Reflections On Membership
George Steberl III
I am a Mason and Junior Warden of my Lodge in Kettering, Ohio, Alpha 729. We in Ohio are about to conduct a "One Day Class" to boost membership in our state. In this class a candidate will be able to arrive at the Masonic Center at 7:00 AM a "poor blind candidate" and leave at 3:00 PM as a "Master Mason". This has prompted much discussion, albeit primarily in low breath, as to the advisability of this approach. The following in an expression of the culmination of some of my thoughts on the matter for your examination and comments.
Please spare a few minutes of your time and indulge me in a fantasy speculation of times to come.
The year is 2502 and over 100,000 men have opened their view screens and have logged on to the worldwide Cyber Lodge to further their travels in Masonry. They are about to receive their second, or as it has come to be known, Fellowcash Degree.
The Virtual Worshipful Master, a term that has come to cause much confusion as to the true connotation of the word "virtual", has downloaded the initiation program. Those viewing their screens see an image of a candidate being asked the question . . .
"By what authorization do you expect to receive this favor?"
To which the candidate replies, "By the Account Name and Password of this Degree."
"Give the Account Name."
"Give the Password."
"The Account Name and Password are correct, we will now proceed with a representation of an approximation of the ceremonies that were once performed in conjunction with the ancient degree once denominated 'Fellowcraft'".
After the initiation program has finished, the Virtual Worshipful Master once again appears and informs those viewing that an explanation of the degree will now begin.
A Virtual Senior Deacon appears and begins:
"The second part of this degree is concerned with the history of Freemasonry and is an explanation of the Three categories of the same, which are Operative, Speculative and Contributive. By Operative Masonry we . . .
" …and by Contributive Masonry we refer to the state of the Craft we now find ourselves in. Our Brothers in the past were either both Operative and Speculative Masons or Speculative Masons only. Since the aforementioned original two forms were found to be neither relative nor convenient, but since a power and financial edifice existed, so great that the desolation of which would prove calamitous, especially to those at it's apex, it was determined to form a third entity, that to which you have just become a member.
"We are Contributive Masons only, having neither the time or inclination to be concerned with matters of Philosophy, Spirituality or Morality. Yet we are still known to those in the community and the world as Freemasons by the Jewels placed upon our persons and the Emblems affixed to our various modes of transportation.
"Mankind has ever appeared to benefit from institutions, historic and venerable, that seem to give foundation, structure and continuity to society. We hold that Masonry is foremost in that field of august and elevated bodies, ever to be preserved at any cost. You as Contributive Masons have been selected for your status in the community and your ability to financially support the Fraternity without material hardship to yourself or family. Little else will be expected of you, save that noble and laudable expectation of continued application to and enrollment in the numerous other appendant bodies of Masonry, links to which are now displayed on your screens…. "
The program concludes shortly thereafter and those viewing log off.
. . . . .
My Brothers, it is not my intention to ridicule or insult the fraternity I love and to which I have pledged my support. Rather it is my hope that this writing would encourage us to exercise the utmost caution in the future when seeking the means to preserve that for which so many have for so long wrought.
We are founded on the premise that, that which mankind once had has been lost and it is we who must seek to restore it. That which was lost was lost to the ruffians of Pride, Arrogance and Selfishness. We have ever sought to counter those vices with the virtues of Humility, Fraternity and Charity. Now the institution itself appears to be in danger. And once again, the ruffians come from within the Craft. They are Panic, Shortsightedness and Expedience.
I am not unmindful of the financial realities facing us. I am keenly aware that demographics are a huge part of the concern. But I ask these questions. In the days before Masonry became the organization it now is, with the vast real estate and financial holdings and responsibilities it now possesses, what was its purpose? Does that purpose still lie at the core of our being?
When our numbers grew to that of some fifty years ago, prompting the expansion of properties and responsibilities we now find ourselves struggling to maintain, what was the impetuous for that growth? Was it the essence of what Masonry was founded upon or was it misdirection, the ramifications of which we are now forced to correct? But if the growth was well deserved, is it society that believes that Masonry and what it stands for is no longer relevant or is it we ourselves who have failed to demonstrate that the tenets of Masonry and our daily application of the same are vital to a strong, free and just society?
Much was accomplished in the past as a result of Masonry's existence in our world. We are ever touting the achievements of great Masons and the effect Masonry has had in the formation of the revolutionary movements in our country, France, Bolivia and others. We reflect with both humility and gratitude on the sacrifices made by many of our Brothers in the face of Fascism, Communism and other forms of despotism. Have we therefore reached that third of the three steps where we merely reflect on the accomplishments of a life well spent, only waiting for the pronouncement of the words "Well done good and faithful servants"? Or are we still Fellowcrafts, ever laboring to rebuild the broken temple, ever searching for that which was lost?
I don't pretend to know all the answers but I do know this. As we ask the questions about the future, these questions I raise must be asked as well and the answers diligently sought after. Otherwise, My fantastic fiction could become a reality.