Freemasonry and the Man


                                             ARTICLE NO. 32



                          FREEMASONRY AND THE MAN


 1.  The Institution and the Individual:  A woman is sometimes a
     lady, but a good Freemason is always a man!  While Freemasonry
     helps make the man, it is the man who makes Freemasonry.  The
     man perpetuates Freemasonry as a living institution, and the
     Craft is indebted to him.  However, with so many great changes
     in thought and attitudes over the past twenty years, has a
     point been reached where perhaps Freemasonry is beginning to
     take more from the man than it is giving back to him?  In some
     ways, there appears to be a heightening wall between the
     institution and the man over which neither is now able to
     obtain a clear view of the other.

 2.  Declining Interest:  It may surprise some brethren to learn
     that Freemasonry in Victoria has suffered a marked decline
     during the past decade.  This is a cause for concern; however,
     the manner in which this decline has occurred is a cause for
     alarm.  Membership of our Fraternity has fallen not because
     the intake of candidates has failed to keep up with the normal
     loss of members; it has fallen as a result of an increasing
     number of members, often of many years' standing, who have
     lost interest in the Craft and dropped out.  Even more
     disconcerting is that the majority of these drop-outs have not
     been through resignation, but through suspensions for non-
     payment of dues.

     This leads to the disturbing conclusion that, while
     Freemasonry continues to have the appeal to attract initiates,
     there is something seriously wrong in that the Craft is
     failing to retain the interest and loyalty of members.  This
     lack of interest also clearly shows itself in the considerable
     number of absentees from almost every lodge meeting.  I have
     endeavoured to discover some of the causes of this unhappy
     malaise in our affairs.  My purpose is to draw the attention
     of brethren to the existence of a serious problem, to
     stimulate full and constructive discussion, and to prompt
     lodges in general and Grand Lodge in particular quickly to set
     about measures to counteract it.

 3.  Declining Membership:  In 1961 the Victoria Constitution had
     a membership of 118,000.  Today our membership has fallen to
     100,000.  This represents a drop of 15 1/2 percent.  When
     measured against the increase of 60,000 in Victoria's
     population during the same period, the decline in our
     membership represents a per capital fall of 30 percent.


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     If Freemasonry were a corporation faced with a drop of 30
     percent in its share of the market, there would be serious
     concern in the board room and among shareholders.  Our board
     room, Grand Lodge, is concerned, but we the shareholders are
     still largely complacent.  As we cannot call in an outside
     firm of management consultants, it is ourselves who must
     fathom the cause of this major fall in business and apply
     remedies.

     Should the problem of declining membership be allowed to
     continue unchecked as a result of conservatism, lethargy, and
     indifference, then there is no reason why Freemasonry in
     Victoria should not eventually lose its place as a great
     institution and subside into relative insignificance. 

 4.  Freemasonry's Competition:  Freemasonry is today in a very
     competitive market, the market for men's time and interest. 
     It is competing gainst church, school committees, Rotary and
     other service organizations, golf, hotels, clubs, all sorts of
     associations and societies, family, television, and, above
     all, the every increasing demands and pressures of the man's
     employment.

     Once, Freemasonry gave a man a special and prized prestige. 
     This status is today shared with other bodies such as Rotary,
     Lions, and Apex, which enjoy a justifiably high respect in the
     community.  Not only do these organizations give a man social
     standing, they have a direct and often very worthwhile public
     involvement in community life.  Some men can feel a greater
     sense of personal fulfilment and achievement by participating
     in the activities of these bodies than in the narrower and
     unpublicized affairs of Freemasonry.

 5.  Community Involvement:  I believe that Freemasonry should play
     a considerably greater role in the community; nor should this
     be left to Grand Lodge and its committees.  Lodges in general
     need to be brought in, thus directly involving the mass of
     members.  Why can't lodges donate a bus shelter, build a seat
     in the local park, help the elderly citizens' club, maintain
     a bed in a public hospital?  Wouldn't it be possible for each
     lodge in Victoria to undertake one community project each
     year?  Of course it would.

     I am sure such activities would stimulate interest and
     engender pride of participation among our members.  They would
     also serve as visible to the public - and the families of
     members -that Freemasonry was performing good works.


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 6.  Publicising Freemasonry:  How many people outside of the Craft
     know anything of Freemasonry's broad principles, aims, and
     objectives?  Everyone has heard the name and perhaps a little
     misinformation, but that is about all.  So effective has been
     our self-effacement that the only picture Freemasonry presents
     to the community is one of generally austere temples and men
     in evening dress carrying black cases.

     There must be many fine men who would join our ranks and be
     worthy brethren if they knew anything about us.  I once worked
     with an organization for a whole year before I found another
     Mason on the staff of 250.  During the next three years, I
     discovered another ten Masons, mainly by accident.  If we are
     so secret among ourselves, what hope for the uninitiated man
     in making contact with Masons with a view to joining the
     Craft?

     Recently I met a man wearing a tiny square and compasses badge
     in his lapel.  My first reaction was:  This is a little
     improper, letting the world know that you are a Freemason. 
     Then I thought:  Why shouldn't we?  Are we ashamed to be
     Masons?  Everyone knows who the Grand Master is, and that
     doesn't seem to have caused him any embarrassment.  (Of
     course, the usual caution must be exercised to ensure that a
     man wearing a Masonic emblem is in fact what he purports to
     be.)

 7.  A Masonic Information Centre:  I suggest that Grand Lodge
     establish a Masonic Information Centre where interested men
     may obtain details of what Freemasonry is all about; however,
     such a centre would only be of value if its existence were
     advertised, but this could be done in a dignified and
     propitious manner.

     The Centre would also keep the public informed via the press
     of the various public activities of Freemasonry, particularly
     in the area of charity.  This would do much to mitigate the
     unwarranted antipathy to Freemasonry held by some ill-informed
     sections of the community, an antipathy which not to a small
     degree has been perpetuated by our own reticence.

 8.  In the Temple:  One thing perhaps more than any other which
     brings disenchantment with Freemasonry is the manner in which
     affairs are often conducted in the Temple.  It must be
     appreciated that most brethren arrive at the Temple in various
     degrees of tiredness after a day's work.  It is too much to
     expect men to sit from 7.30 p.m. until 9.45 p.m. or later and 
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     claim their full attention unless the work is of particular
     excellence or the programme of unusual interest.  For those
     who are not directly participating, alertness and
     attentiveness begin to sag within the hour.

     The need for a high standard of work at all times is
     positively essential and it is not necessary for me to
     emphasise its importance; however, I earnestly believe that
     activities in the Temple should be streamlined.  To begin
     with, the business of lodges should be kept to a minimum.  So
     far as possible, notices and announcements should be included
     in newsletters and not read in lodge.  Except where important
     items having a real bearing on lodges are recorded, members
     should have the option of voting to have the minutes taken as
     read.  Not a few officers become tyrants of their lodges and
     spend long periods each meeting rambling on about what amounts
     to be a lot of trivia; it is up to Masters to cut them short.

     A lot of time is wasted through needlessly drawn-out
     procedures.  For example, the time taken for balloting could
     be cut by a third by simply having the Senior Deacon with the
     box walk behind the Junior distributing voting material.

     The working of each degree should be carefully planned and
     timed.  I contend that no degree should last more than 45
     minutes.*  Any longer and the audience becomes bored,
     restless, and disinterested.  Certainly the candidate -- and
     is he not the most important person to consider?  -- cannot
     absorb any more.

     Our ceremonies can be made more interesting by not performing
     the complete ritual of each degree.  Better that a portion be
     omitted on one occasion and included the next time when
     another section is dropped; for example, the tracing boards. 
     Thus, unvaried repetition is avoided and the audience's
     attention is held because each time the particular degree is
     worked, it will "seem" a little different from the last
     occasion.


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*This may be possible in Victoria, but certainly the Nova Scotia
Master Mason Degree takes longer.  Many lodges start the M.M.
Degree in the late afternoon, take a break for supper, and work the
drama in the evening.  Editor.
                                                                  



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 9.  The Ritual:  Many men, intelligent men, go through their
     Masonic lives without gaining more than a smattering of
     Masonic knowledge.  They attend lodge regularly and
     attentively, but get no more than a distant glimpse of
     Freemasonry's bright fields of enlightenment.  Little wonder
     that interest wanes, attendance falls, and brethren leave the
     Craft.

     The cause of this lies in the man failing to comprehend much
     of the ritual.  Some of the fault rests with the individual,
     but not all of it.  In its present form the ritual requires
     extensive and concentrated study if its message is to be fully
     understood.  Not all men have the capacity for such
     scholarship, but this does not make them any less worthy
     members of our Craft.

     In historical terms, the ritual of the Victoria Constitution
     is not relatively old.  It was compiled less than 90 years ago
     and is an amalgam of English, Scottish, and Irish rituals
     going back to the early 18th century.  It is beautiful in
     language and has served Freemasonry well, however, I feel that
     the time has arrived for the ritual to be re-examined.  This
     should be done with a view to giving it greater clarity,
     emphasis, and comprehension.

     Much of the real message of Freemasonry is hidden by the sheer
     verbosity of the ritual.  It is over-written to such a degree
     that, in its spoken form, essential detail is submerged in a
     torrent of words and is lost to the listener.

     Without in any way detracting from the grandeur of its style
     or the nobility of its message, I believe that the ritual
     could be greatly improved - with the removal of excessive,
     needless, and mind-dulling verbiage.  Furthermore, archaic
     words and expressions which are no longer understood or can be
     misconstrued should also be eliminated.

     The purpose of language is to be understood.  In the same
     context, it is essential that our ritual in its spoken form be
     readily comprehendible and assimilable.  If the ritual is not
     these things, then it is failing in its vital purpose, which
     is to inform.  It thus becomes but a beautiful piece of lodge
     furniture rather than the motivating force of the Craft.



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10.  Obligations of Proposers and Seconders:  Many a Mason gets off
     to a poor start in the Craft because his proposer and seconder
     make no personal effort to assist in his Masonic education. 
     The three should meet regularly outside the lodge to enable
     the initiate to ask questions and have points of the ritual
     and ceremony explained.  Grand Lodge should give consideration
     to publishing a booklet to assist proposers and seconders in
     imparting information to new members.

     Unfortunately, today candidates are generally left at the
     entrance of the Temple like unwanted children and their
     Masonic education is largely up to their own initiative.  This
     is wrong.  We have a bounden duty to ensure that the newly
     initiated receive sound foundations on which to build their
     Masonic knowledge and careers.  This should be formally
     recognized by lodges and Grand Lodge, and specific directives
     issued to proposers and seconders as to their obligation to
     candidates.

11.  Involving Master Masons:  Master Masons form the preponderant
     membership of the Craft, yet few lodges make any real effort
     to involve them directly in their activities.  I believe this
     to be essential for the creation and maintenance of vigour and
     enthusiasm in lodges.  There are opportunities for Master
     Masons to participate in the working of degrees.  This can
     serve as an encouragement for those who wish to progress, and
     a real interest for those who, for one good reason or another
     are not seeking advancement.

     The views and counsel of Master Masons should be sought in the
     running of lodges -- and sought in open lodge.  Unfortunately,
     some Past Masters believe tht Master Masons should merely
     attend and not be heard.  This is a narrow and harmful
     attitude.

12.  Absent Brethren:  Poor attendance at meetings is an indication
     of lack of interest among members.  I suggest that to
     counteract this, each lodge set up an "Absent Brethren
     Committee" to contact members who fail to attend two
     consecutive meetings.  When a brother misses several meetings
     and no inquiry is made by his lodge, can he be blamed for
     thinking that nobody really cares whether he attends or not;
     this can lead to general disillusionment followed by
     resignation -- or, as is now more generally the case,
     suspension for non-payment of dues.  Yet a thoughtful
     telephone call or letter would let the brother know that his
     presence was missed and would, I think, be a real
     encouragement for future regular attendance.

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     There have been many sad instances where brethren have fallen
     ill and even died, quite unknown to their lodges.  It is not
     uncommon for men to avoid advertising their misfortunes. Yet,
     if tactful enquiries were made of absent brethren, lodges
     would often find opportunities to render that assistance and
     charity which we Masons profess so much to admire.

13.  The South:  If the Temple is the heart of Freemasonry, then
     the South is its soul.  The South is intended to be where
     Masons can meet in a family atmosphere of trust and fellowship
     to enjoy camaraderies of old friends and make new
     acquaintances.  Yet how often is the purpose of the South not
     attained.  Sometimes it becomes truncated and rushed because
     affairs in the Temple hae been protracted.  If a lodge tyles
     at 7.30 p.m., I believe that the brethren should be in the
     South not later than 9.30 p.m.

     The South can be just as boring as a night of poor work in the
     Temple.  How often are brethren kept silent prisoners in their
     chairs with almost no opportunity to converse with anyone but
     their immediate neighbours.  Surely intelligent men cannot be
     expected to sit with rapt attention through South after South
     listening to trite, dull, and repetitious speeches.  If a man
     has something worthwhile to say, he will have an interested
     and attentive audience; but, if he has nothing but cliches and
     waffle, then the interests of Freemasonry let him remain
     silent.

     After all the formal talk of the Temple, speeches in the South
     should be kept to a minimum and be short.  Brethren want the
     opportunity to converse among themselves.  There should be
     frequent "call-offs" to enable brothers to mix freely.  Why
     not on occasions have buffet suppers and informal seating. 
     Spread the visitors among their hosts and so put real purpose
     into their visit.  Above all, encourage the brethren to
     mingle.

14.  Winds of Change:  As a young man living in Japan, I heard an
     ancient tale of an oak tree and a bamboo bush.  The oak tree
     used to boast loudly of its physique and strength and scorn
     the spindly bamboo.  The oak tree would say to the bamboo: 
     "Why you are so thin that you would move with the smallest
     wind".  One day a terrible typhoon swept down.  The oak tree,
     proud, upright, and rigid, refused to move with the wind and
     was torn from the ground; but the bamboo bent with the storm,
     and, when it had passed, righted itself and flourished.


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     Man made Freemasonry for the benefit of man.  It is a great
     and living testimony to his higher aspirations.  However, if
     Freemasonry becomes so institutionalized as to be the ruler of
     man rather than be ruled by man, if Freemasonry remains rigid
     and unbending in the face of the winds of change, then it too
     may suffer the fate of the oak tree.  



THIS PAPER WAS PREPARED BY BROTHER RAYMOND H. COPLEY AND PRESENTED
TO THE LODGE OF RESEARCH NO. 218 OF THE VICTORIA CONSTITUTION.  IT
WAS DONATED TO THE BOARD OF MASONIC EDUCATION BY R.W. BROTHER G.
VICKERS OF THE GRAND LODGE OF NOVA SCOTIA.