MASONIC Digest Wednesday, 29 Nov 1989 Volume 1 : Issue 3 Today's Topics: Administrivia Int
MASONIC Digest Wednesday, 29 Nov 1989 Volume 1 : Issue 3
Introductions: Mark Waks / Justin du Coeur
Steve Mesnick / Steffan
Why is Masonry restricted to Men?
Send all submissions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. (From
enet: DECWRL::"email@example.com") 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter Trei)
Well, the list is growing - it's now up to 39 readers in 4
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:
tecr.nosc.mil (aka nosc-tecr.arpa), and tc.fluke.com (aka
email@example.com). In addition, I'm also still waiting for
an address confirmation from husc4.harvard.edu. 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!justin@uunet.UU.net (Mark Waks / Justin du Coeur) Subject:
All right, let's see if we can turn "introduce yourself" into a
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
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 <70166.1402@CompuServe.com>
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
--- Steve Mesnick
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 89 17:51:51 EST
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
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
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
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
-- 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
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, email@example.com
˝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
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
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
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank