You correspond with Brothers for years. You get to know them really well. Or perhaps you go through a particularly trying time just once with a Brother long distance. That’s enough for a strong bond. But still there is something lacking, the joy of a face to face relationship.
In town for the 2013 Phylaxis Convention, I got together with Brothers Beaux Pettys, WM Victor Marshall, PM Mike Bjelajac and Carlos Peon all from the Mainstream Grand Lodge of Georgia.
Perhaps you remember the story of African American Brother Victor Marshall who the Grand Lodge of Georgia tried to expel because of the color of his skin. And then after that battle was won when they refused to admit him to the Scottish Rite.
In case those stories got by you here are the original articles:
Mike Bjelajac was Master of the Lodge at the time and it is upon his shoulders that much of the heat was applied. Just a few minutes of conversation with Mike and you could tell why he handled it so well. He is a mild mannered, kind Brother, the non excitable type.
The Gate City Lodge Brothers decided to dine with me at the Phylaxis Society host hotel. This made for a good deal of interaction between Brothers from different Grand Lodges. You would never know that Georgia does not recognize Prince Hall by the way and manner in which brotherly love and affection was demonstrated this night.
Another chapter in life has been experienced and I am back home in Texas, now. But the joy of a time when we could break bread together, laugh and hug each other and get to know something of the inner man will live with me for many years hence. Truly there is no substitute for fraternity and fellowship in person.
Some facts about Haas Yes he was expelled. I have the edict in front of me. He was not afforded a Masonic trial again. Our Grand Master cites a section (27.01c) that does in fact say that the EA and the FC should not be re-conferred. Doesn’t say that they can’t just says they shouldn’t. This is a lame excuse to take this action. If in fact this is this Grand Masters position they he should, he must, and is now bound to expel any Ohio Master Mason that has ever been a pro-tem candidate at their Lodge Inspection or any other time a pro-tem is used. There is no difference.
Lets be very clear about this WV is AF&AM and Ohio is F&AM. They are not the same degrees. So if I want to belong to AF&AM lodge then I must surely have to conform to their ritual and the same would also be true.
Frank was never given a masonic trial in WV and was never charged with a Masonic offense.; Even the Supreme Court of WV ruled that what they did did not follow their own rules. The only offense Frank was guilty of was trying to bring WV into the 21 Century.
It is well documented that WV Grand Lodge has taken their cause to other states to try to convince them to cut ties with Ohio over this issue. Our grand Master has chosen to take the easy way and has bowed to outside pressures. He has also basically slapped the 3 previous Grand Masters in the face by these actions. I will be sending a letter of protest to our Grand Master, maybe he can expel me in return.
I recently received correspondence from old friend, Brother Tim McCurry from Tennessee.
He points out a common problem with Mainstream Lodges. That is that Masonic education equals ritual memorization. But all ritual memorization makes you is a parrot and a parrot doesn’t think it just mimics. Knowledge comes from the art of contemplation that allows us then to internalize that which our senses have encountered.
W. L. Wilmshurst
When a Mason reads Pike, Wilmshurst, Pound, MacKey, Claudy, Butler and others he begins to realize what he has memorized means and how it makes a difference in his life. Thus he has gone from perception to knowledge. When that Mason uses that knowledge to govern his life and make himself a better person he has stepped up from knowledge to wisdom.
The trick is to get Masons to read.
Here is what McCurry had to say:
I watched a most inspiring video last night that was created by a member of the United Grand Lodge of England. Brother Julian Rees has truly inspired me to become a better Mason!
Approximately seven years ago, we had a Worshipful Master sitting in the East who truly and sincerely desired to create more Masonic education within our lodge. Therefore, he first asked for volunteers amongst the Brethren to create ANY small topic concerning a lesson to be learned from Free-masonry. He didn’t place any restrictions on what the Brethren could present; so long as it was something about our rituals, or something that they had learned while being a Mason. I am ashamed to say, that not one Brother ever came to our stated meeting and presented any such lessons. Our poor Worshipful Master ended up having to do this at each of our stated meetings himself.
Sure! We have “Masonic Education.” Many of the Brethren seem to think, that if you can memorize one of the three lectures flawlessly and without error, you have obtained “Masonic Education.” But, my concern is, have we presented enough knowledge to the newly made Mason coming into our ranks? Have we given enough knowledge to that new E.A. to even know what Free-masonry is all about? I don’t think so. No, we impart upon the newly made Mason that he only has three lectures to laboriously memorize as perfectly as he can; but if that new Brother makes a mistake of not “dotting his ‘i’ or crossing his ‘T,’ we strictly enforce the use of such perfection in syntax. Do we explain to him the meaning behind those words? Some would say that we do this with what we call the “Third Section of the Degree.” Here in Tennessee we have the so-called “Stereoptical Lecture” in the First Degree. You know what it is! It is that “so-antiquated slide show” where the pictures look as though they were created way back in the Nineteenth Century. So, we always have a Brother with the “slide clicker,” or the advance button, laboriously spitting out the lecture that accompanies the slide show as though he was reading it from a book. No! As a matter of fact, sometimes the Brother actually does read this lecture out of the book!
But, have we really imparted Masonic Knowledge to that newly made Brethren? Or have we imparted the idea that all you really need to do is laboriously learn the three lectures, pass them on, and become a Master Mason? In essence, are we treating our Masonic ritual as though it were a “Mason’s Mill,” where we pass these young brothers off as soon as we can, and as quickly as we can teach them those three lectures?
Brother Julian Rees inspired me with his words last night! I do not know this Brother. I have never met him. But, his eloquent talk that he gave inspired me to learn more! He taught me, that we as Brothers are on a spiritual journey; that there is more to Masonry than ham sandwiches and coffee. Therefore, I present Brother Rees to you with the hope that he will inspire you with his words as much as he has inspired me. I wish I could present this “little talk” by Brother Rees to the Brethren at my own lodge!
A big factor in this whole Arkansas Shrine affair has been overlooked by many. Potentate Buffington who was expelled from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas was not also expelled from the Shrine BECAUSE HE WAS STILL A MASON. He had dual membership also being a member of the Grand Lodge of Iowa. AND THE GRAND LODGE OF IOWA REFUSED TO EXPEL HIM.
So what do all you legalists have to say now? If Buffington’s own Lodge found that he did nothing wrong, if the Shrine found that he did nothing wrong and if the Grand Master of Iowa found that he had done nothing wrong and refused to expel him, could it be that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas is wrong and out for a vendetta?
Such action or non action by the Grand Lodge of Iowa is setting a precedent. It follows the Grand Lodge of Ohio giving Past Grand Master Frank Haas sanctuary after being expelled from West Virginia. It looks as if Grand Lodges may not always rubber stamp support decisions by other Grand Lodges. The good old boys network is showing some cracks.
More light is shed by a letter from Theodore Corsones, General Counsel Emeritus of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children and also a Past Grand Master.
“The fault lies with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas not with Shriners International. The Grand Master of Arkansas has adopted a “scorched earth” policy against the Shrine in his Grand jurisdiction because Shriners International will not allow him to decide who should be a Shriner in Arkansas. A summary of the facts are as follows.”
“Potentate Buffington was asked to run for a second term as potentate of Scimitar Shriners – which is lawful under Shrine law. The Grand Master did not want him to do so because he wanted another Noble to have the office.”
“Potentate Buffington left it to the members of the temple to decide and the temple members elected him for a second term.”
“Social Event. Buffington had a Christmas party at a country club. Other parties were occurring at the same time. One of the other parties had a DJ who was playing extremely amplified music. The DJ was asked to lower the volume. He complied. A member of the other party went to Buffington’s party and complained that they had no right to interfere with the other party. Words were exchanged. The country club looked into the matter and found no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master)”
“Masonic Lodge. A complaint was filed in Buffington’s Masonic lodge in Arkansas alleging that Buffington conducted himself improperly at the Christmas party. The lodge investigated the matter and dismissed the complaint alleging no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master).”
“Scimitar Shriners. Buffington’s temple was asked to look into the matter. The temple did, and found no wrong doing by Buffington. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master.) “
“Grand Lodge of Arkansas. The Grand Master then, without a trial, summarily suspended Buffington from Masonry in Arkansas and told Buffington he could appeal if he wanted to. Buffington did appeal. The Grand Master then selected the three persons who were to decide whether he was right or wrong in suspending Buffington. Needless to say, his three appointees carried out the execution of Buffington as they were expected to do by their appointment. They found Buffington guilty.”
“Shriners International. Shriners International held a hearing at the 2012 annual session at Charlotte, NC as to whether or not Buffington should be expelled from the Shrine because of being expelled from Masonry in South Carolina. A hearing was held and it was determined that Buffington was a member in good standing in Masonry in the Grand Lodge of Iowa and, therefore, he was eligible to remain a Shriner. (This was not pleasing to the Grand Master of Arkansas.)”
“Grand Lodge of Iowa.The Grand Master then asked the Grand Lodge of Iowa to expel Buffington from Masonry because he, the Grand Master of Arkansas, had done so. The Grand Master of Iowa stated that he would investigate the matter. He did conduct an investigation. He then informed the Grand Master of Arkansas that Buffington had done nothing wrong so he would not suspend or expel Buffington from Masonry.”
“As a result of all of the foregoing the Grand Master adopted his “scorched earth” policy against Shriners in Arkansas by issuing an edict that anyone who remained a Shriner in Arkansas had to self-expel himself from Masonry by December 15, 2012 or he, without any trial, would expel them from Masonry. Further he would not allow any Masonic lodge to issue a demit from Masonry to any Shriner (rightly fearing that such Masons would join Masonic lodges in other states). This is Masonry as it is presently practiced in the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.”
“Now, you have the basic facts.”
“I am proud to inform you that Shriners International is blessed to have Alan W. Madsen as its Imperial Potentate during this unprecedented time. He is standing tall for what is right and proper. He will not allow Shriners International nor Shriners Hospitals for Children to be destroyed by the unconscionable acts of those that have lost all common sense and no longer practice fraternal love and amity.”
“If you have any questions, do not hesitate to communicate with me.”
General Counsel Emeritus of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The ramifications of the Florida Masonic religious ban reach far beyond the borders of Florida which we will point out momentarily. But first it is worthy to note that other gross violations of Masonic conduct by Florida Brethren have existed for years without any disapproval or reprimand outside the Sunshine State.
For years I have heard of stories of how African American Mainstream Masons from New York (and elsewhere) who were snowbirds spending 6 months of their year in Florida were treated. The Beehive has recently consulted with three Florida Past Masters to verify this practice and ask if it was still in force.
When a “Black Man” appeared at a Florida Lodge for visitation carrying fully accredited papers and knowledge from another Mainstream jurisdiction, the Florida Lodge would refuse to open or if already opened would immediately close. The “Black Man” would then be admitted inside the Lodge room where some explanation for this procedure would be offered by the Master, such as the candidate failed to show up tonight so we have cancelled the degree work. Then a Past Master would rise to give a Masonic education lecture. The Lodge remained closed as long as the “Black Man” remained in the building. The information I have received and verified through three Florida Past Masters is still going on and is the unwritten policy of the Grand Lodge that no man of color ever be allowed into a Florida Mainstream tyled Communication, certified Mainstream Master Mason or not.
To the best knowledge of this author no Grand Lodge or Grand Master in the rest of the American jurisdictions has ever publicly scolded or criticized this Florida practice even though it is widely known to be going on.
So what hope do we have that any other jurisdiction will take any action against Florida’s latest religious ban? But they should.
Suppose you are a Vermont Freemason and a Wiccan who wants to visit a Florida Lodge while on vacation. Chances are good that you will be denied admission. Suppose that you are a Vermont Freemason and your job transfers you to Florida. So you join your new Grand Lodge and demit from your old one. You happen to be an Odinist ignorant of the recent Florida religious ruling. Now the Grand Lodge of Florida will expel you and under the good old boys mutual agreement to honor all things another jurisdiction does, Vermont will not let you be reinstated there. You are now on the outside looking in.
But how will Florida know what your religion is, you ask? That’s easy. The good old boys network has established the rule in most American Grand Lodges that before embarking outside your jurisdiction you must first receive the permission from your Grand Lodge who will contact the Jurisdiction you are going to for you. Now when it happens that you are going to a regressive, tyrannical regime like Florida, West Virginia, Arkansas and others the Grand Secretary there will ask the visiting Brothers skin color and his religion. If you think Freemasonry is Universal, think again. Maybe in other parts of the world but not here.
While Grand Masters across the nation may be keeping their mouths shut rank and file Brethren are not. Some objectors have set up a Masonic Landmark Restoration Community Facebook Page – and here is a letter being circulated from that site that pretty much explains the problem:
On November 28, 2012, the Grand Master of Florida, the Most Worshipful Grand Master Jorge Aladro issued a Ruling and Decree stating that participation in alternative religious belief systems, “primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism” were not compatible with Freemasonry.
This ruling, known as Ruling and Decision No. 3, further states that any Freemason “that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks”.
As Freemasons, we are not defined by our religious or spiritual practices; rather, we are defined by our character and our work. While spiritual beliefs may augment or act as a catalyst in our path as men and Freemasons, it is ultimately an inner voice that guides us on our quest towards improvement and self mastery. That inner voice is an expression of the Divine, which we, as Freemasons, recognize and accept as such. Without belief we can never be Freemasons, as our very institution demands it in both written and spoken word. As Dr. Mackey stated so eloquently in the NINETEENTH Landmark;
“A belief in the existence of God as the GRAND ARCHITECT of the universe, is one of the most important Landmarks of the Order. It has been always deemed essential that a denial of the existence of a Supreme and Superintending Power, is an absolute disqualification for initiation. The annals of the Order never yet have furnished or could furnish an instance in which an avowed atheist was ever made a Mason. The very Initiatory ceremonies of the first degree forbid and prevent the possibility of so monstrous an occurrence.”
We also recognize that God has many names and is worshiped in many ways. The Masonic Institution is not a religion; however, it expects each Brother to follow his own faith. Furthermore, the Masonic Institution imparts that the method of worship is sacred to each individual and ought never be judged or constrained by others, most especially a Brother Mason. Finally, belief in God ought never be confused with methods of worship. The religions and spiritual practices identified as “incompatible with Freemasonry” in Ruling and Decision No. 3 all demand belief in a Supreme Power; which in turn satisfies this most important Landmark.
At this point, you may be asking why a Freemason from the Grand Lodge of Vermont is so concerned with the affairs of another Grand Lodge. There are a number of reasons for this and I would like to outline some of them here:
– In the “Ceremony of Recognition of the Flag” we are reminded that we “worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience” because of the freedoms accorded to us, which are exemplified by our National Colors. Ruling and Decision No. 3 violates the Masonic spirit of religious tolerance as it’s celebrated in this Ceremony. If left unchallenged, this poses a moral dilemma for all established Free and Accepted Masonic Lodges in the United States. This country was founded on religious freedom and many of the builders of our country were Freemasons who understood firsthand the tyranny of religious preferences.
– In the Middle Chamber Lecture, we are taught about the universality of Masonry. We may have jurisdictional boundaries, but we are all Brothers nonetheless. Therefore, when we see that a Brother is in distress, it is our duty to help. At least two Florida Freemasons have, with great reluctance and deep regret, turned in their dues cards and resigned from Masonry by Order of the Grand Master of Florida, in accordance with Ruling and Decision No. 3. Theirs is a deep sense of abandonment and sadness after having successfully petitioned for admission; been accepted by unanimous ballot; and been regularly initiated into our Fraternity. They not only passed the requirements as specified in the NINETEENTH Landmark; they were also open when pressed on their religious and spiritual pursuits, despite the fact that established protocols dealing with religious tolerance prohibited that type of questioning. These distressed Brothers are blameless and have been unjustly removed from a fraternity that they still desire to remain a part of.
– Vermont Brethren are guaranteed by the FOURTEENTH Landmark the right to sit in all regular Lodges when sojourning out of State. For any Vermont Brother who subscribes to any of the prohibited religions or beliefs, he may find himself turned away from Lodges that fall under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Florida. This also jeopardizes relocating Brothers with similarly prohibited religious or spiritual beliefs. Though they may have dedicated their lives in service to the Craft in Vermont; they will have their petitions rejected by the Grand Lodge of Florida for their “incompatible” religious beliefs.
The TWENTY-FIFTH Landmark of Freemasonry demands that ALL Masonic Landmarks remain inviolate; that no one may add, subtract or modify in them in the slightest. Ruling and Decision No. 3 has indeed modified them by adding a religious qualifier that excludes men from the Fraternity – including previously raised Master Masons. This is in direct violation of the spirit and letter of these Landmarks. Interestingly enough, the Grand Lodge of Florida published following passage in the official publication titled, “Booklet No. 1: The Lodge System of Masonic Education”:
“To the same effect is the ancient law forbidding that a candidate or Brother shall be questioned as to his particular mode of religious faith and also that no sectarian matters shall intrude within a Lodge. Just as it would mean the ultimate destruction of Freemasonry if it were to make itself over into the hands of a political party, so would it mean its death sooner or later to surrender itself to one particular religious Faith or belief.”
In summary, the act of qualifying religious beliefs as a prerequisite to petition for membership, or, remain a member of the Grand Lodge of Florida puts the Grand Lodge of Florida in a state that is incompatible with the principles and Landmarks of Regular Free and Accepted Masonic jurisdictions in the United States.
It is my hope that the Grand Lodge of Vermont can assist our Brothers in Florida by petitioning the Grand Master of Florida to reconsider and repeal Ruling and Decision No. 3.
Should this petition go unheeded by the Grand Master of Florida, then I respectfully request that the Grand Lodge of Vermont withdraw Official Recognition of the Grand Lodge of Florida, as their modifications on the Landmarks of Freemasonry puts them into a branch of Freemasonry that is fundamentally different than all established Regular Free and Accepted Masonic Grand Lodges in the United States.
Thank you for taking the time to read this note.
With every best regard, I remain, Fraternally,
Brother Joseph Netzel Worshipful Master Friendship Lodge #24 F & AM Charlotte, Vermont.
-has written a resolution that he will present to the next Florida Grand Session for repeal of Rule No 3. I hate to burst his bubble but the Grand Master is not going to allow that to get to the floor of a Grand Lodge Session.
But this brings out a larger overriding issue that The Beehive has been trumpeting for years now. And this is how can you have two totally different types of Freemasonry under one roof (Mainstream) in the same country? We have the progressive, philosophical Grand Lodges of The North and West versus the regressive, tyrannical Grand Lodges of the South and East. They are so radically different that one could say the other is not really practicing Freemasonry. You do not find this dichotomy in England or Canada or Australia nor even in Prince Hall here in the States. If you travel across Canada from British Columbia to Nova Scotia you will find that Freemasonry is just about the same wherever you go even though its ritual may differ. But a Mainstream Mason from California would be shocked at the way Masonry is practiced in West Virginia and a Mason in Arkansas would be shocked at the way Masonry is practiced in New York.
We have a big problem in American Freemasonry, namely racial and religious bigotry within the Fraternity. And the sad part is that nobody within Mainstream wants to do anything about it. They all cling to the tradition of not messing with somebody else’s business. Whatever another jurisdiction does it’s not for me to meddle with, they say. But it is. What one jurisdiction does reflects on the whole fraternity and right now a few Confederate Freemasons are giving Masonry a black eye. They are ruining it for everybody.
The Beehive calls this “States Rights Freemasonry.” Civilly States Rights as it applies to civil rights and basic human rights was over ridden by federal power when President Eisenhower sent troops into Little Rock. Then that “new way of thinking” was augmented by the work of Martin Luther King.
Perhaps today Mainstream American Freemasonry needs its own Eisenhower and Martin Luther King, men bold enough to initiate the change needed and damn all the rules and regulations that prohibit it.
Freemasonry wherever it exists in the United States, no matter the Obedience, has no right to abridge the Civil Rights and the First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution of its members.
There are a couple of solutions here that would not be hard to do. First any Progressive Grand Lodge that feels that another jurisdiction has violated the principles of Freemasonry and is practicing rogue or bogus Masonry can remove recognition of that jurisdiction. All it takes is some intestinal fortitude.
The second solution is one that addresses the seriously fractured operations of U.S. Freemasonry. While Canada has 10 Grand Lodges for its entire country the United States has 51. This opens our highly mobile society in the Information Age to too many fiefdoms of often feudal power making American Freemasonry indefinable. There is no oneness, sameness or cohesiveness to it, no universality. Not even the Landmarks are uniform in Mainstream U.S. Freemasonry. There is no such thing as American Freemasonry. And that doesn’t cut it for this high tech, highly mobile, diverse, multicultural, giant of a nation we have become.
It would solve a lot of problems if Mainstream Masonry in the United States were to adopt some common structure, rules and practices. A National Constitution could accomplish these ends without giving up state sovereignty.
Many a Mason across the nation has been heard to lament that nothing seems to get done. Problems are being recognized and solutions offered but reforms never get passed. Meantime correctable situations go from bad to worse. The reason for this can be traced to the basic flaw in most jurisdictions of having just one year terms for Grand Masters. Grand Lodge officers spend years campaigning to get in line and then when they finally reach the pinnacle of power they become a lame duck leader 6 months after taking office. There is not enough continuity to institute any long range planning. There are too many struggles for political power and not enough programs for long term development. Becoming Grand Master becomes a feather in one’s cap, a prestigious accomplishment of honor and power, a badge to proudly display but not a means for long lasting good government.
Lodges with one year terms for Grand Masters tend to be governed by a cadre of Past Grand Masters. That’s where the real power lies. It is these leaders that choose the next Grand Master or the next entry into a progressive line.
The Beehive recommends that those Masons who are members of tyrannical, rogue Grand Lodges should add a dual membership with another Grand Lodge in the nation, preferably a progressive and enlightened Grand Lodge. Vermont would be a good choice, but there are others. In this manner Masons might be able to shield themselves from arbitrary expulsion at the whim of Grand Masters. Those Brethren in Arkansas, West Virginia, Florida and other Confederate Masonry need to have protection from their Grand Lodges. Dual or plural membership would be that safety valve although there is no guarantee that if your primary Grand Lodge expels you that your secondary Grand Lodge would not follow suit. But if the expulsion was not an egregious offense but rather a tyrannical excuse lacking merit, then it is hard to believe that a “fallback” Grand Lodge would do the same.
One thing is for sure, if Mainstream Masonry continues down the road it is going without making some major reforms it will self destruct. Many jurisdictions have only half the membership they had 20 years ago. American Freemasonry is wounded, bleeding and suffering. If it doesn’t swallow some medicine soon it will shrivel up and die, the remnants being only an idea on the Internet.
American Freemasonry would do well to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln.
June 16, 1858
If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.
American Mainstream Freemasonry must choose one way or the other. Will it be the White only, Christian only Freemasonry of the South and East or will it be the enlightened, progressive acceptance of diversity and universality of the North and West? Will it be Grand Masters who follow their Constitutions and open their Grand Lodges to shared government by consensus or will it be a Grand Lodge where the Grand Master is Pope and dictator who can thumb his nose at his Constitutions?
A Masonic House divided against itself cannot stand.
Sometimes in life you have to think outside the box no matter how long it has always been done one particular way.
I know that many of you who read the first article on The Grand Lodge of Arkansas versus The Shrine are looking at what has taken place from a purely legalistic and Constitutional view. If a Master Mason has been expelled from his Grand Lodge and The Shrine refuses to expel him also, then The Shrine is guilty of harboring a non Mason. But this only looks at the actions of one of the two parties, just The Shrine. What if the actions of the Grand Lodge were illegal, unconstitutional and un-Masonic in the first place? Then the first action by the Grand Lodge, if illegal, cannot make the response by The Shrine illegal. I urge all to look at both sides of the question. Perhaps this letter from the Imperial Potentate will help explain the situation and will create better understanding of the position of the Beehive when it talks about rogue Masonry practiced by tyrannical Grand Lodges.
Shriners International Response
By now, each of you have received a letter from the Grand Master of Masons in Arkansas dated November 1, 2012 “justifying” the action he has taken against Masons in the state of Arkansas. I know many of you personally. I respect the offices you hold and your ability to listen to all sides of the issue and to independently and fairly make your own assessments.
I now report to you and present you with the facts as they occurred. My report will be a little lengthy but you are entitled to all the facts.
Floyd R. Buffington (herein “Buffington”), a Master Mason, was elected potentate of Scimitar Shriners for 2010. Under Shrine fraternal law he was eligible to serve a second year as potentate if elected. He chose to seek a second year. This did not meet with unanimous approval. Among those disapproving was a past potentate of Scimitar. This past potentate was supporting and nominating another Brother and Noble for the office of potentate. Efforts were made to dissuade Buffington. He chose to let the membership of Scimitar Shriners decide the issue by their ballot. They did, and chose Buffington as their potentate for a second term.
Buffington invited several of his friends to a dinner at a local country club. This was during the Christmas season and other dinners and parties were being held at the country club on the same evening. In another room there was a party for teens and the music was being provided by a disk jockey. The amplified music was very loud and was disturbing other patrons in the country club. A guest of Buffington met with the DJ and asked him to please lower the volume and then he returned to the Buffington dinner. Shortly thereafter, a mother of one of the teens (who was not a wife of a Mason and who had no Masonic affiliation) became irate at the request to lower the volume and entered the Buffington room. A verbal confrontation took place, i.e., “she said and he said.” The mother then left the Buffington room and returned to the teen party. These events at the country club were not “Masonic” events nor were they “Shrine” events.
Soon thereafter, the past potentate mentioned above communicated his displeasure with the reelection of Buffington and his “conduct” at the country club to the Grand Lodge; and the “conduct” to the directors of the country club.
Country Club Action
The directors of the country club referred the matter to the club’s investigation committee. It reviewed the entire matter and, at the conclusion of its investigation, it determined no wrong doing by persons in attendance that evening. However, a letter of reprimand would be placed in the file of the aforesaid past potentate (who was a member of the country club and who obtained permission for the dinner) as his responsibility of “hosting” the dinner required that he should have been at the country club at the time of the dinner.
Masonic Lodge Action
The disappointed past potentate mentioned above, then filed a complaint of unmasonic conduct in the lodge of Buffington. The investigating committee consisted of three Past Masters – none of whom were Shriners.
I want you to hear their own words.
“The party at the Country Club was neither a Masonic function nor a Shrine function. The party was held after the election of the new potentate for 2011. There was another party going on at the country club for teenagers and the music was intolerably loud. Different people had gone over to the loud party and asked them to please turn the music down a little. A mother of one of the girls attending the party became irate over being asked to turn the music down. She came over to the party of the Shrine people (Floyd’s party) and (she) was using foul language and there was a confrontation of words. No one could say for sure what was said. We are sure that the confrontation was not very pleasant. Under the circumstances we probably would not be very pleasant either.”
The findings of the lodge investigation committee go on to say:
“The charges brought against Floyd Buffington have a threefold problem.
“First, the man bringing the charges was not even there. Anything he knows is hearsay.
“Second, he was backing a man for potentate that lost the election (against Floyd Buffington).”
“Third, this (man who bought the charges against Floyd Buffington) received a reprimand from the Country Club over the confrontation at the Club.
“Brother Buffington was also threatened that charges would be brought against him if he did not resign as Potentate.
“It is plain that Brother Elder (the man who brought the charges against Floyd Buffington) could have underlying motives for preferring charges against the man who won the election (for potentate).
“It is our belief that this is not a Masonic problem but a Shrine problem and the Shrine should handle any problems that occur at their functions.
“It is the committee’s recommendations that (this) lodge take no action on these charges.”
As a result of this report, the Blue Lodge declined to bring any charges against Buffington.
Scimitar Shriners Action
The Shrine looked into the matter and found no cause for disciplinary action against Buffington.
At the 2012 annual session of Shriners International, the Grievances and Appeals Committee reviewed the matter and made to its report to the Representatives stating that Buffington was a member in good standing in a Masonic lodge located outside of Arkansas and that no action against him was warranted. The Representatives, by their unanimous vote, concurred and the matter was concluded.
Grand Lodge of Arkansas Action
The rumblings from Grand Lodge continued and, finally, Buffington received a letter from the Grand Lodge stating that he was suspended from Masonry – “effective immediately” because of the Country Club situation. The suspension letter went on to say:
“While every Freemason has a right to express himself, we must each maintain the responsibility of doing so in a behavior consistent with our Obligation and in a moral and upright manner. You have “allegedly” consistently failed to meet these standards of conduct and proven to be reprehensible in your general behavior and language.” The letter went on to say “you are hereby ordered to remove all Masonic emblems such as rings, lapel buttons, car emblems, etc. immediately upon receipt of this notice or if caught additional charges will be filed.”
So, by virtue of the pen of a Grand Master, without any hearing of any kind, by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, the potentate of Scimitar was suspended from Masonry. The letter went on to inform Buffington that the Grand Lodge would subsequently convene a trial to hear his case. It did not mention, however, that the trial commission would consist of members personally selected by the Grand Master – the same Grand Master who suspended Buffington from the Grand Lodge.
Later, Buffington received a letter from the chairman of the Grand Lodge Trial Commission. He stated that he had been appointed by the Grand Master to serve as chairman of the Grand Lodge Trial Commission to conduct a Masonic trial on charges of unmasonic conduct in that he allegedly used foul and inappropriate language in front of women and children. And that these charges were filed by the Grand Master of Arkansas. So, the Grand Master files the charges and then this same Grand Master appoints the members of the trial commission to try Buffington.
This letter concludes that the “Trial Commission’s proceedings are not governed by Rules of Law, and character witnesses will not be allowed.” The last sentence then foretold of the outcome of the Trial Commission appeal by saying, “Should you choose not to be present at the trial, I have enclosed a “self-expulsion form.
Well, Buffington did attend the hearing before the trial commission with Masonic Bro. Larry Holt as his counsel, knowing full well that the outcome would be in accordance with the wishes of the Grand Master. Buffington presented the facts as they actually occurred and responded to all questions asked. You would be proud of the manner in which he faced this special trial committee of the Grand Master.
It was, of course, to no avail. The members of this special trial commission found in favor of the man who appointed them – the Grand Master.
Since that date, there have been many expulsions of Shriners from Masonry by the Grand Lodge. All the elected officers of the two Shrine temples in Arkansas have been expelled for attending Shrine meetings; or for allowing a fax machine in an office to be used to transmit a message about the treatment of brothers by the Grand Lodge; and others have been forbidden from driving Shrine children to and from Shrine hospitals.
Finally, Bro. Larry Holt who defended Floyd Buffington before the Grand Lodge was expelled. He received a letter to appear at Grand lodge on a date certain at 1:00 p.m. No reason for his attendance was given to him. He arrived at 1:00 p.m. and at 1:05 p.m. he received a letter of expulsion from the Grand Lodge.
Let me read just a few paragraphs of a letter that was written by a worthy and respected Mason about the situation in Arkansas:
“Brethren, I am not here to defend or condemn the Shrine, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, or the Grand Lodge. I am here to defend a Master Mason who is no different than you or me. Is he perfect? No. Has he made mistakes? Yes. But so have you and I. He has done nothing worse than things that you and I have done? Jesus said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
“Some of you may think that Floyd and I are real close pals. Nothing is farther from the truth. I hardly know Floyd. I have seen him in lodge a few times and we are friends but not close friends. However, I do know when a man is being railroaded. I would defend any Master Mason that is treated in this manner.
“This whole mess stems from disgruntled Shriners who are upset over losing the election for Potentate in 2011. There was a man appointed to the Grand Lodge investigation committee who once told Floyd that if he did not resign as Potentate that charges would be brought against him. I don’t know how he got on the investigation committee, but I know it insured that charges would be brought.
“The man who brought the charges originally is a Shriner and a board member of the Country Club. He was very upset because Floyd won reelection as potentate and that his man lost. So, even though he had arranged the party at the Country Club, he did not attend. When the Shriners would not remove Floyd the only other thing he could do was to personally bring charges against Floyd in his Blue Lodge. When that didn’t work his last alternative was the Grand Lodge.
“The actions at the Country Club are not why this brother is being charged. Floyd was told by the member of the investigation committee that if he would resign as Potentate that charges would not be brought.
“When the matter was sent to his home lodge, I was on the investigation committee along with two other Past Masters. Our findings were the same as the Supreme Shriners findings. There is no wrong doing here and a trial is not warranted. That should have been the end of it.
“Ego, ambition, politics, wealth, domination, power and superiority are the driving forces behind all wars and even disagreements between two people. Master Masters are supposed to be above all of this. Question: What came you here to do? Answer: To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry. Are we learning to subdue our passions here? No, we are learning how to dominate others.
“I think that the action taken by the Country Club was all that was necessary. They reprimanded the man who was not there to supervise the party that he set up.” The same man who brought charges against Floyd Buffington.”
My fellow Nobles, according to my best judgment the Grand Lodge has already suspended or expelled numerous Masons who are members of Scimitar and Sahara Shriners. More are in the pipeline. The Grand Lodge has brought these two temples to their knees but they continue to believe in the greater good of human nature. It is no exaggeration to say that you are their last hope.
There are literally hundreds of examples that I can recite to you about the attitude of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas toward Shriners, but I will instead move on.
The question has arisen if certain religious practices are compatible with Freemasonry, primarily Paganism, Wiccan and Odinism, and secondarily Agnosticism and Gnosticism.
Article XIII – LANDMARKS AND CERTAIN LAWS OF FREEMASONRY
Section 2. The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Florida hereby recognizes, as being Landmarks of Freemasonry, the following:
(a) A belief in the existence of one ever living and true God.
(b) A belief in the immortality of the human soul and a resurrection thereof to a Future Life.
(c) The Volume of the Sacred Law, open upon the altar, is an indispensable furnishing of every regular Lodge while at labor.
Regulation 1.02 Masonic Law is a rule of fraternal conduct, and applies only to the moral and fraternal rectitude of its members. It is based upon the law of Divine Revelation, therefore, any covenant, affirmation, declaration, assumption, prescription, or requirement derogatory thereto, or in conflict therewith, is void. Hence the precept, “a Mason is bound by his tenure to obey the moral law.”………….
Excerpt from THE CHARGES OF A FREEMASON
THE GENERAL HEADS, VIZ.: – I . OF GOD AND RELIGION.
I. CONCERNING GOD AND RELIGION
“A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.”……….
Therefore, as Grand Master, it is my Ruling and Decision that none of the above mentioned beliefs and/or practices are compatible with Freemasonry since they do not believe or practice one or more of the prerequisites to be a candidate for Masonry listed above.
Further, any member of the Craft that professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.
Furthermore, Freemasonry prohibits the change of any of the Ancient Landmarks, and its members admit that it is not in power of any man, or body of men, to make innovations in the body of Masonry.
Your Humble Servant and Brother,
Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master
”Be A Leader; Make It Happen”
This edict applies to a particular Brother. Full story to follow.
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas held its Mid Winter Grand Session Friday night 11/9/12 and all day Saturday 11/10/12. Friday night’s tradition is a mass raising of Fellow Crafts from around the state. This is not a one day class. The candidates have received their first and second degrees in their home Lodges. And the raising is done pretty much the same as a raising in the local Lodge. The main difference would be that candidates go through the gates about eight at a time.
This year we had 82 Fellow Crafts to be raised. Total time from beginning to end was about 3 ½ hours. It is quite a sight to see 82 Brothers circumambulating around the Lodge. It requires about a dozen “mangers” to make it work.
I do the “On Yonder Book” charge after the degree which I have adapted for audience participation at the end.
This year I wrote a prelude to the charge, a new way to introduce it and foretell what was to come. Here is what I told the newly raised Master Masons:
Congratulations on being raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. It now becomes my duty to remind you of the promises you have made. Do you know what I am talking about?
Here’s what I want you to do. When you get back home I want you to attend the next meeting of your Lodge and participate in or observe an opening.
There you will find that after the Master tyles the Lodge and receives the password form the Brethren he starts the opening ceremony by asking the Senior Warden, “Are You a Master Mason?”
The Senior Warden replies, “I am.”
Then The Master asks the Senior Warden, “What induced you to become a Master Mason?”
The Senior Warden answers.
The Master then asks, “What makes you a Master Mason?”
Everybody in the room, What makes you a Master Mason?
That’s what we are talking about.
These promises were not made to your Lodge, your Worshipful Master or even to the Grand Master. These promises were made to God and they are with you for the rest of your life.
You must realize what all the other Master Masons in this room know and respect and live up to – that everything you say, do and represent from this 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 on this fraternity. Every decision, every achievement, every mistake you make happens to all of us from this point forward (thanks to RW Bro. Hugh Goldie).
As a Master Mason it is incumbent on you, then, not to dishonor Freemasonry, nor embarrass your Lodge or Grand Lodge nor bring shame on yourselves.
I will not let you out of this building tonight without first impressing on your minds in the strongest manner how solemn and how important those Obligations that you have taken are.
So let us now begin.
And that’s what it was for these 82 new Master Masons, a new beginning.
Today’s article comes from Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada who runs a weekly Masonic Newsletter, publishing a new article each Sunday to everyone on his list. If you wish to get on Anderson’s List E-Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org The Beehive has published articles with a similar point of view in regards to Masonic charity in the past. Today’s article once again reaffirms the corruption of Freemasonry in some jurisdictions.
Charity as a Core of Our Craft
The Relevancy of Charity in the Masonic World II R.W. Bro. Thomas W. Jackson 2004 Blue Friar Lecture
My Brothers, I have had the great privilege and pleasure for more than 2 decades, to visit many Grand Lodges, in North American as well as in much of the rest of the world, and to see how Freemasonry operates over the better part of the globe. As you might expect, one of the most striking characteristics of it, is the similarity of its principals and precepts. It is quite evident that its basic philosophical reasons for existence are universal. This feature is the glue that holds it together, and has done so for centuries. The universality of Freemasonry on a world scale is totally dependent upon maintaining these principles and precepts. That is not so say that there have not been differences between or variances within individual Grand Lodges, but Regular Freemasonry has not deviated from its basic philosophy.
One unexpected observation that I did find however was that the operational philosophies of Freemasonry did vary; depending upon the part of the world in which it existed. The tenants of Freemasonry were ever present, but the forces driving it, made it relevant to the environment in which it existed. Jasper Ridley, in his recent book, The Freemasons: A History of the World’s Most Powerful Secret Society, made the same observations, historically. His observations, however, tended more to define individual Grand Lodges, or limited geographical regions. The observations I made covered continents.
I found in Europe for example, that Freemasonry has retained much more of the philosophical qualities that characterized it in its early life. This is not too difficult to understand since its origin was in Europe, and there was a greater degree of stability existing due to the age of the countries, and therefore with a lesser stimulus to diverge. Hence, European Freemasonry displays a more philosophical form of Freemasonry than is found in the rest of the world.
In contrast to this philosophical style, Central America, and South America have a form of Freemasonry more driven by sociological demands of its environment. It retains the basic tenets of Freemasonry, while its operations practices tend to take on a more idealistic and progressive approach in establishing the goals of the Craft, to meet the needs of the society in which it exists. Its idealism causes it to seek more lofty goals than is generally found elsewhere in the Masonic world. Hence we find a more sociological form of Freemasonry.
While Mexico mirrors much of the socio-graphical qualities by which the Craft if known, probably due to an acquired complacency coupled with a lack of a force driving it. Certainly it has been true in recent years. Perhaps this complacency is a result of an absence of the same social needs as those in the countries to our south. What we have evolved into however, is an organization that places much emphasis and effort on raising money and funding charities. The resultant recognizable image of Freemasonry in North America is one of being a charitable organization. Although charity is a core value of the Craft, it is not the core value. We have other core values that have crafted an organization the likes of which the world had never seen before, nor has it been matched since.
We as a North American Craft seem to have developed a driving need to raise money for charity, and as a result, I find myself out of step with much of North American leadership in this regard. I feel strongly that this mantle of charity with which we cloak North American Freemasonry, does a great disservice to the philosophical intent of the Craft, and has lead to a general dilution of our influence in society.
There are many charitable organizations designed for the specific purpose of promoting charitable objectives, but I know no other, whose professed purpose is to take good men and make them better. Doctor E. Scott Ryan in his book, The Theology of Crime and the Paradox of Freedom, observed, “the wonderful work of Masonic charities is by no means synonymous with the wonderment of Masonic spirituality – and that’s a shame, when one considers how many fine charities there are and how few fine spiritualities there are”. My brothers, think of how unique we were, how unique we are. Think of how much and for how long, we have altered the direction taken in that ongoing quest for civility in a civil society. Even most of the organizations modeled after us have long ago ceased to exist. There can be little doubt, my brothers that our success and survival rests upon the uniqueness that characterizes Freemasonry.
Before I go any further, let me emphasize that I have absolutely no objection to Freemasonry’s commitment to helping others. Indeed, it would be difficult to comprehend how we could involve good men, and avoid helping others. This is not, however, the reason for our existence, and we depend too much upon this single feature to generate our image to society. We, therefore limit ourselves to niches that many other organizations have inhabited longer, and were designed to do better. And yet, long before we adopted this approach, we created more of an impact on the evolution of civil society and this world than any organization every conceived in the mind of man. This has truly been the glowing accomplishment of Freemasonry, and is what historians are finally acknowledging about us today.
We have, in North America evolved into the world’s greatest charitable organization, but my brothers, Freemasonry is not a Charity. It did not originate as a Charity, it did not function and survive as a Charity, it is not recognized by government agencies as a charity, and it certainly did not change the world as a Charity. Its avowed purpose it making good men better. By making good men better, we improve the quality of the man and therefore the quality of the world. But of what value will be our charitable nature if we fail to survive to support any Charity.
We readily admit that we are declining, not only in numbers, but also as a visual image in modern-day society. Even as our numbers are decreasing, even as our buildings are crumbling, even as the quality of our membership is waning, we continue to dedicate much of our effort to raising money for Charity. We cannot continue to concentrate most of our efforts on raising money to give away. We cannot buy admiration and respect, and my brothers; this is exactly what we are attempting to do. To be charitable is an admirable quality, but our charitable character must never cloud our singular most important purpose, to make good men better.
There is another consideration that it would behoove us to pause and deliberate upon. Dr. Ryan also made a very succinct observation when he stated, “if we become a charity, which we are certainly tending toward, and the government assumes that role which it is tending toward, then our purpose for existence will no longer exist”.
My brothers, history is littered with the remains of organizations, many patterned after Freemasonry, that were forced out of existence for the very reason that the government assumed the role for which these organization existed. Take time my brothers, to look back in North America and its fraternalism. I was nothing short of astounded when I began to comprehend how many hundreds of fraternal organizations were created, existed, and died, many as a result in changes instituted by our governments.
Freemasonry has not been exempt from these changes. This is one of the reasons why we may be less attractive to the current generations than we were to those of the past. The need for brotherly love and dependence upon one another is not nearly as great today as it was in our not too distant past, simply because today the public is taxed to do what we did free for generations. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for many years operated the Patton School for orphan boys. We prided ourselves in the quality of the young men we were graduating some become significant leaders in society. Notwithstanding we were forced to close the school when the government took over the responsibility for providing foster homes at taxpayer’s expense. The fact that we did better, and at no cost to the taxpayer was not relevant.
David T. Beito notes in his book, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967, that “fraternities have declined in influence since the depression, especially as providers of mutual aid and philanthropy” and that “We have yet to find a successful modern analog to the lodge”. He also observed that we were moving from the character of Fraternalism to that of Paternalism”, and “in order to attract members the leadership was willing to de-emphasize their commitments and abandoned the qualities that made them distinctive”. Please note that last comment, my Brothers, for he may be quite probably hitting upon the major cause of the decline of the Craft, both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. He definitely reinforced, with that observation, the contention that the leadership lost sight of the qualities that made Freemasonry, Freemasonry.
Those charitable organizations that have survived, have survived with intent toward a specific charitable objective. Freemasonry and its affiliated organizations, however, have taken the support of so many different charities, that most of our members are not even aware of them. Do you know, for example, that in addition to our Masonic homes for children and the elderly, we support in some form, research or assistance programs involving the diseases of cancer, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, retinal disease, tuberculosis, arthritis, lung disease, cerebral palsy, leukemia, diabetes, aphesis, dyslexia, schizophrenia, kidney disease, and that certainly does not cover all. We also have research hospitals, we provide dental care for the handicapped, we deliver food to the poor, we provide hearing dogs for the deaf, and we support major scholarship programs. I am confident that if it were known, there are probably many other charitable projects undertaken by our subordinate lodges and affiliated bodies.
Now, if we don’t know what we support, I wonder how many outside the Craft know. They do know, however, about the Cancer Society, The Heart Disease Foundation, The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, and all the other charities that were designed for the specific purpose of collecting funds just for that disease. What we are doing, is contributing our efforts and funds to support charities that will get the credit for those funds.
How did Freemasonry in North America develop into the world’s greatest Charity? There are several factors that probably influenced this evolution, but we must remember, that according to many scholars, our philanthropic character was taken on in the Middle Ages and prior to our becoming a Speculative Craft. During the construction of the great cathedrals, the stonemason’s set aside funds for their injured members and their families and widows. Even today, it is still “known” that, right or wrong, “masons take care of their own”. Note, however, this was not a public charity; it was taking care of their own.
For many people on the early in daily struggle to survive supersedes any consideration of what they might do for others. The very concept of Charity is nonexistent, but when Freemasonry came to America it found a new soul in Charity. Unfortunately over time it lost sight of the realization of our purpose, that of improving the world through the improvement of the man. Our long-range vision had become drastically shortened and significantly clouded. We are now not seeing the forest for the trees. We have shrouded ourselves in short-term and less significant functions and lost our understanding of those great potential achievements that the Craft is capable of, and that the World deserves. We are not only failing to recognize the impact of our past, but also the potential impact of our future.
I would suspect by now that most of you sitting here have developed the opinion that I am opposed to Freemasonry’s involvement with Charity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The charitable nature of Freemasonry has been an integral part of it, as I have noted, since prior to its conversion into its speculative form. Without its concern for its members as well as for society in general, it could not have become what it has. A Brotherhood of Men under the Fatherhood of God would be a lifeless shell indeed, if it lacked the essence of a charitable concern for our fellowman.
The concern I express is not what we do for Charity, but what we do not do to fulfill our purpose because of the concentration of effort we put into charity. We might argue that by supporting charities we are making men better, and this is not untrue, but if this is all we make Freemasonry today we are failing our heritage. My brothers, Freemasonry made this world, and did so by providing much more than charitable gifts. It made men, better men than it took in, one man at a time.
It is imperative that we place, and keep in proper perspective the relationship of charity to Freemasonry. If our charitable objectives, in any way distract us from the primary purpose of the Craft, it must not be tolerated.
Freemasonry in North America is at a critical crossroads in its life. We the leaders of today are being forced to determine where it is that we really want it to go. For over thirty years we have declined in numbers and reduced or image in society. We have not reduced the loss or improved our image by the amount of monies we give in charity, although lord knows we tried.
The time has come for us to look at ourselves, to become more introspective, to realize that if we fail to look out for ourselves, we may very well lose our ability to look out for others. Rest assured, there will be no one looking out for us when we need help. Regretfully, for all that we have meant in the world, for all that we have given, there have been considerably more of the citizenry of the world looking for us to fail than to succeed.
We must become more cognizant of just how important we have been in the development of civil society. There is perhaps no organization more ignorant of its past, than is North American Freemasonry. We cannot afford to allow ignorance to consume us while we concentrate our efforts on programs that do not fall within the purview of our reason for existence. We cannot continue to allow our buildings to become eyesores by which the public may judge us while we use our resources for other purposes. We cannot continue to emphasize the need for more members, instead of more quality members. And, we must generate an image so that those outside of us will see us more than a source of funding for other organizations.
One of Freemasonry’s greatest charitable accomplishments has been through the efforts of our members rather than through the contribution of our dollars, and those efforts were stimulated through the teaching of Masonic ideals and the encouragement of Freemasons to participate. Thus, we fulfill our charitable commitments while fulfilling our professed philosophical purpose. We take good men and make them better. If we can fill that purpose and continue to be the world’s greatest Charity, then so be it. If a choice must be made, however, let us never fail to make good men better. That is more than our duty, that is our privileged and it is our purpose.
Today’s guest writer, Canadian Brother Mark Kapitan, comes to us by way of Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s weekly Masonic newsletter. Anderson publishes a new or old-from-the-Masters article each week and forwards it to everybody on his list. Topics cover a wide variety of issues and interests but they are always Masonic. If you would like to get on Brother Anderson’s list simply E-Mail him at email@example.com . Word to the wise, the newsletter is dark for the summer, except for this recent very special edition.
The big question is could you, if asked, explain how Freemasonry makes good men better? Or does it? That’s what Kapitan, a relatively new Freemason, wants to find out. And his quest has culminated in a fascinating paper he presented just this week.
A Young Mason’s journey to find, the making of a good man, better.
by Brother Mark Kapitan, F.C.F. Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C.
This talk was delivered at Rideau Lodge No. 460, Seeleys Bay, July 5, 2012
The journey starts for many of us, with the initial contact of someone who will probably be our sponsor. We sit down with a person, whom we have never met before, or may not know very well, and ask questions in order to decide whether a Masonic journey is for us. This is probably one of the most important decisions many of us have to make at this time, do I join, or not, remembering that our choice will be based on an enormous amount, of limited information. I recall sitting with my sponsor for three hours, who, during this time, did a very good job of answering all my questions, and quite frankly, telling me absolutely nothing. But, the one comment he did make that tweaked my interest, was that “Freemasonry takes a good man and makes him better”. Personally, I know as men, we have no problem re-assuring ourselves, that yes, “I” am a good man, however, as many of us can attest, it is not uncommon for our better halves to remind us, there is always room for improvement. Upon hearing this oh so wise reminder in my head, it became one of my reasons, to fill out an application, and join Freemasonry.
After a successful Examination, a report is given and we are balloted on. A letter follows from the Lodge, and if positive, your date of Initiation is chosen. You now ask.. What will be next? Well, the journey continues with the big night, nerves are on high alert, and one questions oneself, “what am I doing here”? Everyone is so friendly, smiling at you, shaking your hand, one could assume the best, or the worst, is about to happen. It is at this time; at least it was for me, that the nerves got a kick in the stomach. One of those new friendly faces informs me that I am going to have to change out of this nice suit I have on, and into an interesting pair, of what is best described, as pyjamas, and even further, that I will be blind folded for a short period of time. As the meeting starts and you are not yet part of it… I am sure some of us have wondered if it would not be wise to change our minds, and leave. After all, I was sure I could get down the stairs and out the door, before the Tyler, who distracted with returning his knocks, could have gotten to his sword. Finally, some of the Brethren come out, one asks some questions, making references to an ancient penalty, which you are not to worry about of course, and this again sends the mind off wondering, what have I gotten myself into? Then that point of no return occurs, you pay the requested monies, and another Brother, with what appears to be a spear, is there to make sure you are properly prepared.
It’s now time! You are walked around a room blindfolded, listening to every word, from all directions, trying to remember, how many did I see come in, are they behind me, in front of me, what’s happening, what will be next? Your head is bursting with so many questions. You repeat something, seal it, and then, the Blind fold is off. You are moved here and there; different Brethren are coming up to you and overwhelming you with parts of the ritual. Finally, at last, it’s done. The Master comes down to the level, congratulates you, which is followed by a round of applause from all those in attendance, and then asks the big question, “Do you have anything you would like to say?” Wow, what a question! Let’s see, I’ve come here dressed up in a suit, paid you 3-4 hundred dollars, was paraded around, dressed in pyjamas no less, initially blind folded, in front of 20+ men I have never met before, been over whelmed with some of these strangers speaking to me individually, have been asked to change back to my suit, only to come back in and be overwhelmed again, the whole time not understanding half of what is said to me, and YOU are wondering if I would have anything to say? Of course I do, what just happened? And, ultimately, how will this make me, a better man?
Many of us continue on our journey to be Passed and Raised to the degree of a Master Mason, proving each of our degrees in front of the members of our lodge, or depending on the evening, perhaps a few more than normal. I have often made this statement with regards to the Degrees: The First, is the one that just happens. I feel that this is the Degree that binds us as Brethren, for here, we all experience the same thing, with pretty much the same results, nervousness and confusion. The Second, is the one you do for yourself, we practice and learn, wanting to do it well; and finally, the Third, this is the one we will never forget.
After this point, when one has been raised, it might be difficult for the Mason to see, just how does Masonry, take me, a good man, and make me, better? And it is here that I began my quest for an answer. From what I thought I could see, my memory was improving through practicing of the Ritual for my degrees, was I on my way to becoming a better man? I was quickly reminded by my lady who was still asking me “did I forget” … it was garbage day, or, that we were going to her mother’s tonight. Improved memory??? I guess she would tell you, I was still suffering from that well known man’s disease called, selective hearing Or listening.
After proving our third, some of us believe we are ready to assume the role of an Officer and most actually do, to the delight of the many recycled Past Masters, however, for many of us, it is difficult to get up and speak in front of others, myself included. I presumed the proving of degrees, would help prepare for the journey through the chairs, allowing us the opportunity to somewhat feel comfortable, speaking in front of others, at least in our own Lodge. Interests are peaked during this time, yet I feel often, are not tapped. For many of us, we want to be more involved, but being new, don’t know how to, are afraid to ask, are simply just assigned ritual, or, may have been deterred with that famous phrase, “Because that’s the way it’s always been”. Looking at my own Masonic journey thus far, you can imagine that I have heard those words on more than just a few occasions. Another of my favourite phrases is, “wait until you have sat in the East”….. I see! It would be preferred that we Rock the boat when we are all a little older, and a lot less stable on our feet. In all fairness though, these two statements are both very viable comments to many. The first shows that we, as a fraternity, have stayed true in the longevity of our institution, and the second would reference obviously, experience and education. Is this how a good man is made better, longevity, experience and education?
I was hoping this wasn’t the full answer, as some things are in fact being done differently and are not the way they were. To start with, many older Brethren have often told me that when they joined the Craft, one would have to wait possibly several years just to get in the Junior Steward’s chair. This would mean that many men would have been 10 plus years a Mason, before they became the Master of the Lodge. During these times, although some Lodges were doing plenty of Degrees, many still found the time to do some form of Masonic Education, and turn outs were good. The time spent waiting to get in the officer line up, combined with the journey itself of ten plus years, would provide one the experience and education needed to make the second statement true, “Wait till you have sat in the East”. One could also add that with reference of the charge “to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge”, many of the older Brethren, in fact, did.
This charge, was it put forth to encourage oneself to go out, find it, to take the initiative, seek knowledge through education, and then, put it in place? We all know this is not always an easy task, as for many of us; we need to see what is missing, in order to desire it, or know it is in fact missing. Was this charge to encourage one to find what makes a good man, better?
In today’s time of hustle and bustle, we find in many Lodges there are few new members joining, or there is a lack of attendance, which is forcing many Past Masters to do the officer line up, in various rolls, several times. In order to resolve the pressure on the PM’s, we find many Masters are being made in a considerably shorter time, in many instances; it is 5 years or less. Leaving us with these questions: are these Brethren good with the ritual? Are they good men? Are they good examples of Masons worthy to project a public image of the Craft? Of course they are!
However, do they have many years of Experience in the Craft? Are they Masonically Educated? Familiar with the Protocol and Etiquette expected through experience and practice? Would sitting in the East, be a sign of Experience and Education, as it once was, in only 5 short years? These last few questions prompt me to ask, did this become the “fast track” to making a good man, better? And, do they, as the older masons did, make that daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge?
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
The Answer to the last question I feel is best summed up, this way; when I look at this call to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge, which as stated was done by dedicated older Brethren, in their time, I find in our era, we profess a desire to, but, find it easier to provide an excuse not to, which usually involves, “having no time”. These days, I look at this act of making a daily advancement and compare to something as simple as eating. Some of us use a knife and fork, yet others, like me, should use a shovel. Some chew and enjoy every bite and others couldn’t tell you how what they ate, tasted like 20 minutes later. Many eat healthy, and others, junk they shouldn’t. But the most honest reference I can use to compare this daily advancement, to eating, is in this hustle and bustle of the busy lives we lead presently, one must surely admit that it is not uncommon to skip a meal, even though, we know that it is not healthy, or good for us. Unfortunately, it is easier, after a few times, to develop a bad habit rather than the “better” one.
This question, “how does Masonry make a good man better”, I have asked of many. It often made me feel like a youngster asking his parents, where do babies come from? I am sure in the time Freemasonry has been around, and from many different geographical areas; someone must have answered this question. But why was it so allusive to me. Am I looking in the wrong places, asking the wrong men? Truthfully, many I have asked could offer me no more than, it just does. For them, being good men, who have been in the Craft for many years, well, maybe it just did. Others, suggested it could be found in education. What Education? The Mechanics, the History, the Ritual, Operations, Protocol and Etiquette, is it any one of these, all on them, or is there something more?
After being Raised, I enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences Course or as it was originally called the Master Masons Course. This course offered me the education in many of the areas I have just mentioned. It is a correspondence course that has been available since 1984, yet many of the Brethren, young and old, have never heard of it, or know very little about it. At present there are only 259 grads since its inception. Did I find the answer to my question in education? Am I a better man? Nope! Just a Mason with a little more education than I started with, and the privilege of adding the initials of FCF, A Fellow of the College of Freemasonry, to my Masonic Signings. The completion of this course has offered me many different opportunities and experiences, for upon being a Grad I was invited to an Alumni group, where education, is ongoing. We have a forum for questions and debates by many experienced and well educated Brethren. Could I possibly ask my question here?
What I was finding, was some very interesting educated views from scholarly Masons, providing discussions and debates far superior to my knowledge, about various topics that I was interested in, the protocol and etiquette, Ritual, and History. Yet, as a member, and a very young Mason, I could not find the nerve to ask my quested question, but hoped I could find the secret by searching in the Q & A’s of the alumni forum history. No such luck!
My patience, or lack of nerve, was rewarded a few months later, and you can imagine my excitement when I received an email, with this exact question from the Alumni, The Making of good men better, What does this actually mean and how do we do this? There it was. Honestly, I must have checked my email for replies every 10 minutes for that whole day.
Many answers where offered to this question, but one in particular caught my attention, causing me to read it several times. I will read to you the answer, which came from Brother Terry Spalding – Martin FCF;
“These same questions come up time and time again on the various Masonic email forums. It is a phrase, thrown out there with little thought, or meaning.
I consider Freemasonry, to be the biggest and oldest self help group in the world. The emphasis, is on “self”.
For the most part, our society wants everything given to them. We will move mountains, if it means we don’t have to do any work. Thus, making men better is generally perceived as something Freemasonry “does” to men.
It is, actually something Freemasonry makes available to men. Freemasonry holds it out, and then, the brother has to do some work in order for it to happen.
Another trite phrase is, “you get out of it, what you put into it.” But it’s true. If you just sit on the bench, nothing much happens. You don’t become better, you don’t become any smarter, and you don’t become anything, other than older.
Brethren frequently discuss the relevance of learning ritual. What’s the use of learning all that archaic language, and then saying it to someone?
Psychologists say that speaking in public is more fearful to the average person than dying. Rather than give a eulogy, we’d prefer to be in the box. By learning ritual, we expand our capabilities for memorization. Something many of us, haven’t done since public school, if ever. By delivering ritual, we overcome our fear, and learn to public speak. This capability boosts our self worth, and self confidence.
Consider each one of the officer chair duties. Each one of them teaches a skill of some sort; Keeping minutes, learning the lodge membership list, interacting with people we do not know, Meeting a new man, and, taking responsibility for showing him around, Setting goals, Organizing volunteers to accomplish a set goal. Each chair, has something of value.
But, we actually have to do it ourselves. Nobody can do it for us.”
This is probably the most practical response, that I have seen or heard to the question I have been asking. Myself, believing that this is at least part of a possible solution, that Freemasonry offers us what we need, right here, in our Ritual, Protocol and etiquette, history, mechanics and very simply, in our operation of the Lodge. Then I have to ask this question, “If we do these very things offered in Freemasonry, “poorly”, will we get the same results”?
It’s an interesting thought! Should we not take pride, in what, and when we do things? I believe the answer is, yes! So, how do we achieve this? Is it through Education? Again I would say, yes! Then one may ask, what education, who will teach it and who needs it?
Going back to my eating theme for the answers, What Education, any number of things we eat, can provide us with nutrition and enjoyment, or, very simply, satisfy a hunger. Who will teach, well, some of us like to cook, and those that don’t, have probably been asked to take a turn cooking, at some point. Truthfully, our wives would tell us, it always tastes better when someone else is doing the cooking, and I believe some of the recycled Past Masters would feel the same way, with that reference. And, the who needs it, we all have the need to eat and most importantly, we all like to eat.
It may be bold of me, a Mason of just over 2 years, to make the comment that we all could benefit from some form of education, but I will offer up this situation for my defence. This past December my Daughter turned 16. My Lady suggested that I should be the one to teach her how to drive, after all, I should have more patience, because “I was a Mason”. My surprised look prompted her to offer up in her defence, “making a good man better”. I couldn’t argue with that statement and, after several successful lessons teaching from my 30 plus years of experience, it was still recommended that we enroll her in Drivers Education. Firstly, for the Insurance breaks, but, in all honesty I must admit, that with Driving, I have been doing it for so long, some bad habits might have crept in, not to mention the changes in the laws over the years, that I may have missed learning. After a few short classes I started hearing things like, “do you know that was a rolling stop?” Or “You are speeding” at 5 km over the limit which most of us are guilty of. As a man, who is proud to be a Mason, I display Masonic emblems on all our vehicles, so truthfully, I do not mind being reminded by her, or, re-taught for lack of a better word, as it can only improve the way I drive and the way I project being a Mason in the public eye. When I wrote this paragraph, I couldn’t help but be reminded, that there are many circumstances where someone will view our behaviour, to evaluate what they will considered to be acceptable behaviour for themselves.
I have stated, and it is a fact, Speaking in public is a very tough area for me. It is much easier when the ones you are speaking to, work for you. Knowing I couldn’t afford to hire all of you, I thought I would ask some fellow Brother for some constructive criticism of my, talk prior to me coming here. Those that have read or heard this, all seem to get something different from it but have encouraged me to change very little. Brother David Ross FCF did however offer me a thought of his that I wanted to share.
His Comments…. “Back to the “good man better” topic. My personal opinion, is that I am a better man for being a Mason – funnily enough, my wife believes that too, and that is because I truly ‘believe’ what I am saying when I recite ritual, and I try to follow its lessons – especially the second half of the Installation General Charge. The problem we face is, that many of the brethren doing the ritual can recite the work word perfectly, but they do not necessarily understand the ‘true’ meaning – if the teacher does not understand the subject fully, then the pupil, (or candidate) has no chance. Again I look to education to make a difference. Learning ritual and understanding ritual are two completely different things.”
Is Masonry working for me at this point in my journey? After my Initiation, I was posed with this question from my spouse, well, what is it about? I am sure many of you might have been asked something similar. How do I answer? In my infinite wisdom, I responded, it’s about morals; you know making a good man, better. A short time after me answering this question to her, I recall an incident, when driving on the HWY, and being cut off, I proceeded to voice, within our car of course, what I felt would be a good solution, to my dissatisfaction. My better half enjoyed offering her opinion to my comments, “well that isn’t very Masonic”. Truthfully, I would have to admit; in the beginning, after joining the Craft, I did hear that comment on a numerous occasions. As I tend to hear it a lot less now, I would like to believe that Freemasonry, is offering me the results through my activeness; as opposed to the alternative, she just got tired of saying it. But, honestly, I believe she simply found a new way to say it. Instead, she now offers “making a good man better”. I haven’t asked her yet, but her comment of making a good man better would imply that maybe I’m not the only one in our house that believes I am a good man.
In closing, from the view offered by our fellow brother Terry Spalding-Martin FCF, I must say, for me, my feelings are, he does have the answer to my question, and has simply, laid out the short version. Freemasonry offers what is required, and our own action is the key to success. In hind sight, every bit of our involvement has offered us the opportunity to work toward this; starting with our coming forward of our own free will and accord, asking questions of our sponsor, filling out an application, our roles in the Initiation, the degrees, our proving, visiting, all our participation, what we do while we are here, the desire to do it well but most importantly, learning and the acquisition of knowledge. I did however find two additional points not fully spelled out in his reply that seemed to be obvious. First, no time line was offered to achieve the goal, so, it must be an ongoing, continuous journey, and one should strive to stay involved, even if it is just in the form of making the effort to attend our regular Lodge meetings. Secondly, it seems much of it often involves us doing it together, as brothers, supporting one another, and working together for our common goal. If all of these things are true, and I believe they are, I must thank you Brethren, for assisting me, with my own continuing journey, by making a good man better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BROTHER MARK W. KAPITAN
Initiated into Freemasonry May 4th 2010 at Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. which is located in Niagara District A, and was Raised on December 7th 2010. Proved his Third Degree February 1st 2011 and immediately enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences offered by the College of Freemasonry that day. Became a graduated of this course 9 weeks later on April 2nd 2011. Joined the Royal Arch Masons on April 8th 2011 and completed the RAM Degree on June 10th 2011. Was a part of the District Degree Team’s Annual Degree on July 9th 2011 and will be again this year on July 14th .
In July 2011, enrolled in the District Deputy Grand Master Course and became a graduate 3 weeks later. Enrolled in the original, and at the time new, Worshipful Masters Course in September of 2011, graduating from this course a week later. September 2011, became a mentor of the College of Freemasonry. December 3rd 2011, spoke at the St. Thomas District’s Lodge of Instruction about the College of Freemasonry and the Courses offered.
January 3rd 2012, was invested as the Senior Deacon of Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. and was enrolled as Senior Sojourner in Chapter January 13th 2012. Has attended a couple of business meetings for the Grand Lodge, Committee of Masonic Education and assisted in the restructure of the new modular system.