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Gratitude

At the 235th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Georgia on October 27th, 2021, MWPGM Clyde E. Griffin Installed Donald C. Combs as the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Georgia. During the Installation, MWB Griffin repeated a Charge to the incoming Grand Master that included this phrase: “Duty, honor and gratitude now bind you to be faithful to your trust.”


My gratitude goes further; I am grateful to those men, Brothers and Mentors that have helped me grow in the Craft. From coaches to Lodge Officers, to wise men on the sidelines, they continued to invest in a fertile mind and willing spirit to help mold me into the man and Mason that I want to be. This journey is not complete and will never be complete. I have learned from older Masons, younger Masons, even from candidates asking the question that makes me delve deeper into the mystic art and my own beliefs to provide an answer.


I was recently honored to be elected to the 33° in the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Not only that, but I was the Exemplar at the Degree for the Orient of Georgia. My gratitude knows no bounds. As I entered the auditorium, I noted that the room was full of Brothers each of whom I hold in great esteem. All of these men that have achieved great success in our Fraternity were gathered there and many had studied and practiced in order to be able to confer the most remarkable degree I have ever experienced. They were there for me and my fellow candidates. How could we not be grateful?


We are bound to our Craft, our Lodge, our Brethren by the gratitude that should inspire us to do the one thing that is required of us: Do the Work.

Most Worshipful Grand Master Donald C. Combs is one of those that does the work.

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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

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

Active Thinking in Freemasonry

When I was in the Army, I attended training to learn to be a Cryptanalyst; one who decrypts encrypted information. I saw a picture of William and Elizabeth Friedman and their team that broke the Japanese code “Purple” during World War II. On the wall behind them was a sign that simply said “Think.” This always struck me; whatever we are engaged in, we should think. I can’t say that I have always lived up to this, but I try and it has helped me in my vocations and avocations. Sometimes my thinking got me in trouble, I used to think of ways to blow my boss’s plan out of the water, I always told him that it was to help him build a better plan; but sometimes it was just to be a jerk.

I like to bring this level of thinking into my Freemasonry as well. I try to think about why we do certain things; this has led to moments I like to call, “Oh wow.” When something finally makes sense, you finally ‘get it.’ We are told that Freemasonry is “a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” We can never fully understand the lessons embodied in these symbols and allegories, if we do not think about their meaning. The most fascinating and well-balanced Masons I know all have one thing in common: they think about Freemasonry. They do not just hear the words of the Ritual and wonder how long the meeting will last. They ponder the meaning of the words that are spoken. They use Active Thinking to make their Masonic experience more meaningful.

Our thinking is either Active or Passive.  Passive thinking goes on without much effort; in Freemasonry, the ‘familiar’ does not require thought…we know the ritual. Our memories aid us in letting these lessons pass by us without giving them much thought. We go through our meetings in a fog, perking up only when someone gets the words wrong, and then we pay attention. We wait, almost eagerly for the business portion of the meeting, even though that is not why we are there and we complain about it taking too long. We can learn by Passively listening to a lecture, the repetition can help us to ‘remember’ maybe even ‘understand’ but it will not help us with higher level skills, applying what we have heard or learned. We can even look at learning our catechism for Proficiency as Passive Thinking; while we had to memorize the words spoken, we did not necessarily actively think about the meaning of these words. We accept whatever we hear, our goal is to memorize answers. What do we have to know to pass proficiency? Catechism = brain dump.

Active Thinking involves questions. What does the Ritual mean? What is the goal of the lessons inculcated in the three degrees? How does this information guide me in transforming myself into a better man? How might I use this information in the future? Active thinking is a form of critical thinking. It is analyzing information that is being projected to the individual by external stimuli. This is much deeper than passive thought. Rather than letting something pass by unexamined, sent to the subconscious, Active Thinking permits us to analyze the thought or situation. The result is that we truly understand ourselves and our ritual.

I challenge you to listen critically to the Ritual; think about the things said. Ask why, ask what, and think about what things mean. What lessons should we learn from the Three Great Lights?  What is the meaning of our Working Tools, why do we do the things we do? Once you have learned to do this and subsequently learned the lessons of our Craft, you can continue to build the structure you began when you stood in the Northeast Corner of the Lodge as the youngest Entered Apprentice Mason. When you have taken the time to ponder the Ritual and the meaning of all we do, you can sometimes rest from your labors. Sit back and let the words of the Ritual wash over you without thinking about their meaning, you don’t need to think, you will know.

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Freemason, Masonic, Masonry, Scottish Rite

Members or Masons?

One day classes, rushing through degrees, no mentoring program; it seems like modern Freemasonry is dedicated on getting as many men in the Fraternity as possible, not just the best men that are willing and capable of understanding the true philosophy of the Craft and our Rituals. When a man petitions a Lodge, do we ensure he understands that this is not a “men’s club?’ Do we sit down with him and answer his questions? His wife’s questions? Do we at least give him the Pre-Initiation book from the Lodge System of Masonic Education? I know that many consider the term Masonic Education to mean stale, boring talks about a portion of the ritual read in monotone in a Lodge Meeting. Masonic Education begins with the Brother that answers the question, “What does it take to become a Mason?” Our entire reason for existing as an organization is to educate men to become Masons. We do this through a series of three Initiations.

Are we truly educating a candidate if he is Initiated, Passed two weeks later and Raised to “The Sublime Degree of Master Mason” two weeks after that? Just how sublime do you think his experience is with this compressed timeline of such momentous events? He can repeat the catechism, but probably cannot explain what any of it means. We have made a member, but not necessarily a Mason. I can tell you from experience that this does not make a man a Mason. Yes, he has a dues card, yes he knows (or thinks he knows) the “secrets” of a Master Mason, yes, he can sit Lodge and visit other Lodges. But can he describe the ways in which Masonry changed his life? Ours is an initiatic order; all ancient initiatic orders were established to teach great truths and to enable men to change and grow in all aspects of their lives and their understanding of the true nature of Man and God.

If our rituals and ceremonies do not affect this kind of change in our candidates, they would be better off joining Kiwanis or the Rotary Club. Mason’s are not appointed, they are evolved. It is my desire to see our Lodge helping men to become Masons, not just Members.

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