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Grand Lodge Grab For Power, The Aftermath of Georgia

The immense silence you hear from Georgia these days is the result of the charges being dropped against the Worshipful Master for admitting a non White but it is still not clear to me whether charges still remain against the Lodge. The charges were dropped because of the intercession of a Brother outside the jurisdiction and the publicity that was generated to rally public opinion.

The ability to talk about the charges, in all the published forums, has lead to better decisions.

What the situationin Georgia brings to mind though is the rising degree of power inherent in the position of leadership.

What have we gained here in light of all the turmoil, all the stories plastered across the newspapers, and all the discussion that resulted from such an embarrassing situation to the Craft? Has all this just been quietly swept under the rug and we go forward with business as usual?

Then and now a number of Brothers said that in such a situation a Brother should follow the jurisprudence of Grand Lodge, using the system he obligated himself to. But when they throw you out how do you take the next Masonic step?  You are no longer a Mason.  What Masonic recourse do you have when you have been expelled?  What is there left for you that you can do within the Masonic system on the outside looking in? And if you feel that you are being railroaded by a small minority who have power, whereas the Grand Lodge as a whole considering all the many members would never do such a thing to you, what tools do you have to defend yourself against a stacked deck?

When the Grand Master has it in for you the Brother brought up on charges is at a distinct disadvantage.

That is why the charges preferred have always been left to the Local Lodge, so that the Grand Master and Grand Lodge do not have the absolute power of a dictator.  There is no Hitler in Freemasonry – until now!


It would seem in these issues, that Grand Lodges are making a grab for power.

Actually it has been going on a long time without notice.  That is because we are fragmented into 50 fiefdoms of Masonic power.  If there was a United Grand Lodge of the United States Mainstream this would never have happened. But, alas, we have decided in this country to disperse Masonic power among the 50 states with no overall U.S.A. oversight. So each Lord of the Manor operates as if in medieval times, a power only loosely connected to the King.

I have been following this issue for a long time which is a movement in post WWII Masonry to consolidate power solely in the hands of the Grand Lodge and to make each Grand Master an arbitrary power.  The roots of this are difficult to find, but it has been a gradual progressing leading to the loggerheads we are seeing today.

This is a sad development for Freemasonry used to be a cooperation between Grand Lodge and the local Lodge for the betterment of the Craft. But slowly but surely across the U.S.A. from coast to coast the ascendancy of Grand Lodge control is spreading, putting those in any opposition of Grand Lodge policies in jeopardy of being expelled.

This is not how it should be.

There should always be the avenue open for fair and polite and diplomatic difference of opinion and debate.  But Grand Masters today hold any disagreement with their course of action to be treason and cause for expulsion.

This does not make for a healthy and viable Fraternity.

What it does is stifle dissent and creativity in favor of total subordination.  Many who enter the Masonic portals as a volunteer, unpaid organization have no patience for such things.  Our greatest loss in members today is not through death but through those just walking away from the Craft.

The story below is just such a tale, in the idea of a Grand Lodge running amuck.  it comes from a Brother who I know and trust.

What he has reported to me is that his Grand Lodge has decided to move all Masonic trials and discipline out of the local Lodge into Grand Lodge under the dominion of the Grand Master.  He is a good brother, one who rarely complains, and again someone I trust as a brother. He is a Past Master who possesses a very good understanding of the Fraternity and a great knowledge of its tenets.  He has achieved great merit in civil society, starting as a bush pilot in Alaska, and then progressing on to a stint in Vietnam as a US Army pilot and still later to a commercial airline pilot in both aircraft and helicopters.

In my eyes he has distinguished himself as a model citizen.

In the past, he made the mistake of questioning the actions of his Grand Master and all has been downhill, Masonically, since.

Recently his Grand Lodge has decided to put all the power in the hands of the Grand Master, making him the de-facto arbiter.  Given his past, this brother believes that this does not bode well for the fraternity.

While he has been willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the Fraternity by exposing his name to me and his Grand Lodge, I have chosen to keep his anonymity and let his commentary stand alongside the changes to the Masonic code that he finds chilling.

So in his message which is presented below you will find XXX substituted for his Grand Lodge or state and YYY for his name as well as other substitutions for designations deemed necessary to keep this message one of content and not of individuals.

So how, under these circumstances, do you know this to be true? I ask that you take the word of the brother who gave them to me in charge.  Please read carefully the most erudite observation of a Brother in hurt.

Our brothers correspondance


A frightening and potentially dangerous piece of legislation has been voted in, at the 2009 annual XXX Grand Lodge Communication.

The resolution totally takes away the individual Brother’s right to be  judged by his true Masonic peers, in his own Lodge – a primal Masonic concept and tradition; an “American” tradition. According to the new Resolution, the subordinate Lodge can receive; but MUST relay a Masonic charge to the Grand Lodge for a Grand Master’s Trial, nothing more. In the State of XXX, Subordinate Lodge Tribunals are ancient Masonic history.

Was there a method to a madness?

The XXX Masonic Code specifies that the proposed Resolutions be mailed to each Lodge Secretary 60 days before the annual XXX Grand Lodge Communication, essentially specifying that the proposed Resolutions be read in Lodge at the last meeting before the Grand Lodge session, meeting in June. Those members who do not attend the last available meeting, more particularly Past Masters – having a vote in Grand Lodge, have little or no notice of what their future holds. Instantly, the term “clever,” comes to mind. Why should any Grand Lodge resort to being “clever?” Read on:

The XXX Code specifies that any Lodge shall meet at least twice per year. There is a set of XXX Lodges whose irregular meeting schedule precludes their ability to read those resolutions in Lodge, as mandated by the XXX Masonic Code! The instant question goes to the ability of any resolution to “Masonically” process through the “XXX Grand Lodge Code Commission” or the XXX Grand Lodge Jurisprudence Committee! Yet, the entire set of 2009 Resolutions did just that.

The passage of this particular Resolution leaves most XXX Masons to eventually ask – “What the hell happened?” The Grand Lodge answer can only be, “You had your chance; you voted it in. Or, you should have at least been there.” – invoking the “shame reflex,” of the Jonestown “Coercive Persuasion” methodology – it works.


This Resolution was presented in the fashion of providing ‘relief’ of the complexity of a local Lodge Tribunal. It’s only reasonable to assume that if a Lodge can confer the degrees, a Tribunal shouldn’t be much more complex than the intake of a new member. In the previous Code process, there was adequate time for the appropriate members to prepare for a Tribunal from scratch. If the Lodge wasn’t prepared, either the Grand Lodge needed to assist; and question the Master as to why he didn’t – per his Installation Charge – “…cause the Code to be read in Lodge, that none may plead ignorance.”

The new Code allows as little as 20 days, from receipt of charges, by the defendant, to the trial date. That’s obviously inadequate for preparation against truly serious charges. Imagine coming back from vacation to discover a total surprise in the form that you’ve been expelled!


W. Bro. YYY gave the following account of a previous personal encounter with what amounts to “Masonic tyranny.”

According to W. Bro. YYY:

“Psychologists use the term “Scoptoma,” to describe the frailty of the human mind to perceive only that which it expects or wants to perceive. The spouse would never cheat, the child would never start a fight, your best friend would never lie about you or cheat you out of money. We’ve all seen it – blind faith.

In that same blind faith mindset, several years ago, I complained via E-mail to the Grand Master about a Lodge’s practices, which were nothing less than extremely disturbing to any reasonable Masonic mind. I was told by the Grand Master, in essence, to mind my own business.

The matter was extremely serious to the craft, as a whole. My subsequent E-mail rebuttal to the Grand Master earned me a Grand Master’s Summons. Add a surprise and pre-written Reprimand for allegedly making an implied threat against the sitting and incoming Grand Masters – totally false. I only cited an obvious and serious threat to the Craft – begging Grand Lodge action.

I attended the Summons with the reasonable expectation of a heated verbal lecture. BUT, I more correctly feared an Inquisition. That’s exactly what I walked into. No due and timely notice allowed! A Masonic trial – hah!

The falsity of the charge was established in the first two minutes of my meeting with the Grand Master (alone); I still came away with that reprimand – signed after the mutual clarification that the alleged charge was false!

A mistake in a heated mindset is one thing, deliberate libel is another.

The pre-written reprimand speaks to its own inequity, Masonic, or otherwise. Upon threat of suspension or expulsion, the language of the Reprimand forbade me from ever communicating any details of my original complaint – in any manner – which essentially prohibited an appeal. So much for the First Amendment. So much for Masonic due process. All at the hands of a Grand Master. As they say, “…go figure.” Nothing “…on the level” about the matter.

Worse, one must ponder how many Grand Lodge hands handled that Reprimand, not asking “When was the trial?” There was no Masonic judicial process. Imagine that of a Grand Master! Imagine the Grand Lodge silence, since then. (Add the 2009 legislation.)

Or, if one cares to argue, “Show me where it says that the Grand Master CAN’T do such a thing.” I would refer any such person to the place where it doesn’t say that a Grand Master can’t commit Libel.

As Lord Acton so accurately stated, “Power Corrupts; absolute power corrupts – absolutely.” Freemasonry is supposed to be about Charity and Fellowship; not ‘power.’

I walked out of the meeting, with the Grand Master’s signed Reprimand in hand, in a state of disgust; but satisfied that the joke was on the Grand Master, having pre-written the Reprimand, based upon a false allegation – and failing to follow Masonic due process. That deed by a Grand Master is no minor event; as was the subsequence Grand Lodge silence.

Sadly, it didn’t end there.

Approximately a year and a half following my ‘Reprimand,’ another pass was made at me – behind my back; again, no due & timely notice. Via the rumor mill, I was advised that a “Purple Team” had approached the Master of my Lodge, insisting that I be tried and expelled. Lacking any viable charge, the Master wisely refused. The Master recently verified the encounter.

Thus, with that trail of Grand Master’s punishment, actual & attempted, I submit that all XXX Masons should appropriately seriously fear the new code. I question how many had a clue, as to the seriousness of this Resolution, prior to its passage. More importantly, is this in any way indicative of similar changes, in other jurisdictions?

In the shadow of the above mentioned ‘Reprimand’ event came a committee, to write the draconian legislation. In the pamphlet this was described as a means to bring “discipline” to the Jurisdiction. While “Justice” is a traditional Masonic tenet; it was clearly usurped by ‘discipline.’

Enter Resolution XXX

(The number in brackets is the page number in the Grand Lodge pamphlet of Resolutions for the 2009 session.  The actual code changes are in block quotes.)

Independently of ANY OTHER Masonic judicial process, a XXX Grand Master would have the independent, arbitrary and tyrannical power to suspend a Mason for a definite, or indefinite period of time. That power being uniquely independent of the proposed ‘trial’ procedures. Thus, the Grand Master could constructively expel a Brother, unilaterally, for a term which would exceed his remaining years of life, via “Suspension” only. Such a Suspension can be appealed, but – realistically –  to what probable outcome? At least in the XXX Jurisdiction– being polite – obedience to the will of the Grand Master is the norm.

Sec. 3.01 Const. {P.2}

Grand Master’s Powers. The Grand Master has power to:

Subsections 1 and 2, no change

3. Suspend, for a definite or indefinite time, any Brother from the rights and privileges of Masonry for Un-Masonic Conduct,

(Renumber subsections 3-11)

UnMasonic conduct is not defined to any truly adequate degree. It could be as simple as name-calling, in the name of Freemasonry – versus an otherwise  private quarrel – regardless of whether or not the descriptor is otherwise appropriate in the profane world.

The resolution additionally puts Masonic ‘shields’ around sitting Grand and subordinate Lodge Masters for any ‘official’ wrong doing during their term, then protects them after the fact.

Say goodbye to the Level. How many horror stories have we heard, which would now be both effectively licensed and insulated? Inadvertently inciting a heated debate in Lodge would suffice for expulsion charges – all a matter of who is ‘hooked-up’ and who isn’t.


2. Charges of Un-Masonic conduct may not be preferred;

A.      By an unaffiliated Mason and shall not be received nor shall any action be taken on such charges; nor

B.      Against a Brother involving private wrongs or private legal rights, monetary or otherwise, unless the allegation clearly shows fraud; nor

C.    Against a Brother involving matters of political or sectarian character; nor

D. Against a sitting Grand Master or Worshipful Master for official acts as Grand Master or Worshipful Master; nor

E. Against a Past Grand Master or Past Worshipful Master for official acts performed while serving as Grand Master or Worshipful Master,

Again, the Resolution can compress a Brother’s response time and preparation time to as little as 20 days – at the option of Grand Lodge

Worse, this section (B.) constructively cancels part of the Masonic Obligation – taken with hands upon the Bible – not to CHEAT, WRONG, or defraud a Brother … .


So a Brother brags about selling another a car to another Brother with undisclosed known and expensive maintenance problems; don’t mention it to the selling Brother’s Lodge, or Grand Lodge, it’s not Masonically pertinent as of June, 2009.


“…involving private wrongs or private legal rights, monetary or otherwise, …” The Brother is a wife-beater and/or drug dealer; it’s no longer Masonically pertinent. Read the new Code! Take it up with the civil courts, he’s welcome in his Lodge, until then. Can’t get the law interested; deal with it!


The arrogance of this resolution is appalling by any Masonic standard. The Resolution makes a joke of the words, “…furthermore promise and swear…”


Sec. 27.05 B.L. {P.2}

Service. Due service of the citation shall be deemed complete when made by either of the following procedures:

1. Personal Service.

A. Delivering a copy of the citation directly to the accused; or

B.     Leaving a sealed envelope addressed to the accused, containing a copy of the citation, at the accused’s usual place of abode with a person of suitable age and discretion residing therein.

2. Postal Service. Depositing the citation in a postage pre-paid envelope in a U. S. Post Office within the Grand Jurisdiction, addressed to the accused at his last known post office address. Service of the citation by Postal Service shall be deemed complete 5 business days after deposit in a U. S. Post Office. Mail shall be by certified mail, return receipt requested.

A minimum of twenty days shall have expired following date of service of the citation before the trial shall commence.

The Resolution provides the ability to charge a Brother either at his Lodge; OR at the Grand Lodge level – directly, bypassing the subordinate Lodge. (And the Brother’s actual Masonic peers.)

Sec. 26.10 B.L. {P.19}

Invoking Grand Lodge Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge may be directly invoked by the filing of charges with the Grand Secretary, who shall notify the Grand Master. The Grand Master, upon determining the charges, if proved, against a Brother constitute a Masonic offense, shall order the accused to appear and answer the same before a Grand Master’s Trial Committee. If the Grand Master finds that the charges, if proved, would not constitute a Masonic offense, the Grand Master shall notify the accuser and the accused of his decision.

Under the new code, there is no requirement to involve the Brother’s own Lodge. The wise know what that means, when favored “Grand” political personalities enter the picture – which isn’t supposed to happen, but we all know that it does.

From my personal ‘reprimand’ experience, there should be no doubt, as to the potential outcome. All a matter of the option and convenience of Grand Lodge, et al. The Grand Master will make the final decision as to whether or not a charge goes forward. If a Brother is not ‘connected,’ he can be in for a nightmare. I respectfully submit that undeniable risk isn’t to be deemed “Masonic!

According to the new code, if a charge is presented to a subordinate Lodge, the Master is mandated to either forward it to Grand Lodge, or order another officer or member to do so. There is no allowance for “… not proper to be written.” “Masonic” piques and quarrels, being distinct from “private,” are sufficient, under this Resolution.

The XXX Grand Lodge goes so far as to assert jurisdiction by claiming the authority to try and/or punish a visiting Brother, from another Jurisdiction. (As opposed to referring an alleged offense back to the Brother’s appropriate Jurisdiction.

Sec. 26.03 B.L. {P.17}

Preferring Charges

1. Charges of Un-Masonic conduct may be preferred against a Mason, including any unaffiliated Mason who is residing or sojourning within the Jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, by:

A.    Any member of a Chartered Lodge; or

B.    Any Chartered Lodge; or

C.    The Junior Warden when directed by the Worshipful Master; or

D.    The Junior Warden when no other Brother has preferred charges of Un­Masonic Conduct.

In the event that the Junior Warden is unable or unwilling to prefer charges, that duty shall devolve to the Senior Warden; however, the Worshipful Master may direct any member of the Lodge to prefer charges of Un-Masonic conduct for and on behalf of the Lodge.

Imagine walking into Lodge, only to be ordered to prefer charges, which you have no competent knowledge of. In many Lodges, the attendance is so low, that such could easily happen. Essentially a Masonic ‘contract.’

The code provides no “effective date.” Will past offenses be ‘Grandfathered,’ under the existing Code? Will the ‘new’ Code permit past alleged offenses to be dragged up and attended to, under the new rules? With no established “ex post facto” time firewall, anything can happen.


At the end of the proposed Resolution, the Jurisprudence Committee asserted that the expense of any such trial would be paid by Grand Lodge. Specifically –

The expenses of a Masonic Trial shall be paid by Grand Lodge.

What the Jurisprudence doesn’t indicate is that the costs, at Grand Lodge’s discretion, can, thereafter, be passed on to either the defendant or the plaintiff. What particular costs? What limit, if any? Calling upon a Past Master to come from ZZZ, for example, to VVV (to sit on the Trial Committee) could quickly cost hundreds of dollars. That’s not the same magnitude of expense, for a ‘local’ Brother.

There is no provision for the location of the “Trial Committee.” What would it cost for a Brother to attend his own proceeding and any appeals? In today’s economy, how many Brothers would be forced to endure a “default judgment,” for lack of adequate time and/or defense funds? Why did the Jurisprudence Committee not display the whole truth?

Sec. 28.12 B.L.

Expense of Trial. The expense incurred in conducting a Masonic Trial shall be paid in the first instance by Grand Lodge, but may be assessed as costs against one or both parties to the controversy, as determined by the Grand Master’s Trial Committee. Such costs shall not be assessed against an acquitted Brother.

In other words, the Grand Lodge would ‘front’ the expense reimbursements, but could redirect any and all expenses to the defendant and/or complainant.

The Jurisprudence Committee claimed that the change makes the ‘trial’ process “simplified.” To the intelligent observer, nothing could be further from the truth. Start with the twelve pages required to describe the proposed changes. Just note the “expense” provision, relative the unlimited choice of Trial Committee members. At either the subordinate Lodge or Grand Lodge level, the process is complex, time consuming, potentially excessively expensive to a single Brother; and loaded with damaging controversy – add politics. The Lodge controversy over the trial and outcome of one such trial could shred a subordinate Lodge.

The Jurisprudence Committee account uniquely stated that the local Lodge would determine whether or not the charges, if proven, constitute a Masonic offense. The Committee fails to mention the available alternative Grand Lodge process, which can totally and optionally bypass a subordinate Lodge.

  • The Constituent Lodge shall only determine whether or not charges of un­Masonic conduct, if proved, constitute a Masonic offense.

A “hooked-up” and malicious Brother can take his charges directly to the Grand Lodge – no questions asked.  Why was only part of the resolution described?


Sec. 26.10 B.L. {P.19}

Invoking Grand Lodge Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge may be directly invoked by the filing of charges with the Grand Secretary, who shall notify the Grand Master. The Grand Master, upon determining the charges, if proved, against a Brother constitute a Masonic offense, shall order the accused to appear and answer the same before a Grand Master’s Trial Committee. If the Grand Master finds that the charges, if proved, would not constitute a Masonic offense, the Grand Master shall notify the accuser and the accused of his decision.

Note, also, that there is no provision for a ‘brief’ from the defendant, stating why the charge should not go forward. Where are the scales of justice?

How many Masons were adequately informed, so that they could reasonably and competently consider the potential impact upon the XXX Masonic membership? XXX Grand Lodge aside, this new code also serves as a model of tyranny for any Jurisdiction.

Too many Lodges are currently nearly empty. Regardless of this Legislation being implemented in the form of actual Masonic charges – anywhere –  how many Masons will shy away from their Lodge, for fear someone will be on a truly threatening and arbitrary ‘power-trip.’ How many “scores” will be settled by such a code? A single case is too much for any Mason to approve or endure. I respectfully submit that un-Masonic history clearly indicates that the risk is too high.

The most damning question of all – “How long before the news media decides that this mater is newsworthy?”

W. Bro. YYY wrote to as many as he could contact:

“Admittedly, I have a personal stake in this Resolution; leaving me to ask, “Who is more qualified to testify, than the victim?”

For the sake of the Craft, I encourage all who receive this to forward it to all on their Masonic E-mailing list, inside and outside this Jurisdiction. This resolution can only open the door to potentially unbridled ambition and personal power, unworthy of any Mason.

In my own Lodge, the resolutions were not read – rather, summarized by the Deputy – sort of. Did the ‘Code’ prescribed 60-day “warning” allow your Lodge to read them? Is this the first that you’ve seen of this matter?

Think for yourself; and act for the good of Freemasonry.”

(Thereafter, the Resolution passed with a 90% vote.)

More Peach Publicity – The Gates Are Open

I have been saying for years that if we don’t police ourselves, Freemasonry will wake up some day and find some national print media will sensationalize a provocative, blaring story on the Black discrimination in the Craft and it will wish it had done something about it before hand.  That time is now upon us. Does no one else wish to do something instead of sitting on one’s hands?


Masons’ spat over black inductee spills into court


The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 30, 2009; 3:36 PM

“ATLANTA — There are a few prerequisites for anyone applying to be a Freemason: You must be a man, you can’t be a slave, you must have good character and you must have faith in a supreme being.”

“Those broad rules have allowed some of the more progressive chapters in the centuries-old fraternal organization, such as Atlanta’s Gate City Lodge No. 2, to fill their ranks with diverse members.”

“The chapter’s leaders say that racial harmony was threatened recently when other Freemasons sought to revoke the lodge’s charter for allowing Victor Marshall, who is black, to join up. The dispute has drawn the normally secretive group into a rare public battle. “

“The chapter sued the Grand Lodge of Georgia on June 18, claiming the charges are based on “racial animosity and hatred” and violate the organization’s principles.”

The Associated Press has the same story by the same author.

“The lawsuit claims members then filed “spurious” charges within the state organization against the Atlanta chapter’s leader, Michael Bjelajac, claiming he violated the group’s rules because he allowed a nonwhite man into the group. They say he violated the “Laws of Masonry” and the “moral law,” according to the complaint.”

“The charges seek to oust Bjelajac and revoke the chapter’s charter, according to the lawsuit.”

“The Georgia chapter’s attorneys, who are also Freemasons, said the lawsuit is one of only a handful against Freemason organizations in recent years. In 2008, a West Virginia Freemason leader sued, claiming he was defamed after he changed membership policies to make them less discriminatory and racist.”

Where will the story show up next?

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Georgia News, Georgia Blues

Late breaking news from the Georgia situation proves that this controversy will not be quietly fading into oblivion.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution has picked up the story and it’s only a matter of time before other papers and media also latch onto it.

In a show of solidarity Mt. Rushmore Lodge #220 of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota has issued a public statement of support urging their Grand Lodge to do likewise.

Racial controversy spurs Atlanta affiliate to sue state Masons

By Péralte C. Paul
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, June 29, 2009

“An Atlanta chapter of the Masons and its senior officer are suing the state body and two high-ranking members of other Georgia chapters, saying leaders are trying to disband them because they accepted a black man as a member.”

“Gate City Lodge No. 2 and its head, Michael J. Bjelajac, filed the complaint in DeKalb County Superior Court. It names the Grand Lodge of Georgia Free & Accepted Masons, the state level of an international fraternal organization; Douglas Hubert Ethridge of Atlanta; Starling A. “Sonny” Hicks of Stockbridge, and W. Franklin Aspinwall Jr. of Kingsland as defendants.”

“Aspinwall, a Georgia attorney, is named in the suit because he was appointed to chair the internal “trial” the group plans to have.”

“Bjelajac and Gate City claim when they accepted 26-year-old Victor Marshall into membership last fall, Hicks and Ethridge wrote letters to the state organization, saying allowing a nonwhite man into the group violated the association’s moral and Masonic laws.”

“Hicks and Ethridge are high-ranking in their respective chapters.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Upholding the Masonic Ideals of Equality and Tolerance

“Mt. Rushmore Lodge No. 220 took the following action at their regularly stated communication on the 25th of June:”

“In light of the events occurring within the Grand Lodge of Georgia and their possible implications for the Universal Brotherhood, the members of Mt. Rushmore Lodge No. 220 present at the regularly stated communication on June 25th have decided to take action by unanimously passing a resolution to request the following of the Grand Master of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in South Dakota:”

1)”That the Grand Lodge of South Dakota will issue a formal, public statement that it will not accept racial or religious intolerance, prejudice, or bigotry in any of its subordinate lodges.”

2)”That the statement will clearly state that the Grand Lodge of South Dakota believes in upholding the Masonic ideals of equality and tolerance”

3)”That the statement will be issued to all Masonic lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of South Dakota and in the Grand Lodge of South Dakota’s publications including The Masonic Messenger and Grand Lodge website.”

“The Brethren of Mt. Rushmore Lodge No. 220 believe that these recommendations will help the Grand Lodge of South Dakota to become a leader in making Freemasonry a 21st Century fraternity.”

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2009 Prince Hall Texas Grand Lodge Session

I always enjoy attending Grand Lodge Session at The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas. We meet twice per year, a four day session in the summer and a two day gathering in the winter.  This year the summer session ran from Thursday June 25th through Sunday June 28th.

I was only able to attend the last two days this year on Saturday & Sunday. I missed the various workshops, officers meetings and Past Masters degree for all the new Masters on Thursday along with the Gospel Festival at night.  I also missed the Heroines Prayer Breakfast and the welcoming of all visitors and the bulk of the business conducted by the Grand Lodge on Friday along with the St. John Day Service & Memorial followed by The High Twelve Club dance at night.

Saturday morning is traditionally set aside for the Grand Master’s Allocution followed by election of Grand Lodge officers.  There was no exception this year. The Grand Master told us all that he was so glad to see a full house because he had been worrying about attendance in these tough economic times. Civil economic recession and depression do have a detrimental effect on the Craft. The Grand Master in his sixth Allocution reported on the accomplishments and the losses of the previous year along with the state of the Craft.  Some of his address is private and confidential but I can tell you that he issued three dispensations for the laying of cornerstones, dedicated a Prince Hall cemetery for us in Texas and reported on the raising of 56 Master Masons at the previous Winter Session.  He also had to remind us that Grand Lodge had withdrawn recognition of Texas Prince Hall Shrine.

This Allocution was delivered before the entire Prince Hall Family including the Heroines of Jericho and the OES who also addressed the combined Body. Prince Hall Texas always gathers as a family.  OES conducts their Grand Session on the same days as Grand Lodge does, meeting in the same building and likewise the Heroines of Jericho who hold their Grand Session at the hotel where all who desire have rooms and where all members of the family gather for our banquets.

So Saturday after the Grand Master’s election we elected the Grand Lodge officers for the ensuing term, finished up the business of Grand Lodge, closing in a record early time this year.  Lunch was a feast at the Headquarters Hotel where all three Bodies presented awards to their members and scholarships to deserving high school graduates. I always manage to meet someone new at Grand Session and this year was no exception.  I had a long, enjoyable conversation with four Brothers from El Paso.  I asked them how long a drive it was and they replied nine hours.  Texas is a pretty big state and many come from long distances for Grand Lodge Session.

Saturday night the traditional Masonic Family Banquet is held at the hotel always with a prominent guest speaker.  All members of the Prince Hall family gather to celebrate. It’s open to the public so many bring non member spouses and friends. This year’s speaker was Past Grand Master of South Carolina, Alonzo Haynes.

His message to us centered on, “If we will do our part, God will do his part.” The family banquet opened with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and then opening prayer.  Along the way between some official greetings we were all entertained by two soloists.  The last one had the entire gathering on its feet joining in to the rendition of “I am a Living Testimony.” Grand Master Curtis brief closing remarks followed by prayer closed the Prince Hall Masonic Family Banquet for 2009.  All that was left was a Sunday morning prayer service followed by the Installations of all three Houses.

Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis

IMG_3587-300x225The Honorable Wilbert M. Curtis, Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, is the type of person not usually found in the Grand East.  He is not loud or flamboyant or a braggadocio.  He is a quiet, gentle man who leads his Grand Lodge with kindness and thoughtfulness. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he can get tough when he has to but by then all other resources have been exhausted and nary a member would disagree with his actions.

This type of leadership is sorely lacking in many jurisdictions of all different Obediences. It is all the rage these days to follow the leadership style of General George S. Patten, but not Grand Master Curtis.  He is a leader totally accessible by any and all members of the Craft. He is a giving person with a good heart who will always be appreciative of what you can do for Freemasonry within the length of your cable tow.  He doesn’t go out of his way to criticize others but would rather gently nudge you along.  He motivates and inspires all of us who know him with his leadership style. Consequently he is a most beloved Grand Master.

IMG_3588-300x225None of these qualities equate with weakness or timidness. Grand Master Curtis is a confident, strong leader who has gained national recognition.  He has been elected President of the Conference of Grand Masters, PHA.  He recently was invited to the Northern United Supreme Council (PHA) where he met and had conversation with Sov. Grand Commander John Wm. McNaughton of the Supreme Council, AASR, Northern Jurisdiction, Mainstream.  Soon after he attended a history making event in Tulsa, Oklahoma where the AF & AM Grand Lodge officers and Past Grand Masters attended the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. In a time when we read disheartening stories elsewhere of Masonic racial unrest, Grand Master Curtis quietly and confidently forges ahead in building bridges of cooperation among all peoples.

After Grand Lodge Session closed Grand Master Curtis invited me up to his office to see his Commission from the Grand Lodge of England as Representative to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and the jewel received from the same.  Below are pictures of Grand Master Curtis with these items.

If you ever run into this man, don’t hesitate to stop and say hello for he is very much a man of the people who would enjoy conversing with you.

Prince Hall Texas Installation

The Prince Hall Family not only gathers at the same time, celebrates together but also holds their Installations together. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, Heroines of Jericho, PHA Affiliated, Texas and Eastern Star, PHA Affiliated, Texas all gather in one room where a public Installation for all three is held.

Officiating at this year’s Installation again was Past Grand Master Edwin B. Cash the only living Past Grand Master the Grand Lodge has still alive. Assisting him in the Installation of the Heroines and OES was the Honorable Cleveland K. Wilson, Grand Master of Arkansas. Grand Master Curtis told us that he and GM Wilson have been friends for a long time, long since either was Grand Master and that he regards the Arkansas Grand a mentor.

The Installation was kept simple many of those being installed having served a number of years in their position.  Grand Master Curtis was installed for his 7th consecutive term as Grand. The long list of duties and responsibilities were admitted in favor of some remarks from the heart. Instead of long drawn out ceremonies with a lot of hot wind, the gathering was more a love fest, a gathering of family that was close in contrast to a business gathering usually performed out of necessity.

While the installations are considered a most serious and sincere ceremony yet there is always room for some humor.  The Grand Marshal assisted by electronic media master technicians will add something different each year to make sure we get a little joviality in the production.   Some years it might involve some special visual effects, at other times participants specially dressed and most always some special music.  This year as in most years in parading the newly installed around before all assembled, the Grand Marshall added some dance steps to be imitated that were most extraordinary.

The 2009 joint installations started at 10:00 AM on Sunday 6/28/09 and ended after the Grand Masters remarks at 11:30 AM.  Everyone participating and attending left feeling satisfied and bursting with pride.  It seems to me that part of the success of the Prince Hall Family of Texas is that it is a family, one that supports each other and does the fraternal thing as a team. Another plus is the continuity of leadership. The vision doesn’t change every year and the policies of the last administration are not all overturned to be replaced with new designs which in turn will be discarded by the next successor. Perhaps the whole thing works so well because those in power aren’t there for the raw power of command nor the prestige of office but rather to fulfill a mission in life. And that’s why I’m proud to be a Prince Hall Mason.

emblem of industry

Georgia: Not Such A Peachy Masonic State

“African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws – long after both systems were formally abolished – through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty.”

Senate Resolution Apologizing For slavery  passed 6/18/09

Pretty near 50 years ago Martin Luther King marched in protest of the practices of segregation and racial discrimination. Forty-five years ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted.  These events all occurred when I was just a teenager.  Today I am a senior citizen and Mainstream Freemasonry has still not rid itself of racial discrimination.  Oh its been tried.  William H. Upton, Grand Master of Washington State recognized Prince Hall in 1898 but it didn’t stick.  In 1948 the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts tried again with the same result.

I have been writing about this problem in Mainstream Freemasonry for ten years. For ten years I have been pleading, begging Mainstream Freemasonry to get together to do something about living up to its ideals. And many Grand Lodges have recognized Prince Hall and have taken steps to insure racial equality, but the ones who do not, give the entire fraternity a black eye.

So much time has passed since some areas of the country have long since practiced any kind of massive racial discrimination that many Freemasons in these areas don’t believe the stories I have written about blackballing blacks and barring their admission at the Lodge room door. Canadian along with many Northern Freemasons just can’t fathom that these practices are still going on.  Some tell me I am passing on unsubstantiated stories which are just too horrible not to be far fetched imaginations of a revenge bent Brother. For ten years some entirely sympathetic Freemasons have demanded of me proof in black and white.

For ten years I have written commentary warning of what devastation would ensue the Craft if an enterprising reporter ever got hold of provable Masonic racial discrimination.  For ten years I have warned what havoc would result from a front-page Time or Newsweek story of Masonic racism.  For ten years I have written how important it is for Freemasonry to police itself. For ten years naysayers have said where’s your proof?

Well Judgment day has arrived. A smoking gun has been discovered in the hands of the Grand Lodge of Georgia ironically at the same time the US Senate has passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. We now have irrefutable proof in the Grand Lodge of Georgia’s own words that it has always been and still is illegal and Unmasonic for a Black man to gain its membership. And because this Georgia Masonic law was violated and a Black man was actually raised to Master Mason, the Georgia Worshipful Master who did so is being brought up on charges for a trial and expulsion.

charges 4

charges 4

The fox has come out of his den and been ensnared by its own cleverness or some would say stupidity. The unprovable but always known and whispered about is now boldly set before us in black and white. There is no way to refute or spin what has been done.  This offers no rational explanation that can remove the wretchedness of this dirty deed nor can there be any claim to quoting out of context.  The full set of documents is posted elsewhere on Freemason Information.

In addition to what has been presented here an anonymous Georgia source who will remain nameless for legal reasons tells me of some additional behind the scenes information.

First the charges were initiated by two Grand Lodge officers who recruited a Worshipful Master to actually file the charges.  It seems that when one Worshipful Master in Georgia files charges against another Worshipful Master the trial can be taken out of the local Lodge for its decision and be put in the hands of the Grand Master and his special tribunal. Thus this makes this whole matter a very calculated affair.

Second of all it seems that in Georgia when a candidate takes his obligation to not be at the making of a Mason of ……………………………..Georgia adds into the mix the word slave.  Now, according to my source, many Georgia Lodges have changed that word slave to the word Nigger. Whatever the custom may be when the charges refer to a violation of a moral obligation this is what is being referred to.

In addition I am told that a mother with her young daughter wishing to see what Rainbow was all about attended a public open Rainbow Installation in Georgia.  The mother and daughter were Black. The Installation stopped and everyone sat still and mute until the Black mother and daughter left.

The explanation for this racism in Mainstream Freemasonry is quite simple.  When the KKK went underground for the last time and in just a matter of years disappeared from public view many of them went right into Freemasonry.  Here abusing the power of the secret ballot they could black ball any “undesirables” and whiteball any Klansmen to gradually take over the composition of a Lodge legally following the rules and regulations of Freemasonry, a private society which would enhance their power and prestige in the community while at the same time enabling them to structure their environment to the white, Protestant, English speaking, politically conservative (no Liberals allowed) membership.

By allowing the diffusion of power into 50 individual Masonic fiefdoms and never correcting the abuses of the secret ballot, Mainstream Freemasonry permitted itself to be corrupted and abused. Freemasonry in California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania is so different from Freemasonry in West Virginia, Georgia and Florida that you are in realty talking about two different fraternities.  And you let it happen, you and I, because we refused to address any concerns of another jurisdiction following an age old non meddling tradition.

I am informed that a pretty big Associated Press story of this whole sordid affair will soon be splashed across the face of every local newspaper in this land.  You didn’t learn from West Virginia.  You didn’t take any steps to police yourselves.  Now you will pay the price.

It was just a few days ago I wrote “Don’t Be A Taliban Freemason.” In it I said that the young people of today will not join a racist organization among other things. If you think Mainstream Freemasonry is in a membership drought for whatever reason, just wait.  It’s going to get worse.  How worse?  Well it depends on who wants to do something about this mess.  Is Mainstream Freemasonry going to go in and clean up and correct rogue Grand Lodges?  Do other Mainstream Grand Lodges have the guts to pull recognition from American Grand Lodges who do not conform to basic Masonic principles?  I won’t hold my breath.  I got out three years ago and became a Prince Hall Mason where I am fully accepted and loved no matter how ugly I am.

What I will do is call upon some Mainstream Grand Lodges to pull recognition from Georgia immediately.  If enough individual Mainstream Brethren actually stood up and fought for Justice (one of the Four Cardinal Virtues) Grand Lodges might listen.  But I think they will do what they have been doing for years now.  They will just up and walk out. And Mainstream Freemasonry you have nobody to blame but yourselves.

“Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue.  To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry.  On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct.  Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us; sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other’s welfare and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity.”

The Origins of Freemasonry & Revolutionary Brotherhood

I have never reviewed two books together before but there is a good reason for doing so. The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions by Margaret C. Jacob and Revolutionary Brotherhood by Steven Bullock are both written by historians who are not Freemasons.  They both write from the same point of view, that is they look at the world through the same discipline that they were trained in.  Both books are a look at Freemasonry’s interaction with society, of the Craft’s effect on the political, religious and economic systems of a nation and the reverse, the effect of the systems on Freemasonry.  In fact in reading both books I felt as if I was back in college in SOC 101. The full title of Bullocks book is Revolutionary Brotherhood, Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840.” The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions and Bullock are looking at Freemasonry through the eyes of a Sociologist and they are dispassionate, objective observers because they are not members of the Craft. They have no agenda driving them nor do they care if Freemasonry doesn’t come out always smelling like roses. It’s about time we Freemasons got some scholarly work from knowledgeable academics who are not members of Freemasonry.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions said it best when she penned these words:

“When entering the world of the eighteenth-century Masonic life the historian must assume a willing suspension of disbelief. How else are we to understand why women and men would devote many hours a month, spend lavishly in the process, and covet the opportunity to participate formally in quasi-religious, yet secular ceremonies that we can only dimly imagine as meaningful and satisfying.”

Jacob's Origin of Freemaosnry
Jacob’s Origin of Freemaosnry

Both books deal primarily with 18th century Freemasonry, although Bullock does stretch it out to the pre Civil War period.  Both discuss the origins of Freemasonry and then go on to trace the Craft’s development through the various changes in society and how that influenced Freemasonry.  But also there is the recognition that perhaps the development of Freemasonry influenced the changes in society.  There is the age old question of which comes first the chicken or the egg and both authors are more interested in cataloging the steps of development rather than making a referee’s ruling on who gets the most credit.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions sticks pretty much to European Freemasonry and Bullock to American (U.S.A.) Freemasonry yet each must venture into the other’s sphere to make the story complete.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions has five chapters, abbreviated as follows- Origins, Daily Lives, Schools of Government, Freemasons and the Marketplace, and Women in Freemasonry. The book makes a number of good points so let’s look at those.

As a historian The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions firmly asserts that the origin of Freemasonry was a transition from Masonic guild to modern speculative Freemasonry. She tells us that early notable Freemasons such as Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole, “may have believed that masonry put him (them) closer to the oldest tradition of ancient wisdom, associated with Hermes, out of which mathematics and the mechanical arts were said to have nourished.” Freemasonry claiming origins from the Knights Templars or Rosicrucians is just fantasy run amuck. As a side comment she addresses the modern demise of Freemasonry because, “Voluntary associations that radically crossed class lines have largely disappeared, replaced by advocacy groups or professional associations.”

She goes on to say that it was new market forces that caused an evolution of guild decline and disappearance.  Only the British stonemasons were able to survive, largely because they had a “richness of lore and traditions” and they were highly skilled.

As commerce and business were conducted in a new manner causing the old guilds to wane, surviving stonemasons guilds took on non laborers for needed monetary gain and thus as a means of survival. Gentlemen Freemasons soon overtook the membership of Lodges and were in charge of their operative Brethren.  “Suddenly, whole initiation ceremonies were created to install the master in his ‘chair’.”

These revamped guilds now half speculative Lodges instituted “degrees” by which its operative and non-practicing Brethren might be distinguished from each other.  There came about a marked gain in literacy and the Lodges performed a great amount of charitable work that society and the government had not yet equipped itself to do.

“In town and city the power of the old guilds to regulate wags and labor had now been broken.  But the collectivist definition of liberty and equality inherent in guild culture could be given new meaning.  It could now pertain to the aspirations of the political nation.  Voters and magistrates could meet within the egalitarian shell provided by the guild shorn of its economic authority and in most cases of its workers.  In the new Masonic lodges urban gentlemen, as well as small merchants and educated professionals, could practice fraternity, conviviality, and civility while giving expression to a commonly held social vision of their own liberty and equality.  They could be free-marketeers while hedging their debts.  By bonding together through the fraternal embrace, they sought refuge from harsh economic realities if bad fortune made poverty seem inevitable.”

Another theme in the book is that manner in which Lodges and Grand Lodges governed themselves not only paved the way for these methods to be adopted by civil society but it was good practice or training for those who would fill those civil roles. In England she says that government and society first started modern democratic reforms that spread to Freemasonry.

“Now seen to be enlightened, Masonic practices such as elections, majority rule, orations by elected officials, national governance under a Grand Lodge, and constitutions – all predicated on an ideology of equality and merit – owed their origin to the growth of parliamentary power, to the self-confidence of British urban merchants and landed gentry, and not least, to a literature of republican idealism. The English Revolution was the framework within which Masonic constitutionalism developed.”

But not so for the rest of Europe.

“The lodges brought onto the Continent distinctly British forms of governance: constitutions, voting by individual, and sometimes secret ballot, majority rule, elected officers, ‘taxes’ in the form of dues, public oratory, even courts for settling personal disputes; eventually the lodges even sent representatives to organized Grand Lodges.”

The last chapter traces women in Freemasonry from the beginnings in the 1740s as Adoptive Lodges started to form through the end of the 18th century. Jacob makes the point that if it was important for men to gain experience in democratic self government through participating in the workings of Lodges and Grand Lodges that it was doubly so for women.  Women in the public sphere at this time had no freedom or ability to influence anything.  It was only in a private venue that women could gain some measure of control over their lives and influence others.

And so Jacob credits the Adoptive Lodges with giving women the start on the road to feminism.  First the Lodge, followed by the Salons and then the Republican Clubs. Jacob takes us through the constant development and refinement of the Adoptive ritual each step along the way women having more control over the Lodge practices.

“Like the salons, then, the lodges of adoption may be presented as entry points to the organizing concepts of the Enlightenment.  The lodges become ‘secret’ places where women’s power and merit grew and were expressed through elaborate ceremonies (many of them published), and where large numbers of women first expressed what we may legitimately describe as early feminism.”

I found the Origins of Freemasonry to be less about the origins and more an 18th century development of European Masonry. The first thing the book could use is a better title. For such a lofty and inclusive work the book was quite short, 132 pages not counting appendixes.  I found Chapter 2 that dwelt on Masonic diaries to be unappealing and not very informative. Jacob says that she put the book together from expanding and revising some earlier essays.  I get the feeling that they might have been lectures or speeches or classroom professorial treatises that were added onto. The writing seemed choppy and the themes sometimes overlapping.  For instance in chapter one, Origins, much time and words were devoted to the thoughts of Chapter three, Schools of government and Chapter five, Women in Freemasonry.  This often happens when you are lecturing and continuing on from week to week in the same vein.  Of course that may not be the case but I just get that feeling.

Yet there were many good points made about Freemasonry and historical observations that were top notch. Margaret C. Jacob is an eminent historian and she knows what she is talking and writing about. This was a nice little scratching of the surface. What it could or should have been is a 500 page exhaustive study. Let’s just say I appreciated the author’s mind but I just didn’t like the presentation.

Revolutionary Brotherhood is a much more extensive work of 319 pages not counting appendixes.  Steven Bullock outlined in the Introduction exactly what the book was going to contain.  After reading the entire book cover to cover that outline is the best summation of what Revolutionary Brotherhood is all about.

“This work seeks to understand the appeal of Masonry for eighteenth – and early nineteenth century Americans and, from that perspective, to illuminate the society and culture that first nurtured and then rejected it.”

“Such an examination makes clear that Masonry, rather than being entirely separate from the world, changed dramatically in conjunction with it. Four major shifts in the fraternity and its context are examined, in chronological sections.  The story begins with the fraternity’s creation in England and its transit to colonial America, where it helped provincial elites separate themselves from the common people and build solidarity in a time of often bitter factional divisions (Part I). These leaders, however, would be overtaken in the Revolutionary period as lesser men appropriated the fraternity for their own purposes, spreading it to inland leaders as well as Continental army officers (Part II). These changes prepared the way for the period of Masonry’s greatest power and prestige, the years from 1790 to 1826, when Americans used Masonry to respond to a wide range of needs, including their hopes for an enlightened Republic, their attempts to adapt to a mobile and increasingly commercial society, and their desire to create a separate refuge from this confusing outside world (Part III). This multiplication of uses involved Masonry in conflicting and even contradictory activities and ideas, a situation that exploded in the midst of a widespread attempt to reform and purify American society based on the principles of democracy and evangelicalism.  The resulting Antimasonic movement virtually destroyed Masonry in the North and crippled it in the South.  The fraternity revived in the 1840s and 1850s but without the high pretensions to public honor and influence that had made it seem so overwhelming to men such as Salem Town (Part IV).”

Bullocks Revolutionary Brotherhood
Bullock’s Revolutionary Brotherhood

What is so eye opening and important about this book is the realization that American Freemasonry was not always this monolithic, never wavering, never changing institution.  Freemasons today sometimes try to paint the Craft as always being this or always being that when in reality Freemasonry was always changing.  And that says a lot about what the future might hold for American Freemasonry as it may very well be going through another period of significant reinvention of itself.

Bullock gets us briefly started in merry old England to lay the background for the exportation of Freemasonry to the American colonies.

“Speculative Masonry developed within the London intellectual and social circles that surrounded Newton, partaking of the same confusions, the same mixing of traditions that marked him and his Masonic friends such as Stukeley and Desaguliers.  The origins of the fraternity lay in the encounter between these cosmopolitan groups and operative Masons’ mysterious heritage and practices. To protect the antiquity they perceived there and the hope for a deeper knowledge of universal truth, early speculative brothers created a powerful organization and a regular series of degrees that reaffirmed the link between the new group and ancient wisdom.”

What Bullock is telling us here which is so fascinating is that while modern speculative Freemasonry grew out of the operative Guilds who had specialized, privileged and private knowledge it did not remain a labor movement but got co-opted by early 18th century English intellectuals who sought to bring back ancient mysteries bordering on the occult and the wisdom of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and also by the elites of society and the players at his majesty’s Court and Parliament who were feeling the spread of power among the upper crust.

And this is how Freemasonry came to American as Bullock titles the Chapter on this period, “The Appearance of So Many Gentlemen – Masonry and Colonial Elites 1730-1776.” The two central themes of Colonial Masonry were love and honor.  Bullock tells us, “Colonial leaders saw the fraternity as a means to build elite solidarity and to emphasize their elevation above common people.” Lodge members consisted of those of wealth, political, religious, and business leaders and the professional class, lawyers and physicians being heavily represented. Dues were set high, as much as two month’s wages for the average workman, to keep out the riffraff. In the late 1730s Boston’s First Lodge increased dues  so that it would not exclude “any man of merit” but would “discourage those of mean spirits, and narrow, or Incumber’d fortunes” so that none should enter who would be “Disparagement to, and prostitution of Our Honor.”

Bullock tells us that “for colonial brothers, consistent procedure was less important than keeping out the wrong people.  The key division was, not between Masonry and the outside world (as post Revolutionary brothers would come to argue), but between different social ranks. And “Colonial Masonry did not view fraternal fellowship as a withdrawal into a private world of freedom.  Rather, the honorable met within the lodge to learn the virtue and polite ways, necessary for public honor.”

Thus colonial America was set up as a carbon copy of the class society of the mother country, England and Freemasonry reflected the way society was set up and was practiced just as English Masonry was observed. But as England and America parted ways, each going off on its own, so did Freemasonry in the two countries radically depart from each other in practice.

That lead us into Revolutionary Masonry where we see the effects on society of the quarrel between the Antients (Patriots) and the Moderns (Loyalists).  Here the struggle for supremacy in society was also fought inside the Craft. The Moderns catering to the elites formed few Lodges, most of them in large cities along the coastline.  Pennsylvania chartered only 3 Lodges in its first 40 years of operation and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in sixty years of existence chartered only five Lodges outside Boston all along the coastline. In 1753 the Antients had 10 Lodges but by 1771 they had 140. As settlement spread westward off the coastline, it was Antient Lodges that formed in the new communities not the Moderns. By the time Washington was sworn in as our first President the Antients totally overwhelmed and dominated American Freemasonry. Although Antient Masons were not “common folk” but rather what you would call the forerunners of the American middle class, they did add a distinct different more plebian atmosphere to the practice of Freemasonry.

The Continental army contained a larger than usual percentage of Masons and military Lodges which were widely populated throughout the colonies were mostly Antient Lodges. Bullock credits American Freemasonry with providing the camaraderie that kept it from falling apart in rough times. He tells us that army officers through Freemasonry’s ability to combine exclusive honor with inclusive love were able to develop the spirit de corps that helped it survive to win the war.

The dominance of the Antients and victory over the British forever changed American society and American freemasonry.  Gone were the exclusivity of the elites, in was republican thinking.

The next period in Bullocks breakdown was post war Republican Masonry.

“First, the new vision of the fraternity fitted into the widely shared desire to reconceive the character of American society as it emerged from the Revolution. By celebrating morality and individual merit, Masonry seemed to exemplify the ideals necessary to build a society based on virtue and liberty. Fraternal membership and ideology helped bring high standing to a broad range of Americans, breaking down the artificial boundaries of birth and wealth.  Masonry offered participation in both the great classical tradition of civilization and the task of building a new nation.”

The byword of republican Freemasonry became virtue. Education and learning were encouraged and Freemasonry once again linked back to the wisdom of the ancients while at the same time pushing the advancement of science. Freemasonry became supporters of schools for all of society and advocates of increasing knowledge.  Just what a new republican nation needed. Freemasonry melded with the concept of liberty thereby giving it broad public appeal.

It is here that Bullock mentions the contributions of Prince Hall and Hannah Mather Crocker who, in a society becoming increasingly more open, were able to accomplish much for Blacks and women in Freemasonry as the concept of liberty permeated the Craft in a republican increasingly classless society.

At the same time Freemasonry became more closely identified with the Christian religion and some in the fraternity maintained that Freemasonry fulfilled a divine purpose while others went them one better by declaring Freemasonry a sacred institution. It was also during this period that American Freemasonry also increased its commitment of universal charity.

“Masonic brotherhood now included close, even emotionally charged bonds of obligations.  As Royall noted, Masonic fraternity created ‘claims of a sacred nature.’  Such claims, Clinton explained, formed ties of ‘artificial consanguinity’ that operated ‘with as much force and effect, as the natural relationship of blood.'”

But all was not rosy in Freemasonryland.  Masonic Brothers during this period developed a code of “Preference” meaning that Brothers would always choose to do business with each other in preference to a non Mason. Bullock writes, “Masonic ties did more than promote broad moral standards; they actually guided the paths of trade.” However this can be seen as presenting the Craft with conflicting allegiances trying to balance its declaration of operating for the common good while at the same time using Freemasonry for personal gain. By creating an exclusive tight little network Freemasonry started working against its ideals of rising in society by merit and morality.  These would later be seeds sown to Freemasonry’s own destruction.

And so would Freemasonry increasingly involvement with partisan politics. A very high percentage of Masons in this time period held public office. Freemasonry’s ability was in a time of poor methods of long range communication, to provide a network of men who could more easily communicate with each other and to encourage and reinforce republican values of government and intellectual prowess. More than half of Andrew Jackson’s cabinet members were Freemasons coming from many different states. What Lodge members could do in politics is what they were also able to do in business, show “Preference” to each other for their own personal gain.

This period saw the rise of what Bullock calls the “higher degrees” or concordant bodies. Freemasonry increasingly began to see itself as sacred in this period.

“The fraternity, brothers now argued, was not simply an exemplification of universal processes but a sanctified institution whose values and experiences transcended the ordinary world.”

The result was that Freemasons became obsessed with the standardization and memorization of rituals.  Ritual was no longer a means of initiation but rather a scared body of knowledge. Higher degree ritual carried religious overtones with often extreme emotion reminiscent of Evangelical Christianity. This new tact tended to pull Freemasonry inward away from the outside world and make it exclusive and privileged – in knowledge rather than in social class,however.

These factors of favoritism in business and in politics and this new ritualistic based exclusive, privileged, sacred fraternity were factors which increased its numbers and popularity but at the same time were exactly the factors that led to its downfall, to jealousy of the fraternity and eventually outright hatred.  The Morgan affair was just the spark that set it off.

And that is Bullocks last period from 1826-1840.  He calls it “Masonry and Democracy.” He takes us through all the Anti Masonic rhetoric, the newspapers and the Anti Masonic Party.  Not only was this America’s first third party but also the first time in politics that public opinion had been rallied to bear pressure upon an issue and support a political party. Generally Bullocks thesis is that the American people took back their governance and squashed all those who claimed special privilege. Anti Masonry thus became a massive movement to purify America.

“Opponents of Masonry first pioneered new means of agitation, printing, meeting, and politicking to change public opinion on a single issue.  At the same time, and just as important, Antimasons also explored and popularized new ways of thinking that opposed widely accepted beliefs.  By elevating conscience and public opinion as the test of religion and republicanism, Masonry’s opponents helped lay the foundation for the cultural dominance of democracy and evangelicalism.”

For those of you who thought I might have knocked the Jacob book, I recommend that you read both The Origins of Freemasonry and Revolutionary Brotherhood, and that you read them together starting with “Origins” first. That is the way I read them and I can’t think of a better way of getting a better picture of the development of Freemasonry in its early speculative stages.  Only a qualified, knowledgeable historian could give you this kind of insight and we are blessed with two. For to look at Freemasonry through the research and eyes of two eminent non- Masonic historians is really to see Masonry from the outside looking in.  So often we read Masonic authors who look at Masonry from the inside looking out.  There is always, in my humble opinion, much to be learned from an objective, impartial observer who has no vested interest in the enterprise being studied. Both books are well researched and footnoted.  And both will punch some holes in some Masonic myths.  One big observation to note is that Freemasonry is an ever changing society, pulling society this way and that and being pulled by society this way and that. It means that the Freemasonry of the future will probably look a bit different from now.  Everything evolves.  Life is change.  Ask a historian.

But there is a problem with putting all our observation eggs in one basket, the basket of the historian.  It tends to over ride or even negate the contributions and effects of the esoteric – spiritual side of the Craft, that part of Freemasonry which is that private personal journey building that spiritual temple.  Working on one’s soul is a whole different ball of wax and needs not to be left out of the equation.  Happy reading!

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Don’t Be A Taliban Freemason

Stephen Dafoe’s There’s A Hole In Our Bucket article was a solid reinforcement analysis of what he and I and others have been writing about for some time now. American Freemasonry is like the NFL Indianapolis Colts until just recently.  The Colts spent all their money on offense and not much on defense.  Consequently they could score a ton of points but they often gave up just as many.  Freemasonry has spent a ton of money on marketing the product and not much on maintaining the quality of the product.  Hence it has been the solution of many of the writers who seek to motivate Freemasonry into being all it can be to call for Freemasonry to practice Freemasonry.

Most of us venting our spleen on this subject have gone over time and again what is lacking in our Lodges. Boring business meetings, poor food, no agenda, few activities, no Masonic education, research and study, run down old drafty Lodge buildings falling apart and sucking the budget dry and dues held artificially low all result in no Freemasonry.

Dafoe is right on when he pointed out that we don’t have membership problem we have a retention problem.  The death of our older Brothers is not depleting the ranks anymore for we are replacing them with new arrivals. The continuing decline is due to demits. And Dafoe has proved that analysis with tables and statistics to back it up.

But when all is said and done many Lodges who have corrected the folly of their ways and have vastly improved the Freemasonry that they practice, they still do not see the results that they were expecting.  Perhaps there are other mitigating circumstances.  I have written about the albatross around Freemasonry’s neck, the expense of their Lodge building in “The Old Past Master & Lodge Foreclosure.” I have also addressed one other shortcoming in “How Freemasonry Is Missing The Boat”, the lack of being socially relevant and I will not readdress either point again.

But the key here to what Brother Stephen DaFoe has presented us is the statistics, the facts.  Like Sgt. Friday on Dragnet, “just give me the facts, ma’m, just the facts.”  And the facts are those that have been demitting are not Masons who have been members of the Lodge for 20 years who band together to keep dues and expenditures artificially low.  Those that demit are much newer members who have found something lacking in the practice of Freemasonry.  We have always assumed that it is “the poor Lodge performance” that has caused all these demits.  But what if that is not so? As previously noted many Lodges have corrected most of these deficiencies yet they are still receiving a large amount of Brothers just walking away from the Craft.

Then we have the issue of those who might join who do not.  Those that see something in the Fraternity that turns them off before they petition. Could the cause be the same in both instances?

When you step back and look at Freemasonry you realize that you are looking at a very old society with deeply and tightly held traditions. If you stop and ask yourself if there was no Freemasonry, if it never existed and today you were going to invent just such an organization would you make it exactly the same as it is constituted today? If you say yes I don’t think you are being honest with yourself.

There is a great deal of difference between how we as a culture today in the United States and Canada look at — society, at the role of science in society, at God and the practice of religion, at gender equality, at sexual preference, at race and issues such as slavery, at politics and government and such issues as government welfare, and at human beings right to change and alter the universe — versus how Western society looked at these issues in the 1600s and 1700s when Speculative Freemasonry was formed.

But sometimes these deeply held traditions remain with us even though society has moved on to a more “enlightened’ view or arrangement.  I think of my church, The Roman Catholic church when I say this.  When Catholic churches were built way back when, they contained a multitude of statues and pictures.  Much of the belief system could be seen in the stain glass windows and on the walls where the Stations of the Cross were carved. This was so structured because much of the population of the time was illiterate.  Protestant denominations that followed long after saw no need to have their churches so adorned.  As we became a better educated and more informed society did the Catholic Church remove all its statues, pictures and carvings?  No it kept them and added to them modernized methods. Freemasonry is a lot like that.

And now the Catholic Church is experiencing an extreme shortage of Priests to the point that soon many churches will not have a Pastor. There is of course a solution to this crisis.  If tomorrow the Catholic Church would admit women to the Priesthood they would have more than ample Pastors to go around.  But they will not do that.  They cling to the old ways and the reasons and justifications of many hundreds of years ago when human beings looked at things through a whole different set of eyes. Freemasonry is a lot like that.

So let me ask you again, if you were going to invent American Freemasonry today, armed and influenced by the modern outlook of today, would you structure it into 50 individual state Grand Lodges?  Would you have it racially separated?  Would you even deny another race the right to practice Freemasonry, this your new invention?  Would you exclude women? Have we discarded the ancient belief so much evidenced in the Holy Bible that women are just property, the property of men? I would hope that you would say Western society has.  But ask yourself, has Freemasonry?

Today’s young men and women would affirm a belief in a society that regards all races as equal, all gender as equal, sexual preference as a personal choice and every expression of worship of the Creator as equally valid. They will only fraternize with and join groups, organizations or societies that reflect those core beliefs. So if you were to invent Freemasonry today you would probably structure it around those modern views, those progressions of society, so tightly held today.  If you would do that then why not reform Freemasonry today into that image?  Because it may very well be that this is what is causing the demits and the refusals to petition. This could be what is stunting the growth of Freemasonry.  But don’t take my word for it.  Listen to Margaret C. Jacob.

“At present in the United States freemasonry is in serious decline, with numbers dwindling and lodges closing.  Yet at the same time American reformers have arisen, many of them identified with what they see as the more liberal forms of freemasonry practiced in continental Europe.  Central to their concerns are issues of gender and race.”

“Officially women are still not admitted as sisters in the American lodges. In fact, and in spite of the official position, lodges for women, and for men and women do exist in major cities and receive some encouragement from brothers who value gender inclusiveness.  But this is a struggle, and the outcome is by no means certain.  More lodges may close and charitable work cease before the inclusion of women becomes the official norm.  In the meantime such exclusions seem increasingly beside the point, as slowly and only through struggle do Masonic women appear closer to a still distant equality.”

“But there is another matter, that of race, perhaps even more serious in terms of its larger implications for American society in general.  Vast numbers of lodges, particularly in the American South, are segregated rigidly by race.  Recently when addressing an entirely white audience of freemasons in Louisiana – all without exception immensely gracious – I was asked what I thought about the future of the American lodges. What can be said in the face of an institutionalized social system that works against our highest civic ideals? I find it hard to imagine the young men and women of every imaginable racial background who populate my university classes – where an ease in social mixing is now the norm to be sought – being attracted to lodges that would exclude one or another of their friends.  Obviously, the future does not lie with segregation.” (1)

Finally let us address the two stumbling blocks to any such solution, “It can’t be changed”, and “It isn’t my problem.”

There is nothing humanly created that cannot be humanly changed.  The Constitution of the United States has been changed many times. The Landmarks of Freemasonry are not sacrosanct or exempted from such change. Like altering the Constitution of the United States it should be very difficult to do so but not impossible. To write into any Constitution, by-laws, rules or regulations that no changes can ever be made is unrealistic and invalid.  Everything changes.  The definition of life is change.  Freemasonry, The Catholic Church and any and all other institutions possessing a long history and tradition have to learn when it is time to move on, when it is time to get a life.  Failure to do so will see such institutions whither and die.

The Catholic in Nebraska says, “we have no pedophile priests in this state.  This controversy has nothing to do with me and should not reflect on the Catholic Church in Nebraska.” Is there any way that you believe that to be true?  If not then don’t say the same thing about Freemasonry. Racism in another jurisdiction but not yours does reflect on Freemasonry as a whole. Gender persecution is unlawful in the United States of America and Freemasons are always told to uphold the civil law. Why let it be that way in Freemasonry? Sexual preference, although legislated more locally, is a right across the United States.  Why let it be different in Freemasonry? The tradition of non-interference into the business of another jurisdiction is just that a tradition and an unwritten one and merely an excuse.  Codifying laws, rules and regulations that negate basic human rights and civil rights if not illegal is at least morally repugnant.

Soon Masonic Central will have as a guest on its radio show/podcast an articulate female Mason, Karen Kidd.  I hope that you will listen with an open mind and be willing to accept the challenges of the 21st century.

Don’t tolerate intolerance

Don’t be a Taliban Freemason

(1)        “The Origins of Freemasonry – Facts & Fictions” by Margaret C. Jacob, pgs 130-131

Happy Anniversary Phoenixmasonry

Phoenixmasonry is a proactive approach to, and practice of, Freemasonry.  The name Phoenixmasonry combines the symbolic spirit of rebirth and renewal associated with the ancient mythological bird the Phoenix with the ancient Craft knowledge of Masonry, hence the name Phoenixmasonry. Our Latin motto: Non Omnis Moriar. ”Not all of me shall die”.

Here at Phoenixmasonry, we believe that each of us has had the feeling of being consumed by fire. That the problems of our lives have left us in the pit of despair, the ashes of destruction, although it may not have been the fire that creates those ashes. Adversity and the overcoming of it makes us stronger. Just as the beautiful Temple of King Solomon rose from the rubbish and ashes of barbarous forces to become an even more magnificent and resplendent structure, our belief and faith in living a moral life allows us to rise up from the ashes to become stronger and better Freemasons.

It was on August 11, 1999 that David Lettelier, heading a small group of Masonic collectors scattered across the USA , created a virtual Masonic museum and library and called it Phoenixmasonry.  Phoenixmasonry, unlike most other museums and libraries, was not housed in a physical plant but rather displayed its artifacts, collectibles and rare books on the Internet.  Open 24 hours a day with no admission fee, Masonry’s first online museum and library grew and grew and grew, until today it is visited more each day than any other Masonic website on the Internet. The Phoenixmasonry staff contains experienced Librarians and antique appraisers and it is a proud Member of the Masonic Library and Museum Association at:



Today it continues to add collectibles while at the same time offering some current Masonic thought from today’s cutting edge Masonic authors and writers.

Along the way to this pinnacle of success many Brothers and Sisters have lent a helping hand and contributed to the continual improvement of this wonderful Masonic Site. To commemorate the Tenth anniversary of Phoenixmasonry and honor its contributors a special edition engraved copper coin has been struck.  The front of the coin has Phoenixmasonry’s Masonic logo and commemorates its Tenth anniversary. The back of the coin features all the names, in circular fashion, of those who have helped Phoenixmsonry be what it is today.  It is only fitting and proper that these contributors be joined in a circle of friendship signifying a fraternal family dedicated to Masonic knowledge and education. Each contributor received a gold plated version of the commemorative coin but anybody can order the copper version from the website at a cost of $15.00 each plus $2.50 shipping and handling while limited supplies last.

What you will find in the Phoenixmasonry museum is a large selection of rare and expensive treasured Masonic artifacts with a brief story of their origin and a description of their finer points.  Here is the much sought after Dudley Masonic Pocket Watch made by a Mason for a Mason.  Brother William Wallace Dudley and his company crafted a limited supply of these 19 jewel solid gold watches.  The Dudley Watch Company was only in business for five years from 1920-1925 but its patented design can sell for close to $3000.00 today.

You can also find a very unique hand blown engraved decanter displaying some features crafted by the lost art of copper wheel engraving.

How about a very unique Goat stein?

Or maybe you would rather visit with the Jerusalem Masonic Wage Box made of olive wood and crafted in 1887.  It was a presentation of corn, wine and oil made to new Fellowcraft Masons. The box has three compartments.  The middle compartment contains the corn(wheat).  The two other compartments each have hand blown crystal bottles engraved with the Square and Compasses.  One bottle contains olive oil and the other Jerusalem wine. If that doesn’t suit your fancy how about a Mother of Pearl Masonic Tea Caddy?

Then there is a very rare and different tool chest from Brother Henry O. Studley.


For a good laugh take a look at The Goat Riding Trike which could be ordered from the DeMoulin Masonic Lodge Supply Catalog.

My favorite is a hand painted early Masonic Shaving Dish. Around the rim is painted a cabletow and atop the Square and compasses in the center is a bow signifying the mystic tie. These are only a few highlights of what awaits you at the Phoenixmasonry museum.

Phoenixmasonry’s librarian, Wor. Bro. Ralph Omholt has scanned many old and rare Masonic books, manuscripts and lectures. These expensive works can now be downloaded into your home computer free of charge. Select from, to name just a few, Denslow’s “10,000 Famous Freemasons, Mackey’s “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”, Gould’s “History of Freemasonry Throughout The World”, Mitchell’s “Masonic Histories”, Dudley Wright’s “Women In Freemasonry”, “The Kabbalah Unveiled” by S.L. MacGregor Mathers, “The Lost Keys of Freemasonry” by Manly P. Hall, “The Theocratic Philosophy of Freemasonry” by George Oliver, “The Illuminati (1776-1784), A Concise Report”, “A Series of Letters on Freemasonry” by Hannah Mather Crocker, “The Mysteries of Freemasonry” by Captain William Morgan, “The Writings of George Washington” by George Washington and the Masonic Monitors of Preston & Webb.  Then there are the works of Rob Morris, “A Well Spent Life”, “The Lights and Shadows of Freemasonry”, “Freemasonry in the Holy Land” and “Masonic History of the Northwest.”

The E-library continues to grow.  New additions to the collection of the Masters of Masonic authors are being added all the time.  Other favorites that should not be overlooked are Anderson’s “Constitutions”, Carl Claudy’s three works on the explanation of the three degrees, “DeMoulin Masonic Lodge Supply Catalog No. 138”, Wilmshurst’s “The Meaning of Masonry” and a complete collection  of the “Builder Magazine”, a most sought after prize.  Actually every E-book in the collection is a gem and it takes forbearance not to get carried away in listing them all.

A special section on Prince Hall is a new feature on the Phoenixmasonry website.  It features six You Tube videos showing the William H. Upton memorial unity march in 1991.  Upton was the Grand Master of Washington State who recognized Prince Hall Masonry in 1898.  You won’t want to miss this defining moment in history.

Lately some selected works of writers of today have been added, most in essay form.  “Laudable Pursuit” is a giant of a work penned in the 21st century.  Wor. Brother and Kentucky Colonel Ian Donald from Canada adds a most enjoyable paper, “A Charge By Any Other Name Is Still A Charge.” The Masonic service Association of North America is there with its latest survey of the state of American Freemasonry and its recommendations for improvement.  And a number of papers by Wor. Brother Frederic L. Milliken can be found, the most notable being “World Peace Through Brotherhood” and “Native American Rituals & The Influence of Freemasonry.”

You might think that is the whole story of the Phoenixmasonry website but you would be wrong.  Other interesting facets of the site include:

  • Masonic Poems & Essays
  • A breakdown and description of Fraternal Bodies in America
  • Masonic membership statistics for the USA and Canada
  • A biblical history of King Solomon’s Temple
  • Ancient fonts
  • A Masonic glossary of terms and symbolism
  • A look at some charities and how to get involved
  • A Masonic Gift Shop and Store where one can even order Masonic Teddy Bears
  • A How To Section – from how to conduct a Table Lodge to how to conduct a Masonic wedding.

Phoenixmasonry looks forward to you joining us in celebrating ten years of service to the Masonic community and continued Masonic research, education and dissemination of Masonic knowledge.  You can do all that by making that cyber trip to http://www.phoenixmasonry.org and living its motto – “spreading enlightenment – one web surfer at a time.”