Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guest Article: "Freemasonry in the 21st Century and Beyond" by Bro. Jared Chapman

Bro. Jared and His Awesome Fam
As machines replace humans more and more in an effort to create more efficiency and profits for shareholders, humankind must adapt. We must evolve. The world is not so round anymore. We cannot sit idly by, homogenizing ourselves into tribes of single-minded thought. Technology has made for us a global community, where with our differences and diversity could cause strife, but should not. We should embrace these differences as oddities, peculiarities, and idiosyncrasies, as we recognize and focus more on our similarities, finding harmony among humanity. Our survival depends on our ability to spread love, truth, and charity from one end of the world to the next.

Freemasons are at the forefront of such an endeavor. We are the messengers and practitioners of peace and liberty. Our teachings provide for us the necessary tools to lead others toward a brighter tomorrow, not in the world beyond, but in the here and now. As we do good works in the here and now, helping humanity survive and leaving the world a better place than we found it, we will find a brighter tomorrow in both this world and the next. We must embody the principles we are taught and inculcate those to all of humanity, as they will see by our example the good work we do.

The greatest of these works are charity and relief, but within that we find tolerance and understanding. It is incumbent upon us to spread charitable relief, and we can do so only by accepting those who differ in belief, thought, and appearance from ourselves. We must treat them with respect and all the humanity that we expect to receive in return, but we must never expect that it shall be returned; and if it is not, we should never do anything to retaliate for any offense we may feel. We must recognize that we are taught those principles to make us better than we were and acknowledge that not everyone has been taught as such.

We must step forward and take our place as the light-bearers we are, standing against injustice and tyranny. We must be the first to speak out against war as a means to exploit and retaliate, but recognize the necessity of fighting and battling for those who are suffering. Though we seek peace, it may come with a fight, and we must be ready. For humans are not so perfect beings that they are not corrupted by power and greed, we must be the exemplars that light that way. We, who seek equality, justice, liberty, fraternity, and peace.

Idealists in thought, heart, and work, we must evolve and adapt. We must move beyond our bygone traditions of yesteryear that make us look like the dilapidated rubble of an ancient wonder and be willing to accept the truth that Freemasonry is a progressive science. Not just progressive in the nature of the learning from the profane to the enriched, but from the constant forward momentum we use to propel us into a future where we are no seen as obsolete; a future where the moral principles inculcated in our teachings are seen as the constitution by which all humans should live by, whether or not they believe in a higher power.

Over the next century, we need to evolve in thought, heart, and work if we are to survive and lead the way. It is beholden to us to keep the great torches lit, the temples secured, and the masses cared for. How can we do this when we are not the global community we should be? As technology increasingly allows us to communicate with one another, traveling by means of waves and electricity, we must spread light beacons our message of love, truth, and charity across the world.  Yet, many of us sit behind the anonymity of the computer screens, judging belittling, and derogating others for their differences in thought, belief, or appearance. For those brethren, sadly Freemasonry is not their primary worldview.

While Freemasonry should never be primary in one’s life above God, Family, Country, and Neighbors, the principles and tenets of Freemasonry are expected to provide focus to one’s worldview. They are the means to clarity in thought, heart, and work, as they push out the clouds of bigotry, selfish disinterest, and excessive ego. As such, Freemasonry should inform one’s worldview above and beyond all other teachings, for with such clarity, the truth becomes apparent. We are all the children of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and our divine parent who embodies all the divine principles of good, including love, truth, and relief, would never want to see suffering among those children or fighting among those siblings.

When we see our brethren willing to reject a potential brother based not on his moral character, but his difference in belief, thought, or appearance, we must stand up for such injustice. If we are to survive this next century, we must seek to liberate all humans and inculcate our teachings. To be sure, not everyone should be a Freemason, but we should not be so delimiting in our nature or keep our West Gate so secured that good becomes just as restricted as bad, because that which is deemed bad are superficial qualities, idiosyncrasies, and banalities some brother sees through his clouded view. We must guard the gate against those who would corrupt our ancient institution by means of bigotry, selfish disinterest, and excessive ego for they are true indicators of moral degradation.

As we evolve, internalizing our teachings, we should and will eventually realize, as many brothers now do, that the inclusive, universal nature of Freemasonry cannot be so, if we continue to allow inflexible distinctions to exist between practitioners of Masonic principles based on so-called traditions. Within the common fold, we must accept all those practicing Freemasonry in their Regularity. We must unite the Mainstream and Prince Hall variations within the United States, so a combined force can eliminate all irregular, spurious Masonic bodies. We must help those lost in the irregularity heal, if they can be healed and welcome them to the family.

We must acknowledge the existence and accept the work of Women Freemasons, recognizing them as Female-Craft Freemasonry and accepting our place as Male-Craft Freemasonry. Thus, these two groups would exist as separate entities, recognized by one another as Regular, but limited to out-of-lodge interactions alone, as Male-Craft Freemasonry should only raise Males and Female-Craft Freemasonry should only raise Females. In this global healing of Freemasonry, we must also acknowledge those belonging to Co-Masonry. We should allow them to become an appendant body of the Craft lodges, whereby they would not initiate, pass, or raise any members into their degrees, but accept Master Masons only, similarly to Scottish Rite, York Rite, and the Shrine. Co-Masonry would be haut-grade degrees only where Male-Craft and Female-Craft Master Masons would work together.

The continued healing of these groups would provide a broader family for the future of Freemasonry, one that truly espouses and exemplifies its principles and tenets. We truly would be builders and artificers, fashioning the future in the model that we have been shown. Although we will evolve to survive and this version of Freemasonry may be seen at odds with our traditional structure, it is only so, because the tradition is taken as literal and not subject to symbolic interpretation. When one elucidates symbolically the structure, we find the truth. Tradition clings to those elements like a fog, and we must illuminate them to get through it. It will take the next century to evolve into the structure Freemasonry needs to be, but we can do it. We are the light we seek; we just need to find it within us.

Bro. Jared Chapman writes on a number of topics on his blog, "Fresh From the Quarry." Definitely check his blog out!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Masonic Roundtable Ep. 90: The Generation Gap

Well, considering that I am the Millennial Freemason (let's be honest, I'm just one of a growing segment of our Masonic population), I had an absolute blast chatting with Eric Diamond and the boys of TMR on our generations in lodge. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we had on it. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Project 353: Sharpening Our Knives



Bro. Matt has written our followup post answering questions and concerns some brothers have. Let's maintain a dialogue as we continue moving forward. You can also like our Agape Lodge Facebook page here.

Update


We've received a fantastic response to Agape Lodge from some very talented Minnesota Masons. We'll be announcing a planning meeting soon exclusively for those who have signed up, so if this is something you want to do, please fill out the survey HERE.


We've also received some confused, and even negative responses. This is okay. This is something new. Dare we say, this is even an *cue scary music* an innovation in Freemasonry!

New ideas get resistance. That's great. They should get resistance. You sharpen a knife against an
unyielding stone. I've written about this before on my own blog.

For those who are resistant to change, like our old pal, Brother George, we wanted to address some concerns that have come up.

Can a lodge move around? Don't they have to have a building?

Yes, a lodge can travel around. We have an extremely successful one in Minnesota already that operates in much the same way, Sir Winston Churchill Lodge. They mostly meet in brothers' homes.

Hmm...sounds clandy. Is it legit? 

Good question. Let's ask one of its members.



...seems legit.

Okay, but can you meet in restaurants? 

It's a hurdle, no doubt. There has always been resistance to meeting in public places, but we believe that a well-tyled lodge actually takes a little effort. If we can tyle a quarry, or a hotel ballroom each year, we can tyle a banquet room with one or two doors.

Will you be drinking during meetings?

We're not serving alcohol during meetings. We will adhere to all rules regarding alcohol set by the Minnesota Grand Lodge AF&AM.

So you don't think a building is important for Freemasons?

We don't think it's important for every Freemason, for sure. Both Nick and I love our temples, and having a hangout is important for masons, but what we're trying to do is normalize the option of having different types of lodges, because we don't believe in the one size fits all concept of freemasonry. We think that lodges could certainly meet downtown on people's lunch hours, in a meeting room. We think that lodges can meet in peoples' homes or bars.

My lodge needs dues from all two-hundred of our members to stay alive. How are you going to make it with just a few guys?

We think that lodges can exist that have purposely low membership. They can make easier, faster budget decisions, and essentially have the power and ability to be what the members want it to be, without having to worry about angering a hundred other brothers who don't show up, but whose dues you can't survive without.

I'm worried this lodge will fail and that will damage Minnesota Masonry.

We're in this for the long haul, but I can't hold your hand and promise that everything will last forever and ever. Lodges fail.

Right now, sadly, we have a situation in place where Masons feel shame for a lodge that shuts its doors, and that they have failed in some way. Brothers, a lodge only fails when its brothers fail to become better men, and that happens in some of the biggest, oldest lodges in the world. Why do we worry about this?

Our ancient brethren would travel to many places and receive a charter to organize for a specific purpose; for building a specific structure. When they were done, the charter was dissolved and they traveled to new lands, chartering new lodges. That's ok. That's actually how it's supposed to work.

We think lodges can be convened for specific, limited purposes. As long as they're doing the work of the craft, they're succeeding.

Will you meet in a different place every time, or will Agape meet in the same place or same places regularly?

Totally up in the air right now. This will necessarily be a group decision, which is why it's so important that you be part of the conversation.

Will you be initiating, passing, and raising new Masons?

It's definitely something we want to do. As we're going to mainly be an affiliate lodge, it's probably not going to come up a lot, though we may certainly be open to courtesy work for other lodges. Eventually, if successful, we may bring in new masons of our own who find this format appealing.

Can you do degree work at a dinner table. 

Absolutely.

Hmmm...sounds clandy.

Then our Grand Lodge is clandestine, because they actually have a First Degree Table Lodge that your own lodge can perform any time it wants, and you can read all about it HERE.

This sounds elitist and stuffy. Is this going to look like something out of Downton Abbey?

You know, the state doesn't really have a dearth of scotch and cigar lodges. We're feasters. Some of that is going to include education on table manners, both modern and archaic, but it's probably mostly going to look like a good old family dinner or Thanksgiving. It should be pretty working class and on the level.

Ok, but if you're not like the other lodges, and don't have buildings to take care of, what could you possibly be doing in these meetings?

Like all lodges, of course we will have bills and general business. We'll just be discussing them over appetizers. But mainly, we educate! In our mother lodges both me and Nick are pretty proficient at leading group discussions, Socrates cafe style, about masonic issues. When we need a well-directed,
productive discussion about masonic symbolism, we'll be at work with the worshipful master leading the group. When we need a more vibrant back and forth, we'll be at refreshment where it's more of a free-for-all.



Why have a lodge at all then? Why not just have a supper club with a bunch of smart-talking masons? 

We want to form a lodge for the same reason that our ancient brethren formed lodges. Benjamin Franklin could have stuck with his Leather Apron Club, discussing news, science, and philosophy over a pint at the local tavern, but he decided to become a mason, because ritual and structure is important. And that's the thing. There are a lot of rituals that we can inject into our lives that remind us to be mindful, and we're going to be exploring those, and the rest of freemasonry, around a dinner table.

Why start a new lodge? If you think meetings are dry, horrible affairs, why not fix your old lodges?

Let's be clear on this point. We find no flaws with our lodges (Braden Lodge and Corinthian Lodge). They are vibrant centers of ritual, education and fellowship. We have everything we need there. We want more of it. Sorry. I guess we're greedy. We want more great freemasonry.

Do you have other questions or concerns? Please ask them! Interested? Come and be a part of it.

Memento Mordere


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guest Article: "Squares Upon Theirs, A pessimistic tale of the craft" by Herpes Quadmatestes

Squares Upon Theirs

A pessimistic tale of the craft.

by Herpes Quadmatestes


A man was curious about a building of brick,
He'd think and he'd wonder until he got sick,
So many times that he actually went
Into the building to talk and to vent.

He was greeted by a few smiles on geezers
Who had to take breaks in between their great wheezers.

The old men all sat in a huddle to find
The same type of men to fit the right kind
Of a mold that was cast
Far in the past,
With morals and trust who would do it all right,
Who wouldn't complain or put up a fight,
When the secrets were told and the beans were all spilled,
And the dues were collected and coffers were filled.





With greenbacks, dollars, shillings and a mark,
You'll have a fraternity with men who are still in the dark.
They lure you in, and give you a committee
It's only too late when you smell something $h!##y.

Where was the good stuff? The truth and the lore?
All there ever is are the minutes and what's more,
Is the complete lack of education I say,
And the geezers just grumble and then walk away.

They say that we're here to make good men better,
But all they do is collect money by letter.
Please give us money for this and for that,
The only thing I seem to be getting is fat.

It's so true that I've gained pound after pound,
Sitting in lodge has made me quite round.
Now I might know why these men never leave,
It's hard to imagine, so hard to conceive,
But imagine if you will, if you can,
A place that can't change, a place that is ran

By men with their thinkers that have all gone out,
By men and by geezers concerned about clout.

Titles, titles, titles galore,
But to you and to me its really a bore.


Men looking for something, anything to gain,
But all it causes the brothers, is great pain.
Not physical, but mental for that is that.
All those guys running, chasing a white hat.

Or purple or gold or red or for blue,
But nothing's awarded to the men who do,
The real work, the ones who without,
Nothing would happen, ever, no doubt.

They work in the quarries with unsung praise
Year after year and days after days.
Until one day they become a past master,
And they realize the new guys are a total disaster.

Nothing's changed in the years since you joined,
You've had wishes and plans and things you have coined,
But nothing, no nothing will make it down range,
Nothing no nothing will ever, ever change.
It once was something you thought you could mold
Back to the thing in which you were told,
Was the heyday of masonry with vigor and vim,
But that new guy, that young guy over there? Screw him.

He thinks he will move and change things a bit,
Not before us past masters have all thrown a great fit.

Well break him, we'll show him just what it means
To be a Freemason and all it's great scenes.
We'll decode them and show him a fanciful ruse,
By the time he finds out we'll already have the dues.

Year after year had passed on by,
If anyone told you things changed, its a lie

Then one day the past masters all died,
And the young men that had always tried
To change the lodge to make it new and great
Suffered until they met the same fate.

No matter the kind of lodge that you've got,
T. O., or Clandy or Regular it's not
Going to last any longer than those
Of other persuasions, they'll lock up and close.

That is why when the kids today ask
I pour my coffee and take out the flask,
I pour some old granddads label thats red
And I tell them the craft might as well be dead.

The good old days were here and now gone,
The sun is dropping, its no longer dawn.
It's setting down and will rise no more,
And then the last lodge too, will shut its front door.

It will fade into history and the candle once lit,
Will be a reminder of the words once writ  
It once was a beautiful and a colorful thing,
But now it's been broken and clipped in the wing.

It's doomed and it's done and all the men said,
This thing will be over just as soon as we're dead.

For they were the very last of their kind,
Of a noble thing, left so far behind.
A thing that was great and had a good chance,
To stay current and fruitful and dance the great dance.

But it all fell apart, right at the seams,
When the old ones didn't let go and stuck with their schemes.

So in the yard where rocks have the words,
Are the last remnants and herald the birds,
On tombstones and plaques which bare the great sign,
Of a once thriving idea, of not yours and not mine


But for all of humanity to study and to see,

What once was great and could have been yours, for a fee.

Thanks go to Quadmatestes for a very interesting poem. I'm sure some of you are offended but I do believe in giving all Masons a voice, even those feeling disaffected by our Gentle Craft. All voices need to be heard. Comments? Post them below.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Project 353: Agape Lodge


This is a guest post from my good friend and brother, Bro. Matt Gallagher of Braden Lodge No. 168. He also blogs at Stones 'n Bones. This post is about the lodge he and I are putting together and need your help. Yes, you.

Freemasonry adapts. Before our warehouse/office complex masonic centers, before our once lush, now crumbling masonic temples, brothers would gather where they could, settling themselves on pickle barrels on the second floor of a Five and Dime, educating and bettering themselves. And before that, the tavern lodge, where brothers would meet in a well-tyled tavern or public house. These were as much social gatherings as stated meetings, and education continued well past the rap of the Master's gavel, into the late, late evening over dinner, drinks, and strong black coffee.


It is in the spirit of this tradition, perhaps not "traditional observance" in its modern usage, but in its colonial one, that we're launching an expedition to explore newer, more flexible, and more self-sustaining lodges.

Project 353: Agape Lodge

Agape is a concept lodge exploring the ritual of feasting. Meeting monthly, likely on a Saturday night, nine months out of the year (we'll be dark January, July, and August). The winter and summer feasts of St. John will be our mid and end-season finales. 

How is this different than my current lodge?

First, at this stage Agape should be a mason's affiliate lodge. While we would like to reserve the right to perform table lodge degrees, a fully armed and operational masonic lodge, as you probably think of it, is not something we can initially, or even want to be. So if you get a lot out of your current lodge, think of us as premium bonus. 

Second, all the work will happen around the dinner table. We're not the first in Minnesota to do this, but we hope to be the best. The lodge will open, do business, call to refreshment, eat, call again to labor, have education, and close, all around the table, and not necessarily in that order, all in compliance with Minnesota Grand Lodge requirements.

Third, this lodge will be small and flexible. We may choose a single location meet, or move around. We haven't decided yet, but that's the point. We don't need to put anything in stone, and we don't need to be tied to expensive buildings or restrictive leases. We will be serious and elegant, but everything we need should be able to fit in the back of a minivan.

How is this the same as my lodge? 

It's pretty much the same thing, just more personal and flexible. We'll have lodge furnishings and regalia, but adapted to our use. We'll have committees, and business to attend to. And we'll have education in the oldest classroom on Earth: the supper table. The master of the lodge will not just conduct rituals and degrees, he will conduct exciting and on-point conversations about the Craft. 

You have questions. Ask them. But what we need, in order to explore the best answers, are interested parties. Dues are expected to be easily manageable, and ideally all-inclusive. Easy-going conversationalists are a must!

If you are interested, please fill out this brief survey: PROJECT 353: AGAPE LODGE

We hope you can join us, and if you can't, we at least hope you can support us. Freemasonry isn't the building, it's the brothers, and the work we do.


Memento Mordere... Remember to chew!

I don't normally do this with guest articles but seeing as how I'm also extremely involved in this very cool project, I just wanted to drop a note. Agape Lodge is one lodge in a series of lodges that we (a certain unnamed Mason and I) are calling Lightweight or Micro Lodges. The goal is to think smaller and grow smarter. An article describing the principles and tenets of lightweight lodges will be forthcoming but please be patient. The specifics are still being designed and worked out.

Comments? Post them below.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Samuel Colt Lodge

Samuel Colt with 1851 Navy Revolver
Minnesota, being an incredibly dynamic and interesting place to practice Masonry, has a new lodge forming, Samuel Colt Lodge. The Lodge will meet at the Osseo Gun Club, which is located in Osseo, MN.

The lodge will support the Shriners Hospital. $20 from each member going to buying gifts for the kids at the Minneapolis Shriners Hospital, which is just awesome. They currently have 19 signatories and need at least 25. If you are interested and you are a Minnesota Mason, I can get you in contact with the brothers organizing this new lodge venture. Best wishes and I'm glad to see another lodge forming in Minnesota.

Leave a comment below.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Truman Presidential Podcast: Masonic Presidential Addresses


As many of you know, my favorite president also happens to have been a prominent Mason, Harry S. Truman. In addition to being an United States Senator and United States President, he also was the Grand Master of Masons of Missouri, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, and a Noble in the Imperial Shrine. He was also an every man. He was a guy who failed many times but instead of sitting down, licking his wounds, he would get right back up again.

One of the places I have always wanted to visit is the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO. From what some people have told me, it's one of the best presidential libraries in the country. I just recently started to explore the Truman Library's website. During my searches, I've discovered a podcast series with actual recordings made of him during speeches and visits.

Four recordings are of interest to many of us. President Truman addressed the Imperial Council Session of the Shrine of North America, a group of Masons at a breakfast at the Statler Hotel honoring Frank S. Land (doesn't sound like pancakes were present), at the 100th anniversary of the cornerstone laying of the Washington Monument, and finally, at the dedication of the large statue of George Washington at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. You can download the iTunes version of the three speeches here, here, here, and here. I was really interested that a sitting president would address the Shrine. In fact, throughout the podcast series (which you should subscribe to by clicking here), President Truman addresses a number of civic and patriotic organizations.


In his speech to the Imperial Shrine, President Truman highlights the need for a strong international response in the growing threat of undemocratic regimes. I was a little shocked and confused by the seemingly political speech at an assembly of Masons but, at the same time, it was refreshing to hear discussions of international relations during the transition period just after the Second World War. The transcript can be found here.

In his speech to an assembled breakfast crowd of Masons, President Truman gave an informal address at an annual Frank S. Land breakfast (Land being the founder of the Order of Demolay). It takes a while to get through the introductions of his staff but ultimately, we get to a rather good and interesting discussion of both Freemasonry and also, the stones and arrows great presidents have lobbed at them during and after their terms. I really enjoyed his discussion of a prominent Philadelphia newspaper's opinion of George Washington.
Dedication of George Washington Statue at the GWMMM
President Truman was also the main speaker at the dedication of the George Washington statue at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. It's a great speech concerning our first president and really worth a listen.

At the 100th Anniversary of the Cornerstone Laying
In the final speech, President Truman is speaking at the Washington Monument for a centennial celebration of the laying of its cornerstone as well as in honor of the 172nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It's an incredibly informative speech.

I am so thankful to the Truman Library for having so many resources available to the curious researcher. I have been getting a better understanding of Truman with each page I read.

You can learn more about my thoughts on Truman by watching Episode 65 of the Masonic Roundtable.



And I also recommend two books, Truman by David McCullough and Brother Truman by Allen Roberts.

And I'll leave you with one of my favorite President Truman quotes:
"In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first."
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Free Copy of George Washington's "Rules of Civility"


The George Washington Masonic Memorial has republished George Washington's "Rules of Civility" and is making it available, free of charge, to anyone who signs up to be on the Memorial's email mailing list. You can sign up here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Commentary on Amos 7:7-8 (with 7:9)


I've been spending the year reading the Bible, from cover to cover. My wife and I started reading the Bible when our church started a group to read the Bible in a year. It's been a fantastic ride and has given me a better perspective on my own Volume of Sacred Law.

Because of this desire to understand more, I have been reading blogs and listening to podcasts on the Bible. One of my favorite podcasts is "Sermon Brainwave" podcast made in conjunction with Working Preacher. It is a podcast for pastors by pastors that is produced and hosted by several faculty members from Luther Seminary, the local Lutheran seminary here. The hosts focus on the readings from Revised Common Lectionary.

Today's RCL readings included a verse that we as Masons are very well acquainted with.

Amos 7:7-8(9)

Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. 

And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? 

And I said, A plumbline. 

Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more: And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. 

That last bit gets left off in Masonry but I think it's important. There is a commentary on the website, written by Professor Tyler Mayfield, which points to this:

The plumb line functions to keep the wall vertically straight during construction. The plumb line uses lead (Latin for lead is plumbum) at the end of a string to judge how the wall is measuring up. It helps maintain the integrity of the building by providing a vertical reference point.

I'll admit, when I first heard this particular verse, I assumed that "[t]hen said the Lord, 'Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more'" was a call to calm, like God's use of the rainbow to seal the Noahic covenant. But I, and I'm sure many Masons, are quite incorrect in this understanding.

When we say that He will not pass by this way anymore, we are describing a time when God sought to measure rectitude and was left wanting. The high places and the sanctuaries, having been polluted, are now fair game to war and desolation. Israel stopped measuring itself against the working tool shown to Amos and is left without help. The meaning is very different and we should understand it as such.

I think this is an important lesson for us, especially as Fellowcrafts. We are in constant need to measure ourselves against what we are doing in our life. The Fellowcraft, being the day laborer, is actively setting the stones and measuring his life according to his set of working tools. The Fellowcraft stage is our active life, our time to put in the most work. We should never turn away from the plumb, like to and about those that Amos is prophesying. It is our constant care.

In lodge, our Junior Warden stands, symbolically, as the representation of morality, of rectitude of life. It is his duty to submit Masonic charges when needed and ensures that the brothers act within the bounds of proper action when not in lodge. He is the first officer elected yet remains on the same level as his brethren, at least in lodges that use risers to differentiate. We all carry the plumb with us no matter where we go because it is always at our level.

I think the closing charge, something not often read in lodges here in Minnesota, should be given by the Junior Warden. It defines our purpose and is probably the greatest lecture ever written to describe why we don our aprons every month. And since the Junior Warden is placed symbolically at the same level as the rest of his brethren, it makes sense that he, like all the brethren on the sidelines, carries the tool with which all Masons should look to use first. Let's use the plumb often to ensure that He will continue to pass by us and remain with us in this great work called Freemasonry.

I'd like to leave all of you with the end of the closing charge:

Finally, brethren, be ye all of one mind; live in peace, and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you!

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Edit:

I've added two really great additions from some Reddit users.

From /u/ZealousClay:

The Plumb Line

from The Builder magazine, Vol. 1, No. 12, December 1915

The Plumb-Line
by Bro. Wm. F. Kuhn, P.G.M., Missouri

"Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand.  And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou?  And I said, a plumb-line.  Then said the Lord, behold, I will set a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will not again pass by them any more." (Amos, VII: 7-8)

The Degree of Fellow Craft deals with material interests of life and man's intellectual nature.  Its object is to stimulate every incentive to pursue and attain those things that go to make up man's welfare and comfort in material things and in his mental development and satisfaction.  The Degree addresses itself to the workman in the clay grounds, to the man who is engaged in the realms of the intricate sciences, to the liberal arts, and to the practical application of all scientific knowledge to a useful end.

The Scriptural Reading to this Degree is, often, an enigma; and the only relation that this Reading bears to the Degree to the average Mason, is the occurrence of the word "Plumb-Line" which somehow has something to do with the erection of walls and buildings.  To understand this Scriptural Reading and its relations to the Degree of Fellow Craft, it is necessary to know the history and the application of this vision to Amos.

Amos lived and taught in the year 787 B.C. during the reign of Jeroboam II of the Kingdom of Israel.  The reign of Jereboam was chiefly characterized by mere formal religion, the arrogant assumption of power, cruel oppression for the accumulation of wealth for himself and Nobles.  The poor could not attain justice in the Courts, and justice became rank injustice.  It was a reign of a typical, practical politician who feasted and fattened off the poor and oppressed.  In this reign of wealth, and degradation of the poor, Amos, the Reformer, arose and with fiery eloquence denounced the social conditions existing.  He speaks of himself as, "I was no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd and dresser of sycamore."  One of the ablest Commentators speaks of him as follows: - "Amos was the first great social reformer in history; he was the tribune of the poor and oppressed.  The rich and the rulers and those in authority were the special objects of his attacks.  By them he was silenced as a dangerous agitator and banished from the Kingdom."

It was to correct the abuses of the very things inculcated in the Degree of Fellow Craft, that he laid aside his shepherd's crook to preach righteousness and justice.  He might be called the prophet of the plumb-line.  Listen to his denunciations as he applies the plumb-line to the rulers.

Alas for those who turn judgment to wormwood,

And cast righteousness to the ground,

Who hate him that reproves in the gate,

And who abhor one who speaks uprightly.


Therefore, because ye trample upon the weak

And take from him exactions of grain,

Houses of hewn stone have ye built,

But ye shall not dwell therein;

Charming vineyards have you planted,

But ye shall not drink the wine.


They who lie on ivory couches,

And sprawl upon divans,

And eat lambs from the flocks

And calves from the stalls,

They drawl to the sound of the lyre,

Like David, they devise for themselves instruments of song,

And drink bowls full of wine,

And anoint themselves with the finest oil,

But they do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

It is not surprising that he was banished from the country; truth hurt just as much in the centuries of the past, as now.  In his final effort to arouse the people, he made use of intensely graphic word pictures in the form of visions.  In the Metric form they are as follows:-

Thus the Lord showed me,

And, behold, he was forming locusts,

When the late spring grass began to come up.

And when they were making an end

Of devouring the vegetation of the land,

I said, O Lord, Jehovah, forgive, I pray;

How can Jacob stand, for he is small?

Jehovah repented concerning this;

It shall not be, said Jehovah.


Thus the Lord showed me,

And, behold, he was giving commands to execute judgment

By fire - the Lord Jehovah.

And it devoured the great deep,

And had begun to devour the tilled land.

Then I said, O Lord, Jehovah, cease I pray;

How can Jacob stand, for he is small?

Jehovah repented concerning this;

Neither shall this be, said Jehovah.


Thus the Lord showed me,

And, behold, the Lord was standing

Beside a wall, with a plumb-line in his hand.

And Jehovah said to me,

What dost thou see, Amos?

And I answered, a plumb-line;

Then the Lord said, behold, I am setting a plumb-line

In the midst of my people Israel;

I will not again pass by them any more.

In placing the visions of the plague of locusts, of the drought, and of the plumb-line in their sequence, the meaning of the last line, "I will not again pass by them any more," is readily understood.  The Lord's hand was stayed in the first and second vision by the prayerful and faithful Amos, and the vengeance of the Lord "Passed by," but in the vision of the plumb-line, He set a standard of measurement that can never be changed.  The plumb-line, the symbol of national and individual rectitude and justice, will stand forever.  "He will not again pass by any more."  It will endure and can not be stayed.

The third vision contains the very essence of true worth and greatness.  The plumb-line is the test of values.  Twenty-four centuries before Speculative Freemasonry was born, this simple shepherd held aloft the plumb-line whose symbolic meaning was the same then, as it is today - the standard of rectitude, justice, uprightness, and true manhood.  As such it is one of the most impressive symbols in Freemasonry.  As such it stands preeminent in the Degree of Fellow Craft, the symbol by which the value of the material interests of life must be gauged and by which the use of man's intelligence must be tried.  The symbolism is so plain, that it does not need any profound philosophy to unfold it, neither is it necessary to search for it along "geometrical lines."  It stands clear, simple, and profound.


It matters not whether the Freemason toils, as a day laborer, in the clay grounds between Succoth and Zaredetha, or stands as the exponent of the liberal arts and sciences.  There is but one standard for King or subject, rich or poor, educated or ignorant.  The plumbline of moral rectitude must be applied to every walk in life.

And from /u/TheRedReverend

Brother, if you're interested in this sort of stuff, you might check out this resource, which will give some background on this passage. I actually think what's going on is more wordplay, but my Hebrew is a little rusty from seminary, and it's only been a couple years. I definitely remember in my Amos class having my professor (who we jokingly said wrote the Bible, since his name is on the front of an NRSV translation) make this selection far more ambiguous than I originally thoughts it was.
That doesn't mean that it doesn't have value to look at the plumb line in scripture as it relates to Freemasonry, but it can be neat to see that scholars have made some progress on figuring out what anak actually means. That being said, your interpretation is useful for masons/Christians to consider their actions.

Thanks!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction Honours List Released



The Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite in the United States has released the honours-elect list for 2015. I know a number of the elected from Minnesota and I know their quality and caliber and can honestly say that they are all stellar individuals. Congrats to everyone who is being honored for your long support of the Craft.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Predator: Dark Ages



I'm a big knight nut. I love knighthood. What most don't know but I'm actually a big Predator fan. The above movie is a fan film that puts the Predator in the Dark Ages. Not Masonic, but I thought this was cool.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Guest Article: In Defense of Ritual


I am pleased to be reposting, with permission, a post by /u/TheClandestineMason, who is, despite his name, a regular Mason. This is in response to an article found in the latest issue of the Northern Light, the official publication of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite in the United States. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

In Defense of Ritual

by /u/TheClandestineMason

The purpose of this writing is to defend the act of performing, preserving, and celebrating
Masonic rituals in perpetuity and providing facts to prove the efficacy of ritual on improving men. The Freemasonic system has experienced an amazing amount of transformations since the time of the formation of The United Grand Lodge of England. Membership has waxed and waned during the three hundred years since The Premier Grand Lodge’s founding, creating much celebration and sorrow which have continued to modern times. Masonic rituals should be the ultimate focus of the fraternity and the fertile soil into which we should sow our precepts; social experiences being the fruits of ritualistic labor which are created by every member having a shared experience.

The Masonic experience is one that every brother has. No brother can say he has not knocked at the door and gained admission. None can say they did not see the sign, hear the word, and feel the grip. The entire system of Freemasonry is based on the simple fact that we all have a shared experience. Bonds of brotherhood are built on the three degrees because we share in the degrees.

We are taught that Freemasonry regards no man for his worldly wealth or honor; it is what is found in the heart by which Freemasonry measures a man. The experience of the Master Mason Degree is shared by all Master Masons to the point that the ritual makes it possible for us to use a trowel to cement our brotherly love. All brothers, old or young, rich or poor, regardless of race or nationality, immediately have a bond when we share a token between one another. Freemasonry unites men of all walks of life where they would never share a word otherwise.

The Sovereign Grand Commander of The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, contributing to “The Northern Light” (the quarterly publication for The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite), states “…membership and influence continue to decline, and yet, edicts for better ritual performance and behavior control remain top priorities” (McNaughton).

The argument presented in his contribution relates ritual work to that of Sisyphus, a king damned by Zeus in Greek mythology to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill. The boulder of course rolled back down causing Sisyphus to perform the act ad infinitum in futility.

Sisyphus in this contribution is likened to Freemasonry in its current state with the argument that demanding more time and better performance of ritual work is like rolling a boulder to the top of a hill and watching it roll down; to demand more ritual work is futile.

Sovereign Grand Commander McNaughton states:

“Low attendance in so many of our lodges, the consolidation of struggling lodges, and the
lack of good men seeking Light in Freemasonry should be wakeup calls to our leaders…Might the solution of membership issues facing the craft necessitate spending more social time together, more time being concerned about the well-being of each other, and less time on ritual? Yes, yes, and yes” (McNaughton).

The solution posited here is that there is too much of a focus on ritual and not enough focus on brotherhood. Ritual is the root of our failing lodges. Low attendance, consolidation of lodges, and the lack of petitioners is being caused by the focus of ritual and the solution to our ills would be to focus on the social aspect of Freemasonry; ritual should take a backseat to social programs.

The questions that come to mind after reading this are numerous. Ritual or the lack thereof, is what creates the spark in the mind which illuminates our thoughts. The light we seek must be found on our own, but the Masonic ritual is what starts the engine of enlightenment within our thoughts. The lack of good men seeking light could only decrease if we spend even less time on ritual. What light will there be if we don’t spend any time on ritual and become a strictly social order?

Spending more time together and caring for each other is literally part of what we obligate to. I will always help a brother as long as it does not cause material injury to myself. We should already be concerned about the well-being of one another; it would be contradictory to assume that spending less time on ritual would increase this aspect. The welfare of the brotherhood is a built-in feature of our fraternity because our ritual not only has its foundation in brotherly love, but we obligate ourselves to each other’s welfare.

Freemasonry in the 21st century already employs “One-Day Classes” that moves brothers from profane to Master Mason in a single day. How can one spend any “less time on ritual” than a One-Day Class? The answer is to record the degree on a DVD and play it in front of brothers, thus “performing” the degree. The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction allows the playing of approved DVD’s in lieu of performing them live as a form of communication. Is the future of The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction or Freemasonry as a whole, the playing of a DVD to make a man a Mason or communicate a degree to him? To what extent can a video recording interact with a human to further the growth of that person? Is this not extraordinarily impersonal?

How can we move further from ritual to strictly social activities when most lodges can barely field a full Fellowcraft Team? Is the failure of having enough men to perform the degrees, or having only a few who can actually perform the work well, caused by an increase of emphasis on good ritual work? Have we already shifted so far into the “social only” aspect of brotherhood that we simply don’t possess the men who can take the time to memorize and perform the work? Such questions cannot be answered here but must be meditated upon by all brothers who seek to further our craft so that future generations may have the same opportunities we have now. 

Masonic ritual is the very cement which has the power to join a 75 year old blue-collar retiree with a 25 year old white-collar CPA; the two of whom probably never crossing paths in life except for the bond created by Freemasonry. The three craft degrees (and beyond) provide the stimulation of the mind for light that separates Freemasonry from every social fraternity in the world. Masonic rituals should be the ultimate focus of the fraternity and the fertile soil into which we should sow our precepts; social experiences being the fruits of ritualistic labor which are created by every member having a shared experience.
Bibliography:

Larson, William. "What Do You Do Here?" Northern Light 1 May 2015: 10-13. Print.

McNaughton, John. "Message from the Sovereign Grand Commander." Northern Light 1 May 2015: 3. Print.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

250 Year Old Royal Arch Sign


In a Scottish paper, the Montrose Review, an article, entitled, Royal Arch plaque needs some TLC, describes a pub called the Royal Arch Bar in Montrose, Scotland, which has an interesting sign in need of some work.

FTA:

The ornate carved curiosity was made in France and erected in its current position by the captains of French sailing ships. French sailors arriving in Montrose at the time were Freemasons and they used to meet in the building which was then a coffee house.
One hundred years later the premises became a public house but the owners kept the sign and called the pub the Royal Arch...
This structure is more than 300 years old and perhaps should be in a museum instead of subjected to traffic pollution. Maybe a copy could be made to hang in the town?

You can get a really good view of the sign here.

The Royal Arch Chapter in Montrose, Enoch Royal Arch Chapter Montrose No. 3, doesn't appear to meet there but it's still pretty cool and an obvious part of our history.

We have left many relics and many of them are disappearing. I'm still saddened that we continue to lose them but I am encouraged that the public sees the value in protecting them. Perhaps we need to work more closely with the public in preserving our shared history.

What do you think of the plaque? How do we protect our past? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Masonic Conspiracy in the NFL?! With Tebow?!



Don't worry, I've already told WakeUpSheeple35.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret Society Scenario on Spontaneanation, Hilarious



I listen to a lot of podcasts on the Earwolf, including Paul F. Tompkins newest podcast, Spontaneanation. I love improv. The scenario for this episode was a secret society. Hilarious.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Great article in the April 2015 KT Magazine

I know I give the Managing Editor some ribbing (earned and unearned) but I find myself completely agreeing with his latest paper, which can be found on page 9 of this month's (April 2015) Knight Templar Magazine. The title of the paper is Masonic Philosophical Differences in the 21st Century by John Palmer. It's a definite must-read.



What do you think of the piece? Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When the Honeymoon is Over



As I get farther and farther away from my date of initiation, I'm starting to see the Fraternity differently. I can get a little sad and nostalgic over my past steps in Freemasonry, especially those initial steps. All of us, at some point, get past the Masonic honeymoon.

I think most of you will get where I'm coming from. You start off, not knowing anything about Masonry. The excitement of the Craft is overwhelming. Since, Masonry requires the petitioner to come forward, he is the initial spark. I remember my first step came when I chatted with my grandpa about Masonry. He was never a garrulous man so, for me to learn this fact was eye-opening. (there are still things I'm learning about him.)

Then the whirlwind romance with Masonry began. I got my petition and started the process. I visited the lodge my grandpa's friend recommended. I loved it. The early 20th c. layout of the building was incredible. Then I visited a number of the brothers and found a home. I fit right in. The degree work started and I was totally impressed.

I met my mentor, Don, and found someone I could respect as well as learn from. I kicked butt in my memory work and discovered that I was a ritualist. Masonry was this thing that filled a gap in my mind and heart that I never knew existed. I was in heaven. I'd learn another piece of ritual and get super excited. This would lead me to read books, a little Pike, a little Mackey, a lot of Pound. My wife can attest to my library growing to several volumes of Masonic material. I just couldn't stop.

I went through the chairs. I bounced up chairs, learning and loving every minute. Even my time as Master was fun. Then I entered the downward phase from the high as Master. My lodge has the bylaws set to have the outgoing Master serve as the Lodge Education Officer and the outgoing Lodge Education Officer serve as Marshal to ensure some level of continuity in the line.

And then, my year as Marshal was done. My career in my lodge was now Past Master. That was it. Cue whatever the opposite of swelling music is. I sat in my chair at home and thought about everything that had happened in my near decade in Masonry. The honeymoon was over.

Although I was active in Chapter at that time, it still felt like the air had left the balloon. I felt like a left-handed monkey wrench. Was I even necessary to my lodge? I know that's a little self-serving but I do think like that sometimes.

I think we all get wrapped up in these things that affect our identity and take a lot of our time. I couldn't stop thinking about Masonry, even keeping me up at night. I spent hours in my car learning ritual. But, sometimes, I will sit back and think, "were those hours wasted? Did I really spend my time well?" I think those questions are important to ask, especially to keep your sanity.

Once you get past that honeymoon phase, you have to focus on maintaining the relationship, similar to a long time friendship or a marriage. Not everything is love and affirmation. Sometimes it's work, sometimes there's stress. Sometimes you get excited again for something you're doing together. But a lot of it is maintenance.

That's why I think we see a lot of guys fade out in five to ten years. It's not just that we need mentoring; it's not just focusing down at the newish Mason past his honeymoon with the Craft from the organization, it's also counseling the newish Mason that his attraction to the Craft will wax and wane. Sometimes Masonry is just going through the motions. Sometimes it's as exciting as hell as you discover something new. But it's not a climb up, it's just a rolling wave through your life. And that's actually Masonry's greatest power.

We can walk away from it for a time. We can put it on hold. We can come back to it. We can keep it on a low boil. But no matter what, Masonry's always there.

So, my advice as a guy who has passed that honeymoon phase. Just roll with it. If you need to take a breather, take a breather. If you want to chat with your brothers, go ahead and find out what they do to just keep going. Masonry is like a friendship or a marriage, you have to work at it to keep it strong and healthy.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Defending Shrine



So, this is going to get a little weird but that's cool. I'm going to defend Shrine. I know, I know, Hipster Mason Nick should be all, "nah, man, Shrine is like so not cool. Yeah." I am not a member of Shrine but I may join them one day. In fact, I donate to the hospitals every year. Why is there so much animosity towards Shrine? Here is my theory: they are the single biggest men's only organization within our Craft. They are the behemoth, the leviathan.

The Shrine does serve a purpose, not only through its charitable endeavors but also, and this is my frank opinion, they serve as the fraternal aspect that so many Lodges seem unable or worse yet, unwilling to take part. Freemasonry is, first and foremost, a fraternity. Yes, it's true that we teach our brothers lessons that are good to improve their moral character but without the brethren, a Mason can never truly be made.

Freemasonry can, at times, be quite dour with many brothers having a rather navel gazing view of our Craft, seeking to make Freemasonry only about its spiritual lessons. Could you imagine how boring that would be, how skull-crushingly dull that is (maybe some of you could after reading the minutes for the second time in two hours). We have to remember that our Craft was developed and formalized in taverns and pubs. Let's have some fun once in a while.

Sadly, our Lodge rooms filled with the stodginess and boredom, looking to drive any sense of fun from the practice of speculative Masonry. Even today, we see the effects of community pressure and internal "dullification" from more than a century still within our Fraternity, such as our outdated policies on alcohol and doing business only on the third degree (thankfully, not a Minnesota thing anymore). We needed an organization that sought to bring back some of that fraternal spirit that had been wrung dry from Freemasonry.

Frankly, Shrine has done more things to move forward into the new century than any of the other organizations, save the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite. The Shrine is on Twitter, it's on Facebook. It is highly engaged with its community.

So, what lessons can we pull from this? The most important one to me is that we, Freemasonry, need to allow for more festiveness within our Craft. Table lodges aren't enough. Some lodges get this. BBQs and the like. But so many lodges just come together, call the meeting open, blah, blah, blah for a couple of minutes, and then close and jump into cars to drive home. How about, instead, we actually enjoy each other's company?

We also need to be more engaging on social media. It's not that difficult. Start a Facebook page, start a Twitter. Become engaging.

I know that some of you will see this as a cop out. I see it as finding ways to improve our Craft using other examples within it. Get engaged and have some fun. I can't see anything wrong with that.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Article: Homosexuality & Freemasonry by Ye Grander Hugnot (pen name)




I've published this paper written by a brother; he has asked to remain anonymous. This paper is an excellent discussion and I'm glad to be publishing it.

I honestly cannot believe that I have to write about this. However, this topic came up on a Facebook group that I am a member of. Though the topic has since been deleted, I feel it is extremely important that we discuss the situation at hand. The question asked on the group page the thoughts and opinions of brethren regarding the petitioning of a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender). Being a group of brethren I would assume the answer was an easy one, but I stand corrected. Evidently, there are some individuals who feel that having a Homosexual amongst our ranks is… wrong. So, let’s discuss this. I know I may make a few readers upset and that is fine. I am welcome to your constructive criticism. I will advise any negativity will be ignored. You and I have better things to do with our lives than to argue over the internet, friendly debates are always welcome.

So, lets set something straight. What the ‘L’ represents in LGBT is not welcome in our fraternity, with the exception of Mason lodges that recognize women. However, as a Free & Accepted, we do not recognize women in our lodges, nor shall we. Therefore, for the sake of mainstream American Masonry as lesbians are women they cannot petition. Same goes for Transgender individuals, lets be real here. If a man is petitioning but he wants to become a woman or is in the process of becoming a woman, he is not a man. Soon after petitioning, Joe Snuffy is now calling himself/herself Josephine Snuffy. Not to mention the idea of changing your gender means changing the plans on the Great Trestle Board of the Universe. Our job as Master Masons is to follow the trestle board according to plan not to revise it. We do that enough as it is with our mistakes in life, we aren't perfect.

That leaves us with the ‘G’ and ‘B’. This is where a lot of issues seem be rising. There is a lot of discussion about how we took an oath on the Bible and it is against God to be homosexual or bisexual. It is a question of morality to some brethren, saying these young men petitioning who are gay are immoral.

First thing is first, Since when does religion matter in the Blue Lodge? Have we forgotten the requirements of being a Master Mason? To be freeborn, of lawful age, to be of good report, highly recommended, and the belief of A Creator. It does not state anywhere in our requirements that you must believe in the God of Abraham. So, for anyone to bring Christianity into the debate, let me be frank. It is not homosexuality that is causing the division in our brotherhood, but it is you who argue for religion. We are a secular organization that requires the belief in a Creator. Leave your religion at home and accept a brother for being a brother; not because he believes in the same God as you. If you want to argue calling for the sinful nature of homosexuality, I will ask you if you have ever shaved, or worn mixed material clothing.

Next, if the man standing outside that door is of lawful age we have no reason to not accept him into our Craft. If he is of good report and recommended where is the problem? I know many men who claim to be God fearing and practice their unsaid faith who do not deserve to be Masons. On that token, I know many straight, gay and bisexual men who would be great contributors to our Craft. They are just, moral and align. Some of them actually live more upon the level than those we have already accepted into the Craft. So, morality is not an issue. There are good and bad men in this world regardless of their sexual orientation.

This next argument actually made me laugh hysterically. The man, who shall remain nameless, actually believes it is a scientific proven fact that homosexuality is a mental disorder. Wait. Hold on… I need to sip a little a coffee so I can spit it out and ask… WHAT?! This is by far the most ridiculous argument that I have ever seen in my life. I actually found links for this individual and posted them on the group so he could see how he was wrong. Let’s be clear, Homosexuality is not a disorder or disease. If that were the case, then being attracted to women who are blonde with blue eyes is a disorder. That’s only because the love of my life is brunette with hazel eyes. I’m thoroughly sorry but if you believe this to be a disorder, then you need to go back to the civil rights movement when it was considered a disorder to be in love with a man/woman of color. This is by far the most ignorant statement one man could make. Mental disorders are more something like: PTSD, ADHD, Autism, the list goes on and on. Sexual orientation is not on that list.

If we simply look beyond our own closed minds and see that a man deserves to be a Freemason based on the required criteria we cannot deny anyone regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation. If you still feel that a homosexual should not be allowed to petition to a lodge or become a Mason based on your own thoughts of morality please let me show you that our Craft uses different tools outside of the VSL to measure morality. One of those tools is the level. It is not our place to judge a man who wants to become better, the man’s sexual preference is none of our business. That is between him and his God. Not yours, not mine, but his and how he relates to the Creator. The man’s politic’s, religion and sexuality is none of our business. Let us choose to elect a man or not for the good of the order.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The #IAmN Pin


I was on Reddit, as I am often, and read a very interesting post. The Southeastern Battalion (kind of like a district in the Masonic context) under the Grand Commandery of Michigan created the nun pin, incorporating the Arabic character ن (pronounced nun). The proceeds were raised for the Knights Templar Ecumenical Relief Fund, with proceeds to be distributed between the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Organization, and The Knights of Columbus Christian Refuge Relief.

For many who don't know, there is a hashtag campaign called, #IAmN (or some times #WeAreN) that is used to bring notoriety to the plight of Christians being displaced by terrorists like ISIL. Some background: the extremists, when entering a town with Christian residents, will spray paint, ن, on the houses of Christians, essentially telling them to flee, convert, or die. ن is the first letter of the Arabic word for Christians, . This letter, ن, is now being taken back in defiance of those that seek to persecute.

You can read the whole post here.

When you read this campaign, you can't help but be sympathetic. It also raises the question on what we, as Commanderies and Sir Knights, can do for our fellow Christians. Currently, the charities available are send a minister to the Holy Land or donate money to the Eye Foundation. This pin campaign is something new and interesting. Sadly, it was also a little to hot for a number of high ranking Sir Knights.

So I guess the question is, should we be involved in ecumenical relief? I think it's a conversation we should be having if nothing else than to decide what Masonic Templarism represents in the new era. We shouldn't be restricted to the past, to the Eye Foundation, to the Holy Land Pilgrimage, we should decide new areas of charitable giving and work. We need to sit down and discuss that.

What do you think? Leave a comment below. And if you want a pin, go to nunpin.org where you can find the purchase page.

Update

I have put my money where my mouth is and have purchased a pin. Also, just for pronunciation's sake, the nun is pronounced noon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

QC Lodge No. 2076 to Celebrate Tercentenary with Conference

Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 has announced that it will host a Masonic conference at Queens' College in Cambridge to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first Grand Lodge. The conference will be held from September 9 to 11, 2016. The members of QC2076 are seeking out papers on the subject on the history and development of Freemasonry, in particular, of Freemasonry in England. It looks to be a real interesting conference from the premier research lodge in the world. 2017 is going to be a very busy year.

For more details, click here.

Does Masonic Morality Exist?



Inspiration comes from some pretty strange places. I am a member of a few Facebook groups that focus on Masonic topics. For the most part, these pale in comparison to the discussions on /r/freemasonry, /r/yorkrite, and /r/scottishrite. Facebook discussions are usually a mixture of posturing and hurt feelings. I think what I'm trying to say is that Facebook kinda sucks. But, sometimes lightning strikes and a phoenix rises out of the sulfur pits of that are FB group hell.

A topic was brought up in the usual manner for these hellish places. It goes like this, "ummm, I know it's controversial and stuff, but don't be mad and I hope we can be civil and all that but what do you think about [insert extremely controversial topic here]?" Yeah, this will end well. 

The controversial question dujour was: should an openly gay man be allowed to petition a lodge?However, there was an interesting subtext in the answers by the commentors. Throughout the discussion, I was reading, in varying degrees, two responses. Distilled, they were 1) yes, it's not relevant or 2) no, homosexuality is a sin in the Bible and the Bible is on the altar. 

That got me thinking, does there exist a Masonic morality? We discuss morality within Masonry in some detail. But do we have a defined set of principles, other than to be good men?

Dr. Anderson suggests, in the first version of his constitution, a Mason is "obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law" and that the purpose of Masonry is "to oblige them (Masons) to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance." So, it's really wishy-washy. 

"Religion in which all Men agree, to be good Men and true or Men of Honour and Honesty" Yeah, so, be good. But what is good? Are we talking Aristotelian good? Biblical good?

And then, at the end of his life, Dr. Anderson then revised his constitutions (poorly) to say instead: "[a] Mason is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law as a true Noachide" and that the purpose of Freemasonry charges them, "to adhere to that religion in which all men agree (leaving each brother to his own particular opinions); that is, to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty, by whatever names, religions, or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the three great articles of Noah, enough to preserve the cement of the lodge. Thus Masonry is the Center of Union, and the happy means of conciliating persons that otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance."

(And, if you're wondering what those three great articles of Noah are, my good friend, Clay A., posits, after doing some research, that it refers to the tenets of Masonry, Brotherly love, relief, and truth.)

Even if we take this as a source of Masonic morality (and considering how many scholars put little weight on this document, it's of dubious use), it's still not helpful. So what is morality in a Masonic context?

To begin, we need to examine ethics. Ethics, also sometimes referred to as moral philosophy, has been philosophized thoroughly in almost all cultures and societies. This makes sense as ethics, in some respects, seeks a sense of order in a chaotic world.

W.Bro., and Dr., Kumar, in his paper entitled, Morality and Freemasonry, presents this formula, "[d]o right if you can; if questionable do not do it; and above all do no harm." At least in the Masonic framework, this statement seems to answer the question. We all have our own moral compass but they all seem to point north.

For many Masons, that moral compass comes their religion of choice (or birth). But there in lies a problem. We, at least in the American Freemasonry landscape, are led to believe that we are not supposed to bring our religion into the lodge room with us. But, we really can't drop that, just like I can't drop trespass from the Lord's Prayer in Commandery. So, if we can't drop our religious or political persuasions into the lodge, then we instead need to find a way to seek common ground.

And that can be hard. Just like the question above, can a gay man join a lodge, we need to find an answer. In Minnesota's Closing Charge, we are told that, "[e]very human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially 'to the household of the faithful.'" A good friend has also stated the inverse, "Masonry's morality can be summed up like this, 'don't be a dick.'"

We're still going to struggle but I like that idea. We are told to do good to all and not be jerks, leaving those definitions to themselves. Frankly, that's the best I can do with what I have. We can either stand on a podium and scream and pull our hair or we can just stand up and extend our hand in friendship.

What are your thoughts? What is morality in a Masonic context? Does it even exist? Leave a comment below.