Freemasonry cannot serve two masters, the world and itself. The biggest mistake it has made is to listen to the whining attacks made by its detractors. Freemasonry just benefits Freemasons they say as if they had some claim on what we are, what we do and what we say. Our critics have embarrassed us, claiming that we are an exclusive, snobbish, selfish group that exists exclusively for the betterment of its members and that we show so much favoritism for each other that the result is a discrimination of the rest of society.
Thus post Vietnam War Freemasonry changed the focus of the Craft. Some of the changes came right after WWII but the Vietnam War era marked the rapid decline in membership that swung the pendulum of modern day Freemasonry squarely into the camp of Masonic revisionism.
What that involved is taking Freemasonry from a contemplative, learning, value orientated society to one of action, action for the betterment of society as a whole. Freemasonry did this partially to appease its critics and partially to adopt the Shrine model of recruitment. But appeasement didn’t work for Chamberlain in dealing with Hitler and it hasn’t worked to appease our detractors. Our critics are as vocal as ever. Meanwhile we have diluted and corrupted our beloved fraternity in order to try to please others or to take the easy way out in the area of growth.
The ancient mystery schools of Egypt, Greece and Rome, on which Freemasonry is modeled, did not try to be something to everybody. Rather they concentrated their efforts on improving their members through knowledge, instruction, brotherhood and spirituality.
Does that mean Freemasons should be a cloistered sect of Monks having no dealings with the outside world and no right to comment on anything civil or spiritual? The answer is No! We, as Freemasons, can get behind ideas but not policies. No marching in the streets or sponsorship of legislative bills for Freemasonry. Instead we can seek to educate the public on the ideals of political freedom and democratic government, public education, religious freedom with the separation of church and state and the worthiness of the individual. These were ideals imbued into Freemasonry from the Enlightenment from which Freemasonry arose.
Three main corruptions have come out of post Vietnam War Freemasonry.
- Increased power of Grand Lodges at the expense of local Lodges
- The marketing of Freemasonry
- Charity to all mankind
In the modern era Grand Lodges and Grand Masters have assumed powers never before granted to them. Some Grand Lodges are running wild squashing dissent, stifling creativity and purging the ranks of any and all who do not toe the line. In the process they have, in order to save the fraternity they tell us, foisted upon Freemasonry the evils of marketing Freemasonry which removes from Freemasonry the ability to practice Freemasonry and extensive Self Perpetuating Institutionalized giveaways to civil society that is bankrupting the fraternity. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is a prime example of a Grand Lodge so into Institutionalized charity and running a complex health system out of multiple locations that it has had to drastically increase Grand Lodge dues and assessments to its charted Lodges in order to pay for its excesses. See Massachusetts to Double Dues?
Do we have to beg the community to notice us and in the process try to market Freemasonry or do we create a better Order internally and let membership grow by word of mouth? Do we have to try to convince someone to become a Mason or do we create such a good product that the worthy uninitiated will come in large numbers knocking on our door of their own free will and accord? Do we have to try to save the world or can we be content with taking care of our own without being made to feel guilty? Do we exist to march in parades, raise funds for the Cancer Society or the Heart Fund and run CHIP programs for civil society or are we here for Brothers in need, our widows and orphans and scholarships for our young? Do we intend, forever, to let our critics portray us as a religion? Do we intend to let non Masons set the agenda for Master Masons? Can we learn how to survive as we downsize?
Plainly we are not an action society; we are a self improvement brotherhood. The road to sustainable growth is returning Freemasonry into a sharing Brotherhood who cares for itself and revives itself by doing a better job of inculcating its ideals, virtues and tenets into its membership, by decentralizing its governance, by stop trying to sell Freemasonry as one sells used cars and by leaving the saving of the world to others.