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

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Focus Instead, On Freemasonry

Freemasonry: It’s not about me changing them,
it’s about me changing me.
At its core, Freemasonry is a fraternity with the stated goal of making good men better. Take a look at that statement again, because this article today is about focusing on Freemasonry, and to do that, we need to start off with what Freemasonry is and what it is not.

Freemasonry is a fraternity, that means its about men, associating together with common goals who support each other. That last sentence reads more like a mission statement, devoid of content but with flags raised high, so in the next few paragraphs, I want to try to define what Freemasonry means, at least to me.

If you have children, especially teen age children, what you want for your children is that they have good friends. We want out children to have good friends because we hope they will be influenced positively by those friends, and stay out of trouble. As freemasons, a fundamental characteristic OF Freemasons is that they are men of good character, honorable men, with a strong sense of integrity and a desire to be more serviceable before g-d and out fellow men.

By that standard, we choose to associate with good men. This association creates a kind of mass psychology, a peer pressure that is both intrusive and subtle. By intrusive I mean it is clear to us, overwhelming us with a desire to do what is right. We talk about ethics and morality, it is constantly on our minds as we carry ourselves in society, and we contemplate how our tenets fit into modern life.

Freemasonry also works on us in subtle ways. Because of our obligation, because of the good men we associate with, there are just things that we would not consider doing, actions we will not undertake, words we will not speak, thoughts we will not allow. We deliberately circumscribe our desires and our passions on a conscious and subconscious level.

The ritual, in part, also works on us in overt and covert ways. Sure, the ritual is a teaching tool, overtly we HEAR the lessons of the craft, we hear the lectures, its high words and sentiments. They echo in our minds so that out of the lodge we practice those great moral lessons inculcated IN it. We also learn great the great lessons of Freemasonry by participating in them.

Not just as officers, but as sideliners, we are caught up in the ritual, whether it is good, or bad, emotive or flatly delivered, when we are present in the ritual, which is carried out, or is supposed to be carried out that same way on each occasion. We work together, and in working together, toward a common goal, “… no contention, but that noble contention, of who best can work and best agree…” overtakes us.

The officers and the sideliners which for the best for each officer working the ritual, and each of us, in our minds and hearts, speaks the words and wishes good on our brethren. There is a word for good wishes, its prayer. We pray for the best, we wish for the best, and in our hearts, we become better men for thinking of and wishing for the best in each man.

This practice alone makes us better men! Then there is the candidate, for whom we are all working together, officers and sideliners as brothers all, focusing our attention on the candidate with the best intentions. We are all, symbolically, there at the altar with him, we all open our arms and welcome him into the lodge, we are all really THERE for the candidate, and in being there for him, we reaffirm our own obligations to the lodge, to each brother, and to the candidate.

A cogent argument can be made that even the brothers who do nothing but pay their dues and act as Masons in society are supporting the candidate. Not with their presence, which would be more than welcome, but with their money, which while a poor substitute, does make the ritual and the lodge possible.

The lodge has esoterics, and it has its fundamentalists (and of course, it has ring and pin brothers). The esotericists are seeking after the deeper meaning in ritual, philosophy, history, who enjoy the fraternal association and the mutual support. The fundamentalists see ritual as what it is, and argue there is nothing deeper, and enjoy the fellowship of the lodge for what it is, fraternal support.

One of the beauties of Freemasonry is that these two groups, at odds over the meaning of the craft, can still come together, and work together, for similar goals. After all, Freemasonry is a system of morality, a fraternity, a spiritual temple where a man can forge a closer link with the spiritual side of his nature.

The foundation of Freemasonry made this possible. As we look at the time when the speculative Masonry was growing, we can see that philosophical thought was dominated by the church, and science was seen as the work of the devil, and often contradictory to what the church was teaching. But science was taking hold and growing in the marketplace of ideas, while at the same time, the church was seeing its hold on the secular world slowly eroding.

The early speculative Freemasons were the thinkers, men of science who were stepping away from the rule of the church and into a secular world where they were free to think, to choose, to act and to speak. They were intelliegent, educated men of towering intellect for their time and they knew that science without morality would not serve society. They were not opposed to religion, historical facts show these early Masons to be religious men, and the craft itself shows the influence of religious thought and practice.

They KNEW that as they sought the freedom to think for themselves that danger could arise from that freedom if it were not balanced with morality, because ALL freedoms need to be balanced with responsibility. In Freemasonry therefore, men were taught morality, it was inculcated in the candidates and enforced in the lodges and in the minds of its members as a safeguard, that these men, in their newfound freedoms would never loose sight of the responsibility they had to g-d and to society, to their fellows. Hence the reference to the compasses, that their passions and interests should never stray outside the boundaries of right.

Freemasonry succeeded so well that today, the tenets of the craft are taken for granted like the air we breathe, and there is a whole COUNTRY founded upon those most excellent tenets. Of course here I refer to the United States, which was founded in large part, upon the tenets of the craft, whether because many of the founders were Freemasons, or because the tenets of the craft were taking hold in society as a whole. As evidence, look to The constitution's first “amendments” which enshrine these MASONIC rights: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, to petition the government for redress of grievances, to own guns to defend ourselves and to be secure in our property and our persons.

The effects of Freemasonry are all pervasive, affecting all levels of society, for the better. Today, society, at least in the west, IS Freemasonic in nature. Today, however, those freedoms are taken for granted, and the moral foundation upon which the stand is being eroded. at least until it started to eschew the moral values that Freemasonry insists upon. Today, Freemasonry is a bastion of Morality, a beacon of light toward the spiritual side of man, offering balance again. Men are seeking Freemasonry again, because they want meaning in their lives, they want to belong to something that is at once moral and intellectual, offering them what society, devolving into discussions based on 15 second sound bites and bumper sticker philosophy and "open morality" where oral sex is defined as not being sexual no longer offers them.

Once more, Freemasonry is a Beacon, but now it is a beacon of light to the spirit.

There are more eloquent definitions of Freemasonry, to be sure, but these are my words, how I feel about my Freemasonry. For me, Freemasonry is not just a fraternity, not just a club or a hobby, it is a way of life. It is a personal philosophy, it is how I live my life, how I conduct myself, how I balance my family, business, public life, and spiritual life.

I love my Freemasonry and my brothers, withersoever dispersed around the globe, whether we agree or not.

I am a Freemason.
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, March 20, 2008

To Aid and Assist

Of late, on the internet, there has been much discussion regarding the operation of various Grand Lodges. Arguments have been put forth, accusations and demands have been made for aid and assistance. This article is designed to address some of those issues.

Arguments have been put forth by members of the Grand Lodge of Georgia, Grand Lodge of Florida, Grand Lodge of West Virginia, the Grand Lodge of Alabama, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, and the Grand Lodge of Ohio, that the Grand Masters in those jurisdictions are “out of control”, “corrupt”, “racist” and in short, not acting in the best interests of freemasonry.

To be clear at the start, it is not the intent of this author to take a stand one way or the other on the rightness, or wrongness, or the actions of those Grand Lodges or Grand Masters, nor to cast aspersions upon any of my brothers living under those jurisdictions. The author will endeavor, at all times, to keep within Masonic bounds, and offers apologies in advance for any offense his words might create.

There is a situation in many southern lodges that men of color are not welcome, or accepted as brothers. This primarily seems to be black men, though it is my understanding it extends to men of the Jewish faith, as well as any man not of the Christian faith as well.

This is seen, by many, as being in opposition to one of the primary tenets of freemasonry, to wit: Brotherly Love, whereby we are all taught to regard the whole human race as one family, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, who, as created by one almighty parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, protect and assist each other. Separation by race or religion does not seem to be found anywhere in Masonic teachings, or in the landmarks, such as they are.

This is mentioned, not to bring up the race issue, as if it ever goes away, and certainly not to enter into a discussion of the merits, and pitfalls, of the extension of recognition by Regular Masonry to lodges charted by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges of America. The problem is, it seems that the Grand Lodges, in the jurisdictions that do not allow men of color or of the non-Christian faith to join, are pushing back pretty hard against the younger men who have joined the lodges without being trained as racists.

This “push back” takes a number of forms. As examples of this we offer:
  • Most Worshipful Frank J. Hass, PGM West Virginia 2008. As of this writing, he is not a Mason. He was summarily ejected from the fraternity by his successor, Most Worshipful Charlie Montgomery, after MW Haas questioned the reversal of a vote at the 2008 Grand Communication by MW Montgomery (this apparently in violation of the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia).
  • Wr. Tim Bryce, PM, Grand Lodge of Florida. Wr. Tim is a very active Mason. As of 2005 had a number of Masonic sites dedicated to Masonic Education, and an almost weekly series of articles offered for the benefit of Masonry. In early 2005, the Grand Master of Florida sent Wr. Tim a letter, telling him to shut down all his websites. He was also told to have no more to do with these types of sites without permission of the Grand Master, or he would face charges for disobeying the edicts of the Grand Master.
  • Jeff Peace, formerly of Sandy Springs Lodge, was summarily expelled from Freemasonry in 2003 without the benefit of a trial. No matter the cause, every mason is at the very least entitled to a trial, with a jury of his peers, to face his accuser, and to present facts in support of his innocence.
Recently, brothers have symbolically raised their hands in a certain gesture, asking for aid and assistance against the “corruption” and “depredations” of their Grand Master. These brothers have demanded that all Masons, withersoever dispersed DO SOMETHING to aid and assist them. Some brothers under the Grand Lodge of Georgia have ASKED that the rest of freemasonry enjoin our grand lodges to withdraw recognition until that Grand Lodge decides to recognize the legitimacy and regularity of Prince Hall masonry, at the least.

In the past, this author has, on many forums including this one, advocated just that course of action. Over time, however, careful consideration and contemplation has revealed that my grand lodge is correct in not taking this course of action, no matter how reprehensible and unmasonic racism is and what a blemish its very existence is in any lodge: here and here.

It has been argued that the brethren of the various grand lodge named above, and others, simply cannot effect change. A brother recently posted on the Burning Taper:
Now, fully aware that the threat could not be wished away or allayed by the intervention of the other animals on the farm, the mouse collected as many twigs as he could carry and stored them inside of the house. Every night, when the farmer and his wife retired, the mouse, taking responsibility for a problem that only he could change, used the twigs to trip the mousetrap.

So, take responsibility for the dangers in your home, for more often than not, only you have the ability to alleviate them.
Amazing insight. Moreover, as is often the case, these very same brethren, screaming for brothers outside their grand lodge to save them from the “corrupt” and “mean” old grand lodge, are the ones that scream that the grand lodge is “interfering” in the sovereignty of their lodge. They do not see that they are ASKING other grand lodges to twist the arm of their grand lodge, in a manner they would never tolerate by their own grand lodge toward their lodge.

What is unacceptable on the local can NEVER be acceptable on the global, and of course the converse applies. This is a fundamental test of ethics. Its time for the brothers to stand up and be counted, because realistically, there really isn’t much Masons from other jurisdictions CAN do.

We could write letters to our grand lodges, and to the affected Grand Lodges, but if the Grand Lodge of West Virginia would expel a past grand master for objecting, what attention will they pay to a non member mason?

We wish you well in your endeavor to fix your grand lodge, and support you morally. For myself, I will be writing a letter to my grand lodge about the actions in West Virginia, and a letter to the Grand Master and Grand Secretary of West Virginia. I can do that legally in California, because its personal and not official lodge or Grand Lodge business.

Before you write, be sure of the rules in your jurisdiction… and remember the example of these grand lodges. Be vigilant of your grand lodge, participate. It is, after all YOUR Grand Lodge.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

In Case you want to write to the Grand Master of West Virginia:

Most Worship Charlie L. Montgomery
C/O Grand Lodge of West Virginia, AF&AM
107 Hale Street
P. O. Box 2346
Charleston, WV 25328-2346
(304) 342-3543

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Masonry Through the (Rearview) Looking Glass

This is a follow up to my blog: On Opposing Tyranny, regarding the... unusual situation in the Grand Lodge of West Virginia. Below are the verbatim comments by Most Worshipful Frank J. Hass, PGM, MPS, Grand Lodge of West Virginia to the Brethren at a recent Philalethes event.

Masonry Through the (Rearview) Looking Glass
By Frank J. Haas, MPS

Thank you very much for your brave invitation. I know that there is some controversy about my being here. Some of you have examined your consciences about whether you should listen to me, break bread with me, shake hands with me, appear in the banquet room with me, stay in the same hotel as me, and where to draw the line. I respect that fidelity. I am hopeful that this will be only a temporary strain on our fraternal relations. I am honored to accept an invitation that I did not seek. I have the highest respect for The Philalethes Society, and I would not do anything intentionally to harm it.

I very much wish that the circumstances that brought us together might have been dispensed with, but I have gained a great deal of unsought notoriety of late. This Society exists to research problems confronting Freemasonry. I have a problem. Some say that I am a problem. I have been a Philalethes member for quite a few years. I can relate to you my perception and my recollection of what has happened recently to Freemasonry in West Virginia and to me, and I can offer my opinions on these events. I will tell you what happened — beginning at the end.

Listen to the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

In a similar fashion, the capital punishment of Masonry was meted out to me. Sentence first, verdict irrelevant, trial — well, details, details. I was expelled summarily by the Grand Master of West Virginia without a trial, without written charges, and without notice that my neck was in the noose. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.” To earn it, I did not even get the pleasure of stealing any money, messing around with any women, or sounding off with a temper tantrum. While I was watching a football game on a Sunday evening, I remember Grand Master Charlie L. Montgomery calling me to ask whether I would be in lodge the following evening. I said it was on my calendar. He said he “might drop in” to talk about the Oyster Night at the previous meeting of Wellsburg Lodge #2, where we hosted fifty Ohio brothers, including a surprise visit by the Grand Master of Ohio, the stalwart Ronald L. Winnett. When I walked into the lodge building on Monday, November 19, 2007, I thought it likely that the lodge would be complimented for its hospitality to two sitting grand masters. Little did I know that the lodge would soon be on probation and that expulsion edicts in advance had been researched, prepared, drafted, typed, and were soon to be read, expelling Richard K. Bosely and me, all, heartlessly, in the presence of my father.

I have been hurt by all of this, because I love this fraternity. I must guard against having my remarks today sound like nothing but sour grapes. Some unpleasant events happened. People ask me what happened. I tell them. They do not believe it and say it is impossible.

The Red Queen and Alice discussed such a circumstance in Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

“I can't believe that!” said Alice.

“Can't you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There's no use trying,” she said: “one can't believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven't had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Believe it. The reason for the expulsion: free speech. I have a sincere philosophical disagreement with Montgomery and his supporters. I believe that the grand lodge belongs to the Craft and that the brothers should decide grand lodge laws and policy with their open debates and votes, preserving always our eight Ancient Landmarks. We are not bound to look forever through a looking glass as a rearview mirror and never look at the present or toward the future. Montgomery wants no change ever, and anyone who wants any change should “go away.”

Here is how I engendered such anger. Votes matter. In West Virginia, past masters have one quarter of a vote. According to the legend, I was elected to the progressive line of grand lodge officers by a quarter of a vote. You know that you must be cautious about secret ballots: those who know should not say, and those who say may not know. I am only passing on what I was told. I had served ten years on the Committee on Work with the custody of the ritual as Deputy Grand Lecturer. I became Junior Grand Warden, but some did not want me there.

As grand master, it became my frequent practice to address the brethren at lodge meetings, and I began to conclude my speaking on the level with a time of questions of answers. There were some recurring themes in the brother’s questions, and these I decided to bring to the floor of grand lodge for consideration. Before grand lodge, I acted on three matters of business that needed no change but were compelling interpretations of existing language.

Youth. We had one active DeMolay chapter in the whole state, at the time. We had only around a hundred Rainbow Girls. I talked to the youth and their leaders, and I learned that part of their problem was our grand lodge law. Our policies were actually harming kids. Our Masonic law requires us not to allow youth organizations to meet in the lodge rooms, no matter what the lodges want. Lodges cannot give any support to the kids. Lodges cannot donate a penny. Lodges cannot even permit the parking lot to be used to raise funds by a car wash, for example. When I learned that the application of these many prohibitions, which had slowly accumulated over the years, was hurting the kids, I concluded that it was never the intention of Masonic law to be harmful to them. I thought the brothers would want fast action, so I acted with a directive to help the kids, and I set the subject for discussion at grand lodge.

Summary reprimands. We had three brothers involved in two separate incidents. News reporters initiated calls to ask for facts about Masonic buildings, which they proposed to feature in their newspaper articles. The brothers answered questions about facts and figures, numbers and dates, and these resulted in large, beautiful articles with color photographs in the newspapers of the fourth and the fifth largest cities in the state. One headline on the front page of the Sunday newspaper was worth thousands of dollars in a public relations budget: “I knew they were just and upright men.” However, the three brothers had not referred the reporters to the grand master, so he summarily issued written edicts of reprimand to be read audibly in all 140 lodges at two separate meetings. There were no trials. Sentence first. I entered an edict expunging the record because there was no constructive purpose to be achieved in having them continue.

As I prepared for the grand lodge session, I prepared a written agenda and had the various subjects of legislation distributed so that it went to the Craft with the proposals in their hands, in advance, in writing, to allow discussion to take place freely before the grand lodge session. This had not been done by a grand master for many decades, if at all.

The storm clouds began to swirl. I invited Brother Howie Damron to perform at the Grand Master’s Banquet before grand lodge opened, and he sang, “The Masonic Ring” and other favorites. Some of my predecessors objected and were turning colors in anger, and I was then implored to attend a meeting of past grand masters. The place of the meeting changed without notice to me, and I finally found them at about midnight and was told that my predecessors and all of the remaining progressive line were of the opinion that my actions and proposals were illegal and had to be withdrawn, or I would face their wrath. They said I had violated the landmarks, the Ancient Charges, the ritual, the usages and customs, and my obligation — so I was told, and this could not go forward. I said that the brothers would indeed debate and vote, and I later learned that the statements about unanimity in the room were exaggerated.

The following day, grand lodge opened, and I reported my actions and opinions to the Craft. Prominent among them was an outreach I had made to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of West Virginia through the Prince Hall Grand Master. Perhaps I went further than he would have liked, as I wrote him and telephoned him months earlier, and then visited the hotel of their grand lodge session, suggesting a meeting. For our grand lodge, I proposed language declaring it to be unmasonic conduct to refuse to seat a visitor to lodge if race was a reason, and it passed. On other subjects, the brothers voted to allow themselves the option to say the Pledge of Allegiance at lodge meetings. The brothers voted to allow handicapped candidates to petition.

We are the only grand lodge not to recognize or support the DeMolay, Rainbow Girls, or Job’s Daughters. We are the only grand lodge not to be members of the Masonic Service Association. We are the only grand lodge not to belong to a regional conference of grand masters. We are the only grand lodge to order the Scottish Rite not to perform one of their degrees, the Washington/Arnold 20th degree. The result? I am proud to say that the brothers voted not to persist in remaining a minority of one. The brothers voted to change these things.

By their votes, the brothers repealed an assortment of legislative state-wide restrictions, piled on over the decades, for specific, temporary reasons, by Masonic legislators. Dean Roscoe Pound in Masonic Jurisprudence observed, “Having no bills of rights in Masonry and hence nothing beyond a handful of vaguely defined landmarks to restrain him, what then are our barriers against the ravages of the zealous, energetic, ambitious Masonic law-maker? Legal barriers, there are none. But some of the most sacred interests of life have only moral security and on the whole do not lose thereby.”

The brothers in West Virginia voted to assert their moral security and to repeal bans of books, bans on films, and bans on slideshows, some implemented nearly fifty years ago for important reasons, apparent then, to deal with a moment in time. Royal Arch Chapter charters had been ordered to be removed from the walls of lodge rooms, but the brothers voted to allow them. Other art in a lodge room that included Masonic symbols or emblems other than the Blue Lodge had been prohibited, such as Scottish Rite or York Rite emblems or a tapestry hung on a concrete block wall, but the brothers voted to allow it — including portraits of local Past Grand High Priests and Past Grand Commanders, of whom they are justly proud.

The West Virginia brothers were forward-looking and voted to do what they thought was right. There was jubilation at the passing of the Wheeling Reforms at grand lodge in 2006. That lasted for a matter of days. Then we returned to the rearview looking glass, the rearview mirror, as the ballot was declared illegal by my successor. The vote was scorned. In my opinion, the best word to describe what is now happening as a result is: repression.

Since the Wheeling Reforms were struck down, we have heard it said that, although race is not a legitimate factor to use to exclude a qualified visitor, wink-wink, the Worshipful Master has the duty to preserve the “peace and harmony” of the lodge. So, promote peace and harmony, but, wink-wink, do not consider the race of the visitor, wink-wink.

Did you lose a thumb while fighting for your country? Which one? The left? — sign here on this membership petition. The right? We have ancient usages and customs, and we cannot put up with your kind.

Do you want a Masonic funeral? Your grandsons are prohibited from being pall bearers unless they are all Master Masons. You must explain these Masonic laws to your widow so that we do not have to leave her sobbing in the funeral home. There is no problem if you want your remains to be cremated. However, if you want your ashes to be scattered, it is “undignified” and we must walk away from your mourners, because if anyone knows that the lodge is present as a group, we will be reprimanded, again.

If youth organizations are having problems, their problems are not our problems, so be extremely careful if you try to help the kids. If our deceased brother’s obituary mentions his request that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to a hometown hospice, which comforted and cared for him on his deathbed, then the proper action of the lodge is... send the flowers, because such charity is forbidden. We will not join the Masonic Service Association, as every other grand lodge in North America does, because it is soft on Prince Hall and they will send their publications and Short Talk Bulletins to our members without our control. We will not join the Northeast Conference of Grand Masters or any other such conference because they have ideas that conflict with our laws and mostly because those other grand lodges recognize Prince Hall Masonry.

Friends, I am proud of the Wheeling Reforms. They were distributed so that the Craft had them in their hands, in advance, in writing, most of them for the first time in their lives. We debated until the brothers voted to end debate. We voted on the merits. The Wheeling Reforms passed. They lasted — until the stroke of a pen. Dick Bosely politely but persistently sought and was denied answers about this, and because he took a little bit too much time to sit down and shut up, he was instantly stripped of his title as Deputy Grand Lecturer and two weeks later was summarily expelled, and his alleged offense was committed in the presence of the Grand Master of Ohio. I engaged in free speech saying, as quoted by Grand Master Montgomery, “the dream lives on and will not die.” Now I am left without free speech and without Freemasonry, but I still have the dream.

For my dreams, I have sustained the maximum Masonic punishment — expulsion. It hurts. It hurts a great deal. I hope that it is temporary. In another feat of Orwellian double think, my detractors have extended their hatred further by deleting my name from the website list of Past Grand Masters of West Virginia and throwing it down the memory hole. The Craft in West Virginia is a resilient bunch — Montani Semper Liberi, Mountaineers are always free. They are unsure of what to do and how. They want to do the right thing — and do that thing right, but those who would continue the repression have the upper hand for now. I do not have a call to mobilization to outline for you. I am on the outside now. Your brethren in West Virginia have voted to do what they think is right. By their votes, they made a positive statement about race relations in the fraternity. By their votes, they tried to help the kids. By their votes, they welcomed the handicapped into the Craft. By their votes, they were in favor of patriotic expression in the lodge. All for naught. We are one large fraternity divided into grand lodges. What happens to us reflects upon you. What happens to one group of your brothers affects the whole. We lecture about Masonry Universal. Search yourself, my brethren. You may find yourself with an opportunity to help, aid, and assist — not me — but your worthy brothers in West Virginia in ways, large or small. Will you go on foot and out of your way for them? You may be able to speak the truth to power. As Lincoln counseled, be on the side of the angels. Will you encourage, nourish, and cherish your brethren in the state with the second highest per capita Masonic membership with your concern and your prayers? If for nothing else but your concern and your prayers, the brethren of West Virginia will thank you, Masonry Universal will thank you, and I thank you for sticking your necks out for Freemasonry.

The expulsion edict can be read here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Opposing Tyranny

Note: thanks to the Widow's Son

The blog Masonic Crusade today reported a situation in West Virginia arising over the confusing actions of the sitting Grand Master Charlie Montgomery. Two brothers, if you are following events there had the "bad sense" to stand up and question the actions of Grand Master Montgomery in setting aside the will of the brethren as expressed by their votes at their 2007 Grand Communication. The Grand Master demanded that the master of M.W. Haas' lodge prefer masonic charges against him, which he refused to do, and as a result, both men were expelled without a trial.

The latest confusing actions reported to have been undertaken by Most Worshipful Montgomery and reported in the Masonic Crusade are that after the recent visit to a West Virginia Lodge by an out-of-state brother, who spoke in support of PGM Haas', a letter was sent out to the Lodge Masters across the state, instructing them on what can, and cannot, be discussed in lodge in regard to these issues.

In this letter, M.W. Montgomery reportedly noted the issue of MW Haas and the legislation as issues not to be discussed. More worrying than this letter even going out (if one can imagine such, seeing as Freemasonry was FOUNDED upon the principles of freedom of thought, speech, religion, etc) Most Worshipful Montgomery reportedly warned the masters of his lodges that they may NOT even reveal the contents or even the existence of this letter.

The following is an excerpt from the Masonic Crusade forum:
In my recent travels, I have been told that Grand Master Charlie is at it again. Only this time he is hedging his bets, as he is apparently now sending “secret” letters to some of the Worshipful Masters of Lodges describing an event in the northern part of the state. The letter describes a situation where a member of a non-WV Lodge visited and presented a technical paper, the perspective of which was attributed to Past Grand Master Frank Haas regarding the current situation in Masonry in WV.

In this letter to the Worshipful Masters, Charlie informs them that permitting any such activities or discussion in the future shall be considered unmasonic conduct. He also issues a warning to them, to the effect that the Master is forbidden to read the letter in open Lodge or show it to anyone. This, my brethren, is a tyrannical tactic designed to fracture the Lodge, to keep it in a state of disarray, so that it cannot possibly fight back.

It is frequently employed by terrorism groups, to ensure loss of minimal amount of information should one person be captured. Most WMs I have spoken with have been afraid to tell their own Lodge that they have even received the letter, let alone read it in open Lodge. In WWII, when we were sent behind enemy lines, we were told about the critical aspects of the larger plan for which we were gathering intelligence.

We were also told that we would not be forgotten and to be patient if we were captured. Now, regrettably, I am reminded of those on the other side in Germany, who were simply told to blindly do something (i.e. without daring to question) otherwise be instantly shot by a Luger pistol. I thought my generation had already fought and won that war.

Apparently, like the US Civil War, it too is not over.
As you can imagine, given the support that MW Haas still enjoys among his West Virginia brethren, and the outrage that is simmering to a rolling boil in the lodges, that demand to keep the letter secret has been... ignored by many Masters. Copies of the letter, suitably redacted, are making their way throughout the brethren of West Virginia, and of course, across the blogosphere. There are some edicts of a Grand Master that, when calling for actions that violate the conscious of a good, honorable and true mason, MUST be violated.

One thing that confuses even this mason... what does GM Montgomery think is going to happen the day AFTER he is replaced by the next duly elected Grand Master? Does he seriously think that his actions will be upheld? Does he think for a moment that HE himself, may be subject to summary dismissal from our ranks, the ignominy he has visited upon MS Haas? If not, WHY has he NOT considered it? I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, but the questions have to be asked.

I have not weighed in on this looming crisis in West Virginia for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is: Lack of information. One side of an issue is hardly a justification to set aside an obligation to charity, brotherly love, and to not injure a brother. HOWEVER, over time, I have done my research, talked to West Virginia Masons, and find myself more and more appalled at the state of Freemasonry IN WEST VIRGINIA. The good news here is that its just one Grand Lodge. Out of 101 Regular Grand Lodges in the United States... and if you include the other grand lodges that have similar, though not as egregious, problems, you have about 15 out of 101 lodges, or just over 14%.

Bro. Chris at Freemasons for Dummies noted that situation in his recent blog: West Virginia: The Continuing Crisis

It is difficult to divine the truth from WV Masons at this point, as many feel threatened over any internet communication whatsoever. But it is clear that the standoff between the GM and supporters of Frank Haas has not cooled. In the end, that's bad for Freemasonry in West Virginia. The old school belief that what happens behind a GM's closed office doors stays there is no longer true, and the Internet can send details of such situations around the world in seconds. Likewise, when WV Masons compare their laws to the jurisdictions across the country and seek to make changes, ignoring or threatening them won't work forever.

A vow to the Masons of West Virginia to reintroduce the rule changes of MWBro. Haas individually so proper votes can be taken in October would go a long way to start re-building bridges. Such action would take bravery and the abandonment of some ego for the greater good. Such are the qualities of strong leadership. The Masonic world continues to watch.
To quote "Widow's Son" at the Burning Taper:
If your Grand Master is indeed telling your lodges what they can and cannot discuss, and forbidding Masters to disclose his communications, then Masonic tyranny and terrorism has truly arrived (in West Virginia).
It is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that any other grand lodge will take any kind of official action against the Grand Lodge of West Virginia, and how could we? Any action we take against the Grand Lodge would injure the brethren of that state still more. And yet, Masonic Ritual tells me that there is hope.

To my brothers worldwide: I encourage you to contact your grand lodge, express your brotherly concern, and ask them to take some kind of action in the face of these actions by Grand Master Montgomery, even if its just a letter.

To the brethren of West Virginia: We stand behind you and support 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.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Grand Master of Venezuela Assasinated

My brothers and fellows;

It is with great sadness that I report to you the assassination of our brother M.W. Francisco Pereiro Liz, Grand Master of Masons in Venezuela. Reports are that during an attempted kidnapping for ransom gone bad at his coffee farm in Barqisimeto, that he was shot and killed.

This is a translation from FRANCMASONERIA UNIVERSAL, which is a Masonic brothers blog in Venezuela, on the events that transpired in Venezula:
Very The Resp:. Great Teacher Francisco Pereiro Liz, tragically passed away, a victim of delinquents who burst in into their property, located in the city of Barquisimeto. According to the first obtained data, the M:.R:.H:. Pereiro alpaca, received two firings during an attempt of holdup/kidnap on his property. The Venezuelan Regular Masonería is united to the duel that obstructs the Masónica Family, and shows its grief to all NN:.QQ:.HH:. Receive your brothers words of condolence.
And the press release from the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C.

Grand Master of Masons of Venezuela Murdered in Kidnapping Attempt; Condemned by D.C. Freemasons

(Washington, DC) – It is with great sadness that we announce the killing of Francisco Pereiro Liz, the Grand Master of Masons of Venezuela. He was shot and killed today (March 6, 2008) during an apparent kidnapping attempt at approximately 6:00pm Venezuelan time. The members of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia express their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Grand Master Francisco Pereiro Liz and convey their sympathies to the Freemasons of Venezuela.

“We are outraged at the murder of Grand Master Francisco Pereiro Liz.” Akram Elias, Grand Master of Masons in Washington D.C. stated. “We strongly condemn this murder and hope that the killers are brought swiftly to justice.”

The Grand Lodge of the Republic of Venezuela is one of the many Grand Lodges from around the world set to meet in May in Washington D.C. for the 9th World Conference of Masonic Grand Lodges.


The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons (F.A.A.M.) of the District of Columbia is part of a unique institution that has been a major part of community life in America for over two hundred and fifty years. Freemasonry is America's largest and oldest fraternity built on a philosophy of moral standards, mutual understanding and brotherhood.

Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia
I know you join me in sending our condolences to his family and to our brethren in Venezuela at the loss of so good and great a man as our brother Francisco... my lodge, Moreno Valley #804 dedicated our third degree to his memory Thursday night.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The "Race" Issue in Freemasonry

On Saturday, October 13, 2007, I published: What's Wrong with this Picture??, noting that there are still 12 Grand Lodges that do not recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular Masonry. Many of these also do not allow the visitation of black men, even from jurisdictions they do hold as regular, and who certainly do not allow men of color to join their lodges.

I also noted in this article that the rest of Freemasonry, the part that keeps it obligation to ALL men, the ones the are mindful of the lessons taught to us by the Worshipful Master, when he says, in speaking of Brotherly Love in the first degree:
By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, the rich and the poor, who, as created by one almighty parent and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and causes true friendship to exist among those who might otherwise remain at a perpetual distance.(1)
should turn its back on our brothers who have not evolved their spirit to the point where they can regard ALL men as brothers, regardless of creed, color, or national origin.

Since that time, I have been of two minds in this regard. On the one hand, it is contrary to Masonic teachings to treat a segment of the human race (since there is no such thing as the “black race” or the “red race” or the “yellow race” or any other “race” but the human race) as less than worthy or less deserving. As such, that treatment is anathema to all good Masons, and because it is anathema, regular Masons should turn their backs on these men.

By turning our backs, I mean withdraw our recognition of them. This is precisely what we would do with any regular lodge that self forms, allows women or atheists as members or does not work with an open Volume of Sacred Law on the Altar. I have argued and held that this would force those grand lodges and brethren to step up.

Strangely enough, it was Br. Arthur Peterson, whose antics against all he considers to be non regular masons caused so many problems with some forums, that caused me to start reflecting on this. And thence the being of two minds. You see, on the other hand, there are several issues that arise from my suggestion.

The first is that most grand lodges will not do this. They see the recognition issue as an internal issue, not one to be forced on them… and I think perhaps they may be right. What I learned from Br. Peterson is that the issue may NOT be about “Black Vs. White” Grand Lodges, but may be about Grand Lodge Sovereignty. You see, it has been a tradition for, well, almost 300 years, though one not always observed unless convenient, for there to be one Grand Lodge per territory, called Territorial Exclusivity.

Most of us realize that the policy of Territorial Exclusivity arose primarily out of the desire by the White Lodges to prevent the growth of Black Lodges, Prince Hall Lodges, and to ignore them, perhaps in the silly hope they would just… go away. Hasn’t happened, won’t happen, so it’s a policy well past its prime.

That written, it is a policy, and is a concern. The larger concern, however, is that in extending recognition to Prince Hall Lodges, the mainstream grand lodges would actually be PERPETUATING racism and not curing it… strange, isn’t it, how doing what seems to be the right thing can actually be wrong? His argument is based on the reason we have Brown Vs. the Board of Education.
The 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) is among the most significant judicial turning points in the development of our country. Originally led by Charles H. Houston, and later Thurgood Marshall and a formidable legal team, it dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities.

By declaring that the discriminatory nature of racial segregation ... "violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws," Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for shaping future national and international policies regarding human rights.(2)
Separate but equal… isn’t. So by helping keep two separate grand lodges in a single jurisdiction, in violation of the policy of Territorial Exclusivity(3).

Is he right? Strike one.

Then there is the whole issue of racism. We certainly suspect that it is racism on the part of a few of the Southern Grand Lodges, they have SAID so. We have recently seen PGM Haas of West Virginia, who ran a slate of legislation that was approved, and included passage of recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodge in West Virginia, kicked out of Freemasonry by the new Grand Master.

So, there IS racism in many of those lodges, its reflected in their leadership, and the fact that the brethren in those jurisdictions do NOTHING to change the status quo, like quitting their GL and joining one in an adjoining state, or asking the Grand Lodge in an adjoining state to issue them a charter in the stead of their racist grand lodge, or standing up against the racist policies. Some members of these jurisdictions have even gone so far as to ASK, well, demand really, that brothers from OTHER jurisdictions “help” them by making their grand lodges withdraw recognition.(4)

The problem with racists is you can’t FORCE them to change. You can only show them how silly and small minded they are… and that doesn’t even always work. The fact is, withdrawing recognition from them would likely have the opposite effect. It would cause them to retrench, to defend, to fight against the “unwarranted” intrusion into their sovereign affairs. In effect, have exactly the OPPOSITE effect we wanted.

On top of that, the Grand Lodges would then be forced, by their own action and the lack of action by the racist grand lodge, to start chartering lodges into those, then empty, jurisdictions, and when each of THOSE formed a new grand lodge, decide which of the many that would surely form would be extended recognition. In a word, the situation would be made worse rather than better… Strike two.

Then there is the issue of the brethren in the lodges. Not all of them are racists. They may not act because of fear, of feeling isolated, of not knowing what to do, of any one of a hundred reasons. The action of withdrawing recognition from them would injure them rather than help them, and part of our obligation is not to injure a brother in his person or good name. In taking this action, we would, in a very real sense, be labeling all of them as racists… and clearly not all of them are racists.

In this same vein, we must realize that in some jurisdictions, the brethren cannot affect their grand lodge. They cannot nominate new Grand Masters, they cannot propose legislation, in fact, as we have seen in West Virginia, anyone that rises to call the new grand master on his actions since Grand Master Haas’ Grand Communication, have been summarily ejected from the craft. No trial, just a letter informing them they are no longer Masons.

Keeping all of this in mind, we have strike three.

So here I sit, of two minds. Should we all impose our will, our standards, upon 12 Grand Lodges because it is the “right” thing to do, because we all of us oppose racism in all its forms? Or should we sit idly by doing nothing, as racism and its insidious hatred and ignorance continue in the name of Freemasonry? Because I can assure you, what they are doing does not represent MY Freemasonry!

Torn between two courses, both of which are right and both of which are wrong, and each diametrically opposed to the other. Does any other brother have anything to say for the benefit of Freemasonry?
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.


1. Grand Lodge of California, F&AM, First Degree Lecture, Brotherly Love

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Initiatic Secret

In keeping with my recent articles on the importance of Ritual in Forming a Mason, the following discusses the Initiatic Secret, which the Ritual is KEY in presenting to the faithful heart.

There are many secrets in the world in which we live, which holds true in Freemasonry. The initiatic secret, however, is a peculiar one. The secret is the key concept of any initiatory society, being quite different from any other kind of secret which can be encountered in every organization.

The word Secret stems from Latin se-cernere, to set apart and aside at the same time; “initiatic” – and also “initiatory, initiate” – derives from the Latin verb in-ire, to go into, in depth. The expression, therefore, alludes to something which the searcher comes across walking the inner path and then grasps in his deepest soul. The true secrets of Freemasonry are personal, and are different for every man, and for this reason, the secret is truly ineffable and cannot be communicated, even willingly.

This is why Br. René Guénon wrote:
In fact this secret is of such a nature that words cannot express it
and why, Br. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova wrote:
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.(1)

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.
It can seem contradictory to hold out that Freemasonry can teach the secrets, while at the same time noting that we cannot communicate them. This is part of the mystery of the initiatic method, one that uses rites and symbols to suggest and lead, rather than express, in the ordinary sense of the word.
Properly speaking, what is transmitted by initiation is not the secret itself, since this is incommunicable, but the spiritual influence that the rites vehicle and that makes possible the interior work by means of which, with the symbols as base and support, each one will attain that secret and penetrate it more or less completely, more or less profoundly, according to the measure of his own possibilities of comprehension and realization.(2)
The initiatic secret is a method of spiritual improvement, which stems from a hard inner work aimed to transform the initiate, that is to make him go beyond his present form in order to achieve a new one: it refuses religious dogmas and pushes initiates toward a perfection’s status, which, even if unattained, nevertheless will be considered a rule for their actions.

Freemasonry is an initiatic society, one whose rituals and mystic rites are as much about wakening the inner spiritual man as about improving the moral, mortal, material man. This is why the symbol of the Square and Compass are at once silent, and voluable. The Square symbolizes the material and the mortal sphere, while the Compass symbolizes the Spiritual, and when thus combined, demonstrates the combination and ascention of the man from animal to spiritual being, demonstrating elements of BOTH. It is balance.

Initiation, undertaken in the proper mindset, with a man properly prepared, both in his mind and in his heart, will set a man on the first step of a spiritual awakening. This spiritual awakening is different from the one proffered by religion, which is about the rightful worship of the deity from the creature to his creator, while the initiatic process is about improving the inner man, that he might seek an awakening of the spirit, and thus become a balanced creature, at once mortal and spiritual.

This spiritual awakening is, after all, what the initiatic experience is all about. We are told in the ritual, ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened to you. This is as plain and open as initiatory rites get for a man.

Yet, it is up to the man to seek. The degrees only prepare a man, open his eyes so he can see the door. It is up to the candidate to walk the path. Since the secrets of freemasonry cannot be communicated, the man must undertake the search and do the work. Nothing worth having comes easily.

A further consequence is that such a secret cannot be betrayed, because profanes are outside the initiatory world so void of any means – rites and symbols – to do any inner work.

Freemasonry is not a secret society, even if it has a “closed” character. This does not hinge upon a reason of prudence – even if in the past times persecutions justified it – but rather to avoid the danger of degeneration, by admitting profanes who are not fully qualified to grasp the secret. These men will remain profanes with the apron, and soon or later they will “waste the chain”, because they are reluctant to walk the inner path.

Rene Guenon writes:
As for the fact that these organizations are ‘closed’, that is, that they do not admit everyone indiscriminately, this is explained simply by the first condition of initiation described above, the necessity of possessing certain particular ‘qualifications’ lacking which no real benefit can be derived from attachment to such an organization. Moreover, when an initiatic organization becomes too ‘open’ and insufficiently strict in this respect, it runs the risk of degenerating through the incomprehension of those whom it thus thoughtlessly admits, who, especially when they become the majority, do not fail to introduce all sorts of profane opinions and to divert its activity toward goals that have nothing in common with the initiatic domain, as one sees only too often in what still remains of this kind of organization in the Western world today. Mediocre minds despise and hate what they cannot understand.(3)
People should not confuse the initiatic secret with the prohibition to reveal grips, tokens and signs. They cannot be disclosed for two reasons. The first consists in that, that they are symbols like any other and therefore are to be meditated and internalized. They are means to elaborate the initiatic secret and therefore man has to treat them with due reverence and seriousness.

The second reason is the silence’s pedagogic role. The ‘discipline of the secret’ constitutes a sort of ‘training’ or exercise that is part of the method of these organizations—and this can be seen in a way as an attenuated and restricted form of the ‘discipline of silence’ that was used in certain ancient esoteric schools, particularly among the Pythagoreans. Disciplina secreti or disciplina arcani, as it was also called in the Church of the first centuries, something that certain enemies of the ‘secret’ seem to forget; but it should be noted that in Latin the word disciplina usually signifies ‘teaching’(4), which is its etymological meaning, and even, by derivation, ‘science’ or ‘doctrine’.

To keep a secret thus enhances character.

  1. Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33
  2. R. Guénon, “The Initiatic secret”, in Perspectives on Inititiation, Sophia Perennis, p. 85
  3. R. Guénon, ibidem, p.86
  4. From Latin discere, to learn. Discipline is the means to learn
May the blessing 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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