Elitism & Freemasonry

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by Ronald D. Martin, Apr 23, 2010.

  1. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    There seems to be a new elitism in Freemasonry that some are shouting from the mountain tops. This meme seems to include the idea of quality versus quantity. One of the problems with this line of reasoning is ‘who’ gets to decide who the ‘quality’ members are and who the ‘quantity’ members are. There is already a system in place to do that for each lodge. Masonry is arguably local relative to decisions made about who fits in any particular lodge. There are many opportunities in Freemasonry and there are many ways to create enjoyable experiences and what constitutes enjoyable will certainly depend on the individual lodge. If people are unhappy with their lodge then they need to work within the system to change it, or get a group of like minded brothers together and start a new lodge, and if one can’t find enough brothers of like mind then that might be a reflection one should ponder, or if one starts a new lodge and they still aren’t content with their own individual experience and they feel that everyone else in the world needs to do what they do then that also might be a reflection worth pondering.

    I personally do not want someone from a far off land telling me how to practice my Masonry. I know men that come to lodge after working in the fields and they knew what it meant to be an environmentalist and steward of the lands before those terms entered pop culture. In addition, they knew what it meant to be a man before the need arose to remind others of the art of manliness. Furthermore, many of those men knelt before an altar, placed their hand on a VSL, and then went off to foreign shores so that others could listen to classical music and eat fine foods. I care not whether the average man makes himself feel better by putting on a white tie and tails or he is at ease with himself and attends lodge in whatever dress his local culture finds acceptable.

    For an organization that is built upon internal work we certainly seem to have moved around to an advertisement that requires a whole lot of external showmanship. The beauty of Freemasonry is not found in everyone across the globe walking in sync and wearing the same uniform, but that a few simple shared oaths and traditions can bring such an otherwise diverse group of men together to meet on the level and part of the square.

    White tie, tails, expensive scotch, and a good cigar do not make the man - his internal work does.

    Lastly, when I took the First Degree the Lecture I was given stated that it was the internal rather than the external conditions that recommend a man to become a Mason – that is still as true after initiation as it was before initiation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2010
  2. RedTemplar

    RedTemplar Johnny Joe Combs Premium Member

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    Very well said, Brother Ron. If we can successfully pass through a well guarded West Gate then I say we have also passed the elite test. Even white tails, expensive scotch, and a good cigar in the wrong hands can make one broke, drunk, or eat up with lung cancer. Please forgive my lack of eloquence.
     
  3. TexasCop

    TexasCop Registered User

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    I feel rather elite for going through the three steps of light, further light and more light.
     
  4. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Dear Brother,

    Congratulations on your recent raising! You also are quite right. If anyone goes back and listens or reads the charge that is given with the apron presentation...the badge of a Mason...things should become quite clear. Congrats again!

    Ron Martin
    GLCA
     
  5. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Brother Johnny,

    Well put and to the point.
     
  6. TexasCop

    TexasCop Registered User

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    Thanks, Brother Ron!
     
  7. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    Welcome to the forum Bro. Martin.

    I've seen a mix of men who insist masonry is a "group of men" or a brotherhood and absolutely nothing more - at all - ever.
    I've seen some who see it as preserved mystery religions or part of the thread of the universe, etc, etc.

    I get the impression this discussion has always happened since masonry became public. I would imagine since speculative masonry came about and likely even among operatives.

    The "tuxedo experience" appeals to me in theory (except I'd have to buy a tuxedo, and the only tie I can find right has Tigger on it). I'm certainly a fan of the esoteric side and believe a good portion of some aspects of it, or at least the potential.

    That said, there's plenty of room for both. Ironically, I believe that many men who crow against fundamentalism might consider how they speak of masonry.

    We also, of course, have to consider how we improve or move masonry forward if we don't sometimes sound "preachy."

    I'd be extremely impressed with many of the efforts if they sponsored a tavern and pulled out the chalk for the floor again. Maybe that's what the gloves were for.
     
  8. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Hi Bro Rich,

    What I have always enjoyed about you is that you are well reasoned and up to friendly debate on topics so that views can be flushed out.

    You stated, “I've seen a mix of men who insist masonry is a "group of men" or a brotherhood and absolutely nothing more - at all - ever.

    I've seen some who see it as preserved mystery religions or part of the thread of the universe, etc, etc.

    I get the impression this discussion has always happened since masonry became public. I would imagine since speculative masonry came about and likely even among operatives.â€

    **From all of my studies in Masonry you can find an ebb and flow of various things through time. However, I have not found anywhere that men approached Masonry as a religion until in recent times. However, there appears to have been the ebb and flow relative to excitement about esotericism, once again the issue becomes what is real and what is not, and there is a big difference in believing Freemasonry, in part, especially the degrees beyond the 3rd Degree are a continuance of an esoteric tradition/study versus a direct unbroken lineage from Adam.

    “The "tuxedo experience" appeals to me in theory (except I'd have to buy a tuxedo, and the only tie I can find right has Tigger on it). I'm certainly a fan of the esoteric side and believe a good portion of some aspects of it, or at least the potential.â€

    **There is no doubt that there are esoteric aspects to the fraternity, however as stated above it is the synthesizing of what is real and what isn’t, plus an understanding of what it meant to Freemasons when it was added versus what some would claim today. That battle you know existed 100 years ago based on the articles I posted elsewhere from The Builder Magazine circa 1915. There are many esoteric practices that clearly have nothing to do with Masonry, that doesn’t make them bad in and of itself – but we need to be careful not to confuse the two.

    “That said, there's plenty of room for both. Ironically, I believe that many men who crow against fundamentalism might consider how they speak of masonry.â€
    I agree.

    “We also, of course, have to consider how we improve or move masonry forward if we don't sometimes sound "preachy."â€


    **You are right again, however I might add that a lot of it doesn’t come off as “preachy†(from some people) as in an elder telling someone something, at times it comes off as “whiny†as in a younger person who wants their own sandbox because no one wants to play their game.

    “I'd be extremely impressed with many of the efforts if they sponsored a tavern and pulled out the chalk for the floor again. Maybe that's what the gloves were for.â€

    **It is interesting because I understand what you are saying, and I actually think the tavern thing is a different issue than the chalk:) As soon as they were able to build a lodge in a box so they could take it with them when they left the tavern they got rid of the chalk. As soon as they started to build their own temples and get things that could be permanent they got rid of the lodge in a box. As soon as electricity became readily available they got electric lights and got rid of the candles. Once everything became more clean (e.g. paved roads less dust etc.) they got rid of the gloves, etc. etc. etc.

    I think there is a natural curiosity with our past and some people want to pretend (I mean that in a nice way) to better understand what the times and experience were like. I will liken it to those that participate in civil war reenactments, Shakespeare festivals, and renaissance fairs. In a way Freemasonry as it is most often practiced in the United States already provides us with some of that, however if it is taken to the next level that is another story. There are many people that go and participate in civil war reenactments, Shakespeare festivals, and renaissance fairs, however only a few of those wind up being long-term participants after they have gotten their initial fill of the activity and they can then easily walk-away without having to change any.
    A person that I know that kept talking about what young Masons wanted (even though I kept stating that not all or even most wanted what he wanted) recently came back and said now that he was just a couple of years older he realized that that wasn’t right, but instead that all Masons wanted a better experience. The example shows that just because someone loudly whines and gets a few to follow it doesn’t mean they were right. I think the better option is what you suggest, “there is room for both.†Our lodges can become whatever our individual lodge wants to become, within the guidelines of our jurisdiction. I have found many jurisdictions to be rather open to allowing lodges to attempt different things – especially if the person making the request doesn’t arrive via moonbeam. Someone might find that after drawing chalk all over the floor and having to clean it up several times that they fulfilled their interest and no longer find it necessary. However, if we made every lodge change to using chalk we would just have a lot of people that wouldn’t come back.

    I have always said that the success of a lodge is not based on any of these other trappings. Either the members of a lodge are truly brothers or they are not. If you can’t stand the guy sitting next to you (which doesn’t change based on his clothes) the lodge is not going to be successful. It is like an alcoholic that thinks changing geographic locations will cure his problems – upping the level of dress, food, booze and surroundings won’t cure the lodge problems (if the “lodge†is having problems – which means there is discord amongst the members). We can’t escape our minds, and no clothes, no ritual, no amount of scotch, cigars, or food will make us any different than who we already are. I think there has been a growing misperception about a lodge. A lodge is your home - those are the people you are suppose to have the closest ties with. Once you leave your own lodge and start to travel to foreign lands the “expectations†of the ties lessen. It is like your family, you have certain expectations of your parents, your siblings, your spouse, and your children, however when you visit your third cousins you certainly don’t expect the same from them. If there are problems in an immediate family things aren’t very pleasant, if there are problems in the lodge things aren’t very pleasant.

    What I see happen a lot is that people that don’t have a good relationship at their own lodge and they can’t get things changed how they want them, they go outside of their own lodge and start to complain everywhere else hoping that somebody in a far off land will change Masonry for them and then their own lodge will have to change. That just isn’t going to happen in this world.

    So, yes, there is room for a lot of things in Masonry but let’s not fool ourselves into believing a change in clothes and additional education in itself will cure the ills of a dysfunctional lodge. Fifteen or twenty-five guys that like to wear formal wear, drink expensive scotch, smoke good cigars and just so happen to have other interests that are very very similar with each other can go start a new lodge and it be successful as long as they aren’t fooling themselves right out the shoot about their own friendships.

    As for a bar, I don't have a problem with that if that is what the individual lodge wants. It is highly common in England.
     
  9. drapetomaniac

    drapetomaniac Premium Member Premium Member

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    I'm in masonry less than a year, but in what I've seen I can't contradict that. Esotericism is a different discussion than A Religion. I believe I know men who see it as an extension of a limited and exclusive religion who simply haven't said so.

    I have seen enough to believe there has always been esotercism, just not publicly discussed. There is a saying about shallow brooks babbling the loudest.

    On a more general note on religion, it is important to point out (my perspective) that traditional/indigenous religions incorporate every point of life. If you use a tool, it is indicative of an aspect of God or your self. If you have an aversion or an attraction to a food or color, it is part of this universe and you. That is very common before the main religions and before the main religions are westernized. New Age ain't.

    So. If masonry is old. It is all religious.

    Regarding an apostolic succession from Adam, of sorts - I'm only partially educated on the idea. But as a great educator in our Orient says, "It's a symbol, so you're right."

    In the terms of political discourse, I explain to folks you can't say something is NOT offensive. Someone was offended, so it was offensive. Something is sacred, so mote it be.

    "It's a symbol, so you're right."

    My thoughts are, once Pike got involved all bets are off. I have to say, I'm a fan. But in much the same way I limited myself to teaching Bible study as a youth, I wouldn't necessarily express the wide range of my religious views in all scenarios - much less push them.


    I wrote a paper in college called "Children of history." This gist was at the time Spielberg and Spike Lee were in their height on their own ethnic media - and both were being slammed at the same time. They had both produced works of a painful era of their history, thoroughly collaborated and researched from those who were there, and had prominent young writers slam them for what was done wrong.

    I was certainly young at the time, but recognized my generation like all others were not only immortal like those before them, but also sought to be messiahs, prophets, revolutionaries or traitors like those before.

    Turn down your rock and roll.


    And as soon as they got rid of the prior generation.... ahh, that's what you said.

    Neopagans and African religions and many other Diaspora or re-constructionist groups go through this. (MAsonry, to some, operates like a lost religion trying to be revived in the way they perceived it to be). On the point of Freemasonry offering this to us, I agree. I'd also point out what is often missed is that some of our "innovations" aren't necessarily innovations, but are rather snapshots of the past for a generation before us. There are prayers,song and priesthoods preserved in Brazil and other places that were murdered or decimated in Africa. The same goes for Anglo habits, accents, language and I dare say masonry in the US.

    I chaffed a bit when sitting in a TO lodge and one brother specifically said, "Traditional not Traditional Observance." It's not uncommon to find that in various groups with old histories, especially if part of it is lost. But it's a bit silly to insist on one format when we have a record of many.

    I really thought this blog entry on Steampunk Masonry was insightful. The only difference is I'd say all masonry is Steampunk, not just TO.
    http://masonictraveler.blogspot.com/2008/11/steampunk-freemasonry.html

    Some of the specialty lodges in the past have impressed me. My understanding is El Sol de Cuba #38, not only focused on Cuban and Puerto Rican liberties, but also read and studied Afro-antillian history. One of the men, Arturo Schomburg, became one of the giants in the study and preservation of Black history.

    I wonder what other focused lodges could turn out.

    You mean actually focus on brotherhood? I've come to the realization I may need to stop socializing in order to appreciate masonry more.. I'm sure something is wrong with that.


    Sounds like another specialty or focus lodge. I imagine if we formed a lodge of video gamers, fishermen, hunters or another niche they would feel so bonded and enveloped by their masonic experience that they would think this was how you should run lodges. As it is, people take their personal experience and often use it to make prejudgements about others or the world.

    Maybe other dispensation/specialty lodges are the answer and not just one format. In our Valley, we have an "Arm in Arm" program that highlights social groups or "orders" within the Scottish Rite. There are groups focused on motorcycles, bbq, photography, opera and penmanship.

    I wonder what would happen if we started there - on the basic masonic sense of brotherhood, instead of a very specific formula extending the original one.
     
  10. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Bro Rich,

    You stated, "You mean actually focus on brotherhood? I've come to the realization I may need to stop socializing in order to appreciate masonry more.. I'm sure something is wrong with that."

    Yeah...the first part of the sentence - what a novel idea:)) The second part another brother just said to me a few days ago. He was going to back off the interaction so that he could take in, process, and better appreciate the greater goodness of Freemasonry:)
     
  11. Huw

    Huw Guest

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    Hi Bro. Ron.

    I assume this thread is intended as a counter-argument to Bro. Porter's thread on "Value Meal Masonry".

    You don't find Bro. Porter's alternative style of masonry attractive. Fair enough, you're not obliged to do so. Where the existing style is working and the Brethren are happy with it, enjoying the experience sufficiently that they keep attending their Lodges, then there isn't a problem and that style will no doubt continue.

    However, as you have argued yourself, there is room in masonry for more than one way of doing things. Where an existing style of meetings is not working, where Brethren are not finding masonry a sufficently impressive experience to want to keep coming back and attendance has become desultory, then there's a problem. In that case, a change of style is a reasonable experiment to try. If it works well, then problem solved ... if it still doesn't work, then obviously the Brethren need to look further for an answer. But sitting still and doing nothing about it, when a Lodge is failing, is not likely to be a successful strategy!

    I certainly don't argue that every Lodge should adopt the more "elitist" style Bro. Porter talks about, but I do think that type of Lodge should be available for those who would find it more satisying. Local circumstances obviously vary from place to place, but surely in some places it would turn out that Bro. Porter's ideas would work pretty well - and it might be difficult to tell which places that'd be until a struggling Lodge tries it that way and finds out.

    T & F,

    Huw
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2010
  12. Ronald D. Martin

    Ronald D. Martin Registered User

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    Bro Huw,

    Thanks for your response! My post was broad in nature covering all of those that fit that particular category - that of elitism. I have personally found it best when someone wants to offer something new that they not start out by tearing others down to build themselves up - but that is just me. As for the reality of TO I have no problem with that option for those that want to utilize that model, there are some TO lodges filled with strife or barely making it with enough members to open lodge just like potentially any other lodge. My point relative to that is that it isn't the outward markings that make something work but the internal work and a close brotherhood. If something is really good it should be able to stand on its own, expressed as a positive without demeaning others - the demeaning is a form of elitism. As I previously stated:

    "If people are unhappy with their lodge then they need to work within the system to change it, or get a group of like minded brothers together and start a new lodge, and if one can’t find enough brothers of like mind then that might be a reflection one should ponder, or if one starts a new lodge and they still aren’t content with their own individual experience and they feel that everyone else in the world needs to do what they do then that also might be a reflection worth pondering."
     
  13. Brother Jason Eddy

    Brother Jason Eddy Registered User

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    Brothers,

    In my short time as a Mason, I have spent many hours reading various forums across the internet and have come across several posts that speak of the “elitist†lodges and the obligatory insertion of the “it should be the internal and not the external†quote. What I think it shows more than anything is a lack of tolerance. From what I have seen and read, there is no elitism coming from the TO practitioners, but rather a strong sense of insecurity among many who are not in a TO lodge. The men that attend a TO lodge do not claim that theirs is better than yours, they claim that theirs is better than yours for THEM. I believe that there is a perception among some that because someone likes to dress in a tux, drink scotch and smoke cigars that they must think that they are better than others. Perhaps some do, but I would suggest that this is the minority. Perhaps they are focusing more on the internal than you might give them credit for. I believe that it is in our nature to connect to things through many different ways, including appearance. For example, is it really elitist for someone to wear a baseball uniform to a backyard baseball game? Do they think that they are a better player than the rest just because of there dress? Or does it just make them feel like they are more connected with their favorite baseball player? Or perhaps it is not connecting with their internal, but simply a show of reverence. Is it elitist to wear a suit and tie to church when others are in jeans and a polo shirt? I think that those who are annoyed by the TO experience are the ones who are focused on the external. Do not miss the forest for the trees, Brothers. The EA lecture also reminds us to view the whole human species as one family….â€the high, the low, the rich, the poorâ€. If you do not wish to experience Masonry as they do, then don’t. But do not label them as elitists simply for taking pride in their experience and seeking to share it with others who might enjoy it.

    S&F

    Jason
     
  14. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Agreed... As long as mason can go get a tux (and the consumables) and join in, it's not elitist. There are, however, examples of elitism in masonry. Look at appended bodies that have very limited membership and are invitation only, doesn't that by definition make them elitists.
     
  15. Traveling Man

    Traveling Man Premium Member

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    Lest we forget that “we” ourselves, as candidates submitted ourselves to the Fraternity for them (the brethren) to decide who was fit for initiation; which also includes the criterion of quality and quantity. This discriminatory elitism, is the very foundation of Freemasonry…
     
  16. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    We are supposed to be pillars of the community. Does that not require the elite?

    ---------- Post added at 01:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:02 PM ----------

    Or at the very least, aren't we supposed to be seeking light in order to travel towards perfection?
     
  17. Brother Jason Eddy

    Brother Jason Eddy Registered User

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    Again, the fact that some CAN while others CANNOT does not make those who CAN elitist. Is someone who drives a nicer car than I an elitist simply because he can afford something that I cannot? Answer: Only if he tells me that he is better than I am because of that car.
     
  18. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    I have attended lodge in tuxedo, and black tie (Paris France), I have attended lodge in Richardsville, Kentucky (muddy boots, and bib overalls). I have attended lodge at Camp Salerno, Afghanistan (Combat boots and Battle-dress Utilities). This great fraternity is great because of the MEN who make it. Not the outward appearance, or the clothing. Each of us is supposed to be on the level, we came into the lodge room, divested of all mettalic substances, poor, blind and destitute.

    Let us look beyond the surface embellishments, and look into the inner man. Each of carries the divine spark. Let us see the spirit of our creator, in our work, and in our daily lives.

    SO MOTE IT BE!
     
  19. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    Agreed. I have visited lodges in numerous countries. I have always been welcomed and never made to feel less than anyone else. This is the worlds greatest fraternity.
     
  20. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    There is a bumper sticker I have seen. It has the Square and Compasses, and says "If Masons have the National Treasure and are so rich, then why am I driving this piece of S***?"
     

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