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21 abril 2009

Closed, Cloistered, Secret Sect Or Open, Fraternal, Society Partner

This article could have been titled “The Castration of Freemasonry, Part 2” but I have chosen a new title so that both articles can stand on their own separately, not that there won’t be a fair amount of repetition between the two. Somehow I just keep seeing more and more material related to this subject, almost if an angelic messenger was shoving new considerations under my nose.

The original article, Part 1, has been published by A Partir Pedra and can also be read here, It will perhaps provide some needed background to a continuation of the same theme. The title of this article has no bearing in reality; rather it is what is perceived by the general public not actually authored by the fraternity. In essence it is an exaggeration that does point to different schools of Masonic practice.

A number of Masonic writers and thinkers have mentioned that Freemasonry around the world has different priorities and focus. It has been pointed out that European Masonry’s main focus is philosophical, North America’s social and South America’s political or to put it another way – passive, neutral and proactive in its role with society. All practices are charitable although the U.S.A. carries its mission of relief to an extreme position.

Could it be that European Masonry, using Britain as a model, over time after The Enlightenment became accepted and codified into law and practice, evolved by melding with a governmental structure that promoted an official state religion, and that influenced Freemasonry to remain private? If Freemasonry here is a quasi governmental/religious structure, some say captured by them, might that prevent it from entering into any kind of rebellion, reform or societal change and mold it into an organization which withdraws within itself mirroring that privacy found in English Gentlemen’s Clubs? Perhaps France with its French Revolution is the exception here that might explain their fracture into multiple Grand Lodges.

Could it be that North American Masonry, using the U.S.A. as a model, actually became so identified with the overthrow of British rule, reform and remaking and restructuring of the entire society, always placing the leaders of the Craft in the public eye, the end result being a system of checks and balances and separation, separation of church and state, that it actually programmed itself to walk away from being allied with church and state (Washington refused positions as both President for life and national Grand Master)? The United States Constitution, its political, legal and judicial systems were all crafted democratically, with heavy Masonic influence, to be a new way of doing things that reversed and corrected the odious tyrannical despotism of its European heritage. And because of all that, might we be able to say that North American Masonry accomplished its mission of liberty, equality and fraternity and now went on to just develop social relationships?

And could it be that South American Freemasonry because it was never able to ally itself with a religion, as most of the area was Roman Catholic, nor with government because it was most often undemocratic and tyrannical, never developed into the European model? Is it not true that the Roman Catholic Church often did ally itself with the government so that what Masonry fought elsewhere to reform – freedom of religion, free public schools instead of parochial church schools, democracy and separation of church and state – never got implemented in South America until much later? So could we not say that Masonry, a product of the Enlightenment, was still fighting to get the Enlightenment implemented into society in South America? And that of course would explain it being tagged as political.

Then perhaps we could say that European Masonry, which implemented the Enlightenment without a complete remake and restructure of church and state, was able to ally or attach itself to these institutions and thus Masonry became passive. And North American Masonry, which became the leading philosophical influence on political thought and actual leadership of a complete societal remake, revolution and writing a Constitution from scratch, accomplished its mission and separated itself according to the rules it drew up and thus became neutral. And South American Masonry, which neither blended with the rulers of society nor was successful in implementing the Enlightenment, fought on and thus became pro active.

But these, as you can see, are all only questions. And what I am hoping for are others in the Craft more knowledgeable to offer correction and refinement of these musings. There are so many exceptions to the hypotheses, France and Italy, Canada and Brazil and others. Perhaps we have really only been talking about British, United States and Mexican Masonry. But it does seem that the course society takes has a direct correlation with the course Masonry takes.

But there have been other influences on Masonry besides society. Another influence on how it sees its role is Masonry’s origin. What are Masonry’s roots and how has its traditions made it into what we see today? Heretofore, two schools of thought as to Masonry’s origin held the most public prominence. One school said that Masonry came out of the stonemason guilds while a second postulated that Masonry started with the Knights Templar. Of course there are some who desire the best of both possible worlds by stating that Masonry was an amalgamation of the two.

Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, writing in Heredom, formulates another hypothesis. He backs up Mackey in stating that Masonry roots are in esoteric knowledge passed down from generation to generation in many different forms.

Mackey’s claim was:

Knowledge of the reality of God and the immortality of the soul was transmitted through a line of biblical personages, from Adam to Solomon and beyond.
After the biblical period, this knowledge was preserved, over the course of human history, in the civilizations of late antiquity and on until the European Enlightenment, through societies of esoteric knowledge and initiation, culminating in modern Freemasonry.
And the manner of transmission involved imitations employing symbolism and allegory.(1)

Koltko-Rivera refines Mackey’s assessment of biblical personages to mean communities of esoteric philosophy operating in the name of those biblical personages, so he talks about the communities of Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. After the biblical period he talks about the Eleusinian initiatory mysteries, the Qumran sect, Gnostic groups and the rite of Five Seals, Jewish Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism, Hermetic societies in Egypt, other mystery schools in Greece and Rome, on to the Kabbalah, Elias Asmole, Sir Isaac Newton and the Rosicrucians. Although we might have left out a few groups along the way, we have enough to get a clear picture of where this school of thought is taking us. Perhaps it is quite a stretch to link all these parts into a whole or to say they were all interconnected. Personal genealogy is hard enough to research, but group or organizational genealogy going that far back would seem to many schooled in the scientific method to be a giant guess. What is important, however, is not the veracity of the claim but what kind of influence has this kind of thought had on Masonry?

Recently there has been a revival in Gnostic adherence since the discoveries at Nag Hammadi and the Kabbalah especially among Masons. These esoteric teachings and schools steer Masonry into being a philosophical society teaching Gnostic thought, that is that Masonry really does have some secret, special, superior knowledge over and above what the obvious, literal reading of its ritual says. Even Wilmshurst will tell us that. Thus we have in Freemasonry a society that possesses this Gnostic esoteric knowledge of a superior life making Masonry an elite, closed organization that can only reveal the secrets of a better life to those who become part of the inner circle. This looks close to the European Model of above.

But is Masonry another mystery school or is it today a maker of leaders? Is Masonry perhaps more open, declining any special secret or superior knowledge? Can it be that Masonry is most successful at putting together a complete package of education and ethics along with toleration and non-judgmental acceptance of every school of thought and practice, race, religion and standing in life? Can it not support justice and freedom and show the world how it can live together peacefully? Can Masonry not help guide society and turn out leaders from its ranks to work in society to make for a better world? This looks closer to the above models of North and South America.

So the question really is, is Masonry’s purpose to just privately improve its own members who then are keepers of the sacred knowledge or is it to prepare men to be leaders within society in the various disciplines of politics, science, business, medicine and religion etc, to stand for what is just, right and ethical in a fallen world and to be a beacon of light for peace and harmony among all peoples and nations and to actively work for such?

What is most important, what one believes or what one does?
It sounds like the Christian argument of salvation by faith or by works.

We read in Ephesians (2:8-9):

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not your own doing: it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We read in the book of James (2:14-17 & 24)

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your full,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead………You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

An American friend transplanted in Britain almost 20 years ago and raised a British Mason, after reading “The Castration of Freemasonry” E-Mailed me some comments.

“There is a real and tangible difference between Freemasonry in England/Wales and Freemasonry in the United states,” he said. “Here there is a slight tinge of stink attached to being a Freemason. People don’t know why they think this, but there has always been the suspicion that Freemasonry is a gentlemen’s club in which one hand scratches the other’s back. Thus many local councils prohibit Freemasons from public employment, and police authorities and the judiciary require that their members and employees disclose Masonic membership.”

“People here generally do not wear Masonic rings or ornaments outside the Lodge. You don’t normally discuss Masonry or your membership with every one of your best friends. You might discuss it with close friends, or mention it if someone shows interest, but you don’t talk about it very much. There are no items such as Masonic number plates for cars, nor are there signs at town and city borders telling you when the local Masonic lodge meets.”

“I believe the best way to combat all forms of intolerance is to start from within and work outwards. Each man builds his own Temple inside, making it strong, watertight, and integral within itself. When everyone has done this, the world will be a better place.”

From an American viewpoint, I would counter with that there is a certain price to be paid for being so closely associated with the rulers and power structure of society. And that being so private as to be labeled secret arouses all sorts of public jealousy and suspicions. It is the fire that fuels conspiracy theories. And finally if we wait until everyone builds a better Temple for himself, we will wait until hell freezes over. It was Martin Luther King, a friend of Masonry, and Brother Jesse Jackson who saw a need to go public and to openly tweak the conscience of society.

So again we ask what is most important what one believes or what one does? And we ask the same question of Masonry. What is most important for Masonry, its privately held knowledge and belief system which one has to be initiated into or its public doings partnered with society thereby bolstering freedom, liberty, equality, opportunity and justice for all and its positive influence on world peace?

We as individuals are all products of our traditions, our culture and our upbringing. We are also products of the society we live in. The same can be said of Masonry. Can we as individuals change and take on a different persona? There is nothing we can’t do but remaking yourself is one of the hardest tasks you can attempt. And so we must conclude the same for Freemasonry.

Wor. Frederic L. Milliken

(1) “The Transmission of Esoteric Knowledge & The Origins of Modern Freemasonry: Was Mackey Right” by Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Heredom, Volume 15, pg. 184

15 abril 2009


An American Point of View
Wor. Frederic L. Milliken

For the past several decades, Freemasons worldwide have been preoccupied about the decline in membership. All sorts of reasons have been advanced for this decline and many different solutions have been tried to stop it, but to no avail. The line on the graph of Masonic membership continues its steady downward trend.

Lost in the turmoil of argument of reasons and solutions has been the realization that Freemasonry has developed a schism and that breaking apart is in reality about who has the best way to rebuild The Craft. It’s almost as if the Antients and the Moderns were back at it again, but this time it is not over ritual but practice.

Today’s Antients assert that Freemasonry is a personal journey of moral improvement that prepares a man to re-enter society as an individual providing to the outside world an example or role model of one who has taken the high road in life.

Speaking for Today’s Antients is Provincial Grand Master Lord Northamton, UGLE, who tells us that Freemasonry has no role in society. Speaking for the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland he states, “Freemasonry has no role outside Freemasonry and that the only influence it should be seeking is over itself and its members.” He goes on to say that Freemasonry is simply a matter of self improvement through self discovery and education with The Craft pointing the way and that a man who brings the lessons and virtues of Freemasonry into his heart would then be expected to be an arm of improvement for society as an individual operating as such outside the Craft. But never should Freemasonry as a fraternity take any position on any public issue, he asserts. “Freemasonry is not, and should never be allowed to develop into being, a lobby group - no matter how universal and noble the cause.”(1)

Today’s “Moderns”, strongest in the U.S.A., promulgate the practice of “community Freemasonry” whereby Freemasonry as a unit has undertaken a vow of charity for all mankind and then enters society as a collective force to uplift the less fortunate.

This view is aptly put forward by MSANA’s Executive Secretary, Richard Fletcher, who acknowledges the Crafts roots in the Enlightenment but then “modernizes” that heritage into community action and involvement, code words for Institutionalized Charity. He tells us, “In my judgment there is nothing Freemasons could do that would be more important than undertaking the role of unity builder by being seen in our communities, by doing community outreach, and showing by example what it means to be part of a family, not only our own family, but the family of our state, the family of our nation. Without fully realizing it Masons used to do these things. But like the rest of the country our ‘sense of purpose’ had eroded.”(2)

Another Masonic commentator, Tony Fels, reaffirms this position on increasing Masonic membership when he says, “There seems to be much talk within the Masonic order about what it might take to spark a revival of interest, especially among younger people, in the principles and practice of fraternalism. Certainly the ongoing tendency among many Grand Lodges and local lodges to become more visible in their local communities through sponsoring scholarship funds, clean-up campaigns, and other benevolent activities will help bring the Masonic brotherhood to the attention of people who may wish to join in the fellowship of the lodge.” (3)
Absent from this tug of war over Freemason’s hearts is the fact that Freemasonry consists of
two distinct divisions of actualization and that both are equally valid and both are absolutely necessary for the Complete Mason. Simply stated these two parts of the whole are:
1) That private and personal journey whereby a Mason reads and studies on his own and then applies the virtues and lessons of the Craft into his daily life, building that Temple within.
2) That gathering into Masonic community whereby Masons initiate new members, exemplify rituals and customs, cement the bonds of fraternalism through Masonic fellowship and interact with the greater community at large.

Freemasonry is then both public and private, singular or group, open or closed. It is not fair to say that the Craft is exclusively one or the other. It is a mixture of practice much as a person’s church is. One may read his Holy Book privately away from church and then apply the lessons of his religion to everybody he meets and he may privately offer his adorations to deity in the solitude of his aloneness. Or one may go to church and pray and worship in the community of believers. And one may participate in a church supper, Bible study or mission work with others, even going forth into the streets and avenues of the public at large. To say that one’s church is only about changing the heart of each individual member and does not involve the reception of spirit or transformation in group interaction is as wrong as to say the same thing about Freemasonry.

Yet we are not here to take sides and declare a winner, rather to declare that neither Today’s Antients nor Today’s Moderns have the answer, both are wrong.

The Antients have totally misinterpreted the prohibition of the Lodge involvement in politics. Politics and religion can be discussed in Lodge and Freemasonry as a fraternity can engage in politics and religion publically. It is only partisan politics and sectarian religion that are banned. That it is to say it is not the general but the specific application that leads to proselytization and the problem. This misinterpretation has caused the Antients to practice only half of Freemasonry. The half they do practice is entirely correct but half a loaf is not the whole thing, it’s like trying to walk with only one leg. Freemasonry is not designed to be practiced like Monastic Christianity with no concern or relationship with the outer world. We as Freemasons are not Monks of the Craft.

Yet the Moderns, mainly Americans, fare no better in this analysis because not only have they so downplayed the importance of instruction, education and private research and study in Freemasonry as for it to be virtually nonexistent but they have then taken the public charge as to be one that places Freemasonry’s primary role as savior of the world’s poor and less fortunate. The societal mission has been corrupted by Grand Lodges who have turned American Freemasonry into a Service Club in the name of “Masonic Awareness” whereby Masons spend all their time, money and talent on Institutional Charity whose primary purpose is Masonic publicity and the marketing of Freemasonry. This is not caring for society or an attempt to support society’s leaders in their quest for a better nation. Rather it is an attempt to buy or bribe friends. And in so doing Freemasonry, which touts itself as a noble and virtuous society, comes across as being hypocritical. It certainly isn’t a path Dale Carnegie would have chosen. Today’s Antients would say that the virtues and lessons of Freemasonry teach an individual Brother to be charitable but they do not teach a Lodge how to be the same.
To look at the traditional true path of Freemasonry regarding its role in society one only has to look at its practice shortly after its formal chartering in 1717 and the high preponderance of society’s most prominent leaders who were Freemasons. For you see there was a time when American Freemasonry counted within its ranks professional, intellectual and government leaders as well as owners and managers of businesses. Prominent men, the makers and shakers of society, were Freemasons. It must be remembered that Freemasonry was a product of the Enlightenment and the early practice of the Craft involved directly influencing society. Freemasons then had no qualms about advocating and working for democracy, separation of church and state, religious freedom and public school education for everybody. Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, George Washington, and a host of others, were intimately involved in the American Revolution and thus the remaking of the society of their day. The leaders of society joined Freemasonry because Freemasonry was involved in working for the betterment of society. Was that politics and religion or was it merely an expression and implementation of those inalienable rights given to all mankind by their Creator?

Today under a strict misinterpretation of the politics and religion ban, American Freemasonry does not have anything to do with the workings of society nor will it even comment on any of the freedom and rights violations made by different nations around the world or advocated by various groups here and abroad. This has made the practice of Freemasonry so bland that it has discouraged society’s leaders from becoming members. If American Freemasonry chooses not to be concerned with society why should society be concerned with Freemasonry? If Freemasonry supported society’s leaders in making a freer, better America then those leaders would once again be part of Freemasonry.

RW Brother A Goncalves of the Grand Lodge of Portugal states this case quite clearly. “We regular masons don't live in caverns or ghettos, out of society. We live within society; we are an intimate part of it. We have special responsibilities that we assume as privileges, because they are moral and ethical obligations”. Masonry is not and cannot be passive,” he says. He goes on to assert that the problems of the individual and the problems of society meet in the commonality of freedom. Freemasonry is forever linked to The Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Charter of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, UNICEF and many more. He talks about The Grand Master of Chile, addressing a United States Masonic audience, emphasizing that Freemasonry is not a spokesman for any political party nor should there be any political proseltization in Lodge, yet “Grand Lodges should share some common concepts like: opposition to any tyranny that denies or restricts, in any way, human equality and individual freedom to a complete performance of democratic rights; a clear support to the right of expression and to a fair existence; the respect to the sovereignty of nations; recognition of democracy as system of government and individual aspiration to cultural improvement of any society. Democracy and masonry are substantial and active systems of social progress of Peoples, because both act as source of liberty of speech and conscience and as ferme4nt to interior and external peace».”(4)
The path to Masonic Renewal and Growth leads through a reconnection with society through a constant affirmation of its most humanitarian goals. There are four main areas that I would like to point out where Freemasonry can return a sense of purpose in its role with society.
As a world leader in toleration and acceptance of many different cultures and peoples this is an area where American Mainstream Masonry needs to get its entire house in order. There is no room in a fraternity that espouses equality among all men, for race, religious, cultural or economic discrimination to exist. Nor is there any room in American society for it either. Prince Hall Masonry has for years been a big supporter of the Civil Rights movement. They have the same prohibition in their Lodges against partisan politics and sectarian religion as Mainstream Masonry does. Yet they see no violation of that tradition by working for the same equal treatment of all men. Championing fully, anti discrimination principles will go a long way in convincing leaders of society that Freemasonry is sincere in its support.


American Masons have long been the champions of liberty. It is no coincidence that the phrase “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity” was penned. And advocating the pursuit of happiness unfettered by abridgements to God given freedoms is never unmasonic. American Masons fought to free us from British rule and then played an important role in the framing of the structure and the government of the longest running free society in the history of the world.

“To avoid politics did not mean to deny the civic. The enjoyment of social harmony by the Lodge members relied upon peace and freedom as guaranteed by the civil authorities. Each Lodge was intended as a microcosm of the ideal society.’ A Mason is a peaceable subject to those Civil Powers that guarantee the expression of fundamental freedom,’ says Giuliano Bernardo. Without Liberty, Freemasonry cannot exist.”(5)

Freemasonry was not allowed to exist under Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other despots. All tyrants have recognized that the principles of Freemasonry undermine their rule of total control. That being so, it would not be inappropriate for Freemasonry to let the world know that it is actively supporting the freedoms of all peoples. And in cases of extreme suppression and ruthlessness Freemasonry is as obligated to speak out and work for Liberty as it did during the Enlightenment for the democratization of government.


Imprisonment without cause, torture, denial of due process, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, prohibition of free speech, refusing freedom of religion and freedom of association and terrorism are just a few of the violations of human rights that can be mentioned, all of which run counter to Freemasonry’s belief in the worth of the individual, thus totally incompatible with Freemasonry. So why not say so? There is nothing politically partisan about basic human rights and the dignity of man.

Renowned historian and Masonic chronicler Dr. Margaret Jacob, recently considered a question as to what she thought would be the cause Freemasonry should champion to restore a sense of purpose to the Craft and regain its role in society.(6) She was very reluctant to answer as she said she was not a Mason but when pressed she said her choice would be Human Rights.


Freemasonry seeks to unite diverse people not divide them. It abhors coercion and the use of force except in self-defense. It does not advocate one political cause over another, one religion over another nor one race over another. Every Lodge room is an oasis of peace where peace and harmony flows. When you enter a Lodge room you leave all your differences outside the door. Freemasonry is the only organization in the world that brings together in peace and harmony men of different cultures, creeds, races, religions, economic circumstances and political persuasions. It is the biggest hope for peace the world has.
This is a favorite subject of Paul Bessel who regards Freemasonry’s role in society to be one that is a vocal proponent of the inalienable rights of man endowed by his Creator.
“This idea of Masonry's role being to uplift society, and support democracy and freedom, is not such a radical concept. In the early 1900s it appears to have been a dominant concept in American Freemasonry. Mainstream Masonic writers spoke about Freemasonry working for the good of society, bringing men of all races, religions, and backgrounds together and promoting world peace.” (7)

Bessel reminds us that Roscoe Pound was adamant in his belief that Freemasonry must promote the universality of mankind and that H.L. Haywood regarded the important byproducts of Freemasonry to be equality, liberty and democracy. And then Bessel delivers his ringing rally cry of allowing Freemasonry to be all it can be.

Freemasonry could be, and could have been in the past, the only institution in the world that at all times in every way promotes tolerance and meeting on the level. We could be the leaders in seeking racial harmony, religious ecumenism, cooperation among men and women, civility between people who believe in different political philosophies, and friendliness among those who choose to live their lives differently from others. We could be better than the United Nations, Amnesty International, and interfaith organizations, all together, because we could be the prime organization supporting tolerance for all, everywhere, in all circumstances. This would be a unique role for Freemasonry.” (7)

By actively working for and speaking out for the elimination of discrimination, for liberty and freedom for all, for human rights and for world peace, Freemasonry can regain the respect and the involvement of the leaders of today’s society. It can interact with society as a partner in promoting what is noble, just and right, furthering the dignity and worth of each individual rather than using society to further its own ends. Freemasonry’s greatness will be acting as a vehicle through which society can improve itself, individually and collectively, for no man is an island and no institution exists in a vacuum. We are all traveling this journey of life together; we are all one.


(1) Lord Northampton
MW The Pro Grand Master
The Most Hon. the Marquess of Northampton, DL
at the European Grand Master's Meeting on 5th & 6th November 2007

(2) Franklin, Freemasonry and the Enlightenment by Richard E. Fletcher – SHORT TALK BULLETIN, March, 2009

(3) Is Freemasonry A Religion? Learning From A 19th-Century Masonic Debate by Tony Fels – HEREDOM, Volume 15, 2007 – page 175

(4) Freemasonry Role On The 21st Century by RWB A. Gonçalves, Secretary of Morning Star Lodge No 7, Grand Regular Lodge of Portugal

(5) The Masonic Concept of Liberty, Freemasonry and the Enlightenment by W. Bro. Alex Davidson

(6) Masonic Central Radio Podcast 3/12/09, part of the mega Masonic site Freemason Information,
(7) Masonic Traditions In Our Past And Our Future by Paul M. Bessel, Presentation at La France Lodge #93, F.A.A.M., Washington, D.C., September 8, 2000