"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Friday, May 20, 2016


We're currently having an argument in Indianapolis about lodge dues, temple rental prices, per capita payments, and other similar topics. It compelled me to go back and update some of what the Knights of the North examined in 2004 in Laudable Pursuit:
"In 1897, the North American Review estimated that the average lodge member spent fifty dollars annually on dues and insurance, and two hundred dollars on initiation fees, ritualistic paraphernalia, banquets and travel; this at a time when the average factory worker earned just four hundred to five hundred dollars a year. "

-- Mark C. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (Yale University Press, 1989).

In 2015, $50 dues would be equal to $1436. And that $200 initiation, paraphernalia, banquet and travel budget would cost $5744 today. On an adjusted salary of $11,488 a year.

Consider this from author Price Pritchett's 'Firing Up Commitment For Organizational Change' (Pritchett & Hull Associates, 1994). He wasn't writing about Masonry, but he might as well have been:

"The harder we have to struggle for something, the more precious it becomes. Somehow, in sacrificing, we prove to ourselves that what we're seeking is valuable.

"Initiation rites - like high walls and narrow gates of entry - build commitment to the group through making acceptance hard to come by. Being allowed to join becomes something special. An achievement. A privilege. And it creates a sense of exclusiveness.

"Belonging doesn't count much if almost anybody can drift in or drift out of your group at will. If it's easy to join up, then leave and return, only to leave again, commitment can be hard to find.

"Initiation rites also create a common bond of experience that unites all who make it through the ordeal. A strong sense of "we-ness" comes from having gone through a common struggle. This identification with the group feeds commitment.

"Finally, stiff criteria for admission cause the weak-hearted to de-select themselves. They opt out after weighing the costs. For them, the rights of membership aren't worth going through the rites of Initiation. The benefit? People with low commitment never get inside.

"The greater the personal investment in getting accepted, the more one builds a stake in the organization. This means you should make membership a big deal. Let people pay a price to join. That guarantees commitment at the outset, and also makes it easier to build commitment later on.

"Make membership hard to come by, and commitment comes naturally."


  1. Prichett's quote reflects a well known truth. Anything worth having or being a part accepted into a group which is highly regarded, both publicly and privately, requires sacrifice. It seems there has been a shift from maintaining a bar with the expectation of members aspiring toward excellence in themselves and the group as a whole to one of setting the bar to the level of the weakest and least committed resulting in an organization that no longer appeals to individuals who desire to be a part of something that challenges them to invest their time, energy, and resources to not grow and improve and compel the organization to motivate the culture and society in which it operates, to strive towards growing and improving itself by setting a bar reflecting high expectations for excellence.

    As it stands, there seems to be no visible target, making it nearly impossible to hit. Those that are visible are in state of constant flux, significantly reducing the degree of success of hitting it as well.

    The bar for membership entry and advancement, in my opinion, should return to the level that establishes the highest attainable expectations and the requirements that must be met, both for entry and advancement, both in membership level and leadership positions.

    It's too easy and essentially requires nothing outside of a completed petition, a check that clears the account upon which it is written, and the bare minimum in knowledge that is quickly forgotten since there is no required mechanism that challenges the member to committing the knowledge to memory and the ability to apply the knowledge for the growth and improvement of self, the organization as a whole, and the society in which it is to function.

    This path that has and continues to be followed , both at the state and local levels, has saddened and disappointed me for many years and as the standards and expectations for membership continue to devolve, so does the standing of the organization in the eyes of its societal peers and society in general making its self irrelevant. Thus, the strong likelihood it's demise by its own hand.

  2. The fascinating aspect of the dues debate in your part of the world is how an association of lodges are charged to use a shared building: on a per member basis.

    This approach can be dramatically de-motivational compared to simply charging a lodge on a percentage basis.

    A WM could rev up his membership to recruit, say, 5 or 10 new members...where the new dollars would immediately defray the rent.

    But when charged on a per member basis... the benefit of each new member is immediately reduced.

    1. We can't recruit in Kentucky jurisdiction.

    2. "But when charged on a per member basis... the benefit of each new member is immediately reduced."

      I guess I look at the benefits of new members a different way. They are Masons who will carry on our traditions, lighten my work load, become my family, help me be a better man.

      We factor in the number of dues paying members while doing our annual budget, but I've never looked at a candidate as a source of income for the lodge.

    3. Rich Pratt, I'm not sure I even know if this is relevant. Are you a member of the lodge in question? Or are you just speaking in general from your vantage point of another lodge?

      If a lodge is being hit pretty hard on a per-capita basis.... it would be logical that they don't think of members as a source of income.

      But if a member of your lodge or ANY lodge has ever said: "We need more members!" ... they were thinking about the finances....

      In any case, the point of my postings is that people start looking at individual members in the wrong way if they are being invoiced in a virtually PUNITIVE way.

  3. George Coombs..... I didn't mean RECRUIT in the un-masonic sense. We can't recruit in Florida where I live.

    Let's assume I didn't use the word recruit. There's much less motivation to be supportive of having new members if the lodge is financially penalized the moment there is a new member.

  4. It's interesting that when we consider putting a value on something we immediately look at increasing the monetary cost - a mistake in my book.

    Should we increase the fees and annual dues? I think that should be left to the individual Lodges to decide based on their needs, I'm not opposed to it, I just think that we might be using it as the scapegoat.

    Why not make the other aspects more difficult? How many petitions have been signed by a second who barely knew the candidate? Why can't we push for more than what we currently require of our candidates as they move through the process? Why not have them demonstrate a level of understanding instead of simply parroting back what they have "learned?"

    We need to hold the whole process up to the light and see where it can be improved, not just raise the prices.


Your comments will not appear immediately because I am forced to laboriously screen every post. I'm constantly bombarded with spam. Depending on the comments being made, anonymous postings on Masonic topics may be regarded with the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers, as far as I am concerned. If you post with an unknown or anonymous account, do not automatically expect to see your comment appear.