Universal Freemasonry
From Pole To Pole

C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°
Sovereign Grand Commander

A defining landmark of Universal Freemasonry is the absolute independence and sovereignty of Grand Lodges and Supreme Councils.

I heard an interesting discussion among some Masons a few days ago about the way Masonry "works," about how Masonic authority and structure function. Some suggested Masonry works from the top down, others that it works from the bottom up.

I believe it works differently.

Masonry is like a magnet, it works from pole to pole. A magnet cannot exist without both a north and south pole—the electromagnetic lines of force have to be complementary. And like a magnet, the form and structure of our Craft organize the force of individuals and of Masonic Bodies to make Masonry work. Whether we are speaking of a local Blue Lodge, a Grand Lodge, a Scottish Rite Valley or Jurisdiction, it takes leadership and fellowship, interacting dynamically, to make Masonry work. Without both—leadership as one pole and membership as the other—nothing happens.

Masonry is like a magnet in other ways, too. Magnets make other magnets. Grand Lodges charter local Lodges and constitute other Grand Lodges. Supreme Councils assist in the creation of other Supreme Councils. And, like magnets, the Lodges and Grand Lodges and Supreme Councils, once properly constituted, have an independent life of their own. A defining landmark of a Grand Lodge or Supreme Council is its absolute independence and sovereignty. Just as an adult son is independent, yet respectful, of his father, a Supreme Council is independent, yet respectful, of all regular Supreme Councils.

The distinguished Brethren attending the 42nd Conference of European Sovereign Grand Commanders meeting in Paris, France, May 6–10, 1998, paused in their deliberations to pose for this historic photograph. Ill. Henri Baranger, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, Supreme Council for France, the host of the conference, stands in the center of the group with Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°, to his left and Sovereign Grand Commander Robert O. Ralston, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, to his right.

There is no reason for us to believe that these independent magnetic forces do not work together. Consider the compass by which we determine direction. Regardless of where one finds himself on this vast globe, the needle on his compass may be said to point in a different direction and yet, unalterably, the needle on each individual compass is pointing North. In like fashion, while each individual Sovereign Masonic Body is independent of the other, the magnificent force of brotherly love points us in the direction of universal truth, the hallmark and foundation of our Fraternity.

It is the same with nations. I have heard it said that "Europe was born of history, America of freedom." History, no doubt, influenced the founding of our nation in 1776. American patriots, many of them Masons, declared our nation’s independence and cut ties with England. Clearly, the idea of liberty, more than the weight of history, formed America and led us to total sovereignty and greater maturity as a people. What was true for America then is true today, not only for peoples around the world but also for Masonic Bodies wherever dispersed.

The genius of Universal Freemasonry is that it allows this full, independent participation of members and leaders, Lodges and Grand Lodges, Supreme Councils and other Sovereign Masonic Bodies. It is a landmark, for example, that when a Mason is visiting a jurisdiction other than his home jurisdiction, he follows the rules and requirements of that Jurisdiction. He is, so to speak, an active part of that "magnet," that jurisdiction.

Each Jurisdiction is independent, each is sovereign, but each interacts with others to strengthen Masonry and benefit the individual Mason. Independent magnets, working together, create the dynamos which make the electricity that powers our great cities and isolated farmhouses. Independent Masonic units are "magnets" working together through the bonds of our Craft creating a fraternal "dynamo" which can empower Lodges and Valleys around the world.

Why is this whole topic so important? Because the underlying message is that you, as a Mason, a member of your Blue Lodge, of your Grand Lodge, and of your Scottish Rite, are an essential yet independent part of Masonry. Masonry isn’t just a matter of the highly titled few or of one Body imposing its will on another. Rather, Universal Masonry is a dynamic interaction among all Brethren working together in a common cause.

Thus, in a global sense, from North to South and East to West, the universal family of Freemasonry has, as a landmark and vital theme today, the principle of absolute sovereignty.

Be proud of your role as a Mason. You are a part of the oldest, largest, most prestigious fraternity in the world, just as much a part of it as the kings and presidents who have been members. There is no invidious distinction, no servility of one Brother to another. Every day, I see the importance of individual Masons and the difference they make in the world. As Master Masons and members of sovereign Masonic Bodies, we can all take an intense pride in the concepts of independence and integrity which are so central to our Craft. May Brethren everywhere, from pole to pole, share in this pride and participate, fully and independently, in Freemasonry.