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Texas MasoniCon 2018, The Aftermath

Good things and fine times need to be savored and contemplated before revealing. And so, I have done exactly that with Texas MasoniCon 2018. This was truly an event to be savored and reviewed and revered. It is unlikely that so many Masonic speakers of such talent can be showcased all in one place in one day. But you have to hand it to Brother Rhit Moore of Fort Worth Lodge No 148, AF & AM and his team, Gabriel Jagush, Mark McCaghren, and Billy Hamilton They did it and did it up proud.

Registration started with coffee and pastries at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning and we finished up at 5:00 PM. There were six Break Out speakers conducting workshops and three keynote speakers.

 

THE BREAKOUT SPEAKERS

A.   Daniel Pearson ~ Archetypes And Their Power In The Masonic Myth

Daniel Pearson

Pearson defined Archetypes and went on to speak about, collective unconsciousness, Jung, Syzgies, and rebirth.

He referenced Joseph Campbell’s work, Mythological Aspects of Masonry – The Hero Of A Thousand Faces and The Masks Of God.

Then it was on to the concepts of Apotheosis, Elements of the Hero and Elements of the Hero In Masonry. That led to a long discussion of the Monomyth in Masonry.

 

B.   David Bindel ~ Creativity In Masonry

David Bindel

Bindel started off his talk with the question “Who Comes Here?” He told us that was a very important question in Masonry.  Who are we? We don’t ask often enough about the symbolism of Masonry, Bindel contends. He went on to say that we need to ask the candidate what it means to him, invoke a personal story. “Who Comes Here’ imparts how important it is. What are our intentions as a new Mason? What do we want to get out of Masonry? Ask these questions of the Brothers going through the degrees.

Bindel asks, what if during the degree the Conductor had not jumped in and answered the question but let the candidate answer it? “What do you most desire?” What if the candidate answered not the Conductor?

“Masonry doesn’t need to be all things to all people, just a meaningful experience,” proclaimed Bindel.

Masons historically were builders, he went on to say. We can look at the building of King Solomon’s Temple, what building a temple means and how it relates to building ourselves. When our spiritual temple is finished God comes to dwell in us. The Temple rebuilt is a symbol of us changing our views, refining our conception of Deity enabling us to build finer temples for Deity to reside in.

“A degree is about giving an experience to a Brother,” Bindel emphasizes.

Before concluding he asked us all to remember three important points as builders:

  1. Build yourself
  2. Build Lodges
  3. Build experiences

C. Larry Fizpatrick ~ The Hiramic Legend

Larry M. FitzPatrick

Fitzpatrick pointed out that while the Hiramic Legend came into practice in 1725 or maybe even sooner in 1711 in the Grand Lodge of Ireland, that it had many ancient origins…similar allegories from much earlier.

  • Ronayne’s Exposure
  • Carlile’s Exposure
  • Prichard’s Exposure
  • Pikes Porch and The Middle Chamber
  • Nerval’s Journey To The Orient
  • Les Compag nos Du Tour de France

The Sources of the Hiramic Legend

  • John Theophilus Desaguliers
  • James Anderson who was first an Operative Mason
  • Isaac Newton – “Chronology of Ancient Kingdom”
  • Ancient Mystery Schools
  • Comacine Masters French Companionage
  • Scottish Operative Lodges
  • Turkish/Arab Legend – Nerval’s Journey to the Orient

The Legends:

  • Egyptians – Osiris, Isis, Horus
  • Babylonian/Sumerian – Tanmuz, Dumuzi, Inania
  • Hindus – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva
  • Persians
  • Greek/Romans

Fitzpatrick explained that the purpose and meaning of the Hiramic Legend is Fidelity, Courage, Endurance and Self -Sacrifice.

However, the hidden meaning is an Allegory for the Path of the Sun. There is a Zodiac Association of the 12 Tribes of Israel and the Hiramic Legend. The path of the sun through the Ecliptic is 6 months above the Equator and 6 months below.

TROPIC OF CANCER – EQUATOR – TROPIC OF CAPRICON

The path of Venus forms a 5-pointed star.

D.   Pete Normand – English Freemasonry Before The Grand Lodge Era

Pete Normand

This was by far the most detailed and long fact sheet talk about Masonry.

Normand explains that he is not talking about Scottish Masonry.

He emphasizes that 1717 is just about the birth of Grand Lodge Freemasonry. Before that time, however, there was much Masonic activity.

Freestone Masons existed Centuries before English Masonry was more formerly organized.They were artisans, sculptures with an understanding of geometry. The Romans imported builders. The Normans imported Masons. Sadly most of the Masons in London either left town or died from the Black Death Plague of 1348-1349.

Then, after the Plague, as Masons began to return to London, a labor dispute arose in 1756 between the more skilled (and better paid) Freemasons and the less skilled Rough Masons. So, the Mayor of London asked the Freemasons and Rough Masons to sit down and come up with a set of statutes to govern their common craft. These Statutes of 1356 were created by a committee composed of 6 Freemasons and 6 Rough Masons, and it is likely that these Regulations soon led to the creation of the London Masons guild, known as the Fellowship of Masons.

The Regius (Halliwell) MS. is undated, but most scholars say that it was composed about 1390, but since it is a poem, it is obvious that it was composed from an earlier version of what we usually call the “Gothic Constitutions,” more accurately called the “Manuscript Constitutions.”The Fellowship of Masons  was granted a Coat of Arms of 1472. The Coat of Arms was found all over England and proves that these Masons considered themselves a National Body.

The Fellowship of Masons was changed to the Company of Freemasons and later the Company of Masons by government edict.

Normand spoke about the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and the Protestants. Henry VIII and the Reformation tore down the Catholic Gothic Style considered superstition. After the dissolution of the monasteries during the 1530s, the remainder of the 1500s was considered a period of “dark ages” for the Masons, because their primary employers (the monasteries) had been closed, forcing the Freemasons and Rough Masons to find work elsewhere. It was at this time that Freemasons first began admitting Non Operatives into their Lodges.

Next, we come across the The Original Account Book which was the financial records of the Guild beginning in 1619. An entry in 1620 shows that 6 men paid additional fees to become members of the Livery, Officers of the Guild. In 1621 3 of the 6 paid additional fees to become a Mason. Thus Operative Guild members were “Made Masons.” In further entries in the old account book, it becomes evident that they were being admitted into a secretive body within the guild known as “The Accepçon” (or “The Acception”).

Evidence that all this was not just a London thing was that Elias Ashmole was “Made A Free Mason” on October 16, 1646. In March of 1682 records show that Ashmole received a Summons to appear at a Lodge the next day This was about holding a Lodge not going to a Lodge, the distinction being that any group of Masons could form a “Lodge” for the day and in the future another group, some of the same Masons, could form a Lodge which had an existence of one day. Ashmole wrote extensively about Accepted Masons who were also Operative Masons.

In 1686 Dr. Robert Plot wrote the book, “The Natural History of Staffordshire.” He wrote about a manuscript of Lodge meetings and the signs of acceptance.

William Dugdale and John Aubrey described customs of Freemasonry long before the formation of a Grand Lodge.

During the reign of King James II (1685-1688) it appears that The Acception, composed of both operative and non-operative members, fearing that their meetings at Masons Hall might bring down unwanted scrutiny on the guild, the accepted Masons (both operative and non-operative) decided to stop meeting at Masons Hall in Basinghall Street, and moved their meetings to various taverns, inns, pubs and alehouses around London. Apparently, other accepted Masons were already doing the same, but the guild’s meeting hall was no longer a meeting place for The Acception. And so, at that time, The Acception, as a separate entity, disappeared from the historical record, as its members blended in with the other members of the “Society of Freemasons,” as it was often called during the 1600s.

Within a few years, by 1691, there was a group of accepted Freemasons holding a lodge on a regular basis at the Goose & Gridiron Alehouse in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Prior to the Great Fire of 1666, that venue was marked by a sign with the Musicians Guild coat-of-arms, which had a swan & lyre. But, after the Great Fire, when the building was restored, the proprietor put up a carved and painted wooden swan, with a gridiron in place of a lyre. (I guess he couldn’t find a lyre.) But, the swan had a very short neck and looked more like a goose, and Londoners started calling the place “The Goose & Gridiron,” in much the same way that others would call the “White Swan Pub,” the “Mucky Duck.”

Conclusion: Freemasonry was alive and well for at least 100 years before it was more formally organized.

E.   Brad Billings – Astronomy & Masonry

Brad Billings

Billings talked about these astronomical representations in the Lodge and Masonic symbolism

  • The Winding Stairway
  • Opening and Closing we talk about the positioning of the Sun
  • Mosaic Pavement
  • The Masonic Altar – place of Masonic Light
  • Point Within A Circle and its astronomical layout
  • Jacob’s ladder
  • The Lesser Lights

Regarding the Masonic Altar Billings pointed out that in circumambulation the right hand is closet to the Bible, the Light and the left hand represents the Sun. The answers to the four questions the candidate gives affirms that in God I am Light.

He also pointed out that the Ruffians stand counter clockwise. After the slaying they stay in a place of darkness.

F.   John Tolbert – Freemasonry is Free Thought

John Tolbert

Tolbert suggested that Masonry has drifted away from its original concept.

He says to the poor & blind candidate for Masonry, “You are lacking something. We have it for you: LIGHT.” Listen to our prayers – Ecclesiastes 12 and Psalm 133 – you are brought into a Priesthood, dedicating yourself to a spiritual path.

Even the Templars borrowed Psalm 133.

Freemasonry is free thought, a position where truth is based on logic and/or reason, not authority or revelation.

Tolbert talks about the Latitudinarians  Latitudinarians, or latitude men were initially a group of 17th-century English theologians – clerics and academics – from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, who were moderate Anglicans (members of the Church of England, which was Protestant). In particular, they believed that adhering to very specific doctrines, liturgical practices, and church organizational forms, as did the Puritans, was not necessary and could be harmful: “The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself.”[1] Thus, the latitudinarians supported a broad-based Protestantism. They were later referred to as Broad Church.

An analogy could be the battles between the Whigs and the Tories.

Tolbert also brings up William Schaw who in his Statutes of 1599 addressed those regulations which govern the structure of Freemasonry. The Art of Memory was directly connected to this ancient Statute.

What followed was a discussion of Stocism, that self control is the key to Enlightenment without which the dignity of Freemasonry is lacking.

These points were made:

  • Direction
  • Control
  • Responsibility
  • Rebels, heretics and non conformists

Freemasonry had many of the latter in its earlier formation:

  • Elias Ashmole – a free thinker and Alchemist
  • John Theophilus Desaguliers – hung around with Isaac Newton for 20 years
  • Isaac Newton – Newtonism, a new way of looking at life.

Therefore, Freemasonry is a product of:

  • Hermetic thought
  • Renaissance thought
  • Free Thinkers

 

THE KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

The beautiful Hall at the Fort Worth, Texas Temple where the Keynote Speakers made their presentations

Fort Worth Masonic Temple

 

  1. Piers A. Vaughan – The Magician, The Mystic and the Mason – The Unlikely Origin of the Scottish Rectified Rite
Piers A. Vaughan

Vaughan starts off with Baron von Hund who authored the Rite of Strict Observance. On the ruins of this Order rose the Scottish Rectified Rite

The Magician:  Martinez de Pasqually

The Order of Elus Colen

In the highest degree, the Reaux-Croix, the initiate was taught to use Theurgy to contact spiritual realms beyond the physical.

De Pasqually put forth the philosophy underlying the work of the Elus-Cohens in his only book, Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings, which first uses the analogy of the Garden of Eden, and refers to Christ as “The Repairer”. The ultimate aim of the Elus-Cohen was to attain – whilst living – the Beatific Vision through a series of magical invocations and complex theurgic operations.

 

The Mystic:  Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin

Here we see a mystical tradition in which emphasis is placed on meditation and inner spiritual alchemy. Saint-Martin moved away from theurgic ritual towards what he called “The Way of the Heart.”

Vaughan talks about Gnostic Philosophy and The Three Grand Principals here.

 

The Mason: Jean Baptiste Willermoz

He brought together the philosophy of Pasqually and Saint-Martin to create The Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City or Knights Benefactor of the Holy City

 

Thus we can see the connection between Martinism and Freemasonry.

 

  1. Michael Poll – The Battle of New Orleans
Michael Poll

Poll was the story teller of Texas MasoniCon.

He recounted that Pete Normand took him to Holland Lodge No 1 in Texas named after John Henry Holland, PGM of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. So why was Texas’ first Lodge named after a Louisiana Mason?

The Grand Lodge of Louisiana was created at the same time as the War of 1812. The final battle which the Americans won was decisive and actually occurred several weeks after the treaty was signed.

Andrew Jackson was given command of the area. The Americans did not know where the British would land. Jackson was very short on munitions. He had to pick a spot to ambush the British, but the question was how could he make the British fall into the trap? That answer will come at the very end.

Jackson set up his troops on the Rodriguez Canal 5 miles outside the city of New Orleans. Packingham, the British Commander walked right into the ambush. With the Mississippi River on their right and swamp and fog on their left it was like shooting ducks in a pond. The British were decimated. 2000 British were killed that day.

But things didn’t add up. Packingham could have sailed right by the American fortifications and into the City of New Orleans without opposition. Jackson had put all his eggs in one basket, the Rodriguez Canal. So why did the British land there? Someone, a spy, told them that they could land there unopposed and undetected and no one would know they were there until it was too late. They could sneak up on the city and take it.

Jean Lafitte

The spy was the pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte secretly met with the British and told them for a fee he would let them know where to land their ships in the New Orleans area that was away from American troops – a safe harbor. He then decided to double cross the British and offered his services to General Jackson along with a generous supply of powder and munitions. The offer came at a price, that Jackson would see that he got pardoned and several other renumerations. Jackson accepted Lafitte’s offer but before Lafitte could meet with the British to set them up for an ambush he was arrested and jailed by the government of Louisiana.

W CC Clayborn, the first Governor of Louisiana, felt New Orleans was lawless and disliked the Lafittes immensely. Governor Clayborn put a bounty on the Lafitte brothers plastering the New Orleans area with posters. In retaliation the Lafitte brothers put a bounty on Governor Clayborn and plastered New Orleans with posters. Alas, the government got to Jean Lafitte before he could get to the Governor. In jail Lafitte let Jackson know there was no deal unless he was released and pardoned. Jackson pleaded with Governor Clayborn to release Lafitte but the Governor stubbornly refused.

The jailer, however, against orders released Lafitte and the deal with Jackson went through. That is how the British got ambushed and lost the battle. The jailer was a young John Henry Holland who ultimately would become the Grand Master of Masons in Louisiana and for whom Holland Lodge No 1 in Texas is named. This is how Freemasonry played a big part in the Battle of New Orleans and the future prospects of General Andrew Jackson.

In 8 years Jackson would become Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee and 6 years later President of the United States.

Now you know the rest of the story!

 

  1. Chuck Dunning – Masonry Is A Contemplative Path Toward Wholeness
Chuck Dunning

Dunning started his presentation by working backwards on the 5 big words in his title.

(5) WHOLENESS

Wholeness is not just having all the parts in one place. It is peace, harmony and unity.. The Temple is also a model for each one of us. It is more than the sum of its parts or our parts.

 

(4) TOWARD

The work is never finished in this world. We are going to make mistakes, to fail. But there are two follies to avoid

  1. Unnecessary self-loathing and self-punishment
  2. Believing we are arriving at a state of perfection

 

(3) PATH

A way, one traveled a travel by others who have gone before us – the ancient landmarks

There is a three-step process in travelling or working on this path:

  1. Awareness – Be aware of all the parts, our materials and tools
  2. Understanding – How do the parts relate to each other.
  3. Action – Act by experimenting with the parts

 

(2) CONTEMPLATIVE

Mindfulness, meditation, prayer, The Art of Memory are all ways we go deeper with awareness, understanding, and action

(One) MASONRY

We don’t need other traditions. It is our own contemplative effort that reveals the depths. We don’t need to bring in outside processes to help. It’s all right here in the Craft, right before us.

Dunning then turned to the Texas Monitor and made these observations

  • In the Initiation there is meditation.
  • Masonry does not expound on the truths of its symbols (hence the need for contemplation).
  • Lodge is open on not in a certain Degree, meaning we should freely contemplate on its symbols rather than be limited in the exact words.
  • A Mason should hear, study, observe and develop these symbols for himself
  • The Charge at the opening of a Lodge – “Wisdom dwells with contemplation.”

Some other observations that Dunning made:

Speculative means contemplative – looking into symbolism

Meditation yields inspiration. Hiram Abiff would retire to prayer before designing on the trestle board.

Develop awareness, deep thinking, understanding

Action through experimentation

The Fellowcraft’s lecture on hearing and the Master’s lesson on the Beehive are examples of how our wholeness has both private/internal and and social/external dimensions.

Again: Awareness, Understanding, Action

The single word that sums it all up is….LOVE!

We find love throughout the ritual of Masonry:

  • Last tool presented to a Mason – The Trowel, to spread brotherly love and affection
  • “Behold how good it is and how pleasant it is for Brothers to dwell in unity”
  • The tenets of our profession – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
  • Covering of the Lodge – Jacobs ladder – the highest virtue is charity which is caritas, agape, love
  • The first tool, the 24” gauge = 3 divisions of loving effort
  • Common gavel – to use it is as act of love for ourselves and others

Love is hard work. To manage our emotions, to have a commitment to live this way is hardly easy and pleasant. Love can bring us struggle, regret, disappointment. But the mystery about love is that it has no opposite that can transcend it. We can feel hate but still do loving things.

LOVE IS DIVINE. It is the essence of peace and harmony.

Love is our:

  • Work
  • Wages
  • The Mystic Tie

TEXAS MASONICON 2019 IS ON JULY 26 – 27. Mark your calendars! 

https://www.texasmasonicon.com/

Fred Milliken: Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

View Comments (4)

    • Without the author's permission in advance I could not do so. Also some of the material was not for public consumption.

      Fred

  • Thank for the positive review of my paper about "Freemasonry Before the Grand Lodge Era." But, I need to make a few corrections to your notes, and some clarifications.

    In my presentation, I did not say that most of the Masons died in the Black Plague of 1348 and 1349. I said that "most of the Masons in London either left town or died of the Plague." I imagine that some stayed in London unscathed.

    Then, after the Plague, as Masons began to return to London, a labor dispute arose in 1756 between the more skilled (and better paid) Freemasons and the less skilled Rough Masons. So, the Mayor of London asked the Freemasons and Rough Masons to sit down and come up with a set of statutes to govern their common craft. These Statutes of 1756 were created by a committee composed of 6 Freemasons and 6 Rough Masons, and it is likely that these Regulations soon led to the creation of the London Masons guild, known as the Fellowship of Masons.

    I didn't say that Fellowship of Masons was governed by the 12 men that compiled the Regulations. Further, I didn't say that the Fellowship of Masons was created in 1356, but sometime after that. Also, I did not say that the creation of the Fellowship of Masons was not the "beginning of the Guild system." The Guild system in London had been in place for a long time, composed mostly of merchant guilds. The Fellowship of Masons was a craft guild.

    Generally speaking, stonemasons in England did not belong to guilds. There were probably a few masons guilds in England, but were of little consequence. The one major exception to this was the London masons guild, originally named the "Fellowship of Masons," later changed to the "Company of Freemasons," and then changed again to the "Company of Masons."

    I didn't say that the Regius or Halliwell MS. was "tied to" the Fellowship of Masons, although it may well have been. The Regius (Halliwell) MS. is undated, but most scholars say that it was composed about 1390, but since it is a poem, it is obvious that it was composed from an earlier version of what we usually call the "Gothic Constitutions," more accurately called the "Manuscript Constitutions."

    Also, it was Henry VIII (not Henry VII) who dissolved the monasteries. I did not say that the "Dark Ages" were in the 1500s. What I said was that after the dissolution of the monasteries during the 1530s, the remainder of the 1500s was considered a period of "dark ages" for the Masons, because their primary employers (the monasteries) had been closed, forcing the Freemasons and Rough Masons to find work elsewhere.

    The old account book of the London Masons guild records that in 1620 several members of the guild paid additional fees to be "made Masons." In further entries in the old account book, it becomes evident that they were being admitted into a secretive body within the guild known as "The Accepçon" (or "The Acception"). (You wrote: "The Exception.")

    During the reign of King James II (1685-1688) it appears that The Acception, composed of both operative and non-operative members, fearing that their meetings at Masons Hall might bring down unwanted scrutiny on the guild, the accepted Masons (both operative and non-operative) decided to stop meeting at Masons Hall in Basinghall Street, and moved their meetings to various taverns, inns, pubs and alehouses around London. Apparently, other accepted Masons were already doing the same, but the guild's meeting hall was no longer a meeting place for The Acception. And so, at that time, The Acception, as a separate entity, disappeared from the historical record, as its members blended in with the other members of the "Society of Freemasons," as it was often called during the 1600s.

    Within a few years, by 1691, there was a group of accepted Freemasons holding a lodge on a regular basis at the Goose & Gridiron Alehouse in St. Paul's Churchyard. Prior to the Great Fire of 1666, that venue was marked by a sign with the Musicians Guild coat-of-arms, which had a swan & lyre. But, after the Great Fire, when the building was restored, the proprietor put up a carved and painted wooden swan, with a gridiron in place of a lyre. (I guess he couldn't find a lyre.) But, the swan had a very short neck and looked more like a goose, and Londoners started calling the place "The Goose & Gridiron," in much the same way that others would call the "White Swan Pub," the "Mucky Duck."

    BTW, I never referred to the first grand lodge as the "Grand Lodge of England." In fact, there is no evidence that its founders considered it to be that, nor called it that. Nor did they deem it be any kind of "national" grand lodge, as they did not consider that their jurisdiction was geographical, neither extending beyond London and Westminster, nor limited by the borders of England. It appears they viewed their "jurisdiction" to simply be that of a franchisor with its individual lodges being franchisees, all being in London and Westminster. The first grand lodge did not consider itself to be the "Grand Lodge of England" until much, much later during the 18th century.

    Again, thanks for the review.

    Pete Normand, PM
    St. Alban's Lodge No. 1455

    • Sent you an E-Mail noting the corrections made immediately to what you said. If you do not receive my E-Mail please let me know.

      Fred

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