Masonic Study Center Reward (Competition)

This is from a press release I found in my in-box

It comes from C.E.M. which is the Freemasonry Regular Traditional base in Portugal and provides training for the initial and continuing the Freemasons essentially Installed Masters and Master Masons to have sufficient knowledge and performance in different OO.. ‘ EE.´. EE.. ‘ (Órgãos de Estrutura) and the organizations that belong or will be associated with Freemasonry. (Translated from the Portuguese.)

The “Masonic Study Center Reward Fernando Pessoa” is annually attributed and is destined to reward authors of academic essays or other investigations in FREEMASONRY matters.


The Regulation for “Masonic Study Center Reward Fernando Pessoa” coming into force for the 2011 edition is the following:

Article 1

1. The “Masonic Study Center Reward Fernando Pessoa” is set up, attributed annually, and is destined to reward authors of academic essays or other investigation in Regular and Traditional Freemasonry matters.

2. The reward also includes all essays from the several social science subjects which objective is the study of world Masonic history or the strengthening of Portuguese national Masonic history.

Article 2

1. Any national or foreign author of any age may compete.

2. Essays of collective authorship will be accepted.

3. Any competitor or group of competitors can only present one essay.

4. There will only be accepted essays written in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish, which constitute the official languages of the Reward.

5. There will only be accepted the essays of the authors who present a statement which attest that:

a) Between the date of original publication in any stand and the limit of the time of delivery to this contest, there will be no more than three years.

b) The essay has not received any reward until the limit of the time of delivery of the candidature to “Masonic Study Center Reward Fernando Pessoa”.

Article 3

1. The competing essays, written in spaces of two, shall be presented in four exemplars (one original and three copies) and delivered to “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa”, or mailed until December, 22nd, 2010. A CD with the essay in digital format must be attached.

2. Conjointly, and in a closed envelope properly identified, shall be mailed the statement mentioned in the previous article, the personal and scientific curriculum, the address and other means of contact of the competitor or, should the essay be of collective authorship, each of the competitors.

3. The originals of the essays, the copies and the envelope containing the statement and the identification of the author or authors, shall be entered within the term indicated in number one through traditional mail service to APARTADO 1018, 5300-999 BRAGANÇA, Portugal, in a single envelope mentioning “Prémio do Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa”.

Article 4

1. The Jury that will judge the candidatures will be designated annually by the President of “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa”, within the 30 days after the limit of the time of delivery of the essays, integrating three studious or other recognized specialists in the scientific field concerning this Reward.

2. Each member of the Jury has right to one vote.

3. The President of “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa” will also designate a secretary for the Jury who will not have any right to vote.

Article 5

1. The members of each Jury will elect a President among them.

2. After establishing the Jury, its elements will decide previously of the admissibility of the competitors regarding the thematic compatibility of the essays with the object of the Reward and the rules of this present Regulation.

3. The essays that are not admitted to this contest will be returned to its respective authors.

4. The essays received and admitted to this contest will not be returned to its authors, but will integrate the pile of “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa” ’s Library after the Jury’s deliberations.

Article 6

1. The Jury will appreciate the essays admitted to the contest, classifying them by order of quality.

2. The classification which the previous number is referring to will account for the originality and the scientific quality of the essays, the nature of the sources, as well as the methodology of its treatment and the expositive capacities of the authors.

Article 7

1. The Jury will attribute the Reward to the first classified and an Honorable Mention to the second classified. Their names and the titles of the winning essays will be revealed to public in September, 2011.

2. The Reward or the Honorable Mention will be able to attribute ex-aequo. In the first case, or in case of the winning of a collective authorship, the respective quantitative will be divided among the winning competitors.

3. The Jury will be able not to attribute the Reward, justifying it an official report.

4. The Jury’s decision, which is by majority of votes, is final and unchangeable.

5. The members of the Jury have the duty of secrecy in regard of the content of the meetings and the sense of vote of the rest of the members.

6. The final official report, written by the Jury’s secretary and approved by the Jury, will express the result of the deliberations taken, and will be able to be shown to the competitors who apply for it under a justified motive; as component of the official report there are all documents which contain elements of proof regarding the decisions of each of the Jury members every time there should not be unanimity in the attribution of the Reward or the Honorable Mention.

7. The “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa” will be able to, freely, publish the winning essays, as they became part of its pile. The authors, from the moment they put in for the competition, will allow this to happen and will have no rights over the winning essays.

Article 8

The “Masonic Study Center Reward Fernando Pessoa” is set up by an amount of money, 250 (two hundred and fifty) euros, eventually being brought up-to-date.

Article 9

The delivery of the Reward and the Honorable Mention to rewarded authors will take place in a public ceremony within thirty days after the publication of the Jury’s decision.

Article 10

1. The regulation of the Reward can be altered by initiative of the Grande Loja Nacional Portuguesa (National Portuguese Grand Lodge) that supports legally the “Centro de Estudos Maçónicos Fernando Pessoa”, in terms of the following numbers.

2. The alterations that may be introduced in the regulation during the period between the limit of the time of delivery to a contest and the final decision of the Jury, will not be able to be applied to that edition of the Reward.

3. The alterations that will occur are automatically integrated in the text of the Regulation of the Reward let out in the electronic mail, starting on January, 31st, of each year.

Symbolism of the First Degree

by Br. Asahel W. Gage, from The Builder Magazine
October 1915 – Volume I – Number 10

editor of the builder magazine

Joseph Fort Newton

This jewel comes from The Builder Magazine, a masonic publication  published between 1915 and 1930, edited by Joseph Fort Newton.

It was then (and likely still is) the best American Masonic periodical ever published. The work below is just one of many articles in the archives, and one that I thought would be of some interest to readers for its look at Masonic symbols. I’ve made some annotations where I thought they need be. Enjoy

~Masonic Traveler

In the beginning, the seeker for truth must be duly and truly prepared. In the usually accepted sense, this talk is unprepared. And yet, I spent five years in the “line” of the lodge observing, thinking about and studying Masonry. It is this study and my later contemplations that are my preparation to speak on the symbolism of the first degree.

It seems to me that the essence of every Masonic lesson is presented in the symbolism of the first degree. An entered apprentice is a Mason. The second, third, and so-called higher degrees are elaborations. All Masonic business was formerly transacted in a lodge opened only on the first degree.

The Masonic lessons are practical lessons. They have a dollar and cents value. The Senior Warden tells us that he became a Mason in order that he might receive master’s, or larger wages. That there may be no misunderstanding as to his meaning monetary wages, he further says, in order to “better support himself and family.” If we will look honestly into our own hearts, we will see that we paid the price for the Masonic degrees because we hoped to receive the equivalent or a greater return. If we have not received a return equal to our original and annual investment, it is because we have not applied ourselves to the study of Masonry with freedom, fervency and zeal.

But let us understand each other. There is little chance of our making much headway unless we agree on a clear and definite meaning of the terms we use. It is not only good and pleasant, but it is necessary for us to dwell together in unity of thought, if we would arrive at a harmonious conclusion. We should therefore endeavor to clearly define our subject.

The word “symbol” is derived from the Greek, meaning “to compare.” From σύμβολον (sýmbolon) from the root words συν- (syn-), meaning “together,” and βολή (bolē), “a throw”, having the approximate meaning of “to throw together”, literally a “co-incidence”, also “sign, ticket, or contract”. The earliest attestation of the term is in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes where Hermes on seeing the tortoise exclaims σύμβολον ἤδη μοι μέγ᾽ ὀνήσιμον “symbolon [symbol/sign/portent/encounter/chance find?] of joy to me!” before turning it into a lyre. A symbol is the expression of an idea by comparison. Often, an abstract idea may be best conveyed by a comparison with a concrete object. A dictionary definition of a symbol would be, a sign or representation which suggests something else.

Symbolism, therefore, is the science of symbols or signs, the philosophy or art of representing abstract truths and ideas by concrete things. Symbolism is suggestion; in sculpture and painting by form and color, in language by words, in music by sounds. What allegory and parable are in literature; what figurative speaking is in language; the same is symbolism.

The symbolism of the first degree is for the apprentice. An apprentice Mason is one who has begun the study of Masonry. Certain qualifications are necessary for every apprentice. The qualifications of a Masonic apprentice are a belief in a God, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be of service to his fellow creatures.

Possessing these qualifications, the candidate must follow a course of ancient hieroglyphic moral instruction, taught agreeably to ancient usages, by types, emblems and allegorical figures. This is symbolism, and symbolism is universal language. It is the language in which God reveals himself to man. The manifestations of nature are only symbolic expressions of God.

Children learn best from symbols. Blocks and toys are crude symbolic representations of the more complicated things of life. Most of us learned our alphabet and almost everything else by the relationship or correspondence to things with which we were familiar. We are only children after all. Older children call themselves scientists and make their experiments in their laboratories. Each experiment is a symbol of what is taking place in the real world outside.

The apprentice in the moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offense and defense, in order that he may realize his dependence upon moral forces only. He should be clad in a garment signifying that he comes with pure intentions to learn the noble art and profit by its lessons, not to proselyte among others, but to develop and improve himself. He is carefully examined to ascertain whether he is worthy and well qualified to receive and use the rights and benefits of Masonry. Being satisfied that he is worthy and well qualified, he is admitted and is immediately impressed with the fact that he must undergo sacrifice and suffering if he would attain the end he seeks. Realizing that the good intentions of the candidate, his own righteousness or even the lodge organization, are not sufficient, we invoke the blessing and aid of God upon our search for knowledge and truth.

We follow the system of symbolism. When we would know the truth in regard to things too great for our minds to comprehend, we take as a symbol that which is within our mental grasp. We know that the truth about the things we cannot comprehend, is identical with the truth in relation to the symbol which we do comprehend.

The apprentice in his search for Light must start from the North with the Easter Sun in the East, and travel by way of the South to the West, and back into darkness. He again comes out of the North in the East and passes through the same course again and again in his development. Obstacles are met by the apprentice in his progress, so similar that they seem identical. The little occurrences-of life may seem unimportant but they determine whether we will be permitted to advance. The apprentice must ever be worthy and well qualified.

The apprentice must advance on the square by regular upright steps. The symbolism is so common and universal that it is used in the slang of the street. Obligations are duties assumed. We must assume them if we would advance and having assumed them we are bound by them whether we will or not. Then the light breaks and we begin to see. We find that others, even the most learned, stand like the beginners. The Master is on a level with the apprentice, and extends a hand which is grasped fraternally, and the candidate is raised. There is the key to the Masters Word–an open book, but he may never find the word itself.

Then, as before, the apprentice must follow the course of the Sun. As is the greatest, so is the smallest. In the drop of water are all the laws of the universe. If we study carefully, we will find in the dew drop the particles revolving and whirling in their little circles the same as we find the heavenly bodies revolving and turning in their great orbits, circle within circle and circle upon circle. The seeker after Light always emerges from the North in the East and passes by way of the South to the West and again into darkness, with full faith and perfect confidence that day will follow night. He is continually subjected to tests and trials and always held responsible for what he has learned and for that which has gone before. God’s Holy Book, His revelation to us, is the guide in our search for light. To the Jew this Holy Book is the history of Israel, substantially the Old Testament. To the Christian, it is the Old and New Testament. To the Mohammedan (Islam), it is the Koran; to the Hindu, the Vedas.

But whatever book it is, it is the Holy Book of the seeker for Light and that which he believes to be the word of God. The Holy Book together with the square and the compasses are the great lights of Masonry.

The lesser lights are the Sun, Moon and Master of the Lodge. The Sun symbolizes the great active principle, the Moon the great passive principle. This symbolism is so commonly accepted that even the uninitiated refer to the Sun as masculine and the Moon as feminine. The Master is symbolical of the offspring of the great Active and Passive Principles. He is the mediator, the child of the two great forces. He sets the craft to work upon their symbolic studies, which is no light responsibility to be assumed by the uninformed. Only chaos and disaster can overtake him who attempts the work he is not qualified to perform. When the apprentice has received his degree he is given his working tools and the primary or elementary instructions as to how to go to work.

The working tools of an apprentice are the 24 inch gauge and the common gavel. The gavel symbolizes strength or force. Force undirected is the flood devastating all in its path or the idle puff of the unconfined powder which accomplishes nothing. Undirected force is the gavel without the rule. But intelligently controlled, and directed along a proper line by the rule of intellect, the force of the torrent grinds the grain and does the work of many men.

The force of the exploding powder prys the rock loose so that the work of months is accomplished in a moment. The operation of universal laws in the moral world is just as ascertainable and understandable as in the physical world. Morals are as susceptible of scientific study as physics.

The lamb skin apron, a most ancient symbol, signifies that it is only by honest conscientious toil that the moral laws can be learned and applied, and that this toil must be done in purity and innocence.

Side Bar
Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God

The Lamb of God was a popular symbol in the Middle Ages, which was familiar to both craftsmen of Guilds and the population in general. The admission of apprentices to guilds required an understanding and acceptance of important mutual duties and obligations, before the names were entered on the records of the guild. The issuing of approporate protective clothing in the form of a lambskin apron was necessary before training commenced.

Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced the Agnus Dei, based on John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world”, where John the Baptist refers to Jesus. The text in Latin is:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

which may be translated as:

Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who took away the sin of the world, grant us peace.

It is currently sung or recited in the Roman Rite, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Orthodox Church.

In the lectures which follow the ceremony of the first degree, the apprentice is given preliminary information. It would be too tedious to analyze these lectures at this time. Suffice it to say they are very superficial and of little worth in themselves. They must be understood and felt, if they are to be of any value. Briefly we may describe a Lodge as a place to work, a place to study, analyze, and master the moral science so that we may make use of the moral laws and principles in our every-day life.  Symbolically, it is representative of the world, our daily working place.

The foundation of the Lodge and its teaching is squareness. It is, however, supported by three pillars; Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. From which we may learn that in every undertaking, when intelligence or wisdom directs, and strength or power works, then beauty and harmony result.

The Lodge is covered with the blue vault of Heaven. Blue is the symbol of equality, it is a proper mingling of all colors, it is perfect concord. It is also symbolical of the universality of that charity, which should be as expansive as the blue vault of Heaven itself. Charity is not the giving of money alone. It is also necessary to have charity toward the weaknesses and mistakes of others.

This life is a checkered pavement of good and evil, but in the center is the blazing star which is the seed and the source of all life and eternal life.

The parallel lines have a symbolism analogous to that of the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which is more fully developed in other degrees. The point in the center of the circle between the parallels is sometimes compared to the individual member and sometimes to God who is the center of all things.

The circumference may suggest the boundary of man’s conduct, or God’s creatures, all equally distant and all equally near to Him. Sometimes the circumference is used to depict the endless course of God’s power, and His existence without end. This is all speculation, it is symbolism, the contemplation of which will develop the individual.

If the apprentice pursues his studies in the moral art with freedom, fervency and zeal, he will receive Master’s, or larger wages, and be thereby the better enabled to support himself and family and to contribute the relief of the distressed.

The Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago breaks new ground

From – Leopardo begins work on Scottish Rite headquarters.

Leopardo Construction recently began work on a 61,000-square-foot HQ of the Valley of Chicago Scottish Rite Cathedral Association.

The new two-story building, located at the corner of Lake Street and Medinah Road in Bloomingdale, will feature a museum and library, traditional lodge hall, kitchen facilities, dining room for 290 people, bar and game room, grand hall, administrative offices, theater with seating for 270, and parkign for 190 cars.

“The history of the Scottish Rite will be evident in the interior by integrating symbology, patterns, artwork, and historic items from the former Scottish Rite Cathedral on North Dearborn Street in Chicago,” said Gregory Klemm, Valley of Chicago executive secretary and chief operating officer.

“Given the Scottish Rite’s great history in artisanry, architecture and construction, we are honored to be building such a prestigious and significant facility for the fraternal organization,” said Michael Behm, senior vice president at Leopardo.

Check out the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago website which has a lot of great information on The Rite in the Windy City.

From the images, it looks like a beautiful new facility.

History in the making

An Historic event took place on September 11, 2010 with the cornerstone laid at the new Judicial Center in Lancaster County Virginia.

This is the first time that both The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free & Accepted Masons of Virginia and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia Free and Accepted Masons, Incorporated who jointly performed a cornerstone laying.

Words and photos courtesy of Brother William Baumbach.

For more photos please visit the full album of the event.

double headed eagle

American Scottish Rite – Unexpressed Potential?

double headed eagleBy Bro. C.G.
32nd Scottish Rite Mason,
Valley of Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

I have often wondered the reasons why the Scottish Rite, one of the most complex, complete and fascinating initiatic systems of the Western tradition, is often compressed in a single two- or three day-Reunion in all, or most, to the best of my knowledge, Valleys in the United States. At a time when it was required to be a York or Scottish Rite Mason to be admitted into the Shrine, this probably made sense, although it deprived the Scottish Rite of part of the effectiveness of its ritual. This is not so anymore. Free from the constraints of allowing Masons to rush through its degrees, I believe it would greatly benefit the Scottish Rite and probably the whole of Freemasonry, if candidates were allowed to go through the degrees more gradually.

Freemasons in American Valleys have the rare chance of watching the degree work staged in beautiful halls and auditoriums and rendered with exquisite magnificence, costumes and scenography. I believe American Masons deserve more time to savor the Scottish Rite degrees and to better understand the lessons they heard during the Reunions. I know I would have wanted to be granted more time, when I was initiated to the SR in the US. I needed more time before passing on to the following degree. The amount of teachings that candidates are confronted with is so big that it is doubtful that they can retain everything they are presented. Would it not be better, for instance, to be conferred the degree of Secret Master during the first Reunion, to let the masonic path of the Scottish Rite commence with the gravity it deserves, without rushing?Then, at the following Reunions, maybe at intervals of at least one year, the degrees of Perfect Elu, Knight of Roise Croix, Knight of Kadosh and Master of the Royal Secret could be conferred, so to respectively complete the Lodge of Perfection, the Chapter, the Council and the Consistory. Actually, this is similar to what our brethren in my home country, Italy, do. I think it makes sense. I do not think many Masons would object to this new modus-operandi, because it would allow them to discover a wealth of new degrees that are usually just rushed through. It would allow them to attend meetings in the Lodge of Perfection, in the Chapter, the Council, the Consistory, and display their regalia. It would increase attendance to the SR Reunions, because whole classes would come back to receive the following degrees. It would make the study of the SR ritual and teachings easier, because it would be gradual, slower.

Besides, Masons are Traveling Men, and the goal of Freemasonry is to improve men, to make good men better by letting them progress, step by step, degree after degree, along a masonic path of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. Isn’t Freemasonry a journey? Why shorten it, then? By making it quicker we are not helping Freemasonry to achieve its goal, we are actually risking to hinder it and not fully appreciate its power. I think the Scottish Rite has the potential to help generate membership to Freemasonry, but this potential must be unleashed. The Scottish Rite can be on of the brightest gems of Freemasonry, and the power of its ritual could lead the way to attract new members to our Institution. However, as long as it is reined in by the constraints of short Reunions, I am afraid it will just be a shimmer in darker skies.

And then man said…let there be LIGHT

With the Hadron Collider as the inspiration, scientists are now looking for new linear super collider that’s even bigger with costs expected to exceed £8.5 billion with funding from China, India, and Russia.

The goal is a new particle slinger with the mission of searching for the elusive God Particle , the Higgs boson, as well as the neigh invisible dark matter. How do they plan to do it? Easy, by simulating the Big Bang of nearly 14 million years ago at the creation of the universe.

What better place to start in ones quest for LVX than at its very creation.

You can read much more on the Linear Collider on its website.

The Unity of Light – a Universal Temple of Freemasonry

by Charles Lloyd Mashburn Jr. 32°
Thunderbolt Lodge # 693 Thunderbolt, Georgia


As a young Freemason involved in my Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite of the Valley of Savannah, Georgia the idea of a place of unity for all the orders of Freemasonry has been a thought in my mind for many years. Being an architectural graduate student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia gave me the opportunity to put these thoughts to practice.  The concept is to create universal temple of Freemasonry through the design of a visual and physical creation of progressive architecture. This architectural design and concept would use Freemason symbolism and will become a new symbol of Freemasonry for the 21st century. There hasn’t been a symbol of unity in Freemasonry since King Solomon’s Temple in 965 BCE. The UTF will become that new symbol of unity through enlightenment. The principle concept is to create a place where all Freemasons acknowledge one another, no matter their typology.  Defining a new progressive ideal of Masonic unity as: Education = Knowledge = Unity = Masonic Light.

“The Unity of Light”
A Universal Temple of Freemasonry
Jerusalem, Israel

Albert Pike said, “We have all the light we need; we just need to put it in practice.”

The unity of light in the fraternal order of Freemasonry is dwindling because of the different offspring of the original orders blueprint. The non acceptance of these offspring has prevented “Masonic Light” from reaching the “Roots of Unity”.  This diffraction of light has lead to certain orders not acknowledging other orders within the brotherhood of Freemasonry.  This is a contradictory of Freemasonry’s primary teaching of brotherly love and unity. There are Freemasonry lodges in almost all the countries of the world.

There are many members of varied religious faiths. The spectrum of religions span from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism, etc. The lack of solidarity of these lodges and the communication between them has been non progressive to the goal of unity in Freemasonry.  These issues are a driving force for the decline of Freemasonry in societies around the world. The non recognition of the individual aspects and elements that comprise the lodges are evident in the many orders of Freemasonry.

These issues are a dividing force for the decline of Freemasonry in societies around the world. The non recognition of the individual aspects and elements that comprise the lodges are evident in the many order of freemasonry.

Read: Freemasonry, The Religion of Not Being a Religion

The American orders for example might not recognize a lodge of Freemasonry in one state from another state because of its bylaws or codes.  Another issue in certain State Grand Lodges is that they might not acknowledge other Masons order of Freemasonry. The unity is no better internationally.

This is a fundamental problem for some Grand Lodges in other countries is that they do not allow women in lodge meetings. These orders need to come to a common agreement through the core values of Freemasonry. It is crucial to the survival and creation of a new blueprint for the order in the next century. This is the time in Freemasonry to write a new chapter in history by adopting the idea of unification for all the orders of Freemasonry into a well defined organization of unity.

A redefining idea of unity, presented through a visual and physical creation of progressive architecture, will become a symbol of unity for Freemasonry around the world.  The creation of such a symbol will bring a coming of age in Freemasonry in the 21st century.  That creation is a Universal Temple of Freemasonry.

The Universal Temple of Freemasonry (UTF) will be situated in Jerusalem, Israel. The selection of Jerusalem, Israel as the location site is significant to Freemasonry throughout the world.  King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem became the symbolic birthplace of Freemasonry. The proposed UTF site is outside the wall of the Holy City and is situated across from the Damascus Gate. In the history of Jerusalem, the Damascus Gate was the entry point where the religious pilgrims would enter the Holy City via traveling the Damascus road from the city of Damascus.

This is significant to Freemasonry because Freemasons are known as “Traveling Men.”  This comparison of the religious pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem in search of Holy Light mirrors the idea of freemasons traveling to Jerusalem in search of Masonic Light.

The site is located between the Armistice Lines of 1957, which divides the different regions and religions of Jerusalem.  This area is known as the “No-Man’s Land”, It is a land buffer between the different social, political, and religious persons and is considered by people in Jerusalem to be a site of a neutral nature. The site was also selected because of the discovery of King Solomon’s Quarry in 1854 in a cave system beneath the Damascus Gate and the Old City of Jerusalem. A large chamber was discovered that has been stated to be the site of Freemasonry Hall used by the Templar Knights in the Crusades.  The incorporation and placement of Masonic architectural elements in the UTF and its interior spaces are essential to the function and significance of the building to the site. The acknowledgment and study of historical Freemasonry architecture and sites in Jerusalem will influence and define the symbolic meaning to the building and site.

Unity Temple Blue Lodge
Blue Lodge

The construction of the UTF in Jerusalem, Israel will influence the surrounding cultural through Masonic unity. The UTF will be the new unifying symbol for all masons around the world.  The lodge will explore the knowledge and growth of brotherly unity in religion, philosophy, and morality within Freemasonry. This will become an expressing of ideals to the region of Jerusalem and the world.

The UTF will influence unity through a new idea of Freemasonry: Education = Knowledge = Light = Unity = Masonic Light.  The world orders of Freemasonry will be defined as the primary client.  The non – Masonic community will define the secondary client.  This place of unity and its client will change through the unification of the different orders into a more defined organization.  The unification will create a new primary client known as humanity and will influence humanity through unity in religion, philosophy, and morality.

Masonic Museum
Masonic Museum

This new idea Freemasonry: Education = Knowledge = Light = Unity = Masonic Light will consist of elements that will unite the orders of Freemasonry.   The Masonic Museum, (Education): is the first part of the new idea of Freemasonry. It will give members of all the orders of Freemasonry and the visiting public an understanding of Freemasonry history and its effect on world history.  The second is the Masonic Library, (Knowledge): will further educate the members of freemasonry and the visiting public through research. This research of Freemasonry will influence people from different societies to evolve to the new Freemasonry idea of unity.

Santum Sanctorum
Santum Sanctorum

The third is the Masonic Lodge of Unity: (Unity), which will be known as, “The Sanctum Sanctorum”. The creation of a lodge room known as the “Sanctum Sanctorum” in the UTF will influence the different orders of Freemasonry to embrace unity through the idea that the journey for the search of light ends in a destination called “Unity.” All Freemasonry orders must be unified before entering the “Sanctum Sanctorum.” Freemasonry member will meet in this place of unity once a year to express the overwhelming idea of unity among the Freemasonry orders.  The fourth is the five different lodge rooms for the five different orders of Freemasonry: (Masonic Light), will be defined as the Masonic Light.  These lodge rooms will give the different orders a place of unity where the different orders can meet throughout the year at the UTF.

The achievement of unity will be derived from and be driven by the hope of unification through my research.  I have created a visual and physical progressive architecture that will influence unity among the orders of Freemasonry.  This search for the unity of light has a frame work of ideas that incorporates unification through related topics in the different orders of Freemasonry. The history of symbolism and philosophy in Freemasonry incorporated with other related Freemasonry elements will be the foundation of the UTF.

West Gate
West Gate

My research of Masonic elements consists of the sacred geometries and how they are relevant to Freemasonry. The past influence of these sacred geometries on Masonic and non Masonic architecture will influence the idea of unity through their application in the visual and physical aspects of the UTF design process.

The goal is to provide a Universal Temple of Freemasonry that will redefined the ideal principles for the unification of the Freemasonry orders.  Unity and brotherly love are a fundamental ideal of Freemasonry.

There hasn’t been a symbol of unify in Freemasonry since King Solomon’s Temple in 965 BCE. The UTF will become that new symbol of unity through enlightenment. The principle new idea is to create a place where all Freemasons acknowledge one another, no matter their typology.  Defining a new progressive ideal of Masonic unity as: Education = Knowledge = Unity = Masonic Light.

Freemasonry Plaza
Freemasonry Plaza

A redefining idea of unity, presented through a visual and physical creation of progressive architecture, will become a symbol of unity for Freemasonry around the world.  The creation of such a symbol will bring a coming of age in Freemasonry in the 21st century.

The primary outcome of the creation of The Universal Temple of Freemasonry is to unite the different orders of Freemasonry through the design of a visual and physical creation of progressive architecture. The secondary outcome is to have this architecture and new idea influence better relations in the region of Jerusalem, Israel, by the implementing the new Freemasonry idea: Education = Knowledge = Unity = Masonic Light. This new idea along with the idea of a new age of progressive architecture will influence all relationships towards mankind and hopefully peace in the region of Jerusalem, Israel.

Disillusionment with Freemasonry

The following outlook of Freemasonry was shared with me with much trepidation and concern over its reaction. Permission to publish it was granted if the author could remain Anonymous.

I’ve heard these same words from others in recent months, and it struck me that they were not isolated or merely dissident voices in the wilderness — rather that they were a real malaise that is overtaking the once previously engaged. Disenchantment, disenfranchisement, disappointment, no matter what bucket you quantify it into, I am hearing about these feelings more and more.

Always looking for the silver lining, this would be a good jump off point to explore the sentiment as we proceed to get at its roots. Do you share this same feeling?

Disillusionment with Freemasonry

Understanding the allegories of Freemasonry

After serving the fraternity for over ten years now, I’ve stopped to look back as to what I accomplished and how Freemasonry has changed.  I’ve been through the chairs and served my Lodge faithfully, participating in several work parties, fund raisers, and other events. I’ve been found proficient in degree work and recognized for work in Masonic Education.  I have also participated in several district and state level functions. Thanks to the Internet, I have corresponded with Masons from around the world, listening to their problems as well as their advice. Whenever a Brother asked for help, whether near or far, I leant a helping hand. My Masonic knowledge and experience led me into a position where I was frequently consulted for advice and leadership. It also led me into petty politics where I was confronted by those jealous of my notoriety and stubbornly undermined any effort to upgrade the Lodge and fraternity.  I now look back and ask, “Did I make a difference? Is the fraternity or Lodge better off than when I was first initiated?”

I have slowly come to the realization that the answer is “No.”

I think the reason for this is because I suffered from a false perception of what Freemasonry was all about. As I entered the fraternity, I was under the impression that a True Mason was a man of character, integrity, honor, who possessed an intellectual curiosity about life, a person whose word is his bond. In other words, I perceived Masons as the bedrock of society.

Unfortunately, this is not what I discovered. I have traveled around quite a bit and met many Masons, most of whom are not of this stereotype. In fact, I would estimate less than 1% of our total membership can be characterized in this manner. And therein is where the bubble burst for me.

Read: Ghosts in Lodge

With the exception of those Brothers attempting to establish Traditional Observance (TO) Lodges, I have learned the vast majority of Masons are not serious people. They are more concerned with slapping backs as opposed to doing anything of substance. A lot of Masons will scratch and claw just to get their next apron or title. I tend to believe this is because they never did anything noteworthy in their professional careers and crave attention. In other words, they are trying to build their self-esteem at the cost of their Lodge, a sort of “While Nero fiddled Rome burned” phenomenon. I guess this is why I find it amusing to hear conspiracy theorists try to warn the public of how Freemasonry is trying to dominate the world. Too funny.

The fraternity is dying and nobody is doing anything about it, least of all at the Grand Lodge level. Freemasonry is an institution who stubbornly clings to the past and resists any attempts to change and modernize. It’s decaying before our eyes.

Disillusionment comes when expectations are not met, when beliefs are not realized. Disillusionment leads to frustration which often leads to anger. At some point though, you have to deal with it. As I see it, there are only a few options available:

  1. Stay and passively accept the status quo — representing total surrender.
  2. Stay and continue to try and change the system internally — impossible due to the political stranglehold Grand Lodges hold over the fraternity.
  3. Take a leave of absence — whereby the problems will still be waiting for you when you return.
  4. Resign and start a new strain of Freemasonry — which is very tempting but difficult to do on a large scale.
  5. Resign, lick your wounds and move along with your life.

This last option, unfortunately, is what many men opt to do as opposed to fighting the powers that be.

US Masonic membership

Consider for example our free-falling decline in membership.  Aside from death and transfers, think about those members suspended for nonpayment of dues which in some grand jurisdictions is on the rise. One cannot help but ask why this is occurring. Because of the economy? Perhaps. More likely they are not getting anything meaningful out of Freemasonry.  Even when Grand Masters offer amnesty programs to encourage members to return to the flock, very few do.

Those men who would normally take an active role in Masonry are being driven away in droves due to complacency, apathy, and politics, three ugly words that unfortunately characterize Freemasonry today and causes disillusionment.

Freemasonry has become more of a philanthropy than a fraternity, a political playhouse as opposed to a true brotherhood. It is sad to see a once noble institution crumble before our eyes into an irrelevant institution.

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts below.

So What? The Dynamic of Masonic Membership.

Logo of Freemason Information.

The following was originally published in 2007. It is one of several essays in the book Masonic Traveler, where you can find a more refined and extended version of this missive.

Since this original publication in 2007, the dialog increased only to taper off again to a quiet whisper, if heard anywhere at all. In 2008/9 Stephen Dafoe produced a rebuttal of sorts, not in the context – but in the meaning of the numbers. His conclusions can be found in the article There’s a Hole in our Bucket, but I recommend that you read it after this piece so as to put all the information into context.

Changing Masonic Membership

The question above has been an institutional answer (yes, I said answer) that has plagued Masonry for the last 50 years. When I first heard it’s asking, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. I wasn’t even sure if I should talk about as it seemed like an internal problem, and not the fodder for the rank and file (you and me) to ponder. It wasn’t until my own realization that it was the rank and file that was ultimately the cause and effect of the question AND answer when its implications became clear.

As the adage goes, if you don’t talk about it, how do you fix it? And in such a large fraternity I felt that we absolutely needed to talk about it, NOW.

In doing some research, I found myself at the website for the MSANA, which is the Masonic Service Association of North America which is a national clearinghouse for all things Masonic in North America, but specifically an informational collection agency that gathers data and publishes literature for the overall benefit of the craft.

One of the items I found there were statistics on membership (now in archive) from 1925 to 2005.

The statistics are the national numbers of membership in the United States from 1930-2000 not graphed, but in a pretty uninteresting grid of data.

From a surface analysis what it showed was an early high figure, a dip, a huge growth period, and then a dramatic down trend in membership, specifically from a period of 1960 to close to present day. The graph below was created from this data.

Graph showing the change in masonic lodge membership numbers from 1930 to 2000.

What it charts is the membership numbers from 1925 to 2005.

For a comparison, this graph is the US population in the same period.

U.S. population growth between 1930 and 2000.

Obviously, the numbers are dramatically different – Freemasonry at one to four million and the US population at 100 to almost 300 million, but what it illustrates by contrast is the dramatic rise in US population (about half of which are male +/- 51/49%) and the dramatic decrease to male membership.

What I want to illustrate here is that while the US population has steadily increased, the population of Freemasonry has steadily decreased, substantially.

So to the question, so what?

Most who have been members for a significant time know that the membership of Freemasonry is changing. Lodge rooms are seating fewer and fewer members, old buildings bought and built in the boom era are being sold off as membership roles shrink and charters evaporate. We know that already, this isn’t new information. Every Masonic publication has said this at some point or another – “our numbers are retracting, that we felt a boom with the returning vets of WWII and Korea, and that their numbers swelled our ranks to their record numbers, topping at a height of 4,103,161 in 1959” -the glory days of the ancient and honorable.

But since that high water mark we have been in a steady decline in membership.

Again the question, so what?

The decline of the 1960’s and 70’s is often blamed on the selfish attitudes of the “tuned out” generation, the hippy turned Baby-Boomer, with widespread distrust of past paternal institutions, and a growth in a personal individuality, no one wanted to join, even when they later came of age the attitude of “Forget doing what Daddy did” and “why do I want to be a part of a secret institution of good old boys” prevailed. But was that really the problem?

I’m sure if analyzed in an academic fashion, we could explore the “why Freemasonry changed” notion in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, but I wonder if it would be enough to give us a real answer.

Some have suggested it was the institutional change towards fraternalism. Others suggest that it picked up and patriotic flavor of Americanism with the high number of veterans that came to its ranks. Trying to associate the increase to any one reason is difficult at best.

What the numbers do tell us is that in 10 year intervals, from 1960 to 2005, membership dropped by an average of 560,152 members. On the graph, you can see the decline to 2005. Distilling the numbers, it comes out to an average of a 20% decrease in membership per 10-year period.

By the years it breaks out to:

  • 1959, membership at its height was at 4,103,161
  • 1960 – 1970 there was a loss of 336,006 a decrease of 8.19%
  • 1970 – 1980 there was a loss of 511,685 a decrease of 13.597%
  • 1980 – 1990 there was a loss of 719,885 a decrease of 22.14%
  • 1990 – 2000 there was a loss of 690,474 a decrease of 27.274%
  • 2000 – 2010* there was a loss of 542,714 a decrease of 29.477% (*Calculated by doubling the loss from 2000 to 2005)

Updated numbers at bottom.

The average loss, per year, was 20% (20.2%)

Again the question “so what”, we already know this, these numbers are not secret. They are published in an open forum for the public to see.

The overall calculation led to an extrapolation, if the fraternity lost on average 560,152 members, per decade – from 2010 to 2020, our national number of members would be under 1 million members at 738,303. In ten more years 2020 to 2030 our national member base would be 178,151.

That number again is one hundred and seventy eight thousand one hundred and fifty one TOTAL Freemason’s in North America by 2030, which led me to speculate that the last American Freemason would probably be somewhere in about 2034 or so.

Ok, so this is a worst-case scenario, this is an assumption that we will continue to lose the same 560,000 members a year, due to attrition, brothers passing, or low community interest. The overall numbers tell me that the loss % per year is INCREASING; not decreasing, but maybe the trend is just that, a trend. It should be said that at present, 2005 numbers show our fraternity at numbers lower than the 1925 watermark, when the US population was less than half of what it is today. What appears to be happening is not just a “correction”, that it is not simply the Fraternity going back to the “way things were” at the turn of the 20th century, rather that it is something much worse at play and further outside the scope of our control.

Taken from another angle, we can say that over the same 50-year period, we did average out to a 20% loss per year. These numbers are far less frightening and show a slower descent over the next one hundred years. In 2030, where the first model takes us to extinction in the percentage model we sit at just over 800,000 members. It isn’t until 2130 that we get to fewer than 100,000. But again, that is at a steady 20% decrease no ups, no downs, steady. The trend in the last 50-year cycle has been one of a steady increase in percentage loss, 8.9%, 13.59%, 22.14%, 27.27%, and 29.47%. This model, though more positive, seems less likely.

At the other end of the spectrum, some locations so seem to indicate an upward trend in membership. In areas that lost 4000 members, they took in 2000, diminishing the overall drop, but even these anecdotal statistics only suggest a change in trend without much ability to forecast realistically where the descent will level off.

Again the question, so what?

With those of us left, we become the inheritors of Freemasonry here in America, and need to address the question of what we are going to do about it. I have read a Laudable Pursuit as I am sure many other masons have, I attend meetings, pay my dues, and heed the length of my cable tow, but is that enough?

Are dynamic meetings, meaningful Masonic education, Traditional Observance Lodges, Festive Boards, or low cost spaghetti or fish fry dinners the answer? Are even the boldest Grand Lodge programs such as the Massachusetts Is there Greatness in you? Marketing Campaign or the California Masonic Formation movement, enough? What generated interest in the past?

To answer this question we need to ask what Freemasonry has lost — what component of our fraternity did we lose in the transition of the 1950’s into the 1990’s that closed us off from the moral imagination of society? What changed?

  • Was it the success of the offshoot “clubs” whose focus on charity or drama plays, rather than esoteric transference, took prominence?
  • Did we, institutionally, become afraid of what our own metaphysical/spiritual fraternity represented?
  • Were we marginalized as an increasingly religious America took over, forcing out interfaith institution?
  • Did American Freemasonry fall out of progressive step with the evolving landscape of American women’s issues, and racial equality taking the forefront but still at odds in the fraternity dedicated to the moral high ground?

It was in the periods of transition from the 19th to the 20th century that many esoteric or occult works were created that seem to evoke the spirit of the coming age of Masonry. Did their promise grow silent on the lips of those who took the reins of leadership?

Just a small (yet significant) marker I can point to that symbolically illustrates the transition was the name change of the monthly Scottish Rite Magazine formerly known as the New Age Magazine in 1989.

Its true that in the mid century a degree of quackery took hold of the metaphysical giving birth to an explosion of Self Help and “Occult” practices. Did Masonry’s hasty retreat from all things esoteric help steer the fraternity towards the rocks of fraternal obscurity? Did we become afraid of our own esoteric shadow marginalizing our own traditions effectively doing this to ourselves?

The one thing that so many outsiders look to Freemasonry to provide is a degree of esoteric wisdom and education, yet we can barely articulate to the answer to the simple question of “what does Freemasonry represent”? Our tradition is betwixt pointing one way with progressive learning, equality of faiths, and metaphorical death and members pointing another with social fraternalism, overt patriotism, and faux civic engagement – is it a social club or a path to self enlightenment?

As the numbers continue to descend, some possible scenarios to consider is the separation of the Shrine from the craft lodge system. With the success that the Shrine has enjoyed in this last century, why would they keep the requirement of the Blue Lodge membership, if the blue lodge can barely support itself let alone its drive for localized charity. Especially now in the face of diminished revenue and potential loss of its charitable hospitals. In its present configuration, can it afford to not take in now blue lodge members?

Another scenario is the separation of the Scottish Rite to become its own degree imparting body. What is to keep them from offering the degrees as more Craft lodges start to close? Maybe it makes more sense to pool the resources and go with the bigger temples that the Scottish Rite inhabits. The easy answer is, of course not, but as the feeder blue lodge membership continues to plummet, at what point will desperation take hold and other options become more enticing? Are the American Rites prepared to cease operations if memberships diminish to an unsustainable level?

So what? So what can we do about this?

The most effectual answer I can come up with, individually, to the “SO WHAT” question is nothing.

Masonic advertising on a billboard.

We can, at this point in time do nothing to turn this trend around. No matter how many open houses, public lectures, marketing campaigns, sports sponsorships, television commercials, radio spots, billboards, or finite programs promoted by individual lodges or Grand Lodges will stem the hemorrhage. Even if the blue lodge started giving away memberships, it’s doubtful that we could find enough people who even remembered who the Freemasons are, and even fewer who would want to become one. The damage is already done, and we are now in a free fall that threatens to erase the remains of North American Freemasonry. This means the closure and roll back of individual state Grand Lodges. This will mean the selling of more Masonic properties and assets, and the selling or divesting publicly of our privately funded billion dollar institutions.

This means the end of Freemasonry as we know it today.

But all is not lost and that there are things that we , individually, can do now to start to effect change. The greatest challenge will come in our re-shaping the perception of what the fraternity represents and that its history, both real and imagined, becomes a part of who we are. And by understanding that, we can embrace it and celebrate that diversity and begin to explore those ideas that we left off from a century ago. As a body we can pause and consider out institution and how it relates to its broader impact on civil society. Is OUR venerable institution living up to the promises that our very Rites espouse? Do we treat ALL people equally, no matter of Race, Gender, Religion, or Preference? Are we striving to make social progress?

In the next 30 years the landscape of what we call Regular Freemasonry will be radically different than what we see today. The sooner we come to see that NOW, to talk about it, and confront it head on – the sooner we can start planning on what we want to do about it. Burying our heads in the sand is not the answer and if we continue to insist on doing nothing about it WE will only further hasten OUR demise.

Our generation, RIGHT NOW, is the unwilling inheritor of the future of Freemasonry – what we do NOW dictates how our sons will come to know this ancient institution. If we ignore the problem, there won’t be any institution left.

And, of you who say “So What”, I ask that you look at the numbers for yourself and then draw your own conclusions,

Once you’ve seen them you’ll see that they speak for themselves.

Update – May 21, 2017

  • Period of 2010 – 2015 15.45%.
  • Period of 2005 – 2015 26.02% (calculated).
  • Doubling the loss from 2010-2015 (424,400) to calculate potential loss = 31% change.
  • New estimate at 2020, 949,093 members.

The Freemason Facebook Logo conspiracy

The Week has let the cat out of the bag.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed to the attentive crowd of the D8 tech conference, the latest secret logo of the Freemason/Facebook cabal.  Seriously, its being reported everywhere, even if it is a bit cultish.

You’ll have to look for the logo, but you CAN pick up one for yourself on Ebay.  You can see a big version of it at the SF Weekly blog.

It is, in fact, the mystical, magical, esoteric, and highly speculative Facebook 2010 business strategy logo, complete with its “off kilter” star of David center.

So it really is the Freemasons, I mean Facebook, that rules the world. So nefarious.

Thats it, the hoodie is out of the bag, back to robes and old fashioned cowel.