Registration is now open for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium
Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism
April 11, 2014
From the Library:
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library announces its symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, to be held Friday, April 11, 2014.
This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.
The symposium program is as follows:
“’The Farmer Feeds Us All’: The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem,” Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar
“Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting,” Margaret Goehring, Assistant Professor of Art History, New Mexico State University
“The Colored Knights of Pythias,” Stephen Hill, Sr., Phylaxis Society
“Mid-Nineteenth Century Masonic Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women,” Kristen M. Jeschke, Adjunct Professor, DeVry University
“Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West,” Adam Geoffrey Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of California
“Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War,“ Jeffrey Tyssens, Professor of Contemporary History, Vrije Universiteit Brussels
Participants’ choice of a staff-led tour of “A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collections or a tour of highlights from the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.
Registration, open now through March 21, 2014, is $65 ($60 for Museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch, and a closing reception. The registration form with full instructions and details can be found on the Museum’s website at www.monh.org.
For more information, contact Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development, at email@example.com or 781-457-4121.
The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is dedicated to presenting exhibitions and programs on a wide variety of topics in American history and popular culture. The Museum is supported by the Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. The Museum is located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington at the corner of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free. For further information contact the Museum at 781-861-6559.
Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada publishes a Masonic newsletter that he sends out to subscribers every Sunday. The newsletter consists of a paper or lecture often times delivered or published many years ago. But as we all know there is a lot about Freemasonry that is timeless. If you would like to receive this newsletter just get in contact with Brother Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will make you a subscriber. Today’s paper is “He Was A Mason.”
He Was a Mason
by Roger M. Firestone, 32 KCCH
This article appeared in the June 1996 issue of The Scottish Rite Journal, published by The Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
It happens nearly every day in the major newspapers of our cities. A prominent citizen’s obituary appears with a substantial headline. The writer begins with the most recent details age, cause of death, current residence. There follow several paragraphs recounting the eminent man’s life. He was president of his country club, he headed this or that charity drive, he was an executive of these corporations, he attended such and such a college and high school, he was on the board of trustees of his religious congregation, and so on, often for a substantial number of column inches. Finally, towards the end of the obituary, just before the funeral arrangements are specified and the survivors listed, we find the brief sentence, “He was a Mason.”
Curious, isn’t it? Although the remaining details of his career were copiously enumerated, his Masonic activities are summarized in one sentence. Perhaps he was Master of his Lodge, serving “in line” for as long as eight years to reach that station. It could be that he gave his time instead as presiding officer in one of the several York or Scottish Rite bodies. Maybe he took a number of parts in the many degrees of the two Rites. Or perhaps he was one of those who had less skill in memorization but took other responsibilities: for costumes or dining services or Masonic blood programs, even receiving an honorary distinction from the Scottish Rite for many years of such faithful “behind-the-scenes” service. Possibly he was active with one or more youth groups under Masonic sponsorship, giving up his football game-watching on weekends with the other guys to raise funds at car washes or driving cars full of teenagers to annual meetings in distant parts of the state. He might have been a superior fund-raiser for the Shriners’ children’s hospitals, or even represented the Lodge in local civic activities, such as parades for patriotic holidays. Yet none of these is mentioned by the newspaper writer, who was given as much space as seemed necessary to outline other aspects of the career of a distinguished man.
Of course, we might suppose that it is the editor’s decision that Masonic activities are not of interest to the general public, being that they are the doings of a secretive and selective body. It is not obvious how that position might be reconciled with mention of the man’s country-club presidency, which is probably pleased to have an exclusive membership, or his church activities, relevant only to members of the same denomination, or even his rise to prominence in a business corporation, whose internal doings are often cloaked in secrecy as deep as that of any Masonic body. When Masons constitute more than one percent of the adult male population, and almost certainly a larger percentage of those who actually read something besides the sports pages in the newspaper, the reasoning behind such an editor’s position may be strained.
It is more likely that lack of knowledge about the role that Masonry plays in our society contributes to the brief treatment Masonic activities received in the obituary. Other than the Shriners’ Hospitals, few Masonic charities receive any kind of regular mention in the press. And even those Hospitals are still thought of by much of the public as being for crippled children, often overlooking their more recent important role in the treatment of and research into serious burn injuries. Scottish Rite aphasia work, Royal Arch Research Assistance, Masonic cancer hospitals–all find the most infrequent acknowledgement of their contributions to society. The same is true of Masonic service projects, even on a local scale. Did Masons help organize the local Independence Day celebration or aid in cleaning up some poorly-maintained parkland in your town? How would anyone know, if you don’t tell them? When writing a monthly Lodge bulletin is a burden, there is even less likelihood that a newspaper press release is going to be prepared by the secretary, junior warden, or whomever. Perhaps the obituary writer never even had the information about the man’s Masonic career because his family didn’t know it was important, or his Lodge failed to provide the details.
We should not be surprised that a man’s Masonic career is little noted in the memorial of his passing. This is nothing new in Masonic history, after all. According to our traditions, it was at the very founding of our order that a great Masonic architect was rudely interred without proper recognition of his contributions to the Fraternity. In later history, it was often to be that Masons would suffer punishment or even martyrdom for their membership in and contributions to the Craft and to the principles of freedom. Against such a background, mere indifference could even be considered to be an improvement. Yet how much better off might our world be if the contributions of Masons and Masonry were more widely recognized and encouraged? How many more young men might be set on the course of self-improvement through Masonic membership if the examples of great men as Masons were better known? For the past two centuries of American history, a nearly-constant one-third of the leaders of our country, beginning with the signers of the Declaration of Independence and including all three branches of the government, have been Masons. This is a far higher proportion than in the population as a whole. Did Masonry provide these men with the inspiration and training to achieve leadership roles in the country? Did Masonic principles guide their thinking when tough decisions had to be made? For presidents such as George Washington and Harry Truman, the answers can only be “yes.” Of others–those in Congress and the judiciary–we know much less. These are stories that must be told to the rest of the world, not just among ourselves. “He was a Mason” appearing in an obituary is too little evidence to inspire the uninitiated to seek Masonic light.
However, there is one sense in which we may take pride in the way such an obituary is written. When “He was a Mason” appears at the end of the article, it serves as what the accountants call “the bottom line,” a phrase that refers to the number indicating whether an enterprise has showed a profit or a loss. To those who measure things by numbers, everything above the bottom line is simply a detail, one element of many that go to make up the big picture as represented by the final total. Seen in this light, the many contributions the deceased man made to society are parts of a totality. They do not stand alone, independent and unrelated to one another. Each gift this man made to his family, his fellows, and his country were components of that whole summarized in the final words, “He was a Mason.”
Masonic honors and titles are of limited value anyway. They mean much among brothers and companions, somewhat less among family and friends, and little indeed to the non-Masonic world. But if each of us resolves to live according to the principles we embraced when we became members of this ancient and honorable institution, we should be pleased to reflect that there is no higher honor to come to us when our lives are complete than that they should be summed up by that simple but profound phrase, “He was a Mason.”
Many American Masons now know of the story of Brothers Corey Bryson and Duke Fortesque and their separation from the Grand Lodge of Florida. Both men were hit hard by having to leave Freemasonry.
But Bryson has gone from despair to joy in just a few short months. Sometimes when one door closes another door opens. And if you are observant and open to a new challenge then walking through that new door feels really awesome.
And that is where Bryson is now having just returned from Salt Lake City where he was adopted into Lodge Athena No. 2009 in the International Masonic Order DELPHI, mixed gender Freemasonry.
At one time in our history when the population was less mobile, Mainstream Lodges in each hamlet and village had a monopoly on the Craft. But times have changed and so has our mobility. But the biggest change has been the advent of the Information Age. As Mainstream Masonry has squashed individual initiative, the free thinkers and has expelled far too many good Masons, alternatives to traditional Masonry are now available.
Now, whether new or discarded, male or female, Christian or not, Black, White, Red or Yellow, Americans can peruse the Internet and find Co-Masonic, Mixed Gender Lodges such as the International Masonic Order DELPHI, Prince Hall Freemasonry and others to choose from. The monopoly of Mainstream Masonry is being broken and its arrogance thwarted.
Corey Bryson has found a new home and it is one he says he might have eventually gravitated to in time anyway. He points to the non judgmental nature of Delphi, how open and unfettered the Masonic experience is when it’s not set up as a closed society.
Bryson explains that there is less focus on memorization and more emphasis on the meaning of the philosophy of Freemasonry. Every newly initiated member receives a written copy of the degree and ritual for their own personal continued education. Sometime later, they must present their “impressions” of their initiation to their Brothers and Sisters in Lodge. Delphi Masons are required to think not just be a parrot.
Delphi uses Scottish Rite ritual rather than Preston-Webb. This does make for some differences that former Mainstream Masons will notice. For instance there is no cable tow nor exposed breast. The configuration of the Lodge room puts the Senior Warden’s station in the North West. The connection between South-West-East forms a triangle. Delphi also uses the Chamber of Reflection.
The overall emphasis of Delphi mixed gendered Freemasonry, Bryson tells us, is on esoteric study and knowledge. Delphi is more spiritually open, he says, and appeals much more to seekers than traditional Freemasonry. It is far less a social club and much more a place of self improvement.
Bryson will be a member of Delphi’s latest U.S. Lodge in Tampa, Florida, Phoenix Triangle (UD). There are 6 people who have already applied for membership. They also have a place to meet. Members of Delphi nationwide are now handcrafting brand new furniture for the latest Triangle.
For Corey Bryson a new day has dawned. Before concluding my interview with him I asked him if this experience had changed him in any way. He said that he was now far less cynical than he was just a year ago. My faith in humankind has been restored, he said. That means that for Corey Bryson the glass is now half full instead of being half empty.
The Beehive is proud to present once again a paper that comes from the weekly Masonic Newsletter of Brother Wayne Anderson of Canada. Anderson sends out a new article each Sunday and to get on the mailing list all one needs to do is to E-Mail him at email@example.com.
Leon Zeldis, an Israeli Freemasonry, is a towering figure in Masonic leadership and Masonic literature.
In this paper from the Inaugural Lecture pronounced on the establishment of the Dr. Ren 0 Gar0a Valenzuela Chair of Philosophical and Masonic Studies, Universidad La Repblica, Santiago, Chile, 12 September 1996 he tells us:
“As another millennium comes to an end, we observe the growing chasm between our ever accelerating technological progress and the immobility – if not backsliding – in the moral and intellectual development of the human race. We should not be surprised, then, if apocalyptic movements and fanatical cults appear here and there, with increasing frequency.”
Zeldis explains that what Freemasonry is all about, what its calling in the world is first:
“In my opinion, the first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important that charity, mutual help, tolerance, and all other virtues that we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. Masonry gives us support, shows the way, stimulates us and tends us the symbolic tools to make our task easier, but in the final account, it’s ourselves who must wield the tools, each at his own pace, following his own music and way through life. That is personal responsibility.”
And secondly he adds:
“The second principle, no less important than the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, of working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political movements. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning towards the far distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road to truth. Our ideal is capable of surmounting all inequalities.”
This is a monumental work and deserves to be read in its entirety.
Projection of the Values of Freemasonry in its Actions for the Benefit of Society
Leon Zeldis, FPS
If there is something in which the majority of contemporary thinkers are in agreement, is that we are experiencing a world crisis. As somebody said: “God is dead, communism has fallen, and I myself don’t feel so good.” From the sublime to the ridiculous in less than twenty words.
There is talk of a crisis of values, the end of ideology, the oil crisis, the ozone crisis, the AIDS crisis, the economic crisis. Sometimes it appears that the word crisis is in crisis because of overuse.
The fact is, whether a situation of crisis does exist or not, the sensation of crisis undoubtedly does, and this is almost the same thing.
It is not only anxiety due to uncertainty about the future. The malaise affecting us has deeper roots, and perhaps less conscious as well. The Angst of our time is comparable to the sensation of somebody who is sliding down a slope without being able to reduce his speed, or seeing what. lies behind the net hillock. Worse still, he doesn’t know why he is there in the first place. The “future shock” brilliantly predicted by a writer a few years ago is no longer in the future, but a daily reality. Knowledge acquired with great effort in the course of years becomes outdated in a matter of weeks. We have hardly finished learning a new computer program when another appears, better than the previous one… and different. The problems of work, in the family, in society, are becoming more severe. We are sick of novelties.
As another millennium comes to an end, we observe the growing chasm between our ever accelerating technological progress and the immobility – if not backsliding – in the moral and intellectual development of the human race. We should not be surprised, then, if apocalyptic movements and fanatical cults appear here and there, with increasing frequency.
To speak of the new Middle Ages has become hackneyed. Berdiaeff, the Russian philosopher, writing after World War 1, already gave this tide to one of his books. The death of God was proclaimed by Nietzsche over a century ago. So let us leave aside these shopworn concepts, and within the limited space we have available let us examine instead in what way we might alleviate our condition, even if perfect solutions are not within our reach.
Better light a candle than curse the darkness, says the old Chinese aphorism. This is precisely my intention. It could not be otherwise, taking into consideration the optimist and meliorist vision of the human condition implicit in our Masonic ideology.
Freemasonry proclaims the possibility of improving society, starting with the betterment of the individual. Hence the vital importance our Order assigns to education, as a means of advancement and rectification, both of the individual and of society as a whole. Education is the best medicine against prejudice and intolerance. Education is the highest form of charity.
However, education, commented Kraus, is something most people receive, many transmit, but very few have. The problem, as with so many other philosophical questions, lies in the definition of our terms. If education is conceived as simply a transfer of information, we shall fall into the condition observed by Trevelyan: a great many people know how to read, but are incapable of recognizing what is worth reading.
Condorcet, in 1790, clearly indicated the ends of public education, and the first objective he postulated is the following: “Offer all individuals of the human species the means to provide for their needs, ensure their welfare, know and exercise their rights, understand and fulfill their duties.” Please note: not a word about mere accumulation of knowledge. We could hardly improve on this definition, even today.
Nowadays, data is obtained with utmost ease. It’s enough to have access to a computer terminal, and the whole world of information is at your fingertips. If we suffer, it’s not because we lack information, but because we are overwhelmed by it. We have a surfeit of information. The importance of education is precisely the acquisition of a capacity to judge, to categorize, to personally classify and evaluate the quality of the information received, not only from the factual, but also from the ethical and teleological standpoints.
Particularly in our present world, submerged in a maelstrom of stimuli and distractions that pull us apart from the essential, where, as noted by Umberto Eco, the mass media do not restrict themselves to transmitting an ideology, but have become an ideology themselves, the spirit of serene and academic examination is a last refuge of the thinking man.
The university thus becomes the fortress of Humanism, the forum where all ideas are brandished and debated within the greatest freedom, restricted only by the freedom of others . That, likewise, is the function that must assume Masonry in its Temples, and that is only one parallel among many that link both institutions, University and Freemasonry.
This may be an opportune moment to underline the fact that Masonry, as a social and historical phenomenon, must be studied as part of the History of Ideas, and its philosophy, without question, belongs in the stream of philosophical ideas of Western civilization and is inseparable from it.
The same refreshing and humanistic impulse introduced in Europe during the Renaissance, that led to the study of the classics and brought about a rebirth of architecture, beginning with Bacon established the bases of the inductive and experimental method of scientific research that would eventually lead to the development of present day science. This creative impulse resulted in the foundation of the Royal Society of England in 1660, the first society devoted to scientific research, and on the other hand, it found expression in the creation of the premier Grand Lodge in London, on June 24, 1717. It need not surprise us to learn that many personalities in science and philosophy were active in creating the one and the other.
Putting together science and philosophy is not accidental. The roots of modern science lie in Renaissance philosophy — and Natural Philosophy was an early name for physical science.
Freemasonry is intimately connected with social changes and the development of ideas in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. No serious study of the beginnings of Speculative Masonry, for example, can ignore the role played in English society at the time by the important influx of Huguenots, fleeing France after the St. Bartholomew massacre. According to one author, the most important single English contributor to the Enlightenment was John Locke, who believed in religious toleration and was in almost unbroken contact with French-speaking Protestants from 1675 until his death in 1704. A Huguenot, John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744) who was a scientist of note, had an important influence on the beginnings of English Freemasonry, serving as its third Grand Master (1719) and later as Deputy Grand Master for several years.
Likewise, a serious study of Masonic philosophy must address the Rosicrucian phenomenon in the 16th and 17th century, the development of the Hebrew Cabala and its Christian offshoot, the different semi-secret and semi-occult groups that flourished in Europe from the end of the Middle Ages until the Victorian age, from Dante Alighieri’s Fideli D’amore through Baron Tschoudy’s pseudo-Templars and down to the Golden Dawn created by Wynn Wescott and MacGregor Mathers in the last decades of the 19th century.
On the other hand, a study of European or Western philosophy that ignores Masonry is also incomplete. A writer of the stature of Lessing (called the first German playwright of importance) could author the “Masonic Dialogs”, and poets such as Kipling and Burns wrote many a Masonic poem, apart from the influence Masonic thought may have had on their work.
However, let us return to the theme proposed at the beginning of my talk. Having observed the prevailing malaise of our “global village” and having established the validity and placement of Masonic philosophy within an academic framework, we should focus now our attention on the principles of Masonry, on the one side, and in what way could they be applied in order to assuage, as far as possible, the existential anguish of contemporary man.
An objection could be advanced, that such study is pointless, because we would be guilty of hubris if we were to pretend that the discussions held within a Lodge or any other Masonic context could really affect the course of events in our society.
However, the pen is mightier than the sword. Men pass away, and their memory fades until only a distant reflection of their presence remains with us. But ideas stay forever, embodied in words capable of stirring our passions no less today than centuries ago.
And what are those ideas, transmitted by our Order, that we believe capable of improving the world? I can only graze the surface of our subject. I shall try, then, to summarize our Masonic teachings in two fundamental principles, like the two columns at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple. These may not be the same ideas enunciated elsewhere by other Masonic authors, but I will ask you to bear with me for a moment.
In my opinion, the first fundamental principle that sustains our institution, more important that charity, mutual help, tolerance, and all other virtues that we cultivate, is simply personal responsibility. To Cain’s anguished question, resounding from century to century to our days, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” we give a ringing and unequivocal reply: ‘Yes, I am!”.
Let me explain a little further. We want to improve the world, but improving the world is a very complicated and difficult task, depending not only on us, but on many others, as well as on many circumstances that we are powerless to affect. On the other hand, our personal improvement, that depends only on our own resolve, it’s our decision and nobody else’s. Every human being is capable of polishing his imperfections, restraining his bad impulses, developing his positive inclinations, without requesting anybody’s permission, under any circumstances, in any place and time. If we want to, we can be better.
Masonry gives us support, shows the way, stimulates us and tends us the symbolic tools to make our task easier, but in the final account, it’s ourselves who must wield the tools, each at his own pace, following his own music and way through life. That is personal responsibility.
The second principle, no less important than the first, is the possibility of finding a common ground, of working together, involving collaboration and developing feelings of fraternal affection among persons with the most diverse backgrounds, with different social and ethnic origins, speaking diverse languages, belonging to different cultures, religions and political movements. Despite all these enormous differences, which Freemasonry recognizes and accepts, it still insists in demonstrating that there is a common level of humanity that binds us all, a joint yearning towards the far distant goal that makes us fellow travelers on the road to truth. Our ideal is capable of surmounting all inequalities.
Working together, we develop our sentiments of Fraternity and Charity, Tolerance and Assistance. This great principle, which we might call Fraternal Cohesion, the possibility of establishing and developing links of sincere friendship among all men, is perhaps our greatest contribution to society, so often riven by class, religion and politics, not to speak of prejudice and blind hatred.
Fraternal Cohesion finds expression both in the spiritual and the material realms. In the spiritual, by the instant effective communication that develops between Masons who have never met before, and may never meet again. No less important, it grows within us, and the assistance given to others miraculously creates within us a wealth of inner satisfaction and development. In the material, this principle finds expression in the many works of charity and social benefit undertaken by Masons institutionally and individually throughout the world, often under a veil of discretion.
The Mason is taught to give without causing offense to the less fortunate. This discretion has led to a situation where much of our charitable effort is ignored by the world at large, or attributed to other, non-Masonic sources. How many people know, for instance, that taken together, Masonic charities in the United States distribute over 3 million dollars every day, in a multitude of programs, from children’s hospitals to the study of mental disease? Not only hospitals, but libraries, universities, cultural institutions of every kind, benefit from our largesse.
The same could be said, guarding the proportions, of Masonry in many other countries. Looking back at the depressing picture of our present world, with which I started, we can see at once how Freemasonry can and does help, can and does make a difference.
Firstly, Masonry imposes upon us a discipline of thought, a philosophical posture that demands the rational examination of problems. Just as in Marcus Aurelius, the constant remembrance of the fragility of human existence pursues him without pause, and leads him to disdain the miseries of life, the Mason learns to face with serenity the tumultuous landscape of daily strife, the strident claims of the media, the hysterical demands of the merchants of ideologies. Silence is the best antidote against confusion.
Secondly, we face the future with optimism. This is an imponderable factor, but one that subtly infuses our way of looking at things and strengthens our will, sustaining a proactive rather than passive stance.
The external action of Freemasonry, of course, depends on local circumstances. Masons have fought for religious tolerance, universal education, the separation of church and state, the removal of social barriers of every kind.
Allow me now to say a few words about Freemasonry in Israel. As you will see, this has a direct bearing on the subject of our talk.
What characterizes Israeli Freemasonry, and has done so from its very early beginnings at the end of the last century, is its ethnic and cultural-diversity. Starting with the first Lodges, in Jaffa and Jerusalem, there have always been both Arabs and Jews working together, of all religious persuasions, speaking many languages, keeping alive the flame of fraternity even in the most trying circumstances.
Israel’s Masonry is composed of a majority of Jews, and a strong proportion of Christian and Muslim Arabs, much greater than their demographic weight in the total population. This pluralist tradition has withstood wars and terrorist attacks, strife and agony. Our Grand Lodge opens three Sacred Books on its altar: the Jewish Tanach, the Christian Bible, and the Koran. Three Grand Chaplains are equal in rank. The Grand Lodge Seal includes the cross, the crescent and the -Star of David within square and compasses.
Coming from Israel, I bring the direct and irrefutable testimony that Masonic ideals do work, and that they have proven their worth through scores of years of uninterrupted conflict.
This, however, is no isolated instance. We could give numerous examples taken from the history of other countries, the United States included. The enlightened and beneficial contribution of Freemasonry is felt in many forms, through the activities performed by Masons themselves, not only by the Institution as a whole.
As Professor Carvajal once remarked, the University doesn’t operate patients or build bridges, and Masonry does not intervene directly in the life of the country, but both institutions operate their effect through their graduates and individual members.
The influence of Freemasonry is not limited to what its members do themselves. The love of freedom, the lesson of tolerance towards others, learned in the course of Masonic activities, are inevitable reflected in the professional life of its members, their dealings with others, their way of life as a whole. The influence of their example spreads like ever widening waves and elicits favorable reactions in others, contributing to improve human relations, reduce extremism, control the passions. Whether a judge or an architect, a politician or a merchant, the influence of Freemasonry contributes to reinforce man’s natural impulse to do good, seek the truth, help others and avoid excess. I shall quote a few sentences from an article published in 1970 by Bro. Pedro Fernandez Riffo, entitled Masonry and Axiology, that will serve to illustrate our thesis.
After reviewing the different theories of values proposed by philosophers, and their connection with Masonry, the author writes as follows:
Freemasonry teaches us that the philosophical knowledge achieved must not remain, can not remain simply theoretical knowledge. Masonry demands action in social life. It is altogether a system of tasks.”
Philosophy, as well, invites to action, because to act is to live, and philosophy is embedded in life itself… Let us remember Ortega y Gasset, for whom human life is a manner of doing philosophy.
A related idea was briefly noted by Marcus Aurelius in one of his thoughts:
It’s not a matter of discoursing about what a good man must be, but of being one.
This, too, is Masonic philosophy. We trust in the actuality and effectiveness of our ideals. We trust in the possibility of improving ourselves, and thereby improving the society in which we live, and we work diligently, here and now, for the realization of our objectives.
Human beings desire perfection, strive to become better, and if we create the conditions that will enable them to develop all their capacities, there is no limit to what can still be achieved. Freemasonry, humanistic and meliorist, will stimulate, accompany and participate forever in the prodigious saga of human progress.
The Iberian Center for Masonic Studies, in Madrid Spain, issues a call for papers to be presented at the First International Competition of Masonic Essay – CIEM
Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos
The Iberian Center for Masonic Studies (CIEM) calls all Spanish, Portuguese, English and French speaking masons to participate in the First International Competition of Masonic Essay, which will take place in 2013.
The aim of this competition is to promote the investigation of the following themes:
The historical development of the Masonic Order;
The intrinsic values of Freemasonry;
The defense and preservation of our patrimony.
The competition is open to all Masons, without distinction.
The official languages of the competition are Spanish, Portuguese, English and French.
The essays presented must be unpublished and three printed copies are to be sent, double-spaced, typed in 12-point Times Font, in letter-sized sheets. Also, the electronic file must be enclosed in a compact disc.
The essays should not exceed 10.000 words.
The essays should begin on the second page. This page and all the following should not contain information susceptible of identifying the author.
The essays should appear undersigned with a pseudonym, enclosing, in another envelope, a card containing the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of the author. The envelope will bear the chosen pseudonym. The originals presented will not be returned.
The bibliography should be enclosed as an annex with the essay.
The authors should include a certificate drawn up by the Secretary of their Lodge, attesting to their affiliation and membership to a Masonic Jurisdiction.
The essays should be sent to the following address: Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos (CIEM), Apartado de correos 6.203, 28080 – Madrid (Spain) or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for presenting essays is the 1st of December, 2013.
The prize will be communicated on the 22nd of December, 2013.
The jury, made up by Master Masons, will award a first and only prize consisting of a diploma proving their condition as the winner of the competition, as well as the amount of 250 Euros.
The jury may, in the case of it being justified by the quality and interest of other essays, concede an access it or declare the prize void if the essays do not meet the required quality standards.
The essays chosen will be published in the web site www.cienmas.org and transmitted, electronically as well as in print, to the Grand Lodges and the main Masonic institutions.
For further information, contact the Secretariat of the Competition at the following e-mail address: email@example.com or by post to the Centro Ibérico de Estudios Masónicos (Iberian Centre for Masonic Studies) CIEM, International Competition of Essay, Apartado de correos 6.203, 28080 – Madrid (España)
Today’s guest writer, Canadian Brother Mark Kapitan, comes to us by way of Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s weekly Masonic newsletter. Anderson publishes a new or old-from-the-Masters article each week and forwards it to everybody on his list. Topics cover a wide variety of issues and interests but they are always Masonic. If you would like to get on Brother Anderson’s list simply E-Mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . Word to the wise, the newsletter is dark for the summer, except for this recent very special edition.
The big question is could you, if asked, explain how Freemasonry makes good men better? Or does it? That’s what Kapitan, a relatively new Freemason, wants to find out. And his quest has culminated in a fascinating paper he presented just this week.
A Young Mason’s journey to find, the making of a good man, better.
by Brother Mark Kapitan, F.C.F. Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C.
This talk was delivered at Rideau Lodge No. 460, Seeleys Bay, July 5, 2012
The journey starts for many of us, with the initial contact of someone who will probably be our sponsor. We sit down with a person, whom we have never met before, or may not know very well, and ask questions in order to decide whether a Masonic journey is for us. This is probably one of the most important decisions many of us have to make at this time, do I join, or not, remembering that our choice will be based on an enormous amount, of limited information. I recall sitting with my sponsor for three hours, who, during this time, did a very good job of answering all my questions, and quite frankly, telling me absolutely nothing. But, the one comment he did make that tweaked my interest, was that “Freemasonry takes a good man and makes him better”. Personally, I know as men, we have no problem re-assuring ourselves, that yes, “I” am a good man, however, as many of us can attest, it is not uncommon for our better halves to remind us, there is always room for improvement. Upon hearing this oh so wise reminder in my head, it became one of my reasons, to fill out an application, and join Freemasonry.
After a successful Examination, a report is given and we are balloted on. A letter follows from the Lodge, and if positive, your date of Initiation is chosen. You now ask.. What will be next? Well, the journey continues with the big night, nerves are on high alert, and one questions oneself, “what am I doing here”? Everyone is so friendly, smiling at you, shaking your hand, one could assume the best, or the worst, is about to happen. It is at this time; at least it was for me, that the nerves got a kick in the stomach. One of those new friendly faces informs me that I am going to have to change out of this nice suit I have on, and into an interesting pair, of what is best described, as pyjamas, and even further, that I will be blind folded for a short period of time. As the meeting starts and you are not yet part of it… I am sure some of us have wondered if it would not be wise to change our minds, and leave. After all, I was sure I could get down the stairs and out the door, before the Tyler, who distracted with returning his knocks, could have gotten to his sword. Finally, some of the Brethren come out, one asks some questions, making references to an ancient penalty, which you are not to worry about of course, and this again sends the mind off wondering, what have I gotten myself into? Then that point of no return occurs, you pay the requested monies, and another Brother, with what appears to be a spear, is there to make sure you are properly prepared.
It’s now time! You are walked around a room blindfolded, listening to every word, from all directions, trying to remember, how many did I see come in, are they behind me, in front of me, what’s happening, what will be next? Your head is bursting with so many questions. You repeat something, seal it, and then, the Blind fold is off. You are moved here and there; different Brethren are coming up to you and overwhelming you with parts of the ritual. Finally, at last, it’s done. The Master comes down to the level, congratulates you, which is followed by a round of applause from all those in attendance, and then asks the big question, “Do you have anything you would like to say?” Wow, what a question! Let’s see, I’ve come here dressed up in a suit, paid you 3-4 hundred dollars, was paraded around, dressed in pyjamas no less, initially blind folded, in front of 20+ men I have never met before, been over whelmed with some of these strangers speaking to me individually, have been asked to change back to my suit, only to come back in and be overwhelmed again, the whole time not understanding half of what is said to me, and YOU are wondering if I would have anything to say? Of course I do, what just happened? And, ultimately, how will this make me, a better man?
Many of us continue on our journey to be Passed and Raised to the degree of a Master Mason, proving each of our degrees in front of the members of our lodge, or depending on the evening, perhaps a few more than normal. I have often made this statement with regards to the Degrees: The First, is the one that just happens. I feel that this is the Degree that binds us as Brethren, for here, we all experience the same thing, with pretty much the same results, nervousness and confusion. The Second, is the one you do for yourself, we practice and learn, wanting to do it well; and finally, the Third, this is the one we will never forget.
After this point, when one has been raised, it might be difficult for the Mason to see, just how does Masonry, take me, a good man, and make me, better? And it is here that I began my quest for an answer. From what I thought I could see, my memory was improving through practicing of the Ritual for my degrees, was I on my way to becoming a better man? I was quickly reminded by my lady who was still asking me “did I forget” … it was garbage day, or, that we were going to her mother’s tonight. Improved memory??? I guess she would tell you, I was still suffering from that well known man’s disease called, selective hearing Or listening.
After proving our third, some of us believe we are ready to assume the role of an Officer and most actually do, to the delight of the many recycled Past Masters, however, for many of us, it is difficult to get up and speak in front of others, myself included. I presumed the proving of degrees, would help prepare for the journey through the chairs, allowing us the opportunity to somewhat feel comfortable, speaking in front of others, at least in our own Lodge. Interests are peaked during this time, yet I feel often, are not tapped. For many of us, we want to be more involved, but being new, don’t know how to, are afraid to ask, are simply just assigned ritual, or, may have been deterred with that famous phrase, “Because that’s the way it’s always been”. Looking at my own Masonic journey thus far, you can imagine that I have heard those words on more than just a few occasions. Another of my favourite phrases is, “wait until you have sat in the East”….. I see! It would be preferred that we Rock the boat when we are all a little older, and a lot less stable on our feet. In all fairness though, these two statements are both very viable comments to many. The first shows that we, as a fraternity, have stayed true in the longevity of our institution, and the second would reference obviously, experience and education. Is this how a good man is made better, longevity, experience and education?
I was hoping this wasn’t the full answer, as some things are in fact being done differently and are not the way they were. To start with, many older Brethren have often told me that when they joined the Craft, one would have to wait possibly several years just to get in the Junior Steward’s chair. This would mean that many men would have been 10 plus years a Mason, before they became the Master of the Lodge. During these times, although some Lodges were doing plenty of Degrees, many still found the time to do some form of Masonic Education, and turn outs were good. The time spent waiting to get in the officer line up, combined with the journey itself of ten plus years, would provide one the experience and education needed to make the second statement true, “Wait till you have sat in the East”. One could also add that with reference of the charge “to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge”, many of the older Brethren, in fact, did.
This charge, was it put forth to encourage oneself to go out, find it, to take the initiative, seek knowledge through education, and then, put it in place? We all know this is not always an easy task, as for many of us; we need to see what is missing, in order to desire it, or know it is in fact missing. Was this charge to encourage one to find what makes a good man, better?
In today’s time of hustle and bustle, we find in many Lodges there are few new members joining, or there is a lack of attendance, which is forcing many Past Masters to do the officer line up, in various rolls, several times. In order to resolve the pressure on the PM’s, we find many Masters are being made in a considerably shorter time, in many instances; it is 5 years or less. Leaving us with these questions: are these Brethren good with the ritual? Are they good men? Are they good examples of Masons worthy to project a public image of the Craft? Of course they are!
However, do they have many years of Experience in the Craft? Are they Masonically Educated? Familiar with the Protocol and Etiquette expected through experience and practice? Would sitting in the East, be a sign of Experience and Education, as it once was, in only 5 short years? These last few questions prompt me to ask, did this become the “fast track” to making a good man, better? And, do they, as the older masons did, make that daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge?
Third Degree Masonic Tracing Board
The Answer to the last question I feel is best summed up, this way; when I look at this call to make a daily advancement in Masonic Knowledge, which as stated was done by dedicated older Brethren, in their time, I find in our era, we profess a desire to, but, find it easier to provide an excuse not to, which usually involves, “having no time”. These days, I look at this act of making a daily advancement and compare to something as simple as eating. Some of us use a knife and fork, yet others, like me, should use a shovel. Some chew and enjoy every bite and others couldn’t tell you how what they ate, tasted like 20 minutes later. Many eat healthy, and others, junk they shouldn’t. But the most honest reference I can use to compare this daily advancement, to eating, is in this hustle and bustle of the busy lives we lead presently, one must surely admit that it is not uncommon to skip a meal, even though, we know that it is not healthy, or good for us. Unfortunately, it is easier, after a few times, to develop a bad habit rather than the “better” one.
This question, “how does Masonry make a good man better”, I have asked of many. It often made me feel like a youngster asking his parents, where do babies come from? I am sure in the time Freemasonry has been around, and from many different geographical areas; someone must have answered this question. But why was it so allusive to me. Am I looking in the wrong places, asking the wrong men? Truthfully, many I have asked could offer me no more than, it just does. For them, being good men, who have been in the Craft for many years, well, maybe it just did. Others, suggested it could be found in education. What Education? The Mechanics, the History, the Ritual, Operations, Protocol and Etiquette, is it any one of these, all on them, or is there something more?
After being Raised, I enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences Course or as it was originally called the Master Masons Course. This course offered me the education in many of the areas I have just mentioned. It is a correspondence course that has been available since 1984, yet many of the Brethren, young and old, have never heard of it, or know very little about it. At present there are only 259 grads since its inception. Did I find the answer to my question in education? Am I a better man? Nope! Just a Mason with a little more education than I started with, and the privilege of adding the initials of FCF, A Fellow of the College of Freemasonry, to my Masonic Signings. The completion of this course has offered me many different opportunities and experiences, for upon being a Grad I was invited to an Alumni group, where education, is ongoing. We have a forum for questions and debates by many experienced and well educated Brethren. Could I possibly ask my question here?
What I was finding, was some very interesting educated views from scholarly Masons, providing discussions and debates far superior to my knowledge, about various topics that I was interested in, the protocol and etiquette, Ritual, and History. Yet, as a member, and a very young Mason, I could not find the nerve to ask my quested question, but hoped I could find the secret by searching in the Q & A’s of the alumni forum history. No such luck!
My patience, or lack of nerve, was rewarded a few months later, and you can imagine my excitement when I received an email, with this exact question from the Alumni, The Making of good men better, What does this actually mean and how do we do this? There it was. Honestly, I must have checked my email for replies every 10 minutes for that whole day.
Many answers where offered to this question, but one in particular caught my attention, causing me to read it several times. I will read to you the answer, which came from Brother Terry Spalding – Martin FCF;
“These same questions come up time and time again on the various Masonic email forums. It is a phrase, thrown out there with little thought, or meaning.
I consider Freemasonry, to be the biggest and oldest self help group in the world. The emphasis, is on “self”.
For the most part, our society wants everything given to them. We will move mountains, if it means we don’t have to do any work. Thus, making men better is generally perceived as something Freemasonry “does” to men.
It is, actually something Freemasonry makes available to men. Freemasonry holds it out, and then, the brother has to do some work in order for it to happen.
Another trite phrase is, “you get out of it, what you put into it.” But it’s true. If you just sit on the bench, nothing much happens. You don’t become better, you don’t become any smarter, and you don’t become anything, other than older.
Brethren frequently discuss the relevance of learning ritual. What’s the use of learning all that archaic language, and then saying it to someone?
Psychologists say that speaking in public is more fearful to the average person than dying. Rather than give a eulogy, we’d prefer to be in the box. By learning ritual, we expand our capabilities for memorization. Something many of us, haven’t done since public school, if ever. By delivering ritual, we overcome our fear, and learn to public speak. This capability boosts our self worth, and self confidence.
Consider each one of the officer chair duties. Each one of them teaches a skill of some sort; Keeping minutes, learning the lodge membership list, interacting with people we do not know, Meeting a new man, and, taking responsibility for showing him around, Setting goals, Organizing volunteers to accomplish a set goal. Each chair, has something of value.
But, we actually have to do it ourselves. Nobody can do it for us.”
This is probably the most practical response, that I have seen or heard to the question I have been asking. Myself, believing that this is at least part of a possible solution, that Freemasonry offers us what we need, right here, in our Ritual, Protocol and etiquette, history, mechanics and very simply, in our operation of the Lodge. Then I have to ask this question, “If we do these very things offered in Freemasonry, “poorly”, will we get the same results”?
It’s an interesting thought! Should we not take pride, in what, and when we do things? I believe the answer is, yes! So, how do we achieve this? Is it through Education? Again I would say, yes! Then one may ask, what education, who will teach it and who needs it?
Going back to my eating theme for the answers, What Education, any number of things we eat, can provide us with nutrition and enjoyment, or, very simply, satisfy a hunger. Who will teach, well, some of us like to cook, and those that don’t, have probably been asked to take a turn cooking, at some point. Truthfully, our wives would tell us, it always tastes better when someone else is doing the cooking, and I believe some of the recycled Past Masters would feel the same way, with that reference. And, the who needs it, we all have the need to eat and most importantly, we all like to eat.
It may be bold of me, a Mason of just over 2 years, to make the comment that we all could benefit from some form of education, but I will offer up this situation for my defence. This past December my Daughter turned 16. My Lady suggested that I should be the one to teach her how to drive, after all, I should have more patience, because “I was a Mason”. My surprised look prompted her to offer up in her defence, “making a good man better”. I couldn’t argue with that statement and, after several successful lessons teaching from my 30 plus years of experience, it was still recommended that we enroll her in Drivers Education. Firstly, for the Insurance breaks, but, in all honesty I must admit, that with Driving, I have been doing it for so long, some bad habits might have crept in, not to mention the changes in the laws over the years, that I may have missed learning. After a few short classes I started hearing things like, “do you know that was a rolling stop?” Or “You are speeding” at 5 km over the limit which most of us are guilty of. As a man, who is proud to be a Mason, I display Masonic emblems on all our vehicles, so truthfully, I do not mind being reminded by her, or, re-taught for lack of a better word, as it can only improve the way I drive and the way I project being a Mason in the public eye. When I wrote this paragraph, I couldn’t help but be reminded, that there are many circumstances where someone will view our behaviour, to evaluate what they will considered to be acceptable behaviour for themselves.
I have stated, and it is a fact, Speaking in public is a very tough area for me. It is much easier when the ones you are speaking to, work for you. Knowing I couldn’t afford to hire all of you, I thought I would ask some fellow Brother for some constructive criticism of my, talk prior to me coming here. Those that have read or heard this, all seem to get something different from it but have encouraged me to change very little. Brother David Ross FCF did however offer me a thought of his that I wanted to share.
His Comments…. “Back to the “good man better” topic. My personal opinion, is that I am a better man for being a Mason – funnily enough, my wife believes that too, and that is because I truly ‘believe’ what I am saying when I recite ritual, and I try to follow its lessons – especially the second half of the Installation General Charge. The problem we face is, that many of the brethren doing the ritual can recite the work word perfectly, but they do not necessarily understand the ‘true’ meaning – if the teacher does not understand the subject fully, then the pupil, (or candidate) has no chance. Again I look to education to make a difference. Learning ritual and understanding ritual are two completely different things.”
Is Masonry working for me at this point in my journey? After my Initiation, I was posed with this question from my spouse, well, what is it about? I am sure many of you might have been asked something similar. How do I answer? In my infinite wisdom, I responded, it’s about morals; you know making a good man, better. A short time after me answering this question to her, I recall an incident, when driving on the HWY, and being cut off, I proceeded to voice, within our car of course, what I felt would be a good solution, to my dissatisfaction. My better half enjoyed offering her opinion to my comments, “well that isn’t very Masonic”. Truthfully, I would have to admit; in the beginning, after joining the Craft, I did hear that comment on a numerous occasions. As I tend to hear it a lot less now, I would like to believe that Freemasonry, is offering me the results through my activeness; as opposed to the alternative, she just got tired of saying it. But, honestly, I believe she simply found a new way to say it. Instead, she now offers “making a good man better”. I haven’t asked her yet, but her comment of making a good man better would imply that maybe I’m not the only one in our house that believes I am a good man.
In closing, from the view offered by our fellow brother Terry Spalding-Martin FCF, I must say, for me, my feelings are, he does have the answer to my question, and has simply, laid out the short version. Freemasonry offers what is required, and our own action is the key to success. In hind sight, every bit of our involvement has offered us the opportunity to work toward this; starting with our coming forward of our own free will and accord, asking questions of our sponsor, filling out an application, our roles in the Initiation, the degrees, our proving, visiting, all our participation, what we do while we are here, the desire to do it well but most importantly, learning and the acquisition of knowledge. I did however find two additional points not fully spelled out in his reply that seemed to be obvious. First, no time line was offered to achieve the goal, so, it must be an ongoing, continuous journey, and one should strive to stay involved, even if it is just in the form of making the effort to attend our regular Lodge meetings. Secondly, it seems much of it often involves us doing it together, as brothers, supporting one another, and working together for our common goal. If all of these things are true, and I believe they are, I must thank you Brethren, for assisting me, with my own continuing journey, by making a good man better.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BROTHER MARK W. KAPITAN
Initiated into Freemasonry May 4th 2010 at Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. which is located in Niagara District A, and was Raised on December 7th 2010. Proved his Third Degree February 1st 2011 and immediately enrolled in the Masonic Arts and Sciences offered by the College of Freemasonry that day. Became a graduated of this course 9 weeks later on April 2nd 2011. Joined the Royal Arch Masons on April 8th 2011 and completed the RAM Degree on June 10th 2011. Was a part of the District Degree Team’s Annual Degree on July 9th 2011 and will be again this year on July 14th .
In July 2011, enrolled in the District Deputy Grand Master Course and became a graduate 3 weeks later. Enrolled in the original, and at the time new, Worshipful Masters Course in September of 2011, graduating from this course a week later. September 2011, became a mentor of the College of Freemasonry. December 3rd 2011, spoke at the St. Thomas District’s Lodge of Instruction about the College of Freemasonry and the Courses offered.
January 3rd 2012, was invested as the Senior Deacon of Ivy Lodge No. 115 A.F. & A.M. G.R.C. and was enrolled as Senior Sojourner in Chapter January 13th 2012. Has attended a couple of business meetings for the Grand Lodge, Committee of Masonic Education and assisted in the restructure of the new modular system.
African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012
By Ezekiel M.Bey
A Review by: Wor. Bro. Frederic L. Milliken
Talented Prince Hall Masonic authors and writers are not as plentiful as grapes on the vine. So when one comes along we need to take notice and pay close attention to his works. Such a man is Ezekiel M. Bey whose latest book is “The Hour Glass, African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012.”The Hour Glass records the sands of time in the life of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, the great men therein who shaped the world to come and the part Bey has played and continues to play in the development of Prince Hall Freemasonry in New York and the nation.
Ezekiel Bey is a writer, a Historian and a poet all rolled into one. He combines that unusual dual talent of being a great researcher and historian and a great writer at the same time. Bey is no esoteric closet intellectual, however. He is a Past Master and has served on the Grand Lodge Committee on Works & Lecture, the Committee on Masonic Education where he spent some time as Secretary and the office of Grand Historian from 2006-20011. He is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and has spent 10 years on its Commission on Bogus Masonry much of that time as its Deputy Director. At the same time he has served as editor in chief of his Grand Lodge’s publication, The Sentinel until 2008.
One of Bey’s pride and joys is the nationwide E-Group Blue Lite which he founded. A Prince Hall discussion and educational undertaking it has blossomed into one of the most active gatherings of Masons on the Internet. Recently he has added the Prince Hall Research & Information site Blue- Lite.com.
Ezekiel M. Bey
Ezekiel Bey has paid his dues. Now all that blood, sweat and tears – that hard work and dedication and honing of skills – has culminated in a fascinating work of Masonic history, The Hour Glass.
The Hour Glass begins where every other Prince Hall Masonic book doesn’t, with the Haitian Revolution, the revolt of African American slaves from 1791-1804. The connection here is by way of Freemason Jean Pierre Boyer who was to become the second President of Haiti. Sometime during this conflict when the US and France were fighting the Franco-American War he, and all the others on his French vessel, was captured by the American war ship Trumball and brought back to Connecticut as a prisoner of war. Discovering him to be a Mason they gave him a modem of freedom and then sent him to Pennsylvania where he was ultimately set free. Boyer who attended some Lodges while he was in Pennsylvania seems to have had a profound effect on all he came in contact with as New York’s first African American Lodge, African Lodge #459 New York chartered by African Lodge #459 Boston in 1812 soon changed its name to Boyer Lodge #1. After assuming the Presidency of Haiti Boyer welcomed a migration of freed Black Americans to his country.
Bey then takes us through the Underground Railroad and the part that early New York African American Freemasons played in that historical time after which there is a detailed account of the false information that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was Boyer Grand Lodge supposedly formed in 1845. Upon due research Bey confirms that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was The United Grand Lodge of the State of New York formed in 1848 which later changed its name to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of New York.
Next comes the painful experience of the National Grand Lodge or Compact as it was called. It was extremely stressful for New York as the United Grand Lodge of the State of New York never joined the Compact and its failure to do so resulted in the Compact attempting to expel the United Grand Lodge. Within Prince Hall Freemasonry the whole National Grand Lodge episode is a sore that will not heal. Remnants of the National Compact remain today but they are clandestine as many would say they always have been. While Mainstream Masonry also flirted with a National Grand Lodge at the same time it never pulled the trigger. Bey has contended that the whole National venture was illegal and he takes the reader through the steps of how this all came about. The documentation he provides on the history of New York African American Freemasonry at this time and New York’s involvement with the Compact is outstanding. Any historian who would like to have a better understanding of this issue should refer to The Hour Glass.
What follows is a wealth of information on clandestine African American Freemasonry in New York. Bey takes us through the Committee on Clandestine Masonry and The Legal Committee reports at Grand Lodge Sessions 1954-1969. We learn who the players are, the measures taken by the MWPHGLNY to combat bogus Freemasonry and even about a court case filed against two bogus New York Masonic Grand Lodges.
From the 1962 report of the Legal Committee to the Grand Lodge:
Litigation was commenced against two of these spurious organizations in New York State about three years ago. In November of 1961, there was a trial involving your Grand Lodge and one of these spurious organizations. In January of this year, injunctive relief was secured against this organization known as the Supreme Council of the United States of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd and Last Degree A.A. Scottish Rite. This was the first case of its kind in the State of New York, in which injunctive relief was granted to a Masonic organization, giving it the right to put the spurious organization out of business. Moreover, the decision specifically stated that Prince Hall Masonry was legitimate and that it had a prior or better right to practice Masonry as against the organization which was enjoined. Your Legal Committee reports that this organization is now out of business.
Bey has continued in the footsteps of Harry A Williamson and Joseph Walkes in association with the Phylaxis Society in educating the Craft and those seeking membership about the evils of Bogus Freemasonry. This remains a continuing battle against ignorance. The Hour Glass exposes each and every one of these clandestine organizations, names names, dates and places, for all to see.
No story would be complete without heroes. Bey, in addition to his mentor Joseph Walkes, chronicles the lives and contributions to Prince Hall Freemasonry of RW Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Harry A Williamson and S. David Bailey.
Schomburg, a native of Puerto Rico, was a promoter of Spanish speaking Lodges within Prince Hall New York. He was a researcher, historian, writer and accumulator of many Masonic books and manuscripts. In 1911 with John A. Bruce he formed the Negro Society for Research. Schomburg was elected Grand Secretary in 1918 and served in that position through 1926.
Bey tells us:
Schomburg saved every bit of information that he could get his hands on and built an archive in which he donated to public libraries. He is the reason that today Freemasonry and the black struggle in America have a huge section in the New York City Public Library in Harlem. This spirit of saving information for our future influenced his good friend and Brother, R.W. Harry A. Williamson, Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. It was Arthur Schomburg who encouraged Williamson to place his collection of over 800 books, manuscripts, photographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and scrapbooks in the N.Y.C. Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints.
By the year 1925, Schomburg had acquired over 5,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, etchings and many other items. When the Division of Negro Literature opened in the New York City Public Library on 135th Street in Harlem, Schomburg sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation to be placed in the new library. Schomburg later became curator for the library in 1932 in the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints. In memory of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the New York City Public Library in Harlem was renamed in 1973, “The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture”.
Another giant of Prince Hall New York that Bey writes about was Harry A Williamson. Grand Historian from 1911 through 1924 Williamson held many Grand Lodge offices including Senior Grand Warden and Deputy Grand Master and chaired many Grand Lodge Committees. He was a prolific writer and was an early crusader against Bogus Freemasonry in the state of New York.
The third legend from Prince Hall New York was S. David Bailey an accomplished jazz percussionist. Bey tells us that he had:
collaborations with most of the Ellington Alumni, such as Mercer Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ben Webster, “Shorty” Baker, and Al Sears. David Bailey also played with Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Miles Davis, Chris Conner, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Lucky Thompson, Lena Horn, Harry Bellefonte and the Gerry Mulligan Band(s) for 13 years until 1968 when he left to join the newly formed “Jazztet” featuring Art Farmer, Benny Golson,
But Bailey had another love – flying. Again we learn from Bey:
From 1968 to 1973, David worked with famed criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey as Vice President of Marshfield Aviation in Marshfield Airport, Massachusetts, 20 miles south of Boston. As Chief Pilot and flight instructor, and the attorney’s personal pilot, David flew the business Learjet in and out of Logan International Airport in Boston. Dave was also a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA in Boston as he was in New York. David enjoyed a good professional relationship and warm friendship with F. Lee Bailey.
But in a strange twist of career paths Bailey returned to his first love when he became Executive Director of Jazzmobile.
In Prince Hall Freemasonry Bailey became a District Deputy and his efforts in Masonic Instruction and Masonic Education became renowned. He headed up the first Grand Lodge Committee on Education and now 86 years old he can look back upon an illustrious Masonic career of 60 years.
It is difficult to know where you are going unless you know where you have been. The Hour Glass will prove to be a most valuable work for Prince Hall New York Masons to remember where they have been and to honor and treasure the memories of those who have gone before them.
It is vitally imperative that within the Craft records and archives are kept to show a clear path of what Freemasonry has stood for and what it has withstood throughout its history. Ezekiel Bey has been meticulous and detailed in his research for this book. The Hour Glass is both interesting and informative.
Not shy in expressing himself, Bey writes with a passion that jumps out at you from the pages of his book. His love for the Craft comes through loud and clear.
Moreover, Bey blazes a trail that other Prince Hall Grand Lodges should take. A chronicling of the history of any Grand Lodge casts in stone what defines that Masonic community and it is by such a work as this that a Grand Lodge can tackle the future with a mission statement in hand.
This is a monumental work that will be on every library shelf and in many a Mason’s bookcase. It should be in yours also.
The National Heritage Museum announces a call for papers for its biannual symposium, “Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism,” to be held on Saturday, April 7, 2012, at the Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts.
The National Heritage Museum is an American history museum founded and supported by Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. As the repository of one of the largest collections of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.
The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture. Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; proposals are invited from a broad range of research areas, including history, material and visual culture, anthropology, sociology, literary studies and criticism, gender studies, political science, African-American studies, art history, economics, or any combination of disciplines. Perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome.
Possible topics include:
Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of fraternalism
Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups
Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups
Fraternal groups for women or teens
Role of fraternal groups in social movements
The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism
Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups
Fraternal symbolism and ritual
The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature
Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives; the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism
Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.
Proposal Format: Submit an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages. Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation).
Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., Director of Collections, National Heritage Museum, by email at email@example.com or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421.
Deadline for proposals to be received is December 15, 2011. For more information about the National Heritage Museum, see www.nationalheritagemuseum.org. For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.