Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freemasonry and the Political Arena

I've just finished the second section of the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman Program, which covers the 4th through the 14th degrees, also known as the "Ineffable Degrees." As I studied and pondered these degrees of the Lodge of Perfection I was struck by the political lessons taught in many of them. Often times we think of Masonry as a “safe zone,” free from discussions about the two most divisive topics known to man, namely, politics and religion. To some extent this conception of Masonry is accurate. For the most part you don't hear too many discussions in the Lodge about religion or politics. But as the lessons of the degrees of the Scottish Rite amply illustrate, Masonry is neither areligious or apolitical.

The fundamental tenets taught in most of the 4th through 14th degrees are loaded with essential political truths. Thus, the question I have to ask myself is readily apparent: As a Freemason, how should I seek to implement those truths in my daily life? Perhaps in the same way that I manifest the moral lessons of the Craft, i.e., not in that I openly proclaim that I act a certain way because I'm a Mason, but in the sense that my moral compass is grounded in the lessons of Masonry and therefore I am duty bound to act a certain way. Thus, when it comes to politics, I don't openly proclaim my political beliefs as “Masonic,” but rather I seek to influence the political arena in whatever way I can to move it toward the great political truths taught in Freemasonry. Is this not what the Founding Fathers of the United States who were Freemasons did? They did not seek to establish a “Masonic party” to rally the citizenry around the controversial political philosophy that they learned in their lodges, and which helped shape the nascent Federal government. No, they simply took the fundamental political truths in which they were grounded by virtue of being Freemasons and fashioned a system of government based on those truths. I as a Freemason today, in whatever way I may interact with the political process—be it at the ballot box or by serving in some elected or appointed office—must do the same if I am to be true to my obligation as a Freemason. My vote (or my work in a political office) must always be true to the fundamental political truths taught in the Lodge of Perfection: An enlightened citizenry; an independent judiciary; an economic order based on capital and labor; an upper house of legislation; a lower house of legislation; trial by jury; a chief executive; and a constitution or fundamental law. So mote it be.