Thursday, November 12, 2009

To Be or Not To Be......Impartial

Three meetings away from the East (maybe) and the trickle of good guidance has already begun. While attentively listened to and carefully pondered there is one piece of advice I have received from a few sources that I appreciate yet have a question to its legitimacy. The recommendation I have received is, if and when I assume the oriental chair, it would be in my best interest to remain neutral in all matters having to do with the lodge. Like a wise and impartial judge......
So while I can understand the logic behind the admonition, it just doesn't sit right with me or my idea of what a Worshipful Master should be.
The reason my astute Brethren believe that a WM should remain detached is that if the Master of the lodge takes a side or utters an opinion it would create dissension among the craft and who ever was on the other side of the Masters opinion would feel alienated and possibly effect the harmony of the lodge in a negative way.

So, in the name of unity the leader of the craft must walk on eggshells for a year, not offend anyone and flutter aimlessly like a great white flag high up on the pole above the fray?
I don't think so.
How does one lead without setting a course?
Not everyone will agree on the course but without direction you go nowhere.
While impartiality may serve a purpose in some matters it is not the top leadership imperative on my dossier next year.
I intend to lead my lodge not be lead by it.
A Mason is given a year by his Brothers to run the craft and if running a lodge means scheduling meetings and degrees for a year and scribbling a John Hancock every now and then, you can leave me off the list. I think a Master is meant to lead and how can you lead without taking a side every now and then. My idea of a Worshipful Master is one who with careful thought and planning lays out his trestleboard and with strong direction sets the craft to work.
You cant get a good stew without stirring the pot and I am getting my spoon ready.
There is much work to be done.
And although everyone may not agree with my decisions or direction they will know exactly why I will do things because I will tell them why with conviction and a clear head.
How did you run your lodge?
How do you think a WM should behave?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Not to be confused with concrete, cement is a binding agent that, when mixed with other aggregates, can create something that can last for ages.

Lately there has been a great feeling of bonding at my lodge. We meet and have fun doing the labor of Freemasonry. At our last meeting our Junior Warden, a man who was thrust into the South faster than I, stepped up to act as Worshipful Master for an Entered Apprentice degree for four men wishing to become brothers. The JW is a very reserved and quiet man and I freely admit I had my doubts about him stepping up to receive his proficiency by the Grand Lodge, but boy did he shine! In fact, the whole lodge shined that night for the men receiving Masonic light for the first time but just after the opening, as we were going into the degree, I felt an awesome sense of pride for my Brother who performed fantastically. The best thing is that I felt better for him doing well than I had ever felt for myself doing the same! That's Brotherhood. I have felt overwhelming pride for my children before but never for another Mason.
Before the degree I gathered the candidates and gave them a little speech about how that night was for them and how they were about to go through the same initiation that so many of the greatest men in history had gone through and that the whole thing was for them not the officers, not the dignitaries, not the guys on the sidelines, but them. I admonished them to be aware of everything and to soak it all in.....and they did. I watched closely as they went through the ritual and they were never out of place or disorientated and they payed close attention to everything. What a night.
Our District Grand Lecturer, or AGM as he is titled now, asked the WM if he could address the new Brethren after the degree to re-recite the obligation that all Masons take without pause and with emphasis so as to further enlighten them to that which they just went through. Can I say it was amazing! I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it because all of us there received light with that speech. It was one of the best EA degrees I have been to, or been a part of and I really think we sprinkled a little cement on the mix of men gathered.
Speaking of cement.
I have an idea for a lodge night that I want to give a try in my year in the East. I'll call it "Cement Mixing Night" a night to take the aggregate mix of the Brethren and make it concrete. Ideally this would occur during a Table Lodge or Festive Board (cause everything is better during a Table Lodge) but it could happen on a regular meeting night also.
Just like when making concrete, the first thing you have to do is dry mix the different aggregates. Take the Brothers and split up the usual friends and the different age groups and mix them up. The WM should know his lodge well enough to get the "right" mix.
If its a Table Lodge this is where you can add the "wet" ingredient of choice to stir up the mixture because we all know how certain liquids can loosen up a mixture of people. If not proceed to the next step.
Add cement.
Pair up the mixed Brothers and have them interview each other. It may help to have a standard set of questions to ask or they can just wing it, it's all good. Let them get a good idea of the man they see all the time but may know just cordially. Make sure you set an equal amount of time on each interview to further mix the ingredients.
Now wait. Some mortars take time to set so don't rush to the next step! After an acceptable period have each Brother get up and tell everyone about their Brother they interviewed and ENJOY.


You can't just throw a bunch of aggregates together sprinkle in a little cement and expect an aqueduct. Good Masonry requires a little know how, good materials, and patience. But with this process anything is possible!

What do you think?

Happy building!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Looming East

So there I was, fresh from practicing the FC obligation in my truck, on my way to my first FC degree in the East, walking down the stairs to our dining facilities when I saw a sight to make any officer stepping up in lodge for a night quiver.... the Right Worshipful Grand Senior Warden innocently chowing down some pizza with the Brothers!
Damn me and my extensive email list!
Calm down, I said to myself, pay no attention to the gleaming purple and gold and get to grabbing all of the other officers stepping up that night and kick em into high gear!
So I did.
And we did.
Other than the fact that my brain, that was two sentences ahead, sometimes overrode my mouth. We put on an excellent degree topped of by our 21 year old Senior Deacons quite beautiful and masterful middle chamber lecture and me delivering an almost perfect and from the heart "G" lecture from the oriental chair. If I do say so myself, that lecture belongs with the Worshipful Master and should not be farmed out like it so often is around the lodges I go to.
The R.W. G.S.W. did not want to be received so he just sat on the sideline with the other regulars enjoying the show but when it came down to the final word, just after me and my big mouth said how it was wonderful to be in the East to pass a dear old friend, he the R.W. one grabbed our newest Fellowcraft and proceeded to see if my friend was indeed proficient in the preceding degree AND what he learned that night from his dear old friend in the East!
Let me just say that my friend, who is one of the most reserved and quiet men who ever came out of Waterford, Ireland, did me and our lodge proud by knowing and doing all of the tokens, words, and signs, including the ones he just learned for the first time, quite well and with no help from the sidelines. He did look like a deer in the headlights standing up in front of everyone next to this towering man in purple and gold but he performed. I was proud.
After it was all over I offered to do another F.C. for our WM so I could improve my performance to which he said "You'll have enough time next year my boy, hold your horses, it's still my year." He's always so right!

A couple of days later I went to our Grand Lodges "Masters of 2010 Seminar" which was quite informative and enjoyable and saw a few of my old friends and former bloggers Traveling Man of the now nonexistent Movable Jewel and Charles Tirrell of the extremely out of date Masonic Renaissance. Its hard to believe that just a couple of years ago we were all VERY VERY involved in the burgeoning Masonic Blogosphere and how it is so different now. It is very sad to me. I really enjoyed our time back then.
Last but not in the least bit least I also saw my friend and Masonic Blog mentor Tom Accuosti of the Tao of Masonry hawking Masonic books, knick knacks and what not for the Grand Lodge and after I got over my initial guffaw and indignation we had a great but short conversation about what it's like to be the last of a dying breed of bloggers and caught up on what was going on in our regular and Masonic lives. If there was only one good thing that came from my blog (and there is allot more) it would be me coming into contact and becoming friends with one of the kindest most rock steady Masons I know....and also Tom Accuosti. Just kidding Tom! I am really the better for knowing you and counting you as a friend and Brother.
All right, all right enough of the sappiness.
My time as Master is coming and I will be devoting my blog to litmus testing ideas I want to shove down the throats of my unsuspecting lodge so be ready!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brown, Books, and Busy!

The problem with being a young father and working and being the Senior Warden of my lodge is that I have no free time.... Well, I get some every now and then but it usually at night after getting the kids to bed, cleaning up, getting things ready for the next day and by that time I am already asleep or so tuned out that vegging in front of the tube is about the only thing I can muster. I think about great things to write but usually they come to me at times when I can't possibly write.
My lodge is back up and running with about 15 men in various stages of early brotherhood. The other night we opened on the Master Masons Degree and I had no idea "Why I am a Master Mason". For those of you who don't know, the Senior Warden goes through a question answer session with the W.M. in the opening and closing ritual pertaining to the particular degree being opened on, and it had been so long since we had opened on that degree that I had no idea what the answer was, but I said that it was so I could earn a Masters Wages to support my Family Friends and Orphans, which earned some giggles from the sidelines. Which, by the way, is something we all of the sudden have! Brothers on the sidelines! And not past masters! It's quite great.
This Thursday I decided I would heap another straw on my shoulder and step up to the East to be Worshipful Master for a Fellowcraft Degree. I have seen it and been a part of it so many times it can't be that hard, right? I never really realized all of the extra little speeches that are made by the WM in this degree until I started studying for this degree. An old friend of mine will be going through it so I hope I will deliver, we'll see.
I really miss being able to post more often to my little blog. Speaking of which, I received an email back in August from a publisher or publicist offering me a copy of a new Masonic book pre-release. Thinking it was a solicitation for me to buy the book early I replied "......a FREE copy?...." to which she replied, yes of course to which I promptly sent my address and received it the next day. The Book was "The Masonic Myth" by Brother Jay Kinney and unfortunately for them I was hospitalized with pneumonia just after I received the book and although I started reading it before it was released they did not get the massive amount of preorders that would have come with a review from me because I am only writing about it now, a month after it came out. Brother Kinney does a great job breaking down the "Myth" even going so far as to give a play by play of the degree ceremonies all the while never revealing the "secrets" we have obligated ourselves to. It is a good background book for those wanting to learn about allot of things about Freemasonry in a short amount of time. My only problem I had with the book was his seemingly dismissive attitude towards the esoteric side of the craft and those men who have written about it. Which seemed strange coming from the Publisher and editor in chief of Gnosis an esoteric journal and the co-author of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions. Maybe I just read it wrong or I am still recovering from my illness but that is what I took from the book.
And finally, speaking of books, I received Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, the day it came out from Amazon and finished it within five days. I had really enjoyed his previous books and this one was no different. It was a thoroughly enjoyable joyride of a book and I am sorry I ever doubted old Dan. He had always written enough truth into his books to make you really wonder about things and shame on us Masons for thinking he would have trashed us because there really is nothing to trash, sorry Kooks! The entire book was very pro Masonry and there is a part where the central character Robert Langdon, gives the best lecture as to why the fraternity is such a good thing in the world that I am sorry the best argument for the Freemasons can come from an outsider and fiction author.
Anyways, its getting late and I have to get back to memorizing allot of parts about corn, wine and oil!
There is much work to be done.

P.S. I want to thank the Brothers who find the time to email me and ask questions or just send an atta boy. You can never understand how much these correspondences mean to me and my writing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's Coming

Sunday morning. Newspaper, coffee, kids eating breakfast, getting ready for church.......... spit out coffee!
Alright so I didn't spit out my coffee but I did blurt out a OMG!
In today's Parade Magazine there is a excerpt of the new book by a certain writer that is coming out on Tuesday. Well, let me say that when I do get my copy I will probably read it in an evening or two, but so far it sounds like it is going to be a battle between the (a) church and the brotherhood of Freemasons. In the excerpt a man is going through a (final) degree where he will finally have fully infiltrated the Masons or some appendant body where the final degree involves drinking wine from a skull?
Now, we all know that I have not joined any of the other bodies associated with Freemasonry but I have never heard of such a thing and I have read allot of esoteric stuff. The chamber of reflection involves a skull and crossed bones as a "memento mori", but drinking wine out of one? I guess I'm am still part of the unlearned underlings of the "real" power brokers in Masonry.
All I know is we better be as informed as we have ever been and be ready to answer allot of questions!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Peacocks and Pomposity

You know 'em.

What is it about our fraternity that leads a man to the very un-masonic act of pomposity?....Well duh!

Let me rephrase the question.

What can we as a brotherhood do to limit those who treat every medallion attached to the rear of their automobile as a P.H.D., from tainting the perception of the craft?

Boorish behavior is the net result of someone taking their membership of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons to that umpteenth degree of ridiculousness and making sure everyone around them knows about it. They never give anyone a chance to share and care more about "the Brotherhood" than brotherhood. They permeate our society and due to their unmitigated devotion to the craft, regularly end up in some form of leadership position.
Unfortunately for us, the nature of a volunteer organization rewards men of such constitution and there is not much we can do about it. When I was in the Navy (another volunteer organization) I encountered many of these types and they are always a sour note to my old sea stories. Arms full of stripes and a chest full of ribbons did not always make a great sailor and the same notion holds true to Freemasonry. You can be called a "Knight" or "Monarch" or whatever but if you treat a Brother Master Mason like an inferior you are not a true Brother.
I treat every one the same as I would liked to be treated. Be he a candidate in search of light or a fifty year Past Grand Master, and that should be our conduct to everyone! Non Masons included.
I will admit that many of these "peacocks" have devoted tremendous amounts of time and energy to Freemasonry and their ardor is not unappreciated, but sometimes I cringe when those guys get a hold of a new candidate and hold court for a while.

It is not what we are about.

Or is it????

Thursday, August 20, 2009


(gentlemen set your phasers to snark)
mjhvjhv hvk,v6uyv uy6v6,k v,udawutvwa 6y dtv,k,uyv, w,a uyv ,uydvwa,y v,wauyvd ,uywa v,,yuwa v

9th through 17th degree masons (cause thats the rank of the real secret leaders, heh heh, sorry 33rd's.....stroke white cat here). As we all know, because we actually wrote it, there will be a new book released in the month of Septembiconus that will heighten the interest in our brotherhood.
Unbeknownst to all, but knowenst to us, we have already laid the ground work to secretly keep our secret intentions and meetings secret and I would like to reiterate the plan for those who have just earned the rank of 000000000013579 in seret.
If your lodge has done actually nothing to create or maintain a "website"....bravo. You are the frontline of keeping those whipper snappers who use the interweb for everything from finding anything out about our wonderful fraternity. Sure there are plenty of "sites" out there but if there were young men who wanted to join you in your particular area they can find out nothing about you unless they accidently stumble upon a meeting, somehow.
For those who have a had "website" forced upon you by an overbearing Grand Lodge who actually maintains and pays for it. Don't do anything with it. I repeat DON"T DO ANYTHING WITH IT. Make sure that the pages are the same standard ones that were forced upon you and if you can, make sure that if you do anything write a message from the East from 2003 that states how excited you are about the upcoming picnic or whatever mundane thing you can think of. We really want those techy types to think that we are the most out of date boring organization out there. THAT'LL keep em out!
Everything will go according to plan if we maintain that our fraternity is your grandfathers or great granfathers thing and not anything that would appeal to a "modern" man...
Our numbers will fall back to their proper pre-enlightenment size and we can go back to the ice cream socials and sock hops that we all fondly remember.
From the North Eastern Corner,
Matt M. Morris
(because you already knew my name)

the book is coming???!!!???

vkvufku gliuglkufgubui tkutr jdtjk f kuyf tf ytfkuyfk uyf udtdhhjgfkjyufoyu uyfuyfu ytf ytf iytjoknoiuh oihiukj ytrc g ky

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Sound of Silence

The other day, while I was driving to my parents house to pick up my daughter who had spent the night at Nanny and Gramp's, I started to think about a strange thought that popped into my head as I cruised at 35 miles per hour, music playing and receiving an email on my iPhone (and yes I have left the fruity comforts of my blackberry and joined the evil minions of "i"),
my god, modern society has been robbed of the joy of EVERYTHING because we can get ANYTHING ALL OF THE TIME!!!......sorry for yelling, let me explain.
Lets travel back in time to the dark and desolate time of the 1970's and 80's when I grew up.
Back then if someone had wanted to get a hold of someone they had to walk to a certain area of their dwelling or specially located communication areas scattered about the globe and pick up a phone receiver, which happened to be tethered by a usually unwieldy spiral cord, to a box with numbered buttons, or a mechanical wheel with holes in it if you couldn't afford one of those fancy push button ones, that itself was tethered to a jack in the wall. You dialed the number, and if all stars were aligned, and no teenage girls were tying up the line because back then you were only allowed one call at a time(is there even such a thing as a busy signal anymore?), you might get a hold of someone if they happened to be home at the time if not you had to try again later until someone was there.
A major event every day was the coming of the friendly Postal carrier, or mailmen as we called them, which brought hand written letters or catalogues (a large bound book of things for sale which only came out a few times a year, if that) and the standard bills for living. Letters would be opened and read with much ado and kept as treasured keepsakes. Catalogues were studied and dog eared and shared by all to find that certain something you dreamed about and would purchase at a later date if you could save up the money, or put on layaway(and old purchase program for this you couldn't afford). And bills were bills yet they had a more ominous meaning when they were in paper right in front of you.
Television was about thirteen sometimes blurry channels you navigated by getting up from your seat and turning a plastic knob on your 16 inch television tube which was the size of an oven to see what was on. Once a year they would televise your favorite movies, that was another huge event that you would anticipate like Christmas and the whole family would gather to watch together. Every night at midnight, or an hour or so after, the National Anthem would be played to the picture of the country's flag and then the screen would turn grey and be off the air until the next day.
Music was a very communal thing. Sure there was radio, but if you were at home and wanted to listen to your favorite artist or tune, you had to find the dinner plate sized plastic disk, or side plate sized disk with the huge hole in the center and find someone who was authorized to use the very valuable record player to engage the delicate needle to play the music to be shared by all in the room.

I am sounding like one of those spam emails sent to everyone in a certain generation, but I can not help to think of how nothing is special anymore.
Access to everything is immediate and easy for most of us nowadays and the magic of certain things is gone forever.
Things that were special are not anymore because of the wonders of the information age and I think it is a little bit sad.
Many of the things that were a shared experience in my youth are a solitary experience now, and due to the ease of things, are not even enjoyed as they were just a short time ago.
We are barraged every minute of every day with a constant influx of info and it has all become the usual.
Our friends and family can be reached at anytime anywhere,
We can get what ever it is we want tomorrow, regardless if we can afford it,
We can watch what makes us happy all of the time,
and we can hear amazing music, by ourselves, by pressing a button.
Are we better off?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Operative Mason

My lodge has the very distinct honor of having an operative mason as our Worshipful Master and it is my honor and pleasure to call him Brother. For those unfamiliar with the terminology it means he is an actual stone mason by trade. While most of us spend our days pondering and speculating upon the ancient craft of Masonry my W.M. lives it because he is an actual mason. He spends his days in the dirt amidst billowing clouds of cement dust and heavy blocks and let me tell you nothing in our ritual comes even close to the toil of being a mason. I know this now because in a flash of brilliance my wife and I decided to tear down our old deck and replace it with stone steps and a paver patio in my spare time. My Brother agreed to help me with my little project and has come to my house for nearly a month to pay me back for all the pestering and nagging he has received from his overbearing Senior Warden, or Wicked Witch of the West as he likes to call me.
Previously at night and on the weekends I had slowly demolished my 14 x 20 deck and cleared the debris for my glorious introduction into real masonry. The pavers were chosen and delivered to my house and I got up on a Saturday with a air of invincibility and strength which rapidly faded with every shovelful of stone filled soil we removed to create the foundation for my stairs. I remember reading as a kid of how hard it was for the pilgrims to make farmland in the rocky New England soil and boy they weren't kidding. After one hour of being a real mason I found myself entirely depleted of all the strength I woke up with but I persevered because my Brother, who has a few years on me, didn't even break a sweat. As he instructed me on the finer parts of mixing cement by hand, he thought it was hilarious that I was huffing and puffing like a marathon runner at the end of 25 miles while he could wield a hoe and shovel like a feather. Now don't get me wrong, in my regular job I lift thousands of pounds of steel a day but it is in small bursts of strength not the constant grind of moving heavy earth and stone and all that goes with it for 8 hours plus a day. His patience and understanding are boundless and his Brotherhood is second to none.
I have learned many things in the past month of doing this project with my W.M. but the greatest thing I have come away with is the amazing bond that can be made by common labor among men. As we toiled and struggled day after day, all the while exchanging jokes and stories of our lives, we truly shared an experience of building something beautiful and are closer for it. That is what we are supposed to do as Freemasons.
We have two important building tasks at hand while we labor together as speculative masons.
The first task is to work together to improve ourselves as men and Freemasons. It is not an easy task, and some of us stones are allot rougher than others, but we must constantly and conscientiously strive to wield our common gavels to chip away the ugly parts of ourselves to create a more perfect stone to use in the second task and that is in the building of our lodge.
Not the building we meet in but the collective creation of men that meet every two weeks or so. As we work together to make ourselves better in our ritual and regular meetings we grow stronger by spreading the cement of Brotherly love.
Cement is not an easy building material. It requires a correct blend of certain elements mixed just right to achieve the reaction that is needed to build and patience for it to cure. The amazing differences of the Brethren of a lodge mixed just right with the patience of allowing the ceremonies of our craft to "cure" can build anything.
Our lodge is in an incredible period of growth and rebuilding. We have already had almost 10 men entered into our Brotherhood and the list of candidates grows every meeting because under the guidance of our incredible W.M., allot of fellowship, and a little help from the "Wicked Witch of the West". I have much to live up to if I assume the East next year and I know I have Brothers who will be there to help.
P.S. I now know why us masons kneel at the begining of our labor...................

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Compass

Down the hall from the middle chamber in the back corner of King Solomons Temple was a plain door. It had no markings on it or no gilded frame work just a plain wood door with a brass handle on it and behind the door was the office of Hiram Abiff. 
Its walls were stacked with all sorts of scrolls and tablets and tools of every shape and size whose purposes and uses were known only to a few. There were a couple of planks placed on wood workhorses where the trestleboard lay with plans for the labor of the craft and upon the trestleboard was the most important tool of them all, the compass. 
This tool was acquired from traders from the far East where the sun rises to rule and govern the day. The compass allowed the Grand Master to lay out exactly how the building was to be built according to the cardinal directions, regardless of the time of day, or if the heavens were visible or not because of the invisible force that surrounds the globe and keeps the needle floating on a small pool of water always pointing in the same direction. No matter which way you turn, indoors or out, on the high plains of Asia or the deep jungles of Africa the compass always points in the same direction. 
We as Free and Accepted Masons should let it remind us of the invisible hand of providence that will always guide us in the right direction. In the darkest hour, under stormy skies and in the depths of the murkiest forest, when you can find no clear indication of which way to go and you feel as if you will never find your way again all you have to do is wait for the pool of water that is your being to settle and let the needle of the Great Architect of the Universe point you in the right direction again. The direction never changed, it is always there, the invisible force of right and good just needs a still pool and the smallest indicator to guide those that will wait for it to set them on the true path of light.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Long as I See Light

Every few months or so, my wife and I get a reprieve of our parental duties and get a night on the town to dine, catch a movie and rush home to catch up on sleep. Tonight it was her turn to pick out the film and we went to see "State of Play" (because no amount of arguing on my part would get my wife into the new Star Trek movie!) and as much as I wanted to see the back story of my favorite futuristic friends I settled into the murder mystery my wife sold me on. The simple plot of the whole movie was a Washington news journalist (Russel Crowe) piecing together three seemingly unrelated murders in our nations capitol. Soon into the movie I noticed a blue coffee mug with a square and compasses on it in the residence of the protagonist Cal McAffrey (Crowe) and a ring on his pinky finger that might, or might not, have been masonic. Giddy up! A Masonic movie, right? Well not really, but the brooding truth seeker Cal was apparently a mason and I spent the rest of the movie looking for hidden symbols or a decent storyline and came up empty on both searches. Well not really, there was a fleeting screen shot of a marching band on the steps of the House of the Temple in DC which made absolutely no sense, and the story would have been all right if it were an hour shorter but it was a Hollywood movie so I was asking for too much.  
The gist of my post is, since becoming a Freemason I am hyper sensitive to seemingly meaningless images thrown at us, and there are a lot of them, and why they are there. The kicker of the whole thing was the undercurrent of the movie, which was not really developed, was bloggers vs. "real" journalists and the movie ended with a behind the scenes clip of a newspaper being printed with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "As Long as I See the Light" playing in the background, you make the connection.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Housekeeping and Other Thoughts

Here I am, again, enjoying on my back deck a few of the finer things in life; a good cigar, an Irish Whiskey and checking out my favorite Masonic Blogs. I have long been a fan of the aggregator King Solomons Lodge.  For a long time it was a daily destination of a mouse click (and still usually is) but as it has become more and more popular globally (which is quite a testament to Brother Jeff's foresight and vision) I feel as if I have to plod through a security point at J.F.K. just to see what my friends are up to, so, as of late I have used my own links (much slower but less hassle) to see what is being written about the Craft I love so well, by my cyber Brethren.
As I go down the list I recognise a few trends; centralization, "blog fatigue" (you heard the term here first), and extraction.
The first trend is coming about with powerful cyber-Masons like Brother Greg Stewart who seems to be absorbing Masonic Blogs like a "Sham-Wow". Some of my favorite blogs writers have decided to give up their independence and join Freemason Information and leave their unique identities behind. Recently I read a very interesting article about how bloggers are very much like the pamphleteers of the American Revolution and how the independent voices were slowly conglomerated, and I paraphrase here, into the New York Times (yuck!) and how Bloggers were a refreshing link to the independent thought of the past.
The second trend is blamable, (and perhaps the first also), on "Blog Fatigue". A blog, as engrossing at times as it is, is very hard work for no pay. When I started my blog and when it was in its "heyday" I tried to write at least two new posts a week, then it became one, and now I'm Lucky if I bang one out a month. Writing, like Dan Brown has shown us with the lengthy gap since his last book, is not an easy thing to do, and although we all have high hopes and big aspirations when we start a blog we soon find out we already wrote about most of the things we really cared about right off the bat and there are only so many Halcyon Lodge episodes a decade, so what is left; rants and updates and that gets tiresome after a while. Which leads to the last trend extraction.
There are too many dead blogs for my taste on my "Great Masonic Blogs" list! I know its hard,  but there were so many real quality bloggers/writers who have thrown in the towel that it hurts. My inbred Irish Catholic guilt and stubbornness stops me from deleting these links (and you know who you are) but my keen cyber reality begs me to remove them (I still just cant). I just hate seeing *&%%$@! has been removed, its like a grave stone of a friend, always there to remind you of the good past.
Anyways, its getting late see you at my next rant.
I'm starting to feel like Andy Rooney!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I knocked at the door of my lodge because I wanted to become a Freemason. I didn't want to check it out, or try it for a while, or better yet, see what was going on behind those mysterious doors, I wanted to BECOME a Mason.
Maybe its just me, but when I decide to join something I put all of my being behind it. I have never been a follower, I have always weighed the pros and cons and followed my heart when it came to something that would soon be attached to my existence.
Lets take baseball for instance. I spent 21 years of my life quasi understanding the game and completely dismissing anyone who devoted themselves to what I called "just a game among sports". As all good people are, I was raised to hate the Yankees, but I never followed the sport and often made fun of those who did. Then, back in 1995, while suffering through another Red Sox, Yankee debate at my work at the time, I decided that I would follow a baseball team for a whole year and see what it was all about, learn the stats, "get" the terminology, and live and die with a team for an entire season. I chose those lovable losers, the New York Mets, because they were the only team my old Brooklyn Dodger fan of a father actually brought us to see as a kid and they did win a World Series in my lifetime and I did subconsciously and permanently hate the Yankees.
I started following them in preseason. I learned all I could about the game. I deciphered all of the acronyms like RBI and ERA that I had never actually learned as a hockey playing youth. I watched or listened to every, and I mean every, game that year and I soon realized much to my chagrin, that I actually LOVED the game I had spent so long making fun of. As bad as they were,  and they were pretty bad back then, I soon found myself in the classification of a "Met fan" and assumed all of the baggage and what else, that came with it. It was a conscious  decision on my part based upon my research into the game, a little quality upbringing, and a new found love and devotion. Now it is much a part of me as my DNA. Everyone who knows me, absolutely knows I love the Mets and knows that in good times (not too many) and in bad (oh too much), that I bleed Blue and Orange and that is what I am. The same goes for Freemasonry. 
I put allot of research and thought into becoming a part of this organization. I read and Read and read, talked and watched anything I could on the subject before deciding to join and I knew EXACTLY (well almost, except the secrets) what I was getting into, and that is why I have a hard time hearing from a new "brother" that he has a hard time coming to our "boring" meetings, well sooory! If ya were looking for dancing girls or getting hammered you came to the wrong place. We say outright that if you are joining to expand your social network or out of just curiosity you came to the wrong place. If you are here to learn all you can about the oldest and largest fraternity in the world, all the while making yourself a better man, you came to the right place.
A good Mason I know put it best when he said you get out of Freemasonry what you put in. Unfortunately a lot of guys get through who just want to see whats on the other side, sorry for the disappointment, I like it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brothers of the Mystic Tie

Along a side wall in the anteroom of the lodge, sitting behind a time worn couch, lies a very unassuming glass case. It is nothing fancy, just a simple painted box with two sliding glass doors and a few glass shelves filled with dusty relics of almost two hundred and fifty years of Brotherhood.

It is lined with pictures of Grand Masters who came from the lodge, centennial commemorative plates, bicentennial plates, invitations to grand balls, histories, commemorative trowels, pins, a sprig of Acacia brought back from Israel, and all sorts of Masonic knick-knacks. If you look hard enough you will find laying across the very bottom of the case, tucked up against the front edge, a tarnished sword.

It's an officers saber in a decorated scabbard, with a hard to read inscription that barely scratches the surface of the incredible story that goes along with this treasure. The sword was a gift from the lodge to an esteemed Brother and Past Master of the lodge upon his entry into the Army to fight for the Union in the Civil War, his name was Albert H. Wilcoxson.

Albert was initiated into Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice on April 24th 1856 the very same day his petition was voted on by the Brothers of St. Johns Lodge. In what can certainly be considered a very short period of time, he was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft the following week and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason a week after that. He attended every meeting of the lodge after that and by the fall of 1856 he even acted as Junior Warden for a meeting. In December of the same year he was appointed officially as Senior Deacon of the lodge and continued to step up into various officers chairs during degrees and meetings.

The next three years were spent on every committee the lodge assembled, and the two Wardens chairs in the lodge, on his way toward the oriental chair in the East. He was a true Brother Mason in every sense of the word and was very devoted to his nearly one hundred year old Freemasons lodge. After his year as Worshipful Master he did not idly pass onto the sidelines as some Past Masters do, but continued diligently working for the Order he loved. He attended most meetings and sat in various officers chairs when needed. He was serving the lodge again as Senior Deacon when he was forced to resign his position on August 21st 1862. He had to leave his friends and family to answer President Lincoln's call for "300000 more" troops for the War and muster with the Seventeenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry in Bridgeport and head South.

He fought and survived in the great battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg , and Folly Island SC, but it was while the regiment was in North Eastern Florida, an area with little Confederate presence, that the Lt. Col. would get into trouble. Wilcoxson was commanding raids on farms that supplied the Confederacy, when his company was ambushed by a small company of Rebels led by Captain J.J. Dickison at Braddocks Farm. Wilcoxson and his men were caught off guard with ten wagons of cotton and other captured items when the Confederates called for them to surrender. Lt. Col. Wilcoxson mounted his horse and charged the enemies with his pistol drawn and blazing, after his ammunition was spent he drew his sword for one final push towards Capt. Dickison the rebel leader, who took aim and shot the Col. from his horse. Wounded and bleeding from the bullet that passed through his shoulder and other wounds Wilcoxson was approached by the rebel Captain and asked why he threw his life away, to which he replied "Don't blame yourself. You are only doing your duty as a soldier. I alone am to blame." The surgeon of the rebel camp, a Brother of the mystic tie, tried to save him but it was too late, he died of his wounds in a Confederate prison camp a few days later.

But that was not the end of the story.

What followed after the battle exemplifies how men of the Masonic order can rise above the normal and shine as honorable gentleman. The following are two letters between the widow of Albert Wilcoxson and the man who captured and killed him.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. March 23, 1865

Captain J.J. Dickison:
SIR: I have heard that you are a most kind and honorable gentleman and a Freemason. Believing this to be a fact, I, as the widow of an honored Mason and brave soldier, appeal to you for a great favor.
The sword which by my husband, the late Lt. Col. Wilcoxson, wore at the time of his capture by you, was presented to him by his brothers of the "Mystic Tie", members of the St. John's Lodge, of Norwalk, Conn., in token of the high esteem in which they held him. If you are a Mason, you will understand the value which he placed upon the gift, and why I so strongly desire to possess it, in order that I may re-present it to the lodge.
Is it possible for you to return it to me? Or if it has passed out of your immediate possession, can you in any way effect restoration of it to me? The centennial celebration of the St. John's Lodge takes place May next. Earnest have been the entreaties of brotherhood that the colonel would make an effort to be with them at that time in spirit, without doubt. What would I not give to be able to place in their hands the sword which, though it passed from my husband's hands in such a manner, has never been dishonored!
Yours respectfully,


CAMP BAKER, WALDO, FLA. March 31, 1865

Mrs. Albert H. Wilcoxson, St. Augustine, Fla.
MADAM: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 23rd instant, which reached me a few days ago by a flag of truce.
Previous to the receipt of your letter, at the request of your husband, I had concluded to send you the sword which was worn by him at the time of his capture. It is unusual, in time of war, to return captures of this description, but, in this instance, I will deviate from that course, on account of the feelings I entertained for your husband as a brave officer. With this, I send you his sword, trusting that it may reach you safely.
I am, madam, yours respectfully,
Captain Commanding Forces

The sword was indeed returned to her and she presented it to the men who lost a friend and brother along with this letter on the Centennial Anniversary of the lodge.

Norwalk May 18th 1865

To the W.M. Wardens and Brothers of St. Johns Lodge,
I take this opportunity of forwarding to you the sword which was presented by the Brethren of St. Johns Lodge to my husband the late Lieut. Col. Wilcoxson at the time he entered military service.
The accompanying copies of letters will explain to you the manner in which the sword came into my possession after my husband’s capture and death and will also prove my intentions regarding the gift which has all too soon passed into a relic. I was induced to make this request of Capt. Dickison on account of the great value my husband placed upon the sword and also that I might by returning it to the lodge give to the fraternity some acknowledgement of the deep respect which I entertain for the order of Free Masonry and of my appreciation of the manner in which you expressed your confidence in and esteem for my husband.
My heart’s desire and prayer is that every mason who looks upon this sword either in tender memory of the departed brother or in mere curiosity may be as true to his God his Country and his fellow man as was my dear brave husband Lieut. Col. Albert H. Wilcoxson.
Very Respectfully
Mrs. A.H. Wilcoxson

The Brothers of St. Johns Lodge No. 6 F.&A.M. upon receipt of the sword and letter from his widow entered into their records the following.

Whereas it has pleased Almighty God in his inscrutable providence to swell the number of our fallen Brothers who have gone forth in defense of our Union and our Countries flag by removing from this lodge by death our Brother P.M. Albert H. Wilcoxson and
Whereas it is due to his memory that we shall place on our records our appreciation of his character as a Brother and a well skilled craftsman of the order. Therefore be it be resolved that in the loss of P.M. Wilcoxson we deeply and sincerely mourn a Brother who by his intimate knowledge of Masonry has become a credit to our Lodge and an ornament to the Fraternity.
Resolved that we shall ever gratefully remember him as a kind and charitable Brother and honest and trustworthy and an associate possessed of qualities of character that alike honored his head and heart.
Resolved that we tender our heartfelt and Brotherly condolence to the widow of our departed Brother and invoke for her the protection and tender care of him who does not willingly afflict the children of men.

Years passed and the "tender memory" of Albert Wilcoxson faded, and the story of how a Civil War sword ended up in the bottom of a dusty glass case was forgotten until a "mere curiosity" found the story again. Perhaps this time we can live up to Mrs. Wilcoxson's heart's desire and prayer and have it remind us to be as true to our god, our country, and our fellow man as was my dear departed Brother.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tenacity, Technology, and Toil

Just a short while back I was having a hard time with what was occurring, or actually not occurring at my lodge. Frustration, like a mold was growing upon the edifice I had constructed in my mind. It starts in the small shadows that receive no light and quickly, unoticeably, multiplies and becomes larger. It is often overlooked as a natural occurrence and left untouched, but left untreated it can quickly cover the perfect cornerstone and more, and turn an architectural masterpiece into an appearing abandoned structure, no matter what dwells within.
I am in utter amazement and awe that I am writing this post sitting in the crisp New England winter evening air, enjoying a lovely snifter of the amber water of life sending smoke signals to our creator, my face lit by the unnatural glow of a small 10 inch screen connected to the entire world wirelessly via the ingenuity of man. WOW!
How can anyone believe that this existence is just a random happenstance of a single cells evolution from a primordial slime to this! I will not judge, but come on...
Anyway, I can say that the mold on my lodge is fast being cleaned away and the treasure underneath is being revealed one stone at a time.
As Senior Warden, free of the toil of providing the meal to the Brethren, I arrived at our last meeting fashionably late. My candidates, and I say this because I was the first line signer on their petitions, were enjoying a meal with their soon to be Brothers when I arrived at the parking lot next to our lodge filled with cars and a basement full of Masons enjoying the fellowship of our order.
I gladly shook every hand and felt the warmth of being among gentlemen who care about what we are and what we were doing. The nervous newcomers were in the midst of it all, not sectioned off alone to their thoughts, but in the midst of welcoming warm comrades. The vibe, as it has been lately, was extremely positive because the labor we were about to undertake was for the good of us all. There were a couple of Masons among us who wore the purple of our fraternity (we were being inspected after all) but you would not have known it until we all donned the ceremonial garb of our craft. We were and are all on the level.
I was gladly the first of the officers to be taken into the preparation room to be tested for my competency by a man I really respect when it comes to our order, and except for a temporary brain freeze when it came to the Grand Masonic Word, there we were in the five points of fellowship and my mind went completely blank for a couple of seconds, it was a breeze.
We initiated our newest Brothers almost flawlessly and if it weren't for an accidental activation of a particularly loud child's toy when the candidates were first brought to the center of the lodge for prayer ( I nearly burst out loud in uncontrollable laughter) it was almost a perfect Entered Apprentice degree.
And get this, no one was in a rush to leave after the meeting!!! There was a fellowship after the degree which I had not seen in my lodge yet and it made me so happy.
We are getting there.
There is still much work to be done, can be fun when it is good work!

Friday, January 23, 2009

E.A. or M.M.

Recently I was having a discussion with my Worshipful Master about the new database I was creating for the lodge. I was entering in the names, addresses(physical and electronic), phone numbers, and birthdays of our hundred or so members. When it came to the three dates important to us Masons the date they were initiated, passed, and raised, I chose to enter just the date of their Entered Apprentice Degree (in the interest of my time because it was a lot of data) because I felt it was the more important date in the history of a Freemason. My WM strongly disagreed with me saying the date of a Brothers raising is the much more important date and that it is the date most lodges commemorate. I still disagree.
My argument is that the day you are initiated is the day you became a Mason. Yes, the night I was raised to the sublime degree was one of the most memorable in my life, but not as important as the night I was initiated. You can not become a Master Mason, or a Fellowcraft for that matter, without that most important step of being made a Mason. I will always remember being brought to the North East Corner of the lodge and being told by the WM that I then stood a just and upright Mason and forever to walk and act as such. It is such a powerful moment in our ritual and one of my favorite parts of any degree. Before you were just a man, a regular Joe Sixpack, but after your initiation you are a Freemason and have an important image to live up to. Not every man is an EA but every MM is one.
What do you think?
What date would you rather commemorate in your Masonic life?
What date does your lodge hold more important?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twenty Years and Two Hundred and Forty Four Years

This months issue of my Grand Lodges newspaper contains the first installment of the story of how some brave Freemasons on both sides of the color line took the first courageous step towards the true Brotherhood promised in our ritual. It was a milestone and turning point in American Masonry and with all that is happening in our country today it is important for us to realize that only a short 20 years ago "mainstream" Freemasons and Prince Hall Freemasons did not recognize each other as Brothers. The story in the paper linked to above, left me excruciatingly wanting more and I, of course, will eagerly anticipate the next installment.
Although American Freemasonry has taken many more steps since the two Grand Lodges in Connecticut decided to recognize each other, we have still not reached the summit of universal Brotherhood across the Nation.
We are all Brothers.
I have written many times on the subject of Prince Hall recognition and have clearly made my opinions in the past so I will not repeat them again, but I will say that I am especially proud to be a Connecticut Freemason during this anniversary year and hope the Grand Jurisdictions that have not lived up to their Brotherly obligation will see the LIGHT.
On February 5 my lodge will do something that has not happened in its 244 year history, we will initiate an African American man into our brotherhood. If you remember back a year ago I was struggling how to broach the division in American Masonry with a certain potential candidate. I wanted to explain to him the existence of two Grand Lodge systems in my State for informational purposes without coming across as some kind of racist and thanks to the help and advice of some very wise readers I did it successfully. I laid out two roads to the same Brotherhood and he, thankfully, chose to follow the same one I did and join me in the labor. Although it has taken much longer that I thought it would due to scheduling conflicts, I am thoroughly excited to finally welcome him into the order not because of the color of his skin but because he is a good man, husband, and father and I will be honored to call him brother. I want to belong to a lodge of all men and we are on the way towards that lofty goal.
Twenty years ago the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut took the first step towards a color blind Brotherhood and agreed to recognize each other and allow inter visitation. Proud traditions and long histories are the more innocent reasons that there are still two Grand Lodges in my state, perhaps, like the Ancients and Moderns in Masonic history who, despite all of their differences were able to unite as one, some day there will be a United Grand Lodge of Connecticut where both Prince Hall and "regular" Masons will labor together under the same banner.
I can dream can't I?