Measure for measure – Pennsylvania and the 21st Century.

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Weight and volume are very important.  Two evenly measured weights on a opposite pans of a scale and you have a perfect balance, so long as your equipment is calibrated correctly.  Add more weight to one pan and incrementally the scale will move towards which ever side the heavier burden is applied.

Extrapolate this idea into a larger arena where the medium that surrounds the moving weight is fluid, and with the Newtonian force of gravity, the material closest to, and bonded tightest to the weight will move with it, in effect causing an avalanche of sorts, or at least a heightened shift of position.

Perhaps you could say its an Alchemy of sorts, the transmutation from one thing into another, from one state to another.  Neutral buoyancy to weight displacement.  From Lead to Gold, or perhaps in this instance, from Gold to Lead.

I spent some time on Chris Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies site  trying to catch up on what has been coming out of Pennsylvania recently on their aptly titled a 21st Century (Masonic) Renaissance page.

Masonic Renaissance
Its quite a paradigm shift in the way things have been to the way things are to be.  What I mean by that is apparently, without much fanfare, the Grand Lodge isn’t just rolling out a few changes for 2010, they are rolling out a battalion of them, for what seems to be for the purpose of improving Pennsylvania Freemasonry and the lives of its members.  All said, in their introduction site, the changes are (by category):

Membership Recruitment
Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010 (at 13 locations and with YR, SR, and Shrine)
All-Star Teams Will Confer District-wide Degrees
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day
Senior Recruitment Program
Lodges Awarded for Membership Growth and Retention

“Call ‘Em All” Will Continue as “Call to the Craft”
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically

Masonic Ritual
Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals That Will Be Monitored Closely And Never Used in Open Lodge
Certified Brethren Will Receive a Proficiency Award Pin
Opening and Closing of Meetings May Be Shortened

Grand Lodge Governance
District Deputy Grand Masters May Now Serve 10 Years
Some Masonic Districts Will Be Eliminated and Realigned
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010
A New Due Process for Suspensions and Expulsions
The Legal Structure of Grand Lodge Will Be Assessed
New Software Will Simplify the Lodge Audit Process
Committee on Masonic Homes Meeting Change
The Dress Code for Masonic Meetings Is Relaxed

On Image and Visibility
Open Installations of All Symbolic Lodge Officers
Electronic Guide Will Provide Tours of the Masonic Temple
Masonic Villages Adopt-A-Resident Program
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness
Members Will Support Our Military Through “HELP FOR OUR HEROES”
Lodges Will Raise Funds to Support Our Masonic Villages
Masonic Youth Initiatives Will Be Supported By Lodges

On the page from the PA GL, they provide a brief explanation of what each change represents, and the hole that it seeks to fill, and while I am having a hard time understanding (agreeing?) with some of them, I have to say that the approach is an inventive and bold addition of weight to a scale that has long been un-moved by any form of change.

Pennsylvania Masonic RestorationBut, this change isn’t without its detractors, and a website has already been published to argue the counter point to the Grand Masters plan, billed as Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration.  While I respect the civil dissent, I have to say that the call to arms may be premature given the nature of the changes the Grand Lodge is trying to implement.

On the 21 Century Renaissance site, it is easy to see the large one day class as BIG CONCERN to an otherwise interesting program and a potential affront to what has traditionally been Masonry the way its “always” been, which is clearly not the case.  Not that one day classes have ever been the norm, the process of Masonry today is an evolved process that had a beginning that came from something else.  It evolved, and this one day mass raising is another step in that evolution for better or worse.  And, I’ll be open here, I have my own misgivings as to the intention of the one day class process, but taken in parcel with the other items, it becomes an easier bitter pill to swallow.

Some of what I do like in the program:

Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate:
This is a good way to break a singular majority in a solitary vote.  Harmony in the lodge still needs to be met, but giving live or die power to one brother may be to much power in one place.

Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit:
This is a fantastic change that really brings things into he 21st Century.

Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically:
Another great system/operations update.

A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010:
This is a great idea and something FmI and Time Bryce have advocated to see for some time.  Perhaps this will lead up to something National.

Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service:
This is a Great program, and my guess is that it will be another hard pill to get down.  Not that there isn’t a level of charity within the membership, but to be told to do is it quite different than doing it out of will and love.  an interesting idea, however, is the opportunity it gives to lodges to explore what that charity looks like, from donating lodge rooms to Boy Scout Troops, hosting voter polling locations, or any other creative measure to give back to the communities from which the membership comes from.

Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness:
This one escapes me, but I like the idea of it.  It has a definite Pay It Forward appeal to it.

Personally, I have some concerns for these items, but I’m sure they are being implemented with the utmost caution.

Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join.
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010.
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day.
Senior Recruitment Program.

All of these are cause for some alarm, but as I mentioned, to enter into the 21st Century Renaissance, we enter into a period of change, just as Europe did in the post Medieval Renaissance.

Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals:
This one concerns me too, in that it would be the first state (to my knowledge) to openly WRITE what had here-to-fore only been given in written cipher.  Despite the warnings and admonitions, the content will be copied and distributed no matter the level of governance and audit processes.  And if not lost in the original content, photocopiers and scanners are very easy to make use of these days (though I do have some security ideas for how to safeguard the material).

All in all, I say lets see what these changes have in store for 2010.  The concerns being what they are, the changes do seem to have the over arching growth and good will of the fraternity in mind.

At first blush, the 21st Century Renaissance seems to be mind blowingly radical, but really, the alchemy is in putting into play the ideas of best practice to bring its large membership in the modern age.  Hopefully the ambitious shift of their weight shift will be a good one and something others will adapt too and continue the Renaissance of the 21st Mason.

Posted in Masonic Traveler and tagged , , , , , .

A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.


  1. You make it sound like we’re against all changes. That’s not the case. We support the Grand Master on 75% of his changes. Only on 8 changes do we have concerns and feel that the supposed benefits of making these changes are illusory at best given their history in other jurisdictions and cause discord within our ranks. Even you cite reservations that you have about 5/31 items and we have reservations about 8/31 of them. That’s not so very different.

  2. None of the changes proposed by the GL of Penn. will really maintain their membership, or keep new members around, even in the short term.

    There’s nothing mentioned about Masonic education, mentoring, and development, save ritual proficiency. Lodges are going to spend more time trying to plan monthly (!) charity projects and other programs rather than focusing on the lodge and the members themselves.

    Masonry does not have a recruitment problem, it has a retention problem. And that’s a fact.

  3. Michael, I found out this afternoon that some (all) GL’s in Canada have full printed ritual, but I’ve not heard of done here in the US, though I could be wrong.

  4. Hatrock, I disagree, I think by putting some of these things into action that it will work to invigorate those who really have an interest in Masonry. I made a quick reference to the Boy Scouts, the reason I did was that to belong to the Scouts necessitates a level or degree of action, something the boy can opt out of at any time (which some do). Those that stay, continue to apply the lessons and earn their ranks (degrees?).

    I can see that by engaging in the community, by its nature, it builds the community (the lodge) and the membership. Its not as common a practice lodge to lodge, at least I don’t think it is.

  5. Hatrock,
    I’m not in full agreement on everything you are saying but I do agree our biggest issue is not recruitment, but retention. If we focused more on retention and providing more value to members on an ongoing basis (many lodges are doing this and I applaud those that are), then we would not have a problem. Retention (and keeping them active, adding back into the value) is the key… In my opinion…

  6. Regarding the printing of the ritual. Pennsylvania is the last US jurisdiction to have printed ritual (there is an anti-masonic site that has all of the printed rituals from every state except PA). The ritual is NOT printed in plain text. Is is printed in a cipher. If you have never heard the ritual then you would not understand the cipher at all. There are a limited number of manuals (5 per lodge). All of this is on the GL PA web site in the current issue of Pennsylvania Freemason most of the changes listed above are not written in stone but are optional(e.g. Lodge notices by e-mail).

    Selective invitation is a measure to inform people that they may join the fraternity. It’s more like “You know I think you would enjoy our organization” rather than “Hey how about you joining?” Subtle but different ways of informing someone that they are thought of as a good candidate.

  7. mtadmin, here in Illinois we’ve had a full printed ritual since the 1980s. I would not now be an officer without it, as I would never have been able to learn ear to ear alone. My mind and my schedule don’t work that way.

  8. As a Pennsylvania Mason, and an Officer in my Lodge I am still digesting this news.

    Of equal, if not greater, concern to me is the division amongst the Brethern that has resulted from these changes. In the past week I have heard rumor of Officers resigning, even members demitting.

    As I recall my Oath and Obligations, and consider the ‘I will nots’ verses the ‘I wills’ … I feel as though I am now forced into a contradiction of these, and not sure I am able to fully perform BOTH as taken.

  9. As a Pa Mason I am against changes to Masonic ritual, traditions, landmarks, and customs. There is no need to make changes to those, thats who we are as a organization. Changing those creates disunity in the fraternity. Activities are a different story those are supposed to change with the times. For example my Lodge back before my time was a Cigar Lodge. We gave every member a cigar after the meeting. Now our building is smoke free and we have almost no smokers in the membership roll. Today we give out candies instead. One day I’m sure we will replace that with something else. Vitamins? LOL ! To increase membership we need to increase the benefits of being a member so we retain members. Not change the structure of the organization. Most of these radical changes(the hated 8) to Pa Masonry were made because a couple guys with political ambitions got black balled on the local level or got tossed out for lack of ritual knowledge or other reasons. They don’t like the fact that we have weeded guys out that don’t belong based on strict rules of character and if they would be a benefit to our Lodge or dead weight that wants a ring. If things are less strict than its easier to fill seats with warm bodies even if it isn’t for the benefit of the Craft. Benefits gentlemen benefits if we have them guys will join and stay and thats why the old timers joined and stayed. I hear it every meeting from the old guys, bring back the fraternal benefits and Masonry will heal itself.

  10. Date Dec 23, 2011.
    I have been a member of my Masonic Lodge for 61 years this past November 2011, have visited many lodges in the many states (where AF Bases were located) while serving in the USAF, and have met many associagted with the fraternity, served on numerous committees, chairman the auditing committee for many years, Master of the Lodge, Treasurer also for a number of years.
    With respect to the PA G. L. 2010 & 11 Procedural changes – – I would view this as a plus change.
    The only item that has a reservation are the one day Classes admitting the new candidate, receiving all three degrees at one setting… In Teaching candidates the work that is required who have been a part of those super sonic sessions, and, in one on one discussion when teaching some of those candidates in the one day classes… their responses exress their thoughts. “THEY ARE MISSING SOMETHING.” AND REALLY DON’T HAVE A CLUE AS TO WHAT IS HAPPENING.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

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