Masons give $100,000 to UCO Foundation

More in the news on the re-emirgance of Masonry and academia:

“The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation received a $100,000 gift July 14 from The Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma. The gift will establish the Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning, which will support a project that fosters transformative learning experiences for Central students, helping them become productive, creative, ethical and engaged citizens and leaders.

“This generous gift from the Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma will allow us to incorporate the transformative learning process that places students at the center of their own active and reflective learning experiences,” said UCO President Roger Webb.

Read more in The Edmond Sun

Well done brothers.

Masonic Education vs. Practicing Freemasonry

I’ve been in recent mental debate over the place of Freemasonry in academia (more here) and the practice of Freemasonry in the real world.

More specifically, how Masonry is perceived in the academic sphere in a past and present light, vs. the contemporary practice of Freemasonry itself, what the fraternity is doing as a whole in creating or generating ideas and philosophy.

One of the limiting aspects of studying the Fraternity is that it has to focus on specific elements: i.e. lodges, meetings, minutes, attendance, composition of lodges in a particular area and the correspondence to and from the lodge. What it doesn’t take into account is what ritual that particular lodge is practicing, which I would suggest, dictates the ideology that is coming out of a particular area.

This becomes less of a concern as you enter into the North American Freemasonry that puts its practice squarely under the United Grand Lodge of England. With a homogenized ritual (Webb-Preston) and a stuff Grand Lodge leadership, innovation is virtually wiped clean from unique practice developing lodge to lodge. Yes, the ritual does vary state to state to some degree, but there is little change to its core metrics. As standardization goes, this is a boon for inter-recognition, but a bust ti innovating new rituals, new philosophy, and new creativity.

How I see this as relating to academia is that as more and more scholarly institutions start to come on line to study Freemasonry, what they may see is the early contribution to civil society (see Bullocks’s Revolutionary Brotherhood Jacob’s Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe, and Harlan-Jacob’s Builders of Empire: Freemasons and British Imperialism) but little by way of the need to innovate in a tamed and civilized world. Rather, what will be evident is the process by which the different groups (lodges and grand lodges) work to form a network of laws (jurisprudence) to say who is and who isn’t in the main. I see this as a corporation making contractual deals to say who they “recognize” and who they “do not recognize” which is less about philosophical development, and more about partnerships and networks.

(This is a good explanation of what civil society is and how it relates to Freemasonry from the University of Antwerp)

Yet, perhaps these types of partnerships are in fact the foundation of how Freemasonry set about to (inadvertently) shape society. Imagine just such a an agreement today between a masculine Grand Lodge and feminine Grand Lodge, recognition not on principals, but on necessity, which in turn creates a new principal.

Of greater interest to me, however, is the variation of ritual which preceded the dominance of Grand Lodge Masonry (still at play in European Masonry in the milieu of Grand Lodges and Masonic Confederations like Clipsas and Lithos), where the diversity of ideas, practice, and culture become the foundation stones of the fraternity rather than a bane to it.

In many ways, I see this as the practice of Freemasonry in that it exceeds the idea of a lodge business meeting and puts it into an amplified mode of constructive operation.

I hope that academia will be able to pick up on that subtly and explore the internal mechanisms that generate its ability to make such a contribution to the creation of civil society.

In short, the question that comes to mind is as much rich history there is from the past, what is being created today that will be studied by academia tomorrow.  How is Freemasonry contributing to the creation of civil society now?

When Masonry and Satanism Crossed Paths

The Gate – There’s a Passageway – A Gate Behind Which the Demons Wait to Take Back What Was Once Theirs.

Stepping past the Crowley references and guys wearing funny robes and hats, at some point the idea of Freemasonry and Satanism came together so as to ignite the idea that the fraternity is sinisterly evil. And, after spending some time with the campy horror film The Gate, I was struck by the prominently place iconography of the fraternity at the heart of the evil malfeasance in the film.

In a brand sense, the film made no bones about equating Freemasonry ( in the image of the square and compass) with summoning demons bent on bringing back the “old Gods” especially in a film devoid of any other significant branding.

Its a pretty obscure film these days, out of our contemporary memory, but at the outer edges of this present generations adolescence. What I found most interesting was that prominence that it was given in a film that really only promoted the band Killer Dwarfs. the only other major “Brand” in the film I caught was the square and compass.

You can get the first hint of it in this clip at 01:15 (its much more discernible on the big screen).

In the scene is a voice over that says: “…there is a passage way in between all physical worlds the world of light and pleasure and the spiritual world of madness and pain, a gate behind which the demons await for the chance to take back what is theirs.”

It picks up again when “the Dark Book-the bible for demons” teaches listeners how to summon the old God demons. Its backward masking at its finest, but a reinforcement of the idea of brand association between Freemasonry and Satanism.

Its featured pretty prominently in a few of the scenes of this campy 80s horror film, but even as cheesy films go, this one had a pretty decent box office for the day, #2 rank, 1,139 theaters (the 18th highest PG-13 film of 1987) grossing $13,500,000 for its domestic release, all of which means that a good number of people saw the film and of those watching it many (some?) had to of noticed the imagery. Noticed in the same way that Coke o’ Cola would keep their can out of the hands of a cinematic serial killer as he did his dirty work.  Placement matters.

Sacrifyx – the album

Why this is so important is that in the 1980’s Satanic Ritual Abuse was considered an epidemic. From

Many in the social worker, therapist, conservative Christian and police communities experienced a “Satanic Panic,” starting about 1980. They, and much of the rest of the public, believed that a widespread, underground, secret network of Satanic cults were kidnapping, sexually and physically abusing infants and children, murdering them, and sometimes even eating them. In the United States and Canada, the scare reached a peak in the early 1990’s. It spread from the U.S. to other English speaking countries, particularly Canada, Britain, and Australia. The panic gradually declined because of the lack of hard evidence.

Religious Tolerance talks about the industry that spawned out of the SRA experience to promote the “Satanic Panic”.

What’s the point of all of this? Not that Masonry wasn’t already falling out of contemporary thought at the time The Gate came out (1987) but that films like this helped perpetuate an image problem plaguing the fraternity and likely helped plant it into the collective memory that many ardent anti-masons (and lay observers) have today. It may not be possible to trace the bad PR directly back to this film, but content that this film helped shape opinions in waves for generations to come of age.

Don’t just take my words for it, in the article “Do movies shape your opinions?” from Purdue University English professor William J. Palmer, in the March 1995 Society for the Advancement of Education/USA Today, he says:

“People in mass society get their sense of history from the way it’s portrayed in movies.”

“How do Americans interpret history? Do they get it from historians? Some do. Do they get if f rom the news? Some do. Do they get if from movies? Certainly they do. I think one of the main sources of history is movies. I’m not certain it’s the best source, but certainly it is a main source.”

And, from David Sterritt, film critic from the Christian Science Monitor from the September of 2001 article “Do violent films shape or reflect?”

“..troubling is the thought that public views of retaliation, revenge, and warfare may come more from decades of popular entertainment than from sustained reflections on history and morality.”

His comments were in reflection to the post 9/11 sentiment of revenge and violence, but builds on the idea of perpetuating ideas in films that seep into our collective unconscious.

So, could the film The Gate built upon the growing Satanic Panic of the 80’s and of been responsible for the misaligned idea that the fraternity is a satanic cult bent on summoning demons to take over the world? According to the 1987 Lionsgate film it is.

One last point I wanted make was the power of product placement (or misplacement) and the importance of keeping your brand in the right context.

Cracked Magazine has a great article about product placement in films The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History which strikes at the heart of the matter. Its obvious that product placement works at some level, the hero drinking a soft drink, the robot car being an American iconic muscle car (which happened to just be redesigned) or the cut and adorable space alien’s love for chocolate peanut butter candies.

So what does that mean to Freemasonry when films like The Gate or much later From Hell and the Da Vinci Code build on this same idea, not with demons and satanism but with equally as disturbing messages of some nefarious activity. BrandChannel’s article Brandcameo’s 2004 Award [now archived] spells it out speaking to the power of branding in films:

“…One wine brand, Blackstone Pinot Noir, has seen sales increase by almost 150 percent since the film (Sideways) opened. Additionally, [the film]has increased tourism to California’s wine region and driven business up 30 percent at The Hitching Post, a restaurant featured in the film.”

This is a perfect example to measure the ROI of effective placement.

From a lay member perspective, there isn’t much to do other than to speak up when someone tries to draw the connection between Freemasonry and Satanism. Speaking up is probably the best thing for us to do. From an institutional perspective, some form of advocacy to the movie industry would be a good thing, but unlikely without any national organization (maybe the MSANA, but there is little funding to wage that kind of outreach). Until the fraternity manages to re-organize itself, it will continually be portrayed in ways that will inadvertently shape its future one movie-goer at a time, one film at a time.

Hope, short supply, high demand.

Hope is something in high demand but short supply these days.

With the ever flowing pipe of oil in the gulf getting ready to blanket the Gulf states shore lines (not to mention trail up the Atlantic coast on the currents), to the ever ailing U.S. job market that seems to have the illusion of getting better, only be recounted the next day to reveal that it really is lower than expected. Now it seems, even the Golden Arches of McDonalds has a titanium in the consumables problem, just one more thing to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

This is defintely a challenging time to be in, no matter where on the spectrum you fall. If you own a business sales are down, if your working the pink slip looms, and if your unemployed like the other 10% of your adult neighbors (numbers unadjusted for region) prospects look grim.

So where do you find Hope?

Pandora; Jules Joseph Lefebvre, 1882

In the book I put to press a month or so ago, Masonic Traveler, I delve that question from a philosophical angle. Hope springing from the metaphorical box of Pandora, a demon if you will, sent to antagonize man. The reverse of that idea is that hope was really a foil to the nefarious evil from Pandora’s Box, and was instead a light to mankind. Hope, it seemed had the ability to inspire mankind to see beyond his present state, to imagine a better tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.

As eloquent as that parable of antiquity was, its hard to translate to our real day to day life. We can say we have hope, but in our darkest of recesses, its easy to get lost in the maze of our doubts, fears, and hang-ups.

I hope that Obama and BP fix the problem in the Gulf, but what if….

I hope that the Toxic Shrek glass from McDonald’s is safe, but what about…

Not giving away the parallels I constructed in the book, I did stumble onto a great little article on WikiHow about how to find our hope and nurture it back so that it has a place again to inspire us again.  It was a good little refresher for me to help find my feet.

It helped me put things into perspective, and I Hope it will for you too.

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.

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:

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.