Friday, September 16, 2011

The Spirit of Freemasonry at Halcyon Lodge

The spirit of Freemasonry is alive and well at Halcyon Lodge this weekend with brothers arriving from all over the country to enjoy Halcyon Fest 2011. For the past three years we've had a Freemasonry festival in September but this year we decided to give it a name, and hold more fun and fraternal events than ever.

Friday night, Sept. 16, we have the Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd music and laser light show, and then on Sat., Sept. 17, we have MMA fighting. After each event the lodge will remain open for fraternal activities such as brandy and cigars until....

Beyond a tribute, Dark Side of the Moon is a testimonial to the unique music of Pink Floyd and the emotions they stir. It recreates, to a higher degree, the mystic and terrestrial sounds of the phenomenon that is Pink Floyd. Close your eyes; it’s like being there again!

If you're in town, drop by and enjoy the spirit of Freemasonry with us at Halcyon Lodge No. 498!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life Cycles of Masonic Lodges

I’ve been studying Freemasonry and its history for over twenty-five years, and have notice a series of trends that indicate organizational life cycles, especially in the individual lodges. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the creation of new Masonic lodges continued at a rapid pace, but so did the closure of older ones.This constant state of evolutionary change seems to have come to an abrupt halt sometime around 1920. After 1920 Freemasonry entered into what I would describe as the era of mega lodges. Any lodge that has a membership exceeding 500 I consider to be a mega lodge.

During the period following 1920 there are a multitude of lodges that have over 500 members, some with membership rolls exceeding 3,000. How is it possible that 500 men, not to mention 3,000, could actively participate in the same lodge meeting? Did these men actually know one another, or were they merely going through a fraternal exercise in order to wear a Masonic ring?

European Freemasonry did not follow the trend into mega lodges. The European form of Freemasonry remained far more intimate, with most lodges having no more than fifty members. These small lodges appear very similar in make-up to the eighteenth and nineteenth century American lodges in that they appear to follow a certain life cycle.

Some lodges in both Europe and America are very old with some dating back 275 years or so. Did these lodges buck the life cycle trend or experience a different kind of life cycle? Looking at the oldest lodges they seem to have followed an internal life cycle of rise and fall over thirty-five year periods. In other words they thrived for awhile and then almost died before beginning to grow again.

At first it appeared that these trends may have followed the cycles of public interest in Freemasonry but it turned out not to be the case. Even at times when Masonic membership declined, some of these lodges were growing. Why?

I think the answer lies in human nature and how we relate to those around us. Freemasonry is a fraternity that brings people together in one place (a lodge) for a meeting. What will be discussed at that meeting, the type of food consumed, and the level of personal comfort between the members will be determined by the nature of their relationships with one another. If the members of the lodge share little in common other than Freemasonry then the lodge will be socially dysfunctional because the members never truly relate to one another. There are many possible sources of this that include, age, income, and philosophical prejudices.

Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone has been used countless times by the Grand Lodges to illustrate that the present decline in Freemasonry is unavoidable because it is a relational consequence of changes in society. I am of the opinion that Putnam is a victim of his own preconceptions. Society is not becoming increasingly fragmented and separated. It is evolving and unifying in new ways that were previously unknown. Putnam wrongly assumes that the decline of social institutions of the past are primary examples of fragmentation and separation, when in fact they are merely obsolete social mechanisms that have been replaced by changes in culture and the advance of technology.

The present social model utilized by American Freemasonry was developed in the 1950′s and is a monolithic cultural relic that cannot adapt itself to the rapid pace of change. This is a result of the failure of the institution to understand the dynamic life cycle of lodges, and the changes it implemented in the 1920′s to lodge organization. The mega lodge relied on the industrial manufacturing concepts of streamlining processes. The quality of production came in a far distant second to overall quality. The object was to “manufacture” as many Masons as possible in order to increase cash flow and thereby increase the services provided to members. Lodge membership from 1920 through the present is based on the idea that the Mason doesn’t want to attend meetings, but to take advantage of the relationships created through membership (i.e. insurance salesmen) and the services afforded (Masonic insurance, old age homes, etc.). While this model may indeed have been very attractive to members before the formation of Allstate, State Farm, and senior living centers, it has little to no value in the 21st century.

Many young Masons today point the finger towards the Grand Lodges and mismanagement as the source of all the present problems. In a way they’re right. The Grand Lodges are not adapting to changes in society and culture like they once did. The Grand Lodges, however, only appear to be the source of the problem when it is, in fact, yet another symptom of the disease plaguing the fraternity. It must be remembered that the Grand Lodges are a reflection of the voting members of the lodges. The true source of the problem is at the base of the institution, not the top. Unfortunately, the decisions made back in the 1920′s and 1950′s have created a self-reinforcing loop in the system. The lodges can no longer go through their natural life cycles because of the monolithic nature of the mega lodge infrastructure of the past. There is no easy way for an aging dysfunctional lodge to split apart and form new healthy social environments. This forces men of all ages and philosophical views into the same organizational unit resulting in bickering, bitterness, and the eventual resulting loss of attendance and membership.

Now it should be becoming clear that the Grand Lodges cannot adapt or change because the lodges themselves cannot experience any life cycle changes. It is the same lodges and members forever reinforcing the same ideas over and over again.

If the lodges were experiencing normal healthy life cycles, new lodges would form dynamically out of the old, and represent the ideas of the present generation of Masons. In order for this to happen under the present system it would require a complete collapse of the organization that would be followed by a reorganization by the survivors. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the organization could survive such an institutional collapse. It would certainly mean the loss of virtually all the temples, financial assets, and collective institutional memory.

The above scenario is becoming increasingly likely. In part because we have failed to recognize the true source of the problems we face as a fraternity. There is, however, hope that things can be changed before it’s too late. By understanding our problems and being able to formulate the right questions we might be able to turn things around. This would require an openness to change and a focused effort on the behalf of the leadership and decision makers.

I believe that this process must begin with a thorough understanding of the historical life cycles of lodges, and the abandonment of the mega lodge model of the 1920′s. Ultimately, the future of Freemasonry lies in the hands of its members. Only they can decide whether or not they are willing to make the changes necessary for the survival of the institution.

Bro. Jeff Peace

Dark Side of the Moon and Freemasonry

Halcyon Lodge of Freemasons will be hosting the Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd concert experience on Friday, September 16, 2011, beginning at 7:00 PM. This is the start of a new series of “Halcyon Rocks!” events.

Beyond a tribute, Dark Side of the Moon is a testimonial to the unique music of Pink Floyd and the emotions they stir.

Dark Side of the Moon recreates, to a higher degree, the mystic and terrestrial sounds of the phenomenon that is Pink Floyd.

We offer a pleasant distraction from the mundane. Enjoy a pleasant encounter with those sights and sounds, while Dark Side of the Moon emulates the magical and emotional experiences that Pink Floyd created for so many years.

Close your eyes; it’s like being there again.

Let Dark Side of the Moon reawaken your authentic concert experience or create a new one.

Click here for a little Pink Floyd before the show


Patton's 3rd Army and the Liberation of Europe

There are precious few Americans left who endured the hardships required to liberate Europe from the iron grip of the Nazis. We owe it to ourselves and future generations of Americans to never forget their sacrifice in the cause of liberty and democracy.

The 3rd Army holds a unique place in history. It was due to their valor and sacrifice that the war in Europe was brought to end more rapidly than anyone had believed possible. To give you some perspective of their impact let’s review a few facts from the official action reports.

“’Under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., the Third Army participated in eight major operations and gave new meaning to “hard charging, hard hitting, mobile warfare.’” The Third Army’s swift and tenacious drive into and through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria contributed immeasurably to the destruction of the Nazi war machine of Adolph Hitler’s Germany.

“Within one month of the day when the Third US Army and XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force began operations together in France, the armored and infantry divisions and covering fighter-bombers of this new ground-air team had broken out of Normandy into Brittany, conquered all of that peninsula except three stubborn ports, firmly secured the line of the Loire, and swept 140 miles beyond liberated Paris to within 60 miles of the German border.”

The Third Army liberated or captured 81,522 square miles of territory. An estimated 12,000 cities, towns, and communities were liberated or captured, including 27 cities of more than 50,000 in population. Third Army captured 765,483 prisoners of war. 515,205 of the enemy surrendered during the last week of the war to make a total of 1,280,688 POW’s processed. The enemy lost an estimated 1,280,688 captured, 144,500 killed, and 386,200 wounded, adding up to 1,811,388. By comparison, the Third Army suffered 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 casualties.

This fall the Grand Orient of the United States will be holding a special event celebrating the 3rd Army and their rightful place in both American and European history. As a part of this there will be a round table discussion forum and a display of artifacts from the European war. This will be an opportunity for both Americans and Europeans to learn more about the 3rd Army and America’s contribution to the liberation of Europe.

Saving Freemasonry: Self-Reliance

The quote below was taken from Chris Hodapp’s Blog Freemasons for Dummies. It’s an idea by a young Freemason about how to save Freemasonry. I agree with most of what he says but believe that he’s a bit too Pollyanna-ish in his view of the present Masonic system in the United States. At Halcyon Lodge we have all the things that he concludes are important to the future of the Craft, and we’ve had them for almost a decade. Yes, they work great! To keep them we had to divorce the Grand Lodge of Ohio. It was the best decision we ever made.

Perhaps the new young Freemasons should read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance? When you are self-reliant you can succeed at anything. The Founding Fathers of the United States were entirely self-reliant, and many of them were Freemasons. Freemasons need to learn how to be self-reliant again.

Another awesome essay on how to save Freemasonry is Rich Graeter’s Reform Freemasonry!

"I read a lot of blogs, articles and books on Freemasonry. I see brothers concerned with the state of Freemasonry. Some are concerned with quantity and some are concerned with quality. Both groups are only trying to do what they feel is best. On one end, you have the “mason in a day” approach and on the other end you have the Traditional Observance Lodge movement. There are also some of us, probably most of us, who like the materials we have been given by our Grand Lodges and just want our brothers to use them. Just use them. That’s all. Get rid of the short forms, only do one degree per man at a time, enforce memory work, have a list of articles from the Grand Lodge to be read at each meeting on the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry, allow the consumption of alcohol after the meeting in the lodge and that’s it. No need to start new lodges. No need to force a dress code. Freemasonry can be done in casual clothes, too, if the ritual is spot on. It is all a matter of preference, not divine law. Just make a few, simple changes to the ones we have and we will REALLY see an improvement. Put more Masonry in Masons. If this plan is adopted and enforced by the Grand Lodges, we will maintain unity and quality AND…I think we will start to see some numbers again."

"My generation wants the old school brotherhood, the fun and the fraternity. We want the brandy and cigars. We also want the esoteric stuff. We want to earn it. We want the rituals. We want the Jedi, the Hogwarts. There is no need for a new book or anything fancy. Just put what I have suggested into motion and viola, our Craft is back on track. It has to start at the top and from the grassroots."

"Young Freemasons have to do their part. Hang in there with your lodge. Don’t start a new one. Start living these reforms. Be patient and loving to your older brothers. Show some respect. They kept it alive this long when our fathers wouldn’t join. Eventually, we will outlive the naysayers and we will be Freemasonry. Just maintain quality and wait. It will be our Masonic conspiracy."