Over at the the Wild Hunt I notice that the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida has decided that certain named types of pagans – including Wiccans and Odinists – cannot be Freemasons. Here is a scan of the edict:
Now, get this. As far as I understand Freemasonry, the authorities he has cited as part of his edict – the Landmarks, and the charge of a Freemason – are entirely correct. However he seems to have excluded a number of things from his consideration, to wit:
The Volume of the Sacred Law is not necessarily a specific book (e.g. the Bible), but that which constitutes the revelation from heaven which is binding on the conscience of the individual. Hence, it would be the Holy Book of the religion of the candidate being initiated – and indeed, non-Christians are allowed to swear their G.’. and S.’.O.’. on the Holy Book of their choice, e.g. the Tanakh, Koran, Zend Avesta, etc. It is my understanding of Freemasonry, therefore, that one may become a Mason so long as one believes in a God, who is the G.’.A.’.O.’.T’.’.U.’. from one’s own point of view, and one is prepared in all good conscience to swear on a Holy Book of one of the world’s religions.
Furthermore, the GM of Florida has managed to discriminate against pagans, without exercising discrimination! Whilst Agnosticism probably isn’t compatible with the craft, Gnosticism and Paganism are far too general terms to bandy about and there is a lack of explanation as to what is exactly wrong with Wiccan and Odinism. The thing is, religious and political discussions are banned within craft lodges anyway, so once they are in, they cease to be members of different religions and are simply Brothers of one Craft. It is within my personal knowledge that there are many pagans who are Freemasons, though not within Florida in the United States.
Now let me tell you a little story. In my novella, Shall We Kill The President? I described a conversation between a taxi driver and a Vampire in the Deep South of America.
“The bus-boycott was when, exactly?” Elijah said.
“You’re from out-of-state, right?” the driver said. “Just cause it’s fifty years gone don’t mean attitudes change much in these parts.”
“Tell me about it,” Elijah muttered.
“Like when I joined the Masons,” the driver continued. “Whenever I tried going to a Lodge in this state, immediately they go to ‘refreshment’ soon as I walk in the door. ‘So, Bros,’ I sez to ’em, ‘when we gone from refreshment to labour again? Ain’t you got a ritual today?’ But they just plain ignore me as if I ain’t there. I gets the message real quick, and take mysel’ down to Prince Hall sharpish, if you know what I’m sayin’.”
“Huh!” Elijah snorted. He paused, before adding: “So how do you join the Masons? The Prince Hall ones, I mean.”
“Oh, you just need to believe in God and that you’re goin’ to Heaven when you die,” the driver said. “Why? Does that sound like something which appeals to you?”
Elijah frowned. “No,” he said.
The fact of the matter is that although dressed as fiction, the experience described by the taxi-driver is a real-life phenomenon experienced by African-Americans who are either Masons or who want to become Masons in certain parts of America. I know this because it was related to me by an American Mason – in the state of Florida.
That’s right: the unpalatable truth is that pagans might feel aggrieved because they can’t become Masons in Lodges warranted by the Grand Lodge of Florida, but black Masons have been discriminated against in the same state for far longer than just November 2012. The problem is far more serious than pagans seem to realise.