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.