A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Embracing the Internet: the Implications for Freemasonry

It should probably go without saying that the entire system of Masonic correspondence and the Masonic experience were never designed to operate in a modern world now dominated by Internet forms of communication and information. Though this can also be said about other organizations, Freemasonry is rather unique in its slow moving, deliberate, and useful process of making changes. The result is that Freemasonry as an institution has been one of the slowest to embrace Internet technology and equally slow in recognizing the implications that this technology can and will have on the Fraternity.

The fact, however, is that the Internet is here and is being used by many as their primary form of communication and information gathering. Freemasonry is not immune from this trend. Men are now very likely to use their electronic devices to search for information about Freemasonry, search for lodges in their communities, and to make inquiries about becoming a Freemason. The old norm of a man personally asking a Mason about the Fraternity is quickly being eroded.

In addition, individual Masons and lodges are turning more and more to the Internet as a way to communicate with each other. Lodges has discovered, for example, that newsletters can be emailed for far more cheaply that they can be sent out via the Postal Service. Grand Masters have also realized that email is a cheaper and quicker way to relay information to District Deputy Grand Masters and other Grand Lodge officers.

Websites have also become a way to provide information that otherwise would not have been easily available to many people. Calendars of events, locations of lodges, and contact information for lodges are all items that are increasingly being provided by way of websites. In this day and age, many people have sort of adopted a mindset of, “if an organization does not have a website, then it does not really exist.”

All of this notwithstanding, the Internet is not the answer to all of Freemasonry’s information and correspondence needs. It is just a tool among others. It is a powerful tool, however. It is also one that can be used – intentionally or unintentionally – to cause great harm to the Fraternity. That may be the primary reason for Freemasonry at all levels to embrace the Internet. Yes – it should be embraced for the good that it can be used for, but it should also be embraced as a potential enemy to Freemasonry. “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”* If the institution of Freemasonry does not know about how the Internet can be – and is - applied as a weapon against the Fraternity, then it can not be prepared to deal with the implications of such.

* Sun-tzu, Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Going to School – A Commentary

What is Freemasonry? If this question was asked of ten different Masons, there would very possibly be up to ten different answers returned. Undoubtedly, Freemasonry means many different things to its different Brothers on the surface of their consciousness and thoughts. But what if individual Masons were asked to boil down Freemasonry to its core purpose after much reflection as opposed to going with the answer that may readily come from the surface of their thoughts? Discovering Freemasonry’s core purpose – if there is one – would define its true meaning and reason for existence.

Like many Freemasons, I have contemplated on this subject for years. I have found that my classification of the core purpose has changed more than once over time as I have studied, pondered, and consulted with other Freemasons. It was this process that ultimately resulted in a personal “light bulb” moment. This process of studying, contemplating, and learning was itself the core purpose. Freemasonry is a school.

Unlike traditional schools and though specifics can sometimes be identified in the lessons, Freemasonry does not primarily teach specific knowledge. It does not teach the specifics of geometry, logic, music, or any other subject. Instead, it teaches its students how to learn and it does so in a very non-traditional manner.

It is non-traditional in that it is not readily obvious. Freemasonry’s teaching method forces the willing student to think outside of the normal educational paradigm. It attempts to educate its students on the art of learning and that all of one’s senses and resources should be brought to bear. But it does not, however, overtly identify this goal to the Masonic student. It only hints at this process of, for lack of a better phrase, self education. Willing students are forced to become their own professors that are, ideally, consulting with others that are also their own Masonic professors. Freemasonry’s school is also non-traditional in that one can never graduate from it. Diplomas of graduation are not issued and there are no officially identified teachers. All of its students are also its teachers.

Once a student of Freemasonry recognizes the teaching method and begins to practice it, the other possible purposes and meanings of Freemasonry began to make sense and concepts of such things as Brotherly love, charity, etc can be better understood in their proper context.

Of course, the school of Freemasonry does have an administration and a structure in place. This is absolutely necessary in order to preserve, protect, and promote the somewhat unusual teaching method and the ritual behind such. Without the structure and the administrators, Freemasonry’s school would quickly find its foundations eroded and the real purpose would, therefore, be lost.

Of course, I may have this all wrong. That is why I will stay in school for the rest of my days.