A sojourner post from Carlos Francisco Ortiz

The Light of Reason

A sojourner post from Carlos Francisco Ortiz

A Sojourner’s post by Carlos Francisco Ortiz, Equality No. 88 and Lodge Fraternal Action No. 42 under the Grand Lodge of Chile.

“Cogito ergo sum”

Rene Descartes

How does man think to himself and think of the universe, when you try to answer, between dogma and reason, the crucial questions of human existence?

Let’s think and briefly develop some ideas:

"The dream of the reason produces monsters"  Engraving nº 43 of the Caprices (1797-1799).Francisco de Goya
“The dream of the reason produces monsters” 
Engraving nº 43 of the Caprices (1797-1799).Francisco de Goya

First was dogma, then reason. First was dogmatic thinking, since it is born and obeys the law of least effort, presenting itself as a way of understanding the natural world. Then the logos is born, intelligent thought with meaning, which seeks to understand the natural world through reason and explain it through words.

In this way, dogmatic thinking and rational thinking arise, and both are aware of themselves and of their ability to symbolically link with the universe. For this reason, there is a dogmatic reason that is founded on the speculation of an imaginary – individual or collective, and an adogmatic reason based on the certainty of facts and logic.

In the imaginary of dogmatic reason, religion is found as a great worldview that represents that set of beliefs of an indisputable nature, held by certain to be undeniable and obligatory principles for its followers. Thus, ignorance is born, which tries to be saved by the hope of faith and by the fear of Divine punishment.

Ignorance is the worst of all evils, as Plato says. From ignorance derive all evils and from knowledge all goods. Plato advises human beings to concern themselves with being rich in virtue–knowledge.

Faith, certainly respectable, does not save from ignorance, since the laws of nature are amoral and governed by causality.

In mythological stories and in biblical literature, the metaphor teaches us that the Deity tries to make man develop his existence in ignorance, the biblical account of genesis points out “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die ”, Genesis 2:17.

The Titan Prometheus, who stole the fire of the gods to deliver light to men, suffered Zeus’ punishment, and was taken to the Caucasus where he was chained so that an eagle would eat his liver, and being immortal, his liver returned to grow every night, and the eagle ate it again every day.

The angel of light was condemned to the lake of fire and brimstone for drawing light from darkness, for gaining wisdom by breaking infinite ignorance, for awakening consciousness of the unconscious.

If ignorance of dogmatic thinking about Deity is subjected to the judgment of reason, it does not successfully save the examination of the logic of the Epicurus paradox, since the attributes of Deity–created by man–such as his omnipotence , omniscience, omnipresence and omni benevolence, do not solve the problem of evil and disease in the world, so why call him God.

If Pascal’s wager in his argument states that in the face of the probability of the existence of God, the rational thing is to bet that he does exist in order to obtain as a reward the great gain of eternal glory, the absurdity of trading the light of the reason for obscurantism and ignorance, in order to live with the hope of an assumption that is based on a matter of chance. 

In the absence of evidence and certainties, the real thing is that man has created God in his image and likeness, seeking salvation and existential security that allows him to give meaning to suffering and human misery, seeking to justify his lack of courage to assume their animal condition and nature.

In the thought of adogmatic reason, philosophy and science are found as great worldviews that have pushed human reason to the limit of its critical possibilities; Thus, reality is born.

Nature is the real, its laws obey principles demonstrable by the empirical-analytical method; and homo sapiens, whose reality about his nature exists in the homo sapiens-demens dialectic, masterfully illustrated by the anthropologist Edgar Morin, has real existence–not possible existence–in his culture.

The dogma-ignorance dialectic does not obey sociocultural reasons – education–or socioeconomic reasons–wealth–it is a dialogue that takes place depending on the level of consciousness of each homo sapiens-demens. 

The level of consciousness is to the adogmatic thought, what the ignorance is to the dogmatic thought, conditio sine qua non, for the evolution of the human species. 

Theism and atheism, in their apparent antagonism, are and are part of the tireless search for human reason to reach the truth, those conscious truths that the human species is building, both with its ideofactures and with its manufactures, in its desire to know itself herself, a longing that has often led her to the extreme of delirium, or as Richard Dawkins would say, to the “Mirage of God.”

Dogmatic thinking has its roots in fear, according to the philosopher Bertrand Russell, fear is the basis of everything, fear is the father of cruelty and, therefore, it is not surprising that cruelty and religion go from hand. 

On the contrary sense, the adogmatic thought is born from the courage to conquer the world through intelligence, it is a rebellion against the moral of Tartufo, when José Ingenieros declared, “Hypocrisy is the art of gagging dignity… it is the guano that fertilizes the vulgar temperaments, allowing them to prosper in lies… “. In Robert Pirsig’s words “when a person suffers from delirium, we call it madness. When many people suffer the same delusion, we call it religion. “

The adogmatic thought is the great achievement in the evolution of the human mind, it is the one that allows us to distinguish between light and darkness, between knowledge and ignorance, between truth and error; he is the one who values ​​life, builds a world and symbolically links himself to the universe from this side of death: “Citerior.”

Thus, reflecting on dogma and reason, it can be said that dogma does not create science or evolution in the human mind, the reality of our world is in the facts and in the certainties that we have about reality.

“Evolution is to generate and expand consciousness, in such a way that the gradual and progressive evolution of the parts is the evolution of the whole, otherwise the existence of the universe and humanity would not make sense.”

Mediocrity in Masonry…Shame on us!

How long have we been talking about boring business meetings, poor food, lousy fellowship and run down Masonic buildings?

The answer is since Chris Hodapp and friends published Laudable Pursuit, and that was way back in the 90s. But we don’t seem to learn form our mistakes nor do we seem capable of doing what the ancient mystery schools were most adept at doing, namely providing knowledge that lead to wisdom leading to actually making  a better man. We don’t teach Masonic philosophy anymore and for that reason many Masons don’t know that we are a very special and unique society.

Writing today expressing the same theme is renowned author, speaker and Masonic leader – Robert G. Davis, 33° – Grand Cross

Mediocrity in Masonry . . . Shame on us!

By Robert G. Davis, 33° – Grand Cross

Robert Davis, 33 - Grand Cross

Robert Davis, 33 – Grand Cross

One of the questions that occasionally eats at me when I am driving home from a Masonic event, degree, or function that has been woefully mediocre is how our members can sit through such Masonic happenings month after month and still believe our fraternity is relevant and meaningful to men’s lives? How honest are we in claiming we make good men better while persistently repeating practices and behaviors which are so distinctively average, or worse? Self improvement involves some form of positive change. It requires some level of progress; entails some elevated sense of being. Explain to me how a lodge facilitates self improvement by offering its members a venue that doesn’t “feel” any different when they are inside the lodge than outside of it.

Perhaps many of us come into Masonry looking for nothing more than fraternal association. But, if that’s the case, it ought to be the best fraternal association we have ever had!

Dead Lodge

Cheap Duse and Cheap Meals equal a Dead Lodge

Once we encounter the preparation room, or make our progress through the degrees, it is hard to dismiss the awareness that we are engaged in something wholly different from our other community experiences. We quickly learn that Masonry has a higher calling which requires that we make an ascent into the very center of our being.

An endeavor of such high importance and due solemnity is not a run of the mill undertaking. It becomes clear there is nothing mediocre about Masonry. So why do we make it that way?

Here’s the problem. Accepting mediocrity in our lodge practices is the same as living a mediocre life. By making un-extraordinary acts and behaviors our ordinary practice, we entrap ourselves from knowing how precious life really is. We don’t use opportunities that come our way as a means of expressing how special we really are. Instead, we walk the walk with the rest of the herd and soon find ourselves in such a deep rut of limitations we lose sight of our own value. We become trapped in mediocrity.

Regrettably, this too often seems the condition in which lodges, Scottish Rite Valleys, York Rite Chapters, Councils and Commanderies find themselves. When nothing extraordinary, educational, insightful, compelling, intellectual, contemplative, spiritual, or fraternal occurs in our private, sacred, fraternal spaces, then we become only another ordinary, average, run of the mill, dime-a-dozen organization. It is hard to see how this kind of Masonry takes good men and makes them better.


It is not the kind of Masonry we should want to share with our friends.

I believe that if we truly want to move “from the square to the compasses,” we have to dare to be different. And we can’t dare to be different by following someone else’s expectations. When a lodge does the same thing year after year, it is accepting by default someone else’s expectations. There is nothing creative, inspiring, or different about parroting ritual, paying bills, and going home. That’s doing only what many others have done before us.

To distinguish ourselves among men and organizations, we first have to perceive in our own minds that we have something to do which will ultimately set us above the average. We start by thinking about the choices before us.

bio-davisDo we choose what is safe rather than what is right? Do we only do things right, or do we do the right things? Do we set out on a new path, or take the same old, comfortable way? Do we bring credit to our teachings, or debit them as ideals of the past? Do we become the examples that young men want to emulate, or do we seem to them as just another group of ho hum guys?

You see, the choice always controls the chooser. To be exemplary men, or an exemplary organization, we have to be exceptional in our awareness of who we are, what we are here to be doing, what we know, and how we practice what we know. We have to have the courage to be different from the rest of the crowd—nobler in our expectations and more refined in our state of mind.

Because that’s just the way Masonry is.

He who wants milk should not sit himself in the middle of a pasture and wait for a cow to back up to him.

Want more? Listen to his appearance on Masonic Central in 2008.

Freemasonry and Hermetica – Discourse of Hermes Trismegistus

Hermetica I – Discourse of Hermes Trismegistus: Poimandres
Part 1 – Freemasonry and the Hermetica Arts

Once, when thought came to me of the things that are and my thinking soared high and my bodily senses were restrained, like someone heavy with sleep from to much eating or toil of the body, an enormous being completely unbound in size seemed to appear to me and call my name and say to me: “What do you want to hear and see; what do you want to learn and know from your understanding?”

You whom we address in silence, the unspeakable, the unsayable, accept pure speech offerings from a heart and soul that reaches up to you.

Hermetica I

ordo ab chao - order from chaos

Thrice Great Hermes as the allegorical author of the Hermeticfa

Synopsis  This first section of Hermetica is, in essence, a creation mythology to provide an explanation on the creation of the physical world and its link to the philosophy of this teaching.  The lesson comes through a discourse of meditations between Hermes Trismegistus and the creative force calling itself the mind of sovereignty, the one and only authority, represented by Poimandres[1], a force said to be with us everywhere.  This emanation of sovereignty is described as a divine being unbound in size and said to be “an endless light, clear and joyful…a vision to be loved.”

In this vision of light, the story of creation unfolds within which it says darkness takes form to become in opposition to the all encompassing light.  The darkness resembles the roiling of a snake becoming “something of a watery nature” producing a wailing roar as it coalesces.  Out of this light and darkness, a fire breaks forth from the waters becoming suspended in the air between the dark water below and the endless light above, as a spirit from word so that only earth and water remained below.  The fire was “stirred to hear by the spiritual word” of its creation which moved between them.

Poimandres explains that he, this endless aspect of light, is god which existed before the water and says that the word (fire) which separated the light from water was its emanation as a son (sun) as the light giving word from mind.  This process, it says, occurs in man in that “what you see and hear is the ‘word of God’ but that our mind (thought) is the highest aspect of God; that together they are a union of life undivided and indivisible from one another, that they are one and the same aspect which is the principle of existence of beginning without end.

From this light were created craftsmen who were to be the creators of life which where made in the aspect of god in fire and spirit.  These aspects of creation were “crafted in seven governors” who would make the “…sensible world in seven circles” governed by fate, which is to suppose an invisible force which governs their interactions.

The light, as Gods word, “made union with the seven craftsmen” creating life “‘bereft of reason’ so as to be mere nature,” wild and uncontrollable without mandate as they were the emanations of the mechanisms of fate by which they operate.

Another creation of the Mind of God was the son, its own child, who wished to make craftworks in the manner of the seven craftsmen but given all authority over the other craftworks.  Nature would come to be the son of god’s bride together governing creation.

Poimandres explains that, because of this, mankind is two-fold – mortal in body but immortal in spirit (or essence the text using essential man), but still mortal and a subject of fate.

From the union of son and nature, nature gave birth to seven men who themselves were craftsmen representing the aspects of earth, water, fire, soul, mind, light, and life.  This creation sundered the counsel of god rendering them into two twin aspects – one male and one female, who were charged with the task of propagating and create further giving them will to choose immortality or death through recognition of all that exists.  From this choice man was given the ability to transcend his creation in light to be created again the text saying “Life and light are god and father…so if you learn that you are from light and life… you shall advance to life once again.”

It is in this recognition of creation that a resurrection, or reincarnation of sorts, takes place which is a process unseen and hidden to those who embrace the chaotic watery nature of envy, greed, violence, and irreverence.  Enlightenment comes in the release of the “material body” which allows our “alteration” (transformation) to occur where our past manifestation “vanishes” to rise up and flow back to its source (light) eventually reaching out to a place that Poimandres calls the ‘ogdoad[2]’ which is a nirvana like state of Heaven in union with the creating light. This ogdoad is the “final good for those who have received knowledge to be made God” achieved by enlightenment which comes from the leaving of “corruption” so as to “take a share in immortality.”


As an ancient religious text, it is very much a creation mythology which sets up a framework by which it puts the universe into operation striving to make sense of the life and creation going on around us.  Tempered with the creation of life is its conduct which is relegated by Fate.  The text begins with an emanation of light, balanced by darkness, represented in both the darkness appearing like the “roiling of a snake” into water separated physically (and spiritually) by the word (or breath) of god as represented in the boundary of fire.  This layer of transformation gives us a glimpse of the alchemical process of transformation which is governed by fire and tempered for us to embrace or reject that which ultimately decides our outcome by fate.  The acceptance of this outcome, which is not predicated on scripture or theological “beliefs”, is based on the principle of our acceptance of our origin and the necessity of our conduct to do, and be, good.  This suggests a parallel in the teaching of the Golden Rule with the thought of its benefit to all who are bereft of “evil, wickedness, greed, and violence” which are the baser attributes evident in all men.  From this practice, and an acknowledgement of origin, man walks in light and returns to it upon his calling from fate, a process Poimandres suggests governs as gate keeper at a distance, resorting to man’s demons as motivation to change lest they be, instead, trapped in the fire of transformation.

Read: The Mystical Meaning of So Mote It Be

The outcome of this understanding comes from our desire to transcend the material universe and return to the source of light which is our metaphorical source of creation.  To do this, man must evolve (learn) to transcend fate and slip into the “cosmic framework” which is, in essence, the good.  To do this man must take on the nature of the eight craftsman (seven created by God, and one created as its son) and seek to emulate their desire and zeal to create, moving out of the roiling waters of chaos as he overcomes his lower nature breaking free of the seven circles of craftsman (and cycles of birth) so as to communicate to others this message to become a progeny of good.  The goal of this process is to return back to the ogdoad which we must consider as the idea of a reunification with the Mind of god. This idea of the Mind of God as our source has existed for a time immemorial in that the ogdoad can be traced to the religious workings from the Old Kingdom in Egyptian antiquity where its religious practice was seen as the highest heaven within which Ra, Hathor, and Thoth were the pinnacle deities.  We also find the idea of the ogdoad in Gnostic Christianity in the first century of the Common Era as proposed by the theologian Valentinus as the super celestial space above the 8 spheres of the heavens, literally as the heaven above heaven.

flower of life with seven rings

Interestingly, this first monograph of Hermetica gives us a link to the creation of the universe in seven spheres (the seed of life) and seven more in the craftsmen (the flower of life).  In this symbolism, it gives us a link to the notions of creation in the seed, flower life that, if left to progress further it would be emblematic of the progression to the tree of life – from seed to fruit to tree. The seed and flower, said to construct a form of sacred geometry and give us the basis of forms from which we can create the platonic solids that are the building blocks of life it self.[4]


Creation myths abound in the many world religions and this version in Hermetica is not unique within that patterning.  One need but read the Biblical account of Genesis to see its striking similarities as attempting to establish some answer to the universal question of man – “why are we here” and “where did we come from?”  Its essence is that mankind is created in both a form of good and evil represented in dark and light, a similar balance as found perhaps in the Chinese symbol of the yin and yang or even in the Masonic checkered flooring.  Our responsibility is to transcend the baseness of that darkness as it is our inheritance from our watery origins, so as to seek and see the light as well as to teach others about its source to return to find our way back to our divine origins.  The text speaks to our nature as being the sons (and daughters) of god, from his craftsman son.  This, in turn, grants us the quality of being craftsman too; responsible for our own developing creation and the construction of the world around us so as to break away from the firm grip fate allowing us to slip into the cosmic framework within which we inhabit with the universe as creators.  We need to seek to be craftsman and build a better firmament from which to find understanding.

All mankind has this capability, but perhaps not the means to see the being of Poimandres or to have the vision of Hermes of such a being without beginning or end, which is the raison d’être of this teaching so as to enable us learn and communicate these lessons to those we meet – which is the simple idea to be good and reverent which enables us to have the vision of a clear and joy filled light.  To get there we must undergo the fire of transmutation, which is our quest as a craftsman for the knowledge of constructing for ourselves the space for understanding.

At the conclusion of this passage, the prayer is an important cleansing of the mind and an acknowledgement of our purpose.  That prayer reads:

Holy is God, the father of all;

Holy is God, whose counsel is done by his own powers;

Holy is God, who wishes to be known and is known by his own people;

Holy are you, who by the word have constituted all things that are;

Holy are you, from whom all nature was born as image;

Holy are you, of whom nature has not made a like figure;

Holy are you, who are stronger than every power;

Holy are you, who surpass every excellence;

Holy are you, mightier than praises.

It is a good start to begin our path of crafting our journey to light and our quest for enlightenment.

So Mote It Be.

[1] The name Poimandres had an early understanding to mean “Man-Shepherd” (perhaps a shepherd of men).  But, more recent understanding on its etymology suggests that the name is actually derived from the Egyptian phrase Peime-nte-rê meaning “Knowledge of Re” or “Understanding of Re” more commonly understood as the Egyptian creator deity of Ra.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poimandres

universal freemasonry

The Philosophy of Masonry

universal freemasonryThis is a gem from the past every bit as a relevant read today as it was nearly 100 years ago at the dawn of the 20th century when it was written.  The piece speaks to the application of Masonry to the age it exists in, the zeitgeist or spirit of the age, that it should come to embody.  I highly recommend giving it a thorough read.

The Builder Magazine
by brother Roscoe Pound
Professor of Jurisprudence in Harvard University
May, 1915

Five Lectures Delivered under the Auspices of the Grand Master of Massachusetts Masonic Temple, Boston.


WE have long outgrown the notion that Masonry is to be held to one purpose or one object or is to be hemmed in by the confines of one philosophy. If we are taught truly that the roof of the Mason’s workshop is nothing less than the “clouded canopy or starry-decked heavens,” nothing that goes on beneath that capacious covering can be wholly alien to us. Our Fraternity is to be of all men and for all men; it is to be of all time and for all time.

The needs of no one time and of no one people can circumscribe its objects. The philosophy of no one time, of no one people, and much more of no one man, can be admitted as its final authority. Hence it is no reproach to Masonry to have, along with lessons and tenets for all times, a special lesson and a special tenet for each time, which is not to be insisted on at other times. Truth, after all, is relative. Vital truths to one time cannot be put into pellets or boluses to be administered to all times to come. If the Craft is to be perpetual, it must appeal to each time as well as to all times; it must have in its traditions something that today can use, although yesterday could not use it and tomorrow need not. We are a Craft of workmen. It is our glory to be engaged in useful service. Our rites and usages are not merely a proud possession to be treasured for their beauty and antiquity. They are instruments imparted to us to be used. Hence we may properly inquire, what can we make of this wonderful tradition of which we are the custodians that will serve the world of today?

One is indeed rash who essays a philosophy of Masonry after such masters as Krause and Oliver and Pike. But I have tried to show heretofore how largely their philosophies of Masonry grew out of the time and the philosophical situation at the time when they severally thought and wrote. Thus Preston wrote in the so-called “age of reason,” when Knowledge was supposed to be the one thing needful.

Krause wrote moral philosophy, so-called, was a chief concern in Germany, and he was primarily a leader in the philosophy of law.

Oliver wrote under the influence of Romanticism in England, at a time when German idealism was coming into English thought.

Pike wrote under the influence of the reaction from the materialism of last half of the nineteenth century and under the influence of the nineteenth century metaphysical method of unifying all things by reference to some basic absolute principle.

In the same way a present-day philosophy of Masonry will necessarily relate itself to present-day modes of thought and to the present situation in philosophy.

Consequently we may predict that it will have four characteristics.

1. Its metaphysical creed will be either idealistic, monistic, or else pragmatist-pluralistic. Although my personal sympathies are with the latter view, so that in a sense I should range myself with Preston and Krause rather than with Oliver and Pike, I suspect that our twentieth-century Masonic philosopher will adhere to the former. He will probably hold, to quote Paulsen, that “reality, which is represented to our senses by the corporeal world as a uniform system of movements, is the manifestation of a universal spiritual life that is to be conceived as an idea, as the development of a unitary reason, a reason which infinitely transcends our notions.”

Hence he will probably range himself with Oliver and Pike. But he will despair of comprehending this reason through knowledge or through tradition or of completely expressing it in a single word. And so, if by chance he should be a pragmatist, the result will not be very different, since the philosophy of Masonry is a part of applied philosophy and the results count for more than the exact method of attaining them. Moreover in the three following characteristics, idealist and pragmatist will agree, merely coming to the same results by different routes.

2. Its psychology will be voluntaristic rather than intellectualistic; that is, under the influence of modern biology it will insist upon giving a chief place to the will. It will have faith in the efficacy of conscious human effort.

3. What is more important for our purpose, its standpoint will be teleological. To quote Paulsen once more: “Ethics and sociology, jurisprudence and politics are about to give up the old formalistic treatment and to employ instead the teleological method: purpose governs life, hence the science of life, of individual as well as of collective life, must employ this principle.” In other words, as it would have been put formerly, the philosophy of Masonry will be treated as a part of practical rather than of pure philosophy.

4. It will have its roots in history. This is the distinguishing mark of modern philosophical thought. The older philosophies conceived of reality along the lines of mathematics and of the physical sciences. Today we endeavor to interpret nature historically. As Paulsen says, we essay to interpret it “according to a logical genetical scheme.”

Such are the lines which modern philosophy is following, and such, we may be confident, are the lines which the philosophy of Masonry will follow, unless, indeed, some philosopher of the stamp of Krause, capable of striking out new paths in philosophy at large, should busy himself with this special field. Can we construct a philosophy of Masonry that will conform to these lines ? In attempting to answer this question, I should lay down three fundamental principles at the outset:

We must not be dogmatic. We must remember that our ideal is the ideal of an epoch, to serve the needs of time and place.

Nevertheless we must seek an end. We must have before us the idea of purpose, since we are in the realm of practical philosophy.

We must base our conception of the ideal of our Masonic epoch and our idea of purpose upon the history of institutions. Thus we get three modes of approach to our immediate subject.

Let us first turn to the current philosophies and inquire what they may do for us. How far may we build on some one or on all of them? What does Masonry call for which they can or cannot give?

The oldest and perhaps the most authoritative system of philosophy current today is absolute idealism, in many forms, indeed, but with a recognizable essential unity.

This philosophy puts life in a world of thought. It thinks of the world of experience which we perceive through our senses as appearance. Reality is in the world of thought. But these are not two distinct worlds. Rather they are related as cause and effect, as that which animates and that which is animated. It regards God, not as a power outside of the world and transcending it, but as that which permeates it and connects it and gives it unity. It regards reality as a connected, a unified whole and conceives that life is real in so far as it is a part of this whole. Hence it conceives we must turn steadfastly and courageously from the superficial realm of appearance in which our senses put us, and set ourselves “in the depth of reality”; we are to bring ourselves into relation with the whole and to develop ourselves from within so as to reach the whole. To use Eucken’s phrases, each life is to “evolve a morality in the sense of taking up the whole into one’s own volition” and subjecting “caprice to the necessity of things,” that is, to their necessary inner interconnection. In this theory of life, the central point is spiritual creative activity. Everything else is but the environment, the means or the logical presupposition. Man is to be raised above himself and is to be saved by spiritual creation.

This philosophy of scholars and for scholars is not a philosophy for Masons.

Indeed Pike said of his idealistic system of Masonic philosophy that it was not the Masonry of the multitude. And for this very reason that it is essentially aristocratic, the old idealistic philosophy is fighting a sure though obstinate retreat in our democratic age. There are periods of creative energy in the world and there are periods in which what has been created is organized and assimilated. In the periods of creation, those to whom spiritual creative power is given are relatively few. In a period of assimilation they are few indeed. In such a time, to quote Eucken, the life pictured by the idealist “tends to become mere imagination.” “The man imbued with [its] spirit . . . easily seems to himself more than he is; with a false self-consciousness talks and feels as if he were at a supreme height; lives less his own life than an alien one. Sooner or later opposition must necessarily arise against such a half life, such a life of pretense, and this opposition will become especially strong if it is animated by the desire that all who bear human features should participate in the chief goods of our existence and freely co-operate in the highest tasks. . . And so the aristocratic character of Immanent Idealism produces a type of life rigidly exclusive, harsh and intolerable.”

Another type of philosophy, which has become more and more current with the advance of science, has been called Naturalism. This philosophy rejects the spiritual life entirely, denying its independence and holding it nothing but a phase or an incident of the existence revealed by the senses. There is no spiritual sphere. Of itself, the spiritual can create nothing. Nor is life anything in itself.

All things are valued in terms of biology and of economics. Nothing is intrinsically valuable. Truth means only correct adjustment to the environment; the good is that which best preserves life; the moral is that which makes for social life; the beautiful is a form of the useful.

Self preservation is the real inspiration of conduct. I need not argue that this is not a philosophy for Masons, who have faith in God for one of their landmarks. Whatever else we may be consistently with a naturalistic philosophy, we cannot be Masons. For if there is any one test of a Mason it is a test wholly incompatible with this rejection of the spiritual.

Closely connected with naturalism are a variety of social philosophies which have come to have much vogue and in one form, socialism, have given rise to an active propaganda involving almost religious fervor. These philosophies reject the individual life, and hence the individual spiritual life. So far as the individual will is regarded it is because of a social interest in the individual social life. As political or social philosophies some of these systems have very great value. But when they are expanded into universal systems and make material welfare in society–a very proper end in political philosophy–the sole end of the individual life, when they reject the spiritual independence of the individual by making “the judgment of society the test of truth” and expect him to submit his views of good and evil to the arbitrament of a show of hands, when they ignore individual creation and think only of distributing, they run counter to Masonic landmarks, so that we cannot accept them and continue to be Masons. For we hold as Masons that there is a spiritual part of man. We hold that the individual is to construct a moral and spiritual edifice within himself by earnest labor, not to receive one ready made by a referendum to the judgment of society. Understand me. I do not assert that modern social philosophies are to be cast out utterly. In law, in politics, in social science some of them are achieving great things. But we must think of them as applications, not as universal systems. The problem of the individual life, the demands of the individual spiritual life, which they ignore, are matters of vital concern to the Mason, and he calls for a philosophy which takes account of them. To quote Eucken once more, we cannot assent that the “world of sense is the sole world of man” nor can we “find life entirely in the relation to the environment, be it nature or society.”  [Eucken won the Nobel Prize in Literature 1908 for his work Naturalism or Idealism?]

By way of revolt from naturalistic and social philosophies a modern movement has arisen which has been called aesthetic individualism. It is distinctly a literary and artistic movement and for that very reason ignores the mass of humanity and falls short of our basic Masonic requirement of universality. But it demands a moment’s consideration as one of the significant modes of modern thought. In aesthetic individualism, we are told, “the center of life is transferred into the inner tissue of self-consciousness. With the development of this self-consciousness, life appears to be placed entirely on its own resources and directed towards itself. Through all change of circumstances and conditions it remains undisturbed; in all the infinity of that which happens to it, it feels that it is supreme. All external manifestation is valuable to it as an unfolding of its own being; it never experiences things, but only itself.”[ From Life’s Basis and Life’s Ideal – The Fundamentals of a New Philosophy of Life By Rudolf Eucken] Hence to the aesthetic individualist the end is to “make all the relations and all the externals of life as individual as possible.” He is not to sacrifice the present to the future; he is to reject everything that subjects the development of life to universal standards; he is to ignore all those conventions that fit men into the social order and instead is to cultivate a free relation of individual to individual. To those who accept this doctrine “what is usually called morality is considered to be only a statute of the community, a means by which it seeks to rob the individualist the end is to “make all the relations and all the itself.” This philosophy of artists and for artists is too palpably impossible for the Masonic philosopher to require further discussion.

If we turn from these disappointing modern theories of the end of life to systems of applied philosophy, we may do better. Here the idealists have a more fruitful program.

Where Hegel regarded all things as the unfolding of an idea either logically or in experience, the recent followers of Hegel, who are the most active force in recent social philosophy, say rather that all social and political and legal institutions are manifestations of civilization. To them the idea which is unfolding in all things human is not some single metaphysical principle; it is the complex idea of human civilization. Our institutions are resultants of the civilization of the past and of attempts to adapt them as we received them, to the civilization of the present. Our task as members of society is to advance civilization by exerting ourselves consciously and intelligently to that end. Every man may do this in some measure in his time and place. So every man may, if he will, retard or obstruct civilization in some degree in his time and place. But from the fact that he is a man and as such a factor in society actually or potentially, he is charged with a duty of exerting himself to maintain and advance civilization, of which as the ultimate idea, society is a mere agent. So far as we may, we must each of us discover the principles which are presupposed by the civilization of today and we must exert ourselves consciously to mold institutions thereto and to regulate conduct thereby. The universal thing, the reality is civilization among men. To paraphrase a well-known formula, God is the eternal, not ourselves, that makes for civilization. Here, then, we have a modern system that comports with the fundamental of Masonry and with our philosophical demands. It recognizes the spiritual side of man as something which civilization both presupposes and develops. It has a God. It is not for a scholarly or artistic aristocracy. It is of and for all men as partakers in and, if they will be, agents of a universal human culture.

Moreover it meets our first requirement. It is not dogmatic. It recognizes that civilization is something that is constantly advancing and hence is changing. It realizes that civilization, for that very reason, is a matter of time and place and hence that the principles it presupposes at any time and place, which we take for our ideals, are ideals of an epoch and principles to serve the needs of time and place. And yet all these stages transient forms of human culture merge in a general and a constantly growing human civilization which is the reality both in ourselves and outside of ourselves.

2. Again the new idealism of practical philosophy meets our second requirement. Even though its adherents recognize that they have no absolute formula for all times, for all places, for all peoples, they have an end, they put before us a purpose. Each of us and all of us are to make for human civilization. Each of us by developing himself as a civilized, in the real sense, as a cultured man according to his lights and his circumstances can find reality in himself and can bring others and the whole nearer to the reality for which we are consciously or unconsciously striving–the civilization of mankind. The knowledge which Preston sought to advance, the perfection of man at which Krause aimed, the relation to God which Oliver sought to attain and the harmony and through it control of the universe which Pike took for the goal, may well be regarded as phases of and as summed up in the one idea of human civilization.

3. How far does this new idealism, or as its adherents call it, this neo-Hegelianism, meet our third requirement? Has it a sound basis in the history of human institutions generally and the history of our institution in particular? Here at least the Masonic neo-idealist is upon sure ground.

Anthropologists and sociologists have shown us that next to the family, which indeed antedates society, the most primitive and most universal of social institutions is the association of grown men in a secret society. The simplest and earliest of the institutions of social man is the “men’s house”–a separate house for the men of the tribe which has some analogies among civilized peoples of antiquity, e.g. the common meal of the citizens at Sparta, the assembly of the men in the agora in an ancient Greek community and the meeting of the Roman citizens in assembly in the ancient polity of the Roman city.

In this men’s house of a primitive tribe is the center of social life. Here the most precious belongings of the community, its religious emblems and its trophies taken in war, are preserved. Here the young men of the tribe gather as a visible token of their separation from their families and their entrance upon the duties and responsibilities of tribal life. Here the elders and leaders have seats according to their dignity and importance.

Women and children may not enter; it is the house of the grown men. This wide-spread primitive institution develops in different ways. Sometimes it results in what are practically barracks for the fighting men of the community, as at Sparta and among some primitive peoples today. Sometimes it becomes a religious center and ultimately in substance a temple. Usually it becomes the center of another stage of social development, that is, of what anthropologists call “the puberty initiation ceremonies” and thence of still another stage, the primitive secret society. And as these societies develop, replacing the earlier tribal puberty initiations, the men’s house, as the seat of these organizations, becomes the secret lodge. Hence in this oldest of social institutions, rather than on the highest hills and in the lowest dales of our lectures, we may find the first Masonry.

It is a natural instinct, so sociologists tell us, that leads men of the same age, who have the same interests and the same duties, to group themselves accordingly and to separate to some extent from other groups. In obedience to this instinct, we are told that four classes of the male members of a tribe set themselves off:

  1. The boys who have not yet arrived at puberty;
  2. Unmarried youths;
  3. Mature men on whom the duties and responsibilities of tribesmen rest, and
  4. Old men, the repositories of tribal wisdom and the directors of the community.

On the attainment of puberty, the boy is taken into the men’s house and as it were initiated into manhood. In due time he becomes tribesman and warrior. In process of time his eldest son has himself reached manhood and the father becomes an elder, retired from active service. Thus the men of the tribe become in substance a secret association divided into two or three grades or classes out of which, we are told, as a later development, grow the degrees of primitive secret societies. For the passage from one of these classes to another almost universally among primitive peoples is accompanied by secret initiatory ceremonies, and among almost all primitive peoples, the initiatory ceremonies at puberty are the most solemn and important event in a man’s life. Usually they are more or less dramatic. They begin with some sort of ordeal. Often there is a symbolic raising from death to life to show that the child is dead and that a man has risen in his place. Often a great deal of symbolism is employed and there follows something very like a lecture, explaining the ceremony. Always they involve an impressive instruction in the science and the morality of the tribe and an impressive inculcation of obedience.

In time these initiatory ceremonies degenerate or develop, as the case may be, into tribal secret societies pure and simple, and with the progress of civilization and the rise of political and religious systems these societies also decay or lose their character. Thus eventually, out of this primitive institution of the men’s house, which on one side has grown into political organization, on another side, through the initiatory ceremonies, no less than six institutions are developed among different peoples. First there are political, magical and more or less fraudulent secret societies, which are extremely common in Africa today. Second, there are clan ceremonies, becoming in time state ceremonies and state religions. Antiquity abounds in examples of the importance which men attached to these ceremonies. For example, the dictator Fabius, at a critical moment in the campaign against Hannibal, left the army in order to repair to the proper place and perform the clan sacrifices as head of the Fabian gens. Third, there are religious societies, with elaborate ceremonies for the reception of the novice.

Such societies exist in Tibet and among the Hindus in striking forms.

Fourth, there are the mysteries of antiquity, for example, the Egyptian and the Eleusinian, or sometimes a mixture of the third and fourth, as in the case of the Essenes.

Fifth, there are trade societies on the fraternal model, such as the Roman collegia and the trade and operative guilds.

Finally there are purely charitable associations, such as the Roman burial societies. Each of these, it will be noted, develops or preserves some side of the primitive tribal secret society.

The political and magical societies develop or preserve their political and medical traditions; the clan ceremonies, their function of promoting solidarity by ancestor worship; the religious societies, their moral and religious functions; the mysteries, their symbolical instruction; the trade societies, their function of instruction in useful knowledge; the charitable societies, their function of binding men to duties of relief and of mutual assistance. All preserve the memory of their origin in a tribe of kinsmen by the fiction of brotherhood which they strive to make real by teaching and practice.

The relation of Masonry to this development of societies out of the primitive men’s house, as described by non-Masonic scholars with no thought of Masonry, is so obvious, that we may no longer laugh at Oliver’s ambitious attempts to find Masonry in the very beginning of things. But apart from its bearing upon Masonic history, this discovery of the anthropologists is significant for Masonic philosophy. For in this same men’s house are the germs of civilization; the development of the men’s house is a development of civilization, and its end and purpose and the end and purpose of all the legitimate institutions that have grown out of it have been from the beginning to preserve, further and hand down the civilization of the tribe or people. In our universal society, therefore, the end is, and as we study our old charges and our lectures we see it has always been, to preserve, further and hand down a universal, human civilization.

Thus we are enabled to answer the three problems of

Masonic philosophy.

1. What is the end of Masonry; for what do we exist as an organization? The answer of the Masonic neo-idealist would be that our end in common with all social institutions is to preserve, to develop and to transmit to posterity the civilization wrought by our fathers and passed on to us.

2. What is the place of Masonry in a rational scheme of human activity? What is its relation to other kindred activities? The answer would be, that it is an organization of human effort along the universal lines on which all may agree in order to realize our faith in the efficacy of conscious effort in preserving and promoting civilization.

What other human organizations do along lines of caste or creed or within political or territorial limits hampered by the limits of political feeling or local prejudice, we seek to achieve by universality–by organizing the universal elements in man that make for culture and civilization.

3. How does Masonry achieve its end? Our answer would be that it makes for civilization by its insistence on the solidarity of humanity, by its insistence on universality and by the preservation and transmission of an immemorial tradition of human solidarity and of universality. So conceived, this tradition becomes a force of the first moment in maintaining and advancing civilization. And in this way we connect on the one hand with the practical systems of Preston and of Krause. The ideal of the eighteenth century was knowledge. The ideal of the nineteenth century was the individual moral life. The ideal of the twentieth century, I take it, is the universal human life. But what are these but means toward the advance of human culture? And on the other hand we connect also with Oliver and with Pike. For they were idealists and so are we. Only they sought a simple, static idea of which the universe was a manifestation or an unfolding. We turn rather to a complex and growing idea and claim to do no more than interpret it in terms of the ideals of the time and place.

My brethren, we of all men, owe it to ourselves and to the world, to be universal in spirit. Universality is a lesson the whole world is learning and must learn. But we ought to know it well already. We ought to be upon the front bench of the world’s school, setting an example to our more backward school-fellows. Wherever in the world there is a lodge of Masons, there should be a focus of civilization, a center of the idea of universality, radiating reason to put down prejudice and advance justice in the disputes of peoples, and in the disputes of classes, and making for the peace and harmony and civilization that should prevail in this great lodge of the world.

Moreover, the idea of universality has a special message to the Mason for the good of Masonry. Every world organization hitherto has been wrecked ultimately upon its own dogmatism. It has taken the dogmas, the interpretations, the philosophy of its youth for a fixed order of nature. It has assumed that universality consisted in forcing these dogmas, these interpretations, this philosophy upon all times to come. While it has rested serene in the ruts made by its own prosperity, the world has marched by it unseen. We have a glorious body of tradition handed down to us from the past, which we owe it to transmit unimpaired to the future. But let us understand what in it is fundamental and eternal, and what is mere interpretation to make it of service to the past. Let us while we have it use it well to make it of service to the present. Yet let us fasten upon it nothing hard and fast that serves well enough to make it useful today, but may make it useless tomorrow. As the apprentice stands in the corner of the lodge, the working tools are put in his hands and he is taught their uses. But they are not his. They are the tools of the lodge. He is to use them that the Worshipful Master may have pleasure and the Craft profit.

The Grand Master of the Universe has entrusted to us the principles of Masonry as working tools. They, too, are not ours, they belong to the lodge of the world. We are to use them that He may have pleasure and the Craft of humanity that labors in this wide lodge of the world may profit thereby.

Fred Milliken,Freemason Information,The Beehive

At The Crossroads Of The Many Paths of Freemasonry

Masonic Relevance In The 21st Century

I am observing many Masonic friends these days going through some deep soul searching as they try to reconcile Freemasonry with their own personal goals and the legacy for society that they would eventually like to leave behind. Many of these soul searchers are Masonic writers or “communicators” of some kind, well versed in the meaning of Masonry. Yet some feel powerless against the rising tide of Masonic irrelevancy as they see it. Others have found some other organization, cause or path that more reflects what they want to do with their life. Still others who revel in the Craft still feel that their active involvement therein robs them of the time that could be spent in other worthwhile pursuits.

We all have our religious, political and moral belief systems to act out in varying degrees of involvement as well as career paths with study in our field of endeavor.  All that to which we subscribe so deeply also has to be matched with our commitment to interpersonal relationships, especially our families. All in all sometimes this requires a very difficult balancing act.

Along comes the Information Age which knocks Freemasonry for a loop. In its early stages Masonic leaders either ignored it or refused to accept it.  When the inevitable came to pass most of official Freemasonry-dom were “Johnnies come lately.” Many the Freemason who has bemoaned the reduction not only of Craft membership but of Lodge attendance. Many fail to realize, however, how much Freemasonry one can imbibe sitting home in front of the computer. Why leave the house, fight the traffic and dress up in a monkey suit when one can sit by the computer in shorts and T shirt with a slice of pizza in one hand and a beer in the other and get as much out of Freemasonry as those not only attending Lodge but those who are even members. I fail to see the difference between a One Day Class and watching the same thing at home on a good HD-TV. And while Grand Lodges sat on their Internet hands, individual Masons on their own were setting up Masonic websites, discussion forums and producing Masonic videos.

Right about here readers will extrapolate that Internet Freemasonry lacks one crucial ingredient, namely that of personal relationship and bonding and also experiencing Freemasonry “in the flesh.” To that end that Craft keeps blossoming out Side bodies and degree upon degree upon degree to make sure all its members get to really “experience” the Craft. But then how many ways does it take to say the same thing over and over?  In its desire to cement the Brotherhood into a membership of dedicated true believers, Freemasonry makes sure that members experience the Craft again, again and again……………..and in the process is sowing the seeds of its own demise.

One only has to look at today’s culture and the different methods of bonding that the next generation has embraced to know that the tired old ways of application aren’t going to work anymore. It’s Facebook, Twitter and texting that dominates today’s communication and consequently its formation of relationships. More and more married couples are telling us that they first met on the Internet. That’s not to say that the message of Freemasonry is in jeopardy; no, the message is timeless but the application generationally deficient.  How many Grand Masters do you think have a Facebook page and who tweet and text on a regular basis? It’s not such a far out question when you realize that we have a President hip to such methods and who used them to help him campaign.

Yet Freemasonry is being torn apart by competing methods of application. Again to make sure you got it, there is no problem with the message, it’s the messengers.

One faction is Freemasonry as the buddy bonding society. Candidates are whisked through the degrees at lightning speed. Lodge meetings consist of degrees or business but never esoteric lessons. The Craft is one big social arena where fish frys, banquets, bowling leagues and motorcycle clubs abound.

Another faction is Freemasonry as a charitable society heavily geared to the dispensation of massive Institutionalized Charity, so much so that there is minimal time for social activities and even less time for esoteric study.

The third faction is Freemasonry as a research and study society devoted to the pursuit of knowledge in the context of ethical application.  This faction sees Freemasonry as a philosophy and spawns such applications as Research Lodges and esoteric study clubs.

The first three factions follow the tenets of Freemasonry – Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. The fourth does not.

The fourth faction is Freemasonry as a quasi military style society full of rank, privileges, ribbons and medals and the attainment thereof.

Each faction is at war with the other offering the one and only true way for Freemasonry’s salvation.  In some areas Freemasonry tries to incorporate all factions in a hybrid super model that not only requires a good amount of money but also an inordinate amount of time commitment. Depending on where you are in the country and what model your Grand Lodge has chosen to pursue decides what type of Freemasonry you are experiencing.

Where does all this leave our Masonic soul searchers?

To properly answer that question we must sign on to the notion that Freemasonry is not society’s savior nor was it ever intended to be. Freemasonry is not a place of doing it is a place of being. In the modus operandi of your life you live out your path or your destiny on two levels.  (1) First there is the religion or philosophy that guides one to what courses of action to take. (2) There are the courses of action taken based on the values one has chosen.

All the factions trying to redefine Freemasonry only muddies the waters. Long after Masons in human bodies have departed this world and Lodges have ceased to exist, the thought, the philosophy of Freemasonry will live on. It will never disappear.

It is Freemasonry that creates our value system as Masons. The Craft is designed to do no more than that. Expecting Freemasonry to take the next step of action in implementation of its values is asking too much. That’s an individual decision to be made for an individual path.  Like snowflakes no two paths are identical. Therefore, those that feel that Freemasonry is not doing enough are asking from it unintended consequences.

If you want to be a Little League coach, man a soup kitchen, build a playground, visit the elderly in Nursing Homes, be a Boy Scout leader than go do it.  Recognize that it is Freemasonry that got you to the point of going to do such. But don’t castigate Freemasonry because it isn’t doing those very things.  Freemasonry isn’t doing it’s being. Freemasonry is what gave you the values to go do these things, nothing more, nothing less.

Trying to get Freemasonry to be the be all and end all of life is placing a burden upon it that is far too great. Right now Freemasonry is in meltdown because of unrealized expectations. If feelings of worth and usefulness are things most important to you, then don’t become a professional Masonic social climber, pulling rank and showing off all your medals. Keep Freemasonry in your life simple and focused on its calling. Then it won’t disappoint you but will serve your purpose well.

freemasonry, masonic, freemasons, information

Bad Masonic Press – Airing the Dirty Laundry

The Small Town Texas Mason E-Magazine has an excellent article going out in the November 2010 edition. The publication comes from the heart of a brother who publishes it to “enlighten, educate, and entertain Masons and non Masons alike.” Like so much of Masonic publishing it is a free press to circulate Masonic thought and interest.

In the November issue, the publisher Corky Daunt asks the question:

Is Freemasonry’s reputation was being harmed by to many news stories in newspapers and being repeated on the internet about Freemason bringing Civil Lawsuits against Grand Lodges for Masonic reasons.

You can read the original here.

He reserves his conclusions and posts instead three responses sent in by readers on the subject, two from North America (one from our very own Fred Milliken) and one from Australia. The relevancy of the question is an important one and something this site has been charged with repeatedly as reporting (or editorializing) on the bad in the news.

At the end of his piece, Corky asks “Do you think bad publicity is harming Freemasonry’s image?”

To be honest, I would have to answer and say that it is. But, with the caveat that the press and editorializing is only so bad as the reality of the events taking place themselves. Because there is no system to mitigate these events that lead to the bad press they are left to spiral out of control in an increasingly close world.

In other words, there is no system to police the system itself, so a free press (as with  Democracy) needs to exist so as to ensure that the system adheres to its own principles.

The question then becomes is the system of Freemasonry of such importance that it needs such a medium to keep watch of its practice, or is it merely a membership organization like an athletic club like the YMCA or a big box shopping warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club, where the membership value we get comes in the commodities we take away from it.

Ask yourself this:

Is Freemasonry really a practice of some moral philosophy? And if so, how do we (the members) practice it? Or, is it just a membership club that we go to for some monthly dinner socializing and entertainment in the form of democratic practice in voting on paying for the phone bill.

Personally, I like to think that its a Moral Philosophy that needs to be kept on its toes so as not to fall into the morass of base society, that it has an elevated sense of upright moral rectitude (that’s what we were told right?). Why else would we be members?

So to answer Corky’s question, Yes, I think the bad publicity hurts us as a fraternity overall. But, I think what hurts us even more are the activities being reported upon which chip away at the larger structure of the craft. We need to know what goes on in our own house, our Masonic house, so as to be vigilant against it and the only way to do that is to know what is going on – good, bad, or indifferent.

Otherwise, we can keep our heads buried int he sand while lodges are left to falter, members expelled for bucking the system, or indiscretions allowed to continue in fear of reprisals – all of which seem very un-Masonic in my handbook.  But, if those are acceptable in the great moral society, then we can each just look for the next discount coupon for a reduced cost dinner at the next lodge meeting and not give a thought to our role in supporting a greater moral philosophy.

What do you think? Is the bad press hurting Masonry?

Backyard Freemason – Sacred Geometry

These videos demonstrate some seriously fascinating practical, and spiritual benefits of studying and applying Sacred Geometry in our lives, as has been done in Freemasonry.

Part 1

Part 2 picks up and talks about the point within a circle, the square, and triangle symbols are practically incorporated into everyday life. The interesting aspects of Masonic symbolism is how they are involved in our lives for doing good, for others, and for ourselves.

Part 3 looks at the wonder of the Holy Saints John associated with the Summer Solstice in order to find the “truth” of geographical exactness and centeredness which is delightful to discover!

Part 4 Looks at the psychology and spirituality of being “aligned in truth” explored

Part 5 Concludes with the power and beauty and utility of the circle and the square in our lives.


How Bill Gates Redefines Charity

Charity has existed for as long as man has had enough to share. Compassion is our basic drive to give for those less fortunate than ourselves.  Be it alms coins to the poor from the church in the 1500’s or Bill Gates giving 50 Billion dollar checks to foundations to give in his name.  The idea of what charity is has just been turned on its ear.

This is important because one of the more important elements of Freemasonry is its outlook towards Charity (faith and hope too).

How it came to be is likely a jumble of one time benefit societies, widows of workman, and an endearment towards mankind, especially as those of affluence looked towards those who were without.

It was an alms to the poor, the act of compassion, of love. Love in the sense of a divine love, not an expression of passion , rather a fraternal love. In a sense, the way the great Architect looks down upon you and I.

Over time, that Charitas, Charity, has evolved. Still the giving of alms, but instead of throwing gold coins to the masses, charity is now and endowment towards an institution. Think of the proverb that says instead of giving a man a fish, you teach him how to catch one.

Now, at the pinnacle of the pyramid of giving, Bill Gates has upped the anti. Rather than give his fortune to his children, instead he’s opted to give it back to the world.

Dust to dust, money to money….

But Gates with his friend and philanthropic colleague Warren Buffet are together asking other American Billionaires to donate half of their fortunes too.

It is an epic undertaking to imagine – so much accumulated wealth spread out to so many organizations. Gates and Buffett in asking other billionaires who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.

“The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations,” they explain in a written statement about the project.

With such monumental giving, it makes me wonder if at the end of the day, those that need the help most will receive it, or if the distribution of money will just go to make other rich.

Read: Whence came the Moral Law in Freemasonry?

An alternative might be something like a kiva.com giving micro loans to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world recipients to establish a business or materials to make an income.

Or, give it in a manner like Percy Ross who said of giving and the results of it

“He who gives while he lives also knows where it goes. . . . I’m having a ball, the time of my life.”

Why not give to those in need instead of funding new businesses to distribute the wealth?

But, Ross was considered gawdy and vulgar for his self promotion, and Gates,  rather than allow himself to be portrayed the happy vulgar giver, instead operates on the down low and letting others be the decision makers to how his money is spent.

Either way, charity has a new face in 2010 and it seems like Gates and the Billionaire Club are leading the way for giving.

With such epic giving as they do, is our lesser run of the mill giving any less valuable?

Freemasonry – Its Place In The World

world in our handsTo my delight the latest “Short Talk Bulletin” was in my mailbox yesterday.  I look forward to reading the latest epistle from the Masonic Service Association of North America.  The Short Talk bulletin is just that, short and to the point and a yearly subscription will cost you the paltry sum of $6.00. MSANA has hundreds of past issues available for purchase on a wide variety of subjects.

The latest issue written by the PGM of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, Norman Buecker, is titled Freemasonry – Its Place In The World.

Buecker starts off by giving us what he calls the most quoted definition of Freemasonry.

“It is an association of men believing in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, using building tools as symbols to teach basic moral truths, thereby impressing on the minds of its members the cardinal virtues of Brotherly love, Relief and Truth which they should apply in their everyday activities.”

He tells us that man has been slowly through the ages, with each generation adding improvements and transmitting this information from generation to generation, and thus has been able to improve his lot in life, his material well being. Yet he tells us that man’s moral improvement has not shown equal gains.

This is where Freemasonry comes in.  Buecker asks the reader, “What does Freemasonry Offer the World?” He answers his own question with six points.

  1. Since Freemasonry does not work through society or any of its institutions, it is then centered around the individual. This ties Freemasonry to civil regimes that value the worth of the individual and explains why it flourishes best in a democratic setting. “Freemasonry offers to the world a basic ideal that is being forgotten – every individual is important and his personal welfare counts,” Buecker emphasizes.
  2. Freemasonry believes in the Fatherhood of God. Every Mason has to have a belief in a Supreme Being but the details of that belief are not required or discussed. Thus Freemasonry actively encourages tolerance of different religious beliefs and facilitates men of different religious backgrounds to exist together in peace and harmony.
  3. Freemasonry extols the Brotherhood of man.  Buecker tells us that everywhere all around us we hear from those who are demanding “rights” yet what Freemasonry teaches us is that we have a duty or obligation to our family, friends and even strangers in our midst. He reports, “Dr. Joseph Fort Newton tells us ‘a duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred and sooner or later we must settle the account.’”
  4. Since the Middle Age guilds, Freemasonry has always held work in reverence. Our ancient Brethren worked with their hands and actually built buildings.  Today we as speculative Masons are building that spiritual building, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Work is noble and honorable. “We are offered and guaranteed the right to use our God-given skills and by employing them to secure happiness,” Buecker says.
  5. Freemasonry offers an opportunity for close male bonding and in its social venues brings men together in activities that bring men much joy and happiness. Buecker tells us, “I think that this is one of the intangible, subtle and necessary elements of Freemasonry – making the individual happy. We have already said if the individual is happy, the community is happy; if the communities are happy, the nation is happy; and if the nations are happy the world will be at peace.”
  6. Freemasonry offers the world a philosophy of life. It teaches a set of moral virtues, something that crosses all beliefs and is held in common by all cultures.  But it has a unique way of imparting its value system to its members. That uniqueness impresses upon the mind of every Freemason how important its moral truths are and what they mean to him as a member of the Craft.  Each new Brother is literally reborn into a new way of life.

This easy to handle pamphlet provides a very good presentation of Freemasonry.  It can be ordered by the hundreds and would make a good addition to a Freemasonry information table for the non Mason.  Over and above that it also illustrates that the Craft has a role to play on the world stage.  It can be an important factor in influencing the nations of the world to live in peace and harmony.

So what does Freemasonry have to offer the world? Buecker sums it up:

“Freemasonry offers to mankind an emphasis on the importance of the individual, the belief in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, the concept of the dignity of work and its necessity for the pursuit of happiness, the opportunity to realize one’s social aspirations in a moral, constructive atmosphere and a philosophy of life which can lead to individual and therefore community happiness.”