What is Freemasonry hiding? Is there some great mystery at work in the secret workings of the Masonic Lodge? Why are Freemasons so Secretive?
Many masons will not answer questions about the fraternity as they believe it is supposed to be a secret. In the end this becomes a loss for the fraternity as any time someone asks a question about Masonry, it’s a great opportunity to talk openly about it.
A common reaction to this idea is that Masonry is a “Society with Secrets”, rather than a “Secret Society”, but this is equally confusing. There are aspects to Freemasonry that are kept and taught to only those who go through the initiations and ceremonies so as to keep them in a proper perspective and contextual meaning. These aspects are not secrets but instead knowledge that is best communicated in a specific and concise manner.
Many of the secrets have been published and written about, in many instances by Freemasons themselves, but the foundations of the teachings can be found throughout the spectrum of faiths and philosophical teachings of the past and present. It is in the process of their teaching that it could be best suggested where they are truly secret.
In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the meanings behind Clandestine, Clandestine Lodge and a Clandestine Freemason.
The video, deals with the first two subjects, the third is a subject of much contention creating clear vernacular delineation of what IS and what IS NOT considered by the various denominations of the fraternity.
The ordinary meaning of this word is secret, hidden. The French word clandestin, from which it is derived, is defined by Boiste (Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste – Dictionnaire universel de la langue française, first published in 1800) to be something:
fait en cachette et contre les lois.
Translated to mean – done in a hiding-place and against the laws (or, as translated by Google Translate – made secretly and against laws), which better suits the Masonic signification, which is illegal, not authorized. Irregular is often used for small departures from custom.
The Frontispiece to Noorthouck’s 1784 Constitution.
A body of Masons uniting in a Lodge without the consent of a Grand Lodge, or, although originally legally constituted, continuing to work after its charter has been revoked, is styled a “Clandestine Lodge.” Neither Anderson nor Entick employ the word. It was first used in the Book of Constitutions in a note by Noortbouck, on page 239 of his edition (Constitutions, 1784). Irregular Lodge would be the better term.
One made in or affiliated with a clandestine Lodge. With clandestine Lodges or Masons, regular Masons are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects.
In the Book of Constitutions, Noortbouck’s comments read, first under the Abstract of the Laws Relating to the General Fund of Charity
IV, page ii:
No person made a mason in a private or clandestine manner, for small or unworthy considerations, can act as a grand officer or as an officer of a private lodge, or can he partake of the general charity.
Interestingly, they tell us their reasons:
And then Under the Making of a Mason (page 394 and 395), ART V
A brother concerned in making masons clandestinely, shall not be allowed to visit any lodge till he has made due submission, even though the brothers so made may be allowed.
and, ART VIII, page 395:
Seeing that some brothers have been made lately in a clandestine manner, that is, in no regular lodge, nor by any authority or dispensation from the grand master, and for small and unworthy considerations, to the dishonor of the craft; the grand lodge decreed, that no person so made, nor any of those concerned in making him, shall be a grand officer, nor an officer of a particular lodge; nor shall partake of the general charity, should they ever be reduced to apply for it.
From a Short Talk Bulletin, Vol.XIII, No, 12, from 1935 says definitively (for that time) that,
Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or Grand Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without right, authority or legitimate descent; the other is a man “made a Mason” on such a clandestine body.
“Freestone as it comes out of the of the quarry.” – Bailey. In Speculative Masonry we adopt the ashlar in two different states, in the Apprentice’s Degree.
The Rough Ashlar, or stone in its rude and unpolished condition, is emblematic of man in his natural state – ignorant, uncultivated, and vicious. But when education has exerted its wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions, and purifying his life, he then is represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which, under the skillful hands of the workmen, has been smoothed, and squared, and fitted for its place in the building. In the older lectures of the eighteenth century the Perfect Ashlar is not mentioned, but its place was supplied by the Broached Thurnel.
From Albert G. Mackey and his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, this installment of Symbols & Symbolism presents his exploration of the Broken Column. Note, some links have been added as reference to the original quoted sources.
Among the Hebrews, columns, or pillars, were used metaphorically to signify princes or nobles, as if they were the pillars of a state . Thus, in Psalm 11:3, the passage, reading in our translation: If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? is, in the original, when the columns are overthrown, I.E..: when the firm supporters of what is right and good have perished.
So the passage in Isaiah 19:10 should read: her (Egypt’s) columns are broken down*, that is, the nobles of her state.
In Freemasonry, the broken column is, as Master Masons well know, the emblem of the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft. The use of the column or pillar as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom, and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person interred. It is accredited to Jeremy L. Cross (from the Masonic Chart) that he first introduced the Broken Column into the ritual, but this may not be true.
Not much I can say about this video, other than to comment that it seems to really come from the heart takes a serious and respectful approach to the fraternity in a very modern and contemporary way. It definitely belongs in the sphere of the Masonic nexus of the material culture.
Even if you’re not a fan of the genre of the music I think you’ll find some depth in the message.
From the YouTube Credits:
Apathy – “The Grand Leveler” produced by Smoke The World
From the album “Connecticut Casual” (June 3rd, 2014)
On Dirty Version Records
Video by Reel Wolf Productions
Special thanks to the officers and brethren of Coastal Lodge #57 in Stonington CT & Bro. Jim Johnson
On this national Holiday, we are to reflect and celebrate one of the greatest Americans in our pantheon of Founding Fathers, Martin Luther King, Jr. One of his many contributions to our American way of life came at one of his darkest hours which produced one of his brightest writings in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In it, king gives us an insight to the truth behind his protests and a reflection in how far afield we, as a nation, have walked from justice which we derive out of our own understanding of the moral law.
Masonry speaks at many levels about the Moral Law, how it is a rule and guide to what ‘being’ a Freemason is all about.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail which was an answer to his criticism for his peaceful protests in the south in pursuit of equality between white and black Americans.
In his letter, King writes to address criticism made against his presence in the Alabama protests to southern religious leaders who, in their collective opinion, thought the American Negro should wait for their equality, which King says acts as a “tranquilizing thalidomide” which, in the African American ear rings as a justice “never” to be had.
If you’ve never taken the time to read his letter, I highly suggest you not only read it, but take some time to understand his meaning and intent behind it, especially on this day of remembrance.
But, my purpose here is to look at his teaching of the Moral Law and how that squares with the Masonic understanding as taught in the fraternity’s catechism. In his letter King, talking about the unjust laws of segregation, says that a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. He says “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
At the time of his writing, segregation was a daily reality for black Americans, which “distorts the soul and damages the personality” giving the “…segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”
So what does this have to do with the Moral Law of Masonry? First we need to understand how masonry sees the Moral Law, which is something I explored in 2010 in Whence came the Moral Law in Freemasonry?In that piece, the question asked was “Is the Moral Law from a religious perspective, as in given to man by the Great Architect, or a man made law constructed with religious ideas but applied in a humanistic manner so as to apply to our interaction with one another?” My conclusion, after looking at several sources, was that the idea of the Moral Law was best exemplified as being “…the virtues which we ought to cultivate, always tend to our own happiness, and that the best means of promoting them consists in living with men in that perfect union and charity which are cemented by mutual benefits.”
In essence, the Moral Law could be distilled down to living of the Golden Rule which, in the Christian faith, comes from Matthew 7:12 which says:
“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law of the prophets.”
Interestingly this is a Rule, Law, or Code that is in nearly every faith system.
So, what lesson can we take away from Kings Injunction of the Moral Law and the Masonic application of it? Essentially, King and his peaceful protest to fight injustice in American society was a challenge to fight a law of segregation that was out of harmony with the moral law, even though many felt that it was. His example was to examine a just and unjust law saying “An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself…difference made legal” while “a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that is willing to follow itself,” or “sameness” made legal.
The greatest stumbling block to this sameness is not the extremist of ideal but the “…moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” In other words, not going with the status quo and working to make things better for all.
Further in the letter King asks “…Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?” He also writes about the role of religious institutions and their lethargy in the movement to end segregation as “…a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a taillight behind our community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.” which I believe could be applied to religiously concerned fraternities who hold so dearly to be upholders of the idea of a Moral Law.
Needless to say, King was angry at the position religious leaders of the south had taken and puts the challenge to them to aspire to justice and the upholding of the moral law saying “There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early church Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.” But he goes on to challenge the church saying “The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound…so often the arch-supporter of the status quo” that “…if the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant ‘Social Club’ with no meaning for the twentieth century (emphasis mine).”
Again, on this Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday, I strongly recommend reading his letter so as to gain a better understanding of the past within which it was written and to apply that understanding to the injustice that remains to this day, now nearly 60 years since its writing. When you read it ask yourself if your institutions of association application put you in the headlights or the taillights leading to higher levels of justice. As you read it, reflect on the ideals of the Moral Law, in society and in Masonry, and what it means to you in your faith, practice, and understanding of justice, as without it no law could be truly just.
Recently, I attended an Entered Apprentice degree at a local lodge here in Kansas and was allowed to assist in conducting one of the candidates through the degree. It was an experience that I greatly appreciated and enjoyed. Degree work has been my favorite part of being a Freemason since I was raised to the sublime degree and I hadn’t witnessed any degrees in a couple of years.
I was thoroughly enjoying the experience when the new Brothers entered the lodge room to receive the lectures when my enthusiasm suddenly disappeared. The two Brothers were positioned in front of a television screen where they watched a video of a man giving the lectures.
I was abhorred.
I had heard rumors from different places throughout the country that some lodges had been using such methods, but I honestly regarded them as a dirty rumor. This was not the impressive and solemn degree conferral that these new Brothers deserved. So, I decided to get involved and talked to the lodge’s leadership after the degree. I explained that I knew nearly all of the lectures by memory. The only issue is that I had memorized South Dakota’s ritual. I was sure that it wouldn’t be a problem. I had seen Brothers from other states give lectures before with the appropriate level of approval. Why would this be any different?
Unfortunately, in this situation I was told that I must give the lectures straight from the Kansas ritual. Only being slightly disappointed by this, I decided to learn the lectures. However, I was not ready for how difficult it is to re-learn a lecture with a slightly different cadence and verbiage. I am still working on that little project, but my motivation has waned. I realized that I do not plan on living in Kansas for a long time and that eventually, I will have to learn some other state’s ritual. It is a lot of work just to learn a new way to convey the same information, especially since every Masonic lodge in the U.S. could receive some greatly needed assistance if a few Grand Masters would get together and have a little conversation about this subject.
In a world where people move long distances and rarely stay in one place throughout their whole life, why can we not perform another state’s ritual in our lodges? Now, some would say “We can’t have a nationalized ritual!” I am not so naive to think that this would be a simple undertaking. We wouldn’t develop a solution to that in a century. What I’m proposing is that when one grand lodge recognizes another as regular and recognized, that it also accepts that grand lodge’s ritual as being acceptable to be performed in that state. It is a simple concept (that I’m sure would meet resistance) that could make a huge difference. I have met a number of Freemasons that have moved to another jurisdiction during their Masonic career and had to give up administering a lecture solely because they were in another state. In many of those instances, the new lodge that they were attending was in need of someone new to give that same lecture!
I’m not proposing some sort of sweeping change. I’m not proposing that we teach ritual from other states in our lodges. I’m just proposing that we give the individual lodges and the individual Masons an opportunity to provide a better ritualistic experience to our new Brothers by giving a them a little bit of latitude to use Brothers from other jurisdictions to accomplish this.
I think that this little bit of national unity among Masons is a very reasonable proposal.
A brother forwarded this to me. What you have below is a teaser video to a longer telecast that is appearing on various broadcasting outlets including Direct TV, where it appeared on the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) network, channel 378.
The video is by Dr. Ron Carlson, posted in June of 2008; essentially make the argument that a Christian cannot be a Mason using biblical citation for his particular point of view.
In fact, there are so many more, if you know of one, drop their name in the comments below and I’ll add it to the list.
One thing I can say is that Carlson has man of his facts mixed up, but he washes them with his particular logic. Listen for the story about the church he convinced to jack hammer off the corner stone. Its sad, really, like listening to echoes of forgotten history.
Without getting to deep into the philosophical, spiritual maybe, question (we’ve done that before in Can a Christian be a Freemason?) if a man can or cannot not be a Freemason AND a Christian, the better question to answer I’ve been leaning toward is who is it that can cast judgment or others – people or groups to evaluate such things.
The crux of Carlson’s argument is the incompatibility of Christian faith and being a Mason which, essentially, puts the syncretic religious view of masonry over the authority of Jesus. That the teachings of one subvert the teachings of the others?
What do you think? Are the two compatible? Are they compatible when you look at it from Carlson’s, and those like his, point of view?
Whats happening is a 29 week video series covering the history of Freemasonry from its earliest reaches to present day.
Hopefully, you caught the Four Crowned Ones video re-published here just a few days ago. Future videos will follow a trestle board of planning and include content from some of the luminaries of the craft including:
The purpose of this ambitious undertaking is “to certify to the Craft, and other interested parties, that Freemasons meet to express friendship, morality & brotherly love, all seeking the Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings throughout their lives.”
You can find the complete listing and schedule on their website at http://www.weofm.org and check back often as new videos and material will be published often.