The Great Canopy of the Heavens is falling.

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain - from the North American Review

I was plugging in some numbers from the MSANA recently to update myself on the trend in membership from my original analysis in 2007, the results of which I published in the piece “So what? The Dynamic of Masonic Membership.”

In it you may, or may not want to, recollect the trend of membership numbers from 1960 to a projected 2010. In the piece, the numbers ran in a more or less steady declination of 20% per decade at an increasing clip.

Given our proximity to the fiscal 2010/2011 calendar, I wanted re-calculate the numbers for 2010, and there is some good news to report, but not without a dire observation.

In the last 10 years, the original work projected a 29% decline, but a recalculated 2010 projection (adding in 1999 in lieu of 2010’s numbers) value comes back at only 26% declination. A 3% change is not enough to turn the tide, but it may offer a glimpse of a changing trend which might push out further projected losses based on continued work to increase that change. Or, the 3% change might just represent a smaller pool from which to pull total losses from, reflecting the overall drop in membership – Fewer members to lose from equating to a lower members loss.

The numbers trued up like this:

1999     to     2000
1,902,588   1,841,169   -61419   -3.2%

2000    to    2001
1,841,169   1,774,200   -66969   -3.63%

2001    to    2002
1,774,200   1,727,505  -46695   -2.63%

2002    to    2003
1,727,505   1,671,255   -56250   -3.25%

2003    to    2004
1,671,255    1,617,032   -54223  -3.24%

2004    to    2005
1,617,032    1,569,812   -47220   -2.92%

2005    to    2006
1,569,812   1,525,131    -44681   -2.84%

2006            2007
1,525,131     1,483,449  -41682   -2.73%

2007    to    2008
1,483,449     1,444,823  -38626  -2.60%

2008    to    2009
1,444,823     1,404,059  -40764  -2.82%

Total Decrease -498,529
– 26% 1999 – 2009

Equating to a 26% net loss – less than the two preceding decades, 1990 – 2000 and the projected 29% at the time of writing the original piece in 2007, which is good news. However, before celebrating, the total loss still represents the overall change in data to fall into the established parameters of an in excess of 20% loss moving into the second decade of the 21st century.

An interesting note, the Grand Lodge of New Mexico and the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island both held positive gains in the 2008/2009 fiscal years with increases of 16 and 143 new members (respectively) over their loss, so clearly these two states are doing something in the right direction.

In the original, I made this observation:

The overall calculation led to an extrapolation, if the fraternity lost on average 560,152 members, per decade – from 2010 to 2020, our national number of members would be under 1 million members at 738,303. In ten more years 2020 to 2030 our national member base would be 178,151.

With the data trending in that manner from 1999 to 2009, it would seem that the observation is bearing out with little change, the 20%+ drop rate is trending right as predicted.

So what do we do about it?

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.

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