Thursday, August 03, 2006

Guest editorial: Are there really two versions of Freemasonry, one a politically correct social club, the other a profound, universal brotherhood?

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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  1. All I can say is "Hell Yeah!" Thank you for posting this Brother. Is the tide turning or am I just being overly optimistic?

    G Mason

  2. Nice,
    I think this is a great letter. Now, I'm curious to see the outcome. People will either listen to what was said and honestly contemplate it, ignore it and let it float down the river, or excommunicate dthe brother who wrote it and issue a poclimation about the new GL.

    An old institution is like a big boat, really hard to turn, even when it faces an iceberg.

    I'm glad you posted this.

  3. Fanstastic! Great article - thought provoking and well balanced. THanks for finding this gem and posting it.

  4. Sometimes those big boats CAN"T turn and won't........

  5. I think we tried very hard to help the Grand Lodge of Georgia and to work with Grand Master Garner. Unfortunately, all we received in return was a knife in the back. It is difficult to pursue brotherhood and virtue when you are being forced to constantly look over your shoulder. :-(

  6. I have also moved on due to both Freemasonry and Masonry having the wrong bureaucracy and the wrong members ... I wish I could say they deserve each other, but they don't and our Alma mater is the loser ... while bands of sacred knights we might be, history has shown that this sort of thinking leads to delaminated paradigms that get us all into a lot of trouble ... you already have the secret, use it to get a life ... focus on the ends and stop wasting time with the means ... Stuart, PM & 30', Australia

  7. Fantastic article. I've been so down in the dumps with my lodge lately. I'm a younger member at 30 and am having a hard time finding brothers in my own lodge that think more of Masonry than a tea club.

  8. Hello,

    You stated that you don't have any idea what the rituals are about...there are a lot of older books out there that will tell you these things.

    I stopped going to the lodge myself...99% of the masons I have met think masonry is about following SIMPLE moral rules, and making breakfast. This is silly.

    If you try to explain what masonry is really about, everyone looks at you like youre a nutjob idiot.

    It is so disappointing. Nobody gets it....Pike said that most wouldn't get it, and would think it was a charitable orginization, but I find so many don't get it, That I don't have anyone to discuss it with, and of course the rituals are done sloppily because they thik it doesn't matter..

    One of the main overt clues in masonry is to use your intellect and study and discover....people join the masons, read the silly brochures at the front door and say, oh ok, give money to the poor.

    very very and two others have considered starting and clandestined lodge, but who the hell would join, there are only three of us...

    that is all.

    Mr. Sadloaf

  9. I know what you mean Greg...that's four...we need a few more to start our lodge.


  10. Mr. Sadloaf,

    You might want to contact the United Grand Lodge of America. There you may find what you're looking for.

    — W.S.

  11. W.S.

    I was thinking about it. Are you a member?


  12. Well,

    i read the United Grand Lodge is not like they have lodges that are dedicated to the truth...They are just like..if you want we can educate your lodge, if they want to join...well my lodge wont join because they don't know what's going on, and I only have three people including me that are interested in getting back to real mosonry, sooooo where does that leave me?. nowhere...and besides the United Grand Lodge seems to say, "whatever ritual you want to use, and however you want to work is fine with us." what's that about? They are kind of like the aunt you don't really have and never did have who says, hey if you want to come over, I can tell you what your aunt would have said if you had one...first tell me what youre about and I will change my message to suit.....

    Look what we need is a new lodge system that studies the old books..pike, wilmshurst, ledbetter, mackey, etc...organizes with people who get it, get to real spirit building....this united whatever isn't going to do anything the way they are going...the problem is that they may have had a right idea, but softened so that they could get more then 8 people to's kind of like the articles of conferderation after the independence war, it was weak and failed... this is what happened to masonry as get more people to join, and more money, they stopped discussing occult matters and started making breakfast and begging for coins at football games...the problem is they got the new ignorant members and now that is all they have.



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