Return of the Masons

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NPR has a story about the changing face of Freemasonry. While much smaller than in its glory days (membership is around 1.8 million down from 4 million in the 1940s and 50s), the society with secrets is attracting a younger demographic interested not only in the fraternal aspects, but in reviving its esoteric rites.

“…the current renewed interest in Freemasonry has brought in men who take a more serious approach to the ritual than older generations did, and who want to tighten initiation standards and raise dues. But he says the fraternity must watch out for men who sign up because of misguided theories linking Freemasonry to ‘divine secrets.'”

This is tied to a larger push to revive the organization and attract new members.

“The lodge also hired a public relations firm to spread the word about its 225th anniversary, which was last month. And the Masons have run advertisements in movie theaters and run one-day classes to award the first three Masonic degrees in a single session. Until then, would-be Masons had to spend months learning what they needed to know to rise from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft to Master Mason.”

It would be interesting to see how the Masons navigate a middle ground between a more open membership and recruitment while pleasing newer members who want to return Freemasonry to a more ritualistic society with stringent entrance requirements.

Of course the history of Freemasonry is deeply entwined with the history of modern Pagan Witchcraft. According to several Pagan historians and scholars, including Ronald Hutton author of “The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft”, many terms and ritual aspects found in religious Witchcraft (and in the occult societies that preceded the emergence of Wicca) can be traced back to Freemasonry. One wonders if a renewed interest among younger people in Freemasonry will in turn spark a renaissance of occult societies and magical orders? Will our generation see a new Samuel “MacGregor” Mathers or William Westcott?