Making Freemasonry Digital 

How do we prepare to make Freemasonry digital? Once we strip away the Masonic packaging, we are left with pure Freemasonry, which is not physical but content.

Freemasonry is a free open source protocol for all backgrounds and cultures.

No one person or institution owns, or has the global control over Freemasonry.

Freemasonry does not have a physical form but is stored in the minds and hearts of Freemasons.

A Freemason is made the instant a person seals their obligation at their initiation ceremony, based on the Solomon legend. This is a physical action.

A Grand Lodge is a centralised institution that limits its members from practising Freemasonry by means of its Constitutions, Grand Lodge Certificates and Private Lodge Warrants.

Making Grand Lodge digital is not the same as making Freemasonry digital

Grand Lodges in all jurisdictions are making good use of IT and digital applications to streamline their administration. This started with basic office IT systems, emails, and membership databases.

Then, during the early 2000s Grand Lodges started to open up to dispel the negativity surrounding Freemasonry that it is a secret society; so they stated creating web sites, then more recently, creating social media accounts to publicise the charitable work done by Freemasons.

Other areas we are witnessing, is the use of electronic payment systems for lodge subscriptions, dining fees and charitable donations.

As a result of the COVID-19 lock down restrictions, lodges started to make use of video conferencing applications such as Zoom to conduct business meetings.

We have also seen an explosion in the number of Masonic YouTube channels and podcasts offering Masonic knowledge to fill the void left by not being able to meet in person.

I have seen lodges make use of e-books, and QR code links for the Book of Constitutions, by-laws and ritual books. More and more members are happy with digital versions, especially mobile-formatted versions.

Masonic Passport Smartphone Apps

More recently we have seen the development of Masonic Passport smartphone apps, which are used by members when visiting other lodges:

 

 Findmylodge – A passport app, for UGLE specific lodges and members.
  Apple | Google

 

Interlogias Masonic app – An independent App for freemasons based in Central America and expanding to other areas.
Square Article

 

Digital Freemasonry –  An independent Passport App for freemasons based in Europe.  
Square Article

 

All this use of technology is to streamline and improve the administration functions. None of this has any affect on Freemasonry the content, or how we as Freemasons receive and process that content.

Currently, under the rules laid out by a Grand Lodge, in their Constitutions, the ceremony to make a Freemason, is 100% analogue – in a physical presence.

A specific number of people are required to meet at a given time and place, to undertake a prescribed ceremony, to make a Freemason. A Freemason is made the moment they seal their obligation in the initiation ceremony.

There are a few critical qualifications required in order to be made a Freemason, regardless of any obedience:

person must be of good report,
person must of mature age,
person must be of their own freewill,
person should not be expecting mercenary reward.

There are some other qualifications specific to the obedience, which are not universal, such as gender, and belief in a supreme being etc.

The 300-year success of (modern) Freemasonry may well be attributed to the fact that there is a choice, and people can choose which obedience they wish to join; male only, mixed gender, or female only, and whether they have a belief, or non-belief in a deity.

Freemasonry does not care about your gender or belief in a deity – only the obedience, the centralised Masonic institution, the Grand Lodge, for they impose the rules on their members.

What is needed to make Freemasonry digital?

There are many questions that need to be answered:

How can existing Grand Lodges transition to facilitate digital Freemasonry?

How can existing ceremonies transition from physical analogue Freemasonry into digital Freemasonry?

How can a person seal their obligation in a 100% digital world?

Do the rulers of Grand Lodges even have an appetite to even consider a transition process?

In this context of Grand Lodges I include regular, liberal, and independent Grand Lodges.

To some extent this transition could be compared to the transition from Operative to Speculative Masonry during the 16th – 17th centuries.

We know from the Old Charges that Operative lodges existed based on the rules of the guilds.

We also know from a few documents that Operative lodges accepted non-Operative members, these we refer to as Speculative or Accepted Masons.

One can only image the reluctance of the guild rulers having to accept these changes, more out of necessity to survive.

Then over a period of time, lodges transitioned from Operative to mixed Operative and Speculative, then as now all Speculative Freemasons.

The transition, by its nature, will see both analogue Freemasonry and digital Freemasonry coexist for a period of time.

It is very unlikely that many of the existing analogue Freemasons will want to take part in digital Freemasonry. However, I think there may well be a few Freemasons who have left Grand Lodges take a second look at a digital Freemasonry offering.

A large proportion of Grand Lodge memberships are made up from the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 – 1964). Current age range 58 – 74 years old, in 20 years time the number of boomers could well be below 5% of the global population.

This will drastically reduce Grand Lodge membership in a very short time. That decline can not be halted.

The adoption into digital Freemasonry will start at the lower age group such as the Millennials (1981 – 2000) and the Gen Z (2001+), those who have an open mindset, and who understand how digital is taking charge of the analogue world.

Busy people and those with young families will be the first movers, as they will be able to access digital Freemasonry at a time to suit their existing schedules.

The existing members who are retired, do not necessarily see time as a barrier to Freemasonry.

In a short time, digital Freemasonry will draw in new younger members, while the analogue Freemasonry will continue to decline into an elite group of aging members, where time and money are not a barrier to participation.

Bridging Analogue and Digital

There should, in my opinion, be established a bridging ceremony, so that those who join digital Freemasonry can participate into analogue Freemasonry, and in vice versa.

This certainly should take place within a single Grand Lodge jurisdiction, though it will need to work across jurisdictions at some point in the future.

Grand Lodges who do not embrace digital Freemasonry run the risk of losing out altogether.

I don’t see this as a long term risk to Freemasonry at all, as analogue-only Grand Lodges will fall below their financial viability, while other combined analogue and digital Grand Lodges will fill the void to attract new members to digital Freemasonry and mop up the few existing members into analogue Freemasonry.

Existing Grand Lodges are restricted by geographic boundaries on members, as meetings are held in physical locations and in person.

In the digital world, there are no geographical boundaries, perhaps only time zone limitation.

I don’t even see language as a barrier, as Virtual Reality technology will incorporate real time audio translation.

The incentive for a Grand Lodge should be there to embrace digital freemasonry, but is there a will?

It will start with a digital freemasonry working party – each Grand Lodge with its own working group, looking into the technology and how digital Freemasonry can run by their analogue rules.

Then as the process is perfected, we will see digital Freemasonry operating by its own digital rules. This will take time to fully transition into full digital Freemasonry.

One of those analogue rules – which is universal and will need close attention – will be: How can a person seal their obligation in a 100% digital world?

The book, or item the person uses to seal their obligation should mean something to them, it should have some importance.

As what you have repeated may be considered only a serious promise, as a pledge of your fidelity, and to render it a great and solemn obligation, binding for as long as you shall live, you will seal it with your lips on…

This specific action within a ceremony, and others like securely tyling a lodge and admitting only recognised Freemasons to participate into meetings, will need to be worked through.

The transition for analogue Freemasonry to digital Freemasonry will require a lot of careful consideration, planning and testing.

So long as digital Freemasonry delivers real value to members, surpasses their expectations and continues to deliver, membership retention and attraction for freemasonry will flourish.

Craftsmen Online Audio Podcast

Freemasonry is a history fraternity with ties to ancient beginnings. Yet, as modern Masons we live in the information age. Is Freemasonry ready to engage with the Metaverse? WB Nicholas Broadway, publisher of The Square Magazine, shares his vision for the future of our beloved Craft.

Craftsmen Online Audio Podcast May 2022 available on youtube (click image to play)

Article by: Nicholas J Broadway

njcholas broadway

Nicholas was initiated into Freemasonry in 1989 in Stonewell Lodge No. 9137, Essex England (UGLE) and was Master in 1995, 2011 and 2016. He also joined other UGLE craft Lodges and is a PZ in the Royal Arch Chapter. 

He acquired the title of The Square Magazine in January 2020 and oversees the technical running of the digital publication.

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