A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Almost Perfect Outdoor Degree Location

Wouldn’t this be a great place for an Outdoor Degree? The only down side is that it is too close to a highway and would be rather difficult to properly tile. These are the ruins of Old Sheldon Church, located in the Low Country of South Carolina near old rice fields. The church was first destroyed by the British during the War of Independence. It was rebuilt, but Sherman’s troops again put it to the torch during the War of Northern Aggression. The way you see it today is pretty much the way it was left by the Union troops. In addition to having many visitors, it is also rented out for outdoor weddings. If you ever find yourself on I-95 and passing through South Carolina, I highly recommend that you get off at exit 38 in Yemassee. The ruins are only about 10 minutes from the interstate. Just ask for directions at one of the gas stations in Yemassee.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Pulse of a Lodge

If you wanted to check on the health of a Lodge, and you only had one man in that Lodge that you could examine, whose pulse would you check?

The Master? In most Lodges, he is only there for a year or two. He has just arrived from the West and, though he probably has some things he wants to accomplish, he is trying to wade through the term without messing everything up. Yep, he is the boss, but he is dealing with his own personal issues. No, not the Master.

The Wardens? They are very much like the Master. They are trying to refine their roles while, at the same time, setting their sights on the East. No, not the Wardens.

A Past Master? Maybe. But which one would you examine? You can’t get an accurate reading by examining just one of them. No, not a Past Master.

A member of the Craft? Not a good bet. Like the Past Masters, it will do no good to examine just one of them. No, not a member of the Craft.

The Secretary? This man is usually in his position for a multitude of years. Very often, he is also a Past Master. He sees and records the membership, the attendance, the financial matters, and everything that is said in the Lodge. He is in direct communication with the Grand Secretary and, therefore, sees many of these same things at the Grand Lodge level. Take his pulse!

[Author’s Note: As a fourth term Secretary, this opinion piece may be somewhat biased. I am also fully aware that there are exceptional stories in individual Lodges that will not match what I have said in this article.]

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Reason Behind the Ballot

What is the "will of the Lodge?" More importantly, what is the Lodge? The Lodge is all of its members...collectively and individually. The Three Musketeers would recognize what I am saying here. "Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (One for all, all for one)."

This relates directly to the process of electing new members to the Lodge. The creators of the secret, unanimous ballot knew what they were doing and they had it right when they created the system. They knew what some seem to have forgotten, which is that the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. The harmony of the Lodge is more important than the petitioner. Remember, the petitioner is not yet a Brother. He is not yet of the Lodge and he is just a profane who is seeking light. That may sound harsh, but it is the naked truth.

Now, let me speak on the reason the ballot must be unanimous, or nearly unanimous in certain Jurisdictions. The Lodge decides who becomes a member. Not a majority of the Lodge...but THE Lodge (I wish I could emphasize that even more). Remember the phrase, "All for one, one for all." The creators of the ballot system knew that the task of deciding whether or not to admit new members was so important, and had such far-reaching implications, that it could not be left to the few or even to a majority. All of the members have to decide. The Lodge has to decide. Majority rule, though currently the best system for society, creates conflict. Unanimous rule, certainly a utopian concept at this time, creates harmony.

I'll now examine why the ballot is secret. Too easy. Why is your vote for the next President secret? See, even the profane have figured this one out. A voter or a balloter must have complete freedom to go with his conscience. Requiring him to divulge his vote or ballot and/or provide a reason for his decision can influence his action and, thereby, remove some of the freedom that a secret vote or ballot guarantees.

Are good men sometimes denied membership? Of course. It happens. You have to keep in mind, though, that the harmony of the Lodge trumps any perceived "rights" of the petitioner. Masonically speaking, the petitioner has no rights.

The secret, unanimous ballot system is as perfect of a system that I know. I'll say it again. The ballot system is perfect. Any perceived imperfection exists only within the man that holds the little white and black balls between his fingers. Changing an already perfect system will not fix that and may only make it worse. Education is probably the best way to combat any imperfections.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Are Freemasons Elevated?

I have lately detected a trend, amongst Freemasons, that regards a profane man as an equal to a Freemason. Since non-Freemasons are surely able to read this article, let me pause and discuss what a profane is.

According to one of the definitions of the word, and the one Freemasonry assigns to it, the adjective “profane” means “not admitted into a body of secret knowledge or ritual; uninitiated.” Freemasons will frequently turn this word into a noun, though it is not truly grammatically correct to do so. So, there you have it. A profane person is simply one that has not been initiated into Freemasonry.

I have been taught and I personally feel that Freemasons are elevated, at least in certain ways, above profane men. The profane man is not the equal to a Freemason. This has been the general attitude of modern Freemasonry for hundreds of years. This not to say that Freemasons should treat profane men badly, or look down their noses at them; but Freemasons, amongst themselves, should realize and appreciate their elevated status in society. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is radical thinking...Masonically speaking.

Could it be that this "equality thought" is the root problem for Freemasonry? Have some Freemasons forgotten, or never learned, that they are more elevated (enlightened) and, thus, more elite than their fellow profane man? Has this caused the Fraternity to initiate those that should not have been? Such thinking has caused Freemasons in general; especially those that possibly should not have been initiated in the first place, to cheapen their place in society. Some Freemasons seem to feel that they are just an extension of society rather than an elevation of society.

The rather neat thing about any organization that considers and portrays itself to be elevated or elite is that such an attitude is contagious. Some may misinterpret an elitist attitude as arrogance, however, that does not change the fact those organizations that truly believe they are elite have very little trouble in attracting new members. One only has to look at the military for an example of this. Certain branches and jobs within the military are considered by many to be elite examples of military service. Folks within those branches and jobs believe they are elite and exude confidence. This causes many outsiders, especially those with goal driven personalities, to almost beg for admission. Freemasonry used to be just like this. In some places, it still is. It could be like this everywhere.

If the majority of the Craft readopted an elevated or elitist attitude, without being arrogant, and truly believed in that elevated status; then almost all of Freemasonry’s ills could be cured.