Monday, September 29, 2008

A flawed system: Why there is so much disunity, disharmony and discord in Freemasonry

This is the eighth in our series of essays from guest bloggers on the topic "Masonic harmony, unity and discord." This one is by Bro. Fred Milliken, also known as Squire Bentley. Bro. Milliken is the publisher of the Masonic blog "The Beehive." My thanks go out to Bro. Fred and to all who are participating in this project.

A Flawed System: Why There is So Much Disunity, Disharmony & Discord in Freemasonry
by Bro. Fred Milliken

Freemasonry grew up with the birth of our nation, thus the Masonry in each state was considered sovereign as were the states. After the US gained its independence a loose association of states was formed under The Articles of Confederation. When this proved to be unworkable a more serious commitment to Federalization was put in place under the US Constitution.

The point is Freemasonry never changed and grew with the country and its civil government; never realized the mistakes made when too many decision makers afford no accountability. American Freemasonry stayed locked in the mode and style of 1776 thereby never allowing an American Masonic Identity. There was and there is no such thing as American Freemasonry, there is only Californian Masonry, New York Masonry, Texas Masonry etc.

In parts of the world in civil government there are artificial countries, with artificial boundaries and no sense of national pride. Whether it be Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq or various African nations, the artificial boundaries hold a loose collection of Tribes. These countries are said to have a Tribal System. Tribal equals trouble.

Next year the USA will have a new President, either Obama or McCain. Whoever it may be I know that that person will speak for the entire country even though they lack total dictatorial power. My President will be a Unifier, attempting at all times to bring the country together.

American Freemasonry has a Tribal Mentality which leads to constant friction, dissension and outright war. American Freemasonry has no Unifier, rather it practices Separatism. This is one reason we have so much disharmony and discord.

If you like the present system of 51 Feudal Barons lording themselves over 51 fiefdoms then you pay the price of increased disharmony and discord. And you automatically empower and refuse to condemn a Masonic jurisdiction such as West Virginia which has not yet entered the 20th century never mind the 21st.

As each fiefdom goes its separate way, some jurisdictions have admitted a large number of agenda driven people, those with an ax to grind, and when they have sufficient numbers they have changed Freemasonry.

For instance in some states conservative Christian evangelicals have overtaken some Grand Lodges and written into their state Masonic code a Christianization of their state's Freemasonry. Freemasonry had previously gradually evolved into being religiously neutral and it still is in many American jurisdictions. Prayers to Jesus, extra Bible readings in Lodge, no Holy Book permitted on the altar but the Bible, District Christian Church services, Bible presentations upon raising, no gambling permitted, no alcohol on Lodge property are just some examples of the way some Masons have codified their own personal moral and religious beliefs into the Constitutions and by-laws of their Grand Lodge. The Freemasonry in Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee looks a great deal different from the Freemasonry in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois and California.

Some of these same Masons have used the outmoded system of balloting to exclude men of diversity and to allow to enter others that do not reflect the values of Freemasonry. This amounts to ethnic cleansing or purifying the Lodge. Those welcome are Christians, politically conservative, White Supremists, Protestants, Republicans, the KKK and the Militia. Those blackballed and excluded are Blacks, the politically liberal, Jews, those in the peace movement or civil rights movement, Democrats, Muslims and anybody with a funny accent.

Some of us do not seem to be able to celebrate diversity. In Lodges in India you can find at the same time Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Jains, and Buddhists all sitting side by side. There are five Volumes of the Sacred Law on the altar: The Bhagvad Gita for the Hindus, The Qur'an for the Muslims, The Avesta for the Parsis or Zoroaastrians, The Bible for the Christians and Jews and The Granth Sahib for the Sikhs. If this does not cover the field a candidate may bring his own book of Faith. You will also find many different skin colors and political allegiances.

If you travel to Canada and experience their Freemasonry you won't find these deep seated divisions and animosities. Neither will you find them in the British Isles. Perhaps it is the nature of our contentious American society where Americans tend to be hysterical and mean spirited that dooms us to a Freemasonry of constant bickering, disharmony and discord.

As Masons we have been taught to be tolerant and accepting. This is one of the traits for which a Mason is well known. But we have carried tolerance too far. Those who have subverted Freemasonry for ulterior motives and their own ends want us to tolerate intolerance. How do you fight evil if you are required to tolerate it?

Other divisive and disharmonious behavior comes from a traditionalist attitude I sometimes refer to as "legalistic Masonry." These Masons, often entrenched in seats of Grand Lodge power, refuse to allow the change or reform of Freemasonry one iota, not even one word in one sentence. And they tell you that trying to change Freemasonry is a violation of a Mason’s Obligation. The reformers do not seek a change in the ritual or message of Freemasonry but rather the procedures and processes that back the practice of the Craft. This dedication to "legalistic Freemasonry" can be seen in those who insist on maintaining the Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction from Prince Hall inclusion. Their adherence to the strict letter of the law puts policy above people, separation above unity and reminds one of the cackles of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disharmony and discord of American Freemasonry is far larger than the so called harmony of the Lodge. It is rooted in the policy and governance of Grand Lodge where the Grand Master and Grand Lodge Officers set the tone for Freemasonry in that jurisdiction. The Lodge is not alive but rather an inanimate concept. It cannot feel, laugh, cry or do anything that human beings can do. The harmony of the Lodge is an invalid concept and is often used to exclude, as in "We have to blackball this Black Man for the harmony of the Lodge" or "This Jewish applicant will just not fit here at this Lodge where we all are Christian. He must be rejected for the harmony of the Lodge."

The tone of Grand Lodges and their desire to control Masonic thought, their poor handling of the computer revolution and Internet Freemasonry, and their suspensions and expulsions without a Masonic trial have dumped onto Internet Freemasonry, its Forums and Blogs, bitter expelled past Masons who feel that they have been dealt an injustice and are out for revenge. If Grand Lodges were not so controlling and arbitrary in their use of power, were not so political and so thin skinned perhaps Freemasonry in the USA would be a little more subdued and harmonious.

So what is to be done? I offer three suggestions which are not the sum and total of what might be accomplished but merely a start into a more harmonious American Freemasonry and bringing Masons together.

1. A National Constitution and Masonic Bill of Rights

It's too late for a National Grand Lodge. It would never fly today even if it were a good idea which it probably is not. There needs to be a semblance of sameness and order throughout the 51 jurisdictions which comprise American Freemasonry. This has nothing to do with changing or standardizing the ritual of Freemasonry or dictating the practice of the Craft or removing the sovereignty of state Grand Lodges. It has to do with fairness, of creating a sound base or foundation that exists everywhere so that each jurisdiction can go on from there to implement the practice of Freemasonry as it sees fit. It has to do with the processes and procedures of Freemasonry, the definition of Freemasonry, who can and cannot be admitted into Freemasonry, what ethical code can we all agree upon and having the same Landmarks. It also has to do with the rights of individual Brethren and protecting them from abuse and misuse of power. If we can do this we can eliminate a lot of the disharmony.

2. Masonic Legislature

Freemasonry grew up in the time of Monarchies and the Divine Right of Kings. Times and attitudes have changed into a way of life that is more participatory by the average citizen. Freemasonry needs to reflect that change and allow for the say of each individual Brother. A Masonic legislature which could make or change policy by a democratic vote would perhaps lessen those who go running off to start their own version of Freemasonry because they have been locked out or arbitrarily squashed. A true will of the majority goes a lot further in gaining support than the arbitrary desires of the Masonic Pope sitting in the Grand East. Lest anyone think that this would strip the Grand Master of all power and stature it could be set up so that a Grand Master could veto anything the Legislature passes unless this body has voted on a course to be taken by 75% or more of those convened. A change of this nature would be up to the individual choice of each state Grand Lodge and not be imposed upon them.

3. Ballot Reform

I devoted a whole blog to this subject. The present unanimous secret ballot permits prejudice and revenge and no good reason to reject an applicant and thwart the will of the majority. Its use keeps out Blacks, Jews & Hippies and just about anybody you don’t like.

But it also lets in some undesirables like the KKK. One member gets in unnoticed and he brings in scores of others always keeping their other life from discovery. Black balls that should be dropped are not.

There is a case to be made for a secret ballot. What you definitely do not want is a raising of hands in open Lodge. There is also a strong case to be made that it is terribly unfair and unjust to reject a good man for no good reason or because of prejudice.

The so called phony harmony of the Lodge is not justification for a unanimous secret ballot. In essence one is putting pseudo harmony ahead of Civil Rights and human rights. This is not the way a person joins the United States and becomes a citizen. The election of a President or of a Worshipful Master does not have to be unanimous.

I would offer that the decision of admittance to the Lodge be made in a semi secret ballot of the three members of the Investigating committee who will have taken training in Investigative technique and who sit as a permanent committee of the Lodge for a duration of office as determined by the Lodge. If any member of the Lodge has an objection to an applicant they are to bring that objection to this committee who will investigate it. Rejection will then come for a solid reason and not "I don’t want a Black man in my Lodge." The Three so constituted will offer no comment on their decisions. The implementation of this change would be a choice left up to each individual Grand Lodge.

It is not only within American Mainstream Freemasonry that there is disunity, disharmony and discord. Relationships with other Obediences are governed by Grand Lodge rules and regulations and in many cases they not only prohibit Masonic Communication but also Masonic discourse. This is why disharmony is not just a local Lodge problem. It goes all the way to the top where a Grand Master feels that he can tell you who you can talk to and who you cannot. Orders from on high often ask a Mason to shun other Obediences. When you do that you can't expect not to get some flak back.

Perhaps a case can be made for Unrecognized, Irregular, Clandestine knock offs many coalescing around the cult of an individual. But for those practicing Regular Masonry excepting the violation of sex, there really is no good reason to be spiteful. If Women's Masonry, Co-Masonry, and other Regular Clandestines, which in some areas includes Prince Hall, would sit down together, break bread together, sponsor some charitable events together, do some social functions together, and rent the same building for meetings, even though none of the different Obediences ever sat in Lodge together, there would be more peace, harmony and accord. In many parts of Europe the different Obediences of Freemasonry do not trash each other but seek ways of accommodation thereby avoiding the tension and conflict and ill feeling that fortressed American Freemasonry has. Much of this anti social behavior is aided and abetted by Grand Lodges.

I have some of my writings on a wonderful website run by a Co-Mason. When some Brothers of an Internet Masonic Forum I belong to found this out they called me a traitor and said that not only would they never visit that site again and never read any of my writings therein but that they would also boycott any postings I made on the Forum. To them I was guilty of aiding the enemy and giving him publicity.

We need an ecumenical spirit among the different Regular Obediences of American Freemasonry. If we had an ecumenical spirit there would be less disharmony and discord. It's up to the Grand Lodges to pave the way in setting the TONE of American Freemasonry.

Quite frankly I am dismayed by those Brothers who say that they don't come to these places anymore because of all the squabbling and bickering. Some of the loud noise is being made by those of us who seek a change of heart from those who are responsible for much of the disharmony that exists. Working to make the future an improved, quieter, more unified and harmonious Masonic experience, today sometimes requires some robust jousting.

But these Brothers would rather trade rights and justice for phony harmony right now. Why can't you just zip your lip and go along to get along they say? Then there would be peace and harmony. Yup, and injustice too. Go along with racism in Freemasonry, go along with expulsions without a Masonic trial, go along with no Masonic discourse with other Obediences, go along with rigged elections and shunning those that do it another way. My reply is why don’t you come along? Come along and help solve the root causes of disharmony and discord.

— Bro. Frederic Milliken

| | | | |


  1. If I could give you an award for the hard work you put into defining the issue, I would. You have touched on something that is at the heart of the problem. Many groups would never have been created, perhaps even the GOUSA, if such dialogue had existed to begin with.
    Again, thank you for your efforts. I believe that we all have the same goals in mind, but have sought to reach them in different ways.

    Aaron Peavy

  2. As always Squire, right on the money. Excellent post.

  3. "American Freemasonry has a Tribal Mentality which leads to constant friction, dissension and outright war."
    Tribal mentality?
    Which tribes are you talking about?The Iroquois confederacy greatly influenced the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.
    Turf wars are common to all colors of the medicine wheel, not just common to those with a "tribal mentality."

  4. I'm not talking about or denegrating a particular tribe but a particular mindset.

    It is known that in areas with many tribes and no centralized government that there is more strife than in areas where one central government sets the laws for all to follow.

    So the reference is to tribal as --split up into many different autonomous parts always coming into conflict. And then how that influences one's state of mind.

  5. Oh, ok.
    You're talking about a tribal mindset not associated with indigenous or ethnic tribes?
    Must be all those other tribes.
    Tribal central government was exmplified by the Iroquois Confederacy AKA "League of Peace and Power."

  6. You sound like a Native American lover like me. I wrote a pape "Native American Rituals & The Influence of Freemasonry" which can be found on Phoenix Masonry-
    Scroll way down to the bottom of the page

    Frederic L. Milliken

  7. I am Native American. I'm an Athabascan Alaska Native to be exact. I'm also the award winning investigative journalist who has been investigating the Shriners for the past two and a half years.
    Words matter, regardless of what you may or may have not previously written.
    While we're at it, you might be interested in something I wrote.
    "Native American Holocaust Museum" is here.
    It includes one of my previous posts entitled "Masonic Genocide."

  8. Frederic L. Milliken,

    One of your essay's conclusions is:

    "The “Ghost Dance” of the 1850’s shows a distinct imitation of Freemasonry. Because of that fact we have given it scant coverage here. Dennis Chorenky says this about “Little Waters”.

    “In the case of Red Hand and his scalping it should also be considered that scalping was not practiced in North America prior to the advent of Europeans.” *(4)

    The bear claw is just too similar to the Lions paw not to be a copycat. So we can say that “Little Waters” could have been corrupted by Freemasonry. A similar case can be made about the “Mankani Society” and many other Indian ceremonies and fraternities not mentioned here."

    So you're crediting Masonic influence in Native American symbology and rituals?


  9. aren't there tribes in africa?
    Middle east? oh those are clans?

    clans , tribes, packs, ..

    scotland has clans...

    I sense that squire was suggesting that history may have some examples where people of the same color and country seperate into "clans"/"tribes" etc.. and sometimes will fued often because no clear "landmarks" of what is right and wrong may differ between these entities which can lead to fights...violent ones at that...

    sometimes it takes an extraordinary individual or group to bring tribes/clans together for a better whole.......

    The legend of Crazy Horse for one.
    An individual that could bring many together of different tribes for a common goal..

  10. Sandy Frost wrote:
    > So you're crediting Masonic influence in Native American symbology and rituals? Unbelivable.

    It's not a question of 'belief' at all really. It's more about historical fact and interpretation of evidence. If you think Fred is incorrect (I have not read the article in question myself), then why not provide some opposing evidence or critique?

    ~ Vitruvius ~

  11. "So you're crediting Masonic influence in Native American symbology and rituals?"

    NO! You missed the point of the article. The point was to find a Native American ceremonmy that mirrored Masonic ritual BUT COULD NOT HAVE BEEN INFLUENCED BY IT.

    This goes to the core of something astounding that might also be paralled in the Egyptian Ancient Mysteries which also could not have been influenced by Freemasonry.

    The paper is out to strenthen the hypothesis that in every society there have been organizations that had secrets and secret and/or superior knowledge and mysteries that led to a better understanding of what we humans are doing here.

    The Midewiwin Ceremony showed a distict likeness to Freemasonry but it was impossible for Freemasonry to have influenced it. I thought that very significant. The rest of the ceremonies COULD HAVE BEEN but were not necessarily influenced by Freemasonry so I couldn't say that they were distinct ceremonies not influenced by Freemasonry. I am not categorically saying that Freemasonry had an influence in Native American Rituals.

    As an award winning investigative journalist you sure can jump to the wrong conclusions very quickly. What are you doing on the Shriners? A hit piece?

  12. Dear WB Federic,

    May I have your permission to share this article to Filipino Masons withersoever dispersed. A lot can be learned from this article.

    Fraternally yours,

    Ben Apacible, PM, PDDGM
    Kalilayan Lodge No. 37, Lucena City
    Araw Lodge No. 18, Manila
    Grand Lodge of the Philippines

  13. I provided a link to my website.
    I guess you missed it in all your excitement.
    You can read my work and draw your own conclusions.
    If you want to make comments about my investigation, please do it on my site and not here.

  14. Brother Apacible, by all my means be my guest. Let me know how it comes out.

  15. Hey, Bro. Fred? An interesting paper, but a couple of things.

    For instance I spent hours trying to track down verification that Freemasonry existed in North America before any European White man landed here.

    I thought that was the purview of the Mormons?
    [tongue planted firmly in cheek]

    But this sentence is odd:
    Well there is absolutely no proof that Native Americans did not get Freemasonry from the White man.

    This sounds like backward logic; i.e., trying to disprove a negative (for example, by saying "There is no proof that no crows are not black") and one can interpret it to mean that you do believe that Freemasonry influenced Native American rituals.

  16. I think it is possible but that does not been probable.

  17. Brother Fred,

    Great article.

    Most rational human beings with a worldview that extends beyond the tip of their nose actually understand what the word tribal means. For any group or individual to attempt to take ownership of it is ludicrous at best and self serving at worst. All cultures sprang from tribal roots.

    So don't let Sandy get to you. She can't help being reactionary as she believes that all mason's are EEEEEVILLLL.

  18. What I do or do not believe matters not, only that which I have exposed, explained and documented.

    Through out the course of my two and a half year investigation into the Shriners and more recently, their secret sub-group, the Royal Order of Jesters, I have seen the best and the worst of Masonry.

    The best has been speaking with those tolerant Masons who have been generous with their time as they educate me about all that is right about “the craft.”

    My Dad would not have joined a group without honor.

    The worst has been being sworn at, hung up on and threatened.

    And I am biased.

    I am biased against those who abuse their positions of public trust for private gain.

    I am biased against non profit groups that operate in secret and act as if they are above the law instead of embracing the best business practices of transparency, accountability and disclosure.

    Just because I am different does not make me wrong.

    Thank you,


  19. "But this sentence is odd:
    Well there is absolutely no proof that Native Americans did not get Freemasonry from the White man."

    In rereading your pick of quotes out of context I see where the problem is. The quote above is refering to the large number of Native American Indians who are Masons today in 2008 or at that time 2005.

    I had the privellege of interviewing The Oaklahoma Masonic Indian Degree Team and writing a story for Masonic Magazine. The lineage of Indian Freemasonry traces back to the introduction of the Craft by early European explorers and military men

    Mohawk Chief Joseph Brandt was the first known Native American Freemason having been raised in London, England in 1776. It is this Indian Freemasonry that I allude to. Many Native Americns did become Masons. But as I stated in the first paragraph, although I had spent hours trying to track down that Masonry was in the New World before the White Man came, I could find no evidence of that fact.

    The importance of this is that when going through the Native American ceremonies I could find no evidence of these ceremonies not having possibly been affect by Masonry except ONE.

    And if the white man brought Masonry to the New World how was there already here that one ceremony that mirrored Freemasonry in so many ways. That question is the basis of the paper.

  20. Dear WB Frederic,

    Thanks so much. I have shared your article to so many Filipino Masons. Will give you feedbacks.

    Fraternally yours,

    Ben Apacible, PM, PDDGM
    Kalilayan Lodge No. 37, Lucena City
    Araw Lodge No. 18, Manila
    Grand Lodge of the Philippines

  21. I admire Sandy greatly for the investigative work that she has done, and will continue to do, but this article has nothing to do with Native Americans. As so often happens here, someone uses a word or expression and the subject of discussion goes of in a totally different direction. I don't know how many times on different blogs I have seen this happen. I do not know Squire Bentley personally, but from reading his postings on his blog anyone can see that this man is opposed to racism and discrimination in any form and has fought such things with a spirit that most of us will never approach. The use of words such as "Tribe" or "Oriental", to use another example, might offend some people but they should take the time to research the individual in question. Squire Bentley is a man of honor and integrity and I admire him greatly. It would be an injustice to accuse him of any racial stereotyping or latent prejudice. He is one of the few in the Masonic mainstream that "Walks the walk" and doesn't pay lip service to the concept of universal brotherhood.

  22. Very clear insight into the present situation in this short essay by SB. There is much wisdom in his thoughts.

    A question for all Masons: How can we promote the brotherhood of man if we can't be brothers to one another?

  23. One day, in the year of the fox
    Came a time remembered well,
    When the strong young man of the rising sun
    Heard the tolling of the great black bell.
    One day in the year of the fox,
    When the bell began to ring,
    It meant the time had come for one to go
    To the temple of the king.

    There in the middle of the circle he stands,
    Searching, seeking.
    With just one touch of his trembling hand,
    The answer will be found.
    Daylight waits while the old man sings,
    Heaven help me!
    And then like the rush of a thousand wings,
    It shines upon the one.
    And the day has just begun.

    One day in the year of the fox
    Came a time remembered well,
    When the strong young man of the rising sun
    Heard the tolling of the great black bell.
    One day in the year of the fox,
    When the bell began to sing
    It meant the time had come for the one to go
    To the temple of the king.

    There in the middle of the people he stands,
    Seeing, feeling.
    With just a wave of the strong right hand, hes gone
    To the temple of the king.

    Far from the circle, at the edge of the world,
    Hes hoping, wondering.
    Thinking back on the stories hes heard of
    What hes going to see.
    There, in the middle of a circle it lies.
    Heaven help me!
    Then all could see by the shine in his eyes
    The answer had been found.

    Back with the people in the circle he stands,
    Giving, feeling.
    With just one touch of a strong right hand, they know
    Of the temple and the king.


  24. very well said. you have put to words many things i have seen and felt since joining my lodge last year.

  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.