The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
Our lead article concerns yet another early Mason who was on the make. I guess we can forgive them in an age with no pensions, no health service, no insurances etc. They had to rely on their own wits and talents to survive and many found that connections in Freemasonry were very useful. The Cagliostro’s of this world were rogues but others such as Mozart and Haydn relied on Masonic connections just as much. They were clearly keen to be accepted into such an elite society. Should Freemasonry be elite and expensive? Well that’s another argument which has been covered in other issues. We include articles about Freemasonry in Spain and in Jamaica and the Caymans. Often in other parts of the world membership of Freemasonry is still aspirational and in areas where it was formerly condemned the Craft is very careful who they now let in. Some of the letters to the editor repeat criticisms which suggest we have become somewhat lax in our selection procedures. Should all applications be vetted at Provincial level and then applicants allocated to a lodge which will be more suitable for them? Fewer lodges with more harmonious members? An article on autism suggests that a major medical condition went completely unnoticed with one candidate who eventually left after many difficulties. Again, should the membership panel be made aware of medical and cultural issues before accepting candidates? Should we be more rigorous in our discussions with applicants? Certainly, this occurs in many jurisdictions where they take their Masonry very seriously indeed. An article on Austrian Masonry exemplifies this with members meeting every week and where education, presentations and discussions are an integral part of the evening. Should we consider this approach? I can hear the Brits running for cover! Another article regarding the Royal Arch suggests that few Companions have any idea what the ritual might mean – and, sadly, do not care. A letter to the editor suggests that the Moderns were right and the Royal Arch is just an excuse for Grand Lodge to get more income; that, despite having announced that it is indeed a separate degree and not the completion of anything the Provinces nevertheless demand membership of the Royal Arch if the member wishes to be considered for promotion or recognition. Never let it be said that the Square does not present contentious issues! There is an article on the Vancouver Lodge of Research which like many research lodges seems to have had its ups and downs. Masonic research seems to be the dwindling interest of but a small minority and a report on a Masonic conference in Paris seems to exemplify this. One cynic described it as the same people presenting to the same people about the same things. Many of these are professional historians and not Freemasons at all. They seem to study Freemasonry much as palaeontologists study the dinosaurs – those great and powerful creatures that once ruled the earth but then died out. They seem completely uninterested in the fact that we are very much alive (indeed thriving in some places) and that it is the future that we need to be focusing on rather than the past. An article on Michael Baigent (the man who sued Dan Brown) reflects on his library. It would be interesting to ask Masons about their own libraries!
Of course, we are also struggling to adjust to the modern age. Many organisations are facing the same problem but some such as the Scouts and the Women’s Institute seem to have reengineered themselves remarkably well. In the case of the Scouts it involved combining the boys and girls into one organisation and an article from a brother in Bratislava calls for a greater acceptance and unity between all regular Masonic jurisdictions, including women Freemasons. Not one world governing body of course – just open, friendly acceptance of all other Masons. We’ve talked about this before. Maybe it’s the English influence which gets in the way. I am reminded of the joke that when two Irishmen get together they open a pub and invite customers. When two Scotsmen get together they open a bank and welcome depositors. When two Welshmen get together they start a choir and welcome all singers. And when two Englishmen get together they start a club and then write a constitution which keeps everyone else out!
Now drink is often an issue – especially in the USA where temperance still lurks in many places. An article about the Elks reports how they were seriously affected by more stringent drink driving laws. Much as the smoking ban was the downfall of many pubs in England, so the issues with alcohol can cause many problems – some unforeseen. Most Masons drive to lodge. Many are getting older. The penalties for DUI are severe. The end result can be an even greater decline in attendance. But do members actually want to have full dinners with drinks? Many suggest not and again the Austrian model is for good discussion which continues over a sandwich and coffee before departure. Again, the Masonic centres will scream that they survive on the meals and drinks which are purchased. But do we want Masonic centres? We started in hotels and pubs. Could we not return to them, be part of the community again and let someone else think about the overheads? Why do we not have a full and open discussion about all of this? What do members (and potential members) really want? One school of therapy suggests that if you continue doing the things you have always done you will continue getting the results you have always got. If you want different results you have to do something differently. Question is…what?