Tuesday, June 17, 2008

All Those Empty Chairs

Here's a question for you Brothers...

Were all of the chairs and seats in your Masonic Lodge filled with smiling Brother Masons the last time you were at a meeting?

More than likely...many, if not most, of the seats in your Lodge were empty. Empty.

I recall what I imagined awaited me upon my first becoming an Entered Apprentice to my Lodge. I shared the usual trepidation of others before me awaiting invisible ropes, likely sharp objects and what I certainly hoped was not a real goat! Most of all, however, I imagined a room full of assembled Brother Masons all sternly watching me and judging my every move and utterance. From somewhere in my memories I called forth images from Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut.' Now that would have been something!

The reality that I encountered was a good deal different than what I had feverishly imagined. While I can definitely say that there were some very fine gentlemen in attendance, all good friends now...there just weren't very many Masons there. Most of the hundreds of chairs in our Lodge were empty. And that lack of attendance made the whole event somewhat less climactic than I had expected...less mysterious and grand.

I know how busy people can be these days. I am personally involved in a number of business ventures. Most weeks I work somewhere around seventy or eighty hours. In addition to that we have our personal lives spent with friends and family. It all takes a real commitment of our time. And time is the one thing most of us don't have as a luxury anymore in what has become a dual income economy.

Spreading me even more thin, I am also a Sir Knight of the Knight's Templar Commandery, a member of the Scottish Rite and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine. Whew! Between the jobs, my social life, my community responsibilities and my Masonic involvements .... I don't have time for anything anymore! Who's writing this!? Don't I have have other things to do!?

The point of all of this is...Freemasonry is a commitment to yourself and your Brother Masons. I argue that it is also a commitment to the Craft itself.

There are some fourteen hundred members in my Lodge. And, at any given meeting, only about twenty to thirty members show up! There are many times, too many, when we are desperately calling up Brothers on the phone so that we can simply open lodge!

What's going on?

Yes. We are all very busy people. But that isnt the only reason the seats are empty. We must all remember our Obligations and our commitments. While it is true that we are told to place God and Family before our duties to Freemasonry, many Brothers simply wear their membership in the Fraternity like a pin and just smile at their dues card now and again.

The real question I hear asked all of the time is 'what will fill the seats again?' We really need to think about that.

Think about this. When most of us were young men we happened across books like 'The Secret Teachings of All Ages' by Manly P. Hall (at least I did) or we heard about the secret society that our grandfathers or fathers belonged to. There was something very hip about Masonry. It was occult in the sense of being secret and that easily stirred boyish fantasies and adolescent rebellious tendencies. Still, Masonry was religious enough to be displayed in church panelling. My minister, in fact, was a prominent Freemason.

A great deal has changed since our youth Brothers. Reading is not the most exciting thing for young minds to occupy themselves with anymore. Unless Manly P. Hall makes a new Masonic game for the X Box then I doubt he will inspire as many minds in this new generation.

Freemasonry is not as hip anymore either. I have a Masonic tattoo on my arm and most people have no idea at all what it is. When I explain to them that I am a Freemason they usually ask me if I can build them a good deck for the Summer. Of course, the internet sometimes hurts as much as it helps. You can google all manner of anti masonic 'nutballery'. For instance, I have found that, as a 32* Scottish Rite Mason, I am but one small degree away from ruling the world and flying spaceships back to planet Solomon. Honestly...that I can't wait for.

Adding insult to injury, many religions are lashing out against Freemasonry right from the pulpits. Apparently, I'm a member of a Cult worshipping some kind of big goat. Damn! I'm in every Masonic body it seems and I Still cannot find that damned goat!

That's probably a good thing. Though I'll keep looking for the spaceship.

I'm a bit perturbed when Christians lash out against Masonry because, as a Knight Templar, I can absolutely attest that Freemasonry shares Christian ideals...even more. If you have read 'Born in Blood' then you will see that it is very likely that Masonry evolved from those very same Christian Knights of the Temple of Solomon. The cause of these attacks is simply ignorance. But, as Masons, we are told not to defend the Order against such attacks. At least that is the will of most Grand Lodges.

It's time that we Masons take a closer look at our Illustrious Fraternity. We need, more than ever, to educate ourselves on the meaning and the ideals of Masonry. More than that, we need to get involved and stay involved. These days, the Order needs us as much as we need that kind of moral Fraternity.

Freemasonry must embrace modernity. It must seek, recover and restore its brightest creeds and virtues of truth, equality and fraternity. In order to survive, Masonry - through its Brothers - must commit more and must take a far more active part in this modern culture. Masonry must continue to contribute, not only to those worthy charities, but by inspiring the artists, thinkers, writers and statesmen of the future.

We as Freemasons must act. We must take part and fill those empty chairs.

So too must we bind ourselves as the most worthy of virtuous Brothers. We must transcend the fog of ignorance, lies and anti-masonry that seeks to destroy our Order. Perhaps we can each only do a small part. But even the pyramids were raised one stone at a time.

That is how we were raised. But we were raised, as Master Masons, to be a part of something greater than ourselves. So be a part and take part.

5 comments:

Lee Coursey said...

Thanks for another great post. You're speaking about the mentality that I believe is doing the most damage to almost all organizations - that of the "I don't have the time" disease.

Please, in all the things you do, keep writing. You're hitting home.

Justa Mason said...

FS, don't presume that at some time in the past, all those seats were full.

I've gone back through the attendance records of a couple of my Lodges. The percentage of active membership doesn't appear to be any different now than it was 50 years ago. Papers were written even during the big boom in the 1950s about "low attendance."

So what's really new?

The building where a couple of my Lodges meet was designed in the 1950s to avoid the possibility of overflow crowds which happened only on special occasions (anniversaries, GM Visits) back then. They weren't designed for the ordinary, garden-variety Lodge meeting. So they've never been full on a consistent basis.

Justa Mason

The Editors said...

Actually many of my Dutch and some of my English brethren prefer smaller lodge rooms. One English lodge I infrequently attend places exactly the number of chairs required for that evening and then try to close off the room with curtains. The idea is to make the room more intimate and to better channel the energy of the participants. Regardless of how you feel about such things, the small, full room is much nicer to be in than the large, empty one.

S&F

Jim...
www.thaifreemason.com

Freestyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freestyle said...

All good points Brothers.

Jim, I like what the Dutch and some of the English lodges are doing by making things more intimate in the lodge setting. Good idea.

As for the larger lodge accomodations and the reasons for them...no argument there. Even so, there are more than 1400 members in my lodge alone. I usually only see about 20 of them at a meeting...at most. They are the same faces for the most part and that's why we are becoming such good friends. =)

I'm not angry at the other 1380 odd members. Like I said...people(myself included) are busy.

The questions are...

1. What incentives would make Brothers more active?

2. What is Masonry offering its members apart from ritual - in each specific district?

3. How involved is each lodge within its community?

4. How can Freemasonry contribute culturally in a positive way that may outweigh the negative cultural buzz?

These are just some of the questions I want to raise. I think those who easily shrug off these questions are fooling themselves. Ask around Brothers. Take a look on YouTube and you'll see that Masonry's relevence is in question and its ideology - and even its existence - is under attack.

Of course these conditions are not unusual for Freemasonry in light of its history. However - and I intend to make a point of this - in the past Freemasons such as Ramsay, Pike and others rose to the occassion and saw to it that the Order increased and thrived...even amidst struggles and defamation.

Justa Mason...I always like what you have to say. You seem quite earnest in your affiliation with the Order. What draws you in? What do you get out of it that makes you so clearly passionate and knowledgable?

It seems to stand to reason that you Brothers that keep up with Masonic blogs etc are more earnest and active than many others.

I simply want to see the Fraternity stay vital and continue to be something great and honorable.

Believe me...if I had a dollar for every time I've been told I was in a cult...

Yeah...I laugh it off...because I know better. There are a lot of guys out there that may not.

Those of you who are Nobles of the Shrine as I am know that in order to fulfill our obligation we must replace ourselves. That must apply in the blue lodge as well.

The Temple is the Order. And we are rebuilding it. I'd like to see some more brinks in the walls. That's all.


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