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: