Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Return To Freemasonry Lost

Acedemia, Esoterika, Virtruvian, Nine Muses, it sounds like an incantation  Harry Potter might use, but it is just part of a list of lodges that practice Traditional Observance or European Concept that I have fawned over for longer than I care to admit. They are spread across the country and all have long lines of men at their door awaiting membership. Unfortunately I had not been able to visit any except St. Johns Lodge no. 1 in New York, which had previously been the greatest Masonic experience in my journey to date and then came Quinta Essentia. For over 4 years I have dreamed about a new lodge, well not exactly new, but a lodge that was more of the kind of lodge that you see in the old paintings and pictures and read about in books. I envisioned a lodge where gentlemen of all ages and status levels congregated to dig deeper into what it is we do and try to do things better. I hungered for the lodge meeting where from the moment I arrived there was nothing but challenge and conversation that led me to something I had not thought of, or made a connection to before.
After meetings, no matter where I went in the Connecticut Masonic jurisdiction, I sought out like minded individuals in search of more light and somehow we always ended up commiserating together. Why was it that we all could not find the Freemasonry that we were promised? Why was it that tedious business meetings and parroted ritual were more common than meaningful gatherings of men striving for something more? Where were the lodges Mozart, Franklin, and Dermott gained inspiration from? The more I searched the more I found out that in American Freemasonry had become more akin to the American Legion than the Royal Society (and I mean no offence to that honorable institution dedicated to veterans and servicemen). Instead of a scrumptious meal with fine beverages and deep conversation, a cold cut sandwich and potato chips with a beer or soda were the victuals gathered around to hear dirty jokes or old stories, and you wonder why no one was joining or sticking around if they joined!
This enlightenment vacuum was the genesis of the modern Masonic restoration movement. It was led by Brothers who came and wondered what had become of the Order that they thought they were joining. Instead of high tailing it out of Freemasonry like so many before, these men have dedicated a lot of time, effort and dreams to bringing back Freemasonry in America. Laudable Pursuit is their declaration of independence and their goal is nothing shorter than a universal return of the golden age of Masonry. Brothers started to meet regularly and fully explore the imprecations and implementation of this goal. Quinta Essentia Lodge UD is the product of such a group of Masons in Connecticut.
I had the distinct pleasure of being present at the inaugural meeting of the Quinta Essentia last Saturday night and I can say with all due respect to existing lodges that it is a clear shot across the bow to all slumping, muddling and in my opinion “dimmed” lodges. It started with a very short meeting which was executed extraordinarily well considering the pomp and circumstance surrounding a new lodge at its first meeting attended by a lot of purple including the sitting Grand Master and his immediate predecessor. The meeting was followed by a flawlessly executed cocktail hour with numerous toasts used to raise the level of conversation between the assembled Brethren and then a fine dinner/ festive board where the topic of the evening was “Fiat lux” the meaning of Masonic Light. The key note speaker was Charles Tirrell my fellow Masonic Blogger from Masonic Renaissance and dedicated Freemason and I can say without reserve that he outstandingly started an unparalleled conversation about Masonic Light that began in physics and led to many destinations I had no forethought of reaching. The night truly raised the vibration of all who attended (I think), at the least  I certainly left thinking in ways that I had not when I made the drive up to New Haven.
The bad thing about the evening was that it is the exception to the rule in Freemasonry in Connecticut. There were many discussions around the room that night about how the evening’s proceedings were unobtainable in most “blue lodges” and that it was such a pleasure to be a part of this new undertaking and the “flavor” of Masonry it represented. There was a constant drumming of how not everyone in Freemasonry in CT was seeking this type of light and this was the cause célèbre for creating this new lodge. My argument is that if a Freemasons lodge meeting has no result of raising the level of the men who attend and simply runs through the motions of Freemasonry to get to the cold cuts and beer why do they meet? Does just saying that we make good men better as a mantra do just that, or is it a vapid hum with no resonance? If a lodge has to be formed to meet and act as Freemasons in the classical sense of the order, what do the other lodges meet as? These are things that the craft has been pondering since this type of lodge was created.
The thought I would like to leave for grand lodges and lodges that constantly get new men and loose them as quickly as they come is that these “traditional” lodges are extremely successful and are not experiencing the downturn and desolation that “mainstream” lodges suffer and are being formed all around the country. This is something that we all should take notice and govern ourselves accordingly.
Restore The Foundation!

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Brought My Kids To Lodge Last Night

My children are my world. Like the sun, when they rise my day begins and they bring warmth and light to my existence. They know their daddy and they know how much being a mason means to me. They know that a couple times a month I get dressed in a suit or a tuxedo and they always want to come to lodge with me. It’s funny how kids are, because they have now associated daddy getting dressed nicely with lodge. Even when I just put on a suit for an interview or a wedding my little three year old daughter has, since she could talk, always asked me “you go to lodge daddy”? The new building old St. Johns calls home is on a beautiful piece of property with a huge lawn and very family friendly, so for the last meeting before we went “dim” for the summer the WM decided to have a family cook out. When I announced the event to my family, my little three year old’s eyes lit up with delight and she couldn’t stop talking about how “we goin’ to lodge”. Even my seven year old was thrilled to spend an evening at the new lodge building with daddy. When I picked up the three year old from pre-school she got really angry with me because we had to run a few errands and not go straight to lodge, but eventually we got mommy, loaded up the mini van and headed to lodge together.

Six years ago when I started this journey I was the closest thing to a child in the lodge building. The times when kids ran around the building had long since passed. The old guard’s kids had kids and even some of those had kids and none of them followed in the footsteps of their fathers so the temple had become a sanctuary for old men. My oldest daughter, when I brought her around, would light up the room like a star and the old guys always loved to see her tagging along with me. As my family grew and new guys came into the brotherhood all of a sudden there were masons in lodge with young families at home but we never had a place to congregate. This was one of the biggest reasons I had pushed so hard for the lodge to make a move in acquiring a building of our own or finding a suitable place to call home. I had grown up with my father in the Knights of Columbus and I fondly remember dinners and picnics and parties with all sorts of kids of all ages and I wanted the same for my kids. The last thing a lodge should be thought of is the place where daddy goes a few times a month and does mysterious things and sometimes smells like cigars afterward.

A lodge can be a hub of social activity, many lodges are. I have heard of lodges where the wives hang out downstairs while the men are meeting and having book clubs or just relaxing with a glass of wine and talking to each other. Movie nights, Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties are just some of the things that my old lodge had not done in years, even decades. As we approached the lodge building and saw the grills warming up and cars lined up in the parking lot and picnic chairs in a row my heart swelled with the thought of things to come in our new home. During the night the kids played in the lodge room and there is nothing sweeter in my mind than seeing a group of little ones, from two to seven, sitting in the oriental chair in the east and then racing across the room and fighting over who will sit in the west. When the sun set my kids had had a ball of a time, did not want to leave and they couldn’t wait for another night at lodge with daddy!

Friday, June 10, 2011


To the tune of “The Cat Came Back” from the Muppet Show.

Annnnnd the minutes came back, they couldn’t stay away, they put all at the meeting, asleep the same way.

It was a hot night and I was in a tuxedo for a Fellowcraft degree. Traffic was horrible so the 5 minute ride to lodge turned into 30. In utter desperation I indulged in a pre lodge cigar in my truck while sitting on the connector not moving. I arrived at lodge to find the three entered apprentices feverishly trying to learn their proficiency before the degree with an old Past Master. Then I realized why they were feverish, it was HOT in the building! This was the norm at our old unconditioned building... but we had moved. Our new abode was fully equipped to keep the Brothers cool when needed, but what was going on? After a few conversations with those that were present at the time, I came to find out that the fancy touch screen thermostats that controlled the HVAC unit were locked out to all users and….ON HEAT MODE! There were calls in to the guys that ran the building and no matter how hard we all tried to touch multiple spots on the screen, take the batteries out, etc. we could not unlock the screen. As the Brethren began to show up one by one the desperation mounted. There were a few “I thought this was one of the reasons we moved here…heh heh” muttered, yet we trudged on regardless.

Finally one of the Brothers from the building corporation showed up, but he too could not unlock the darn control screen, so he called the HVAC company that took care of the system and they were on their way. We waited and waited and finally the WM made the call to go ahead and start the meeting as we had a long night ahead of us as the 2nd degree is one of the longest with the massive mother of all lectures smack dab in the middle of it, so some took off their jackets and we proceeded to open. Right at the point when the Junior Deacon proceeds to the preparation room to find the Brothers awaiting the degree he was met at the door of the lodge by the an HVAC technician ready to solve the heat problem. It was good timing too because our Tyler was tyling from within as is his custom and the HVAC tech was about to come in on his own! The lodge was put at ease and the guy hit a few buttons and the cold air was upon us at last. The degree was a little shaky but the Middle Chamber was again brilliantly and profoundly delivered by our young Junior Deacon who has been a shining light in the lodge.

It was very late when the degree finally ended and the WM proceeded to conduct the business of the lodge in a timely fashion. There was nothing in the West, nothing in the South, and a few things on the secretary’s desk to discuss which were hastily dealt with then the Secretary announced that he had the minutes from the last meeting and the WM asked that he read them! Oh No! Not again. Over two years ago in a previous administration the minutes were available for those interested but… on their own time and like that, nap time was removed from lodge and we lived happily ever after… well not ever. Like an old hot dog returning from today’s lunch, the minutes came back and you could see the tortured look on the faces of the newer Brethren, many of which had never had to endure the boredom and monotony of a droning minute reading before. It was like NyQuil, guaranteed to put you to sleep and to many it did. Like that pesky old cat on the Muppet Show; we had driven the minutes out of town and left them in the woods but…..

Everyone together!

Buuuuuuut, the minutes came back, they couldn’t stay away, they put all at the meeting, asleep the same way!