Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Really, why not?

Why are so many upset about the idea of discussing religion and politics in lodge or at the market? I remember when I was just a wee lad my mother telling me to never discuss religion or politics because it always leads to arguments. This has turned out to be un-true. (sorry mom)

I will agree however that we most likely should not discuss neither partisan politics nor sectarian religion in lodge. Remove the adjectives and go for it. Religion and politics are important matters to know about and understand. This can occur in the privacy of your home or it can happen in privacy of a tyled lodge in which one is assured a place of mutual respect in their ideas. "No man should be punished for his thoughts."

Free Masonry can be seen, and rightfully so, as a Master's degree course in citizenship. Citizenship requires a lot. Virtue of birth does not make one a citizen. Action and responsibility do. I might add accountability as well. The lodge serves an interesting capacity in the life of a Mason. An important capacity to many Masons. It serves as the class room of your Master's degree course in citizenship. The world is the lab part of the class.

Here is the rub. For some reason there are people that are unable to accept that someone disagrees with them. (This is likely to happen on this thread - pay attention). Would someone be less angry about another disagreeing if he was better able to support and defend his position?

This is why I have such a negative reaction to those that claim our liberties come from Divine Providence. When we make such a statement we sacrifice reason and intelligence. We hand those tools to the opposition. We then climb into a cave and have a witchdoctor chant some spells to keep the boogey man away or to appease the space god of our choice. In other words, when we take the superstition basis of our rights we become a beast in the field. The other method, that of reason and logic, is much harder and requires thought. (Thank God for free time - better yet - thank division of labor for free time - God had better things to do, She is above our petty need for cable TV).

In closing, go ahead discuss political science/theory. Discuss the issues of the day, economics, science, war, cereal, Super Tuesday, the origin of evil, books, religion, history. Discuss it, question each other, learn from each other, and then apply your knowledge. If you are not able to do this because you get bent out of shape every time someone disagrees with you I recommend you run home and cry about it. Leave adult discussions to adults. Or you can start a blog of your own and rant away.

Thanksgiving was an interesting time. My whole family would get together and spend way too much time talking to each other. The dinner would be served. The kids had to go to a different table because they are not old enough to sit at the grown-up table. This seems to be fine with the kids and the adults. So Brothers, pick which table you wish to sit at.



Gingerman said...

Bro. Brandt,
You might be right. If we are all coming from the same place, with regard to being able to handle disagreement. But I don't think we are. I know I tend to retreat and hold a grudge (and I'm 58 yo) when confronted with passionate disagreement. And I'm still surprised with how passionate men in our organization can be.

Maybe they're just expressing themselves passionately without actually feeling the anger, but it doesn't seem so. Saying hurtful things can do social damage.

Perhaps erring on the side of dullness is safer. Perhaps safety isn't the most important thing in life, but going out on the skinny branches may be better done somewhere else. Maybe bringing everyone to the same level, in terms of social/psychological ability to handle criticism and disagreement takes time and practice.

When I did my Masters paper, I studied in a monastery that had just changed a thousand year old requirement of enforced silence. The brothers could talk to each other for the first time in their adult lives. Every discussion became an argument. Many monks left the order in anger. It required much love and much training to overcome this.

It might be that it will be hard to accomplish this with brothers meeting one or two times a month, or less. Education is the key

John Galt said...

Brother Gingerman,
Dealing with disappointment and disagreement is a mark of maturity. I am sure that with your time on this planet you have experienced both from time to time.

Free Masonry is a mature person's activity. It is not for children or childish people. Adults can discuss, argue and on occasion actually learn from each other.

Just my opinion of course;-)


Chad Vander Ven said...


It might appear that the ban on the discussion of such things is well-intended. It may be that the purpose to prevent the sowing of seeds of discord and to foster the spirit of brotherly love which is so intrinsic to Masonic identity. However, I fear that this is not so.

Perhaps, it is to minimize or render impotent the role of the lodge in the alien world. If the lodge cannot host discussion on such things, than the lodge cannot form a basis for action. (I am referring to politics mainly on this point)

Whereas throughout Masonic history the fraternity has played a strong and central role in the promotion and preservation of revolutionary thought, it is today - at least within Anglo-American Masonic circles - opting to remain apart from involving itself with matters of state and society, preferring instead to work quietly on less controversial aims.

Is this a reaction to persecution, say for instance as was known in France following that country's revolution? Or here in America, when the anti-Masonic movement of the 1820s caused us so much disruption and turmoil? Or does the matter go deeper?

Could this be in fact a response by Masons to more internal developments within the Order? As Freemasonry, again specifically Anglo-American Masonry, has seen fit to revise, edit, and effectively alter its traditions, is this measure taken to prevent exploration into alternative ideas of what Masonry ought to be?

If we, as Masons, are forbidden to discuss esoteric elements of ritual once used by the fraternity but now reinterpreted or removed, we have then no comparison against the present form. If we, as Masons, cannot consider positions of political or social reform or action, than we are left to accept the present focus on charitable and fraternal aspects.

The question for any Masonic jurisdiction must be: What is our purpose? Without a raison d'etre, we are existing for the sake of existence, no? The Society for Masonic Anachronism, so to speak. We, as Masons, love to sing the praises of our forebears, to shout the names of our more illustrious members and extoll their virtues and accomplishments among the profane. Do we not? Yet, where today have we Masons helped to usher mankind forward? When was the last time the fraternity surged to embrace and promote the ideals which we so vigorously lay claim to? When have we taken sides on any issue of real importance to the human race? When have we sought to act as a body of learned and enlightened men, to oppose injustice and evil? Sadly, I would posit that we have yet to take such steps within our own fraternity.

Today, the GL of Michigan stands in firm solidarity with GLs who do not, either by official policy or by unofficial precedent, do not accept men of color, despite the fact that our GL takes such pride in promoting itself as a multi-racial organization and even boasts of our closeness with our Prince Hall Brethren. (Provided, of course, they are from Michigan and not, say, Georgia) We pound our fists and shake our heads at the very thought of a mixed-gender lodge, yet even the most staunch organizations of the alien world have seen fit to open their doors to women. We sneer at the very idea of taking a position on 'hot-button' subjects such as stem-cell research and right to work legislation, yet we claim to be a society which makes good men better, directs them toward playing a leading role in their society and communities. In short, we are simply ignoring the world around us.

We do not do so because we are a bastion of tradition either. Not at all, since we see fit to make changes in our rites and teachings even this very moment. We do not cling to time-honored traditions of esoteric education and the development of personality, but instead effectively sell degrees in a single-day for the price of a cleared check and while boasting our surge in membership.

So, if we do not look to the future, embrace the present, or even honor the past, what exactly are we doing? What then, is our purpose?

Peter Yancey said...

Excellent post. I love the two tables analogy. I still am working on my tendency to get upset when in a heated argument. I guess the argument should not have been allowed to "heat up" in the first place. Excellent post as well by
Mr. Vander Ven.

mgpierce said...

I concur with Chad.

When I petitioned, I thought the lodge WAS the place to discuss politics, esoteric education, religion, economics, etc., but it never developed into anything more than a bake sale and a child-tagging operation.

And maybe that's why the degree collectors join every possible lodge in the building in order to squeeze out a few more secrets to piece together for themselves. Can you blame them?

Also, as has been pointed out many times before, Masonry doesn't have a new membership problem - it has a RETENTION problem! WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE PETITION, RISE, AND THEN DISAPPEAR? Because, I suspect, they were searching for the type of discourse mentioned above and all they found was a wine-tasting party.

And this I just do not understand: someone is an Entered Apprentice at 8am, and a Master by lunchtime. Huh?!? How does one memorize the 10 lines you need to know to be a Master in such a short amount of time? :) Why isn't there a roadside stand beneath the billboard and you can raise men as they pass by? "Honk if you're of good rapport!!" :P

If you can't have respectful and intelligent discourse in lodge, whatever the topic, how do we transform from Man to Better Man?

(Or maybe that transformation eventually happens in a moving line. HA!)

mgpierce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The GL needs to develop an online lodge so that people can go through the degrees online. What better way to get membership than to allow people to experience masonry from the comfort of their own home. Just click and pay your dues. Fill out a one page sheet and be a MM a short click later.

John Galt said...

May as well. Not much more is being offered. Perhaps that is why the Center for Inquiry is doing well.


Alcyone's Big Brother said...

Excellent posts my brothers.

When the UGLE was formed in 1813(no politics or religion discussions) it nuetered american masonry. BRitian, which was losing it's "empire" status now, needed to stop anymore type of "revolutions" from happening, so it instituted this policy, in culmination with the war of 1812, the Banks charters expiring in 1811(british money backed banks), the federalists were not going to renew their charters, public education and the morgan affair......

then hard core white christian males infiltrated the order, changed it, then tried to submit you by claiming " you took an oath to be loyal to the country and you Grand Lodge, which is now loyal to Britian.

We may have won the Revolutionary War, but the espionage post war gave control BACK to britian by the 1830's, and then they fomented the civil war later and we have spun down since, and have been britian lackey ever since.

Why would freemasonry want to exist like it did for Washington, Franklin and the likes.

We need to be discussing when the next one day class is, what a great book the complete idiots guide to freemasonry is and how enlightened the masonic authors of today are and forget the most important part of masonic history, the 1700's.

UGLE and American Masonry seem to want to have amnesia when it comes to the Original Form of masonry.

Harmony comes from opposing forces cancelling each other out, not everyone in aggreeance with each other.

Spirited debate on politics and religion is how we grow, educate and nlighten each other.
Not discussing freemasonry for dummies and having fried perch afterwards.

Chad Vander Ven said...

There is another matter which we could include here: The issue of ritual.

Since the Anglo-American 'mainstream' Masons have embraced the Preston-Webb ritual and despite some 'local color' this variant of the ritual is the only accepted one, we ought to examine it for a moment.

The Preston-Webb ritual variant is relatively new. Far newer than the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Rectified Rite, Emulation, Bristol, and most others. It was designed to elaborate and enhance the ritual used by the 'Antients' and has, in the last 150 years, become the standard. It is neither concerned with esotericism or spirituality, and is utterly devoid of any 'open' language which might inspire further exploration and penetration into the Masonic mysteries. In fact, the few revisions which have been made have been to further erode such possibilities and to suit the trend within Anglo-American Masonry toward a more social and charitable focus.

Now, comparatively speaking, the Preston-Webb ritual is far more in depth and beautiful (in my and many others' opinions) than the Bristol or Emulation varieties. It is far more complex and elaborate than Ancient & Accepted Scottish Craft rituals, involving more speaking parts, larger casting, more theatrical elements, etc. But, again, it is basically a flowery and intricate paint-over of a fairly superficial ceremonial model.

Those bodies whose ritual is actually more in keeping with the 'Moderns' and used since the Enlightenment are not considered regular by Anglo-American Masonry. Memphis-Misraim's Craft rituals, which are no longer used as the Ancient & Primitive Rite has chosen to leave initiation, passing, and raising to other jurisdictions, becoming solely a higher degree system, would blow your mind.

I read through them last night, and the ritual is steeped in esoteric symbolism and context, and highly dramatic, though in a much more simple and direct way than Preston-Webb. The Apprentice degree is dark, shadowy, and profoundly intense. The Companion degree is more scientific, less flowery, and more focused on the relationships between the FC material we all know and love and their application to the Mason's Art. Far more so than Preston-Webb, which often seems disjointed. The Master degree returns to the dark intensity and experiential emphasis of the Apprentice degree.

If a lodge under the GL would do anything like this today they would all be expelled, vilefied, and persecuted with a quickness. Why is it that we cannot educate the candidate toward esoteric and experiential ends? Why are we forced to use such a superficial and recent innovation as Preston-Webb?

This question causes me to believe that the neutering of Masonry is not a by-product of well-intended efforts to appeal to the Pokemon generation, nor is it simply a desire to shed superfluous ritual in favor of a return to tradition, as the TO Lodges might claim. No, this is a systematic and purposeful watering-down of our fraternity. It is a reasoned and planned effort aimed at making Masonry's largest block (The Anglo-American branch of Masonry is roughly 60% of global membership) into a purely philanthropic, social frat, without any import or relativity to societal issues, political reform, or religious exploration. Just a bunch of nice guys who help people and like to have fun...

Rotary with Regalia?
Elks with Aprons?
Jaycees with Jewels?

Just a thought, a very, very scary thought.

Anonymous said...

Als big brother wrote "be loyal to the country and you Grand Lodge, which is now loyal to Britian.

We may have won the Revolutionary War, but the espionage post war gave control BACK to britian by the 1830's, and then they fomented the civil war later and we have spun down since, and have been britian lackey ever since." I can not agree more bow down, colonial scum to your true masters!

2 BOWL CAIN said...

the war of 1812 ended in great irony. The Treaty of Ghent, concluding the war, was signed on Cgristmas Eve of 1814. The peace treaty made no reference to the issues of impressment of American seamen, naval blockades, or the disputed boundary with Canada, which caused the war in the first place. It merely restored conditions to the way they had been before the war broke out.

2 BOWL CAIN said...

Early in 1811, there was an attempt to recharter the Bank of the United States, but it was rejected because there was resentment against the largely British power elite's ownership of the bank's stock. Not to be thwarted, the power elite knew that a war is always useful to force a nation back into line, thus the war of 1812 with Britian. As a result of the finacial hardships created by the war, on March 14, 1816, Americans reluctantly chartered the Second Bank of the United States.

According to Webster's Guide To American History, the bank became "a symbol of monopoly, aristrocracy, and corporate power" to various groups, and its charter renewal was opposed by President Andrew Jackson. An assassin unsuccessfully attempted to kill Jackson, but the assassin informed investigators that he had powerful allies in Europe supporting him!