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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Guest Editorial: Culture Shock

This is the first guest editorial for the Beacon of Masonic Light. The author, Br. Peterson is a member of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina.

Culture Shock:
a state of bewilderment and distress experienced by an individual who is suddenly exposed to a new, strange, or foreign social and cultural environment.

When I was in the military we would have to attend long periods of instruction before deploying to a foreign land. The instruction covered the customs, traditions, languages and other aspects of the cultures we were sent to destroy... I mean sent to operate in.
This was done to prepare the military members in a way that reduced culture shock.

Culture shock is a very powerful mental state. It causes unwarranted aggression, depression, and a host of other illnesses.
Awhile back I realised I was suffering from this state of mind from an unlikely source, the internet. Logging on to the internet I traveled to foreign lands where Masonry is conducted a bit differently than in the comfort of my home land. I witnessed Masonic cultures that did not fit into my limited world view.

No one gave me a class to be prepared for this new and challenging environment. No one hinted that there were other ways of doing things. I jumped in unprepared and under the effects of this illness I lashed out at the very foreigners I chose to interact with.
I have since regained control of my own mind, and now happily speak the language eat some of the food (some I can't stomach, but I won't judge them for enjoying it), and join in their activities.

By conquering my culture shock I gained a greater appreciation for the wonderful differences the world has to offer.
So the next time you see a Newbe, fresh from his third degree and rampaging through our village, remember that he may be ill and in need of assistance. This assistance may mean forcefully restraining him, but more especially it means he needs education of OUR culture and time to adjust to it.

Br. Arthur Peterson

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Masonic Temple

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Bill McElligott and Giovanni Lombardo just outside London. I was on my way home from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a 24 hour flight, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Give myself a break in the long flight and visit with two brothers whom I cherish dearly.

While I was there, Bill took Giovanni and I to Saxon Hall. This building is a former industrial building that was purchased, gutted, and renovated as a masonic edifice. I write edifice deliberately, because it is not a single lodge, or even lodgeroom. This edifice houses over 50 masonic lodges in two big lodgerooms and two smaller lodgerooms.

It is a beautiful renovation, with two full bars, two lounges, a two full dinning rooms, an awesome kitchen facility, and all the accouterments you would expect to find in a class operation. You will find pictures below.

So, why do I mention this? Well, in American Masonry, there is a tendency for every single lodge to try to have its own building. In the masonic district where I live, there are four lodges. Two of them are within 3 kilometers (just over two miles) apart, and both of these two are struggling with membership issues and to keep their officer lines complete.

These two lodges would, in my opinion, be better served by, if not consolidating into a single lodge, at least sharing the facilities in one of the buildings. I have my own opinion about which building, but that is not relative here, so I will keep it to myself.

This is not a rare case. Most US lodges seem to want to have their own buildings, and that is a good thing. In California, most gold towns had a Masonic lodge, which often served as the city center/city hall/town hall/meeting hall... and often tavern. You can still travel the length and breadth of California and see these grand buildings with the square and compass on them and a cornerstone set proudly.

The cost of living, the spread of cities, urban sprawl and the population flight from downtown to suburbia has wrought many changes, and as a result of those changes and the temporary decline in masonic membership (which is even now turning around) have resulted in many of these buildings being sold.

Another result of these changes is it is very expensive to maintain a lodge in the downtown areas. One lodge in my district was in downtown Riverside until the early 1970's, until the county of Riverside, in its infinite wisdom, decided to condemn the masonic lodge so they could build a new courthouse complex. And so the lodge moved out of the downtown and out into the fringes of the city and into a new building.

The Face of Freemasonry is changing. The members are younger, more mobile, and less tied to the city centers. Yet we still have many masonic buildings with but a single lodge in them. Worse, these lodges NEED to be large lodges, that is, with memberships in excess of 200 men to support the building and taxes and utilities and...

The challenge is, lodges of over 20 men bring their own problems. No man can know 200 men well, and when there are so many men in a lodge, there is less reason for each man to participate in lodge. There always seems to be another brother willing to take up the glove and sit a station, and the others... just drift away. This is, of course, an extreme simplification of the issue, but the larger the lodge, the less each brother seems to feel he is needed.

It seems to me, after seeing Saxon Hall and its 50 lodges, each with around 50-75 members, working so well in a single building, sharing brotherly love and labor in the quarries so well, that perhaps we might consider breaking these monster lodges, with over 200 members, into two, three or four other lodges. In fact, with the aging population, a wise master might want to consider attempting a charter for a Daylight Lodge, for the older brothers who can no longer drive.

Another option, which a grand master described to me, involved a consortium of doctors who needed facilities for medical offices. They approached the lodge in their town, that was renting facilities though they owned a large plot of land. Together, they cobbled together a unique solution to both their issues. The doctors built a three story hospital building and offices with underground parking on the land owned by the lodge.

The first floor was medical offices and hospital facilities. The second floor was a cafeteria and lodgeroom facilities, and the third floor business offices. The lodge had the use of the lodgeroom and cafeteria facilities at no cost for 99 years, and the doctor's consortium took care of all costs of the building except the lodge's telephone, and at the end of the 99 years, the building would become vested in the lodge.

Perhaps its time, as demographics change, that masonic lodges and grand lodges begin looking at more... creative solutions. Not necessarily the solution noted above, but there are many situations like this where a commercial and a lodge can co-exist to the benefit of both.

There is a solution to every problem, if we are willing to think outside the box.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Saxon Hall:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Masonic Formation

I am fortunate to be a member of Moreno Valley #804, where I am welcomed every time I show up as if I were the prodigal son... and where we greet every brother that crosses the threshold as the prodigal son returned. I mention this as, since returning from the Hot Sands of Saudi Arabia, I have been privileged to attend a number of degrees.

I mention this because since I have been gone, the master, Wr. John Cover Spear, has instituted what I think is an awesome bit of masonic education for the candidate, and I want to share it with you... because I think it is a great idea.

First, a little background. In California lodges, the installed master sits as Master in the degree work only for the third degree conferrals and stated (business) meetings. In the First Degree, the Junior Warden sits as master and confers the degree upon the candidate. In the Second Degree, the Senior Warden confers the degree upon the candidate.

In both these cases, the master is present, and usually sits as the Junior in the first and the Senior in the second, but that is not ritual, just tradition. I mention this because it will help explain what follows.

After the ceremonials of the degree are completed and the candidate is seated among the brethren, the master rises (in the first and second degrees) and asks the master for permission to meet the candidate west of the altar. As a side note, in California ritual, the altar is equidistant between the Master and Senior Warden and the Junior Warden and the North.

West of the Altar, the Master shows the candidate the step, due guard and sign, the grip, the word, and explains the various officers duties and masonic terms that are used in the degree. He does this in plain speech, in his own words, slowly, making sure he explains it to the candidate.

He does this in each degree excepting the third degree. After the third degree is conferred, he steps down from the east and makes the same type of explanations to the candidate just before closing.

You can see the light come on in the candidate's eyes as he makes this explanation and shows the candidate the things he was told in the ritual. These lessons take no more than five minutes, and have made a lasting impression on the candidate, not only of the material being presented, but in the friendliness and brotherhood in which it is offered.

We all know that the candidates are often overwhelmed with the ritual, the movements, the material they are being presented... heck, as masons, we have all been there. I still remember vividly how it felt to kneel at that altar and take my obligations, and have seen hundreds of degrees conferred since then and have seen the deer in the headlights look on most candidates.

Wr. Cover Spear demonstrates a care, concern, and brotherly love for the candidates, while imparting information all candidates have questions about after the degree. More, in doing so, he sets the tone for the lodge, for the degrees, and for the brotherly relationship between us all.

I was impressed when I first saw Wr. Cover Spear first do this, and since then, I have been more impressed at the effect it has, not only for the candidate, but for the lodge. I am a member of the Masonic Formation Task Force... and I am proud to say that Wr. Cover Spear doesn't just confer degrees in the lodge, he forms masons. Its awesome to be a part of that... even a small part on the right hand of the Senior Warden...
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

On Being Thankful

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about Thanksgiving, what it means to me, and figuring out all the things I am grateful for this year. In his proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November to be a day of Thanksgiving, President Abraham Lincoln wrote: To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I spent the last year and a half in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and that I am now home, among friends and brothers once more. On this, my first Thanksgiving home, I want to give thanks for, in no particular order:
  1. My brothers in freemasonry, who were sad to see me leave, and glad to see me return.
  2. My brothers in Saudi Arabia, who I cannot discuss, but you all know who you are, thank you for your support!
  3. My wife, for all her support while I was over there supporting us.
  4. My family, for supporting, and aiding and assisting my wife while I was away.
  5. To my country, for while I do not always agree with every action she takes, her protection sheltered me even while in Riyadh.
  6. For my friends, for supporting me while I was gone and welcoming me when I returned.
  7. My new job, close to home, that allows me to travel and support myself and my family.
  8. For the opportunity to travel to another country and live there, to learn about the customs and traditions in that country, and to learn that what we read in the media is hardly complete, or accurate.
  9. For my Saudi friends, who welcomed me into their homes, helped me to learn, and befriended me.
  10. For my cat, Afwan, for keeping me sane when I was alone and so far from all my friends and everything familiar.
  11. To be alive at this time. Every day I get up and look down at the grass instead of up at it is a good day.
  12. For my brothers in all other countries of the world, to Bill and Gio, especially.
  13. To Manny Blanco, John Cover-Spear, George Geanoulis, Adam Kendall, John Cooper, Dennis Chornenky, Prometheus (you know who you are) Bill McElligott, Giovanni Lombardo, and many many more for your good words, excellent advice and moral support while I have been traveling.
  14. To the brothers in London who welcomed me with open arms, and my brothers in Madison New Jersey.
This has been an awesome year, one that has taught me much... what to do, and from some, what not to do.

What are you grateful for? What in your life has touched you that you have taken for granted? We are only vouchsafed this moment in time, and not a moment more. Our moments in life are not measured in the breaths we take, but in the moments that take our breaths away. How about you?
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prodigal Son

In ritual, we are taught that there should be no contention among the brethren, except that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who can best work and best agree.

Fortunate is the brother who sees that emulation in his daily lodge. I count myself among the fortunate majority of Masons who have been enveloped in the warmth of brotherly love. As I stated earlier in Out of the Sandbox, I spent a year and a half in Saudi Arabia. While I was there, I met awesome brothers, men who KNEW the true meaning of brotherhood.

While in London, I visited a lodge to participate in a Lodge of Instruction, and was welcomed with open arms as if I were a long lost brother recently returned. I also visited Madison Lodge, in Madison, New Jersey on my travels, and again, was welcomed there in the same manner (and immediately put to work in both these lodges, a clear demonstration of acceptance).

I have visited lodges all over the United States, and in EVERY SINGLE CASE, I have been feted and treated as a prodigal son, returning from a long sojourn to my family.

Luke 15:22-24: 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

And in these lodges I found a surfeit of that noble contention, with the brothers all working toward a single, common goal, the betterment of themselves, and the betterment of the fraternity. I am a member of several different lodges, and with no exception (!), I have found good and true men, honorable men, seeking the best freemasonry has to offer them and each other.

Do we have differences of OPINION? To be sure, that is the nature of man, to strive, to seek, to understand. When we keep the compasses clearly in view and strive to live the principles of freemasonry in our lives, differences of opinion do not matter, they are things of joy that bring light into our lives rather than things of darkness which cause strife.

As long as we keep our passions within due bounds, as rational men, we cannot possibly err. We should all strive to that which is best for each other, rather than that which is solely best for us. This is part of the nature of charity, to look beyond our own needs, wants, and desires, to consider the whole, to consider our brethren, to seek to aid, protect and support them.

If we, each one of us, will keep clearly in mind that our egos, our desires, our wants should be circumscribed by a consideration of our brothers, our families, our communities, our country, and our g-d, we will be better men, better masons. Its not our differences with separate us, its our differences which unite us!
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, November 17, 2007

Masonic Malcontents?

There has been a lot written of late by a small group of malcontents in freemasonry. These brothers seem to feel that if only freemasonry would change, lock, stock and barrel to THEIR vision, that everything would be cool beans and freemasonry would grow.

The Problem is, their "suggestions" for change involve throwing away pretty much everything that makes Freemasonry, well, Masonic. This includes the Grand Lodge system, the lodges, the ritual, the tenets, how we meet, who we recognize... if all their plans were implemented, we would be something else, but not freemasonry.

They go on constantly about Grand Lodges being "monolithic" and "unresponsive". One of these brothers even recently wrote: Monolithic systems such as Grand Lodges are well suited for mass production operations where everything is the same, but poorly suited to address individual needs. This, I believe, is the true nature of the problem. It's not about the needs of the ego but the spirit of the human being.

The problem is, this is incorrect, a sand foundation for all proceeding arguments, and in itself an ego driven position. These few brothers, and by few I mean less than a hundred (though they are quite vocal) out of, what, 4 million plus Freemasons worldwide, seem to hold the position that they are not bound by their obligation to Freemasonry, that they do not have to work within the system to effect change.

They do not seem to care that the MAJORITY, and by majority, I mean over 99% of all regular masons, do not agree with them and their methods. In one case recently, a lodge voted to surrender its charter, and is attempting to take all the assets of the lodge with them in the process, and have now formed a NEW lodge, without a charter.

This action was handled by less than a third of the members of the lodge who were present to vote, out of the entire membership of the lodge. More disturbing is their actions in moving the building and other valuable assets into an outside charity (in contravention to the bylaws of the law and the constitution of the grand lodge under which they HELD their charter.

The fact that they took this action after having their charter placed on probationary status because of actions they had been, or had not been taking, and the concern of the Grand Lodge over their actions. These men also, at the same time they voted to "surrender" their charter, also surrendered their dues cards and formed a new lodge, without a charter. Of course, these three actions meant that these brothers, less than a hundred of them according to reports, were no longer regular masons.

Ego is the prime cause of this problem, and others like it. In masonic ritual, we are taught that we were first PREPARED to be made a mason in our hearts, then taught to circumscribe our desires, and "wait a time with patience". A lack of patience, and an over riding ego are the prime cause of these types of actions.

They did not attempt anything through gentle acts. I have been following the actions there, and they have been, as far as I can tell, rightly reined in by the grand lodge.

Now they have done what I recommended, vote with their feet. Good for them. The issue I take umbrage with is what appears to be their moving the assets of the Lodge out of the "lodge", illegally by their own bylaws and the constitution of the grand lodge under which charter the assets were assembled, THEN surrendering their charter and taking over the assets to form a "new" lodge.

Sorry, that is not good. If they were honest in their actions, they would all have simply demited from that lodge and gone to form a new lodge and left the charter in place. After all, there are over 300 members of that lodge.

But no, they wanted to have their cake and eat it to (yes, I know, silly saying but there you are). Myself, I have no problem with their objecting to... whatever it was they objected to... following the rules of their grand lodge in not extending even honorary membership to an expelled mason, and not moving the assets of the lodge, wasn't it?

If they had simply done the honorable thing, demitted and gone off to get a charter from somewhere else, or even just forming their own new lodge, I would have lauded and honored them. After all, that is following the dictates of their conscience.

That is NOT what they did, however. They had to make a show, by "giving back their charter", and taking the assets of the lodge WITH them. Not masonic at all, in my estimation.

They should have simply demitted and left the lodge without officers, for the GM to fix however he decided to fix it. That is not what they did, and it is the... other things they did, in association with a rather... untraditional manner of demitting that I object to...

By the way, no one really seems to know what was so egregious about their grand lodge that they just HAD to demit, do they? And no one seems to see anything that they are doing that is different from regular masons the world over... except claiming to be the best masons there are, I mean.

So, lets go back to the "monolithic" comment. In the United States alone, there are over 90 REGULAR Grand Lodges. I do not follow the actions or philosophies of other obediences, so I will not include them in this discussions, or speculate on them. These 90 REGULAR grand lodges follow a tradition that goes back to at least 1717, a set of traditions, tenets, rituals and philosophy.

Now, all men see things in different lights. That is the essence of working together, and is most masonic when we can set our differences aside and work together. If a brother sees, or thinks he sees a need for change in masonry, whatever it is, it is most masonic that he discuss it with his brethren and either convince them he is correct, or, recognize that his vision is not shared and move on.

If one cannot convince the majority of the correctness of his belief, then it strikes me as the height of chutzpah, ego and hubris when he turns around and claims that the GL is therefore wrong, evil, corrupt etc etc etc, when the fact is, if the majority of his brothers do not agree with him, that HE might be out of step.

Freemasonry is a democracy, at its core, and modern freemasonry is no different. Convince the majority of anything, and you, and they, will prevail. The only MONOLITH in freemasonry is the brethren.

Then we have comments like: If one truly believes in Freemasonry, but the monolithic structure inhibits their spiritual growth, they will become deeply unhappy and confused as to the nature of their unhappiness. Eventually the realization will come to them that it is the limitations of the monolithic structure that holds them back morally and spiritually in their quest for self-discovery.

This type of comment confuses me, because every brother, EVERY brother, can work to effect change in Freemasonry, IF the change is really necessary; AND, more importantly, every man is free to demit from Freemasonry if it does not fulfill his "spiritual" needs. NO MAN, however, is free to stand back, as the antimasonic elements do, and throw rocks at freemasonry because it does not exactly match their "needs".

Some of these brothers use unmasonic, antithetical methods in their efforts to effect change. Some start new "masonic" bodies, clubs, rites, etc., that are not in keeping with true freemasonry. Sometimes, these brothers are even removed from the body masonic because their actions are so disruptive, negative, and unmasonic. Its a sad thing, but it happens.

Fortunately, the number of men that so violate their obligations, masonic teachings, masonic philosophy and masonic tolerance are few. As with any organization, some men join with a misunderstanding of what Freemasonry is... and isn't. When they find out that Freemasonry isn't a bowling club, or a pool hall, or a gym, or a bar with a club grafted on, they become unhappy.

The majority of masons worldwide find the craft to be what it claims and holds itself out as: An ancient and honorable fraternity of men, with a faith in the supreme being, however they define him, a sense of community, of brotherhood, and a need, a hunger, for more light. As one who has traveled the world and seen lodges across the face of it, met and worked with brothers of all races, nationalities and creeds, the glory and beauty of freemasonry is clear.

With the RARE exceptions noted above, the universal experience has been one of friendship, support, study, contemplation, charity and brotherhood. The philosophy of freemasonry is intact, as are the fraternal, social and moral ethos for the taking. Is all sunshine and light? No, Freemasonry, like all organizations, reflects the society in which it grows.

The warmth of masonic light is there, the brotherhood, the family and the knowledge. We are taught as Masons to be tolerant, to be gentle, and to work as brothers to achieve our noble ends. These few men, these errant brothers, are not the cure for Freemasonry's "ills", they ARE an ill, for they have set aside the trowel for the setting maul... and we Masons all know who wields the setting maul, and what the result of one fellowcraft's use of it resulted in.

As masons, we are called to tolerance, fraternity, and to whisper good counsel to our brothers when they have fallen from the path. There comes a time, however, when all good masons must, failing to bring about a reformation through kind, gentle remonstrations and whispered good counsel, must turn our backs on their antics and say, this far, and no further.

A good lodge has been destroyed by following the pied piper, and it seems another is on the brink of the same foolishness. Ego, thy name is NOT Freemasonry. The TRUE name of Freemasonry is FRATERNITAS, and the true secret of freemasonry is brotherhood.
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, November 15, 2007

Acknowledgement Vs. Recognition

On Thursday, September 20, 2007, I wrote the article, Regularity vs. Recognition, discussing how we should all recognize each other as Masons, regardless of what lodge/Grand Lodge we were raised in. I want to modify my position slightly here. Recognition is a Masonic term and carries with it definitive meanings.

At this point, I would like to state that all masons should ACKNOWLEDGE each other as masons, men, women, co-masonic, regular, irregular, clandestine, whatever. If someone claims to be a mason, regardless of provenance, I plan on acknowledging them as a type of Mason. I won't invite them to lodge, or sit in lodge with them, because that is a matter of Masonic jurisprudence and my obligation.

How can we NOT acknowledge a man as a Mason when he makes the claim? What difference does it make to our obligation, and truth to tell, our obligation can be argued to REQUIRE us to acknowledge someone a mason just based on the claim. So while I cannot recognize a woman or a co-mason as a regular mason, I am firmly of the opinion that I can acknowledge these brothers and sisters as types of masons.

It seems the Masonic thing to do.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brother love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

May the blessing of heaven rest upon us...

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

Every blog entry here is ended with the above blessing. It is offered sincerely and whole heartedly to all masons. However, it appears there are some, a few, who have a lot of anger, resentment, whatever over the whole regularity issue. This blog has addressed Regularity, and women/co-ed Masonry, so there is no point in rehashing that issue here.

Regularity, as has been noted elsewhere, IS a Grand Lodge issue. Regular, irregular, clandestine etc. are legalistic terms for describing various types of Masons. This blog is not about categorizing brothers and fellows. If you consider yourself a Mason, no matter the provenance of your degree, the author is willing to extend personal recognition of your being a Mason.

Now, the blessing that is offered at the closing of every entry is taken directly from the California ritual. The Master, as part of closing his lodge, offers this benediction to the assembled craft. In the same vein, the author extends to the readers who have been at labor with him, the author in writing and the reader in contemplating the words so created, the benediction used to close a lodge, acknowledging that the mutual labor is at a close… for the moment.

It is a symbolic lodge that we create, when we labor toward a common goal. The Lodgeroom is this small segment of cyberspace, yet, Masons all, we labor here together toward common understanding. My Lodge teaches that when we labor together there should be no contention, except that noble contention, of who best can work and best agree.

Therefore, at the close of our common labor, the author offers the benediction to all readers, regardless of whether they are a Member of the Grand Lodge of California, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California, Inc., another Grand Lodge with whom these Grand Lodges are in amity, or ANY OTHER BROTHER.

In California, a new master mason is told by the master that he commends the brother to the kind care, love and protection of all master masons, withersoever dispersed around the globe. In the same sense, this blessing is offered to all masons. Regardless of your membership, it’s the Masonic thing to do.

So, if you consider yourself a Mason, the blessing offered to you, and if you are reading this, and are not a Mason, consider the blessing also extended to you. Masons are, after all, taught to consider 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, support and protect one another. Lets have a bit more brotherly love in our lives, and a bit less looking for reasons to separate ourselves and get our feelings hurt, ok?

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, November 13, 2007

Further Light in Masonry…

In lodge, we speak of traveling from west to east in search of further light in Freemasonry. We speak of it so often that it almost become cliché. In fact, when we meet a brother on the street, we may ask him: Are you a traveling man? and Of what are you in search? Our dating system begins 4000 BC (the purported year when the earth was created by g-d’s fiat. We note that the Masonic date is AL, Anno Lumis, the year of light.

So, given that we speak of it so often… have you ever stopped to think: What they heck does “seeking more light” actually mean?

Until recently, I hadn’t really either. Russell Holland posted, in response to my article about the Masonic Pencil as post #4: It may be useful to consider what it is you mean by Light and how your Beacon of Masonic Light connects to that source or sources.

Now, Russell and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, he is given to tossing out one-liners and walking away, but for the first time in, oh, six years, what he wrote struck me, differently than I think he intended, to be sure, but it made me stop and ask, so what IS this “Further Light In Masonry” we are all seeking. I had an answer, one I had formed over the years, but I thought I would look at what other brothers had said, rather than reinvent the wheel:

WHAT IS LIGHT? At first glance it would appear that we should begin by asking "What is Light?" Over the seven years that I have lived in Alberta, I have come to love the Ancient York Rite. I will strive to the utmost to defend it for I believe that it contains the last existing vestiges of the work of our ancient Operative brethren. Nevertheless, I have to concede that it does have one glaring omission. One that our Canadian Rite brethren will instantly recognize. Every other ritual for the High and Sublime degree that I have ever read or seen worked, contains the statement: "I beg you to observe that the Light of a Master Mason is Darkness Visible." The Light of a Master Mason is Darkness visible. I put it to you, Brethren, that this is the most accurate description of Masonic Light that you will ever find.(1)

As I searched for… well, light, on this subject, I came across the above, written by Wr. John W. Alexander of Britania Lodge #18. At first, I was appalled, but in keeping with my search, I finished reading his article, and began to realize… he was right. Later in his article, he goes on to say:

For primitive man, the absence of light, by impairing his ability to see, seemed to plunge the world into nothingness. Thus, even from the earliest times, we find darkness, as the negation of light, regarded as a cause of fear and, therefore, of evil. The Ancient Mysteries, which coexisted with and underlay the conventional religions of those far-off times, developed the idea of Light as a symbol of Knowledge and Truth. Thus we find that they all regarded its opposite as representative of Ignorance and Error. It is in this form that Freemasonry, the heiress of all the Systems of Initiation, has received the concept. Our candidate, like those of the Ancient Mysteries, enters the lodge room enshrouded in darkness. This is not to hide anything from him. After all, once he has assumed the necessary obligations, he will be shown everything. No, it is to impress him with the idea that he is blind in spirit, that he lacks knowledge, that he is in a State of Darkness. Hopefully he comes to understand that it was not the lodge which was darkened but he himself and will realize the truth that he brought his own darkness in with him! The item that we use to blindfold him is called, Masonically, a hoodwink. But a hoodwink means more than a simple blindfold. The Peerage Reference Dictionary defines the verb 'to hoodwink' as 'to deceive' thus the candidate's condition on entry is considered to be that of a man deceived. Deceived by Ignorance.(1)

I had always considered the “light” to be that of discovery, of knowledge, of ignorance dispelled. To seek further light in Masonry is to seek further understanding, of ourselves, of our brothers, of our society, of our place in the universe, and last, but certainly not least, in our g-d. After all, the source, The Fount Of All Knowledge Is The Deity, The Godhead, The Supreme Being, The Grand Artificer Of The Universe… in a word, g-d.

After all, we have the “Great Lights of Masonry” open in front of the candidate when we announce to him that he is seeing the light by which masons see… the Holy Writings, the Square and Compass. The three (there is that three thing again!) together form a single symbol for the godhead… a direct connection between Freemasonry and the light… dispelling ignorance.

As a mason advances in his degrees, he is shown more and more light, and in the third degree, is told that he is about to receive all the light that can be conferred upon him in a lodge of master masons. Once he is raised, it becomes incumbent upon the master mason to SEEK OUT THE LIGHT, to educate himself, to seek g-d, within and without. Receiving the light, the master mason cannot help but shine WITH that light, to spread the light, as he becomes a veritable Beacon of Masonic Light.

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) FIAT LUX - SOME THOUGHTS ON MASONIC LIGHT, by John W. Alexander, WM (Britannia Lodge No. 18)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Masonic Pencil

In some Masonic Jurisdictions, the Pencil is an instrument used by operative Masons to mark and layout their work, but it is used for more noble and glorious purposes by speculative Masons to remind them not to write, indict, print, carve, hack, hew, etch, letter or engrave any of the secrets of Freemasonry whereby they may be unlawfully communicated.

I mention this because I have had two communications with men I respect and admire since returning to the United States, and their comments on this blog have been, well, eye opening. One noted that I tend to drift too often into the negative (which really surprised me, to say the least), and used my article on Failings of a Brother and Is it Time for Freemasonry and Shrine to Separate as examples of negativity.

This, to say the least, surprised me, and lead me to review my posts. The next day, I spoke to my godfather about a reference for my new job (I am being considered for a security clearance, and I need to provide references, and I wanted to ask him first if he minded) and we spoke about this blog. He mentioned that he had read it, and that it was well written, well researched, and well considered, but that like all things that I write, it was controversial.

Wow, controversial... I never considered what I wrote to be controversial. He said that was not necessarily a bad thing, because stirring up the pot gets people to think, but that if you mix in a negative tone (and there was that negativity thing again) that it could be misread, misconstrued, and misunderstood.

These two comments, wildly diverging from the comments I have received on the blog and via email have pulled me up short. My intention here is to educate, to spread the light a bit, and to seek out how others think about freemasonry, not to spread negativity.

I have been exposed to much lately to the nabobs of negativity, who constantly try to tell us that Freemasonry needs to change, that the grand lodges are evil, that the men populating the leadership are "bad men" and so on, all the while violating their obligations and spreading not light, but arrogance and darkness. It has been my sincere intention NOT to spread negativity, but the opposite.

I love Freemasonry, I love my lodges, my brothers in Freemasonry, the ritual, the philosophy, and yes, even the brothers who are negative. with the exception of the race issue in the southern lodges, I have yet to find anything in regular Freemasonry with which I do not wholeheartedly agree. I can't imagine my life without my lodge and my brothers.

I have been a very fortunate mason, and I know that. I have good men around me, my godfather for instance, my uncle, my father, Manny, John, Bill, Giovanni and hundreds more. I have traveled the world, literally, and visited many lodges, and the atmosphere, the brotherly love,the light in these lodges has been awesome, and made such a positive influence in my life that I only want to pass on that light.

Life is too short to waste carping and complaining, and anyone can find something to complain about if they look hard enough. When I was a young man, my father always used to say: There are some people that would complain about being hung with a new rope. Now, I always thought that was silly, of COURSE you would complain about being hung... period. But that was not the point, and as I grew older (and hopefully wiser) I now understand what he meant... and of course, he was right.

The same holds true of the lodges. There are some men that join and immediately start complaining about the obligation, about keeping their word, and trying to weasel out of their given word. There will ALWAYS be men like this, men who would complain about that new rope, blinding themselves to the reason, rationale, meaning and symbolism because they do not care about... well, their word, or anything else other than their ego.

These men did not learn the lessons of the three degrees, and most especially the one about working together for a common goal. Yet, I have allowed myself to be dragged into their controversy, to be drawn into opposing them, and thus, drawn into their negativity. That association has tinged my thinking, unconsciously, to the point where I was opposing them and defending the craft against them... and thus on a certain level, spreading their negativity.

It took these two good men whispering good counsel for me to realize that my fundamental motto is all the more true:
I can't change them, they are who they are, and their punishment is that they have to live with themselves and the consequences of their actions. They can blame their lives on others, but the plain fact is, as they say: They have made their beds, and now they have to lie in them, or, as the bible says more prosaically in Hosea 8:7: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind...

I have not posted here for two weeks, partly because I was in transit from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to the United States via London, England, and in part, because I have been in lodge several times in the past few days, renewing my spirit in the warmth and brotherly love of my two lodges.

Now these two brothers have given me something more to think about... they have whispered good counsel. Now it is time for me to think about their words and how to inculcate their good advice into my life, my outlook, and my posts here and elsewhere. Be patient with me brothers, I am but a poor rough ashlar.
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, November 3, 2007

Masonic Advantage?

There are many who accuse freemasonry of world dominion, or at least plans to dominate the world. Others accuse us of secretly manipulating the government, the legal system, politics, or whatever the du jour accusations are from the Tin Foil Hat community… such as it is. We, as masons, all know how ridiculous these accusations are… heck, most lodges have a struggle putting together a fish fry.

However, one accusation they make against us is, in a large part, true. What is that? Well, in my experience, when hiring or contracting, we do business with brother masons. I do at least. When I have hired employees, and two folks are being interviewed for a job, and, all other things being equal, if one of them is a brother, they get the job. Hands down.

Truth to tell, even if the brother is less qualified he tends to get the job from me. If I need a car mechanic, I look for a brother, same for any professional service. My lawyers are brother masons, my printer is a mason, my office supplies vendor and all the professionals I have hired are masons. When my mother died recently, I hired the services of a brother who was a funeral director to cremate her and negotiate the paperwork for me.

Do I hire only brothers because I am looking for a good price? No, because they need to support themselves and their families. Do I hire brothers because they do better work? Well, no, but often as not they do a better job.

I hire brothers because I consider it part of my obligation to do so. To aid and assist is part of the reason. The other is because it seems the right thing to do for a brother. SOMEONE will perform the service I need done, better, it seems to me, that it be a brother with whom I share the wealth, so to speak.

Also, with a brother, I know what I am getting. The man has an obligation to me, as I do to him, not to cheat, wrong or defraud me. I know I can leave the keys to my house in the hands of a brother and not worry… about anything. I should know that about other businessmen, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

The question though implicit in the accusations of the… tin foil hat brigades is this: Is giving all my business to masons wrong? Is it bad to chose to give my business only to men in my lodge, and by extension, in any lodge? How can it be wrong?

We make choices in life every day. Will I buy Coke™ or Pepsi™? Ford or Chevy? Will I hire this lawyer or that doctor. The reasons we make our various choices are as varied as the choices we make, so if we chose to work, whenever possible, with brothers, how can that choice be wrong?

Where it gets sticky at all is in hiring. In the United States, there are laws which require equal employment, non discrimination, and so forth in our hiring practices. Yet we still have interviews for jobs. Why is that? To hire the person most compatible with the organization, its culture, its needs and the needs of the manager doing the hiring. There are hundreds of reasons to hire, and frankly, not to hire someone.

As a business manager, I can tell you horror stories about interviews, from the guy I interviewed for an Art Director position who was qualified on paper, but showed up for the interview dressed to surf… zinc and suntan lotion included. Or the woman I interviewed as a computer illustrator who was, on paper, qualified, but showed up with a portfolio of computer clip art I guess she figured I would not recognize as coming from Adobe Illustrators™ free art.

When interviewing a brother for a job, several things come into play that just do not apply to non masons. The first is the obligation to aid and assist. If a brother is before me, he is looking for a job, so the question is, can he DO the job. If he can, even if his skills may not be as high as another candidate, it seems the primary consideration should go to the brother, ahead of any other candidate.

Given our mutual Masonic obligation, the question should rather be: How can I NOT consider this brother first?

Of course, this might seem to be favoritism. Frankly, it is favoritism, but it is consideration well given. The consideration from the brother is also an obligation from him, to the employer, to aid and assist and not to cheat, wrong or defraud. How often when someone is hired can we know of a certainty that the person will actually do their 100% best?

Does this mean that someone, possibly better qualified won’t get the job? Yes, but there are always choices, one will win and one will not, and not to make light of the need of someone who is not a brother, our obligation is to our brothers, and, in this situation, to our employer, for whom we are hiring this brother.

Do all masons do this type of hiring? No. Many brothers have stated they would NOT hire a brother to avoid possibly opening the door to a possible accusation of favoritism. This is the type of reaction that the tin foil hat brigades want, where we are afraid to act because of being a mason.

In some countries, a man can be fired for being a Mason (Italy), and in some countries, the tin foil hat brigades are trying to pass laws requiring Masons to reveal their Masonic affiliation before taking a job in law enforcement or government service (United Kingdom), and in some countries, BEING a Mason will get you killed (Saudi Arabia).

On the whole, then, it seems that giving our business in every way we can to our brothers, without making a big deal of it, is the best, most Masonic thing we can do for our brothers.

Its what I do.

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

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Broom Named Harmony

There is a brother on one of the few Masonic Forums I do not post on who is always on about his “broom named Harmony”. He wields this “broom” to sweep away any discussion that in his opinion, creates discord or “disharmony”. The fact is, the use of this “broom” actually creates dissention, and drives away good men.

The “broom” he uses is intimidation, censorship, and outright banning of people who do not toe his line in the sand. The fact is, he uses this “broom” to sweep away any opinion at variance with his own about what is “ok” to talk about. It is this “Conformity or Coventry” and that is why I am writing today about his broom.

I will not name the brother, or the forum, as it is really unimportant. I use his “broom” only as a metaphor for what seems to be a challenge today. Masonry is about freedom, to think, to talk, to act, to chose, yet there are those who, in favor of something they call harmony, are willing to shut down conversations.

Why and how did this come about? How can a fraternity, dedicated to freedom, come to a place where that very freedom is curtailed in the name of something called harmony? There is but a single word to describe it, and it is, unfortunately, simply fear. Fear of having your cherished world view challenged, fear of different thought, fear of other facts, fear of change.

Yet, as freemasons, we should be able to examine any issue, thought or problem, openly, as intelligent men. Benjamin Franklin wrote that intelligent men should approach issues with an open mind. That means we should hear out all sides, weigh the facts, then make a rational decision.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the American way these past few decades. “Debate” seems to have gone from rational examination to demonization. The process no longer seems to be one of the exchange of ideas, but one of demolishing your opponent, of crushing them, not only on the merits of the argument to hand, but also personally, and often professionally.

Masonry, fortunately, gives us a way to learn from each other, to exchanges points of view, to discuss issues on their merits, as brothers, circumscribing our desires so that we can meet on the level and act by the plumb. When we meet on this basis, as masons, we should be able to discuss any issue, no matter how contentious, without resorting to the tactics of personal destruction.

Experience demonstrates that most people that have opinions about issues, but if we act as brothers, as adults, as men and of course, as masons, we can share and learn from each other. When we act as masons, there is no reason to use the broom named harmony, because real harmony exists, and there is no need to sweep things under the carpet.

Instead of a broom named harmony, freemasonic principles offer us the methodologies to work together.

Keeping Charity in mind, we can remember that our brothers are never villains, by keeping brother love in mind, we can remember that our brothers are our friends, and that they have only our best interests at heart, even when we view the world differently. Keeping prudence in mind, we can chose our words carefully, and remember that our brothers are doing the same.

Keeping all the tenets of Freemasonry clearly in mind, we can speak openly and freely, so that even as we disagree, because men of good will can and will disagree in a most friendly manner, we can remain brothers. Most of all, we should recall Masonic tolerance, so that as we deal with our brothers, we listen to what they are saying.

It is our differences that make us whole, not our similarities. If we keep that in mind, we will have no need of false harmony, created only by sweeping our differences under the carpet. We can join of differences, and by understanding each other, understand ourselves. To use a Masonic metaphor:

When polishing a stone, we do not use a smooth stone, but a rough stone, that by rubbing the two together we end up with a smooth surface, a perfect ashlar.

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, November 1, 2007

Out of the Sand Box

Most of my blog entries to date have been about Masonry in general, exoteric and esoteric issues and my understanding of them. Today, I want to take a stab at something just a tad different… what it’s like to live where Freemasonry is illegal.

For the last year and a half, I have been living and working in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as an ex-pat employed by Computer Science Corporation, Arabia, Ltd., employed as the Enterprise Training and Documentation Manager. There are many things we have heard about Saudi Arabia, some true, some REALLY true, and some untrue.

The first is that Freemasonry is considered illegal in Saudi Arabia. There has even been at least one fatwa, or religious ruling, issued against our ancient and honorable fraternity:

College of Islamic Jurisprudence, Makkah, 15th July 1978 - concerning: Freemasonry

“The College of Islamic Jurisprudence, in its session convened at Makkah on 15th July 1978, examined the issue of Freemasonry, of those affiliated with it and the legal Islamic judgment on it, after adequate study of this dangerous organization, and the boy of literature on it, inclusive of the College’s own published documents, books, and newspaper and journal articles.

From the totality of writings and texts which the College examined, the following was evinced:

Freemasonry is a clandestine organization, which hides as well as reveals it operations as it sees fit. Its true principles are guarded from all but its most venerated masters, who have, by virtue of their consecration at Freemasonry’s highest order degrees, proven worth of this honor. It establishes the relation of its members one to another, in all places of the earth, as is the alleged human brotherhood among all entrants in its organization, without discrimination as to race, religion, and creed. Such overt misrepresentation of “fraternity” is simple-minded, at best. It attracts persons whose affiliation is practicable for the organization; its allure is largely of a personally lucrative nature for the individuals sought. The high-minded principles of this recruitment entail; pledged assistance to any Freemasonic brother the world over; firm support of any Freemasonic candidacy to public office; and unconditional loyalty in all Freemasonic endeavors, even in those where the individual must compromise his sense of honour, justice, truth and right.

Such lofty appeals often amass considerable financial contributions. Admission to Freemasonry is based on the celebration of the new member’s affiliation through symbolic and awe-inspiring ceremonies which serve to frighten the initiate if he is at variance with the instructions; the more threatening orders are issued successively with rank. Gullible members are left free in the exercise of their religious beliefs; if they do not choose to benefit from the directives of guidance and the assignment of task appropriate to their status (they remain in lower degrees. As to the heretics, rank is calibrated in relation to individual experience and mastery, as well as demonstrated readiness to serve Freemasonry’s purposes, principles, and plans. It has political aims, and in most political and military upheavals, it has a visible, as well as an invisible, role. Its original organizational roots are Jewish; its secret global high administration, Jewish; and its activity, Zionist.

In its secret real aims, it is against all religions: in general it seeks to destroy Islam for its Muslim adherents. It strives to select its membership from among positions of influence - financial, political, social or scientific status ( and to draw to its ranks kings, presidents and ministers, as tools to be manipulated in the forging of its dogma. It has branches which adopt other names to thus misrepresent and divert attention away from activities which encounter resistance to the name of Freemasonry. Among the most conspicuous branches operating under pseudonym are the Lions and Rotary Clubs; many, under multiple guise, similarly contradict the fundamentals of Islam. It has become evident to the College of Islamic Jurisprudence the strong relation of Freemasonry to world Zionist Jewry. Thus it has been able to dominate many officials in the Arab countries concerning the question of Palestine, and to interfere in the Palestine question on behalf of the Jews and world Zionism.

Therefore, and for the detailed data on Freemasonry’s activity, its considerable danger, its wicked dressing and its cunning aims, the College of Islamic Jurisprudence considers Freemasonry one of the most dangerously destructive organizations to Islam and to Muslims

Whoever would associate himself with it while in knowledge of its true nature and aims, would be a non-believer in Islam and uncounted among its adherents.”

On the 1-10 paranoia scale, this Fatwa rates a 14, and of course, on the ignorance scale, it rates a 25… but we are used to this type of thing from Christian zealots. In fact, it reads much the same as the tinfoil hate brigades, same ignorance, same paranoia, same Konspiracy Kookery.

For the last 18 months, I have lived in a place where that type of paranoid delusion was de rigueur. Living in a place where a fundamental part of your life, your philosophy, are illegal was… entertaining, to say the least.

However, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and all OTHER ism’s are also illegal. In fact, anything that is not fundamental Islam is illegal in Saudi Arabia, and actively enforced. I know men who tried to sneak bibles into the country, for their own use, of course, only to have the books confiscated, destroyed, and themselves fined for trying.

The good news is there are thousands of freemasons in Saudi Arabia. WE know how to recognize each other without square and compasses. I wore a common cane every day, and often a flower as well to identify myself… and as a result, met many ex-pats in that country.

Islam is not evil, nor are Muslims… the purposes to which it is put, however, like any other religion, can be turned to evil. Religion has been historically used to control the populace, though the degree to which Islam is used to control people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is… scary.

Its scary, not because it exists, all religions have been used to control people, but its scary because the people seem to LIKE it. Saudi Arabia is the direct opposite of everything Freemasonry stands for: Freedom. As a freemason in Saudi Arabia, the lack of freedom was like the stink of decay, omnipresent, cloying… and unavoidable.

Some brothers complain about complying with the rules, obligations and traditions of Masonry, and others grind other issue axes. Live in a place where you have to hide the very fact that you are a mason, where the things you consider important and fundamental to your life are not only unimportant, but not even understood.

When you live for a time under a true religious theocracy, a fundamentalist police state, though granted, a velvet lined one as long as you act “right”, you will once more value the freedoms that Freemasonry advocates and embodies. Remember, in the west, we have freedoms that are not only unheard of in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but frankly, not understood.

Thank g-d for Freemasonry… its philosophy, tenets, and my brothers worldwide kept me sane and on an even keel while I toiled there. And thank g-d you are not a woman living in that place! Today, I sit once more in the west, breathing freedom like the very air in my lungs… but unlike two years ago, I no longer take those freedoms for granted.

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

/* Blog Catalog Code ----------------------------------------------- */ Philosophy Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory /* End Blog Catalog Code ----------------------------------------------- */