See also: “The Decline of Civil Society and the Rise of Freemasonry.”
[Author’s Note: This piece was inspired by a very timely talk given by my Grand Master at a very recent District Inspirational Meeting.]
It probably can be safely said and generally agreed upon that the Brotherhood that is Freemasonry has been idling in neutral for at least several decades now. This is not to claim that Freemasonry has not been involved in sustaining herself – despite some negative trends and actions that have sometimes eroded the Fraternity’s collective character – but a statement of presumed fact as pertains to Freemasonry’s role in general society.
Let it be made clear that Freemasonry as an entity does not engage in the shaping of society. However, the lessons contained in Freemasonry have often been an integral factor when individual Masons became involved in shaping – or building – society. Some of the best examples of this can be found in the Revolutionary and Constitution-writing eras of the United States. During that time period, society was in a state of turmoil in this nation and Freemasonry was very well represented among the men that stood up and provided the leadership and action needed to guide society through the trials and tribulations of those times. Known and productive society was unraveling during those days some two hundred plus years ago and many Freemasons were instrumental in bringing order – an order based on liberty – out of the chaos.
Many people now feel that known and productive society is again unraveling. As was the case with the years leading up to the American Revolution, this unraveling did not happen overnight. Rather, it has taken years to occur – one loosened strand at a time – and Freemasons have, in large part, sadly stood idle as it has happened.
Despite this, there are signs that the Craft is beginning to shift out of neutral and again engage in the business of providing the leadership and action needed to shape societal direction. The bad news is that there is a massive learning curve to overcome – being that it has been a very long time since this type of activity was engaged in. The Fraternity will have to shake off its collective social club mentality if it is to be successful in teaching its members how to reengage in the shaping of general society. It will also have to relearn the concept of positive elitism or exclusiveness. It will have to reeducate itself on the real purpose of Freemasonry, which has little to do with maintaining a physical building or bringing in new members.
The learning curve can be overcome and there are more and more signs that point to a shift in thinking that will defeat that curve. Assuming these steps will be successful; the Craft will indeed no longer be sitting in neutral and will reengage general society.