SOME DISTURBING REMINDERS FROM THE ERA OF THE
Bro. William Neil Love, P.G.M. (81-05-23)
for Masonic research are difficult to come by in Alberta. Therefore, this
essay is based entirely on secondary sources - that is, well known and
respected Masonic historians whose integrity has never been suspect and
whose well-researched writings may not be entirely free of honest error but
are certainly worthy of serious consideration.
falls into two halves. The first part deals with the facts of history, and
the source - except where otherwise specified - is culled from the findings
of Brother H. L. Haywood, and which appear mainly in his volume, The
Newly-made mason. The second part deals with the lessons emerging from this
history and their possible application to conditions today. I have chosen
to play the devil's advocate by stating the case for those Brethren who
share the unsettling opinion that the Masons of North America run the risk
of repeating some of our more unfortunate Masonic history. The paper is
consciously provocative, with the intention to spark lively discussion.
members of the Craft might not be familiar with that troubled period in the
17-hundreds referred to by Masons as "The Great Schism". At that time there
occurred a deep division within the fraternity into opposing factions given
the names of "The Moderns" and "The Ancients". The subject has renewed
pertinence because there are many concerned Masons on this continent, and
right here in this jurisdiction of Alberta, who point to trends in our
conduct and activities today that, if unchecked, could lead to a second or
North American "Great Schism". In other words, they feel that unless we are
alert to the symptoms, we may find Masonic history recurring. For it is a
commonly accepted truism, that if we fail to heed the lessons of history, we
may find ourselves obliged to repeat them.
summarize the events leading to the "Great Schism" and their consequences is
no small challenge in itself. No less an author than Joseph Fort Newton
found that the series of schisms within the Order which began in 1725
comprise a very complex period, and often prove both confusing and
bewildering.(1) Certain myths and errors were long perpetuated and went
largely unchallenged until more recent research put them to rest. Historian
H. L. Haywood stated that the full facts, and hence their full significance,
were not discovered until about 1900. Therefore, he warns, one must be wary
of authorities relying on information prior to this date. (2)
1. Newton, The
Builders, p. 198
2. Haywood, The
Newly-made mason, p. 40
Our starting point in these matters is the formation of the
First Grand Lodge in London in 1717 and the publication of Anderson's
Constitutions shortly thereafter. It is well that we note that the founding
of a Grand Lodge was not n any way out of step with established usage and
custom for the time. It was not a sudden and arbitrary act dreamed up by a
few enthusiasts, thereby leaving themselves open to accusation that they
introduced innovation from the very
that nothing is clearer than that the initiative came from the heart of the
order itself, and was in no sense imposed upon it from without . . ." (3) He
stated that the organization of the Grand Lodge, far from being an
innovation much less a revolution - was simply a revival of older and
well-established practices of quarterly and annual assembly, and he quoted
Anderson of Constitutions fame to support his case ". . .'it should meet
Quarterly according to ancient Usage', tradition having by this time become
authoritative in such matters." (4)
Going back even
further, Haywood stated that prior to about 1400's it was established custom
for groups of Masons to gather and constitute themselves a local Lodge to
deal with a particular situation; say, building a church or manor house; and
then to disband when their business had been concluded. It was only in the
fourteen-hundreds that in a few centres permanent Lodges, rather than just
temporary, began to appear, with written charters. In the same manner the
periodic assemblies of Lodges into a "Grand Lodge" evolved naturally into a
perimnent General Assembly in 1717 when it was found to be of some benefit.
Then as now,
changes were indeed taking place with the march of civilization. But it is
well to note that the changes were designed to reinforce timeless
objectives, rather than to weaken them by the introduction of shallow and
abstracting, and potentially dangerous, innovations.
In view of the later divisions within the Craft, it is
perhaps worth noting the social status of the first Grand Lodge Officers.
The incumbants of the offices of the first Grand Master and his two Wardens
were described as simply "a gentleman, a carpenter, and a captain."
According to Newton, beyond these three there is no record of the other
individuals concerned. Nevertheless, we do know that, far from being an
aristocratic body, the first Grand Lodge was democratic in the broadest
sense. ". . . of the four Lodges known to have taken part (in its
formation), only one - that meeting at the Rununer and Grape Tavern - had a
majority of Accepted Masons in its membership; the other three being
Operative Lodges, or largely so." (6)
It was stated,
however, that the first Grand Master was to preside "....'till they should
have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head. (7) Haywood noted that the
desire to have a "Noble Brother" at their head was not an act of snobbery
but followed the custom of societies in the nation to have a sponsor of the
ruling class to act as spokesman in high places. (In fact, about a hundred
years later Queen Victoria herself was to be the Royal Sponsor of
Freemasonry.) Nevertheless, herein lay the seed for future dissent!
op.cit., p. 172
4 Ibid., p. 170
op.cit., pp. 27 & 28
op.cit., p. 27
As a handy
reference for this period, The Pocket History of Freemasonry by Pick and
Knight lacks the exhaustive detail of a more thorough volume of serious
research. There is just not the space for hair-splitting argument and
following up every clue and innuendo. At the same time, by its very
brevity, this reference quickly sorts out the wheat from the chaff and
underlines the key historical points. In discussing the causes of the
"Great Schism", it states "These can be found partly in the slackness and
weak administration of the original governing body at this time . . . and
partly in certain changes in custom and ritual which had been made, some
deliberately. (8) Now, that might have been the understatement of the year,
for those changes in custom and ritual were of such fundamental importance
as to split the Craft asunder.
It all began in
London when a member of the British aristocracy was chosen Grand Master. On
the surface this appears to have been not unusual and perhaps harmless, but
as things were in British society at this time, a chain of consequences was
thereby set up. The Grand Master, chosen from the nobility, naturally
associated with his class equals and tended to fill his appointments to
Grand Lodge with aristocrats.
structure of society was so inflexible at that time, that no man would set
aside the rights and prerogatives of his nobility even as a Grand Master.
(9) Discrimination on grounds of colour or race was less important than
discrimination on grounds of rank. The end result was that ". . . the whole
system of British aristocracy was imported into the Fraternity." (10) The
introduction of that innovation led to further innovation. (By the way, the
term "inovation" might encompass today many of those things some Brethren
refer to as "gimmicks" and "novelties".)
that . . . there was a fear, not unjustified by facts, that the ancient
democracy of the order had been infringed upon by certain acts of the Grand
Lodge of 1717 . . . giving to the Grand Master power to appoint the Wardens.
Nor was that
all. In 1735 it was resolved in the Grand Lodge "that in the future all
Grand Officers (except Grand Master) shall be selected out of that body" -
meaning the Past Grand Stewards. This act was amazing. Already the Craft
had let go its power to elect the wardens, and now the choice of the Grand
Master was narrowed to the ranks of an oligarchy in its worst form - a queer
outcome of Masonic equality. (11)
The Craft had
been captured by a special-interest group, who introduced more innovation
tailored to suit their own needs!
Pick and Knight refer to an abuse in the form of the
illegal sale of constitutions by Lodges operating under the guidance of
these innovators. They cite the example of a certain George Lodge, then No.
3, who saw fit to sell their regalia and ". . . Warrant for thirty guineas
to 'some Honourable Gentlemen Newly Made'." (12) a group whose membership
appears to have been heavily larded with members of the aristocracy. Another
evident bias toward the nobility is revealed by the action of the Committee
of Charity which was charged
8 Pick and
Knight, The Pocket History of Freemasonry, p. 102
op.cit., p. 31
pp. 198 & 199
12 Pick and
Knight, op-cit., p. 113
into this irregularity. Far from correcting the abuse, the Committee saw
fit to legalize it with their ruling that " -. . as a mark of high respect
to his Grace the Duke of Beaufort and the other Noblemen and Honourable
Gentlemen who meet under the name of the Lodge of Friendship . . . the
constitution of No. 3 should remain with them . . . " (13)
It is also
noteworthy that a minority seemed to have an influence in other ways out of
proportion to its numbers. Pick and Knight state that one of those
"Honourable Gentlemen Newly Made" who purchased the Warrant for the new
Lodge named Friendship - one Thomas French - was appointed Grand Secretary a
short year after. A later examination of the records revealed that over a
certain period, out of 20 Grand Wardens recently appointed, no fewer than 13
had come from the ranks of this same Lodge of Friendship."(14)
notwithstanding, Haywood's writings wade more boldly into the controversy by
avoiding hang-ups over details while concentrating on the fundamental trends
and on what he sees as their inevitable results: a deep split in the Craft
between the innovators who came to be called "The Moderns" and a faction who
wished to preserve our tenets and principles pure and unimpaired, calling
themselves "The Ancients".
If any one
individual stands out above the rest in the ensuing struggle, it would be
the champion of the Ancients, Laurence Dermott, who was Grand Secretary of
the Ancients from 1752 to 1771; approximately twenty years.
The History Of
Masonry And Concordant Orders asserts that Dermott, more than any other,
seemed to have been the moving spirit in sustaining this great schism, (15)
is As might be expected, Dermott ". . . has been severely criticized by his
opponents, and Laurie charges him with unfairness in his proceedings against
the Moderns, with treating them bitterly, with quackery, with being
vainglorious of his own pretensions to superior knowledge. (16)
Dr. Mackey, in
his History Of Freemasonry, would seem to have partially agreed when he said
". . . I am afraid there is much truth in this estimate of Dermott's
character. As a polemic, he was sarcastic, bitter, uncompromising, and not
altogether sincere and veracious . . . (17) (Dr. Mackey's writings, it
might be pointed out, appeared well before the turn of the century and
therefore, according to Haywood, are suspect.) If Mackey erred in his
judgment of Dermott, he was in good company. No less a Masonic writer than
R.F. Gould dismissed the man as little more than a house painter with little
education. (18) But Haywood tells us that these descriptions were
ill-considered, to say the least, " . . . because almost nothing was even
known about Dermott when Gould wrote his history. (19)
cannot help but comment that any individual who today rises to defend the
Craft against innovations and gimmicks risks attack by those who would hope
to "modernize" the Order and change it to suit their own tastes. This is as
true now as it was then! One may even suggest that Dermott's opponents were
increasingly incensed as they gradually came to reallize the "awful truth"
that he was, after all, right!
13 Pick and
Knight, op.cit., p. 114 18 Haywood,opcit.,p. 40
14 Ibid., p.
113, footnote 19 Loc.cit,
15 History of
masonry and Concordant orders, p. 554
Let us return
to the exact words of Haywood based on the more recent evidence.
what Eighteenth Century men called a genius, a small class of great men of
which Christopher Wren and William Shakespeare were more famous specimens .
. . He had many talents, and they were of high excellence; he was a learned
man (he could read Ancient Hebrew), a forceful and even powerful writer as
is proved by the Book of Constitutions which he wrote, a singer, an
after-dinner speaker to hear whom men drove many miles, an organizer and
administrator, a driving, daring, bold, tireless, ingenious, inventive,
undiscouragable character, who withal had a great and an almost instinctive
understanding of Freemasonry. Who were the greatest Masons (and as Masons)
of that century? Desaguliers? Preston? The Duke of Sussex? Thomas Smith
Webb? If so Dermott belongs to the list because he ranks second in
achievement to none of these names. (20)
Would that we
had a Masonic leader of such stature today!
matter of personalities, let us return to the abuses that led to the Great
Schism. The results of introducing the innovations, according to Haywood,
are briefly as follows:
They gave rise
to attacks on the Masonic hierarchy by the lower classes because they
identified the Craft with the special-interest group: the aristocracy. In
reaction, the Grand Lodge curtailed its activities; withdrew from public
exposure; kept a low profile; made alterations in its modes of recognition;
permitted changes and emasculation of the ritual; tolerated the lapse of the
dignified ceremonies of Grand Lodge installations; and generally diverted
the objectives and activities of the Craft from its time-honoured purpose.
result was the chasm opening between Masons of the so-called upper classes"
and those of the "lower classes", a division down the middle between the
majority in the Craft and the minority of the special-interest group.
Schism" lasted some forty years while pressures built up against the
innovations. The emasculation of the ritual meant a consequent lowering of
its dignity, if nothing else. But Haywood said this had more fundamental
import. In his words,
A Newly Made
Mason ought to note that any question about the Ritual is a question of what
Freemasonry is or is not, because in one form or another, directly or by
implication, literally or symbolically, the Ritual is a series of statements
about what it is to be a Mason it is the means by which a Lodge "makes" a
Mason. To omit something from the Ritual is to omit it from Freemasonry.
Masonic offices were filled with arictocrats, the Lodges came to serve only
the narrow considerations of a special-interest group. Many Lodges ceased
to be Lodges and became purely social clubs, and the Freemasonry was
replaced entirely with light-hearted conviviality. (22)
seemed to come to a head with the great Irish potato famines, which saw some
two to three million Irish migrating into England and other lands. Among
the migrants to England were many good Masons who, on wishing to
op.cit., p. 40
21 Ibid., p. 41
22 Ibid., p. 33
was their right, found themselves blocked by those people who seemed to have
captured much of the Craft. When they sought to visit they were turned back
at the door and the reason why they were turned back was made abundantly
clear, when they were told that too many of them were carpenters, plumbers,
stone-masons, teamsters, and similar members of the lower classes. "These
gentlemen were wearing a workingman's leather apron . . . (and yet) could
detect no self-contradiction in their refusing to sit with Masons in a
Masonic Lodge if a Mason was a carpenter. Jesus of Nazareth could not have
visited auch a Lodge. This snobbishness was an extraordinary and fateful
result of the 'modernizing' of the Fraternity which was being made." (23)
At this point
it should suffice to relate that the immigrant Masons formed their own
Lodges outside of the Grand Lodge of London. Meantime, to quote Haywood,
same period a number of Lodges on the List of the Grand Lodge at London . .
. became so resentful at this new exclusiveness, and so violently
disapproved of the innovations of which the Grand Lodge had become guilty,
that they began to withdraw from it, and did so in such number that at a
later time some 135 of them had been counted. By the end of the decade of
1740-1750 A.D., where one Irish Mason withdrew himself from the Grand Lodge
at London, ten English Masons had done so. Along with them, and agreeing
with them, were a hundred or so independent regular Lodges (called St.
John's Lodges), which had never been on the Grand Lodge's Lists. This
refusal to recognize the so-called "modernizing" of Freemasonry reached such
a pitch at the last that the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland withdrew
recognition from the Grand Lodge at London. (24)
ensued for some two generations. With the Grand Lodges facing
eye-ball-to-eye-ball for over forty-five years, it was the innovators who
appear to have blinked first. In 1789 the Moderns were moved to appoint a
committee, which was to approach their rivals to see if they could achieve a
reconciliation. But reconciliation was slow to come. Feelings had been
running so high that members of one faction were forbidden even to visit
Lodges of the other. (25)
despite efforts to lock out rivals, there continued to be a certain flow of
traffic across the picket lines from one body to the other. Indeed, Pick
and Knight (26) state that there were even cases of Brethren belonging to
both the Moderns and the Ancients at the same time. This is not to say that
they saw no grounds for dispute. It is at least arguable that they
understood the situation quite clearly but hoped to help bring about a
remedy by working from within.
Things moved to
a conclusion in 1809 when the Moderns Grand Lodge apparently took a second
look at what they had done and resolved that "It is not necessary any longer
to continue in force those
were resorted to in or about 1739 respecting irregular Masons and do
therefore enjoin the several Lodges to revert to the Ancient Land Marks of
the Society. (27)
In 1810 the
Ancients found it possible to make the following resolution:"....a Masonic
Union on principles equal and honourable to both Grand Lodges, and
preserving the Land Marks of the Ancient Craft, would be . . . expedient and
advantageous to both. (28)
op.cit., p. 37
24 Loc. ci t .
25 Pick and
Knight, op.cit., p. 109 27 Ibid., p.122
28 ibid., p.123
is what has been recorded as "The Great Schism" in Craft Masonry: the period
in which a minority in the Craft imposed upon the majority the innovations
of class distinction, exclusiveness, restriction of Masonic offices,
emasculation of the Ritual, replacement of Masonic teachings with purely
social functions, etc., and until the majority could bring about a return to
the fundamental objectives of the Order.
All that has
been said so far was a simple re-telling of the facts of history. At this
point we depart from the chronology of events and launch ourselves into an
examination of the lessons to be learned and their possible application
No two people
see things in exactly the same light. We are all different as individuals;
we have different backgrounds, outlooks, experience in the Craft, and
general knowledge, which influence our points of view.
There is plenty
of room for difference of opinion in Craft Masonry and perhaps this essay
will prompt a lively and interesting exchange of ideas.
writer's view, a clear lesson emerges. the lesson is this: innovations did
occur, but correction was made and unity re-established when men of high
principle and, indeed, whole Lodges stood up to be counted and demanded an
end to tampering with the principles, practices and objectives of the Craft.
When we step
back and examine the evidence from the vantage point of hindsight, the cause
and results emerge more clearly, and it is here where many Masons in America
today point to what they feel is clear writing on the wall. They are
concerned lest we on this Continent be led into making similar errors, by a
minority of enthusiastic (but misguided) individuals who are working
overtime to change the Craft to suit their personal tastes.
Haywood described changes which were introduced into Freemasonry in the 17th
century that led to the "Great Schism": (29)
I. - The Craft
was divided by the introduction of innovations.
II. - The image
of Masonry was changed in the eyes of the public.
III. - The
forms and customs were altered; the ritual was emasculated; the Craft
objectives were diverted.
IV. - The
Lodges were changed into something they were never
intended to be: straight social clubs.
V. - A minority special-interest group, the aristocracy, came
to dominate much of the Craft.
We may now
examine these points one at a time and in each case itemize some possible
parallels in the Craft today. There is a vast amount of material available
but this thesis shall be limited to little more than a series of examples.
Because of the comparative brevity, the reader is asked to realize that each
point can be much more thoroughly supported by argument and evidence than is
references to Haywood (op.cit., pp. 31-33) are approximations used by the
author and do not necessarily correspond to Haywood's items 1-5. Item I is
related to Haywood's 3, item II to 2, III to 5, and V to 1. There appears to
be no link between IV and 4 (Ed.)
POINT I -
HAYWOOD INTIMATED THAT THE INNOVATORS OF THE 17-HUNDREDS DIVIDED
activities of many concordant bodies in North America today are in direct
competition with (and are thereby divisive) those of the parent body, the
Craft Lodge, resulting in competition for a Brother's time, attention,
interests, and energies. Brethren are increasingly put in a position where
they are forced to choose where their loyalties lie.
consider this to be at all divisive?
ITEM: Mounting pressures to change the "free will and accord"
driving a wedge between those who adhere to the time-honoured tenet of
no-solicitation and those who wish to bend this principle to fill the ranks
of other organizations.
Can anyone deny that this sort of thing is happening?
Does it seed
between Brethren are being aggravated by a faction that asserts that no
Mason is a "complete" Mason until he passes through ceremonies and degrees
in certain appendant organizations which they misrepresent as being of a
invisible line has been drawn between the 80% of the Brethren in this
jurisdiction who have chosen not to join a concordant body, and the 20%
minority of enthusiasts who have joined. This tends to have a geographic
aspect. That is, country versus city Lodges.
ITEM: A growing
number of Masons are becoming less active in their Lodges and in the
concordant bodies, because of their distress over changes being introduced
into the Craft innovations often advanced under the old argument that the
Order should be "modernized" or "change with the times." (Perhaps better
words here would be "faminized" and "liberalized.")
seems to have emerged - small but ominous - a regrettable geographic
polarization in this province (of Alberta, Ed.). A North-South rivalry that
should never exist, let alone be allowed to grow, is even now being fanned
by a small minority.
POINT II - IN THE 17-HUNDREDS THE IMAGE OF MASONRY WAS
THE EYES OF THE
PUBLIC: PEOPLE JUDGED THE CRAFT BY THE ACTIVITIES & ATTITUDES OF A
SPECIAL-INTEREST GROUP. (AT THAT TIME, IT HAPPENED TO BE THE
image in North America being distorted again today? Have those concerned
Brethren any real grounds for their misgivings?
ITEM: Freemasonry has traditionally been a modest
organization with a consciously low public profile. Today, however, on
this continent the public is increasingly exposed to the activities of
Masons in their appendant organizations where they dress up in bright
uniforms, parade, blow horns, etc., and behave in a generally outgoing and
festive manner. Is it any wonder then
tends to identify this image with Craft Masonry. The public borrows this
image to fill the image vacuum left by the Craft, and - as in the past - one
group tends to be equated with the other.
And they are
not the same thing at all!
public activities of North American Masons are inviting public speculation;
misinterpreted perhaps, but the impressions remain. These activities
commonly are intended to display patriotism.
the innovators, "is patriotism not a virtue?" The answer lies in the
difference between the words "patriotism" and "loyalty."
has a far more narrow connotation which oft times strays into dangerous
nationalism. "Loyalty", on the other hand, may be a devotion or
responsibility not to country alone, but to one's friends, one's wife and
children, ones employer. Perhaps it is best put in the words of one
concerned Mason, M.W.Bro. Jesse W. Gern, Past Grand Master of Colorado, who
patriotism can be a beautiful thing . . . loyalty to one's own ... . But too
much loyalty can become an over weaning obsession that verges on selfishness
or pride, the deadliest of the Seven Medieval Sins. For this reason,
Freemasonry does not put a primary emphasis on country. (30)
ITEM: A close
examination of the proceedings from around the continent will reveal just
how much the gimmick department of Masonry is extending itself in an
obsessive search for novelties to entertain and distract rather than to
educate and inspire. Some Lodges will go to any end to dream up some novelty
or other to avoid tackling our task of building individual character.
For centuries our forefathers were obliged to meet in the
operative Masons' buildings, or in the local inns. How fortunate they felt
when the time came that they could have homes of their very own . . .
Lodge rooms or buildings constructed and furnished
specific design and private use. But what is happening today? We seem to
have laid off counting our blessings!
emerging a great urge for eager individuals to drag their Brethren out of
their proper Lodge rooms to try to perform our dignified and serious
ceremonies in abandoned quarries, barns, open fields, mountain tops, the
decks of ships, etc., anywhere but in the dignified atmosphere of the formal
Is this progress? Is this what some people mean by "keeping
up with the times?" When concerned Brethren call for a return to the ancient
principles and practices, it is difficult to believe that they mean a return
to the primitive facilities of our Masonic ancestors.
our forefathers were spared in their day, were the eager beaver
propagandists of the Craft. Wherever one goes today, one meets those
modernizing individuals who champion the cause of Masonic publicity
campaigns. "Stop hiding our head beneath a bushel," is their rallying cry.
"If only we inform the public of what good boys we are and what wonderful
things we are doing," they seem to be saying, "all our problems would be
solved." They might well add, "besides, our membership would soar, our Lodge
rooms would be crowded, and our coffers would swell."
But is this
really so? Masonry is not intended for everyone, but for the select few.
Unless we first pull up our socks, a massive publicity campaign could
backfire. Many of our wiser Brethren take a look at the low attendance
30 Copied by
the author from an issue of the Grand Lodge of Colorado official
the preference of so many for the appendant bodies, the lowering of
discipline and propriety to accommodate a permissive society; the general
lack of understanding among so many of our Brethren of what Masonry is
really all about; and the myriad of gimmicks and substitutes for the
teachings of the lessons of the Craft, and are convinced that any form of
publicity campaign could risk revealing the Order to be a rapidly emptying
shell..... a largely hollow drum just making a big noise. Or, to put it
more bluntly - an Order of hypocrites who don't even try to practice what
Masons argue that if we return to the ancient practices and objectives of
the Craft, there would be no need of publicity whatsoever. The alleged
shortcomings would correct themselves and Freemasonry would have its proper
image. They find nothing wrong with Freemasonry, only with so many Masons!
publicists keep up their pressure. Dwight Smith cited the example of one
Grand Communication at which a recommendation was made that every Lodge
Junior Warden was to be officially named the Publicity Agent, and publicity
included as one of the laid down duties of his office.(31)
practice of printing and distributing Masonic pamphlets or leaflets is
widespread on this continent and even being urged upon our own
jurisdiction. Ostensibly they are to be limited to prospective candidates
and are offered as an explanation of what Masonry is all about. But in
fact, they wind up being distributed to the public at large, and are even
used as a straight recruiting device.
the pamphlet idea note that the recipients may be left with the impression
that the Brother who relies on a leaflet to explain Masonry, apparently
doesn't know what it's all about himself, or just can't be bothered to
explain in person. Either way they set a bad example.
Brethren are also worried about how those printed pamphlets have a tendency
to appear in little piles on church pews and waiting rooms, or even are to
be seen blowing about the streets.
ITEM: Masonic T-shirts have now made their appearance in
Alberta another import. They are rather informal, flimsy things, but
with some symbol or words of Freemasonry emblazoned across
the front, to help give the Craft its "proper image", of course. So now we
find Masonry's good name competing for public attention with all those other
shirts sporting gags, racy slogans, and four-letter words. What is this
doing to our image?
POINT III -
THE INNOVATORS OF THE 17-HUNDREDS CHANGED OUR FORMS AND OUR CUSTOMS,
EMASCULATED OUR RITUALS AND DIVERTED OUR CRAFT OBJECTIVES.
ITEM: The Grand Lodge of Alberta recently undercut our
word of mouth method of teaching by issuing copies of our private Work to
anyone who wants them (provided he is a M.M., Ed.). This change in custom
(not yet universal, it is worth noting) has not only destroyed much of the
invaluable Master Apprentice relationship,, but has resulted in no
appreciable improvement in the quality of the Work. Alert Brethren watch
this "streamlining" of our practices
31 Smith, Why
This Confusion In the Temple?, p. 66
introduction of technology: the printing press, the copy machine, the tape
recorder, etc. All these things are supposed to make a man a better Mason,
but they worry lest they become too impersonal, and serve simply to relieve
the candidate of the necessity to make a little more effort on his own
They ask, "Are
we making it too easy? Are we passing the buck to machines? What has
happened to the human element?"
Increasing numbers of Lodges have capitulated to the social trends by
lowering their standards of dress and dignity. First names and nicknames
have replaced proper titles; turtleneck sweaters, etc., are worn by some
officers instead of the customary, more formal attire of the Lodge.
Off-colour and ethnic jokes are common and go unchallenged, and novelties
are introduced without the traditional discipline and decorum.
ritualistic teams of all kinds are increasingly moving into Lodges to
relieve the regular officers of their primary duties. And we wonder why we
have so many inexperienced Past Masters walking our streets!
principle of modesty and unobtrusiveness in Craft Masonry is being strained
by a modern tendency to advertise one's membership and rank to an
uncomprehending public. The example of the Masonic bumper-stickers needs
Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing obsession on this
continent with pins, buttons, badges and all those other external trappings
used to advertise an individual's connections and rank. The trend has not
gone unnoticed. One can find in the proceedings of the North American
Conference of Grand Masters the statement, "Our degrees - like our lapel
pins and titles - come too easily and too often. (32)
Why does no one
challenge those people who wear that lapel pin depicting a walking stick and
spheres? This is a clear breach of a solemn oath against anything whatsoever
that may be legible or intelligible to oneself or anyone else in the world.
Even if just shrugged off as a rather cunning evasion of the exact wording,
it remains a blatant breach of the spirit of that oath. Doesn't anybody care
anymore? Are concerned Brethren justified in labelling this a change in form
ITEM: Last year a U.S. Masonic Jurisdiction faced loss of
recognition by other jurisdictions when it introduced innovations aimed at
grinding out new members en masse. An edict was issued that abolished the
waiting period between degrees; removed the necessity for a candidate to
prove up -between degrees; and permitted the initiation of candidates in
large groups: one individual only, need take part in the ceremony while a
crowd of other candidates simply looked on. This meant that with
appropriate promotion and recruiting, any Lodge could conceivably run
through 100 new members in a weekend.
Fortunately, wiser leaders in the Craft issued an ultimatum
and the edict was rescinded.
What is your reaction to this? Would you welcome visitors, so
initiated, to your Lodge? Do you feel that such innovations tend to be
schismatic? Some Masons do, Think about it. While thinking about it, ask
yourself the question; "Is this issue really dead, or is it likely to
reappear through the back door of the Craft?"
32 Recorded by the author during the North American
Conference of Grand Masters, Colorado Springs, CO., February, 1979.
POINT IV -
THE EARLY INNOVATORS THAT CAUSED THE GREAT SCHISM CHANGED LODGES INTO
SOMETHING THEY WERE NEVER INTENDED TO BE: i.e., STRAIGHT, RESTRICTED
fully acknowledging the benefits to be derived from social activities in a
Lodge, many concerned Brethren worry lest we again go too far in these
distractions and forget our true Masonic purpose. They cite the cases where
Masonic programs are drastically curtailed or eliminated altogether because
they may delay the party. "The ladies are waiting!" Sound familiar?
ITEM: There is
a growing tendency for Lodges to put entertainment ahead of instruction in
Lodge programs. Thus we see a drift to pass over interesting and
informative Masonic speakers in favour of talks on such topics as pollution,
breathalysers, or the drug problem . . . anything at all, in fact, that can
be found anywhere, except the one thing we can get nowhere else:
practice of holding "open installations" is fairly widespread in the United
States. While applauded by some, other Masons have profound misgivings.
They realize that once such novelties are introduced, they are exceedingly
difficult to eradicate. It is brought about, of course, in the interests of
"modernizing" the Order, or again, to "change with the times."
An open installation is one in which family and friends are
invited to participate. In the opinion of many, these affairs sometimes
become nothing more than a restricted ego trip for the Grand Lodge officers
rather than a dignified and traditional ceremony, attended by the Craft as a
whole. There is again a tendency to shorten the ceremony by elimination of
longer and more esoteric passages lest it bore the visitors . . . A direct
parallel to the emasculation of the ritual in the 17th century.
tragedy of some of these truncated ceremonies, however, is that they are
turning a traditional Rite into a purely social event which fewer and fewer
of the rank and file of Masons even bother to attend, their places having
long since been filled with women and children, cousins and grandchildren,
parents and in-laws, and all-manner of business connections.
ITEM: The socializers and innovators of today who work so
enthusiastically to change Masonry's role, have introduced a twist never
dreamed of by their predecessors who brought about the first "Great
Schism". It came with the advent of the service club idea, and the modern
efforts on this continent to divert Masonry's objectives into service club
We are being urged daily to launch our Lodges into projects,
campaigns, charity drives, and other highly visible community projects. The
big shift is from our traditional emphasis on individual charity to
It should be
apparent to the most blind that Masonic Lodges are no more equipped to do
service club work than the service clubs are equipped to practice Masonry.
distinguished forefathers intend Freemasonry to be a service club? Are we
getting off track? Some concerned Brethren feel we might be.
POINT V -
HISTORIAN HAYWOOD STATED THAT THE FIRST "GREAT SCHISM" WAS HASTENED
WHEN A MINORITY (at that time the aristocracy) CAME TO DOMINATE THE
DIRECTION OF MUCH OF THE ORDER.
prominent Masons in America today feel that there is clear danger that
history is about to repeat itself on this continent. Not the least among
them is Dwight Smith, Past Grand Master of Indiana and probably the
outstanding Masonic author in America today. Bro. Smith and other
serious-minded Masons are warning us that the tail is beginning to wag the
dog; that a special interest minority of members (only some 20% in Alberta)
continually seeks to advance the fortunes of other organizations at the
expense of the Craft Lodges. Some of his fulminations are expressed in
(But) I am getting good and tired of seeing Symbolic
Freemasonry used primarily as a Sugar Daddy, as a benevolent old gentleman
whose chief reason for existence is to provide funds and housing facilities
and a stock pile for candidates. Especially do I see the when I see the
parent body so blithely ignored, neglected and starved by those who drain
off its resources with such profligacy. (33)
ITEM: Many dedicated Masons on this continent worry that our
are being turned into sounding boards to promote and recruit for other
organizations; each group, like the aristocrats of old, claiming to be of
special importance and the peak of the Masonic society.
Thus we see such
things as the so-called "Booster Nights" or "Family and Friends Nights," or
panel discussion programs, when mixed bags of Masons and non-Masons are
invited to dinner to hear representatives of concordant bodies deliver their
public relations speeches. Many Brethren feel that instructing non-Masons
about other organizations is hardly an adequate substitute for teaching Masons
about Masonry. Would our ancestors have approved of this growing practice?
ITEM: Individuals who dare to speak out in defence of the Craft
and adherence to our time-honoured practices and principles, find themselves
the target of attacks by the innovators and modernizers. Their honest desire
to protect our Order from innovation is rewarded by misrepresentation and
pressure from both outside and inside the Craft, some of it subtle and some
Regrettably, they have all too often felt obliged to withhold advice and
participation in areas where their leadership is so desperately needed.
ITEM: How many of
us have attended Lodges where the programs of Masonry are abandoned, while the
ceremonies of other organizations are substituted? These often take the form
of the rites of youth groups. Let it be made clear that the merits of youth
organizations and the virtues of supporting youth activities are not at all in
question. What is being questioned is why the Lodges are being asked to
discriminate in favour of a particular group over any other.
Most youth groups
have the sound support of individual Freemasons, and perhaps no better
examples can be drawn than the DeMolay or the Boy Scouts, both of which derive
leadership from enthusiastic Craft Masons. Nevertheless, it escapes many
Masons exactly why Craft Lodges should be asked to concentrate
33 Smith, op.cit.,
on some 400
members of DeMolay for special consideration while the 35,000 Boy scouts of
Alberta are ignored. Gentle critics complain that this is at least a
distraction from our proper Masonic business. Less charitable censors wonder
aloud whether the Lodges are not being used to turn out more Boy Shriners.
area that causes misgivings among many Brethren is that of membership. Not a
worry over its possible decline, but a worry that we are becoming too
concerned with quantity at the expense of quality: that we are turning out too
many members, and too few real masons.
At one Banff
Interprovincial Conference M.W. Bro. E.J. Lockhart of British Columbia put it
. . . we should
be very selective in the choice of men that we allow into the order . . . this
has a relation to membership and the retention of members. If we take in two
or three that shouldn't be in, because we lower our standards, we are liable
to lose five or six better prospects, and we might lose some members that we
already have. (34)
In Britain, the
birthplace of modern Masonry, many Lodges restrict membership to 100, and it
seems to work just fine. One can get to know all his Brethren, and attendance
is close to 100%.
ITEM: It is true
that population shifts are making it difficult for some smaller rural Lodges.
This is compensated for, to some extent, by the growth of city Lodges. For
example, two Alberta Lodges (St.Mark's and Renfrew) alone initiated over 100
candidates in a single five-year period (1973-1978). Ten Alberta city Lodges
alone initiated almost 400 in the same five years. In fact, some of those
Lodges appear to do little else except initiate people.
Brethren are left with the uneasy feeling that the big drive for membership
comes largely from outside the Craft Lodges. It is perhaps noteworthy, by the
way, that generally speaking, in Alberta; attendance at Lodge meetings is
inversely proportional to the size of membership.
ITEM: The Grand Secretary of Indiana took the time to examine
various Grand Lodge proceedings and to note the visitations by Grand Masters.
He found the results astounding. For example,
one Grand Master
reported 79 visitations, but 45 were to appendant organizations. Another
Grand Master made 69 visitations, of which only 11 were to Symbolic Lodges,
and of these six were to one Lodge. So much for his interest in the Craft
Lodges. Still another Grand Master showed where his loyalties lay when he
made 66 visitations and of these 62 were to concordant orders.(35)
Brethren are asking how long Freemasonry on this continent can survive such
neglect of its basic units. No wonder many Brethren are concerned that Craft
Masonry on this continent is getting short shrift, and is in need of some
major readjustment back to its traditional place of respect.
To quote Bro.
Dwight Smith again:
What can we
expect when we have permitted'. Freemasonry to become subdivided into a score
of organizations? Look at it. Each organization dependent upon the parent body
for its existence, yet each jockeying for a position of supremacy, and each
claiming to be the Pinnacle to which any Master Mason may aspire. We have
spread ourselves thin, and
34 Lockhart in
Proceedings . . . Baner, 1975,
35 Smith, op.cit,
Masonry is the loser. Downgraded, the Symbolic Lodge is used only as a
springboard. A short-sighted Craft we have been to create in our beloved
Fraternity a condition wherein the tail can, and may, wag the dog. (36)
Those are the
five of the major changes introduced into Freemasonry which historian Haywood
stated caused the "Great Schism" of the 17-hundreds, plus a few of the
parallels which some Masons fear are being reintroduced today.
are those who feel that their Brethren are unnecessarily concerned, that they
overstate the case, that they exaggerate the dangers, that the trends are not
well-enough established to be of real concern, or simply, that the innovations
we witness today bring as much virtue as vice. If that is the reader's
opinion, then he need not be disturbed. He need only watch complacently as
the trends unfold. If, however, he is among the ranks of the disturbed, he
may be on the side of those who wish to bring the Craft back on course before
it again splits asunder.
The critics of the current trends put their case more in sorrow
than in anger. They feel sure that the innovators act with sincerity and with
no ulterior motives, regardless of the fact that they sometimes open a
veritable Pandora's Box-of potential Masonic evils. As historian Haywood said
Schism it :
process..... was a gradual one; neither the Grand Lodge itself nor any of its
Lodges had any intention of undermining the foundations of the Fraternity. . .
and their intentions, such as they had, were in their own eyes completely
innocent ... (37)
The great tragedy
is that Freemasonry in North America seems to be entering a new era, not as a
universal and unchanging faith, but as a patchwork of independent social or
service clubs, basted together with a few shaky stitches of tradition.
Ill-considered innovations so innocently but so easily
prove exceedingly difficult to eradicate. Their removal puts further strains
on the Craft. Their elimination ofttimes leaves behind an unfortunate trail
of recriminations, acrimony, and disharmony that can take years to dissipate.
difficulty, and with great self-discipline can an unfortunate innovation be
eradicated, and even then, in the picturesque language of Brother Heron Lepper,
a former librarian of the Grand Lodge of England,
In vanishing from
human ken, like the fiend of folklore, it left behind a nauseous stench to
remind men that something unholy has passed that way. (38)
Let this essay be
concluded with one last comment from the depths of the swamp. In those
immortal words of POGO,
"We have met the
enemy, and he is us
36 Smith, Whither
Are We Traveling?, p. 10
OP-cit., p. 33
38 Pick and
Knight, op.cit., p. 115
of, The History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, Boston and London: The
Fraternity Publishing Company, 1913
Haywood, H. L.,
The Newly-Made Mason, Richmond, Virginia: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply
Co., Inc., 1973
Lockhart, E. J.,
quoted in Proceedings, 35th Annual Inter-Provincial Conference of the Officers
of the Four Western Masonic Jurisdictions, Banff, AB, 1975
Fort, The Builders, Richmond, Virginia: ILicoy Publishing and Masonic Supply
Co., Inc., 1951
Pick, Fred L. and
G. Norman Knight, The Pocket History of Freemasonry, 5th ed., London:
Frederick Muller Ltd., 1971
Smith, Dwight L.,
Why This Confusion In The Temple?, Washington, D.C.: The Masonic Service
Whither Are We Traveling?, Franklin, Indiana: The Freemason Printing Center,
The Indiana Masonic Home, 1966
talked on the value of both history and opinion for stimulating good
discussion and expressed sincere hope that no schism is created in our time.
Brother Fox spoke of the necessity of maintaining harmony and working together
to meet the principles of Masonry. He demonstrated how the Research Lodge has
broken geographical boundaries with the simple dedication of working for the
Craft. Brother Borland supported the views expressed in the paper, and hoped
that the "innovations" seen elsewhere would not pervade the Craft in Alberta.
He was interested in the statistics of involvement of members of appendant
orders in their Craft Lodges. Brother Love stated supporting
figures to answer
Brother Borland, and also expanded on the changes which had been made in
rituals. Brother Juthner raised the problem of who were the good and bad in
the Antient/Modern conflict, casting some doubt on the Ancients' purity of
felt this was a most provocative paper; he noted the concerns raised but
pointed out that some of the strongest supporters of concordant bodies are
also heavily involved in their Craft Lodges. Brother Senn noted that there
was a basic need for belonging, and that some Brethren move into appendant
bodies for this reason alone. He also stated that the opinions of today are
frequently used as the facts of tomorrow, as any history text will show.
Brother Borland commented that perhaps the answer would be for appendant
bodies to sever the link with Craft Masonry and stand as independent bodies.
complimented the speaker but warned against tunnel vision which restricts our
opportunities to grow as people. Other organizations have something to offer
and do not steal the person who does not wish to leave. He stated that "you
do not increase the light of your candle by putting out those around you."
Working together is the answer. Brother Jendyk stressed the importance of
retaining the Landmarks and not adopting changes that are not required. We
are looking at symptoms and not causes: we need more research!
closed the discussion by stating that his essay was intended to stimulate
discussion and, apparently, he had been successful.