True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Monday, December 31, 2007

Do We Need a National Grand Lodge?

The question that has been raised is: Do We Need a National Grand Lodge?


Well, that ends that, doesn’t it?

Ok, that’s hardly worth reading, so lets look at the issue seriously for a moment… but just a moment.

Periodically, the issue of a National Grand Lodge comes up, with brothers taking one side or another, and of course, a few in the middle. The issue of a National Grand Lodge first came up after the American Civil war (the one we call the Revolutionary War), when, at the instigation of American Union Lodge he was suggested for the office of Grand Master of a National Grand Lodge -- a non-existent body. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and some others agreed, but too many others disagreed with the concept of a National Grand Lodge and the idea was dropped.

The issue is raised by brothers who, seeing the plethora of rules (and sometimes conflicting rule) under which the almost 100 regular Grand Lodges in the United States operate, desire to establish a single, unified, overarching authority. Their purpose, while laudable, seems contradictory to the traditions of Freemasonry that have been established over the previous 300 years.

We all know that there exists the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), but, what exactly does it Unite? The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) and the Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLoI) are independent Grand bodies, in amity with the UGLE, and those august bodies are both members of the same United Kingdom. This is very little different from the relationship that the various regular Grand Lodges enjoy with each other, and, frankly, with the UGLE, GLoS, and GLoI.

So, what does the UGLE unite? The answer is, it unites the Moderns and the Antients into one Grand Lodge. Time is too short here to address that whole issue, suffice it to say that was an early schism in the Grand Lodge of England, the one that was formed in 1717. The "Antients" wanted to “preserve” the mystic elements of freemasonry and the "Moderns" wanted to create a more progressive Freemasonry, one of enlightenment through morality, science, contemplation and natural philosophy. In 1813, the "Antients" won the conflict which had started in 1751 and the Masonry we have today is a result of that victory.

They united themselves, the Antients and the Moderns, so the United Grand Lodge of England is more accurately, the Grand Lodge of England, they are still the Premiere Grand Lodge from which all Regular Grand Lodges descend. They are the fount of today’s modern Freemasonry, for even the Grand Orient d’France, the primary “other” Freemasonry in the world was originally chartered by the UGLE.

The question then is: Why a National Grand Lodge of America? Well, one already exists for the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges. It fell apart in 1877 (an issue that is still in dispute), and still exists to this day. There also used to be a United Grand Lodge of America, a pretender to Masonry that existed mainly in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and has recently changed its name to the Grand Orient of the United States.

However, there is no Mainstream, Regular Grand Lodge of the United States. The purpose of this article then, is to examine why we should, or should not establish such an organization.


1. To standardize issues of regularity.

2. To standardize rules and regulations.

3. To standardize ritual.

4. To standardize the way Grand Lodges operate.

5. To standardize our message to the world.

6. To eliminate racism in the little pockets where it still exists.

Why not:

1. Regularity, while it is handled in a variety of ways across the world, pretty much follows the recommendations of the Commission on Regularity, a committee of the Grand Masters in all the grand lodges in the United States. As an example of this, the Grand Lodges in the United States all recognize as regular, the Grande Oriente d’Italia, while the UGLE recognizes the Regolare Grande Loggia d’Italia.

The point here is that the Grand Lodges in the United States are already working together on this issue, and with very rare exceptions, are all on the same page. This issue is does not seem sufficient to justify a national authority.

2. Rules and Regulations are fairly standard, and where they are not standard, it is due to local conditions. One issue that is mentioned most often in this regard is that a few of the Southern Grand Lodges hold that selling or dealing in alcohol will prevent a man from being considered for membership, and will subject a brother to a Masonic trial and possible expulsion.

Another issue is Grand Lodges that retain the ability of the Grand Master to expel masons at sight, as well as make masons at sight. While most grand lodges do not seem to allow this authority to the Grand Master, it is quintessentially Masonic to consider that a man who rises to the Grand Oriental Chair is of such character that he will not abuse the authority. Once more, these are relatively minor issues, differences in law and process and do not seem sufficient to justify a national authority.

3. Ritual should be an issue for the individual lodges, and should probably not even be an issue for a grand lodge to decide upon. The idea that a national body could provide guidance to local lodges just does not seem appropriate, and therefore does not seem sufficient to justify a national authority.

4. Operations of a Grand Lodge are in large part, dependent upon local conditions. The operation of the Grand Lodge of California will be different than the operations of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. The needs will be different due to the difference in members, the difference in local laws and so on. These differences are also, to a large extent, better determined by the local lodge/Grand Lodge than a body entirely removed.

To be sure, there are differences. For instance, the Grand Lodge of California’s constitution requires all decisions and edicts issued by the Grand Master between sessions of the Grand Communication to be ratified by the voting members. The voting members are the elected Junior and Senior Warden, the Master, and a single past masters vote, coupled with the votes of all the Past Grand Masters, the District Deputy Grand Masters, and the elected Grand Officers, the Grand Master, the Deputy Grand Master, the Senior Grand Warden, the Junior Grand Warden, the Grand Secretary, the Grand Lecturer and Grand Treasurer.

Legislation can also be proposed by the brethren, with the signature of three master masons. This legislation is voted on at the Grand Communication, and if it receives the 5/6ths super majority, it will pass. If it only receives a majority, it is carried forward to the next Grand Communication, and if it receives 60% plus one vote, the legislation passes.

It is not always the case that the Grand Master and Grand Lodge has such a rein by the brethren, and while it is true that a certain degree of standardization can be useful, it does not seem that the need for this comes anywhere near to rising to the level that would justify a national governing authority.

5. Standardizing our message to the world is the one area where I think a national governing authority would be useful. For instance, the Shrine decided some time back that their reputation needed polishing. They undertook a national ad campaign, in magazines, newspapers, on radio and television, on bill boards, on trucks… everywhere, showing the iconic image of a Shriner carrying a girl on his shoulders with her crutches in his other hand.

Thirty years later, the image of the Shrine is of a bunch of men in little cars, wearing silly hats and supporting hospitals for children. They could do this because THEY have a national governing authority, and can mold and direct their message. Blue Lodges could do that now, through the Committee of Grand Masters which meets every year now to discuss issues of interest to all the Grand Lodges. In a sense, we already have a national authority… only its not an authority and certainly not a governing one.

Regardless, this national committee hasn’t even tried to undertake such a project for many good reasons, too many to go into in this article. However, that being the case, and they having never taken advantage of the opportunity, it again does not seem to necessitate a National Governing Authority.

6. Racism is ugly, and it is certainly not a Masonic virtue. Quite the opposite. The problem it, if that was a stated goal of the National Governing Authority, there are 12 Grand Lodges extent that would never go along with it. As a result, we would end up with a national body that 12 out of a hundred would not recognize or be recognized, and regularity would be compromised.

While it is anathema to Masonry that racism is allowed to even exist, at this point there is little the regular Grand Lodges can do other than withdraw recognition from those 12 Grand Lodges, wait a time with patience until they join the 21st century, or continue what is being done… whispering good counsel to seek to bring about a reformation.

This issue alone, if addressed, would mean the death of the idea of a National Governing Authority, and if this issue is NOT addressed, a National Governing Authority would have no moral authority under which to operate. It would be hamstrung on its first day. Therefore, if for no other reason than this one, there should be no National Governing Authority.

One last consideration is that we already have almost a hundred Regular Grand Lodges in the United States, each with a Grand Line of Officers, a Grand Lodge building, a Grand Charity of one kind or another and so on. Many would argue that the Grand Lodges are already bureaucratic and overly intrusive into the operations of their lodges.

Adding an additional layer of bureaucracy would seem, therefore, to be contraindicated. It’s a nice thought, on an emotional level, to have one single overarching National Grand Authority, but on reflection, it just does not seem to be a practical idea, on many levels, and is one that is just not needed.

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Court Says Freemasons Fall Under Religious Protection Law

by Heather Donckels

Excerpted from: Religion News Service

Freemasonry may rank with Christianity, Judaism and Islam as an official form of "religious exercise," a California court of appeals suggested in a ruling on Oct. 3. As such, Masons would fall under the protections of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the landmark law that says government may not infringe on religious buildings without a compelling interest.

"We see no principled way to distinguish the earnest pursuit of these (Masonic) principles ... from more widely acknowledged modes of religious exercise," the statement said. The case involves the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Cathedral (LASRC) and the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Los Angeles (SRCALA). The court concluded that "chief" Masonic principles include "the reverence of a Supreme Being and the embrace of other forms of religious worship."

The court said it could find "no decisions analyzing whether Masonic practices are sufficiently religious in nature to qualify under RLUIPA,"which says the government cannot "impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person."

The court's statement countered a lower court's opinion that "the `Freemason' organization is (not) a religion."

May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Masonic History of the Grand Lodge of California

From Masonic Formation Material
For the Entered Apprentice Degree
Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of California F&AM

You know, or should know, that Masonry in its modern Speculative form began with the organization of the first Grand Lodge and of the Grand Lodge system in London, England, in 1717. It is also important to be aware that the earliest known record of an American Lodge is dated at 1730, only thirteen years after the constituting of the Mother Grand Lodge. In parallel with the evolution of the USA, Masonry moved from East to West. From England to New England, across the fruited plains, majestic mountains and beautiful deserts, to the Golden Coast in the West pioneers, travelers and seekers of all description sojourned, and settled.

The history of the Grand Lodge of California is inseparable from the history of the State of California. Those same brave pioneers who came west in search of wealth, fame, and opportunity came to bring their beloved fraternity, and all that it entails, with them. In some cases, bringing Masonry to “The New Frontier” was their primary purpose. Grand Masters of Eastern jurisdictions issued Charters to western-bound sojourners, giving them the right to work as Lodges in the Wild West, under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Grand Lodge. Other Grand Masters issued Dispensations, giving groups of Masons who found themselves in this Masonic Wilderness the right to meet and organize as California Masonic Lodges.

In 1849, gold was discovered near Sutter’s Mill. Word quickly moved eastward, and men accordingly began to move west. Such a long, difficult and dangerous journey is not to be undertaken lightly, or alone. Men seeking their fortunes knew that to go it alone was an invitation to disaster. Accordingly, they banded together into traveling parties, and sought ways to fulfill the need for fraternalism and mutual assistance. Some had long been Masons, others joined Masonic Lodges, and together, as Brethren, they made their way West.

It is unsurprising; therefore, that many prominent leaders in this new frontier were members of our fraternity. With the number of Masons, and the prominence the Craft played in their lives and the lives of others, the obvious action was to create a Grand Lodge of Masons in California.

As early as March of 1850, Masons in California attempted to form a Grand Lodge. That attempt failed, but the following month saw success. Invitations were issued to all the Masonic Lodges known to be in California, and all past Grand Officers of other jurisdictions known to be living here, to send delegates to a convention. At this convention, a new Grand Lodge was to be formed. On April 17th, 1850, in Sacramento three Chartered Lodges presented credentials, and three Lodges under dispensation sent delegates.

The oldest recorded California Lodge is California Lodge # 1, which was chartered by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia as California Lodge # 13. The vault of Western Star Lodge #2, in Shasta City, California, contains many valuable relics, memorializing its move from Benton City, near Chico, in 1851. Others show the number 98, which was issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10, 1848, when it was first Chartered.

The Grand Lodge of Connecticut issued a Charter to Connecticut Lodge No. 76 on January 31, 1849. When the Grand Lodge of California was formed in 1850, it became Tehama Lodge No. 3.

The Grand Lodge of California, in April of 1850, thereby consisted of three Chartered Lodges. Total membership in those Lodges was 103. An inauspicious beginning, perhaps, but it led to fantastic growth.

In addition to Lodges Chartered by other jurisdictions, there were eleven dispensations issued by Grand Masters from Eastern jurisdictions. A few eventually became Chartered Lodges. Others thrived for a time and then faded away. The rest just never manifested at all. In most cases, a dispensation would be issued for a Traveling Lodge, to a group of Masons headed west. These early California Masons would hold meetings when and where they could, and some held together long enough to take hold in a California community.

The Grand Master of Indiana issued a dispensation to form Sierra Nevada Lodge, in Grass Valley, in 1848. The Lodge eventually failed, and its members later formed Madison Lodge, which was chartered under the Grand Lodge of California.

In 1849, the Grand Master of Louisiana gave a grant, similar to a dispensation, to a group that eventually became The Pacific Lodge at Benicia, and later was chartered as Benicia Lodge No. 5. The Lodge building they built was the first in California, and is still standing. In it are the first jewels used by the Lodge, made of tin and cut from cans of food. In the Lodge room, on the altar, is another relic from 1850, their Holy Bible.

Another dispensation issued by the Grand Master of Louisiana formed Davy Crockett Lodge No. 7. Ruben Clark was Master in 1851, and served the State of California as Architect and Builder of the State Capitol building in Sacramento. 1852 saw the name changed to San Francisco Lodge No. 7, as the Lodge moved from the jurisdiction of Louisiana to the Grand Lodge of California.

The Grand Lodge of California gained three more Chartered Lodges.

In September of 1850, the Republic of California became a State in the United States of America. Five Months earlier, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California was formed. Jonathan D. Stevenson of San Francisco became the first Grand Master. On April 19, 1850, assisted by a full corps of officers, he opened the first session of the Grand Lodge of California in ample form.

From 103 members in three Chartered Lodges, the Grand Lodge of California grew. By November of 1850, Jennings Lodge No. 4 of Sacramento; Benicia Lodge No. 5; Sutter Lodge No. 6 of Sacramento; Davy Crockett No. 7 of San Francisco; Tuolumne Lodge No. 8 of Sonora; Marysville Lodge No. 9; San Jose Lodge No. 10; and Willamette Lodge No. 11 of Portland, Oregon, were chartered. The Grand Lodge of California had grown to 304 Masons; nearly tripling its size in members and quadrupling in Lodges in seven Months.

The day following the formation of the Grand Lodge of California, the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin issued a Charter to Lafayette Lodge No. 29, in Nevada City. While technically a breach of courtesy for one Grand Lodge to issue a Charter to a Lodge in the area of another jurisdiction, this was done in all innocence. Communications and transportation were not then what they are today. In addition, they did not have the Internet to make things as speedy as we know them. In 1851, a fire destroyed the Charter, and the Lodge was immediately re Chartered as Nevada Lodge No. 13. It remains so known to this day.

The year 1850 was a busy year for the Grand Master of Illinois. He issued dispensations for two Lodges in California. The first, Laveley Lodge in Marysville later became Marysville Lodge No. 9, and still later changed it’s name to Corinthian Lodge No. 9. The second Illinois Lodge in California, Pacific Lodge, near Oroville, held it’s meetings at a place called Long’s Bar. Formed in 1850, it faded from the scene, and it’s members were allowed to affiliate with California Lodges.

Grants and dispensations were also authorized and issued by Grand Masters of New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. None of these lasted very long, most never advanced beyond the Traveling Lodge stage.

Human organizations tend to grow, change and shrink. By 1860, two Lodges had moved to the jurisdiction of Oregon, 13 had surrendered their Charters; two had lost them for cause. Grand Lodge now consisted of 128 Lodges and 5055 members.

With a stabilizing population, the establishment of more cities, towns and communities, and the settlement of this wild new frontier winding down, more growth, changes, and evolution inevitably follow.

Mining has been, from the beginning, a major industry in California. Wherever a successful mine can be found, a town to support that mine will be nearby. Fascinating names were established for these towns and no less fascinating names for the Lodges Chartered therein. A few examples include: Rough and Ready at a camp by the same name in Nevada County; Indian Diggings Lodge in El Dorado County; Saint Mark 's Lodge at Fiddletown; Oro Fino, at a town by that name in Siskiyou County; Violet Lodge at Spanish Flat; Rising Sun Lodge at Brandy City; Mount Carmel Lodge at Red Dog, Nevada County. These and more, added color to the local landscape, and made Masonry a part of the community.

Brother John Whicher, former Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California tells an interesting story of a characteristic mining camp in the early days of California. "Of the numerous mining camps of early days, " says Brother Whicher, "one only need be noted. The largest mining camp in California was Columbia, in Tuolumne County, known as the 'Gem of the Southern Mines'. Gold was discovered there in the spring of 1850, and within one month, the stampede from nearby camps resulted in a population of 6000 miners. Every week brought more treasure-hunters, and flush times counted 30,000 men madly digging in the hills thereabouts, 15,000 being in the city limits. By 1865, Columbia was dead. It contained forty saloons, a long street devoted to fandangos and hurdy-gurdies, four theaters, one Chinese theater with a stock company of 40 native actors, three jewelry stores, a bull ring, 143 faro banks with a combined capital of $2,000,000, four hotels, two military companies, two hose companies, three express offices, four banks, four newspapers, two churches, a Sunday school, a division of the Sons of Temperance, and Columbia Lodge No. 28, of Masons.

The principal bank was that of D. O. Mills, the steps leading to the building being of white Columbia marble, and the counters of mahogany. It contained huge gold scales with a capacity of $40,000 in dust and nuggets. The camp produced within a radius of three miles and shipped $125,000,000 in gold. The Masonic Lodge was a power in the work of maintaining order and decent government, but after the gold-fever and the mines had subsided, the membership fell to a low ebb, and in 1891 the old Lodge, established July, 1852, consolidated with Tuolumne Lodge No. 8, at the historic town of Sonora, where it still carries on. There are innumerable ghost cities on the Mother Lode, but Columbia was the gem of them all."

Many of these Lodges no longer exist. Towns, particularly mining towns, were successful only as long as the mines they supported produced a profit. During our 150 years as a Sovereign Grand Lodge, nearly 300 Lodges have become extinct. Freemasonry in the Grand Lodge of California, notwithstanding, has still survived. At the 2004 Annual Communications, there about 74,000 Masons in around 350 Constituent Lodges, which can be found in every city and in or near most of the smaller towns in the state. The age of the average California Mason is 68 years.

In the earlier days of the settlement of California, most of the growth was in the North end of the state. More recently, the South end has seen the same pattern. In 1860, San Diego Lodge No. 35, Los Angeles No. 42 and Lexington No. 104 were the only Lodges in the Southern half of the state. That was in 1855. Today nearly 45 percent of California Lodges are south of Tehachapi. In the County of San Diego, at the southern end of the state, there are currently 26 Chartered Lodges.

A fraternity, any fraternity, is whatever its members make it. Who those members are will play a large part in making it what it is. Let us look at some California Masons with whom you may – or should – be familiar.

La Loge La Parfaite Union Lodge No. 17 in San Francisco, commonly called "the French Lodge", has the honor of being the first non-English-speaking Lodge in California. And, in addition to being a Lodge with great individuality, because of its using the French ritual, it stands out as well as the Lodge whose Master (1898 and 1899) Alexander Kaufman Coney, saved the life of a Brother who later became President of Mexico. In his early years, Coney went to sea and sailed all over the globe. During these years he became a Mason in Silentia Lodge No. 198, New York City, in 1875. And, during these years as Purser of the vessel City of Havana, while docked in New Orleans, he managed to assist a stranger who came aboard the ship one summer evening. After some conversation, the stranger introduced himself as a Mexican revolutionary leader named Dr. de la Boza. He identified himself as a Mason as well, for whom the Mexican government had offered a large reward. He asked Coney, as a Brother Mason in distress, to conceal him aboard the ship until the vessel reached Vera Cruz. Coney knew it was against ship rules to take anyone aboard in this manner, but he knew that here was a Master Mason in distress and it was his duty to help him. On the way, the vessel stopped at Tampico where Dr. de la Boza had an extremely narrow escape from being caught, again with Coney’s direct assistance. He finally escaped in the darkness of night when the vessel finally reached Vera Cruz. He continued with his revolutionary efforts, eventually rising to the Presidency of Mexico.

Coney, however, did not know what became of him until several years later while he was on a visit to Mexico City. While sightseeing in the city one day, he was recognized and brought by several uniformed officers to the Presidential Palace. There he learned, to his amazement, that the Brother whose life he had saved was not a Dr. de la Boza, but General Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico.

Coney turned down a check for $50,000 (the amount of the reward that had been offered for General Diaz when Coney had originally assisted him to escape his enemies). Thereafter, he became Diaz’s lifelong friend, and served as Mexican Consul General in St. Nazaire, France; in Paris, and later in San Francisco. He affiliated with La Parfaite Union in 1878.

James W. Robinson, one of the organizers of San Diego Lodge No. 35, born in Ohio, migrated to Texas in 1824. He took up the practice of Law in Nacogdoches, and became very active in State politics. On November 12, 1835, the Texas provisional council elected him Vice President of the Texas Republic. He was later appointed one of the first district judges of Texas. In December 1836, he was captured in the Battle of San Antonio and was taken to Mexico City as a prisoner of war. He was able to persuade General Santa Ana to free him in order for him to try to arrange an armistice. In 1850, he and his wife moved to San Diego where he built a two-story adobe house in the middle of the intersection of two streets, which he occupied for the remainder of his life.

Hilliard P. Dorsey, the first Master of Los Angeles Lodge No. 42, in 1854, came from Georgia, where he was born in 1821. During the Mexican War, he served as a Captain of the Mississippi Regiment under Jefferson Davis. He came to California in September 1849. He pioneered in the cultivation of walnuts near San Gabriel. However, he is most remembered for having fought a duel with another Lodge member during his year as Master, even though Grand Lodge had ruled that dueling between Brother Masons would be penalized by expulsion. Nevertheless, the duel took place two weeks later; each suffered a severe wound, and Grand Lodge expelled them both.

Domenico Ghirardelli, the founder of one of California’s oldest business firms, Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Company, was a member of Lodge La Parfaite Union No. 17. He was born in Raphalo, Italy, in 1817, and migrated first to Lima, Peru, where he became close friends with James Lick. In 1849 when news of the California gold discovery reached Peru, Ghirardelli followed Lick to San Francisco. After first trying his luck as a miner, he soon returned to his confectioner’s trade, and opened a "Candy & Syrup Manufactory", producing only the best French and American candy. Over the years, the business evolved, until it finally focused only on chocolate in its North Beach site in 1895.

Peter Lassen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1800, and in 1830 he came to the United States and worked his way through St. Louis, Missouri, and overland to Oregon City. From there, he made his way south to San Jose in 1840-41, where he worked as a blacksmith. He moved on to Sutter’s Fort, and in 1844, he became a Mexican citizen and was granted a ranch area in what is now Tehama County. After the Mexican War, he traveled overland to Missouri with Commodore Stockton, and then returned in an immigrant train of 12 wagons with the Reverend Saschal Woods, carrying the Charter of Western Star Lodge No. 98, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. This Lodge was supposed to have been opened on Lassen’s property, in a small settlement he established on Deer Creek. However, it moved to Shasta during the gold rush of 1849-1851, and Lassen became the Charter Junior Warden of Western Star Lodge No. 98 (now No. 2). He was killed somewhat mysteriously in 1859 while prospecting for gold in the Honey Lake region of what is now Lassen County.

Initiated Three Times

The first Master of Mount Moriah Lodge No. 44, Philip Shepheard, was initiated three times and passed twice!

Born in Plymouth, England, in 1813, his early life was as a sailor. During his seafaring years he was initiated an Entered Apprentice in a French Lodge that met in a cave near Alexandria, Egypt. However, he had to leave before he could be passed, so he applied for his Fellowcraft degree in an English Lodge at Kingston, Jamaica. However, his French work was so different from that of the English Lodge that he had to be initiated again. Then once more before he could be passed, he had to sail. He tried again in New York, and here again the work was so different from either the English or French that another initiation was in order. But once again, he had to leave before getting the Fellow Craft degree. Finally, while in port at Rio de Janeiro, he was passed in St. John’s Lodge No. 703.

He arrived in San Francisco as Captain of the vessel Arkansas in December 1849, and applied to California Lodge No. 1 for the Third Degree. But, by then, he had such a jumble of French, English, and American work in his mind that the Lodge decided that he had to be passed again. He finally became a Master Mason in California Lodge sometime between November 1850, and May 1851. In 1853, he withdrew from California Lodge to help organize Mount Moriah Lodge No. 44, and he remained a member until his death in December 1865.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

The Grand Lodges

Who is the Grand Lodge, anyway? Who are those guys to tell us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, what we can teach and how we should teach it, the rituals we should use and the rules by which we should act as masons?

Those are the questions I read on the internet. Well, who are these guys anyway??


Huh? What’d he say?

In a regular Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge is you, the members of the constituent lodges. Like the United States government, the power, the authority, all flows from the members and the chartered lodges. Its really that simple.

Go back to the beginning and take a look at the history of the regular Grand Lodges. I will use the Grand Lodge of California, F&AM as an example of what is usual in the formation of a Regular Grand Lodge.

On April 17th, 1850, in Sacramento three Chartered Lodges presented credentials, and three Lodges under dispensation sent delegates. The oldest recorded California Lodge is California Lodge # 1, which was chartered by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia as California Lodge # 13.

Western Star Lodge #2 (or 98) which was issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10, 1848, when it was first Chartered.

The Grand Lodge of Connecticut issued a Charter to Connecticut Lodge No. 76 on January 31, 1849. When the Grand Lodge of California was formed in 1850, it became Tehama Lodge No. 3.

Three regularly chartered lodges come together, and the three can form a new Grand Lodge in a territory where a Grand Lodge does not already exist. A Grand Lodge cannot exist, cannot come into being regularly, without three legally chartered lodges. The power and the authority of all Grand Lodges comes from the lodges, and the members that make up those lodges, that constitute it.

Every Grand Lodge has a constitution, a set of rules by which the Grand Lodge operates, and no Grand Lodge operates without the consent of the brethren. As with any organization, especially a volunteer organization, power, that is in this case, the authority to rule comes from the “ruled” members, and without their consent to be ruled, there is no Grand Lodge.

So, next time you hear someone complain about their Grand Lodge doing this or their Grand Lodge doing that “to” them, remind them that THEY are the Grand Lodge. Its not just a group of amorphous anonymous ascetics “somewhere at Grand Lodge” telling you what to do. They are your representatives, they are YOU.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Five Faces of Freemasonry

Freemasonry has stood the test of time, and as we move toward the end of the first decade, admittedly two years off, things are getting better for our ancient and honorable craft. The decline in numbers is slowing or turning into growth, Masonic Education is again being implemented in lodge, and changes are being implemented in most jurisdictions to keep Masonry fresh and relevant to today’s masons.

So today, I wanted to take a look at the five faces of Freemasonry and what they mean to our craft.

The First Face of Freemasonry: Younger Masons

More than ever before in the history of the craft, the fraternity is appealing to younger men, so the first, and most hopeful of the faces is the “youthening” of the craft. Movies, books, educational specials, newspapers, magazines, and word of mouth have raised the visibility of the craft. Couple that with the social vacuity, the internet, increased work and family demands, and you have a population of men seeking… more.

Young men today are seeking more value, more real and sincere fellowship, more social relevance, a sense of belonging to something more important than themselves. Politics is vacuous and worse, its backbiting, self aggrandizing politics of personal destruction, with no side seeming to offer anything of great value but more bloviation, and the work environment isn’t much better.

Job security is non existent, and friendships and connections made through work are tenuous and fluid. Men want and need something stable in their lives, something with meaning, something unchanging, timeless and yes, spiritual All of these factors, and many more have young men are flocking to the craft seeking the meaning and the sense of belonging that is missing in today’s increasingly isolated “society”.

The Grand Lodge of California noted at a recent Junior Warden’s Retreat that since the formation of the Grand Lodge of California in 1850, the average age at which a man joins a lodge has been 47. This was unchanged for 155 years. However, in 2005, the Masonic code was changed to allow men of at least 18 years to join, and since then, the average age has dropped to 37.

Freemasonry recognizes that change and is making adjustments which are overdue, to address the needs of these, in most cases, well educated members. These are men which have researched the craft before joining, have often read books about it, and made an informed decision and are truly seeking to better themselves and society through freemasonry.

These men want the education, philosophy, history, and in many cases, the esotericism which Freemasonry holds out and lays claim to providing. They want more than their father’s and grandfather’s social and moral club, they want it all. Morality, belonging, brotherhood, spirituality, personal growth, social value, and philosophy… which brings us to Masonic Education.

The Second Face of Freemasonry: The Esoterics and Education

Freemasonry in the 17th century was a philosophical/social/moral support society. Freethinkers of the day gathered to discuss the issues of the day, to share their successes and failures, and to aid and support each other. There have been esoterics in Freemasonry from the beginning, though in recent decades, they have taken a much smaller seat in the lodge in favor of simple brotherhood.

To a certain extent, the current “flavor” of freemasonry is more exoteric than esoteric, to the point where the esoterically oriented mason can find himself alone in lodge in his search for more light. We all search for light in different ways, and for some brothers, exoteric Masonry, fellowship, morality fulfills all their needs. This type of Masonry is often referred to derogatorily as “Fish Fry” Masonry, which is unfair to our exoteric brothers.

Freemasonry is about balance in all things. Too much esoteric or too much exoteric and the purpose of Freemasonry is lost. Regardless, Freemasonry teaches us tolerance, and of late, esotericism in Freemasonry is once more growing and receiving the respect that it is due as a vital part of the craft.

A part of education is ritual, tradition, contemplation, majesty… in a word stateliness. We learn in a number of different ways, reading, watching, listening, and participation. There are few teaching methodologies that reach a man on all four levels, that reaches right into his psyche like ritual. Some lodges treat ritual as a time for play, some for letter-of-the-law, and some for an approach that is at once serious and overwhelming in its grandeur.

The experience by the candidate in his degrees is a matter of how the ritual is enacted, the mien that the officers and brethren bring to the lodge, how the candidate is prepared, the education process after the degree, how the candidate is treated by the brethren. It is the gestalt of the degrees and education afterward.

In part, a response to this growing interest in esoteric and more “traditional” style Masonry are the European Style Lodges being formed across the United States. Though these European Style Lodges are not exclusively esoteric in nature, they are given over to the philosophical contemplation, study and discussions of issues Masonic.

This type of lodge is also called Traditional Observance Lodges. Whatever they are called, these lodges are a growing phenomena, spreading across the United States like a grass fire. More Grand Lodges not only allow, but encourage it with each passing year. Currently, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia, Washington D.C., Maine, New York, and California have a growing population of these European Style/Traditional Observance lodges.

Parallel to these European Style Lodges are many grand lodges re-engineering Masonic Formation, that is, holistic Masonic formation programs. They are gathering together existing materials, expanding on them, creating program and methodologies that lodges can use. Masonic Formation is a resource to the lodges, providing materials, ideas, and resources to assist them in educating and forming masons.

Yet, in all good, there is an admixture of bad. As young men are joining freemasonry to receive the benefits and responsibilities of our ancient and honorable craft, we have a few, vocal, internet savvy brothers who may not have clearly understood the lessons they received in the first degree.

The Third Face of Freemasonry: Masonic Impatience

Freemasonry teaches us that Time, Patience and Perseverance will accomplish all things, and that as masons we should act with justice and temper our actions with prudent judgment. There is a small problem however, and in large part, I suspect this is due to the internet.

Some few men, and its really a small number, have lost track of the lessons of Freemasonry… a less just opinion would be that they did not learn the lesson in the first place… and set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner of the fraternity they claim as their own. Instead of working within the system, they decide that their obligations do not obtain except where they decide.

Of course, these men are not always wrong. There are serious issues that need to be addressed by the brethren. There are cases where, for example, a grand master summarily ejects brothers from Freemasonry entirely, without a trial, and a case recently where a grand master set aside the legal vote of the brethren at the grand communication, and then ejects brethren for objecting to that action.

We all know Freemasons aren’t saints… we are men, good men for the most part, working hard for the benefit of the craft. If you are reading these words, its likely you have an internet connection, and have followed the antics of certain brethren who have decided that they know better what is good for Freemasonry.

These are brothers who violate Masonic tradition by agitating for political candidates as masons, who defame every grand lodge officer at every turn, who defame any mason who likes, admires and enjoys his Freemasonry. Every group has them, malcontents and agitators who do not work for the best interests of the group, but only for their own selfish wants and needs.

These men do nothing to help, and are content to do nothing but complain. They most often do this complaining from behind shadowy aliases, then scream like scalded cats when a brother dares to draw back the sable curtain they hide behind, claiming the protection of the obligation they revile at every turn.

The good news is this face of Freemasonry is only internet based… and their words are read by less than 1,000 men WORLDWIDE. They do no damage to Freemasonry, and for the most part, are harmless brothers with delusions of grandeur and power that is, fortunately, well out of their reach.

The Fourth Face of Freemasonry: Non-Regular Masons

There are some who would argue that non regular Masonic obediences AREN’T Masonry at all. The reality is that, as the saying goes, “if it acts like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are, it’s a duck.

The problem is, because these other obediences are not regular, that is, part of the Grand Lodges in Amity with each other, it is difficult to for the average mason to separate the wheat from the chaff. Also, frankly, there is little interest by most regular masons TO take the time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most regular masons, and that is the majority by far of all masons in the world, are satisfied to leave the whole issue to their respective Grand Lodges.

Most regular masons “know” who the non regular masons are. First of all, they are referred to officially by all regular Grand Lodges as “Clandestine” and “Irregular”. Primarily, they are the female only lodges, co-ed lodges, and other “Grand Lodges”, like the Grand Orient of the United States, the United Grand Lodge of America, and the American Masonic Federation.

Yet, these non regular masons are ALSO a face of Freemasonry. The state of California alone has over 50 organizations that style themselves as Masonic, though only two, the Grand Lodge of California F&AM and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California, Inc are considered regular. The others vary in their practice from regular, other than that they admit women, to wildly non Masonic.

This is not, however, a new phenomena. Breakaway lodges without a warrant or charter and self forming “Grand Lodges” open, and often as not, as quickly close, and have done so ever since June 1717 when the first regular grand lodge was formed at the Goose and Gridiron by four extent lodges.

Regardless of the official position of any grand lodge, and here is a good time to remind my readers that I am NOT an official spokesman for any grand lodge, I speak only for myself, there are non-regular (clandestine to use the correct masonic word for it) women only, male and female joint lodges, and of course male only lodges. Most of these lodges can be found only in very large cities.

The numbers I have indicate there are about 100,000 women masons worldwide, and perhaps that many again that belong to co-ed Masonic lodges. Throughout the world, there are about 3.5 million regular masons, and perhaps another 1 million total masons from the various other male only orients and non regular grand lodges around the world. This means there are about 5 million masons of all kinds, who can be found in every country in the world.

The Fifth Face of Freemasonry: Men who are Happy the way Masonry Is Today

Lest we forget, the last face of freemasonry is the brothers who, for the most part, make up freemasonry today. These are the brothers who make up the lodges in great part, and are the backbone and support of the craft.

These are the men who more often than not are the officers in your lodge, they are the Lodge Secretaries, the Tylers, the committee members, they are the men who have kept freemasonry alive. More often than not, they are veterans, and they are happy with the craft as it is today. They have attitudes and ideas from years gone by, but those are ideas that have, for the most part, worked for them.

We should ever remember and honor them. I mention this as there is a tendency among some younger masons to push the older men out of the way, to shunt them aside. Not all that is new is good, and not all that is old is bad. They are, after all, our brothers.


Masonry is a wide and varied initiatic society that, far from declining, is actually restoring itself, as it always has done. Time, patience and perseverance are the watchwords of our ancient and honorable fraternity. Like any mature organization that is spread all over the world, Freemasonry presents a number of faces, all of which reflect a part of the whole.

It’s an awesome time to be a mason!

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Late Night at the Lodge

Thursday night at Moreno Valley Lodge, we had the positive pleasure of initiating 4 brothers. Two were born in Lebanon, one in Syria, and one from the United States. I noted that it was a late night because in California, the first section of all degrees is conferred individually, a process that takes 15 minutes (usually), with about 10 minutes between each degree to reset and catch your breath.

We opened as usual at 6pm Moreno Valley Time (this is anywhere between 6pm and about 6:30pm) and started on the first conferral at 7pm, completing the first section of the four degrees by 10:15pm, which was pretty good time. We were very fortunate in having a Past Master from Henry the Navigator Lodge 9360 in Vilamoura, Portugal and a Past Master from Menifee Valley Lodge #289 in Sun City and 24 other sideliners in addition to the officers.

In California lodges, the Junior Warden usually sits as the master when conferring the first degree, and on this night, one of the first degrees were conferred by the Junior Warden, Wr. Pat, and another by the Senior Warden, Br. Ron, another by the Master, Wr. John, and the fourth, by Wr. Tim, the officer's coach. Everyone did a good job, of course.

I was Junior Deacon, which is a pretty easy chair in California lodges... The Senior Deacon does 90% of the floorwork and conducts the candidate in all the degrees. He must have gotten about a two mile walk out the degrees, but never broke a sweat and did an awesome job, as did all the officers that night.

Altogether, a wonderful night of brotherhood and good work.
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Its all about balance

Freemasonry teaches us, when speaking of the 24" gauge:
The Rule — directs the undeviating discharge of all our duties; that we should press forward in the straight path of right and truth without inclining to the one hand or the other; in all our doings having Eternity in view.
We are also directed to daily employ the compasses in our daily lives, circumscribing our desires and keeping our passions within due bounds toward all mankind, particularly our brethren in freemasonry. Of course, we are also taught to use the square to square our actions by the square of virtue. Balance. My credo for freemasonry as I see it was brought out by a realization about the purpose of freemasonry, one that is illustrated by the following short story posted on the Lodgeroom US by Br. At Peterson:
It was an exciting time at the building of King Solomon's temple for two fellows of the craft. Jethro and Saul, brothers from the land of Tyre had been selected to prove their proficiency to advance to the degree of Master Mason!

The task laid out to them was simple enough. ***** ***** presented them each with a rough ashlar, the tools of the craft, and a tresle board with the design they were to make. They were each given 6 days to complete their ashlar.

The brothers set to the task each toiling the best their skill would allow. On the third day Saul had made great progress. Jethro however, had made minimal. Saul with the best of intentions, insisted that Jethro allow him to assist. Jethro refused insisting that he was doing just fine in his labors.

On the fifth day Saul was close to being complete with his ashlar. Jethro was still far off, but working diligently.

That night Saul hardly slept. He wanted his brother to advance with him, but he would not accept any assistance. Saul had to find away to help his brother.

On the sixth and final day Saul quickly checked his ashlar and, finding it complete sped away to try one more time to assist his brother.

He found Jethro slowly chipping away at his ashlar and begged him to let him assist. Jethro staunchly refused yet again. Saul walked away vowing in his mind to help his brother whether he liked it or not.

That night as Jethro slept, Saul slipped away to the quarry and finished Jethros ashlar.

The seventh day ***** went to the quarry to judge the brothers work.

The first ashlar he judged was Jethro's. ***** was quite impressed with work. It was finished exactly to the specifications laid out on the trestle board. The Masters eye was keen though, and he noticed something was amiss. Some of the chisel marks were different in character than the majority. He said nothing and went to Saul's ashlar.

Sauls ashlar was perfect in virtually every respects. There was one crucial flaw that should not have been missed by a Master Mason who did a thorough inspection of his work. ***** also noticed something that made both works make sense. The odd chisel marks on Jethro's ashlar were the same as the one's found on Saul's

***** summoned the brothers to the lodge to hear his judgment.

Jethro, ***** said, your work indicates that you understand the fundamentals of Masonry, yet you have trouble applying them to our work efficiently.

Saul, your work indicates that you have much skill as a mason. Yet your focus on the imperfections of others work, causes you to miss the flaws in your own.

I therefore order you both to the quarry for another years time as fellows of the craft. Take with you the lessons of this trial, and perhaps you will indeed become Master Masons.
Jethro was more interested in making his brother succeed when he was not ready than in focusing on his own work, and therefore missed the point, and was sent back to think about it for another year. Its about balance, and its about self improvement. You cannot force a man to be something he is not, though you can share with him things that can help him along the way... you cannot do the work FOR him.

Freemasonry states that its goal is to take good men and make them better men. This is good, because these good men live in society, and by the very act of improving them, society improves. This is the balance that freemasonry teaches.
Its not about me changing them, its about me changing ME. At first blush, this sounds rather arrogant and self focused, but it seems to be the core of freemasonry. No one can change another fundamentally.

Oh, you can pass laws, and like pointing a gun at someone's head, you can force them to ACT like they are something they are not, but the core remains the same.
Freemasonry teaches, to each according to his willingness and ability, and of course, that is the beauty and glory of the craft. It is A Peculiar System of Morality, taught by allegory, illustrated by symbols. As freemasons, we inculcate the teachings of the craft in our private life, and then implement them in our public life.

We are Freemasons always, and that is how we should live our lives, never doing or saying anything that would cast a negative light on our ancient and honorable fraternity.
The Peculiar System of Morality that the craft teaches us is freedom, circumscribed by the boundary of what it right. With great freedom comes greater responsibility.

The responsibility for our actions is truly on our shoulders, for their is no one to blame but ourselves for the manner in which we employ our freedom.
Never loose sight of the use of that valuable instrument by which we are taught to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds toward all mankind, particularly our brethren in Freemasonry. Its all about balance.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Freemasonry has no role outside Freemasonry

There have been suggestions that the Basic Principles should be capable of redefinition from generation to generation, although those making those suggestions seem reluctant to reveal which of the Basic Principles they wish to redefine. I would suspect that one area they would like to redefine is the prohibition of the discussion of religion and politics at Masonic meetings, and the bar on Grand Lodges or individual Freemasons making public comment on matters of religious, political or state policy when acting in their Masonic capacities.

In that context, I was rather surprised that some of you had been discussing the role of Freemasonry in a changing Europe and how Freemasonry can influence, for the common good, the social and moral development of the new Europe. The Home Grand Lodges – England, Ireland and Scotland – would respond that
Freemasonry has no role outside Freemasonry and that the only influence it should be seeking is over itself and its members. We firmly believe that it is not Freemasonry but the individual who can have a positive influence on society. We see Freemasonry as an intensely personal journey of self-discovery, knowledge and personal development. We hope that the individual, during his journey, will absorb the principles and tenets of Freemasonry, so that they become a part of his nature. In that way he will make a contribution for the good of society. If the individual, imbued with the principles of Freemasonry, does not work for the good of society we should then question whether Freemasonry has fulfilled its purpose.
( SNIP )
...Freemasonry is not, and should never be allowed to develop into being, a lobby group – no matter how universal and noble the cause.

Lord Northampton
MW The Pro Grand Master
The Most Hon. the Marquess of Northampton, DL
at the European Grand Master's Meeting on 5th & 6th November 2007
Full Speech Here

Freemasonry: Its not about me changing them, its about me changing me.
Theron Dunn
There is a temptation in freemasonry, based on the lecture we receive in the third degree: to whisper good counsel to our brothers, in a most friendly manner, and thereby to seek a reformation, to try to enforce or MAKE a change in a brother. I know, I have been accused of falling to that temptation.

My masonic credo has been, and remains: its not about me changing them, its about me changing me. Not only can I NOT change a brother, I should not even try. So the whole "whispering good counsel" thing is very problematic. Personal views are what they are, very personal.

Here we have Lord Northampton reiterating my credo on a larger scale. Freemasonry has no role OUTSIDE freemasonry. It is to the individual brother, as a subject or citizen to execute the tenets of freemasonry in his life as best he can, using the experiences, faith, and knowledge he possesses to guide him. It is not the place of the fraternity to guide society, but the IS the place of the brethren, so influenced by the pure principles of the fraternity to do so.

It isn't about me changing them:

Freemasonry isn't about us telling each other how to polish that ashlar, but about each of us, on our own, polishing that ashlar using the tools we have been handed by the fraternity. Not that good counsel has not place, but before we offer counsel to our brothers, we should first examine WHY we are offering it, and of course, whether our brother is interested in good counsel.

If he is not interested after whispering once, then we should stand aside, keep our peace, and continue on our own work. Otherwise, it is not whispering any longer, but an attempt at pushing or thrusting our own opinions onto another, which is itself intolerant and anathema to the gentle teachings of the craft.

Conversely, it is our duty as masons, to listen to the whispering of our brethren, to consider their words in a most charitable manner. We should weigh them, then act as our conscience dictates, but never purport evil intentions to our brethren for whispering to us.

Lord Northampton here makes a very good point. There are some who would see the craft, as whole, push politics in one direction or another, for the craft to take public positions on issues of the day. He rightly points out that freemasonry is about the internal, not the external.

Its about me, changing me:

We should carefully guard ourselves against the insidious allure of teaching others how to live their lives, the temptation of power is very subtle, even when that power is, after all, wielded for the "best interests" of society. Freemasonry teaches us use the tools of an Entered Apprentice to
chip away at the superfluities of life, thereby fitting ourselves, as living stones, for that spiritual house, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Its a daily struggle, which we all fight, weighing this against that, seeking what is best, not necessarily for us, but for our families, our brethren, our communities, our country... and ourself. Sometimes in that order. I cannot change your ashlar, only you can do that, nor can you change mine, only I can do that.

We can HELP each other, with kind words, encouragement, guidance, but only a brother can perfect his own ashlar... his own spirit. I am forever grateful to all my brothers, for their aid, assistance and support. Thank you all every day and in every way.
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

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