The following copyrighted article is reprinted with the express and kind permission of its author, Bro. Robert George, from "The Communicator," the newsletter of the Scottish Rite Valley of Seattle, of which Bro. Bob is also editor. The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are those of Bro. Bob, and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Scottish Rite Valley of Seattle or the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Washington. Please do not republish this article without the express written permission of Bro. Bob. Linking, however, is encouraged.
Bro. Bob writes: "We have to admit that maybe we have taken the wrong path. We have to admit that maybe we have been driving around lost. And if this is the case then driving harder and faster or slower won’t help. We need to get back on the path. But here again, a path to where? What is our real destination?"
Recently I was copied on some very profound emails among some of our Scottish Rite Brothers that caused me to embark upon an exploration that I had not expected. And as explorations will have it, it has caused me to wonder and to ponder. The specific topic was the existence of the United Grand Lodge of America. This is not a recognized organization within Masonry. It is apparently considered a clandestine lodge. As I said, this investigation took me to unexpected places. This journey resulted in questions which do not have clear or simple answers; however, these are dangerous questions because they evoke emotion. They are dangerous also, because people may feel the need to give them quick standard answers.
The questions are these: first; how does a group of brothers get the fraternity or even their own Grand Lodge to look at itself and make needed adjustments and take serious course corrections without having to leave the fraternity? Second; what is the real meaning of “clandestine” and does it get applied to brothers or lodges for true Masonic reasons or just for political control reasons? Third; to many people, Masonry has evolved into being simply a Christian men’s social club; is this our charter, or were we supposed be to something much more? Fourth; what will Masonry be in the future and what kind of men will its leaders be who will guide and sustain it?
I said that we should reflect; and reflection demands quiet, open-minded, serious contemplation.
I personally can’t answer the question about the meaning of “clandestine” or even “irregular.” Naively I would have thought it would mean underground, furtive, profane, and having a negative intent. But in looking around the country it seems that these terms get applied more for political reasons involving power structure and status quo. I didn’t know that a Grand Lodge made a man a Mason, I thought that a man was first made a Mason in his HEART!!! I thought that a Lodge was an assembly of like hearted men who choose Brotherhood with other like hearted men.
The details could not be confirmed and so it is somewhat unclear but The United Grand Lodge of America is reported to be a confederation of some eight or more lodges which started in Georgia. It appears to have been started by master masons who wanted to practice our craft in a very traditional and universal framework, living our stated
principles, and putting them into real action. Apparently, they did not feel that they could do so within the context of the Georgia Grand Lodge. However, when I explored the web site of the UGLA I could have sworn that I was reading statements from our own ideals and Masonic codes. In fact, but for their willingness to view co-masonry as a valid concept, although not part of the UGLA, it sounded like all of our own ideals. So why can’t these brothers work within our fraternity? If I talk to any Brother in our Valley I know that he will support education, racial equality and universal brotherhood, belief in a supreme deity, charity, stewardship of deep Masonic tradition, continuation and practice of good ritual, exploration of symbolism, and personal growth. So where is the fundamental disagreement?
Now concerning the UGLA I do not intend to judge, express contempt, or degrade. Unfortunately this approach is taken all too often by well meaning brothers who feel immediately threatened and then express outrage against those who don’t just conform. Calm down first. At this time I think that it is more important to ask why and to try to seek some insight. Why do men who appear to be perfectly good Master Masons feel that they must separate from us in order to actively apply the spirit of our principles, learn classical craft teachings, practice ritual seriously, explore esoteric teachings, embrace universal brotherhood and become better Masons? Remember I’m not talking about dishonest cowans and evesdroppers who join Masonry for a covert purpose, learn our secrets then leave to publish our rituals, signs and modes of recognition. I’m also not talking about closed-minded zealots who portray us as devil worshipers and try to have our fraternity condemned. I’m talking about brothers who feel that to really be better men and real Masons they must break away and start over.
Is it all a matter of poor communication (both listening and speaking) within the fraternity? Or is it un-met expectations in what we say Masonry is and in how we actually conduct Masonry and ourselves as Masons? Is it too much insistence on uniformity and conformity? Do we have too much structure and not enough flexibility? Or is it too much status and not enough humility; too much form and not enough substance, too much mindless repetition of social calendars and not enough true ritual? Have we strayed too far from our foundation and ancient roots?
Or is it something much more fundamental — are there really two versions of Masonry? In one version Masonry is a politically correct social club for older, mostly Christian, men. In the other version Masonry is a profound, universal brotherhood with roots that reach back into the dim past.
If you think that this second version is mere fancy on my part then just look at recent movies and books about us. How is Masonry portrayed? As an after Sunday-go-to-meeting garden club? Hell, no!!! Masonry is portrayed as a mystery school having secret knowledge; its members as a tight knit group of ancient knights of honor with a fabulous store of knowledge and history; its ritual is seen as esoteric and deep, holding insight into the very nature of the cosmos; a strong and ardent brotherhood whose purpose is the unified betterment of mankind.
Not a bad reputation!!! Good people gravitate to this version like a magnet. Why? Because it has substance!!!
Our real enemies are very afraid of this version of Masonry since it stands as a force against: thought suppression, mindless conformity, ignorance, religious rule, organized hatred, political dictatorship and oppression. Why? Because it has substance!!!
Now contrast this version of Masonry with the version presented by our official spokesmen. I won’t bore you with the detailed pabulum, since we can all repeat it in our sleep, but basically, for whatever reason, they want us to be seen as a bunch of innocuous ex-bricklayers; politically correct goody two-shoes who want to be acceptable to everyone. Yuck!
That’s not why I became a Mason and I don’t think that it’s why you did either. I like version one, much better!!!
Which version do you think George Washington, Davy Crockett, Winston Churchill and Albert Pike subscribed to?
If brothers are feeling that going back to our roots and actually being the ardent brotherhood demands separation, then we have a REAL PROBLEM. And we need to stop putting our heads in the sand, open our eyes and do something direct and positive to fix it. Whatever it is, we can fix it. All we have to do is to choose to fix it. Remember, we are not perfect ashlars, we are all rough and in need of polishing. Our Brotherhood is itself an ashlar; a stone to be perfected. I don’t see certain groups like the United Grand Lodge of America as an enemy; I see them as a spiritual wake-up call from within the fraternity. How we answer this call will define us and our future. It is up to us to decide how we address the need for change when brothers bring it to our attention. Forcing brothers to leave the fraternity so that they can duplicate it under a brighter banner is not a reasonable, sane or rational response.
I think the actual difficulty is “Inertia.” It is so hard to change! And change is so hard because we first have to admit that we are not yet perfect ashlars. We have to admit that maybe we have taken the wrong path. We have to admit that maybe we have been driving around lost. And if this is the case then driving harder and faster or
slower won’t help. We need to get back on the path. But here again, a path to where? What is our real destination?
As they say: ”If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
So let’s get a destination in mind but first let’s get our heads out of the sand and look at some hard facts. What is the average age of an American Mason, 60, 65, 70, older? How many brothers really know and understand the rituals, our symbols and/or their implications, let alone their real meanings? I don’t have a clue, but I’ll bet it’s a very small percentage; probably less than those who come to lodge, and that itself is a very small percentage. So extrapolating into the future what do we have? I’ll tell you; we will all be dead and the UGLA or something like it will be Masonry, period. Especially if, as they say, their average member’s age is about 35 and they require substantial proven knowledge of ritual, symbols and Masonic history in order to progress through the degrees. No ninety minute wonders in their Lodges.
What this says is that if we want to have a part in the future of Masonry then we have to make it happen. We have to embrace change. I mean embrace it! We have to make big plans that stir men’s hearts. We have to see Masonry as a force, a profound brotherhood, and a storehouse of deep and valuable wisdom. We have to value quality over quantity. We have to do it. We have to do it now!!!
The Scottish Rite should be at the forefront of such a rebirth! The SR has some major advantages in leading a Masonic renewal. We are a national organization. We can make a national difference much more quickly and effectively. We still value knowledge and Masonic education. We have not lost our ability to perform deep ritual.
Our heritage is to be active. We respect and seek to understand differences. In fact, I think that this is why the Shrine is so attractive to many brothers. The Shrine is active and visible. They don’t seem to care one wit what their detractors say, they just do their thing and continue to make a major positive difference in peoples lives.
So let’s start making our own difference. Let’s start by working with those brothers who actually participate and even come to Lodge. Let’s make Lodge meaningful again. Let’s stop talking “fraternal” as in “collegiate” and reawaken a “Brotherhood” as in a “Band of Sacred Knights.” Let’s stop thinking “Big organization with small safely bland ideals” and start thinking “Smaller organization with profoundly meaningful ideals.” In other words, let’s take our cue again from some old fashioned brothers like Ben Franklin, George Washington, Mozart, Omar Bradley, Winston Churchill, Jim Bowie, Albert Pike, Frederick II The Great, Paul Revere, Simon Bolivar. You know: “The Masons.”
— Bro. Robert George, 32°
The Editor [of The Communicator of the Seattle Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemaosonry]
Bro. Robert George is a Master Mason and currently Junior Warden of Centennial Lodge #25 in Snohomish, Washington. He is a member of the Scottish Rite Seattle Valley in Seattle, Washington, and holds the 32nd Degree. He is the Editor of "The Communicator." He is also a Royal Arch Mason in the York Rite. He is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and the Philalethes Society. He is also a committee member of the Grand Lodge of Washington and Assistant Editor of the Grand Lodge "Tribune."
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