Freemasons fight myths to attract new members

A new generation of Freemasons are working to dispel conspiratorial myths connected to the fraternity in hopes of attracting interest of young men, like those members the 20-something male population at Cal State Fullerton, to the steadily declining membership.
Recently, the fraternity has been opening up its doors to the public in order to drive off the rumors that have hounded them, as well as raise interest for potential members, said Chadwick Vargas, 3rd degree Mason, ethnic studies major and promotions director for CSUF’s Titan Radio.The foundation of Freemasonry is philanthropic development, Vargas said.
The Masons of California offer a resource to parents, called the Kids ID program, in which they create free photo and fingerprint identification material for parent’s and children to keep. The parents receive a form where they can record important information such as height, weight and eye color to be given to authorities in case the child is ever missing or suspected of abduction.
“Not a lot of people understand what Masons are and what the underlying goal is,” Steve Nguyen, 24, a 3rd degree Freemason said.
The Freemasons or, simply put, Masons, have been brought back into the public eye through movies such as “National Treasure” and “The Da Vinci Code.” The organization has also been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. After centuries of lying low due to bad publicity brought on by the actions of individual members some time in the 1800s, the fraternity (because it is first and foremost a brotherhood) is being recognized again for its presence in history, though perhaps not in the light they would prefer.
“The main goal is helping out your fellow man; trying to make the world a better place,” Vargas assured.
Though only having become a fully-fledged member about a month ago, Vargas is well versed and confident in his knowledge and perceptions on what Freemasonry is and what the organization represents.
After going through three stages of initiation, characterized by degrees and titled entered apprentice, fellow craft, and finally master Mason, a Freemason can enjoy the knowledge that he is a man among equals who cares about not only his well-being, but that of his family as well, Vargas said.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is that when a fellow mason is in trouble, you help them. It’s not just an open saying,” Vargas said.
Simple rules promote equality during meetings. For example, discussing religion and politics is forbidden. Caring about humanity is above the all of those things, Vargas said.
“It doesn’t matter if you are the president of the United States or if you’re a plumber, you’re as equal as everyone in that lodge,” Vargas said.
The bond of equality is strengthened by the acts of secrecy the Freemasons are infamous for.
The exclusivity of their rituals create a commonality, while ensuring that the people who are present are there for the right, like-minded reasons, said James Kashiwada, 23, CSUF alumnus and a recent applicant to the Freemason fraternity. “Part of the magic is the secrecy.”
There are terms of power, but only in the sense of respect, Vargas said.
The higher you are in the fraternity, the highest position being the honorary 33rd degree, directly correlates with how much energy you have spent involving yourself in the community and how much time you have spent becoming more knowledgeable on the organization itself. The higher-level Mason learns about the big “why” questions of the fraternity, Vargas said.
The Freemason fraternity does not solicit members, which is one of the reasons why membership initiation is low, Vargas said.
“I don’t think that there are enough publications, so young men around their 20s don’t know that the opportunity is there,” Vargas explained.
Because not a lot of people know what the fraternity is, the public is often swayed by the media, whose representations of the Freemasons generally push people away, said Kashiwada.
One obvious solution to the decline in membership would be to for the organization to reach out to the young men in society, according to Kashiwada.
Vargas suggests simply being the best person you can be, so that the example you set is one of respect.
“That’s the best non-promotion promotion,” Vargas said. “We just show that we are good people and that we care about others.”
With the Internet as a resource, Nguyen believes in creating a better online strategy to facilitate awareness.
Technology needs to work for our cause,” Nguyen said.
In a final effort to drive back the negative buzz surrounding the Freemason fraternity, such as the belief that they are devil worshipers and a cult or that the organization controls the government, the Masons can only try to emphasize the positive.
“In the millions there has to be a few crazy people,” Nguyen said. “But the best way to learn the truth is to just ask a Mason personally.”
Via Daily Titan, California, U.S.