Manteca Masonic lodge vandalized

From the Manteca Bulletin

Vandals broke into the [Manteca] Masonic Lodge in the 200 block of North Powers Avenue sometime over the past weekend trashing the interior of the building and causing an estimated $7,000 in damage.

Destroyed in the break in was an antique organ donated by the family of the late Bill Eichner for his past service. The organ was “smashed beyond all repair”

The break-in was believed to have happened either Friday night or Saturday night. The clock mounted on the wall had been damaged with its hands stopped at 12:05, [W.M.] Shaughnessy added. Also destroyed in the vandalism were emblems representing the DeMolay for boys and the Order of Rainbow Girls that were kept in the building.

The report says of the lodge that it was constructed in 1957 but the organization there dates back to the cities formation in 1913.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Manteca Police Department at 209.456.8100

I Have Decided I Don’t Want To Do Bare Bones Masonry Anymore

A typical Masonic Lodge will meet in a small sparse building which I call a shack.  It will be a two room affair – a Lodge room and a dining hall both sporting the barest of essentials.  Practicality will over rule lavish luxury. Of course there are exceptions.

Some stately and roomy Lodge buildings can be found in cities where multiple Lodges meet and Concordant Bodies also are tenants. But the number of these more luxurious cousins is a drop in the bucket compared to the large number of suburban and small town Lodges that dot the American countryside.

Rural Lodges don’t have much choice but to be this way.  But city and suburban Lodges could afford much better digs if all the Lodges in a 20 mile radius were to meet in one building.  Our European Masonic cousins have long found this to be the answer to meeting in surroundings of comfort. You can find many English Masonic buildings where up to twenty Lodges meet.

American Masons are wedded to having their own Lodge building which they share with no one just as the American public is wedded to the automobile which they share with no one.  Mass transit may be available but Americans with cars seldom use it. And HOV lanes in Dallas have reduced requirements to just two in a vehicle yet 98% do not take advantage of them. We all have to have our own thing. But in doing so “our thing” becomes too expensive for us to maintain all by ourselves. The result is that many Lodges meet in buildings of somewhat disrepair.

Of course better surroundings could be provided if Lodges were allowed to rent out their building to a wider clientele. But Grand Lodges in their ultimate, know it all wisdom impose so many restrictions on who local Lodges can rent to that no takers can be found. You can’t rent the Masonic Hall to any affair that will serve liquor. That kills most of your wedding reception business. You can’t rent out to women’s Masonry, Co-Masonry or in some cases in Mainstream to Prince Hall Masonry.  You can’t rent to any of the so called clandestine Lodges. It is doubtful you would be allowed to rent out your building to the Knights of Columbus, AA or the NRA.

Then there is the issue of participation. Each new Grand Master tries to outdo the other.  Each new District Deputy tries to make a name for himself by beating the performance of his predecessor.  Each new Master tries to out shine the previous Master. Consequently there are always a host of programs and duties that need to be staffed. Mainstream Masonry also has a plethora of Masonic Awareness/Charitable events which require a boatload of manpower. Masonic Communications become meetings of recruitment. Soon what is expected of a Mason is eating away at all of his free time.

I have decided that I don’t want to do bare bones Masonry anymore.  Masonry on the cheap is not for me.

The organization I belong to will have a beautiful, large building with many rooms.  The floors will be plush carpet or hardwood.  Wall paper and paintings of renowned artists will adorn the walls. I will sit in a large leather chair with a foot rest and a side table beside me. A waiter will bring me a cocktail and my choice of an hors d’oeuvre and an expensive cigar. If I prefer I can sit on the veranda in a rocking chair gazing out at the beautiful view.  One room will have a grand piano for those members who know how to play.  Another room will have a pool table and game tables. Seven course dinners will be served once per week.

I have no desire to be drafted into manning somebody else’s pet project. Instead of doing all the time I would much rather just be. After all I am a human being not a human doing. I will sit and learn about my organization in its giant library.  I will learn the knowledge I want to gain, if not by reading, by viewing presentations in the media room of my organization.

I will attend on the days or nights I have free time and an inclination to do so. My organization will be open for business six days a week but it will make no requirements of me or my attendance other than the dues I pay to belong.

My organization will be there for my edification and pleasure not to work me to death or enlist me in its army.

My organization could be Freemasonry.  Then again it could be not.

Freemason Tim Bryce.

Masonic Entitlement

A common lament in our society today is that our youth have developed a sense of entitlement whereby they believe they are entitled to a cell phone, a computer, an education, a car, or whatever. For some reason, they believe they have a God-given right to such things as opposed to working and earning them.  I also see evidence of this in Masonic Lodges where some young officers believe that by simply attending Lodge and wearing a tux, they are entitled to the next chair in the officer rotation. On too many occasions, in too many Lodges, I have seen such officers skate through their responsibilities and accomplish nothing.  They still do not know their ritual work, they still do not capably perform the responsibilities that accompany the office, yet they feel entitled to move up in the Lodge. Actually, such people are capitalizing on those Lodges struggling for membership and participation. The mindset tends to be, “If they don’t like what I’m doing, then fine, I’ll leave and they won’t have anybody sitting in a chair.”  This is extortion no matter how you try to rationalize it. If this approach is successful, incompetence is rewarded.

I don’t buy such a scenario and have never voted along such lines. I vote for the person I believe is the most competent to hold the office, not the least, and I’m beginning to believe I’m an anomaly in this regards.

In my jurisdiction, there is no real prerequisite for becoming a Worshipful Master other than being a Master Mason in good standing. You do not need to pass any tests, earn any proficiency cards, attend any training, or know any ritual. Heck, you don’t even have to have earned your white leather apron. I have seen quite a few people who have rotated to the East without such qualifications; they just happened to be warm available bodies who can sit in a chair. As an aside, I have never met a person with such a background who was successful as a Worshipful Master. The Lodge simply muddled through his year and stagnated.

It is my understanding that in California, there are “District Inspectors” who review the capabilities of the Lodge officers.  If they can pass the muster, they can proceed to the next chair if so elected. The point is, before they proceed to the next chair, they must be properly trained and understand their responsibilities.  To me, this is forward thinking.

There is an unwritten rule that a Worshipful Master should prepare his junior officers for moving up if they are so inclined.  This is why I think Masonic Education is so important, including the development of administrative and management skills.  Unfortunately, today’s Worshipful Masters are facing resistance from the junior officers because of the entitlement issue. Frankly, I see Masonic entitlement becoming worse before it gets better. If people are unwilling to step up to the plate and assume responsibility, or are unwilling to put their best foot forward, maybe its time to think about closing the Lodge and moving on to one who has its act together.

All we can ask from our Lodge officers is one thing; that they at least TRY. I can assure you they won’t be 100% successful. Undoubtedly they will make mistakes along the way, but you’ll be surprised what can be accomplished simply by trying.

Just TRY!

Keep the Faith!

Freemasonry From the Edge
Freemasonry From the Edge

Tim Bryce,
“A foot soldier for Freemasonry”

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

Article reprinted with permission of the author and
Also be sure to check out Tim’s “Pet Peeve of the Week” (non-Masonic related).

Read more from Tim Bryce and Freemasonry from the Edge.

Copyright © 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

freemasonry, masonic, freemasons, information

Rosewood Masonic Lodge Discovered

The events and depiction of the 1997 film Rosewood are cinematic but unlike most of what Hollywood produces, the events that fateful town actually happened.

Recently, the remains of the historic Rosewood Masonic lodge has been discovered amidst items during exploratory dig at site of 1923 massacre.

Marvin Dunn, a retired Florida International University professor and Florida historian, and three others took part in a day of exploratory dig finding the evidence just below the surface.

From the Ocala:

“After some digging, they uncovered pieces of, what they believe to be, a ceremonial sword and a knife from the Rosewood Masonic Lodge, also known as Magnolia Lodge. One of the men helping Dunn was a Mason, and “he knew immediately what they were.” Dunn said finding the artifacts finally gives researchers an idea of the location of the pivotal building.”

From Wikipedia on the Rosewood Masacre:

Rosewood was a quiet, primarily black, self-sufficient whistle stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Spurred by unsupported accusations that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a black drifter, white men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident. When black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting for black people, and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. Survivors hid for several days in nearby swamps and were evacuated by train and car to larger towns. Although state and local authorities were aware of the violence, they made no arrests for the activities in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by black residents during the attacks. None ever returned.

As depicted in the film, the Masonic lodge was the central building in the community that served many functions. Its also believed that many of the men living in the Rosewood community were Masons, making the find an exciting one on several levels.

Ballot Reform

masonic ballot box

Based on Pennsylvania’s conversions from one black ball to three black balls and the comments coming in regarding the changes that might bring, I think it is time to revive an article previously written by “The Beehive.”

Masons treat balloting as something holy and sacrosanct. Any suggestion that perhaps another way of voting might be preferable is met with shock and derision. “Mess with balloting? We have always done it this way (sputter, sputter). Why that’s downright unMasonic!”

Thinking about the reason we use a little box with white balls and black cubes in a secret ballot where all members of the Lodge must vote, you have to go way back to the 1700s.

Masonry grew up with the United States growing into a nation. It became customary for each hamlet to have its own Masonic Lodge rather than one Lodge drawing from many different communities. As such the local town Lodge was in a village where everybody knew everybody else. Outside of the few big cities of that time like Boston, New York and Philadelphia, Americans lived in communities small enough in size for an individual to know every single person in that town. Therefore everybody needed to vote on a petition in Lodge because everybody knew the applicant. And everybody also knew what everybody else was doing. Private lives were not so private. If you did something you shouldn’t or acted in a manner that drew attention you can be sure that everybody else in town knew about it. Therefore it became necessary to shield those voting in Lodge from having their decision spread all over town. Rejecting an applicant could have serious repercussions especially if you were the only one to drop the black ball.

Without a secret ballot any vote could be held up to ridicule thus putting undue pressure on the voter to go along with the crowd. To make a truly independent decision away from pressure and to avoid the mess of paper and pencil the present system was devised.

And for its day that system worked very well. But today is quite different or as they used to say, “This is not your grandfather’s Chevrolet.” Today we are much more mobile than our ancestors. I live in a suburb of Dallas 20 miles outside the core city. The population of my town was 28,000 in 2004 when I moved here. It is today over 50,000. Two hundred years ago in this population I would be living in one of the largest cities in the United States. The Dallas/Ft. Worth population today is 6.1 million.

I know about 15 people in my town and I would dare say everybody else is in a similar situation as I am. Casting a mandatory vote on somebody I have never heard of is not only silly it is downright dangerous. Yes we all rely on the Investigating Committee to do their job and inform us, but that committee in many jurisdictions is not a standing committee but one appointed as the need arises. Those who serve on the Investigating committee are far from professional investigators and the job they do is often very amateurish. If the investigation is superficial and only the sponsor knows the applicant then we often times are at the mercy of he who recommended the applicant.

And thus has risen abuses in this system.

First we are blackballing men who should be Masons. But because they are the wrong skin color, speak with a foreign accent, are not Christian or happen to be a person we have had a run in with, well then a little black cube takes care of that! After all we must remember that Masonry in the USA is a W.A.S.P. society. Since he who rejects does not have to answer to anybody then he can black ball for no good reason and there is no way to stop him. One Mason in a Lodge can and has black balled good and worthy applicants over and over again, voting his prejudices, and the system has no way to prohibit this abuse.

Conversely we are admitting men who should have been blackballed. Because nobody knows the applicant besides his sponsor and the investigation is far from thorough many a man slides in that should have been kept out. I am sure many of you who are reading this have served on an Investigating committee. Let me then ask you, the reader, if you have ever asked an applicant if he should become a member and he would be voting on a petition would he hesitate to vote for acceptance of a black man? I’ll bet that one in a hundred would ask a question like that. That’s because we don’t screen personal beliefs, outside of a belief in Deity, just actions.

If we are relying so heavily on our Investigating Committee to properly inform us, the vast majority knowing nothing whatsoever about the applicant, why don’t we make the Investigating Committee the decision maker? We have a three member committee, majority rules. All that would be needed for acceptance or rejection then would be a minimum of two votes. No balloting, no white balls, no black cubes, just a vote of three members who have done a good investigation. The Investigation Committee then would decide who is accepted and who is rejected.

Before investing them with this power we would have to do few things. First let’s make them a standing committee each member serving three years. And let’s make the first committee consist of a one year term, a two year term and a three year term. Thereafter every election or appointment would be for a three year term. This way one of the three comes up for replacement every year.

Second let’s send any Investigating Committee members to school to learn how to do an investigation the right way. This could be a course offered by an outside agency or school or Grand Lodge. Perhaps part of the investigation process now might be an FBI check and a credit check.

Lastly let’s invest each member with the inability to say anything about their investigation or the person they are looking into. This would be just like the silence of the lawyer/client relationship or the Priest in the Confessional. So it’s still a secret ballot, but now a secret among three. Not even the Worshipful Master should know what went on in the decision making process.

Now any member of the Lodge who has reason to reject an applicant can present whatever evidence they have to the Investigating Committee. But what has to happen here that heretofore has not is that the objecting Brother has to have a good reason. No longer will a man be able to be kept out of Masonry for no good reason like prejudice. Conversely those that should not be accepted have a far better chance of being caught with a permanent, professional Investigating Committee performing an in depth investigation.

What we will have succeeded in doing then is to remove this process from amateurs, from guess work and from a method of total permissiveness void of enforceable voting guidelines. That ensures better protection of the Lodge and an increase in fairness.

The Lost Symbol – The Symbol of the Symbolism


The reason to approach the review in 2 parts is that in the aftermath of National Treasure, Freemasons were well versed to talk about the founding fathers and the Knights Templar.  With the lost symbol, lodges and individual Masons need to be just as prepared to talk about Hermetica, Gnosticism, and symbolism, especially as the book speaks to the wide tolerance of the fraternity to all faiths.

Key points brought up in the book start at the very prologue in the Quote from Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages when he quoted “To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.” Brown circumvented the patriotic picture of Washington (the man) and went directly to the post war enlightenment that tapped into the ideas of Francis Bacon’s  New Atlantis and Hermetica’s deism (all faiths beginning at one source).

In The Lost Symbol, Pike gets a quick mention, but the Scottish Rite’s deep resonance with the ancient mystery schools was very clear and it is my supposition that those who are attracted to the fraternity following this book will come with those things in mind, and in coming, they will want to talk about and find resonance with the fraternity.

Read Part 1: The Lost Symbol – A Review

So, to the question, is the symbolism right, did Brown get the symbolic connections remotely correct, or did he tap into the wide field of myths and supposition that exists at the foot of the “Masonic pyramid?”  Often, that answer is an individual one, that many tend to think totally out of line with what the modern fraternity represents.  It is more social than esoteric, the symbols are just that symbolic, and no further reading need be made into them.  Or even harsher, that the symbols were important in the past, but today they are meaningless.  I think the answer lies in the school of Masonic thought that you find yourself in.

Some of the Key texts that Brown refers to are the Kybalion, written by br. Paul Foster Case under the pseudonym the Three Mystics, The New Atlantis, mentioned above, by Francis Bacon , a mere 6 years following the founding of the “new world” and the landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620.  He also references Albrecht Durer, the prolific artist of the Renaissance who created many images, including Melencolia I, often seen as the height of the Christian Mysticism in art, as it depicts the confounded and pondering mystic and the materials of his practice.  Each of these are bits and pieces outside the sphere of the three degrees, but still factor large (or should) in the study of Freemasonry.

Holy Saints John
Holy Saints John

One element that Brown focuses on is the alchemical symbol of gold, something in Masonic circles is referenced to as the point within the circle, what Brown calls the circumpunct, that all Masons recognize as being flanked by the Holy Saint John’s and crowned with the Volume of the Sacred Law.

The individual symbols are not so much the concern from the book, but the level of readiness over the ease of disregarding them and the discussion of their meaning.  Is the lodge room ready to talk symbolism and its speculative nature?  Are you, reading this now, ready to dialog with an interested party on the symbolism even on a surface level?

I think all will agree that the book is a work of fiction, but even a work of fiction unless wholly constructed with imaginary creatures and alien landscapes will still speak to and communicate a message, and Freemasonry needs to be ready to speak to that message even if it includes flights of fancy and imagination. 


Central in Brown’s fiction is Freemasonry’s connection to the ancient mystery schools, and like it or not, that will be the message that those who have read the book will come to the lodge seeking.  Few will likely come away with the greater subtext of the fraternity and the its more visceral purpose, the unification of like minded men, the sincerity of the belief that Masonry teaches something deeper than an inexpensive spaghetti dinner and some handshakes between strangers.

The Lost Symbol will ultimately be a good opportunity for Freemasonry to shine and inspire those new to its doors to seek out more. But it will definitely require us to be on point and be able to answer the questions put forth by those newcomers. Brown mentioned it at the end of his book, the words on the back of the tylers chair at the House of the Temple, “Know Thy Self”, but I would add, in knowing our self, we will know the divine.

Freemason Tim Bryce.

The Average Age of Lodge Members

They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
– Andy Warhol

monument, time waits for no man, angel, muse, broken pillar

What is the average age of your Lodge members? Interestingly, very few Lodges take the time to calculate this figure which I consider to be a rather important indicator of the Lodge.

Fortunately, the average age of my Lodge has dropped to 64.1 years old. This is down from the high 60’s just a few years ago (we never did hit 70) and this is because we have been blessed with several fine young men who have joined our Lodge and replaced some of the “Greatest Generation” who we recently lost.

The “average age” number itself doesn’t tell us much. It is when we compare it to prior years and plot increases or decreases which tells us something about the Lodge. Whereas an increase means we are not getting much in the way of younger members, a decrease means just the opposite. This is also indicative of Lodge programming and public relations. Perhaps the reason why the average age is increasing is that the Lodge has become somewhat lethargic and set in its ways and is no longer regarded as a viable institution in the community.

Our current average age also tells me that “Baby Boomers” represent the lion’s share of members in our Lodge. This leads me to believe that the average age will inevitably rise again as this substantial generation (which includes yours truly) gets older and grayer. The only thing that can prevent this is a major influx of young members, but I do not see this happening anytime soon. I am certainly not suggesting we open the floodgates and allow anybody in with a pulse, but we should renew our efforts to reexamine our image and position the fraternity into something for younger people to seriously consider.

Thanks to modern medicine, we’re living a lot longer than our predecessors. It also means the Boomers will inevitably raise the average age of our Lodges over the next 10-20 years. As such, now is the time to take action to make our Lodges fun, interesting and meaningful. Surely we do not want to abandon our heritage, principles, or degrees, but we need to exercise our imagination and make Freemasonry more contemporary with the times.

If we don’t, it won’t be long before we’re sitting in a Lodge where the average age is 90 (and nobody will be able to make it up the stairs to the Lodge room).

Keep the Faith.

Freemasonry From the Edge
Freemasonry From the Edge

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

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

Article reprinted with permission of the author and

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

To receive notices of Tim’s writings, subscribe to his Discussion Group.

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Happy Anniversary Phoenixmasonry

Phoenixmasonry is a proactive approach to, and practice of, Freemasonry.  The name Phoenixmasonry combines the symbolic spirit of rebirth and renewal associated with the ancient mythological bird the Phoenix with the ancient Craft knowledge of Masonry, hence the name Phoenixmasonry. Our Latin motto: Non Omnis Moriar. ”Not all of me shall die”.

Here at Phoenixmasonry, we believe that each of us has had the feeling of being consumed by fire. That the problems of our lives have left us in the pit of despair, the ashes of destruction, although it may not have been the fire that creates those ashes. Adversity and the overcoming of it makes us stronger. Just as the beautiful Temple of King Solomon rose from the rubbish and ashes of barbarous forces to become an even more magnificent and resplendent structure, our belief and faith in living a moral life allows us to rise up from the ashes to become stronger and better Freemasons.

It was on August 11, 1999 that David Lettelier, heading a small group of Masonic collectors scattered across the USA , created a virtual Masonic museum and library and called it Phoenixmasonry.  Phoenixmasonry, unlike most other museums and libraries, was not housed in a physical plant but rather displayed its artifacts, collectibles and rare books on the Internet.  Open 24 hours a day with no admission fee, Masonry’s first online museum and library grew and grew and grew, until today it is visited more each day than any other Masonic website on the Internet. The Phoenixmasonry staff contains experienced Librarians and antique appraisers and it is a proud Member of the Masonic Library and Museum Association at:


Today it continues to add collectibles while at the same time offering some current Masonic thought from today’s cutting edge Masonic authors and writers.

Along the way to this pinnacle of success many Brothers and Sisters have lent a helping hand and contributed to the continual improvement of this wonderful Masonic Site. To commemorate the Tenth anniversary of Phoenixmasonry and honor its contributors a special edition engraved copper coin has been struck.  The front of the coin has Phoenixmasonry’s Masonic logo and commemorates its Tenth anniversary. The back of the coin features all the names, in circular fashion, of those who have helped Phoenixmsonry be what it is today.  It is only fitting and proper that these contributors be joined in a circle of friendship signifying a fraternal family dedicated to Masonic knowledge and education. Each contributor received a gold plated version of the commemorative coin but anybody can order the copper version from the website at a cost of $15.00 each plus $2.50 shipping and handling while limited supplies last.

What you will find in the Phoenixmasonry museum is a large selection of rare and expensive treasured Masonic artifacts with a brief story of their origin and a description of their finer points.  Here is the much sought after Dudley Masonic Pocket Watch made by a Mason for a Mason.  Brother William Wallace Dudley and his company crafted a limited supply of these 19 jewel solid gold watches.  The Dudley Watch Company was only in business for five years from 1920-1925 but its patented design can sell for close to $3000.00 today.

You can also find a very unique hand blown engraved decanter displaying some features crafted by the lost art of copper wheel engraving.

How about a very unique Goat stein?

Or maybe you would rather visit with the Jerusalem Masonic Wage Box made of olive wood and crafted in 1887.  It was a presentation of corn, wine and oil made to new Fellowcraft Masons. The box has three compartments.  The middle compartment contains the corn(wheat).  The two other compartments each have hand blown crystal bottles engraved with the Square and Compasses.  One bottle contains olive oil and the other Jerusalem wine. If that doesn’t suit your fancy how about a Mother of Pearl Masonic Tea Caddy?

Then there is a very rare and different tool chest from Brother Henry O. Studley.


For a good laugh take a look at The Goat Riding Trike which could be ordered from the DeMoulin Masonic Lodge Supply Catalog.

My favorite is a hand painted early Masonic Shaving Dish. Around the rim is painted a cabletow and atop the Square and compasses in the center is a bow signifying the mystic tie. These are only a few highlights of what awaits you at the Phoenixmasonry museum.

Phoenixmasonry’s librarian, Wor. Bro. Ralph Omholt has scanned many old and rare Masonic books, manuscripts and lectures. These expensive works can now be downloaded into your home computer free of charge. Select from, to name just a few, Denslow’s “10,000 Famous Freemasons, Mackey’s “Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”, Gould’s “History of Freemasonry Throughout The World”, Mitchell’s “Masonic Histories”, Dudley Wright’s “Women In Freemasonry”, “The Kabbalah Unveiled” by S.L. MacGregor Mathers, “The Lost Keys of Freemasonry” by Manly P. Hall, “The Theocratic Philosophy of Freemasonry” by George Oliver, “The Illuminati (1776-1784), A Concise Report”, “A Series of Letters on Freemasonry” by Hannah Mather Crocker, “The Mysteries of Freemasonry” by Captain William Morgan, “The Writings of George Washington” by George Washington and the Masonic Monitors of Preston & Webb.  Then there are the works of Rob Morris, “A Well Spent Life”, “The Lights and Shadows of Freemasonry”, “Freemasonry in the Holy Land” and “Masonic History of the Northwest.”

The E-library continues to grow.  New additions to the collection of the Masters of Masonic authors are being added all the time.  Other favorites that should not be overlooked are Anderson’s “Constitutions”, Carl Claudy’s three works on the explanation of the three degrees, “DeMoulin Masonic Lodge Supply Catalog No. 138”, Wilmshurst’s “The Meaning of Masonry” and a complete collection  of the “Builder Magazine”, a most sought after prize.  Actually every E-book in the collection is a gem and it takes forbearance not to get carried away in listing them all.

A special section on Prince Hall is a new feature on the Phoenixmasonry website.  It features six You Tube videos showing the William H. Upton memorial unity march in 1991.  Upton was the Grand Master of Washington State who recognized Prince Hall Masonry in 1898.  You won’t want to miss this defining moment in history.

Lately some selected works of writers of today have been added, most in essay form.  “Laudable Pursuit” is a giant of a work penned in the 21st century.  Wor. Brother and Kentucky Colonel Ian Donald from Canada adds a most enjoyable paper, “A Charge By Any Other Name Is Still A Charge.” The Masonic service Association of North America is there with its latest survey of the state of American Freemasonry and its recommendations for improvement.  And a number of papers by Wor. Brother Frederic L. Milliken can be found, the most notable being “World Peace Through Brotherhood” and “Native American Rituals & The Influence of Freemasonry.”

You might think that is the whole story of the Phoenixmasonry website but you would be wrong.  Other interesting facets of the site include:

  • Masonic Poems & Essays
  • A breakdown and description of Fraternal Bodies in America
  • Masonic membership statistics for the USA and Canada
  • A biblical history of King Solomon’s Temple
  • Ancient fonts
  • A Masonic glossary of terms and symbolism
  • A look at some charities and how to get involved
  • A Masonic Gift Shop and Store where one can even order Masonic Teddy Bears
  • A How To Section – from how to conduct a Table Lodge to how to conduct a Masonic wedding.

Phoenixmasonry looks forward to you joining us in celebrating ten years of service to the Masonic community and continued Masonic research, education and dissemination of Masonic knowledge.  You can do all that by making that cyber trip to and living its motto – “spreading enlightenment – one web surfer at a time.”

masonic author, 20th century, Carl Claudy

What is the Lodge?

Masons often work to improve lodges by performing a number of tasks. Many actions have been taken or proposed in order to create better lodges and much debate has taken place about the proper way to improve Masonic lodges. However, in order to improve a lodge it is important that Masons take a step back and consider just what the term lodge means.

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Albert Mackey

Mackey gives three definitions of the term lodge in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. The first definition is “a place in which Freemasons meet.” The second refers to the congregation of members which constitute the lodge. This definition compares the term ‘lodge’ to the term ‘church’ which refers to both the members of the organization and the building. The final definition that Mackey creates says that “the lodge, technically speaking, is a piece of furniture made in imitation of the Ark of the Covenant.” Mackey states that as the Ark contained the law of the Hebrews, the lodge contains the Book of Constitutions and the lodge’s warrant.1

Mackey’s definitions are somewhat different than the definition given in Masonic ritual:

The lodge is composed of a constitutional number of Masons, duly assembled, with the Holy Bible, square and compasses, and a charter or warrant empowering them to work.

So perhaps the literal definition of the word ‘lodge’ may be: an assembly of Masons with a warrant to work by a recognized grand jurisdiction or a word which refers to the meeting place of a group of Masons.

However, the lodge also has a symbolic meaning. Carl H. Claudy says:

The lodge is a symbol of the world. Its shape, the “oblong square” is the ancient conception of the shape of the world. The Entered Apprentice is taught its dimensions, its covering, its furniture, its lights, its jewels, and will learn more of it as a symbol as he proceeds through the degrees. Although a symbol of the world, the lodge is a world unto itself; a world within a world, different in its customs, its laws, and its structure from the world without. In the world without are class distinctions, wealth, power, poverty, and misery. In the lodge all are on a level and peace and harmony prevail.

masonic author

Carl Claudy

Considering Claudy’s explanation of the lodge as a symbol, it is clear that the lodge has little to do with the brick and mortar of which the building is composed. The lodge is a peculiar society, a Brotherhood which is able to live by the Utopian ideals that the profane world can never realize

Therefore, to improve the lodge is to improve the Brotherhood. It matters not where the lodge meets or the condition of its building. Filling the coffers of Masonic bodies or accumulating numbers will not necessarily improve the Brotherhood.

Instead, the focus must be on improving the Brotherhood through the self-improvement of its members and the relief of its distressed.

A lodge is at least seven Masons with a warrant empowering them to meet and to practice Masonry. It is no more, it is no less. In order to improve the lodge, we must improve the Brothers which constitute that body. That is the only path to improving Masonic lodges.

1. Mackey, Albert G. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. p. 449-451.

2. Claudy, Carl H. Introductory to Freemasonry—Entered Apprentice

Long Pine Lodge Thrives

Long Pine Masonic Lodge No. 136

Long Pine Masonic Lodge No. 136

In the small town of Long Pine, Nebraska (population 326), there exists a Masonic lodge that is truly on the upswing. Long Pine is in an area that I am very familiar with and I have many fond memories of the beautiful Sandhills region of Nebraska. However, anyone who lives there will tell you that it is sparsely populated and would probably be considered by most Masons as a region where it would be difficult, if not impossible, to operate a dynamic and growing Masonic lodge. Despite living in this sparsely populated area, Long Pine Masonic Lodge has found ways to make itself a thriving organization of which its members are very proud.

Long Pine has about 37 members, a quarter of which live outside of Long Pine and the lodge members have an average age of 55. Typically, 10 or 11 people attend meetings which is an impressive percentage of its members since many lodges have less than 10 percent of members attend meetings. There are no other Masonic organizations in Long Pine, the Eastern Star and York Rite organizations that used to exist there have disbanded and closed their doors. Faced with the burdens of a dilapidated building and an uninspired organization only a few years ago, the Brothers of Long Pine decided it was time to take matters into their own hands.

The lodge’s web master Alvin Benemerito, a Past Master, says that the organization “Had a resurgence of pride in membership in the lodge” in 2007. The lodge members decided to renovate their facilities themselves rather than hire expensive contractors. The roof was leaking badly and the lodge needed a new heater among other problems. The lodge members donated materials to the renovation and offered their craftsmanship. They replaced the ceiling and Brothers donated refrigerators, ovens, and a pellet stove along with pellets for heat. “We keep telling our members that this is our house,” said Alvin Benemerito. To cover the expenses of renovating the lodge building and maintaining their refinished quarters, the Brothers created a budget and mailed it to all members showing how much they needed to raise dues in order to keep their lodge open. Their straightforward approach worked and the lodge raised its dues from $30 a year to $75 a year. The lodge also rents out part of its facilities to a Brother’s business for $200 a month to cover expenses. The lodge does not do any fund raising. But Long Pine Lodge realizes that it isn’t only the facility which makes the organization successful, but the experience it provides to its members.

With the permission of Nebraska’s Grand Lodge, Long Pine began using the Chamber of Reflection as part of its Entered Apprentice degree conferral. This ceremony requires that a candidate sits alone in a small room prior to his degree where he is asked to write down responses to questions such as “Why do you want to join the fraternity” and “What do you expect from the lodge?” in order to remind him of the reason that he petitioned the lodge. The candidate is given the questions prior to his admission into the chamber of reflection so that he may prepare his answers and the responses are read openly in lodge prior to the degree conferral. This capitalizes a very thorough admission process which involves a formal meeting with candidates to clearly explain the obligations to the lodge that they will assume as a Mason. The lodge also requires that candidates complete the full form proficiency and prefers to not send candidates to any one-day degree conferrals because the lodge wants the work. “We don’t care if it takes them a year to be a Master Mason,” says Brother Benemerito. The lodge also opens in the Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft degree whenever it must in order to keep all of its members engaged in the lodge’s activities as soon as they become a Mason.

The lodge’s members also wear special attire. “We wear dark suits, dress aprons, and white gloves,” says Alvin Benemerito. The aprons are UGLE style dress aprons and the dress instills their members with a sense of pride. Brother Benemerito says that the members have come to regard the lodge meeting as a special occasion. He says that “we come to lodge because we enjoy each others company. We don’t come to lodge to say let’s hurry up, we’ve got to go somewhere.” The lodge recognizes that some Brothers may not have or be able to afford a dark suit so they have acquired a number of suits from Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other sources which are stored in the lodge building in order to be given to a Brother in need. “It becomes a culture, it becomes a custom of the lodge,” says Brother Benemerito. The lodge publishes all of its degree conferrals and events in the local newspaper. Fathers will often see their sons who have just received their degree surrounded by men in suits and purchase a suit for their son to wear when they go to lodge.

The lodge has one stated meeting and conducts a lodge of instruction every month. They have regularly featured educational sessions during which a Masonic paper may be read. However, many of the meetings are consumed with the busy work of restoring the lodge. After every lodge meeting, the Brethren of Long Pine Lodge have a light meal or snack along with a wine tasting. “We’re learning to be wine connoisseurs,” laughs Benemerito before he adds, “They all taste the same to me!” This provides the lodge with fellowship time and the Brethren are very careful to ensure that they do not convert the means of refreshment into intemperance or excess.

The Brothers also participate in a number of activities to enrich the community. They display and retire the flags for the Long Pine cemetery for Memorial Day. The members conduct a Lodge of Military Tribute that they have performed at lodges throughout the state and their travels together have built strong bonds of Brotherhood between them. They have also put on an event for the Child Identification Program, but Alvin Benemerito was very adamant when he said “We do what we enjoy doing, not because we have to do it.” This attitude defines the lodge which operates in order to meet the needs and desires of its members. A number of awards are available for lodges through the Grand Lodge of Nebraska, but Long Pine Lodge does not take the time to worry about submitting the paper work necessary to receive an award.

Brother Benemerito operates the lodge’s website which has two noticeable features. The first is a number of high quality pictures of the lodge which show its impressive regalia, beautifully remodeled facilities, and smiling Brothers. “Pictures paint thousands of words, you can visually see what the lodge is doing,” says Benemerito, who takes pictures at every lodge function and publishes them on-line. The other excellent function of the lodge’s website is a yellow pages section for all of the lodge members’ businesses. These yellow pages help lodge members stay connected with each others’ business services and has been a good incentive for lodge members to remain active.

The lodge members exhibit a great amount of pride in their lodge and do not view Long Pine Lodge as a gateway to other Masonic organizations. “It’s hard to sell something you don’t believe in,” says Brother Benemerito, “We would like to give a special Masonic experience in the Sandhills of Nebraska.”

You can find out more about Long Pine Masonic Lodge and view their numerous photographs at their website.

Like what you are reading at the Euphrates? Email the author at to join the  Banks of the Euphrates mailing list.