Saturday, February 21, 2015

On the Evolution of Freemasonry & its Advancement.

Today we will discuss a slightly complex topic and one which may even create some controversy ... which is never a bad thing.

Can and should a Mason work as in years gone by? Is the Masonic secret still the same? Does Masonic secrecy have any meaning in the information age of computers, in a society demonstrating constant evolution?

A recurring theme is repeated in Masonic forums  "... this can not be made public... this should be addressed in lodge ... this is not for the profane world ... ".

These opinions are understandable, but I do not know to what extent they may be current or credible given the reality of society today. Hiding Freemasonry from technology is guaranteeing it a certain, slow and agonizing death.

It is not being less Masonic to speak of Masonry in public than to maintain one's Freemasonry as if  were something to hide.

No, we Masons do not have anything to hide nor do we have to hide from anyone, and isn't one of our duties o bring light out of our Temples?

I'm tired of  Masonic fundamentalism born of miscomprehension, the symbolism that some believe is for the Masonic world  only... not understanding that it is both totally secular and religious.

Let's be fair and perfect ... we'll be open minded and to carry out our work for and toward humanity.

THERE IS NO MASONIC SECRET, THERE IS ONLY MASONIC LIVING, which is that which gives meaning to what tradition meant by the "Masonic secret". Let us adapt our Temples and members to the society in which they work, so they can be useful to their peers and themselves.
If you search the Internet ... you'll find everything you want to know and more about Freemasonry ... even I dare say, you will find too much ... and too many mistakes!

What a curious way to keep the Masonic secret.!

R.·. L.·. Francesc Ferrer i Guardia nº 1821

Gràcies a Jordi. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rough Ashlar No. 18: Neither Inventions nor Tricks

Our rite needs no mystification to be great; neither inventions nor tricks to be special. It needs no protestation of belief to attest to its purest essence.

Our rite needs only men possessed of ideals; men committed to much more than the mere mechanical repetition of ritual formulas. Our rite needs bolder spirits; the most genuinely Masonic among Masons. 

Muito obrigado por José Antonio Filardo M ஃ I ஃ

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Freemasonry and the Lost Purpose

Freemasons continue to debate among themselves what can be done to turn the tide of shrinking membership, as if numbers were ever important. In fact, it's probably the case that numbers are what has brought Freemasonry to the edge of annihilation; not shrinking numbers, but the mindless expansion of membership in the first place.

Many human endeavors have succumbed due to their own success. In the 18th century Freemasonry was very successful. It had an aura of secretiveness which admittedly disturbed the temporal powers of the time. However, it drew thinkers and the educated, and these often were successful members of society. What drew these people, because even then, not all were men, were two subjects of great interest in the Enlightenment. These two subjects were esoteric thought or metaphysics which had not yet been demonized by those who held materialist views within the evolving scientific community, and new ideas about humanity and the rights of individuals. This latter may also be described by that most taboo of topics for Freemasons - politics.
After the French Revolution and the Revolution of the former British colonies in North America, the next great wave of revolutionary activity took place in Latin America. The first of these, and perhaps the most significant in terms of the breadth of its claim for universal suffrage, was that of Haiti. Simon Bolívar then led a successful revolution against Spain resulting in freedom for much of Latin America. All of these revolutions shared something significant in common; Freemasons were instrumental in if not developing, then discussing and disseminating the ideas which led to these revolutions, and many Freemasons took part in them. While some academics are swift to point out that there were Freemasons among those opposed to these revolutions, I think that observation is a bit disingenuous, however true it may be.

All this left Freemasons and non-Freemasons alike with a problem with the arrival of the 19th century. Taking the USA as an example,  the leaders of the revolution made a great propaganda point about English taxation as a cause of revolution, however, as soon as 1791, the revolutionaries now turned leaders of government, used military force to suppress what came to be known as the "Whiskey Rebellion" in Western Pennsylvania. No small number of those who had led this "rebellion," a protest against what was widely perceived to be an unfair tax, were veterans of the colonial army under Washington.  It didn't take long for the significance of Freemasonry to become apparent to all. On the one hand, this led to a greater interest in membership, but on the other, it also led to distrust of Freemasonry. The first "third party" to develop in the new nation was the Anti-Masonic party in 1828. Such forces, and the decidedly un-masonic activities that became known as the Morgan Affair in 1826 which ultimately led to the founding of the Anti-Masonic party, led to a decline in Masonic popularity for decades. It might well be argued that the Morgan Affair itself indicated that something had gone seriously wrong in Freemasonry in the early years of the 19th century. 
Indeed it had. George Bernard Shaw remarked that "Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." Freemasonry was on its way to becoming a democratic institution.  After recuperating from the disaster of the Morgan Affair, Freemasonry in North America eventually decided to mass market itself, and it succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. Not a bad trick for an institution that did not advertise. Of course, it did - by having a very public presence, and it worked. The problem was, that when you begin to accept the unwashed masses as it were into your midst, you need to tailor your message to be palatable to your new audience. The net result of the UGLE's successful attempts at rewriting Masonic history and North America's embrace of the working man and Victorian values, was that interests in radical enlightenment ideas, of pretty much any sort disappeared. What you are left with is a private men's club. Even charity was repackaged. No longer did the Mason emphasize personal acts of charity, but donations to charitable organizations, making what was once an act of character into a characterization of good feelings toward others. I'm not arguing that the Shriner's Hospital isn't a good thing, simply noting how the institution lost sight of its original ethos.

And that is what has led the large mainstream Masonic institutions, whether in North America, or in England to an intractable pass. This is also true in Continental Europe, but to a lesser degree.  See, while there may be nothing wrong with men's clubs, or more generally civic societies (if you let the ladies in you have to call them something else), in our modern society they are simply anachronisms. You can deny this till the cows come home, and apparently one of the modern tenets of Freemasonry is denial, but it won't hold up when you look at the mean age of members in all the Grand Lodges in the country.

Obviously, I think Freemasonry has a future, and I wouldn't mind if Mainstream Masonry were to be a part of that future. I'm not sure that is overly realistic however. The reason has nothing to do with whether Mainstream Freemasonry adapts its message, changes its tactics, or even embraces  - gasp - political engagement, women, or esotericism, although I think in the future, there will be a lot more of all three in Freemasonry in the US. I say that the reason has nothing to do with any of those things, or whether Mainstream Freemasonry embraces change, or rejects it.

Mainstream Freemasonry in the United States has a wonderful treasure, but that treasure is also the albatross around its neck. It possesses an embarrassment of riches in its architectural gems. In the heyday of what I think was mindless expansion, fueled by large membership rolls and even larger bank rolls, Freemasons in the United States erected mighty temples for their Lodges and Grand Lodges. Many of these represent an invaluable architectural legacy not only for Freemasonry but for the nation itself. Unfortunately, these buildings are now no longer the anchors of a growing and proud institution, but are tied to the ankles of those Masonic obediences who own them. The waters are rising, and the anchors are dragging the old lads swiftly down. There is also no easy way to free themselves from them. Some may be repurposed, but the larger ones, and some of these are pretty damned large, as I think anyone reading this blog will be aware, are not likely to be successfully repurposed or sold, because they are behemoths that nobody can afford in these days. 

I have said it before, and I will say it again, the future is in, no - not plastics, but in small. The Bauhaus got it right, less is more. 

However, I think that to gain new blood, Freemasonry needs to have more than a guarantee of freedom from unbearable debt to offer. It has to become relevant again. And in my opinion, what Freemasonry can do to do that is to revive exactly what it had in the 18th century.