MASONIC Digest Wednesday, 29 Nov 1989 Volume 1 : Issue 3 Today's Topics: Administrivia Int

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MASONIC Digest Wednesday, 29 Nov 1989 Volume 1 : Issue 3 Today's Topics: Administrivia Introductions: Mark Waks / Justin du Coeur Steve Mesnick / Steffan Tim Maroney Prince Hall. Co-Masonry. Why is Masonry restricted to Men? Send all submissions and requests to (From enet: DECWRL::"") MASONIC digest is moderated. Please remember: THIS IS A PUBLIC FORUM - YOU MUST ASSUME THAT MOST READERS ARE NON-MASONS. Please include a relevant subject line, and cover one topic per message. If you require anonymity, say so at the top of your message (and give a nom-de-net). All contributions remain the property (Copyright 1989), and responsibility of the authors, and may not be diseminated beyond the list without their express permission. My own comments remain mine (Copyright 1989 Peter Trei), and represent only my views at the time of posting - not neccesarily those of my employer, or of any Grand Lodge. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 29 Nov 89 From: (Peter Trei) Subject: Administrivia Well, the list is growing - it's now up to 39 readers in 4 countries. I find that I'm spending an astounding amount of time composing responses to some of these messages. After this issue I do not intend to make long replies in the same issue as a message appears. This will allow others to reply at the same time I do, hopefully with superior knowledge. I will continue to add ˝brief paranthetical comments| when I feel the answer is simple and non-controversial. I still seem to be having trouble reaching the following sites: (aka, and (aka In addition, I'm also still waiting for an address confirmation from If you are reading from one of those sites, or know an alternate way to get to them, please tell me (and thanks for all the help I got after #2). ------------------------------ Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 17:35:43 EST From: inmet! (Mark Waks / Justin du Coeur) Subject: Introduction All right, let's see if we can turn "introduce yourself" into a tradition... I'm Brother Mark Waks, from Ocean Lodge in Winthrop, MA. In contrast to the abundance of Lodge Masters we seem to have posting (well, two out of three, anyway), I am a relative novice, a Fellow Craft who is to take his third degree next month. I'm a bit of a philosopher; indeed, much of what got me into the Craft was seeing how many of the gentlemen who I respected in philosophical debate were Masons. Be warned that, between Gary Dryfoos, Steve Mesnick (who will probably join in as soon as he gets his e-mail access back), and myself, the potential for extended volume of discussion is rather high... :-) In the course of my postings, I will probably make occasional reference to the "SCA". This stands for the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval research & recreation group that I'm quite active in. The only reason I bring it up is that it will figure a tad in my next posting, and I may as well clarify (slightly) what it is. Also, I will probably sometimes (maybe usually) sign myself as "Justin du Coeur"; this is my Nom du Net, largely because it is my pseudonym within the Society, and a number of my SCA friends are on the Net... -- Mark Waks SKA Justin du Coeur ------------------------------ Date: 27 Nov 89 22:09:39 EST From: Steve Mesnick / Steffan <> Subject: Introduction Hello. This is my first posting to the new net, so here's an introduction. I'm Bro. Steve Mesnick, the Junior Warden of Ocean Lodge in Winthrop, Massachusetts, (of which Gary Dryfoos, a poster in # 1.2, is Master). I've been a Mason since 1976, have served 5 terms (!) as Senior Deacon in two lodges and am a Past Junior Warden of Mt. Scopus Lodge in Malden, MA (my mother lodge). I am also a Past Patron of Unity Chapter #14 Riverside, RI, a Senior member of Malden Chapter, DeMolay (now defunct), and a DeMolay Life Alumnus. I am also an instructor in the 1st Lodge of Instruction (Grand Lodge, Boston). I can be reached at: until the phone strike backlog is resolved (don't hold your breath) and then (I hope) at obsolete!pro-angmar! --- Steve Mesnick ------------------------------ Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 17:51:51 EST From: inmet! Subject: Administrative-type comments This message is pretty exclusively concerned with "meta"-topics (ie, the running of the list); those not interested in administrivia can just skip to the next message... I have a few comments, which may be freely followed or ignored, as you wish. They are largely derived from my experiences helping with (and kibitzing) the Rialto, which is the SCA mailing list/newsgroup. That group has been around for the better part of two years, and a few lessons have come out of it... First, I'd suggest one person take charge of "new person info". Let's put together a fairly canonical collection of introductory material, and have one person be responsible for keeping an eye out for new people, and answering their questions. This isn't a hard job; I do it for the Rialto, and I get about one person every two weeks. By having one person dealing with it, we can avoid a) having people's questions fall through the cracks, b) having laymen deluged with people answering their questions, and c) (worst) having everyone answering those questions on the mailing list, instead of through private e-mail (which is generally more comfortable for everyone). Volunteers? I'd do it, but I'm not exactly the person to be answering questions yet... Next, I question the decision to have separate messages for each topic. This makes lots of sense for newsgroups, but I've found that it introduces a lot of unnecessary overhead into a mailing list. In general, I find combined messages easier to read, as well as to write, in these circumstances. I've followed this guideline today, but I'd prefer to go to a combined-message format in general... The DEC mason's notesfile can probably be gatewayed here; I'm 90% certain that the DEC SCA notesfile is gatewayed into the Rialto. Talk to me if you're interested, and I'll put you in touch with someone who understands the workings of this a lot better than I do. Finally, I will probably keep an archive of the digests here; I've been doing it for the Rialto since forever, and may as well do the same here. I don't have any automated means for people to come poke around these archives, but if people are ever in need of a particular digest, I can mail it to them... -- Justin du Coeur ˝PT: Thanks for the suggestions, Justin. I've never run a mailing list before, so any help is welcome. A couple comments: 1: This is not a mail reflector, but a digest. I gather messages for a period, roll them up into a file, and then start editing. I want to put all the discussion on a given topic together, and that's much easier if each message covers only one topic. Increase in net overhead is minimal, due to the digest format. 2: I would seem to be the logical person to introduce new people. All messages have to go through me before they reach the digest anyway, and I can get back faster then others who would have to go through the digest. I am already corresponding with some people offline. 3: I've been in touch with one of the moderators of the DEC MASONIC notesfile. This digest will be posted there, and readers within DEC will be encouraged to respond to the digest rather than the notesfile. 4: I'll also be keeping an archive, but redundancy is welcome. ------------------------------ Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 17:53:57 EST From: inmet! Subject: Prince Hall Masonry Okay, now for a novice's question -- what *is* Prince Hall Masonry? I'm not looking for detailed analyses here, just a basic outline of what it is and where it came from, so I can follow the discussion... -- Justin du Coeur ˝PT: If there are any PH Masons on this list, I hope you'll speak up. I apologise in advance if I'm stepping on any toes here - all the sources I've been able to put my hands on are from four-letter lodges. To put it in the shortest possible terms, PH is Black (Negro) Masonry. Prince Hall (not an actual prince - that's his name) was made a mason by a British military lodge near Boston in 1775 ,and was in 1784 granted a warrant to form a lodge (African #459) by the Grand Lodge of England (Modern). This lodge was erased by the English GL in 1813 on the grounds of many years of non-communication. Around 1789 a group of Blacks were granted a warrant by Prince Hall to form a lodge (Only a Grand Lodge is supposed to issue warrants), and in 1815 formed themselves into a Grand Lodge. In 1824 a group in Boston petitioned the English GL to revive African Lodge, and in 1824, having apparently received no reply, created their own GL ab nihilo. This broke a large number of generally accepted rules about starting new Grand Lodges in the US at that time. Basically, a number of lodges (at least three), in an area not in the recognized territory of any existing GL, had to get together and petition a GL for a warrant to form their own GL. The various Black GLs did'nt wait for permission (which probably would not have been forthcoming), and formed GLs in areas already under GL jurisdiction. The upshot of this is that we now have parallel systems of PH and AF&AM lodges and affiliated orders. Both sides regard the other as illegitimate, because (a) PH masonry and affiliated orders were not started in a legitimate manner, and (b) US AF&AM lodges until the fifties effectively had a color bar, which clearly flew in the face of Masonic principles. (There were a few isolated cases of Blacks in regular lodges, and even a couple Black regular lodges, but they were very much the exception.) The rationalization of the former color bar was that ancient tradition requires that a candidate be a free man. In the early US this status was difficult to prove for many Blacks. However, a large dose of plain racism was undoubtedly involved. The unofficial color bar is now long gone, but Masonry remains largely a White organization. I do meet regular Black brethren occasionally, some of high rank, and I was proud to assist at the raising of a Black brother last spring. Mutual recognition of AF&AM and PH GLs is a hot topic right now, and I certainly hope it will come to pass. For a brief period during the fifties, the Massachusets AF&AM and PH GLs recognized each other, but this led to tremendous trouble for retired MA Masons in the sunbelt, since the southern GLs terminated recognition of the MA GL. The official recognition in MA was dropped (by mutual agreement), but good fraternal communication has been maintained since.| ------------------------------ Date: Wed, 22 Nov 89 06:57:12 PST From: Subject: Introduction and Co-Masonry (and restriction to men). Greetings and growth to all. Before proceeding I should introduce myself. I am not a Mason, and have no plans to become one, because my feminist ethics do not permit the joining of any organization that excludes women. I am an unaffiliated occultist most interested in the various historical threads left by the Golden Dawn, which I presume most of you are familiar with. (And for what it's worth, I resigned from the OTO some years ago.) My interest in this list is primarily to discuss various historical and ethical considerations concerning Masonry in a friendly and respectful manner. I have two main questions right now which I hope some of you can help me with. The first is historical. Does anyone know of good information on Besant Scott's Co-Masonry? I regret to bring the question of such an obviously heretical group before you, but it seems to be a question of great historical importance in the matter of the relationship between two "Crafts", modern occultism in its Neo-Pagan form and the older, but apparently related, Masonic tradition. But I have found hard information difficult to come by. The second is ethical. Why is it that an organization (or group of organizations) like Freemasonry which is largely concerned with the principles of liberty and human rights has not yet begun to take steps to end its discrimination against women? When I have asked this before, I have gotten a wide variety of answers, some obviously just excuses of no real consequence. The only answer I have gotten that seems to make sense is that it would probably be a good thing, but Grand Lodge would immediately withdraw recognition from any group which did so; and in general the problem is that there are too many aged Masons who are too set in their ways to change. Is this a general impression among the younger Masons? Assuming that some Lodges wanted to admit women to full initiation (rather than the fairly pointless auxiliary orders), how could this be accomplished without creating yet another schism? Thanks for any answers you can give. -- Tim Maroney, Mac Software Consultant, sun!hoptoad!tim, ˝PT: Hmm... This moderating game is tougher than I thought - first I have to discuss Prince Hall, and now Co-Masonry! Once again, I urge anyone with better information (preferably first-hand) to speak up. To start with, don't assume we all know much about the Golden Dawn/OTO/A.'.A.'. etc (but please, they are really out of the purview of this digest. If anyone wants to discuss them, keep it in private email). Second, I know many people who would take *strong* exception to your characterization of Eastern Star, etc, as "fairly pointless." On what basis do you describe them thus? Most OES people I've spoken to feel that the same values are inculcated in all of the auxiliary groups. Co-Masonry (CM) is a fringe movement which, barring it's admission of women, seems to imitate regular masonry. It started in 1881 in France with the initiation of Maria Desraimes into Loge Les Libres Penseurs. In 1893 the Master of this lodge formed another, "La Respectable Loge le Droit Humain, Maconnerie Mixte", which became the Mother Lodge of Co-Masonry. The most recent detailed info I have on it dates back to 1936, at which time there were claimed 700 lodges, the organization went under the name "American Federation of Human Rights", and was based in Larkspur, Colorado. I can't find anything that looks likely in the NY or Boston phone books, but I spoke to a regalia supplier in NY who says there are still a couple lodges left in this country. The GL librarian in Boston tells me that it's also somewhat active in Britain and France. It is most definitely beyond the pale as far as regular Masonry is concerned, and so minor that most regular Masons have never heard of it. The only "inside" information I have is in "Ancient Mystic Rites" by C.W. Leadbeater (1986), a Quest book from the Theosophical Publishing House (ISBN 0-8356-0609-0). Still in print, it was originally published in 1926 as "Glimpses of Masonic History". The final chapter is a historical outline of CM, which is hailed as "a restoration of an ancient landmark". The entire book goes far out into the occult school of masonic history, and I have some trouble trusting it on anything. Another good source is the entry on adoptive and androgynous orders in Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia. Margot Adler's "Drawing down the Moon" does indicate that Gardner - a seminal figure in the neo-Pagan movement, was in contact with the daughter of Annie Besant, a founder of CM. I have frequently heard that a good deal of the Gardnerian magical system is lifted from Masonry, including calling it "The Craft". On the question of why we regular Masons exclude women - I expect you've already received all the answers, and if they're not sufficient, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Freemasonry is in many ways an intensely conservative organization. What we have has worked - and worked well - for at least 300 years. There is a general attitude that we should not mess with a winning formula. This attitude becomes concrete in what are called "landmarks". Landmarks are particular points of practice which it's generally agreed can not be changed without Masonry ceasing to be Masonry. There is no universal, canonical set of landmarks, but one which appears on virtually every list is the restriction of Masonry to men. Currently there are about 100 regular Grand Lodges in the world, almost half of them in the US. Each GL is totally sovereign, but all recognize and maintain fraternal relations with most of the others. If a GL strays too far from the ancient landmarks, it risks losing this recognition, along with its members. To the affected Masons, this is a *bad* *thing*. Thus, it is unlikely that any GL will consider admitting women in the forseeable future. You speak of the possibility of groups below the GL forming lodges to admit women. This is also difficult since all lodges must operate with a warrant or dispensation from a Grand Lodge, and submit to regular inspection of their practice by Grand Lodge officers. It is a similar problem to that discussed above in relation to the formation of Prince Hall GL. If some group decided to split off and form an independent organization admitting women, it would simply have duplicated the formation of Co-Masonry. The failure of CM to obtain many members of either sex suggests the futility of this. Every man entering Masonry has done so with full knowledge that it is restricted to men, and has also freely promised to uphold the ancient customs. Thus it is not suprising that there are few voices inside Masonry calling for change. We have all already searched our consciences, and decided we can abide with this. One last point - though I'm sure you will not find this sufficient. There is an sense of brotherhood, an esprit de corps, which can form when a group of men regularly meet together in the absence of women (and I'm sure that the same applies to women-only groups). This would be lost if the ladies were admitted. If you had told me this two years ago, before I was initiated, I would have just thought it the same lame excuse heard from every men's organization under pressure to integrate. But now I see it is true, and I value it. Tim, I doubt if you will ever know what I'm talking about. Finally: Please, I don't want (and will not permit) this to turn into a long argument or flamefest. I don't expect we can change anyones mind on either side of this topic.| ------------------------------ End of MASONIC Digest *********************


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