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?”


Widow's Son said...

I certainly wouldn't want to see Masonry be like it was in 1955.

But I wouldn't mind a time machine that would take us back to, oh, 1700 England and Scotland and see just how Masonic those Masons were.

Widow's Son

Silence Dogood said...

Great post! I agree that the middle 20th century was not the glory days of Masonry. Like Widow's Son, I'd prefer to see early Freemasonry or the Masonry as practiced around the time of the American Revolution.

You mean that there is more to Masonry than fish fries, business, and letter perfect ritual?

Silence Dogood said...

BTW, I like your blog you will be added to my link list at my Masonic blog "The Middle Chamber"

Anonymous said...

I'm sure my lodge is one of the ones he'll be looking at... when I was going through, the general attitude was "you'll learn more by doing the work and helping confer other degrees -- the test shouldn't hold you back from that." And, of course, some people just aren't good at rote memorization, no matter how much we may value the ideas expressed within the words. And I've had a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas more-or-less tell me that it IS the meaning of the words that counts, not just getting certification on being able to spit them back out on demand. Of course he's no longer in the east, so with the new wave, so comes change.

I'm not against doing the work; heck I've even volunteered to be on the education committee to help teach the ones that will be under the microscope, but the Q&A is a pretty modern thing anyway. (Introduced in the 50's?) The obligation and the means of recognition are by far the most important things to know. The rest just serves as a reminder once you're learning how to confer degrees as to what comes next.

Mark said...

It is hard for me to tell just what the MWGM meant when he said "we aren't the men we used to be." If he did mean the 1950s, that is pretty sad, as it was this era--the post-World War II era--that saw a deemphasis regarding the meaning of the ritual, sad to say, in favor of the emphasis on comradery and fellowship alone, given the needs of the veterans returning from the war.

A focus on the meaning and application of the esoteric symbolism of the Craft is what may well revive Freemasonry.

Of course, to get there, you do first have to have an appreciation of the wording of the symbolism. There are different paths to that.

Catechisms have been around since the first generation of Grand Lodge Masonry. What would make it easier to memorize and internalize them, though, are three practices, at least one of which I am pretty sure is not a part of the practice in Texas.

First of all, candidates can be supplied with cypher copies of the catechism. Here in Florida, each new EA (and FC and MM) gets a cypher copy of the catechism appropriate to his degree. This cypher is the initial letter of each word of the catechism. (So, if the line of catechism read, "Freemasonry is a system of morality veiled in symbols"--which is in no catechism, of course--the cypher would read "F i a s of m v i ss.") Even with this, the catechism is hard; without it, it would simply be impossible for many brethren.

Second, we have throughout the Grand Lodge of Florida an institution called "Open Books." One Saturday a month, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., somewhere within each District, the safe is opened and the plain text of the ritual is laid out for any Master Mason to see. You can study the Master Mason catechism, the Lectures of each degree, and so on and so on. It sure is a great help.

Third--and I know that this goes beyond the catechism, to the ritual--each Master Mason is eligible to receive a copy of the Florida Masonic Code. By "code," I do not mean law or guideline: this is a first-letter-cypher of everything in the first three degrees of Masonry: opening and closing the lodge, the full ritual of the three degrees, the lectures in full. (Some parts of the lectures are monitorial, or given in plain text.)

This all makes the memory work still challenging, but also doable, without compromising our legitimate secrets.

fromdarknesstolight said...


As far as Freemasonry in America, the early 1900s seemed to be the most prolific time, both for numbers and emphesis on esotric work.

At least that's my opinion.

Bro Vick

fromdarknesstolight said...


I think that the old timers are starting to get the concept that men who are joining now, aren't doing it for the same reasons that they did. If they respect that or not is a completely different matter.

-Bro Vick

fromdarknesstolight said...


The GM's point is that if people can take the time to do the work and confer degrees they can do the work to memorize the answer and questions. Also, they started the question and answers since the start of "organized" freemasonry; it's not a new thing.

Do I agree with the GM? To a point, I do think that the question and answers is a part of our history and for me the questions and answers were more than a burden, but a chance to really sit and reflect about what you went through and what you are going through.

It's a method to make you think about the symbolism, I am currently learning all three lectures, and I have to say that I have learned more from Freemasonry by doing that, than reading any book.

-Bro Vick

fromdarknesstolight said...


I assumed that he meant the 1950s given his age is most likely when he entered the Craft. I have heard similar remarks regarding our role in the community. It is partially because the more Freemasons you have running around with bumper stickers, rings, etc. The more a community is going to notice.

As far as ciphers, this past year the Grand Lodge has authorized them, and they have some strict guidance. First, only Master Masons can own them, second they can't be used in open lodge, third they can't be shown to an EA or FC.

Also, I have never heard of "open books" in Texas, but I could be wrong.

Bro Vick

FC AF&AM TX said...

To me, much of the beauty of this wonderful poetry is in the receiving of it from my brothers in person and personal. The kindness and patience that must be a part of such a tedious and repetitious ritual are a lesson to both. The fill in conversation between sessions of learning are the stuff of which life-long friendships are made. Long live our wonderful fraternity.