So, finally getting around to looking back over the past three months … It’s difficult because from just a handful of lodge visits, I am obviously in no position to make any sort of judgement on the state of American freemasonry.
But I was fortunate enough that I got to see all three Craft degrees as they are worked in California, according to the Preston-Webb ritual, so I have a sense of how the “story” plays out in their version. Of course I cannot here get into details concerning the many (many!) differences with what I am used to from Denmark. I am sure both would disagree vehemently, but to me the ritual seemed pretty similar to the first degree Emulation ritual that is also practised in Denmark.
Mission Lodge had that “open-door”, relaxed, friendly attitude that I would expect from an American lodge. But at the same time the ritual work was impressive – you can be nice over a cup of coffee and still kick ass in the temple! And all agreed that I didn’t have to go very far outside of the city to find lodges that were even more laid back. Academia Lodge was no less friendly, but more formal in how they approached the work in the temple, education of its members, presentation of papers, dining, dress code etc. Academia, as a Traditional Observance lodge, is the odd man out, and Mission is probably more typical of the US.
I missed the Grand Lodge Annual Communications, but from what I heard it’s lot more democratic organisation than ours. In the Danish Order of Freemasons, pretty much everything comes down to the Grand Master’s decision (and he can hold that chair for a looong time), and there is no forum where things can be brought up for open discussion like in the states.
In no way do I want to sound dismissive of the brethren who gave me such a warm welcome, but I have to say that when push comes to shove, I think secrecy and formality has its place in freemasonry, and having kept unto those values is part of what makes it such a strong and healthy oraganisation in Scandinavia today. That, and keeping the spiritual advancement of its members in the forefront.