I posted a comment today regarding a previous post about the innovations in American Freemasonry. Since it ran rather long, I thought that I would use it as a regular post as well.
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 troubles me how much American Masonry has diverged from the practice of Masonry 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, AMD, 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 European, or European concept lodges, business attire is the standard, philosophical papers are presented by members, discussions are held on Masonic topics, and minimum periods between degrees are up to a year.
Masonic education is not optional, but is a requirement, and the meetings are proceeded, or followed, by a meal, or refreshments, known as an Agape, or Festive Board.
Many U.S. lodge meetings consist of a "business meeting" to discuss the light bill, and the food consists of spaghetti on a paper plate, or hot dogs.
Why would men like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Benito Juarez, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Mozart, Winston Churchill, Salvadore Allende, Augusto Sandino, Franklin Roosevelt, Simon Bolivar, Andrew Jackson, Jose de San Martin, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, or Voltaire have wasted their time with an organization like that?
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 then to the work of the craft lodge. However, since Masonry is usually not being practiced in the lodge, it is hard to blame them.
You simply won't find this in the rest of the world, at least not to this degree.