Saturday, December 22, 2012

Perfect Union #10 Annual Banquet

My lodge will be holding it's Annual Banquet on the 19th of January, with guest speaker Michael Wiggins, Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
Please see below for cost and reservations. Hope to see you all there!

Annual Banquet. 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, Holiday Inn San Antonio Airport, 77 NE Loop 410.

Speaker: Right Worshipful Michael Wiggins, Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Lodge of Texas.

Menu: Choice of Chicken Cordon Bleu with Lemon Crème Sauce or Blackened Pacific Salmon with Lemon Dill Sauce. Tea, Coffee, Rolls and Desert. Cash Bar, Door Prizes for the Ladies. Cost: $25.00 per guest, and $25.00 refundable deposit for members.

Send checks to Perfect Union Lodge #10, 7145 Park Road 37, Lakehills, TX 78063.

Back to the Alamo

On December 14th 2012, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas M: W: Walter M. Rodgers was received in Alamo Lodge #44 which was held in the Alamo.  This is an annual event that was started in 1982 by Alamo Lodge #44 to receive the newly elected Grand Master and his officers within the the confines of the sacred monument of Texas, the Alamo.  For those real long time readers of this blog, know that in 2007 was the first time I attended this event, and was disappointed in the speech given by then Grand Master M: W: Tommy Griffin, who upset over what he considered to be a slighting over the questions and answers during the examination of the candidate.  He used a phrase that today is still upsetting to me "We aren't the men we use to be".  His attempt to hearken back to circa 1955 left a bad taste in my mouth, and my general view on Grand Lodge Officers.  I will say that this past year I had the honor of meeting and having multiple talks with R: W: Griffin and have found him to be a wonderful man, and mason.

Master Masons and their guests met at the Scottish Rite Cathedral a couple of blocks away from the Alamo in their aprons.  When M: W: Rodgers arrived he was sure to introduce himself to every man in the room.  To me this was refreshing as in the past and at other Masonic events the Grand Master has a tendency to cordon himself off from the general public and surrounds himself with his advisers or other Grand Officers.  I have met M: W: Rodgers twice before tonight, but every time he is friendly and out going.

The event this time was also wonderfully coordinated this time, the procession was started by Master Masons, and their guests to the Alamo being lead by a bag piper.  This effort gave notification to the general public that we were marching towards the Alamo.  This was much better than in years past when we would gaggle from the Scottish Rite Cathedral to the Alamo.  We then formed two lines  and properly greeted our District Deputy Grand Masters and our Grand Line Officers.  From here we entered the Alamo and began the meeting.  During it M: W: Rodgers addressed the crowd and emphasized the hollowed ground and the roles that Masons played during the siege of the Alamo.

It felt good to sit in the Alamo again, it felt good after all this time, and after all that has changed.  If any Mason has a chance to participate in this event I would seriously consider it, I am not from Texas and what locals colorfully refer to as a "transplant".  Still as a man, a combat veteran and a Mason it was inspiring being in a place surrounded by my brethren.

-Bro Vick

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Confederation of French Grand Lodges Formed

Recieved this from Michael Segall on Tuesday, this is somehwat of an update from the Basle Declaration:

A historical development occurred yesterday (18 December 2012) among the regularly operating, even if not yet widely recognized, French Grand Lodges. The following statement has been published (the text between brackets is mine): “Today, the Grand Lodge of France (GLDF), the Traditional and symbolic Grand Lodge “Opera” (GLTSO), the French National Lodge (LNF, not to be confused with the GLNF), the Grand Lodge of the French Masonic Alliance (GL-AMF) and the Independent Grand Lodge of France (GLIF; constituted like the GL-AMF by the many thousands of Brethren who left the GLNF, totally out of the picture by now), have met together.”

“Sharing the same criteria of regularity and the same Universal Masonic Tradition, they agreed among themselves to start the construction a Confederation, thus demonstrating their will to reorganize the French Masonic landscape in conformity with the Basle Declaration.”

 -Bro Vick

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Great Priory of England Vote to Withdraw Recognition of the Grand Encampment of the U.S.A.

I was sent an e-mail with the below image showing of a letter from the Great Priory to Provincial Priors that on the 26th of November the Grand Master's Council voted to recommend at the 15 May 2013 Great Priory meeting that recognition be withdrawn from the Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar of the United States of America.

While reason is not stated in the letter, this most likely stems from the Grand Encampment of USA recognizing the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the U.S.A earlier this year.

As I wrote earlier, the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite is not permitted for Texas Masons, while the international developments continue...

-Bro Vick

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Motorcycle Riding Clubs and Freemasonry -- A Bad Image?

So before I start really writing this article, let me give an honest disclosure.  I am not a Motorcycle guy, I have never been attracted to them, don't care for them, and I find their culture somewhat silly.  I know that middle age men across the country find motorcycles to bring a sense of freedom, unparalleled.

The Grand Lodge of Texas has denied one Motorcycle club, Widows Sons Masonic Riders Association from being recognized as a Masonic body within the state of Texas.  I will explain this story (to the best of my abilities in a minute), but there are others including the Freemasons Riding Club and Ruffians Masonic Motorcycle Group.  These groups are ardent in their belief that they are nothing more than Master Masons that like to get together, and ride.  Some have charitable goals, others are much less formal.  Still the question that is asked is, do these groups cast a disparaging image on Freemasons?  Or are they the 21st century recruiting tool the fraternity has been searching for long and hard?

A good Masonic friend of mine referred to these groups as "Doublewide Masonry", and while the term is inflammatory it makes a point.  Masonic riding groups aren't really doing too much to spread further light in Masonry and working on the internal temple.  Rather using images among our fraternity to exploit the tough guy image of motorcycle riders and doing little more then developing cliches within an already shrinking organization.  Before you give me "its the internal not the external", I am sure you wear those vests not thinking of the image you are projecting, like Larry David said to the lady wearing a skimpy outfit "I am sure you are wearing that so people will look at your shoes."  Realize that dressing like a biker, people are going to judge you like a biker.  It is foolhardy to think you can dress that way, project a certain image, than claim that people are being "judgmental".

Still, the argument of these clubs and attracting men to Masonry has been made, and somewhat convincingly.  A member of the 3-5-7 Brotherhood a chapter of the Widows Sons wrote the following:

The Widows Sons Masonic Motorcycle Association is still a very new organization by Masonic standards being less than 15 years old. We have seen incredible growth; approximately 38 states in the US plus most territories in Canada, and countries ranging from England, Scotland, and Germany to S. Korea, Japan, and Australia, and more.

On top of it the Widows Sons claim on their website:

The Widows Sons serve as a Masonic Booster Club by helping to raise Masonic Awareness while we attend public motorcycling events, and by supporting our Blue Lodges in whatever capacity we are able. Widows Sons chapters have helped to increase Masonic membership through our presence and visibility during public motorcycle events and rallies.

While growth is a relative term here, the point still cannot be denied that these organizations, not just the Widows Sons have gained popularity in their recent past and seem to be providing an outlet to those men who wish to merge their world of motorcycles with their Freemasonry.  The question that these clubs are attracting members seems somewhat deluded.  If men are wanting to join the fraternity, to better their internal temples, than I completely endorse it, if they are joining to join this specific Riding Club, than I discourage it.

Criticisms of the Shrine include that it has little Masonic meaning or truth and deters from the Masonic principles and foundation of the blue lodge.  No one can make the argument that these Riding Clubs are somehow better than that, and every time I hear from a member "We are motorcycle enthusiasts, who happen to be Master Masons," I role my eyes.  The Shrine philanthropy is undeniable  these organizations, not so much. All I get from their "news" is new chapters opening, or new members, nothing about their charitable activities.

In Texas the Widows Sons were banned as a Masonic organization.  Really, this is hardly news, Masonic politics are nasty, we (Texas Masons) also cannot be members of the Philalethes Society, or the CBCS, so really the Widows Sons are just another organization that doesn't meet the approval of the Grand Lodge brain trust.

Reasons given for this include that the organization never provided information on whether members had to be Master Masons in good standing.  Also the patches and general image did not reflect well on Freemasonry to the general public.

The Freemasons Riding Club is legal as far as I know and the Ruffins are trying to get recognized this year.

So how do I feel about these groups?  If they are an addition to your Masonic journey, than I don't see any harm in it.  If they have become the focus of your Masonic journey, then you need to reevaluate your priorities, both in Masonry and in life.

-Bro Vick

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ninth & Tenth Degrees - Elus of the Nine & Fifteen

Towards the end of the Lodge of Perfection, the Master Mason that has been raised in a York Rite Blue Lodge starts to see the stark differences between the story told in their lodge and the story told by the Scottish Rite.  The Ninth & Tenth degrees hammer that home as the assassins were not killed, but rather survived after the third degree.  This change can be overly focused on while being communicated the degrees and the lessons kept within the two degrees can be lost as you are trying to figure out the back story vice listening to the lessons and the wonderful instructions that Pike gives.  Simply the duties that are taught in these two degrees are considered by most Masonic Scholars to be the most important, and need to be reminded daily.  They are, education, enlightenment and patriotism.  In the Scottish Rite is explained something that was curious when the Man is being raised to the third degree, and is a lesson that I find wonderful in the explanation.  The murder of Hiram Abiff is well known to all Master Masons, still the symbolism is hardly touched after a man is raised.  Here is a greater explanation, and the core teachings of these two degrees.

Hiram is first attacked and accosted at the south gate of the Temple, and is attacked by a rule.  Also, remember that Hiram was attacked and his throat was cut.  Albert Pike explains that this cutting of the throat is symbolic of the use of law to punish free speech, and to silence "a vocal minority".  We see this all the time across the world, as the use of religious laws can be perverted and made into a weapon to beat people into submission.  Pakistan has enacted "Blasphemy Laws" a couple of years ago, which is little more than  veiled attempt for the countries majority to continue to oppress and drive out the Christian minority within the country.  Being found guilty of "Blasphemy" against Islam in their country results in death (most of the time).  This isn't the brazen fronts, but simple ones, like not reading an instruction guide on Islam.  These are the type of laws that Pike warned us about, and feared the most happening in America.

Second attack Hiram was struck with a square a metal object that is formed by two rigid pieces of metal at right angles to each other; this is to represent to us the merger of religious and civil power intending to control every facet of our life, in a single word despotism.  A corner stone of Scottish Rite Freemasonry is the separation of church and state, and here again all one has to do is look across Southwest Asia where the people are victims of Ulema councils that threaten politicians and coerce them into despotism.

Lastly and the death of Hiram happens because of being hit with the Setting Maul, a blunt instrument of brute force.  This is eludes to the use of brute force to squash all intellectual thought, through intimidation and fear.  Going back to Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti was viciously gunned down in early May of 2011.  He was the only Christian member of the Pakistani cabinet and was killed by two Taliban thugs who wanted to silence his movement. The Taliban left pamphlets that read "With the blessing of Allah, the mujahideen will send each of you to hell," This act was decried by Human Rights groups and activists everywhere.  A small stabilizing force was removed from a country that is slowly falling into religious chaos.

     We have to be brave enough as men and Masons to call a spade a spade, but we have to be respectful of all peoples religious choices.  The inverse of all of this of course is the tyranny of a state that dictates how a church will run itself if it wishes to keep their tax exempt status, must allow communion or perform ceremonies contrary to the churches canons.

    With all of this written, the biggest theme for the degrees goes to toleration, something as a man and as a brother I struggle with daily.  I have lived in countries where the rule of law was oppressive  and that freedom of religion was swiftly answered by death.  So my judgments of other religions and cultures in my mind are harsh, and I try all I can not to repeat them.  I am not some uneducated redneck trying to cause a reaction, I am someone that has experienced the direct actions of these repressive regimes, and am grateful that I no longer have to endure them, while at the same time sad that they are continuing around the world.

I pray often for God to give me grace and forgiveness.  I also pray for toleration, the principle theme of these two degrees.

-Bro Vick

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brother:. Vanderlei Bagnato Becomes a Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Professor and researcher in São Carlos, Vanderlei Bagnato, a member of the A:.R:.L:.S:.

Brother:. Vanderlei Bagnato Becomes a Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Professor and researcher in São Carlos, Vanderlei Bagnato, a member of the A:.R:.L:.S:.

Star of Liberty Lodge No. 2877, member of the Lodge of São Carlos in São Paulo, was elected a member of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the world's oldest academy of this type. According to the report, Vanderlei Bagnato, who is a professor at University of São Paulo - USP, viewed the election as a honor and is very pleased that his name was chosen, since this academy is frequented by great scientists, including some who have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Vanderlei Bagnato will receive from the hands of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, the insignia of a member of the Academy in the first week of November of this year [2012]. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is an international institution, multi-racial in composition, and non-sectarian in the choice of members. The work of the Academy is in six major areas: basic science, science and technology regarding global problems; science for problems of the developing world, scientific policy, bioethics and epistemology. 

 Grand Oriente of Brazil, October 19, 2012 10:00 a.m

(Edit: I had to change this because I used four lines from a website that claims their words are magically copyrighted outside of normal fair use.  Instead of dealing with their crap I changed a source and uploaded the image.)

-Bro Vick

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grand Lodge of Arkansas Bans the Shrine (Again)

So if you are reading this and thought that this was a repeat, or an old post, you are wrong.  The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has made it a Masonic offense to be a member of the Imperial Shrine if you are a member of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.

As a member of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas you will have to self-expel yourself if you wish to continue to be a member of the Imperial Shrine, by 15 December 2012.  And so the story goes on.

Apendent bodies disagreeing with Grand Lodges is nothing new, and when ever men are involved petty differences sooner or later will overflow to others.

Below is the JPG that is floating around:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite of the United States of America is a No-Go in Texas

Earlier this month it was eluded to in the Grand Secretary's communication regarding the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed & Rectified Rite (CBCS) and the ability for Texas Masons to receive this degree.  Word I am getting from a couple of people is that Texas Freemasons at this time are not allowed to receive the degrees of the CBCS per Grand Master.  The issue is that I have not seen this edict, and it was talked around in previous communications.

As this develops I will share what I can.

EDIT: I recieved this today as a further explanation of the edict: This is the Grand Masters decision, I hope this answers any questions.

QUESTION: May a member of a constituent Lodge of the Grand Lodge of Texas accept an invitation from the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, or any related Masonic body, to take the three “Masonic” degrees of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America?

ANSWER: To: All Past Grand Masters, All Grand Lodge Officers, All Constituent Lodges and All Texas Masons

Re: Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America
WHEREAS, The Constitution and Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Article III, paragraph 1, states “that the Grand Lodge shall be the supreme Masonic authority within the State of Texas,” and further states, that the Grand Lodge shall have the power to “enact and enforce all Laws and Regulations for the government of the Fraternity, and to alter, amend, and repeal the same at pleasure,” and
WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of the Trustees of the Grand Lodge of Texas that the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America, either directly or through a subordinate organization, is contemplating chartering subordinate bodies, purporting to be “Masonic” and with said organization being under the jurisdiction or direction of, or otherwise affiliated with, the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America, WHEREAS, the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite of the United States of America has been declared to be “irregular” by the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, and

WHEREAS, The Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar has requested that the Grand Lodge of Texas permit members of Texas Lodges to take three “Masonic” degrees of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite by invitation only.

NOW, THEREFORE, as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas, the following decision is effective immediately:

That NO subordinate or affiliated body of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite operating under the auspices of the Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite or of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America shall be chartered, formed or permitted to operate within the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Further, that no Texas Mason witness or be involved in any way with the said Grand Priory of the Scottish Reformed and Rectified Rite degrees. Any Texas Mason who is currently a member of such shall immediately do whatever necessary to renounce membership in said organization.

-Bro Vick

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 2012 = Craziest Month for all things Masonic

October has become a very busy month for me, Masonically speaking.  Every weekend has been full of something new for me in Freemasonry.  On the 8th and 9th of October we had Grand Chapter and Grand Council here in Texas.  This was my first "Grand" event, as I have never been to Grand Lodge during my time as a Freemason (mainly because I have yet to be elected as a Warden).  During this I received the following two chair degrees:

The Order of High Priesthood:  This degree is a side or "chair" degree, and is conferred upon present or part High Priests, which is done during the Grand Chapter's annual grand convocation.  It tells the story of Abraham returning from the slaughter of kings, and his encounter with Melchizedek, High Priest of Salem.  the degree was interesting to behold, and I would say anyone that meets the qualifications can and should take it.  Another interesting note is that this degree is really despised by Evangelical Christians as being a mockery of Christ, I didn't see it when going through the degree, still some will always see what the want to see.

The Order of the Silver Trowel:  This degree is also a side or "chair" degree and is conferred on past and present Illustrious Masters.  This degree when performed properly is excellent to behold, in this degree the candidate is made to represent the young King Solomon in both sections.  In the first section, the candidate learned of the conspiracy by his half-brother Adonijah, to wrest the throne from Solomon.  He also learns of his mother (Bathsheba) interceding with the elder King David to precent this.  After securing David's approval, Solomon is symbolically conducted to Gihon by Benaiah where he is duly obligated  anointed and hailed as King by Nathan the prophet and Zadok, the High Priest.  The second section when done properly (which was excellent when I received it), Solomon is brought before his dying father David and instructed.  It was touching in the sense that every man who has faced an elder patriarch figure passing, knows the scene too well.  Honestly, if you in your Masonic travels have the opportunity to receive this degree, you should.

On the 13th of October I was invited and initiated into the Order of St. Thomas of Acon, which is an honor I hold dearly.  While there are those that believe that defined religious (Christian in all cases) orders within Freemasonry has no place, I would disagree.  I found the oath within the Order of St. Thomas of Acon beautiful, and honestly one of the most touching oaths I have taken in my time in Freemasonry.  I am greatly honored to be a part of this order.

On the  26th of October I will be initiated in the Order of Knight Masons, also referred to as the Green Degrees.

These degrees have really inspired me through further light in Freemasonry, I am very grateful for the companions and Sir Knights that performed them, my mind is still spinning trying to take it all in.

-Bro Vick

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Fifth Degree -- Perfect Master

As a Master Mason when you go through the Scottish Rite degrees in America, it is fast and furious, and depending on the location, can happen in one or one and  a half days.  Men when going through the degrees are either trying to take it all in, or completely falling asleep.  I tried to pay attention to everything I possibly could to ensure that I was getting it all.

In the very beginning, after the fourth degree we were communicated the fifth degree of the Scottish Rite.  It is interesting as that  lot of Scottish Rite Masons gloss over this degree, you see a lot of the more esotric, specifically the higher degrees, but ones like the Perfect Master are just kind of lost in the wash.  Part of it is the degree itself isn't that mysterious, nor is it veiled in symbols, it is constructed over the notion that life is short, so make every day possible productive towards mankind.  For some reason this degree had a profound impact on me.

In a Bridge to Light we are instructed that up until 1937 candidates had to sit down and write out their last will and testament before the start of the degree, this isn't uncommon in the Scottish Rite back in the day, but was done more for the candidate to start thinking earnestly and honestly about their mortality.  Before a man deploys he is required to get a last will and testament, before my last deployment I got all of my paperwork in order, including and up to funeral arrangements to ensure that my family would not have arguments if I was to be buried in Texas or Colorado (it was/is Texas by the way).

Staring death in the face is something that every adult, and specifically every man does in his lifetime, if he doesn't or doesn't know he is doing it, than he is far more of a fool than anyone else.  When you go to a funeral, and leave if you don't reflect upon your deeds and your life, then you are far more delusional than most.  That a measure of ones life cannot be in years but in acts of accomplishment both for himself and for society.  This message had an impact in my life shortly after I graduated college.  In college I was far from the best student, always looking for the shortcut to get my degree, and not really caring about the lasting impacts of this attitude.  When I deployed for this country, I did it balls to wall, I didn't do it to check a box, or to further my civilian career (as others have done).  I didn't spend three hours at the gym and hours playing videos games.  If I had nothing to do, I would read, read, and read some more on Afghanistan.  This fulfillment of my time made it that I don't look back on those events with much regret.  We have to see death as a catalyst, mourning brings regret to man, and makes him reflect on his wasted days, the following quote always comes to mind:

‎"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good." 
 Author Unknown    

Reminders of this degree are virtuous and necessary when a man is battling complacency of life and becoming lazy after accomplishment.  Still, we as Freemasons cannot become worshipers of death, I have been around men and women where their entire life revolves around dying, and that is something that we do not want to become.  Death cannot offer you any type of salvation of your soul or a healthy matter in which to live your life.

Be mindful of everyday

Be mindful of mortality

Don't allow death to consume you, but motivate your actions, to always strive for more

-Bro Vick    

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Do You Use the Trowel for the Spreading of Brotherly Love or Resentment

   First, my recent disappearance has been because we moved, and renovated, neither of which was a lot of fun.  I am very thankful and lucky to be a homeowner again, it has been 2 years, and I am grateful.  Secondly, I have been active in my real life Masonic pursuits, including leading up a couple of apendent bodies, working in my Blue Lodge line-up.  This is of course is coupled with my other obligations of work and serving this country as a reservist.

   Also, and I will be honest, I haven't gotten the most glowing reviews lately, and apparently have pushed some of you off from my writings.  This includes my criticism in the establishment of the Masonic Rangering Company here in Texas and the execution of Traditional Observance Lodges, across the country.  I will address these both separately:

Masonic Rangering Company:  I am not alone in my issues with this organization and it as it isn't providing any further light for Masonry and seems to be more of an expansive Square and Compasses club than anything else.  The amount of effort put into this very niche masonic organization by our Grand Lodge, doesn't seem like the best use of resources, both financial and human capital.  I was decried because it gave some non-masonic critics fodder, to which I say "So?"  This happens all the time, and I didn't post anything that was secret or not readily available to the general public.  The Masonic Rangering Company still moves on despite my post, and I doubt it will go away anytime soon, but I did exercise my right to not agree with the organization, which is completely legitimate.

Traditional Observance Lodges:  My intention of this post was to show that Traditional Observance lodges while very appealing broadly to "younger" masons has been lacking in the execution department.  The belief that a Masonic concept is somehow above reproach is completely irrational.  The crux of the matter is simply that TO/EO lodges don't have the ability to start daughter lodges in North America (not that I am aware of), this makes the lodge in theory stagnate after 30-50 members, and breeds a level of cronyism and nepotism that is much higher than in a standard blue lodge, inventing in essence an invitational blue lodge.  Another cultural disconnect is that Past Master and PDDGM don't carry the weight in Europe that it does in the states as a form of rank and structure, which add to the cronyism and nepotism.

For the record, I don't believe that Traditional Observance Lodges cast any disparagement on our fraternity, that the practices of TO/EO concepts is irregular or clandestine, or that current standard blue lodges are just fine the way they are.  On the flip side, the belief that TO is the only thing that is going to somehow going to magically save our fraternity when it copyrights it rituals, has had high fees associated with it in the past, and ignores the issues above, isn't doing them any favors, and denial of it doesn't bode well.

My intent of these two articles, was not to spread resentment, and it saddens me that some of you have taken them personally.  Some of you stop communicating with me entirely, and again, my apologies if my message came across poorly.

I always want to use the trowel for the spreading of brotherly love, not resentment.

-Bro Vick

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: Freemason Philosophy of the 21st Century by Bro. Jack Buta

Masonic author and Masonic Legend Bro Jack Buta wrote a book about Freemason Philosophy in the 21st Century.  It was serendipitous that Bro Buta put out a call for reviewers of his new book, and that I just completed the journey of the Scottish Rite.  For those that know me, I joined Chapter, Council and Commandery shortly after being raised (4-5 months).  I stayed in the York Rite, this was in part because of my deployment schedule, but also because I really enjoy the degrees and the lessons they bestow on us as Freemasons.  I waited 5 years until I received the degrees of the Scottish Rite, which is five more than most active Freemasons wait, still it was worth it.  After going through the reunion my head felt full, like there was so much information, that there was no way that I could mentally digest it all.  When you go through a Reunion you have two choices, try to take it all in, or fall asleep, I decided the former was better.

Still, the symbolism and the degrees are so much that it was like an entire menu at a fine restaurant, put in a blender and force feed to you, directly in your stomach.  When I got done, I was drained, came home and slept, much to annoyance of my wife.

Bro Buta's book is an attempt to help a Freemason like myself who had just gotten the degrees communicated to him a chance to internalize and understand what each degree means.  He does this by calling on three staples of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Morals and Dogma, A Bridge to Light and Scottish Rite Monitor and Guide.  Bro Buta in plan terms explains both the degree, it's direct impact on both himself and every man and highlights Albert Pikes lectures.  The book in my opinion, should be read by every newly minted 32nd SR Mason, as it allows for us to start the journey to understand the beauty and symbolism of the degrees.  Bro Buta wove into the book his personal experiences in life and how the degrees manifested themselves for him, which I thought was beautiful.  Some of the stories I knew before, interacting with Bro Buta since I was first initiated, but took these stories took on even greater meaning reading them here.

Purist and esoteric nerds will sit and complain that Bro Buta is projecting the degrees onto others, but frankly we have to start somewhere, and Bro Buta does just that, he gives you a start.  Well written and very readable, Bro Buta put together a book that I would handily recommend to any brother starting his SR journey.

The criticism I have of the book is Bro Buta does show his hand a little bit on the politics side of things, which is in the vein of Pike during his day.  Freemasonry in America is devoid of any political discussion to keep lodges from tearing themselves apart, still to say that the degrees don't have an impact on our political view points is a lie.  I personally didn't agree with some of Bro Buta's assertions that the invasion of Iraq was directly from the attacks of 9/11, yet he claims it several times in his book.  The emotional nature of these things can turn a reader off to his message, and offend their senses.  I knew what Bro Buta's intent was, but some may lose it along the way.

If you are a newly minted Scottish Rite Mason or if you have been at it for a long time, I would recommend this book, if nothing more than to reground yourself in the message that Albert Pike was trying to bestow on us, without reading Pike of course.  :)

I will write more of my Scottish Rite experience later, and this book has greatly help in the first steps.

-Bro Vick

Bro Buta's Book on

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Grand Lodge De France Federal Council Responds to the Declaration of Basel

     I received this yesterday, but it appears that that the Grand Lodge de France had a tiled meeting to discuss the results of the Declaration of Basel and it's intended path forward. The Grand Master has in essence said that he completely agrees with Declaration of Basel and feels that the GLdF has always been and always be the only regular form of Freemasonry in France. GLdF also believes that in France is the only one that has a sound tradition of the Scottish Rite.

    While to the outsider it would be reasonable assumption that the GLdF may become the only recognized form of Freemasonry in France, it is not that simple. The GLdF and UGLE haven't had a great history together and splinter groups from the GLNF are fighting each other for both control of name of GLNF and more importantly UGLE's recognition. French Freemasonry has been a place of contention and confusion for most Western Freemasons.

 While I would like to be optimistic regarding the future of both the GLdF and French Freemasonry, history has dictated otherwise. Below is the translated document from the GLdF:


The Federal Council of the Grand Lodge of France, in its formal meeting of Wednesday, June 13, 2012, -- after learning of the "Basel Declaration", co-signed June 9, 2012 by the Grand Lodges of Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and -- heard the Most Worshipful Grand Master Alain-Noël Dubart report on the exchanges of views started in accordance with the mandate he was given on September 9, 2011, 

 • notes the withdrawal of the recognition of the French National Grand Lodge by these Jurisdictions and the break of their Masonic relations. 

 • welcomes the fact that the views of these five Grand Lodges concerning the Grand Lodge of France appears to conform to the reality concerning the quality of the latter’s Brothers and the regularity of their work. 

 • reminds everyone that the Grand Lodge of France has always been, since its origins dating back nearly three centuries, in the purest tradition of universal Freemasonry and the fundamental principles of the Scottish Rite. 

 • notes that it is from now on possible to engage the necessary reflections concerning the recomposing of the French Masonic landscape. 

 • gives mandate to the MW Brother Alain-Noël Dubart and the RW Brothers Alain Pigeau and Jean-Jacques Zambrowski, current Grand Master, Grand Orator and Grand Chancellor, to continue the current exchanges and achieve, under the authority of the next Most Worshipful Grand Master, the restoration of the historical ties reuniting the Grand Lodges working in accordance with the Universal Masonic Tradition. 

 • endorses the will of the Most Worshipful Grand Master not to exclude any Brother from this restructuring, whatever the latter’s practice and Grand Lodge. 

Jean-Noël Dubart

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Edict From Masonic Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory

See below from Australia, it appears as the Grand Master has directly defined what is considered 'esoteric' within the confines of his definition of Freemasonry. He also outlines what is not "esoteric" as "occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these." The argument for this edit was that there were certain lines and teachings occurring that were about as closely related to Freemasonry as I am related to the president of the United States.

Charges are that certain Freemasons were using the term 'esoteric' as a way to teach/preach non-mainstream religious tendencies and as a recruitment tool within the order. The glaring issue is that of course this stifles any discussions of the above and how Freemasonry works and is inspired by them. Rosicrucianism for instance is still a topic of debate and its influence on Freemasonry (some believe it was the foundation, others deny that as its foundation on faith, hope and charity). The issue with this edict is that stifles these types of debates, academic research, etc.

 On the other hand the use of Freemasonry as a recruiting tactic for some cult should be addressed as it has the potential to bring serious shame to our order. I don't believe that this edict was the right approach to curb illegal recruitment, but will cause stagnation in the spiritual growth of a Freemason, no matter path it may take him.


-Bro Vick

 GRAND MASTER'S EDICT ANNOUNCED AT THE GRAND COMMUNICATION - 13th JUNE, 2012 On 12 May 2010 the Board of Management passed a resolution stating the principles governing esoteric research. These principles are central to the practice of Regular Freemasonry. In order that there be no doubt that they bind every brother and Lodge in this jurisdiction I have decided to make them the subject of a Grand Master's edict. At my request the Board of Management has rescinded its resolution so that it may be substituted with the following edict which takes effect immediately.

 1. Authorised, official Masonic Education and Instruction is only 'Regular' when applied to Free and Accepted or Speculative Masonry (Regular Freemasonry).

 2. Because of the widely divergent interpretations which can be placed upon it, I am concerned about the unqualified use of the word "esoteric", or any of its derivatives or extensions, within Regular Freemasonry. Such use needs to be avoided as it has been and can be misconstrued to the detriment of the Craft.

 3. I encourage all Masons to make daily progress in the acquisition of Masonic knowledge. Speculation and discussion within the Landmarks of the Order are to be commended.

 4. Within Regular Freemasonry, interpretive discussion and exposition concern only the progressive acquisition of Masonic knowledge towards an understanding of the secrets and mysteries of the Craft, promoting the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. To avoid any misapprehension, such regular discussion and exposition shall be described as "speculative" and the term "esoteric" shall not be applied.

5. Regular Freemasonry does not permit within it any form of esotericism which encompasses or tends towards – occultism, sorcery, alchemy, astrology, profane mysticism, transcendentalism, supernaturalism, druidism, rosicrucianism, satanism or any concept or movement related to any of these. The presentation, endorsement and/or promotion of such subjects in any Lodge holding under the UGL of NSW and ACT whether the Lodge be open, adjourned, at refreshment or closed or at any connected or associated Lodge function should be deemed irregular and is strictly forbidden.

 6. Any breach of this Edict constitutes serious unmasonic conduct and shall be treated accordingly.

 7. The Grand Master from time to time may grant dispensations to permit the presentation of papers on esotericism which would otherwise constitute a breach of this edict. A dispensation may be granted on such terms and conditions as the Grand Master may impose. An application for a dispensation must be made to the Grand Master in writing through the Grand Secretary. Normally it will only be granted if the proposed paper is a genuine and proper piece of masonic research.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Declaration of Basel

Received this today, it appears that from the meeting of the Grand Lodges of Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland have put out the Declaration of Basel:

Two major points that were highlighted:

1)  All five Grand Lodges have decided to withdraw recognition from the Grande Lodge Nationale Francaise

2)  The Grand Lodges have called on teh Grand Lodge de France to "step up to the plate", from the declaration:

"The five Grand Lodges believe therefore, that there is an historic chance for the Grand Lodge de France to realise its aspiration assuming all the necessary choices are complied with, especially the need
 - to continue work in accordance with the fundamental principles of regular freemasonry.
- to sever unambiguously remaining links with irregular Obediences
- to respect the international customs and traditions governing the relation between a Grand Lodge and a Supreme Council"

While not a surprise, interesting enough.

-Bro Vick

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Late Memorial Day Masonic Post

     I have been kicking around this post for the last couple of weeks, but never realize I could wrap it into Memorial Day as well.  Personally Memorial Day was rough this last time around, while I was in Afghanistan last year I was excited and getting ready to come home, so I didn't care much, the year before that I was getting ready to go back into a combat zone (I deployed right after memorial day).  Now?  I am living my life again, dealing with the day-to-day events in life and just trying to move on.

     A couple of weeks ago Phoenixmasonry posted a short article on a Scottish Rite 32nd Degree Jewel, which I found fascinating.  For the record I am not a Scottish Rite member, while right now the plan is for me to receive the degrees 9 June, I have yet to become one.  Still what I found so neat about the article wasn't the short history of the Scottish Rite but the design of the old Jewel which striking very similar to the combat medal Bronze Star:

As you can see from above the similarities between the two are striking.  The color format is dead on between the two, down to the white border on the blue.  Is this some freak coincidence?  I couldn't find much out about the date of the design of the jewel, vice the well known documentation of origins of the Bronze Star.  Rudolf Freund who was a jeweler who lived from 1877 - 1960 and worked for the firm Bailey, Banks and Biddle  was the designer of the Bronze Star.  As of the writing of this article I could find no Masonic connections between Rudolf Freund and Freemasonry.  Still I find the resemblance uncanny.  Military service and Freemasonry have gone hand-in-hand since the birth of this nation, and will continue to do.  Images like these, regardless of their origins remind me of that every time I look at the symbolism our great Fraternity offers the world.

I hope everyone had a peaceful and reflective Memorial Day.

-Bro Vick 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cigar Festivals and Freemasonry

For those that don't know, I am a big cigar fan, smoking 2-5 a week.  I find cigars to be an enjoyable time, that allows for self reflection, indulging in a simple pleasure that have been around for centuries.  I always liked cigars, but really got into them after my long stint deployed.  Cigars became a facet of all things downtime while in country.  Men would congregate in from a couple to 100+ to enjoy cigars and each others companies.  We smoked cigars when returning from a mission, or when morning a loss, cigars were there for us.  Men who rarely or never smoked were suddenly smoking and drinking coffee, and reflecting on the current events in one of the most inhospitable places in the world.  Cigar smoking had become a comfort for me, that I cannot put into words properly.

The cigar industry has faced its booms and busts, in the mid 90s with the popularity of Bill Clinton (before the scandal) and then busted in the early 2000s.  Cigar consumption started to rise again with the industry moving from mild sweet cigars to medium and full tasting cigars.  Brands started to emerge with fast and slick names and companies that have been around for over a century (H. UPMANN) are relatively unknown to new cigar smokers unlike the flashy and hip brands like Gurkha that as of the writing of this have 62 different types of cigars (not including sizes), which are in my opinion, poorly made and hardly distinguishable from one to the next.  This boom and with the FDA wanting to regulate the premium cigars has caused cigar festivals to pop up in most metropolitan areas, showing a level of unity within the cigar smoking community.

The cigar industry has been touting itself as a semblance of moderation and that cigar smokers unlike cigarette smokers do it once in a while and the activity isn't compulsory.  Cigar smokers are constantly railing against studies of the harmful effects of cigar smoke as they are conducted with mass produced (Swisher Sweets for instance) products and habitual use.

The problem with the cigar industry isn't cigars themselves, but the people who smoke them.

I attended  the Lone Star Cigar Fest, in which vendors and cigar consumers get together to smoke the latest brands, enjoy conversation and fellowship.  My wife hates the fact that I smoke cigars, and hated my attending this festival even more.  So attending stag and with no friends, I was dismayed at what I saw.  While the event was everything it was advertised to be, I think I was one of a dozen men who wasn't obese or wearing an Hawaiian shirt.  The health problems of the individuals attending was palatable, and not the picture of moderation that the cigar industry claims its clients are.

You are most likely thinking (if you read this far) "Wow, you are a shallow jerk."

You are right, I am a jerk.

Still we are judged everyday on our appearance, I didn't grow a beard in Afghanistan as a fashion statement, but as a sign of culture respect (even though Afghans constantly accused me of being Al Qaeda, but that is a different story).  Appearance is a fundamental aspect of how we judge one another cross culture, and who we associate with, it's called Social Identity Theory.

So what does this have to do with Freemasonry?

Freemasonry also has tried to shake its stereotypes, in spite of it's members.  To remove the stigma as a secret society bent on world domination, lodges have open houses and community events to show that it is a society, that has secrets, not a secret society.  Still the lingering accusation of it being an "old mans club" isn't going away soon, and something much more difficult to remove.  The Baby Boomer generation all but abandoning anything that their fathers did, along with complacency has caused stagnation that our great fraternity will feel for decades to come.  There is no easy fix to this, not Traditional Observance Lodges or European Concept Lodges, not large and in charge on-line presence, and not flash in the pan advertising slogans.  Younger masons need to be proud of our Masonic heritage, and hold our elders in the utmost regard as they have worked long and hard in the Work, and have done much for spreading the light of our fraternity.  Still, we can't ignore the image problem that we have, and must find a way to tackle it in productive long term manner.

The elderly image we keep putting up is most likely causing us a lot more harm than good that can come from it.  We have to address this issue in a mature and respectful manner, not throw away the work of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, for slick slogans and shunning of their participation in our great fraternity, nor lock them away or be ashamed of their participation.

I don't have a solution or a manifesto to fix Freemasonry, I work for a living.  But I do know that I will pick the H Upmann any day of the week over the flash in the pan cigar, with a kick ass band.  The same goes for my Freemasonry.

-Bro Vick (The Jerk) 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Intervisitation Talks to Start Between the Grand Lodge of Texas and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas

A quick note, I have been told (yet to be verified, so take it with some salt) that on the 12th of May 2012 delegates from the Grand Lodge of Texas and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas will start discussions on intervisitation.

Right now the Grand Lodge of Texas recognizes the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, but intervisitation between the too groups is still forbidden.  It has been expressed to me that both sides have serious reservations about allowing intervistation, hopefully these talks, if they are happening, will start to address these issues, and progress can be made.

If any other information comes to light, or that I am allowed to publish, I will be happy to do so.

-Bro Vick  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Past Grand Master has been expelled – So don’t Gloat

                If you are remotely active in the on-line Masonic community you know that the announcement was made by the Grand Lodge of New York of the expulsion of PGM Neal Ivan Bidnick.  The Masonic community on-line and nationally will have two typical responses:

1)      Gloating and I told you so by Masonic Self-Righteous Crusaders who have a disdain for most Mainstream or whatever euphemism you want to use for Regular and Constituted lodges.  Who wag the finger of shame either at the Grand Lodge, Grand Lodge Officer or whatever body as an example of a decaying disease that is American Freemasonry.

2)  Those that feel that this public information is damaging to the image of Freemasonry and should not be made available to the profane for fear that it will be used to fuel anti-masonic sentiments and an unjust portrayal of American Freemasonry.

Freemasonry politics are like Academic politics, people act very dirty sometimes because there is nothing to lose.  I know this is shocking considering the teachings of our institution, but men will be men.   Sometimes men will act unreasonable, abuse their power, and cause blights on the organization that they have dedicated so much for.

Sacrificing two years of my life for this country, leaving my wife, my job and the comforts of my home to live and fight in a country that has become the cradle of international terrorism, I have seen the worse of humanity.  I have read the same stories that everyone else has of men posing with the dead, body parts, etc.  The reporting of these events, while unfortunate, allow for others to not indulge in this activity, to not urinate on dead bodies, etc.  It reminds us that we are accountable for our actions, and something done in the moment of passion, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay the consequences for the rest of your life.  I don’t begrudge the press for reporting these events, and I don’t think it should be hidden, as it helps prevent future activity.  We have to be held accountable to the American public, as we ultimately work for them.

Conversely, the glee and gloating that some show over this activity and outright “told you so”, is bad karma at best, malicious and cruel at worse.  I understand that men out there have been, for lack of a better term, screwed over by their lodge, or Grand Lodge.  I know too well the sting one feels when their lodge treats them less than brotherly.  Heck, my last post on the Major John B. Jones Masonic Rangering Company I received thinly veiled threats that men were going to Grand Lodge, to which I said “go”.  If I can’t publically question the purpose of a Masonic organization, then there is a lot more wrong with Freemasonry than men blogging about Freemasons.  Still, don’t be so happy about a Grand Lodge, or Grand Lodge officer screwing up, it makes you look petty and casting the first stone, when you most likely don’t have room to talk.

The rules of Freemasonry that we are to live by are different than rules of most institutions.  They are meant to be internally enforced, from within vice a military or government entity where the rules are enforced on the outside in.  The building of our internal temples must be enforced from within, not from outside pressures.

I know that the actions of Mr. Bidnick and the Grand Lodge of New York are not the first to happen in Freemasonry, it certainly won’t be the last.  How we behave with the news of this, and learn from it, is much more important than the act itself.

-Bro Vick

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maj John B. Jones Masonic Rangering Company - What's the Point?

This past Grand Lodge of Texas session, under article 242 was established the Maj John B. Jones Masonic Rangering Company. What is this organization, that is a question I have been asking myself for a while now, and am still unclear of the answer.

By the websites own words it allows for lodges for a small fee of $500.00 to register their lodge as a "Ranger Camp". While it is clear that the portion of the fee goes, to "...for each RANGER CAMP will go to the Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum, and a portion of it will be allocated to a special Major John B. Jones exhibit in the Texas Rangers Heritage Center." It seems to be little more than anything else except a title and a number afterwards.

An individual Mason in good standing in Texas can join the Masonic Rangering Company for a small fee:

Memberships Levels Available


Private $ 500.00

Sergeant $1,000.00

Lieutenant $1,500.00

Captain $2,500.00

Major $5,000.00

Now I am sure you are all asking yourselves, so for this fee what do we get. Again according to the website, "Each member will receive a 16” x 20” framed certificate confirming their commission (which will be personally signed by a former Texas Ranger), a unique Masonic/Ranger lapel pin, an official ID card, a window decal and a subscription to Straight Talk, the newsmagazine of the Former Texas Rangers Foundation. TEN (10) percent of all membership fees will be donated IN YOUR NAME to the Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum. "

There you have it, I have summed up the Maj John B. Jones Masonic Rangering Company. After finding out about this, and reading about it, I am perplexed as to why this organization exists outside of donations made to both the Grand Lodge library and to the Former Texas Rangers Foundation, does little more. While there are Masonic related groups that are specific to their trade, National Sojourners for instance is a Masonic organization that you need to be an E-7 or higher to be a member of as a Mason. But this organization doesn't have being a Texas Ranger as being a membership requirement, I mean you can buy your status within the organization, even though I am unclear of what the rank equates to outside of donation levels.

So again, I ask, what's the point?

To add to this situation the Comanche Nation is upset about the establishment of the Former Texas Ranger Museum, in recent public statement the Comanche Nation wrote:

"Fight with us to stop the Former Texas Rangers construction project at Fort Martin Scott. We will build the powwow arena which was promised to the Comanche Nation by the City of Fredericksburg 10 years ago before the rangers got the idea to ruin this important natural, cultural landscape and as well as our legacy of peace and diplomacy."

Is this another hornets nest that we need to get involved in? When you join a portion of your fee goes to support this museum, which the Comanche Nation takes exception to (for it's location, not necessarily the concept).

Now, I am not disparaging this new Masonic organization, but is this the best use of our limited resources and efforts? Does this organization spread further light, or is nothing more than a fund raiser with Masonic written all over it?

As a Past Nothing, I know my thoughts are worth next nothing (and little more as a PM), but I can't see how this advances Freemasonry in Texas, and provides more light. With all of the national organizations that are available to provide our brethren with further light, why was this a priority?

I doubt I will ever really get these questions answered, but I wanted to ask the question.

-Bro Vick

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leadership In Freemasonry - A Complicated Problem

For those that don't I am currently getting caught up on all of my military education that I missed during my marathon deployments. During this time as an officer I have to learn many different types of leadership styles, models etc. As I do this, I can't help to think about how this effects me and my lodge and everything we do. I notice that rarely do officer of a lodge or even a master think about such things. While we do have Warden Retreats in Texas, they seem much more pragmatic and teach the 3 top officers more how to handle common "Masonic" situations.

What I want to discuss here is more of the culture of leadership that Freemasonry should be adopting, and what it currently is adopting my from my humble view and little experience. First for those of you that aren't familiar with the concept of Full Range Leadership Model (FRLM), a graphic representation of this concept is shown below (courtesy of Michael Murray and Associates Pty Ltd - Australia):

If you look at the model most lodges and I would say Freemasonry overall has not moved much past the Laissez-Faire/Transactional portion of the model, and rarely to the Transformational portion here are some examples of what I have witnessed:

Laissez-Faire(LF) Hands-Off Leadership: The WM and the Wardens do very little during their time in a leadership position, lets the Past Masters run the show, waiting to move onto the next chair.

Management by Exception (MBE) Passive: The WM and the Wardens will only deal with issues as they arise (usually by a Past Master), are constantly putting out fires, instead of understanding the cause of the fires.

Management by Exception (MBE) Active: This is where the WM the Wardens will organize degree practices, ensure members are properly instructed and monitor performance and give corrections as needed. This also true in monitoring the performances of the deacons and the stewards, correcting as necessary.

Contingent Reward: This is used all the time in Freemasonry, honors, advancement in degrees, invitations into invitational only societies, Golden Trowel Award, etc. It's the "carrot-and-stick approach". While sometimes in Freemasonry it is clearly outlined "If you pass your catechism for your first degree, you will advance to the second". Other times it is inferred or the standard is in the mind of the individual trying to obtain it.

The third portion of the model is the Transformational, also known as the 5Is, illustrated below (provided by Transformational Leadership Coaching and Consulting, LLC):

The 5Is as these happen every day in Freemasonry as well, here are some examples:

Individual Consideration - Caring

Intellectual Stimulation - Thinking

Inspirational Motivation - Charming

Idealized Influence - Influencing

Now, I am sure that others reading this like myself have experienced men who have provided the above to you during your Masonic journey, we need to strive to be those men all the time. I didn't use examples up there, because I would hope that they are a little bit more self explanatory than the Transactional and Laissez-Faire methods.

So how do we try to build a Fraternity to be more Transformational and less Transactional? I have no magic answer, but after all of the readings and leadership methods one that did stand out as a possibility was the concept of Servant Leadership. Honestly I haven't heard of this concept until six weeks ago, and it was given by GEN Lorenz, who isn't really what I would think of as servant leader, but that is for another post and another blog.

Robert K. Greenleaf developed the 10 characteristics that are central to the development of a servant leader:

Listening: In all business or organizations communication skills are a requirement for any type of success. According to the philosophy of servant leadership the servant leader listens actively to "subordinates" and support them in decision identification. I personally can't stand the term actively listening, because to me it's some flag officer who is trying to find a question to ask you and not really listening to what you have to say, but I think that everyone can agree that is a key component to any successful leader.

Empathy: A Servant Leader attempts to understand and empathize with others. Freemasonry at times completely fails at this as when concerns are sometimes brought up and the old line "It has always been done this way..." gets thrown around. As Freemason leaders we need to respect and appreciate our brothers personal development.

Healing: The Servant Leader has the ability to heal one's self and others. A servant leader tries to help brothers solve their problems and conflicts in relationships, the only way a brother is to grow is to help solve their conflicts in relationships. I am fully aware that in Freemasonry more so than in any business or government model this is much easier said than done, experiencing my own upsetness in treatment by my fellow brothers. We have to try, otherwise, what is the point?

Awareness: As leaders and brothers we need to have an integrated and "holistic" position. Try not to look at a situation through a narrow focus or a prism of preconceptions. This again is one of those things that seem much easier said than done, but does not negate the fact that it needs to be done.

Persuasion: This is by far the most abused in our Brotherhood. As a Servant Leader we should not take advantage of any power we are granted by our brethren. Yet almost monthly we hear rumors, see communications of brothers in powerful positions coercing compliance rather to try and convince those they manage, and ultimately serve.

Conceptualization: This is also one of those "long-pole in the tent" issues that seemingly plagues Freemasonry. WM, PM and other brothers get so wrapped up in the day-to-day realities that they can't seem to focus on the long term goals of the fraternity. Most I would almost dare say don't know what their lodges long term goals are, if they have ever been allowed to be developed. I am talking of course beyond the bumper sticker saying of "Making Good Men Better". A Servant Leader has a personal vision, and he can derive specific goals and implement his strategies to make them a reality, again another reality in Freemasonry that is difficult to achieve.

Foresight: Foresight is where a lot of younger Masons fail, as their good intentions sometimes aren't realized as an outcome of a situation. A servant leader must learn from the past of a situation, understand why it is the way it is, before going in and changing things for the sake of change and not fully understanding the current reality. War gaming a situation is far better than flying into a situation you aren't fully aware of or understand the consequences of your actions.

Stewardship: We hold Freemasonry and the brotherhood of man in trust for the greater good of society. Servant leaders covet openness and persuasion over the importance of control. This again has been a major compliant against the highest levels of some jurisdictions, as complaints have been waged that the Grand Master of State X isn't a good steward of the Fraternity.

Commitment to the growth of people: We as servant leaders of the fraternity have to see that brothers have an intrinsic value beyond paying dues or getting pushed into a line-up. We have to ensure that our brothers a growing everyday through our great fraternity. If that means a lodge sending more than just the Wardens and WM to the Annual Communication, than that is an investment the lodge should consider making. Spending money on the masonic growth of our brothers should not be off the table.

Building community: While this should be second nature to any fraternal order, we have to remember to continue to build our internal community based on our fundamental beliefs, and not a supper club, or any of the other negative terms that are sometimes used to describe our ancient order.

The biggest compliant that CEOs and other industry leaders have with the Servant Leader method is that it takes a long time to change their companies leaders perception, but for any Freemason reading this, he knows that isn't anything new.

Like I wrote earlier, this is a difficult and complex problem. I know some will write off what I wrote here as being worthless as I haven't sat in the East. I have worked with some of the most famous and powerful military leaders in our country, and while they don't employee all of the servant leadership tenants all the time, the show the right ones at the right time, and that is honestly what makes them great.

On a related note, Masonic Legend Bro Jack Buta was offering a Masonic Leadership Seminar last week, and Servant Leadership is part of his curriculum, he also offers it at the Freemasons Academy. It might be worth checking out if you want to learn more about being a leader in your Masonic community.

-Bro Vick

Friday, February 10, 2012

Red Fez Burger

For those of you in the Shrine, be the hit of your next cookout with the Red Fez burger! Here is the link for the Red Fez Burger, even though it doesn't mention whether one has to go through the hot sands, whatever that is.

-Bro Vick

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Beginning History of Freemasonry in Iran According to Jafar Golshan

Latest news out of Iran is that a session was held on 1 January 2012 (the article says 2011, but that is most likely a mistake) to discuss a release of a compendium regarding "The Beginning of Freemasonry in Iran" in Tehran. It appears that it outlines the beginnings and dealings of Freemasonry within the Shah's regime. You can read more about it here:

The Beginning History of Freemasonry in Iran

Because this appears to be approved for release by a tightly controlled theocracy, I am skeptical of any historical fact, and more about mud slinging and justification of the persecution of Freemasons during the Islamic revolution.

I have contacted the author and am trying to secure how to purchase or obtain the volumes discussed in the article, even if they are in Persian (heck, I will translate it, if need be).

As many of you who have been long time readers know that I am very much interested in the practices of Freemasonry in Iran, and welcome any information on the subject.

As this develops I will be sure to share it.

-Bro Vick