Why Did You Join Freemasonry?

I had the pleasure to meet a elderly gentleman today who was a neighbor of a family member of mine. He was a very polite fellow, with a good measure of mirth and authority, tempered only by a touch difficulty to hear. In the conversation he dropped that he was 78, but you’d never guess it with the way he handled himself in his yard work.

The conversation started, after a quick exchange of pleasantries, with the innocent question to me of “Who was the Mason?” He had obviously noticed the bold square and compass on the back of my car, and it had intrigued him enough to ask about it.

I replied to him with the short reply that “I was so taken”, something any in the know brother should key in to, but I realized in just a few seconds that he wasn’t so taken, and I replied the it was me, with the elevator speech prepping to roll off my tongue, only to have him interrupt me.

“My dad was a Mason” he said with a fond gleam in his eye. “Yeah, he was a 22nd, or 32nd or something…” “I used to know the handshakes, something he told me never to throw out there, or someone would really lay into me”. I smiled to myself as he said it.

“Yeah, I have his Bible inside”.

“A Blue Masonic Bible?” I asked.

“Yeah, a big one, it was his grand-dads before him, and so on…” he trailed off, wistful again.

“I have all his things from the Masons, I’ve wanted to put into a shadow box for years” he said with a near tone of excitement. “His rings, pins, books, and lots of papers” again with a fond look in his eye.

“He had showed me all of it when I was 5, and he treated it with such reverence.” I could tell he was looking back in time. “I remember it like it was yesterday….” His yesterday trailed off for a few seconds, which I jumped on the memory to ask the question looming over us like a tree.

Read: Is 2B1ASK1 Working?

“So how come you never joined?” It felt like a lead weight on a line being thrown at his feet, but I had to ask.

“Oh, he dropped hints several times over the years, even inviting me to join, but I never took him up on it.” He said sounding almost regretful of the missed opportunities of the path that could of been. “I liked to ride motorcycles and hung with a rough crowd, not the kinds that were the Masons I knew. The Masons were all really good guys, and I didn’t think they would like me hanging with the crowds I ran with.”

“Its funny you should say that,” I said, “there are a lot of guys in the fraternity, including those that have bike clubs.”

“Oh I know, it just wasn’t in my cards to do it I suppose, but I have the fondest memories of my dad being in it.” he trailed off, and turned the conversation to the yard work and other mundane aspects of life.

Besides the obvious pleasure at the conversation, the exchange came to me at a time when I was asking the Great Architect some challenging questions: about life, about the fraternity, and my place in it, and its future. I know the last thing on the list is something bigger than any one person can answer, but its always been a burning question for me as I consider it in the face of my sons who I hope to one day join its ranks.

But what the conversation left me to think about, as I resumed the path of the rest of my day, was rather than simply consider why others would want to join, to take a few minutes and ask myself why did I join? Why did I become a Freemason and did it live up to those expectations? What could I do to make it that way?  I’ve personalized it of course, but its a question we can all ask of ourselves.  Why did I join Freemasonry?

The man who I had the conversation with didn’t join for what ever reasons, but his father did, and his father’s father did, and they probably had a hope that this, now elderly, gentleman would too.  But, he didn’t for what ever reasons he had at the time.  His progenitors are not here to ask why they joined, but we can ask ourselves that question.

So why did you decide to join?

Freemason Tim Bryce.

Teaching Masonic Catechisms

deciphering ancient mysteries

I have had the pleasure of teaching several Brothers their Masonic catechisms over the years. I find it to be good practice for me and keeps me sharp when I’m called upon to provide assistance in degree work. More importantly, it has offered me an opportunity to get to know some very fine men. Very rarely will I instruct more than one person at a time. I find it is better to teach one-on-one since people tend to learn the memory work at their own unique pace. It also allows me to concentrate on the nuances of each person’s ability to absorb the material.

Although I try to teach at a regularly scheduled time and place, I recognize our professional lives make it difficult to do so. Consequently, I am willing to meet the Brother as needs require, be it at the Lodge, his office or mine, my house or his. (Frankly, I prefer the latter as it affords me the opportunity to smoke a cigar as we sit outside.)

When teaching a new Brother the catechism, I am looking for the fire in him to learn the work and, if I see it, I’ll bend over backwards to help him master it. But I have had a couple of occasions where the student really didn’t want to learn the material. In this situation I have offered to help him find another instructor who could possibly help him. Inevitably, it is not the instructor but the individual who simply lacks interest and eventually drops out.

In the past, you have probably heard me say that the only reason we learn catechisms is to perpetuate our degree work. This is why I think it is vital to not only teach the catechism, but to also describe how Freemasonry works, the history of both the fraternity and the Lodge, and the customs to be observed. In addition, I take the student to a Masonic degree so they can observe it from the sidelines (thereby more clearly assimilating the degree). Again, I think it is important to develop a rapport with the student and express your commitment to the person. In turn, the student expresses his commitment to you. I learned this from my own instructor, and we remain fast friends and trusted Brothers to this day.

Sometimes, Lodges appoint a Lodge Instructor to teach the work. Such dedicated people are becoming increasingly hard to find. When a Lodge Instructor is not available, it is wise to get the junior officers to teach the work, particularly the Wardens and Deacons. This does two things: it forces the Lodge officers to sharpen their memorization work, and it provides the means to get to know the new Brothers who may play a vital role for the officer should he ever reach the East.

After a Brother has been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, I am often thanked by the student for my efforts. But as I tell them, they did all of the hard work, not me. I expect nothing in return other than the Brother does a good job and perhaps teaches someone else down the road. Being an instructor is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly; you have to be one part teacher, one part coach, and one part Brother. You shouldn’t simply teach the student his catechism, you need to teach them to be a Mason and to seek further light. A little investment of time in the Brother early on will inevitably pay dividends later on for Freemasonry and the Lodge.

Keep the Faith.

Freemasonry From the Edge
Freemasonry From the Edge

by W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
“A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry”

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:

Article reprinted with permission of the author and www.FreemasonInformation.com

Please forward me a copy of the publication when it is produced.

A Short(er) History of Early Women Freemasons

womenfreemasons_featBy Karen Kidd
Author of  “Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons”

Controversial American author Robert Temple observed “Technology is forbidden when it is not allowed to exist.”

“It is easy to forbid technology to exist in the past because all you have to do is to deny it. Enforcing the ban then becomes a simple matter of remaining deaf, dumb and blind. And most of us have no trouble in doing that when necessary. . . I call it consensus blindness. People agree not to see what they are convinced cannot exist.”

Temple made these comments in his paper “Forbidden Technology”, which is about optical technology, long denied by “experts”, that none-the-less existed for millennia.

“Consensus blindness” long has been the unwritten/unspoken rule among Malecraft Masons, likewise accepted by many non Masons including women, about the existence of early women Freemasons. However, just as there are lenses in Ancient Egyptian archaeological finds dating to the 4th and 5th dynasties at Abydos, so also have women Masons existed throughout all of the modern Freemasonic period[1].

Denying their existence, for centuries, was the expected norm and any Masonic historian who wrote about them had to adopt a sort of double-speak. For instance, 20th Century Masonic scholar Carl Claudy, when he wrote about women Freemasons in his “Masonic Harvest”, spent the first page of that chapter stating that women could not be Freemasons; then ten pages describing – with continual double-speak  –  the lives of those women Freemasons.

Claudy, whatever his personal opinions, had no choice but to write about early Women Freemasons in this way. Had he attempted to be more straight-forward, it likely would never have been published. In this way, Claudy and other Masonic writers kept from complete obscurity the lives of these women Freemasons.

Their existence is a fact, despite determined effort to ignore, marginalize and deny it. That effort, however, ongoing for centuries, has done its worst. The very vast majority of early women Freemasons are unknown to us. Finding them can take as much effort as it did to obscure them.

They include:

  • Gunnilda the Mason: a female operative mason mentioned by name as living in  Norwich in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256[2].
  • Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth: initiated into her father’s lodge in County Cork in Ireland before the founding of the modern Freemasonry Grand Lodges.
  • Hannah Mather Crocker: Grand Mistress of the Femalecraft St. Ann’s Lodge in Boston during the 1770s.
  • Henriette Heiniken: better known as “Madame de Xaintrailles”, a hero of the Napoleonic wars initiated into an otherwise Malecraft Lodge in Paris the early 19th Century.
  • Mary Ann Belding Sproul: an early New Brunswick settler initiated into her husband’s Lodge in the early 19th Century.
  • Catherine Sweet Babington: a teen-ager when she snuck into her uncles’ lodge in East Kentucky, initiated into that Lodge at the height of the anti-Masonic era spawned by the disappearance of William Morgan.
  • Salome Anderson: late 19th Century wealthy matron of Oakland, CA, outed as a Freemason by a respected Masonic publication six years before her death in 1898.

And many more. Late 19th Century Masonic history W. Fred Vernon, writing when Malecraft Masons were a bit more laid back about the subject, commented, “I have no doubt other ancient Lodges have their lady members just as ancient buildings have their haunted chambers.”[3]

I’ve heard my book is a threat to all Freemasonry, Malecraft Masonry in particular. This is no more true than admitting to the existence of their contemporary male brethren is a threat to any part of Freemasonry. All our Brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above, be they male or female, are to be remembered and emulated.

While none of these women were Co-Masons, they did pave the way for that part of Freemasonry. And, today, women can become Freemasons without eavesdropping, sneaking into lodges or hiding in furniture.

For more than a century, Freemasonry has operated in three parts. There is Malecraft Masonry, there is Femalecraft Masonry and there is Co- or Mixed Masonry. And we know this system can work, largely before it does.

And so it will continue with the past duly recalled. I wrote about these women to follow in the tradition of Claudy and other Masonic historians who kept their stories alive. I wrote the truth that this generation, and the next, may find worthy of remembrance.

Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast with Br. Kidd.

[1] Temple’s paper was published in the Summer 2001 edition (Issue 17) of Freemasonry Today and is available online here: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/17/p11.php

[2] See “Calendar of Close Rolls 1254-1256”, page 366

[3] See “Ars Quatour Coronatorum, Vol. V (1892)“.

My Brother’s Keeper – Open Racism in Georgia Freemasonry

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Genesis 4: 8-12 N.I.V.

Georgia Flag

The Grand Lodge of Georgia has openly documented its policy of racial exclusion of “non-white men”.

In a court filing to the Superior Court of Dekalb county – civil action 09CV7552-8, are documents (attached below) which include the charges brought against the Worshipful Master of Gate City Lodge No. 2.

The charges as filled were quantified as a Violation of the Moral Law.

Specification 1 in this – That said worshipful master xx xx did in fact raise or allow to be raised in and about February 2009 in the lodge that he is the Worshipful Master, a non-white man, xx xx.

Specification 2 – This said worshipful master xx xx did commit overt act or acts against moral laws of Free and Accepted Masons and the moral duties as the Worshipful Master of Gate City lodge no 2 as follows:

  • Violation of moral law from word of mouth
  • Violation of moral obligation to the ancient landmarks, ancient customs, ancient traditions, ancient usages, constitution, laws and edicts working under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Georgia.
  • Violation of moral official obligation was taken at the time of installation of officers.
  • Violation of moral obligations of not upholding the charter of Gate City Lodge #2
  • Violation of moral obligation of keeping peace and harmony in the craft by allowing the operation of a Cabal in Gate City Lodge #2
  • Violation of moral obligation as pursuant to Masonic Code 1-104 without having obtained the sanction of the grand Lodge are hereby declared spurious and clandestine and of no Masonic authority whatsoever.

The Master of gate City Lodge, proclaiming his innocence, was then charged in the following manner.

Violation of the Laws of Masonry

Specification 1 In This: That said Worshipful Master xx xx did in fact embrace a formed Cabal to secretly unite to bring about and overturn with usurpation of the constitution, laws, ancient landmarks, customs and traditions of Free and Accepted Masons working under the jurisdiction of ancient landmarks, customs and traditions of Free & Accepted Masons working under the jurisdiction of the grand Lodge of the state of Georgia, when he was elected Worshipful Master in December 2008.

Specification 2 in this – The worshipful master xx xx knowingly and willfully did in fact allow a raising of a non-white man in February 2009, which has never been done working under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of the state of Georgia. According to the old customs of the Grand Lodge of the state of Georgia which has existed continuously since February 21, 1734. After the fact, xx xx did allow parading xx xx to other Masonic Lodges, presenting him as a Master Mason accompanied by a letter dated February 25, 2008 on gate city Lodge#2 letterhead with the typed from xx xx xx, Grand Master.

Specification 3 In this: That the said worshipful Master xx xx did commit act or acts of destroying peace and harmony throughout the craft of Masonry in the state of Georgia.

Specification 4 in this: that said worshipful master xx xx of Gate City Lodge #2 did in fact knowingly and willfully commit this act or acts which is in conflict with the ancient landmarks and Masonic code sections 71-101, 4-101#6, 1-101, 1-201, 1-202, 1-205. Worshipful Master xx xx committed act or acts knowingly and willfully that conflicts with the ancient customs and traditions which are the immemorial usages and fundamentals of the craft which have existed from time immemorial and are unchangeable.

Specification 5 in this: That said worshipful Master xx xx of gate city lodge #2 must be tried by a trial of present and or past masters pursuant to Masonic code 83-401 and when found guilty of this charge of violation of the laws of Masonry as he would be under no less penalty than that established by Masonic code 21.106 and 21.107.

Masonic Law speak, the charges are based on committing act or acts of destroying peace and harmony, but involving the moral law as to the cabal behind the making of an “non-white” man a Mason. The disharmony seems to have stemmed from the “parading” of an African American Georgia Freemason, which is apparently now, a violation of their moral law. Never mind that the brother was made and recognized by the state, and never mind that he was acknowledged in a tiled lodge as such

Some speculation suggests that rather than drop the proceedings, the Grand Master will hold the trial to quell the misconception of racism and set the record straight, but this remains to be seen.

In the mean time, a civil filing by the Worshipful Master turned Plaintiff suggests that the Grand Lodge is in violation of its Non-Profit Status as it is now openly admitting that it discriminates based on race, which is against the public policy of the State. In the filing, it is also points out in several sections where the Grand Lodge is …an enemy of bigotry or intolerance… and also states the the Grand Lodge in leveling the charges is in violation of its contract with the member(s) when facing revocation of charters and membership privileges as members have a value property investment (contract) from their dues. Interesting to point out, the filing also says openly that “Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs show that there are currently in Georgia active, regular Master Masons of at least the following extractions in whole or in part: American Indians, East Indian, Arab/Lebanese/Egyptian, Persian/Iranian, Vietnamese, Chinese, non white Mexican/Hispanic, African-American, and Filipino, in addition to those of white/Caucasian ancestry.” So, now there seems to be a provision of the fraternity being not strictly white, which seems to countermand the white only exclusion.

The long and short of this convoluted tale comes squarely to rest on the odious claim that a “non-white man” can not be a Freemason.

I affirm, that racism is not tolerable, and bigotry, open or otherwise, is not included in our Moral Law. The brothers of Georgia are sorely mistaken in this assertion.

As I AM my brother’s keeper my “…brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground“. To let this go will put the fraternity under a curse that will send us “…driven from the ground”.

If not addressed this open proclamation could destroy the fraternity.

This is not Freemasonry in the 21st Century. This is not tolerable, on a personal level or from a Grand Lodge level, especially our Grand Lodges are an electable body from the craft lodge. Recognition of Georgian Freemasonry must be held in questioned especially if they are so ignorant to hold these ideas to be Moral Laws.  If in fact they do then Recognition must be terminated.

We are our brother’s keepers and only have the Great Architect to answer to. How will we respond when he asks us how we addressed this?

More on the Gate City Lodge.

Toxic to Democracy

Toxic to Democracy
Toxic to Democracy

I happened onto this story on my way home from the grocery store tonight.  It was on the NPR program Fresh Air and was an interview with Chip Berlet who is the senior analyst at Political Research Associates, at PublicEye.org.

The story was on a paper just released by PRA and Berlet on the damage wrought by conspiracy theories, demonizing rhetoric, and scapegoating, especially prominent in today’s media.  The topic is not a new one as both the left and the right have blasted one another for years, but in the interview, Berlet went into some considerable depth in talking about the extent of present day conspiracy theories and their radicalization especially as it pertains to the arena of white supremacy and neo nazi movements here in the US.

At first the program seemed to be just another conspiracy talk, but it soon delved into how the white supremacy movements (including the recent murder at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC) are beginning to take on an ultra radical stance that has, so far this year, been the root of 9 murders.  In the radical development of the conspiracy theories at their root is a black/Jewish cabal that embraces anti-semitism and racism hearkening to the slave south being taken over by the Rothschild banking family.  Going even deeper, in James von Brunn’s writings, he indited the Illuminati and Freemasonry as being manipulated by the “crafty Jews” to take control of America.

It sounds like a bad conspiracy film, but in the interview, Berlet details how these theories have developed and what their evolution has been.  Additionally, he details the Illuminati and Freemasonry for the host, portraying the fraternity into a very favorable light even acknowledging the fraternities link to the enlightenment and natural philosophy.

Interestingly, Berlet talks about the ideas of collectivism and socialism and their challenges when they radicalize and start to shape policy (you’ll remember the series from the Banks of the Euphrates a short time back).  This is a good example of this social collectivism gone awry in Nazi Germany into totalitarian.

I highly recommend you give the program a listen.  Also, if you have some room in your reading schedule, give the Toxic to Democracy paper a read.  I just printed out a copy and at quick glance it looks like a very good read.

I recommend listening to the NPR interview.
And i recommend reading the paper Toxic to Democracy.

Britney Spears a Freemason?

Prince of Wales Albert Edward
Edward VII

What if Britney Spears became a Freemason?

I know it’s a bit of an outlandish idea, and that few would readily take it seriously, or even believe a headline like the above, but in the magical world of “what if”, imagine for a moment that just such a story were hit the media outlets to say that the performer had entered the pillared threshold of a Co-Masonic lodge and undertaken the degrees of the fraternity.

Would it really be news worthy, or would it be just an interesting tidbit of information with no real net affect to the public perception?  Would her visits to lodges be chronicled by the likes of Perez Hilton or TMZ, or would her interaction with the craft be ignored for more interesting news of the day?

On the other end of the spectrum, what would Britney possibly take away from the degrees?  Would the allegories and symbolism of the craft be taken with any degree of seriousness and austerity or would it be a just another thing to do like collecting Chihuahuas or magazine covers with her portrait on them?  I suppose the question could be distilled down to ask would she learn something from the degrees?

Red Skelton
Red Skelton

In the long run the path of this imagine doesn’t really matter, that the likelihood of her becoming a Mason are about as high as a pig sprouting wings and flying, but the exercise going through the “what if” scenario is reminiscent to me of the era of Freemasonry that courted and brought in the nobility of England in the 1700’s which at that time led it to a greater degree of credibility and public standing and thereby increased its ranks and social interest with its line of Duke’s, Earl’s, and Princes as Grand Masters. In other words, we can obviously see that the publicity helped grow the organization. Is it that celebrity factor that is missing today? And if so, then what is the measurable benefit besides an increased public awareness and acceptance that is gained by such celebrity?

John Wayne
John Wayne

Interestingly, the Shrine has tapped the fame of Justin Timberlake as their spokesman for their celebrity golf tournament in Las Vegas, but it does not suggest that he is a Masons, merely a spokesman for its event.  I wonder what the difference would be if he were to wear the apron (or fez) and it was publicized to the media at large?  Is that the credibility boost that is lacking today as the past vanguards of entertainment such as John Wayne or Red Skelton begin to eclipse to the new and younger generation?

Is it a lack of A-list celebrities in the media age of tabloid news and infotainment that has Masonry slipping back into the quiet recesses of obscurity? 

Maybe the fraternity needs a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie (or both) to don the apron and make being a Mason cool again like it was in the era of Prince Albert Edward at the turn of the 20th Century.

But imagine if Britney took the oath, what would the face of Masonry look like then?