Freemasonry and the Modern Man
At a recent Installation, the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, spoke of the 3 R’s as a drive to address increasing our ranks with good men. The GLSA Grand Master has set the target of doubling our numbers by 2020. This prompted me to digress from a topic more suitable for a second degree essay to something closer to my heart.
Robert Bly, The Modern day protagonist of the Men’s Movement worldwide, writes an important book in ‘Iron John’. He is followed by authors such as Steven Biddulph in ‘Manhood’ and ‘Raising Boys’ and John Eldridge’s ‘Wild at Heart’, amongst others, all of whom extrapolate on Bly’s work.
All contend that the Modern Man is missing some key elements in his development from adolescence to Manhood.
That today’s Man is isolated, lonely, alone and desperate for a way of life which will give it meaning outside of working for a living, just providing, existing on the treadmill of drudgery. They further contend that Men lack a sense of higher purpose, of continuity, that Today’s man has inherited decades of negative sentiment from every quarter. In many ways he is broken, demoralised and emasculated. Bly implies that in today’s society, the lack of rite of passage and initiation, prevents him from taking the step into adulthood and the responsibility that goes with it. He stands with his feet on both sides of adolescence and manhood way into his 40’s. It creates a man who misfires and doesn’t fully develop into the robust, complete man of ancient times. He lacks an element of wildness, untamedness. He has been cowed in submission.
Mankind Project is an International Men’s Movement which successfully attempts to address this issue.
They have various work groups which follow up with fraternal support. In their I-Groups (Intergration Groups) they provide support, friendship and mentorship for their fellow MKP brothers. This and other such organisations are turning men away from their workshops for want of the demand for their brand of brotherhood.
How do we as Freemasons, this brotherhood of good men, make a difference in the lives of Modern Men? How is our Craft relevant in providing a solution to this dilemma? What has FM got to offer the Modern Man, The Man born in the 1990’s, young men who are the future of our Noble and Ancient craft? How will these words, Noble and Ancient, resonate with this new generation? What significance does it have for them? How do we create a brand that will have the very best of men knocking on our doors to experience our rite of passage?
The Fraternities of old and ancient times were the substance and key ingredients of a man’s life. It was here he came for companionship, instruction, mentorship and camaraderie. As much as we wish to disclaim it, The Lodge was a place you could do good business with men you trusted and knew, you could expand and further your influence. Men met on equal terms and through a system of mentorship and influence, all benefitted. It was the whole idea of the Guild or Lodge.
What you did in the Craft affected your profane life.
As within, so without’!
The Lodge or Guild was also a place a Man of earlier times could bring his worries and woes, his fears and doubts. He shared the troubles of life with men who related to his problem. Some commiserated, some helped. Mentorship was a part of his life, first as an apprentice and then as a mentor. Membership was for life. Generations passed through them unbroken. Men could not prosper without them. He was never alone, isolated or lonely.
It was from this place of friendship and support that a man went home. His home was a place where he exercised leadership, wisdom and love. He never took his issues home. He was ever present, ever available. Bly talks about how Modern man only takes home his temperament, His moody, irascible nature. He no longer has time or the inclination to be an ever present Husband or Father. He is so worn down from carrying his life’s burden that he has forgotten how to be benevolent.
FreeMasonry, like the guilds and fraternities of old, has a strict system of hierarchy, advancement, mentoring and ritual.
It is the agelessness of FreeMasonry that appeals to men of any age or generation. It is the ritual and system of advancement along with the initiation process that brings a man into his own. It is this process along with its fraternal nature that should bring good men to the order.
It is my contention that if we are to grow our ranks with good men we should let the mystery and exclusiveness of Masonry work in our favour. Why not recruit from the Dean’s merit list at South Africa’s top universities? Why not invite the young captains of industry, the young leaders? Such men seek a higher purpose, an advancement of spiritual and intellectual knowledge. Why are we not asking “what can you do for us?”
In my short journey along the Masonic path, I have found the craft to be myopic and introspective. BOM are not used to ignite the brethren to action. Long and short term goals are breezed over while the accounts and other mundane issues are discussed at length. Perhaps the tradition and structure have led us into stagnancy and inactivity. Young men need action and results, while older men can show them the way. The Retention aspect of the 3 Rs is the hardest. Recruitment must be on an exclusive basis where only the best are accepted, because our craft is old and ancient; it has stood the test of time and tribulation. It deserves the best of Men. But, it deserves the good, solid man who will work tirelessly too. Exclusivity must be of our own brand. What and who do we want?
Retention will only be effective when we can offer a brand of brotherhood that meets the current, modern man’s expectations of FM. The Internet generation demands instant gratification. They demands result.
The requirement of this essay is to provoke thought, stimulate debate. Do I have the answers to these hard questions? No. I certainly have an opinion.