Friday, March 25, 2016

Are We the Last Generation of American Freemasons?

Is this the future of American Freemasonry?

The current issue (March 23, 2015) of the Masonic Edition of my newsletter, Markings, contains a single major essay, perhaps the most important of my Masonic career to date: “Are We the Last Generation of Freemasons?” The essay is too comprehensive for a blog post, but I thought I would post highlights here:
  • The decline of American Freemasonry dates to 1954, over a decade before the anti-establishment movements of the later 1960s gained the attention of young Americans.
  • Currently, the force driving the membership crisis is not so much the death of members, but the rise in voluntary attrition: demits and NPDs. But what is driving that?
  • The answer is simple, if chilling: In many lodges, Freemasonry just does not deliver what it promises. (Details are available in the essay.)
  • If current trends continue, by the time the Entered Apprentices we initiate in 2016 have passed on, the Fraternity will have shrunk almost 90% from current levels. As the Grand Orator in Florida declared in 2007: “We are one generation away from extinction.”
  •  I give extensive suggestions for how we might turn this situation around.
  •  I end with links to five online resources for recommended reading.
Quite frankly, in putting this essay together, I felt like I was on a mission. I also felt like I was putting together an outline for a book—but that could take months to get to, given my current list of projects. We really can’t wait that long to make more progress in turning this around. So, I urge you to read this essay, ponder it, and decide what part of it you would like to discuss for implementation in your lodge.

Freemasonry is too valuable to vanish from the American landscape. Let us nurture it, and build it.

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 [The image the broken column—a traditional symbol in Freemasonry, signifying the death of a Freemason—was obtained from a page of print-quality images on the website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. This image is in the public domain.]

(Copyright 2016 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. the focus on rote memorization at the expense of understanding the ritual and living it's tenets drives people away. The politics belie our best intentions. We need all 3 of Brotherly Love, relief and Truth.

  2. Rote memorization is part of understanding. The Art of Memory (as referenced in the Schaw Statues of 1598 and 1599) is part of the Masonic tradition inherited from earlier traditions. "The attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue and mysteries of Freemasonry are safely lodged in the repository of faithful breasts." A study of the Art of Memory from the 14th century back to Cicero Rhetorica Ad Herrenium, to Aristotle, to Pythagoras would enlighten many Masons why "it is to the Greeks and not the Romans", but in the end they would come full circle to "rote memorization" the practice of "right thought, right speech, right action" or "say what you do and do what you say." "No valuable result is to be attained in this world without exertion." (but if you did your rote memorization you already know that?)

  3. Regarding MSA "It's About Time", the Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award was one of the best programs Masonry has presented. And it was ended! Just as more lodges started to participate! The Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award could (and should) be the "best practices" go to source for lodges looking to accomplish their goals. For those "MBA" students you mentioned, rather than a competition, make it a "balanced scorecard." The highest score might still win an "award" but every lodge could recognized for accomplishment. Set SMART goals. When we say "quality over quantity", define the qualities we seek. Paint a picture of what "success" looks like.
    "Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
    I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder's heart.
    As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
    The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned." -Brother Rudyard Kipling

  4. Of course, if you look at the entire spectrum of Freemasonry, is it really hurting? The masculine lodge is only one form of masonry. There are Co-Mason mixed gender lodges and Female only Freemason lodges.

  5. I guess, it is hard for hardliners who believe they hold the true observance of Freemasonry. I wish Brothers, such as the author, would realize there are many Freemason observances beside the masculine only lodges. Freemasonry is not dying, is it changing? yes. The values of the current generation have truly embraced diversity and wish to have their fraternity express their inner values. Single sex lodges may indeed by diminishing, but that doesn't mean the Family of Freemasonry is dying.


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