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, September 30, 2007

What is an Egregore?

Before starting, the author would like to express thanks to Wr. Giovanni Lombardo for his assistance in defining and bringing this article to the readers.

If you have never heard of the term “egregore”, join the crowd. Many people have never heard the word, and until recently, that crowd INCLUDED the author. A year ago, while on The Lodgeroom US, a fervent antimasonic… person, named Thomas “Skip” Sampson, tossed out an unsupported and off topic slander to the effect that we masons should go back to working on evoking our egregore in lodge.

At the time, the author was stunned, never before having heard the word. A quick internet search revealed nothing, and not having any information on the subject, a research project was born, and thence this paper.

At the time, very little was available, though that has changed recently. One of the problems is that egregore is spelled two different ways, with a “E” at the end, and without. This made is difficult at first to find information.

So, what is an egregore, and how does it relate to freemasonry?

Let start with a simple explanation of what an egregore is, or is reputed to be, and then move on from there. On this subject, there are various opinions, especially among “occultists” who seem to be the primary authors on the nature of the egregore. Following are the four primary occultist definitions:

An energized astral form produced consciously or unconsciously by human agency. In particular, (a) a strongly characterized form, usually an archetypal image, produced by the imaginative and emotional energies of a religious or magical group collectively, or (b) an astral shape of any kind, deliberately formulated by a magician to carry a specific force.[1]

…from a Greek word
meaning “watcher.” A thought-form created by will and visualization. A group egregore is the distinctive energy of a specific group of magicians who are working together, creating and building the same thought-form or energy-form.[2]

Any symbolic pattern that has served as a focus for human emotion and energy will build up an egregore of its own over
time, and the more energy that is put into such a pattern, the more potent the egregore that will form around it. The gods and goddesses of every religion, past and present, are at the centers of vast egregore charged with specific kinds of power. This power is defined by, and contacted through, the traditional symbolism of the deity in question.[3]

An egregore is an angel, sometimes called watcher; in Hebrew the word is ir, and the concept appears in The Book of Enoch.... Thus, Irim, the city of the Nephilim is again linked with the Book of Enoch, since the Nephilim, according to that Book, were the sons of the Irim (the egregores.)....Although the Irim, the egregores, are angels on both sides of the camp - fallen angels as well as faithful ones.[4]

René Guénon, a prolific writer on Masonic philosophy offers the following:

First of all, we must point out that we have never used the word ‘egregore’ to designate what could properly be called a ‘collective entity’; the reason for this is that the term is wholly untraditional and only represents one of the fantasies of modern occultist language.

The first person to use it (egregore) this way was Eliphas Levy, and if our memory is exact, it was he who, to justify this meaning gave it the improbable Latin etymology, deriving it from grex, ‘flock’, whereas the word is purely Greek and has never signified anything more than watcher.[5]

It appears therefore that, according to Guénon that an egregore is a manifestation of psychic energy, as opposed to a spiritual force as the occultists would define it. Now that the author has completely confused you, let us proceed to dissect what we have as “definitions” to see if we can come to an understanding of the egregore, and its “place” in freemasonry.

Of the definitions offered, that of Guénon seems to be the one that actually relates to masonry, while the others relate to religious/occult faith. The egregore is a psychic entity, existing between the material and the spiritual, in contact with both. It is the creation of the psychic will of the members of a group, and exists as a connection to the divine.
As we work rituals, the focused mental energy creates and invokes the egregore to fulfill the need of the group. An egregore is not a magical creature, it is not self aware, and is not a Djin, to carry out wishes. The egregore serves as a conduit, a nexus, to connect the group that created/invoked it to the spiritual.

Some egregores are temporary, while some, like the egregore of a lodge, a church, or a country, are the result of the continuous will that creates them, and this will also sustains them. The egregore of freemasonry has existed for centuries, and is the result of the focused will to connect with the spiritual from millions of men.

An egregore is the psychic “entity”. All members of a group, whether it is a club, your family, your lodge, a faith, a political party, a country, or even a single person, are united with the egregore of that group through a psychic connection. As a result, and given the nature of society, we are often included in the sphere of several egregores at once.

The strength and ability of the egregore to aid and assist the members of the group grows over time and through numbers, by drawing support from the members constituting it and through their repeated actions maintain its power. The egregore, in turn, invokes the immaterial and raises us from the material, connecting us to the subtle worlds.

Where the intent is positive and spiritual, the effect of the egregore consists in conveying spirituality to the members as in the initiatic process of the lodge. The intent is to divest the candidate of the profane and connect him to the spiritual, and for most masons, that effect is felt and received most profoundly. To the contrary, in the case of other groups, especially the counter-initiatic ones – which adopt rites and symbols to attain profane or negative goals – the egregore can be quite destructive to the lives and spirits of those members.[6]

Each individual who is involved in a group is influenced by these egregores. For those that reach for a spiritual connection, the egregore assists and facilitates that connection. This process is unconscious, but is intensified through the initiatic process, which is designed to open the mind to the spiritual through the egregore.

A symbolic representation of this may be had in the examination of the Star of David, an emblem of the divine. The top triangle points the heavens, and to the spirit. The bottom triangle points down, to the material and profane. United, they form a new entity, the six-pointed star that represents the unity of the two, from material to the spirit, connection to the divine.

An example of this we are familiar with in Freemasonry is the Compasses and Square. The compass represents the male, the spiritual energy, while the square represents the material. The compasses enclose and define the spiritual, as in the point within a circle, while the square defines the mortal, the material world. United, these two symbols, like the triangles, which form the Star of David, an emblem the represents the divine, so, too, does the square and compasses united, represent the divine, as is shown by the letter G in the middle.

So, the nature of the egregore has been known since time immemorial, as shown above. Its function is that of a guide, and intercessory, to conduct the group members to the spirit and connect them with it. Some groups are connected more powerfully from the profane and mortal side to the spiritual than others, some less so, but to each group according to its intent. As with all things, it is the intent that matters, not the form.

Guénon goes on to state, in reference to the egregore’s influence:

Man has, however, to point out that the Egregore “can never transcend the individual domain since, in the final analysis, it is only a resultant of the component individualities, nor, consequently, can it go beyond the psychic order; now all that is, only psychic can have no effective and direct relationship with initiation since this latter consists essentially in the transmission of a spiritual influence meant to produce effects of a similar spiritual order, thus transcendent with respect to the individuality, whence one obviously must conclude that whatever is able to render effective the initially virtual action of this influence, must itself necessarily have a supra-individual and thus, if one may put it so, a supra-collective character.”[7]

In a lodge of freemasons, the egregore is strengthened by time and experience, and the will and intention of good men. The strength of the egregore is patent in the effect the ritual has on the candidate, and effect that cannot be accounted for simply in the execution of the ritual itself.

We have all experienced the thrill, the exhilaration of the initiation, and the emotional high that carries us for days afterward as the flame is kindled in our breast. This is the spirit the egregore connects us with that fills us and carries us. It is this spirit that breathes in us, inspires us with brotherly love, relief, truth and charity.

The spirit is from the divine. The egregore is the psychic link between the mortal to the spirit. The mason is inspired by the breath of the spirit.

And thus: freemasonry.


1 Planetary Magick, Denning & Phillips, (Llewellyn Publications)
2 Golden Dawn Glossary
3 John Michael Greer, from: Inside a Magical Lodge
4 Egregore by L.S. Bernstein,
5 Spiritual Influences and Egregores by René Guénon, in Initiation and Spiritual Realization, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale, N. Y. p37, paragraph 2
6 So it was in some Nazi esoteric groups, such as Thule or Vril. Also
7 Spiritual Influences and Egregores by René Guénon, in Initiation and Spiritual Realization, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale, N. Y. p119

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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Outer Portico

Masonry is divided, as we all know, into three degrees, each revealing as much as it conceals to the candidate. Masonry is a progressive science, taught by degrees alone, with the candidate lead, over time, closer to the true secrets of Freemasonry.

The degrees serve multiple purposes, and in fact, are part of the guardians of the way to the true secrets of Freemasonry. Men join Masonry for many purposes, some, craven, others, social, and others, to truly become better men.

By craven, I refer to those who simply want to obtain the secrets of Freemasonry, having no interest in anything more. These men are confused by the initiatic experience, and extremely disappointed to find they have, by their time, obtained no secrets but a grip, a word, a due guard and a sign.

These rarely come back for the second degree, thinking that there are no secrets to obtain. Some, however, come back for the second degree, and seeing only a few more grips, words and signs, drop the fraternity, and go through lives having missed the greatest opportunity ever presented to them.

Those who join for social reasons are much like the craven ones who join, though these men, discovering that there is actually work required of them, also often drop out before or after their second degree. It is the rare craven or social animal that actually make it through the third degree, though, of course, we all know a few who do so.

The degrees, therefore, act as a kind of filter against the occasional mistake of the investigation committee.

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.[1]

In the Entered Apprentice degree, the true seeker is reborn, from the profane outside, to the outer portico of the temple. Like an infant, through struggle and challenge, he opens his eyes to the new light of Freemasonry, and sees for the first time with new eyes.

Like a newborn, everything presented to him is new; he is the student of life. Like all students, knowledge comes to him in stages, in degrees. Each degree of Masonry grants new insights, new ways of seeing, and new ways of applying old knowledge.

When we were young, we were taught to add and subtract. Then we were taught to multiply, then to divide. All along the way, the skills we mastered are expanded upon until we can find the area under an arc or the cosign of a tangent.

The same is true of Freemasonry, what we learn as an Entered Apprentice is expanded upon as Fellows of the Craft, and we look back on the lessons of the first degree and chuckle at how simple those lessons were… sometimes forgetting that the profound often seems simple in retrospect.

As we progress in the degrees, our eyes are opened further to the light, until as masters of the craft, we are told that we are now in possession of all the light that can be conferred upon us in a lodge of Master Masons. We possess the light, but we are now searchers, traveling men.

And what are we traveling in search of? More light in Masonry, of course. Our studies of the craft only begin when we are raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. The foundation has been laid, the tools explained, the fundamentals mastered. It is then time to go out, measure our work and use the tools to erect a spiritual house with perfected stones.

As Entered Apprentices, we are on the outer portico of our journey in masonry, having taken the first steps. This is the allegory of the first degree. Yet, as Masters, we are told that we are always Entered Apprentices in the ritual.

When I was the Junior Warden, I studied to sit as Master in the first degree conferrals. One of the first things I noticed in opening the lodge was my question to the Senior Warden in opening the lodge:

Brother Senior Warden, Satisfy yourself that all present are Entered Apprentice Masons.

Worshipful Master, all present are Entered Apprentice Masons.

Now, looking at the brethren in the lodge, all were Master Masons, but the ritual, and the Senior Warden, all assured me they were Entered Apprentice Masons. We all proved it by giving the due guard and sign of Entered Apprentice Masons.

It occurred to me then that we are all still Entered Apprentices, on a certain level, and though as Masters, we symbolically worked in the Sanctum Sanctorum, we were all still on the outer portico, learning, and searching for more light.

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

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Whispering Good Counsel

A brother comes to you, looking for advice, or commiseration, and tells you, on the square, that he has gotten wrapped around the axle of some crime, either directly, through inaction, or without his knowledge. He asks you for advice on how to get out of the situation.

Do you:
1. Keep what he told you in the safe repository of faithful breasts
2. Tell him to confess or you will expose him
3. Expose him to the brethren
4. Bring Masonic charges against him
Recently, I have been reading on various Masonic fora that this is actually a serious consideration. What would you do? Let me give you a specific case that I saw.

As the Senior Deacon of a lodge, where the Junior Warden is the brother charged with Masonic investigations and the preferring of Masonic charges, a brother comes to you. He tells you on the square, that as you will be the Junior Warden next year, you need to know about Worshipful Johnson (not his real name).

He told the Senior Deacon Worshipful Johnson is running a pornography business on the internet. More than that, Worshipful Johnson’s business ethics are less than stellar. He invites brothers to invest in his business, telling them it was a loan, or that he would give them shares of his business without telling them the nature of his business.

I will leave out how it was resolved here, as this is not relevant. You are the Senior Deacon, and in due time, are elected and installed as Junior Warden. Do you act on the information given to you in confidence, because the brothers who shared it with you won’t step up, or do you keep it in the repository of your faithful breast?

The Senior Deacon/Junior Warden kept the confidence he had been entrusted.

It is my opinion that, as our obligation states, we are to keep the secrets of a brother master mason as our own, when given to us in charge as such, murder and treason excepted. Now, I also know in some jurisdictions, the obligation is Felony and treason excepted…

If we do not, or cannot keep the trust, what kind of brothers are we? We are charged in the third degree to hold out a hand to a fallen brother, and to whisper good counsel in his ear, in a most friendly manner, thereby seeking to bring about a reformation.

It seems to me, therefore, that we have no other choice but to follow our obligation… if we are given information in trust, and we have no knowledge ahead of time of the information from non private sources, then we are obligated to keep the information secret. More, even if we do know already, we cannot use the confirmation given in trust, as it was given in trust.

I tend to take our obligations pretty literally. If I swear to do something, I do. Other brothers view the obligations as guidelines, suggestions.

So, what do you do with your obligations?
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, my brotherly love prevail, and ever moral and social virtue, cement us.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Masonic Principles, Morals and Ethics

Freemasonry teaches us we must walk uprightly before g-d and man, acting upon the square and on the level.

In the first degree, we are reminded of those principles, as the foundation of a Masonic life. They are the mission statement of the fraternity. This is the statement of what we are, what we stand for, and what we will and will not do.

Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law."
Principles are not practices. A practice is a specific activity or action. A practice that works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another, as parents who have tried to raise a second child exactly like they did the first can readily attest.

While practices are situationally specific, principles are DEEP, fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply to individuals, to marriages, to families, to private and public organizations of every kind. When these truths are internalized into habits, they empower people to create a wide variety of practices to deal with different situations.

~ The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ~ by Stephen R. Covey
Our principles are the foundation of our actions, they define us as men. The set of principles that we live by are the touchstones of our lives. Freemasonry offers a set of principles in the first degree, and expands on them in the following two degrees. The principles I am referring to are NOT esoteric, mysterious, or “religious” ideas. There is not one principle taught (in Freemasonry) unique to any specific faith or religion…

Masonic principles are a part of most every major enduring religion, as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems. They are self-evident and can easily be validated by any individual. It’s almost as if these principles or natural laws are part of the human condition, part of the human consciousness, part of the human conscience.

They seem to exist in all human beings, regardless of social conditioning and loyalty to them, even though they might be submerged or numbed by such conditions or disloyalty. These principles are, for instance:
Fairness, Integrity, Honesty, Service, Quality, Excellence, Potential, Patience, Human dignity, Encouragement, Nurturance (brotherhood), and Growth (personal and spiritual).
Principles are the territory. Values are the maps. When we value correct principles, we have truth – a knowledge of things as they are. So, lets take a look at the principles as they are taught in the very first degree of masonry:
Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Integrity, Silence, Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Hope, Faith, Charity, Freedom, Fervency, and Zeal.
The principles enumerated above are fundamental to human life, regardless of where or how the humans live, or what understanding they have of g-d. These principles are like the very air we breathe, the food we eat. They are essential to any human society. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of the principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites.

These fundamental principles, like all great fundamentals, are really self evident to all men who pause for just a moment to consider what they expect from their fellow men. They spring from what is the basis of divine law. To quote Rabbi Hillel (c20 BCE):
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole of the law. The rest is commentary.
Therefore a little commentary: Freemasonry teaches us principles to inculcate in our morality, as our morality is rooted in those principles. As masons, we are enjoined to act upon the square, as the square is a symbol of morality.

Lets look at what Merriam-Webster has to say about morality:
a. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical (moral judgments)
b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior (a moral poem)
c: conforming to a standard of right behavior
d: sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment (a moral obligation)
e: capable of right and wrong action (a moral agent)
So, principles of right and wrong behavior define our morals. Inculcation of Masonic principles therefore informs our morals. By the inculcation of these principles, we improve our morals, or rather, reinforce our morals, and become better men. I write reinforce our morals deliberately, because to become a mason, you must already be a good and upright person.

There is nothing in freemasonry, hopefully, that does not already exist in your heart and conduct, hence the inference that a person is first prepared to be made a mason in his heart. To become a mason, you must already BE an upright, moral person.

Initiation simply reteaches you, reinforces in you, those great moral principles that you have already learned from your parents and from, hopefully, society. Freemasons are, or should be, moral people, acting upon the level and by the square, upright before god and mankind, circumscribing their desires and keeping their passions within dues bounds.

From morals proceeds, or ought to proceed, ethics. Again, from Merriam-Webster:
1. plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a: a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values (the present-day materialistic ethic) (an old-fashioned work ethic) — often used in plural but singular or plural in construction (an elaborate ethics) (Christian ethics)
b: plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group (professional ethics)
c: a guiding philosophy
d: a consciousness of moral importance (forge a conservation ethic)
3 plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) (debated the ethics of human cloning)
From Principles proceeds morals and from a set of morals proceeds our ethics. Once again, the trinity, the triad which is really a monad, three sides of the same thing, each supporting and defining the other.

Principles to Morals to Ethics. Each dependent upon the other as none can stand alone.

The principles of freemasonry are much the same. No one principle stands alone, but works in conjunction, each supporting the other into a pleasing and unified whole. By the influence of brotherly love we are more charitable toward our brothers failings (and strengths). By being prudent, and speaking only that which is appropriate to be spoken (Maintaining silence), acting in a brotherly manner with charity, we avoid the pitfall of gossip.

An extended case can be made that acting on the principles in all our lawful activities we will be moral and upright men, acting with ethics than none can reproach. In fact, it is quintessentially Masonic TO act by these principles, and do nothing that will cast a cloud upon our ancient and honorable fraternity.

As always, I look forward to your comments.
“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, September 26, 2007

Masonic Charity

In the first degree, we are told to practice Charity. Under the Grand Lodge of California, in fact, we are told during the perambulation of the second degree:

“…and now abideth, Faith, Hope and Charity, but the most important of these is Charity”
In the lecture of the first degree, we are told:
“The form of a lodge is oblong. It extends from east to west and from north to south, and is said to be thus extensive to denote the universality of Masonry, and to teach us that a Mason’s charity should be equally extensive, for in every nation and in every clime are masons to be found.”

“The covering of a lodge is no less than the clouded canopy or star decked heaven, where all good men hope eventually to arrive by aid of that theological ladder which Jacob, in his vision saw, extending from earth to Heaven. The three principle rounds of which are Faith, Hope and Charity, which admonish us to have Faith in G-d, Hope of immortality, and charity for all mankind. The greatest of these is Charity, for Faith may be lost from sight, hope ends in fruition, but charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realm of eternity.”
But, what is charity? Merriam-Webster defines charity as:

Middle English charite, from Anglo-French charité, from Late Latin caritat-, caritas Christian love, from Latin, dearness, from carus dear; akin to Old Irish carae friend, Sanskrit kāma love
: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
2 a
: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor c: public provision for the relief of the needy
3 a
: a gift for public benevolent purposes
b: an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift
: lenient judgment of others
The most common concept of charity is giving, either time, money, or property. However, there is a more important function of charity, that embodied in the definition 1 and 4. To have a benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity (brotherly love) and to be lenient in judgment of others.

Why is then, that as freemasons, who are enjoined to a practice of brotherly love and charity, so many focus on the charity of giving, and not on the charity of loving? Could it be because reaching into your pocket for some ones is easier than stretching your heart?

To me, charity doesn’t mean giving money or services, charity means having a charitable HEART. By this, I mean we should ever be willing to see the best in our brethren, to cast the best light on their actions, to see them in the most positive light, to hear their words in the most positive light, in the most CHARITABLE light.

This is not to say we do not find brotherly love and charitable miens in lodge, quite the opposite! Yet, sometimes we need to see the obvious put into words or hear the words spoken so they have a greater impact on our lives. By the influence of brotherly love we are to regard the whole human race as one family… who we are to aid, support and protect.

On this principle, masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion, and causes true friendship to exist among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance. Brotherly love is a principle, and charity, in attitude and actions, is the outward expression of that affection.

I lost a brother today. He has been sick for a long time, and finally succumbed to sum total of his ailments. Br. Bear was a good man, a charitable man, a chef par excellence, who, despite his illnesses, afflictions and incapacities, came to Orange Grove Lodge to prepare meals for the brethren.

I haven’t seen Bear for over a year now, being out of the country and he being so sick, but his passing reminded me of a brother so full of Masonic charity and brotherly love that it was a beacon for all of us, an example for us to rise to, and he will be missed.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, my brotherly love prevail, and every social and moral virtue, cement us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Beacon of Morality in a Sea of Moral Relativism

There are few institutions in the world more misunderstood that that of the Freemasons. There is much incorrect, deliberately misleading and false information posted about the fellowship of Freemasons. Let’s take a few moments here to discuss what Freemasonry actually is and what it is not, what it stands for, and what it does NOT stand for.

First of all, Freemasonry is an ancient and venerable institution, with a stated purpose of Brotherly Love, Relief, Charity, with the basic tenets of Faith, Hope, Charity, temperance, fortitude, justice and truth. Freemasonry is a fraternity of religious men, dedicated to the goal of making good men into better men.

Freemasonry teaches men that there are no moral relatives. In a culture that offers classes in moral relativism, Freemasonry stands as an almost lone beacon in worldwide culture as a fraternity dedicated to the promulgation of morality. Freemasonry teaches its members moral lessons using allegorical tales (as the bible does, and as did the Christ), using symbols to illustrate the lessons.

There are many things that Freemasonry is NOT. Freemasonry is not a religion, or a substitute thereto, nor is it a secret society, or not part of a secret world government. The truth is that many famous men have been Masons, among them George Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, nine signers of the Declaration of Independence and thirteen signers of the Constitution of the United States.

Freemasonry is not a religion, or a substitute for the religious duty of honoring God and his works and praising Him in fellowship. Freemasonry is open to all MEN of ALL Faiths who profess a belief in God and life beyond this one, regardless of race. Freemasonry claims as its sons Christians of all brands, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, and Hindus.

All lodges open with a prayer to God, and close with a prayer to God. God is acknowledged in all our undertakings. In fact, when a candidate is initiated, he is told that "? No man should ever enter upon any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of God?"

Freemasonry is not a secret world government. Freemasons are janitors and presidents, ditch diggers and lawyers, funeral directors and doctors. We are your brothers, your uncles, your fathers and grandfathers. Freemasons are ordinary, good men who believe in the word of God, and seek to make themselves more serviceable to their God, their country, their neighbors, their families and themselves.

It is ridiculous in the extreme, however, to infer that the world is ruled by Freemasons because some famous politicians and powerful men have been Freemasons. This belief is the mental equivalent of saying that since all Heroin users drink milk that milk leads to Heroin. This type of mental self-abuse is not intellectually honest or demonstrative of mental excellence. Great men CHOOSE to be Freemasons because Freemasons are honorable men, God-fearing men, men who are dedicated to moral honesty and integrity.

So, so, we have discussed what Freemasonry is, let us now turn our attention to what it is not. I will start with an admission the Freemasonry has erred over the last fifty years in not responding to those few critics that exist, ignoring them as irrelevant. By not responding to our critics and ignoring them, we have allowed their voices to be the only voices heard on the subject, and therefore harmed ourselves.

By being secretive, and withdrawing from the community of discussion about the fraternity and what we stand for, the moral stand we take, the moral teachings of the fraternity, and the services we provide to the community, we have inadvertently caused this paranoid concern. Masonry requires that a man come to the fraternity of his own free will and accord, and we do not solicit members.

Since we do not solicit members, some have assumed us to be a secret society, so lets examine what a secret society is and why Freemasonry is NOT a secret society. Freemasons identify themselves by the symbol of the Square and Compass, the square of virtue and the compass which is used to symbolically circumscribe our desires to keep our passions within due bounds toward all of society.

We wear this symbol on our suits, on our vehicles, on our homes. We are proud to be Freemasons. Our lodges are listed in the phone books in all towns across America under Masonic Lodge, and in the classified directories under Fraternities. Our lodge buildings are marked clearly and distinctly with the square and compass, and can also be seen in nearly every city in the world.

The only exception to this is in dictatorial countries. For instance, in Germany during the Nazi reign, Hitler suppressed Freemasons, and as a result, we hid, using the Blue Forget Me Not flower to show ourselves to other Freemasons. After the fall of the communists in Russia, thousands of Freemasons came out of hiding to rejoin the worldwide fraternity. Masonry is NOT a secret society.

Freemasons do have secrets, but not the ones you would be led to believe. The secrets are passwords, signs, tokens by which one brother mason may know another and show himself to be a Mason. These "secrets" are ancient, and a historical legacy that is imparted to each Mason as he moves through the three degrees. Our meetings are closed to non-masons, though any man, who can assert a belief in God and in the afterlife, can come into the meetings. This is hardly secret.

Freemasonry is not satanic, and has no agenda to push any religious beliefs. In fact, there are two things that are not allowed in lodge, proselytizing for any religion and politics. Not that our members don’t have opinions about both, but since these are the two subjects that are most divisive and most likely to cause disharmony in the lodge, they are forbidden.

Some few, dishonest men, claim that Freemasonry is satanic worship. This claim can be found in the writings of a pornographer and Vatican tool named Leo Taxil. This man, to curry Vatican favor and make money from the Catholic Church, admitted after a number of years that he had made it all up to make a fool of the pope, but that does not get the press that the lies do.

The second reason Freemasons have been accused of devil worship is less clear, and more rooted in the fanaticism of the evangelist. They teach that if you do not 100% support the Christ and denounce any other faith, you are a Satan worshipper. Southern Baptists have accused Roman Catholics of Satan worship for the same reason, yet no thinking man considers the Catholic Church a hotbed of Satanism, despite its recent setbacks due to child molesting priests.

Sorting out the lies takes intellectual energy, and the few opponents of Freemasonry are not interested in the truth, but are interested in controlling you through fear of the unknown. The truth is that Freemasonry is erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, and all lodges have the great book of Law open on the altar, either a Holy Bible, a Torah or the Koran, or whatever other Holy Writings are used in the country.

Now, when I assure you that Freemasons do not worship the devil, some person with a lack of understanding will claim "Well, you think that because you are not a 33rd degree or 32nd degree Freemason, so lets take a moment to dispel that bit of nonsense. A moments serious consideration by a person with an IQ above that of his shoe size will realize this is patently impossible and inane.

To wit: A religious man joins the fraternity, watches religiously based moral lessons, works for the benefit of his community in the name of God, and attends lodge meetings, opened in the name of God and conducted in the name of God, and finally attends the 32nd Degree of Freemasonry in the Scottish Rite or York Rite, given in the name of God. Then after additional hard work and labor for the community and the fraternity, is AWARDED the 33rd degree, is told that this honorary degree is dedicated to the service of Satan? That is so patently ridiculous that even the most hateful and ignorant savage can see it cannot be true.

George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Ariel Sharon, Henry Kissinger etc etc are not Freemasons. Many famous men are Freemasons, and if these men were Freemasons, the fellowship would be enriched therefrom, as among these men, George W. Bush is a most religious, pious, honorable and respectable man! However, President Bush is a "Bonesman", a member of the college fraternity, the Skull and bones, but this fraternity is NOT Masonic in nature.

Oh, sure, it was started by a Mason, but so were many organizations in the world. However, being founded by a Freemason does not make these organizations Masonic. I will give you three examples: the Boy Scouts of America, was founded by Lord Baden Powell, a Mason; Ford Motor Corporation was founded by Henry Ford, a mason, and J.C. Penny’s was founded by J.C. Penney. None of these organizations are Masonic.

There are all kinds of absurd claims made against Freemasons, none of which have a basis in truth, however, someone makes a claim, the Fraternity does not respond, and there it hangs. In intelligence circles, this is referred to as Disinformation. Ignored, it takes on a life of its own. So let’s take a look at the claim. Freemasonry teaches her sons to act by the square, a symbol of truth and morality, by the plumb, walking uprightly before God and men in our various stations, and on the level, open and honest between men.

It is the intent of the Fraternity to no longer sit back passively and allow lies to be promulgated about our fraternity. Freemasonry does not practice magic, worship goats, practice human sacrifice, abuse children or any of the other ridiculous claims made against it. So, one man says "where there is smoke there is fire." We all know that this is not true, and a famous example of this is the McCarthy Hearings. Tons of smoke, created by a man trying to further his career, no substance.

An even greater example of this is the Nazi regime, which needed a scapegoat, and chose the Jews. All manner of hateful lies were created to justify the pogroms to further the career of a little failed painter turned politician. Folks that publish lies about the fraternity, either knowingly or through a lack of a willingness to actually research the issue, are acting in much the same manner.

Freemasons are good men, servants to the community, and reverent, religious men, whose goal in the fraternity is the fellowship with other good men and service to the community. For a more in-depth examination and refutation of the lies and frauds perpetrated against the fraternity, I recommend a visit to

"...the network, from the intimate connections of its several parts, denotes unity..."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lodge Leadership

It is a truism that leaders are born, not made. This truism, however, is not true. As a veteran of the military, and a veteran of lodge leadership, I can tell you non-leaders can evolve, they can be molded, and can be taught to be leaders. Like all truisms, though, it is also, on a certain level, true. A man has to be willing to learn to become a leader.

Our lodges need leaders, not men who have simply “put in their time”. If your lodge is not electing the best, most capable leaders, you are just marking time… and time has a way of eroding and corroding even the best and brightest if its not maintained and polished.

Today’s blog is a reference to something so simple, we all know it in our heads… but we need to know it in our hearts and guts. The following was sent to me by a friend, and was written by Gen. Colin Powell. Please take a moment to go to his website. Due to copyright restrictions, I am only offering the bullet points from his essay. I invite you to click the link and read the expansion on these points and share it with your address list and your lodge.

Perhaps this would be a good subject for Masonic education?

A Leadership Primer from General Colin Powell (Ret.), Secretary of State

Lesson 1: Being responsible sometimes means pissing people

Lesson 2: The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

Lesson 3 Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.

Lesson 4: Don't be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.

Lesson 5: Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.

Lesson 6: You don't know what you can get away with until you try.

Lesson 7: Keep looking below surface appearances. Don't shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find.

Lesson 8: Organization doesn't really accomplish anything. Plans don't accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don't much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.

Lesson 9: Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to

Lesson 10: Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.

Lesson 11: Fit no stereotypes. Don't chase the latest management fads. The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team's mission.

Lesson 12: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Lesson 13: Powell's Rules for Picking People: Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.

Lesson 14: (Borrowed by Powell from Michael Korda): Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.

Lesson 15: Part I: Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired.

Lesson 15: Part II: Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.

Lesson 16: The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise.

Lesson 17: Have fun in your command. Don't always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you've earned it: Spend time with your families. Corollary: Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.

Lesson 18: Command is lonely.

Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I disagree…

I have participated in online masonry for the better part of six years, and the one phrase that I keep seeing over and over, the one that leads to more dissension, disputes and hard feelings among brothers is:

I disagree

These are two words that should be discarded among Masons. Now, on the surface, this seems a simple thing. We aren’t all going to agree on everything, no one expects us to, really. What is expected, however, is when we do disagree, that we display an excess of brotherly love.

Masons are humans, of course, and we are as prone to getting carried away with our own opinions and thoughts as any other human. What is important is that we keep in mind those compasses, whereby we are enjoined to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds.

Benjamin Franklin enjoins us to never contest, and to never come to the discussion with a mind set firm. You see, the purpose of discussion is to share and to learn, not proselytize. If you join a discussion with the intent of teaching, correcting, converting, you are approaching the discussion with a closed mind.

It’s a matter of intent. If you intend to learn, you have to listen twice as hard as you speak. As masons, we are taught there should be no contention among us, except that noble contention, or rather, emulation, of who can best work and best agree.

When we disagree with each other, we loose sight of brotherhood, and in doing so, we loose sight of the value that our brother brings to the discussion. When we disagree, we are no longer listening, we are instead formulating our responses, and we can’t learn, we can’t share if we are focused on our own wants, needs, desires.

Next time you are in lodge, or on a forum, consider discarding these two words.

I know I will.

G-d bless.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Glad to meet you thus…

One of the joys and privileges of Freemasonry is that of traveling and visitation. There are regular lodges around the world where any brother from a recognized jurisdiction might sojourn among brothers, culture, and make new friends who he has never known before.

I have been traveling, this last year, far, far to the east. I traveled so far to the east, in fact, that I found myself in a typical police state, where Freemasonry is illegal. Not only is it illegal to be a Freemason, or practice Masonry here, but if any of the natives were caught, it would cost them their lives.

Puts a whole new spin maintaining secrecy, doesn’t it?

As a result, I have been a lodge of one… I have although had the pleasure of working with two brothers, also world travelers, veterans of military careers and sojourners in this place. For obvious reasons, I will say no more of them, other than their presence has been a sanity saver for me.

Now, we have all had the pleasure, I am sure, of recognizing, and being recognized as Freemasons by brothers we have never met. We make ourselves known by certain signs, phrases, turns of speech, and in America, by rings, pins, necklaces, bumper stickers, license plates, plaques, and so on.

Here, there is none of that for obvious reasons, so it is all the more rare, pleasant and surprising to meet a brother! As Freemasons, we instill in our speech certain phrases from ritual. We do this without thinking, as often as not. There are of course the tried and true phrases as well, questions and responses that indicate a man is indeed upright, on the level and acting on the square.

There are other ways we know each other as well. Not words, gestures, questions, or signs, but the manner a man expresses and carries himself that identifies him as a Mason. The first brother I met, I knew before I asked him that I was a brother. When I did ask him obliquely, he looked at me and said: “I wondered how long it was going to be before you asked me.”

You see, he had recognized me as a Mason long before I recognized him, or said anything directly to identify myself. Masonry does change us, it does make us into different, better men, and we can see that in others.

Why do I mention this now? Well, in a short time, I am on my way home. Back to my family, my friends, my brothers, and my lodges. This, because I have found a new and better job.

I have spent so much time here in the east, I literally feel as if I should be proclaimed a past master again. Why? Because here, I was a lodge of one.

I was required to master myself, live by the square, on the level, in an upright manner before g-d and man. This has been a dangerous place, where exposure, for me at least, would result in, at best, expulsion from the country.

Even now, I will not name the country, though there are a number in the east where Freemasonry is illegal. Wherever tyranny stands, there you will find Freemasonry held as illegal. Tyrants cannot abide freedom, no matter how it appears. This place is no different.

But, for all of that, this has still been a good experience. This sojourn has forced me to focus on my Freemasonry in a manner I would never have experienced at home in the United States. You see, it’s easy to be a Mason in the US and in the UK where we have our detractors. At least in free countries we have freedom from persecution, though even there can be found pinheaded hatemongers.

It is sad that, in some countries, Masons must still conceal themselves, must still keep their Masonry only in their hearts. A few political divisions in England recently tried to create rules and laws requiring Masons to declare themselves before taking certain jobs, and in Italy Masons must conceal themselves or face prejudice, job loss, and other unpleasantries.

There is no reason to require someone to register themselves, as a particular religion, or member of an organization, other than to create the same type of harassment the Jews underwent in Germany in the 1930s, and all of our forefathers gave to stop that horrific event will be lost as history repeats itself.

This trip has given me a new view of my Masonry, has enlightened me, made me appreciate it all the more, and forced me to focus internally on Masonry. I have had time for quiet contemplation and for study. In a sense, this blog is itself a result of my time in the east.

Take the time to examine your Freemasonry. What is it, what does it mean, how has it affected and transformed your life? Not everyone can be blessed with the time in this place as I have been, surrounded by hostile forces.

And next time you meet a brother, remember how wonderful it is to meet on the level!

G-d bless!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On tolerance and Intolerance

One of the principle teachings of Freemasonry is tolerance. We don’t speak of it in lodge much, but it is inherent in the way a lodge operates, it is custom. The most “visible” evidence of tolerance in lodge is the unwritten custom of not allowing proselytizing or the discussion of politics.

The teachings on prudence, justice and temperance, though, it could be argued, are directly related to tolerance, as is brotherly love. But the most definitive discussion on tolerance can be found in Morals and Dogma by Wr. Br. Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction.

…it (toleration) inculcates in the strongest manner that great leading idea of the Ancient Art, that a belief in the one True God, and a moral and virtuous life, constitute the only religious requisites needed to enable a man to be a Mason.

Masonry has ever the most vivid remembrance of the terrible and artificial torments that were used to put down new forms of religion or extinguish the old. It sees with the eye of memory the ruthless extermination of all the people of all sexes and ages, because it was their misfortune not to know the God of the Hebrews, or to worship Him under the wrong name, by the savage troops of Moses and Joshua. It sees the thumb-screws and the racks, the whip, the gallows, and the stake, the victims of Diocletian and Alva, the miserable Covenanters, the Non-Conformists, Servetus burned, and the unoffending Quaker hung. It sees Cranmer hold his arm, now no longer erring, in the flame until the hand drops off in the consuming heat. It sees the persecutions of Peter and Paul, the martyrdom of Stephen, the trials of Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, and Irenæus; and then in turn the sufferings of the wretched Pagans under the Christian Emperors, as of the Papists in Ireland and under Elizabeth and the bloated Henry. The Roman Virgin naked before the hungry lions; young Margaret Graham tied to a stake at low-water mark, and there left to drown, singing hymns to God until the savage waters broke over her head; and all that in all ages have suffered by hunger and nakedness, peril and prison, the rack, the stake, and the sword, - it sees them all, and shudders at the long roll of human atrocities. And it sees also the oppression still practiced in the name of religion - men shot in a Christian jail in Christian Italy for reading the Christian Bible; in almost every Christian State, laws forbidding freedom of speech on matters relating to Christianity; and the gallows reaching its arm over the pulpit.

No man truly obeys the Masonic law who merely tolerates those whose religious opinions are opposed to his own. Every man's opinions are his own private property, and the rights of all men to maintain each his own are perfectly equal. Merely to tolerate, to bear with an opposing opinion, is to assume it to be heretical; and assert the right to persecute, if we would; and claim our toleration of it as a merit. The Mason's creed goes further than that. No man, it holds, has any right in any way to, interfere with the religious belief of another.

It appears that, in Wr. Pike’s opinion, we are called upon as Masons to demonstrate more than simple toleration. But, what does that mean?

Merriam-Webster defines To Tolerate as:
… to endure, to put up with; akin to Old English tholian to bear, Latin tollere to lift up, latus carried (suppletive past participle of ferre), Greek tlEnai to bear
1 : to exhibit physiological tolerance for (as a drug)
2 a : to suffer to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction b : to put up with

To endure… to put up with… to suffer it to be done without prohibition… so, in essence, to simply tolerate something is to endure it in silence. That is brotherly?

But what is the next level? If we go beyond simple toleration, where are we? Acceptance? Well, that certainly seems correct, so let’s examine acceptance for a moment.

Merriam-Webster defines to Accept as:
1 a : to receive willingly b : to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added)
2 : to give admittance or approval to
3 a : to endure without protest or reaction b : to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable c : to recognize as true : BELIEVE
4 a : to make a favorable response to b : to agree to undertake (a responsibility)
5 : to assume an obligation to pay; also : to take in payment
6 : to receive (a legislative report) officially intransitive senses : to receive favorably something offered.
To give admittance or approval to… to endure without protest or reaction… neither separately is the correct Masonic position, but together, these two might suffice. Two brothers may vehemently disagree on a subject, but if each brother accepts the other’s right to that opinion and the brother’s right to believe differently, then we are closer to the Masonic ideal.

This is not to say that we must each accept the others POSITION, for we do have right to our own thoughts, and it could be argued that it is quintessentially Masonic for brothers to work out for themselves that which is right, fit, mete and proper. It is, however, entirely unmasonic to try to suppress a brother for having a differing opinion. It is wrong to go out and try to change a brother’s opinion, or to convert him.

Discussion of issues and the exchange of positions, while it may seem contradictory, is not intolerant of non accepting, for it is by the exchange of ideas and thoughts that we all grow. However, pushing your onto a brother is intolerant… for instance, the prohibition against proselytizing in lodge is quintessentially a Masonic virtue, for if a brother is interested in your position on religion, he will ask… outside of lodge.

But the whole issue of religion and tolerance is a thorny one. I recently made the point to a brother that preaching to someone, going door to door, bracing them in the workplace or in the street, or sending “missionaries” to another country is, on its face, intolerant. Masonically, it is intolerant, for it is a failure to accept the other person’s beliefs (or lack thereof), and a pushing of one person’s opinion onto another.

If group A sends people door to door to “share” their version of faith, those folks going door to door are intruding (literally trespassing) to push their views, and are, by definition, being intolerant of the views held by the people they are intruding upon. If a group sends people to another country to “feed and clothe the poor”, and of course, share their faith with them, those people are being intolerant of the beliefs and customs of the people they are feeding and clothing.

If they were truly interested in just feeding and clothing, they wouldn’t take as many holy books with them as potatoes…

The difference between mere toleration and acceptance of another’s right to his views is a simple matter of intent. If you go to a man and ask him his opinion on a subject, be it religion or politics or the shape of the clouds in the sky with the intent of sharing with him your own view then you are not being tolerant of his views.

This is an extreme interpretation to make a point, but it is no less true for that. Some feel it is the nature of their religion, the call of their faith, to share with everyone the nature of that faith. Wonderful, however, doing that is a manifest demonstration of intolerance… done with the best of intentions.

Another example of this is the War Between the North and the South here in the United States in the 1860’s. Examples abound of Masons on each side of the war, stopping to hold joint funeral services for fallen brothers, to hold out a Masonic lodge from being burned or looted, to give shelter or forbearance to a brother… during a shooting war. THAT was true Masonry.

Today, we see a definite lack of tolerance in the lodge. There are issues that have come up, changes in process and procedures of varying natures. As usual, there is one group championing the change, and as usual, there is a group the opposes the change, and there is always they third group that really don’t care and just want to get to the coffee and donuts.

Under true Masonic tolerance, we would accept each other’s right to have the opinion(s) and move on. Unfortunately, we see one side or the other trying to shut up the dissenters. There are claims of divisiveness, “Masonic Civil War”, splitting the craft etc etc as rhetoric to stop one side from holding their own opinions.

Masonic teaching would have us accept the other opinion, and the each other’s right to have those opinions, and seek common ground, but that is not happening. Instead, we see retrenchment, and, frankly, resentment. The issue doesn’t matter, there are several of them facing us today. The Masonic way would be to work together instead of trying to win at all costs. As one man wrote, it is better to have half a pie than no pie at all… that is acceptance.

Masonically, it is not about winning, or shouldn’t be… oh, we have elections, and we have moderated debate in lodge over issues, decorous and brotherly… mostly. Then we vote, and the vote should end the discussion… but it often turns into more than that after the election is done.

So, what is Masonic tolerance? In reality, it should be, in this mason’s opinion about brothers seeking how best to work and best agree. It should be about accepting our brothers for who they are and what their faith is, and how we can best learn to be better men before g-d and our fellow men.

No man truly obeys the Masonic law who merely tolerates those whose opinions are opposed to his own.

As always, I look forward to seeing your comments.

G-d bless

Regularity Vs. Recognition

One of the more, I think, misunderstood issues in Freemasonry is that of regularity. What is regularity, who determines it, and what does it mean to not be a regular mason? Before we get into a discussion about regularity, we need to define some terms:

Regular: A chartered lodge that can trace its lineage back to the Grand Lodge of England Grand Lodge of Scotland, or the Grand Lodge of Ireland, through regular Grand Lodges. it is a constitutional mechanism whereby Grand Lodges or Grand Orients give one another mutual recognition. This recognition allows formal interaction at the Grand Lodge level, and gives individual Freemasons the opportunity to attend meetings at Lodges in other recognized jurisdictions. Conversely, regularity proscribes interaction with Lodges that are irregular. A Mason who visits an irregular Lodge may have his membership suspended for a time, or he may be expelled. For this reason, all Grand Lodges maintain lists of other jurisdictions and lodges they consider regular.[1]

Clandestine: A lodge operating either without a charter/dispensation or operating with one from a Grand Lodge that is not considered Regular. The (Anderson) Constitutions declare, Section 8, that where a number of Freemasons shall take upon themselves to form a Lodge without a Grand Master’s Warrant, the regular Lodges are not to countenance them nor own them are fair brethren, and duly formed. In other words, Lodge formed without a Warrant from the Grand Master (we now say Grand Lodge) is “clandestine,” and so a “clandestine Masons” is one made in a Lodge without a Warrant.[2]
Irregular: Often confused with Clandestine. Irregular denotes something not regularly done in masonry. For instance, a woman, made a mason, is by definition of regular masonry, irregularly made, even if all else is done “regularly”. So, for instance, if a regular lodge makes a woman a mason, the doing would be considered irregular.

Recognition: the action of recognizing : the state of being recognized : as a : ACKNOWLEDGMENT; especially : formal acknowledgment of the political existence of a government or nation b : knowledge or feeling that someone or something present has been encountered before[3]
Now that we have our terms straight, we can discuss this. In yesterday’s blog, Are There Women Masons, I noted that there are women masons. I did not say that there were regular women masons, but I did note an indisputable fact. Since then, there has been a long and somewhat serious discussion on the forum I help administer, The Lodgeroom US.

It is one thing to accept a group of masons as regular, and another to simply recognize a fact of life. No one is seriously suggesting that the regular Grand Lodges extend consideration of regularity to women’s lodges, least of all me. Regularity has been clearly defined by the Mainstream Grand Lodge system.

In all of this, there is one thing that should be remembered, my brothers: Will ye, nill ye, there are women who swear the same obligations, who form as lodges, with the same officers, the same symbols, the same rituals, the same teachings, who live the same tenets, and who fulfill their obligations.

As Br. Gregg Hall of The Lodgeroom US says: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are, it’s a duck.

Our grand lodges teach us that a man is first PREPARED to be made a mason in his heart. Then, it is our obligation that makes us a mason. In the catechism of the first degree in the Grand Lodge of California, the candidate is asked:

What came you here to do?
Ans: To improve myself in masonry
Then you are a mason, I presume?
Ans: I am, so taken and accepted among men and masons
How may I know you to be a mason?
Ans: By my obligation

So, to be known (another word for recognized) as a mason, we have our obligation. To recognize a brother, any brother, we look at how they live, what they do, how they act. Most of us who meet a man in public who claims to be a mason is accepted at face value, without any proofs. After all, in public, we aren’t likely to jump into an exchange of Masonic “secrets”.

The issue here is not conferral of regularity. Neither women’s lodges, nor men’s lodges, are interested in changing the definition of regularity, or of creating intervisitation. Nor is it one of merging the two systems into some kind of mismash of the two… the old, separate but equal concept. The issue here is, rather, one of recognition, not regularity.

Since we have set aside the issue of regularity, we should approach the true issue here, the one that, as masons, we are really commanded to uphold. In my jurisdiction, in the Entered Apprentice lecture, we are taught that:

By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species 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, 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 have remained at a perpetual distance.

So, while we cannot, and to be faithful to our obligations, should not, extend consideration of regularity to women’s or co-ed obediences, there is nothing that says we cannot recognize them as MASONS. In this case, recognition would mean the acknowledgment of a self evident fact:

The women are acting as Masons, living as Masons, and keeping the very same obligations that we keep. So, while they are not regular masons, that term has no value to them anyway, we can, and should recognize them as Masons. It does no harm to our Masonry, and in fact, a salient argument could be made that to recognize them as Masons is an imperative in our obligations.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

G-d bless




Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Are there Women Masons?

Ok, so this is going to sound a bit like heresy, but here goes:

Brothers, there are women Masons.

Close your mouths, it’s not that bad.

I like male only Freemasonry, and certainly have no personal interest in sitting in lodge with a woman. I enjoy our fraternity as it is, and with minor exceptions, I love everything about Freemasonry, and do not see any need to invite women into my lodge.

We know that men and women think differently, work differently, and are surrounded by different energies. Different is not bad, it just is a fact of life. Different does not in any sense imply superiority or inferiority. We should celebrate our differences instead of trying to force everyone into the same mold!

Reality Check.

Women have been practicing the tenets and teachings of our gentle craft since at least the 1800’s, and there are records of women earlier than that. Even the United Grand Lodge of England admits they exist:

"There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice (emphasis added!). There is also one, which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognized by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, informal discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing
to the Grand Secretary."

"The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by
implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but more an acknowledgement of a fact. There really are women who use our rituals, teach our philosophy, employ our working tools and live our Masonic tenets. They were first prepared to be made Masons in their hearts, as were all of us in the regular Grand Lodges.

Now, before you burst into flames of righteous indignation, as far as I know, no one is seriously suggesting the regular Grand Lodges should throw open their door and invite women to join our lodges or to allow intervisitation. What I am suggesting is that since, as the old saying goes, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, and these women are acting as Masons in all senses except that they are women, that we might, oh, I don’t know, actually treat them as if they were… Masons?

So, you are probably asking me what that means, and that is an excellent question, mostly because its one I have been wrestling with myself for some time now. What is it that makes us a Mason? Our obligation (and keeping it), at least according to the catechism of the Entered Apprentice in my jurisdiction.

Its not the secrets of a Mason that make us Masons, because any profane can acquire the secrets in a library or good sized bookstore. So, minus gender, you can tell a Mason by how s/he talks, how s/he acts, how s/he keeps his word, and how s/he carries themselves in society. So if we ignore gender, we can tell someone is a Mason by how they ARE before g-d and mankind.

Its our obligation then that makes us a Mason. Therefore, lets use that obligation as the measuring stick, a 24 inch gauge, if you will. We are called to act upon the square, keep a tongue of good report, treat people on the level, and act uprightly before g-d and man. We are to act prudently, with justice and temperance, having faith, hope and charity in our hearts and actions.

There are some that argue, and I have been one of them, that since they could not legally receive charters from a regular grand lodge, and because a brother somewhere violated his obligations to make a woman mason, somehow these women cannot be masons. Uh, so the sins of the father are to be visited upon the daughters? THEY did not take that obligation, not to be present at or assist in the making a woman a Mason, so how can they be held to that standard?

I have written many times that if it were in my power (and its probably good that its not), I would recognize all regular practicing Masons and allow intervisitation. I am not willing to go that far with Women's Obediences, but lets be realistic here... as the UGLE noted, OTHER than that they are women, they are regular practicing Masons.

If our sisters (yes, I know they prefer to be called brother, but I am only human here…) live their obligations as we do, then why can't we, why shouldn't we, extend them the same consideration, the same hand of brotherly love and relief? I am not calling for us to extend regularity or recognition to these obediences, but, in the name of Masonic tolerance and brotherly love, since they are Masons in all but gender, can we not at least treat them as cousins, as Masons who just can't belong to our lodges?

In the Master’s Lecture in my lodge, we are told that if we see a certain sign given, or hear the words accompanying it spoken, that:

“…we are to regard the PERSON giving it as a Master Mason, and it would be out indispensable duty to aid and assist them…”

The lecture doesn’t say the MAN giving it, it says the person giving it.

The fact is, the vast majority of women only Masonic Obediences have no interest in participating in Male only or what would then be co-ed Masonry) any more than the vast majority of men are interested in participating in women only or co-ed masonry. Anyone that IS interested can always join a co-ed lodge as they do exist.

There are a few, a strident few, who make a lot of noise about forcing the regular Grand Lodges to open their doors to women, but the reality is, the regular Grand Lodge brethren are happy with the Grand Lodge as it is, a male only fraternity. Truth to tell, if people, men and women were really interested in co-ed masonry, there would be more co-ed lodges in the country.

What seems to be growing in numbers is women only lodges. More power to them, I wish them the best in their work and in achieving the goals we all set for ourselves in Freemasonry. They do no harm to regular freemasonry, in fact, as I have noted elsewhere, the world could use more people living as Masons. Why do we join Masonic lodges in the first place?

To become better people.

After all, Freemasonry is not about me changing them, its about me changing me.

Given the above, I would like to suggest that we treat our sisters as Masons by giving them the same respect and courtesy we would give anyone we meet on the street who notes that they are a Mason. That does not mean inviting them to lodge, of course, nor visiting a tyled session of their lodges, but extending to them the courtesy and respect that we would give to a strange man who lays claim to our fraternal association instead of treating them as if they were horned emmisaries of the devil or infected with Ebola.

Disclaimer: It is not my purpose to try to change your mind, or convince you of any position one way or the other. I am, as always, interested in your point of view.

G-d bless.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why Do We Keep Secrets?

I feel that there are several reasons for this, some clear, for instance, tradition, and some not so clear. We all know that Tradition is held dear in Masonry. Our rituals are old, and hard to change, immutable (we say) and timeless. We do things in many ways, the same way we have done them since 1717, and likely much further back than that.

When we are initiated an Entered Apprentice, we swear never to write, indict, print, cut, carve, hack, hew, etch, letter or engrave… upon anything moveable of immoveable, whereby the secrets of Freemasonry may become unlawfully communicated. Then we are given four of those “secrets”, a grip, a word, a due guard and a sign. We are also told about those things.

Further secrets are communicated in the Fellowcraft and Master Mason degree, all of which are, on the surface, the secrets of a Mason. I will not take the time or space here to discuss if these are the secrets or not, and what other meanings they may have. These issues are not important to this discussion. More on that in another entry later.

Most Grand Masters have determined that these are the true secrets that must be kept per our obligations.

Here is the question though: Given that these “secrets” are published all over the internet, libraries, bookstores and so on, why do we continue to “keep them secret”? I think there are a number of reasons, which I will discuss below. If you have any comments, I would like to see your opinions on this as well.

The first reason I think we keep them secret is that we promise to do so. This seems simple, on its face, but in a world where every profane who wants to know the “secrets” can find them at the click of a mouse; we still keep them locked in the repository of the faithful breast. In this sense, we keep the modes of recognition "secret" because we have always kept them secret.

In a word, tradition.

The second reason is similar to the above, but on a somewhat deeper level. We share a bond between us, to aid and assist, to keep a brother’s secrets as our own, murder and treason excepted when given to us in charge as such. We are also enjoined to go on foot and out of our way for a brother if need be, to be ever willing to stretch forth a helping hand and so on, and to whisper good counsel in a brother’s ear.

If a brother cannot keep his word in so simple a manner as keeping the “secrets”, to never let slip the least sign, token or word when in strange and mixed company, how can the brother be trusted with trusts that are more important? If a brother cannot be trusted to keep his word in all times and in all things, how can he be trusted to be there for a brother in a time of need?

A third reason for keeping the secrets is temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. These seem obvious, but consider: a mature man holds his tongue where there is nothing of value to be spoken or communicated. That is a definition of prudence, to act in a manner that shows maturity.

A mature man tempers his speech, to reflect consideration, for himself, for others. A fool speaks when the wise venture not. Much of speech is space filler, filling the vacuum of silence and offering little of value to the mind or spirit. It takes fortitude, strength of character to consider carefully how your words will be received, to weigh the usefulness of communicating them against the value and impression they will leave once spoken.

Of course, this fortitude, prudence and temperance should be weighed with justice. Are the words being communicated just and upright before man and g-d. If the words have no value, then careful consideration must be given before uttering them. A mature, spiritual man communicates only what is good, valuable, and just, lest he, by his intemperate, imprudent words he injure himself, his friends, neighbors or Freemasonry.

Keeping the secrets is not just an exercise in not speaking that which is often well known, it is an exercise in learning to be temperate in our speech, prudential in our choices, and just in our actions, words and deeds. Keeping the secrets, like weightlifting to increase the physique, is an exercise in making us better men by exercising our spirits, by making us more contemplative and aware of our actions before we speak.

Why do we keep the secrets? Because we are learning to be better men, men that have honor, integrity and that walk uprightly before g-d and men. We hold our tongues and speak on the square because we are Masons.

g-d bless.
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