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FREEMASONRY IN THE MODERN WORLD
by W. Brother Cameron MacKay
As we approach the millennium, any thoughtful Freemason recognizes that we face challenges which are fundamentally different in nature than those we have encountered in the past. Grand Lodge Officers point with alarm to an unprecedented decline in membership. Masters sense an attitude in both members and non-members that the Craft is drifting towards a state of non-relevency. Members note the decline of the Craft's position, power, and prestige in the community. Some Masons sense that Freemasonry is headed towards extinction. Most feel we are in a state of great difficulty. Few, except those who are disinterested, claim that Freemasonry is not confronted with problems in the modern society.
Although this essay is directed towards the problems of the Craft in the modern society, it should not be supposed that it is aimed at proposing wholesale changes in the principles of Freemasonry. On the contrary, many of the changes which have been adopted in the past two decades appear to have done little to remedy the underlying problems confronting the Craft. The United Grand Lodge of England, when faced with allegations of "blood curdling oaths", made alterations to the Ritual. The Craft, when charged with being "secret and therefore sinister", strove to be more open and visible. The Lodge, when accused by certain Christian sects of being "Satanic", expended considerable effort to establish that practising Christians could be Freemasons without compromising their religious beliefs. None of the foregoing stemmed the decline in membership or silenced the critics.
This may be because we attempted to ameliorate groups who would never look at Freemasonry in a favourable light no matter what changes were adopted. It may also be that these outbursts against Freemasonry were complaints which had little or nothing to do with real problems which a modern society poses for Freemasonry. The real problem is not inherent in the principles of the Craft at all. The current problems for Freemasonry may arise from the paradoxical nihilism which characterizes the modern society in which Freemasonry finds itself.
It would be presumptuous in the extreme to suggest that this essay will provide a solution or the magic formula. The dialectic motion of present society seems to preclude a simple or definitive solution. However, if the Craft is to confront its problems with "fervency and zeal", a discussion of Ancient Freemasonry in the swirling paradoxes of a modern society may constitute a S.P. with [our] L.F.
THE MODERN CONDITION
Prior to the Second World War, Western Societies, within their own cultural enclaves possessed a code of conduct, a repository of acceptable values, a system of sexual morés , and a set of religious beliefs which the mainstream of that society acknowledged and accepted. Some of these norms were enshrined in law, some held the force of custom, others were considered refinements of character or badges of distinction. Although variations existed from culture to culture, it was the implicit acceptance of these values as norms which formed both the glue and the identity of any given culture.
It was on this foundation of accepted beliefs that the philosopher, businessman, bureaucrat and tradesman planted his feet and looked out upon the universe, endeavouring to comprehend the mystery of his own consciousness. No doubt, in the process of cultivating and enlightening his mind, his beliefs would change. Those matters which he once considered universal absolutes may become relegated to cultural practices. Those values which he thought were minor or axiomatic may shift to become critical foundation stones in his perception of the truth. Irrespective of his degree of formal education, each individual could formulate his perception of reality by standing on a basic foundation which retained a degree of permanency and stability. Those who by nature were more philosophical probably stood on fewer stones --- or maybe they had just dug down a little deeper. In any event, each individual had a cultural and philosophical foundation. This foundation was indelibly printed in his mental thought process --- it was the categorical imperatives (to borrow from Kant) from which the mind commenced its journey to formulate and understand the world.
In that type of environment Freemasonry could flourish. There were certain values which had a universal quality which transcended cultures. Agreed, there was much room for debate as to which matters stood on that list. They had to be truths which had stood the test of time or, in Masonic terminology, they were principles which had existed since time immemorial. It was the Freemason's task to analyze his world and determine in his own mind which truths had that universal quality. These, then , would form the cornerstones of his Temple. As he progressed through the Degrees of Masonry, he would probably find this search for universal truths to be more and more elusive. But it was the duty of the leaders in the Craft to assist him in that research, or "to draw aside their veil, therefore, or more properly speaking, penetrate through it, ............... and by a careful and appropriate attention to them, [he] may hope ultimately to become fully acquainted with all its mysteries." It was this search for these universal truths or categorical imperatives and not the specific answers , which Freemasonry proclaimed. In fact, Freemasonry did not profess to be the possessor of the ultimate truth. As the Masons progressed to the level of a Master Masons, he was constantly reminded that we did not possess the "genuine secrets" and that our secrets were merely the "substitute secrets" which we would employ until the genuine secrets were restored to us.
This Masonic philosophical structure fit nicely into a society which had a stable, permanent set of core values, which identified and bound the society as a whole. Freemasonry became a structure within which thoughtful men could cultivate an individual set of values while at the same time becoming more articulate and aware of what matters were considered worth pursuing and what matters were not worth pursuing. Thoughtful men blossomed inside Freemasonry because they found it helped them fulfil their own aspirations and meet the expectations society held for them.
Sometime after the 1950's we entered this modern society which presents a completely different milieu. Our society became multicultural. The economy became global. Sexual morés, which at one time were agreed upon, became questioned and discredited. The very definition of a family unit as being a heterosexual union is now being altered to include homosexual unions. Suddenly it becomes politically incorrect to describe December 25th as Christmas Day. Crime and punishment get transferred from the sphere of good and evil administered by the Courts, to medical problems best handled by Psychologists promoting this years pet theory. Right and wrong, good and evil, are denigrated as outmoded philosophical models.
The maelstrom of modern life becomes paradoxical and contradictory. As Marshal Berman states in his book: "To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world -- and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology, in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity, it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish."
At the very roots of this post-industrial society --- as part of its base genetic make up -- is an urge for development -- a need for progress --- a need for growth. To generate this growth change becomes the critical essential characteristic of postmodernism. Every year the design of an automobile is changed,. Every year the fashion in cloths is redefined. Perfectly good buildings are imploded so that new buildings can be put in their stead. Economic models are constantly being revisited and revised. The economic chain from manufacturer to wholesaler to distributor to retailer is completely dismantled and replaced by amorphous constantly shifting relationships in which, at times, the manufacturer competes directly with his own retailer for the same customer. Everyone's trade or profession becomes relegated to the status of a product for sale. Hence teachers are somehow to be rated not on their ability to teach , inspire, or motivate children but on how many BA's they can generate. Lawyers are no longer measured on the wisdom of their legal advice but are measured and evaluated on the number of dollars they generate.
If constant change, this perpetual disintegration and renewal, is the first key to understanding present society, acceleration is the second. One technological advance is utilized to invent a second. The benefits derived from the first invention allow the second to emerge and be produced more quickly than the first. These two inventions, in turn, are combined to produce a third invention at an even greater rate of speed. Technological change breeds further technological change in geometric progressions which occur at an ever increasing rate. In many respects the techno-society mirrors an infestation of locusts run rampant with no natural predator in sight.
It is not surprising that in this modern milieu , which is characterized by frenzied change, that the very foundations of a society, the core values, suffer a similar onslaught. As Karl Marx stated:
" All fixed, fast-frozen relationships, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept way, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into the air, all that is holy is profaned; ..... "
If Marx's observation is correct, the obvious question is this; "is Freemasonry going to melt into the air?
MAN IN THE MODERN SOCIETY
If Freemasonry is going to be successful in recruiting members in the Modern Society, it seems essential that we have a clear articulate idea of the effect that Post Modernism has had on the men we hope to recruit. We need to understand their needs, their thinking, and their moral values. It is only when we have a clear conception of men in this modern society that we can effect changes in the way we practise Freemasonry.
Since every individual is different, it is impossible to obtain a detailed picture of these modern men. There seems to be certain identifiable characteristics which are more or less common to them all.
This rapidly changing society has produced men with little security. Experts predict that the average person will change careers at least 3 times during his working life. In many cases this insecurity borders on disillusionment or simply quiet desperation. They have learned that what is here today is gone tomorrow. They have learned that long terms plans are futile because the constant flux inevitably outdates their plans. Why make long term plans to become an air pilot? ---- tomorrow they may all fly by remote controlled computers. Short term planning predominates.
This modern man is tremendously mobile and transient. A substantial number of men move every two or three years as their job with the same corporation, or a different corporation, takes them on a globe trotting expedition. They are nomads in the traditional sense of that word. Like the native Indian who followed the herds to gain a livelihood, modern man moves from opportunity to opportunity to develop his career trajectory. His is no longer attached to the land and he is no longer attached to a specific manufacturing plant. Like capital in the global economy, he finds himself shifted to that part of the world where he is presently most needed.
Since his residence in any one place is known in advance to be temporary, this affects his thinking and attitudes. He has neither the time nor the desire to form strong bonds of allegiance to a city or a province. For the same reason he is reluctant to become actively involved in the local service club or the local school board. In two years time he will not even be there so it is difficult for him to justify heavy involvement. It is equally difficult for him to become emotionally involved, since he knows he will experience disappointment and grief when the inevitable and imminent move occurs.
This knowledge of the transient nature of his existence directly affects his personal relationships. Aside from family ties, he often has few durable lifetime friendships. Most of his acquaintances he knows only in part. He knows his colleagues at work only to the extent it is necessary for needs arising out of their business relationship. He knows his postman simply as the postman. he knows nothing of the postman's wife, children, religion, likes or dislikes. Hence, most of his personal relationships are temporary and he only knows and relates to a portion of that personality. These are neither lifetime friends or situations in which he knows and understands the person as a whole human being. Consequently, when the relationship no longer serves an economic or functional purpose, it can be terminated quickly without any sense of loss or grief.
This modern man, working in a fast paced world, is always short of time. Despite the promises that high technology would lead to affluence and leisure, statistics show the contrary. White collared workers are spending more and more hours doing things faster and faster. In 1970, a solicitor may have taken two or three days to draft a commercial lease. In 1998, the market place expects the same lease to be completed within 2 or 3 hours. The result of this increased pace is to place modern man in a position where it is more and more difficult to allot every second Thursday to a specific leisure activity.
This rapid paced transient economy has created another phenomena. Lacking long term ties to a specific organization, placed in a position where life long friendships are few and far between, and knowing that what exists today may be gone tomorrow, he becomes quite self-centric and leans towards immediate gratification. The BMW is leased today, he does not save and upgrade over twenty years for the car of his dreams, .... cars may not even exist in 20 years. He does not acquire material objects on the basis that they will be with him for decades and passed on to the succeeding generation. He rents a condominium in which the upkeep is taken care of; he acquires the latest fashion of press board furniture; and he acquires the latest CD pop music. His acquisitions presuppose that all will become obsolete in a very short period of time.
The modern man deals in a global economy in which his business contacts involve people of every race, religion, and colour. Their nationality and religion are unimportant providing the business can be conducted in an appropriate manner. This widened exposure makes him much more tolerant of cultural practices and different races than his forefathers.
The foregoing is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the characteristics of the modern man. It is recognized that there are many countervailing characteristics which make the picture into a far more complex mosaic. However, the essential point is that Freemasonry has to be aware and to the best of its ability knowledgeable about the human condition in the techno-society before we can address the question of what changes we make in the way we practise Freemasonry.
RESTRUCTURING LODGE PRACTICES
Rather than change the age old principles of Freemasonry or tinker with the Ritual, It seems essential that we re-examine our present practices in the Craft to determine whether we can make changes which will make Freemasonry more attractive to these modern men. In the following pages of this essay I propose certain specific changes that we could consider. If these proposal have any validity it is not on their specific merits, but rather because they point in the direction which I suggest we have to travel if we are going to attract young men in numbers to the Craft.
a Masonic Vision of Society
It is essential for modern Freemasonry to develop an articulate vision of a future society, based on Masonic principles, so that our membership can sense that they belong to an organization which intends to participate in ensuring we have a society which embodies liberty, democracy, personal privacy and dignity.
In the 18th Century, Freemasonry was alive with the idea that it was pursuing the goal of creating a better world. The Royal Society, (of which many were Freemasons) embraced the Newtonian concept of the Universe and actively promoted the demise of medieval concepts so that science and reason could prevail. Francis Bacon, himself a Mason, articulated Utopia in his famous novel The New Atlantis which, even on a cursory reading, shows unmistakable links to the Masonic ritual. On the other side of the ocean Freemasonry became inextricably linked to the American Revolution. The principles of "fraternity, liberty, and equality" were transformed into political action. The resulting Republic bore both the symbols and the principles of Freemasonry.
The critical point is that Freemasonry was seen by its members as an organization which imparted principles which, if applied, would produce a more free, democratic, and just society. Equally important, Freemasons had a vision of the future which they were determined would apply to the outside world to make a better society for mankind.
Since the Second World War, Freemasons have failed to boldly articulate a vision of a better society. We appear to have lost the spirit of manifest destiny. Aside from its various charitable activities, Freemasonry does not venture into the world ..... it contents itself with an investigation of personal spiritual matters and personal ethics. It has taken the position that moral matters and political matters fall into two separate compartments. Freemasonry, being divorced from politics, is expected to restrict itself to personal moral questions with the same degree of detachment from the profane world that one would see in a Buddhist Monastery.
In the past two decades, politicians desiring to impose completely new cultural values, have been implementing legislation which directly impinges on one group or another's moral values. The Federal Government passes laws to create "culture cops" to enforce certain novel cultural values which fit the government's agenda. They create legislation which allows police to enter a citizens home without a warrant simply because he has registered his sporting rifle. The Provincial Government authorizes traffic ticket cameras to continuously spy on citizens, thereby bringing Orson Well's worst fears in the book 1984 into reality. Laws which turn the established sexual morés and taboos upside down are becoming more frequent. The Government is now talking about making Charitable Organizations "more transparent" on the justification that this is necessary to stop international terrorism, which leaves the thoughtful Masons wondering how Freemasonry will be affected by this new legislation. With Governments of all political stripes attempting to legislate a new morality, it is becoming increasingly incongruous for Freemasonry to pretend that the old distinction between "the political" and "the moral" is still valid.
It is not suggested that these political issues should be thrown on the Floor of the Lodge for direct debate. It is suggested that the leaders in Freemasonry should be developing a concept of a just society for the future. Masons should be urged to discuss and develop clear parameters and a clear vision of the ideal future society. Men in Masonry should feel that they belong to a group which is spearheading changes for the betterment of mankind. This looking forward and discussing ideas of a futuristic nature would imbue the Craft with a sense of purpose, a feeling of vitality, and, most important of all, a sense that Freemasonry is going to try to affect the agenda for the future.
STRUCTURAL CHANGES IN THE CRAFT
We need to examine the whole Masonic structure to determine whether it should be rationalized to ensure that those bodies we retain are well intended and perform their intended function.
Modern men require, and like to be associated with, an institution which is relevant, efficient, and effectively structured. If one examines the Craft and all its concordant bodies from a purely business administrative point of view, it become evident that we have a bewildering array of Orders and Associations. Many Masons couldn't even name 60% of the existing bodies. In the United States the proliferation of Masonic bodies has been even more extensive than in Canada. Despite this vast array, new Orders are still being developed. Last year I encountered 3 English Masons who had developed an Order , the name of which escapes me, whose chief function is to maintain close personal contact with other Brethren in that Order, particularly those who had become ill. Each of these Orders requires manpower to conduct its business, each one requires time and effort from its Members; each one seems to develop its own charitable project which requires financial contributions.
The result is that Freemasonry has a vast array of enterprises on the go which by definition divides our resources. We have Masons being officers in 2 or 3 bodies who expend an inordinate amount of time learning Ritual. Each organization has a small charity, but its contribution is not substantial enough to make it newsworthy. It seems our efforts are scattered and this multiplicity of Orders dilutes our effectiveness as an Organization in Society.
It is suggested that serious consideration should be given to corporate specialization.. We should recognize that certain organizations like the Shrine are extremely well adapted to performing charity and be a show case for Freemasonry because they have all the elements of a service club. Scottish Rite and the Royal Arch are particularly well suited to the advancement of Masonic knowledge. The Craft Lodges are excellent forums for basic training and the development of an Officer Corps. If we would utilize each of these facets of Freemasonry for the purpose which it can serve well, it is suggested that we would strengthen Freemasonry as a whole. In the case of charity, if we consistently performed all our charities through the Shrine, we would not only have an identifiable entity for Members interested in charitable works, we would be making contributions of a size and extent which would ensure we attained good, consistent press coverage. Shrine/Masons would not only be a household word .... but the public would start to associate Freemasonry with certain specific good works. As long as we continue to dilute our time, resources and energy among a vast array of concordant bodies with each one trying to perform similar functions, it is impossible for the general public to gain a clear favourable image of Freemasonry.
Job Definitions in the Craft
It is suggested that we redefine some of our Offices within the Craft to ensure that they fit the realities of a modern society. Men in this present society suffer from chronic demands upon their time. Many simply do not have the spare time to accept an office which requires numerous nights out visiting Lodges. Notwithstanding this reality, we continue to define our most important offices in a manner which requires endless nights of meetings. DDGM's often make more than 50 visits within a year. Masters feel the non too subtle pressure to visit extensively. These expectations do not match the realities of modern young men struggling to survive and compete in an economy in which the pace is ever accelerating.
If we are to attract young men in numbers and expect to have the benefit of their skills in high places we have to address our minds to redefining these job definitions so they are compatible with the realities of post modernism.
Redefining the Career Paths in the Craft Lodge
We need to ensure that within the Craft Lodge we have more than one career path in order that men who are not disposed to ritual work can find a satisfying function within the Lodge.
Young men feel the need to progress and advance in their chosen careers. The structure of a Masonic Lodge, however, creates only one career path and in theory only one vacant position each year. Everyone is expected to go "through the Chairs". If a young Masons is not attracted to doing ritual work, he quickly finds himself in a position where he has no career path. This being the case, it should be recognized that under our present structure our product is only attractive to a portion of young men --- namely --- that portion who are attracted to ritual work. Further, since we have only one vacancy per year in a well constituted lodge, this means that a lodge which has the good fortune of obtaining several candidates very quickly experiences a backlog for office. Once men start to have to stand in the wings waiting years to enter the chairs we run the risk that they will lose interest.
We need to develop a lodge structure which creates several viable career paths. Not every man who joins the Lodge is a ritualist. Many men are attracted to Freemasonry because of its charitable purposes or philosophical principles. We should re-examine our Committee Structure and ensure that we have relevant committees ----- membership committees, fund raising committees, committees promoting a charitable work etc. The position on these committees should be elevated in importance and stature. It seems that the chairman of these committees should be invested with a collar. At business meetings, these chairmen should sit in the East where they can report to the lodge and answer the questions of the Members. Men who perform outstanding service on a committee, as secretary, or as organist, for a period of 10 years should qualify to be invested as a Virtual Past Master with rights and privileges similar to an actual Past Master.
The foregoing appears to be a rather revolutionary suggestion, however, to the extent the foregoing represents a foreign attitude in the minds of Masons, it illustrates the extent to which we have become overly focussed on matters of ritual. It seems clear that charitable works are as inherently Masonic as doing ritual work. Consequently, we should elevate and dignify the Committee and administrative positions to show they hold a place of great importance in Freemasonry. In so doing, we would be providing several different career paths for men who are not attracted to doing ritual work.
The Symbolic Degrees Revisited
We should consider moving from a system of symbolic ranks in Freemasonry to one which requires study and self development before the Member advances to the next rank.
Young men in a modern society want to be equipped with tools which will enhance their capacity to compete and be successful in the outside world. The time may have arrived when we consider changing from symbolic ranks to ranks which require learning, development, and training before you are entitled to proceed to the next degree. It may be that young men would have a greater sense of achievement if it took 3 years of study and self development to become a Master Masons. These courses, if purposefully developed, would not simply be a study in "Lodge things". Masonry is about self development and self improvement. A vast number of topics which are not now considered "Masonic subjects" could quite naturally fit into this curriculum. By proceeding in this fashion, we may be arming our candidates with knowledge and the skills which are so necessary to be successful, maintain a stable family unit, and be happy and content in a high paced techno-society.
Freemasonry and the Media
It is suggested that our charitable works are our advertising and that we must use the media in a more effective fashion so that our charities become a tool for recruitment.
Post modernism is characterized by television, radio, and the Internet capabilities which not only produce an instantaneous flow of information but quickly create visual images in the minds of the masses. In the past, the Craft has shunned publicity of its "good works" on the basis that we should "quietly and modestly move in the sphere of our lives." It is agreed that modesty is an excellency of character to be practised by every Member. The critical point however, is that this is a personal trait. It is an entirely different question for the corporate entity ---- The Grand Lodge. In the case of the corporate entity, the reality is that it is critical in a modern society to utilize the mass media to ensure that the general public has a favourable and knowledgeable image of the institution. Grand Lodge must , unfortunately, ensure that it gets its image and message into the hearts and minds of men. To do this it becomes necessary for it to capitalize on the power of the mass media. We must constantly examine every dimension of the Craft in terms of its potential for capturing the hearts and minds of the public. We should look at our charitable works not simply as matters of charity; we should recognize and utilize them as recruitment tools. For example, the Masonic Education Bursary Fund should be structured to give the maximum publicity so that it will attract new Members. It could be that we would gain more publicity if each year we gave one student a grant of $8,000.00 for a period of four years and described this person as a "Masonic Scholar" in the same sense as we have "Rhodes Scholars". It may be that we have to move to telethons to raise funds to support these "Masonic Scholars". The critical point here is that we have to examine our practices to ensure that our charities are utilized to give us the maximum publicity in a society where the electronic image is crucial to the future well being of the Craft.
Alternatively, it may be strategically sound to decentralize the Masonic Bursary Fund and have the decisions on applicants made at the District Level. The District may very well decide to give a substantial number of bursaries in a small town where the Lodge is struggling to get members. By giving a substantial number of bursaries in that small town we would get favourable publicity which may cause some men to consider Petitioning that Lodge.
In like manner we should be strategic in our donations of bursaries. We should consider ensuring that our scholarships a judicially given in areas where we think we have the potential to attract new candidates. For example, if we gave a scholarship to a needy member of the Greek Letter Fraternities and if we involved these young men in the decision making process, we would develop a permanent relationship with these Fraternities which could produce many Petitions in the future.
Further, we should develop fund raisers that are multifaceted in nature so that they not only raise monies, they recruit young people who will participate in the fund-raising. If these funds are used to assist young people, the project could become a newsworthy event. For example, we could develop a sports trading card program whereby a young child could have his (or her) picture on a sports card which looks and feels the same as Wane Gretzky"s sports card. Kids would love the cards ......... and every Grampa would be buying some for the kid to trade with his team mates and give as Christmas presents. If that card was emblazoned with the motto "Freemasons believe every child is a star" we would have the potential of touching the lives of every child who became involved in a sport or organized activity. This could be structured so that the child's team received a portion of the profits from selling these cards. We would have the satisfaction of creating a fund raiser which every amateur sports club could use to raise funds for itself. We would have a program which the media would love to extol.
Connecting With the Outside World
We should develop a system of "Masonic Patrons" whereby non-masons could associate with and support Freemasonry. Masonry should recognize that potential candidates need exposure to Freemasonry before they will consider joining. Traditionally, this occurs when a man meets a Masons and becomes his friend. This friendship gradually results in an introduction to Freemasonry and then eventually results in a Petition. This exposure to Freemasonry has to be extended beyond the efforts of the individual. We have to develop a strategy whereby more men encounter Freemasonry.
If we were to develop a program of "Masonic Patrons" whereby non-masons (both male and female), corporations, and other entities could become Patrons of a Masonic Lodge, it seems this would be a positive step. Non-masons and corporations could agree to be Patrons. Corporations could donate funds to a specific Masonic charity. Non-masons could agree to helping with a specific fund raiser. The Lodge in turn could hold a "Patron's Night" to acknowledge their contributions.
In so doing we would provide a mechanism whereby non-masons could interface and encounter Freemasonry. It would give Masons a tool to actively recruit men who they think would someday be interested in petitioning. It would provide us with a forum to introduce the principles of Freemasonry to the non-masonic community. It would give us many volunteers and additional sources of funds.
We must become much more knowledgeable about both the problems and the successful strategies which are presently employed to get new members.
Despite the difficulties which Freemasonry is encountering in a modern society, the Craft is still attracting new members. Where, it is suggested , we appear to be deficient is in carefully investigating and analyzing the reasons for this success. We should be developing a Grand Lodge Committee which carefully and in great detail examines 3 or 4 Lodges in the jurisdiction who are successful in attracting candidates. We need to know what techniques, if any, they are using. We need to know precisely how those candidates encountered Freemasonry; what dimensions of the Craft they find attractive; why they find Freemasonry to be a useful adjunct of their lives.
In like manner we should examine in great detail 3 or 4 of the Lodges that have not been successful in obtaining new blood. Are there specific reasons why they do not have new members. Is this a Lodge which has turned in on itself and made no attempt to obtain new members because they are comfortable with their existing friends in Lodge. Is this a situation where the community itself is decreasing in population and thus there is simply a smaller market from which to recruit.
This investigation should point us to areas in the market where we have a strong possibility of gaining candidates. We may find that Greek Letter Fraternities, Police Forces and the Armed Forces are excellent markets for us to recruit new members. If that is the case, then specific programs could be implemented to ensure we fully canvas these markets. We may find that a specific Lodge has developed a particular practice which seems to attract candidates. If that is so, other Lodges could adopt that practice. At this juncture it is suggested the answers are not clear. Until we determine what techniques "sell the product" and what "markets are interested in buying", the Craft cannot make intelligent decisions which will stem the decline in membership.
Freemasonry and the Mobile Man
It is suggested that since so many of our Members in the future will be transient, the Craft has to make the necessary adjustments to ensure Freemasonry is a useful and beneficial tool for these mobile road warriors.
With the increased transience of society, we can expect that more and more of our Membership will be moving from one local to another. Less and less of our membership will be attached to a Lodge for their lifetime as has occurred in the past. We have to develop practices and procedures which take this mobile population into account.
The principles which inspired the C.O.M.E.L.Y. program have to expanded and funded properly. It should be axiomatic that when a Masons leaves one locality to move to another, that he is referred to a Lodge which in turn undertakes to ensure that he is welcomed in the community; meets his Church Minister, suitable business associates, school teachers for his children, and Lodge Brethren. These "mobile warriors" have a need to quickly make friends and contacts so that their lives can proceed with a minimum of estrangement and disruption. If it became apparent to non Masons that these modern executives who are Masons seem to have the ability to drop into a new community and instantly gain a footing and useful contacts, it seems probable that they would look at our Fraternity with renewed interest.
Many of these mobile executives become fatigued with the hotel/restaurant circuit that is an integral part of their lives. Many, it is suggested, are looking for a different format in which to conduct their business. If the foregoing is correct, it seems that we should be ensuring that the Temples in the larger centres always have a room available for them at little or no cost where they can conduct their business meeting. Not only would this be a cost benefit to the mobile Masons, it would be a matter of note among non-masons "that these Masons always have access to a board room in every city they visit. Such perks do not go unnoticed in the business world. It creates an opportunity in which men who may otherwise never encounter Freemasonry experience their first interface with the institution. No doubt a certain number of them would make inquiries and eventually Petition a Lodge.
The Ritual and Ceremonies
Throughout this paper I have made numerous proposal which are rather controversial in nature. What I have not suggested and do not propose to suggest is that we change the principles of Freemasonry or tinker with the Ritual. Men in the modern society are faced with constant change and uncertainty. Freemasonry is an institution which provides an unchanging and secure environment . A Masons can enter a Lodge from Vancouver to Halifax with the certain knowledge that he will not be confronted with a strange or uncomfortable environment. He knows that he will meet like minded men who will ensure he is welcomed and experiences a joyous evening.. It is the unchanging and familiar roll of the ritual which has rung through our lodges for centuries, which gives the modern man some momentary comfort and certainty in an ever changing and rather nihilistic world.
Craft Masonry has a monopoly on one thing, namely Freemasonry. It was never instituted to be a service club and I suggest that adaptations to make it more "service clubby" will not be effective. If a man is desirous of the service club experience, there are numerous organizations out there that he can join. Freemasonry, on the other hand, cannot hope to compete and produce the same product as The Lions or The Rotary. I suggest that should we attempt to do so we will not only damages one of the great shining lights in Western Civilisation .... we will do ourselves and our Brethren a great disservice.
On the other hand, Freemasonry has an absolute monopoly on one thing ..... practising Freemasonry. If we continue to maintain the principles of Freemasonry and conduct the Ritual unchanged, as has been done for generations, we will pass to the next generation a blueprint for the development of thoughtful and happy lives.
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