What Are We, Anyway? - Part One
I've been reading social media posts and blogs all week long, touching on a wide range of Masonic topics. Cheers for inter-visitation, anger over racism in the Craft, pictures of crab feasts, and the occasional gun raffle to raise money for one charity or another. It got me thinking, do we even know who we are as a fraternity, as a Brotherhood, and as a society of people with a common cause?
I don't think we do, or I think we have at least forgotten. What we are, at this very moment, is confused...
There exist many groups and organizations that seek to improve the quality of life in one's self and one's community. So many groups that someone can join; to serve and donate and volunteer time and energy. Each of these groups has a concise goal, a clear mandate, or a defined mission statement. What I have seen, living as a Freemason for 15 years, is that we, as an organization, do not have that, or even know what it is.
Look at Kiwanis International. Great organization. Not a member, but I know many people that are. Their mission is clearly defined: " Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time (www.kiwanis.org, 2019)." People who want to devote their free time to serving their community, and focus on helping children. Great cause, and again, it is a focused goal.
Moose International is another fraternal organization, one that has members "dedicated to helping people young and old, [and] bringing communities closer together" (www.mooseintl.org, 2019). Again, great organization, with a directed purpose, and a fantastic membership. I know many people who are both Masons and Moose; each organization giving them different perspective in fraternalism and charity.
I could continue to provide examples of other organization that help communities, raise monies for charities, and improve the quality of life locally and across the globe. Groups like the Rotary Club, the Knights of Columbus, and the Lions Club are all great choices for men and women to join and take part. All these organizations have an individual flavor and purpose.
So what makes Freemasonry different? How does Freemasonry find a voice amidst the tidal wave of groups for people to join? What makes Freemasonry stand apart?
To answer these questions, we have to discuss where Freemasonry diverged from it's course, became homogenized, and was lost in the sea of the other fraternal bodies.
Freemasonry, whether it began proper in 1717, or had it's beginnings in the ancient civilizations of the past, flourished and kept to its mission throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Extending from Europe to the New World, the mission of Freemasonry, that of "making good men better," had a tangible and defined origin. But that all changed with the rise of the 20th century.
The "Golden Age of Fraternalism" began in the post Civil-War era, where many people wanted to continue the camaraderie and brotherhood inherent in military life. This created an uptick in people joining organizations that promised, even a small taste, of that camaraderie. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, most organizations expanded greatly and flourished. Everyone wanted to join something, and these organizations thought "the more the merrier." It was this desperate need to "join" that began the decline of the more philosophical aspects of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry always promoted just and proper conduct; it always promoted education and philanthropy. Freemasonry also had a grand sense of community involvement and sharing in a common experience. It always offered a festive meal, and it also always espoused charity towards its own, and towards all mankind. But during the "Golden Age of Fraternalism," all these different aspects subsumed the primary drive and purpose of becoming a Freemason, and diluted the Craft with all these outlier missions.
We will finish up in Part Two
~~ FDTL ~~