Throughout history, certain phrases and idioms have taken on a life of their own, sparking curiosity and intrigue. One such enigmatic expression is “riding the goat.” Often alluded to in various cultural contexts, this phrase has piqued the interest of many, prompting questions about its origin, meaning, and significance. In this blog post, we delve into the origins and interpretations of “riding the goat” to shed light on its multifaceted connotations.
The Masonic Connection of Riding the Goat.
One of the most well-known references to “riding the goat” is found within the secretive world of Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with a rich history, encompassing symbols, rituals, and customs. In Masonic initiation ceremonies, neophytes are often subjected to various trials and challenges as they progress through different degrees of membership. One such challenge involves the idea of “riding the goat.”
The concept of “riding the goat” in Masonic lore refers to a symbolic ordeal that initiates might face during their initiation rituals. This ordeal is not meant to be taken literally; instead, it’s a metaphorical representation of facing one’s fears, overcoming obstacles, and demonstrating one’s commitment to the values and principles of Freemasonry. The specific nature of this challenge can vary from one Masonic lodge to another, but its purpose remains consistent: to test the initiate’s resolve and dedication.
Historical Context and Variations of Riding the Goat
The phrase “riding the goat” has been used outside of Masonic circles as well. In some older contexts, it has been associated with hazing rituals or pranks in various social settings, often involving embarrassing or uncomfortable situations. These practices were not limited to Freemasonry but were rather reflective of broader cultural norms in certain periods.
Facing Challenges: The act of “riding the goat” symbolizes facing challenges head-on, even when the path seems difficult or intimidating. It encourages individuals to confront their fears and uncertainties with courage and determination.
Transformation: Within the Masonic context, “riding the goat” can be seen as a metaphor for personal transformation. Just as the initiate undergoes a symbolic journey, facing trials and emerging as a changed individual, so too does the act of “riding the goat” represent a transformative experience.
Commitment and Dedication: Whether in Freemasonry or other contexts, “riding the goat” underscores the importance of commitment. It signifies one’s dedication to a cause, organization, or personal growth journey.
Humility: The phrase can also be interpreted as a lesson in humility. By subjecting oneself to challenges, an individual acknowledges their vulnerability and acknowledges the need for growth.
Decoding the Mystery: What Does “Riding the Goat” Mean?
The phrase “riding the goat” carries a rich tapestry of meanings and interpretations, rooted in historical rituals, fraternal organizations, and broader societal practices. While its origins might lie in Masonic initiation ceremonies, its symbolism has transcended its original context to become a metaphor for facing challenges, embracing transformation, and demonstrating unwavering commitment. So, the next time you come across this enigmatic phrase, you’ll have a deeper understanding of its significance and the various ways it reflects aspects of the human experience.
Becoming a Rainbow Girl is a wonderful journey that offers young women the opportunity to develop leadership skills, build lifelong friendships, and contribute positively to their communities. International Order of the Rainbow for Girls is a youth organization affiliated with the Masonic Lodge, focusing on personal growth, community service, and character development.
Here is a comprehensive guide.
Understand What Rainbow Girls Is
Research and learn about the organization. Understand its values, history, and purpose. Rainbow Girls is open to girls aged 11 to 20, and it focuses on promoting leadership, personal growth, and community involvement.
Find a Local Chapter
Use the official Rainbow Girls website or contact your local Masonic Lodge to locate a nearby chapter. Each chapter has its own schedule of meetings and events, so finding a convenient location is important.
Attend an Informational Meeting
Most chapters hold informational meetings for prospective members and their parents or guardians. Attend one of these meetings to get a better understanding of what being a Rainbow Girl involves. This is also a great opportunity to ask questions and express your interest.
Meet Membership Requirements
To become a Rainbow Girl, you typically need to meet certain eligibility criteria, which may include being of good moral character, having a belief in a higher power (not specific to any religion), and being recommended by a current member or a Mason.
Complete the Application Process
If you decide to join, you’ll need to fill out an application form. This form might require basic personal information, as well as information about your interests, hobbies, and reasons for wanting to join Rainbow Girls.
Participate in Interviews
Some chapters may require an interview as part of the application process. This is an opportunity for the current members and advisors to get to know you better and understand your motivations for joining.
Once your application is accepted, you’ll go through an initiation ceremony. This is a significant event that welcomes you into the organization and teaches you about its values and principles.
Engage in Activities
As a Rainbow Girl, you’ll participate in a variety of activities, including meetings, community service projects, leadership development programs, and social events. These activities are designed to help you grow personally and socially.
Embrace Leadership Opportunities
Rainbow Girls offers various leadership roles within the organization, such as serving as an officer or committee member. Taking on these roles allows you to develop important leadership skills that will benefit you throughout your life.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Rainbow Girl is the friendships you’ll form with other members. These friendships often last a lifetime and provide a strong support network.
Give Back to the Community
Participate actively in the community service projects organized by the chapter. Giving back to the community is a core value of Rainbow Girls and helps you develop a sense of responsibility and empathy.
Remember that the journey of becoming a Rainbow Girl is not only about the destination but also about the experiences, skills, and relationships you build along the way. By following these steps, you can embark on a fulfilling and transformative journey as a Rainbow Girl.
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.
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.
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.
Volume: medium-high / risk: medium
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.
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
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.
Interests: Family/Work/Anything other than Freemasonry
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Volume: low / risk: low
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.
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.
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.
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).
Interests: Business association, leadership, management, family, and social life are entwined.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interests: history, business, community, charity, religion (but not church), maybe some kind of interest in occult, mysticism, or spirituality.
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
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 Channelepisode 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.
Interests: Work, career, friendships, family. Not in that order, but to varying degrees at different times.
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.
Volume: low / risk: low
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.
BRYCE ON FREEMASONRY – And what I remembered of them.
After being away a long time, I recently returned to my home lodge for a visit. Those of you who have followed my writings will remember why I left my lodge, primarily due to Freemasonry turning into a good old boys club as opposed to the fraternity it was intended to be.
I went back to my lodge to see a young man return his catechism in front of the Craft. This was a good man who I was pleased to sign his petition. I am somewhat old school in this regard. I believe if you sign a man’s petition, you should be there for him as he proceeds through the three degrees. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me and thinks nothing of deserting the Brother.
My friend was joined by three other Entered Apprentices who all returned their catechisms masterfully. I have obviously heard these words many times before and instructed several Brothers in this regard. Needless to say, listening to this was nice, but a wee bit boring. As I sat there, my mind started to drift away to years ago when I was in their shoes and returning my catechisms.
It was a slow night, and nobody was in the north. As I sat there staring at the empty seats, I began to imagine seeing the many lodge Brothers I had known over the years who made lodge meaningful to me, but had passed away in recent years.
There was my old mentor, Rome Scerbo, who I succeeded as Secretary; the three men on my Masonic investigation committee, Bill Brooks, Forrest McQuiston, and Herb Furman; the organist, Bob Haynes, who played “Happy Trails” as we closed the lodge; Bob Clarkson, the Treasurer who presented me my first Masonic pin; Bill McIntosh (senior and junior) who influenced my Masonic career; Dave Seidel, who was Treasurer when I was Secretary; Alex McColl, an old Scot with a wonderful singing voice; Charles Rongey, the lodge Historian who taught me a lot about the history of the lodge and the village; and many other side-liners who had served the lodge in a variety of capacities. They are all gone now, but in their day, they were the movers and shakers of the lodge.
Back then, when our lodge meeting was over, it was common for them to sit down, drink coffee, and talk about the lodge, their lives, and the world around them. It was here I discovered these were the people who truly tended to the business of the lodge, not the current sitting Master. If there was a problem that needed to be addressed, they took care of it. They leaned on one and other thereby creating an esprit de corps which I admired. Yes, they most definitely spoke “on the level.” These were men of honor, integrity, and teamwork. There was no interest in autocratic rule or accolades for personal glory.
Today though, when lodge is over, people bolt for the exit. The words spoken in the lodge room are the same today, but the spirit is different. I am still warmly greeted, but I get the unsettling feeling we are only going through the mechanics of Freemasonry as opposed to living Freemasonry.
I had the great honor of serving as Master for many of the ghosts during their Masonic funeral service. Maybe that’s why I am so sensitive to their spirit and see them sitting in lodge before me.
Now, I am one of the elders. As I looked around the lodge room, and heard the catechisms spoken, I noticed there were only three other men attending who served the lodge longer than myself. Everyone else was much younger.
As I sat in my chair, gathering my thoughts, I thought back to a time when the fraternity meant something more important than a good old boy’s club. People weren’t measured by a Masonic title or fancy apron, but simply by a plain white leather apron, a warm grip, and the word “Brother.”
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:
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.
The Order of the Eastern Star is a fascinating and historically rich organization that offers individuals the opportunity to engage in fellowship, personal growth, and community service. With its deep roots in Freemasonry and a commitment to charity, the Eastern Star has attracted individuals seeking a sense of belonging and purpose. If you’re interested in becoming a part of this meaningful tradition, this guide will walk you through the process of joining the Masonic Order of the Eastern Star.
Understanding the Eastern Star
Before embarking on your journey to become a member, it’s important to gain a solid understanding of what the Eastern Star is all about. The Order of the Eastern Star is a fraternal organization open to both men and women, with a strong emphasis on principles such as charity, truth, and loving-kindness. Its roots are intertwined with Freemasonry, and it welcomes individuals who have close relatives that are Freemasons.
To become a member of the Eastern Star, you typically need to meet certain eligibility requirements:
You must be at least 18 years old.
You should have a strong moral and ethical character.
You need to have a familial relationship with a Master Mason, which includes spouses, widows, daughters, sisters, and mothers.
For men seeking membership, they need to be a Master Mason in good standing within a recognized Masonic lodge.
Finding a Sponsor
Having a sponsor within the Eastern Star is often a crucial step. A sponsor is someone who is already a member and can provide you with information about the organization, answer questions, and guide you through the application process.
Consult with your state body for specific requirements.
Research and Outreach
Once you have a sponsor, engage in conversations with them to learn more about the Order. This is an opportunity to discuss your interest, clarify any doubts, and understand the commitment involved.
Submitting an Application
To officially begin the process of joining the Eastern Star, you will need to submit an application. This application will typically require personal information, details about your relationship with a Master Mason, and possibly character references. Make sure to complete this form accurately and thoroughly.
The Initiation Process
If your application is accepted, you will go through an initiation ceremony. The ceremony is a symbolic journey that emphasizes the organization’s core principles. It’s a memorable and significant experience that marks the beginning of your membership journey.
Being a member of the Eastern Star involves engaging in various activities, events, and projects that align with the organization’s values. These activities often include community service, charitable initiatives, educational programs, and social gatherings.
Continued Learning and Growth
As a member, you will have the opportunity to continue learning and growing within the Eastern Star. The organization often provides educational resources, workshops, and discussions that promote personal development and a deeper understanding of its traditions.
Joining the Order of the Eastern Star is a meaningful journey that allows individuals to connect with like-minded people, contribute to their communities, and uphold principles of charity and benevolence. By understanding the organization, meeting the eligibility requirements, finding a sponsor, and embracing the initiation process, you can become an integral part of this rich tradition and make a positive impact on the lives of those around you.
Masonic researcher, author, speaker, video producer, journalist and historian Stephen Dafoe has chronicled the decline of American Freemasonry for years. His research has been published in The Scottish Rite Journal, Heredom (the Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society), Templar History Magazine, Knight Templar Magazine, The Fourth Part Of A Circle, Masonic Magazine and The Masonic Society Journal among others. He has even gone back into history to write the definitive work on the Morgan Affair with his book “Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry,” a time in American History when half of all Freemasonry closed its doors. Now that was Masonic decline!
His more modern assessment of Masonic decline was published in 2007 when he wrote the article and produced the video:
The Restaurant At The End Of The Masonic Universe
In 2009 Dafoe wrote:
There’s a Hole in Our Bucket
North American Freemasonry is on a bit of an infinite loop these days. I don’t mean the type of infinite loop we used to see on the Flintstones whenever Fred and Barney would drive past the same three houses and two palm trees over and over again, but it is close. The type of infinite-loop motif I’m referring to is the type that forms the basis of songs like 99 Bottle of Beer or There’s a Hole in my Bucket. In fact, both songs represent two of the problems confronting many lodges today with respect to our declining membership.
Now, before you turn the page, let me assure you this is not another article lamenting our sagging numbers, nor is it a rallying call for us to rise towards that lofty Masonic pinnacle that was the Halcyon Days of the post-World War II influx. But we will be looking at the numbers, not with an eye towards depression, but with an eye towards resolution. We have a problem, but if we can truly know where the problem lies, and if we can convince enough Masons that this is actually the case, we can collectively begin to work towards fixing it.
What the numbers tell us:
Since 1925, the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA) has been keeping track of the numbers of Freemasons in the United States.
Without launching into a long and boring examination of the ebb and flow of these numbers, let it suffice to say that Masonic membership’s highest point in terms of numbers was 1959, when it boasted 4,103,161 members; its lowest point occurring in 2007, when our ranks had been reduced to just 1,483,449. Ironically, our highest point in terms of membership may well have been our lowest point for Freemasonry, or at least the start of it.
The hand ringers in our fraternity love to hold on to that 1959 membership number like the middle aged bachelor who holds onto the photo of the fashion model he dated in college, as if it were a goal he may yet attain once more. But as both pine away for a desire that has longed since passed the realm of possibility, they begin to tell themselves lies to justify their current situation.
As such, our hand ringers have created a long-standing belief that once upon a time Freemasons made up a sizable percentage of the population in American communities. However, if one compares the US census with the MSANA membership statistics, an interesting and revealing picture emerges. In 1930, only 2.66 per cent of the population belonged to the Masonic fraternity. By 1940, that percentage had been reduced to 1.86% – largely due to the effects of the Great Depression, men simply couldn’t afford their dues. It reached its lowest point in 2000, when less than 1 per cent of the US population could say they owned a Masonic apron. But even in the midst of those glory days our hand ringers so love to remind us about, only 2.41 per cent of the population belonged to the Craft. If we divide and multiply these figures to represent a male population of roughly 50 per cent, then we see that even at our highest percentile penetration in 1930, only 5 in 100 American males were Freemasons – this is a far cry from the cries of deep lamentation emanating from the lips of our loudest hand ringing Brethren that once upon a time almost every American male was a mason. And yet, they will cling to that four-million-plus-Masons figure like cat hair to black pants, failing to accept that the much brandied about number represents nothing more than a sociological anomaly. It was that influx of men who swelled the Craft’s ranks between 1945 and 1959 that, in many ways set the tone for the downward spiral towards the Masonic caliginosity we have experienced in the decades since. Although many became dedicated members of the Craft, expanding their learning through books and periodicals, discussions and debates, many who took on leadership rules were attracted by the formality of the ritual, to the point where it became the beginning and end of a Master Mason’s education.
Perhaps the greatest decade for Freemasonry – at least from a point of research, education and all around Masonic bigness – was the 1920’s; a decade that saw the creation of the National Masonic Research Society and its publication The Builder, a magazine that offered the words and thoughts of the great Masonic luminaries of the day. It was also a decade where Masons displayed their Masonic pride, not by the number of pins on their lapels, but by the number of elegant buildings on Main Street. It was during the 1920’s that great Masonic buildings including the House of the Temple in Washington DC, The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia and the Detroit Masonic Temple in Michigan transformed from idea to reality. That decade, which I’ve long-argued to be the most enlightening for Freemasonry, saw an increase in membership of just above four per cent.
But then the Great Depression reduced membership roles by almost 25 per cent by then end of the 1930’s. In fact membership continued to decline until America entered the Second World War in 1941, and that is when the anomaly occurred. By the end of the 1940’s, Masonic membership had increased by more than 42 percent, carrying a forward momentum through most of the 1950’s, which saw an increase of 16 percent from the decade before. From this point on membership has been on a steady decline, with the present decade – now about to enter its final year – on a fast track to surpassing the 1990’s, the current record holder for membership seepage.
It is a mistake for us to pine away for a resurgence of the anomaly that was the 1940’s and 1950’s. The WWII soldier returned home and, looking for the camaraderie of the barracks, he sought to find it in fraternal societies like Freemasonry. This inflated our membership roles like a windfall inflates a bank account, but like the lottery winner who does not invest his new found money properly; it is soon piddled away until nothing remains.
Another tale the hand ringers love to tell us, especially those who have more steps behind them than they have left ahead of them, is that men are not joining today like they used to, and that we are losing members from death faster than we can replace them through initiations. Certainly, if one considers “not joining like they used to” to be those post-war Halcyon Days previously discussed, then I’m more than willing to concede the point. However, if there is one myth in Freemasonry that has gained wide currency and firm traction, it is the notion that Masons are dying faster than we can replace them.
What the numbers don’t tell us!
In 2005 I was asked to deliver the keynote address to the Western Canada Conference – an annual gathering of the Grand lines of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Part of my presentation sought to dispel this myth that the Grim Reaper was using his scythe to cut a swath through the fraternity. Whereas, the MSANA numbers only give us the annual bottom line, I was able to look at the big picture closer to home by tracking specifics in our membership statistics over an eight-year period.
What I discovered was that, like the rest of North America, Alberta had a sizable hole in our Masonic bucket; 1,777 of our Brethren had affiliated with the Grand Lodge above, leaving us with a net loss of 1,512 members between 1996 and 2003. But this is not where our problem was because the numbers showed that in that same period of time, 3,118 men had joined, affiliated or renewed their membership in one of our lodges.
In an ideal world, the difference between deaths and new members should have seen Alberta experience a 14 per cent growth in that time, but instead we were dwindling, just like everywhere else. The question was why? Where was the hole in our Masonic bucket that was causing the decline? It wasn’t through deaths; we were clearly finding the men to replace ourselves. The answer was through demits and suspensions for non payment of dues (SNPD); a combined loss of 2,863 over the eight years. When added to the deaths, we had lost a total of 4,640 men, while gaining a respectable 3,118. The hole in our Masonic bucket had been found and, as I’ve learned, it is not an isolated situation.
This past November I was keynote speaker at the Grand Lodge of Manitoba’s Masonic workshop and presented a similar address and findings, chronicling their past six years of data. Like Alberta, Manitoba has a hole in its Masonic bucket, caused by demits and suspensions outpacing new members. Between 2002 and 2007 Manitoba saw 856 men join, affiliate or reinstate their memberships. During that same time, 753 Manitoba Masons have died; again leaving a positive number between membership losses and gains. Like Alberta, their hole is caused by the combination of demits and SNPD’s. In the past six years the province has seen 1,355 men leave the Masonic fraternity.
But the Craft lodge in Canada is not alone in finding it has a bucket with the same hole.
Membership statistics from the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar show that between 2004 and the end of September 2008, 17,470 American Freemasons have become Templars, while 9,576 have taken a demit and another 21,706 have been suspended for non payment of dues. Add to this the 22,546 Templars who have gone on to join their creator, and you have 36,358 fewer Knights Templar marching about. But perhaps marching about is precisely the problem. Perhaps the men who are joining today are joining to parade about like the sword-wielding Templars of old and disappointed to find only old Templars parading about doing sword drill. It is a question only the Grand Encampment and those who are left remain in her Commanderies can resolve, but like the Craft Lodges, its bucket is leaking primarily from the same rusted out hole.
Towards a solution
Back when I was editor of the short-lived Masonic Magazine, I wrote an editorial titled The Restaurant at the End of the Masonic Universe. Without republishing the editorial here, it told the story of a restaurant that does not live up to its advertising slogan, “We make good food better,” an obvious play on our own slogan “We take good men and make them better.” The editorial, which has received equal doses of praise and criticism, sought to explain in a light manner the malaise affecting Freemasonry today and the true cause for the hole in our bucket.
Every mason has heard the expression “but we’ve always done it that way before.” The fact that it is used as the butt of Masonic jokes serves as proof positive of its longevity and power in maintaining a status quo. But, as we have seen by what the MSANA numbers don’t show us, the status quo is draining our buckets. As the allegory of my restaurant editorial showed, the reason things suck in many lodges is because the men who show up month after month like things that suck. They do so because they enjoy the bland food; not the shoe-leather roast beef and off color green beans, but the Masonic meal that is largely comprised of recitation of minutes, tedious debates over how funds are dispersed and arguments over when and how to salute the Worshipful Master. Clearly these are not the things that appeal to the men who are leaving our ranks. If they were, they’d be with us still. But instead of spending our energies trying to retain them, we devote our efforts to finding their replacements.
For as long as I have been a Freemason, we have been trying to fill a bucket that has a sizable hole in it. Like Henry in the famed children’s song, we have whined through the infinite loop of reasons why we can’t fix the bucket and like Jack in the classic nursery rhyme, have rolled down the hill, our empty bucket tumbling behind us. Like children on a bus trip we have done our rendition of 99 Bottle of Beer by repeating the same pattern ad nausea, as one by one our members – like the bottles of beer on the wall – vanish.
Unfortunately, we are not doing a good enough job identifying what it is that the men who are joining are looking for, which is – in almost all cases – that which they cannot get any place else – FREEMASONRY! They are looking to be educated in the Masonic Craft, in the art of being a gentleman in a world that has largely forgotten what one was, and in how they can be part of – to quote my jurisdiction’s ritual – “the society of men who prize honor and virtue above the external advantages of rank and fortune.” In short, they want to be taught the things about themselves and the world in which they live that only Freemasonry can teach them. If we cannot teach them because we do not know these things ourselves, then we must learn alongside them. Then, and only then, can the hole in our Masonic bucket be truly repaired and we can return to that growth that once allowed us to select men who would most benefit from Freemasonry’s teaching and most benefit Freemasonry by their character and their conduct.
It will not be and easy task fixing this half-century old hole in our Masonic bucket; but it will not be possible at all until we accept that a failure to do so is the cause of our decline and the harbinger of our demise.
Thisarticle originally appeared in Issue 2 of The Masonic Society Journal.
All rights reserved and copyrighted. Permission of the author is required to reprint any and all parts of this article.
So have we fixed the hole in our Masonic Bucket yet? Have we taken our decline seriously yet? Or are we sticking our fingers in a dike about to burst and putting band aids on a wound that needs stitches? When are we going to stop the bleeding?
The way I see it is that Freemasonry has become a Top Down Society. And there lies our problem. Because all Freemasonry is local and used to be that way and operated successfully that way. But today Grand Lodge wants to micromanage the Fraternity.. Top Down Freemasonry creates conflict, too much conflict. It stifles creativity, it crushes enthusiasm and ruins pride in the Craft. One size does not fit all in Freemasonry. We have turned our beloved Craft into a copy of the US Army. It is time for the younger Masons, those thirsty FOR THE REAL THING to organize and start telling Grand Lodge NO!
Grand Lodges in their infinite wisdom are trying to market Freemasonry while allowing the product itself to deteriorate. Like the restaurant at the end of the Masonic universe grandiose words are no substitute for an inferior product. Improve the product and it will sell itself. What we really have is a problem of retention not a membership problem. And that lies in the fact that our promises don’t live up to expectations.
We have literally knocking on our doors the next generation who are thirsty for a philosophy they can sink their teeth into. These are not superficial party goers but rather men who are seekers, searchers for a way to make a difference in this fractured world of ours. They don’t mind working hard for the goals ahead. We shouldn’t be making things easy and less expensive for them, just the opposite. We should be demanding much of them and they expecting the same from us in return. The question is are we going to give them pablum or are we going to give them the real thing, Freemasonry… Frederic L. Milliken
That such a young, bright, knowledgeable Freemason as Brother Salman S. Sheika resigned from Freemasonry at the young age of 26 is a crying shame.
It is doubly reprehensible because of the discrimination he met inside of Freemasonry. When we think of discrimination we normally think of Black and White prejudice. But discrimination takes many forms and just as ugly as racial discrimination is religious discrimination. To find that in the holier than thou Grand Lodges of the North who constantly look down their pious noses at Southern Grand Lodges as havens of Redneck values makes some Masons at the best, hypocritical. Have we not progressed from the hypocrisy and discrimination of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time?
Sheika was one of those seekers who thirsted for “the Truth.” Isn’t that one of the tenets of our professions as Masons, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth? He was told Freemasonry had some answers or at least some tools to work with. But alas, as we hear repeatedly, Freemasonry doesn’t practice what it preaches. Esoteric Masonry is frowned upon in many quarters. As soon as you mention the words “Masonic Education” in the Lodge Building many Masons will find that they have some other pressing problem to attend to. So many Grand Lodges and Lodges have become havens of fellowship and charitable works but not ones of study and learning.
But the latter is precisely why Sheika joined Freemasonry and they promised him that it was there for him. Broken promises are unmasonic conduct. But it is worse than that. What we have here is anti-intellectualism within Freemasonry. And that will be the undoing of the Craft. For many others are better at charity, better at fellowship. But none have the potential of really and truly making good men better. That’s hard to do, however, when you are anti-intellectual. – Brother Frederic L. Milliken
Why I Left Freemasonry: The First And Last In My Family To Do So
By Salman S. Sheikh
I experienced bigotry, ignorance, and the total opposite of what a Mason really is.
The beauty of life as we go through it is the sequence of beautiful experiences that shape us from the moment we lay in the loving arms of our parents as babies to facing a complex world as adults trying to find a path forward. As a Muslim-American, my keen interests in the US was always trying to learn more, make people smile, and leave a good impression on the people of this country on how we can all strive to be in union as human beings to bring peace and prosperity. I always say the world in a unique and analytical way growing up which led me into heavy research as I approached my high school days. On my weekends off from school, I would spend countless hours researching Freemasonry, different secret societies, listening to occult researchers like Jordan Maxwell, etc. I was always the black sheep of my family and was always the one who was a part in terms of my knowledge, experiences, and interests and that led me to the doors of Freemasonry at age 23 as the first in my family to do so.
In the summer of 2015, I had met a Jamaican immigrant named Marlon Francis who became good friends with me. He showed up at my summer job in Upper Darby and I saw the square and compass symbol and asked him I wanted to join through my previous keen research on the matter. Marlon had an old school mentality and had waited 5-6 months of us meeting, hanging out, becoming friends before he eventually trusted my character and made a consideration to get me a petition from the lodge. So from start to finish I went through an old school process of asking the Mason and having the Mason evaluate me for a period of time before he proceeded. As I was getting closer to my initiation after the investigation committee of William Roosevelt PM approved me, I begin to have ideas of the wonderful knowledge that I would learn because I was already heavy into Masonic, Occult, Astral Projection research, etc.
At the age of 23 and in January of 2016, I was initiated into Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice by a Jewish Past Master, Alan Ozer with whom over time I formed a close bond and which attests what true Masonry is with a Muslim and Jew embracing each other for the sake of God and brotherhood. On the same night I am thankful to another Past Master, Greg Klauder who told me ‘People will still be people.” in reference to me as a Muslim who appreciated the unity. Over time I begin to understand what PM Klauder had meant.
As time went on and I became a Master Mason, 32nd degree Scottish Rite, Shriner, Royal Arch Mason, and Royal/Select Council Master Mason. I realized that Freemasonry was just a social club with a few ritual traditions. I was also discouraged as I saw the brethren who would smile in my faces but would later post Anti-Islamic and Anti-Immigrant posts on their social medias. I stayed patient and realized the imperfection of all things as we are taught as Masons and made an effort to try to win everybody’s heart through my honest spirit and character of seeing true human unity but even that was not enough. In the summer of 2018, after 2.5 years of a solid active effort, I decided to resign from Freemasonry and its bodies with my good standing intact. I shed tears when I wrote my resignation letter but God had told me in my heart that they did not deserve me and I had the right to move on. I reflected on the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) from the Holy Bible and Holy Quran where he was in line for the Egyptian throne but decided to throw that all away when his heart did not accept the Israelites being mercilessly abused. I left for the same reasons where I experienced bigotry, ignorance, and the total opposite of what a Mason really is.
As my tenure as a Mason I made sure I gave hugs, smiles, and real knowledge to all those who came my way in which I had members from India, UK, Africa, etc. all reach out to me to express their interest in my works and printed my essays in their lodges which at the end only made my lodge, Grand Lodge, and country stand out in a positive way in the current environment of confusion, division, and chaos. I feel pride that in my short time I did more to benefit the global Masonic community than those who were here before me for years but didn’t make a positive difference in the aspects of bringing humanity and Masons of different backgrounds together as we just saw in 2018 Florida and Texas recognizing their Prince Hall counterparts. We are still behind in many ways and one of the reasons I left because the organization lets anybody in and we don’t practice what we preach when the going gets tough or when it comes down to the nitty gritty. I am thankful to Mike from Grand Lodge who called me and we agreed we would rather be only just 20 people instead of 100,000 but all 20 of them being top notch quality who were there for the right reasons. I am also thankful to RWGM S Eugene Herritt who promised to keep my memory and vision alive in terms of bringing change to the Grand Lodge. Masonry in the US I believe and its members are currently a reflection of the society they inhibit, by that I mean that we spend majority of our times on social media, at jobs, home, and in the community and that’s where your true character is revealed the most in comparison to just 2 night a month at lodge and pretending to call someone a brother just for the sake of it but when times of trial and tribulation come those same people are nowhere to be found and can turn against you if they see the benefit of doing so. That is not Masonry and I chose to walk away from it to contribute to my own community and people who deserved it more. I still have WM’s from India asking for my demit certificate to make me a member there but declined all of their requests. My next goal in life is to be initiated into Sufism (Mystic Islam) and follow the true path of God with people who are on the same spiritual frequency as me. I did not resonate anymore with the members or the fraternity on a spiritual basis which caused my departure so at the end it was not my loss at all.
My last advice to the Freemasons is that if you want this to continue to survive in a future where the young ones are keen with artificial intelligence and info at the palm of their hands, then you need to offer them something new that hasn’t been shown to them before. The practice of memorizing sacred texts, being on a chair/committee, contributing to charity is something that can be found in every church, synagogue and mosque throughout America. The real question is, what are you willing to help them realize in an environment where relationships, family, jobs, spirituality is on a totally different playing field then our previous generations? Once this question is addressed along with letting in clean hearted quality people, then we won’t hear the same tune every month of why the same 6-7 guys are showing in a lodge with 4-500 members. It’s a simple solution which if followed can be beneficial to the organization along with not showing them the same stuff every meeting and not letting Past Masters run their lodges. Give the new guys a chance otherwise they will just see it as another boy’s club and move on with other adventures in life that could benefit them more. It’s a shame for me to say this but I learned more on my own and with likeminded spiritual people I had met before I even became a Mason than I have ever learned in a lodge or appendant body. That should not be the case.
In conclusion, I am thankful for these last 2 years for what they were worth to make a difference in the organization of Freemasons in my state, country, and other nations to teach them the forgotten values of a true Mason and the true nature of one who listens to his heart and walks the path of God. I departed at age 26 in good standing and still have a lifetime ahead of me to do great things for other groups that are meant to cross my path. I am thankful to be the first in GL of PA’s history to do a program on Sufism and make the effort to bring Masonic understanding and unity while others are just worried about their legacies. My greatest legacy will be that I will remain in the hearts and minds of the Freemasons forever and that means I also live forever which is more important than statues or my name appearing in Grand Lodge digest decisions. Please continue to love each other in and out of lodge and practice what you preach because God’s all-seeing eye will hold us all accountable one day for all our seen and unseen actions. Before your meetings start, do a hand in hand meditation so even the brother who feels left out can feel a part of his brotherhood instead of looking bored or playing on his phone. I want you all to think about all these things I have addressed in my final message and I leave that burden on your shoulders from this point on with the mission of how you will carry this fraternity forward for future generations and not be in a desperate situation to keep numbers up. When your heart, mission, members, teachings, online image, etc. is all pure and designed to empower somebody then worrying about numbers should be the least of your worries because at the end “My Faith is in God and God is my right.”
As Salam Aleikum (Peace be upon you and your families today and every day.)
Yours in brotherhood, Salman S. Sheikh Upper Darby, Pennsylvania