Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 The Year I Was Made a Mason

2007 has been a good year to me personally, my career stabilized and most important I was made a Mason. This blog has been an integral part of my Masonic journey, and for that I am thankful that I started it when I was stuck in Fort Leonard Wood, MS. This blog has allowed for me to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the Craft, and I soon learned that the more I wrote, my love for the Craft just grew.

I didn’t spend as much time talking about the Esoteric or Symbolism of the Craft as I wanted to, so my New Year resolution is to be much more philosophical regarding the Craft in my blog, right or wrong. I have started this by wildly popular series (sic) “My Personal Interpretations of the Regius Poem”. I also want to explore and hope to be more involved in Masonic discussions where to take the Craft, and how we can make the future of Freemasonry, a little brighter.

I also hope to be more involved in the York Rite this upcoming year, and lend my assistance whenever I can to the Chapter/Council and Commandery. I also want to do whatever I can for the Blue Lodge, in any capacity that my brothers see fit. I need to move on from the lectures, and be more functional within my mother lodge.

I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to comment and send e-mails. You have all enriched the Masonic experience more than I can put into words.

So Mote it Be, brothers, So Mote It Be!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Regius Poem My Personal Interpretation of the Third Point

In the third installment of the fifteen points of the Regius poem, with deal with something that is very relevant to today’s Freemason, keeping the secrets of a brother is a cornerstone in building a true and tried brotherhood. The third point instructs apprentice Masons that they should keep the secrets of their Master and what ever they witness in the chamber. The poem is as follows:

The third point must be severely,
With the 'prentice know it well,
His master's counsel he keep and close,
And his fellows by his good purpose;
The privities of the chamber tell he no man,
Nor in the lodge whatsoever they do;
Whatsoever thou hearest or seest them do,
Tell it no man wheresoever you go;
The counsel of hall, and even of bower,
Keep it well to great honour,
Lest it would turn thyself to blame,
And bring the craft into great shame

This is especially important as Free and Accepted Masons, for keeping the secrets of our Master (the catechism) and of our fellows is what makes us a great institute. This is part of our obligation and is stressed to the new initiate during the Entered Apprentice degree.

While there is a business side of everything, in Freemasonry in America, we seem to get overly involved in buildings, dues, and minutes. We must hold dear to ourselves the tenants of our great organization and that our operative brothers stressed to their new apprentices. That as an organization must thrive, they must be able to trust each other with trade secrets and not have the secrets sold, and bring the “Craft into great shame”. For Freemasons, we must take this to heart, that the secrets and the lessons learned, are all internal, and mean something different to all of us. If you write exposes about your personal interpretation about the symbols and what they meant to you (outside of the explained meanings in ceremony), you bring the craft into great shame. Not because you “revealed” the secrets, but because you could ruin that path of self discovery that men most go through to be made a Mason. That is the ultimate betrayal of the Craft, when you take it upon yourself to force how the allegories and symbols changed your life, and way of thinking, there by ruining it for others that want to make that same journey.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Grand Orient of France Condems French President

For those of you that haven't heard the Grand Orient de France has "concern" over the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to the Vatican. Below the article is translated from the link:

A visit to the Vatican by [French President] Sarkozy "disturbed" the Grand Orient of France.

The Grand Orient of France announced Wednesday in a statement its "concern" over the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy to the Vatican where, according to the Freemasons, the President has "reaffirmed his particular view of religion."

Nicolas Sarkozy met for the first time on December 20 at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI in an audience devoted to the international situation. On the occasion of his appointment as honorary canon of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran [an honorary title given to French Presidents], the President spoke of "positive secularity" to illustrate "the contribution of the Catholic Church, among other religious and spiritual needs, to inform our choices and build our future."

In their statement, the Freemasons expressed their "concern over any desire to present religion as being a constituent part of political identity and citizenship, which could lead to a serious change in the French republican model."

"If history has made France 'the eldest daughter of the Church,' in contrast, the Republic has managed to make a saving emancipation against religion, forging, often with difficulty, the concept of secularism," said the principal association of Freemasons [in France].

"Our Republic is a secular Republic. Secularism is the way we live together despite our differences." writes the Grand Orient of France, which "calls upon all progressive people to remain more than ever vigilant against a change in the Law of 1905 [regarding separation of church and state], which would represent a real danger to the Republic."

Click here for article

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Regius Poem My Personal Interpretation of the Second Point

The second point of the Regius poem is short and sweet and to the point, it in essence explains that if a Mason does good work, then he should take the holy-day off and be paid for it.

Second Point.
The second point as I you say,
That the mason work upon the work day,
As truly as he can or may,
To deserve his hire for the holy-day,
And truly to labour on his deed,
Well deserve to have his reward.

We as Free and Accepted Masons should take this as that we need to be sure to reward ourselves within the work of Freemasonry, to enjoy the look on a candidates eyes after they have been raised, or enjoying a conversation of philosophic disagreement with a brother.

For as much toil and worrying we do as Freemasons about the current state of the Craft (see previous post), we should spend equal amounts of time enjoying the reward of our labor.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

We Aren’t the Men We Use to Be

On December 19th, 2007 the Grand Master of the State of Texas attended the annual event when Alamo Lodge #44 held it’s stated meeting in the Alamo itself. This tradition was started in the early 1980s and has been happening since.

For those that aren’t from America or have a history handicap, you can check out the wikipedia page for more info. Of those that served in the Alamo the following were known to be Masons:

William Barrett Travis (Alabama Lodge No. 3)
James Bowie (L'Humble Chaumiere No. 19)
David Crockett (lodge unknown)
James Bonham (So Carolina lodge records were destroyed in a fire in 1837)

So the Alamo has become and rightfully not only a shrine to the fallen solders of Texans and Tejanos, but to the brave Masons, known and unknown who served there. It is a big event in which Masons not only from all over San Antonio come around, but from the state. Sometimes during this event they will confer a degree or recite the Master Mason’s Oath. This time the Grand Master decided to address the crowd.

The Grand Master is your typical Texan, he has a texan accent, worked as an independent business man, in get this, the gas and oil fields. In the craft he served on the Committee of Work for 13 years before being elected in the South. He is a self admitted “hard-ass” when it comes to the work and the memorization.

During his speech he discussed and clarified the edicts that are coming out in next month’s Texas Mason, which directly deal with the work. He addressed that some lodges were cheating the system of catachism. In it some rogue lodges took it upon themselves to cut short the catachism to get men through the system faster. I heard of these rumors, but never known it to be true. He gave a long lecture on the virtues of the work and how traditions define us as Masons (which I completely agree with).

He then made an off the wall comment about how Masons were respected in the community, but aren’t that pillar anymore, and said “We Aren't the Men We Use to Be”. Left the question of how we can take back that great time (read 1955) to today’s Masonry.

But I ask, is today’s Masonry really that bad? There is a surgence in the esoteric work with the younger Masons, that really wasn't present before. Men are more interested in learning about the work then to go collect titles and awards. Where in the past the rites had been breeding grounds for nepotism and favoritism  now are starting to break free of those old habits. Is it because we don’t have 1,200 Master Masons in a lodge? Is mass numbers really a sign of success?

It’s a good time to be apart of Freemasonry, while there are growing pains, the benefits in the long run can do nothing but do good for the Craft. The esoteric and ritual side is starting to be emphasis, while the fish fries and go-karts are starting to wilt (no offense to the Shrine).

So I ask you, do we really want to become “The Men We Once Were?”

The Regius Poem My Personal Interpretation of the First Point

I was reading the Freemasons’ Compendium which is a wonderful book regarding the history of the craft and is recommended for anyone that wants a book of various Masonic historical topics, I’m no “Masonic Researcher” but I have enjoyed the book very much and have learned a lot from it. It recently has been republished, so anyone that wants an end all say all one shot book should seriously check it out.

What was my point?

So while reading various sections of the book (you really don’t read it front to back), I came across a section that talked about the Regius Poem. For those that don’t know the Regius Poem was discovered in 1839 by eighteen year old James O. Halliwell-Phillips in the King’s Library of the British Museum. The Regius Poem or “Poem of Moral Duties” is the earliest known Masonic manuscript in existence written around 1390. It is different than from other Masonic documents in that it was written 200 years before any others, and that it was written in rhyme. This was in essence a handbook on how Stonemasons should act and conduct themselves in various places, at work, in church and dealing with their subordinates. Remembering that this was written for Stonemason workers, still when you read the poem you see a lot of tenets that we today hold dear in our Masonic edifies. I will be looking at the points for this series, but I would encourage everyone to read the first written “laws” of stonemasons and see how much of an influence our ancient operative brethren have:

First Point
At this assembly were points ordained more,
Of great lords and masters also.
That who will know this craft and come to estate,
He must love well God and holy church always,
And his master also that he is with,
Whersoever he go in field or enclosed wood,
And thy fellows thou love also,
For that thy craft will that thou do.

Of course this means that a man of the Craft must love God and the church along with his fellows.

This is a message that we read of hear of and write of constantly in Freemasonry. One can’t read 15 pages of the Craft that doesn’t talk about how man to have that true moral compass must have a personal relationship with the GATOU, for a man to be truly centered in his life he needs to be at peace with his relationship with God. He cannot be true to himself without understanding and knowing God’s role in his life. You must always love your church as well. Remember that church is something that is more than stone and mortar. It is your spiritual temple in which you worship GATOU, and helps you contemplate your relationship with Him.

I think this time of year especially we can reflect on our love for God and our Church.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Party @ Naval Lodge #4

This past week I was out of town to the Virginia area, then coming back to a sick wife and everybody and their brother trying to have all day meetings before they jet for their 2-3 week winter vacations, I haven’t had the time to properly update this blog. I see that a lot of activity (mostly negative) has been going on, I won’t comment too much on it. Everything has been said, and after attending all day meetings both last week and this week, I really get agitated when someone just repeats what someone else has already said.

First my apologies to Gingerman as we tried to get together my schedule was not allowing me to receive his phone messages and we missed each other. So my sincere apologies, sir.

I did however have the opportunity to travel and visit Naval Lodge #4 in historic Washington D.C. and it reaffirms to me that really all things Masonic is local, to be honest out of all of my lodge visits this one left me with some strange emotions. I want to be careful and tactful when writing this as not to come off as judgmental or disparaging of the brothers of Naval Lodge #4, but honestly I didn’t receive the warmest welcome, but there were many contributing factors.

This was their annual holiday party, I asked the secretary specifically if this was a closed affair for lodge members and he wrote me a very nice e-mail back stating that it was open to everyone and that I was more than welcome to attend. Feeling a little apprehensive all week about the visit coupled with the stress of the trip (it wasn’t a fun one), I almost didn’t go. But then I remember that visiting the other two lodges that it made the world of difference for me during the trip and all of the friendly brothers I met during this time. So I got a taxi from Arlington to D.C. and joined the holiday party.

I won’t rehash the history of this lodge, considering there was an NPR story done and the lodge has a very nice website, so if you are interested in reading more about the history of this lodge, be sure to check out the link above and on the side bar.

I arrived really early, like they were still bringing up food to the lodge room early, which is on the fourth floor. I offered to help and picked up a couple of trays. I figured it was the least I could do. After taking the food upstairs, I wasn’t greeted by anyone, I saw brothers talking and some working feverishly to set things up so I made my way to their “lobby” (I don’t know what you would call it really). I stood there feeling more and more anti-social. I think this is because I wasn’t feeling up to barging in on conversations and introducing myself, in hindsight maybe I should of. So I stood there for another 10 minutes feeling the urge just to bolt, and would of if I didn’t pay for a cab ride out to turn around and pay for another cab ride back. After a while the Worshipful Master came out and greeted a prospect that just arrived about 5 minutes earlier. I then introduced myself at this time, trying to break the ice. He was very friendly and greeted me with a warm smile. The secretary then came over and greeted the two prospects (another guy showed up) and then greeted me. I paid my $10, they then broke out the magic markers and name tags, and asked us to write our names. I want to say for the record I hate name tags, especially magic marker ones. So here I stood and the two prospects were talking to each other, so I walked around for a bit.

Their lodge room is really big; I mean it’s about the same size as my mother lodge room (which is the largest I have been in, before now), and about twice the height for the ceiling. I took a couple of pictures with little success and came back out to the “lobby”, where one of the prospects left and the other one was standing there looking like an extra from “Animal House” during pledge week at the Omegas complete with name tag and “what do I do now?” look. I went over and introduced myself, he was a nice young man that apparently researches potential lawyers for the law firm he works for, to make sure there would be no conflict of interest. We talked for a bit, he then said he wanted to look around.

So here I was standing around again, all by myself, thinking “Now I look like the Animal House extra.” Brothers and their wives and children started to trickle in some would say hello in passing while rushing off to see who else is there, others would walk past me and sometimes would utter an “excuse me”. I again nearly bolted, but thought “Not only did I pay for a cab ride out here, but I already paid for dinner, I have to stay.” I figure I would find anyone that wasn’t already in a group and go talk to them; it has to be better than standing around like a teenager in front of a 7-11.

I found the other prospect in the lodge room standing there, and I went up and introduced myself to him. This guy had more questions than I could count “are you a 33rd?”, “are their any younger 33rd masons?” I mean, the guy had a lot of questions, we talked for a while I would answer his questions about the lodge, but always gave the disclaimer “I’m from Texas so it might be different here.” I found out later that he turned in his petition in June, right before the lodge went dark, and still hasn’t meet with his investigation committee. He was told to come to the party and meet with his investigation committee; he was hoping to get his first degree before Christmas. I asked him if he knew what the delay was, and he shrugged his shoulders.

More and more brothers where showing up, and I noticed that this lodge has a much younger base than what I have come to expect, sad but true. The WM then called for prayer, prayer was given and then there was a mad rush for the food. With the Lodge Room emptying out (the brothers converted it into a dinning room), I tried again to get some decent pictures with no luck again, I think there is something wrong with my camera. I then made my way back to the dinner, just wanting to grab food.

Was behind the WM master again and he was nice and friendly again, but really he is one of two brothers that said more than “Hello” or “excuse me”. I sat down and ate with the new prospect and tried to explain the relationship between the appendant bodies and the blue lodge. Later a brother from the lodge sat down, Brother Jim who I believe is deployed to Iraq this week as a detention officer. We had a great conversation and we discussed some of my research. He was a nice guy, and I felt better after talking with him.

Then Santa Clause came and gave the children in attendance gifts and the brothers of the lodge started to congregate and pictures were being snapped, and I just decided to leave. I came, I ate, and it was time to leave. I got a cab and rode it back to my hotel.

Now I don’t want anyone reading this to take it the wrong way, but I felt like I just crashed a company party that I use to work at. I don’t honestly know how else to describe the situation. Was it my fault? Maybe, I wasn’t in the cheeriest mood. Was it their fault? Maybe, they seemed to rarely greet anyone except those they knew, and that didn’t seem to be a guarantee either.

Maybe it’s culture, maybe it’s the hustle and bustle of a holiday party, but I didn’t have that feeling of brotherhood when I left that night, and that bothered me more than anything.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Masters Lecture and Washington D.C.

I am currently in the process of learning the Masters lecture and I have to say that it’s the most challenging, but at the same time one of the better ones to learn, as you are telling a story, not just explaining symbolism. The FC is similar, but the Masters is better because it’s the Masters. I think every Freemason reading this should take the time in your Masonic journey to learn the lecture of the three blue degrees. It makes you sit and think a lot harder about the symbolism and what the degree itself means to you. Honestly it takes a lot of work and a good investment of time, but I think you will see that what you learn about yourself and what Esoteric Freemasonry means to you, and if it is something you are interested in. I guess some see me as putting the kart before the horse as I am not learning any roles (even though I have learned the MC/SD role for all three degrees). The roles are cake before learning a 30 minute lecture by memory.

Looks like I will have an opportunity to give this lecture soon as a candidate just passed his proficiency; he did the tactic of talking as fast as possible over his mistakes. It’s not a bad try, unlike myself which actually talks slower when I am presenting myself, which caused me to stutter when I got stuck. ;)

I will be in Washington D.C. and the Norfolk area next week if any brother wants to meet up for coffee or dinner. I will be somewhat busy but would be honored if someone wanted to grab a cup of Joe. I am planning on attending Naval Lodge #4, but don’t know if I will be up to going through the tuck and role of dues card and full examination. Sometimes I don’t mind, but if I had to do it right now I most likely would pass. I know that it is necessary to pass on and prove I am a Mason, but sometimes I just want to be greeted and taken by the hand, and not shuffled off to a little room on the side and get examined by one of the Past Masters who gets over excited at examining a young pup like myself.

Maybe I will be up to it in a week, excited for the fellowship with brothers from another area.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thoughts on Halcyon Lodge #Whatever

For those that don’t surf the Masonic side of the internet might not be aware, but the self promoting Halcyon Lodge #498 announced on their website and through the burning taper that they were turning in their lodge charter and now becoming Halcyon Lodge #2.

While there has been much talk on message boards and in certain blogs regarding this manner no honest member of Halcyon has answered as to why they choose this action, and what if any Grand Lodge system did they adopted. Many people have either cited them as pioneers or have called them swindlers stealing property from the Grand Lodge of Ohio.

People who splinter off from the mainline do so for a variety of reasons. While their supporters, and they, usually claim it’s to rid themselves of a corrupt system in which they can no longer function. They are also considered by their detractors as egomaniacs that want to be in charge, so they started their own club putting themselves in the driver seat.

I have no idea of the altruistic aspirations of the men of Halcyon in regards to masonry, for only they truly know what is in their hearts. If they were greedy and did a simple land/property grab in the name of Freemasonry, then hopefully history will reflect as much. I as well hope that history properly portrays them if they saved a Masonic temple from a decaying and apathetic Grand Lodge. I am sure that there will be many “announcements” in the next year regarding the developments of this case. I want to remind everyone reading this that civil law unlike the physical science in which I study is not absolute. To attempt to predict how a court or any legal body might rule on civil matters might better spend their time predicting who is going to win the super bowl.

To those that post anonymous comments, and claim to speak as a member of this lodge I would ask that they refrain from their usual trolling. People are starting to build strawman cases on both sides on anonymous comments and other jackassery.

Remember, just because you read it on the internet, doesn’t make it so.

We are caretakers of critical thinking and of an open mind, try to put your petty judgment of these brothers aside until all the facts regarding this action can be presented.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Empty Chair Degree

I am on a role, here is another Masonic post for your edification. Apparently in the Dakota Territory they would put on an open degree called “The Empty Chair Degree” which was preformed in honor of military members that have fallen in times of war. The degree itself is short, but very eloquent. I was made aware of this degree by Bro. John Dainele from the Philalethes mailing list. Please read and think of the masons that have given their lives in service to this country.

The Scottish Key

For those of you that haven’t seen it, there is a production company that claims to reveal the origins of Freemasonary in the French Belgian documentary, The Scottish Key. At first glance I was skeptical and ready to dismiss the movie. Then I when I looked at the contributors, including Robert L.D. Cooper, I am intrigued about the movie, as it looks better than most in the recent history. It is about $36, that doesn’t include shipping, so I would expect it to be around $50 when it is all said and done.

Does anyone know anything else about this movie? Is it legit, or more crackpot Da Vinci stuff?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Missed Another Lodge Meeting

I am in Huntsville, Alabama this week for the Directed Energy Profesional Society, this lined up nicely with a stated meeting being held @ Helion Lodge #1 the first Tuesday of the month. But my cable tow wasn’t going to have any part of it. I was called into a side bar meeting for “a couple of minutes” that turned into an hour and a half of people repeating themselves over and over again. I finally got out @ 1830 which didn’t leave me time to drop off my co-worker and make it back to the lodge. I am disappointed, because this looked like a great lodge to visit, so there goes that opportunity. I have been bad about sitting in lodge lately. My travel schedule isn’t lining up with stated meetings and my own lodge has canceled two practices already. So I haven’t gone to a stated meeting in a month.

In other news I still haven’t decided on a name for the brew that is brewing right now in my guest closet at home. It is a wheat beer, so I was going to make some illusion to the fellowcraft degree, and found how some fringe groups that think along with baphomet and other various gods we supposedly secretly worship we also worship ANNONA the Goddess of the Wheat Harvest, the beer also will be ready for consumption on the 27th of December, so I was thinking something with Saint John’s Day. The name became such an inside joke, that I was the only one to get it, even then it wasn’t that funny.

So I am still lost as to a name, and I need one by the end of the week. I have to bottle it this weekend and I’ve had it happen where if I don’t name a beer before it’s bottle it turns out bad.

I want to thank everyone who gave me good ideas, I like some better than others. Most likely on Friday we will vote on the final name of the beer, brew in the sprit of fraternity and brotherly love.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blue Lodge Brew?

I just got done making some home brewed beer, and I figured I would dedicate this batch to the Blue Lodge. It's a wheat beer golden and (hopefully) have a nice aftertaste. Still, I am wondering what I should name this batch made in the name of the oldest fraternity?

I am going to make labels and give some to the local brothers, so a name would be nice. Any ideas would be greatly apperciated. :)

The image is taken from The Masonic Shop in case you were looking for a blue lodge stein.

Tired of the “Should the Shrine Split?” Posts Yet?

It seems that most bloggers everywhere are tackling the controversial subject of should the Shrine split, since I started in Masonry a year ago. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone thinks their solution is right.

I’ve read every excuse for people that think the Shrine should split, most of them seem to come from somewhere not so Masonic. For instance, the fact that the Shrine was founded by Masons wanting to have more fun than could be had in the Blue Lodge, then let them leave the Blue Lodge. Well, the same could be said then of the Grotto which was founded 19 years after the Shrine, but has the same basic philosophy. If this is the case, then why am I not seeing a once a week post about how the Grotto needs to split?

Others don’t seem to care for their aggressive recruiting style, going to raising of a members just to shove a Shrine application at them after they are taught the word. Again the same could be said of the York Rite and Scottish Rite in America. It isn’t unheard of a Candidate being given an application to either rite while still learning the FC catechism. This wasn’t the case for me, but it isn’t unheard of. Still, I don’t hear about calling for a split from either rite (well sometimes I hear people talk about the Scottish Rite, but that seems to be more about rivalry than anything).

The Shrine has been accused of lobbying for all the way in one day to serve its membership needs. On the Philalethes mailing list there has been multiple discussions about this, the Shrine isn’t the only lobbyist behind the perceived need to do these classes, and honestly all the way in one day has been going on since the beginning of documented Freemasonry, well before the formation of the Shrine.

Now, to be fair I’m not a Shriner, and I don’t have a desire to be one either. The Shrine aspect of Freemasonry wasn’t why I joined the world’s oldest fraternity. Still, you can’t deny that the Shrine has its roots in Freemasonry and depends on quality members that hold Masonic principles dear to be such a successful organization.

The Shrine, like everyone else in Freemasonry is trying to find answers to the questions facing its organization. The inflated bubble of membership of the 1940s is leaving them to answer some serious questions, just like the blue lodge. I don’t think the answer is as easy as “Split or not to split”.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Humble Thanks

Due to my honey-do list and travel schedule I haven’t had a chance to thank a brother for his kind words regarding my little Masonic blog. Brother Mark wrote a very nice review (which was a nice surprise), regarding my blog. I am amazed as what started out as a side project to jot down my thoughts on becoming a Mason and having people e-mail me asking me about how they go about being made a Mason.

It’s been an interesting trip thus far, and I look forward to future communication with such fine brothers and Freemason enthusiasts.

A review of my blog!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Denver International Airport – Home of Alien Freemason Nazis

Last week when I was in Denver I flew into DIA (Denver International Airport) for some reason this airport attracts a lot of conspiracy nuts, mainly because the Masonic capstone of the time capsule reads “A New World Airport Commission” and that the Airport is some type of cathedral to the super elite Alien Freemason Nazis, with creepy artwork that foretells the end of the world.

Time permitting I would of stuck around DIA taken pictures and mocked the entire thing, but I arrived late, was tired and hadn’t eaten all day, so my blog had to take a back seat. Truth of the matter was the phrase “New World Airport Commission” was in regards to the committee that was in charge of DIA’s opening festivities, and the name was thought of by Charles Ansbacher a music conductor and trust fund baby, who got the idea from Dvorak’s New World Symphony (Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World”), which of course was written between 1892 – 1895 after a visit to America. Also, I can’t find anywhere that Ansbacher is a Freemason, but maybe he is a covert brother.

There have been much more researched and thought out arguments against the DIA conspiracy. Growing up in Colorado, I just find the entire thing funny as the history of the Airport marred by cronyism, government inefficiency, and overall bumbling of a public works project. I remember when they opened up the Airport for tours months before it was operational to try to keep local shops who were paying high overhead in business so when the airport was finally operational there would be a McDonalds and a place where you can get a $2 soda and a People magazine. I am sure this was a front as they were completing the tunnel to NORAD (which is now run by the Canadians, BTW).

As they say it takes all types, these people are on another plane of existence. But I guess it is more interesting than the fact it’s just a large airport, that is unique in structure.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thoughts from the York Rite Fall Festival

With my busy travel schedule and time to just not even think straight, I think it’s time I sit down and formulate my thoughts on the ceremonies and forms there in. I felt that it was about time I actually took sat down and write my thoughts.

For background on the York Rite, take a look at the York Rite home page here it gives you a great deal of information regarding the degrees. Here in South Texas we have the York Rite festival, in which the district gets together and confers all of the degrees in a single day. Part of me wretched at this thought because of the time spent on the blue lodge degrees is essential to understand the fundamentals of Masonry, and I believe that fundamental understanding is somewhat lost in one day classes. While I understand their utility for soldiers being deployed, people who had family medical emergencies, etc. I don’t agree with it being used as a fast track to the Shrine or to cause inflated numbers for brothers that never return again.

The Chapter as a collective is by my favorite of the three (Chapter, Council and Commandery), it really does complete the first three degrees, even though they are considered “supplemental” I would suggest to anyone that is serious about learning more and completing the first three degrees should go through the degrees. I was also fortunate enough to be the candidate of the Royal Arch Degree which was wonderful. Really that degree is one of the best, and I would almost put it on par with the Masters Degree. The Virtual Past Masters degree is really good to, if done properly. It was flawlessly executed for me, but afterwards during lunch I could see how many ways it could of gone wrong, but that is a really fun degree as well. For the Chapter the Most Excellent Master was the most disappointing as the team due to freak issues was unable to confer the degree, so we came in and was given the lecture and took the oath. I guess that makes it legal, but I will have to see the degree in it’s full sometime in the near future. Overall a very good experience, even though the Most Excellent Master never really happened.

The Council degrees are interesting, and the Super Excellent Masters Degree is a powerful degree that I came to find out, was at one point a side degree of the rite. It wasn’t until 1813 that it was permanently fixed as part of the Council, the degree itself forcefully teachers the candidate to walk in faith, promote friendship, and practice fidelity. It has a wonderful message to behold when being played out, that God’s Presence among us and man’s responsibility to worship Him in Sprit and truth. The moral and spiritual values that are taught in the council are so numerous I could create another blog just to discuss them. Still, I found all of the symbolism and allegory wonderful to behold (if not overwhelming).

The last phase of the festival was the Commandery, which confers the three degrees of The Order of the Red Cross, The Order of Malta, and finally Order of the Temple. Apparently the Knights Templar at one time was only invitational, and later became more open. Also apparently the degree was conferred much differently from state to state until the mid 1800s, when it became standardized. The degree is long, not as long as the Royal Arch Degree, but long enough, its strong emphasis on Christian values was odd at first, (because of the previous degrees) but fit and was used very well. I also found the use of the American flag, kind of odd, but I guess it’s trying to emulate a military order so I guess it’s that way for a reason. It was an impressive ceremony, but was over hyped by our instructors in my mind. I found the Royal Arch and Super Excellent Master much more enlightening. This also can be attributed to the fact that we have been doing this all day and we didn’t get out of there till 1900 and we arrived 0630.

Overall I would recommend the York Rite to someone that meets the qualifications. I was already hit up for the Scottish Rite and Shrine, both of which right now will get a pass. I like to take my Masonic education slow and deliberate, I am not into collecting titles or degrees, and I have more then enough to learn in both the Blue Lodge and the Chapter/Council and Commandery.

The degrees where conferred by a core group of 15 individuals, 6 of which were entirely too much for them to be doing them. If Masonry is to survive in all it forms and beauties it is up to us younger Masons to try and learn the parts to the best of our ability. I hear excuses like “I don’t have good memory retention”, but like the saying goes, practice, practice, practice. I will attend the Chapter/Council as the Commandery, the memorization work comes second to the Blue Lodge, as the Blue Lodge is the foundation of all Freemasonry and without its teachings and symbols, there can be no York Rite.

Here I will stop myself before I rant any further. :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Do You Really Know What A Cowan Is?

Last night I was reading a book, and it described what a cowan was in terms of Operative Masonry. When going through the degrees you hear about cowans, but I never gave them much thought, a bunch of PGMs much more experienced than myself have written short definitions of what cowans were in terms of the craft, some just cite the dictionary still the best definition I have read was from Bro. Harry Carr, who first quotes the Oxford dictionary:

”One who builds dry stone walls (i.e., without mortar); a dry-stone-diker; applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a mason, but who has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the trade.”

Then expands:

”Cowan is an essentially Scottish trade term, and it belongs to the time when lodges, as trade-controlling bodies, put restrictions against the employment of cowans, in order to protect the fully-trained men of the Craft from competition by unskilled labour. The earliest official ban against cowans appeared in the Schaw Statutes in 1598.”

On the Freemason Information website they quote a short talk bulletin from 1953 which reads:

“… and means to moderns an uninstructed and ignorant person, one not of the Fraternity, just as eavesdropper means to us one who attempts to gain the secrets of Masonry unlawfully.”

So I guess the bulletin is saying that cowan is just an ignorant person. But really, is that what a cowan is in modern 21st century Freemasonry? Or can the term be applied to clandestine members (yeah, I know I will get hate mail), conspiracy nuts, or fundlementalist that believe they know more about our work because they can quote Morals and Dogma? Do we really have men going around from lodge to lodge claiming to be a Mason but really isn’t in today’s society?

So I guess my question is to the Masons that read this, what is a cowan to you?

Monday, September 3, 2007

A New Masonic Blogger

A fairly new Masonic Blogger (new to me at least) e-mailed me, go ahead and check out Brother Robert's Masonic Blog - Military Masons, like most of the Masonic blogs out there it is thoughtful and a great read!

Also, I love the fact that I get e-mailed everytime I bring up the Shrine, man I think I will keep my big mouth shut! Or hands off keyboard, which ever.

My Second Lodge Visit Mt Carmel No. 133

I am back after my trip to Virginia; I know you were all awaiting my report. I think that one of these trips when I go back to Virginia I will have to visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial. I had the opportunity to stay in Alexandria, but didn’t have the schedule to visit the monument. When I first witnessed it, I was struck about how the building stands out so clearly. But this trip I went to a place about an hour and forty-five minutes south of Alexandria, in a small town called Warrenton, Virginia. Warrenton is a picture perfect small east coast town, with a population of 8377. Main street is full of craft shops (or as I like to refer to them as “Old Lady Stores”.) They had small restaurants and a bistro, no major chains like Chili’s, Applebees, etc (at least none that I saw). So really it is a neat quaint little town, and was refreshing when living in one of the top 10 largest cities in America.

The lodge itself is very subdued compared to other lodges in the area; it is a stand alone red brick building that looks like an old school house of sorts. The building was built in 1969, 146 years after the lodge was chartered. The lodge itself boosts a rich history of military heroes from the civil war on up to today. It also adapted the phrase “Bravest of the Brave” in reference to the Black Horse Calvary which many of its early members were apart of. Its current membership seemed slightly older than other lodges I have visited (all three of them), but I think that is expected of a smaller town, mainly full of retirees. The lodge is much like my mother lodge has a banquet hall downstairs and the lodge room upstairs. Another interesting fact is that the brethren bring their wives that sit downstairs during business but then prepare the cake and ice cream after the meeting. Everyone was in dark suits (I always wear a suit to blue lodge meetings, because you never know and I am under the philosophy that it’s better to overdress than underdressed). I quickly realized that this was a much different lodge than the one I visited in New Mexico. The ridgedness of this lodge brought me a sense of comfort, but I have to wonder if its ridgedness may deter new members. They examined me, by examination it was long, not a quick flash of the dues card and my Texas drivers license. It was lots of secret handshakes and signs, more than I expected. It didn’t help that the potentate from the Shrine was there for his quarterly visit. Some members confided in me that there was annoyance as his visit is seen more as a recruiting gimmick than an actual “keeping ties to the blue lodge” as was its stated purpose. At least the guy stayed for the stated meeting and afterwards to talk to the brothers. Our potentate showed up to lodge to drop off a stack of petitions to the shrine and ran out the back door. So really, I think that the potentates visit was a good thing.

The stated meeting was actually interesting as the brethren where discussing a rather controversial topic within the lodge. It reminded me of the conversations we would have in our lodge about the dreaded roof. No degree tonight, unfortunately, still I am one of those sick individuals that enjoys opening and closing of the lodge, and to see how other lodges do it, they didn’t disappoint and did it in true form. After the stated meeting I talked to a few of the brothers, all of which would explain to me their six degrees of separation from Texas (everyone does this, btw).

Was it what I was expecting? Not really, but there were brothers still the same, and it was nice to engage in the work with them. I look forward to having fellowship in the future if it works out.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Cycle Starts Again

This past week we did the EA degree for a young man that was looking to join the lodge a year ago but was deployed to Iraq. He has since separated and is now waiting to attend medical school. He has done every other facet of the medical profession the last being an RN in the Army. The degree went reasonably well, I was the Master of Ceremonies and did the charge.

I enjoy the EA degree; to me it’s like the first four weeks of boot camp. It is necessary preparation for the following degrees and helps teach the newly made Mason his obligations and the basic foundations of Masonry. In Texas the catechism for the EA is by far the most difficult as the candidate must recreate the esoteric parts of the ceremony and the lecture. The good part about this that I have learned later is that this is very useful when giving the lecture. I think I am going to jump to the lecture for the Masters degree, only two other active brothers in our lodge can give it, and it’s the most important of all three lectures.

I have plenty of time to learn the masters for this candidate, and really it would be an honor to give the Masters lecture to him.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Don’t Tell Me It’s Raining While You’re Pissing down My Back

I have no delusions of grander regarding this blog, I get on average 22 visitors a day, I know that I am by no means a staple of the Masonic on-line community. I don’t have a podcast, a following of people that love me or hate me. I am just me, and really when people make blogs or post in them they sometimes take an aspect of their personality that they are not comfortable with and amplify it, that really isn’t me or the point of this blog. This blog is a correct representation of who I am and my journey as a Mason from EA to MM and beyond. When I walk into a lodge other than my own and tell the brothers my time in Masonry, I am usually regarded as a “Newbie” and that’s fine, and really the truth.

That being said, I heard the latest Podcast from X-Oriente and I have to throw out the bullshit flag. Now I enjoy the show very much, but this last one left a bad taste in my mouth, mainly that Brother Eric quoted a politician who wrote a book about his opponents. I like Al Gore and believe that he has conviction in what he believes and honestly if Gore ran today, I would seriously consider voting for him. The problem is that today we have everyone on the left and the right writing books about how the other side is destroying our great nation. If you listen to the right, it’s the left and their lack of traditional values, high taxes and socialized government, if it’s the left you believe that the right is creating a police state, fighting wars that we have no business fighting, and destroying our environment, all while in bed with big corporations.

My point is that when someone who has a clear agenda and writes a book called “Assault on Reason” and then someone else presents it as an unbiased factual book, sticks in my craw. If you want to talk about critical thinking, then read from The Philosophy of Anything: Critical Thinking In Context or Critical Thinking: Basic Theory by Richard W. Paul published by the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Heck, if you want to get even more in the mud then talk about Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason or Critique of Judgment or Logic. But for the love of God don’t quote Al Gore, who has an agenda and an axe to grind as somehow a bastion of reason and critical thought.

If you want to make a political statement, than make it, don’t act like you aren’t making one when you are. By doing such you are violating one of the core concepts of Freemasonry that Dudley Wright put so eloquently “Freemasonry is a unifier, not a divider.” Masons can talk politics and Masons can disagree, but when people present a political argument then tell their audience not be upset by bringing up the subject, that is intellectual dishonesty and a dirty trick.

That being written, I don’t want people to think that I harbor any dislike towards Brother Eric, because he is a brother, and a Mason, I just believe his passions got the better of him.

I invite anyone who thinks that I am being over reactive to e-mail me or comment, but this is one of those things that I felt necessary to voice my opinion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Application to the York Rite and Mastering Senior Deacon/Master of Ceremonies for the EA Degree

I underestimated the memorization work in the EA degree, the lecture Senior Deacon and Master of Ceremonies parts are much more difficult to recite in front of the brethren than in front of my mirror or in my truck. We have an EA to give next week, the brother was voted in last night. He petition our lodge two years ago was accepted received the EA degree then was deployed to Iraq for 18 months. His membership elapsed and he returned, starting the process all over again. While he has gone through the initiation once before, the majority is most likely lost.

For my memorization work, I have been working hard on the EA degree, because so much of it is wrapped up in our catechism that I figured it to be the easiest, but it turns out that it’s becoming a bigger challenge than I thought. I don’t know if I am biting off more than I can chew, but I want to contribute so much, I guess my eagerness is causing my frustration, nothing new in Freemasonry. My goal is to have the EA lecture and Master of Ceremonies/Senior Deacon down by end of October, I think that’s reasonable considering I started work on the EA Lecture in late June. I might be handicapping myself too much, but we will see.

I have also been approached to join the York Rite, which I think I will pursue. After research between the York and Scottish, I think the York just seems to fit better, a lot of the brethren in the lodge are York Rite members, and I won’t be alone as Bro Mahlako will be there with me, so that will be good.

Masonry has taken on so many forms since I first petitioned the lodge back in October, and I hope I continue to grow in it. Isaac Davidson wrote in his blog that as he is reading Masonic Blogs he sees that a lot of them are negative in nature. This is natural as blogs are a release for a lot of people, and sometimes that release is posting frustrations with ones lodge, or the brotherhood as a whole. My frustrations have been no different, but I am very happy with my choice to be made a Mason. I know it isn’t for everybody, and I can see how some brothers join and think “Shit, this isn’t for me”. Still, it’s for me and I feel that Freemasonry is very relevant in today’s modern society, I have unabashed optimism when it comes to Freemasonry and the 21st century, maybe that will wash away as the years go on, but I hope not.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My First Lodge Visit, Mesa Lodge #68

After being raised and passing my proficiency, I have become hungry for all things Masonic, even more so then researching the degrees while I was in the midst of my memorization work; I am learning the lecture for the EA degree and the Senior Deacon’s part.

Still I travel quite a bit, I would say that twice a month I am somewhere else than home and I miss my mother lodges stated meetings. In July I had the opportunity to visit a lodge in Chicago and have fellowship with brethren, but due to circumstances beyond my control I was unable to make it. This past week I had the opportunity to go to New Mexico, and found a lodge that was not only meeting during the time frame of my visit but was conferring the degree of Entered Apprentice, I was giddy. I e-mailed the secretary and announced my visit, not because I am that much of a pompous ass, but because I think they would like to know if a brother from out of state was planning on attending their degree, just so I wasn’t a complete surprise. The secretary e-mailed back and said they would be happy to have me and gave me his cell phone number. He then CC’d all of the lodge officers, to which the Worshipful Master e-mailed me their monthly newsletter. Honestly, that e-mail made me feel better about leaving my comfort zone and going to another lodge, in a different state.

I was nervous driving to their lodge because really, I didn’t know these brothers, and I was feeling comfy and cozy with my mother lodge, and the work preformed there. What if I get up at two gavels instead of three (which I did by the way)? What if I address the lodge Texas style and am mocked and laughed at? While these seem like silly things to worry about and in hindsight they were, it still consumed me. When I arrived at the lodge I came in with a brother who I later found out to be DDGM of the district who greeted me warmly. I was then given the nickel tour of the relatively new lodge building. It is a very spacious lodge that doubles as a Scottish Rite Learning Center for children with dyslexia. They have a room which they call the “Square Club” where they would meet afterwards to play cards, have a beer (which would be clandestine in Texas) or play a game of pool. At my lodge we hang around and talk but usually within 30 minutes it’s me and a couple of the younger brothers bullshiting while the bulk of the brethren split five minutes after the last gavel.

Their ceremony fascinated me, the differences from Texas while small in some areas, is huge in others. The main being that before the candidate is duly and truly prepared, the Senior Deacon goes in the anti-chamber and asks them as series of questions to make sure that they want to be made Masons. They then are asked again before their obligation by the Worshipful Master the same set of questions, it seemed almost overkill in my mind because of the central themes of the EA degree.

It was wonderful to be a part of; at the end of lodge I addressed the lodge as I was taught in Texas and told the newly made Masons that the first degree is the most difficult degree, but that the growing pains pay ten fold in the end, and thank them for their commitment to Freemasonry. Talked with the RWB and a member from a lodge in Lubbock Texas about the differences in the work, I even broached the subject of one day classes, which they refer to as “All the way” in one day. They are more liberal regarding their rules, they allow alcohol on Masonic property (my understanding is a big no-no in Texas, but that might just be my lodge), they don’t require their officers to wear a dark suit. They have ciphers something that my mentor absolutely hates, and have shorter degree memorization requirements.

I don’t want this to come across as me looking down on them because Texas is more hard noised, because that isn’t the case. These men are Masons just the same as me, and because they have ciphers, loosened dress code and alcohol on the premises shows me that Freemasonry is something that cannot be destroyed by such small things. Am I going to start lobbing for one day classes and ciphers? No, but they do serve a purpose, no matter how much some of the old timers despise them. This visit did bring to my attention that while I am fascinated and love the esoteric work, that we are still a brotherhood a fraternity of friends, and because of that we (being my lodge) need to loosen up and have more social events and take better care of the wives and widows. We need not be so consumed with the work, that we spend two hours of floor work to run out the door once it’s finished.

See my Great Uncle was a Mason and traveled a lot (he was a diamond salesman), he reflected once that being a Mason meant that he could travel with safety and know that most likely the town he was stopping in had a lodge. While in my youth I didn’t know what that meant, as a Mason now I do. In today’s world when we travel it’s easy to run around have dinner and drinks with clients/customers and not realize that right around the corner is a lodge room of brethren that you have never met, but most likely have much more in common with them than any customer or client, co-worker or long lost high school friend. This emphasizes to me that my generation is looking for something beyond the superfluities of life and that we are looking for better understanding of ourselves and of our fellow man. Not necessarily a religion or a church of thou shall, but good honest open communication about faith, hope and charity. This has become secondary and my parents generation where consumed by self indulgences and loathing attitude towards their parents, who they saw as stoic autocrats. Their children became Generation X, while has great hopes has become over medicated cry babies that worry about how many times Lohan has been in rehab, or who is pounding Paris Hilton this week. Who’s political discussion turn into vitriol rants of hate within two minutes regardless of political affiliation, and see charity as saving Dafur or some type of criminal punishment, nothing more. Still I see hope, I see it in the young men from all walks of life coming to that old lodge building and reaching out for more than a self help book or medication.

Before the Shrine, before the Scottish Rite or any other a pendent bodies we were free thinkers and invoked philosophical thought from the stable boy to the town mayor. Not drudging up the names of all the famous Masons, because to me a great Mason is a man that did the work with due diligence and because of his membership in Freemasonry made his community a little bit better, to me that man is just as great as any of the Freemasons I hear about every time I go into a Masonic museum.

So while I am sure the debates and rants about alcohol, ciphers, one day classes will continue in the future, I realize that these things are small potatoes compared to what Freemasonry brings us, better men.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Lodge Bringing Me a Sense of Calm

It’s been entirely too long since I updated this blog, I think that is because I was traveling for work, then on vacation. Right when I was getting ready to get back into the swing of things I found out that a member from my National Guard Unit committed suicide while I was out. It was one of those sudden suicides that no one saw coming, no one knew of any personal problems and he seemed to get along very well with everyone. He worked with me on several occasions, and I always came away feeling good. I was distraught because I missed his service, something that is meaningful for me, that when a service member dies, the more people that show up in uniform where he touched their life, the bigger impact and show of support you give his family.

On Tuesday I was a frustrated mess at work, dealing with the questions and the prodding when my co-workers found out what happened, suicides are so frustrating, you really can’t put it into words. So @ 1645 I ran out going to lodge, half a mind to just go home, I figured that it had been a month since I last stepped inside my lodge and realized that I owed it to my brothers to show up (the DDGM was coming). When I drove up in the parking lot and entered the old building a sense of calm just washed over me. It wasn’t comforting or a relief per say, just a sense of calmness with everything. I met with Brother Garland and did some esoteric work in the 3rd degree. Attended the business meeting and then listened to the message from the Grand Master of Texas, Donny Broughton (which I will share in a later post), after the meeting we did some more work, and I came home not necessarily feeling better about life, but calmer, if that makes any sense.

I guess this post has no real point, beyond that the lodge provided something to me last night that I was expecting, cooling my jets and letting me just do my esoteric work. I knew that the questions, grief and frustrations would be waiting for me when I left, but I was there at that moment doing something that was contributing to the brotherhood, and it felt good.

Think I will end this post now, but wanted to get down on electrons, how it made me feel before I forget.

Monday, July 9, 2007

In Memoriam Past Grand Master Harry Cunningham

Harry Glen Cunningham, age 73, past Grand Master of Texas Masonry, died July 8, 2007.A true and dedicated Texan, Grand Master Harry Glen Cunningham was born on January 24, 1934, on a farm in the rural community of Oak Ridge near Ladonia in Fannin County, Texas. He attended two public schools, Bartley-Woods and Ladonia High School, where he graduated on June 1, 1951. He attended East Texas State Teachers College in 1952 previous to joining the United States Air Force. From June, 1953 to June, 1961, he served in the United States Air Force Security Service during the Korean and at the beginning of the Viet Nam Conflicts. He had two tours of duty overseas in Tripoli, Libya and Nord, Greenland.After being honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1961, he maintained his residence in San Antonio. He was employed immediately by Sears, Roebuck and Company, where he worked for 28 years in various managerial positions throughout San Antonio and South Texas. He retired from Sears on April 30, 1989. The highlight of Grand Master Cunningham's life is when he met Barbara Harn Davis at Lackland Baptist Church in 1966. They married on May 9, 1969. They have one daughter, Cye, and two sons, Sonny and Scott.

A believer of being active in community affairs, Grand Master Cunningham was very active in church, civic and community affairs in San Antonio since January, 1956. He served Lackland Baptist Church as a Sunday School Teacher, Usher, Member of Finance and Personnel Committees, and Chairman of the Long-Range Steering Committee, and trustee. The Grand Master was very community oriented. The citizens of his community elected him to the Board of Trustees of the Northside Independent School District located in Bexar, Medina and Bandera Counties. He served in this capacity for seven years. He was a former member of the National and State School Board Associations and the Greater San Antonio Builders Association. He was a Past Member and Director of the San Antonio Minority Development Council and Past President of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association of Jay High School in San Antonio. He was also a former\n member of the Valley-Hi Optimist Club, Heart Association, Boy Scouts of America and Building Committee of Northside Independent School District. Grand Master Cunningham petitioned Somerset Lodge No. 1205 in January, 1967, and was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on October 26, 1967. He served on many Lodge Committees throughout the years, serving as Worshipful Master during 1975-1976. He was honored with a Life Membership by the Lodge in 1978. He is also an Endowed Member of Henry Thomas Lodge No. 278 in Smithwick, Texas, and a member of the Texas Lodge of Research. He served as District Deputy Grand Master in 1979 for Grand Master W R Lamb and has also served on various Grand Lodge Committees. He was elected Grand Junior Warden in 1994, Grand Senior Warden in 1995, Deputy Grand Master in 1996 and was elected to the office of Grand Master in 1997. Grand Master Cunningham is an Endowed Member of the San Antonio Scottish Rite Bodies, serving as\n Venerable Master of the Consistory in 1990. He was invested a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor in 1981 and was coroneted a Thirty-Third Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1995. He served on the Board of Directors of the Scottish Rite Dormitory at the University of Texas in Austin since 1984. "

A believer of being active in community affairs, Grand Master Cunningham was very active in church, civic and community affairs in San Antonio since January, 1956. He served Lackland Baptist Church as a Sunday School Teacher, Usher, Member of Finance and Personnel Committees, and Chairman of the Long-Range Steering Committee, and trusteeThe Grand Master was very community oriented. The citizens of his community elected him to the Board of Trustees of the Northside Independent School District located in Bexar, Medina and Bandera Counties. He served in this capacity for seven years. He was a former member of the National and State School Board Associations and the Greater San Antonio Builders Association. He was a Past Member and Director of the San Antonio Minority Development Council and Past President of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association of Jay High School in San Antonio. He was also a former member of the Valley-Hi Optimist Club, Heart Association, Boy Scouts of America and Building Committee of Northside Independent School District. Grand Master Cunningham petitioned Somerset Lodge No. 1205 in January, 1967, and was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on October 26, 1967. He served on many Lodge Committees throughout the years, serving as Worshipful Master during 1975-1976. He was honored with a Life Membership by the Lodge in 1978. He is also an Endowed Member of Henry Thomas Lodge No. 278 in Smithwick, Texas, and a member of the Texas Lodge of Research. He served as District Deputy Grand Master in 1979 for Grand Master W R Lamb and has also served on various Grand Lodge Committees. He was elected Grand Junior Warden in 1994, Grand Senior Warden in 1995, Deputy Grand Master in 1996 and was elected to the office of Grand Master in 1997. Grand Master Cunningham is an Endowed Member of the San Antonio Scottish Rite Bodies, serving as Venerable Master of the Consistory in 1990. He was invested a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor in 1981 and was coroneted a Thirty-Third Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1995. He served on the Board of Directors of the Scottish Rite Dormitory at the University of Texas in Austin since 1984.

Grand Master Cunningham was a member of San Antonio Chapter No. 381, Royal Arch Masons, San Antonio Council No. 14, Royal and Select Masters, San Antonio Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar, Texian York Rite College No. 60, Saint Anthony Conclave Red Cross of Constantine, Texas College, and Societas Rosicruciana. He was also a member of Alzafar Temple A.A.O.N.M.S. of San Antonio, San Antonio Council No.261, Allied Masonic Degrees, Omala Grotto of San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston No. 17, National Sojourners and invested with an Honorary Legion of Honor, Albert Pike Chapter of DeMolay. Grand Master Cunningham and his wife, Barbara, were Members of Somerset Chapter No. 730, Order of the Eastern Star, in Somerset, Texas. They were also members of District 5, Section 7, Past Matrons and Past Patrons Association in San Antonio as well as District 5, Past Matrons and Past Patrons Association. The Grand Master served twice as Worthy Patron of Somerset Chapter No. 730. He served as Grand Sentinel (19861987), Associate Grand Patron (1987-1988) and as Worthy Grand Patron of the Grand Chapter of Texas (1988-1989).

Grand Master Cunningham was a member of San Antonio Chapter No. 381, Royal Arch Masons, San Antonio Council No. 14, Royal and Select Masters, San Antonio Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar, Texian York Rite College No. 60, Saint Anthony Conclave Red Cross of Constantine, Texas College, and Societas Rosicruciana. He was also a member of Alzafar Temple A.A.O.N.M.S. of San Antonio, San Antonio Council No.261, Allied Masonic Degrees, Omala Grotto of San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston No. 17, National Sojourners and invested with an Honorary Legion of Honor, Albert Pike Chapter of DeMolay. Grand Master Cunningham and his wife, Barbara, were Members of Somerset Chapter No. 730, Order of the Eastern Star, in Somerset, Texas. They were also members of District 5, Section 7, Past Matrons and Past Patrons Association in San Antonio as well as District 5, Past Matrons and Past Patrons Association. The Grand Master served twice as Worthy Patron of Somerset Chapter No. 730. He served as Grand Sentinel (19861987), Associate Grand Patron (1987-1988) and as Worthy Grand Patron of the Grand Chapter of Texas (1988-1989).

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Doing My Part

I have been spending every spare moment I can trying to learn the Senior Deacon’s part of the EA and the lecture. I am told that while giving the lecture I sound like Jesse Jackson, and not so much of myself. While I have no idea what my brothers are talking about, I will take that as a compliment.

The EA lecture is by far the easiest out of the three to learn, as it is similar to the catechism, where as the FC and MM are not. The flow (at least to me) is a little bit more logical than the other two; Brother Thomas has started the FC and has been more frustrated than I have seen him in recent times. I enjoy learning/reciting the lecture as it brings a sense of familiarity and stability, and that is something that Masonry offers us in our day to day lives that isn’t easily achieved in today’s world. I have changed jobs 5 times in the last four years, and have moved into two different houses, and my wife has gone from making 55k a year to 30k. The lodge has been around since 1911, and isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future (regardless of the roof issue), it’s a fraternity of men that can be a cornerstone of a community of men’s lives. That is something that can be lost in today’s world and easily found again if one searches out for it. Its moral teachings, betterment of man and stability is what I think attracts younger men to the Craft today, and while every generation will have its different motivations for joining the Craft, we are all Masons, something that we all need to remember.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, my point in learning the lectures of Freemasonry, I see as my duty as younger Mason. I am not the best memorizer, or orator, but as they say practice makes perfect, that and I have a very patient instructor, and for that I am very grateful.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Restless Midnight Post

It’s time to dust off the thin layer of dust that has accumulated on this blog and give some explanation of what’s going on both in my personal life and my Masonic development. While I have stated from the beginning that this blog was not really about me and my day to day activities, to properly put into context my Masonic development.

My supervisor in an abrupt move has left and has left my branch in essence we have scrambling to cover for her being gone. I will have to cover part of her travel for at least the next six months, while we try to figure out who is going to take her place. A week before all of this the WM called me and asked if I could help out in the upcoming Masonic year, I explained to him that I could do what I could. Not really knowing the status of anything, and my work/travel schedule over taking my commitments, I didn’t give it much thought. I have been gone for the last two weeks out on the road, and really haven’t had a chance to think about it. Well I received an e-mail this past week with the installation ceremony participants, next thing I know I am listed as Senior Stewart?

This isn’t sitting well with me, as I feel like I am being plugged in as a warm body in the chair, and right now it looks like I will be at lodge 50% of the month, while Masonry is always on my mind, I don’t know if this is the year I should be sitting in any type of chair, even one as minor as the Senior Stewart. My other Masonic commitments have been towards learning the lectures, and not really wanting to sit a chair this year.

The future WM and I have been trading messages, but I hope to talk to him tomorrow before the installation ceremony, and see what comes of it. I still don’t know if either decision is the right one, going a head and sitting in a chair that I can’t really sit in, or if I am allowing outside pressures to put undo strain on helping my lodge.

Hence, I am writing this @ 3 in the morning.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Today my mentor lent me his copy of Lightfoot’s Manual of the Lodge – TEXAS. This is like most monitors, but this one at the end has commentary where most don’t have that. This book was written in 1934, which immediately perked my ears up. For those that don’t realize that, I really enjoy reading Masonic books pre-WW II. While I don’t mind current authors, I am not into exposes on Masonry; I want to read more about the symbolism. It talks about such great topics as Speculative vs. Operative Masonry and Dedication of the Lodge to the Holy St. John’s. So be expecting some more posts on that.

Our lodge tomorrow night is having officer elections, I am very happy to attend as it will be my first stated meeting as a Master Mason, next week I will be giving my catechism. I have already started to learn the EA Lecture, I enjoy the learning the lectures, I have no idea why. Most of the brothers run the other direction, but the words with the pictures make me feel centered. Bro Sean and I are trying to learn as much as we can, we are like sponges, and I enjoy our mentor’s enthusiasm.

Time for bed, but more later...

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Day I Became a Master Mason

Tuesday was a peculiar day; coming off of a three/four day weekend is hell. You have a mountain of e-mails to catch up on, add to the fact that I was out of town all last week, and you have for one busy Tuesday. At lunch it dawned on me that “Tonight you will be raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.” I then didn’t think about it for the rest of the day, entrenched in research and government politics (two things that never go together). Around 1600, everything was starting to wind down, people starting to go home for the day, and I started to think more and more about what was in store for me that evening, the preparation that I had done up to this point, and wondering if I was properly prepared.

Around 1715 I got in my truck and I drove out to the lodge, trying to keep calm. I found myself to be as nervous as I was when I first drove to the lodge back in October. When I arrived, I made my rounds to the various brothers. I was asked many times if I was ready or nervous, both being answered in the affirmative. After while I talked to Brother Sean, he had a friend who had submitted an application, I had lost sight on that status and asked him about it. He got this look on his face as if I kicked him in the gut and he told me that the guy went and discussed being made a Mason with his Minister who told him that once he became a Master Mason he wouldn’t be considered a Christian anymore. He e-mailed Sean last Tuesday and told him that he was withdrawing his application to be made a Mason. Sean had a sense of frustration, this is reasonable considering how much interest the guy seem to have at first, but that’s the way the “cookie crumbles”.

During dinner they made light hearted comments about Goats/Sheeps and the usual rubs, it annoyed me a little, while I understand the sophomoric humor, it was a situation I was taking pretty seriously, but again everyone has different perceptions. Also, given the military nature of our lodge it isn’t unreasonable for there to be this attitude, as when you are new in the military it is customary to make you the brunt of a lot of torment. I remember being a 2Lt and having to do the Superman, a thing to this day I cringe at the thought of it, but that’s another story. Normally I wait downstairs for them to do lodge business before conferring the degree, which is usually a good 40 minute wait. This time in less than five minutes they called for me. I went into the antechamber as before and changed into a similar yet different outfit. The Senior Deacon came out fixed the “mistakes” that the Master of Ceremonies made and then proceeded to start the degree.

During the ceremony when being lead around, I could feel a difference in the tone of the ritual, it was much more solemn and a strange feel. The obligation seems to be the majority of the first part, it was also asking me to be willing to give up my safety and comfort to aid a brother, something that I take seriously.

At a later point in the ceremony I was directed to go to the alter and pray, at that moment everything got personal and the ritual took on a whole different meaning, and it became something completely different. During my journey of the last six months I have stayed away from exposes, internet articles, anything that dealt with the ritual. I did this to keep the ritual as a complete surprise to me, and I know that there are men who read this blog in hopes of getting a little insight as they to start their journey of Masonry, what to expect, etc. To them I say stay away from books, media and other works that delve directly into the ritual, I don’t know what my experience would have been like if I had done that, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t of been as powerful, so no I didn’t peep behind the curtain.

During the ceremony, you learn the inevitable meaning of when evil overtakes good. This experience is something that all grown men have gone through in their life (at least from their perception of being good), and from that experience takes on a whole new level of symbolism and teaching. During the ritual, I enjoyed being the candidate for once, and not trying to capture every word uttered or phrase spoken, there will be plenty of time for that.

After the ritual and I received my lambskin apron, I realized that my journey while coming a long way is still in it’s infancy, and that is the most beautiful part.

Here is to exploring the 3rd degree and receiving further light in masonry.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blog Maintenance

Just an update about some of the changes to the blog, reviewed all of the Blogrolling links and cleaned out the now deleted blogs (RIP) I also included a link where you can e-mail me (at the top of the page), in case you wish to ask questions or grill me and don’t feel comfortable doing it in the main blog area. Sometimes people get scared about looking like asses on others blogs, so feel free to look like an ass in my e-mail box. ;)

The announcement was sent out today about my MM ceremony tomorrow night, so I guess it’s finally official, I will be receiving my MM degree tomorrow night!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Family Roots in Masonry - Mizpah Lodge No. 302

My mother recently sent me a bible that was presented to my Great Uncle Bernard when he was raised. My Great Uncle, unlike my Grandfather was heavily involved in the blue lodge, later became a member of the Scottish Rite, then becoming a member of the Shrine. I should take pictures and post them, but until then you will have to deal with my crappy descriptions. ;)

The Certificate on the back has his age, weight, height, color of eyes, and color of hair. It then has the following dates:

Initiated: June 8, 1945

Passed: September 21, 1945

Raised: October 24, 1945

Seeing these dates, gave me some comfort as it took him four months to get passed, it took me five, which has been chronicled on this blog. The certificate itself announces that he is a brother in good standing, and “recommends that he be received and accepted by the Craft whosesoever dispersed over the face of the globe.” One half is written in English and the other in Latin. The certificate is signed by the Secretary (Anson L Haveus), Worshipful Master (Moutus E Holmes, I think), and Grand Secretary of Nebraska (Lewis E. Smith). The bible in size is rather small and has biblical references of interest for Masons, along with some color illustrations. My mother also sent me Morals and Dogmas, which I just bought two weeks ago, so I have an extra copy.

Uncle Bernard has two boys, both never interested in Masonry. He passed away two years ago and when my aunt found out about my initiation she gave them to my mother to send to me.

I am happy to have them, as they are part of my heritage. I know he joined Freemasonry when it was in its peak for numbers, and while things are much different now, then they were then, it’s still a bond that all brothers share.

I’m grateful to receive this right before my raising.

Monday, May 21, 2007

To Await the Time with Patience

Margaret Thatcher once said “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” I have been delayed from leaving the airport by 5 hours, so I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to update my Masonic blog. I was thinking about writing more about the Fellowcraft degree, but the anxious feelings and excitement about receiving the Masters Masons degree is what I really need to discuss.

For those that are keeping track, initially my mentor felt that he would be able to convince the Worshipful Master that they could confer the degree on the 15th, the WM came back and said that he didn’t feel comfortable and wanted to wait until the 22nd to make sure that all of the officers were duly and truly prepared before conferring the degree. The problem is that I am out of town this week and won’t be back until the 25th, so my degree must wait until the 29th. This will be the third time that my work has delayed my Masonic journey. It started when I went on Active duty which caused at least a month’s delay in my progression, I was getting ready to be examined and next thing you know I have to leave for two and a half weeks, come back have two weeks to recoup the lost information. Then it happened again when I was getting ready to examine for my Fellowcraft proficiency, then I went to Virginia for a week, which delayed things again for a week.

So here I sit in a horrible airport my flight doesn’t leave for another 3 hours and 50 minutes, again my degree conferment will be delayed, so I must wait the time with Patience.

If you asked my wife, I am a pretty impatient kind of guy particularly when it comes to something that I feel strongly about. I have tried to approach Masonry slow and steady, not to get frustrated too easily or to get to impatient. I think considering the large task in front of me, I have done quit well. With the Supreme Architect of the Universes blessing I will hopefully continue down the path of patience and level headiness.

Hopefully, baring any future disaster, I will be receiving my MM degree on the 29th, I almost don’t want to write it out, and for fear that it won’t come to be true.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Researching the Fellowcraft Degree

I learned late last week that I wouldn’t be receiving my Masters Degree this past Tuesday as originally hoped. I was told that the Worshipful Master wanted to ensure that the brethren where properly prepared before giving the degree. I really was in no hurry and because of my travel next week I won’t be receiving the degree until the 29th. I am not disappointed as the research and reading I have been doing on the Fellowcraft degree has been fascinating.

Recently I had a birthday, for my birthday present I bought myself a 1919 edition of “Morals and Dogma” by Albert Pike. Pike is a man of great stature and controversy in Freemasonry and is often quoted as a means to show Masonry as a tool of power mongers and Satanists. I have read his chapter on the Fellowcraft degree and have found his philosophies and talking to the degree quite fascinating. Unless you have experienced degree, I can see where the chapter would read as a well educated man just babbling on about Liberty and Equality. I do consider the fact that Pike was writing the book from the aspect of the Scottish Rite and doesn’t reflect other Masonic bodies. Still Pike’s take on the degree and his statements are very powerful in my opinion. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the Fellowcraft chapter.

Pike on the Fellowcraft Degree:

Christianity taught the doctrine of Fraternity; but repudiated that of political Equality, by continually inculcating obedience to Caesar, and to those lawfully in authority. Masonry was the first apostle of equality. In the Monastery there is fraternity and equality, but no liberty. Masonry added that also, and claimed for man the three fold heritage, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. P.23

Do not lose sight, then of the true object of your studies in Masonry. It is to add to your estate of wisdom, and not merely to your knowledge. A man may spend a lifetime in studying a single specialty of knowledge, -botany, conchology or entomology for instance, -in committing to memory names derived from the Creek, and classifying and reclassifying; and yet be no wiser than when he began. It is the great truths as to all that most concerns a man, as to his rights, interests, and duties that Masonry seeks to teach her Initiates. P. 26

In your studies as a Fellow-Craft you must be guided by Reason, Love and Faith. P.28

Masonry is a march and struggle toward the Light. For the individual well as the nation, Light is Virtue, Manliness, Intelligence, Liberty. Tyranny over the soul or body is darkness. The freest people, like the freest man, is always in danger of relapsing into servitude. P. 32

While you are still engaged in preparation, and in accumulating principles for future use, do not forget the words of the Apostle James: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer , he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was; but whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his work. If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but it deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. … Faith, if it hath no works, is dead, being an ‘abstraction. A man is justified by works, and not by faith only. … The devils believe, -and tremble. … As the body without the heart is dead, so is faith without works.” P.36

Let no Fellow-Craft Imagine that the work of the lowly and uninfluential is not worth the doing. P. 41

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Roof over our Heads

For the most part I have been using this blog as my personal observations going through the degrees and their impact of my perception of the world. While this is the beauty of Freemasonry, there is a practical side to the Craft, and that is the lodge where we meet.

The building is a historical landmark and was erected in 1915, it is a stand alone lodge. I guess what I mean by that is that it isn’t part of a Scottish Rite temple (if that makes sense, I’m sure my more learned brothers will help correct my terminology). It’s a basic lodge, but as I have written before, the lodge brings a sense of comfort to me; the oldness of the building in my opinion is something to be revered, not necessarily shunned. Granted there are some things I would like to see updated, like our webpage for instance, we don’t have one, and I think with a lodge of such rich military history that we should be proudly displaying our heritage. Still, baby steps is the key to any successful endeavor, and the main issue for this past year has been to replace our aging roof. The WM has had a lot of heartache about this topic because of execution of the roof repair. The lodge had three contractors come in and bid and the lodge acceptable what they considered the most reputable and familiar company to the brethren.

Well long story short, the roofing company fell short of their agreed upon work and we had heavy rains the following week which caused damage to the lodge room, and ruined the carpet, this was due to the shoty work done by the roofing company. I have learned that the biggest test of ones leadership is not when everything is going your way, but rather the test of your character and leadership is when you face adversity. All of the great leaders in the world are considered so because when they were leaders everything seemed lost, but because of their leadership they shined, George Washington is best known for this very thing. Now look at Chester Aruther who was known for being a "placeholder", and nothing more. Everyone has their own opinion about how to move forward regarding the roofing situation, and many are already starting to nip at the heels of the WM trying to get their voice heard, and have passed judgment on the WM without allowing him to get the situation under control.

The time is now for the Worshipful Master to show the rest of the lodge his leadership.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Best Gift

Albert Pike once wrote "The best gift we can bestow on man is manhood." This is on page 24 of Morals and Dogma in the Fellowcraft section. I think honestly this sums up the Fellowcraft degree much more eloquently than any long diatribe. From gaining further light into Masonry in one of the most pack ceremonies, the Fellowcraft degree really sparked my attention to all of the nuances of the degree work.

While learning the three sections of the EA degree you are more worried about the order and proper phonetics of the words, let alone the words you are speaking. Once you receive the Fellowcraft degree things seem to come easier, and hence you spend more time (at least I have) looking at the symbols than trying to recite the question and answer section. To me Fellowcraft is “bestowing manhood” as a Mason.

Tonight after my lesson my mentor told me that he has never been so challenged as he was with me in regards to questions regarding the symbols and the meanings. I told him it wasn’t an attempt to “stump the chump” but just wanting to know as much as I could from his perspective. He then went on to talk about how important the ritual is, and that I should consider being a ritualist. I told him I would enjoy that, but I needed to make it through the exam tomorrow night and my Masters degree (right now it’s the 15th of May), before anything else could happen.

When I finish with my exam and I know for sure the date, I will post it on here. I am sure everyone is dying to know. :)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Good Intentions

I can’t believe I am coming up to a month since I last properly updated this blog, and for that I am sorry. My time as a Fellowcraft has been much more active than when I was an Entered Apprentice, because of this I haven’t been able to write down my thoughts both about the degree and my growth both personally and within the craft. When I started learning my catechism my mentor had the utmost confidence that I would be testable within a week, it almost felt like he was pushing me through the system. This made me feel uncomfortable because I am a slow and methodical kind of guy.

Everyone and I mean everyone kept telling me that learning the second was far easier than the first, really it wasn’t that easy. For me at least the obligation was the hardest part, while in the first it was the working tools and second part gave me the most difficulty. The obligation for the Fellowcraft doesn’t seem to have any flow to me, that’s were I seem to be hung up. After several 3 hour intense sessions, I seem to have solidified the part down and next week on my birthday (The 9th) I will test and then see when the lodge will be able to confer the third degree.

Work has been hectic, as that keeping the Craft in balance has been somewhat difficult, a lot of this is because of my travel schedule, but my dedication to the work has been unwavering, and as equally rewarding. I have more updates, but I wanted to post this first.