Freemasonry is grounded in three specific virtues which are at the core of Masonic teachings. Are these virtues really at the core of the Masonic connection to faith, religion and the divine?
These three virtues are the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built.
Brotherly Love as directed towards all mankind and especially to other Masons. Relief, in that every Mason is obligated to relieve the suffering of any Master Mason they encounter who is in dire need, and if in their power to do so, to the best of their ability, Also to act charitably towards society, giving of themselves to better the common good. And Truth, which is represented by the Divine in its multiplicity and diversity, as understood by all men.
These three ideas represent the core upon which Freemasonry focuses in its ultimate distillation, in that Freemasonry does not hold one faith above another, rather seeing faith itself as the common denominator between all of faiths.
One of the oldest fraternities in the western world, a Freemason is the common name for those initiated into the fraternity of Freemasonry. But, what elements are at work in ones decision to become a one?
From the What is Freemasonry ebook, a Freemason is a man who, in searching for life’s ineffable questions, finds his way into the company of fellow seekers. Comprised of men from every nation, races, social and economic level, all hold similar ideals and beliefs.
The uniting idea is a faith in the divine founded in the certitude in an afterlife. This “belief” is grounded by certain landmark tenants and virtues which ultimately lead in exploration of those invisible questions, leading ultimately to the betterment of all mankind.
In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and from a piece from Joseph Fort Newton’s The Builder on the Mystic Tie. Defining this mysterious phrase is often troublesome as how does one define the ineffable or the unseen? Often times, to define the mysterious we resort to putting words to feelings, or expressions of a feeling, that still fall short of the what the meaning represents. Perhaps, in Mackey’s definition with help from Newton, we can find some help in putting feeling to this important symbol.
The Mystic Tie
That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”
The expression was used by Brother Robert Burns in his farewell to the Brethren of Saint James Lodge, Tarbolton, Scotland in 1786.
The full text of the poem/song reads:
Adieu! a heart-warm fond adieu; Dear brothers of the mystic tie! Ye favoured, enlighten’d few, Companions of my social joy; Tho’ I to foreign lands must hie, Pursuing Fortune’s slidd’ry ba’; With melting heart, and brimful eye, I’ll mind you still, tho’ far awa.
Oft have I met your social band, And spent the cheerful, festive night; Oft, honour’d with supreme command, Presided o’er the sons of light: And by that hieroglyphic bright, Which none but Craftsmen ever saw Strong Mem’ry on my heart shall write Those happy scenes, when far awa.
May Freedom, Harmony, and Love, Unite you in the grand Design, Beneath th’ Omniscient Eye above, The glorious Architect Divine, That you may keep th’ unerring line, Still rising by the plummet’s law, Till Order bright completely shine, Shall be my pray’r when far awa.
And you, farewell! whose merits claim Justly that highest badge to wear: Heav’n bless your honour’d noble name, To Masonry and Scotia dear! A last request permit me here, – When yearly ye assemble a’, One round, I ask it with a tear, To him, the Bard that’s far awa.
From The Builder
June, 1920 by Bro. Joseph Fort Newton
“The moral solidarity of mankind is dissolved. The danger is imminent that the end may be a war of all against all. Sects and parties are increasing; common estimates and ideals keep slipping away; we understand one another less and less; even voluntary associations, that form of unity peculiar to modern times, unite more in accomplishment than disposition, bring men together outwardly rather than in reality.” These words, written by Rudolph Eucken in 1912, were like a star-shell over No Man’s Land, revealing the divided mind of the world, and they had a terrible fulfilment. The War, by its principle of violence, made no positive contribution to society, but only stirred up and brought to the surface what already existed. For both men and nations, it intensified tendencies already active, precipitated passions held in obscure solution, and brought into focus forces that had long been uneasily accumulating. It neither initiated nor changed the direction in which the world was moving, but it did quicken the pace, and, in quickening it, revealed it. That is why a haunting uneasiness possesses the minds of men today. Even when local disturbances subside and isolated disputes are settled, we still doubt whether a stable tranquility has returned or ever will return again. For these things are only symptoms of a profound and widespread mental ferment and moral restlessness.
The insight of Eucken goes further back and deeper down to the real root of the matter, divining the causes and logic of it all to be moral, spiritual, religious. For, if anything is made plain by history, it is that the mystic tie which holds humanity together in ordered and advancing life is moral and spiritual, and when that thread is cut anything may happen. From the beginning of the century the spiritual disintegration of the modern world, the breaking of the ties that bind together the fabric of civilization, had been observed and noted by many. Faith grew dim, moral sanctions were relaxed, and it was deemed clever and smart to talk lightly of those sanctities without which no society has long existed. Much of our literature has been intellectually Bolshevistic for thirty years, attacking the basis of marriage, of the home, of the church, of the state, as if the moral laws were only conventions, if not fictions. Verily we have our reward; we know now that when fools play with fire they get burned.
For a time, during the stress and strain and terror of the war, there seemed to be a re-knitting of the ties that bind men and nations together; but it was only seeming. It was the power of fear and force, not the power of faith. How unreal, how artificial it was is shown by the rapidity with which that amazing solidarity was demobilized, to be followed by a revival of class rancor, sectarian ardor, and a narrow, myopic nationalism. A world which, having sent young men to die by the thousands for magnanimous ideals, has already half forgotten them as it coolly and briskly resumes business at the old stand – such a world may be grieved, but it ought not to be astonished, at the revolt of both the minds and souls of men. Not that the immediate future will see a triumph of subversive schemes and radical ideas. If we follow an almost universal precedent we shall pass first through a period of luxury and extravagance, and there will he a momentary craving for the old social and religious orders, as in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. But this is not significant. It is merely the first reaction from the emotional strain and nervous tension of the war. This mood will soon spend itself, and then, at once, new forms, new forces, new demands will begin to arise which will sweep away much that has seemed precious and permanent in our lives.
Without a spiritual renewal, without a re-knitting of that “moral solidarity,” of which Eucken speaks so eloquently, – without the Mystic Tie – we may not hope for security and real progress. The truth is that we have been trying to build a human civilization on a materialistic foundation, and it cannot be done. No human community can long exist on such a basis. Russia has rendered incalculable service to humanity, by showing, with deadly consistency, how materialism issues into anarchy and animalism. Hear now a proof of this in the words of a spiritually-minded man who lived in the midst of it, watching the decay and destruction of his country. Eugene Troubetzkoy, Professor of Law in the University of Moscow, in the Hibbert Journal, for January 1920 (page 210), shows us what happens when the tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is broken. Here are words which he who runs may read:
Bolshevism is first and foremost the practical denial of the spiritual. They flatly refuse to admit the existence of any spiritual bond between man and man. For them economic and material interests constitute the only social nexus; they recognize no other. This is the source of their whole conception of human society. The love of country, for example, is a lying hypocritical pretense; for the national bond is a spiritual bond, and therefore wholly factitious. From their point of view the only real bond between men is the material – that is to say, the economic. Material interests divide men into classes, and they are the only divisions to be taken account of. Hence they recognize no Nations save the Rich and the Poor. As there is no other bond which can unite these two Nations into one social whole, their relations must be regulated exclusively by the zoological principle revealed in the struggle for existence.
The materialistic conception of society is the Bolshevist method of treating the family. Since there is no spiritual bond between the sexes, there can be no constant relation. The rule is therefore that men and women can change their partners as often as they wish. The authorities in certain districts have even proclaimed the ‘nationalization’ of women, that is, the abolition of any private and exclusive right to process a wife even for a limited period, on the ground that women are the property of all. The same children. A powerful current of opinion is urging that children must be taken from their parents in order that the State may give them an education on true materialistic lines. In certain communes some hundreds of children were ‘nationalized,’ that is, ‘taken from their parents and placed in public institutions.
There it is, showing us what the red logic of hell means when it works itself out in action, and what results follow when the Mystic Tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is cut. Political anarchy, social animalism, moral bedlam follow with mathematical certainty, and all the fine and holy things of life are thrown into the junk heap. Man has an animal inheritance – moods of ape and tiger mingle in him with divine dreams and thoughts that wander through eternity – and when the Divine is denied, he reverts to the law of the jungle, and the hard-won trophy of spiritual struggle and agony vanishes. What happens, happens again. The Bolsheviks are men of like passions as ourselves; they simply carry out with the fatal logic of fanaticism the dogma of materialism upon which we have been trying to base our modern civilization. If anyone thinks that what has taken place in Russia cannot happen in America, he knows little of history and less of human nature. The practical denial of the Divine dehumanizes humanity, and the rest follows as night follows day.
For that reason, if it should be a part of our religion to be patriotic, it must be a part of our patriotism to keep the light of spiritual faith aflame on the altars built by our fathers. Down in Wales, at a time when it seemed that revolution was inevitable, I asked a labor leader what bond held men together. He said:
All that holds these men back is the fact that they were trained in the Sunday-schools of these Welsh chapels years ago. That is all that keeps the spark from blowing up.
Within the last four years, ten thousand Sunday-schools have ceased to exist in America, and the end is not yet. Facts such as these, and others of like kind, make a thoughtful man wonder as to what the future will be. What confronts us is not specifically indifference to religion, but indifference to pretty well everything outside the circle of creature comfort and self-gratification. There are many exceptions, of course, but in the main it is true that society has as yet been able to persuade only a few of its members to be really interested in its higher concerns. By the same token, men who do care for what is finest in our national life must make use of every opportunity, every instrumentality, to keep alive the faith that makes men faithful, and the vision of the moral ideal that lights our human way toward the city of God.
There is no need to apply what has been said, least of all to men to whom the Mystic Tie is a reality, and who are bound together by it in a fraternity of spiritual Faith and Fellowship. In every degree of Freemasonry, we are taught – by art, drama and symbol – the moral basis of human society, its spiritual interpretation, and the necessity of a fraternal righteousness among men, without which manhood is rudimentary and intellectual culture is the slave of greed and passion. Of Lincoln it was said, that “his practical life was spiritual,” and by as much as Masonry builds men of like faith and fiber who, in private life and public service, keep a manhood neither bought nor sold, true of heart and unbefogged of mind, it is helping to weave that Mystic Tie that holds the republic together. The words of James Bryce, in The American Commonwealth(page 583), ought to be written and hung up in our hearts. If history teaches anything, it teaches us that hitherto civilized society has rested on religion.
It was religious zeal and religious conscience that led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago… Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American Commonwealth ever since…
And the more democratic republics become…
…the more the masses grow conscious of their power, the more do they need to live not only by patriotism, but by reverence and self-control, and the more essential to their well-being are those sources from which reverence and self-control flow.
The full quote reads:
America is no doubt the country in which intellectual movements work most swiftly upon the masses and the country in which the loss of faith in the invisible might produce the completest revolution because it is the country where men have been least wont to revere anything in the visible world. Yet America seems as unlikely to drift from her ancient moorings as any country of the Old World. It was religious zeal and the religious conscience which led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago those colonies whose spirit has in such a large measure passed into the whole nation. Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American commonwealth ever since not indeed strong enough to avert many moral and political evils yet at the worst times inspiring a minority with a courage and ardor by which moral and political evils have been held at bay and in the long run generally overcome.
It is an old saying that monarchies live by honor and republics by virtue. The more democratic republics become the more the masses grow conscious of their own power the more do they need to live not only by patriotism but by reverence and self control and the more essential to their well being are those sources whence reverence and self control flow.
The term which Freemasons apply to each other. Freemasons are Brethren, not only by common participation of the human nature, but as professing the same faith; as being jointly engaged in the same labors, and as being united by a mutual covenant or tie, whence they are also emphatically called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”
When our Savior designated his disciples as his brethren, he implied that there was a close bond of union existing between them, which idea was subsequently carried out by St . Peter in his direction to “love the brotherhood.” Hence the early Christians designated themselves as a brotherhood, a relationship unknown to the Gentile religions; and the ecclesiastical and other confraternities of the Middle Ages assumed the same title to designate any association of men engaged in the same common object, governed by the same rules, and united by an identical interest.
The association or Fraternity of Freemasons is, in this sense, called a brotherhood.
Esoteric, Spiritual and Religious Traditions all around the world have referred to their teachings, methods and attitudes as “the Path”.
The word “Path” implies action, movement, and an eventually destination. It presumes that willful action must take place before completely understanding the doctrines of the Path. It implies development and change, and seems to tell us that we will make progress, at the beginning, the middle, and end of the Path. It also seems to point out that there must be something else out there, that we are trying to navigate through. In the mundane world, a path always leads through something, a forest, for example, and provides us with a guide whereby we can rightly say, “If I stay on this Path, I will not get lost and will reach my destination. If I stray from this Path, I likely will not know where I am.”
Whether we are speaking spiritually or literally, a Path is something that one moves upon and one experiences first hand. A Path can be described to us, and we can get a general idea of what the Path is like. We can then think upon the idea of the Path, what it means to us, and what ramifications it has within our lives, as well as in the lives of others. Yet at some point, if we truly wish to know “the Path”, our knowledge must become experiential, not simply theoretical.
When I was initiated into the Masonic Fraternity, I was humbled and honored to become a part of such a wonderful institution, and to be surrounded by so many people, so profound. It was great to sit in the Lodge with tolerant, thoughtful, dependable, capable men. The Masonic Brethren I met had such integrity, their word was their bond, and I took it upon myself to do whatever I could to emulate my new brothers whom I truly admired. In short, using my brethren as landmarks, I embarked on my journey on the Masonic Path. During the time I have been in the Masonic Fraternity, I have seen this same reaction among other newly made Masons, who also did their best to imitate the example of their brethren in order to become better men.
It is because of this simple pattern of already good moral men, seeking Freemasonry as a way to improve spiritually, morally and intellectually, that we hold our Fraternity in such high esteem. These new members see something about our tenured members, something they feel will help them grow, something they wish to emulate. This is why, when I see someone with a Masonic ring, or Masonic decals on a car, my first assumption is that the person wearing that ring, or driving that car is a moral, tolerant and good man. Even though we may differ in religious, political and philosophical views, I could trust this man with my life and the life of my family.
This Fraternal trust is the cornerstone of Freemasonry. It is truly, what makes us a genuine Brotherhood. We base our entire Initiatic structure upon the idea of finding friends to be Brothers, then discovering the profound meaning of what it is to be a Brother. Without this trust, this knowledge that when you meet a Mason upon the Path of life, you would not know that you have met a fellow traveler, whom you can trust, and who is willing to share the burdens of life with you. Without this fraternal connection, we are nothing but an odd group with archaic kabbalistic rituals and some funny or strange passwords and handshakes.
There are some profound mystical truths in Freemasonry, it is a true Mystic Path and thus, experiential, and the key to the Path is a deep sense of Fraternity. Masonry is many different things to many different people and it tends to evolve to the needs of each individual member. While opinion may differ even among Masons regarding some of the philosophies of the Order, all Masons agree that primarily in importance is Brotherly Love. It is what cements us together.
Freemasonry, like many Esoteric Fraternities, comes and goes in cycles, that is, fluctuates like the wind. Currently, it is cycling through a period of shrinking membership. As the older members pass on, there are fewer new Masons joining the ranks.
According to The Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA), membership in the United States was at about 3.1 million members in 1925, spiraled to its highest point of the century in 1959, at about 4.1 million members, and then began declining steadily ever since. Membership in the United States, in 2003, was reported at about 1.6 million members, which was the lowest point in the past 75 years. Obviously, we recognize that in order to pass along the Tradition and keep Freemasonry in the United States as strong and as vibrant, an institution as it is today, we must begin to transmit our Tradition to younger generations. Many of the leaders in the Masonic community have begun to implement programs and introduce new ideas designed to do just that. It is this author’s opinion that membership level will continue in cycles. Furthermore, there is no need to bring Freemasonry’s membership back up to the levels it enjoyed in the 1960’s in order, effectively, to pass along the Tradition. Likewise, even in the face of shrinking membership, our focus should always be on the quality of the prospective members, not on quantity.
During a recent Lodge meeting I attended, a Brother traveling from another part of the state stood up and spoke about our “Membership Crisis”. He had many good points about being more Masonic, suggesting that Lodges do more charity work and get out into the community more. He also talked about what he felt the younger generation expects to get out of a Fraternity like the Masons. He used me as an example of a younger member, as I am 30 years old in a Fraternity dominated by men over 60. He told me that my generation expects excitement, wants to be constantly entertained, and constantly busy or preoccupied. He also said that my generation was a generation of people expecting instant gratification, and that if the Order did not keep men like me busy, instantly, upon becoming members, boredom would cause us to leave.
Apart from being slightly offended by his conception that my idle brain must constantly be bombarded with stimuli of some kind in order to be content, his statements were, otherwise, very enlightening. They explained why some younger candidates for Masonry are thrust through 3-day classes, where they are given all 3 degrees and with very little studying and memorization to do. The Brother’s statements explained why newer ritual rules allowed that multiple candidates could be initiated simultaneously, even as they went through the most profound and personal parts of their initiations. Furthermore, his words explained why certain Lodges have become lax on some very important rules. I have seen the negative effects on the Fraternity when individual Lodges do not enforce the rules that exist for qualifying new membership, by signing petitions for perspective members whom they have not known for the minimum of six months, and by not thoroughly investigating perspective members prior to initiation. I, personally, know of one case where a man initiated into the Fraternity, had such questionable character, that his Lodge was forced to stop his progression on the Masonic Path, so that he could not advance beyond the Entered Apprentice degree. This unfortunate situation came about because the members and officers of this Lodge were trained to be concerned with the number of members, not with quality of members, in their Lodge.
This Masonic Path is not supposed to be thrust upon someone within a few days. Like any other Mystical Path, we must take one step at a time, making sure that as each step is taken, it is taken because it is our free will to do so. Each step upon the Masonic Path builds upon itself in responsibility and commitment, and we cannot ask for this commitment, or even a thorough understanding of it, in a short 3 days.
Masonry contributes millions of dollars to charity each year in the United States. It is partly for this reason, to help support the charitable contributions that our leaders have been pushing for more membership. Should we really be pushing quantity over quality? Ask an individual Brother this question and he will tell you that quality is more important! Yet, our Fraternity keeps trying to figure out how to make more Masons faster, rather than focusing on why we are making these Masons.
Strangely, though, some of our newly made Brothers become Masons so quickly, and they are finished with the degrees so quickly, they have nothing left to do within the Fraternity. They are Masons, but have been rushed through and have not had the time to develop the feelings of Brotherhood with their Lodge brothers. Everything has happened so fast that in many cases, they have missed the profundity of the lessons contained within the degrees. Lacking this understanding, they cannot adequately fulfill any officer’s position, as they do not really understand yet what kind of commitment is expected of them. If new Masons are leaving, it is because they feel as if they have been rushed through the degrees and feel alienated from our tightly knitted group, because of their lack of understanding of what Masonry is. I thought about all of this as the speaker at the Lodge was telling us how we must start changing Masonry to conform to “this new society”, which expects instant gratification, if our Fraternity is to gain any new members; and that the Masons are too boring for the new populace!
To the contrary, every young Mason that I know, who has stayed in the Fraternity for any amount of time, tells me that excitement, entertainment and instant gratification are not the reasons he joined the Fraternity. No one expects to be constantly entertained, nor does anyone feel bored. There are plenty of distractions in the world from which to choose. If we wanted instant gratification, something to keep us satiated and busy, we would buy a Big Mac and play a video game, which would keep our mind occupied and our stomach satisfied. It made me wonder if our Masonic leaders had ever asked the younger membership why they were there! The Masonic Fraternity simply offers many things that are not readily available in Modern Society. In fact, the Path of Freemasonry offers exactly what I found lacking in Modern Society!
Freemasonry must not be made to appeal to the masses. It has never appealed to the masses. No true mystery school ever has!
Our Order contains profound and sublime lessons that are only meant for those who are willing to develop an open and introspective mind, willing to honestly examine and tirelessly work towards the improvement of the self and of humanity. Masonry is designed to encourage study, self-reflection and Brotherly Love. These lessons are wasted on those who are not willing to pursue these qualities and disciplines, or who wish to automatically gain these attributes without a period of work and self-development.
We must never get to the point where we admit men of questionable character into the Fraternity just to meet membership goals, nor out of the need for more funds, nor out of fear that the Fraternity may cease to exist. The fastest and surest way to destroy the Masonic Fraternity would be to pass along the Tradition, irresponsibly, to those who did not respect and cherish it. It is far better for the Fraternity to shrink to a fraction of its size!
However, we do have a sacred responsibility to hand down our Tradition to future generations. How do we do this? Well, I believe that the first thing to do, before we try to figure out how to make Freemasonry “easier” to join, would be to talk with our membership. Why did our members join? Why after joining did our members stay active? Certainly, we do not retain every prospective member because Masonry is not for everyone, but, for those who find it their calling, it can become one of the most important and most meaningful aspects of their lives. By focusing on what is important to the members we have, we ensure that Masonry is as valuable to future generations of Masons as it is to us now.
I joined this Fraternity because I met some men of good character, who were intelligent, well spoken and well learned or versed, in the Western Esoteric Tradition. These men, I knew not only talked about “walking the Path”, but they actually walked it. They spoke of enlightenment, morality and right action, and the actions they took reflected what they were telling me. I stay active because after my Initiation, I met more men who truly have walked the Path, who backed up their speech with action, and I saw myself and others around me change in positive ways because of our choice to become Masons. I admire the men in my Fraternity, and I am still a Mason because I desire to follow their example and become more like them.
It is not that we must alter the Path of Freemasonry so that it is easier and quicker to travel on in order to replenish our membership. Rather we must find more ways to present the Path as it is, so that those who desire membership into our organization know that it exists, and anyone can ask us about it. How do we do this? Masons tend to be active in their communities. If we hold onto our Masonic Ideals, and demonstrate them to the outside world by virtue of our thoughts, words and deeds, we will inspire those seekers, who wish to be a part of our Fraternity to seek us out and request membership. If we continue to work to improve ourselves and dedicate ourselves to the betterment of humanity, then we will attract people of like mind, who will join our ranks.
Let us also make sure that we never seek membership for the revenue it can bring. We are one of the biggest charities in the world, and if we need money, there are many ways to raise it, so that we may continue to be a strong force for the betterment of our communities. We must pass along our Ideals to other generations, and always keep our eye out for those who would seek this Path, but we also have a responsibility to make sure that we transmit the integrity of our Order only to worthy individuals who can understand its meaning and purpose. Otherwise, the secrets of Freemasonry will become hollow and meaningless, the profound wisdom long forgotten; and will become simply words, one must hear in order to get through the degrees and become a member of “the club”.
As we walk the Path that we have chosen, it is important to remember that it is a Path, with obstacles and strange, unforeseen turns. We must constantly remind ourselves of the reasons we have chosen this Path and why we continue to choose to walk down it. We must also understand that as we walk the Path of Freemasonry, we become a part of that Path, and future Masons will look upon us as landmarks and examples of what it means to be a member of this great Fraternity. From the first day we become Master Masons, we are entrusted with a Tradition, and it is our sacred duty to preserve and pass along this Tradition, only to those who will cherish and follow it. If we wish to know the best way to ensure the transference of our Tradition, and what would appeal to prospective members, we must look into ourselves and find out why we desired to join the Fraternity, in the first place, and why we are still members. This [introspection] will lead to better results than trying to determine what is in the minds of persons, whom, we have not yet met. Freemasonry does not have to bring its membership [number] back to what it was in the 1960s in order to be an effective group. There are other ways to bring money into the Fraternity if needed. Our actions, our development as Masons will show others what it means to be a part of the Fraternity.
Above all else, and most important to the future of the Fraternity, we must hold sacred our duty regarding recommendation for degrees. We must not recommend someone for the degrees of Masonry unless we are sure that that person is able and willing to understand the importance of the degrees they may receive. Thereby, we can reasonably believe that all of their future transactions with humankind will reflect the high values and integrity of our Order. If we do this, we will ensure that Our Fraternity remains intact and alive for generations to come.
This was originally published Jan 19, 2011 as a contribution from By Tony Horsnby.
The question of What is Freemasonry has been one I’ve tried to answer myself for many years. In a recent column, Tim Bryce took a stab at the elusive answer in a very astute and concise fashion coming to the ultimate conclusion that Freemasonry is a fraternity as “… an environment of companionship dedicated to the social development of its members.” While I don’t think his conclusion is to far from the mark, how he got there bares some consideration.
Did his conclusions go far enough?
In his conclusion, Tim says that Freemasonry is, at its core, a fraternity – debunking the notion of it being a club, philanthropy, religion or a corporation. So, allow me to begin by considering what exactly a fraternity is.
The word fraternity has it’s origins in Old French, fraternité , with even older use from Latin, fraternitatem, which was defined as brotherhood. Rightly so, the notion of the word frater, as Tim says, was the Latin equivalent of the word brother, a term still used in some esoteric groups in present day.
The notion of the term fraternity has even older origins dating back to antiquity in the notion of the mystery cults of Rome (such as the Mithraic rites) evolving through the centuries to the trade guilds later to be embodied in American Culture through open organizations of association, at least so the Encyclopedic entry in Wikipedia would suggest. That same article says that the American social enterprise that became Democracy was essentially an outgrowth of this notion of fraternity in that religious freedom gave cause for ideological association giving rise to a “nation of joiners” that Alexis de Tocqueville (1830) and Arthur M. Schlesinger (1944) saw fit to characterize American as.
But, that exploration may take us to far afield. I will say that the de Tocqueville and Schlesinger’s conclusion has been challenged in more recent scholarship not as outgrowths of democracy but as institutionalization’s of civil society and the need for public engagement – an idea that turns the no religion or politics onto its head given the depth to which both are, today, the main focus of our present society.
As a fraternity, Tim’s conclusion is that while not a club, philanthropy, religion or political action committee, Freemasonry is a place where, and I’m paraphrasing here, moral men meet on common ground to act rightly to one another. He concludes saying that men gathered like this for no more reason than to associate so.
While I can’t find a disagreement on that conclusion, one has to ask gather to for what end? Personally, that conclusion has the taste of a mutual appreciation society, where members merely gather to congratulate one another on rank promotion and fine regalia acquisitions while debating on the cost of linen cleaning and the use of pasta sauce. This might sound glib, but if that were the case, why include the initiatic trappings to make an individual a Mason in the first place? It is in that rituals, and the ideas behind them, that I see the difference in there mere aspect of being a fraternity of self congratulators.
But, let’s take some time to analyze the elements Tim suggests the fraternity is not. To do this, I we need to invoke an old Hindu parable on avoiding dogmatism.
In the parable on how to define an elephant we might find a good approach to how to define this conundrum of what Freemasonry is by describing its parts, or more precisely, the elements that Tim says Freemasonry is not. The Hindu telling of the parable goes something along these lines:
A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else. – Ramakrishna, an Indian mystic of the 19th-century
The conclusion of the parable is that no one individual is capable of defining the elephant by merely describing its parts. That only in the summations of their totality was any consensus possible as to what, exactly, the elephant was, and even then a deaf man could still draw other conclusions rendering even further definitions. Ultimately, the moral is that while we seek to define something, the only way to do so is by adequately and completely describing its parts.
In his piece, Tim gives us several of components saying that Freemasonry has variously been defined as a club, a corporation, a religion, a political action committee, and philanthropy. To each of these he says that they miss the mark in defining the institution coming to the conclusion that it is merely a fraternity of association where these elements may, or may not, take place. I argue that, to the contrary, Masonry is all of these things at various levels and at the same time while cloaked in the old fraternal notion of a fraternal society of common cause.
Is Freemasonry a Club?
While a seeming antiquated notion today, at one point in the 20th century clubs were about as diffuse as the subjects they gathered to associate about. Garden clubs, chess clubs, book clubs, motorcycle clubs, car clubs, hunting clubs, gun clubs, card clubs… the list could go on and on. DMOZ, the open source directory, lists 132,542 clubs and more than 10,000 organizations. In some respects, Freemasonry is one just another one of these affinity clubs.
Is Freemasonry a Corporation?
The U.S. Small Business Association defines a corporation as “an independent legal entity owned by shareholders which means that “the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts the business incurs.” In Tim’s piece, he rightly states that a corporation is profitable in nature, which is the argument he makes for why Freemasonry is not a corporation. Yet, without some profit, the organization cannot grow or anticipate any developments that might necessitate some capital investment (a new lodge, educational materials, new jewels, and so on). At some level, even as a non-profit organization Freemasonry should function as a 501(c)10, which the IRS describes as:
A domestic fraternal society, order, or association must meet the following requirements:
It must have a fraternal purpose. An organization has a fraternal purpose if membership is based on a common tie or the pursuit of a common object. The organization must also have a substantial program of fraternal activities.
It must operate under the lodge system. Operating under the lodge system requires, at a minimum, two active entities: (i) a parent organization; and (ii) a subordinate organization (called a lodge, branch, or the like) chartered by the parent and largely self-governing.
It must not provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to its members. The organization may arrange with insurance companies to provide optional insurance to its members without jeopardizing its exempt status.
It must devote its net earnings exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and fraternal purposes.
It must be a domestic organization, that is, it must be organized in the United States.
So then, in this configuration, essentially, Freemasonry, under the Grand Lodge system, is a Corporation that does not take a profit, dedicating its net earnings exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and fraternal purposes. This may not apply at the lodge level, but I would suspect that most TempleBoards function as corporations to manage the infrastructure investment of the lodge building. Does this make Freemasonry a corporation? I would say yes and no in that while not a “corporate body” with the many denominations of Freemasonry, at its management level, it is a corporation where the lodges annually elected leaders (Worshipful Masters) to vote at shareholder meetings annually in the Grand Lodge communications electing new corporate leadership.
This corporate idea is probably most observable in the Shrine and in the Scottish Rite, both of which having many nonprofit corporations under their dominion.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Tim makes another point in his piece that Freemasonry is not a religion, and while nearly every tract written, published and produced repeats this mantra (right down into the very landmarks of the institution) it does promote a religious lifestyle. Further, it embraces a wide acceptance of religious thought (empirically) seeing all faiths as equal by 1) acknowledging all faiths and 2) embracing them in common cause in the lodge.
Interestingly, the early Unitarian preacher William Ellery Channing (d.October, 1842) would say that “there is but one thing essential in religion and this is the doing of God’s will” but in doing so in communion, in the same sermon he says:
It is not with the voice only that man communicates with man Nothing is so eloquent as the deep silence of a crowd A sigh a low breathing sometimes pours into us our neighbour’s soul more than a volume of words There is a communication more subtle than freemasonry between those who feel alike How contagious is holy feeling.
The point of making this reference is that while Freemasonry does not espouse a religious practice, it certainly exudes a devout religious timbre that its religious tolerance allows to resonate through its many parts.
Is Freemasonry a Political Action Committee?
This was an interesting inclusion and one that I had not considered before in conjunction to Freemasonry. The purpose of a PAC, says Opensecrets.org, is the “raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates” representing “business, labor or ideological interests.”
While no Masonic PAC exists (you can check yourself by consulting PACRONYMS, which is an alphabetical list of acronyms, abbreviations, initials, and common names of federal political action committees (PACs) identifying committees when their full names are not disclosed on campaign finance reports. My search yielded no Masonic named organizations)
What is interesting is what defines a PAC. At the Federal Level, a PAC is an organization that receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Politics is that flip side of the coin to religion as taboo topics to discuss in lodge, a point Tim makes succinctly. But another point that Tim makes is that while Freemasonry believes (and actively promotes) patriotism, citizenship, and good government, its history also boasts a healthy degree of civic activism, especially in it’s fraternal political patriarchs in the likes of Famous Freemasons George Washington and nine of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. Even the Boston Tea party, while unverifiable, was planned in a ‘community center’ that sported a square and compass above its door.
Does that make Freemasonry a Political Action Committee? Probably not, but what it does suggest to me is that the gathering of like minded individuals given to common cause of idealism and faith, could still organize an activity of a political nature outside of the regular opening and closing of a lodge room in the same way they could plan a fishing trip together or organize a lodge movie night.
Is Freemasonry a Philanthropy
Tim makes a good point here in saying that Masons help others within their capacity to do so, without mandate, and peripheral goal. While I see this as fundamentally correct, I think he equates the notion of philanthropy as holding weekly cupcake sales or canned food drives. While I don’t mean this as a slight to Tim, I think when you look at the many charities that Masonry in some way started, influenced, or contributed to; one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the idea of just how much philanthropy is at work behind the scenes. Remember, too, one of the chief articles of incorporation is to give to charitable causes, a task often instituted at the Grand Lodge level. But some other past examples of tremendous Masonic philanthropy include the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, built with millions of contributions,subscriptions and donations, in an era of much higher income disparity, to the present day Shrine Hospitals for Children and Scottish Rite Speech and Language programs.
While institutionally, neither of these two examples predicates the reason for being as an organization, both are examples of a deeply invested attribute of Freemasonry, namely brotherly love, which, by its Latin name, is Charity. So while masonry itself may not be philanthropic, its does encompass the notion of a love towards mankind in its expression of brotherly love (hence the maxim brotherly love, relief, truth). In some sense, philanthropy is the very thing that Masonry is trying to instill in those who seek out that common cause.
So What is Freemasonry?
This brings us back to the ultimate conclusion then of what the fraternity is to those who have sought it out. Is it the sum of its parts or the individual definitions of its pieces? How can it be none of the things Tim described when, in its operation and its roots it is, essentially, all of those things? To quote from Tim’s piece:
Freemasonry, therefore, is not a club, philanthropy, a religion, or a PAC. Using symbols from ancient operative Masonry, Freemasonry is a place where men meet “on the level” (to promote equality), act “by the plumb” (rectitude of conduct), and part upon “the square” (to practice morality).
To the contrary, I would suggest that Masonry is a club that, ultimately, promotes philanthropy and religion in the same way a PAC or a corporation functions to grow and promote its own prosperity and agenda. That, the ideas of the fraternity do go back centuries, but go well past the common vernacular of the 17th century to their more ancient usage in antiquity to the mystery cults of association by common cause. The only difference is in how we choose to see ourselves – as the individual that the corporate body represents, or as the incorporation of the idea itself in the individual?
Can Freemasonry, like the elephant, be defined in its totality based upon the descriptions of its parts? Or is it a philosophical idea merely codified in its organization for its conduct? I think Tim got it partially right, but I don’t think you can sum the totality of Freemasonry without rightly considering its parts.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts on What Freemasonry is in the comments below.
Is it a club, a corporation, a religious cult, a PAC, a philanthropy, or a fraternity? BRYCE ON THE MASONS
In the many years I have been a member, I have always found it fascinating how people perceive the institution of Freemasonry. Some say it is a club, others see it as a philanthropy, but very few seem to understand the concept of fraternity. Further, when we investigate candidates for membership, we normally ask what they are looking for, but rarely do people comprehend precisely what they are joining. This is a compelling argument, one I’ve debated on more than one occasion.
Some of our members see Freemasonry as nothing more than a club, such as a garden club, sports club, country club, etc., an institution we join with some common activity or goal. Clubs are typically run by a set of officers who participate in order to receive some notoriety for their position. This, of course, leads to politics involving backscratching, deceit, backstabbing, and one-up-man-ship. It is not uncommon to find people in such positions who have done nothing of substance in their professional lives and now relish the opportunity to control others. In Freemasonry, we are taught members are all equal in terms of position and opinion. The officers in a Lodge represent a network of duties and responsibilities designed to be implemented by many people, not just one, thereby encouraging teamwork, and eliminating the need for autocratic rule.
There are those who see Freemasonry as a corporation. The problem here is that a corporation is designed to be profitable in nature, Freemasonry is not. True, there are advantages to running any institution like a business, particularly by the state who requires all organizations to run as such, but Freemasonry certainly has no mercenary objectives other than the betterment of its members.
Despite the warnings of conspiracy theorists, Freemasonry does not preach dogma, nor practice religion. A person must believe in a Supreme Being to become a Mason, but his choice of religion is his business, not the Masons. As such, it is not uncommon to sit in a Masonic Lodge with men of many different faiths, thereby promoting religious tolerance.
Freemasonry is not a Political Action Committee (PAC). In order to maintain harmony in the Lodge, politics and religion are two topics forbidden from discussion. Like religion, men of different political beliefs sit in Lodge together in harmony. If anything, Freemasonry promotes the concept of citizenship to the community and patriotism to the country. Those who violate the law and believe in the overthrow of the government by force are not permitted to become Masons. Masons are law-abiding citizens who are taught to use peaceful means to change the government if necessary. As such, Masons hope to become role models for the community.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that Freemasonry is a philanthropy. It is true Masons give generously to help others in distress, but this is a peripheral goal. It is not intended to spend countless hours on fund raisers or to shake down the Brethren for every available penny. Masons help others if it is within their capacity to do so. Otherwise there is no mandate in Freemasonry to perform philanthropic work. If Masons spend more time on philanthropy than fraternity, then they are subverting the intent of the institution.
Instead, Freemasonry is a fraternity; the original fraternity, and the model for others who came much later, such as college fraternities. The term “fraternity” comes from the Latin word “frater,” meaning “brother.” Fraternity, therefore, is a brotherhood, an environment of companionship dedicated to the social development of its members. The basic tenets of Freemasonry are “Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love.” As such, it is designed to build character, devotion, and encourage its members to lead an honorable life. Attending a Masonic Lodge meeting is intended to act as a fortress of solitude for its members, both local and visiting Masons, where they can meet and find solace away from the vermin and troubles of the world. It is a place where men seek understanding, compassion, and to be treated fairly and honestly.
Education is of significant importance in a Masonic Lodge, where Brothers ponder past, present and future problems of morality, responsibility, compassion, and civility. We refer to this as seeking “further light.”
Freemasonry, therefore, is not a club, a philanthropy, a religion, or a PAC. Using symbols from ancient operative Masonry, Freemasonry is a place where men meet “on the level” (to promote equality), act “by the plumb” (rectitude of conduct), and part upon “the square” (to practice morality). For many centuries, Freemasonry is the fraternity where men of character have naturally gravitated to, simply because they yearn for such simple treatment.
Those who think of or practice Freemasonry any other way are missing the boat.
Keep the Faith!
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A Brother E-Mailed me a response to Greg Stewart’s article on the Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl Ad which I had sent him.
“So we go online and speak out against this atrocity and in doing so we link ourselves to the myth. How many years had masonry survived with this type of public outcry? Unless we begin to teach masons to live the lives taught by our fraternity and stop trying to be a social icon, Masonry will continue to be ridiculed. It is only when you can show that the myth is in fact a myth and that we prove it every day by the way we live our lives, that Freemasonry will regain it honored reputation. The more we bend to clamor in public, the more the critics come after us. If we disregarded the critics they have no one to argue with, thus the argument dies for want of a debate. Sadly you and others do not understand this. But I urge you to really reflect on it. A well spent life is mightier than the sword or any media response.”
I guess I just don’t get it. At least he thinks I just don’t get it. But I would say that he doesn’t get it.
This is the attitude of Freemasons of 50 and 100 years ago – never talk about the fraternity, never mention to anyone that you are even a Freemason. Everything about Freemasonry is secret. Not one word about the Craft should escape a Mason’s lips.
This is one of the reasons Freemasonry missed many good candidates back then. A guy 50 years old would finally say to his buddy, “I have been waiting 20 years for you to invite me to join Freemasonry. How come you never asked me?”
Old time Masons never asked another to join. Those who desired to join Freemasonry had to ask a Mason. Some Masons would demand that they ask three times before they would consider recommending them.
Anti Masons that spread lies about Freemasonry are not to be answered. Leo Taxil’s Masonic hoax, even after he recanted and admitted he made the whole thing up, was still believed by many people because Freemasons never would refute it.
“Turn The Other Cheek Freemasons” do not believe that disputing or refuting lies about the Craft are a productive use of Masonic resources. They do not believe that Masons should stoop to the level of their detractors. Masons are above all that, they say. What Masons need to do is lead by example and all these crazy charges will just die the death of untruth all by themselves.
And problems within the Fraternity, well we don’t talk about them either. The refusal of some Masons to allow African Americans in their Lodges, their constant black balling of any applicant who isn’t Christian, Grand Masters expelling Master Masons without a Masonic Trial, Grand Masters closing Lodges and pulling charters without reason or recourse, are all problems that Brethren must solve without discussing these problems in public. “Airing dirty laundry” is definitely a no-no with “Turn The Other Cheek Freemasons.”
And if these problems emanate from other jurisdictions, well sticking one’s Masonic nose into other people’s business is a double no-no. That’s their business, that’s their problem.
And so stand “The Turn The Other Cheek Freemasons.” Withdraw from society, have nothing to do with it, let people do what they may but Freemasonry will live on, no matter what.
But it won’t. The younger generation will never join an organization that refuses admittance to non Whites and non Christians. It just ain’t going to happen. And who would join an organization that is in league with the Devil? And someday soon Malecraft Freemasonry will have to change its policy on women. The fact is Mainstream Masonry is dying a slow, agonizing death.
THE MERCEDES-BENZ HOAX IS A 21st CENTURY REMAKE OF THE LEO TAXIL HOAX.
Freemasonry was never designed to be a Monastic Brotherhood or a Cloistered Sect. Paul Revere is rolling over in his grave right about now. So is Joseph Warren who died at the battle of Bunker Hill fighting for liberty in America. As a Grand Master he used Freemasons to transmit anti British communications among the Patriots.
Not answering your critics is naïve and very detrimental to your cause. The big lie repeated over and over again without refutation will gradually stick. No one knew this better than Goebbels, Hitler’s Propagandist Minister.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”- Goebbels
The fact is turning the other cheek doesn’t work. This is the real world where the truth doesn’t always become self evident. Sometimes we must help the truth be known. Failure to do so only empowers our enemies. And the big lie is believed because it must be true if no one will stand up for the truth and dispute it. People interpret silence as acceptance of guilt. If you were unjustly charged with sexually molesting a child, would you remain silent in hopes the truth will win out or would you deny the charges and do everything you could to refute them?
“Turn The Other Cheek Freemasons” are hurting this beloved fraternity and are hastening the demise of the Craft.
Once again The Beehive is proud to present a paper from Brother Wayne Anderson’s Weekly Newsletter.
Brother Anderson hails from Ontario, Canada and E-Mails out a paper each week, usually on Sunday, to everybody on his list. To get on Brother Anderson’s list E-Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brethren the following was presented by R.W.Bro.Hugh Goldie on his official visit to Rideau Lodge No. 460 Seeley’s Bay, Ontario on Thursday 1 November 2012. I hope you will enjoy his paper.
Why should I join Masonry?
What would you say to a possible new member?
You’re interested in joining the Masonic lodge? We’d love to have you. You’re the type of person we look for: committed, enthusiastic, a leader. We think you’ll do great things here. You will make lifelong friendships, and hopefully, you’ll be the type of person whose positive impact will be felt here for many years.
This is the start of something really cool.
We know you have your reasons for joining, and we also know that the reasons you’ll stay will be entirely different. Trust us on that one. People tend to join for different reasons. They stay around for the friendships and because they find a place where they can impact the lives of others. It’s a family. We know this. Soon, you will, too.
The badge of membership will soon be yours. But, there’s one lesson that we need to impress upon you before you sign your name on the dotted line, pay that first fee, and take that first step. It’s the single most important thing we’re going to ask of you, so you need to listen and understand it, now, before you say “yes.”
It’s the one most important thing that any fraternity can impress upon its new members. Truly, our survival as an organization depends on you understanding this one simple lesson and taking it to heart.
It’s more important than our history, our traditions, our structure, or our rules. Because, if you don’t understand this most fundamental lesson, then none of the other stuff will matter. If you don’t get this one “golden rule of masonry,” then your son and grandson won’t have this organization to join someday, and all of this will just be a fuzzy memory.
Here it is. Ready?
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your badge.
I’m going to repeat it.
From the moment you say yes to this organization, you are always wearing your badge.
We’re not talking about t-shirts, or sweatshirts, or hats made with logos of the group. We’re not talking about a tattoo on your ankle, some party favor, or a badge you wear on your dress shirt.
What we mean is that when you say yes to lifetime membership in masonry, everything you say, do and represent from that moment forward is a direct reflection on this group, your brothers, and the thousands of members who have come before you. Everything you put out to the world is a direct reflection of this fraternity. Every decision, every achievement, every mistake you make happens to all of us from this point forward.
When you go to the grocery store, you represent us. When you drive down the road and slow down so a pedestrian can cross the street, you represent us.
When you become a leader, you represent us. When you insult someone or talk badly about another, you represent us. When you make decisions about how you behave, you represent us. When you go anywhere, you represent us.
When you go home and sit at your mother’s dining room table, you represent us. When you get a job and go to work for a company or organization, you represent us. When you commit your life to that special person, you represent us.
You are always wearing your badge
From this day forward, always. Every day, in every situation. it never comes off.
It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a jersey with our name on it, or a business suit at an interview. You have to assume that every person you meet will form a permanent opinion about masons – good or bad – based on how you interact with them. Every good thing you do builds us up. Every dumb thing you do tears us down.
We live in a time when the actions of one man can kill a group like ours. One person who acts in a way that is inconsistent with our shared values can end hundreds of years of tradition and pride. One bad choice you make can take away everything that generations of men have worked to build.
All the stuff you see that belongs to us can be boxed up or thrown out, because of the choices you make.
If this seems a little intense, that’s good. Because it’s serious. If it sounds like too much responsibility, or if you don’t think you can behave in a way that reflects well on us at all times, then walk away now. Do us the favor. We won’t think less of you. In fact, we’ll thank you. This sort of commitment isn’t for everybody.
But, don’t say yes unless you understand.
We’re not asking you to give up anything. We aren’t asking you to become something you aren’t. We’re asking you to become something more. We’re inviting you to become part of a group of men who make a promise to take care of each other, every day. We’re asking you to become the very best version of you that you can be.
It’s a big deal, and not everyone can do it. Forget everything you’ve heard up to this point. Forget how much you might desire this, or how much we might want to bring you into the group. Just clear your mind and ask yourself one question.
Are you ready to never take off the badge?
Because when you say yes, you’re not just putting a badge on a sweatshirt. You’re putting it in your heart. You’re forever stamping your identity with it. Everything you are, from this point on, becomes who we are.
You will make mistakes, and brothers will remind you of your commitment. There will be times where you will see other brothers forgetting their promise, and you’ll need to remind them. That’s part of this whole “Masonic” thing. We work together to make ourselves better men who stand for something. We carry each other. We matter to one another.
If we’re doing our Masonic duty right, then we’ll make you a better man. If you’re doing everything right, then you will make us a better organization.
So, please think about it. Take it seriously.
Because if you say yes, this badge belongs to you as surely as it belonged to our founders. If you say yes, this badge becomes your responsibility forever.
That’s the promise.
Brethren I think with this type of commitment we would retain more active membership.
Now a Professor began his class by holding up a glass with some water in it. He held it up for all to see & asked the students “How much do you think this glass weighs?”
’50gms!’….. ’100gms!’ …..’125gms’ …the students answered.
“I really don’t know unless I weigh it,” said the professor, “but, my question is:
What would happen if I held it up like this for a few minutes?…
‘Nothing’ …..the students said.
‘Ok what would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?’ the professor asked.
Your arm would begin to ache’ said one of the student
“You’re right, now what would happen if I held it for a day?”
“Your arm could go numb; you might have severe muscle stress & paralysis & have to go to hospital for sure!” Ventured another student & all the students laughed
“Very good. But during all this, did the weight of the glass change?” Asked the professor.
‘No’…. Was the answer. “Then what caused the arm ache & the muscle stress?”
The students were puzzled.
“What should I do now to come out of pain?” asked professor again. “Put the glass down!” said one of the students.
“Exactly!” said the professor. Life’s problems are something like this.
Hold it for a few minutes in your head & they seem OK. Think of them for a long time & they begin to ache. Hold it even longer & they begin to paralyze you. You will not be able to do anything.
It’s important to think of the challenges or problems in your life, But EVEN MORE IMPORTANT is to ‘PUT THEM DOWN’ at the end of every day before you go to sleep…
That way, you are not stressed, you wake up every day fresh &strong & can handle any issue, any challenge that comes your way!
The United States of America is like no other nation in the world. There are two diametrically opposed cultures within the US where compromise is not possible. Nothing is more evident to the truth of this statement than to watch the nation during a Presidential election year. Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives are in possession of two different world views. These views translate into two different life styles. The positions held by each side are considered basic life core principles that cannot be changed, diluted or compromised.
There are Liberals and Conservatives in other nations but their belief systems are not ingrained into stone and compromise is not a dirty word. Take Canada to our north. There are many different social, political and religious views in Canada and a diversity of culture in some areas while in others a much more sameness. The differences foster much discussion and debate but seldom WAR! Canadians who are not on the winning side of an issue have more of an attitude of, “Oh well, life goes on.” While here in the sates you will find both sides employing deliberate misinformation, loud ill tempered language leading to a radicalization that can give way to outright violence. Ask yourself when was the last time a Canadian Prime Minister or other prominent political figure was assassinated, or there was even a thwarted assassination attempt? In the United States we can point to the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (where 6 others were killed), the attempt on Ronald Reagan, and the successful assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
And this is not a new phenomenon. You can go all the way back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to see how long this aspect of American Society has been going on. Right from our nation’s inception we were two different worlds joined together. In the beginning there was the small farming, commerce, business and trading North versus the big plantation system of the South practicing self sufficiency and isolationism. There were the slave holders versus the abolitionists.
No other nation suffered such a bitter, protracted Civil War with huge losses of life that left a bitterness that never really healed. Who else in Western Society had a Ku Klux Klan that in its heyday had a larger membership than Freemasonry?
Today we have the Blue States and the Red States. No matter how bad the nominee the Blue States will always vote Democrat and the Red States Republican. That leaves a handful of swing states to decide the Presidential election. Most Presidential elections have a voting spread near a 52% to 48% margin. We are nation still seriously divided.
This division is not just political. If it were it would not be so all persuasive. There is also a social, religious, economic and racial division separating Americans into two different camps. You can make a good case for there being two different American cultures. We might call them the heartland culture versus the cosmopolitan urban culture. It is two life styles that view most every aspect of living from a different, opposing perspective.
The role of government in society
How we dress
What language we use
How we raise our children
The role of religion in society
What is taught in our public schools
Dependence versus personal responsibility
Individualism or collectivism
Parochialism versus centralization
How we regard our military
What social behaviors should be legalized
What should and should not be an entitlement
This all pervasive view of society and our role within in it has bled over into Freemasonry. We have Blue State Freemasonry and Red State Freemasonry. Just like the commerce based North versus the plantation South, Freemasonry has grown into two different versions of the same Fraternity. SOME of the differences are:
Evangelical Christians Secular
Wear religion on sleeve Many unchurched, some use Lodge
As their church
Prayers to Jesus No prayers to Jesus
Only Holy Bible on altar Multiple Holy Books on altar in
Casual dress Formal dress
Christians only Any religion acceptable
No foreigners, non English speaking Any language, any nation
Grand Master supersedes Constitution Grand Master obeys Constitution
Heavy restrictions on who can use Light restrictions on who can use
And rent Lodges And rent Lodges
No alcohol in the building Alcohol permitted some
No handicapped, no employees in No such limitations
Frequent expulsions without Masonic No expulsions without Masonic
Some GL control of private Masonic No GL control of private Masonic
GL owns local Lodge building Local Lodge owns its own building
Caucasians only admitted All races welcome
These and other differences have divided Freemasonry into sometimes warring camps. Our civil government under the Articles of Confederation soon changed into the United States of America under the Constitution and slowly evolved into more centralized control in Washington. From 13 states loosely joined in common cause we transformed ourselves into a united nation where citizens ultimately called themselves Americans.
Freemasonry never evolved like our civil government did. It has remained stuck in the Articles of Confederation stage. Each state Grand Lodge is like a nation unto its own. As the years have gone by the differences have become greater and magnified.
This is not a call for a National Grand Lodge nor a reinventing or remaking of American Freemasonry. But at the same time we must recognize that there is too much strife and discord, too many ill feelings and too much unmasonic conduct within American Freemasonry. Maybe 51 Grand Lodges are too many for the United States, leading to too many differences, too many rivalries with not enough cooperation. Perhaps there might be some voluntary consolidation. Canada with somewhat the same area has much fewer Grand Lodges. Whatever American Freemasonry does voluntarily The Craft must find a way to come together with some commonality, reducing friction and strangling tight control while still permitting states their jurisdictional powers. It must find a way to bridge the gap between a Blue State and a Red State mentality. American Freemasonry needs to become a fraternity, a way of life, which embraces free thinkers as it has in the past, frees up Masonic creativity, and becomes a Craft of principles and virtues not of men.