Wednesday, May 14, 2008

John Slifko and the Grand Orient of the US

Well-known California Mason John Slifko, who has been associated with California's Roosevelt Center For The Study Of Civil Society & Freemasonry has demitted from his regular lodge and circulated the following message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Rumors have been circulating at the United Grand Lodge of England and among the members of the Grand Lodges in America about my status at the new Grand Orient of the United States of America (GO USA). I can confirm that I have been elected as the new Grand Master of the GO USA and that I have accepted. I am also a member of the George Washington Union (men and women) in America.

I want to thank the outgoing Grand Master Aaron Peavy for his remarkable and strong efforts. I very much look forward to working with him, the Executive Council, GO USA, and the members of this new effort in traditional cosmopolitan Freemasonry.

It is also my hope to have the best of working relations with my friends and Sisters from the Women's Grand Lodge of Belgium, the Women's Grand Lodge of France and Le Droit Humain. There are others that can be mentioned.

The GO USA has its patent from the Grand Orient of France. Further news will be forthcoming over the next year.

Fraternally and Sincerely,
John Slifko

Not really a big surprise.

In a 2005 article by Alex Roslin that was critical of Masonry and Southern race relations, this was said about John:

John Slifko hopes to save Masonry by returning it to its radical roots. He is setting up the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Center for the Study of Civil Society and Freemasonry, an international team of like-minded progressive scholars. Slifko believes that ending Masonry’s legacy of racism is just the first step. Next, it should let in women. He says, “The issue of blacks and women in Freemasonry is a barometer.”

So John's out to "save Freemasonry," is he? A whole lot of Masons have already been working an awfully long time to end racism in Freemasonry, but the issues of blacks and women in Freemasonry are two distinct and completely unrelated topics. Not to be unduly churlish, but was he equally outraged in his days at UCLA and do everything he could to encourage the Delta Gammas and Alpha Delta Pi ladies to drop their female-only status? Or wasn't he that progressive?

I do feel compelled to ask what his stance is on the issue of those who break their word in Freemasonry?

Slifko was made a regular Mason in California in the 1970s, demitted and spent time in Co-Masonry, and re-entered regular Masonry in the GL of California while he was pursuing his PhD. If his letter above can be believed, he apparently still held his membership in the George Washington Union GL. Now yesterday, he proclaimed that he had just received his demit from the GL of California, which allowed him to officially announce he had been elected Grand Master of the Grand Orient of the US, along with revealing his ongoing Co-Masonic membership.

Now I don't know John Slifko, have never corresponded with him, and am trying to hold my tongue here. But some questions immediately come to mind. When he took his obligation in his first lodge, was he fibbing? After he returned from his sojourn into Co-Masonry and re-entered a lodge under the GL of California, wasn't he lying and breaking his obligation then by failing to disclose his ongoing membership in Co-Masonry? (And who was on THAT investigative committee?) Did he simply return to regular Freemasonry because it was advantageous to do so while setting up the Roosevelt Center? And when he was elected Grand Master of GOofUSA, he was still a member of a GL of California lodge, so wasn't he breaking his obligation yet again? He only felt confident enough to announce his election once he had his demit safely tucked in his pocket.

A Freemason's obligation is principally about keeping our word. Not about "secrecy." Not about branding "clandestine" Masons. But about our own honor. If, as a Mason, we find that the rules of our obedience are in conflict with our personal beliefs, honor demands that we openly try to change the rules, or resign. If a Mason finds a different obedience that more agrees with his personal moral "barometer," so be it. But it looks like some very deliberate planning and timing has taken place in this case that has been less than honorable. That's unfortunate.

I wish the GOofUSA no ill will (or John, for that matter). Its founders have long claimed to be building a better Freemasonry. But its creation has been pockmarked with more than one less than honorable activity and behavior, and this is just one more piece of that puzzle. They continue to appear to be building their grand lodge on a very rocky foundation. Slifko was once quoted as saying that American Masons “seem to be more interested in the McDonaldization of it and the marketing of it, than in revisiting the intellectual quality of it.” Nothing like tarring almost 2 million men with a broad, sneering brush, tinged with academic snobbery. If he really wanted to reinvest the intellectual quality of Freemasonry, he might have started with honesty.


Ben R. said...

The obligations are really quite easy to follow. Sadly, some find them far easier to break.

Michael said...

I'll bet you that he will demits from GO USA the moment he finds greener pastures or some one else who he can use to further his personal agenda on bringing 'masonry back to its radical roots'.

Peter Yancey said...
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Peter Clatworthy said...

I have Emailed concerns to my counterpart, the Grand Secretary of The Grand Orient of The United States of America (Brother Brandt Smith) asking him to clarify certain claims made in the "Freemasons for Dummies" Blog.

We do not believe that the Grand Orient of The United States of America has either applied for, or received "a patent from the Grand Orient of France" as has been claimed.

It is our understanding that it has simply petitioned The Grand Orient of France for a Treaty of Amity between two sovereign and independent organisations and it still awaits a formal response (announcement).

The impression should not be given that the Grand Orient of The United States of America is connected with, or indeed is an adjunct of, The Grand Orient of France and we feel sure that the Grand Secretary of the GOUSA would wish to clarify the position as soon as possible.

The fact of the matter is that ANY Grand Lodge may petition ANY other Grand Lodge for an exchange of Treaties of Amity.

Claims of a similar nature have been made before, which have proven to be misleading and untrue.

Peter Clatworthy
Grand Secretary
Grand Lodge of All England

Chris Hodapp said...

Peter, I will be curious what that answer is.

I received a rather cheerful note from John Slifko yesterday, considering the tone of my post. In it, he did want to clarify that the Roosevelt Center is not affiliated with UCLA. According to John,

It is a chartered corporation in California that to date has accomplished a few public lectures by good scholars, but it does not yet even have non profit status. I simply have been to busy to move the project forward over the last few years. Now I do have some time and I will either proceed with it or not. I am pondering that now. . . If UCLA, or the University of California, ever does formalize an endowed research institute at UCLA it will not be the Roosevelt Center.

Thanks for the explanation. Again, best of luck to you all. I hope you find what you are seeking.

Stewart said...

I find it interesting when brother tout the sincerity of a masonic vow , and the the Breaking of such a vow to be an egrigious offense. Especially when a vow is given to an organization that has not remorse for not upholding its end of the obligation. In any contract, foreign or domestic, when one side does not hold their end of the contract it is considered in breech. I wonder how many grand lodges in the Unites States, with their pious and grandeur could actually analyze the masonic obligation and state "yes as a grand lodge we are upholding our end" I think many would say it, but ow many would believe it in their hearts. Free Masonry has lost its path, and needs to righted. Many new lodges are forming with that in mind, both in the tantient system and others. I know I for one took no vow to the pompous aragance of old timers content on allowing the fraternity to waste away. I feel my vow binds me to a higher authortiy which wants the craft preserved and brought back to its prior state of RELEVANCE wihtin the world. So, demitting from a tantient grand lodge being untrue to your vow, hardly....The Tantient grand lodges need to reaximine what they have done to the craft, as these vows are taken prior to a mason knowing the extent of the lethargy and corruption. The old "bait and switch" comes to mind.
Stewart Mcgee

Tom Accuosti said...

Slifko was once quoted as saying that American Masons “seem to be more interested in the McDonaldization of it and the marketing of it, than in revisiting the intellectual quality of it.” Nothing like tarring almost 2 million men with a broad, sneering brush, tinged with academic snobbery.

Let me just stick my nose in and mention that this is exactly the same thing that many of us complain about on the dozens of web forums and message boards on teh intertubez. "Too many fish fries" and "Those damn one-day classes" have been such common complaints that most board moderators now move to squelch such conversations ASA, before they turn into a 10 page moan thread.

I know that he has been active in Cali masonry for some time, and I imagine that he believes that he's been working at building some kind of a bridge between the mainstream GLs and the unrecognized ones. I think that, unlike some others with the same professed intent, he's managed to find a path for his own enlightenment without wasting energy in tearing down the branch of the fraternity that he's left behind. I wish him well.

Stewart said...

Well Said.

Chris Hodapp said...

Without slipping on a banana peel into Pollyanna mode, I will make a naively simple generalization. Your Freemasonry and mine and that of our lodges is what we make of it. The 1950s model of card games and fish frys are finally starting to fall away on a large scale around the country as new members come in and ask, "Can't I just write a check?" We have the fish frys and card games because that was what worked in the 1950s, and we did not have widespread generational changes in the 1970s and 80s, the way we otherwise would have had if the Boomers had joined.

TO. EC and strict observance lodges would not have been possible 15 years ago on a widespread basis. The Internet's instant worldwide communication allowed an Australian lodge and a couple of French Masons to exchange enough ideas with US Masons that a way was found to put these experiments in motion. Now, scarcely a month goes by that a lodge doesn't announce a philosophical sea change. And such changes will continue exponentially as these men involved in these lodges move into grand lodge positions. Likewise, the fastest growing appendant body in the US are AMD councils. Why? Because they are small in size, stress education and fine dining, have limited business meetings, little ritual... in short, they are creating a variation of TO and EC lodges. Again, a big change in US Masonry, happening under the wire.

In the end, I get frustrated with idle moaning about grand lodges and the somber view of the State Of The Craft. Yes, there are plenty of lodges that need to close because they are just going through the motions. And there are lodges perfectly thrilled with selling battered cod pieces to an unsuspecting public. But the movement towards a more quality lodge experience is catching fire, and will succeed, because it is part of the natural evolution of freemasonry that only hit a bump in road 30 years ago.

Tom Accuosti said...

Chris, first of all, I think that you're correct: My experience of Masonry, that is, of the successful lodges in Conn, is that the lodges that do the fish fries (actually, up here it's the pancake breakfasts or spaghetti dinners) aren't offering enough for the younger guys who want to be involved and who want more out of the experience. I see the more successful lodges being active as a group within the communities and having a more visible presence. They sponsor DeMolay or Rainbow chapters and spend more time organizing public events. They also seem to be more interested in the history and esoteric aspects.

On the other hand, though, the change is happening slowly, if at all, elsewhere - if the noises that I hear from my brothers in other states are any indication. That doesn't mean that Masonry is not going to move forward, of course, but in this context, I do understand why some of our brothers decide to seek out an alternate path.

That said, however, in some respects this is too bad; change to our organization should come from those within, and the men who leave won't be able to have any influence on those who might only need a little bit of inspiration in order to help get things moving.

Chris Hodapp said...

We have the Freemasonry we demand. Fortunately, more men are demanding better lodges, or creating them, than at any time in recent memory. Bear in mind that because we didn't have the Boomers forcing the natural generational changes that normally would have occurred 30 years ago, it's twice as hard to accomplish change now, after 60 years of entrenched custom and stubborn habit.

Nevertheless, they are happening. The litany of complaints we hear are growing pains. But the changes can't be made by men to stalk off in frustration. It takes work and time, and sometimes, compromise. But it IS happening.

Peter Yancey said...
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John Galt said...

Brother Chris et al,
Brother John Slifko has been elected as the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of the United States. Personally I look forward to his work in this capacity. It is my hope that he is able to bring about a time of respect and communication with other Masonic organizations in the United States.

The IPGM, Brother Aaron Peavy, did a fine job in his time and has taken other duties within the Grand Orient in which his considerable talents will be quite useful.

We have mutually approved a Treaty of Amity with the Grand Orient of France. We have also received a "patent" from the Grand Orient of France. Though we have close relations with the Grand Orient of France and other Masonic organizations the Grand Orient of the United States is a wholly independent and sovereign body of Free-Masonry.

Brothers, I consider this very important. I would like all of you to understand that the foundation and continued work of the Grand Orient of the United States in no way is meant as a counter to nor as a rejection of the Anglo-Saxon/American Masonic organizations in the United States. Each is different. I would like this to be publically known. I hold a great deal of respect for the Grand Lodges of the Anglo-Saxon/American Masonry in the United States and abroad. There is absolutely no reason that there should be any rancor or disturbance between the different jurisdictions. The Grand Orient of the United States in no represents a threat to, nor do we wish to, a threat to the Anglo-Saxon/American Grand Lodges. It is my hope that we can meet as Brothers (on the level) even with the fact that we cannot sit in each other's lodges. We can still meet as Masons.

Brother Chris, I understand your frustration as I am aware of the many great works that you have accomplished and will accomplish for the good of the Order. My hat is off to you Brother. I hope, and know, that you will continue to work in such as a manner that distinguishes you as a man and a Mason. I hope to do the same, as many of us do in our own way and through our own means.

You are absolutely correct in the statement that our lodges (of any jurisdiction) are what we (collectively) make of them. I applaud your work in your lodge, Grand Lodge, and across Anglo-Saxon/American Masonry in general. I am working in the same manner amongst our lodges.

The different views of Free-Masonry actually have more in common than initially appears. The approaches are simply different. At the end of the day this is about Brotherhood and struggling to be better. I wish you all well on that journey.

Brandt Smith
Grand Orient of the United States

Chris Hodapp said...

Brother Brandt,
Thanks for your message and your clarification.

I honestly wish the GOUSA luck and success in its endeavors. Products, services and organizations almost always improve as a result of competition. I have come into contact with too many good men from unrecognized Masonic bodies to run screaming from the room over it. :-)

John Galt said...

Brother Chris,
How have you been Brother? I know that you won't run screaming, that is not in your nature or experience. I truly wish the best for the Masonic Society and the Grand Lodges in this country. I hope that we can work together in some un-tyled way in the future.

The Grand Orient of the United States is doing fine. We are working well and growing (faster than I would like but still going well). The important thing is that we are Brothers. The Grand Lodge of Indiana is doing fine as well from what I see.

BTW, how is the campaign in Indiana going. I recommed Thunderdome to settle the Democrat race. Make sure that Brother E:. knows I said that ;-)

If you or anyone else has any questions about the Grand Orient of the United States please feel free to contact me.


Chris Hodapp said...

Brother Brandt,

Goiter Boy is still recuperating, and some days are better than others. Yesterday was BAAAAAD.

Next week is the descent into Madness that is Grand Lodge. Hopefully, I'll be well enough to attend. Armed with hallucinogenic pain-deadening tablets as big as my head.

sec昴宿六 2 said...

Peter Clatworthy,

Who gave your Grand Lodge its patent?

- T.S. Tolpuddle

Howard Roark said...

M.W. Bro. Slifko's election to Grand Master is indicative of the academic spirit prevalent with the Grand Orient of the United States. He believes in our commitment to education and moral action in the world. It is truly an honor to be able to work with him and the other officers of the Grand Orient of the United States.

Stewart said...

What i srelevant is that the GOUSA is causing masons to ask question...I wonder what question you would like to ask?

Peter Clatworthy said...

As I explained earlier, I am in touch with Brandt Smith and our relationship is friendly and cooperative. I have asked HIM to clarify the position in respect of a claim to have a "patent" which has very different constitutional consequences to that of a simple Treaty of Amity, which does not require a patent.

A Treaty of Amity is what it says it is, a treaty, and any Grand Lodge can petition for an exchange of treaties of amity with any other Grand Lodge. A patent means that the Grand Orient of the USA is a subordinate Grand Orient to the Grand Orient of France and is constituted under ITS authority. We need to know.

In answer to T S Tolpuddle our Royal Charter was granted in perpetuity to the Free Masons of England by the Anglo-Saxon King, Athelstane, at York in AD926.

Although the document itself was recorded as having being destroyed in the Wars of the Roses, it remains in force and is protected by Acts of Parliament.

2 BOWL CAIN said...

Thank You Brother Peter for your information.

I agree there is a difference between petition and patent.
Brother Brandt has also informed us at Halcyon and the rest working on this that a "patent" is indeed going to be received and retruned to the USA.

We all look forward to an Enlightened future within the Craft.

I have never met Brother Slifko, but if he is anything like brother brandt and brother peavy, he has my confidence and support.

Tom Accuosti said...

Hopefully, I'll be well enough to attend. Armed with hallucinogenic pain-deadening tablets as big as my head.

IMO, those are important items to get through any GL session.

Alumbrados666 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Hodapp said...

Sorry, "Alumbrados666". When you can sign your posts, you'll be welcome back.

John Galt said...

A "treaty of amity" is a document agreed upon by two Masonic powers that details the manner in which those two organizations will work together. It amounts to "recognition." A patent on the other hand is an entirely different animal.
A patent can be given to an individual, which I am sure many of you have read about in different Masonic histories. A patent (which is literally a "license") is for specific purposes. A good analogy is that you are licensed to drive. A Masonic patent can be given to form a lodge or grant certain degrees. In that case it works much like a "warrant."
In the case of the Grand Orient of the United States, we have a treaty of amity between the Grand Orient of the United States and the Grand Orient of France which details our friendship and the manner in which these two organizations work together. The patent (license) that was issued establishes the Grand Orient of the United States of America as a sovereign Masonic obediance.

The Grand Orient of the United States of America is a wholly independent organization.

We extend the hand of Brotherhood and friendship to our Brothers and Sisters everywhere.

Further questions regarding the internal affairs of the Grand Orient of the United States can be directed to the Executive Board via the Grand Secretary.


2 BOWL CAIN said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Hodapp said...

2 Bowl Cane wrote:

Truth Hurts huh?

so delete alumbrados posts?

I saw what he posted and it makes sense

I am not a racist, but...
I am not a sexist, but...
I do not know John, but..

I will write it for him and post it, ok?
Or does alumbrados have to own up to it?

For someone who does not know John, you sure do now alot about him!?

There ya go. The post survives. But you don't. I just evicted a deadbeat tenant from my apartments today and I'm in an evicting kind of mood today.

The Comments form clearly states up front:

Kindly sign your comment posts. Anonymous postings on Masonic topics have the same status as cowans and eavesdroppers, as far as I am concerned, and may be deleted.

Your regular potshots across the Masonic blogosphere tire me as well. So, I'll just make it real clear and specific right now: 2 Bowl, Alphonse, Alumbrados666 and other anonymous bomb tossers are not welcome here as long as they hide behind their anonymity.

Be a man. Quit playing infantile games. Or go somewhere else. This is an adult swim.

David Cooksey said...

MSM's vs "others" meaning GOUSA, Grand Lodge of All England, independents, etc, etc, etc.

Let's quit wasting time and agree we are all separate identities and be done with it.

The flaming, name-calling is only making everyone look bad. The public will read this crap and wonder why join? These are grown men acting as bully's in the school yards.

If we are men of honor, virtue fraternity, liberty and character then let's act like it.

I know what organization is pulling the chain of MSM's and it must stop before all out war is declared.

Agree to go separate ways and forget it. Its not worth it.

Life is way too short just look at what we lost this past weekend.

sec昴宿六 2 said...


"In answer to T S Tolpuddle our Royal Charter was granted in perpetuity to the Free Masons of England by the Anglo-Saxon King, Athelstane, at York in AD926.

Although the document itself was recorded as having being destroyed in the Wars of the Roses, it remains in force and is protected by Acts of Parliament."

So you're without papers. Very well.

Peter Clatworthy said...

How much paper do you want?

It is well documented and a historical fact that the Charter of York was granted to The Assembly of Masons by King Athelstan, unlike other Grand Lodges which were self-started and have never possessed any charter whatsoever.

This is what your own United Grand Lodge of England clearly and unequivocally states in its Freemasons' Pocket Companion of 1841: "Edward was succeeded, in 924, by his son, Athelstan, whose brother, Edwin, procured from the king a charter for masons, by which they were empowered to meet annually in a general assembly, and to have power to regulate their own order. And, according to this charter, the first grand lodge of England met at York, in 926."

This is what your own United Grand Lodge of England's founding lodge, The Lodge of Antiquity, states unequivocally in its manifesto of 1778: "WHEREAS the Society of Free Masons is universally acknowledged to be of ancient standing and great repute in this kingdom, as by our Records, and Printed Constitutions, it appears that the first Grand Lodge in England was held at York, in the year 926, by virtue of a Royal Charter, granted by King Athelstan; And, under the patronage and government of this Grand Lodge, the Society considerably increased; and the ancient charges and regulations of the Order so far obtained the sanction of Kings and Princes, and other eminent Persons, that they always paid due allegiance to the said Grand Assembly."

This is what the Grand Lodge of Scotland, in its history of Old Mother Lodge Kilwinning, states: "After the establishment of the Kilwinning and York Lodges (the jurisdiction and antiquity of the Grand Lodge of York over other English Lodges has invariably been acknowledged by the whole Fraternity), the principles of Freemasonry rapidly spread throughout both Kingdoms and several Lodges were erected in different parts of the island." (published June 1944).

Etheric said...


Probably best not to swept away on high levels of indignity over Obligations "being broken". When we has two Grand Lodges (Antients and Moderns between 1751 and 1813)and masons were remade or healed - it was part of progress then - and it is part of progress now. It is a proud masonic tradition!

John Belton

MasonicTonic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stewart said...

Well said brother!


Peter Clatworthy said...

Following my earlier posting, I have just returned from the Annual Convention of the Grand Lodge of France. Over the weekend I met with the Grand Secretary of the Grand Orient of France and he confirmed that the claim that the Grand Orient of The United States of America has been granted a "patent" by them is not true.

The Grand Orient of France has granted a Treaty of Amity to the Grand Orient of The United States of America which does not alter its status as an independent Masonic body, unconnected to the Grand Orient of France other than by international friendship.

This now sets the record straight.

Young Wolf said...

Both the signed patent and treaty of amity were given to Wbro Slifko today in Paris. Hopefully, this settles any confusion over whether we have a treaty of amity or a patent. It is both.

Brian Roper
Grand Treasurer
Grand Orient USA