In search of a title for this paper I could only arrive at one word to express the feelings of many who are concerned with the lack of enthusiasm and dedication to the Craft on the part of a large percentage of our Past. Masters. That word is “absence”.
The title of this paper may indicate that all Past Masters neglect their lodges as soon as they are installed as Immediate Past Masters. While this is not. true, a great number seem to feel that they are no longer obligated to be regular attenders and to offer their support to the Worshipful Master and his officers. Yet those who occupy the chairs are to some extent the members who supported the Past Master during his year in office.
From its origin to the present hour, in its entire vicissitudes, Masonry has been the steady unweaving friend of man. – Rev. Erastus Burr
Every Mason who has attentively observed the action of Grand Lodges within the last few years, must have seen the indications of progress shown by these bodies assuming a higher position in regard to moral requirements. Although morality is one of the foundation stones of our mystic temple, yet for many years there was some remissness in enforcing its observance. Members were too often permitted to violate the moral law with impunity, forgetful of the solemn admonitions of the Order, and reckless, not only of their own standing, but of the reputation of Freemasonry itself. The moral aspect of Masonry is, to a great extent, known by the uninitiated only as it is seen in the character and conduct of its members. Hence, a swearing, drinking, gambling, Sabbath-breaking Mason, was considered by “outsiders” as a legitimate representative of the Order to which they belonged: and when told that Masonry did not sanction nor permit such things, they triumphantly pointed to facts – to A, to B, to C, – whose daily practice taught very different doctrine, and whose membership in the Craft sustained the assumption.
By Kenneth H. Hooley
Let me open by saying that I realize that the A. Douglas Smith, Jr. Research Lodge #1949 is normally engaged in passive research. That is to say that its usual preoccupation lies in the collection, collation, and interpretation of past and present events with Freemasonry for the use and benefit of future generations.
However, our Fraternity now faces a serious national decline in membership of alarming proportions. It has been entrenched for at least 10 years. In 1974 national Blue Lodge membership stood at 4 million. At the end of 1984 membership had declined to about 3 million, a straight-line attrition of about simple 2.5 percent per year. This is the most optimistic analysis. More likely, this decline is tracing a parabolic curve, like a mortgage wherein the remaining balance reduces to a near vertical descent in the latter years of the mortgage term. On this basis, national Masonic membership could well be near only 500,000 within the next 35 years. Consider the consequences against the backdrop of positive growth in national population! This means that Freemasonry is in crisis. It also means that strong and appropriate corrective measures must be implemented as quickly as possible.
Adopted by action of the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois; October 10, 1939; Republished in THE TRACING BOARD, GRS; November, 2000.
Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.
It is charitable in that it is not organized for profit and none of its income inures to the benefit of any individual, but all is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of mankind. It is benevolent in that it teaches and exemplifies altruism as a duty. It is educational in that it teaches by prescribed ceremonials a system of morality and brotherhood based upon the Sacred Law.