Saturday, March 24, 2007

Trying to Jump Start my Masonic Journey

I had a hard time coming up with a good title for this entry, because of my current status in regards to the Craft. My time in Barksdale seems like an eternity, I was working 16 hour days, with no break until the afternoon of my last day (12 days straight). During this time, I had down time from about 10:00 pm to midnight. Before leaving for Shreveport I took “Making Light A Handbook for Freemasons”. Unlike other books available to me, I didn’t want to delve into too much of circumstantial aspects of Freemasonry. I wanted to be kept grounded in my present condition, that of Entered Apprentice. When reading it I realize how different yet the same the ritual is in Texas as it is in England. While reading the section about the first degree I came across the following quote:

Each Soul is part of the Divine whole and cannot be separated from it. You had just emerged from darkness of materialism, seeking Divine light, which is within you. The intended meaning of light here is light as a symbol of opportunity – the opportunity to discover something longed for, and a desire to emerge from the darkness of materialism and ignorance.”

For me this quote seemed to hit home the fact that some things you can’t rush, especially the Craft. The opportunity still awaits me as I returned from Shreveport, and because that opportunity still exists I am happy to reengage my Masonic teachings and move forward when the time is appropriate.

Friday, March 9, 2007


As I am typing this I am getting ready for a two week trip to lovely Shreveport, Louisiana to complete my active duty time for the Texas Air National Guard. The frustrating part is that I was about to complete my catechisms examination (for those that haven’t read, in my particular Lodge it has become customary for the catechisms to be given in two separate parts, the first being the first part, the second being the remanding two parts). So my Masonic progress in essence has been put on hold. I can’t go to a lodge in Shreveport and ask for a brother to help keep my mind fresh because the small changes from state to state in reciting the catechism. Brother Garland claims that this won’t cause more than a two week delay, and that I can take the second part and receive my Fellow Craft Degree the same night (on the 3rd of April). If I wasn’t going anywhere, I would have done this on the 20th of March. I know that two weeks don’t seem like much in the large scheme of things, but it really feels to me like a huge delay. I have had other delays work related, three weeks to be exact because of my travel schedule.

I know the Craft is not to get in the way of our usual vocation, and that it will be waiting for me when I return, but I still get a sense of frustration regarding the situation. I am considering going to one of the lodges while I am in Shreveport for Fellowship, but I don’t know if I will have time, we will see.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

A Freemason In Exile

by Bro. Richard J. Filippi.
Reprinted in part from the December 2006 Philalethes Magazine.

Five years ago I attended a special course on Civil-Military relations. The course was attended by ranking military and political members of various Middle Eastern countries. The few American officers attending were there to assist and sponsor our guests and make their stay a warm and positive experience. As one of these officers, I got to know several of the students during their two-week stay in Florida. Included in the group were four members representing the Iraqi National Congress (the then U.S. back pseudo-Iraqi government in exile). Among them was a former Iraqi Lt. Colonel who had escaped Iraq with his family after the 1990-91 Gulf War. Yarab was of Kurdish heritage and joined the ill fated, U.S. encouraged, uprising after the 1991 armistice with Saddam. He was imprisoned and only through the bravery and sacrifice of his wife and family, was able to escape and make their way to Canada via Syria, Jordon and Europe. Yarab had joined the Iraqi National Congress in hopes of one day returning a free man to his beloved country. We had many enjoyable discussions over dinner. We spoke about our upbringing, our children and our hopes and dreams. He told me that he wished one day to take me to his favorite seafood restaurant in Baghdad. This would be a good thing.

Returning to our guest rooms one evening we shared an elevator. Yarab abruptly stopped the elevator, turned and looked me square in the eyes and accusingly said, "You're one of them? - Aren't you!" I was taken back - I didn't know what he was implying. Was I what: an American, a spy, a capitalist, or a Republican? My mind raced, trying to discover an answer to his question. He then looked down toward my right hand and motioned with his eyes. Ah. Now I knew what he was asking. I responded with a muted, but neutral "Yes." At that he grasped me in an enthusiastic bear hug and with a smile beaming ear-to-ear said, "So am I - brother!" At that point, our relationship moved to another level.

He was a Freemason. He told me that to be a Freemason in Saddam's Iraq meant certain death and imprisonment of your entire family. He knew a few other Iraqi Freemason's, by their signs, words or deeds, but there were no Lodges or meetings in Iraq. Yarab told me he felt his grandfather, who was also an officer, was a Freemason. His grandfather never said he was but many years later, after Yarab was Raised, he remembered some of his grandfathers now relevant phrases, gestures and deeds from his childhood. From that moment on we were as childhood friends. Later we lost contact and I've wondered if Yarab ever got back to Baghdad.

I've gained a new respect for the tenets of Freemasonry. It is easier for us to make the commitment to a belief or organization when that choice isn't life threatening. Could we do the same if our lives and families were put in extreme jeopardy? It is a sobering thought and one that caused me to renew my vows and dedication to the brotherhood.
Sent to Cinosam by:
Bro. Dwight D. Seals