The Mason as the Customer

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

In the world of business there is a common reality, and this reality is to identify what makes successful businesses successful. The reality is that there is only one definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer alone determines how business evolves. It is the customer whose willingness to pay for a good or service is what converts economic resources into wealth. It is the customer who is the foundation of business and keeps it in existence.

Although Freemasonry is not in the business of creating wealth as an institution or for its members — at least monetary wealth, it is in the business of creating Masons and Masons are unquestionably the “customers” of the Craft.

The shift occurring these days in Freemasonry is quite real. Men are not accepting nor universally embracing Freemasonry as something that is supposed to be ordinary or easy. This has led to what seems like almost an unbearable burden for some men to carry, at least the men who have perceived themselves as being in control of Freemasonry and who stand firm in their desire to keep the mechanics ordinary and far away from serving as a true system of self-improvement. To accept the shift (what customers want and seek) that is gradually taking place, these particular men would have to accept too that the Mason is the boss of the fraternity since he is the “customer” and he is wanting and seeking more than the ordinary and certainly the promise fulfilled of what Freemasonry offers a good man. The Masons who want it go find it or create it. Those that don’t want it for whatever reasons can simply take comfort in the complacency they have been allowed to fashion.

Much of the writing and talk about restoring, reforming, reviving, and improving certain aspects of Freemasonry over the last century has focused on its management, the insufficient protocols, sorting through a number of evidence-troubled theories of origin and distorted history and intent of the Craft - and the need to learn and embrace the importance of delivering the mechanics of Freemasonry as a system. Unfortunately, we’ve worried way too much about what society thinks of us during that period and we’ve managed, albeit unintentional, to end up making a lot of what we think of as Freemasonry look and even behave as something pedestrian.

We’ve watched for decades how, like a broken record, we incessantly remind society and anyone who’ll listen that Freemasonry played a role in the emergence of our country. We recap and offer redundant accounts of its one-time preeminence as a fraternal organization in our society. We boast of the many accomplished, historical, and influential men of the past we claim as members. Masonry has a right to do that and should, however, doing so also begs reasonable questions; questions about why it is no longer considered as preeminent as it once was, why the fraternity is no longer a leading influence on the values of society, and many other queries that some find difficult to answer.

Some, however, will answer glibly and declare we simply lost a generation of men in the 1960s, as if that sums up all the reasons. Some will claim men are busier today than they used to be as if that too sums up the reasons. There are those with another assessment and who will say we altered our long-standing insistence that only good men be allowed to enter the West Gate, and we failed to teach, pass on, and practice Freemasonry as the system it was intended to be. Those who say that will be much closer to summing it all up with supporting evidence.

We agree that Freemasonry is not a business, but it is in the business of creating Masons, and those who are made Masons are indeed the customers of the Craft — and the ones who have and will determine the future of the Craft. The fraternity is where it is today because of the quality of the Masonic experienced offered over the past several decades. When we think about what Masonry will be three or four decades from now, we should find it easy to agree that it will, just as in the past, be a reflection of whatever quality has been offered during those years.

It will not matter whether or not there are two, three, or four million or more members unless those members are adequately educated about Masonry, pass on ancient traditions instead of convenient practices. Also, Masons must quit apologizing or disputing the fact that it is the intention of the fraternity to be elite. As Thomas W. Jackson aptly points out, Freemasonry gave up the right to say it wasn’t an elitist organization when it first took on the laudable pursuit of offering a way for good men to become better men.

We are all built to size each other up quickly, and that extends to sizing up our experiences, as well. Even if we are presented with lots of evidence to the contrary, our first and early impressions become a powerful imprinting and branding filter. Our early impressions are so powerful they can override what we think we know and even what we later learn about people and circumstances.

Not every man in the fraternity can be expected to matriculate into the circles of Masonry who regularly attend conferences, retreats, symposiums and others similar events held around the nation throughout the year about Freemasonry. Not every man in the fraternity will explore and study the lessons of Masonry on his own. Not every man in the fraternity will experience Freemasonry the same way or get from it the same experience. Every man who enters the fraternity will, however, initially be exposed, and at the outset influenced, guided and inclined to follow only what their respective lodge offers. In many cases that will be all with which he is equipped to carry forward or offer as experience for the members who follow him through the West Gate.

When lodges offer less than a fundamental Masonic education and or experience that fails to distinguish the fraternity from just another social club then predictably that particular sub-cultural experience remains dominant. When that is all that is offered, and then coupled with the men who do not read, travel or believe attending lodge occasionally is an suitable substitute for further study, we should not be surprised there little Freemasonry to pass on. When we say the die is cast, we consider that to mean that a situation is certain to develop in a particular way because decisions have been taken that cannot be changed. Some say the die that was cast for the future of Freemasonry began following World War II. Yes, indeed that die was designed during that era, but it will be cast only if those who are engaged in the fraternity today allow it to be used to define the institution.

Everything that changes within a system causes rippling effects. Systems are interlinked; all parts are dependent on another. Understanding the reasons Freemasonry is where it is today clearly requires men to understand where it has been and to become more aware to consistently recognize where it can head, as well without changing its intent… that is if the customers want it to.

The pendulum has and will continue to swing and modify the Masonic paradigm in different ways. Regardless, the blueprint for this profound system, which was calculated to be followed as a system remains the same. The laudable pursuit most pressing in Freemasonry today is in identifying and then finding ways to return to a more traditional observance of the Craft as a complete system as it was designed.