Last Friday night, I attended the Second Annual Dinner of the Masonic Society at the Hilton, Alexandria Mark Center hotel in Alexandria, VA. This event was held in conjunction with “Masonic Week”, which is an annual gathering of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees of the United States of America. As such, there were members of the various different York Rite Orders present from all around the country and the world. It was great to finally meet and visit with TMS President, Roger Van Gorden and TMS Secretary-Treasurer, Nathan Brindle. Unfortunately, this year’s gatherings were disappointingly attended due to the numerous storms that hit the Washington DC area and shut down the airport for a couple of days.
Following dinner, Chris Hodapp (author of “Freemasons for Dummies” and “Deciphering the Lost Symbol”) was to moderate a panel discussion on the future direction of the Craft and the appendant bodies in the wake of Dan Brown's effect. As previously noted, turnout was slight and some of the members of the proposed panel were unable to attend. Instead, Chris gave a brief description of the phenomenon of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” and his ideas about how the interest in Brown’s book might affect the Craft, he described the six year wait for the publication of Brown’s latest book and the speculation that accompanied that wait, and he described what was finally revealed in “The Lost Symbol” as a 508 page love letter from Dan Brown to Freemasonry. Chris painted an optimistic picture of how Masonry would be improved as great numbers of the Dan Brown generation entered the Craft. He then opened the floor to questions and comments. As per usual, the questions and comments were concerned with how more and more men coming into Masonry might be encouraged to fill the ranks of the appendent bodies.
What I noted was little discussion of how Masonry might change to accommodate a new generation of Masons, who like Chris, are more interested in the last fifty pages of “The Lost Symbol” than the all of the rest of the book. In those last fifty or so pages and after the conclusion of his tale, Brown discusses the greater philosophical truths of Freemasonry. This is the aspect of Freemasonry that will attract men in search of esoteric thought and greater socialization. But what will they find in modern Freemasonry?
My question for Chris is can Masonry survive the exposure that will be brought upon it by the Dan Brown effect? Will the reality of Masonry, as practiced in many Lodges, drive away those in search of a more spiritual and philosophical experience? Will the desire to increase membership in our appendent bodies cause us to fling open our doors and, as Chris says, admit anyone who has a pulse and whose check clears to the point that Masonry becomes so diluted that it has more the appearance of a social club than a philosophical society?
To make good men better, good men must have the opportunity to meet in fellowship with other like minded individuals who are seeking greater truths. They should have fun and enjoy each other’s company, but they shouldn’t be distracted by what is common in the world. Lessons are taught in the three degrees of Masonry that sets the individual Mason on a path toward greater enlightenment. But, completion of the third degree . . .“is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”