The Ballot: The Protector of Harmony
by The Palmetto Bug
In response to Widow's Son invitation for a guest essay I have agreed to wade into somewhat hostile territory in the hopes that his suggested exchange will at least provide a break from some of the petty sniping that has infiltrated our little Masonic oriented piece of the Internet.
Widow's Son posed the topic for the essays: Masonic harmony, unity, and discord. I'm going to stick with the harmony aspect of his suggestion since the absence of harmony automatically destroys unity and creates discord.
Whose harmony are we talking about? I submit that you must start at the Lodge level when discussing this word. Therefore, I'm talking about the Lodge's harmony. If harmony does not exist at the Lodge level then it cannot exist at the district level, the Grand Lodge level, or across Grand Jurisdictional lines.
Without harmony, all else will suffer or be nonexistent. Masonic education, charity, wholesome fellowship, and trust between Brothers will all become secondary and unimportant. The Senior Warden's comments during the opening and closing — at least in the ritual of most jurisdictions — allude to the importance of having harmony in the Lodge. Based on the Senior Warden's words, one could almost say that harmony should be the number one tenet of the Fraternity.
Now, we all know that one cannot make all of the people happy all of the time. With that said, what is a Lodge's greatest tool in preserving harmony? I say it is the ballot. The ballot is the tool, when used properly, that the Lodge employs to preserve its harmony. Please notice that I did not say "spread" harmony. The Fraternity is not currently in the business of spreading harmony. Though the spreading of harmony sounds like a laudable endeavor, it is an utopian ideal that is impossible to implement at this point. A Lodge is only in the business of preserving it own harmony. Attempts at the spreading of harmony would involve allowing just about anyone into the Fraternity and that would actually pose a risk to the existing harmony of a Lodge.
I'll close now by including a portion of a previously published piece of mine. The following was also used in as a Masonic education oral paper that I delivered to my Lodge. Hopefully this will help to illustrate the importance of the ballot and its impact on the harmony of a Lodge.
What is the "will of the Lodge?" More importantly, what is the Lodge?— The Palmetto Bug
The Lodge is all of its members... collectively and individually. The Three Musketeers would recognize what I am saying here. "Unus, pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (One for all, all for one)."
This relates directly to the process of electing new members to the Lodge. The creators of the secret, unanimous ballot knew what they were doing and they had it right when they created the system. They knew what some seem to have forgotten, which is that the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. The harmony of the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. Remember, the petitioner is not yet a Brother. He is not yet of the Lodge and he is just a profane who is seeking light. That may sound harsh, but it is the naked truth.
Now, let me speak on the reason the ballot must be unanimous, or nearly unanimous in certain Jurisdictions. The Lodge decides who becomes a member. Not a majority of the Lodge... but THE Lodge (I wish I could emphasize that even more). Remember the phrase, "All for one, one for all." The creators of the ballot system knew that the task of deciding on whether or not to admit new members was so important, and had such far-reaching implications, that it could not be left to the few or even to a majority. All of the members have to decide. The Lodge has to decide. Majority rule, though currently the best system for society, creates conflict. Unanimous rule, though utopian at this time for general society, creates harmony.
I'll now examine why the ballot is secret. Too easy. Why is your vote for the next President secret? See, even the profane have figured this one out. A voter or a balloter must have complete freedom to go with his conscience. Requiring him to divulge his vote or ballot and/or provide a reason for his decision can influence his action and, thereby, remove some of the freedom that a secret vote or ballot guarantees.
Are good men sometimes denied membership? Of course. It happens. You have to keep in mind, though, that the harmony of the Lodge trumps any perceived "rights" of the petitioner. Masonically speaking, the petitioner has no rights.
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