Freemasonry is in a membership crisis. Let’s face it. The Craft is dying. Literally. From 2016 to 2017, Masonic numbers dwindled a net 40,928 members to hit an all-time low in the last century, according to data compiled from the Masonic Service Association of North America. That’s up from 40,433 members the Craft bled in the year prior. And if the rest of North America is anything like my state, 55.4% of those loses are due to death.
That’s what I say.
Because I don’t want the dead in my fraternity, dabgummit! The dead make the worst masons! They NEVER show up to meetings. They NEVER pay their dues, not even their lifetime memberships anymore! When the Worshipful Master asks for volunteers for a charity event, do you know who’s the first ones to raise their hands? Alive people. And who’s nowhere to be found? That’s right. The dead.
I’ve never seen a dead mason show up at a building clean up day. I’ve never seen a dead mason do quality ritual work. I’ve never even seen a dead mason sit in an officer’s chair!
…I mean, I thought I saw it this one time, but it turned out the Tyler was just napping.
We don’t like to talk about it, but I’m just going to come out and say it.
THE DEAD MAKE TERRIBLE FREEMASONS!
And thank the Great Architect of the Universe that every grand lodge in North America agrees with me! Because you know what the first thing we do the moment we find out one of our brothers is dead? We revoke their membership!
I’ve heard my grand lodge say “Once a Mason, always a Mason” and yeah, that sounds good. And if they found out that a brother was an Atheist, or had transitioned from a woman, or transitioned to a woman, or maybe even was secretly a woman the whole time, they don’t do anything about it, because they’ve already been made a mason. And that’s great. I’m tolerant. I’m open-minded. But once a brother shows up to lodge dead? We strike ’em right off the books!
In fact, I’d like to make a modest proposal right now. I think we need to check every new petitioner–no, every current mason, and before each meeting–for a pulse!
We can’t have them here! You know the old saying: DEADS UNDER THE BED! And we’ve got to weed them out!
And here’s the best part! Since you apparently have to be alive to be a mason, I say that any “brother” who commits that immoral, unforgivable sin of dying should have their status as a mason retroactively revoked!!! Which means that in 2017 we only lost about 22,500 masons! This one idea just cut our membership problems by 55%!
No, Of Course I’m Not Serious
But it’s strange, isn’t it? Because isn’t this effectively how we act? We say things like “My grandfather was a mason,” like he somehow stopped being one when he passed on. Our membership numbers look so dire, in great part, because people die.
But people are supposed to die. That’s the high cost of living.
Freemasonry is accepting of pretty much all creator-based beliefs, so this might be too blankety of a statement, but can’t it be said that all our rituals, all our ideas, and standards, and practices, and traditions, are for the purpose of preparing oneself to die? And to assure one’s place into whatever hereafter they belong?
Some people forget that Dante’s Inferno has two sequels: Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Dante transverses thirty levels from the ice prison of Satan up to the throne of God. Each level represents a vice which needs to be suppressed or a virtue which needs to be attained. In Freemasonry, we attempt to impart upon your mind as many practiced virtues, and eliminate as many vices as possible so when you die, you hit as high a level as you can, commiserate to whatever faith you follow. And, like in the Divine Comedy, you continue your journey, onward and upward.
To a mason, death is a feature, not a bug.
In a purely rhetorical world, I would love if we never crossed a deceased brother off our books, but rather only marked him as affiliated with the Eternal Lodge, and in that way our membership would never go down as long as there was a single brother passing along the secrets. But we don’t live in this world, and we have to know our trajectories.
But don’t panic. Masonry isn’t dying. People die. That’s okay. And there’s nothing masons can, or should, do to stop it. So let’s stop worrying. Let’s just focus on doing good works, and keep our eyes on our lodge brothers. Freemasonry grows when genuine men are excited by great experiences.