Modern Paganism and the Benefits of Freemasonry
This blog entry stems from a Facebook Post I made on June 25, 2014 which started some debate. Interestingly, none of the Freemasons who commented in that conversation disagreed with me. Also this entry is not an attempt at recruiting people to become Freemasons, it’s just an expressed opinion based upon observation and experience in both Freemasonry and the modern Pagan community.
The lessons and experiences that being part of an institution such as Freemasonry instills in someone is something that the modern Pagan community would greatly benefit from. Time and time again I’ll hear a discussion regarding a concern, policy, ritual method, administrative issue, practice, multi-group issue, organizational problem, etc. and think, “Freemasonry already resolved this.” Whether through the lessons it teaches, existing protocol, or its management of people, many of the random humps and hurdles that the modern Pagan community deals with on a regular basis already have applicable resolutions and methods available to them via such an institution as Freemasonry. To make what could be viewed as a Masonic analogy, Freemasonry provides a ‘toolbox’ of answers to resolve so much unneeded debate and discussion over issues that could otherwise be regarded as trivial. If more of us had the exposure to how such an institution as Freemasonry functioned, we could focus more on other things that would help us build a better community and future for us all.
Now, I’m not talking about the strict organization of the Pagan community. I’m talking about a refined common sense approach to matters that would help improve how the community functions whether on a large or small scale. Refining how things are done and handled would help the community flourish in unexpected ways. A small example being, a better run coven would be more productive in its community service as well as in its production of future covens and groups. Better covens would be more likely to produce better leaders and groups who would continue in that vein. A larger example could be seen in large traditions where consistent ritual is an issue or in a new group or developing community looking to hold a large event or regular gatherings. Having the experience of working in an established fraternity such as Freemasonry can provide someone with the resources and background that help make such endeavors more successful.
In some ways a greater crossover involvement of the Pagan community in Freemasonry would result in a direct benefit, meaning that many of the experiences from Freemasonry could directly translate to one’s experiences in the Pagan community, while some of the other benefits would be more subtle, but just as noticeable.
So, what is Freemasonry? For those that don’t know, Freemasonry is a system of morality, that is veiled in allegory, and illustrated with symbols. It is predominantly a men’s organization, but there are Co-ed and Women’s organizations too. To join, you need to ask, be of age, properly vouched for, a good citizen, and you only need to believe in a higher power. Freemasonry is not a religion or religious organization specifically, it just has religious aspects which do not infringe upon the religions of its members. So, if someone tells you that you have to believe in a specific God or be a part of a specific religion to be a Mason they are wrong, but unfortunately, depending on someone’s location, for example, it may be difficult for some Pagans in some areas of the United States to join a lodge, as has already happened in the recent past.
Why Freemasonry and why not another similar organization? Simple, Freemasonry is the Great-Grandparent of them all and even had a direct influence upon the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Wicca and many Wicca-derived traditions and paths (which have all had their influence upon modern Paganism in some way or another) not to mention that there are three key aspects all found in Freemasonry that should directly appeal to any Pagan of today.
- Masonry is about morality and uniting a community of people from different backgrounds and beliefs.
- Masonry is a very ritual based fraternity. Ritual and the execution of ritual is highly valued and many of the ritual methods and aspects found in modern Pagan traditions were IN FACT adopted from Freemasonry.
- Masonry has an emphasis on charity and volunteer work. The ideas of charity, volunteering, fundraising, and other public services, go towards funding and building community.
That’s great and all, but can’t I just do this on my own? Well, you can, but why not learn how to do it from people who have been involved with doing such things for several hundred years? By insisting on doing something on your own and not seeking the experience and expertise of others, you run the risk of reinventing the wheel and hitting the same potholes along the way. Learning directly from an established source is more accurate and productive. Also, Freemasonry is an organization that has endured much, much, longer than the 3-5 year curse of many covens, groups, centers, churches, and stores.
The value of anything is determined by the sum of its parts. The better the components, the better the whole. A single brick does not make a building and neither do thousands of bricks of poor integrity, despite how carefully they may be arranged. A solid building takes solid materials, that have been properly formed and fitted and a thriving community is no different. The people who make up a community, determine the value of it. The better the people, the better the community and Freemasonry is about making good people, better.
So, what does Freemasonry have to offer the modern Pagan community? The things modern Paganism would learn from Freemasonry dwell in the weirdest of places within the fraternity. On the surface, there is the performance of ritual and the administrative aspect. There is discipline, etiquette, and the curious elements that shape someone the more they participate. There are the lessons and the symbolism of the tools that help one in life. There are also just unspeakable aspects that go without words that modern Paganism would find great value in. I know this sounds abstract, but the value is there. There are so many times that a thing has happened in the community and I can relate it to an issue at lodge, what that meant, how it affected a situation, and how to address it. Some of the things that come to mind like acts of charity, camaraderie, ritual, conflict resolution, administration and others can all be individually learned other places, but it’s in Freemasonry where they all can be learned at once. The things that Paganism needs from Freemasonry are those elements which need to be learned through experience and can not necessarily be explained or laid out in a blog post or power point presentation, but I’ll try- so, here is a list of some of the things Freemasonry has to offer us as a growing community:
- Formal ritual experience (word perfect and leg work)
- Public speaking
- Leadership training and development
- Mentor ship
- Managerial and administrative experience
- Conflict resolution skills
- Structure (rules, methods, protocol)
- Group organization
- Self-discipline and individual dependability
- Time management
- Team work
- A sense of decorum for oneself and others
- The teaching and instructing of others
Along with everything above, As a Freemason I have personally learned:
- The benefits of charity
- How to organize a successful dinner fundraiser
- Better memorization skills
- Ritual conduct and performance
- An appreciation for etiquette and protocol
But I get a lot of these experiences from the current group I’m working with? Great! Now think about what being involved with Freemasonry would do for you and your current group. Also how many of these listed experiences occur in one single situation? For example, your job may give you managerial and administration experience, but what about public speaking and performing group ritual?
The following are some lessons and ways in which Freemasonry may help better shape the modern Pagan community. Some of us already know about, witness, or practice these, but there are many of us who don’t.
You get out of it, what you put into it. Community is always voluntary and it takes work, work by everyone! Unfortunately, too many people in the Pagan community expect someone else to do what needs to be done which results in either nothing getting done or an unfair distribution of responsibility. If you’re not looking for community then why are you reading this article? If you are looking for community, what have you done or tried to do to help build upon your existing community? Community is what you make it to be.
Taking minutes during or after group meetings and gatherings. If our meetings and gatherings are valued, then what we do and the decisions we make are important too and so they should be written down to help us continue with achieving our goals and refining our methods. Taking minutes or at least making an effort to jot down the crucial moments of a meeting can help many of us stay on track and be better at managing and maintaining our groups. Successful groups are properly managed and properly maintained.
Protocol for new members. A part of a successful group is developing different protocols for how to deal with certain situations and one of the most common situations to any group or organization is in how a group takes on new members. Consistency in process and method, along with a level of expectation regarding new members, helps to maintain and enhance a group’s reputation and value. Being consistent with new members also treats everyone as equal and enforces a sense of integrity in regards to being a member of a group or organization. Groups that practice protocol demonstrate a respect for the group, its current members, as well as any potential members or interested parties.
Starting events on time. I’ll be honest, in Freemasonry events generally start on time, but if we were to compare the punctuality of Masonic events with Pagan events then we could say that Freemasonry ALWAYS starts on time, comparatively speaking. Starting on time shows organization and dependability and illustrates a standard of performance that will eventually generate greater attendance numbers in the long run because NO ONE likes to have their time wasted on a consistent basis- not in our fast-paced, fast-food world. So, much of western culture is scheduled and regimented that when a thing does not conform to that expectation, it infringes upon all the other things in a person’s life and by default will often lose the battle. If something is not punctual, then people are more likely to disregard it and not attend.
Good ritual. Every Pagan loves a good ritual experience, but good rituals don’t just happen without proper planning, preparation, and practice. Memorization and rehearsal are vital and ensure that everyone involved knows what they need to do and when, helps to ensure a smooth and vibrant ritual experience. Also having enough ‘plants’ dispersed in a crowd to help those in attendance function properly and a selected ritual prompter to guide and conduct a ceremony all help with the naturalness and fluidity of a good ritual experience. Or Traditions that focus on correct and consistent ritual, for example, would learn how to manage such a thing better over a large population of groups if some Masonic approaches to ritual management and monitoring were observed.
Leadership accountability. Everyone answers to someone. EVERYONE! Although some groups, like covens, have leaders who may have the final word, everyone answers to someone. No leader leads in a vacuum. Whether they answer to the members, other leaders, or a personal mentor, everyone answers to someone. It’s when this notion gets ignored or abused is when problems in a group occur. The better the leader, the less upsets and disturbances happen in a situation, which goes towards having a more successful group. Everyone answers to someone and no one leads in a vacuum.
Humility. Sometimes we get things wrong and that’s OK. It’s better to admit a mistake than ignore it ever happened, because not everyone will catch the mistake so admitting to it shows integrity, but those that do catch a mistake will be more likely to forget about it if it gets acknowledged.
Reliable community. If you say that you’re going to do something, then you should be sure to do it. If you’re going to host an event or attend someone else’s event, then be sure to actually host or attend the event because if a lack of reliability becomes common it will also eventually become expected.
Being organized. Because being disorganized is not a virtue of a successful organization or community. Plus, who actually aspires to be disorganized? No one. Being organized shows pride in what one is doing and forethought. Organization goes along with being dependable and reliable and the more we have of those qualities thriving in the community, the stronger the community will be.
Although many of those discussed above are obvious community problems, they don’t need to be and exposure to Freemasonry could actually help all of these problems and others from being so common. Now, do I have all the answers? No, but just consider this article as a little constructive criticism from a Pagan who happens to be a Freemason. Blessed be!
How do I get involved? If you want to get involved with your local masonic lodge simply contact them and say that you are interested in the fraternity and you would like to petition and before you know it, you may know first hand of what I am talking about in this article.