Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflected Light

One aspect of light is that it can be reflected and redirected to somewhere where it was not found before. As an avid reader of others blogs I find my self sometimes so moved that I want to share what I read, and now is one of those times. So like the moon I can only redirect a cosmic light that shone somewhere else, but even reflected light illuminates.

Please go to my new found Brother Osiris's blog, Kingdom of Conscience, and read his Masonic Secrets. It is one of the best esoteric pieces of writing on our secrets that I have ever read.

Friday, December 28, 2007

We Must Become What We Claim To Be

Now is our chance, enough pretending, we must restore Freemasonry. If we are to survive as an institution we must live up to what we are supposed to be.

In the months that I have been writing this blog and reading everyone else's (thank you King Solomons Lodge), I have read more masonic thought and insight online than all of my time spent in an actual lodge building. The Masonic Blogging community is what our lodge experience should be, intelligent and responsive discussion on the mysteries of life and our fraternity. I say responsive because most of the bloggers of the craft take the time to respond and comment on each others well though out posts with well though out responses. We all get nothing from this but learning and that is why I love this forum.

When I receive a comment on one of my posts from brethren from across the globe it reassures me that I have not joined some simple charitable organization that likes to play dress up. Yet I think that on the whole that is what most men discover when they finally are raised Master Masons. The ritual has survived but it is mostly done for rituals sake and not for what it is intended to do.

If you go to church every Sunday but live your life in a immoral way or even cut a few corners in a moral sense you are no better than someone who never sets foot in a church. I do not want to confuse the uninitiated. Freemasonry is not a religion but we do teach lessons through symbols and ritual just like a church and I want to illustrate the hypocrisy of going through ritual and not actually gaining anything from it. You could recite to a word every part of the Masonic ritual perfectly, and from memory, but if you do not live and act in a way reflecting those words you are in no way any better than someone who has never taken the obligation. Freemasonry is a progressive science. We are here to learn, and in learning and living what we learn we become better men.

Most of the Masonic education I have been a part of involves being lectured on ritual. "Say it this way","walk around the lodge like this","we do this because"... this is not education and this is the reason most of the brethren roll their eyes at the mention of a Lodge of Instruction, it is BORING! The rules that govern an opened lodge create the perfect forum for pure philosophic and intellectual discussion. We go through the opening ritual to bring the collective consciousness of the brethren up to the level where such discussions can take place, not because some dudes back in the 1700's wrote these lines to torture future brethren with arcane language. When we are on the level, we should take the time to discuss the things that will improve ourselves and the society in which we live, not just pay the bills, recite the minutes, and vote on new candidates. Speaking of candidates we need to stop rushing to fill the membership rolls with guys who become Masons in name only. You know, the guys who get their dues cards and show up every now and then if there is a good meal or mostly not at all.

If we created an environment that justified the ritual we go through, then perhaps some of the men who become Masons and stop coming after a couple of business meetings will stay. If we live up to the mysterious, elite brotherhood that many believe we are, maybe we will become it and that is not a bad thing. That is what brought such incredible men in the past to our doors not a cheap meal, camaraderie and some charity. For some reason elite has become a bad word when in fact by definition it is what we all should strive to be: ELITE, A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status. What is wrong with that? It is what I want to be. I don't want to be like the rest of the schlubs out there.

There is a movement to lift the veil of secrecy that enshrouds our brotherhood. Some think that secrecy is what has kept our numbers dwindling and are going out of their way to show everyone what it is we do. There was a recent Discovery Channel expose that apparently showed in detail one of our degrees, I found this out because a guy I work with saw it and began to ask me specific questions about the "First Degree"(that is what he thought it was). He even recited some lines from the "ruffians". This took me aback because I thought exposing this part of the degree ruins some of the mystery of our brotherhood. My co-worker had expressed some interest in joining our fraternity in the past and was happy to have seen the "First Degree" so he would not be surprised by the initiation. If he does decide to join he will have been robbed of a part of the initiation I will never forget because I had no idea what was coming.

I don't want to come off holier than thou because it was a History Channel expose that brought the fraternity into my focus way back when, but it did not expose the initiation or ruin the mystery. I have seen an expose that showed the public an installation of officers, not in detail, but enough to wet the appetite of an interested party to research more. I had no problem with that because it is a public ceremony anyway, but can what ever lodge it is that is doing degrees for the Discovery Channel stop and think about what it is we are.

Masons go through a three part initiation meant to bring the candidates to a greater understanding of themselves and the world we live in. Our initiation means a lot, to a serious searcher for truth and even though it can be easily found in many different places it still needs to be searched for I am sorry that you can now watch it on TV.

I know I am going all over the place here but keep in mind I have not gotten allot of sleep in the past week with my newborn daughter and I have not gotten to really blog in a while. I just hope that the experience I am finding with every post I make to my blog becomes more of a reality in the collective experience of Freemasonry. As I enter into the South this year I am going to do my best in my performance of my duties to bring this light to my lodge and I hope that more brothers will do the same in returning our craft to what we should be. With all of the attention we will be getting from all of the crazy movies and books about us, why don't we give them what they think we are, secret rulers of the planet(haha), and not just a bunch of guys in tuxes with funny necklaces and aprons.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Perfect Ashlars

Basking in the glow of my newborn child or foggy sleep deprived haze depending on which way you want to characterize it, I ponder at the idea of the perfect ashlar.

We are taught as masons that man is like a rough ashlar of stone. A rough ashlar, for non-masons, is a stone brought from the quarry that still has rough edges and needs to be cleaned up and fitted for building purposes.

The rough ashlar, through much work with the working tools of masonry, becomes the perfect ashlar to be used in the building of the celestial temple.

I rather like this symbol used by the craft to help the brethren visualise perfecting themselves. It is quite true that I am continually chipping away at the rough ashlar of my being to expose the perfect ashlar that lies underneath the surface.

This symbol has much meaning to me because I love to carve stone into art. I had carved little wooden figurines with my Swiss army knife on my front porch as a kid and loved creating things out of wood. I had even started to carve an Arthurian chess set based upon the characters of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy of books but never finished due to the amount of pieces needed and my teenage laziness. I took a carving class none the less, and found I could create in stone just like I created in wood just with a set of different tools but much of the same talent. I loved carving stone and was often found in the art studio skipping other classes to work on my pieces.

Stone carving requires vision and patience. You need to see what you can make out of the rock and the patience to chip away a little at a time to get to that vision. It takes much more work to carve stone than wood. That is why I can really buy into the ashlar symbology of Freemasonry. A man has to slowly chip away the vices and superfluities of life to fit his ashlar into that house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. I really love that allegory but it brings me to the point of this post.

The rough ashlar is a great symbol of an adult man, but sitting here on a lazy Sunday afternoon looking at my beautiful angelic girls taking a nap (my 4 year old on the couch, my newborn in her bassinet) I see two perfect ashlars fresh out of the quarry. I would like to add a step to the allegory. The stone when cut from the quarry is perfect, it is in the transporting of the stone from the quarry to the celestial temple that the ashlar become rough. Bumpy roads beat up the perfect ashlar to the point where it must be reshaped into that which it once was before being added to that house not made with hands. There is no other way to see things when looking at your own child.

Perfect Ashlars


P.S. My logo was improved by one of my best friends in the world who knows well how hard it is to carve stone. We bought a piece of granite and some stone carving tools a long time ago. I remember sitting on my front porch of my parents house with him chipping away at a piece of sculpture that, still unfinished, now sits weathering on the front steps of my house waiting to be finished. We have both been on some bumpy roads that have not yet cracked our ashlars.

Thanks Nat

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Candle Snuffing Allowed

My lodge was founded in 1765 by an Episcopalian Jew and American Patriot. No, I did not miss a comma. It is said that the founder of the craft in my city's family became Episcopalians because of a lack of a place to worship in their tradition. He was also a merchant and although we don't know how or when he was initiated into our order, petitioned the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York for a charter to meet and make Masons in our harbor city on the Long Island Sound(the Grand Lodge of Connecticut would not be formed for another 30 years). The original lodge building was his house and the membership included many of the founding families of the city. It was a tumultuous time in American History as we all know. Like many Freemasons at the time, our founder was a supporter of the American cause for Independence and belonged to other organizations that played a part of some "unmasonic" acts of revolution against his King and Government. Remember we as masons take an oath......
You may be wondering why I am giving this history lesson today.

Not every brother in my lodge wanted to rebel against the crown. Like any gathering of intelligent men there was a large spectrum of political belief, religious persuasion, age and intellect in the lodge. There is no way around that and it would be a sad and very boring world indeed if we all thought and acted the same way. At one point during the Revolution our Worshipful Master was a passionate Patriot and our Senior Warden was a staunch Loyalist. That is the beauty of our institution. When the gavel falls and the lodge is duly tiled brothers meet upon the level to do the good labor of our gentle art and when the work is done they depart upon the square. Political talk and discussion of religion has no place in a lodge where we are to work in harmony building sacred temples out of the rough ashlars of human beings. Those two topics as we all know can make the worst enemies out of the best friends. But we rough ashlars all have to live in a world filled with politics and religion.

Governments are a necessary evil of mankind because most of mankind would revert to an animal state of survival of the fittest without laws to govern them. We enter into a compact creating government to protect the rights of those who cant protect themselves. Governments are corrupt because mankind is corrupt. It is the uncommon man who lives and acts in accordance with the divine, because it is just too darn easy to live in sin and corruption and hard to live justly. It is so hard to live a just and good life that it can be equated with labor. Why sweat your ass off growing and caring for an orchard all year long when you can sneak into one under the cover of darkness and steal some apples when you are hungry. The other reason for entering into the compact of government is to protect the labors of the just. We all have different ideas as to how this compact is enacted, but we need government.

Religion gives us hope. I am not talking about organized religion, but a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe. I don't care who you believe in but you must admit that there is an amazing structure that is the basis of every things existence. When we meet someone who has a similar belief we congregate to discuss that belief. Some people live in a way that reflects the divine light of the universe so brightly that lesser people will follow them and try to live their lives in their image. People then try to spread what they believe in and share what they find divine and organized religion is born. It is mankind's feeble attempt at government of belief. Some people need someone to tell them what to believe in because they cant see it for themselves.

There will always be a need for government and there always is a need for religion and people will strongly voice their opinions on both of these matters, it is what makes us human.

We are taught as Freemasons to leave these passions behind us when we enter into our lodge not to drop them all together. A Freemason with no political belief is like a candle with no flame. We need to control the flame of political belief from becoming an all encompassing fire as much as we need to shine our collective light no matter what direction it comes from. We must believe and share those beliefs but, in lodge we learn to control our passions. That is why lodges are sometimes called temples and that is why we leave politics and religion at the door, you cant do divine work when clouded by human passion.

After the work is done and the gavel falls we are returned to the world we live in. Hopefully with some more rough edges chipped off the course stone of our being. We labor to become better men and to share with mankind our own personal light. If, after we leave lodge don't share what we learn to control in lodge, then we labor for nothing.

Shine on Widows Son!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Masonic Symbolism and Christmas, The Tree

Up here in the Northeastern corner of the United States, while digging through ice and snow from a recent Nor-Easter, I came upon a branch of Douglas fir that I had trimmed off the bottom of our Christmas Tree and thrown out in my front yard for future disposal. Its dark blue-green needles poked out of the icy white snow with a promise of life amidst the coldest winter fury that mother nature could muster. It reminded me of the sprig of Acacia, symbol of the immortality of the soul.
I sometimes think up here in the Northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere ,when in the grips of a cold and snowy winter, the evergreens symbolic meaning rings truer than in warmer climes because of its stark contrast with the rest of the environment, but like in the picture above of the famous Tree of Ténéré, an evergreens tenacity for life is evident even in the hottest environment.
That is why the Acacia is an important symbol in Freemasonry and the evergreen tree has become one of the symbols of the Christian celebration of Christmas. But how did the evergreen tree end up in a Christian festival of Christs birth?

There are many myths and stories from all over the globe claiming paternity to the Christmas tree. But we must first discuss the day which Christmas is celebrated around, the Winter Solstice.

The celebration of the Winter Solstice is one of mankind's oldest traditions. It marks the shortest day of the year. After days and months of growing darkness, light begins its gradual return to our planet with a promise of new life and longer days. Mankind has revered this day in one form or another and throughout all of history gathered together to rejoice. The early Christian Church was very good at integrating festivals from all sources, and although the actual date of Christs birth varies according to scholars, December 25 was chosen by Pope Julius in the 4th century bringing the day of Christs birth in harmony with the most cherished celebration in the ancient world.
Now to the Tree.
There are many stories from all over the world about the first Christmas tree.There is an old Scandinavian myth of a fir tree, which sprang from blood drenched soil where two lovers met a violent death, that lit with mysterious lights (like candles) on a certain night during the Christmas season. Another myth is about a chivalrous knight traveling deep in the woods coming upon a gigantic pine tree whose branches were covered with candles. Some were standing straight and some bent in weird crooked shapes and at the top of this tree was a vision of a child with a halo around its head. This represented the tree of life decorated with the deeds of mankind watched over by the Savior.
One of my favorites is of Martin Luther, who, while traveling one Christmas Eve in snow covered country, looked up through the trees and was struck with the beauty of the stars peeking through the dark green boughs above him. He returned home to his family and wanted to share his feelings of the beauty and peace of the scene he just experienced. So he went out side and cut a small fir tree from his garden and placed candles on its branches and lit them for his family to experience.
During Christmas we adopt one or all of these myths and bring an evergreen and decorate it with lights to be shared by all.
I have always loved to go out for a walk at night during snow storms. There is a ethereal quiet and otherworldly glow at night during a snow storm that soothes my soul. During the last snow storm I had to run out on an errand and after I stepped out into the cold and looked out on the beauty surrounding me, called my wife to get the two of them in their snow gear so I could share with them my vision of peace and light.
Christmas is a time to surround yourself with the people you love and share in the light of promise of the new year ahead. My study of esoteric Freemasonry has reignited the spark of deeper thought and philosophy that was smoldering inside of me and I want to share my light with my family and my Brethren.
No matter what celebration of Winter Solstice you practice, may yours be filled with light and love.
P.S. You may or may not have noticed but I have decided to shed a little further light into my identity by using my initials to identify the man who writes from The North Eastern Corner. Anonymity, while still a security blanket, grows tiresome when shedding truth and light in a dark world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How do you tell a Past Master he's wrong?

I hate that I even have to write this post but I again am calling out to my cyber-brethren for some advice and experience.

I hope this is not anything like my last post where I asked the Masonic blogosphere for some insight and personal experience and heard nothing back, see Discourse, or lack of, on The Chamber of Reflection. I guess the electronic brethren were too busy fighting each other over at The Burning Taper. But I digress.

Anyway, last night I answered the call of the other lodge in my city who were short on brothers to help out with a memorial service for a brother of theirs that passed on to the celestial lodge. I had never performed that most important duty and was glad to help the lodge that first met with me in Masonry. When I found out about the need, I immediately went to my Grand Lodges Web site because Connecticut has spent a lot of time developing their site and has a lot of stuff available electronically. Under the policy and procedures tab I quickly found Masonic Funerals and dove in head first.

Over the summer the combined lodges of my city performed a re dedication and memorial service at the grave site of our first Worshipful Master that I took part in. It was a beautiful ceremony enjoyed by all who attended. It was then that I realized the importance of the Masonic funeral service. Although we did not do the entire funeral service at the re dedication we did do some of the more symbolic parts of the service. It is very powerful ritual. For those interested who do not know visit: Masonic Funerals its a PDF available to all. When performed with dignity and quality, it is one of the best examples our fraternity can give to the public of the deeper meaning of our craft. More importantly it is the last thing we give a Brother that gave to us his devotion. Many of the people gathered for the re dedication told me after how moving a ceremony it was and how it shed such a good light about us.

Back to my quandary. After reacquainting myself with the procedure for a proper funeral service I met up with the brethren at the funeral home and while putting on the regalia we started to go over what was to go on during the service. Being freshly reacquainted with the material I tried to point out some of the disparities that we were about to perform to the family and friends of our deceased brother. I was told by a Past Master of their lodge that that was how they do things and dutifully proceeded to perform the service even though I knew we were doing things wrong. I will not go into details, but it was not just a trivial ritualistic misunderstanding that could be explained by "this is how we do it". Not that anyone observing the ceremony would know the difference, but I did, and along with some other things that I did not like about "how they do things", I left very frustrated with myself for not standing up for what I knew to be right because I did not want to offend a Past Master. I always remember the words of one of my brothers who told me that I was just as much a Master Mason as any other brother no matter how long they have served or how much gold and purple they wear. I did not heed those words. I would like to do so in the future without stepping on toes.

How can I?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Beautiful Evening

As the sun in the south at its meridian height is the glory and beauty of the day, so stands.....

The Northeastern Corner

Last night the brothers of my lodge elected yours truly Junior Warden. I am humbled and honored to be able to serve my brethren and am anxiously awaiting the day of our installation in two weeks time. All should work out fine, but to quote brother Robert Burns“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley".
My participation in the installation will depend upon Mrs. North Eastern Corner who is in her final weeks of pregnancy with our newest corner stone. Although my second daughter is due January 1st, none of my children have come on time so she could make her first appearance any time between now and then, and if you ask my wife the sooner the better. Whenever she comes, whether it be this week or the night of my installation it will be a extra joyous time at our little home here in New England.
In my opinion there is no more perfect example of beauty than a child.
What a perfect symbol for my year in the South.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


"Harmony is a state recognized by great philosophers as the immediate prerequisite of beauty. A compound is termed beautiful only when its parts are in harmonious combination. The world is called beautiful and its Creator is designated the Good because good perforce must act in conformity with its own nature; and good acting according to its own nature is harmony, because the good which it accomplishes is harmonious with the good which it is. Beauty, therefore, is harmony manifesting its own intrinsic nature in the world of form."

Manly Palmer Hall,
The Secret Teachings of All Ages

There has been much debate and conjecture at my lodge leading up to our annual meeting that will be held tomorrow night. As far as I know my name will be on the ballot for Junior Warden of the lodge, which depending on who you talk to is a good and a bad thing. The brethren who I have talked with who are opposed to the idea, are so because they want me to progress through the officers chairs a little slower. They say that it is so I can get a better idea of how it is to be the junior officers particularly Senior Deacon before being thrust towards the East. I would have no problem with doing that, and would love to be Senior Deacon with all of its challenges, if it were not for the pressing need for my lodge for some new and active leadership. Our officer line has been a little stagnant and if I hadn't come along I think my lodge would be in more trouble than we are already are in.

Of the four brothers who were not Past Masters ahead of me in line when I became the Senior Steward: One has no aspirations for anything beyond Junior Steward for the time being, because he does not like to talk in public and his work schedule has been interfering with his labors in the craft. The next one has his hands in too many organizations and misses most of our meetings. The two left are the current Junior Warden who has had a horrible tragedy in his family but says he will continue to the Senior Wardens chair this year and the other is the current sitting Master of my lodge who cant wait to vacate the Oriental East.

So, at our last meeting which seems like an eternity ago, when the subject of our Grand Lodges upcoming Wardens seminar was brought up, the WM in conjunction with our Chaplain, looked over to me, who happened to be sitting in the Junior Deacons chair where I had been for a few meetings covering for a brother, and said "maybe we should send "the kid" to the seminar and move him to the South next year" and if you saw my picture on The Tao of Masonry you know what happened since.

Anyway, however my brethren decide to put this Master Mason to labor tomorrow night I will be prepared to do my best for the benefit of my lodge, as I have always done. Which brings me to Beauty.

If I am to be appointed to a chair in the South I will be the representation in our lodge of Beauty which led me to one of my (newly) favorite writers Manly Palmer Hall and his Magnum Opus "The Secret Teachings of All Ages" and the quote at the beginning.

In my life I have tried to be true to myself. At a young age I explored the meaning of life and how it applied to me. The first step toward enlightenment is to follow the words that were inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi "Know Thyself". It is the first step towards Beauty. Before you can explore the secrets of the world that our Creator has designed, study his creation that you can know best, Yourself. By knowing yourself you can act in harmony with what you were put here to do, leading to Beauty and the Great Architect of that Beauty.

My living in harmony with what I was put here to do led me to Freemasonry and to my lodge and even to this blog. If my harmony manifests itself into being the Junior Warden I will represent Beauty and share it with my brothers.

To all of my Blog Brethren who will ascend to the South this year, and that seems to be a lot of you, keep the quote above in mind and reflect upon it in your term as Junior Warden.