It may have been my fault, as how I phrased my question but very few of the members knew or understood what I was asking for. I realized I had uncovered what Masonry has lost: The basics of Masonic membership.
Over the last half century or more, in the search for new members and even higher membership numbers, we've neglected to educate our newly obligated brethren with the fundamentals.
We might teach them the lectures (the words anyway, not what the lectures mean) or not to walk between the East and the altar while lodge is open, or the importance of holding a rod as a Steward or Deacon before we sit them down and start to put them to sleep with the monotone of minutes and the arguing of the price of toilet paper in 1967. But sadly, for many members this is pretty much all they are taught until they are elected Worshipful Master, when the chorus of “You're doing it wrong.” is sung from the north side of the lodge room. Sadly, I realized I am as guilty as the rest of the fraternity, including my fellow Masonic writers.
Most of us, when we write about Masonic education, we rightly discuss the esoteric and symbols of Masonic history. All of which are great to learn and much like the basics, are non-existent in many lodges these days. But we often make a crucial mistake, we don't make sure the brother has a solid foundation first.
When I submitted my petition I started to be mentored by a Brother who was a 25 Year member of his lodge. He always informed me on how things in lodges worked. Nearly everything I was told was passed down to him by a long departed brother who had been secretary of his lodge. Each time the brother would mention the secretary by name it was like he stood a bit more erect, almost at attention, and with a glint in his eye and reverence in his voice he would say the mans name which almost sounded like angels singing. (I swear I heard harps as white doves flew from the Heavens.). The only problem was everything this Secretary told him was dead wrong.
I have encountered this several times among some older members. The secretary of their lodge, or someone who wanted things done their way, would give these brethren instructions and since they weren’t encouraged to read or study Masonic education, it just stuck.
It began, in my opinion, at the beginning of the Masonic ignorance of several of our generations of members. Members were brought in and they were given what information their mentor wanted them to know and then, sent them on their merry way. Usually that was enough for the usual “Knife and fork” Mason who came for a free mean when the lodge had a function.
If the man wanted to be an officer of the lodge the Secretary would give him further instruction and continued to run the lodge as he saw fit, no matter who sat in the East. If the new Master wanted to do something different he was told about the long and hard process of changing the lodge’s bylaws or the brother was told, “Well you know Grand Lodge will never allow that.” Sound familiar? If the Master questioned the brother, he was referred to the Past Masters who parroted what the Secretary told them during their year.
Sadly, I also believe this has caused many of our issues among the generations within our Fraternity. For decades this secretary’s doctrine passed from one year to another until these urban legends have taken on a life of their own.
These doctrines worked well until the recent Masonic renaissance began about a decade ago when men who have educated themselves by reading the classics and spread light amongst the younger brethren. They began to question these old “truths” which have been passed down. Older men who have been confronted with challenges to what they had believed for a lifetime are being told they're wrong by men who are the same age of their Grandchildren. They become incensed, angered and threatened. To be honest I understand it, and I would be angered to.
So in my next few articles, I am going to try to at least lay out a basic primer on Masonic Education which I hope will better prepare a new member on his journey in Masonry.