"Occult institutions evolve out of professional guilds after they stop caring about how to actually build things. In every age, geeks gravitate to where the interesting action is, and in medieval Europe, this was the cathedral – the structure itself, the art, and the pipe organ inside."
Spinrad draws from Jean Gimpel's fascinating (and long out of print), The Cathedral Builders to explain how the "space race" during the High Gothic period that resulted in higher and higher vaults gave way to the uninventive Low Gothic period, when the speculative Masons lost the knowledge they once had to create the masterpieces of before (much the same way that NASA couldn't build another Saturn V rocket today). As the secret knowledge of the building trade slipped away, only the "secret" part remained - the signs, grips, words and rituals.
"Let's say you're an insider who knows some secret mumbo-jumbo. Promoting the belief to outsiders that your secrets have great power makes this belief self-fulfilling because it makes outsiders think you have something on them. The more mysterious and powerful these inside secrets seem, the more effective the hype becomes. Now, if you imagine running this secrets-as-status dynamic recursively, you get concentrically nested levels of power, a hierarchy that runs from complete outsider to innermost circle. Add the human imagination on both sides, and you spawn a thousand occult rituals and a thousand conspiracy theories."
Consider that everything from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Crowley's OTO, college fraternities, literally hundreds of fraternities that popped up in the 1800s, right down to the text messaging abbreviation for "secret (s33krit), all descended from the Masonic model.
Spinrad compares the "geeks" who became master masons during the Gothic period to the modern "makers" - the geeks who craft, invent and dabble in all things gizmotic like electronics, computers, and even hackers.
"Cities across America have beautiful Masonic lodge buildings sitting on prime downtown real estate. Lodge membership is graying, and many chapters have closed due to the lack of new members. I think this presents a grand opportunity. Let's start a new masonic Conspiracy! Let's take masonry back and convert it from speculative back to operative! Let's get all the 'makers' we know to become masons, and turn all those gorgeous, unused lodge buildings into temples of geekdom! Who's with me?"