My thoughts: Though this article is about Freemasonry (and its modernisation) it could be interesting to others too. “Starfish” and “Spider” organisations are highlighted by such orgs as Wikipedia, Napster, Skype and even terrorist cells.
” Perhaps this is a reason for why Heathenry in the Nordic countries seem to function and have functioned with such little strife. It was never centralized since there was no way TO centrilize it (too small population on too vast areas). I often feel that why in the US often (not always) there is a bickering about “Universalists” and “Folkish”, the Swedish Heathens just pour a beer by a tree as they always have, with very few craps to give about how their neighbour does it. In Sweden we often use the word “Folkrörelse” (peoples movement) to org with little or no central governing.
Wiccan and other strains of Witchcraft are also thriving by not being centralized.
My only personal concern is that the baby isnt thrown out with the bathwater.
I belive in tradition,continuation, lineages, charters and heritage AS WELL as rejuvenation.
Freemasonry for the 21st Century
By: BRO. RICH GRAETER
In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom group organizations into two broad categories: starfish and spiders.[i] Spiders are coercive, centralized organizations with rigid rules and hierarchy, whereas starfish are open and decentralized organizations lacking a clear chain of command.[ii]
At first glance, spiders and starfish may seem to resemble each other, but in fact, they are very different.[iii] Whereas cutting off the head of a spider will kill it, a starfish does not even have a head to cut off. Not only will the starfish not die, its parts will regenerate. If you cut a Linckia, or long-armed starfish, into two pieces, you will get two starfish. Cut it into five pieces and you will get five starfish. This is the amazing power of an open, decentralized network.[iv] You can’t kill it; and, attacking it only makes it stronger.
Open, decentralized networks have enormous power, and they are extremely resilient. A fundamental principle of Starfish organizations is that when attacked, in response they become even more open and decentralized, and therefore more resilient to attack.[v] The Apache Indians, Napster and its progeny[vi], Skype, Craigslist, Alcoholics Anonymous, and even, ominously, Al-Qaeda, are all classic examples of Starfish organizations. The Apache outlasted the Spanish conquistadores; Napster brought the major recording labels to their knees; Skype rendered the telephone industry’s long-distance profit model obsolete; and, Craigslist eviscerated newspaper ad revenues. All these starfish all took on spider organizations and beat them.
My favorite starfish example is Wikipedia because it illustrates one of the best principles of starfish organizations: “put people into an open system, and they’ll automatically want to contribute.”[vii] Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project, operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization. Wikipedia’s articles are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world and the vast majority of them can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet. Steadily rising in popularity since its inception, it currently ranks among the top ten most-visited websites worldwide.[viii] This popular, comprehensive, dynamic, and constantly improving free resource is entirely the product of the undirected cooperation of people worldwide. Open systems have the capacity to bring out the very best in people, rewarding collaboration and community oriented thinking.
There are several additional principles of starfish organizations that also help explain their success. Being decentralized, intelligence is spread throughout the system, often coming from the edges, closer to where the action is.[ix] Open systems can easily mutate to accommodate a changing environment.[x] Starfish have a tendency to sneak up on you.[xi] As starfish invade industries, industries become more decentralized, and overall revenue decreases.[xii] The record labels never saw Napster coming, and their profits have yet to recover from their lack of vision.
The paradox of grand lodges is that taken together, they are the starfish that make up Freemasonry, but each individually is a monstrous spider within its own jurisdiction. Freemasonry is the ultimate starfish example. It is comprised of hundreds of grand lodges, so many that the exact number is unknown. There are traditional grand lodges, Prince Hall Affiliated grand lodges, co-masonic grand lodges, International grand lodges, grand orients, and probably dozens more. The self-proclaimed mainstream grand lodges do not recognize many of the other grand bodies, but this matters little to the amorphous body of Freemasonry. Kill any single grand lodge, another grows in its place, and the body of Freemasonry goes on with little notice.
But individually, grand lodges are classic spider organizations: highly centralized, rigid, and oft-times coercive. Grand Masters rule a rigid hierarchical structure with absolute authority. Grand lodges attempt to control communication among lodges (prohibiting the circularization of the lodges concerning any legislation pending before the Grand Lodge[xiii]) even among members (dissenting opinions are censored on heavily moderated online official forums). But take away the Grand Master and his officers, and the grand lodge dies. But not Freemasonry.
Grand lodges need not be spiders, however. They could devolve power back to their constituent lodges and assume a more supportive role. They could become more democratic, flatten the hierarchy, and become less rule-bound. They could evolve back into the starfish that they once were. In fact, our survival depends on it! Grand lodges are themselves an innovation to the body of Freemasonry. With the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England on June 24, in 1717, a new masonic institution was created. Originally created to restore the tradition of an annual feast, this body quickly expanded in scope, which in turn led to the explosive growth in masonic lodges over the next two centuries.[xiv]
One way to recapture the explosive growth of our past would be for grand lodges to decentralize their organizational structures. Imagine an organizational structure that turns the pyramid upside-down, where individual lodges are primary, having broad discretion to govern their internal affairs. The rights and immunities of lodges and their members would be expansive, whereas the power of any grand officer would be strictly limited (and maybe even nonexistent). Each lodge could choose the ritual that best suited them; determine the manner in which their candidates would progress; in which degree to conduct business; what lodges offices will be elective and how to elect their officers; and, whether alcohol could be served on lodge property. The primary function of the central organizing body would be simply to function as a mutual support association to serve a vast and growing network of independent lodges and provide the means for interconnectivity among them.
Any masonic body professing allegiance to the fundamental core ideology of Freemasonry should be welcomed. Independent lodges, mainstream lodges, Prince Hall affiliated lodges, in short, any lodge that practices Freemasonry. Active cooperation with other grand bodies outside of the U.S. mainstream, like the George Washington Union, Le Droit Humain, and other women-only and co-masonic lodges should also be encouraged. Isn’t it about time to once and for all do away with artificial racial, gender, religious, and political distinctions among people, especially among Freemasons?
I do not suggest that lodges change their individual character (e.g. all-male or all-female), only that we update the antiquated recognition apparatus too used to declare groups of good men (or women) as irregular. Men-only, women-only, and co-masonic lodges could all exist side-by-side, meeting separately behind tiled doors, but always working together outside the lodge room to promote Freemasonry and benefit humanity. Likewise, lodges predominantly comprised of a single ethnic group would undoubtedly continue to exist, but they could, within this new decentralized context, also recognize and cooperate with one another as well, beginning at long last the hard work of chipping away at the cultural barriers that kept them separated for over two centuries.
Although it is also a spider organization, the Scottish Rite (here I must qualify that my comments apply only to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, as I am unfamiliar with the Southern), of all masonic groups, is perhaps the best situated to face the challenges in the 21st Century. As an institution, it is the largest and wealthiest masonic body in the U.S.A. Of all masonic bodies, its leaders seem most acutely aware of the need to modernize its organization. Its leaders not only preach change but are actually putting into practice that change that they preach. Almost everyone in the NMJ is by now familiar with the new I.C.E. concept which instructs that our Scottish Rite programs be Inspirational, Convenient, and Enjoyable.
But the brutal truth is that Scottish Rite is a stone giant with feet of clay. It is still strong, but it stands on the state grand lodge system upon which it is wholly dependent for its prospective members and therefore for its future. What the Scottish Rite needs to survive is a growing pool of Master Masons. Unless the Scottish Rite plans to start making new Masons on its own, its prospect for growth is not very promising. Where will the Scottish Rite find its candidates? New lodges could help address the membership gap.
But whether the Scottish Rite starts making its own Master Masons or finding them in new places, either road would lead to the same end: a growing body of Masons independent of mainstream grand lodges. If all concerned were willing to meet on the level, new systems could work in concert with the present grand lodge system. Nothing says that the systems must be mutually exclusive. In fact, a rational approach would be to encourage all alternatives and to let them compete with one another, and through the competitive process improve Freemasonry overall. Clearly the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite would be the primary beneficiary of this competition, and in fact, its survival may depend on it.
In conclusion, the great Temple of Solomon is the perfect symbol for Freemasonry. Like it, our Temple has been laid waste by the ruthless hand of ignorance, the devastations of war, and the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. But, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple did not destroy the Jewish people or their culture; they and their culture thrive in spite of the loss. Their ultimate triumph serves as an example for the potential to build a growing network of new masonic lodges, all working to call the very best people together to labor for the betterment of all humanity. A Freemasonry for the 21st Century!
Freemasonry for the 21st Century
[i] Brafman, Ori and Rod A. Beckstrom. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
[ii] To classify an organization as a spider or a starfish, Brafman and Beckstrom ask the following ten questions: 1. Is there a person in charge? 2. Are there headquarters? 3. If you thump it on the head, will it die? 4. Is there a clear division of roles? 5. If you take out a unit, is the organization harmed? 6. Are knowledge and power concentrated or distributed? 7. Is the organization flexible or rigid? 8. Can you count the employees or participants? 9. Are working groups funded by the organization or are they self-funded? 10. Do working groups communicate directly or through intermediaries? Brafman, 46-53.
[iii] Brafman, 36
[iv] Brafman, 35.
[v] Brafman, 21.
[vi] Napster II, Kazaa, K+, Grokster, eDonkey, and ultimately eMule
[vii] Brafman, 74.
[viii] See generally,
[ix] Brafman, 39-40.
[x] Brafman, 40.
[xi] Brafman, 41.
[xii] Brafman, 45.
[xiii] §34.02(h)(3) Ohio Masonic Code.
[xiv] Hamill, 47