Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Would You Do As Grand Master #2

Now here is an erudite Brother with a reply. He is even putting the finishing touches on a book!! I won't spill the beans and tell you what it is all about. The Wayfaring Man has a blog that always has me leaving with something I didn't know before, some new knowledge. His historical perspective is outstanding and he has proven himself to be a man of letters. I urge everyone to visit The Wayfaring Man's Blog at Audi, Vide, Tace In the meantime, Al Gore, watch out!!!
Masonic Global Warming Denied
--Wayfaring Man

The question the Good Squire puts to us is:
how to save Mainstream American Freemasonry from extinction

which assumes that we are indeed headed toward annihilation, or worse, irrelevance. I am not willing to accept this hypothesis and I do not see us headed toward extinction. At least not now. Masonic extinction, or an "Ice Age" of cultural misgivings in Masonry which could give rise to extinction, since 1717 only comes in two forms if history is any guide.

The first is extinction by political fiat. Franco, Hitler, Stalin, and Khomeini, to name a few of Masonry's detractors in the last 75 years, have extinguished our Order by simple decree. At the stroke of a pen, and with the concomitant cock of a pistol, Masonry became outlawry and every Mason -Caput gerat lupinum - a Wolf's Head. Yet even under the iron- shod heel of the most savage repression, did Masonry's flame go completely dark? Iran still holds some Masons yet, thirty years after the revolution, and although they cannot meet legally, they are still in quiet touch with one another. So too, living Masons emerged from the concentration camps in April 1945, and Masonry was never completely dead under the Nazi regime, a far more formidable apparatus than even the most repressive "Grand Lodge Tyranny" imagined by today's critics.

Other than repressive dictators, the other great wave of "climate change" that imperiled our Craft was the Anti-Masonry hysteria of the 1826-35. On one level less hazardous to life and limb, it can be seen as infinitely more dangerous in terms of its potential lethality to the Craft itself because where totalitarianism enkindled the bolder Masonic spirits to soldier on, the calumny of Anti-Masonry undermined the commitment of individual Masons to continue at all, and lodges nationwhide closed their doors, some of them forever. Had it not been for the political corruption of some prominent Anti-Mason political candidates, the gloss of Anti-Masonry may have gleamed just long enough to erase Freemasonry from the United States for good. And although purely speculation, had that occurred, would the UGLE and the European lodges have been able to withstand similar assaults if North American Masonry had succumbed? Thankfully, we will never know.

In contrast to these two greatly unfavorable climates, the woes of today's Masonry, and the shrill cries of its critics ring hollow indeed. Are there problems in Masonry? Of course.
Are we teetering on the brink of a total collapse? Certainly not.

The decline in membership that we witness today is the result of the end of the membership boom of the last century, and as such, it is totally understandable. Masonry responded to swollen rolls by expanding in those heady post-war years - new buildings, increased public visibility, more, better, bigger: the American way. But those days are over, and a leaner, more agile Masonry is required today.

Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble no longer.

Your new Grand Master should make a sharp turn in Masonry - a U-turn, to be precise - turning the Craft back in upon itself. 100 years ago, the Craft was more insular, less visible, less hyped, and less public than it is today, and it was that way for many reasons, some of them philosophical, but some of them quite practical: there simply weren't enough Masons to have a drill team, a clown squad and 30 minature cars. It's time to look to the English model, quiet, small, but still very much alive, to see us through until the next seasonal change is upon us.

Thus, I argue that a simple downsizing is what Masonry requires today - not because the polar icecaps are melting and the deluge is coming - but because this is normal seasonal change, and prudence requires that we dress accordingly.


The Palmetto Bug said...

Damn - I wish I could write that good.

2 BOWL CAIN said...

Salutations on the Three Points

Health Stability Power

My Brother Wayfaring Man, I agree wholeheartedy. Small and quiet.
The Masonic History is a valuable area of study for all masons who which to understand it better. Just studying symbols and socializing is only a part of the whole picture of masonry. Old School Masonry and why it was successful, and not in membership numbers, but in the men who got in and their actions outside of the Craft.
Thank You Brother.
F:. TC

Silence Dogood said...

Fantastic blog, my Brother! I agree that Masonry needs a downsizing! Thanks for the intelligent analysis of Masonic membership and history.

Anonymous said...

An interesting perspective. A few comments from the peanut gallery ensue... ;-)

First, it is unfortunate that you conflate the two issues of dwindling Masonic membership and global warming. While some may find this a creative approach to writing (and I suppose it is creative in a way), I tend to see it more as a kind of hollow 'propoganda by analogy' strategy -- assert something is true and provide no explicit evidence whatsoever while conflating it with another parallel object of discussion. A kind of 'not-guilty by association' gambit if you will. Boo hiss! :-) This issue is too important to be trifled with, and so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your upcoming mystery book, to which the Squire alludes, perhaps provides real facts in support of your, ahem, 'argument' here against global warming.

Second, your mention of Franco, Hitler, Stalin, and Khomeini as examples of "repressive dictators" is fine as far as it goes, but I confess I am repeatedly amazed by a kind of "fish oblivious of the water around them" syndrome that appears to be prevalent in the Masonic blogsphere regarding the criminal U.S. administration that is currently installed in office. Why go looking to the past, and also outside your country's borders, when you can simply look at your current president, vice-president, and the corporate fascists who contribute huge sums of money to further their interests via corruption, er, lobbying? Umm, your government appears to have been stolen right out from under you, and yet you fiddle while Rome burns?

Third, re: the "Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble" syndrome:
Agreed 100%. The swollen rosters of Masonry after WWII were an artificial bubble as far as I can tell, and it is not realistic, or even advantageous, to expect to maintain that level of membership expansion in this day and age. Better to understand the demographics/trends and then concentrate on *quality* of future membership rather than obsessing about mere quantity of affiliation.

Fourth, can Freemasonry even afford this 'quality over quantity' approach to membership growth? This remains to be seen, but I will say that all Freemasons everywhere should start thinking about the *gorgeous* masonic lodges in their vicinity and do whatever possible to preserve all these rich examples of historical architectural Masonic heritage. If necessary, Freemasons must guard the most beautiful historical Masonic Lodge buildings, and seek to preserve them at all costs.

Fifth, the inevitable downsizing of Freemasonry you discuss should ideally include an important element of re-focusing on the search for personal discovery and spiritual illumination. Is Freemasonry simply a Lions or Rotary Club entity? No, we say, there is something more; but what is it? I contend that Freemasonry needs to re-cognize [sic] its own mysterious roots and begin again to look within, striving no less than to 'Know Thyself'. Know Thyself! -- that mysterious imperative that would impel those who seek Initiation to look behind the veil of things, understand more deeply of themselves, and ultimately forge from the rough to the perfect ashlar. Ironically, while Freemasonry itself may have no clear origin in the historical Mysteries, I instinctively believe that still Freemasonry inherits this imperative to Know Thyself in modern times.

In short, I believe that prospective Freemasons nowadays are looking for more *meaning*. Freemasonry should increase not only its mysteriousness, but also its connection to these ageless Mysteries. The former without the latter amounts to mere disappointment for the true seeker. To consciously include the latter component once again seeks to include in Freemasonry the greatness that our Bro. Wilmshurst felt sure belonged to the inheritance of Freemasonry. For more along these lines, feel free to crack open that wonderful book _The Meaning of Masonry_ by Walter Leslie Wilmshurst. As far as I can tell, it is that Back to the Future that real Freemasonry needs right now, in this day and age.

So Mote It Be!

~ Vitruvius ~

Wayfaring Man said...

Thanks for your comments one and all.

Vitruvius: Comparing the current administration to, for example, Stalin's reign with its great purge of political malcontents, seems a bit hyperbolic, n'cest pas? If the current president were, as you say, culpable of anything nearly as criminal, surely you and people who think like you would have been exiled to Siberia (or heaven forbid, hanged from the nearest lamppost with a sign around your neck as a warning to others), instead of posting your discontent freely on the internet.

I for one am glad you are incorrect about this, as discontent is central to our system, and further, because I enjoyed reading your comments. Besides, internet reception in Kamchatka is ever so spotty these days.

And, as for the book - no, it doesn't concern itself with global warming. It's a non-fiction title.

Thanks again for your comments.