The disenchantment (and re-enchantment) of Freemasonry

By
RW Bro. Wes Regan
August 26, 2022
10 min

The influence of modernity within the Craft exemplifies what Max Weber described as ‘disenchantment’ (Weber, 1958). I apply the use of this term, disenchantment, somewhat liberally in the argument that follows, but I believe it ultimately remains true to the original observations made by Weber. It is a ‘render unto Caesar’ argument he effectively makes: the rationality of science with its testable theories and demonstrable proofs has superseded the rationality of religion with its beliefs, faiths, and practices which hitherto made sense of our existence.

By the 20th century the mystery of the universe appeared to be rapidly fading as rational inquiry and the application of scientific and technical knowledge provided answers where once myth and religion only had a say. This in turn called into question the relevancy both of initiatic traditions and their rituals, as well as organized religions and their tenets of faith. Yet when it comes to values and principles, questions of who we want to be, how we ought to act, what keeps us together as a community - faith, myth, symbolism, customs and rituals offer what science cannot. Science and rational inquiry may give us answers, but these other things give us meaning.

This tension between the mystical and the mundane or an enchanted and disenchanted vision of Freemasonry has arguably been present in different forms as Freemasonry, in its public facing persona, has struggled for appeal and acceptance in the mundane world, and as this struggle has in turn influenced its own internal practices and cultures and self-conception. From the ‘knife and fork mason’ William Preston lamented in the early 18th century to the self-conception of Freemasonry as a charity and civic social club that Thomas Jackson lamented in the late 20th century, the attraction of the mundane has exerted a powerful force on the Craft as an initiatic order otherwise preoccupied with deeply spiritual and philosophical – arguably magical and mystical aims (Lamb, 2018). The 20th century, however, may have seen the most profound abandonment of the esoteric and philosophical initiatic tradition en masse within the Craft, but in turn this has engendered an equally profound call to re-enchant Freemasonry from a rising cohort within North America today. Just how successful this new movement will be in claiming and being granted space to grow and sustain itself is yet unclear, but it has extraordinary potential, as this generation of thinkers and doers does not lack in ambition and industriousness.

It is fitting, as Freemasonry is an extraordinary phenomenon. Yet in the face of criticism, suspicion and attack, its default defense has been to pose as an ordinary one. Sustaining critiques of radicalism in Europe it rushed to affiliate itself with the Crown in England (Prescott, 2008, p17). Being viewed with diabolical suspicion in the colonies, particularly among puritanical preachers and other reactionaries (Hofstadter, 1963, pp10-15) it acted as a new ‘civic religion’ among the bricolage of faiths and social tensions seen in the young American Republic (Dickie, 2019, pp151-159). As America’s era of unparalleled material prosperity emerged in the second half of the 20th century Freemasonry became a reflection of the mass-produced modern society in which its numbers swelled, seeking to be viewed as normal and acceptable by reflecting the more mundane concerns of conspicuous philanthropy and civic boosterism, over the traditions of a philosophical initiatic tradition (Jackson, 2019).  As such it even birthed its own modern bureaucracy to manage its growing mundane affairs. Yet today, some brethren argue Freemasonry may be on the cusp of a renaissance in which a return to a more philosophical focus of the Craft, emphasized through its ritualistic and symbolic elements, has great appeal to younger generations searching for something spiritually and intellectually nourishing, authentic and genuine (Friedman, 2015, Millar, 2019).

To this end, those who follow the work of Bro. Chuck Dunning may have heard him speak lately of this Masonic Renaissance. Bro Dunning suggests it is evidenced by the re-emergence of education, events, guest speakers, workshops, and course books that focus on spiritual advancement, philosophical reflection and contemplation, and the more mystical and esoteric elements of the Craft as an initiatory society (Dunning, 2022).  There is a strong argument to be made that a reawakening of sorts has indeed been taking place over the past couple of decades as brethren recognize traditions, practices, meanings in our ritual and lectures, and even aesthetic traditions which seemed to be cast aside or forgotten in the latter half of the 20th century. In the first two decades of the 21st century a cohort has clearly emerged within the Craft consisting of authors, educators and thought leaders explicitly inviting the re-enchantment of Freemasonry as an initiatory society defined by spiritual practice, mystical experience, philosophical inquiry, esoteric knowledge, and occult symbolism. In addition to Dunning, among this cohort are such figures as Angel Millar, Kirk MacNulty, Rémi Boyer, Mark Stavish, P.D. Numan, Lon Milo Duquette, and Jamie Paul Lamb to name but a few. 

In addition to the many books, papers, courses, workshops, webinars and lectures the above Brethren have given, we can also note the growth of Masonic podcasts, which in some ways serve a similar function as the Occult Periodicals of the late 19th and early 20th century (Morrison, 2008). Contributing to the revivification of Masonic discourse through this medium we must recognize Robert “R.J.” Johnson and his Whence Come You podcast  and his collaborating Brethren at the Midnight Freemasons podcast ; Bro Greg Kaminsky and his Occult of Personality Podcast, to which Bro. Billy Hepper of my own mother lodge Mount Hermon No. 7 in Vancouver, BC, was recently added as co-host; Troy Spreeuw of the Scholomance Project, who has also been co-organizer of the Esotericism in Freemasonry Conference which alternates between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. And there are many others, whom I have through my own ignorance, overlooked. Just like other luminaries before them with their influence on the Craft, the impact of this new generation is swinging the pendulum back again from the disenchanted culture of Freemasonry that defined it in the latter half of the 20th century to a timeless tradition that transcends generations – or as Manly P Hall once described it “Freemasonry’s priceless heritage”. 

This current zeitgeist in North American Freemasonry did not emerge out of thin air though. It could be argued that this reconnection with past traditions also has the Traditional Observance movement to thank in some measure. Emerging at the dawn of the new millennium observant masonry put forth a call for a return to a more genteel, more solemn, disciplined, deliberate, and intellectual culture of Freemasonry that placed a renewed focus on initiation, ritual, and the overall quality of the masonic experience (Eyer, 2013; Hammer, 2012). Within this movement some lodges opted for what came to be called the ‘Epicurean’ model or ‘European concept lodge’ as some referred to them. Here in Vancouver the Traditional Observance affiliated Excelsior Lodge was considered one such example of this. It met at the upscale Vancouver Club, and conducted business over a sumptuous table service dinner, leaving the experience in the tyled lodge to ritual, ceremony, and education. 

Other observant lodges placed more focus on the esoteric and philosophical aspects of Freemasonry, with attention to the solemnity and intention of ritual, and to education exploring the immediate symbolism of Freemasonry as well as the broader traditions connected to it. Just down the road from us in Vancouver, Esoterika Lodge in Seattle embodied this emergent culture. Their ritual was not only flawless it was delivered with intent, the lodge room low-lit with a solemn and mysterious atmosphere appropriate for masonic initiation. By the time I first visited Esoterika Lodge I had seen dozens of initiations, but none had impacted me as much as the one I witnessed there. Wanting to know more, and to know how I could make my own lodge more reflective of these Observances, I attended the Masonic Restoration Foundation’s yearly Symposium in Oakland in 2012 where the oldest Traditional Observance lodge in California, Academia Lodge (founded in 2004), conferred a degree in a decommissioned volcanic rock wine cellar. As a newly installed Worshipful Master I sat in awe thinking to myself this is what I thought Freemasonry would be like, yet one of the other brethren next to me was fighting off a panic attack from claustrophobia in our windowless and incense rich chamber. He had to be excused from the meeting as he went outside to gather himself. Though it was lost on me at the time, that moment captured the tension at the center of North American Freemasonry’s identify crisis today quite well. Some brethren are clearly uncomfortable in a Traditional Observance lodge, and other brethren are uncomfortable even with the thought of a Traditional Observance lodge – particularly a more ‘esoteric’ kind.

I was greatly influenced by these lodges and the leadership in them, Esoterika and Excelsior in particular. I saw them as exemplars, illustrating the different elements of Freemasonry that I had always believed must be present somewhere, though my first few years in the Craft had suggested otherwise. 

Yet these lodges also withstood attacks from within the Craft from those who either felt threatened by them or were otherwise put off. Excelsior was criticized for being “elitist” and “snobby” and I would hear from brethren in Esoterika how it was criticized for being “spooky” and “eccentric” and for taking itself far too seriously, possibly even being irregular through what some perceived as innovations in the body of the Craft. For brethren who leveled these charges, the type of Freemasonry seen in these lodges was not Freemasonry as they understood it, or, as a growing number of brethren attracted to the Traditional Observance movement might suggest, Freemasonry as they misunderstood it. Namely, a charitable fraternity known for lively social events, fundraisers, and service to community. 

Of pendulums and paradigms

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization, and, above all, by the “disenchantment of the world.” Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life. – Max Weber, Science as a Vocation (1917)

While the modern world arguably has its genesis in the 18th century Enlightenment, the 20th century truly broke from the old ways, as generations born into the post war era were carried on a wave of indomitable confidence in scientific progress and as liberal individualism and pluralism called into question the value of longstanding institutions, beliefs, and customs. While certainly constituting a new paradigm of thinking, modernity’s overtaking of spiritual or occult traditions was never truly complete though, as beliefs, values, and forms of knowledge taught by initiation, mystical experience, and spiritual philosophy continued to present problems for modern modes of thinking (Asprem, 2014). Perhaps the biggest problem of is their persistence and their resilience. It turns out that after three centuries of valorizing rational thinking, reason, and the scientific process, modern society still finds itself with a substantial number of people who prefer a little mystery in our universe, who believe in things that defy science and do things that defy logic. Within the microcosm of Freemasonry, a similar battle between a rational/modern conception of the Craft and a mystical/ancient one has arguably played out over the past century. Most recently, in the first decades of the 21st century, the tensions surrounding the emergence of the Traditional Observance movement and today’s ‘Esoteric Freemasonry’ most explicitly illustrates this tension. 

Freemasonry has often considered itself to be a creature, or legacy, of the Enlightenment (Calance, 2014; Dickie, 2021; Jacob, 1981) and these tensions between mysticism and modernity have quite possibly been present within the Craft from its very inception, at least since it became more formally structured and codified in the 18th century. 

On one hand Freemasonry is a society that initiates its members in various mystical degrees, rites, and ceremonies with explicitly spiritual intent, and this is in keeping with human traditions extending back to before the dawn of civilization (Frazer, 1993, Campbell, 2008). Yet in North America, and particularly the Preston Webb ritual, a central emphasis of masonic lectures is to understand the mystery of the universe through the application of reason and the technical tools of the several liberal arts and sciences, which are particularly emphasized in the Fellow Craft Degree. Freemasonry’s Great Architect of the Universe conceptually implies, if not explicitly emphasizes, that order and symmetry provide the scaffolding to this mysterious but knowable living universe. Order overcomes chaos, light overcomes darkness, knowledge overcomes ignorance, and the divineness of creation is discovered through this Progressive Science of Freemasonry. Therefore, emerging at a time when great fissures had emerged in society with the arrival of the Enlightenment, and the intellectual, social, and political revolutions, it birthed, the more formally structured Freemasonry which emerged in the 18th century straddles what Max Weber described as the ‘disenchantment of the world’ (Weber, 1958). Freemasonry has one foot firmly planted in the Age of Reason and another in  a timeless world of ancient traditions: one foot in a disenchanted modern world, and the other in an enchanted mysterious one. 

As the title of this paper suggests, the pendulum has arguably swung back and forth within the Craft from the mystical to the mundane from era to era. It could be argued Freemasonry even sought refuge within the mundane to deliberately shield itself from scrutiny in times of crisis.

For example, Prescott (2008) notes a turn towards a closer affiliation with the British Crown and English establish-ment towards the end of the 18th century which was driven in part by anti-masonic suspicions and heightened public scrutiny of the Craft, with lodges even changing their names to “emphasize their loyalty and attach-ment to the crown” (p17). Recall two things here, firstly, the English Crown and Anglican Church are synonymous, as the Monarch is also head of the Anglican Church, and this is happening shortly after Augustine Abbé Barruel and John Robison’s seminal conspiracy theory writings begin appearing in reaction to the Enlightenment and political upheaval which swept across Europe in the late 18th century. By deliberately establishing and emphasizing connections to the establishment pillars of Church and State (as embodied in the Crown), British Freemasons differentiated themselves quickly from their revolutionary Jacobite cousins in continental Europe. Some might say it was an over-compensation. By the time Britain’s vast empire had been secured by its naval dominance in the 19th century Fozdar (2011) goes so far as to describing Freemasonry as Britain’s own “Imperial Cult”: 

“ …the British actually carried to India a "religion" besides Protestantism, something that mimicked a religion so closely that it could virtually serve as an alternative to Christianity for purposes of imperial consolidation—namely, Freemasonry” (Fozdar, 2011)  

If Freemasonry ‘cozied up’ to the British Crown to protect itself from scrutiny and suspicion in the late 18th century, it could also be argued it did the same with the early Colonial governments of the United States. Dickie (2019) describes Freemasonry’s prominence in post-revolutionary America as President George Washington performed ceremonial duties in full masonic regalia, as something akin to a new “civic religion” underpinning the development of the ascendant pluralistic nation and its identity (p159). The progressive adoption of protestant religiosity in the UK to mask its primordial deism (Gonçalves, p49, Jacob, 2006, p18, Dickie, p69) is arguably mirrored by Freemasonry’s adoption of patriotism, nationalism and even militarism in the North American tradition to shield itself from the criticisms it received here, which were also bound up in the reactionary writings of its early detractors which had made their way from Europe to America (Hofstadter, 1964, pp10-18; Konda, 2019). In short, incorporating this patriotic, nationalistic, and even militaristic culture made Freemasonry acceptable in polite society, it made it normal. The contributions of high-profile leaders like George Washington to this cannot be overstated, but the nationalistic militaristic culture of modern Freemasonry was also influenced in no small party by the growth in military travelling lodges and the surge in membership after WW1 and WW2  as Freemasonry’s rituals and regalia became even more regulated and standardized amidst a growing Masonic bureaucracy. Standardization of aprons can be traced in England to the early 19th century, but true mass factory production was not a phenomenon until the 20th century. Angel Millar makes an observation in a piece he wrote for the Scottish Rite Research Society’s journal The Plumbline in 2021 illustrating this perfectly:

“Visit any Masonic museum and you will see plenty of handmade Masonic items from the 18th and 19th century: aprons, floor cloths, carved walking canes, hand-inlaid Masonic furniture, and other treasures. If there are any objects from the mid-20th century, they will almost certainly be mass-produced items. This reflects a change in attitude of the fraternity” -Angel Millar 

Attempts to standardize masonic ritual in my own jurisdiction of British Columbia & Yukon did not take place until the middle of the 20th century and have been as demonstrably unsuccessful on the whole as they have been in the UK or USA where different variants of Preston, Webb, and Barney and other masonic rituals persist. Nonetheless a compulsion to enforce “uniformity where none ever existed” has been a defining feature of modern discussion on masonic ritual (McKeown, 2019). This stands in stark contrast to the explosion of diverse rites and degrees seen in the 18th and 19th centuries (Bogdan, 2008, p361). The rise of this ‘Masonic bureaucracy’ defined by professionalized staff and standing committees is itself a reflection of this change in attitude known as modernity, with principles of scientific management, standardization, economies of scale, spreadsheets and databases aiding in the growth and stability and management of the Craft, just as government bureaucracies, agencies, authorities, commissions and the like proliferated after the New Deal and the centrally managed wartime effort (Rourke, 1987). 

At one time it could be argued that Masonic lodges embodied the ethos of Tocquevillian free-association, meeting in taverns and parlours to communicate rituals and discuss intellectually stimulating topics. As it became more formally organized and regulated over time it could be argued Freemasonry evolved into a sort of Jeffersonian democracy unto itself with the proliferation of autonomous grand lodges and the international system of recognition that came with them. By the 20th century North American Freemasonry had arguably become a reflection of modern ‘big government’ with robust internal structures, standing committees, professionalized staff, and standardization of ritual, regalia, protocol and procedures now well established. Dispute resolutions and arbitration mechanisms, trial commissions, community and public relations committees, finance committees, and technology committees proliferated, as the complexity of the work needing to be managed increased with Freemasonry’s scale and the growing philanthropic work it assumed - managing hospitals, organizing charity golf tournaments, funding learning centers and burn units. Like its deliberate association with the British Crown, and explicit connections to the early Colonial Republic, it appears Freemasonry saw the disenchanted frontiers of modernity and philanthropy as its safe harbours in the mundane world of the 20th century as it retreated into its own bureaucratic paracosm. Both were deemed more acceptable and normal in the cultural milieu of post war America as Freemasonry’s numbers ballooned and it reached a wider public and as men joined fraternal associations for more explicitly mundane reasons like business networking and social connections (Kaufman, 2003) and to retain a sense of Brotherhood once afforded by armed service (Stanford, 2013). We were sending rockets to the moon now, who needed ritual magic? 

However, there were clearly some leaders in the Craft who saw the writing on the wall and would not sit idly by as Freemasonry was on the cusp of this profound transformation. At the 10th Annual Conference of Western Canadian Grand Lodges in 1950 Past Grand Master of BC & Yukon, MW Bro. Laurence Healey, gave a talk titled “A masonic lodge is not a service club” in which he made the following observations:

“ Freemasonry is unique amongst human institutions, for it is evident that its pattern was drawn under divine inspiration from the accumulated spiritual wisdom of the ages. Its lessons are derived from the powerful drama of life and death as portrayed in its allegories, where the ultimate meaning of life is interpreted in terms of moral and spiritual values which fortify the soul against the trials and vicissitudes of life…A masonic lodge may be likened to a school, or university, where men who have passed the qualifying examination go through a course of study in science and are the scientific application of moral and spiritual truth to the art of right living. Its graduates, having learned that Freemasonry is a way of life, a quality of life to be lived day by day, go out into the world and give practical effect to the principles and ideals which they have acquired in their training as craftsmen.” 

MW Bro. Healey concluded his talk with a forceful rebuke of the temptation to invest resources in charitable projects, and profile-raising benevolent work like the many service clubs of the day that had proliferated in the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Bro. Healey was clearly in the minority, as within a generation Freemasonry became practically unrecognizable from its traditional form as an esoteric initiatory society. By 2020 RW Bro. Thomas Jackson observed that “The trend away from a philosophical learned fraternity towards a charitable like institution and the dearth of visionary leadership cannot be denied as a primary cause” of Freemasonry’s decline in America in the time since MW Bro Healey had given his talk.   Furthermore, that the declining interest in Freemasonry had arisen as a result of the ‘style of Freemasonry’ practiced in the English-speaking countries which turned its back on ritual and masonic intellectualism in favor of mimicking service clubs and charities. 

The fact that this transformation happened so quickly in North America, and so comprehensively, is made even more spectacular because it was only a few decades earlier that prominent Freemasons like Manly P. Hall, J.S.M Ward, A.E. Waite, C.W. Leadbeater and George Winslow Plummer were writing impassioned treatises detailing the rich mystical, spiritual, and philosophical traditions woven into Freemasonry. Their writings appeared as Freemasons like Henry Steele Olcott, William Wynn Westcott, S.L. Macgregor Mathers and others formed various initiatic orders today which constitute some of the largest and most formally organized and resilient communities devoted explicitly to ritualistic magic, theosophy, and the occult; Namely the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Theosophical Society, and Ordo Templi Orientis. This proliferation of new rites and orders amidst the Occult Revival of the late 19th and early 20th century (Morrison, 2008) could itself be seen as an echo of the Mystical Freemasonry which emerged previously in Continental Europe in the 18th century through the influence of luminaries like Jean Baptiste Willermoz and Count Cagliostro or other Brethren active in the formation of the Martinist degrees, the Rite of Memphis and Misraim, Egyptian Rite, and other Orders, Rites, and systems which are all bound up in Freemasonry in one way or another and influenced the direction it took there (Davis, 2014, de Hoyos, 2014, Smith Allen, 2022, p30,p38,p64) The Craft in the 18th century was demonstrably full of occultists and as such dozens of different rites and orders and degrees proliferated at this time (Harrison, 2017). As Bogdan (2008) reminds us, Henry Wilson Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia of 1961 lists by name approximately 1,100 Degrees which had proliferated in just two centuries (p361). This penchant for the mystical, the theurgic, and the spiritual, was not seen solely among the Brethren in France or other continental European countries for that matter. 

In his book The Magus of Freemasonry (Churton, 2004) explores how alchemist and natural scientist Elias Ashmole is recorded as being initiated or “Accepted” into Freemasonry in Lancashire England in 1646 (p95) where he rubbed shoulders with mystics influenced by the writings of Jacob Böhm and continental Rosicrucianism (p139) Ashmole himself saw a “hero” in one of England’s most prolific occultists, and Astrologer to the Queen, John Dee. In fact, Ashmole inherited Dee’s “Spiritual diaries” containing the details of his personal practice of magic (p260). 

In America, Freemasonry’s occult/ esoteric DNA was further replicated in the 19th century by Albert Pike and Albert Mackey and then again in the following generation by George Winslow Plummer, the prolific Canadian masonic writer Manley P. Hall, in England with the writings of John Sebastian Marlow Ward, and others who helped give rise to the Spiritualist Movement and “Occult Revival” of the late 19th and early 20th century when a vast range of Theosophical and otherwise mystical, magical and occult ideas flourished in the print culture of periodicals (Morrison, 2008). Despite this litany of mystical influences in the Craft across Europe, Britain, and North America, its disenchantment in the latter half of the 20th century happened so quickly it was like someone had turned a light switch off. Though it grew in numbers, it shrunk in greatness, as Freemasonry devolved into a myopic and ossified husk of its former self. It became a larger institution with reduced ambitions. 

Where do we go from here: letting go of monolithic Freemasonry

As Bro. Robert Johnson has argued, Freemasonry by design is esoteric from top to bottom “there is no esoteric side to Freemasonry. Masonry is completely esoteric, all sides.”  Yet the masonic experience for many Brethren in the past few decades has not embodied this. The esoteric was obscured by the charitable and the social to the point that these became central and not peripheral to the masonic experience, something which thought leaders in the Craft like Thomas Jackson (Jackson, 2019), Shawn Eyer (Eyer, 2013) and Andrew Hammer (Hammer, 2012) raised s about through their writing and labours otherwise as champions in the Traditional Observance movement. While I don’t disagree with Bro Johnson it may be more harmful than good to project a totalizing vision of what the craft ought to be at this point. This was a criticism previously leveled at the Masonic Restoration Foundation and Traditional Observance lodge movement. This, despite the fact that leaders in the Observant Masonry movement like Bro. Shawn Ayer quite explicitly acknowledging that it was “neither ideal for all lodges nor the answer to all of the fraternity’s modern problems” (Eyer, 2013, p146). Nonetheless, I argue that if brethren believe esoteric Freemasonry deserves space to grow today then it may actually be served well by its positioning as a “type” or “style” of Freemasonry, in keeping with RW Bro. Jackson’s observations on types and styles of Freemasonry (Jackson, 2019) insofar as this can help better identify those lodges offering this experience in the Craft from those that don’t. 

Jackson notes that in his experience travelling the world experiencing Freemasonry he has seen lodges fall into one of five different ‘styles’ of Freemasonry primarily driven by the environment in which they were situated and the leadership that directs them. These include social, philosophical, sociological, political, and charitable styles of Freemasonry.  

While some may say this position betrays the truth that Bro. Johnson so firmly and clearly states, it may be the more winnable battle for the future of Freemasonry than a totalizing vision of what is in fact an already fractured and diverse institution. As social theorist Jürgen Habermas says, esoteric Freemasonry can bring the force of the better argument (Steiner, 2012) if it is granted – and claims- the space to do so. I believe the Traditional Observance movement has been instrumental in helping claim that space, but it has not come without struggle. Whatever this new movement is called, it too must be ready to struggle. The question is whether it will make the struggle harder on itself than it has to. 

Freemasonry is demonstrably not monolithic (Allen, 2021; Bogdan, 2014; Dickie, 2021; Hackett, 2017; Jackson, 2019; Porter, 2011) and any totalizing claim of what it ought to be, or what it is in its truest and purist form, will therefore always be met with indignant resistance by different quarters. Even within the strict bounds of Regular Freemasonry. 

The future growth of Freemasonry may well rest with its esoteric appeal to a public which increasingly describes itself as “Spiritual but not religious”  but not if that public is being initiated into lodges that are disinterested in elevating the quality of ritual, observing traditional customs and traditions, making initiation the focal point of Freemasonry, and embracing education as a constant endeavor in lodge. These lodges are happy to let the mystique and myth of Freemasonry and the allure of the Craft as represented in books and film bring seekers to their door, and when the experience they offer falls woefully short of inflated expectations it is no surprise newly initiated brethren don’t stick around. 

However, it is also disingenuous for an esoteric lodge or observant lodge to initiate someone into Freemasonry who very clearly and explicitly is looking for a more convivial social experience and to be of service in community through charitable activities. They too may be put off by a more intense ritualistic experience and more demanding intellectual culture given the other types of descriptions of Freemasonry that grand lodges and individual lodges have also projected for generations. It is possible that for years we have been sending the wrong men to the wrong lodges. Jackson’s styles of Freemasonry observation is instructive in this regard and grand jurisdictions and individual lodges may want to consider what making such an explicit typology in practice might entail. Champions of the new Masonic Renaissance in particular might question what can be learned from the experience of the Observant Masonry movement and how this current effort to re-enchant Freemasonry can claim the space and create the inertia to both sustain and grow itself knowing that the disenchantment project of the 20th century has made this path more arduous. 

RW Bro. Wes Regan
Worshipful Master, Vancouver Lodge of Education & Research, GLBC&Y