"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Friday, May 12, 2017

'The Shot Heard Round the World'

The Scottish Rite NMJ's May 2017 issue of its magazine, The Northern Light, just arrived today, and on page 3 is Sovereign Grand Commander, Illustrious John Wm. McNaughton's regular column. This month's is entitled "The Shot Heard Round the World," and is worth a few moments of your time — especially if you are a Masonic officer either occupying, or on your way to the East in a local, state, national, or international organization that has anything to do with Freemasonry.

I'm posting it here in its entirety.

The Shot Heard Round the World

"Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?" 
— Benjamin Martin, the character portrayed by Mel Gibson in the film, The Patriot

From our Northern Masonic Jurisdiction headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts, one can almost see the Battle Green; the exact location where the American Revolution began 242 years ago, on April 19, 1775, with the famous shot heard round the world. History reminds us that the revolution was led by many Free- masons. These enlightened patriots believed in the concepts of democracy, liberty and freedom; and strongly opposed the erratic governance of King George III of England, who resided 3,000 miles from their shores.
During those difficult times of political upheaval and change, Freemasonry existed as a place of fellowship and enlightenment founded upon individual freedoms. Since that time, Freemasonry has profoundly changed. Today, many Masonic leaders no longer prioritize the same lofty ideals as our forefathers. Their focus has deviated to the behavior control of members through the arbitrary enforcement of countless rules and regulations. What happened to the golden age of Freemasonry when our members cared more about each other than rules and regulations? Today, it is obvious that some leaders of the fraternity are more concerned about the needs of the institution than the needs of our members. 
Is it possible to imagine the Masonic fraternity as it exists today ever again leading a great revolution?

Currently, very few of our members actively attend our meetings; a sad commentary for any organization, much less this of ours. Today, it appears to be all too easy for our members to stay home rather than endure meetings which emphasize too many edicts and decrees, and a continued emphasis on the importance of memorized ritual. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to reflect upon our past and understand that the focus and vision of the Masonic fraternity was on fellowship, personal freedoms and creating a better tomorrow.
Like the American Revolution of 1775, Freemasons of the 21st Century must “plant a tree, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” In all likelihood, the revolution within the craft will not begin with some monumental gesture— a shot heard round the world — but with a single act of kindness, without any expectation of reward or benefit. It certainly will not happen while performing ritual in front of a few officers in the narrow confines of a lodge room. 
Rather, it will happen in the Temple within each of us when we call upon a worthy Brother in distress, his widow or orphans; when we welcome a new member; when we write a note of well-wishing or concern to another Brother; when we visit a member in the hospital; or when we pay our last respects alongside the family of a departed Brother. When that day comes, and we understand the importance of our lifelong friend- ships and caring for each other, our revolution truly will have begun. 
It took our forefathers eight long years to free themselves from the shackles of tyranny. How long is it going to take Freemasonry do to the same? 
DISCLAIMER - Any comparison of current Masonic leaders to King George and the pre-revolution British redcoats is purely coincidental and mostly unintended.

Grand Commander McNaughton is retiring this August at the Annual Meeting in Rochester, New York. His successor was nominated last August, and is the first time that a new AASR-NMJ leader has been announced so far in advance. When it was revealed that Illus. David A. Glattly 33° of New Jersey would be the nominating committee's recommendation, McNaughton echoed the theme of this month's editorial when he said, “We began a decade ago—shifting the priorities of Northern Masonic Jurisdiction back to caring for our members, and bringing compassion to the forefront of our Fraternity."

As I review the last few years' of posts here while hunting some information down for my own project recently, I can't help but be struck by that message. In fact, our Grand Lodge's annual communication is happening here in Indiana next week (John McNaughton's own home jurisdiction, as well). Hopefully, that compassion will be at the forefront of all that transpires.

"Bringing compassion to the forefront of our Fraternity." That would make a mighty fine motto around a few grand lodge seals I can think of. No Latin required — English would be perfectly okay.


  1. A very polite and tempered address about our problems. We really, really need leadership to meet our racial, gender and other problems.

  2. I, for one, couldn't be happier to see him go. He has spent his entire administration sticking his nose into blue lodges' business and blaming the AASR's problems on the Grand Lodges. He has ignored the many studies of what new members want and instead has clung to the Baby Boomers' belief that the solution to our problems has been to make things easier. Under his stewardship the AASR has gone from the "University of Freemasonry" to the "Walmart of Freemasonry". His solution to failing performance was to simply lower the bar and then blame the Grand Lodges.

    Many Grand Lodges in the Northern Jurisdiction and around the country have worked very hard to develop programs to develop "MASONRY", appeal to the increased expectations of Millennials, and to quite frankly clean up their houses.

    This clown has refused to acknowledge the hard work that Grand Lodges have done and has, at every. single. opportunity. made it a point to create an "us vs. them" relationship between the NMJ and the Grand Lodge. He has spent years encouraging Scottish Rite Masons to abandon their lodges and spend all their time, effort, and money at the Valley.

    It doesn't matter if you have the best bass boat in the world, the best fishing pole, the best lures, etc. If there are no fish in the pond, none of that will matter. The AASR's "pond" is the blue lodges and under McNaughton's "leadership" the NMJ hasn't paid any attention to stocking the pond.

    My only surprise is that he never floated the same resolution that the Shrine did attempting to remove masonic membership as a prerequisite to AASR membership.

    1. I have expressed my own feelings to him privately and in person over the years. I have profound disagreements with the NMJ's deliberate ignoring of the ritualistic reputation it has been riding the coattails of and their refusal to provide any follow up to members (see my entry from Monday about Frank Conway's new book). I also have a problem with the notion that the Scottish Rite should just be the Blue Lodge writ large - especially since GLs have spent the last 20 years encouraging lodges to improve themselves, and today's members are making their lodge the place they WANT to go to every week. Studies have shown for a century that the larger a body gets, the more isolated the individual member feels.

      Nevertheless, this afternoon, he walked onto the floor of our GL session and seeded the GL's brand new Grand Almoner's Fund with a frankly enormous donation, which instantly cut a check for a family in northern Indiana. it seems that the deceased brother's body was being held hostage by a local funeral home for a large payment they didn't have. That assistance wouldn't have happened without the SGC's example and contribution. His growth and encouragement of the AASR's Almoner's Fund has been outstanding, and it inspired Indiana to follow in those footsteps. Frankly, that whole "help, aid, and assist" business is what we are supposed to be doing and always has been, not funding helicopters or medical wings or sponsoring a specialized body part, and trying to buy love from the profane world (that hasn't worked too well in England, you'll note).

      So, no Masonic leader can be judged as a binary success or failure, and a true assessment takes time. I gave up attempting to influence anyone in Lexington regarding ritual and education a long time ago because no one there wanted to hear what I had to say. But there's no arguing that the SJ is a bigger success than the NMJ because of their nonstop dedication to education and devotion to Pike, since both jurisdictions remain within spitting distance of each other's membership totals - around 210,000 or so each now. So, which approach is "right" or "better"? If Lexington had been wrong all along, they wouldn't have been a match with Washington DC decade after decade - even after the Shrine got rid of their guaranteed petitions 15 years ago.

      I do know that only a fool declares that a lodge, grand lodge, grand master, or appendant body is "doing Masonry all wrong." Time is a great leveler, and I'll be damned if anyone can tell me just when, exactly, some mysterious, golden age of Freemasonry really existed. And I don't mean by counting noses.

    2. Now, after all that blather, take note that the NMJ has just announced that they are releasing a 720-page annotated, color facsimile edition of the Francken Manuscript, later this year. The SGC has never believed this sort of thing had any serious interest. Prove him wrong and buy one, and another for your GL library. And if you don't support this unprecedented action on their part, don't bitch if they never try it again.

  3. There is an interest in the degrees, the history, the symbolism. So I would agree that trying to buy public favor by paying for little league dugouts and repointing of church stained glass has not been effective. There are well over 400 plus family and friends from 19 countries registered for next week's world conference in Paris http://www.ipsonet.org/conferences/ritualconference-main and all the auditoriums of the Bibliotheque National will be in use. So the serious side does have a place.


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