There is a way to differ with Palmetto Bug and his “Camping” essay. It’s with polite, quiet, respectful reason and logic.
For those Sectarian and Partisan Masons there is only one way to practice Freemasonry, their way – the way their Grand Lodge does or those associated Grand Lodges we refer to as Mainstream Masonry. And the way Freemasonry is practiced is very important to these people.
The Philosophical Masons are more interested in the net result not in the means and style used to get there. They ask, “What is the purpose of practicing Freemasonry?” The answer of course is to touch the mind, soul and character of the individual making him a better member of society and a better family man. And in the process for him to enjoy the fellowship of like-minded men and to express his born again spirit in giving back to humankind and asking for nothing in return. Any discipline or obedience that can accomplish that is worthy of our applause and our approval, say the Philosophical Masons.
But if it isn’t done a certain way according to established rules and traditions that have been handed down from the past, then it isn’t authentic says the former. And if it violates many of these rules and traditions while still keeping the name and pedigree, it isn’t authentic either says the latter.
You can see this argument played out in religion and politics also. Christian A practices his Christianity at his church and Christian B does the same at his church. But Christian A might say that Christian B is not really practicing Christianity the correct way and is therefore not going to be entitled to salvation. And he might add that his church was chartered in the First Century AD and Christian B’s is a latecomer to the scene. And Christian B might say that both practitioners are forming a close relationship with their Creator and are therefore both reaping the rewards of changed hearts. He also might say that it is Christianity and not the church that is the most influencing factor here. And there you have the two positions that you could play out between Democrats and Republicans also.
But I wouldn’t call these Sectarian & Partisan Freemasons Traditionalists. I would call them Institutionalists. They worship the Institution of Freemasonry as represented by its Grand Lodges and their Constitutions, By-Laws, Rules and Regulations. But Philosophical Freemasons would say that it is not the Institution that is most important; it is the body of thought that should take preeminence. It is not the rules and regulations of the Institution that require our strict adherence to first as much as it is our dedication to the ethics and virtues of Freemasonry.
You can see this kind of thinking in my church, The Roman Catholic church and as a member I feel I have a right to knock it when it deserves it. The church did not expose and remove Pedophile Priests for the fear of the harm it would do to the Institution of the church. Above all, Cardinals and Bishops said, the church must survive to teach and guide future generations. For that to happen some must suffer now in silence otherwise the good will be destroyed with the bad. Thus we have the cult of the Institution that is also demonstrated by many Freemasons.
This drama is played out Masonically over and over again and can be remembered in the recent machinations of the Mainstream Grand Lodge of West Virginia. The Institutionalists refused to criticize the Grand Lodge of West Virginia or its Grand Master because the Institution of Freemasonry must come under no reproach no matter what it does. Furthermore, these people say, you took an obligation to follow the rules and regulations of your Grand Lodge so neither you nor the Masons of West Virginia can try to reverse any action of a Grand Master of a Grand Lodge.
Therefore if your Grand Lodge says no Masonic discourse with what they call clandestine Freemasons, no association and no common programs then you are bound by your promise at the altar to follow those rules. Philosphical Freemasons maintain that the Institution of Freemasonry cannot violate human, civil and legal rights among them being free speech and association. Therefore they would welcome common cause, conversation and gatherings with any obedience that effectively furthers the worth of the individual.
Finally that is not to say that for Philosophical Masons there are no rules, at least not in the ones who adhere to an Obedience and abide within its walls of cooperation. I am sure there are those that Palmetto Bug describes as those for which -“Anybody can join and anything goes”. But these people are not in the field of play. Those others that you might discourse with and find mutual areas of involvement with outside the Lodge room you do not sit inside tyled doors with. Conversely most Institutionalists see the merit of emphasizing the virtues of Freemasonry as the Catholic Church does the Gospel. The difference is in how each strain prioritizes.