Is Freemasonry an egalitarian organization or is it elitist?
There has been quite a bit of discussion recently in certain circles about this very question. This post is going to present the facts as they are and, at the conclusion, suggest an answer to this question based off of the evidence.
Please keep in mind that this post is addressing the fraternity, not the membership.
As a disclaimer, I will go ahead and state that, while I’m attempting to avoid being biased in my article I would be misleading if I did not admit that I have already drawn my conclusions.
Just The Facts, please.
If the purpose of this post is to evaluate if Freemasonry is elitist or egalitarian then the wisest course of action is to define each term before moving forward:
This is the idea that all people are equal and everyone is entitled to the same opportunities. (This is not stating that all people are not born equal, rather it is the decisions they make throughout their lives that may remove that equality)
A person or group that has qualities or skills that exceed those of their peers. (For the purpose of this post understand that we will be referring to elite men, not necessarily the elite of society. There is a difference.)
The idea that certain opportunities should be selective and/or reserved exclusively for the elite.
It’s worthwhile to point out at this time that egalitarianism and elitism are the opposites of one another and they both side at the ends of a sliding scale. Where we end up exactly on that scale is up for debate but at the conclusion, we will determine which end our organization is closest to.
With these terms defined let’s now look at the criteria for membership into our organization:
You must be a man.
You must ask to join the fraternity of your volition.
You must be recommended by existing members.
You must complete an investigation process.
You must proclaim a faith in Deity.
You must be 18 or older (in some jurisdictions you must be 21+).
You must not be a felon.
You must not be disabled (in some cases).
You must receive a favorable vote from the membership of the lodge to receive the degrees.
Considering The Information:
It can be observed that there are numerous criteria for admission into the fraternity and it is possible for a petitioner to fail to meet any one of these standards and not gain admission. Number 1 alone eliminates almost half of the world’s population on its own and a thorough investigation of the petitioner may reduce that percentage even lower.
When this list is taken into consideration alongside the definition for egalitarian it seems clear that everyone is not entitled to join Freemasonry. Many brothers have heard it said that we ‘take good men and make them better’ or that ‘Freemasonry isn’t for everybody’, this means that most members understand that we are not egalitarian by nature and that we should be selective, even if they don’t want to come out and say it.
“When this list is taken into consideration alongside the definition for egalitarian it seems clear that everyone is not entitled to join Freemasonry. “
Because saying what it would have implications.
A Reasonable Conclusion:
These implications bring this post to a conclusion which will possibly make me very unpopular but putting our heads in the sand won’t make the truth go away.
Freemasonry is an organization for elite men (not the elite of society). We have strict criteria for entry and we watch our admission process with fidelity (or we should). The mere fact that a man meets all of the criteria for admission sets him apart from 99% of the population and if that doesn’t qualify a man as elite then what does?
If we only accept elite men then our organization is elitist.
This also means that our organization meets all of the criteria to be considered an ‘Honor Group’.
This is a hard pill to swallow for many brethren. Elite is a bad word to use these days and often times when brethren talk about raising our standards in the fraternity they get branded as an elitist as though its some sort of derogatory term.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle we have to overcome here isn’t accepting the fact that our organization is elitist but instead shifting our paradigm towards one that is accepting of this fact and facilitating pride in who we are.