|by RW Bro Rainer K. Janotta|
|Past District Deputy Grand Master of the American Canadian Grand Lodge within the United Grand Lodges of Germany.|
Quite often we hear and read about the “membership problem”. The numbers of members in any kind of organisation seem to decrease, and one typical results is to call upon the remaining members to reflect on demographic statistics and to focus on “new draft procedures”.
I am of the believe that this approach is not constructive, but rather ineffective, if not even detrimental. Let us try to grab the problem by the head rather than by the tail.
What should make us attractive to potential candidates is a desire to join a group of people which is important to them. So let us become important to them!
Value and Price
What do I mean by “being important to somebody” ?
When being asked, what would be the value of a diamond, mostly everybody answers in terms of higher amounts of money. A poor wanderer in the desert, in need of a cup of water, would probably give a better answer to this question, because he reflects of value in a different way. “Most valuable” for him means, “serving his needs and desires best”.
Living in a culture, where money reigns, we often mistake price for value, forgetting to reflect upon what we really desire.
The Attraction of values
Let us try, to focus on our original “offer” again.
If we try to convince a potential candidate (i.e. one of which we would be happy to join), we often reflect only on our needs and desires. When I hear guest speakers in Masonic conferences, stating that we should tell a potential candidate that he should join our group because then we grow in numbers, that is not an argument I could be interested in as this particular candidate. Why should I increase the number of members of some organisation, just for the sake of them having a bigger membership?! That is not a good approach at all.
A particularly European way to approach a prospective candidate first, is to distinguish Masonry from other organisations. “We are not a church, but are religious”, “We are regular Masons – there are also irregular ones around, but we are none of these…”, and similar statements are surely true, but in my believe not the first thing we should address at a new acquaintance. There are way more important things to tell about us.
First, we should define ourselves. Explain what Masonry stands for. What ideals we share, what conduct we desire to have in our discussions. We may use some historic examples to explain the uniqueness of our “Gentle Craft”, not as a reason for glorifying ourselves, but as a means of exemplifying our kindred. In the days, where inquisition still ravaged over Europe (up to 1714, when it was dissolved !), Masonry offered a platform, where it’s Brethren could openly and freely discuss on all matters, theological and political, without the fear of being tortured or beheaded. Guess why three years later, in 1717 four Lodges only dared to slowly disclose their existence and formed the “Grand Lodge of London”. From there (!) that evolved, which today is commonly taken for granted (in the Western World) as Human Rights. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion were not always available, and had to be fought for bloodily. And they still are not to be taken for granted. They could easily be lost again. If you travel into other countries, you may even realise that they are not omnipresent in our days (if you don’t believe it, ask our “Desert Rats”…).
So this platform, these freedoms for which we stand, are better arguments for our existence, than pointing out that we do charities. Nothing wrong with that, but others do it as well. Our uniqueness is our focus on values with the strict demand to be free from any dogmatic teaching. We demand that every member should improve himself. But what makes us different from other organisations, is that we do not pre-describe what should be good. Everybody shall reflect upon himself, be free to discuss his opinion with the Brethren, but not try to convince them in a missionary manner, and try to learn from the many different opinions and points of view. Each is to define upon himself, what he thinks “good” shall be. But everybody is demanded to process upward and onward.
The “Title Hunt”
Masonry is supposed to be about a process, not on status. We should „labour at the rough ashlar“. And that is a lifelong task. We often seem to forget this demand.
I find it quite rewarding to sit with my Brethren and to discuss vividly all kind of things that go on in this world, from general ethics, over global development, symbolism and many more topics. And whenever I leave Lodge, I go a bit richer that I was when I came. That is my Master’s Wages, that is what makes my Lodge so valuable to me.
It is not, to hold Masonic ranks and titles. The importance of Brethren seems to be reciprocal in their attitude to wear lapel pins and buttons. If they are internally great, they don’t need that.
In that respect, I have to shortly reflect upon the “one day classes” thing. In our desire to attract more prospective candidates, some jurisdictions came up with the “generous offer” to make profane people from the street to “Master Masons” within one day. What does that really mean? Are they better people then, just by being given a certificate on their wall? Does that paper make them really wiser, gentler? Does that paper alone change their attitude and conduct?
I fear that we have totally lost our common sense there. The poor approach of granting titles to applicants, in my humble opinion, is a disgrace to our craft.
Would you go to a dentist, if you knew that his “doctorate degree” at the wall could be purchased in the supermarket, at low cost? What would such document be worth? Would it have a value to you, the patient? And then, in the long term, would it have a value to the owner himself anymore? Would you like to purchase such “diploma”? By doing so, would we not loose our own self-respect and pride in all that which we had achieved by our own endeavours?
Knowledge, skills and wisdom have to be earned. A sportsman must train his muscles in order to have them grow. Selling him a document does not make him any stronger. I could easily create hundreds of titles and print documents. And many self-styled organisations do so. There is hardly anything as successful as such, which satisfies personal vanity.
If we think we are attractive by throwing “Masonic titles” after candidates, we must cease!
Masonry can give each individual the opportunity to grow. Again – it is all about labour – labour on the rough ashlar. And yes – it hurts – to get rid of all the vices and superfluities. But the result shall be rewarding. A fine ashlar, perfectly worked upon, which may deem worthy to fit as valuable part into the spiritual building of a better Human Society.
I don’t expect that to happen on the fast track. This is (or ought to be) a lifelong process. Knowing that we will never reach that state of perfection, our ritual states wisely, that we shall strive to “become better”. It does not say that we are better. Better that who?! Regardless on what level we are, being rich or poor, high or low, old or young in the Craft, if we have already achieved a certain status and respect or still are all the way down at our beginning. It is all about the process to grow, not on the status that we find ourselves on.
The Change of Values
Is it not strange to witness, how words have changed their meanings over the times?
Charity today means mainly, to contribute to a person’s monetary needs.
In the fourth and fifth century, the word had an entirely different focus. Men considered themselves to be all children of one Celestial FATHER. (That is still, why Masons call themselves so.) Being charitable to a needy member of human society was a kind of “operational prayer”. In helping man, one gave offerings to the Eternal FATHER by helping HIS children. The act itself was considered to be but a tool, not the core act.
Who reflects today on the Almighty Creator of the Universe, when donating “charities” to some organisation? We have distanced ourselves from the charitable act itself. Masonry teaches to still be mentally involved, and to sympathise with man, say to be true “Brothers”.
Value and Values
I am of the opinion that Freemasonry has to offer a lot. More than just being a member in a society, whose former members had great names and titles.
I do not have to increase my importance by associating myself with such great names as Washington, Goethe, Mozart, Lafayette and many more. If I do not grow, would I then not disgrace their import? If they then would have to be associated with such poor persons, would that not bring disgrace upon the whole Craft?
No – I often wonder, how I could (and if in part only) match their example. Who could be our next Washington? What would our “next Lincoln” achieve? What good could we all try to establish? That should be our quest! That opportunity for personal growth, for achievement of wisdom, should be our value.
My own personal values are, off course, somewhat smaller. I desire to become a better person in my own environment. In business more honourable and trustworthy. In my neighbourhood to be known as helpful. In the family as caring and supportive. In the Craft to be of assistance to the younger Brethren and desirous to learn from my Mentors, be they still alive and around at my table in Lodge or collation, or be they present only in literature and history, teaching me by their example and achievements.
The real treasure of the “Royal Art” is the feeling at the initiation, passing and raising and the happiness and joy of witnessing the “becoming” better. We can not convey that upon anybody by just selling them a document and calling them “Master”. By doing so, we would take away and steal him the opportunity to experience the process of personal growth.
The “Royal Art” consists of feeling, conscience and reason. What unites us, is the „labour at the rough ashlar”, the quest for truth. My reward is the inspiration that I receive from my Brethren, the feeling that I am welcomed, that they regard me as their Brother. There is no higher reward that being called, and considered (!), “Brother”. To be granted acquaintance and friendship with such men, which I hold in my highest respect, and to share with them my feelings and opinions, to unitedly learn and grow with them and such to enrichen my heart.
That is, what makes my Masonry so valuable. – So mote it be !
2009 – Masonic Qualifications of The Author:
Rainer K. Janotta received the Light in March 1991 in his Mother Lodge “Licht am Stein” # 629 (“Große Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland – Freimaurerorden” which operates in the Swedish Rite System within the “United Grand Lodges of Germany – Brotherhood of Freemasons”)
Having lived and worked in the USA for 1 ½ years, he was granted permission to affiliate with “Copper Country” Lodge # 135 in the GL of Michigan, where he joined the Scottish Rite in Marquette, MI (Northern Jur.) and the Shrine in 1994.
Returned back to Germany, he holds District Grand Rank since 1996 within the “Große Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland – Freimaurerorden, and was one of the re-founding members of “Harraseiche” Lodge # 705 in Chemnitz in the formerly Eastern Germany (after the German Wall came down) and served for six years as Presiding Master of the Scottish St. Andrew’s Lodge “Lux et veritas” (Große Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland).
He affiliated with “Solomon” Lodge # 822 in 1996, served there as Master in 2001-2002, and was District Deputy Grand Master of District # 2 of the American Canadian Grand Lodge within the United Grand Lodges of Germany in 2005-2006.
Having served actively in all chairs of the American Military Scottish Rite Bodies, Orient of NATO Bodies (Southern Jur.), he received his 33° in 2003.
Until 2008, he served many years as Grand Officer in the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Germany and the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Germany received KYCH in 2003, and is a Past Grand King and Past Illustrious Deputy Grand Master, as well as Past President of the Order of Anointed High Priesthood and of the Order of the Silver Trowel.
He is a past Souvereign of the “Pilgrim” Conclave # (Order of the Red Cross of Constantine), was in 2000-2001 Second Vice President of the European Shrine Club, four times Past Commander of “Heidelberg” Commandery # 2 (Grand Encampment of the United States of America), Past President of the “Order of Anointed High Priests of Germany” and the “Order of the Silver Trowel of Germany”, holds District Grand Rank in the “Grand Chapter of British Mark Master Masons of Germany”, is Past Commander of “Keys of Münster” RAM # 1515 within the Grand Chapter of British Royal Ark Mariners of Germany, HRAKTP (since 1999), Ambassador at Large by appointment of the Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees”, USA and since 2001 Supremus Magus IX° within the “Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis”.
His motto is “spread light by light”, he prefers to be addressed as “Brother Rainer”.