Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Unmentionable Spector

This has and will always be a personal blog about my journey into and around Freemasonry, albeit a somewhat anonymous one. I have always been candid and frank about most of my experiences. I have written things that I probably should not have and have held back some things that I should more than once.
Apart from some minor posts in the last year my writing has all but dried up like so many other Masonic bloggers around what was once a very exciting and vibrant group of like minded individuals.
For me the muse that once fed my fervent prose has gone.
Like many men before me, I was a seeker of light and discovered the ancient fraternity out of a combination of deep need and heady research. There are many outlets available for a man to dedicate his time and energy to and my spirit was drawn, like a moth to flame, to a brotherhood represented by two builders tools locked in an iconic embrace.
I have stated numerous times and in way too many ways on this site of what I found when I approached and passed through the West Gate on my way to the East. I dove in head first following my heart and the providence that led me to the ancient craft. Like an infatuated youth the order held my thoughts every waking minute and my dreams at night. In retrospect I am ashamed at how much of my energy and valuable thoughts were taken away from my precious wife and children by my devotion to Freemasonry, but that is how my personality is, I do not do anything half way.
So where am I, you might ask.
Well, last spring I finally got a job equal to my skills after a long drought of layoffs and part time work. My new job has eaten up allot of my time and energy but at least I am getting paid well for it. Masonicly I have not stepped foot in my lodge for over a year now. I have kept up with what has been going on there but the last time I was at lodge it was made crystal clear to me that what I had tried to do was not wanted or appreciated. I had attempted to demit but was talked out of it and have questioned my decision ever since. My thoughts and ideas of what lodge I would like to belong to has completely changed and my old lodge fits none of them.
Others who followed me in the idea of a "different kind of lodge" have also dropped off and although I had nothing to do with anyone's decision directly, the blame has been laid at my feet. In fact at the most recent election (of which I could not attend because I was hundreds of miles away at work nor any intention of going to anyway) the rumor that was murmured around the room was that I was going to show up out of nowhere and "start some trouble," like some phantom menace....Oh my god I am Voldemort!
Just hearing of what has been said in my absence hurts me to the core and the idea of what was accomplished in the five years of my dedication to a positive idea as being labeled "trouble," has led me to believe that my continued support of men who do not want it is unwarranted.
Under my Grand Lodges rules and regulations a brother may demit form his lodge if his dues are paid in full. I would then receive a certificate of demit which would make me a kind of unsigned Freemason free agent. The ramifications of this decision are heavy especially since I am not a member of another lodge and my "regularity" would be in question. I don't know what to do, but I no longer belong to the group of men who I called brother for so least not all of them.
Over the past year I have received numerous calls and emails from the readers of this blog that have lifted my spirit and cemented my decision in joining Freemasonry in the first place. If it weren't for you, or this work of love, I may well have just given up on the craft altogether. I still wear my ring although lately I have gone days without taking it out of the small jeans pocket where it resides when not on my finger.
My questions still linger. My spirit has taken quite a blow.
There is much work to be done.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Lonely Esoteric

The Craft gather,
the spirit is up.
They share a meal,
they share a cup.
Camaraderie and fellowship
is everywhere,
yet the deeper meanings
are lost.

The gavel cracks on stone,
get to your seat.
The purging and Tileing
and opening greet.
The Wardens the Deacons
are doing their jobs,
but the words fall on
deaf ears.

We do what we do
'cause its always been done.
The ritual the language
for some are not fun.
But silently, the one who knows and learns
absorbs everything said and performed.
The Lonely Esoteric.

Everything has a reason
to most it's just lost..
Every sound, every motion
are friverously tossed
Round the secret closed room like
some silly old play without a
worthy director.

Was it ever understood,
or just simply hummed?
Like a familiar old tune
with words that were dumbed.
So that more could learn it and
spread it around and not even know
what they're singing.


Or maybe it's structure
was carefully decided.
To carefully conceal it
from ones we should hide it.
And gather stray seekers one spark at a time
who will see it
for what it is worth.

A strange ancient beacon
with knowledge just hidden.
For some small groups of men
to great things are always bidden
like a bird to a flower
that hides its sweet

Then one after one
after disappointment and trial.
Gather themselves together
Regardless the mile,
of distance they traveled
and create a smoldering

Be not lonely esoteric,
just be patient and true.
For your comrades are waiting
to come and join you.
They are lost and wondering
and hungry for more learning and just need
a good place to gather.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Observing the Lecture

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of traveling with 3 dear Brothers from the lodge I was once Master to visit another "Old St. Johns Lodge" here in Connecticut. We spent a little over an hour in the car to get there, but because of the tremendous amount of fellowship and Brotherly love we have for each other, it seemed like a few fleeting moments. We talked and laughed and griped, but the first two were more prevalent in the cigar smoke filled SUV as we traveled up the valley from the coast to the heart of our small state.
Why did this small band of Brothers undertake this journey you ask?
Well, we were on our way to have dinner and enjoy a lecture from Worshipful Brother Andrew Hammer, author and Past Master of Alexandria-Washington Lodge no. 22 in Virginia (which apparently had some famous founding father of the United States as a member in the past with the initials G.W.). His book, Observing The Craft was the topic of the evening and his host was Wyllys St. Johns Lodge no. 4, in West Hartford Connecticut. I had been meaning to travel up to Wyllys St. Johns for a while, as they are the first lodge in Connecticut, I believe, to institute a Chamber of Reflection and the guest speaker was an added incentive to make the trip. No sooner had I sent out an email to the like minded Brothers in my old Lodge announcing that I was traveling, I received immediate positive responses to join me.
We arrived in a misty rain and entered the big brick building with the classical facade just in time for a tour and some idle chat. I had said hello to our graceful and ever ebullient Deputy Grand Master who introduced me to a young dedicated Brother that also is a reader of this blog. One of the greatest thrills I receive is talking to someone who reads my stuff and I was very glad for meeting this new Brother and talking about my last post and his journey so far in the craft. I cut short our conversation and caught up with my traveling party just in time to be taken to the Chamber of Reflection.
What can I say... I certainly had heart palpitations when I saw it and I think I can say that we were all floored by the simple room in the attic of this huge temple and how it must affect the men who are voted in to receive the degrees of our Order. You can read about these chambers and see pictures of what is in them, but until you step into a well appointed room set aside for this purpose you cant imagine what it would be like to be in one. The walls were painted black with the word V.I.T.R.I.O.L and a few other alchemical symbols in white. A small desk with a skull and bone, salt, sulpher, a picture of a rooster and a picture of a skeleton were against one wall and a lone mirror was on the other. All lit by a single flickering lamp. It was beautifully done. The Chamber of Reflection in this lodge was just recently incorporated into their ritual and the long term effect it may have on the lodge is not yet known, but the Master of the lodge said you can see the difference on the candidates faces when they exit the room before their Masonic journey begins. I am definitely jealous and wish that my quest started in such a profound and introspective room.
Wyllys-St. Johns has one of the youngest officer lines in the state and their rallying cry to a deeper Freemasonry has been the book that we came to hear about, Observing The Craft.
W:.B:. Hammer has been a Freemason a little longer than I and we have had a similar experience along our paths. We both joined old lodges. We both were searching for a place to tie ourselves to the bigger things in life by joining and we didn't find what we were looking for. Our biggest differences are that he took a break in the beginning to regroup and I am taking a break now, and he has that charming British accent and I have a semi-New York cabby way of talking.
His book is all about restoring the foundation that he and I both believe is what our fraternity was meant to be: an initiatic Order where men come to grow themselves both mentally and spiritually. For most of his lecture I sat there just nodding my head, loving the fact that another Brother had put down all of the things I have said on this blog in a book form and is traveling the country giving talks to lodges about it. Brother Andrew has never read my blog but in my head I was thinking back to posts I had written over the last 5 years and saying Here Here in my head. I have still yet to read the book and will follow up with a proper review when I finish but one of his finer points that I took from his talk was what he disliked about how his lodge was "sold" to prospective members and how he has changed it.
He said when he came into his lodge, the three questions asked by the investigating committee were;
1. Do you believe in God? 2. Are you the proper age? And 3. Do you know that George Washington was a member of our lodge? It is an enlightening point that shows that most lodges are not looking for men to better themselves but simply looking for another dues paying member to whisk through the degrees and get the money and they try to sell sell sell our fraternity to any man that walks through the door. I for one was guilty of similar selling with my old lodge and could not wait to give the prospective member my long winded tour, with historical undertones, in hopes to try and keep them interested.
Brother Andrew's most profound statement was that he was more interested in making a lodge where George Washington would want to be a member, than one that sat on the laurels that he once was.
That one hit deep. A lodge that is more interested in the men who belong to it or want to be a part of it than the ones who once did. That is what I want in a lodge. Not to diminish my obsession with history in the least, which is what distracted much of my time in my old lodge but I never saw the forest for the trees.
The little trip I took last night to eat a good meal, enjoy...really enjoy the company of my Brothers and leave on a higher level than when I came is what I joined Freemasonry for, not to be in a dusty old building filled with priceless artifacts...well I never will get over my obsession with history, I just need to separate it from what I want in a lodge.
Thank you Brothers of Wyllys St. Johns no. 4,
Bravo Worshipful Brother Andrew Hammer,
You have both done your job on this Traveling Man.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Recognized Traveling Man

I think that there is one thing that all Freemasons can agree upon. Freemasons agree upon something...that is preposterous, I know you may say, but yes I think I know one thing that is truly universally appreciated in our fraternity. It is something that unifies us into a congruous mass of men, freely traveling this time and space. It is something that will uplift the most despondent brother or make the quietest mason suddenly talk with a smile on his face...

My daughter was elated all week long and the night before our trip she could not sleep. The third grade was going into the city to reinforce their current study of immigration into the United States by spending the day at one of the most iconic of all symbols, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 
The copper giantess holding the torch of freedom as a beacon to the world is, in my opinion, one of the greatest monuments ever erected on this planet. The huge statue was not erected to memorialize a king or leader, or to mark the place of a significant battle. No, this colossus was envisioned by men from a country founded upon the same enlightenment ideals as the United States, as a gift to uplift America during its most trying time, the American Civil War.
The idea for La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty Enlightening the World), the statues original name, came during a dinner at Édouard René de Laboulaye's home in France. Laboulaye was a law professor and politician who was a tremendous admirer of the American Constitution. This dinner was attended by many Freemasons including the Marquis deLafayette's grandsons Oscar and Edmond, Henri Martin a historian and prominent Mason, and a young artist Frédéric Bartholdi, a member of Lodge Alsace Lorraine, in Paris.
During the dinner, Laboulaye said that it would be fitting that a monument to freedom be erected in the United States and that it should be a joint effort between France and America. The idea continued in conversations between Bartholdi and Laboulaye, but was delayed by the Franco-Prussian War and the politically repressive situation in France under Napoleon III. 
After many years and significant monetary support from Freemasons in France, the Statue of Liberty was erected on an island in New York Harbor so that all who entered America could sail past a symbol of friendship and freedom.
So there I was, responsible for a few third graders for the day, not only for their safety but also the weighty responsibility of enlightening their minds. Us chaperons had free reign on how we spent the day with our kids once we landed on Liberty Island so as soon as the ferry hit the dock we were off. We quickly headed towards the back of the monument where we had run into a Bartholdi impersonator on our last visit here but he was no where to be found on this trip. I rambled on about the history of the statue and the Island, my daughter is used to my haughty historical side and I was worried that the other two kids might not catch on, but they were enjoying it just as much as my girl. We touched a stone from the quarry where the copper ore that was used for the statue came and the boy in our group kept noticing how the other groups just passed it by or stood on top of it not knowing what it really was.
It was a overcast day, there were not allot of tourists and we quickly breezed around the Island towards the front. We snuck into a tour group to hear what they were learning and took some good pictures under our lady then headed back behind the statue for some lunch.
All of the wrought iron tables were vacant as they still had some residual rain on them from the morning but we decided to sit at one anyway when out of nowhere a gentleman in a parks uniform appeared. he saw our table dilemma and without hesitation pulled out a rag to dry off the chairs and the table all the while asking the kids if they were enjoying lady liberty. I asked him what he did on the island and he told us that he was the keeper of the torch, the only one allowed to climb up the small ladder through the statues arm to take care of her beacon of freedom. It was such a special treat to talk to him that I had the kids take a picture with Louis Prosper. His kind manners and ebullient attitude left quite an impression on our little group and what a name for the keeper of the torch. He grabbed his hard hat that he had put to the side while he dried our eating spot and trotted off to the monument on his way to the top while we said thanks and waved goodbye.
Uplifted by our chance encounter we ate lunch, excitedly talking about our great few hours so far and rushed to the dock just in time to catch the ferry over to Ellis Island. We stood in the bow of the ferry and I asked the kids to imagine themselves sailing past the Statue and coming into Ellis Island as immigrants recently separated from their family and friends. The ferry approached the other island and we went downstairs to get first in line to get off and spend the rest of our day learning about the peopling of the United States.
I kept telling the kids to stand close and to pay attention and had my hand on my daughters shoulder when a man next to me said " I see you're a traveling man." He looked about my age, had a backpack on and must have noticed my ring.
"I certainly am Brother," I replied and we exchanged a friendly grip. He told me he was from a lodge in Brooklyn and that he worked in the museum on Ellis Island. I said how nice it always is to run into another Freemason to which he said I would be surprised how often he runs into brethren at the park. He then told me how he had helped organize a re-dedication of the corner stone with full masonic ceremony by the Grand Lodge of New York and New Jersey which must have been such an amazing experience given all of the Masonic connections with the statue. Before I knew it the ferry docked and my Brother was wishing us a great rest of our visit and bid us a fond farewell and headed into the building. 
We spent the rest of the afternoon thoroughly enjoying exploring the beautiful building where so many people began their quest in America, including my own grandparents. My little tour group had a great time and learned allot.
So that's it.
I think that is the one thing all Freemasons can agree upon, because I see stories like this one all of the time on social media and they are always liked by all of the Brethren...being recognized as a Brother while traveling is awesome...that is why I always wear my ring....
And spending the day with your child learning and enjoying each others company is the greatest time spent in the world.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Coal Away From The Fire

I enjoyed a very nice conversation the other night with a very good friend and current WM of a local lodge the other evening while we waited for loved ones to finish what they were doing. He told me of what was going on in his lodge and I listened with as much interest and empathy as only one who has served his lodge can understand. The strange thing about the whole chat, was that for the first time in many years the attentive ear my friend received was as far from being an active mason as it has ever been. I have been as far away from a lodge as I have ever been since I have written this blog and I am not sure of how I feel about it.
There are many factors that have led to my hiatus, including finally finding a very challenging and time consuming job, along with the usual constraints of being a father of three with a wife who works full time also, along with some other heavy baggage that you may be full aware. All of these things have led to my not going to my lodge or any other lodge for that matter. I am still a Freemason, a very proud one at that, I still wear my masonic ring everyday and answer the usual questions that comes with wearing such regalia but the farther I get away from going to lodge regularly the more I begin to ask the question of what it is I gained from regular attendance.
This question in my mind makes the Past Master in me shiver to my essence. When I was the one trying to get the brethren out to every stated communication or to the various events that were planned, I would think that the brothers that weren't there had somehow fallen off the wagon, masonically speaking, or had lost what it is that makes us an order. It was a very narrow minded thought but it is definitely one that every dedicated officer has at every poorly attended gathering.
The further I get away from regular attendance, the more I have garnered the question of what it is that makes us "Free" masons. Was slavish devotion to our home lodge thought of when the masonic order was developed? Is the lodge we are raised in the end all be all of our masonic existence, or were we meant  to be the traveling men we call ourselves? These are tough questions, but I have no doubt that many brothers like myself have found themselves at a masonic crossroad where they have found these questions echoing in their head.
I have not the answer, I travel on.
What have you discovered?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reflected Light

Sometimes all I can do is reflect brilliant light.

Please go to From Darkness to Light by Bro. Vick for a well thought essay on leadership from someone who knows all about it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

We Meet UP, On The Level

Speculative Freemasonry began at a time when the world was a conglomeration of despotic monarchical, quasi theocratic societies, where the vast majority of the human population was kept in the dark both spiritually and mentally. The differences in quality of life for the common ditch digger to the shop keeper were minimal at best. Only the aristocracy and clergy led the life of high comfort, with the masses living in virtual squalor. The common man was uneducated and his mind was constantly filled with a well thought out litany of deprecating drivel, to keep him subservient to those who were in power.

This way of life had existed since the dawn of man. No matter what god given talents an individual was blessed with, if he or she was born in a certain class of society, the chances of raising ones status or quality of life was slim to none. The number of bright and talented humans that must have had their natural spark extinguished by a dreary labor filled existence must be countless. The reality of the lives of the common man revolved around scratching out a meager living, and whole hearted devotion to a church that was complicit in keeping them down, then came a revolution in thought.

Somewhere in the early 18th century Reason began to replace Religion and small groups of like minded individuals started to meet in closed spaces to discuss ideas that if discovered, could cost them their lives. It has been theorized that this wellspring of radical thinking began as a way to justify the Protestant Reformation. Democracy replacing Monarchy, Liberty replacing Dogma, are key ideas that caught fire in the minds of individuals that had been repressed from birth to death. The lower classed people wanted to become better, and they used a tool that they had been given at birth that sat unused for the most part, their mind.The advent of the printing press and the growth of literacy spread to the repressed people like wildfire.

But where could the intelligent farmer and the smart blacksmith meet with the merchant and the ship captain to discuss these blasphemous ideas that made so much sense? Not church. Not on the town green. No, men of increased intelligence needed to meet in secret to elevate themselves and society.

In France they met in Salons, in England it was the public house or coffee house. From these back rooms the challenge was put forth to educate and illuminate the people. Debate, discussion, and dissemination occurred between men and women who wanted to learn and grow in thought and spirit. It was not a place to grumble about their lot in life, but a place to dream about what they could attain if they used their god given gift of reason and higher thought.

Enter Speculative Freemasonry, what was a guild for the association of men who built in stone, became a social meeting place for men who would build in spirit and thought. The lodge was the earliest form of pure democracy. Liberty, fraternity, and equality were the values that cemented the forum where the lowest man could elevate himself to be a master. The constitution and laws of the order and elections of the men who were championed to lead it, were a micro-society that formed a model that would change the world. Freemasonry was a nonreligious venue to make cross societal contacts in an effort to make good men better.

This phrase “making good men better” is the ten cent answer that most members of the craft use to explain what the purpose of Freemasonry is. It is a blanket statement that only touches upon what the purpose of the fraternity is meant to be. What exactly does going to a Masonic meeting or going through the three degrees do to make a man who is “good” “better”.

In modern times, does listening to arcane enlightenment language in itself lead to making a “better” man? Does voting on how and when to pay for the dinner you eat at the meeting bring a brother to a higher level of thought? Is the ritual of opening a lodge to do business then promptly closing it in the same way, a way to enlighten the minds of the gathered brethren? Is the reason a man goes through three degrees of “initiation” only, to sit on the sideline to watch more initiations?

The answer to these questions is a resounding NO! The ritual of Freemasonry was meant to be used as a tool to unlock the greatness that lies in some men. The degrees of the order were meant as a means to weed out those, who would by their association in the fraternity, bring down the “level” of their fellow members. Long times between degrees and requirements of demonstrating an understanding of the ideals of the fraternity were once the norm, although in the name of numbers this practice has generally disappeared in the United States.

Masons meet on the level, by the plumb, and act on the square. The idea of meeting on the level has been subverted into the belief that we must bring ourselves down to the level of the lowliest brother. Like the American society we live in, efforts to make oneself better are misconstrued as being elitist and that term has been perverted into a bad word. The smartest and the brightest are ostracized and it is more acceptable to make yourself out to be like the lowliest type of person, a full reversal of what the enlightenment had achieved hundreds of years ago. In the name of egalitarianism we are made to believe that all men are created equal and that equality transcends the actions and intentions of a man his entire life.

All men are created equal. After creation, it is up to the individual to live up to the standards and laws of the highest form of nature that surrounds them. Equal creation does not mean equal existence. The Great Architect of the Universe, has laid out for man an amazing world for which greatness is possible of attaining if only his creations strive to recognize the divine in what surrounds them. The mystical practice of Freemasonry when lived by its supplicants to the highest level possible, can elevate the men who knock on its gates. The format is there but the practice is missing in American Freemasonry.

“The Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God” is another Masonic axiom that has been turned around on itself. In a familial context we can better understand this idea. A man is born onto parents who he will devote his life to. If the parents have another child, it is accepted into that devotion. A man will take care of his brother before he takes care of a stranger. Associations of like minded individuals became like families to those who met and shared together, and the endearing term to use between these group members became what they already used to call their siblings, brother or sister. The Masonic saying of a Brotherhood of man under a Fatherhood of God does not encompass all of God’s creations, only those of which we can find that familiar bond to call Brother. Even in our fraternity it is hard to find men who you would consider your actual brother, especially since West Gate was turned into a floodgate.

The good thing about the order of Freemasons, is that it is a beacon that draws some men of that higher calling, not as many as it used to, but it still does. Like a light in the dark that attracts all types of insects because of its resemblance to the sun, the light of Freemasonry draws all types of man. It is up to the individual Mason to distinguish between the ones who come out of curiosity, or in simple awe of light, and the ones who look at the light and want to know why it shines. Only by associating with the ones who are striving to understand and truly become “Better” can we meet upon, or more correctly UP on the level.

Like the pyramid that starts on the ground with many stones and drives up towards the heavens, on each successive course there are fewer and fewer blocks. The higher it reaches the closer and smaller the groups become, until it reaches a single point and in that single point lies infinity. We must level UP.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Masonic Ornithology Part II

In continuation of my descriptions of particularly prevalent pontificators with precellent plumage, that I began in Peacocks and Pompocity, I would like to turn my brothers attention to another pernicious pecking creature that pervades once great halls of knowledge that were temples...
The Parrot
This eye catching bird is at first a very amusing and endearing pet. With training, a parrot can vocalize words much like its human owner. One particular specimen named N'kisi has an impressive vocabulary of over 950 words and is reported to have quite a good sense of humor. The key to training these animals to mimic the language of  a human, is to give them lots of one on one attention and reward them for repeating whatever phrase you wish them to vocalize. High praise or a favorite treat are perfect rewards for your talking bird...

Do you see where I am going with this?

The masonic parrot is a particularly harmful creature when it is realized that perfect mimicry of particular language can be often confused as understanding. We all know the species. Word for word they can recite masonic ritual, sometimes with convincing delivery. This bright plumage makes the masonic parrot an attractive member of the lodge indeed. Newer members, mesmerized by the recitation of arcane language will flock to and praise the masonic parrot. Older members will pat the masonic parrot on the back for doing things like they did in the old days. This praise is exactly what the masonic parrot is looking for. Like a cracker, the patting on the back and attention are what drive the masonic parrot to move further along in its delivery of the ancient language of the fraternity.
The aviary version of the parrot is cute and funny, amusing to all, but rarely are parrots allowed to use their ability to vocalize language to be confused with knowing what it is they are saying. The masonic parrot is entertaining until brothers start to confuse speaking words perfectly with actually knowing what they are talking about. When this confusion occurs the masonic parrot can be held in high regard and put into a position of power, this is when the masonic variety can become dangerous.
Imagine asking a parrot for advice on life's big questions.
They may hear trigger words and dive into already memorized phrases or if they are not triggered into a learned routine they may just spout out colloquialisms or riddles that make no sense to what was asked of them. Harmless right?
Imagine putting a parrot behind the wheel of a car.
That's crazy you say, I would never let my pet parrot drive my car but do we allow masonic parrots to lead a lodge? All of the time.
When the meaning of the language of the ritual of masonry is lost, it becomes just elevator music. It entertains you, kind of, but only for the short time you are locked in a room with it. You will never go out and find that muzak that you heard in the elevator and listen to it in your car or at home. The same thing goes with our ritual. If we just parrot the words and never internalize the deeper meanings or explore the teachings of our order with the brothers of our lodge in lodge why do we go?
To sit around a 3 foot wedge with loose acquaintances squawking meaningless drivel?
To trick new guys into buying into the fake mystique and get them to pay dues?
The problem with the masonic parrot is that once an intelligent brother discovers that all it takes to progress in the fraternity is to memorize meaningless words and spit them back to get huzzahs from the assembled, he quickly becomes disenfranchised with Freemasonry. If the purpose of the ritual is not to improve a mans understanding of himself and his roll in the society he belongs to, why go through the parroting?
Just get to the pizza and beer.