Open source Freemasonry.

I ran across an article today from NewAssignment.Net buy Eric Krangel. That article talked about the relatively new idea of open source religion, and how it is starting to gain some traction in a society fast loosing its interest in dictated dogma. Perhaps it’s not a loss of interest in dogma, but in a change in where that dogma comes from.

Enter open source religion.

For those not familiar with the phrase, wikipedia says that:

Open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials – typically its source code – allowing users to create user-generated software content. Some consider it a philosophy, and others consider it a pragmatic methodology.

When you translate that to religious practices, you get open source religion, where the practioner can take from the open examples and build on that “source code” to create new understandings and, perhaps, over time, changing the inherent message in the doctrine.

Mentioned in Krangel’s article, take a look at the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn. From their site:

“the essence of the Golden Dawn constitutes “mysteries,” and insofar as they are valid they transcend culture, every time the culture shifts, the Mysteries must be “rediscovered” — which is to say they must be re-cast into a form that has the desired effect of Initiation and Exaltation on practitioners belonging to the new culture.”

What this group has done is make available all of the ritual, practices, ceremonies and degrees of the Golden Dawn available to anyone interested. The catch here is that it isn’t being distributed by someone seeking to defame the teachings, instead it acknowledges what they are doing, openly presents the info, and welcomes comments, saying “Our solution is not to destroy the old traditions, but to make them new again.”

I use the Golden Dawn example here, as originally it was an outgrowth from Freemasonry, an extension of the lineage of non-traditional western thought.

But how does this Open Source idea square with Freemasonry? I think the principal is very unique, and one that is remarkably already a part of its practice. If you look at Freemasonry as an institution, there is little rigid dogma, which consists of certain landmarks unique to each state (or country). Around those landmarks, codes and edicts are written to govern the body, but inherently, those landmarks are the basis of the practice. Even the catechism is unique and little changed in the past several hundred years, but in truth they have changed. The changes seem to me to be adaptations to the language of the age in which they are performed, but they still stand as changes. But is this open source?

The truest sense of an open source Freemasonry is the open interpretation of the Masonic rituals and degrees. I could go on and on about the manifold interpretations, and the nuances in them but that has been done in this space and in others. No, the open understanding of the fraternity is its greatest resource, and regrettably it’s weakest.

The openness of the craft is often misinterpreted as a rigid dogma in its own right, that it is immutable, timeless and eternal, that change is impossible. But from our own history we can see that this is not the case. Even in our own membership rolls, especially in this country, change isn’t only inevitable but necessary to morally rectify itself and come in line with the social climate. In many areas it has change, in others it has not.

I doubt many today can credibly refute Darwin‘s assertion that “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Perhaps an open source approach is an interesting way we as masons can look to the East for the dawning of the new age. Open source is an interesting take on the theme of Universal brotherhood. Perhaps an open source interpretation is what the fraternity needs.

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~ by Greg on January 17, 2007.

One Response to “Open source Freemasonry.”

  1. Very nice! I had actually just posted on Open Source Religion over at my technical blog, and I have extensively enjoyed the information made available by the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn as well.

    As far as Open Source Masonry goes, I think the principles taught are less important (it clearly teaches Open Life), as well as whether or not they have progressed (they have), but rather the methodology in how the teachings are developed.

    To be open source, it would be necessary that the lectures or perhaps even the ritual be able to be “forked”, evaluated on a local level, and if they changes found valid and good, to be deposited into the original project for the benefit of everyone else.

    Obviously, this creates major problems considering the secrecy necessary in Masonry, and the adherence to Landmarks which basically make Masonry into a proprietary, closed source project.

    The idea is still worth some reflection. In a perfect world, we could perhaps have an experimental Lodge in cooperation with the Grand Lodge system, which Master Masons could belong to that does not bring in new candidates for Masonry but instead develops the work for the benefit of existing Master Masons.

    Open Source is cool, but one of the good things about Masonry is that it joins good men from all ages into a common brotherhood. This creates the need for Landmarks, to ensure that the experience stays common (not in the sense of non-extraordinary, but in the sense of the same for everyone.)

    In short, I support both ideas but they would have to be developed separately. Each serves a good purpose.

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