Note: Friendly Tips was a typed, photocopied newsletter distributed by Far East Lodge No. 1 to all members at home and abroad. Only a few copies survive. The issue reproduced below raised an “Issue of Concern” and generated sufficient feedback to fill another three issues. It is of historical value in both recording the membership crisis of the time, and expressing a controversial opinion regarding Masonry in Japan. This controversy continues. The Grand Lodge of Japan has rejected all proposals to permit business in the First Degree, and all attempts to change the six-sevenths majority necessary for a change to the Constitution.
Friendly Tips from Far East Lodge No. 1 F. & A. M.
Feb. 1982 – Apr. 1982
Issue of Concern
FROM THE EAST
The name is the same. FAR EAST LODGE NO. 1, F. & A.M., the mailing address is the same, P.O. Box 121, YOKOHAMA PORT POST OFFICE, YOKOHAMA 231-91 JAPAN, and the telephone number is the same, area code 045 641-0633, but the local address has changed from No. 3 BLUFF, NAKA-KU, YOKOHAMA to No. 31, YAMASHITA-CHO, NAKA-KU, YOKOHAMA and it is physically located directly behind the New Grand Hotel, here in Yokohama (directly across from Yamashita Park if you remember where that is).
Yes, Brethren, we moved the Lodge on 03 April 1982 and as of the date of this writing (10 April 1982) we have yet to hold our first meeting in the new (but temporary) Lodge Hall. We should have had our April Stated Meeting on 07 April 1982 but were unable to do so because we simply could not get the new Lodge Hall ready in time. Our first meeting will take place on 05 May 1982. Later this year, I intend to ask the Grand Master, MWB H. Ōnishi (who is also a member of this lodge) to consecrate the new hall. In the meantime, I have no doubt we will enjoy the new quarters even though we equally regret having to leave our home on the Bluff. It served us well for many, years and will be sorely missed by those of us who were raised within its hallowed walls.
Regrets notwithstanding, Brethren, I am convinced that having to move will prove to be a blessing in disguise. While I am not completely certain why I think this, seeing the old building stripped of its normal trappings brought home to this writer that the old building was very tired, worn out, and deteriorated, much more so than I realized. Repairs in the many millions of yen were staring us directly in the face. This situation, coupled with continuous increases in property taxes and other expenses, would have broke us completely. If nothing else, I am at least convinced that if we do go dark, it won't be because of financial problems.
Now that the move is behind us, I would like to direct your attention to a matter even more serious and difficult to cope with; it is the continuous loss of membership for various reasons and the almost complete lack of candidates. Brethren, this situation, if unchecked and not reversed, will cause this Lodge to go dark much sooner and more permanently than any problem over property or meeting place could ever do! Just so you understand the situation clearly and accurately, Brethren, if it were not for 5 active Japanese members of this Lodge, we would have gone dark at the end of 1981 for lack of local members to conduct meetings. There is currently only 1 continuously active U.S. member — that's right — ME! There are 4 or 5 sometime active other U.S. members but for one reason or another (e.g. Military Duties, TAD, etc.) they cannot be counted on. Brethren, when you need 7 members to open and conduct business and can only rely consistently on only 5 or 6 members, you begin to wonder how long you can hang on. I used to feel very confident about the future capability of this Lodge to function — I no longer have that confidence. We raised one Brother last year and he has already departed Japan. We have had one petition for the degrees thus far this year and one affiliation (who has yet to attend Lodge because of other valid demands on his time). We dropped 5 Brethren last year for non-progression, THREE OF WHOM WERE JAPANESE CITIZENS! Three Brethren demitted, seven died and 9 were suspended for non-payment of dues. We started 1981 with 300 members on the rolls and finished with 283. In so far as the accuracy of our records can be verified, we presently have 9 Japanese, 268 American, 1 Greek, 1 Portuguese, 1 Venezuelan, 1 Belgian, 2 Canadian, and 1 Dutchman on our rolls. The total number of Brethren in country right now is 23, including our one E.A. Of these, 9 are Japanese citizens and the balance of 14 are Americans. Yet, Brethren, getting 7 members assembled for a meeting is getting more and more difficult.
What is the answer? There is no one easy, simple answer at all — in my opinion there is absolutely no short or long term answer until we find out how to attract and hold the Japanese citizen to the Fraternity. I am convinced that it is our only hope. I am equally convinced that this cannot be done until the Grand Lodge of Japan is, in fact, RUN BY JAPANESE! The sooner our Japanese Brethren take into their own hands the total and complete responsibility not only for the operation of the Grand Lodge but the shaping and implementation of policy; and, as necessary, adopting the whole body of Freemasonry to the Japanese mentality and making the concepts of the Fraternity understandable to the Japanese citizen in general, the better off the Lodges in this country will be and the more likelihood that a number of them will continue to exist. Unless this happens very soon, it will be too late for many Lodges and among the NEXT to go most likely WILL BE FAR EAST LODGE No. 1!
Do I have your attention yet? I hope by now you are at least asking yourself the question — why does he think this is going to help? After all, we have had Japanese Grand Masters in the past and yet we still haven't attracted that many more Japanese. Brethren, my thinking is based, at least in part, on the following statistics for this Lodge:
- The total number of Japanese citizens to knock on our doors: 28 souls in the past 34 years — a most unimpressive figure!
- The number of those that knocked that were raised: 14 souls — an even less impressive figure!
- The number dropped for non-progression: 13 souls or ALMOST 50% OF THE TOTAL NUMBER that has petitioned the Lodge in the past 34 years!
What do these figures tell you? They tell me that we Westerners don't know how to attract the Japanese and we equally don't know how to hold him even after he makes the first move. Since this Lodge is a microcosm of the entire Fraternity here in Japan, these figures indicate to me we are not doing hardly anything right and we probably are doing many things wrong!
Speaking as a long-time resident of this beautiful land (26 years out of the past 28) there is one thing I have learned about the Japanese people if I have learned nothing else: stated as simply as I know how to put it, I am convinced that how we Westerners look at many things means little or nothing to a Japanese. Therefore, what we value highly in our culture may (and very often does) make our Japanese friends and neighbors completely uneasy or even unhappy and, as a result, repelled by many things we think of as being significant or of high value. I do not intend to try to delve into these differences here, I am not articulate enough to capture my thoughts adequately on paper, I do not have time or space nor the inclination, and to top it off, many books on this subject have already been written by far more intelligent people than myself. I will, therefore, only say that because these cultural differences are so vast, it ill becomes us Westerners to try to force Masonry to be accepted by the Japanese People strictly on our terms or as we practice Masonry in the western world (primarily the U.S.). In typical American fashion, we convey the idea or impression that "our" way is the only way Masonry can be practiced! Any other interpretation than ours of the Ancient Landmarks, ritual, procedures, Masonic Jurisprudence (written and unwritten), administrative matters, etc. are incorrect and consequently rejected out of hand! How many times, Brethren, has history proved the stupidity of such thinking? If you want to know some of the specific things I am alluding to they are:
- Why can't a man be invited or encouraged to become a member of the Fraternity? In this country, solicitation is expected, especially of any WORTHY organization.
- Why must every candidate who knocks on the door be required to be raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason BEFORE he becomes a member of the Fraternity? Many European Grand Jurisdictions make a man a member of the Fraternity concurrently with his initiation. Membership in an organization carries with it its own responsibilities which have little bearing on how far we might progress in that organization.
- Why must every candidate for the degree be required to memorize a large part of each degree before he can be advanced? What are we trying to do, make Masons or prove our capability to memorize? There surely are other methods of impressing on our members the value of the ritual.
- Why do we think the ritual is, of itself, so important? What other aspect of our Fraternity is emphasized half as much as the ritual? What are we really trying to teach — ritual or its meaning? If we are trying to convey its meaning, we certainly go about it in a very obscure manner!
- Why do we (read "we" as Westerners) insist that only we are capable of comprehending the true meaning of Masonry and therefore the only ones who can or should make or interpret Masonic Law and policy in this, one of the most homogeneous societies known to man? Like religion, did we invent it and therefore are the only ones qualified to make or approve policy affecting it?
Brethren, when I hear what I consider really intelligent answers to these questions, they usually go something like this:
- I don't really know.
- That's a good question — why?
- I don't know.
- I don't know.
- We don't mean to give the impression that no one else is capable, etc.
Brethren, I have heard as many answers to these questions as most of you, but very, very few are really answers — most of us simply repeat what we were told by our Seniors when we first started asking these questions of Brethren, who were, themselves, only repeating things they had been told by their Seniors, ad infinitum! Now, when most Americans hear answers they don't understand or with which they don't agree, they will usually challenge the answer and many times the person answering as well. Yet, most of us in the Fraternity are very hesitant to challenge some of the more "pat" answers we are given because we have a vague, uneasy fear that somehow by doing so we are violating some hidden or unwritten Masonic Law or would be violating the "Ancient Landmarks" and therefore are guilty of a least "unmasonic thinking" or maybe even "UNMASONIC CONDUCT"! If nothing else, we tend to agree because we don't want to upset the peace and harmony of the Lodge or of another Brother. Right or wrong, most of us have such nagging fears, even myself. But no more! I have decided to challenge the answers and if necessary the Brother giving them. I think the main reason I am now willing to challenge many of the things I was previously content to accept or was afraid to challenge, stems from the fact that I suffered a major heart attack on 18 August 1981.
From my own understanding of what happened to me and what several very respected and learned cardiologists have told me, I am most lucky to still be vertical instead of permanently horizontal. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the front part of my heart is dead! My "Left Ventricle Down" artery was completely destroyed (for those of you who like the techinical bit). I suffered and survived a major heart attack and the doctors tell me that if I manage to survive the next five years I will probably die of old age! This being my personal situation, and having looked death directly in the face, I am no longer afraid of many of the things I use to be afraid of nor am I willing or content to accept all things "Masonic" or otherwise without question, even at the risk of creating disharmony! After all, I now know there is something worse than disharmony awaiting each one of us, thus, my feeble attempt to try to understand where we are now and what can be done to improve our short range situation (I no longer worry about the long range situation or problems. If we don't do something to improve the short range situation — there will be no long range situation problems to face because there will be no Lodge). Some of my thinking runs like this:
- There is a very hard core of dedicated Japanese Brethren presently active in Grand Lodge and some of the constituent Lodges. Why don't they take over and establish Masonic Policy and interpret and apply Masonic Law for the Grand Lodge of Japan and the entire country of Japan? All foreign members of Grand Lodge and of the constituent lodges would serve only at the will and pleasure of the Japanese Masons. Those Lodges located on military installations and whose active membership is predominently active-duty military personnel would be permitted to function within broad policy guidelines laid down by the Grand Lodge but would not be granted equal voting rights with Lodges located off-base and whose active membership is predominantly Japanese. Please don't start screaming that my proposal is undemocratic! Who says the Fraternity is democratic anyhow? As a matter of fact, it is one of the most autocratic societies in the world, which is one of the things that makes it attractive to many people. Besides, I am not talking about democracy, I am talking about trying to perpetuate Masonry in Japan, which is an entirely different matter.
- Active members of Grand Lodge would be limited to Japanese Nationals, except certain honorary, non-policy-making or advisory positions as may be designated by the Japanese Masons.
- Similar to the above, Lodges whose active membership is predominantly Japanese Nationals would be designated by Grand Lodge as Lodges that must be "run/controlled" by Japanese Masons having voting rights in Grand Lodge far in excess of the "Foreign" controlled/run lodges.
- Policy changes in the "Body of Masonry" approved by the majority of the Japanese Masons would be Masonic Law for this Grand Jurisdiction, regardless of what others may say or wish.
Too radical you say!? Not by a long sight say I! Again, Brethren, all I am advocating is that the Grand Lodge of Japan be run by and for Japanese.
And, until it is, I predict that membership will continue to decline, several more lodges will go dark, and the Japanese people will continue to stay away from our Fraternity by the millions! Perhaps the "Bottom Line" of what I am trying to say is simply that all non-Japanese members of the Grand Lodge of Japan and its constituent lodge should submit to and be completely supportive of the desires, thinking and decisions of the Japanese Masons. Perhaps, when we can do this, then we can truly say that this is the Grand Lodge of JAPAN. Perhaps, also, Masonry can then start taking on enough Japanese characteristics to permit it to become appealing to the citizens of this country.
You say that what I am advocating isn't the answer or won't work? Then you tell me what the answer is and what will work! Masonry, under the Grand Lodge of Japan, has had 25 years now to experiment with the principles of Freemasonry and make them appealing to the citizens of Japan. It hasn't been able to accomplish this very important project primarily (I think) because those trying to establish Masonry in this country are not and have never been Japanese. They have been and for the most part are even to this day mostly deeply dedicated, concerned foreigners who were and are attempting to guide and formulate policy for a culture they do not, and likely never will, understand. Try as they may, Brethren, I do not believe they can succeed and where will the Grand Lodge of Japanese be then? Something must be done! Time is reapidly running out and while I am not saying that my approach is the absolute answer, I do feel that it deserves serious study since I have heard no other significant proposals.
Brethren, I promise any or all of you equal space in the FT's to express your thoughts, opinions, agreements or disagreements. Send me anything you want published and I guarantee that it will be. In this matter, I will be completely "democratic". So — LET'S HEAR IT FROM YOU! What can/should be done?
Sincerely and fraternally,
Thomas H. Hodges, PM
BROTHER HENRY FRANKLIN BLOOMINGDALE
BORN: 13 February 1917
RAISED: 18 July 1951
DIED: 12 February 1982
Brother Bloomingdale was a member of this Lodge for just over 30 years. He was born at Hamden, Connecticut and died at Las Vegas, Nevada. He is survived by his widow Mrs. Mary O.-K. Bloomingdale. In accordance with his wishes, Brother Bloomingdale's ashes were scattered at sea off Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii during the first week of March 1982.