Given the world as it is, and its
direction of travel, literally and figuratively, into global spaces, it is not
unreasonable to enquire about the ways that Freemasonry might be involved.
is to ‘civil society’ that we must turn to find Freemasonry.”
We would offer as a starting point a
commonly held view that the arrangements with major impact on human existence
are those of the state, family and market with a fourth “civil society”
being the totality of other institutions.
These groupings are not fixed. Rather, they should be understood as
tectonic plates vitalised by human energy, continuously shaping and forming
themselves, and similarly reshaping and re-forming each other.
It is to “civil society” that we must turn to find Freemasonry.
It is there as a bedfellow with golf clubs,
trade unions, Rotary, amateur dramatic societies, religions, political parties,
the Women’s Institute and the rest.
Perhaps these groupings can largely be understood as being voluntary,
with an individual “constitution” and maintained by various levels of
cooperative activity for some self and mutual benefit.
Where there is a state religion, religions may be less than
“voluntary” and perhaps therefore no longer in civil society.
When members of a political party form a government, they too have
shifted space. Sometimes, trade union membership is a prerequisite for
employment; and, joining “the masons” may be considered to be more than an
expedient in order to make progress in the marketplace.
Many of the groups composed within civil
society are formed in order to influence the state; political parties alone are
formed with the intention of taking over and controlling the state (terrorist
groups aside). Perhaps
underpinning each organisation within civil society is a separate and distinct
metaphysic; some are small and local, others are worldwide and others even
purport to extend beyond space and time.
However, as long as belief in the metaphysic remains, it is a foundation
sufficient to support an edifice.
Given that freemasonry is an organisation within civil society we are
leading to the question: what is the metaphysic of Freemasonry and what linkage,
if any, is there with the state, the market, the family and the rest of civil
“….what is the state?”
In this article we can only provide ideas
that possibly might point towards a more considered explanation.
However, before any progress can be made, it is necessary to ask: what is
the state? The
model with which we are most familiar is that of the nation-state. This is
something that emerged in the early modern period, perhaps as an outcome of
industry and empire.
There was a need for an entity that was identifiable from the rest of the
world and which provided the means of deriving benefit from the opportunities of
industry and empire.
For a nation-state to be possible it is
necessary to meet the four requirements of:- territory, people, governance and
recognition. Hmmm, does this not sound something like a Masonic Grand Lodge?
But by whom was the first one recognised?
Similarly, how does a nation-state achieve recognition? Perhaps,
internally by people in a social contract with the powers that be and its
hierarchy and externally by those who do not have the power to do otherwise?
We must remember that it was the then radical notion of sovereignty that
made it possible for recognition to emerge as the principle of territorial
exclusivity and thus autonomy between equal nation-states.
Did Freemasonry in general or individual
Freemasons in particular contribute to the establishment and continuous
development of this theoretical concept of nation-states?
If so, was it a practical application of the Masonic metaphysic?
How would it be possible to demonstrate such a connection?
Addressing such a question would require a
serious consideration of 18th century history and legal tradition.
Yet the matter of recognition may be one of contingency and may not lend
itself easily to show such a linkage.
Depending on one’s point of view, there are upwards of two hundred
extant “Masonic” grand lodges on this planet but with a maze of recognition
pathways between and around them.
Whilst there may be contentious divisions on grounds of gender, race and
religious belief (or lack of it), it would appear that there is a metaphysical
unanimity in terms of brotherly love, relief and truth – how ever perversely
these sometimes may be understood and applied!
Brotherly love may be a reasonably
straightforward sentiment and the giving of relief to those worthy in need is a
matter of allocating disposable wealth or time.
But like Pilate before us, we are not overly clear on what truth might be.
Hopefully, it is simply not the VSL on which Freemasons choose to take
their oaths but pertains to personal honour and integrity.
What may be a unique feature of Freemasonry is that the source of its
system of morality is found in the places of work and labour and from there
applied to life rather than the other way around.
That is to say, the virtues of integrity, cooperation, accuracy (honesty)
and assiduity that combine to produce quality outcomes arise from the workplace,
the Masonic Lodge, and are then applied to the rest of life.
What is good for the workplace in particular, is good for the rest of
life in general.
This work ethic just has to be a defining characteristic of Freemasonry!
Therefore, it can be concluded that the metaphysic of Freemasonry leads
to self and mutual improvement along the lines of brotherly love, relief and
to the state and the market?”
Given this understanding, is Freemasonry
just another organisation in the polyarchy of civil society that is competing
for members, their time, mind and money, in return for which, there is offered:-
conviviality, participation in something like the mystery plays of medieval
artisans, an honours’ system of recognition and organised charitable giving?
Other than through local or non-Masonic charitable giving, Freemasonry
and its lodges may seem to be largely inward looking with this being reinforced
by a ban on political or religious discussion within the space of the temple.
However, the view could be taken that by virtue of its metaphysic, Freemasonry
is connected to the state and the market with implications for both the family
and the rest of civil society.
It may well be the case that the
nation-state has largely served its generation and that for business leaders the
map of the world is divided into markets, materials, labour and profitability -
all transcending political boundaries.
It has already become apparent that individual nation-states can no
longer effectively support their people except in cooperation with other states.
This is leading to a blurring of the political map “locally” and the rise of
regional and even global governance.
In some Masonic rituals there is a charge to the initiate with appeals to
him or her as “a Freemason” being “a citizen of the world” and “an
Does Masonic Initiation make one a citizen
of the world? Does
it instil a sense of loyalty to the global good first, leaving individual
A Mason, citizen of the world, is charged “to pay due obedience to the
laws of any State which may for a time be the place of his or her residence.”
This perhaps is picking up on the lines of St. Paul in the New Testament
where he twice refers to Christians as ambassadors and says that their
citizenship is in heaven – the recipe for otherworldliness.
The charge also advises that nature has implanted in the breast a sacred
and indissoluble attachment towards that country from whence derived birth and
infant nurture. Well
of course, nature has done no such thing - nurture might have.
People work in states other than that of
their birth for myriad reasons. Therefore, there has to be a relative perception
of loyalty; yet, the underlying loyalty to the human condition remains since it
is part of the metaphysic, the work ethic of Lodge rooms. As such, would this
tend to make masons more tolerant and accepting of the differences, frailties
and outright aggressions experienced while living in a place other than that of
birth and early nurture?
Further, do post-modern business practices, in a globalising marketplace,
reflect the ideals espoused by brotherly love, relief and truth?
There are many Freemasons who have built astoundingly successful business
enterprises; for instance, consider the founders of the Wal-Mart or J.C. Penney
stores. The jury is perhaps still deliberating: ideals rarely translate into
of Masonry’s metaphysic are perhaps more readily identifiable in the political
arena of statecraft and diplomacy,.
This topic deserves an expanded
consideration that we hope to publish in 2008.
Among political landmarks identified with Masonic involvement, we will be
looking for evidence of the “ancient landmarks.”
Perhaps Brother President FD Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to
Congress (Four Freedoms) will be one of them.