Thursday, September 25, 2008

Freemasonry: One journey, many paths

I present to you the sixth in a series of essays written by Masonic bloggers on the topic of Masonic harmony, unity and discord. This one is by Bro. Silence Dogood, publisher of The Middle Chamber. My thanks go out to Bro. Dogood and to all those who are participating.

One Journey, Many Paths
by Bro. Silence Dogood

There have been few Masons that I have had such a fundamental disagreement with as the late Brother Theron Dunn. Brother Dunn epitomized much of what I couldn't stand in mainstream Masonry: he was an ardent supporter of anything his Grand Lodge did and didn't see any need for improvement in the organization. I found his articles smug and condescending and I regularly checked his blog so that I could quickly post a scathing rebuttal to anything that he wrote. But nothing irritated me more than the day he posted a comment on my blog in reference to my invitation for guest articles of any viewpoint, when he actually doubted my willingness to post an article in disagreement with my own views.

So I asked him to write a guest editorial for The Chamber. "Take that," I thought.

Brother Dunn did produce an article and when I read it, I was very surprised. It was a well written analysis with which I actually agreed. Later, when I invited my readers to chat with me via Yahoo! Messenger, Brother Dunn was one of the first Brothers to take me up on my offer.

We had a nice conversation for about a half hour. We discussed Masonry, politics, our careers, and some of our future goals. We had to end the conversation when he received a phone call from his wife and we said good bye. When I logged off, I thought to myself "I really like this guy." Little did I know that it would be the last time I chatted with him. Brother Dunn became ill and passed away before we had another chance to talk. My heart felt great sadness for the loss of a Brother that I never knew. However, I found consolation in the fact that when we had last communicated, we met upon the level and parted upon the square as Brothers.

That is true Masonic harmony.

There seems to be a misconception, among some, that Masons cannot have differing opinions. There is a sense in many Masonic assemblies that there is only one correct way to do things and only one consensus that may be developed. However, dissent is at the very heart of Masonic ideals. In the lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree, we are taught that "Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion." This is what makes Masonry so special. Unlike other organizations, Masonry accepts men of all political, religious, and philosophical convictions and unites them as Brothers. Masonry accentuates the concept of one journey, many paths. It promotes the journey towards enlightenment, while accepting that many paths may lead to that ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, too many Masonic assemblies no longer function by this concept. Masonry has become an organization where groupthink and yes-men are rewarded and those who think outside of the box are ignored. The Brothers who bring fresh ideas into lodge have not been allowed to bring there ideas to fruition and soon lost interest and stopped darkening our doors. Of course, this has always occurred due to the noble desire to not offend our older Brethren who have run the organization their way for many years. The last thing that we want to do is make these Brothers feel obsolete or that we don't appreciate their procedures, but the truth is that society is evolving and Masonry must continue to evolve with it.

Would it hurt to listen to the minority with a dissenting opinion? Would the fraternity cease to exist if we honestly tried something new? The answer is a simple "No." If we heed the advice of men with new ideas and implement them into the lodge we can at least observe what affect they have. We can learn from everyone's opinion, whether their idea is successful or not. As Masons, we are supposed to seek light and one of the best ways to do that is listen to the opinions of all of our Brethren.

So where does this leave the Masons who frequent the Masonic Blogosphere? The e-Masons that are able to make any comments they choose while hiding behind a false moniker. As Masons, we should be able to read the opinions of others without getting our feathers ruffled. We can have our disagreements, but they should be discussed with intelligence and courtesy. Name calling and the degrading tinkling contests which occasionally break out on the internet are unbecoming of the fraternity and do nothing to further Masonry.

The internet is an outlet for those with ideas to communicate them to other Masons. It is a forum for those concerned with the state of affairs in their lodge to vent their frustrations. It is also a place for those excited about the current events in their lodge to proclaim their pride in the fraternity. Who are we to degrade a Brother for communicating any of these things to us through the Blogosphere? Many of us are just looking for an attentive ear and an instructive tongue. Perhaps much could be gained from considering a Brother's motivation for his comments before denouncing his opinion. Perhaps we could benefit from a little more tolerance.

Regardless of our differences, Masons should always meet upon the level, act by the plumb, and part upon the square. Whether it is in lodge, on the street, or on the internet, we can all benefit from a little more brotherly love for one another. In my case with Brother Theron Dunn, I don't know how I would have felt had we never leveled with one another. We must always remember that we are all Brothers, regardless of opinion.

Masonry is one journey with many paths.

— Bro. Silence Dogood

Image: The late Bro. Theron Dunn

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