To Die Or Not To Die
“To be, or not to be, that
is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the
mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of
Or to take arms against a
sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To
The articles by Brothers Sean
Kennedy and Stephen Dafoe regarding the decline in Freemasonry has brought
many responses across the Internet. In reviewing what comments were posted
in various places it seemed as if everybody had an opinion but nobody
commented on the data. In many cases passionate cases were made for
debunking the whole idea that Freemasonry is in some sort of distress. Rosy
colored glasses led to some even declaring an unreasonable aura of
negativity permeated the air and even more extreme views that this author
was some kind of miserable turncoat bent on the destruction of the Craft. So
much for whispering words of advice in a Brothers ear; so much for Masonic
tolerance; so much for the use of logic and reason instead of raw emotion.
Yet my Brothers, the data does
not lie. The data is fact. What it means for our beloved fraternity, well
that is open for interpretation. And that’s fine. But the idea behind
publishing these articles is to help make Freemasonry better not to see who
is right or wrong about conclusions drawn. The idea was to foster
reformation not dissension. What became self evident is that these articles
became an affront to some who felt that they needed to bury any discourse on
improvement lest they admit that Freemasonry could use some improvement.
“The mission of the MRF
is to assist and support, through education, communication, example, and
coordination of efforts among lodges, Grand Lodges, individuals and groups
of Masons belonging to regularly and duly constituted lodges; the overall
improvement and happiness of the individual Mason and his fraternal
“The goal of the
foundation is to restore Freemasonry to the historical and philosophical
intent of its organizational founders. We believe that in so doing, Masons
will return to the development of a fraternal culture of learning and
intellectual growth, which will not only benefit the individual Mason, but
society as a whole.”
If Freemasonry doesn’t need
improvement why is there a Masonic Restoration Society?
Of all the responses that I reviewed this one
stood out as a Mason that did some logical analysis not just some emotional
diatribe. And that was “The Other Mason,” Wor. Istvan Horvath from Canada. His
website The Other Mason contains
some very interesting content and is worth looking at. ~ Fred Milliken
TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE
Worshipful Istvan Horvath
There is an article written by a
Texas Mason that went viral and is discussed, dismissed and “fought” in all
the Masonic forums and groups in North America. While the author is very
careful to not attach any emotional comment to his findings, and even stated
clearly he wasn’t judging only presenting the fact about the dwindling numbers
of Freemasonry in America – all hell broke loose.
His article presented visual graphs showing the changes in numbers of
Freemasons across America since 1959. And finally, looking at the general
trend, the article presented a ‘projection’ (an otherwise valid tool for
analyzing data) according to which the membership will collapse; i.e. Freemasonry
is dying – this was the title, by Brother Lance Kennedy.
While the title may sound controversial and definitely touches a nerve with
present-day Masons, the analysis presented is not far-fetched: based on a
50-60 years time period it is logical to conclude the continuation of the
trend, provided nothing happens to stop it or reverse it.
Generally, the reactions on the
world wide web and social media can be put in three main groups, and
interestingly (or maybe not) the reactions didn’t differ much in the USA and
Group A – These
Masons consider the whole article bull*!#+ (BS), and putting their head in the
sand, dismiss any findings. Lies, negativism, fake news – these are the
charges brought against the author.
Group B – NIMBY. Which means Not in My Backyard. Admitting
that such an issue of decreasing numbers might be of concern in other lodges,
other districts or other jurisdictions… they bring anecdotal evidence that is
not happening in their own “backyard”. We initiated last year X number of new
Group C – the tiny group that would like to face the facts
and to have a meaningful discussion about the causes, the possible remedies,
the outlook and the inevitable changes that come with the changing times.
Unfortunately, they are the minority everywhere…
A. The first is
the worst group – despite their conviction that they act to “defend” Masonry
against the negative thinkers. They are the most dangerous as well, not just
based on the sheer numbers (i.e. being the majority in any lodge and
jurisdiction) but because they represent en bloc all the issues today’s
Freemasonry is suffering from:
1) lack of education
2) fear of being called the elite of the society
3) lack of ‘freethinker traditions’
4) literal belief in legends from movies, fictional books, pseudo-history
5) keeping dues artificially low, too low in order to make it ‘affordable’ for
While we pride ourselves by
enlisting all the historical celebrities from prime ministers, governors, army
commanders to philosophers, scientists and poets… we almost get offended, if
someone wants to see the Craft as the gathering place of today’s elite. None
of these members is and will ever be able to mentor and educate new members…
and even worse, if we let them do it, they will perpetuate this sad state of
B. This group
is always looking at it from the narrowest perspective: if it doesn’t happen
in my lodge, it doesn’t exist. We are initiating a lot of young men. Our
lodge is thriving… Even if the Ontario Grand Lodge lost 2022 members in
the past year, bringing it up one is considered a negativist. The Craft is
While the lodge members are claiming that they have so many candidates they
need even emergent meeting because the monthly one meeting is not enough to
initiate all those at the West Gate – the same lodge is not able to present an
officers line of MMs [without recycling PMs] for years.
C. The last
tiny group doesn’t have much chance to be heard because it is small by numbers
and it is not into violent word exchange but prefers the calm,
rational dialogue and discussion.
Only a few commenters looked at
the data itself. Without any comments, see it for yourself!
Yes, we can debate about the we
way read and interpret the data. We can argue about the causes and historical
influences on the changing membership numbers. We can do many things… Except
pretending that it is not happening!
I am not even saying that the dwindling numbers are necessarily a bad thing.
Who knows, maybe it is necessary to reshape Freemasonry in the 21st century’s
context. Personally, I think it is the latter but ultimately it will be the
Craft, the coming younger members that will define how to deal with these
changes. I hope their wisdom will be up to the task!
Post your thoughts below!
About the author:
Istvan Horvath, MPS,
is a Master Mason and Royal
His Masonic journey started twenty-two years ago, in 1994, in the East of
Budapest, Hungary. Today he lives in Ontario, Canada, being affiliated with
A Past Grand Librarian in his initial jurisdiction and well versed
in Masonic lore in at least two languages. He also likes to read and study
in the two other languages he is fluent in. Bottom line: he likes languages,
linguistics and is a diligent lifetime student of Freemasonry. For the
Masonic year 2018-19 he was elected and installed as the Worshipful Master
of The Electric Lodge.
Member of the Philaletes
Initiated, passed and raised
in his mother lodge, Egyenlőség=Equality, under the Symbolic
Grand Lodge of Hungary.
Member in St.John’s/Hamilton
chapter, District #6, Ontario
Lodge #495 GRC, Hamilton District C. Also a member of Heritage
Lodge #730, the Ontario research lodge, and the Observant Templum
Lucis Lodge #747.