That may have been a reflection more of the community than the fraternity, since Masonry is world wide and demonstrably ethnically and culturally diverse. The closest I’ve ever heard to anything racist after a meeting was a couple old guys talking about the ties between Masonry and the KKK in Illinois during the first half of the last century. One guy thought it was an interesting bit of history, the other thought it was a disgraceful bit of history.
But a good point, the local lodge is going to be made up of locals, and as great as our goals may be, we are in the end just men.
I don’t know Sunrazor, but rural Colorado is rural Colorado. My mother is from Pagosa Springs and was furious when I joined the Lodge. Her experience with masons during the 50’s was at least as offensive as what Sunrazor describes. Thankfully, most of the “greatest generation” has died off and taken their intolerance with them.
Warning! Anecdote alert!
I once volunteered to join the investigation committee for candidate (SOP, gotta know a little about the guy before we let them join) with a very obviously Vietnamese name. I wanted to see, first hand, how those old guys would keep the lodge monochrome… Soon after, I participated in his initiation, the secret ballet having unanimously approved him based on the report that sounded exactly like every report I’ve heard before and since and he was welcomed as every new brother is welcomed. Arvada is not Boulder, this place is as conservative as that place is liberal, and my lodge is full of old conservative guys, and yet our lodge is at least as diverse as the community (except for a low number of Hispanic brothers, for some reason). So, while I suspect there are still a large number of racists in lodges around the world, it’s certainly not Masonic.
Also, my apron is split leather and not naugahyde. Sounds like a bad lodge all around.
Yes, you must believe in some sort of god and you must be willing to take oaths. There is a requirement to be of “sound mind and body”, but they make a disclaimer that it isn’t necessary any more (although Aaron’s paperwork did ask “Are you deformed? If yes, how?”)
Excellent post, Bobo, and it continues to amaze me how much you and I have in common, at least on the surface. Yes, there are lodges in many diverse communities the world over. But let me ask you this: If a black man petitioned a Masonic lodge in any community in Colorado (except perhaps Boulder, and I’m not even too sure about the People’s Republic) do you think there wouldn’t be a black ball in the box when the vote was taken? Of course there would be – the words “Prince Hall” would be on the lips of every member present. There are, in fact, lodges in Denver where Jews’ petitions aren’t even considered and others where gentiles are clearly not welcome. I’ve belonged to lodges in Colorado, Washington State and Germany, and in all of them it was clear that one of the primary benefits of membership was being among men of like mind and makeup.
I’m glad that your Arvada lodge welcomed a member who wasn’t Caucasian. But my main point is that fraternity isn’t a universal value in Masonic lodges, contrary to the rhetoric and ritual. As long as one lodge blackballs based on race or ethnic background, Freemasonry falls short.
Here I disagree for two reasons -
A) (this is maybe little more than a semantic nitpick) Prince Hall is as just and regularly constituted as any other lodge, so Masonry cannot be said to discriminate against black men. A Grand Lodge or individual lodges can, but Masonry can’t.
B) It didn’t happen to the several black brethren in our lodge, nor to the man who demitted from a Prince Hall and quickly became Master. 20 years ago? Maybe (or probably) things were different, but that is an indictment against a lodge and not against the fraternity.
I admitted that it was anecdotal (although it’s not only one, he was just the first candidate I investigated), perhaps I just happened to join the one lodge that is overcoming a bad reputation, if I joined Boulder or Berkley than I’d be more likely to believe it, but I tend to believe that I and those around me are no better and no worse than most people. So if one little lodge in an unremarkable suburb doesn’t blackball based on race or religion than there are probably many others that don’t, just as one lodge that does suggests that others do.
I’m not, however, totally naive and I don’t doubt for a second that lodges around the world are closed minded asses. If I had joined one of them I’d have walked away in disgust just as you did.
Maybe Arvada is far more progressive than I think and visiting some more lodges would cure me of my rosy outlook, but I sure hope not.
Dang it, I’m not happy with this post but every time I try to clean it up it gets longer and less coherent, so I’m going to submit it anyway.
I regret that I haven’t been active in several years and haven’t kept up as much as I should but I believe that several (many? all?) Grand Lodges have declared amity with Price Hal Lodges.
I also wanna say that I personally find a lot of the more flippant and disparaging remarks made in this and other Masonic related threads offensive; some more so than others. In brief, many, if not most, such remarks reveal a complete ignorance of things Masonic; we are supposed to fight ignorance here, not further it. Yes, I’m feeling cranky as hell this morning.
Then you may be the one to answer my third and last attempt at getting a straight answer. What is the common interest of the Masons?. There is the comradery, but that is common to all clubs and organization, I think; There is also the charity work, but I don’t think that is the main thing; What is it that makes John Doe in the street want to be a Mason?
Hopefully, John Doe has known and observed one or more Masons and has decided they are good role models. Because of examples set by Masons, he wants to be a part of their order. Failing association with known Masons, John Doe hopefully has heard positive things concerning the Fraternity and wants to participate. John Doe may simply be curious about Masonry and is impelled to learn more about them. A phone call to a local Lodge will result in an invitation to meet with and discuss Masonry with a member who will answer as many questions as his oath allows.
**The primary goal of Masonry is to make good men better by the teaching of profound moral truths through allegorical means. Masonry is dedicated to the principles of fraternity, equality, and liberty to all peoples wherever dispersed. **
Don’t be put off by the various oaths and by the memorization required. I’ve seen plenty of guys with bad memories go through the various grades; memory isn’t as important as is the desire to be a member. Don’t take the oaths too seriously; remember the word “allegory.” Don’t attempt to join if you are motivated by a wish to “network” (I hate that expression) with other Masons for purposes of advancing yourself in business or to receive preferential treatment; you probably will never be given a discount or hired or made wealthy simply because you are a Mason.
I need Paul in Saudi to chime in on this; I don’t feel as if I’ve really adequately answered your basic question. I hope I’ve piqued your interest, though.
During the initiation, one is required to swear that one is not motivated by any desire to advance oneself in business or to gain advantages through ones membership. That said, Masons are people and people do what people do. After nearly thirty years as a Mason, I’ve never been given any investment tips nor have I been given the opportunity to join other Masons in any sort of money making transaction. I’ve certainly never been given or offered a job because of my membership.
Secrets of the Universe is a different matter; we know lots of stuff the commoners cannot be trusted with. For instance, next Wednesday something will happen. Just wait and see.
Many people also join the Masons in America because of Freemasonry’s association with the Founding Fathers and such; you’d be amazed at how throughout this “meeting Masons with Aaron” adventure how many people have asked me, “Do you know how many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons?” At least in these parts they seem very interested in that specific area of Mason history. Additionally, in as far as the young guys I’ve met, there’s a big interest in the “treehouse” aspect of it - handshakes, symbols, secrets. That’s why you’d join the Masons instead of the Kiwanis or the Lions or the Optimists; you get a secret. You get yourself a ring and you nod at other guys with rings. There’s a certain perceived “cool” to it. The funny thing is, it seems the older guys think they need to mainstream to get the younger guys into it, but all the younger guys I’ve met want completely the opposite - if they didn’t want handshakes and blood oaths they’d be Toastmasters. That’s just what I’ve observed, and of course not only am I not a Mason, there’s no way I could be. (I understand there are female Masons in France, but I’m sure you still have to believe in God.)
The diversity of lodges definitely depends on where you are. Around here the Prince Hall lodges are very active and the regular lodges are very white. Aaron says the Worshipful Master he talked to actually brought it up unasked - he said something to the extent of, well, you’ll see a lot of white faces, and he himself would love to see a more diverse group of applicants and more connectedness with the Prince Hall guys, but it’s the South and what are you gonna do? I think a lot of the young guys are like Aaron and they’d like to see a lot more diversity and communication with Prince Hall, but the older generation probably has to die off first. However, having met some of the guys in the lodge Aaron is petitioning I wouldn’t be surprised if, if they did have a black applicant, he was accepted. My dad did some research to find a younger (and you should see what “younger” means in the Masons - Vietnam instead of Iwo Jima) and more active lodge for him to join, though, so maybe other lodges are creakier.
If Prince Hall lodges are accepted as equal to AF&AM lodges now, then (1) that is a radical change that has occurred sometime over past 20 years, and (2) the local yokels haven’t gotten the word.
I had a renewed interest in Freemasonry recently and even had a reinstatement petition signed and ready to turn in. It was not turned in, however, after I had a long lunch with three members of the local lodge. As far as anyone in Sterling, Colo., is concerned, Prince Hall is a “pretend” Masonic lodge founded by a black man who stole the secrets.
I haven’t answered you because I don’t know the answer to this. I think you could ask dozens of people this question and not get the same response twice. I joined because I’m fascinated by the history, I enjoy being in clubs like this (I’m also an Elk, but I don’t hardly drink so I don’t really fit in), I was curious as to what it was all about, and at my first interview with them I had a feeling that I’ve described as putting on a coat from last winter and finding a note in the pocket. I don’t know if that makes any sense but it’s about the best I can come up with. Sunrazor, Colorado now fully recognizes PH, but it has been in the past 10 years. It’d been in the works for a few years before that, and from what I heard the holdup was just working out the details. Seems there was something about Wyoming doing it first and since we recognized Wyoming we unwittingly already recognized Wyoming PH or some damn thing, and also something about who was going to recognize who first. Trying to follow the politics of recognition gives me a headache.
It sounds like some rural lodges are still pretty unmasonic, it disappoints me that it is so, and especially that it happens in this state. No offense to any Southern dopers, but I’d kind of expect this behavior in that part of the country. Never been there you understand, but I watch TV so I know all about Southerners.
To everyone else following this fascinating conversation, Grand Lodge recognition is a complicated affair. Briefly, each US state is an independent Grand Lodge, and each lodge in the state holds their charter from them. The Grand Lodge of Colorado was chartered by Kansas and Kansas from some other state, traced back to some US lodge that was chartered directly by the United Grand Lodge of England before the Revolution. I believe Prince Hall was chartered directly from UGLE and so is as legitimate as AF&AM or F&AM lodges. Now it’s standard procedure to recognize the other states, and international lodges descended from UGLE are or can be recognized. Each Grand Lodge is “equal” in that it is the sole decider on what happens in its area and it alone can say who it recognizes.
There is another starting point, the Grand Lodge of Ireland is the second oldest and is not recognized by UGLE lodges. So, while I can visit an English lodge, I risk being kicked out if I sat in an Irish lodge.
Also, only one Grand Lodge is supposed to operate in any area. Obviously PH had no interest in abandoning 220+ years of history and merging with a relative upstart, just as Colorado wasn’t going to abandon the state based grand lodge system, so we had to agree to grant full recognition (a PH or AF&AM member could visit the others lodge and can even transfer to the others lodge without going through initiation) without requiring the other to give up any territory or alter the rituals or anything like that. It was complicated, but still something that should have been done 20 years or more previously. This also had to be voted on by the members, so a majority of voting Masons in Colorado were in favor of this change.
I’ve heard that some Grand Lodges don’t yet recognize Prince Hall, but I suspect it won’t be long before the ones that do threaten to withhold recognition if they don’t.
Let me tell you rural; Plato, Missouri, #469. When I came to light I beheld the WM approaching from the East wearing a John Deer hat. I am not kidding. Gosh, I loved that Lodge. Good times, good friends. The town was so small the bank kept the safe in the window so the sheriff could drive by and check on it at night.