Absolute Power

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Power corrupts. Absolute power, they say, corrupts absolutely. We in Freemasonry, however, elect men to whom we then hand absolute… well, nearly absolute power. Apparently, that's the way we like it.

Not long ago I had dinner with a Brother who was indignant at the fact a Grand Master had expelled an officer out of the Grand Line, "He can't do that!"

What do you mean he can't do that? He's the Grand Master. I'm not a bylaws expert but I believe he was well within his rights to do it. The expelled member, in fact, was appointed, not elected. I then gave the Brother a couple examples I've seen where a Grand Master and a Master of the Lodge of Research each had expelled elected line officers. We actually had one Grand Master who said no Lodge could have its own website and ordered all of them taken down. Can't do that? Of course they can. And do.

Absolute power — it's practically an aphrodisiac. You've been Master of your Lodge? You've had it, felt it, embraced it. Some use it wisely; some abuse it. Still, face the facts, we as Freemasons elect a benevolent (we hope) dictator.

When I was Master of my Lodge I tried to be reasonable as I swam in the seductive waters of absolute power. Oh, I made an "executive decision" now and then but all-in-all I think I controlled myself. Well, I controlled myself until…

...Monday, September 20, 2004. It was a week before Grand Lodge and three weeks before my final meeting as Master. I had practically the entire year behind me. I had wielded absolute power with a gentle hand but its siren song now called louder and louder. I was Clark Kent wanting to jump into a phone booth and become Superman. I was Thor unable to resist the pent-up urge to hurl thunderbolts. I was me, crazed, wide-eyed and drooling, ready to unleash my venom on the innocent, unsuspecting world of my Brothers.

"I'm going to do it," I told myself, resigned to the criticism that would surely follow. Who cares… I'm the Master, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, the Hulk, all rolled into one. I can do what I want. Damn the torpedoes, full-speed-ahead.

The unremarkable meeting neared its end. Business over, the Brothers sat on the sidelines ready for the standard closing. My next line, "Brother Senior Warden," which would set things in motion, never came.

Instead, I stood and rapped my gavel on the podium three times. The Brothers rose from their seats. I turned to my left, "Brother Chaplain, you will lead us in prayer."

The Chaplain was a little rattled. "What prayer," he whispered.

"The closing prayer."

"Supreme Architect of the Universe," he began and then ended with his usual flourish.

Then, awash in the intoxicating flood of absolute power, completely within my rights to do so, I skipped all other closing ceremonies, "Brethren, by the power vested in me as its Worshipful Master, I declare Liberty Lodge number 31 duly closed!" By God, I'm the Master. I have the authority. I can do it that way, and I did it. Live with it.

I gave a single rap of the gavel and waited for the onslaught of criticism that was about to come. I was ready. Give me your best shot.
Sometimes, in the ebb and flow of events, things don't happen exactly as we expect. Some call this "the law of unintended consequences." The thing is we usually think of that law implying a negative outcome where a positive outcome is expected.

Well, something unexpected happened here, but it was the opposite. I truly had expected a negative outcome. Instead, the entire Lodge erupted in cheers. Although the Brothers were already standing, I think it counted as a standing ovation.

Who knew giving in to the allure of absolute power could make a guy so popular? Or maybe they were just happy they could get to that second helping of dessert a little sooner. So mote it be.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

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