by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

Looking back on why I joined, it was clear. I wanted to work on myself, talk philosophy, talk about the great truths of mankind and learn the secrets of antiquity. While I don't get that still, there are some lodges that do. In fact, they get a lot more. Solemn degree work, incense, spot-on ritual and a lodge dynamic which propels the notions of Freemasonry being an ancient and mystical art to the forefront.

Where I once was jealous for not having this, I have found peace in my own personal studies, the small groups of both men, and yes, women to discuss esoteric ideas with and ultimately personal answers to my own great questions about life. Currently, there is a push to the esoteric in lodges all across the world, especially in the new crowd joining. There is no age limit when it comes to the mysteries of the universe, those things that somehow, people think Masonry provides.

The new crowd found a voice in one state, setting the bar to lofty heights. From this stemmed all the things I mentioned above, including books, terminologies, ideas, new orders, and even the return of the Chamber of Reflection. These practices seemed to bring a multitude of new men into the fraternity, it seemed like the answer to everything. New magazines came out, new symposiums came out using terms like "restoration" and while these events were attended by multitudes, something else was brewing, something unsettled, weary and dreadful.

That thing was boredom. All in a sudden, the number of masons dropped off, the attendance of the conferences shrunk a bit and would continue to do so over the years. It's as if those driving the pack up the mountain forgot to slow down before toppling over the peak. How far was too far? Was it the dress code? The general malaise we all get when something new becomes old? Was it the new side groups with outlandish claims, so ridiculous that it turned men off completely?

We don't know for certain, but there is a feeling that has been tossed around quite a bit lately which has been one of awe-inspiring monotony. Simply, are we too damn serious? Is there no room for a light hearted fellowship? While what we do is very serious, to be so staunch about it as to limit the decorum likened to a funeral parlor, might be just too much. It can be stuffy, it can be arrogant and even pompous.

I think we need to look at what we've created, what the members want and more over look at successful lodges and adopt some best practices. While you say a lodge may be successful, lets think about just what that means. It isn't just attendance. A lodge of 350 that has 35 men show up isn't truly as successful as a lodge with 100 on the books who has 15 showing up. We're talking the ten percent rule. We need participation, so how do we get it? Perpetual change, a new dynamic, a fraternity that is all about change needs to actually change.

The young men entering the fraternity today hold that power. I hope they do something truly amazing with it and I'll be there to help wherever I can, will you?


Bro. Robert Johnson, PM

is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.


  1. Stop admitting members who don't aspire to the Oriental Chair. Seriously consider how many non-WM/PM members are "helping in other ways". I have used the 3/4's rule here. 3 our of 4 new members should be someone you see leading the Lodge. I ask prospects if they want to run the organization one day, because thats what the Craft needs. If they say it doesn't interest them, I begin to wonder what they will bring instead. How will the carry their share of weight? A share equivalent to serving as Master.

    It is alright to let men wait until they have the time, finances, and passion to benefit the Lodge. All Masons must be good men, but not all good men need to be Masons. You have to be a benefit to the organization.

    1. I don't know if I agree with that. Some of our most productive members in my lodge have not been Master. One has been a member for 68 years. His son is a member and so is his grandson (both PMs). But Senior wasn't interested in leading the lodge--he was interested in learning and working and volunteering. Which he has done. We all contribute in a different way, and not everyone aspires to lead. Leaders need followers and followers need leaders. And I can tell you from experience it is far more difficult sitting in the Secretary's chair than it has been sitting in the Masters--I belong to two lodges, and I'm sitting in both of those chairs right now. I had no interest in being Master when I joined. If I'd been asked that question in the beginning or told that was the expectation, I wouldn't have joined because that wasn't what I was seeking. I was looking at improving myself--that's always been our primary goal. Make good men better--not make Master Masons into Worshipful Masters. It's not a path everyone should be expected to take.

  2. I agree with Todd, being the Worshipful Master is not an end unto itself. I have seen plenty of lousy leaders who held the WM title. I've seen some amazing leaders who had did not have a fancy title, but were making a tremendous impact upon the craft.


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