A group of Master Masons talk about topics of Masonic interest--each from their own unique perspective. You'll find a wide range of subjects including history, trivia, travel, book reviews, great quotes, and hopefully a little humor as well on topics of interest for Freemasons and those interested in the subject of Freemasonry.
“The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and badge.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recently, I was informed of a degree in a lodge in my jurisdiction where the candidate was wearing an ankle bracelet (as in an electronic ankle monitor). It seems ironic that we would have someone wearing an electronic ankle monitor participate in the degrees of our progressive moral science. So much for being divested of all metals! This is the sad state of our Fraternity, where we are so desperate for members that we apparently are willing to accept any man, as long as they have a pulse. This is what happens when the west gate is left wide open. Now, to be fair to that lodge, there is nothing in my jurisdiction's constitution and bylaws that prohibit someone with a prior misdemeanor or felony from joining, and by proxy, there is nothing that forbids a man who is currently serving a sentence for committing a crime from joining the Fraternity. Ironically enough, if you commit a Felony while you are a Freemason, you face the potential of suspension and/or expulsion.
I'm sure at this point, I may have someone reading this article telling me that it is the internal and not the external qualifications of the man that we have to look at. I do agree with this. However, I would ask them, how can you know a man has changed if he hasn't even completed his sentence for a crime he committed? It's just bad optics in my humble opinion. While it very well might be good for the lodge, is it really good for Freemasonry? In my lodge, right before the ballot is cast, we are reminded by the Master to vote for the good of Freemasonry. I usually think about that quote Mister Spock gives in "Wrath of Khan" when I hear this: "Logic dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
I also have written previously where I had struggled with the idea of voting for a man in his 30's who when he was 17 made a mistake and took a plea deal that would keep him out of jail but which made him a Felon. So, while I'll admit freely to my hypocrisy, In the case of my example, I discovered a man that was still legally a child that made a mistake and made a mature decision to plea to a Felony in order to avoid jail time so that he could provide for his family. He served his obligations to society and sought out Freemasonry to continue his journey of self-improvement. He came back month after month to get to know us and to allow us to get to know him before he petitioned.
How can we trust a man to fulfill his obligations to his Fraternity and his brothers when he has not even fulfilled his obligation to society? So, I'm sure that there might be a perfectly good reason for this lodge voting this man wearing an electronic ankle monitor to receive the degrees of Freemasonry. Yes, that was sarcasm. Maybe I'm being elitest, and I admit that I don't know the story of this individual. This being said, I stand by my point of having the individual finish his obligation to society before petitioning a lodge for the degrees of Freemasonry. Have we lost all common sense?
That same evening, I was also informed that there might be a Masonic Trial in another lodge because of them admitting in a man, who is now a fellowcraft, and who clearly has some mental illness. The Fellowcraft apparently has defamed his lodge brethren and accused them of sending voices into his brain among other things. I find it hard to believe that our Grand Lodge would allow the trial, as the Mason isn't a Master Mason, and there are specific bylaws regarding members of the lodge objecting to the advancement of a candidate through the degrees. All this being said, what is apparent to me is that the lodge didn't properly vet the candidate and doing so failed to guard the West Gate.
As I don't know any details of this lodge's recruitment process, I can only speculate that what happened is what happens time and time again in many Masonic lodges. A man shows up to a lodge before a stated meeting, and inquires about Freemasonry and he's handed a petition. Instead of getting to know the individual by requiring him to come back consecutive months in a row, members of the lodge sign the petition after that one meeting, so that they can read it that evening, assign an investigation committee. Instead of really getting to know the candidate, the investigation committee asks him if he believes in a higher power, and that's about it. They return a favorable recommendation to the Worshipful Master and the lodge votes on the candidate the next meeting.
I am by no means a fisherman, but I do know that certain fish prefer certain types of bait and will only go after that bait, while more common fish will strike at anything thrown into the water on a hook. Modern Freemasonry has come to a point where instead of trying to bait our hook to catch a Salmon, we settle for Herring, Rock Bass or Bluegill. Many lodges feel that if they can collect enough Herring,Rock Bass, or Bluegill, then it doesn't matter if they catch Salmon or not. It doesn't matter if we have quality when we have quantity.
What happened to being selective? Part of fishing, at least in my experience is throwing back the smaller fish in the hopes to get a bigger one, or at least to allow the smaller fish to grow into a bigger one. Yet, we bait our hooks by holding our public Pancake Breakfasts, Spaghetti Dinners, and anything else we can think of to get men in the door, hand them a signed petition and hope they work out. Shouldn't we be using bait to catch Salmon? Don't we want to bring in the quality men in our communities instead of settling for the common man? If so,while I realize that many jurisdictions don't allow invitations to petition, why aren't we using those to target and invite men that we know would be good for our lodges?
I also know that many Grand Lodges are now spending significant resources on advertising using targeted ads in streaming apps and social media. Like it or not, younger generations use apps like Tik Tok and Facebook is for old people. If we want to target the future Freemasons in these generations, we need to adapt to use technology in our favor, and more importantly control the narrative. No offense towards my Masonic brethren that use and produce Tik Tok content, but when I search Tik Tok for Freemasonry, I see a bunch of Anti-Masonic information and very few brothers that actually spreading light. I see Grand Lodges and appendant bodies that should have official Tik Tok Channels and don't, and they are missing an opportunity to spread their message. Many companies that provide targeted ads can use algorithms to send the ad directly to a male user between a specific age demographic, that might use search terms like: "Freemason", "Templar", "National Treasure", "Dan Brown".... you get my point. My point is that we can bait the hook to target these men that are showing an interest in Masonic or Masonic - adjacent topics immediately.
Yes, it's still going to ultimately up to the local lodge to do a proper investigation and vetting of their candidates. They are the ones that are going to have to judge if the man is a good fit for their lodge. So maybe we are still doomed to repeat the same mistakes, and settle for Herring instead of Salmon. But we need to stop relying on old attages like "2BE1ASK1", old ideas like pancake breakfasts and get with the times. It's time for Freemasonry to stop being reactive, and time for it to be proactive. What we teach in our lodges is needed now more than ever. I think it's okay for us to want to advertise that, and proactively advertise it. Honestly, it wouldn't be that hard. Take one of many videos that are from the Not Just a Man campaign, and it's ready to go. Lord knows we've wasted money on more frivolous efforts, so what do we really have to lose?
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.