I just can not understand the arson of three Masonic temples in the Vancouver area. We have served our communities and our country for centuries through charity, self sacrifice and good deeds.1;
R.W. Bro. Syd Schatzker2
As sad as this moment is, maybe we could use it to re-think our communication strategies, our image building efforts and – most importantly – our education and mentoring practices.
Let me be blunt:
To serve your community you don’t need to be a Freemason. Just go and volunteer at any community service organization.
To serve our country you don’t need to be Freemason. Just go and enroll in the army (or worst case scenario: get into public politics with honesty).
Self sacrifice is not a concept taught in our Masonic education. [Although I’ve just read in the past days a “constitution” of a defunct 18th century Masonic obedience, where they used to put the candidate through a trial to test his willingness for self sacrifice.]
Doing good deeds…? Any religion is more obvious and meaningful about such deeds – and even if we do “good deeds” – isn’t the whole idea (pointing back to self sacrifice) that one doesn’t expect petting on the shoulder for doing good deeds? If we do good deeds to get “good report” as a reward… was it coming from the heart or just a simple commercial exchange?
Now, perhaps, it’s time to stop and think about ourselves, our place in the world, the meaning of Freemasonry, and the image that we create of ourselves. And the questions I asked above.
There are – outside of our fraternity – fiction authors and lunatics, in equal amount, that write about Freemasons, their origins, their rituals, their goals, their assumed “secret” activities. The general public, and quite often Masons as well, cannot discern the difference. The reason: lack of education and mentoring.
For centuries, following the English Freemasonry’s stance, all the Grand Lodges remained silent and indifferent to such mental exercises displayed by literary works or conspiracy nuts. As long as the only media to reach masses was the print, which wasn’t affordable for such “writers”, maybe that official attitude has been justified. However, the 21st century brought huge changes in this field, too: the internet, the Web 2.0 (introducing the interactivity), the social media, the e-books etc. Suddenly, the obsessed graphomaniacs got an easily accessible medium, a worldwide platform to spread their fantasies… and Grand Lodges were and are still sitting on the sidelines as if it doesn’t affect them. Maybe we should question the validity of that position. The ivory tower may not work this time. For an analogy, look at the economy: disruption became the norm. Old ways of doing things are obsolete and not effective.
The internet and the conspiracy-filled media is not just another “exposé” like those started in the 1730s… it is not just another printed hoax like that of Taxil… it is not just an innocent fictional book or a movie making vague allusions to the mysterious Freemasonry. It is an attack with concentrated efforts (although let’s not make the same mistake: it is not a worldwide conspiracy directed from a central brain trust!). Even if it’s not directed from one place – it is converging in one single direction: against our Craft.
Due to our over 300 years of silence, and the real and perceived secrecy, we missed long time ago the chance to control our own public image. When more than one generation of Masons grew up (and old) without being able to communicate coherently even to their own families what Freemasonry is, and why it is important in a man’s life… we missed the boat. If we, as Masons, were not able to communicate to our own beloved families what Freemasonry is – how do we expect to convince the paranoid masses about the qualities of our fraternity?
(Before you jump in to nervously oppose this idea: think about all those young men announcing publicly that their father or grandfather was a Mason, but they never told a word to the younger generation… For which the only reason was they had no idea what they can say because they were never mentored and educated properly in the Craft!)
Making donations to charitable organizations and/or distributing food packages to the needy – is not Freemasonry. It is, without question, a noble intent and a noble idea to help the less fortunate, and to contribute to worthy causes. But when Freemasonry for the average member ends there, or, eventually adding a few beers with the “camarads”… with that Freemasonry ends, too.
Bright minds, like Thomas W. Jackson, the well-known scholar and long-time Mason who travelled extensively around the globe, wrote that he distinguished five styles of Masonry: philosophical, social, sociological, political, and charitable. Definitely, the outstanding examples of the Charitable Style is North America, both Canada and the USA. Which means, we lost everything else… As Bro. Jackson put it: we have “diverged farther from its roots than any Freemasonry in the world”.
We could go and quote many of his articles, and of many other Masonic scholars, we could also take a hint from our own Grand Master’s program: Ritual, Education, Mentoring. Without those what kind of “Freemasonry” you have? Coming from a place where Freemasonry kept alive its philosophical „style” and roots, where the intellectual elite used to be and still is attracted to the ideals of Freemasonry, I was bitterly shocked when a young, not too bright Canadian Mason vehemently objected the use of the word „elite” in connection with the Craft. He thought it was some kind of curse word… and when people can associate with the word only the infamous 1% top earners (richest people) of the country and nothing else, it is a sad report card of our neglected obligation to mentor and educate our members. Until we change that, we are not able to attract the “elite”, any kind of elite.
Many Masons respect the author John J. Robinson (for the wrong reason, I must add because he is not a qualified historian of the Craft). However, we can all agree with this statement of his: “The problem with Freemasonry is that it does not practice Freemasonry anymore.”
How is this related to the BC arsons? – you may ask. Ponder this: who is responsible for the discrepancy between our self-image and the image that exists in the society at large?
- The author of that quote referred to the March 30, 2021 case of arson in Vancouver, BC. See media reports: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/north-vancouver-fires-1.5969506; https://globalnews.ca/news/7731273/arson-charges-masonic-hall-vancouver/ ↩
- It was posted on Facebook in a closed group, and as I was contemplating how to comment, I realized my answer would be too long and, hopefully, of a wider interest. ↩