Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 5

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Up to now, the charge has focused on the obligations and civility of Brothers to one another but in this next and critical sentence, we are asked to look outside of our tiled doors and look onward to those beyond our craft and be the difference in the world in which we live.

“These Generous principles extend further, for every human being has a claim upon your kind office.”

Here we are reminded that although we are fraternal brothers, looking out for one another, there are expectations for our services outside our tiled doors as well. So far, we have concentrated on our relationship within the lodge and our charge has special admonishments for that focus but now it extends our view and we are asked to look up from our mystic ties, and embrace the world around us.

This line of the closing charge can seem almost counter-intuitive because we have clearly distinguished ourselves separately from the profane world outside and claimed a special allegiance and communion with our brothers. It is true that we enjoy a unique masonic environment where ritual, discipline and order affords us the comfort of like minds and common purpose and what an amazing and wonderful environment it is. We can clearly see that the tenets of masonry, when observed, can create the framework for a much improved social structure, however, we are of little value to the world around us if we keep these ideals hidden within the lodges and the work we do here in the quarry to better ourselves and each other are designed for us to venture beyond the comforts of commonality and set out into a world that at best is a patchwork quilt of unpredictable values and a labyrinth of confusing and conflicting ideals. It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming judgmental towards those who are not part of our order as we watch chaos reign supreme while we hold within our teachings the order the world so desperately needs to embrace.

I like the way Kahlil Gibran in the book The Prophet expresses how we should view this generosity we are charged to extend to every human being in the section entitled “on Giving”-

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? And what is fear of need but need itself? Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have–and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; and to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. And is there aught you would withhold? All you have shall someday be given; therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed? See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

Our Most Worshipful Grand Master, Jim Mendoza this year has asked us all to focus on “Being the Difference”. That starts with a healthy perspective of who we are as men and as masons, what our motives are and what our goals for being a mason are. All our self-talk needs to be uplifting and healthy. Our fraternal conversations need to be void of conflict and unproductive comments. We must ever ask ourselves if we have squared our actions and are keeping our passions within due bounds. We must ever discipline ourselves to be worthy to call ourselves by the name that Kings and Potentates of many ages have claimed as the greatest title that can be bestowed upon a man in this life, that of a freemason. And we must come to realize that all of this self-improvement of becoming a better man is for a greater purpose than ourselves. Being the difference, one brother, one community, one nation at a time, realizing that we are all equal in the eyes of God and all worthy of his boundless generosity, then further realizing that we are His instruments in a world that needs our understanding, generosity, and sympathy and that we have the power to change the world and bring about the ancient hope of a perfect society. We all need to give ourselves the time to focus on the mission outside the door as well as the work within and this line in the closing charge reminds us that our work is far from over when we pull out of the parking lot because every human being has a claim upon our kind office.  

 image002Perhaps Albert Pike puts it best in what might be arguably his most memorable quote: What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. We have an incredible institution made up of hundreds of philanthropic works to bring about a better world around us. Let us set to work and share in that love for humanity and “be the difference.”


May God add His light to this work,

W. B. John Lawson

Grand Chaplain,

Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Time Marches On

I am pleased to share the words of RW John Keliher, Grand Secretary Emeritus of the Grand Lodge of Washington, said on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the March of Unity.

keliherTime is a river that carries in its current a distillate of everything that exists along its banks. It has carried those of us who were fortunate enough twenty years ago to come together to demonstrate Freemasonry’s breadth, to this moment, and we are privileged to be with you today. Many who marched in that first demonstration of Masonic Unity have demitted our Lodges and been received in a higher Jurisdiction. Yet they are with us still. The memory of that first March of Unity and those who walked together in brotherhood remains vivid, alive, and it warms my heart.

Two-thousand and five hundred years ago a Greek named Heraclitus observed that the universe was comprised of minute particles that were always coming into existence and then, going he knew not where. He said that our existence was so permeated by change that a man could not step in to the same river twice. Some ancient Greek said Heraclitus was only partially right. If we are all made of atoms, and they were always changing, the same man could not step into the same river once because by the time his toe hit the water, his atoms and the river’s had moved on. Everything was changed.

The difference between the river of time and and human history is that time constantly changes and some people cling to the past, hoping that by preserving the past they may dam up the river of time and ease the pain that always accompanies change. That is understandable, not every change turns out to be beneficial. But change is the inevitable consequence of being alive.

Our own bodies replace all their cells every seven years but each cell contains within it the memory of its structure and function, its place in the body, and its purpose. The wonder of life is that every particle of our anatomy possesses this memory. It argues strongly that this is a purposeful universe and that we are a purpose filled people. And in Masonry we have found a fraternity with a purpose, a purpose to inculcate ideas that lift humanity up and build a just society: Masonry teaches the ideals of the brotherhood of all mankind, charity to all in need, and the fatherhood of God, our Creator. We have changed but we have maintained that essential identity.

This is not the same community it was twenty years ago. This not the same Fraternity it was twenty years ago. Despite the anger many of our fellow citizens obviously feel, in spite of the fear – much of it justified – that the scales of justice are not balanced, this is a better community, we are a better Fraternity, and this is – regardless of the headlines in the papers and the media’s love affair with violence, mayhem, and discord – a better world – made better by getting together as we have for twenty years to recognize the the family of man is one. Like the river, mankind is a stream that carries in its current many separate particles but all are part of the same river.

It was our purpose, two decades ago, to demonstrate Masonic unity. Unity is not the same as uniformity. We came together to celebrate the over arching principles that made us Freemasons and left us free to exhibit Masonry in forms that held in veneration the memories of our origins, celebrated the complexity of freedom itself, acknowledged the validity of Masonry’s belief in the dignity and value of all persons, and championed respect for beliefs in a Supreme Being who had created, loved and redeemed creation. Each year, the Brethren have walked together, worshiped together, shared Fraternal ties together, and, perhaps most importantly, broken bread together as Masons, one people, one family.

One can march through DuPont but not seem to travel far but that is deceptive. This march of unity began several hundred years ago in a land divided between those who were free and those who were not. Irish slaves were eventually replaced in the American colonies by African slaves. The freedom of one people was achieved at the cost to the other of that precious right, freedom. After its vicious, divisive civil war, this society stumbled forward, segregated, distrustful of immigrants of all kinds, and polarized over religious differences and moved into the industrial revolution in which people fled the farm to work in the city, but carried with them old prejudices and only slowly, very slowly, developed a tepid tolerance for ethnic, racial, and religious differences. The road to DuPont has wound through Detroit and Pittsburgh, Selma and Watts, and while it runs through DuPont, it does not end here. It leads – well, we don’t know where it leads, not exactly, and we have no idea how long that trek will take. But we are a part of a pilgrimage to a better world. There have been many men and women whose feet, naked or shod, have beaten this path before us, who got us to this point in mankind’s travel toward a just and equitable world, and many more will follow. Although our journey may be rough rugged and dangerous, although we may be haunted by fears and uncertainties, and though we may not live to see the promised land, we will, before we have crossed that last river, have participated in the march of humanity toward its purposed destiny: unity, peace, concord, one family under God. We will have done our part.

You, my Brethren, are a part of history in the making. This humble march is part of an epic journey and your decision to be here today ensures that tomorrow will be a better day for all of our children’s children’s children. Today is a proud day in the saga of Masonry because you are here, here in spirit of Masonic unity.

But our journey is not over. Perhaps it has only begun. The people of Israel wandered for forty years in the wilderness before getting to the promised Land; to date we have walked together only half that time. I do not expect to complete that march with you, my brethren, not physically, anyway. But if you are here in the year 2036, the centennial of my birth, I will be with you at least in spirit. The March for Unity goes on although aging marchers may slip from the ranks. But each of you, is a part of a great movement to build a better world, one person a time, beginning with our selves. And it is my faith in God, my faith you, that gives me hope that in a day not far off, we shall be truly one people, one nation, one fraternal bond of brothers, indivisible with freedom and justice for all.

May God continue bless, preserve and prosper the Most Worshipful Grand Lodges of Masons of Prince Hall and Jurisdiction and the Grand Lodge of Washington, and all Masons, wheresoever dispersed.

Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 4


In part 4 we take a look at the next line of the charge that like all others is pregnant with meaning but often overlooked.

“You have been enjoined to remind a brother in the most friendly manner of his faults, to aid in his reformation and to defend his character”.

This line in itself speaks so much about ourselves, our brotherhood as a whole and should be looked at very carefully especially in light of our obligations and civility towards us as fraternal brothers.

First, let’s look at the word “enjoined” for a moment. As with much of masonic landmarks, words seldom change from the original making some of the meaning a bit obscure. Such is the case with this word because it is not commonly used in our everyday language. So what does it mean to be “enjoined”? Well, the definition is to “instruct or urge (someone) to do something.” In other words it is more than just a simple recommendation but emphasizes a deeper responsibility to take action.

We have been brought up in a society that most notably, since the 1960-70s, have been known as the “Me generation” and there have been repercussions to those ideals that have rippled through our society since then that have a direct impact on our response to this admonition of the charge. So let’s take a moment to look at how our society has evolved in how we relate towards one another by looking at architecture. You might ask, architecture? What possible connection could there be? Read on…

In the late 1800s houses were built with, manual labor and dependency on one another. We built common wells, common buildings, and common stables all with manual tools that took manpower that often required our neighbor’s assistance out of necessity. Many of our homes were built with the aid and support of the community, most notably we recall the term “barn raising” as an example, everyone banded together to help one another in the most basic of ways as most every labor was by hand. We were a society that had a much greater dependency on cooperation out of necessity and that necessity forged relationships and friendships effecting our social order. We built our homes with large front porches as a result of that kind of society so that most evenings we would share the rest and rewards of a hard day’s work in which many times we had already shared together. We inherently got to know the personal lives of one another creating almost unbreakable bonds. The front porch became a place where everything was discussed, planned, and shared from the work of the day to our personal aspirations and dreams and represented a society that worked and grew together. Helping one another in every aspect of our lives was a given.

By the time World War 2 had come, our country was in the process of building an incredible infrastructure. Many new inventions had already begun to make life simpler, giving individuals and families much more “free time” away from menial tasks that had before taken up the majority of time. Our Brother Henry Ford’s implementation of the assembly lines for automobiles, innovations such as electricity, telephones and television began to take hold. Movies and record players began replacing live performances, a national highway system propelled us anywhere we wanted to go, massive power grids with lock and dams brought electricity and irrigation to the far reaches of the west, all brought about the amazing world we live in today but at the same time changed the way we interacted with one another more profoundly than we could have ever anticipated.

Architecture changed once again as houses began to evolve with larger backyards for families during the baby boom, no longer having the need for a large front porch nor the helpful hands of the neighbors and the front was drafted out of modern house design in favor of the larger private back patio where changes of modern society brought about by all the promises of modern technology had begun to express itself through focusing less and less on the need of community necessity and more and more on the autonomous individual family.

But it didn’t stop there and by the late 1950s it had become clear to sociologists that the children within the families that had slowly begun to separate themselves from community were now separating themselves from each other within their own family structure, Before the 1960s, family’s social structure was for the most part a cohesive social unit, same movies, same music, and same books, but soon with newer and newer inventions and conveniences, the youth of the baby boom generation set out on its own. They coined this phenomenon as “the generation gap” and developed new standards of conduct that were clearly unique from their parents. The need for cooperation that had been lost between the 1800s and the 1940s in society as a whole had now passed on to the family unit.

We are now living in the aftermath of this change in society where even marriage and family are in the minority. In some strange ways we are ever more dependent on the system of automation and technology conveniences we have created than ever before while at the same time have become less and less dependent on social interaction. Today’s homes seldom have a front porch unless it is for ornamentation and the larger backyards and patios are surrounded often with large 5 and 6 foot fences and locked gates to keep the neighbors out. Many of our homes have become fortresses with security signs reminding all who approach that they are being watched. We have come a long way from barn raising and front porch chats to Facebook, blogs, messaging and Instagram. All amazing but with social implications of their own.

Masonry is that sublime education that reaches beyond the effects of the maelstrom of external effects and asks us to “know thyself”. We are taught through our arts and craft to become better men and a large part of becoming a better man is to become aware of not only ourselves but one another, and the world around us, first a brotherhood as a proofing ground of what we have learned, then as all other roles we play in this life. We concentrate first on reclamation self so that we can become useful to our greater goal of creating a perfect society. Never before has masonry and its sublime teachings been so needed as it is in today’s society where we have “gained the world but lost our souls”. 

Arguably, nowhere is there any other organization that has the answer to society’s challenges than Freemasonry. Our gentle but transformative craft first sharpens the mind and encourages us to square our own actions and circumscribe our own passions, taking ownership of our destiny but what good is that reclamation if we do not share that great gift of becoming better if it is not shared? It is true, we must square our living stone with personal ethos and accountability, no one can do that for us, but each of us brings to our order a perspective and a vision uniquely ours that aids in the reclamation of one another with perspectives and lessons that we do not have on our own. There is no individual achievement that can compare to what we can achieve collectively and in order to gain that greatness, we must learn how to cooperate once again on the simplest level as we did before and this line in the charge binds us together and urges us to remember that we are not an island nor can we remain so. We often ask why our numbers are in decline. I would offer this as a large part of the reason. Only when we are able to raise masonry’s relevance higher that the noise and confusion of world gone mad with a thousand shinny distractions will we be able to help mankind find its strength in one another again. A society of individuals cannot stand. The symbolism of the fasces suggested strength through unity a single rod is easily broken, while the bundle is very difficult to break. This is a common symbol in America on the Dime, the senate building and gold pieces. E pluribus unum, our motto and on the Great Seal of the United States; Latin for “Out of many, one”. Masonry is the solution to bringing these principles back into American society that our modern age of convenience and distraction has inadvertently obscured.


Now comes the rub, as Shakespeare would say. To remind a brother in the most friendly manner of his faults is an art in itself as no one wants having their shortcomings handed to them. Yet we are clearly counselled to do so. Masonry holds us accountable, not only for ourselves but for one another and we are reminded here that although we are most certainly responsible for our own actions, our actions have consequences and sometimes have far reaching implications to our brothers and to the craft. Knowing that we are under the watchful eye of loving brothers who have only our best interest in mind should not only be NOT offensive but should instead be reassuring and necessary.

The risk we take in how we choose our words to our brother when a mistake is made is either where friendships are forged or misunderstandings begun and so great and thoughtful care needs to be taken by using the most friendly manner possible. It helps to not work alone. It is a good rule of thumb to have at least one other brother present when counselling. Especially when you can anticipate potential bad feelings both as witness and as an additional opinion. It is important to not let wrongdoing or error go unchecked either. The slippery slope of complacency begins by doing nothing for fear of doing something wrong and it is often easier to “overlook” issues than to confront them head on and doing “the loving thing” and letting error go is often an excuse for doing nothing and contributes to the erosion of our values. Of course, most often, that just leaves the problem for someone else or worse, to give the impression that it doesn’t matter. The old adage “saying nothing is a cousin to acceptance” is a very true one. Holding our standards high and immovable is what has kept our craft on a firm foundation from time immemorial. 

Over the last few generations in our society, we have mastered the art of situation ethics in which the lines are blurred so much that terms like “what difference does it make” or “whatever works for you” are becoming commonplace. Masonry holds to a higher standard beyond mere opinion and we need to be strong enough to hold fast to what we know are immovable truths even when we anticipate speaking to a brother could be uncomfortable. We need to check ourselves to insure that our motives are pure and dispassionate, sticking only to the principles on which we are upholding. Let the truth speak for itself. Truth needs no help from the sidelines. Another good rule of thumb is to ask the question: “If everyone in the lodge were doing what this brother is doing, would it be a better lodge or a worse lodge?” The answer can help you to know when it is appropriate to speak with a brother instead of letting emotion drive your decision. If the decision is to speak to them, then reassure the brother that we are all working together for the common good and all is forgiven and or understood. Maintain confidences and work towards a resolution that is acceptable to all with an expectation of improvement and always offer help.

The last line of the charge admonishes us to defend our brother’s character. In this graceless age of name-calling, accusation and innuendo in faceless emails, text messages and whispers at the water cooler, we need to pay special attention to this last segment of the this sentence and be careful that we are not sending more brothers out the back door than we have coming through the front by our loose tongues and rude comments even when we feel justified. As mentioned above, we have come a long way from the social order of interdependency towards one another and along with that a natural appreciation, respect and care towards each other has suffered as a result. As society moves forward we are becoming autonomous creatures leaving us vulnerable to our weaker natures of selfishness and short sightedness, making it easier to speak ill of one another, share potentially embarrassing and unnecessary personal information or just pass on hurtful gossip. We have an obligation brothers to NOT do that and I know as you read this you all can recall both what has come into your ears that you know shouldn’t have and those things that have rolled off your tongue that you should have remained there. 

As we consider this line of the closing charge it is good to remember that we are the sum of all our parts. Both our actions and the actions of our brothers effect the craft in a profound way. We can either choose to improve our craft by our kind and supportive words and work as brothers to aid in the improvement of our society, our families, and our brotherhood or fall into the unbridled nature of the profane outside our doors. If we are to be the difference, it will start and end in the information we exchange and the attitude we assume, not just in the lodge room in the light but in dim hallways and parking lots. As brothers we want to surround ourselves with those who build each other up and give us strength and encouragement and avoid any conversations or comments that tear a brother down. Not only avoid but call out those who make such comments and remind THEM “in the most friendly manner” of their obligation to uphold and defend their brother’s character. We can be the difference and together strengthen and improve the fraternity as a whole and an example to the world outside our doors.


May God add light to this effort, 

W.B. John Lawson

Grand Chaplain

Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington  

A Brief History of Freemasonry: A New Model

After years of research I have begun to view the evolution of Freemasonry through the lens of a new theory of biological evolution called “punctuated equilibrium.” Punctuated equilibrium holds that evolution, change, in a species does not happen gradually but suddenly. In simple terms it holds that the relationship between a species and its environment reaches equilibrium, balance, and stays static until something changes in the environment and then the species will select only those members who can survive the change to reproduce. This results in a fossil record that shows that long periods of stability in a species with periods of rapid change, then long periods of stability.

In the case of Freemasonry I have found a similar process at work. I have broken the development of the Craft into five distinct periods, each initiated by an event that demanded evolution or extinction. These five periods or eras are, Operant Craft Masonry, Pre-Speculative Masonry, Speculative Masonry, Post-speculative Masonry, and Philanthropic Masonry. I like to imagine each of these stable periods as mountain lakes, ending at a waterfall and feeding the next lake. The waterfalls represent the change or crisis that caused an in-equilibrium (instability) that required the Craft to evolve.

picOperant Craft Masonry (ends in 1350) is exactly what it sounds like, stonemason guilds working to build the great stone structures of Europe’s medieval period. This period is characterized by the lack of “accepted masons” and that the work of these masons was centered on construction. In this period masons would move from one job site to another, thereby making Lodges temporary entities that were literally lodges for living and working. Part of what brought stability to this period was the feudal style of government based on the manorial system. In this period the State and the Church limited social mobility. This stable period was ended by the impact of three environmental factors, climate change (Europe cooled considerably), the great famine (caused by climate change) and the Black Death. These three forces all hit in about 50 years and saw Europe’s population drop by more than half. That drop in labor resulted in competition for the remaining work force, enabling the common man and the craftsman to seek better pay and better living conditions. It also saw the beginnings of towns or burgs, which were often governed in part by guild members.

The Pre-Speculative Era (1350-1642) is defined by the decline in the masonic guilds being focused exclusively on construction, the first appearance of “accepted” masons, the involvement of mason’s in the community beyond just building (burgesses in the towns for example), the fixing of Lodges in one geographic location, and a growing interest in the Craft’s mysteries.

The period between 1350 and 1642 saw the beginning of the renaissance, the protestant reformation, the English civil wars, and the growth of the middle class. European educated elite were obsessed with the previously lost knowledge of the Classical age that was flowing back into Western Europe after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

pic 1Masonic lore held that as a Craft it’s science (geometry/ architecture) had come to them from Euclid and Hermes Trismegistus (See the Cooke Manuscript circa 1425). When gentlemen scholars, already hungry for more ancient wisdom, learned this they were naturally curious about what else was held secret in masonry. Amongst the “accepted masons” a new type of mason shows up “speculative” masons, who tended to be from among the educated nobles of Europe.

In 1599 William Shaw the Warden of Masons in Scotland issued his statues. There were two elements to the Statues that initiated the change that would create the “Speculative era”. First he fixed Lodges in geographic locations, as we know them today and he called Masons to include the “art of memory” in their instructions.

pic 2The art of memory was more than just memorizing lines in a ritual, but was an integral part of a spiritual system called “Hermeticism. ” Hermeticism takes its name from Hermes. The subject of hermeticism could easily fill volumes on its own, so I will not dive to deeply here, except to say it touches on topics like astrology, alchemy and Kabbalah. It seems that Shaw had met with famous hermeticist Giordano Bruno, and had been influenced by him. In the Shaw Statutes we see the codified origin of much of the mystical component we know in modern Masonry. Shaw’s motivations for writing these Statutes is unfortunately lost as he died three years later. What we do know is that the stage was set for the great golden age of masonry. It’s important to note that the appearance of Hermetic subjects in the Lodge coincided with its appearance in society in general.

The Speculative Era (1650-1826) was initiated by two events; the Protestant Reformation and the English Civil war. This era is marked by the decline of operative masons, and the ascendance of speculative masons. Back near the end of the Operant era, just before the Templars were arrested the French King Philip manipulated events so that he could place his ally on the throne of St Peter (the Pope). Over the next few years the Papacy was moved from Rome to Avignon (1309-1377), so that the King of France could control the Pope. Eventually the Italians named an alternative Pope and for a few decades there was two Popes. These popes famously wrestled for power including but not limited to efforts to use sorcery to defeat their each other. Of course this weakened the sanctity of the Papacy in the eyes of Europeans, and when combined with papal abuses of power obvious during this period a resistance to the power of Rome began to grow, culminating in Martin Luther’s famous 99 theses (1517) that initiated the Reformation.

pic 3Protestant or Catholic was the question that decided what side of numerous wars your nation would be on. At the same time, the right of a King to rule based on ‘divine right’ came into question, leading to the second great conflict of this period namely whether kings or parliaments would rule. These competing forces tore Europe apart for over a century.

During this period of uncertainty Masonry, for the most part, seems to have attracted men from both (all four) camps and is probably the source of our prohibition against religion and politics being discussed in Lodge. That said, it is clear from the public lives of many of our Brethren of this period like Benjamin Franklin and François Marie Arouet (Voltaire) that the topic of democracy was important to them and they were active in bringing it to fruition in both the American and French Revolutions. I personally believe it was the safety of association that our tyled lodges provided that was the incubator of much that developed in this period.

The list of prominent Freemasons of this era reads like a who’s who list of revolutionaries, scientist, and reformers of the period. While there is little evidence that Masonry as an order conspired to change the world, there is substantial evidence that the lessons and tenets of Freemasonry held in the hearts and minds of her members did change the world through their participation in many reforming political movements.

Unfortunately with the fame that came to the order during this era were planted the seeds that were nearly her undoing. Three events that occurred between 1776 and 1826 created the crisis that caused our next evolutionary adaptation. The Illuminati, founded in 1776, the French Revolutions de-evolving into the Terror 1789, and the Morgan Affair 1826 all cast a very dark shadow over our order in the eyes of many non-members and the backlash almost destroyed Masonry.

pic 4The French revolution (1789-1799) had many causes, but primary among them was the poverty experienced by society that was caused by the Seven Years War (American French and Indian War) and the French participation in the American Revolution (1776-1784). In 1793 the results of the French Revolution degenerated into the Terror (1793-94). After the Revolution was over Freemasonry was accused of being the agitator that caused the revolution. Of course this is not true, but the accusation stuck in the minds of many non-masons.

The Bavarian Illuminati was an order founded on May 1, 1776 by Adam Weishaupt “to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.” From the start the Illuminati were associated with Freemasons and when they fell in to disrepute the association was exaggerated. In 1798 there was what is known as the ‘Illuminati Scare’ in New England, which held that the Illuminati were infiltrating and manipulating government. Combined with suspicions that they and Freemasons had orchestrated the French Revolution a general air of suspicion was building in the public eye toward Freemasons.

pic 5In 1826 a man named William Morgan threatened to publish all of the Masonic secrets he had learned as an initiate. Obviously there were Masons who spoke out against this action, and when Morgan was kidnapped and never seen again, it was assumed Freemasons murdered him. Several prominent Masons were accused of his murder and some did serve prison sentences. Today it is widely believed that individual Freemasons acting on their own murdered him, even though there was reports that Morgan survived and was sighted in Europe. In any event the entire episode set badly with the public and forever blemished the reputation of the order that opened this era with such prominence. It seemed that the claims of a worldwide Masonic conspiracy had been proven on the home front. In New York, where the Morgan Affair occurred, the number of Masons dropped by more than half. Soon after Americas first third political party was formed based on anti-masonic ideology.

The Post Speculative Era (1826-1945) opened with Masonry in decline. For the first time in it’s history being a Freemason was not necessarily a good thing. In the world Napoleon had finally been defeated and France was again a monarchy, America had defeated England in what has been called our second war of independence, and the tensions that would lead to the American civil war had begun to build.

Because of the negative publicity generated at the end of the Speculative era it was less common that a prominent politician would be actively, openly, involved in Masonry.

Most Masons would be at home in the Blue Lodges of this era, our rituals and customs being largely unchanged. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite had come to Charleston, from France, via Jamaica. The period of “higher degree” development ended and the AASR was composed of 33 degrees. While Freemasonry was recovering in some areas it had not regained the vitality it had known before the Morgan Affair.

pic 6After the Civil War a former Confederate general and polymath named Albert Pike ascended to the Grand Commander position of the Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR. In an effort to revitalize the fraternity Pike published in 1872 Morals and Dogma, a tome of 861 pages that was a compendium to the degrees of the order. By 1884 he had revised all the degrees, and the Scottish Rite blossomed into a vital and expanding rite.

The degrees are set in historical periods, teaching the moral, ethical and spiritual lessons in the context of antiquity. It is my opinion that by focusing so much of the degree work on ancient subjects Pike unintentionally focused the Craft on past glories. Even today, outside of the philanthropic activities of the craft, much of our scholarship and energy is devoted to the past, not the future. During the Speculative Era the luminaries of Freemasonry applied their energies to advancement of all mankind, thru democratic reforms, scientific discovery and social activism. While there are certainly examples of progressive masons today, where are the specifically Masonic contributions to the modern civil rights movement? Where is our great debate on the moral and ethical issues of our day? Has there been a presentation in your Lodge on scientific breakthroughs? In the last few years there have been many paradigm-shifting discoveries, have we shared in the excitement that they produced? How long after the end of the Civil War, after the Slaves were emancipated, after the African Americans got the vote before White Masonry recognized the Prince Hall Lodges? We certainly were not in the lead. Can you imagine the Freemasons of Franklin and Washington’s era being so slow to champion the cause of civil rights? The power of Pike’s contribution changed the course of the Craft, in order to save it from the ravages that came at the end of the previous era. Our prohibition against discussing politics in Lodge seems to have silenced our voice in world affairs. Its understandable, but perhaps its time to reevaluate.

This era ended with the last of the World Wars. The world had changed and Masonry was as affected as everything else. Unfortunately our retrograde focus left us playing catch up with the rest of the world.

pic 7I have named the next era the Philanthropic Era (1945 to present). It opens with thousands of men coming home from war looking for the fellowship they had known in war and found it in Masonry. In many lodges the numbers of members swelled, and many new Lodges were formed. These men brought a sense of public service and patriotism to the Craft, and from that the great Masonic charities grew. Today’s Lodges and concordant bodies raise millions of dollars each year to help the needy. Children’s hospitals, reading programs, support for widows and orphans. Today the face of Masonry is best recognized at the fundraiser.

Unfortunately the upheaval of the sixties saw a change in fortune for Masonry. While the men of the greatest generation flocked to Freemasonry their sons did not. The reasons could fill a book, and I will not go into them today. What is important here is that they did not join. Today, across America numbers are dropping as the men who joined in the 40s and 50s pass away. The threat to the Craft is as great as after the Morgan Affair. My own Lodge has lost approximate 40% of its membership in the last 10 years.

To further complicate things in the early 2000s Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci code, which later became a blockbuster movie. Nicolas Cage stared in National Treasure, another blockbuster. Both movies had components of the legends of Freemasonry, and as a result interest in our Fraternity grew again. Cable media has been flooded with pseudohistorical documentaries about Freemasonry and as I said in an earlier Blog a new story about Freemasonry is evolving that is not necessarily true and likely will not benefit the Craft in the long run.

What’s next? If the pattern I have described holds we are approaching another crisis. Diminishing numbers alone will threaten the Craft soon and combined with the false history that is being developed in the media we face a real dilemma.

But with crisis comes opportunity. We stand now at a threshold, we can choose to take a leadership role in the world once again. In addition to the great charities we support we are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in religious tolerance and we have 300 years experience with civility in debate. In a time of such angry bipartisan disagreement and disrespect we could be the example that shows the way forward. Once our great fraternity was leading man toward the great unification of humanity and I think the time has come for us to do that again. While I would willing admit in many small ways we still do, but in the larger sense we seem to have rested comfortably on our laurels for almost 200 years. During the early speculative era we provided Catholic and Protestant, Royalist and Parliamentarian a place to meet that was safe, based in their common humanity and belief in a God. From this grew the tolerance that today allows me a Buddhist to sit comfortably in Lodge with a Christian. As a Democrat I am able to enjoy the fellowship of Republicans. As a white southern man I can take the hand of an African American in friendship and brotherhood and as a scientist I can marvel at the wonders of the universe with a brother who defines himself as a religious man. Because of this experience, I can imagine the Masonic Temples becoming a place where the advancement of science could be presented to the public, a place where difficult topics that currently divide our Nation are discussed in a safe and civil manner. Perhaps the time has come for us to be the shepherds of society, protecting and guiding society to a better, calmer state, not a particular place, but along a particular path that honors the humanity of all people. I am encouraged by the efforts of progressive Masons who are calling for those of us who seek the Light to become the Light for others.

Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 3

image002By Worshipful John Lawson,

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington


In our third part of the masonic charge, we will look at just one line; “Remember that at this alter, you have promised to befriend and relieve every brother that shall have need of your assistance.”

You may notice as we move slowly through the charge, the emphasis and focus on gaining perspective. Not just a perspective of where you are or what the rules of the road are but a perspective of what is expected of you as a mason and a brother, a perspective on who YOU are. The first word in this sentence of the charge is to remember. That may seem obvious on its face but as with any transformation, there is a tendency to return to old habits and old behaviors and being inculcated many times is not just thorough but necessary as we go from being good men to better ones. All we have to do is look to nature and the laws of physics to observe this necessity. Take the master sword builders, free elements are forged together with extremely hot fire and the pressure of repeated hammer blows are combined in order for the folded metal to submit to its new and useful combination and shape. It is the nature of the elements to return to their natural state without firm and deliberate effort to change them. In the same way, the mind is a battleground. We begin with good intentions but often find ourselves returning to our previous undisciplined state.

All across the human brain are millions of gliocytes on the cerebral cortex. The literal meaning of gliocyte is “seen and heard”. This is the nuts and bolts of memory, this is where memory is housed and these gliocytes are connected by an amazingly complex network that we refer to as our neuronet. If we can think of the surface of the brain as vast map of interconnecting freeways, hiways, byways, and hiking trails of various sizes connecting these gliocyte destinations, we have a basic understanding of what memory looks like. This combination of flesh, electronic impulses and nerves stimulating these gliocytes and recalling what they have “seen and heard” makes up our “world view” and our minds operate within that framework.

Inside each of us, our subconscious operates independently in the background. The subconscious is like the attitude gage of a plane or a thermostat in your house. It takes in all the stored memory in the gliocytes and connected by the neuronets and determines what it must do to correct and maintain a comfort zone of what it believes our self-image is based on what it has collected. The subconscious becomes a gate keeper who maintains within us that comfort zone. When we move out of our comfort zone by some behavior that is “not like us”, we often manifest physical symptoms, nervousness, anxiety, a sour stomach, embarrassment, guilt, etc. the subconscious says, “Get back to where you belong” and in an effort to be comfortable, we most often comply. We have been told to “listen to the voice of our conscience and it will keep you from doing something wrong” and there is truth to that but unfortunately the truth of the matter doesn’t stop there. In the pages of the book of sacred law we are reminded that “whatever a man thinketh, so is he”. In other words, our self-image made up of all the thoughts recorded in all the gliocytes on the cerebral cortex of the brain directs our behavior and we act in accordance of who we believe we are and we are motivated to move in the direction in which we think is in harmony with that self-image. This thinking is referred to as teleological thinking and what we think about the most, wins in the end, even if those thoughts are NOT in our best interest.

So, what do we do, knowing that we are operating on millions of memories that make up our self-image that directs the course of our decisions and moves us? How do we forge our elements into the steel blade of a useful implement when our subconscious is telling us to get back to where we belong even when getting back is less than who want to become? How do we train the mind to move in a new direction when we have been asleep at the wheel but now realize that we need to take on a new direction?

The good news is that much of masonry teaches the mind through mnemonics. Great and noble philosophical ideals are written in symbol and allegory for the subconscious to comprehend and then it is repeated through inculcation until the mind finds new pathways that lead our thoughts to those nobler destinations. This is part of what we call the mystic arts and is indeed a science and an ancient language unto itself. We are asked many times to “remember” and as we do each time, those old but good neuro-pathways and small weak gliocytes become stronger and more efficient. We are asked to remember our obligations. We are asked to memorize copious amounts of ritual. This strengthens those pathways and helps prepare us on our journey to become a better man. Over time, new pathways that lead to better thinking open and old thoughts that did not serve us well shrivel and are replaced with new gliocytes that have strong memories of those noble ideals and we begin to “default” to those as we recall them over and over.

In this case, each and every time you are preparing to leave the lodge, you are asked to remember that at this altar, you have promised to befriend and relieve every brother who shall have need of your assistance. But what is unique about a masonic alter that we should remember in particular “this altar” Let me share with you this excerpt from Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood

In the center of the lodge stands the Altar. It should be cubical in shape, and about three feet in height, and it should have horns at each corner to suggest, in light of a hoary usage, that it is a place of refuge. On the East, the South, and the West should be placed one of the representatives of the three Lesser Lights, but never on the North, for that is the place of darkness. On its top, in due arrangement, should lie the three Grand Lights. Thus arranged it may well be considered “the most important article of furniture in a lodge room,” and the ground whereon it stands as “the most holy place.” Too universal in its use, both through space and time, to admit of our tracing its history here we must content ourselves with some reference to the ideas embodied in it. To this end let us remember, here and everywhere, that the Masonic life is not that which occurs in the lodge rooms alone, for that is but its allegorical picture, its tracing-board; but it is that which a Mason should do and be in all circumstances, under the inspiration of the Fraternity and its teachings. Thus understood the Altar standing in the center of the Masonic lodge is the symbol of something that must operate at the center of the Masonic life.

Often serving as a table whereon the worshipper may lay his gifts to God, the Altar may well remind us of the necessity of that human gratitude which leads us to return to Him the gifts He has showered upon us. This is that teaching of stewardship found in all religions to remind us that our very lives are not our own, having been bought with a price, and that our talents are held in trusteeship to be rendered again to Him to whom they belong. Thus stated, I know, the matter may sound bald and even unappealing, but once we encounter a man who lives his life as a stewardship held in the frail tenure of the flesh, we see to what high issues the character of man may ascend; such personalities carry an atmosphere about with them as of another world, and radiate influences that are light and fragrant. Surely, a man who denied this in his practices can never serve as a living Building Stone in Masonry’s Temple!

In its proper sense also the Altar serves as a sanctuary, a place of refuge, and this too has much to tell us, though I am aware of the dangers of moralizing. In the earlier centuries of our era, before the complete development of common law, the hunted criminal, fleeing from his pursuers, would escape to a church and there lay hold of the horns of the Altar; in that he found safety, and an opportunity to prove his innocence, if innocent he was. Out of this arose the beautiful customs of “sanctuary,” the chivalrous unselfish harboring of the weak, the sorrowful, and the afflicted. Is there not a sanctuary in Masonry? Certainly there is, for in the Fraternity itself, in the privacy of its inner fellowships, a brother will often find rest for his heart and relief from the bruising of the world; and a man is no true Mason in whose nature there is not at least one inner chamber in which the weary may find rest and the weak may have protection.

More than a table for gifts and a place of sanctuary the Altar has from of old served as the station of sacrifice, and this usage also is recognized in our symbolism, for therein we are taught that the human in us, our appetites, our passions, yea our life itself if need be, must be laid down in the service of man and the glory of God. How otherwise could Masonry remain Masonry if it is “the subjugation of the human that is in man, by the Divine?”

Of the Altar as a place of prayer we have already spoken, but in this connection we may well ponder a paragraph from Dr. J. F. Newton, composed of those lucid sentences of which he is a master:

“Thus by a necessity of his nature man is ever a seeker after God, touched at times with a strange sadness and longing, and laying aside his tools to look out over the far horizon. Whatever else he may have been—vile, tyrannous, vindictive—the story of his long search after God is enough to prove that he is not wholly base. Rites horrible, and even cruel, may have been a part of his early ritual, but if the history of past ages had left us nothing but the memory of a race at prayer, they would have left us rich. And so, following the good custom of the great ones of former ages, we gather at our Altar lifting up hands in prayer, moved thereto by the ancient need and aspiration of our humanity. Like the man who walked in the grey years of old, our need is for God, the living God, whose presence hallows all our mortal life, even to its last ineffable homeward sigh which men call death.”

With right understanding of the great nature of the alter before us and what it symbolizes throughout the ages of ancient masonry, it becomes easy to befriend and relieve every brother who has need of our assistance not as an act of pity or kindness alone but as a an act of worship.

May The Great Architect of the Universe add his blessing to this work,

Worshipful John Lawson

Grand Chaplain

Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

33 Historical Films Every Freemason Should See

I’m that nerd that has a running list of every one of the best films to understand the history of the western world. Some day, I’ll rewatch them all from beginning to end. But in the meantime, something that I’ve noticed is that a lot of ignorance exists around the time period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the founding of the United States for many American Freemasons.

In order to understand the role American Freemasonry plays in history, I feel like every Freemason in America should at least watch the following 33 historical films, series, and documentaries…

  1. Agora – Starring Rachel Weiss. Set in Alexandria, Egypt, this film covers the rise of Christianity, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, and the decline of the study of the liberal arts and sciences.  
  2. The Last Legion – Depicts the legionary formation of early British kingdoms from the ashes of the Roman Empire.
  3. King Arthur – This is the dramatic retelling of the Arthur legend, following the most historically plausible inspiration of events. A Roman legionnaire named Artorius stays behind after the Roman retreat out of Briton in order to defend the natives from the invading Saxons.
  4. Arthur (In Search of Myths and Legends) – This documentary essentially identifies three historical individuals who are the most likely inspirations for the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, which have become a defining narrative for the English people. Freemasonry as it is formed today can trace some of its roots to the chivalric organization born out of Arthurian legend, adopted into the British monarchy and later infused into Freemasonry as we know it.
  5. Charlemagne (mini-series) – Alright, so it’s not great production quality… or casting… and the script feels forced. However, there isn’t much out there on the first emperor of the Holy Roman empire, which is unfortunate because on Christmas Day 800, he was crowned Emperor of Europe and created much of the orders of chivalry that inspired a good portion of the organizational structure later adopted into Freemasonry. In particular, knights, barons, earls and dukes were given hereditary military titles and ranks to ensure perpetual readiness to defend against Viking invaders.  
  6. Vikings (Series) – This series is great for those Game of Thrones lovers out there. This particular story ties the historical events of the Viking invaders of England (beginning in 793) and France (845). While the main character, Ragnar Lothbrok, is a historical character, his exploits have been muddied by legendary embellishments, so he probably gets credit for more than he ought. The series identifies Rollo, as his brother. I love this, because thanks to, I know that Rollo was one of my ancestors. He conquered northern France, then converted to Christianity and was given the title of Duke of Normandy after changing his people’s name from Norsemen to Norman after their conversion.
  7. The Last Kingdom – This slightly more historically accurate conclusion to the Viking invasions of England features the rise of Alfred the Great, originally from Wessex. It was Alfred who was able to defend the island by importing stonemasons from Paris (which, in Gallic literally means “the builders”). Alfred is also discussed in the Legend of York, a foundational primary source of the origins of Freemasonry, according to Mackey.
  8. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 – Alright, so we’ve avoided documentaries up to this point, but it’s history and there is no way around it. This one establishes the history of England as dictated by the kings, and contextualizes the events that led up to a united England by the Norman Conquest under William The Conqueror. This series essentially gets you caught up on what happened between 950 and 1100.
  9. Pillars of the Earth (mini-series) – Now we enter the Ridley Scott grouping. If I were a betting man, I would say he is a Freemason due to much of the subject matter he chooses to film, and how he goes about doing it. This series is derived from Ken Follet’s body of work in historical fiction, and follows the parallel lives of kings, clergy and stonemasons who all have vested interests in the construction of a cathedral in England. This film documents in detail the life of operative masons, and contextualizes what that means on a very practical, and human level. Follet is a strong storyteller, which comes through in Ridley’s portrayal.
  10. Kingdom of Heaven – This is another Ridley Scott film with a dynamite cast, and an even better script — I recommend watching the Director’s Cut. The story follows the bastard son of a French knight, who is recruited by his father to come to the Holy Land and become a baron. He becomes a key player in the conflict between the Christian kingdom in Jerusalem during the Crusades and the Philosopher King of Egypt (and eventual conqueror of Jerusalem), Saladin. I’ll be honest, Saladin is my favorite character in this film, and despite the fact he only has a few lines, I was inspired to buy and read everything I could about him after seeing this film.
  11. Robin Hood – Ridley, yet again. This film picks up a few short years after Kingdom of Heaven, which ends with King Richard (yes, the Lionheart) on his way to to try to retake Jerusalem (unsuccessfully) from Saladin. The story begins with the return and untimely demise of the king and and how that threw Robin of Loxley (a.k.a. Robin of the Hood) into the conflict with King John, which eventually lead to the creation of the Magna Carta. Something to note is that that Ridley goes out of his way to draw the connection between Magna Carta and the masons by way of Robin Hood’s father.
  12. Ironclad – Finally, a film by a different director. After the signing of the Magna Carta, several knights were assigned to enforce it upon King John — most of which were Templars. This story follows the battle that became the demise of King John, a drawn-out siege of a keep in Southeast England, fortified by Thomas Marshal. The one thing that bugs me with this film is that the filmmakers essentially merged the lives of the real Marshal and another of my ancestors, Robert de Ros, who was charged with defending the north of England. Unlike de Ros, Marshal wasn’t actually made a member of the Knights Templar until long after his military career as an honor that ensured his burial in Temple Church in London.
  13. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episode 5 – Alright let’s face it, this is just to give some context to Braveheart.
  14. Braveheart – While there is plenty this is wrong with this world favorite from the prime of Mel Gibson’s ascent up the rollercoaster of favor, such as the fact that he wore a kilt, or hooked up with a princess who in real life would have been like 8 years old and living in France, the social political events are pretty accurate. …Oh yeah, and there is the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which the filmed without a bridge, which is confusing.
  15. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 1: Episods 6 – Continuing the thread!
  16. Henry V – A Shakespearean classic during the 100 Years War and the English conquest of the French. The 100 Years War began with invention of the longbow, and ended with the invention of the cannon. The result was the permanent cultural and political split between the higher courts of England and France and the formation of a uniquely English identity.
  17. Joan of Arc – The French side of the story of Henry V. Every script is different though, so don’t expect Shakespeare.
  18. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episodes 1, 2 – The Wars of the Roses may have come to the minds of history buffs while watching season one of Game of Thrones. The basic story is that there was a power vacuum and cousins fought for the throne. Ultimately, it settled with Henry VIII’s dad winning and marrying the princess of the rival party, which leads us to the next mini-series.
  19. The Tudors (mini-series) – Arguably one of the most entertaining and well-produced series on this list. We’ve all heard about the most scandalous and bombastick king in England, but few films document not only the events he catalyzed, which separated Protestant from Catholic, but also the personal struggles that greatly impacted his decisions and ultimately, the course of the English empire.
  20. Borgia (mini-series) – Much of the history of Europe is dictated by Rome, including many of the events that led to divisions of countries and even the religion itself. The Borgia family rose to power during the 15th century, as immigrants from Spain. Their lives tell the story of the inner workings of the Vatican and its impact on the affairs of all of Europe.
  21. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 3 – In order to understand the succession of the three Tudor children to the throne, eventually culminating with Queen Elizabeth I, the stories of the political backdrop, paired with the life stories of both Edward and Mary are fundamentally necessary.
  22. Elizabeth – Arguably the greatest queen in European history, Elizabeth reveals the story of how Elizabeth I became queen and eventually restacked her advisors and crafted her persona into the Virgin Queen.
  23. Elizabeth: Golden Age – The sequel to Elizabeth, this is the story of the middle years of her reign and defense of England against the Spanish and other outside forces. These events ushered in the Golden Age of England where the country become the dominate seafaring nation.
  24. Anonymous – Many theories exist about whether or not the works of WIlliam Shakespeare were actually written by the individual to whom we currently credit the works. This story suggests that the plays were written by someone with a far greater education and experience with Europe and travel, by imagining that the Earl of Oxford, who many believe actually wrote the works of Shakespeare, is indeed the author.
  25. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 4 – After Elizabeth’s death without an heir, the throne passed to her nephew, James Stuart of Scotland. The logistics of that succession are important, because two kingdoms were joined, thus creating the United Kingdom we know today.
  26. To Kill A King – This is arguably the most important historic film for Freemasonry because the framework we recognize as Freemasonry began to emerge during the events of this time. It is set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, which was waged by Parliament, representing the people, against their king, Charles I. Charles lost and was beheaded. Going king-less didn’t end up working out for the British people, but it did set events in motion that would give rise for the English enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.
  27. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 2: Episode 5 – This one is really just an elaboration on “To Kill A King”. I recommend watching this over the movie “Cromwell”, although Alec Guinness did play a great Charles I in that movie. After all, he looks just like him!
  28. Monarchy (documentary series) Series 3: Episode 1 – “The Return of the King”, otherwise known as The Restoration, was the English invasion by the beheaded king’s son, Charles II. After he was back on the throne at the age of 30, he reinstituted many of the old orders of knighthood and chivalry, as well as many innovations such as the royal society, and many say Freemasonry, itself.
  29. The Restoration – The events that surround the restoration of the British Monarchy are not only the decadence of King Charles II’s lavish parties, but they also featured great strides of science. Additionally, there were setbacks such as the Great Fire of London and another outbreak of the plague, which reshaped not only the social landscape of London, but also the physical landscape to make way for the city we now recognize.
  30. The Last King (mini-series) – While this does overlap with “The Restoration”, it gives a more detailed look at the friends and circles of Charles II. This society provided the groundwork for the height of the British Empire and the great advancements of the Scientific Revolution, and were made possible by the dismissal of Parliament and insider trading between England, France and the Netherlands.
  31. The Patriot – I’ve wanted to hate Mel Gibson for as long as I can, but love him or hate him, his movies have now ended up on this list, twice. While his character in “The Patriot” is fictional, the events and script aren’t half bad for an overview of the experience of a leader in the American Revolution.  
  32. John Adams (mini-series) – As far as a historical perspective of the American Revolution, there really isn’t any better set of films than this series. It follows the career of the 2nd President of the United States from the representation of British soldiers in court, to ambassador to France and England, and finally, to the Presidency. Oh, right! Also, an influential architect of the Declaration of Independence and the United States’ Constitution.
  33. Lafayette: The Lost Hero (documentary) – Probably the best note to leave with Freemasons would be the story of Lafayette. At just 17 years old, he was the richest man in France that was not in line for the throne. Lafayette met Benjamin Franklin at a Lodge, bought his own army and navy and sailed to support the American Revolution, becoming something like a son to George Washington.

Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons

Corner Laying Ceremony for 2-9 Kittitas County Fire and Rescue Facility

Ellensburg Fire Station Headquarters

Ellensburg, WA – July 10, 2016

Most Worshipful Grand Master, Grand Lodge Officers, Representatives of Kittitas County Fire and Rescue, Distinguished Guests, Friends, Brethren all.

It is with great pleasure to be here today to be a part of this ceremony for the City of Ellensburg 2-9 Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue Facility.

Our ancient and honorable fraternity, ancient , as having existed from time immemorial, and honorable, as tending to make all men so who are strictly obedient to its precepts.

It is an institution having for its foundation the practice of the social and moral virtues; and to so high an eminence has its credit been advanced, that, in every age and in very country, men pre-eminent for their moral and intellectual attainments have encouraged it and promoted its interests. Nor has it been thought derogatory to their dignity that monarchs have, for a season, exchanged the scepter for the trowel , to patronize our mysteries and join in our assemblies.”

The Masonic Cornerstone Laying Ceremony you have witnessed finds its way from hundreds of years ago. A truly historic event that marks the significance in the construction of a new building structure.

Though architects base their work by consciously using forms, fantasy and emphasizing extremely modern approaches to their designs; the traces of the ancient past will remain embedded within these building in the years to come.

Oftentimes, Freemasons are asked to dedicate proposed building structures for the purposes of protecting the lives and properties of its citizens as well as their health and welfare, education, religion, civic service, and the operations of government.

This was done by the Grandmaster by symbolically placing the cornerstone in its proper place, after which it is checked, or proven by the Junior Grand Warden, Senior Grand Warden, Deputy Grand Master and Grand Master respectively. They check the stone with a square, a level and a plumb not only to assure the stone itself fits properly but to remind all present of their virtue, equality, and rectitude. This was followed by the Masonic Consecration of the stone, a deeply symbolic ceremony during which the cornerstone, following ancient custom, was anointed with corn, wine and oil: corn representing abundance and plenty; wine the symbol of strength and gladness and oil representing peace and joy.

Ancient builders utilized the cornerstone as the reference point to precisely guide them in settting other foundation stones over another. It being the first stone placed above ground in the northeast corner of the building, it also serves as a control point from which all related stonework should be laid out.

However, this method of laying out building foundation became obsolete, when more precise instruments where introduced in the development of steel frame construction in the 20th Century.

This auspicious event for the City of Ellensburg also serves as another historic undertaking which officially began in 2006 when voters approved this City to annex into Kittitas County Fire District 2. Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue (KVFR) became operational on Janaury 1, 2007. It was the blending of two very active jurisdictions – City of Ellensburg Fire Department and Kittitas County Fire District 2. Both jurisdictions have a long and cooperative history in the lower Valley.

Concerned local citizens and volunteers such as yourselves are testaments of the ongoing effort & support of the vision dedicated to protecting the lives and property of the citizens of Kittitas County from the hazards of fire, explosion and life safety hazards by fostering a safe environment through inspection, enforcement, regulation, investigation, and public education.

All these are designed to reduce the deaths, injuries, and property losses of your county.

On behalf of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, I wish to thank Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue for inviting us, we wish you all the success and God Bless.

Respectfully Submitted,

WB George M. Franco

Grand Orator – 2016

Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 2


By Worshipful John Lawson,

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

In our first segment on the closing charge, we looked at the opening reminders that set the tone for the charge as a whole; that we are not only individuals but we are a part of a brotherhood of men and that specific expectations have been placed on us through our obligations, both within and without the doors of our lodge and that we are to be mindful of our relationships whomever we are with. In this second segment, we will look at the four specific admonishments to be temperate, prudent, diligent and discreet.

1.   Be temperate….

So what is it to “be temperate”?  The dictionary defines the word as showing moderation or self-restraint. We may immediately think of squaring our actions or keeping our passions within due bounds as another way of defining a temperate behavior. Self-control is fundamental to our spiritual development and maturity and reveals much about who we are and what we understand about ourselves and others. We may say we are responsible adults but our actions sometimes show us to be more child-like and self-indulgent and each of us knows our Achilles heels in the various areas of our lives and we need reminders on occasion to find that place of temperance within ourselves. We may well be able to operate respectably within the framework of society to suit the judgments of our peers even hiding well less civil feelings, but if we wish to grow further and become better men, even leaders of men and not let our passions be driven by our unbridled ego, we must face that truing of our stone if we can hope to become that perfect ashlar suited for that spiritual house not made with hands.

We sometimes think of intemperance as the over indulgence of food or drink or other such vices like gambling, but temperance crosses all aspects of our lives beyond just the obvious and sometimes we don’t realize where our intemperance truly is. In the context of the closing charge, being temperate is more about our actions in general. For instance, we may show self-restraint with our personal feelings in the lodge out of a sense of discipline or even peer pressure over a concern of how we look in public but how we act alone and unguarded reveals better our truer selves. A dispute or difference of opinion may come about during the course of  lodge business for example and we handle it with order and decorum appearing to be temperate, but soon we find ourselves alone or with one or two other like-minded brothers with coffee in hand, or in the hallway of the lodge or the parking lot, we let our guard down and we show our intemperance by letting loose our tongue and saying those things in private or behind the backs of our brother in whom we disagree that we would never want to reveal in public that could cause others to think differently about us. We may even indulge in making fun of or having a good laugh at the expense of another. That contrast between our greater selves and our lesser selves is exactly why we are admonished to be temperate. What we say in regard to one another in the parking lot reveals more about our true character as a brother mason than what we say and do in the light of the lodge room and those sharp edges that are revealed in our weakness are the ones we need to chip away so that we are the same in the dark as we are in the light, gaining fidelity and control over our passions. That takes work on our part and a genuine desire to keep our self in check both for ourselves and the good of the order.


2. Prudent…

Prudence, simply put, is acting with or showing care and thought for the future; to ask the question, is this in our best interest? Does this serve me? Will this better the Order? How will this impact my lodge or my brothers in the future? Prudence is marked by wisdom or judiciousness and is being shrewd in the management of practical affairs and marked by circumspection, according to Webster; what we might call forward thinking. Being able to clearly see a probable outcome is yet another important asset that each of us should strive for and is essential in leadership. When we part from the lodge, prudence in all our actions become an essential tool in our masonic toolbox. We should be known for clear thinking, fair judgment and good administrating and know how to administer all in our everyday dealings with all of mankind.

“Those who are invested with the power of judgment should judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration of the power of the mighty, or the bribe of the rich, or the needs of the poor. That is the cardinal rule, which no one will dispute; though many fail to observe it. But they must do more. They must divest themselves of prejudice and preconception. They must hear patiently, remember accurately, and weigh carefully the facts and the arguments offered before them. They must not leap hastily to conclusions, nor form opinions before they have heard all. They must not presume crime or fraud. They must neither be ruled by stubborn pride of opinion, nor be too facile and yielding to the views and arguments of others. In deducing the motive from the proven act, they must not assign to the act either the best or the worst motives, but those which they would think it just and fair for the world to assign to it, if they themselves had done if; nor must they endeavor to make many little circumstances, that weigh nothing separately, weigh much together, to prove their own acuteness and sagacity. These are sound rules for every juror, also, to observe.

In our intercourse with others, there are two kinds of injustice: the first, of those who offer an injury; the second, of those who have it in their power to avert an injury from those to whom it is offered, and yet do it not. So active injustice may be done in two ways—by force and by fraud,–of which force is lion-like, and fraud fox-like,–both utterly repugnant to social duty, but fraud the more detestable.

Every wrong done by one man to another, whether it affect his person, his property, his happiness, or his reputation, is an offense against the law of justice. The field of this Degree is therefore a wide and vast one; and Masonry seeks for the most impressive mode of enforcing the law of justice, and the most effectual means of preventing wrong and injustice.

To this end it teaches this great and momentous truth: that wrong and injustice once done cannot be undone” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 126). 

3. Diligent…

Diligence is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort. When we “join” the lodge, we commit ourselves to the goals and objectives of that lodge and in fact we learn that we ARE the lodge. We not only are proud to wear the emblems of the lodge on our jewelry, automobiles and on our clothing, but we have taken an irrevocable obligation at the alter to engage ourselves as fully as our cable tow allows in the works and goals of the lodge. The old saying “if you are going to wear the jersey, get into the game” comes to mind here and the sidelines are only meant for a very short rest. We are being admonished once again to remember our obligation as we prepare to leave. We represent the lodge, all our actions must reflect the lodge if we are to to represent it well to one another and to the world. The square and compass represent a fraternal brotherhood whose actions are square and whose passions are kept within due bounds and there must necessarily be a mindful and steady since of purpose within the hearts and minds of every brother, and a dedication of mission that carries us through our tasks and our behaviors.

Masonry is designed to afford us the opportunity to take on more and more responsibilities as we move from committee to committee and chair to chair. The beauty of its design is to convince us that we are far more capable than we first thought. As we graduate from smaller tasks to larger ones, we gain confidence and discover through steady and earnest efforts that there is little we cannot accomplish. From the day we start caring for the lodge and serving refreshments to the day we stand as Worshipful Master of the lodge, the graduated design and wisdom of masonry provides us with the perfect opportunity to learn and grow. It is said and it is true that masonry provides the opportunity for each of us to become a better man but it is equally true that we get out of the order what we put into the order so the more energetic the effort on our part the greater the impact masonry has on our lives and the lives of those in whom we impact as well.

4. Discreet…

Being discreet is one of the hallmarks of a mason. Showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech:  prudent; especially:  capable of preserving prudent silence. A mason should never be quick to judgment and should ever be the peacemaker in disputes using his keen powers of logic, reason and rhetoric. He should be concise and weigh his words carefully so that they clear and understood. Above all his words should be civil and courteous. We are warned in regard to our speech by this: “Wherever there is strife and hatred among the brethren, there is no Masonry; for Masonry is Peace, and Brotherly Love, and Concord” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 124).

Discretion in our communications has a form of eloquence to it that appeals to the hearts and minds of those in whom we intend to reach with our messages. “If you have Eloquence, it is a mighty force. See that you use it for good purposes—to teach, exhort, ennoble the people, and not to mislead and corrupt them. Corrupt and venal orators are the assassins of the public liberties and of public morals.” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 91).

And, “Your debates should be but friendly conversations. You need concord, union, and peace. Why then do you retain among you men who excite rivalries and jealousies; why permit great and violent controversy and ambitious pretensions? How do your own words and acts agree? If your Masonry is a nullity, how can you exercise any influence on others (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 186)

We must also not lose sight of the value of one another’s ideas and concepts. “Those who forget the rights of others, must not be surprised if their own are forgotten; and those who stoop to the lowest embraces of sense must not wonder, if others are not concerned to find their prostrate honor, and lift it up to the remembrance and respect of the world. To the gentle, many will be gentle; to the kind, many will be kind. A good man will find that there is goodness in the world; an honest man will find that there is honesty in the world; and a man of principle will find principle and integrity in the minds of others” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 193-194). Brethren, be discreet in your relationships with others.

In part 3, we will examine together the following lines of the charge, “Remember that at this alter, you have promised to befriend and relieve every brother who shall have need of your services. You have been enjoined to remind a brother in the most friendly manner of his faults, to endeavor to aid in his reformation and to defend his character.”

May the Grand Architect of All add his wisdom to this effort.

Most fraternally,

Worshipful John Lawson

Grand Chaplain of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

A Brother’s Plea

VWB Cameron M. Bailey
Deputy of the Grand Master District 17 F&AM of Washington

Like you, I knelt before the Altar of God and while there I made a Sacred and Solemn vow.  I vowed to hasten to the relief of any Freemason who gave a certain sign or uttered certain words.  This vow wasn’t limited by the length of my Cable Tow, or by any other factor beyond my own probable death.  I, like you, am given no choice but to respond.  Doing so is my most Sacred duty as a Freemason.

Well, in all my years in Freemasonry, I’ve never seen that sign given, nor heard those words uttered, except during a Degree, or when practicing for one.

I did however hear them spoken this past week though.  On national television.  I imagine that all of you have heard them by now too.

It was a plea, from a Brother, begging for Brotherhood.

I knew, instantly, that we must, collectively and as individuals respond.

I didn’t however, know how to do so, and in everything I was able to read about it, I saw that clearly everyone else was as confused about how we could respond as I was.  Clearly, we as Freemasons want to rush to our Brothers aid, but we don’t know how.

I have given this a tremendous amount of thought since hearing those words, and I hope that my thoughts are valuable to you.

What we know is that the Brother in question is from a legitimate and Recognized Grand Lodge.  His claim upon us is valid.  What I don’t know, is what his particular rank may be.  I’ve heard everything from DDGM to PGM.  For purposes of this newsletter, I’ll refer to him as Brother.  Not to offend, but simply out of my own ignorance as to what his full title might be.

Beyond that, I think I should point out that my Obligation, our Obligation to him is the same, it matters not if he is his Jurisdiction’s newest Master Mason, or their Grand Master.

This Brothers utterance of those specific words are in many ways like “A Shot Heard Round The World.”  Freemasons everywhere, Freemasonry as a whole, will either heed his plea with real action, or we will prove that our declining numbers and influence has rendered our Fraternity ineffective and powerless.

Our Brother has given us an extreme challenge.

It is however a challenge that Freemasonry is uniquely suited to answer.  This Brothers plea was against hatred, intolerance, and violence.  As the only organization in the world that seeks to unite all men into a single Brotherhood, irrespective of national origin, political creed, religious belief, color, and all other manufactured divisions, Freemasonry can stand against hatred and violence.  Freemasonry can and does teach the Brotherhood Of Man, Under The Fatherhood Of God.  Currently we teach this doctrine of Light to ourselves, now we must teach it to the wider world as well.

It is this teaching that makes Freemasonry, in the words of Albert Pike, “The Great Peace Society In The World.”

To head this Brothers plea, his plea that we all reach out and hold each other with the S.:G.: of the L.:P.: we must take action.  Serious action.

In my view, the first thing we must do, as Freemasons, is expunge racism from within our own ranks.  I am proud to be a member of the very first Grand Lodge in this nation to recognize the truth that a man of color can be a Freemason.  That action taken by our Grand Lodge so long ago didn’t hold, but we can be proud that our Grand Lodge tried.

I am also however ashamed that there still exist a small handful of United States Grand Lodges that practice racism, and prove that they do so by their refusal to recognize Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Racism is the real reason that some Grand Lodges don’t recognize Prince Hall.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with nonsensical notions such as Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction that isn’t even practiced in other countries.  Ignorance fuels racism and an institution that teaches the importance of Knowledge, Learning, and Light can not allow such ignorance to exist within our ranks.

It is my sincere hope, that much sooner than later, Grand Lodges around the world take steps to no longer Recognize that handful of Grand Lodges in the United States that refuse to recognize Prince Hall as Legitimate Freemasonry.

Those Grand Loges should not be Recognized as practicing Legitimate Freemasonry, because they are not in actuality doing so.  Any Grand Lodge that refuses to take an otherwise fully qualified Brother by the hand of Brotherhood because of his racial origins is not practicing Freemasonry.

If we do not purge these rogue Grand Lodges from our ranks, the rest of us will someday soon loose any legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and eventually our own membership.

If current Standards of Recognition will not allow racist Grand Lodges within the United States to be purged from the rolls of those that are Recognized, then the Standards must be changed.

Secondly, we must, each of us, as individual Freemasons, tone down our political rhetoric.

I do not care what side of the political fence you are on.  It is not proper, or Masonic to refer to the President of the United States as a Traitor.  To refer to the Republican nominee as a Lunatic, or the Democratic nominee as a Bitch.

Those insane and radical comments do nothing but fuel the division this nation is suffering under, and that division is what is driving the violence we see every day.  Not all young black men are thugs.  Not all police officers are racists.  Not all Trump supporters hate people from Mexico, and not all Clinton supporters excuse criminal activity.  In fact, in all of these cases, only a tiny minority are or do.

You would never know it from the rhetoric.  The rhetoric paints everything, and everyone with a single broad brush.  Those who repeat such rhetoric, as if it were fact, do nothing but proclaim their own ignorance to the world.

As Freemason’s, let’s not do that.  If we have done it, let’s stop.  If we haven’t, let’s make sure that we don’t start.  Let us recognize that the overwhelming majority of people, on the Right and on the Left are good people who want nothing more but a better future for their children.

Let us also be smart enough to recognize that artificial divisions within our society are extremely profitable for our political class.  You can trust me on this, I am after all a member of that political class, I understand how it works.

It doesn’t matter what the issue is, political groups just want to divide society into two halves.  They manufacture an issue, get folks all outraged about it, and then raise shockingly huge sums of money to ‘fight’ whatever it may be.

Take the ‘transgender bathroom issue’ that was such a hot topic earlier this year.  It wasn’t a real issue, I assure you that transgender folks have been using the bathroom that matches their appearance for decades and decades.  All of the sudden though, it was an ISSUE, there was OUTRAGE, and millions upon millions of dollars were raised by both sides so that they could ‘fight’ to ‘protect’ whatever side one happened to be on.

These nonsensical ‘issues’ are created by the political class, simply to create outrage, because that translates to dollars.  Those who create these ‘issues’ don’t see folks who give them money as people to protect, they see them as pawns.

Don’t be a pawn, and don’t post hateful rhetoric that divides our nation and our world when we should be working to unite it.

Freemasonry teaches the Brotherhood of Man, Under the Fatherhood of God.  By doing so it unites men of every nation, every political affiliation, every religious belief.

Let us, as individual Freemasons stand against division and against violence.  Let us stand for Brotherhood and unity.

Our individual stand might not be very powerful, but our families and our friends may learn from our example, and may start to stand with us as well.

Even more importantly, if millions upon millions of Freemasons all stand together, stand against violence in all its forms, stand for peace, stand in opposition to discord and for unity.  We will, as a Fraternity make a difference.

We will have heeded our Brother’s call.


VWB Cameron M. Bailey
Deputy of the Grand Master District 17 F&AM of Washington

Thinking of Running for an Elected Position?

Brethren of the Jurisdiction of Washington: Are you interested in putting your name forward for consideration as our next Junior Grand Warden or Grand Secretary? How about serving on the Grand Lodge Building Association or maybe as a Trustee of Washington Masonic Charities? If so, you will want to attend an informational session being hosted by the Grand Master at the Grand Lodge Office on Sunday, August 7th, from Noon to 3:00. This will be a great opportunity to find out about each position in great detail, the expected commitment of personal time & resources, and to ask questions. If you are married, you should also bring your spouse as your decision to serve will impact her as well. If you are planning on attending, please email As your Statement of Availability will be due in the Grand Lodge Office by September 1st, you will want to make the time to attend this informational session.

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