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 ancestry.com, 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

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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 chantal@freemason-wa.org. 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.

Prayers for Dallas and our Nation

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By Worshipful John Lawson,

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

"Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." —Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

“Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”
—Norman Rockwell, Red Mountain Lodge No. 63, Vermont

Our beautiful country of diverse individuals making up a masterpiece of mosaic hope, peace and harmony can on occasions such as these shocking recent tragedies be lost in the horror of blind hatred, pitting us one from the other.

Our democracy requires vigilant effort on each of our parts not as much in the streets of protest but within our minds and hearts to hold fast to those values that we believe in as Americans and to always let love guide our actions and not let the …darkness overcome our light.

Masonic brother Norman Rockwell saw this country with a beautiful perspective and shared his talents in reminding us of the great gift we have been given in America to demonstrate to the world the strength of the one made out of the many. Each with its irreplaceable value to the next.

As we pray for those who have been unjustly killed in these most recent events, let us not forget the Golden Rule that is taught by every race and religion around the world. May the Grand Architect protect us from ourselves in our times of weakness and remind us of our strength and obligations to another.

W.B. John Lawson
Grand Chaplain,
Most Worshipful Grand Lodge
Of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Anatomy of the Masonic Charge, part 1

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By Worshipful John Lawson,

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

 

As Grand Chaplain, it is my privilege to focus on spiritual ideals to the masonic brethren in the state of Washington. As I begin this series of communications, let me first say thank you to each of you who have, on your own free will and accord, chosen to walk a different path and accept the clarion call of the fraternity to strive to be a better man. One of the distinctions of our craft is that we do not solicit for members and even at that, when those come to our door of their own volition to petition membership, we take the time to examine each man to determine a proper fit for the order and for the individual. In the end, no brother is within our ranks without a genuine desire nor due examination.

One of the greatest and most rewarding products of our care in membership is that we attract and retain like-minded men who have a love for fraternity and respect for one another. But even having said that, we are not nearly perfect and in a constant state of improvement, striving to chip away the rough edges and make good men better men and nothing is a better reminder of the attributes we strive for than the closing charge at our meetings.

Not all masonic ritual is in cipher nor is it intended to be in secret and that is the case for “the closing charge”. The charge is exactly what it implies, it is a list of action items, those last final instructions, and those strong reminders of who we are as masons and as men and how we should operate throughout our life both in and out of the lodge. It reminds each of us as brothers the opportunities and responsibilities we are obligated to, first to God, then to the craft, then to the brothers, and then to all of mankind. The charge is simple in its construction and it is straightforward in its message, perhaps so much so that we might glaze over its meaning or even be tempted to rush through it on some long meeting nights. I believe that our charge contains the very sum of our craft and its tenets should not only be put to memory by every mason, (officer or not), but should be understood as clear instruction particularly when it comes to our civility with one another and the world.

Having said this, I would like to take the opportunity over these next numbers of communications with you to look line by line to see the charge in detail. As you participate with me, you may find that you have not always given enough thought to its meanings or implications or heard it challenge you to examine your thoughts and actions against its important council. So let’s begin, line by line.

Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the outer world among its concerns and employments.”

The very first word, “brethren” reminds us that we are more than an individual, we are part of a brotherhood and that we are not separate but rather we are the sum of all our parts, we are “brethren”, equal and on the level, making up a group of like-minded individuals who want for ourselves and our world, a better version of ourselves and our society.

Outside the doors of the lodge, we are individuals that often break up into small groups or clicks and we create barriers between one another, even enemies. We label ourselves as different from on another based on all manner of social, political, and religious affiliations and we complete against each other for diverse goals which can lead to conflicts. But in the lodge we are to find a place of neutrality that is on the level with one another, a brotherhood of men individually chipping away at the sharp edges of our own rough ashlar and making ourselves living stones suitable for the builders work. We learn that no man is an island and that we both effect and are effected by one another both positively and negatively and that one man’s success or failure affects us all and also that working together, we can accomplish much. That takes a civil mind in which mutual respect and appreciation for the station of another is essential.

When we think of improving our brotherhood, we sometimes forget this and look outwardly to see what or who needs improvement seldom looking inwardly to see that we are a part of that whole. Yet, when we realize that we are part of many others making up a spiritual building suitable for god’s work, it necessarily causes us to look inward and that examination causes us to work to improve ourselves so that we all fit together perfectly. Masonry is a science of perfecting our society and our relationships with one another as a brotherhood and as a fraternity and civility is at its heart.

“Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the out world among its concerns and employments.”

Sacred: 1. devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated. 2. entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things; holy.

Retreat: a. The act or process of moving back or away, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant: made a retreat from hectic city life to the country.

Here is a question to ponder as you think of your last lodge meeting.  Is your lodge suitably set aside for the work of spiritual transformation? Perhaps you have never thought of a meeting in this way. Have you ever been involved in a ritual or an initiation in which there is chattering or perhaps side comments, causing chuckles from the sideline in what otherwise might be thought of as a serious undertaking? Have you noticed how it can take away from the focus of what the ritual is trying to help you achieve? The contrast can, on occasion, be stark. On the one hand, a beautiful liturgy written long ago by insightful men in whom we venerate and admire who’s words have been carefully chosen to instill into the mind the most sublime of virtues, while on the other hand profane banter creeps into our work and distracts us from our purpose there, stealing our light and at that moment the solemnity the craft is lost and the lodge begins to behave and function like the profane and mundane world outside its doors. But, have you been to a lodge meeting where everything went smoothly and everyone’s minds were focused on the purpose of that event? Something magic happens if we allow ourselves to be become transformed. It’s a kind of mental-spiritual alchemy of sorts, the strange but wonderful nature of the craft and in that moment the lodge becomes a “sacred retreat of friendship and virtue” with everyone on the level, upright and true; a truly unique space, a sacred retreat and that is what we should be creating each and every lodge meeting.

“Brethren, we are about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue to mingle again in the outer world among its concerns and employments.”

The implication here is a reminder that the world outside of the walls of the lodge sometimes operates on less than the civility we enjoy together. Never before has our lives been so full of stress and distraction even though much of that is self-induced. We have our google calendar at the ready to know exactly where and when we should be at our next activity or meeting and many times end up making everyone else happy at the expense of our own by spreading ourselves thin sometimes making civility a rare commodity. The concerns and employments of the world are endless, like a dog chasing its tail we run. In today’s culture, our homes are mostly blended through divorce and there continues to be social changes, political and economic stresses that effect each of us at every turn. Even the breakfast and dinner table have become a luxury and not a given. Our work is demanding and even after our work life is over our retirement hours fly by with every conceivable good intention swallowing up the sand in our hourglass. We have hundreds of organizations clamoring for our full-time attention of time or money or both and it becomes almost natural to bring that world and it’s liabilities into the lodge.

But the lodge is purposely not that. The lodge is like a school set aside from the maelstrom of the world’s concerns. It affords us by its very structure, a microcosm in which to learn and grow and become better able to interact with one another both inside and outside the lodge.  In fact for much of the history of the lodge it was referred to as the “masonic temple” although that descriptor has lost favor over the years as society continues to secularize itself away from all things religious. The word temple, however is an insightful descriptor of the lodge.  Old English templ, tempel, reinforced in Middle English by Old French temple, both from Latin templum ‘open or consecrated space.’ Almost always, the temple is oriented to heavenly bodies and immolates the patterns and perfect geometric and predictable movements of the heavens. A temple is designed to “reset” one’s course and give perspective and direction in perfect harmony with the universe around it. Albert Pike mixes no words on the subject of the lodge and the public in this comment….

“A man may be a good sort of man in general, and yet a very bad man in particular: good in the Lodge and bad in the world; good in public, and bad in his family; good at home, and bad on a journey or in a strange city. Many a man earnestly desires to be a good Mason. He says so, and is sincere. But if you require him to resist a certain passion, to sacrifice a certain indulgence, to control his appetite at a particular feast, or to keep his temper in a dispute, you will find that he does not wish to be a good Mason, in that particular case; or, wishing, is not able to resist his worse impulses” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 151).

Such is the condition of man who struggles between passion and duty and so we are reminded to….

Forget not those duties that have been so frequently inculcated and so forcefully recommended in this lodge”

The charge implies that the world’s demands can drown out what we have learned to be our obligation in the lodge and that a necessary reminder of a brother’s duties are in order as he leaves the lodge room. Brotherly love, relief and truth can sometimes be hard ideals to find operating in the outer world so we are reminded NOT to forget. We are reminded here that we have a certain responsibility and duties that lays claim to us that asks more than what might otherwise come natural to us. It can also be implied here that we are to remember those tenets that we have learned and that they have application outside our tiled walls because as men, they are sometimes easily forgotten outside our tiled doors.

“Forget not those duties that have been so frequently inculcated and so forcefully recommended in this lodge.

  • Humans can be stubborn creatures, rebellious in nature and free spirited making it difficult to gain favor over our attention. Repetition and illustration are one of the notable teaching tools of the craft. To “inculcate” is to teach (someone) an attitude, idea, or habit by persistent instruction. As much as we would like to think that our bodies are separate from our thinking, the reality is that they are hardwired together. “Whatever a man thinketh, so is he” the Bible teaches and goes on to say, “Do you not know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”.
  • From a purely biological and physiological sense, we move towards the things we think about the most because we exercise those thoughts and they create larger more complex neuropathways in the brain making certain thoughts and behaviors our “default” behavior or our habits. Just as when we go to the gym to exercise our bodies to build up our muscles, we come to lodge and exercise our minds and improve our thinking and perfect our thoughts and therefore our actions. As we do, those pathways literally increase in size and become our default neuropathways. We do this first out of desire and discipline but soon after frequent inculcation, our thinking and behavior slowly begins to change and we take on the values that have been so forcefully recommended in our lodge. Our minds begin to change and so our thoughts and our actions follow.

Once again, Albert Pike offers these insights….

What is that Thought? It is not Matter, nor Spirit. It is not a Thing; but a Power and Force. I make upon a paper certain conventional marks, that represent that Thought. There is no Power or Virtue in the marks I write, but only in the Thought which they tell to others. I die, but the Thought still lives. It is a Power. It acts on men, excites them to enthusiasm, inspires patriotism, governs their conduct, controls their destinies, disposes of life and death. The words I speak are but a certain succession of particular sounds, that by conventional arrangement communicate to others the Immaterial, Intangible, Eternal Thought. The fact that Thought continues to exist an instant, after it makes its appearance in the soul, proves it immortal: for there is nothing conceivable that can destroy it. The spoken words, being mere sounds, may vanish into thin air, and the written ones, mere marks, be burned, erased, destroyed: but the THOUGHT itself lives still, and must live on forever. A Human Thought, then, is an actual EXISTENCE, and a FORCE and POWER, capable of acting upon and controlling matter as well as mind. Is not the existence of a God, who is the immaterial soul of the Universe, and whose THOUGHT, embodied or not embodied in His WORD, is an Infinite Power, of Creation and production, destruction and preservation, quite as comprehensible as the existence of a Soul, of a Thought separated from the Soul, of the Power of that Thought to mold the fate and influence the Destinies of Humanity” (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1871, p. 573)

In our next installment, we will look at the four specific virtues that we should focus on as we walk through the outer door into the world, being prudent, temperate, diligent and discreet.

 

Most fraternally and may the Grand Architect add his blessing,

 

Worshipful John Lawson

Grand Chaplain of the

Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington

Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons

History: An Exercise in Humility

As I said in my last entry to this blog, my goal in writing these blogs is ‘reclaiming our story’. We have seen that many of the narratives that currently define our Fraternity in the common mind are in fact fictions written by either those who would exploit the Craft for profit (literature and movies) or our enemies (The Protocols). That said a reasonable man could see some small truth in some of these myths about the Craft. So how do we, as Masons, know what is true and what is false, or more importantly, I feel, what is important and what is not?

I’d like to first talk about the something that will at first seem unrelated, but I hope to use this story to illustrate the problem at hand.

image 1It’s hard to imagine someone who has not heard of the Nile River, so important to Biblical stories and to the evolution of Western Civilization. What is even harder to believe is that the source of the Nile was not determined until 1858! As you can see from the map the Nile is created from two rivers, the Blue and White Niles (Nile means river). When we talk about the source or origin of the Nile, what do we mean? Most of the water that feeds the Nile comes from the Blue Nile, BUT the farthest point of origin derives from the White Nile. Which is it? If you want to understand the Nile thoroughly you would have to study all sources equally, and weigh the impact of each river proportionately.

History is much like a river, the main story being comprised of many ‘tributaries’ each contributing something. If you wish a cursory understanding then the major contributors will be your focus, but you may choose to pursue smaller, more distant and exotic sources if you have a particular interest in a singular aspect of History.

History like science has rules, or a method, that governs what is accepted as history and what is not. Like science history relies on data, some of which is scientific data like archeology and carbon dating. Unlike scientific data historical data might have a less rigorous pedigree, like eyewitness accounts and source documents generated by humans. This historical data can be accepted on equal terms with scientific data. Historians are however just as strict in the analysis of data as any scientist, and often have to work much harder to determine what data is valid. The history of history is filled with errors made by people to eager to accept data that supports a popular belief, and because of that mainstream historians are very careful making interpretations.

As Freemasons we are not exempt from the temptations of our Crafts mythology, which runs close to, sometimes parallel with, recorded and accepted history. This is, in my opinion, no excuse for lazy or indulgent research that jumps to exciting and aggrandizing conclusions.

A good example of this can be found at Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh Scotland. I visited Rosslyn Chapel with my wife in 2008 and was amazed at the intricate carvings in and on the Chapel that have stimulated so many theories about the Templars, the discovery of America and the link between the Templars and the Freemasons. I do not have the space to go into all these theories here, but there is one I would like to explore as an example. The Chapel was dedicated in 1450 CE to St Mathew, almost 150 years after the Templars were arrested in France, October 13, 1307 CE. Freemasonry commonly accepts the date of June 24th, 1717 as its nominal start date, a little more that 250 years after the Chapel was erected. On one of the outside walls of the Chapel is a carving that many Masons will recognize (wink). image 2In this carving there seems to be a blind folded man, kneeling with a cable around his neck and behind him a man holding the cable. Both seem to wear the Templar cross. Now, I live by the same oath as you, so I will have to assume you get the importance of this image (see photo). I also have to add that the stone that the Chapel is made from has degraded over the centuries, which makes this image a bit tough to see. Whole books have been written that hang their evidentiary hat on this engraving. At first glance this carving does seem to prove in the minds of many that there is a link between the Templars Knights and Masons.

image 3I would like to start by saying, I believe this link is worth researching, not that I accept it as fact. Here are the facts that support this possibility. The Templars had many Bailies, local offices, and source of the term “the whole bailiwick”. These served as local centers of operations. In Scotland there were several centers, but one in particular was in Balantrodach Scotland (modern Temple Scotland), which is only 7 miles from Rosslyn Chapel.

While everyone focuses on the Templar Knights, as romantic warriors, the Templars possessed many craftsmen and specialist. Everyone knows they had accountants, being bankers, but few consider the farriers, armorers, carpenters and yes, masons that would have been required to keep the order functioning. History tells us that the Templars lasted longer in Scotland than other countries because the whole kingdom was essentially excommunicated after Robert Bruce, later King of Scotland, murdered his primary competitor for the throne in a church. This allowed the members of the order to survive, (i.e., avoid arrest and torture) much longer than on the continent.

If there were stonemasons at Temple Scotland, and if they survived its likely they would have eventually assimilated into the local masons guilds.

image 4From about the time the Templars were arrested until the end of the 14th century Europe was devastated by climate change, leading to famine, and the Black Death. The population plummeted and the rules of guild membership were relaxed, as were all rules of social and economic mobility. The local guilds, guilds that would have been close enough to Rosslyn to be affected, would have been open to receiving new, skilled masons. These ex-Templar masons may well have brought their initiation rituals with them and these rituals assimilated into guild ritual. Over time those rituals may well have propagated throughout the guilds that evolved into Speculative Masonry. It’s important to note, to the propagation theory, that Rosslyn and Temple Scotland are a day’s ride from Edinburgh, the seat of Scottish power and economics for centuries.

This possibility, remote though it might be, would be a minor tributary into the great river that is Freemasonry. It seems more likely than warrior knights, often born to noble classes would become craftsmen, essentially a step down in social rank. It would also make the connection between the Freemasons and the Templars a backwater of history and not the main thrust. I think this idea is worth exploring. I think this line of thought shows that jumping to the conclusion that the Knights Templar as a whole organization became Freemasons, based on the one carving is a less likely scenario than the one I just offered.

Before you write me telling me there are many other reasons, found in Scotland, to believe the Templars are the antecedents to the Freemasons I ask that you include the source documents that prove it. The fact that something “could be true” is not proof that it is true. Even the idea I expressed above is pure speculation based on loose facts and is as likely to be false as true. Before I would ever state it as fact, I would need a lot more research.

Lets say for a moment that my theory, the one I just put forth, is true. Is it important? Would it change the kind of Mason you are? Would it change anything? Its only real value would be in adding a small chapter to the story of the Templars and the Freemasons, that’s it. What is important? That Shriner hospital, that reading program, that time when you could have chosen the wrong thing and because you are a Mason you chose the right thing. That’s what is important. Not some distant event that aggrandizes our egos and does little to improve the world.

History supports the idea that Freemasonry evolved as a part of European history, not as its main event. We are as much influenced by the events of European history, as we are an influencing agent. In my opinion our ascension as a Fraternity is linked to many factors such as the catastrophe of the Black Death and the social freedoms acquired during the reformation and renascence. Our mysticism and esoterica appeared at the same time in history as they appeared in European society, much of which is the result of the fall of Constantinople creating a great diaspora of knowledge. In my next blog I will address the arrival of many of the influences of our Craft’s mysticism and science, and show that we did not bring them through time to reveal them to Europeans, but rather that we acquired them just like everyone else. What makes Freemasonry important to history is that we provided a Tyled hall, where men, under oath to keep each others secrets, could freely discuss ideas that might well have brought them to the inquisition, the hangman’s noose or the guillotine. This Brethren is no small thing, and something that should cause us to feel proud of our heritage.

Masonry Has the Answer

There has scarcely been a time in world history that man has not waged war against his brother or his neighbor. A sad fact that no one can dispute. But what of the great religions of the world?Surely they must contain within their pages the remedy for such continual conflict. Ironically it has been said and sadly accurately that more blood has been shed in the name of God than for any other single reason in all the history of mankind. How can this be, we rightly ask? So much destruction, hatred, and death from the now more than the estimated 4,200 religions in the world today that ironically advocate love and peace! In fact that very observation and question such as this is at the top of the list for those who have chosen to give up on a god altogether. After all, just pick up a paper from any shore and you will find conflict between one man’s god and another’s.

Do we as masons have an answer to this vexing conundrum that has plagued mankind and brought it to the brink of disaster over and over again? At the quiet heart of masonry, I say, yes! Thank God yes, we as masons, who have nobly been given charge over the repository of ancient wisdom and been given this peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols that transforms good men into better men and it has within its tents all the light that the world needs to free itself from the bondage and blindness of dogma. In our teachings we are shown the universality in which all men can unite. As MWB Albert Pike states so eloquently on page 52 of Morals and Dogma, “….its principles are as wide as the world and as high as the sky. Nature and Revelation blend in its faith; its morality is rooted in the order of the world, and its roof is the blue vault above. 

He continues with this statement which even today has been a reoccurring concern in our own Washington State Masonic legislation in regard to the Volume of Sacred Law or Holy Bible; “…Like everything else in Masonry, the Bible, so rich in symbolism, is itself a symbol – that is, a part taken for the whole… Thus, but the very honor which Masonry pays to the Bible, it teaches us to revere every Book of Faith in which man has found light and help and hope. In a Lodge consisting of Jews the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the Altar, and in a Lodge in the land of Mohammed the Koran may be used, according to the law of the mother Grand Lodge. But whether it be the Gospel of the Christian, the Book of Law of the Hebrew, the Koran of the Muslim, or the Vedas of the Hindu, it everywhere Masonically symbolizes the Will of God reveled to man, expressing such faith and vision as he has found in the fellowship of the seekers and servants of God. 

At once masonry answers the question of universality and brotherly love. Masonry offers the brothers the freedom of self-expression of personal ideals while at the same time, affording a common alter with fraternal ties in which every bother is accepted of their own understanding and yet not just accepted but his right to those beliefs are held to be sacred itself. How the world could profit from these timeless and powerful lessons! Pike goes on, “Such a fact, such a spirit, helps us to see what the Religion of Masonry really is, prophesying an order of fraternity not yet attained, a spirit of fellowship not yet realized; a distant but slowly dawning day when man will discover that humanity is one in nature, in need, in faith and duty and destiny, and that God is the Father of us all. (pp.93-95)

In these previous lines, we are reminded that this is not an arrival but a journey, an evolution both within ourselves as an example to our brothers, but then also to the brotherhood as an example to mankind as a whole. Imagine a world in which freemasonry was looked to as the path to peace, to security, to happiness. Imagine how the great gifts of masonry’s wisdom would one day be seen as the trestle board that leads humanity to balanced blueprint of harmony and unity. The blueprint for a world that although diverse in culture, language, and beliefs, can find within its tenets the strength for unity instead of war and destruction. 

It begins with each of us, allowing the craft to transform us from good men to better ones, an alchemy of spirit, setting our personal agendas and egos aside, becoming light and shining that light within our personal sphere of influence at home, at work, and within our lodges. Associating and illustrating through our personal actions both small and great, masonry’s square and compass with the attributes of brotherly love expressed in tolerance and understanding for everyone regardless of personal beliefs, expressed in relief, in the knowledge that everyone is worthy of our kind office and finally, expressed in truth, respecting and aiding the seeker to find a common light along our individual paths. These fundamental truths set us apart from every other organization that has ever existed on the face of the earth. We are more than just a fraternal order, we are the answer the world so desperately needs today and we are more relevant today than we have ever been in history. Let us set to work brothers.

 

John Lawson Profile Pic 2016May God add His light.

Most Fraternally,  

Worshipful Brother John Lawson

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

 Featured photo source, labelled for reuse.

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