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By Ralph Omholt
(Seattle, Washington - USA)


If you don't know where you've been, where you are; nor where you want to go - you're "lost!"

The Lodges and Chapter rooms used to be full; what happened? What was it that filled the Lodge and Chapter rooms in, say, 1900? Why are they nearly empty now? That is a common question of all fraternal organizations – even churches! If "Time is Money, Information is Power and Control is Paramount," what "Power" will it take to refill the Masonic chairs, in particular?

There is a Masonic “mystery!” Or, is it? Just read the history books, as Mulder (X-Files) says, “….. it’s out there!”

HA! You can’t read them; they are locked up in libraries and book cases!

JUST KIDDING – sort of! While the printed versions of the important books are somewhat rare and relatively inaccessible (expensive), the most important of those books are electronically available, now – but, amazingly, few people know that. (Don’t like a computer screen? Click the “PRINT” icon!) Blue Lodge, Eastern Star, Amaranth, etc.; there are plenty of quality Masonic “E-Books” available.
Why don’t you already know about those? The proverbial ‘word’ hasn’t gotten around. The fact of the matter is that they are fairly recent additions to the Grand office inventories – just ask! No, there are not yet than many - “ …on the Web.”

Where did the Craft come from; where is it, today? Some serious homework is mandated.


Take a chance; locate and read those books! They are “…out there.” The needed information is contained in those books, magazines and articles. Don’t know of a title? – ask! Whatever the Masonic body, the histories exist, amidst the ignorance which suspects – or purports - that they don’t exist.

Regardless of a research mission, with rare exception, it’s interesting, if not fascinating reading. Education, history, art, music, poetry – it’s available. To keep matters simple, the plight of the Master Masons' Lodges will be exemplified.


The Craft is said to be a fraternity; what did that once mean? What does it mean today? (Where did we start from? Where are we now?) What dissolved kinsmanship; leaving behind simple ‘membership.’ Unfortunately, it’s necessary to recognize the toxic distance which typically exists between our current members. That needs to be changed. (Course correction required.)


We live in a time when people take great pride in their favorite sports team. They spend terrific money on season tickets, and endure long lines of traffic & people, to enjoy a game. Personal histories of the players are memorized, along with their statistics.

Imagine all that time and money being spent on ‘sports,’ without the lesson being learned that success comes of planning and performance; call it “teamwork!”

Typically, those same sports fans don’t have a significant clue as to the history of their own country – or the people who made it great. OR; how they accomplished what they did.

Within the Craft, how many have any significant Masonic knowledge, beyond “ritual?” Masonic history is fascinating! What’s the deal?

For sport, ask a member of a Concordant Body what ‘history’ books are available for their organization. Check out the blank looks! Far too commonly, they won’t have a clue – why not? With rare exception; the books are “…out there.”

Beyond the classic ‘books,’ a lot of the pertinent “why” history is discovered in the various “Proceedings.” However boring those are typically regarded, they contain valuable information. They describe the various Orders of Freemasonry, in terms of the ‘times.’ What impact did a war have on the Craft? A depression? An election? A Constitutional Amendment? A Supreme Court decision?

Collectively, the accounts of history describe that people used to need each other, on a much more personal basis. Remember that doctors used to make house calls. As cities and towns grew - and modernized - the value of personal relationships fell. With various efforts toward gender equality, women lost their dependence on the Craft for personal recognition and social/economic needs.

Most importantly, many people succeeded because someone went out of their way to help them; Masonry is full of such stories. Nobility and Brotherhood went hand-in-hand. The Craft was a surrogate family; members knew, cared about and supported each other.


The bodies of Freemasonry used to be a mechanism for personal/family survival and fulfillment – in many ways. Before the days of the truly “big cities,” the Craft operated in the fashion of a small town; all were interdependent. The key term is “…-dependent.” Believe it or not, “dependent” isn’t a form of mental or social illness.

The Craft used to be an investment. Membership wasn’t ‘cheap.’ That investment was both an expression of charity, and an environment for ‘reasonable expectation.’ The Masonic family would patronize a known Mason’s grocery store. There would be occasional ‘discounts’ for that patronage. Mutual back-scratching was a Masonic way of life.

The Craft used to be a prominent economic and political sub-culture.

Subtly, “progress” changed all that. As one example, in early America, evenings were spent trying to stay cool on the porch; neighbors talked to each other, across their lawns. Enter air-conditioning and the disappearance of the porch, from American architecture. So much for knowing one’s neighbors!

The “Craft” used to be something of a ‘drinking’ (socializing) institution – enter the effect of DUI laws; enough said.

Add the social selectivity, afforded by the automobile and expanded roads. People gained the luxury of ‘shopping’ for their friends. “Friendship” was no longer a ‘local’ inherent mandate for survival and/or fulfillment. The ease of creating distance meant that friends became routinely ‘divorced,’ by that distance. Many of us ‘shop’ Lodges, with our automobiles.

Over time, “privacy” became an American fetish. People methodically never knew their neighbors; that’s still true. We see it in our Lodges.

Among other things, one will discover that Freemasonry used to be an insurance policy - and an “assurance” policy. Return to the “Old Charges;” the Craft was a reasonably reliable ticket to both survival and success. Remember the widows and orphans? … the Craft used to take care of those, before the days of insurance policies and ‘social services.’ According to the “Old Charges, a “Mason” was first obligated to give a job to a fellow Mason, etc. It took a while, but “Politically Correct” eventually took care of that feature!

Today, people ‘play safe’ by ‘…. not getting involved.”

To punctuate the fraternal aspect of the Craft, it is worth noting that Joseph Cullen Root, 33°, established the “Woodmen of the World.” In essence that was both a fraternity and an insurance company, with the members being the policy-holders.

The Washington Grand Lodge used to officially embrace those “Old Charges” - what happened? In 1908, M.·.W.·. William Upton compiled and annotated the “Old Charges” of 1721. Good luck finding a copy (on disk now); and, who was that ‘Upton’ guy, anyway? He was as great a writer, as he was a Grand Master!

With the advent of the Eastern Star, in particular, women were quite actively included in the Craft; add the Masonic youth groups. Among other matters, individuals were extended an important human motivator – “recognition!” The various groups used to automatically plan to do things together, especially Installations.

Masonic Retirement homes? Talk about fading history! Face facts; the surviving retirement homes are on their way out. (Unless Social Security and Medicare funds dry up, first!) For that matter, what happened to the Masonic orphanages?


Among other matters, Americans in particular, are caught in a little-recognized 'max-production' mode. More is being demanded from fewer. Certainly, that's the corporate definition of "efficiency." However, that leaves the typical American caught in an incredible "time-compressed" environment. In the end, that translates to a state of sensory/emotional overload. Thus, such topics as Freemasonry get pushed to the rear of 'mental' priorities. As with 'discretionary' money and time; mental resources take on the aura of prioritization.

The good news is that computer technology can relieve a significant 'traditional' burden. That is to say that instead of driving to a library, it's now possible to pull up tremendous Masonic resources, as an afterthought of checking one's E-Mail. Within reason, the "PRINT" icon solves the need for hard-copy.

With text-to-voice capability, it's quite possible to generate reasonable 'audio,' relieving eye-strain. Whether education or ritual, prudent management of computer capabilities makes Masonic labor 'easier.' The challenge is found in the 'hassle' of altering one's attitudes and habits - specifically, employing computer technology as an attractive solution, versus viewing computer skills as an added burden.

Movies aside, quality television and the Internet altered American social life, as our grandparents knew it. That’s not particularly a secret or mystery.

Today, too many know the Masonic meetings (all bodies) as a business meeting with half-baked associated ritual, complementing the half-baked refreshments. As more people examine the deteriorated “…all titles, no legacy” nature of so many Masonic meetings, the Lodge and Chapter rooms empty. The reputation of a Lodge or Chapter being boring, mediocre or uninteresting is simply unacceptable.

It’s no secret that “….times have changed.” The Craft is compelled to adapt to those changes. Yes, to “adapt” means that some things must “change!”

An elementary law of biology is that any organism must adapt, migrate or perish; Freemasonry is no different. Thus, it’s imperative to identify the social environmental changes and adapt, accordingly.

Imagine routine Masonic “discussion groups,” taking place in people’s homes; perhaps with an educational or entertaining videotape. Throw in gourmet popcorn, snacks and refreshments. What an opportunity for “fellowship!”


Today, we know the infamous “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Famine, Pestilence, War and Death) as distant strangers – science, medicine and technology have done that much. The physical ‘needs’ of Freemasonry were obsolesced by the very advances in civilization, which the Craft members – ironically - sponsored! Go to the list of famous Masonic names; the advances in civilization closely followed the advance of Freemasonry.

If one takes time to note the style of writers up to approximately 1950, another clue leaps out – religious devotion. What changed? In a word, “longevity!” Between science, industry and medicine, peoples’ faith and ‘hope’ (don’t forget that word – “hope”) transcended from divine blessedness and intervention (or 'luck,' if one prefers), to faith in medicine and science – even the “new society.” Immunizations and antibiotics were up, disease and war were down - add pestilence, relative to pesticides and ease of application (crop dusting).

Regardless of ‘dependency’ or just ‘faith,’ church and social influence lost out to government and industrial influence. “Family” and “social” expectations faded with the distance of a person’s relocation to a new city. Distance served to negate family and social accountability. Think: - “Values.”

Whether one cares to think in terms of divine worthiness, protection, blind faith, superstition, luck or illusion; people used to throw horrendous percentages of themselves (and their families) into their religion, attempting to gain even a slim edge over the “Four Horsemen.”

Similar to the obsolescence of labor unions, laws and social services filled in the remaining ‘dependency’ blanks.

Industrial growth and the ‘welfare’ system displaced ‘social connectivity,’ as a source for survival and fulfillment. Submitting a form, requesting assistance, replaced the building of social and personal economic ties. Interpersonal dependency was radically distanced.


Statistics are often misused as a mandate. Statistics offer ‘data’ to either warn or assure. Statistics are a report – not to be confused with a ‘dynamic.’ For example, declining membership ‘statistics’ attest that an analysis and a new dynamic are needed; stats are not a cure – or a blessing. If membership builds with a PR campaign, the “dynamic” is PR – keep it up! The stats are only a success/failure indicator.


Following W.W. II, “Rosy the Riveter” became very much a part of the workplace. Those women who were motivated to excel in the Masonic roles were now motivated to excel in the workplace. However, the usual ‘maternal’ roles became displaced to evening labors, playing a game of catch-up. Slowly, the ‘discretionary time’ available for social functions, including the Craft, lost out.

With women having an increased role available in the workplace, a rather unique social independence took hold. For starters, family sizes fell, radically. With mechanization, women were no longer baby factories for the labor requirements of the family farm and business. With their independence, there was less female ‘volunteerism’ dictated from the male end; relative to ALL social activities, including church activities. In essence, women found a new source of recognition and personal social valuation, typically referred to as “validation.”

With the industrial growth of America and such advantages as the GI Bill, males became far more the ‘independent agent,’ than in previous times. Transportation ease and increased housing availability magnified career and social options; separating the traditional family – and their previous held values and priorities. The role of “family” values and traditions faded; the importance of Freemasonry faded, in proportion.

The traditional social support systems faced a common attitude, expressed as “I don’t need you!”

For a variety of mechanical, political and social reasons, the Craft dropped out of the socio-economic ‘utility’ business; becoming a social ‘option.’

So, one is left to ask the obvious question: “Any more, why does anyone need - or want - the Craft?”


Two statements can refresh the Craft:

1. “People will quickly forget what you say or do; they will NEVER forget how you make them feel.”

2. “I go there, because I feel so good, when I leave.”

“Feelings …,” get it? Not thoughts or even ‘convictions – “Feelings.”


People used to look to religion and tight-knit social groups to FEEL “safe;” even “secure!” It was a matter of FEELINGS, “…back then,” also! Now, the religious and social emphasis has transitioned to FEELING “righteous” and “deserving” – it’s an ‘image’ thing!


What does that mean for “modern” times? For starters, that means that if survival and security are adequately provided for; then fun and excitement are left in demand. BUT – where is it?

Speaking of “feelings, most have noticed how rare the expression ‘thank-you’ is getting to be. When we’re not appreciated, we don’t go back. Too many of us are commenting that we’re surprised when anyone uses the ‘thank-you’ expression. Especially among the Masonic membership, that just shouldn’t be! People need to ‘feel’ appreciated and/or valued, also.


Yes, the Masonic bodies need to compete with television and the Internet. That has to be done with a viable plan. It shouldn’t be that difficult; who ever got a smile, a hug or a handshake from a data circuit? People need to get back in the habit of being ‘people;’ the admirable kind. Don’t forget, it’s about ‘feelings.’

Commonly, a standard ‘core’ of workers attend to such things as Lodge and Chapter refreshments, or meal catering. They usually have fun, in the process. Who knows about that ‘fun’ part?

More to the point, it’s about another emotional PC taboo – “passion!” We all need our adrenalin ‘buzz,’ whether from our Starbucks ‘special,’ or from participating in something which evokes ‘passion!’

Think to an admirable ritualist; note the passion behind his/her performance. Just as in the ‘mysterious’ entertainment-factor of movies, we consciously or subconsciously ‘identify’ with the performer. Serving as an officer in a Masonic body offers a more brief opportunity for that very same ‘passion,’ but how many think in such terms, or perform accordingly? AND – it’s free!

Think to the expression, “In the West, Worshipful Master.” Think to the Junior Warden who threw serious passion into his voice, and dramatically swept his hand toward the Senior Warden, with those same words; with his eyes following his hand, making contact with those of the Senior Warden. Such really adds to ritual. Imagine that kind of drama being common in the Lodges.

Most importantly, when one performs with the appropriate magnitude of accuracy or “passion,” how many bother to pay appropriate compliments? Remember, it’s about ‘feelings.’

Freemasonry used to be a major source of education, entertainment and social life. In a word, “stimulation.” It was a place of opportunity; where a person could excel and be recognized – if not rewarded, in some fashion.

The Craft used to be a “family” resource. Masonic families used to do things together. Interestingly, another common ground of Masonic families was in their churches. Think about it - how ‘regular’ are people today about attending church? It’s just not the same percentage as in our grandparents’ time. A time-hungry society taxes our discretionary time; taking from the entire spectrum of ‘social’ events.

Proof? Go to a small town, where time is still measured with a calendar, not a six-decimal-place stopwatch. The sociology is radically different from the big-city environment. Common imperfections aside, in those numbers, people both need and enjoy each other. The local Lodges operate comparably.


If one goes out to the Internet site of the Eastman Masonic “Lantern Slide” collection; there are found the Eastern Star ‘Signet’ lecture slides. The immediate reaction of Eastern Star members is to wonder why anyone would use slides to lecture on an illuminated device in the Chapter Room. “Lantern Slide!” Ah, yes; pre-electricity days; AND pre-movie days, as well. Eh-what? The Craft bodies were also a form of “ENTERTAINMENT!” Just imagine that!

What can be brought into a Lodge or Chapter room? A dramatic flair to the ritual? Extra music, appropriate humor, ‘outside’ education and entertainment? Many a Lodge or Chapter has its own internal wealth of talent – untapped, for some bizarre excuse, or another. Find it, promote it; use it!

Freemasonry use to have its share of subscription Magazines, as well. Today, “Web Sites,” pretty well replace magazines; but where are the “interesting” Masonic Web sites? While the Blue Lodges are reasonably well populated with Web sites, according to the Washington OES Grand Chapter Web site, only three Washington Chapters have Web sites. (There are more – good luck in locating them!)

Web sites are not the technical mystery and/or monster that they used to be. Any decent Webmaster can ‘emulate’ a Web site & produce a new one, very quickly. The task is in keeping them updated; fifteen minutes a month can be a real “hassle” to some people. Anyone with the expertise can do the update, all it takes is the name/password. A person with mediocre word-processing skills can create or maintain a Web site. The Eastern Star has a CD “kit” available, for creating a Web site & teaching the needed information. (Excuses aside, “they” know it’s available!)

If you want to make a member feel valued, ask them to write an article or make a contribution to that Web site. There’s a good avenue for getting ‘social!’

There are Masonic plays and skits. Or, write your own!


Return to the Masonic history books – look at the pictures of the …. Ball Rooms???

Yes, the Craft used to be a truly ‘social’ organization. “Politically Correct” took care of that; no one wants to be hacked by a verbal opportunist, let alone for a legitimate social mistake. Ask a lady to dance? Strike up a conversation? What if she takes or manufactures offense? Be honest, that happens – a lot! By all appearances, the “Golden Rule” is going the way of the “Ten Commandments;” ….not in public! Still, remember that Masonry is a ‘private’ organization; the sterility of “P-C” shouldn’t replace acceptable appropriate behavior.

Who wants to fight evening ‘rush-hour’ traffic, parking and weather for a 20% chance that some education, fun and excitement can be had? Boredom aside, what happens if a social mistake can be ‘discovered,’ with associated abuse?’ Masonic ‘obligations’ aside, the reality of the current social ‘risk-reward ratio’ is killing the Craft. One or two bad experiences; and people don’t come back. TV and the Internet are radically more ‘safe,’ they don’t carry the ‘risk’ factor.

Fraternal theory asserts that ‘Masonic’ membership in all bodies means that we are automatically supposed to be supportive of each other – if not highly-supportive of each other. The implication is that such is always true, not just relative to unique long-term or ‘pop-up’ political or personal agendas.

Imagine an Installation, with the Knights Templar or De Molay doing an “Arch of Steel” The Masonic organizations used to be interactive and interdependent. How often are the youth groups asked to participate in Blue Lodge or Eastern Star events.

Think back to “feelings.” Search your own memory, it’s all too clear that the Masonic ‘obligations’ are almost as mythical as the unicorn. Why? Because it’s not “Politically Correct” to remind one another of the associated obligation. It would seem that only the ‘hooked-up’ are privileged to hold anyone accountable.

In small American towns, the Craft is still a success; people who need each other honor the ‘old’ traditions; they have to! AND – it works.


Regrettably, it’s necessary to address a certain fact of current American life. To some extent, even in the Craft, people have become afraid of each other. In general American society, “Politically Correct” serves the adrenalin-rush of anyone in the mood to go on a ‘power-trip.’ Commonly, we hear expressions to the effect of “…you can’t say that.”

Disregarding the rare extremes, in Masonic circles, that should NEVER be the case. It’s far too easy and sufficient to say, “I strongly disagree; let me explain.” Or, “Let’s be satisfied that we don’t agree – and move on, please.” If the heat gets turned up – “I think this is a good time to remember our obligation to the Order.”

Throw up the “timeout” sign & say, ”This isn’t the place for an argument.”

“Politically Correct” discounts the individual in favor of the ‘team.’ That used to be known as “Communism,” a failed political system. Yet, unfortunately, we clearly see those concepts packing a different label. Excluding such from the Order is not just vital, but obligatory.

Clearly, there is a mandate to start pulling together, by identifying what used to work – and why it worked? Granted, a lot has changed since 1900; can we identify the pertinent changes and make the necessary adaptations for the modern culture?

Look to the Masonic books and literature; contribution used to be openly lauded and rewarded – now, it’s “compartmentalized.” There is a deadly “clique” trend which is emerging within the craft. Truly valuable talent, energy, time and contribution don’t come close to equating to factually deserving “Masonic” recognition. Why not? In all likelihood, there is a primal penis-envy, that “…. theirs might be bigger than mine.” That fear – conscious or subconscious - doesn’t belong in Freemasonry. The craft is supposed to be about “brotherhood;” not politics. Look to the number of Brothers who memorized a lecture, were able to deliver it on a few occasions – but were never called upon to deliver it again; it happens. Now, we see those lectures desperately being assembled on DVDs, as too many members realized that the required memorization effort was most likely a waste of time. That wound was self-inflicted.

A Lodge Officer, going through the chairs, should be able to answer the question – “What will be your legacy, at the end of your term?” He should have the guidance of the Lodge ‘elders’ to formulate an answer to that question; and live up to his plan. Right now, a highly common answer is, “I’m going to do my best to survive my year in the East.” The ‘year-in-the-East’ needs to be about leading and managing a Lodge of Brothers – leading the proverbial flock.

What will it take to honor:

1. “People will quickly forget what you say or do; they will NEVER forget how you make them feel.”

2. I go there, because I feel so good, when I leave.”

“Feelings!,” Don’t forget those!


Today, the Craft STILL has the ability to offer the member (friends & family included) the elements of pride, dignity and self respect. It’s elementary human nature that those doing the work need recognition – not just “wages.” Recognition is as simple as a public expression of gratitude for a job well done. Add a thank-you note, a letter or even a certificate of appreciation or achievement.

Imagine the effect of asking another for information; or the member's opinion. Such requests are a form of "recognition." In today's world, how much of a thrill is it, to have one's opinion actually requested?? Sadly, that's a relatively rare request. An information/opinion request is also an easy and a great way to strike up a conversation.

The ‘Masonic certificate’ in the front of the Monitor is ‘electronically’ available in 8 ½ x 11. Prepare one for each new Mason (and even ‘old’ ones), to hang on their wall. Allow people to ask questions, as to its significance. Just imagine, 'recognition' and 'legacy' in an 8x10 frame.

Still, there is that perpetual lesson that the recognition needs to be lasting. Thus, the Craft also has the ability to offer an interesting primal need, which few people think of, anymore – “legacy!”

Borrowing from an interesting English song title – “Brick-in-the Wall;” is the lyric – “…Father, wha’d you leave behind, for me? ..... All-in-all, you’re just another - brick in the wall!”

Legacy isn’t just a small ‘left-behind’ brass name-plate with “Past ____” engraved on it. It isn’t a year of buried Secretary’s minutes and notes, listing someone as the ‘Worshipful’ or ‘Worthy’ … whatever. It’s more than a ‘name & title listing’ in a Proceedings. For better or worse, “legacy” is a lasting memory, a reputation, an object, a paper, a book or poem.

Thus, “legacy” also equates to “opportunity.”

From the book collection of Robin Elford (Daylight OES Chapter), comes a major clue from a rare publication, “The Well Spent Life,” an 1878 biography of Rob Morris – Eastern Star’s founder. It was privately published, distributed to a private audience – TEN YEARS before Morris died! Anyone who knows the name of “Morris,” knows that he was a fabulous Master Mason – and Grand Master - independently of his Eastern Star efforts. Yes, ‘accomplished’ people (‘back then’) were honored during their lifetime. In the case of Morris, he apparently had nearly a ‘cult’ following, judging by the ‘private’ nature of the publication. Reading his books & poetry (legacy), he earned it! Morris’ “Poetry of Freemasonry” and his book “Freemasonry in the Holy Land” (a true Masonic ‘saga’) are just some of his works – his “legacy.” [Now on disk.]

Yes, people excelled, they were recognized and they were emulated. For anyone who doesn’t know Morris’ work; it’s point-‘n-click ready! (Just ask the Grand Lodge Librarian!)

To those such as Rob Morris, the Craft was a source of opportunity – it still is!


One of the primary features of the Masonic organizations, are the Masonic vows; they are essentially detailed expansions of the Golden Rule. However, in current times, how often do we see the vows violated – with impunity? It’s witnessed far too frequently. Too often, ‘rationalization’ displaces sound reasoning. In all likelihood, there is a “Politically Correct” resistance to hold another accountable. Those un-skilled in the world of ‘power-trips’ commonly fear a hostile confrontation, with those with talents in ‘nastiness.’ It doesn’t take that much to say something on the order of, “C’mon, remember your vows. We don’t do that to each other.” Holding another to the Masonic vows is a mandate, not an option. Failure to do so ‘allows’ a hostile environment, which good members elect to avoid – that’s too counter-productive.


Somewhere, it was written that it is not good for man to be alone. People will always need people. It’s entirely possible to refill the Lodge and Chapter room chairs. The key requirement is a renewal of an old Masonic attribute - “Fellowship.”

Fellowship is like the weather, everybody talks about it, but no one actually does anything about it. Does just a definition come to mind? Keeping the desired end-result in mind, try this one:

“The thrill of giving and expressing gratitude – in numbers.”

Certainly, gratitude can be ‘free’ enough; what about that ‘giving’ part? As human nature goes, for most, it is more thrilling to give than to receive. BUT, one should not give with the expectation of getting something back; that’s a prelude to disappointment – if not failure.

Fellowship is a social ‘potluck.’ The greater majority give, everybody partakes and enjoys; and at the end of the evening, there’s an appeal for someone to please to take the leftovers.

It’s as simple as giving one’s time, attention and listening skills. Give a suggestion, sound advice, a compliment, a humorous or interesting story; or a joke. Ask a question. Introduce yourself to someone new. Try a smile, a handshake or hug, as appropriate. If someone is in distress, give your sympathy; if not your assistance. Offer a ride, a cup of coffee; or a meal. In the current world of computers, what does it take to give out a business card?

Give your participation, your expertise – or just your willingness to assist! Giving is responsibly restrained by the term ‘appropriate.”

And, yes, tangible gifts are also welcome. That could be a door-prize, a lapel pin, a book, a picture, an article from an old magazine; or printed from the Internet. Some caution is advised; the Lodge, Chapter or person may not have any use for your old TV, VCR or computer – no matter how well it still works. However, just your willingness to give will be remembered.

Facilitate others – it makes them ‘feel’ good. For one person’s opinion, something was left out of the translation of the “Golden Rule.” Possibly, the ‘rule’ originally finished with, “….and notice how good it feels.”


Trust seems to be taken for granted; it isn’t a high priority topic in the Craft – but it should be! Trust is the foundation of any relationship – it keeps us safe and makes us ‘feel’ safe. Within the Masonic obligations are various expressions which are supposed to effect that ‘trust.’

Trust is the proverbial two-edged sword. The reality is that too many take the trust for granted, then go to the ‘nice’ mode when it is betrayed. Beyond a certain point, ‘nice’ can be seriously counter-productive. Human beings, being what we are, demand the element of accountability. Without going to extremes, each member is obligated to effect Masonic accountability. Only then, will “trust” prevail. Only then can one ‘feel’ safe.

Honest mistakes happen. Then, it is obligatory to say, “I’m sorry.” The inherent message should be “I wish I could turn back the clock and start over.” The term “sorry” should not be associated with “worthless.”

In simple terms, sincere regret restores trust.


A glaring example of “success” in human nature is the French Foreign Legion. A pack of lost souls banded into a bunch of misery-hungry units, fighting valiantly – for what?? They don’t care.

The “Legion” makes a single promise to the incoming Legionnaire – “You’ll never again be alone.” That’s a soul-impact way of saying, “We care!” Based on the100% delivery of that promise - the reputation of the Legion – they don’t suffer for membership.

Thus, when we look at the Masonic organizations – disregarding external “…we care” public charity; what would be the effect of truly dynamic (action; not ‘talk’) sharing and caring within the Lodges and Chapters? The issue isn’t as much ‘thought’ as ‘action;’ just do it!


Masonic principles aside, it’s foolish to deny that too many Masonic organizations still have their ‘typical human’ omnipotent inner-circle of officers; current and ‘past.’ Add the ‘recycles.’ Frequently, ‘popularity’ or ‘politics’ emplaces those who are not significantly productive. Far too often, a member offers something of intrinsic value, whether something physical, his/her time & skills, or a profound observation; only to meet the “N.I.H.” syndrome (Not invented Here), killing significant and needed contribution. Worse, many a potential contributor gets personally slammed in the process of trying to offer something which is needed or wanted. The triple-R device (Rationalization Routs Results) stagnates Craft and personal growth.

No offense intended, but we must also be realistic and honest enough to acknowledge that ‘age’ is the often the key opponent of results, under the banner of “The brilliance and energy of youth is no match for the treachery, which accompanies old age.” The rejection may be polite (“Thanks, but no-thanks”), yet the consequent lack of ‘change’ hurts the Craft/membership. As in all of human nature, the “why-try” proposition often rules the day. It doesn’t work!


"Membership" is 200 men, with a 'member' card in their pocket. "Fraternalism" is the dynamic and productive interpersonal association of those same 200. Fraternalism is about family-style support - being your brother's keeper; anticipating his needs. In a sentence, "...being there for him." That is a 'giving' environment, with the faith that there is enough support for everyone. And, yes, that requires a blind faith that we live on a 'round' world, that sooner or later, we'll reap what we sow.

In particular, it's about making the other person feel "special." The key term is "valued; not simply "validated;" a membership card takes care of the latter. Of particular emphasis is the mandate to make the person "feel" that he is included in all important areas. That could mean assertively drawing that person into a conversation, guiding the member into the officer line, participating in degrees, with either a minor or major part, as HE feels is appropriate.

Many a Lodge has been composed of a unique trade - firemen, policemen, actors or dock workers. Inquiry suggests that the 'treasures' of the craft, such as philosophy, history, entertainment, food or access to some special feature of the Craft served to draw members in, as a social enhancement to their 'normal' trade. There is a typical 'on-the-job' brotherhood; but what happens after clocking out, for the day? Enter the Craft.

BUT - that means that the policeman or fireman has to be able to tell his peers that the Craft is interesting, exciting, fun and REWARDING. The potential member has to be convinced that all of that is awaiting him - after work. Without a renewed focus on Masonic education, history, poetry, art and music; the assurance of "...interesting, exciting, fun and rewarding" can't be made. (Open the libraries; discuss their content!)

Specific trades have always been breeding grounds for Masons - particularly the military. That requires initiative, to get the growth started. A dock worker invites his co-worker to a Masonic picnic, ball game, pizza night; or installation. Throw in a modicum of explanation as to what the Craft is about - and it's success in the making. Again, the requirement is "initiative." There is no 'autopilot;' the requisite "initiative" may not be spontaneous. Imagine the following delivery:

"Charlie, you work in a 'brotherhood' environment. Ever think of trying to make the Craft attractive for your peers? Wear the Masonic logo, make an occasional reference to interesting times in the Lodge. If you work with a guy who would make a good member, get his attention. Make it easy for him to 'ask' the question. Think to the day that your guys form their own degree team. Wouldn't that be some interesting times?"

The 'brotherhood' of the Craft means that an officer trains his junior, as appropriate - more socialization. Imagine the following conversation, over coffee - in a 'secure place of instruction:'

"Okay, you're going to be Junior Warden. When you do your part, throw everything you have at it; especially 'passion!' Don't tell the Master where the sun is, throw your hand up & tell the whole world! Don't tell the Master that the Senior Warden is in the West, snap your arm and hand at the Senior Warden; don't leave any doubt where he is - be an actor! Coordinate with him and make sure he does the same for you; make eye contact - he's you're working partner."

"Look, the memory work is about training your vocal chords, not just mental memorization. Then, it's about delivery. Blow up a copy of the Lodge floor plan. As you recite the part, look to the different points, just as though you're in the Lodge. Later we'll do the actual Lodge. Call me by Thursday & we'll go over the memory parts; maybe on the phone, to start. If I don't hear from you by Thursday evening, I'll call you Friday - at 2:00 AM! We're in this together; let's make it easy, okay?"

Such is a radically different experience from being advised what pages to read in the Cipher-Monitor. The 'trainee' really gets the impression that somebody really cares about his success - that's "fraternalism."

With the Eastern Star and Amaranth, it's not just about 'male bonding.' The craft offers plenty of social opportunities - it needs to offer more! That could mean assisting an Eastern Star function, visiting or assisting a youth group, or getting involved in non-fraternal family activities, whether married or single.

Currently, American corporations spend millions on "Human Resource" departments; instituting the dreaded Orwellian compartmentalization. The worker is tasked with 'following instructions,' and "....not getting involved." The Craft has to be about "....getting involved" - and having a great time, in the process of being a Brother's 'keeper.'


There is no single ‘magic bullet’ available for the membership and participation problem. If there is no remaining “need” for the Craft, then the craft can survive by transcending into an “attraction” fraternity. Still it must be questioned as to what constitutes effective “attraction.”

Television and the Internet can only provide so much. Two elements must be provided to current and prospective members:

1. Attraction.
2. Convenience.

The Craft has all the resources needed to be an interesting, fun and exciting place. Yes, that still requires some ‘work.’ Computers and modern electronics can make the delivery of that same fun and excitement easier and more efficient – accommodating the great American time-crunch. The Craft can continue as a social organization with tangible and mutual “support” of the membership. But, the obvious mission does require some mental and mechanical re-grouping, effected by dynamic leadership. It follows that the leadership requirement is to make the associated ‘labor’ as fun, exciting and rewarding as possible.

America, in particular, lives in a stressful environment. ‘Staying home’ is a form of stress-relief. Thus, the Masonic leadership obligation is to make excursions to Lodge and Chapter, not only attractive, but as easy as possible. The required methodology requires four main steps:

A. Locate.
B. Communicate.
C. Motivate.
D. Facilitate.

Who is to be invited? Is their contact information current and correct? Do they have E-Mail? Find out! Limiting a meeting to the Lodge/Chapter membership is foolish. Who are the ‘regular’ visitors? Communicate with them. Suggest they bring a ‘friend.’ Are there any Grand Lodge members that you’d like to see there; send them an invitation; to attend and to speak!

Everyday stress induces a catatonia – a mental/emotional shutting down. “Catatonia” is more than just ‘freezing-in-place.’ Breaking that ‘catatonia’ mandates the communication to be both dynamic and timely. Some people want a phone call, others will settle for an E-mail. BUT, is the message dynamic? Imagine being on the receiving end of “Just wanna remind you of the meeting.” Most would prefer “Hello, ________, I thought I’d remind you of the meeting next week; I’m looking forward to seeing you again.” To be truly effective – ahem! - a timely reminder is additionally needed. A timely reminder is additionally needed. (That’s a hint; not an echo!)

Newsletters and “plain text” E-mail are not that effective. What does it take to throw a set of graphic “Summons” together? Imagine a collection of two or three summonses, resurrected from the 1700 - 1800s. Those were not only beautiful; they were effective! U.S. Postal or E-Mail; going the extra mile says that a person is valued. (A timely reminder is additionally needed.)

Most admit that “phone trees” go a long way toward stirring up attendance and participation. In proof, how many of us have received phone calls, when desperation was in the air? The ‘personal’ touch works!

Why would anyone want to go to the meeting; is there a ‘main attraction? A meal, a lecture, an issue, entertainment, education, socialization, an initiation/degree? Are there any ‘personalities’ expected to be there? Let members know!

Beyond communication, and motivation; attendance requires either “ease” or “grease.’ Is the time/date of the meeting adequate to the membership – and visitors? Does the Lodge/Chapter provide a map and/or directions? Can a ride be provided?


There are successful and growing Masonic Lodges and Chapters – what are they doing ‘correctly?’ Is there a model which can be emulated? More than one? Who will take the time to research the success formula? Who will implement it? Is there a common lesson to be learned and applied, across the board of the Craft? Are there ‘external’ models which can offer solutions? Who is bothering to take and distribute the appropriate “notes?”


The Internet is a muddle of information on its best day. For as much Masonic information as can be electronically researched, the sign on the Lodge wall and the hand-out pamphlets are still required.

Unfortunately, we commonly go to a Masonic meeting, with no Masonic literature to be discovered. Commonly, Blue Lodge Masons know nothing of the Concordant Bodies. Eastern Star and Royal Arch Chapters, for example, are often desperate for members, never taking the effort to create or distribute information about their own organization – within the hall that they meet!

Commonly, also, the public is invited to functions sponsored by Lodges & Chapters – with no effort to provide informational pamphlets. How much opportunity can the Craft afford to miss? Among other matters, self-inflicted wounds are embarrassing!


The primary mission of the Craft remains that of “charity.” According to the latest reports, the Craft donates $2 million per day, to a broad range of charities. While Christian Scripture tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive; it’s necessary to re-examine the Masonic definition of charity. What do the various Masonic members give to each other, in the way of charity? There seems to be a bizarre prohibition to ‘commit charity’ within the Craft. It’s not unheard of, but such reports take on an ominous quality of being ‘rare.’

We’re all familiar with Lodge buildings falling down or needing such upgrades as elevators – charity is desperately needed!. How many have heard a member describe that their child was denied a scholarship, because they were in a Masonic family – with it being politically unacceptable to donate to one’s own?

We know of the Craft’s participation in public charities; yet how many tales of gratitude are forthcoming from that ‘public?’ Does the scarcity of such reports send a loud enough message? How many Masonic pearls are being cast before swine? Far too many!

Conversely, the recipients of charity within the Craft not only appreciate the assistance, but commonly appear at Masonic functions, saying “thank you!” There’s a membership promotion – if it is more commonly done.

What would the effect be, if the public perception of Freemasonry became, “…they take damned good care of their own!” That used to be the case!

That bunch in Utah, turned Freemasonry into a major religion – they take damned good care of their own! (It works.)

AMERICA CHANGED - They called it “Culture Shock.”

Another major “membership” factor in American history was the 1960s political and moral upheaval, stemming from the Viet Nam War protests and the “drug culture” - add the popularity of “free love.” The introduction of birth-control and abortion fueled that same fire. “Personal accountability” went out the window.

A major portion of society became self-serving “anti-establishmentarians.” An old political theme was revived - “….question authority.” By accident or design, the ‘younger generation’ was conditioned to think and act for themselves; traditional ‘support’ organizations became a “drag;” or a "hassle." In the associated shadow of the ‘60s upheavals, all the major ‘morality’ institutions suffered both internal polarization and membership losses.

Accidental or otherwise, Americans abandoned legitimate combat and social heroes for 'Cash-Flow' celebrities. The sports ‘greats’ have a cult following; Hollywood dirt is a major tabloid fetish. In contrast, ask any American to name three War Heroes since W.W. I. Good luck! Those such as Audie Murphy stood not only for military courage; they were symbols of personal success. Korean War? Viet Nam War? Who were/are the heroes? What did they do?

In the Iraq war – who are the heroes? Jessica Lynch – decorated for getting in a car accident and getting captured. From Afghanistan, we have Pat Tillman; killed by friendly fire. Tragic personal sacrifice aside, that isn’t the “stuff” of heroism.

What does that have to do with the Craft?

THINK! Who are the Masonic ‘greats?’ What is their legacy? Within your own Jurisdiction, who are they; what did they leave behind? What ‘standard’ can be presented for a Masonic role-model? "Popularity" shouldn't be the exclusive answer. "All titles; no legacy" is our current norm. Active participation is to be respected; still, collecting titles beginning with "Past - " isn't on par with truly admirable achievment.

Who are our Masonic heroes? That shouldn’t be a difficult question. Webb, Cross, Moore, Mitchell, Mackey, Morris, McCoy, Pike – who knows anything about the actual personalities behind these names? Who are Masonic ‘greats’ since 1900?

For the most part, ‘ritualists’ are uniquely put on pedestals, anymore. Even at that, throughout the Craft, ritual is better described as ‘expected,’ versus being ‘taught.’ Instead of memory courses, or training sessions, being put together, we get the Lectures on DVD platters.

THINK! Who added something physical to a Lodge? Who did the repairs? Who wrote a paper, or a book? Who left a prominent donation. What Masons are ‘public’ personalities?

THINK! Is it worth anyone’s time to achieve or excel? With the bleed-over of the current “team-players only” fetish of America, we haven’t just leveled the playing field; we’ve LOWERED it!

If Freemasonry is to survive or rebuild, that needs to “change!” Personal excellence in Masonry has to be an opportunity and a reality. Perish the day that someone says, “…there’s no going back.”


Masons made America; not the other way around. Go back to the concept and function of “brotherhood.” The Craft has to provide a spectrum of ‘gifts,’ whether that takes the form of opportunity, fun, excitement, education, recognition, image, support or legacy. Lodge meetings need to attract attendance; not just 'hope' for it. Placing 'attendendance' in the arena of being a reasonable expectation demands that the membership needs to reliably discover value, within the Lodge.

Certainly, returning to the function of membership economic self-promotion would go a long way toward participation and re-growth. Until then, relative to modern times and values, we have to create the environment which compels the statement -

“I go there, because I feel so good, when I leave.”



“Why the quest for ancient ‘secrets?’ Subconsciously, we know that those who know and understand the past; know the future. Human nature is that constant.”

Today, the Masonic membership roles are rapidly declining; what of Masonry’s future??? We see all the major social institutions that made America great under attack. Church, schools, family, marriage, Boy Scouts – God only knows what all. What happens when they go after the fraternities, such as Freemasonry? What’s left? Does anyone really think that the fraternities are safe – forever? What would happen if Freemasonry was forced underground? That’s happened before.

Too few Masons know what we had, or what we currently have; so - what of the future?

As with all successful institutions one word drives institutional success – “Hope!” Hope for a better life, more money, recognition; the list is endless. Throw in hope of fun and excitement – anybody for ‘education?’ “Hope” is anticipation. When no one anticipates a ‘good’ Lodge meeting, they stay home. When they see something go to hell, with no anticipation of reversal; they quit.

‘Hope’ for just SURVIVAL - itself - drove Nazism, Communism; even Christianity and Islam. “HOPE” is really powerful stuff.

So, what is Freemasonry?


Freemasonry is about noble participation and legacy – based on ‘hope.’ It is a “fraternity;” that term implies mutual support – not just common membership.

The Craft is an investment. Who comes to Lodge, anymore? – those who have already invested their time and effort – maybe even their money. Why? Because they have a strong faith (read: “hope”) in the Craft and what it stands for.

So, how should we think? As an ‘empowering philosophy,’ don’t assume that you’ll just reap what you sow; assume that you’ll have to EAT it! BUT, is there even anything on the table, good bad or otherwise?

Is starvation imminent? Is it poison, something barely palatable or something exquisite? Look to the just the well-known lecturers; they get a lot of admiration - they earn it. AND, their name is long remembered. Add the Lodge Past Masters and the Grand Masters whom are a thrill to be in the presence of. Those personalities sowed some great seeds.

Sure! Everybody is “CONCERNED!” “Concern” is just another form of ‘talk-is-cheap.’ So, what is there in the way of a VIABLE – repeat - VIABLE action plan? What is cheap and easy? The fact is that there is an overwhelming amount on leadership and Lodge management information. BUT – what of the members, at large? This is a membership organization; not a leadership organization. It’s a “fraternity!” No fellowship equates to no participation.

First, let’s look at what changed.

Think about this – Life used to be a function of one’s “associations;” one’s support systems. 100 years ago, nationality, community and Church membership dictated one’s very survival. Churches were radically important to people, as religion was marginally above superstition, as to one’s very survival – let alone ‘success.’

Comparably, Freemasonry was a more of a “sharing” support system, a social system and a major source of entertainment! In relative terms, Craft membership used to be expensive – an investment. Dues made Lodges rich. Out of that, a lot came back to the individual member. A job, a loan, a line of credit.

In that environment, the Craft was bound for glory; no questions! How much ‘hope’ can a man stand?

Then, things began to change.

By the end of W.W. II, modern medicine was looked to for survival. God, was getting nudged from His high-priority status. Divine intervention wasn’t as reliable as Pennicilin. Jobs became a matter of getting into a union or the civil-service ranks. Who needed the Craft, then? With the alternative means of ‘hope,’ Church and fraternal membership fell.

The Craft used to be a drinking and smoking society. With DUI laws and such, even the Shriners have taken a severe beating. No fun equals no-show! No longer does a guy dare to get drunk, enjoy a cigar or two, share dirty jokes and pat the waitress on the fanny. Who needs the Shrine? It used to be a fun outfit. Their declining membership clearly illustrates the consequences of the rationalization which drives the Orwellian state of “Politically Correct.”

Think about that! Seriously!

Entertainment? The Craft used to be loaded with it. Then - they invented TV and the Internet - who needs to leave the house, now? With stores staying open later - all that late evening high speed traffic – complete with traffic cops, even. Yuk! ”Don’t leave home!”

A lot changed.

So – what have we for answers?

For starters, we have to make Masonic functions a source for emotional stimulation. Read: fun, exciting, interesting, educational. Even ritual needs to be done with excellence and PASSION!

We all hope to have a good meeting. “Hope” requires inspiration and motivation. “Hope” also embodies a powerful driving force - the “…reasonable expectation.” How many of us reliably expect to have a good time, at Lodge? That IS one hell of a “…reasonable expectation.”

How do we honor the reasonable expectations? The solution is about action; not talk - try these recommendations:

1. The Craft is a fraternity! Think “Family;” act “Family.” Be your Brother’s keeper.
2. Learn (and share) the purpose and history of the Craft, far beyond just the ritual.
3. Go for the emotional thrill and gratification of the Craft. Ensure that others have the same experience.
4. Practice and hold others accountable for Masonic conduct! Do it! (Be reasonable.)
5. Create fun and excitement – educate each other on Masonry.
6. Think: “Personal Legacy;” titles without legacy are an embarrassment.
7. DEFINE and PRACTICE “Fellowship.” Ensure that fellowship overwhelms “politically correct,” with a vengeance. Good taste is one thing, fear of speaking is another.
8. Think up ways to support others.
9. Think of ways to actively include more people. Too many Lodges depend on a reliable (dug-in) ‘core’ team; bring in new blood.
10. ADAPT for modern times. Discover and emulate others’ success.
11. LIVE the tenets of the Craft. Encourage others to do so. Shun those who refuse.
12. Build or restore personal social skills.
13. Build or restore and practice Lodge Officer skills
14. Connect with the Concordant Bodies – long term
15. Wear the Masonic Symbols – prominently.
16. Carry & dispense Masonic literature.
17. SHARE Masonic experiences.
18. Think outside the proverbial ‘box.’

Most of the above list won’t cost a dime.

What would all that take? It takes “action” – not ‘talk.’

On a personal level, obtain a name badge, print up Masonic business cards – and hand them out. PROMINENTLY wear the Masonic jewelry and/or logos. Ask for Masonic cards; tease if they are not forthcoming.

Develop a Masonic E-mail style. Get in the habit of communicating with other Masons. Electronically share Masonic literature. Gather and share a collection of Masonic information, whether tid-bits, books or artwork. Be so courteous as to acknowledge E-mails from Masons.

Give each other timely reminders of upcoming events – we now depend on those – dammit - JUST DO IT!

Visit! Visit! Visit! - ‘Nuff said.

In Masonic company – CONNECT! Be a ‘greeter.’ Insist on ‘greeters.’ Circulate amongst Masonic populations & ‘relate,’ don’t just communicate – or hide. Compare notes. Tell jokes, or interesting stories; come prepared. If you can’t learn about the Craft, take the effort to formulate some good questions. Don’t accept ignorance, explore for the educated Masons.

Time, attention, listening and feedback are “free” gifts – give regularly, at the Lodge of your choice – and elsewhere.

Look for something tangible to give away to a deserving person – anybody; more especially a Brother Mason.

Host a living room Masonic discussion group. Be - or solicit - a good moderator. Use pertinent videotapes. Show the Masonically related movies. Host a ritual-tips evening; invite a well respected ritualist. Print up ‘ritual tips’ sheets. Ask others to share in refreshments. Put out a bowl for donations. Listen to the feedback.

If you’re a Lodge Officer – assertively get to know your peers. If you expect to be introduced in Lodge, give your counter-part a business card – before the meeting; ask for his. At least wear your name badge.

Seize on every opportunity to pass a compliment. Offer assistance where appropriate.

Practice elementary courtesies; such as saying “hello,” paying a compliment, saying something positive - and don’t forget to say “thank you.”

Be prepared to educate the public. If you don’t know an answer, be prepared to steer people in the proper direction.

Be forward looking. Be a ‘reformer;’ not a critic, taking sleazy cheap-shots. Methodically precede any seeming criticism with a compliment. Phrase a correction in the format of “…may I suggest.”

“Charity” isn’t to be exclusively out-sourced for public consumption; be charitable to Masons and the Lodges. With Lodges in serious disrepair, why the unique focus on “Habitat for Humanity” and such?

Discover someone who needs or deserves something – gang up on them & deliver – whatever.

Try not to go to Lodge, alone. Request - or offer - a ride. Assertively introduce your riding partner at Lodge.

Identify new members & go out of your way to get to know them. Ask if they want/need help with anything. Ask if they have any questions. Listen to any feedback that they may have.

Involve family. Ask the wife-girlfriend to make some cookies. Ensure that she knows when ‘family’ is welcome.

Think of ways to excel, not just survive and/or wait out events. Get truly involved. Invest more ‘discretionary’ time in Masonry.

Focus on harmonious fellowship. Practice and demand the Golden Rule. Commend progress.

Identify Masonic problems – AND SOLUTIONS!

Most importantly, closely attend to the “feelings” of others.

Get into “Masonic habits”- Be an Example!

(AND – notice how good that feels!)

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