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Here there Be Monsters

Masons come to Lodge expecting certain things. Many come for the fellowship and the comradery of being a “Brother.” Some come for the purpose of providing charity to others; some are hoping for a transformational experience, a spiritual awakening of the Mystic Tie. While all are valid reasons, some are more mainstream, and others looked at as fringe. When something is different, or not what they expect to get from freemasonry they are uncomfortable.

We should explore the known and unknown world of Freemasonry. In early days of exploration, the European explorers made maps of their travels. Areas that had yet to be explored or were unknown to them, they left blank. The mapmakers actually showed the edge of the earth, the sea just cascading into an abyss and sometimes they lettered a warning across the void: “Here there be monsters.” The unknown can be frightening and full of dangers, real and imagined.

To many Masons, Freemasonry only consists of what they know, what they have experienced and what they want, they have no desire to explore the deeper meanings of the Working Tools and Symbols of Freemasonry. The Ritual tells them what those Symbols mean, and they do not warrant further investigation, some actually think it is not masonic to attribute meanings different than those included in the lectures. They like the routine of business meetings and mediocre Ritual combined with visiting with their brethren (buddies) during the meal and voting for the Lodge to send money to some worthy cause. They roll their eyes when a less-traditional brother suggests, or worse yet, brings Masonic Education, or discusses Book Clubs or Lodges of Research. Perish the thought! They suggest that these brethren try York Rite or Scottish Rite but even there, study beyond the ritual is sporadic.

Some Brethren, like the explorers of old, choose to push beyond the boundaries of the known world, to study, to learn, to grow. When they move past the imaginary barriers, they do not fall off the face of the earth, instead they discover fertile lands (ideas) of incredible beauty and riches. They look back whence they came and see that the monsters were not before them but behind them. Not the brethren that sought to discourage them, but the real monster, “That’s the way we’ve always done things.”

The hope and dreams for the search for more light is swallowed easily by the monster,

Routine.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry

The Three Burials of Hiram

We use the “Raising” of Hiram from the grave as an allegory of Immortality. Yet, we must remember that, in our own legend (myth) Hiram was NOT raised from death, just brought out of an unhallowed grave to be buried again in hallowed ground.
Grand Master Hiram Abif was buried three times. We should look at these three burials allegorically in Freemasonry and in our own lives. How do we evolve from who we were to who we want to be?

The first burial followed the slaying of Grand Master Hiram Abif by the Lead Ruffian and his two accomplices. The murderers of Hiram represent ignorance, error and intolerance. This burial was done in horror as the Ruffians understood what they had done. This was an unexpected result; they were sure that the Grand Master would give them the Word when threatened with death. They felt that his morals and ethics matched their own; he would act out of the selfishness of saving his own life. Instead he showed true integrity, suffering the killing blow rather than betray his oath.
In a panic, the Ruffians buried him under the Rubbish of the Temple; he was placed in the discard, the stones that the builders rejected. Based on where we historically play out this portion of the Ritual, he was buried in the Northeast Corner of the Lodge, a place of partial darkness.
If we view this part of the allegory to our own lives, it is our attempt to hide our own faults and mistakes. Our first thought is of self; we are disconnected from the world and the consequences of our actions. We have Ruffians in ourselves that will do wrong, then panic to try to avoid disclosure of our own actions acting instinctively, almost animalistic. Ignorance. Error.

The second burial of Hiram Abif was an attempt at a cover-up as the Ruffians attempted to run away from their actions. They felt guilty over what they did, but not repentant. This burial was on a hill, west of Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) while it was a more proper burial, it was in unhallowed ground. His body was buried in the West, away from the light of the East. This burial was planned and done in in order to deceive and hide guilt and shame; but is still self-centered, humanistic.
Viewing this in our own lives, we recognize that we did wrong but still try to hide our mistakes. We deceive ourselves and others, trying to hide our sins. It could be symbolic of us being aware of our shortcomings and the deepness of our flaws, but refusing to acknowledge and own them. Envy. Vanity. Pride. Intolerance.
The Ruffians were discovered and called the penalties upon themselves, but only after they discovered that they could not escape judgment. In some versions, they kill themselves, in others they are killed by the Fellowcraft using the penalties of the three degrees at the order of Most Excellent King Solomon.

We cannot move past this second burial of guilt until we slay the Ruffians that exist within us. In an MSA Short Talk Bulletin from 1927, an unknown author described the Ruffians in our hearts as: Ignorance; Passion and Moral Perversity (deliberately deviating from what is good.) We must take these Ruffians outside the city and execute them. Only after we do so, can we be worthy of the third Burial.

The third burial of Grand Master Hiram Abif was completely different from those preceding it. This was a Burial with honor, celebrating a great and pious man according to his station. He was buried in a hero’s tomb with great processional led by Most Excellent King Solomon himself. A Monument was erected to tell all that this was a great man. He was placed as close to the Sanctum Sanctorum as law would permit. He was finally laid to rest in Hallowed ground. This was a burial with honor. We have left the animal and the human to strive for the Divine within Man.
This is where Masonry happens. Most Excellent King Solomon descended into the grave of a Craftsman, a common man, and he is raised from a “dead level.” Brotherly Love. Relief. Truth.
We hope for a burial that shows that we are loved and respected, as Grand Master Hiram Abif finally received. But he was gone, he knows nothing of what transpired during any of his three burials. Funerals are for the living; they allow us to show respect for the departed.
Our funeral and our burial is not our concern; we should focus on the lesson of our Grand Master Hiram Abif. He was engaged in the work of building a temple, as are we. Our temple is internal, it is built by our character using the building blocks of Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Hiram Abif was steadfast in maintaining the obligation he made to King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre; we should be just as steadfast in maintaining our obligations to our Craft, our Brethren and our Creator.

Let us live a life respected and die regretted.

Study Questions:

1. What is your first reaction when you do wrong?

2. What are the Ruffians in your life that you need to slay?

3. What virtues and characteristics do you think will help us evolve from the animalistic and humanistic?

4. Where is your focus?

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Disinterestedness

Years ago, I used to assist with the Ninth Degree of the Scottish Rite, Elu of the Nine at the Valley of Savannah Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. I was one of the Elu and we would light a candle and name one of the nine special virtues of the Degree which serve as additional weapons for the Mason: disinterestedness, courtesy, devotion, firmness, frankness, generosity, self-denial, heroism, and patriotism. I was always given “disinterestedness”; I think because it was hard to pronounce and I was the young guy that would take whatever he was given.

The Nine Elus of the Degree were those selected to search for the murderers of Hiram that represent ignorance, error and intolerance. The attributes of: disinterestedness, courtesy, devotion, firmness, frankness, generosity, self-denial, heroism, and patriotism are those that will destroy these ruffians whose goal is to destroy the best in human nature.

I recently mentioned disinterestedness in a conversation and the people I was talking to did not understand the term; many think that it means uninterested or a lack of interest. It actually means something very different. The definition is, Disinterestedness: the quality or state of being objective or impartial. Key synonyms are: fair-mindedness; impartiality; justice; neutrality; objectivity; impartialness.

In Freemasonry we celebrate disinterestedness as a key attribute of a good man and Mason. It is that attitude that we serve in the Craft and in our community; not for our own glory, but for the betterment of the Fraternity and Society.  This disinterestedness is not easy for us because it strikes at the root of our own pride and egoism.

We must always remember that one of the key goals of Freemasonry is to build in men the character of a Gentleman. Shortly after I had the conversation listed above, I read the following in Gordon S. Wood’s “Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different.”

When John Adams asked himself what a gentleman was, he answered in just these terms of a liberal arts education. “By gentlemen,” he said, “are not meant the rich or the poor, the high-born or the low-born, the industrious or the idle: but all those who have received a liberal education, an ordinary degree of erudition in liberal arts and sciences. Whether by birth they be descended from magistrates and officers of government, or from husbandmen, merchants, mechanics, or laborers; or whether they be rich or poor.”

 Disinterestedness was the most common term the founders used as a synonym for the classical conception of virtue or self-sacrifice; it better conveyed the threats from interests that virtue seemed increasingly to face in the rapidly commercializing eighteenth century. Dr. Johnson had defined disinterested as being “superior to regard of private advantage; not influenced by private profit,” and that was what the founders meant by the term.

Among the other virtues mentioned in the disinterestedness could also be looked at as a characteristic. The men who developed our Ritual in the early days of Speculative Freemasonry were the same type of men who led our Revolution against tyranny. They identified these as key characteristics of a good man and developed lessons and Rituals to help us to understand and direct our paths in the right direction to achieve the Character spelled out in these virtues.

By valuing and practicing disinterestedness, it does not mean that we are not affected by the results of our work. Nor does it mean that complacency should creep into our actions or that we should not act to improve the outcomes of our efforts. It means that we should not do this work for our own glory, but for the glory of the GAOTU, the craft and Society as a whole.

Study Questions:

  1. Does this statement ring true in your life?

“Be disinterested; that is what really matters.”

  1. Do you agree with this statement?

“Disinterestedness is essential in the pursuit of knowledge”

  1. When you achieve a position, do you accept because of the rewards you expect or do you consider only how you can advance the organization and your fellow man?
  2. Do you pursue knowledge without an agenda, without any bias towards the knowledge you pursue?

 

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Brethren, Attend Lodge Prayer

According to the Masonic Manual of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, “The labors and duties of the lodge must begin and end with prayer. The brethren cannot be too often reminded of their dependence on the Grand Architect of the Universe for every blessing they enjoy.” This reminds us that the Lodge Room is a sacred place and should be respected as such. When we enter the Lodge while it is at Labor, we are symbolically entering the Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum, of Solomon’s Temple. That space was built to be the residence of God on earth. If you cannot internalize and understand this symbol, I wonder if you can truly understand any of the symbols of Freemasonry.

In the Masonic Manual, there are two versions of opening and closing prayers. Most Lodges use the shorter of the two for each, I find this disheartening. We are so interested in shortening our time in Lodge that we use the shorter version that is not nearly as rich in praise and supplications to our Creator.

The opening prayer which should be used is this:

Most holy and glorious Lord God, the great Architect of the Universe, the giver of all good gifts and graces, in Thy name we have assembled and in Thy name we desire to proceed in all our doings. Grant that the sublime principles of Freemasonry may so subdue every discordant passion within us, so harmonize and enrich our hearts with Thine own love and goodness, that the Lodge at this time may humbly reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before Thy throne! Amen! Response: So mote it be!

In this prayer we acknowledge that God is the Creator and the giver of all that is good; we state that we are meeting in His name. Think a minute about what that means, everything we do or say while in lodge assembled is done or said in His name and should be uplifting to each other, society and should glorify Him. Do we live up to this? Do we even try?

We pray that the “sublime principles of Freemasonry” should soften our hearts and minds and allow us to be in complete harmony with our Brethren. When we say the sublime principles of Freemasonry, when we call the Master Mason Degree the sublime degree, we are saying that Freemasonry is of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth. Our Lodge is to be a reflection of Heaven itself. Although this is a corporate prayer, we make it personal and accept it as our own when we respond, “So Mote It Be” we are agreeing and declaring it our personal prayer.

Note that the alternate version does not do nearly as well at putting us in the mood of reverence as the longer prayer:

Supreme Ruler of the Universe, we would reverently invoke Thy blessing at this time. Wilt Thou be pleased to grant that this meeting, thus begun in order, may be conducted in peace and closed in harmony! Amen! Response: So mote it be!

Consider well the atmosphere that you want to create as you open the Lodge as a sacred place of worship.

The closing prayer is equally reverent as the opening prayer; it addresses our interactions while in lodge and our obligations to each other and the world while outside of the lodge.

Supreme Architect of the Universe, accept our humble praises for the many mercies and blessings which Thy bounty has conferred upon us, and especially for this friendly and social intercourse. Pardon, we beseech Thee, whatever Thou hast seen amiss in us since we have been together, and continue unto us Thy presence, protection and blessing. Make us sensible of the renewed obligations we are under: to love Thee supremely and to be friendly to each other. May all our irregular passions be subdued and may we daily increase in Faith, Hope and Charity, but more especially in that charity which is the bond of peace and the perfection of every virtue. Wilt thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may so practice. Amen! Response: So mote it be!

We start out thanking Him that for his mercy and for the blessings he has bestowed on us. We then thank him for allowing us to meet together as Masons and friends. We should remember to always acknowledge what He has allowed us to do and what we do through Him. We should thank him for each other; our Brethren are a blessing to us. We ask for forgiveness for anything we may have said or done that does not lift each other up nor glorify Him. Our prayer is that we remain under His care and protection.

We are reminded that we renew our obligations to Him and to each other every time we open and close the Lodge. We pray for help in subduing our irregular passions and increasing in Faith, Hope and Charity. We hope to demonstrate virtue with the aid of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, to put aside the imperfections that are inherent in Man. We are not trying to suppress all of our passions, just our irregular passions. Some passions are to be desired: bravery; study; music; faith, etc. Irregular passions are when we let our passions (anger, lust, envy, greed, etc.) overcome us and we act outside of laws rules or customs of our Craft or society in general. We need Him to influence our hearts and minds to meet this goal. We should take the sacredness of the Lodge room to the world so that they can get a glimpse of the Divine.

The shorter version also calls on Him to help us to practice the tenets of our Craft outside the Lodge. It reminds us that we are to learn great moral duties and that we should revere the Word of God and study and obey His laws.

Supreme Grand Master, Ruler of Heaven and Earth: Now that we are about to separate and return to our respective places of abode, wilt Thou be pleased so to influence our hearts and minds that we may each practice out of the Lodge those great moral duties which are taught in it; and, with reverence, study and obey the laws which Thou hast given us in Thy Holy Word. Amen! Response: So mote it be!

Let us never forget that we should always turn to Him before we enter into any great or important undertaking; like getting out of bed, going to work, dealing with our family, driving our car, shopping for groceries or attending Lodge. In everything we do, let us try to reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before the throne of God.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Freemasonry is Alive

In the Army we had a writing style that said put the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). In keeping with that philosophy; I do not believe that Freemasonry is dying. To paraphrase Brother Samuel Langhorne Clemons (Mark Twain):

The report of Freemasonry’s death is an exaggeration.

I have read with interest many articles, blog posts and emails describing the imminent demise of Freemasonry. Some say that Freemasonry will be dead in 20 years, other say we are already dead and we just have not realized it yet. Many of these writings have impressive analytics, showing us the raw numbers and the percentages of membership, I admit that it is hard to argue with the logic in the numbers presented. I will say that, while Logic is part of the Trivium(1) and one of the Liberal Arts and Sciences which we are called to study, Logic alone is not what is required to evaluate our Fraternity. Freemasonry is not just of the head, but also of the heart. The benefits of membership in the Masonic Order cannot be listed as finite items; I believe that our Craft reaches into the infinity of our thoughts, our ethics, our behavior, our spirit. The three Masonic Initiations are meant to fundamentally change us, to allow us to better understand ourselves and our place in the cosmos. The uninitiated (and some of our Brethren) can look at the Compasses and say that they are used to draw circles and arcs and can be used to measure distances on maps. The initiated should look at the Compasses and consider how to use them to circumscribe our desires and put boundaries on our passions. But we should not stop there, we can consider other uses for this tool, which is but a symbol for us to interpret. As I stated earlier, we move into the infinite when we consider the symbols and words in Freemasonry.

Taken logically, Freemasonry is in trouble based on these well-researched analytics. Our numbers are in steady decline from the days of high membership numbers in the 1950s. I have long stated that this should not be our benchmark, it was an artificial increase based on men returning from World War II and longing for the bonds of brotherhood that they felt with those men that fought alongside them to defeat tyranny. They were interested in the fellowship, the comradery, the feeling of “belonging” that they had felt in their military units. (2)  If we need to compare ourselves to previous generations, we should compare ourselves to the late 1800s to the early 1900s; a period of serious Masonic Scholarship. Why? Because most men I know that have entered the Fraternity in the last few years are looking for the kind of Freemasonry that it seems was practiced in those days of old. We want the scholarship and research; we want the communications that they had in the many Masonic publications like The Builder Magazine. Many of the articles I mentioned earlier state that the true decline is not due to deaths, but men leaving the Fraternity through Demits and Non-Payment of Dues. They quit. Even in my own lodge, the losses we posted this year were due to a Demit and a withdrawal of Dual Membership. Why are men that showed enough interest and curiosity about the Craft to find a Mason, request a petition, endure investigation, travel once, twice, thrice about the Lodge and learn and pass the three catechisms leaving in droves? Because Freemasonry was not what they expected. Now, some of them may have had grandiose expectations, but most were just disappointed that we hold boring meetings that do nothing to help them become better men or answer any of the mysteries of the universe. Change is needed.

But what should we change? Should we follow the advice of those who say Freemasonry is too easy, too cheap and too informal? Do we establish Dues that are more than are required to pay our bills, just to show the importance of the Craft? Do we wear tuxedos and gloves and square our corners during Ritual? Do we elect the same Brother as Worshipful Master for ten years in a row because we are convinced that he is the only one that can lead our lodge? Or do we say that dressing for Lodge is elitist and asking men to dress properly (Jacket and tie) for Lodge will drive men away? In my opinion, the statement that “it is the internal not the external,” is not describing our clothing but our positions outside the Fraternity. It means that a tradesman is the same as a Banker in the eyes of Freemasonry. It does not mean that I should accept polo shirts and jeans in a Masonic Lodge meeting. But I digress. Does it mean that we accept mediocrity in our Ritual and have fund raisers to pay our bills to keep dues down?

Actually it means different things to different Lodges. A Lodge is a group of Masons operating under a Charter granted by a Grand Lodge. It is not the building. Therefore, a Lodge of Masons should reflect the wants and needs of the men associated with it, within the precepts of Freemasonry’s Ancient Landmarks. If you are not comfortable with your Lodge you need to determine if it is them or you. Meaning, is there a greater number that think that you should focus more on Education than other aspects of the Craft? If you are a lone wolf, perhaps you should find a Lodge that is more in line with your needs; do not just cut and run. If you find you are in the majority, make effective changes to move in the direction that the majority wants to go. I do not mean that you leave behind those that have different needs, but the focus of the Lodge should be that of the majority, not a vocal minority. I am not in the camp of thinking that Lodges need to close or consolidate. If I am not a member, I try not to form opinions, and if I do, I keep them to myself. I do not judge the work of a Lodge; it is not my place. If someone asks my opinion, or my help, I give it in private.

I try to look out for my Lodges, meaning the Brethren within. In my three Lodges Masonry is alive and well. I am very involved in two of them, distance keeps me away from my Mother Lodge, but I keep in touch and I know what they are doing. I try to support, teach, mentor, learn from my Brethren.  As long as I am alive, Freemasonry will be alive. While one of my Lodges is small and we do not have a lot of active members, we are doing Masonry. When I learn from my Brethren, Masonry is alive. When I teach them, Masonry is alive. When I see my Brethren growing in Freemasonry and in life, Masonry is alive. I see Freemasonry growing all the time, in the lives of the members of my Lodge. They are growing in their knowledge of the Craft, and as this knowledge increases, so does their thirst for more!

Freemasonry is not dying. We have challenges, but Freemasonry is alive.

 

  1. William Arnold, The Trivium & Quadrivium or 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences, http://suffolkmasons.com/the-trivium-quadrivium/
  2. Brian Coffey, “We” Can Get Things Done, 11/24/2018, https://parkinglotmason.wordpress.com/2018/11/24/we-can-get-things-done/
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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

“We” Can Get Things Done

Older Masons and Past Masters often tell younger Masons who seek Education and Philosophical enlightenment in Freemasonry that “that is not Freemasonry.” They say that Freemasonry is about Charity and Fellowship. As a steady reader of Masonic literature and the Librarian of a decent Lodge Library, I have searched for books that describe Freemasonry as a Charity or a Social Club. Oddly, I cannot find books covering these topics. As far as I can find, no one published a book on the importance of reading Minutes, supporting non-Masonic charities, giving blood or identifying children. At this point, I am expected to say that these are all either necessary or good endeavors, and I will not disagree; but they are not Freemasonry.

The books I find, both old and new, discuss Masonic Philosophy; History; Leadership; as well as Symbolism and Ritual. These books range in topic from Masonic History, Etiquette, Leadership, Morality and Philosophy. Many of these books are in our library and can be purchased through the normal booksellers; many are actually free downloads on the internet. With this unprecedented access to materials, it is astounding that we still have a general ignorance of the history and purpose of our Craft. Some of this I attribute to the general stasis of our organization; the inability to consider that beyond which we were taught by our Mentors in the Fraternity. Our lectures are ripe with symbolism, philosophy and morality; and in them, we are charged to look deeper and learn more. We do not actively promote this learning and make it a lifelong process within our Masonic Halls and Lodge
Rooms.

My theory on how we arrived at our current situation runs counter to conventional wisdom which looks at the post-World War II membership spike as the greatest period of Freemasonry in America based on the numbers alone. I feel that this rapid increase in membership did great harm to the true tenets of our Fraternity. These great men that fought and won WWII came back to civilian life and longed for the bonds of brotherhood that they felt with those men that fought alongside them to defeat tyranny. Many of them turned to the various Fraternal organizations to try to make these connections: Moose; Elks; Knights of Columbus; and of course the Freemasons. They were interested in the fellowship, the comradery, the feeling of “belonging” that they had felt in their military units. Many of them were not interested in the esoteric meanings behind our symbols and philosophy. It is not so much that they rejected them, many of them just gave them no thought past the Ritual and felt that their needs were met in the Organization and the fellowship it offered. When they became the elder leadership, they mentored new members in the Freemasonry that they knew and loved; fellowship, charity and strict organization.

Then came the 1960s and the young men of that generation rejected the ideas and morality of their fathers. Rebellion and the feel-good culture caused many to drop-out or never join the “establishment” organizations of previous generations. The generational gap lasted for decades. I am in my 50’s and there are very few in my age group in Freemasonry; or they came to the Craft late in life. This caused there to be a gap in new leadership with new ideas, the old guard had to keep the fires burning. Don’t get me wrong, I am not negative about these brethren, I thank them for keeping the spark of Freemasonry alive until I and a new generation could emerge from the darkness in search of Light. I need these brethren to teach me what it means to be a friend and a brother; I can learn a lot about fellowship from them, as well as the strict rules of the Ritual and procedures of conducting a Lodge meeting.

The newer generation of Freemasons is looking for more than fellowship. We are looking for the Light of Freemasonry; the philosophies; moral instruction and life-changing knowledge hidden in our Symbols that will help us to become better men. We are not here for Minutes, rote repetition and arguing about dues. Most younger Masons are not put-off by higher dues as some older members might be, we realize that we should pay our bills without having a fund-raiser. Most of us came to the Craft out of curiosity, but it is an informed curiosity. As I mentioned earlier there is a treasure-trove of Masonic books and Articles in the public domain and for purchase, and Freemasonry has been featured positively in some recent fiction books and movies. Younger Petitioners have read about Freemasonry prior to ever asking for a Petition; they have expectations about Freemasonry as an educational and growth organization that will help them become better men. When they come to us and complete their initiatory degree, they are often disappointed in the lack of Masonic discussion, education, learning and Mentoring. If they do not just leave, they are often told that their ideas are not Freemasonry and not necessary. The elder leaders of their Lodges are the very ones that kept the spark of Freemasonry alive, but now they try to keep it a spark, rather than let the younger generation build it into a blaze to light the way for the Brethren.

As a kind of intermediary between the elder and younger masons, due to my length in the craft and my still relatively young age, I often see something I think should be done and I just do it. I inform, but do not ask for permission, I request support, but do not wait for it to show up. I can do this because I have put in my time in the Quarries; I have done the work and I continue to do whatever my Lodge and Brethren require of me. I do not worry about what “They” will say. To my younger brethren, I know you have heard: “They” won’t let you do that; “They” say that is not Freemasonry.

No one ever admits to being “They.”

I charge you to become the WE. “We” are going to conduct Masonic Education. “We” are going to show respect to our Lodge, our Worshipful Master and our Brethren. “We” will Mentor our new Brethren. “We” will guard our West Gate.

We should not do this in an adversarial way, we need and love our elder brethren; work with them to do things a little differently. Demonstrate your ideas before you try to implement them. Volunteer to be a Coach or a Mentor, show the new brothers that you care and teach them what you wish had been taught to you. If you do the work, you will gain the respect and will be able to positively affect the Lodge experience. Masonry is work: do the work.

“We” can get things done.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Book Review – The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation

The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, by Robert Lomas, San Francisco, CA, Weiser Books, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781578634903.

Robert Lomas’ book, The Secret Science of Masonic Initiation, explores the more esoteric aspects of Masonic Initiation and delves into the use of Freemasonry to teach the ancient Mysteries. He believes that, if truly understood, the Masonic Initiation is a transformative experience. Not just in the sense of “making a good man better” but in a physical and physiological sense. Lomas argues that Masonic Initiation, being tied to the ancient Mysteries, actually transforms us spiritually and intellectually into a different stream of consciousness from normal men. He states that the greatest men of all ages that have worked for the advancement of mankind have been initiates of the ancient Mysteries. These ancient Mysteries can be seen in the rites and legends of the Ancient Egyptians, the Phoenicians and all of the major religions of the world which have had their secret initiatic orders, apart from their public religion.

While I found this book interesting, I kept wondering why my Initiations into Freemasonry had not had the major transformative effect on me that Lomas describes. I guess I am just “not there” yet. I do not fully agree with his description of the esoteric side of the degrees, but I do agree that Freemasonry can be transformative. Perhaps as I conduct further research and study I can get closer to Lomas’ views on our initiations and their true purpose. I will say that I have read other, similar, books since I read this one; books such as Hall’s The Lost Keys of Freemasonry and             Steinmetz’s book, Freemasonry – Its Hidden Meaning, which discuss the same theories as Lomas, but with a slightly different take on the process of initiation. I would suggest reading Lomas’ book, but I think it would have been better to start with Steinmetz, Hall, Wilmshurt and then move to Lomas; perhaps then I would have been more ready and attuned to his message.

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Book Review – The Lost Keys of Freemasonry

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry: Or, The Secret of Hiram Abiff, by Manly P. Hall

N.Y. New York, Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 2006. Pages: 352. ISBN-13: 9781585425105

 

The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, by Manly P. Hall seeks to tie the modern Masonic Initiations to the Ancient Mysteries of the Egyptians, Persians and other ancient civilizations. According to Mr. Hall, Freemasonry is the continuation of the Ancient Mysteries. It is esoteric in nature; the exoteric only serves to point us towards the esoteric. All of the world’s great religions of the past (and present) have had Mystery Schools in which certain deserving individuals gained deeper knowledge and insight to their specific creed. Hall tells us that these are all interrelated and point to the same Light; the one true God, The Creator and Builder.

To bring a little light to the subject; Exoteric refers to knowledge that is outside of, and independent from, a person’s experience and is capable of being ascertained by anyone. Esoteric, on the other hand, refers to knowledge that is understood by, or meant for, only the select few who have special knowledge or interest, intended to be revealed only to the initiates of a group. Within Freemasonry, we are already a select few, those that have chosen, and been accepted into our ancient order, removed from the “profane” the non-initiated. But we can go farther, most Freemasons never get past the Exoteric meaning of our symbols and rituals. Hall describes how we can go beyond the surface to break free of the prison of our own making and discover the true transcendent nature of the Craft. The true Initiate (candidate) should be one who realizes that there is life and liberty available through reason and logic and the application of true thought turned toward that light that dimly shines within his self. Many of us may never delve into the esoteric meanings of our ritual, for those that do not this may be, as Hall says, “To the rest of their brethren within or without the lodge their sacred rituals must remain, as Shakespeare might have said, ‘Words, words, words.’ (Hall 2006, 66)

The basis of this study is that the spirit of life in Man is killed by three ruffians; thought, desire and action (perverted thought, uncurbed emotions, and destructive action.) When perverted they form a prison, when purified, they are the most glorious powers for good in the world. “These three form the Flaming Triangle which glorifies every living Mason, but when crystallized and perverted they form a triangular prison through which the light cannot shine and the Life is forced to languish in the dim darkness of despair, until man himself through his higher understanding liberates the energies and powers which are indeed the builders and glorifiers of his Father’s House.” (Hall 2006, 38)

I found this book very interesting and compelling. Hall’s writing moves easily through very complex ideas and theory of the basis of modern Freemasonry. Hall takes us through the deeper meanings of the legend of Hiram Abiff and ties it into the Ancient Mysteries that have captured Man’s attention for all of recorded history. His graduated steps from the Candidate to the Qualifications of a True Mason are rife with great examples of how we should conduct ourselves as men and Freemasons. Even if you do not buy into the transcendent nature of our ritual, there are lessons to be learned. In one of our lectures we mention “light added to the coming light;” The Lost Keys of Freemasonry by Manly P. Hall is definitely light added to the light already received. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to get a glimpse of what Freemasonry can be if we open our minds, spirits and consciences to the Light.

“Truth is not lost, yet it must be sought for and found.” (Hall 2006, 14)

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

What are the Duties of a Lodge to the Brethren?

I recently posted an article by Vincent Lombardo from the QSA Members Forum for Masonic Research entitled, “What are the Duties of a Mason to his Lodge?”. I went back and noted that their site allows copy for personal use and study, but not for printed reproduction. I deleted my post, by you can read the original work by Brother Lombardo here: http://www.freemasonryresearchforumqsa.com/duties-of-a-mason-to-his-lodge.php.

Regarding the subject of this post, “What are the Duties of a Lodge to the Brethren?”, I believe it would take a library of writings to fully expound on this subject, so I will cover a few things in this post and possibly others in the future.

First, let us identify what we mean by “a Lodge.” The Lodge is not the building; it is the Brethren. Freemasons meet as a Lodge not in a Lodge, although Masonic premises may be called Lodges, in days gone by you will note that the Minutes of most Lodges state that a Lodge of Master Masons met in the Masonic Hall, not Lodge. So we are talking here about what the group of Brothers that make up a Lodge owe to each other.

The first thing that we owe a Brother is to properly investigate all applicants. This may sound odd, but we owe it to all of our Brothers to know the quality of the men that want to join our Fraternity. Remember, when he takes the threefold Obligations, we are obligating ourselves to him as much as he is obligating himself to us and the Craft. We have a right and more importantly, a duty to allow only good men into Freemasonry. We have a tradition of being a society that meets and teaches virtuous standards and we expect that to continue. We have the responsibility to investigate whether a man’s past behavior violates the virtuous standards inculcated in our traditions. We also have the responsibility to tell the petitioner that this will be expected of him.

Secondly, we must educate not just the petitioner and candidate, but all Brothers about the standards that are expected of a Freemason. Freemasonry is a lifestyle and philosophy that is meant to help a man subdue his passions and improve himself. He is to use the lessons of the Craft to learn to make these improvements. The core of these lessons is virtue. The Brother should receive encouragement to assess himself and his behavior and lessons and examples to allow him to learn and grow. The Lodge exists to support each Brother and hold him accountable to work towards this growth and learning; to support him in his Journey.

Third, the Lodge is responsible to track the Brother’s progress in his corporate and self-education in Masonic Principles and his actions. If there are lapses, struggles or outright problems, the Lodge is responsible to help, aid and assist the Brother in his growth. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable, it can require a discreet whisper of counsel and comfort in his ear. Sometimes the approaching danger can be due to his own actions. If the Lodge is truly a Brotherhood; we must be there to support our Brother as he struggles with the passions that infest the hearts of men. These struggles are personal, but we can help the Brother through an attentive ear and, hopefully through our example.

I know that none of us is perfect; sometimes the Brother that needs these lessons is me. If we are to maintain the virtue of our beloved Craft, we need to do this work in the quarries to try to perfect our Ashlars and to teach others the lessons that will help them to do the same.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

“…and to improve myself in Freemasonry.”
Adapted by Brian C. Coffey from “Continuous Improvement” by Tim Bryce
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Reprinted and modified with the author’s permission.

I start with this truth: the responsibility for improving yourself in Freemasonry rests with you, not your Brethren. Your Lodge may offer Education but more than anything you are responsible for your development, not anyone else. You must take the initiative. Often, your Lodge will assist you in your development, but you must show your willingness to learn and improve.

Regardless of your “age” as a Mason, your perceptions of the Craft will change over time. This is because as you mature, your needs change and perceptions change; what was vital 10 years ago is now routine and you have moved to other areas where you need self-improvement. Improvement is a normal part of growth. You must either evolve and adapt, or be left behind.

There are numerous sources available to you for ongoing Masonic development:

1. Personal Observations – There is probably no better instructor than your own power of observation as you will be able to watch others succeed and fail in their positions in the Lodge and other Masonic Appendant and Concordant Bodies, their work habits and ethics, as well as their interactions with others. This requires an attention to detail, the ability to detect changes, and an inquisitive mind that constantly asks “Why?”
When studying people, consider their strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them, their character, and their formulas for success or failure, e.g., what worked and what didn’t? Never hesitate to ask questions, particularly as a new Mason.

2. Masonic Journals and Magazines – Just about every Masonic body has some form of publication, either printed or in some electronic format, to report news and discuss trends. These are invaluable in order to stay abreast of what is going on in your organization.

There is also considerable information made freely available to you over the Internet, such as the Grand Lodge web sites, along with pertinent blogs, discussion groups, and podcasts. Use discernment to determine if the information is accurate, if you have questions ask a well-informed Brother for help.

The important point here is that you should develop a habit of staying current. It also helps to associate with Masons from outside your Jurisdiction to gain different perspectives, understanding that the rules of your Jurisdiction are your Law.

3. Lodge Education – Your Lodge should have Masonic Education sessions at each Regular Lodge Meeting. The Worshipful Master is charged to “set the Craft at Labor under good and wholesome direction or cause the same to be done.” If your Lodge is not conducting Education, work with your Worshipful Master to institute it; teach it yourself if necessary. You will grow by the research and study to present topics to others.

4. Participation in Research Lodges and Masonic Study Clubs – Most Jurisdictions have Research Lodges that delve deeper into the philosophical, esoteric areas of Freemasonry. If there is no Masonic Study Club in your area, start one. Such groups typically offer its members monthly/quarterly meetings to listen to guest speakers, workshops and seminars, and access to a library of research papers. More importantly, it provides a venue for its members to network and compare notes pertaining to their Masonic journey. Participation in such groups is a great way to support your continuing education.

5. Visit – Travel to other Lodges in your area, visit Lodges in other Jurisdictions. Meet your Brothers that you do not know; your life will be enriched. Find those things in other Lodges that you can use to enhance your own. The Craft grows stronger, as a whole, through the free flow of ideas and the exchange of practices.

6. Leadership Training – The Georgia Masonic Leadership Conference is an excellent instructor-led workshop held annually under the auspices of the Masonic Education and Leadership Development (MELD) Committee of the Grand Lodge. It is open to Senior and Junior Wardens and Senior Deacons to help them prepare for the possibility of leading their Lodge as Worshipful Master.

7. Certification Programs – The Masonic Education and Leadership Development Committee has six self-study Certification courses: Georgia Masonic Code; Georgia Masonic History; Masonic Etiquette; Georgia Masonic Manual; Symbolism of the Three Degrees; Masonic Rules of Order. They also offer Instructor led Certification courses: Masters and Wardens Workshop; Deacons and Stewards Workshop; Masonic Investigation; Masonic Mentor.

These programs train you and authenticate your level of knowledge in a subject area. As a new Mason, you should pursue these programs. Not only will you personally benefit from it, but it could greatly benefit your Lodge and Brethren as well.

8. Mentors – In the Grand Lodge of Georgia, we are required to assign mentors to Masons chaperone them on their journey through the Degrees and beyond. According to the Georgia Masonic Mentor Manual, a Mentor is “’a wise and faithful adviser, friend or teacher.’ In the old operative Lodges of Scotland, the officer entrusted with the task of instructing the new apprentices bore the title of Intender. It was his duty to intend, increase and intensify the knowledge of the new Craftsman. The Mentor, in our present system, will seek to expand and intensify the Masonic instruction imparted by the ritual, adding many other points which will enlarge the new brother’s understanding of Freemasonry and its relationship to life in this twentieth century.” I know that this program has not been properly executed in many of our Lodges, or for us as we began our Masonic journey’s, but the Grand Lodge feels strongly enough about it to include it in our Masonic Code.

A mentor has three primary duties to perform:

Role Model – a mentor has attributes the subordinate wants to aspire to attain.
Teacher – a mentor has to be able to teach, not just academic or technical lessons but also those pertaining to Masonic life; e.g., etiquette, ethics, history, organization, etc.
Guidance Counselor – to guide the new Mason on their journey through their Masonic life.

Very importantly, both the mentor and the new Mason must realize the mentor will not have all of the answers, but should be able to point the Brother in the right direction to get the answers they need. The mentor also has to know when their work is complete and they can move more to the role of Brother than Mentor, but in Freemasonry Mentorship should be for life.

9. Other Vehicles – there are a variety of other ways for perpetuating development in your Lodge:
Member education or roundtable discussions – held on a regularly scheduled basis to discuss pertinent subjects. In other words, your own in-house study group. The only problems here are: scheduling (we are all very busy), and getting people to participate (many of whom will not attend outside of Regular Lodge meetings.) But if you can develop such a forum, it can become invaluable as a learning aid.
Private Blog or Discussion Group – to use as a clearinghouse to discuss your journey and learn from the journeys of others.

Again I remind you, your improvement is up to YOU, not your Lodge. In most cases, your Lodge will encourage and support you in your self-improvement, but they cannot spoon-feed you. YOU must show the initiative. To quote my Senior Warden, Brother Jerry Wood, “The process isn’t just about YOU changing YOURSELF. If you have a real and genuine interest in Freemasonry, you will inevitably change your Lodge, your mentor(s), and your Brethren for the better, too. Learning is reciprocal; it’s a two-way street. When we set out to learn, invariably, we also teach through the process.”


The Author, Tim Bryce, is a writer and management consultant who writes commentaries about the times we live in be it in the corporate world, the Masonic world, or our personal lives. His writings are well known on the Internet and are humorous, educational, and at times controversial. You won’t always agree with him, but Tim will definitely get you thinking. For more of Tim’s columns, see timbryce.com

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