lodge is not able to present an officers line of MMs [without recycling PMs] for years.
C. The last tiny group doesn’t have much chance to be heard because it is small by numbers and it is not into violent word exchange but prefers the calm, rational dialogue and discussion.
Only a few commenters looked at the data itself. Without any comments, see it for yourself!
Yes, we can debate about the we way read and interpret the data. We can argue about the causes and historical influences on the changing membership numbers. We can do many things… Except pretending that it is not happening!
I am not even saying that the dwindling numbers are necessarily a bad thing. Who knows, maybe it is necessary to reshape Freemasonry in the 21st century’s context. Personally, I think it is the latter but ultimately it will be the Craft, the coming younger members that will define how to deal with these changes. I hope their wisdom will be up to the task!
Post your thoughts below!
About the author
Istvan Horvath, MPS1, is a Master Mason2 and Royal Arch Mason3. His Masonic journey started twenty-two years ago, in 1994, in the East of Budapest, Hungary. Today he lives in Ontario, Canada, being affiliated with local lodges4. A Past Grand Librarian in his initial jurisdiction and well versed in Masonic lore in at least two languages. He also likes to read and study in the two other languages he is fluent in. Bottom line: he likes languages, linguistics and is a diligent lifetime student of Freemasonry. For the Masonic year 2018-19 he was elected and installed as the Worshipful Master of The Electric Lodge.
Masonic researcher, author, speaker, video producer, journalist and historian Stephen Dafoe has chronicled the decline of American Freemasonry for years. His research has been published in The Scottish Rite Journal, Heredom (the Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society), Templar History Magazine, Knight Templar Magazine, The Fourth Part Of A Circle, Masonic Magazine and The Masonic Society Journal among others. He has even gone back into history to write the definitive work on the Morgan Affair with his book “Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry,” a time in American History when half of all Freemasonry closed its doors. Now that was Masonic decline!
His more modern assessment of Masonic decline was published in 2007 when he wrote the article and produced the video:
The Restaurant At The End Of The Masonic Universe
In 2009 Dafoe wrote:
There’s a Hole in Our Bucket
North American Freemasonry is on a bit of an infinite loop these days. I don’t mean the type of infinite loop we used to see on the Flintstones whenever Fred and Barney would drive past the same three houses and two palm trees over and over again, but it is close. The type of infinite-loop motif I’m referring to is the type that forms the basis of songs like 99 Bottle of Beer or There’s a Hole in my Bucket. In fact, both songs represent two of the problems confronting many lodges today with respect to our declining membership.
Now, before you turn the page, let me assure you this is not another article lamenting our sagging numbers, nor is it a rallying call for us to rise towards that lofty Masonic pinnacle that was the Halcyon Days of the post-World War II influx. But we will be looking at the numbers, not with an eye towards depression, but with an eye towards resolution. We have a problem, but if we can truly know where the problem lies, and if we can convince enough Masons that this is actually the case, we can collectively begin to work towards fixing it.
What the numbers tell us:
Since 1925, the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA) has been keeping track of the numbers of Freemasons in the United States.
Without launching into a long and boring examination of the ebb and flow of these numbers, let it suffice to say that Masonic membership’s highest point in terms of numbers was 1959, when it boasted 4,103,161 members; its lowest point occurring in 2007, when our ranks had been reduced to just 1,483,449. Ironically, our highest point in terms of membership may well have been our lowest point for Freemasonry, or at least the start of it.
The hand ringers in our fraternity love to hold on to that 1959 membership number like the middle aged bachelor who holds onto the photo of the fashion model he dated in college, as if it were a goal he may yet attain once more. But as both pine away for a desire that has longed since passed the realm of possibility, they begin to tell themselves lies to justify their current situation.
As such, our hand ringers have created a long-standing belief that once upon a time Freemasons made up a sizable percentage of the population in American communities. However, if one compares the US census with the MSANA membership statistics, an interesting and revealing picture emerges. In 1930, only 2.66 per cent of the population belonged to the Masonic fraternity. By 1940, that percentage had been reduced to 1.86% – largely due to the effects of the Great Depression, men simply couldn’t afford their dues. It reached its lowest point in 2000, when less than 1 per cent of the US population could say they owned a Masonic apron. But even in the midst of those glory days our hand ringers so love to remind us about, only 2.41 per cent of the population belonged to the Craft. If we divide and multiply these figures to represent a male population of roughly 50 per cent, then we see that even at our highest percentile penetration in 1930, only 5 in 100 American males were Freemasons – this is a far cry from the cries of deep lamentation emanating from the lips of our loudest hand ringing Brethren that once upon a time almost every American male was a mason. And yet, they will cling to that four-million-plus-Masons figure like cat hair to black pants, failing to accept that the much brandied about number represents nothing more than a sociological anomaly. It was that influx of men who swelled the Craft’s ranks between 1945 and 1959 that, in many ways set the tone for the downward spiral towards the Masonic caliginosity we have experienced in the decades since. Although many became dedicated members of the Craft, expanding their learning through books and periodicals, discussions and debates, many who took on leadership rules were attracted by the formality of the ritual, to the point where it became the beginning and end of a Master Mason’s education.
Perhaps the greatest decade for Freemasonry – at least from a point of research, education and all around Masonic bigness – was the 1920’s; a decade that saw the creation of the National Masonic Research Society and its publication The Builder, a magazine that offered the words and thoughts of the great Masonic luminaries of the day. It was also a decade where Masons displayed their Masonic pride, not by the number of pins on their lapels, but by the number of elegant buildings on Main Street. It was during the 1920’s that great Masonic buildings including the House of the Temple in Washington DC, The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia and the Detroit Masonic Temple in Michigan transformed from idea to reality. That decade, which I’ve long-argued to be the most enlightening for Freemasonry, saw an increase in membership of just above four per cent.
But then the Great Depression reduced membership roles by almost 25 per cent by then end of the 1930’s. In fact membership continued to decline until America entered the Second World War in 1941, and that is when the anomaly occurred. By the end of the 1940’s, Masonic membership had increased by more than 42 percent, carrying a forward momentum through most of the 1950’s, which saw an increase of 16 percent from the decade before. From this point on membership has been on a steady decline, with the present decade – now about to enter its final year – on a fast track to surpassing the 1990’s, the current record holder for membership seepage.
It is a mistake for us to pine away for a resurgence of the anomaly that was the 1940’s and 1950’s. The WWII soldier returned home and, looking for the camaraderie of the barracks, he sought to find it in fraternal societies like Freemasonry. This inflated our membership roles like a windfall inflates a bank account, but like the lottery winner who does not invest his new found money properly; it is soon piddled away until nothing remains.
Another tale the hand ringers love to tell us, especially those who have more steps behind them than they have left ahead of them, is that men are not joining today like they used to, and that we are losing members from death faster than we can replace them through initiations. Certainly, if one considers “not joining like they used to” to be those post-war Halcyon Days previously discussed, then I’m more than willing to concede the point. However, if there is one myth in Freemasonry that has gained wide currency and firm traction, it is the notion that Masons are dying faster than we can replace them.
What the numbers don’t tell us!
In 2005 I was asked to deliver the keynote address to the Western Canada Conference – an annual gathering of the Grand lines of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Part of my presentation sought to dispel this myth that the Grim Reaper was using his scythe to cut a swath through the fraternity. Whereas, the MSANA numbers only give us the annual bottom line, I was able to look at the big picture closer to home by tracking specifics in our membership statistics over an eight-year period.
What I discovered was that, like the rest of North America, Alberta had a sizable hole in our Masonic bucket; 1,777 of our Brethren had affiliated with the Grand Lodge above, leaving us with a net loss of 1,512 members between 1996 and 2003. But this is not where our problem was because the numbers showed that in that same period of time, 3,118 men had joined, affiliated or renewed their membership in one of our lodges.
In an ideal world, the difference between deaths and new members should have seen Alberta experience a 14 per cent growth in that time, but instead we were dwindling, just like everywhere else. The question was why? Where was the hole in our Masonic bucket that was causing the decline? It wasn’t through deaths; we were clearly finding the men to replace ourselves. The answer was through demits and suspensions for non payment of dues (SNPD); a combined loss of 2,863 over the eight years. When added to the deaths, we had lost a total of 4,640 men, while gaining a respectable 3,118. The hole in our Masonic bucket had been found and, as I’ve learned, it is not an isolated situation.
This past November I was keynote speaker at the Grand Lodge of Manitoba’s Masonic workshop and presented a similar address and findings, chronicling their past six years of data. Like Alberta, Manitoba has a hole in its Masonic bucket, caused by demits and suspensions outpacing new members. Between 2002 and 2007 Manitoba saw 856 men join, affiliate or reinstate their memberships. During that same time, 753 Manitoba Masons have died; again leaving a positive number between membership losses and gains. Like Alberta, their hole is caused by the combination of demits and SNPD’s. In the past six years the province has seen 1,355 men leave the Masonic fraternity.
But the Craft lodge in Canada is not alone in finding it has a bucket with the same hole.
Membership statistics from the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar show that between 2004 and the end of September 2008, 17,470 American Freemasons have become Templars, while 9,576 have taken a demit and another 21,706 have been suspended for non payment of dues. Add to this the 22,546 Templars who have gone on to join their creator, and you have 36,358 fewer Knights Templar marching about. But perhaps marching about is precisely the problem. Perhaps the men who are joining today are joining to parade about like the sword-wielding Templars of old and disappointed to find only old Templars parading about doing sword drill. It is a question only the Grand Encampment and those who are left remain in her Commanderies can resolve, but like the Craft Lodges, its bucket is leaking primarily from the same rusted out hole.
Towards a solution
Back when I was editor of the short-lived Masonic Magazine, I wrote an editorial titled The Restaurant at the End of the Masonic Universe. Without republishing the editorial here, it told the story of a restaurant that does not live up to its advertising slogan, “We make good food better,” an obvious play on our own slogan “We take good men and make them better.” The editorial, which has received equal doses of praise and criticism, sought to explain in a light manner the malaise affecting Freemasonry today and the true cause for the hole in our bucket.
Every mason has heard the expression “but we’ve always done it that way before.” The fact that it is used as the butt of Masonic jokes serves as proof positive of its longevity and power in maintaining a status quo. But, as we have seen by what the MSANA numbers don’t show us, the status quo is draining our buckets. As the allegory of my restaurant editorial showed, the reason things suck in many lodges is because the men who show up month after month like things that suck. They do so because they enjoy the bland food; not the shoe-leather roast beef and off color green beans, but the Masonic meal that is largely comprised of recitation of minutes, tedious debates over how funds are dispersed and arguments over when and how to salute the Worshipful Master. Clearly these are not the things that appeal to the men who are leaving our ranks. If they were, they’d be with us still. But instead of spending our energies trying to retain them, we devote our efforts to finding their replacements.
For as long as I have been a Freemason, we have been trying to fill a bucket that has a sizable hole in it. Like Henry in the famed children’s song, we have whined through the infinite loop of reasons why we can’t fix the bucket and like Jack in the classic nursery rhyme, have rolled down the hill, our empty bucket tumbling behind us. Like children on a bus trip we have done our rendition of 99 Bottle of Beer by repeating the same pattern ad nausea, as one by one our members – like the bottles of beer on the wall – vanish.
Unfortunately, we are not doing a good enough job identifying what it is that the men who are joining are looking for, which is – in almost all cases – that which they cannot get any place else – FREEMASONRY! They are looking to be educated in the Masonic Craft, in the art of being a gentleman in a world that has largely forgotten what one was, and in how they can be part of – to quote my jurisdiction’s ritual – “the society of men who prize honor and virtue above the external advantages of rank and fortune.” In short, they want to be taught the things about themselves and the world in which they live that only Freemasonry can teach them. If we cannot teach them because we do not know these things ourselves, then we must learn alongside them. Then, and only then, can the hole in our Masonic bucket be truly repaired and we can return to that growth that once allowed us to select men who would most benefit from Freemasonry’s teaching and most benefit Freemasonry by their character and their conduct.
It will not be and easy task fixing this half-century old hole in our Masonic bucket; but it will not be possible at all until we accept that a failure to do so is the cause of our decline and the harbinger of our demise.
Thisarticle originally appeared in Issue 2 of The Masonic Society Journal.
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So have we fixed the hole in our Masonic Bucket yet? Have we taken our decline seriously yet? Or are we sticking our fingers in a dike about to burst and putting band aids on a wound that needs stitches? When are we going to stop the bleeding?
The way I see it is that Freemasonry has become a Top Down Society. And there lies our problem. Because all Freemasonry is local and used to be that way and operated successfully that way. But today Grand Lodge wants to micromanage the Fraternity.. Top Down Freemasonry creates conflict, too much conflict. It stifles creativity, it crushes enthusiasm and ruins pride in the Craft. One size does not fit all in Freemasonry. We have turned our beloved Craft into a copy of the US Army. It is time for the younger Masons, those thirsty FOR THE REAL THING to organize and start telling Grand Lodge NO!
Grand Lodges in their infinite wisdom are trying to market Freemasonry while allowing the product itself to deteriorate. Like the restaurant at the end of the Masonic universe grandiose words are no substitute for an inferior product. Improve the product and it will sell itself. What we really have is a problem of retention not a membership problem. And that lies in the fact that our promises don’t live up to expectations.
We have literally knocking on our doors the next generation who are thirsty for a philosophy they can sink their teeth into. These are not superficial party goers but rather men who are seekers, searchers for a way to make a difference in this fractured world of ours. They don’t mind working hard for the goals ahead. We shouldn’t be making things easy and less expensive for them, just the opposite. We should be demanding much of them and they expecting the same from us in return. The question is are we going to give them pablum or are we going to give them the real thing, Freemasonry… Frederic L. Milliken