Masonic Censorship


the invisible collegeEdict From Masonic Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory

On 12 May 2010 the Board of Management passed a resolution stating the principles governing esoteric research. These principles are central to the practice of Regular Freemasonry. In order that there be no doubt that they bind every brother and Lodge in this jurisdiction I have decided to make them the subject of a Grand Master’s edict. At my request the Board of Management has rescinded its resolution so that it may be substituted with the following edict which takes effect immediately.

1. Authorised, official Masonic Education and Instruction is only ‘Regular’ when applied to Free and Accepted or Speculative Masonry (Regular Freemasonry).

2. Because of the widely divergent interpretations which can be placed upon it, I am concerned about the unqualified use of the word “esoteric”, or any of its derivatives or extensions, within Regular Freemasonry. Such use needs to be avoided as it has been and can be misconstrued to the detriment of the Craft.

3. I encourage all Masons to make daily progress in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge. Speculation and discussion within the Landmarks of the Order are to be commended.

4. Within Regular Freemasonry, interpretive discussion and exposition concern only the progressive acquisition of Masonic knowledge towards an understanding of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft, promoting the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. To avoid any misapprehension, such regular discussion and exposition shall be described as “speculative” and the term “esoteric” shall not be applied.

5. Regular Freemasonry does not permit within it any form of esotericism which encompasses or tends towards – occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these. The presentation, endorsement and/or promotion of such subjects in any Lodge holding under the UGL of NSW and ACT whether the Lodge be open, adjourned, at refreshment or closed or at any connected or associated Lodge function should be deemed irregular and is strictly forbidden.

6. Any breach of this Edict constitutes serious unmasonic conduct and shall be treated accordingly.

7. The Grand Master from time to time may grant dispensations to permit the presentation of papers on esotericism which would otherwise constitute a breach of this edict. A dispensation may be granted on such terms and conditions as the Grand Master may impose. An application for a dispensation must be made to the Grand Master in writing through the Grand Secretary. Normally it will only be granted if the proposed paper is a genuine and proper piece of masonic research.


From Australia, it appears as the Grand Master has directly defined what is considered ‘esoteric’ within the confines of his definition of Freemasonry. He also outlines what is not “esoteric” as “occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these.”

The argument for this edit was that there were certain lines and teachings occurring that were about as closely related to Freemasonry as I am related to the president of the United States. Charges are that certain Freemasons were using the term ‘esoteric’ as a way to teach/preach non-mainstream religious tendencies and as a recruitment tool within the order.

The glaring issue is that of course this stifles any discussions of the above and how Freemasonry works and is inspired by them. Rosicrucianism for instance is still a topic of debate and its influence on Freemasonry (some believe it was the foundation, others deny that as its foundation on faith, hope and charity). The issue with this edict is that stifles these types of debates, academic research, etc.

On the other hand the use of Freemasonry as a recruiting tactic for some cult should be addressed as it has the potential to bring serious shame to our order.

I don’t believe that this edict was the right approach to curb illegal recruitment, but will cause stagnation in the spiritual growth of a Freemason, no matter path it may take him.

-Bro Vick

While this ruling was made outside the United States it highlights the direction of Freemasonry in many American jurisdictions.  When the Information Age began in the United States many Grand Lodges handled the “computer revolution” poorly. Some restricted Freemasons from owning or operating a Masonic website. Others closed down privately operated Masonic forums and discussion groups by threatening to expel any Mason who refused to knuckle under.

Many Grand Lodges were “Johnny come lately” into the 20th century methods of communication. They, not their individual members, were the last to open Masonic websites. What they did do at first was a very amateurish attempt.  To this day some jurisdictions refuse to allow electronic reporting between Grand Lodge and constituent local Lodges.

Even today The Grand Lodge of West Virginia is on a crusade to find out the identity of a certain website that supported Past Grand Master Frank Haas. It has promised to expel each and every Brother involved with that website. The Grand Lodge of Arkansas closed its website and ordered all Masons within its jurisdiction not to E-Mail each other on threat of expulsion.

This seems to be the modern trend – THOUGHT CONTROL. It used to be that Freemasons everywhere would say that no one man speaks for Freemasonry. Now it seems one man does – the Grand Master and he wants to be the only one speaking on behalf of Freemasonry. If this seems farfetched to you ask Brother Tim Bryce of Florida to explain it to you.

In the early years of modern Freemasonry, Masons were known as “free thinkers.”  The Library and Museum of Freemasonry tells us:

“The origins of the Royal Society lie in an “invisible college” of philosophers and scientists who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss the ideas of Francis Bacon. Two of the original members of the Royal Society – Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole – were already freemasons by the time the Royal Society was formed. The Society met weekly to witness experiments and discuss what would now be called scientific topics although science then was much more broadly defined and included subjects such as alchemy and astrology.”

So we can see that alchemy and astrology among other disciplines were from a very early age adhered to by some Freemasons. So was Rosicrucianism. Laura Britton tells us:

“Although Rosicrucian ideas influence the Scottish Rite degrees of Freemasonry, the origins of the two orders are distinctly different. Throughout the history of both Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, each has borrowed from the other, yet they both retain their own symbols and beliefs.”

Elias Ashmole

Elias Ashmole

Now it seems that Masonic censorship is one more weapon in the arsenal of Grand Lodge control.

One has to wonder how the likes of Albert Pike, Albert G. Mackey, Joseph Fort Newton and Carl Claudy would have reacted to their Grand Master banning their “esoteric” writings.

Freemasonry was once the bastion of liberty and independent thought. It used to be that there was no Pope in Freemasonry and that each Freemason could interpret in his own way what Freemasonry meant to him.  What distinguished Freemasonry from the control that many houses of worship demanded was that there was no centralized dogma that must be adhered to. Dogma didn’t drive Freemasonry, the absence of dogma – the freedom for many different ideas, many different philosophies and many different interpretations to exist under the same roof was what used to distinguish Freemasonry.  It used to be that the nexus of power resided in the local Lodge. Today Grand Lodges have consolidated their power to such an extent that they hold the power of life or death over both individual Lodges and individual Masons.

Anybody for a Manly P. Hall book burning party?

Posted in The Bee Hive and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.


  1. Every tine and era has their share of dictators or wanta-e-controlers There have been places and times in Masonic history that no one spoke of masonry or anything about it During the Morgan affair many lodges went dark rather than discuss the event. Was it fear or an edicts from grand masters. If indeed Masonry was used to recruit members of an occult group them maybe the Grand Master was right in issuing the edict that he did. An it can also in time be recalled when the wrong doing is purges from the lodges.
    However, I am not one who believes everybody should know everything. A little knowledge in the wrong hands can be dangerous. I would adopt a wait and see attitude.
    ole Blake

  2. Thank you for this, Bro. Fred.

    We live in an information age. One can no more think of restricting access to information in the public sector than one can think of turning off the sun. Certainly, governments continue to use the dubious claims of “national security” to keep their citizens uninformed of their crimes, and apparently, some Grand Masters would like to do the same.

    People will find the level of knowledge with which they are comfortable – for themselves. Everything about fairly much any branch of the craft, UGLE (Conservative) Liberal, or the Esoteric studies which have always been a part of Freemasonry in spite of the discomfort which certain 20th century circles express over the E word, are readily available for purchase – it all depends on how curious you are and how skilled at searching. An awful lot of it is available for free.

    In continuing with the old notions of control and restriction, the only thing Freemasonry will guarantee is their own demise. At some point, people will simply turn to where their curiosity is rewarded instead of punished.

    By the way, this article might easily have been subtitled “How to maintain and extend ignorance.”

  3. Dear Bro. Milliken,

    “Thought control”?? Usage of a vitrolic term such as this is NOT a studied, academic approach to civil discourse, much less to the Masonic traditions evoked in several Degree lessons. I would submit that the onslaught of electronic communications has created a challenge as well as an opportunity to all entities whether educational, political or commercial. Like all organizations, GL’s are indeed challenged to keep Masonry cirumspect & within due bounds in an age where an anonymous email or blog can circle the globe in an instant. You took the edict out of context (i.e. what studies had been done beforehand within the GL of NSW, particularly the Bd of Mgt? What discussion was held before & during this Grand Lodge Communication?). Just as we accuse fringe religious critics who parse Masonic words, take statements out of context, etc. of being unfair, you too sometimes fail to give balance to your criticisms – true scholarship is far more time consuming than dashing off thoughts in a blog. Indeed even a glance or two through the ‘edict’ tells me there is plenty of latitude for conversations to be held even on unmasonic topics if done in a Masonic Education mode. I read the edict as being a guideline or if you prefer, setting a level & plumb as to the range & foucs of topics that a Mason could discuss as a Mason and NOT be in violation of his three-fold oaths.

    With all due respect, “The Beehive” has generated a following just as have the far right & left commentators on American radio & TV. You may indeed be providing a ‘service’ to Brothers and often times I do find your thoughts` well worth my time to digest & consider. However you sometimes fail to abide by your ‘by-line’ (“Tackling Today’s Masonic Issues”) which, in my mind anyway, means giving a balanced view of events. A wonderful use of your e-publication would be to engage in a series of questions to the readership of how Masonry might best engage with the Internet while retaining its traditional structure of beliefs. From time immemorial, a WM and a GM are given authority well beyond that of the leaders of other entities. However they are also reminded they must uphold the landmarks, by-laws and Constitutions, be circumspect AND ever mindful that from the ranks they have come and to the ranks they will return. I.E. their authority is NOT limitless.

    Having been the WM of 3 Lodges and Chair of a GL Committee has been a great ‘teacher’ of responsibility. Even in my little local lodge, the ‘weight’ of the WM’s jewel constantly reminded me of the awesome responsiblity I had while sitting in the Oriental chair. Decisions were made only after a lot of thought and oftentimes with self-doubt afterward as I was ever aware of the need to uphold a centuries-old fraternity. Ditto whenever I stood to speak to actions being taken at Grand Lodge sessions in Iowa, Illinois & Minnesota.

    I admit I take Masonry more seriously than most, most likely due to the fact that by accident of birth over the centuries, I can proudly say ‘my son is at least a seventh-generation son-to-son Mason’. Thus on the one hand I admire your diligence in sharing various aspects of the Craft BUT cringe at the one-sided, ‘sensational’ approach to some of your remarks. I sense you could do far, far more AND as a result actually be an engine of change and reform where such change & reform could & should be made.


    Gerald A. Edgar, Mosaic #125 AF&AM – Dubuque, Iowa
    Sr. DeMolay – Allen Chapter – Dubuque, Iowa

  4. This is not FOX News – fair and balanced. If you want your point of view in a story – get your own blog!

    The most criticism I get is from Northern Masons who have never seen what the KKK can do to a Grand Lodge and they don’t believe any of it is true – but it is.

  5. Br. Edgar,
    For the sake of fair and balanced, I open the door to a counterpoint paper. Would you be interested in presenting a short post on the favorable points of the edict?

  6. Dear Brother “Bee Hive” and Greg,

    One of my favorite old stories or fables as you will is of the blind Indians who come across an elephant. Each grasps a different part of the elephant & immediately come to very different conclusion as to ‘what’ they are handling. The one who grabs the tail says “I think this is a rope”, one who touchs a leg says “I believe this is a tree trunk” and so on & so on. Similarly whether debating aspects of Obamacare, nuances of Masonry or your household’s budget, we each come to a ‘debate’ or discussion with different pre-conditions, experiences, biases, etc. often we do not “fight’ fair but seek only to advance our cause or belief whether valid or not. As a former college debater I am aware that a good i.e. fair and objective debate is where both sides first agree as the exact nature of what is to be debated, then define terms and lastly document or provide a source for every fact that is used. It takes a lot of work and preparation but the result it the strong liklihood a matter is thoroughly & fairly ‘aired’ and no one’s feelings are hurt. I will gladly give a fuller view of the Australian edict but frankly per my earlier post, I’d like more context before stating unequivocally ‘this part is good or that portion is bad’.
    Our ritual, in both the opening of a Stated meeting (when the JW declares his duties) and in various parts of the Degrees, spells out how/why we must whisper good counsel, see that none go away dissatisfied, consider the other’s motives and circumstances, etc etc. Far too often Masonic (and for that matter thruout our country) discourse is not civil, is not objective, is not factual and is not designed to advance the Craft or bring the Brothers to ‘further light’. We are all guilty of course as even those who are most careful in what they say or write may be unfair, even if inadvertently. Engaging our fellow man in a debate or even a discussion can be fraught with hazards which is something a true Mason will try to avoid. We have all taken cheap shots, used buzz words, engaged in arguments where our only goal was to ‘win’, NOT to be fair. I propose the greatest good a Lodge can provide a Brother is to teach him to behave as a Brother both in his deeds but also in his words. If at anytime voices are raised (no pun intended), it is not an objective discussion – passions were NOT subdued! To this I would hope we could agree but that is also open to ‘debate’.
    Have a great day Brothers!

    PS – a problem with blogs, posts, written letters, etc is two-fold; they often lack context and ALWAYS lack the nuances of the spoken word, facila expression & boduy language: was that phrase meant to be shouted, whispered, given in a ‘warning’, angry or solicitous tone? Was it meant to be sarcasm or ??? So in that vein, believe me this post was meant to share what I submit might be a basis for better communications BUT I am certainly open to contrasting views. We are all life-long learners UNLESS we become like the Wm. Bendix character in the old “Life of Reilly” radio/TV series who frequently remarked, “don’t confuse me with the facts, my minds made up”. 🙂

  7. This is not a debate or a forum. The Bee Hive is a blog and a blog by definition is an opinion piece. There is no obligation for The Beehive to present all sides of an argument or differing points of view. Neither is it expected from nationally syndicated columnists in your newspaper who write “commentary.” OP-ED is what it is. What it is not is a presentation of all sides of an argument. OP-EDs and blogs come from the same family.

    A chance to present a differing point of view is offered in the “COMMENTS” SECTION. The Beehive has never turned away those who disagree with it and has never refused to post any comment no matter how outrageous along as it was not vulgar or spam. To criticize a blog writer for not being fair and balanced because he or she has only presented their opinion without having taken advantage of the COMMENTS section to rebut nor taken advantage of a full guest editorial on the site as the owner has offered, is an ad hominem attack on the author.

    Furthermore, as relates to the blind Indians and the elephant the use of that story to illustrate the point that an alternative point of view – the other side – must be included is to endorse the proposition that all opinions are equally valid. This denies reality and that there is right and wrong. The absence of an objective correctness is a point of view that I do not subscribe to and I do not feel obligated to promote it.

    Lastly I think that to state that a Mason does not play fair and act as a Mason should when he does not publish the “facts” of every possible point of view, that a Mason does not have the right to have an opinion in favor of one side, that he cannot be an advocate, is just plain unmasonic.

    What would be doing a better job of ‘playing fair” would be to concentrate on ISSUES and stop finding fault with PEOPLE.

  8. Asking a blogger, reporter, commentator et al to be objective and factual is rooted in the Masonic principle of seeking light. Avoidance of inciteful speech is also a hallmark of a Mason. Again too, ‘tackling issues” implies a fair statement of what the issues are & being objective; how else may they be solved? In any case, one’s ‘arguments’ would hold far more water, so to speak, if they were better researched or supported by ALL the facts.

    I am pleased you did not find fault in my request for civil discourse, again a lesson learned as one becomes a Mason.

    On another tack; perhaps we all need to remember when representing ourselves as Masons in a forum, whether in a Lodge room, at a local civic gathering, over the water cooler, in a public newsletter or on the Internet, we are ever to act & work as such (upright Masons). I personally would also advocate when remarks are made via a “blind” printed forum, the Brother should identify himself and his Lodge affiliation. We are then more likely to be circumspect. One man’s opinion…

    Gerald A. Edgar, Mosaic #125 AF&AM @ Dubuque, IA

  9. If I were writing a book I would have footnotes and a bibliography. If I were publishing a scholarly article for, say, a Research Lodge I would have something similar. But I am not I am writing a blog. A blog is a “quick what do I think” subjective piece. I am deliberately being subjective not objective becasue objective as you have said is in the eyes of the beholder. Only God is objective. You don’t want me to really be objective, which is impossible, you want me to be all inclusive. I am not going to give the other side, most often whom I deem to be the wrong side, space on my website whose purpose is to express my personal opinion.

    You are also confusing “seeking light” with commenting on the issues of the day. One is the pursuit of the meaning of life and the other is a personal opinion statement. I often include many facts but you want me to interview the other side of an issue and publish all their conclusions with mine. That is not my purpose and that is not something I am going to do no matter how many times you insist that I do.

    The point is my Brother that you seldom have much to say about the issues of which I write and you have a lot to say about me personally, how I write, how bad my spelling is, how poorly researched my articles are, how unfair I am. I take that personally.

    This will be my last response to such attacks.

  10. Perhaps to provide a small point of context from a person who is in a number of lodges within the Constitution of NSW and ACT:

    The background behind the communication aimed to collectively address a class of problems, namely proselyting for appendant bodies in the name of giving light to those seeking it.

    To give an example, a brother asked a question within open lodge regarding a symbol and the answer was along the lines of a brief, superficial description and then “If you would like to know the full answer, join [Insert Appendant Order here] and we will be happy to go into deeper meaning of it.”

    The discussion in such situations regularly turned to other appendant orders having to give *their* interpretation, which doesn’t help keep a lodge in order. It is the same reason why we do not discuss religion nor politics in lodge.

    So in order to respect Regular Freemasonry, the UGL of NSW & ACT (in my view, appropriately) set the boundaries for the benefit of a large number of Brethren who do not want their lodge to become a public house of opinions.

  11. But a “house of opinions,” a variety of ideas was precisely what made Freemasony so great. Many a Mason would gather with his Brothers at the Festive Board and throw back and forth ideas and interpretations.

    One only has to read Wilmhurst’s book “The Meaning of Masonry” to see one Mason’s interpretation of the symbolism of Freemasonry. Why does it have to be the same for everybody? When that is required Freemasonry moves from a free society into a dogmatic one. Are we trying to turn Freemasonry into the Catholic Church model or are we aiming for something more like the Taliban?

    And where did this notion that disagreement or differing views are contentious? It is not true that religion and politics cannot be discussed in Lodge. It is sectarian religion and partisan politics which are prohibited.

  12. “Beehive”,
    Wikkipedia (not always the best source for definitions but since “blog” is an Internet creation it seems appropriate) states a blog “is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web” and further states unlike static pieces, encourages an interchange of information. Indeed you offer a ‘comment’ section which implies you desire feedback and/or debate and I applaud you for same. (National columnists do not have Q/A as part of their columns) Dialogue promotes learning! I won’t try to ‘debate’ each of your points but a few need a reply. You indicate you felt my comments were ‘ad hominem’; i.e. a personal attack but I felt I was pointing out the methods being used to promulgate your views were at times inflamatory (KKK, Taliban, etc) and also sometimes lacked context. As to “only God being objective”, then are we to assume since we are all flawed, we throw up our hands & make no effort to ‘improve ourselves in Masonry?”. If so, there is no reason to question what others are doing. You also set-up what debaters would call a ‘strawman’ with comments such as I was seeking an endorsement “that all opinions are equally valid”. I submit I did just the opposite, as the blind Indian story illustrates. Some opinions will by their very nature be a dichotomy; no shades of grey. Certainly too your opinion of the edict is different than the MWGM’s and obviously both cannot be equally valid as they contrast so greatly. Yours may be 100% (or 75%) correct but without more information, how can we judge?No where did I or anyone else state a Mason cannot be an advocate nor can he not have an opinion in favor of just one side of an issue. Perhaps I can better illustrate my thoughts with a ‘real’ Masonic issue being debated frequently – namely the wisdom of so-called “One Day Classes” (I have no idea of your thoughts on this issue)
    In my case, although my various essays and commentaries (you reprinted one on the topic of Lodge of the Year competition) have not included the topic, I personally oppose One Day Classes. If I were to write an opinion piece and gave all the reasons why a One Day class is not beneficial and only illustrated it with examples of failures (‘one day Masons’ who quickly left the fraternity, committed felonies, etc) and berated anyone who promoted them, I would be failing in my obligation to at least try to be objective. I.E. “I recognize a number of Masons favor the One-Day Classes, that there have been success stories of One-Dayers becoming high-profile Masons etc BUT herein are reasons why I feel overall the process is detrimental, etc etc”. To write a piece in this way would advance my arguments two-fold. Readers would know I at least considered & researched the ‘other side’ and did not just “bad-mouth” it AND my own arguments would stand all the stronger as being based on some objective standards.
    As I reread my earlier posts I feel I was indeed issue-oriented; I only seek more background as to the basis of the edict (which a Brother generously shared) so I could make an informed decision as to whether your condemnation is/was warranted.
    I assume (& please correct me if I am wrong) that your strong feelings as to the alleged wrongdoing of some GM’s in your eyes,abusing authority is NOT because you wish to vent BUT because you truly wish to be an engine of change; positive change. If that is true, and I sincerely hope it is, I could become a major proponent of such efforts BUT neither you nor I can effect such change unless a significant number of Masons feel similarly. How to win them over to the ’cause”? By giving them reasoned and objective information as to ‘what’ happened, why it is wrong and how it may be corrected. GM’s, from time immemorial, have been repudiated by the very Laws and Regulations they are sworn to uphold. However Masonic Jurisprudence, like its profane counterpart, is something that needs to be truly studied by its practioners. Whether your blogs or those of several others I have read re: WV or Ark, none have cited chapter & verse of the respective Constitutions & By-Laws and how they were transgressed (I am mindful of a newly made Mason who felt a WM was acting illegally for abruptly ending debate one evening at a Stated meeting and refusing a Motion until an older Brother shared our By-Laws that give such authority to the office of WM. If one does not like that ‘rule’; then use the methods, spelled out in the By-Laws, to change them). Our late Bro. Sen. Rob’t. Byrd of W. Virginia, was seen by Senators of both parties as a genius at applying the most arcane rules and customs of the Senate to make changes or negate changes within that august body. He also, like most successful leaders, knew how to cajole, befriend and make allies of whomever he needed to make said changes.
    Lastly, I believe you are thinking of some other respondent in one comment because I have never, to my knowledge, critcized you for spelling, etc. (Lord knows I may have some typos here!) My criticisms, of what you wrote, were and are based on the belief that when representing ourselves as Masons & speaking to Masonic topics, we are ever to work & act as such. Any Mason is free to form his own opinions on any issue BUT he is also expected to do so in a constructive, Brotherly way. We can all agree to disagree, as the old saying goes, and part as Brothers IF we enter a discussion/argument with a resolution of being open and respectful of the other side. As for ‘footnotes & bibliography’, indeed same would not be expected in a blog but one would like to see some evidence that the writer did not begin his commentary with his “mind made up”, oblivious to facts known to him or at least readily available to him. Perhaps a wonderful topic for you is the elephant in the room: to what extent can Masonry or any other entity have “freedom of thought & action” without chaos?
    Yes, Masonry has historically embraced tolerance, open-mindedness, free-thinking, etc but it has also always engendered respect, due-process and order. There is a delicate balance. America had a Revolution in the late 1700’s as did later the French – both embodied ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ – great buzz words. Yet the reality & results of both were FAR different. As Masons we need more of the former and less of the latter in terms of how we evolve in seeking ‘self-evident truths’.

    One man’s opinion! Fraternally, Gerald A. Edgar, Mosaic #125 AF&AM @ Dub uque, IA – speaking purely for myself.

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