M. W. Bro. Jean-Michel Mascherpa
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge “Alpina” of Switzerland
Will one day one discussion be enough to understand all aspects of a subject as vast and relevant? At least we will have to try!
The thoughts below are not reflections of a working group that prepared the seminar on the media. They are only an introduction to debate and a simple way to initiate discussion of these two half-days.
To address this subject, the easiest way is to take over the four chapters described in the title of the seminar.
FREEMASONTY AND THE CHALLENGES OF THE MEDIA
In a very world very constrained by the speed of information, it is difficult for Freemasonry to avoid pressure from the media whether electronic or more conventional. The 20th century was already publicized and the 21st will be even more. In our society of this new century, secret no longer exists.
Freemasonry, as any society assembly living on the secular world, cannot take refuge in a protected sphere. And even if it still wished could it get there? During its history, Freemasonry has gone through various stages, from the most opaque secret to serene discretion, even for some Obediences to claimed advertisement. As in all things, the reflected middle position should prompt us to greater collaboration with the media.
HOW DO WE COMMUNICATE?
For a very long time, the traditional channels of information are used by all lodges and obediences: newspapers, magazines, books, conferences, seminars, public debates, information days and / or open doors, posters, etc..
This way of communicating will certainly persist much longer. One cannot really say that Freemasonry does not inform and is not revealed. Indeed, only the meetings in the Temple remain closed to the public. And for how long, when observing the behavior of certain obedience or some continents?
As I have already had several occasions to say this in several meetings, behavior depends much more on habits, customs and traditions of Grand Lodges than on the rules of Freemasonry itself. Nobody will be surprised by a parade or demonstration "in Masonic decorations" in the United States when it would be unthinkable in Switzerland.
Currently, the advent of electronic media has changed the way we communicate : Social Networking, texts and instant tweets, blogs, email, mobile phones and tablets definitely belong to the field of information, individual or general, controlled or not.
This inescapable reality must be taken into account. Nobody can control, monitor and manage information. We need to accept the idea a formal piece of information and wild communication will overlap1.
Almost all obediences and many lodges have created a website to publish their official information. They enable the uninitiated to learn correctly and from the right place, and to understand what Freemasonry actually is.
But we must remain careful not to fall into the proselytizing and the frantic search for new members. The old "unspoken" rules banished any eagerness to recruit, preferring quality over number. How many obediences which did not care about this really regretted it?
WHAT SHOULD WE COMMUNICATE?
We must not take refuge under the seal of the Masonic secret any longer. Many and very informative books on the history of our Order were published. Virtually all rituals are freely available in good bookshops. What is it still to hide?
Two target audiences and three subjects may help us answer this question:
a) the information of the secular world and the potential search for new members,
b) the Masonic training of the Brethren and the basic information on the news of their obedience (and / or boxes) as in any organized society.
With regard to the secular world, it is more than time to demystify the misconceptions about our Masonic society through lectures and discussions, open doors and of course by means of our websites.
To the Brethren, it is easy to check their expectations in terms of personalized news published in magazines that many obediences regularly publish. Usually, there is the "Word of the Grand Master," the agendas of meetings, reports of the committees, birthdays and other honors.
My personal attention is certainly more attracted to the instructions usually published on the websites of the Lodges or on sometimes serious blogs. This is the sole true Masonic food which can often go beyond our own workshop and achieve the Brothers’ reflections outside our own borders. In this meaning, the Freemasonry is truly universal, which can meet the Brothers’ need of knowledge by jumping across borders and practices. In reading works whose theme is similar, who has not verified the French rationalism, the Germanic humanism and the Anglo- Saxon pragmatism?
SHOULD WE ADAPT TO THE NEW ELECTRONIC REALITY?
It is perfectly obvious that the electronic communication and information belong to our century and that Freemasonry must use them to its advantage. Our kids are used to the computer almost before they can read. Electronics has passed from recreational use to domestic use and has completely invaded our daily lives. Examples of uses from the most scientific to the oddest way are known and would take too much space to be cited here.
In a very empirical way, we can only note that the age of the Brothers is increasing, resulting in a decrease in the use of our work. Thus, we could continue to offer them a useful and serious Masonic life "at home" which, in addition to keeping them emotionally as Members of the lodges, would allow them to feel again and again as real Freemasons.
Equally obvious is the fact that the secular 30- 40 years of age, once settled in life and in their profession, start a personal and spiritual reflection on the purpose of their existence. These are good recruits to our lodges. And all these young people can operate the computer since their birth and live with it on daily basis.
We must therefore encourage obediences and lodges to use modern means of information, dusting off their sites and position themselves on social networks and other techniques. Speak and make others speak, reveal what can be revealed while maintaining within the privacy of our lodges what cannot be understood before its initiation.
By my research on the Internet for this article, I am favorably surprised by the content of the Masonic sites and blogs that I visited. The best part comes from the Spanish-speaking countries2 that publish extremely modern and well documented sites far ahead of the United States and Europe. Real sources of information and fellowship.
But beware, the mosaic pavement is never far away. It is comforting to praise some blogs, it must be lamented, and we are even shocked by some others which have nothing Masonic, only the slander, insult and hatred are sometimes spread by an indecent anonymity under the cover of the secret membership badly used and the freedom of expression. In my opinion, it is the credibility and accountability of every obedience.
In conclusion, the openings to the world is inevitable for Freemasonry, bearing in our hearts the secret of our Temples and practice our Rituals, which cannot be transmitted further on.
This will most certainly pass on by the awareness that today's world is a world of communication and transparency. This will also require the implementation of the technical means most appropriate to the aims, certainly not uniform for all the faiths but adapted to the local customs.
This will finally pass on through the belief that each Transmission is a Masonic duty.
Let us at least through our actions and our acts in everyday life, show what true Freemasonry is, because that is how we can convince them of the usefulness of our work in finding a better Humanity.