Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Masonic Revolution

When it comes to the 'Meaning OF Masonry' one must take into account the meaning IN Masonry. And a good question today is...'What are Masons getting out of joining a Masonic lodge today?'

Recently, some of our Illustrious - dare I say industrious? - Ruffians surveyed the incoming candidates at a Chance To Advance event. One of the questions we asked the soon to be Master Masons was 'Why did you petition to become a Mason?'

And the answer? Out of 35 candidates for Masonry, exactly 29 of them joined the Blue Lodge to become a Shriner. 29 out of 35.


Granted. This Chance to Advance took place in the Midwest and in the United States. Things are certainly different here than overseas. And, arguably, this sort of phenomenon varies from State to State as well. However, now that it is possible to become a member of the Shrine without being first a member of the Scottish Rite or York Rite, many men are all but bypassing the Blue Lodge to enjoy the benefits of Shrine membership.

Recently, I spoke with a young local official that was interested in becoming a Freemason. He asked me about joining and I asked him to explain to me just why he wanted to. He proceeded to tell me he wanted to become a Shriner 'for the connections.' He made a point to say that he was glad that you didnt have to go through the Rites because 'you don't need that old stuff anymore.'

Again. Wow.

I am of the opinion that the Blue Lodge in many areas needs to wake up. The problem is that many of the most active members of the Blue Lodge, the men with the amazing memories for ritual, are growing older and getting tired. The flames of their torches are dimming. And today, there are fewer and fewer young men who are willing to pick them up and set them ablaze again.

The Blue Lodge and the Rites have a lot to offer. But so much of that greatness sits on a shelf like an old copy of 'Morals and Dogma.' Rituals are acted out, lodges are summarily opened and closed like clockwork and Masons mumble memory work to themselves while on the morning commute. Still, there is something missing in many Blue Lodges.

Masonry is experiencing birth pains as it reaches into its future. Anti-masonry weathers it on the web, through the media, and even through religious lines. There is a great deal of information about it available today. And there is an equal amount of disinformation as well. So the 'Old Guard' holds onto its traditions and rituals carefully, unsure whether or not to defend their old ways or embrace new ways.

Dont get me wrong. I think the Shrine is a great institution. But the Blue Lodge and the York and Scottish Rites of Freemasonry are the heart.

Years ago, Masons gathered together in taverns such as the 'Goose and Gridiron' to conduct their affairs and enjoy their shared fraternal commaraderie. That sort of spirit must continue in the Blue Lodge and be continued and shared outside as well.

Not so long ago, lodges were very active in their communities, whether raising money for local charities or just getting involved in local affairs. Churches are doing this now and many lodges are finding it harder and harder to regain much of this kind of trust and respect lost to barrages of anti-masonry. That seems ironic and sad when one considers that it is this very air of trust and respect that marks a man a Mason. A Mason after all, is Good for his Word and True by his handshake.

Ritual IS important because it preserves the foundation of the Order while teaching patience, memory and the plentitude of moral and spiritual lessons. Even so, lodges must remember that Acting on these virtues is the most important matter of all. What good does rattling off a proficiency do or moving from chair to chair accomplish if no one is contributing to the lives of their brothers or to their neighbors in the community? And how much do we as Masons get out of something if, indeed, we are only looking at what we can 'get' and not thinking about what we can, in turn, 'give?'

Masonry is selflessness. It is the instruction to remove the personal ego and live for something greater; a supreme being; a higher purpose. It is also a kind of 'found family.' Masonic Brothers can be brothers in the truest sense.

There was a time when Freemasonry was Revolutionary - lest we forget the Boston Tea Party among other historic events. Freemasons acted in the service of God, Freedom, Family and Country. And people knew that being a Mason was something to be proud of. Masonic values have been challenged in this cynical modern world and those outside the Order don't really understand its purpose.

Perhaps this is because Freemasonry isnt defining itself anymore through the Actions of its members. We all know George Washington was a Mason. And we all have a pretty good idea of what kind of man he was. Search a bookshelf and you will find countless books on the legends, history, secrets and outright fables of Freemasonry...but you won't find many about the ideals of the Order.

Freemasonry is a society with secrets not a secret society. We must be proud to be Masons, to be Brothers. We must build a home for the Light within and allow others to see what a man of Virtue and Integrity can accomplish...for his God, for personal Rights and Freedoms, for his Family and for his Community or Country.

The Blue Lodge is the beginning for a man on his Masonic journey. But the lodge is important to a community. It is the presence of Masonry in the community. Committed Brothers, real Ruffian folk, must strive to live up to their forefathers in Masonry and challenge the unholy status quo of the modern age and its sicknesses of vice, lethargy, intolerance, materialism, greed and control.

The lodge goes with you into the world. What you get from your lodge, what you learn in the lodge is how you live after you are Raised a Mason. For then you are the lodge. You ARE Freemasonry. You are a builder of better things for your life and the lives around you.

Remember always that you are the Son of Revolutionaries. Take action.

Be Revolutionary.


Justa Mason said...

Fstyle, thank you for the very good post. Here are some random observations.

Things are a lot different in the country to the north of you. We're not revolutionaries. We were on the other side, you know. So maybe that's why the perspective is different.

I've interviewed more people than I can remember for membership in several Lodges. Only one has ever mentioned the Shrine. I've heard "community service" "improving myself" "being a part of something bigger" "my grandfather was a Mason." But I only heard the Shrine once. And it's because the petitioner was employed by the Shrine. When he joined the Lodge, he didn't desert it for the Shrine, either. He was an officer until he had to change jobs and ended up working evening shifts.

Only one of our other guys joined the Shrine and he never became active.

I don't know what a "Chance to Advance" is. But you chaps down there have terminology such as "Blue Lightning" that we simply don't have here (I know what that one is; such is unconstitutional and undesireable here).

Perhaps because all but one of my Lodges are in a city, there's no record in the minutes about "getting involved in local affairs" as you put it, though one did give donations to several local groups at Christmas. Charity was best left the way I think our forefathers meant it .. up to each individual brother to be use that virtue as he saw fit. It wasn't meant to be some big, organised, everybody-get-together-and-do-something effort. It was to come from one's own heart.

Have any Lodges taken on an AIDS group as their charity?

Incidentally, a just-reinstated Bro. is reading Morals and Dogma and while he finds it heavy, he's glad he's reading it as it gives him a perspective that makes him think.

Justa Mason

Anonymous said...

Chance to advance is where many lodges and their candidates get together and many 2nd and 3rd degrees can be given in one day. For some smaller lodges who are losing irreplacable aging members it is necessary. I would like to see a day where it is not something we need.

I am not sure what the "Blue lightning" comment meant. Maybe the brother from the north can educate us on insulting others based on geography and its purpose in brotherhood.

I enjoyed this post. It is great to see someone who desires our fraternity to thrive again and to live up to the great fathers and ancestors who went before us.

Freestyle said...

Thanks very much for your feedback Brothers.

Justa Mason I'm not sure if there are any lodges taking on Aids charities. I dont know of any standard Rite that does at this time. It's interesting to me for certain.

Freestyle said...

Justa Mason

One of the Brothers on our Myspace site sent this charity link to me. The charity involves helping those afflicted with AIDS in Ethiopia/Africa.

Hope that helps.

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