Saturday, July 4, 2009

The heart is deceitful above all things.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us "the heart is deceitful above all things." This post is not going to be an exegetical essay on the meaning or interpretation of that passage from the Old Testament. But taking the words on their face, this sage proposition appears to be especially a propos in light of the recent unpleasantries surrounding Brother Victor Marshall and his membership in Gate City Lodge No. 2 in Atlanta, GA.

Regular readers of Masonic blogs and web sites are no doubt already aware of the controversy surrounding Gate City Lodge No. 2. But for those who aren't, here's a brief synopsis: Brother Marshall is African-American. His admission to membership in Gate City Lodge No. 2 largely went unnoticed (he is, in fact, the second African-American to be raised a Master Mason in that lodge) until he began to do what Masons routinely do all over the country: visit other Masonic lodges. When Brother Marshall visited a lodge in Savannah, that's when the proverbial excrement hit the wind generating device. Complaints were made to the Grand Lodge of Georgia and the Grand Master of Masons in Georgia finally issued a statement saying that Brother Marshall had been duly raised a Master Mason in a legally constituted lodge and he was, therefore, a Brother Mason and should be received as such by other Masons. End of story, right? One would think so, but then the Worshipful Masters of two neighboring lodges, Metro Daylight Lodge No. 743 in Chamblee, and Philologia Lodge No. 178 in Conyers, filed formal charges against the Worshipful Master of Gate City Lodge No. 2. I won't bore you with the details of the allegations in these charges because they all boil down to a single proposition: To allow a non-white man membership in a Masonic lodge in Georgia is a violation of Masonic Law.

One would assume that based on his previous statement (that Brother Marshall was a Mason and should be received as such), the Grand Master of Georgia would not allow these ridiculous charges to stand. But he did, and a trial date was set. Gate City Lodge No. 2 then upped the ante by involving the secular courts when they filed a civil lawsuit against the Grand Lodge and the Brothers that had proffered the charges against them. The wisdom of this move is certainly questionable, but it did ensure one thing: the mainstream media would sooner or later take notice. And they did. The Associated Press was the first to report on it, soon followed by The New York Times. And now the The Guardian in the U.K. is reporting on it. Earlier this week it was reported that the Masonic charges against Gate City Lodge No. 2 have been dropped, but the civil lawsuit still stands.

As these events have unfolded I have resisted the urge to make known my thoughts on this blog. I wanted to see how all this played out, not only in the Masonic courts, but in the civil courts. I am glad to see that the Masonic charges have been dropped. I would hope they were dropped for the right reasons, namely, the Brothers who proffered the charges against the Worshipful Master of Gate City Lodge No. 2 came to their senses and realized that their premise and the charges they laid against a fellow Mason were predicated on a falsehood. I hope they realized that the ancient fraternity to which they swore solemn oaths and obligations, if it lives by the ideals it seeks to inculcate, judges no man by the color of his skin, but only by his character as evidenced by his words and deeds. Perhaps they came to understand that despite the deceit in their own hearts, there is no written or unwritten law in Masonry that says a black man cannot be a Mason.

Any Mason in the United States who was raised according to the Webb Form rituals (which is what is used in virtually ever Masonic jurisdiction in the U.S.) is taught that the first place a man is prepared to be a Mason is in his own heart. As I have pondered that foundational principle of Masonry I have come to the conclusion that's the reason Freemasonry does not recruit members--why Masons are forbidden from ever directly asking anyone to join their ranks. A man who is prepared in his own heart to be a Mason already has, albeit in a nascent form, the principles of Freemasonry burning within him. As such, he will--if given the opportunity--seek membership on his own, and once admitted to the fraternity, begin a life-long quest to improve and build upon the preexisting moral foundation that led him to the door of the Lodge in the first place.

But, alas, the heart is deceitful above all things. It can hoodwink a man into believing he is better than he is, that his aim is true and his motives pure, that the passions he holds dear are righteous. No man who seeks admittance into Freemasonry is perfect. But it is up to every man who becomes a Freemason to subdue the deceits in his own heart and improve himself by and through the sacred tenets of the fraternity to which he has sworn allegiance. For when the reverse becomes the norm, when the sacred tenets of Masonry are subdued and transmogrified to conform to the deceits of the hearts of imperfect men, Freemasonry is on a low road to irrelevance and extinction. Let us pray that the dropping of the Masonic charges in the Gate City No. 2 case is evidence that Masons in Georgia have chosen the high road.


The Palmetto Mason said...

Very well written and insightful.

Chris said...

The ritual used in the UGLE also begins the catechism to be memorised by EAs before they are Passed by the question: "Where were you first prepared to become a Freemason?" and the answer is: "In my heart".

Bro. Chris Hansen, MM