Saturday, June 23, 2012

Character of a Freemason

"The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in the fear of the punishment which the law might inflict; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine, except those which are written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the universal throne of God, in gratitude for the blessings he has received, and in humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is not certain that he can discharge, because he is honest upon principle."

- Source: Farmer's almanac 1823

Book Review

I have a friend who has written an important book.  Bob Davis' book The Mason's Words should be required reading for every Mason. Every Masonic Leader should read it and ponder it and see what it means for our Fraternity.

I have read many Masonic Books but I have never found one which ties the history of the ritual and the story of Freemasonry together so beautifully.

 Freemasonry as we practice it in the United States evolved from the Scottish Freemasons through the English to the Masons of the early Colonial times who brought it with them when they colonized the country.  In England it was William Preston who brought the teachings together unifying them into a ritualistic system of teaching and philosophy.  Davis takes us through these steps so that we can see how the ritual was developed.  He then shows how it spread in the United States through the Provincial Grand Lodge System and how, after the Revolutionary War, it was reconstituted as a Grand Lodge System with each state developing its own methods and rituals.

Codified in our country by Thomas Smith Webb, the "Father" of Freemasonry in this country; Webb and those he taught were responsible for spreading a uniform teaching. Men taught by Webb who were in turn teachers of "roving Ritualists" who travelled the country spreading the Mason's Words. It was unified to a degree by the Baltimore Convention into the fraternal system as we practice it today.

Davis, who is the Registrar of the Guthrie Oklahoma Scottish Rite is a 33rd degree mason who holds the rank of Grand Cross. His Masonic experience places him in the highest ranks of our fraternity and yet, when you meet him you see a true exemplar of the fraternity that "meets upon the level."  He has a deep and abiding love for our society and understands it purpose for existing in the modern world. He sees the problems which it faces and the discerning reader will be able to see pathways which need to be taken to strengthen and improve our fraternity.

Davis has spoken of Freemasonry as "a rite of manhood that connects young males to the collective masculine soul; to the spirit of being a man; and to the community of men. It is the traditional organizational venue for male role modeling and male to male communication."  (Understanding Manhood in America: Freemasonry's Enduring Path to the Mature Masculine - Robert G. Davis).

He suggests that our system has become "one-dimensional" with too much emphasis on memorizing words and says that "Perhaps it is time to recreate in our own time the indispensable intellectual component of Masonic dialogue which enabled the completion of Masonic philosophy by the end of the eighteenth century."

There is much in this book to be learned about our history and our ritual and our direction for the future.  Robert Davis has written an important Masonic Book which will open pathways of learning and thought for anyone interested in Freemasonry.  I salute him with a Toast!

The Design of Freemasonry

A talk by Jay Cole Simser
(given at Specialis Procer Lodge June 28, 2013)
“the design of the Masonic Institution, is to make its votaries wiser, better and consequently happier.”  Masonic Ritual

‎"The true spirit and design of Freemasonry demand an education above and beyond the mere conferring of degrees."—M.W. Bro. John W. Vrooman, Past Grand Master of Masons in New York

The great comedian Alan Sherman once used a joke in his “Peter and the Commissar” which has stuck with me ever since the first time I heard it.

He said,  “We all have heard the saying, which is true as well as witty, that a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.”

Now I actually think the camel is a superior beast.  It is able to store up fluid and go for many days without food or water over pretty unfriendly terrain.  Camels, if well treated, are more inquisitive, affectionate, and attention seeking. However, they are a little more "emotional" than horses and less consistent in their reactions. In other words, they are less predictable than horses. They also seem to need the company of other members of their own species more than horses. Camels also seem smarter than horses about getting themselves out of a precarious situation

However, we did not come here to debate the merits of Camels or horses tonight I am going to talk about Freemasonry. Where it came from and what was it designed to do.

A fragment of lower jaw recovered from a Serbian cave has now been dated as the oldest hominin ancestor found in this part of Europe. The fossil was dated to between 397,000 and 525,000 years old, a time when distinctly Neanderthal traits began to appear in Europe. These ancestors met in Lodges and were responsible for all of the ancient temples, pyramids and other buildings.  They built Stonehenge using marvelous anti-magnetic sleds to move the largest stones  -- right?  If you believe all of that I have a bridge (now in Arizona) I can sell you.  You can believe the first part of the paragraph.  That is provable.  

Modern man may have Neanderthal DNA - We have been around a very long time. However there were no Masonic Lodges at that time no matter what some may claim today.  

My friend Jerry Marsengill once wrote that “Masonic myths and would-be historians who write their Masonic histories as they think they should be written started with the imaginative Dr. Anderson, who made a list of all the men throughout history whom he would have liked to identify as members of the Masonic fraternity, beginning with Adam and ending with the founding of the Grand Lodge in 1717.

In this history he lists such names as Euclid, Abraham, Moses. Charlemagne, etc. and presents a regular succession of Grand Masters from the beginning of the world down to his own time.”  We have these types with us today.  In fact I remember one talk at SP 678 that would fit into that grouping.

Humans first climbed out of forests and found other places to live. Some adapted caves as homes, either temporary or more permanent.  Decorated caves show us that magical rites were performed in them to insure a good hunt so that there would be food on the table.  These were probably the first “churches” or religious centers where humans petitioned the deity or deities as the case may be. A class of priests developed who were able to perform rites and ceremonies to invoke their gods. These caves became sacred sites. In more recent times we have rediscovered them, and we marvel at the artistic sophistication of early humans.”

There is a Masonic extended trowel lecture which speaks of how other creatures also were builders but it states that

“…in man there was a vital spark that the bird, the beaver,
the wasp or the spider never knew; inspiration, not instinct,
guided his budding soul, a divine discontent with his habitation
seized him; the hole in the rocks no longer satisfied his cravings
and he began to build out in God's glorious sunshine; feeble
were his efforts, few his tools and mean his creations, but he was

Crude shelters took the place of dank and dingy dens; a roof
sheltered him, the embryonic pillars supported the crossbars, and
as the years waxed and waned he built better and better until his
aspirations attained their highest form in the completion of the
magnificent cathedrals of Europe, the masterpieces of his mind
and soul.

You see,

Someone, somewhere at some time came out of the cave, …. Someone, somewhere at sometime figured out a method for passing on …information from one generation to the next – each generation adding on to that knowledge and understanding,

Many of the ancient buildings were designed to facilitate the observation of the skies and the heavenly movements. From these observations grew knowledge of the geometric nature of the universe and the understanding of patterns, which they were then able to put to practical use in building the ancient wonders of the world and eventually the great cathedrals of Europe.

These great gothic cathedrals take some of their design from the branching of the trees in a forest.  When you walk into one of them you are reminded by the great soaring arches of the branches that come together overhead as you walk in the forest.  In fact in the recent royal wedding in Great Britain Catherine had actual trees on each side of the aisle. Their natural extension was the stone arches above.

The evolution of their design culminates in the magnificent Sagrada Família a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926).

Construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in1882, Described as the most complex building ever made. 'The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages'  - Entire families have given their time, talent and lives to its design and construction, It remains unfinished to this day.

In the same way Masons of the Middle Ages who built the Cathedrals of Europe also gave their time, talent and lives to the design and construction of the Cathedrals.

“These builders were Masonry's progenitors, at first an operative
science, it reached it's fruition as such, mounted yet higher and
became a speculative art. (Its end aim the building of a perfect
character, the realization of the designs on the trestle board of
the Great Architect of the Universe.)”

There are two schools of thought as to the Origins of Freemasonry.  One school - the “romantic” school points to many possible origins i.e. Solomon’s Temple, medieval Knights Templar, Rosicrucian, Essenes, and ancient Egyptians.  The other school, the one that I subscribe to (unless I am engaging in flights of fancy about “Secret Princes of the Hidden Temple) is the “authentic school described in the extended trowel lecture quoted previously.

Historical evidence and research suggests the transition from operative Masons of Scotland (first) and (later) England to the speculative society we have today. It took a great many men to work together to build them and the apprentice system was designed to bring youngsters into the work and train them in the builder’s art. At the age of 14 or 15 a young man would be apprenticed to a Master who would be responsible for training him and working with him so that eventually he would be a Master.  It was a system of education. Designed to train the next generation of builders and pass on the knowledge of the builder’s art.  And designed to keep that knowledge only in the hands of those who were members of the craft.  Initiation ceremonies and binding oaths were developed to transmit knowledge and keep it out of the hands of the profane - the uninitiated.

In the days of the operative Masons they met in a place called a lodge, which was a temporary structure near the operative mason’s building site.  Here the Mason could rest and refresh himself from the day’s labor.  Here also Entered Apprentice masons could become Fellows of the Craft and were given certain “secrets” enabling them to travel and work as “Free” Masons.  At that time there were only two designations.  The Entered Apprentice and the Fellow of the Craft.  What we know of as the Master Mason degree was developed later. Masters were simply senior Fellow Crafts.

Wikipedia says that Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system

if you think about it the apprentice system was designed as a system of education.  Not just the masons used it but children were apprenticed in all sorts of professions.     They did not have a general education system as we do today where children would go to a school and learn a general education and at some point graduate wondering what they wanted to do in life.

 It was a system of learning a craft or trade from one who is engaged in it and of paying for the instruction by a given number of years of work. The practice was known in ancient Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome... Typically, in medieval Europe, a master craftsman agreed to instruct a young man, to give him shelter, food, and clothing, and to care for him during illness. The apprentice would bind himself to work for the master for a given time. After that time he would become a journeyman, working for a master for wages, or he set up as a master himself. The medieval guilds supervised the relation of master and apprentice and decided the number of apprentices in a given guild.

The move to a Speculative Fraternity began in Scotland with the admission of non-masons into a lodge. “The starting point however, for the direct line to the modern fraternity lies in England.  

By the 1640s high ranking members of the community (not stonemasons) were initiated and became non-operative “masons”  - this initiation and the conferral of the Mason Word gave us the beginnings of our Masonic Institution of today.  It is absolutely essential to the “design” of Freemasonry

It remained for England to adapt this Masonry for non-operative Masonry into the Gentle Craft that we know today. The myth of its origin is an allegory that hides the true beginnings of Speculative Freemasonry and what it was designed to accomplish.

As noted earlier Masons had some sort of ceremony or ritual to mark the initiation of new members of the craft.  The English masons were different in that they included the history contained in the “Old Charges,” an emphasis on morality, identification of the mason craft with geometry, and the importance of Solomon’s Temple.  All of these, combined with other ingredients, took place in the years around 1600. It is in this late Renaissance phase that modern freemasonry was created.  And I maintain that it was designed for a purpose.  

It was designed to create an institution that reflected the progressive spirit of the age, with ideals of brotherhood, equality, toleration and reason.   It provided an institutional framework for almost any religious or political belief. The lodge system combined with secrecy, ideals of loyalty and secret modes of recognition created an ideal organizational framework into which the members could put their own values and could adapt for their own uses.  The development of Masonry was designed as a place where men could meet together and bond in a way that provided for initiation - a place where a man is given the inner authority to own his own life, to own his own experience, to own his own responsibility.

My friend Robert Davis expresses it best when he says - “Freemasonry exists first and foremost to transform men. And that transformation takes place because one is initiated into a fellowship of men. It is within that fellowship that he is introduced to his own path to self-improvement—the journey that enables him to harmonize his individual need for fulfillment with a collective well-being. This pathway is nothing less than the road to mature masculinity.

The corporate task of freemasonry is to not only erect this path, but to make sure that its members are on it themselves; and those who come after them will also be on it.

The inherent role of any morally based male-only organization is to take on the virtues of manliness, to enhance and extend the male tradition; and to embrace that tradition irrespective of how formidable the demands any present society may place upon it.

Freemasonry’s strength lies in the fact that it offers the right model by which men can grow and achieve balance in their human and spiritual lives. It tenders a medium for collective dialogue in the ways of virtue and ethics. It offers the role of patriarchy to men—male role modeling, if you will—which guides younger men from a sort of boyish impetuosity to mature and manly judgment. It does this by leading them back to timeless, ethical, and spiritual traditions, which facilitate their own transformation and rebirth into manhood.

And it has done this for every generation of men for more than 400 years.”

Specialis Procer Lodge was designed as an example of what I feel a lodge should be.  It was not designed merely to confer degrees.  It was also designed so that the Brothers could grow in knowledge, could increase in wisdom and bond in fraternity.  

Degrees and initiation are important to us and we desire to have rituals that are deeper and with more meaning than just memorized words and pathways traced around the lodge room.  When a man is initiated into our lodge it is important to us that he take time in the Chamber of Reflection to ponder his mortality and what he believes and stands for.  The conclusions he reaches are between him and his God but they should be with him when he enters the lodge room.  

There is no roughhouse or play in our initiation. Not for us the jocular yelling and screaming as the craftsmen look for the missing Hiram Abaft. No rough house in the degree but rather an attempt to make the meaning of the degree for the initiate the most profound experience he has ever had.

It is important to us that the winding stair and it pathway showing the Liberal Arts and Sciences be taken literally not figuratively.  We expect our members to become students of Freemasonry and to study and share that study with us.

We have festive boards such as this one where papers are presented to increase our knowledge and as eating together is one of the most profound ways to build our brotherhood we eat together often, and not just cake and coffee but rather a fine meal accompanied by conversation and fellowship.

This lodge is unlike any other I have ever attended.  It was designed that way.  There is an Egregore present - In metaphysical terms; an egregore is the general character that binds a group entity. It may be viewed as the combination of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies generated by people working together towards the same goal; being a by-product of our personal and collective creative processes.  An egregore is that atmosphere or personality that develops among groups independent of any of its members. It is the feeling or impression you get when walking into a neighborhood that has an ambience distinct from others, or that you may experience visiting a club or association that has been around for a long time. It is a "collective group mind", an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. It is with us when we meet.  I can physically feel its presence....but perhaps I am a bit of a woooo woooo person.  

As sure as I am sitting here giving this paper I am certain that the Masonic fraternity was designed for this to happen.  We were not supposed to be islands alone in the stream but rather a part of a great collective that grows together and advances our own interests as well as the interests of all mankind.

The degrees of Freemasonry were not designed to be given in a hurried, perfunctory or arbitrary manner.  The very act of petitioning and being accepted by all of the members in a unanimous ballot was not designed for any other reason than to show the candidate that he is joining by unanimous consent a fellowship which will be with him for the rest of his life if he will accept it.  As such the Wardens and the Master should convey that acceptance and welcome by the tone of their voice.  All too often that is not the case because it is not understood as such.

Masonry advanced across our country with the advance of the flag. “Three forces for good...the little school, the little church and the little masonic lodge helped shape our nation.  Tens of thousands of men became Masons. Lodge meetings were important to them and they would travel many miles to attend Lodge and sit with their brothers.

Men may be morally qualified to become Masons, and yet fail utterly to improve themselves in the art of Masonry. The failures are those who believe that the ultimate attainment of some degree of spiritual improvement is not worth the steady application that is required to achieve it. For some the collection of pins to wear on a lapel or on a ribbon around a neck is being a successful Mason.  For others the gaining of long and important titles signifying that they wore a “big necklace” for a brief period makes them believe that they are Masons.

Alain Bauer writing in Isaac Newton’s Freemasonry states: “We have long believed the age of information to be liberating. Our society has become one of entertainment and spectacles: the emptiness of primetime television…Freemasonry was created in order to understand complexity, to accept differences, to gather and pose questions, while at the same time to provide, here and there, solutions or tools useful for those who are willing to use them.”

If there is a failure in our modern Freemasonry it is that we have lost sight of what the lodge was designed to do.  It is not there for social advancement or fellowship and “good times” or demonstrating proficiency in a long memorized lecture, although those are all a part of what happens in a successful lodge. No its real purpose is something else. As Joseph Fort Newton says “it is a center of moral and spiritual power, and its power is used, not only to protect the widow and orphan, but also, and still more important, to remove the cause of their woe and need by making men just, gentle, and generous to all their fellow mortals.

Masonry was not made to divide men, but to unite them, leaving each man free to think his own thought and fashion his own system of ultimate truth. All its emphasis rests upon two extremely simple and profound principles—love of God and love of man. Therefore, all through the ages it has been, and is today, a meeting place of differing minds, and a prophecy of the final union of all reverent and devout souls.”

It is essentially necessary that our officers make a thorough study of Masonry in order to keep before the members the real purpose of the Institution. The initiation ceremonies must be done with solemnity and understanding of the symbolism behind every step that the candidate or Brother takes. The proper discharge of the duty of the Worshipful Master to see that the lodge is set to labor under good and wholesome instruction largely determines the success of a lodge. The success can never be computed in numbers, in degrees, or in proficiency in the ritualistic work.

Again Joseph Fort Newton, to my mind has written the best explanation of the design of Freemasonry when he says:
“God works for man through man and seldom, if at all, in any other way. He asks for our voices to speak His truth, for our hands to do His work here below—sweet voices and clean hands to make liberty and love prevail over injustice and hate. Not all of us can be learned or famous, but each of us can be loyal and true of heart, undefiled by evil, undaunted by error, faithful and helpful to our fellow souls. Life is a capacity for the highest things. Let us make it a pursuit of the highest—an eager, incessant quest of truth; a noble utility, a lofty honor, a wise freedom, a genuine service—that through us the Spirit of Masonry may grow and be glorified.

He asks, “When is a man a Mason?” and then answers - “When he can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of his own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage—which is the root of every virtue. When he knows that down in his heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love his fellow man. When he knows how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins—knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds. When he has learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with himself. When he loves flowers, can hunt the birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child. When he can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life. When star-crowned trees, and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters, subdue him like the thought of one much loved and long dead. When no voice of distress reaches his ears in vain, and no hand seeks his aid without response. When he finds good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be. When he can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. When he knows how to pray, how to love, how to hope. When he has kept faith with himself, with his fellow man, with his God; in his hand a sword for evil, in his heart a bit of a song—glad to live, but not afraid to die! Such a man has found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world.

If Freemasonry and a Masonic Lodge can help a man to become the Mason described by Newton then indeed it has fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed.


Light on Masonry -  The History and Rituals of America’s Most Important Masonic Expose’  by Arturo de Hoyos

The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century, 1590 0 1710 by David Stevenson

Masonic Misinformation - Jerry Marsengill

The Builders - Joseph Fort Newton

Isaac Newton’s Freemasonry – The Alchemy of Science and Mysticism – Alain Bauer

IMHO - 1/14/2013

I was on Facebook the other day and I saw a friend's posting that suggested that perhaps because George Washington and other famous men were Masons that "You should be one also."

A more comprehensive list may be found on Wikipedia here.

It is nice to remember those who have gone before who were Masons. When I joined the Masons I knew nothing about them.  My mother had suggested that "You might enjoy the Masons."  Little did she know.  Over the last almost 50 years (I joined in the spring of 1966) I have found it a great place to participate with others in a fraternal manner.  I have made many friends that I would never have had if not for the Masons.

There are myriads of men who have become Freemasons since the fraternity was founded in Scotland. Most of those men were good Masons and their names are not known outside the Lodge. They are just as important or even more important than the few famous men who are touted by those impressed with fame.  They are the men who have preserved the fraternity for hundreds of years and passed it on from one generation to the next.

 I suggest those who are interested in the beginnings of the fraternity read David Stevenson's to me The Origins of Freemasonry - Scotland's century 1590-1710.

You can find out more about Freemasonry at the Grand Lodge of Iowa Web Site.  And there is a connected site to give you more reasons to join and suggestions about Who, What, Why, How and Where to answer questions about becoming a member.

I read something this morning by Richard Rohr -

most children saw their mother in a different way. She was not a creator, a fixer, or a defender, but rather a transformer. Once a woman has carried her baby inside of her body for nine months and brought it forth, through the pain of childbirth, into the world, she knows the mystery of transformation at a cellular level. She knows it intuitively, yet she usually cannot verbalize it, nor does she need to.  She just holds it at a deeper level of consciousness. She knows something about mystery, about miracles, and about transformation that men will never know (which is why males had to be initiated!)."

THAT INTRIGUED ME. I had to find out a little more.  After all so much of what we as Masons do have to do with initiation. Every step in our Masonic journey has to do with an initiation.  I used the Google and found that he has a four part series of talks on why men need initiation.  This struck a note with me.

"Initiation is not a psychological paradigm at all.  It's not about therapy.  It's not about solving your problems with your father or your mother or how you were hurt. In fact, it sort of leaps over those. Initiation is not a psychology.  It is a cosmology.
I'm going to use the word ownerships. What a man must be given is the inner authority to own his own life, to own his own experience, to own his own responsibility. When you don't have that, you have this victim hood of blaming other people. It is always somebody elses fault.  We are a massively uninitiated culture. Basically, if you read the papers, its mostly a blame game. Somebody else is always the cause of all the evil in the world."

My friend and Brother Tim Bonney described Freemasonry as "a society of obligated brothers." A major part of the initiation  is the obligation - the centerpiece of the ceremony. When you take the obligation we say that it "makes you a Mason."  I disagree with that.  A Mason is not really "made."  A man is either a Mason or he is not.  He is either a person who builds or one who tears down. Joining a fraternity does not make him a Mason.  However if a person is led to ask (and you must ask) to join the Lodge he begins his experience of initiation where he will be given the inner authority mentioned above.

Joseph Fort Newton speaks of this initiation in "The Men's House" where primitive boys were taken from their mothers at a certain age and taken to the Men's House to undergo certain ceremonies after which they were accepted as men.  Jewish boy's undergo study and a religious ceremony of a Bar Mitzvah as their ceremony of initiation whereby they become men.

In many ways to me that is what the Masonic Fraternity is all about. We use ceremonies of initiation to give men the inner authority they might not have without it.  Yes, there are good men who are not members but some of us call them "natural Masons" and there are others who join the fraternity who do it for reasons which are not of the highest nature they will never learn the lessons our fraternity has to offer.

Masons use the working tools of the builder to teach moral lessons and the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry rest upon our Altars no matter where in the world it is found.

Masonry is a world wide fraternal association.  It flourished where there is freedom of thought and association. Dictators close lodges and persecute members.  The ceremonies of initiation are there for men, good men, who wish to associate with one another and to do good work in the world. By standing together for the principles (Brotherly love, relief and truth) of Freemasonry they have preserved something beautiful in the world. That, to me, is the real reason for wanting to be a Mason.  To stand with my Brethren to make the world a better place.

Seven Steps to Success

Some time ago I wrote an article that was published in the Knights Templar Magazine.  It is published on-line in a Google Doc which you can read here.

Way Back Machine 10/11/12

One of the things about the Masonic Fraternity is that there is a lot of room for people to participate, work ritual, go through the line and eventually become the "leader of the pack."  You really can't run for office.  You get elected if you have participated and if it is your "turn"  and you haven't royally messed up.  Of course once you are the Master of the Lodge or the High Priest of the Chapter, etc. you get to pick the program for the year and decide what activities will take place or you can decide that you will just have stated meetings and degree work (if anyone decides to join) and everyone tells you "It is your decision, you are the Master of the Lodge."  

And so no matter what happens he will have the right to use the phrase in the poster above.  And most do. - It can be even worse if you were head of a Grand Body.  (BTW that just means State Organization.  Nothing really "grand" about it.  Just bigger and that is what Grand really means,,Big)  Except they say Back when I was Grand (Master, High Priest, Commander, etc. and then they go into a tirade, comment, story designed to let you know that they were so much better at being the _________________(fill in the blank with your choice) than you will ever be.

Another phenomenon in the Masonic Fraternity is what I call Masonic Generals.  These are the guys represented by the poster on the right. This is the person who joins all the Masonic Organizations he can and then collects "honors" or awards.  Sometimes these are for work, for participation, for being the past head, joust for joining.  And there are those who wear everyone they are entitled ot wear them.  They wear 5 to 10 lapel pins on both lapels or on just one lapel (and then they are lopsided. One guy even gave a speech at a meeting I was at about how everybody who belongs to any organization should wear all their pins and awards all the time.  I think that is the reason I only wear one.  Or if I am in my tuxedo none.

Back in 1980 I was Master of My Lodge and I did everything I could to make it a good year.  We did have a good year.  I did not operate by the dictatorial method but used the cooperative technique that I described in this article.  

The following year I was Grand High Priest.  And I had a good year.  I had an official portrait taken which has disappeared (I always accused Mother of throwing it away)  but I do have one wallet size left which I scanned in so I could share it.   I can say, "When I was Master of...." and "When I was Grand High Priest" with the best of them. Of course I never say that.  I just sit quietly in judgement and tsk tsk when they mess up.

Actually I don't do that.  I have tried my best to not give advice unless asked and to keep my nose out of the politics.  When I  was Master and Grand High Priest I had a friend who could recite the following from memory.  He kept me grounded and every once in awhile I would have hm recite this for me

Feeling Important?

Sometimes when you're feeling important,

Sometimes when your ego's in bloom,

Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room;
Sometimes when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul.
Take a bucket and till it with water
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out, and the hole that's remaining
Is the measure of how you'll be missed.
You can splash all you want when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore;
But stop, and you'll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral in this quaint example
Is to do just the best that you can;
Be proud of yourself, but remember
There's no indispensable man.

Besides everyone knows that it is actually the Secretary of the lodge who runs things AND HE IS THE TRUE INDISPENSIBLE MAN.

The Masons - Sunday Salute XXXI - 10/28/2012

L. to R.  Forrest "Pappy Heuer, Harold Leighton, Kenneth L. Smith, John Harris Watts, Tom Corothers, ? , Jerry Marsengill

The Masons

OK,  I am being just a little bit different with this post.  Rather than an individual I am saluting a group. A group that has been around for a long time but which represents the very best of our society.  The Masonic Fraternity's origins are shrouded in mystery.  (In actual fact they aren't, it is just that the mythology surrounding it contributes to the mystery.)  But there really is nothing mysterious about the fraternity.  

Its stated purpose is to make good men better.  Get it. They start with good men. Bad people need not apply. The candidate for Masonry is investigated to see if he will be a good "fit", if his motives are pure and if they can work with others to improve themselves and the world.

To become a Mason there are two requirements; First you must believe in a Supreme Being, and second you must ASK to join this Society of Obligated Men.  It does not matter what you call the Supreme Being. (Men of all religions meet together and the discussion of religion and politics are prohibited in the Lodge.) And while restrictions have been relaxed in recent years and people may suggest that you might want to petition the Lodge, there is still a petition which must be filled out to request the privilege of joining the Fraternity.

There is always a philanthropic facet to these salutes.  From Wikipedia.  

The fraternity is widely involved in charity and community service activities. In contemporary times, money is collected only from the membership, and is to be devoted to charitable purposes. Freemasonry worldwide disburses substantial charitable amounts to non-Masonic charities, locally, nationally and internationally. In earlier centuries, however, charitable funds were collected more on the basis of a Provident or Friendly Society, and there were elaborate regulations to determine a petitioner's eligibility for consideration for charity, according to strictly Masonic criteria.
Some examples of Masonic charities include:
  • Homes that provide sheltered housing or nursing care.
  • Education with both educational grants[ or schools such as the Royal Masonic School which are open to all and not limited to the families of Freemasons.
  • Medical assistance.
  • Masonic Child Identification Programs (CHIP).
In addition to these, there are thousands of philanthropic organisations around the world created by Freemasons. The Masonic Service Association, the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children  are especially notable charitable endeavours that Masons have founded and continue to support both intellectually and monetarily.
If you Google How much money do the Masons give to charity you get this answer:
In the USA, the Freemasons give approximately $2 million US dollars per day to charitable causes. 

 I also found this on a site which tells a lot about what Masons do for Charity.
Ok, for all of you Masonic Conspiracy nuts. I must say, you were right!! I'm a Mason, and I heard something in a Lodge last night that blew my mind, so this morning I looked it up, and apparently it is correct!  

So, here is the big Conspiracy.....

Masons, and there(sic) appendent bodies contribute close to $5 million per day to Charity work nationwide! This includes things like the MMRL cutting edge heart chemistry research and the Shriner's Hospitals for kids. 

But, it doesn't stop with just a couple of big ones. It also includes Many Others such as the increasing children cancer survival rates from 10% to 70% at a research center in Minnesota. It includes schools for young women. It includes sponsoring organ donation. It includes hearing devices for kids. 

But, it doesn't stop there either. Not even close. Each little sub-group and sub-sub-group of Masonry has their own pet charities. Things like the Royal Arch Research Philanthropy that is currently donating funds to Univ. or Connecticut and organizations like Autism Speaks. Then there is Cryptic Masonic Medical Research.... scary name, but not when you realize they are funding the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine (ICVBM), which is located at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. WOW! 

So, is it all Medical Research and Hospitals? NO!! 

Lodge community and family relationship renewals. Some areas are seeking out ways to better connect with families and communities and help in ways specific to each community. Here's a Lodge funding Special Olympics and Community Learning Centers. 

Here in my town alone, Mason's help to organize and fund Springtime Tallahassee as a community event and parade, plus the Scottish Highland Games, plus the Mother's Day 5k

So, $5M per day from Masonic interests and endeavors, is it all about the money? NO!! 

What else do Mason's do? 

Just one Shrine Temple 
What about Driving kids and their families to the hospitals? Fundraising for crime victims? Replacing Christmas Presents for robbery victims? Participating in Church events? Escorting Fallen Police Officers? Volunteering in Retirement Homes? Helping with Hospice Care? Visiting folks in the Hospitals and just sitting and talking? Conducting Clown Schools, and providing Clown Services free of charge? 

What about the personal things each and every Mason does on their own time, as a person, but also as a good and upright Mason? Things like visiting their homebound brethren? Things like pitching in to remodel someone's home? Things like taking an acquaintance into one's own home when they fall on hard times? 

I have personally seen every one of these things done right here in my own town. The $5M per day number was shocking to me last night. Shocking in a GREAT WAY, but still shocking, but now that I think about it, the $5M per day is probably small in comparison to what 2 million US Masons do on a daily basis, voluntarily, by their own will and accord, as part of their daily duties, and they never consider it as charity. They just consider it part of their lives without giving it a second thought. 

This Masonic Conspiracy thing is larger, and more rampant than even I imagined, and Thank God that it is!! 
Quotations about Freemasonry.

Freemasonry is an institution calculated to benefit mankind

Andrew Jackson

To me, Freemasonry is one form of dedication to God and service to humanity

Rev. Norman V. Peale

There are great Truths at the foundation of Freemasonry — truths which it is its mission to teach — and which as constituting the very essence of that sublime system which gives to the venerable institution its peculiar identity as a science of morality, and it behooves every disciple diligently to ponder and inwardly digest

Albert Pike

Masonry is an art, useful and extensive, which comprehends within its circle every branch of useful knowledge and learning, and stamps an indelible mark of preeminence on its genuine professors, which neither
chance, power, nor fortune can bestow

William Preston

We represent a fraternity which believes in justice and truth and honourable action in your community... men who are endeavouring to be better citizens... to make a great country greater. This is the only institution in the world where we can meet on the level all sorts of people who want to live rightly

Although I hold the highest civil honour in the world,
I have always regarded my rank and title as a Past Grand Master of Masons the greatest honour that had ever come to me

Harry S. Truman

The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race

George Washington

Perhaps the most important lesson of Freemasonry is that a man learns to work with himself and his brothers to solve problems.  He needs to learn to subdue his passions, and thus improve himself. 

John Klaus