Friday, February 21, 2014

A few thoughts Under An Open Sky

I've read something which will come into print soon, in another language, on the history of Freemasonry. I am not at liberty to reproduce the content of that material, nor do I intend to comment on it here, but it has caused me to think about a subject it touched upon, at least in passing. A practice in Freemasonry, still extent today I don't doubt, but much demeaned, was once far more common than it is now. I refer to lodges "working under the open sky."

From perhaps the first invention of a Grand Lodge and subsequently, the Grand Orient systems, those cyclops of the masonic institution which while spreading the organization of Freemasonry, may have ironically done as much to impede the spread of its inner meaning, a lodge "working under the open sky," meaning a lodge with no superstructural affiliation, has been when not cast as an evil thing, one to be pitied and avoided.

This is unfortunate. Some very good masons got their starts under the open sky. One that comes immediately to mind was a man who later had more "formal" affiliations, José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1895). José Martí was not only a mason worthy of the name, but is considered to be one of Cuba's foremost national heroes by all Cubans, regardless of their politics. No doubt, many others can be named. Allow me to remind everyone that before the advent of the Masonic Juggernaut, the Grand Lodge system, which we have today for better and for worse, as everything when viewed honestly may be seen as mixed blessings, all lodges were "under the open sky." 

While I am committed to working within the context of a Grand Lodge, albeit a blessedly small one, I am not convinced that there is no place in the present, or in the future, for the totally independent lodge. Mind you, I'm not rushing out advocating people start them. However, I think that in looking at the future of Freemasonry, all options should be considered. There is much that masons would have to foreswear to follow such a path, not the least of which is access to a wider community, but when looking at the politics and the convoluted communications that a Grand Lodge of any order necessitates, one cannot help but see some appealing simplicity in a single lodge following its own lights.

Call me a romanticist, or even names more foul, but the idea remains if nought else, fascinating. To think back on the freedom and the excitement that being a member of such a lodge in centuries past must have given its members, is appealing, whatever else you may think of the idea.  It is true that such a masonic experience seems unlikely for me anytime soon, and for the overwhelming majority who call themselves, and on occasion each other, masons. Still, I for one, would gladly trade the Freemasonry bound and gagged by too many rulebooks for the freer and more soaring Freemasonry of a classic lodge under the open sky. 

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