Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rough Ashlar No. 3

It's time to turn our attention to a subject which represents, if anything can be viewed as more unmasonic than the withholding of recognition for what with very rare exceptions represents political maneuvering, the most egregious overstepping of legitimate authority that grand lodges or grand orients  have engaged in, ie, claims of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction.

The only purpose claiming Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction serves is to limit the potential for legitimate competition. Since ultimately, Masonic battles are never about the principles and ethics of Freemasonry, but rather about blatant political control, this is at best driven by the most selfish and unmasonic of motives.

Beyond that, it has always been something of a straw man argument. After all, there is no real legal recourse that any Masonic obedience or Grand Lodge can have recourse to, unless the competing organization is attempting to represent itself as that organization. Since no Masonic organization owns the rights to the name "Mason," unless another masonic group attempts to fraudulently represent themselves as agents or representatives of that specific objecting organization, simply declaring themselves masons is legal. Despite vague claims that non-mainstream masonic organizations are misleading and scamming sincere aspirants, there is no real substance to such claims beyond the belief of those who make them that they possess the one and only true path to Masonic light.

There are very few states in the United States in which either Prince Hall or so-called "irregular" Prince Hall or other Liberal Masonic obediences do not exist. For any mainstream Masonic Lodge to claim that they have Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction, they essentially have to pretend that such institutions do not exist and operate in their self-designated jurisdictional area.  In simple terms, Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction is a fiction, and a fairly pointless one at that.

How much more Masonic, not to mention simply adult it would be for the mainstream Grand Lodges to recognize that whatever differences of doctrine they might have with other forms of Freemasonry, that these other forms are in fact Freemasonry, and have, whether they are happy about it or not, as much right to follow their masonic lights as they themselves do.

Whether or not mainstream lodges will stop the unseemly practice of name calling or not, a corner has been turned. Intelligent and mature members of even mainstream lodges have publicly recognized that  Liberal masonry represents a viable alternative to the mainstream brand, in cases where the behavior of leaders of mainstream masonic Grand Lodges has been indefensible, and have said as much in a public forum. I refer of course to the recent Florida fiasco. Of course, the larger elephant in the closet continues to exist - the rampant and overt racism of a significant portion of the Grand Lodges in North America.

Continuing to behave as if the old ways can be continued unchanged is pure delusion. The mainstream lodges will die an ugly and reasonably swift death if they do not begin to accomodate different views and lifestyles in their midst. They have less time than they imagine. Like global warming, a larger issue which may make all forms of masonry moot, the results of social change and the as yet unrecognized influence of the light that the internet sheds on practices, as well as the shrinking of the masonic universe by the increasing access to information on different forms and ideas, will accelerate the decline of regular Freemasonry in the US.

It doesn't have to be that way. However, changing the direction of the dinosaur will require some fairly visionary leaders. Can mainstream Freemasonry find such a vision, and will they be willing to extend a hand across the aisle to other forms of Freemasonry who just might be willing to assist with ideas and mutual support? I don't know. Although I sincerely hope they will, I rather doubt it. What I can say with certainty is that it will be a pity if they don't.

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