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, January 17, 2008

Membership “Decline”

There are those that claim that Regular Freemasonry’s membership is in a freefall decline. Those of us that are regular masons have denied that, and noted that the decline is due, primarily, to the passing of our older brothers as the Great Architect of the Universe calls them to that lodge which never closes.

The Grand Lodge of California has seen the decline slow, and begin, in fact, to reverse itself as we continue the upward trend in degree conferrals which started over seven years ago. For example, in the fiscal year:

2006 our lodges conferred 4,260 degrees, 1,840 Entered Apprentices, 1,223 Fellowcrafts, and 1,197 Masters.

2007 our lodges conferred 4,405 degrees, 1,951 Entered Apprentices, 1,236 Fellowcrafts, and 1,218 Masters.

As a matter of note, 2007 had more entered apprentices initiated than any other year since 1988, and more total degrees since 1991. In 2007 alone, we received 1,968 petitions for membership.

The membership is growing again, with more and more petitions and more and more masters being raised. Its great to see, and puts the lie to the predictions (actually hopes) of those opposed to regular Masonry and their claims of doom and gloom for Freemasonry.

Why is the fraternity growing?

Well, the honest answer to that has little to do with the Fraternity’s efforts per se. The change is due to a perfect storm of public awareness, offering the candidates what they are seeking, giving them value for their time, a younger membership, and filling the vacancy in their hearts that our modern society is creating.

Public Awareness

Due to movies like National Treasure, magazine articles like Inside the Masons in News and World Report, episodes of The Discovery Channel Conspiracies and Myths and The Secret of Freemasonry, books like Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons, Brad Meltzer’s Book of Fate and numerous articles and press articles, Freemasonry has attracted a lot of attention. Men are looking for meaning in their lives, and they are seeing Freemasonry for the first time, and in it, are seeing the answer to their need.

Society is increasingly void and vacuous of morality, of a sense of right and wrong. Freemasonry is offering what it always has… a Peculiar system of morality, taught by allegory and illustrated by symbols. Freemasonry offers something greater, something timeless and valuable, and as a result, men are flocking to the craft.

Offering them what they seek

One item that can be missed in the numbers offered above is the number of Entered Apprentices that are coming back for their Fellowcraft degree, and the number of Fellowcrafts that are being raised as master masons. This has always been an issue, as we have always seemed to initiate 8 for every 5 that come back for their Fellowcraft degree. The Grand Lodge has looked for the reason for this, and I suspect the reason is disappointment.

We will always have men disappointed in what they find, due to inaccurate expectations. I know a man in Oregon that joined the fraternity, expecting to see child sacrifice, black magic and a secret cabal bent on taking over the world. Needless to say, he did not find it, and never came back for his Fellowcraft.

Time is valuable

There are some, I am sure, who were not impressed with the level of knowledge they found in their lodge, nor in the quality of their degrees. It would be foolish to assume otherwise. There are a hundred reasons a man does not come back for his Fellowcraft, or Master Mason degree, but they all pretty much boil down to a lack of value for their time.

In Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, one of the issues he raises is that men are busy, they have endless distractions available to them in the time they have left over from work and commuting. The time a man spends with anything is an investment, and most want a return for their investment, and if they don’t see one, seek something else.

Freemasonry promises a timeless ritual, fellowship, morality, philosophy and knowledge. We all know that they find most of this, though sometimes not enough. The Grand Lodge of California has created a Masonic Formation process, one that teaches the lodges how to give the candidates what they are seeking, to form them into masons.

The lodge membership is getting younger

Another change that we are seeing in the lodges is a declining average age. Historically, since the formation of the Grand Lodge of California, the average age of joining has been 45… for over 150 years. Today, the average age of new masons is approaching the mid 30’s. This is due, in part, to lowering the minimum age for joining from 21 to 18, and the other reasons noted above.

Today, they are finding the craft to be younger, more vibrant, more responsive. Its no longer an old man’s coffee club, not that it ever was… however, there was a time not so long ago that a young man, knocking at our doors, found himself in the company of his grandfather and great grandfather, and its always difficult for a young man to see someone fifty years his senior as a brother and fellow.

Today, many lodges are visibly becoming younger, and with a younger lodge comes greater vibrancy and activity, and like a reverse “Catch-22”, the lodge cycles up into greater and greater life and excitement as more and more young men join. This is also in part what is happening in California.

Finding what is missing from society

Another reason for the change is that young men are finding society to be… uncaring, cold, and solitary. Some see a lack of moral value, and a lack of perceived value in the individual. We have a president who recently received oral sex in the Oval Office and claimed it wasn’t sex. We have politicians of every stripe saying and doing whatever they think they need to do to get them elected. We see our leaders being arrested, indicted, and resigning their offices and high stations in disgrace.

These young men want guidance, they want a firm line, they want tradition, history and fraternity, things that society is not offering them. They see these movies, read the books and articles, and come to the doors of our ancient and honorable craft seeking that which society is not offering them.

It would be nice if the Grand Lodge could take credit for all the positive changes. Truthfully, the Grand Lodge has been responsive to the needs of the members all along and has a concerned and dedicated staff that has served the craft well. Our Grand Masters have been good masons who have carefully tended to the current and future needs of the craft, and our Grand Secretary, V.W. John Cooper has been a visionary who has worked tirelessly for the benefit of the craft.

Freemasonry is on the correct path in California.

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


Anonymous said...

It is true that in many areas membership is down and lodges are combining. The answer is not that many of the older brethren are going to the celestrial lodge above. It's that the lodges are becoming to routine. When you go to a monthly lodge meeting it is the same thing over and over. We have got to change the way we think. It's the idea of that's the way we use to do it. If it was good enough me, then it's good enough for them. I have been in masonry many years, going through the chairs and also in an inspector position, not to mention the S/R chairs and now the the assistant personal rep.
Our lodge has been conducting many degrees this past year and we are fortunate to be getting many members between the age of 21-35. Many are from the university near by and have made Santa Barbara their home. Instead of throwing new members into the line, we let them get some experience first. We keep the occupied by giving them other things to. We do this in Scottish Rite as well. A brother needs to feel needed and wanted.
How many times have you seen a new candidate or Brother come in to a lodge dinner. I ask how many brethren get up and introduce themselves or even welcome the Brother. We ask why they don't come back, get all their degrees and even come back after their degrees.
Being a candidates coach as well. I ask the candidates what we can do for them. The ones that are married what more things do with the family. The single ones like to socialize. So after the meetings they get together and play pool, go out once a week to a local tavern where many college students hang out. They talk about masonry with other students. This gets the word out about masonry and what it is that we do. When we do our interviews we find out that many of the candidates heard about Masonry from our younger members. The recent movies also called attention to Masonry and spiked their curosity. This caused them to seek more information.
We say if you want to be one ask one. Lets ask what we can do to keep you involved in masonry. You will really be surprised at their answers.
In today's society and economy it's difficult for families to survive without both parentss working. Their children are involved in numerous activites as well. They have little time for themselves as a unit. The family must be involved in the masonic family.
How many of the wives of officers
have been discouraged, to help the husbands through the chairs. This is because of the time committments we but on them.
The old saying of build it, they will come, well they're starting to come. It's up to us to keep them coming. Keep them interested and involved.

Greg Stewart said...

of the numbers cited:

2006 our lodges conferred 4,260 degrees, 1,840 Entered Apprentices, 1,223 Fellowcrafts, and 1,197 Masters.

2007 our lodges conferred 4,405 degrees, 1,951 Entered Apprentices, 1,236 Fellowcrafts, and 1,218 Masters.

As a matter of note, 2007 had more entered apprentices initiated than any other year since 1988, and more total degrees since 1991. In 2007 alone, we received 1,968 petitions for membership.

there seems to be something missing. what has been the rate of deaths or demit, so as to compare the two and get a true idea of what the true positive growth is, vs. just number of apps received and degrees confered.

If we made 1100 M.M. in 2006, when the median % of population decrease in California is 11% (+/-), what was our net gain over our loss?

Unknown said...

Great..lets just keep the women out. If I wanted to joint the Elks I would have done so.

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