The well-read Mr Litterick has posted a few thoughts about the latest Dan Brown extravaganza. I’m not very likely to read The Lost Symbol. I haven’t read Dan Brown’s previous novels either. I’m very lazy, and they don’t particularly interest me.
The points that Paul raises illustrate the situation facing Freemasonry in general these days. They are the same obstacles facing more traditional churches (and presumably synagogues and mosques). It appeals to fewer and fewer people. Belief in any kind of “higher power”, defined or not, has been on the decline for some time. An organisation whose membership is restricted by gender is offensive to many and uninteresting to others. Gone are the days when Freemasonry could even pretend to offer something akin to an old-boys network for mutual backscratching, regardless of how real or imagined that may be.
When churches faced these problems, it was a question of changing or dying. Many changed, and in doing so were better adapted to the new social environment – they quickly outcompeted the old unchanging churches. The new churches appealed to youth by incorporating rock music and/or hip-hop, energetic sermons delivered by young pastors – including women – and so on.
Of course, to me, that turned them into the most annoying possible environment. But I’m a dwindling minority in liking the idea of an old church with old-school architecture, potentially boring hymns and the smell of musty old books. It seems unlikely to me that Freemasonry would follow suit. Like Morpheus in the Sandman series, it would rather die than change.
And fair enough – there’s vague romance in that. I doubt it will die completely, of course, just as some people will continue to be drawn to the imagery and ritual of Catholicism. But I would not hold my breath, as I have seen some doing, for the pendulum to swing back the other way and a new generation to brim with enthusiasm for aprons and charity work.
I paint a grim picture of it all, don’t I? I enjoy it, myself. But on top of the reasons above, which rule out almost everyone I know, there’s an almost opposite reason I’m unlikely to propose many new members myself. Those few who are not weeded out by the increasing unpopularity I mention have a wholly different problem – overenthusiasm, which would result inevitably in disappointment with an organisation that concerned more with fundraising and charity donations than with world domination and secret Eyes Bored Shut orgies.