In this episode of Symbols and Symbolism we look at a short entry from Albert Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry examining the figure of the weeping virgin. A newer invention in the symbolism of Freemasonry, Mackey draws an ancient parallel to its cryptic iconography.
The Weeping Virgin with disheveled hair, in the Monument of the Third Degree used in the American Rite, is interpreted as a symbol of grief for the unfinished state of the Temple.
Jeremy Cross, who is said to have fabricated the monumental symbol, was not, we are satisfied, acquainted with Hermetic Science. Yet a woman thus portrayed, standing near a tomb, was a very appropriate symbol for the Third Degree, whose dogma is the resurrection.
In Hermetic Science, according to Nicolas Flammel (Hieroglyphics, chapter xxxii), a woman having her hair disheveled and standing near a tomb is a symbol of the soul.
Jeremy Cross (b.1783, d. 1861) became a mason in 1808 and soon became a student of Thomas Smith Webb. In 1819 he published The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor, in which he borrowed liberally from the previous work of Webb. The Weeping Virgin first appeared as an illustration as rendered by the American copperplate engraver Amos Doolittle, appearing in Crosse’s The True Masonic Chart.
Freemason Hando Nahkur discusses his homeland, Estonia, how and why he became a Mason and what the life of a Concert Pianist studying for his Doctorate is like. Along the way we get to watch him perform.
Brother Hando Nahkur
This visit with Hando we were really much more able to do justice to his performances as a classical Concert Pianist. Two clips of Hando playing, Rachmaninoff and Liszt are sharp and crisp and oh so wonderful.
Hando also brings us some delightful insights into Estonian culture with beautiful pictures to illustrate his native land. Don’t miss the part about Tall Hermann’s Tower or the Singing Festival of 30,000 Estonian singers.
This latest Hando video also coincides with his release of his newest album, Lisztomania.
Be sure to visit Brother Hando’s website for more of his music and dates of upcoming concerts:
He liked my article and shared with me his outgoing Annual Report & Valedictory Address as Grand Master, a very illuminating read. He has given me permission to share it herein. I hope you enjoy it. – Tim Bryce
Rank, Regalia and Regulations vs. Rites, Rituals and Reflections
by Jacques Huyghebaert
Grand Master’s Annual Report & Valedictory Address
Prague, 26th April 2015
As I am at the end of my Grand Master’s term and am submitting to you my final report, allow me to share with you some reflections on the nature of Freemasonry, its current state in the world in general and in the Czech Republic in particular.
I cannot but observe that for the last 70 years Freemasonry has witnessed a continuous numerical decline, losing over 50% of its members worldwide.
The trend has been particularly strong in the U.S.A. in the U.K. and in the English speaking world, where recruitment of new members has reached an all time low and at a time when the average age of Freemasons is now reported to be above 65. The future of the Craft looks grim in some of these countries…
In contrast, in Continental Europe and in Latin America, where for over two centuries Brethren had been subjected to religious and political persecutions, Freemasonry has since the end of World War II, seen its membership steadily grow. Age distribution among the Brethren is balanced. Old prejudices and lies against Freemasonry have faded away, while public interest and respect for the Order are growing.
What are the reasons behind these evolutions? What is it that makes the two situations different ? Are we in the presence of two distinct types of Freemasonry? I will now review the negative and the positive elements of the situation and suggest a constructive approach to strengthen the genuine values of Freemasonry.
For the general public, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world, Freemasonry has in the past generally been associated with elite, high rank and public respectability, having counted among its members Kings, Princes, Heads of Government as well as artists, scientists, academics and eminent members of every class of society.
Today however, Freemasonry is sometimes described by non-masons as an out-dated institution, whose members continue to dress in an old fashioned way, wearing gold chains and medals, richly embroidered regalia, parading in solemn processions, using pompous titles and spending their time at the performance of formal ceremonies.
The question that arises is: what that is sufficiently attractive has such a type of organization to offer, in the context of today’s society, to an educated, dynamic mature person, that he would wish to attend Lodge once or twice a month in 2015?
Statistical figures in England. show that for the last 30 years, 4 out of 5 new Brethren, have been leaving Freemasonry within the 5 years following their admission.
This fact demonstrates without any possible doubt that the expectations of 80% of the candidates joining Freemasonry have not been satisfied, resulting in disappointment, followed more or less automatically by their resignation from the Craft.
RITES AND RITUALS
Rites and Rituals are not limited to Freemasonry, they are a universal feature appearing in all human societies, they exist from times immemorial.
Burial sites, found all over the world, confirm that already in prehistoric times, as distant as 100,000 years ago, the corpse of a dead person would be placed, in accordance with certain rules, in a tomb constructed for that purpose, or in a grave intentionally dug into the earth, along with various objects, thus giving the proof of the existence of established burial practices, funeral rites and ceremonies going back to the dawn of mankind and the very emergence of Homo Sapiens.
Solemn ceremonies in ancient times were usually performed in the context of the rites and rituals of prevailing religions and cults, being traditionally associated with major life events such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death.
Rites and rituals were at the root of cultural behaviors governing society by formalizing relationships within the family, tribe and nation.
While in its Masonic sense the word “rite” refers to a system or an organization, covering a number of degrees and ceremonies, like the Scottish or the York Rites, the word “ritual” deals more particularly about the content of the ceremonial activities.
A rite or ritual can be described as an established usually solemn ceremony or act, requiring a particular dress code, performed in a customary way, and consisting in a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, taking place in a particular place, usually a Masonic Temple or Lodge Hall, according a prescribed order, form and manner, governing both words and actions.
Speculative Freemasonry from its inception in the early 18th century has been characterized by the paramount importance of ritualization in its activities.
REGALIA AND RANK
In addition to masonic rites and rituals, without which it would be difficult for most of us to imagine our Lodge meetings, our ceremonies and degree work are characterized by the impressive place which our customs have conferred to regalia, rank and titles.
Regalia is a Latin word which covered originally the emblems or insignia of royalty, especially the crown, the scepter, and other ornaments used at a coronation.
Each and every Mason begins his career with a plain white apron, to remind him that Masonry regards no man on account of his worldly wealth or honors.
This ritual symbolism is intended to signify to us that the internal and not the external qualities of candidates are the criteria that have to be examined for initiation.
Yet, despite official pretensions of humility, and the ritual statement that Freemasons are equal and meet on the level, concretely, generations of Brethren have been dressing up in impressive ceremonial clothes, eagerly wearing elaborate aprons, collars, gauntlet-cuffs and gloves, as well as breast jewels, medals, gold or silver embroidered paraphernalia and sashes richly adorned with symbols.
The wearing in Lodge of distinctive clothing and costumes, ornaments and regalia on formal occasions is inextricably linked with Freemasonry and still carries a paramount meaning to a vast number of senior Freemasons as the indication and recognition of their pre-eminent hierarchical status, rank and position in the Lodge and the Order.
Important masonic ceremonies are still largely conducted with the pomp and luster of customs and traditions passed down from our 18th century predecessors directly to us, but many of which already existed in medieval pageants and religious liturgy. By contemporary 21st century standards, as existing in developed countries of the world, however we need to ask ourselves if, not only in the eyes of non masons, but also of potential candidates, these old dress codes traditions and usages have not become ostentatious and grotesque remains of a bygone, obsolete age.
THE TRADITIONAL TOP-DOWN HIERARCHY
Characteristics of the authoritarian model:
From the top of the ladder, when looking down, you see a lot of “shit”
From below, you only see “assholes”
Is this the type of Grand Lodge that we want for the future?
RULES AND REGULATIONS
We hear from time to time that Freemasonry is an Order based on hierarchy, where power is vested at the top, while we members are expected to obey and abide cheerfully by all the rules, regulations, edicts and decrees made by our leaders.
While earlier pyramidal forms of government, based on the assumed superiority of its heads, had been the rule for the major part in the history of mankind, the authoritarian model was first challenged and then progressively abolished from the 18th century onwards, except in parts of the world ruled by tyrants and dictators.
The development of speculative Freemasonry has taken place in parallel indeed with the spread of egalitarian principles of Human Rights, and with the ideals of freedom and justice, dear to all Freemasons, which characterize our modern world.
What had been earlier be immutable justification for the divine, royal or natural right invoked by the very few who preside at the top and command, and the imperative duty to obey applicable for the rest of us, materialized in the difference between the high and the low social classes, determining in an absolute manner the relations between men and women, parents and children — is now nearly universally rejected.
The patriarchal role of the wise and experienced man, the teacher and the professional craftsman have been seriously eroded, as we have lost confidence in the relevance of the former codes of dominance and their associated beliefs and behaviors.
As deep, far reaching and rapid social and technological changes have been taking place during the 20th century, authoritarian government stereotypes appear generally today as outmoded, inefficient and inappropriate models.
In contrast with the public trend promoting casual dress codes, simple and informal social relations, including at work, we should examine whether the corollary of the great importance given by Freemasons to rank and title is perhaps not that our Fraternity, in some jurisdictions at least, is at risk of being the victim of too much hierarchy and abusive use of personal power by individuals.
Worse: has the image of poor internal fraternal relations, crippling the reputation of some Grand Lodges, caused by excessive authoritarianism, not become a deterrent for potential candidates to join Freemasonry as well as a direct reason for a number of disgruntled Brethren to resign their masonic membership?
Is it not true, on the contrary, that as genuine Masons, and as taught in our ritual, we should systematically meet on the level and always remember that we are Brethren!
In accordance with the masonic principles which we proclaim, and using common sense, let’s keep administration, bureaucracy, rules, and regulations as light as possible, while encouraging peer-to-peer teamwork, consensus and friendship between the Brethren, the Lodges, the Grand Officers and Grand Lodge.
Thus we will be able to focus on Freemasonry itself and enjoy its benefits.
RITUAL AS A SIGNIFICANT AND MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE
It’s obvious that, if so many men join the Craft, then leave, it’s because when they get in expectations aren’t met.
The common sense thing is to find out why people join, what were/are their expectations before joining the Craft and deliver on that — if it fits.
From the outside, Freemasonry has a sense of mystery and wonder; that there is something valuable to be gained from membership.
Candidates simply don’t get this when they get in. The Masonic ritual is often delivered at ceremonies in superficial, mostly rote ways. New Brethren are asked to start memorizing the ritual, without having been informed in advance about this requirement and without receiving proper Masonic education after initiation.
The on-going trend followed by several Grand Lodges of wanting to ‘change in line with society’ and to recruit and retain members isn’t working.
The recipe to save Freemasonry is to reconnect it with its deeper purpose.
The answer is not to change Freemasonry.
The answer is to understand what Freemasonry is at its core.
WE HAVE ONLY ONE LIFE!
Despite good health, the comforts of modern life and the security of sufficient income, many people these days are dissatisfied with the routine and shallowness of modern life and are looking to reconnect with deeper, more fundamental truths.
What are we looking for, to make our life interesting?
1. A break from monotony
Sitting all the time locked up in an office can be next to unbearable, claustrophobic. Going through life following every day the same dull routine with occasional weekend activities can be extremely insufficient. Widening our horizon makes our life more interesting and gives us a sense of freedom.
2. Spiritual adventure
Learning and discovering new things, exchanging ideas, establishing friendships, studying different cultures is an exciting, unusual, unpredictable journey, which always ends in being an interesting experience or encounter. A full life revolves around constant curiosity and thirst for knowledge. When are old we should be able to look back on our life happily and appreciate the opportunities we took to explore the vast world which surrounds us.
3. A broader perspective
By opening our eyes and mind to discover different people and cultures, in a spirit of tolerance, we are able to enrich ourselves. A thing that is seen as unacceptable to us could be a daily occurrence in another culture. Just because we have been raised to believe in a certain set of beliefs, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right.
4. The Brethren
A very exciting thing about Freemasonry are the Brethren we meet and the friendships created along the way. Every Mason has a different journey, a different background story that has led him to his present point in his life. Each Brother is unique in his own way. Masons generally like to share where they come from and are interested to learn from each other. Meeting Brethren and establishing friendships leaves undoubtedly a constructive effect on our life as we move forward.
5. Personal Development
Complacency is Toxic! Freemasonry provides an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. All this offers a unique chance to reflect on our life, to analyze where we stand, and decide where we want to go in the future.
6. Just Because.
We only have one life to live! Let us therefore enjoy it to the fullest!
FREEMASONRY INVITES US TO REFLECT
Eternally valid questions and reflections are for example:
From where do we come?
Where are we going?
Who are we?
What is consciousness?
What is the sense of life?
What is the value of friendship?
What means initiation?
Freemasonry unlike other groups, does not recruit, it confers initiation.
Masonic rituals and ceremonies operate as an instrument, addressing our emotional senses and delivering practical, personal, spiritual and philosophical advancement.
Trends, environment and conditions change — but the deep mental and emotional nature of the human being does not.
As individuals, we are fundamentally the same, physically and psychologically, as our distant ancestors thousands of years ago.
Freemasonry transcends time and culture.
We make sense of the world and ourselves through the internal languages of mind. We are biologically programmed to react to emotional signals, which experience teaches us, are well conveyed through formal rites and rituals.
Freemasonry creates meaning through the language of symbols and allegories.
THE LOST WORD
In A Bridge to Light issued in 1988, under authority of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Washington, D.C., Bro. Rex R. Hutchinson wrote that:
“Modern speculative Freemasonry did not spring full blown upon the historical stage at a London pub or tavern meeting in 1717.”
“The operative Masons had already contributed a long legacy of symbolism and tradition that continues to enrich the Craft to this day.”
“Also there are persistent references in Masonic ritual, especially in the Higher Degrees, to relationships with Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Gnostics, Alchemists, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Essenes, Persians, Hindus and Kabbalists.”
“Whether these presumed relations demonstrate a continuous heritage, of which modern Freemasonry is the linear successor, or simply a source of inspiration is not essential, what matters is the teaching behind the symbols.”
“Whatever the truth of history, the contributions to the symbolism of Freemasonry by the religions, philosophies, mythologies and occult mysteries of the past lie upon its surface for all to see.”
“Rather than being a secret society, Freemasonry is a revealer of secrets. The great truths of ancient man were, in their time, also great secrets and few were admitted into the sanctuaries where these truths were taught.”
“Freemasonry teaches these truths to all worthy men who ask to learn them.”
IN SEARCH OF LIGHT
We all tend to stay in our comfort zone.
The comfort zone can be described as an abstract theoretical bubble, where we feel at ease, in control of our surroundings, and fully comfortable.
Everyone at some point should push his own boundaries to promote personal growth. One way to burst that bubble is Freemasonry
Masonic symbols are the keys to a long, difficult but rewarding spiritual journey, it is a thorny road which we have to travel by ourselves. Our Brethren can help us, but at the end of the day, nobody can do it in our stead.
Initiation does not consist in receiving any type of knowledge that can be written or said, or perceived by the five senses of human nature, but is an introduction to a type of totally different knowledge, where the Brother will learn mainly to use his heart to conceive the beauties of Freemasonry.
Then nothing will remain neither occult, nor secret, for the intention of the Fraternity has never been to hide, but only to transmit through the succession of ages, the most excellent tenets of our Institution.
The sense of symbols, first very obscure, will progressively became clearer, and those words that the young Entered Apprentice can only spell with difficulty, will be read later with ease if he patiently perseveres.
He is guided symbolically when he is given the first letter of the word. But he has to discover the second letter himself. In due time, the third letter will be communicated to him in order that he may uncover the next.
This symbolic approach, held in high esteem among the peoples of Antiquity, is still used today by Freemasons but has nothing to do with a craving for secret or mystery, nor has this method become obsolete.
Much to contrary, far superior to the confusion of words and of languages, Masonic symbols, so expressive, are more fitting than ever to imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.
Let us hear what Dr. Albert Schweitzer had to say about this:
“When truth, knowledge or wisdom cease to be understood, they do not live any longer in our minds.”
“When knowledge is reduced to a mere dogma that is blindly accepted, it may appear to survive for some time, while its rules are still being slavishly observed. But as its underlying coherence and justification is being lost, truth is soon distorted and breaks into pieces, in the same way that the dead body decays and falls apart under the effects of putrefaction.”
“When truth is communicated directly, without requiring any effort from the recipient, it will not leave a lasting impression, for most human beings live day by day and are not capable of forming their own opinions.”
“So, it is necessary that all elevated ideas, be created again and again by each one of us in ourselves. Only when we attempt to follow with trust the inner road of our individual thought, can we hope to attain living truth.”
“Living and profound reflection does not fall into subjectivism.”
“It drives, by the force of its own intellectual power, notions that Tradition regards as true and attempts to transform them into knowledge”.
To this spiritual path the Masonic ritual alludes, when it states to the candidate at his initiation that he will need to go the same way as all Brothers have done, who have gone this way before him.
By their individual work, Freemasons can contribute to the construction of a better world. By their ideas and the example of their life, Freemasons can help in spreading more fraternal human relations.
Being sincerely in search of “that which was lost”, enlightened by the Wisdom of Silence, fortified by the Strength of Symbols, each Brother has the inner capability to reconstruct the Beauty of the Masonic Secrets in his heart.
THE SITUATION IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Czech Freemasonry was re-born in 1989, starting nearly from scratch after a long period of darkness. Today, we have gained worldwide recognition and respect.
Following our own path and facing our own difficulties, we have escaped so far the terrible numerical decline that has affected Masonic membership in so many countries, where old, experienced and well established Grand Lodges had been operating most successfully in the past.
We have currently 543 Brethren on the roll of our Grand Lodge. The total figure has been hovering around 550 unique members for the third consecutive year.
We hear the positive message from the Grand Secretary’s annual report, that the average age of the Brethren of the Grand Lodge of the Czech Republic has gone down, that we have now over 50 middle aged Entered Apprentices, who have replaced the elderly Brethren who have gone to Grand Lodge above, as well as a number of non-active Brethren who have been removed administratively from the Grand Lodge roll. We also hear that several lodges have many candidates.
Yet, I think that we should not rest on our laurels. I remain convinced that we can do far better in terms of membership. Can do ? No, MUST do!
In the 1950s there were over 500,000 Freemasons registered under the United Grand Lodge of England, for a population of 50 million at the time. Masonic membership in the U.K. then peaked at approximately 1% of total population.
With 10.5 million inhabitants in the Czech Republic, 1% of the population would mean over 100,000 Freemasons. Even only 0.5% would mean 50,000 members.
If we were 5,000 Brethren, = 10 times our current membership ! we would represent only 1‰ (1 per thousand) of the male population in the Czech Republic While our Fraternity is interested in the quality, not in the quantity of its members and while it is true that not everybody is fit to be a Freemason, would it not be proof of an incredible arrogance on our side to believe that out of every 1,000 of our countrymen, only ONE has the moral qualifications or the intellectual level to be a Freemason?
With 500 members, we are merely surviving, financially speaking, and, let’s admit it, we fail having reached the critical mass needed to operate as a Grand Lodge. 5,000 members means also concretely: 10x more income!
5,000 is possible, but it will require action, by all of us – at Lodge level! So let’s leave our “comfort zone”, and initiate many more potential candidates!
As a Freemason who has had more than one run-in with with Grand Masters, I have become a lightning rod for others who are no longer satisfied with the institution, both in and outside of my jurisdiction. I am not sure I can help other than to listen to their problems and offer some sympathy. Recently, I heard from two Brothers in my jurisdiction who called to complain about what was going on in their Lodge, or more specifically, what wasn’t happening. One was in his early 30’s, the other in his mid-70’s. Remarkably, their complaints were similar. Both fervently believe in Freemasonry as a concept, but have difficulty accepting how it is physically practiced in their jurisdiction.
They both love the concept of brotherhood, its heritage, the practice of morality, and working together to make communities better. However, they find attending Lodge meetings to be repetitive and boring with little effort to make it interesting and worthwhile. It almost seems like it is designed to fail. Both Brothers said to me, as well as many others, “This is not what I signed up for,” and are in the process of emitting.
Instead of Lodges embracing the concept of Brotherhood, Freemasons have grown weary of the petty political struggles where people feverishly work to earn an inane object such as a fancy apron or a new Masonic title, e.g., Worshipful, Right Worshipful, Most Worshipful. I am often asked, “What is wrong with the plain white apron and simply being called ‘Brother’?” Instead, they lament Freemasonry is practiced as a Good Old Boy Club whereby, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This suggests an individualistic approach based on favoritism, not one based on collective teamwork.
One of the Brothers noted, of all the people who were raised with him during his year, only one has returned to Lodge. Most simply disappear, move on to other endeavors, and drop out. This suggests the Lodge is not offering anything of value to its members, such as stimulating discussions and meaningful social interaction.
Like many other jurisdictions, we have watched membership here erode over the past fifteen years, losing over 1,500 on an annual basis. This is perplexing to the Brothers I talked with who commented while membership dwindles, the aprons and titles never abate. I tend to refer to this type of phenomenon as “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic” – in other words, people tend to worry about the wrong things.
The Brothers had hoped to find a place for the free expression of ideas and debate, of stimulating discussion and mental gymnastics, to be curious and learn, but this is typically frowned upon by both the Lodge officers and Grand Lodge who are quick to squash such discussions. Consequently, Lodge is no longer “a place of enlightenment,” and people quickly exit it at the conclusion of a meeting. They further note sub-par floor work by apathetic officers during the conferring of degrees, some simply laughing off their performance. This distracts from impressing on the candidates the importance of the lessons embodied in the degrees.
They admit to having met some fine people along the way, true believers in the Craft, but also a lot of petty people who become jealous over the success of others and undermines them. Such backstabbing tends to make people paranoid and not comfortable in their own Lodge. As one of the Brothers explained to me, “A Masonic Lodge is a place where people prefer to speak behind your back, as opposed to your face.”
The Brothers also sought further light in Masonry from other institutions, such as the Scottish Rite and York Rite. Again, they didn’t find it stimulating, just “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Maybe this problem is unique to their jurisdiction, but I doubt it.
I find it difficult to console such Brothers as I have always contended Freemasonry requires a major overhaul (see my “Masonic Manifesto” written years ago). Having fought the immovable object though for so long, all I can advise them is, “You cannot fight city hall.” This inability to adapt to change is the single biggest reason why the Craft is losing members, by frustrating good Masons and causing them to abandon the fraternity.
It is not my intention here to appear too negative, but we can no longer afford to cover up our blemishes and hope they will go away on their own. If we truly believe in the concept of Freemasonry, we can ill-afford to be reactive and become pro-active instead. This all begins by admitting we have a problem. It has long been an axiom of ours, “You cannot treat a patient if he doesn’t know he is sick” (Bryce’s Law).
Keep the Faith!
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Symbolic, even among the symbols of Freemasonry, the moon plays an essential part in the esoteric nature of Freemasonry. Not a primary component of the ritual, the celestial body none-the-less features prominently in the rites and rituals of the lodge harkening back to older and more esoteric traditions.
The adoption of the moon in the Masonic system as a symbol is analogous to, but could hardly be derived from, the employment of the same symbol in the ancient religions. In Egypt, Osiris was the sun, and Isis the moon; in Syria, Adonis was the sun and Ashtaroth the moon; the Greeks adored her as Diana, and Hecate; in the mysteries of Ceres, while the hierophant or chief priest represented the Creator, and the torch-bearer the sun, the officer nearest the altar represented the moon. In short, moon-worship was as widely disseminated as sun-worship. Masons retain her image in their Rites because the Lodge is a representation of the universe. where, as the sun rules over the day, the moon presides over the night; as the one regulates the year, so does the other the months, and as the former is the king of the starry hosts of heaven, so is the latter their queen; but both deriving their heat, and light, and power from him, who has the third and the greatest light, the master of heaven and earth controls them both.
From The Master Mason
In its culmination, [the third degree] is the transition through life and death in order to be reborn anew with an understanding of the spiritual world that has always been around us but now made visible. The moon, here, is key as Yesod leads to our understanding of becoming an emblem of the reflective nature we assume in this transformation. Like the moon, we reflect the light of the Great Architect capturing what is impossible to see without becoming blinded by its radiance. This is, of course, a metaphor but no less appropriate to the change we undergo and the purpose we assume in becoming masters. Like the moon, each of us reflect the glory of the divine sun in phases, exerting our gravitational force over the tides of our interactions.
What is Texas Masonicon? Here is how they tell it:
In their efforts to seek more light, the brethren of Fort Worth Lodge #148 began a tradition of bringing in guest speakers for Masonic educational talks. Talk after talk, our membership flourished and was enriched. After how much we have enjoyed the benefits of this program, we have decided to share this experience with other brothers who desire to seek more light.
Masonic education is a critical component to every brother’s journey in the Craft. However, it can be extremely hard to come by, even though our fraternity is filled with extraordinary speakers who will gladly share their research. We felt it was our responsibility to share the results of our educational program and create a Masonic educational event that would benefit the Craft on a larger scale. The location? The Fort Worth Masonic Temple.
They’re calling it: Texas MasoniCon
The last two Aprils Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro, Massachusetts has held a Masonicon. It is generally an all-day event of Masonic speakers from different parts of the country gathered together to make presentations and includes followup workshops and group participation.
Texas MasoniCon is intended to be an annual Masonic educational conference, and will bring together interested Brothers looking for more light in Masonry with knowledgeable authors and dignitaries from around the country.
Their keynote speakers for their inaugural convention will be three distinguished Masonic authors: Bro. Michael Poll is the founder of Cornerstone Publishing, V.E. Piers Vaughan is Past Grand High Priest of New York, and Bro. Chuck Dunning is the founding Superintendent of the Academy of Reflection.
Michael R. Poll is the owner of Cornerstone Book Publishers. He is a Founding Fellow and Past President of The Masonic Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society and Fellow of the Maine Lodge of Research. and a contributor to Heredom, the publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society.
A New York Times Bestselling writer and publisher, he is a prolific writer, editor and publisher of Masonic and esoteric books, having published over 200 titles.
Very Excellent Piers Vaughan is a Past Grand High Priest for New York Grand Chapter. His Masonic membership began in England in 1979, and he joined a number of Orders before joining St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York. He has traveled extensively across the USA and in many countries abroad giving lectures on a number of topics, ranging from history to talks on the symbols and esotericism of Masonry. An interest in 18th Century French Masonic Ritual led him to translate a number of important treatises and rituals into English.
V.E. Bro. Vaughan has written the Capitular Development Course, and Renaissance Man & Mason.
Chuck Dunning has been a Master Mason since 1988, is a member of Blue Lodges and Scottish Rite Valleys in both Texas and Oklahoma, and also belongs to a number of Masonic research societies. In the Scottish Rite, Chuck is a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor, Director of Education for the Guthrie Valley in Oklahoma, and a Class Director for the Fort Worth Valley in Texas. In 2012 he became the founding Superintendent of the Academy of Reflection, which is a chartered organization for Scottish Rite Masons wanting to integrate contemplative practice with their Masonic experience.
Bro. Dunning has authored Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft.
Their guest speakers are experts in Masonic leadership and education. They are:
Brad Billings – PM, Texas Lodge of Research
David Bindel – PM, Jewel P. Lightfoot Lodge
Larry Fitzpatrick – Past Grand Orator, GL of TX
Pete Normand – PM, Texas Lodge of Research
Roberto Sanchez – author The True Masonic Experience
John Tolbert – past DDGM
It is events like this one that is educating a new batch of leaders for the Masonic Fraternity of tomorrow. It is also a way of holding first rate Masonic Conferences that seems to be popular and catching on all across the U.S.A. There is a new day dawning on Freemasonry in America. American Masonry is becoming more national and less parochial in its outlook and that is helping it keep up with the 21st Century and the Information Age.
If you haven’t been to a Masonicon try it. You’ll like it!
The Great Work is, above all things, the creation of man by himself; that is to say, the fall and entire conquest which he effects of his faculties and his future. It is, above all, the perfect emancipation of his will.
For a good many years, I’ve written about the idea of producing to contribute to the Great Work. Yet, I don’t think I’ve taken the time to address what that idea means, to me or to the wide world when it comes to your self-development.
In basic terms, the Great Work is the idea of completing the development of our soul. By completing it, I mean finding within ourselves that spark of the cosmic consciousness and nurturing it to a state of understanding the wider universe around us.
A lofty goal and, not surprisingly, one that is seldom, if ever, brought to completion.
But, in undertaking such an endeavor, it’s important to not try and put the cart before the horse. While considering the Great Work as the length and breadth of a career, the reality is that the work itself is an ongoing pursuit made by degree, the production of which making small, nearly imperceptible changes to the inner life that slowly make themselves known in the external domain.
So then, what is the Great Work? The easiest way to define what it is is to say that The Great Work is the quest for knowledge that ends in wisdom.
It seems almost too simple. It seems like a process many of us already undertake. In many respects it is. But what happens in the pursuit of the Great Work is the myriad distractions and attention-stealing interruptions that take us away from the pursuit of that work.
Like all the Mysteries of Magism, the Secrets of “the Great Work” have a threefold signification: they are religious, philosophical, and natural. – Albert Pike
To further simplify the term, the Great Work is the betterment of oneself. Be it through learning and doing our trade, perfecting our life, providing for the health and welfare of our family or contributing to the uplifting of mankind. It’s in the undertaking of these tasks that the effort of the Great Work begins to shape the world around us.
The hardest part of understanding what the Great Work represents is knowing that the work is just that—work.
It isn’t something that you can buy on a shelf or order online. It isn’t something you can achieve in the simple reading of a text. No, the Great Work manifests itself in the assimilation of information and application in the real world. It comes out of the understanding of perspectives other than one’s own and seeing meaning from the eyes of the stranger. Think in terms of walking a mile in another person’s shoes. In this aphorism, the purpose is the development of empathy for the world around you, much in the way of the Golden Rule.
With knowledge comes wisdom. From wisdom comes empathy. And yet, there is another component necessary to square the circle. That fourth component is the willpower to undertake such a change with the knowledge that it means a reexamination of past lessons learned in the past.
This is the purpose of the Great Work.
Without doubt, this path implies a measure of agreed upon change that, once begun, inculcates itself into your day to day existence. The seeker, desiring change (knowingly or not) wanting to assimilate knowledge must take the first step in this process by exercising their will to acquire it, fearless of where ever it may take them.
Many Paths, One Destination
Where does that knowledge come from? What path should one follow to pursue the Great Work? Many groups and organizations suggest theirs is the one true way. But, in reality, there is an infinite number of means to obtain knowledge, and just as many in applying it. The effort of undertaking the Great Work is in your mindful daily living, applying the lessons learned and when finding an impasse, seeking further enlightenment beyond where you find yourself now. This is the process of the Great Work, not the Great Attainment. It is work. It is an effort. It is a continually tested result and attunement to the world in increasingly broadening strokes and circles.
It is for this that the pursuit of the Great Work is called the Search for the Absolute; and the work itself, the work of the Sun.
This attunement happens in meditation. It happens in prayer. It happens in mindful interactions with other human beings in the world at large—both in your community and outside of it. One could argue that it happens in the comments in social media if they offer something constructive to the dialog seeking to uplift rather than tear down.
Pike, in Morals and Dogma, writes:
For all that we familiarly know of Free-Will is that capricious exercise of it which we experience in ourselves and other men; and therefore the notion of Supreme Will, still guided by Infallible Law, even if that law be self-imposed, is always in danger of being either stripped of the essential quality of Freedom, or degraded under the ill-name of Necessity to something of even less moral and intellectual dignity than the fluctuating course of human operations.
It is not until we elevate the idea of law above that of partiality or tyranny, that we discover that the self-imposed limitations of the Supreme Cause, constituting an array of certain alternatives, regulating moral choice, are the very sources and safeguards of human freedom; and the doubt recurs, whether we do not set a law above God Himself; or whether laws self-imposed may not be self-repealed: and if not, what power prevents it.
WB Ben Wallace always knew that there were deeper meanings embedded in Masonry, it just took him awhile to find them. And when he did, there was no stopping him from organizing and promoting esoteric, philosophical Masonry across the entire state of North Carolina.
First, he had to found North Carolina’s first Traditional Observance Lodge, Sophia Lodge.
Next through his TO experience, becoming Master at Wilkerson College Lodge No 760, North Carolina’s Research Lodge, and then Chairman of the North Carolina Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education he developed a 3-hour presentation of the Allegory and Symbolism of the Three Degrees. With permission from the Grand Master, he toured North Carolina giving this presentation for three years.
But Ben Wallace was not done with promoting esoteric and philosophical Masonry. He had a burning desire to take it to the next step. And the next step was to morph his Allegory and Symbolism lecture into a full-blown program sanctioned and offered by the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Thus, was born North Carolina’s Middle Chamber Masonic Education Program.
This program is given quarterly for a full year.
Part One is an Introduction to Masonic Allegories and Symbols, the original Wallace lecture. It became known as “The Hook” because it was given to interested Brethren free of charge to give them an overview of what was coming. After that, any Brother wishing to take the next step had to sign up with the Grand Secretary and pay the sum of $150. That payment included the “Big Five,” 5 books chosen for the course. They are:
The Meaning of Masonry by Wilmshurst
Freemasonry Its Hidden Meaning by Steinmetz
The Way of the Craftsman by MacNulty
Contemplative Masonry by Dunning
The Rough and Rugged Road by Hornsby
So, the first quarter is The Hook.
The second quarter is the 1st Degree, The Physical Nature of Man, our interactions with the physical world
The third quarter the 2nd Degree, The Psychical Nature of Man – Psychology and “mind stuff.”
The fourth quarter is the 3rd Degree, The Spiritual Nature of Man, the spiritual aspect of the student.
It takes a whole year to graduate but Wallace says even this is too fast.
We don’t want to give away any more of this great program because the rest of the story is in the video. Don’t miss it!!
RW Frank Jackson was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in 1969 at the age of 18. Today he is both the Grand Junior Warden of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and the Grand Historian.
Jackson offers many Masons a different perspective on the origins of higher knowledge, scholarship, and philosophical thought. And a different perspective on the development of Freemasonry in the United States.
How many people, whether Masons or not, know the role Egypt, a part of Africa, was to play in the development of knowledge? How many know that Socrates and Aristotle spent time in Egypt? That Plato spent 13 years studying in Egypt and Pythagoras some 21 years?
Much of what we attribute to the knowledge of the Greeks who passed it on to the Romans came originally from Egypt and Africa, some of it transported directly by Aristotle.
The video will cover:
Origins and development of the Pyramids
The Library at Alexandria
Jackson’s personal Mason journey
Early Texas Prince Hall Development
One has to remember that Prince Hall Masonry went through a period of governance by a National Grand Lodge. It also didn’t bloom nationwide until post Civil War. This has made for a much different path of Masonic development from Mainstream Masonry.
Keep all these factors in mind as you watch RW Frank Jackson in the video above. You may find that it will broaden your horizons.
Norris Wright Cuney
Noris Wright Cuney
Born May 12, 1846
Hempstead, Texas, U.S.
Died March 3, 1898 (aged 51)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Resting place Lakeview Cemetery, Galveston, Texas
Residence Galveston, Texas, U.S.
Known for Leader of the Texas Republican Party, First Grand Master Prince Hall Masons Of Texas http://www.mwphglotx.org
Almost 6 months ago, on the day of the August, 2017, solar eclipse, I launched a project to publish the third book in the Symbolic Lodge series, The Master Mason. And, (almost) to the date of the January, 2018, lunar eclipse, that book went out to its backers and is available now to the public.
The Master Mason, our third step in becoming a Freemason, is out now.
The blurb for the book reads:
The Master Mason: The Reason of Being – A Treatise on the Third Degree of Freemasonry
Third, in the journey of the Symbolic Lodge, The Master Mason is a formal exploration of the symbolism and allegory at work in the third degree of Freemasonry. Through that lens, this work seeks to find the hidden esoteric connections and their connections with the centuries-old ritual that crowns the process of becoming a Freemason. As with its predecessors, The Apprentice and Fellow of the Craft, this work seeks to find parallel with its esoteric siblings, the Golden Dawn, Thelema, numerology, tarot, the Kabbalah and other arcane and occult traditions.
The Master Mason is a work that strives to understand the process of becoming a Freemason.
As many traditions hold the keys to achieve a degree of perfection, within the Masonic tradition we are shown this path through the becoming of a master. Truly, this degree opens as a mystery, and concludes on another, illuminating a path towards perfection and purpose.
You can find the book online at Amazon and other select sellers. Plus, if you’re a collector, there are a small number of special offers of The Master Mason available for a limited time including signed editions, very limited edition prints, and a collector coin — all of which you can find here.