As a “new” Mason of just over 1 year I have had a wonderful journey so far and have met many wonderful people along the way. I don’t think words can convey just how enthusiastic about the Fraternity I am. Although in my new found zeal for the Fraternity I have also found possible pot-holes in this road.
Early on in my Masonic career, if a year ago can be considered a career, I did what any 30 or 40 something computer professional would do when considering getting involved with an organization. They head right for the Internet and begin searching in earnest. Some people are know-it-alls and others, like me, are perpetual wanna-be-know-it-alls. My wife has told me on several occasions that I am a virtual Fort Knox of useless information, although on several occasions that useless information has come in quite handy. I read as much as my life permits these days, which is not nearly as much as I’d like to. At this stage I am still digesting much of what I have learned so far. So much for the background stuff.
Well as this is about dis-information I was reminded about some of the so called information out there on the Internet, we all know that everything on the Internet is true, don’t we? The first two websites I stumbled across before joining the Craft were Bro. Ed King’s Masonicinfo.com and Freemasonrywatch website. These two drew my attention more than the rest because of their diametrically opposed views to each other. As I read further I quickly realized that there were elements out there that would publish anything about which they knew nothing for their own skewed reasons. Now I am not really surprised by this being a person with common sense and I am no newcomer to the Internet. After reading though these and many other sites I thought I had finally become a quasi know-it –all and wanted to share a few thoughts about Internet e-Masonry.
So while on-line one day I find a Masonic forum and I thought, great I can discuss masonry with people from all over the world. Well I began reading a few posts and the posters all seemed on the up and up. I submitted for a username and password and away I went. Curiously I never did receive that username and password. I suppose the GAOTU was watching out for me. As I read further on still not able post due to never receiving the email from the forum to do this, I began to get a gut feeling as it were. Many of the posts linked to several blogs and other posts that belonged to the nefarious, clandestine or otherwise irregular groups I had read about on another website.
So what would have happened if I’d not read about the antics of these folks somewhere else and recognized them for who they were? What if I’d gotten sucked in by the piped piper like the poor Brothers in Ohio? What if I’d said something I ought not to have? Here in lies the problem. I can list a large list of websites that look really fancy and claim legitimacy, but these days things can change in an Internet minute. What follows is more of a guide to brethren and interested non-Masons who are getting involved in on-line Masonry or e-Masonry as it were. Of course there are no hard and fast rules out there as I alluded to earlier. If there was one simple and steadfast piece of advice I would give it would be to follow your Grand Lodge’s guidelines as to ‘regularity’. That being said if you come across any of the multitude of websites and forums I have found in just one short year and you follow you obligations with regard to caution when speaking about Freemasonry on or offline you will have a better experience overall.
One thing you will find is many different opinions out there and that can lead to confusion, especially for a new Brother. When and if you journey on-line you will surely know what I mean. In the last several years alone there has been a proliferation of ‘irregular’ groups out there that present themselves as ‘regular’ or ‘mainstream’. Some are very upfront about their associations others are not. Most on-line forums, which are for discussions about a specific subject like Masonry, are not tyled and may have regular, irregular or clandestine Masons as well as profanes reading and posting on these forums or bulletin boards. In other words you really don’t know who you are talking to on-line. On-line personas or monikers can be changed and even forged to fool the unsuspecting. There are some forums that do their best to keep the membership to regular or mainstream Masons. Even this may present a quandary to some Masons. For example the membership of a forum may contain members of PHA lodges. If your GL does not recognize PHA Grand Lodges would you be breaking you obligations by participating in an on-line discussion with this Brother? This is a question that is still up for debate. As an example of an on-line forum there is the Sanctum Sanctorum web forum. When a person submits an application for a username and password the user is asked for their lodge membership, lodge name and Grand Lodge as well as a contact at your lodge to verify your membership. This is about as good as it can be done on the Internet. Another forum is a paid subscription to The Masonic Society, from their website:
“All members must provide assurances to Administrator that they are Master Masons in good standing with a regular Lodge in amity with a member grand lodge of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. All forum members must identify themselves in their registration by full name, lodge affiliation and location – no anonymous postings will be allowed.”
This is just another way of being cautious. Of course all discussions on these forums are to be kept in a civil tone and nothing should be discussed, in said forum that would be said in a tyled lodge.
As I said earlier regularity can be a tricky subject but with the right information you can make the right call on who you choose to have Masonic discussions with on-line. Another point I have tried to make is know who you are talking to. Was the person you are talking to introduced to you by a known brother? When making my foray into e-Masonry I read posts from persons who claim regularity, but engage in decidedly un-Masonic behavior on-line. One good place to start is Bro. Ed King’s website, Masonicinfo.com. Here you will find a fairly up to date list of people that have been known to engage in this type of behavior. In conclusion the best practice or advice is if you are unsure check with your Grand Lodge or your lodge Secretary, who probably knows more anyway.
Always keep you common sense about you when reading anything on-line. While writing this article I was also watching the news. An interesting piece was reported about student and how they cheat and how teachers are fighting plagiarism. One of the teacher interviewed made and interesting comment. When asked what he recommended to his student when doing research he responded by saying “do not use the Internet for serious research or for research cites or sources, as it is unreliable and nearly impossible to verify statements and their originators”. In other words, the Internet is great for some background information or opinion pieces but not the best breeding ground for factual information. Use your best judgment in what to believe. Go to your local library and read a book about it if you want to get facts. A list of some of the websites I have found to be pretty safe places to find information about Freemasonry are listed below. Again check the fact for yourself if in doubt, never take any one persons opinion as fact.
Partial list of referenced websites:
This is just a short list and these links will link to other reputable information.