DISTURBING REMINDERS FROM
OF THE GREAT SCHISM
William Neil Love, P.G.M.
Primary sources for Masonic research are difficult to come by in
Therefore, this essay is based entirely on secondary sources - that
is, wellknown and respected Masonic historians whose integrity has never
been suspect and whose well-researched writings may not be entirely free
of honest error but are certainly worthy of serious consideration.
paper falls into two halves.
The first part deals with the facts of history, and the source - except
where otherwise specified - is culled from the findings of Brother H. L.
Haywood, and which appear mainly in his volume, The Newly-made mason. The second part deals with the lessons emerging from this
history and their possible application to conditions today. I have chosen to play the devil's advocate by stating the
case for those Brethren who share the unsettling opinion that the Masons
of North America run the risk of repeating some of our more unfortunate
Masonic history. The paper
is consciously provocative, with the intention to spark lively
Newly-made members of the Craft might not be familiar with that troubled
period in the 17-hundreds referred to by Masons as "The Great Schism".
At that time there occurred a deep division within the fraternity
into opposing factions given the names of "The Moderns" and "The
Antients". The subject has
renewed pertinence because there are many concerned Masons on this
continent, and right here in this jurisdiction of Alberta, who point to
trends in our conduct and activities today that, if unchecked, could
lead to a second or North American "Great Schism".
In other words, they feel that unless we are alert to the symptoms,
we may find Masonic history recurring.
For it is a commonly accepted truism, that if we fail to heed the
lessons of history, we may find ourselves obliged to repeat them.
correctly summarize the events leading to the "Great Schism" and their
consequences is no small challenge in itself.
No less an author than Joseph Fort Newton found that the series of
schisms within the Order which began in 1725 comprise a very complex
period, and often prove both confusing and bewildering.(1) Certain
myths and errors were long perpetuated and went largely unchallenged
until more recent research put them to rest.
Historian H. L. Haywood stated that the full facts, and hence their full
significance, were not discovered until about 1900.
Therefore, he warns, one must be wary of authorities relying on
information prior to this date. (2)
Newton, The Builders,
Haywood, The Newly-made mason,
starting point in these matters is the formation of the First Grand
Lodge in London in 1717 and the publication of Anderson's Constitutions
shortly thereafter. It is
well that we note that the founding of a Grand Lodge was not n any way
out of step with established usage and custom for the time.
It was not a sudden
arbitrary act dreamed up by a few enthusiasts, thereby leaving
themselves open to accusation that they introduced innovation from the
Newton stressed that nothing is clearer than that the initiative came
from the heart of the order itself, and was in no sense imposed upon it
from without . . ." (3) He stated that the organization of the Grand
Lodge, far from being an innovation much less a revolution - was simply
a revival of older and well-established practices of quarterly and
annual assembly, and he quoted Anderson of Constitutions fame to support
his case ". . .'it should meet Quarterly according to ancient Usage',
tradition having by this time become authoritative in such matters." (4)
Going back even further, Haywood stated that prior to about 1400's it
was established custom for groups of Masons to gather and constitute
themselves a local Lodge to deal with a particular situation; say,
building a church or manor house; and then to disband when their
business had been concluded.
It was only in the fourteen-hundreds that in a few centres permanent
Lodges, rather than just temporary, began to appear, with written
In the same manner the periodic assemblies of Lodges into a "Grand
Lodge" evolved naturally into a perimnent General Assembly in 1717 when
it was found to be of some benefit.
as now, changes were indeed taking place with the march of civilization.
But it is well to note that the changes were designed to reinforce
timeless objectives, rather than to weaken them by the introduction of
shallow and abstracting, and potentially dangerous, innovations.
of the later divisions within the Craft, it is perhaps
noting the social status of the first Grand Lodge Officers. The
incumbants of the offices of the first Grand Master and his two Wardens
were described as simply "a gentleman, a carpenter, and a captain."
According to Newton, beyond these three there is no record of the other
know that, far from being an aristocratic body, the first Grand Lodge
was democratic in the broadest sense.
". . . of the four Lodges known to have taken part (in its formation),
only one - that meeting at the Rununer and Grape Tavern - had a majority
of Accepted Masons in its membership; the other three being Operative
Lodges, or largely so." (6)
was stated, however, that the first Grand Master was to preside
"....'till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.
(7) Haywood noted that the desire to have a "Noble Brother" at their
head was not an act of snobbery but followed the custom of societies in
the nation to have a sponsor of the ruling class to act as spokesman in
high places. (In fact, about a hundred years later Queen Victoria
herself was to be the Royal Sponsor of Freemasonry.) Nevertheless,
herein lay the seed for future dissent!
Newton, op.cit., p. 172
Ibid., p. 170
Haywood, op.cit., pp. 27 & 28
Haywood, op.cit., p. 27
handy reference for this period, The Pocket History of Freemasonry by
Pick and Knight lacks the exhaustive detail of a
more thorough volume of serious research.
There is just not the space for hair-splitting argument and
following up every clue and innuendo.
At the same time, by its very brevity, this reference quickly sorts
out the wheat from the chaff and underlines the key historical points.
In discussing the causes of the "Great Schism", it states "These
can be found partly in the slackness and weak administration of the
original governing body at this time . . . and partly in certain changes
in custom and ritual which had been made, some deliberately. (8) Now,
that might have been the understatement of the year, for those changes
in custom and ritual were of such fundamental importance as to split the
It all began in London when a member of the British
aristocracy was chosen Grand Master.
On the surface this appears to have been not unusual and perhaps
harmless, but as things were in British society at this time, a chain of
consequences was thereby set up.
The Grand Master, chosen from the nobility, naturally associated with
his class equals and tended to fill his appointments to Grand Lodge with
The class structure of society was so inflexible at
that time, that no man would set aside the rights and prerogatives of
his nobility even as a Grand Master. (9) Discrimination on grounds of
colour or race was less important than discrimination on grounds of
rank. The end result was that ". . . the whole system of British
aristocracy was imported into the Fraternity." (10) The introduction of
that innovation led to further innovation. (By the way, the term
"inovation" might encompass today many of those things some Brethren
refer to as "gimmicks" and "novelties".)
Newton wrote that
. . . there was a fear, not unjustified by facts, that
the ancient democracy of the order had been infringed upon by certain
acts of the Grand Lodge of 1717 . . . giving to the Grand Master power
to appoint the Wardens. . .
Nor was that all.
In 1735 it was resolved in the Grand Lodge "that in the future all
Grand Officers (except Grand Master) shall be selected out of that body"
- meaning the Past Grand Stewards.
This act was amazing.
Already the Craft had let go its power to elect the wardens, and now the
choice of the Grand Master was narrowed to the ranks of an oligarchy in
its worst form - a queer outcome of Masonic equality. (11)
The Craft had been captured by a special-interest
group, who introduced more innovation tailored to suit their own needs!
and Knight refer to an abuse in the form of the illegal sale of
constitutions by Lodges operating under the guidance of these
They cite the example of a certain George Lodge, then No. 3, who
saw fit to sell their regalia and ". . . Warrant for thirty guineas to
'some Honourable Gentlemen
Newly Made'." (12) a group whose membership appears to have been heavily
larded with members of the aristocracy. Another evident bias toward the
nobility is revealed by the action of the Committee
of Charity which
Pick and Knight, The Pocket
History of Freemasonry, p.
Newton, pp. 198 & 199
12 Pick and Knight,
op-cit., p. 113
with looking into this irregularity. Far from correcting the abuse, the Committee saw fit to
legalize it with their ruling that " - . . as a mark of high respect to
his Grace the Duke of Beaufort and the other Noblemen and Honourable
Gentlemen who meet under the name of the Lodge of Friendship . . . the
constitution of No. 3 should remain with them . . . " (13)
is also noteworthy that a minority seemed to have an influence in other
ways out of proportion to its numbers.
Pick and Knight state that one of those "Honourable Gentlemen Newly
Made" who purchased the Warrant for the new Lodge named Friendship - one
Thomas French - was appointed Grand Secretary a short
year after. A later examination of the records revealed that over a
certain period, out of 20 Grand Wardens
no fewer than
13 had come from the
ranks of this same Lodge of Friendship."(14)
These examples notwithstanding, Haywood's writings wade more boldly into
the controversy by avoiding hang-ups over details while concentrating on
the fundamental trends and on what he sees as their inevitable results:
a deep split in the Craft between
the innovators who came to be called "The Moderns" and
a faction who wished to preserve our tenets and principles pure and
unimpaired, calling themselves "The Antients".
If any one individual stands out above the rest in the
ensuing struggle, it would be the champion of the Antients, Laurence
Dermott, who was Grand Secretary of the Antients from 1752 to 1771;
approximately twenty years.
The History Of Masonry And Concordant Orders asserts
that Dermott, more than any other, seemed to have been the moving spirit
in sustaining this great schism, (15) is As might be expected, Dermott
". . . has been severely criticized by his opponents, and Laurie charges
him with unfairness in his proceedings against the Moderns, with
treating them bitterly, with quackery, with being vainglorious of his
own pretentions to superior knowledge. (16)
Dr. Mackey, in his History Of Freemasonry, would seem
to have partially agreed when he said ". . . I am afraid there is much
truth in this estimate of Dermott's character.
As a polemic, he was sarcastic, bitter, uncompromising, and not
altogether sincere and veracious . . . (17) (Dr. Mackey's writings, it might be pointed out, appeared well
before the turn of the century and therefore, according to Haywood, are
suspect.) If Mackey erred in his judgment of Dermott, he was in good
company. No less a Masonic
writer than R.F. Gould dismissed the man as little more than a house
painter with little education. (18)
But Haywood tells us that these descriptions were ill-considered, to say
the least, " . . . because almost nothing was even known about Dermott
when Gould wrote his history. (19)
This writer cannot help but comment that any individual
who today rises to defend the Craft against innovations and gimmicks
risks attack by those who would hope to "modernize" the Order and change
it to suit their own tastes.
This is as true now as it was then! One may even suggest that Dermott's
opponents were increasingly incensed as they gradually came to reallize
the "awful truth" that he was, after all, right!
13 Pick and Knight,
op.cit., p. 114
18 Haywood,opcit.,p. 40
p. 113, footnote
15 History of masonry and Concordant orders, p. 554
17 Loc.cit. (quoting Mackey)
Let us return to the exact words of Haywood based on
the more recent evidence.
Dermott was what Eighteenth Century men called a
genius, a small class of great men of which Christopher Wren and William
Shakespeare were more famous specimens . . . He had many talents, and
they were of high excellence; he was a learned
man (he could read Ancient Hebrew), a forceful and even powerful
writer as is proved by the Book of Constitutions which he wrote, a
singer, an after-dinner speaker to hear whom men drove many miles, an
organizer and administrator, a driving, daring, bold, tireless,
ingenious, inventive, undiscouragable character, who withal had a great
and an almost instinctive understanding of Freemasonry. Who were the
greatest Masons (and as Masons) of that century? Desaguliers? Preston?
The Duke of Sussex? Thomas Smith Webb? If so Dermott belongs to the list
because he ranks second in achievement to none of these names. (20)
Would that we had a Masonic leader of such stature
Leaving the matter of personalities, let us return to
the abuses that led to the Great Schism.
The results of introducing the innovations, according to Haywood,
are briefly as follows:
They gave rise to attacks on the Masonic hierarchy by
the lower classes because they identified the Craft with the
special-interest group: the aristocracy.
In reaction, the Grand Lodge curtailed its activities; withdrew
from public exposure; kept a low profile; made alterations in its modes
of recognition; permitted changes and emasculation of the ritual;
tolerated the lapse of the dignified ceremonies of Grand Lodge
installations; and generally diverted the objectives and activities of
the Craft from its time-nonoured purpose.
The cumulative result was the chasm opening between
Masons of the so-called upper classes" and those of the "lower classes",
a division down the middle between the majority in the Craft and the
minority of the special-interest group.
This "Great Schism" lasted some forty years while
pressures built up against the innovations.
The emasculation of the ritual meant a consequent lowering of its
dignity, if nothing else.
But Haywood said this had more fundamental import.
In his words,
A Newly Made Mason ought to note that any question
about the Ritual is a question of what Freemasonry is or is not, because
in one form or another,
directly or by implication, literally or symbolically, the Ritual is a
series of statements about what it is to be a Mason it is the means by
which a Lodge "makes" a Mason.
To omit something from the Ritual is to omit it from Freemasonry.
the Masonic offices were filled with arictocrats, the Lodges came to
serve only the narrow considerations of a special-interest group. Many Lodges ceased to be Lodges and became purely social
clubs, and the Freemasonry was replaced entirely with light-hearted
situation seemed to come to a head with the great Irish potato famines
which saw some two to three million Irish migrating into England and
other lands. Among the
migrants to England were many good Masons who, on wishing to
Ibid., p. 41
Ibid., p. 33
affiliate as was their right, found themselves blocked
by those people who seemed to have captured much of the Craft. When they sought to visit they were turned back at the door
and the reason why they were turned back was made abundantly clear, when
they were told that too many of them were carpenters, plumbers,
stone-masons, teamsters, and similar members of the lower classes.
"These gentlemen were wearing a workingman's leather apron . . .
(and yet) could detect no self-contradiction in their refusing to sit
with Masons in a Masonic Lodge if a Mason was a carpenter. Jesus of Nazareth could not have visited auch a Lodge.
This snobbishness was an extraordinary and fateful result of the
'modernizing' of the Fraternity which was being made." (23)
At this point it should suffice to relate that the
immigrant Masons formed their own Lodges outside of the Grand Lodge of
London. Meantime, to quote
During this same period a number of Lodges on the List
of the Grand Lodge at London . . . became so resentful at this new
exclusiveness, and so violently disapproved of the innovations of which
the Grand Lodge had become
guilty, that they began to withdraw from it, and did so in such number
that at a later time some 135 of them had been counted.
By the end of the decade of 1740-1750 A.D., where one Irish Mason
withdrew himself from the Grand Lodge at London, ten English Masons had
done so. Along with them,
and agreeing with them, were a hundred or so independent regular Lodges
(called St. John's Lodges) which had never been on the Grand Lodge's
Lists. This refusal to recognize the so-called "modernizing" of
Freemasonry reached such a pitch at the last that the Grand Lodges of
Ireland and Scotland withdrew recognition from the Grand Lodge at
The struggle ensued for some two generations.
With the Grand Lodges facing eye-ball to eye-ball for over
forty-five years, it was the innovators who appear to have blinked
In 1789 the Moderns were moved to appoint a committee which was to
approach their rivals to see if they could achieve a reconciliation.
But reconciliation was slow to come.
Feelings had been running so high that members of one faction were
forbidden even to visit Lodges of the other. (25)
Nevertheless, despite efforts to lock out rivals, there
continued to be a certain flow of traffic across the picket lines from
one body to the other.
Indeed, Pick and Knight (26) state that there were even cases of
Brethren belonging to both the Moderns and the Antients at the same
This is not to say that they saw no grounds for dispute. It is at least arguable that they understood the situation
quite clearly but hoped to help bring about a remedy by working from
Things moved to a conclusion in 1809 when the Moderns Grand Lodge
apparently took a second look at what they had done and resolved that
"It is not necessary any longer to continue in force those
Measures which were resorted to in or about 1739
respecting irregular Masons and do therefore enjoin the several Lodges
to revert to the Antient Land Marks of the Society. (27)
In 1810 the Antients found it possible to make the
Masonic Union on principles equal and honourable to both Grand Lodges,
and preserving the Land Marks of the Ancient Craft, would be . . .
expedient and advantageous to both. (28)
Haywood, op.cit., p. 37
Loc. ci t .
Pick and Knight, op.cit.,
p. 109 27 Ibid.,
28 ibid., p.123
This, briefly, is what has been recorded as "The Great
Schism" in Craft Masonry: the period in which a minority in the Craft
imposed upon the majority the innovations of class distinction,
exclusiveness, restriction of Masonic offices, emasculation of the
Ritual, replacement of Masonic teachings with purely social functions,
etc., and until the majority could bring about a return to the
fundamental objectives of the Order.
All that has been said so far was a simple re-telling
of the facts of history. At
this point we depart from the chronology of events and launch ourselves
into an examination of the lessons to be learned and their possible
No two people see things in exactly the same light. We
are all different as individuals; we have different backgrounds,
outlooks, experience in the Craft, and general knowledge, which
influence our points of view.
There is plenty of room for difference of opinion in
Craft Masonry and perhaps this essay will prompt a lively and
interesting exchange of ideas.
In this writer's view, a clear lesson emerges. the
lesson is this: innovations did occur, but correction was made and unity
re-established when men of high principle and, indeed, whole Lodges
stood up to be counted and demanded an end to tampering with the
principles, practices and objectives of the Craft.
When we step back and examine the evidence from the
vantage point of hindsight, the cause and results emerge more clearly,
and it is here where many Masons in America today point to what they
feel is clear writing on the wall.
They are concerned lest we on this Continent be led into making similar
errors, by a minority of enthusiastic (but misguided) individuals who
are working overtime to change the Craft to suit their personal tastes.
Historian Haywood described changes which were
introduced into Freemasonry in the 17th century that led to the "Great
I. - The Craft was divided by the introduction of
II. - The image of Masonry was changed in the eyes of
III. - The forms and customs were altered; the ritual
was emasculated; the Craft objectives were diverted.
- The Lodges were changed into something they were never
intended to be: straight social clubs.
A minority special-interest group, the aristocracy, came to dominate
much of the Craft.
We may now examine these points one at a time and in
each case itemize some possible parallels in the Craft today. There is a vast amount of material available but this thesis
shall be limited to little more than a series of examples.
Because of the comparative brevity, the reader is asked to realize
that each point can be much more thoroughly supported by argument and
evidence than is given here.
29 The references to Haywood (op.cit., pp. 31-33) are
approximations used by the author and do not necessarily correspond to
Haywood's items 1-5. Item I
is related to Haywood's 3, item II to 2, III to 5, and V to 1. There
appears to be no link between IV and 4 (Ed.)
POINT I - HAYWOOD INTIMATED
THAT THE INNOVATORS OF THE
17-HUNDREDS DIVIDED THE CRAFT.
ITEM: The activities of many concordant bodies in North
America today are in direct competition with (and are thereby divisive)
those of the parent body, the Craft Lodge, resulting in competition for
a Brother's time, attention, interests, and energies.
Brethren are increasingly put in a position where they are forced
to choose where their loyalties lie.
Would one consider this to be at all divisive?
ITEM: Mounting pressures to change the "free will and accord"
rule are driving a wedge between those who adhere to
the time-honoured tenet of no-solicitation and those who wish to bend
this principle to fill the ranks of other organizations.
anyone deny that this sort of thing is happening?
Does it seed disunity?
ITEM: Tensions between Brethren are being aggravated by
a faction that asserts that no Mason is a "complete" Mason until he
passes through ceremonies and degrees in certain appendant organizations
which they misrepresent as being of a "higher" order.
ITEM: An invisible line has been dtawn between the 80%
of the Brethren in this jurisdiction who have chosen not to join a
concordant body, and the 20% minority of enthusiasts who have joined. This tends to have a geographic aspect. That is, country versus city Lodges.
ITEM: A growing number of Masons are becoming less
active in their Lodges and in the concordant bodies, because of their
distress over changes being introduced into the Craft innovations often
advanced under the old argument that the Order should be "modernized" or
"change with the times." (Perhaps better words here would be "faminized"
ITEM: There seems to have emerged - small but ominous -
a regrettable geographic polarization in this province (of Alberta,
Ed.). A North-South rivalry that should never exist, let alone be
allowed to grow, is even now being fanned by a small minority.
POINT II - IN THE 17-HUNDREDS THE IMAGE OF MASONRY WAS CHANGED IN
EYES OF THE PUBLIC: PEOPLE JUDGED THE CRAFT BY THE ACTIVITIES &
ATTITUDES OF A SPECIAL-INTEREST GROUP.
(AT THAT TIME, IT HAPPENED TO BE THE ARISTOCRACY.)
Is Masonry's image in North America being distorted
again today? Have those concerned Brethren any real grounds for their
ITEM: Freemasonry has traditionally been a modest organization with a
consciously low public
profile. Today, however, on
this continent the public is increasingly exposed to the activities of
Masons in their appendant organizations where they dress up in bright
uniforms, parade, blow horns, etc., and behave in a generally outgoing
and festive manner. Is it
any wonder then
that society tends to identify this image with Craft
Masonry. The public borrows this image to fill the image vacuum left by
the Craft, and - as in the past - one group tends to be equated with the
And they are not the same thing at all!
ITEM: The public activities of North American Masons
are inviting public speculation; misinterpreted perhaps, but the
impressions remain. These
activities commonly are intended to display patriotism.
"But," protest the innovators, "is patriotism not a
virtue?" The answer lies in the difference between the words
"patriotism" and "loyalty."
"Patriotism" has a far more narrow connotation which
ofttimes strays into dangerous nationalism.
"Loyalty", on the other hand, may be a devotion or responsibility
not to country alone, but to one's friends, one's wife and children,
ones employer. Perhaps it
is best put in the words of one concerned Mason, M.W.Bro. Jesse W. Gern,
Past Grand Master of Colorado, who said:
Certainly patriotism can be a beautiful thing . . .
loyalty to one's own ... . But too much loyalty can become an
overweaning obsession that verges on selfishness or pride, the deadliest
of the Seven Medieval Sins.
For this reason, Freemasonry does not put a primary emphasis on country.
ITEM: A close examination of the proceedings from
around the continent will reveal just how much the gimmick department of
Masonry is extending itself in an obsessive search for novelties to
entertain and distract rather than to educate and inspire. Some Lodges
will go to any end to dream up some novelty or other to avoid tackling
our task of building individual character.
For centuries our forefathers were obliged to meet in the operative
Masons' buildings, or in the local inns.
How fortunate they felt when the time came that they could have homes of
their very own .
. . Lodgerooms or buildings constructed and furnished
to their specific design and private use.
But what is happening today? We seem to have laid off counting our
There is emerging a great urge for eager individuals to drag their
Brethren out of their proper Lodgerooms to try to perform our dignified
and serious ceremonies in abandoned quarries, barns, open fields,
mountain tops, the decks of ships, etc., anywhere but in the dignified
atmosphere of the formal Lodgeroom.
Is this progress ? Is this what some people mean by "keeping up with the
times?" When concerned Brethren call for a return to
the ancient principles and practices, it is difficult to believe
that they mean a return to the primitive facilities of our Masonic
ITEM: Something our forefathers were spared in their day, were the
eagerbeaver propagandists of the Craft.
Wherever one goes today, one meets those modernizing individuals who
champion the cause of Masonic publicity campaigns.
"Stop hiding our head beneath a bushel," is their rallying cry.
"If only we inform the public of what good boys we are and what
wonderful things we are doing," they seem to be saying, "all our
problems would be solved." They might well add, "besides, our membership
would soar, our Lodgerooms would be crowded, and our coffers would
But is this really so? Masonry is not intended for everyone, but for the
select few. Unless we first
pull up our socks, a massive publicity campaign could backfire.
Many of our wiser Brethren take a look at the low attendance
30 Copied by the author from an issue of the Grand Lodge of Colorado
in meetings, the preference of so many for the appendant bodies, the
lowering of discipline and propriety to accommodate a permissive
society; the general lack of understanding among so many of our Brethren
of what Masonry is really all about; and the myriad of gimmicks and
substitutes for the teachings of the lessons of the Craft, and are
convinced that any form of publicity campaign could risk revealing the
Order to be a rapidly emptying shell..... a largely hollow drum just
making a big noise.
Or, to put it more bluntly - an Order of hypocrites who don't even
try to practice what they preach.
Concerned Masons argue that if we return to the ancient practices and
objectives of the Craft, there would be no need of publicity whatsoever.
The alleged shortcomings would correct themselves and Freemasonry
would have its proper image.
They find nothing wrong with Freemasonry, only with so many Masons!
But the publicists keep up their pressure.
Dwight Smith cited the example of one Grand Communication at which
a recommendation was made that every Lodge Junior Warden was to be
officially named the Publicity Agent, and publicity included as one of
the laid down duties of his office.(31)
ITEM: The practice of printing and distributing Masonic pamphlets or
leaflets is widespread on this continent and even being urged upon our
Ostensibly they are to be limited to prospective candidates and are
offered as an explanation of what Masonry is all about.
But in fact, they wind up being distributed to the public at large,
and are even used as a straight recruiting device.
Opponents to the pamphlet idea note that the recipients may be left with
the impression that the Brother who relies on a leaflet to explain
Masonry, apparently doesn't know what it's all about himself, or just
can't be bothered to explain in person.
Either way they set a bad example.
Concerned Brethren are also worried about how those printed pamphlets
have a tendency to appear in little piles on church pews and waiting
rooms, or even are to be seen blowing about the streets.
ITEM: Masonic T-shirts have now made their appearance in Alberta another
They are rather informal, flimsy things, but
some symbol or words of Freemasonry emblazoned across the front, to help
give the Craft its "proper image", of course.
So now we find Masonry's good name competing for public attention
with all those other shirts sporting gags, racy slogans, and four-letter
words. What is this doing
to our image?
III - THE INNOVATORS OF THE 17-HUNDREDS CHANGED OUR
FORMS AND OUR CUSTOMS, EMASCULATED OUR RITUALS AND DIVERTED OUR
ITEM: The Grand Lodge of Alberta recently undercut our
traditional word of mouth method of teaching by issuing
copies of our private Work to anyone who wants them (eprovided he is a
M.M., Ed.). This change in custom (not yet universal, it is worth
noting) has not only destroyed much of the invaluable Master Apprentice
relationship,, but has resulted in no appreciable improvement in the
quality of the Work. Alert
Brethren watch this "streamlining" of our practices
31 Smith, Why This Confusion In the Temple?,
and further introduction of technology: the printing
press, the copy machine, the tape recorder, etc.
All these things are supposed to make a man a better Mason, but
they worry lest they become too impersonal, and serve simply to relieve
the candidate of the necessity to make a little more effort on his own
They ask, "Are we making it too easy? Are we passing
the buck to machines? What has happened to the human element?"
ITEM: Increasing numbers of Lodges have capitulated to
the social trends by lowering their standards of dress and dignity.
First names and nicknames have replaced proper titles; turtleneck
sweaters, etc., are worn by some officers instead of the customary, more
formal attire of the Lodge. Off-colour and ethnic jokes are common and go unchallenged,
and novelties are introduced without the traditional discipline and
ITEM: Outside ritualistic teams of all kinds are
increasingly moving into Lodges to relieve the regular officers of their
primary duties. And we
wonder why we have so many inexperienced Past Masters walking our
ITEM: The principle of modesty and unobtrusiveness in
Craft Masonry is being strained by a modern tendency to advertise one's
membership and rank to an uncomprehending public.
The example of the Masonic bumper-stickers needs little comment.
Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing obsession on this continent
with pins, buttons, badges and all those other external
trappings used to advertise an individual's connections and rank. The
trend has not gone unnoticed.
One can find in the
proceedings of the North American Conference of Grand
Masters the statement, "Our degrees - like our lapel pins and titles -
come too easily and too often. (32)
Why does no one challenge those people who wear that
lapel pin depicting a walking stick and spheres? This is a clear breach
of a solemn oath against anything whatsoever that may be legible or
intelligible to oneself or anyone else in the world.
Even if just shrugged off as a rather cunning evasion of the exact
wording, it remains a blatant breach of the spirit of that oath. Doesn't
anybody care anymore? Are concerned Brethren justified in labeling this
a change in form and custom?
ITEM: Last year a U.S. Masonic Jurisdiction faced loss of
recognition by other jurisdictions when it introduced innovations aimed
at grinding out new members en masse.
An edict was issued that abolished the waiting period between degrees;
removed the necessity for a candidate to prove up -between degrees; and
permitted the initiation of candidates in large groups: one individual
only, need take part in the ceremony while a crowd of other candidates
simply looked on. This meant that with appropriate promotion and recruiting,
any Lodge could conceivably run through 100 new members in a weekend.
Fortunately, wiser leaders in the Craft issued an ulti@atum and the
edict was rescinded.
is your reaction to this? Would you welcome visitors, so initiated, to
your Lodge? Do you feel that such innovations tend to be schismatic?
Some Masons do, Think about it.
While thinking about it, ask yourself the question; "Is this issue
really dead, or is it likely to reappear through the back door of the
Recorded by the author during the North American Conference of Grand
Masters, Colorado Springs, CO., February, 1979.
POINT IV -
THE EARLY INNOVATORS THAT CAUSED THE GREAT SCHISM
CHANGED LODGES INTO SOMETHING THEY WERE NEVER
INTENDED TO BE: i.e., STRAIGHT, RESTRICTED SOCIAL
ITEM: While fully acknowledging the benefits to be
derived from social activities in a Lodge, many concerned Brethren worry
lest we again go too far in these distractions and forget our true
Masonic purpose. They cite
the cases where Masonic programs are drastically curtailed or eliminated
altogether because they may delay the party.
"The ladies are waiting!" Sound familiar?
ITEM: There is a growing tendency for Lodges to put
entertainment ahead of instruction in Lodge programs. Thus we see a drift to pass over interesting and informative
Masonic speakers in favour of talks on such topics as pollution,
breathalizers, or the drug problem . . . anything at all, in fact, that
can be found anywhere, except the one thing we can get nowhere else:
ITEM: The practice of holding "open installations" is
fairly widespread in the United States.
While applauded by some, other Masons have profound misgivings.
They realize that once such novelties are introduced, they are
exceedingly difficult to eradicate.
It is brought about, of course, in the interests of "modernizing" the
Order, or again, to "change with the times."
open installation is one in which family and friends are invited to
participate. In the opinion
of many, these affairs sometimes become nothing more than a restricted
ego trip for the Grand Lodge officers rather than a dignified and
traditional ceremony, attended by the Craft as a whole.
There is again a tendency to shorten the ceremony by elimination of
more esoteric passages lest it bore the visitors . . .
A direct parallel to the emasculation of the ritual in the 17th century.
The real tragedy of some of these truncated ceremonies,
however, is that they are turning a traditional Rite into a purely
social event which fewer and fewer of the rank and file of Masons even
bother to attend, their places having long since been filled with women
and children, cousins and grandchildren, parents and in-laws, and
all-manner of business connections.
ITEM: The socializers and innovators of today who work so
enthusiastically to change Masonry's role, have introduced a twist never
dreamed of by their predecessors who brought about the first "Great
Schism". It came with the advent of the service club idea, and the
modern efforts on this continent to divert Masonry's objectives into
service club activities.
are being urged daily to launch our Lodges into projects, campaigns,
charity drives, and other highly visible pommunity projects.
The big shift is from our traditional emphasis on individual
charity to institutional charity.
It should be apparent to the most blind that Masonic
Lodges are no more equipped to do service club work than the service
clubs are equipped to practice Masonry.
Did our distinguished forefathers intend Freemasonry to
be a service club? Are we getting off track? Some concerned Brethren
feel we might be.
POINT V -
HISTORIAN HAYWOOD STATED THAT THE FIRST "GREAT
SCHISM" WAS HASTENED WHEN A MINORITY (at that time
the aristocracy) CAME TO DOMINATE THE DIRECTION OF MUCH OF THE ORDER.
ITEM: Many prominent Masons in America today feel that
there is clear danger that history is about to repeat itself on this
continent. Not the least
among them is Dwight Smith, Past Grand Master of Indiana and probably
the outstanding Masonic author in America today.
Bro. Smith and other serious-minded Masons are warning us that the
tail is beginning to wag the dog; that a special interest minority of
members (only some 20% in Alberta) continually seeks to advance the
fortunes of other organizations at the expense of the Craft Lodges.
Some of his fulminations are expressed in these words:
(But) I am getting good and tired of seeing Symbolic Freemasonry used
primarily as a Sugar Daddy, as a benevolent old gentleman whose chief
reason for existence is to provide funds and housing facilities and a
stock pile for candidates.
Especially do I see the when I see the parent body so blithely ignored,
neglected and starved by those who drain off its resources with such
ITEM: Many dedicated Masons on this continent worry that our
Craft meetings are being turned into sounding boards to
promote and recruit for other organizations; each group, like the
aristocrats of old, claiming to be of special importance and the peak of the
Thus we see such things as the so-called "Booster
Nights" or "Family and Friends Nights," or panel discussion programs, when
mixed bags of Masons and non-Masons are invited to dinner to hear
representatives of concordant bodies deliver their public relations
speeches. Many Brethren feel
that instructing non-Masons about other organizations is hardly an adequate
substitute for teaching Masons about Masonry.
Would our ancestors have approved of this growing practice?
ITEM: Individuals who dare to speak out in defence of the Craft and
adherence to our time-honoured practices and principles, find themselves the
target of attacks by the innovators and modernizers.
Their honest desire to protect our Order from innovation is rewarded
by misrepresentation and pressure from both outside and inside the Craft,
some of it subtle and some not
Regrettably, they have all too often felt obliged to withhold advice and
participation in areas where their leadership is so desperately needed.
ITEM: How many of us have attended Lodges where the
programs of Masonry are abandoned, while the ceremonies of other
organizations are substituted? These often take the form of the rites of
youth groups. Let it be made
clear that the merits of youth organizations and the virtues of supporting
youth activities are not at all in question.
What is being questioned is why the Lodges are being asked to
discriminate in favour of a particular group over any other.
Most youth groups have the sound support of individual
Freemasons, and perhaps no better examples can be drawn than the DeMolay or
the Boy Scouts, both of which derive leadership from enthusiastic Craft
Masons. Nevertheless, it
escapes many Masons exactly why Craft Lodges should be asked to concentrate
33 Smith, op.cit., p. 43
on some 400 members of DeMolay for special
consideration while the 35,000 Boy scouts of Alberta are ignored.
Gentle critics complain that this is at least a distraction from our
proper Masonic business. Less
charitable censors wonder aloud whether the Lodges are not being used to
turn out more Boy Shriners.
ITEM: Another area that causes misgivings among many
Brethren, is that of membership.
Not a worry over its possible decline, but a worry that we are becoming too
concerned with quantity at the expense of quality: that we are turning out
too many members, and too few real masons.
At one Banff Interprovincial Conference M.W. Bro.
E.J. Lockhart of British Columbia put it this way:
. . . we should be very selective in the choice of men
that we allow into the order . . . this has a relation to membership and the
retention of members. If we
take in two or three that shouldn't be in, because we lower our standards,
we are liable to lose five or six better prospects, and we might lose some
members that we already have. (34)
In Britain, the birthplace of modern Masonry, many
Lodges restrict membership to 100, and it seems to work just fine.
One can get to know all his Brethren, and attendance is close to
ITEM: It is true that population shifts are making it
difficult for some smaller rural Lodges.
This is compensated for, to some extent, by the growth of city
Lodges. For example, two
Alberta Lodges (St.Mark's and Renfrew) alone initiated over 100 candidates
in a single five-year period (1973-1978).
Ten Alberta city Lodges alone initiated almost 400 in the same five
years. In fact, some of those Lodges appear to do little else except
Some concerned Brethren are left with the uneasy
feeling that the big drive for membership comes largely from outside the
Craft Lodges. It is perhaps
noteworthy, by the way, that generally speaking, in Alberta, attendance at
Lodge meetings is inversely proportional to the size of membership.
ITEM: The Grand Secretary of Indiana took the time to examine various Grand
Lodge proceedings and to note the visitations by Grand Masters.
He found the results astounding.
one Grand Master reported 79 visitations, but 45 were
to appendant organizations.
Another Grand Master made 69 visitations, of which only 11 were to Symbolic
Lodges, and of these six were to one Lodge.
So much for his interest in the Craft Lodges.
Still another Grand Master showed where his loyalties lay when he
made 66 visitations and of these 62 were to concordant orders.(35)
Many concerned Brethren are asking how long Freemasonry
on this continent can survive such neglect of its basic units.
No wonder many Brethren are concerned that Craft Masonry on this
continent is getting short shrift, and is in need of some major readjustment
back to its traditional place of respect.
To quote Bro. Dwight Smith again:
What can we expect when we have permitted'.
Freemasonry to become subdivided into a score of organizations? Look
at it. Each organization dependent upon the parent body for its existence,
yet each jockeying for a position of supremacy, and each claiming to be the
Pinnacle to which any Master Mason may aspire.
We have spread ourselves thin, and
34 Lockhart in Proceedings . . . Baner, 1975,
35 Smith, op.cit, p. 44
Ancient Craft Masonry is the loser. Downgraded, the
Symbolic Lodge is used only as a springboard.
A short-sighted Craft we have been to create in our beloved
Fraternity a condition wherein the tail can, and may,
wag the dog. (36)
Those are the five of the major changes introduced into
Freemasonry which historian Haywood stated caused the "Great Schism" of the
17-hundreds, plus a few of the parallels which some Masons fear are being
Undoubtedly there are those who feel that their
Brethren are unnecessarily concerned, that they overstate the case, that
they exaggerate the dangers, that the trends are not well-enough established
to be of real concern, or simply, that the innovations we witness today
bring as much virtue as vice.
If that is the reader's opinion, then he need not be disturbed.
He need only watch complacently as the trends unfold.
If, however, he is among the ranks of the disturbed, he may be on the
side of those who wish to bring the Craft back on course before it again
critics of the current trends put their case more in sorrow than in anger.
They feel sure that the innovators act with sincerity and with no
ulterior motives, regardless of the fact that they sometimes open a
veritable Pandora's Box-of potential Masonic evils.
As historian Haywood said about the
first "Great Schism it :
The whole process..... was a gradual one; neither the
Grand Lodge itself nor any of its Lodges had any intention of undermining
the foundations of the Fraternity. . . and their intentions, such as they
had, were in their own eyes completely innocent ... (37)
The great tragedy is that Freemasonry in North America
seems to be entering a new era, not as a universal and unchanging faith, but
as a patchwork of independent social or service clubs, basted together with
a few shaky stitches of tradition.
Ill-considered innovations so innocently but so easily
introduced, may prove exceedingly difficult to
eradicate. Their removal puts
further strains on the Craft.
Their elimination ofttimes leaves behind an unfortunate trail of
recriminations, acrimony, and disharmony that can take years to dissipate.
Only with difficulty, and with great self-discipline
can an unfortunate innovation be eradicated, and even then, in the
picturesque language of Brother Heron Lepper, a former librarian of the
Grand Lodge of England,
In vanishing from human ken, like the fiend of
folklore, it left behind a nauseous stench to remind men that something
unholy has passed that way.
Let this essay be concluded with one last comment from
the depths of the swamp. In
those immortal words of POGO,
"We have met the enemy, and he is us
36 Smith, Whither Are We Traveling?, p. 10
37 Haywood, OP-cit., p. 33
38 Pick and Knight, op.cit., p. 115
Editors, Board of, The History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, Boston
and London: The Fraternity Publishing Company, 1913
Haywood, H. L., The Newly-Made Mason, Richmond, Virginia: Macoy Publishing
and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1973
Lockhart, E. J., quoted in Proceedings, 35th Annual Inter-Provincial
Conference of the Officers of the Four Western Masonic Jurisdictions, Banff,
Newton, Joseph Fort, The Builders, Richmond, Virginia: ILicoy Publishing and
Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1951
Pick, Fred L. and G. Norman Knight, The Pocket History of Freemasonry, 5th
ed., London: Frederick Muller Ltd., 1971
Smith, Dwight L., Why This Confusion In The Temple?, Washington, D.C.: The
Masonic Service Association, 1970
------------ . Whither Are We Traveling?, Franklin, Indiana: The Freemason
Printing Center, The Indiana Masonic Home, 1966
(excerpted from the minutes)
Brother Aspeslet talked on the value of both history
and opinion for stimulating good discussion and expressed sincere hope that
no schism is created in our time.
Brother Fox spoke of the necessity of maintaining harmony and working
together to meet the principles of Masonry.
He demonstrated how the Research Lodge has broken geographical boundaries
with the simple dedication of working for the Craft.
Brother Borland supported the views expressed in the paper, and hoped
that the "innovations" seen elsewhere would not pervade the Craft in
Alberta. He was interested in
the statistics of involvement of members of appendant orders in their Craft
Lodges. Brother Love stated
figures to answer Brother Borland, and also expanded on the changes which
had been made in rituals.
Brother Juthner raised the problem of who were the good and bad in the
Antient/Modern conflict, casting some doubt on the Antients' purity of
Brother Laycraft felt this was a most provocative paper; he noted the
concerns raised but pointed out that some of the strongest supporters of
concordant bodies are also heavily involved in their Craft Lodges.
Brother Senn noted that there was a basic need for belonging, and
that some Brethren move into appendant bodies for this reason alone.
He also stated that the opinions of today are frequently used as the
facts of tomorrow, as any history text will show. Brother Borland commented that perhaps the answer would be
for appendant bodies to sever the link with Craft Masonry and stand as
Brother Lusk complimented the speaker but warned against tunnel vision which
restricts our opportunities to grow as people. Other organizations have
something to offer and do not steal the person who does not wish to leave.
He stated that "you do not increase the light of your candle by
putting out those around you." Working together is the answer. Brother Jendyk stressed the importance of retaining the
Landmarks and not adopting changes that are not required. We are looking at symptoms and not causes: we need more
Brother Love closed the discussion by stating that his essay was intended to
stimulate discussion and, apparently, he had been successful.