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Bad Masonic Press – Airing the Dirty Laundry

The Small Town Texas Mason E-Magazine has an excellent article going out in the November 2010 edition. The publication comes from the heart of a brother who publishes it to “enlighten, educate, and entertain Masons and non Masons alike.” Like so much of Masonic publishing it is a free press to circulate Masonic thought and interest.

In the November issue, the publisher Corky Daunt asks the question:

Is Freemasonry’s reputation was being harmed by to many news stories in newspapers and being repeated on the internet about Freemason bringing Civil Lawsuits against Grand Lodges for Masonic reasons.

You can read the original here.

He reserves his conclusions and posts instead three responses sent in by readers on the subject, two from North America (one from our very own Fred Milliken) and one from Australia. The relevancy of the question is an important one and something this site has been charged with repeatedly as reporting (or editorializing) on the bad in the news.

At the end of his piece, Corky asks “Do you think bad publicity is harming Freemasonry’s image?”

To be honest, I would have to answer and say that it is. But, with the caveat that the press and editorializing is only so bad as the reality of the events taking place themselves. Because there is no system to mitigate these events that lead to the bad press they are left to spiral out of control in an increasingly close world.

In other words, there is no system to police the system itself, so a free press (as with  Democracy) needs to exist so as to ensure that the system adheres to its own principles.

The question then becomes is the system of Freemasonry of such importance that it needs such a medium to keep watch of its practice, or is it merely a membership organization like an athletic club like the YMCA or a big box shopping warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club, where the membership value we get comes in the commodities we take away from it.

Ask yourself this:

Is Freemasonry really a practice of some moral philosophy? And if so, how do we (the members) practice it? Or, is it just a membership club that we go to for some monthly dinner socializing and entertainment in the form of democratic practice in voting on paying for the phone bill.

Personally, I like to think that its a Moral Philosophy that needs to be kept on its toes so as not to fall into the morass of base society, that it has an elevated sense of upright moral rectitude (that’s what we were told right?). Why else would we be members?

So to answer Corky’s question, Yes, I think the bad publicity hurts us as a fraternity overall. But, I think what hurts us even more are the activities being reported upon which chip away at the larger structure of the craft. We need to know what goes on in our own house, our Masonic house, so as to be vigilant against it and the only way to do that is to know what is going on – good, bad, or indifferent.

Otherwise, we can keep our heads buried int he sand while lodges are left to falter, members expelled for bucking the system, or indiscretions allowed to continue in fear of reprisals – all of which seem very un-Masonic in my handbook.  But, if those are acceptable in the great moral society, then we can each just look for the next discount coupon for a reduced cost dinner at the next lodge meeting and not give a thought to our role in supporting a greater moral philosophy.

What do you think? Is the bad press hurting Masonry?

The Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago breaks new ground

From – Leopardo begins work on Scottish Rite headquarters.

Leopardo Construction recently began work on a 61,000-square-foot HQ of the Valley of Chicago Scottish Rite Cathedral Association.

The new two-story building, located at the corner of Lake Street and Medinah Road in Bloomingdale, will feature a museum and library, traditional lodge hall, kitchen facilities, dining room for 290 people, bar and game room, grand hall, administrative offices, theater with seating for 270, and parkign for 190 cars.

“The history of the Scottish Rite will be evident in the interior by integrating symbology, patterns, artwork, and historic items from the former Scottish Rite Cathedral on North Dearborn Street in Chicago,” said Gregory Klemm, Valley of Chicago executive secretary and chief operating officer.

“Given the Scottish Rite’s great history in artisanry, architecture and construction, we are honored to be building such a prestigious and significant facility for the fraternal organization,” said Michael Behm, senior vice president at Leopardo.

Check out the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago website which has a lot of great information on The Rite in the Windy City.

From the images, it looks like a beautiful new facility.

Kentucky holding despite splinter over Gay Masons.

The Grand Lodge of Kentucky is the latest battle ground in the fight to bring Freemasonry into the 21st century, where brothers are calling other brothers “a flaming faggot” in their sexual orientation.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader in the state of Kentucky, the W. Master of Winchester Masonic lodge was asked to resign because of his recent coming out as being gay.  His admission was enough to cause some distraught brothers to walk out on the W. Master because of their distress.

Refusing the insistence of his resignation, Frankfort lodge drafted a petition to change the state’s fraternal constitution to prohibit openly Gay men from being Masons, the proposed change saying:

“Freemasonry is pro-family and recognizes marriage as between one man and one woman. Any other relationship is a violation of the moral law and therefore unmasonic conduct. Homosexual relationships, openly professed and practiced, are a violation of the moral law and therefore unmasonic conduct. No openly homosexual Freemason shall be allowed to retain membership in this grand jurisdiction.”

Taken at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Grand Lodge, the constitutional change was rejected, but not without rumblings that there would be more on this in the future.

You can read the whole story on the Herald-Leader.

The issues does open the door to a wider consideration, that as roughly 15% of the U.S. population is gay (see the Gallup Poll data and the Demographics of sexual orientation from Wikipedia statistics) it goes without saying that so too then would the Lodge have a similar percentage of gay members.  And, as such, those brothers may or may not be out in the open, given the reaction of those around them.  is it right then to discriminate against them?

In the article, it mentions that following the vote there was a degree of grumbling that lead some observers to say that the issue would manifest again in the future to try and amend the constitution to encompass some meaning of family values so as to prohibit gay men from becoming member, which would likely mean some test administered at petition to determine orientation.

All of this is absolutely absurd, given that the fraternity is secular and precipitated on the idea of equality and liberty.  On the reverse, the Kentucky state constitution was amended to say “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as legal in Kentucky”, but this issue goes beyond the recognition of marriage to a discrimination based on preference.

The argument is that homosexuality goes against the moral law, but as I’ve pointed out in the past, which Moral Law?  As a Mason, I have to say, their argument does not wash and any man who is a just and upright individual can stand and be a Mason.  Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not a valid argument to exclude from the organization, just as race (and gender) should not be either.  To exclude by orientation like this is an undue control over someone in an area that has no consequence to their experience.

By accepting the reality that there are members who are gay, so too do we need to accept the idea of same sex partner widowers, who should be just as important in remembering as the heterosexual counterparts.  Yes, this is a dramatic awakening to very real social issue and one that is not insurmountable or destructive towards the institution.  To the contrary, to wall the Fraternity behind a morality test of pro-family/anti gay vitriol is a sure fire way to seal the future of the fraternity into a political abyss of social dis-unity.  In other words, Freemasonry would no longer be an active participant in civil society becoming instead a political club house.

What do you think?  Should Freemasonry be tolerant towards openly Gay members?

The Lost Symbol in paperback, have you found yours?

At last, the paperback edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol hits store shelves on October 19th.

The sleeper hit that sent us head long into the adventures of Professor Robert Langdon in, under,and above the greater Washington D.C. capitol to save his mentor and close friend 33rd degree Mason Peter Solomon from the clutches of his son Zachary (aka Mal’akh) who also happens to be a 33rd degree Mason bent on the destruction of his father in the quest for the ancient mystery of the fraternity.

While the book was long awaited for its release in 2009, the paper back edition now opens the subject matter up to a wider audience to question the symbolic significance within it. More than a book that injects Noetics into the mainstream, Brown touches on a few topics of interest to those in the mystery school field, including the Kybalion, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Hand of Mysteries, just to name a few. Plus, if the esoteric aspects of the mystery schools were not enough of a plot device, Brown employs some of the more sacred Masonic sites to add in as a kicker.

The book, while unlike the Da Vinci Code, reads more as a swan song to the 300 year old fraternity than it does a mystery thriller. Unlike the Code where the Catholic Church’s Opus Dei was the villain at large, in The Lost Symbol its less institutional villain and more mental insanity as the protagonist which leaves less of that secret society conspiratorial taste and more of a complicated question of who to cheer for since its all around bad news for all involved, the fraternity that is compromised by a mad man, the Oedipus complex of secrets (not mother), or the video extortion plot. Its complex to say the least and a riveting story line right up to the very end.

If your still on the fence, give a read to some of the reviews posted here from its release last year:

The Lost Symbol – a review
The Lost Symbol – it’s the symbol of the symbolism. – The Masonic Perspective
The Lost Symbol – The Road Best Not Travelled
Masonic Central Pod Cast with Mark Koltko-Rivera on the Lost Symbol

Or, if the original hefty $29.95 price of the hard bound was a deterrent, you can give the paperback edition of The Lost Symbol on Amazon a read for the low low price of $9.99 and catch up on what the post Da Vinci Code – Freemasonry – Dan Brown buzz was all about.


Glenn Beck – The Illuminati is going to off him…

Chris Hodapp over on Freemasons for Dummies does a terrific job of capturing the exchange of Glenn Beck and David Barton, from the Wallbuilders ministry organization, on the Fox News Channel in an exchange over the Founding Fathers and Freemasonry.

As Br. Chris captures the exchange perfectly, there seemed to be more misinformation given than factual info.  See for yourself in this clip from the program.

I won’t get into the facts of the program, but as discussed by Barton such as Washington’s sincerity in Masonry, his lodge activity, or the difference between American and European Masonry at the time.  One document I will point you towards is The Origin of Freemasonry written by a contemporary of Washington, one amongst the pantheon of founding fathers, Thomas Paine.  I’m sure Barton may glean much from this short work.


As for Beck, if you haven’t’ paid close attention to his program lately, he has laid a foundation of the Founding Fathers atop the gestalt of Faith, Hope, and Charity even promoting it so far as to create his own university of the triumvirate as the great virtues.  Samuel Adams as Faith, George Washington as Hope, and Franklin as Charity which unmistakably two of the three were prominent Freemasons, one of whom was a Grand Master of Freemasons in Pennsylvania in 1734.

But, to Beck, the principals of Faith, hope, and Charity (as seen on these products) are the principals that, he says, are Christian principals which Beck has tied to American Principals and supports with the edifice of the founding fathers.  He’s developed it to a point that he’s formed his own Beck University to impart them.  While the ideas behind these great social virtues are rightly extolled, what Beck missed is that Faith, Hope, and Charity were ideas adopted into Freemasonry as three tenants by which the Mason were to strive for, but not I would argue, in the way Beck suggests.

Faith – a faith in the divine, the Great Architect, the primitive idea of deity that all men can agree, founded on the Golden Rule, the principal of Do unto others as you would have done to you.

Hope – As an idea that stretches into antiquity as an evil released from Pandora’s Box which entered the world to torment man.

Charity – Is a simple idea that translates to the agape styled love, a fraternal brotherly love towards mankind, which facilitates the other two.

These are three subjects I cover in much greater detail in the book Masonic Traveler.

So, if Beck and Barton won’t brush up on their Masonic history maybe you can help let him know and send him an email to with your thoughts about it.

5 Famous (or Infamous) Freemasons

Masons like to acknowledge its notable membership.

We are constantly reminded of the super stars of Famous Freemasons which include George Washington, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, John Wayne, and Buzz Aldrin just to name a few.  But, Freemasonry stretches much deeper into the soil of Americana and besides the heavy-weights there are many less well known brothers; the un-sung Famous or infamous members of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity.

Before we meet these distant Masonic relatives, we need to remind ourselves that it was not their gentle association with the fraternity that predicated their particular place in history.  No, rather that is the product of their serendipity, morals and ethics, their natural skills and talent, their inspirational calling, and personal character.  The man makes the history, not his affiliations. What ever their place in history, their presence still represents an aspect of our many fraternal facets – for better or for worse.

Witness to history Abraham Zapruder

The Russian born American manufacturer of women’s clothing was the only person to document the horrific assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 which has since come to be the well known as the Zapruder Film.

At the age of 15 Zapruder’s Russian-Jewish family immigrated to the US leaving a 1920’s Civil War torn Russia.  Having only four years of formal education, Zapruder settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he studied English and worked as a pattern maker.  He later moved to Dallas in 1941 eventually founding a clothing manufacturing company, whose offices were directly across the street from the Texas Book Depository.

Saying of the event he bore witness to in a WFAA Dallas/Fort Worth television interview in 1963:

I got out in, uh, about a half-hour earlier to get a good spot to shoot some pictures. And I found a spot, one of these concrete blocks they have down near that park, near the underpass. And I got on top there, there was another girl from my office, she was right behind me. And as I was shooting, as the President was coming down from Houston Street making his turn, it was about a half-way down there, I heard a shot, and he slumped to the side, like this. Then I heard another shot or two, I couldn’t say it was one or two, and I saw his head practically open up [places fingers of right hand to right side of head in a narrow cone, over his right ear], all blood and everything, and I kept on shooting. That’s about all, I’m just sick, I can’t…

Zapruder passed in 1970 in Dallas.

Congressmen Charles Rangel

The prominent Democrat, and former chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been a United States House of Representatives member since 1971, representing the Fifteenth Congressional District of New York, and is the most senior member of that state’s congressional delegation. He is the founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a decorated Bronze Star and Purple Heart veteran of the Korean War.

Born and raised in Harlem, he entered the service of the Army where he led a group of soldiers out of a deadly Chinese Army encirclement during the Battle of Kunu-ri in 1950.  Following the war, he graduated from New York University in 1957 and St. John’s University School of Law in 1960, working as a private lawyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and legal counsel during the early-mid 1960s. He later served two terms in the New York State Assembly from 1967 to 1970, and then was elected to the House of Representatives.

In recent years Rangel was faced with a series of allegations of ethics violations which culminated in July, 2010, where Rangel was charged with 13 counts of violating House rules and federal laws, to which he will face a formal trial in the House to determine his fate.

Congressman Charles Rangel is a member of Joppa Lodge No. 55, in New York

Entrepreneur James Cash Penney a.k.a- J.C. Penney

Born September 16, 1875, J.C. Penney was an entrepreneur who founded the J.C. Penney’s stores in 1902 after working for four years in a small chain called the Golden Rule stores.  With an offer of partnership, Penney invested $2000 and opened a store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, with two additional stores in 1907, when be bought out his interest partnership in all three stores.  By 1920, Penney had opened 120 stores and by 1929 he had opened 1400.  In 1940, in a visit to a Des Moines, Iowa, store where he trained a Sam Walton on how to wrap packages, the founder of Wal-Mart.

With the onset of the Great Depression, Penney was beset by financial ruin but met store expenses by borrowing against his life-insurance policies.  He recovered from the financial setbacks but at the expense of his health, to give generously to a number of charities, eventually founding the James C. Penny foundation in 1954, later to be merged into the Oakland, California based Common Counsel Foundation, which partners with families and individual donors to expand philanthropic resources for progressive social movements.

Penney received his degrees in Wasatch Lodge No. 1, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 28, May 19, and June 2, 1911. Buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York Penney passed February 12, 1971.

Inventor John Gorrie

This little known father of modern Air Conditioning was a man of many talents, including physician, scientist, inventor, and humanitarian, and the inventor of refrigeration, is also a man who suffered for what he believed in.

Born October 3, 1803 on the isle of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea, John Gorrie grew up in South Carolina, moving to the port city of Apalachicola in Florida in 1833.  Being very active in his community, he was resident physician at two hospitals, and at various times a council member, Postmaster, President of the Pensacola’s Apalachicola Branch Bank, founding vestrymen of Trinity Episcopal Church, and served on the founding committee of the Masonic Lodge in 1835, where he was appointed secretary pro-tem on December 28, 1835, later serving as treasurer.


Of his invention, following a Malaria epidemic in 1841, Gorrie resigned from all his civic responsibilities, lowered his patient load, and dedicated his time to the illness.  Malaria, it was speculated, was from the rapid decomposition of vegetation and the hot humid air which created a poisonous gas.  Gorrie, in addressing these issues, surmised that by filling in the low lying areas and draining swamps would be a way to combat the problem.  His second prong to the cure was to develop a means to control his patient’s body temperature and the humidity in their rooms by the introduction of hanging ice above the sick beds.

Ice at that time came by boat from northern lakes which were both inconvenient and expensive.  To tackle the problem, Gorrie invented a machine in 1845 to cool air sufficiently to create ice, a patient to which was granted him in 1851.  His device (a model of which is on display in Gorrie museum) compressed air in a chamber which then released it to expand rapidly, causing it to absorb the heat from water that surrounded the chamber drawing enough heat away from the water to bring the water temperature down below freezing creating ice.

Despite the significance of his development Gorrie never made a penny from his invention. Instead he and his invention were denounced by Northern Newspapers and he was ridiculed his efforts. This was followed by a strong lobby against him by northern ice suppliers, who monopolized the ice market and feared lost profits. Gorrie fell into financial ruin when he was sued for unpaid debts and the unexpected passing of his only investor having never provided the funds to commercialize the invention.

Suffering a nervous breakdown, Gorrie passed at the age of 54 on June 16, 1855. Modern air conditioning is still based largely on the principals discovered by Gorrie today, and was not re-discovered until 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier.

Programmer Steve Wozniak

Born August 11, 1950, this co-founder of Apple Computer Inc, is probably not the paragon of why to be a Freemason, but his work outside of the fraternity is every bit reason to take note of his career and accomplishments.

On the heels of selling off his and Steve Jobs possessions, the two collaborated to raise $1,300 to assemble the prototypes of what would become the Apple computer.

Formed in 1976, Apple computer went public in 1980 and made both Jobs and Wozniak multimillionaires.  After 12 year of founding his electronic empire and full-time employment with Apple, he ended his career on February 6, 1987 though he still receives a paycheck, and is a shareholder to the company.

Wozniak has since gone on to write his autobiography iWoz, and found several companies in and around electronics and technology.

Describing his impetus for joining the Freemasons, Wozniak says he joined to be able to spend more time with his, then, wife Alice (married 1976–divorced 1980).

From his book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It, Wozniak says about his experience with the Fraternity:

I’m not like the other people who are Freemasons.  My personality is very, very unlike theirs.  To get in, you have to say all this stuff about God, the Bible, words that sound a bit like they come from the Constitution, and none of this ritual stuff is the way I think, you know?  But I did it, and I did it well.  If I’m going to do something, I always try to do it well.  And I did this for one reason, as I said: to see Alice more.  I wanted to save the marriage.  I would go so far as to join the Freemasons if that’s what it took.  That’s how I was. P.234/235

Wozniak was initiated, passed, and raised in Charity Lodge No. 362, Campbell, CA, in 1980.

BSA 100 – Lessons in Organization

The Boy Scouts of America in three parts:
Part I – Being a Boy Scout | Part II – Masonic Origins? | Part III – Organization

national office

Having looked at the past 100 years of the Boy Scouts, it is important to spend some time on their organization so as to put into perspective how it operates and perhaps take a lesson for how a member centric organization functions with a national leadership while still retaining its local focus. The value of having a national organization is easy to see when you look beyond the titles and examine the work being performed in service to the organization. Rather than platitudes and titles, an engine of progress and motion is working behind the scenes to grow, nurture, and build the overall brand, something that Freemasonry does not have in a way comparable to that of the BSA.

An initial aspect of interest with the Boy Scouts as a body is that the national organization structure removes the diversity of individual states from practicing Scouting in their own manner and sets a national standard by which the entire body adheres to. Further it delegates down from the top to the increasingly more local organizations the management and practice down to the Troop level through committees and charter councils. At the lowest rungs the troop becomes, like the lodge, the local corporate unit, still broken into patrols which function within the troop. This seems to have allowed for the troops to retain a diversity of its local community from which the members reside.

An interesting aspect of juxtapose is to look at the Scout Troop to a system, more familiar to readers, of the Masonic lodge. Troops are made up of members from the local community, staffed by their parents and guardians, and chartered by an organization (church, civic group, business, etc) to operate. The group meets in weekly meetings for the purpose of training, planning, rank progression, with a variety of activities taking place at any given time. The meeting has leadership that directs it (similar to a Worshipful Master) with junior officers (like the Wardens) who assist where and when necessary. The meetings have a distinct purpose however, and like a corporate business meeting, it breaks out into teams to accomplish its various tasks, something unlike a Masonic Lodge meeting.

Scouting Stamp
The U.S. Postal Service recognized the Boy Scouts of America on July 27, 2010 at the National Jamboree with the release of the Scouting stamp, recognizing 100 years of Scouting in America.

To appreciate the local operation, we should look at how the Scouts operate from a national level that makes its way to the troops.

First Masonry, as most readers will know, is based on a lodge system with each local lodge reporting loosely to a regional management (or District Inspector) but directly through its charter reports to a state level governance, called the Grand Lodge. In North American Masonry, the reporting structure stops there as directives, edicts, publications, and announcements come from it. The Grand Lodge also functions as the state point of contact for marketing, brand protection, and broader national communication. In a direct line, the individual Mason reports to a lodge, and the lodge to a Grand Lodge. In this line of succession there is some blurred lines of responsibility as to public interaction and marketing go (if any exist at all), and practice is set by the Grand Lodge based loosely on its custom which varies in nuance from state to state in dress, recognition between bodies, landmarks of the institution, and custom. At a high level lodges have similar practice, but custom and dress has a great degree of variance from local lodges between states, because of a lack of standardization. Observational, this has created silo’s of Freemasonry rather than a unified national body as with the Boy Scouts. Perhaps in its founding this was an organizational hazard and part of its planned incorporation to cultivate a unified message and purpose.

Structurally, the Boy Scout’s are localized at every level so as to meet the needs of its constituency. Diagrammatically, the troop reports to a unit committee, which reports to the Chartered Organization which then reports to a District, and then a Local Council. The Local council in return reports up to an Area Committee, which then report to a Regional who in turn reports to a National Council.

By reporting level this looks like:

National Council, BSA

This level is the overall leadership in the Executive Board and sets the general direction of the of the work of the Scouts. This Board is entirely volunteer except for the National Commissioner, International Commissioner, and the Chief Scout Executive. The Council develops programs; sets and maintains quality standards in training, leadership selection, uniforming, registration records, literature development, and advancement requirements. It does not directly administer to the troops, packs, venturing crews, etc, rather it delegates downward.

Regional Council (Committee and Board)

The country is broken into Regions for better management and governed by a Regional Committee and Council. The Council exercises the authority and responsibility of the Regional Committee whenever the Regional Committee is not in session but both function to implement national BSA policy and programs. Additionally it plans events and activities for its specific region and to train members of the various standing committees. All members at this level are also volunteers.

The Regional Board conducts the affairs of Scouting in the region on a day to day basis in conformity with regional committee and board policy

Area Council

Regions are further broken into areas where the Area council functions similarly o the Regional in setting, managing, and implementing local activities.

Local Council

Local councils are usually not-for-profit private corporations registered within the State in which they are headquartered, they administer any program they wish in the BSA portfolio through an annually issued charter to administer the BSA programs in their area. To hold the charter the Council adheres to certain program, financial and accounting standards. Local councils are privately funded and are not financially linked to the National Council or local units. Funding comes from donations, corporate sponsors, and special events. The local council is led by volunteers, with administration performed by a staff of professional Scouters. The Council President is the top volunteer; the Scout Executive is the top professional. In many ways this appears as essentially a franchise from the national body.

Local Councils promote the Scouting programs, register units and personnel, provide facilities and leadership for year-round outdoor programs and summer camps, and insure the general principals of scouting are adhered to. Additionally they insure the integrity of the merit badge system, ensures badges-and insignia are protected, and provide training to the Local Units and community groups using the Scouting program. Most importantly the Local Council sets the standards in Scout policies (locally).

Local Councils report to Regional Councils on finances, scouting membership, numbers of scouts attending camps and on their review of charter renewal applications for the Troops and Packs.


The District is an optional add-on to mobilize resources in the growth and success of Scouting units in the area. Traditionally they are composed of volunteers, and provide training, and programs for Scouts.

Chartered Organization

This is the sponsoring body that owns and runs a particular Scout Troop granted as a franchise of sorts) to operate a Boy Scout unit. Typically the chartered organization has goals similar to the Scouting organization such as a school, church, civic organization, business, etc. The chartering organization provides a meeting place for the Scouts, selects a Scoutmaster, approves unit leadership and provides a representative to liaise with the Troop.

Unit committee

The Unit committee is three composed of three or more qualified adults selected by the chartered organization who’s responsibility is to deliver quality unit programs, manage unit administration, and utilizes programs to accomplish the Troops goals and development.

Individual Unit – Troop

The Unit is composed of the Scouts themselves, which are broken into patrols which have their own structure of operation including Scribes, Quartermasters, Librarians, Chaplin, Guides, Historians, Assistant Patrol Leaders, and instructors, as well as many others. This is the essential functioning component of the Scouts and the most fundamental expression of the Boy Scouts purpose.

At the Troop level, then, is the foundation of the Scouts life, like the Lodge for the Mason. The Troop is a fluid body of new and returning members which functions to facilitate the Scout experience. Meetings consist of training on the basis of First aid to the types of lashings to affix two or more poles together. A function of the Scout meeting is the individual progress of the Scouts. Unlike Masonry, the Boy Scouts have a variety of testable points by which the candidate progresses. These points, spread between merit badges, knot tying, projects, teaching, and memorization. These processes serve to bring the Scout into a tight relationship with the corporate body, progressing through a series of ranks demarcated with each subsequent achievement. It’s in these progressions that a highly valuable lesson is taught to the member , lessons retained for the rest of their life. For example the Scout learns the fundamentals of first aid, how to tie a knot to secure materials in place, conservation, leadership, and even how to plan a complex and multi thousand dollar project. All of this takes place weekly at the recurring troop meeting.

Adapted from the U.S. Scout Service Project.

As you can see, the organization is deep in that there is a tremendous infrastructure to protect its purpose and product. One of the most notable elements in recent history is the close and careful cultivation of the Boy Scout Brand which is one of its strongest corporate properties and essentially the product itself which is licensed or franchised to the Chartering body.

This level of brand development/protection is outside the capacity of Masonry at present and likely the cause of its slip in public awareness (especially when contrasted in the work of the Shrine which has a highly cultivated presence and brand). The model of the Scouts organization is something that Masonry can take a lesson from in several ways. First to disassociate the idea of the Lodge as the focal point for the group activity which allows the attention instead to be focused on activities, projects, and community engagement rather than utility bills and infrastructure management. The importance of the body of work performed out shines the landed importance on the place in which the work takes place. This is not to suggest a franchising, but the experimentation of an un-landed lodge (like a traveling lodge) that can focus on its community involvement by literally being in the community.

Also, having a National Organization, unlike the Masonic Grand Lodge system, allows for a specific set of standardized processes that can be made universal so that each operating lodge has a basis of operation integrity especially when coupled with a leadership structure which allows the adoption of locally flavored practice and preferences with permutations built into the foundational rules local users. In essence, the infrastructure allows for the BSA Troops to operate without worry as to what they are in operation of, they have a National Standard of material and an activity chain of National command supporting and growing the organization.  We can see this in the basic principal of the Boy Scout Handbook where essentially the codex of Scouting resides.

Responsibility still ultimately falls on the local body, but with an arsenal of tools, training, a strong stable brand, and a national level of marketing the work of the local can more specifically focus on the work of building Boy Scouts.

In conceiving the organization, its easy to say that it is a complex model of operation. Boy Scout Troops are thriving across the country (and world) and continue to offer programs for young people. A Wikipedia article on recent Boy Scout Controversies places numbers just over 2.7 million members (in all Scouting groups) as of 2009, with a similar downward trend that Freemasonry is experiencing (roughly a 22% average per decade loss).

Without a doubt there are many lessons to take away from the Boy Scouts, from their history, their operation, and their organization. Unlike most century old institutions, looking at what has taken shape in the last 100 years to coalesce into what it is today, an outsider can be encouraged to imagine what the Boy Scouts of America will become in its next century. Strong leadership from early visionaries and a strong organizational foundation has allowed for the progression of a clear vision of purpose to promote “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values”, all of which the Boy Scouts have cultivated. They are truly an American institution and an asset to the spirit of young people everywhere. Being Prepared is every bit the noble endeavor it seems and on so many levels the very basis of shaping young men for the ideal of civic engagement to become good men.

All in all, the Boy Scouts have had a stellar century and this centennial celebration is a milestone in American culture and a monumental achievement for American youth, to which the only thing to say is congratulations on a terrific organization. It is absolutely one that Freemasonry should take note from in both its operation and its outlook. The Scouts sprang up in the minds of those who saw the need for action in the face of a rapidly changing nation, foreshadowing the national call to instill values in children, and it still blazes a trail to educate, motivate, and activate the imagination and active civic expression in fast maturing boys. Despite recent controversies, the Boy Scouts is still a member run organization operating in a manner to uphold its principals which perhaps puts it at odds with the present day zeitgeist of multiple perspectives and ever shifting outlooks. But, just as it adapted to a changing world in 1910, so too have the Scouts emerged to embrace the 21st century at its 2010 centennial.

If you want to support your local Scouting body, I encourage you to visit the Boy Scouts of America web site. Or, with your donation, help support scouting through their fund raising which supports their camps, equipment, and uniforms.

Or, if you have a young man looking to improve himself, I recommend joining the Scouts today.

To gaze into the abyss…

We stand, as it were, on the shore, and see multitudes of our fellow beings struggling in the water, stretching forth their arms, sinking, drowning, and we are powerless to assist them.

Felix Adler

We Will Never Forget

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

BSA 100 – Origins Scouting and Masonry

The Boy Scouts of America in three parts:
Part I – Being a Boy Scout | Part II – Origins | Part III – Organization

There are many stories about how the Boy Scouts came into existence:  Unknown Scouts on foggy London streets, clubs organized for wayward boys, or alternative organizations to an increasingly urbanized way of life.  What is for sure is the zeitgeist, or spirit of the age, in which the idea of the Scouts emerged.

In short, as the middle class began to take shape in early 20th century and families moved from rural farms to urban city, there was a growing concern among some about the loss of patriotism and individualism instilled in young people.  Part of that drive was a sort of early social welfare that included programs to provide physical, mental, and spiritual development for those who wanted them.  The YMCA was an early promoter of these reforms and an early proponent (and organizer) for the Scouts which in quick turn, in 1910, incorporated as the Boy Scouts of America with the express purpose of teaching boys “…patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values.” The Scouts first Director, Edgar Robinson was a former YMCA administrator who brought his skills and expertise and applied them to the newly formed Boy Scouts.

Read a complete time-line of the Early Scouts formation.

The prospect of a National Boys movement as such even garnered a national Federal Charter by Congress in 1916 as both a Patriotic and National organization.

What the scouts captured was an ideal citizen, a compassionate, reverent, and committed member.  The ideal of this is codified in its mission statement which has gone through some evolution from its origins to present day.

1936 – “Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows.”

2008 – “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”

Two notable predecessors of the Boy Scouts in the United States were the Woodcraft Indians started by Ernest Thompson Seton at Cos Cob, Connecticut, in 1902 and the Sons of Daniel Boone founded by Daniel Carter Beard in 1905 at Cincinnati, Ohio.  A more pronounced source came in 1907 from the founding of the Scouting movement in England by British General Robert Baden-Powell who used elements of Seton’s works to create Several small local scouting programs for boys.

Wikipedia says of this inspiration:

Beard (right) with Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell (seated) and Ernest Thompson Seton (left)

“In 1909, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce was visiting London, where he encountered the Unknown Scout and learned of the Scouting movement. Soon after his return to the U.S., Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910. Edgar M. Robinson and Lee F. Hanmer became interested in the nascent BSA movement and convinced Boyce to turn the program over to the YMCA for development in April 1910. Robinson enlisted Seton, Beard, Charles Eastman and other prominent leaders in the early youth movements. In January 1911, Robinson turned the movement over to James E. West who became the first Chief Scout Executive and Scouting began to expand in the U.S.”

It makes for an interesting Masonic aside to find the parallels between Masonry and Scouting, yet only a few concrete connections to American Freemasonry can be found that have carried to present day.

First of those connections being through Daniel Carter Beard and his Sons of Daniel Boone, of which a notable Masonic award exists today for the support of Freemasonry and Boy Scouting aptly called the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award which is presented to any Master Mason who has made significant contributions to youth through Scouting. This is a selective award, the purpose of which is to recognize the recipient’s outstanding service to youth through the Boy Scouts of America.

A second, and perhaps more prevalent in the daily operation of lodge and troop, is the National Association of Masonic Scouters which works to foster and develop support for Boy Scouts of America by and among Freemasons while upholding the tenants of Freemasonry.

A third connection is a bit more at the root of the early organization.  Following Robinson as director of the newly formed BSA, James E. West was appointed director.  West also happened to be a Freemason (complete records of his lodge affiliations have been a challenge to find).

Freemasons for Dummies blog recently reported on the Lodge opened at the 100th Jamboree in conjunction with Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4. Said of the event: The meeting was simply amazing as nearly 500 masons attended. The Lodge was opened on the Entered Apprentice degree, so that all Masons could attend. Most of us were dressed in our full scout uniforms. Introductions were made and the wealth of Masonic knowledge in the room was impressive. Numerous Masters and Past Masters, 3-4 past state Grand Masters, heads of Scottish Rite and York Rite bodies, etc.

In his career, West was instrumental in the early Scouts being a strong champion for it on many fronts, building its acceptance and credibility to many groups including the unions who disliked its early anti organizing language and with the Catholic Church (which at first prohibited membership because of its non Catholic start with the then very protestant YMCA).

Looking beyond Beards contribution and West’s obvious affiliations to Masonry, another possible Masonic connection to the Boy Scouts comes through Baden-Powell himself.

Much has been written on this subject, and its easy to find many references that say that Baden-Powell was NOT a Freemason (including a letter from then UGLE Secretary J. MacDonald in 1990) , and that the Scouts were in no way a Masonic club for boys.

Despite the similarities between the two and the obvious awards and rank progression it is possible, however, to find a small connection to Baden-Powell and Masonry through Rudyard Kipling, who, as many readers will know, was a very prolific Mason and who took his Masonry very seriously in both his works of fiction (See the The Man Who Would Be King film and its original book) and in his poetry (see The Mother Lodge).  Baden-Powell and Kipling kept very close association from the start of their friendship which began somewhere between 1882 and 1884 in Lahare, India.  Its doubtful to say that the friendship led to a Masonry based civic organization for boys, but its possible to see how through conversation and comparison some elements might have been wound together, especially as you read more extensively into their friendship which continued for many years until their passing.

Further, its more likely to see how the spirit of the age contributed to the early Scouting movement, especially as youth orders seemed to lend themselves to more grown up responsibilities expressed, in some measure, through the British Scout Defense corps (or even perhaps in the more nefarious Hitler Youth which existed from 1922 to 1945, the Young

The Young Soviet Pioneers

Soviet Pioneers from 1922 – 1991, or even more alarming the American Boy Scouts which was a parallel of the Boy Scouts of America which existed from 1910-1920 and organized as a more militaristic program to train boys).  A bolder aspect of this ideal of civic citizen contribution can perhaps be seen in the Civil Conservation Corps which had a two fold aspect of building the well-being of the country and putting unemployed men to work.  In that same period there was a growing sense of losing the youth to the changing society, and the Boy Scouts were an early precognition of just how important it was to keep the youth engaged and conscious to civic involvement.  In the years following the BSA incorporation, Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion for youth engagement as she championed in 1930 the American Youth Congress which saw, then as now, the need to engage youth and instill values.

But, from the relationship of Baden-Powell and Kipling, and this spirit of the age, came the essence of what would become the Cub Scouts taking shape from Kipling’s work “The Jungle Book” published n 1893 (the Disney film came out in 194s) .  The Wolf Cubs, as Baden-Powell had styled them, felt that the Jungle Book was every bit suitable to the idea of youth scouting.  Kipling was in such agreement that he even contributed much of his Jungle Book to it including the exact method of the Wolf Cub howl instructing its call as:

“A-KAY-Lar with an accent on the second syllable which can be prolonged indefinitely. The initial A on the other hand is almost a grunt – ‘Er’- Try this and you will see the beauty of the thing.”

Some other notable elements from The Jungle book that made there way into the Cub Scouts include “Law of the Pack,” “Akela,” “Wolf Cub,” “grand howl,” “den,” and “pack” all (and more) used with Kipling’s blessing.

See the History of Cub Scouting for a time line of its formation up to its 75th anniversary in 2005.

The obvious connections aside, Freemasonry and the Boy Scouts have a few other traces in common.  One less obvious but perhaps overt connection is in the Order of the Arrow, created in 1915, which has been described as a Masonic ritual embedded into the Boy Scout organization.

Created by E. Uner Goodman and Carroll Edison, the two collaborated to make a club within the club – to create a camp fraternity to improve the Scout’s summer camp experience.

From Wikipedia:

Goodman and Edson decided that a “camp fraternity” was the way to improve the summer camp experience and to keep the older boys coming back. In developing this program they borrowed from the traditions and practices of several other organizations. Edward Cave’s Boy’s Camp Book was consulted for the concept of a camp society that would perpetuate camp traditions. College fraternities  were also influential for their concepts of brotherhood and rituals, and the idea of new members pledging themselves to the new organization. Ernest Thompson Seton’s Woodcraft Indians program was also consulted for its use of American Indian lore to make the organization interesting and appealing to youth. Other influences include the Brotherhood of Andrew and Phillip, a Presbyterian church youth group with which Goodman had been involved as a young man, and Freemasonry. The traditions and rituals of the latter contributed more to the basic structure of the rituals than any other organization. In an interview with Edson during his later years, he recalled that the task of writing the first rituals of the society was assigned to an early member who was “a 32nd degree Mason.” Familiar terms such as “lodge” and “obligation,” were borrowed from Masonic practice, as were some ceremonial practices. Even the early national meeting was called a “Grand Lodge,” thought to be a Masonic reference. Goodman became a Mason only after the OA was established.

Goodman was Raised in Lamberton Lodge No. 487, Philadelphia, Pa. about 1917 according to Denslow’s 10,000 Famous Freemasons.

The aim of the order of the arrow is to allow Scouts to choose from among their numbers the individual who best exemplifies the ideals of Scouting.  Those selected are to embody a spirit of unselfish service and brotherhood.

Goodman said of it:

“The Order of the Arrow is a ‘thing of the spirit’ rather than of mechanics. Organization, operational procedure, and paraphernalia are necessary in any large and growing movement, but they are not what count in the end. The things of the spirit count: Brotherhood, in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad; Cheerfulness, in a day when the pessimists have the floor; Service, in a day when millions are interested only in getting or grasping rather than giving.”

From the other side of the threshold there are some Masonic Grand Lodges that recognize cross over clubs like the National Association of Masonic Scouters and promotes a greater level of interactivity with troops.  The most significant interactions with Freemasonry today, however, are those Masons with sons who have served in some capacity in the leadership of their Troop or Local Council.

Freemasonry does not rank in the top 10 of organizations that support the Scouts (the top 5 being the LDS Church, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, PTA Groups, and private citizen groups) which is a terrible missed opportunity for lodges to engage and support an organization in such affinity to its own ideals.  The reason for this I can only extrapolate is that Scouting is perceived to encroach on its own membership from participating in DeMolay, the Masonic youth order, founded in 1919.

With this briefest glimpse at the Scouts origins, the next step is to look at its organization to appreciate its flexible and member friendly approach to put the priority on the Scouter and less on the place the Scouts practice.

Up Next: Part III – Lessons in BSA Organization.

BSA100 – Boy Scouts of America, 100 Years of Being Prepared.

The Boy Scouts of America in three parts:
Part I – Being a Boy Scout | Part II – Origins | Part III – Organization

2010 marked a significant milestone in the lives of young men all across the continent as the Boys Scouts of America celebrated its 100th Anniversary.

Started in 1906 the Boy Scouts, in the course of a few short years and group mergers, took its present shape in 1910 to become the premier young mans organization that it is today. Premier because few organizations produce the quality young men that the Eagle Scout embodies. For its adult leadership, the Wood Badge is the mature persons Eagle Scout equivalent which embodies the spirit of the Scouts into the adult leader who assumes the leadership role to guide the young men up that progressive climb.


Said by some to be a quagmire of paperwork, the BSA is a mostly volunteer organization composed of parents and interested community members to guide its course. At the local level, troops (like lodges) are individually chartered and provide a space in which the member boys meet.

Like Freemasonry, the Scouts are a private membership organization that through and through is values-based. At its core is the teaching of being a responsible citizen, character development, educational programs, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities.

The Scout Oath sums very squarely what it represents as it states:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Which is in turn supported by the Scout Law which says:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

Both statements are meritorious to any individual that applies them to their life, but the Boy Scouts weave these ideas into the very fiber of the organization such that it becomes as much a part of the members being, as the characteristic brown and green uniform.

It is very much a way of life, with an optimistic way to look at a past ideal of social virtue and civic engagement, something little seen today and even less instilled in young men. This social virtue is so much a component of the Boy Scouts that the highest rank, the Eagle Scout, is predicated on the completion of a service project for one of the communities in which the scout circulates. By its very conduct it is very easy to see that the ideal of a Boy Scout sums into the ideal of Leadership, Achievement, Character, Service, and Environmental Appreciation (did I mention the Scouts camp a lot?).

From a Masonic point of view, we can see the similarity to the aims of the organization in its workings. Both have a progressive line of promotion that elevates the junior member to a higher standing within the body – Tenderfoot to Eagle/Apprentice to Master – predicated on a set of civic principals and virtues of self improvement.

In the Masonic Lodge, the degree of Master as the most common level of lodge practice, the Scouts conduct meetings with all grades in attendance and impressively with greater participation, as they see all the participants as contributors to the units prosperity.

This mixed rank participation allows more experienced members to interact with younger scouts to teach, train, and impart their experience to those who will one day hold those elder leadership positions.

Unlike Masonry, the Boy Scouts has an age cap in which the youth in attendance need progress to his ability before he comes of age at 18. There is some latitude for those working on their Eagle Rank, but essentially, the Scouting door closes at the 18th birthday. That does not, however, eradicate the youths ability to continue on with the experiences of Scouting as there is a secondary body called the Venturing which has an older age ceiling with further rank advancement and meritorious awards. But, once a scout always a scout and opportunities abound for mature scouts to volunteer with his troop, mentor up and coming scouts, and evolve into a Scout Master in the future.

Also, for the college bound scout, there is a college fraternity – Alpha Phi Omega or APO which is roughly 17,000 students strong and more than 350,000 alumni. The purpose of APO is a service fraternity with principals derived from the Scout Oath and Law to promote leadership and service to humanity. This collegiate fraternity is a natural next-step for any Scout looking to continue his scouting path at university.

One important aspect of the Boy Scouts is faith, something that is inherent in scouting, but not in a fundamental way.

The official word on faith in Scouting is:

Scouting encourages each young person to begin a spiritual journey through the practice of his or her faith tradition. One of the key tenets of Scouting is “duty to God.” While Scouting does not define religious belief for its members, it has been adopted by and works with youth programs of all major faiths.

This is very similar to the Masonic ideal of faith in a supreme being with out an expressed definition of what that faith is. Unlike the Scouts, Masonry uses the Bible as the principal sacred book where as the scouts have developed a Religious Emblems Program to broaden the individual scouts faith and honor the various faiths of its membership. The groups range from the African Methodist Episcopal Church to Zoroastrianism.

Now that we have an idea of who and what the Scouts are today the next logical step is to look at where the Boy Scouts of America came from, which presents some interesting insight to the zeitgeist of the beginning 20th century and some possible unseen Masonic connections at its origin.