Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
In the November-December 2009 Minnesota Mason, a photo of my grandpa Dick (circled above) was featured which was taken by my dad, Rick. My grandpa was receiving his sixty year pin from Fidelity Lodge #39 in Austin, MN. He became a Mason when he was 22. I hope, one day, to be as lucky as him to reach my 60th year. (Just gotta live 83 years). Congrtulations Grandpa Dick.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
As I noted in my last post, I have been installed as the Master of Corinthian Lodge #67 in Farmington, MN. However, as of this Monday, I am now a Past Master. I know what you're thinking, "Say what?!" (I guess he thinks we're from 1995.) That's right, I was installed on Sunday afternoon, and then I received my Virtual Past Master degree from Corinthian Chapter #33.
The Virtual Past Master degree is an oddity. Originally, in England, only a brother that had served as a Master of a Lodge could be honored as a Royal Arch Mason. Royal Arch, or Holy Royal Arch as it is known in England, originally was under the auspices of the Grand Lodge. When the Chapters eventually became independent, so many brothers wanted to take part in the Royal Arch degree that they needed a way around the Past Master's requirement. Hence, the Virtual Past Master's degree was born to avoid the no innovation problem.
I'm continually amazed by the great degree work performed by the companions at Corinthian Chapter. I love being a candidate learning new lessons and continually rounding out my Masonic education. Whether brothers realize it or not, Chapter is a fascinating place to grow as a Mason. The lesson of the Past Master's degree is focused on the idea of leadership and good governance. In fact I was reminded as I went through the degree of Spider-man, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility."
As I take the actual Oriental Chair of my Lodge, I have found these lessons important, a great reminder of what I need to do to help my Lodge. As I start this new year, I am ever more excited to guide my Lodge to better success in the south Metro.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
My Lodge, Corinthian #67, had our Annual Installation of Officers for 2009-2010 on December 6th. My Lodge brothers elected me as Worshipful Master. I am truly honored and blessed that the brothers of my Lodge have faith in my abilities especially as I am still a pup of 27 years. I am excited for the upcoming year as I wish to continue the past few years successes in membership, temple restoration and programming.
This year, I am focusing my efforts on three guiding principles: experimentation, excellence, and excitement. I truly believe these three thoughts are the key to getting a more worthwhile lodge experience. As I said in my remarks to the brethren, families and guests, we, at Corinthian Lodge, are going to try lots of new things that we have never done before. We are going to hold more Table Lodges, more schools of instruction, more fundraising activities, more educational programs; in short, we're going to give to our brethren what I believe they deserve, a more meaningful Lodge experience.
Quantity and quality need not be competitors of each other. It is about finding the right balance. As President and Brother Theodore Roosevelt said, "In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." We must do more to find out what works or what doesn't work. I want to treat my Lodge as a laboritory, testing new ideas in an effort to make good on our promise as a progressive science.
Masonry stands upon a precipice. Unfortunately, as a Craft, many brothers look down the cliffface instead of seeing that there is another side, across the gorge. We need only bridge to the other side to save the Fraternity that we love. I believe my brothers and I have the tools and the talent in to continue building and strengthening our Lodge.
Finally, I want to thank those people that have always helped me. I first want to thank my wife who has allowed me to take part in something I have found I truly love doing. Without her support, I would not be half the Freemason I am today. I would also like to thank my parents for giving me their support as well as my dad for being willing to serve as sky pilot (chaplain) for next year. I also want to thank my Grandpa, a 60 year member for getting me into Masonry, and my Grandmas (maternal and paternal) as well as my brother and his fiancee for attending and giving their support to me. I would also like to thank Karen, my organist, for doing a great job. She has known me since before I was born and has always been there to help me if I needed it.
Of the brothers, I want to thank all of them for giving me the strength to work at making our Lodge a great place to be. I want to thank the officers for their willingness to serve the Lodge and lead it with me. A special thanks goes out to WBro. Paul who's year was filled with success which I will endeavor to match. I want to thank our Secretary Joe for all the painstaking work he goes through without complaint. I would also like to thank Bro. Steve for being when of the best cornermen ever. I would also like to thank my Mentor, WBro. Don, for serving as my installing Marshall. He was the first brother to really push me into focusing on Masonry, and having it become a part of my life. If it wasn't for his willingness to spend the time on learning my catechisms, I probably would have been far less active. I would also like to thank my good friend, WBro. James McNeely, our Area Deputy as my Installing Master. He has been a great friend. A man who always has thoughtful and thought-provoking insights into Masonic good governance. We, in the Southeast, are lucky to have him as our Deputy. There are many more I should thank but I am running long and they know who they are. ;)
I want to thank the brothers of Corinthian Lodge for giving me this opportunity to try new things. We have a great year ahead of us. Brothers, let's get to work.
Here are some photos from the event taken by my wife:
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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On November 24th, 2009, the members of Zuhrah Shrine voted to sell the stunning Harrington Mansion, the Minneapolis Shrine Center and its parking lot at 2540 Park Avenue in Minneapolis. The Shriners of Minneapolis have occupied the building since 1929, when it was purchased for $25,000. According to Zuhrah's website, this is less than half the amount of the property taxes paid on the building (date unknown). Not sure what the future holds for Zuhrah Shrine's housing options nor the options of one of its tenants, the extremely successful Minneapolis Lodge #19, but whatever happens is completely undesirable.
This is a sad day not only for the Shrine but Minnesota Masonry in general. I pray that some relief will come to our various non-profit groups, not just the Masons. I just hate seeing beautiful buildings disappear to be used by some land developer with little care for its' sacred or historical significance. This loss will be felt throughout Minnesota and I wish there was a solution to avoid these problems. Masons have built this state but sadly, we are still treated as a forgotten relic, an organization from days gone by. It's not membership, it's not dues, it's not anything but a lack of consciousness by the public at large of what we do and its willingness to let us go.
Perhaps the Fraternity is changing. Perhaps land ownership will not be a part of what makes a Lodge special or important in the community. Maybe Grandma Gilmore is right when she says "a house is just a house", but it would be a real shame if we continued to allow the loss of these buildings when they have been a part of heritage for so long. Solutions need to found to prevent the loss of these great houses dedicated to our Craft.
Monday, November 23, 2009
On Friday, November 20th, I visited a meeting of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351. This Lodge, although following what is termed the "Minnesota Rite" (a variation of Preston-Webb "American" Rite), it seeks to evoke the sense and sensibilities of the British Lodge way of life. It is a very interesting and different experience than what most brothers are used to.
Sir Winston Churchill is designed as an Affinity Lodge. An Affinity Lodge allows the brothers a better focus on a shared subject. An Affinity lodge can range from a British-styled lodge, a lodge of lawyers, or a Lodge of military men. The Affinity concept has been used for many years in jurisdictions like the United Grand Lodge of England or the Grand Lodge of DC, F.A.A.M. with great success.
Why do I think that Affinity lodges are so successful? I think it has to do with the common purpose or affinity. When a brother joins a lodge, he may not have a direct connection to the other brothers, either via avocation or interest. However, if that brother has that connection, he is more likely to become dedicated to that Lodge.
Sir Winston Churchill Lodge is also a mentoring Lodge. Sir Winston Churchill Lodge will partner with other Lodges to provide strategies for both Lodge leadership and Masonic growth in the state. Mentoring brothers is essential and this should include leaders of a Lodge. The Lodge has between five to seven years to get a brother ready to lead. We can and should help our Lodges in every aspect and SWC is one resource Lodge leaders should take advantage of.
A brother from my Lodge and his father and I went to SWC #351 only knowing what I had learned from talking with the brothers of the Lodge. Sir Winston Churchill #351 is the first Lodge in more than thirty years to meet in downtown Minneapolis. After making introductions, we began a social hour that involved a Emulation ritual degree practice an hour before the stated meeting started.
I have never seen this Rite done in any form and although I knew what I was seeing and hearing, it was like watching "the Office" from UK after watching "the Office" from the US. There are a few things that are different but the basic storyline still remains. The lessons of Masonry are taught through a new perspective. Marcus Aurelius wrote,"everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." Of course, the more perspectives of the same subject that you have, the better able you are to see the penumbra of truth. The pursuit of truth and understanding requires that you change where you gaze. As I watched the Emulation rite practice, I felt like our operative brothers, walking to another side of the temple to better understand the whole.
I have never traveled Masonically outside my own state. That's right, never, even though I live less than thirty minutes away from the Wisconsin border. I'm steeped in Minnesota Masonry without any broader perspective. SWC #351 has helped me see the wider world. All Lodges do something different but even more so, each Masonic jurisdiction has its own variation on how Masonry is learned. Ritual in Minnesota is not the same as Iowa or Wisconsin; Pennsylvania doesn't even have a staircase. It is great that the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge are trying something new, giving Minnesota brothers opportunities that we would have to travel many miles to experience.
Masonry is a progressive science and Sir Winston Churchill #351 is a great example of our dedication to evolve. As I said goodbye to the brothers, I began to understand what I was feeling. The air was electric, the mixture of dedicated brothers and a great idea. And that is really what Masonry is, a really great idea pushed forward by dedicated brothers.
If you are in the area and you are looking for a new Lodge experience, check out their new website. This Lodge represents a new and exciting chapter in Minnesota Masonry and I'm thankful to the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 for helping me to see a new perspective in Masonry. As Sir Winston Churchill said,”for myself, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else.” Yes, I'm an optimist, and this Lodge is the future and what a bright future it is.
Monday, November 16, 2009
So you want to become a Freemason? Do you know what one is? Do you know what they do? In this modern world of Internets and its series of tubes, you may have an interesting view of Freemasonry. Some of it may be right, some of it may be wrong but at least you’re looking. That’s why I’ve decided to help you out. The first thing we have to do is define what Freemasonry is.
Freemasonry is the oldest, largest, most well known Fraternity on the planet. We call among our brothers the most influential men that Deity has seen fit to produce. We have three tenets that Freemasons are taught to follow: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. We meet as equals and do not regard a brother’s political or spiritual identification as a disqualification to membership nor are we allowed to discuss in Lodge religious or political matters. The major requirements for membership are a belief in God, be a man of good moral qualifications, and be of legal age in the jurisdiction. (in MN, you have to be 18 years, but this age will vary depending on where you live.)
This description is incredibly basic and will not satisfy the curious man. That’s why I’d like to point you to a great resource. What is Freemasonry? is an eBook written by Brother Greg Stewart and made available for free. This is a compendium of all good knowledge that a man should possess before he petitions a Lodge. Frankly, there is nothing I can tell you that hasn’t been covered by Bro. Greg. He’s done a real service and if you want to do more reading about Freemasonry, go to his wonderful Masonic magazine, Freemason Information.
Freemasonry is a great place to meet friends that you would have never met because the Fraternity brings men from all kinds of backgrounds together. We come together as brothers to build better men and better communities. If you are interested, stay tuned next week as we explore how to locate a Lodge and try to find the right fit for your Masonic growth.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
One quote that really stood out to me was by WB Paul.
I think that all men seeking the philosophy of Freemasonry are looking for answers, looking for a guide to help make sense of the chaotic world outside the Lodge. Even as the world becomes almost unbearable, the brother can enter the Lodge to become a part of that order. Yet, that is what Freemasonry is, one path to understanding how to be a better man.It is true that younger men are returning to Freemasonry. The Internet has truly changed the way the Fraternity can and will be perceived into the future. I view this blog and all the other social networks that I'm a part of to really complete the circle from being to knowing. We have all the tools we need to get things off the ground, we just need to use them. And yes, WB Chris, we did mention Freemasons for Dummies.
Just as younger people are searching for a place to belong, they are also seeking the intangible, Hardt said.
"I think a lot of people today are looking for answers," he said. "They're looking for spiritual growth. I think Freemasonry can be part of the answer. We do not see it as a religion, though."
I want to thank Jessica and the Pioneer Press for allowing us the opportunity to discuss something that is so a part of our lives. Masonry is an essential part of my life, helping to guide me through its ups and downs.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Guardian is reporting that the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, is reversing a rule requiring serving in the United Kingdom to declare their Masonic affiliation. This reversal comes after the United Grand Lodge of England stated that they might seek review of the rule in light of the ruling in Grande Oriente d'Italia di Palazzo Guistiniani v Italy. That case, in part, created a connection between the right not to be discriminated with the right to freely associate as one chooses which is found in the European Convention of Human Rights (a treaty created in 1950 to address the abuses suffered during World War II.)
The rule requiring the Freemasons to declare their membership began in 1997 on recommendation of the Commons home affair committee. The report stated,
[N]othing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement.This is a very good decision by the Justice Secretary. With the belief that they will defend a brother above all else, many in Britain view the Craft as evil and self-serving. In fact, I recently received an email which disparaged Masonry which arrived via a co.uk address. It still shocks me how distrusted my brothers in the UK are. (Maybe it's that whole meeting on the level thing, or acting uprightly, you know, "evil stuff")
In North America, Freemasons are not disparaged as harshly as our Masonic brothers across the pond. I have rarely received animosity directed towards me because of my Masonic affiliation. Judges in America are held to very high standards, yet, judges, lawyers and other officials make it known that they are Freemasons, not because it is required but because they are proud to be called a Mason.
This reversal is one sign that the human right to associate with whom one wishes has to be recognized. In the United States, we have the First Amendment which defends our right to choose with whom we would like to associate. A free society is not one that dismisses the rights of people to join as a collection of individuals, but celebrates and understands the service that these groups do for their community. Let's hope that this continues to be a trend in Europe and throughout the world.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The highest degree in Freemasonry is the third degree; that's it. However, further learning in Masonry is still available to the Master Mason. A Master Mason is given a set of keys to many new doors that were previously unavailable to him. A brother can choose to go the Scottish Rite or York Rite path, as well as the OES route, the Shrine route or a myriad of other groups.
Scottish Rite is a series of 29 degrees numbered 4° to 32°. Each degree teaches moral and philosophical lesson to the brothers going through them. The degree work is done very differently than in a Lodge as each are presented as one act plays and the brothers sit in the audience. Scottish Rites are divided into Valleys and most states don't have more than a handful of Valleys. This means that the classes are much larger than you would find in other bodies in Masonry. Chapter and Council work are done in a more traditional way.
Royal Arch Chapters are local just like Lodges. Corinthian Chapter #33 meets in the same building as my Lodge and I know many members. I was a single candidate, making the experience very personal. I hadn't been a candidate for almost 4 years so this experience brought back many great memories of my first time in Lodge. In fact, that is the greatest quality of the York Rite. The degrees are conferrred one at a time with a brother as the candidate, taking a part in the action. Chapter is not passive but an active process of learning and studying. I participated in the first degree of a Chapter known as the Mark Master degree.
I won't reveal the actual ceremony but I will quote what the General Grand Chapter has to say about the degree:
The Mark Master Degree is believed to have originated as a ceremony of registering a craftsman's mark in those years distinguished by operative craft masons and their temple building. It was later developed into a full-fledged degree by the Masonic fraternity as we know it today, Some scholars say it was the earliest degree and may predate all others by many years. It is highly regarded by students in all Masonry, teaching lessons that have proven of value in all walks of life. Some Grand Lodges place so high an eminence on the Mark Master Degree, that they confine it to the jurisdiction of a separate grand body, the Grand Lodge of Mark Masters.
I really liked the personal experience within a Royal Arch Chapter. The work performed by the brothers really felt special because I was the only candidate. Taking part in lessons helps to impress them on my mind more completely. I was truly impressed by the work of the brothers and I really feel that I have increased my knowledge in Masonry. And as I carry this penny with me, I will continue to improve myself in Masonry and in life.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Today, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, A.F. & A.M., performed a cornerstone laying at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. Amplatz Children's Hospital will be a state-of-the-art facility replacing a much less satisfactory situation. The original setup involved the Children's Hospital being located within the adult hospital. This new building will have over 200 beds to provide top care for children and mothers. The hospital will be eco-friendly and will provide many ways for families to stay comfortable while their children are there including overnight rooms. The children will even have control over the lighting and color in their rooms, which has been shown to improve healing.
The purpose of the hospital is to help children and their families overcome extremely challenging times. We were told by the administrator of the hospital that the staff at Amplatz won't just deliver innovations in pediatric care but create them. To understand more about, you can fan them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. It is a blessing that this state continues to push ahead medical research with the number of teaching hospitals, medical device producers and world class health systems based here. A wonderful video has been produced and can be viewed below:
This is a very proud day in University of Minnesota history. The ceremony was well attended by the brethren of Minnesota and the ceremony was well done,
including a very moving speech delivered by the Grand Orator and a great friend, Bill Callister.
It is no surprise that the Grand Lodge of Minnesota laid the cornerstone for this great work as Minnesota Masonry and the University of Minnesota has a great tradition of cooperation.
The Masonic Cancer Center Fund was originally founded in 1955 to help raise $1 million dollars for a center for terminally ill patients. The goal of the Masonic Cancer Center has changed dramatically from helping terminal patients at the end of life to finding a cure for cancer. The Masons of Minnesota, in 2008, gave the single largest gift to the University of Minnesota with $65 million.
The University of Minnesota is an important center for research and intellectual growth in the state of Minnesota. I'm very proud that our brothers have dedicated their time and money to continue advances in life changing medical research. Masons are pillars of our communities, supporting all those around.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I had never heard fraternities or sororities explained this way. When we join Freemasonry, are we really just paying dues to make friends? What are we offering to our brethren except a chance to wear a square and compass ring?
In college, I never joined a fraternity for two reasons. One, there were no fraternities on campus but also, two, I never wanted to join one in the first place. I enjoyed dorm life in all my years in college. I’m not trying to insult college Fraternities as I think they serve a need on campus but they were never for me.
When I first joined Freemasonry, I really knew nothing of the Fraternity. Frankly, all that I knew was that I had Masonic roots extending from both my grandfathers. I already had my group of friends that was not connected to Masonry in any way, shape, or form. I was looking for something different, a new experience to help me grow as a person.
Masonry is a lifelong study in self-improvement, a place to meet men of different points of view or belief systems, and a time for reflection on the duty to serve. If we are to be a great society, we must understand that we are not buying into friendship. Sure, we make new friends while in Lodge but that is only one aspect of Masonry, we also learn to improve ourselves and our world around us. I would say that Masonry is one part college fraternity and one part college course.
In terms of making friends, Freemasonry is very good at bring men of very different views together to do great works. Frankly, I would have never met many of the brothers of my Lodge because I do not share a particular political belief or a certain religious faith. Yet, we can all come together, put all of those differences aside, and be friends, nay more, brothers, dedicated to helping each others’ families. This transformation from unknown person to related brother is beautiful. Masonry is not just about one’s self but it is also not only about making friends and living a communal existence; it is about forming each one of us into a better man through the lessons imparted in our ritual and teachings.
Sadly, I think some Lodges have begun to view their members as merely dues payers, like a hungry cartoon character on a deserted island imagining his friend’s head is a hamburger. Instead, we should be asking members why they’re not coming to meeting and what we need to do for them. Only then can we be more than just a group of guys paying to be friends.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
On Saturday, October 10th, my Lodge, Corinthian Lodge #67 of Farmington Minnesota, will be rededicating our Lodge building. The local paper, the Farmington Independent, has published an article about this event. Worshipful Brother Paul Hardt, the current Master of the Lodge, is quoted in the article:
Corinthian Lodge is one of the oldest Lodges in the state of Minnesota. It was originally founded by returning Civil War soldiers in 1867. It initially met in various locations including the Odd Fellows Lodge building until Corinthian could afford our own building. Sadly, that building burned down in the Great Fire of Farmington (thankfully, the charter survived). The Lodge would not have a building of its own until 1914, the same building that we continue to meet in to this day.
We want to invite the entire community to attend this wonderful celebration. With all the interest people have shown in Masons and Freemasonry, through Dan Brown’s books, and the ‘National Treasure’ movies, we wanted everyone to see just what Masons do and what we are all about.
Some of the invited guests include the Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota as well as the rest of the Grand Line. If you are in the area and would like to see the new refurbished Lodge hall as well as to see just what we do, come out to downtown Farmington. The event will begin at 4 pm. I will also post a map below to find Farmington Masonic Temple. We hope to see you there!
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Monday, October 5, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I really like the candid nature of these videos. There really is no glossing over of the victories and challenges facing the Craft. There are some mistakes made in the videos, including Ronald Reagan being named a Freemason. (He was not a Freemason but he was made an honorary member of the Scottish Rite.) However, I really thought that Mr. Horowitz had some good points about what Masonic Lodges must do with the candidates now that many will seek out our more esoteric side. We can't just continue on as a civic organization while ignoring our deeper past. Much of what is focused on in the episode comes from the books by Manly P. Hall.
For those not in the know, Hall was the prominent esoteric Freemason of the 20th century. Unlike most writers of the time, he sought a deeper meaning within the symbols of Masonry. He was a prolific writer and speaker on the Craft, giving thousands of lectures and authoring over 150 books. He was awarded the 33rd degree in 1973. He was also the founder of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles.
In the end, I really enjoyed hearing an outsiders perspective on the Fraternity. Sometimes we become far to insular to truly understand how people view us. You can find the republished Manly P. Hall manuscripts on Amazon.com: The Secret Destiny of America and The Lost Keys of Freemasonry. I have also posted parts of the episode below:
Destination D.C. has also created a video as well highlighting the Washington connection to the book.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Nick thought to himself, Should the public know what my opinion of this book is? Are they ready for the truth?
"Okay, I think I can tell my readers my opinion but I'm afraid of the ramifications."
"Ramifications?" The old man looked blindly at him, wondering what could possibly happen if the young man, the Millennial Freemason as he enjoyed calling himself, (as if he were the only one)decided to reveal his personal feelings about a piece of pop culture. Just say what you're thinking and get us out of this terribly written parody of a Dan Brown novel.
Damn, he knows I'm stalling. Nick looked at the old man and hoped he would just get out of this moment, this sad, stupid moment. Wait, where did this guy come from, anyway? Whatever.
"Alright, alright, I'll reveal my opinion of this book, but I don't want people to call me a sellout." He waited for the old man to speak, but he would be unable to in time; he never thought he would see something so magnificent.
Whoops, sorry about that, I don't know what happened. The focus of "the Lost Symbol" is aimed directly at Freemasonry, specifically Scottish Rite Masonry. Reading the book made me remember why I liked his books; they are written in the glorious American tradition of pulp. Pulp novels, pulp movies, and comic books are great escapes for the mind. Yeah, you English class snobs (and you know who you are) will be saying, "if a book is not stimulating, such as Joyce's Ulysses or Milton's Paradise Loooosss, ow ow ow owwww!" Yeah, that's what I thought; now where was I... Oh yeah, these novels are not meant to be high art, nor are they meant to present as truth all those crazy ideas that are put in them. They are adventure novels meant as escapism. Think Dr. Samson, or the more modern example, Indiana Jones.
This book provided the right levels of escapism, adventure, patriotism, and a devotion to a higher belief that I came away thinking, "wow, Freemasons really are cool, which means, by association, I'm cool." (The editors of the "Millennial Freemason" take no responsibility for the claims made in the previous statement.) I enjoyed arriving at the end of a two page chapter and having no problem going in for another bite. It's like salty popcorn, not dangerous to your body, but you'll never survive on popcorn alone.
The story is basically a treasure hunt and race against time in one whirlwind trip. The book runs through the city of Washington, D.C. connecting seemingly unconnected works, places, and ideas into a cohesive story. Now, in reality, nothing in the "real world" is connected in the way the book tries to make it but I don't care, I had fun. The city of Washington is built upon the models of Grecian, Roman, and Egyptian architecture, turning the city into something foreign and familiar, exoteric and esoteric.
Whether Robert Langdon is running through the Capitol Crypts or speeding to the House of the Temple, Brown makes Washington alive, secretive, and illuminating. Now, for those who haven't read the book, I will warn you now that there may be some spoilers but nothing that wasn't revealed in other reviews.
The Masonic Fraternity is represented very well by this book. 33rd Degree is the central point from which this entire book revolves around, kind of like a circumpunct. Robert Langdon dispels many of the myths that have been spread by the Anti-Masons, including the head of the devil in the D.C. street plan as well as not hiding from some of the criticism that we also receive including no female Masons in CGMINA-recognized Grand Lodges. But ultimately, Dan Brown treats Masonry extremely fairly, we are the heroes. The book reveals very little about our ritual which was in my mind surprising considering how mysterious our ways are. Ritual is our language and our code. Our path to illumination comes from the stones laid by the early authors of our ritual. Brown instead looks at our goals and teachings to give our Fraternity an air of intelligence, our goal of truth literally surrounding the National Mall. Our history is delved into in some parts but of course, it is simplified. (The Scottish Rite is viewed as a single body instead of the NMJ or SJ in the United States.) And yes, we finally learn why we keep eunuchs out of the Lodge room, ;).
In the end, the book is a bowl of popcorn, a book of fun and frolic on the same order as "National Treasure." I enjoyed myself and although I have read the works of Milton and Shakespeare, there comes a time when the mind should be given a chance to wander. “The Lost Symbol” may be pulp but it was good, clean, old-fashioned, all-American pulp.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today, Tuesday 15th, the Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota, Most Worshipful Brother Thomas McCarthy, will be on WCCO's "Good Question" at 10 pm. WCCO is the CBS local affiliate and produces a series that seeks to answer many questions by asking people knowledgeable on the subjects. Because Freemasonry is now in the Dan Brown spotlight, the question of "What is Freemasonry" is being asked by many. I will be posting the link to the video once WCCO posts it on their site (Sorry, no embed code for me.)
As promised, I've linked to the article and video. I think that Most Worshipful Brother McCarthy did an outstanding job representing the brothers of Minnesota Masonry. Also, what a great spot to be at, outside the old Masonic building in downtown. It's always fascinating to see how the Profane world looks at Masonry but I think public perception is changing or perhaps its better to say public rediscovery.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The Masonic Society, with the cooperation of the Masonic Service Association of North America and the George Washington Masonic Memorial, has decided to provide a great, concrete response to "the Lost Symbol" in a website entitled, "The Lost Symbol and Freemasonry." The website provides answer to many burning questions about Masonry including what Freemasonry is and why Freemasons care about the Lost Symbol. The site also lists a very good list for seeking the truth about Freemasonry. The website will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. I'm very glad that the Masonic Society has taken this important step in PR.
As many of my readers know, I am a member of The Masonic Society, which provides great opportunities for brothers with a brilliant publication, "the Journal of the Masonic Society." If you have not already joined the Masonic Society, you should. If you are a Freemason, please send this link along to other brothers, family and friends. We should be ready for whatever happens after next Tuesday and this is a great starting salvo. I applaud my brothers at the Masonic Society.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The media is grabbing onto this story and frankly, no one knows what will happen after next Tuesday. Now, I do differ in opinion with Brother Tabbert, quoted in the article as saying “We might have to spend the next 25 years responding to Dan Brown's fiction. That's what I dread." Most of the story in "the Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" was fictitious, just as hyperdrives and warp speed are fictitious in "Star Wars" and "Star Trek", respectively. (Wow that was nerdy.) However, it is no less entertaining to wonder, or to question what is true and what is not, and I’m okay with that. I’ve studied the history of Freemasonry in my four years of history and what I’ve learned is that we do not write our own history but we can write our own destiny.
There are really two approaches to dealing with any action, proactive or reactive. I’m of the proactive point of view. We can’t stop the media juggernaut, but we can get in front of it. Every brother should think of ways to discuss the Fraternity and trying to put our best foot forward. We aren’t all about pancakes and fish, but we are a Fraternity of an unknown past, of wild theories and observations, of symbolic, mystic, and philosophic wonders, in total, we are one of the most interesting organizations on Earth. People have written volumes and encyclopedias about the minutiae of our Gentle Craft. Research has been done on our connection to the Revolutionary War, Templar Knights, peasant revolts and the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt. We are a fascinating group to read up on as our story is that mysterious.
I think the most advantageous point that we will find with this book in everyday Lodge life is that there will be an abrupt return to the educational opportunities to which this book will lead that has been lacking in many Lodges. Some brothers may take this book as fact while others will attempt to debunk every assertion and that is a very good thing. I’m hoping to see an open dialogue among brothers about truth, which is one of our espoused values, in all things Masonic and allowing more than just business about lights to run the meetings. This book will not be absolute truth but it can serve as the string between the cans to get brothers to talk.
I think that in my own Lodge, the fact that our Friendship Night falls on the same day as this book's release is truly auspicious. I’m not concerned with gaining many more members but good quality men and perhaps this book will spark their interest even when they never had any inkling that we existed before its publication. For good tips on what Lodges should do, check out WB Chris Hodapp’s article entitled, “The Dan Brown Effect Part II, What Next.”
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I should mention that the first Grand Lodge to podcast is not the UGLE. The Grand Lodge of Ohio has been publishing a monthly podcast since the summer of 2008. I'm really glad to see Grand Lodges taking an active role in the internet space. The Internet is not only a place for men looking for the Fraternity but also as a way for brothers, new and old, to receive important information about the Craft. WB Mayfield over at the Palmetto Mason really presents the changes and challenges that the Internet presents to Freemasonry in a post entitled, "The Internet, A Blessing and a Curse for Freemasonry."
I applaud both of these Grand Lodges for becoming accessible to the public. Hopefully, more Grand Lodges will continue to add content to the ever growing Internet Masonic community.
To subscribe to these podcasts, enter
for the Grand Master of the UGLE and Pro Grand Master's speeches
for GL of Ohio's podcast into your podcatching client (instructions for them can be found here: iTunes or Zune).
Monday, August 31, 2009
Churchill knew the dangers of appeasement, the coming onslaught of the totalitarianism, and the descending of the Iron Curtain upon the face of Europe. He proved his mettle through strength of arm, strategic aforethought, and a belief in the rightness in the cause of freedom. Churchill was also a Freemason, having been raised in Studholme Lodge #1591 in 1901. It seems fitting that a Lodge which seeks to exemplify the British Emulation Ritual would choose such a strong personality to emulate and honor.
For any who don't know, British Emulation Rite is practiced by the United Grand Lodge of England as well as other recognized Grand Lodges throughout the world. In Minnesota, we use a modified version of Preston-Webb known colloquially known as the "Minnesota Work" and are constitutionally bound to practice only this ritual in a Lodge constituted in this jurisdiction. Therefore, the Lodge must perform its official work using the "Minnesota Work." However, the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill will exemplify the British Emulation degrees and will continue their study into the rich traditions of English Freemasonry. They seek not to compete with other Lodges but instead present a different experience for interested brothers by sharing the British Emulation as an educational experience. I was given this two page primer explaining the goals and purposes of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 by MWB Tom Jackson:
As I mentioned, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota has not constituted a Lodge since 1987. Thankfully, through the hard work of the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill,
newly installed Master, WB John Gann, and PGM Tom Jackson, a novel approach to Freemasonry has come into fruition in this state. Most Worshipful Brother Tom McCarthy presided over the event and RWB John Cook, RWB Tom Hendrickson and MWB Andy Rice assisted in consecrating the Lodge. Also in attendance were many distinguished brothers from many jurisdictions to see this most important undertaking, including MWB Akram Elias, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, RWB Alan Tibbets, Deputy District Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, and Worshipful Brother Joseph Howell of Benjamin Franklin Lodge #83, Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. Benjamin Franklin #83 works the British Emulation Rite, following the traditions of English Lodges.
As the officers donned their resplendent blue aprons for the first time, I could sense a change. We are no longer a Grand Lodge based around cookie cutter Lodges struggling to regain interest in the Craft but an organization desirous to be as varied as the members who occupy it. I am thankful to see Lodges trying new things like Saint Paul #3 using a Traditional Observance model, or Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 exemplifying the British Emulation Rite. This should be the model, Lodges should find a niche, and they should try new things.
After the installation of WB John Gann as Master and the other elected and appointed officers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351, we began our processional lead by bagpipers to the Irish Pub across the street. I know what you're thinking, “an English-style Lodge meeting in an Irish pub?” Yet, I am happy to report that this Festive Board felt right at home in the dark, Walnut-paneled pub.
In the pub, we were all able to share a meal and toasts using the traditional English style. MWB Elias gave an impressive speech on where our Fraternity is and where it will be going, which was fitting as the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill embark on new territory in Minnesota Masonry. As we gave our final toast and sang our final song, I witnessed, in that dark, pub basement, the refulgent eyes of these brothers, their excitement and zeal casting a brilliant glow throughout the room.
At the end of the evening, some of us met at a bar across the road from Lake Minnetonka sharing cigars, stories, and songs. This gathering at the end of a perfect evening was proof of this auspicious occasion, an occasion of birth and growth, of traditions and experiments. It seems fitting that a Lodge that seeks to further enlighten the Craft would have its consecration in a town called Excelsior, as that word means “ever upward” in Latin, so this Lodge continues ever upward in the cause of Freemasonry. I want to congratulate the brothers of Sir Winston Churchill Lodge #351 for the hard work for making Masonry compelling, heartening, and wondrous. I would also like to congratulate WB John Gann on his installation and MWB Tom Jackson for his leadership during his time as Grand Master to make this Lodge possible. I need only one word to sum up this experience and this Lodge, a word borrowed from Most Worshipful Tom Jackson, “Marvelous.”
I have been informed by Most Worshipful Tom that if you are interested in attending Sir Winston Churchill #351, you can contact the Lodge Secretary, Frank Harris, at fharris (at) usinternet (dot) com or Most Worshipful Brother Tom at tom (at) pro-activemktg (dot) com. If you live in or are visiting the Minneapolis area, you should really check out this fascinating Lodge experience.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I think we should have someone in the media who is a brother mason to propose questions that local lodges could be called by local media to answer after the book comes out. Help our lodge leaders be prepared for the questions that will or could come. Questions like:
So they say Freemasonry is a secret organization are you?
Like many groups we have organizational secrets, modes of recognition such as our handshakes, words so we may recognize another brother Mason as we say in the light as in the darkness, literally. These were not developed just for the fun of it, they were developed over time for reasons. Early operative Masons (those who practiced the trade of building the great building of Europe) were had learned the building trade skills used in the construction of cathedral and castles were given special or secret words only known to other tradesman so they could travel throughout the land to practice their trade freely, therefore the name Freemasons. During earlier wartimes in other countries many lodges and brethren had their lodges destroyed and property confiscated and destroyed as Freemasons are viewed as a threat to totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. Today we use words and signs and handshakes to identify one another and to remind ourselves we can once again become the targets of those who oppose a free government and a free people.
Do you prohibit those of different faiths from joining?
No, we have members in our lodges locally, regionally or statewide who are Christian, Jewish & Catholic just to name a few. Our fraternity only requires a belief in God. I am a member of my lodge for fraternal fellowship & brotherhood; to explore how to make myself and others a better man by studying our Masonic ritual and exploring from an educational perspective what our symbols represent. I attend my church, temple or synagogue for a greater understand and search for my personal salvation. My salvation and grace come from my personal relationship I work on with God, my fraternal fellowship with brother Masons.
Do you allow only white males to join your lodge?
Most all Grand Lodges (Each state has its own Grand Lodge and governs it own jurisdiction) no longer discriminate based on race and culture. Like many organizations, both fraternal and otherwise in the past have discriminated against individuals for reasons that today we find blatantly wrong. Was it right then, we leave to antiquity but we continue to education ourselves and membership. Just like life we as individuals and organizations change and grow. That is what makes us human, at the same time always searching our past to take good men and make them better. That is what we do. Have we always been right, no, are we always searching for ways to make ourselves better, YES!
Who are your members? Are their any members of local government who are members of your lodge?
Our lodges consist of your neighbors, co-workers, and family members both present and past. We have everyone from governmental leaders in our ranks, to labors. That is what makes us unique, all men meet on the same level when we are in lodge and how we treat one another in our community and our life. No matter your occupation, your age you are no better than the next brother.
These are just a sample of some of the questions. Ask the hard questions; help formulate replies to these questions using bridging techniques of communication. You do not have to answer each question direct, although most of the above you can without any problem. How do you reframe the question? How to expand the question to inform the audience of what we do, not just what the interviewer has asked.
What are your questions? What do you think will be asked by your local media? Help us all be prepared to help our communities understand who we are, what we stand for in our towns, cities, shires and states.
WB David would also like to share with you his Twitter account if you would like to follow him: @DavidWellsVA Thank you WB David again for this great response. It was timely and good. Now that we have seen the novel from Dan Brown, it's the time to get ourselves into action. The Relevant Mason has posted a great article about what we need to do entitled, "Dan Brown Got it Right". Thanks to brother Porter for his great article.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
As the paper reported during the MWB Haas case reported earlier this year, the author of that particular article took direct potshots at Freemasonry as a good ol' boys club focused on silly rituals. The intent on the article was not about a procedural due process concern but rather our restrictions to men only "[a]nd its taste for pompous honorifics and ornate regalia may conjure images of solemn men with arms interlocked: Laurel and Hardy meet Babbitt."
The Gate City case was reported fairly but has still caused irrecoverable damage. I don't blame the Times nor Gate City but rather outdated ideas still held by brothers, outdated ideas that I hope will have been officially put to rest by the current edict issued by Grand Master Jennings. We have not received good press from the Times as of late but I was pleasantly surprised to see good news with this article.
Our very knowledgable brother, WB Arturo de Hoyos, Grand Archivist of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction, was interviewed about the pieces being shown to the public and the updating and changing of Masonic presentation to our brethren and the public. He did a fantastic job presenting our Craft as well as explaining the need to create a coherent presentation to the public. We can hope that when the "Symbol" storm is upon us, we will receive as kind of press as we received today.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
This book is going to be huge, like five-million-copies-on-its-first-run huge. Obviously, if this book has any relation in topic or reference to Freemasonry, we are going to be affected for years. We won't know its actual impact until the novel hits the local mega-bookstore. Angered rhetoric might makes us feel better but it really doesn't matter in the aggregate, and here's why: we can complain about or fear the coming of this novel, but it's coming out, plain and simple.
Let's be frank: "The Lost Symbol" is being published, it's being published soon, and we're going to have to live with it. There will be a post-Dan Brown world and we, as Lodges and Masons, are going to have to live in that world. Sorry, we don't get to control the printing press, despite some Anti-Masonic belief to the contrary so we need to understand its impact and be ready for the deluge.
When I see or hear the annoyed comments from brothers, I feel like I've joined a tribe of sun-worshipers who are about to experience their first eclipse. There will be a sun once the excitement dies down and a new day will dawn. I can understand the frustration; we don't know what the story is about and we don't know how it will affect the Craft. Whether brothers want to accept it or not, it's coming.
For years, the numbers of brothers and relative interest in the Craft declined precipitously. We became irrelevant, a fixture of the past to be forgotten. Grand Lodges attempted anything to keep the numbers at a sustainable level through One-Day classes and simplified catechism but still the numbers dropped as Lodges were unable to find their groove. Then, through some miracle, the media began to take a second look at Freemasonry and we were once again in the spotlight.
Sadly, I think our collective response has been less than stellar. Interest was peeked but many Masons remained unable or unwilling to speak about the Craft leaving a hole to be filled by everyone else. This book offers us a second chance to be recognized and I'd like to not see us fail at this again. We need to be prepared for that day, and I believe we can, it's just going to take every Mason to do it.
My advice for everyone is that we plan for both the bad as well as the good press but most importantly, we need to prepare. Each brother needs to know how to explain what Masonry is, what Masonry means to them and what Masonry should mean to the general public. Each Master should be ready to have their local paper ask them a few questions. Each Lodge should be educating their members on what may and may not be discussed about Freemasonry. It won't matter how big or small the town is, this novel will affect everyone.
To sum up my advice, be prepared. We can all do this but we are going to need guidance and aforethought to give an effective and most importantly, coherent and cohesive answer to the questions and attention that we'll most likely endure because of this novel. If we play our cards correctly, Freemasonry may once again climb back to prominence.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Many improvements abound for the extremely curious, like myself. The new website offers information for finding a local Chapter, who the officers are for the local Chapter as well as contact information for the curious Master Mason. This really helps someone, like myself, gain more interest in Royal Arch. It is great to see
For the interested Companion, there is a calendar of events, contact information for each region of the state and great Chapter Resources. These resources include the MN Grand Chapter Constitution as well as uniform bylaws for a Chapter.
It must always be remembered that York Rite is local. Scottish Rite is built to be of a wider scope with many more degrees but York Rite offers a localized experience. Neither of these approaches are better than the other but different. This website is the first step in helping the brother realize that there is a local Chapter available to him, maybe even meeting in his Lodge hall.
Living in Minnesota offers me a distinct advantage over many jurisdictions as there is a ample amount of great Masonic resources available on the Grand Lodge website. I find it wonderful that the Grand Chapter continues this great tradition of making the best possible resources available to its Companions as well as those like me who are seriously considering joining in the state of Minnesota. All in all, this website offers much more information than has previously been seen and I applaud the Grand Chapter for taking this great step forward.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The clue states:
38.909561,-77.043471 38.897611,-77.036562 38.909663,-77.029457 38.902508,-77.050118 38.902426,-77.022877 38.909561,-77.043471
It is rather obvious that this clue is GPS coordinates but to what? If you put them into Google Maps, you will see the connection.
View Larger Map
Connect the Circles and you will see the PENTAGRAM!!! (pause for effect)
Sadly, this myth has been found throughout Anti-Masonic texts to point to some sort of nefarious plot to take over the world. To get the record straight, here is the article from the fantastic Grand Lodge of BCY encyclopedia on Masonry.
But wait, there's more!!!
The next clue given out later in the day states:
"Levi’s goat: a symbol used to accuse the righteous of evil deeds"
Levi's goat was a symbol of the supposed "Baphomet" which some Anti-Masons believe is a deity revered by Freemasons, another complete untruth. With the connection of "Baphomet" and the upside-down pentagram, Anti-Masons have concocted a symbol for the ages, the supposed devil's head in the street plan of Washington, D.C. Again, the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon has great material concerning the Myth of Baphomet or Eliphas Levi.
However, I feel more encouraged from this latest clue. If we assume that Dan Brown is using Freemasonry as a part of his book, then we are the "righteous" party. We can hope that this clue points to a kinder portrayal, not accurate mind you, but a portrayal about us being a group of good men. However, let's not have Dan Brown present his story as our story. We will have people asking individual Masons about the Craft which is why I think we need every Mason to prepare himself for the questions. Millions if not billions of people will read this book, we need to be ready for it. SO start coming up with your way to describe our Craft. I believe we can do it, it will just take practice and aforethought.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wow, I’m feeling totally motivated again. For starters, I was scouring the Internet looking for good stories about my Generation and the current economic downturn. The signs seem to point to better days than what was first expected for this newest generation and their sense of the economy. Although this story is about Australia, I see parallels in my own life and that of my peers.
In an article published in the Herald Sun in Australia, Generation Y is spending far less and is “turning their [collective] backs on greed.” The article describes how young people are seeking more face-to-face time and are spending less on things, opting for vintage clothes and buying from farmer’s markets and spending less at the bar. Some might see this as a disadvantage for Freemasonry; we do cost money after all but I think we have a golden opportunity.
Freemasonry offers men something they can’t get anywhere else: a sense of accomplishment, a place to meet men of every belief (politically, social, religiously), and a place dedicated to history and ancient lore. Many lodges have existed for decades if not centuries. If men are looking for a place to congregate, to feel worth something, then the money part won’t matter. Sure, it costs money to be a Freemason, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t amount to as much as many men realize. That is one of our strengths; we can provide worthwhile entertainment, enjoyment, and a feeling of belonging at a reasonable price. We offer tradition, education and an experience that can be found in no other place on the planet.
If young men are looking for a place of no distractions, then this is their place. If they want “face time”, we offer that too. If men are looking for tradition in an uncertain world, then they will find something among brothers of a similar opinion. There is a silver lining in what this economy is presenting. Men want and need some form of fraternalism to be made whole. We offer that and more. We are the greatest Fraternity this blue marble in space has ever seen.
The article concludes with what Gen Y is looking to do. They have seen the global perspective and it just isn’t as promising as before. They are turning into their smaller world, their community, their friends, and their family. “All Masonry is local” is a common phrase in today’s modern Masonic parlance. Lodges exist in towns, unseen by most in the community but they are there, waiting for young men who are looking for safety, support, but most of all, a place that feels like home. I mean, that’s why it’s called a Lodge, isn’t it?