Friday, July 31, 2009

Minnesota Grand Chapter's New Website

The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Minnesota has unveiled a new and very well-conceived website. As many visitors to the old website have known for many years, it was horribly out of date structurally. The new website is very informative for the Companion and curious alike. (And yes, I'm one of those curious types.)

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

Masonic Question for the Week of July 27

#MQW (via @bnlpmc) what's the most interesting visit you've ever made? As a PA mason, every other state is like a foreign country!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grand Lodge of Minnesota Featured at the GWMM

The Grand Lodge of Minnesota, A.F. & A.M. is the featured Grand Lodge for the month of July at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The website gives a great description and short history of my proud Grand Lodge. If you are in the D.C. area, please visit the special display. Also, if you are there, send me some photos, I would love to see what the display looks like. (And yes, I'm slightly jealous if you get to see the display and I'm also filled with pride for my state.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of July 20

#MQW (via @tybaltknight) How many of y'all were in (plege or initiate) a fraternity before joining the craft?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Lost Symbol" and the D.C. Street "Secrets"

The latest clue dropped on the Lost Symbol twitter stream seems to retread what some Anti-Masons believe are the "evils" of Freemasonry found in the D.C. layout. (you may now cough and say bologna or some equivalent word)

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

Getting Back to Basics

I have decided to make a promise to all of you, my readers. From this day hence, I am returning this blog back to its original purpose, how do we get young men excited to be Masons and energized to do great work for our Craft. Sadly, for the last few months, this site started to look like a newspaper and less about my own thoughts and feelings. I was trying to scoop stories and I started to sound like a newsman. Frankly, I’m not cut out to be a journalist but I am rather more situated as a commentator.

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.

Warning: this commentary contains scenes of extreme rosiness and Pollyannaishness. If you or a loved one does not feel comfortable reading about silver linings or uncharacteristic flights of unnecessary glee, please do not read any further.

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?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time for Me to Say Something...

I have held back writing anything about the situation in Georgia as I had a wait-and-see attitude about what was happening down there. The main reason for this is that I was very angry and had a difficult time keeping my passions subdued. However, I have decided that now is the time to discuss the events after a cooling-off period.

Here is my blanket statement, racists have no place in Lodge. Masonry is universal and seeks to make good men better. There is no mention of white, black, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, rich or poor. We are a great band of brothers that only looks at a man by his zeal to do good for our Fraternity. The obligation that I took involved nothing based on race, religion or any other belief except a superior belief. I would say that the non-sectarian and non-racist sentiments displayed in Masonry are the reasons I joined.

I have witnessed scurrilous attacks upon people based on immutable qualities, like race or religion, and I am always appalled when it happens. I have friends that are of many faiths and many races but I did not become their friend because I wanted to look multicultural; I became friends with them because we share similar interests. In Masonry, I have always felt that meeting on the level is so important to our time in Lodge. We are all important, we all have something to give which leads me to quote three books that can be used on the altar as a VSL.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11
Racism is a childish behavior, a behavior that one hears and sees on the playground of an elementary school. It is a behavior learned from parents and carried through to adulthood. For many years, racist comments were the norm. Now, racist beliefs are taboo. I think children have been better educated to be tolerant of others. Sadly, this was not the case for many years and those childish values remain transfixed in the mind of some in the older generations. Our society is beginning to grow up and enter adulthood. I am hopeful that some in our Fraternity will also put away childish things like racism.
"O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous. Allah is Omniscient, Cognizant."

The Holy Qur'an 49:13


No differences should be made based on race. As each person comes from the same pair, we are to be valued as equals. The differences are only meant to serve as a way of recognition, of recognizing the great diversity of this world. Tolerance is an important value. We, each one of us, come from a different race or culture but we are all equals in the eyes of the GAOTU. We can contribute much to our global community no matter what our race, religion or culture is..

"In this world, hatred has never been defeated by hatred. Only love can overcome hatred. This is an ancient and eternal law.

Dhammapada 1:5

Brothers, hatred will continue to subside and go away in our gentle Craft only if we continue to open our hearts as long as we remember where we were first made a Mason. Continue to look forward, and continue to make us a progressive science. We may not be in the Post-Racial era but it is a good goal, perhaps the most important goal that the Craft can strive for in this decade. We will become a stronger source of light for the world, we just need to break out of old ways and old ideas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"The Lost Symbol" Cover Revealed

The Lost Symbol Cover

Well, it seems to be accurate. The newest Dan Brown book will indeed feature Freemasonry. The US cover features the US Capitol and the seal of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction. If there were any doubts before that this book would affect the Craft and how we are perceived, it should dissipate fairly quickly.

What does this mean for us? First, we had better be able to explain to the millions of readers of these books any misconceptions that may appear in the book. Second, we had better be ready for the onslaught of curious men who's interest will be sparked by this book in joining our Fraternity. I know many brothers are concerned about the quality of the men that will be on our doorstep and with good reason. It will be our job to remove the wheat from the chaff. Of course, we have been doing that for centuries so we should have it down by know. And really, when was the last time you ran into a bad candidate.

The UK version of the cover uses a key with a Square and Compass as its handle. It also prominently displays the US Capitol building on its face.

*****Update*******

Okay, so Esquire at the Manthanein Chronicles blog has corrected me on the SR seal. It is, in fact, more similar to the seal used by the Northern Jurisdiction. This is what I get for not being a Scottish Rite Mason. If you want to check out the analysis, go to his blog post here.

*****Update*******

7/9/09

So I think the Scottish Rite bodies may need to get ready for the onslaught of interest. The reason I say this is that if you add the numbers for the date, 9/15/09, equals 33. Interesting.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Masonic Question for the Week of July 6

This has also been published on Twitter:

1st #MQW (via @nickjohnson): Does your Lodge still read the minutes?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Masonic Question of the Week

Okay, so have I mentioned that I am on Twitter? (Crowd boos, "Enough about Twitter already.") Anyway, as I am sure many of my friends on Twitter know, I used to do a Masonic Question of the Week or an #MQW. These questions sought to give those on Twitter the ability to answer the question in a way that they saw fit. I got lazy and stopped posting those questions on Twitter mainly because my uncreative brain ran out of things to ask about. With all that being said, I would like to bring MQW back but I need your help. ("I'll give you some help, getting a fat lip!")

I will be asking for questions from my readers and followers on Twitter. You can send them either in e-mail form at millennialfreemason (at) gmail (dot) com or as a direct message on Twitter. To direct message, all you have to do is type "d nickjohnson" (remove the quotes) and then your question. And remember, please keep it under 140 characters and no questions violating any Masonic obligations. I will post the question, with attribution, on both Twitter and this site. Alright everyone, let's get crackin'.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Masonic Baptism?!


I received my copy of the Journal of the Masonic Society about two to three weeks ago (yes, I have taken that long to finish this article). As I flipped through the finely crafted magazine, I arrived at a story that shocked me. In Colorado, a Lodge and Scottish Rite Valley performed the rare ceremony known as a "Masonic Baptism". What, what, what, what?! I thought to myself, "isn't Baptism a Christian Rite and aren't we a non-sectarian group?" Oddly enough, this was not my first time hearing about this ceremony but it doesn't make me less queasy about this strange ceremony.

I have a friend who described how her brother was given a "Masonic baptism" and warned me to fear those elements within the Craft. It truly creeped me out about the idea that there is some shadow element within Masonry set on giving the child to the community. At the same time, some part of me wanted to disbelieve that such a thing existed. "It can't be true."

I did a few searches on Google at the time but found nothing substantial. Then this article appeared in the Journal, and my mind immediately started to hear the word, "NO" repeated several times in quick succession. I have to say that I agree with my friend on baptisms in any Masonic body. It really didn't matter to me that Pike describes a world of ritual cleansing through immersion in water in all parts of the Earth, baptism is a very particular ceremony for a very specific religious purpose.

It is true that many cultures use water to cleanse and purify one's body for ritual. In Judaism, to be ritually clean, one must go through מִקְוָה, or mikvah. This ceremony has different purposes depending on what Jewish community of which you are a member. Some communities view mikvah as a means for ritual purity while other groups see mikvah as something outdated for our modern times.

Islam also follows two methods of ritual cleaning, غسل or Ghusl and الوضوء or Wudu, each having a different use depending on the amount of ritual cleaning one needs as written in the Qur'an. Islam is very much a religion of both belief plus action as a way to submit to Allah. Cleansing one's self is a way to purify one's self for his devotional reverence of Allah.

Hindus will immerse their bodies in the Ganges river to remove past sins and to cure illnesses. They can do this as many times as needed as a way to salvation. Many Hindus will throw the ashes of loved into the waters as a final plea for their soul.

In Japan, believers in Shintoism will take part in or Misogi (which is actually more broad than water absolution) to purify their souls. I watched an episode of "No Reservations" where Anthony Bourdain was in Japan and visited a Shrine with a waterfall for absolution.

The Christian ceremony of Baptism is used for a few different purposes, namely, to remove original sin (infant baptism), or as a way for an adult to be saved or to show their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. While Judaism and Islam view the use of water as a path to G-d or Allah being done as frequently as needed, baptism in Christianity is similar to a door, allowing the believer to enter into the Christian faith and community.

So, after all this discussion, why do I still have a problem with the Masonic baptism? For me, it is the fact that the Masonic Baptism is focused on entering the child into the protection of the brothers just as it is used by some Christian church denominations. The use of the term "baptism" makes the practice immediately suspect. Also, the ceremony is done by another unlike other ritual cleansings in different cultures which are done by a single worshipper.

What is the purpose of the immersion of the child? I believe that it is because the child is being entered into a specific faith community, which is a big no-no. Albert Pike's assertion is just plain wrong that this is just a ritual involving immersion of water found in all cultures and societies, it is more than that. The ritual is not repeated nor is it used to cleanse the child. It is being used as a way to initiate the child into a Masonic quasi-religious community.

Another problem is the idea of an non-clergy person performing a rite reserved for the clergy. It is true that Masonry has the office of Chaplain which can be held by a non-clergyman, however, the chaplain leads the brethren in prays determined in advance without a sectarian message. Baptisms are a specific rite are done only by a clergyman. When a non-clergyman performs the baptism, the rite is reduced in significance as well as possibly violating a certain Christian sect's rules on rites being performed by non-clergy.

My final thought: it is always interesting to see what add-ons are within Masonry but there are times when the line is crossed. In my mind, to engaged in a Masonic baptism is to cross a line drawn in concrete. The ritual cleaning of the child is only done once and it is used to have the child enter the community of Masonry, this smacks of a Christian rite. It is the mixture of sectarian belief in a non-sectarian organization and should be avoided.


Update:
If you would like to read Albert Pike's version of the Masonic Baptism ritual, you can read it below:



McClenachan, Charles T., The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. New York: Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Co., 1868.