Saturday, March 03, 2007

Shriners and Scottish Rite as Masonic lobbyists

Masonic Lobbyists by Tim Bryce, PM, MPS

"It is no secret that participation in the Masonic fraternity has been dropping for at least 50 years. Evidence of our decline is the fact that our membership totals are at their lowest levels in more than 80 years." — "It's About Time!", Masonic Service Association of North America

We have discussed Masonic membership trends on more than one occasion in the past. Some Masons believe our decline was inevitable as membership was over inflated following WW II and that a decline was well overdue. This has led to several experimental programs, such as the "fast track" one-day class, which is still considered controversial in many Masonic circles, and lowering the age requirement to 18. Even with these inventions, our numbers continue to dwindle.

The decline in membership is having a ripple affect throughout the fraternity, including the allied and appendant bodies of Freemasonry. As a small example, in my area alone, the number of chapters of the OES and High 12 have diminished sharply, Jobs Daughters and DeMolay have closed their doors, and all of the Rites and Shrine organizations have reported significant losses. I recently heard from a Michigan Shriner who reported his temple's membership had declined by 800 members over the last two years. Many other jurisdictions are reporting similar declines in membership.

So, as membership in the Craft Lodges decline, so goes the allied and appendant bodies who recruit Freemasons for their orders, which is why the Shrine waived the requirement to be a Scottish or York Rite Mason prior to becoming a Shriner. The Scottish and York Rites are still reeling from this decision. Further, rumors abound that the Shrine will someday create a new class of Shriner thereby allowing non-Masons to join their organization. Regardless, knowing their survival depends on the Craft Lodges, these bodies have begun to take a more proactive approach to working with Grand Lodges; perhaps too "proactive."

Some Grand Lodges are beginning to feel the squeeze of the allied and appendant bodies, particularly the Scottish Rite who uses their coveted 33rd degree as an incentive to cooperate with Scottish Rite policy. As one Past Grand Master recently lamented to me, "As long as the Sovereign Grand Inspector General is allowed to run our Grand Lodge, and we have Grand Masters looking for a white hat, they will listen to whatever he wants, and we will have censorship of everything that would limit his influence. His exact words are, 'Grand Masters Govern for one year, I Govern forever. I am the Grand Lodge.'"

Such words are disturbing to Masonic purists who believe the dog should wag the tail and not the other way around. It is also rumored that the Scottish Rite is heavily involved in establishing policy for the Conference of North American Grand Masters. But the Scottish Rite is not alone in terms of accusations of meddling as the Shrine in some jurisdictions is viewed as flexing its muscles now and then. Whether these accusations are true or not is immaterial, a perception is emerging among Masons that the Grand Lodges are beginning to dance to someone else's tune. And why not? Since the survival of the allied and appendant bodies depends on the Grand Lodges, why wouldn't they want to take control, particularly when Grand Lodges are ambivalent when it comes to membership?

Masons elect Grand Masters on the belief they will provide unbiased leadership. They want people who will focus on the problems and opportunities confronting the Craft Lodges, such as membership. They do not want leaders who are easily influenced and manipulated by others, be it a Masonic body or otherwise. We most definitely do not need the meddling of Masonic lobbyists.

One last note on membership; I do not believe our problem with the decline of membership can be solved on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis; that it must be solved in a uniform manner throughout the fraternity. A uniform policy on membership, public relations, etc. will greatly facilitate getting the word out to the fine young men out there who yearn for what Freemasonry has to offer, yet know nothing about it. Currently, the only way this can happen in North America, is through the Conference of Grand Masters, but if this is indeed controlled by the Scottish Rite, perhaps we should clear it with them first.

Keep the Faith.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. 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:

Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

Copyright © 2007 by Tim Bryce.

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

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  1. The existence of the allied and appendant bodies is not dependent upon the Grand Lodges. It is dependent upon Craft Masonry, alone.

    The Scottish Rite is a system of degrees predicated upon the first three degrees. Scottish Rite jurisprudence empowers the SR to confer these Craft Degrees but it does not exercise that power- yet - due to principles of comity and fealty with Grand Lodges, two concepts you will never hear discussed in any Masonic assembly.

    In my neck of the Masonic woods - Ohio - the SR acts to facilitate Grand Lodge programs, some of which are "controversial" and some of which are not. The SR submits expressly in fealty to the Grand Lodge every June at its state-wide meeting of the SR.

    However, I can see how such "lobbying" could occur where the Grand Lodge and the Rites are out of step with each other.

    The Imperial Shrine believed that the Rites were an obstacle that, once removed, would allow a flood of members. There was nothing on the other side of the dam and no flood occured. Most Shrine leaders (Imperial included) now admit that removing the Rites as a prerequisite was a mistake that produced not an increase in membership as hoped but a more precepitous decline in membership. The SR suffered equally with the Shrine. Those eggs are now scrambled and cannot be unscrambled.

    In an effort to boost numbers, the SR might go a different path. The SR could bypass an intransigent Grand Lodge system but yet maintain the integrity of its Masonic system by conferring the Craft Degrees itself.

    I do not recommend such a move because it would be as destructive to SR and Grand Lodges as was the Shrine action.

    Look at the history of secret societies worldwide in the last 150 years. After economic forces, the leading cause of fraternal demise is schism.

  2. Within the next ten years your will see the SR confering the three Craft Degrees.
    COGMINA is now simply an extension of the SR with very few if any Grand Masters not being "white hats".
    I have always been curious as to why American Freemasonry even recognized the SR in the first place as it has absolutely no historical connection to the Craft. It's origins in America are dubious at best and was, in effect, a rather obscure allied body until it's burst of membership during the early part of the 20th Century. At that time in America there was an intense movement of extreme nationalism, white anglo-protestantism that not only gave rise to numbers in the SR but also the KKK in the 1920's. In 2007 we see that agenda on the rise again.
    It would truly be unfortunate for the SR to control American Freemasonry but I'm afraid it's too late.

  3. agreed anonymous...
    blue lodge has been pushed aside for the appendage title bearing groups......

  4. The 'Third Degree' is not 'true Masonry' either, it was added on in a high handed fashion by the occultists of Royal Society.

    True Masonry was and is a simple union of loyal and devout Catholic Christian men, with two degree's - apprentice and Master.

    Return to Truth, return to the Church, return to Regularity.

    Yours in Christ,

  5. You need to study the history of social organizations as I have, anonymous (the non-spooky catholic anonymous).

    No one except unidentified bloggers seriously believe that the growth in fraternalism in the late 19th Century was primarily the product of racism and hyper-nationalism. No doubt that certain groups like the KKK and other ethnic/nativist groups predicated their membership on these factors. But the large growth is not explained by such factors. Try industrialization, urban growth, decline in agrarianism, changes roles of women in society, to name just a few. Human behavior is rarely explained with a few jingoistic rants.

    I am most curious with your apparent association of the SR with the racial hostility of the Klan. Is that the agenda that is now, in your opinion, once again, on the march?
    How are the SR's policies racially based in any way? Is SR more discriminatory than the Grand Lodges? I thought your main beef was that Southern Grand Lodges were racist, not the SR. The SR should if anything be less racist because both jurisdictions cover large geographical areas. SR Masons in LA or Seattle are of probably a different mindset than those in Georgia, for example. (I have no dog in the Southern Masons Are Racists fight; I like Georgia and Georgians, except for their restrooms on I-75).

    Also, SR's origins here are no less historically dubious than those of Craft Freemasonry in Europe. Further, Grand Lodges here and in Europe in the 19th Century had no problem with the roots of the fledgling SR. If they had, they could have declared it clandestine like a lot of other rituals and enjoined its practice in their jurisdictions. And that was when SR had only a handful of members and none of the evil political power you ascribe to it today.

    If I have misread your points, please respond.

  6. The truth is about to come out and when it does the world will know the real SR.


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