Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reflected Light

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

We Must Become What We Claim To Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Perfect Ashlars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect Ashlars


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

Thanks Nat

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Candle Snuffing Allowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shine on Widows Son!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Masonic Symbolism and Christmas, The Tree

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Beautiful Evening

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

The Northeastern Corner

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


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

Manly Palmer Hall,
The Secret Teachings of All Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Revolutionary Tendencies

I will be the first to admit that I have and will always have revolutionary tendencies. Not only am I of Irish decent but first and foremost I am an American and with that comes an inclination to revolt. Revolution is in our collective national DNA as Americans, whether or not our families were here during "The Revolution" (mine were back in Ireland farming, but probably revolting in one form or another).
For my friends across the pond I am referring to the American War for Independence.
From an early age I was raised on fighting for my rights, it was taught to me by my family and in my schools. I was given a steady diet of Boston Tea Party's, Whiskey Rebellion's, Uprisings, Martyrs and Hero's from my boyhood on and I loved every bit of it. It is who I am.
Many of my friends and relatives were quite surprised when at the age of 17 years I decided to enlist in the Navy. I remember one of my Irish cousins back in the old country telling me he hated anyone in uniform, even me, if I were to join the establishment. That part of my family being in the North of Ireland was not to fond of uniformed servicemen. Even my father tried to tell me that if I wanted to join the service to go to college first and become an officer because he knew I would have a problem taking orders from everyone, but at the wise age of 17, I knew better of course, and enlisted anyway.
I never for one minute will ever regret any decision I have ever made in my life because I am a firm believer in going with the flow. I have always made decisions based upon my instincts, regardless of what others may say and it has served me well, even though it has gotten me into trouble now and again. My boot camp company was nearly disbanded after a failed mutiny attempt by me and some buddies that thought our Recruit Chief Petty Officer (recruit leader appointed by the Company Commander[drill instructor]) who was a former Army guy who could not call cadence or orders and ruined an inspection for our company.
We were not disbanded but I learned a very important lesson in teamwork and leadership after countless push-ups and other physical punishment. Our Company Commander explained to us "HMS Bounty" sailors that instead of trying to take out our R.C.P.O. with a petition, like we tried, (yeah, I know a petition sounds pretty lame now but it was almost the end of my navy boot camp career) we should have taken the time to make our shipmate better. He explained that sometimes during our Navy career we might encounter men who we did not agree with, and we would sometimes think that we could do a better job as opposed to how they do things, but we should always remember that they are our shipmate, and our first duty as a shipmate was to be a shipmate.
He told me and my fellow mutineer leaders that instead of conspiring against the R.C.P.O and the C.C.'s we should have helped the R.C.P.O. overcome his faults, because we were all in the same boat and only together could we steer clear of future obstructions.
That was one lesson that I will never forget.
The C.C.'s had to make a decision on the day we arrived at boot camp as to who would lead our company, at the time they did not know any of us like they would learn in the eight weeks to follow, but they had to put one of us in charge so who better than someone with prior military experience. I was appointed to a leadership position a couple of days later due to my bed making abilities (taught to me by my former Army father) but they did not know that on the first day. They made their leadership decision based upon what was on our enlistment papers. They could not have known that the guy they picked could not call cadence, or fumble with marching orders under pressure, they just saw that he had served in the Army and assumed that he could lead the recruits better than some kid from Connecticut or anywhere else, because he knew what it was to serve our country because he already had.
Sometimes when you are put in a pressurized environment you forget that other people are in the same environment with you. Add in some competition and recognition and you can forget that the dumb army guy next to you still swore the same oath and signed the same enlistment papers you did and was in the same boat as you. He was not my enemy, as I thought when he called a right flank march as opposed to the left flank that he was supposed to call for the inspection, he was a confused kid in boot camp far away from his home just like me, and most of all he was my shipmate!

When I read what is happening in Ohio, and some other parts of the country in our fraternity, my first inclination is to join the revolution because those old bastards (my words) don't know what it is they are doing wrong and only by rebelling can we teach them. Then I remember my Chief from boot camp.
Those old bastards are my brothers. Those brothers who forgot what it is to be a true Freemason, are the same brothers who sat and re-sat in officers chairs to keep what their idea of Freemasonry was alive for young upstarts like me to experience.
Yes, we are at a turning point in American Freemason history.
I firmly believe that the ideas presented in papers like "Reform Freemasonry!" are like lighthouses to the ship of Freemasonry. They are shining beacons of light to guide us through troubled waters. Most of the ideas presented are exquisite gems of thought that I will use for the rest of my Masonic career, but my life experience has taught me to be a little more understanding when it comes to men in a position of leadership.

Even when my brothers disappoint me, I have to remember they are my brothers and it is my responsibility as a brother to bring them up to the level that we all aspire to attain.

Just like with my shipmate in bootcamp, who after the failed mutiny was helped by his shipmates to call better cadence and marching orders and we all went on to high honors, we must help our brothers become better Freemasons.

We are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discourse On The Chamber of Reflection

They got me, I'll admit it. After having read many stories about this lodge or that instituting a Chamber of Reflection I finally broke down and did a Google search on the subject. I wasn't resisting because I thought the matter trivial, I just thought the name was self explanatory and to be honest it is, to a certain degree.
My first stop was a PDF from the The Institute for Hermetic Studies. It is, from my understanding of it, a third party description on the matter and from the first line it had me hook line and sinker.
" The Chamber of Reflection is one of Freemasonry's most alluring, provoking, and truly esoteric of symbols."
I quickly delved in and found myself as usual, completely smitten with the idea of it. From the aspect of a self proclaimed "esotericly inclined" Freemason, (although I was going to originally put esotericly bent on my description), this was everything I would have liked to happen to me before my initiation. The ritual of self exploration and reflection before taking your first step into the Craft would have been for me extremely satisfying and uplifting. I immediately started to envision convincing my lodge to institute one for new candidates, although that vision was quite fleeting seeing as there are not so many esotericly bent masons in my lodge and after reading a very enlightening Dwight Smith like post on Masonic Musings from Me that thought was completely vanquished.

Never the less it is a subject that holds a prominent position in my mind currently and I would like to open a discussion on the matter.

Does your lodge use a Chamber of Reflection?
If so what jurisdiction are you in?
Although it is a very personal thing, would you share your experience?
How has it affected you as a Freemason?
If you did not have that experience would your opinion of the fraternity change? How?

If your lodge has recently instituted a Chamber of Reflection how did you go about convincing your brethren to do it?
Was it a good change to your lodge?
Has it effected your membership?

I would like to thank in advance any responses from the kind brethren who choose to enlighten me!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Higher Standards or Lack Thereof

I will never forget while standing in the Northeast Corner for the first time being told by the Worshipful Master that I then stood a just and upright Mason and to forever walk and act as such.
I was not being told for the first time that I should be, fair in ones dealings and actions(Just) and adhering to moral principles:honorable(Upright) but it was the second time in my life that I obligated myself to being someone better than most (the other time was when I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.) When I make an oath or obligation to something it is something I try to live up to all the time, not just when I am in uniform or at lodge.
Sometimes I find myself in situations where I feel like some old WWII vet or Ward Cleaver when in the presence of men my age, even though I am only in my early thirties. I was taught at an early age to respect women and people that are older than me, unless they do not act in a respectful manner. It sometimes seems that I am alone in this rearing. Bitch, slut, and other swears, are words that usually don't fit in my daily vocabulary and I was in the Navy. When I have used curse words, it was most definitely deserved and not often. Although I can admit that when in the "pack mentality" that surrounds a group of men I have fell in line with the out swear the other guy vernacular that follows. Even during those times it did not feel right to my soul to behave that way. When I joined Freemasonry I expected something different than the usual boys club humor and alpha male mentality, but I guess I expected too much. Now I don't want you to think that that is the overall way that the brotherhood acts.
On the most part I have been in the presence of gentlemanly brothers and overall Freemasonry asks a man to be something better than the "usual Man" but our American Society as a whole has made the image of a "Gentleman" into something of a wuss, and it reflects in the way most men act when in the presence of other men.
A gentleman treats a woman as a lady, as you would have your mother or daughter treated. Modern man treats them all like pieces of meat to be ogled after and devoured like game. I will be the first to admit that a beautiful woman is something great to look at, but being the older brother of three sisters and the father of two girls, I always have to reign in the animal instinct to spread my DNA everywhere and remember that they are someones sister or daughter and treat them as such.
The same goes to all of mankind. I treat everyone I meet with the same amount of respect that I have for my father and mother and that is a tremendous amount of respect. I give this respect with the expectation of it being returned and even if it is not, I try to keep an even keeled manner even with someone who does not deserve it. That's just the way I am.
Recently on a visit to another lodge, after the degree while enjoying a fine cigar I found myself amidst some brethren discussing their love life and using the vernacular that often accompanies modern men while describing said topic. I kept quiet and stayed in the peripheral of the conversation but left a little for the worse with regards to the Fraternity. I expect every man that takes the obligation of a Freemason to forever walk and act as such but I guess it is too much to ask for in today's society.
The same can be said for the current state of the Masonic blogosphere. Name calling, character assassination, and a general mean spiritedness seems to be prevailing. As a brother who approached the gate of Freemasonry from the electronic world and did much research on the fraternity on the Internet before I made the decision to join I would admonish my brothers, and that is everyone who has made an obligation before God and his fellow man regardless of what Grand Lodge they belong, to remember that they are JUST and UPRIGHT masons and to forever walk and act as such.
Now let me go burn this soapbox I have been standing on and return to better things.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Freemasonry is not a charity. During a recent interview with a candidate I had to state this fact. A while back, a different interested party came to meet with the brothers before one of our meetings and asked what it is we do. He was not entirely satisfied with the cookie cutter answer of "we make good men better" and wanted concrete information on the charitable activities that our lodge does. He stated that his time was valuable and before he made the decision to join an organization he wanted to make sure that they did enough charity to warrant his membership. Now, this very direct line of questioning is not something the brothers that were there are used to getting from a prospective candidate (I was a little late getting to lodge and just was able to get in a hello in at the end of this). Usually men approaching Freemasonry for the first time are a little more timid with their questioning about the craft, but this young man was not. Needless to say that we have not seen that man since that night, because I think he did not believe we did enough charity for what he was looking to do and I am perfectly fine with that. As desperate as we are for energetic young membership we need not portray ourselves as something we are not. I say again we are not a charity.

Back to the interview.

Our prospective member, unlike the young man, had done his fair share of charitable work with a couple of different fine organizations and came knocking on the door of Freemasonry to do charity of the "non-commercial" (his words) type. He was looking to improve himself further! Can you can imagine the smile on my face when I heard that. While my brethren expounded on the charities that our institution is involved in, I tried to refocus our attention to what it really is we do. Yeah we give money to different charities and do charitable works but it is in the making of better men that makes us what we are. We were put in a penniless state to remind us that charity is an important component to the greater good of a man, but it is not the end all be all of one. Freemasonry through its various lessons does much more in making our society better than a simple charity can.

One at a time, by making masons out of men we strive to the better good of all. If done right and to the right man our three degree system reawakens the light that every man was given by our creator. By reigniting that spark a man will do charitable work, not for the sake of the craft but because it is the right thing to do. I feel we sometimes oversell the charitable doings of our organization to legitimize our existence to those who do not know us. That is not what we are put at labor to do as Freemasons.
I tell every prospective brother that the majority of our secrets are already known to him before he enters the craft, he just needs our benevolent order to shed a better light on them.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Crumbling Facades and Past Glory

Last Thursday before my lodges stated communication, while doing my usual perusing of the stuff that lines many of the walls within our old building, I came across a time stained picture that saddened me.
The picture was of our stately brownstone, former Episcopal church turned Masonic temple and was from our lodges 225th anniversary in 1990. It contained a brief history of the lodge and the building that has held us since the early 1900's. What struck me about the whole thing was that I think my lodge has changed more (for the worse) in the last 17 years than the 225 preceding ones.
If you ever read my first two posts about my beginning in the craft you would know that it was the lodge building that fanned the spark of interest in the fraternity into a gleaming fire and if you haven't read them, what are you waiting for.
Anyway, the lodge I belong to is one of the oldest in Connecticut, so old it actually is older than the Grand Lodge of Connecticut. Our original charter is from the Grand Lodge of New York and dates back to 1765. I fondly remember on one of my first nights at the lodge being reminded that our lodge is even older than our country! It kind of puts things in perspective when you are joining an organization with such history. That is the main reason I chose to join the lodge I did, and not the other lodge in my city.
We have had a couple of events where some of the history of the lodge was recounted for those in attendance, not enough for a history buff like myself, but quite enough for most brothers to fall asleep to faster than the reading of minutes!
My lodge has produced, or shall I say, been the mother lodge of many men of great esteem.
Now keep in mind when I speak about my lodge I am talking about the group of men who have met since 1765 under the same name and not the building where we meet. That is something that I think can be a bit confusing for speakers of the English language whose definition of a lodge is a dwelling or small crudely made house in the country. That was my definition of a lodge before I was a mason, but it now refers to the group of men I meet on the first and third Thursday of every month except July and August, but back to the history of my lodge and its building.
The first place they met was at the house of the first Worshipful Master and then at various houses throughout my city and in a couple of buildings until our current structure became available and was converted for Masonic purposes. It was a beautiful episcopal church and after much expense of my Masonic forefathers was turned into an incredible temple of brotherhood.
I came to learn from that old picture on the wall, that the ornate stained glass windows of our lodge building were used in a movie produced by the Grand Lodge called "The Quiet Fraternity". It also stated that at the time of our 225th anniversary, it housed six different Masonic bodies. In my snooping around the building I have seen many reminders of the many different appendant bodies that once lived there and that is the sad part, once. Our building houses many historical artifacts and priceless pieces of Masonic art, but at one point between that 225th anniversary in 1990 and the time I joined they got to the breaking point and were forced to sell the building that had seen so many fine men receive the mysteries of our order.
When I first found out about it, I just could not understand how such a grand historical institution could get to that point. I could not understand how a Masonic temple that had once played host to a former President at its 150th anniversary, could get to the point where there was no other course of action than to relieve the brethren of its financial burden. I could not understand how a Grand Lodge would not step in to save a building that was such a credit to the fraternity. When I first joined my lodge I spent many an hour fantasizing of what it must have been like to glance around our grand hall and see it full of the more than one hundred brethren the hall could and must have held. I also spent many an hour imagining it being filled again after a well laid out plan (of mine)to buy it back and grow the membership to a number that would do it justice.
As I looked at that old picture on the wall after being an officer for almost a year in a line that still includes the Past Masters that played musical chairs with each other when no one new came in to fill in the officers chairs, and seeing how hard it is to grow back an institution like ours, I have come to the sad realization that past glory is exactly what it is, past.
Long gone are the days when a single lodge could fill a hall with even 50 brothers. On most nights we are lucky to get enough to open the lodge properly. There is nothing quite as sad as seeing such a large hall dotted with only a few good men trying to hold on to a glorious past.
This past Saturday I went to the Wardens seminar held by our Grand Lodge for officers who are to be moving up toward the East.
One pleasant side note is that I was thrilled to get to meet in person Tom Accuosti from The Tao of Masonry, and "The Movable Jewel", my fellow bloggers in our little state.
At the seminar we learned how to plan for our time in the East because it will be here sooner rather than later. I still have grand plans in my head to make my lodge a better, more interesting, more esoteric place where younger men like me will want to spend a couple of nights a month in the company of like minded, enlightened men. I have not entirely given up on the idea of returning our building to the craft that built it, it will always be in my dreams.
We are very Lucky that the church that bought our building allows us to remain and still meet as we have for almost 250 years and I have come to realize that as once we met in our Worshipful Masters own house, as long as we are doing what we are supposed to be doing as Freemasons and making good men better, it matters not where we meet but that we meet upon the level and part upon the square.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We'll get back to running the world after we read the minutes from last meeting and pay the bills!

I just love going to anti mason sites to get the newest wacko theory, like how global warming is "Brother" Gore's plan for continued Freemason domination (is he even a Mason?). As much as I don't want to give credence to their existence, I still love to check them out once in a while for pure fun. For me, they are like the Weekly World News, as dumb as "Bat Boy Found" was as a headline the W.W.W. always had a great picture and some other crazy sub story that kept my minds attention for more than I care to admit at the grocery store check out aisle, its much the same at the anti sites. But I do not want to write about my favorite kooks, I have a much more important and pressing matter that I want to address.

The Minutes........ or as they become for some of the brothers, nap time.

After the debacle of the fumbling Fellowcraft my lodge is getting back to business. Unless there is a petition to be voted on, we will be having our stated communication and a regular business meeting. How boring. If there is one thing that I could change about my lodge it is our regular business meetings. I know that an organization needs to have records and pay bills but is there any way to do it better?
First of all I would like to somehow get rid of reading the minutes of the last meeting. If there is one time that I look around the lodge and see the brethren daydreaming or even worse really dreaming it is during the reading of the minutes. I think we really have a solution to interrogating terrorists properly, sit them through the reading of the minutes and if they are still awake at the end they will give us all the information we want! But I digress, I have read and daydreamed about a traditional observance lodge or a European style lodge as we call it here in America and I believe that they do not read minutes. Is this true? How do brothers at those lodges catch up on their sleep? ha ha. I would really like to hear about ideas on how to record the lodge proceedings and check that the Secretary is not making stuff up without going about boring the whole lodge.
Secondly I would welcome any ideas to breeze past the bill paying and voting on them, that only take a few minutes. I know the bills have to be voted on and paid but there has to be a better way.
Maybe if we streamlined the business aspect and turned to more interesting use of our two times a month to get together, we would see more brethren on the sidelines. I don't know if this is the case at your lodge but it certainly is the case at mine.

And they think that we run the world during our meetings!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Night Traveled Well

On Saturday evening I had the honor and pleasure of visiting the newest lodge in the state of Connecticut, Universal Fraternity #149.
A while back I was picking up some supplies from a local store and noticed the man behind the counter was wearing a ring with the square and compasses on it. Being a newly raised Master Mason and newly installed Senior Steward, I too had my ring on, and mentioned to him that we were brothers. A smile came across his face when he then saw my ring and we began to talk about the fraternity. I excitedly told him that I was the new Senior Steward at my lodge and he explained that he had just been installed as the Senior Warden at U.F. #149. I did not recognize the name of the lodge from my numerous viewings of the list of lodges in the state of CT, but after our meeting and promises of mutual visitation I found it right at the bottom of the page on the G.L. website.
I have popped in from time to time and kept up with my brother and a couple weeks back he mentioned that he was going to be stepping up to the East and doing a Master Masons Degree. I told him I was rehearsing the G lecture (ugh!) and promised that I would definitely make it up to his lodge to see him do the MM degree.
It had been hard for me to come and visit him because his lodge meets on the first and third Saturday evening of the month and my family has something planned most Saturday evenings. I finally got clearance from the boss (my wife) and proceeded on with my first visitation to another lodge on my own, because I could not get anyone from my lodge to travel with me, it being a Saturday night and also our Grand Lodge was having its annual session that morning so my mentor, who I have done all of my traveling with, could not come.
After a 30 minute or so drive I finally pulled up to the lodge, and as much as I had sped to get there, arrived 6 minutes later than I had wanted to be. I hurriedly walked into a very well attended lodge and after giving a wave to my friend in the West, sat down just as they were getting under way of opening the lodge. A brother on the other side of the lodge got my attention and reminded me that I had forgot to grab an apron which is needed of course to sit in a lodge, duh, so I stepped out to quickly grab a visitors apron. The Tiler was digging through a box of officers aprons and putting them on a chair when I asked him for a visitors apron. He muttered something and pointed to the aprons he was putting on the chair, all I saw were officers aprons, and while I looked around the waiting room for a visitors apron the Junior Deacon shut the door to the lodge so they could open. I asked the Tiler again and he explained that the officers aprons were the visitors aprons (that was all they had left), so I grabbed a Tilers apron that was on top and tried to enter the lodge when the Tiler, sword in hand, excitedly told me that I could not go in because they were opening. I thought since they were not tiled yet I could sneak back in before the gavel fell, but you don't argue with a Haitian man with a sword! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my friend and all of the officers of Universal Fraternity #149 are from Haiti.
Sitting outside the lodge in disappointment, I heard the first difference between my lodge and 149, I heard singing. Following along with the muffled voices inside, instead of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance they sang the National Anthems of the United States and Haiti (I think it was the Haitian National Anthem because it was in French). Then I deduced from the point of the ritual I believed they were at sang some song (again in french) while the three lesser lights were lit. It was such a strange yet wonderful thing to hear singing coming from the inside of a lodge room.
I finally was allowed to enter, salute the WM, who by that time was my friend who had stepped up to the East and returned to the seat I had sat in before, this time with an apron. They put on a great degree, which I thoroughly enjoyed and without giving up anything, I will say they did many things different including the singing and using a censer (a vessel with burning incense) at various points during the degree. I left greatly uplifted and happy to have visited my brother and his welcoming lodge.
I have read that our fraternity in the past often sang during lodge meetings and without much ado, what happened? I grew up in a family that sang together at family functions ( its not really that hard, after a few pops, to get any Irishman singing!). I have always enjoyed singing with friends and family in many different situations. I know in our world of I-Pods and XM Radio it is becoming rarer by the day when people gather to sing songs together, when they can so easily play their favorite artist or artists from something the size of a book of matches and I think we are worse off because of it. I know we are all not Pavarotti, but even the worst singer in the world can have fun while singing in a big group, and when the group is big or loud enough they cant even hear you.
I will definitely return to 149 and look forward to hearing singing in a lodge again.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Fumbling Fellowcsaft Degree (its even affected my spelling)

Today I wish I was writing about an inspiring night where universal truths were transmitted unimpaired to a worthy candidate but alas, I can not.
Have you ever seen the footage of the Hindenburg exploding? Well, that is about how the night went last night.
It all started rather innocently with a couple of brothers gathered together to break bread before the degree and rapidly deteriorated. I should have smelled it in the air the night before when our Junior Deacon called me to let me know that he could not get out of a board meeting and woul not make it for the degree. Unforeseen stuff happens, so I quickly shot out an email to the WM and Chaplain to scramble together a replacement. We were already short a Junior Steward who was on duty at work that night, but we always manage to round up enough brothers to make things work. So, as we ate a little dinner we solidified who would be sitting where and who was coming in to help.
Our candidate was going out side for a bit of fresh air so I accompanied him and decided there was enough time to pollute the fresh air with a cigar from my humidor, I brought with me for the occasion. We were joined soon enough by a few more brothers and were having a friendly pow wow when an unfamiliar car pulled up to the lodge. And as I pulled on my tasty cigar I recognized the Right Worshipful District Deputy stepping out from his car and gathering his regalia for a surprise visit! I have sat in lodge with him many times and was excited to have him join us but one of our newer Master Masons who was doing the Stewards lecture was absolutely petrified. The DD hung out for a while with those of us who were outside and then went inside to give our WM a good jolt. After the DD went inside, the petrified brother who was doing the Stewards lecture practically begged me to stand in for him for his lecture. I told him not to be worried and shared my own problems with memorizing and we all proceeded inside to start the degree.
I had spent the entire day either listening to or reciting the G lecture without stop. I got to the point where, although not entirely without pause, I could do the whole thing from memory and with some feeling.
The degree went on quite swimmingly. We made it through the first part without a hitch until we came to the Working Tools. I wondered what was going on when the brother who was giving the lecture stumbled a bit when he opened the box that holds our working tools and never gave each tool to the candidate as was customary in our lodge. He explained later that he was quite surprised to find the working tools of a Master Mason when he opened the box. He was given the wrong box of tools! I give him much credit because this was his first time giving a lecture and other than a stumble and giving the lecture with an open box of wrong tools he did quite well. There was something in the air!
After the break we proceeded to the middle chamber. Again my M.O.A.L. hero (see previous post) gracefully danced his way through the longest lecture of the degree. I gained a new and profound respect for the lecture itself, call me crazy but I really love that lecture. Then came my turn.
I was about one minute into my lecture, and going strong, when I came to a momentary brain freeze. I looked up to the prompter for a little assistance and to my horror he was having a word with the WM and not looking at me. With terror I tried to conjure up the words that were missing from my mind all the while repeating the last word I uttered, looking from the prompter to the candidate, prompter, candidate, district deputy, candidate, prompter. As my prompter tried to find the place in the lecture I left off, my brain turned to complete mush. The word I was repeating appears a few times in the lecture and he prompted a line further down in the lecture. I completely lost my composure as I tried to bring him to the point where I left off and it was all down hill from there. There is a certain rhythm to doing lecture that once lost can not be recovered, especially when the flop sweat is flowing for more than just a second. With much prompting I stumbled my way through the rest of the lecture and in utter dismay returned to my seat. But the pain was not over, being the go to guy in my lodge came back to bite me in the ass.
Before I was able to regain my seat, I caught the partner in the Stewards lecture of the petrified brother waving me towards him mouthing that he needed me to do the lecture with him. I had not even glanced at the lecture, being firmly ensconced in memorizing the G lecture, but like a lamb being led to slaughter I returned before the candidate to do an unmemorized, unrehearsed Stewards lecture. On our way to the North East corner of the lodge he asked me whether I wanted to do the questions or answers and being as confident as I was at that time chose to do the answers because I had always done the answer side of the lecture. Unfortunately for the candidate and all others sitting through the painful experience, the Past Master who was on the other side of the lecture had rehearsed the answer side, so we both, with much prompting, fumbled our way through the entire thing. After all was said and done I sat back in my chair just waiting for the lodge to be closed.
The prompter who is our Chaplain, and my mentor, told me afterward that he is so used to me breezing through lecture that he glanced away to answer a question posed by the WM without a thought of my needing a prompt. Afterwards I apologised to the newest Fellowcraft who I have been mentoring and promised extra special mentorship (is that a word?) to get him proficient for his MM degree.
Over a well needed adult beverage the DD reassured me that it happens to everyone and said I did a fine job, considering. The same was repeated by many of my brethren but, in my head it was a night to go down in infamy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


To memorize or not to memorize, I know its a big topic of conversation all over the masonic blogosphere and I am currently entrenched in a battle with my brain to memorize a lecture for an upcoming Fellowcraft degree. Although I am not yet attempting the mother of all lectures (the M.C.) I am doing the G lecture in our upcoming degree which I am having a bit of trouble.
Early in my masonic career I was recognized as someone who had the wherewithal and talent to do lectures in degrees. I gave my first Working Tools lecture as a Fellowcraft to two E.A.'s receiving the degree just a little bit after I had been passed. It was quite an intimidating experience that I will never forget. I will also never forget the look of pride and handshake our Tiler gave me after my performance. I think I was a non entity in the lodge to some of the older brothers at that point and I felt that it opened their eyes to me as a mason.
When I received my 2nd degree I was so impressed with the M.C. lecture that I received, that I have held it as the epitome of a great lecture and have tried to emulate the performance in all of my subsequent lectures. It was given without a prompt and with great feeling and stately delivery.
I can see now just how impressive it was to deliver, it is an incredibly long lecture to memorize and give. I have given numerous Working Tools witch I thought were not so bad to learn. I have given the E.A. First Section Lecture a couple of times which seemed long when I first looked at it but turned out much easier than thought because it is given with a partner. I think the question answer format is quite helpful in learning and delivery. So when we were planning our upcoming F.C. degree I wanted to do something different so, as much as I would have liked to give the M.O.A.L. (Mother Of All Lectures) M.C., I volunteered for the G lecture which I thought was a good primer for my lecturing future.
I was very excited at first look of it. It conveyed great truths and ideas and was right up my esoteric alley so to speak. But after more than a month of reading it out loud and in my head I find that by the middle of the lecture even my head tunes out for a while. I can do the beginning and the end and a couple of parts in the middle but I am having a hard time doing the whole thing.
I decided to take a break and do this post hoping that maybe my few readers would have some suggestions with the art of memorization, but I know I have to get back to the grinder to get it right before Thursday night. I know in the end I will pull it off, I just needed a break from my own voice ringing in my head with the same thing over and over again! Memorization can be the pits!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Northeast Corner (a little Light from the Northeastern Corner)

SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.27 October, 1927 No.10
by: Unknown
Surely no Mason ever forgets the moment when he is placed in the Northeast Corner of the Lodge, and hears the Master say, that he there stands a just and upright Mason. It is one of the thrills along the great journey of initiation, a point at which the idea and purpose of Masonry begin to take shape in the mind.
A thrill of joy is felt in the Lodge, not only by the initiate but by the Master and the Brethren, as if a son had been born, or a new friend found; a note of exaltation on having arrived at so happy a climax, as when a pilgrim pauses to rejoice in so much of a journey done. And naturally so, because the Corner Stone of a Mason’s life has been laid.
Always, as far back as we can go in the story of mankind, the laying of a Cornerstone has been a happy event. It has always been celebrated with solemn and joyous rites. It is the basis of a new building, the beginning of a new enterprise; and the good will of God is invoked to bless the builders and the building.
How much more, then, should it be so when a man takes the first step out of Darkness toward the Light, and begins the adventure of a new life! More important by far then Temple or Cathedral is the building of a moral character and a spiritual personality. Stones will rot and Temples crumble under the attrition of time, but moral qualities and spiritual values belong to the Eternal Life.
The initiate stands in the Northeast Corner on a foundation of Justice, the one virtue by which alone a man can live with himself or with his fellows. Without it no structure will stand, in architecture, as Ruskin taught us, much less in morals. In the Rite of Destitution he has learned to love Mercy, and at the Altar of Obligation prayer has been offered, in fulfillment of the words of the prophet:
“He hath Shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God!”
In the Northeast Corner the initiate stands midway between the North, the place of darkness, and the East, the place of Light, whence healing, revealing rays fall upon the life of man. Such is his position, symbolically, and rightly so. He is an Entered Apprentice, a beginner in the Masonic Art, neither in the Dark nor in the Light. He has come out of the Darkness, his face set toward the Light, and his quest is for more Light, with yet much light to dawn upon him. What is life for? To live, of course; and only by living it do we learn what it is for, much less how live it. It is ever an adventure, a new adventure for each man, despite the millions that have lived before us, since, as Keats said about poets, “We Never Really Understand Fine Things Until We Have Gone The Same Steps As The Author.” Only by living can we learn what life is, verifying the wisdom of ages alike by our virtues and our vices.
Yet it means much to have the wisdom learned by ages of living taught us in symbols and told us in a story, as it is taught us and told us in a Masonic Lodge. It brings to us the truth tried by time and tragedy, and the principles wrought out and discovered by the race in its long experience. It gives us a plan, a picture, a prophecy, and the fellowship of men going the same road.
The initiate stands Erect in the Northeast Corner, upright and ready to receive his working tools, a son of the Light, himself a living stone to be polished. What is more wonderful, what more beautiful, than Youth standing erect before God - not cringing, not groveling - seeking the Light by which to make its way through the dim country of this world to the City that hath foundations! Truly, our Masonry is the organized poetry of faith!
But why the Northeast Corner? Would not some other corner of the Lodge do as well? Perhaps it would, but Masonry is very old, going back into a time far gone, when ordinary things had meanings, real or imaginary, beyond their practical use. Such a question opens a window into things quaint, curious, and even awful; and all sorts of explanations are offered us, some of which may be named.
For example, Albert Pike spread out the map of the old world of the East - the mystical territory whence so many of our symbols and legends have come - and found that “The Apprentice represents the Aryan race in it original home on the highlands of Pamir, in the north of that Asia termed Orient, at the angle whence, upon two great lines of emigration South and West, they flowed forth in successive waves to conquer and colonize the world.”
Well, what of it, interesting though it may be as a fact of long ago, if a fact it is? What truth can it teach us to our profit, beyond the suggestion that the House of Initiation took the form of the world as it was then mapped in the mind, and that the procession of initiation follows the line of march of a conquering race? It may be valuable, as preserving the dim outline of ancient history - but not otherwise.
Another student, seeking the secret of Masonry in solar symbolism and mythology, looks at the same map of the Eastern World, in the frame of an Oblong Square, studying the movements of the Sun from season to season. He finds that the point farthest North and the point farthest South on the map mark the Summer and Winter Solstices, respectively. In other words, the Northeast Corner of the World, as them mapped, is the point in the annual course of the Sun when it reaches the extreme northern limit; the longest day in the year, which in Masonry we dedicate to St. John the Baptist, the Prophet of righteousness.
Then, turning to the history of religion, he finds, not unnaturally, many rites of primitive peoples - magical rituals and Midsummer Night Dreams - celebrating the Summer Solstice. Many hints and relics of the old Light Religion are preserved for us in Masonry - rays of its faiths and fictions - one of them being that the Northeast Corner of the Universe, and so of the Lodge of which it is a symbol, is the seat of the Sun-God in the prime of his power.
So, too, the Northeast Corner, as the throne of God in hour of his majesty, became a place unique in the symbols of man, having special virtue and sanctity. As we read in the Institutes of Menu: “If he has any incurable disease, let him advance in a straight path towards the invincible northeast point, feeding on water and air till his mortal frame totally decays, and his soul becomes united with the Supreme.” What more appropriate a place from which to start an edifice, or to place an Apprentice as he begins to build the Temple of his Masonic life?
Also, because of such magical ideas associated with the Northeast Corner, it was a cruel custom for ages to bury a living human being under the corner stone of a building, to mollify the Gods, and, later, as a token of the sacrifice involved in all building. Horrible as the custom was, here no doubt was a crude sense of the law of sacrifice running through all human life, never to be escaped, even by the loftiest souls, as we see on a dark cross outside the city gate.
In the crude ages all things were crude; even the holiest insights took awful shapes of human sacrifice. Life is costly, and man has paid a heavy price for the highest truth. For there is a law of heavenly death by which man advances - the death, that is, of all that is unheavenly within him - that the purer, clearer truth may rise. Evermore, by a law of dying into life, man grows - dying to his lower, lesser self and releasing the angel hidden within him. Thinking of all these strands of thought and faith and sorrow woven into the symbolism of the Lodge, how can any one watch without emotion as the Apprentice takes his place, upright and eager, in the Northeast Corner. There he stands, against a background of myth, symbol and old sacrifice, erect before God, and one thinks of the great words in the Book of Ezekiel:
“And God said unto me, Son of Man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.” Such is the challenge of God to the manhood of man, asking him to stand erect and unafraid, and commune as friend to friend. Alas, it is not easy to keep the upright posture, physically or morally, in the midst of the years with their blows and burdens. At last, a dark Ruffian lays us low in death, and only the Hand of God, with its strong grip, can lift us from a dead level and set us on our feet forever. So, at least, Masonry teaches us to believe and live:
Lord, I believe
Man is no little thing
that, like a bird in spring,
Comes fluttering to the Light of Life,
And out of the darkness of long death.
The breath of God is in him,
And his age long strife
With evil has a meaning and an end.
Though twilight dim his vision be
Yet can he see Thy Truth,
And in the cool of evening,
Thou, his friend, Dost walk with him, and talk Did not the Word take flesh?
Of the great destiny
That waits him and his race.
In days that are to be
By grace he can achieve great things,
And, on the wings of strong desire,
Mount upward ever, higher and higher,
Until above the clouds of earth he stands, And stares God in the face.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Subduing My Passions

While coaching an Entered Apprentice recently I began reflecting anew upon one of the ideas expressed in the degree, subduing my passions.

I feel sometimes this very important instruction to the new brother gets lost among working tools and the whole experience of the first degree. Being bent upon esotericism like I am, I feel this is probably one of the utmost instructions that we all receive and I constantly remind myself the importance of it.

Passion is a powerful feeling that we all have definitely felt at one time or another for something or someone. It's a chord struck in our soul that cant be silenced. I have, without a doubt succumbed to the spark of passion and let it burn bright, almost to the point of outshining all aspects of my life at one point or another. If you have never been passionate about something you have not lived. It is the spice of life. Passion though, like all spices, if overdone can overpower the the senses to the point of missing what is lies beneath. If we let the chord struck by passion to grow ever louder we cannot hear the rest of the music. That is a great lesson to be had.

It is impossible and undesirable to remove passion from our lives, but it is quite wise to learn to subdue it. By subduing our passions we can hear what is going on around us. If we were to go into lodge overcome with passion we would not be able to bring ourselves to the level needed to labor for the craft. I had many passions that prejudiced everything that I heard around me before I was a Freemason. I would go into a discussion and never really hear what the other people were saying because I would proselytise from my passions. I now am more aware of my passions and try to subdue them, and believe me it is not an easy thing to do, but I labor on.

What come you here to do?

To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry.

Have you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Do You Wear A Masonic Ring?

I was never a big fan of jewelery, well....except for those earrings I wore back in the 90's, that was the style back then. I remember when my wife and I just got engaged, I told her that I probably would never wear my wedding ring because I had never wore a ring and also I worked with my hands and the ring could get caught in whatever machinery I use daily (ha ha). As you can imagine that did not go over quite well with the misses and after the first week of playing around with it on my finger after the wedding, I got quite used to it and find my poor excuses quite funny now looking back.
Well the earrings are now gone and now I wear a ring on each hand, my wedding band and my masonic ring. After I became a Master Mason I spent endless hours perusing E-Bay and the Web looking for that perfect masonic ring to show my membership in the oldest fraternity in the world. I ended up with two, one that I wear everyday to work that is very simple and a more opulent one for evenings and lodge. My wife made a quip the first time I wore my fancy one about how she remembers me fighting not to wear a ring and now I own three! (sweet redemption for her) Although it took me a bit more time to get used to my masonic ring because it is on my right hand and I am a righty, it too has become a fixture of my wardrobe. I was so excited to wear it after my raising and continue to wear it because it is still one of the best advertisements for our fraternity other than me, myself. Although my masonic ring hardly gets noticed by any one, when it does, I light up and can espouse the benefits and glory of our great institution.
Now here is my question. I have run into many brothers when not in lodge and have seen them without the rings they wear to lodge. Why is this so?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Esoteric.... Run for the Hills!

Why is it that when the word esoteric is mentioned, most brothers want to either laugh it off or skirt the subject at all cost.

Last year I read W. L. Wilmshurst's "The Meaning of Freemasonry", which I thought was quite a good exploration of the more esoteric aspects of The Craft. I remember wanting so bad to discuss some of the more thought provoking subjects in the book at Lodge, but there is almost never a chance during our meetings for discussion. The majority of our time in Lodge is spent initiating new brothers, or preparing to do so. Sometimes it seems to me the whole purpose of my lodge seems to be bringing in new brothers. Now don't get me wrong. My lodge like many others, is growing greyer by the day and absolutely needs new blood to keep things going. But initiating and advancing new brothers cant be the end all be all of our existence. Other than curious specimens like myself, that will keep at something even when there is not much to be had, most young men my age need something other than a meal and small talk and a degree to stay interested in the craft. Again, degree work is very important to the Craft, but I would like to know what happened to the Masonic scholarship that seemed to occur within our walls in the past. Sure we have some education nights, but they almost always revolve around some aspect of the ritual.

What happened to the Masonic thinking of the past that sparked the minds that enlightened the world. Why is it so hard for men, particularly brothers, nowadays to sit around and discuss the more thought provoking aspects of our time. We live in a world that our forefathers could not have even imagined, where communication is easier than eating and yet it seems the best things we can talk about are sports or entertainment. Maybe I am a left over soul from days gone by but there is nothing more interesting or fun for me than to have a discussion of heavy subjects with people who I respect and love.

Our institution is set up perfectly for this purpose. By removing the subjects of politics and religion, which can separate the best of friends, the founders of our order created an ideal forum for the exchange of free thought and information. I have read about traveling Masonic orators packing temples with men and can only imagine how exciting it must have been to be a Freemason back then. When I read transcripts of those speeches I am always amazed by the eloquence and thought of people, who on the majority did not have one tenth of the resources for learning that we take for granted.

The reason we go through the trouble of opening the lodge is to raise the attention level of all present, and to remind us that we are, at that time, not just a bunch of guys hanging out in a hall wearing fancy aprons and jewels. We are Freemasons bound by oath and obligation, committing ourselves to higher work. If we wanted to join just a charitable organization we could have joined the Exchange, Kiwanis, or Lions club or any of the many fine clubs that do just that, but we did not. I looked to join something that was much more than a social club that does charitable work. Did we go through three different initiations with heavy obligations just to get together twice a month and pay the bills or initiate someone new? We are not supposed to. We go through our opening to get us to a different place than the everyday world we live in and to do greater work for the benefit of our brotherhood and our fellow man.

Esoteric by definition of the Merriam-Websters Dictionary is:

1 a: designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone (a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo)

b: requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group (esoteric terminology); broadly : difficult to understand (esoteric subjects)

2 a: limited to a small circle (engaging in esoteric pursuits)

Freemasonry is by these definitions an esoteric society that uses tools of the builder to teach moral lessons to a select few who are initiated into our order. Sometimes I think that the brothers who run away from the term "esoteric", when it comes to our fraternity don't even know what it means. When someone mentions that they are interested in esoteric aspects of Freemasonry around my lodge they are almost always directed to the two philosophical research lodges in our state. If those are the only lodges in Connecticut doing real Masonic work, why do the rest of the lodges in my state bother opening and closing for meetings?

Monday, September 17, 2007

After I Knocked

My decision was made so I contacted the Grand Lodge of Connecticut via their website. I have to admit that this was a bit intimidating, only because other than what I had read (and that was allot) I had no contact with anyone who was actually a Freemason. Those conspiracy websites do impart a little ominous feeling, no matter how crazy their arguments are. So, coupled with my active imagination I was a little nervous when I hit the submit button.

I followed a trail of emails that I was c.c.'d on, from the Grand lodge on downward until I was contacted by a couple of lodges who wanted to set up a meeting with me. The lodge I had driven by and was intending on joining, was not one of the respondents to my query, but the other lodge in my city cordially invited me to come over one night and meet a few of the brothers.

I recognized the lodge building from having driven past it many times without much as a second glance. It was not quite as impressive architecturally as the other one in my city, but it was the one who contacted me. When I arrived I was greeted by three middle aged men who warmly welcomed me and ushered me into their lodge. This being my first time inside of a lodge, I was impressed with the grandeur of the interior. It contained ornate wood chairs and benches with blue cushions, banners and other masonic stuff with a look of dignified antiquity. They brought me to the East and we all sat down on a bench to the right of the Oriental Chair. They asked me about myself and my interest in the fraternity. I explained my situation, and they explained to me allot of stuff that I had already read about the fraternity. When I asked about the other lodge in town, the one that I had driven by and was obsessed with, they explained that it was a fine lodge and that many in their lodge were also members of that lodge and vice-versa. After we finished talking, they presented me with a petition and a informative pamphlet about Freemasonry. The man who had contacted me and led the meeting, turned out to be the Worshipful Master of the lodge and explained to me that I could petition whichever lodge I chose, and no matter where I decided to go I would receive the same quality experience. I left the meeting with a good feeling of brotherhood that I had not felt since my time in the Navy.

I was in a bit of an awkward situation. Even after my meeting with the one lodge and its members, who were very nice and welcoming, I still felt a pull to the other lodge in my city that I had originally driven by. Not only did they meet in that building that I couldnt get out of my head, it was a very old lodge steeped in history, so even though I felt as if I would be betraying the men who made the effort to reach out to me, I decided to petition the other lodge, my love of history overrode my feelings of loyalty to the men who I had met.

When I emailed the WM that I had met with my decision, he immediatly set up an interview with the other lodge. He said he could not be there for the meeting but that I should walk in before their meeting and ask for the WM and Chaplain who were great guys. I was finally going to get into that lodge that I had driven past on that dark and stormy night months before!

When I pulled up to the the old brownstone building, I noticed ornate stained glass windows that I had not noticed before because they were not lit from within as they were as I pulled up. The windows had many symbols, a large square and compass, an anchor, a broken pillar, a beehive many symbols I recognized from my Internet investigation of Freemasonry. It is a beautiful building from the outside at night. I walked in and heard some voices down a flight of stairs and proceeded towards them. At the bottom of the stairs I saw a group of men in tuxedos conversing around a table. One of the group noticed me, waved me over and introduced me to everyone present. Again I was greeted with great warmth from all. The man who noticed me introduced himself as the Chaplain and asked the Worshipful Master to accompany us upstairs to talk.

The inside of the lodge room did not let me down. Walking past a 15 foot column with a globe on top we entered into a grand lodge room with a cathedral ceiling painted with gold stars above us. Lined up on the chairs that went down the side of the room were beautiful satin trimmed aprons and officers jewels that the Chaplain explained to me were a gift to the lodge from a visiting brother years ago. They were preparing for a degree that evening and had all the accoutrement's ready to go. We sat down and they interviewed me which again went well and said that they would vote on me during the next meeting and would let me know the outcome.

I will spare you all of the rest of the story. There are plenty of degree by degree stories elsewhere on the Internet that are all very interesting but much of the same.

That was all over one year ago and I am now the Senior Steward of that lodge with plenty of thoughts of Freemasonry to share in the future.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why I Knocked

I have been a voracious reader my whole life and have crammed a lot of life experience into my short 33 years on this planet. I have worked many trades and made many friends along the way, when I first knocked upon the door of Freemasonry.

My first cognizant recollection of Freemasonry is of a friend of mine in the Navy who planned to join the Fraternity when he got out of the service. His plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail, grow a beard to his chest and be a 32° Mason by the time he finished. We had been discussing the solution to life's questions over way too many Guinnesses and I remember asking him, in ignorance, why he wanted to join an Anti-Catholic organization. I don't remember where or when I gathered that info on Freemasonry, but sometime during my Irish Catholic rearing I must of heard that statement, and at the all knowing age of 19 shot that opinion at my friend. He said that he was pretty sure that that was not true, and as far as I know (because after the service we never kept in touch), went on with his plan. Even after all of my heady pleading that night.

I have always been an avid reader. My love of reading began in Junior High School when I read "The Island" by Gary Paulsen. It was a very introspective book for a teenager and began my lifelong search for the answers to the bigger questions in life and my appetite for reading. In High School I read every Tom Clancy novel which explains my stint in the U.S. Navy but much of my taste in reading revolved around History and Philosophy. I read many books that touched on Freemasonry but I never paid the subject much attention.

It wasn't until a really hard time in my life, while watching one of those wonderful History Channel exposés on The Craft, that something made me run to the computer to do one of my routine Google searches on a subject that had piqued my interest. That something, was one of those great sinister sounding lists of men in history who were Freemasons, including many of the Founding Fathers of the country I love. I wanted to know more about a fraternity whose membership included such a diverse spectrum of men. I didn't know any Freemasons so I turned to the only place in my living room to find out more, the Internet.

Luckily the first thing that comes up on a Google search of "Freemasons" is the Wikipedia article on the subject. It was quite informative and had links to the Grand Lodges of every State. I then went to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut's website and found out there was a lodge right in the city where I lived, in fact there were two! I found an excuse to leave the house and took a ride down to the closest one to where I lived.

It was a dark and stormy night when I drove past the lodge, nothing ominous just a low pressure system passing through. I had to go by twice because the building whose address matched what I was looking for was an old brownstone church, nothing like the Knights of Columbus Hall I spent time in my youth with my father. Yet it had to be the lodge because it had an old, weather beaten Square and Compass hanging on a post in the front yard. I have to admit at that point my curiosity became something much more than passing. I went home and started researching Freemasonry with much more vigor than before.

I read everything I could find on the Internet about it. Everything from the kook anti-mason sites, to Grand Lodges websites from every state in the union and far beyond. I was surprised to find out there was so much stuff to learn about something I had barely heard anything about my entire life. I asked my Father what he knew about Freemasons and he said that he had heard of them but, did not know any, or anything about what they do. I received the same response from most of my friends and family which I thought was quite odd. I found this odd because, according to the conspiracy sites, this secret society actually ruled the world from some underground lair, so someone I knew should have heard something about them. Yet when I asked people about Freemasons I usually received a blank stare and a look of "I understand the words you are saying (Free Mason)but not how, or why they go together". Another response was "yes, I know someone who can rebuild your stone wall, but he works for money". I received my first positive response from my Father in law down South, who said he knew a few Freemasons but did not know much about what they did.

I didn't let any of this deter me because, from what I had read about Freemasonry, it seemed to me to be a reputable organization with many good aspects I could easily see myself adopting. I even learned that the Shriners, an organization I saw every year driving their mini-cars in the St. Patrick's Day Parade were all Masons! Who knew! I always thought they were just a bunch of nice old men in funny hats that gave allot of money to sick kids.

What most intrigued me about Freemasonry was that it was (according to the stuff I read) still practiced the same way as it has been for 300 years, which appealed to my love of history. It was still an initiatory, esoteric society of men seeking to better themselves, which appealed to my philosophic nature. I have to admit that there was not one argument or outrageous statement on any of the "anti" websites that outweighed everything I had read about Freemasonry on the rest of the web. So, after much careful thought and a long conversation with my wife, I decided that I had garnered enough positive information about the fraternity to freely and voluntarily submit myself to the mysteries of Masonry. It was time for me to knock.