Thursday, April 16, 2015

Words & Deeds: Written law vs. Ethical Behavior

Recently, I read an excellent piece of architecture by Iván Herrera Michel, published on the website of the Revista Cultural Masones de la Lengua Española New York.  I am not translating the work in its entirety, but wished to use it as a basis for a few observations and perhaps a rhetorical question or two.

Members of mainstream North American lodges will no doubt be familiar with the symbolic explanation of the schism between Liberal and Conservative (or Imperial) Freemasonry under the flagship of the UGLE. I refer to the claim, no doubt believed in by the rank and file, that the UGLE offered for branding the Continental Freemason persona non grata. The decision of the GOdF to eliminate the requirement of a belief in the GATU was used as a pretext by the UGLE for an act of aggression against Liberal Freemasonry.

While it mainly succeeded in insulating its membership from creative thought, the advent of war in Europe - first WWI and subsequently WWII caused the destruction of much if not most of Continental Freemasonry. As Bro. Herrera notes, "Amid this European tempest, the United Grand Lodge of England decided, as more convenient for her, to further reinforce its differences with Progressive Freemasonry by unilaterally enacting eight Basic Principles for the Recognition of Grand Lodges in 1929." Later,  in the face of the widespread devastation inflicted upon Freemasonry on the continent during WWII, including the deaths of thousands in Nazi Death Camps, the UGLE and the American Lodges did not lift a brotherly hand to help in any attempts to rebuild Liberal Masonic institutions. Apparently petty sectarianism continued to be a greater Masonic Value than Universal Brotherhood.

As a result, it has taken more than half a century for much of Liberal Freemasonry to regain lost ground. In the case of Spanish Freemasonry, the persecution lasted until the early 1960s under Franco.  However, Liberal Freemasonry is rebounding, and it has the advantage of something which the mainstream masonry of the Anglophone now lacks - innovation and youthful energy.

So, I leave you now with a couple of somewhat rhetorical questions. What is the significant characteristic in Freemasonry that may be described as dogmatic or adogmatic; is it really about belief in the GATU or about petty sectarianism? Which is more important for Freemasons, the adherence to narrow rules and regulations, or demonstrating true universal brotherhood, in spite of a few doctrinal differences?

There are hints that an extremely few wiser minds among Anglophone Freemasonry in the United States are making some very tentative steps toward establishing better communication with Liberal Freemasonry. It remains to be seen whether these attempts will in the end be determined to be "too little too late" or "better late than never."

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