[Square & Compasses]

A Positive View of the One-Day Class

From: "Robert Kreisler" <>
To: "Rt. Wor. Gary L. Dryfoos" <dryfoo@mit.edu>
Subject: RE: Comments re: 1DC
Date: Sat, 7 May 2005 18:59:03 -0400
Message-ID: <PJEBIIOBABBJCKPHODPPKEEFEIAA.robert.k@gothammarketing.com>

Dear. Bro. Dryfoos,

I'm sending this in the hope that despite your stalwart objection to the One-Day-Class concept, you perhaps might consider the merits of it. In fact, it's possible that detractors of the 1DC may be doing a disservice to the Craft, manifested in ways which I will expand upon later.

Kindly consider including these thoughts on your site for our Brothers to ponder in making decisions for their own lodges, as well as advising petitioners they may find.

First, by way of acknowledgement for our readers (if ever this is published on your site), I am a 1DC degree student, raised in New Jersey on 3/19 by my friend of 2 years who was my mentor and guide. Regretfully, my uncle, a 32d soon-to-be 50 year Mason, was not able to make the trip from VA be there to raise me himself due to family considerations.

For the record, I agree with observations that the "vicarious" nature of the auditorium setting is not the best way to pursue the degrees. Furthermore, I would strongly counsel my friends whom I hope will also become involved, to favor the traditional method. As you note, it's the journey, not the destination, that's at least as, if not more, important.

However, one of the core tenets of the craft is that each man must decide for himself what's right or wrong. Is not our uniquely Masonic/American foundation built upon the concept that no man can tell another what to do, let alone inhibit his options? Is not our Masonic/American civilization built upon the premise that the freedom of MORE personal choices are better than LESS, that one size does not fit all, and that there are many "roads to Rome"?

TOXICITY? You say in your prior message that you can't think of anything more toxic to the heart of Masonry than the devaluation of the personalized rituals that are at the core of the degrees. Yet there IS something more toxic. Attrition.

WHERE WE ARE, AND HOW WE GOT HERE. For the sake of this discussion, it matters less how we got here, so much as to acknowledge that like it or not, the fact is that Masonry is hemorrhaging members as never before through death, apathy, and an aversion to "recruiting", which brings to us fewer than we lose.

The handwriting is on the wall, Brothers.

During the heyday of the Craft, from the late 1800's through the 1950's, Masonry was aptly suited to survive and grow via the methods of communication at the time. Social gatherings. Family events. Personal contact. Most Brethren in those days never traveled more than 50 miles away from their homes in the span of their lives. But in today's world, most of us travel 50 miles each way to get to work each day. In traffic. Alone.

There can be no dispute that there are more demands on our time in pursuit of survival than ever before. Gone are the days when the wife stayed home and the husband brought home the bacon. Americans of today are working harder and harder, for less and less, because our Government keeps taking more and more away from our income. It's increasingly hard for us to earn enough to pay taxes so that we can keep our households solvent.

Yes, I've read the points about Washington and FDR, but I can't believe that anyone truly thinks that America of today is the same as America in 1940, and use examples of 60 or 200 years ago to make the case. There can be zero dispute that there are more demands on our "bandwidth" than ever in history, especially for "working class" men who don't have the discretionary income to pay for a delivery instead of having to pick up the dry cleaning, or hire someone to cut the grass instead of doing it himself.

So, with less time on our hands, there has to be a more succinct and compelling REASON WHY a man would want to explore Masonry. In short, we're dealing with what is simply a marketing challenge. We must overcome the "noise" of other demands on a man's time, by creating a clear and compelling reason for why he wants to take what little time he has, away from his other endeavors, and devote it to himself, and the Craft.

I have yet to meet one Mason so far in my travels who has successfully been able to state that case.

Succinctly, in an age when our lives have global reach through cell phones and the internet, Masonry is still relying on the equivalent of stone knives and bearskins to preserve the Craft.

Yet the challenge remains... how to bring good, worthy men, into the Fraternity?

WE'VE MET THE ENEMY, AND THEY ARE US! As noted, at least part of what is hindering the growth of the Craft is the fact that far too few of us are able to articulate what it's all about. Even those who have been in the Fraternity all their lives don't always fully comprehend the spiritual, and multifaceted nature of it. Many who joined in the traditional way have no clue to its depth, because they came to find a social club; fulfill their family's expectation of them, or just wanted a place to get out of the house for a while. For those of you who wish more illumination for your own sake, or to help answer questions put to you by petitioners, I'd urge you to read "The Meaning Of Masonry" by Wilmshurst.

While I'm a neophyte in the Craft, I know this much. My journey in seeking out Masonry has been a long time coming. Forty three years in the making, to be specific. I was a Mason in my heart and mind, long before I took the degrees. I was a Mason in my beliefs, long before ever I donned a ring or recited the Tyler's Oath. I've lived my life by a code of conduct that is at the very core of Masonry, without even knowing it until after learning about, and coming into, the Craft.

It is a rarity that one of us can enumerate the various aspects and depth of Masonry to someone who inquires. And an inhibition about discussing the depths of it - even for those of us who can - means that we're disinclined to do so, for fear that it treads on proselytizing. That internalized tenet that we never should solicit, means that for the average John Doe on the outside looking in, there is no compelling reason to take what little time we Americans have in this day and age, and put it into what is perceived by outsiders as a trite, anachronistic organization.

Fine. But if we don't "recruit", and we don't seek another method of bringing good men into the Craft, it will most surely die. While many deplore and devalue the 1DC, there doesn't seem to be an open forum dedicated to how to preserve the future of the Fraternity. Numbers don't lie, and history is replete with defunct organizations that failed to adapt to change. Will ours be the next?

Something's gotta give.

BE NAPOLEONIC! Regretfully, despite the need for new members, and the resistance to the 1DC, there are those would also rail against the notion of recruiting as well, for the diversion from tradition that it is. After all, the prohibition against recruiting is also a landmark.

So, if the 1DC is an anathema, and "solicitation" is also taboo, are we content to allow ourselves to continue to sit idly by and watch our Fraternity die a slow and agonizing death through dwindling membership?

If not, then the thinking man will conclude that something must be done.

While there's plenty of banter about the danger of "Production Line Masons", nowhere have I seen suggestions as to what alternatives there might be. To be kind, it's rare to find in any diatribe an artifact of a recommended solution. My admonition to those who castigate the 1DC concept, would be to attempt a Napoleonic approach and conjure up an alternate method to ensure that we don't continue to die an ignoble death.

As a sales and marketing professional, clients sometimes come to me when they have found themselves in dire straights, and don't know how to right their ship. It's my job to advise them on how to reorganize their business to ensure continued success. But in far too many of those cases, what's "wrong" is a deeply ingrained legacy of behavioral habits at the management level which stand in the way of change. It's as much a case of breaking old behavior, as applying new practices and innovating new programs.

Regretfully, Masonry is the same. Breaking behavioral patterns of the past, to meet contemporary challenges, is the test of survival. We Masons could learn a lot from the fossil record. If the dinosaurs could speak, they'd tell a tale of habit, specialization, and inability to adapt to a changing climate.

Necessity might be the mother of invention but it seems we're turning a blind eye to the realities of our current situation. I can already hear the lamentations from the crowd now:

OBJECTION: "We've ALWAYS done it this way!"

REALITY: If you keep doing what you've done, you'll keep getting what you got. (in our case today, negative growth)

OBJECTION: "We have a process and we can't break it"

REALITY: Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results each time.

Despite its seeming flaws, the 1DC is a way for good men who are inclined, to explore the craft in an approachable way. Many are not comfortable in small groups. Humans have always recognized that there's "safety in numbers" which might account for the relative success of the 1DC to bring in so many at one time. Because in a crowd, one person does not feel the anxiety he does when he's alone. But whatever the reason, let's give those new brothers a chance to prove themselves, no?

MOTIVATIONS? Your underlying concern seems to be that you ascribe greed and/or avarice to the motivations of the Grand Lodges. While it would be na´ve to not acknowledge some merit to that argument, we shouldn't be so foolish as to presume that it's the ONLY motivation. Growth and survival of the Craft is at the very heart of what I think is going on here.

Your other unspoken assumption, at the root of all things, is that the 1DC brings in a candidate who is less worthy. Perhaps. Only time might tell. But if that's the working theory, the inverse of that must also be true, as well. If your premise is that unworthy candidates come in through the class, inclusive is that eminently worthy candidates enter as well. In fact, the 1DC may well bring in more candidates who might not have pursued the Craft otherwise, that will become excited about the Fraternity and do good works arising through the ranks of the 1DC as it does those who won't.

My mentor and guide who raised me had an excellent point which I'd also share here. If the "my way or the highway" mentality pervades Masonry, it's no wonder our roles are so depleted. If all we did was welcome men into the ranks who were ALREADY good Masons, albeit without the benefit OF Masonry, and eschew teaching those who were CAPABLE of becoming good Masons how to BECOME so, we'd have died out long ago.

Although we both agree the traditional way to come to the craft is the preferred method, that's no guarantee that of 100 men that became involved in the traditional way, that any of them are worth their salt. You've seen it in your day, before the vanguard of 1DC Masons, I'm sure. The "MINO", or Mason In Name Only. You know - the guy that went through the ritual the traditional way, and earned his degree, but didn't extend himself in any way, or make himself accessible; who did nothing to improve himself, his Lodge, his Brethren, his Craft, or his fellow man.

What is accomplished in the 1DC is to achieve for the Craft in one day what would have been done in 3 years or more worth of traditional methods. Nobody would disagree that bringing good men into Masonry is a bad thing. But if we agree that growth in membership is a good thing, and men don't come to us, we then must change our philosophy and method, so as to find them - to go "fishing" a little bit. I seem to recall a precedent being set in that regard some two thousand years ago that turned out to be fairly successful.

At least one strategy in fishing is that when you cast a broader net, you get more fish. The minnows will always slip through the net, or flap themselves off the deck back into the sea. Even still, some of those small fish, if they have potential, could be put into the "aquarium" of our Fraternity to grow into the bigger fish we hope they might one day be.

But also in that larger net will be big fish that you would not have caught otherwise. The kind of Mason that will take into his heart and mind the admonitions of our lectures and live the kind of life values we cherish. Men who will pursue the catechism of the Craft and come to know, and live it. The kind of Mason who will bring dignity to the Fraternity. And where one good man goes, perhaps 10 more will follow his example and also come to us.

STRAIGHT LINES: Your assumptions are that corners are being cut. I've always lived my life by the axiom "following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers, and men, crooked." I've never wanted to do things the easy way. But as Masons with a special fondness for Geometry, we also must acknowledge that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Speaking just for my experience, the brothers in my Lodge have been very persistent and giving of their time with following up on our experience to ensure that we know the material. The secretary has held classes nearly every week (driving a 110 mile round trip to the lodge, by the way!) to take the time with us so that we know and understand the ritual. And they have set specific objectives we must meet, lest our status as Masons be revoked if we have not achieved those goals by a specific date.

We were, for all practical purposes "probationary" Masons. In the completing of the requirements, it satisfies all the expectations of the traditional means, short of experiencing the ritual personally ourselves. Having addressed that earlier by noting that freedom of choices are the cornerstone of our culture and Craft, we'd be also doing ourselves a disservice to not practice ourselves what we admonish others to do by denying a future brother an opportunity to reward himself and bring honor to our Fraternity, even if it means coming to us through a method that's less traditional.

SECOND CLASS CITIZENS Although you claim you're not "devaluing" 1DC Masons, in fact that is very likely the end result. To devalue the 1DC is to necessarily also devalue those who come to Masonry through it, as the two are absolutely mutually inclusive. By devaluing the 1DC class, you denigrate and segment its students into "second class" status. The "us and them" attitude. You undermine the confidence of the Brothers who came to the Fraternity through the 1DC and do take the Craft seriously, who will always walk into Lodge looking over their shoulders to see who's whispering behind his back "there goes one of those one day class guys..." If ever there were a toxic element festering in our Fraternity, that's it.

So to those reading this, who rail against the 1DC, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

Fraternally,
Robert Kreisler


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