AuthorityAuthority – who has it, how do they have it and what happens with it?

The line of development in Arkansas has risen to an overly heated debate outside of those involved.  Like a gladiator battle, its true, the dirty under workings of both sides are showing as the gears turn violently towards their ultimate seizure.

We want blood, from someone.

In this, no one will be the winner.  Only losers, on both immediate sides in the loss of a passionate member and the loss of credibility to a former “customer”.  Both Derek and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas will be losers in this.

But then, so will the rest of us.

Not because of any public wronging or injustice, or in any flaming arrow of outside criticism.  All you need to is read the breadcrumbs of comments littered on both sides of the fence.  Its painfully obvious, nobody is happy.

This has a parallel with something else on my mind recently, and that has to do with Authority.

Is there an Authority to Masonry, and ultimately if so who has it?

In the realm of membership organizations (where you pay to be a member) is Freemasonry (the lodge, the Grand Lodge, the apendant bodies) truly a democracy, a co-operative (see co-op) which exists for the mutual benefit of its members like a bank credit union, a Non or For-Profit Corporation, or is it something else?  Is it a corporation, designed only to facilitate an experience to its paying members like a Club Med, but with a leadership structure in place to manage and govern said experience (essentially a for profit managed corporation whose motive is to raise money to expand and grow financially with stake holders and beneficiaries).  We know for a fact that it is NOT a Mutual Benefit Society, as that is something early on impressed upon us.

A Cooperative is defined as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises.  Further, its definition on Wikipedia says of it: A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or who work at it.

I would interject here that the nature of the organization seems to most reflect the definition of a mutual benefit society, in that the tenets of Masonry mirror the attributes of such a society.

Which raises a big question as to who then owns Freemasonry.  Even more so, who speaks for it?

But lets stick to Authority for the moment.  Wikipedia says of the word: authority derives from the Latin word auctoritas meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. Essentially authority is imposed by superior hierarchy superior upon inferior either by force of arms structural authority or by force of argument or sapiential authority. Usually authority has components of both compulsion and persuasion.

One could suggest that authority is compelled by the idea of Leadership, which is defined as:

Leadership is stated as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.

Wikipedia: Leadership

The difference being a Leader is able to compel people to action vs.  an Authority forcing them.  Taken a step further, does a Co-Op have an Authority or does it have Leadership?  Is it  compelled into action, or is it forced?

On Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies blog, he recently quoted from L’Express, a French publication, about a meeting of French Masons where in their displeasure more than a 1000 Masons showed up to show their discontent.  Did they show up because they were compelled, or because they had an active part in the overall process?

The problem with all of this is who are beneficiaries and who are the victims.

Those who see themselves as part of a Co-Op prefer the transparency – they see an open society as a win win for all involved and want to know what is going on to be a part of the conversation.  And those who see themselves as under an authority feel that there is a violation of the institutions sanctity, that open dialog violates its privacy, secrecy, and so on, such that to even bring the conversation up is revealing its secrets.  (First rule of fight club…)

I won’t mince words, I’m in the Co-Op camp.  I want my Secret Society to be open to me, not governed by another internal secret society with its own motives which leans back to the corporate vs. cooperative issue.

So my big unanswered question is this:  is Freemasonry a Co-Op or an Corporation?  Do we, as members have a universal say in it?  Or is it because so few come to lodge to vote, the say has been usurped by our own internal Patriot Act (I’ve linked an explanation of the Patriot Act for those not in the US).

So then, using the fuller definition of Authority from Wikipedia: In government, authority is often used interchangeably with the term “power”. However, their meanings differ: while “power” is defined as “the ability to influence somebody to do something that he/she would not have done”, “authority” refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power. For example, whilst a mob has the power to punish a criminal, for example by lynching, people who believe in the rule of law consider that only a court of law has the authority to order punishment.

Authority then comes from a belief in law.  Our belief in the law.  We give an institution authority because we choose to exist and live by its laws.

Thankfully in the U.S. the first amendment protects our right to speak freely in the public space, to question authority (when necessary) and be publicially vocal because no other means exist to communicate cooperatively.

Because every action has a reaction, and in a Co-Op organization a disgruntled customer speaks poorly of the whole organization, and non disgruntled members should cooperatively have a right to know what Authority(Leadership) is being exercised.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Is the corpus of Freemasonry not a Co-Op by definition?  Is it a Non Profit?  Is it a for profit?  Does it in practice operate like a Benefit Society?  Is it something else entirely, indefinable by civil law?  Does it matter?

If no man speaks for Masonry, is there such thing as an authority that can through it?

Posted in Masonic Traveler and tagged .

A devoted student of the Western Mystery Traditions, Greg is a firm believer in the Masonic connections to the Hermetic traditions of antiquity, its evolution through the ages and into its present configuration as the antecedent to all contemporary esoteric and occult traditions. He is a self-called searcher for that which was lost, a Hermetic Hermit and a believer in “that which is above is so too below.” Read more about Greg Stewart.


  1. Unfortunately, we have those leaders in the Masonic Fraternity that even though they have been given a title and ask to govern, they become so in love with the title that they forget about the tenets and values that made them a Mason in the first place. They lead by edict and authority of their title and not by the basic tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

    Leading with Brotherly Love means that I will place on my Brother the highest possible valuation as a friend and companion. To be with him, to spend hours in his company, to have the privilege of working at his side. So as my Brother’s leader I should govern with respect simply because he is my Masonic Brother. As a leader, I will gain further respect by remembering that those I lead are the same as I.

    Leading with Masonic Relief is remembering that the practice of charity asks us to soothe and bring peace to troubled brothers. So a leader should lead with love without hope of gain or reward. When conflicts arise, a Masonic leader should remember we are taught to give as well as receive good consul. A Masonic Leader’s title doesn’t excuse him from his basic responsibility to extend relief and accept wise consul.

    A Masonic Leader should remember we are taught to be good men and true. The attribute of truth is the foundation of every virtue. Truth demonstrates a strong character and leads to trust, and trust is the foundation of leadership.

    So every time I read or hear about troubles with leaders in Lodges, Grand Lodges or any other body which bases its membership on being a Mason, I just think they need to go back and study what was taught in the degrees.

  2. Br. Mike, I agree with you completely, and have witnessed first hand brothers in leadership positions just as you described.

    The ever driving wish is, I suppose, to see them in ever station and in every leadership role. Perhaps that asks to much.

  3. Masonic authority lies with Masonic law, which was first established by Anderson in 1723. Like our US Constitution, that law is administered by officials elected by representatives of the Craft. The quality of the leadership of the Craft is dependent on the quality of men we allow into our Fraternity and the willingness of those with the proper knowledge, skills, and abilities to put their names forward. In my opinion, like the United States as a whole, Freemasonry has reached a certain level of complacency. We have not performed the necessary diligence to ensure that we maintain best quality membership, and we have likewise not taken care to ensure that the best qualified members of our craft become our leaders.

  4. Masonic Traveler sez,
    I won’t mince words, I’m in the Co-Op camp. I want my Secret Society to be open to me, not governed by another internal secret society with its own motives which leans back to the corporate vs. cooperative issue.
    I couldn’t have said it better. The leadership in the Fraternity expects one to open their minds to knew ways of thinking, first by learning one’s lectures/catechism, then by learning the ritualistic work. Both contain much history of the craft as well as important lessons for our lives, which in turn, better prepare us for a more active role in the Fraternity as well as our public lives. Then, the very people we have entrusted with the leadership roles in the Craft want us to check our brains at the door when it comes to openness and transparency in the halls and offices of the Grand Lodge.

    Like Bro. Mike and mtadmin, I, too, have witnessed those who would lead with a closed fist rather than an open hand. And, I have seen how they deal with any who dare to question their actions or “authority”.

    And, I totally agree with clinebo in that “We have not performed the necessary diligence to ensure that we maintain best quality membership, and we have likewise not taken care to ensure that the best qualified members of our craft become our leaders”. Though, some of them might be inclined to say we who question them are the very ones due diligence should have kept out.

    In any event, I’d much rather see change take place from within than see outsiders meddle with things they know nothing of except what they hear from those who know even less or, worse, have an agenda.

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