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Lodge Renewal Reading List

1. Six Valuable Insights and Perspectives

1.1 Julian Rees: It Doesn't Have to Be Like This.

(Julian Rees is deputy editor of Freemasonry Today, Britain's leading Masonic magazine.)

Freemasonry in the eighteenth century was a radical movement, often standing against abuses of power on the part of the Establishment. Its development and growth were a vital part of the Age of Enlightenment.

Freemasons belong to an organisation which ought to be dedicated to self-knowledge, the nature of being, love, tolerance, the brotherhood of man, liberty of conscience and, yes, perhaps a brush with the Deity on the way. But we have become bogged down in systems resembling officialdom, obsession with promotion to higher rank, discussions about precedence, confused notions about God, the relative merits of this or that dining venue and the parrotting, without meaning, of what is in itself a very meaningful ritual. (2 pages)

1.2 Lord Northampton: Whither Directing Our Course?

(Lord Northampton is the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. The following excerpts are from his Summer 2005 address):

Something is wrong with Anglo Saxon freemasonry. ... they rush the poor candidate through the three degrees without giving him any time to pause and contemplate what it all means. ... This is not freemasonry as it should be practised, ...

Anglo Saxon masonry has strayed from its original purpose and no longer teaches its candidates the fundamental truths which underpin the Craft. ... Educating our members about the purpose of masonry should be a priority regardless of whether or not they wish to deepen their understanding of it, ... having an understanding of any degree they have taken before allowing them to progress further.

I strongly believe that the way forward for Anglo-Saxon Masonry is for its members to be encouraged positively to talk about the rituals. There are many men who would join us if they only realised what Freemasonry was really about, and it is up to us to tell them. Our teachings contain universal truths which need to be promulgated to all those who are interested. The days of reserving knowledge for the benefit of a few are over. (5 pages)

1.3 Trevor Stewart: English Speculative Freemasonry.

(Trevor Stewart was the 2004 Prestonian Lecturer.)

An initial, crucial and valid distinction must to be drawn between Freemasonry as a social institution with a structured organisational hierarchy & rules, premises, etc., and Freemasonry as a body of moral values & ideational aspirations that our members adhere to and try to practice. My focus will be on the latter! ...

  • Their insistence on having debates is enshrined in their By-laws - intellectual improvement leading to expected moral improvement - a favourite 18th century pre-occupation that can be detected in other sources too.
  • An exhibition of crystals followed by use of microscopes to examine them minutely.
  • The dissection of a human eyeball one night!
  • Metals in the service of Man - another lecture showing 18th century empiricism at work.
  • Astronomy lectures in keeping with the prevailing Newtonianism. Note: this was considered to be the perfectly proper work of a Lodge.

    In the 19th and 20th centuries English Freemasonry may have become far too much enslaved in outward forms. Has our Freemasonry become "a body without a soul", perhaps? Organisational entropy lurks! Recommended - a return to a more 18th century approach of daring to speculate so that our members really can study "the Liberal Arts and Sciences" and fathom "the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science" as indeed we are specifically enjoined to attempt daily (First and Second Degree respectively). (61 slides)

    1.4 MIC Public Awareness Task Force Report: It's About Time.

    (This Report was commissioned by the Conference of (mainstream) Grand Masters in North America in 2004, and released by the Masonic Information Center in 2006.):

    Masons are not visible in the daily life of their communities. Their identity is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in the press and by religious critics. There is little reserve of positive memories of Masonic activity remaining in our communities. Within eye and ear range of the public, Masons have failed to perform what they profess; consequently, they have lost their significance within the context of community. (20 pages) mp3 (34 minutes)

    1.5 Dwight L. Smith: Whither Are We Traveling?

    (Dwight Smith was a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Indiana. This report was published in June, 1964):

    I shall propose no bright new ideas - not one. All I am going to advocate is that Freemasonry remain Freemasonry; and if we have strayed from the traditional path, we had better be moving back to the main line while there is yet time to restore the prestige and respect, the loyalty and devotion that once was ours.

    The mere fact that men do not comprehend its purpose does not mean that Freemasonry has no purpose, nor that its purpose is outmoded - it only means that the stones are not being well hewn and squared in the quarries where they are raised. Freemasonry has not been tried in the balance and found wanting: it has been found difficult and not tried. (41 pages)

    1.6 Laudable Pursuit: A 21st Century Response to Dwight Smith.

    These original precepts have become forgotten and, over the last century, North American Freemasonry has lost its way. Artificially swollen in ranks by the massive influx of post-WWII members, Grand Lodges now see shrinking numbers as a failure of recruiting techniques. Successive Grand Masters hold themselves responsible for finding new ways to restore numerical growth, only to erode the foundations of the fraternity that made it so unique in the first place. Such schemes are not to blame for our plight, but they are shortsighted in their neglect of the long-term condition of Masonry. (35 pages)

    2. Four Lodge Renewal Models

    2.1 Seven Principles of Traditional U.S. Freemasonry.

    This is John Mauk Hilliard's Model, focusing on Organization. Its seven components are: Ritual Excellence, Education, Festive Board, Charitable Outreach, Elegance Of Dress, Selectivity & Exclusivity, Commitment.

    2.2 The Australian "European Concept" Lodge Model.

    This model, sometimes referred to as the Epicurean Model, has a Social and Educational focus. It is described in the paper: "Back To The Future - A Prescription For Masonic Renewal", by Kent Henderson.

    2.3 The American Traditional Observance Model.

    The Traditional Observance Lodge of the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) is a relatively new term in Freemasonry. It refers to lodges that are similar to European Concept lodges in that they also incorporate higher dues, festive boards, a strict dress code, and higher standards of ritual, but differ in that they choose to follow a close observance of the traditional initiatic elements of Continental European Freemasonry.

    2.4 The Continental European Model -- Philosophy and Practice.

    2.4.1 Kent Henderson: Overseas Masonic Practices - What Can They Teach Us?

    2.4.2 European Masonic Pages, with an Introduction for Non-Europeans.

    3. North American Lodge Revitalization Links:

    3.1 Minnesota: Lodge Builder Site

    3.2 Michigan: Masonic Renewal and Development

    3.3 Iowa: Ten Steps to Lodge Renewal

    3.4 Texas: New Model Lodge, USA

    3.5 Masonic Renewal Committee of North America

    3.6 T. Michael Fegan on the MRC

    3.7 Winnipeg, Manitoba: Templum Sion Lodge