With recent declines in membership, it becomes easier to notice the different personalities that are entering our fraternity. We, now more than ever, have the ability to focus specialized attention to our new members, and try our best to give them what they need to be involved in the fraternity. Even though we have this ability we still run into the same issues. Once a new initiate is made a full-fledged member of the lodge we still lose them. Remarks are made as to how “interested he seemed”, or “he caught on so well to the memorization”. Which made me think, are the desires to become active in a fraternal organization a matter of pure natural occurrence, through strict nurturing or some combination of the two.
I found myself enthralled with this internal debate of completing my last article regarding “Masons in name only”. I stated in that piece that those men simply weren’t interested in any aspect of what the fraternity has to offer but still want to be acquainted with it, if only to see some benefit to wearing one of our several emblems. Then I started thinking that may not be the case at all. In a wonderful piece entitled The Initiatic Experience, the author, Worshipful Brother Robert Herd, takes us on a Journey through the centuries of Initiatic Rites. As he goes through history highlighting, what many believe to be the amalgam of orders which eventually shaped the Speculative Freemasonry we know today, we see that these orders were all held in high esteem and many could only hope to be chosen to be part of the teachings. In many cases it came to a point where the Rich and Powerful who thought that they were entitled to these teachings would be shunned as they were not worthy to have such light bestowed upon them. Those rich and powerful would then use their influence to ban such organizations. Such as the same persecutions that Freemasonry has suffered throughout the ages.
So what drove those people to want to be admitted to such a group that they would in some cases risk sacrificing their lives to be a part of such noble teachings. Obviously, they had a powerful desire to be part of something greater than themselves, as they may only play a small part in helping to continue invaluable education that would need to be passed to future generations, knowing that each of them would not be remembered especially for creating it or advancing it. That no books would be wrote about them, that they would receive no compensation nor riches other than the enlightenment that they sought in the first place. This I believe proves a natural component in many men, that desire to be part of a greater whole than to be great themselves, thus completing the natural occurrence debate.
Then I thought to myself, family is important in Freemasonry, and nothing can make a proud Mason happier than standing beside his (blood) brother, son, or grandson as they receive their degrees and continue on a family lineage. But what do we usually see in this aspect. Often times direct descendants will follow the same path that their actual forefathers followed. Thus, if this new members’ father was active, the new member will probably be active. If the new members’ predecessor was not active, the new member will most likely not be active either. I see this in my own lodge, we have one family in particular that at one time was extraordinarily prevalent in the lodge, a small feud started and poof they were gone with but one exception, the Patriarch stood fast alone as the only representative to the family. Eventually the Patriarchs one son came back, then the other, then some of the grandchildren, next thing we knew all living male members of the family had been made a Mason and now we can’t have a Masonic function without this family being present in full force. It’s quite a beautiful thing, to see an entire family active and doing what they can to support the lodge at all costs. Thus this proves that nurturing has a lot to do with how some men enter and carry themselves throughout their Masonic career.
Lastly, does this mean that Freemasons made from one of these two components only or is it a combination of the two. As this is an opinionative column I’ll give you what I believe. I believe it’s a natural occurring desire more than anything. At least at the roots. No man is going to be active in any organization he doesn’t want to take the time and understand. Many of our members may have been pressured into joining during our recruitment pushes. Many may have been influenced because their boss was a Mason, and at least if he pays his dues, he can keep wearing that ring and he and his boss will be on better terms. The family referenced above, we say a lot of traits are genetic, and at some point, a member of that family had to have the desire to give of himself and join the fraternity. Those who followed could have easily joined, paid their dues and disappeared into eternity but they didn’t, they stuck together out of principle and once that time had elapsed their desire to return out weighed their desire to hold a grudge.
All in all a man is only going to be active if he so desires. Now this is not to say that in some cases a pure desire of another cannot unlock the same desire in someone else, but it still implies that the desire had to be there in first place. Ultimately the saving grace of our fraternity is going to come down to those who are naturally drawn to the Light of Freemasonry. It will be those men who are so eager to learn the teachings of Freemasonry and pass them to the future generations, with no expectations of notoriety or riches, but to play their part as an extraordinarily important cog in the immense wheel that is the oldest and proudest fraternity known to man. With these men we can assure ourselves that although our numbers may not be as strong as they once were, the teachings of Freemasonry will continue for eternity to those who desire to look for it.
Bro. Spangler is the District Deputy Grand Master of the 27th Masonic District under the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and a two time Past Master of Armstrong Lodge #239 in Freeport, PA. He is a two time Past High Priest of Orient Holy Royal Arch Chapter #247, Deputy Illustrious Master of Kittanning Council #52, and Warder of Holyrood Commandery #100 all in Kittanning, PA. He is a member of the Valley of New Castle AASR and Syria Shrine in Cheswick, PA. A member of Gateway to the West Council #5 of Knight Masons USA located in Pittsburgh, PA. A member of the Widows Sons, Masonic Riders Association, Tyrian Chapter, located in Plumcreek/Monroeville, PA. He is at the forefront of advancing Freemasonry to the best of his ability by working within the constraints of the Rules and Regulations to spread the light of Freemasonry. He focuses highly on the philosophical and symbolic importance of the fraternity and the promoting of Masonic Education. Bro. Cody can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org