I was reading this great article, Freemasonry's Roots Run Deep In Newtown, a history of Hiram Lodge No. 18 (which, by the way, the author seems to have confused with Hiram Chapter No. 1 RAM) in Newton, Connecticut, when I came across the following quote:
Freemasonry principles have been traditionally liberal and democratic. Anderson's Constitutions (1723), the bylaws of the oldest lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, according to The Columbia Encyclopedia, "cites religious toleration, loyalty to local government, and political compromise as basic to the Masonic ideal. Masons are expected to believe in a Supreme Being, use a holy book appropriate to the religion of the lodge's members, and maintain a vow of secrecy concerning the order's ceremonies."Back in the 18th century, Freemasonry was regularly associated with political radicals such as Benjamin Franklin and Giuseppe Garibaldi, artists such as Mozart and Robert Burns, and thinkers like Goethe and Voltaire. These were all men who changed the world, and in Freemasonry found some vital spark that aligned with their noble ambitions. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to happen much anymore. There are still some great minds in the fraternity, but with declining numbers and a tendancy to stay out of the public light, it's rare that an influential thinker of the modern world is also a Freemason.
Perhaps this is something that can change. If you're a member of a Masonic lodge, you can help the process along. Bring education to your lodge meeting! The Short Talk Bulletins are a great way to get started, but don't limit your education to Freemasonry. I have seen it suggested time and again to encourage brethren in the lodge to talk about their hobbies and jobs. Talk about books you've read, even if they're not Masonic. Share your knowledge in lodge meetings and get people thinking and talking!
Many people are terrified of speaking in public. I know how that feels. I still get the butterflies when I get up in front of a crowd. While I wouldn't normally use a Masonic forum to push another organization, I am going to make an exception. I found that joining Toastmasters International and attending meetings for a while really helped me out. Now I try to have a topic at our lodge meeting every month, and it has really helped! Give it a try — you may start a glorious trend.
I wanted to mention revolutionaries today because I think that adding a spark of vitality to a lodge by introducing fresh ideas and encouraging some friendly discussion can really get members excited about coming back. The important thing is to create the sort of conversation that inspires at least one brother to continue the discussion outside the lodge with a non-Mason. If our lodges become known as places where ideas, literature, art, and science are discussed, we will start attracting new members who are interested in those topics. I think there are plenty of folks out there who would be excited to dress up and have stimulating discussions with friends. Heck, it certainly beats watching television.
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