11 Types of Freemasons – Part 3, Former Members

This continuation of the personas of Freemasonry (read part 1-new member personas and part 2-member personas) will look at the core of Freemasonry by identifying the underlying aspects of who members of the fraternity were. In this post, the intent is to illustrate who, what, and who someone was a member and, more importantly, why they left and how they may appear in a digital marketing funnel.

Read the series:
Part 1: New Member Personas | Part 2: Existing Members | Part 3: Former members

Why do people quit the Freemasons?

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s an easy answer to identify the “why” they left. What’s more important is understanding who they were to look for and communicate with them in the future and better manage the overall experience. Obviously, not everyone is going to be happy all of the time. But to hide behind the idea of “Guarding the west gate” or being better off without are false analogies to perfection. Were they true from the start, there would have been better management of the selection, vetting, or voting on membership?

How they quit is, perhaps, more important than why as leaving with a bad taste can do more harm than just leaving.

Rather than the “…west gate” argument, I propose as a club, if the organization isn’t offering or producing engaging content, people will leave. And, if year after year, the organization fails to engage its members, more and more of those individuals will continue to leave.

Certainly, the argument of being better off without them can be made, but without them also means a loss of revenue, a loss of new member pipelines, a loss of robust lodge rooms, and the feeding of that decline that gets more pronounced year on year. Doing more of the same than planning to do it for fewer people with less resources.

Former members

As its own category, former members lump together non-attenders, voluntary demits, and former suspended. It does not include those who have been ejected or expelled.

Member, non-attender

Volume: medium-high / risk: medium
A member of a masonic lodge that does not attend often.

This, I believe, is a high-volume segment of the fraternity. Member in name and with a (mostly) paid-up dues card but an infrequent, if ever, attender. There are a variety of reasons for their lack of attendance or inability to come to monthly stated meetings or special events ranging from family or professional obligations to a more benign lack of interest in the meetings themselves. What makes this group unique (and one of the most approachable) is that they’re still connected. They get emails, newsletters, and communications. They might go to the occasional appendant body dinner or meeting. They’re members, they’re just not present. Maybe they joined the blue lodge to go into the Shrine, or the Rite, as they could have their own personas, too. But this persona segment is still interested and could come back on with the right message, the right communication, or the right outreach. I don’t think a broad general message would work here. This is a more nuanced communication. A personal message or outreach. The biggest risk is that the member, non-attender becomes a former member, suspended for non-payment of dues.

I think this is a segment that most Grand Lodges rely on in the same way gyms and fitness clubs rely on people to sign up but not show up.


  • Age: 25-75
  • Interests: Varies. Family/Work are prominent.
  • Income: Varies. Likely very high or very low.
  • Location: Urban or suburban.
  • Job: Professional or blue-collar.


Affinity/Interest: This segment is hard to measure given their absence. It’s a missing piece of the membership that exists but doesn’t participate. They just are not around.

Hobbies: Family is important. Work and off time. There is an interest in membership/volunteer opportunities, but it’s a tacit interest because of availability.

Wants/Desires: More time. The core of this persona is a desire for more time and the ability to engage when they have the time to (which is usually at odd hours or times).

Goals: This persona is looking for fulfillment but is willing to jump around to find it. Activity isn’t enough, they want to believe what they’re doing has meaning and will help the world around them.

Psychographics: Deep in the psyche of this persona is the desire for results with low engagement. They like to shop online for quick delivery, and without realizing it wants the same results in other categories of their life. The idea of being an influencer is appealing for the high-volume results for the perceived low inputs of effort. All said, there is a deeper misunderstanding that great results come from hard work.

Former member, voluntary

Volume: high / risk: low
A former Freemason that has left the lodge.

I ranked this group as a high-volume low risk as the member that leaves, just walks away, is perhaps bigger than we imagine. The reason it poses so little risk is that they’ve made the choice to demit from membership and just not be a Freemason anymore. Over the last century, I imagine there are a number of these former members. You don’t see them because they simply disappeared. Why did they quit? The answer to this is just as broad as the non-attender. Could be family, religious choice, work schedule, disinterest, or lack of connection to the organization. Freemasonry just didn’t resonate with them, and they didn’t want to remain a member. 


  • Age: 30s-60s
  • Interests: Family/Work/Anything other than Freemasonry
  • Income: Varies
  • Location: Varies
  • Job: Varies


Affinity/Interest: This group is one of those black holes in the roles of the membership. They were engaged, became a member, and then just left. They got bored, irritated or just no longer found affinity in what the fraternity offered. The flip side of this is that they found interest in something else.

Hobbies: This group is interesting as their hobbies could be anything. From sports to family life to gardening or movies—It may be that there just wasn’t a hook to make them want to give their time to Freemasonry.

Wants/Desires: Figuring out the wants and desires of this group may be more about understanding what it is they don’t want. Part of this might be not wanting rigid membership or membership with rules, especially when the rules deviate from other personal norms.

Goals: As a cohort, this group just chooses to not belong to the fraternity anymore. Their goal is to give their time, attention, and money to something else. Maybe a membership organization. Maybe an online gaming subscription. Their goal is to no longer associate with the Freemasons as an organization and do something else. 

Psychographics: It’s hard to say exactly which psychographic element is key here. This individual obviously found some fault or disfavor in the organization and is choosing to disassociate from it. It could be personal; it could be professional. Something rubbed them the wrong way and they wanted out. It’s interesting to look at this cohort as it relates to other subscription-based models. Perhaps it’s the one-time-a-year dues charge that makes this option more enticing, rather than just letting a membership continue unchanged? In total, this persona left, completely, for a reason. It was willful. They were not happy or did not feel like they belonged.

Read: When Membership Declines

Former Member, suspended/abandoned (NPD)

Volume: low-medium / risk: medium-high
A Masonic lodge member suspended for nonpayment of dues.

Like the former-voluntary departing member, the former suspended is a ghost on the ledgers of the fraternity.

To have volume, Grand Lodges have kept them on the books but, the gap of members is an anomaly on the books that is unavoidable. This group, for a host of reasons, stopped being interested and stopped paying for membership. They just stopped.

It’s easy enough to do—the cost of dues, forgetful check writing, other obligations, or an intentional decision to not pay for something they weren’t connecting with. The psychology behind opting to not pay for a membership is diverse: not interested, too expensive, lack of connection to the content, disagreement with the content, personal disagreements with the local branch, religious differences, and so on… People leave, but like any business whose future relies on subscribers, if the content doesn’t appeal to people, they move on. It’s not telling anyone they’re moving on that sends the signal that something isn’t working. Some of the issues might be the threshold to overcome for readmission being too high. It becomes easier to just not pay, sit on the books as an unpaid member and watch the re-engagement fee skyrocket. Eventually, that member won’t be able to come back because the readmission fee will be astronomical.

Read: There is a Hole in Our Bucket


  • Age: 20-80
  • Interests: Varies.
  • Income: On the lower end, or transitory (which may have some bearing on the NPD issue).
  • Location: Urban and suburban
  • Job: Likely blue-collar, entry-level professional/entry-point management. An industry that doesn’t pay well or is transitory.


Affinity/Interest: This cohort is interested in what the fraternity offers and its networking, but life obligations take precedence. The interest is there but the needs of the family overshadow all else. Member fee services are prevalent in the household, but liquid income isn’t.

Hobbies: Family and work dominate, but entertainment, politics, and family activities dominate most of their free time.

Wants/Desires: This persona is looking for a leg up. They want to be in a better position in their life to be able to provide for their family and have the means for the other things they want. They can save but tend to spend or seek out the things that bring them the most enjoyment.

Goals: Family and work life monopolize this persona. Keeping that in harmony and fluid is most important as are activities that engage areas, they find the greatest affinity. Because free time is limited affinity activities that provide the biggest bang for the buck get the most attention.

Psychographics: This persona has their heart in the right place and wants to be a member but has other competing factors that just make paying the dues a challenge. It may not be a money issue as much as it’s money a one-time issue, and the struggle over which to pay weighs heavy on them. So, rather than try and prioritize their membership, they give up, so suspended, and do not think twice about it. What makes it worse for them is the barrier to re-entry. Cost is a huge issue and having to reconcile the expense, getting back into paid status, and regaining a “good standing” is a hill too high. So, they just stop pursuing and move on to other things.

Read: Three Types of Masons

Former Member, detractor

Volume: low / risk: high
A former Freemason who is now a detractor and spreads conspiracy theories.

This group, while not high in volume, can pose a huge issue in their communities and their attitudes about the fraternity. This includes in-person communities and online.

In marketing, a person who has had a negative experience with a brand or product will share that bad experience with at least 10 people. That same idea is very much true here. An individual with an axe to grind or a desire to inflict damage will do so readily.

I think the fact that you haven’t heard many of these bad news stories has fortunate as many are out there. It takes a lot of energy for someone to write a bad review, share a bad experience, or even worse, come out and make a sweeping allegation of impropriety about a membership organization. Just look at the Scouts or the Catholic Church as examples of this.

The former member and detractor persona, when coupled with other more extreme conspiracy actors (like Q-Anon or “the Big Lie”). Most of what this persona projects and says is unmanageable. What is manageable are the communication channels that can disrupt and diminish the detractor’s messaging to retain the fraternity’s reputational standing. As the saying goes, a good offense is the best defense, and being ready with messaging, having some reputation management campaign running, or just being present to counter disinformation goes a long way to keep this persona in check.


  • Age: 30-60, though trended younger
  • Interests: Freemasonry is still a paramount interest but online engagement, anti-influencer presence, and being a keyboard warrior is big. This persona spends a lot of time online.
  • Income: Broadly, low. Could be on disability or from a low-paying part-time job giving them the time to put energy into constant online posting.
  • Location: Suburban, mostly. Somewhere without the pressures of needing a high income.
  • Job: Disability or state income likely. Could live at home still or work in a field that pays enough to live and spend a lot of time online.


Affinity/Interest: Antihero figures loom large for this persona. They like the projection of negative memes but hate admitting to it in public. They do take great pleasure in communities of like-minded online personas.

Hobbies: Social media and the web figure largely. They have an affinity for surfing the dark web and get much of their content intake from unconventional sources online.

Wants/Desires: This persona wants to watch the fraternity burn. They dislike several things, but in this scenario, the detractor/former member is looking to do damage to the fraternity because they enjoy it and believe they have an axe to grind.

Goals: The main goal of this persona is to reshape the perception of Freemasonry and influence the opinion of others about it. They have other personal goals but all, broadly, revolve around disrupting and creating a negative public opinion of the Freemasons. 

Psychographics: Deep down, somewhere along the lines, this persona suffered a deep wound from their membership. Maybe it was some (warranted) exclusion from activities, a negation of some exuberant opinion, or just a period of being overlooked for leadership roles. Whatever the circumstance, warranted or not, this persona is wounded and likely unreachable to change their opinion. They are, literally, the bad apple in the public sphere that seeks to spoil the bunch. Logical reasoning or good taste escapes them as they seek to do nothing more than destroy public sentiment about the organization. They are a hazard to be aware of and prepared for. No level of good counsel or appeal will help to change their mind.

11 Persona Types of Freemasonry – Part 2, Members

Continuing with the personas of Freemasonry, we will look at the core of Freemasons by identifying the underlying aspects of who members are. The intent is to illustrate who, what, and why someone is a member to better enable communicating with them along an imagined marketing funnel.

Read the series:
Part 1: New Member Personas | Part 2: Existing Members | Part 3: Former members


As its own category and understanding of who a member is could likely be broken out into further sub-groups or personas for the different types of members (the joiner, the seeker, the soldier, the fraternity, the hobbyist, the bureaucrat, and the businessman).

For now we will stick with the overarching personas of who the broader membership represents. It may be fun to flesh out the categories above into some broad generalities for those who operate within the lodge halls.

Occasional Attendee

 Volume: low / risk: low
A young professional male who is an irregular attendee of a masonic lodge.

The occasional attendee is a member who may show up a few times a year, or just initiations, key votes, or even lodge installations. They darken the door less for monthly business meetings but like to come out for a special event on occasion. This is not a bad thing or a way to call out something to be corrected. Like all groups, this one belongs and engages on its own terms but is supportive overall.


  • Age: 30s-70s
  • Interests: Varied and range from family (kids, grandkids, extended), career, external associations of professional orgs, social engagements, sports, history, and academics. Because this is such a broadly encompassing persona, the interest demographics can vary widely.
  • Income: Varies
  • Location: Varies
  • Job: white collar and blue color within the mix. May be in academics, management, gig economy, or consultant fields.


Affinity/Interest: This persona group is a mixed bag of interests. Because it accounts for most of this segment (assessed here at 73% of the mix) their affinity/interest range mirrors the community they come from.

Hobbies: As with interests, hobbies here also take on the complexity of the community they come from. Broadly, one could surmise by association that interests in history, civil society, fraternities, religion, and tradition span the cohort.

Wants/Desires: This is hard to assess. Because of the volume, the range of wants/desires is mixed. Pleasure by the association on their own terms seems to be the observable desire fulfillment, but just associating with others may be sufficient. This cohort has an independent streak that they march to.

Goals: Association at a distance, likely exemplified in other groups, too (church, work, friends, etc). This persona cohort is elusive in its goal desires. Ultimately, they like being recognized but not coerced into greater participation.

Psychographics: Underlying this persona is a strong independence streak. Girding that independence is the feeling they get by associating the way they want. Seen but not coerced into being noticed. They like the idea that something is accessible when and how they want it. They belong but at a distance. Not on the fence, but not on one side or the other. 

Read: Three Types of Mason


 Volume: medium-low / risk: low
An older professional male who is often a regular sideline member of a masonic lodge.

This persona is a meat and potatoes member. By that, I mean they show up, engage, are present, and pitch in when asked. Most engage because they enjoy the activity and company of the lodge once a month or several times a month meeting. They have friends in the lodge and this is their time to reconnect in real life. We use the term sideliner, but this cohort is usually anything but. They are past masters, visitors, friends who have joined, new members getting a feel for the organization, ritualists, appendant body boosters, district inspectors, grand lodge dignitary, and a host of dignitaries and/or notables who appear and fill out the lodge rooms across the country. In most cases, the actual percentage of member attendance is low given most halls can only accommodate a percentage of the total membership anyway. The steady churn and cadence of new regular members keep the interest going.

This group makes the experience of the lodge what it is. It provides the color and context of the room and offers many hands of congratulations for the work done. All the many names that are misremembered, heard but not caught, are quick to be smoothed over with the warm handshake. I see this group as one of the greatest assets of the lodge, and one worth being celebrated (and cultivated).


  • Age: 30s-60s
  • Interests: Business association, leadership, management, family, and social life are entwined.
  • Income: $40k-$100k
  • Location: Suburbs and urban centers of small to large sites.
  • Job: professional, middle to upper management


Affinity/Interest: work and professional life are a huge aspect of this persona as do family and social affairs. Unlike work life, social aspects are nurtured through associations outside work but still with family (dinners, outings, etc.).

Hobbies: Travel, social entertainment, dinners out, some sports, family activities, but likely empty nesters looking for things to do with others.

Wants/Desires: Community. The broad desire of this persona is an association of community with others. This can take a variety of forms but orbits social activities with others.

Goals: Building a community base of friends and associates to share in communal activities. A church “could” function in this capacity, but this persona group isn’t interested in religious activity but likes the idea of the “club” having a moral foundation. 

Psychographics: In many respects, this persona wears their intentions on their sleeves. They are doing what their underlying psychology demands: participating with others in a hobby group that they find affinity with. The fact that they (and their family) have made friends within the club is a strong reason for not wanting to leave it or do something else. They feel at home like they have a stake in future growth.

Read: There’s a Hole in Our Bucket


 Volume: low / risk: medium
An older white male that represents a member of several masonic organizations.

This cohort is an interesting subset of super-member. I say super as they have spread out and paid dues into several (many) appendant bodies and “funny hat clubs” loving each and soaking in as much as they can out of each one. Was it any other organization than Freemasonry, I’d say they were true believers but, given all the additional clubs stem from the blue lodge, this is more than a true believer? These are super participators with many connections between all the groups and a keen ear to the ground for the goings-on in the institution.

Networked might be a good way to think of them.

Generally speaking, I don’t think there are many in this subset anymore. Many years ago, I have distinct recollections of who the York and Scottish Rite guys were. Or who was promoting Grotto, OES, or DeMolay. These days, I think just from attrition, their numbers have become reduced. And yes, any mason can belong to enough clubs to have dinner out nearly every night of the week which is a luxury few without families or professional lives can enjoy.

True believers, indeed. Multi-Members are a unique subset of influencers who can build, or bottleneck, a mason’s internal career and growth path, and for this reason, I’ve assessed them as a medium risk to the overall body.


  • Age: 50s-70s+
  • Interests: Management, association clubs, Board memberships, Financial management, governance, Secretaries, Treasurers, networking (both in and out of the fraternity).
  • Income: Likely higher than $70k. They could be on post-retirement income or pension.
  • Location: Likely suburbs from a 20+ mile radius. They are not commuters, per-se but travel within the local district footprint (and beyond).  
  • Job: Likely retired, could be in senior leadership or c-suite advisory position that gives them the time and space for extracurricular activities.


Affinity/Interest: From a professional standpoint, this group is corporate achievers. Sales, management, c-suite, and senior management activities which carry over to the organizations they belong to (religious, professional, leadership, etc.)

Hobbies: The multi-member is unique in that their hobby interest is their membership. Because of their age, they have a diverse assortment of hobbies and interests from over the years and span a gamut of interest areas.   

Wants/Desires: These are as complex as interests and hobbies. Given this persona, their wants/desires are clearly the success and growth of the fraternity and its various bodies. These desires, however, can make opinions and decisions myopic in scope.

Goals: Growing memberships, building connections, and facilitating points of connection and entry for other members. It is a noble endeavor to want to belong and participate in many of the available organizations and this persona strives for that.  

Psychographics: Intention is key here, and how that intention is expressed is evident, but the reasons behind it may be clouded or shaped by misconceptions, misunderstandings, or disliked opinions. This persona believes that they’re doing the right thing, and no one is going to convince them (easily) otherwise. They’re true believers, how could they be wrong? Wrong might not be in their vocabulary and changing their mind from a given opinion will be hard, even when their opinions or actions can have unintended consequences or outcomes.

Mainline Officers/Grand Lodge Officers

 Volume: low / risk: low
An older Asian male that represents the leadership of the lodge or grand lodge.

This is a special subset. Committed. Dedicated. This cohort has moved through the literal and virtual ranks and in most cases served their time on the sidelines, at the special events, in the appendant bodies, and for some up the line to serve at the state level. And yet, this isn’t a broad cohort. With so many years in the service of the craft, this group is known to the degree that you could say they’re the glue of the institution. Many go on to fill lodge and regional roles or filter into the appendant bodies to take leadership roles and guide other bodies.

In some ways, the passage to these roles may seem like inheritances, but the time, work, or energy spent to even be considered for these roles is tremendous. Further, these are leadership positions, or at least they should be treated as such giving or requiring this persona the necessity to lead.


  • Age: late 40s-70s
  • Interests: Leading, managing, promotion, sense of purpose, and obligation 
  • Income: $40k-$150k+ depending on geography
  • Location: Within a district, state, or region.
  • Job: C-suite, semi-retired, high-level professional/business owner. Could be retired. In a position that allows the flexibility to travel and move around in a busy schedule.


Affinity/Interest: This category of member is unique in composition. They usually have a keen interest in civic life or leadership and have the means (connections, income, time) to make a big impact. You are likely to find this cohort sitting on small to mid-sized boards of non-profits, moonlighting as corporate consultants, and volunteering in other membership organizations (like Rotary, Kiwanis, or Scouting). They have a deep passion for doing good and are likely the result of positive outcomes earlier in their professional life.

Read: BSA100 – Boy Scouts of America, 100 Years of Being Prepared

Hobbies: Volunteering takes up most of their time, but affinity hobbies might include golfing, boating, church groups, and other ‘traditional values’ activities. Engagement in politics may play some role in their “free” time.

Wants/Desires: Specifically, community betterment. They see a need and are working to fill the gap using the thing they do best, motivating people.

Goals: Fraternity-wise, their goals are much the as members but at a more meta-level. Not wanting to be mired in petty politics, this cohort is looking out for the organization as a whole. 

Psychographics: It is a rare individual that rises to this position (grand lodge officer), much the same as a CEO or national political figure. It takes drive and effort, both of which this persona has in abundance. The same is true for a lodge office but in a more local sense. Unfortunately, this drive gives them blind spots to the broader needs of the members, cultural changes, and societal shifts. These aren’t bad in and of themselves, but they make progress and change painful and slow. One of their strong suits is keeping the boat steady which, on the flip side, keeps novel adaptation out of arms reach.

Interested in Freemasonry? Read the Free ebook: What is Freemasonry?

11 Persona Types of Freemasonry – Part 1, New Members

I have wanted to do this as a thought experiment for a while. Its complexity wasn’t something I had taken the time to explore or understand properly. Given the present conditions of Freemasonry after the pandemic, I decided what better time than now to try and understand or assess the 10 (+1) persona types that join Freemasonry.

Read the series:
Part 1: New Member Personas | Part 2: Existing Members | Part 3: Former members

I use the word persona as a marketing term (in particular digital marketing) to understand the audience that content (digital or programmatic) is created for. These personas can be sorted into various levels of a communication or marketing funnel to amplify message reach: the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

This funnel also exists for several channels in the conversion life cycle. But this is a short explanation of how to understand these personas and where they might fit into how these types of masons fit into the membership schema of a lodge, district, or state hierarchy.

Another attribute I’d like to assign to these personas is a volume in the current funnel system and assigning them an opportunity or benefit/risk level. The idea behind these extra attributes is to assess their potential volume and opportunity when taken as a whole. So, let’s dive into the first three of the 11 types of Freemasons and their personas.

Many of these personas can, will, and do float in-between one another to one degree or another.

Because there is so much information to capture here, I thought it best to split the personas into three groups: Prospective, Members, and Former Members.

In this first segment, let’s look at the entry-level of Freemasonry by identifying the some personas.

Read: Three Types of Mason

Prospective Members

The Interested/New Searcher (2b1Ask1)

Volume: high/risk: low
A young man interested in joining Freemasonry.

This, to me, is the widest of all possible membership pools. The Interested/New Searcher includes the entire pool of people who search online, read books about and generally are interested in Freemasonry because a father or grandfather were masons, they had a teacher, or boss, or some other male figure in their life made a favorable impression on about the fraternity. This, in my opinion, is what the emphasis of the 2b1ask1 campaign was focused on.

This is less who the organization is designed for in that as interested seekers reach out, the reception is often cold or disconnected given there is no previous pipeline in. This isn’t to say it’s an unwelcome connection. To the contrary, it’s very welcome and desired but very hard to interact with in a meaningful way given the awkwardness of the relationship (neither side knowing the other). It takes a special handling of this type of prospective member to become a candidate.


  • Age: 16-50
  • Interests: history, business, community, charity, religion (but not church), maybe some kind of interest in occult, mysticism, or spirituality.
  • Income: $15-$50k
  • Location: suburbs of small to mid-sized cities
  • Job: varies. Entry level, early to mid-career, white or blue collar


Affinity/Interest: range of club/social/association groups. Scouting, college fraternity, military, or other social club background. Interest has some root in former associations.

Hobbies: Range from leisure sports (golf, bowling, cards, or other small group activity) to reading about business, history, or passive association topics (Dale Carnage to the Secret). Most “hobbies” are small group/association inspired.

Wants/Desires: This is a broad range. Distilled down, wants and desires include some form of group association that involve a form of community through association. A mentorship type of affinity association to learn how to go from a good man to a better man.

Goals: Inclusion in the club. To belong and meet new people and find affinity interest with others.

Psychographics: The underlying motivation of this group is of an outsider looking for an in. Clubs are hard and scary to join because if you don’t know anyone, then rejection can be hard so going out on a limb to seek out membership makes the seeker vulnerable. This also makes the searcher/seeker vulnerable to the impressions that get made upon them early on. Their underlying motivation is to belong to something, and they chose Freemasonry.

The Friend of a Friend (asked and answered)

Volume: high-medium / risk: low
A friend of a Freemason who was asked to join Freemasonry.

Like the interested seeker, the friend of a friend is like a referral source. Less of a built-in history with knowing someone in public who was an open member, the friend of a friend is that prospect or candidate that gets nurtured along who eventually decides to “give it a go.”

This persona may spend time doing some internet research, watch a History Channel episode on the Freemasons or read a book or two. They might like that they have the inside scoop on those “secret societies” when they see a magazine special in the supermarket checkout rack. None of these are bad things. But this persona was warmed into the idea of becoming a Freemason after a few nudges in that direction from someone in their circles.


  • Age: 30s-60s
  • Interests: Work, career, friendships, family. Not in that order, but to varying degrees at different times.
  • Income: $40k-$65K+
  • Location: urban centers and suburbs of mid-sized to larger cities.
  • Job: junior to mid-career, professional, likely white collar


Affinity/Interest: Family or early committed relationships are big for this segment and family centered activities still dominate much of their free time. In many instances, they may have young kids, new careers, new wives, new homes, so time is a valuable commodity.

Hobbies: Family, vacations, television, sports, politics—activities that can be done passively while traveling to and from somewhere (like work, or between kids’ events)

Wants/Desires: More time to do more leisure activities. This is a complex age that is dominated by obligations of work and family.

Goals: Raising a healthy family and making money to sustain and grow a lifestyle. There may be other goals in the minutia (an MBA, a promotion, more income) but the core goal of this persona is their family and their well-being.

Psychographics: This persona is complex and juggling a lot of competing priorities. The relationship of the friend may hold a strong sway on their interest to join, especially if the person asking is an elder or someone looked up to, but in joining, they run the risk of intruding on family commitments which are always at the back of their mind—detracting from other considerations.

Friend of/New

Volume: low / risk: low
A close friend interested in becoming a Freemason.

Like the friend of a friend, the friend of a member is a direct relationship connection to a member: a childhood friend, a co-worker or colleague, a family relation or some other direct connection to another member who is either an easy conversation about Freemasonry or who has always been interested and had meant to ask the member about becoming one. These are natural connections; direct, easy to talk to, curious and interested. This particular persona isn’t as common as they may seem, but they have a retention value for their interest in the organization and in the people they know who are in it.

If I had to guess, this is in some ways who the organization was designed for. The introductions come easy, the inclusion into the group is normal, organic and natural. There is much less of a barrier to embracing a known or vouched for element into the existing membership community.


  • Age: mid 30s-mid 60s
  • Interests: Similar to the friend who introduced them to the fraternity. Mature hobbies (golf, sports, work) but evolved with time.
  • Income: $40k-$70k +/-
  • Location: mid to large city, likely suburbs, could be urban centers
  • Job: similar to referral source. Likely mid to late career based on age. Could be on second or third career.


Affinity/Interest: This persona may be an empty nester, or a relocation from another town or city looking for a club to join to meet people. New social circles, new friends, new activities fuel much of this persona’s interest.

Hobbies: Sports (team or small group), home renovation/income wealth building, renewing old interests and picking up old activities before family took priority.

Wants/Desires: authentic and mature friendships with like minded people. What this means or what it looks like can vary by association (or person who brought them into the orbit of the fraternity).

Goals: Renewal of old interests, local travel, friendships and activities. The underlying goals of this persona is to meet and make friends of friends to increase the social circle in real life as opposed to just on social media.

Psychographics: There is a loneliness aspect to this persona. There may be issues of estrangement from family or kids, a past divorce or loss of spouse. The interest in the organization is genuine, but the underlying motivations for wanting to BE a member are predicated in finding people to meet, associate with and maybe do passive business with or just make friends with to increase a social/professional network.

These three types of Masons make up the three broad entry points of Freemasonry. Others could include progression from youth appendant bodies, or some combination of the three personas above. In the next post, we’ll look at the primary personas of members to understand who occupies that space.

Are these personas missing something? Let me know in the comments below.

Coming Soon: Part 2 & Part 3

The Symbolism of Pillars in Freemasonry

The symbol of the Pillars in Freemasonry, three in total, have a special place in the rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry. Many an author, including myself, have attempted to capture their meaning and give resonance to their understanding. Writing in a preamble to the second degree, I defined the pillars in their three representations or mercy, severity and mildness, writing:

Wisdom, the left-hand pillar of mercy, is an active pillar and representative of alchemical fire, which is the principal of spirituality, often called the pillar of Jachin. It is a masculine pillar, and relates to our mental energy, our loving kindness, and our creative inspiration as we traverse it up the Kabbalaistic tree through the Sephirot.

Strength is the right-hand pillar and takes the form of severity, shaped into the alchemical symbol of water.  It can represent darkness, but it is a passive symbol that is feminine in nature and called the pillar of Boaz. Upon it we find the points of our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and emotions, and the physicality of our physical experience, our sensations, each an aspect of its Cabalistic progression.

The mix of the symbols of fire and water.

Beauty, then, takes on the role of synthesis of the two, the pillar of mildness; it is upon this pillar that the novitiate is transformed through his progressive states as he progresses. The central pillar of Beauty is representative of Jehovah, the Tetragrammaton which represents deity itself upon which our crown of being resides balanced through feeling and emotion from our foundation of justice and mercy, which springs from our link to the everyday world.

H. A. Kingsbury, writing in The Three Supporting Pillars Of A Lodge, from The Builder Magazine in October 1917, writes of the pillars saying, The Mason is informed that the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty “because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings”: he cannot but gather from the lectures and the work, particularly of the First Degree, that the Lodge is the symbol of the World: therefore, when he combines these two conceptions and draws the necessarily resulting conclusion, he arrives at the same understanding of the ultimate symbolic significance of the Three Pillars as did the ancient Hindus–the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are, considered as a group, the symbol of Him Whose Wisdom contrived the World, Whose Strength supports the World, Whose Beauty adorns the World-Deity. 

Orders of architecture in Freemasonry.
Masonic Orders of Architecture: Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

Wisdom, Strength and Beauty

From the first degree lecture, it reads,“The Worshipful Master represents the pillar of Wisdom, because he should have wisdom to open his Lodge, set the craft at work, and give them proper instructions. The Senior Warden represents the pillar of Strength, it being his duty to assist the Worshipful Master in opening and closing his Lodge, to pay the craft their wages, if any be due, and see that none go away dissatisfied, harmony being the strength of all institutions, more especially of ours. The Junior Warden represents the pillar of Beauty, it being his duty at all times to observe the sun at high meridian, which is the glory and beauty of the day.”

The masonic pillars as an ancient symbol

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Albert G. Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, writes of the pillars, saying:

In the earliest times it was customary to perpetuate remarkable events, or exhibit gratitude for providential favors, by the erection of pillars, which by the idolatrous races were dedicated to their spurious gods. Thus Sanchoniathon the Berytian tells us that Hypsourianos (Hypsuranius) and Ousous (Memrumus?), who lived before the Flood, dedicated two pillars to the elements, fire and air. Among the Egyptians the pillars were, in general, in the form of obelisks from fifty to one hundred feet high, and exceedingly slender in proportion. Upon their four sides hieroglyphics were often engraved. According to Herodotus, they were first raised in honor of the sun, and their pointed form was intended to represent his rays. Many of these monuments still remain.

In the antediluvian or before the Flood, ages, the posterity of Seth erected pillars; “for,” says the Jewish historian, “that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction, that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone; they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind, and would also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them.” Jacob erected such a pillar at Bethel, to commemorate his remarkable vision of the ladder, and afterward another one at Galeed as a memorial of his alliance with Laban. Joshua erected one at Gilgal to perpetuate the remembrance of his miraculous crossing of the Jordan. Samuel set up a pillar between Mizpeh and Shen, on account of a defeat of the Philistines, and Absalom erected another in honor of himself. The reader will readily see the comparison between these memorials mentioned in the Bible and the modern erection of tablets, gravestones, etc., to the honor of the dead as well as to a notable deed or event. Compare also the use of an altar.

The doctrine of gravitation was unknown to the people of the primitive ages, and they were unable to refer the support of the earth in its place to this principle. Hence, they looked to some other cause, and none appeared to their simple and unphilosophic minds more plausible than that it was sustained by pillars. The Old Testament abounds with reference to this idea. Hannah, in her song of thanksgiving, exclaims: “The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (First Samuel 2, 8). The Psalmist signifies the same doctrine in the following text: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved; I bear up the pillars of it” (Psalm 75:3). Job 26:7 says: “He shaketh the earth out of her places, and the pillars thereof tremble.” All the old religions taught the same doctrine; and hence pillars being regarded as the supporters of the earth, they were adopted as the symbol of strength and firmness. To this, John Dudley (Naology: Or, a Treatise On the Origin, Progress, and Symbolical Import of the Sacred Structures of the Most Eminent Nations and Ages of the World, page 123) attributes the origin of pillar worship, which prevailed so extensively among the idolatrous nations of antiquity. “The reverence,” says he, “shown to columns, as symbols of the power of the Deity, was readily converted into worship paid to them as idols of the real presence.” But here he seems to have fallen into a mistake. The double pillars or columns, acting as an architectural support, were, it is true, symbols derived from a natural cause of strength and permanent firmness. But there was another more prevailing symbology. The monolith, or circular pillar, standing alone, was, to the ancient mind, a representation of the Phallus, the symbol of the creative and generative energy of Deity, and it is in these Phallic Pillars that we are to find the true origin of pillar worship, which was only one form of Phallic Worship, the most predominant of all the cults to which the ancients were addicted. 

Freemasonry During COVID-19

Re-Engaging Freemasonry During COVID-19

Freemasonry During COVID-19

This is part two of Freemasonry After Covid-19

I like to think I’m an optimist. Most of the time at least. 

If you haven’t been paying attention, COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc around the world. In the U.S., the pandemic is and growing exponentially in the United States with a flurry of mixed messaging about gathering, wearing masks, and even arguing if the virus is real. 

Wherever you land on the issue, the dilemma is the same–the pandemic is shaping the way gather. And in the absence of gathering it’s shaping the way prospective members see the (or don’t see) the fraternity.

As COVID spreads and impacts more of us, shuttering or putting limits on what we can do in groups, we need to figure out new ways to communicate what it means to be a Freemason and how someone joins Freemasonry. 

If they can’t see Freemasonry in action, they can’t take action to become a mason. 

 Closed Lodge Rooms During COVID-19

How do you show someone what you do if you can’t SHOW them what you do? You have to talk about it. 

How you talk about it might and might not matter in the ways you think it would. What’s important is the message and engagement that comes from leadership to the members. Public where possible. Inspiring when able. But frequent in a way that’s not obsessive but relevant to the evolution of what’s taking place in the news. 

I think we take leaders for granted. They’re in that leadership position to “lead.” So, they should. This could be lodge line officers, lodge masters, well-spoken district leaders and grandmasters. 

The messaging should be inspiring, encouraging, not preachy or assumptive of one bend or another. I say this as the messaging should be worthy of sharing OUTSIDE of social media. How exciting or engaging would a message about the great things Freemasonry is doing to help beat the pandemic be?

The goal would be to capture the attention of the secondary audience, the friends of friends on Facebook or Twitter who see the Liked or Reshared communication. A great early adopter of this idea is taking shape out of the Grand Lodge of Ohio who has been producing content at an amazing rate and posting to social channels. 

This is just one example of what I’ve seen on Twitter:

You can see more of what they do by checking out @GrandLodgeOhio

Now imagine this coming out of every state.

I mention this as one example of what one Grand Lodge is doing to connect and communicate with the broader public. What an amazing sight that would be.

Members at a Distance During COVID-19

While engaging the secondary audience of non-masons with interesting content, the need to keep existing members connected is paramount. How you go about this seems to come down to a few avenues.  

  • Host regular (tiled and/or untiled) meetings via Zoom or other online platforms.
  • Break the quarantine protocols and meet in person. 

This may not be the normal everyone likes or even wants to operate in. But it’s the normal we presently exist within. Here, members under the United Grand Lodge of England has organized some amazing events with Masonic notables like Dr. Robert Lomas and the 2012 Prestonian lecturer W Bro. Tony Harvey. These are but a few of the activities coming out of the U.K.

This isn’t to say that activities aren’t taking place around the U.S. 

With the proliferation of online meetings, it would be foolish to assume that they aren’t taking place as tiled business meetings. The point here is the lack of wider publicizing of the activities or hosting activities that may be of interest to a wider of both member and non can only help to bolster any interest that may exist in the area. It’s not perfect. It’s not the best possible world. But it’s something. It’s work in the direction of re-emerging into a newly vaccinated world eager to do something social. 

Doing this work or seeing the need to do it is challenging. 

But there’s still time. It just takes the energy and leadership to see the value and do the work. This pandemic will end. We’ll beat COVID-19 with a vaccine. Freemasonry needs to make sure it’s ready to get back into the world when the vaccine is in circulation and the world opens back up.  

Postscript: I’d written this several days before publishing it. On the evening before setting this up to go live, NPR dropped a national story on the subject titled: Freemasons Say They’re Needed Now More Than Ever. So Why Are Their Ranks Dwindling? In the story, it essentially encapsulates this very problem quoting Chris Hodapp from Freemasons for Dummies. Chris was speaking on the loss of membership, saying “…something that’s scaring the hell out of me is this COVID shutdown thing. God help us all when we stand back and survey the crumbling wreckage that that has caused.”

It’s that wreckage that can be addressed, now, as best possible. The way to do that is to be present.

How does Freemasonry survive COVID-19

Freemasonry after COVID

How does Freemasonry survive COVID-19

This question started as one of those silent moment thoughts: What will Freemasonry look like after COVID-19?

The easy answer is that Freemasonry will go on business as usual. Monthly stated meetings, degree evenings, appendant body meetings and the bi-annual festive board. The question is, will members be willing to return given the breadth of the crisis and the disparity in following safety protocols or safe distancing standards?

The question, as I’m thinking it through, isn’t so much about how Freemasonry will respond to the easing of COVID restrictions and the return to a semblance of normal, but how the members will. After a yearlong (maybe two) hiatus from activities around the fraternity, how do things restart?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this.

Going into the pandemic, Freemasonry was already contending with a decrease in membership. This was illustrated in several stories on this site (The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You, To Die Or Not To Die). Now, nearly a year into the quarantine, the old questions are compounded with having to figure how to re-engage and invigorate past members to come back and drive interest to new members to join–all while under quarantine and socially distanced.

My thinking is that now would be the time to start planning or rolling out campaigns to reinvigorate interest.

Read: Re-Engaging Freemasonry During COVID-19

I see this happening in the content the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. They’ve been producing a stream of content around new members, virtual reunions and driving the message home that it’s still there, doing what masons do. You can catch a glimpse of the work in this one social post from Twitter.

It’s impossible to say what the net impact will be of a campaign piece like this. But smart, and well crafted, and on point. It’s an interesting glimpse of the bigger picture of what they’re doing which is building the Scottish Rite brand and strengthening the reach. They’ve really done a stellar job with their digital footprint.

Imagine this footprint spread across the 50 states. And this is only one example of one organization on one social platform.

The possibilities are nearly limitless to broaden the reach of your flavor of local Freemasonry.

I started this post with the headline Freemasonry after COVID, but I suppose the better lead would have been Freemasonry in the middle of COVID. The issues aren’t insurmountable. How do you reach and keep existing members engaged when social distancing is restricting face to face gatherings? And how do you grow and add new ones?

If you’re a Freemason away from lodge, how interested would you be if your Grand Lodge did more to engage you? Are they doing enough already? Do you think it would help to retain your interest in this period of social distancing while we await a vaccine?

Whence came the Moral Law in Freemasonry?

moral law, Thomas Hobbes

The Moral Law is a foundational aspect of the Fraternity if Freemasonry.

Anderson uses the phrase in his Constitution of 1723 without any explanation of what exactly he means in his phrasing of it.  And, increasingly, it is being used as a de facto totem of decision making in violation of litigation and jurisdictional disputes. But in the modern civic age were criminal, civil, federal, and state (and lets not even get into international) laws abound we have in many ways lost sight (if ever we had a clear one) of what exactly the ideas were behind the linking of the “Moral Laws” to the fraternity.  The source is ancient without a doubt, and most likely a challenge to come to any consensus over.  Is the Moral Law from a religious perspective, as in given to man by the Great Architect, or a man-made law constructed with religious ideas but applied in a humanistic manner to apply to our interaction with one another.  And then, how does it apply to Masonry?  Is it a religious injunction or an instruction for how to behave?

At the root are the question then is what the Moral Law is and what is its purpose to be invoked in any decision making.

The first step to see it at the time when it was adopted by Freemasonry is to trace the idea though the ages, and it’s clear that the idea of a moral law has been around for some time. Before we get to these first steps, however, perhaps we should explore what exactly the moral law is.

From Wikipedia, Natural Law is defined as:

Natural law or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis) has been described as a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. As classically used, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The phrase natural law is opposed to the positive law (meaning “man-made law”, not “good law”; cf. posit) of a given political community, society, or nation-state, and thus can function as a standard by which to criticize that law. In natural law jurisprudence, on the other hand, the content of positive law cannot be known without some reference to the natural law (or something like it). Used in this way, natural law can be invoked to criticize decisions about the statutes, but less so to criticize the law itself. Some use natural law synonymously with natural justice or natural right (Latin: ius naturale), although most contemporary political and legal theorists separate the two.

It likens the essence of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to the ideas of the Natural Law, something any American reading should be intimately familiar with.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes

To better encapsulate the idea of the Moral or Natural Law, we need to borrow from the ideas of Thomas Hobbes (a late philosopher who codified it into modern times) who says of the Natural Law that it is “a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that by which he thinks it may best be preserved.”

Hobbes breaks the Natural Law down to 19 points which he illustrated in his work Leviathan.

  • The First Law of nature is that every man ought to endeavor peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all help and advantages of war.
  • The Second Law of nature is that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth, as for peace, and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.
  • The Third Law is that men perform their covenants made. In this law of nature consisteth the fountain and original of justice… when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. And whatsoever is not unjust is just.
  • The Fourth Law is that a man which receives benefit from another of mere grace, endeavor that he which giveth it, has no reasonable cause to repent him of his goodwill. Breach of this law is called ingratitude.
  • The Fifth Law is complaisance: that every man strives to accommodate himself to the rest. The observers of this law may be called sociable; the contrary, stubborn, insociable, forward, intractable.
  • The Sixth Law is that upon caution of the future time, a man ought to pardon the offenses past of them that repenting, desire it.
  • The Seventh Law is that in revenge, men look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the greatness of the good to follow.
  • The Eighth Law is that no man by deed, word, countenance, or gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another. The breach of which law is commonly called contumely.
  • The Ninth Law is that every man acknowledges another for his equal by nature. The breach of this precept is pride.
  • The Tenth Law is that at the entrance into the conditions of peace, no man require to reserve to himself any right, which he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest. The breach of this precept is arrogance, and observers of the precept are called modest.
  • The Eleventh Law is that if a man is trusted to judge between man and man, that he deal equally between them.
  • The Twelfth Law is that such things as cannot be divided, be enjoyed in common if it can be; and if the quantity of the thing permits, without stint; otherwise proportionably to the number of them that have right.
  • The Thirteenth Law is the entire right, or else…the first possession (in the case of alternating use), of a thing that can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common should be determined by lottery.
  • The Fourteenth Law is that those things which cannot be enjoyed in common, nor divided, ought to be adjudged to the first possessor; and in some cases to the firstborn, as acquired by lot.
  • The Fifteenth Law is that all men that mediate peace be allowed safe conduct.
  • The Sixteenth Law is that they that are at controversies submit their Right to the judgment of an Arbitrator.
  • The seventeenth law is that no man is a fit Arbitrator in his own cause.
  • The Eighteenth Law is that no man should serve as a judge in a case if greater profit or honor, or pleasure apparently ariseth [for him] out of the victory of one party, than of the other.
  • The Nineteenth Law is that in a disagreement of fact, the judge should not give more weight to the testimony of one party than another, and absent other evidence should give credit to the testimony of other witnesses.

Interestingly, we can turn to a religious perspective, coming specifically from a Catholic perspective; where the Natural/Moral Law is applied when the exterior actions of the actor reflect their interior motives as their source. It links the theological virtues to the Law citing Thomas Aquinas in saying that lacking the Cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, that a moral choice is impossible. (See Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the second part of the Summa Theologica)

From Wikipedia:

According to Aquinas, to lack any of these virtues is to lack the ability to make a moral choice. For example, consider a man who possesses the virtues of justice, prudence, and fortitude, yet lacks temperance. Due to his lack of self-control and desire for pleasure, despite his good intentions, he will find himself swaying from the moral path.

To fully appreciate this, we must first look to Romans 2:14 when Paul of Tarsis, speaking of the Gentiles says: Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. Interesting to note, this  is something Pike picks up on in his exploration of the 10th degree of Scottish Rite Masonry as he points to the tenants of the “old primitive faiths.”

One has to wonder how this foundational statement from the church became the basis of the Moral Law in Masonry.  It does seem a natural fit – the Cardinal and Theological virtues in conjunction to the other ideas beginning to take shape, but it seems that they were naturally woven in as reasons for being, rather than the basis of the Natural Law.

Anderson in his Constitutions of 1723, says in item I:

A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine.  is speaking to something else, which I suggest is towards John Locke’s idea of the Moral Law.

Cicero, Roman, Philosopher
Roman Philosopher Cicero

A statement, you’ll note, devoid of linkage to the Cardinal and Theological Virtues.  Anderson’s idea of a Moral Law came from somewhere, but where?


Perhaps it can be traced back to the time of the Roman Philosopher Cicero whose contribution to the idea was to suggest that:

“…natural law obliges us to contribute to the general good of the larger society.  The purpose of positive laws is to provide for “the safety of citizens, the preservation of states, and the tranquility and happiness of human life.” In this view, “wicked and unjust statutes” are “anything but ‘laws,” because “in the very definition of the term ‘law’ there inheres the idea and principle of choosing what is just and true.” Further that “the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own happiness, and that the best means of promoting them consists of living with men in that perfect union and charity which are cemented by mutual benefits.”

John Locke

John Locke, moral lay, philosophy
John Locke

But, to see the Moral Law in a contemporary context, we must look to John Locke, for several reasons, and not just his ideas philosophy.

Locke’s point of the Moral Law was to say,

“the nature of the world is governed by laws and so too is man’s conduct, and that without moral laws, men would not have society; without moral law, trust between men would collapse.” 

Locke’s concept of the Moral Law was a re-working of Hobbes ideas, saying instead that people could justifiably overthrow the existing state and create a new one if the ruler went against natural law.

“Though in a constituted commonwealth, standing upon its own basis, and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the preservation of the community, there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate; yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still “in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative,” when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them: for all power given with trust for the attaining an end, being limited by that end: whenever that end is manifestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the Power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.”

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says of Locke’s idea:

“…sense experience proclaims the existence of a supreme lawmaker, a wise creator of the world, which has made man for a purpose. Man, thus has purposes – to contemplate and to procure and preserve his life. Yet the moral law cannot be garnered from consent – from mass or democratic agreement, for the voice of the people is as likely to lead to fallacies and evil. Men’s actual morality may be highly relative, but differences do not undermine the existence of commonalities in the law, hence we should not obey (or follow) others blindly. Nonetheless, the conservative Locke continues to argue that we ought to obey our lawmakers as possessing rightful power over creation, but our obedience should not just be out of fear for the lawmaker’s power, but conscientiously too: we ought to obey it because the magistrate should request morally right action.”

Locke, formerly a firm believer in the Platonic ideal of a good captain steering the ship, came to the idea of leadership having a limit to the extent that he perceived as authority’s reach which we can see when he says “…it cannot be supposed the people should give any one or more of their fellow men authority over them for any other purpose than their own preservation, or extend the limits of their jurisdiction beyond the limits of this life.”

This is important in that It’s been posited that Locke was a Freemason and that perhaps it was his ideas of the Moral Law, especially as they pertained to governance and leadership, pertained to Freemasonry too.

In a paper presented by W.Bro. Ronald Paul Ng titled The Age of Enlightenment and Freemasonry, Br. Ng asks and then answers:

“Was Locke a mason? The answer is probably yes. There is an entry on the “Leland Manuscript” in Albert Mackey’s “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry” in which he quoted a passage by the famous Dr. Oliver in the Freemasons’ Quart. Review, 1840, p 10, where Dr. Oliver said, “… this great philosopher [Locke] was actually residing at Oates, the country-seat of Sir Francis Masham, at the time when the paper [Leland Manuscript] is dated; and shortly afterward he went up to town, where he was initiated into Masonry. These facts are fully proved by Locke’s Letters to Mr. Molyneux, dated March 30 and July2, 1696.”

In his essay, Br. Ng talks on several levels about how Locke’s ideas may have permeated into the Freemasons, including religious toleration and the process of learning by experience.  But, in this context, did Locke’s ides of a Moral Law follow him also into the Lodge, if not in the letter then in spirit?

The Moral Law

It seems that in combination of both the religious and humanist application, one which at the time they were adopted they were likely blurred lines of between, the two were combined into the ideals and principals of Freemasonry.  The Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues tempered into the ideals of a Moral Law to give fairness in action and faith. Both the application of How to be Good Men, and in the principals of getting along in society, come into play now in issues of recognition, jurisprudence, and internal governance and the source of the Moral Law has to be of consideration in some way when acting in a way that invokes a Moral Law as the basis of the decision. Is it as Hobbes set down, remodeled by Locke, or is it in the manner of Paul of Tarsis in speaking of the faith of the Gentiles? Or, is it in a more oblique Catholic manner in applying the Cardinal and Theological virtues, something unmistakable to every Mason in his perception?

Further still, is it something older and less tangible like the ideas of Cicero in that the Natural Laws are laws that cannot in fact be laws, because to be so, they invalidate there very natural state if looked at as such?

What stands out in greatest resonance with Masonry is Cicero’s remark,

“the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own happiness, and that the best means of promoting them consists in living with men in that perfect union and charity which are cemented by mutual benefits.”

This seem to best build the foundation of Hobbes and Locke to identify the Moral Law in Freemasonry and giving us a place to then make decisions from – perfect union and charity…cemented by mutual benefits.

Is Freemasonry dying or changing?

The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You

freemasonry, dying, declining membership, future of Freemasonry
Is Freemasonry dying or changing?

I haven’t said much on the subject of membership in Freemasonry (in general) and in the United States in particular, for some time. But with the buzz and interest in the last few posts (Freemasonry Is Dying, Bait & Switch, I Quit and Masonic Anti-Intellectualism A Crying Shame), I thought it necessary to pen a few thoughts on the matter.

So often articles like these end gathering comments saying “…lodges just need to do the work and things will get better…we need to guard the west gate” or “…we need to focus on the people with a real interest in Masonry.” I like “Freemasonry isn’t dying…we’re refining.”

In all of these instances, the insinuation of doing nothing except what was done before, only better, is tantamount to putting your head in the sand and pretending that the problem isn’t really a problem. This isn’t a new realization. I gave the numbers my own rudimentary examination in 2007, concluding with saying So What? You can’t stem the change without acknowledging it.

Read: Freemasonry after COVID

That change, no longer on the horizon, will only result in a better fraternity with true believers of likeminded men. Some Masons get it, or at least see why its so hard to have the conversation in the first place. And sure, Freemasonry as an entity, isn’t dying. What’s dying is the Freemasonry as we know it today.

masonic lodge, for sale, change in membership
What happens when lodges lose their membership?

The situation as I’m reading and seeing today in the numbers, is membership declining precipitously which will mean sooner, rather than later, revenue from lodges will dry up and lodges will close. This story ran just yesterday in the Daily Times, a news outlet out of Delaware County, PA: End of Era in Chester: Masons hold final meeting.

The long and the short of it: lodge membership dropped, it lost its charter, the Grand Lodge took the charter and keys of the lodge and sold it.

As things progress in this period of refinement, Grand Lodges will take possession of old charters and buildings, selling the latter in high-value markets to keep their own coffers full sustaining what remains of Grand Lodge programs and retirement homes.

As member dues continue to shrink, the relationship between the lodge and grand lodge will be reevaluated and charters will start being deconstructed, flowing back along their lines of dispensation. In that process, Freemasonry will cease to exist in a meaningful way in the manner it does today.

No more lodge buildings. No more organized charity. No more institutional presence, turning to vapor 300 years charity, initiation and enlightenment.

They’ll be a few folks around doing something like Freemasonry, but it won’t be in the manner it was today.

It’s actually a fascinating thought experiment to consider how the business end of things will transpire as revenue dries up.

Cause and Effect

This is the cause and effect of change. Change in membership numbers, change in interest, change in cultural norms.

Gone are the days of men in suits lunching on three martinis or fellas in blue collar work shirts building things in factories. The bygone days are gone.

Chris Hodapp posted a great piece on how the era of the “woke generation” has mostly forgotten about Freemasonry—seeing what’s left as an anachronistic throwback club wearing racially biased costumes in gender excluding male hang-outs (Read: Freemasonry in the Age of Woke). In some respects, the age of woke probably isn’t too far off the track on their assessment. You can see, in one instance, what happens to the temples when their caretakers have to turn over the keys because they can’t keep up the rent.

This is the change that’s happening, right now, as the number of dues-paying members declines.

Masonry is going to change, not because it wanted to, but mostly because it will run out of the fuel that sustains it—namely people and money.

History Repeats Itself

This isn’t the first time Freemasonry has faced change.

During the Morgan Affair, membership in Freemasonry recoiled and nearly went extinct in the fires of the Anti-Masonic Political Party. Over the centuries masons gathered in conclaves, held meetings, met in lodges, and traveled to regional congresses—all to debate the changes they faced and the direction they should move.

In one early period, a rough conglomeration of stand-alone lodges in England organized themselves in a tavern to become the United Grand Lodge of England and the progenitor of American Freemasonry.

This was change. And it meant bucking the convention of the age.

From its inception (and baring a few making-of Masons at sight) lodges have been the defacto entry point to membership. To be a mason, you join a lodge, which meant you joined Freemasonry.

But membership is exclusive. You join “a” lodge to facilitate your dues and catalog your membership, which in turn rolls up to the state level grand lodge which takes a portion of your dues to pay some leadership and finance its operation. 

By operation I mean how it controls and distributes charters, funds homes, controls communications between states and works organizationally (albeit loosely) with the other states and appendant bodies to say who’s “regular”, and who’s not. Think of dues as an affiliation fee, or a tax. The more members a lodge has, the more it pays to the grand lodge. The fuller the coffers the more it can do.

Catalyst for Change

The issue with modern Freemasonry, as practiced today, isn’t wholly the teachings. It isn’t wholly the philosophy. It isn’t in the message or ideals.

Certainly, the history and cultural norms bring a measure of baggage in the broad exclusion of women and the history of racial separation. But these “issues” have evolved their own solutions within the system. The problem facing modern Freemasonry, and its decline in membership, is its membership model.

To require interested seekers to pay to join a lodge that offers no “intrinsic” value or no “tangible” service isn’t working.

Sure, by joining a lodge dues payers get access to an esoteric library (maybe), something we all use these days. Members get access to a Masonic funeral (if you stay current in dues for a set number of years). And, if you fit into the culture, you can develop good relationships with people (maybe) who are interested (mostly) in the same things you are. In-between you might get to eat or serve (maybe) decent meals, argue over paying the bills (out of the dues you’ve paid) and support closely associated charities that exist to give family of some members something to do other than attending lodge dinners.

This is a gross oversimplification of the Life Masonic, but in a nutshell this is the bread and butter of the Masonic lodge system. 

Why lodges lose most newly made masons is that they join, see this process, lose the value proposition (or never find a place in the old boys club) and within a fairly set amount period of time, stop attending and stop paying dues.

The issue isn’t lodges. The Issue is who’s using them. Not the leadership. The issue is in the members. Without them, there isn’t a reason to exist.

Follow the Money

It’s this layer of non-paid dues that really amplifies the loss. (read: There’s a Hole in Our Bucket) It’s the cessation of dues-paying members that ramps up the attrition.

This is what is wrong with the current model of Freemasonry.

No better meals, no better educational programs or improved ritual performance is going to bring people back once they’ve walked away. How would they know unless someone reaches out to sell them on the improved value proposition? 

Doing Freemasonry Differently

The situation is that being a mason is dependent on paying dues to a local lodge that just doesn’t offer a value proposition.

Is there a different model? A disruption of the death spiral?

I think a temporary solution could be a separate layer of membership tied to the state or perhaps a national body that removes the barrier of belonging to a local lodge and allow, if even for a few years, membership in Freemasonry to start to grow again. This would allow for a needed infusion of membership (and their dues) to cycle back into the craft something of value for the membership. What does that look like? Quarterly programs, some kind of media that’s interesting to new AND old Masons keeping them interested, rather than a cut and paste photocopied newsletters full of borrowed articles from around the web. 

Freemasonry isn’t dying a natural death. Freemasonry is slowly strangling itself in the grip of suicidal inaction over the fear of its own history under the glare of modernity.

The system of dues making the mason at the local lodge level is the noose strangling what’s left of the fraternity.

The antiquated modalities of doing things the way they were done before, right down to how and where dues are paid, is a noose around Freemasonry’s neck as we watch the options escape us like the last gasps of life on the gallows.

Disrupting Freemasonry

Some quick thoughts worthy of exploration to do Freemasonry differently:

  • Change the membership system from the old lodge dues and Grand Lodge tax system
  • Eliminate the necessity of belonging to “a” lodge
  • Invite SNPDs (suspension of nonpayment of dues) back into the fold under the “new” system of membership
  • Craft quality content, relevant to the program, to keep the membership engaged (Think how the AARP, Scouts or even the NRA are engaging their audiences)
  • Look hard at the issues of race and gender
  • Reevaluate the state by state system of management.

If not, doing nothing will still track the decline in membership. Doing something differently? Maybe it can slow things down.

Initiations could be handled by extant lodges with exceptional ritual which would begin to help them thrive again with returning members not tied to one lodge by dues and nurtured in meaningful ways. It’s a change from what’s been done before, in control of the change rather than letting the change control the future. Appendant bodies could leverage their above and beyond the blue lodge activities, and masonry can remember what it was to be flush again.

It means taking control of the future and leaning into it—steering the chaos as best possible—rather than letting the chaos of change control where the fraternity is headed. 

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Freemasonry hasn’t changed in nearly a century. Now is the time to seek perfection, before it’s too late and Freemasonry really is dead.

book, The Great Work, knowledge, wisdom, willpower

The Great Work

book, The Great Work, knowledge, wisdom, willpower

The Great Work is, above all things, the creation of man by himself; that is to say, the fall and entire conquest which he effects of his faculties and his future. It is, above all, the perfect emancipation of his will.

For a good many years, I’ve written about the idea of producing to contribute to the Great Work. Yet, I don’t think I’ve taken the time to address what that idea means, to me or to the wide world when it comes to your self-development.

In basic terms, the Great Work is the idea of completing the development of our soul. By completing it, I mean finding within ourselves that spark of the cosmic consciousness and nurturing it to a state of understanding the wider universe around us.

A lofty goal and, not surprisingly, one that is seldom, if ever, brought to completion.

But, in undertaking such an endeavor, it’s important to not try and put the cart before the horse. While considering the Great Work as the length and breadth of a career, the reality is that the work itself is an ongoing pursuit made by degree, the production of which making small, nearly imperceptible changes to the inner life that slowly make themselves known in the external domain.

Complex Simplicity

So then, what is the Great Work? The easiest way to define what it is is to say that The Great Work is the quest for knowledge that ends in wisdom.

It seems almost too simple. It seems like a process many of us already undertake. In many respects it is. But what happens in the pursuit of the Great Work is the myriad distractions and attention-stealing interruptions that take us away from the pursuit of that work.

Like all the Mysteries of Magism, the Secrets of “the Great Work” have a threefold signification: they are religious, philosophical, and natural.
– Albert Pike

To further simplify the term, the Great Work is the betterment of oneself. Be it through learning and doing our trade, perfecting our life, providing for the health and welfare of our family or contributing to the uplifting of mankind. It’s in the undertaking of these tasks that the effort of the Great Work begins to shape the world around us.

The hardest part of understanding what the Great Work represents is knowing that the work is just that—work.

It isn’t something that you can buy on a shelf or order online. It isn’t something you can achieve in the simple reading of a text. No, the Great Work manifests itself in the assimilation of information and application in the real world. It comes out of the understanding of perspectives other than one’s own and seeing meaning from the eyes of the stranger. Think in terms of walking a mile in another person’s shoes. In this aphorism, the purpose is the development of empathy for the world around you, much in the way of the Golden Rule.

Purposeful Execution

With knowledge comes wisdom. From wisdom comes empathy. And yet, there is another component necessary to square the circle. That fourth component is the willpower to undertake such a change with the knowledge that it means a reexamination of past lessons learned in the past.

This is the purpose of the Great Work.

Without doubt, this path implies a measure of agreed upon change that, once begun, inculcates itself into your day to day existence. The seeker, desiring change (knowingly or not) wanting to assimilate knowledge must take the first step in this process by exercising their will to acquire it, fearless of where ever it may take them.

Many Paths, One Destination

Where does that knowledge come from? What path should one follow to pursue the Great Work? Many groups and organizations suggest theirs is the one true way. But, in reality, there is an infinite number of means to obtain knowledge, and just as many in applying it. The effort of undertaking the Great Work is in your mindful daily living, applying the lessons learned and when finding an impasse, seeking further enlightenment beyond where you find yourself now. This is the process of the Great Work, not the Great Attainment. It is work. It is an effort. It is a continually tested result and attunement to the world in increasingly broadening strokes and circles.

It is for this that the pursuit of the Great Work is called the Search for the Absolute; and the work itself, the work of the Sun.

This attunement happens in meditation. It happens in prayer. It happens in mindful interactions with other human beings in the world at large—both in your community and outside of it. One could argue that it happens in the comments in social media if they offer something constructive to the dialog seeking to uplift rather than tear down.

Pike, in Morals and Dogma, writes:

For all that we familiarly know of Free-Will is that capricious exercise of it which we experience in ourselves and other men; and therefore the notion of Supreme Will, still guided by Infallible Law, even if that law be self-imposed, is always in danger of being either stripped of the essential quality of Freedom, or degraded under the ill-name of Necessity to something of even less moral and intellectual dignity than the fluctuating course of human operations.

It is not until we elevate the idea of law above that of partiality or tyranny, that we discover that the self-imposed limitations of the Supreme Cause, constituting an array of certain alternatives, regulating moral choice, are the very sources and safeguards of human freedom; and the doubt recurs, whether we do not set a law above God Himself; or whether laws self-imposed may not be self-repealed: and if not, what power prevents it.

28th Degree—Knight of the Sun, or Prince Adept.

It is in this operation of seeking, working and finding the Great Work that we employ in the exercise of the Hermetic Art. This is the heart of the Great Work.

Read: Why Brotherly Love Relief and Truth in Freemasonry?

Lost Masonic temple, Los Angeles,

Something Lost: The Los Angeles Scottish Rite Cathedral

window, sculpture, Scottish Rite
Stained glass in Los Angeles Acottish Rite Temple.

I spent some time last weekend visiting the Marciano Art Foundation (and gallery) in Los Angeles. It is an amazing space with near limitless potential almost in the heart of the city of angels. What makes the space relevant to Freemasons is that the space that the Foundation Galley occupies was once the jewel of modern Freemasonry as the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Building a Masonic Temple

sculpture, Albert Stewart, Los Angeles
the Double Headed Eagle of the Scottish Rite.

Built in 1961, the Scottish Rite Temple was the design by Millard Owen Sheets, a prominent American artist in the early century known for his mosaics on the mid-century Home Savings of America banks that populated California. His work stretched well beyond the Golden states adorning buildings with his mosaic and collections of collaborative artists work. Sheets was not a Mason but in his discussions with the then temple board, his charge was to construct a temple of epic proportions. Sheets own words in describing the project, recalls the project this way:

…I was surprised by the tremendous number of things that had to be incorporated in this temple. First of all, the upper degrees of [Scottish Rite] Masonry are given in an auditorium, and they are given in the form of plays. They have incredible costumes and magnificent productions of the basic concepts that are ethical and have at heart a religious depth, and they draw from many religions, as far as I understand. I’m not a Mason, but I do feel that it’s a tremendous attempt toward the freedom of man as an individual, and the rights of man as an individual, and respect for various races and creeds. I won’t say this is always obtained, but certainly, that’s been the spirit. They felt that they wanted to depict this in every form.

He goes on to describe the huge mural on the eastern wall, describing it as:

The huge mosaic on the exterior east end of the temple at that time was the largest mosaic I’d ever made. It starts out with the builders of the temple from the days of Jerusalem, and King Solomon, who built the temple, and Babylon. Then it jumps up to the Persian emperor, Zerubbabel. When the Crusaders went to the Holy Land, they built a place called Acre, which is still a very important historical monument to the period of the crusaders. Of course, there were other temples and I showed Rheims cathedral in the process of building. I showed the importance of [Giuseppe] Garibaldi, the Mason who broke away from the Roman Catholic church because of what he felt was its limitations and dogmatism. Ever since then, there’s been a certain quarrel, I gather, between the Masons and the Catholics. Then there is King Edward VII in his Masonic regalia as one of the great grandmasters. We had the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, which is part of the King Edward section. I think the final part of that mosaic shows the first grand master of California in his full regalia being invested in Sacramento. It’s a kind of historical thing going way back to the ancient temple builders and coming right up through to actual California history, which the California sun at the top symbolizes.

Millard Sheets, mosaic, Los Angeles, Scottish Rite
Millard Sheets History of Freemasonry mosaic in Los Angeles.

The mural he surmises represents that law and concepts of religion were involved in the great temples. Certainly, the Gothic cathedrals were the book for the people who couldn’t read. Well, they didn’t think of the American people not being able to read, but they wanted to show graphically the intensity of feeling throughout history toward the Meaning of Masonry.

In like manner, Sheets worked with sculptor Albert Stewart to adorn the master builders of history along the edifice.

The work and consideration alone that went into the temple might well be enough to say it was a great asset and jewel in the crown of Freemasonry. But like all crowns, they tarnish with time and often fall from the heads of the kings they once adorned.

Heyday of Masonry

By 1994, the Scottish Rite Temple in Los Angeles was all but abandoned. The Los Angeles Conservancy says of the space that it was the result of “years of declining membership” that the temple was vacated.

By their own telling, the Los Angeles Scottish Rite says of the temple that, “Due to zoning changes in Los Angeles over the years, it was increasingly difficult — and finally impossible — for the Valley to generate the revenue from renting the Cathedral necessary to maintain the building. It eventually became unavoidable that the building should be sold, which was accomplished in 2013.”

Ironic when you consider by its own admission that the Valley of Los Angeles held a “…one day class of 330 candidates in November 1974, [bringing] the membership to over 11,000. In 1980, Los Angeles was the largest Valley in the second largest Orient in the Southern Jurisdiction, and the 14th largest Valley in the Jurisdiction.”

And yet, this modern imposing temple fell into ruin.

After abandoning the temple it sat nearly empty save for a few unremarkable semi-urban businesses in the ground floor foyer. I remember that time, passing the building in awe at its grandiose presence and bewildered at the neon atm sign unintelligently fixed to its entryway. By all accounts, it could have been a Roman ruin in a landscape that had moved on and forgotten it.

But that was Freemasonry then

Millard Sheets, Scottish Rite, Los Angeles
Foyer at the Marciano Art Foundation.

In 2013, the temple was given a new lease on life in the hands of Maurice and Paul Marciano granting “the public access to the Marciano Art Collection (now closed) through presentations of rotating thematic exhibitions.”

Upon visiting, my first impression was that space is remarkable. Entering from the garage and walking through the foyer, it was impossible to not feel the energy of what it had been constructed for. Indeed, I had entered hallowed ground. It still felt like a once great Scottish Rite Hall. Standing at point, in the near pitch blackness of what was once the theater space, now the art installation of Olafur Eliasson’s Reality projector, I felt compelled to give the signs of the degrees — there, by my self, for the ghosts of the past to see that a brother had come to visit.

More on Masonic Art in Los Angeles.

Perhaps it was at this point that a deep feeling of sadness began to stir. That feeling stayed with me while I looked at the art. But, that stirring became a tempest of emotion when on the last stop in the space, in a small red-carpeted room in the north-west corner of the building. There, in the small ‘room’ sat the “artifacts” left by the “Masons who abandoned the building.” I use quotes here as these were the words used by the docent stationed in the space to tell interested visitors what the strange aprons and funny hats were.

Relics of the Life Masonic

relics, Freemasonry, Scottish Rite, hats, Los Angeles
The relic room of Masonic artifacts left behind at the Marciano Art Foundation in the Old Scottish Rite in Los Angeles.

Unremarkable to anyone familiar with the fraternity, in the room was an odd collection of ritual ephemera, staging books, old New Age magazines, odds and ends of the life masonic, and a padded altar bench. To the lay observer, these things are oddities in a building full of modern art — trinkets of a bygone era “…left behind by the Masons before they abandoned the building.”

I can’t say for certain if it was the space, the items in the space or the words taken in the context of the aforementioned relics of what Freemasonry once was. Leaving the relic room, I was moved to tears — not for the casual housing of materials sacred to me, but tears for what those relics once represented to the people in the space. To the owners of the history that poured the foundation and raised the marble edifice. Perhaps more so, the thought that this was the future of Freemasonry. That an empty building full of abandoned “relics” was really what lay at the end of it all.

Yes, the building is just a building, but it effects the priest no less to see the church he loves dearly, laid low by a fire or an earthquake.

Masons are builders and buildings can be replaced. Walking through the bones of a structure built to show the “intensity of feeling throughout history toward the Meaning of Masonry” felt like a priest walking through the ashes of his fallen church.

working tools, past master jewel, trowel, mallet, rough ashlar
Some of the “relics” of Freemasonry at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles.

I wanted to feel optimistic about the space. I wanted to appreciate it for what it once was.

Instead, I left haunted—feeling depressed and overwhelmed. Not at the space or the modern art within its walls.

I left feeling haunted by the ghosts of what it once was.

Sheets went on to design the San Francisco Scottish Rite Masonic Center building, a structure in perpetual use to this day. And, the Scottish Rite’s Valley of Los Angeles retains a presence meeting at the Santa Monica Masonic Center.

And yet, the bones of the cathedral remain in the heart of the city. A fitting fate for the Royal Art in the city of angels.

Lost Masonic Art

The following is some of the imagery and iconography that still adorns the exterior of the old Scottish Rite in Los Angeles.

You can read more on the theme of being a Priest for Freemasonry in the book, The Master Mason.