True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Air in Masonry

Some men have found the air in our lodges to be stale and dusty. Oh, the warmth of a brother is there, and the promise of Freemasonry is there, but some find it of late to be like the kiss of a sister... chaste and not so intriguing.

There is a freshening breeze heading our way, if you turn your head just so you can smell it and feel it. Change is in the air, and for some, it could not come soon enough. For others, the very word strikes fear into their hearts. As a businessman and professional business manager, I have been intimately involved in change management for many years now, and the one constant in all those evolutions is resistance to change based on fear.

So, what has that to do with Freemasonry? In case you haven't noticed, Freemasonry changes. Oh, the basic principles and tenets have remained the same, our function, our initiatory functions are stable... well, for the most part.

Each generation of Masons brings with it their own expectation, customs, needs. Freemasonry, while remaining fundamentally true to its roots, changes to meet those needs. Mostly, this is for the good. Today, as I write this, I am speaking primarily of American Freemasonry, since that is what I have the most experience with so far.

Today, Freemasonry is changing again, and for the better, in my opinion. Fifty years ago, as our fathers and grandfathers were joining the lodges, they sought less the philosophical aspects of freemasonry and more the fellowship, community service and frankly religious aspects. That has produced the Freemasonry we see today. Not that this Freemasonry isn't good and valuable, but it is not the Freemasonry that today's men are looking for, and it is this that I am addressing my comments.

I love Freemasonry, frankly. Warts and all, and we all know there are a few warts, small, insignificant blemishes we would like to see removed. Fine. That is not the point of this blog entry, maybe later I will address those. I want my Freemasonry to survive, to thrive, and to grow, to continue to make a positive impact of men and therefore society.

As I noted in an earlier blog entry, Latin Low Mass and Freemasonry we are seeing the rumblings of great change in Freemasonry. Many of the Grand Lodges around the United States have reinstituted Masonic Education programs, Grand Lodge of Vermont under the guidance of Wr. Errol Hinton, Grand Lodge of California under Very Worshipful John L. Cooper, III, Grand Lodge of Maine to name just three of these programs.

The European Model lodge movement is also growing in numbers across the United States, as some brothers are eschewing the usual US model of LARGE lodges, with hundreds of members (Evergreen Lodge #259, where I first served as Master had a membership of over 900 men ten years ago!) and starting lodges with the goal of never being over 75. One even has the goal of never going over 50 men, at which point they will split into two new lodges.

These European Model lodges, also called Traditional Observance or Esoterica Lodges, are more focused on education, philosophy, discussion and study. Their focus is not the production of new masons, though of course they do initiate, pass and raise men, the process in these lodges is often a two or three year one, rather than a single day or even just a few weeks or months.

Often, candidates are asked to produce works to show their proficiency, papers on some aspect of Masonry relative to their degree with they present to the lodge and often answer questions on from the assembled brethren. They are also asked to serve the lodge, not as a sign of subservience, though all men serve who are brothers, but to learn the value of silence, service and contemplation.

Brothers in these lodges write papers as well, which they present to their brethren in open lodge, they discuss issues facing Freemasonry, how to apply our principles and tenets in modern society, and other issues of interest to the lodge. THIS is a return to the original model of a lodge.

Many or our forefathers in Freemasonry were thinkers, philosophers: Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Goethe, Mozart, for instance. Great minds who sought out the lodges because of the freedoms and philosophies our fraternity encourages. Discussion in lodge should never be restricted to how much we are spending on toilet paper and what kind of coffee we should be buying.

Men who are joining Freemasonry today are, in my opinion and experience, doing so FOR the very things that made freemasonry great in the past. Out tenets, our teachings, our PHILOSOPHY, our way of life! Not stale donuts and cold coffee and rigidly controlled lodge meetings bound by rules so iconoclastic that the very idea of a free and open discussion is frightening.

The warm breath of change is blowing through our lodges, my brothers, and it has the sweet smell of a fresh summer breeze.


esotronika said...

Hi Brother Theron,

I thought I'd drop by and say hi.

This is a very thoughtful piece, and as you may know from our online exchanges, I agree with your view. The type of Freemasonry you describe here is exactly identical with the model I conceived, based on reading about it, before I became initiated.

My hope is that other people who read this and are not Freemasons will consider that there is something more out there, that we can become a part of. If you are already a Freemason and have never heard of a TO Lodge, that you will want to find out more about it, and think about whether this is something that could benefit other worthy Brothers in your area.

I have personally never sat in a TO Lodge, but I am certainly looking forward to it.

Bro. John "hunsmire" Miles
Frontier Lodge #517

Anonymous said...

Bro Theron,

I like this!

In my first year as Master of my Lodge, apart from essential business or degrees, I have given short talks and lessons, sometimes they have been anecdotal or amusing.

I've now lost count of the amount of time the Brethren of the Lodge have asked for copies of the papers. Young Masons and Brethren with decades of membership included.

The message is... it's great to be able to go to a meeting and watch a perfect degree, or watch a Master conduct the business accurately, but when the Master does something different... now that's 'Masonry!'

Anonymous said...

The way those lodge will work is how 99% of our europeans "unrecognised and irregular" lodges are working this mean that we are not that bad.

You may encounter some problems that we often face here, the work or the papers that a brother produce must be of his own to have a value.
Not a copy paste from Internet or a book, because we don't need to go to a lodge to read what we can find in 10 sec with google.
The work doesn't need to exceed 15mn to leave enough time to questions and collective work.

It is quite a common rule not to ask a question directly to the brother but ask or add a comment looking and talking to the WM this guaranty a polite work.

Some lodges also have forbid the use of written material, which means that the brother produce his work from memory, the consequence is shorter work but focused on what is really important or what was really important to the brother.

I hope that this presentation of this foreign and irregular masonry didn't bore you too much.

( btw : I was happy to read that you will be back to your family soon !)

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