A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Invitational Bodies

Sprinkled throughout the multitude of appendant – or side – bodies of Freemasonry, there are those that require invitations in order for Masons to be accepted into them. An example of these invitational bodies can be found in the Allied Masonic Degrees, or AMD, where each Council is limited to a membership of twenty-seven.

Some Masons have commented that having invitational bodies associated with Freemasonry is an affront to a fraternal system that is predicated upon the ideas of equality and meeting on the level. Individual feelings about this issue may well depend upon the point of view of the observer – including his personal experiences as relates to invitational bodies.

Assuming that a Mason has not used some sort of campaign to gain entry into an invitational body, the extension of an invitation can be quite an honor. The invitation indicates that his Masonic peers, who happen to already belong to the invitational body, have recognized something extraordinary in the Mason and that they desire to add his knowledge, experiences, or attributes to the group. A look to the example of the invitation-only Allied Masonic Degrees offers a glimpse of this process. The Allied Masonic Degrees in North America tends to be a research minded organization and, therefore, it not uncommon for Masons with a demonstrated propensity for Masonic research and writing to be the types invited to join.

Problems – or negative perceptions – can occur with invitational bodies because of two types of Masons. One is the Mason who wants to be a part of the body, but is not extended an invitation, and becomes bitter and resentful. The other is the Mason who is invited but then uses his membership in the body to – in his own mind – elevate himself above Masons who are not members of his invitational body. Both of these types of Masons forget the following important fact. The invitational body is not Freemasonry. It is a side order that does not trump the greatest of titles to be found in Freemasonry itself – Master Mason, Worshipful Master, and Grand Master among the few. All of the possible honorifics from side bodies – invitational or otherwise – can not change the fact that the Third Degree is the highest step in Freemasonry and that there only certain current and former leaders of Freemasonry that are entitled to a certain level of extra respect.

As long as Masons remember that the invitational bodies actually exist outside of Freemasonry proper, equality will still be the rule and all will still be meeting on the level within the Freemasonic Lodge.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grand Lodge of SC Concludes 272nd Communication

The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina concluded its 272nd Communication today in The Holy City - Charleston, South Carolina. I was only able to attend today's sessions - which included the elections, appointments, and public installations of Grand Lodge officers. See the article in The Post and Courier concerning this event.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

District Deputy Grand Master – Origin of the Position

Most well-read Masons are familiar with the position of Provincial Grand Master, as used by the Grand Lodge of England and – later – the United Grand Lodge of England, and that the man in such a position presided over a Provincial Grand Lodge that was subordinate to the Grand Lodge in London and that the Provincial Grand Master answered directly to the Grand Master in London. Almost all Masons are familiar with a somewhat similar position called District Deputy Grand Master. Though District Deputy Grand Masters do not preside over any sort of Grand Lodge, they do answer to the Grand Master of their Grand Lodge. Like Provincial Grand Masters, District Deputy Grand Masters exist because it is practically impossible for a Grand Master to personally provide for the government of his Grand Lodge due to distances and/or the shear numbers of lodges within his Grand Jurisdiction.

But when did the idea of District Deputy Grand Masters first come about? Which Grand Lodge first instituted the position? The first mention of a position titled District Deputy Grand Master in the Grand Lodge of South Carolina can be found in the proceedings of a Quarterly Communication of that body on 3 December 1844.
At this Communication an amendment to the Constitution was adopted, dividing the State into five Districts, and placing over each a District Deputy Grand Master, who was to be either a member of the Grand Lodge, or a representative of one of the Lodges, and whose duty it was to visit the Lodges in his district, and to decide all appeals until the decision of the Grand Lodge could be obtained.[i]
When Albert G. Mackey published The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina in 1861, this was his only mention of a position called District Deputy Grand Master. Though he does not explain why, Mackey went on to state that the District Deputies were never appointed and that the amendment was omitted in later revisions of the Constitution.[ii] Therefore, as late as 1861, the position did not exist within the Grand Lodge of South Carolina and this author does not currently know when the position was formally adopted.

Additional information from the readers concerning this subject will be welcomed.

[i] Mackey, Albert G., M.D., The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Steam Power Press, 1861, p. 333.
[ii] Ibid, p. 334.