Dealing with Our Masonic Destinations


by Francis G. Paul
Sovereign Grand Commander
AASR Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

November 1988

   "Obstacles are those frightful things you see," someone
wrote, "when you take your eyes off your goals."

   One of the best, most efficient ways to stay where you
are or even go backward is to focus on the obstacles.  They
are the distractions that keep us from becoming the best we
can - both personally and as a fraternity.

   When you and I take a risk, we test ourselves.  When we
decide to solve a problem, we face the possibility of
failure.  When we step out to break new ground, we know the
voices of the critics will be raised.  Safety is certain, at
least for awhile, if we do nothing.

   Yet, Masonry teaches us to be dissatisfied -
discontent - with the status quo.  Freemasonry challenges us
to reach for the ideals of justice, brotherly love, and
improvement - individually and as a fraternity.

   In its annual report to the Supreme Council in
September, the Committee on the General State of the Rite
broke new ground.  While applauding our many successes, the
committee urges us to set our eyes on our destinations, our

   Race and ethnic groups.  "This committee carefully
searched our constitutions and ritual," the report reads,
"finding nothing to indicate that we should deprive
membership in our fraternity to any man because of race,
color or creed."  Pointing out that this is indeed a
difficult subject, yet it is one "that has been avoided for
too many years."

   The report continues, "It is the committee's opinion
that unadmitted, residual racial bias hurts us, sapping our
strength, and depriving us of men with strong leadership

   Although long overdue, the Supreme Council has elected
the first black member to receive the 33rd degree at our
next annual meeting.  "In today's society, we can no longer
'stone-wall' this vital issue if we really intend to
practice what we preach - brotherly love - in this wonderful
nation of people with many and diverse origins," states the
committee report.

   Sovereignty of the Grand Lodges.  Noting that the
framers of our U.S. Constitution recognized that the
survival of the young nation depended on a balance of
authority between the individual states and a federal
government, the committee indicates that "there is a lesson
to be learned" for our fraternity.

   The committee has stepped forward with a call for "some
central governance group - a policy-setting body with
executive power to provide cohesive, coordinated management
of the total Masonic fraternity."

   If we are to grow and if we are to meet the challenges
of today and those of the 21st century, we must have a
national approach for Freemasonry.

   Penalties of the obligations and balloting.  "It is
becoming increasingly apparent that thinking candidates are
having trouble giving honest assent to the current penalties
contained in the obligations," reports the committee. "Oaths
required deal with 'ancient' penalties which are obsolete,
unbelievable, unacceptable and simply not relevant in
today's society."

   Oaths taken anywhere on a Bible are not "symbolic."
Our credibility as a fraternity suffers when we attempt to
"explain away" our ancient Masonic penalties.  As a result,
the committee urges all Bodies of Freemasonry to commence an
"orderly rewrite and substitution of the onerous penalties
in the various obligations of our order. "

   Finally, the committee addressed the balloting issue.
"With our prevailing procedures of admitting new members
only by unanimous, favorable ballot, we leave too much room
for private pique and spite, all of which serves to deny
true liberty and justice."  In order to rectify this
situation, the committee has called for the Supreme Council
to amend its Constitutions to require three negative votes
to reject a candidate for all of our degrees, and urges all
Masonic Bodies to give this suggestion immediate attention."

   For men whose eyes are on the goals, there are no
obstacles, just opportunities to lead the way.  The
committee report received a standing ovation.  Evidently, we
are ready to move forward.

   We may never achieve perfection, but we can find more
perfect ways for justice, brotherly love, and improvement to
prevail in Freemasonry  - and the world.  When you think
about it, the only frightful obstacle is our unwillingness
to act on our Masonic ideals.