Friday, May 30, 2008

The Rise of Masonic Neo Isolationism


There is a virus infecting American Masonry. It is called Neo Isolationism. Its general focus is withdrawal, pulling within oneself. It takes many forms - withdrawal from other associations, from issues and from meeting head on any problems. It seeks never to solve anything, denying that any issue or problem exists, rather burying one’s Masonic involvement solely in the study of Masonic symbolism, meaning and philosophy.


Politics are distasteful, say the Neo Isolationists. It destroys the peace and harmony of Masonry by its constant arguing and bickering. Therefore, if we just make believe that politics don’t exist and if we outlaw it, then we can be free of this blight on our Fraternity. This is the “Not in my backyard syndrome”. If we need a new prison, OK build it but not in my back yard. If we need a new oil refinery, OK build it but not in my backyard. If we need a methadone clinic or a homeless shelter then by all means let’s have them, but not in my back yard, or anywhere in my community. Put them in the other fellow’s community. If there is Masonic political debates and maneuverings let them be some place else but not in my organization or in my presence. Out of mind out of sight out of existence. If it was only that easy.

This withdrawal is expressed by Masonic Society founding fellow Robert Davis:

“The aim of TMS is to publish a respected journal of articles on Masonry and to offer a venue of Masonic light for seekers of light. This kind of venue cannot exist when the focus is on political discord. In the IPS, our experience has proven that when we have placed too much emphasis on political agendas, we have always failed. If TMS offers a debate, it will be a Socratic style of debate; one free from the abusive ramblings of Masons who disrespect other Masons.”

Masonic politics are a way of life in American Masonry because there is no other way to attain preeminence in Freemasonry. What special skills or knowledge does one have to possess in order to be a Grand Master? If our goal is to become more of a philosophical society with less politics why are our efforts of instruction, education, research and study confined to the Brethren at large? How can you build a philosophical society from the bottom up?

Why do we not have benchmarks and standards of education and knowledge requirements for the highest Masonic office? Why do we not insist our Grand Masters hold a Masonic Masters degree or a PHD in Freemasonry? If we made that a requirement then to be Grand Master (and perhaps other Grand Lodge Offices) you would have to be a man of letters and educational accomplishment not just a well heeled politician. A Grand Master and a Grand Lodge so orientated might have far less of the back stabbing political maneuvering and quest for power which we have all come to dread. And instead of being obsessed with money, marketing and membership maybe they would seek to build the Craft by making a quality product that sells itself and takes care of the financial and membership pressures automatically.


The Neo Isolationists seek to draw in the circle of association, to limit the contact with others who are different. In so doing they say they minimize conflict and discord. A good recent example of this is The Masonic Society which touts itself as a Research Society. Here is an organization that believes Masonic Research should only be done by Mainstream Masons for their betterment alone. It doesn’t want to get involved with other Obediences because then conflict ensues. Any dealing with politics, issues and problem solving is definitely not allowed.

Freemasons have always held two important foundational tenets from which to operate.
1) A search for truth
2) A commitment to liberty

The search for truth, that lifelong research, then must be free, unlimited, unconfined and unfettered. But the Neo Isolationists have opened up this new research society determined to have their thumb of control dictating the direction that this quest for truth takes. Truth cannot be found by demanding what path the discovery will take. In the pursuit of truth you have to let the chips fall where they may. Trying to structure the investigation by keeping others, who might come up with different conclusions, out only prejudices the outcome and botches the truth. Therefore The Masonic Society is not a research society. Rather it is a Masonic education organization instructing Mainstream Masonry only (and some PHA Masons which it recognizes but not those it doesn’t) and only for the betterment of the same.

The more other Obediences grow and the more Masonic input by non Masons increases the more Mainstream Masonry seeks to erect barriers, put up fences. Just as many Grand Masters want to muzzle individual Masons in their jurisdiction from speaking and writing about Masonry because it is not the official position of the Grand Lodge so also Mainstream Masonry as a whole only wants to talk to itself and nobody else. The result of these actions follows.


Join a Masonic Yahoo Group or one of the many Masonic Internet Forums or anywhere on the Internet Masonry is discussed and you will find that any issues, complaints, problems or hotly contested subjects are banned from discussion. Once again the Neo Isolationists are trying to narrow the scope of consideration. They want to limit debate and ban certain topics. Well the topics banned are usually unresolved problems that are crying for some leadership to help solve them. Instead they are being swept under the rug all in the name of harmony. What’s left is a bland sterilized Masonry free from the hard work of conflict resolution.

Instead of meeting the issues, problems, complaints, wrongs and hurts head on it is so much easier to make believe they do not exist. All one has to do is ban them and poof they are gone!

Ignoring situations that need to be addressed, problems that need to be solved only exacerbates everything leading to festering sores. Frustration leads to anger that in the end needs to get vented. Yet all these sites and groups and societies are saying – NOT HERE!

Mainstream Masonry is in denial. It thinks that racism in Lodges, expulsions without a Masonic trial, Institutionalized Charity, shutting down private Masonic websites, mandating One Day classes, spending most of the budget on marketing Freemasonry and little on improving the quality of the Masonic experience, muzzling Brethren from talking and writing about Masonry, denigrating women, banning alcohol, pulling charters from successful Lodges, rigging elections and generally jerking Brethren around are problems that will solve themselves. And don’t anyone dare to bring these topics up anywhere. Instead of signs that read “IRISH NOT WANTED” we now have printed rules everywhere that say “NO DISCUSSION OF RECOGNITION & REGULARITY” and all the rest of the above which the Moderator will tell you about when you try to broach a controversial or political topic.

Some of the great minds in Masonry have come together on these groups and societies. But they do not want to get involved with anything that is the slightest bit controversial. Nobody wants to do anything.

The frosting on the cake was the recent expulsion from the Craft of Past Grand Master Frank Haas of West Virginia. There should have been a hue and cry of foul play. Instead no discussion was allowed anywhere. The only place I saw anything about it was on Masonic Blogs which have become the underground media of Freemasonry. Nobody wanted to get involved. That’s their problem said most Masons I quizzed on the subject. We cannot interfere in the workings of another Grand Lodge, they added. The policy of one Grand Lodge always accepting and never criticizing any actions of another Grand Lodge is just a pitiful tradition.

Have you any idea how Prince Hall Masons feel when an organization like The Masonic Society says that any Mason in amity with Mainstream Masonry can become a member? That means that Prince Hall Masons that have been recognized by Mainstream Jurisdictions can join but those who have not been recognized cannot join even though there is no difference in the Prince Hall Masonry between the recognized and unrecognized? Have you any idea how that society has insulted such a great woman of letters as Margaret Jacob when told she can submit writings but never be a member?

Mainstream Masonry is becoming smothered and extinguished by its own traditions and by refusing to think outside the box. It is paralyzed to act. Surely the Conference of Grand Masters could appoint a Blue Ribbon Committee to draft recommendations in all these areas that nobody will touch. Then a conference of Masonry could be called all across the United States admitting all Obediences to hash out inter cooperation inside Mainstream Masonry and also outside with other practitioners. This of course would be the opposite policy of The Neo Isolationists. Instead of withdrawing into one’s nice little warm and safe cocoon, opening up and coming to grips with reality would be the rule of the day. Perhaps all these great Masonic minds that are involved with these Masonic groups, Internet forums and societies could put their heads together to actually solve something instead of putting on blinders and burying their heads in the sand.

If Freemasonry does not police itself, and that is every regular practitioner, - Mainstream, Prince Hall, Co-Masonry & Female Masonry - then the government will step in and do it for them. Do not let the Neo Isolationists lead us to that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Describing Anti Masons

I have to admit I have never really given much thought to the term we use to describe our attackers. But it has come to my attention from a Brother on a Yahoo Masonic Group that the words we choose have a direct effect on whether the attacker is viewed as justified or unjustified. Just by choosing what we call that attacker can gain us the upper hand in the minds determination of who is right and who is wrong.

This is not my idea But I will pass it on to you. Give it some thought the next time some whacko goes on a tear about Freemasonry!

Bro. Robert Cooper, Curator of the Library & Museum of the Grand Lodge of Scotland has written about phobias. He alludes to the fact that many people fear and hate without a good reason. For instance one common one, which I have witnessed, is Agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces that keeps people inside their dwellings never venturing forth into the everyday world. But Aracnophobia is also quite well known, the fear of spiders. Some of these can get quite silly like Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, fear of the number 666.

Other phobias lean heavily toward hatred. Hatred of the Jews is Judeophobia, hatred of France is Francophobia, hatred of the church is Ecclesiophobia and hatred of witches and witchcraft is Wiccaphobia..

Some groups in the US that have had a hard time gaining acceptance have fought back by labeling their detractors as Homophobic, in other words an irrational hatred.

How about Masons? We get a lot of irrational hatred thrown our way. What do we call those who hate us? Anti Masons. They are anti Masonic we say. Is this strong enough? And does it place the burden of the fearing hatred on the party that is spreading the venom about the Craft.

This is where Bro. Cooper advises us that we need to step up and place the blame squarely on the hater by calling these people Masonophobes and their behavior as Masonphobia. It won’t deter our attackers but it may make others who might have a tendency to sympathize with the attacker think twice about who is in the right.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Guest Editorial - Tim Bryce




W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
"A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry"

"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones."

- Machiavelli, "The Prince" (1513)

As a lightning rod for Masonic discord I hear some rather amazing stories from Masons all over the world complaining about injustices they are experiencing in the fraternity. There are of course Grand jurisdictions doing some rather noble and progressive work, but they are being overshadowed by the many others where there is contention, some frivolous, some rather serious. The stories that particularly bother me are those where a Mason is being expelled or suspended without proper due process. Masons are turned on by other Masons who behave more like a gang of thugs demanding their pound of flesh as opposed to Brothers trying to help each other.

We're all also acutely aware of our dwindling membership and financial resources. Some Grand jurisdictions are addressing the problem, but most want to pretend it doesn't exist and introduce inconsequential legislation instead, such as changing the name of the Grand Organist to Grand Musician. I refer to this as the "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" phenomenon.

This is all very disheartening to Masonic purists who believe in the nobility of the order. So much so, many believe the Grand Lodge system is broken and in need of major repair. But what can we do as Masons? As I see it, there are six alternatives at our disposal:

1. LIVE WITH IT. Instead of fighting city hall, most Masons are content to let the fraternity to run its course. This of course represents an apathetic course of action which the power brokers count on to maintain control over the status quo.

2. DROP OUT. Many Masons become disenchanted with the seemingly frivolous bickering and political shenanigans that go on in the fraternity. So much so, they simply drop out of sight. Sure, they might continue to pay their dues, but they basically go AWOL as opposed to participating in the process. The problem here is that we have lost too many Brothers who have left in disgust and disillusionment.

3. TALK ABOUT IT. Developing a dialog on the problems of the day is healthy, but only if you allowed to do so unfettered. Some Grand jurisdictions do not allow this as it is considered disruptive to the status quo and move swiftly to censor those who dare to ask questions.

4. WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM. We would all like to believe this to be the proper way for enacting change, but if the legislative process is tightly controlled and manipulated by the powers that be, than it is nothing more than an exercise in futility which many people have had to learn the hard way. It is one thing if the legislative process is fairly and impartially implemented, quite another if each piece of legislation is politicized.

5. REVOLUTION. This represents a major overhaul of the current system and as enticing as it might sound, you have to replace it with something better. I have heard many suggestions for modifying and improving the current Grand Lodge system, but I have yet to hear of an effective alternative to it. And for any revolution to occur there has to be a groundswell of discontent from the masses, and as mentioned earlier, most Masons are apathetic in this regards.

6. LEGAL MEANS. The only remaining avenue for implementing change is through legal means. This means implementing lawsuits and seeking government support through such institutions as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Masons have historically tended to avoid seeking outside legal assistance and tried to solve their problems internally. But as the current system buckles and cracks, we are beginning to see more litigation emerge. Frankly, I believe legal challenges to the Grand Lodge system are not just likely in the years ahead, they are unavoidable.

In a nutshell, there is a Catch-22 for just about any avenue for change. But there are basically two elements needed to support any change; first, an outcry for change from the constituency, after all "You cannot treat a patient if he doesn't know he is sick," and; second, a recommended course of action. So the question is this, do we sit back and watch the fraternity continue on its path of self destruction, or do we as Masons take matters into our own hands and try to correct the problem? Just remember the old adage, "Not to decide is to decide."

Keep the Faith.

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Masonic Society - Epilogue

Merriam –Webster describes epilogue as “a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work” or “the final scene of a play that comments on or summarizes the main action” . And after my first posting on The Masonic Society something is surely needed to clear the air.

Many missed the point of the first article on the Masonic Society. They wanted to know how with such an illustrious list of Founding Fellows and how since it hasn’t even printed a word yet, I could pass judgment on this new undertaking. I agree that some great Masonic minds have come together and that the future work looks promising.

But that wasn’t my concern. I never questioned the quality of what this Society was going to do or the Masonic credentials of its Founders. My concern was why it was formed, for what reason, its format and would The Masonic Society be its own Master.

To launch an endeavor of this magnitude it would only seem logical to think that those who undertook it are thinking that they can do it better or that they are filling a void. Since I see no lack of good American Research Lodges & Societies I have to ask better than whom?

Perhaps here it is my lack of knowledge as to what had previously occurred at The Philalethes Society that fueled my apprehension. It is said that Nelson King and Wallace McLeod resigned in jest and their resignations were too readily accepted, or they resigned in protest and were not allowed to return after they had thought it over or they were forced to resign. I have not the faintest idea of exactly what went on but I do know that Nelson King was missing from the Philalethes website for awhile and that some kind of shake up occurred. One name that is constantly mentioned in the Philalethes shakeup is Bro. Roger VanGorden who is also President of The Masonic Society. Perhaps he could shed some light on the situation.

But I had heard the whispers of Nelson King criticism permeating the Internet – He is bombastic, he always goes for the controversial, he talks too much about Prince Hall recognition. Personally I always thought the man was spot on. Perhaps the invitation to expelled Past Grand Master Frank Haas to speak at the last Philalethes annual feast was the last straw. This sort of thinking is expressed by Masonic Society Founding Fellow Robert Davis.

“The aim of TMS is to publish a respected journal of articles on Masonry and to offer a venue of Masonic light for seekers of light. This kind of venue cannot exist when the focus is on political discord. In the IPS, our experience has proven that when we have placed too much emphasis on political agendas, we have always failed. If TMS offers a debate, it will be a Socratic style of debate; one free from the abusive ramblings of Masons who disrespect other Masons.”

So at this point I have to ask if the purpose of the Masonic Society is to provide cutting edge enrichment of the Masonic scene or to replace expression which has been deemed too controversial? That’s what has been nagging my thoughts as I ask myself what was the impetus, the catalyst that launched The Masonic Society? Two questions keep popping up in my mind, WHY and WHY AT THIS TIME?

And why revolve your membership requirements around amity with The Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America? And why form a special relationship with those bodies that meet annually during Masonic Week? Does this not give Grand Lodges and Grand Masters an undue influence on The Society?

President Roger VanGorden says that since their inception Freemasons have gathered under the hegemony of a Grand Master as their “center of union.” He goes onto say:

“This permits a free flow of fellowship without concerns regarding the regularity and recognition of some of the membership becoming divisive. The Masonic Society is simply working within the well-established recognition parameters of the U.S. grand lodge system. Our membership requirements are based solely on the decisions of US and Canadian grand lodges concerning regularity. If they change, likewise, our policy changes automatically.”

What is happening here is sanction of whatever Grand Masters of the USA so rule and decide. Does that not increase the divisiveness not decrease it? If you included everyone in membership would you not be more accepting, more inclusive and therefore less divisive? So obviously Frank Haas cannot be a member. And neither can the Prince Hall Masons in West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida who are not in amity with the CGMMNA. Does this help to produce harmony?

When you are a part of something you lose your ability to be critical and your ability to be objective, unless you demand a total free hand as part of the arrangement. By their very nature Masonic Research and Study Societies should be independent. If your true aim is the investigation of knowledge and finding new ideas, then you are not going to let anybody tell you how to do it.

There are many Research Lodges and Societies in the USA but two prominent national ones stand out.

The Scottish Rite Research Society which publishes a hard bounded book called Heredom each year is open to everyone. Even though The Society is part of the Scottish Rite it insists that Masons, non Masons, Clandestine Masons and Women are all accepted as full members. The SRRS The Masonic Society founding fellow Jeff Naylor one described as the best research and information source in the USA. I hear of no problems because of its open door membership policy.

The Philalethes Society was formed in 1928 with membership limited to Masons following Anderson’s Constitutions. Even though the Philalethes Society has membership restrictions it never let’s anyone dictate its agenda. At its National Assembly, Feast & Forum its featured speaker could be a non Mason of either sex or an unrecognized Mason.

In “The Philalethes Society Seekers of Truth”, Allen E. Roberts wrote:

"Petty tyranny gave birth to The Philalethes Society," I wrote in 1988. "Some Masonic leaders," I continued, 'dressed in a little brief authority,' had attempted to inhibit the spread of truth. They had attacked, in many cases successfully, the publishing of the written word. They had endeavored to warp the minds of the greatest intellects in Freemasonry."

"This brought together several Master Masons who were interested in researching and preserving the history of the Craft. They believed that in strength they could withstand and defeat the attacks of leaders who knew little or nothing about Freemasonry. It was easy to whip one man into defeat, but difficult when several were banded together. The Philalethes Society would become their bulwark."

Is this not a good argument to be independent, free from ties that could unduly influence a society dedicated to the truth no matter where it lies?

When I first came to Texas I befriended a Masonic author who happened to be the past President of the Dallas Chapter of The Philalethes Society. In time he told me the story of having asked a Prince Hall Mason to speak at his Chapter (recognition was not then approved). The Grand Master of Texas ordered him not to let the Prince Hall Mason speak. So the Philalethes Chapter President closed the meeting and all went home. Shortly thereafter the Philalethes Society was banned from the state of Texas and to this day it remains banned. But that did nothing to deter The Philalethes Society from inviting Frank Haas to be its featured speaker at its annual feast this year.

Do I think that The Masonic Society will show that kind of independence? No, I don’t and that’s one of my problems with their formation so closely tied to CGMMNA. Do I think that they would ever have a Frank Haas as their featured speaker? Not on your life and that’s the problem. What I foresee is The Masonic Society so tightly bonded to Grand Lodges that they become apologists for them. What Mainstream Masonry doesn’t need is continued support for racism in its ranks and Grand Masters who expel Grand Masters without a Masonic trial.

The restriction in membership is much stricter than the other two highly successful national Research Societies. What will be missing are contributions from some very knowledgeable people. Yes The Masonic Society has offered to publish papers from non Masons. But these outsiders can’t have a brandy and a cigar with them. I just wonder how many are going to want to contribute after such a snub. And the Grand Masters are certainly not going to allow papers from clandestine Masons.

If you would stop wagging your finger and yelling clandestine long enough you might find that unrecognized (by Mainstream Masonry) Masonry is doing work on an everyday basis that is far superior to Mainstream Masonry. Some jurisdictions operate a TO type Lodge in every location. It would only seem fruitful to me to set up a dialogue with these people and offer them an avenue of expression. Maybe we all could learn something.

In Europe they have all sorts of Masonic Conferences and gatherings large and small where papers are presented from a cross section of many different Obediences, some of whom cannot sit with each other in formal Fraternalization. But they can and do conference together and research and write together. The more popular include:

The European Grand Masters Conference

Canobury Masonic Research Centre Conferences “Visions of Utopia”, “Knowledge of the Heart”, “Seeking The Light”, “Freemasonry and Initiatic Traditions”, “Freemasonry & Religion: Many Faiths, One Brotherhood”, “Having An Impact On History”.

International Conference on the History of Freemasonry (ICHF)

Cornerstone Society Conferences “The Rays of Heaven”, “The Heart of Freemasonry”, “In The Middle Chamber”, “The Bright Morning Star”.

Life Study of Freemasonry of 2007 Over 70 speakers, sponsored by The Grand Lodge of Scotland, Edinburg

275 Years of Freemasonry in France 130,000 Freemasons – men and women – belonging to more than ten different rival jurisdictions.

Just consider some of the people that would be presenters at such conferences that you will probably never see at The Masonic Society. The first is Margaret Jacob who has written the widely acclaimed book “The Origins of Freemasonry: Fact & Fiction”. Consider her credentials:

Born in New York City, Margaret Jacob took her B.A. from St. Joseph's College in 1964. She then happily turned to secular education at Cornell where she earned her Ph.D. in 1968. In the course of writing her dissertation she lived in Britain and one of her first teaching positions was at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Caught in the job crisis in history during the early 1970s, she found herself lucky to be able to return to New York and the City University. There she experienced open admissions first hand, and managed to survive the city's bankruptcy crisis of 1975-76. She went on to become Dean of the College and a member of the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research. She was recruited to UCLA from the University of Pennsylvania. Her interests lie in the history of science, and in intellectual history more broadly, and she has worked in British, Dutch, French and Belgian history. Her archival research has taken her to London, Birmingham, Manchester, and to Amsterdam, The Hague, Brussels, Paris and various French provincial towns. In 2002 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht and made a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Hollandse Maatschappij der Wetenschappen. She has been visiting faculty at l'Ecole des hautes etudes and, recently, the University of Ulster. Currently she holds a grant from the NEH for Collaborative Research on scientific application and early industrialization in Britain.

Her overriding intellectual concern has been with the meaning and impact of the Newtonian synthesis on religion, political ideology, industrial development and cultural practices. She has worked extensively on Newton's immediate followers, on freethinkers, freemasons, Dutch and French Newtonians, and has recently published a book with Larry Stewart on the impact of Newton's science from the publication of the Principia in 1687 to the Great Exhibition in 1851. She also, along with Lynn Hunt, has an active interest in British radicals and romantics of the 1790s. She has commented on issues in the so-called "science wars" and has written on historical methods and practices. Along with Spencer Weart she edits a series aimed at making the history of science more accessible and it is published by Harvard University Press. When not researching she enjoys cooking. She also reviews for The Los Angeles Times and actually enjoys book reviews. She is also Principal Investigator for a NIMH project on chronic pain in children in collaboration with UCLA's Pediatric Pain Clinic. She has worked on the cultural resources at play in economic decision making and the role of science in industrial development. In 2004 she was University Research Lecturer.

Then there is Pierre Molier from the Grand Orient of France a renowned man of letters, former Grand Lodge librarian, and a member of the Academic Committee of the ICHF.

Roger Dachez who is President of The Masonic Institute of France who among other things wrote for Heredom in 1994 “The Degree of the Irish Monk’, penned with Rene Desaguilers.

Geraldine Beskin a female Mason and owner of Neptune Press.

Michael Buckley, Grand Master of the Martinist Order of Unknown Philosophers and The Hermetic Order of Martinists.

“The majority of scholars engaged in Masonic research today are non-masons.”
Toronto Society For Masonic Research, Peter Renzland

Instead of sticking to the realm of ideas The Masonic Society has entered into judgmentalism by ruling on who is worthy to think and who is not. They give us the following reasons. First we have already heard from President Roger VanGorden who has said that the restrictions on membership are necessary because “This permits a free flow of fellowship without concerns regarding the regularity and recognition of some of the membership becoming divisive.” Gee I wonder how European Masonry avoids all this divisiveness?

Then founding fellow Robert Davis adds: “Please be assured the founders of TMS are not the least bit concerned about the opinions and ramblings of those who choose to incessantly bash American Masonry. One reason we have opted to contain our membership only to mainstream Freemasons is to avoid the continuous disruptive voice of ridicule of those from clandestine obediences. They do not represent the aims and interests of their own obediences. They remind me of the negative element within communities. They are against everything. They tear down rather than build up. Perhaps it is the bane of disenfranchisement.”

If you feel this way why not cloister yourselves and become Masonic Monks? Ignoring the civil rights of Freemasons and sanctioning the excesses of Mainstream Grand Masters will not make you a better society. If The Masonic Society feels that it can manage thought so that there is no discord, disagreement or disharmony they are sadly mistaken. But sometimes that is the very essence of what makes for improvements and the discovery of new approaches that never would have happened otherwise. You cannot sanitize Masonic thought.

We live in a nation that allows freedom. Now that freedom has certain consequences among which is that you are going to be surrounded by a lot of people who do not agree with you. You can shut them up or you can invite them in and listen to what they have to say. You can even allow them to speak or write that which you do not support. I think that you reduce the squabbling and the ill feeling by the inclusion of dissidents rather than sealing them off and ostracizing them.

When you dig the trenches and put up the barbed wire you are asking for war and war you shall get. Why not allow for a full dialogue, be accepting rather than exclusionary, and let all the ideas and thoughts be expressed? When you tender the olive branch you get the cooperation and meeting of minds that you are seeking by keeping those out with whom you don’t agree.

“You don’t build bridges of understanding by slamming doors in people’s faces” Fred Milliken

A good friend says I see a conspiracy here. I do not. But what I do see is a small group of know-it-alls who very openly want to strictly control the direction Masonic thought and research is going in by limiting the scope of who gets to participate. This course of action will only increase the bitterness and ill will among factions and is a good reason to steer clear of this society.

And that is sad because it is all totally unnecessary including all these words. The Masonic Society says it will be York Rite orientated. All they had to do was call themselves The York Rite Research Society (YRRS) and model themselves after the Scottish Rite Research Society (SRRS), admit everyone, print anyone, a model which has had zero problems. Instead they gathered a small group of agenda driven ideologues whose desire is to micro manage Masonic research thereby disenfranchising many legitimate contributors all in the cause of purifying Masonic thought.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Masonic Society - Channeling Masonic Thought

Internet Masonry grew like the Internet, free, unregulated and unfettered by the constrictions of government (Grand Lodge) red tape and taxation. Its earlier pioneers after years of trial and error and adapting to ever changing technology gradually perfected Internet Masonic Sites to be multi use information and discussion and educational sharing centers of Masonic development. The 80s and 90s was its serious development time and by the turn of the century we could truly say that the Information Age had transformed Masonry. Websites in the 21st century became creations of art, chock full of information, a virtual library at the click of a mouse. Whole books were available on line. Discussion forums were added. Newsletters and Craft magazines abounded. DVDs, videos, flash videos were offered. All this was created by individual Masons working on their own using their own funds, their time and their talent.

Grand Lodges did almost nothing to advance Masonry into the Information Age. They sat on their hands and watched individual Masons take the ball and run with it. To understand why we must go back in history and once again repeat what has been noted previously.

The aftermath of almost every war in American history showed a marked increase in Masonic membership. But not after the Vietnam War. The feel good, drop out, drugs - sex - rock ‘N roll generation killed membership in a whole plethora of organizations –social, charitable, religious and fraternal. A whole generation literally dropped out and was missing from the roles of Masonry. Those in positions of Masonic leadership had to stay on and do a double shift. By the last two decades of the 20th century our Lodges and Grand Lodges were solely in the hands of men in their 70s and 80s, just at the time when Internet Masonry was taking off. These men didn’t grow up with computers, didn’t like computers, didn’t own computers and didn’t want to have anything to do with them. And they saw no need for Masonry to have anything to do with them. In many instances they actually prohibited Lodges from recording Masonic documents on computers or the sending of Masonic documents via the Internet. A Grand Lodge Website? Never! And when they did finally succumb to a Grand Lodge Website, instead of hiring a professional, they insisted it had to be done in house by a volunteer, usually of lesser expertise. Nobody on the outside was going to be privy to what went on, on the inside.

Meanwhile there grew up a whole crop of Internet Masons. A Brother in Indiana could easily talk and share with a Brother in California or Ontario or Virginia or anywhere in the world. Communication, sharing of ideas, recommendations to articles and books, ideas tried that worked and didn’t work facilitated not only cross jurisdictional understanding but was by far the best Masonic education offered anywhere, much better than anything Grand Lodges were doing. There was no greater demonstration of the universality of Masonry than the activity between Brothers on the Internet.

Generation X and Y who were curious about Masonry and wanted information about it first went to the Internet to obtain that knowledge. This was unheard of just a few decades previously. Only after making a thorough on line investigation would a man consider making an application to take the three degrees in Masonry.

Now all this did not set well with Grand Lodges. Although they did nothing to advance the cause of Internet Masonry they wanted to reap all the spoils from it. And who better, as we turned the century marker, than the new breed of take charge autocratic Grand Masters who kicked off the 21st century. Grand Masters were not in control of what was being disseminated in the name of Masonry. So some Grand Masters closed down all private Masonic Internet sites in their jurisdiction. Others thought it more prudent to simply take them over and run them themselves. And under pressure from the Shrine, they would also take over the traditional local job of initiating candidates through the three degrees in Masonry. They had to they said. Lodges were not doing their job. Octogenarians were not connecting with twenty-five year olds, they said. No they were in charge and they would lead the way. They would show everybody how it could be done by holding One Day Classes.

Now these take charge Grand Masters allowed no dissent. If you didn’t hand over your private Internet Masonic website that you had spent years developing, then you were expelled. If you didn’t like One Day Classes and you spoke a little too loudly, well you were expelled. If you criticized a Grand Master, well it was just possible you might not be a Mason anymore. Grand Masters wanted all Masonic information and discussion to come out of Grand Lodge. They didn’t want to allow it to be in the hands of amateurs.

Now what Grand Lodges can’t control is Masonic websites owned and operated by unrecognized or expelled Masons over whom they have no control. They are still out there publishing away and cannot be touched. The answer of course is to create your own Grand Lodge website. Only this time, to make it bigger and better and more effective a cooperative effort among all American Grand Lodges would be needed. The idea here is to gather together the biggest names in orthodox Masonry and create a Society that boasts that we are bigger and we can do it better. And in the process Masonic thought can also be filtered through approved sources that will always support Grand Lodges in whatever they do. Thus was born THE MASONIC SOCIETY.

The present secretary of The Masonic Society gives us an insight into Grand Lodge thinking in a thought published long before this new society was envisioned. Nathan Brindle is talking about the censorship of Florida Mason Tim Bryce:

“The freedom of speech and press argument in the Bryce case hinges on an apparent application of Florida's Masonic law that prohibits "circularizing". In other words, Masons in Florida appear to be prohibited from sending out manifestos and editorials to other Masons on Masonic subjects that are not sanctioned by the Grand Lodge. This is not an uncommon rule; Indiana had until only a few years ago a similar prohibition against circularization. Lodge publications (newsletters, for instance) are typically exempt from circularization rules, although some Grand Lodges may exercise some editorial control over their content, and may even "license" such publications. In the Bryce case, it appears that WBro. Bryce's content was such that his Grand Master had to take official notice -- particularly when some of the recipients complained to his office that WBro. Bryce was sending it out. The Grand Master responded by informing WBro. Bryce that he could no longer publish his content in Florida without approval. When WBro. Bryce continued to publish outside of Florida, and complaints apparently continued to be received by the Grand Lodge of Florida, the Grand Master once again clamped down.”
Nathan Brindle

Here is where The Masonic Society restricts Masonic thought to only what Grand Lodges want to hear.

“Membership in the Society is open to regular Master Masons in good standing of regular, recognized grand lodges in good standing with the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America (CGMMNA), or a grand lodge in amity with a member grand lodge of CGMMNA.”

Now The Masonic Society didn’t have to set themselves up this way. They could have admitted anybody and everybody. But they chose to be restrictive and exclusive. There would be no violation of any Masonic obligation for everyone to participate in The Society. No Masonic secrets are going to be put on display. This was essentially designed to be a “Masonic Think Tank”. Indeed The Society goes on to say:

“Non-Masons, libraries, lodges, and members of other obediences may also subscribe to the Journal at the $39 annual rate.”

So you see everybody is allowed to read what has been printed but only certain people are allowed to decide what is going to be said. You don’t have to ask yourself why for very long before you have the answer.

On one of the Independent Masonic Boards, on its Forum, this comment was posted by Paris Fred:
“It's a good idea but already outdated by events as the Masonic Conference in Scotland where the speakers and the participants are there due to the quality of their work which give the opportunities to hear other point of view on freemasonry and new light on his(its) past and future with speakers as Margaret Jacobs, Pierre Molier or Roger Dachez.
The Royal society method was, after all just the scientific method.”

And another post by One Mind was even more direct:
“My first impression of this is that it seems to be a separate organization which continues the separation(outside of a recognized lodge) of brethren based on recognition. The journal being made available to non-recognized brethren simply shows that the membership separation is not based on the preservation of Masonic secrets.
While it seems to be an excellent scholarly endeavor with high profile members it is not a recognized organization, but bases its membership on voluntary and unnecessary exclusion (perhaps with more digging, reasons for exclusion would become obvious). It is not a society born in a time when separation was a societal norm. It is not an organization which offers masculine based initiation. It CAN be an exclusive organization based on the principles of the craft yet at the same time it could offer perspectives in articles written by non-UGLE member Masons. The `Secrets`of the craft do not appear to be threatened by inclusion. There is no need to participate in the initiation passing or raising of clandestine`Masons.

It will be up to history to determine if the efforts of this society are worthy.”

There are many good writers and Masonic thinkers outside the “recognized” Grand Lodges. Many have left after being expelled, suppressed and/or insulted. Others have grown up in an unrecognized Masonic culture. Still others are non Masonic historians and people of letters who in doing research in their field have come across Masonry in one form or another. All could be wonderful contributors to a truly all inclusive network of Masonic literature, art and speakers. One such website which immediately comes to mind is Phoenixmasonry (
The owner of that site David Lettelier had this to say:

“I have worked over ten years of my own personal time to construct a Masonic Internet Site that proudly displays Freemasonry in all its aspects. It is free and open to anyone and everyone and that’s the way a discussion of Freemasonry and a learning experience should be. This “Johnny Come Lately” Masonic Society is a closed, restrictive Masonic experience which seeks to control Masonic thought and limit it to those operating within the UGLE standards of regularity. There is no compelling need to organize this way unless that exclusivity is the motivating agenda behind its formation. The Masonic Society is Wal*Mart coming into small town America, throwing independent businesses into bankruptcy”

Those who produce a product might enjoy being a monopoly, but competition is good for the consumer. It keeps each company honest and on its toes and offers choices to those who find one producer lacking. I wouldn’t want to see all cars in America only made by Ford. Not that I wouldn’t buy a Ford today, but if Ford was a monopoly there is probability that the quality of the product would suffer.

Masons should welcome competition. They should not be so willing to give Masonry a monopoly. There is no benefit in restriction and exclusion carried to its utmost degree. Yes many expressions of like things may have different company rules but that does not mean that they cannot come together for cooperation outside private meetings. Diversity is something that should be celebrated not denigrated. We all may not be able to sit together in Lodge but we can share knowledge and ideas, pray together and work for a better world together………………….unless we continue to set up Societies that won’t.