“E Pluribus Unum”: An Argument in Favor of Revivifying Free Masonry
Welcome to the huge mess that is this our modern era. Almost everyone is arguing or at least moderately annoyed about the state of the world, and to be fair, it isn’t only because human beings are ill-tempered beasts controlled by both conscious and subconscious drives in an obsessive will for survival however our instincts may manifest. Instead, we need to keep in mind that much of the conflict is good intentioned. People care deeply about the well-being of others, the pursuit of happiness, and about the exercise of fairness. These deeply moving concerns sometimes fuel social conflict or ire as people push to remedy the imperfections of the world. However, because there is no such thing as a perfect world, they sometimes cultivate more problems than they had anticipated. The old adage “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” speaks to the phenomenon. All of this becomes high stakes when the fate of the nation hanging in the balance. Assuring continued liberty, equality, and justice during changing times becomes a high priority for many people, yet well-meaning but flawed popular movements may end up eroding the liberties that they seek to expand. If anything, I believe most people reading this could readily agree that there is far more conflict than consensus and that a change is not only needed but would be absolutely refreshing.
Instead of charging down the path of massive upheaval and the detriment of our nation’s heritage, I recommend a rediscovery, celebration, and propagation of our shared values. This is difficult indeed to conceptualize when we see a society at war over what is sacred, true, and constitutional, but please entertain my proposal with an open mind. Some people who stand for a revival of American values want to put more emphasis on our Protestant past, but even from the beginning of the nation’s history, there was diversity of spiritual belief, and freedom of religion found an important place in the Bill of Rights because of that. In terms of Western Culture, centuries of religious war made a new start in a land of religious freedom attractive, and we must remember that although the country was primarily Christian, there was always variability in the expression of that Christianity. From there, as time passed, Americans worked hard to overcome prejudice and build up a country that is welcoming to people of all faiths whether mainstream and monotheistic or less well known and polytheistic.
Simply arguing that Protestantism is the way to go neglects the complexity of our nation’s larger vision; at the same time, although I would never argue for mandatory religious participation, I do believe that the atheistic spirit is a great contributor to depression and nihilism in most people. What should America do then? If America attempts to make itself a Christian nation, it will discover that it is often dangerous for religious people to exercise their spiritual beliefs in practice lest they be accused of bigotry or be maligned as ignorant of science. On the other hand, there’s an extremely large population of Wiccans and other polytheistic or non-mainstream spiritual practitioners in the U.S. right now, especially among the younger generation. They believe in their spiritual paths deeply and with the centuries of persecution overshadowing their faith, they should not be forced to take Christian vows. Any path America takes when it comes to religion must be open and inclusive or risk massive upheaval. With the high levels of spiritual diversity at play, it is no wonder that society is consistently fraught with tension. The question of even our most basic ethics has become a mishmash of conflicting codes and disaffection.
There is one aspect of American culture that is often ignored or misunderstood these days that I believe can remedy much of the chaos. I propose that the United States revisit and revitalize Free Masonry and other fraternal organizations. I say this realizing that some people will be aggrieved by the suggestion that we revitalize homosocial institutions, which the “woke” find non-inclusive. Still others will voice objections based on conspiracy theory, arguing sinister aims within the organization. However, within Free Masonry, universal brotherly love is a central tenant, something appealing to people all along the political spectrum and of diverse religions. In Free Masonry, it does not matter what one’s race, political party, occupation, or socioeconomic status is so long as a person believes in God and is a non-felon, he can become a Free Mason. Yes, entry is only for adult males, but having organizations just for men should not be seen as criminal. Rather, such organizations can remedy the sense of disempowerment that many men feel. New Free Masons can learn about philosophy and ethics as well as their own abilities to grow and do good for others within a highly structured framework based on personal merit. The majority of men who grew up with absent or distant fathers, deprived of the natural mentorship inherent in a healthy father and son relationship, can find guidance and good will from other men within the order. Rather than fixating on the fact that Free Masonry is a male organization, people who want some other paradigm can join other types of orders or charitable organizations. Women can make their own sisterhoods, and people of ambiguous or changed gender can work out their own organizations or join some of the homosocial ones depending on their rules. To speak to those who assume sinister aims of the order due to conspiracy theory, Free Masonry’s strict and deeply felt focus on virtue and charity speaks volumes. Although some strict Christians may not like some of the symbolic teachings of Free Masonry, within a free country, there is no reason they should feel compelled to join, and Free Masonry can contribute in a positive way to society without the same degree of dogmatism that formal religious groups exercise.
Moreover, Free Masonry’s ethics helped shape the country in the best way possible and can help us find common ground once again. George Washington and other heroes of the revolutionary era were either Free Masons or close associates with Free Masons, and the Masonic mark is clear within the highest laws of the land and even our currency. Free Masonry stands for true friendship, charity, and mindfulness. Honor and truth are central to Free Masonry as rank is bestowed not based on someone’s status or wealth but rather their merit. Once Masons are in, they begin to learn about other important virtues such as the benefits of moderation and the exercise of good manners. Having a reason for balanced temperance allows members to progress at work and create more meaningful family bonds. Free Masons are also loyal to the state while exercising demonstrated concern about the well-being of others, engaging in charity that benefits mankind. The four cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice are exercised and education is a top priority with the seven liberal arts taking the stage, not because of any type of elitist plot but because over the centuries, the seven liberal arts have done the most to advance human civilization. Wisdom, strength, and beauty, the three pillars of the lodge, are traits that have been severely compromised due to the growing anti-intellectualism, victimhood rhetoric, and convenience culture typical of modern American society. By revivifying Free Masonry and opening the doors up to a new generation of young men, traditional wisdom, resilience, and appreciation of beauty can begin to grow again. Instead of every imperfect word or act being cause for cancellation and the public circus of emotional excess, men can work together to find better ways of thinking and being, drawing on their own natural resilience as they learn more about virtue. Furthermore, appreciation of geometry and the sacred ties into the appreciation of beauty. Perhaps the real threat to American society, the jaded P.C. corporate generic white office space of mediocrity, can be shed in favor of creating a more beautiful world whether that means how we design and decorate building to how we comport ourselves. Charity would be more about helping others than getting good press coverage.
Although Free Masonry also incites suspicion due to its reputation as a secret society, it is important to keep in mind that most of their history, philosophy, and symbolism are actually no secret and are easily accessible via the web. What is secret are the exact rituals of initiation within the order. This means that Free Masons may not disclose the lines they rehearse for their initiation rituals, but they wouldn’t be keeping secrets about their beliefs. Moving beyond knee jerk politics and discovering deeper levels of thought would be beneficial for the members and the information would spread by increased good works, strong role models, increased personal responsibility, a refocus on respecting the divine.
The last counter-argument I anticipate is that Free Masonry is a boring organization composed of old men, that it holds no appeal within the youth culture. It is true that most members are elderly, but they were once young men and joined at an earlier time when Free Masonry was popular. I can see the mystery, aesthetics, and ethics of Free Masonry being interesting to young people. They can gain increased discipline, knowledge, and mentorship while developing themselves in lodges that represent the highest aspects of our culture. Perhaps revivifying Masonry can help develop the trend of being more conscientious, competent, and stylish. Even young men who don’t care so much about the philosophical stuff and are more preoccupied with establishing themselves in the world stand to benefit from joining and once in, they most likely will find themselves enjoying their philosophical growth. Increased participation in Free Masonry would only generate more interest in those who want to know and understand the secrets of initiation while connecting with what it means to become more self-actualized men.
In the dark days of the culture wars, imagine a generation of men being offered a means to develop and grow, to find light in the darkness, and beauty in defiance of corruption. What heroes might come from voluntary association with the Free Masons. What heights might be reached by young men failed by the system. Imagine increased charity where virtue isn’t about destroying one’s country but by building it up to what it might be and having models for that which have withstood the test of time. Those who could not join would still have opportunity to build community based on similar virtues, and we might witness the turning of the tide from a decadent collapse to an orderly flourishing.