by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
One of the things that Masonic Researchers seem to obsess over is how Freemasonry came into existence. As romantic as the thought of us being from the lineage of the Knight's Templar or Mithraism or the Ellucian Mysteries or the Egyptian Mystery Schools or Enoch or Ancient Aliens or if we were just a natural progression from the Medieval Stone Masons guilds; but does it really matter?
I don't know if any or many of the Masons really gave much thought about the future when they built the beautiful but now expensive-to-maintain Masonic cathedrals like the Masonic Temples in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Salt Lake City to name a few. These brethren thought that Freemasonry would continue to be as popular as it was in their time. They didn't foresee the decline in membership that has been occurring since we hit the four million member high watermark in 1960. To be honest, had you told any of them that we'd have four million members at one point, they would have felt that they did the right thing by leaving their future brethren ample space to work in the quarries.
Unfortunately, Freemasonry has been in decline since then, and short of some miracle, it will continue to decline. I just turned 49 years old, middle-aged by some standards, but yet still a young adult in Freemasonry where the average age of membership is somewhere in the mid-60s. While I don't have the exact number, the estimates put our current membership count somewhere between 1 million and 2 million members in the United States depending on which source you want to believe. If we just say that we have lost half our membership in 60 years, we will most likely see another 1 - 1.5 million member decline in the next 20 years.
But does it really matter?
I truly believe that it doesn't. It isn't going to matter how many lodges close or consolidate, how many appendant bodies have to consolidate their Grand Bodies or jurisdictions or perhaps close altogether, or how many members we have. The only thing that matter is that Freemasonry survives. It matters because of what Freemasonry is in its purest form, which is an egalitarian democratic institution that forbids sectarian influences during its proceedings. As long as we have one lodge that exists somewhere in the world, then Freemasonry survives. That's all that matters. Because as long as one lodge exists, it could then give birth to others, and appendant bodies could be resurrected, well you get the idea.
So maybe we need to stop worrying about the ifs, whens, and buts, and just try to make sure that Freemasonry in some fashion survives for future generations. Nothing else really matters.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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