Without a doubt, Operative Masons dominate the power structure of contemporary Freemasonry in the United States, by way of their sheer numbers, which has led to differing viewpoints about our ancient roots, purpose and future. This silent ideological civil war often leads to dogmatic bickerings, which has a chilling effect on the Craft.
I can tell you from personal experience that many well intentioned Operative Masons get on the Internet, as arbiters of all Masonic truth, and dictate their views about Freemasonry from the Operative perspective; and in the process, go out of their way to slander a Speculative brother, simply because they truly don’t understand that the Craft was specifically designed for both perspectives. In fact, just the other day, I was told that I was spreading misinformation about the upper degrees of the Craft, that the only level that mattered was the Blue Lodge; here is what was written on my Facebook page, Immortal Light:
There are NO uppers levels of Freemasonry! Ant Mason mat petition either York or Scottish Rite or any of the other Bodies. Some organizations are by invitation. However they are NOT upper levels. If you believe that then you are NOT a Mason or have no true understanding of who and what we are.
We must forgive his bad spelling, but otherwise, because of my view, I am somehow not a Mason, and I have no true understanding about the Craft. He only knew to attack when confronted with a view different than his own. I personally did not respond to this brother; rather, I used this quote from Albert Pike to make my point:
Assuredly, we have no apologies to make to Blue Masonry for daring to devote ourselves to so holy a cause. … We do not reply to the ridicule or invectives of those, nor seek to confute or enlighten them, who are content with the Masonry of the Blue Lodges. What they write against the Higher Degrees can deter none from seeking our Sanctuaries who are fit to enter them and are wanted.
Yes, Pike said there were higher or upper degrees in Freemasonry, and that we, as Scottish Rite Masons, don’t agree with our Blue Lodge Operative brethren about our higher Speculative purposes. In fact, let’s take a look at the Speculative vs Operative perspective on the origin of the Craft.
We will start with a quote from 33 degree Scottish Rite Grand Archivist and Grand Historian Arturo De Hoyos, who wrote the following in his Scottish Rite Ritual Monitor and Guide (2010, p. 8):
Early Masonic Origins: The search for Freemasonry’s origins has resulted in two schools of thought: (1) “the authentic school,” which, rely on the disciple of historical research, advocates a “transitional theory” back to the operative stonemasons of Scotland and England, and (2) the “romantic school,” which believes that Masonic legends, symbolism, and circumstantial evidence points to a number of other possible origins. Among the most popular “romantic” notions of origin are Solomon’s Temple, the Tower of Babel, the medieval Knights Templar, the Hermeticists and/or Rosicrucians, the Essenes (a Jewish sect which existed about two millennia ago), the ancient Egyptians, and any number of the ancient mystery religions and/or schools.
There you have it, one of the most prominent Freemasons in the United States today readily admits there are two distinct beliefs within the Craft. De Hoyos’ declared the two philosophies as the Authentic School or Operative StoneMasons, and the Romantic School; I simply defined them differently, calling them the Operatives and the Speculatives.
Despite this knowledge, Operative Blue Lodge Masons continue to adhere to their dogmatic belief that Freemasonry started with the formation of the 1717 Grand Lodge of England era; nevertheless, Speculative Freemasonry does not adhere to this belief, it considers the foundation of Freemasonry with that of Adam and Eve, which the 1723 Constitution of Free-Masonry clearly stated: “So when it was written, “No doubt Adam taught his Sons Geometry, and the use of it, in the several Arts and Crafts convenient, at least, for those early Times…” (p. 2), what did this mean? The story of Adam and Eve is nothing but a metaphor for men and women in the beginning of creation by God.”
Nevertheless, here we see Pike writing about the different perspectives between Blue Lodge Operative history and that of the Scottish Rite Speculative history:
Even Blue Masonry cannot trace back its authentic history, with its present Degrees, further than the year 1700, if so far. But, by whatever name it was known in this or the other country, Masonry existed as it now exists, the same in spirit and at heart, not only when Solomon builded the temple, but centuries before— before even the ﬁrst colonies emigrated into Southern India, Persia, and Egypt, from the cradle of the human race (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 208).
Regardless of this fact, the small, but sternly positioned members of the Speculative viewpoint, often have to hide their perspective, otherwise they become alienated by the Operative membership. This too has led to many members leaving the Craft. Indeed, there exists a comfortable home for Operative Masons who seek the comfort of Brotherly love; but the newer and younger Speculative desiring Masons, who do not find like minded members, continue to exit an an alarming rate.
Here we see Pike again discussing the higher (or upper) degrees of Freemasonry and its true purpose. This time his thinking revolves around the issue of advancing men knowledgeable in philosophy; that they be faithful to the spirit of the Craft; and perhaps most importantly, they correct the abuses and offenses that have crept into Freemasonry, and be a great teacher of Mankind. In short, The higher degrees of Freemasonry are designed to be taken down to the lower levels in order to correct the errors that have inflicted it since the beginning of time itself; but sadly, it still does not:
IN THE HIGHER DEGREES those only should be received who have sufﬁcient reading and information to discuss the great questions of philosophy. From them the Orators of the Lodges should be selected, as well as those of the Councils and Chapters. They are charged to suggest such measures as are necessary to make Masonry entirely faithful to the spirit of its institution, both as to its charitable purposes, and the diffusion of light and knowledge; such as are needed to correct abuses that have crept in, and offences against the rules and general spirit of the Order; and such as will tend to make it, as it was meant to be, the great Teacher of Mankind (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 332).
You see, the Blue Degrees, or Operatives, are the outer court of the Temple. Yes, they have been purposely misled; they were never intended to know the truth without higher levels of instruction; this knowledge is intended for the Princes of Masonry or higher Degrees. The mass of Freemasons, or Operative Masons, continue to attempt to understand, but without advancing into the higher, or Speculative Degrees, they remain lost for their lack of knowledge, like the head of the Sphinx buried in the sand:
The Blue Degrees are but the outer court or portico of the Temple. Part of the symbols are displayed there to the Initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false interpretations. It is not intended that he shall understand them; but it is intended that he shall imagine he understands them. Their true explication is reserved for the Adepts, the Princes of Masonry. The whole body of the Royal and Sacerdotal Art was hidden so carefully, centuries since, in the High Degrees, as that it is even yet impossible to solve many of the enigmas which they contain. It is well enough for the mass of those called Masons, to imagine that all is contained in the Blue Degrees; and whoso attempts to undeceive them will labor in vain, and without any true reward violate his obligations as an Adept. Masonry is the veritable Sphinx, buried to the head in the sands heaped round it by the ages (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1972, p. 819).
The previous statements are supported by the following example of the term “Equality and Liberty,” which meant one thing to the Operative Mason, but the Speculative Mason, or Higher Degreed Mason, retained that privileged knowledge:
The Abbe Barruel in his Memoirs for the History of Jacobinism, declares that Masonry in France gave, as its secret, the words Equality and Liberty, leaving it for every honest and religious Mason to explain them as would best suit his principles; but retained the privilege of unveiling in the higher Degrees the meaning of those words (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1972, p. 49).
Indeed, our traditions, Operative and Speculative teachings should be combined, but are now taught without meaning, which has taken our Blue Lodges even further and further from the original intent of Masonic truth. The Operative Mason is taught that there is no connection to the higher levels of the Craft; that everything they will ever need can be found in their perspectives within lower level Lodges; no need to advance. Nothing to see in the Speculative Degrees of the higher levels. Therefore, no need to read or study these Speculative ideals, which are actually the benefactors and cradle of mankind’s knowledge:
A few rudimentary lessons in architecture, a few universally admitted maxims of morality, a few unimportant traditions, whose real meaning is unknown or misunderstood, will no longer satisfy the earnest inquire after Masonic truth. Let whoso is content with these, seek to climb no higher. He who desires to understand the harmonious and beautiful proportions of Freemasonry must read, study, reﬂect, digest, and discriminate. The true Masonis an ardent seeker after knowledge; and he knows that both books and the antique i symbols of Masonry are vessels which come down to us full-freighted with the intellectual riches of the Past; and that in the lading of these argosies is much that sheds light on the history of Masonry, and proves its claim to be acknowledged the benefactor of mankind, born in the very cradle of the race (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1972, p. 107).
Pike also has some advice for Grand Masters of the Symbolic Lodges, or Operative Lodges; that they are to continue to restore Masonry to its “primitive purity,” or ancient ideals. Yes, that means we must adhere to our ancient teachings and roots; so much for the argument that we need to change our ways in order to attract the younger generation; absolutely not. You see, Operative Masonry continues to wonder in error; instead of improving the organization by adherence and instructing according to our ancient foundations, it continues to degenerate from this Speculative belief, often distorted by “stupidity and ignorance.” Masonry was once religious and philosophical, worthy of philanthropic endeavors; yet today, our Lodges have become less then philosophical, and without faith, making any philanthropic efforts benign and unworthy of any relationship with our creator:
As Grand Master of all Symbolic Lodges, it is your especial duty to aid in restoring Masonry to its primitive purity. You have become an instructor. Masonry long wandered in error. Instead of improving, it degenerated from its primitive simplicity, and retrograded toward a system, distorted by stupidity and ignorance, which, unable to construct a beautiful machine, made a complicated one. Less than two hundred years ago, its organization was simple, and altogether moral, its emblems, allegories, and ceremonies easy to be understood, and their purpose and object readily to be seen. It was then confined to a very small number of Degrees. Its constitutions were like those of a Society of Essenes, written in the first century of our era. There could be seen the primitive Christianity, organized into Masonry, the school of Pythagoras without incongruities or absurdities ; a Masonry simple and significant, in which it was not necessary to torture the mind to discover reasonable interpretations; a Masonry at once religious and philosophical, worthy of a good citizen and an enlightened philanthropist (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 325).
And finally, only by advancing to the higher Speculative Degrees will a Mason be granted the key to Masonic understanding, as Pike so clearly stated:
THE KEY TO THEIR TRUE MEANING IS NOT UNDISCOVERABLE. The perfect and eternal distinction of the two primitive terms of the creative syllogism (deductive reasoning), in order to attain to the demonstration of their harmony by the analogy of contraries, is the second grand principle of that occult philosophy veiled under the name “KABALAH,” and indicated by all the sacred hieroglyphs of the Ancient Sanctuaries, and of the rites, SO LITTLE UNDERSTOOD BY THE MASS OF THE INITIATES, OF THE ANCIENT AND MODERN FREE-MASONRY (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 304).
So please Brethren, restrain your zeal for what you know, and be more willing to look at the other view of the Craft; for you may, in fact, find something new to add to your understanding. This is a true virtue of an enlightened Mason.
So Mote It Be!
Blue Lodge Master Mason – Scottish Rite Mason – York Rite Mason – Knight Mason – Allied Mason – York Rite College – Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest – Red Cross of Constantine – Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis.