Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Masonry is on Life Support

  It has been a very long time since I have updated this blog, and that is for more reasons then I really care to go into, the biggest of them was I had two major life altering events happen to me in 2015, my wife left me and divorced me and my mother passed away three months later.  2014 wasn’t much better as my then wife and I were trying to understand everything going on and the dissolving of our marriage; I had an absolute miserable experience that year as a Freemason.  As I was dealing with a marriage that was falling apart in front of me I also became subject to personal attacks by men who call themselves “Masons”.  This wasn’t some grand conspiracy, but rather a series of unfortunate events and it was always the same actors.  My character, my career and even my service to this country was attacked as I attempted to just complete and do my duty as an officer of my lodge.  I kept telling myself, it will get better, but it really didn’t.  I started to become one of those guys you read about on the internet.  Becoming jaded by the false promise of brotherhood, and the quality of men that were the most active in our fraternity, were sometimes the absolute worse as people both in character and in behavior.

    Things were getting better, but then the bottom fell out and my wife filed, we were divorced before I knew it and then my mother died. I fell into a depression that I just didn’t want to get out of bed, let alone go face the same people that seem to take such delight in my misery before all of this happen.  I didn’t want to read about Freemasonry anymore, I eschewed any symbols, references or ritual.  Lying in bed a “brother” texted me and wrote “You know you aren’t the first person to lose their mother”.  Thanks, that is what I call brotherly love.  I was sick all the time and just was in a funk I never felt before.  I honestly would have given up on Freemasonry, if it wasn’t for being in offices and having a strong enough sense of duty to do what I needed to do, to fulfill my obligations.

     There is a saying in research “There is nothing dirtier then academic politics, because there is nothing to lose.”  The absolute same can be said about Freemasonry, my greatest rival/advisory at work has treated me with more respect and dignity then some Freemasons who call themselves brothers.  So now as I have licked my wounds for 8 months, and am starting to come out of my funk, I am trying to understand what role I should play in the future for our fraternity.  When I am done with my duties do I just fade away, do I run to the invitational bodies and be one of those guys that doesn’t support the blue lodges? 

     These are all questions I face right now as I try to figure out how to move forward, all I know is that my Freemasonry is on life support, and only I can choose to pull the plug.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Simply Swingin' with Sinatra and Friends - Benifit for the San Antonio Scottish Rite Cathedral

In attempts to avoid leaving and selling our beloved temple our building board has started a series of concerts to raise money to sustain and beautify our building.  On the 23rd and 24th of August we will be holding a concert with Steve Lippia who is one of the best Sinatra vocalists in the nation.  This is the best plan we have had in years to address the major repairs needed in our building, to which Bro Hodapp said was one of the most beautiful he has ever been in.

Please consider supporting this concert event, and allowing us to keep our building and not having it re-purposed.

To purchase tickets, pleaese either go to the website ( or call 210-564-0002.  Your support for this event would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium in Cincinnati 8/15-17, 2014

Tomorrow is the last day to register for the Masonic Restoration Foundation Symposium in Cincinnati, OH.  The list of scheduled speakers is impressive and shows a diverse range of backgrounds and compelling talks. It is most likely too late for those that are traveling from a distance (like myself), but for those in the tri-state area it is a must go!  Here is the schedule for those that are interested, please visit their website:

Friday, August 15, 2014

03:00 pm - Symposium Check-in begins at Hotel
05:00 pm - Buses leave Hotel for Cincinnati Masonic Center (CMC)
06:00 pm - Social Hour
07:00 pm - Festive Board & Keynote Speaker
09:00 pm - Buses leave CMC for Hotel
                    Hospitality Room available at Hotel

Saturday, August 16, 2014

08:00 am - Buses depart Hotel for CMC
                 Symposium Check-in at CMC
08:30 am - Open a Lodge of Entered Apprentices
                 Welcome & Instructions
09:15 am - Choice of Two Presentations
10:30 am - Choice of Two Presentations
11:30 am - Lunch
12:15 pm - Keynote Presentation
01:30 pm - Choice of Two Presentations
02:30 pm - Break
03:00 pm - Pennsylvania Master Mason degree
05:00 pm - Scotch Social
06:30 pm - Buses depart from CMC for Hotel
                    Dinner is Individual's Choice
08:00 pm - Hospitality Room available at Hotel

Sunday, August 17, 2014
09:00 - Closing sessions will be held in the Hamilton Room at the Hotel
           Panel Presentation by Host Lodges
           MRF Board Comments & Q&A
           Q&A with Speakers
           Benediction and Dismissal

I will be attending, so of course you know it will be a good time. :)

-Bro Vick

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Review: For the Good of the Order: Examining the Shifting Paradigm Within Freemasonry

Over Christmas I was handed a book titled "For the Good of the Order: Examining the Shifting Paradigm within Freemasonry".  The author is John Bizzack, PhD, from Lexington Lodge #1 of Lexington, Kentucky.  This book attempts to look at Freemasonry in the context of shifting paradigms, and how looking at the current state and the future of Freemasonry through this lens, to provide the reader with better insight into what is happening, what is working and what is not.

Bro Bizzack belief (which I completely agree with) that Masonic education is not floorwork, ritual memorization or learning about Freemasonry by simply showing up, from his book he writes:

"The purpose of Masonic education is to create an environment conducive to learning, in which interests are maintained and fresh insights developed into the study of the Craft, its history and philosophy, the influence of historical figures, and certainly its symbolism and allegories - an environment that motivates, stimulates and encourages members to read and study and discuss Freemasonry."

Bro Bizzack uses many contemporary writers in this book, including Andrew Hammer, Robert Davis, and others to discuss the changing paradigms within Freemasonry.  Attacking not-so-sacred cows of "quantity, not quality" and other held beliefs of the old guard that are fading as each year passes.  Bro Bizzack also does an excellent job of applying the Broken Windows Theory to the state and decay of order, beyond our physical temples, really Chapter 6 is the best chapter in the book, by far.  The book for the most part is well written, and will appeal to the smart involved Freemasonry in giving him a better look at the state of the order, something that every man in the labors in the temple needs for the work in the quarries.

With that being written, there are some glaring issues that the author either ignored, or didn't know about.  Here are some of the things that are ignored in his book:

Traditional Observance Lodges:  While T.O. Lodges are self-reported as successful, and have energized a section of our fraternity, they are not without their own problems.  Additions to the Webb ritual (Chamber of Reflection, Unity Chain, etc) have caused a lot of angst in many jurisdictions.  Don't forget that T.O. Lodges are a very urban solution to Freemasonry.  In states like Texas, where 65% of the lodges are rural, perceptions can be that this is an attempt to "Urbanize them".  Bro Bizzack, doesn't discuss any of the downsides of T.O. Lodges (Limited members, difficulty in getting dispensation, Are you T.O. enough mentality, etc).  This goes beyond the simple belief that there is resistance because of high dues, formal dress, and strange lodge names.

Andrew Hammer:  Highly cited by Bro Bizzack is Andrew Hammer, what Bro Bizzack doesn't tell you is that Bro Hammer has in the past advocated the dismantling of our apendent bodies.  In essence throwing away rituals that have more of a historical documentation that the first three degrees within our craft.   This is simply an attempt to force men who want to be Masons back in the blue lodge, or quit.  Bro Hammer has subdued this message greatly, but was a major sticking point in his approach to Freemasonry.   Dates of when grand bodies or orders were solidified, doesn't necessarily date the antiquity of the degrees that order confers.  It is a reflection of hard research conducted by brethren wanting to bring further light to our fraternity, not dilute it.

Masonic Restoration Foundation:  Bro Bizzack ignores the past problems of the MRF, including that at one time was conducting inspections on lodges to give the certification of being a Traditional Observance Lodge.  This was making them in essence a "Shadow Grand Lodge" in some jurisdictions that had to conform to their Grand Lodge and the MRF.  They also have copyrighted rituals, which is bizarre, and seems contrary to spreading of Masonic light.  They had the ability for Master Masons to join at one time, which caused serious problems of  Masonic charges for joining a clandestine organization.  Now it is just made up of an executive board, that isn't publicly listed.  The MRF, while heading now in the right direction isn't the most altruistic organization and at times have used heavy handed tactics towards those that raise concerns.

Intolerance in Religious America:  Bro Bizzack does address the large charitable contributions of the craft, claiming this was a result of cross pollination between fraternal organizations.  This is indeed correct, but this was also because of growing resentment between certain Protestant church branches (Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, etc)  and the craft.  Large donations and active charity, gave the Craft a more of a civic club look, and not a nefarious esoteric/occult society.  This helped fade away some of the esoteric emphasis and education talked to at length in this book, and it also kept the jealous minister off the backs of brothers, for the most part.

Masonic Education - Administration:  An area that is skipped or not discussed is that Masonic education is also used as a term to explain to top three officers in the lodge, how a lodge should be run.  Including, administration, event planning, and suspending members.  Most Grand Lodges that have Masonic Education Committees, this is the thrust of their "Masonic Education", which is more of a testament of the men that we are electing in leadership positions, and the lack of appropriate mentoring by Past Masters.  Is it Masonic Education?  Sure, but again, it isn't fulfilling, unless you like to be a bureaucrat.

Prince Hall Freemasonry:  This completely baffles me, I cannot understand why this wasn't addressed.  In the last thirty years nothing had such a a paradigm shift on our fraternity as "Mainstream" Jurisdictions recognizing Prince Hall Grand Lodges as regular operating bodies.  Nothing was discussed on the impact on membership, nor the fact that seven grand lodges still do not recognize Prince Hall.  If you are going to talk about the concept of paradigm shifts within Freemasonry, you need to talk about Prince Hall.  This is a systemic issue with these books and their authors.  There are no frank discussions on the inclusion and recognition of Prince Hall, their impact on membership in or out of the African-American community, and diversity in our lodges.  Is the question too hard to ask?  Or are we too self-centered to care?

The organization of the book is decent, though I would have suggested that the chapter going over what a paradigm is and what it means to Freemasonry be in the beginning and not in the middle of the book.  The author has a tendency to use pictures that make little to no sense to the subject matter being discussed and was more visual fodder than actual visual aids.

Audience for the Book:  Like Cliff Porter, Andrew Hammer and others that write on this topic, would suggest to Master Masons in a lodge leadership position or have been in the craft as a Master Mason for at least a year or more.  This is not a book for men wanting to learn about Freemasonry, men who are going through the degrees or have been recently raised.  The nuances, language and subject matter would be somewhat alien, and could put off the potential candidate from joining.

If you are someone that speaks frequently, or is going to speak on the current state and the future of Freemasonry, than I recommend this book.  For others, this book does offer up some insights and collates contemporary writers, bloggers and what not various views on the Craft.  The author's stance that true and real Masonic education is needed in every lodge, beyond ritual learning, administration duties is to challenge every man in his aspects of life and strengthen his core principles.  I completely agree with, I just wish there wasn't so much glad handing, and gaps in the paradigm analysis provided by the Author.

-Bro Vick

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Was About to Write a Manifesto

On 16 October 2013, my friend Chris Hodapp posted a internet meme and of course this picks at a huge scab in modern Freemasonry, the appropriate dress in a lodge room.  This horse has been beaten to death, and before you can say "Suit and Tie", you get at least one person writing:

"Remember it is the internal not the external qualifications that make a man a Mason"

This obvious reference to what an initiate is told when they go through the first degree of Masonry, and has become the rallying cry of slobbish behavior and lazy dress in our lodge rooms, during our public appearances, and when we do the most sacred of things, labor in the quarries.

After writing the above I imagine someone is already commenting telling me how it is the internal, not the external.

So here is the situation, our fraternity in this country has been seen as the pillars of their respective communities, regardless of trade or financial status they were good men, who worked hard in their communities, and too support each other.  They were not to exclude men based off of their profession or wealth, but based on their ability to exemplify Freemasonry in every aspect of his life and improve himself and those around him.  This comes from that fact that this line of thought in the 1700s was taboo, and classes, and professions were to stick to their own, and not befriend what was viewed as a lesser profession by popular culture or in a lower monetary bracket, or differing religious faiths.

Flash forward to today, we have become an organization that is nothing less than desperate for members (not brothers), and have excused their short comings in society, in their profession, and in their personal life away, and saying gleefully "It is the internal, not the external".  We have made dues cheap, let men in, as long as they don't have a felony, and put them in positions of leadership they have no business performing, for no other reason, because they show up for the hot dogs and beans and learn to read the charge from a book.

It is the internal...
A man can't hold down a job for more than a month, for no other reason than he seems allergic to work?

"It is the internal not the external"

A man owes back child support, owes creditors and is constantly broke due to poor financial choices?

"It is the internal not the external"

A man has no problem dressing in shorts and a t-shirt no matter the occasion, but owns a new truck every two years and has an armory of hunting rifles, and cries that he can't afford a pair of slacks and a button down shirt?

"It is the internal not the external"

The bastardization of this core principal of our fraternity has turned "It is the internal qualifications not the external that makes a man a Mason.:"  Into an cliche, like an obese man stuffing himself at the buffet and saying "Waste not, want not!"  We use it to excuse away our lack of standards, and consider ourselves above the known fact that outward behavior, lifestyle, and dress is a strong indicator of the internal qualifications of any man.

So then you get the "Dress standards have changed, get with the times."  Great, they have changed, and they haven't, my Grandfather who worked in a Garage during the 1930s, when he decided to petition a lodge he wore a suit and tie.  He always wore a suit and tie to lodge meetings, he never wore one at work.  He later became an automotive engineer for Standard Oil, and credits Freemasonry for raising his standards, and making him a better man.  Now, we allow men into our fraternity to lower our standards, and makes us into another club and cry "It is the internal not the external."

Then someone will write:

"So your Lodge has a strict dress code? Good for you. Not all Lodges do. Some are more concerned with members attending than they are with what they wear."

I want to thank this person for using members, and not brothers, and showing that he will allow anyone who doesn't have a felony through the West Gate.

Then you get:

"I would rather a brother show up in rags, than not at all."

First if he has been initiated, passed, and raised and is showing up in rags you have far greater problems than his dress.  Your happiness stinks of desperation and tells the brother that shows up in rags "Please come in and take advantage of us, not better us or yourself, for we need a warm body in the seats."

Now in my lodge we have suits for officers and business casual for members, (blazer, shirt and pressed pants).  We get visitors unannounced that do show up in well worn jeans and a collard shirt.  I have never turned anyone away, and most have embarrassment about they way they dressed.  I have assured them that it is okay, that they are visiting, and they are welcome in our lodge.  This is very common in a state where 65% of lodges are in rural areas.

So here is my sort-of Manifesto, STOP IT.  Stop using a foundation in our fraternity to excuse laziness, to excuse a lack of standards, and to excuse your membership base.  We are here to lift each other up, not get drug down into who can least judge the other, and show tolerance, where we need to be intolerant.  Stop using dress to hide that your lodge have low standards, and cry "It is the internal not the external" when those lack of standards are exposed.

You want low standards, than say it, don't hid behind our teachings to excuse your crappy treatment of our fraternity in attempts to get a couple of losers into a lodge, who have no business being there to begin with.  Because no matter what you do for them it won't be enough, and they will keep taking and keep lowering your standards, while you are happy to have a couple of warm bodies in the seats.

As of note, I wrote this in my underwear, so anyone that has a problem with it, "It is the internal, not the external!"

-Bro Vick

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Worried About the Shrine?

See below, it is that easy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Common Declaration Released by Five European Grand Lodges

Yesterday the five Grand Lodges of Europe put out a statement a little after a year of the Declaration of Basel, praising the efforts of The Masonic Confederation of France, interesting enough they still refuse to recognize the Grande Lodge Nationale Francaise (GLNF) regardless of their disposed leader, due to in fighting and lack of real change within the organization.  I have attached the letter for your review and left the text below, for those that don't want to download anything from the internet. ;)


Assessing the situation in France one year after their Declaration of Basel calling for a recomposition of the French Masonic landscape, the United Grand Lodges of Germany, The Grand Lodges of Austria and Luxembourg, The Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina and the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium issue the following statement:

     They take note with sincere satisfaction of the birth of the French Masonic Confederation which subscribes explicitly to the principles and spirit of the Declaration made in Basel of 10. June 2012. They appreciate the importance of the work that has been done by the jurisdictions concerned, their mutual trust and understanding, as well as their will and determination to succeed.

     They are pleased with the enthusiasm this birth arouses among the many Brethren who aspire to practice traditional Freemasonry. They are happy that the chance to start building a French Masonry of the future has been seized. They note the Confederation’s commitment to continue without delay to set up its institutional structures, and while not wanting to interfere, as made clear in their Brussels communication of the 12th of September 2012, they will nonetheless gladly offer in this matter all the advice they might be asked for.

     They are convinced that with the dynamism shown up to now the Confederation will succeed in this respect. Finally they are also appreciative of the clear will as expressed by the Confederation to reach satisfactory solutions regarding all other prerequisites to its future recognition by the universal family of Regular Grand Lodges and will support it in this endeavor. The five Grand Lodges also remind the fact that their call of Basel was addressed to all those who wish to adhere to Regular Traditional Freemasonry and thus, despite their withdrawal of recognition, to the Grande Loge Nationale Française too. They nonetheless believe that first the latter will have to acknowledge the real and underlying causes of its major crisis, some of which are in their view stemming from a long lasting drift which cannot be explained by the excesses of one man only. They are indeed convinced that the harmony and peace which apparently have been restored within the Grande Loge Nationale Française are not sufficient to warrant its true and lasting renewal, but that positive actions going at the roots of its recent turmoil will have to follow.

Grand Lodge of Austria A.F. & A.M., M. W. Bro. Nikolaus Schwärzler,
GM Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium, M. W. Bro. Eli Peeters, GM
United Grand Lodges of Germany, M. W. Bro. Rüdiger Templin,
GM Grand Lodge of Luxembourg, M. W. Bro. Jacques HANSEN,
GM Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland, M. W. Bro. Jean-Michel Mascherpa, GM

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Rite of the Black Eagle Part 3 of 3

As we finish up our series on the Rite of the Black Eagle, it is interesting to note that the drama of the first portion is similar to the second.  The preamble if you will for the candidate before he is to receive the final degree is interesting in the twists that the Order took over some of the fundamentals that we were taught in the Webb ritual later here in America.  As stated in Part 1, the degree crumbles with more Kabbalahism, intertwines with Alchemy and Masonic fundamentals.

The Synagogue in Leiden, Netherlands
The Mason is told before the drama of the third grade begins that as they have been proceeding from grade to grade within the Order of Knights of the Black Eagle that the work must be other raising edifices to the True God or the practice of moral virtues.  It is a recreation of the philosophy which was known and practiced by Solomon, who would from time to time initiate selected few men into Kabbalastic secrets.  This was the first Masons of old that later would transfer their knowledge to Brethren in later ages in types and hieroglyphs.  The Order of Black Knights possess the keys to this knowledge as transmitted by a Rabbinical doctor named Naamuth, who was chief of the synagogue of Leiden in Holland.

The drama for the third degree is somewhat subservient to that of the first in the fact that the candidate has to simulate the death of a Mason.  The candidate is then hoodwinked and is forced to touch the dead body laid fully out with his hand.  As in so many Masonic Rites, the candidate is
Cow Heart
then taken on a series of circumambulations during which time, the man who is was playing dead moves and a cow or bull heart is put in his place.  Then the candidate is required to stab the heart in an attempt to prove his fortitude.

The candidate is then led to the door of the Chapter, bearing the heart on a dagger, which grants him access as proof of his bravery.  Once in the Chapter the candidate is then required to take a pledge and is then entrusted and clothes with the insignia of the Grade.

The candidate is then taught that he must dwell month to month in each of the Houses of Heaven(1), awaiting the beneficent visitation of the life-giving Star of Day (Most likely a reference to Venus).  The candidate is then given instruction and directly asked to perform work on himself, after completion of this task, the candidate is explained the four elements of matter which is to be regarded as dead.  It is represented by the dead body of the Master-Builder, destroyed by the ruffians.  The philosophical work is the restoration to life, by means of the Tree of Life signified by the branch of acacia.  Among the tools mentioned as belonging to the art and essential there unto are the before-mentioned Balance of Solomon and Kabbalistic Pentacle, comprising all celestial virtues, being a copy of that which was carried by the Jewish King, the Master-Builder and other Master Masons of a far-off time.

The South Side of Mount Hebron
(Photo from 
At this point the candidate is then directed his attention to the region of the setting sun and to the mystical Mount Hebron.  The candidate is then reminded of the two pillars of speculative masonry are said to be raised thereon.  That which signifies strength represents the matter of the work, while that which corresponds with beauty typifies the work accomplished.

The candidate is reminded that the degree of Entered Apprentice is comparable to the beginning of the work; in the Fellowcraft degree the mason sees the beauty of the elementary matter, and he becomes a Master Mason when he has designed upon his tracing board the fixed path of the Sun.

The Black Eagle appears to denote the fixed state of the matter, which in itself is formless.  When form is impressed thereon it assumes various colors in successive stages, until a brilliant sun is manifested, representing the changing matter into gold.  The successive stages are illustrated to the candidate are the Houses of Heaven (mentioned earlier), through which the formless matter must be passed, that it may attain form and beauty.  The birth of the sun, or the fulfillment of the term of the work, represented by the Blazing Star, and it is said that the Morning Star which heralds the birth of the Sun is accompanied by the silver freshness of the moon.

The rough ashlar represents the matter in its chaotic state and the Perfect Ashlar, is the same matter when the perfect form of gold has been impressed thereon.

Alchemical Propositions:

The candidate is then instructed by the catechism that is attached to this grade:

1 - It is explained that gold is not metal, physically speaking, seeing that is all spirit and is an emblem of divinity because it is incapable of corruption

2 - It is produced by an intimate alliance of the six metals, Lead, Tin, Iron, Copper, Mercury and Silver, each of which contains a seed.

3 - Raymund Lully was one of those great philosphers who accomplished the marriage of the spouse with these six virgins, and the Messiah was begotten therefrom.

4 - As regards the Alkahest referred to in the Second Grade it is composed by effecting an alliance between the four simple elements extracted from the three kingdoms of nature.

The Three Kingdoms of Nature

(1 - This is in reference to the 12 houses of Heaven, first written about in 1659 by the late Sir George Wharton, to learn more Click Here)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Book Review of “A Traditional Observance Lodge ‘One Mason’s Journey to Fulfillment’”

   Brother Cliff Porter recently released his third book, on Traditional Observance lodges, something which is near and dear to his heart. The sometimes controversial Bro Porter has been a longtime advocate and champion of the Traditional Lodge system and practice. It was natural for him to write a book on the subject to discuss practices, challenges and defend to a certain extent criticisms of Traditional Observance lodges.

     For those that don’t know the Traditional Observance Lodge movement was started in 1993 in Australia, which led to the creation of Lodge Epicurean No. 906. These brothers wanted to know why membership was declining in Australian lodges when membership in some European lodges seemed to be holding steady if not growing. Their research showed that these European lodges with a growth of membership had several characteristics. They were difficult to join and took the longest to proceed through the degrees, up to 5 years for a man to be raised a Master Mason. Candidates had to participate in rigorous education program and had to exhibit a solid understanding to the degrees to be advance to the next degree, not just memorization. These lodges also had top quality meals and degree work, to ensure the experience. Lastly the lodge dues were significantly higher, costing approximately 500-700 pounds a year to be a member ($1000-$1400). Lodges generally were not allowed to grow beyond 50 brothers, and when that did happen would split and form a new lodge to continue the work. In 2001 the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF) was established and started formalizing the idea of Traditional Observance lodges in America (more on that later).

     The book starts out with Bro Porters account of Masonic influence in his childhood, and later in his adult life joining Freemasonry. The disappointment he felt over a poorly delivered degree and lack of reverence for the event. He then explains the philosophy of a Traditional Lodge system, practical application of the system and defends its practices to detractors and naysayers within the craft. Bro Porter also gives an outline of how they formed his Traditional Observance Lodge, Enlightenment #198 in Colorado Springs, and the lessons learned from that event The book outlines some of the causes and common complaints about American Freemasonry. These are nothing new to a brother who has had conversations regarding the state of the craft. Including subjects like, boring meetings, horrible food, poorly done ritual, progressive lines, etc. The challenges in establishing a higher level of quality in Freemasonry, and of course challenging some of our mislead beliefs. Bro Porter spent significant amount of time referencing the proper literature to make his argument and to frame respectively the foundations of the Traditional Observance lodge. He goes into great detail the initiation process for a candidate with Enlightenment #198 and the results of their diligence and dedication to the craft.

     Overall the book is well done, but there are a couple of areas that are problematic or annoying. First, at times the book reads like an infomercial for the MRF, while the MRF is a clearing house of sorts for T.O. there are plenty of other areas to look to, and don’t have the stink of a Masonic organization. Correspondence with the author revealed that the MRF no longer allows for open card carrying membership, and that only members of the board of directors are considered actual members of the MRF. Interestingly enough only a couple of board members are mentioned by name on the website, which is unusual. I caution involvement of this organization because of its nebulous state, be sure to check with your Grand Lodge before getting involved. Bro Porter does acknowledge that the MRF had serious missteps when it started, including proclaiming it as a certifier of what is and what isn't a Traditional Observance lodge. This set up the MRF as a shadow or secondary Grand Lodge within a Grand Lodge. Having two supervisors is never fun, ask anyone who has spent any time in the military, this concept was unpopular in more than one jurisdiction. Also, in the end Traditional Observance need to allow lodges to be flexible in their striving for a better Masonic experience, and not replace boring reading of the minutes, with boring Masonic papers. The Masonic Restoration Foundation has changed that, and is now more of a clearing house for T.O. lodges, not a certifier of them.

    Bro Porter did not address in his book the low numbers that T.O. lodges need to be to ensure a quality Masonic experience. Getting a new charter can be a difficult and arduous process, you have to have 50 brethren, all lodges in the area have to agree, etc. When I asked Bro Porter about this he did say that when a split off happens, the group usually takes over a dying lodges charter, something that is far easier than starting over from scratch, but has its own baggage. The book also can be over defensive of the T.O. practice and in particular the uses of the Chamber of Reflection and the Union Chain, neither of which were ever part of the Webb ritual. My stance is that when the apendent bodies can properly implement the Chamber of Reflection, discussions can take place about it being used in the Blue Lodge initiation experience, as Bro Porter points out it has been done since some of the earliest recordings of our fraternity.

    So who should read this book? Not a man interested in becoming a Mason, and not a brother who is a new Master Mason. Honestly this book is for the Mason that sits and asks, “Why are men not coming to lodge, and what can we do about it?” The book will most likely upset you at some point, and realize that we have to challenge each other if we wish to improve ourselves, not tightly hold misconceptions of what men and brothers want from our great fraternity.

   In the end Bro Cliff Porter wants us to do exactly what we were charged to do and make our lodges “a place where Masons assemble and work” (Anderson’s Constitution, 1723, page 50). In other words to make and employ Masons which means for the speculative portion of our craft to initiate, pass, raise, educate, continue to educate and spur on the work for Masons, and for that I am grateful for him.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rite of The Black Eagle Part 2 of 3

From our first article, the candidate was roughly handled and was accused of murder, and may had to have been executed for no other reason, then for a blood letting.  The candidate now enters into the second degree where he is more instructed than ceremonial, and learns of the Hermetic Parables.

The Officers and the general arrangements are identical in the second as in the first, during the opening the members are referred to as Princes who dwell in the Zodiac, they are reminded to be precise in their work of developing the three kingdoms of Nature.

The Candidate is now places in the West and has to express a desire to progress his education in the Order of the Black Eagle.  At this time the candidate is shown the method of moving from East to West by the steps of the four elements, and takes the Pledge of the Degree on his knees before the throne of the Master.

Grade Symbolism:

The lecture of this degree explains more about the degree that the candidate just went through, here are the six main points explained upon the trestleboard.

(1)It depicts the Chapter itself in the form of an oblong square, the greater extension being from East to West, because the sun never leaves the tropics and because antique science never left the poles.

(2) The grand circle in the centre of the diagram represents the Zodiac and its twelve signs encompass a dead body, being that of the Master-Builder, whom the "Great Work must bring back to life".  This is effected by the divine virtues of a Pentacle which vitalises dead matter.

(3) The sun signifies the end and object of the Rosy Cross attained in the Quest for that Sun of Life which insures the happiness of man in the present world and also in the world to come.

(4) The Blazing Star represents that stage of the work when the Matter assumes color.

(5) The fire on the alter signifies the elementary fire which purifies the three kingdoms of nature

Hermetic Parables

In the second place, the Master proposes such an instruction of the Candidate that he shall discover by his own efforts the principle of the life hidden in the heart of the matter known under the name of Alkahest (1), being a spirit of the four elements extracted from the three kingdoms of Nature.  But in the catechism which follows the heads of the consideration are these:

(1) That the Brethren must accompany the Sun in its journey through the twelve Houses of Heaven

(2) These Houses are governed by twelve sacred names
Blessed Raymond Lully
Doctor Illuminatus
Writer, poet theologian, mystic, mathematician,  martyr

(3) The twelve spirits operate therein by the will of the Supreme Being

(4) That the power of the Divine Name inscribed on the Grand Pentacle is that which moves the Universe, and hose who can pronounce it kabalistically shall have at their disposition the forces which dwell in the four elements, and will possess all virtues possible to man

(5) The Knights of the Black Eagle are called Brethren of the Rose-Cross in commemoration of the Rose Nobles made by their Brother Raymond Lully(2), a great Mason (note this is the ritual, not my personal view), the coins in question having a Rose on one side and a Cross on the other

(6) The work upon base metals for their transmutation into gold is performed by the Balance of Solomon, the use of which has been made known to many ancient and modern philosophers

(7)  Solomon made use of the squares of 5=25, the square of 3=9,, the square of 2=4, the cube of 2=8 and the square of 4=16, the numbers in question being said to represent weights

(8)  Whomever is initiated in the Kabalistic Art must be like unto the Maser-Builder, who chose death rather than betray the secrets committed to his charge

Closing the Chapter

When the chapter is closed in the Second Degree, the Master asks whether the work has progressed and the Matter has assumed form.  He is told that the elements are joined, the seven planets are shut up within the Sanctuary and are covered with a white veil.

(1:  Alkahest is a hypothetical universal solvent, having he power to dissolve every other substance, including gold.  It was much sought after by alchemists for what they they thought would be its invaluable medicinal qualities.  The name is believed to have been invented by Paracelsus from Switzerland.  Paracelesus' own recipe was based on caustic lime, alcohol, and carbonate of potash.  He believed that this element was the philosophers stone.  Interesting enough, Philalethes specifies that Alkahest dissolves only composed material into their constituent, elemental, parts.)

(2:  Raymond Lully (1232 - 1315) was a Majorcan writer, philosopher, logician and Fransciscan tertiary.  He wrote the first major work of Catalan literature.  Manuscripts have pointed to his centuries earlier election theory, and is considered a pioneer of computation theory.  He was a member of the Franciscan Order, he is honored as a martyr, he was beatified in 1857 by Pope Pius IX and his feast day was assigned to 30 June and is celebrated by the Third Order of Saint Francis.  Raymond Lully also had a strong mystical side, instanced in his work The Book of the Lover and the Beloved, written in order to illuminate weary, sterile souls.  He was also interested in, and wrote about astrology.  A synthesis of Lully's work was made by his disciple Thomas Le Myesier, in his Electorium.  In the early modern period Bernard de Lavinheta connected Lully with contemporary hermeticism.)