Don’s Diary (Hubris)

Where we see lodges fail, too seldom is the Master of the lodge, and the system that puts him in the Chair, called to account. It fails to do so at all levels and in all dimensions in Freemasonry. We see these failures in terms of falling membership, particularly quality members, poor attendance, and failure to afford little or any meaningful benevolence and charity. Not infrequently when so called experienced Masters are in the chair again, the problem is their hubris. “Hubris, arrogance, is just one step ahead of loss of integrity, because if you think you're better than other people, you know more, then you're going to think, as many leaders have, that the rules don't apply to them - so they lose their integrity.” (Charles Koch, US Businessman b.1935.) Integrity is of principal importance to Freemasons, particularly in our leaders.

The gullible and thoughtless will readily accept the usual reasons given for lodges’ failures – an aging membership, competition from similar organisations, time demands in particular on younger members, and so on. Some will lack sufficient real-world management experience to appreciate that the problem is likely to start at the top. There is the proverb that “The fish rots from the head”.

It seems that the problem seldom occurs when we have new Masters in the Chair and when the Master elect has been subject to the open selection procedures of fulfilling progressive offices before Installation. Hubris also seldom seems to be an indulgence of those who, in addition to their Masonic roles, have a high community standing or professional status. These people do not need to pretend to be something that they are not. They do not need to regard Freemasonry as an opportunity for a “career” and to give them a perceived status that they could never, or would otherwise attain. They do not need to pretend that they are superior to everyone else to the distain of all those all those who can see through them. They seem to forget that merit should be the title to our privileges.

The potential to appoint someone likely to display the destructive hubris, is likely to occur when the advancement system is closed. This can occur when a number of Freemasons belong to the same lodges allowing an incestuous appointment relationship to develop. It is seen when, for ambitious personal reasons, a Freemason is advanced with the expectation that this favour will be similarly returned when the opportunity occurs. The end result is that the lodges are likely to end up with a lot of second rate but experienced duds at the top. Hubris thrives.

Structures for the formalisation of closed, or relatively closed advancement systems have long existed. Thirty years ago the so-called “Northcote Mafia” was said to excersise control of appointments in The Other Orders and on the death of its principals, it was said to have been replaced by other “King makers” with a dubious outcome. I have been told in the Craft that one lodge, or perhaps two, that see themselves as able to secure for their favourites, key appointments which are stepping stones for the most senior levels of leadership. Such preferential advancement with no measure of merit assured, is likely to create the ingredients for hubris and not detect and eliminate its occurrence. To reduce the potential for hubris, avoid having so-called experienced Masters in office and keep the advancement system open. Reject approaches from “King makers”. If you get one with hubris call him to account for falling numbers and charitable inactivity. Life is too short for these opinionated rent-seekers. Join Lodge Devotion if you are unhappy.

Yours fraternally,