Most would understand that clandestine, as the word suggests, refers to secretive, or more especially, illicit. When used in reference to Freemasonry, it basically means a Lodge that is not associated or governed by a Grand Lodge, therefore it is an illicit Lodge. But of course, in a clandestine Masonic Lodge, not governed by the ancient principles and tenets of Freemasonry through a Regular Grand Lodge, who knows what they really get up to?
Labelling a territory or region as terrorist would imply a lawless zone which no right minded person would enter anyway, Freemason or not, so that in itself requires no explanation. However, Freemasonry traversed the world as men who were Freemasons travelled the world, either because of trade, or members of an army, or most simply, as Freemasonry began during an age when men were exploring and settling in foreign parts, naturally some of these men were Freemasons. This would include the exploration and colonisation of the Americas, trade with Asia, especially India, and even within the Ottoman Empire, including the Middle East and Turkey.
It should be understood that in Masonic terms, the word Lodge is derived from a body of stonemasons (where Freemasonry originated). These stonemasons would travel, often as a group, from one site to another seeking work and applying their trade, they would meet with other travelling groups and local stonemasons at the site where their skills were required. At this site would be a building where they could not only meet and work, but also sleep, or lodge. Inside this building the architect, or Master Stonemason, would lay out his plans on a trestle board. Should a group arrive but their skills were not needed, they would be housed for the night, fed and sent on their way with funds, if needed, to see them to the next work site. Stonemasons always looked out for each other.
But this article is discussing Freemasons, their travels, and whether any particular territory or region would be off limits due to being branded internationally as a terrorist region, or simply have clandestine Lodges present. In this instance I believe our misinformed person was referring to Lebanon, where a group exists that some governments in the West have deemed a terrorist group. This does not in any way class Lebanon as a ‘terrorist region,’ nor does the presence of Irregular or clandestine Freemasonry keep out Regular Freemasonry, only a government decree would do this. Freemasonry has certain rules that guide our conduct when visiting of residing abroad, this is given in the Charge after Initiation. The newly made Mason is reminded, among other things, to “pay due obedience to the laws of any state (country) which may from time to time become your place of residence and afford you its protection.”
Irregular Freemasonry simply means a body of Freemasons whose Grand Lodge no longer follows the ancient principles and tenets of Freemasonry, namely a belief in God is not required and interference in political matters as a group often occurs, implying that discussion of a political nature is also allowed during Lodge meetings. Regular Freemasonry specifically prohibit political or religious discussion during Lodge meetings, believe in God (whatever the faith) and as a body there is never any interference in political matters. Irregular Freemasonry does not imply any dishonest act is countenanced. Clandestine Freemasonry has already been explained.
In Lebanon in particular there are three Regular Grand Lodges present in the form of District Grand Lodges and some private Lodges. This means a body of Freemasons whose governing Grand Lodge is in another territory, for example Scotland, but have Masonic Lodges that reside abroad. In Lebanon there are two such District Grand Lodges affiliated with overseas Regular Grand Lodges, namely the District Grand Lodge of Lebanon, governed by the Grand Lodge of Scotland: https://www.grandlodgescotland.com/structure/district-grand-lodges/district-grand-lodge-of-lebanon/; the District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon, governed by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York: https://nymasons.org/site/districts-lodges/district-grand-lodge-syria-lebanon/; and two individual Lodges governed directly by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia (Washington DC): https://www.dcmasonryinlebanon.org/. All three are regular Grand Lodges.
There was/is also a ‘breakaway group of three Lodges under the jurisdiction of the District Grand Lodge of the State of New York that formed the Grand Lodge of Lebanon, but this group is not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and therefore currently deemed illegitimate.
Unfortunately there are many clandestine lodges in Lebanon too, and some with a Grand Lodge set up but which have no affiliation with either regular or irregular Grand Lodges.
It is an unfortunate fact that many people want to condemn Freemasonry for reasons of myth or misunderstanding. Some follow conspiracy theories where Freemasons are accused of numerous crimes, even Satan worship, both of which I can assure the reader is complete fabrication. Through the years some clandestine Lodges, for example P2 in Italy, were made up of criminals and hid behind the face of Freemasonry to conduct their crimes, but these almost always get discovered and the members prosecuted as appropriate. Also, in England and elsewhere, Freemasons are accused of ‘looking after themselves’ too much, for example, by gaining a promotion or position where other, non Masons, are better qualified. This type of activity is totally prohibited in regular Freemasonry (it is even forbidden to use a Masonic token (handshake) by UGLE outside of a closed Lodge meeting). The final straw in these accusations came when Freemasons were publicly accused of interfering with the police federation and of holding secret Lodges in government buildings. So UGLE launched the campaign ‘Enough is Enough,’ and began the fight back. This basically led to our opening up for all to see, with TV programmes inside Grand Lodge and private lodges holding open days. On our 300th anniversary in 2017, Freemasons even returned to parades, something that was stopped due to Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Freemasons in Germany; Freemasons became very secretive then, and this has obviously added to our problems.
In summary, regular Freemasonry is present in an international way, but each territory (country), State or region has its own governing body or Grand Lodge. If each of these regular Grand Lodges are in amity with each other, then a regular Freemason from one territory, State or region can visit a regular Lodge in another territory, State or region. Regular Freemasons may not visit an irregular Lodge and likewise, visiting a clandestine Lodge is strictly forbidden. Freemasons from one region cannot form a Lodge affiliated to their Grand Lodge if a regular Grand Lodge is already present in that particular territory, State or region. The use if the word ‘region’ is because that was used by the misinformed person that caused this article to be written to set the record straight with regards to the establishment of regular Freemasonry.
Therefore it is important to reiterate that there can only be one regular Grand Lodge in any one territory, State or region, the presence of clandestine masonry is irrelevant, and few places are deemed terrorist states, but even so, Freemasons can set up there, but would they want to!
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved