Freemasons seeing a spike in new membership

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Bustercat, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Bustercat

    Bustercat A-List Customer

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    http://www.latimes.com/features/lifestyle/la-ig-masons18-2008may18,0,562412.story


    Over Italian food, retired lawyers and judges sit elbow-to-elbow with owners of scrap metal yards and vintage clothing boutiques. They hold forth on philosophy, the weather; they rib each other and joke about saving room for cannoli. As they reach for seconds, they reveal skull-cracking rings emblazoned with a compass and a square.

    Meet the millennial Masons. As secret societies go, it is one of the oldest and most famous. Its enrollment roster includes Louis Armstrong and Gerald Ford, and it has been depicted in movies such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “National Treasure.” Once more than 4 million strong (back in the 1950s), it has been in something of a popularity free-fall ever since. Viewed with suspicion as a bastion of antiquated values and forced camaraderie, the Masons have seen membership rolls plummet more than 60% to just 1.5 million in 2006.

    Only now the trend seems to be reversing itself, and nowhere more noticeably than in Southern California. The reasons seem clear. In another Masonic Hall, this one on La Cienega, a Sri Lankan-born banker, a sunglasses-wearing Russian immigrant and a continent-hopping Frenchman break bread, poke at their salads and chat about their health.

    "For a time it looked as if Masonry was going into a sharp decline, if not the death throes," said UCLA history professor Margaret C. Jacob, who has written extensively about the fraternal order. "But it looks like it may be making a comeback."

    That's because the Freemasons, whose tenets forbid soliciting or recruiting members, have enthusiastically embraced the Internet as a way to leverage curiosity about an organization with its roots in Europe's medieval stonemasons guilds. Freemasonry today sees itself as a thinking man's salon, a learned society with a philanthropic bent.

    "We had a record number of new members last year," said Allan Casalou, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. "We added 2,000 men, which is the most since 1998 and our seventh straight year of membership increases."

    And, to paraphrase that Oldsmobile campaign, these definitely aren't your father's Freemasons. They are bar owners, male models and olive-oil brokers. They are men like Zulu, an L.A. tattoo artist with a swirling Maori-inspired design inked across his face and a panoply of metal piercing his ears, nose and face. They are men like Jonathan Kanarek, who runs a men's vintage clothing store on Hollywood Boulevard and whose retro chic wardrobe of polka-dot ascots, glen-plaid jackets and smartly pressed pocket squares earned him a spot on Esquire magazine's 2007 list of best-dressed real men in America. And they are men like Daemon Hillin, whose surfer-dude looks and blinding white smile can be found on Japanese TV, where he plays sidekick and comic foil to the Japanese version of the Hilton sisters.

    They are also all men who want to be part of an all-for-one and one-for-all brotherhood built on shared ideals, philosophical pursuits and a penchant for rings, aprons and funny hats. As Zulu bluntly put it: "I joined because I was looking for people to hang with that were like-minded but also hip and cool, and a lot of tattoo artists tend to be drunks and druggies."

    Hillin, who originally joined the Masons in Temecula, moved to L.A. and is interested in the Santa Monica-Palisades Lodge No. 307, one of the youngest and most diverse congregations in the state (the average age of active brothers is just 33). The lodge's senior deacon, Jim Warren, calls it " 'Star Trek' without the chicks." "We have every possible national origin, ethnicity and religious denomination you could imagine," he said.

    Warren credits the Internet. "We were one the first lodges in the state to have a website up," he said. "That led to a huge spike in membership."

    Other lodges followed suit, putting up their own sites and drawing a crowd. That's how prospective Mason Johnny Royal ended up at the door of Elysian Lodge No. 418 last month. Intrigued by the distinctive Masonic architecture that graces most halls, the 31-year-old publicist with sideburns to his chin and hair to his shoulders and a Renaissance lute player tattoo on his right forearm hit the Web.

    What he read about the Masonic ideals -- wisdom, strength, beauty and the pursuit of knowledge -- made him decide to pursue membership. "My generation wants to be part of something beyond itself," Royal said. "I want to learn; I want to participate."

    The Web generation

    THE INTERNET hasn't only made it easier to learn about the Freemasons, Casalou says, it's changed the type of men coming forward. "There is so much information on the Internet that by the time someone comes to a lodge to seek membership, they already know a lot about Masonry," he said. "Which is a big departure from previous generations. And it means they are more likely to be active participants."

    Zulu became curious about Freemasonry after tattooing Masonic symbology on several clients. He joined five years ago at age 39 and now serves as webmaster and senior warden of North Hollywood Lodge No. 542. He has also gone on to become both a Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner (Masonic membership is a prerequisite for both), and next year he will become the leader of his lodge. "I'll be the first black worshipful master in the lodge's history," he said, using the proper term of respect.

    But he probably won't be the last. Because California's contingent of Freemasons is expected to grow, the average age of its members, once 71 and now 65, is expected to drop. By 2018, as Casalou predicts, the state will be awash in 55-year-old pre-retirement Masons giving each other secret handshakes, wearing ritual aprons and invoking the Grand Architect of the Universe.

    The Internet continues to help. Zulu said that he gets at least four e-mails a week from prospective Masons around the globe who see his tattooed and pierced visage at the lodge website and want to be reassured such an alternative look isn't a barrier to membership.

    "Yeah, I think it's going to become hip and chic to be a Mason," Zulu said. "And that could be a dangerous thing."
     
  2. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    Too funny! lol
     
  3. Bustercat

    Bustercat A-List Customer

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    Want a real laugh?

    Check out some of the comments on this repost of the article:
    (link removed by Bustercat)

    Don't forget the tinfoil!
    :eusa_clap
     
  4. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    LMAO!
     
  5. Atterbury Dodd

    Atterbury Dodd One Too Many

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    I thought we were not supposed to discuss religion or politics on the Lounge?
     
  6. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    Actually, you are correct. Mods!
     
  7. Tomasso

    Tomasso Incurably Addicted

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    lol
     
  8. Bustercat

    Bustercat A-List Customer

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    lol!

    Yeah, I figured the comments were so bizarre It went beyond controversy into the realm of crackpot humor, but I'll go ahead and remove the link.

    The original article is intriguing, though. I'm not a mason or anything, but It's interesting to see an old tradition that was a mainstay of American community life in the golden age (topping at 6 million members in the 50's!) finding new popularity among a younger crowd.
     
  9. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    It is good to join any salon-like happening where people dress up, meet in old beautiful places with dark, varnished wood, and talk about intelligent things. And perhaps drink a bit of Scotch. I like weird initiation rituals too. And the contacts could be useful.
     
  10. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

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    BTW, just for the record I am a Mason. I find these latest perversions hilarious. In reality folks, it's just a bunch of guys getting together to have fun and do some charity work. There is no conspiracy type stuff. Doran is pretty on the spot with this.
     
  11. Bustercat

    Bustercat A-List Customer

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    That's been my impression as well, sort of like intellectual frats for grown ups that do charitable stuff instead of just accumulating alcohol poisoning and sex offences.
    Nutty illuminati conspiracy theories about it seem to make it more fun. What good is a secret if no one cares enough to speculate about what you're up to?

    What exactly do you see as perversions? Making masonic info available on the web to boost interest, as a form of proselytization? Other than that, the article seems in line with what you guys are saying masons are all about.
     
  12. Chas

    Chas One Too Many

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    I belonged to a Masonic lodge for a short time, and the experience of that lodge is very similar - quite a few younger (under 35) brothers coming in. I was very happy to see that.

    In my case, I am demitting because I have become an atheist, and as there are no local lodges of the Grand Orient de France, so I can't in honesty practice Freemasonry.

    I have nothing but good things to say about Masons and Freemasonry, however.

    Masonry is neither; it's a fraternal order. Religiously speaking, the requirement of a Mason is that he profess a belief in a supreme being. In my lodge we had Jews, Christians, Muslims and a couple of Ba'Hais. Within the doors of the lodge any and all discussion of religion and politics is strictly forbidden. What outsiders choose to blame or heap upon masonry has more to do with their own paranoia and oppressive ideals than it has to do with masonry. Consider also that masonry was supressed in NAZI Germany, Facist Italy and Spain and in the USSR. Currently it supressed in present day Iran. In that respect it is political, I suppose.
     
  13. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Atheist here too -- perhaps a new dress-up fraternal lodge can be created by or for us.
     
  14. Bustercat

    Bustercat A-List Customer

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    Atheist here as well.
    Is that really a deal breaker though, or does it depend on the lodge? It seems like the idea of a 'supreme architect' can be interpreted a lot of different ways—even as an abstract construct to acknowledge the beauty and order of the universe. Similar to taking numbers and equations and naming them "mathematics," but going the extra step to anthropomorphise it: "Math is so powerful and omnipresent he can manifest himself in the pocket change you get at the store buying antifreeze, and the precise movement of entire galaxies over billions of your lifetimes."
    You don't have to actually believe that "math" has a beard and a bad temper, do you? Or that it is actually sentient beyond the human qualities you give it to explain and understand it? At the end of the day it—he— is still something greater than you.
    Am I off the mark? They do have a cool logo.
     
  15. Dr Doran

    Dr Doran My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I hear what you are saying, but I don't think I could go there ("there" meaning to allegorize God). I did something like that for a long time when I considered myself a Catholic: that is, I did not have faith in a divine being, but I considered the beauty of the universe to BE "God." Then I realized I was intellectually jumping through hoops in order to retain membership in an organization (the Catholic Church) for which I had great fondness, but whose dicta I simply didn't believe. I had allegorized and metaphorized the idea of God until the point where I was not worshipping God but giving honor to the idea of God. This obviously is so far from what 99.9% of normal Catholics believe that I had to leave.
     
  16. Hemingway Jones

    Hemingway Jones I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Actually, religion is OK. It just often goes astray.

    As for this thread, I'm trying to figure out why it belongs here at all? There is no Golden Era tie-in, no issue relevant to a broad swath of members.

    [huh]
     
  17. TomS

    TomS One Too Many

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    I've been a Mason for a long time. It's kind of like being in the Elk's club, Moose Lodge, VFW, etc. The initiation might be different, but it's just a bunch of guys hanging around...lol
    B/r,
    Tom
     
  18. Chas

    Chas One Too Many

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    Well, there already is a Masonic body that admits atheists, The Grand Orient de France has 3 lodges in Quebec, one in New York and one in Bethesda, Maryland. It is only a matter of time before there are charters granted on the west coast. With the increasing numbers of atheists in North America "coming out of the closet" it follows that institutions and organizations supportive of that are going to grow in size. It is considered an irregular body and as such is not recognized by the Grand Lodge.

    If you guys can see about getting a charter in California, I will most certainly join and attend.

    By the by, GOdF also admits women, but for some reason doesn't initiate them.
     
  19. Foofoogal

    Foofoogal Banned

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    It is funny how different people see things. I am amazed we can disuss FreeMasonry which I consider a religion definitely and/or ghost stories but cannot freely discuss Jesus Christ. I know.... I am a party pooper...

    I feel sorry for the moderators. I really do..cest la vie....I figure it is life and to each his own. I do feel if someone doesn't want to see something they just don't have to read it or pass the thread...so I will.
     

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