The SNAFU – Roles and responsibilities in a philosophical society.

I can’t help but make some comment about the latest in the line of SNAFU‘s, this time taking place in Arkansas.  I don’t want to make any particular comment on what’s going, its my hope that all involved are true and acting above board and that the situation will resolve it self int he best way possible for the fraternity.  But for now, a SNAFU is what it is indeed.

With this situation in Arkansas, and those of the past including West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, and across orders with the Jesters, it begs the question what is our responsibility as a member of the order?

The easy answer is to say the things to which we take the obligations over, and further, the things that we sign on and linked to our states Masonic constitution.  But that covers the physical or tangible things to do or not to do.  What about the less obvious?  And, from the other side of the fence, how do our own actions carry out the principals that we espouse.  Really, there are four, Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice.  Maybe your jurisdiction has others, maybe none of these, but by and large, these 4 tenets are the foundation of our being.

  • Masons are Temperate: In their consumption, in their excesses, in their sensibilities.  Masons are not excessive, not marked or driven by passion.
  • Masons are Prudent: They make sound and carefully weighed decisions, their mind is on the greater good over the individual end.  Masons are CAREFUL of their management.
  • Masons have Fortitude: Where others will crumble or compromise their morals, Freemasons have the Moral Fortitude to stand upright in the light, rather than hide in its shadow.  Still human, Masons try harder to just and upright.  Masons have the ability to face adversity with cool connectedness and courage.
  • Masons believe in Justice: Not in the strict sense of an eye for an eye, but rather the dispensation of the moral law, the divine mercy that even the Great Architect of the Universe  gives to all of us in our weakest failings.  Masons have a rightness and rectitude in all things, and an integrity in our dealings.

So, in the wake of these minor incursions in these remote places of American Masonry (not some far away place, but your fraternity in the next state over, your neighbors, your brothers), is this YOUR Masonry?  Are you a Mason to practice the Royal Art whilst those who claim governance (see leadership) re-write what the moral value is to fit their actions?

Is that what the fraternity has de-evolved into?  Would we better off without a centralized governance, where lodges govern and maintain their own members, where they interact with the community spreading the word of Masonry?  Is it because of a lack of professional Masons (see paid), except at the Grand Lodge level, that like a Robber Baron Mob Boss, the future of the fraternity is being ground into dust for the gain of a few fancy jewels, a title or two, and a pay check.

Would we be better of incorporating the whole thing and making every member a single share holder responsible for a part of the whole?

Or, maybe Masonry just isn’t important to its members anymore with thinking that because its not happening in your own back yard, it has no overall effect to your membership.  Is the system safe from a philosophical chain reaction with each instance triggering an invisible event somewhere else down the line?

This isn’t an indictment to the system of Grand Lodges, or those who staff them per-se, but a question as to what value they bring to the system overall.  Is it a necessary layer of governance to a system that is otherwise set up to do it itself at the lodge level?

Could it be done without the leadership of a Grand Lodge, or does a Grand Lodge make YOUR individual Masonry more valuable?  Somehow this period of SNAFU’s has got to come to a head, the question is what are you doing to help point it where you want it to go?

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About Greg Stewart

An artist by nature and vocation, Greg pursued the sublime degrees of Freemasonry in 1994. A 3rd degree Master and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, Greg is the author of the ebook What is Freemasonry and the print book Masonic Traveler.

Read more about Greg Stewart.

Comments

  1. Kelly Street says:

    I am a Master Mason from the state of Missouri and am also a 32nd degree Scottish Rite mason,Valley of Joplin,Orient of Missouri.I feel there is no need in the kind of nonsense that Arkansas is involved in.If this is an example of Masonry then I would not want to be a part of it.Obviously the backward Arkansas so called Mason’s have very different obligations than we do.I do not mean to bad-mouth a brother freemason as that was also part of my obligation as was the need to stand up for brother Mason’s in their time of need.I want no part of Arkansas Masonry and believe they should cast out onto their own,letting them and the rest of the world know that we are not a part of this group of men.

  2. This is a complicated question. I think that if you decentralized power that would result in openly racialist lodges in states where the GL embrace racial equality. Remember most Southern states didn’t accept segregation on their own, they were dragged to it kicking and screaming by the federal government, sometimes at the end of National Guardsmen’s rifle.

  3. My problem is that we went through this same disheartening process with the Grand Lodge of West Virginia when a presiding Grand Master expelled a junior Past Master. We all said oooohh, aahhhh that is just terrible, I distance myself from those actions and I don’t want to have anything to do with the GL of WVA. Then we went through it with the Grand Lodge of Georgia and Gate City Lodge #2. The by-laws of Georgia say that non whites cannot become Masons. Oooohhh, aaaahhhh another terrible example of how not to be a Mason.

    And on and on it goes, where it stops nobody knows. And that is because nobody is willing to do anything about it. Quite simply we have bought into the tradition that it’s their business and we have no right to interfere. And so on and on it goes and American Freemasonry is continually cast in its worst light because we would rather sanctify the tradition of each Grand Lodge to be a power unto its self with no limitations to that power than right a wrong. Even outright anti Black racism by a Grand Lodge will not stir any other Gls to take any sort of action. They would rather permit the racism than interfere.

    So be it. And when y’all ask why Masonry died in America, the answer will be that tradition trumped injustice and you stood by and let it happen with your hands in your pockets. But tradition was upheld.

    I don’t know why I am getting so upset. I can’t convince my Catholic Church to get rid of its pedophiles either. Sounds like a common disease.

  4. Steve Brettell says:

    I’m not sure how to define Freemasonry, but I don’t think a philosophical society is the best description. The wide variety of Masonic expression and demographics pretty much puts paid to that. One lodge I belong to wouldn’t even know what the term “Philosophical Society,” means, and they are very serious and good Freemasons.

    Even in lodges that I’ve attended where philosophy and research are the principle goals, reaching agreement on whether it’s research or philosophy can raise great emotions.

    Which brings us to current events. In the 1970s there was an Episcopal Priest, Malcolm Boyd, who wrote a book about prayer, entitled, “Are You Running With Me Jesus?” There was a prayer in the book that said, “It’s comfortable here in the pews.” It addressed the reality that many people want to be comfortable, not challenged. They look for the familiar, not leading edge. W. Bro. Joseph Walkes, Jr., in “Black Square and Compasses,” talking about the continuation of Prince Hall Freemasonry, said that it is comfortable for men to meet with others who are like them, visually as well as spiritually. The lodge is a refuge.

    When I was investigating Freemasonry, it struck me that some Grand Lodges and some individual Masons are taking advantage of the private nature of the fraternity to perpetuate what can’t be done in the larger society: maintain a segregated community. Like minded and racially similar men hiding out from the modern world. It’s not good, it’s not Freemasonry (in it’s philosophical sense) but it is human nature.

    We’re all prejudiced. Even if it’s against bigotry. We all like comfort. We all want a refuge. If a person is given the power to maintain all this, and doesn’t have the drive to lay aside personal desire to serve the common good, we get the sort of situation we see unfortunately playing out in the news today. And please remember, that the definition of the common good is often subjective. Most people don’t accept the idea that there is an objective good, buy which morality and action may be measured. Most believe that their definition is the true definition, and some have the power to enforce their subjective definition.

    Steve Brettell
    (Gingerman)

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