Reform Freemasonry

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Reform Freemasonry! paper published

Reform Freemasonry! paper is available at

I spent over two years working on this paper, which explains the two-year gap between this posting and my last blog entry.

Comments are welcome here or via the Yahoo! discussion forum link.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

If We Have No Secrets - Then What's The Big Mystery?

Anti-masonic groups accuse Freemasonry of being a clandestine society hiding dark and sinister secrets. Many Grand Lodges respond to this accusation with the inane refrain that "we are not a secret society, but rather a society with secrets." One could even question whether we are even that since accurate exposures of our "secret" ritual were published centuries ago and can be found today in any book store and on the web at a number of anti-masonic web sites.

So why should anyone bother to join Freemasonry if they can just browse to a web page and find out all our secrets? Because Freemasonry it is not about learning secrets, it is about the formation of a fraternal bond. This bond forms only through a candidate's direct participation in the three degrees of Freemasonry. Our ancient degrees are meant to be actively experienced and not read nor passively observed. The mystery comes about in how participation in our degrees creates the fraternal bond. So while we may in fact have no secrets to hide, there is still a mystery in Freemasonry that one can only discover by being initiated into the mysteries of our ancient and honorable Craft.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Laudable Paper!

Published by a shadowy group called The Knights of the North, follow this link to a most excellent paper titled Laudable Pursuit: A 21st Century Response to Dwight Smith. This paper is a must read for every Mason interested in Masonic reform and renewal.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Vain Man In his Little Brief Authority

It is common among some to excuse our failed leaders by stating that our system is a “benevolent dictatorship” and we have to accept the good along with the bad. If we don’t like this year’s Grand Master – no worries – we can elect a different one next year. This thinking is not only flawed, but stupid. No organization of intelligent and principled men should accept the rule of powerful tyrants – for even a year - who believe they have the right to censor the free expression of their members. Moreover, intelligent and principled men should no longer accept the incompetent leadership of the “middling henchmen” who more commonly typify the vain men who our fraternity too often vest with a “little brief authority.”

Some excuse our system by saying that we choose our “dictator” annually in “free” elections. For example, in Ohio, we in theory freely elect our top grand officers. I say “in theory” because our elections process is a foregone conclusion. Yes, the members cast their ballots, but like lemmings, they “know” how they are expected to vote and do so in perfect unanimity. Every year the “grand bottom” (now there is an apt moniker!) of the grand officer line is appointed by the incoming grand master – in his sole and absolute discretion – and this man is systematically elevated to the grand East without question. And while our Code permits any Past Master to be elected Grand Master, this is a practical impossibility as nominations are not permitted and electioneering is deemed unMasonic conduct.

In the end, we are left with the window dressing of a free and democratic process and the reality of a hand-picked self-perpetuating line of men who are uninspiring leaders, inept managers and all too often autocratic dictators. It should be of little surprise to anyone that such a system does not produce bold and forward thinking leaders who feel compelled to communicate with “outsiders” to the ruling elite in any meaningful way. One cannot blame a membership that eventually grows cynical and ultimately uninterested in the welfare of the grand lodge. Such a system is sure to result in a destructive “us” against “them” mentality aligned along parochial interests rather than for the greater good of the whole.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Masonic Education in the Internet Age

Young men today use the Internet to learn. In fact, the Internet is usually the first and oft times only tool that young men employ when they want to learn about a topic.

In order to reach today's generation Grand Lodges need to aggressively use the Internet in their candidate education programs. Yes, many wizened old Past Masters may fear computers and resent the move to electronic education materials, but they are not the targeted end user; young men are. Young men insist on using their computers to communicate and learn, and will not tolerate backwards organizations that are stuck on yesterday. Grand Lodge education programs need to realize this obvious truth and proactively engage young men via their preferred mode of communication.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Fish Rots From The Head Down

At the end of the day, it all comes back to leadership. Our fraternity is dying because our leaders have failed us, and they continue to fail us utterly!

Grand Lodges mandate this and that and send out minions of deputies to inspect and punish any nonconformity with official dictates. Woe to any lodge that dares to try something new!

Grand Officers are appointed behind closed doors and affirmed in sham elections. They are more concerned with their fancy titles, aprons, and jewels then with solving the problems facing our fraternity. They lead through fear and intimidation, stifling any member who should dare to question their authority.

What we need to turn the tide is a new democratic organizational structure, one built on openness and inclusiveness. Young men today will not tolerate autocratic leaders, nor should they. Young men today will not tolerate stale anachronistic practices, nor should they. Young men today will not tolerate an organization that cannot figure out how to use the Internet, nor should they. Young men today will simply not join lodges where the average member is 30 to 40 years older then they are, nor should they.

There are hundreds of alternative organizations in the market place today competing for the attention of young men. We must either awaken to the need to reinvent ourselves to attract today's young men or continue to suffer catastrophic losses in membership. We have been losing members for 50 years. It is time to recognize the cause for this trend. Our leaders would have us believe that these membership losses are not their fault, that societal changes are to blame. They are wrong. It is their fault. The world has changed and they have done nothing other than perpetuate their own selfish interests.

An ancient Chinese proverb states that a fish rots from the head down. The lesson is clear. If an organization fails, one need only look to those at the top to find the root cause for that failure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lost Prestige

In contrast to English conviviality, American Masonry is all about formal protocol, lengthy introductions, rote memorization of the exact wording of a prescribed ritual (never mind the historical origin of the ceremonies and what those exact words truly mean), and the boring regurgitation of secretary's minutes and committee reports, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

American Grand Lodges have turned our once great Craft that counted such diverse men as George Washington (and 14 other US Presidents), Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, John Glenn and Will Rogers among its members into a sad caricature of a men's fraternity. Busy young men will simply not leave their families to waste their precious time in dull and dreary meetings. If we cannot offer a high return for their precious time, they will simply not participate.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lost Conviviality

The English Freemasonry of the 18th Century was fundamentally a convivial society. Men of quality met in the local tavern to feast and toast in fellowship. Good food, ale, wine and port were essential accompaniments to the Masonic meeting. There were seven formal toasts, often followed by traditional Masonic songs. In short, lodge meetings were joyful, celebratory occasions!

Today, most lodge meals are dull, tasteless, and dry affairs. Mediocre buffets and spaghetti dinners with soda pop and coffee. No toasts; no songs; no joy.

A century ago, religious American Masons supporting the temperance movement strongly advocated prohibition for both Freemasonry and the country as a whole (and in one act violated both of our most basic taboos by bringing sectarian religion and divisive politics into the lodge room). While the country repealed prohibition in 1933, the Grand Lodge of Ohio still prohibits alcohol in Masonic buildings. We may be good men and true, but our Grand Lodge does not believe us responsible enough to raise a glass a wine in a toast to the Craft! And so our lodges became bastions of coffee drinking, cigarette smoking old men eating bad food. And still our "grand" leaders wonder why we cannot attract young men to our lodges today.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

It is all about Tradition!

Tradition is that which is handed down, especially orally, from generation to generation. It is an immemorial custom, having almost the force of a law, encompassing the body of the experiences and usages of an organization as handed down by its predecessors.

In contrast, an anachronism is anything done or existing out of date; hence, anything which was proper to a former age, but is out of harmony with the present.

Historically, Freemasons abhor innovation - or the introduction of novelties - to their traditions. Sadly, the Grand Lodge of Ohio, along with too many other American grand lodges, has trashed our traditions with innovations like the one-day class, while at the same time resisting much needed modernization in the practice of our traditions. By clinging to irrelevant protocols and practices (like lengthy introductions and recitation of minutes) while at the same time abandoning our most basic traditions, our leaders have single-handedly rendered our Craft an anachronism to today's young man.

Freemasonry is as relevant today as it was at its emergence nearly 300 years ago. But American Freemasonry is very different from the Freemasonry of England in 1717. American Grand Lodges suffocate local lodges with reams of stifling rules and swarms of inspecting deputies to such an extent that Freemasonry's original hallmark - the convivial joy of fellowship - is now lacking in most American lodges. We must cast off the anachronisms of today's grand lodge rules and their self-perpetuating failed leaders and get back to the basic tradition of Freemasonry.

Friday, June 17, 2005

One Day Grand Master's Classes

Our leaders have responded to the membership decline with the innovation of one-day Grand Master's Classes. But are one-day classes a viable long-term solution to our membership problem? Have they even reversed the decline? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO!

In our preoccupation with numbers, we have forgotten the importance of telling our story. Numbers driven Grand Masters seem oblivious to who we are and why we exist. One-day classes are anathema to Masonic tradition, and the single most damaging American innovation to the Craft since the decision at the Baltimore Convention of 1843 to exclude Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts from membership. We cannot tell our compelling story, create a passionate belief, and instill a mentality of belonging that a candidate will identify with on a deeply personal level in a mass one day event.

Decades of Decline

Membership in Freemasonry has been in a steep decline for decades.

In 1959, the Grand Lodge of Ohio had 282,793 members. At the close of 2004, membership stood at 124,364. In 45 years, the leadership of the Grand Lodge of Ohio presided over a loss of more than half of its membership! Each year the Grand Lodge of Ohio typically suffers the additional net loss of 5,000 members. As the membership ages, this alarming trend will only accelerate. In less than a generation, the Grand Lodge of Ohio will be a mere shadow of its former greatness.

What is the cause for this decline?

Fact: the average age of a Freemason in Ohio in 2004 was 64.02.

At one time, the fraternity's great strength was the breadth in the age and experience of its members. Men from all stages and walks of life met together in harmony. But for the last several decades, the fraternity has failed to attract the next generation of young men, leaving many, if not most lodges with a membership disproportionately skewed toward retired old men. Given this fact, is it really so hard to understand why young men in their 20s and 30s do not see the value in joining the typical Ohio lodge full of old men in their 70s and 80s? The bridge generation of men in their 40s and 50s has collapsed, leaving an ever widening chasm between our existing members and the young men that the fraternity must attract in order to grow and prosper.

And so it begins . . .

This is the beginning of a web log dedicated to the reform and restoration of Freemasonry in the United States.