Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Masonic Intolerance


Thank you to my dear friend and Brother Willy Gutman for the following essay:


Masonic Intolerance: The Enemy Within


W. E. Gutman


Freemasonry is the world's oldest and largest fraternal society. It encourages men to improve themselves by embracing ethical principles and working for the welfare of humanity. In its lodges, men of diverse backgrounds labor in harmony. Guided by universal principles, Freemasonry promotes democracy. It fosters civic responsibility. It teaches tolerance and respect for the dignity of man. Its optic is holistic. The eye through which it peers is all-encompassing.



Yet, from its earliest origins, Freemasonry has faced political and religious hostility. Often unrelenting and violent, antagonism toward the Craft has focused on its advocacy of progressive concepts -- Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, with Tolerance being the overarching Masonic virtue. Its fiercest enemies also contrived to thwart the spread of key objectives: free thought, erudition, rational discourse, the pursuit of truth and the separation of church and state.


Persecution of Freemasons has always been fiercest in times of social and religious turmoil and during those great upheavals that have led men to war, epochs marked by an absence of “Light,” by a marked decline in the civilizing effect of reason and by fits of collective madness.


The Inquisition, the Vatican, Hitler and Stalin, to name a few, were rabid foes of Freemasonry. Nazis and fascists regarded Freemasonry as a tool of socialism. Communists viewed it as an elitist agent of bourgeois values. The Craft had already been dealt a mortal blow during the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. Fearful that clandestine lodges might have survived in Russia, Stalin, a dangerous sociopath, banned affiliation under penalty of death. Freemasonry disappeared or lay dormant in post-war satellite nations until the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is still discouraged or banned under totalitarian and theocratic regimes.


An anti-Masonic crusade now blazes on in America on two fronts, both inspired by intolerance. Fire-and-brimstone preachers can be heard haranguing against Freemasonry on AM and short-wave radio stations and in houses of worship across the land. Some of the enormities they level against the Craft are so deranged as to inhibit coherent dialogue.


More insidious, is a subtle profanation of Tolerance that took decades to bear fruit when American Freemasonry veered away from its European roots, when it ceased to be an instrument of enlightenment and social reform, when it turned inwardly and changed from a coalition of open-minded, socially progressive men (think the Founding Fathers) into a bastion of religious and political conservatism out of tune with the Craft’s original values and objectives.



Worse, as religious fundamentalists continue to malign and defame Freemasonry from without, a “fifth column” of Freemasons -- all “states’ rights” absolutists who view even benign governance as malignant, now labor from within the Craft to turn Freemasonry into an agent of ultra-right-wing ideology.



Dogmatism and intolerance are inimical to the Masonic ideal. Both should be regarded as depravities apt to further disfigure The Craft.



Regrettably, tolerance, the guiding principle of Freemasonry, is endowed with a troubling flaw. Like democracy, which tolerates the existence of undemocratic ideas and institutions, tolerance too can be self-defeating if it extends to dogmas and attitudes that are inherently anti-egalitarian. Victor Hugo, humanist, agnostic, social activist and "Mason without an apron" understood both reality and idealism. But his concept of idealism was neither mystical nor abstract. His reading of the stirrings that carry men to lofty heights was tangible and goal-oriented. It called for -- as his monumental works, Notre Dame de Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and, more notably, Les Mis̩rables attest -- an unshakable commitment to tolerance and social justice, compassion for the poor, the voiceless, the disenfranchised, the persecuted, and he urged people to agitate against predatory economic policies, political hypocrisy, censorship and exploitation. What Hugo said is that Tolerance should not be a clearing house for intolerance Рleast of all in a lodge of Masons.


-------------------------------------------------------
Entered, passed and raised at King Hiram #12 in Shelton, CT, W. E. Gutman is a widely published veteran journalist and author. From 1994 to 2006 he was on assignment in Central America where he covered politics, the military, human rights and other socio-economic issues. He lives in southern California’s High Desert. He is a former member of Lancaster Lodge 437 and Tehachapi Lodge 313.

31 comments:

John Galt said...

Brother,
There are some that would read your post and take it as a blanket statement about the intelligence or character of anyone who supports state rights or other such political ideas that you seem to be in disagreement with. Being familiar with your work and intellect I don't think that is your purpose.

If you would be so kind, could you possibly discuss why these political ideas are wrong? It would seem to some that your post suggests that all that support state rights are "intolerant" and only those that reject that political opinion can be seen as "tolerant."

Fraternally,
Brandt

siriusalien said...

I agree that the inward decay of American Freemasonry began when the more European ideals that supported intellectual pursuit and a complete rejection of dogma were replaced by social and political motivations.
I am currently reading Alexander Hammer's Exammining the Craft

John Galt said...

Blind, dogmatic approaches are rarely successful. On the same token "freedom of conscience" is not homogeneity of thought. The decay of Freemasonry, in my opinion, began with its losing its focus and the behavior became an example of exclusion based on ideas. People do not need to be protected from ideas by a governing body. Any thinking person can make their own decisions.

There are Masonic organizations out there that dictate which ritual can be worked, what approach must be adhered to within a lodge (even if it does not effect the greater body), or even something as simple as what color ink pen can be used for correspondance.

As there is a distinct difference between a government of the people and a people under a government, there is a also a distinct difference between the illusion of freedom and the reality of freedom. A government, of any type be it Masonic or civil, has no authority or power of its own. It is not a separate entity that came magically into the world. It is a social contract amongst those citizens or Brethren under governance.

The replacement of civil, even spirited, discourse was replaced by setting mauls.

San Diego Freemason said...

B:. Willy asked me to post the following comment of his:


First, let me reveal myself. I am French, a left-winger, and an unabashed internationalist Federalist. I believe in and endorse progressive, enlightened and accountable systems of centralized government.

In addition, I support absolute and radical separation of church and state -- an ethos promoted and fiercely defended by French Freemasons (and the vast majority of the French people) well, before the 1789 Revolution.

Second, my essay had nothing to do with states’ rights. To latch on to a word and engage in artful equivocation and reasoning from weak analogy while ignoring the central message, defames the messenger and trivializes his work.

What I am warning against in the article is the well-documented attempt by certain American Freemasons to subvert the Craft from an originally liberal, free-thinking, socially engaged, erudite and truth-seeking organization into a vector of political and religious conservatism -- among them, yes, “states’ rights” advocates and so-called Libertarians.

Having said that, I do not oppose states’ rights so long as such entitlements do not benefit profiteers, and swindlers who cry “restraint of trade” when their dubious, often illegal activities (i.e., dumping toxic wastes in the atmosphere, lakes, rivers and oceans) are flagged.

Nor should such rights be used to stimulate unregulated commerce, to favor privileged classes or to sponsor religion in any form.

W.E. Gutman

John Galt said...

I agree with you 100%, those that willfully dump toxic waste or other such harmful activities should be held accountable. It is doubtful and a serious bit of mental gymnastics to think that these type of activities are the sole province or behavior of people of any particular philosophic or political leanings.

I mentioned state rights in my earlier post in the same spirit that you mentioned it. If I read your original post correctly it states that there are some that are attempting to hijack Freemasonry for their own political ends which just happen to be at odds with your own. An attempt to demonize one set of political beliefs while advancing another, in the name of Freemasonry, is contrary to the principles of freedom of conscience and tolerance.

There are some contemporary examples of an attempt to hijack Masonry to advance a socialist and/or strictly atheist agenda.

"Second, my essay had nothing to do with states’ rights. To latch on to a word and engage in artful equivocation and reasoning from weak analogy while ignoring the central message, defames the messenger and trivializes his work."

I should thank you for at least trivilizing my response by calling it "artful." If my reasoning is flawed I would appreciate you pointing out to me how it is weak.

San Diego Freemason said...

Brother Willy has asked me to post this comment of his:

Brother,

Again, what I'm "demonizing" is the hijacking (perhaps "subversion" is a better term) of original French GO Freemasonry in America into a hybrid mishmash designed to "accommodate" the principles and objectives of GO with the rich tapestry of American political and religious ideology.

Anyone familiar with French GO knows that its members are, for the majority, agnostics, atheists or irreligious, well left of center politically and committed, in addition to Further Light, to the radical separation of church and state.

It is therefore understandable -- though reprehensible in my opinion -- that some members of the greater Masonic community in the U.S. are trying to dilute or eliminate the more "radical" aspects of French GO Freemasonry.

Last, re. states' rights, I only skimmed the surface. I could write a whole chapter about the vicious anti-immigration laws of Arizona and Utah, some of the absurd puritanical blue laws still on the books in many states and the secessionist spirit that still exists in parts of the south where Jim Crow refuses to die.

WEG

John Galt said...

"Subversion" may indeed be a better word. Though I find it doubtful or at least questionable that French Freemasons are in the majority atheist or agnostic. Even if that were true that would mean little to Masonry in the United States because of the same rich tapestry that you mentioned.

The United States is not France. A move to require United States Masons to think as French Masons would be intolerance in and of itself. If it is the case that US culture is so contrary to French Freemasonry then perhaps it will simply not work here. On the same token, English Freemasonry morphed in France to fit France, there is no reason that Masonry in the United States cannot be American in character.

There is nothing radical about "separation of church and state." There is nothing radical about supporting human rights. Statism can be quite radical and has proven to be quite dangerous in the past.

On the US politics, anti-immigration (similar in some ways to European anti-immigration laws) and the stupid prohibition laws could constitute an entire separate topic.

San Diego Freemason said...

Brother Willy asked me to post this:

First, let me reveal myself. I am French, a left-winger, and an unabashed internationalist Federalist. I believe in and endorse progressive, enlightened and accountable systems of centralized government. In addition, I support absolute and radical separation of church and state -- an ethos promoted and fiercely defended by French Freemasons (and the vast majority of the French people) well, before the 1789 Revolution.

Second, my essay had nothing to do with states’ rights. To latch on to a word and engage in artful equivocation and reasoning from weak analogy while ignoring the central message, defames the messenger and trivializes his work. What I am warning against in the article is the well-documented attempt by certain American Freemasons to subvert the Craft from an originally liberal, free-thinking, socially engaged, erudite and truth-seeking organization into a vector of political and religious conservatism -- among them, yes, “states’ rights” advocates and so-called Libertarians.

Having said that, I do not oppose states’ rights so long as such entitlements do not benefit profiteers, and swindlers who cry “restraint of trade” when their dubious, often illegal activities (i.e., dumping toxic wastes in the atmosphere, lakes, rivers and oceans) are flagged. Nor should such rights be used to stimulate unregulated commerce, to favor privileged classes or to sponsor religion in any form.

WEG

San Diego Freemason said...

Somehow several postings were deleted. I am attempting to restore them. This is from B:. Galt:

I agree with you 100%, those that willfully dump toxic waste or other such harmful activities should be held accountable. It is doubtful and a serious bit of mental gymnastics to think that these type of activities are the sole province or behavior of people of any particular philosophic or political leanings.

I mentioned state rights in my earlier post in the same spirit that you mentioned it. If I read your original post correctly it states that there are some that are attempting to hijack Freemasonry for their own political ends which just happen to be at odds with your own. An attempt to demonize one set of political beliefs while advancing another, in the name of Freemasonry, is contrary to the principles of freedom of conscience and tolerance.

There are some contemporary examples of an attempt to hijack Masonry to advance a socialist and/or strictly atheist agenda.

"Second, my essay had nothing to do with states’ rights. To latch on to a word and engage in artful equivocation and reasoning from weak analogy while ignoring the central message, defames the messenger and trivializes his work."

I should thank you for at least trivilizing my response by calling it "artful." If my reasoning is flawed I would appreciate you pointing out to me how it is weak.

San Diego Freemason said...

From B:. Willy:

Brother,

Again, what I'm "demonizing" is the hijacking (perhaps "subversion" is a better term) of original French GO Freemasonry in America into a hybrid mishmash designed to "accommodate" the principles and objectives of GO with the rich tapestry of American political and religious ideology.

Anyone familiar with French GO knows that its members are, for the majority, agnostics, atheists or irreligious, well left of center politically and committed, in addition to Further Light, to the radical separation of church and state.

It is therefore understandable -- though reprehensible in my opinion -- that some members of the greater Masonic community in the U.S. are trying to dilute or eliminate the more "radical" aspects of French GO Freemasonry.

Last, re. states' rights, I only skimmed the surface. I could write a whole chapter about the vicious anti-immigration laws of Arizona and Utah, some of the absurd puritanical blue laws still on the books in many states and the secessionist spirit that still exists in parts of the south where Jim Crow refuses to die.

WEG

San Diego Freemason said...

This is from B:. Galt:

"Subversion" may indeed be a better word. Though I find it doubtful or at least questionable that French Freemasons are in the majority atheist or agnostic. Even if that were true that would mean little to Masonry in the United States because of the same rich tapestry that you mentioned.

The United States is not France. A move to require United States Masons to think as French Masons would be intolerance in and of itself. If it is the case that US culture is so contrary to French Freemasonry then perhaps it will simply not work here. On the same token, English Freemasonry morphed in France to fit France, there is no reason that Masonry in the United States cannot be American in character.

There is nothing radical about "separation of church and state." There is nothing radical about supporting human rights. Statism can be quite radical and has proven to be quite dangerous in the past.

On the US politics, anti-immigration (similar in some ways to European anti-immigration laws) and the stupid prohibition laws could constitute an entire separate topic.

San Diego Freemason said...

Here is another posting from B:. Willy:

The simple fact, the one that is being doggedly ignored, either innocently or willfully in this dialogue, is that Grand Orient Freemasonry is the “revolutionary” arm of the Craft. As such, and by definition, its followers are distinctly left-of-center -- for the most part democratic socialists and communists -- ideologically liberal, politically progressive and staunchly secular. To “adapt” it, “amend” it, “tailor” it to America’s more conservative values and leanings would be to disfigure it beyond recognition. For the life of me I don’t understand why, say, a Jew or a Catholic would want to join a fringe Protestant congregation and demand that it conform to their mores and core beliefs … unless their motive for joining was to undermine and emasculate that congregation in the first place.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the GOdF, in its quest to establish a foothold in the U.S., failed to clearly enunciate its identity, personality, principles and objectives. Or else something got lost in translation…. Whatever the case may be, I consider it essential to the survival and future of GOdF Freemasonry (in the U.S.) that those who harbor a false or imaginary vision of it be firmly disabused. I also strongly urge those who may have joined, either under false pretenses or sheer unfamiliarity with the true character of this obedience, to seek other forms of self-expression in more conservative, less radical circles. When someone joins an organization, he/she abides by its ethos and promotes its ideas. The organization is in no way obligated to adjust itself to the whims of its members. GO may not be for everyone but it has the right to thrive unadulterated and uncompromised by incompatible interlopers.

WEG

John Galt said...

Far be it from me to determine what any organization, particularly one that I am not a member of, should do with its membership. A step in the right direction, since we seem be speaking hypothetically (no specific examples were given), would be for the various organizations that are "distinctly left-of-center -- for the most part democratic socialists and communists -- ideologically liberal, politically progressive and staunchly secular" should be very open and absolutely clear about their approach. They shouldn't attempt to appear otherwise.

To refer to someone who was not fully informed of the "distinctly left-of-center" political movement that you claim characterizes the Grand Orient as an "interloper" is very far from factual. Would you be willing to consider that some may have been mislead?

I am not trying to be dense, I simply don't understand how demanding homogeneity of thought, in an organization which to the best of my knowledge is supposedly open to intellectual discourse, is somehow tolerant while holding other ideas is seen as an attempt to subvert the organization. What does freedom of conscience really mean?

San Diego Freemason said...

Another comment from Brother Willy:

Yes, some may have been misled, others may have made hasty or unwarranted assumptions in seeking initiation into the American offshoots of GO. Others yet are consciously attempting to hybridize GO. My earlier posts refer strictly to the GO in France, where it was born. France has three main Masonic bodies: The GO -- the oldest; the Grande Loge de France; and the Grande Loge Nationale, the most conservative. Men (and women) join the obediences that best represent their ideals. Again, as a rule, those who affiliate with GO are well left of center, are agnostics, atheists or simply do not practice any religion. It is precisely freedom of conscience -- free thought -- that guides the choices of those who seek entry into the Craft. Unlike American Freemasonry, which is rigid, uniform, sickeningly reactionary, God-obsessed and stultified, it is precisely freedom of conscience and true democracy that makes French Freemasonry heterogeneous and richly eclectic.

Anyone who studies attentively the stated aims and aspirations of GO cannot possibly mistake it for anything remotely resembling Blue Lodge or the farcical stage productions of the American Scottish Rite brand of Freemasonry.

This will be my last post on the subject. Caveat emptor.

John Galt said...

It stands that the United States is not France. It would be short-sighted to expect a complete transplant of French Grand Orient Masonry to the United States. It is simple to speak in generalities, which is what we are doing here, but that does not get to the root of any issue.

leftbank27 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
leftbank27 said...

And France is not the US, yet the French have not tampered with the recipes of America's great cultural exports -- McDonald, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken, nor have they prevented scores of American artists, writers, composers and musicians from gaining the recognition and high public acclaim that was denied them in the U.S.

In retrospect, Bro. John may be right. Perhaps America is not ready for GO Freemasonry. Perhaps it will never be. This is no great loss for world Freemasonry but it looms as a large impediment in the democratization of a nation stiffled by political and religious ultra-conservatism, by xenophobia, racism and rampant anti-intellectualism.

San Diego Freemason said...

Brother Willy asked me to post a revised comment of his:

And France is not the US, yet the French have not tampered with the recipes of such great American cultural exports -- McDonald, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Nor have they prevented scores of American artists, writers, composers and musicians from gaining the recognition and high public acclaim they were denied in the U.S. because they were either Black, gay, anti-war activists or avowed socialists.

In retrospect, Bro. John may be right. Perhaps America is not ready for GO Freemasonry. Perhaps it will never be. This is no great loss for world Freemasonry but it looms as a large impediment in the democratization of a nation stifled by political and religious ultra-conservatism, by imperialistic designs, by xenophobia, racism and rampant anti-intellectualism. Perhaps the GOdF will finally see the “Light” and withdraw its charter from the pseudo-GO lodges now sprouting around the country.

WEG

John Galt said...

Brother WIllie,
Perhaps you are right. Maybe there is no place for a version of Freemasonry that promotes atheism and socialism as a dramatically important function of Masonry.

You are correct the French have been kind enough not to change McDonald's French Fries to allow that cultural export to remain as it is. Since that is important could follow logically that it was wrong for French Masons to alter English Masonry?

leftbank27 said...

Was it right for Henry VIII to ban Catholicism...? Was it right for the Grand Lodge of England to declare the French GO an apostate?

The fathers of English Freemasonry, circa 1717, and their American Brothers, were enlightened men -- philosophers, scientists, writers, artists, in short men of high intellectual caliber whose thoughts helped rid America, later France, of monarchs and corrupt clergy. Not bad when you think about it.

Say what you will but GO embodies the true spirit of Freemasonry. No one is forced to join. For those who want their reactionary meat rare, I suggest Rotary, the Elks, the Moose and, for a real blast, the Raccoons.

Seriously, we could go on like until our fingertips give out. I beg to be released from this unending merry-go-round.
Thank you

John Galt said...

Sure enough I enjoy living in a country that is free from the tyranny of crowns and pontiffs. Is the true spirit of Freemasonry homogeneity of thought? In my opinion, no. It is open and sincere seeking for truth. If one's person journey brings them atheism or to the Roman Catholic Church I am still willing to call them "Brother" and I don't think that it is appropriate to remove them because they no longer agree with every personal precept. I also think it is important to allow thinking people to arrive at their own ideas (political, social, religious) and still accept them as Brethren instead of dictating what a person should believe to be a Mason that is not somehow subverting Masonry.

As to the continued accusations of "reactionary," somebody that does not agree with another on a matter of political philosophy or religious outlook is not reacting, they are just not agreeing. Thinking men and women will often disagree. The manner in which those disagreements are handled is what is important if we want to see Masonic tolerance. Will it be approached to harm another or will it be approached in a manner of open discourse?

You do not have to "beg to be released" from this discussion. I suspect that Brother Peter is not forcing others to read this blog, I have never asked if he does but it doesn't seem like something that he would do. I have enjoyed the open exchange, I am sorry that it has bothered you so much. Frankly you haven't participated until now.

Just for my information, which GO embodies the "true spirit of Freemasonry?" The several Grand Orients in the world are not identical.

leftbank27 said...

Brother John,

I have the unsettling feeling that my posts are being either misinterpreted or misunderstood.

I never suggested that people should believe in one thing or another to be eligible for membership in a Masonic Lodge. What I said -- and maintain -- is that, to this day, GOdF attracts people with identifiable ideological commonalities. I described them in earlier posts.

Last, I can speak with any degree of expertise only about French GO (although I have labored in other jurisdictions, including Israel, Guatemala, Honduras and Grenada).

My "participation" in this web site has been incidental and sporadic -- a few essays here and there, and an occasional letter.

In parting, I was using the word "reactionary" in its philosophical and political context. Reactionary = ultra-conservative, capitalistic, plutocratic, elitist and religious. I was not contesting your "reaction" to my posts.

I will let you have the last word. I'm done.

siriusalien said...

Hello All,
I am the first to admitt my ignorance of grand ideas. I guess that is to be expected as I am an Elk, Moose, Lion and even Turtle (talk about a blast!)
I am a Mason laboring within a European GL represented in the USA. We work the AASR 1-33* I have a unique appreciation for the 'work" and study required within this system free of an implied belief system.
However, it is also true and inescapeable, that the symbolism od AASR is Judeo/Christian. I am a fierce advocate for lodge members, who, in the context of their Works of Architecture, make spiritual referances. It is my position that deeply help spiritual beliefs discovered by use of the plumb, should be allowed voice, with the judicious application of the level.
I have been wittness to extreme intolerance from my Continental Sisters to the expression of anything "religious".
The first "lesson" for the EA, upon receiving Masonic Light : "Madame, everyrthing is symbol".
And it is! weather it be the biblical archetypes presented throughout the degrees or the individuals references to them.

San Diego Freemason said...

Hello Sister Sirius,

Welcome. Which obedience is it that you belong to? Thank you for your comments.

John Galt said...

The last word isn't required. I hope that this discussion has not been taken as an argument. It was not intended to be. I have enjoyed it actually.

French thought tends to lean towards what you have described to a certain degree but is far from monolithic. They have some of the most entertaining political discourse in that country. That could be why those aspects show up in French Masonry. That by no means should be taken as the height or best expression of Masonry. It is also unlikely to take root here due to the differences between France and the United States. I suspect that the Grand Orient of France did not intend an American Grand Orient to be a carbon copy of the Grand Orient of France.

siriusalien said...

My apologies, as I didn't realize I wasn't posting under my own name. So, least you mistake me for "he who should never be named"- I am June Elizabeth Lennon

San Diego Freemason said...

Hi S:. June, I did not recognize you through your comments. :-)

siriusalien said...

Didn't want anyone to think I was a "sock puppet"

San Diego Freemason said...

Thanks S:. June,

There are a lot of those around these days. :-)

2 BOWL CAIN said...

patents still in place.
standing with GOdF still same.
It is being ferreted out that the GOdF was lied to and a false scenario was proposed to them, so, hold on, just like the Grand Lodge of Ohio situation, everyone thought we were wrong and did not know anything, but after a couple years, it came to be that Halcyon wasn't lying or breaking rules.

I have a feeling that we will see the same thing played out. Detractors blowing their horns before really gathering substantial evidence.

I am glad the judge and jury in all this garbage has spoken up? nope, just hodapp and yancey with "credible" sources, except anything from the GOdF or GOUSA, who are the only real players in this situation.....

keep up the good work and following your leaders

siriusalien said...

I received a typically "french" response to my inquiry: As far as GOdF is concerned " there is no GOUSA"