True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Monday, January 21, 2008

Politics and Lodge

We all know that politics and freemasonry do not mix. What, though, does this mean, and why is this prohibition in place?

What is politics?

Politics, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is:
Etymology: Greek politika, from neuter plural of politikos political
Date: circa 1529

1 a: the art or science of government b: the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c: the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
2: political actions, practices, or policies
3 a: political affairs or business; especially : competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government) b: political life especially as a principal activity or profession c: political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices
4: the political opinions or sympathies of a person
5 a: the total complex of relations between people living in society b: relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view (office politics) (ethnic politics)
As we can see, at its simplest, it is an art or science, the political opinions or sympathies of a person, competition between cometing interest groups or individual for power and leadership. It is a striving and a contention for the hearts and minds... and for power. The power to control, to guide, to rule, to enforce one's opinion through influence and political power.

There have been calls recently, for the lodges to get involved in politics, for the Grand Lodges to get involved in politics, as some of the Grand Lodges do in France, to the detriment of the craft.

Why are politics forbidden in lodge?

As can be seen from the above definition, politics is all about influencing others to a particular point of view. How does attempting to influence your brother from one point of view to another in any way represent Freemasonry? We are a philosophical, spiritual fraternity, with a stated goal of improving the man.

The man is improved in the craft, and by the influence of our principles and teachings, may go out in the world and work to improve it. Yet, we know that not all masons agree on every political, social or moral issue. How then can the craft, as a whole, either as a single lodge, or a grand lodge, come out as supporting any one particular issue?

There will always be brothers that disagree, and one of the principle operating tenets of our craft is seeking only that on which we can best work and best agree. If one man disagrees, then the lodge cannot take a position. What if two lodges take differing sides in an issue, how does this support working together on that which we can best work and best agree?

No man represents the whole of the craft. Even the Grand Master only represents the will of the brethren in his jurisdiction, not all of freemasonry. There are some issues that we would think: well, everyone will agree on THIS. Lets look at that concept for a moment and see.

Every right thinking man realizes that racism is wrong... don't they? Oh, wait, maybe not. There are still grand lodges in the US that do not allow black men to join. Well, lets try another. Every moral man thinks being involved in the sale of alcohol is unmasonic, right? Oh, wait, no, that's not right either. There are several grand lodges in the US that will expel a brother if he is involved in the sale of alcohol, even in a restaurant.

Well, every right thinking mason knows that women can't be masons, right? No, wait... that doesn't seem to be true, either. Ok, we all agree that no man should be expelled from freemasonry without a fair trial before a jury of his peers where he can present evidence in his defense... oh, wait, a grand master was recently expelled without a trial for objecting to the actions of a sitting grand master, and several brothers have been expelled without a trial as well, and without a hearing, and without recourse. Well, then, what about...

We can do this all day long, and we will always find someone that disagrees or holds a contrary opinion... and rightly so. We are not a monolithic organization that tries to tell its membership how to think and how to act, and who to vote for and how to campaign/vote on issues. Freemasonry is about improving the man, and leaving it to the man to act and think as he will.

What about discussing political/social issues in lodge then?

This is a good question. Can we seriously and without rancor discuss the political and social events of the day? In some cases, the answer is yes, but in some, the answer is no. Can two brothers on opposing sides of the abortion issue discuss it openly and honestly? Maybe, but this is an emotional issue, to its challenging and risky.

Can a lodge openly discuss and debate political candidates without falling to pieces? There is a possibility they can, though the question has to be asked: WHY should they? Lodge is not about political issues. The stated purpose of freemasonry is fraternal affection, self improvement, the spiritual quest. Lodge is a place of peace (or should be) a place where men of disparate faiths, creeds and beliefs can come together and work side by side toward a common goal.

Why bring a known divisive element into the mix? It serves no purpose of Freemasonry's, and only serves the agenda of brothers that bring politics to lodge. Their only goal is the engendering of common opinion and support for their cause, to seek common cause with their brethren. In so doing, they bring into the lodge that which should never be present: the Seeds of Discord.

Should lodges take political positions?

Given that the very nature of politics is divisive, how can a lodge, let alone a Grand Lodge, take a position on a political/social issue as a group? More to the point, WHY should Freemasonry do so? Freemasonry is about the internal. The Freemason, as a man in a society, may, and should, apply the tenets of the craft to his society, measuring it by the 24" gauge, applying the square of morality, testing its truth by the plumb and holding the society to acting on the level. The craft itself, by its very nature, cannot.

Each man must act on his own, and never act in the name of masonry for his own selfish purposes. One may, and in fact, should advocate for what he believes, but when one brother, as a mason, states his position on any issue, he implies that all masons should and might hold the same position, and if another brother does not, he has introduced into a relationship something that should never be between them as masons.

We should, as masons, seek that on which we can best work and best agree. We should, as free men, seek out ways to improve society according to our understanding of the craft and within the experiences, abilities and knowledge that we have. As the purpose of the craft is to improve the man and help him on his spiritual journey, the craft should not take positions.

As always:
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

4 comments:

Jay Simser said...

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in harmony."
The founders of Masonry wisely prohibited those things which cause divisiveness.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) that does not extend to the blogosphere and we can write about anything we desire.

Theron Dunn said...

Well, free speech is a good thing... its, well, quintessentially masonic. This entry had nothing to do with any other blog, by the way. This came from a conversation on the freemason discussion group:

http://excoboard.com/exco/thread.php?forumid=54969&threadid=1436897&page=2#9832375

giovanni lombardo said...

politics concerns human, contingent business; freemasonry deals with eternity

Wayfaring Man said...

The older I get, the more I realize that all politics is corrosive, irrespective of ideology. The old masters were right to shun it.

 
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