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

Friday, October 26, 2007

Is It Time For The Shrine And Freemasonry To Separate?

In the interests full disclosure, I want to start this off by stating that I joined Al Malikah Shrine in Los Angeles in March of 2004 in a “Cold Sands” ceremonial. I dimited from the Shrine in March of 2005 after just one year of disappointment.

The intent of this article is not to slam the Shrine, nor to defame the brothers who put so much effort into the Shrine and its various activities and charities. However, it IS the intention of this article to examine whether Blue Lodge Masonry should continue its association with the Shrine.

The first question that should be asked is: Is the Shrine Freemasonry. To answer that, we need to examine the Shrine’s relationship with Blue Lodge Freemasonry. It seems to be a one-way street, with Freemasonry serving as the recruiting ground for the Shrine, while receiving no benefit, other than the very tenuous claim to the $720 million dollars per year the Shrine donates to charities.

I write one way street deliberately, because it has been my observation that the Shrine only lays claim to Freemasonic roots when it serves their purposes, and not often at that. As an example, we have all seen the ubiquitous Shrine ads, showing a man in a fez carrying a child. When has anyone ever seen that ad with a square and compass, or the notation that Shriners are all Masons?

Even on the Shrine web pages, finding any reference to Freemasonry is a tough search. So, the Shrine is made of Freemasons who are seemingly ashamed to admit they are Freemasons. How can that be?

The Shrine seems to see the Blue Lodges as their own private recruiting grounds, but they are unwilling to do anything to support the lodges. Oh, they repeatedly state that Shriners should participate in their lodge, but the SHRINE itself, seems to do everything they can to distance themselves from Freemasonry.

In fact, a few years ago, the Shrine, seeing declining membership, removed the requirement that a man be a York or Scottish Rite Mason before he could join the Shrine. The proved to be a very bad thing for the York and Scottish Rites, but hey, the membership in Shrine increased without the additional hurdle of men needing to join the other rites.

The membership of the Shrine is dependent upon the membership of the Blue Lodge, yet the Shrine fails to do the ONE thing that would make a difference… publicly acknowledge that the Shrine IS Freemasonry. Instead, they back one day conferrals of the three degrees, what is purportedly called all the way in a day.

When I showed up for my third degree, there was a brother Shriner standing there with a petition for me to fill out to become a Shriner two days later. Why would anyone want to join the Shrine, or any other appendant body within days, or even months of becoming a master mason?

Then there is the issue of money. The Shrine is awash in money, literally. IRS records show that just over 5% of the money the Shrine takes in yearly is actually spent on their hospitals and other charities. The rest stays with the Shrine to support their various internal activities. As a charity, the Shrine seems to be no better than the Red Cross… and all the Shrine labor is donated so their costs should be much lower.

The Shrine even took a vote, four years ago now, on whether it should separate itself from Blue Lodge Freemasonry! The vote failed, but not by much, which raises the question, why is Freemasonry still associated with this club? I mean, the Shrine is really no different from the Elks Lodge (which is little more than a bar with a Charity grafted on) or the Moose Lodge or, frankly, any one of a hundred other charities.

The Scottish and York Rites offer extended examination of Blue Lodge lessons, so it’s easy to see why they are affiliated, same with Order of the Eastern Star. The Shrine is just a playground and a charity, and has so little to do with Freemasonry it is amazing they were accepted for affiliation.

So, we have an affiliated body that is composed entirely of masons yet does not teach anything related to Masonic tenets; a body that is dedicated to celebration, partying and fund raising, but not to anything freemasonry teaches, except charity; a body that seems to be ashamed of its own association with Freemasonry. The question then is why the Freemasonry associated with the Shrine at all?

The money raised through various Masonic efforts and donated to the Shrine could be better put to use by the various Grand Lodges for the benefit of Masonry in general, as the United Grand Lodge if England does. They have a single Grand Charity, into which funds have been invested for a LONG time, and the proceeds from those investments fund many charities in the UK.

Its not that the hospitals the Shrine supports aren’t worthwhile endeavors, but it may be that the time has come to allow the Shrine to continue their worthwhile efforts on their own, and to let Freemasonry continue its efforts… separately.

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


Anonymous said...

Another interesting and thought provoking article, TD. Thank you.

For my sins the Shriners is not an organisation I'm very familiar with so it is most helpful to have this insight.

I can't really comment on weather or not it should remain part of Freemasonry but it is interesting to learn from your article that its members had a vote on this and decided to maintain links. So I suppose there must be some desire to remain on their part.

Anonymous said...

I think you should qualify for the sake of our U.S. brethren that the Shrine does not represent Freemasonry universal; it exists in North America, parts of South America and has a very, very small presence in Europe--largely due to American influence.

Freemasonry has existed for much longer without the Shrine, so why is there such a cry and hue as if we cannot live without it?

Also, your comment about linking the square and compasses with the Shrine needs clarification if only to point out that because the Shrine DOES NOT confer Masonic degrees, nor convey masonic philosophy through its peculiar symbolisim, then IT IS NOT Freemasonry in that it can legitimately utilize the S & Q. It is largely an American organization that has its roots with the American masonic world of the mid 1800's. It only admits Masons, but is not Freemasonry. This fact is misunderstood even by our membership--about as much as the bogus idea that the KT is the ne plus ultra of the York "rite" and that the York is somehow Christian because of that already erroneous assumption

This is the definition of concordant bodies--they may require a masonic relationship, but they are not Freemasonry and remain attached only by concord. Other concordant bodies: O.E.S., Job's Daughters, Rainbow, Grotto, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Shrine should split from Fremasonry, as should the AASR, York OES, Grotto, Sciots etc.etc.

I also take exception to your gross mischaracterization of the Elks. Did you know that the Elks has a degree system, complex ritual, ritual teams, centers of learning, esoteric and hemetic branches as well? In fact, Elks are almost every bit what Mainstream Masonry is in the USA with better food and less B.S.

Yes there are bars in Elks Lodges, but their are Bars in Masonic lodges in Europe too.

BC 2006

John W. Ratcliff said...

I enjoyed your article and you make a lot of excellent points. However, I think you are way off base to suggest that those who are in the Shrine give nothing back to the Blue Lodge.

In fact, I think those kinds of comments are really quite unfair. I am extremely active in the Blue Lodge and I know who is and isn't a Shriner. A lot of my friends, quite active in the Blue Lodge, are active in the Shrine as well, if not also DeMolay and other appendant bodies.

And, even if the Shriners use the Blue Lodge for recruiting, guess who shows up to do help with the degree work? My Shrine brothers.

I think you are painting with far too broad of a brush here; at least as it applies to individual Brothers who are active in both organizations.

Brother John

Anonymous said...

So, looks like you'll be joining the Elks!

Anonymous said...

I am thinking about it. The wife comes from a long line of Elks.

BC 2006

Anonymous said...

They have great gyms where I live.

What does their esoterica consist of?

Unknown said...

At the end of the day what does it really matter? This is one of those things that we can think to death, but to what end. For me, I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking past the Blue lodge experience

Noonshyne said...

A couple of the Lodges in my area merged recently. With their combined real property their dues are about $100 less than other Lodges. A number of those Lodge members have transferred affiliation for the cheaper dues as their interest is in the Shrine Club. By separating, the Shrine would increase membership and Blue Lodges would be for those truly interested in Masonry.

Anonymous said...

In our area, the Shriners are always complaining that our Blue Lodge doesn't support the Shrine, but I guarantee the complaining Shriners are never in attendance at any Blue Lodge meeting. I prefer to send my contributions direct to the Shrine Hospital and bypass the Shrine Club and their administrative costs. Even Shrine Club presidents seldom go back after their year in the sun around here.

SPHINX524 said...

Although this is an old blog, I'm commenting because I am a PROUD Shriner! I became a Shriner after being a MM for 11 years and a Scottish Rite Mason for 10 years. I did not rush to become a Shriner or Scottish rite mason as I believe in the Blue Lodge, and knowing that is the GREATEST of ALL the masonic bodies of Freemasonry.

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions or a disconnect about the purpose and reasoning of the Shrine. As a few posters mentioned, the Shrine is not Freemasonry (per se)! Its members have to be Freemasons because thats what its founders (who were Freemasons) deemed to be the requsite for membership. This fact should be enough to end discussion, but unfortunatley it isn't. The Shrine was always ment to be the "lighter or fun" side of our fraternity and bring comradere amongst brothers outside of the lodge and in full view of the public. The Noble benefits chosen by A.A.N.O.M.S was to HELP SUPPORT burn and orthepedic centers. A.E.N.O.M.S provides services for children by supporting summer camps for youth, A National Scholarship Grand Program for young ladies between the ages of 17-24 to attend college and universities of their choice, Annual grants of thousands of dollars to the Prince Hall Shrine Health and Medical Research Foundation.

What some fail to realize is that the Shriner Hospitals (A.A.N.O.M.S)are a SEPERATE entity from the Shriners. This is what all detractors and seemingly some members fail to realize as well.

Trying to compare the Shrine with the Red Cross and other noble charities is quite extreme. Comparing an orginization that helps people everyday around the world on various emergency issues (red cross) to comparing an orginization who supports children needing burn or orthepedic assistance is like comparing apple to oranges.

For those of you who are not involved masonically, have you ever meet a mason or shriner? If so, you'd know that they're not "rich", some are retired, most have more than one job, and many are up in age but still serving a noble cause. When I step into my Temple, we are there to enjoy the fellowship of one another and to determine the path needed to achieve our goals to helping those children which we support.

When I step into my Lodge, I know that I'm going to "WORK" for the betterment of myself and the craft as a whole. I know that my work there has a profound meaning and observance which there is no higher honor obtained in any of the appandent bodies of masonry. This is how people become disappointed looking for the wrong thing!

Some people should not venture away from the blue lodge if they can't comprehend or understand the other appandent bodies or associations of Freemasonry. Every body of Freemasony has its purpose. Its up to the individual to decide what that purpose is and to act upon it.

In closing, the Shrine is not ashamed of Freemasonry. After each and every parade (especailly Temple parades) we are overloaded with questions on how to join. The only reply is YOU HAVE TO BE A MASON!

You get what you give!

Hiram Abif said...

I came into Freemasonry of my own free will and accord, as did I into the other affiliated Masonic Fraternity's. And it will be of my own free will and accord of which Fraternity's I will or will not belong, that choice will not be of a Grand master to make for me!!!!!

Hotel Diplomat Historian said...

The BPOE / Elks were influenced through their early cross over membership in the early years of the Elks around 1868 and still to this day!
The Elks had a 2 degree system. Before it was systematically dismantled by men who were not Masons!
They also wore elaborate aprons and used ornate lodge rooms from 1870's till around the 1940's. as their quality of membership dropped meaning having Senator's, mayors, and big money men they couldn't afford to keep a good percentage of their outstanding ornate building with dedicated Elks Lodge Rooms. I've been in a couple of Elks Lodge Rooms and they can be very breath taking!
One can right away see the early Masonic influence guiding them in a very interesting way...
Now days with the need of money the money to keep the lodges that are kind of glorified bars these days.
Elks buildings these days are not as interesting as the ones in the 1900's.
This is another interesting bit about the Elks and other Fraternal Orders.
Is as only Charity is pushed the ritual receives less & less emphasis every year. Like God and ceremonial garb is being thrown out quickly by many forces unseen!
I haven't figured that answer out yet.
Have the Elks allowed atheist in their lodges unknowingly and closet atheists have lied their way to the top ranks!
It's just a good question!!!!
Why the innovation in the Elks?
Groups that down play quality and innovate that group usually stops being sought after.
Look at the Eagles, Moose, Nights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, Odd Fellows, and the Grange just about don't exist in today's world!

But, Freemasonry has a back bone that is unyielding and will " not innovate"!
Which makes it meaningful to its Masonic members.
The Elks still do initiation , opening & closing our meeting ritualistically which is awesome and meaningful.
If the Elks yanks that out and the belief in God to become a Elk, then I would be done with that and become a full Masonic member to get out of a fraternity the words; I believe in God & I stand for unyielding traditions!!!!
I love the Elks and Freemasonry. It keeps a young man in positive works in life and a good fellowship.
I don't wish the Shrine to break off from Freemasonry!
So long live the Masonic Lodge, the Elks Lodge, and our fun Shrine Temples.
Their worth it to keep it all together for traditional sake.

Hotel Diplomat Historian said...

Being a good American and looking deeply into Brotherly love, Charity, and Fidelity.

Unknown said...

The only reason blue lodges don't have boose anymore in the USA is because it would put then under the civil rights act about equal gender admission. Of course the way around that is to make a all female Masonic association and allow equal access.

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