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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Opposing Tyranny

Note: thanks to the Widow's Son

The blog Masonic Crusade today reported a situation in West Virginia arising over the confusing actions of the sitting Grand Master Charlie Montgomery. Two brothers, if you are following events there had the "bad sense" to stand up and question the actions of Grand Master Montgomery in setting aside the will of the brethren as expressed by their votes at their 2007 Grand Communication. The Grand Master demanded that the master of M.W. Haas' lodge prefer masonic charges against him, which he refused to do, and as a result, both men were expelled without a trial.

The latest confusing actions reported to have been undertaken by Most Worshipful Montgomery and reported in the Masonic Crusade are that after the recent visit to a West Virginia Lodge by an out-of-state brother, who spoke in support of PGM Haas', a letter was sent out to the Lodge Masters across the state, instructing them on what can, and cannot, be discussed in lodge in regard to these issues.

In this letter, M.W. Montgomery reportedly noted the issue of MW Haas and the legislation as issues not to be discussed. More worrying than this letter even going out (if one can imagine such, seeing as Freemasonry was FOUNDED upon the principles of freedom of thought, speech, religion, etc) Most Worshipful Montgomery reportedly warned the masters of his lodges that they may NOT even reveal the contents or even the existence of this letter.

The following is an excerpt from the Masonic Crusade forum:
In my recent travels, I have been told that Grand Master Charlie is at it again. Only this time he is hedging his bets, as he is apparently now sending “secret” letters to some of the Worshipful Masters of Lodges describing an event in the northern part of the state. The letter describes a situation where a member of a non-WV Lodge visited and presented a technical paper, the perspective of which was attributed to Past Grand Master Frank Haas regarding the current situation in Masonry in WV.

In this letter to the Worshipful Masters, Charlie informs them that permitting any such activities or discussion in the future shall be considered unmasonic conduct. He also issues a warning to them, to the effect that the Master is forbidden to read the letter in open Lodge or show it to anyone. This, my brethren, is a tyrannical tactic designed to fracture the Lodge, to keep it in a state of disarray, so that it cannot possibly fight back.

It is frequently employed by terrorism groups, to ensure loss of minimal amount of information should one person be captured. Most WMs I have spoken with have been afraid to tell their own Lodge that they have even received the letter, let alone read it in open Lodge. In WWII, when we were sent behind enemy lines, we were told about the critical aspects of the larger plan for which we were gathering intelligence.

We were also told that we would not be forgotten and to be patient if we were captured. Now, regrettably, I am reminded of those on the other side in Germany, who were simply told to blindly do something (i.e. without daring to question) otherwise be instantly shot by a Luger pistol. I thought my generation had already fought and won that war.

Apparently, like the US Civil War, it too is not over.
As you can imagine, given the support that MW Haas still enjoys among his West Virginia brethren, and the outrage that is simmering to a rolling boil in the lodges, that demand to keep the letter secret has been... ignored by many Masters. Copies of the letter, suitably redacted, are making their way throughout the brethren of West Virginia, and of course, across the blogosphere. There are some edicts of a Grand Master that, when calling for actions that violate the conscious of a good, honorable and true mason, MUST be violated.

One thing that confuses even this mason... what does GM Montgomery think is going to happen the day AFTER he is replaced by the next duly elected Grand Master? Does he seriously think that his actions will be upheld? Does he think for a moment that HE himself, may be subject to summary dismissal from our ranks, the ignominy he has visited upon MS Haas? If not, WHY has he NOT considered it? I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, but the questions have to be asked.

I have not weighed in on this looming crisis in West Virginia for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is: Lack of information. One side of an issue is hardly a justification to set aside an obligation to charity, brotherly love, and to not injure a brother. HOWEVER, over time, I have done my research, talked to West Virginia Masons, and find myself more and more appalled at the state of Freemasonry IN WEST VIRGINIA. The good news here is that its just one Grand Lodge. Out of 101 Regular Grand Lodges in the United States... and if you include the other grand lodges that have similar, though not as egregious, problems, you have about 15 out of 101 lodges, or just over 14%.

Bro. Chris at Freemasons for Dummies noted that situation in his recent blog: West Virginia: The Continuing Crisis

It is difficult to divine the truth from WV Masons at this point, as many feel threatened over any internet communication whatsoever. But it is clear that the standoff between the GM and supporters of Frank Haas has not cooled. In the end, that's bad for Freemasonry in West Virginia. The old school belief that what happens behind a GM's closed office doors stays there is no longer true, and the Internet can send details of such situations around the world in seconds. Likewise, when WV Masons compare their laws to the jurisdictions across the country and seek to make changes, ignoring or threatening them won't work forever.

A vow to the Masons of West Virginia to reintroduce the rule changes of MWBro. Haas individually so proper votes can be taken in October would go a long way to start re-building bridges. Such action would take bravery and the abandonment of some ego for the greater good. Such are the qualities of strong leadership. The Masonic world continues to watch.
To quote "Widow's Son" at the Burning Taper:
If your Grand Master is indeed telling your lodges what they can and cannot discuss, and forbidding Masters to disclose his communications, then Masonic tyranny and terrorism has truly arrived (in West Virginia).
It is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that any other grand lodge will take any kind of official action against the Grand Lodge of West Virginia, and how could we? Any action we take against the Grand Lodge would injure the brethren of that state still more. And yet, Masonic Ritual tells me that there is hope.

To my brothers worldwide: I encourage you to contact your grand lodge, express your brotherly concern, and ask them to take some kind of action in the face of these actions by Grand Master Montgomery, even if its just a letter.

To the brethren of West Virginia: We stand behind you and support you.
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...

You have been telling me for too long, Yheron, that this rebel rousing against Grand Lodges was for no good reason. West Virginia is not an isolated case.

Frederic L. Milliken said...

I apologize for the typo

Howard Roark said...

Haas is not the first victim nor will he be the last. What about the injustices done to the brothers in Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio? (just to name a few)

I'm not trying to be a nay-sayer by posting this. I'm asking a very serious question. The problem is NOT isolated to West Virginia. How do we get all good Masons to work together for the benefit of the Craft?

Theron Dunn said...


You ask an interesting question, and one that deserves serious consideration. M.W. Haas (and so I will continue to consider him, regardless) was done wrong, on several levels, by the actions of one man, not freemasonry. I know that is a fine distinction, but nothing in Freemasonry teaches us to shoot the messenger.

Now, you note that it has happened as well in other jurisdictions, but lets be fair here, in each case, the circumstances were different. The circumstance in Georgia, for instance, is entirely different from what happened to M.W. Haas.

I agree that no man should have the absolute power to expel someone without a trial and due review. That is a problem, BUT, the brethren in those jurisdictions have given the power to the Grand Master to take those actions, right or wrong, without review.

In Georgia, as you are aware, the Masonic Code specifically gives the Grand Lodge (in this case, the Grand Master) the right to expel a man without any further justification or review. The brethren of Georgia, however, are the only ones that can change this rule.

It goes on.

However, I do not see you as a nay-sayer, you raise a good point. The question on the table, as I noted at Burning Taper, is what,exactly, can I as a California mason do about the actions of the Grand Master of West Virginia, GIVEN that my grand lodge adheres to the doctrine of sovereignty within each Grand Lodge.

As for working together for the benefit of the craft, I am 100% behind the idea... lets define what we mean by "benefit of the craft" though.

I am all up for suggestions.


tao1776 said...

Benefit of the craft...may perhaps be better understood as "...for it is in serving others that we are faithful to the vows that we have taken as Masons..."
Masonry should not be self serving but an inspiration to Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth; a builder of manhood and brotherhood.

Frederic L. Milliken said...

What can you do as a California Mason about West Virginia?

According to you Brother Theron, NOTHING. And that is the problem facing American Freemasonry.

Suggestions? Yes at:
titled: "Grand Lodge Sovereignty"

Theron Dunn said...

Actually, Squire, what I did was ASK for suggestions, I did not say there is nothing. The real question is: Are we getting too carried away by the actions of one man over a short period of time. I would suggest that, if the situation is exactly as presented, then G.M. Montgomery's actions will be overturned in, what, six months when his term is over.

Freemasonry has had similar situations arise over the past 300 years, and after the term, the situation is set right again. One man cannot destroy Freemasonry.

I would submit that all this angst over one GM, while appropriate, is hardly worth the anguish, as his actions are NOT typical of West Virginia or ANY grand lodge. The fact that it is not typical is precisely WHY his actions are causing such an uproar.

Write letters, call the grand lodge... I have no problem with that. I have contacted MY grand lodge, and of course, there is nothing that they can do given that West Virginia is a sovereign grand lodge.

We are all Freemasons, but we are all subject to the grand lodge under which the charter of our lodge is held. I would suggest that it is up to the brethren of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia to DO something... it is, after all, THEIR grand lodge that has gone... catywonkers.

And, to address your earlier comment, yes, West Virginia IS an isolated case, which is why it is causing such an uproar.

Frederic L. Milliken said...

No it is not an isolated case. It's a repeat, over and over again of runaway power gone amuck.

And the sugestion I have already made at Beehive is some overseer or limiter or national contract on GL sovereignty.

This busines of - that GL is wrong, but I can do nothing is giving each GL and GM Carte Blanche to do whatever they feel like knowing that there will be no reprisals.

If American Freemasonry is to survive it has to come together. You can't have one third believeing that it is illegal for a Black man to enter the Craft. You can't have a large number outlawing alcohol and even men who work in the industry, yet linked to the Shrine where alcohol is fine. You can't have Masons expeled without a Masonic trial and Lodges closed and charters pulled for no good reason. You can't have half the Craft pushing ODCs and the other half declaring them illegal.

Will the real Freemasonry please stand up!

Theron Dunn said...

No surprise, Squire, but we are going to have to agree to disagree. The idea of a "National Grand Lodge" is anathema to freemasonry, in my opinion. Also, its HIGHLY unlikely you will EVER get the grand lodges, all 100+, to agree to give up sovereignty to a national body.

Also, frankly, I would fear a national entity more than a "local" entity. Can you imagine a National Grand Master like M.W. Montgomery at the NATIONAL level? That's what we would get someday.

As for Carte Blanche... well, I do not see any grand lodge as having a blank check to do whatever they want. The brethren, of any grand jurisdiction, can always reign in a run away grand lodge... if THEY care enough to do so.

I have to ask, if the brethren of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas do not disagree with the racial policies of their grand lodge, how can WE "enforce" a change? MOST of them are happy with it, or the grand lodge would be changing, and they aren't, because, frankly, most (not all) of the members are okay with it... or don't care, which is pretty much the same.

Do you seriously want to split masonry like a civil war you wrote about, into two or three camps? The Regular (but no longer recognized) "Racist" Grand Lodges, the Regular but Recognized Grand Lodges who don't tolerate Racism (mostly), and the Regular (and still recognized) Grand Lodges who don't care, but go along because they don't want to lose recognition from the rest?

And what of the brothers in those grand lodges? I know several who aren't racists, yet are apparently in the minority, who would no longer be masons if the rest of us enforced what WE see as right on them.

And what will it be next? Will it be the politically correct decision to recognize women's lodges are not exactly regular but close enough to extend hands to, or will it be worse, some grand lodges trying to force other grand lodges to recognize and extend amity to women?

What if its just two or three grand lodges that choose to withdraw recognition over... homosexuality because the rest of us do, or the rest of us trying to force the lodges that don't to accept gay men as members, or worse?

This can go a number of ways, and not all of them are "good", if we go whichever way the current winds blow. Allowing any man of honor and integrity to join is the right thing to do, but is it in the best interests of freemasonry to start forcing these recalcitrant grand lodges to DO OUR WILL because, after all, WE are right?

As for alcohol... that's the rule in their grand lodge. I am okay with those grand lodges having those rules. I think they are silly, but so are the rules in California about alcohol in lodge, in my opinion. It is what it is, and that is the rule.

If I felt strongly about it, I would work to change the rules, which we HAVE been doing in California, by the way. Used to be, no alcohol at all, now you can have alcohol, but you can't store it overnight, can't use lodge funds to buy it, and can't sell it... so even a progressive lodge like California has some silly rules.

As for one day conferrals, you know how I feel about it, I oppose it completely, BUT, I do not see it is the right of my grand lodge to impose its will, which is the will of the brethren, on any other grand lodge. If they feel that they must do ODCs for the benefit of their brethren, then I have to accept their RIGHT, in their grand lodge to do so. And, yes, you can have one half declaring them illegal and half declaring them legal... its what is accepted in THEIR jurisdiction. Oh, and its not even close to half accepting it, just fo the record.

As for lodges having their charters pulled over the Shrine, I assume you are referring to Arizona, and if you think that was the issue, you do not have the facts. The Shine, as they are so fond of telling us, is NOT freemasonry.

Fine. As long as they recruit in our lodges, they have to obey our rules... sort of. Its the deal we make to claim the 2 million a day they raise for the hospitals.

I do not see the problems you seem to see, maybe I am myopic. I see that freemasonry is doing better every year, and while 13 or 14 have some kinds of issues, THEY will survive or not.

We have the Grand Masters Conference every year, and the issues are discussed. If the Grand Lodge of, say, Georgia folds for lack of members, then the Grand Lodge of whatever will start chartering lodges there, and eventually a new Grand Lodge will be formed... perhaps one without racist policies. Then again, maybe not.

As time goes by, I am less likely to support withdrawing recognition as a means of enforcing compliance. Its just not the masonic way.

in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Would some one tell me why we even need a GL. I thought they worked for the local lodges, not the other way.

I R Fed UP in WV

/* Blog Catalog Code ----------------------------------------------- */ Philosophy Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory /* End Blog Catalog Code ----------------------------------------------- */