Brother John Ratcliff recently published "Why I became (and proudly remain) an 'Antient' Freemason." As a "Modern" I have the utmost respect for Brother Ratcliff and believe that his short essay accurately points out a couple of the major differences between "Antient" and "Modern" Freemasonry. It is these differences that I would like to discuss and amplify to help further clarify the differences between our two institutions and their underlying principles and philosophies.
At the end of his essay Brother Ratcliff lists "The Top Ten Reasons *NOT* to become a Freemason." This, however, is misleading, and would be more clear and concise of it read "The Top Ten Reasons *NOT* to become an 'Antient' Freemason." I mention this because some of the reasons Brother Ratcliff has listed are actually reasons why a man may indeed wish to become a "Modern" Freemason. Specifically:
(3) You are a nonconformist. You hate every fad, trend, or anything that anyone else is doing in the world. You are so much of a non-conformist that that your are literally a conformist to the non-conformist lifestyle. How could you be a "joiner" of a club and follow their rules? Even if you consider that these are rules you completely agree with, you would still be "joining" something and conforming to a particular code of ethics. This action would be so contrary to your personal identity that you could never join a group that limits its membership to men of good character and encourages them to live their lives by the highest standards of morality.I agree with Brother Ratcliff's remarks as they relate to "Antient" Freemasonry. "Antient" Freemasonry has always been an organization that demands conformity of its members. If someone refuses to conform with the dictates of their "Antient" Grand Lodge or Grand Master he will quickly find himself expelled and no longer worthy of being considered a brother.
(6) You are a material reductionist. You believe that there is no such thing as God. Not Spinoza’s God and not any one definition will suffice. You believe that anyone stupid enough to believe in a God is a damnable idiot. You believe that the Universe is a Netwonian tick-tock world of billiard ball atoms and molecules, that there was no big-bang, and that human consciousness is a random glitch in the random process of selfish-gene evolution. You believe that life itself is meaningless and serves no higher purpose beyond self-gratification.
As "Modern" Freemasons we believe that Freemasonry is a union of diversity as opposed to a union of conformity. We value the great diversity of ideas that each person brings into our great brotherhood, and find that through diversity our organization becomes stronger and more enlightened. The value of the Masonic principle of tolerance is best realized through diversity. Of what value is tolerance to an organization of conformists? If everyone always agrees to conform then what are they really tolerant of?
That the "Antients" do not want men who attempt to understand the universe through material reductionism is understandable. They abandoned both science and reason back in 1751 for various forms of mysticism and Gnosticism.
As "Modern" Freemasons we value both science and reason, and welcome scientists and those who seek to further human understanding through material reductionism. We are dedicated to the brotherhood of all men and remain continually open-minded to new ideas and ways of understanding ourselves and the universe in which we live.
I find the seventh point of Brother Ratcliff's essay to be somewhat ironic. In it he states:
(7) You hate the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. You think the American Revolution, and the Enlightenment in general, was a scam. You believe the world ran better when men were uneducated, lived in fear of religious persecution, under Monarchies, dictatorships, and that free thought was a concept reserved for dreaming kittens, not the working class of a society. You do not believe all men are created equal, nor do they have the right to pursue happiness. You do not believe in justice, liberty, equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or any form of representative government. Since these are all of the core tenets of Freemasonry, established by Freemasons in the American Revolution, there can be no doubt that this institution would disagree with you most heartedly.
How can the "Antients" who adore conformity find any value in documents produced by men and Masons who were obviously non-conformists? If "Modern" Masons such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin had been conformists then neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Bill of Rights would have ever been written and America would still be a colony of the British Empire.
Brother Ratcliff goes on to say "Since these are all of the core tenets of Freemasonry, established by Freemasons in the American Revolution, there can be no doubt that this institution would disagree with you most heartedly." Unfortunately, he fails to point-out that these "core tenets of Freemasonry" are actually core tenets of ‘Modern’ Freemasonry and the Freemasons who helped start the American Revolution were all "Moderns" and not "Antients."
It is well known that the "Antients," after taking over the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania declared its "Modern" Past Grand Master, Benjamin Franklin, to be a clandestine-made Mason. This they did upon his return from France after he had helped win America's war for independence. His refusal to conform to the "Antients" led to their refusal to even grant him the honors of a Masonic funeral.
After carefully reviewing all the reasons why brother Ratcliff is proud to be an "Antient" Freemason I feel even more reassured in my conviction that becoming a "Modern" Freemason was the right choice. As a "Modern" I can be a part of the great union of diversity that is "Modern" Freemasonry and look back at the many enlightened Masons, such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, whom I can be proud to call brothers.
— Bro. Jeff Peace
Image: Ben Franklin, who wrote: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
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