The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE OF MAN
Bro. Norman Senn
Tonight we come to the third and last of our Theme speeches. This Theme speech is going to be different than the others because I have heard you discussing, in your Discussion Groups, Man and Masonry as they exist at the present time. You are looking at what you can do about them from the angle of what has gone on in the past. Tonight, I am going to take you into the scientific future; to the changing role of technology in our Lodges, to the changing attitudes of our people, and we must not forget these, for they are absolutely critical in any discussion of where Masonry is going. We must establish our objectives, based on our best guess of what is going to come and not constantly refer back to our past, hoping that the future will never arrive.
We suffer from, of all things, the R.C. factor; now that is a peculiar thing to say for Masons, but I’m sure that the majority of you know what the R.C. factor is; the R.C. factor is “Resistance to Change”. It is possessed by each of us to various degrees, some much more than others, but to remember back to what was said by Brother Cook. what happened to that famous animal that now graces, in a cement-like form only, the Calgary Zoo — Dinny the dinosaur? He possessed the R.C. factor to a great degree and look what happened to him. He is now extinct and we could let that happen to our Masonry! We must carry on our tenets but we must be aware of the future, we must adapt to the future and if this is what is meant by revolution, then each one of you must want revolution. There is no way in which I feel that revolution is the violent overthrow of the existing power structure; this is not my thought of revolution. Revolution is the constant re-assessment and re-evaluation of an existing system, throwing out that which is bad, evil or wrong, and replacing it, very constructively, with that which is good, useful and to the benefit of those who are yet to come.
Let us now look at some of those thing that should influence our thinking:
First, think about the technological advances of the recent years. I am sure you are aware that in the last 10 years there has been more, in technological advances, than there were in the previous 1000 years. One hopes that this spiral will not increase at the same speed, but there is no doubt that it will not slow down. what has this technological advance given us; Radio, T.V., rockets to the moon and the potential of having Lunar Lodge #1 established by the first Mason to make that trip. the advance has given us electronic gadgets for our work, our homes and our pleasure but I believe that we can all agree that we must consider that methods of communication as being the most highly developed over this last period.
With this in mind, let us think of some of the possible uses of this electronic gadgetry. Most of you already know that there is the possibility of setting up a conference telephone, whereby one operator will connect seven or eight people, OR MORE, so that they can talk together. Is it so far-fetched that we could use the new television phone, which is even now in the experimental stages and have our Lodge meetings from within our own homes, rather than go to a Lodge Hall as we do now. If this is so, then the individual Mason must live his Masonry in his home life, even more strongly than before, as his home will become his Lodge Hall. Perhaps a small group of Masons would gather together to portray some aspect of our ritual but, on the whole, the majority of our members would remain in their homes.
What of a computer at Grand Lodge to deal with all the “housekeeping” details of our business meetings? What of professional T.V. presentation of our ritual with individual effort only at a striking moment? What about recorded music, recorded ritual, recorded minutes? Is it so far-fetched? Is it possible? Is it desirable? Do not reject it as a possibility.
Following closely behind the technological advances of our era, we have had to change our approaches to education. The techniques are now moving along the lines of individual development. the individual’s mind must be challenged, must be allowed to find out for itself. It must be the problem solving mind, it cannot be the mind that is drilled into learning facts just for the sake of learning facts. Everything must be questioned, everything must be examined. Unfortunately, at this time, some of this is falling slightly adrift of the original aim due to the total rejection of many established virtues, with no good alternatives being use. Certain aspects of the training experience have been lost but we cannot help but know that modern youth are a questioning group, they are unwilling to accept a fact which is just stated bluntly to them, without knowing why. I know that we “feel” that this can lead to nothing but chaos, but, do think of the recent My Lai incident, where we have the difference between what is known as warfare versus massacre. Would you have questioned or would you have blindly obeyed the order? think carefully and dare to make a stand on which is most desirable.
Because the questioning mind is now entering our Lodge rooms, many of our ritual events are being questioned critically. why do we do this? What is the purpose? What is the morality behind it and for us this must be looked upon as a challenge to find those answers and if we don’t know those answers, then maybe we should start looking for the answers. Let US start the questioning today, not wait for the future to catch up with us and place us at a disadvantage.
Another area that we must look at is the increasing secularism of our world today; the rejection of any possibility of a God by many and the slow disintegration of many of our Churches. We hear it every day, “Less and less people are attending Churches”. Where are they going? what do they believe in? Do they believe in anything? do they have hopes and aspirations and are they keeping them to themselves rather than sharing them with others? do they believe that there is a life after death or do they believe that everything ends at the moment of death? Are they believing, perhaps, that the way in which a man can continue is only through his children and that by leaving a small part f him within his progeny, that here is the continuation of life?
We know that scientist have investigated the cell in the search for the essence of life, that “thing” which gives life to a cell and we know equally well that they have been unable to find it. They have found large, complex molecules which are capable of functioning in combination with other molecules, but why they function is very unclear. Not one of us is sure how big that part of God is, that is within us and we can expect that research will continue looking. their findings are in our future. Each one of you should carefully consider where religion is going in the future. If you do not know, do not hide yourself and hope that it will go away, face up to the problems and make some decisions today on where you will stand “tomorrow”.
What about Politics? Here is another area that we must consider. Politics in the past have often been considered to be the method by which one or two manage to gain the backing of non-thinking people in order to place themselves in a position of power. This is slowly decreasing in its popularity simply because the mass of non-thinkers is becoming smaller and smaller. many now question their political beliefs more carefully than ever before. they are willing to stand up and fight for their own political background which is an important change of attitude. Here we are seeing that freedom in education, which we feel insecure about when in our children, showing up in ourselves. Here we are willing to question! With this change of political approach, should we as Masons, be stronger in placing ourselves on one side or the other? Should we, as Masons, be more active in a political role in our environment? How taboo should politics be in our Lodge rooms when we know that this is of critical importance to our very existence? The demand for true democracy is increasing. Everyone believes that they have some right to say something in the overall policy of practically every institution and organization. However wrong or inconvenient this may seem to us at this time, it IS happening. Each one of you is aware that it is happening. How are you going to cope with it? Is your R.C. factor immediately raised, or can you come with this change and improve our Masonry along with the continuing change of our world.
What about our morality today? Here is an area that we must consider because our morality has changed violently over the last short time. The reason for this seems to be that those who have laid down the rules, the Church, the Government, our Lodges, our Schools and our parents are doing one of two things; (1) They are not making any decisions in case they are not strong enough to stand up to the rejection of their ruling; or secondly, they are allowing total democratic decision making where in many cases, no decision is ever made. I feel that we can say that our rules are breaking down. Perhaps there is another aspect of this as well, and this is most important, for it would seem that our beliefs in right and wrong are changing very rapidly. Many of our law courts would seem to be moving towards a situation where our efforts to give the individual his rights are becoming oppressive to the majority. We all know of cases where it is now the “thing to do” to sue somebody and perhaps “bend the truth” a little in order to do this because “it is only the big company paying”. We have another problem and I’m sure that most of you have been subjected to this particular problem and that is the breakdown of our abiding by the rules and laws related to the removal and utilization of items belonging to others. How many of you have heard a colleague say “I need some pencils or some pens at home” or “they won’t miss this little bit of paper”, this progresses up to larger items where equipment is “borrowed” from a company, sometimes for gain, for private use and without the knowledge of the company, and without proper payment for any wear and tear. is it wrong, is it right? think about it my brethren, or you too may be swept into making false assumptions that the big company can afford to pay for this type of loss, or the Government can afford to pay for this loss, but each one of us realizes that we ALL pay for every loss of every item from every company and every Government in this world. Can we as Masons do anything? We should, and perhaps “example” is our hope.
In our morality changes, we must look at the aggressive acts that are increasing, and this brings us to another area that we must consider. Is it the change in Urban population levels — overcrowding — bringing the aggression with it? there is no doubt that we are all basically animal and as an animal, each one of us requires our own private area. As we become more and more crowded in our Urban areas, we are losing that private space and are willing, as animals, to fight for it if necessary. is this the aggression that we are seeing in the large housing estates in the United States and in the more crowded cities of our countries? Think carefully, my Brethren, do you hear of the same types of aggression existing in small towns? I know that you all can think of individual instances, because in every barrel there is that “rotten apple”, but think of the large scale gang wars. these are not found in Villages but in highly crowded areas. We can sit back and say, “surely, after all of the new educational methods that we are giving our children this will change”, but in the book, “African Genesis” by Massey, he theorizes that there is no way that man will ever be changed from an animal. No matter what happens, Massey says he will always revert to his animal instincts of self-preservation under the right set of circumstances. If this is so, we run into the problem that much of what we are talking about is inevitable, and that it is up to each one of you to consider carefully your views on this theory and decide what you can do.
But, let us carry on — there are a number of things that are more in the realm of science fiction, at this stage, but are quite possible, due to our advancing technological knowledge. these must be considered before we are able to clearly assess our future.
Think about man himself. We hear of many incidents in science fiction novels about the changing of character of people for various purpose. We know that the waiting to find our if a male or female child is to be born is soon to be a thing of the past. It is possible, as shown by certain scientific studies to predetermine quite clearly “boy” or “girl”. It is also quite possible, nowadays, to increase the chance of having either a boy or a girl, by the use of chemicals, to a 95% accuracy. So, first of all, we could select man or woman. Secondly, with the possibility of changing the genetic structure of man, would it be possible for our future scientists to create a system whereby there were the knowledgeable elite (whose minds were used 100% of their potential) and a set of drones whose job was merely to carry out the manual requirements of the elite, for their survival. This would be the building of protective structures, the production of consumables, and the general maintenance of a satisfactory environment. Do not laugh at this scientific approach, for many cases have actually been carried our, more by accident than anything else. In certain forms of brain surgery, instances have been recorded where unquestioning response to command, has resulted from damage to various parts of the brain. If this was genetically controlled, the possibility is there! Perhaps it would be possible to genetically remove aggression so that Brotherly Love was that consuming interest of the entire human race. Perhaps the ‘Big Brother’ situation of Orwell’s 1988, is a future act whereby every activity and every move, is controlled by television monitors and computerized investigation would delve into undesirable acts, until we are trained to a standard way of life, strictly controlled by an elite group. you may be laughing and think that Big Brother is a long way off, but in the Calgary Herald, during February, it was recorded that it was possible to alter the behaviour of a human being by having an electronic probe inserted into a certain part of the brain. This probe was activated by radio waves at some distance from the subject. If the possibility is there for the implantation of electrodes into the brain, and the control of these electrodes to influence a person or read brain impulses by radio, we are already one step toward Big Brother and I would suggest that it is one GIANT step.
As for computer control of the population, all of you who own a Diner’s Club or an American Express Card, must be aware that somewhere, in an electronic memory, is every meal that you have eaten on that card, every flight on a plane, every Hotel that you have stayed at along with details of what you ate, where you went, the size of room that you used and this would clearly show any change from your normal routine. With this type of information, you must realize that you can be pretty well examined, at a distance, by anyone who wished to look into your activities.
Science fiction? No, brethren, this is our future and it is just ahead of us, as the future always is. Are you going to let your R.C. factor block you, or are you going to say “the future is there, I don’t like what it looks like, but I will go along and make the very best of it and hope, above hope, that the theory that all men are animals is not the case, that we do want better things, that we will evolve to a more brotherly group and that Masons and Masonry, in their own special way, will be a part of the revolution which will lead men to a better, stronger, more moral and more meaningful life.”