Interesting discussions and debates are often generated when attempts are made to define exactly to what “Masonic communication” refers beyond – of course – the use of the term to indicate a formal meeting of a Masonic lodge or Grand Lodge.[i] To avoid confusion, “conversation” should probably replace “communication” when dealing with the subject of individuals talking or corresponding about Masonic subjects.
Just as it regards non-Masons, it is generally well accepted that regular and recognized Freemasons “are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects” with clandestine Masons.[ii] What exactly does “associate or converse” mean? No reasonable person should think that the prohibition on association and conversation should include social, vocational, or religious contact with those that do not belong to regular and recognized Freemasonry – as long as such contact is not for the purpose of discussing Masonic subjects. But herein may be the root cause of debates concerning this subject. What exactly are Masonic subjects and what is considered Masonic conversation?
Some Masons take the position that Masonic subjects are limited to those involving certain esoteric teachings and rituals of the Fraternity or – more specifically – the modes of recognition and that the discussion of such with another is the only thing that amounts to Masonic conversation. Some will take it a step further and include in the definition of a Masonic subject the tiled proceedings of a lodge or Grand Lodge that take place behind closed doors. Others are broader when defining Masonic conversation and feel that acknowledging another – without concrete evidence – as a Freemason amounts to Masonic conversation. Then there are those that go to the extreme of not discussing any aspect of Freemasonry or disclosing that that they are a Freemason except with and to those that they have indisputable knowledge that confirms the other man’s status as a regular and recognized member of the Fraternity.
This subject has become very pertinent in the last few years as more and more Masons are using the Internet to correspond and discuss the Fraternity. Grand Lodges and individual Masons are wrestling with how to use the Internet for the good of Freemasonry and their own Masonic self-development while – at the same time – ensuring that inappropriate Masonic communication or conversation does not occur. Without a doubt, the Internet is a medium that the Freemasons of old did not anticipate or plan for and many of the constitutions of Grand Lodges do not adequately address the issue of online sites and forums. The obligation of an Entered Apprentice – as is used in most Grand Jurisdictions – does, however, address the issue and as long as Masons abide by such there should be no real problems.
[i] Mackey, Albert G. as revised by Hawkins, Edward L., An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences, Volume I, New York and London: The Masonic History Company, 1914, p. 170.
[ii] Ibid, p. 154.