"We need to make Freemasonry more contemporary, to make it reflect 2010, not 1910-or 1810." That's Tom Sturgeon, newly installed Right Worshipful Grand Master for the Pennsylvania chapter of Freemasons, to the Times' Holly Brubach. And, since he's not talking about, say, marshaling a network of laser equipped satellites to work in connection with a fleet of telepathic dolphins to better secure control over an invisible matrix emanating from a golden pyramid hidden inside a mountain in Roswell, New Mexico, it's pretty disappointing. A Right Worshipful Grand Master opens his induction ceremony to the public, holds it in a convention center, and grants newspaper interviews about it? What kind of secret society is this guy running? No wonder everyone wants to believe Jay-Z is in a Satanic cult and the president is a Manchurian double agent for an Islamist sleeper cell. We need the mystery, the intrigue. Paranoia needs an outlet.
I've been let down in this regard before. A friend of mine from growing up was tapped to join a clandestine brotherhood with "Illuminatus" in the name that recruited members through his fraternity at college. He got a tattoo on his hip-a cool-looking numerological rune-and everything. I was very excited, demanding that he attend the gatherings and reveal to me the arcane rituals and secrets he learned: stuff about the Holy Grail, the shroud of Turin, who shot JFK, etc. He went to some dinners he had to dress up in a tie for, he said, where a bunch of stiff, stern blue-blood elders would look down on the younger dudes for drinking too much and not taking themselves seriously. "I think maybe some of those guys did actually think they were controlling the world," he said. "But I don't think they are." (This doesn't really prove anything, I guess. If you were controlling the world, or knew secrets about anything important at all, really, and you met my friend, or any of the guys in his fraternity, you wouldn't tell them anything either.)
Another friend had his wedding reception in a Masonic Lodge. His wife grew up in a small town. Folks were friendly, everyone knew everyone, the local chapter rented out their space. It was nice building. Like an old church, tall spire. The party was in the main hall downstairs. After a few drinks, a few of us snuck up into the high-ceilinged grand chamber to look around. It was all dark wood, with lots of purple velvet and thirteen super-tall-backed chairs with little flags at the top built into the perimeter. There was an iron chandelier hanging from the rafters and medieval pikes mounted on the walls. With a little imagination, you could see a bunch of guys in hooded cloaks drinking blood from a skull goblet in there. But it also looked like kinda like an old library. And the room was unlocked. So…
"Some Masons may regret losing the mystique," Brubach writes. "Though surely not as much as the conspiracy theorists…" I'll say. Come on, secret societies, let us have our fantasies. If you really are just a bunch of regular old joe-schmoes that meet every other month to drink beer and talk about sports in Davy Crockett hats, if the coolest secrets you have are about how to do a handshake, or what color collar indicates a higher rank, or that Brad Paisley is a member (Brad Paisley?) please, keep it to yourself.
Sigh. At least we have the Jews.