A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

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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.


Masonic Traveler said...

PB, the only problem that I see in this is that then there should be no mention (pin, hat, title, or otherwise, in Masonry if the individual is a member. As it is NOT Masonry, then there should be no Masonic honor to the individual who belongs to it.

The reason is that by creating a "separate but more honorable" society proliferates a rank or tiered system where no one brother is above another.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but because the blue lodge (Grand Lodge) system holds the monopoly on these titular systems, they by their nature become Masonic orders, predicated on the advancement by invitation. Meaning, not everyone can get in unless invited, and well, that dosen't have very much brotherly love in it.

The alternative? Let any brother create his own order and then invite who he sees fit to invite. Then everyone can be involved in their own side honorific order.

I dunno, long story, I just don't think the Invitational Bodies should be considered Masonic Bodies. Not when they make unMasonic exclusions.

Now I'll never get invited to the party.

Chris said...

Wasn't it that sage, Groucho Marx, who said, "I wouldn't join any orbanisation that would have me as a member?"

Bro. Chris Hansen

The Palmetto Bug said...


I agree that these bodies are considered as Masonic in nature, but I maintain my position in that they are not Freemasonry. I know that is a fine line but I believe it to be an important line. This discussion can easily be moved to include the non-invitational bodies like the York and Scottish Rites. Such honorifics as Mackey Scholar in the SRRS and Fellow in Masonic Research (FMR) in my own state's SCMRS could also be included in the discussion.

The pins, titles, etc are - in my opinion - fine as long as everyone realizes that they do not mean a hill of beans within the Lodge. A Sir Knight or 32 degree holder from the Scottish Rite, for examples, carry no special weight in the Lodge.

As for your idea about everyone being able to create their own honorific order... Mercy! Don't you think we have enough side bodies as it is? lol.


That quote from Groucho has long been one of my favorites.

MP said...

Another problem with the "Masonic but not Freemasonry" is control by GL's of what bodies someone may or may not join.

Technically, one cannot join AMD in Massachusetts, as AMD is not in the approved list, which is written in such a way as to say "that which is not expressly approved, is forbidden".

Neither is SRICF, etc.

But there are Mass. Masons, some of them GL officers, who are members of these groups ... yet use the "if it's not expressly permitted, it's forbidden" to kick people out of Blue Lodge for belonging to other groups (a number of which come to mind).

It cannot continue to be one set of rules for rank and file and groups the GL (or, more correctly, AASR) doesn't like, and a different set of rules for GL officers, or groups which GL officers and AASR honchos like.

Masonic Traveler said...


I agree with you that there is an inherent value to side orders. Each teaches and promulgates their part. I disagree when that "side order" is invitational, n that it creates a cast system of those that "belong" and those that "do not belong".

In some states, where open slots are plentiful, I'm sure it is not a problem for a brother interested in that specialized work to gain admission. It does, however, start to stink of exclusion when those groups do not have open slots and the decision for who gains admission and who does not is arbitrarily decided. Just as Pike insinuated, it becomes a Masonry within Masonry, an outer and an inner order.

But, perhaps your right, these "extra" degrees are not for everyone, and exclusivity then becomes a part of the inner working of Freemasonry as it is in the external working. After all, not all "brothers" make for good fraters, right? But then, that's from a perspective of not knowing Masonry, after all, the side order have not "elected " me to receive THAT light yet, right?

I have to disagree, to call them Masonic is to say that within our lodge brothers are excluded by vote when on the level when it comes to the Masonic "side" orders. The great architect forbid that floppy shoe wearing banal membership get to join the elite "side" orders. Perhaps the counter point is that the state of the order is as a result of to much emphasis in the side orders, from the AMD to the Crown of Constantine, and not enough attention to the Craft Lodge.

But since the side orders know what to do when young men knock on the door, perhaps they will share with the rest of us.

Masonic Traveler said...

Quite elegant, though, given we seem to be the only two speaking, I can assuredly say that there is no sentiment of entitlement, at leas no more than there is of smugness in which that seemed to project.

A private society is a private society and can do what it will, but when it puts "Masonic" before its "Society" name then its is without a doubt linked to the fraternity, despite what they say in their "private" meetings.

But, your advice is well taken, and much appreciated, as typically it more than what most would say when one asks "how do I join"? But, as space is limited, you probably should mention that there is a vetting process, and a vote (similar as the vote for the degrees) where one nay can close the door to the opportunity. In those instances the count will decidedly go past 10, ar am I mistaken?

But you are correct, research papers, an affirmed belief in the trinitarian Christian faith, or a variety of other pre-requisites are must also be fulfilled, beyond the High School diploma... Oh, and to not rock the boat, remember that one "nay" vote...

And, that most fall under the York Rite as you mentioned, your correct there...

And once that criteria is met, then yes, you to can work for the "higher" standards of the fraternity and not settle in the dross like your "other" brothers.

Until then, we'll await our invitations with anxious anticipation in our count. 1..., 2...,3..., 4...,

Jeff said...

Just for clarification, neither the Royal Arch nor A.M.D. require Christian belief of any sort.

The Palmetto Bug said...

This has become livelier than I expected.

I have thought about this some more and I think there is a dang good reason that these invitational bodies - along with the personal honors that go along with them - exist outside of Freemasonry proper.

It ensures that the only tiered system of "specialness" that can exist is due to the traditional lodge and Grand Lodge officer system. When I was a sitting WM, for example, no one - short of certain Grand Lodge officers - "outranked" me regardless of how many AMD, 33 degree, etc pins that they might have possessed. Yes, they had achieved some honors in the invitational bodies, and I was proud for them, but that means nothing in a lodge. It is simply part of their personal journey.

Masonic Traveler said...

MP, you are correct, the AMD does not have that requirement... My comments were reserved for the "other" invitational bodies not AMD.

Thanks for the clarity. :)

MP said...

Got it, those who aren't invited must all be lazy and not worthy.

Meanwhile, justification for not allowing the formation of new groups based on old ideas, relies on arguments that the old ideas were degree peddling con-jobs, where men paid exhorbitant fees, and were brought to high numbered degrees in a short amount of time.

You mean, like $300 for 4-32 in one weekend?

The AASR telling GL's which appendant bodies to recognize, and which not to, is hypocritical, in the USA.

We regularly (hah!) accuse continental GL's of being subordinate to a Scottish Rite Supreme Council, and thus, not sovereign, and thus, not regular.

IFF other high degree bodies are scams/shams, then so is the AASR.

The Palmetto Bug said...

I see one of the commentators has already deleted his remarks - and I wish that he hadn't - but let us be careful with the sarcastic comments lest they ruin an interesting discussion.

Magpie Mason said...

Bro. G,

My first impulse was to correct a false impression of AMD a brother voiced here. Then it became a matter of refuting uninformed allegations against AMD. And then the "goalpost" kept moving, so I chose to delete my comments.

I have no authorization to speak for AMD, and when nothing you say matters, it's time to leave the conversation. (e.g. not allowing one's zeal for the fraternity to lead one into argument.)

And congratulations on the GL appointment!

The Palmetto Bug said...

I understand your concerns and thanks for the congratulations.