Meet Ezekiel M. Bey, FPS

The Hour Glass, African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York

Ezekiel M. Bey

Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to know or read about Ezekiel M. Bey.  In that case you have missed a great man.  And if that is the case it is time for you to get acquainted with this Prince Hall Mason.

Brother Bey is Founder and Administrator of Blue Lite, a popular national Prince Hall Research Discussion Group.  He is also the RW Grand Historian of the MWPHGL of New York.

Born in Harlem, Bey attended public schools in Queens.  In his early education his passion was drawing pictures and writing stories and poems. He was an active participant in church starting at the young age of 13 where he served as a Counselor and as member of the men’s choir.

His later education concentrated on business and computer science, which has ultimately led him to the position as Operations Manager of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York and then a promotion to Director of Environmental Services.

Bey has been married for 21 years and has five beautiful children.  In 1990 he joined what proved to be a clandestine bogus Masonic Lodge.  He corrected that error in 1997 when he left clandestine Masonry for the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York.

Bey’s Masonic biography is long and well traveled.  Some of the highlights include Editor of New York’s Grand Lodge Magazine The Prince Hall Sentinel,   a Special DDGM, Grand Historian, member of Grand Lodge Committees of Masonic Education and Work & Lecture, Fellow of the Phylaxis Society, member of the Philalethes Society,  Associate Researcher for the Charles H. Wesley Society and the first Prince Hall Mason in the state of New York to be awarded the honor of the Masonic Brotherhood of The Blue Forget-Me-Not.

His personal biography has this to add:

Bey Receiving Distinguished Service Award

Bey Receiving Distinguished Service Award

“As a student of the late Joseph A. Walkes Jr., Ezekiel learned much, and today to the Masonic world Ezekiel M. Bey is an avid researcher and historian of Masonic studies. He has done extensive research in the Schomburg Library, New York City; does correspondence research with the Masonic Iowa Library, Cedar Rapid, Iowa; the Livingston Library, New York City; and has worked and collaborated with many research societies and other repositories of Masonic information.  For two consecutive Masonic administrations under M.W. Bernard L. Holley, GM, Ezekiel has been appointed in positions in which he has held four patents at one time (Grand Historian, Secretary of The Committee on Masonic Education, Member of Work & Lectures & Masonic Editor of the Prince Hall Sentinel (2006-2008).”

Brother Bey has published numerous works on Freemasonry.  He is about to release his newest book: Bogus Masonic Outfits, The Silent Killer In Prince Hall.

With the author’s permission here is a taste of that book.

Regularity for many is not a focal point due to their unawareness nor is it of any importance to them. Many have no clue what it really means.  In the search for truth, we must investigate all the parameters that make up the subject we are to discuss for consideration.  Certain standards must be used for guidelines in which to measure the legality of any organization’s regularity.  In this case it’s Freemasonry amongst African Americans in this country.   Freemasonry has been established centuries ago by the use of Ancient Landmarks, Ancient Charges, Constitutions, and many unwritten laws. Taking basic attributes that make up regularity such as establishing Lodges from a “competent jurisdiction empowering it to work”.

In this search you will find that bodies calling themselves “Masonic” are not all that they seem to be.  I have found that many are sympathetic with bogus outfits that appear genuine in appearance, and indeed many illegal Masons are innocent of the origin of the organization they have joined.  In other words, the majority does not know any better.  I have personally been a victim of this.  But you also have those Prince Hall Masons and other regular Masons who know the truth, and yet make excuses in order to personally accept fraudulent organization within their circles.  There are many reasons for this.  I have seen the politics involved for personal gains, whether it is material or merely acceptance in certain arenas.

Many excuses made by regular Masons on behave of bogus Masonic orders are, that they are “black” people like us, that they belong to our churches, that they are family members, and some have verbally shown the sad ignorance of saying, “they practice the same thing we do”.  “Common sense is not always common”, for if that statement were not true, many would simply understand that “If I were a student of medicine for 2 ½ years, and decided to drop out of medical school to start a medical practice before I have graduated and gotten my medical license, no matter how many lives I save, I would not legally be a doctor”.  “If I were a Police Officer and was suspended or thrown off the force, and decided to rent a building and called it a precinct, with squad cars, guns, badges, uniforms, and all the paraphernalia that is required for Police Officers or precinct, it would still not make me legal”.  In fact, you will be arrested for impersonating a Police Officer and Police Department.

Society from time immemorial has established a common rule for the genesis of organizations, governments, and civilizations, and that is that the founders, or originators of an organization or government, establishes the criteria and rules for those who wish to be part of it.  When one wishes to join an organization it must follow the rules of that organization in order for it to be regular.  What surprises me is the failure to preserve our dignity as Prince Hall Masons, by associating our selves with bogus Masonic organizations.  I grew up in an area in New York City that as a youth I learned very quickly the respect one must have for organizations (gangs) and the originators of these neighborhood groups.  One could not easily enter into a territory claimed originally by these crews. It was not easy for trespassers to think they can discover a land occupied by the natives of block.  If a block (street) was violated, or the name of the group was illegally used or stolen, or if certain clothes that identify the posse were worn by invaders, this was a declaration of war.

We speak and recite the legendary drama of our Ancient Grand Master H**** A****, and how he gave up his life, but refused to give up his integrity.  I feel many of us have not learned the lesson of our integrity.  Many of us are handing over our integrity, but what we must understand is that it is not only our personal integrity, but also the integrity of our Fraternity.  You cannot just set up an Elks Lodge and not be faced with resistance from legally established Elks Lodges, the same with the Loins Clubs, Rotaries, Knights of Columbus, and many other organizations.  What has happened to us?

In a soon coming compendium, I will attempt to show that we need to step back and rethink our position.  My research has been intense, with many hours of study and reading, as well as traveling to find the truth about illegal Masonic bodies.

I pray that some-day, we will all, UNIVERSALLY, understand regularity.

And I mean, regular Masons as well as those outside the circle (Bogus Outfits).

The GREAT DEBATE, will soon take place.

This is an issue that is troublesome to Prince Hall Masonry and one that it is trying to combat through education and the dissemination of correct information.

The GREAT DEBATE  was supposed to take place at the Phylaxis National Convention in Arkansas on March 6th.  Unfortunately Brother Bey has pressing family matters to take care of and that challenging discussion has been rescheduled for later in the spring in New York.

The Beehive will keep you informed of further developments.

Dan Brown’s Influence On World Peace

lostsymbolAlong with my Short Talk Bulletin I recently rescued from my mailbox came with it MIC’s (Masonic Information Center – a part of MSANA)  FOCUS, a short communication on whatever is HOT right now in Freemasonry.  And what is hot right now, as we all know, is Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

MIC published a letter Dan Brown sent to the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, on his apology for not been able to speak before them.  In that letter was a really important gem.

“In the past few weeks, as you might imagine, I have been repeatedly asked what attracted me to the Masons so strongly as to make it a central point of my new book.  My reply is always the same.  ‘In a world where men do battle over whose definition of God is most accurate, I cannot adequately express the deep respect and admiration I feel toward an organization in which men of differing faiths are able to break bread together in a bond of brotherhood, friendship and camaraderie.”

While this is something all members of the Craft realize, yet its implication for application on a much wider scale is overlooked.  Come imagine with me, play fairy tale – what if all or at least an overwhelming number of people in the world were Freemasons?  What effect do you think that would have on world peace?

Dictatorships and totalitarian regimes who do not respect the worth of the individual do not like Freemasonry. Radical Muslims and radical Christians and other radical religionists who portray themselves as the only people on earth “to be saved” and who seek to eradicate other faiths and what they see as corruptions of their own faith, do not like Freemasonry either. Closed minds with agendas cannot accept free associations of differing views. The ability to “live and let live” is lost on those who have the one and only true way which becomes their mission to impose on everybody else for the good of the whole.

Learning how to live in peace and harmony – two very coupled Masonic words – has been something I have been writing on for many years as a Mason because it was Freemasonry that taught me the concept and it was Freemasonry that made me realize how it can be done and it was Freemasonry that showed me how important this is for the world.

In 2005 I wrote a long paper which I delivered in Alberta, Canada titled World Peace Through Brotherhood. In that paper I quoted Brother Joseph E.A. Salem of the Israeli Scottish Rite and his words are worth repeating.

“Too many people believe that peace is a diplomatic maneuvering, a series of talks and shuttle trips between countries, or a pile of documents signed in Paris or on the lawn of the White House, in Washington.  Real Peace can only come from the hearts of men.”

“The greatest ideal in the world today is fraternity, not as a mere sentiment, but as a science, a practical philosophy and a way of life.  If ever there was a generation eager and willing to try out the philosophy of brotherhood with wisdom and patience, it must be this generation.  We have been shown in letters of blood and fire, what hate, envy and greed can do.”

“I believe Freemasonry can do a lot towards building a better world, fit to live in, unstained by blood, undefiled by hatred.  This is the challenge to our craft.”

“’Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’  This is the Commandment to which Freemasonry dedicated itself, to establish brotherhood among men so they can live in peace with each other in this world.”

“The struggle of Freemasonry is the struggle of the human race against tyranny and oppression.  From the beginning, Freemasonry has realized that religion, tradition, and habits of life can divide the peoples of the world into hostile camps.  Freemasonry takes no part in these quarrels, rather it provides a common meeting ground where all men can meet on the level.”

“Every Masonic lodge is a temple of peace. In it, men of different religions and stations in life meet together, and on its altars, the Sacred Volumes of all faiths are placed.  The spirit of harmony and cooperation prevails.  The Masonic teachings of equality and fraternity are the only tie that can bind the human family together, and create a world order based on brotherly love and peace.”


After I delivered World Peace Through Brotherhood at one Albertan Lodge, the Worshipful Master came up to me and he said. “Do you know what stood out for me out of that hour long lecture you gave?”  And he immediately answered his own question with, “Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of peace.”  EVERY MASONIC LODGE IS A TEMPLE OF PEACE. And that is so true.  Just as one might check his weapon at the door, every Mason checks his agenda at the door.

And what Salem imparts to us is that peace starts with the heart not with actions of civil servants. And that is where Freemasonry starts right from the very start.  Where is a man first made a Mason?  In his heart  – and he is raised, reborn into a new way of life, one of respect for others, for love for all humankind, for tolerance of different beliefs, styles and cultures and non judgmentalism leading to peace, harmony and accord.  This works very well as long as what is given is also received back. And here is where our dream, our fantasy of what would the world be like if every person was a Mason comes into play.

Lest anyone think that I am just substituting one, one and only true way with Freemasonry as the new one and only true way let me say this. Freemasonry is not the one and only true way.  It’s not even the only way.  But it is the best way I know of right now at this moment.  Religious organizations, houses of worship and secular organizations have a role to play also.  But the difference is this.  While they seek to impart peace through adherence to a certain dogma, creed or agenda Freemasonry does not.  Freemasonry’s dogma, creed and agenda is no dogma, no creed, no agenda except generalities of righteousness and nobleness that have been recognized by every religion, every culture, every free government since time immemorial.

Now talk as I may, and talk as the great writers around me may, none of us will have so many ears listening as will those who listen to Dan Brown.  His words that he tells us he repeats over and over again, will have a tremendous effect on those who seek to implement worldwide peace and harmony in our time.

Thank you Dan Brown.  We are overjoyed that you understand!

Freemasonry – Its Place In The World

world in our handsTo my delight the latest “Short Talk Bulletin” was in my mailbox yesterday.  I look forward to reading the latest epistle from the Masonic Service Association of North America.  The Short Talk bulletin is just that, short and to the point and a yearly subscription will cost you the paltry sum of $6.00. MSANA has hundreds of past issues available for purchase on a wide variety of subjects.

The latest issue written by the PGM of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, Norman Buecker, is titled Freemasonry – Its Place In The World.

Buecker starts off by giving us what he calls the most quoted definition of Freemasonry.

“It is an association of men believing in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, using building tools as symbols to teach basic moral truths, thereby impressing on the minds of its members the cardinal virtues of Brotherly love, Relief and Truth which they should apply in their everyday activities.”

He tells us that man has been slowly through the ages, with each generation adding improvements and transmitting this information from generation to generation, and thus has been able to improve his lot in life, his material well being. Yet he tells us that man’s moral improvement has not shown equal gains.

This is where Freemasonry comes in.  Buecker asks the reader, “What does Freemasonry Offer the World?” He answers his own question with six points.

  1. Since Freemasonry does not work through society or any of its institutions, it is then centered around the individual. This ties Freemasonry to civil regimes that value the worth of the individual and explains why it flourishes best in a democratic setting. “Freemasonry offers to the world a basic ideal that is being forgotten – every individual is important and his personal welfare counts,” Buecker emphasizes.
  2. Freemasonry believes in the Fatherhood of God. Every Mason has to have a belief in a Supreme Being but the details of that belief are not required or discussed. Thus Freemasonry actively encourages tolerance of different religious beliefs and facilitates men of different religious backgrounds to exist together in peace and harmony.
  3. Freemasonry extols the Brotherhood of man.  Buecker tells us that everywhere all around us we hear from those who are demanding “rights” yet what Freemasonry teaches us is that we have a duty or obligation to our family, friends and even strangers in our midst. He reports, “Dr. Joseph Fort Newton tells us ‘a duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred and sooner or later we must settle the account.’”
  4. Since the Middle Age guilds, Freemasonry has always held work in reverence. Our ancient Brethren worked with their hands and actually built buildings.  Today we as speculative Masons are building that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Work is noble and honorable. “We are offered and guaranteed the right to use our God-given skills and by employing them to secure happiness,” Buecker says.
  5. Freemasonry offers an opportunity for close male bonding and in its social venues brings men together in activities that bring men much joy and happiness. Buecker tells us, “I think that this is one of the intangible, subtle and necessary elements of Freemasonry – making the individual happy. We have already said if the individual is happy, the community is happy; if the communities are happy, the nation is happy; and if the nations are happy the world will be at peace.”
  6. Freemasonry offers the world a philosophy of life. It teaches a set of moral virtues, something that crosses all beliefs and is held in common by all cultures.  But it has a unique way of imparting its value system to its members. That uniqueness impresses upon the mind of every Freemason how important its moral truths are and what they mean to him as a member of the Craft.  Each new Brother is literally reborn into a new way of life.

This easy to handle pamphlet provides a very good presentation of Freemasonry.  It can be ordered by the hundreds and would make a good addition to a Freemasonry information table for the non Mason.  Over and above that it also illustrates that the Craft has a role to play on the world stage.  It can be an important factor in influencing the nations of the world to live in peace and harmony.

So what does Freemasonry have to offer the world? Buecker sums it up:

“Freemasonry offers to mankind an emphasis on the importance of the individual, the belief in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, the concept of the dignity of work and its necessity for the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to realize one’s social aspirations in a moral, constructive atmosphere and a philosophy of life which can lead to individual and therefore community happiness.”

The Journal For Research Into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

In case you haven’t noticed there is a new guy on the block, The Journal For Research Into Freemasonry & Fraternalism

This new venture emanates from Sheffield, England and bills itself as “A Bridge between different traditions of scholarship“. In essence this undertaking will publish scholarly contributions in regards to fraternalism in its many forms blending in culture, art, history, music and other disciplines while maintaining a Masonic focus. Its high level of scholarship is evident as the Journal sees itself as “a scholarly journal following strict rules of assessment, peer-review and rigid quality control.”

The JRFF will not be tied to any Grand Lodge as it joins the growing number of scholarly undertakings who do not want to be encumbered by the restrictive definitions and rules of individual Grand Lodges nor Apologists for them. Rather it will be an independent voice employing freedom of inquiry and broadening the scope of research into currents of social, political and cultural crossovers.

Editor Andreas Onnerfors explains why JRFF is needed at this time.

“The historiography of one of the oldest and most fascinating fraternal organizations – freemasonry – has for a long time been dominated and guided by internal needs.  Academia has only relatively recently discovered that a better understanding of freemasonry and related  fraternal organizations offers a fascinating insight into the many neglected fields of social, cultural and political history. And Masonic scholars have realized that broadening the scope and rigour of research will reveal new insights about their own organizations, alongside a deeper understanding of its proper place in the history of events and ideas.”


I found in its just published first edition a most interesting article which I could access without becoming a member.  Nationalism, National Identity and Freemasonry by Timothy Baycroft was a work which I found extremely well written and one that rang my bell.

First there must be an understanding of the concept of “nation.” Baycroft lets us know that this is no easy task.

“One can measure the area, population, Gross National Product (GNP), and identify the institutions of a state, but nations are conceptual, emotional, abstract entities which may be associated with a state, but can only be grasped through their representations, symbols, and the understanding of those who consider themselves to belong to the nation.”

So look here!  Freemasons are not the only ones who employ symbolism.  And words are not the only or even best way to allow the human brain to conceptualize an abstract concept.  But Baycroft doesn’t stop there.  Every cake has to have its icing.

“Like nations, freemasonry can also clearly be understood and conceived as an ‘imagined community.’ This is true both in the sense that the number of masons has always been far too great to be known personally, and that members project into the wider community their own individual understanding of the meaning, values and culture of the association as a whole” (bold added by The Beehive).

So we can’t know everybody, yet to have a mass identity something must bind us together.  Thus it is the mere fact of abstract imagining using symbols, artistic expressions (statues, music etc.) and shared beliefs that nations and Freemasonry bind themselves together. For just one example, with nations it may be the flag and with Freemasonry it may be the square and compasses which bonds complete strangers into a common community.

For years I have seen the American Masonic scene as one of separatism and parochialism.  While some see much merit in that method of organization I have always felt distanced and a lack of bonding, of closeness and community with other American Masons. It even goes so far as to see so much difference between American Grand Lodges that some even seem un-Masonic.

Nobody in the world has as many regular, recognized Grand Lodges in one nation as the United States of America.  Fifty Grand Lodges in Mainstream Masonry and around 40 recognized Prince Hall Grand Lodges with more to come pushes the number of separate Grand Lodges in the U.S.A. to bordering on 100.  Nobody else in the world even comes close, not even Canada and Australia. And that fracturing of power leads to differences and differences lead to separate ways and separate ways lead to jealousies and animosity. American Freemasonry is like a football team with no coaches.  Each player does his own thing and the concept of “team” is ignored.

That has led me to advocate a greater sense of cohesiveness through political means such as a National Grand Lodge or an American Masonic Constitution and Bill of Rights. The fracturing of power in American Masonry has led to a fracturing of fraternalism. In this time of high mobility and “The Information Age” the world is supposed to be getting smaller, everywhere I guess but American Freemasonry.

But I no longer call for a political coup d’état of American Freemasonry but rather a sense of American identity whereby we think of ourselves as American Masons first and Masons of our individual states secondarily.

And nobody reinforces that change of thought on my part better than Timothy Baycroft. We can create symbolism that will allow an “imagined community” to develop from sea to sea. The effect would be to enlarge the Masonic community and bring it into the 21st century where high mobility and the use of the tools of the Information Age will send ripples of wider and wider interconnectiveness, like rocks skipped on a pond.

The pride in which we hold America and the traditions of our hard fought heritage of liberty and freedom need to spill over into our Masonic culture to reinforce the Brethren with a sense of cultural-political-fraternal community.

Marching forward with an American identity, American Freemasonry can forge elements of common purpose and practice, uniting all American Masons in a cooperative effort without diminishing the authority or the hegemony of individual state Grand Lodges.

Ballot Reform

masonic ballot box

Based on Pennsylvania’s conversions from one black ball to three black balls and the comments coming in regarding the changes that might bring, I think it is time to revive an article previously written by “The Beehive.”

Masons treat balloting as something holy and sacrosanct. Any suggestion that perhaps another way of voting might be preferable is met with shock and derision. “Mess with balloting? We have always done it this way (sputter, sputter). Why that’s downright unMasonic!”

Thinking about the reason we use a little box with white balls and black cubes in a secret ballot where all members of the Lodge must vote, you have to go way back to the 1700s.

Masonry grew up with the United States growing into a nation. It became customary for each hamlet to have its own Masonic Lodge rather than one Lodge drawing from many different communities. As such the local town Lodge was in a village where everybody knew everybody else. Outside of the few big cities of that time like Boston, New York and Philadelphia, Americans lived in communities small enough in size for an individual to know every single person in that town. Therefore everybody needed to vote on a petition in Lodge because everybody knew the applicant. And everybody also knew what everybody else was doing. Private lives were not so private. If you did something you shouldn’t or acted in a manner that drew attention you can be sure that everybody else in town knew about it. Therefore it became necessary to shield those voting in Lodge from having their decision spread all over town. Rejecting an applicant could have serious repercussions especially if you were the only one to drop the black ball.

Without a secret ballot any vote could be held up to ridicule thus putting undue pressure on the voter to go along with the crowd. To make a truly independent decision away from pressure and to avoid the mess of paper and pencil the present system was devised.

And for its day that system worked very well. But today is quite different or as they used to say, “This is not your grandfather’s Chevrolet.” Today we are much more mobile than our ancestors. I live in a suburb of Dallas 20 miles outside the core city. The population of my town was 28,000 in 2004 when I moved here. It is today over 50,000. Two hundred years ago in this population I would be living in one of the largest cities in the United States. The Dallas/Ft. Worth population today is 6.1 million.

I know about 15 people in my town and I would dare say everybody else is in a similar situation as I am. Casting a mandatory vote on somebody I have never heard of is not only silly it is downright dangerous. Yes we all rely on the Investigating Committee to do their job and inform us, but that committee in many jurisdictions is not a standing committee but one appointed as the need arises. Those who serve on the Investigating committee are far from professional investigators and the job they do is often very amateurish. If the investigation is superficial and only the sponsor knows the applicant then we often times are at the mercy of he who recommended the applicant.

And thus has risen abuses in this system.

First we are blackballing men who should be Masons. But because they are the wrong skin color, speak with a foreign accent, are not Christian or happen to be a person we have had a run in with, well then a little black cube takes care of that! After all we must remember that Masonry in the USA is a W.A.S.P. society. Since he who rejects does not have to answer to anybody then he can black ball for no good reason and there is no way to stop him. One Mason in a Lodge can and has black balled good and worthy applicants over and over again, voting his prejudices, and the system has no way to prohibit this abuse.

Conversely we are admitting men who should have been blackballed. Because nobody knows the applicant besides his sponsor and the investigation is far from thorough many a man slides in that should have been kept out. I am sure many of you who are reading this have served on an Investigating committee. Let me then ask you, the reader, if you have ever asked an applicant if he should become a member and he would be voting on a petition would he hesitate to vote for acceptance of a black man? I’ll bet that one in a hundred would ask a question like that. That’s because we don’t screen personal beliefs, outside of a belief in Deity, just actions.

If we are relying so heavily on our Investigating Committee to properly inform us, the vast majority knowing nothing whatsoever about the applicant, why don’t we make the Investigating Committee the decision maker? We have a three member committee, majority rules. All that would be needed for acceptance or rejection then would be a minimum of two votes. No balloting, no white balls, no black cubes, just a vote of three members who have done a good investigation. The Investigation Committee then would decide who is accepted and who is rejected.

Before investing them with this power we would have to do few things. First let’s make them a standing committee each member serving three years. And let’s make the first committee consist of a one year term, a two year term and a three year term. Thereafter every election or appointment would be for a three year term. This way one of the three comes up for replacement every year.

Second let’s send any Investigating Committee members to school to learn how to do an investigation the right way. This could be a course offered by an outside agency or school or Grand Lodge. Perhaps part of the investigation process now might be an FBI check and a credit check.

Lastly let’s invest each member with the inability to say anything about their investigation or the person they are looking into. This would be just like the silence of the lawyer/client relationship or the Priest in the Confessional. So it’s still a secret ballot, but now a secret among three. Not even the Worshipful Master should know what went on in the decision making process.

Now any member of the Lodge who has reason to reject an applicant can present whatever evidence they have to the Investigating Committee. But what has to happen here that heretofore has not is that the objecting Brother has to have a good reason. No longer will a man be able to be kept out of Masonry for no good reason like prejudice. Conversely those that should not be accepted have a far better chance of being caught with a permanent, professional Investigating Committee performing an in depth investigation.

What we will have succeeded in doing then is to remove this process from amateurs, from guess work and from a method of total permissiveness void of enforceable voting guidelines. That ensures better protection of the Lodge and an increase in fairness.

Does Pennsylvania Have A Clue?

pennsylvania freemasonry, pennsylvania freemasonry grand lodgeIt seems that the sweeping changes that MW Thomas Sturgeon made to Freemasonry in Pennsylvania upon assuming the Grand East will be one of the top Masonic stories of 2010 not only for its swift boldness but even more so for its far reaching modifications.  As such you can expect more than a few articles to be written about what Sturgeon has done and a multitude of comments to follow.

The goal of modernization and some of the steps taken is what Frank Haas did for West Virginia. It is my fervent hope that the succeeding Pennsylvania Grand Masters do not reverse all the changes Sturgeon has made or worse yet expel him for what he has done.  Already we have the lines of battle drawn with a group of “traditionalists” rallying to reverse the reforms.  It looks to me as if these changes were mandated by edict rather than submitted to a vote of the entire Grand Lodge membership. To pounce on Pennsylvania Freemasons with so many changes without allowing any input can be both a dangerous card to play and too much for the membership to digest in such a short period.

grand lodge of Pennsylvania sealOver and above that most parties involved are not talking about the most important aspect of these changes, namely that which has been omitted. Rather the entire debate is focused on approval or disapproval of Sturgeon’s 3Ms – Modernizing, Marketing and Membership.   What Sturgeon and the rest of y’all have left out (HatRock excepted) is the need to have a membership committed to the principles of Freemasonry as a way of life, to be well grounded in the belief system of Freemasonry and to accept that as the foremost reason to be a Mason. Mainstream Masonry just hasn’t learned yet that when you spend all your money, time and effort in marketing a product rather than on the product itself, then you end up marketing an inferior product. Short term the marketing works.  But when dissatisfaction with the product sets in users and believers start to disappear.  This holds true for any product.  And that is why we have a retention problem.  The performance of Freemasonry doesn’t match its hype and what follows is apathy and disinterest.

The viability of Freemasonry has to rest on something solid, something that inspires and fires up the heart and soul, something that holds for the individual the very meaning and essence of life.  Without that then the practice of Freemasonry becomes superficial and shallow.

An illustration of how important this is to most any organization can be illustrated by the plight of the Protestant Church.  Those Protestant Churches labeled Mainline, such as Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. have seen their membership plummet in direct proportion to their de-emphasizing doctrine and personal salvation, rather concentrating on social, community and political ends.  Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, AME, Evangelicals, Black Baptists and a number of nondenominational communities who hold Bible Study, Prayer groups, mentoring and in depth and far reaching education from day one are strong congregations and are growing by leaps and bounds.

These more conservative and traditional Protestants are doctrine driven. Freemasonry should be doctrine driven, doctrine driven first.  And then from that will flow the social, the community outreach and the fraternalism of fellowship.  Belief must propel practice.

This way of looking at Freemasonry is often misunderstood. Such thinkers are not calling for some education in the Craft, they are calling for a focus of knowledge commitment.

I have sat in many a Mainstream Grand Lodge Session and watched the donations and money pour in.  Yet Grand Lodge cannot place the outflow in its proper place with the proper priorities.  Freemasonry is a bonding society.  But the bonding needs to come from a sharing of the joy that emanates from an understanding of how Freemasonry changes the heart and inspires the nobleness in life. And that comes when the belief system of Freemasonry is ingrained in every Mason’s heart and soul.

To these ends Lodges and Grand Lodges should be financing and leading Masonic

  • Seminars
  • Libraries at the District and local level
  • Computers in every Lodge with a Grand Lodge connecting Server
  • A statewide Masonic Speakers Bureau
  • A Grand Lodge movie
  • A Grand Lodge radio program
  • Lodge of Research
  • The use of high tech equipment to produce videos and Power Point presentations
  • Esoteric study groups

Lest any have forgotten this is The Information Age. Invest in Freemasonry to make it a superior product rather than an inferior one.  Then watch it grow.  It will sell itself.

emblem of industry

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, is the title of a 60’s Broadway play.

It is the sort of punch line that has been repeated since day one when something unexpected crosses your path, something ironic.

Well I can’t say that that has ever happened to me until today.  I was reading in the NY Times article about the New Grand Master of Pennsylvania:

IN the final days of a year dominated by repeated — and mostly unheeded — calls for full disclosure on the part of Wall Street banks, pharmaceutical companies, the N.F.L. and any number of other organizations, transparency arrived out of the blue from an unlikely quarter if ever there was one: the Freemasons.

Thanks go not to Dan Brown, whose latest novel, The Lost Symbol, focuses on the notoriously mysterious fraternal order, but to Tom Sturgeon, a career law-enforcement officer, who was installed as Right Worshipful Grand Master for Pennsylvania on Dec. 28. His ceremony, in a break with centuries-old Masonic tradition, was held at a convention center here and open to the public. “We need to make Freemasonry more contemporary,” Mr. Sturgeon told me, “to make it reflect 2010, not 1910 — or 1810.”

“Brethren, ladies and friends,” Mr. Sturgeon greeted the audience for his installation. “The 21st-century Masonic Renaissance starts today!”

The Not-So-Secrets Of The Templeby Holly Brubach, New York Times

Well that sure beats West Virginia I thought. Now maybe, just maybe, that’s something  I could go along with, depending on whether he is  modernizing or whether he is just turning his Grand Lodge into a Service Club.  So I read on about some of the changes Grand Master Sturgeon had sprung on everybody in a flash.

I sure hope that when he steps down from the Grand East that the next Grand Master doesn’t “Haas” him. He sure has pissed off a lot of Brethren.

It was then that I decided to do an internet search and see what the poop was around and about.  Who knows a dozen others could have written many bon mots on the subject already.

That’s when a funny thing happened to me on the way to the……….

The first hit on my browser WAS MYSELF!  Now I am not a vain person.  I don’t go around searching for myself, so to have ME pop up first on a search was……..well, kind of a shock.  The hit was an essay I had written which was on Phoenixmasonry.

But what was even more interesting was the same story 7 more hits down the line but this time coming from A Partir Pedra, reprinted off The Beehive with comments before The Beehive joined Freemason Information.  I do not remember A Partir Pedra asking me about publishing that story.  Then again I have a lousy memory and I do not copyright my work.

Considering the relevancy of the topic I am going to republish the full story once again for the first time here.  Perhaps additional comments will come in.

The Castration of Freemasonry – An American Point of View
by Wor. Frederic L. Milliken

For the past several decades, Freemasons worldwide have been preoccupied about the decline in membership. All sorts of reasons have been advanced for this decline and many different solutions have been tried to stop it, but to no avail.  The line on the graph of Masonic membership continues its steady downward trend.

Lost in the turmoil of argument of reasons and solutions has been the realization that Freemasonry has developed a schism and that breaking apart is in reality about who has the best way to rebuild The Craft.  It’s almost as if the Antients and the Moderns were back at it again, but this time it is not over ritual but practice.

Today’s Antients assert that Freemasonry is a personal journey of moral improvement that prepares a man to re-enter society as an individual providing to the outside world an example or role model of one who has taken the high road in life.

Speaking for Today’s Antients is Provincial Grand Master Lord Northamton, UGLE, who tells us that Freemasonry has no role in society. Speaking for the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland he states, Freemasonry has no role outside Freemasonry and that the only influence it should be seeking is over itself and its members.” He goes on to say thatFreemasonry is simply a matter of self improvement through self discovery and education with The Craft pointing the way and that a man who brings the lessons and virtues of Freemasonry into his heart would then be expected to be an arm of improvement for society as an individual operating as such outside the Craft. But never should Freemasonry as a fraternity take any position on any public issue, he asserts. “Freemasonry is not, and should never be allowed to develop into being, a lobby group – no matter how universal and noble the cause.”(1)

Today’s “Moderns”, strongest in the U.S.A., promulgate the practice of “community Freemasonry” whereby Freemasonry as a unit has undertaken a vow of charity for all mankind and then enters society as a collective force to uplift the less fortunate.

This view is aptly put forward by MSANA’s Executive Secretary, Richard Fletcher, who acknowledges the Crafts roots in the Enlightenment but then “modernizes” that heritage into community action and involvement, code words for Institutionalized Charity. He tells us, “In my judgment there is nothing Freemasons could do that would be more important than undertaking the role of unity builder by being seen in our communities, by doing community outreach, and showing by example what it means to be part of a family, not only our own family, but the family of our state, the family of our nation.  Without fully realizing it Masons used to do these things.  But like the rest of the country our ‘sense of purpose’ had eroded.”(2)

Another Masonic commentator, Tony Fels, reaffirms this position on increasing Masonic membership when he says, “There seems to be much talk within the Masonic order about what it might take to spark a revival of interest, especially among younger people, in the principles and practice of fraternalism. Certainly the ongoing tendency among many Grand Lodges and local lodges to become more visible in their local communities through sponsoring scholarship funds, clean-up campaigns, and other benevolent activities will help bring the Masonic brotherhood to the attention of people who may wish to join in the fellowship of the lodge.” (3)

Absent from this tug of war over Freemason’s hearts is the fact that Freemasonry consists of two distinct divisions of actualization and that both are equally valid and both are absolutely necessary for the Complete Mason.  Simply stated these two parts of the whole are:

1)     That private and personal journey whereby a Mason reads and studies on his own and then applies the virtues and lessons of the Craft into his daily life, building that Temple within.

2)     That gathering into Masonic community whereby Masons initiate new members, exemplify rituals and customs, cement the bonds of fraternalism through Masonic fellowship and interact with the greater community at large.

Freemasonry is then  both public and private, singular or group, open or closed. It is not fair to say that the Craft is exclusively one or the other.  It is a mixture of practice much as a person’s church is.  One may read his Holy Book privately away from church and then apply the lessons of his religion to everybody he meets and he may privately offer his adorations to deity in the solitude of his aloneness.  Or one may go to church and pray and worship in the community of believers.  And one may participate in a church supper, Bible study or mission work with others, even going forth into the streets and avenues of the public at large. To say that one’s church is only about changing the heart of each individual member and does not involve the reception of spirit or transformation in group interaction is as wrong as to say the same thing about Freemasonry.

Yet we are not here to take sides and declare a winner, rather to declare that neither Today’s Antients nor Today’s Moderns have the answer, both are wrong.

The Antients have totally misinterpreted the prohibition of the Lodge involvement in politics. Politics and religion can be discussed in Lodge and Freemasonry as a fraternity can engage in politics and religion publically. It is only partisan politics and sectarian religion that are banned.  That it is to say it is not the general but the specific application that leads to proselytization and the problem. This misinterpretation has caused the Antients to practice only half of Freemasonry.  The half they do practice is entirely correct but half a loaf is not the whole thing, it’s like trying to walk with only one leg. Freemasonry is not designed to be practiced like Monastic Christianity with no concern or relationship with the outer world.  We as Freemasons are not Monks of the Craft.

Yet the Moderns, mainly Americans, fare no better in this analysis because not only have they so downplayed the importance of instruction, education and private research and study in Freemasonry as for it to be virtually nonexistent but they have then taken the public charge as to be one that places Freemasonry’s primary role as savior of the world’s poor and less fortunate. The societal mission has been corrupted by Grand Lodges who have turned American Freemasonry into a Service Club in the name of “Masonic Awareness” whereby Masons spend all their time, money and talent on Institutional Charity whose primary purpose is Masonic publicity and the marketing of Freemasonry.  This is not caring for society or an attempt to support society’s leaders in their quest for a better nation.  Rather it is an attempt to buy or bribe friends.  And in so doing Freemasonry, which touts itself as a noble and virtuous society, comes across as being hypocritical. It certainly isn’t a path Dale Carnegie would have chosen. Today’s Antients would say that the virtues and lessons of Freemasonry teach an individual Brother to be charitable but they do not teach a Lodge how to be the same.

To look at the traditional true path of Freemasonry regarding its role in society one only has to look at its practice shortly after its formal  chartering in 1717 and the high preponderance of society’s most prominent leaders who were Freemasons.  For you see there was a time when American Freemasonry counted within its ranks professional, intellectual and government leaders as well as owners and managers of businesses.  Prominent men, the makers and shakers of society, were Freemasons. It must be remembered that Freemasonry was a product of the Enlightenment and the early practice of the Craft involved directly influencing society.  Freemasons then had no qualms about advocating and working for democracy, separation of church and state, religious freedom and public school education for everybody.  Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, George Washington, and a host of others, were intimately involved in the American Revolution and thus the remaking of the society of their day. The leaders of society joined Freemasonry because Freemasonry was involved in working for the betterment of society. Was that politics and religion or was it merely an expression and implementation of those inalienable rights given to all mankind by their Creator?

Today under a strict misinterpretation of the politics and religion ban, American Freemasonry does not have anything to do with the workings of society nor will it even comment on any of the freedom and rights violations made by different nations around the world or advocated by various groups here and abroad. This has made the practice of Freemasonry so bland that it has discouraged society’s leaders from becoming members.  If American Freemasonry chooses not to be concerned with society why should society be concerned with Freemasonry?  If Freemasonry supported society’s leaders in making a freer, better America then those leaders would once again be part of Freemasonry.

RW Brother A Goncalves of the Grand Lodge of Portugal states this case quite clearly. “We regular masons don’t live in caverns or ghettos, out of society. We live within society; we are an intimate part of it. We have special responsibilities that we assume as privileges, because they are moral and ethical obligations”. Masonry is not and cannot be passive,” he says. He goes on to assert that the problems of the individual and the problems of society meet in the commonality of freedom. Freemasonry is forever linked to The Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Charter of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, UNICEF and many more. He talks about The Grand Master of Chile, addressing a United States Masonic audience, emphasizing that Freemasonry is not a spokesman for any political party nor should there be any political proseltization in Lodge, yet “Grand Lodges should share some common concepts like: opposition to any tyranny that denies or restricts, in any way, human equality and individual freedom to a complete performance of democratic rights; a clear support to the right of expression and to a fair existence; the respect to the sovereignty of nations; recognition of democracy as system of government and individual aspiration to cultural improvement of any society. Democracy and masonry are substantial and active systems of social progress of Peoples, because both act as source of liberty of speech and conscience and as ferme4nt to interior and external peace».”(4)

The path to Masonic Renewal and Growth leads through a reconnection with society through a constant affirmation of its most humanitarian goals. There are four main areas that I would like to point out where Freemasonry can return a sense of purpose in its role with society.


As a world leader in toleration and acceptance of many different cultures and peoples this is an area where American Mainstream Masonry needs to get its entire house in order.  There is no room in a fraternity that espouses equality among all men, for race, religious, cultural or economic discrimination to exist.  Nor is there any room in American society for it either. Prince Hall Masonry has for years been a big supporter of the Civil Rights movement.  They have the same prohibition in their Lodges against partisan politics and sectarian religion as Mainstream Masonry does.  Yet they see no violation of that tradition by working for the same equal treatment of all men. Championing fully, anti discrimination principles will go a long way in convincing leaders of society that Freemasonry is sincere in its support.


American Masons have long been the champions of liberty. It is no coincidence that the phrase “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity” was penned.  And advocating the pursuit of happiness unfettered by abridgements to God given freedoms is never unmasonic.  American Masons fought to free us from British rule and then played an important role in the framing of the structure and the government of the longest running free society in the history of the world.

“To avoid politics did not mean to deny the civic.  The enjoyment of social harmony by the Lodge members relied upon peace and freedom as guaranteed by the civil authorities. Each Lodge was intended as a microcosm of the ideal society.’ A Mason is a peaceable subject to those Civil Powers that guarantee the expression of fundamental freedom,’ says Giuliano Bernardo. Without Liberty, Freemasonry cannot exist.”(5)

Freemasonry was not allowed to exist under Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other despots. All tyrants have recognized that the principles of Freemasonry undermine their rule of total control. That being so, it would not be inappropriate for Freemasonry to let the world know that it is actively supporting the freedoms of all peoples. And in cases of extreme suppression and ruthlessness Freemasonry is as obligated to speak out and work for Liberty as it did during the Enlightenment for the democratization of government.


Imprisonment without cause, torture, denial of due process, enslavement, ethnic cleansing, prohibition of free speech, refusing freedom of religion and freedom of association and terrorism are just a few of the violations of human rights that can be mentioned, all of which run counter to Freemasonry’s belief in the worth of the individual, thus totally incompatible with Freemasonry. So why not say so?  There is nothing politically partisan about basic human rights and the dignity of man.

Renowned historian and Masonic chronicler Dr. Margaret Jacob, recently considered a question as to what she thought would be the cause Freemasonry should champion to restore a sense of purpose to the Craft and regain its role in society.(6)  She was very reluctant to answer as she said she was not a Mason but when pressed she said her choice would be Human Rights.


Freemasonry seeks to unite diverse people not divide them.  It abhors coercion and the use of force except in self-defense.  It does not advocate one political cause over another, one religion over another nor one race over another. Every Lodge room is an oasis of peace where peace and harmony flows. When you enter a Lodge room you leave all your differences outside the door. Freemasonry is the only organization in the world that brings together in peace and harmony men of different cultures, creeds, races, religions, economic circumstances and political persuasions. It is the biggest hope for peace the world has.

This is a favorite subject of Paul Bessel who regards Freemasonry’s role in society to be one that is a vocal proponent of the inalienable rights of man endowed by his Creator.

“This idea of Masonry’s role being to uplift society, and support democracy and freedom, is not such a radical concept. In the early 1900s it appears to have been a dominant concept in American Freemasonry. Mainstream Masonic writers spoke about Freemasonry working for the good of society, bringing men of all races, religions, and backgrounds together and promoting world peace.” (7)

Bessel reminds us that Roscoe Pound was adamant in his belief that Freemasonry must promote the universality of mankind and that H.L. Haywood regarded the important byproducts of Freemasonry to be equality, liberty and democracy. And then Bessel delivers his ringing rally cry of allowing Freemasonry to be all it can be.

Freemasonry could be, and could have been in the past, the only institution in the world that at all times in every way promotes tolerance and meeting on the level. We could be the leaders in seeking racial harmony, religious ecumenism, cooperation among men and women, civility between people who believe in different political philosophies, and friendliness among those who choose to live their lives differently from others. We could be better than the United Nations, Amnesty International, and interfaith organizations, all together, because we could be the prime organization supporting tolerance for all, everywhere, in all circumstances. This would be a unique role for Freemasonry.” (7)

By actively working for and speaking out for the elimination of discrimination, for liberty and freedom for all, for human rights and for world peace, Freemasonry can regain the respect and the involvement of the leaders of today’s society.  It can interact with society as a partner in promoting what is noble, just and right, furthering the dignity and worth of each individual rather than using society to further its own ends.  Freemasonry’s greatness will be acting as a vehicle through which society can improve itself, individually and collectively, for no man is an island and no institution exists in a vacuum. We are all traveling this journey of life together; we are all one.


(1)  Lord Northampton
MW The Pro Grand Master
The Most Hon. the Marquess of Northampton, DL
at the European Grand Master’s Meeting on 5th & 6th November 2007

(2)  Franklin, Freemasonry and the Enlightenment by Richard E. Fletcher – SHORT TALK BULLETIN, March, 2009

(3)  Is Freemasonry A Religion?  Learning From A 19th-Century Masonic Debate by Tony Fels – HEREDOM, Volume 15, 2007 – page 175

(4)  Freemasonry Role On The 21st Century by RWB A. Gonçalves, Secretary of Morning Star Lodge No 7, Grand Regular Lodge of Portugal

(5)  The Masonic Concept of Liberty, Freemasonry and the Enlightenment by W. Bro. Alex Davidson

(6)  Masonic Central Radio Podcast 3/12/09, part of the mega Masonic site Freemason Information,

(7)  Masonic Traditions In Our Past And Our Future by Paul M. Bessel, Presentation at La France Lodge #93, F.A.A.M., Washington, D.C., September 8, 2000

And I will also add a post comment that I made to the original article.  It might seem a bit out of context, because it is.  I do not feel I have the right to publish other people’s comments that came before mine.

This is a very interesting comment and brings to light some misunderstandings about how Freemasonry should act.

Freemasonry does not have all the answers. If that were so all members of the Craft would be polishing their Perfect Ashlars. Be we are not. We are all chipping away at the rough and superfluous jagged edges of our Rough Ashlars.

No human has all the truth. No human is right all the time. No human is perfect.

The second point follows the first and should be strongly emphasized to all who have a fervent belief……… anything. One can chose a path that one thinks correct without having to, in the process, castigate and bury all contending beliefs or exterminate those who believe differently.

I then as a Christian believe I have found a way to eternal happiness and a relationship with the Almighty – a way, not the way. I can live peacefully with a Hindu who has found another way. We are both going to the same place to meet the same God, we are just on different paths. All the spokes on my bicycle wheel lead to the same center hub.

As a Freemason I don’t insist that my fellow man do it my way. I allow for the fact that his way is every bit as valuable to him as my way is to me. Of course we must agree on certain basic premises , foundations, and building blocks from which we choose the path to take our journey. That’s a given. A person who does not accept the Almighty, who believes murder is OK, who puts institutions and systems ‘ worth before the worth of the individual are just plain incompatible.

But the vast majority of people that you associate with in your daily life – the profane do not have different goals in life nor different aspirations nor different values- they have different means on how to accomplish the same ends. Their culture is different – their language, their political process, their formalized religion, their dress, their customs, their heritage may all be different. That’s OK.

Freemasonry is non judgmental. It is non judgmental on different paths chosen from the same sound, wise and time tested understanding of life. That is what makes Freemasonry tolerant.

Unfortunately many who think they have found the one and only true answer or even just the best way insist that all others do it their way or they will refuse to associate with them or allow them into their societies, institutions and groups. How sad. I, like most Freemasons, do not feel threatened by a different approach. I , like most Freemason, can live peacefully with others that see things slightly differently because I don’t want to convince them that they should change theirs.

Many in Freemasonry have interpreted all this to mean that Freemasonry can, therefore, take no open stands on anything public lest it offend somebody else and that Freemasonry is not meant to push its nose into the affairs of civil society. This of course is the opposite extreme from those that demand we must make serious stances on many specific issues and what we have been arguing against above.

These two extremes of everything or nothing , if and when they are enacted, are what is causing the main lack of membership today.

Here is where I believe we should be – right in the middle, in moderation of extreme positions. Many Freemasons have characterized the ethics and morality of Freemasonry as “the religion upon which all men agree”, that is on the points that are common to all religions So what we promulgate are certain basic secular and religious truths that are accepted by the vast majority of the inhabitants of this earth either openly or privately in their hearts. Or as stated in the American Declaration of Independence that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”. And we should be, as I make the case for it in my paper, be standing up for these basic rights, these virtues, these moral and ethical standards both publicly and privately.

But lastly these are general points upon which all men agree. The specific application of each of these general points is left up to the interpretation of each Brother. For an example Freemasonry stands squarely against murder. Now that is a general moral or ethical position upon which most religions and most human beings agree upon. So where is the disagreement then? The disagreement comes into the sub categories, that is the specific application of these general principles. In the case of murder to give you an example of a specific application – is abortion murder? Well some say abortion is murder and some say it is not. Does Freemasonry have to take a stand upon abortion to the point that once it has decided which side to support anybody on the other side cannot be a Mason? If that is what the Brother commenting is advocating then I ask him to think again.

We, as Freemasons, do not take stands on specific applications of general positions and standards. We leave the specifics, like abortion, to be a private matter between that Brother and his Maker. And we do not judge, but leave that judgment up to God. But what I have been emphasizing is that does not demand that we, as a Craft, also keep our lips sealed when in the public about the general virtues upon which we stand. We can and should proclaim outloud to the entire world that liberty, justice, democracy, freedom education and others must be adhered to and that we are in the world’s presence to remind them of their responsibility to act accordingly. How to apply them and what they mean specifically is up to the citizens of each country and state to decide working through institutions other than Freemasonry such as their church and their political party. But be not deceived into thinking that Freemasonry has to publicly stand for nothing or publicly take stands on every specific issue. That will and has been its downfall.

The Spirit of Christmas Describes the Practice of a Mason

christmas104It is this time of year when I stop and take notice of a certain change in the atmosphere around me.  When I accidentally cut off a stranger on the road I do not get back the raised fist or digital sign language of contempt.  No blaring horns, no verbalizing scorn with four letter words, no cold shoulder darken my path. Instead I am greeted with a smile and best wishes by perfect strangers; women open doors for me and even dogs wag their tail at my presence.

It’s Christmas and the spirit of the holiday has taken hold of most homo sapiens.

Chris Thomas in an article titled, ORIGINS OF THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, Having A Real Spirit of Christmas Throughout The Year, quotes Thomas S. Monson:

“Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things.”

Thomas goes on to say:

“Having such a spirit doesn’t have to be something that is seen or noticed by everyone. It can be as simple as continuing with one’s work while the teacher’s not in the room or conducting oneself at work as if they were being watched, even while the boss is away.”

“Philippians chapter 2, verses 3-5 state, ‘Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.’

“Note that these verses don’t encourage one to belittle themselves but rather to recognize the worth of others as well as oneself. The spirit of Christmas truly involves being a character with integrity, one that is selfless and humble and above all, loves.”

Our Daily Bread, describes the Christmas Spirit this way:

J. I. Packer goes to the heart of this matter in his book Knowing God. He writes, “We talk glibly of the Christmas spirit, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity . . . . It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the [temperament] of Him who for our sakes became poor, . . . the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, thought, care, and concern to do good to others . . . in whatever way there seems need.”

These descriptions, this Christmas Spirit are how a Mason governs himself 365 days a year.  Oh there are a few bad apples in the pile, I guess.  But by and large a Mason is or strives to be honest, kind, giving, patient, understanding, tolerant, patriotic, gentle, forgiving and charitable.  These are attributes which puts a Mason in a year round Christmas Spirit.

I am often asked what effect does becoming a Mason have on the individual. And my answer is that one becomes a new person, with a new outlook on life.  Masonry is a way of life but that way of life is not limited to a certain time of year.  That is really what it means to become a Mason.

When you enter that door for the first time you are in darkness, seeking light.  When you have found light you have started your rebirth into the world of constant learning and constant striving to polish that rough ashlar. Freemasonry is a journey not a destination but it is the process of performing a new way of life that makes a man a Mason.

Remember that spirit that followed immediately after 9/11?  We were all one, united in one purpose, one spirit, one common bond.

From my home state of Massachusetts, The Gloucester Daily Times put it this way:

“There was a true spirit of camaraderie, a sense that we were all in this together, all on the same side, from our own neighborhoods, throughout our local communities, and across the country”

But then the newspaper goes on to lament:

“Sadly, that spirit has long since been lost over the last seven years; in fact, it was lost within a few months after the attacks. Unfortunately, we now seem as divided — politically, economically and ideologically — as we have even been. And that’s not only on the national level.”

Outside the Craft, the spirit is short lived.  It is there after some national traumatic event; it is there at Christmas time but it soon fades and soon we are back to a dog eat dog world.  Not so with a Mason. His world is Christmas time year round.

So let us salute the peace, harmony and tolerance that Masons throughout the world contribute to their world and everybody else’s world.


Message To The Un-Lodged Mason – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby

Online Internet Freemasonry tends to be educational, philosophical , reform minded and at times argumentative. Those of us involved in Internet Freemasonry tend to spend more time exploring the fine points of the philosophical side of the Craft, a side we never get from our Lodge, than actually attending our Communications.

This has led to the rise of the un-Lodged Mason. He is a cousin to the un-churched Christian, the un-templed Jew and the un-mosqued Muslim, who belong to that cadre of believers who wish to worship outside of sectarian organized religion, not as a member of a worshipping community but alone.  Thus I hear from some of my Christian friends, “Well you don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian.” Translated into Masonicese you have, “Well you don’t have to go to Lodge to be a good Mason,” which may all be well and true but if one operated in that manner one would be missing something.

Those of who are Masonic writers have to acutely aware of this dichotomy, for if we are not careful we will treat our beloved Fraternity as a concept, a study, a discipline only, and only is the key word here.  Lest anyone think I am a snob here, I am absolutely convinced that Masonic research and study is a necessity for the complete Mason.  I am greatly in favor of esoteric Masonic study groups.  It is difficult to be a Christian without ever having read the Bible nor having any knowledge of what Jesus said and did.  It is equally difficult to be a Mason without appropriate study of the Craft. But it can’t end there.

There has to also be the human touch.  The whole benefit of community is to be able to interact with living, breathing human beings.  When I attend church I experience what community can do in the magnification of the power of the Holy Spirit in group action.  I am also never able to inspire myself as much as a good preacher or a good Masonic ritualist can.  This concept of community is something Scott Peck put into words:

“If we are going to use the word meaningfully we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to “rejoice together, mourn together,” and to “delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own.” Like electricity, it is profoundly lawful. Yet there remains something about it that is inherently mysterious, miraculous, unfathomable. Thus there is no adequate one-sentence definition of genuine community. Community is something more than the sum of its parts, its individual members. What is this “something more?” Even to begin to answer that, we enter a realm that is not so much abstract as almost mystical. It is a realm where words are never fully suitable and language itself falls short. The analogy of a gem comes to mind. The seeds of community reside in humanity – a social species – just as a gem originally resides in the earth. But it is not yet a gem, only a potential one. So it is that geologists refer to a gem in the rough simply as a stone. A group becomes a community in somewhat the same way that a stone becomes a gem – through a process of cutting and polishing. Once cut and polished, it is something beautiful. But to describe its beauty, the best we can do is to describe its facets. Community, like a gem, is multifaceted, each facet a mere aspect of a whole that defies description.”

If Scott Peck were a Mason perhaps he would have used the lesson of the rough ashlar and the perfect ashlar.

So what we can say about Freemasonry is that it is not only a study, a philosophy but an interaction of community gathered together to practice, teach the virtues of the Craft in a mode of human interaction whereby those in the community seek to inspire and bolster each other. And the larger the community and the more interaction that takes place the greater the pride and enthusiasm that is generated.  Note that we certainly are not speaking here about a business meeting.  But the two main aspects of Freemasonry can feed on each other.  Study and research encourages community Masonic participation and community Masonic participation encourages study and research.

I was reminded of the importance of the human touch when I traveled to meet fellow Masonic Information writer Terence Satchell (who may or may not agree with these views). Actually we both drove about half way to each other and met in the middle.  Although Terence and I have  sent numerous E-Mails back and forth to each other and chatted online, we never had met face to face. That meeting in person was so much more valuable and more heartwarming and personal than electronic communication that it led me to write this message. We explored each other as a person with the ability to feel the emotion and the nuance of each others communication.  A bond was forged that was impossible to create in any other manner.

And that is the message for today.

Virtual Freemasonry is very nice but it is no match for the real thing.  Virtual camaraderie is not the real thing either.  It lacks the substance and the ability to reach to the very core of being, the human soul.  There is no substitute for the real thing.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing

I got your picture hangin’ on the wall
It can’t see or come to me when I call your name
I realize it’s just a picture in a frame

I read your letters when you’re not near
But they don’t move me
And they don’t groove me like when I hear
Your sweet voice whispering in my ear

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing

I play the game, a fantasy
I pretend I’m not in reality
I need the shelter of your arms to comfort me

No other sound is quite the same as your name
No touch can do half as much to make me feel better
So let’s stay together

I got some memories to look back on
And though they help me when you phone
I’m well aware nothing can take the place of being there

So let me get the real thing
So let me get the real thing
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing

Prince Hall Texas Winter 2009 Grand Lodge Session

The room is quiet in anticipation.

The Senior Deacon goes to the door, “Let them enter.

Spontaneously 53 Fellowcrafts break into song,

Send it on down

Send it on down

Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down

Heavenly Father hear our call

And let your Holy Spirit fall

Send it on down

Send it on down

Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down

You are Holy

Oh so Holy

Send it on down

Send it on down

Lord let The Holy Ghost come on down.

…as they march in and perambulate around the Lodge room

The ceremony of the 3rd degree had begun.  It was Friday night at Grand Lodge Session and the business of the hour was a mass raising at Grand Lodge.

If you are a Mason and you haven’t seen this done before you have missed a sight to behold. There is electricity in the air as the questions are asked in the First Section and 53 answers returned whose volume of response rattle the Square & Compasses on the altar. And when all is done in this first part of the degree, 53 voices ring out with “Come Along and Get on Board and Ride This Train” as they march around the Lodge and then back out.

And if you haven’t seen 53 Brothers all supine at the same time spread across the Grand Lodge Room, you haven’t felt the power of spiritual community.  Then your heart knows that you are in a place of oneness, of unity, of peace, harmony and accord.

That was the main course and if that’s all there was we would have concluded the evening well satiated.  But desert was on the menu and a scrumptious one at that.  Prince Hall in colonial dress capped off the ceremony with a charge he first gave in 1797 to the African Lodge in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Beloved Brethren of the African Lodge:

“It is now five years since I delivered a charge to you on some parts and points of masonry. As one branch or superstructure of the foundation, I endeavored to show you the duty of a mason to a mason, and of charity and love to all mankind, as the work and image of the great God and the Father of the human race. I shall now attempt to show you that it is our duty to sympathise with our fellow-men under their troubles, and with the families of our brethren who are gone, we hope, to the Grand Lodge above.”

“We are to have sympathy, but this, after all, is not to be confined to parties or colors, nor to towns or states, nor to a kingdom, but to the kingdoms of the whole earth, over whom Christ the King is head and grand master for all in distress.”

“Among these numerous sons and daughters of distress, let us see our friends and brethren; and first let us see them dragged from their native country, by the iron hand of tyranny and oppression, from their dear friends and connections, with weeping eyes and aching hearts, to a strange land, and among a strange people, whose tender mercies are cruel,—and there to bear the iron yoke of slavery and cruelty, till death, as a friend, shall relieve them. And must not the unhappy condition of these, our fellow-men, draw forth our hearty prayers and wishes for their deliverance from those merchants and traders, whose characters you have described in Revelation xviii. 11-13? And who knows but these same sort of traders may, in a short time, in like manner bewail the loss of the African traffic, to their shame and confusion? The day dawns now in some of the West India Islands. God can and will change their condition and their hearts, too, and let Boston and the world know that He hath no respect of persons, and that bulwark of envy, pride, scorn and contempt, which is so visible in some, shall fall.”

“Now, my brethren, nothing is stable; all things are changeable. Let us seek those things which are sure and steadfast, and let us pray God that, while we remain here, he would give us the grace of patience, and strength to bear up under all our troubles, which, at this day, God knows, we have our share of. Patience, I say; for were we not possessed of a great measure of it, we could not bear up under the daily insults we meet with in the streets of Boston, much more on public days of recreation. How, at such times, are we shamefully abused, and that to such a degree, that we may truly be said to carry our lives in our hands, and the arrows of death are flying about our heads. “

“My brethren, let us not be cast down under these and many other abuses we at present are laboring under,—for the darkest hour is just before the break of day. My brethren, let us remember what a dark day it was with our African brethren, six years ago, in the French West Indies. Nothing but the snap of the whip was heard, from morning to evening. Hanging, breaking on the wheel, burning, and all manner of tortures, were inflicted on those unhappy people. But, blessed be God, the scene is changed. They now confess that God hath no respect of persons, and therefore, receive them as their friends, and treat them as brothers. Thus doth Ethiopia stretch forth her hand from slavery, to freedom and equality. “

I was very proud that my Lodge, Pride of Mt. Pisgah #`135 had three new Master Masons raised at this Grand Lodge Sessions, three Brothers we all in the Lodge had worked hard with and who had in turn applied themselves assiduously.

But we weren’t done yet.  That was only day one of Winter Session which is half as long as the four day Summer Session.  Saturday morning’s Grand Session reconvened and the Grand Master was escorted in and received in proper fashion. The Grand Lodge conducted its business and heard reports from many of its committees.  Almost all of that is private information that cannot be shared.  But I can tell you that Prince Hall Texas voted favorably on mutual recognition with Mainstream California and Mainstream Connecticut.

After the business of the Grand Lodge was completed we broke into workshops and presentations.  I viewed four interesting informational presentations.  One was on Real Estate and mortgages.  The second was a demonstration of a Masonic burial service.  The third a presentation of a new data base system being developed for Grand Lodge whereby we would be operating our own servers.

The fourth workshop was given by a member of my Lodge.  PM Kazar LaGrone gave us a lecture and Power Point slide show on the Masonic Library of Iowa

After lunch we had a presentation by the Deputy Grand Master Michael T. Anderson on Masonic catechism. He tuned us all up.

We topped off the day with two stirring presentations.  The first was given by the Grand Chaplain.  His theme was  The whole is greater than the sum total of its parts. He told us that the key word was SYNERGY, working together to achieve a greater good.  The problem is, he said, that we have steam shovel ability but we are doing teaspoon work. He left us with the thought that we can achieve much when we don’t care who gets the credit.

The second and final address to the Grand Lodge was by the Grand Historian who led us in a journey, bringing us down from Boston, Providence and Philadelphia into Kansas and from Kansas into Texas where Prince Hall Texas was born. Lodges were chartered by Captain W.D. Mathews, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Kansas and after the Civil War Norris Wright Cuney, who had been mentored by Mathews, was elected the first Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas when it was formed in Brenham, Texas. Cuney was a noted community leader and Republican politician in the Galveston area and our Grand Historian also intertwined the political and economic conditions into the journey noting the contributions of Black Freemasons in freeing the bonds of slavery, addressing the needs of Reconstruction and paving the wave for a new vision of a day when we all work together with the very same tools.  When he finished we all felt as if  we had been on that 40 year trek.  There was really nothing left to be said and to thunderous applause and the love of his Brothers, the Grand Historian retired upon which the Grand Lodge promptly closed.

Afterward many of us gathered in the lobby to take pictures of the massive collection of toys for Christmas children and the members of the Prince Hall family who were responsible for this heartwarming program.

Another year has gone by in Freemasonry, one of great inspiration and the development of good men and the introduction of many new ones.   The job is never completed.  We enter the 2010 year again spreading light, one man at a time.