When I first became interested in Freemasonry, I went online and searched Freemasonry in California. Luckily, the first website to come up was the Grand Masonic Lodge of California’s website. At that time in my life, I had no clue that there was anything other than mainstream Freemasonry. I had not heard of Prince Hall, nor was even aware of Clandestine, Bogus, Irregular, Unrecognized, or Spurious Grand Lodges. I’m not sure I fully understood what a Grand Lodge was. I imagined it was something like an overseer of local lodges. The website had a lodge locator and I used it to find my local lodge. Had I not gone this route to find my path into Freemasonry, I may have been led astray. I write this blog-post in an effort to help other potential Brothers to not be led astray or suffer injury to their person or pocketbook.
I learned about these “Other” Grand Lodges only after I had been initiated at the Claremont Masonic Lodge No. 436 of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of California. I’m no expert on the topic, but I will give you a quick and dirty breakdown and some sites to read for yourself.
After being initiated, I learned that there were some lodges that allowed women to be Masons. I asked about it, and Brothers told me they were not recognized. That was the first time the idea of an “Other Masonry” became apparent. I thought it was interesting that women wanted to become Freemasons given that it was a fraternity, then I remembered my wife’s sorority was actually a fraternity, because it was founded before sorority was a term. At that time period, women were trying to establish themselves among men as equals. They were able to go to college and working toward the right to vote. In the fraternity, they likely saw a means to reach those achievements.
Not long after that I learned about Prince Hall Freemasonry, which has a long and rich history in the United States. It began as the first lodge of Free Black Men in 1775. Due to political infighting, racial tension, and such, the Prince Hall Freemasons were considered clandestine by mainstream Freemasonry. However, mutual recognition finally began to happen in America in the latter part of the 20th century.
The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California IS recognized by the Grand Lodge of California. They have mutual recognition and visitation of one another, meaning I can visit their lodges as they can visit mine. We are all Brothers in Freemasonry. This unfortunately is not so in some of the states in the South.
The mainstream state Grand Lodges that do not recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges are located largely in southern states, an area with an estimated 50% of Prince Hall Freemasons: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Texas only recently gained mutual intervisitation in December 2014, but as Texas goes, hopefully the rest of the South will follow. Recently, a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas was made an honorary member of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas.
For each state (except those mentioned above), there are only TWO Grand Lodges that are considered Regular. Regular, meaning they abide by the regulations of Freemasonry and are legitimate in performing them. NOTE: Just because a Grand Lodge has Regular in its name does not make it Regular. When you petition a lodge in your state (or if you are currently a member of a lodge), make sure it is on this list under “Mainstream” or “Official Prince Hall,” otherwise it is one of those “Other Masons.”
At first, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Then, I heard about how certain groups claiming to be Freemasonry were doing terrible things. I first encountered these “Other Masons” on the Facebook page “All Things Masonic.” Peruse those pages and you’ll find a proliferation of argumentation between Freemasons and “Other Masons,” which do nothing to advance the Craft.
I saw videos of these “Other Masons” work that looked nothing like I had seen before. I initially thought they were Prince Hall Lodges, as a Brother of mine told me that his friend had been raised in one. This video was on the lodge’s Facebook page. We watched and noticed that it seemed to take place in a kitchen and the Master was wearing sunglasses throughout the ceremony. This was not a Prince Hall Lodge. It was a lodge within the MW Sons of Light Grand Lodge.
They’re the guys passing out these fliers, recruiting like mad. Things like this are likely to give a bad name to Prince Hall Lodges and Freemasonry in general. It’s the reason Bro. Charles M. Harper Sr. is at the forefront of identifying and eliminating Bogus Masonry as the threats they are to our beautiful fraternity. He was a guest on TMR’s episode on Clandestine Masonry and he has written a book concerning this important issue. He has also started a petition against Clandestine Freemasonry.
I encourage Brothers and potential Brothers to be aware of these groups. I have been told that some of the men in these groups can be belligerent and violent when told they are not True Freemasons. I think that would be expected. As one invests into something they believe to be real, they will hold to it, trying to make it so, no matter what information contradicts it. This is called cognitive dissonance: stress or discomfort emanating from experiences of conflicting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It is all too human and an integral part of our psychology.
Regardless of their classification as “Other Mason,” they are still humans and deserving of our respect and love. We need to treat them as such and encourage them to reduce that dissonance, so that they may see the group for what it truly is. It is not their fault they belong to such a group. We should not treat them badly or disparage them. It is the organization itself that is at fault. We should have sympathy and empathy for our fellow men, but there is no need for such compassion for the organization itself. The best we can do is provide the Truth coupled with Brotherly Love, and always and most importantly be Charitable in our actions.
To read more about the terms Clandestine, Bogus, and such. Here are a few additional links.
I hope this helps in some way, and if it has served to help a potential Brother from being misdirected in his Masonic Journey, then I feel I have done something right.
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