Disambiguation: there are many lodges named Beacon, I’m not writing about a specific lodge with that name. I write about the way some lodges come to be bright centers of light, referred to herein as “beacons.”
It is an odd statement to make, I admit. Traveling in pouring rain on Sunday, I had been thinking about some brothers’ I’ve recently met who either belong to Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, MA, (EBL) or present there for Masonic Con. One brother urged me to make it a point to be present for the 2020 events. We could meet in person for the first time, and I would see brothers with whom I labor alongside. It will be wonderful: April 18, 2020. I’ll go. If you are nearby, or able to travel, I hear its worth our while.
On my rainy-day reflective drive, it seemed exciting to affiliate with EBL in the coming year. I would be part of the lodge. And, both by association and being able attend regularly, I would expand my masonic education and experience. What a boon I live so close to such a beacon of light, I thought. Listening to podcasts, reading post on line, talking brothers who I admire and now call friends, I’ve learned about a handful of lodges I think of as beacons of masonic light. They do their part to keep us, Freemasonry, off that deadly area of shore we learned about, that part with the tide… Further, they guide us toward greater knowledge and inspiration to work on ourselves more effectively. They shine as examples of what lodge can, and I suggest, needs to be—for me anyway. Though not bright in the same way as EBL, I know Alpha (my home) is a place where education is honored, valued, and implemented. Brothers care deeply for one another and offer educational experience I want and need. But I digress.
The moment I decided I would join EBL, the brake lights in front of me flared and burst my reverie. I did my best not to sail into the person before me and not slam my breaks too fast so the person behind me had time to stop as well. We were all fine, no bumps. In that moment, however, my mind went inexplicably and directly to the local lodge that is struggling; guys there had apologized to me on the open house day and lamented there wasn’t much education happening. Who needs me more? EBL or local lodge?
The answer was so clear. I can’t afford to apply to affiliate with two additional lodges. Therefore, if and when I am to affiliate with a place in addition to Alpha, my energy, extra time, and money, would be best spent at local. EBL doesn’t need me. I would affiliate not to be known as a member of a beacon lodge, but a local laborer. Maybe local would never become a beacon, but we could be brighter, with more members. EBL wouldn’t miss me and its not personal. I can still travel there and learn. But local would miss me, or any of us who head toward the brighter light out of ego, fomo, or just genuine excitement.
I’m not saying its problematic to join EBL or any beacon. Rather, sometimes the choice to move toward the dimmer parts have so much to offer, for everyone involved. So it is with our psyches. We avoid the darker aspects of self, leave them unexplored because its naturally harder work, more painful. But we also grow significantly when we do and in doing so become initiated to be able to handle more. We shine the light of presence and consciousness into the dark, and things change.
Because they are so brightly, nationally, internationally, Brethren will of course be drawn to our beacons, for excellent reasons. Beacon Lodges also do a great service to the profane world, showing off the best performances of what Masonry can look like. Their greater numbers and resources allow for ample In-depth education, an inspired and growing membership. The cycle continues as they expand, so do the resources, and they can offer more to more people, masons and greater community. Bravo! We need them.
Local needs me not because I have the answers. I don’t. I am just at the beginning. I’m trying to find my own way and answers. They can help. Local would have more problems than beacon, fewer men, less money, maybe aging property. I know membership is low, possibly dropping. Local needs me for the obvious reasons, but they also need me because I haven’t been raised by them. Exactly because we are unknown to one another, we have to do the intrapsychic and interpersonal work of harmoniously joining together to build. Using our universal tools and ritual makes this possible. We will all be improved by our efforts, through the common goal.
Maybe those of us who can only affiliate with one additional lodge, if any additional at all, would do the fraternity and local the greatest service by joining the least known with the fewest resources. I think it’s the right tactic in a larger strategy of education and offering to men everywhere the gift I’m so lucky and grateful to have received. And, quite selfishly, I would learn so much. If I could entice a few others to come with me to affiliate with local we would have a greater effect. It might be painful, it might be fun, it would be work. And its what we choose.
As I write, the somewhat frightening possibility that maybe I would choose to step in line with my affiliate lodge before doing so at home. I don’t think it would be taken as a betrayal if local was lacking a line to be able to operate. If a few of us could join simultaneously, we might be able to help relieve officers who have held the lodge up a long time and need some rest. I could even ask past officers from Alpha who have the time to fill in occasionally, more light.
This, brother, is my challenge to us both: When its time and if you can choose only one: don’t affiliate with the beacon lodges near you, or far from you. Avoid them not out of malice or disdain but with love and as an homage to their labors and light. Carry the inspiration they developed in you by their example. Not to compete with them, rather to build something sustainable for other locals to join—to strengthen the network. It could have possibilities of being new and different from whence you came. Or, maybe building a solid, sustaining, masonic education would be enough.
Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org