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

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where Have All the Past Masters Gone?

With apologies to Pete Seeger

Where have all the Past Masters gone?
Long time passing

Where have all the Past Masters gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the Past Masters gone?

Tired and resting, every one.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

One thing we have all noticed is that after a year (or two... or three) that the master of a lodge vanishes like a puff of smoke as soon as, or coincidental with, the installation of a replacement... not to be seen for some time, if ever again. What has happened to them?

For those brothers, and non members, who have never had the pleasure/responsibility/duty of sitting in the east and shouldering the burden of leading the work, let me share with you some of the burdens, and joys, of being master of a lodge.The first thing one must consider is that the job is essentially a full time one, in addition to your regular job and your responsibility to your family. On top of that, it is unpaid, volunteer work, sought out for, mostly, the joy of serving your brethren.

Just GETTING to the east is a strict task. As the Junior Warden (one the three principle leaders of the lodge), your provenance is providing the food, snacks, meals, coffee and so on during your year, serving as Acting Master during the conferral of the first degree (including a 20 minute lecture that must be memorized), and serving on various boards and committees in lodge. As Senior Warden, you are the head candidates coach, as often as not on the temple and finance boards, as well as organizing and planning your year in the east, and serving as Acting Master during the conferral of all second degrees and filling in for the master in his (albeit rare) absences.

Then you are invested master of your lodge. The ceremony of installation is fairly impressive, but it is not really until you are asked to swear to abide by a list of about 15 additional duties as master that it really begins to sink in that YOU are the master of the lodge, and it is to YOU that the brethren will be looking for at least the next year. Then they hand you the gavel, and present you to the brethren:

"Worshipful Master, behold your brethren. Brethren, behold your Worshipful Master."

WHAM, oops, you are really the leader now, you are THE WORSHIPFUL MASTER. You worked for this, you memorized the work and fulfilled the expectations of your brethren and have now been elected MASTER, for good or ill, of the lodge. Like most men, at some point you think: Please g-d, don't let me screw up as you step into those shoes, filled by so many brothers before you.

The good news is: Freemasonry is ritual bound, and designed to make it hard to change... or to mess up. As master, YOU are the final word in the lodge, only the Grand Master (and to a certain, lesser extent, the District Deputy Grand Master) can overrule you, and neither will do so unless you REALLY mess it up. You have (if you are really lucky) a cadre of past masters around who will give you advice (just try and stop them) and assist you (and impede you). But, as General MacArthur noted to his command staff, you can't PUSH string, you have to pull it along to get it anywhere.

This applies to the lodge as well. As master, you are the elected leader, and it is your duty to set the tone, give the craft good instructions whereby they may pursue their labors, and in general guide the lodge. To lead, however, you must have the consent and assistance of those you are leading. As Master, you are also the chief confessor, counselor, entertainment coordinator, degree planner, supervisor of the work, whipping boy and chief cook and bottle washer.

As master, you are expected to attend the will of the past masters, the Grand Master, the brethren (and occasionally) their wives. You must attend EVERY SINGLE FUNCTION in your district to "show the flag" for the lodge, even if you are not a member, and of course, fend off all the "suggestions" that you join every appendant and concordant body along the way. That you must attend every meeting of the lodge goes without saying (you CANNOT be sick, you are the master). You must attend every meeting of the "Officer's Association (for my European Brothers, that's a kind of Lodge of Instruction, only more structured), you have to schedule lodge practices (and make and lead those with the Officer's Coach), you must attend all funerals, run the business meetings, attend the building (temple) board and finance committee meetings, oh, and somewhere in all that, maintain your family relationship while earning a living.

Oh, yeah, and one minor irritant you have to put up with are the PMs who DO manage to come to lodge complaining about how "it wasn't done that way when I was master" and suggestions from all sides. By the end of a year, you KNOW you have been master, and will for the rest of your life wear that PM at the end of your name as an appellation indicating that you stood up and counted.

But, by the end of that year, you are bone, dead, stone tired. You need a break, you WANT a break, you DESERVE a break, but the lodge needs you on some committee or in some chair... and of course, your wife and children are asking you who you are when you get home from work... and we wonder why some Master's run away as fast and as far as they can from the lodge for a while, to catch their breath and find themselves!

And here is another reason: its a kind of post traumatic stress disorder. Like the soldiers in Iraq or Viet Nam found out when they came home, one minute in a combat zone and the next home with your family... as Master, one minute, you are the center of the lodge and your phone seemingly won't stop ringing... then you install the new master, and no one so much as calls to so much as see how you are doing because they didn't see you at lodge the other night...

I speak from experience my brothers! I loved my time in the east, despite all the challenges, and when the opportunity presents itself to me again, I will gladly take on the burden of leading my lodge, because the REWARDS of being a past master exceed all the gold in the world, when a brother looks you in the eye and says: Good to meet you, worshipful.

There can be no greater reward in this life.
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where is Joppa?

Yaffa Seawall with Tel Aviv in the Far Distance

...they traveled by a circuitous route toward Joppa, and endeavored to gain a passage into Ethiopia...

So, where is Joppa?

An Answer

As Freemasons, we hear of this city, as a destination by three villains, but we are never told where Joppa is, only that it is a "seaport" town, which from context, must be relatively near Jerusalem. As far as historical records, we read that "The gate of Joppa" are noted in the Tell el-Amarna Letters as guarded by an Egyptian officer in the service of the Pharoah Amenhotep IV(1). Relative to the temple of Solomon, Jonathas, the Chronicler reports that the cedars of Lebanon were brought in on floats, where they were transported to Jerusalem by the workmen of the king of Tyre.(2)

In The image above, Yaffa is on the bottom far right and Tel Aviv
at the far left top. The Traffic circle is the downtown.

Joppa, today called Yaffa (Jafa), is a suburb of Tel Aviv, 32.8 miles as the crow flies from Jerusalem. It is written that the pillars of the Temple could be seen from Tel Aviv, due to the Temple Mount raising the structure above the line of sight of the hills between there and the coast. Modern Yafa is built on a rocky mound, 116 ft. high, at the edge of the sea.

A reef of rocks runs parallel to the shore a short distance out and affords a certain amount of protection from weather and the sea. There is a gap in the reef through which the boats pass, though during a storm the passage is dangerous even today. On one of these rocks Perseus is said to have rescued the chained Andromeda from the dragon.

Yafa is a prosperous town, profiting much by the annual streams of pilgrims who pass through it on their way to visit the holy places. Trade passes through the port to this day, with ships arriving from Egypt, Syria and Constantinople.

Yaffa is the seaport on the left and Jerusalem on the far Right

So now you know where Joppa is.

1. Wikipedia
2. II Chronicles 2:16

Monday, April 21, 2008

Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Florida BREAKING NEWS

Brothers, Sisters and Friends Around the World:

This has just come to my attention from Tim Bryce, who we all know as a reliable source of information via his Yahoo Group that he has it from a reliable source that last Monday, Florida's Prince Hall Grand Lodge has recognized the Grand Lodge of Florida (unilaterally). I offer this in the sincere hope that it is correct. I will post more as I hear it.

Below is the passed resolution which is being sent to the Grand Master of Florida prior to the upcoming Grand Communications:

Whereas, The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliated of Florida; Belize, Central America Jurisdiction, Incorporated is a regular Grand Lodge originating from African Lodge No 459, which is descendant from the United Grand Lodge of England, and is the sole and supreme Masonic authority over its constituents and Jurisdictions; and

Whereas, the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM is a regular Grand lodge and descendant from the United Grand Lodge of England and is the sole and supreme Masonic authority over its constituents and Jurisdictions; and

Whereas, both Grand Lodges have and shall by mutual consent and amity administer its own affairs and maintain independent autonomy within its respective jurisdictions;

Therefore, be it resolved that The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliated of Florida; Belize, Central America Incorporated hereby recognizes the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM and provides it as full and complete recognition as may be reciprocated by said Grand Lodge;

Be it further resolved that The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliated of Florida; Belize, Central America, incorporated hereby recognizes, and will as of this date recognize without further Grand Lodge vote, each Grand Lodge that does not state that it does not want to be recognized by our Grand Lodge, and that is recognized, and continues to be recognized, by any sister Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodge, and/or the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM, and/or the United Grand Lodge of England as long as our sister Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodge and/or the Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM does not object to our recognizing said Grand Lodge(s);

This recognition by The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliated of Florida; Belize, Central America, Incorporated of a Grand Lodge in another jurisdiction will be to the same extent as the recognition by any Prince Hall Grand Lodge that is in amity with it.

Sounds like an interesting Grand Communications is coming up in Florida! May they make the right choice and accept the hand they are being offered in brotherly love.
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, April 19, 2008

Why Regularity

I have seen, and been party to discussions on Masonic Regularity for some time now, and this issue never serves but to stimulate... and, frankly, to disappoint.

It disappoints because intellectual energy is rarely, if ever, brought to the table on the issue. It is, rather, one of viscera, emotion and contention. This is silly on several levels, mostly because those of us discussing it have very little to do with changing it, and worse, most have very little or no understanding of it's whys and wherefores. We even have some women weighing in on the issue, claiming that because their group tells them they are regular masons, that therefore, they are... ignoring, of course, what regular means in a masonic context.

For the most part, the ones disparaging regularity are masons who are not regular masons. This is not particularly unusual or difficult to understand. These men, and, yes, women, desire to be considered as regular masons, to be brought into the embrace of "Universal" Freemasonry (a term whipped up by non regular masons as a way of easing a change and by redefining masonry) but one that has no real or substantive meaning as other than a PC attempt at redefining words, specifically in this case, regularity.

I also want to start off, in an attempt at full disclosure, at stating my position. Lets start with what I have already written:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Are There Women Masons?

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Regularity Vs. Recognition

Sunday, October 14, 2007
Of Masonic Regularity

Friday, November 2, 2007
A Broom Named Harmony

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Acknowledgment Vs. Recognition

I have come to believe a number of things:
  1. Clandestine does not equal evil or necessarily non mason or "has no value".
  2. Irregular means simply what it says: non regular PRACTICE, not irregular or non mason.
  3. Women can be just as good a mason as a man can.
  4. The concept and practice of Regularity exists for a good reason.
  5. The concept and practice of Regularity has been... misused for political reasons.
  6. A Regular mason can learn from a non regular mason, and VICE VERSA.
  7. Here is the single most important lesson I have learned about the whole Regularity issue: BETWEEN MASONS, UNLESS WE ARE PLANNING ON OPENING A TYLED LODGE SESSION, REGULARITY DOES NOT MATTER.
For some, the above will be unbelievable or heretical, or both. I am a regular mason, I am proud of being a regular mason. I am a fifth generation regular mason, so the choice of obedience I would choose what never in question. Further, I do not feel it is necessary for regular masonry to extend regularity (what is often called amity, that is intervisitation) to any lodge that is not regular.

I am think that a type of recognition could be established, where the Regular, George Washington Grand Lodges (and hopefully Prince Hall Grand Lodges) could acknowledge that there is other types of freemasonry in existence, that they are not de facto fraudulent or "bad" prima facie, and that while we will not have "Masonic Communication" as it is styled in Freemasonry, that we can, at the very least, treat each other as brethren.

Perhaps an acknowledgment along the style of the United Grand Lodge of England, which recently noted that:
"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. There is also one which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognised by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, 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".

Grand Lodge News” of the UGLE following the 10 March 1999 Quarterly Communication of UGLE.
Now that I have detailed my personal position on the issue, I want to delve into the accusations that have been leveled against Regular "Anglo" (to note a derisive term lately coined by a famous anti-regular freemason brother) or what I prefer to call, when speaking of non Prince Hall Regular Grand Lodges, George Washington Grand Lodges.

His claim has been that Regular Freemasonry does not "allow" its brethren to attend clandestine lodges. On the surface, this is true. After all, every George Washington Grand Lode has a book called Lodge's Masonic in its lodges that it uses to, in part, define what lodges can be visited and which should NOT be visited. It is also true that if a brother does visit one of these lodges that he stands in danger of facing masonic charges and expulsion from Regular Freemasonry.

Yet, that is a choice that every brother CHOOSES to follow. Any man can attend a clandestine lodge (though, frankly WHY he would do so is beyond me), but as with everything in life, there are consequences to actions. An oath is an oath, after all.

The corollary to the claim that Regular Masons cannot visit non regular lodges is that no Regular Mason can even TALK to a non regular mason. This is, certainly, incorrect. This very blog is read by Regular Masons around the world, by non regular masons, and by non masons. If I could not talk to or communicate with non regular and non masons, this very blog would be impossible.

Regular Masons are free, as are all men, to seek knowledge where they can find it, and claims to the contrary are... well, less than intellectually honest. As a Regular Mason, my only restriction is that I cannot (WILL NOT) sit in a tyled session in a non regular lodge of masons. Mostly because I swore not to, but in a larger sense because I swore not to, and see no reason at all to violate my obligation.

What is this "Universal" Freemasonry then?

Truthfully, its an attempt to redefine Freemasonry into something other than what it is. There are, really, four types of Freemasonry. Regular Freemasonry, that is essentially, lodges who can trace the provenance of their charters to grand lodges that were formed in a manner consistent with traditions all the way back to that tavern in June of 1717. Primarily, that is, for, of course, there are exceptions, but as is usually true, the exceptions prove the rule.

Another type of freemasonry are the "Grand Orients". Then there are the women's and co-ed obediences. I group them together since both involve women in lodges. Their origins cannot be regular as by masonic tradition, noted in Anderson's Constitution, only men can be masons. That was certainly a tradition, and is certainly one that the Regular Lodges should be and are free to maintain, there is absolutely no reason why women can't create their own lodges and "be masons".

Then there is plain out fraudulent freemasonry, frauds like the American Masonic Federation of the early 20th century that engendered the creation of Mail Fraud laws, and a long list of masonic frauds you can find here.

From the very beginning there have been pretenders to Freemasonry, which is why the whole issue of Regularity was created. Antients vs Moderns, fake lodges, money pits, cons and worse have tried to follow on the coat tails of the honorable reputation that Freemasonry has garnered, and Regularity has been a way of minimizing these crooks and worse.

The problem is, the issue is one that is complex and convoluted, even the Grand Lodges have a hard time with it. As a result of this lack of clarity, non regular masons have been able to cloud the issue further by making bald assertions, most often based on their own lack of understanding of the complexities, and in some, few cases, deliberately to forward their own agendas.

As Freemasons, we have manifold obligations. We must obey the Master of our Lodge, and the Grand Master and his representatives. We must, also, obey our consciences. So, what does that mean to the brethren? I can only answer that by what it means to me:

When a man, or a woman, approaches me and identifies themselves as a Freemason, I will acknowledge them as such.

Nice words... what does that REALLY mean? It means that I acknowledge anyone that claims to be a mason as a mason, I will render them the same aid and assistance that I would render to any man that I know is a Regular Mason. I will NOT share or discuss the items my Grand Lodge has declared are the secrets of Freemasonry, nor the rituals or what goes on in my lodge meetings.

And, of course, I will not attend ANY lodge that I do not know for sure is a Regular Lodge as defined by my grand lodge and the Lodge's Masonic list. This means I have attended Prince Hall Lodges and lodges all over the United States.

None of this keeps me from studying other lodge systems or learning from non regular masons, nor from teaching non regular masons, within the constraints defined by my Grand Lodge.

I am a Regular Mason, but love all my brethren, withersoever dispersed around the globe.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us (ALL).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Solution??

Have you ever had one of the moments when you are talking to someone about some issue and suddenly you realize you are uttering the answer to a problem that has been vexing you? I had one of those moments with my wife five years ago, in answering her question about a few brothers and their actions regarding Freemasonry when I said: It's not about me changing them, it's about me changing me.

Well, yesterday, another one of those moments occurred during an email answer to a brother in Iraq regarding his issue with the Grand Lodge of Kentucky and a Prince Hall Lodge.

For instance, regarding the whole Prince Hall Recognition issue. We all know, of should know by now that there are 13 Grand Lodges in the United States that do not yet recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular Masonry. The coincidence that the 13 Grand Lodges were ALSO core Confederate States in the southern United States is also not lost on the casual observer.

This is NOT to say that all the brethren in the southern United States are racists! A point must be made here that this is a complex issue.

There is also a somewhat logical argument that can be offered and rationally defended that it is ALSO about territorial sovereignty, and not about race. As an example of that, I have been reliably informed that men of color and and have joined lodges in Florida, and served as officers and are treated as good and true brothers as they should be, yet the GLoFL is one of the 13 that does not recognize Prince Hall Masonry.

By the way, I have never liked the term "Mainstream Masonry". Its very use denigrates all other "Masonries". Calling the 51 United States grand lodges UGLE lodges is incorrect, since we are all independent grand bodies. We refer to the one other regular Masonic group in the United States as "Prince Hall Lodges" or PHA (Prince Hall Affiliation) and a perfectly good term was offered recently: George Washington Masonry. THis seems a more appropriate designation than that of "Mainstream Masonry" since the later term says that PHA is NOT "Mainstream" and by implication Regular.

Wr. George Washington was once offered the Grand Mastership of a group to be called the Grand Lodge of America and he is arguably the single most famous "UGLE Type" Mason. Therefore, I will henceforth refer to the larger group of regular Grand Lodges, GLoCA, GLoNV, GLoCo for example, as "George Washington Masonry".

The very real fact that not all Prince Hall Grand Lodges WANT to be recognized. There are considerations for them, to wit they have fought long and hard against racism and long odds to survive and thrive while ignored, resented and yes, attacked in courts and elsewhere, by George Washington Masonry. There is a thought that if they accept recognition, intervisitation and amity, their member base will slowly erode into the George Washington system and they will just vanish. There is also, truth be told, some racism in the Prince Hall lodges.

This information is not offered to surprise anyone, or make a point one way or the other regarding Prince Hall recognition, but to lay the foundation for the epiphany, if it can be called that, I had the other day. Bear with me as I lay another course in that foundation.

I have, in the past, called for the George Washington Grand Lodges to withdraw recognition from any of their Grand Lodge that do not recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular in all respects. However, on careful reflection, I realized that this would be counter productive, and have said so here .

My thoughts not withstanding, it has been brought to my attention that there is at least one (and it may be several from other reports) Grand Lodge that will be, in the next two years, entertaining a vote by the brethren to withdraw amity/recognition of regularity from any Grand Lodge anywhere that does not at least recognize Prince Hall Masonry as regular. That train IO once advocated is now arriving, for good or bad and we can only watch to see how it plays out. I cannot at this time reveal the Grand Lodges that are contemplating this legislation, but it will become obvious over the next year. ESPECIALLY if the legislation passes.

Now that the foundation is laid, let me present to you my epiphany: What would happen if a progressive Grand Lodge were to remove its residency requirement for joining a lodge under it for any Master Mason in good standing? For this to work effectively, it would also almost be necessary that a "Grand Master's" Lodge be created (an additional financial incentive to the Grand Lodges as well...) so that a brother from outside the state would not need to find a lodge inside the state willing to be a "host".

This "Grand Masters" lodge has been offered in my grand lodge previously, as a potential solution to other issues, but has been turned down because it would burden a lodge with members for which it was receiving no financial support. This rational alone is one reason why I think it would make a serious impact on the Grand Lodges the brethren left to join the "open" grand lodge. Therefore, the "Grand Master's" Lodge would have to be restricted to members outside the open Grand Lodge. That is a detail for legislative consideration, however.

Based on the current rules of visitation, if this rule were removed (and perhaps a Grand Master's Lodge created for these out of state brothers) any Master Mason in good standing in a regular lodge in amity with that Grand Lodge would be able to petition for membership in the "Grand Master's Lodge"... and then if he desired, dimit from the Grand Lodge he is currently a member of without impacting his lodge meetings.

He could continue attending his lodge, though of course, he could no longer be an officer. A good brother would continue to support his lodge with "donations" instead of dues, because the lodge is not the problem, and the donations would not go to the grand lodge.

What this means in real terms is that if a brother is unhappy with his Grand Lodge, for whatever reason (and to hear it on the smoldering stub, all the posters there hate their grand lodges and policies and procedures) they could join a different Grand Lodge, without residency, and no longer be "restricted" by their own Grand Lodge.

If we consider Freemasonry as a product for a moment (a concept I personally find anathema, but it will do as a metaphor) and we are not happy with the product as it is being presented by the "company" presenting it, then if we have a choice in what "company" to buy it from, market forces will effect change. What we have today is Freemasonry as it existed in the 1700s. Local. Issues were dealt with by the lodges locally then, but today, we have Grand Lodges that span hundreds of thousands of square miles. Look at a map, the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island operates pretty much the same way as the Grand Lodge of Texas or California.

Today, we have telephones and internet, which makes all issues local, whether is a lodge in Bangor, Big Sur, Los Angeles or Dallas. Yet the Grand Lodges still operate on territorial boundaries, and to a certain extent, that is a good thing. But it also means that if a Grand Lodge is unresponsive, or "repressive" of the needs or perceived needs of the brethren in that jurisdiction, the brethren have no choice.

If even one Grand Lodge dropped its residency requirement, other Grand Lodges would follow, they would HAVE to, market forces would drive them. Market forces... remember that term.

If the Grand Lodge of XYZ would not allow a brother to speak or run a web forum, for whatever reason, and he quit that Grand Lodge and joined another, the Grand Lodge could STILL silence him, for make no mistake, the Grand Master is still sovereign in his territory no matter where your dues card is from, but the Grand Lodge would not be receiving income from your membership. If enough brethren quit the grand lodge that was repressive over its policies, it would either suffer from a declining membership (income) to itself and its constituent lodges (and imagine the influence the lodges, suffering from declining paying membership and eligible brothers because of Grand Lodge policies will have with the Grand Lodge).

Market Forces would drive the Grand Lodge that is not responsive to learn to become responsive, or fade away while the membership in its state maintains or even grows. A logical progression of this is the survival of progressive, responsive, responsible Grand Lodges, and the withering of... other Grand Lodges.

If this works, this simple concept may be the acorn from which a new Freemasonry grows, it may be a turning point which our future brethren may look back and say: Like the 1717 meeting, THAT is where Freemasonry made the second turn which made it viable into the digital age.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rest In Peace Charlton Heston

This is not about Freemasonry, but my favorite actor, Charlton Heston AKA Moses and Ben Hur, has passed on. I will never forget seeing him raise that Kentuky Long Rifle and in his magnificent voice choked with emotion declare:
...from my cold, dead hands!

Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008).

Just a note: As far as I have been able to determine to this point, Mr. Heston was not a Mason.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Heston is known for playing heroic roles, such as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Colonel George Taylor in Planet of the Apes and Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur. Early in his career, he was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak out against racism and was active in the civil rights movement. During the latter part of his movie career, he starred in films such as The Omega Man and Soylent Green, which have a strong environmental message. He was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

Early life

Heston was born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Lilla (née Charlton) and Russell Whitford Carter, a mill operator.[4] (However the 1930 Census for Richfield, Michigan, where the family then lived, reports that Russell Whitford Carter was a Real Estate Salesman. Their 6 year old son is already referenced in this cenus by the name "Charlton"). Heston has stated that he was part Native American and a "blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux."[5] When he was ten, his parents divorced. Shortly thereafter, his mother married Chester Heston. The new family moved to well-off Wilmette, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. Heston (his new surname) attended New Trier High School.

Heston enrolled in the school's drama program, earning a drama scholarship to Northwestern University from the Winnetka Community Theatre in which he was also active. While in high school, he played in the silent 16 mm amateur film adaptation of Peer Gynt made by David Bradley. Several years later the same team produced the first sound version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which Heston played Mark Antony.

In 1944, Heston left college and enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He served for two years as a B-25 radio operator/gunner stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the Eleventh Air Force, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

While in the service, Heston married Northwestern student Lydia Marie Clarke in 1944. After the war, the two lived in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, where they worked as models. They have a son, Fraser Clarke Heston and an adopted daughter, Holly Ann Heston.

Seeking a way to make it in theater, Heston and his wife Lydia decided in 1947 to manage a playhouse in Asheville, North Carolina. In 1948, they went back to New York where Heston was offered a supporting role in a Broadway revival of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, starring Katharine Cornell. He also had success in television, playing a number of roles in CBS's Studio One, one of the most popular anthology dramas of the 1950s.

Acting career

Heston's most frequently played roles on stage include the title role in Macbeth, Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. He cited Mister Roberts as one of his favorite roles, and tried unsuccessfully to revive the show in the early '90s.

In 1950, Heston earned recognition for his appearance in his first professional movie, Dark City. His breakthrough came with his role of a circus manager in The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. Heston was Billy Wilder's first choice to play Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953). However, the role was given to William Holden, who won the Oscar for it. Heston became an icon for portraying Moses in The Ten Commandments, reportedly being chosen because director Cecil B. DeMille thought the muscular, 6 ft 3 in, square jawed Heston bore an uncanny resemblance to the statue of Moses by Michelangelo.

Heston went on to leading roles in a number of fictional and historical epics— Ben-Hur (1959), El Cid, 55 Days at Peking, The Agony and the Ecstasy (as Michelangelo), and Khartoum. After Burt Lancaster turned down the role of Ben-Hur, Heston accepted the role, going on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, one of the eleven unprecedented Oscars the film earned. (In 1995, Heston denied a claim by Ben-Hur screenwriter Gore Vidal that there is a gay subtext to the film. Vidal says he wrote the script with such an implication, but never mentioned the subtext to Heston [though he did so to Stephen Boyd, who played Ben-Hur's friend Messala].)[6] Heston would be identified with the Biblical epic more than any other actor and voiced the role of Ben-Hur for a cartoon version of the Lew Wallace novel in 2003.

In 1965, Heston became president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 to 1971.[7]

In 1968, he starred in the hugely successful Planet of the Apes . In 1970, Heston portrayed Mark Antony again in a Technicolor film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. His co-stars in the nearly all-star cast included Jason Robards as Brutus, Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Caesar, Diana Rigg as Portia, Robert Vaughn as Casca, and Richard Chamberlain as Octavius. He starred in Soylent Green (1971). In 1972 Heston made his directorial debut with Antony and Cleopatra, an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play he performed during his earlier theater career, and portrayed Mark Antony. Hildegarde Neil was Cleopatra, and Eric Porter was Enobarbus. After receiving scathing reviews, the film never went to theaters, and rarely turns up on television. It has not been released on DVD. He subsequently starred in the The Omega Man (1973), and Earthquake (1974), many of these hugely successful films have since becoming classic or cult films.

Beginning with playing Cardinal Richelieu in 1973's The Three Musketeers, Heston was seen in an increasing number of supporting roles, cameos and theater. From 1985 to 1987, he starred in his only prime-time stint on series television with the soap, The Colbys. With his son Fraser, he starred and produced several TV movies, including remakes of Treasure Island and A Man For All Seasons. In 1992, Heston appeared in a short series of videos on the A&E cable network reading passages from the King James Version of the Bible, called Charlton Heston Presents the Bible. It was filmed in the Middle East and received excellent reviews, achieving great success on video and DVD. In 1993, he appeared in a cameo role in Wayne's World 2 (in a scene wherein main character Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) requests that a small role be filled by a better actor). That same year, he hosted Saturday Night Live. He had cameos in the films Hamlet, Tombstone and True Lies. He especially worked at the Los Angeles Music Center where he appeared in such plays as Police Story, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood opposite Jeremy Brett as Dr. Watson, who would later win acclaim for his own interpretation of the great detective. In 2001, Heston made a cameo appearance as an elderly, dying chimpanzee in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes. Heston's last film role was as the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in My Father, Rua Alguem 5555, which had limited release (mainly to festivals) in 2003.[8]

Political activism

Heston campaigned for Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.[9] When an Oklahoma movie theater premiering his movie was segregated, he joined a picket line outside in 1961.[10] During the civil rights march held in Washington, D.C. in 1963, he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. In later speeches, Heston said he helped the civil rights cause "long before Hollywood found it fashionable."[11]

In 1968, following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Heston appeared on The Joey Bishop Show and, along with fellow actors Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and James Stewart, called for public support for President Johnson's Gun Control Act of 1968.[12][13] He opposed the Vietnam War and said he voted for Richard Nixon in 1972.[14]

By the 1980s, Heston opposed affirmative action, supported gun rights and changed his political affiliation from Democratic to Republican.[15] He campaigned for Republicans and Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan,[16] George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.[17]

Heston resigned from Actors Equity, claiming the union's refusal to allow a white actor to play a Eurasian role in "Miss Saigon" was "obscenely racist."[18] He said CNN's telecasts from Baghdad were "sowing doubts" about the allied effort in the 1990-91 Gulf War.[18]

At a Time Warner stockholders meeting, he castigated the company for releasing an Ice-T album which included the song "Cop Killer", which depicted the killing of police officers.[19]

According to his autobiography In the Arena, Heston recognized the right of freedom of speech exercised by others. In a 1997 speech, he deplored a culture war he said was being conducted by a generation of media, educators, entertainers, and politicians against:

"...the God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle- class Protestant-or even worse, evangelical Christian, Midwestern or Southern- or even worse, rural, apparently straight-or even worse, admitted heterosexuals, gun-owning-or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff-or even worse, male working stiff-because, not only don’t you count, you are a down-right obstacle to social progress. Your voice deserves a lower decibel level, your opinion is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant, and frankly, mister, you need to wake up, wise up, and learn a little something from your new-America and until you do, would you mind shutting up?"[20]

In an address to students at Harvard Law School entitled Winning the Cultural War, Heston expressed his disdain for political correctness, stating "If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys - subjects bound to the British crown."[21] He stated "Political correctness is tyranny with manners".[22] He went on to say that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride.

Heston was the President and spokesman of the NRA from 1998 until he resigned in 2003. At the 2000 NRA convention, he raised a hand-made Brooks flintlock rifle over his head and declared that presidential candidate Al Gore would take away his Second Amendment rights "from my cold, dead hands."[23] In announcing his resignation in 2003, he again raised a rifle over his head, repeating the five famous words of his 2000 speech.[23] He was an honorary life member.[24][25]

In the 2002 documentary film Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore interviewed Heston in his home, asking him about an April, 1999 NRA meeting held in Denver, Colorado, shortly after the Columbine high school massacre. Moore criticized Heston for the perceived thoughtlessness in the timing and location of the meeting. Heston, on-camera, excused himself and walked out on the interview. Moore was later criticized for his perceived ambush of the actor.[26][27]

Actor George Clooney joked about Heston having Alzheimer's Disease. When questioned, Clooney said Heston deserved whatever was said about him for his involvement with the NRA.[28] Heston responded by saying Clooney lacked "class," and said he felt sorry for Clooney, as Clooney had as much of a chance of developing Alzheimer's as anyone else.[29]

Heston opposed abortion and gave the introduction to a 1987 pro-life documentary by Bernard Nathanson called Eclipse of Reason which focuses on late-term abortions. Heston served on the Advisory Board of Accuracy in Media, a conservative media watchdog group founded by Reed Irvine.[30]

Illness and death

In 1998, shortly after he was elected President of the National Rifle Association, Heston had a hip replacement. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. Following a course of radiation treatment, the cancer went into remission. In August 2002, Heston publicly announced he was diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease.[31] In July 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President George W. Bush. In March 2005, various newspapers reported family and friends were apparently shocked by the progression of his illness, and he was sometimes unable to get out of bed. In August 2005, a rumor circulated Heston was hospitalized at a Los Angeles hospital with pneumonia, but this was never confirmed by the family. In April 2006, various news sources reported Heston's illness was at an advanced stage and his family were worried he might not survive the year.

Heston died on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills, California with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side. He was 84. The cause of death is currently unknown.

1 Post Chronicle. "Actor Charlton Heston Dies: Moses, Ben-Hur and Taylor Passes On", 2008-04-06. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
2 MSNBC. Charlson Heston dead at 84.
3 Date confirmed through 1930 US Census
4 Film Reference Biography.
6 Vidal, Gore. Palimpsest-A Memoir. 1995. pp.303-307
7 SAG Presidents, Screen Actors Guild
8 Variety, 12 February 2004
9 Mathews, Jay. "Charlton Heston, Statesman On the Set; For the 'Colbys' Star, Acting Is Only Part of the Job", The Washington Post, May 2 1986, pp. D1. (English)
10 Taylor, Quintard (1998). In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West. W. W. Norton & Company, 285.
11 Goodrich, Terry Lee. "Heston decries political correctness at fund-raiser", Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 13, 2000, pp. 5.
12 David Plotz; Slate. NRA President Charlton Heston.
13 Slate. Charlton Heston, Gun-Controller!
14 Pulera, Dominic J. (2006). Sharing the Dream: White Males in Multicultural America. Continuum International Publishing Group, 254.
15 Raymond, Emilie (2006). From My Cold, Dead Hands Charlton Heston and American Politics. [[University Press of Kentucky]], 6.
16 McDowell, Charles. "Charlton Heston, the Gun Lobbyist", Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), September 14 1997, pp. B1. (English)
17 Raymond, p.276
18 a b Thomas, Bob. "Film Legend Charlton Heston Dead at 84", Associated Press, April 06, 2008.
21 Heston, Charlton. Winning the Cultural War. 16 February 1999.
22 Internet Movie Database
23 a b Johnson, Jeff. "Heston to Step down as NRA President", The Nation, April 25, 2003.
24 Stewart, Fiona. "Charlton Heston suffering from Alzheimer's", The Scotsman, 10 August 2002. (English)
25 Johnson, Bradley. "Adages", Advertising Age, 20 October 1997, pp. 8. (English)
26 Russo, Tom. "Opposites Attract (Bowling for Columbine review)", Boston Globe, August 24, 2003.
27 Ebert, Roger. "'9/11': Just the facts?", Chicago Sun-Times, June 18, 2004, p. 55. (English) "In some cases, [Moore] was guilty of making a good story better, but in other cases (such as his ambush of Charlton Heston) he was unfair..."
28 What's up with George Clooney? 20 January 2003.
29 Heston Slams Clooney For Alzheimer's Joke. 23 January 2003. "
30 FAQ. Accuracy in Media. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.
31 Charlton Heston has Alzheimer's symptoms. CNN News. 9 August 2002.
32 Actor Charlton Heston dead at 84. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
33 Welkos, Robert W. and Susan King. "Charlton Heston, 84; actor played epic figures." Los Angeles Times. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
34 Charlton Heston Dies at Beverly Hills Home. 5 April 2008. Accessed 6 April 2008.
35 Alcoa Premier: The Fugitive Eye (1961). IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-02-06.
36 The Mountain Men (1980). IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-02-05.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Grand Lodge Remembers a Past Grand Master

One of the benefits of being a Master Mason is the benefit of travel and visitation. Currenlty, I am on deployment in Charleston, South Carolina, a lovely, OLD city (as United States Cities go...) on the East Coast. Here is where the first lodge chartered in the United States holds their meetings: Solomon Lodge #1, Chartered by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1735, and holds their meetings in Orange Grove Masonic Center.

That center today hosted the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina in Franklin Lodge #96. One thing I have noticed recently, in my travels, is that the east coast lodges in the United States work a very different version of the ritual than that West Coast Lodges. This may have more to do with the Baltimore Convention than any "evolution" or "purity" of the ritual, since it appears that the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina did not attend the convention nor subscribe to its recommendations.

I mention this, because the opening ritual in the Third Degree is different from what I am used to, but also, in a strange way, very similar. Most Worshipful Gerald L. Carver, Grand Master and his grand line, together with the brothers from Franklin and Palmetto lodge opened the Grand Lodge in Ample Form and Pametto and Franklin lodge in due form. This means we had three of each officer at the stations. Very interesting.

They opened for the express purpose of the dedication and consecration of a Grave Marker for Past Grand Master, the Most Worshipful B. Rush Campbell, who served as Grand Master from 1860 – 1861. Most Worshipful Brother Campbell was a Past Master of Palmetto Lodge No. 19 AFM in Laurens. After opening the lodges, we adjourned to Magnolia Cemetery for the Grave Marker Dedication and Consecration ceremony.

It was a very moving day, and an interesting display of brotherly love and affection for a Past Grand Master who has been departed for almost 135 years.
May the blessings of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Making a Choice

by Francie Baltazar-Schwartz1
~Slightly Adapted~

Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say.

When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, "If I were any better, I would be twins!"

He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude.

He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"

Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."

"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.

"Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."

I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business.We lost touch, but often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.

I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?" I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.

"The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live.

"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.

Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man. " I knew I needed to take action."

"What did you do?" I asked.

"Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry.

"She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied.

The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!'

Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

You have two choices in life as Freemasons. You can choose to be the best Freemason you can possibly be, living the tenets in full every single day... or you can look for the bad, the niddering little things to whine and complain about and in so doing, make yourself, and every one around you as miserable as you are working on being.

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

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