FREEMASONRY AND THE PUBLIC IMAGE

By Wor Bro Clive Herron Marine Lodge - 627 I.C

 Masonry teaches us many life skills not taught elsewhere.

In a lodge a Brother must speak in public, vote on issues and eventually chair meetings.

In addition it provides opportunity to experience administrative responsibility, ceremonial activity, fund raising and caring. All in an atmosphere of peace, love and harmony.

Why is it therefore that Brethren will talk freely of their membership of other service clubs but in some cases go out of their way to conceal the fact that they are Freemasons.

This only serves to perpetuate the belief that we are a secret society with something to hide. If the public do not know who we are, can they be blamed for the mistrust and suspicion they have of our Order. And in many cases we are to blame.

We must demonstrate to the public, hopefully making our Order more attractive to prospective members that Freemasonry aims to develop the individual as a good citizen and a man with a good moral foundation. Other benefits to society may follow, but these come from individuals acting in their personal capacities and not as Freemasons. At no stage must we ever compromise our standards for admission and if we adhere to our firm requirements that membership is open only to men of integrity, of any religion, who believe in a Supreme Being then no person can justifiably condemn us.

The world judges us, as they perceive us. The organisation is known not only by its member’s abilities but also their attitudes. Going public will expose members to scrutiny, (especially being masons) and as I have pointed out before it is the individual who makes up the whole and public opinion will be formulated on the way the individual is judged.

An observation made by Thomas Jefferson a former President of America “Always commit an act as though the world were looking at you”

The world is becoming more permissive moral standards are falling. We are however mandated to be inflexible in our fidelity and to familiarise ourselves with the rules of Freemasonry, which we have sworn to uphold, and then to act in conformity with them. If we do this we will be entitled to self esteem and we will be setting a good example for others to follow. If we cannot accept them by abiding to Freemasonry’s moral and philosophical principles, how can we expect non-freemasons to accept them or to join us and learn? We must remember, what we do today has a significant impact on the future.

Changes are nevertheless taking place and it is how we manage these changes that we will be judged.

In masonry change has always taken place. Skilled masons left Jerusalem and travelled the world using their skills and teaching their moral principles. With the collapse of the Gothic period in the middle Ages membership was augmented with non-artisans and the ritual developed stressing philosophical rather than practical lessons. The decision to change the burning of the three great lights from oil or candles to electric light bulbs must have in itself generated debate. Traditionalists will have to become more flexible in allowing Freemasonry to move forward.

But in an age where man has gone to the moon and back is old hat change is taking place at a rapid rate and these new changes will place Masonry under extensive public scrutiny. Firstly by those who oppose our moral standards and secondly by those who envy them but remain too bigoted to acknowledge Freemasonry as a force of good.

In this the age of computers and cell phones communication has become instant and views for or against can be transmitted almost at the blink of an eye. Already a number of lodges a emailing communications and using cell phone messaging to remind brethren of events. Information technology has come to the forefront. The public are no longer satisfied with simple explanations given down the line. They want new and instant information as it happens. Based on this they will make up their minds for or against. In the 1970’s Bill Gates predicted that we would become dependent on the PC – He was correct. Today the computer is fast being replaced with laptops, palm held units; even cell phones have access to the Internet. Information is being disseminated on the move. Even libraries are being replaced with databases. Lodges will have to own and use equipment such as DVD players and overhead projectors to make lectures more interesting and more in line with modern day instruction. Lodge will be able to form cyber links with overseas Lodges and conduct joint meetings via a network. Future Masons will be familiar with these practices in their work places and Freemasonry will be forced to follow in order to maintain interest. Probably just as important is the opportunity that modern technology gives us to spread the word.

 Freemasonry has to expose itself to the electronic age and the Internet and become more public. Freemasonry has a new opportunity to sell itself to the world. With the advent of the electronic age more has been written about Freemasonry in the last 5 years than since the inception of Masonry in the days of Solomon. 

 There are many benefits to be had by becoming more public these were acknowledged by the Grand Master M.Wor Bro Eric Waller in his address to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, Belfast on Saturday 30 October 2004.

 And I quote

Tremendous benefits will accrue from informing the public about the true nature of Freemasonry, thereby achieving a vastly improved public image. A major step in this direction was the creation of the Grand Lodge website, an excellent source of accurate information about Irish Freemasonry.. M.Wor Bro. Eric Waller 30 October 2004

 Like it or not Freemasonry is set for change in the 21st century and like all formations the need to become transparent is paramount. To remain, or once again become obedient to our rules cannot be accomplished by urging or by enforcement, but by our self-control, which will have to be visibly demonstrated and open to public scrutiny. This is not a change we should resist as only when our pure principles and mandatory duties become the reigning reality of our thoughts and the inspiration or our acts can Freemasonry be the influence intended.