In this installment of the Symbols and Symbolism of Freemasonry, we consider a reading of Albert Mackey’s text on the subject of Faith as it pertains to Freemasonry. Distilled to a single word, Mackey gets to the essence of what that faith means in the fraternity and why it is so critical to the becoming of an Apprentice mason. Rather than give away Mackey’s conclusion, I’ll let his words speak for themselves as we explore them.
Faith in Freemasonry
In the theological ladder, the explanation of which forms a part of the instruction of the First Degree of Masonry, faith is said to typify the lowest round. Faith, here, is synonymous with confidence or trust, and hence we find merely a repetition of the lesson which had been previously taught that the first, the essential qualification of a candidate for initiation, is that he should trust in God.
In the lecture of the same Degree, it is said that “Faith may be lost in sight; Hope ends in fruition; but Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity And this is said, because as faith is “the evidence of things not seen,” when we see we no longer believe by faith but through demonstration; and as hope lives only in the expectation of possession, it ceases to exist when the object once hoped for is at length enjoyed, but charity, exercised on earth in acts of mutual kindness and forbearance, is still found in the world to come, in the sublime form of mercy from God to his erring creatures.
Good news. Brother Sheika is returning to Freemasonry and here is his story:
Why I Am Returning To The Masonic Brotherhood: Salman S. Sheikh
Disclaimer: This is of my own personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences and does not represent any Grand Lodge or its leaders/statements in any way. Please read with an open mind and don’t take anything out of context as I had several Masons review this before publishing. Thank You!
Greetings to one and all wherever you are reading this from. My name is Salman Sheikh and as you know I had an article that went viral when I resigned from the fraternity due to many issues which I felt did not meet my expectations of individuals I wanted to associate myself with. As you read this, I will try my best to break every subject I feel necessary to address in different headings so my message is understood rather than receiving criticism which is common for any Mason that cares and makes the effort to put it in writing. I found it in my heart to make the intention to return and reserved my right as a resigned Master Mason in good standing doing so. I want to clear the air on many things so I can return with a full heart. And away we go:
That is what I joined for to see guys learn something they can apply to their lives instead of repetitive meetings, lodge politics, and online arguments which is common now in the current environment.
My Background and Why I Left The Brotherhood
As I was growing up as a first generation American Muslim, I felt lost when I arrived to the USA at age 5 and did not know a word of English when I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to a local school which was a K-8 school and I am thankful to a teacher from India who took me under his wing and taught me English in terms of watching and reading all materials that presented itself in the required Lingua Franca. As time went on, I eventually made my way to the Greater Philadelphia area and have been here ever since. I was always misunderstood and found myself in trouble going through the school system and in middle school as I was only 1 suspension away from expulsion but was saved due to the advice I took from my 7th grade history teacher at the time who cared. I am thankful that to this day I maintain a clean record on all fields as a productive member of society especially growing up as a Muslim in the post 9/11 era. I am thankful to people like my Ohio Indian teacher and my 7th grade history teacher who showed up at the right times to guide me when they did so I could have a foundation to build upon. These individuals didn’t see me as a Pakistani Muslim but someone that they showed compassion for as a human being because I had always seen the world from outside the box and would often rebel against things I did not agree with. After finishing high school, I became the first person in my family to obtain a college degree and I am thankful of the opportunity of growing up in the USA and will always be thankful to my father who brought me here.
I was always curious about the world and humanity’s purpose in it as I would spend hours during my high school weekends searching Freemasonry including different secret societies, the occult aspects, and why things in our world worked the way they did in a script mode as I observed with the practice of Gematria/Kabalah. After high school, I operated a family business for a few years in the Philadelphia area while finishing my college and the thought of the craft had left my mind until the summer of 2015. I was working a summer job in the Upper Darby area when I had met an immigrant from Jamaica and a wonderful human being who showed up as a customer. I saw the square and compass on his hat and asked him that I wanted to join knowing the process myself that I had to ask with my own free will. He was old school and wanted to test me out for a bit as time went on of us becoming friends, hanging out, and learning from each other before He decided to present me with a petition to lodge. I was 23 at the time and really excited and went right away to my local Grand Lodge to take a tour. The night I became an Entered Apprentice, I was so excited because I never saw the sight of men of different backgrounds all sitting together and breaking bread. That’s when one of the Past Master’s of my former lodge who is a wonderful individual told me, “People will still be people.” I disregarded his words just like any youngster that talks to an elder but as time went on I came to appreciate his words more and more. I was initiated, passed, and raised by a Jewish Past Master who is often overlooked and I want him recognized for his awesome contributions to the craft and for the countless individuals he has raised. I thought to myself that where else in the world do you see this where we can all come together as one regardless of our faith, race, socio-economic status, etc?
I decided to faithfully attend all events of lodge which consisted of instruction(practice) nights, stated meetings, and extra meetings which is used for conferral of degrees. As soon as I was raised in the Spring of 2016 I was put into the Junior Deacon role which I faithfully honored with perfect attendance and effort till my Summer 2018 resignation. I also joined other appendant bodies and made the effort to honor all with participation, attendance, mentoring(education), bringing in worthy candidates which in my case still allows me to make an impact as one of the candidates I recommended for my former blue lodge is serving them in an exceptional way and things would have turned out differently for them had I not recommended this worthy individual so in the end I am thankful in many ways because we all have our parts to play to guiding each other to wherever we are meant to be and serve. I am no one special in the end but I am thankful to have played my role.
The one thing which amazed me was seeing men who would call me brother in lodge just for the sake of being there but would later post Anti-Islamic/Anti-Immigrant rhetoric on their social media pages or my spirit would be able to pick up on their vibrations on how they really felt about me. I tried to change them by showing them how a real Freemason makes a difference in the world. I made the effort to get involved in every appendant body and visited different lodges, went up to brothers that were sitting alone, and gave hugs to many as a I could to let them know that there was still some good left in the world including in the world of Freemasonry. The only way there will be a renewal in this brotherhood is when brothers like myself and others make the effort through action to show them how we can be a shining example of light to the world rather than empty words or promises. The doubts also started to cloud my mind is when how some brethren would make subliminal derogatory comments towards me in person and the way they conducted themselves on social media which made me more disillusioned no matter how many times I tried to stay active, help, do education programs, publish articles in Masonic magazines or any other Masonic effort I tried to make with a clean heart to spread unity in my short 2.5 years. I operated myself in a duality existence where I wore my Islamic prayer cap and kept my Masonic ring on as I had learned from the craft and the Scottish Rite Double Headed Eagle to represent all of our existence in a singularity because all other labels and identities are worldly illusions. My intention doing this living in USA was to show those I had interacted with that not all Masons and Muslims are bad and to erase the doubts in their minds through my own character. One thing I learned is that you can only influence and teach others through your displayed character which means a lot more than words.
I joined Freemasonry because I wanted to escape the judgemental attitudes I experienced in America and wanted to be with men who shared the same vision as me and great men in history like Haile Sellassie, Swami Vivekananda, Mustafa Kamal, and many other great revolutionaries that changed the world. I believe they only succeeded because they came together for a common cause and not petty issues like how I can make myself stand out from the next brother or who is taking the chair next year. If they had the attitudes we have today then maybe the USA would have never been created. I believe we leave all those fancy titles and honors behind when we face the creator because at that point the only thing that will matter is what good did you do for yourself, the world, and others? I can proudly say that I can face the creator with a clean heart and say that I loved my brothers, did right by all, and asked for forgiveness from all that were hurt by my actions unintentionally. That my beautiful brethren, I believe is true Freemasonry and I did not get that from those who are quick to make comments about the West Gate and how we need to better screen everyone. These are the same people who drive others out and maintain their own control as we see with the mass decline on how good of a job they are doing. My intention is to not condemn anyone or the fraternity but to raise the necessary awareness for revival and education because I saw no one else having the courage to stand up so please keep this in mind as you read on. If not me, then who?
I left Freemasonry because I did not like the corporate mindset that creeps into the lodge system. My intention of joining Freemasonry was to gain esoteric knowledge by spreading my own and humbling myself to learn from others also when required. I dedicated my heart and soul for all events and in the end I was called a liar, a spy, and other names by those who find it easier to criticize behind my back and on the computer screen rather than to my face because I chose to call out all those guilty of UnMasonic conduct rather than look away. These are the same individuals I called my brothers and they left me out to dry just like we see in the corporate world of the seller being nice to the client to gain as much as possible out of him but won’t hesitate to look the other way and walk right past them if they see any issue of any kind. I forgive them and moved on with my life peacefully and I hope they can become true Masons in all that they do because at the end no one is perfect but that should not be an excuse for lacking basic decency or empathy for your fellow man regardless of your biases, race, or religion viewpoints. The mindset of everyone being expendable needs to go away where focusing on numbers and petitions is the priority but not on why young men are leaving disoriented. Men come to the craft to learn and not appease those with a shopkeeper’s mentality who gets upset when you decide not to take a chair or anything else and won’t hesitate to replace you in a heartbeat. We see that as all the “higher ups” find it easier to hold fancy seminars about how to attract younger men and increase numbers(profits) while never talking about why did they join, how did we fail, and what drove them away? How you present yourself in person, on social media, and other things will determine if the young person joining will find you worthwhile or not to their spiritual growth. The young generation of today is keen with technology, Artificial Intelligence, and can flood the internet with memes in the seconds of any event happening in the world. These are the kids who are becoming leaders of tomorrow and the craft has to clean up the shopkeeper mentality who just needs enough bodies to keep the show rolling where whoever decide to show up is automatically assigned a chair. I am part of this generation and we won’t tolerate those who don’t practice what they preach on all venues. Hence, why I and others continue to leave as we see lodges with hundreds of members barely having enough to just open and close. This needs to change if the craft wants to survive beyond in to the 2030s and 2040s. The egos need to die down also as we see on all Masonic online platforms of just brethren arguing and fighting amongst many different issues in today’s environment of extreme polarization. I have also read many comments of my articles published which brethren degrade my faith, my value, and other lack of understanding and you can revisit them online and see how I handled them in response which was with brotherly love because I for one will never dishonor my oath and obligation regardless If I am an active Mason or not. I have the courage to look myself in the mirror everyday and tell those who are wrong on their face rather than look the other way.
Why I Am Returning
I created a lot of controversy when I resigned from Pennsylvania because I honored my obligation of standing up against injustice even if that meant losing everything I had worked for. I am returning because of great human beings like the current Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Bro. S. Eugene Herritt who personally called me and assured he would make things right. I first met RWGM Herritt at the Spring 2017 Academy of Masonic Knowledge lectures in Elizabethtown, PA. At the time he was a Deputy Grand Master and I did not know that as I just saw him a brother who was sitting by himself at the table during lunch. I felt something for him in respect to my oath and went up to him, gave him a hug, and took a picture with him and shared a nice moment as we took more pictures with our speakers, the speakers who also I both embraced because I know how special it is for those that gather to share knowledge with their fellow man. There are Grand Lodge leaders that probably don’t notice if your average Mason demits but RWGM Herritt truly cares for his fellow man and Mason and I want him recognized and honored for that from the entire global Masonic community including the growth of Masonic education under his leadership. There were those who said that I broke the trust of the RWGM with my resignation article that went viral that also had a picture of us sharing a moment together. Anyone with a pair of eyes can reread that article can see that I only mention the RWGM in their once where I respect him for the actions he was taking to better Pennsylvania and the fraternity in general. These are the same people who were quite and looked the other way when their clique friends laughed at me when I was going through my resignation process. I rest my case and those who have the eyes to see and the heart to feel know where I stand in my position without me having to provide any necessary justification as we see in the past of all individuals who made a difference branded as heretics or rebels. If anyone points a finger at you they too have to realize they are 10 pointing at least right back at you.
I am returning to honor great men like the current RWGM of Pennsylvania and others from the United Grand Lodge of England and Grand Lodge of India who stayed in touch with me on a daily basis regardless of time zone differences. That changed my entire perspective as I was only used to receiving once a year birthday check up calls as an American Mason or the dues payment reminders. Through these brethren, I am petitioning the UGLE and eventually the Grand Lodge of India to become an active Mason again and am making the intention to visit these countries to speak and be a real traveler with Masonry being a unifier that can help me bridge issues between the India/Pakistan mentality also which are all just illusions and labels. My purpose in returning is only for bringing brethren together in different scenarios and Masonic education and not to play lodge politics or musical chairs. I won’t join any lodge here in USA until they show me by their actions on where they stand and not empty words, but with my restored credentials I will happily visit the lodges here if they need a good education program that I can speak on and help them learn something or be able to attend myself if someone else is spreading light. I am not denouncing Continental Masonry(USA) and won’t hesitate to join a new lodge here in Pennsylvania or anywhere else that I believe would be benefecial for me or if I see something that sets them apart from others. That is what I joined for to see guys learn something they can apply to their lives instead of repetitive meetings, lodge politics, and online arguments which is common now in the current environment. If I make my intentions clear on why I want to come back then the possibility of me being disappointed is low. We all have different talents we can contribute to the craft and the mentality of throwing everyone in a chair right after being raised and expecting them to perform perfect ritual is unrealistic. The effort needs to made to sit down with the brother and ask him what he joined for and what talent or skill he has that can teach someone as we remain true to being builders of selves and our fellow man, not everyone can be a ritualist so the emphasis on their personal talents need to be clarified so the new brother feels a purpose and belonging. I joined at age 23 as the first person in my family to do so and am returning at age 27 almost as a Master Mason in good standing and that is something no one can ever take away from me because at the end our faith is always in God through all good and bad times. We all need to be understanding of one another if we are truly being followers of God and I know the inevitable comments of criticism that I will get from this and I forgive you in advance because you are my brothers and I will always wish you well. I will leave my contact information below and I encourage everyone who agrees or disagrees with me of how I took action to meet with me in person rather than behind a computer screen. I will treat you to a coffee and be willing to learn from you by putting my ego aside and I hope you will return the same respect to me as I will not respond to any negativity or negative comments that get posted on my new piece here. I also want to quickly address those who scrutinized me for standing up to those who post Anti-Islamic/Anti-Immigrant content on their social medias. I support everyone’s right to what they believe but to me it’s crossing the line when you demonize others which inevitably turns into UnMasonic conduct. The whole concept of being divided by race and religion is an illusion in my humble opinion and we can’t lower ourselves to that mentality. I got my DNA test done as a Pakistani and had Indian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and Australian Aboriginal ancestry in which the aboriginal bloodline gives me Indigenous recognition in the US under International law pursuant to Aborigines American Indian treaties with Great Britain and the De Jure United States of America under UCC 9-311 and the UN International rights of the indigenous peoples signed by President Obama in 2010 along with being a naturalized American citizen as well in respect to the Pam Am Convention, and Organization of American States. I found a fifth generational cousin who was a Caucasian woman in Iowa in which proves my sentiment again that we are all connected by our spirits and love for one another as human beings regardless of how different we think we are from others especially those whether they are Masons or not that like to spread disunity and confusion. This is my point in addressing all this. I would like to conclude my thoughts with a quote from Hermes Trismegistus, “The excellence of the soul is understanding; for the man who understands is conscious, devoted, and already godlike.”
A lot of people have asked me why I keep putting my neck on the line and I tell them that I truly care about the future of humanity whether it be through my Masonic endeavors or other situations. My personal beliefs added with Masonic teachings taught me never to back down or look the other way no matter what happens or how strong the opposition. The climate of division in USA has gotten worse over the last few years and unfortunately those attitudes seep into the lodges as well which drives away younger Masons and I would like to tell those older brethren and others that being a Mason evolves around love and understanding in all that you do. Mankind is born into bondage as the baby gets branded with a name, socio-economic status, and ideology in respect to the area being born in. Then that same baby grows up defending those programmed beliefs that were never truly chosen by them in the first place. The real realization is that one must follow their own path to understand self and others and have that true human victory which should be our true focus as Masons rather than the hours we spend arguing online. I wrote to many leaders and heads of state including Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth, who responded to me within 2 weeks! If I as a suburban Philly kid can do all this to spread awareness to the very minimum then no one else should have any excuse on why they choose to look the other way. Masonry has to give the younger generation a purpose of understanding in today’s 24/7 surveilled environment where the concepts of human interaction, relationships, jobs, etc are all different compared to the times of our parents and grandparents.
Thank you all and may God always bless you all and remove all your sorrows in this year and beyond. Again, make the effort to sit down with me in person and look me in the eye if you disagree with my above mentioned article on why I am returning rather than describe me as bad person who got through the West Gate. As a 27 year old Sufi Muslim, Freemason, and man I realized that its either you do it from the heart or not do it at all and that includes looking someone in the eye and giving them genuine warmth of a smile and feeling of peace. Again, I reassure you that this article is not to condemn Masonry but to encourage its revival through honesty and dialogue with one another for only being honest we can honor Masonry and its universal tenants of earning rewards through pain and struggle. We are all imperfect and as brothers who often fall out and make up again, we to share that bond of humanity even if we are not related by blood. If I hurt anyone in any way shape or form through my actions of order out of chaos in Masonry, I apologize and I hope those who conspired against me or did me wrong have the courage to do the same. We don’t become smaller by doing what’s right because in the end we shall all be held accountable by the almighty creator, myself included. Please continue to love each other, your families, and apply the teachings of our degrees, charges, and symbols into your daily lives and keep your head held high because God and karma vindicate our soul/character in the end. May peace be upon you and yours always and may our love for humanity and each other get stronger.
Yours in brotherhood, Salman S. Sheikh
All Rights Reserved :: Email: SalmanSheikh911@gmail.com – Greater Philadelphia Area USA
Freemasonry is steeped in history and ritual, but this doesn’t mean Masons lack a sense of humor (although I know a few whose faces would probably crack if they smiled). To demonstrate Masons do indeed have a sense of humor, I sent out a request over the Internet for some humorous anecdotes pertaining to the fraternity.
Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.
Bro. Jack Benny, Waukegan Lodge No. 78 A.F.& A.M., Waukegan, IL
What follows are some true stories from the Brethren. I hope you will enjoy them:
FROM GEORGIA, USA
I found this quite funny and it happened last night. After a long night we were about to close the Lodge. The WM said,
“Bro. Senior Warden… Bro. Senior Warden… BRO. SENIOR WARDEN!” (who was off day dreaming). Suddenly, he came out of his trance and said, “It’s Time to Milk the GOAT!” Priceless.
FROM NEW ZEALAND
A few years ago, when I was chairman of the selection panel for the Freemasons Scholarships at the University of Waikato, one recipient, a young lass, was unable to attend the formal presentation because her studies had taken her on a field trip that weekend. I subsequently arranged for her and the District Grand Master to attend my Lodge so that he could present her certificate. She was accompanied by her grandfather (who is a Past Grand Sword Bearer), her father (who is not a Freemason) and a friend. We conducted our business, closed the Lodge then invited the visitors in where the District Grand Master did the appropriate honors.
We sat the lass at the top table in the refectory and, as we usually do, sold raffle tickets with the lass being presented with a few. The treasurer approached the young lady to draw for the first prize and as he approached her he commented, loudly, that it always seemed incredible to him how many times the person he asked to draw a ticket drew one of their numbers. It was not entirely obvious but it did seem as though he was trying to eyeball the tickets sitting on the table in front of her. When she actually drew one of her own numbers he was stunned! Some considerable hilarity resulted.
The next morning I received an e-mail from the lass thanking me for the Scholarship and our hospitality and requested, in particular, that I convey her thanks to the guy who rigged the raffle!
V:.W:.Bro Gary Kerkin, Grand Lecturer
On entering Masonry, I turned up at Lodge for my initiation full of the usual, worried, anxious and apprehensive thoughts about how it is going to be, what are they going to do, until it was time for me to be attired in the same manner as many who have gone before me.
The then DoC came to my aid outside the door of the lodge after being introduced briefly to members on their way in, giving me knowing looks, and sneaky grins about what is about to come.
This was in a back room of a hotel which we used for our Lodge. I got dressed as instructed, was checked and asked if I was ready for this, I was then blindfolded, when I heard a knock at the door, and was taken by the hand by what one of the deacons, who on raising his rod, clipped a light bulb on the ceiling and caused the whole hotel to fuse out and go into darkness. Of course I was already in this state of darkness, when he turned to me and said, “DON’T MOVE, I WILL BE RIGHT BACK.” I thought, “Don’t move?” I am already blindfolded, where did they expect me to go? The Brothers were all running around panicking about getting some light and order back to the Lodge and indeed the hotel.
I hope you find this as amusing as I did once I actually found out this is not part of any ceremony.
FROM QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
One of our most respected Brethren in University of Queensland Lodge was W:.Bro. Arch Stoney, a long time lecturer at the University and a veteran Freemason. He retired at 83 but worked on until 87. Students, aware of his Masonic activities, described him in their magazine as “Killing himself by Degrees.”
Then there was the time when a Governor of Queensland and M:.W:.Grand Master of United Grand Lodge of Queensland took his team to an installation in a small country town. Prior to the meeting he attended a dinner at the local army base wearing his Colonel’s dress uniform. He kept this on when dressing for Lodge and the time arrived for him and team to enter in procession. The Grand D of C knocked and the young inexperienced Inner Guard responded. DC announced that M:.W:.Col X, Governor of Queensland was about to enter the Lodge and Brethren should prepare to receive him in due form. The Inner Guard, totally flustered, announced before the assembled Brethren, “WM, the Great Architect of the Universe seeks admission to this Lodge.”
Here’s another one: Many years ago my friend Don did his First in a Brisbane Lodge. He was a workshop technician in the University Chemistry Department and soon after his initiation the then Professor of Chemistry congratulated him and told him to be sure he was informed when the Second was due. Don duly informed him and the Professor asked him if he could attend the Lodge for the ceremony. In due course he drove his boss to the Masonic Temple but as they were entering he suddenly said, “Oh dear! I have just realized that never having sat with you in Lodge I cannot vouch for you.” The Professor chuckled and said he did not anticipate any problems. Don donned his plain white apron and the Professor put on a wondrous apron trimmed with gold and a very fancy collar. Fact is, he was the current Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland.
Bro. Tom McRae
FROM NEW YORK, USA
At one of our hardworking Brother’s funeral service, as we passed a group of ladies standing near the coffin, one noticed our white gloves that we wear during the services. She stated, “This must be the Meals on Wheels group that Robert drove for,” referring to the gloves and aprons.
Bro. Leon Randall
FROM CALIFORNIA, USA
One night, the Stewards went out to prepare a candidate for Initiation. There was some delay in the preparation. It was later that we were told that the candidate didn’t, as a matter of course, wear any underwear. The candidate, was apparently so embarrassed, that he has yet to return for his advanced degrees.
Bro. Richard Mullard
FROM CONNECTICUT, USA
It was the final meeting before we break for summer, and it was a very hot and humid day in central Connecticut. Of course, our Lodge doesn’t have air conditioning, so the lodge room was quite stuffy. We had no degree work and only a little business to conduct, so the Master opened the lodge and all officers who had speaking parts went through the opening ritual with speed talk. Suffice it to say it was very funny to witness the opening and closing ritual spoken so fast. We all wanted to get out of that room as soon as possible because it was so uncomfortable, and it probably didn’t help matters that all members in attendance were laughing hysterically at the sped up ritual, putting more moisture in the air!!!
Bro. Scott McCarthy
FROM FLORIDA, USA
Here’s another “Hot One” for you…
We had a “Hot” MM degree about three years ago when our AC broke down. You can probably imagine how hot a Florida Lodge can get, particularly when it was held upstairs in the Lodge room. Fortunately, I sat on the sidelines in casual clothes, but the officers were all dressed up in tuxes and they melted. Everyone was sweating so bad that I took a role of Bounty towels and threw it around the room like a football (with the Master’s permission) so everyone could wipe their faces. It was brutal!
FROM MAINE, USA
A couple of funnies from when I was a member of Augusta Lodge No. 141, A.F.& A.M. in Maine (now part of Bethlehem Lodge No. 35 F.& A.M. (Ohio) of which I am still a member).
First, back at the turn of the last century, there used to be a small Lodge in a small town somewhere just north or Farmington, Maine. Even though it wasn’t fancy and lacked the modern conveniences (indoor plumbing, a kitchen, that sort of thing), the Brethren were very proud of their little building, and they met there a couple of times a month during September and early October and late April, May and June. In the winter they met once a month on the full moon (for the extra light at night since there was no such thing as electricity yet). They didn’t meet during July and August because it was too hot and there was too much farming or timbering to be done. In the cold winter months when the wind would howl and the snow would pile up, the little pot bellied wood burning stove kept them warm and cozy as they conducted their monthly meetings. Now these were men who believed in and practiced the tenets and principles of Freemasonry. Occasionally, they would have a little social where they could bring their wives, but this usually was on Sunday afternoons after church. Beyond that, no women were allowed in the building!
Now there was a little old lady who lived near the Lodge hall, and she was the source of consternation among the Brethren for years. Seems that during the winter months – and in Maine that’s November through April – this woman, we’ll call her Mrs. Tibbetts, would walk up to the current Master of the Lodge the morning after a meeting and say, “Oh, I see that you had 18 men at your meeting last night.” Sometimes the number was higher, and sometimes the number was lower, but Mrs. Tibbetts was always right. This went on for years, and drove the Brethren crazy. Every morning after a meeting the Master would dread Mrs. Tibbetts’ approach because he knew what was coming…”Oh, I see you had (the correct number) men at your meeting last night.” And darn it, she was right, but how did she know? Did she have a way of sneaking in the Lodge and spying on us?
Finally, as Mrs. Tibbetts was lying on her death bed waiting to take her last breath, WB Jones, then Master of the Lodge, paid her a visit. Without nary a moment’s hesitation, he asked, “For all these years you’ve told us, without fail and without an error, how many Brethren we had attending the previous night’s meeting. How did you do it? Where was your spy hole? I’ve got to know.” Well, Mrs. Tibbets looked up at the perplexed and frustrated man and smiled. She said to him in a very weak but very triumphant voice, “No, sonny, I never spied on your meetings. But it was easy enough to tell how many of you men were there. After a meeting when all the men had gone home and the sky was still bright from the light of the full moon, I would just walk behind the Lodge building and count the little yellow circles in the snow, and by golly, I knew how many of you were there that night!” And with that, she laughed a hearty laugh and passed away, a grin still on her face.
This next one was told by Peter C. Schmidt, PGM and Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Maine. He always made himself the object of the story…
MWB Schmidt used to have speaking engagements all around the state. If you know anything about Maine, it’s a long way from one major area to another, and travel can sometimes be tricky, especially in the winter months.
One particularly cold winter’s evening, MWB Schmidt had to leave his home near Portland for a speaking engagement in Bangor, normally a little over a couple of hours away. Now MWB Schmidt was not known for his maintaining the posted speed limit. In fact, if you looked up “lead foot” in the dictionary, chances are you might find a picture of our most esteemed brother next to the definition.
But on this particular evening, MWB Schmidt was running extremely late and really didn’t want to disappoint his Brethren in Maine’s second largest city. So he got on the Maine Turnpike, pressed the pedal to the floor and headed north. He was making great time until he passed Freeport. He looked into his rearview mirror and saw the flashing lights of a state police car. MWB Schmidt pulled over, got his license and registration ready and waited for the officer. The state trooper tapped on the window and MWB Schmidt rolled it down.
“License and registration, please,” the trooper said.
MWB Schmidt handed the documents to the officer and while he was examining them, MWB Schmidt asked the trooper if he was a Traveling Man.
“Indeed I am,” was the reply.
“Sir, I am Peter Schmidt, the current Grand Master of Masons in Maine, and I am going to be very late for a meeting in Bangor. Can you help me out?” our Most Worshipful Brother asked.
“Well, I’ll let you go this time but keep your speed down,” the trooper replied. “And it was a pleasure to meet you, MWB Schmidt.”
Once again, MWB Schmidt headed north and as soon as he felt comfortable that he was way past the trooper, he pressed the pedal to the metal. He whizzed past Augusta and was now about an hour or so away. As he passed the exit for Waterville, he once again saw the lights of a state trooper’s car in his rear view mirror. Again, MWB Schmidt pulled over, got his license and registration out and waited for the officer. Tap, tap, tap on the window. “License and registration, please.”
“Are you a Traveling Man?”
“Yes, I am.”
Well, after a brief exchange, MWB Schmidt was let off with just a warning. And again, as soon as he was sure it was OK, MWB Schmidt let his foot do the talking, so to speak.
“I’m making great time,” he thought. “Only a half hour away.”
The exit for Bangor was now only a couple of miles away.
“I’m going to be almost on time!” MWB Schmidt thought. Suddenly there were the lights of another police vehicle visible in his mirror.
“Here we go again,” he thought.
Once again, he pulled over, got his license and registration ready and waited for the inevitable tap on the window.
“License and registration, please,” the trooper stated.
“Are you a Traveling Man?” MWB Schmidt asked.
“Yes, I am” was the reply.
Once again, MWB Schmidt identified himself, and pleaded his case. But this time the officer began writing a ticket.
“Officer, Why are you writing that? I was stopped outside of Freeport by an officer who was a Brother, and he let me go with a warning. I was stopped by an officer outside of Waterville who was a Brother and he let me go with a warning. Why are issuing me a ticket?”
The officer looked at MWB Schmidt very calmly and with just the hint of a grin on his face and replied.
“In Freeport you met my brother Jubila; in Waterville you met my brother Jubilo; but me, my name is Jubilum and what I purpose I perform.”
And with that, the officer finished writing, tore the ticket from his book, gave it to our Grand Master and wished him a safe journey.
W:.Jeff Kaplan, PM
FROM OHIO, USA
Probably the longest-running gag is for someone to slightly unscrew one of the light bulbs in one or two of the Lesser Lights. Sometimes, the switch will be thrown in conjunction with the slightly unscrewed bulb. Of course, during the opening of Lodge, the tampered-with lights fail to come on when the Senior Deacon flips the switch, and with embarrassment he has to screw in the bulb, flip the switch, etc. to fix the “problem.” Harmless but humorous to some “sideliners” or PM’s with too much time on their hands! (Of course, this gag is NEVER pulled during “special” meetings when dignitaries are present.)
Another fun gag is to unscrew the handle from the gavel of one of the officers. It is humorous to some of us when the gavel-head goes flying when the officers raps!
Sometimes, accidents are funny… Once, during an Annual Inspection (Ohio Lodges are inspected for proficiency annually), our Worshipful Master picked up his gavel with a nervous sweaty hand to give a rap. Upon rapping, the gavel handle squirted out of his sweaty hand and went flying into the floor directly in front of him. A helpful Brother, discreetly as possible, retrieved the gavel for him. Many muffled snickers were heard!
One of the funniest (to me now, not at the time) was a gag played on me by a couple of men on the Fellowcraft team during the Second Section of the MM – at our Annual Inspection! These two guys (JA and JO) were baldheaded fellows who got my wife to draw smiley-faces on their heads with her lipstick. Their heads were covered during the degree up until the point where they kneel to confess their deeds. After confession, these two hoodlums bowed their heads and their head coverings fell away, revealing the smiley faces on top of their bald heads! I had to take a couple extra breaths before proceeding with the ritual, when there was heard several muffled snickers around the room! Even the District Deputy Grand Master (my examining officer) was in on the gag! This story still surfaces when a bunch of us are sitting around reliving Lodge meetings of the past… even after 25 years!
The most enjoyable part of going to Lodge is the fellowship before and after Lodge. We have a comfortable sitting room where we have coffee or soft drinks and sit and swap stories and jokes. I have gone home after Lodge many times with aching sides. We have some very accomplished joke-tellers in our Lodge!
– Anonymously submitted
PLEASE NOTE: I’m still collecting Masonic humor. If you’ve got a story you would like to share with the Craft, please do not hesitate to e-mail it to me.
Keep the Faith.
Freemasonry From the Edge
Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company(M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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.
Recently I have been reading some essays by Masons who are dismayed at all the talk about membership, dues, dress, Grand Lodge edicts and other issues that they believe bring into the mix undue discussion, debate and division — the three Ds.
For them the philosophy of Masonry, its symbolism, its virtues, its morality, its positive effect on the human soul, its way of life is the only thing that should be talked about within the Masonic Community. All this other “stuff” is divisive, irrelevant, and unneeded controversy that hurts the Craft. We can call these Masons the Philosophical Intellectuals. Who cares where we meet, what we look like and how many of us there are. Many of these PI (Philosophical Intellectuals) Masons are heavily into Internet Masonry and less involved with Lodge itself. They see Masonry as a philosophy that can exist regardless of its structure because a philosophy requires no administration or infrastructure. It requires thought, enlightenment and personal practice without encumberment. It does not need a building or a leader or authority imposed on it. Masonry is a thought that can live in the minds of humans forever. It is indestructible, a personal journey that need not be shared with others and an intellectual movement that only requires a personal commitment to its ideals and its life changing message.
On the other side we have the Structural Administrative Freemasons who tell us that high brow intellectual philosophers in the Craft are all well and good but a Society, a Brotherhood without structure is anarchy. It no longer becomes a Brotherhood they say because what is lost is the interpersonal relationships, the camaraderie that is lost by the lack of personal contact. These Freemasons may bemoan the fact that we have become slaves to “communication machines” that remove from us our ability to relate face to face with others and hamper our ability to verbally, visibly and hands on bond with others. They will say that the Intellectual philosophers in the Craft would if they could put themselves on a pedestal while shoving the more practical Freemasons to a place of obscurity in a place where they cannot be seen or heard by the vast majority of humankind. These Freemasons are being charged with destroying the peace and harmony of Masonry for the sake of personal gain or notoriety.
The Structural Administrators strike back with, well these Masons are like those who own a new fancy car and all they are concerned with is driving it around without concern for whether there is gas in the gas tank or air in the tires. They say look Christianity is the thought and churches are the communal application of the thought. And that is what is important here — the communal application, the three degrees performed by living, breathing human beings not a video on a screen, and that we practice Masonry together with others. And the power of the personal touch, the effect of face to face practice of a philosophy cannot be overstated. If you are going to have infrastructure, a building, a ritual, a dogma, a catechism, a specific set up, designated leaders and positions of official status then you are going to have rules, regulations and enforcement. Thus, issues like dues, budgets, dress, qualifications for membership, what constitutes heresy, what permission is needed, how we are constituted, what we can do, what we cannot do, who has what authority and so forth have to be decided and then rethought and reviewed as each new generation enters into the Craft. Sometimes there are issues that need to be addressed when those in authority or those without authority bend the rules or distort them. Sometimes past oversights or changes in how we view things in today’s world have to be brought up to date. For instance, should a Mainstream Grand Lodge recognize a Prince Hall Grand Lodge. As much as anyone of us would like to avoid conflict and keep Masonry pure and innocent, that’s not reality. And the failure to realize that may lead to a Brotherhood that is corrupted and even hijacked by others who want it to be something else.
Both sides have some good points to consider. If more attention was devoted to the study of Masonry, its symbolism, its virtues, how it ennobles men and how it leads us to the Great Architect of the Universe then membership would increase. There are seekers or searchers among the newest generations who want to add meaning and purpose to their lives, who want to make a difference in this world. We have that for them if we will only offer it to them. However, American Lodges failure to teach what it has to offer and only pay lip service to its philosophy is its biggest downfall. One need only compare most European Lodges who are philosophical Lodges with American Lodges who are rather Service Clubs or Social Clubs. The fact that we have this outstanding philosophy which leads Masons who practice it to a joyous and rewarding life yet in the United States we spend most of the Masonic time on fund raisers, family gatherings, community action, charity and Brand and cigar nights is exactly what is leading to our diminishing numbers. We have something great to offer yet we pass over it to practice the more mundane things that a person could get in any number of other organizations. The Philosophical Intellectuals have a great point. Masons have a philosophy that no one else has. It being the strength of our organization when we fail to give it due homage and instruct the Brothers in its ways and what it can do for them, then we are defeating the purpose of being a Mason.
Why don’t we just change the name to Distinctive Gentlemen and get on with it?
But that does not let the Philosophical Intellectuals off the hook. Burying your head in the sand when problems come up and pretending that they don’t exist to avoid controversy does not lead to long term peace and harmony. Racism, homophobia, Grand Lodge unlawful expulsions and pulling of charters, corruption, religious discrimination, Grand Lodge micromanaging can’t be swept under the rug. Deal with the problems now or let them fester. Unfortunately, in many cases we have done the latter which only makes the explosion down the line much larger than it should be, because we have these Masons who say ignore the problems, we don’t want the controversy. We will not listen. We are going to stick our fingers in our ears and hum when you bring up such subjects.
Masons are not meant to be Monks. We need to deal with the real world. And while I sympathize with the agony and the disruption of controversial problems I cannot condone doing nothing, especially when some Masons are abused by other Masons; especially when too much power is concentrated in too few hands and is used unwisely and immorally. Look at civil society today. You have those who consider President Trump great and those who think he is terrible and there is a whole lot of controversy going on. And some of it is violent. Now we, as Masons, are better than that. Yet the call for no controversy at all by ignoring problems that may be tearing our beloved Fraternity apart is a Utopian Fantasy World.
One of the problems we have in the United States is the plethora of Grand Lodges, more than Ninety (counting Prince Hall). And that is not even counting the Clandestine Operations. In much of the rest of the world there is One Grand Lodge per nation. In some others there may be two, three, four or five but nowhere near the number that we have. And believe me when I say that what one Grand Lodge does affects the reputation and the public evaluation of all the other Grand Lodges. In the Information Age none of us lives anymore in a vacuum. What I have recommended for some time is that we have some sort of National Constitution and Bill of Rights or National Masonic Code of Ethics that would codify Grand Lodge conduct. And that Grand Lodges pull recognition from those who refuse to sign it and those who violate it. If we all agreed on proper conduct, what makes a Mason, the Landmarks, the proper dispersal of power within the Grand Lodge system, the rights of the Individual Mason and the limits of Grand Lodge then there would be a whole lot less of controversy, bickering and arguing.
Further exasperating the problem are some Masons who now very rarely go to Lodge. These tend to be the Internet Masons and they tend to be Philosophical Intellectuals. If my Lodge won’t participate in the study and education of Esoteric Masonry, many say, then I can get what is lacking in Lodge by having thoughtful and educational discussions on the Internet. Unfortunately, their lack of participation in the physical Lodge is hurting Lodge Freemasonry. They have become like Monks, withdrawing from the physical practice of Freemasonry by living out the Craft in Chat Rooms, Facebook, Masonic Forums and Yahoo Masonic Groups. They produce and watch YouTube videos and Masonic Podcasts – the new rage – about Freemasonry and gain their Masonic knowledge from Social Media. But when Structural Administrative Freemasons enter these discussions the Philosophical Intellectuals balk and accuse them of a “bait and switch,” and of a deliberate attack and destroy mission.
Fortunately for the moment the Masons who divide themselves into just Internet Masons or just Lodge Masons are a minority. Many Masons still do both. Yet as the Information Age becomes all pervasive the gap widens. There is a solution to this dichotomy. The Lodge Structural Administrative Freemasons need to put back into Lodge Communications a healthy study and education in Esoteric Masonry. This must be the emphasis of the Lodge for this is what distinguishes Masonry from every other run of the mill organization out there. The Philosophic Intellectual Masons have to work with Lodge Masons in strengthening the Live Lodge Experience while at the same time helping to solve injustices, abuses, micromanaging, corrupting, watering down, dumbing down and hijacking of and in Freemasonry. In short what we need in American Freemasonry is more Masonry and Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.
The biggest problem Freemasonry is having today is not membership but retention. New recruits come in and soon find out we are not serious about our philosophy. But that is precisely why they chose to join Freemasonry. But we don’t talk about our philosophy, we don’t teach it. So, they will take two course of action to demonstrate that disappointment.
They will quit and demit
They will become an Internet only Mason.
Yes, we need to listen to the Philosophical Intellectuals. The newer Generations are looking for meaning and making a difference in their lives. But they are not getting it from the Old Guard.
But today’s Philosophical Intellectual Masons need to recognize that they cannot attract new members in numbers when Freemasons are racist, homophobic, religious intolerant and misogynists. Today’s Generation just will not abide by these human failings. That’s right, you heard right. We are going to have to recognize and/or admit African Americans, Gays and Women. And just as the Structural Administrative Freemasons are going to have to admit a vastly increased Esoteric Masonic study into Masonry so also do Philosophical Masons need to help solve the problems of Grand Lodge despotism, racism, homophobia and misogyny without raising the bogeyman of controversy. When and if we attack both sides of the problem, the issues on both sides, then and only then will we once again have a thriving, growing Fraternity in the 21st Century with today’s Generation.
In this edition of Freemason Information’s Symbols and Symbolism we consider, together, the four cardinal virtues of Freemasonry as gathered form Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. Mackey (and Freemasonry) originally sourcing the virtues from Plato’s scheme, discussed in Republic Book IV, 426–435. Mackey writes of the cardinal virtues saying, The pre-eminent or principal virtues on which all the others hinge or depend. They are temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice. They are referred to in the ritual of the first degree, and will be found below under their respective heads. Oliver says (Revelation of a Square, ch. i.,) that in the eighteenth century the Masons delineated the symbols of the four cardinal virtues by an acute angle, variously disposed. Thus, suppose you face the east, the angle symbolizing temperance will point to the south, It was called a Guttural. Fortitude was denoted by a saltire, or St. Andrew’s Cross. This was the Pectoral. The symbol of prudence was an acute angle pointing towards the south-east, and was denominated a Manual; and justice had its angle towards the north and was called a Pedestal or Pedal.
Of the particular virtues, Mackey says:
One of the four cardinal virtues; the practice of which is inculcated in the First Degree. The Freemason who properly appreciates the secrets which he has solemnly promised never to reveal, will not, by yielding to the unrestrained call of appetite, permit reason and judgment to lose their seats and subject himself, by the indulgence in habits of excess, to discover that which should be concealed, and thus merit and receive the scorn and detestation of his Brethren. And lest any Brother should forget the danger to which he is exposed in the unguarded hours of dissipation, the virtue of temperance is wisely impressed upon is memory, lay its reference to one of the most solemn portions of the ceremony of initiation. Some Freemasons, very properly condemning the vice of intemperance and abhorring its effects, have been unwisely led to confound temperance with total abstinence in a Masonic application, and resolutions have sometimes been proposed in Grand Lodges which declare the use of stimulating liquors in any quantity a Masonic offense. Put the law of Freemasonry authorizes no such regulation. It leaves to every man the indulgence of his own tastes within due limits, and demands not abstinence, but only moderation and temperance, in anything not actually wrongs.
Plato’s text on temperance says, “the virtue of temperance has more of the nature of harmony and symphony…Temperance…is the ordering or controlling of certain pleasures and desires; this is curiously enough implied in the saying of ‘a man being his own master;’ “ Something he finds as a “ridiculous in the expression ‘master of himself;’ for the master is also the servant and the servant the master; and in all these modes of speaking the same person is denoted,” but to which he denotes “…in the human soul there is a better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse under control, then a man is said to be master of himself; and this is a term of praise: but when, owing to evil education or association, the better principle, which is also the smaller, is overwhelmed by the greater mass of the worse—in this case he is blamed and is called the slave of self and unprincipled.”
One of the four cardinal virtues, whose excellencies are dilated on in the First Degree. It not only instructs the worthy Freemason to bear the ills of life with becoming resignation, “taking up arms against a sea of trouble,” but, by its intimate connection with a portion of our ceremonies, it teaches him to let no dangers shake, no pains dissolve the inviolable fidelity he owes to the trusts reposed in him. Or, in the words of the old Prestonian lecture, it is “a fence or security against any attack that might be made upon him by force or otherwise, to extort from him any of our Royal Secrets.”
Spence, in his Polymetis, when describing the moral virtues! says of Fortitude: “She may be easily known by her erect air and military dress, the spear she rests on with one hand, and the sword which she holds in the other. She has a globe under her feet; I suppose to shows that the Romans, by means of this virtue, were to subdue the whole world.”
Plato encapsulates courage (fortitude) as “a kind of salvation…[a salvation] of the opinion respecting things to be feared, what they are and of what nature, which the law implants through education; and I mean by the words ‘under all circumstances’ to intimate that in pleasure or in pain, or under the influence of desire or fear, a man preserves, and does not lose this opinion.”
This is one of the four cardinal virtues, the practice of which is inculcated upon the Entered Apprentice. Preston first introduced it into the Degree as referring to what was then, and long before had been called the Four Principal Signs, but which are now known as the Perfect Points of Entrance. Preston’s eulogium on prudence differs from that used in the lectures of the United States of America, which was composed by Webb. It is in these words: “Prudence is the true guide to human understanding, and consists in judging and determining with propriety what is to be said or done upon all our occasions, what dangers we should endeavor to avoid, and how to act in all our difficulties.” Webb’s definition, which is much better, may be found in all the Monitors. The Masonic reference of prudence to the manual point reminds us of the classic method of representing her in statues with a rule or measure in her hand.
In Plato’s Republic, Wisdom is harder to tease out as a virtue, but can essentially be distilled down as knowledge “first among the virtues…” where “good counsel is…a kind of knowledge, for not by ignorance, but by knowledge…so by reason of the smallest part or class, and of the knowledge which resides in this presiding and ruling part of itself, the whole State, being thus constituted according to nature, will be wise; and this, which has the only knowledge worthy to be called wisdom, has been ordained by nature to be of all classes the least.” The takeaway, perhaps, is that knowledge (education) leads to wisdom.
One of the four cardinal virtues, the practice of which is inculcated in the first degree. The Mason who remembers how emphatically he has been charged to preserve an upright position in all his dealings with mankind, should never fail to act justly to himself, to his brethren, and to the world. This is the cornerstone on which alone he can expect ” to erect a superstructure alike honorable to himself and to the Fraternity.” In iconography, Justice is usually represented as a matron with bandaged eyes, holding in one hand a sword and in the other a pair of scales at equipoise. But in Masonry the true symbol of Justice, as illustrated in the first degree, is the feet firmly planted on the ground, and the body upright.
Justice, Plato encapsulates as, “being concerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, which is the true self and concernment of man: for the just man does not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one another, or any of them to do the work of others,—he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals—when he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and co-operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action, and the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over it ignorance.
BRYCE ON NONPROFITS What is more important, the institution or our vanity?
As a follow-up to my recent column on “Do Just One Thing,” I want to describe another problem involving nonprofit organizations, and that is “Chasing Aprons.” This is an expression derived from Freemasonry, the ancient fraternity. For those unfamiliar with the Craft, it is customary for Masons to wear a plain white leather apron at our meetings, symbolizing the aprons worn by workmen years ago. We are admonished there is nothing more ancient or honorable than the plain white apron, yet there are other more decorative aprons awarded as gifts to Masonic officers. Over the years, such aprons have become coveted as a means of identifying a Mason of influence. Unfortunately, some Masons desperately pursue these ornate aprons only to denote their authority, not for accomplishing anything of substance, hence the expression “Chasing Aprons.”
The Masons are not alone in this regards as I have seen similar situations in other nonprofit groups. For example, I remember attending a party when I moved into my neighborhood and a man approached me with some swagger saying, “Hi, I’m John Doe, President of the homeowner association” (it was kind of like, “Hi, I’m the Head Raccoon”). He winked at me, then turned away to glad hand someone else. Frankly, I burst out laughing as he thought he was impressing me. In reality, this same gentleman ran the homeowner association right into the ground and nearly bankrupted it.
At some of the I.T. related associations I was involved in, there would be the usual officer titles, such as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, but then there are higher titles such as “Division Director” as you now oversaw several chapters as opposed to just one. There are other names for this, such as “District Deputy” or “Inspector,” but you get the idea. Such titles denote a loftier position and are either given to people to perform a legitimate responsibility or awarded as gifts to cronies.
I have seen people “Chasing Aprons” in just about every nonprofit group I’ve been involved in, be it fraternal, political, professional, educational, even in sports clubs, such as those related to baseball, softball, football and soccer.
I have found people who covet such titles tend to be more consumed with the title, and less about the responsibility associated with it. This is essentially no different than in business where people yearn for a job title for political reasons as it will look good on a resume. I tend to see such people as rather shallow. They never accomplished anything of substance in their life, so the appeal for recognition through titles and aprons is irresistible to them. Whenever I run into people like this, who obviously don’t know what they are doing, I tell others to give the person the title or apron and get them out of the way as they will only inhibit progress.
As an aside, I wonder how many people would volunteer their service if there wasn’t a title or apron involved? It would be an interesting experiment to see if people care more about the institution they belong to or are in it for themselves.
Obviously, this is all about the human ego. In Freemasonry, we are taught the importance of the title of “Brother” as it is a fraternity, a Brotherhood. There are many other impressive sounding titles associated with the Masons, but nothing more important than the simple designation of “Brother” and the plain white leather apron.
Just remember, being called a “thoroughbred” doesn’t change the fact that a jackass is a jackass.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Masonic researcher, author, speaker, video producer, journalist and historian Stephen Dafoe has chronicled the decline of American Freemasonry for years. His research has been published in The Scottish Rite Journal, Heredom (the Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society), Templar History Magazine, Knight Templar Magazine, The Fourth Part Of A Circle, Masonic Magazine and The Masonic Society Journal among others. He has even gone back into history to write the definitive work on the Morgan Affair with his book “Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry,” a time in American History when half of all Freemasonry closed its doors. Now that was Masonic decline!
His more modern assessment of Masonic decline was published in 2007 when he wrote the article and produced the video:
The Restaurant At The End Of The Masonic Universe
In 2009 Dafoe wrote:
There’s a Hole in Our Bucket
North American Freemasonry is on a bit of an infinite loop these days. I don’t mean the type of infinite loop we used to see on the Flintstones whenever Fred and Barney would drive past the same three houses and two palm trees over and over again, but it is close. The type of infinite-loop motif I’m referring to is the type that forms the basis of songs like 99 Bottle of Beer or There’s a Hole in my Bucket. In fact, both songs represent two of the problems confronting many lodges today with respect to our declining membership.
Now, before you turn the page, let me assure you this is not another article lamenting our sagging numbers, nor is it a rallying call for us to rise towards that lofty Masonic pinnacle that was the Halcyon Days of the post-World War II influx. But we will be looking at the numbers, not with an eye towards depression, but with an eye towards resolution. We have a problem, but if we can truly know where the problem lies, and if we can convince enough Masons that this is actually the case, we can collectively begin to work towards fixing it.
What the numbers tell us:
Since 1925, the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSANA) has been keeping track of the numbers of Freemasons in the United States.
Without launching into a long and boring examination of the ebb and flow of these numbers, let it suffice to say that Masonic membership’s highest point in terms of numbers was 1959, when it boasted 4,103,161 members; its lowest point occurring in 2007, when our ranks had been reduced to just 1,483,449. Ironically, our highest point in terms of membership may well have been our lowest point for Freemasonry, or at least the start of it.
The hand ringers in our fraternity love to hold on to that 1959 membership number like the middle aged bachelor who holds onto the photo of the fashion model he dated in college, as if it were a goal he may yet attain once more. But as both pine away for a desire that has longed since passed the realm of possibility, they begin to tell themselves lies to justify their current situation.
As such, our hand ringers have created a long-standing belief that once upon a time Freemasons made up a sizable percentage of the population in American communities. However, if one compares the US census with the MSANA membership statistics, an interesting and revealing picture emerges. In 1930, only 2.66 per cent of the population belonged to the Masonic fraternity. By 1940, that percentage had been reduced to 1.86% – largely due to the effects of the Great Depression, men simply couldn’t afford their dues. It reached its lowest point in 2000, when less than 1 per cent of the US population could say they owned a Masonic apron. But even in the midst of those glory days our hand ringers so love to remind us about, only 2.41 per cent of the population belonged to the Craft. If we divide and multiply these figures to represent a male population of roughly 50 per cent, then we see that even at our highest percentile penetration in 1930, only 5 in 100 American males were Freemasons – this is a far cry from the cries of deep lamentation emanating from the lips of our loudest hand ringing Brethren that once upon a time almost every American male was a mason. And yet, they will cling to that four-million-plus-Masons figure like cat hair to black pants, failing to accept that the much brandied about number represents nothing more than a sociological anomaly. It was that influx of men who swelled the Craft’s ranks between 1945 and 1959 that, in many ways set the tone for the downward spiral towards the Masonic caliginosity we have experienced in the decades since. Although many became dedicated members of the Craft, expanding their learning through books and periodicals, discussions and debates, many who took on leadership rules were attracted by the formality of the ritual, to the point where it became the beginning and end of a Master Mason’s education.
Perhaps the greatest decade for Freemasonry – at least from a point of research, education and all around Masonic bigness – was the 1920’s; a decade that saw the creation of the National Masonic Research Society and its publication The Builder, a magazine that offered the words and thoughts of the great Masonic luminaries of the day. It was also a decade where Masons displayed their Masonic pride, not by the number of pins on their lapels, but by the number of elegant buildings on Main Street. It was during the 1920’s that great Masonic buildings including the House of the Temple in Washington DC, The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia and the Detroit Masonic Temple in Michigan transformed from idea to reality. That decade, which I’ve long-argued to be the most enlightening for Freemasonry, saw an increase in membership of just above four per cent.
But then the Great Depression reduced membership roles by almost 25 per cent by then end of the 1930’s. In fact membership continued to decline until America entered the Second World War in 1941, and that is when the anomaly occurred. By the end of the 1940’s, Masonic membership had increased by more than 42 percent, carrying a forward momentum through most of the 1950’s, which saw an increase of 16 percent from the decade before. From this point on membership has been on a steady decline, with the present decade – now about to enter its final year – on a fast track to surpassing the 1990’s, the current record holder for membership seepage.
It is a mistake for us to pine away for a resurgence of the anomaly that was the 1940’s and 1950’s. The WWII soldier returned home and, looking for the camaraderie of the barracks, he sought to find it in fraternal societies like Freemasonry. This inflated our membership roles like a windfall inflates a bank account, but like the lottery winner who does not invest his new found money properly; it is soon piddled away until nothing remains.
Another tale the hand ringers love to tell us, especially those who have more steps behind them than they have left ahead of them, is that men are not joining today like they used to, and that we are losing members from death faster than we can replace them through initiations. Certainly, if one considers “not joining like they used to” to be those post-war Halcyon Days previously discussed, then I’m more than willing to concede the point. However, if there is one myth in Freemasonry that has gained wide currency and firm traction, it is the notion that Masons are dying faster than we can replace them.
What the numbers don’t tell us!
In 2005 I was asked to deliver the keynote address to the Western Canada Conference – an annual gathering of the Grand lines of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Part of my presentation sought to dispel this myth that the Grim Reaper was using his scythe to cut a swath through the fraternity. Whereas, the MSANA numbers only give us the annual bottom line, I was able to look at the big picture closer to home by tracking specifics in our membership statistics over an eight-year period.
What I discovered was that, like the rest of North America, Alberta had a sizable hole in our Masonic bucket; 1,777 of our Brethren had affiliated with the Grand Lodge above, leaving us with a net loss of 1,512 members between 1996 and 2003. But this is not where our problem was because the numbers showed that in that same period of time, 3,118 men had joined, affiliated or renewed their membership in one of our lodges.
In an ideal world, the difference between deaths and new members should have seen Alberta experience a 14 per cent growth in that time, but instead we were dwindling, just like everywhere else. The question was why? Where was the hole in our Masonic bucket that was causing the decline? It wasn’t through deaths; we were clearly finding the men to replace ourselves. The answer was through demits and suspensions for non payment of dues (SNPD); a combined loss of 2,863 over the eight years. When added to the deaths, we had lost a total of 4,640 men, while gaining a respectable 3,118. The hole in our Masonic bucket had been found and, as I’ve learned, it is not an isolated situation.
This past November I was keynote speaker at the Grand Lodge of Manitoba’s Masonic workshop and presented a similar address and findings, chronicling their past six years of data. Like Alberta, Manitoba has a hole in its Masonic bucket, caused by demits and suspensions outpacing new members. Between 2002 and 2007 Manitoba saw 856 men join, affiliate or reinstate their memberships. During that same time, 753 Manitoba Masons have died; again leaving a positive number between membership losses and gains. Like Alberta, their hole is caused by the combination of demits and SNPD’s. In the past six years the province has seen 1,355 men leave the Masonic fraternity.
But the Craft lodge in Canada is not alone in finding it has a bucket with the same hole.
Membership statistics from the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar show that between 2004 and the end of September 2008, 17,470 American Freemasons have become Templars, while 9,576 have taken a demit and another 21,706 have been suspended for non payment of dues. Add to this the 22,546 Templars who have gone on to join their creator, and you have 36,358 fewer Knights Templar marching about. But perhaps marching about is precisely the problem. Perhaps the men who are joining today are joining to parade about like the sword-wielding Templars of old and disappointed to find only old Templars parading about doing sword drill. It is a question only the Grand Encampment and those who are left remain in her Commanderies can resolve, but like the Craft Lodges, its bucket is leaking primarily from the same rusted out hole.
Towards a solution
Back when I was editor of the short-lived Masonic Magazine, I wrote an editorial titled The Restaurant at the End of the Masonic Universe. Without republishing the editorial here, it told the story of a restaurant that does not live up to its advertising slogan, “We make good food better,” an obvious play on our own slogan “We take good men and make them better.” The editorial, which has received equal doses of praise and criticism, sought to explain in a light manner the malaise affecting Freemasonry today and the true cause for the hole in our bucket.
Every mason has heard the expression “but we’ve always done it that way before.” The fact that it is used as the butt of Masonic jokes serves as proof positive of its longevity and power in maintaining a status quo. But, as we have seen by what the MSANA numbers don’t show us, the status quo is draining our buckets. As the allegory of my restaurant editorial showed, the reason things suck in many lodges is because the men who show up month after month like things that suck. They do so because they enjoy the bland food; not the shoe-leather roast beef and off color green beans, but the Masonic meal that is largely comprised of recitation of minutes, tedious debates over how funds are dispersed and arguments over when and how to salute the Worshipful Master. Clearly these are not the things that appeal to the men who are leaving our ranks. If they were, they’d be with us still. But instead of spending our energies trying to retain them, we devote our efforts to finding their replacements.
For as long as I have been a Freemason, we have been trying to fill a bucket that has a sizable hole in it. Like Henry in the famed children’s song, we have whined through the infinite loop of reasons why we can’t fix the bucket and like Jack in the classic nursery rhyme, have rolled down the hill, our empty bucket tumbling behind us. Like children on a bus trip we have done our rendition of 99 Bottle of Beer by repeating the same pattern ad nausea, as one by one our members – like the bottles of beer on the wall – vanish.
Unfortunately, we are not doing a good enough job identifying what it is that the men who are joining are looking for, which is – in almost all cases – that which they cannot get any place else – FREEMASONRY! They are looking to be educated in the Masonic Craft, in the art of being a gentleman in a world that has largely forgotten what one was, and in how they can be part of – to quote my jurisdiction’s ritual – “the society of men who prize honor and virtue above the external advantages of rank and fortune.” In short, they want to be taught the things about themselves and the world in which they live that only Freemasonry can teach them. If we cannot teach them because we do not know these things ourselves, then we must learn alongside them. Then, and only then, can the hole in our Masonic bucket be truly repaired and we can return to that growth that once allowed us to select men who would most benefit from Freemasonry’s teaching and most benefit Freemasonry by their character and their conduct.
It will not be and easy task fixing this half-century old hole in our Masonic bucket; but it will not be possible at all until we accept that a failure to do so is the cause of our decline and the harbinger of our demise.
Thisarticle originally appeared in Issue 2 of The Masonic Society Journal.
All rights reserved and copyrighted. Permission of the author is required to reprint any and all parts of this article.
So have we fixed the hole in our Masonic Bucket yet? Have we taken our decline seriously yet? Or are we sticking our fingers in a dike about to burst and putting band aids on a wound that needs stitches? When are we going to stop the bleeding?
The way I see it is that Freemasonry has become a Top Down Society. And there lies our problem. Because all Freemasonry is local and used to be that way and operated successfully that way. But today Grand Lodge wants to micromanage the Fraternity.. Top Down Freemasonry creates conflict, too much conflict. It stifles creativity, it crushes enthusiasm and ruins pride in the Craft. One size does not fit all in Freemasonry. We have turned our beloved Craft into a copy of the US Army. It is time for the younger Masons, those thirsty FOR THE REAL THING to organize and start telling Grand Lodge NO!
Grand Lodges in their infinite wisdom are trying to market Freemasonry while allowing the product itself to deteriorate. Like the restaurant at the end of the Masonic universe grandiose words are no substitute for an inferior product. Improve the product and it will sell itself. What we really have is a problem of retention not a membership problem. And that lies in the fact that our promises don’t live up to expectations.
We have literally knocking on our doors the next generation who are thirsty for a philosophy they can sink their teeth into. These are not superficial party goers but rather men who are seekers, searchers for a way to make a difference in this fractured world of ours. They don’t mind working hard for the goals ahead. We shouldn’t be making things easy and less expensive for them, just the opposite. We should be demanding much of them and they expecting the same from us in return. The question is are we going to give them pablum or are we going to give them the real thing, Freemasonry… Frederic L. Milliken
That such a young, bright, knowledgeable Freemason as Brother Salman S. Sheika resigned from Freemasonry at the young age of 26 is a crying shame.
It is doubly reprehensible because of the discrimination he met inside of Freemasonry. When we think of discrimination we normally think of Black and White prejudice. But discrimination takes many forms and just as ugly as racial discrimination is religious discrimination. To find that in the holier than thou Grand Lodges of the North who constantly look down their pious noses at Southern Grand Lodges as havens of Redneck values makes some Masons at the best, hypocritical. Have we not progressed from the hypocrisy and discrimination of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time?
Sheika was one of those seekers who thirsted for “the Truth.” Isn’t that one of the tenets of our professions as Masons, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth? He was told Freemasonry had some answers or at least some tools to work with. But alas, as we hear repeatedly, Freemasonry doesn’t practice what it preaches. Esoteric Masonry is frowned upon in many quarters. As soon as you mention the words “Masonic Education” in the Lodge Building many Masons will find that they have some other pressing problem to attend to. So many Grand Lodges and Lodges have become havens of fellowship and charitable works but not ones of study and learning.
But the latter is precisely why Sheika joined Freemasonry and they promised him that it was there for him. Broken promises are unmasonic conduct. But it is worse than that. What we have here is anti-intellectualism within Freemasonry. And that will be the undoing of the Craft. For many others are better at charity, better at fellowship. But none have the potential of really and truly making good men better. That’s hard to do, however, when you are anti-intellectual. – Brother Frederic L. Milliken
Why I Left Freemasonry: The First And Last In My Family To Do So
By Salman S. Sheikh
I experienced bigotry, ignorance, and the total opposite of what a Mason really is.
The beauty of life as we go through it is the sequence of beautiful experiences that shape us from the moment we lay in the loving arms of our parents as babies to facing a complex world as adults trying to find a path forward. As a Muslim-American, my keen interests in the US was always trying to learn more, make people smile, and leave a good impression on the people of this country on how we can all strive to be in union as human beings to bring peace and prosperity. I always say the world in a unique and analytical way growing up which led me into heavy research as I approached my high school days. On my weekends off from school, I would spend countless hours researching Freemasonry, different secret societies, listening to occult researchers like Jordan Maxwell, etc. I was always the black sheep of my family and was always the one who was a part in terms of my knowledge, experiences, and interests and that led me to the doors of Freemasonry at age 23 as the first in my family to do so.
In the summer of 2015, I had met a Jamaican immigrant named Marlon Francis who became good friends with me. He showed up at my summer job in Upper Darby and I saw the square and compass symbol and asked him I wanted to join through my previous keen research on the matter. Marlon had an old school mentality and had waited 5-6 months of us meeting, hanging out, becoming friends before he eventually trusted my character and made a consideration to get me a petition from the lodge. So from start to finish I went through an old school process of asking the Mason and having the Mason evaluate me for a period of time before he proceeded. As I was getting closer to my initiation after the investigation committee of William Roosevelt PM approved me, I begin to have ideas of the wonderful knowledge that I would learn because I was already heavy into Masonic, Occult, Astral Projection research, etc.
At the age of 23 and in January of 2016, I was initiated into Freemasonry as an Entered Apprentice by a Jewish Past Master, Alan Ozer with whom over time I formed a close bond and which attests what true Masonry is with a Muslim and Jew embracing each other for the sake of God and brotherhood. On the same night I am thankful to another Past Master, Greg Klauder who told me ‘People will still be people.” in reference to me as a Muslim who appreciated the unity. Over time I begin to understand what PM Klauder had meant.
As time went on and I became a Master Mason, 32nd degree Scottish Rite, Shriner, Royal Arch Mason, and Royal/Select Council Master Mason. I realized that Freemasonry was just a social club with a few ritual traditions. I was also discouraged as I saw the brethren who would smile in my faces but would later post Anti-Islamic and Anti-Immigrant posts on their social medias. I stayed patient and realized the imperfection of all things as we are taught as Masons and made an effort to try to win everybody’s heart through my honest spirit and character of seeing true human unity but even that was not enough. In the summer of 2018, after 2.5 years of a solid active effort, I decided to resign from Freemasonry and its bodies with my good standing intact. I shed tears when I wrote my resignation letter but God had told me in my heart that they did not deserve me and I had the right to move on. I reflected on the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) from the Holy Bible and Holy Quran where he was in line for the Egyptian throne but decided to throw that all away when his heart did not accept the Israelites being mercilessly abused. I left for the same reasons where I experienced bigotry, ignorance, and the total opposite of what a Mason really is.
As my tenure as a Mason I made sure I gave hugs, smiles, and real knowledge to all those who came my way in which I had members from India, UK, Africa, etc. all reach out to me to express their interest in my works and printed my essays in their lodges which at the end only made my lodge, Grand Lodge, and country stand out in a positive way in the current environment of confusion, division, and chaos. I feel pride that in my short time I did more to benefit the global Masonic community than those who were here before me for years but didn’t make a positive difference in the aspects of bringing humanity and Masons of different backgrounds together as we just saw in 2018 Florida and Texas recognizing their Prince Hall counterparts. We are still behind in many ways and one of the reasons I left because the organization lets anybody in and we don’t practice what we preach when the going gets tough or when it comes down to the nitty gritty. I am thankful to Mike from Grand Lodge who called me and we agreed we would rather be only just 20 people instead of 100,000 but all 20 of them being top notch quality who were there for the right reasons. I am also thankful to RWGM S Eugene Herritt who promised to keep my memory and vision alive in terms of bringing change to the Grand Lodge. Masonry in the US I believe and its members are currently a reflection of the society they inhibit, by that I mean that we spend majority of our times on social media, at jobs, home, and in the community and that’s where your true character is revealed the most in comparison to just 2 night a month at lodge and pretending to call someone a brother just for the sake of it but when times of trial and tribulation come those same people are nowhere to be found and can turn against you if they see the benefit of doing so. That is not Masonry and I chose to walk away from it to contribute to my own community and people who deserved it more. I still have WM’s from India asking for my demit certificate to make me a member there but declined all of their requests. My next goal in life is to be initiated into Sufism (Mystic Islam) and follow the true path of God with people who are on the same spiritual frequency as me. I did not resonate anymore with the members or the fraternity on a spiritual basis which caused my departure so at the end it was not my loss at all.
My last advice to the Freemasons is that if you want this to continue to survive in a future where the young ones are keen with artificial intelligence and info at the palm of their hands, then you need to offer them something new that hasn’t been shown to them before. The practice of memorizing sacred texts, being on a chair/committee, contributing to charity is something that can be found in every church, synagogue and mosque throughout America. The real question is, what are you willing to help them realize in an environment where relationships, family, jobs, spirituality is on a totally different playing field then our previous generations? Once this question is addressed along with letting in clean hearted quality people, then we won’t hear the same tune every month of why the same 6-7 guys are showing in a lodge with 4-500 members. It’s a simple solution which if followed can be beneficial to the organization along with not showing them the same stuff every meeting and not letting Past Masters run their lodges. Give the new guys a chance otherwise they will just see it as another boy’s club and move on with other adventures in life that could benefit them more. It’s a shame for me to say this but I learned more on my own and with likeminded spiritual people I had met before I even became a Mason than I have ever learned in a lodge or appendant body. That should not be the case.
In conclusion, I am thankful for these last 2 years for what they were worth to make a difference in the organization of Freemasons in my state, country, and other nations to teach them the forgotten values of a true Mason and the true nature of one who listens to his heart and walks the path of God. I departed at age 26 in good standing and still have a lifetime ahead of me to do great things for other groups that are meant to cross my path. I am thankful to be the first in GL of PA’s history to do a program on Sufism and make the effort to bring Masonic understanding and unity while others are just worried about their legacies. My greatest legacy will be that I will remain in the hearts and minds of the Freemasons forever and that means I also live forever which is more important than statues or my name appearing in Grand Lodge digest decisions. Please continue to love each other in and out of lodge and practice what you preach because God’s all-seeing eye will hold us all accountable one day for all our seen and unseen actions. Before your meetings start, do a hand in hand meditation so even the brother who feels left out can feel a part of his brotherhood instead of looking bored or playing on his phone. I want you all to think about all these things I have addressed in my final message and I leave that burden on your shoulders from this point on with the mission of how you will carry this fraternity forward for future generations and not be in a desperate situation to keep numbers up. When your heart, mission, members, teachings, online image, etc. is all pure and designed to empower somebody then worrying about numbers should be the least of your worries because at the end “My Faith is in God and God is my right.”
As Salam Aleikum (Peace be upon you and your families today and every day.)
Yours in brotherhood, Salman S. Sheikh Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
Good things and fine times need to be savored and contemplated before revealing. And so, I have done exactly that with Texas MasoniCon 2018. This was truly an event to be savored and reviewed and revered. It is unlikely that so many Masonic speakers of such talent can be showcased all in one place in one day. But you have to hand it to Brother Rhit Moore of Fort Worth Lodge No 148, AF & AM and his team, Gabriel Jagush, Mark McCaghren, and Billy Hamilton They did it and did it up proud.
Registration started with coffee and pastries at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning and we finished up at 5:00 PM. There were six Break Out speakers conducting workshops and three keynote speakers.
THE BREAKOUT SPEAKERS
A. Daniel Pearson ~ Archetypes And Their Power In The Masonic Myth
Pearson defined Archetypes and went on to speak about, collective unconsciousness, Jung, Syzgies, and rebirth.
He referenced Joseph Campbell’s work, Mythological Aspects of Masonry – The Hero Of A Thousand Faces and The Masks Of God.
Then it was on to the concepts of Apotheosis, Elements of the Hero and Elements of the Hero In Masonry. That led to a long discussion of the Monomyth in Masonry.
B. David Bindel ~ Creativity In Masonry
Bindel started off his talk with the question “Who Comes Here?” He told us that was a very important question in Masonry. Who are we? We don’t ask often enough about the symbolism of Masonry, Bindel contends. He went on to say that we need to ask the candidate what it means to him, invoke a personal story. “Who Comes Here’ imparts how important it is. What are our intentions as a new Mason? What do we want to get out of Masonry? Ask these questions of the Brothers going through the degrees.
Bindel asks, what if during the degree the Conductor had not jumped in and answered the question but let the candidate answer it? “What do you most desire?” What if the candidate answered not the Conductor?
“Masonry doesn’t need to be all things to all people, just a meaningful experience,” proclaimed Bindel.
Masons historically were builders, he went on to say. We can look at the building of King Solomon’s Temple, what building a temple means and how it relates to building ourselves. When our spiritual temple is finished God comes to dwell in us. The Temple rebuilt is a symbol of us changing our views, refining our conception of Deity enabling us to build finer temples for Deity to reside in.
“A degree is about giving an experience to a Brother,” Bindel emphasizes.
Before concluding he asked us all to remember three important points as builders:
C. Larry Fizpatrick ~ The Hiramic Legend
Larry M. FitzPatrick
Fitzpatrick pointed out that while the Hiramic Legend came into practice in 1725 or maybe even sooner in 1711 in the Grand Lodge of Ireland, that it had many ancient origins…similar allegories from much earlier.
Pikes Porch and The Middle Chamber
Nerval’s Journey To The Orient
Les Compag nos Du Tour de France
The Sources of the Hiramic Legend
John Theophilus Desaguliers
James Anderson who was first an Operative Mason
Isaac Newton – “Chronology of Ancient Kingdom”
Ancient Mystery Schools
Comacine Masters French Companionage
Scottish Operative Lodges
Turkish/Arab Legend – Nerval’s Journey to the Orient
Egyptians – Osiris, Isis, Horus
Babylonian/Sumerian – Tanmuz, Dumuzi, Inania
Hindus – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva
Fitzpatrick explained that the purpose and meaning of the Hiramic Legend is Fidelity, Courage, Endurance and Self -Sacrifice.
However, the hidden meaning is an Allegory for the Path of the Sun. There is a Zodiac Association of the 12 Tribes of Israel and the Hiramic Legend. The path of the sun through the Ecliptic is 6 months above the Equator and 6 months below.
TROPIC OF CANCER – EQUATOR – TROPIC OF CAPRICON
The path of Venus forms a 5-pointed star.
D. Pete Normand – English Freemasonry Before The Grand Lodge Era
This was by far the most detailed and long fact sheet talk about Masonry.
Normand explains that he is not talking about Scottish Masonry.
He emphasizes that 1717 is just about the birth of Grand Lodge Freemasonry. Before that time, however, there was much Masonic activity.
Freestone Masons existed Centuries before English Masonry was more formerly organized.They were artisans, sculptures with an understanding of geometry. The Romans imported builders. The Normans imported Masons. Sadly most of the Masons in London either left town or died from the Black Death Plague of 1348-1349.
Then, after the Plague, as Masons began to return to London, a labor dispute arose in 1756 between the more skilled (and better paid) Freemasons and the less skilled Rough Masons. So, the Mayor of London asked the Freemasons and Rough Masons to sit down and come up with a set of statutes to govern their common craft. These Statutes of 1356 were created by a committee composed of 6 Freemasons and 6 Rough Masons, and it is likely that these Regulations soon led to the creation of the London Masons guild, known as the Fellowship of Masons.
The Regius (Halliwell) MS. is undated, but most scholars say that it was composed about 1390, but since it is a poem, it is obvious that it was composed from an earlier version of what we usually call the “Gothic Constitutions,” more accurately called the “Manuscript Constitutions.”The Fellowship of Masons was granted a Coat of Arms of 1472. The Coat of Arms was found all over England and proves that these Masons considered themselves a National Body.
The Fellowship of Masons was changed to the Company of Freemasons and later the Company of Masons by government edict.
Normand spoke about the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and the Protestants. Henry VIII and the Reformation tore down the Catholic Gothic Style considered superstition. After the dissolution of the monasteries during the 1530s, the remainder of the 1500s was considered a period of “dark ages” for the Masons, because their primary employers (the monasteries) had been closed, forcing the Freemasons and Rough Masons to find work elsewhere. It was at this time that Freemasons first began admitting Non Operatives into their Lodges.
Next, we come across the The Original Account Book which was the financial records of the Guild beginning in 1619. An entry in 1620 shows that 6 men paid additional fees to become members of the Livery, Officers of the Guild. In 1621 3 of the 6 paid additional fees to become a Mason. Thus Operative Guild members were “Made Masons.” In further entries in the old account book, it becomes evident that they were being admitted into a secretive body within the guild known as “The Accepçon” (or “The Acception”).
Evidence that all this was not just a London thing was that Elias Ashmole was “Made A Free Mason” on October 16, 1646. In March of 1682 records show that Ashmole received a Summons to appear at a Lodge the next day This was about holding a Lodge not going to a Lodge, the distinction being that any group of Masons could form a “Lodge” for the day and in the future another group, some of the same Masons, could form a Lodge which had an existence of one day. Ashmole wrote extensively about Accepted Masons who were also Operative Masons.
In 1686 Dr. Robert Plot wrote the book, “The Natural History of Staffordshire.” He wrote about a manuscript of Lodge meetings and the signs of acceptance.
William Dugdale and John Aubrey described customs of Freemasonry long before the formation of a Grand Lodge.
During the reign of King James II (1685-1688) it appears that The Acception, composed of both operative and non-operative members, fearing that their meetings at Masons Hall might bring down unwanted scrutiny on the guild, the accepted Masons (both operative and non-operative) decided to stop meeting at Masons Hall in Basinghall Street, and moved their meetings to various taverns, inns, pubs and alehouses around London. Apparently, other accepted Masons were already doing the same, but the guild’s meeting hall was no longer a meeting place for The Acception. And so, at that time, The Acception, as a separate entity, disappeared from the historical record, as its members blended in with the other members of the “Society of Freemasons,” as it was often called during the 1600s.
Within a few years, by 1691, there was a group of accepted Freemasons holding a lodge on a regular basis at the Goose & Gridiron Alehouse in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Prior to the Great Fire of 1666, that venue was marked by a sign with the Musicians Guild coat-of-arms, which had a swan & lyre. But, after the Great Fire, when the building was restored, the proprietor put up a carved and painted wooden swan, with a gridiron in place of a lyre. (I guess he couldn’t find a lyre.) But, the swan had a very short neck and looked more like a goose, and Londoners started calling the place “The Goose & Gridiron,” in much the same way that others would call the “White Swan Pub,” the “Mucky Duck.”
Conclusion: Freemasonry was alive and well for at least 100 years before it was more formally organized.
E. Brad Billings – Astronomy & Masonry
Billings talked about these astronomical representations in the Lodge and Masonic symbolism
The Winding Stairway
Opening and Closing we talk about the positioning of the Sun
The Masonic Altar – place of Masonic Light
Point Within A Circle and its astronomical layout
The Lesser Lights
Regarding the Masonic Altar Billings pointed out that in circumambulation the right hand is closet to the Bible, the Light and the left hand represents the Sun. The answers to the four questions the candidate gives affirms that in God I am Light.
He also pointed out that the Ruffians stand counter clockwise. After the slaying they stay in a place of darkness.
F. John Tolbert – Freemasonry is Free Thought
Tolbert suggested that Masonry has drifted away from its original concept.
He says to the poor & blind candidate for Masonry, “You are lacking something. We have it for you: LIGHT.” Listen to our prayers – Ecclesiastes 12 and Psalm 133 – you are brought into a Priesthood, dedicating yourself to a spiritual path.
Even the Templars borrowed Psalm 133.
Freemasonry is free thought, a position where truth is based on logic and/or reason, not authority or revelation.
Tolbert talks about the Latitudinarians Latitudinarians, or latitude men were initially a group of 17th-century English theologians – clerics and academics – from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, who were moderate Anglicans (members of the Church of England, which was Protestant). In particular, they believed that adhering to very specific doctrines, liturgical practices, and church organizational forms, as did the Puritans, was not necessary and could be harmful: “The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself.” Thus, the latitudinarians supported a broad-based Protestantism. They were later referred to as Broad Church.
An analogy could be the battles between the Whigs and the Tories.
Tolbert also brings up William Schaw who in his Statutes of 1599 addressed those regulations which govern the structure of Freemasonry. The Art of Memory was directly connected to this ancient Statute.
What followed was a discussion of Stocism, that self control is the key to Enlightenment without which the dignity of Freemasonry is lacking.
These points were made:
Rebels, heretics and non conformists
Freemasonry had many of the latter in its earlier formation:
Elias Ashmole – a free thinker and Alchemist
John Theophilus Desaguliers – hung around with Isaac Newton for 20 years
Isaac Newton – Newtonism, a new way of looking at life.
Therefore, Freemasonry is a product of:
THE KEYNOTE SPEAKERS
The beautiful Hall at the Fort Worth, Texas Temple where the Keynote Speakers made their presentations
Fort Worth Masonic Temple
Piers A. Vaughan – The Magician, The Mystic and the Mason – The Unlikely Origin of the Scottish Rectified Rite
Piers A. Vaughan
Vaughan starts off with Baron von Hund who authored the Rite of Strict Observance. On the ruins of this Order rose the Scottish Rectified Rite
The Magician: Martinez de Pasqually
The Order of Elus Colen
In the highest degree, the Reaux-Croix, the initiate was taught to use Theurgy to contact spiritual realms beyond the physical.
De Pasqually put forth the philosophy underlying the work of the Elus-Cohens in his only book, Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings, which first uses the analogy of the Garden of Eden, and refers to Christ as “The Repairer”. The ultimate aim of the Elus-Cohen was to attain – whilst living – the Beatific Vision through a series of magical invocations and complex theurgic operations.
The Mystic: Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin
Here we see a mystical tradition in which emphasis is placed on meditation and inner spiritual alchemy. Saint-Martin moved away from theurgic ritual towards what he called “The Way of the Heart.”
Vaughan talks about Gnostic Philosophy and The Three Grand Principals here.
The Mason: Jean Baptiste Willermoz
He brought together the philosophy of Pasqually and Saint-Martin to create The Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City or Knights Benefactor of the Holy City
Thus we can see the connection between Martinism and Freemasonry.
Michael Poll – The Battle of New Orleans
Poll was the story teller of Texas MasoniCon.
He recounted that Pete Normand took him to Holland Lodge No 1 in Texas named after John Henry Holland, PGM of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. So why was Texas’ first Lodge named after a Louisiana Mason?
The Grand Lodge of Louisiana was created at the same time as the War of 1812. The final battle which the Americans won was decisive and actually occurred several weeks after the treaty was signed.
Andrew Jackson was given command of the area. The Americans did not know where the British would land. Jackson was very short on munitions. He had to pick a spot to ambush the British, but the question was how could he make the British fall into the trap? That answer will come at the very end.
Jackson set up his troops on the Rodriguez Canal 5 miles outside the city of New Orleans. Packingham, the British Commander walked right into the ambush. With the Mississippi River on their right and swamp and fog on their left it was like shooting ducks in a pond. The British were decimated. 2000 British were killed that day.
But things didn’t add up. Packingham could have sailed right by the American fortifications and into the City of New Orleans without opposition. Jackson had put all his eggs in one basket, the Rodriguez Canal. So why did the British land there? Someone, a spy, told them that they could land there unopposed and undetected and no one would know they were there until it was too late. They could sneak up on the city and take it.
The spy was the pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte secretly met with the British and told them for a fee he would let them know where to land their ships in the New Orleans area that was away from American troops – a safe harbor. He then decided to double cross the British and offered his services to General Jackson along with a generous supply of powder and munitions. The offer came at a price, that Jackson would see that he got pardoned and several other renumerations. Jackson accepted Lafitte’s offer but before Lafitte could meet with the British to set them up for an ambush he was arrested and jailed by the government of Louisiana.
W CC Clayborn, the first Governor of Louisiana, felt New Orleans was lawless and disliked the Lafittes immensely. Governor Clayborn put a bounty on the Lafitte brothers plastering the New Orleans area with posters. In retaliation the Lafitte brothers put a bounty on Governor Clayborn and plastered New Orleans with posters. Alas, the government got to Jean Lafitte before he could get to the Governor. In jail Lafitte let Jackson know there was no deal unless he was released and pardoned. Jackson pleaded with Governor Clayborn to release Lafitte but the Governor stubbornly refused.
The jailer, however, against orders released Lafitte and the deal with Jackson went through. That is how the British got ambushed and lost the battle. The jailer was a young John Henry Holland who ultimately would become the Grand Master of Masons in Louisiana and for whom Holland Lodge No 1 in Texas is named. This is how Freemasonry played a big part in the Battle of New Orleans and the future prospects of General Andrew Jackson.
In 8 years Jackson would become Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee and 6 years later President of the United States.
Now you know the rest of the story!
Chuck Dunning – Masonry Is A Contemplative Path Toward Wholeness
Dunning started his presentation by working backwards on the 5 big words in his title.
Wholeness is not just having all the parts in one place. It is peace, harmony and unity.. The Temple is also a model for each one of us. It is more than the sum of its parts or our parts.
The work is never finished in this world. We are going to make mistakes, to fail. But there are two follies to avoid
Unnecessary self-loathing and self-punishment
Believing we are arriving at a state of perfection
A way, one traveled a travel by others who have gone before us – the ancient landmarks
There is a three-step process in travelling or working on this path:
Awareness – Be aware of all the parts, our materials and tools
Understanding – How do the parts relate to each other.
Action – Act by experimenting with the parts
Mindfulness, meditation, prayer, The Art of Memory are all ways we go deeper with awareness, understanding, and action
We don’t need other traditions. It is our own contemplative effort that reveals the depths. We don’t need to bring in outside processes to help. It’s all right here in the Craft, right before us.
Dunning then turned to the Texas Monitor and made these observations
In the Initiation there is meditation.
Masonry does not expound on the truths of its symbols (hence the need for contemplation).
Lodge is open on not in a certain Degree, meaning we should freely contemplate on its symbols rather than be limited in the exact words.
A Mason should hear, study, observe and develop these symbols for himself
The Charge at the opening of a Lodge – “Wisdom dwells with contemplation.”
Some other observations that Dunning made:
Speculative means contemplative – looking into symbolism
Meditation yields inspiration. Hiram Abiff would retire to prayer before designing on the trestle board.
Develop awareness, deep thinking, understanding
Action through experimentation
The Fellowcraft’s lecture on hearing and the Master’s lesson on the Beehive are examples of how our wholeness has both private/internal and and social/external dimensions.
Again: Awareness, Understanding, Action
The single word that sums it all up is….LOVE!
We find love throughout the ritual of Masonry:
Last tool presented to a Mason – The Trowel, to spread brotherly love and affection
“Behold how good it is and how pleasant it is for Brothers to dwell in unity”
The tenets of our profession – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
Covering of the Lodge – Jacobs ladder – the highest virtue is charity which is caritas, agape, love
The first tool, the 24” gauge = 3 divisions of loving effort
Common gavel – to use it is as act of love for ourselves and others
Love is hard work. To manage our emotions, to have a commitment to live this way is hardly easy and pleasant. Love can bring us struggle, regret, disappointment. But the mystery about love is that it has no opposite that can transcend it. We can feel hate but still do loving things.
LOVE IS DIVINE. It is the essence of peace and harmony.
Love is our:
The Mystic Tie
TEXAS MASONICON 2019 IS ON JULY 26 – 27. Mark your calendars!
Continuing the series of the broken column and the weeping virgin, in this episode of Symbols and Symbolism we look at Albert Mackey’s entry into the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry as he examines the figure of time in the Jeremy Cross statue of early American Freemasonry. the statue, a newer invention in the collection of symbols, it remarkably follows in the vein of the 24 inch gage and the hourglass.
The image of Time, under the conventional figure of a winged old man with the customary scythe and hour-glass, has been adopted as one of the modern symbols in the Third Degree. He is represented as attempting to disentangle the ringlets of a weeping virgin who stands before him. This, which is apparently a never-ending task, but one which Time undertakes to perform, is intended to teach the Freemasons that time, patience and perseverance will enable him to accomplish the great object of a Freemason’s labor, and at last to obtain the true Word which is the symbol of Divine Truth. Time, therefore, is in this connection the symbol of well-directed perseverance in the performance of duty.
This symbol with the broken column, so familiar to all Freemasons in the United States is probably an American innovation.