I was invited to speak at a Cuban lodge, the Sons of Liberty Lodge in New Jersey by two brothers, one named Moises (Moses) and the other Mohammed. Upon arrival at the lodge one speaker was Swedish with an English accent, one English with a thicker accent still and myself. Some members were vehemently anti-socialist having fled the socialist dictatorship of Fidel Castro or having family members trapped by the same government. One honored guest was an active and public member of the International Socialist Party.
I spoke with law enforcement, psychiatrist, mathematicians, engineers, technicians, carpenters and computer workers that evening as the festivities had ended and I was given the opportunity for some one on one time with many attendees.
The following day I shared lunch with a Muslim brother, a Deist brother and an ordained Gnostic brother.
I reflected upon my travels. I have sat at a table with one of the Isamic worlds greatest anti-Masons, having drafted more than 18 anti-Masonic books, and whose fringe and rouge followers had burst into a Grand Lodge building with machine guns, killed several Masons who were present. I later embraced him as a friend, he called me Brother (and meant it). He was no longer an anti-Mason and I was no longer afraid.
I reflected upon the lodge in which I had the privilege to sit and listened to men open in perfect Arabic only to break stride to say in accented, but perfect English, “God save the Queen!”
I remembered back to a meeting I attended where Muslims, Druze, Jews and Christians joined hands around the altar of Freemasonry under the same banners and symbols hanging within the lodge that drove their counterparts to war with one another just outside the door.
I smiled as I recalled a dinner in Byblos. A royal from Nigeria and business tycoon from Syria argued Christianity, faith, and Freemasonry over a bottle of Lebanese wine for the Nigerian and soda for Muslim. Both smiling, laughing, disagreeing and strategizing their next intellectual move in this game of Socratic discourse.
I witnessed a man of 20 years sit side by side with a man of 80 years and share a wonderful and purposeful conversation. Not seated together by chance, but by choice. Friends with six decades between them.
I watched as a Marine, members of the Army’s elite 10th Special Forces Group, and two retired military pilots listen to a foreigner from a different continent stand on American soil and describe patriotism as evil and a force that drives humans apart and divides them upon artificial lines. They embraced later, purchased his books even, and enjoyed fellowship although they disagreed.
I feel completely safe in declaring that these things occur in no other place in the world save for Freemasonry. It is Freemasonry alone that allows for this level of tolerance, universality and discourse. It is Freemasonry alone that acts as a mighty translator allowing men to speak a singular language that transcends the angry rhetoric of politics and religion. It is Freemasonry alone that grants these men permission to love another more than hate. It was Freemasonry alone that shields from the fear of difference and provides a common mosaic ground upon which to meet.
It is not enough to describe the Craft as simply neutral. Neutrality seems infantile in the presence of the tolerance gifted from one Mason to another. Smiles replace snarls and men embrace under an umbrella like no other in the world.
We are quick as a Craft to heed the rants of the anti-Masons that there is no conspiracy to dominate the world. Why? Shouldn’t there be? Shouldn’t we work hard within our communities, our churches and our schools to bring about the kind of universal respect, love and acceptance that can be found within the Craft? The secrets of Freemasonry should remain as such, but should we not labor in every aspect of our lives to allow the light of Freemasonry to shine in every darkened little corner filled with the virus of fundamentalism. Shouldn’t we labor that every speech given filled with hate for another man because of philosophical, religious or political opinion be met with tears from a human race so filled with sadness at the man’s lonely ranting that they hope; like we do, everyone might someday know their peace?
There is not a single religion in the world that has acted as the unifying force of Freemasonry. There is no religion in the world that has shared the lack of violence in its history as Freemasonry. There is no political party more successful than bringing democratic change to a country than Freemasonry. Yet, the Craft is still filled with frightened leaders content to maintain the status quo, captain a sinking ship, and fight the freewill of its members instead of trying to enrich themselves and those around them. We have the freakish fear of religion found in Florida wherein in men have been banned for their faith. We have the schisms caused by outside pseudo-Masonic bodies who would rather have felons in their ranks rather than lose a single member. We have petitions prostituted on the Internet and disguised membership drives rife throughout the country. Why? Because we fear allowing the Craft to be the wonderful unifying force that it is, and we try to dress it as a one size fits all philanthropic or social organization.
Freemasons should be Freemasons, nothing else. When Masons are allowed to practice Masonry it changes the world!
This originally appeared in a Masonic monthly print magazine called Living Stones. It is run completely independent of any grand lodge and lead the way in independent print monthly magazines in America. I thank Brother Rob Herd for doing the mag and giving me a voice.