Today’s reader’s question is: how does Freemasonry spread in countries where there are no Lodges or masons? I think this is a great question and one that I seem to get on average about once per week through emails, Facebook messages, or some other kind of communication, and I think it’s a question that would be really excellent if some historians or brethren who have really done some research on the spread of Freemasonry could go down in the comments and add some more particulars, because the only thing I know to share are some generalities.
How does Freemasonry spread in countries where there are no Lodges or masons?
So here are some things to think about. Today, here in 2019, most jurisdictions that I’m aware of. In fact, all jurisdictions I’m aware of, but most seem like a safe bet, require some sort of residency in order for you to be able to be made a mason in their jurisdiction. So, for example, here in the state of Mississippi, you have to have established residency in the state for at least six months before you can even petition a Lodge in order to join the Lodge. So there’s a little stipulation like that and I bring that up because I think that sometimes when people live in a part of the world where there are no Lodges nearby or if their area doesn’t have its own Grand Lodge, they think, “Well, I’ll just take a short vacation someplace where there are Lodges, I’ll petition, I’ll join the Lodge, and I’ll come home.”
But it’s not that simple. Even if you don’t have the residency requirement, you’re usually looking at at least a 2 to 3-month process just to have your petition read in front of the Lodge, be adopted by the Lodge, and have an investigative committee assigned to meet with you, be able to report back to the Lodge, for the Lodge to then ballot on you and accept you, and then for your degree to be scheduled. So it’s not something like you just show up and it’s done now. I say all that and yet there are probably little caveats, little one-offs that could work. Maybe you can find someplace that’s going to do one of those master mason in a day kinds of programs, and maybe that’s your goal. You just want to be a master mason.
You don’t care about learning what it really means to be a master mason. You just want to be able to say you are one and have a dues card to prove that you are. Maybe you can find some jurisdiction that’s not too worried about your residency and you can find out when that event is going to take place and register for it, pay for it, and show up the day before, sleep overnight, enjoy the degrees the next day, be the master mason you want to be, and then travel back to your country and it is done pretty much all in a day. But I think that if that’s even possible, it is by far the exception, not the rule. So how would it happen? Well, I think we have to address the elephant in the room most of the time. People that are asking me this question are from countries where Freemasonry itself is illegal.
We’re talking about countries that are Islamic states where the government of the country forbids Freemasonry. I only know of one way to fix that problem. And it’s not my place to tell you how your government should be run. But if you want to participate in something that your government does not permit, let’s just say that there’s that sort of situation here in the United States. Well, it’s not a matter of going off to do that thing somewhere else. It’s a matter of changing the laws so that you can do it legally where you are and if you follow those prescribed methods. We’re not talking about a revolution. We’re talking about following the law to change the law. And I think that while it may not be something you see in your own lifetime, maybe it’s something that your children or grandchildren get to enjoy, but you can take a little bit of pride, if you will, and you can feel a little success in being able to have set that ball in motion for something that might happen decades down the line.
Okay, so with that out of the way, how did Freemasonry get to where it is all over the world today? I think generally we’re talking about Englishmen and other Europeans who were already freemasons, and while today we are the minority, there was a time when being a freemason was as common as being a member of the local church. It was just a thing that most people were a part of. It was harder to not find a freemason, seemingly. So when you have a group of sailors, explorers, colonists, or whatever you want to call them, and they travel to an area, suddenly you have more than enough physical master masons to accomplish the establishment of a Lodge. So before you ship out, before you sail out, you get the approval to set up that Lodge. You get out there and you just do it. You set up the Lodge, and now suddenly there’s a Lodge in this new area that is working under the authority of wherever those people sailed out of, and that’s how you end up with things like Lodges that are part of the United Grand Lodge of England, or under a Scottish constitution, or an Irish constitution, that are scattered all around the globe. So could that happen today?
I think it’s possible for something like that to happen today, but I think because we are now in a time where it’s less common for even a local Lodge to set up, I think it’s been about 10 years since here in the state of Mississippi. A new Lodge was chartered, so we’re not in that habit anymore of chartering numerous Lodges every single year. So if you go to your Grand Lodge and say, “Hey, me and a couple of buddies, we’re going to move to this place that doesn’t have any kind of Lodge, We want to charter a Lodge while we’re there. We’re also now talking about who’s got jurisdiction. So we’re not talking about undiscovered countries anymore. We’re talking about places where people have already staked a claim and said that, you know, we’ve already got a district Grand Lodge here or we’ve already got a provincial Grand Lodge here and we don’t want to step on each other’s toes.
So who has the authority to authorize a new Lodge in that area or who is amity enough to say, hey, we’d like to establish a lodge under our authority in your area? Are we? It’s good to go and get that kind of approval. So, is it possible? I’d like to think that it is, but I really don’t know how practical it would be with all of the residency and time constraints involved with all of the jurisdictional lines essentially having been drawn across the globe. It seems like it would be a bit challenging. That’s why I kind of revert back to it being the long path, but perhaps the more practical path of changing the way that laws might affect our ability to have Lodges in our own countries. Well, there you are. That’s the best. I know how to explain how lodges spread across the globe.
So thanks for your support. If you have something you’d like to add, like a book that you might recommend to somebody that would explain this more fully, please leave them down below and I’ll look forward to chatting with you there. Bye.
By Brother Jared, a Master Mason of Grad Lodge Mississippi
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