Monday, April 14, 2008

A Violation of Masonic Law

Reading the recent post at Audi, Vide, Tace has raised some interesting questions in my mind concerning how Masonic law applies to people who hold Dual Membership between Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

In the post, a Mason from Kentucky holding dual membership in a New York Lodge was charged with visiting a clandestine body when he attended a PHA meeting in Iraq.

In the eyes of Kentucky (or at least one individual from Kentucky) their rules of recognition supersede the rules of the Grand Lodge of New York, when the Mason concerned is outside the territory of both Grand Lodges, and presumably even within the territory of the GL of New York. I think on the surface it would seem somewhat reasonable to expect the Brother to hold the most conservative practice between the two sets of constitutions and edicts from the Grand Lodges. However, upon deeper consideration, I see a grave problem:

In my state it is a violation of Masonic law to intentionally deviate from the ritual adopted by the Grand Lodge. If I held dual membership between states, I would likely be a member of a Lodge under a Grand Lodge whose rules also include some similar stipulation. If I were then assisting in opening, closing, or degree conferral at my "new Lodge" I would undoubtedly be deviating from the ritual as specified by my home GL, in order to accommodate the ritual put out by the second GL. The most conservative interpretation of the law, where I would not be in violation of either rule would require me to abstain from all ritual entirely. Obviously, this would not be acceptable. The real answer is that when in the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge, do the ritual as that Grand Lodge does. It is so obvious what the correct interpretation is in the case of ritual, why is visitation any different?

In my Masonic obligations I promised (I paraphrase, here) to uphold the laws and rules of the Lodge of which I am a member, and also to support the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge under whose jurisdiction I reside, so far as they come to my knowledge. This is a curious situation indeed. It means that I am to uphold the laws of my Lodge (or Lodges? It's left ambiguous in the case of plural membership), but more explicitly, that I am to support the constitution--not of the Grand Lodge from whom my Lodge received its charter--but rather, the one under whose jurisdiction I reside. This would seem to imply that as I move from place to place, I am obligated to the rules of the (regular) Grand Lodge in that area, and explicitly not to the rules of any other Grand Lodge -- unless the laws of the Lodge of which I am a member require me to do so.

I am aware that in other jurisdictions the obligation has a slightly different connotation in relation to which Grand Lodge is given allegiance.

Moving to a different imaginary example, what if Speculative Lodge #1 was in an area that didn't recognize PHA, and John Q. Mason, who was raised in Speculative Lodge #1, received dual membership in Example Lodge #2 which made him an officer, and Example Lodge #2 had an annual visitation, mandatory for officers, to their "sister Lodge", PHA Lodge #3. Would John Q. Mason be neglecting his duties as an officer of Example Lodge #2 if he did not attend PHA Lodge #3 with his brethren? Further, what if he received a summons to appear at PHA Lodge #3?

"In Ancient times no Master could be absent from the lodge, especially when warned to appear at it, without incurring a severe censure."

I think it is most important, that when we are put in a situation where we may pass judgment on another brother, that we do not wrong him out of the value of his Masonic membership by making harsh judgments. The American York Rite has, in fact, more than one degree where the legend involves this very lesson of not being too hasty or quick to judge, which we would do well to take to heart.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Dilemma of Politics

Brethren, I seek advice.

As many of you may know, I run In order to help support the site, I have advertising on the site in the form of Google AdSense. Usually these advertisements are for things such as Masonic regalia, jewelry, or books, and many of them are actually helpful to visitors since they are on-topic. Today I went online to see what articles were listed, and I was confronted with a political advertisement for a presidential candidate. This was not an innocuous three line text ad, either, but a full block animated graphical advertisement. It doesn't matter to me which candidate or party, but rather the fact that a political advertisement is being propagated onto the website at all, when I view our brotherhood as a great place of unity between members of various political parties and religions. I am distressed, and I don't know what to do. Part of me says it is free speech, and if they pay for an ad, they should be able to show it there. Part of me says its a conflict of interest, or it may drive away certain visitors. It probably won't be there forever. Must I resort to turning off advertisements during election years? On the other hand, maybe my Brethren have enough understanding and tolerance to "put up with" the ad, even if it doesn't suit their fancy. I seek advice, my Brethren. If you were in this situation, what would you do?