THE POLITICS OF FREEMASONRY

Reprinted from Freemason Information

Theodor Seuss Geisel, 1904-1991

THE POLITICS OF FREEMASONRY

by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
timb001@phmainstreet.com
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”

“Evil (ignorance) is like a shadow – it has no real substance of it own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it.”

– Shakti Gawain

For a society that is supposed to be devoid of politics, Freemasonry seems to have more than its fair share. We see it in Grand Communications, in Masonic elections, and whenever we walk in the door to a Craft Lodge. Man is by nature a social and political animal fraught with frailties and insecurities such as ambition, jealousy, suspicion, and hate. As Masons, we are taught to subdue our passions and do what is right for Freemasonry collectively, but as long as we have egos, we’ll always have politics. From this perspective, Masons are no different than the members of any other society.

I believe there are a couple of reasons for the rise of politics in Freemasonry; first, there is a general lack of trust and loyalty in today’s society where you are recognized more for rugged individualism as opposed to team effort. Consequently, there is more of a natural inclination to compete as opposed to cooperate. Although the spirit of Freemasonry is to work collectively, many of us have difficulties subduing the attitudes of the outside world when we enter the Lodge.

Second, as our membership declines, many are beginning to panic over the fraternity’s future. And instead of trying to work collectively to change this situation, we are divvying up sides as to who has the true faith to perpetuate the fraternity, the traditionalists or the reformists. Whereas a traditionalist tends to be unbending, the reformist seeks to change the status quo. True, certain traditions need to be observed in Freemasonry, but not at the expense of losing touch with a changing world. But it is this polarization that is fueling the politics of Freemasonry at all levels. The reality, of course, is that we need a careful balance of both traditions and reforms; you simply cannot have one without the other.

For example, consider some of the religions of the world who are considered out of step with the times. Critics scoff at some of their customs and beliefs. But hard-line traditionalists claim they have the true faith and everyone else is an infidel. Reformists, on the other hand, see the traditionalists as barbaric and believe they have a more contemporary perspective on their religion. Politics at this level is about who has the dominant ideologue and seeks control. We see this in government (conservatives versus liberals), religion, and Freemasonry. And it is at this level that politics turns vicious and is at its ugliest. For example, we scheme, plot and undermine in order to subvert and control the environment.

Thanks to the Internet, I hear many tales of woe over what is going on in both Craft and Grand Lodges. Some of it is very disturbing, but most of it comes down to petty politics. A lot of it is so bizarre, it would probably curl your hair. Frankly, I classify most of it under what I call “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Instead of what we should be doing as Freemasons, we tend to play games of one-upmanship.

Masonic politics is typically at its ugliest during elections when Brothers are charged with un-Masonic conduct for “electioneering.” I find this all rather amusing as I believe our process for electing officers is far from perfect. Further, I don’t think I have ever seen a Lodge election where there isn’t some form of politics involved. As a small example, when I was running for the East at my Lodge, there was a full-court press by traditionalists to keep me out (which I overcame). Nevertheless, instead of admitting there is electioneering in Lodges, we pretend it doesn’t exist.

What concerns me more these days is when Masonic politics turns dirty, which I refer to as the “dark-side” of the fraternity and something we do not like to discuss. For example, I know of a Worshipful Master and Treasurer who were removed from office by a Grand Master after they were accused of misappropriating money from a Brother they helped put into a Masonic Home. A couple of Masons from their Lodge, who shared no Brotherly love for the officers, started a campaign to oust the officers over this alleged infraction. First, they were able to bend the ear of the Grand Master who, acting upon their hearsay, removed the Lodge officers. Second, Masonic charges were brought against the former officers who were able to successfully refute them (the Lodge voted to drop the charges). And Third, criminal charges were filed against the officers and a nine month investigation ensued by local police investigators. In the end, the police dropped all of the charges and the Lodge officers were completely exonerated of any wrongdoing. Regardless, they were still ousted by the Grand Master who refused to apologize to the officers for his actions.

Now the big question, “Why was this done?” The accusers had a deep-seated resentment over the Lodge officers who reformed the Lodge and, in the process, overturned some of the Lodge’s traditions, many of which were enacted years ago by the accusers. But instead of confronting the officers with their concerns, they circumvented protocol and went straight to the Grand Master and the police. Bottom-line: this had nothing to do about a Brother being cheated out of anything, but rather a clever ruse to seek retribution for other issues. The result was that the Lodge suffered due to the political upheaval (e.g., members started going to other Lodges), and the officers who, up until now, had unblemished records, saw their Masonic reputations go into the toilet. Even worse, here were two hardworking Masons who became so disenchanted with the fraternity, they left it. All because of politics.

Such stories of Masonic politics makes one wonder why there isn’t a separate judicial branch in Freemasonry to prohibit such shenanigans from happening. Instead, jurisprudence and penal affairs fall under the authority of the Grand Master. Inevitably, I suspect we will be plagued with politics for quite some time.

We join Freemasonry for a lot of different reasons, one of which is that we might find a forum where we will be honestly and fairly treated “on the level.” There is enough contention in the world without having to add another layer. Consequently, politics has an adverse effect on membership and attendance. Want to drive people away from Lodge or inhibit participation? Bring on the politics.

There is an old expression in psychology whereby, “You cannot treat a patient if he doesn’t know he is sick.” Perhaps the best way to address Masonic politics is to stop kidding ourselves that it doesn’t exist. We would all like to believe Freemasonry is above the fray of politics, but we’re not. After all, we’re only human and, as such, politics is a natural part of human life. Once we admit this, we can then devise suitable rules and regulations today’s Masons are more familiar with and promote how to best work and best agree.

Keep the Faith.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and
“FreeMason Information”

Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

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~ by Greg on February 10, 2007.

8 Responses to “THE POLITICS OF FREEMASONRY”

  1. Obama runs for president

  2. Since the 50s the focus of the lodge has become perfection in memorization. IMO this focus on memorization instead of learning the lessons of the degrees is part of whats leading to this unmasonic conduct. The goings on in the GLGA and AL. The comments being made of the southern lodges by northern lodges claiming racism because of the PHA issues, when in many cases the PHA is the one resisting the recognition. What has happened to Freemasonry?

  3. Once I read a paper of Bro. Mircea Eliade about the impact of symbols.
    A symbol – he wrote – has a triple effect: on one’s self (psychology), but also on his manner to approach the transcendent (religion) as well his neighbour (politics).
    Since Freemasonry works with symbols, it is impossible to leave politics out of door.
    Of course, Freemasonry’s politics shall deal with principles, not with programmes.
    To do so, however, Brethren need self-control and discipline, that are the outcome of a long, constant inner-work, which is however missing for most of the members (I say deliberately “members”, since “freemasons” are quite different).
    Giovanni Lombardo

  4. Mircea Eliade is a Mason? Really? I love his stuff! Where did you see that he was a Mason?

    Eric

  5. Have followed the link here from another forum. IMHO the key is at the beginning of the article:

    “… there is a general lack of trust and loyalty in today’s society where you are recognized more for rugged individualism as opposed to team effort.”

    “Rugged individualism” emphasizing separation rather than unity is indeed characteristic of modern North-Western civilisation in general and of its Germanic (including Anglo-Saxon) branch in particular. The most ephemeric appearance, the current individual being, is idolised. In this connexion, one might think about why one speaks in FM about the immortality of the soul (singular), never of the souls (plural).

    Politics in themselves, meaning etymologically “affairs of the city”, thus public affairs, are not necessarily “dirty”. Those who conduct them may be.

    Those who in words and / or deeds believe in “business is business”, “the winner takes all”, etc. are and can never be real FM until they realise that only ++ solutions are viable.

    IMHO the article contains several unresolved dualities. Triads are rare. Not everything non-profane is necessarily religious. Not everything religious is necessarily fundamentalist.

  6. As long as men with little personal accomplishments continue use masonry as a title collecting/status climbing fraternity, there will be no changes, and more rules and edicts implemented to continue the status quo.
    Men need to check their ego’s when entering the Temple.
    Too many ego’s wanting their recognition in masonry.
    shameful

  7. I reckon this is a brilliant article and it says alot of things that have needed to be said for a long time now.

    Cheers

  8. The time has come for all GL to clean up their act, politics starts at the top and filters down to the lodges, is the most recent GL meeting and past years too, the politics of recognition for PH, the politics is so blantent and dont try to cover it up. Its a situation of I will scratch your back if you scratch mine, in most cases the good ole boy system. A strong GM should be able weed out those with politcal ambitions out and get on the with the important matter confronting all of masonry

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