Monday, October 30, 2006

Is there free speech in Freemasonry?

Is there Free Speech in Freemasonry? by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS

There is a rumor circulating on the Internet that there is a resolution being prepared by a grand jurisdiction in the U.S. Southeast ("Dixie") that would, in effect, censor all forms of Masonic communications, including publications, blogs, discussion groups, e-mails, web pages, etc. This would mean that virtually anything pertaining to Freemasonry in the grand jurisdiction would have to first be reviewed and approved by the Grand Lodge prior to publication. If this is true (and I hope it isn't), this would be setting up a preposterous situation whereby Masonic communications would be grid locked at all levels. Such controls would be reminiscent of those enacted by Hitler and Goerbels in Nazi Germany.

There has always been a certain amount of censorship in Freemasonry. For example, some jurisdictions prohibit the publication of proceedings and any correspondence pertaining to Masonic charges. There have been instances where Masonic web sites were shut down and Masonic publications suspended simply because Grand Lodges wanted absolute control over what was written and said in their jurisdictions. Is this a violation of First Amendment rights? Undoubtedly. Nonetheless, this has occurred on several occasions around the world.

In my case, when I was censored by my Grand Master last year, I was given no warning and ordered to shut down my Masonic publications and web pages. To this day, I am at a loss as to exactly why this was done (nobody spoke to me about it before or after the order was issued). Based on the letter I received from the GM, it was obvious to me that he was unfamiliar with my work and was acting on some bad advice by his handlers (my detractors). Nonetheless, this forced me to find new venues for my work which is now published by Brothers in other jurisdictions. Interestingly, as a result of the censorship, my stock rose radically while the GM's plummeted. I am now asked to write for a variety of publications and speak to groups outside of my grand jurisdiction.

So, is there free-speech in Freemasonry? Only as much as allowed by the Grand Lodge. Constitutions are interpreted and enforced at the discretion of the Grand Masters which basically gives them broad powers to censor whoever they want. In other words, Masons must walk gingerly on egg cartons or face repercussions. Inevitably, this is causing Freemasons to go underground in their communications. Vehicles such as the Internet provide a convenient means for Masons to cloak their identity and whereabouts. When you think about it, this is barbaric as Masons should be allowed to identify themselves and speak on the level without fear of retribution.

To me, censorship is another indicator of how the tables have turned in Freemasonry. Instead of the Grand Lodges serving the Craft Lodges, it is just the other way around. It means Grand Lodges want nothing less than absolute power.

In a way, it reminds me of a chapter from Ayn Rand's acclaimed novel, "The Fountainhead," about a brilliant architect who dares to stand alone against the hostility of unimaginative conformists. In the book, Howard Roark, the protagonist, is brought up on charges of destroying a building he designed. In the courtroom, he offers an eloquent defense which ultimately leads to his vindication. Although space prohibits me from including his complete courtroom testimony here, there are several passages which have a bearing on the subject at hand. In the courtroom, Roark explains to the jury....

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received — hatred. The great creators--the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.

"Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons--a process of thought. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man — the function of his reasoning mind.

"But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act — the process of reason--must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred.

"We inherit the products of the thought of other men. We inherit the wheel. We make a cart. The cart becomes an automobile. The automobile becomes an airplane. But all through the process what we receive from others is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. The creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men. That which it creates is the property of the creator. Men learn from one another. But all learning is only the exchange of material. No man can give another the capacity to think. Yet that capacity is our only means of survival.

"Rulers of men are not egotists. They create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit. The form of dependence does not matter.

"But men were taught to regard second-handers--tyrants, emperors, dictators — as exponents of egotism. By this fraud they were made to destroy the ego, themselves and others. The purpose of the fraud was to destroy the creators. Or to harness them. Which is a synonym.

"The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is — Hands off!

"Now, in our age, collectivism, the rule of the second-hander and second-rater, the ancient monster, has broken loose and is running amuck. It has brought men to a level of intellectual indecency never equaled on earth. It has reached a scale of horror without precedent. It has poisoned every mind. It has swallowed most of Europe. It is engulfing our country."

The legislation proposed by the Dixie jurisdiction is frightening. If enacted, it sets into motion the enslavement of Masonic minds and, consequently, the erosion of this great fraternity. Freemasonry must remain free.

Keep the Faith.

NOTE: As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

Image: Gary Cooper as Howard Roark, in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

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  1. Freemasonry???????????
    Why even keep the Free in it when we supposedly still take our marching orders from England?

    WHy not just all it American Masonry? Drop the Free!

  2. Boo! The GLs try to sensor anyone would bring the ACLU at the very least down on there asses...

    A puff threat at best!



  3. Ayn Rand??? Ugh. The fact is that architects are the conductors of an orchestra. It may be true that they are visionaries, but they build nothing. It takes engineers, masons, electricians, plumbers, inspectors, carpenters, glazers, painters, carpeters, and a host of others to build a building. Each a craftsman. Each with s contribution.

    For Roarke to do what he did negated the contribution of all of those craftsmen. Roarke acted irresponsibly and cruelly, all for the sake of his vision of purity. Architecture is a collaborative art.

    And so is Masonry. One man, however brilliant, however visionary, does not a lodge make. Except on the Internet ;)

    Rand is a poor example of how to conduct one's life. As one who makes my living as an artist, I can understand why her ideas are so attractive to those who create...but they are flawed, and elitist in the worst way. They are nostalgic toward an arbitrary aristocracy disguised as meritocracy, where great visionaries rule and smaller weaker minds are to obey. After studying her works, I thought about what her utopia would look like and I found it indistinguishable from Germany in the late 1930s. Which makes sense since Rand's Objectivist philosophy was a reaction to and a rejection of Communism. There are no checks or balances in Rand's system. And ultimately, there is no freedom save for a Nietzschean elite.

    The fact is, we do have collective thoughts, and values and ideas. They are the fabric of our Brotherhood. And let's remember that freedom of speech is a right but also a responsibility. We are to use our compasses.

    Just because we have the right to say what we like does not mean we must. Or should. I am not defending those who would make bad decisions for our Craft...when that happens we should not be afraid to speak out, but we should do it responsibly and constructively.

    On the other hand, those who govern us must also understand that their responsibility is to regulate, not control. There is a difference. Keeping things regular does not mean censorship. Hold loosely. Squeeze too tight and you will destroy that which you seek to preserve.

  4. Bro. Diamond,

    At first reading of your eloquent comment, I initially rejected its premise because it began with "ugh." Then I found myself agreeing with some parts of it. Finally, I disagreed with it wholeheartedly and so read it again, with differing results.

    The fact is, that the fact isn't, that we have "collective thoughts." There is no such thing. I can't even get the voices in my own head to agree, and you're trying to pass off as a Fact that "we have collective thoughts"?

    Your philosophy is that of the young architect in Rand's story who agreed to take the money in exchange for honoring Roark's request that the building's plans not be altered in any way. But your philosophy falls apart like a matchstick house built on sand.

    Another visionary, Edgar Cayce, said, "Mind is the builder." Yes, your long list of craftsmen and laborers participated in the physical construction of the building, but they did not participate, and thus, do not "own" in any sense of the word, the CREATION of the building. They traded money for their physical labor, and not all who received wages actually earned them. A few were spotted playing cards out behind the dumpster. Others laid out of work, but still got paid. Others screwed up their assignments, and someone else had to re-do those jobs. Only the architect — the One who Truly Builds — is the Creator.

    The more I think about this, the more I think W. Bro. Bryce was right-on when he chose "The Fountainhead" as a reference point to Freemasonry.

    I appreciate your comments. Your words are pretty, and they did sway me for a moment. But after further thought, I can only conclude there is no such thing as collective thought. There is simply the Thought of One Person, and then, there is Groupthink.

    — W.S.

  5. What about that whole "Accepted" thing as well?


  6. From another perspective with a similar pattern to its development: religion, and specifically Mormonism (my own religion), I'd like to make an observation that Freedom of speech has been deteriorating at a constant rate since about 1890. And, this largely destroys the heart of the faith, as far as I am concerned. To fear to speak puts one in a situation that makes it impossible to show either emotional situation properly, be it support and pride or criticism. I have no doubt that in Freemasonry, if this course is pursued, the heart of Masonry will be stifled as well.

    Masonry is about Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Censorship undercuts all three of those.

  7. you have free speech in masonry except the freedom to discuss politics or religion in a Lodge room.

    Good thing our American Forefathers never adhered to that BS!

    Cowards hiding behind OB's


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