Three Five Seven – # 230

T.F.S.
Three, five, and seven
3 5 7
By Stan Shapiro MD, Grand Lodge Education Officer G.L. of MN
#230

“Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood: all born encounter suffering and sorrow, and are therefore bound to sympathize with each other”— Albert Pike

The following e-mail was received as a response to T.F.S. (#229) “Freemasonry and Patriotism.” The writer reports why he is a not a Mason and does not indicate where he lives.

“Thank you for the fine article. Perhaps you can address a concern of mine regarding the Masonic principles and the organizational tenets of such? I should explain that I’ve been very interested in the idea of Freemasonry; both my Grandfathers were Masons, so my curiosity had been sparked from a young age. I inquired about joining at my local Lodge, and I was kindly invited to a breakfast where I was given some information which vaguely talked about the different affiliations and the overall Mason traditions, but there wasn’t really time to address specifics. During an earlier initial meeting with a local Mason, I was given several books to read (Joseph Fort Newton’s, ‘The Builders’; George Steinmetz, “The Lost Word and its Hidden Meaning’, as well as some others), which I did, and then came back to address what I was curious about:

I was asked about what had first captured my interest, and that had to do with the inclusiveness of the organization, the idea that “a universal Brotherhood bringing together men of every nation, creed, and color…” as you stated in the T.F.S. My great-great-great Grandfather was President of the ‘World’s First Religious Congress’ at the 1893 World’s Fair, so the openness to an undefined religious bent, but with a deep regard for man’s spirituality, was also of particular interest to me. So I asked about the “Prince Hall” Lodges for men of color, and particularly, with the historical connection of Mason’s to the revered Albert Pike with his KKK affiliations, why such a seemingly antiquated segregation among the organization would be still extant? The answer I received was a kind of ‘Aw shucks…’ reply, “Well, ALL men have their prejudices!”– I let the answer ride, but I went home a bit disillusioned and unsatisfied. Upon attending the breakfast at the local Lodge, I encountered entire walls of framed photographs of Master Masons…white Anglo-Saxons, all; as were photos of local parades, gatherings, etc. I know that much of this is colloquial, circumstance (it’s mostly a white neighborhood), or coincidence, but it left me all the more disillusioned and unsatisfied. I was given a petition for membership, but declined to do so. So perhaps you can address this issue of concern for me, or share it with your peers as a relevant discussion topic…why does an organization with such stated goodwill and intent, which proclaims an openness to all members of society, regardless of nationality, race, or faith, seem to allow for such in somewhat, if not overtly, exclusionary ways as that of having black men attend separate and defined Lodges based on race and skin color as that of the ‘Prince Hall’ Masons? I hope my inquiry doesn’t offend you. I write in earnest and with sincerity, and I hope to hear from you in a way that will satisfy my curiosity as well as my respect for the Masonic organization.”

Before you read the summary of my response and the response by W.B. Ed Halpaus, how would you have responded to this e-mail?

The summary of my response:

Thank you for this important question.

Wikipedia states “Albert Pike has often been named as influential in the early KKK being named in 1905 as “the chief judicial officer” of the Klan by a sympathetic historian of the early Klan, Walter Fleming.]He was cited as the leader of the Arkansas K. K.K. However this has been a controversial subject with Masonic authors saying that it “is impossible to either substantiate or disprove involvement in the Klan.”

All Masonic Lodges in the United States can admit good men without reference to their race. A good book about the history of Masons of color is: Negro Masonry by William Upton first published in the late 1800’s.

Although in Minnesota we do not keep track of our members by racial identity, the Minnesota Grand Lodge Secretary estimates we have 100- 200 nonwhite members in Minnesota. The Minnesota Grand Lodge and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge have recognized each other as legitimate Masonic bodies and have agreed to co-recognition which allows members of either of their official Masonic Lodges to attend each other’s meetings. In Minnesota Grand Lodge Grand Masters are elected without regard to race.

As Masons we strive for genuine universal tolerance which is basic to the Masonic concept of brotherhood. No one is perfect and no ordinary human being will feel natural sympathy or liking for every of other person they come in contact. When men are organized, no thoughtful person believes all the differences of ideas, preferences, ways of acting or reacting can be completely harmonized. That is not true in families, for whole nations or even all of the members of the same religious organization. Cultural changes take time. The concept of Brotherhood is the exemplification of the ideal of brotherly acceptance and love regardless of individual differences or how they choose their relationship with God. The goal of Brotherhood is to understand the other man was also created by God. It is a spiritual endeavor to build our symbolic internal Temple of respect.

Words To Live By: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood”.—–Martin Luther King Sr.

A copy of the above e-mail from the non-Mason was sent to W.B. Ed Halpaus and the following is his response:

Diversity and Accusations
by Ed Halpaus

I would like to begin with a quote from John S. Nagy, Masonic author and leadership trainer: “Masonry is not about Perfection (flawlessness); it never was and never will be. It’s about Perfecting (becoming more suitable for the Builders use.)” From Emessay Notes of the Masonic Service Association of North America

One of the things I like about Regular Freemasonry (this includes Mainstream and Prince Hall Freemasonry) is that there is no religious, racial, or ethnic qualification, save ‘a sincere belief and trust in God’: the petition for the degrees of Freemasonry, or for membership / affiliation, does not and never has asked about heritage, race, skin color, or religious affiliation. All of our petitions, the Masonic Manual of Minnesota, as well as the Masonic Code of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota can be found on-line at; www.mn-masons.org: For ‘Petitions’ click on ‘Lodge Resources’ and then on ‘Secretary’s Resources,’ under that link, on the left, click on ‘Documents, Manuals, and Forms’; there you will find all of the petitions used in the Grand Lodge. For the ‘Masonic Manual’ and ‘Masonic Code’ click on the link ‘Lodge Resources, ‘ and then by clicking on ‘member resources’ you will see the PDF files for the Minnesota Masonic Code, and the ‘Minnesota Masonic Manual’.

The entire web site for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota provides abundant transparency and information for the Mason and non-Mason alike, which is just the opposite of what many would have the general population believe: The anti-Mason wants others to believe that Freemasonry is so ultra secret and complicated that the populace needs the anti-Mason to reveal and explain everything to them about Freemasonry; in fact, the Grand Lodges of the world have been doing that for centuries; they want everyone to know what Freemasonry is and what it stands for.

One Mason I know belongs to three Lodges in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Minnesota: What he likes best about two of them is the ethnic and religious diversity of the Lodges. His third Lodge is in a small rural community where there is very little diversity in the population, and consequently in the membership of the Lodge.

Freemasonry exists in most if not all of the free world: Wikipedia says there are 5 million Masons in the world, but then it lists the U.S., Canada the British Commonwealth and some other European countries; it does not mention the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, or Asia, (all places where Freemasonry can be found,) it appears to list only ‘mainstream’[1] Grand lodges and omit Prince Hall Grand Lodges. So my guess is that there are many more Masons in the world than Wikipedia says. Also the numbers in Wikipedia, I believe, do not include all of the countries where non-Caucasian Masons are active in regular Freemasonry. Freemasonry is not a ‘Caucasian’ Fraternity – there is great diversity in worldwide Masonic membership, as well as throughout North America, The British Commonwealth, and Europe. It is a fact that there are no requirements regarding ethnic heritage or religion in either Prince Hall Grand Lodges or Mainstream Grand Lodges.

The reason for seeing only white men in photos on a Lodge wall in parts of the U.S. is because you’re looking, for the most part, at photos of dead or old men who were Masters of the Lodge, and who for the most part, were from a different time in our society. The facts are that with so many Masons writing about the Craft, so many Lodges holding open houses, and inviting interested men and their families to come to the Lodge for an open house and other events, and Grand Lodges posing all sorts of information on their Web Sites and Blogs, Freemasonry is open and sharing; sharing practically everything about Freemasonry and the Lodge – warts and all. Regarding photos on a wall in a Lodge; our current Grand Master feels, and I agree, that it would be better to show photos of current ‘living’ members, because that is much more representative of today’s Freemasonry.

A reason for more diversity in today’s Freemasonry is that a man needs to ask to become a Freemason. It is normal for a man to ask a friend who is a Mason. In the past men may not have had many friends outside of their own location or heritage, but today it is much more common for men to have friends who’s heritage, religion, and race, is different from his own, and this is true among Freemasons too. Because of this when men ask to become a Mason petitions are received from men of a wider variety of races, and heritage: This is good because more men now have the opportunity to have Freemasonry in their lives, and they, as well as we ‘older’ Masons have the wonderful opportunity to get to know, and interact with Masons and their families from a broader representation of mankind. You can never know too many good men; good men a found among Freemasons, and Freemasons are found in all races, and religions.

One thing that is true about people is that people generally, but not always, gravitate to others who have similar interests and backgrounds to their own; they also may think they will be more comfortable, and more readily accepted by others that are like themselves. Thus these kinds of feelings might tend to have men gravitate to a Grand Lodge having a preponderance of people who are like them in some respect, for some it could be skin color or ethnic background, however, Lodges are filled with good men, and many, if not most, Masons think there are other more valid reasons for their Lodge participation. Thankfully there are no Grand Lodges in regular Masonry that are based on ethnicity or religious preferences.

Thanks to the vision of some fine Grand Masters from both of the Grand Lodges in Minnesota, the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Minnesota have full recognition, which means that members of each Grand Lodge are able to become members in a lodge of the other Grand Lodge; some have taken advantage of this privilege. No one is told they should or shouldn’t, it is left up to each individual Mason to decide if he would like to, and if he does then he fills out a petition for membership, and submits it to the Lodge he would like to join.

While some Masonic students might read what Albert Pike wrote, not all have, he is not revered as the authority on Masonry; certainly not in any way as a guide for our lives and actions in or outside of our Lodges, and being the Masonic student he was I doubt he would want to be. Anyone who is interested in Pike’s life as it relates to minorities has resources available; one of the best books about his life is “Albert Pike – The Man Beyond the Monument,’ by James Tresner. One of the best and most complete studies of Pike and his alleged connection with the KKK can be found on-line at the web site of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and the Yukon, (a good web site for the Masonic student to go to for information on almost anything on Freemasonry,) at; http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/kkk.html: That site comments on Pike and the KKK, in part it says: “The following notes will demonstrate that his leadership role or membership is strictly hearsay, that his racism, while nothing to be proud of, was mild by his contemporaries’ standards and that any accusation that Freemasonry is a Klan front, or vice versa is completely unsubstantiated and unfounded.”

I will suggest Pike may very well have been a product of the social systems and mores of the society he was born into.[2] Having said that, he did not found the KKK and there is no evidence he was a member of it.

Judge Kindly – by an unknown Brother

“Don’t expect perfection in a man because he is a Mason. If you do, you will be disappointed. Masonry makes a man better, but no human agency can make him perfect. If he is a Mason, you have the right to presume he is a fairly good man, but do not condemn Masonry even if a few Masons turn out bad. Even the great teacher Himself had a Judas. The aim and purpose of Masonry is to receive none but good men, keep them good and make them better. Judge the institution not by a few failures, but by the average of its success. That average is high and it consequently gives standing to its members, but it cannot be an infallible guide.”

“Freemasonry can stand up to investigation; it’s the false charges against it that cannot.” Ed Halpaus

If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions, please send them to: shapiro.stanley@gmail.com
The Education Videos by our education committee can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/glmned

The latest Masonic Monday Question, and some of the past questions, can be viewed at www.Lodgebuilder.org and at www.mn-masons.org

“You can never know too many good men; good men a found among Freemasons, and Freemasons are found in all races, and religions.” Ed Halpaus

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[1] A name I do not care for, as it implies that Prince Hall Masonry is not part of the main stream of regular Freemasonry, which it is.

[2] The first official legal recognition of chattel slavery as a legal institution in British North America was in Massachusetts, in 1641, with the “Body of Liberties.” Slavery continued in Massachusetts until 1783 when it ended. Pike was born in 1809, and lived in Massachusetts until 1831 heading west and finally arriving and staying in Arkansas until after the end of the Civil War. www.slavenorth.com

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Harold E “Phil” Phillips, Jr, PM
Aurora 43, Newburg, WV