Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Kentucky

Its funny how things work.

Last August, after reading a good Brothers now removed blog, I was inspired to use my tuxedo for something other than conferring Masonic truths and I bought some tickets to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I thought it would be nice to dress up and take the wife into the city for some operatic enjoyment and perhaps a good dinner. I carefully perused the titles for something that might be fun for us both. I finally decided on Tristan and Isolde, figuring a tale of an Irish princess would be good for my first attempt at the opera. I also bought three tickets to Mozart's The Magic Flute to bring my daughter to her first opera. Now I know some may say that a five year old and opera are two things that shouldn't be combined but as I was surfing through the HD channels one day I came upon a broadcast of The Magic Flute and my Masonic curiosity overcame my aversion to opera and I started to watch it and my then four year old was transfixed. I enjoyed figuring out the masonic allusions and she loved the singing and wonderful costumes and sets. I soon realized that I liked it too and fast forward to buying tickets.

As a man and husband I have a general idea of when the holidays are just not the exact dates. I know Thanksgiving is in the twenties of November and Christmas is on December 24th or 25th. My wife is from Kentucky and that means packing up the kids for a loooooong drive on or near one of those dates. Due to extenuating circumstances we have enjoyed the last two years of holidays at our home in Connecticut near my family, soooo it was decided that we do the two big holidays this year down below the Mason Dixon line. Now back to the opera.

After I bought the tickets I announced to my wife that I was taking her to the opera which received a mixed reaction when she asked me when. I said we are going to see T&I on the 28th of November to which she said we would be in Ky so you'll have to get rid of them. I also announced that we were all going to the Magic Flute on December 22 which was also unpopular because that would be right around us driving back down there again. After some clearing of minds I agreed to get rid of the T&I tickets and we would leave for Ky after seeing the Magic Flute. Thanks to the wonders of a certain "list" I was able to sell the T&I tickets at a very small loss and looked forward to the Magic Flute. Rewind to just a few days ago.

My one year old who had been fighting two ear infections came down with a stomach bug on top of it all. The next to go was my wife (who never gets sick) and then my 5 year old. Leaving me to clean up all of the wonderful things expelled while battling the evil stomach yuk. I had somehow avoided it and hoped upon hopes everyone would be better for the opera....of course they weren't and I was forced to donate the tickets back to the Met so they could resell them and so went my attempt to elevate the cultural level of my family. Which brings us to the current day.

We made the looong journey down to Kentucky in what was good time until we crossed the state line and a batch of freezing rain that shut down I-64 for over an hour and forced us to travel the final two hours of our trip at a snails pace. Which turned the final two hours into five and somewhere in between let the evil stomach funk grasp me in its wicked tendrils to leave me holed up in my wife's old room for the past two painful days.

On a good note I have used my time in exile to catch up on all of the Masonic blogs that I had missed reading for the past month and I have to say it was good to be among "friends" again.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A New Hope

I have not posted in what seems like an eternity and there is due cause.

I recently lost my job of 11 years and started a new one, very different from what I was doing. A big change.

I re-enrolled in college after a 8 year hiatus and have been busy studying and writing papers. Another big change.

As always, I have my little family to attend to, and there has been a lot going on at my lodge so I have had little time to write to my dear Blog.

Tonight, I was installed as the Senior Warden of "Old St. Johns" at a building that was not the one that had pulled me like a magnet to the craft, and it was a great night because it is not the brick and mortar surrounding the Brethren that makes the lodge it is the men themselves.

My lodge is regenerating. We raised 8 new Brothers while I was JW, and what really matters is that we are starting to bond together into the Brotherhood the craft was meant to be. The vibe at our meetings is increasingly positive and I can't wait for the next meeting nowadays. Our nearly 250 year old lodge is moving into the 21st century at, and forgive my Spaceballs reference, ludicrous speed!

We have a goal, we have a plan, and we are starting to gather the laborers to meet our dreams. The work is starting and the trestle board is full.

Thank you to all who have supported me through my "dimmer" moments of the last year. I am looking forward to bigger and better things.

Hopefully soon, after the adjustment to my new schedule and responsibilities, I can resume, more often, my exploration of the deeper meanings of my order and write of the great things we will accomplish in my year in the West.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Struggles of an Esoterically Inclined Freemason

I'm sure many of my Brethren know exactly what it is I'm talking about when I say that it is a struggle to be an Esoterically inclined Freemason. You have probably read "The Secret Teachings of All Ages" along with other works by Hall, along with Pike and Wilmshurst and any other esoteric book on or related to Freemasonry or anything else esoteric. You have probably combed through Internet Sacred Text Archive and studied and discovered new jewels of thought and philosophy that sent a chill up your spine or just "lit" your mind like never before. Perhaps, like me, as you pour over this information you dutifully highlight phrases and passages that speak to you, ever preparing for that time when you will be able to exchange these pieces of light with someone of a like mind.
You spend your days and nights pondering, thinking, and brooding over higher thought. The deeper you get the farther away you are from most of the people you know because they are not there with you.

One definition of Esoteric is: understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest. I think there are two key words in that definition. Only a few actually have the interest. So in no way are we elitist or exclusionary, we are just a small group of people that want to know about the arcane.

Freemasonry draws more men who have this particular interest than other groups because of the secret nature of our order. The symbols and ritual are like a beacon drawing the esoterically inclined to the West Gate of the craft. Unfortunately for the few who's interest lies in the esoteric they are just that, a few. Far more men are drawn to the fraternity out of family history, comradeship, or simple curiosity than a yearning for a deeper meaning in life.

So we enter the West Gate expecting a group of enlightened sages and usually wind up in a sort of fancy Rotary Club. When we went through the 3 degrees and we reveled in the drama and symbolism while some of the Brethren just wanted it to be over so they could go home. We quickly took charge of our membership and learned the ritual and helped out as much as we could and even became officers of the lodge in response to that deeper yearning, ever searching for that mystic tie. It is often not found but we keep searching because that is our nature, us few.

I recently had the tremendous pleasure of raising my dear friend to the sublime degree. As my lodge somewhat stumbled their way through that great drama, many with that deer in the headlights look on their faces as they played it out, I came to the realisation that I would always be in the minority. Maybe someday I will find that group of enlightened sages or even organise one myself but for now I must remain on the periphery watching and waiting for more of the few like myself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Attentive Ear

Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;

Proverbs 2:2

One of the most important lessons delivered in the ritual of Freemasonry kind of gets slipped in during the Fellowcraft degree. It is described as one of the three jewels of a Fellowcraft and like most of the important guides of the Order, it sneaks in under the radar so to speak and only gains importance with much thought and reflection, it is the attentive ear.

The gift of hearing allows us to do many things; notice something out of our range of sight, enjoy the sounds of the wonderful world around us, and most of all receive verbal communication from our fellow creatures. With this gift we can hear the reflected harmony of the great architects plan in music. There are many who unfortunately take for granted this gift and use it only to hear what is going on around them and not really listen.

There is a enormous difference between hearing and listening. If you have the gift, you can hear everything around you. The cacophony of sounds that surrounds us is ever present, but until you train your ear to select a sound to concentrate your mind on, you are not listening. Do you remember those Charlie Brown cartoons? Whenever there was a scene inside the classroom and the teacher spoke to the kids all you heard was the classic "wup waaa waaa wup waaa" of a muffled horn but never the words they were saying. This is a perfect example of hearing but not listening and I can certainly relate. When I was in school I never listened to anyone, my parents included! For some, that is how they go through life, hearing but never listening.

"And he goes through life, his mouth open, and his mind closed"

William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

We have to force ourselves to listen, myself included. Our sometimes brief encounters with our friends or Brothers forces some to try to get all the things in their head out, all at once like a shaken up beer bottle exploding with foam. All of your old stories that you want to share with someone else need not to be recited in every conversation, in the rush to get out your story you will miss important things others want to say.

"Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak."


Remember this important lesson when you are in the presence of your Brethren. There is an important give and take in a conversation that we are admonished to adhere to. An attentive ear is truly a jewel to a good man and Brother.

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force...When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other...and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. ...Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way."

Brenda Ueland.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Face, Old Brother

One of the nice things about being in a lodge with a large membership and small attendance is that every now and then, a new face will appear at the door that a "newbie" like me does not recognise but is well known to the "old guys". I arrived at the lodge to open up before our meeting and while I started to unload the refreshments the usual Brethren began to trickle in behind. At one point a few of us were standing just inside the door when a gentleman appeared at the door that most of us didn't recognise. He came in the door with a smile and shook one of the Past Masters hands and seeing the need, I introduced myself and everyone else followed. He was a member that hadn't been around in a while but was "found" again, as we are trying to dredge up as many members for our upcoming Master Mason Degree that we are going to (try) confer without any outside help.
We were having a rehearsal that night and I'll admit I must have caught something when I visited VW Tom at Friendship 33 because there was a loosey goosey feel to the evening and dare I say it, we kind of had fun! Everyone was on top of their parts and we had some laughs while we were practicing the Sublime Degree. I am stepping back to sit in the Senior Deacons chair for the degree so I was right next to the WM. At one point there was a mistake in words and one of the Brothers said sing instead of spoke and all of the sudden I had an image of a musical adaption of the third degree that had the WM and me in stitches for a while. The rehearsal went very well except for a couple of missing parts that I hope will be filled before the degree actually happens and the good feeling extended after the meeting was over.
The Secretary grabbed me for a couple of words and then the "new" guy grabbed my ear for a while. As we talked about many things, we learned of many similarities we shared in our lives and our conversation was anything but the superficial banter I usually endure at meetings. Its great to find new experiences at a regular meeting. I have spoken with my new found Brother a few times since and even visited him at his place of work and I am excited for our next meeting. I hope that all of the "digging" for old members to come to the MM degree turns up more gems.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Trip To The Tao's Lodge

Last night I got my passport and traveling papers in order so I could make the one hour journey upstate to visit the Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism; Grand Sovereign Pontiff and Secret Exposuer; Ambassador to Zeta-Reticula; Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner; Aluminum Foil Beanie Fitting and Training Consultant; Team Osiris Obelisk Siting and Surveying; Manager, Dulces/Denver Airport Massage & Day Spa; Cydonia Vacation Resort Concierge; Past Master, Friendship #33.3 AM & FM, Area 51, Atlantis or as I like to call him Tom Accuosti.

This wasn't just a regular visit to Tom, it was a visit to return the favor of my friends and Brothers Eric, Kyle, and Kevin who came all the way down to my lodge to support me when I stepped up into the East for the first time. Eric who is the SW at Friendship Lodge No. 33 was assuming the East for a Fellowcraft degree and although I have known about it for a while, I didn't know until the last minute that I would be able to repay the Brotherhood dividend I received last spring.

Without my trusty GPS I was forced to set out on my journey with just the ancient travel aid of a printed copy of some directions from Google Maps (how 90's) and my keen sense of direction. I was able to find the lodge despite Tom not answering his phone and I think my friends were actually surprised to see me. As I walked up to the throng of cigarette smoking men standing outside the lodge (yes, they actually still do that kind of thing upstate ;-) hardy hellos were exchanged and then I noticed some mischievous glances and words being sent back and forth between my buddies. I had arrived just in time and Tom escorted me up to their lodge room for the degree.

Although there were devilish grins being sent my way, Bro. Eric opened the lodge under the the Fellowcraft degree without a hitch and without much fanfare. Just as I was feeling at ease the WM announced for Tom to remove the visitor (ME!) to be received in proper form. You see, my good friends from 33, who Tom, abandoned,...I mean, introduced me to on a fateful night last winter will never let me forget a certain ancient Grand Lodge ritual that I brought upon myself. So as we entered the anteroom I saw the mode of reception my pals had planned for me. I was then received back into Friendship 33 in the way many of the brethren of that lodge saw me last........on a hand truck!

Let me tell you, being ceremoniously received into a lodge on a hand truck being pushed by a Grand Lodge Officer is quite an unforgettable experience and I am sure that entry into the minutes of the lodge is a first anywhere!

A good laugh was had by all and they got back to the business of passing their brothers to the degree of Fellowcraft. I love seeing the little differences in the way other lodges do ritual but let me say I have never seen a F.C. degree quite like the one they did last night.

All in all, it was a night traveled well and I thank Tom, Eric, Kyle, Kevin and their lodge for the great hospitality they showed me and I left exited to come back again (I'm such a glutton for punishment!).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When Do You Guys Have Fun?

This question is by far the single most important question that I have ever received about my lodge. It is one question that, if it can't be answered effortlessly and truly, will be the single greatest contributor to the death or growth of a lodge, and I can honestly say that I struggled to answer that question. It was put to me by a dear friend and Brother who is wondering to what end do all of these degrees lead. If it be to sitting through more degrees, which has been the end result at my lodge, than the light is dimming and may never shine like it once did.

What is the use of going through a long and serious initiation into a "brotherhood" if at the end you are treated to watching and performing initiations and nothing else.

My lodge is not fun. Alright, I admitted it.

We have had occasions where we almost reached a level of fun, but, they have been too few and far between. Too often, as I have lamented numerous times, the only thing you hear after a degree or meeting is the squeal of tires leaving the parking lot. The meals we have before the meetings are superficial to say the least because they are more obligation than true brotherhood. The "veterans" are so happy to see newbies that they rarely take the time to familiarise themselves with them because they are too busy venting old stories or gripes about the world. Since no one becomes really familiar with the new guys, they feel left out and if they come back at all, it is only out of a sense of obligation and not because they want to come. There is the crux of the problem at my lodge. Nobody wants to come, they feel they have to be there. Burdens do not make Brothers. Apart from a few including myself, the majority of office holders in my lodge come to our meetings because they have to, and some don't even live up to that obligation.

So how can we change?

Another lodge officer, around the same time as the question was asked of me by the new brother, called me with the identical question. He said our lodge was in dire need of fun outside of lodge. This other officer is the only officer I have met up with outside of lodge on our own time, which says a lot. His idea was to get some kind of get together organised at a restaurant or bar for the purpose of planning a fun activity between the brothers. We both agreed that if something wasn't done very soon we would start to loose all of the new brothers we have gained this year. It has already begun. Out of the five new MM's we raised before summer only two have come back since, and only one regularly. It may be too late.

Our biggest problem is that the one who is supposed to lead us does not and has not. The title was what he wanted not the role. This is the biggest problem of the progressive officer line, not everyone can effectively lead but as long as they are on the ladder they will reach the top. My lodge unfortunately has not the participation required to reject the progressive line so it is what we have to live with it. Has anyone who reads this blog been in a similar situation and overcome it? Should someone lead from another cardinal direction? What does your lodge do for fun?
P.S. I want to give a huge thanks to Bro. Chris Hodapp for the great speech he gave here in my state and a certain Right Worshipful Brother who posted it to our G.L's Website so people like me who could not attend, could still receive the light spread by our famous brother, and most of all, to my readers who helped me get back on track and for being patient as all I have been doing here as of late is bitching and complaining.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are All Lodges Worth Saving?

In my seemingly never ending battle to shake the rust off a once glittering ediface, I have been as of late pondering the question above. For two years now, I have made it my quixotic quest to return a nearly two hundred fifty year old lodge to its former glory. I have volunteered for every comittee, been on almost every investigation, created an amazing website, and generally done everything in my power to save my lodge. I have had numerous conversations with every member I can get my hands on expressing my dream of what our lodge could be. I assumed positions that should not have been mine for years, if ever, all in the name of saving a very old organization from the decay that had pervaded it. While we have made some strides in the right direction I dont think we are any better off than when I started. Yes we have some new members, yes we have done some nice things, but overall my lodge has not lived up to the promise of brotherhood. We go through the motions but very rarely live what we preach.

Leadership is a lost art in my lodge. Flowery messages from the East mean nothing when you only devote the few hours of the actual meetings to the service of the lodge. The few Brothers who constantly take the burden of the lodge on their shoulders will eventually be broken under the strain. I am at a loss. My drive to finish my quest is diminshing. I see other lodges working together under great leadership and realizing their potential, but I am hard pressed to see it in my own.

Is it worth all of the effort???????

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Columnist For the Grand Lodge!

A couple weeks ago I received a call from my friend WB Tom Accuosti from the Tao of Masonry who wanted to congratulate me for becoming a columnist for our Grand Lodges monthly (almost) newspaper. He, being one of those purple apron types, must have gotten an early edition because my copy only came today. Due to the limitations of news print it was slightly edited so I though I would put it up on my blog to share in its entirety. Although it mostly applies to lodges in the Nutmeg State, it is (in my own opinion) a good piece for all lodges. Enjoy!

Do You Want New Brothers or Visitors?
Update Your Lodges Website

In this new age of information and communication there is a relatively easy and amazingly effective way of letting brethren and men interested of becoming brethren know what your lodge is doing and that you are an active and vibrant member of the Masonic community in Connecticut, and best of all it is FREE, its your lodge’s website. Maintaining your lodge’s website and keeping the content up to date is a great tool to attract new members and let the traveling men know what is going on in your lodge. Let me share a little story of a man I know well and how the internet was the biggest tool in his approaching the West Gate of our Brotherhood.

A few years ago there was a certain young man who after watching a History Channel show about the founding fathers of America and after years of reading about Freemasonry in history books and in exciting fictitious novels, decided to research the famed fraternity he knew very little about. Like most men his age he was well acquainted with the Internet and in fact, the single biggest tool for researching anything he was interested in was right in his living room, his computer. The young man did an internet search of Freemasonry which turned up more results than he imagined.

He clicked his way through many websites, some bad, but many more good and eventually ended up at the website of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, the state in which he resided in. He scrolled through the different informational pages about the brotherhood and saw a link to a list of lodges in Connecticut. Sure enough there was not only one, but two lodges right in the city which he lived in, which amazed him because of in his short 30 or so years of life he had never had any contact with anyone who was a Mason. He clicked on the link for lodge nearest to where he lived and, other than the standard template and an address of the lodge; there was not much on the website. Perhaps they no longer met or existed? His curiosity was piqued never the less, so he hopped in his car to drive past the address from the website.

When he got to his destination he noticed an old sign post with a weather beaten and greened, copper square and compasses on it in front of an old brownstone, church looking building. It sure looked to him like a meeting place of the Order that many of the founding fathers belonged. However it being night time, there was no one there, so he went back home and went back to the computer to do more investigating.

He went to other lodges websites on the list and noticed that some had loads of information about their lodge’s activities with calendars full of events and this thing called a “Message from the East”, which apparently was a monthly update from the leader of the lodge, the Worshipful Master. Yet the majority of the websites had little, if any, updated information, including most of the lodges close to him. He was happy to find out that the brotherhood existed in the state and although the lodges in his city may not meet any more, which he thought because of the empty websites, he decided Freemasonry was something he wanted to be a part of, so he went ahead and filled out the form on the Grand Lodge’s website to become a member.

To make a long story short, after some emails back and forth with many different people the young man met with some Brothers from the other lodge in his city who told him that the lodge that met in that old building indeed still met and existed. After a short talk they gave him a petition to join Freemasonry telling him that he could join whichever lodge he wanted and receive the same Masonry. He went on to petition the lodge that met in that old building and if you haven’t guessed it yet, went on to be the sitting Junior Warden and author of this article you are reading, me.

The reason I told you my story is because as a Brother who came to Freemasonry in Connecticut by way of the World Wide Web I want to make sure that you don’t let a good man slip by because your website is not up to date. You may say, “Hey…you still petitioned your lodge even though their website was not updated” to which I will say that I am probably an exception to the rule. I have heard many stories of guys who after looking up their local lodge and finding the website dated or empty except for the standard template giving up on their decision to join or having second thoughts.

As members of the largest and best fraternal organization in the world we owe it to ourselves to shine our light to all who may knock, or click for that matter. An added bonus of having a great website with updated calendars and news of future events is that Brothers traveling around the state or world can know if they are in the vicinity of your lodge on a meeting night that there is something going on and stop by for a visit. We have had a few such traveling men stop by my lodge, one from as far away as a lodge in Germany and they would have never known that we were there and active without our website. We all should be very thankful that our Grand Lodge provides us with such a powerful and amazing communication tool.

So go on, update your website. If you can’t do it or need a little help there are many Brothers out there willing to help, just ask. Keep it fresh with news and events from your lodge and keep your calendar updated, you never know who will contact you, perhaps a future Junior Warden or a traveling man seeking the friendly confines of a lodge far away from home.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

I have been sitting here trying to fashion some fine quilt of words to describe and update what is going on in my life and I just cant find the right materials.
My lodge's second half of the year began last Thursday without its Junior Warden. Even though I already knew I was not going to be there, because of my involvement in a community theater production that I became a part of over the summer, it was even harder not to go because on that day I received news that my job of the last ten years was soon to be no longer. It also happened to be my wife's birthday, so there were many things stacked against me popping in to say hello to my brethren after two months. I missed it dearly none the less.
For those of you who have read my blog from day one, or even month one, you would know that I am in firm belief that I was lead to the fraternity by my guardian angel, my departed son. My life in the past few years has taken a complete U-turn (or at least a major detour) from where it was before we found out about my son.
Through my interest in the craft I rediscovered many things that had been lost to my life. The introspection of the degrees rekindled my love of study and writing. The act of sitting in lodge and participating in the degrees returned my interest in theater, and the simple act of fellowship that comes from our fraternity restored a camaraderie that had been missing in my life.
In a relatively short time I left a shell that I had fashioned around myself and have re-found the life I was meant to live. Keep in mind that like all great teachers, Freemasonry did not just hand this to me with my dues card but allowed me to find these things on my own, which is always the best way to learn. I know for sure that I am closer to the man I was meant to be than I was before I knocked on the West Gate.
Could I have found this by joining some other organization? Perhaps. But I think it is the deeper aspects that only Freemasonry offers to those truly seeking, that helped me to blossom.
Although I have been one to always land on my feet after life throws you a curve. I am in a much better position now than I have ever been to know what the next pitch will be and to hit it out of the ballpark. We'll see.
Like the old saying goes;
God never closes a door without opening a window.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Icy Hill in August

"The well-being of every nation, like that of every individual, is threefold,---physical, moral, and intellectual. Neither physically, morally, or intellectually is a people ever stationary. Always it either advances or retrogrades; and, as when one climbs a hill of ice, to advance demands continual effort and exertion, while to slide downward one needs but to halt"

Bro. Albert Pike
The Meaning of Masonry
The Evil Consequences of Schisms and disputes for Power in Masonry,
and Jealousies and Dissensions Between Masonic Rites

When last I read these words I was dug in deep to the ritual. I was preparing for my first time in the East while reading three other books on Masonry and blogging about it all at least once a week. My effort was continual my thought was enveloped. Every meeting brought new challenges and satisfying rewards. The first half of the Masonic year at my lodge ended with the culmination of much work and fellowship, a Master Mason degree for five new brothers and then we broke for summer.

Just over the horizon, in the promise of summer, was a shimmering hill. Breaking over the hill was a blinding light that obscured the actual view. The light of continuing fellowship and working together to perform a MM degree ourselves, for other Brothers waiting for the sublime degree, warmed what was to be a couple of months where we would not meet. But overshadowed by the light, was the surface of that hill, glistening ice.

As the weeks passed by in summer bliss the effort stopped and with every day spent enjoying the season I slid further back. My reading slowed. My thoughts turned to other things. I lapsed into lazy enjoyment and here I am.

I have tried to get back in the swing of things but the call of the warm sun and delightful sound of my children laughing was much stronger.

Esoteric thought is like a growing garden. It needs continual pruning and work to keep out the weeds. The garden of my mind is a little overgrown right now which is not a bad thing. I realized that in my deep research and meditation about Masonry I had been a little absent in the things in my life that mean a lot more than the craft, my family.

I had realized this a while back but it really sank in this summer.

Recently while out for a beautiful and enjoyable meal alone with my wife the subject of Masonry came up. My wife stated that she loved the fact I was so committed to the order and she knew how much it meant to me but she asked me one question that I could not adequately answer. She asked me what I get out of the fraternity. I said that I had become a better man and enjoy helping others become the same (crappy standard answer). To which she told me that I was already a good man before I joined Freemasonry so that was not a good enough answer. Which made me stop and really think about it. I did not answer her question that night and have been thinking really hard about it ever since.

I guess it is the fellowship that really ties me to the craft. I enjoy spending time with other men who I would not normally associate with in my daily life. I also enjoy the ritual. It is a challenge to learn and perform the degrees for the benefit of the new Brothers. The deeper stuff can't be communicated but I realize that I need to tone it down a bit and enjoy what is around me more and not live in my own head so much.
The advancement starts anew.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Are The Degree Rituals Too Long?

Ever since my last lodge meeting, where we raised 5 worthy brothers to the sublime degree of Master Mason, I have been pondering how to improve the camaraderie of the degree nights. Not to say that fellowship does not happen, it does, but we build so much brotherhood during the degree and due to the length of the ritual and the late hour we finish everyone is usually in a hurry to get home afterwards. I have lamented this in the past and now seek a solution and I believe I have one.

Remove the first section, or Stewards lectures, from the degree night and do them instead on the next meeting immediately following the degree. They may be called something else in your jurisdiction but these lectures are a question and answer session between two brothers that rehash the entire degree that just happened and are required to be memorized to be passed on to the next degree. By moving this lecture to the next meeting night it does a few things.

1. From my own experience, after going through the degree it seemed so repetitive to sit and watch an entire play by play of the thing I just went through immediately after I went through it. When I study the candidates/Brothers faces when they watch it, no matter how well it is done, they too seemed confused or bored during the lecture.

2. By moving it to the next meeting it gets the new brothers immediately involved. Usually the meeting after a degree is held on a higher degree and the newly initiated Brothers feel a bit left out when they are told they cannot attend the next meeting of the Brotherhood they just joined because they are only E.A's or F.C.'s. This gets them right back in.

3. It gives the new Brothers time to mull over the Degree they went through without the pressure of memorization. If we tell them after the degree to just take some time to really think about what happened during the degree they can take their first step into really delving into the meaning of the ritual without having to recite it from rote.

4. It slows down the "Get them to the next degree as fast as possible" mentality that hurts the overall meaning of our craft. If we slow down the railroading of candidates quickly through the degrees we build better Brothers and consequently a better fraternity.

And last of all it removes a tangible amount of time from a degree night that can be better spent building upon the actual degree and the ties it forms between the Brethren. Maybe if it wasn't creeping on midnight after a degree more brothers would hang out and spend a little informal quality time with their new Brothers in a way that cant happen during a dinner before hand.

What do you think?

Do you do it differently?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where Has Civility Gone?

Let me preface this post by admitting that 85% or so of the country is not like this from what I have experienced so if you are from one of those places do not get offended.
It was Sunday morning and my wife and I decided to go to our favorite bakery for breakfast so we loaded up the kids and headed down town. On the way I called my sister up to join us even though I knew this bakery is on the small side with limited seating but it was early enough that I figured we could grab one of the few larger tables that are available. My sister was waiting for us at the parking lot and helped unload my four and a half year old and six month old daughters and walk across the street to the bakery.
The bakery itself is in an old industrial building converted to multipurpose commercial use. If you didn't know it was there you would never find it, but I discovered it a while ago and have been a slave to its fresh baked delights ever since and hooked my family on it also. It is, first and foremost, a bakery and caterer and only half heartedly serves breakfast and lunch to customers who have about 10 two seat tables in a six foot wide hallway and three four seat tables on front of the counter to enjoy their scrumptious vittles.
We have been there many times and are usually fortunate enough to grab one of the big tables or take one just after someone finishes because it is first come first serve. Sometimes we have to wait a little for someone to finish which is alright with us because the food is soooo good but then you have a situation like one I experienced on Sunday that sets us off. So here is what happened.
We walked into the busy as always place and there were two of the big tables available as we walked down the narrow hallway towards the counter juggling a four year old, and baby in a carrier, past the two seat tables and people walking out. To our dismay a group of young women walked into the other door by the counter and grabbed one of the big tables. Which is fine with me because it is first come first serve and their party was as big as ours and I don't need special privileges just because I travel with two cute as a button little princesses. Just before we got to the other table a big guy with a turquoise bandanna covering his bald head sat down and got it before us. Which again was fine with me, he got there before me so it was his, but as we walked past him, ordered our food and discussed where we would be able to fit our little group, still swinging around a baby in a carrier and a four year old pointing out all of the yummy things she wanted to her aunt, the bug guy was joined at his table for four by his little female companion and that's it, no one else. There were eight empty tables for two behind him but I guess he needed the extra room for his elbows and such. He sat there waiting for his food and stared at us trying to figure how we were going to sit at the small tables with a dumb look and never thought about giving the table up to us. There is the problem.
We have been there many a time while some person sat at a table for four sipping coffee by themselves while we scrambled around sitting at two table for twos feeding two kids and ourselves on tiny two foot by two foot tables(thats a lot of 2's). I know it is our problem for going to this place, but I was raised to be polite. I was taught to give up my seat to an older person or woman with children. I was taught to hold a door for someone behind me. I was taught to let someone with one thing go in front of me at the grocery store when I have a full cart. I was taught to say please and thank you to everyone and I endeavor to teach civil behavior to my children. I just cant understand people who don't do these things and although I usually shrug it off, sometimes it gets to me. This guy saw us struggling to seat ourselves and (probably)never thought about how rude it is to sit at a table for four when you only have two. That is one of the bad things about living in the North East in America, most everybody is out for themselves. My wife, who is from the South where people are more kind and considerate in general, said to me as we left the bakery we should get out of this part of the country. I sometimes think she is right.
What does this have to do with Masonry?
Nothing really, I just wanted to rant.
I wish more people read the book by our illustrious brother above and took it to heart.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are You A Traveling Man?

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I am a traveling man.

My journey is never ending.

I travel towards the East,

The source of all light.

The source of all knowledge.

I am a traveling man.

I wander a winding road.

With many twists and turns.

I know not what lies ahead.

I find new truth with every step.

I am a traveling man.

On a path from whose bourn no traveler returns.

The final destination is not the goal.

The goal is the odyssey itself,

and what I learn with every new vista.

I am a traveling man.

It is the only thing I know for sure.

My insatiable curiosity,

and desire for knowledge

are my ever present companions on this trek.




Never weary

Never ending.


Friday, June 27, 2008

A Master Mason Degree Then Dim The Lights

There seems to be a common thread right now in Masonic Blogs. They all have posted something in the way of "Well, I haven't posted in a while because I have been so busy with work, family and lodge commitments and the beginning of summer is upon us....."

Now I don't want to be one to be left out so let me start this post by saying:

Well, I haven't posted in a while because...

Between my last Masonic post and now, I traveled 800 miles each way with two children in the car to my sister in laws wedding in Kentucky. Again during a road trip pit stop in New Jersey I received warm fraternal greetings from a Prince Hall Brother who noticed the S&C on my T shirt and called to me "I see you are a Traveling Man" and gave me a brotherly handshake and hug and we exchanged lodge info and parted on the square. Even my wife, who at times seems just to tolerate my Masonic stuff loves it when I run into a Brother on the road. My four year old said "Daddy you have brothers everywhere!" to which I told her, "all over the world honey!" which she thought was so cool. But other than seeing where the local Masons lodge was in my Father in laws home town of Eminence, which is a very small rural town, I had no other masonic contact on the trip.

When we got home I had to kick it into high gear Masonicly. My lodge was about to host a Master Masons degree for the first time in a long time and I was responsible for getting two of the five Brothers to be raised proficient at the previous degree. We had a log jam of Brothers needing to be raised, and in Connecticut you can only raise five Brothers at one time (thankfully). Our district degree team was gathering to help us with the second half and was made up of more purple aprons than we had seen in our old building in forever so I wanted to get my guys up to snuff. I had two personal sessions with the Fellowcrafts and then started to plan for the dinner to precede the degree. Being Junior Warden is the penance to pay for leading the lodge someday. I cant wait to hand over the responsibility of the dinners to another Brother not only because it adds a huge responsibility to my job but we never collect enough donations to cover the cost of the dinners so I have been subsidising feeding the brethren for some time now.

The turnout for the degree was awesome. Although I could not chit chat as much as I wanted to with the visiting brethren because I was too busy setting up dinner and the lodge for the degree. I did however take the time to grab each of the five FC's and tell them to make sure to soak up as much as they could of the evening because it would be the best degree they ever went through and that it was the single biggest bind between brothers, going through the sublime degree. Afterwards one of the new Master Masons and one of the guys I coached, came up to me and thanked me for telling him to drink it all in which made me very happy.

Unfortunately because of the length of the degree and the lateness of the finish the gathered brethren left as quick as their cars could take them. Which left me cleaning up with only the Worshipful Master as company and he was itching to go, so there was not any fellowship after the degree. This was a big bummer to me because it was our last meeting before going "dim" for the summer. In CT we do not meet in July and August mostly because most buildings don't have air conditioning and summer is so filled with vacation and family obligations that barely filled lodge meetings would be even barer during these months. So I went home, hung up my tuxedo for a while, and went out in my back yard for a cigar and my whirling thoughts.

Although I welcome a break from the crazy schedule that my obligations have produced this year, I will miss lodge for a couple of months. I plan to do some serious esoteric delving this summer into our ritual and brotherhood so like my friend and fellow CT Masonic blogger says:

Stay Tuned.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On Fatherhood

I am writing at the time of the predawn day of the now iconoclastic day of fatherhood, Fathers Day.
My whole life, as far as I can remember, has revolved around the promise of fatherhood. I have always wanted children, as many as a wife would allow me to father. Although the family that I was raised in was not entirely huge per say, four children, my parents came from prototypical Irish Catholic families of the mid 1900's. My mothers family was the holy grail of fatherhood to my paternal instinct, thirteen children. I remember going to my maternal grandfathers birthday celebration in the 1990's, and during the ubiquitous family photo, I could not even imagine how it would be to have so many pieces of yourself at large in the world, but I envied him.
My own Father is my hero. He is all I ever wanted to be. He is the kindest, strongest, and most generous man I have ever known. He is not the most outspoken man in the world, but he can say more in a look or gesture than most can say with a whole dictionary.
He gave me life.
He gave me an example of manhood.
I was never the supreme athlete he was, but he never made me feel bad about it.
My father, although possessed of a higher education (political science), is a house painter and a handyman, like his father was. It was the best way to support a growing family in the 70's-80's. But I can tell you with out a shadow of doubt that there is no smarter painter/handyman out there.
He taught me that Fatherhood is sacrifice. Once you bring a child into this world your world changes; it is not about you, it is about your creation and how you can make the world better for it.
Children are the single hardest and greatest thing in this existence.
For so long you live in a world that revolves around yourself. Its a nice world, you know it like the back of your hand, but you crave something more. Next comes the love of your life, who alters that singular world view and helps you see that there is more to life than yourself. That first divide of love can be hard for some who find it much easier to live singularly but for most it brings even more love than you thought you were capable of. This results in a production of two loves, a child. I can honestly say that there is no single joy in life that can compare with that of your own child.
The birth of my first daughter was not exactly the death of me, but it was kind of. In her was the new me. I am not the same person I was four and three quarters, as she says, years ago. My life is her life. I still have my hopes and dreams but they are now entwined with hers. I live through her. My son and new daughter was and are the same.
I remember having a conversation with my wife before the birth of my son about how I could not imagine how I could love another like my daughter to which she wisely responded "before me, you didn't know how it is to love someone else and yet your love grew. Then we had our love together which was wonderful, yet it expanded again for our daughter and just like it was unimaginable how love could be made better by her, it will be made larger again for him." Now that is not an exact quote but it was the gist of the conversation, but the point is that love has no boundaries or limits. Love is ever growing.
I love being a father. It is what I always wanted to do. Looking back at my families life, even with the trials of having thirteen crazy children, I always will envy my grandfather for the unbelievable amount of creation he loved and enjoyed, I just cant seem to convince my wife to let us house our own baseball team. With the price of living nowadays I cant imagine affording a quartet!
Enough of this crazy, wandering Fatherhood post.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Desire For Knowledge

Do you declare that, unbiased by friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries of masonry; that you are prompted to solicit this privilege by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be useful to your fellow creatures?

That first time you are in lodge and waiting in the preparation room is such a crazy experience. You really don't know what is going on (hopefully), sitting with men you don't really know, and are asked to arrange yourself in the manner required for the initiation. All of the sudden two dudes with staffs enter the room and start asking you questions which you answer without really pondering what is being asked because on the surface they are easy questions to answer. Those questions however are the single most important questions you will ever be asked, and in my opinion, the one above is crucial to the future of the fraternity in the United States of America because it is what separates us from all of the other fraternal or civic organizations out there.

The first part stems from our need that men come of their own free will and accord. Solicitation and recruitment produce members, not masons. You offer yourself to the mysteries of masonry not to the organization of Freemasonry. Ours is a fraternity for making men withdraw into themselves and seek, with the help of the divine spark that is within us all, the truth that underlies all things.

The next part reminds us that it is a privilege and not a right to be a mason. A privilege is something that needs to be maintained not something that is guaranteed. When you receive your drivers license after fulfilling the requirements of the state you live in you must obey the laws of the road or you may loose the privilege that was granted to you. If you violate the laws of the road too many times you can loose that privilege for life. Think about that. I have recently been reading the minutes of my lodge from back in the 1800's and found that it was much harder to maintain the privilege of being a mason back then. Trials and suspensions for unmasonic conduct happened often and I think if we demanded our brothers now to live up to the standards of the past many would fail and loose the privilege of being a Freemason.

The next part, is my favorite part, and is something that is as much a part of my being as breathing, a desire for knowledge. I have never known a time in my life when I did not have the unquenchable thirst of curiosity. I am not just curious about finding out what things are but also why and how. In the beginning of our history as a craft, knowledge was not easily attainable. Be it by the church or monarchy, knowledge was a thing to be controlled and be distributed as little as possible in an attempt to keep the people down. Back then a desire for knowledge was a desire for enlightenment, and freedom that was not the norm at the time. We live now in a time when knowledge is as easy to gain as a mouse click yet the majority of the populace, of this country at least, would rather use their time to be mindlessly (and usually tastelessly) entertained for a couple of minutes. A serious desire for knowledge is something that needs to be resurrected and inculcated in as many people as possible.

The last part becomes the result of living up to the others. After offering ourselves to the mysteries of masonry, maintaining the privilege of being one, and quenching our desire for knowledge we may be useful to our fellow creatures. Notice the word creatures and not man. If we live up to the promise and possibility that our order can produce in a man we live as the Great Architect of The Universe meant us to be, and we can be useful to all of its creation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Have To Dig In Dirt To Find Gems.

One of my favorite pastimes is wading through anti-masonic sites to see what they are up to. I was recently on the big one, which I won't name to give them any credit (but they watch us), where I found a very interesting and balanced article on Freemasonry which illuminates a curious history on a certain cornerstone laid by a certain famous Mason and founding father of the USA. Its a great read and fun topic. Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Times Like This I Wish We Were the Nefarious World Running Order That Some People Think We Are!!!

It was your run of the mill lodge night.
The vibe was good.
We were continuing our back breaking, degree after degree, pace of bringing in new Brothers which we have been doing constantly this year. ( I know, I know,... whoa is us). Three of our newest brothers were getting prepared to be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft. All was going fine until one after another we realised we were going to be about three officers short. This degree was thrown together in a very short time and an email was the only notice sent to the Craft to set us to labor. Important note for W.M's and others who only communicate via the Web; not everyone checks their email as regularly as others so if you need to set something in motion in a short time it would behoove you to use that old fashioned instrument of communication called the phone!
I digress. Anyway, we were all eating our meal before the degree or setting up the lodge. Innocently doing what we do all the time, while a reprehensible act occurred outside the lodge in our parking lot. I don't know who exactly was the first to discover this but someone stepped outside and noticed that someones car had been broken into! That someone was one of our young Entered Apprentices about to be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft. His car window was smashed to bits and some jerk had grabbed his GPS from the front seat. One by one we all spilled out into the parking lot to gawk at the scene while the police were called.
Our direct Past Master and Chaplain is a detective in our local police department, but of course on this evening he was one of the missing officers of the night. While we all waited patiently for a policeman to show up, and I repeat patiently...., and the hour to open the lodge had long passed so it was decided to postpone the degree for a week because we did not want to go home in the wee hours of the morning.
A long time ago someone broke into my car and stole my entire CD collection, which numbered in the hundreds at the time, and I can remember the feeling of violation that accompanies such an occurrence. Our newest brother handled the whole thing very well and maintained his composure the entire time and even joked about how the moron who did this smash and grab act luckily did not see the $2000.00 camera in the back seat.
If we could, I would love to set our imperial forces upon the evil aggressor who perpetrated the ugly act, but unfortunately we don't really control the world!?!

Monday, May 5, 2008


The night before was spent in a hotel in Springfield Massachusetts, where men (actually Boys) from all over New England gathered before boarding the plane to Great Lakes Illinois. We didn't know each other but we had all taken the same oath.
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
After a short flight we were herded onto a bus and driven to the place we would call home for the next eight weeks, Boot Camp. After we arrived, we were stripped of all of the worldly possessions we came with, which were then boxed up and sent back home. We were then dressed in the same sweat suits and lined up for a barber to remove the final distinguishing characteristics of our former selves, our hair. Although we came in different shades of melatonin, from that point forward we became one color, Navy Blue.
The next eight weeks of trial and error, pride and punishment, joy and pain, united eighty men from every state, creed, color, and background into one. We learned early on that we were only as strong as our weakest shipmate, so we needed to quickly adapt the mantra of teamwork if we were to shine as a unit, which we did. Never in my short eighteen years of life did I ever form such a tight bond with other men as I had in such a short time. That was boot camp. It was my first experience of true Brotherhood.
Men and women who never volunteered for the military service can never exactly know that trust and bond which servicemen the world over share. Servicemen and women all experience a similar trial, and upon completion, become bound by a tie that never can be broken. Since my departure from service I had not felt a similar tie until I knocked upon the door of Freemasonry.
In like manner, I came of my own free will and accord to offer my services to the Craft. On the night of my initiation into the fraternity I sat in a room with men whom I had never before met. We were divested of our belongings and then bound by an obligation. After the trials of the degree were over we were Brothers. Unlike boot camp we all went home to our own houses and went our separate ways until the next meeting of the lodge. The ties of Freemasonry are harder to forge because of this fact. There is just too much time in between meetings and too many distractions in our lives to quickly bind men. Yet with much work and perseverance we can labor to build that temple built from living stones that we call a lodge.
There are walls that we as men build in our minds to protect us from others. From a young age we begin to erect these walls from stones of rejection. Some build walls of macho' ism, "me big man you can't hurt me", some build walls of aloofness "I am far too intelligent for you to hurt me", and others of scorn "you cant hurt me cause I don't give a sh**!". These walls may protect our egos and our self esteem but they are facades which do not reveal our true selves to others. If we never live the life we were meant, because we hide behind walls, we fail our true purpose of being. This is where brotherhood steps in.
In boot camp we were put on the same level by the government and built up in the image of our particular service. While there I saw men cry, fight, laugh and overcome great obstacles together because we worked together. Not all of the walls were removed but we could not help reveal our true selves because that was all we had. We could not hide behind a suit or gangster clothes or leather jackets because they were left behind at the beginning. When one guy could not do the push ups that we were all doing, he got help at night because he was our shipmate and we were not going to leave him behind, we needed him. He, in turn, helped guys who had trouble with the academic side to basic training because that was his strength. That is what our lodges should be.
When we are divested of our material things and appear before the lodge, neither barefoot nor shod neither naked or clothed, we stand before the lodge and more importantly our creator as the raw material needed to complete a spiritual temple. Not all stones are created the same. Some are naturally stronger and more dense and can hold heavy loads on their shoulders. Some have the quality of being carved into intricate and beautiful things to adorn the aesthetics of the temple. One is not better than the other because with out them all gathered together the temple will never be complete.
If we take the opportunity of entering into the Craft to start chipping away at our "walls" and reveal our true selves to our Brothers we take the first step in the building of that spiritual temple. We cannot labor alone, we must use the talents and uniqueness of every Brother in the lodge to build, but we cant lay a foundation on a man who acts like something he is not. Until we reveal our true selves to each other we can never start that spiritual building project that Freemasonry is meant to be. Your Brother can accept you for what you are better than your friend. Friends come and go, but Brotherhood is forever because we swear to our creator that we will protect and defend our Craft for the benefit of ourselves and the men we will for ever after that time call Brother.

Post Script. At the last meeting of my lodge I sat in the East for the first time to confer the degree of Entered Apprentice on a friend who has been like a brother to me for a very long time. Quality men from a lodges halfway across the State came to help me in this endeavor because we became friends after a man whom I consider a friend and mentor left me in their fraternal care a month ago. Now my old friend is my Brother and my new Brothers who I just became friends with, helped me do it. We all met on the Level, acted on the Plumb, and Departed on the Square and I look forward to all of the fraternal relations to come. Its great to be back in a Brotherhood!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Whom Do You Put Your Trust


Firm reliance in the honesty, dependability, strength, or character of someone or something.

Trust is something that should not be handed out lightly. The first question given to a candidate of the mysteries of Freemasonry by the master of his lodge, is the one whose answer the rest of his masonic life will be built upon. If that answer is coaxed or prodded or just given to satisfy the requirements of the degree and does not come from the heart, the candidate will never be a Mason. He may progress in the fraternity but will not be a member of the order.

Freemasonry is not a religion but it is religious. Our firm belief in a higher order of the universe is the rudder that keeps us on course to the better life. It matters not what your belief resembles in your imagination but that it is there.

Trust is something we give with no guarantee of a return yet it is handed out daily. We trust that many things we rely on will always work and be there but there is one thing we must trust that makes this life worth living.

Your Masonic journey is built upon trust. We put our trust in the candidates trust before we can trust him further. With more trust comes more truths and vise versa.

In whom do you put your trust?

Friday, April 18, 2008

May Day! May Day!

If you keep sticking your head out its bound to get cut off sooner or later.
Well, last night, for the first time in my Masonic life I sat in the Oriental Chair. It was only a rehersal for an upcoming Step-Up night where I will be acting Worshipful Master but I can honestly say that I had no idea how hard it actually is untill all eyes were on me to set the craft to labor.
My very good friend, after a long waiting period between petitioning my lodge, then getting an interview and a few other matters that forced us to put off the degree untill now, will be receiving Masonic light on Thursday May 1st. I thought the greatest gift I could give him, was asking to sit in the East for his degree. It was a tradition at our lodge for the Junior Warden to do an E.A. degree during his year in the South and I was glad to revive the tradition for my good friend. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!
I have been going over the ritual for the WM since finishing my play. I have it on my I-Pod and have had my voice ringing in my head for weeks now in preparation for this event. Like P.T. Barnum I have been telling everyone about it because I want to pack the lodge with Brothers for my friend. I even invited (I think) a Past Grand Master to come and see my first time in the East. After actually sitting in that chair and realizing it is not as easy as it looks from the side lines I finally realized, what the h-e-double hockey sticks was I thinking?
Here I was inviting every Brother I have ever met and a bunch I just met to my first time doing something I have never done before! I am truely crazy.
The thing about being WM is that you are the quarterback and everyone is looking to you for direction. Add in the long speaches and the obligation of the E.A. degree and you have alot on your plate. Not to make too things easy on myself, I went ahead and invited a bunch of guys in purple to come along for the ride forgetting all of the pomp and circumstance that follows guys who wear those aprons. Somewhere in the middle of the rehersal when the old guys started whispering to each other it hit me that if the Brothers I have invited actually show up for this degree, I will look like Patrick Ewing on the foul line in the forth quarter of a game against the Bulls (for those of you cant relate to late 1980's basketball references, think flop sweat!). We'll see!
I want to give my friend the degree he deserves. He just survived cancer and is coming into the fraternity of his grandfather. I want to give him the kind of E.A. that I imagined when I knocked upon the door of Freemasonry not so long ago. I certainly hope I can live up to the challenge!
And it had to fall on May Day! May Day!
There is much work to be done!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Lodges

Nestled along the body of water known as Long Island Sound, on the Eastern Coast of the United States of America, lies a small city separated by a river and gathered around a safe harbor protected by a string of islands. It is a typical New England harbor city famous for its oysters that thrive in the protected waters of the sound. It was colonised back in 1640 and was a major industrial city in the 19Th century.

Freemasonry came to this city by way of a certain merchant and sea captain who applied to the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York in 1765 for a charter to make masons. The lodge met and organised in the home of this Episcopalian merchant of Jewish origin and quickly grew and thrived. It survived the Revolution and continued to prosper and as it grew it met in various houses and buildings in the similarly growing harbor city.

Now, this city is not the biggest in the state of Connecticut and it certainly was odd that in the mid 1800's a certain number of brothers from the lodge decided that it was better to break off from the mother lodge and form their own just down the road from where the lodge met. They did this, according to their history, because their wives were unhappy with their getting home so late from meetings. The colloquial history of the matter is that the men who broke off to form their own lodge were unhappy with the progressive officer line and not being able to break into the line decided to form their own. This turned into another "tradition" of one lodge being the blue collar lodge and the other being the white collar lodge.

This division of brethren in the city was handed down generation to generation, father to son and boiled up from time to time. One such spat grew into an all out "Masonic War" that was covered by the New York Times in detail in the late 1800's. The fight got all the way to the point of the older lodge voting to leave the Grand Lodge over the unfair treatment of the matter by, according to them, investigators appointed by the Grand Master who had stronger ties with the younger lodge and gave them preferential treatment. This grew into a lawsuit against the Grand Master by the older lodge in court, which was consequently thrown out of court because the judge said the government had no jurisdiction in a matter within a private organization.

Old divisions are hard to get rid of and fraternal relations between the lodges have ebbed and flowed like the harbor in city that hosts the lodges. There were times were they tolerated each other and gathered together for events and times were communication was almost none. This division between the two lodges continues to this day and the biggest perpetuator of the split is pride, one of the seven deadly sins. Dante's definition of pride is "love of self, perverted to hatred, and contempt for one's neighbor." Pride is considered one of the most serious of the cardinal sins because it is one so easy to fall into. Pride in itself is not the bad thing, it is taking it to a level that leads to thinking you are better than others that is wrong.

Freemasonry has seen its heyday pass in this city. Both lodges prospered and had large memberships with tremendous participation at one time, enough to justify the need for two, this is no longer the case. With diminishing numbers and growing costs, merging the two lodges would be the best solution to reestablishing the craft that was once a cornerstone in the city but pride stops this from happening. It was once discussed not to long ago, but there were still old guard members on both sides who could not overlook their pride and history and move forward into the future for the benefit of the craft. Talks are swirling among some of the newer members who have not been totally indoctrinated into the old way, on both sides.
Perhaps pride could be put on the shelf for the good of the order in this city and a bridge could be built between the lodges separated by a river in actuality and a chasm of history and pride in the hearts of its members.
How do you get men who have carried a grudge longer than their own lives to come to the table of brotherhood?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Intemperance and Excess

As you may or may not have read on Masonic Renaissance or Movable Jewel or The Tao of Masonry , we that blog about Masonry and reside in Connecticut finally got together for an Illuminati like meeting of the Masonic blogosphere.. It was a great pleasure to finally interact in person with many of the men I have had much electronic interaction since venturing out into the World Wide Web about Freemasonry. As stated so eloquently on the other blogs, we had many discussions on many topics and we all left the better for it. I enjoyed their fellowship and look forward to other meetings among those of us who blog.
I would like to thank specifically Brother Tom Accuosti who has been a kind of Masonic Web Sensei since my first post not too long ago. Inadvertently he brought about a personal masonic lesson that I needed about intemperance and excess. I am a person who can be easily be caught up in a situation, particularly when adult beverages are involved. The night before our GL's annual communication I got caught up in all of the revelry and imbibed far more than I should have and regret it. We are taught as masons to control our appetites for intemperance and excess and I let my guard down.
My ashlar is far from perfect and I have been making hard work with my common gavel to chip off the rough corners that are still there.
There is much work to be done!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I would have had them sleeping if it weren't for you meddling kids!

For the first time, I kind of stepped on toes in lodge.
With all of the Fellowcrafts my lodge currently has, it was decided to have a lodge of instruction on the degree. My mentor, who has run things for so long, had a program gathered, and planned on doing an interactive Q&A session with a walk through on the degree. As our meeting grew nearer the W.M. and I exchanged emails about what to do for the L.O.I.

Our W.M., who is my "Middle Chamber" hero, wanted to go over the long form of the lecture and discuss the finer points of the degree. I was on board for that and asked what I could do to help. These email exchanges happened a few days before our scheduled meeting and trailed off without any concrete plans for our Masonic education for our new Fellowcrafts.

The beginning of lodge night is always a blur for me having to plan for the food and get the lodge set up for the evening. Tonight, I was also playing handyman around the building which kept me from the fellowship of the before lodge meal. Before I knew it it the gavel was dropped and as I settled back into my chair in the South we proceeded to open our lodge.

I have to admit, it was nice to be back in the South, although I enjoyed being Senior Warden for a night. Only two of our Fellowcrafts were able to make the meeting and we had a surprise visitor from a lodge upstate from us but we almost had a complete officer line as we attended to some buisness. Two more men were voted into our lodge including my very good friend whom I have written before on this blog.
On to the education.
The WM addressed our Fellowcrafts and explained that we would go over the Fellowcraft Degree and stated that there was a long form of the Middle Chamber lecture that they were given and that he just wanted to touch on some of the topics covered in depth in the long form. He then stated that its a really long lecture and didn't want to read them the whole thing.... then proceeded to read them the whole thing!! Head down in the book, he started reading the lecture for all gathered, and as he went on and on looks were being shot back and forth among the gathered brethren. He was losing them all really fast. I looked down at the F.C. brothers and although they were politely looking up to him in the East, they too started to adjust their watches and aprons and wedding rings. I saw our night of Masonic education going quickly down the tubes. I felt as if I didn't do something fast, it might be a long time before anyone wants to do one again. So when the WM paused in between sections of the lecture I politely asked him for the floor, which he politely relinquished, but no-one had any idea what was coming next.
Not to offend the WM I gave a long story short version of all the aspects of my favorite lecture and then proceeded to expound upon the higher meaning of the F.C. degree. I got up in front of our F.C.'s and started getting ESOTERIC which got back their attention, along with the rest of the brethren assembled. It was awesome for me and the applause after, I think, proved that my brethren liked it too. I then turned back the floor to the WM who insisted I finish reading the lecture even after my protest. I started speed reading through it, which he stopped me from doing and I then started reading it and expanding upon the material as I read. I was glad he stopped me from running through the rest and I think our F.C.'s got something from it all, but I felt as if I did wrong by upstaging my WM., even though he reflected some of my points to the brethren after.
I apologised to him afterwards and I think he was alright with it all, but you never know.
Masonic education should not be boring. It should not be a high school lecture on the liberal arts. It should be interactive and exciting. It should be delivered with all the excitement that our wonderful craft deserves. What we do is not boring, it is enlightening, we just need to refine our delivery for modern men.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Morals as Dogma

As a member of the order who has been responsible for shedding light upon the dark world I take my obligations seriously. While our exoteric rites performed in lodge may not awaken anything in some, I am one who sees the sprout in the seeds we sow together. If you look at our working tools without seeing the truth hidden within you will never be a true Freemason. All the titles and baubles and rings and lapel pins make not a man a Mason. He must put the working tools of his trade into action everyday from the time he first is made a Mason to the time they fall from his cold grasp.

"Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason?"

If it was in your head and not in your heart, even if you go through every degree in all of the rites of Masonry, you will never be a Mason.

We are not mind readers, we can not know for sure your intentions when you petition the Craft for membership. Many slip through who join for selfish reasons but they will never be Masons. They can rise to the title of Grand Master and never be a Mason.

"In whom do you put your trust?"

Many answer correctly to go forth in our initiation but truly believe not in the words they speak.

We must uphold the institution of Freemasonry. If we do not live up to the rituals we bestow upon worthy candidates we are nothing. If we do not use the working tools of our profession at all times, we fail the men who were worthy of being called Freemasons that propelled the Craft to the vaunted status we once held. All men fail at times, but we must labor continuously at our rough ashlars for the spiritual temple we set out to build.

We are builders.

Before we can help others build we must refine the temple of our own being. Without a solid foundation it will never soar to the lofty heights of the divine. Using the common gavel we must continuously chip off the the rough corners of our spiritual ashlar. It is a constant duty of the Entered Apprentice to remove all vices and superfluities of his mind and conscience until he is ready to build. When he does so he is ready to become a Fellowcraft. Not everyone does this.

Moral law is the the truth we must uphold. If we are not just and upright Masons we are stooped over animals. I do not want to be an animal. An animal lives in a world where the simple impulses rule; food, shelter, and reproduction. An animal succumbs to those urges at all times, he will violate other animals to satisfy those simple needs. The world is filled with temptation and only the just and upright temper those animal urges.

"Learn to subdue my passions."

It is not an easy thing to be a Mason. Labor is hard. We labor in the quarries of a dark world. Only by seeking out quality material to build with, will we restore the foundation of our worthy order.

There is much work to be done.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Snickers Are Bad (Not The Candy Bar)

Two weeks ago while in the midst of memorizing the dialog from the play I was in, I dropped by the lodge on my way to a dress rehearsal. I was dropping off the ballot box for a vote that evening. It was in my possession because the very old box is in need of repair and was at another Brothers house for that purpose. At the meeting beforehand the WM had sent the Tiler out to our closet to get it and after a few minutes of furious searching outside the lodge room(our poor Tiler) the Brother who had taken it home for repair came up to me and reminded me that he had taken it. He could not make the last meeting either and dropped it off to me at work for me to drop off before lodge. GOT THAT STRAIGHT?
Anyway, I had time to drop it off and rush to my play rehearsal, so for the first time I came to lodge not intending to stay. I have to admit it was a strange feeling coming to lodge in jeans and a sweatshirt and rushing out after a brief hello. Attending lodge regularly is such a part of my life that when I don't do it it feels weird!?!
Sooo, during the cordial hellos I was reminded that our next meeting will be a step up night and a fellowcraft degree and I snickered and jokingly asked the Senior Warden if he was ready for it and had he memorized all of his lines yet. He said he would be ready and I ran out and went to my dress rehearsal.
I have been acting in a local theatre company for a year or so and after a few bit parts I was given a romantic lead role, including a beautiful duet with a leading lady. Between Lodge meetings and sickness I had missed quite a few rehearsals and had up to that point had not even rehearsed the big duet. My voice never quite recovered from the evil-death flu I had survived and the song itself was at the top of my singing range so needless to say I was very nervous about the performance. Add the fifteen minutes or so of dialogue and I can honestly say that I had not read anything esoteric or Masonic in the month leading up to the play. It wasn't until during a call the next day that my snickering at my Brother Senior Warden became ironic.
My WM who was the man who got me involved with the theatre company called me to ask if I needed help with the fellowcraft ritual. I said that other than a couple of words here and there that it was not much different than the two EA degrees that we had just done and I was getting pretty comfortable in the South. He then reiterated that it was a step up night, to which I responded that our SW told me he was ready, to which he retorted who do you think will be sitting in his chair during the degree!
During all of our talks about doing a step up night I never realized that I was going to step up into the West when the SW stepped up to the East. This sent me to my ritual book in a fury of looking up all I had to learn.
My snicker boomeranged on me.
I put off memorizing the ritual until after my play and for the past few days have been catching up with the fervor of a man possessed.
We'll see how it goes on Thursday night, I hope I don't slip into the Irish accent I used during my play!