Building Athens

Building Athens

Building Hiram and Building Boaz now have a new sibling, Building Athens.

Our good friend and Brother John Nagy has been diligently at the trestleboard and is ready to unveil is third installment in the Building Hiram series with his new book Building Athens.

The book, Building Athens, focuses on Wisdom, Insight and the Work of the Second Degree, specifically:

  • The Ancient Source of the Masonic EA and FC training
  • The Significance of “The Pass” in all Masonic Work
  • The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences and how they relate to “The Pass”
  • What Raises a Mason’s Abilities to do further Work.

In the new book he explores why the study of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences are so critical for Masons to study.

From the books website:

In “Building Athens,” volume three of the “Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education” series, Dr. Nagy shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms that outline in depth the very purpose of the Fellow Craft education. Well established nearly 2500 years ago, the training serving this purpose Raises Masons with a specific end in mind.

Building Athens reveals:

  • The author of and inspiration for Fellow Craft Training.
  • The purpose Fellow Craft training was intended to accomplish.
  • The single most important word that denotes the difference between Fellow Crafts and Master Masons.
  • A widow’s son whose life and death redefined what it means to be heroic.
  • What should be known about the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences by every Mason.
  • What truly Raises a Fellow Craft toward Mastery.

Dr. Nagy provides you with yet one more interesting and thought-provoking guide to improve and strengthen your Masonic awareness and clarity. He shares key information and insights that will help you better understand how facets of the second Degree fit together to help you in your Building efforts.

Something that immediately caught my eye was the title and how it correlates to the work.  Building Athens shares 12 intriguing and enlightening Masonic Catechisms which seems to coincide with the founding of the city of Athens and the uniting of the 12 cities under the name Athenae (Athens), where the rich, the farmer, and the artisan all shared equal rights.

You can pre-order the book now, or pick it up when it hits June 1st from the Building Athens site!

Did the Mormon Church come out of Freemasonry?

Not according to the Mormon church.

An interesting article out this morning in the Mormon Times on the myths surrounding the founding of the Mormon church and its ties tot he ancient and honorable fraternity of Freemasonry.

The piece is in reference to a new book by LDS author Matthew B. Brown titled Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons.

His argument for the two NOT being intrinsically connected (despite many similarities between them) is that the rituals of the fraternity emulate earlier Christian rituals of monarchy and church which was picked up on by Joseph Smith in his early writings.

Not being a Mormon, its a challenge to see or dismiss the parallels, but from past passing conversations, the parallels between the two were striking.

Brown says in the article:

By examining history, “it becomes obvious that the Nauvoo-era temple ordinances and doctrines did not suspiciously materialize after Joseph Smith became a Freemason,”.

Before joining the fraternity, Joseph Smith had associates who were Freemasons, including brother Hyrum Smith and apostle Heber C. Kimball. Brown, however, says there is no evidence suggesting the Prophet knew about Masonic secrets before becoming a Freemason himself. In fact, revealing such secrets would be grounds for punishment, and “there is no evidence of any such action being taken against a Mormon Mason for making improper disclosures to Joseph Smith.”

You can read the whole article Mormons, Masons and myths at the Mormon Times or, pick up the book Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons

freemasonry, masonic, freemasons, information

The Masonic Restoration Foundation August Symposium

Coming this August, the Masonic Restoration Foundation is holding its first National Symposium on Traditional Observance Lodges, and much much more.

The focus of this two day event will be Masonic Restoration with a primary focus on identifying a set of best practices that can be regionalized and implemented in those lodges seeking to increase the fulfillment of its members.

This is a “must attend” event if you have ever considered starting a Traditional Observance Lodge in your local area.

The 2 full day schedule includes:

  • Working Talk Points Breakfast on leadership and assessing strengths and weaknesses.
  • Lodge Formation – How to in YOUR region.
  • How to best work with your Grand Lodge
  • Regalia Presentation from the leading regalia manufacturers.
  • Live vendor trade show with music, art, books, and software.
  • A Tyled Meeting followed by a Festive Board Agape.

Day Two:

  • Leadership Psychology from a top national speaker
  • Break-outs to discuss best practices, obstacles, and implementation
  • A special presentation on Alchemy by Br. Timothy Hogan
  • And an afternoon discussion on the practical guide to implementing the full TO system.
  • Followed, of course, by an event ending networking and cigar Lounge with a on site whiskey master.

The event has tremendous promise and a terrific energy about it and from the descriptions on the events site, its sure to motivate and educate even the passive participant into a passionate Traditional Observation Lodge champion.

Space is limited to 120 participants. If the TO lodge process has been on your radar, this event is not to be missed.

You can register for the event on their website: MRF Symposium.

Curious about Masonic Restoration?  Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast on the topic.
[podcast]http://www.blogtalkradio.com/masonic-central/2010/03/08/traditional-observance-what-is-it-and-is-it-the-fu.mp3[/podcast]

Secret Order of the Cephalopod Lodge

Some how, I don’t think Sponge Bob is the first thing you think about when you think Secret Society.

But Squidward, well, he’s just the type of cephalopod I’d expect to be into that kind of thing…

The Auto play was a bit annoying, You can watch the clip here:
http://spongebob.nick.com/videos/play/cephalopod-lodge-clip/

You can find an interesting analysis on why this episode is related to Freemasonry here.  Not very revealing, but a fun exercise in chasing your conspiracy tail.

And now, for something completely different…

A brother (and author) of this book sent me a note some time back about his new book, and I’ve been sorely remiss in mentioning it, so I wanted to take a minute and share The Festive Freemason.

Written and illustarted by Br. Steve Chadburn, he is a long established professional cartoonist, author and illustrator. This book is a humorous book of cartoons about being a freemason in the modern world. Much of its work is based on English Freemasonry, masons everywhere will still be able to relate to the situations and enjoy the book.

About the book: The Festive Freemason is the creation of a Past Master in the Craft,who happens to be a professional author, illustrator and cartoonist. The book will hopefully amuse, entertain, and offer a unique insight into how freemasons balance their commitment to families and work. With the duties, obligations and fellowship to be found in Freemasonry.

What better way to see the fraternity than with humor and with mirth.

Br. Steve’s book is available on Amazon – 978-1449981006

Moving Fremasonry into the MMORPG

MMORPG: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game

Just read a blog post on We Fly Spitfires, an MMORPG blog (which is another way of saying online gaming). The post was called Video Games and Freemasonry and the author, a brother, made some great points about how the lodge could attract younger members.

How you may be wondering? Simply by changing the degrees into video game levels.

Some of his ideas and my thoughts to them:

  • Replace the rituals with video game tournaments: OK, I know this is a bit of a stretch,but most tweens today are more at home with Xbox controllers than they are with pens and paper.
  • Instead of Degrees, have levels: Honestly, its something ever tween today can relate to from the lowliest game on the Play Station to the ever expanding World of Warcraft.
  • Online Degrees – with virtual attendance: With the proliferation of Video & Web Conferencing and Skype Conference Calls, why not do things virtually.
  • Freemason Facebook (or MySpace) App (a la Farmville or Mafia Wars):  If you know what your looking for, Freemasonry is all over Facebook already (including this site) but a step up in the interactivity may be an interesting take on something most of us do on a daily basis already. Instead of watering our virtual plants in Farmville, we could be learning about degrees and symbols.

masonic hammer in warcraftIts an interesting concept, and if your already familiar with the on-line gaming world, then maybe you could see some of the applications in your head already.

Why not have a sanctioned World of Warcraft Guild of Freemasons? Several already exist depending on the game server you join.

Besides guilds, there are already several Masonic-esque items living in Warcraft, including the Masons fraternity ring, and this spiffy hammer.

Imagine what that raiding party would look like.

This is just one example of a lodge built in Minecraft.

How about a Masonic skin for Minecraft?

Have you found Freemasonry in other games, MMORPG or otherwise?  Drop us a not in the comments below.

All things Shrine International on Masonic Central.

The song bring out the clowns starts to ring in my head when ever I start to think about the Shrine in a large way.  Not out of any misanthropy but because of their excellent work and commitment to the happiness and well being of so many children.

To say the name of the Shrine International and instantly the image of charity, children’s hospitals, and Red Fez’s comes to mind, but behind those iconic images is an organizational powerhouse that, some suggest, drives the future of the Masonic fraternity.

Missed the Live Program?  Listen Now!

or, Download the Mp3

Joining Masonic Central this week is Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder who is Imperial Outer Guard for Shriners International to talk about all things big and small as it relates to the Shrine.  Of particular interest:

  • The History of the Shrine – How it formed, why it formed, and how its original formation has evolved.
  • The Present Day Shrine International – The Hospitals, Conventions, the 1.8 million a day in Charity, The iconic Clowns, and some of the recent controversy.
  • The Future of the Hot Sands – Growth, Diversity, and Its lineage to the ancient fraternity.

So many questions have swirled about the connections of the Shrine and the blue lodge that its time to put them to task and ask them of the Shrine themselves, and Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder has graciously stepped up to explore these topics and more about the “world’s greatest philanthropy.”

You can join the live Masonic Central program on Blog Talk Radio Sunday May 2nd, at 6pm PST/9pm EST and join our live interactive chat room to send us your questions and talk about the program, or you can call in with your live questions to 347-677-0936 during the show.

It promises to be an interesting and entertaining evening to say the least and a great way to discover more about this charitable powerhouse of the Masonic family. on Blog Talk Rad

For more information on the Shrine, visit: Shrine International

To Be a Shriner Now, visit: Be A Shriner Now

Masonic Traveler – the book

This is a bit of shameless self promotion but I wanted to get the word out.

After a lot of effort and energy, hand wringing and procrastination, I can truthfully say that with enough thought, you can manifest your intentions into being.  I present to you my humble journal of a Masonic Traveler.

Its been a long road, a journey of unknown adventure and destinations.  Its not a travelogue, but a collection of thoughts on things of interest to all Masons discovered on the road of the blog masonictraveler.blogspot.com

The book is an adventure that has taken me through thousands of pages in hundreds of books.  An adventure that has allowed me to meet and befriend a hundreds of brothers from around the world, and find resonate fraternity in places I was long told there was none to be found.

And after so much time on the virtual road, there was bound to be a physical destination…

That destination culminated in the book Masonic Traveler.

I like to think of it not as journey’s end, but  just the first stop on the trail.  So, without further adieu, I make this gentle announcement about my new book Masonic Traveler which is printed and in hand now!

You can follow more on the subject at MasonicTraveler.com

You can also find it on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com now too!

Just a quick update, I wanted to add a few additional places you can find the work.
Barnes and Noble
Amazon USA
Amazon Ca
Amazon UK
Amazon De
Amazon Jp
A1 Books
Powell’s

Tyranny and Diety – their place in Freemasonry

If Freemasonry had a specific dogma Albert Pike would of been one of its most profound Prophets.  As it stands, he sits in a pantheon of others such as Mackey, Wilmshurst, Webb, and Preston, just to name a few.

The reason I mention Pike in this way, is that for many years his work Morals and Dogma was the field manual given to all Scottish Rite masons for years, so much so that the deep red tomes still frequently show up in used book stores and on Ebay fetching a fair price for such an old body of work.

But the reason I mention Pike and M&D is that amongst the strum und drang of what some states (read Grand Lodges) are doing to some of its members or the shock and surprise that one state picked up a former (read expelled) member of another, Pike talked about these very things in his commentary to the Rite’s degrees.  Essentially, had we (Freemasonry) done our homework or applied the degrees so judicially bestowed upon us, that maybe we could see through the smoke that we ourselves are generating over these epic events.

Truthfully, I was surprised in coming across the passage while doing my work for the Guthrie Scottish Rite College of the Consistory.  Surprised because his wide spread distribution in the past and the little regard given to him today.

Let me just say that Pike was talking about the very things we face in adversity today more than 100 years before it was ever an issue in the 50+ jurisdictions of Grand Lodges.  So say what you want about Pike, personally I’m finding much in his ideas on how masonry should govern itself.

What I found was a small passage in the 10th degree that speaks to how a Freemason should see other faiths, that

“No man is entitled positively to assert that he is right, where other men, equally intelligent and equally well-informed, hold directly the opposite opinion.”

In that passage, Pike is asserting his idea of toleration to the aspect of religion, that no individual can assert that another individuals outlook of the divine spark is any more right than their own, asking the impossible to answer question “What is truth?”

Asking that question make me wonder if the same question can be extrapolated up to establish the definition of what truth means.

In the degree, Pike says (again about religious toleration):

Real knowledge never permitted either turbulence or unbelief; but its progress is the forerunner of liberality and enlightened toleration. Whoso dreads these may well tremble; for he may be well assured that their day is at length come, and must put to speedy flight the evil spirits of tyranny and persecution, which haunted the long night now gone down the sky. And it is to be hoped that the time will soon arrive, when, as men will no longer suffer themselves to be led blindfolded in ignorance, so will they no more yield to the vile principle of judging and treating their fellow-creatures, not according to the intrinsic merit of their actions, but according to the accidental and involuntary coincidence of their opinions.

Whenever we come to treat with entire respect those who conscientiously differ from ourselves, the only practical effect of a difference will be, to make us enlighten the ignorance on one side or the other, from which it springs, by instructing them, if it be theirs; ourselves, if it be our own; to the end that the only kind of unanimity may be produced which is desirable among rational beings,–the agreement proceeding from full conviction after the freest discussion.

What stands out to me, especially in this instance with so much hand wringing and heated exchanges, is the second paragraph, even more specifically:

Whenever we come to treat with entire respect those who conscientiously differ from ourselves, the only practical effect of a difference will be, to make us enlighten the ignorance on one side or the other.

The key here seems to be the idea of treating with respect those who differ from ourselves, which applies to all sides in this discussion.

Pike in his conclusion cites a Roman quote saying:

Men in no respect so nearly approach to the Deity, as when they confer benefits on men. To serve and do good to as many as possible, there is nothing greater in your fortune than that you should be able, and nothing finer in your nature, than that you should be desirous to do this.

Which is, after all, the reason for being a Mason, right?

Side Note:
I’ll be publishing more in the days to come, but the book Masonic Traveler is available now at MasonicTraveler.com – look for more soon!

The Better Angels of Our Nature

In the wake of the most turbulent period of American History stories about the intersection of Freemasonry and the Civil War have been many and profound – fact and fiction have become impossibly merged until now.  In an eloquent narrative story telling,  Michael Halleran‘s new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War separates the dime store novel and after dinner yarns from the real and verifiable stories of the American Civil War.

Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast with Michael Halleran on his book Better Angels of Our Nature.


or Download the show.

The reality of the The Better Angels of Our Nature could perhaps be summed to say that when looking at the past, we strive to see it in the best light we can; reality and myth blurring together becoming one.  We remember what we want to remember.  And as this idea filters down from those who so daringly attempt to assimilate and speak about it, the line between what really happened and its retelling becomes even further blurred.  The myth of the story takes a life of its own over the reality of what happened which is lost to the memory of time.  We see it in the news, in the origins of religion, and in the annals of history – the stories of the past evolving and taking on a life of their own giving them greater depth, and consequently meaning, to the both the story tellers and their audience.  But truth is liberating when it comes to the fraternity and the Civil War and Halleran’s new work The Better Angels of Our Nature is a welcome does of reality from a sea of historical myth.

The Better Angels of Our Nature dissects the war in its many facets into a sensible approach to the myths of Freemasonry and its part in the Civil War, from the very top in correspondence of Grand Lodges, first about preserving the union and later to sovereignty of action, to the rank and file interaction of soldiers on the lines spared by a token, a word, or a gesture, and to the gewgaws made by prisoners of war while being held in some of the harshest of p.o.w. camps.  What Halleran captures in his work is not so much the acts of mercy between soldiers (of which he details many), but the agent of that mercy – Freemasonry.

Underlying the details of the book is the idea that the power of the fraternity and its ability to transcend lines acting in a way greater than that of organized religions, such that in times where even local denominations avoided helping those in desperate need, the bonds on Freemasonry, and the invisible connection between brothers, would prevail.  In one instance, Halleran details the delivery of food and  necessities to prisoners, not out of the compassion of similar religion, but out of the brotherhood in the craft all on the simple sign of a gewgaw.  But, as much as the Better Nature leans on the leverage of membership, it almost equally illustrates the aversion brothers had to leverage it for their benefit.  And for those such as Union prisoner John L. Ransom who witnessed Masonry in action noted in his diary the things to do following the war to include: “…visit all the foreign countries that prisoners told me about…wear silk under clothing, join the masons.”

The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial monument located in the annex of the
Gettysburg National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the prime examples that Halleran uses to dissect the problem of the past and illustrate the point of the layers of mis-telling is the exchange between General Armistead and Captain Bingham, to which Halleran says

“…the legend of Armistead’s dramatic Masonic death scene simply did not happen.” “There was no Masonic huddle with Doctor Bingham, ho hand-off of a Masonic bible, and no meeting with Hancock.”

General Lewis A. Armistead

All of which may come as a shock to the system to any armchair historian, but in painstaking detail, Halleran pieces together Armistead’s wounding, those closest to him, and what they said about those moments on the battlefield and the events immediately following his demise several days later.

Despite the retelling of the greatest Masonic tale of the Civil War, what Halleran does uncover are an even greater number of instances where brotherhood works to save wounded soldiers, save a family from starvation, and in one instance where the war stops for a day to bury a fallen brother in a Masonic service attended by both sides of the conflict.  The Better Angels of Our Nature illustrates the profundity of the fraternity to its practitioner of the age, leaving us with the question if the modern soldier of Masonic affiliation encountered a brother across the lines, would it have the same ability to lay down hostilities to appeal to their fraternal bonds?

Halleran tells a compelling story about the fraternity and the Civil War and how The Better Angels of Our Nature have retold the stories over and over to make them more appealing and sympathetic to the ears of the audiences they were being told to, and by dissecting the facts from the years of fictionalized beliefs, the truth is much richer and comforting once the haze of time is cleared away.  Truly it was the Better Angels of the Our Nature, as a fraternity, that prevailed.

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Michael Halleran is published by Alabama University Press and is Available on Amazon.