NY Masons revealing secrets

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For more than two centuries, the Freemasons and their grandiose rituals have played a secretive, mysterious role in American life. One of the Masons’ symbols looks a lot like the all-seeing eye on the back of every $1 bill. And look whose picture is on the other side.

George Washington was not the first Mason, and not the only famous one. Mozart worked thinly disguised touches of Masonry into operas. Fourteen presidents and everyone from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale to the comedian Red Skelton belonged. Masons presided when the cornerstone was laid at the Statue of Liberty.

But the Masons’ numbers have been steadily dwindling — whatever their secrets are, they apparently do not have one for avoiding death — and their ranks have been graying. So the New York State Masons have followed other state Masonic societies in doing something that they would have once considered heretical: they are actively reaching out for new members. And, in the process, a famously reticent fraternal organization that now puts a premium on its community service has lifted its veil of secrecy just a bit.

The Masons are not giving out the secret words that members are supposed to say to get into meetings (although these days, simply showing a dues card might do). But the Masons are giving public tours of the New York Grand Lodge Headquarters.

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Vernon Clayson - 10/6/2006

This seems a silly refelation, you can go to any library and find books with every "secret" word and meaning and the history of the organization.
The Masons are fading because they have too much competition for members, at one time they were somewhat elite, drawing mostly from a town's business and professional men, now the service clubs, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc., draw those people and include females along with the men. There are also all of the fraternal organizations, the Elks, Eagles and Moose and they are easier to join as there are no memory tests and less folderol in general. Most men who join the Masons now do it to enable membership in the Consistory and Shrine, offshoots of the regular lodge. The Shrine serves a really worthy purpose, they provide a large number of hospitals to treat crippled children. They also join together to eat and drink, combining their philanthropy with harmless foolery over a taste of spirits which is not allowed in the regular lodges. Some men enjoy the ritualistic formula of Masonic meetings but it is often times a burden in today's busy life, if you miss one meeting, the next one will be nearly identical. What's the draw for a working man, or even a professional man, to forego a relaxing evening at home after a long work day to go out and sit through an evening of ritual that has hardly changed in hundreds of years. In a more innocent time, it drew men of common interests together but now there are dozens of fraternal orders that offer the same kinship without the posed formality.