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Published: August 26, 2008 06:18 am ShareThisPrintThis
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Freemasons defy mystical roots in bid for members
By Alan Burke
Staff writer

Hollywood couldn't concoct a more ominous crowd. All men, they gather to perform odd rituals. Their roots go back so many centuries, no one knows exactly when they started. They recognize one another through secret handshakes and exotic symbols.
And now the Freemasons have startled the world with the ultimate conspiracy - television commercials aimed at attracting new members.
Except, it's not exactly a conspiracy if it's on television.
For that matter, says Charles Austin, a Freemason at the Salem Masonic Temple, they were never all that shadowy to start with. In the past, he scoffs, "people were claiming we were a secretive, satanic cult."
In truth, Austin says, the group has always been welcoming of anyone wanting to join. And if Freemasonry is a conspiracy, it's a conspiracy to do good, to provide scholarships, to donate to the Shriners' Hospital and help fellow Masons in need. (The Shriners are a subgroup of the Masons.)
"We use the mason's tools," says Austin. "The level. Every mason is on the level. The plumb line. Every mason is upright and erect."
"If it was secret," argues John Blaney of the Marblehead lodge, "there wouldn't be a sign outside every town saying 'Philanthropic Lodge of Masons meets every Thursday.'"
Nevertheless, not enough people know about the Masons to keep the membership lists stable.
Fraternal organizations in general have suffered a loss of members in recent years, says Alan Foulds of the Scottish Rite, another Masonic subgroup. The TV commercials feature an actor portraying Freemason Ben Franklin, calling for young men to join.
Over the years a number of lodges across the state have simply disappeared. Membership ranges from as many as 800 men in Salem's two lodges to 200 in Peabody, says Austin. "But if you get 20 percent of those at a meeting, you're doing a good job."
Marblehead, half the size of Salem, is apparently doing a very good job, bucking the trend. The town lists as many as 600 at a lodge founded before the Revolution. Paul Revere signed the charter.
"I just got my pin for 60 years as a member," says Mason Emerson Brown. Becoming a Mason after service in World War II, the 87-year-old sees the organization partly as a social club. "You have a wonderful time here."
More importantly, he adds, "We help a lot of people who need it."
"It's a brotherhood dedicated to helping others," echoes Marblehead Mason Harry Christensen.
With Masons already in his family, he joined after service in Vietnam inspired him to help others.
Centuries of history
Freemasonry goes back at least to the 1600s. Almost any man is eligible - women can join auxiliary organizations. "We have members from all the religions," Christensen says, "Jewish, Moslem, Christian."
Belief in a supreme being is one of the prerequisites of Freemasonry, says Blaney.
He blames the recent declining membership on the time-consuming demands of modern life.
Marblehead with its unique sense of history and community has avoided such pitfalls. Marblehead is very close," explains Austin. "It's a neighborhood."
Moreover, the lodge itself has been careful to retain all the Masonic rituals and ceremonies. These tend to cement an individual's dedication, Blaney believes.
The decision to advertise was not without controversy within Freemasonry. "You may have lost a little bit of the mysticism," says Austin. "One side thought we should have made it more exclusive."
In the past, the Masons have waited for potential members to come to them. In just that way they attracted some impressive people, including presidents George Washington, Harry Truman, and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.
On the other hand, the TV commercials have had an impact.
"We've gotten people who wouldn't have thought of it to consider joining," says Austin. Many are young - although one was old enough to comment, "If I'd known about this, I would have joined 41 years ago."
 

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Czar of Cyncism and Satire
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This is all I can think about when I hear about fraternal organizations. Homer joins the Stonecutters

Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do! We do!
 

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At the risk of violating my solemn obligation and suffering the ancient penalties contained therein, all I can say about the Craft is how much like the Hotel California it is....
You can check out anytime you like, but you CAN NEVER LEAVE...

Blue Lodge A.F. & A.M. (Grand Lodge) 3°
Valley of Boston 32°
Aleppo Shiners; Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
 
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Blue Lodge A.F. & A.M. (Grand Lodge) 3°
Valley of Boston 32°
Aleppo Shiners; Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
I knew I liked you Koz;

Rural Lodge A.F. & A.M.
Quincy

The men on both sides of my family have been Masons for as far back as the records go.
 

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Pomona Lodge #246. Following my father, I was raised 1974 and was followed by two uncles and a cousin - whom I helped raise. Others within my familial past have been members of the brethren for many years throughout history here in the U.S. and in their home countries abroad.
 
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So much for a secret society hmmm....
Freemasonry is not a secret society; it's a society which happens to have some secrets. When you spend $2 million per day (yes, per day) in charity as Freemasons do, it's kind of tough to keep that secret.

And if God forbid you or your family ever needs the Shriners Burns Institute, thank a Freemason.
 

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mikemac64 said:
Now he has to kill all of us.
No, as a member of this site, you will be on the protected rolls Mike.
Odd Fellows? Now they have a lot to be worried about.
Sarge31 said:
So mote it be.
If your on the level Sarge, shoot me a PM...
Delta784 said:
I knew I liked you Koz;
Rural Lodge A.F. & A.M. Quincy
The men on both sides of my family have been Masons for as far back as the records go.
Same here my friend, or should I say; my BROTHER.
We've been on the same wave-length since day 1; go figure.

My Masonic roots only go back as far as 1984 when I became Master Councilor of Wamesit Council Order of DeMolay.
My dad joined Wamesit Lodge A.F.& A.M. so he could witness my ritual.
But I can't say it wasn't nice (in hindsight) to have my dad as the 3rd gate when I was raised. ;)

lawdog671 said:
So much for a secret society hmmm....
No... Not a secret society, but a society with secrets. If we were secret, you wouldn't know about us.
As Bruce said, when you do as much philanthropic work as we do, your intentions are obviously not to be kept secret.
And I personally concur (as a 20+ year member of the Aleppo Shrine) the Shriners do exceptional work in the aid of crippled and burned children, irrespective of your ability to pay.
It's 100% our mission, above all else, to ensure a child, irrespective of means, who may be burned, crippled, or in need of orthopedic care, that we provide care and support to that child.
And that before all else is the reason I volunteer my time to that great organization.

Tuna said:
Do they have a Bar?:pint:
No, that's The Elks Tunes...
(Of which I am also a member; for obvious reasons.):alcoholi:

PapaBear said:
Pomona Lodge #246. Following my father, I was raised 1974 and was followed by two uncles and a cousin - whom I helped raise...
Good to have you on-board Hiram! We need more members as members!

St. Johns Lodge here in Boston, which meets in our Grand Lodge is known as a "Cops Lodge".
Many of its members are cops from Boston Police Dept., Mass State Police, and other police departments local to the city.
When they raise a candidate, look out my friend... ;)

Delta784 said:
And if God forbid you or your family ever needs the Shriners Burns Institute, thank a Freemason.
Your darn right my friend. And free-of-charge....

Deuce said:
Ya ya ya, that's all well and good. But do you have secret decoder rings?
No Deucer, but we do have one hell of an after meeting collation. Fruit punch and everything!
Tuna said:
I'm not sure I would want to be a member of a club that would have me.
We don't discriminate Tunes.. Even with all of your many shortcomings, we would still take you.
You'd have to sit in the back of course, but we would still take you.

 

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Always entertained
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We don't discriminate Tunes.. Even with all of your many shortcomings, we would still take you.
You'd have to sit in the back of course, but we would still take you.

"Shortcomings" Hey what did I do to you Koz?? I'm still trying to get into the "court club" and because I "crashed the security gate " at Westboro DC now I'm getting the "Third Degree" from my management.:jestera:
 

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Freemasonry is not a secret society; it's a society which happens to have some secrets. When you spend $2 million per day (yes, per day) in charity as Freemasons do, it's kind of tough to keep that secret.
Not to mention the fact that a google search will reveal just about every Mason ritual/secret.
 

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Tuna said:
"Shortcomings" Hey what did I do to you Koz??
You know your a fave of the K-Man..Just bustin' on ya pal..
Hell, I've been a member for almost 25 years and I'm still referred to as "oh cripes, not him again"...

BrickCop said:
Not to mention the fact that a google search will reveal just about every Mason ritual/secret.
I'm pretty sure it was always out there Brick, through the Library of Congress and other larger libraries.
Now it's just a little more accessible.

As a member, to me it means absolutely nothing, (other than disappointment in the man) if a disgruntled ex-Freemason breaks his solemn oath and disseminates the ritual.
(Much of which is factually inaccurate.)

Unless your a member, who has been thrice prepared as a candidate, and has experienced those 3 solemn degrees and felt the impact of those ancient words spoken on your behalf; they're just words with very little significance.
 
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As a member, to me it means absolutely nothing, (other than disappointment in the man) if a disgruntled ex-Freemason breaks his solemn oath and disseminates the ritual.
(Much of which is factually inaccurate.)
I have yet to see an accurate representation of any Masonic ritual or "secret" anywhere but inside a Masonic Temple.
 

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I obviously have no way of verifying the accuracy of the ex-Mason spilling the secrets. I am guessing it's a fairly broad overview but as Kozmo smartly pointed out, reading the rituals does not diminish their value to those who live it, so to speak.
 

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Woo Hoo.........a whole bunch of Brothers on this board! It always amazes me when I run into more and more Masons.
 

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a traveling man i see....

greetings from Mount Olivet, Cambridge

and besides anyone who knows the middle chamber lecture earns my respect......
 
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