Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Confusion leads to clarity

The "battle" between Antient (conventional) Masonry and Modern (United Grand Lodge of America, a return-to-the-basics organization considered "clandestine" by the Antients) Freemasonry is heating up, with Masonic forums overflowing with discussions, complaints, etc., and more Antient Grand Lodges threatening their members for discussing or supporting the Moderns.

For the sake of clarity, I'm posting here a comparison chart showing the main differences between Antients and Moderns. This chart is not original with me; it's from the United Grand Lodge of America.

Antient Freemasonry:
  • Has numerous Grand Lodges throughout the country usually divided into jurisdictions by state.
  • Most Grand Lodges recognize one another as legitimate but from time to time there are disputes, the most recent in Minnesota.
  • Based on Judeo/Christian philosophy but open to men of most monotheistic religions. In rare cases open to polytheists.
  • Teaches a form of morality common to that found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
  • Has a multitude of side organizations, some are invitation-only. These organizations claim to be able to teach things that are above and beyond the degree of Master Mason, or in some cases to further elaborate on the Symbolic three degrees.
  • Has purely social organizations attached to it such as the Shrine and Grotto.
  • Has a multitude of diverse charities.
  • Offers little in form of continuing education, Masonic or otherwise.
  • Most of its lodges are social in nature and about 75% of the membership is 70+ years of age.
  • The Grand Lodges in the Southeastern United States do not accept African-American members nor do they recognize the legitimacy of the primarily African-American Prince Hall Grand Lodges.
  • The Antient Grand Lodges do not allow their members to visit Modern lodges and have strict penalties for violators, usually expulsion from their organization.
  • Due to some of their side orders being by invitation, not all of their members can join all of their organizations.

Modern Freemasonry:
  • One central Grand Lodge oversees the entire United States.
  • Based on natural philosophy, science, and a unique system of morality not associated with any known religion.
  • Offers only the three Symbolic degrees of Free-Masonry: Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and Master Mason.
  • Does not offer any side orders or purely social organizations.
  • Contributes to three charities: Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International, and The Nature Conservancy.
  • Accepts men of all races and creeds.
  • Offers extensive Masonic, Moral, and Scientific continuing education.
  • Its lodges are community focused and are composed of men with an average age of 35.
  • The Modern Grand Lodge does not concern itself with whether or not its members visit lodges from other systems.
  • All members are able to participate in all degrees.
  • Does not have invitation-only side orders.
  • The Modern Grand Lodge is the only Grand Lodge in the United States that offers the three Symbolic degrees as they were in 1735 under the original Premier Grand Lodge of 1717.
Image: "Confusion under Normal Light," by Jaqueline Ripstein, from

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  1. Personally I don't see much difference between either version. The ritual unites us and, sometimes it seems, everything else divides us.

    I find it interesting to note that, in the list of the criteria for 'modern' Freemasonry, it doesn't include women. The OES is very popular around here and seems to serve the need and desire for co-Masonry quite well.

    The stories I have heard about racism in Freemasonry deeply trouble me. I have never heard a racist comment ever in any lodge or any fellowship I have been involved in. Members of my lodge recently visited a Prince Hall Lodge to witness a 3rd degree.

    It appears to me, at least in our state, that the segregation is largely voluntary and I know for a fact that no one would be excluded from either of my lodges based on race.

    I suppose there is a reason I live north of the Mason-Dixon line...

  2. Wow! "Battle"? "Heating up"? "Overflowing"? My, how exciting!

    Unfortunately, this seems to be more of an instance of several brothers who might be having trouble with that "subduing one's passions" thingie. Most of the spin seems to originate with certain members (or supporters) of the UGLA itself. The several links that I've seen which try to describe the difference between the UGLA and the more mainstream GLs (which are ingenuously framed as an "antient vs modern" contention) psint the mainstream lodges in an unbelievably unfavorable light. Unbelievable, that is, because I would have assumed that any organization professing to be a more "real" version of Masonry would have taken pains to be more fair-minded.

    For example, this entry would seem to paint mainstream Freemasonry as a bunch of toddering old bigots - certainly not *my* experience of Masonry at all! In fact, I see some outright prevarication halfway through the last paragraph. I don't know of *any* GL that asks the race or religion of their members. To suggest that certain GLs refuse to allow blacks completely misses the point that GLs do not make Masons at all! It's the individual lodges that choose who allow. Perhaps some people need to remember that GL officers and rules are voted on by the members of the lodges themselves. In addition, the writer seems to ignore that many PH GLs also choose not to recognize the mainstream GLs in their own state.

    Issues of recognition move at the speed of glaciers, it's true, but they do move. Perhaps those looking to create a new GL could better use their energy by working harder to promote change from within the organization. But certainly, attacking hard-working mainstream brothers is not going to help their cause.

    Tom Accuosti
    Friendship #33

  3. I find it interesting that so many mainstream masons find it hard to believe that there is no segregation at the Grand Lodge level. It is true Grand Lodges do not raise brothers, local lodges do and yes there is nothing on the petitions that ask about race, the ACLU would have a field day if there was. What color balls go into the ballot box is where the decisions are made and everyone knows those are secret even from each other. The attempt here by Tom is misleading and the product of a well crafted propoganda engine crafted by the Grand Lodges to crush any decention.

    In 1999 on the Grand Lodge floor in Alabama the topic of Prince Hall recognition was raised and the brother was told on the floor

    "If you wanted to sit with Niggers then you should join a Nigger lodge."

    Sorry for the N word reference but it was a quote.

  4. Now just who is it that the Antients are talking to from a planet around Sirius B?

  5. An early defining moment for me regarding southern Freemasonry happened in 2003, shortly after I'd been raised. It made me wonder if I'd inadvertently joined the Klan. For a while, I seriously considered dropping my membership right then and there, and to this day still regret not having stood up immediately and said something against what I witnessed. I was still new, and unwilling at that time to buck the status quo, I guess, but the moment set me firmly along the disharmonious Masonic path I've since taken.

    That year the issue of whether to form a committee to talk about holding a meeting with Prince Hall to discuss the possibility about recognizing each other had been brought up at Grand Lodge, and soundly defeated.

    The bi-monthly magazine for Georgia Masons, "The Masonic Messenger," had just arrived in everyone's mailbox a day or two before a regular lodge meeting at a nearby lodge I attended. This was not my home lodge, but one nearby that I visited nearly as often as I did my own.

    The Worshipful Master talked about the article in the magazine, saying, "Well, I guess everyone saw that we don't have to worry about them niggers any more."

    Unrecognized, a member (I can't call him brother) shouted out, "Niggers! Heh! I think everyone should own themselves a couple of those!"

    The brethren laughed, giggled, guffawed, or nervously chuckled. Except for me. I felt sick to my stomach. Still do, thinking about it.

    I talked to a few Masons afterwards about how it made me feel. The general consensus was basically, "Oh, that's just the way ol' whats-his-name is!"

    Unfortunately, most of the lodge was made up of ol' whats-his-names.

    — Widow's Son

  6. I agree with what one of the anonymous posters said. We don't need to ratchet up an us/versus them debate that is detrimental to the purpose of the craft as a whole.

    We have heard enough by now to recognize that in some areas Masonry has some flaws, often deep flaws, and that in other areas it is much closer to striving towards and ideal. Many of the ideals of 'modern' Freemasonry can already be found in juerisdictions in more progressive states.

    Let us all remember that we are part of a universal brotherhood dedicated to the principles which are inculcated in the ritual.

    And, finally, if I were to sit in a lodge and hear the kind of racist comments I heard reported above, I would immediately get up and leave.

    Of course, then again, chances are I wouldn't even live in the *STATE* the author was living in a the time for the same exact reason.

    Brother John

  7. Thanks, John. I am certainly not part of any well crafted propaganda engine ;-) But I do have a concern that the sturn und drang seems mainly on the part of a small group of bloggers and forum posters who want to make this look like some kind of David vs Goliath contention. It's not. And frankly, if some group decides to go off on their own because they think that they'll get something that they're not getting from mainstream Freemasonry, then more power to them.

    The fact is that there are literaly dozens of different unrecognized (i.e., clandestine) GLs all over the US, and have been for over a century. In my own state of Conn, I've got two or three "men only" groups, plus a branch of another GL That admits women. Somehow we all seem to get along because the men and women that join those GLs get soemthing out of them that they don't think that they get out of our AF&AM. I'm pleased to know several of their members, myself.

    I realize that my experience is skewed. Conn was among the first, if not the first US State to recognize PH masons, and my lodge was the first to hold an intervisitation with a local PH lodge - interesting, too, because my own lodge has several black members, who have gone off to the SR and Shrine.

    I have never lived in the southern US, but word gets around :-\ I want to stress that Widow's Son simply reinforces the point I was trying to make: The GL is not going to change if the majority of brothers themselves don't make their views known, strongly and clearly. You state those views lodge by lodge, by not bowing to pressure to drop black cubes, by bending the ear of your DDGM at the next picnic, or, if necessary, by demitting from your lodge to join one more suited.

    Unfortunately, it seems that many of the brothers in the mainstream lodges either don't care, or would prefer things to remain the way that they are. That's sad, and if the UGLA actually represents only a minority position, then it's clear that the position on PH recognition is not going to change anytime soon.

    As to the idea that there is some kind of antagonism between mainstream Masonry and the UGLA - hogwash. I've spent some time reading posts made over the last few months, and I get the impression that many mainstream Masons are saddened by both the fact that such unfortunate bigotted attitudes exist, and by the overly dramatic justifications by the UGLA supporters. Some - probably most - feel that the supporters could better use their time and energy to organize their mainstream brethren. As AF&AM, you could visit lodges to speak out; as clandestines, you won't get past the front door. How can you hope to change attitudes by shouting from the street, as it were?

    Tom Accuosti
    Friendship #33

  8. Even in the Northern Lodges, which have filled with southerners, heard the same thing. A lodge raised a black man and they were called nigger lovers. One KYCH actually called him boy and nothing happened!
    The spirit of freemasonry cannot be contained by rules and regulations. Freemasonry spawned from free spirits and too many rules by a tyrrannical system. Sound familiar... why disenfranchised brothers need to be attacked for showing zeal for something they believe in. Something that is trying to spread universal brotherhood is a negative?
    there is room for all of us .

  9. You're living in a Pollyanna world up there in Connecticut, Bro. Tom.

    UGLA members worked for years from "inside the system," trying to change things. For their efforts, they were "whited out" from their lodges' rolls.

    I worked for years trying to improve my lodge, by talking with members individually as well as in groups in my role as Director of Masonic Education. For my efforts, I was threatened with charges of unmasonic conduct by a Grand Lodge member for speaking my mind and following Masonic Code. Read my story if you haven't already.

    UGLA'ers, myself, and other dissatisfied Masons around the country have tried for a very long time to work within the system. It hasn't changed things in the South.

    You said the members control the Grand Lodges, that we can effect change through wiser voting. Not so! In Georgia, there is a "Grand Lodge line." Once you get appointed as Third Grand Steward, all you must do is "abide your time" and in eight or nine years, you get to be Grand Poobah and appoint a crony to the line yourself. It's self-perpetuating. I can already tell that the next several years are gonna be the same, or worse, for Antient Georgia Masonry.

    Members get to vote about issues at Grand Lodge? Ha... not in Georgia. The only people who get to vote at Grand Lodge are Sitting and Past Masters. Most progressive thinkers never make it to the East in their lodges. Several UGLA'ers were Junior and Senior Wardens in their lodges when they were "deleted." I was Junior Warden in mine, on the "fast track" to the East when my outspokenness caught the ire of certain Georgia Grand Lodge officers.

    These disaffected bloggers you so easily dismiss aren't being "overly dramatic" for no reason; they're trying to get the attention of those brothers in the Antient lodges who still have ears to hear. You're not going to get that attention with your hat in hand, speaking softly, and worrying too much about "peace and harmony."

    — W.S.

  10. Bro. Accuosti,

    With all due respect, that’s a load of horse crap. It is readily apparent to the public that there is a racial divide among Freemasons. The very fact that Prince Hall Grand Lodges even exist is proof of a racially divisive past, and the fact that many Grand Lodges still don’t recognize Prince Hall or admit African American men into their lodges is a black mark against all Masons for allowing this segregation to continue for as long as it has. Even in the jurisdictions where Prince Hall brothers are “recognized” they are not always welcomed into the present lodges.

    If you honestly believe that the UGLA is just a few disgruntled brothers then you need to step back and reassess the situation that is unfolding. Many Masons across this country have had enough of the bigoted and immoral practices of the present Grand Lodges. Last year two young Masons were expelled without trial in Kentucky for asking questions about the finances of the Masonic home. Both sued and were reinstated. Another brother was expelled in Virginia, sued and was reinstated. Over 20 brethren were denied due process and expelled in Arkansas in violation of the Masonic Code. Several brothers were expelled without the benefit of due process in Georgia. Brother Tim Bryce was forced to take down all of his Masonic web sites by the tyrannical Grand Master of Florida. There have been multiple exposes of the corruption within the Shrine in the media. Wake up! The present Grand Lodges have BIG problems and the brothers who still have a moral conscience have had enough.

    You’re a smart guy and should realize that there is a serious need for change within the American fraternity of Freemasons. If you think that can be accomplished from within then why hasn’t something been done over the last fifty years? Do we, as Masons, need to continue to tolerate the “glacial” progress or do we have this same discussion fifty years from now when nothing has changed. Wake up! Our fraternity is dying and we need to do something now before it is too late.


  11. I wholeheartedly agree with that racism is alive an well, but it is a bit naive to limit its reach to southern states or to northern lodges seemingly "infected" by "southerners." I am a former member of a Texas lodge and am now a member of a Minnesota lodge, and I can confidently say that I have experienced more bigotry and racism in Minnesota than in Texas. But this is not an issue over which portion of the country is more or less tolerant, or which Grand Lodge conforms to true Masonic ideals. Those of you who have never experienced racist or bigoted comments during a lodge meeting are fortunate, because the experience of "Mary and the Widow's Son" is all too common. Recognition and change move at an unacceptable pace. Lodges lament their ability to attract and retain younger members. Most young men were raised not to tolerate such explicit bigotry that was more acceptable generations ago and is still present with our older lodge members. The tenants of Freemasonry are timeless, but I myself have been consistently disappointed by their absence in the Lodge. When I attempt to introduce topics centered on Masonic education and ideals, I am met with audible groans in the lodge and clock-watching. The lodge education officer tells me not to bother; we have never included education and the brothers need to get home. I have seen very little attempts by a lodge to "take a good man and make him better." It is easy for the critics of the UGLA to dismiss complaints from other brothers simply because you have not had the same experiences in Freemasonry. There are many good Masons who continually strive to make the "Antient" lodges better from within. Your particular lodge may follow a true Masonic path, but many of your brothers are fighting a losing battle in other jurisdictions. The UGLA may not be the best approach, but its existence should be a wake-up call to all Grand Lodges.

  12. Regarding the reasons why the UGLA was formed. You can try to go against the flow...But when the forces that be have it in that they will NOT change... Perhaps it's best that you surround yourself with people of like mind in an organization that states it's ideals clearly and does not have instances where what they do and say are in contention.



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