Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #5

Now here is another essay in the series from Freemason from the Freestate. I don't know whether he is a traditionalist or a reformer as Silence Dogood reminds us - the lines seem to get blurred as we all, having the betterment of the Craft as our goal, seek answers. I can tell you one thing though, this Brother is very, very knowledgable but as such he doesn't try to trumpet himself as one who has the only true path. As he says on his blog:

"My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers."

Thus I have dragged him to this scene as almost a reluctant participant. Freemason from the Freestate is a Blog you don't want to miss and I urge you to follow the link there HERE. There you will meet a Brother who likes to ask questions and wax philosophically.

What would I do, if I was Grand Master with a five year term, to save Freemasonry? Save it from what? Extinction? Itself? I've been putting off an answer to this question, and even now am in the flight of fight mode, with flight winning out. I have a few reasons for this:

1. my own ignorance. I don't know the day to day politics that a GM must face, internally and externally, or the legal constraints.
2. From my point of view as a seat warmer in my lodge, part of a Grand Lodge that looks to me like it's going in the right direction, that there aren't a lot of criticisms I have to level. I am blessed in this.
3. Finally, I have a tendency to wordiness and this is a blog, not a book.

What do I mean when I say “Save Freemasonry?”

The obvious answer is that the fraternity is dying, literally and figuratively. We all look back to times when Freemasonry was so important that the dominant national political, religious and professional men of all nations belonged to it, or opposed it passionately. Enough so to form the first third party in the U.S. to oppose it. Presidents, Kings, Bishops, Lawyers, Butchers, Bakers and Indian Chiefs were members We covered the globe.

Now our average age is what, one hundred? Or is it ninety five? Who was the last president, and how long ago? Who the last king? We sing in praise of famous men, but more of them are dead men than living ones.

So, one form of saving is replacing declining numbers. Retention of members is another, possibly more urgent one. If we nurture the men we have, new men will be attracted. Both require more of the Craft than it seems to be providing. I am going to limit my discussion to just a couple of ideas that I think could turn on our existing members and bring a breath of fresh air for new candidates. And in the same way, save Freemasonry from itself.

It is too easy to be complacent. To be a comfortable seat warmer in a happy lodge of fellow thinkers. Harmony being very important, we may not want to cause each other to think too much, and gee, it's fun to play around at meetings. Freemasonry isn't a social club, or a drinking club, or a religion or a political party. It partakes of all of these, but is more. As a five year term Grand Master it would be my job and intention to promulgate programs that would nurture men in their quest for betterment, and drag along those who just want fun.

The two areas that I would work on are interdependent. They are Unity (harmony perhaps?) and education. Education will be fostered by unity and Unity is dependent on education. Education has been the main purpose of our Gentle Craft since time immemorial. (No I ain't going to define that!)

Year One:

Bring the Grand Line to the same place educationally. Educationally from a Masonic point of view, and, being Grand Master, from my possibly subjective point of view. We would all need to know what's actually going on not just in our Grand Jurisdiction, or even the world, but what's going on down the street. There's Prince Hall Masons doing good work down there, and Women working in gloves and aprons in many areas as well. And why are there schismatic Grand Lodges forming, and should anything be done about them. Who are the Other People who call themselves Masons?

At the same time, I need to be looking to relationships with these OtherPeople who call themselves Masons, right down the street, or in another state or country. Why are those Swedes unique, and what about the French? And how many different Prince Hall Groups are there? And can anything be done to normalize relations there, when these groups don't accept each other? I need to develop working relationships with Grand Masters from these Other disciplines, if I am to save Freemasonry.

And this is a risk in itself. Remember what happened to the Grand Lodge of Washington when it tried on its own to recognize Prince Hall Masonry? Shunned by the rest of the American Masonic universe. Small Grand Lodges may not be able to handle this, especially if there are a lot of interstate dual memberships. And it needs to be moved into.

Year two:

In the second year, I need to start educating the line officers in my constituent lodges (notice looking for unity is encouraging education.) in the same way my Grand Line was educated. The Grand Inspectors and Grand Lecturers need to take the lead in this.

What about ritual? Ritual needs to recapitulate reality to be valid. We're about changing our reality, and some other things may change as well. Not for the first time. Learning that there are many Other Masons out there doing these rituals should spur us on to perfecting them, and what we learn from this other education can only embroider our ritual with greater meaning.

At this time, in need to be working on unification inside my Grand Jurisdiction. There are many lodges too small to fiscally or physically maintain their spaces, and even large ones don't have the young guys to do some of the grunt work. We need to look at unification in this area: mergers and shared spaces.

When two lodges merge, there is a whole new educational challenge: to make them truly one. Not forget the history, but learn each others' and pass it down, but not to hold onto their separate identities so that brotherhood is blocked. It will take two (or more) Worshipful Masters and lines of officers who are of exceptional good will to make this happen properly. As far as shared space is concerned, most of our facilities have many empty evenings and days. Why rent to outsiders when we can rent to brothers, and everyone wins?

It will be the job of my Grand Inspectors to make recommendations about these changes, and facilitate them.

Year Three:

The year of subduing our passions. There are going to be ruffled feelings and incompletions that need ironing out. Interjurisdictional talks are going to ruffle more than a few within and without the Grand Lodge. The passions that divide the African American Masonic Community alone are going to be monumental to work through, and it isn't my business to do it! But good will and good intentions can bring good honorable men together. And working with female Masons is going to ruffle feathers all over. Even asking these questions will stir passions. This is a year of consolidation and subduing of passions.

Year four:

We need during this year to move to convince our counterparts of the need for change. Only by persuasion, and love unfeigned can this hope to succeed. I will work during this time to expand participation in the Scottish Rite. I say this because the lessons and tenets of this organization are so progressive that men of good will can only benefit by them. This is a tool that needs to be used.

Many of the brothers in this order are among the leaders in our Craft and in our Community. They need to be brought to bear. The Scottish Rite has justifiably been called the University of Freemasonry, and it is too much ignored.

Year Five:

This is the year of community relations. This is where the new brethren (perhaps embracing sisters) will come from. I believe that the openness that Freemasonry has displayed recently may not be good for encouraging new membership. That mystery is attractive. That presenting ourselves as a charitable institution is neither profitable nor correct. We shouldn't stop our charitable work, but we need to stop the flashing light shows when we do it. Subtlety won members in the past, and will win more in the future.

Freemasonry needs to let the community know we're here, and have real accomplishments to display to it. Not just giving bears to sick kids, but showing that men and women of good will can find unity in diversity and a common cause, even if we don't go to the same clubhouse. Because I'm not saying that all of the various Masonic bodies should be merged, but rather that they should and must be united.

Unity of purpose. Unity of practice. Unity of humanity. That is what will save Freemasonry.


The Palmetto Bug said...

Squire; If one had to define Freestate, he'd fall on your side of the definition of reformer - in my opinion.

Freestate offers a couple ideas that I would agree with, but he strongly alludes to reaching out to clandestine organizations. I can't agree with that. I can agree that we need to figure out the reason behind why they pop up and what to do about them when they do.

I say the reasons behind why clandestine bodies pop up need to be examined just in the improbable case that the actions of real Freemasonry is somehow influencing the the start up of these spurious activities.

Gingerman said...

Bro. Bug,

I am pointing to talking to some clandestine groups. There's clandestine and clandestine. If we avoided all clandestine groups, there would be no normalization with Prince Hall Masons, which has happened, as far as PHA is concerned, in the vast majority of our jurisdictions, and which I consider vital to our society and Craft.

Without learning about some of the other groups out there, such as some of the women's groups, which the UGLE has said can be (depending on the group) regular, just not recognized, we can never heal this rift (oops, that implies it can/should be healed).

Then there are clandestine groups that are not valid Masonically. It can be said that none of them are, but I don't think so. That's where education comes in, and good will. Perhaps some should go away, merged with us, or maybe some should stay independent for true and valid reasons. That remains to be learned.

Education and Unity. Without asking the questions, we can't know the answers.

Magus Masonica said...

Unity is a pipedream I'm afraid. If everyone would just mind their own business the market will decide.

It is what it is.

Do we choose our path or does our path choose us?