Organizational Behavior in Freemasonry

Lexington Lodge No. 1, Masonic History & Study Group, Rubicon Masonic Dinner Club

Organizational behavior is the study of both group and individual performance and activity within an organization. Opinions regarding how to use organizational behavioral factors differ.

Some embrace the internal perspective and believe that employees’ behavior is in large part based on their personal feelings, interactions, thoughts and experiences. Some embrace the external perspective of organizational behavior and believe external events, and environmental factors affect an individual’s performance and behavior.

Organizational behavior is found in the mix of the two and is the study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations. The organization’s base rests on management’s philosophy, values, vision, and goals, which, in turn, drives the organizational culture that is composed of the formal organization, informal organization, and the social environment. The culture determines the type of leadership, communication, and group dynamics within the organization. The workers perceive this as the quality of work life which directs their degree of motivation. The outcome is performance, individual satisfaction, and personal growth and development. All these elements combine to build the model or framework from which the organization operates.

What’s This Got to do With Free Masonry?

What’s this got to do with Freemasonry? A lot, perhaps more than you think. In fact, before you read the rest of this it might be a good idea to go back and read the first part if you did not completely grasp what organizational behavior is or why it is important to consider concerning Freemasonry.

Looking at organizational behavior tells us quite a bit about Freemasonry as it is practiced in North America. To examine it in this way, one must start with recognizing that Freemasonry is designed to be a system — a system made up of integral parts that establish the fraternity as a philosophical society calculated to help men improve themselves. Anyone who believes it is supposed to be something else might as well stop reading at this point.

The concept and genius of Masonry as an institution is open to all men who seek to improve themselves and who meet very specific, justifiable and very defensible qualifications.

Meeting those standards, and being unanimously approved by members of a legally constituted lodge to receive the three degrees of Masonry, a man is then exposed to rituals intended to deliver, in progression, the moral science of the Craft. These degrees represent his passport to knowledge and Light and offer the foundational lectures on the principles, values, philosophies and tenets to which a Freemason subscribes.

The promise of what the genuine system of Freemasonry offers is always available to the man who genuinely seeks to embrace it. However, the promise of what the genuine system of Freemasonry offers is not always available in all lodges to the man who genuinely seeks to embrace it. The reason is organizational behavior — the internal and the external factors of an organization, which is influenced by lodge cultures, social environments, perceptions of quality, types and styles of leadership, and a wide-ranging definition of individual satisfaction.

Two plus two always equals four. It’s a fact. It cannot equal less or more. The promise of Freemasonry is a fact as well, yet the organizational behavior is what causes Freemasonry to be less or more than what it was initially intended to be. Often, when it is found to be “more” it is so because it has fallen outside the scope (i.e., a collection agency for public charities or casual in its practice) of what Freemasonry is originally designed to be. When it is “less” it is most often found not to have delivered its promise because of the manner in which the system of Freemasonry is practiced, managed and in many cases, understood.

Disagree? Feel free to do so. It is your privilege as a member of our fraternity to have your opinion, views, and perspectives about what the Craft is or isn’t. We all have our views.

How can Freemasonry, however, ever expect to be consistently administered, its mechanics and logistics fully understood, embraced and practiced as a system as intended? There are many today, including Masonic scholars, who believe it can’t be done in North American Freemasonry and the gears no longer mesh.

Organizational behavior is driven largely by parochialism. And, the lack of similarities, differences and views of what Freemasonry has been in the past, along with a fact-based understanding of why and what it has evolved into, highlights the lack of consistent, uniform knowledge and practices of the Craft throughout North America.

There is one other issue that is often ignored.

Freemasonry was never designed for men to tinker with its principles and ideologies any more than it was designed for men to alter or leave out traditional practices and protocols. It’s a system and calculated to be practiced as a system to constructively influence men towards self-improvement. There isn’t a menu of practices from which to select, and leaving out parts weakens its promise.

Bringing together the multitude of diversities and backgrounds found in men in Freemasonry works as promised when the entire system is understood as a system and practiced as such. Now, while we must assume that only good men are brought into the fraternity (although we know that is not always the case), we don’t have to assume Freemasonry is practiced and taught all the same. Anyone who has visited lodges around the nation knows that it isn’t. Regardless, most Masons think the way they practice Freemasonry in their lodge is the way it is intended to be practiced, and their “system” is all there is to it.

The diversities in practices, understanding and instruction in our fraternity is a testament to our strong belief in being freethinkers and continuously encouraged to speculate. But we often see that speculation about our symbols and lessons quickly bleed over into the mechanics of how our lodges function, operate and conduct the practices of Masonry. Perhaps, for the first half-century or so, Freemasonry was more apt to be uniform and applied systemically. It was smaller and likely much easier to uphold and preserve as originally designed.

The proliferation of lodges in North America was indeed a good thing and exposed millions of men over the centuries to the offerings and the promise of Freemasonry. It was also the beginning of incredible diverse infusion of interpretations about what the system was designed to be.

If chewing on a sassafras root makes a man’s headache subside and if there are no detrimental physical side effects from doing so, why should anyone object? That’s been the attitude of Masonry for decades when it comes to the vast differences in how it is practiced and understood.

If men can get something out of Freemasonry, although it is not practiced as the system it is designed to be, then like the man who chews on sassafras root to help his headache go away, we have to ask, why should there be objections as long as it doesn’t create unwanted side effects.

Organizational Behavior: Casual or Non-Casual Masonry and the Pass-Along Effects

The primary concern is not so much the immediate side-effects as it is the pass-along effects. Will Freemasonry as the institution it was originally designed and promised to be survive?

It’s safe to say that much of Freemasonry in the past half-century alone has been watered down and evolved into wide-spread casualness with less emphasis on decorum, solemnity, presentation, teaching factual knowledge, and consciously laboring with programs and education that contribute to self-improvement and keeping men engaged.

So, it’s difficult to claim or declare that all parts of the integral and central system of Freemasonry as a whole are surviving as it was designed.

There are many lodges across the nation that do strive to practice Freemasonry as a system. They will pass along this approach to future generations, as well.

So, in essence, whether we like to think so or not, there’re two basic systems of Freemasonry in North America today: the casual and the non-casual.

Which one will last longest? It is difficult to say with any certainty, of course, but some form of Freemasonry will survive. In either case, we have to accept the probability that it may not be as large of an institution with millions of men as we have seen in the past.

Questions

The two questions today for Freemasons in North America in either the casual or non-casual lodge is: What kind of Masonry do you want to pass on and, will men in the future be more interested in the casual or the non-casual?

Our organizational behavior will determine the answers to these questions. Casual lodges can certainly evolve into non-casual lodges if the seed is present and commitment to do so by its members is consistent.

Non-casual lodges can evolve toward the more casual as well if men in those lodges choose to take it in that direction. In fact, it’s much easier to go in the direction of casual Freemasonry than it is to put forth the constructive labor to evolve an already casual lodge toward the classification of a non-casual lodge.

In many ways, the mechanics of Freemasonry is influenced more by the social mixture that make up the culture of our lodges than the system of Freemasonry itself.

There is one other question that might be appropriate to ask Freemasons around the nation today. That question is: If we were offered an all-encompassing treasure — one that came in different parts but carried with it the promise that it could change our lives for the better, why would we ever want to take just part or parts of that treasure and believe that only the part or parts we take would work as promised?

Each Mason will decide the level of Masonic experience he wishes to seek, participate in, and experience. Some seek more than others, and some will be content with that which they are offered.

The promise of Freemasonry does hold true in one way regardless of which path a man chooses — a man will reap only what he sows in his labor as a Freemason. Some will want to reap more and strive to get it by seeking to experience Freemasonry as the non-casual system it was intended to be. Some will be content with the casualness and what they were handed and told is Freemasonry without further search.

We will have to wait for history to tell us whether casual or non-casual Freemasonry survives the ages.