Commentary on "When the Meme Hits Home"
Over a week ago, they superbly well-put-together blog site known as "The Midnight Freemasons" published an article by Right Worshipful Brother Robert Johnson (also of The Masonic Roundtable and Whence Came You fame) entitled "When the Meme Hits Home." If you have not read this article, please do so HERE before you press forward with this post.
All caught up? Great. On the face of it, a well thought out article, and the author does make some points that are worth serious consideration by those who really believe in the Craft as a treasure trove of hermetic and transcendental philosophy. But underneath the obvious statements about Freemasonry being a "ground floor" to other, more deeper and spiritual concepts in the World, I sensed a bit of defeatism in the "letting Freemasonry be led as it is now" idea that Brother Johnson is putting forth. Ultimately, I do not think that Craft Masonry, in it's current form is thriving or long for survival as it exists today.
The current organizational make up of Freemasonry, at least in the United States, is not designed to flourish in its current form. The overhead of extremely large Grand Lodge systems, systems that were designed for the quantity of members extant 50-75 years ago, are too large and expensive to maintain as they are now. The expenses at the top trickle down to a mostly dwindling membership at the bottom. As costs continue to increase, there are fewer people to "pay" for everything.
Is this the fault of the Grand Lodge system in general? Absolutely not. In fact, the primary root cause of this problem was the failure to maintain the burden of cost throughout the decades. Keeping dues artificially low has depleted the reserves of nearly all local Lodges, and these Lodges nowadays are all paying into a system to support it, but one that has a negative rate of return. $50.00 in dues a year in 1970 are not worth the same as today. So for those Lodges that have frozen dues, and are still paying $50.00 a year, they should actually be paying $331.15 a year today to have kept up with inflation. That is a loss of $282 per member, per year. No organization on the planet can maintain or even survive in such a financial state. Even in a single year, in a modest jurisdiction size of 10,000 members, that is a difference of $2.8 million a year. With that influx of money, you could have catered pancake breakfasts every DAY.
This is exacerbated when you look at membership statistics as a whole. With nearly all jurisdictions in the United States showing a loss in membership year after year (with only a minuscule few at an equilibrium or actual state of increase), coupled with the reducing value of our income, it is only going to become unsustainable far more quickly. The institution, as a whole, will not be able to send out trestleboards, super-relevant magazines (sarcasm here), or high quality paper dues cards (sarcasm again) in such a poorly funded state.
Why is this important? Because as a result of the above, we as an organization cut costs everywhere else to keep that "bare-minimum" standard of living, and we as an organization suffer for it. We cheapen the experience, we cut out the "superfluous" things, and reduce the overall quality of the entire system by maintaining organizations with a 1/10 of the money needed in our modern era. You know, superfluous things like a truly worthwhile agape, education within the walls of the Lodge, Lodge halls of splendor instead of wood paneled mediocrity, erudite discourse, and teaching newer Masons and young men how to be a better form of themselves than they thought possible.
At the end, though, Brother Johnson is correct in his assessment of the meme and it's meaning. It is better to demit, leave, find a Lodge more at your "speed," or even start one on your own that meet your needs. As I have learned over the years, there are enough people around you that think about the Craft the same way you do. Find them, seek them out, and give them a place to Work. Once you are well established, take that change and move it upward.
~~ FDTL ~~