Saturday, November 20, 2010

Let There Be Light

I cant imagine a universe without light.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form and void...
Isn't it amazing that so long ago humans had an idea of the universe and its creation without any scientific knowledge or proof? The earth was without form and void, the vast vacuum of space or nothingness was empty there was no matter or being just a void and a void needs to be filled...
And God said let there be light... and there was light.
Big Bang.
From nothing, something.
From that creative energy came everything and we are that energy.
Stars form, mass creates gravity, gravity congeals matter, cosmic clouds become spherical rocks where tiny fragments of that energy can exist in a myriad of forms.
Why is it so hard for some to believe in the creative force.
In the beginning my computer screen was blank...
All of this must have just randomly appeared....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Freemasonry Makes Men...Period

In our world where it seems that an adult male comes of age and maturity at about 16 years and maintains that peak for the rest of his life, we need Freemasonry. I say this from the perspective of someone who was at one time a 28 year old man child. My world at one time revolved around watching sitcoms, playing video games, and partying every chance I got. My best outfit was a fancy 1950's bowling type shirt and some blue jeans and that was my formal wear! T-shirts were what I usually wore and no matter what shirt I had on, it was never tucked in.....NEVER! And I can say in hindsight that my mentality was that of a 16 year old, young and dumb, and I was proud of that. Conversations revolved around Simpsons episodes and Metal Gear Solid and thats about it.
Now, its not that I did not know about philosophy or history or science, these were always passions of mine but modern American society never demanded that I be able to discuss such matters in public. The modern man is supposed to watch sports, swill beer, and ogle women or at least that is what has become the acceptable norm. In some circles any discussion above how "hot" so and so is or did you see the Yankees game were frowned upon and usually brought down epithets like nerd or loser.
Marriage was certainly a cure for many things. My wife got me my first button down shirt without short sleeves and pair of khakis that did not have big pockets down the side. She even had me pluck out my many earrings that I had collected over the years. She suggested things and I tried them and eventually agreed with her but even after my first child I was prone to coming home and turning on the PS2 and killing or flying something with a baby in my arms.
Then I became a Freemason.
Respect for the institution and ritual made me dress myself better for lodge and as I started to dress better for lodge, I found myself liking the way I looked and dressing better all the time. I still wear T-shirts at home and to the beach but I cant imagine wearing a T-shirt out to dinner like I used to. I take that request of the Worshipful Master when I first stood a just and upright mason that I should ever look and act as such, seriously and am glad of it.
As I learned my proficiency and started doing the lecture work I realized that I was a good speaker and found that I could speak to new people with a much higher level of confidence than I had ever before. It even lead me to do theater, something I had not done since junior high school. The more lectures I learned the more I realized that I was capable of learning things and expressing what they meant to me with great clarity to someone else.
As I progressed in the officers line and took on more and more responsibility and started to help plan and organize things, I realized that my opinion mattered and my contribution to something actually resulted in something.
Most of all, as Brothers who meet upon the level I realized that I am just as much as a man as the next guy no matter what he does or is titled and that profound insight is the most powerful. I will always respect anyone I do not know but I will never give them reverence that is not due.
Of course all of these traits can be acquired without knocking on the West Gate and may just come with getting older and having more responsibilities in life and many fine Brothers of mine can easily transition into the Macho Man character on a moments notice but I think that our order can guide a man child into manhood with quite amazing results. I even tuck in my shirts now and think it looks sloppy otherwise!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do We Meet Too Much?

As my year in the east progresses towards its conclusion I have started to retrospectively think about my term and it's results. I have raised the level of Masonic thought and education, improved the camaraderie, and always gone out of my way to make every brother feel welcome. The ritual has been excellent, the candidates many, and yet the turnout ( although higher than any year I have been a member) never gets past the regular officers who have always shown up and a handful of guys on the sideline. It varies meeting to meeting but if I averaged it out it would be around 17 or 18 a meeting.This fact puzzles me.
I have done all of the things laid out in various Masonic papers to increase participation yet no matter what awesome night I have planned I get about the same amount of Brothers. Now you may say it has something to do with the caliber of men who belong to my lodge but I can honestly say that on those nights, the revolving handful of Brothers of the sideline is never the same and the cast of that ever different bunch all are good Masons and I believe in my heart they would all be at every meeting if they could, so where is the problem?
Recently my lodge has been blessed with the addition of a couple of Brothers who originally hail from the mother Grand Lodge of England and at our last meeting, after I successfully got my Lodge to let me try doing some aspects of a Traditional Observance lodge at our next degree, one of my English Brothers showed me a summons for his mother lodge in England. It was a gorgeous printed document the likes of which my lodge has not produced in ages and the thing that struck me was they only meet 4 times a year! Quarterly as they say! Thats when it hit me, maybe we meet too much
Perhaps if we were to cut down on the amount of nights that we need to break away from our families and routines we might get more fannies in the seats. Now, this goes against about everything I have always thought about how a lodge should be run because even at my lodges current meeting schedule, twice a month and not during the summer, a Brother needs only to dedicate about .006% of his time per year to his lodge( and that is with three hour meetings!). Even at this tiny amount of dedication I can count on more than a few calls or emails before a meeting with "Oh I am so bogged down with work I cant make it tonight" or " I am just too busy to make it tonight" or the classic "I totally forgot we had a meeting tonight". So is this the solution? Make the Brothers dedicate .002% of their time or four five hour meetings per year? (Including a festive board at every meeting) I don't know, even with three kids, a working wife, and a job I have only missed a handful of meetings and even then I tried to show up at some point in the night. I am in no way knocking my Brothers who do not attend every meeting just trying to figure out a better way to improve attendance.
Its not that they don't know about our meetings. Along with clearly stating to every new Brother, or even candidate, that we meet on the first and third Thursday of every month except for July and August, I send out a Trestleboard with our upcoming events on it, send out an email before the meetings, and have a Facebook page for the lodge and send out event notices from there. Yet we never get all of the active brothers together on a regular meeting night. I personally look forward to every meeting and my family knows that twice a month Daddy has lodge. So do we meet too much?
In a lodge that only meets four times a year you obviously limit the amount of candidates that can join and can only go through three degrees once a year. Can this schedule result in the amount of sincere camaraderie and knowledge of your Brothers that seeing some of them at least once a month produces? I think that quarterly meetings would indeed increase the importance of a meeting because if you miss one you missed a fourth of the year but many of the Brothers already miss a fourth of the meetings. Quarterly meetings would definitely allow for better preparation and maybe produce a higher quality meeting. I think a festive board after the meeting is just a wonderful thing and anytime I have been a part of one, either formally or informally, it has been a memorable experience, but think that one or two every month would break the bank of most of the Brothers which bodes well with a quarterly schedule.
There are some lodges who get together all of the time with clubs, movie nights, and other social events. These lodges seem to have an abundant amount of extra time for each other. There are also some lodges with many members who can not even fill the officers chairs for a Stated Communication. My lodge falls in between. I just wonder if there is a better way.
What do you think?
Are two Stated Communications a month too many?
Is a Quarterly schedule better?

Friday, September 17, 2010

We Are One

It all started on Saturday, usually a busy day anyway doing all of the things you cant do during the week, but this one was extra busy with errands and the shuttling duties that accompany a medium sized family. I received a voice mail from the daughter of a Lodge Brother stating that he had passed away and the family were wondering if it were possible if we, his lodge,  could perform a Masonic funeral service.....on Sunday.
Now, I received this message at around 11:00AM and knew I could not return the call for a couple of hours so I started to think about how I could perform this last duty and possibly wrangle up a few Brothers to help in a 24 hour period. It takes a couple of weeks to put together a decent Entered Apprentice degree so I worried about how this very important service would come together.
Even before I got the chance to act I received a call from my Secretary checking to see if I got the message. I told him I had and was just about to try to put something together and asked all of the questions a young Worshipful Master asks of his wise old Secretary. I had attended every memorial service that I could since I joined the lodge, so I knew how they went, but this would be my first one as WM.
The Masonic Funeral or Memorial service is probably the most important public event that we as Masons do because not only is it our last tribute to our fallen Brother, it is one of the most moving pieces of ritual we do in front of non-Masons. It is a chance to show the family of the deceased why it is their man was a Mason and what it means to be one and it is a chance for his friends and family to have a glimpse into our fraternity. I can not stress enough of its importance for I have seen amazing ones, as in my Chance Inspiration (probably my best post ever) and bad ones as in my How Do You Tell a Past Master He Is Wrong so I felt the pressure to deliver something good for an over Fifty year member of the lodge.
I started making the calls to my officers and received an overwhelmingly positive response. I then sent out a general email to the Brethren and received a few more affirmatives. I went to the Lodge building and grabbed the accoutrement needed and brought it home for cleaning and polishing. The next day I received some regrets but also some unexpected responses for help and went about preparing for the service. I had the Brothers come to my house an hour before hand to practice and my street filled with cars with Masonic emblems. When the time came we all loaded up into cars and headed for the graveyard.
As a man who was raised Catholic, has Buddhist tendencies and now goes to an Episcopal church I had experienced many types of burials but this was my first Jewish one. My fallen Brother was a Navy vet also, so there were a couple of sailors there who performed their service first with the ever moving Taps and folding of the American Flag then it was our turn. After we were finished I stayed with a Past Master of my lodge and watched the burial service of our Brothers faith and was quite moved.
Freemasonry is perhaps the only vehicle where men of all faiths can sit together and profess faith without infringing on another's and come away better. We all believe in something better and can actually experience, if we truly live up to our credo, each others faith and cement faith itself. As different as the words and ritual of my Brothers religion were, they were familiar to me because at a time of loss it is faith that keeps us moving forward with love.
We are all one.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lost Temples

Whenever my little family needs a short vacation we often drive up the coast of Connecticut to the historic village of Mystic, made famous by the movie about a pizza shop but better known for its historic seaport. We love the quaint New England sea town feel and the fresh salt air and whenever we can't do a long vacation we often just head up there for a few nights away from our house. A few years back when still new to Freemasonry and without an I-phone, while looking for parking down a side street that followed the Mystic river, I came across this building which at the time still had Masonic emblems on it. It was quite impressive and had a direct view of the river and harbor within. Later that day, while waiting for some pizza, I tried looking up the lodge on my incredibly early version of a smart phone by attempting to view the list of Connecticut lodges on our Grand Lodge website (that took forever) and I could not find any listing for a lodge in Mystic. Our vacation went on as normal and I forgot about the search until my most recent trip while strolling along the river I saw the building again but this time it had a for sale sign in front of it. 
As quickly as I could type "Masonic temple Mystic CT" into my handy dandy, much better enabled phone, I was directed to a story about how the over 100 year old temple had been sold when the lodge merged with another in a neighboring town and had been turned into a couple of million dollar condos and like whenever I read about a temple lost, my heart broke a little more.
It has been happening more and more often as dying lodges grasping at straws to survive simply cease to exist or regionally merge with another lodge and yet another magnificent piece of architecture and  real estate is gone from our once much stronger fraternity. I have often written about it in the past and the realists say that those buildings were only able to be maintained by huge post WWII member numbers and that the reality of our dwindling order is that we should shed these money pits and consolidate and merge in smaller more affordable buildings. The problem I have with this theory is that  most of these exoteric representations of our craft's grandeur were built by lodges in the late 19th and early 20th centuries whose numbers were not incredibly huge and by Brothers who had much less means than we have now. They built or bought these structures because they felt the important work that was being done inside the lodge room should be reflected on the outside as well and they raised a lot of money to do so.
These lodge buildings were usually right in the center of the town or city and could easily be confused with the local town hall where government resided. It must have been truly thrilling for someone back then to knock on the doors of those imposing buildings and finally catch a glimpse of the inside and inquire about what goes on beyond the doors and inquire about how to become a part of such an amazing society that could sustain such an edifice. 
Now most Grand Lodges including my own are having local lodges do an "open house " and basically begging the public to come in and see what we do. Not only have we lost many of these incredible buildings, we now are close to pleading people to join. Are these "open houses" akin to the one day classes where a man was promised three degrees in a few hours so they could be handed a dues card as quickly as possible to superficially boost our numbers with more dues paying masons
The government as an entity locally and nationally has invested a lot of money in preserving and maintaining important structures that represent the greatness of our country because you just wouldn't feel the same way about paying your property taxes or going to court if it were held in some conference room in the back of a Ho-Jo's. I think it is much the same with our fraternity, it is just a little off putting hearing ancient conducted in a conference room or in some cinder block building. Most young men knocking on the West Gate are expecting much more than a six foot wedge and some soda in a hall that has seen way better days. If we are to live up to our vaunted past its time we restore the foundations and return to the earlier days of feasts and pomp and circumstance. Where a lodge wants to be in the most conspicuous impressive structure that garners curious questions without wide open doors.
It is a shame that Grand Lodges do not put away some of the funds that they take from their constituent lodges and set up preservation funds to hang on to some of these buildings for a brighter future or at least out of deference to our fore bearers who struggled to have them erected. because unfortunately once they are lost the order looses a little of its luster and mystery.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Horrible Funk

I hate to write a post like this but I have to write something or I feel as though I will never come out of this funk. In November, like many other Americans, I was laid off from work and it stunk! I was finally doing a job I was proud and eager to share with others and doing it well. I was challenged mentally, physically, and creatively and in one short year had grown so much that I look back now and wonder how I was, how I was before my last job and then the lay-off, which was only to be a short time and has now become ridiculously long. I have never in my life since age 13 spent more time not having a job. The problem is that where before I could just do anything to bring home some money, just some money is not enough to justify my being employed and paying for childcare so I need a certain amount and that certain amount seems like an impossible dream right now. It seems that the middle manager type guy, that I was, has become extinct and now companies have made it up by making lower paid guys and gals take on more responsibility without pay and making higher paid people do more lower work more often.
When the eminent return to work seemed less eminent, I started to apply to jobs that never responded or when they did asked for more than they would return. It seems that todays employment requires 150% and pays 65% with no benefits. I happen to be blessed with being married to a woman who has always carried more of the burden from her hard work and higher education and for our burgeoning family (we were just blessed with our fourth child and a fine strapping lad he is!) her salary, along with my government pittance has kept us above water so far but I am not sure how much longer we can stay afloat.
As for my year in the East, what started out as an incredible success with increased education, incredible camaraderie and lodge growth came to a sputtering stall as we went into our summer break of dimness. I assembled an officer line that I thought would drive us into the next two an a half centuries sidelining some very good friends and brothers who I had though had underperformed during my junior officer roles and promoting a group of my hand picked guys and it mostly back-fired. The guys I sidelined became stellar brothers and a few of my hand picked have stuttered at best.
I tried to lead my old lodge to a new beginning with a carefully thought out plan of buying a new building to call home that mostly fractured all of the fellowship I had worked so hard to flourish. Don't get me wrong, we are much better than we have been but now there are camps of passionate differing opinions vying against each other and mostly me. Some of my most trusted brothers left me in the lurch carrying a torch that I thought I shared with everyone.
So for a while I had a hard time believing in anything, and really still do.
I question my dedication to a quixotic cause of a once powerful lodge, I question my ability as a man to contribute to my family and I question mostly myself.
I have not been able to write because even with the amazing birth of my son I have not felt happy in a long time.
I have just existed.
Existence is not what I was put here to do.
Sorry for the bummer of a post.
I need the sun to rise in the East again.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


You know that scene in Braveheart when the big battle is lost and he charges after the helmeted knight and is knocked off his horse and plays dead to entice his enemy off his horse then springs up on him pulling off his helmet ready to slice his throat only to find his "friend" Robert the Bruce behind the mask. I thought Mel Gibson's interpretation of betrayal was so powerful and true. Bewildered, sad, confused, defeated he stumbles back trying to make sense of his world gone upside down and lays down in surrender. The Bruce then finds his moral compass and helps him escape but it is too late for the cause.
 Trust is a mighty thing. It is something you give selflessly. When broken it can often never be returned.
Connecticut's most infamous son could have been one of its greatest heroes. Benedict Arnold was born in Norwich Connecticut to a long line of Benedict Arnold's including a former Governor of Rhode Island. His father B.A. after some unfortunate business dealings sought the solace of the local tavern, so young Benny was sent off at an early age to apprentice at his cousins large and successful apothecary. His early life was adventurous and successful and eventually he ended up in New Haven Connecticut with his own apothecary and became a merchant trader in Canada and the West Indies where it is believed he became a Freemason. He soon affiliated with Hiram Lodge No. 1 in New Haven, Connecticut's oldest lodge. When he heard of the Battle's of Lexington and Concord Arnold marched off to battle. His heroics and exploits are many and as the Revolutionary War progressed he quickly rose up the ranks of the Continental Army. If his story ended here he would be spoken amongst the founding fathers with reverence due but alas, greed or vanity and or a combination of insults drove him to his path of infamy and his betrayal of his country he fought and was wounded for.
What causes a man to betray a trust given to him? It is said that his fellow Freemason Brother George Washington, who had given Benedict the post at West Point where he was to be caught trying to sell its secrets to the Redcoats, was calm upon learning of the betrayal of his friend and Brother, I wonder what his face looked like. 
Washington did perform a thorough investigation into his betrayal and tried to make a trade with the British in order to bring him to justice and even tried to have him kidnapped but Benedict escaped and eventually fought as gallantly for the Red Coats as he did the Patriots, but died virtually unknown in London where he is buried due to clerical errors in an unmarked mass grave.
It is kind of sad when someone you have put faith and trust in betrays you because you know that person well and you almost want to figure out how to justify their action in order to save that was lost but it will never be the same. 
Subterfuge regardless of the reason is subterfuge.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Lodge Night I Dreamed Of

There we were, four Traveling Men on a train bound for the greatest city in the world dressed in dark suits. We had no idea what to expect and were excited like school kids on their first field trip. We spoke of our lodge and how it was now and what we dreamed of it becoming. In hushed tones I helped my Brothers polish their secrets to make sure they shined if tried. They were ready, we were ready. I had already explained to them that the lodge we were visiting was special and did things very different form how we did things but even I did not know what was to come. It seemed the stations passed by in a blink because we arrived in Grand Central in a very short time.
The bustle of the city allowed us the anonymity to hone our art further. After a packed subway ride we strode down the street toward our destination on a drizzly overcast evening but we must have shone like diamonds as many a person took the time from their hustle to say "looking sharp gentleman" or "nice suits". Our secret conversation was so engaging that we almost missed our destination and surprisingly it could be missed if you weren't looking for it. 
The polished modern entrance was like any corporate headquarters with the revolving glass door and an attentive security guard behind surveillance monitor but just past the doorman was a beautiful stone floor with an inlaid brass square and compasses encircled with the motto "Let There Be Light". We were ushered to an elevator in the rear entrance lined with beautiful glass cases filled with Masonic memorabilia and murals. Our excitement mounted as we rode the elevator to our destination where we were greeted by the Tyler who asked us to sign the guest book and wrote down our names and titles for the Masters benefit. We grabbed our aprons and walked inside the one of the most amazing lodge rooms I had ever entered.
The Ionic room was like a Greek temple as its name implied. Thirty foot marble columns surrounded us with ornaments painted in all sorts of colors as those temples were decorated in their heyday. There were already many many Brothers anxiously waiting for the night to begin and I greeted my fellow Worshipful Master and we made our way to the North Eastern side of the room of course to take our seats. While we waited for the night to begin we were greeted by a very gracious Brother who gave us a little insight to the lodge we were visiting he turned out to be Mark Koltko-Rivera author and fellow blogger. He had long ago helped me with a memory technique after one of my posts so it was nice to meet him in person.
A bell rang and the night began.
This lodge was a Traditional Observance Lodge. I have long been an admirer of the TO concept but never had the opportunity to see one in action.... let me just say it was worth the wait.
First they turned off the lights. Then there was music. Brother Mozart helped us from beyond, to shed the day and excitement and focus our thoughts for lodge. Then the lodge was opened. It was not really that much different from how we do it, except the little differences between jurisdictions, there were even some requisite line fumbles as we all do, but the contemplative time before the start made it all the much more meaningful. After the opening all of the visitors were welcomed and the night began. Business as usual but then the guest lecturer was brought in and we were enlightened by a thoroughly engaging discussion on "Symbolic Interaction-ism". It was delivered by an amazing Mason and Man who I have long admired and we all really enjoyed it. The night was running late so they closed the lodge and ended in a chain of union,(see TO lodge above) which is quite a fulfilling way to end such a great meeitng. 
We then retired to Coalition (dinner) which was held in a private room in the basement of a nearby restaurant where we shared excellent food and wine and company. The level of conversation was at a height of profound intellectualism and Brotherly Love and friendship that I had never reached before but had always dreamed of. This was a lodge night like I had envisioned it to be before I approached the West Gate, men from every station and level of life meeting on the square and sincerely trying to make themselves and each other better. Deep conversation and thinking deserving of the profound nature of our ritual and fellowship and camaraderie over amazing food and drink.
I can say with out a doubt I came home a different man than I left and I have seen what I wish my lodge to become. We are almost there. The bar is set high. It was the most profound Masonic night I had ever experienced and I thanked the Worshipful Master and guest lecturer profusely and had I asked their permission I would be doing it by name but alas I did not so I will not. It was the lodge night I always dreamed of.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Disappointment or Reality?

A while back I finished reading Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall and like many things in my quest for esoteric knowledge the reality was not anything like the idealized vision I had built up in my head. Very early in my research into Freemasonry I became a big fan of Mr. Hall. I started out, like many searchers of hidden knowledge, with The Secret Teachings of all Ages. It was a revelation and although I have still not finished the entire book Manly's writings stirred something in me and spoke directly to me. Sometimes it seemed that he wrote in my thought pattern. It soon became an obsession of mine and the large stack of his books began to grow on my nightstand. Melchizedek and the Mystery of Fire (Adept Series),Words to the Wise: A Practical Guide to the Esoteric Sciences,The Secret Destiny of America,Twelve World Teachers: A Summary of Their Lives and Teachings,The Lost Keys of Freemasonry (Also Includes: Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians / Masonic Orders of Fraternity) books, pamphlets, websites, I devoured them all. I repeatedly went on to the Philosophic Research Society's website and even dreamed of entering it's degree program. My highlighter has only gotten more work when I was given a script for a play.
The knowledge of this man seemed unbelievable and still does. He traveled the world studying our search for more meaning and must have read more arcane and obscure books than anyone ever. His library at PRS is still nearly second to none. As I read more and more I had a picture of this amazing man (definitely helped by his mysterious head shots) like some kind of dalai lama-guru in California living the enlightened life of a chosen one. As only a chosen one can, he never was unhappy or sad, and with all of his secret knowledge he lived a life of bliss until he re-merged with the source of all being. Reality was reality.
I sort of wish I had never read his biography so that my image of him remained unspoiled but like all things idealized, expectations can be overreaching and romanticized. Nothing about his writings has changed for me, they still hit a chord in my soul, but I am very sad for what happened to him. He deserved better.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If You Build It...

So what comes first the lodge or the "lodge"? As most Masons know a lodge is a group of Freemasons, it is constituted (or licensed in layman's terms) by a Grand Lodge and given the power and authority to make Masons. As most non Masons and Masons wives know a "lodge" is the building that Freemasons go a couple of times a month to meet and do that "secret" stuff. In early times the lodge was formed without a "lodge". Freemasonry grew in pubs and coffee houses and any other place that could be Tyled or secured from non Masons in order to do the work of the order. As Freemasonry grew the "lodge" became a new reality, lodges swelling with members who wished to donate their time and money built edifices that reflected their love and devotion to their craft. Magnificent structures were constructed at a time when Brothers had a lot less means than todays masons, but built they were.
The building that caught my imagination and helped to draw me to the lodge of which I am Master today was sold, like many "lodges" were, because the big white elephant was too expensive for the dwindling brotherhood that met there. It is an amazing structure with stained glass Masonic windows, brass door hardware with square and compasses emblazoned on every handle, and a ceiling painted to match the canopy of heaven, but it is not ours. Yes we meet there but someone else owns the building and they are not going to give it up in the foreseeable future. We are uncomfortable tenants doing the labor of Freemasonry in a museum from the past. When we retire to the South for fellowship we must bring and remove any evidence of our existence and never feel comfortable in our camaraderie.
My dream for my lodge is to get us back into a "lodge". I want a place of our own. I want a place where if a couple of Brothers want to discuss things over a cigar and a dram of whiskey they can do so. I want a place where we can leave supplies to make the dinner we consume before a degree. I want to have a piece of property that the Brothers can be proud to bring a prospective candidate to. Is this wrong? Am I spinning my creative wheels on a thing that is more trouble than its worth?
I have found a building with a fraction of the grandeur of our old "lodge" but it still has the possibility of grandeur. This building is within the money we collected for the sale of our old building and then some. We should have enough money to purchase and renovate and put some money away to help us in the early years of ownership. But even with all of these qualities the older guys at the lodge are scared to own property again.
I think that a "lodge" would help my lodge in retention and growth because it would be a place we could all be proud owners of, but is this not the case? Does my idea of a "lodge" like the royal society, a clubhouse for the Brethren, not fit in with the reality of modern American Freemasonry? I see places like Halcyon Lodge and what they have done with their old building and think that if we had that we would be so much better off. Am I wrong?
What do you think?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Which Way Do The Compasses Point?

The road is bumpy, the road is winding, the road is long and then you come to this.

When you are traveling on a road to somewhere the bumps jar, the turns sway but the traveling is still easy because you don't have to think really, you just keep moving. The fork in the road is hard because you have to decide. As far as you know both paths lead to a similar destination.
On the left there is a downhill road through a dark forest. It is an easy way to go but the light is obfuscated and diffused and you will have to turn on your headlights and shine the light as you go, but you will save gas and get there sooner.
On the right there is an uphill road over a high precipice. It is a much harder road to travel and you will have to really pay attention to the road but the light will be shining on you and the view could be breathtaking.
You get to the fork and you stop, car idling away. One passenger really thinks the easy road is the way to go, save gas, get there sooner with much less effort. The other passenger is just as adamant about the hard road, it'll cost us more and be a lot of work but just imagine the view. You were the one who found the scenic route and convinced your friend of its merits but the longer you drive the more the easier route calls to you because you want so bad to get where you are going.
Neither friend wants to push you too hard in their direction but are still insistent of their opinion. So with the radio on keeping you entertained you sit there and wait because you cant decide.
If you didn't have passengers you would go the hard scenic route or would you?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Joy Of Building

The best thing about being Worshipful Master is being able to take things I had only contemplated or wrote about and making it into reality, tonight was one of those great nights. For those of you who read this blog you may recall at the end of one of my posts about an idea for a lodge "building" night I called "Mix The Cement Night". The basic idea of the program came from an experience at our Grand Lodge's Wardens Seminar I attended in October of last year. We were separated into pairs and caused to interview each other as a team building experience, I took this idea and came up with "Mix The Cement Night"and it was a tremendous success.

I snuck the event into my Message From the East and did not give any details about what it was going to be, knowing that none of the Brothers of my lodge really reads my blog so it would be a complete surprise(as it turned out one of the newest Brothers had read it but kept it a secret). I started receiving calls about it the day after I sent out the Trestleboard and would not give the slightest idea of what it was to be, which heightened the anticipation.

I arrived this evening, fashionably late, to a full parking lot and a bunch of Brothers quite enjoying each others company already, which just made it that much better. We quickly opened lodge and disposed of the good business of petitions and returned investigations, then I put the lodge at ease so I could explain what we were about to do. I explained the esoteric idea of the night and knowing my lodge as I do split the Brothers up into pairs of "old school" and "new school", so to say, and gave them a nice questionnaire to conduct the interview. Name, Family Members, Why You Became a Mason were some of the questions on the sheet that I explained to the Brothers should be used as a template to know your Brother better. I then promptly closed the lodge and we adjourned to the dinner hall for the exercise.

We all grabbed a beverage of choice and the fun began. I wanted to limit the time of the interviews to 15 minutes a piece so we would have enough time to hear everyones answers but to my pleasant surprise I was asked for a little more time. The buzz in the air was music to my ears as everyone got to know each other a little better and then I started by introducing my Brother the Treasurer to the lodge. I then went around the room and randomly went back and forth between old and new and had every Brother tell us a little more about their Brother. The stories were great, the camaraderie was amazing and no one was in a rush to leave afterwards! The best part of it was that we all knew each other better than we had ever before and left more cohesive and happier than we came, TRUE BROTHERHOOD.

The cement of personal knowledge was mixed into the aggregate collection of men and turned into a concrete foundation of a Freemasons Lodge. It just doesn't get any better.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Delivering The Goods

I remember.

The expectations of what was to come were overwhelming. So overwhelming that I sneaked a peek at what was to come and I can never get that experience I cheated back, but what came next I kept pure. I kept it pure because my heart and the stars had led me here and I wanted to let it take me to where I was meant to go.
I was swept up in it immediately but I was different than most. When you expect a treasure ship from the shore and receive a fishing boat most would head back to the safety of their home but I hopped on board and started fishing and fishing is hard work.
You sail farther and farther away from your home dragging a line with the hope of coming home with that big catch that will keep you home forever but it never comes so you keep'll come some day.

After your Entered Apprentice degree, if you were like me you probably had more questions than answers after such an amazing ordeal. What was that all about? What am I now? They call me Brother so what can I do? Am I their Brother?
The veil of Freemasonry is a heavy one to lift and often even after their initiation, after all of the ceremony and symbolism most Entered Apprentices leave the lodge not really knowing what to do next. For all of our ritual and its importance most of it is lost to the person who needs it most...the candidate. They are so caught up in the moment and overwhelmed that they barely absorb anything that they just went though. I remember that feeling and have made it a point to change that experience for the better.
When I was a junior officer and was doing the different lectures I made sure that the delivery was for the candidates or Brothers and that what I was giving them was from the heart. I tried to learn not just the words but the meanings and feelings of the ritual and convey this to the men who it was supposed to be for. Ours is a theater of the mind and the greatest lecturers keep them on the edge of their seats as far as 18th century prose can bring modern man there, even though they will forget most of what was said as soon as they turn the key to their cars and drive home late that night.
Now that I sit in the oriental chair, I am more of a Master of Ceremonies and administrator so I have brought something new to my old lodge. I still try to deliver a profound experience with the ritual but now I can add something new. I have developed a "Welcome Package" for those who stand in the North East Corner for the first time in their lives. I wanted to give the new Brother something he could take home and read and really feel a part of my lodge. Included in this package is the usual mnemonic EA booklet with the lecture, the more verbose EA booklet from our Grand Lodge, our lodges Trestleboard and a "Welcome Letter";

Welcome Brother,

Again, it is with great pleasure that I now address you by that sacred appellation. You have now undergone the same experience that some of the greatest men in history have and can call George Washington, Henry Ford, Simón Bolívar, Mozart, Voltaire and countless other Brothers. The light of Freemasonry is a beacon that has long attracted men of the utmost character and temperament. This letter is to help you with the great honor that was bestowed upon you and to help welcome you into the St. Johns Lodge № 6 family.

St. Johns Lodge № 6 Free and Accepted Masons was chartered in 1765 by the then Provincial Grand Lodge in New York. The first Worshipful Master was a local merchant and ship’s captain named Benjamin Isaacs and Lodge met in his home on what would later be named Isaacs Street. To put it in perspective George Washington was a young 33 years old when our Lodge was formed. Our lodge has continually met and made Masons ever since and has produced a few Grand Masters and leaders of all levels in the Grand Lodge of Connecticut that was formed 18 years after our forming.

As an Entered Apprentice you are now a Freemason and you are entitled to join us at our meetings. We meet on the first and third Thursday of every month except July and August when we go dim for summer (which is to say not meeting formally). We will open the lodge on the degree of the lowest Brother attending unless we are conferring a higher degree and even then you may come for the fellowship that occurs before we open Lodge. We sincerely hope you will join us at all of our meetings and events when possible. The more you put into Freemasonry the more you will get out of it. We are first and foremost a Brotherhood and it is always great to see your Brother!

You may not yet display any forms of Masonic identification (i.e. rings, pins, and emblems) for although a Brother you are not yet a full member of the Fraternity and will not be one until you attain the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. I encourage you to enrich your mind with the countless books, articles, and websites that will enlighten you to the Craft, but be wary of reading anything that exposes your next two Degrees, only because it will lessen the experience that our rituals invoke. Our initiatic system was developed in time immemorial to reverberate in the soul of the true initiate and a knowledge of what is to come although trivial will dampen your experience.

You will need to learn the Question and Answer lecture that was recited for you in order to pass onto the next Degree of Fellowcraft. The booklets you were given will help you some but what will help you even more will be the guidance of one of your Brothers who will gladly assist you in learning. This not only helps you learn but will grow the bond of Brotherhood that is the binding part of Freemasonry. The lecture book is written in mnemonics, a sort of code that is meant to help you in memorizing the lecture. While perfect recitation of the lecture is desirable and encouraged it is most important that you know the Due Guard, Sign, Grip (handshake), and Word of an Entered Apprentice which are the true secrets of your rank. Included in this packet is our Trestleboard which is our monthly newsletter, which has a list of the Officers of the Lodge and their contact information. Feel free to contact anyone of us including myself to help you become a proficient Entered Apprentice and a shining example of our lodge and great Order.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Matthew M. Morris, Worshipful Master St. Johns Lodge № 6 F.&A.M.

I wanted to give the new EA some insight into the lodge and answer what questions he may have lingering and make him feel at home. All of these items are presented to the Entered Apprentice at the end of the degree in a nice pocket folder.
I have shared this letter with some Worshipful Masters in my Grand Lodge and feel it may help others. All you have to do is replace all of the stuff about my lodge and replace it with stuff about yours and hopefully you will see him at your next meeting more eager than before.
What do you think?

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Your a classic car enthusiast. You have always loved them and seen them in the periphery of your vision but you never had the gumption to get one and take on what it is to own one. One day you are driving down the street and you see one poking its grill out of a garage and you are inspired. It looks a bit dusty but underneath the dust is one of those beautiful pieces of steel and chrome and rubber that makes your heart skip a beat. It was made in the heyday of the automobile when bigger was better and beauty was prised over aerodynamics. The symmetry and style exude class like nothing else on the road today so you stop your car and walk your way up the steps of the front porch to the door of the house.
There is a well worn brass handle and an ornate knocker and for a minute you think about hopping back into your car and driving away because you already have a car and it gets you from A to B which is what a car is supposed to do but there is something that holds you at the entry. With trepidation you reach out for the knocker and lift it ever so gently amazed by the weight of the thing in your hands and you let it fall.
Then silence.
After a seemingly extraordinary amount of time your hear a stirring from within and a gray haired old man opens the door a crack and says "who is it?" You can see his stern gaze from within.
"Hello. I'm your neighbor from around the corner and I noticed that beautiful old car in your garage and I was wondering if you would like to talk about it?"
At the mention of the old auto the old mans face changed and he threw the door open and thrust out his hand for a shake. "Come in, come in I always have time to talk about my wonderful car." The twinkle in his eyes revealed a tremendous pride and love for this thing.
He ushers you in and you spend the next hour talking to him about all sorts of stuff but mostly his prized car.
You explain to him of your sincere interest and you then take a walk out to the garage and all of a sudden you are right next to it and it is amazing. It was definitely taken care of as you already knew from your conversation before but the layer of dust on it indicates that it had not been used as of late. The old man then tells you that it has been hard for him as of late to use it but opens the door and tells you to go ahead and start it. As you slide into the well worn leather that old car smell fills your senses as you turn the ornate key and the old thing grumbles to life.
WOW! What a sound it makes! Nothing on four wheels today has that deep rumble that echoes in the old garage and you are sold. You spend the next couple of months visiting the old man and his car and grow to love it and eventually he agrees to hand the keys over to you.
The day comes to take it out for the first time and your heart is about to leap from your chest. You had dusted it off and kicked the tires and sat in the drivers seat for the first time with the intention of driving it somewhere. You turn the keys again and it comes to life with the gentle touch of a lover you ease the car into drive and it moves! Oh what a thrill! You feel like royalty driving such a magnificent automobile as you idle your way to the road at the end of the driveway and as you turn onto the road ahead and step on the gas there is no response! The car just remains in idle. You tap the accelerator again and again no response. You park the car and go back to the gentle old and ask him what is going on?
He sheepishly looks up and tells you that's all it can do.
Its been that way for so long that he doesn't even know how to get it to move any faster and asks "Why do you want it to go any faster? It's fine the way it is. Just look at how beautiful it is!"
"Because you just can't travel todays roads at that speed" I regretfully say.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Successful Install!

Take one AGM in a Tux cowboy boots and hat, one Senior Warden, a Derby, some Prince Hall, United Grand Lodge of England, and Grand Lodge of Connecticut Brethren, and unlike poor Tom Accuosti's latest ubuntu attempt, you have one successful installation!
Thanks to all!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Night Before....

Twas the night before installation
and all through my head
the year that was coming
kept me from my bed.
The Brothers, the lodge
and the ritual so dear
will be my responsibility
for the upcoming year.
So I did what I do
I grabbed my netbook
to give all my favorite
Masonic Blogs a quick look.
First to the Tao
and Tom and his wit
on being brought to light....
on Linux? Bull ****
The Taper was filled
with more Halcyon stuff
while the Metaphysical Freemason
doing some Papal fluff.
Chequered Carpet hasn't written
in nearly a year.
But the Renaissance is back
so we need no longer fear
Justa Mason is sadly mourning
a fine lady Auntie Grace
and Paul Chapin went off on
some peacocks, full pace.
Its not Lodgical that Grail Quest
don't post much no more.
Masonic Traveler welcomed many
to Freemason Informations wide door.
The dead Masonic Blogroll
would keep me writing all night
so lets all welcome back
From Darkness to Light!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

MMM 1.0

I have been criminally neglectful of my blog but like usual I have a lot of excuses, well sort of, I am a recent addition to the national unemployment statistic and for the first time in my adult life I do not have a full time job. Although that should give me loads of time to write I actually find that my time seems to disappear faster now than when I was working 60 hour weeks! Just before I was handed a pink slip I was, in my spare time, going full speed ahead with trying to organize and lay out the ground work for my lodge to purchase a building we could call our own. I had been working and politicking like mad for the last couple meetings to test the waters and gather support for my dream. I found a building, checked the resources, examined the charter and rules and regulations, and one by one I started to talk to the Brethren to get their ideas and see if they liked mine.
Simultaneously I started the hard work of gathering and weeding out the Brothers who I would be calling on for help over the next year. I wanted to surround myself with a corps of officers that I knew I could count on because the last thing you need to do as WM is make sure your officers will be at the next lodge meeting. Luckily our membership has increased a such a pace that I didn't have to rely on a couple of choices but had a good quarry to search in.
All of this action led up to our lodges annual meeting and election of officers. It was going to be a big night for me in a couple ways. I prepared a power point presentation to go along with my speech about my dream of a building of our own but due to unforeseen circumstances I arrived just before the meeting started and was not able to set up.
After opening the lodge the WM stated to the gathered craft that I had an important speech and off I went. I spoke from my heart and used my head and although I ruffled a few feathers I received majority support for my idea so we'll see how that goes. My little speech did however cost me a unanimous vote to be WM. The worst thing is is that the numerous votes for me could not outshine the one vote cast for "jachin". Regardless I was elected to serve as the 245th Worshipful Master of "old St. Johns".
So, on this coming Thursday January 7th 2010 I will be installed and my reign of terror will begin!
Just Kidding! It just fit so perfectly into that sentence.
For real, I am so thrilled to assume the oriental chair and I hope I can accomplish all that I want to do never has a year ahead seemed so short.
If you are in my area next week come on by it should be a good night!