Thursday, October 8, 2009

Innovations in American Freemasonry

It is very interesting to see how Freemasonry has evolved in the United States compared to other parts of the world. While no Grand Lodge seems to agree with how many landmarks there are, or what they are, the U.S. Grand Lodges are responsible for many innovations in Freemasonry. These include:
1. Opening of the lodge in the 3rd Degree. At the Baltimore Convention of 1842 it was decided that "Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts are not members of Lodges, nor are they entitled to the franchises of members." Not done that way prior to the convention, and never in Europe. This had the effect of rushing men through the degrees so that they could participate as full members.
2. Use of the Pledge of Allegiance when opening lodge. While there is nothing wrong with being patriotic, nationalism is inappropriate in a Masonic Temple.
3. Use of Sectarian prayers in lodge. Freemasonry is non-sectarian.
4. The doctrine of Territorial Exclusivity. As more Grand Lodges recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodges in their states, (as well they should), this doctrine becomes moot.
5. The creation of numerous bodies that, while not Masonic, require members be masons, or related to masons to join. These bodies are accepted by the Grand Lodges and are viewed by the general public as being Masonic, which they are not.
6. One day classes, whereby a man can become a Master Mason in a single day.
7. Encouraging attempts at recruitment in many jurisdictions, such as advertising for members.
8. The prohibition of alcohol at Masonic functions. Compare this policy to the practices of the Grand Lodge of London, the lodges in the American colonies, etc.

All in all, it is my opinion that while there are many good Masons in the U.S. jurisdictions, and many Grand Lodges are making positive changes, Mainstream American Masonry has traveled well off the path of historic Freemasonry. The Masonic Restoration Foundation is a wonderful step in the right direction, as is the "European Concept" lodge movement.

Sadly, much of what is called Masonry today in many parts of the country cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered authentic Freemasonry. Most American Masonry would be defined as "Irregular" when compared to the Freemasonry of the Grand Lodge of London in 1717 and European Freemasonry in general as practiced for the past 300 years. That's just the way it is.


Eirenaeus said...

Your observations are very astute. I too am coming to the same conclusion you have - that Freemasonry in the US and in some GL's particularly, is so variant from the historical foundations of Freemasonry, that it certainly would be 'irregular,' were they not independently decreed Masonic institutions. I wonder, what other background for these conclusions can you pass along?

San Diego Freemason said...

Thank you Bro:. Eirenaeus for the comments. Sorry, I am not sure what you mean by other background.

I happen to be in a Liberal Jurisdiction, but even Masonry as practiced by the UGLE is very different from American Freemasonry.

I think that English Masonry has more in common, in terms of practice, with the Grand Lodge of France, and even the Grand Orient of France, than with most American Jurisdictions.

I have not researched enough of the history to determine how all of these innovations arose.

While all Grand Lodges are independent and can practice Masonry with some differences, as long as the Landmarks are not violated, it amazes me how much American Masonry has changed from how Freemasonry is practiced in Europe (England, Scotland, Ireland included) and most of the world.

A big problem, in my view, is the plethora of so-called Masonic bodies that have arisen here.

These include: The Shriners, The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, National Sojourners, Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, White Shrine of Jerusalem, Royal Order of Jesters, Rainbow Girls, Sciots, High Twelve, Jobs Daughters, Daughters of the Nile, De Molay, ad infinitum.

Obviously, in the minds of some Masons, Freemasonry was "lacking" something, or was not what they were really looking for in the first place.

Freemasonry, in my opinion, is complete in itself. Concordant bodies, such as the AASR, the York Rite, etc., are fine, as they simply elaborate the teachings of Freemasonry that are taught in the craft lodge. They offer parallel, rather than "higher" degrees of Freemasonry.

Maybe what many of these people were looking for was not Freemasonry. They should have joined the Odd-Fellows or Moose. They could find a "play-ground" in some other organization.

Another big problem in American Masonry has been to turn it frequently into a charity.

Freemasons are taught to be charitable in their lives, but the Order itself is not a charitable institution.

It is an organization that exists for fellowship, mutual aid, and personal growth. Freemasons work on improving themselves and, in the process, improve the society in which they live.

In the United States it has become all too often a social club and a charity, one, that it appears leaves so much to be desired that its members devote more of their time to the "fun" clubs associated (wrongly) with the Grand Lodges.

You simply won't find this in the rest of the world, at least not to this degree.