Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rough Ashlar No. 17: The Brave New World of Freemasonry

Recently, an exchange I had with a couple of brothers has given me pause to contemplate the difference between critique and hostility.

Having spent a large part of my adult life in close proximity to academia, I have come to take it for granted that adults will have developed an appreciation for critical thinking. It doesn't naturally occur to me that being critical of any aspect of the world would be construed as being inherently hostile toward it.

Since Freemasons are, at least by me, assumed to be involved on some level with self-examination as a means to self-improvement if not self-perfection, I have always assumed that they of all people would appreciate this. Animosity, even toward those with whom I disagree, has never been a part of my critique whether public or private.

It appears that at least in the case of some, I have been mistaken. For that, I am sorry, but I am more bemused. I will never likely change in this regard. I believe criticism of what we perceive as wrong, when combined with critical judgement, represents a valid means of communicating with others. I certainly will not retract those criticisms I have made concerning the flaws I see in the human institution of Freemasonry, whether they represent institutional flaws or errors in attitudes among individual members of our fraternity.

Since it is possible, even probable, that some Freemasons will view me as hostile to what is commonly referred to in North America as "mainstream" Freemasonry, allow me to assert that nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that I am a Liberal Freemason. Just as I understand that all religions hold kernels of universal truth, but not all the truth, so it is with Freemasonry.

My only hope is that we can increase communication and learn that working on ourselves and our institutions is in the greater good. I believe in Universal Freemasonry, regardless of the artificial and political boundaries we have created within our institutions. Believe it or not, we are all in this together.

I do not have delusions concerning the potential impact of my observations. I hope that in some small ways my efforts will open a few minds and instigate a little more communication. It's a big hope for a modest impact.  I hope this will serve as an olive branch for those who have misconstrued my intentions. For the rest, let it be a branch of acacia. Mainstream Freemasonry does not need to listen to my critiques. It would be wise however, to engage in more self-critique and introspection, not because I think it should, but because doing so will help it respond to change and strengthen.

After all of the above, I have come to my point, finally.

Freemasonry has, admittedly without intending to, entered a brave new world. It was inevitable. The internet was created and like it or not, it has changed the entire world. It is also changing Freemasonry. No, I do not envision a Freemasonry which exists only online. Nor do I think that the traditional structures of Freemasonry will morph into something radically different, although they are likely to diversify.

What I do know is that thanks to the internet, the cat is out of the bag. We have entered a world where the Masonic powers no longer control access to information. It was once sufficient to call another form of Freemasonry or those who were members of other forms of Freemasonry "apostate" or in Masonic parlance, "irregular" and ban communication with them. That worked for those masons who didn't think for themselves, and to an extent it appears to still work, although those days are numbered.

Today Freemasons encounter far more masons online in a week than only a few decades ago most would encounter in a lifetime. Without even meeting masons of other obediences, Freemasons with internet connections are going to be exposed to a wider range of information and ideas concerning Freemasonry than ever before. This combined with greater access to early documents and academic scrutiny, are pealing away layers of myths that were constructed over the past two centuries to present and maintain a monolithic view of Masonic history.

It may, given the resistance of Masonic institutions to change, take years for some of them to recognize that the world around them has changed. Some others may already realize that this will be, in fact already is, a game changer. How they respond will affect them more than it will others.

Adaptation is going to take more than clever public relations campaigns. Minds will absorb what they are exposed to, even masonic minds. The days of being able to control the flow of information has ended. It's a brave new world. The cat will not be put back in the bag.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A View Behind the Curtain: A Look at Our Stats

This may really not be of interest to anyone but me, but from time to time I enjoy looking at the stats that blogspot gives me. If I were less numerically challenged, they might actually reveal more to me than they do. I admit to an abiding suspicion that if the truth were to be told, statistics say whatever you want them to say.

That being said, I find the fact that on a given day more than 200 people have read what I've written here, and that I clock up what is to me at least an amazing figure of over 9,000 hits in a single month is surprising. That as of the moment I am writing this, my blog has been viewed an all time total of 130,322 times is humbling, and I hope at least a few of these have found something of value here.

I have no idea how any of this compares to other Masonic blogs, and I may be revealing that I actually have an incredibly small stake in the Masonic Blogosphere. Whatever, that's ok. It still is a great honor to me that so many have chosen to read my thoughts on various topics, mostly on Freemasonry.

What has been even more surprising to me is when I get readers from places such as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Angola, Moldova, Russia, Sweden, Mauritius, as well as the more expected locations such as Spain, Brazil, France, Ireland, England, Germany, and perhaps not surprisingly, my largest share, which come from the United States.

As I said, I've no idea if any of this is of the remotest interest to all of you out there, but it has fascinated, and I admit, pleased me a little. Mostly, it has been amazing and humbling. So, this is just a note to allow me to draw back the curtain a bit from my end, and to thank all of you who have taken the time to visit my blog. 

In the time since November of 2011 when I first began this blog, I've only received negative comments from two people, which may mean no more than that most don't think it worth criticizing. However, I've also received a fair number of complements, sometimes from some unexpected sources. This pleases me, mostly because it speaks to the courtesy found among Freemasons, even when they come across a brother who doesn't mind speaking his mind more openly than is common in the fraternity.

So, thank you all, and I'll keep going as long as I find I have things to say that people appear interested in reading. I hope most of you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have, and that you'll keep coming back for more. I have learned an amazing amount in the process, which, along with the friendships I have cemented along the way, has made it well worth the effort.