Today’s guest post comes from our very own Otto Christienson. Otto is a long time Mason, and has watched Braden 168 transition from another dwindling lodge of veteran brothers, to a younger, vibrant lodge dedicated to esoteric discussion and excellent ritual work, which Otto is very glad to see.
My wife is a Co-Mason, and I’ve been asked to share what little I know of their tradition. First of all, I’d like to point out I have never been in attendance at one of their meetings. I know some of her Brothers and generally enjoy interacting with them. With that said, I’ll launch into my perspective on the organization.
The organization I am acquainted with is called the AFHR – an acronym for the “American Federation of Human Rights”. It is a spinoff of La Droit Humain which originated in France in the late 19th century. The AFHR is headquartered in Larkspur, Colorado. The Order is made up of the Blue Degrees, the York and Scottish Rites and an interesting collection of a few other degrees. The Blue degrees follow the Emulation ritual fairly closely, but with the addition of the “American Style” second half of the Third Degree. The York degrees have the Mark Master, Royal Ark Mariner, and Royal Arch degrees. I’m not sure if the Scottish Rite part of the tradition has any other degrees than the traditional terminal degrees of the 14th, 18th, 30th, and 32nd. I am aware that they confer/communicate the 33rd. Unlike the A:.F:.& A:.M:. structure, they have a fairly elaborate set of requirements for advancement to the next degree. Beyond the “posting lecture” there are requirements for attendance and time in degree. They also require the submission of “architecture” – a symbolic term for a paper examining or exploring some facet of the work. Also, at some point advancement is by invitation only. You can’t petition for some of the degrees.
Another thing I’d like to point out is there is a strong connection between the Co-Masonic organizations, La Droit Humain and the AFHR among them, and the Theosophical Society. Two of the principal actors in the Co-Masonic movement in the United States were Charles Leadbetter and Annie Besant. They were also the motivating force behind the Liberal Catholic Church. I am not aware of any requirement to be a member of the LCC to become a member of the AFHR, but a significant number of the people I’ve met from Colorado and Michigan are also clergy in that specific church. This to me seems to be very similar to the close relationship between the African Methodist Church and the Prince Hall Lodges.
The lodge structure differs from what we as “regular” Masons are acquainted. Given the numbers of co-masons is significantly smaller than the recognized fraternity; they have different designations to accommodate fewer human and monetary resources. I am aware of three different classifications of groups: 1) Circle, 2) Triangle, and 3) Lodge. They represent increasing abilities to do the work and to administer the day-to-day activities of the lodges. Usually, it is my understanding the first two designations can only do degree work with the assistance of a Grand Lodge officer or other high degree individual. The Lodges are capable of doing the Blue Degrees, but will often get assistance from the Grand Lodge. With the difference in designation, there is also a difference in leadership. Lodge Masters in many cases are appointed by the Grand Lodge in Colorado and the term is not specified. I’m not sure if it is ad vitam, or dependent on the decisions made in council.
On discussing this with my wife, she informed me that regular Masons can attend their meetings with permission from the Grand Lodge in Larkspur. Attendance at one of their meetings would be something an individual brother would have to reconcile for himself and would depend on your definition of “Masonic conversation”. I’ll leave this with you and offer to answer any questions that could be reasonably address without violating any of my oaths or compromising the confidence I’ve earned from my “clandestine” friends.
Parting on the Square,