I Shall Return

Perhaps you remember the story of Brother Salman S. Sheika resigning from Freemasonry. We covered the story: Masonic Anti-Intellectualism A Crying Shame.

Good news. Brother Sheika is returning to Freemasonry and here is his story:

Brother Salman S. Sheika and Grand Master of Pennsylvania Hon. S. Eugene Heritt.

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

Measure for measure – Pennsylvania and the 21st Century.

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

Weight and volume are very important.  Two evenly measured weights on a opposite pans of a scale and you have a perfect balance, so long as your equipment is calibrated correctly.  Add more weight to one pan and incrementally the scale will move towards which ever side the heavier burden is applied.

Extrapolate this idea into a larger arena where the medium that surrounds the moving weight is fluid, and with the Newtonian force of gravity, the material closest to, and bonded tightest to the weight will move with it, in effect causing an avalanche of sorts, or at least a heightened shift of position.

Perhaps you could say its an Alchemy of sorts, the transmutation from one thing into another, from one state to another.  Neutral buoyancy to weight displacement.  From Lead to Gold, or perhaps in this instance, from Gold to Lead.

I spent some time on Chris Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies site  trying to catch up on what has been coming out of Pennsylvania recently on their aptly titled a 21st Century (Masonic) Renaissance page.

Masonic Renaissance
Its quite a paradigm shift in the way things have been to the way things are to be.  What I mean by that is apparently, without much fanfare, the Grand Lodge isn’t just rolling out a few changes for 2010, they are rolling out a battalion of them, for what seems to be for the purpose of improving Pennsylvania Freemasonry and the lives of its members.  All said, in their introduction site, the changes are (by category):

Membership Recruitment
Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join
Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010 (at 13 locations and with YR, SR, and Shrine)
All-Star Teams Will Confer District-wide Degrees
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day
Senior Recruitment Program
Lodges Awarded for Membership Growth and Retention

“Call ‘Em All” Will Continue as “Call to the Craft”
Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit
Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically

Masonic Ritual
Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals That Will Be Monitored Closely And Never Used in Open Lodge
Certified Brethren Will Receive a Proficiency Award Pin
Opening and Closing of Meetings May Be Shortened

Grand Lodge Governance
District Deputy Grand Masters May Now Serve 10 Years
Some Masonic Districts Will Be Eliminated and Realigned
A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010
A New Due Process for Suspensions and Expulsions
The Legal Structure of Grand Lodge Will Be Assessed
New Software Will Simplify the Lodge Audit Process
Committee on Masonic Homes Meeting Change
The Dress Code for Masonic Meetings Is Relaxed

On Image and Visibility
Open Installations of All Symbolic Lodge Officers
Electronic Guide Will Provide Tours of the Masonic Temple
Masonic Villages Adopt-A-Resident Program
Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service
Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness
Members Will Support Our Military Through “HELP FOR OUR HEROES”
Lodges Will Raise Funds to Support Our Masonic Villages
Masonic Youth Initiatives Will Be Supported By Lodges

On the page from the PA GL, they provide a brief explanation of what each change represents, and the hole that it seeks to fill, and while I am having a hard time understanding (agreeing?) with some of them, I have to say that the approach is an inventive and bold addition of weight to a scale that has long been un-moved by any form of change.

Pennsylvania Masonic RestorationBut, this change isn’t without its detractors, and a website has already been published to argue the counter point to the Grand Masters plan, billed as Pennsylvania Masonic Restoration.  While I respect the civil dissent, I have to say that the call to arms may be premature given the nature of the changes the Grand Lodge is trying to implement.

On the 21 Century Renaissance site, it is easy to see the large one day class as BIG CONCERN to an otherwise interesting program and a potential affront to what has traditionally been Masonry the way its “always” been, which is clearly not the case.  Not that one day classes have ever been the norm, the process of Masonry today is an evolved process that had a beginning that came from something else.  It evolved, and this one day mass raising is another step in that evolution for better or worse.  And, I’ll be open here, I have my own misgivings as to the intention of the one day class process, but taken in parcel with the other items, it becomes an easier bitter pill to swallow.

Some of what I do like in the program:

Three Black Balls Are Now Required to Reject a Candidate:
This is a good way to break a singular majority in a solitary vote.  Harmony in the lodge still needs to be met, but giving live or die power to one brother may be to much power in one place.

Dues Can Now Be Paid By Credit or Debit:
This is a fantastic change that really brings things into he 21st Century.

Lodge Notices Are To Be Distributed Electronically:
Another great system/operations update.

A Masonic Congress Will Be Held in February 2010:
This is a great idea and something FmI and Time Bryce have advocated to see for some time.  Perhaps this will lead up to something National.

Lodges Will Conduct Monthly Community Service:
This is a Great program, and my guess is that it will be another hard pill to get down.  Not that there isn’t a level of charity within the membership, but to be told to do is it quite different than doing it out of will and love.  an interesting idea, however, is the opportunity it gives to lodges to explore what that charity looks like, from donating lodge rooms to Boy Scout Troops, hosting voter polling locations, or any other creative measure to give back to the communities from which the membership comes from.

Members Will Commit A Weekly Random Act of Kindness:
This one escapes me, but I like the idea of it.  It has a definite Pay It Forward appeal to it.

Personally, I have some concerns for these items, but I’m sure they are being implemented with the utmost caution.

Members May Selectively Invite Good Men to Join.
One Day Masonic Journey: October 30, 2010.
An Unlimited Number of Freemasons Can Be Made in One Day.
Senior Recruitment Program.

All of these are cause for some alarm, but as I mentioned, to enter into the 21st Century Renaissance, we enter into a period of change, just as Europe did in the post Medieval Renaissance.

Members May Learn Our Ritual From Printed Manuals:
This one concerns me too, in that it would be the first state (to my knowledge) to openly WRITE what had here-to-fore only been given in written cipher.  Despite the warnings and admonitions, the content will be copied and distributed no matter the level of governance and audit processes.  And if not lost in the original content, photocopiers and scanners are very easy to make use of these days (though I do have some security ideas for how to safeguard the material).

All in all, I say lets see what these changes have in store for 2010.  The concerns being what they are, the changes do seem to have the over arching growth and good will of the fraternity in mind.

At first blush, the 21st Century Renaissance seems to be mind blowingly radical, but really, the alchemy is in putting into play the ideas of best practice to bring its large membership in the modern age.  Hopefully the ambitious shift of their weight shift will be a good one and something others will adapt too and continue the Renaissance of the 21st Mason.