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Freemasonry Can't Thrive Without It
If it is to enjoy a bright future, Freemasonry must address the issue of money.
The simple fact of the matter is that for decades and decades now we have been putting far too low of price on Freemasonry, and our Ancient Craft is suffering as a result. We must all pay more today if we hope to transmit our fraternity to our children’s children.
The lack of adequate funding shows itself from the very first moment that we Initiate a new man into our mysteries, at least in most of our Lodges.
We tell him that we are presenting him with a lambskin or white leather apron. We explain that it is the badge of a Mason. Then, in most of our Lodges, we give him a vinyl apron. The manufacturer might call it ‘lamtex’ or something, but let’s be honest, it’s vinyl, some kind of plastic, made from petroleum.
Is that a suitable badge for a Freemason?
Is the lamb, an ancient holy symbol adequately replaced by plastic made from crude oil?
Lambskin aprons are available to us.
So, why do we do this?
Why do we take this ancient symbol and adulterate it beyond all reason?
We do not charge enough money for the Degrees of Masonry, in the overwhelming majority of Lodges, to be able to present our new initiates with an actual badge of a Mason. Instead of increasing the fees for the Degrees, we shame ourselves, our fraternity, and our newest Brother by giving him vinyl.
Do we really believe that if we doubled the fees for the Degrees so that we could afford to give our initiates that which we tell them we are giving them, we would end up with fewer men seeking initiation?
If we do believe that, we are dead wrong. The history of our Lodges shows that in the past men were willing to pay extraordinary amounts of money in initiation fees and dues. Only since the middle of the 20th Century did we start making financial commitments to Freemasonry an afterthought.
When our new initiate is brought to light, what does he see around the waists of many men?
A thin cloth mockery of a Masonic apron. Sagging, and looking sad. Loaner aprons.
All our Lodges have them, most of our members wear them.
Because those who came before us in the Craft decided that men wouldn’t want to spend some money on a quality apron of their own, at least not before they became a Past Master. So instead of having a loaner apron or two for the member or visitor who happened to forget his apron at home, Lodges bought them by the score, and it somehow became normal for Freemasons to desecrate the badge of a Mason.
At the next meeting our new Brother attends we will most likely see him in one of those loaner aprons.
Because by giving him a vinyl apron we have communicated to him that a Mason’s apron is of no importance. By letting him see so many other men wearing old loaner aprons, we have communicated to him that doing so is the right thing to do.
Neither of these things is true, but that is what we have done.
We have, within five minutes of his initiation, communicated profound error to this new Brother. Instead of the good and wholesome instruction we are supposed to be communicating.
A Lodge should communicate to its members that its loaner aprons are going to be retired, and tell them where they can purchase actual Masonic aprons. Allow a couple of months to pass in order for the members to buy and receive them, and then retire those loaner aprons. Keeping just one or two for the man who forgets his at home.
Do we believe that the money a man would need to pay to purchase himself a quality apron would put an undue strain on him? Do we believe that if we did away with loaner aprons less men would come to Lodge?
If we do believe those things, our beliefs are wrong.
What it would do is help renew the pride men felt in Masonry as they fastened actual Masonic aprons around their waists, instead of some modern mockery of the badge of a Mason. It would help build the spirit of the Lodge as the men within it would look sharp, instead of looking as tired as the sagging cloth they far too often wear.
This would of course require that Masons pay for an apron. Well, such is the cost one must pay to be a Freemason. If a man can’t afford an apron, he can’t afford Masonry.
Let’s go back in time just a bit though, perhaps two hours.
Let’s think about our building, and let’s try and picture it through our soon to be obligated candidate’s eyes.
Is it in disrepair? Is maintenance obviously being deferred? Does it need new paint and carpet? Is it clean?
Let’s face it, Masonic buildings cost a great deal of money to own and operate.
We need to figure out exactly how much money that is each year. We need to include budgeted costs for ongoing maintenance. Then we can subtract any income we might receive from the costs. The balance? Well, that’s the amount that we must get, from ourselves.
It’s easy enough to figure out, once we have determined how much money we need in a year to own, operate, and maintain our building, we simply divide that number by the number of Masons in the Lodge.
The dues we pay must, if we are to survive, be greater than that amount.
We have to raise our dues so that they are greater than that amount.
If the amount is so high that raising them to that level would be truly (not just a bunch of cheap past somethings bitching that they can’t afford it, but truly) harmful to our members, then the answer is simple. We must sell the building and meet somewhere else.
For some reason, in modern times, our fraternity confused itself. It started to believe that owning a Masonic Temple was important. That we needed our own buildings, for our own exclusive use.
That belief is badly misguided.
The modern form of Freemasonry was founded in a Tavern, and Lodges met in Taverns, for decades upon decades. A Lodge does not need a building to be successful, but owning a building that a Lodge can not afford is a certain way to destroy a Lodge.
Either raise the dues, or sell it. There is no other option.
This goes for Life Membership Dues as well. Those are very shamefully low. Dues must be raised for those who pay each year, and dues must be raised for all future purchasers of Life Memberships.
Is the Lodge building that our new candidate sees dirty?
In my experience, more often than not, the answer is yes.
What does that communicate to him about the value we place on Freemasonry? What does it tell him about the amount of pride we have in our Lodge?
Nothing good. I assure you that.
Are we truly unwilling to raise our dues high enough so that we can afford to have a cleaning service come in once a month to keep our buildings in top shape?
Don’t we think our members would be happier, and feel more pride, if they were meeting in a clean temple?
Likely before his degree we are going to feed our candidate a meal.
Will it be a questionable sandwich with some soup, or will it be a feast?
What do those two options each communicate to this new candidate?
Do we really believe that asking our Brothers for five or ten dollar donations so that we can feed them bad sandwiches and soup is preferable to asking them for twenty or thirty dollars so that we can feed them a feast?
If we believe that Masons would balk at paying twenty dollars for a great meal we are delusional. Yet following that delusion is what we do.
After we initiate this new man, how excited is he going to be to return to the next not great Lodge dinner? How much more excited would he be to do so if it were a great quality meal?
It is likely, in many of our Lodges, that we don’t have men who can cook exceptionally well for a large group. That’s OK. That’s what catering is for. We don’t have to do everything, we simply have to pay for that which we can’t or don’t want to do ourselves.
We have initiated our new man. He is excited by what he has just gone through, and we want to celebrate with him for a few minutes. So, we return to the dining room.
Do we pour left over coffee still warming in the pot into styrofoam cups, with perhaps some off brand soda pop for the anti-coffee guys?
Do we stand around with this libation in little cliques, spending a couple minutes draining our foam cup before rushing out the door?
Or do we instead pour a fine quality spirit into proper Masonic firing cannons, and with it toast our new Brother? Toast the health and successes of ourselves? Toast the Brothers who could not make it this night? Toast our Lodge and Freemasonry?
What does the stale coffee and off brand pop communicate to our newest Brother?
What does the fine whiskey, firing cannons, and toasts communicate to him?
Which will make him want to return to Lodge?
If we are too cheap, as Masons, to pay enough dues so that our Lodge can own custom engraved firing cannons and buy a good bottle from time to time, well is it any wonder that so many EA’s don’t return to become FC’s?
A day or two has passed. It is time to begin mentoring and educating our newest Brother. Freemasonry is deep and it is complex. He, like all Masons, must be taught.
If we own our own building, do we have a quality space to do this in? Do we have a warm and cozy space where two to four of us can sit together and learn from one another? Does it have nice, comfortable leather chairs surrounding an adequate table?
If not, why not? Are our low dues once again forcing us to fall short?
We know that they are, so why do we refuse to fix it?
As we are trying to get this new Brother started, probably not in a comfortable space as mentioned above, do we at least have good books in the Lodge library to get him going down his own Masonic path? Do we have titles such as Freemasons For Dummies, and Pike’s Esoterika, or are all of our books over fifty years old?
All of us who have traveled to Lodges know the truth. In most cases, Lodges do not own any newer Masonic books.
How sad is that?
Will we teach him using the dusty and outdated volumes?
Well, no. We won’t do that. What we will do instead, far too often, is we will not teach him at all.
In most Lodges, an extremely minimal increase in dues would allow a quality Lodge library to be created. Why in so many cases are we unwilling to do even this?
In this post about money, and selling Freemasonry too cheaply, I touch upon only a few examples. Specifically what the new Mason encounters on the night of his initiation, and its aftermath.
These are just a few examples to try and illustrate a much broader problem within our fraternity. We must recognize that everywhere in the United States, lack of adequate Masonic finances, because of dues that are far too low and do not rise with inflation in most cases, are destroying Freemasonry. Not only because of the few examples given above, but truly in a myriad of ways.
Freemasonry must have adequate financial resources, adequate dues, if it is to survive and thrive into a bright future.
I hope that these few examples help to illustrate that fact.
I hope as well however that these few examples also point out that by having more financial resources, a better Lodge experience can be had.
A better Lodge experience justifies higher costs.
Most importantly though, a better Lodge experience will result in better men being attracted to our Ancient Craft, and more of those men remaining active Masons for life.
In this post, and I believe earlier this week in the discussions, I talked about and encouraged the inclusion of quality spirits as a part of Freemasonry.
In light of that fact, I wanted to write a few of my thoughts about that here.
I am aware that dry Lodges exist in the Jurisdiction of Washington. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again now, I don’t care if a Lodge declares itself dry, and I have no intention of ever showing such a declaration any respect.
The greatest division of Masonic law are the Ancient Landmarks.
The second greatest division is the ritual.
Therefore, by the law of Masonry, our Lodges are not dry. The very first Grand Lodge was formed in a Tavern. Our opening and closing rituals both discuss and contemplate the consumption of alcohol by the Brothers when assembled as Masons.
No lesser division of Masonic law can by some magic override what is called for within our Masonic ritual.
I’d also like to touch upon the history of dry Lodges within the United States. Declaring Lodges dry was an innovation, prohibited by proper Masonic custom, that had absolutely nothing to do with Freemasonry.
Dry Lodges came about because as the temperance movement gained momentum Grand Lodges decided it would be good for Freemasonry’s image to jump on the bandwagon.
Well, within a few short years, our nation figured out just how bad of an idea prohibition actually was, and our nation repealed the moronic law. As is often the case, Freemasonry lagged behind. Today we still have Lodges lagging behind by almost one hundred years.
It is just so strange to me that we would cling to a Lodge tradition that was no more than a public relations stunt to begin with, and cling to it for almost one hundred years after every other institution in the nation figured out that it was nuts.
Here’s the thing. Lodges need to share fellowship, they need the toasting glass.
But it is undeniably true that some Masons don’t or can’t drink. It is only right that Lodges make ample provision for these brothers as well.
Get out the firing cannons, fill them with spirits, and toast till heart's content. But also provide a good quality non alcoholic option for those who need or want that instead. Sparkling cider seems one such option, but many exist.
Don’t forget that this evening at 7:30 PM we will be having our second gathering over Zoom for Emeth’s paid subscribers. Login information will go out to paid subscribers at 5:00 PM, so if you want to participate but need to upgrade your membership to do so you’ll want to do it before then.
Well, we did something truly great this week. We created the first version of an Emeth Recommended Reading List. This list will prove valuable not only for those who enjoy Emeth, but for the broader fraternity as well.
It is linked into on the front page of Emeth, and in the last day or so has been posted on personal Facebook accounts, Lodge Facebook accounts, and the Grand Lodge of Washington’s Facebook account. A great many people are seeing it, and as links into it continue to spread, it will prove a valuable resource for Freemasonry.
It is a living document, so if you know of something that should be added, or have any other comment on it, please do visit the discussion page and post there. I’ll get additions made quickly:
You can see the list at:
Inspiring the creation of the reading list was our discussion this week of Albert Mackey’s famous essay, Reading Masons And Masons Who Do Not Read. It was a lively discussion, and like most of our discussions branched away from the essay itself and into other aspects of Freemasonry.
We discussed, in great detail, the divestment of metals. How best to perform this ceremony for maximum impact, and importantly, the meanings behind its symbolism for most who participated in the discussion.
The possibilities of conferring Degrees while under social distancing mandates was discussed. We all seemed to be in agreement that social distancing requirements would harm the candidate’s Degree experience too greatly to be implemented.
We also discussed the Festive Board. How it could be and what the benefits of a superb quality Festive Board would be. It certainly seems like something that all of our Lodges could do with relative ease, and there is little doubt but that doing so would be of tremendous benefit as it would vastly improve the Lodge Experience.
All of these discussions remain open. Please do contribute your own thoughts and experiences to them. Together we can learn from each other.
I’d like to start by giving my profound Thanks to everyone who has contributed to Emeth by purchasing a paid subscription. I think that this online space is vital to Masonry, and it would not be possible without your generous financial support. Thank You.
Secondly, I want to say Thank You to everyone who has been sharing Emeth on Social Media, and in other ways. In order to have a large and positive impact on Freemasonry, Emeth has to get in front of individual Masons. Your sharing of it makes that possible.
I want to give a huge shout of Thanks to everyone who participates in Emeth’s discussions. One of the beauties of Emeth is that we can have detailed discussions on Masonic topics which allows us all to learn from each other. We couldn’t do that if it wasn’t for every one of you who contribute your views and experiences.
Lastly, I would like to Thank everyone who takes the time to read Emeth. A writer’s words are worthless if no one is around to read them. Thank you for giving me your time, I hope that you always find something valuable here.
Just in case you missed it: