Over the last few months my blogs have been pretty academic and serious in nature. This time I thought I would throw something lighter out for your consideration.
As young Masons we are told we will get an education in the symbols of Masonry, and to be certain we do get some instructions on some of our symbols during the degrees, but it is truly left to us to seek their deeper meaning. As you no doubt know there is something of a cottage industry around the ‘secret’ symbols of Freemasonry, but what most non-masons don’t know is that the symbols we use are so obscure many of us don’t know what they mean!
I have spoken with many of our brothers about our symbols and am always stumped by the lack of interest in personally investigating their meanings. To be clear I don’t mean reading what someone else has written about them but rather a personal quest for esoteric meaning. Each of us has our own story, with our own experiences and perspective. I encourage each of you to take a moment and look at our symbols, and explore the emotions, ideas and memories they elicit. Other men may know more about the traditional meaning of a symbol, but no one knows more about what it says to you than you!
About 10 years ago I was walking through our preparation room, as I had done many times but on this night I was drawn to the circle, point, and two parallel lines which is displayed in all regularly constituted Masonic Lodges. Now I am sure each of you have had the experience of something that has become routine in your life suddenly taking on special significance and meaning. That night this most common of masonic symbols jumped out at me in a completely new way, with meaning and clarity. I saw in that set of symbols a map! I did not know where it pointed, though I should have, but it was clear to me in that instant I was looking at a symbolic representation of the world.
I’ll explain what I saw later, but first I would like to explain something about symbols. We have language that we use every day, which is composed of, letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, syntax and grammar. This method of communication can be very precise and can relay ideas and thoughts between individuals separated by time and space with a clarity and depth that can be startling. Consider the power of the Bible, Koran or Torah. Volumes written centuries ago can still inspire men and women in today’s modern technological and complex world. But before there was the written word our species used another method to communicate, symbols. Much science has been dedicated to the power of symbols, and how in many cases the power of symbols to elicit meaning across not only time and space but also across cultures. Unlike the precise meaning of a word a symbol has layers of meanings and as we study them they can lead us on a journey toward not just the common truth but to universal Truth that only the soul can experience. Because of the depth and power of symbols we can see different meanings in symbols each time we look at them, and yet the sum of the symbol’s meanings over time can become itself a complex tapestry of enlightenment.
Some symbols are natural, ingrained in all people. Carl Jung, a 20th century psychologist called these symbols ‘archetypes’. In our common unconscious for example we all experience symbolic images of Mother, Father, and Shadow and many times they speak to us in dreams as characters representing fundamental human meaning. Other symbols are created, like the US Flag, the square and compass and a red octagon (Stop!).
So, the circle, point and parallel lines are in the rudimentary sense a symbol of moral compass. We all learn this early in our practice as Masons. Let’s say that is a surface meaning, and that there might be another meaning, in this case a map. So how can that be a map? That night when I looked at the parallel lines what jumped out at me was the images of the Holy Saints John standing next to the parallel lines. They were the first clue. You see each Saint in the Catholic tradition has a feast day. Many old churches in Europe face sun rise on the feast day of the Saint they are named after. The early churches like our Lodges are aligned toward the east and since the sun rises in a different place each morning, east was assigned at sunrise on the day of the Saint’s feast. The interesting thing about the two saints John is that their feast days fall very close to the two solstices, approximately June 21st and December 21st, the longest and shortest day of the year. The feast days of the Saints John are June 23rd and December 27th. On Solstices the sun is as far north or south as it travels in the sky, and the lines that represents that southern and northern most point are two parallel, horizontal, lines on maps and globes. These are called the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The fact that the feast days of these two saints fell near the dates of the solstices, from which the tropics were derived, and that they were standing next to two parallel lines seemed to great a coincidence.
The obvious problem with this idea is that the lines, while parallel, are vertically aligned setting them 90 degrees off. In fact, in my research I discovered that someone had approached Albert Pike years ago with the same idea as mine and Pike had dismissed it for exactly that reason. So for a time I let it go, but I was not satisfied. You see there was another part of the symbol that caught my eye. The Bible at the top of the circle was key to decoding the symbol. As in our Lodges the east is considered, symbolically, to be the direction from which enlightenment comes. That Bible on top seemed to say, “look at me dummy, I’m the east!” If that was true the lines would be oriented correctly, but why would someone draw the symbol on its side? There was an answer and eventually I found it.
When you look at a map you usually turn the map until North is at the top. We call this “orienting” the map. BUT the word orient is Latin for EAST. Why would turning the map to a north alignment be called “easting” the map? Because in medieval times maps had east on top! That’s right, and on those maps the tropics would have been aligned vertically!
These maps were called O and T maps because a circle, the O, represented the earth, and the continents formed a rough T. Now it get’s really interesting. O and T maps sometimes have a dot in the center that represents a city. Do you care to guess what city? It seems the Holy Saints John are pointing us to Jerusalem!
So, while I have no proof that this ancient Masonic symbol is in fact intended to be a map to Jerusalem I think I have shown that it could be. Even if it never was intended to be a map to Jerusalem for me this symbol now is a reminder of our Masonic mythology as well as a reminder to live with in a certain moral and ethical compass. Like many symbols this one has depth for me, and I hope perhaps its does for you too.
Now Brethren I challenge you. Go to Lodge, pick a symbol that speaks to you and explore it, stare at it, research it, meditate on it and listen for that quiet voice in the still parts of your heart. Bring our symbols to life again and you will breathe new Light into your Lodge.
I’m what the old guys would call “a tech guy.” What that means to me and what it means to them are two very different things. To them, it means I know how to do something as far as this whole ‘internet thing’ is concerned. While I may get tripped up on the technicalities of specialization of my profession, they’re right about one thing, I’m a millennial through and through.
There’s been a lot of confusion about the word ‘millennial’. I subscribe to a field of thought that views millennials as the post-generation generation. Unlike Generation Y, which is who most people confuse with Millennials, Millennials act in a new way of being human that relies primarily on digital technology as our most natural way to connect with others. That means that it includes any age group, nationality, or culture of human who live and breathe in the digital world as much as they do in the physical.
Millennials, because of our use of technology to connect with others, naturally see the world through a lense that is much broader than people who grew up without a real-time window into the lives of others. Freemasonry across the world has understood that we have “a marketing problem”, however, what many freemasons don’t realize is that you can’t solve it with a new logo or a tagline. We have to adopt new technology in order to speak the new language millennials understand: social media.
For those who don’t really understand why so many social networks exist, the explanation is actually fairly simple. Each social network has its own purpose. Linkedin is ideally used for work connections, Pinterest is used to collect beautiful and inspirational images, Facebook is the place to keep up with friends and acquaintances, Twitter is optimal for connecting with strangers to discuss mutual interests and topics, and Instagram is where we share memories visually. All of these networks help enhance our human experience by connecting with many many more people than we otherwise could.
Jason Silva is someone who I would consider to be an archetype of a 21st century philosopher. This video is a little piece he did that explains the network.
Now comes the interesting phenomenon: following celebrities. People follow them because they want to feel like a part of their life and enjoy in the moments that they feel are special to them. And the oldest celebrity office in the world, the Pope himself, finally joined instagram in March of this year. Frankly, he’s killing it.
Millennials crave authenticity and transparency. These are things that become more and more difficult for institutions as they age, so the Freemasons and the Catholic church face a similar challenge in that regard. However, when an old institution like the Vatican focuses their Instagram account on the humanity of those precious passing moments of the present, old institutions become very relevant.
So my call to action is, every lodge should have someone instagramming, whether they do it personally and include the fact that they are a Freemason in their bio, or by posting on behalf on of their lodge. The focus should be on the fellowship, not the regalia. The secrets of our brotherhood are the bonds between brothers, and everyone can relate to or aspire to that.
Good Evening Brethren, welcome to autumn in the Pacific Northwest. This is actually my favorite time of year. The rainy days upon us have quickly greened up our summer lawns and the sunny-crisp days of September are the last glimmers of summer fading away. We are reminded that the chill of winter will be knocking on our door shortly, and with it comes the shadowed silhouette of leaf-bare branches.
Our year is beginning to draw to an end. For many, this time is reminiscent of the sands in the hour glass noticeably and yet quickly diminishing and as a result we begin to naturally look inward and examine what this year has meant. And this has given me cause to reflect on our Grand Master’s message this year.
Before becoming a Freemason, this fraternity, this society you have joined asks of you one question – simple, yet profound – what came you here to do?
I hope your answer is just as profound.
Because none of us needs to be a Freemason. And want I mean to say is that we all choose to be a Freemason. We choose this life because something in our nature is responding to a mysterious call. And as such, your Masonic journey is really like a mission. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to learn to subdue your passion and improve yourself in Masonry.
Learning to subdue your passion. Which at first blush seems a bit counterproductive. Don’t we learn as a child to be passionate about what we do? For the initiate of our Masonic order, this is one of the first and most important points of Freemasonry and yet this is often vulnerable to misinterpretation, and consequently it merits some examination.
First, we must understand why we use the word passion. As it relates to our ritual, I believe we are talking about an affection of the mind. Oxford Dictionary refers to this type of passion as “Any kind of feeling by which the mind is powerfully affected or moved; a vehement, commanding, or overpowering emotion.”
Which is why we come here, to this temple of virtue, to learn to subdue our overpowering emotions. Because passion taken to an extreme overcomes our reason. And are we not instructed by the virtue of PRUDENCE which teaches us “to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and it is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness. This virtue should be the peculiar characteristic of every Mason, not only for the government of his conduct while in the Lodge, but also when in the world.”
In other words, when you combine these concepts into one thought, we can say that “to learn to subdue my passions” means to through the virtuous teachings of Masonry one learns to bring commanding and overpowering emotions and desires into subjection and control. This is quite the contrary to the situation in which a man’s passions and emotions have control over his sense of logic and reason – a situation which Masonry seeks to remedy and which is often described through the all too well known cliché of making a good man better. In other words, it is not within the capability of our ego-driven self to keep passion in check. We must learn to do this.
By improving oneself in Masonry. At first this seems like almost an obvious statement – for why else would one be here? It’s so vast it almost seems like the perfect “catch all” statement. But before we gloss over it and commence with scheduling the next feast and celebration, let us consider the nature of this declaration.
For it is a personal commitment. You joined to improve yourself.
Unfortunately, the Masonic experience for some is reminiscent of the fallacy of what has become a tag line for an entire generation – Here we are now, entertain us. But nothing could be more opposite from the truth. Freemasonry exists for YOU to discover her treasure and no one should expect it to be done for them. You come here to improve yourself in knowledge of Masonry. And it is through and from this expansion of knowledge that we begin to learn to conduct ourselves with peace and harmony with those around us.
First with our brethren, but then with the outer world. And consequently, we become a better, more improved version of earlier self.
As Masons, we are called to labor and be laborers. From the very first step in our Initiatic journey we are taught symbolically how to make use of every hour of every day by the 24-inch gauge.
We are taught to divide our time equally between our service to the Supreme Architect and our worthy brethren, to our society through our vocation and to the refreshment of ourselves which includes, presumably, our family.
This is why it is so hard for many of us to sit idle, wasting the hours away accomplishing little but the short lived thrills of passing amusement.
It’s simply not in our nature as Masons.
If you stop and think about it, we are constantly working on a temple – whether it’s our spiritual, temporal, or our personal temple.
We build – that is what we do, and there is no rest for the weary.
You see, this is why our Grand Masters theme this year encapsulates the very essence of what it means to be a Mason. It’s not simply a theme but rather a reminder of the declaration you made when you chose to become a Mason.
‘Be the Difference’ by its very nature is calling our craft from refreshment to labor
So brethren, I ask you again, what came you here to do?
This is an election year, in case you didn’t notice! It seems to be all anyone is talking about, so I guess I will talk about it too! For must of us its harder and harder not to get caught up in the fervor of this election cycle in our ever increasingly media driven society. Whether its your television, computer, tablet or phone you are probably getting news alerts every few minutes to announce the newest political insult to one candidate or the other (in reality these insults are falling directly on our republic, more on that later). Members of both political extremes would have you believe the United State’s survival is hinged on a single issue, and if you don’t agree you are some kind of traitor. The only breaks seem to be when the news reports on celebrity scandals. Its no wonder ever one is on edge.
Its not news to say that fear is the best motivator of people. Our minds and bodies are wired in such a way that fear can easily override our rational mind and our compassionate heart. This makes sense from a survival point of view, when predators waited behind every tree to attack, but in the modern world it is sometimes misplaced, and can be used to manipulate us. It has long been known that base survival instincts manifest as emotions can be used as tools to control our thoughts, limit our freedom and of course sell us things.
Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press because it’s the best way for the people to communicate with each other and their Government. When it works well it informs citizens of what they need to know to protect their personal interests, and to keep the Government accountable to the people. In principal this is a great and important part of our Republic. Unfortunately like many rights it can also lead to abuses. Much of today’s media has become a platform for retail marketing; this includes social media and with the pretense of reporting important news chooses to bombard you with constant and ever increasing vitriol. Its important to remember that you did not elect the members of the press, and while freedom of the press is crucial to our nation, it is largely a business intended to make money. If they can use fear to do that, well in my opinion, they will do that, its just good business. With twenty four hour a day, seven day a week news telling you to be afraid or angry you have to have come a long way in subduing your passions to resist. I feel I should add here that not all news media is run this way, and not all journalists are profit motivated. I wish I could say that responsible journalism was the norm but I can’t say that.
Because we live such short lives it’s easy to assume this is one of the worst election cycles ever, but that is not true. The election of 1800, between Adams and Jefferson was one of the worst. Through political surrogates they both attacked each other on the most personal issues, portrayed each other in the worst light. In those days our young republic was by no means a sure bet for survival, and everyone knew it. That said, today we remember BOTH Adams and Jefferson as great presidents and patriots and use them as examples of great Americans. This is an important point to remember as we engage in political discussion today. In two hundred years subsequent generations may well wonder what all the fuss was about.
So what has this got to do with Freemasonry? As I have shown in earlier blogs there are elements of our Craft handed down to us that are at least 600 years old. During those centuries we have survived many contentious times, and for the most part have emerged stronger. Operant Masonry survived the great wars over religion in England, as well as wars about the style of government. We survived the wars between England and Scotland, as well as England and France. Speculative Masonry survived the American and French revolutions, as well as the American Civil War. The lessons we learned during those periods of conflict continue to serve us today. A simple example is the prohibition against discussions of politics and religion in Lodge. How long would we have lasted as a guild and then a fraternity if open conflict over monarchy or parliament had erupted or debates between Catholic and Protestant religions? Not long I assure you. Our behavioral strategies go much further than simple prohibitions. A Masonic Lodge culture has evolved in which everyone gets to speak his mind on important decisions, and strong Masters prevent the discourse from becoming contentious and experienced Past Masters soothe ruffled feathers when the decision is made. We can do this because our core beliefs are based in four very important concepts. The first is to preserve the unity of the Craft, a brotherhood based in brotherly love. We can do this because we have as a foundation a belief in Faith, Hope and Charity. Faith in a good God, who will, if we listen, guide us to a better future and a faith in the fundamental good in all men’s hearts, Hope in a better world for ALL people, and Charity which calls all of us to extend a hand in friendship to all people in need, even in the darkest times. I don’t mean to leave you with the impression we are perfect, we are all of us imperfect ashlars seeking to improve ourselves.
I would call upon my brethren to remember these principals in the weeks to come, leading up to our next election. Within our Lodges we have maintained, for the most part, something becoming increasingly difficult to find in the outer world, civility. This is something we as Masons can bring to the larger world. In a time of so much passionate division, men who have learned to subdue their passions can be of crucial importance. We should counter unbridled passions in debate with reason and civility, remembering that like in Lodge when the decision is made we are still a Nation, and we must cherish that nation at least as much as our opinions. As Masons we should recognize that the United States was the first nation to adopt so many Masonic tenets and it remains the best example of the world we would create as any nation on earth. We should meet darkest despair with the light of a divine hope that permeates our Craft, and with Charity in our hearts gently remind our countrymen (and women) that each person has his or her own story that makes their beliefs valid to them. We could remind our friends and family of our shared humanity, that we all have hopes, and dreams as well a fears, no one thinks they are doing wrong.
Finally Brethren, lead through example. While you might leave the Lodge after the Volume of Sacred Law is closed, you carry your obligations in your heart. Lead by example. Become your best version of the embodiment of your obligation as an example of others. Respect the opinions of others as part of respecting their humanity. Remember that at the center of the black and white tiled floor sits the altar of Masonry. It is in balance we find our civility. It is my opinion that this is our opportunity to become ministers of civility to a world that has for now lost sight of the value of civil discourse.
God bless the United States of America, and all good Masons everywhere.
In my last Blog entry I laid out one way to break down the evolution of the Craft from its medieval origins to today. The way I described the development of the Craft through time was from the perspective of a man on the outside, looking in as an observer. In this entry I will take a different perspective, that of a man within the Craft.
As Masons we enjoy a certain amount of homogeneity of the Craft, such that when we travel geographically as Masons we pretty much understand the ritual and customs of the Lodges we visit, but would this be true if we could travel through time? Would you recognize a Lodge from 1390 C.E.? 1425? 1738? To put this in perspective a Lodge in 1390 could have the grandson of a Templar in attendance, 1425 was 67 years before Columbus landed in the Caribbean, and 1738 was before the US Revolution.
To answer these questions I have turned to what are collectively known as the Old Charges. The Old Charges are essentially the documents that spell out the rules, regulations and customs of Lodges in the time before the 1717 founding of the Grand Lodge of England. I have included Anderson’s Constitution (1738 C.E.) as a bookend to the development of Lodges. There are many Old Charges, but I have selected six (including Anderson). These six are, The Regius Poem 1390 C.E., The Cooke Manuscript 1425 C.E., the two Shaw Statues 1598 and 99 C.E., Old Rules of the Grand Lodge of York 1725 C.E. and Anderson’s Constitution 1738 C.E.
I will not be exploring the history of these documents, as that would be a whole blog in itself, but rather will call out familiar Lodge elements first appearing in Craft development in these documents.
My primary source for this blog is “Old Charges of Freemasonry: From the Original Manuscripts”, by WB Walter William Melnyk, Springfield-Hanby Lodge No. 767 in Springfield, Pennsylvania.
Regius Poem 1390 CE
We will begin with the elements of the Craft that are familiar to all of us that are found in the Regius Poem. Before I begin I have to admit that the language of these ancient documents is difficult to read. I have relied on translations and my best guesses when reading them, however any errors are mine, not those whose translations I relied on.
This period relates to what I called in my last Blog the Operative Era, or the period in which Masons were focused on building with stone. Lodges were at this point in history job site specific and Masons moved from one job to the next.
Before I tell you what the Regius Poem said of Masons, lets take just a moment and reflect on the life of a common person. This period is clearly the Middle Ages (476-1400 C.E.), and the feudal and manorial systems were still very much alive. This meant that the ‘average’ person had little property, few freedoms, no education and not much hope for improvement. The Black Death had just passed and the European population was decimated. In short the average person lived a short, difficult life. Now consider the life of a Mason, educated, free to travel and seek better work, free of many of the restrictions of the period. What follows is what these Masons valued and recorded in the Regius Poem.
Geometry, we all know its central place in our Masonic culture, and it shows up immediately in the Regius Poem, as does the man credited with its development Euclid. Its importance to the Craft in 1390 is no less than it is today. What you may not know is that geometry was considered as almost synonymous with architecture. You would also be interested to find the seven liberal arts, more or less as we know them today called out in the poem as valued by Masons.
Education being so important to the early Craft might seem odd, but you have to remember when it came to castles they were the most advanced military technology available at the time, they were the aircraft carriers of their day. Like today those charged with the design and construction of advanced technology, a castle in the Middle Ages, would have had to apply the most sophisticated engineering principals available.
The requirements of candidates would seem familiar, only free men, only men of good reputation (not thieves or murderers), a belief in God is required, as is a healthy body (here it is slightly different than today, but the idea is the same. You must be able to contribute.)
The requirement that a mason be a free man was a little more than you might understand as a modern mason. I have heard many say they thought it was a reflection of ideas concerning slavery in America and that the requirement that a man be free was used as an excuse to prohibit African Americans from membership. While this excuse may have been used, it was not based in fact. In the feudal and manorial systems a common man would have been ‘bonded’ to a lord and his land. You were not free to leave the manor or the service of the lord without the lord’s permission. There were not many free men, so admission to the craft would not have come easily. This apparently is the origin of the requirement that a man be free.
Other elements you would recognize are that all Masters are considered equal, a Mason should respect the chastity of a Brother Masters wife, you must keep secrets, you should obey the law and be a good citizen (subject) and you are expected to aid and support brother Masons. Also the Steward is mentioned as a supplier of refreshment. Masters and Fellows are mentioned, but here I believe Masters are the Masters of Lodges and Fellows are the highest rank under the Master, having the place in Lodge today of a Master Mason.
Cooke Manuscript 1425 CE
The next document I will draw from is the Cooke Manuscript. Even though it was written very near the Regius Poem in time, there are some significant developments in the Craft. I can’t say that these elements did not exist 35 years earlier, but they were not called out.
The Cooke manuscript offers some names we would all recognize, even if they were used differently in the Lodge. This is where we first see the name Tubal Cain and the King of Tyre mentioned. Jabal and Jubal, names similar to names we all know today are discussed. We also see the first mentions of Pythagoras and Hermes in this document.
Much of the wisdom of the Roman world was lost to the West after the fall of Rome, but one book Asclepius of the Corpus Hermeticum (the Corpus is a collection of works attributed to the man Hermes Trismegistus) had survived and Stone Masons were obviously aware of it. The study of geometry had never been lost, nor the names Euclid and Pythagoras.
The importance of two hollow pillars, in which secrets are kept, to the mythology of the Craft is discussed, as is the fact that Masons built King Solomon’s Temple.
To the requirement that a Mason respect the chastity of a Master’s wife a similar requirement for his daughter is added. The use of the word “hele” can be seen in the Cooke manuscript.
Finally, the idea that the Wardens would fill in for an absent Master is spelled out in the Cooke manuscript.
So, while we are talking about men who were definitely stonemasons we can see elements of our Lodge and ritual existed over 600 years ago.
The Shaw Statues 1598 and 1599 CE
The two Shaw Statutes bring us much closer to the Craft we know today. The first thing that they reveal is the presence of geographically fixed Lodges. Kilwinning and Edinburgh Lodges specifically are addressed in the Statutes. Before this period Lodges are generally discussed as temporary buildings and meeting places, here they exist, as we know them today, linked to a location. This is probably due in part to the evolutions of cities and towns in the period between 1390 and 1598. It should be noted that in the new cities and towns the men who governed, Burgesses, were often guild members. This reflects the development of a middle class that was dominated by crafts and businesses.
Other elements that are familiar are the presence of Deacons, the unanimous agreement of Masters, Wardens and Deacons on the admittance of an apprentice (someone different than today) and the idea that Lodges were somewhat sovereign under its master. Today each degree requires a minimum number of members to open, and the Cooke manuscript requires that that least six members be present for the operation of a Lodge.
We also see the first mention of “Cowans”, the election of a secretary and a clear requirement of dues.
Lodge records show that after the Shaw Statues gentlemen, not stonemasons were initiated as “Accepted” or “ Speculative” Freemasons. Some authors mark the Shaw Statutes as the date of the transition from Operative to Speculative. The last Shaw Statue was written in 1599, and we know that Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) was initiated in the 1640s. By anyone’s definition Ashmole was a modern speculative Freemason.
The Old Rules of the Grand Lodge of York 1725 CE
The Old Rules of the Grand Lodge of York adds to the establishment of our craft the use of the gavel (mallet), monthly meetings, strict examination of visitors and of course refreshments after meeting.
Anderson’s Constitutions 1738 CE
The Final document I will explore is Anderson’s Constitutions, 1738. Here we see the requirement in a belief in God, no women can be admitted, no bondsman a requirement that a candidate be of “good report” and a respect for the State’s government and laws. Other familiar developments include that Masters and Wardens be elected based on merit, officers must be fellow-crafts (this was before the Master Mason degree), there will be no talking in Lodge without the Master’s permission, there is now a Grand Master, and Grand Lodge can be called on decide disputes.
The phrase “meeting on the level” makes its first appearance, and probably most important the prohibition against discussing politics and religion in Lodge. By in large these Lodges would be familiar in operation and culture to us. While there were differences that are significant, like the absence of Master Masons and therefore the Master Mason’s degree drama.
This exploration of the evolution of our Craft through its documents has been cursory at best, but I think it shows that even in the earliest operative craft documents we do see a Craft we recognize. It feels to me though that we tend to see these similarities in terms of our present world rather than consider them in terms of the times in which they evolved. For example, the seven liberal arts cited in the Regius Poem. That level of education in 1390 would have been equivalent to a bachelor’s degree today, and when you consider the weight and authority of a Master in 1390 we can imagine that the term “Master’s degree” might apply to the man who became a specialist in geometry/masonry after completing his education in the seven liberal arts.
In the period of Anderson’s constitutions, less than 100 years after the reformation and the English Civil war, the prohibition against politics and religion in Lodge shows a wisdom of brotherhood we may have forgotten in today’s contentious political and religious environment and it might encourage us to tread gently in and out of the Lodge when we espouse our religious and political opinions, for the sake of that brotherhood we love.
There are other elements of culture that do not show up in the documents I cited that have affected the development of Freemasonry. The care of widows and orphans, as an example, is a biblical injunction that was shared as standard behavior in many medieval guilds. Religious drama such as is used in modern craft initiations was common practice (even required by law) in the medieval
guilds, as many were expected to perform religiously inspired plays in public in late medieval times. It’s not hard to imagine this evolving into degree dramas.
Finally I have not addressed the role of the Moderns and Ancients or the evolution of the Scottish or York rites in this analysis. No doubt meaningful insight could be gleaned from the addition of those traditions. It is also possible that some of the elements I have stated originated in a particular document may in fact be present in older documents I have not addressed. I do not intend this to be an exhaustive exploration, but as I said a cursory review intended to demonstrate that our Craft as shared some fundamental traits since its earliest formal documents.
Finally I would hope that you take a moment and reflect on the privilege of being a member in a 600 plus year old tradition that was born in a dark and difficult time, has adapted to and participated in history, science, philosophy and politics, and has managed to preserve its most ancient tenets. Let that sink in as you pin on that lapel pin, and let the weight of it inform you actions in and out of Lodge, but in particular when you consider admitting a man to our Lodge. You will be entrusting our traditions to them for safe keeping, just as they were passed on to you, we owe a debt of obligation to the men who came before us to seek the best of men, rough ashlars they may be, so that they can realize their potential as men and Freemasons.
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.
Operant 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.
Masonic 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.
The 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.
Protestant 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.
The 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.
In 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.
After 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.
I 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.
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…
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.
The Last Legion – Depicts the legionary formation of early British kingdoms from the ashes of the Roman Empire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joan of Arc – The French side of the story of Henry V. Every script is different though, so don’t expect Shakespeare.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently the cast of “Hamilton” paid tribute to the landmark musical “A Chorus Line” on the occasion of its 40th anniversary on Broadway. Part of the tribute included the cast of “Hamilton” performing the signature number from “A Chorus Line”, “What I Did for Love”. As various cast members took their turn at a solo section, I was struck by the fact that none of the principals claimed a solo part, https://youtu.be/h-BB_2L2Dwg. This speaks directly to the spirit of “A Chorus Line” – take the spotlight off the star and shine it upon those who make the show work.
In many ways, your leadership is borrowing this idea from “A Chorus Line”. I think General Colin Powell said it best: “Though important, we will accomplish nothing strictly by organizational chart, strategic plan, or management theory. We will succeed or fail because of the people involved.” So let’s set the future of our Craft by those who make up the Craft, who are our Craft, who are the strength that sustain our Craft, who are our Craft’s future.
At installation, I laid out eight key initiatives: Improve Membership Retention, Increase Use & Awareness of the New Candidate Education Program, Continue to Develop Future Leaders, Leverage Technology to Improve the Quality of the Lodge Experience, “One More”, Reclaim the Narrative, Review the Long Plan, Reshape the Military Recognition Committee. Each of these initiatives is being undertaken by a key committee, and I am proud to report that each of them have developed plans of action – complete with timelines, deliverables, and measurables – to see to the accomplishment of their objectives. In some cases, objectives have already been achieved, and I am looking forward to each committee sharing with you how they are doing.
As I stated in my remarks at installation, any success that is achieved will belong to those who make up these key committees, and they will deserve the accolades and applause. Any shortcoming will be on me for not providing the appropriate guidance, direction, or resources. The Grand Master may be the “star”, but it is the brethren who make it work and who deserve the spotlight.
MGM – Manlalakbay na Gurong Mason (Traveling Master Mason)
Masonic Family Park
Granite Falls, Wa.
July 2, 2016
The Tragedy of the Character of Hiram Abiff.
There is a modicum of uncertainty among less-informed brethren as to whether the tragedy of Hiram Abiff really existed. For every lodge has their own interpretation that calls for some brothers to think that it has become something different from its origin. So animated and so confrontational that it no longer suits the insulated sameness that it is to be… a mock tragedy.
A brother, who showed his shallowness of reason by neglecting the importance of the drama makes him unfit to ever become a member of the craft.
To understand and appreciate the drama to its fullest extent and to absorb the essence of its profound meaning is something that will be with us for quite sometime.
Though it is wrong to consider it as history, the image of the drama always comes across with purity and sacred ritualistic quality.
The catastrophe of our very self is evidently portrayed, regardless of who we are or where we are. It is the reflection of the crisis & fate of that Hiram Abiff in every one of us.
The work he engaged in to beautify and adorn the temple is similar to the cunning workmanship we do as we try to manage and adorn our own daily lives – our own temple so to speak.
The ruffians he encountered symbolize none other than the lusts and passions we men fail to subdue.
And his final destiny to be buried in the rubbish of the temple is an allegorical picture of our great mental distress, a tragic loss of a son, disgrace, or the defeat of our hopes and dreams; this is a common experience in our daily lives.
The manner in which he was raised again is the same manner by which men, with God’s mighty help, will raise us out of the receptacles of defeat, disgrace or even death.
We were asked to take part in the drama this afternoon not only to satisfy the ritual of the SUBLIME DEGREE but to impress deeply upon the mind that it is our drama not our newly raised brother, there being exemplified or being inflicted with pain.
Our participation was intended to be an experience to let us realize that to become a master of our very self we must rise above our own internal enemies.
After all, as they say: “the strongest among us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors and fight battles nobody knows about.”
Finally, though the path to fulfilling happiness may seem elusive to some of us, with the trials and the inevitable sufferings in life, it is still a great day indeed to be a Mason.