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.