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.
NO ISSUES, NO PROBLEMS, NO HOT TOPICS
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.