A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Choosing and Grooming Masonic Leaders

Author’s note: This commentary references some procedures and law within the Grand Jurisdiction of South Carolina which may not be completely applicable to other Grand Lodges.

Like most all organizations, Freemasonry has a leadership structure whose origins predate even the Grand Lodge system that is currently familiar. This structure begins at the lodge level and the basic process involved in the selection of the officers of a lodge is fairly well known to most Master Masons. Five officers are nominated and elected – the Master, the two Wardens, the Treasurer, and the Secretary. Up to six other officers are appointed by the three Warrant officers. The Master appoints the Senior Deacon, the Chaplain, and the Tiler. The Senior Warden appoints the Junior Deacon while the Junior Warden appoints the two Stewards.

What is often overlooked, however, are the processes involved in the grooming of Masonic officers and leaders. This is often complicated by an expectation in some lodges that officers will almost automatically be “moved up” to the next higher officer position. Before an examination of that aspect begins, however, let us take a moment to specifically identify the leaders of a lodge.

Technically, there are only three leaders of a lodge. They are the warrant officers – the Master, the Senior Warden, and the Junior Warden. All other officers – even the elected Treasurer and Secretary – work for one of those three officers. If we really want to get down to it, even the two elected Wardens work at the pleasure of the Master. A Master can arrest the jewel of any officer (dismiss from office) – even the ones elected by the lodge members. The Master, on the other hand, can not be impeached or otherwise removed from office by the members of the lodge. These facts make a Master the undisputed true leader of his lodge even though the other officers are also serving in leadership roles.

With all of that said, it should be obvious that it is very important – maybe as important as the investigation and balloting process involving petitioners – that leaders and potential leaders of lodges be groomed and tested throughout their Masonic career. A “wrong” Lodge Master can be even more damaging to a lodge than a “wrong” petitioner that is allowed through the West Gate. This grooming and testing process can begin as a Brother enters into the appointed positions, which are typically the Steward and Deacon positions. The process commonly referred to as “moving through the chairs” is not necessarily a bad way to accomplish the process as long as there is no expectation on the part of the individual or the lodge members that service in one officer position equals automatic appointment or election to the next higher level of leadership. A mediocre Junior Deacon, for example, is probably not going miraculously become a stellar Senior Deacon.

The election of a Junior Warden is one of the most critical decision points for a lodge when it comes to a Brother’s leadership performance and potential. Once a lodge elects a Master Mason to the position of Junior Warden, it has – for all intents and purposes – declared that man ready to lead the lodge. If something were to happen to the Master and Senior Warden, the Junior Warden automatically assumes all of the power and responsibilities associated with the station of Lodge Master. If a poor leader is elected to the either of the stations of Junior Warden or Senior Warden, a lodge may not have an opportunity to correct its mistake before that Brother finds himself in the Master’s chair.

To effectively build a leadership corps and to ensure some amount of success when it comes to choosing the right Lodge Master, the Brothers of a lodge must constantly evaluate the performance and potential of a Brother for higher levels of leadership and responsibility. Any expectations or practices of automatic advancement are potentially dangerous to the long-term well being of a lodge. It should further be understood and accepted that not all Masons – even very good Master Masons – are leadership material. There are many roles to play in the Fraternity and – often – leadership is not the role for everyone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BEYOND THE POINSETTIA

The following was previously published in Volume 21 of the Transactions of the South Carolina Masonic Research Society, 2009. Portrait by Charles Fenderich (1805-1887), n.d.

BEYOND THE POINSETTIA: JOEL POINSETT AND MEXICAN FREEMASONRY

Joel Roberts Poinsett (1799 – 1851) was a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and is largely remembered only due to the beautiful flowering plant that bears his name. Commonly known as the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), this plant is a frequent addition to many Christmas decorations. Although Poinsett was instrumental in bringing this plant to the United States from its native Mexico, his activities in that country extended well beyond amateur botany and secured his place in the history of early Mexican Freemasonry.

In addition to being a member of the United States House of Representatives and a Secretary of War for the United States, Poinsett served as the first Minister to Mexico from 1825 to 1830.1 He was an Ancient Free Mason, having served as Master of both Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 and Recovery Lodge No. 31, in Charleston and Greenville, South Carolina, respectively. He was also a High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of South Carolina and, though he never actually had the opportunity to carry out the duties of the office due to his commitments to the government of the United States, Poinsett was also appointed elected as a District Deputy Grand Master in South Carolina.2

The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, through Poinsett, has sometimes been credited with the introduction of Freemasonry into Mexico. It is doubtful, however, that the historical evidence can support any such claim.

The prolific Masonic writer and historian, Albert G. Mackey, examined the Poinsett – Mexican Masonic connection in detail in 1861 when he presented his work, The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Mackey was in a unique position to be able to make this examination since, as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge in South Carolina, he was in possession of the written proceedings and various related documents that pertained to Grand Lodge business.

Mackey acknowledges that the South Carolina Grand Lodge did receive a letter from Poinsett in 1826, while he was in Mexico as the Minister from the United States. The contents and date of that letter were unfortunately not saved for review by Mackey or other Masonic historians but, in consequence of that letter, on the 15th of December, 1826, the Grand Lodge of South Carolina adopted the following resolution:
That the Grand Lodge do constitute our worthy Brother, Joel R. Poinsett, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States, near the Republic of Mexico, the Agent and Representative of the Grand Lodge, for the purpose of establishing friendly relations with the Lodges of that Republic. That our said Representative be authorized, in the manner of the Grand Lodge, to visit and inspect the working of the said Lodges, and, if deemed expedient, to grant dispensations for the constituting and working of Lodges according to the ancient landmarks, as fixed by this Grand Lodge; with a request that he will communicate to the Grand Lodge such information and advice as will enable it to promote the cause of Masonry in that country.3
There is, therefore, little doubt that the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina clearly desired to establish Lodges in Mexico. South Carolina, like several Grand Lodges of the time, had a history of establishing Lodges in territories not already occupied by another Grand Lodge. It had done so before in places such as Alabama and Cuba.4

Poinsett had, however, written another letter that more fully revealed the Masonic situation in Mexico. It was dated June 2nd, 1826, but not received by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina until 1827-- well after the resolution of December 15th, 1826. In this letter, which Mackey was able to reproduce word for word, Poinsett reports the following: “The Grand Lodge of Mexico counts thirteen Subordinate Lodges under its jurisdiction.”5 The Grand Lodge of South Carolina could not have established Lodges in Mexico in 1826 or later without having been labeled as an invader of an established Grand Jurisdiction. Mackey makes it clear that there is no evidence that Poinsett ever acted on the authority granted to him in December 1826. Mackey stated unequivocally that Freemasonry in Mexico was “un fait accompli;”
and neither the Grand Lodge of South Carolina nor any other Grand Lodge had the right to intrude and interfere with the lawful sovereignty of the Grand Lodge of Mexico. The Grand Lodge of South Carolina certainly did not – it granted to one of its Past Officers, it is true, while it was ignorant of the real condition of affairs, the authority so to do, but we have no evidence that he ever availed himself of the authority, nor is it likely, with the knowledge he possessed of the condition of things, of which his superiors in South Carolina were ignorant, that he would commit so egregious an error as to interfere with the legally organized jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of a foreign country in which he was temporarily residing.6
The story of Poinsett’s Masonic activities in Mexico does not end there. Mackey, referencing a pamphlet issued by a George Fisher in 1859 and entitled “Freemasonry in Mexico: It’s Origin, etc.: Illustrated by original documents not heretofore published,” claims that Poinsett was actually working as the proxy of the Grand Master of New York and, in 1825, obtained charters from New York for three Lodges in Mexico. Fisher, who Mackey reports to have been a Mason from California who was residing in Mexico in 1825, may have been in a position to be an accurate observer of the Masonic conditions in that country. Based on this information, Poinsett could possibly be considered as the man who brought Freemasonry to Mexico; not on behalf of his own Grand Lodge in South Carolina but on behalf of the one in New York.7

Dr. Paul Rich and Dr. Guillermo De Los Reyes, researchers who have specialized in the study of Mexican Freemasonry, make the claim that Freemasonry was actually brought to Mexico in 1816 or 1817 by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana.8 This, though the proof is not presented and Rich and Reyes don’t name these Lodges, is not disputed in this article. It is reasonable to assume that Lodges existed prior to Poinsett’s three charters from New York in 1825 and, in all probability, those three Lodges were already in existence but working without charters. Therefore it is entirely possible that a Grand Jurisdiction with its origins in New York had already been formed based on Poinsett’s correspondence of June of 1826. That letter and the one that prompted the Grand Lodge of South Carolina’s resolution in December 1826, and which was most certainly written prior to June 1826, makes it rather certain that he was a supporter of the establishment of a Mexican Grand Lodge from the outset.

Poinsett’s support of and involvement in Mexican Masonry goes much deeper than just the relatively mundane act of obtaining a few charters from New York. To appreciate this, one should know something about the relationship between Freemasonry and Mexican politics in the 1820s and beyond. The interested reader will find that Mexican politics were heavily influenced by two competing Masonic factions. The Yorkinos, or York Masons, and the Escoseses, or Scottish Freemasons, were on opposite sides of the political situation in Mexico and, being from an Ancient York Mason influenced state and a well placed member of the York Rite, it would probably only be natural that Poinsett would side with the Yorkinos, Masonically and politically. Poinsett’s support of and involvement in Mexican Freemasonry, which was so closely tied to Mexican politics, would ultimately lead to him being recalled to the United States.9

So did Poinsett bring Freemasonry to Mexico? No, not exactly. However, he certainly was on a Masonic mission in that country and his activities pertaining to Freemasonry are every bit as important as his act of introducing poinsettias to Christmas place settings.

1. Ingersoll, L.D., History of the War Department of the United States, Washington, D.C., Francis B. Mohun, 1879, pp. 483-486.
2. Rich, Paul and De Los Reyes, Guillermo, “Problems in the Historiography of Mexican Freemasonry”, Mexican Freemasonry, Regency Press, New York and London, 1997.
3. Mackey, Albert G., History of Freemasonry in South Carolina, South Carolina Steam Power Press, Columbia, SC, 1861, pp. 220-221.
4. Ibid, pp. 558, 574.
5. Ibid, p. 222.
6. Ibid, p. 222.
7. Ibid, p. 223.
8. Rich and De Los Reyes.
9. Ibid.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uninformed Brethren and the Charge of a Master Mason

It is generally assumed and accepted that a man who has become a Master Mason has reached the pinnacle of the degree system in Craft Masonry. A Master Mason enjoys all of the same privileges and responsibilities of any other Master Mason outside of the existing leadership structure of the Order. Master Masons are further informed that they have been introduced to all of the knowledge capable of being shared in a symbolic lodge. New Master Masons are given a charge – instructions – at the time of their raising to the Sublime Degree.
In the character of a Master Mason, you are authorized to correct the errors and irregularities of your uninformed brethren…

…and by the regularity of your own behavior afford the best example for the conduct of others less informed.1
From these excerpts, it is recognized that a Master Mason has certain responsibilities concerning uninformed Brethren. Maybe somewhat strangely, the Charge of a Master Mason does not identify who are considered the uninformed Brethren. It could possibly be argued that the uninformed are the Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts, but the charge does not specifically say that. If Master Masons are included as possible members of the group of the uninformed or less informed, however, then a contradiction of sorts appears.

An uninformed or seriously less informed Master Mason would not be able to comply with or execute the instructions contained within the Charge of a Master Mason. It is reasonable to expect, therefore, that a Master Mason must himself be an informed member of the Craft. There can be no other reasonable option.

Of course, no Master Mason can be fully informed or fully knowledgeable about all aspects of the Craft. A Master Mason is still an imperfect human after all. A consensus as to what constitutes being informed enough in order to satisfy the requirements of the Charge is unlikely to be reached by any group of Masons – no matter how small the group. It may be far easier to define what is considered as uninformed. An uninformed Mason could very well be one that does not have at least a working personal knowledge of the rituals, lectures, and laws concerning the governance of his lodge and Grand Jurisdiction. The personal working knowledge is critical. “Knowledge” obtained simply via observation or through the verbal, off the cuff, guidance of others may not create an informed Master Mason since what he has observed or has been told could be incorrect. An informed Mason must first become a reading Mason or at the very least be guided by a known reading Mason.
Such Masons are distinguished, not by the amount of knowledge that they possess, but by the number of jewels that they wear. They will give fifty dollars for a decoration, but not fifty cents for a book.2
So what does an informed Master Mason have on his reading list? He can have many books but – in the Grand Jurisdiction of South Carolina – there is one book that he must have as his primary reference. It is the Ahiman Rezon which contains the Constitution and Code. He must also have that personal working knowledge of the rituals, which includes the lectures. If he has those two things, studies them, and understands them; then he very likely cannot be grouped with the uninformed Brethren. He will also be able to comply with his Master Mason’s Charge.

1. The Ahiman Rezon of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, Lexington, S.C.: Grand Lodge of South Carolina, 2007, pp 161-162.
2. Mackey, Albert G., "Reading Masons and Masons Who Do Not Read," Voice of Masonry, June 1875.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

American Lodge No. 98 – 150 Years

On 20 November 1860, American Lodge No. 98, A.F.M. of S.C., was chartered. Exactly one hundred and fifty years later on 20 November 2010, American Lodge No. 98 celebrated in fine style.

The event was marked by a Special Communication, an official visit by the Grand Master of Masons of South Carolina, and a double conferral of the Third Degree. Accompanying the Grand Master were the District Deputy Grand Master, a District Deputy Grand Master from a neighboring district, and four past Grand Lodge officers. There were also three sitting Masters of other lodges in the District in attendance. The roll of the charter members was read and, in spirit, all of those Brothers answered up.

The Master and officers of American Lodge No. 98 did a fine job of conferring the Degree in a solemn manner. As memorable as the Third Degree is to any Master Mason, American’s two newest Master Masons have two extra reasons to always remember their special day. In addition to it being on the one hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of their lodge, they were both raised by the Grand Master.

Following the Communication, all enjoyed a very good lunch with many ladies present and the Master’s talk on the history of his lodge – including American’s trials and tribulations during the waning days of the War Between the States when the lodge was burnt to the ground by William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as his army marched from Savannah, Georgia, for Columbia, South Carolina. Commemorative coins had also been struck to mark the anniversary and were available to those in attendance.

It was a very good day for American Lodge and I am personally proud to have been able to be in attendance.

In photo: GM of Masons of SC, two new MMs, DDGM of SC's 4th District.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Always an Entered Apprentice?1

Every Mason is always an Entered Apprentice in some respects and that is a good thing, but I recently had a sort of “Eureka” moment – one of a series of such moments that I have been having as of late. Are there Masons that have achieved the title of Fellow Craft or Master that – in practice – still remain Entered Apprentices? A Brother recently wrote the following.
Often we hear that, as Masons, we should be good men, of good morals, etc – and that learning is not what makes us Masons. While this may be true – in that being a good man of good morals is the prerequisite for membership – it is not the Alpha and Omega of the Craft! If we look carefully at the Degrees, we will notice that the First Degree discusses the character of the member, but that the Second Degree urges the candidate to focus on learning the liberal arts and sciences. In some rituals this is more explicit than in others, but it's present in every single one. In order to become a Master Mason, one needs to be a Fellow Craft first. By just by being a good man – of good morals – he is merely qualifying himself to be an Entered Apprentice. Many Brethren choose to remain as Entered Apprentice Masons for their entire life and focus strictly on the goodness and the charity. There is nothing wrong with that and I congratulate them on their efforts as I understand that the Craft cannot function without them. Yet, if we want to fulfill our duties as Craftsmen, we need to devote to studying liberal arts and sciences. That includes studying Freemasonry – it being a very important Art and Science – but it does not end there. It is only after we have fulfilled our duties as Fellow Craft Masons that we can strive to become Masters of our Craft. We know what happened to those who tried to obtain the rank of a Master Mason without fulfilling the duties of a Craftsman first and we also know how that story ended. We are all Masons and, as long as we are good man with strong values and morals, that qualifies us to be here - but only as Entered Apprentice Masons. Going further in the Craft requires much more work than just "being."2
I think I will let the above quote exist on its own for now. It says a lot.

1. Inspired by a Brother in Ontario.
2. Written by the same Brother.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010 Outdoor Degree

The twenty-fourth annual Outdoor Degree with Family Cookout in my District was held yesterday. It was well attended, the weather cooperated perfectly, the food was outstanding, and there are now three new Master Masons – one each from three different lodges – in the District.

The work of the host lodge, officers and members of the other nine lodges, and the officers and members of the Lowcountry Masters and Warden Club did not go unnoticed. It takes much labor to successfully pull off this type of event and all involved are to be commended.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worth Checking Out

The new blog that I have added to my list of sites to your left is Building Hiram. I recommend that you check it out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Secrets of Freemasonry Have Never Been Exposed

Many Internet savvy or research minded Masons might disagree with the opinion expressed in the title of this article. At a time in the past, I would also have disagreed with it. The many expos̩s Рwhether they are in books, on television documentary or history related channels, or on the Internet Рwould seem to give credence to those that have stated and continue to state that all the secrets of Freemasonry are out there for the uninitiated to find. Freemasons have often comforted themselves with the belief that, since there is also so much false information floating around, the profane are not able to determine truth from fiction and, thus, the exposed secrets are still safe.

I have come to the conclusion, however and after some thoughtful guidance from a very small group of learned members of the Craft, that the true secrets of Freemasonry have never been exposed – even to most members of the Fraternity. Note for those not of the Craft that may be reading this, especially the conspiracy theorists: I assure you that these unexposed secrets have nothing to do with world government, control of the banks, aliens, etc.

The real secrets have never leaked out because it is fundamentally impossible for them to be exposed. They must be discovered and such discovery requires an individual Mason to experience what may be described as a radical shift in the way he views things. In the business world, this change is often illustrated with such phrases as “thinking outside of the box” or “paradigm shift.”

It may very well be that the exposed secrets – the rituals and symbols – are actually just smokescreens intended to lead inquiring eavesdroppers in the wrong direction. More importantly, it is entirely possible that the rituals and symbols are intentionally in place to make it very difficult or impossible for Freemasons – the ones not ready to make or not capable of making the change to their personal paradigms – to discover the true secrets. A Mason that has discovered the path to the true secrets is incapable of sharing them with another Mason. He can only provide the guidance on how to discover them and, even then, can only share that guidance with someone that is capable of understanding it. In other words, the other Mason must be willing to and capable of shifting his way of viewing the symbols and ritual.

The ritual and symbols can possibly be described as doorways – sort of like the old “Let’s Make a Deal” game show. The difference is that most Masons never see one or more of the doors. They may see door number one, but not door number two or three. They can not open certain doors because their view of Freemasonry prevents them from even realizing that all three of the doors exist. In the case of profane eavesdroppers, they do not see any of the doors.

This is not to say that many, if not most, Freemasons do not have a gut feeling – a nagging suspicion – that there is something else behind all of the ritual and symbols. I have experienced this feeling myself and have observed others wrestle with the notion that there is something more to a particular symbol, part of the ritual, or a lecture. Most of the time, however, we are not capable of making the leap from a subliminal message to the Eureka moment of discovery. Those that train their minds to make that leap become the adepts and once they discover one of the true secrets they find themselves capable of discovering more of them. They can see all of the doors.

If the day ever comes when all or most Freemasons can discover the true secrets of the Fraternity, that may be the day to start teaching the rest of the world and we can get on with the business of taking over the banks, forming that world government, and introducing our alien friends to the other Earthlings. Until that time arrives, the real secrets of Freemasonry will remain unexposed and safe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Possible Loophole in the Second Charge of a Free Mason

Studious members of the Craft are familiar with the Charges of a Freemason, extracted from the Ancient records of Lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland,and Ireland, for the use of the Lodges in London.* The Second Charge is oft examined and discussed by members of the Fraternity as it pointedly touches on a Mason’s role in civil society. It also calls the actions of famous Masons of the past into examination – the American Revolution offering an obvious example. The Second Charge reads as follows.
II. Of the CIVIL MAGISTRATES supreme and subordinate.

A Mason is a peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed, and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos'd to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer'd the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish'd in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be a Rebel against the State he is not to be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the Government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.*
On its surface, the Second Charge is rather specific. A Free Mason is not to plot or conspire against his nation. However, how would the likes of Brothers Benjamin Franklin and George Washington – the Charges having been around for some time by the beginning of the American Revolution – reconcile themselves to the possibility that they could honor the Second Charge and be involved in a revolution against Britain, which was their nation? It is possible that there is a loophole in the Charge and it is further possible that the American Masons who involved themselves in “plots and conspiracies” against Britain may have recognized it or have at least used it to justify their actions.

That possible loophole is contained in the second phrase of the first sentence. A Mason “is never to be concern'd in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation.” “Peace” and “Welfare” are key words in that phrase and are unlikely to be there by accident or by whim. If a Free Mason honestly believes that his nation – as ruled by the “Government for the time being” – is not enjoying peace or faring well, he may possibly and reasonably conclude that he is no longer bound by the terms of the Second Charge.

Of course, an individual Mason probably should not walk down the slippery slope of unilaterally determining that his nation is not peaceful or faring well. Suffice it to say that such a conclusion would require multitudes of the citizenship, regardless of their Masonic affiliation. In addition, the beginning of a revolution necessarily means that another government has been formed even if not recognized as legitimate by the longer existing civil powers. It could then be reasonably argued that a Mason gets to decide on which government he is going to apply the terms of the Second Charge if he was not involved in the formation of the revolution and was, therefore, not concerned with the “peace and welfare” clause of the Charge.

* Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, The Charges of a Free-Mason. http://www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/history/anderson/charges.html (Accessed September 20, 2010). Cross checked with Ahiman Rezon of South Carolina. Lexington, S.C., 2007, pp. 458-460. The Charges – six in all – were adopted by the Grand Lodge of England on 25 March 1722.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Should All Good Men Be Made Masons? – Revisited

Read this first: A Commentary: Should All Good Men Be Made Masons?

The theme of my above referenced commentary seems to run throughout the history of Freemasonry and I keep discovering it in my various readings. On 11 December 1894, the then Grand Master of Masons in South Carolina – Most Worshipful Brother Stiles P. Dendy, addressed the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.
“I regard the non-affiliate, in most instances, as a parasite on the body of Masonry,” he said, “and is generally one who is wanting in appreciation of the true nature and purpose of the Order, and when admitted finds himself out of harmony with the whole trend of its teachings, or one who has sought admission from unworthy and improper motives….” What was to be the solution to the “bane of Masonry in the present age”? Bro. Dendy suggested that the Lodges take a more critical look at applicants for admission, “a more searching inquiry, not only as to the physical qualifications and moral fitness, but also as to the intellectual capacity of candidates to apprehend and appreciate the sublime teachings and mysteries of Free Masonry.” 1
1. Source: Cornwell, Ross & Willis, Samuel M. A History of Freemasonry in South Carolina; The Years 1860 - 1919. The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, 1979.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry

The Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry 2011 Lecture Series is scheduled to commence on 1 January 2011. I have somehow and somewhat amazingly found myself on the schedule of lectures. The press release from the Grand Lodge of Indiana, F&AM, follows.

Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research, UD with the support of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, F&AM is pleased to bring you…

Masonic Awareness @ the Speed of Light.

Begin and end 2011 with Freemasonry on your mind! The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research, UD will present a series of free lectures beginning January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2011, via the Internet at www.WEOFM.org. A list of the diverse international presenters and stimulating topics can be found on the “Trestle Board” at the WEOFM website.

These lectures will be presented on the web at www.WEOFM.org on an announced basis, the first one being shown January 1, 2011 and continuing throughout the year. We are pleased to offer this group of experts in their subjects to bring you Masonic Awareness @ the Speed of Light. Each presentation will conclude with an on-line chat room where you may provide feedback to others as well as the lecturer. The exact time of the lectures will be made available as soon as an appropriate time is coordinated with the lecturer. These times and additional information about the series will be posted on www.WEOFM.org no later than December 1, 2010.

We encourage you to visit the website at your earliest opportunity and leave us a message by using our contact tab. You may join the site as a user and view the trestle board at any time. Furthermore, join us, January 1, 2011 and enjoy Masonic Awareness @ the Speed of Light.

For additional information please contact Al McClelland at WEOFM2011@live.com.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Government of Free Masonry

Published in Transactions of the South Carolina Masonic Research Society, Volume 20, 2008.

Notes: My writing style was much rougher when this was written and I truly hope that has improved during the last few years. Endnotes have been removed. Most references were from the Ahiman Rezon of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.

The Government of Free Masonry: from the perspective of an A.F.M. of S.C.

INTRODUCTION

Members of the Free Masonic Fraternity, including experienced Master Masons, are sometimes found to be confused as to the nature of the governments of a Masonic Lodge and their Grand Lodge. This may be a peculiar symptom of American Free Masonry due to the value placed in the democratic form, or, more accurately…the republican form, of government that is cherished in the United States.

In order to establish a baseline for further discussion, it may be prudent to briefly review the form of government of the United States. The government of the United States of America is often referred to as a democracy; however and in the opinion of this author, the United States is closer to the model of a republic than that of a democracy.

A true democracy allows for every voting citizen to be directly involved in the decision making process. There were some ancient Greek city-states that possessed the characteristics of a true democracy and there are, today, some New England towns that practice pure democracy in the form of town meetings. In a republic, the voting citizens choose representatives who are charged with being directly involved in the decision making process and, at the same time, promoting the interests of those who they represent. This describes the Congress of the United States perfectly.

The United States also possesses a separate judicial body in the form of the Supreme Court and the lower courts. The nation also has a President, elected by the citizens, who is responsible for executing the day-to-day business of the country. So, what the United States has is a republican form of government that includes three branches; the executive, the legislative, and the judicial; with each branch having equal but separate powers that serve as a check and balance on the other two.

Some Freemasons may mistakenly believe that the governments of their Lodge and Grand Lodge have the exact characteristics as that of the United States. In reality, Lodge government is a fluid and often metamorphosing process that displays signs of an executive branch, a legislative branch, a pure democracy, and an elected monarchy. At the Grand Lodge level, the government could be described as an elected monarchy that often changes into a parliament. Both the individual Lodges and the Grand Lodge have judicial systems that can be activated from the existing structure as temporary situations require.

This article will address the governments of the Lodge and the Grand Lodge separately. Each of the varied government systems; democracy, monarchial, executive, legislative, parliamentary, and judicial; will also be examined separately.

THE LODGE

I – Pure, or True, Democracy

The Lodge functions as a pure democracy in several respects. Free Masonry in South Carolina does restrict voting rights to certain members of the Fraternity. Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts are not allowed a vote, therefore and for the sake of this article, the Craft is defined as consisting of all Master Masons of the Lodge. The Craft is not only allowed to cast votes for certain issues but is required to do so. Such instances include the election of new members, the election of certain officers, and the decision on some questions before the Lodge. After the completion of these actions, the Craft no longer functions as a democracy and now metamorphoses into entirely different forms of government. Democracy will show itself again as the various systems of government are examined.

II – Monarchial

The Worshipful Master is the highest ranking of the Lodge officers elected by way of the system of pure democracy. He is elected to a specific term of office and, while serving that term, can be described as an elected monarch. Limited only by the Grand Lodge’s Constitution and Code, the By-Laws of his Lodge, and his own conscience; he has the power to unilaterally make legislation, direct execution of that legislation, and take certain judicial actions.

The Master can issue summonses for special communications; is the ex officio Chairman of all committees; can change the order of business of the Lodge; can remove subordinate officers from office; can exclude members of the Craft; and is the deciding officer on the issue of candidate proficiency. He also decides all questions of order, can close debate at his will and pleasure, and can actually stop the practice of pure democracy in the case of the election of new members. Though these listed prerogatives of a Worshipful Master do not describe the entire scope of his powers, they should give the reader an idea of how immense those powers are.

Though selected to office by a democratic process, the Craft that elected him cannot impeach the Master. Only the Grand Master may suspend him and only the Grand Lodge may make that suspension permanent. The Master also cannot be brought before a Masonic Trial, except by order of the Grand Lodge. Any decisions made by the Master, even if outside the limits imposed by the Grand Lodge’s Constitution and Code or the Lodge’s By-Laws, cannot be overturned by the Craft. The Master’s decisions can only be appealed to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge.

As the reader can see, the Worshipful Master is truly the elected monarch of his Lodge. His role does change, however, as will be discovered in the forthcoming paragraphs.

III – Executive Branch of the Lodge

As can be ascertained from the previous discussion on monarchial powers, the executive responsibilities always rest with the Worshipful Master. Even when he is not functioning as an elected monarch, he remains responsible for the execution of certain activities within his Lodge and is answerable to the Grand Master and Grand Lodge for those activities.

Some examples of these responsibilities include the appointment of a committee to examine the Secretary’s and Treasurer’s books; the execution of the legislative decisions of the Craft, or causing the same to be done; and the requirement to have charge of the Warrant of Constitution, Jewels, and Furniture of the Lodge.

IV – Legislative Powers

The most fluid of governmental roles found in a Lodge regards legislative authority, which switches frequently between the Worshipful Master and the Craft. This rather unusual mode of legislating appears to be unique to Free Masonry as this writer has been unable to find other obvious examples of this practice.

When functioning in his role as an elected monarch and as already discussed, the legislative power rests with the Master. When the Grand Lodge’s Constitution and Code or the Lodge By-Laws limit the powers of the Master, then the Craft is tasked with making certain decisions, which the Master is then obligated to put into action. In addition, any member of the Craft may make a motion which, if receiving a second motion, may be brought to a vote by order of the Master after any appropriate debate. In these scenarios, the Master becomes less of a monarch and takes on the roles of a presiding officer and the executive branch of the Lodge. The legislative responsibility has now fallen on the shoulders of the Craft. In this legislative role, the Craft is acting as a pure democracy in that the Brothers are directly involved in the decision making process. This would be akin to a town in which the citizens directly take on the role normally held by an elected council.

This process often produces a situation where the Craft can serve as both the legislature and as an arm of the executive branch or as agents for the monarch. This is a totally alien concept when compared to how the government of the United States conducts business. Once the Craft, acting as a legislative body, has made a decision that is binding upon the Master, it is very common for the Master to then turn to that very Craft and appoint certain Brothers to a committee or otherwise to direct them to perform some sort of work to accomplish the action. Once appointed to such a role, these Brothers, the former legislators, are now officers of the Lodge’s executive branch or, since they cannot theoretically refuse such an assignment, are agents for the Master in his role as the Lodge’s elected monarch. If one thinks about this in the sense of the government of the United States, it would be similar to the Congress passing a law that, let us say, requires the erection of a new public building, and the President then directing that certain members of Congress actually go out and construct it. If this structure was present in the Nation’s government, then surely fewer laws would be passed!

V – Parliamentary Rules

After the previous discussion involving the legislature, here is a good place to pause and examine the certain guidelines that are in place and, when properly utilized, provide for a smooth and harmonious conduction of decisions before the Lodge. These guidelines are normally referred to as the rules of order but are also often known as parliamentary rules. For A.F.M. Lodges in South Carolina, the basic rules of order are contained within the Lodge By-Laws. These rules provide the framework that is necessary for any well regulated institution to conduct its business without the distraction of confusion, public quarrels, or indecorum.

As anyone familiar with American politics can attest, debates can often turn into arguments and posturing. The rules of order in a Lodge are structured in such a way as to allow for debate but, at the same time, to prevent the debate from developing into an unpleasant and unbecoming situation for the Lodge or an individual Brother.

VI – The Judicial System

Completely unlike the United States and most representative or democratic governments that people are familiar with, the Lodge does not have a standing body that serves as the judiciary. Judicial powers are activated only as needed and, in the Lodge, are only used to adjudicate alleged Masonic offenses by individuals. The responsibility of reviewing changes or additions to a Lodge’s By-Laws to determine constitutionality rests with the Grand Lodge. When performing such duty, the Grand Lodge is, in a sense, the Supreme Court. When there is a need to confront an allegation of individual Masonic misconduct, there is more than one route which may be taken.

The Master, acting within the powers given to him as an elected monarch, can take certain summary judicial actions. He has the ability to arrest the jewel of a subordinate officer even if that officer was originally elected by the Brethren. This is tantamount to a removal from office. He may also reprimand or exclude any member of the Craft for indecorum or if the presence of a certain member creates, or has the potential of creating, disharmony. When a Master directs either of these two actions, there is no appeal of his decision but to the Grand Lodge.

Another process that can be used, and may also be used after the summary action of a Master, is the Masonic trial. The Ahiman Rezon (of South Carolina) devotes much ink to the issue of Masonic trials and a lengthy article can be written just on this subject. As the reader will soon see, the Masonic trial is similar in nature and process to a trial in the court systems of the United States.

Any member of the Craft may prefer a charge of un-Masonic conduct against another member; however, the ultimate responsibility for this rests with the Junior Warden. Once a charge is preferred, the route of the trial can take one of two paths. The charge may be adjudicated by way of trial by the Lodge or may be referred to a Trial Commission from outside of the Lodge. Trial Commissions are often used at the request of the Master in order to limit damage to the harmony of his Lodge or, in especially complicated cases, to utilize the experience of Brothers who have been involved in Masonic trials or may be members of the legal profession. Regardless of which method is used, the trial process is almost identical in both scenarios.

As in the civil or criminal courts, the accused must be notified and served with a copy of the charge. He also has the right to counsel and the right to file objections and make a plea. The prosecutor is often represented in the person of the Junior Warden, however, any Master Mason may be appointed to fulfill this role. The role of judge, or presiding officer, falls to the Master or the Chairman or the Trial Commission, if such is used. The processes of receiving testimony and evidence, cross-examination, and the bar to self incrimination all are present in the Masonic trial. The Craft of the Lodge or the Trial Commission, if used, serve as the jury and decide upon the question of guilt and punishment. Though a much simpler process than is found in civil and criminal courts, the accused has the right to file an appeal to the Grand Lodge following a conviction.

THE GRAND LODGE

I – Similarities with Lodge Government

In several respects, some of the characteristics already discussed will apply in an examination of the Grand Lodge. Obvious similarities include the use of rules of order, and the process of the Masonic trial. As the reader will discover in subsequent paragraphs, there are a few differences in the government of the Grand Lodge as compared to that of the subordinate Lodges.

II – Republican, or Representative, Legislature

The Grand Lodge is a representative body, rather similar in nature to that of the Congress of the United States. The Grand Lodge, as a legislative body, has the authority to debate and make decisions on the fate of proposal legislation. The similarity with Congress blurs, however, when one closely examines the composition of this representative body. First, it is a unicameral assembly whereas the Congress is bicameral with a Senate and a House. Also, and though not specifically named (or) operating as such, there are three distinct groups, or houses, within the main body of the Grand Lodge.

These three houses sit in the Grand Lodge as one body and all legislative activity is conducted in the presence of that one body. The differences lie in how the three houses are chosen. The first house consists of over nine-hundred democratically elected representatives from the subordinate Lodges. Each Lodge has three and these are the Master and two Wardens, each with a vote. The second house consists of those elected by the Grand Lodge itself. These are the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, the two Grand Wardens, Grand Treasurer, Grand Secretary, and Grand Chaplain. Thirty District Deputy Grand Masters, appointed by the Grand Master, comprise the third house. The serious student of this subject will undoubtedly be reminded of the selection process of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in the parliament of the United Kingdom.

III - Parliamentary

The Grand Lodge has some characteristics of a parliament in that the chief executive, the Grand Master, is selected by the Grand Lodge rather than by democratic election involving the entire Craft. He, along with most of the other Grand Lodge officers, must be a member or former member of the Grand Lodge in order to be eligible to hold the position. The reader can again examine the parliament of the United Kingdom, and the process by which it selects its Prime Minister, to find a system that is comparable to that used in the Grand Lodge.

The chief executives in most parliamentary governments are notoriously limited in powers since they are dependent upon the support of the parliament that selected them. As will be examined further, this is absolutely not the case with regards to the position of the Grand Master and, thus, the similarity with a parliamentary system ends.

IV – Monarchial

As with the Master of a Lodge, the Grand Master is elected for a specified term has the authority of an elected monarch or sovereign. The prerogatives inherent to his high office include the ability to take summary judicial action such as suspending subordinate Lodge Masters, arresting the jewels of subordinate Grand Officers, and suspending the operations of subordinate Lodges. He may also make decisions in order to preserve order in the Fraternity, from which there is no appeal. The Grand Master can order extra assemblies of the Grand Lodge at his will and pleasure and make unilateral legislative decisions in the absence of the Grand Lodge, though these legislative decisions may be reviewed by the Grand Lodge when it next convenes.

He also has the right to preside over any assembly within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge, including subordinate Lodges. The Grand Master cannot be impeached, subject to a vote of no confidence, nor can he be brought before a Masonic trial while in office.

V - The Judicial System

As in subordinate Lodges, no separate judicial branch permanently exists and the process of the Masonic trial is, for all intents, identical in the Grand Lodge as in the subordinate Lodges. As discussed in the previous section, the Grand Master has certain judicial powers related to his role as a monarch.

Unlike in subordinate Lodges, however, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge have the authorities and duties to review legislative decisions, including those made in the subordinate Lodges, for constitutionality and to interpret the Constitution and Code of the Grand Lodge.

The Grand Master has the power to issue legal opinions and decisions as he deems necessary. His opinions are not official and are not subject to the review of the Grand Lodge. His decisions, once approved by the Grand Lodge, enjoy more authority but still do not have the same power as the written law.

Acting very much like the Supreme Court of the United States, the Grand Lodge investigates and adjudicates matters of controversy which may arise between subordinate Lodges. It also reviews decisions made by the Grand Master while the Grand Lodge was not is session and makes judicial determinations upon questions of law.

Assisting the Grand Master and Grand Lodge in matters of legislative review, legal decisions, and judicial determinations is the Committee on Jurisprudence. This Committee, appointed by the Grand Master, serves in a role that could be described as similar as that of the Attorney General of the United States.

SUMMARY

To the unaccustomed, Masonic government can almost seem chaotic due to the different types of governmental systems utilized and the variety of roles the same governmental participants can assume. In the opinion of this author, however, it is a beautiful, flowing, and adaptable system that has served the Fraternity well for centuries. It has, in fact, outlived many models used by the nations of the world. There is no reason to believe that this Masonic system will not continue to promote the progress, while maintaining the harmony, of the greatest Fraternity in the world for many centuries to come.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

South Carolina Masonic Research Society Symposium and Banquet

The Society is proud to announce the first South Carolina Masonic Research Society Symposium and Banquet, which will be held on April 22, 2011 at 7:00 PM in the Omar Shrine Temple, 176 Patriots Point Street, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina 29464. The cost is $25.00 per person and this will be a formal or semi-formal dress event. A catered meal will be provided.

The keynote speaker will be Brother Michael A. Halleran, author of The Better Angels of our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War and editor of the Scottish Rite Research Society’s Plumbline. Halleran is a freelance writer and a practicing attorney in the Flint Hills of East-Central Kansas. A lecturer at Emporia State University, he is also an active Freemason, belonging to both Emporia Lodge No. 12, AF&AM, and Mount Zion Lodge No. 266, AF&AM, Topeka, Kansas. Halleran received the Mackey Award for Excellence in Masonic Scholarship by the Scottish Rite Research Society for his article on Civil War Freemasonry in that society’s journal: Heredom, vol. 14 (2006). In addition, he is the author of a regular column for The Scottish Rite Journal. He is a member of the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, and the Scottish Rite Research Society where he studies American military Masonry and the traditions of military lodges worldwide. See: http://michaelhalleran.com/

This will not be a tiled event and you are encouraged to invite your non-Mason friends and family members – especially those that have an interest in history. Your Society’s officers look forward to seeing you at this quality event which will be filled with first class education and fellowship.

/s/
Grayson W. Mayfield, III DDGM
Second Vice President, SCMRS

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2010 Southeastern Conference of Grand Masters

The 50th anniversary of the annual Southeastern Masonic Conference will take place 5-6 August 2010 at the Charleston - Mount Pleasant Holiday Inn, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The hotel is located at 250 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 29464.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wisdom, Union, Strength

The Seal of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina contains three simple words – Wisdom, Union, and Strength. “Wisdom = Union = Strength” is a phrase often included on documents of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons. I do not presume to be able to read minds and I – therefore – do not know exactly why these three words were chosen to be included in the Seal and serve as a motto of sorts for the Grand Lodge. Let us first examine the historical facts.

In 1807, there existed two Grand Lodges in South Carolina – the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons. Members of the former are often referred to as the “Moderns” while those of the latter are called the “Ancients.” This situation had existed since at least 1787 – or 1783, if one notes the first public mention of Ancient York lodges in South Carolina. At no time did either of these Grand Lodges ever recognize the other as being legitimate. Some Masonic writers have claimed that there was legal visitation between the two bodies, but the historical evidence begs to differ. Albert G. Mackey noted…
Just before the union, Lodge No. 8, an Ancient York Lodge, expelled one of its members for having visited a Lodge of the Moderns, and although this might tend to prove that the Ancients sometimes visited the Moderns, it shows that such visitations were not considered as legal, and that of course there was no reciprocation on the part of the Ancient Yorks, who always strenuously refused to admit the Moderns to visit their Lodges.
When Mackey referenced the union, he was referring to the Union of 1808 – sometimes called the First Union – which briefly united the two Grand Lodges. Mackey went on to state…
It must be confessed, however, the Modern Masons do not appear to have acted with the same scrupulous consistency, and it is possible, or even probable, that they sometimes admitted the Ancients to visit them. But this was certainly in violation of the regulations of their Grand Lodge, and the principles for which they contended when they declared the Ancient Masons to be irregular.
Attempts to create a union between the two grand bodies began in 1807. In September 1808, both Grand Lodges adopted the Articles of Union and – on 17 December 1808 – they met in a joint communication to elect the officers of the “United Grand Lodge.” This united body was formally styled as the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. This First Union began to unravel the very next month – in January 1809. On 3 May 1809, the Ancient York Grand Lodge was revived and the First Union partially collapsed. In 1816, procedures were again put into motion with a goal of uniting the two Grand Lodges. On 26 December 1817, these efforts resulted in the Second Union – the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina – which exists to this day.

An interesting aspect of the process that led to both of the unions is that it never included recognition or discussion of possible recognition between the two Grand Lodges. In other words, the Grand Lodges went straight from considering each other as irregular and – therefore – unrecognized to a state of unification. And this brings us back to the title of this article.

It is my personal belief that the South Carolina Masons of 1808 and 1817 had the foresight and Wisdom to contrive a Union because they knew that was the only way to fully give Strength to the Fraternity in the Grand Jurisdiction of South Carolina.

Note: All historical quotations and information are from: Mackey, Albert G., M.D., The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Steam Power Press, 1861.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Origins of Memorial Day and a Masonic Connection

Despite the fact that President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, declared the birthplace and birth date of Memorial Day to be Waterloo, New York, on 5 May 1866 – there remains much mystery and variety of opinions concerning the actual first observance of what is now known as Memorial Day. It may come as a shock to some to learn that the origins of the day may have actually been of primarily Southern and Confederate invention. There are recorded observances of some sort of days of remembrance in such places as Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; and Richmond, Virginia – all taking place in 1866. The one in Columbus, Mississippi, was recorded as taking place on 25 April 1866 when women decorated the graves of Confederate – and later – Union soldiers.

In all likelihood, Memorial Day was probably born from several events that took place in the North and South. Several Southern states still observe Memorial Days specifically set aside to honor their Confederate dead.

John A. Logan gets primary credit for institutionalizing Memorial Day. A Union Major General – Logan, as national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed a day of remembrance for 30 May 1868. Logan was a Master Mason from Illinois, having been raised in Mitchell Lodge No. 85 in Pinckneyville, Illinois, well before the beginning of the War Between the States.

Regardless of the origins of this day – let us all pause, reflect, and honor the memories of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

References:

1. Denslow, William R. with foreword by Truman, Harry S., 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z, Part Two, Reprinted from the Transactions of the Missouri Lodge of Research, pp. 99-100.
2. SUVCW and Merchant, David, Memorial Day History. http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html (Accessed May 31, 2010)
3. United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day History. http://www1.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp (Accessed May 31, 2010)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book: The Lodge of Washington and Its Past Masters

The Lodge of Washington and Its Past Masters
By Donald M. Robey

Published 2008 by Anchor Communications, LLC
(http://www.goanchor.com/); Lancaster, VA 22502. Hard Cover, 200 pgs, 8-1/2 X 11 with Color Dust Jacket.; $30.00 plus $3.89 S&H.

Donald M. Robey, Past Grand Master of Masons of Virginia, has compiled a detailed book concerning the historical Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22. This book should be of interest to even those outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia due to connections that many Masons feel with one of this old lodge’s early Masters – George Washington.

See http://www.aw22.org/documents/Lodge_of_Washington.pdf for a review of the book and ordering instructions. Note: As of 6 April 2010, the total price – including shipping – is $33.89 according to correspondence received by me from the author.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Commentary: Should All Good Men Be Made Masons?

“Freemasonry: Making Good Men Better” is an often seen and heard phrase that is intended to wrap up the core purpose of Freemasonry into a nice, neat slogan. It is not a bad slogan, but does it go far enough? Does it really separate Freemasonry from other organizations and paths that can accomplish the very same thing? Most would agree that religion can better a good man. Very often, marriage can cause a good man to become something even better. Freemasonry does not have a monopoly on the business of making good men better.

I submit that the core purpose of Freemasonry is to make good men – not only into better men – but into Masons. Here is where we arrive at the question posed in the title of this commentary. Should all good men be made Masons? Better yet – Should all good men be eligible to be made Masons? And even further – Are all good men capable of understanding Freemasonry?

Short of the most obvious of qualifications – being a man, of proper age, of satisfactory physical wholeness, with a belief in a Supreme Being – the moral qualification (ie: being a good man) has become the primary consideration exhibited by some Freemasons and some lodges when examining the qualifications of a petitioner and even the Masonic value of an existing member. If a Mason is defined simply as a member of a regular and recognized lodge, all good men are eligible to be made Masons. The missing and often overlooked qualification, however, is that of the mental or intellectual.

It is the proper attention to the mental qualifications of men that has elevated Freemasonry above the many social organizations and fraternities that exist throughout the world. Without these qualifications, a man is unable to participate in what lies behind what it means to be a Freemason. He is unable to embark on a journey of enlightenment – the search for truth and knowledge. He is not capable of recognizing the importance and beauty of the simple structure of Freemasonry. He is unable to learn, understand, or use the rituals and lessons of the Fraternity as a springboard to appreciation of the esoteric truths hidden within. It should go without saying that a man does not have to be the next Einstein, Sagan, or Mackey to meet the necessary mental qualifications. He does, however, need to possess the capability – and desire – to expand his intellectual inventory as relates to what Freemasonry offers.

Though possibly lacking the mental qualifications as described thus far – there are men that have been described as “good Masons” because they are always available and willing to do such things as fry fish for a fundraiser, cut the grass on the lodge grounds, and participate in building maintenance or cleaning projects. These are probably good men and should be respected as such. But are they practicing Freemasonry or are they Masons in name only? Bear in mind that most all of these same tasks can be accomplished by a day laborer for hire. There is certainly nothing wrong with a Mason rolling up his sleeves and providing the necessary labor for the benefit of his lodge, but – if that is all he is capable of – he is not a practicing Freemason. He is a drone. Albert G. Mackey foresaw the danger of these types of Masons in 1875. He described them as…
…those that believe all of the Masonic teachings are imparted by their initiations into the various degrees.

Such Masons are distinguished, not by the amount of knowledge that they possess, but by the number of jewels that they wear. They will give fifty dollars for a decoration, but not fifty cents for a book.

These men do great injury to Masonry. They have been called its drones. But they are more than that. They are the wasps, the deadly enemy of the industrious bees. They set a bad example to the younger Masons – they discourage the growth of masonic literature – they drive the intellectual men, who would be willing to cultivate masonic science, into other fields of labor – they depress the energies of our writers – and they debase the character of Speculative Masonry as a branch of mental and moral philosophy.

The Masons who do not read will know nothing of the interior beauties of Speculative Masonry, but will be content to suppose it to be something like Odd Fellows, or the Order of the Knights of Pythias – only, perhaps, a little older. Such a Mason must be an indifferent one. He has laid no foundation for zeal.

If this indifference, instead of being checked, becomes more widely spread, the result is too apparent. Freemasonry must step down from the elevated position which she has been struggling, through the efforts of her scholars, to maintain, and our lodges, instead of becoming resorts for speculative and philosophical thought, will deteriorate into social clubs or mere benefit societies.1
The acceptance of these types of men into the Ancient Fraternity of Freemasonry does a disservice to the individual man by creating the false impression that he is something that – in all practicality – he is not. It also weakens his lodge and Freemasonry in general since he now has become an example to the profane world and to new Masons. Not all good men are capable of understanding Freemasonry and – therefore – not all good men should be made Masons.

ADDED on 19 September 2010: See also - Should All Good Men be Made Masons? - Revisited.

1. Mackey, Albert G., Reading Masons and Masons Who Do Not Read, Voice of Masonry, June 1875.

Related posts:
Oh, How the Times Never Change
The Life Cycles and Personalities of Lodges

Monday, May 17, 2010

Next Meeting of the South Carolina Masonic Research Society

The next meeting of the South Carolina Masonic Research Society (SCMRS) is scheduled for 12 June 2010, 11:00 AM, in the Charleston Masonic Center located at 1285 Orange Grove Road, Charleston, South Carolina.

From the President of the SCMRS: "One important item of business for the society that we will be discussing is the possibility of our first annual Masonic Research Society Symposium and Banquet. A committee was formed at our last meeting and they will be reporting their finding. They have been in contact with a nationally recognized Masonic author and are in the process of pricing out some venues where this event could take place. This will be a very nice, catered event if we can work out the details and get the support of the members."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Life Cycles and Personalities of Lodges

Lodges have life cycles. They always have and always will. Lodges are born, they grow, they mature, they develop a personality, they become old, some marry (merge with another lodge), and some die. This is the life cycle of a lodge.

All lodges, of course, do not have the same life cycle. Some seem to live almost forever while others pass away while still very young. There are many factors that impact a lodge’s life cycle. Many of these factors come from the profane world and lodges are unable to resist those types of outside influences. Changing community demographics, local economic situations, and even natural disasters can and do influence the life cycle of a lodge.

The one factor that can be controlled by a lodge is its personality. As already mentioned, lodges do develop personalities – just like a person does. A lodge’s personality is developed and changed over long periods of time. Each new member of a lodge adds to the fabric of a lodge’s personality and – maybe more importantly – absorbs the existing personality of the lodge of which he has become a member.

The tough thing for a lodge is the ability – or inability – to recognize how its own personality is influencing its life cycle. Is the personality promoting or hindering a long, productive life cycle? Some often seen lodge personalities can be grouped into the following general categories.

1) The education based personality: Lodges with this type of personality tend to understand and appreciate the beauty of the lessons, structure, and rules of Freemasonry – or at least hunger to learn about those things. The core personality involves the promotion of Masonic education. These lodges usually are growing or are at least stable when it comes to membership numbers. They also usually have good, consistent attendance at the various meetings and events of the lodge. Its members typically look, act, and talk in a way that exemplifies the elevated status that Freemasonry has enjoyed.

2) The social club personality: Lodges that have developed this type of personality often have many members that are more interested in making new members – as opposed to making new Masons – and show little interest in learning about the beauty of the lessons, structure, and rules of Freemasonry. It is often found in these types of lodges that there is a much more relaxed interpretation of the rules and expectations of the Order. Poor attendance often plagues these lodges and there is usually much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth when it comes to the subject of deteriorating membership rolls. From these lodges, one will find – as Albert G. Mackey put it in 1875 – many men who “will give fifty dollars for a decoration, but not fifty cents for a book.”

3) The life support personality: Lodges in both of the previous categories can reach this point. The lodges in the first category can reach it because of the uncontrollable influences of the outside world and the second category lodges can reach it because of their own personality and/or because of the outside influences. The results are the same, however. These are the lodges that are at the end of their life cycle but have failed to adequately and calmly prepare for the end. Everything they do revolves around keeping the lodge alive. These lodges – however well-intentioned – are often dangerous. They are desperate and will do just about anything to survive. They often fail to adequately guard the West Gate when they get the rare petition and they are typically the type of lodge that continuously reaches out to the profane community to pay their bills by way of fundraisers.

There are certainly variations and intermingling of the lodge personalities just described. In other words, there are lodges that possess both the first and second personalities. A question that Masons should ask themselves from time to time is “what is the personality of my lodge and how is it influencing its life cycle?”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Wearing Gold and Purple

On 23 April 2010, during the 273rd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, the Grand Master saw fit to give me another year to attempt to get it right by reappointing me to the position of District Deputy Grand Master for the Fourth Masonic District. For those unfamiliar with the district structure of South Carolina, the Fourth District covers the deep Lowcountry of the State – Beaufort, Hampton, and Jasper Counties. Traveling too far to the South or East in this district will cause one to get wet in either the Savannah River or the Atlantic Ocean.

At the time I was first appointed as a District Deputy Grand Master, I reflected on the honor that goes along with such an appointment. During the past year, I have learned that I was rather wrong to look at it in such a manner. Along with the honor of the position comes great responsibility. "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required..." (Luke 12:48a)

For more on the position of District Deputy Grand Master, see:

District Deputy Grand Master - Origin of the Position
and
District Deputy Grand Master - Revisited

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joseph Brevard Kershaw – From the Beginning to the End of the Confederacy

Joseph B. Kershaw, son of John Kershaw and Harriet DuBose, was born on 5 January 1822 in Camden, South Carolina, the site of the famous Revolutionary War battlefield where the first subject of this article, Mordecai Gist, made his fame (See: Mordacai Gist - The Rock at Camden). This, combined with the fact that he came from a military lineage, most certainly influenced Kershaw’s decisions concerning a vocation in the military.

Both of the families of Kershaws and Duboses were represented by more than one member, either in the Continentals or the State troops, during the War of the Revolution, Joseph Kershaw, the most prominent of them, and the grand father of the subject of this sketch, having lost his fortune in his efforts to maintain the patriot cause.

No analysis of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 is complete without an inclusion of the activities of Kershaw’s Brigade on the second day of that great battle. Although Confederate General Joseph B. Kershaw saw action before and after July 1863, he is largely remembered for his pivotal role in the fighting on 2 July 1863.

Kershaw was a lawyer in civilian life and had military service prior to the War Between the States as a Lieutenant in the Palmetto Regiment, which saw service in the Mexican War. He was a member of the South Carolina State Legislature and an active participant in the Secession Convention which led to South Carolina’s dissolution of the Union. He immediately raised a regiment, soon to be known as the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, which saw service early in the war during the bombardment of Fort Sumter and at the Battle of First Manassas, or First Bull Run, on 21 July 1861.

Several battles later, and as a Brigadier General, Kershaw found himself in command of a brigade of South Carolinians in Major General Lafayette McLaw’s division at the Battle of Gettysburg in early July 1863. His brigade was involved in the awful fighting in and around the now famous Wheat Field, Peach Orchard, and Rose Farm on 2 July 1863. Kershaw’s experiences at Gettysburg are forever visible to researchers and the curious since he provided some of the greatest details of the campaign of any of the Confederate commanders in his reports. Kershaw reports,
In a few minutes after my line halted, the enemy advanced across the wheat-field in two lines of battle, with a very small interval between the lines, in such a manner as to take the Seventh South Carolina in flank. I changed the direction of the right wing of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel [Elbert] Bland, to meet the attack, and hurried back to General Semmes, then some 150 yards in my right rear, to bring him up to meet the attack on my right, and also to bring forward my right regiment (Fifteenth South Carolina, Colonel De Saussure), which, separated from the command by the artillery at the time of the advance, was now cut off by Semmes' brigade. Its gallant and accomplished commander had just fallen when I reached it, and it was under the command of Major [William M.] Gist. General Semmes promptly responded to my call, and put his brigade in motion toward the right, preparatory to moving to the front. I hastened back to the Seventh Regiment, and reached it just as the enemy, having arrived at a point about 200 yards from us, poured in a volley and advanced to the charge. The Seventh received him handsomely, and long kept him in check in their front. One regiment of Semmes' brigade came at a double-quick as far as the ravine in our rear, and for a time checked him in their front. There was still an interval of 100 yards between this regiment and the right of the Seventh, and into this the enemy was forcing his way, causing the Seventh to swing back more and more, still fighting at a distance not exceeding 30 paces, until the two wings were doubled on each other, or nearly so.
The observant reader will notice the names of relatives of Generals Gist and Desaussure in Kershaw’s report. Kershaw was not always the producer of detailed battle reports, however, and he incurred the wrath of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard early on in the war. Author Larry Tagg wrote,
-- Kershaw irritated commanding general Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard by writing a self-promoting article for a South Carolina newspaper. Beauregard later referred to him as “that militia idiot.” After Beauregard was transferred away from the Virginia army, Kershaw took command of a brigade in January 1862 when its previous commander, Brig. Gen. Milledge Bonham, resigned in a huff over a seniority dispute. Two weeks later Kershaw was promoted to brigadier general.
It seems that Kershaw learned his lesson well. Kershaw would go on to command a division and achieve the rank of Major General before being captured at Saylor’s Creek, Virginia, three days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Kershaw is undoubtedly one of the few Confederate Generals to see the beginning and the end of the War Between the States.

Kershaw was a Master Mason in what is now known as Kershaw Lodge No. 29, Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, and served as the Grand Master of Masons in South Carolina in 1873 - 1874. After the War; Kershaw returned to the legal profession, became a Circuit Judge, was a member of the South Carolina State Senate, and was the Postmaster in his native town of Camden. He died on 13 April 1894.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

North Bound

The 273rd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons will take place on 22 and 23 April 2010. At o'dark thirty in the morning, I will be north bound for the Communication in the capital of the Palmetto State.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dues vs. Fundraisers

See: http://www.scgrandlodgeafm.org/Essays/gm201004.htm

A Grand Master addresses the subject...

My Brethren,

While visiting a Lodge I heard the Worshipful Master ask for ideas concerning fundraisers for their Lodge. I was very tempted to blurt out, “Raise your dues!” We need to get away from fundraisers to pay our Lodge expenses. Instead, we need to know how much our dues need raising in order to cover the Lodge expenses and then have some extra on hand. Fundraising should always be for special events such as assisting a member in distress or someone in the community. Fundraising can also be to purchase needed equipment or furnishings around the Lodge. However, it should never be to pay the Lodge’s routine expenses. Our paychecks are what we use to pay our personal expenses and in like manner, our dues, which are the Lodge’s paychecks, need to pay our Lodge's expenses.

I have heard the naysayers and pundits shout, “But if we raise the dues we will lose a lot of members.” Let’s look at that situation a moment. Assume your Lodge has one hundred members and your dues are $50. Assuming all members pay their dues, your Lodge today is receiving $5000 for the year. Not much, is it? Moreover, you have not yet subtracted out Grand Lodge dues. Now, suppose your Lodge conducts a thorough study and determines it needs to raise the dues to $100 a member to cover all expenses plus give it some breathing room. This now gives your lodge $10,000 to work with for a whole year. However, several members now say they will have to drop their membership because their dues are too high. We will say twenty members out of the one hundred, to give us round figures. If indeed you were to lose one fifth of your membership, your income is still $3000 more than it was before the increase. Brethren, I do not believe you would lose that many members, if you were to raise your dues to cover expenses and give your Lodge some extra money with which to work. If a Brother wants to remain a member, he will do what it takes to stay. Those who claim they cannot pay should go through a thorough investigation and placed on Masonic Relief, if indeed, they do qualify and need it. Yet, after a proper investigation has been conducted, I sincerely believe the number would be fewer than expected.

In 1950, if your Lodge dues were $10, the equivalent of that in 2008, according to the Consumer Price Index, is $89.41. Your Lodge today needs more than $90 per member for the same purchasing power it had 60 years ago. That is why we must raise our Lodge dues. Our dues cannot be lingering in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s or even in the ‘90s. They need to be equal to present day prices.

Let’s stop cheapening our Fraternity. Each Lodge within our Grand Jurisdiction needs to take a hardline look at its dues. “Our Focus is on Quality” and if we want to do more than merely survive, if we want to attract quality men and do more than wear down a very select few of our dedicated hard working Brethren until there is nothing left of them, then we need to stop fundraisers to pay our expenses and raise our dues.

As you strive to raise your Lodge dues to a proper level, you will most likely meet with resistance. After all, your Lodge dues have not kept pace with the economy for a long time and it is going to sting and hurt a bit, but we know that going through a tough situation makes us stronger on the other side. It may even take several tries to raise your dues so always keep in mind, along with prayer “that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things.”

Brethren, when you receive this issue of the Masonic Light, our 273rd Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina will almost be upon us. I look forward to you joining the Grand Lodge officers and being a part of the deliberations of your Grand Lodge. See you in Columbia.

May God continue to bless America and our great Fraternity and may the blessings of Heaven rest upon you and your families.

Fraternally,

Barry A. Rickman
Grand Master

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Judging Freemasonry by Her Enemies

Freemasons are well aware that there are people on this planet that dislike the world’s oldest Fraternity. By examining those that dislike Freemasonry, one can come to a rather safe judgment about the organization. The enemies of Freemasonry – yes, Freemasons have enemies – can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group frowns upon the Fraternity out of ignorance or misinformation. The second dislikes Freemasonry because it knows something about the Fraternity. The first group tends to cause inconvenience or minor irritation for Masons. The second group can be dangerous to those in the Brotherhood. Both categories of Masonophobes always run up against two ideas that Masons hold dear – truth and liberty.

Those that dislike Freemasonry due to ignorance or misinformation are most often the people that base their feelings on supposed religious grounds. The most heard argument from these people goes like this: “Freemasonry is a religion that teaches a false path to salvation.” To back up their false claim – they point to such things as the use of prayer in Masonic lodges, the use of words like “Worshipful” when Masons address the Master of a lodge, and many outlandish activities that just do not exist within the Freemasonic fraternity. This group often publishes their unfounded opinions on the Internet, where others sometimes read and believe the misinformation.

Yes – Freemasonry requires its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but that is about the extent of the Fraternity’s involvement in a man’s spiritual life. A man’s faith, as far as Freemasonry is concerned, is left between that man and the Almighty. His church, synagogue, or other place of worship is the place for him to pursue his relationship with his Maker. The lodge is not the place for that. Freemasons do offer up prayers at their meetings – guilty as charged. Just prior to the next race at Daytona International Speedway and the next session of the Supreme Court of the United States, prayers will also be offered up. It would be rather silly to assume that NASCAR and the Supreme Court are religions. As for the word “Worshipful,” these types of detractors do not understand the historical application of the word. It is simply a term of respect.
Worshipful - British. a formal title of honor used in announcing or mentioning certain highly regarded or respected persons or groups. Source: Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worshipful (accessed: September 27, 2009).
Freemasonry is not a religion and it never has been. Seekers of truth or knowledge – as Freemasons are – know this fact. However, there is a much more sinister group than the folks that dislike Freemasonry simply out of ignorance. The second group consists of the dictators, tyrants, and extremists of the world. Here one finds the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Franco, and Ahmadinejad.

The Nazis of Germany rounded up Freemasons in a similar manner as they did people of the Jewish faith. Lodge temples were confiscated and – after supporting props were added – turned into tourist attractions designed to show the “evils” of Freemasonry. The Communists of the former Soviet Union were no less brutal in their treatment of Freemasons. There, Freemasonry was outlawed and many a Freemason met the same fate as their German Brethren. The fascist government of Franco in Spain spent years confiscating the property of individual Freemasons as well as imprisoning and executing many of them. In Franco’s Spain, sometimes just being accused of being a Freemason was a death sentence. To this day, tyrants and radical Islamic governments declare Freemasonry to be illegal. Masonic membership in those types of places – if discovered – can be very dangerous. The Grand Lodge of Iran, for example, exists only because it is in exile in California.

Now why do the likes of Hitler, Franco, Stalin, and Iran’s Ahmadinejad dislike Freemasonry so much? It is because they fear it. They know enough about Freemasonry to understand that Freemasons value truth and liberty – and have always been promoters of those lofty ideas. Truth and liberty are not compatible with tyranny and injustice.

Viewed by examining her enemies – whether they are the ignorant or the ruthless – Freemasonry sure comes out looking pretty good.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Recommended - Crown of Serpents

I do not normally read anything that can be described as Masonic fiction and am one of the two Masons in the world that have not read Dan Brown's books. Michael Karpovage’s Crown of Serpents was sent to me, however, for a possible book review and I really enjoyed it. The book review that resulted has been submitted for consideration for publication by a well-known Masonic research society.

In the meantime, I recommend this book. See: http://www.crownofserpents.com/ for more information.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rules of Order - Additional Information

See First: Rules of Order and Harmony

For an additional, detailed examination of this subject - I recommend Robert's Rules of Order: Masonic Edition. Revised and Edited by Michael R. Poll, 2005 & 2007, Cornerstone Book Publishers, Lafayette, Louisiana.

See also: http://www.cornerstonepublishers.com/rro.html

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rules of Order and Harmony

Well regulated institutions all have certain rules of order in place to facilitate their meetings and conduct of business. Simply put – rules of order provide a framework for meetings that, if properly subscribed to, ensures that deliberations do not fall into chaos and the harmony between the attendees of the event is thus preserved. Freemasonry is no different in this aspect and may potentially possess a more rigid set of rules of order than most other organizations.

In South Carolina, the Constitution and Code of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons – along with the by-laws of the individual lodges – provide rather detailed rules of order and an order of business. Everything from how motions are handled, to who can address who, to how many times an individual may speak on a subject are addressed. The authority of the presiding officer – normally the Master of the lodge – is also rather well spelled out. Anyone somewhat familiar with parliamentary rules would recognize the general structure of the rules of order used by the Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina.

As already alluded to, an adherence to these rules of order makes it almost impossible for members present at a Masonic communication to become embroiled in arguments within the confines of the meeting. These rules can easily be viewed as a version of the due bounds that Masons are so familiar with and – by staying within these due bounds – harmony has very little choice but to prevail.

Note for members of A.F.M. of S.C.: Reference Articles 148-158 of the Constitution and Sections 82-83 of the Code as contained within the 2007 Edition of the Ahiman Rezon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

March 2010 Meeting of the SCMRS

The next meeting of the South Carolina Masonic Research Society will be on 20 March 2010, 11 AM, at Pacific Lodge No. 325 in Columbia, South Carolina. WB Layne Waters will conduct the educational portion of the meeting. He will be doing a power point presentation on the Knights Templar. Discussion of the First Annual SCMRS Scholars Banquet will also take place.

See: The March 2010 edition of The SCMRS Floor.