What future for Freemasonry?
The current functioning of the Masonic movement
It has some positive aspects and others that are clearly retrograde and counterproductive:
the positive aspects:
-allowing a group of masons to understand the masonic approach at the level of a lodge was, without a doubt, an avant-garde strategy which still shows its relevance even if the lack of training in group dynamics is today a gap that should be filled;
-the universal and international dynamic is also an important asset even if it is difficult to implement at the level of the lodges and is summarized at the level of the obediences to a set of formal alliances;
-In spite of the reticence of those who are afraid to tackle social and cultural issues in Lodges, the Masonic movement at the level of the Masons is interested in these questions;
The negative aspects:
-The organizational scheme with its two poles, the local level with the lodges, and the central level with the obediences, and an annual renewal of responsibilities, does not fulfill its role as a facilitator of internal and external communication;
-The existence of two systems of responsibilities, the obediences and the rites, introduces a confusion prejudicial to the coherence of the whole;
-The notion of a laboratory of ideas is polluted by the democratic myth and the practice of synthesis; in the end, this potential for innovation is not exploited as it should be;
-Ritual can appear sclerosing and dogmatic if it is not adapted to the specificity of modern group work.
-The functioning of the high ranks introduces illusion and clientelism: on a pseudo qualitative valorization, it diverts the functioning of the blue lodges which find themselves dispossessed of all their prerogatives to be only zones of obligatory passages.
Freemasonry, what future in the 21st century?
If we wanted to sum up the first 3 centuries of its existence we could write: "Can do better! "This might seem a bit condescending and pretentious because, like any formula, the expression is reductive, but it is understandable in view of the challenge that Freemasonry wanted to take up: to find peace in a society at war on the basis of a work value transposed from the operative to the speculative level, i.e. on the ethical level.
Invented by an English society on the verge of implosion, adopted by the bourgeoisies of the great master countries of the world, instrumented by large and small powers, fragmented into a multitude of medium and small organizations, Freemasonry continues to interest without really being able to retain and develop an audience that nevertheless remains confidential!
In the end, it is nowadays a small network of information with an institutional status and playing essentially a role in the socialization of executives, sensitive to humanist progress.
If we analyze the history of collective movements and their organizations, we can see that their evolution always goes through three phases with :
An emerging phase boosted by a combination of support and dissemination through existing networks;
-A phase of organization and structuring of the movement;
-A phase of dissemination and consolidation.
Depending on the movement and the organization, depending on the historical moments, and also on conflicts of interest and power, these three phases can extend over several decades, sometimes followed by a phase of regression before experiencing a new upturn or a near disappearance.
These three phases are generally linked to the events of the time and of the countries under consideration and are closely dependent on the strong propensity of human beings to group together in order to make their existential concerns prevail.
This evolution can, of course, be analysed globally but also at the different geographical levels of the terrestrial territories. This is the case for religious, social, political or cultural movements.
The Masonic movement was very quickly placed at an international level; even if secondarily a backlash on national positions could be observed, the international dimension persisted.
Several contexts interfered:
In the emerging phase (1720 - 1800):
-the discrediting of Protestant sects, which were the source of social instability.
-The crisis of the Catholic Church
-the support of a large part of the English and Anglophile intelligentsia
-the Europe of the Enlightenment
-The French Revolution of 1789
-The formation of the United States of America
In the organization and structuring phase (1800 - 1870) :
-The support of the kingdom of England
-The Napoleonic Recovery
-Integration into the American Constitution
-In the dissemination and consolidation phase (1870 - 2000)
-Integration with the young republics of the South American continent
-The economic expansion of the Napoleon III era
-The commune of Paris
-The Dreyfus case
-The separation of church and state
-World War I and its internationalization
-The Third Republic
-World War II and the Resistance
-The Fourth Republic
-The societal debates of the Fifth Republic
Today, the worldwide Masonic movement is characterized by :
-A strong American presence for a masonry with a large Anglo-Saxon majority
-An old-fashioned bourgeois formalism
-A divided European masonry with a liberal and open current very much in the minority
-A slow feminization
-Low involvement of intellectuals
-A real implementation in the workplace (public and private), mainly at the management level.
-A little mafia drift that can make a lot of noise...
-A refusal to see ancient rites evolve to keep only the formalism.
-An organizational cacophony that preserves its institutional pre-square
-A real crisis in the dynamics of obedience management with an inability to change the way they function.
-A minority but active recourse, more or less sectarian, to an archaic mysticism.
-A marketing of the Masonic service with the development of a not insignificant commercial network (books, medals, decorations, trips, internet sites, catering, etc.).
It is therefore on this situation that the question of the future of the Masonic movement in the 21st century can be posed.
The 21st century is likely to see existing problems reach the stage of major social crisis:
The environmental problems with global warming and their economic and social consequences...
The exhaustion of the mad rush to growth
Overpopulation and migration
The risk of nuclear skidding
The use of artificial intelligence and its impact on employment
Two scenarios can be imagined:
- a marginalization of the Masonic movement at the stage of a more or less folkloric pastist myth
- an evolution of the Masonic movement capable of answering the great societal questions.
It is naturally this last scenario that concerns us the most and which would seem to us to be in line with the ambition to see the Masonic ideal fully play its role.
What evolution of the Masonic movement could we hope to see it grow and constitute a hope?
This is a difficult question because not everyone in the Masonic world necessarily agrees on the analysis of the current functioning and also on its purpose.
It is clear that there is a need for reforms and that these will only be carried out on the basis of existing structures.
It is interesting to take into account the survey commissioned by the United Grand Lodge of England in 2012 under the title "Future of Freemasonry"; this survey was carried out by a non-Masonic research organisation, Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) and has been put online on this site: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/ugle-sgc/ugle/item/511-future-of-freemasonry-study-is-published.
What reforms could be expected?
General principles :
In the current functioning of large organizations, it is clear that their credibility is closely linked:
-To the moral and intellectual qualities of national and international leaders...
-Financial and managerial integrity
-Has the ability to assume media coverage at all times.
The Masonic movement does not escape these constraints and the reforms to be implemented must facilitate the taking into account of these requirements.
From this basis, one could imagine that the credibility of Freemasonry is reinforced by three dynamics:
-Developing the European dimension by moving towards a federal functioning of obediences
-To create a quality international masonic think tank
-Implement a capacity for solidarity action commensurate with the stakes and similar to those of large international NGOs.
Thus the Masonic movement could appear with these two components:
-An activity at the level of the lodges, which would be guaranteed freedom of operation.
-An organizational functioning better adapted to take into account the major societal challenges.
At the level of the masonic structures:
Without wanting to be exhaustive, the modernization of the functioning of the obediences would have for objectives: transparency, efficiency and responsibility.
At the lodge:
-Introduce group dynamics in the training of officer candidates
-Limit the number of box members to 30 to encourage better management of the group.
-Stabilize the management of the group by introducing a vote of the officers on the list for 3 years renewable once;
-To improve direct communication between the Lodge and the Council of the Order in order to:
-Reduce the internal communication channels
-promote a simpler way of expressing oneself
-to spark innovation.
In terms of obedience:
-In the functioning of the convent:
-The rule of a lodge represented by one delegate should not be transformed by that of three delegates per Masonic region with more regions (about 60) so as not to exceed two hundred delegates per convent? This would make it possible to better organize a real productive work of the convent.
-The convent, as a legislative body, should concentrate on more targeted work, such as for example :
-The control of the functioning and budget of the various components of the obedience...
In the functioning of the Council of the Order:
The Grand Master (or Grand Mistress) could be elected by all the members every 3 years with the freedom to choose the members of the Council of the Order (for a limited number of about ten members); this would stabilise and reinforce the authority of the Grand Master (or Grand Mistress).
In order to introduce a safeguard measure, the Grand Master (or Grand Mistress) and the Council of the Order could be resigned by a convent resolution involving 3/5ths of the members;
In the functioning of the obedience:
-Simplifying the procedures of Masonic justice
-Introduce new bodies, independent of the Council of the Order, responsible to the Convention, such as :
-A financial management board
-A real estate management board
-A council of the organization of the rites.
-To imagine structures to welcome a larger public: associations, internet sites inter actives, etc...
-To create training structures for members by associating existing training structures.
The Masonic Challenge of the 21st Century: Making Multiculturalism Work in the Lodge!
The development of international exchanges, migration and crossbreeding in all its components explains the development of multiculturalism that will inevitably be imposed over the centuries to come. Today it is a reality in Europe and North America, mainly in large conurbations and increasingly in small towns, but tomorrow it will affect even more geographical areas.
Some people regret the frank national identity and present multiculturalism as a dangerous ideology that should be combated, but isn't this simply an inescapable sociological fact? Nationalist withdrawal and the temptation of a mythical identity will not stand up to reality.
For us, freemasons, followers of universality, curious about cultural and philosophical diversity, multiculturalism cannot be an element of anxiety and cannot act as a repellent to take refuge in denial.
Although almost all Masonic rituals have a biblical foundation, the Masonic approach is naturally open to multiculturalism.
Beyond the declaration of intention, the implementation of multiculturalism in the lodges and obediences would deserve a refined reflection at the level of the different structures of the Masonic movement and this for several reasons:
The Masonic lodges are open to all subjects of good will who wish to discover an original place of reflection; apart from French people from several generations linked to our territory, others have amalgamated more recently and wish to keep either a bi nationality or an attachment with extra-national family origins.
If Masonic practice does not concern religious opinions, it cannot be denied that multiculturalism implies respect for the cultures of the different members of the communities; this presupposes a minimum of ethnic origins. To speak only of the French obediences, the establishment of their lodges is worldwide; as an example regarding language, a lodge of the GODF in London already works with the English language; tomorrow, would it not be conceivable to see lodges using the Kanak language in New Caledonia, Creole in the West Indies, Wolof in Senegal, etc.?
If today the biblical inspiration of the rituals does not bother people of Christian or Hebrew religion or culture, it can be a blocking element for people who do not consider the bible as an unavoidable reference. The creation of a ritual open to non-European cultural references seems likely in the near future.
The opening of lodges to atheists and unbelievers can also be an element of change and adaptation.
Mixing, which is today an accepted reality, should also be taken into account in its multicultural aspect: for example, the wearing of the veil should not be incompatible with respect for secularism.
It is an enormous building site which is opening up to us and which should mobilize all those who wish that Freemasonry does not confine itself to fixed, old-fashioned habits and is capable of welcoming on its columns a great variety of human beings by offering them respect and listening to their experiences.
As Martin Luther King wrote, isn't it important to state :
"Let us live together as brothers, or die together as fools".