The Grand Lodge of Tennessee, the other major player in the situation currently unfolding in US Freemasonry, issued their response to the suspension of fraternal relations by the Grand Lodges of California, and of Washington DC.
It might be cynical thinking on my part that instead of posting these as they come, I should have a page that has the list and we could keep adding to it.
Since everybody else is all gaga about some kind of proposed TV series about Freemasons that’s been going around lately, I figured I’d try my own hand at marketing a Freemason-themed movie based on the idea of a script from a book I haven’t written, for which I got the idea by lurking at fanfic groups.
Here’s the pitch:
A new Mason looks to the Worshipful Master of his lodge for some guidance, and ends up being asked to become a Steward – which compels him to spend his time cleaning and cooking, after which he is slowly coerced into memorizing lectures. Before he’s even aware of what’s happening, he is seduced into taking committee positions, running picnics, and planning lodge events, while the Master and other lodge members become more and more demanding of his time and energy.
The story continues following him over the next several years as he makes his way through the officer’s line and eventually becomes the Master of the lodge – during which time he mentors a new Mason by asking him to take on some simple duties…
I’m going to pitch this book idea, so I don’t want any of you people stealing this, okay? I’m going to call it:
Fifty Shades of Freemasonry.
I’m hoping to get enough donations so after I finally write the book, and then script, and then get the movie deal, we can shoot on location at such exotic places as Podunk, Connecticut.
The question came up with one of my friends on Facebook: “Is there too much Masonry on social media?” By that, he was asking if the dozens and dozens of similar Facebook groups, often with overlapping membership, and all seemingly having the same conversations (and disagreements) over and over is somehow bad for the society. Naturally a few wags jumped in to suggest that the problem was that there wasn’t enough Masonry in the Masons on social media. An amusing retort, but it misses what I think is the real issue.
Social media, specifically the big groups like Facebook, offer an opportunity that we constantly remind new Masons about: the ability to “travel” to foreign countries. On Facebook, you won’t attend a lodge, but you can certainly find yourself in a conversation with someone from a different state in the US, or a Canadian province, or (if you don’t mind the time zone lag) brothers from across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans.
American Freemasons are somewhat insulated by the above-named oceans; most of the US practices some version of the Preston Webb lectures, and the variations between most states are fairly minimal, at least in contrast to the workings and customs in lodges in the UK,Scotland, Ireland, France, and other areas. And because most of us lack some exposure to other workings and customs, we often tend to think that our way is “correct,” which leads to long pointless discussions on why you should (or shouldn’t) wear your ring a certain way, or why our English brothers don’t seem to get into arguments about the feminine Masonic orders, or whether the workings should be learned from a book or verbally, or why a tattoo isn’t a violation of one’s Masonic obligations.
I’ve often seen a picture of some brother’s new tattoo or some Masonic item, followed by a few comments like “You forgot your oaths,” or “Why are you displaying the secrets?”or “I take my obligations seriously and would never do anything like that!” or even “Are you even really a Mason?” To me, the disturbing thing isn’t that those commenters didn’t know about the different customs elsewhere, but that they immediately jumped to a conclusion and instead of questioning, responded with criticism. Perhaps when we talk about “the universality of Masonry,” some people make the assumption that Masonry is universally practiced the same way as it is in their lodge, instead of assuming the bigger picture, that Masonry is a way to encompass a universally agreeable set of moral values.
Masons on social media would be better served by giving some thought to their comments before typing. Of course you take your obligations seriously, but why would you assume that the person in question does not? Instead of jumping to conclusions when you see a brother espouse a different opinion, ask yourself what may be different about his lodge, his community, or his Grand Lodge that would cause him to think differently. And if you can’t come up with an answer, then ask him directly. Questions like “Hey, I saw that you have a different way of doing ___. Why is that?” will go a lot further toward spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection than assuming that he’s simply doing something wrong.
You may not be able to actually travel to far-off lands, but thanks to the internet and the various media platforms, you can at least get an idea about the different customs and cultures elsewhere. Freemasons should take advantage of those opportunities to learn about each other because we are, after all, one of the oldest social networks in existence.
I’ve listened to Bro. Eric Diamond’s podcast X-Oriente in the past, and like many of you, was disappointed when he took a break from from his insightful ramblings. Eric is one of those guys who started back in the Golden Age of Masonic Blogging, and always put some thought into his topics. Well, I’m happy to say that he’s had a little rest and is back rocking the mic. Inspired by Nick Johnson’s post on the old Scottish Rite political agenda, he spent some time bouncing ideas off of both Nick and I one evening on the topic of Freemasonry and Social Awareness.
You’ll have to wait for Eric’s podcast to hear any more details, but I wanted to bring up a tangent point, because it happened to be in interesting co-incidence between the Scottish Rite post and the one from a little while ago about the closing of yet another one of our large
Eric brings up the point that Freemasonry no longer seems to bring in “the movers and shakers,” at least, not in the way that it did a century ago. Why is that? Certainly, if in the 1920s, the members of the Scottish Rite — one of the more influential branches of the society — could manage to take the time to formulate a concrete social policy that cut across party lines, there must have been men in the organization who could make such things happen. Where are those men now — the political thinkers, the statesmen, the philosophers, and the men who know how to set those wheels in motion?
My own response is that, while some of those men may have been attracted to the fraternity, chances are they aren’t staying because the real movers and shakers aren’t wasting time sitting in lodges in which the important issues are things like how to come up with the money to replace the coffee maker, or to fix the roof. The successful people are already busy. If you have a lodge meeting on Wednesday evening in which someone says “I need a few brothers to come down to pain the kitchen,” those guys probably won’t be there; not because they’re too elite to paint the kitchen, but because their weekend has already been booked for the last month — the way their evenings are already taken up by work, networking meetings, family time, children’s homework, PTA, and several business association meetings. These movers and shakers want to see things done, and the last thing they want is to be held up by an hour discussion on picking a contractor to fix the potholes in the driveway.
Which brings us back around to the topic of a couple of weeks ago: maybe those Masonic Temples dotting our landscape are dragging us down. Without the resources to support them (i.e., members and assets), they are cutting into not only our capital, but our time — time that could be better spent on Masonic education, or in having a nice dinner, or in friendly fellowship, or in inspiring (or being inspired by) the movers and shakers of our communities.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we need not have any buildings, or that we should not spend time discussing maintenance on the ones that we do have. But maybe we — that is, the members of each lodge — need to take a step back and look at those buildings with a different perspective, and ask whether we may not actually be better off without them.
Do you think that our temples and buildings are actually dragging us down?
In case anyone failed to recognize the picture from my last post, that was from the wryly amusing comic Bugsport, drawn by Bro. Ted Bastien. Bugsport lampoons the conspiracy theories about aliens, Bigfoon, mind control, Illuminati, and how all those and other things are connected with Freemasons. Ted, himself, is a 33º Scottish Rite Mason, so he should certainly be aware of all of those secret goings-on.
But that cartoon panel brings up an interesting discussion point: If (presumably friendly) aliens should land and set up some kind of bases where they could live among us, would they be eligible to become Freemasons? Most places would have a residency requirement, but some jurisdictions make allowances for sojourners, so that might be acceptable. But it might be difficult to get guys to vouch for them, and a home visit investigation might be out of the question.
Of course, that brings up the question of whether they might start some of their own lodges, and if we’d have the Prince Hall issues all over again…
My blogging counterpart in the colder hinterlands had a post on the policies of the Scottish Rite that generated some discussion on various forums. To save you a little bit of button clicking, let me reprint the part that I found interesting:
The Scottish Rite, between the two world wars, published the following policies of the Supreme Council (no longer in force). These were reprinted in the Oct. 1927 Scottish Rite Sun.
The Supreme Council has always favored free public education, the use of English as the language of instruction, the separation of church and state and the inculcation of patriotism in the schools. Additionally the Supreme Council favors:
- A federal department of education with a secretary in the President’s cabinet.
- A national university at Washington, supported by the government.
- The compulsory use of English as the language of instruction in the grammar grades.
- Adequate provision for the education of the alien population, not only in cultural and vocational subjects, but especially in the principles of American institutions and popular sovereignty.
- The entire separation of church and state and opposition to every attempt to appropriate public moneys, directly or indirectly, for the support of sectarian institutions.
- The American public school, non-partisan, non-sectarian, efficient, democratic, for all the children of all the people; equal educational opportunities for all.
- The inculcation of patriotism, love of the flag, respect for law and order and underlying loyalty to constitutional government.
Before I joined, I remember several people telling me that Masons were for things like public education, or the separation of church and state. Having spent some time in the Blue Lodge, and more recently, having gone through the York Rite degrees, I hadn’t run across any position papers to that effect, so now I can at least see where the conceptions came from.
And what of these ideals? Considering that this was written almost a century ago, it certainly seems on point, doesn’t it? Every national election cycle seems to see several of these points discussed very publicly.
- English-only instruction? Check.
- Educating immigrants into the American way of life? Check.
- Patriotism and rule of law? Check.
- Separation of church and state? Check.
These are all worthy of discussion, and indeed, I certainly can’t see anything wrong with having a group lobby to keep such standards in the minds of our elected politicians, who often seem to pander to any group that offers to support them with money and votes. I think that perhaps our Scottish Rite brothers were either prescient, or at least, rational and conservative thinkers who deserve some credit for their efforts into introducing some direction into American politics. It’s no wonder that they are so often lauded as the “College of Freemasonry.”
Now, could somebody please explain why we love the Scottish Rite, but complain that French Freemasonry is “irregular” in part because they too often dabble in politics?
We Freemasons love our flair.
Come on, admit it. You’ve run across some antique Knights Templar pin and think “Man, I gotta have that.” Or you see a shiny, metal car badge, and wonder if you should drill a hole into your hatchback for one of your own. You’ve got a little ‘Two ball cane” lapel pin, which makes you feel just the tiniest bit smug at knowing the pun. And then you go to a degree, and the guy sitting across from you has a pin from every single order he’s ever joined. Yes, that lapel looks like a cheese grater ran over it, but he doesn’t care.
Personally, I only wear one thing at a time, perhaps reflecting my sartorially parsimonious New England background. Usually I have one small S&C lapel pin on my jacket, occasionally accompanied by a Grand Master’s pin (which I usually end up giving away to somebody). More recently I’ve replaced the S&C with a similar Past Master’s pin. But as I went to check, it looks like I have several of those pins so I can keep one on each jacket. Oh, plus an antique trowel pin. Umm, and some old S&C cufflinks. Oh, and a circumpunct pin. And an antique S&C with enameled colors.
Okay, so I have a small box of the damned things. Like you don’t.
So, for those of you who love your flair and who also love your internet, here’s a new piece to pin onto your suit:
Introducing the /r/freemasonry lapel pin
This is Snoo, the mascot of the web community known as Reddit. Many of you know that I’m one of the mods on the Freemasonry subgroup, found at:
We’ve been talking about making up a Masonic Snoo pin for a few years, and Reddit has finally come up with a way for us to make that happen. One of our brothers put this together, and the /r/freemasonry lapel pin is now a thing that you can buy. And wear.
Even better, proceeds from Brother Snoo will benefit the Seattle Children’s Hospital, so not only would would you be stylish, but you would be supporting a great cause.
So be one up on your lodge brothers next year. Swing by Redditmade and order your Brother Snoo flair today.