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Erik's Masonic Journey

Tue, 21 Sep 2004

# There has been a lot of talk in the local lodges about organizing a table lodge lately. Oregon has no recognized table lodge ritual, and unfortunately we've had non-tiled events in the past called "table lodges" which were nothing of the sort. Right now there's a group of Masons down here putting together a ritual to send to the Grand Lodge. For those of you who have never been to a table lodge, you're missing out! They are great fun.

# Recently on the Masonic Light mailing list, Bro. Peter Renzland announced that the Toronto Society for Masonic Research now has a public webpage. It features an impressive list of papers and links. Head on over and check it out!

Mon, 19 Jul 2004

# Back in the early '90s, there was a great television show called Twin Peaks caused a bit of a stir. It was a bizarre romp through the twisted minds of David Lynch and Mark Frost. The show was packed full of symbolism, both expected and bizarre, and was so rich and twisted in detail that even today discussions and arguments attempting to decipher and come to an understanding of its messages are common. Some of the symbolism may seem similar to Freemasons, including references to lodges, conspiracies, and secret societies.

Much of this apparently came from Mark Frost, whose interests in Theosophy and other 19th century movements are revealed in some of his novels (such as List of Seven and The Six Messiahs), none of which I've read. I'd encourage any Freemason to check out Twin Peaks. You can rent the series on DVD at NetFlix.

# In May I talked about hermeticism and it's relationship to Freemasonry, and during my browsing and reading I've come across more articles and websites discussing such connections. I continue to think that it is vital for Freemasonry to stop dodging our many various connections to controversial ideas of the past, and in this light I bring to you "A Basic Historico-Chronological Model of the Western Hermetic Tradition" by Bro. Trevor Stewart. The article is just as long and cumbersome as its title suggests, which is why I give you special permission to jump all the way to part 6, subtitled "Masonic Initiation of Today Viewed as a Process". Bro. Stewart has this to say about the state of affairs of esoteric Masonry in the UGLE today:

The general level of Hermetic exploration on a regular basis in English-speaking Lodges is now minimal. Their present state of philosophical impoverishment has accumulated for more than 150 years since the compromise formulation which defined Freemasonry in minimalist terms at the union of the two rival Grand Lodges in London in 1813. That Union created the present UGLE which has formally shunned making any clear recommendations regarding possible interpretations of symbols or even propounding any syllabus for systematic study.
While I would never wish to force any Freemason to interpret the Craft as a purely Hermetic pursuit, I think it is fair to say that recent research into our fraternity's origins give ample excuse for the modern student to do so.

"Freemasonry and the Hermetic Tradition" by R. A. Gilbert is a much more readable article, and was originally published in Gnosis Magazine. He writes, "Of those Freemasons who were inclined towards occultism at the close of the last century, the majority were deeply involved in the Theosophical Society, or at least in the teachings that it propagated." This ties nicely into the symbolic cross-pollination one might notice in the aforementioned Twin Peaks.

I am very interested in hearing the thoughts of any Freemasons regarding the influences of hermeticism on Freemasonry, or vice versa!

Wed, 14 Jul 2004

# I was tickled when I saw the title of Freemasonry: Shattering The Myth on AskMen.com. The article claims to debunk some common myths about Freemasonry, but instead perpetuates some weird inaccuracies, including some I haven't heard before. "Possession of a Masonic Bible is required for membership," claims the author. I guess I'm not a real Mason, then.

Later on he repeats the standard bit about Freemasonry being persecuted by dictators and religious regimes, which is certainly mostly true, but also gets a few more things wrong, such as his claim that, "The bad rap Freemasonry received, which has fueled conspiracy theories for years, goes back to 1827." The author's research doesn't seem to have been very thorough. Anti-Masonic sentiments go back much further than that, and in fact there was at least one tract against the fraternity published before we went public in 1717. The article wraps up with some more misinformation, and perpetuates the anti-Catholic myth during its conclusion. I'm glad Freemasonry is getting some publicity, but give me a break! Maybe they'll use more facts next time, or have one of the world's five million Freemasons double-check the information they've gathered.

# The Sacramento Bee, on the other hand, featured a great article yesterday. Inside the Masonic Temple is a touching visit to the Masonic Temple Building in downtown Sacramento. The story is one that is undoubtedly familiar to many Masons, such as the brethren of Sunnyside Lodge No. 163 whom I featured in one of my earliest articles: a beautiful building is falling into decay, and the Brethren fight for its upkeep. The author has some nice things to say about the Sacramento building. The photo gallery accompanying the article is worth seeing, as well.

One of the five-story building's most remarkable features is its extensive terra cotta ornamentation. Statues of Knights Templar, eyes cast down and holding shields, adorn the ground floor, while cupids cavort above each window. The terra cotta and brick exterior is glazed a coppery green.
Those interested in helping the Sacramento Masonic Temple may want to take a look at the Sacramento Masonic Fund Raiser page, which is attempting to raise $26,000 to help restore the beautiful building. You can also read their excellent article about the building.

Mon, 12 Jul 2004

# My first link of the day isn't related directly to Freemasonry. President Abraham Lincoln was not a Mason, but he was buried multiple times, and multiple burials are a significant part of Masonic allegory. The Attempted Kidnapping of Lincoln is a telling of the posthumous adventures of our 16th president, and is such a bizarre story that I couldn't help but share it with my readers. My attempts to link it with Freemasonry through the multiple burials is a feeble one — I hope you'll forgive me.

# Death and burial are both potent symbols and can have quite an impact on the psyche. That they are used in Masonic ritual is no secret. In fact, the story of Hiram Abiff has been likened to those of Osiris, Mithra, and even Jesus Christ. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered as well, and individual Masons must be left to figure out for themselves if the end of the story symbolizes physical resurrection, spiritual immortality, or something else. W:.B:. Paul Bessel shares an outline for a talk on Hiram Abiff on his website, and I wish I could have been there to see what sort of answers he came up with.

Wed, 07 Jul 2004

#Last month I spent a week in Minnesota, and then a couple of very busy weeks at work kept me away from this weblog. But although none of that is really very exciting or interesting to all of you readers out there, I've got some great stuff to share.

First, Bro. Ed King's Masonicinfo has recently posted a very well-written and informative Esotericism FAQ, contributed by an anonymous Mason. In the introduction, Bro. King says,

Both Masons and non-Masons alike are often confused when the subject of esoterica is raised. [...] [This FAQ] is, we feel, a very fair and objective treatment of this area which so very often causes contention, confusion, and concern — even amongst members of the Fraternity as explained below.
Bro. King's willingness in publishing the FAQ on his website is greatly appreciated and applauded. For a long time, Freemasonry has been afraid of its more controversial and easily misunderstood elements (as Bro. Jay Kinney argues in Is Freemasonry Afraid of its Own Shadow?), and I think it's great that a popular and important Masonic website has finally turned its attention in that direction and acknowledged a valuable and important part of our tradition.

# Freemasonry for the Next Generation is a web-based magazine dedicated to approaching Freemasonry from new angles and new solutions. In his introductory editorial, W:.B:. Tim Bryce tells us,

As an independent publication we will not be encumbered by the rules and regulations of any particular Grand Lodge and will be able to speak freely on those issues concerning the fraternity. [...] I have found that Masons are somewhat territorial in nature. Many cannot think beyond the four walls of their own Lodge. The idea of talking to Brothers in other lodges, districts or jurisdictions is simply incomprehensible to them. This is unfortunate. Freemasonry is a global fraternity and no one Blue Lodge or Grand Lodge holds a monopoly over its interpretation. Therefore, in order for Freemasonry to succeed, our mantra will be, "Think Outside of the Box."
I encourage you visit and support this magazine. They've got some noble goals and they could use our help.

Finally, my last link to share today is The Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield. According to the website, "The Centre undertakes and promotes objective scholarly research into the historical, social and cultural impact of freemasonry, particularly in Britain." I hope they follow in the footsteps of other serious Masonic historians and bring many new facts to light. The website is certainly worth exploring, as several papers and publications are available for reading and downloading.

Wed, 09 Jun 2004

# While exploring some neat new Masonic websites, I came across a very large collection of resources for lodges that I'd never seen before. The first I'd like to share is The LodgeBuilder, a website dedicated to helping lodges rebuild and revitalize. It contains articles, success stories, and ideas which would be of use to any incoming Master. On their front page, they say,

Brothers, we have just come through a time when many of our organizations were shaken to their foundations by a wave of anti-establishment, materialistic individualism. Since 1960, membership has declined. We've heard of the "me generation", and how the majority of men and women of Baby Boomer age (born 1943 to 1960) rejected these organizations as castoffs of a previous age. Yet thankfully, the children of the Baby Boomers, "Gen X" and "Gen Y", are showing a remarkable interest in the traditions of their grandparents. Indeed, this has led to the renewal of a number of lodges and chapters of the great fraternities: The Freemasons, the Scottish & York Rites, the Shrine and the OES have all enjoyed substantial pockets of revitalization. The Oddfellows have their success stories, as do America's civic fraternities. LodgeBuilder helps discover HOW and WHY.
The second excellent website I'd like to share is Freemasonry Resources, an individual's website which is "a resource of information and links for Freemasons and those who are interested in learning about Freemasonry." Freemasonry Resources has an excellent list of research lodges and resources and articles, including an interesting article titled, What do Younger Masons Really Want?.

# After reading about the Allied Masonic Degrees on the Solomon Center forums, I decided to look around for web resources relating to it as well. Bro. S. Brent Morris's essay, Voting With Their Feet points out that A.M.D. is one of the fraternity's success stories, and the Allied Masonic Degrees website is a testament to that. Be sure to check out its active forums and other resources!

Mon, 07 Jun 2004

# Grand Lodge seemed to go really well. The previously mentioned resolution regarding alcoholic beverages in the lodge actually passed, and our new Grand Master is M:.W:.B:. Gareth J. Duggan. Congratulations, Brother! For those who have never been to Grand Lodge sessions before, I recommend sitting through them at least once. While I didn't get to stay for the installation, I found all the pomp and ceremony revolving around the introduction of visiting dignitaries and grand officers to be quite interesting. Representatives from the M:.W:. Prince Hall Grand Lodge F&AM of Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, Inc. were present, and I had the opportunity to speak with one of the grand officers for a moment. We have been trying to arrange a visit for a while, but unfortunately I learned that their southernmost lodge, which once met in Klamath Falls, has surrendered its charter.

# I mentioned that I was traveling with our Senior Warden. We spent a great deal of time this weekend going over his plans for next year, and while fleshing them out came up with enough material and ideas to fill three years of lodge activities. As I am certain that there are other Masters out there looking for ideas for their year in the East, I thought I would share some of ours.

  • Camping, fishing, and picnics. We have avoided these in the past because they're difficult for our older members to attend, but as we won't be taking away from other lodge activities, they really can't hurt and should be a lot of fun.
  • "Bring a friend" night. Our "Layman's Night" idea hasn't been working out very well, so after three years we're thinking of putting it on hold. Instead, Masons will be able to use non-Masons as meal tickets — bring a friend and the two of you eat for free! This way, non-Masons will get to see what our regular programs are like.
  • A "Degree Month" for each degree. Our lodge members normally meet three times a month: once for the Stated Communication, and twice for ritual practices. We thought it would be neat to have our first meeting be a ritual practice for one of the degrees, then our Stated Meeting would open on that degree. During the meeting we would recite or exemplify some portion of the degree (perhaps the lecture or obligation), with some discussion. Finally, our third meeting would be an educational meeting where we discussed the degree.
  • Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences. We will focus on this important symbol of Freemasonry by having public programs focused on each of these topics. This should provide us enough material for several years of programs, even! We thought about inviting the local Toastmasters group to talk about rhetoric, and already lined up a Past Grand Master to talk about astronomy.
These are just a few of our ideas — we have many, many more. I'll make sure to keep the website updated so other lodges can learn from our successes and failures. By the way, I am not the only one sharing these sorts of ideas on the web. The Solomon Center forums have a lot more!

# Finally, I thought I would close this entry by announcing that one more Masonic weblog has been found. As I was saying... at Solomon Center is run by a few Illinois Freemasons. The website looks really great, and I wish them luck. It is really, certainly worth a visit.

Wed, 02 Jun 2004

# This year will be my first year attending Grand Lodge sessions. As Junior Warden, I get to vote, too! One of the proposals on the ballot this year is an interesting one: ours may no longer be a dry Grand Lodge! Under certain circumstances, we'll be able to serve alcohol in the Temple. Most of these circumstances cover times when only Freemasons are present, but that should mean that we can have a real table lodge. I'm very excited, and even bought myself a new necktie for the event (it's burgundy with yellow rhinoceroses).

This year, the Grand Lodge is meeting in Redmond, which is about four hours from here, out in Eastern Oregon. It's one of my favorite parts of the state, as it's full of high desert wildlife, plants, great vistas, and beautiful landscapes. I hope it will give me a chance to relax a bit and finish up a book review I've been working on.

# In other Masonic news, Bro. Dave Daugherty has started a Masonic weblog! I'm no longer alone in the Masonoverse! I've met Bro. Dave a couple of times, and he's a really great, really intelligent man. He is an advocate of Universal Freemasonry and last year undertook a "Fast for Forgotten Brethren", about which he says, "My Supreme wish is that the Grand Masters (and others), will issue edicts confirming Universal Brotherhood without regard to race, religion and recognize the Grand Lodge de France."

Thu, 27 May 2004


# To one unfamiliar with Masonic symbolism, today's title may seem like bad rapper slang, but to the Freemason it has a stronger, more important significance. Today I bring your attention to The Letter "G", a Short Talk Bulletin from 1927. The author, an unknown brother, discusses the letter's significance and shares theories and ideas of his own. I have long been fascinated with this particular symbol, and find the ceremony surrounding its revelation to be a profound one. The article states,

That Freemasonry has in her letter "G" and its connotations a relationship with this ancient association of "letters four and science five -" that is, of Deity and science or knowledge - is not remarkable - rather it would extraordinary if she had not. In all ages and all religions, man has interwoven together his thought of spirit and matter, his ideas of relative and absolute. Freemasonry's "G" is but another of these conceptions, expressed in a symbol.
Later, he quotes Bro. Mackey, "[Mackey] regretted that the Roman 'g' ever found its way into our symbolism, and read the 'G' as a substitute for the Hebrew Yod, which in turn is a symbol of the tetragrammaton, or four-letter word." I've always liked the idea of Yod (י) being exchanged for the G in those situations where it would fit. The י is, by the way, used in the Scottish Rite's 14°, and as such is a symbol recognizable by many Masons. In The Initiatic Symbolism of Freemasonry, Bro. Tom Worrel also equates י with the G. It seems a popular concept.

In a second article called The Letter G, Bro. Mark Dwor traces the usage of that venerable initial back through the ages to the beginnings of modern Freemasonry. About this symbol's history, he writes,

The real issue about the letter G is not so much where it came from but how it gradually changed its original meaning and how it is that this new meaning has now become the predominant one.
He goes on to trace the dual meaning of this letter to the formation of the Blue Lodge's three-degree system, concluding that "when the new Second Degree was established [...], G also came to represent God, although the original geometrical meaning has never disappeared."

# As a followup to yesterday's post, I would like to offer for everybody's perusal the text of A Petition for Religious Inclusion, which seeks to remind us:

Let us once again recall that, in its long and glorious history, Freemasonry has provided the world with an inspiring example of the wisdom, strength and beauty in a fraternity based on religious tolerance and morality.
Please visit the petition's website and show your support.

Wed, 26 May 2004

# In an earlier entry I mentioned the difficulties that one brother was having with the Grand Lodge of Missouri, which seems to have begun discriminating against pagans by restricting their activities in the fraternity. It seems that after the Grand Master denounced paganism in an open lodge, an edict was issued which prevents lodges and individual members of the Grand Lodge of Missouri from presenting anything on the Internet "that purports in any manner whatsoever, to speak in terms of representing Missouri Freemasonry." The term "Missouri Freemasonry" does not seem to be defined in the edict, so I am not sure if it means simply the official stance of the Grand Lodge, or the general state of Freemasonry in Missouri. This part is especially troubling:

This Decision and Edict is made to prevent unauthorized Subordinate Lodges and the Members thereof from disseminating information that has not been approved as the Official Position of the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Missouri; and also, to assure that those seeking Masonic Information by visiting a Missouri Masonic Web Site receive accurate information concerning the Missouri Masonic Fraternity.
My feelings on the importance of revolution and progress in our Fraternity have already been made known, so it should come as no surprise to any of my readers that this approach to controversy disturbs me greatly. Freemasonry is supposed to help us work together in harmony, but not under the heavy-handed glove of authority! Ours is an ancient fraternity founded upon the importance of individual thought and action. We are brought together to understand and benefit from one another, not to suppress ideas and information.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, our pagan brother in Missouri has demitted.

# In light of this distressing turn of events, the efforts of the more liberal irregular lodges seems much nobler. The North American Freemasonic Conference, a body made up of a group of irregular Grand Lodges, has coined the term "Progressive Freemasonry". The Craft is a "progressive science" in more ways than one. Indeed, I find that calling an irregular Grand Lodge a progressive Grand Lodge goes much further toward expressing my appreciation for their efforts.

I look forward to the day when the tenets of universal Freemasonry can be approached, considered, and perhaps even adopted by all regular Grand Lodges.

This entry was updated to reflect some changed URLs.

Fri, 21 May 2004

# cover I have been doing some research for a paper I've been working on, and while doing so turned to The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590-1710 by David Stevenson. I picked this book up a while back, but for some reason never finished reading it. I was stunned to find that it contained a wealth of information and an incredibly bibliography. Enough information, in fact, that it has become an excellent starting point for the remainder of my paper. If this book isn't a part of your lodge's library (or, if I may be so bold to insist, part of your Masonic library), it really needs to be. Buy it. No, really.

Before you leave the page figuring me for some kind of money-grubbing fraud, let me tell you why. Stevenson does a remarkable job of tracing the roots of Freemasonry back to the tail end of 16th century Scotland. He builds on the scholarly work of Dame Frances Yates to build an exciting and convincing history of the Craft. This is no half-researched pseudo-Templarism, either, but a true piece of scholarly work. Like I said earlier, it belongs in every Masonic library.

# Today's title actually ties in quite nicely with Origins. One of Stevenson's theses is that Renaissance Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and especially Rosicrucianism were all powerful influences on the men that transformed the Fraternity from one of operative masons to speculative ones. Stevenson, of course, is not alone in these thoughts.

M:.W:. Bro:. Fabio Venzi, Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy, writes in his paper, "The Influence of Neoplatonic Thought on Freemasonry",

Why, the choice of Neoplatonic philosophy, as the foundation of Masonic thought? Which of the Neoplatonic concepts, do we find in the philosophy upon which, Masonic allegories and symbolism, are based? Let us begin, with one the most beautiful images, that Neoplatonism has given us: the "openness to contemplation". This concept, finds perhaps its most effective translation, in the German word, "aufgehen", to disclose, to open one's self.
Steven's inclusion of Rosicrucianism in the list of Freemasonry's influences is a notable one. It wasn't until 1614 that Isaac Casaubon showed that the Corpus Hermeticum was not the pre-Christian prophetic work it was previously believed to be, which means that Freemasonry's 16th century roots drew upon that work and the philosophies deriving from it believing them to be of a different nature than they really are. Rosicrucianism, Stevenson points out, was a bold and effective effort to remove the pagan elements of Hermeticism and incorporate them more fully into Christianity. Masons should remember that while the Fraternity is built on a basis of religious tolerance, the removal of most overtly Christian elements from the ritual did not occur until the "healing" of 1813. Even today, traces of Christian symbolism remain in regular American Blue Lodge rituals.

# And before I forget, yesterday's Fellowcraft degree went very well. The lecture, as always, was a great thing to experience. The brother, who was performing it for the first time, did such a great job that I would have sworn he was a seasoned veteran. Afterward we all retired to a local restaurant and ate and drank late into the night. The restaurant, I think, was quite surprised to see a group of tuxedo-clad men showing up so late at night, but they were still quite friendly.

Thu, 20 May 2004

# Tonight our lodge will be conferring the Fellowcraft degree on some lucky candidate. I will be playing the part of Senior Warden, which is a change from my usual recent big parts in the E:.A:. and M:.M:. degrees. In honor of this candidate's degree, I am dedicating today's journal entry to this excellent degree!

Interestingly, in the old days, the Fellowcraft was the highest Craft lodge degree. It is not until the early part of the 18th century that we start to see mention of three degrees, and things blossomed rapidly after that. As that article states,

One thing is reasonably certain - prior to the early eighteenth century, two degrees were worked, the Entered Apprentice Degree and the Fellowcraft Degree. To confirm the issue, one of the ancient manuscripts, the Edinburgh Register House Ms. of 1696 and the Sloan Ms. of 1659 refer to two degrees, whilst the Trinity College Dublin Ms. of 1711 and the Graham Ms. of 1726 refer to three degrees.
The second degree is notably different from the first. While the Entered Apprentice is treated at first as an outsider, the Fellowcraft is welcomed and bolstered by brotherhood. He is led on a fantastic symbolic voyage and introduced to a rich range of symbols on the winding staircase. I think it is fair to say that the Fellowcraft degree is my favorite of the Blue Lodge degrees.

This degree is an important one in our lodge for another reason, too. One of our old members is returning to give the "G" lecture, and one of our newest members is giving the staircase lecture for the first time! It will be a great event, and I can't wait to be there and help out!

Mon, 17 May 2004

# I was reading this great article, Freemasonry's Roots Run Deep In Newtown, a history of Hiram Lodge No. 18 (which, by the way, the author seems to have confused with Hiram Chapter No. 1 R:.A:.M:.) in Newton, Connecticut, when I came across the following quote:

Freemasonry principles have been traditionally liberal and democratic. Anderson's Constitutions (1723), the bylaws of the oldest lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, according to The Columbia Encyclopedia, "cites religious toleration, loyalty to local government, and political compromise as basic to the Masonic ideal. Masons are expected to believe in a Supreme Being, use a holy book appropriate to the religion of the lodge's members, and maintain a vow of secrecy concerning the order's ceremonies."
Back in the 18th century, Freemasonry was regularly associated with political radicals such as Benjamin Franklin and Giuseppe Garibaldi, artists such as Mozart and Robert Burns, and thinkers like Goethe and Voltaire. These were all men who changed the world, and in Freemasonry found some vital spark that aligned with their noble ambitions. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to happen much anymore. There are still some great minds in the fraternity, but with declining numbers and a tendancy to stay out of the public light, it's rare that an influential thinker of the modern world is also a Freemason.

Perhaps this is something that can change. If you're a member of a Masonic lodge, you can help the process along. Bring education to your lodge meeting! The Short Talk Bulletins are a great way to get started, but don't limit your education to Freemasonry. I have seen it suggested time and again to encourage brethren in the lodge to talk about their hobbies and jobs. Talk about books you've read, even if they're not Masonic. Share your knowledge in lodge meetings and get people thinking and talking!

Many people are terrified of speaking in public. I know how that feels. I still get the butterflies when I get up in front of a crowd. While I wouldn't normally use a Masonic forum to push another organization, I am going to make an exception. I found that joining Toastmasters International and attending meetings for a while really helped me out. Now I try to have a topic at our lodge meeting every month, and it has really helped! Give it a try — you may start a glorious trend.

# I wanted to mention revolutionaries today because I think that adding a spark of vitality to a lodge by introducing fresh ideas and encouraging some friendly discussion can really get members excited about coming back. The important thing is to create the sort of conversation that inspires at least one brother to continue the discussion outside the lodge with a non-Mason. If our lodges become known as places where ideas, literature, art, and science are discussed, we will start attracting new members who are interested in those topics. I think there are plenty of folks out there who would be excited to dress up and have stimulating discussions with friends. Heck, it certainly beats watching television.

# The astute observer will notice that I've been awarded the Geo. Washington Past Master Award for this website. Please support the KISS Websites page by clicking on the award and visiting some of their other award winners.

Fri, 14 May 2004

# Today I stumbled across Infiltration, a website which offers "a mix of the practice and theory of urban exploration in areas not designed for public usage". Basically, it's some sort of journal of trespassing, complete with hints, tips, and a ethics of "urban exploration". There is plenty of interesting stuff to read, but most interesting, I think, is his article on the exploration of an old Masonic temple. Many large cities have old, massive Masonic buildings, and a great number of them are decaying away as our membership shrinks.

The author, "Ninj" (?), explored the temple three times, the third being in the accompaniment of a reporter who penned a second article about the building which I've been unable to find online. It is not clear if it is done simply to make the story more exciting or if Ninj actually believes that Freemasons are some sort of ominous Satan-worshiping cult, but his article is littered with references like this:

The walls and chairs were dark, ornately carved wood, and the carpets, lighting and upholstery were all deep, blood red, creating what must've been a deliberately Satanic atmosphere. A series of tall wooden thrones rested on an elevated platform at the centre of the room, underneath the obligatory wooden carving of the eye in the pyramid.
Later in the article, he is actually surprised when their Masonic tour guide ends up being a real person with contemporary popular interests:
I can only guess how Susan Mason reacted to reading that she'd imported an infiltrator into her building, but about a week later I received a letter from Wallace McLeod telling me he'd enjoyed my website and would have talked to me more if he'd realized I was Ninjalicious!
Now, I realize that Freemasonry is fairly out-of-touch with popular culture, and that most folks are entirely ignorant of our real nature, despite all the efforts we've made to put ourselves in the public eye, but this author seems like a pretty clever guy. Would it really have hurt him to do a bit of research into the Craft? Some very cursory reading and maybe even a phone call or two would have really cleared up a lot of his murky notions, and I'm sure if he displayed even a tiny bit of curiosity he could have attracted the enthusiastic attention and conversation of some local Mason. He was right there with Bro. Wallace McLeod, for Pete's sake — a very well-known Masonic author and scholar. He had a great source of information in his grasp, but he let it go.

# As I bemoaned a while back, this sort of ignorant misrepresentation is depressingly common on non-Masonic websites written by individuals in the demographic we should be trying the hardest to reach. These are intelligent, creative people who are just freakishly misinformed. I'm not an expert in public relations, but there has to be something we can do. Perhaps just directing folks to Ed King's excellent Anti-Masonry: Points of View page would be a good start. There are lots of great ideas out there for helping a lodge grow, such as W:.B:. Bransgrove's great article "Some Ideas for Growing a Lodge", but I don't see many great tips for contacting the individual who is badly-informed. Any ideas out there?

Thu, 13 May 2004

# As a game enthusiast, I have been interested for quite a while in finding various ways to incorporate Freemasonry into games, for both entertainment and educational purposes. One game which has seemed particularly promising is HipBone, a game of "connections between ideas" based on a fictional game from Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi.

By restricting HipBone to Masonic themes and topics, it seems that one could practice the application of our symbols to various aspects of everyday life. The concept of symbols corresponding to both ideas and events is important in Kabbalah and other traditions, including neo-Platonism.

# In searching for other Masonic games, I was delighted to come across this Masonic board game, offered by MasterMason.biz and MasonicBoardGame.com. The Masonic Memory-Builder Game is based on a game designed by Bro. Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), and looks to be easily adaptable to any jurisdiction.

Freemasonry has apparently not had as much of a cultural presence in games as it has in movies and television, but given the number of conspiracy-based games out there, I suppose it's only a matter of time.

Wed, 12 May 2004

# A review of Baudolino by Umberto Eco
With all of the bizarre fiction present in the piles of Masonic books which have been published over the last three hundred years, it may seem strange that this book review recommends a piece of fiction to Masons which has absolutely nothing to do with Freemasonry. Umberto Eco's latest novel is a strange voyage through 12th century Europe. The book's title character is a peasant whose talents at learning languages and telling lies attract the attention of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, who adopts him. The book is a chronicle of Baudolino's life as told by himself. It begins as truths and minor tall tales which quickly spiral into a fantastic tale so unbelievable that the reader is left wondering if any of Baudolino's story has a grain of truth in it.

There are several reasons I believe this book would be of interest to Freemasons. First, the book is set during the height of the influence and power of the Knights Templar. Baudolino narrates his tale during the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, and the contrast between various characters' views and impressions of the Knights Templar is very interesting.

Second, Eco does a marvelous job capturing the mindset of a Medieval scholar. The manner in which Baudolino's lies, unconfirmed stories, and flawed logic blend together into a story that seems too strange to believe seems analogous to the fantastical legends of Freemasonry's origins as told in many of our older texts. For example, in the Constitutions of 1723 by the father of Masonic history, Bro. James D.D. Anderson, a history of Freemasonry is presented which dates our Fraternity back to Adam, Noah, and the exile of the Hebrews from Egypt. While this may seem implausible to us today, Bro. Anderson's history was taken seriously for more than a century. Baudolino shows us how this sort of thing could have been possible.

Beyond being a very enjoyable read, Baudolino encourages the reader to think about the connection between falsehood and history while immersing him in the mindset and world view of the people of the 12th century.

This review was originally published in the October 2003 Trestleboard for Ashland Lodge No. 23.

Tue, 11 May 2004

# I have been giving a lot of thought to joining the Scottish Rite. Other Masons who know me and my interests seem to think that the Scottish Rite would fit me even better than the York Rite. Indeed, discussions on various mailing lists always seem to tie the Scottish Rite into topics with which I am either familiar or curious about.

The Scottish Rite is not organized in the same manner as other bodies with which I am familiar. In the United States, it is divided into northern and southern jurisdictions, although the names don't seem to be very descriptive. Oregon for some reason belongs to the Southern Jurisdiction though it's certainly in the northern half of the United States. The Northern Jurisdiction covers just fifteen states, leaving the other thirty-five for the Southern.

# Non-Masons will be delighted to learn that the Scottish Rite is the source of all those 32° and 33° Masons. Most Freemasons will tell you that there is no degree higher than the 3°, or Master Mason degree. This is true in some sense as the Master Mason degree is the highest one can receive in a regular Blue or Craft Lodge in most regular Grand Lodges in the United States. However, other rites such as the now-clandestine Rite of Memphis & Misraïm have degree numbers reaching up to the 99°. The Swedish Rite, practiced by the Grand Lodge of Sweden and other Scandanavian Grand Lodges, reach only to the X°. There is quite a bit of variation in the way degrees are numbered and worked in Freemasonry.

Regardless, in the United States the higher degree numbers offered by appendant bodies is explained away as being further explanations of the 3°, giving no additional rank or priveledge to a Brother who receives them. However, considering the amount of dedication and work required of one who reaches these high degrees, it is not so strange to see the honors heaped upon one who has received the Grand Cross or other honorary degrees.

On Thursday I will hopefully be receiving a petition. With that in hand, I shall embark upon yet another Masonic Journey!

Thu, 29 Apr 2004

# Most Freemasons have at least heard that the famous poet and author Rudyard Kipling was a brother, and many have probably read at least a few of his Masonic poems, such as "Banquet Night" or "The Palace". I'd bet that some of you have even read The Man Who Would be King or even seen the movie by the same name.

Brother Kipling was made a Mason in 1886 at Hope and Perseverance Lodge No. 782 at Lahore Punjab, India. That Masonry made a great impression on him is evident by its many references in his works, but strangely The Kipling Society's website, though an excellent resource, fails to mention his association with the Craft. It is also interesting to note that Bro. Kipling was a member of the Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia.

I suspect that outside of Masonic and literary circles, Bro. Kipling is most famous for The Jungle Book, which unfortunately has been a victim of Disney's crass commercialism.

# Here's something new and interesting, though: The Man Who Would be King's Daniel Dravot is supposedly based on a real person! Also a Freemason, Josiah Harlan was a Quaker from Philadelphia. He was a physician, a naturalist, a spy, a governor, a military leader, and an all-around adventurous guy. His adventures in Afghanistan occurred between 1827 and 1839, and after returning home to the United States he fought for the Union during the Civil War.

The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan by Ben Macintyre details the life and adventures of Josiah Harlan. It looks like an excellent book, but I've yet to read it.

Tue, 27 Apr 2004

# Curiosity got the better of me this morning, and I began searching the web for signs of other Freemasons with weblogs. It appears I'm the only one, but as this site is rather difficult to find on search engines, it may be that there are others out there as hidden as this one. I was not surprised to see that many common misconceptions about Freemasonry are as common among the weblog community as they are in "real life". Everything from well-meaning but confused descriptions of our symbols to strange pseudo-spooky ramblings to interest in some of the less pleasing aspects of our history can be found.

The closest thing to a second Masonic weblog is Blazeblog, which seems to be about as active as this log, but has a link to an archive of Freemasonry-related entries which reveal that the author is indeed a member of our Fraternity.

Overall, it seems that most younger webloggers are confused by Freemasonry or oddly ignorant, given the large amount of information available on the web, not to mention the huge number of books available on the subject. So what's up with all that ignorance?

Mon, 26 Apr 2004

# In most Grand Lodges with which I am familiar, the strong line between Freemasonry and politics is heavily emphasized and zealously maintained, which is why it surprised me to read an article talking about a Philippino Grand Master endorsing a presidential candidate. the article states,

In his welcome remarks, [Most Worshipful Roberto Q.] Pagotan said that the group "claims with pride a special kinship" with [President Arroyo] as her grandfather, Juan Macaraeg was a freemason.

Quite strange, isn't it? I would be quite interested in hearing how readers' grand lodges deal with external politics.

# Even stranger, of course, is to follow Freemasonry back in history, and to view its strong ties to various social and political movements. Freemasonry has been tied to the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and various South American revolutionary movements. In fact, in the United States the influence of Freemasonry on our political landscape can be seen in the Morgan Affair and the subsequent formation of the Anti-Mason Party. W:.B:. D. Beagley provides a great analysis of Freemasonry in social and political trends in his paper, Historiography and Revolutionary Freemasonry.

# In closing this journal entry, I thought I would mention a bit about what's going on in my own Masonic life. Currently I am serving as Junior Warden of my lodge, and it is a good deal of work. We've been having degree work this year, but of course not as much as we'd like.

Fri, 02 Apr 2004

# I came across a touching editorial from the Couer d'Alene Press which quotes a Masonic pamphlet while discussing the author's views on religion:

"I've Methodists, Baptists, Scientists and Jews,

"Whose friendship is a treasure I wouldn't want to lose.

"So when people talk religion, I just settle back and see every helpful loyal friend each church has given me."

I share this unknown author's philosophy. My wife and I have been members of three different denominations as we have moved around the country over the years. We found comfort in each one.

# Strangely, I also came across a BBC article dealing with the murder of Roberto Calvi, one of the men involved in the P2 Lodge scandal in Italy. Known as "God's Banker" because of his associations with the Vatican, there have long been speculations that his death involved Masonic symbolism. The P2 scandal affected a wide range of powerful men, including (some speculate) the Prime Minister of Italy. A quote from the article:

There has been much speculation that the posing of the body and the use of Blackfriars Bridge were masonic symbols.

[Carlo Calvi] says: "I don't subscribe to that theory. But I do believe there was a masonic element to his death and I do believe the way he was killed was symbolic."

Sounds fishy to me. Read the article for yourself and form your own opinions, though.

Every Mason on the Internet has undoubtedly heard of the strange accident at Southside Lodge in New York. During a clandestine ritual gone terribly wrong, Bro. William James was accidentally shot in the face and killed. Apparently the ritual was an induction into an unauthorized and irregular "Fellowcraft Club". The Grand Master of New York has issued a statement containing more information. Southside Lodge's charter has been suspended pending an investigation of the incident by the Grand Lodge, and criminal charges have also been filed.

Regular, standard Masonic ritual involves no firearms of any sort, nor is the candidate ever put in a situation described in those articles. My heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to Bro. James's family.

Thu, 01 Apr 2004

# The Marquis de Lafayette was a French noble who worked hard to support the American Revolution. Incidentally, he was also a Freemason. Such artifacts as the apron he presented to George Washington have become important icons in American Freemasonry. A nice biography of the Marquis can be found on the Historic Valley Forge website.

As with many Freemasons of his time, there is quite a bit of confusion surrounding Lafayette's history in the fraternity, including the date and place of his initiation. We have not been able to find any records of this information. A Short Talk Bulletin concludes that while we can't know for certain where he was made a Mason, some documents seem to indicate that it was done before his arrival in the American Colonies, which contradicts the common wisdom that he became a Freemason at Bro. Washington's insistence.

W:.B:. Jim Tresner, 33°, has also written a book about Bro. Lafayette, which you can purchase from Amazon.com. In fact, there are a good number of books about the man.

# I mention the Marquis because of a curious article I found discussing the "Fayette Factor", a term used to describe the high number of paranormal events which seem to occur near places named for our esteemed brother. More about this topic can be read at The Cryptozoologist.

Some examples of strange events listed in another article are:

  • A tombstone in Fayette County, Alabama, bearing the ghostly figure of a dead man's bride,
  • A Bigfoot "hot spot" in Lafayette County, Arkansas,
  • And a haunted farmhouse in Fayette, Missouri!

Of course, one might suspect that the "Fayette Factor" phenomena is similar to the Bermuda Triangle, in that a search for any sufficiently common place name would turn up a comparable number of bizarre stories. I am reminded of the Discordian "Law of Fives", about which it is said, "I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look."

Wed, 31 Mar 2004

Way back in September of 2003, I received an email from W:.B:. William R. Sproles, Past Master of Marine Lodge in Massachusetts, regarding an old journal entry. Here's what he had to say:

I have a minor correction for your page. The pictures of the mural in Marine Lodge's Dining Hall are a great link. We are very proud of Mari's work and miss seeing her next door after meetings. However, the GL of Mass. does not use lodge numbers (the only state in the Union that doesn't & a long story). Massachusetts was also responsible for defeating the formation of a GL of USA by the original 13 colonies (thus maintaining MA as the 3rd ranking GL in the world, behind the GLs of Scotland & England). The 200 indicated on the pages refers to Marine Lodge's 200th Anniversary. It being originally chartered in 1798. We are also quite proud of the jewels worn by our officers which were crafted by MW Paul Revere.
Non-Masons may wonder about the significance of the idea of a Grand Lodge of the United States. Freemasonry in the United States is organized in such a way that each state has its own Grand Lodge, and each is entirely autonomous. No state can tell another what to do, although in the past we've seen political moves, such as the suspension of recognition, used to influence unruly jurisdictions which drift away from the Ancient Landmarks.

In more troubling Masonic news, there has been discord and controversy brewing in the Grand Lodge of Missouri. I do not have all of the details, but you can read about it on the MoMason.net Web Board, in particular this topic. Here is what it has to say:

The Grand Master of Missouri, M.W.B. Stanley Thompson, during and after his Official visit to Richmond Lodge (at the Camden Masonic Temple), made derogatory statements regarding Paganism and those who may consider themselves Pagans within the Masonic Fraternity. The leader of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, while representing himself in the position of Grand Master, openly stated to those in attendance that "Pagans are Satanist" and that Pagans "lie at the alter" when they profess a belief in God.
This country is supposed to pride itself on its commitment to personal freedom, especially freedom of religion. Above all, Freemasonry is supposed to be a shining beacon of the celebration of religious tolerance, above and beyond that grand example set by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. That this fundamental and precious principle could be threatened and cast aside by one so prominent in our fraternity brings me a great deal of sadness and shame. I truly hope that the Grand Lodge of Missouri will be able to work through this and that the Light of Freemasonry will shine there once more.

Tue, 30 Mar 2004

After more than a year without updates, and after being approached many times by Masons saddened by the apparent abandonment of this site, I have decided to give it one more shot. As you can see, there have been some changes. The design of the site has changed, as have the tools I'm using to maintain it. I hope this will mean that things will progress more smoothly in the future.

I plan to spend more time gathering links to news items that have to do with Freemasonry, and to spend more time exploring the subjects in the Fraternity that interest me. Above all, I would like this site to be an interesting and educational experience for all visitors, Mason and non-Mason alike.

When examining this new format, please note that the older entries (everything before this date, anyhow) have screwed up titles. I didn't have time to make my way back through all two years of entries and select a suitable title for each.

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