Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wizards Wackjobs and Wierdos - From "The Relevant Mason"

"They snickered when he walked by, the two Brothers, longtime past masters and longtime members of the lodge, both slightly deaf, thought they were whispering. 'Is he a wizard or just a wackjob?' the man had asked. Both giggled and snorted a bit, the other responded, 'I don’t see a wand in his hand, but nothing would surprise me with this lot.' The Wizards actions that brought such ridicule, the study of the esoteric areas of Masonry. He had read a paper the other day during good of the order and the paper was about speculative alchemy, since which time he was branded 'one of those.'”

This is the opening of Bro. Cliff Porter's blog, "The Relevant Mason". He is discussing an issue which, in my opinion, is slowly but surely coming to the forefront of many Lodges. There is a movement in the Craft which is demanding its time to be heard. No longer willing to accept being silent and watching as the status quo continues to send many Lodges into the downward spiral which leads to closure, these Brothers (yours truly included) are looking to reverse the trend by getting back to what many consider to be the basics of Freemasonry. The basics of Freemasonry involves looking to the Craft prior to the massive upswing in membership which followed World War II. This includes Masonic education and research into the more esoteric side of the Craft's traditions and ceremonies. This is often met with resistance by some of our more seasoned members and some even go to the extent of ridiculing those who try to introduce these concepts into the Lodge. Bro. Porter, in my opinion, sums up many of these statements quite well:

“Just because you want Masonry to be mystical, spiritual, or include other hocus pocus, does not mean that it does.”

“What in the heck does alchemy have to do with Masonry at all?”

“Pike, Wilmshurst, Hall and others were weirdoes or oddballs and don’t speak for the Craft. Heck, most men in Masonry are never going to read those crackpots anyway.”

The fact of the matter is that our ritual does contain some very deep symbolic and philosopical overtones which extend beyond the normal fraternal intiatory experience. Men who come to Masonry are not just made "members" - they are transformed and created as Masons. To dismiss this fact as "hocus pocus" does a serious injustice to our fraternal system and tradition. As I tell many of our Lodge's new candidates, there is a reason behind everything you see, hear and do during your time in the Lodge. If Brethren choose to ignore that fact it does not deminish the truth that it is there.

The post-World War II upswing in membership was a two edged sword for the Craft. On the one hand it brought in a large number of new members into the Craft. On the other it made our Lodges into degree mills where we force-fed new Brethren through questions and answers without educating them and allowing the West Gate to swing open with no real inspection of the material being allowed into the Lodge. The Craft changed - and not overnight - into a "quality=quantity" philosophy which changed the Craft and tried to mimic the Elks, Moose and many other more social fraternities. The result was, and my apologies for any who might be offended, a generation of poorly educated Brethren who in turn passed this watered down education to the next generation. It is difficult for these older Brethren because this is the only Masonry they have ever known and to challenge it is to defy their understanding of the Craft and its purpose. I cannot help but imagine what their older generation felt about their young selves as the fraternity changed. I am sure they were not happy about it either.

But, times are changing and the Craft with it. As Bro. Porter puts it:

"There is a shift in the Craft right now, a rent in the fae as it were. Like all transitions, even the initiatory one that all Masons are supposed to go through, there are ripples and currents and instabilities. There is always a death before a rebirth."

Our declining membership, our crumbling buildings and our loss of direction continue to reinforce that a change is necessary. It is not a re-invention of Freemasonry, but a return to more of the historical and "traditional" functions of the Craft. It will require us to stop looking outward and clamoring for members and to start looking inward and being critical of ourselves. If we cannot articulate intelligently about the ritual, symbols and philosophy of the Craft, whay would anyone want to join us? If you don't understand it, what's the point? Our method of doing business since the membership boom is no longer effective and it is obvious.

It is time to look back, to study, to investigate and to educate ourselves. It is time to get back to the Freemasonry of our forefathers. We can make room on the trestleboard for the pancake breakfasts and charity events, but they should not be the dominant theme. Let's get back to being Freemasons and to doing Masonry - to shaping ashlars and to building spiritual temples.

Bro. Porter ends by saying:

"So it is, I must relegate myself to the denizens of the wizards, wackjobs and weirdoes that will study as the ritual begs, search as the charges recommend, and never stop trying to build the temple, hone the stone, and perfect the ashlar."

With that I stand with him and state empatically that I too am one of the wizards, wackjobs and wierdos and I am proud to be known as such.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to have you abord the wizard train Brother and humbled that you considered my article for inclusion here. Thank you much and great job.