Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reclaiming Freemasonry in the Post Modern Epoch

Modern Tracing Board by Joseph Thompson
Among the many things that occupy my thoughts and in seeking out the tasks in front of us all,  it occurs to me, and from what I can see, a few others as well, that in bringing a revitalization and renewed energy to Freemasonry, we have to really take stock of what it is that drives Freemasonry.

It should be evident to any Mason who has given serious thoughts to the state of Freemasonry, that the tried and true answers that have frequently been spoken of are insufficient to bring new life into Freemasonry. Freemasonry, to be again vibrant and successful as an institution, must have renewed purpose.

It is not going to capture that energy it needs to become strong again by speaking of "making good men better" or even speaking in a more substantive way of the Mason's search for self understanding and improvement. There are too many ways for people to do that. While those things will remain in the heart of Freemasonry, and of course also in its living practice, we need more. Freemasonry needs a new spirit, a new focus to see itself renewed.

In the early days of Speculative Freemasonry before it made a pact to become involved with nation building, as it did during the growth of the British Empire or its conflicted and conflicting role during the French Revolution, it was actively involved in the intellectual and the social politics of its day. By social politics, I am referring to its involvement with the new societal ideals which flooded societies of the enlightenment.

Today, we find ourselves in a new world - postmodern, post-industrial and although not all have realized or admitted it yet, a post-capitalist one. If there are any space in which Freemasonry can make itself relevant today, it most surely will be by offering light on the societal challenges we face. Those are, among others, the ecological crisis we face as a planet, and the social and humanitarian crises that our now global society will have to deal with urgently and effectively if we are to survive as a species.

These ideas may seem to those who were initiated and raised in what is thought of today as "old school" Freemasonry as startling, or at least unconsidered, but are they that foreign to the spirit which inspired the foundation of Speculative Freemasonry in its early days? I think not. It seems that as Freemasons, we have bigger fish to fry than worrying about falling numbers and how to make lodge more interesting for young people. Freemasons always led by example, and I think it is time that we do so again.

Doubtlessly, not all will be thrilled with such notions, and I've no doubt they're ready to dismiss them. So be it. But if a handful of Freemasons and a few Masonic obediences or Grand Lodges have enough vision to take the first steps in such a direction - engaging these issues and becoming not only spokespersons for change in the larger society, as well as within their lodges, they can lead the way. None of this means turning our backs upon tradition, ritual, or those things with which we are accustomed and which we as Masons love. It means recapturing the true spirit which led our forefathers to found the craft in the first place. It means requiring of ourselves that we take what we preach, what we study, and what we claim to be our highest intentions, and bringing them out of theory and introspection, out of discussion, and lectures, and architecture, and into the world of action, grappling as Freemasons with the real problems in the world in which we live. To do less is unmasonic.

It only takes a few visionaries. Does the craft still have any of those?

1 comment:

Kirk Sabean said...

To the Hedge Mason,

Love the blog.You are preaching to the choir here.

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment of a much needed, renewed purpose in Masonry. The ecological and capitalistic breakdown that surrounds us everywhere indeed would seem to deserve a unique response worthy of the core teachings of Masonry.

What are these teachings? Although I believe THAT to be too big a question for my single comment, (too complex to be fair)it seems the cliches (Making men better, a peculiar system of..etc.) are indeed descriptive, but they have also become rather worn-out mantras ,void of meaning to many brethren, much like a child being forced to sing the national anthem hundreds of times, long before coming to intrinsically appreciate the song's inherent value and magnitude.

One of the great and constant undercurrents of masonic teachings, to me, seems to be be it's harvesting a sense of the non-material. This should mean, it would follow, stepping away from today's rampant consumer materialism, materialstic pursuits of status and judgement of others "rank"..and even a genetic materialism of the industrial age/nuclear family model.

Repeatedly in lodge we are reminded of the symbolic temple above "our sublunary abode". But how often are we dissuaded from pursuing these well-worn paths in our own lives through our masonic teachings. As an example,most men usually go on with the regular aims of having their "own" children while never considering the millions of infants with no mother or father.Adoption is an interesting field,albeit where talk is cheap.

This,for one, is an area where I believe masons should be models and leaders, and not just in a charitable sense of throwing dollars at the problem, but leading by adopting themselves. This is an increasingly overpopulated world driven by completely outdated industrial models of thought. Too often I have heard of the values of raising a well educated child who could become a doctor or teacher raking it in "making it" in today's world. How about taking a chance on one of the infants abandoned on the doorstep of an agency or a trash can?

It is just one example of many, and indeed this choice will certainly involve your own material "loss" of money, passage of genes, time and energy, but contains something much more embedded in the heart of masonry. Time to recover our souls.

Fraternally,

K.Sabean
Foochow 1912
DGLHKFE