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.