Relative is relative

Relativity is relative
Relativity is relative

Things have been quiet on the inter-webs in recent weeks as we start the slow descent down the calendar page to the holidays.  Especially as most of north America is under the first major winter storm, I write this as my balmy So Cal thermometer outside tells me its 33 degrees (appropriate, I know).

A question someone asked me recently is if Masonry is relevant today in this age before I could break into the usual elevator speech, I paused for a second to think about the question, and further, to consider the implication of the immediate yes that was already starting to roll off my tongue.

Just like the weather, relativity changes with time, activity, and interest. Relativity seems to go up and down running hot at times as some controversy or exciting event is taking place, or cold in periods of little activity or action.  That ultimately, relevance is relative.  And in those nanoseconds of answering the question, the thought went to the higher outlook to ask is it relative in an age that itself questions its own relativity.

With so many variables, how can one possible answer (let alone assimilate) the question.  Relative is relative.  Each individual member, through his own thoughts and outlook, holds the answer.  Is it relative, and if so why?  But, if your mind drifted to no, then why not?  Because it is a member run organization (like the Boy Scouts) relativity is a self generated energy, that is as imaginative as a lodge (or an individual member) can be, then so too will the fraternity be just as imaginative.

Relative becomes our relativity.

A very good friend and brother said to me once that to be interesting you need to be interested, and this applies to all aspects of life, home, work, family, faith, and fraternity.  Imagine your relative shift with a subtle adjustment of interest.  The relativity of the idea takes on the qualities of your outlook, relativity matches your relativity to the subject.

The short answer to the question asked of me was yes, Freemasonry is relative, for the simple reason that I see it as so.  It’s important to me and vary valuable, and that my relativity of it is relevant.

Publisher and Br. Michael Poll of Cornerstone Publishing on Masonic Central

studyEver stop to think for a few moments where some of your favorite Masonic books and imprints come from?  Or how certain books get published (or don’t end up in print)?  What about e-books, or that really rare hard to find text that you heard mentioned once, but can’t seem to find?

This week on Masonic Central we step out side of the electronic publishing world and into the traditional publishing one as we host a very special guest in publisher and author Michael Poll, who is the owner of Cornerstone Book Publishers and its retail site Lost Word.

Missed the live show?  Listen Now!

Br. Michael’s dedicated work to the Masonic community has included services such as: original content and reprint publisher, used book seller and search service, and gift item and ephemera supplier, all the while remaining a small family run store.  In addition to his work in publishing Masonic books, he has published two of his own including Masonic Words and Phrases, and The Freemasons Key – A Study of Masonic Symbolism.

In addition to several lodge memberships, Michael is also a Founding Fellow and 1st Vice-President of The Masonic Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society and a contributor to Heredom, the publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Join us as we meet and talk to Br. Michael Poll this Sunday, December 6th, starting at 6pm PDT / 9pm EST. We encourage your questions and comments to the show by calling (347) 677-0936 during the program.

The show goes live promptly at the hour. On Blog Talk Radio at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Download the program.

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When the better angels of our nature prevail

How difficult is it to imagine two enemy combatants coming face to face on a smoke swept battle field, deep animosity boiling within towards one another, such that minutes before both exchanged volleys of gunfire at one another in the hopes of ending the others life with prejudice.

And then, as if struck by a lightening bolt from the heavens, the bitterness and drive that had sought to make one the survivor and the other a casualty of the brutal warring between them dissolves; amidst the strum and drang around them they find themselves able to meet on a level that transcends the uniforms they are covered with and sides they hold allegiance to.  The lightening strike that they are struck by comes as if from a divine power, an instant transcendence from their brutal human nature such that this divine bolt strikes and with such a force brings them both to a level that neither can truly fathom from the brutality that they are surrounded by.  The two men are transcended from the barbaric engines fueled by the nature to win into the better angels of their nature.

From the bolt that struck them, they realize that they are family.  More specifically, that they’re Brothers.

better_angels_of_our_natureMichael Halleran (better known around here as aude vide tace) explores just this transcendence of our nature in his forth coming book Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War.  Br. Halleran’s approach in this book is not another reexamination of fraternal lore, instead he explores the evidence, providing a critical examination of Masonry in the armies of both North and South, illuminating how Masonic fraterniza­tion worked in practice on both sides of the line.

And, by his own admission, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, is the first academic study of Masonry’s role in the War Between the States.

Why this is important makes for an interesting story.  Several months back I had the opportunity to sit in a presentation given by Brother Halleran on the subject and was enthralled at the stories that he described of two enemy combatants who, upon realizing they were brothers, did what they could to exercise their mystical tie.

From the evidence in the book, the tales that take shape include the

Confederate GeneralL Lewis A. Armistead

Confederate GeneralL Lewis A. Armistead

extraordinary funeral of Lt. Commander John E. Hart to the oft-told legend of the death of Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead at Gettysburg.  Throughout Better Angels examines primary source material to determine and construct what actually occurred.  Other areas that Brother Halleran examines are Masonry in regimental lodges, among prisoners of war, and Masonry in battle.

At its heart, Better Angels details the response of the fraternity to America’s greatest calamity, documenting in many instances the war was not only one of brother against brother, but of Brother against Brother.

Having had the opportunity to see Br. Halleran’s presentation and witness first hand his evidence consisting of images of soldiers, their masonic ephemera, and the degree to which these soldiers held Masonry to the heart, it became apparent to me that truly the better angels of their natures prevailed.

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In the months leading up to his extraordinary book being released, you can find a sneak peek on his publishers website at Alabama University Press and on Br. Michael’s own website at http://michaelhalleran.com.

Look for it to hit the shelves mid March of 2010.

Lon Milo DuQuette on Masonic Central

lon_duquette_on_masonic_central

Join us for this episode as author Lon Milo DuQuette joined Masonic Central on Sunday, November 29th, 2009, to talk about magick, esoteric Freemasonry and the his masonic journey.

Within in Freemasonry, there are many titles and attributes bestowed upon its members, but few come to the table with the appellation of Magus. With a number of books having flowed from from his pen and a good many years of practice under an adept hand, Brother Lon Milo DuQuette is a stand-out example of bridging the esoteric with the obvious. Obvious at least to a few.

A Mason for many years, DuQuette has spent a substantial amount of time in the study of the realms of the tarot, Kabbalah, Thelema and Enochian Vision magic. Capturing the essence of DuQuette’s work, a quote from Aleister Crowley comes to mind in his saying,

“Magick was defined as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with WILL.”

It’s that path in the conformity of will that led Masonic Brother DuQuette to his position within the Ordo Templi Orientis which itself has a rich history and modern day contribution to the occult practice.

In this episode, we explore the magical connections that Masonry may (or may not have) exist and what lessons we can find within the sage wisdom and teaching of the Masonic patriarch King Solomon.

No mere parlor tricks here. It is an excellent program of magical conversation, and delightful insights.

Listen to the show

Works by Lon Milo DuQuette include:

In addition to his written work, Lon has a prolific musical career.

More of the Masonic Central podcast.

more on the OTO:

Surprise mystery guests on Masonic Central

MoralityFigures

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, tonight’s show is a detour from the norm with a duet of suprise mystery guests.  It offers a unique glimpse into a little seen segment of Masonry that we know will delight and entertain you on this last Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Missed the live program?  Listen Now!

I hope you can make it for this fun and festive program.

Join us this week as we meet and talk with these surprise mystery guests this Sunday on Masonic Central,  November 22nd starting at 6pm PDT / 9pm EST. We encourage your questions and comments to the show by calling (347) 677-0936 during the program. The show goes live promptly at the hour.  On Blog Talk Radio at 6pm PST/9pm EST

Download the program!

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Freemasonry and El Día de los Muertos

Mictecacihuatl

Mictecacihuatl

Most holidays can be associated into the Masonic calendar and celebrated without much connectivity to the fraternity, patriotism and religious veneration aside.  One holiday, not widely celebrated in the U.S., comes to us from the south in the form of a celebration (and perhaps veneration) of the Dead in the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos.

Suggested to have origins in the ancient past, the celebrations roots grow out of the distant Aztecs dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, who is the queen of the Aztec underworld and watcher of the deceased’s bones.  Today the celebration is a hybrid of this ancient practice and the more modern Catholic celebration of the All Saints Day, which venerates all known (and unknown) Catholic saints.  In this Latinized tradition, the feast extends to the remembrance of all those who have passed in the previous year to remember their spirits.

The resonance to Freemasonry comes in the veneration of the idea of Hiram Abiff, the Grand Master himself, as the fraternity venerates his role in every Masons making.  It strikes me that the idea of veneration is truly at the heart of our being.  Not to say that it is a ritualized worship, but rather a means of remembrance of his spirit upon the fraternity.

Día de los Muertos altar

Traditionally, Día de los Muertos is celebrated with the construction of private altars to honor the deceased, the making and decorating of sugar skulls which is a gift to both those still living and those departed, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.  The meaning behind the offerings of food is representative a welcoming gesture (called ofrendas) to bring the departed with the foods spiritual essence.  Further, the celebrants go upon visitation to their graves with these as gifts and stand watch for their spirits through the night.

Again, this resonates with the tradition of Freemasonry, in that it is in the spirit of Grand Master Hiram that all Freemasons strive to emulate and represent, and it’s through the ceremonies of the degrees and that his essence is to be imparted through his wisdom and actions.

Día de los Muertos Catrina figures

Día de los Muertos Catrina figures

Also, there is a tremendous symbolic connectivity in the use of the skull and skeleton imagery, in that their application in the Día de los Muertos tradition closely follows its use in the Masonic tradition as a remembrance of the place where each of us is destined for.  Further, that no matter our status in life, we all are equalized and made to look the same in death.  The Calavera mask (skull mask) and the full calacas (skeleton) led to the more recent Día de los Muertos attribution of the Catrina figures, which are today a prominent inclusion to the day’s celebration.

It is in these symbolic gestures that I suggest Día de los Muertos most resonates on this most spooky of holidays, and that in the giving of sugar treats to young ghouls and goblins to pause for a moment and reflect on the passing and upon the spirit of those brothers who have passed before us and to leave one sweet treat should their spirit be passing by.

In memory of the spirit, for a moment forget the reality of ones life lived and instead remember their presence of spirit.

Happy Halloween.

Día de los Muertos sugar skulls

Día de los Muertos sugar skulls – Photo by Glen Van Etten, licensed under Creative Commons

Building Boaz – Author John Nagy on Masonic Central

Building Boaz by Doctor John Nagy

Building Boaz by Doctor John Nagy

Join us on Masonic Central this Sunday as we meet and talk to Brother John Nagy who is the author of the new book “Building Boaz – Uncommon Catechism for Uncommon Masonic Education.”

Missed the live show?  listen now!

Once you start something, what do you do next?  You take the next step of course but as with any journey into the unknown (or the unexplained) the question is where that next step should land.  “Building Boaz” is the exactly where the next step in becoming a Mason should take you.  In his New book Br. John Nagy sets out to help the reader find the means to answer A few of the touch points in this paths first step is the idea of Threshing to masonry, the flanked circle, the Broached Ladder, and the Chamber of Reflection.

Join us as we talk to author and past guest  Br. John Nagy about his book, Masonic education, and this 2nd step in this non-fiction series in this hour long program on Masonic Central Sunday, October 25th starting at 6pm PDT / 9pm EST. We encourage your questions and comments to the show by calling (347) 677-0936 during the program. The show goes live promptly at the hour.

On Blog Talk Radio at 6pm PST/9pm EST

Download the program.

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Crown of Serpents on Masonic Central

Crown of Serpents

Crown of Serpents

Where does National Treasure meet The Lost Symbol?  Wound together into a Crown of Serpents.

Masonic fiction is an infrequent thing, especially when written by a brother. The Lost Symbol is a good example of the fraternity in a modern fiction, in the same way that National Treasure brought the fraternity to the cinema. This Sunday, we have the opportunity to talk about the latest edition of Masonic fiction from author Michael Karpovage, who has just released his new book Crown of Serpents.

From the books website the Crown of Serpents is a mystery thriller set in the former heartland of the Iroquois Empire and takes its hero, Jake Tununda, on a fast-paced hunt to find and protect the elusive crown. In the story he teams up with Rae Hart, who is an alluring state police investigator, and together they snake their way across a politically turbulent landscape marked with murder, lies, and deceit, deciphering codes, digging up war loot, and fending off a ruthless casino magnate. Their survival skills are put to the test when the clues to the crown ultimately lead them deep within sacred Indian caves hidden under the abandoned Seneca Army Depot where the magnitude of the crown’s power is revealed.

The Crown of Serpents is every bit as exciting as its synopsis suggests, and its weaving in of the fraternity of Freemasonry makes the mystery thriller all the more exciting.

Join us in this episode as we talk to author Michael Karpovage about his book, Masonic fiction in general and the real life history of Freemasonry that swirls around his new novel, in this hour long program on Masonic Central recorded Sunday, October 18th , 2009.

Missed the live program?  Listen now!

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The Grand Lodge of Colorado

The Grand Lodge of Grand Lodge of Colorado is the next stop on the tour of American Grand Lodges.

glcoLogoColorGrand Lodge of Colorado Masonic membership:
12,645  – 2007
11,421  – 2008
gain/loss  –  -1,224
Data from MSANA

State population: 4,939,456 as of 2008 (estimated)

Mission Statement:
The mission of Freemasonry in Colorado is to teach and perpetuate a fraternal way of life. That promotes brotherhood and self-improvement. Through education, moral standards, charitable giving and community involvement.

About the Grand Lodge:

Late in the year 1858 a number of gold-seekers had gathered at the junction of Cherry Creek and the Platte River, on land which was then a part of the Territory of Kansas, but which now is within the State of Colorado. This settlement was known as Auraria, and by the first of November a number of cabins had been erected there.

On the evening of November 3, 1858, seven Masons, including William M. Slaughter, held an informal meeting in one of those cabins; and throughout the following winter these brethren and others continued to meet from time to time, having in mind the formation of a new Masonic Lodge at Auraria, provided the proper authorization could be obtained from some Grand Lodge… read more.

Some of what I found on my excursion there:
The Grand Lodge of Colorado is a minimalist website with a lot lot of punch.  The site is has everything that one would want in a Grand Lodge site, including events listed on the front page, information of how to contact and find them, and an address (message) from the Grand Master.  It has a very clear look and feel for what Colorado is known for, and lays out all of its informational content right on the front page.

GLofColoradoInformational Content:
The Grand Lodge of Colorado site is very rich in informational content.  In that mix it has a clear history of Freemasonry in the state, what Freemasonry means both in general and in the state.  And, it offers a wealth of pdf e-books for the membership and visitors to read  on the fraternity and its multitide of meanings.  This feature really impressed me in that it included some texts that are not commonly featured on most sites, includingAn Exposition of the Mysteries or Religious Dogmas and Customs of Egyptians, Pythagoreans and Druids, Illustrations of Masonry, William Preston, George Oliver editor, 1867, Legenda, (Kadosh and Heirodom), Albert Pike, and many others.  If added together, it would represent many thousands of pages of knowledge made available from a Grand Lodge site.

The site does not go for the immediate conversion of interested parties to membership, rather seeking to inform prospective members of what the requirements are and providing information on what membership represents.  All of this can be found under their membership button on the top navigation.

The links section also has a diversity of sites, including The Sanctum Sanctorum, the Guild of Masonic Webmasters, Freemasonsonline.com, International Club for Templar Studies, and Paul M. Bessel’s Masonic Pages.  This seems to be a growing list, and I’m sure as time progresses more will be added.

Other interesting components of the site are Grand Lodge specific, including information on their educational grants, their Honor Lodge award, and the Traveling Gavel, which is an interesting activity for lodges to promote visitation.  The site also has an extensive listing of lodges in the state, which list websites to the lodges.  Unfortunately, not all of the websites worked, some not existing at all.  Of those that did function, the visitor was further greeted by a local lodge site.  I do recommend that if traveling to the Grand Lodge site to stop in and look at the lodge links and virtually visit the various lodges.

Also, hidden on the community pages are press mentions that the Grand lodge has received and programs that it sponsors for community awareness including a Child ID program, a Band Camp Sponsorship, and Teacher of the Year program.  Each of these are very noble pursuits and important in and of themselves.

Look and Feel:

As mentioned, the site is a minimalist construction.  The two column site, with navigation across the top and on the right, really hits the mark for everything that a Grand Lodge site needs to communicate its information.  The events on the front page immediately catch the eye, as does the striking image of the Grand Master with his message below.  Each of the pages convey this symmetry and keep the delicate balance of message consistency.  I did notice several instances (outside of their on-line library) that pdf’s and .docs were employed which can be challenging for some users (especially for those who do not have the know how to open them) and it also breaks the ability to key in specific search seo by binding up the text in the document making its content essentially invisible to the various search engines.

The site visually has a good balance between negative (white) space and its use of logos and images.  It maximizes the use of clean typography for its linkage and transitions, making it easy to use, clear, and articulate in where the visitor is going.  It does lose some of its secondary navigation when you dig deep into its pages, but the visitor can quickly use the top nav to get back to its main pages.

Further, the site employs a visual that is specific and unmistakable to the state and its presence in the snow capped Rockey mountains.  Not included to be overt, the image of the mountains paint an interesting visual for the site as a whole.

Overall:
The Grand Lodge of Colorado site is really a very clean and elegant site.  It is packed with information and content (the pdf library itself a gold mine worth the visit) but in a very easy to use package.  Its up-to-date calendar and listing of lodges is an excellent way to connect members to lodges and those interested to something local.  It is disappointing to see lodges listed with websites only to find no site present, and this is something I hope gets resolved to broaden the reach in the state.  Overall, I can definitely see the site expanding and adding even more information, and I think the layout is fitting to grow with the content.

One suggestion, as with many state Grand Lodge sites, is the addition of an RSS/XML feed so visitors can stay abreast of changes or updates with a subscription.  Or, in lieu of a feed, a newsletter sign up to send information out to those of interest to receive one, as it represent a terrific means to deliver up to date information on what’s going on.

Up Next: The Grand Lodge of Connecticut.

Emile Norman, artist/craftsman, passes at 91

Artist and Craftsman Emile Norman, the creator of the California Grand Lodge Mosaic window and exterior frieze passes at 91, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

Though not readily discernible if Norman was a Mason, his mosaic window is both a testament to the diversity of California and the diversity of California Masonry.

cagrandlodgemosaic

cagrandlodgedetail

His light may now be eclipsed, but his work will live on in his art.