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.