December 4, 2012
Editors note: We are very grateful to Corey for his willingness to share about his personal experience as a person with Pagan religious practices within the Florida Free Masons. This is a developing story, check back for updates. – Florida PNC
I had considered for years becoming a Mason before ever taking the first step. I felt I was too busy, didn’t have the extra money, or otherwise just couldn’t commit wholeheartedly to the fraternity. I finally came to the decision in early 2012 that I wanted to pursue becoming a Mason. My life had finally leveled out and normalized. My kids were grown and had lives of their own. I also realized that I was losing my faith in humanity, and becoming jaded and cynical. I was hoping that Freemasonry would restore that faith and help me move along my path towards enlightenment.
I contacted my local lodge, filled out my petition and waited for the news. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a fellow Mason and co-religionist had casually mentioned to the Jr. Steward at my lodge that I was a Pagan. I’ve come to learn that there were numerous discussions among the officers of the lodge prior to my initiation as to my suitability for Masonry. They finally agreed to proceed. A home investigation committee came and visited my wife and I at our house. I was asked if I believed in “a God.” I said that I did. I was asked if I believed in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection to a future life. I said that I did. The lodge voted and scheduled my Entered Apprentice degree for May 17, 2012. I was then passed to Fellowcraft on August 2, 2012 (my birthday) and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on September 6, 2012.
During this time, another non-Christian was initiated into my lodge. He is an Odinist (and Tribalist) and has no hesitation mentioning his beliefs to anyone. At some point, his catechism instructor had a disagreement with him and allegedly criticized his religion. Tensions flared, the instructor was relieved of his EA class, but no further action was taken. The situation came to the attention of a DDGM, who proceeded to file charges against the instructor.
On the night the charges were to be heard in lodge, the Grand Master of the State of Florida came to the lodge. The charges were read, and discussion commenced. Several brothers stood to defend the accused instructor and cast aspersions on the Entered Apprentice who was at the center of the issue. One brother stood and began stating that some of the verbiage used in the charges (and attributed to the instructor) were commonly used in Paganism, and therefore couldn’t have come from the instructor. Having a fairly deep knowledge base in Pagan religions and practices, I recognized this statement as false. I stood and made this known to the Brothers, admitting that I was a Pagan to lend validity to my statement. After the vote was tallied, the Grand Master stood and began to criticize the lodge for their practices, and proceeded to state that “Paganism is in direct conflict with Freemasonry. No Pagan should ever be initiated into the Craft.”
After the lodge was called to refreshment, I approached the Grand Master and stated that I must respectfully disagree with his statement. I proceeded to tell him that nothing in my religious beliefs were in any way contrary to Masonic Law. He proceeded to ask me if I believed in a monotheistic God. I stated that I did. He then asked if I believed in the immortality of the soul with the resurrection to a future life. I concurred. He then proclaimed that I had no Volume of Sacred Law upon which to take my obligation. I stated that I recognized the “truth” in all VSL’s, and have no issue obligating myself on any. We parted, still not seeing eye to eye.
A few weeks later, I received an email stating that I was to appear before the vigilance committee of my lodge by order of the Grand Master. I appeared before the committee with the assistance of a PM of my lodge who volunteered to assist me. I was asked again the questions relating to 32:16 of the Florida Masonic Digest, and again honestly answered the questions, in agreement with the Digest. I was asked if I was a Pagan, and explained that I used that term to describe my religious practices, but not my belief. Paganism is not Orthodox, and has no set doctrines. It is merely a blanket term for non-Abrahamic faiths. In definition of my beliefs, I stated that I was primarily a Deist. I was further asked if I could uphold Masonic Morality, as exemplified by the Golden Rule and the 10 commandments. I explained that the Golden Rule was a value to aspire to. Concerning the 10 Commandments, I had to educate the committee on the fact that the first 5 commandments were religious commandments that only really apply to Jews, but that the second 5 were values to aspire to as well.
After reading the ruling, I felt that I had no choice per my Master Mason Obligation other than to resign as a Mason. This morning, I went to my lodge and submitted my letter of resignation to the Secretary, along with my dues card.
I cannot express how disillusioned I am with Masonry in Florida. I have had communication with Masons around the country who are just as shocked and appalled as I am. I spoke with the Sr. Warden of the Lodge after submitting my resignation, and he repeatedly said that he wanted me to understand that the officers of the lodge did what they thought was the correct thing in accepting me for initiation. He refused to make any definitive statement as to his own feelings. He said that he understood why I was upset, and asked me if I understood where they were coming from. All I could say was that I did. I understood that they were coming from a position of Self-preservation instead of their Masonic Obligations. The amazing part is this man, the Sr. Warden, was so impressed with me as a man and Mason that he was talking with me about serving in the line as recently as a month ago!
Is this really what Masonry is about today? Have we slid so far from the ideals of our Masonic Ancestors that we now require petitioners to define their beliefs, making sure that they use the politically correct terminology? What happened to masonry helping to make good men better? My wife saw it in me in the past 7 months. Unfortunately it seems that political infighting and wrestling for power supersedes the search for Further Light, at least in the Grand Lodge of Florida.