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Friday, June 02, 2017

"That which was lost..."


At one time, there was an eastern American grand lodge that was arguably one of the strictest Masonic jurisdictions in the country when it came to standing by its strong traditions. Their state has a very, very distinct ritual different from any other jurisdiction in America, based largely on Antients work from the 1700s. As a result, the typical ritual "exposures" that were published throughout the 1800s and later, based on Preston-Webb working—as much to benefit struggling members and officers with their memorization as they were to "reveal" any Masonic secrets—were always useless in their state. They were one of the last grand lodges to print any sort of ritual learning aids of any kind, and their ritual remained strictly transmitted from instructive tongue to attentive ear until the last decade. As any Past Master from there will tell you, the Master is run ragged by their ritual, since he almost never sits during meetings, and does the vast majority of the speaking roles throughout all of the degrees—including almost the entirety of the 2nd Section of the MM. The last time I visited, they also still required all officers to dress in tuxedos, and numerous other demands on their members that other jurisdictions either never did, or no longer do. 

Yet, despite their rigorous reputation as the tough tradition guys on the Masonic block, they have almost always been one of the largest Masonic jurisdictions in the country in terms of both membership statistics and number of lodges. So, their stringent standards, enforced for more than two centuries, certainly didn't scare off potential new members who got spooked by what was required to belong and be active.

Well, times have changed. Their grand lodge began publishing a fully spelled-out ritual several years ago (entirely skipping the single-letter cipher period that most other jurisdictions used for many years), and their long-cherished mentorship between men who spent weeks and even months working with each other to learn their enormous Master's parts, and others, has rapidly faded away as new members simply study on their own, alone, from a book now. Their stodgy, old grand lodge, once a longtime, noble holdout for tradition, sure came into the 21st century, all right.

So, someone sent me a link last night to their newest foray into the modern age as they attempt to dig up new petitioners: a merchandise incentive reward program.

You know, as in, "Sign up a new member, and earn some free STUFF!"

It has come to this. One wonders what their Antient forebears would have said.

10 comments:

  1. Our ritual compares us to the Order of the Garter, which is perhaps the premier order of chivalry in the world. The Queen does not give toasters to get members. I meet new members who would not get in Rotary. The problem is the leadership. There is nothing grand about many of the grand masters. In the case of jurisdictions like Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia and so on, it is in fact an indication of a self satisfied bigot.

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  2. Pennsylvania has done things like this for years. Many years ago, when I signed my father's petition, it was a jacket with a square and compasses. It is just one of the things that happens.

    Fraternally,

    Frank J. Kautz, II
    Past Master, Mt Hermon Lodge, AF&AM, Woburn, MA
    Past Master, Samuel Crocker Lawrence Lodge, AF&AM, Medford, MA

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  3. "Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy".

    By General Schwarzkopf.

    I served proudly and happily under his command during the Gulf War.

    The office of Grand Mastership is so important a part of Freemasonry that I do not think the Craft could survive as an institution without it. But it is an elective office.

    The perceived leadership problems of some Masonic jurisdictions could be the result of a certain constituency who demands to be represented and put those same leaders (in this case, the Grand Master) in power. Sounds kind of familiar. :)

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  4. Freemasonry existed before Grand Masters or Grand Lodges. Our strength is in the local lodge and in its relationship with its community. If the community thinks well of and supports their local lodge, then that lodge will flourish. Freemasonry has gotten uppity. We espouse a bunch of values that we don't live by. We act like we are above the "Profane" even though they are the only ones who will save our dying institution. We glorify these useless Grand whatevers when they do very little but embarrass us publicly. I can't go a week without reading about some Grand fool tarnishing the reputation of Freemasonry. We neglect our study and practice of the ritual, the only thing that separates us from a social club, and we induct uneducated men who have no philosophical or ethical education or interest. We have become an organization of hypocrisy and mediocrity, and speaking as a Millennial (the generation that most of the Craft derides and the only generation that can save it) I'm unimpressed. The teachings are great and the philosophy is useful, but the men who run our Craft are neither.

    Ethan Coker

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  5. As Thomas Paine opined "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.

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  6. "The office of Grand Master of Masons has existed from the very origin of the institution; for it has always been necessary that the Fraternity should have a presiding head."

    "There have been periods in the history of the institution when neither Deputies nor Grand Wardens are mentioned, but there is no time in its existence when it was without a Grand Master....The office is one of great honor as well as power, and has generally been conferred upon some individual distinguished by an influential position in society; so that his rank and character might reflect credit upon the Craft."

    By Albert G Mackey, M.D. 33rd Degree.

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  8. Pennsylvania is a a Great Jurisdiction with outstanding leadership and a beautiful ritual and a strong Brotherhood. Please stop this unfair criticism. I'm asking nicely. I will not see the Grand Lodge wronged without saying something here. You guys are out of line and really need to stop. Please.

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  9. I'm a PM in the jurisdiction you mention, and I have *never* heard anyone praise this program. I suspect that the Deputy GM will kill it.

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