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


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Staring into Freemasonry's Future

Alice and I are on the road for the next two weeks, so I have limited web access and opportunities to do much in the way of hunting Masonic news items or posting regular updates. But I do want to direct attention to Brother Greg Stewart’s outstanding article this week over on the Freemason Information blog. 

See: The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You

There is so much outstanding analysis and insight about the direction the fraternity seems to be heading these days packed into this one post, along with tough love over how we choose to respond to changes happening all around us. This is not a "Woe iz us, we iz dying!" sort of piece. Instead of the usual "Ya' know what's wrong with Freemasonry?" type of barstool finger-wagging, Greg stipulates all of our ills as a given, and instead provides some serious recommendations and possibilities for the future. Along with a refreshing bluntness about our basic model of grand lodges and constituent lodges.

Here's a clue: the answer isn't just "do the ritual better" and "guard the West Gate!" If you still think it is, the tar pits are thataway. This fraternity is facing massive shifts in the next decade and beyond, and Greg explores several possible scenarios.

Meanwhile, we're parked along the mighty Mississippi River today. Cloudy and miserable, and river traffic is light. Alice thought she spotted a whale float by. Or a really big log.

It's really cold, but not cold enough for Loch Ness. Let her claim it's a whale. 


  1. Good and thought provoking article by Brother Greg. Was there really a time when a sitting President said the following?

    "Although I hold the highest civil honor in the world, I have always regarded my rank and title as a Past Grand Master of Masons the greatest honor that had ever come to me."

    Brother Harry Truman.

    Did he really say such a thing? Could you imagine what would be the result if a U.S. President said that today?

    Masonic leaders will definitely need to be the best servants available and come up with innovative solutions to keep Freemasonry relevant in today's Society.

    "Men have to be hooked. Women don't need that. Women go freely into anything. That's their power and at the same time their drawback. MEN HAVE TO BE LED (caps, my emphasis) and women have to be contained."

    Carlos Castenada.

    No matter what happens, I trust some positive, and hopefully progressive, form of American Freemasonry will survive the coming age.

    "You can always count on America to do the right thing after it has done everything else."

    Sir Winston Churchill.

    And,oh my, we are certainly doing "everything else". I hope he is right.

  2. Replies
    1. Aaack! That’s what I get for doing this on my phone. Deepest apologies. Fixed now.

  3. A timely comment from the wires about changes:

    The BSA has been much praised of late, and justly so. Responding in part to a huge drop in membership, from 4.2 million in 1989 to 2.8 million in 2009, the organization has approved a dazzling set of rule changes to open scouting to many young people hitherto excluded.

    In 2013, pressured by two members of its executive board — the chief executives of Ernst & Young and AT&T — the BSA ended its long-standing ban on openly gay members, and two years later it lifted its prohibition on openly gay adult leaders. In 2017 the organization agreed to allow transgender boys to be members and just this spring the BSA announced the total membership inclusiveness. Beginning in 2019 the rebranded Scouts will accept girls as full members...the winds of change roiling scouting may be at work on the God front too, for recently there has been a crack in the wall keeping out nonbelievers. The BSA in 2016 entered into an agreement with the Unitarian Universalist Association giving ultimate authority over a scout’s spiritual commitment to their 1100 individual congregations. This would specifically allow Unitarian sponsored troops to claim humanism as an acceptable form of spirituality. Perhaps it’s this concession to a nonbelieving scouts that led the Mormon Church to go its own way in scouting. As more churches drop God, and Jesus this will be more an issue.

    1. And now the BSA is facing bankruptcy reportedly from sexual misconduct lawsuits. The argument is raging whether there is cause and effect from these huge changes in the last five years. Without access to details of the various suits and demographic records, there’s no way for outsiders to determine whether these alterations in rules were the direct cause of their steepest decline now and their financial ruination. What’s most tragic will be the BSA’s final post mortum, barring an unlikely turnaround. Ultimately the 21st century is killing off all single sex associations, and society will NOT be the better for it. Quite the opposite.

    2. By the way - you say the BSA is “much praised of late.” That may be from a press and social justice point of view. But it’s NOT true when it comes to attracting more new scouts on a widespread basis. So ultimately whom does satisfying outside opinion help in the end? Who cares if single millennials without any children nod and say “Well done”? They don’t bring any new scouts in. But ‘traditional’ parents who actually have scout-aged children may be shunning the organization just as the Mormons have BECAUSE of the changes. Time will tell, but I suspect you may not like the answer.

    3. There is a lot of sense to your view of the Scouts and the quote didn't necessarily represent my views. Hiring bankruptcy attorneys to try to protect the Scout camps like Philmont from creditors and who have been busy filing bankruptcy motions for Catholic dioceses is not exactly what Lord Baden Powell had in mind when he founded the movement. The theological aspect, also being debated, and whether anyone in the Scouts can explain what deity is acceptable, is another matter. And Masonry, given two centuries of debate over whether Hindus are polytheistic and whether Buddhism has a god.) I dont see why Masons and Scouts cant include single sex and coed groups in the same organization. The Grand Orient in France does. And the Grand Orient has lodges with Bibles on the altar as well as humanistic lodges. Of course the English grand lodge has convinced everyone that its affiliate is the only regular Masonic body in France, despite having lost much of its membership and had a lady advocate appointed by the courts to run its affairs for a time.

    4. Paul, CAN the Masons and Scouts include single sex and co-ed groups different from their intended original purpose? Of course. As you say, the GOdF did it, and they are the largest Masonic jurisdiction in France. But also compare the combined size and popularity of the next two largest grand lodges which remain male only. As do many of the other 14 or so smaller GLs in that country. (Plus toss in the very unique and different social and philosophical forces that make up modern post-Revolutionary France, versus the U.S. There are far too many differences to make some sort of direct comparison with America, along with France's very different Masonic development.)

      The Grand Orient has morphed into its own brand of Masonry, but despite the similar physical appearences and vocabulary, rendering it into a 'humanist' organization stripped it of one of its major and most basic moral components. You can see the result from their political and social position papers, official statements on government policies, institutionally taking sides in political disputes, wanting a "seat at the table' as an NGO in Brussels (!), and much more. That may be many things, but it isn't Freemasonry any more. When lodge ceases to be a sanctuary from the outside world and its contentions, it has lost its very raison d'être.

      Note that in the current English situation with their two female GLs, the women Masons are NOT advocating intervisitation or mixing lodges into coed ones. They are just fine with the two (dare I say it) 'separate but equal' organizations. You are the most avid fraternalist I know of. Male- and female-only voluntary organizations are vital for societies and provide important refuges from emotional conflicts and stresses, and you know this yourself.

      You see this playing out at your own Harvard University now, as the women sororities are the groups most actively battling the college's idiotic banning of same-sex groups on campus (and effectively off, as well). Trying to force social engineering on interpersonal relationships is a minefield that blows up on the engineers more often than not. You can't demand humans to socialize with people they do not wish to be with - no matter how much you may want that to change. And that's as true with adults as with children (who are actually quite ruthless and primal in their likes and dislikes, no matter what a parent, teacher or other scold tells them).

  4. It was and perhaps is for the various grand lodges in Paris to have a common password, changed with some frequency, and obtaining it I was able to visit around, So visitation seems more generous than in America. The library of the Grand Orient is exceptional, remarkable, and open to all, and the Museum of Freemasonry it supports has extraordinary rotating exhibits. Might one add that the restaurant on top of the rue Cadet headquarters has a great view of Paris and great food. The World Conference on Fraternalism in Paris next June has outstanding papers by Orient scholars, of course alongside those from many other jurisdictions and non Masons too in abundance. See https://www.ipsonet.org/conferences/ritualconference-main

    The open access journal on ritual and secrecy published by Westphalia Press includes numerous Orient scholars -- see https://www.ipsonet.org/publications/open-access/ritual-secrecy-and-civil-society The charities are substantial and done quietly. The lodges throughout France are overwhelming friendly. They each decide on ritual such as in some cases Emulation, invoking the Grand Architect or not, and other particulars. The sidelines are full. That all should be taken into account.

    Then we come to Harvard.

    As for the Harvard situation, rightly long long ago my club admitted women and elected minorities to top office, and I am glad to report that conviviality, alumni support and well mannered socials have been the rule. and enhanced. The presence of women has not changed our spirit and good humor. Harvard's recently retired lady president was brilliant. Being open to the best regardless of gender or race or creed is part of being a good person, and we would expect nothing less of Harvard. Or, in my opinion, of the Craft.


Comments will not appear immediately, so be patient. I am forced to laboriously screen every post because I am constantly bombarded with spam. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers as far as I am concerned. If you post with an unknown or anonymous account, do not expect to see your comment appear.