The Sight and Smell of Stale Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark St. Cyr

The intent of the following is to make one strict point: You must honestly know and understand where you truly are, before, you can contemplate how you can move forward. Anything else is what amateurs posing as professionals do. Period, full stop. 

Here’s the setup… 

Imagine for a moment you’re a person that’s never had the experience of going to a true authentic and artisanal bakery, let alone indulged in its offerings, which used to be commonplace many years ago.  

All you know has come from some supermarket bread aisle. i.e.,  plain, ordinary, sliced, plastic bagged, and tagged bread. 

But you know there’s more. You’ve even seen “fresh baked”  offerings in that same supermarket. But it’s all felt unleavened in both appeal and presentation, with the always lurking question: is this hard because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or is it stale? 

So, for the umpteenth time, you put it down and seek back to the usual bread aisle to pick up old reliable “bagged and tagged”  because you don’t know how to differentiate and are afraid to ask for fear of appearances.  

But that yearning remains constant for “the real thing.”  

Then, you begin to get serious about wanting this unceasing craving substantiated. So you begin to research in the only place that allows privacy for your, now relentless and inquisitive,  pursuit: Books.

In these books you read about the wondrous properties and delights of creating fresh bread, then, the breaking of it around a  dining table with friends and family. 

You begin with immediacy to somehow smell the overwhelming fragrant aroma of its baking. You can sense the sheer anticipation of delight knowing what comes next with its accompanying rich creamery butter. 

You hear the sounds of satisfaction coming from others as they too partake in their first bites, yours joins them in chorus. 

Both laughter and serious voices dance in the air as conversations of past and future deeds are argued back and forth like fishing stories between friends. Everyone is consumed in conversations all while consuming the fare.  

And this is only the lead-in as you await with bated breath and tastebuds to partake in the main meal with all this near culinary religious experience.  

It’s there you begin to get a glimpse of understanding why the phrase “the bread of life” is used as a metaphor. Or said  differently - you are beginning to “get it.” 

Sounds pretty good, right? 

Now imagine you just went through the above mental exercise more times than you can count via different books and more which has now finally roused you to the point of true exploration.  i.e., reading moves to “knocking.” 

You venture out and find one of those old bakeries in what appears to be a once great building downtown that, maybe, has seen its better days a few years back. 

Undeterred, although with a bit of queasiness in your stomach,  you enter and ask “How to buy?” only to find out it’s a process that will take time, interviews, and more. 

Then, if you are “worthy,” you’ll be able to partake in all that richness you’ve been reading about (not to mention all the accompanying metaphysical drooling).  

Finally, your big day comes. It’s been a near agonizing wait with the suspense and anticipation you’ve created within yourself as you’ve read evermore, studying the founding and evolving processes of bread making from seed cultivation - through the milling processes, both past, and present. And more, much more.  

You can now nearly recite word for word the great artisan baker Alan Poke’s first chapter in “Recipes and Dogma.” i.e., you’ve truly committed honest time and energy to the craft. 

So, the big day has come. you’re told to do this and that in preparation. You’re hoodwinked, and you’re now wondering what all this ‘theater” is truly all about. Things are getting strange. 

You surmise the request for a change of dress is because they don’t want to get flour all over your nice, new dark suit.  

The blindfold must be to keep the secret of the “mother culture”  or “starter dough” that’s been used to keep centuries-old sour dough recipes alive and usable in bread to this day. i.e., Can’t let the “secret recipe” fall into the wrong hands after all, right? 

You keep affirming to yourself “This is so going to be so worth it.” 

Then, after all is said and done. You finally reach the point you’ve waited for with more anticipation than a new puppy about to venture into the great outdoors for its first time.

And the door opens… 

Now after all the preceding theater, either done once via the  “Instant Master Baker” ceremony or, via the traditional “Three and Done” method. It’s now come time for you to take your right place amongst the other Bakers and conduct the true bakery  business of “Baking Bread.” For you are now a fully recognized  “Master Baker.” 

This time you walk into the inner sanctum of the Bakery of your own accord and with eyes wide open. As you enter you’re adorned with your own apron. 

Then, after a bit of mumbo jumbo you needed to memorize and recite, you sit down. And with a wrap of a rolling pin by the head baker - you’re then served some form of generic sliced bread on a disposable plate along with paper tabbed margarine as an accompaniment - and a plastic knife. 

Then the conversations begin, but they’re not anything like the ones you’ve envisioned originally.  

No, now the conversations that loft in the air are about how there’s little gas left in the bakery’s propane tank to store any more bread from the supermarket.  

Arguments begin on why the bread being served is now on a  paper plate rather than china. Guys begin shouting things like  “Who decided we’re going to have no-name margarine instead of  ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®’ and why there was no vote on  the matter?!” 

As all this is going on you’re approached by a member you  haven’t spoken to more than once, if that, when he asks “So, the  next logical step for you now is to enter the ‘Baker’s line’ so you  can move up the process and gain the title of ‘Most Amazing.’  and run the bakery yourself!’ Are you in?”

You ask “Is there any real baking that’s to be done?” And the  answer comes back “Well, that depends on what you mean by  that, after all, ‘baking’ gives you what you put into it!”  

So you say, “Can I see the baking supplies and ovens, first?”  Only to be greeted with “Oh, no we don’t really do any of that old-time ‘baking’ stuff anymore. We, more or less, ‘Bake More Bread  Better’ via running pancake breakfasts, fish fry’s, and other stuff to raise funds to help those that can’t afford it to buy bread at the  supermarket for themselves.” 

“See, it’s all about being involved in ‘The Community.’ And what we need to help fill that role are people like yourself that can help with the upkeep of the bakery so we can do just that and serve said community. Remember the motto ‘Flour, Water, and  Charity?’ It’s our raison d’ĂȘtre, remember?” 

Then, you return those words that strike fear into every baker  that’s been in the “Baker’s chair” more times than they can  count, hoping you’re going to be the next to relieve them:  

“Um, let me think about it for a bit, OK?”  

Then comes the seasoned response of “Sure.” And they seem to not just walk away, but skulk. You can feel the disappointment,  yet, you don’t even know why. But you know it nonetheless. 

So, the meeting ends, you go home and you think about it.  Your conclusion? 

You end up going back to the supermarket and purchasing one of those “Artisan” loaves of bread that are marked as “Fresh Baked” at the sudo bakery within its walls. 

You take it home, slice off a few, throw them in the toaster, then open the accompanying package of “Grade A Butter” you purchased along with it.  

With an inconsequential “pop” you begin to paste your butter on the now warm, toasted slices trying to reimagine what you dreamt what might have been - but was not. 

But it’s better, cheaper, and far less time-consuming than what you just went through you begin to argue to yourself. 

And with that, you now decide it’s not worth returning, after all, it’s far easier to just visit the supermarket and get some sort of placebo effect at the “bakery” rather, than return to that supposed “real one” where the fare just seems like it been left out too long and gone moldy. 

And with that, another is NPD almost as fast as they joined.  What’s worse, is they’re never going to darken one of those  “bakeries” ever again along with that compound effect of they’ll probably discourage others should ever a conversation pertaining to the idea arises. 

Now here’s the truly frightful prospect to all the above in this… 

Our improvised character now believes the idea of that ideal,  which they searched for and longed for - was all but a long lost dead mirage of what once was - parading around as if it still is. 

Or said differently: Not only are they now encrusted with the blatantly wrong image of what Freemasonry offers. They’ll probably tell anyone who questions them regarding it that it was not only not what they thought it was, but actually, was all kind of weird and actually disappointing, suggesting those inquiring to rethink their query should they ever entertain a notion about joining. 

This is what the vast majority of American Freemasonry is doing to itself. Every. Single. Day. 

And for those arguing that those of us pointing this out need to just shut up, sit down and stop complaining.

All I have to say to you is this: 

Don’t explain to me… 

Explain to yourself how the above (both seeker and/or baker) is not you. 

It’s OK, I’ll wait. 

Mark St.Cyr 


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