Allow me to offer an initial warning: if you haven’t figured it out already, if you are a bit stuffy, or adverse to the idea that Freemasonry should be open to critique, then you probably want to give the Hedge Mason a pass. Also note, perhaps more than usual, this post is somewhat rhetorical in tone. I have a very simple intention here. I wish to ask Freemasons in the United States, although the question is a relevant one for Freemasons anywhere, but this is directed specifically at Freemasons in the United States, as the details should make clear, to consider something carefully.
Every so often, Freemasons rouse themselves from their slumber long enough to contemplate if only for a moment, why their membership numbers are in the toilet. Usually, the responses, when there are any voiced, take the form of either the observation that after 1960, society somehow changed and young men stopped joining fraternal organizations, or something akin to that. Seldom does anyone address why that is so, but when they do the usual response is a more detailed and vaguely sociological explanation that leaves nobody any wiser. Another response is to offer an historical analysis of the decline, again offering no real explanation. The next stage of the response, much like the traditional stages of denial, offers a list of methodologies for correcting the problem. It seems the common wisdom that we need to advertise, we need to not advertise, we need to hold massive group initiation days (sort of like President Day car sales) or we don’t because they never work. In fact, we need to do everything we can to repackage and remarket our “product” without actually making any adjustment to the product itself. After all, we are perfect. Younger generations just need to realize that.
Folks, did it ever occur to anyone, that people don’t buy products that are past their expiration dates? People do not look at the most bruised, wormy apple on the fruit counter and say, “how cute! I think I’ll take this one.” They just don’t.
Let’s have a look. Two Grand Lodges currently are coming out of their hate closets and banning gays. Two Grand Lodges out of the entire country have seen fit to make public declarations condemning this and taking action against it. Two. One more rather cautiously suggested to their membership that it should know what they will want to do. Of the rest, one can feel the pressure of the inflated lungs collectively holding their breaths.
But that’s not all. Today, I read about a law case against the Florida Grand Lodge for maintaining a Jim Crow statute on its books. Really folks?
So, let me get around to asking that question. If you don’t offer equal access to the public, we can’t share our masonic experience with our friends of different races, different gender preferences (much less different genders) and in many places, Florida included, of different religions, or no religions, and we get to spend most of our time attending financial meetings because we don’t really approve of esoteric freemasonry, or metaphysics, and we can’t really explore a variety of rituals, or discuss politics, or discuss religion, or pretty much any other current event, and we can’t really deal with the issue of personal improvement unless it conforms to the official GL scripts whether they serve the intended purpose effectively anymore or not, then what is it within Freemasonry that is supposed to attract new members?
While this question may have the appearance of a rhetorical one, and on the surface, it is just that, it also is meant as a serious question. No, it is not my intention to simply speak ill of Freemasonry. Lately, it doesn’t need my help to do that. Nor am I looking to have any of you send me your responses. Although you are more than welcome to do so, it’s not that sort of question. It is a question that I think each mason, especially now, needs to be asking themselves. The individual to whom the answer to this question should be directed is the reader; each and every one of you. If you don’t like the answers, what are you going to do about it?
A word or two by way of explanation may be
worth offering concerning the title of this blog.
Hedge Mason, like similar terms Hedge Master,
Hedge Lodge, and the more widely recognized
Hedge School, are terms from Hiberno-English.
The latter of these terms, as many Irish will know,
refers to illicit schools dedicated to the maintenance
of Irish culture and language, alongside the classics
of European Philosophy, including Greek and Latin studies.
These institutions were founded throughout rural Ireland during
the Penal era when Irish Gaelic culture was under attack
by the English occupier. During this time also, the term
Hedge was added to masonic terms to refer to any masonic
individual or institution not approved of by the
Anglophone world. These often were lodges and masons
working to advance the cause of Irish independence.
It seems a very appropriate term then, for me to use to
name this blog.
For quite a while I have observed various blogs and podcasts
relating to Freemasonry, finding both much worth emulating
and a few things worth avoiding among them. Fairly
quickly it became apparent to me that there was little
being published in North America (or elsewhere for that matter)
that dealt fairly and offering a positive perspective on Liberal
Freemasonry or the world beyond the confines of the
Preston-Webb Rites or the AASR Northern or Southern
Jurisdictions and especially with the Modern Rite with which
we are associated.. Such sites exist beyond the Anglophone
Internet, but The Hedge Mason will endeavor to bring some
of that information within the grasp of an English speaking
It seems to me that it is time for a change, and this blog
will hopefully serve as a small corrective step in that direction.
The goal of this blog will be to provide interesting topics
from time to time on subjects relating to Liberal Freemasonry
and on responsible alternatives to what is exemplified by the
mainstream Grand Lodge system in North America.
While this site will not avoid covering contemporary issues,
it will try to avoid heavy handed critiques of any system or
tradition within Freemasonry. It is my belief that there is no
such thing as clandestine or irregular freemasonry. Such
labels belittle the rich tapestry of our traditions both
contemporary and historical. Further, such attitudes
directly contradict the premise of brotherhood and fraternalism
which is the foundation of Freemasonry.
In short, this site is about education and expanding
the horizons of Freemasons of all stripes and those who
are just interested in the subject. It is not a place intended
for debate or dispute, although if it engenders some that might
be a good thing.
Just in case some object to certain posts being off topic,
please note the subtitle of this blog includes the phrase,
“and other stuff.” That of course is because it’s my blog and
occasionally I want to ramble.
We look forward to sharing with you!
Source: The Hedge Mason