When things go wrong for you, you often think you're the only one it's happened to. That's the way I felt when I first started this blog to relate my negative experiences in Freemasonry.
As The Burning Taper gained readership, I began hearing similar stories from brothers in jurisdictions all across the country.
While it's sad to know that so much disharmony exists in the brotherhood, by some twisted logic it's comforting to know you're not alone in your experiences. Masonic disagreements, over rules and procedures, property, ritual, egos, perceptions, and even religion and politics happen every day. Maybe Masons don't have more disagreements than members of any other group, but with the fraternity having "peace and harmony" as a goal and "brotherly love" as a major tenet, it's all the more awkward, embarrassing and disappointing when we don't get along.
One of the most common causes of disagreement is the clash of ideas between otherwise friendly-to-each-other brothers. It usually takes the form of a newer, more progressive-thinking Mason presenting ideas and suggestions of change to older, more conservative brothers, who generally are by nature resistant to change. At its extreme, it is the classic battle between neophobes and neophiles, those averse to novelty versus those who have an affinity for novelty.
"That's not the way we do it around here" is almost a cliche; we've all heard that said repeatedly by our more senior brothers.
And yes, some things probably shouldn't be changed.
But I've noticed that most of the things long-time Masons are averse to changing aren't necessarily long-time Masonic traditions or landmarks. Usually, what they want to hold onto is some way of doing things that was introduced into their lodge within their own lifetime, that, for them, has become tradition. When you compare their sacred-cow-you-can't-change to official code or traditional landmark, you'll find that someone in their own lodge's not-too-distant past made a change and then that change became "the way we do things around here."
Some lodge-specific traditions are benign, like always holding the annual Widow's Breakfast on the first Saturday of December, or a brother who has staked out a certain chair in the lodgeroom as "his."
Other lodge-specific traditions are actually against Masonic code, or not Uniform Work, like not having the officers march in at the beginning of a meeting, or not requiring a brother to stand and salute the East before speaking, or praying loud and long to Jesus when sectarian religious activity is specifically prohibited. Georgia Masonic Code, for example, speaks of having the official state flag displayed stage-left in a lodge room. Even I didn't dare mention that our lodge's state flag, with its Confederate Battle Flag field, was officially changed by the state six years ago, and by code should be replaced with the new flag.
I noticed, too, in my lodge, that while Past Masters were adamant about new members learning and reciting ritual correctly, like saying "the" instead of "a" in a specific part in the ritual, they were loathe to learn and use an updated section of ritual even when the Grand Lodge's ritual committee officially changed it. "That's not the way we say it," I was told.
I've even seen a Past Master argue, in front of a large group, with the official instructor of ritual during a School of Instruction about the proper place for the Senior Warden to stand during a certain moment in degree work. His rationale? "That's the way we do it at our lodge!"
He was calmly told, "I'm teaching you the Uniform Work. How you do it at your lodge is up to you." Ten brothers from my lodge attending the school have just seen the proper way to do it, and absorbed that as the correct way, yet when they later try to do it that way at their home lodge, the same Past Master shouts out, "That's not the way we do it here." Funny... ten men would do it that way — the correct way — if the one Past Master holding onto his incorrect "tradition" would hold his tongue and let them.
The new brother, or a neophile brother, risks censure and more if he dares question lodge-specific "traditions."
Image: "From Hell"
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