Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem

The last broadcast of Masonic Central was a Table Lodge and all had a fun time. As I had to rise at 3:30 AM for work the next day I confined my toasts to some good English hot tea. Along the way in performing the seven toasts we came to the one for The Holy Saints John. After the toast we had a pretty good discussion going between the hosts Greg Stewart and Dean Kennedy, and Stephen Dafoe and myself about “From the Lodge of the Holy Saints John of Jerusalem.”

Why do we as Masons say we are from a Lodge of the Holy Saint Johns or John? I did some investigating and found that Ed Halpaus had written an essay on the subject that was most fascinating, so I will bring you his words on the subject. If you aren’t familiar with Ed Halpaus, he hails from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, Mainstream where he has served as Grand Lodge Education Officer. He publishes two Masonic subject essay mailings that one can subscribe to. One is Mehr Licht (More Light) and the other T.F.S. (Three, Five and Seven). You can request to be put on his mailing list by E-Mailing him at and mentioning the titles of the mailings in your request. I am a regular subscriber and always find Brother Halpaus spreads mucho light!

Brother Halpaus says that in answering the question who was the Holy St. John that is referred to in the phrase “the Lodge of the Holy Saint John”, a French Mason by the name of Bazot claims that it was St. John the Almoner. His father was King of Cyprus but he gave up his title to the throne to go to Jerusalem to assist the Knights and pilgrims of the Crusades. There he did much in charitable relief and acts of benevolence. St. John the Almoner was canonized by both the Greek and Roman Catholic churches and there were two feast days in his honor on November 11th and January 23rd.

But Brother Halpaus goes on to point out that is false that it was St. John the Baptist as the day the Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717 was held on June 24th, Saint John the Baptist day. Later St. John the Evangelist was added to the mix.

But there is a Masonic connection here, says Brother Halpaus. St. John the Almoner is the patron Saint of the Masonic Order of the Templars on account of his charity to the poor and his building of hospitals in Jerusalem.

But what was most interesting that Brother Halpus had to say was before the year 1440 the Masonic Fraternity was known by the name of John’s Brothers and subsequently Freemasonry as practiced in the USA, Ireland and Scotland was called Johannite Masonry. Here you will find the Masonic symbol of “The Point Within The Circle” “So the first three degrees conferred by the Symbolic Lodges in these countries”, Hapaus goes on to say, “is sometimes , although rarely now, called Johannite Masonry, because those Lodges are dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.”

In England the terms St. John Lodges and St. John Masons were applied to those who were Freemasons before the Premier Lodge of England was formed and who in 1717 did not join the new Grand Lodge. They became old unrecognized Lodges and remained Trinitarian Christian while the new Grand Lodge of England was non sectarian. Right about now I am thinking about the difference in focus between American Prince Hall Masonry and American Mainstream Masonry and the interview on Masonic Central of Texas Prince Hall Deputy Grand Master Michael Anderson. There is much that can be said about the biblical roots of Freemasonry.

A question I asked on the radio show was why Jerusalem? A Lodge of the Holy Saints John yes, but why Jerusalem? And of course the obvious answer was that this is the area where King Solomon’s Temple was located. But I was searching for a still deeper symbolism here. And I found it when I read Brother Halpaus’ article.

“Jerusalem”, says Halpaus, “has a symbolic meaning of peace, rest and contentment. The name Jerusalem means City of Peace”. I have long held that world peace and Freemasonry have a direct correlation, and that every Lodge room is a sanctuary of peace and harmony and accord.

Brother Halpaus starts his article with a quote from the Book of Common Prayer. I will end with it.

“O pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls; and plenteous within thy palaces. For my brethren and companion’s sakes; I will wish thee prosperity. Yea, because of the house of the Lord our god; I will seek to do thee good.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prince Hall Masonry On The Radio

On December 7, 2008 R.W. Michael T. Anderson, Deputy Grand Master of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas appeared on the radio podcast Masonic Central. This podcast is nationally and internationally known and has recently interviewed such Mainstream notables as Brothers Chris Hodapp, S. Brent Morris, Robert Davis, Tom Jackson, Stephen Dafoe and Nelson King to name a few. So Brother Anderson followed some heavy hitters on a radio show that is doubling its listeners every two months.

Assisting the Co-owners Brothers Greg Stewart of California and Dean Kennedy of Nova Scotia, Canada interview Brother Anderson was Texas Prince Hall’s own Brother Frederic L. Milliken of Pride of Mt. Pisgah #135, Dallas, Texas.
Brother Anderson was able to paint for his audience a good picture of Prince Hall Masonry. He emphasized his belief that Masonry is not about outward appearance but rather inward character. He spoke lovingly about his Masonic mentor Lawrence “Pap” Anderson who instilled in him the importance of getting a good Masonic education and having a solid foundation of knowledge about the Craft.

Talking about how Masonry affects the individual, Brother Anderson said that you ought to be able to identify a Mason by his actions. “My actions should speak louder than anything else”, he emphasized. “Even if someone doesn’t know you are a Mason, they should be thinking that there is something different about that man”, he added.

He answered questions on the numbers of Texas Prince Hall Masons by saying it is not the quantity of men that we should be concerned about but the quality. Another question was asked about the emphasis upon Christianity within Prince Hall Masonry and Brother Anderson answered that Masonry should always point a Brother to the church. And then he said something about the Bible on our altars that everybody listened intently to. “The more words you put in you, the more words come out of you”, he said.

A question was asked about the longevity of service of Prince Hall Grand Masters and Brother Anderson replied that he thought it was a good thing and allowed Grand Masters to implement some long range visions. He said that he was very, very appreciative of Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis and all he has done to being a new attitude to Prince Hall Texas and how growth even in mid winter Grand Lodge attendance has increased, reflecting the Brothers love for the continued leadership of their Grand Master. He spoke about Grand Master Curtis’s hard work in getting a compact signed with the Grand Lodge of Texas for Prince Hall recognition and the subsequent recognition by UGLE.

And still another question was about the Masonic Family and the cooperation and closeness of the rapidly growing Bodies of The Eastern Star and Heroines of Jericho. Brother Anderson spoke about the importance placed on the fraternalism of the entire Prince Hall Family.

Many people across the USA and Canada were exposed to a better understanding on just what Prince Hall Masonry is like and we can thank Brother Anderson for that. If you were there live on December7, 2008 you not only got a good show but an unrecorded after show. For those that were not there the show can be accessed on podcast on the Masonic Central website Knowledge begets understanding and understanding begets pride in your fraternity. You can tell that when you listen to Brother Anderson. So could the rest of North America.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fremasonry and Christmas

Compliments of Brother Neil Neddermeyer who writes Cinosam.


The observance of Christmas doesn't seem to bring satisfaction to some people. On one hand, many say it's too religious, and thus don't want Christmas trees in public buildings and nativity scenes within a shepherd's-crook length of government lawns. On the other hand, many say it's not religious enough; it's too commercial. They've been saying it for years-it's the central theme behind the charming animated cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas which was made some 40 years ago.

Setting that aside, what does Christmas mean to the Freemason?

Certainly Freemasonry is not a religion, Christian or otherwise. It leaves the determination on spiritual matters to each individual Mason, so long as he believes in the Almighty Creator. But there are certain messages from the story of Christmas that are applicable to all Masons, not just those who celebrate a certain birth on December 25th.

Many Christians feel God gave his greatest gift to mankind, and that Gift's birth is marked on Christmas Day. And the spirit of giving is also outlined in our Masonic ceremonies. The new Entered Apprentice is reminded in the northeast corner of charity, and to practice it whenever possible. There's the monetary charity of that portion of our ceremony. And there's another kind. The one referred to in the Charge in the same degree which admonishes "to relieve his necessities, soothe his afflictions, and do to him as you would that he, under similar circumstances, should do until you." In other words, the Golden Rule, from the Sermon on the Mount.

Christmas is a time of faith for our Christian brethren. But all Masons are reminded in the different degrees of the principle of faith. In the explanation of the First Degree Tracing Board, we hear "How ready and willing ought we to be to adore the Almighty Creator." Therefore, let this time of year serve as a reminder to all Masons to practice their faith, whatever it may be.

Faith and Charity are names of principal staves or rounds on the Ladder you see every meeting on that Tracing Board. But there is another round, and that is Hope in Salvation. While Salvation has a particular connotation to those who believe in the story of the virgin birth, the concept of some kind of reward for following Masonic principles during our lives winds its way through the various degrees, as those of you familiar with the working tools explanations of the Second and Third Degrees well know.

So let this season of the year remind all Masons, no matter what their religious beliefs, to follow those universal tenets of the Craft-faith, hope and charity. Doing so should bring satisfaction to you at Christmas-time.

Jim Bennie, PDDGM
Southern Cross No. 44, Vancouver B.C.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Would You Do As Grand Master #9

Here is a young Texas Mason soon to be shipped out to Afghanistan. He writes a very interesting personalized Blog, From Darkness To Light. This is our future. Long after I am sitting in The Celestial Lodge Above, this thoughtful Mason will still be here and my bet is as a big leader.

To begin this I would say that I have been from one side of this country to the other and have visited Masonic Lodges in between, and what works in Santa Fe, New Mexico might not work in Alexandria, Virginia and for that I give your rule number one, if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it. Bottom line if a lodge is bringing in new members, having a positive impact in the community, teaching esoteric work, or whatever than there isn’t a justification or a reason to mess with the way that lodge is doing business. That being written, there would be some changes that I think could help jump start Freemasonry in the 21st century.

Offer up a choice of blue lodge types: I think that anyone that has been a Master Mason for six months knows that there are vast difference between lodges, even within a Masonic District, I would like each Masonic District to have at least three types of lodges available, Traditional Observance “like” Lodges, 20th Century Traditional Lodges, and Community Outreach Lodges. Traditional Observance “like” Lodges would have a heavy emphasis on ritual and esoteric work, would meet in dark suits or tux have table lodge once a month, and require papers written by it’s members. 20th Century Traditional Lodges, are the lodges that most people think of today, with an emphasis on fellowship (fish fry’s, pancake breakfasts, etc) is proficient at the ritual, and does small charity events. Community Outreach Lodges while meet all of the tenants of a Masonic lodge do extensive work in the local community and other Masonic charitable organizations.

I believe a key in to attracting quality candidates is giving them an option to choose which lodge meets their needs, all potential candidates who are serious about joining Freemasonry would be briefed on each lodge and encouraged to visit each type to find which Masonic journey route they would like to go. Some candidates want to join the same lodge that Father or Grandfather joined, and that’s fine, but we want to give everyone a choice in the type of lodge they would join. Far be it for me to say that only one kind of lodge is the only way to save Freemasonry.

Now living in a state like Texas and realizing that there are large rural areas that can hardly support one lodge let alone three, I refer you to rule number one, and would allow the members of that lodge to decide their best route given their membership (again, it’s about choice and the choices the brothers want to make).

Celebration of your Lodge’s Heritage: In the race to cure “Masonic World Hunger” (MWH) most have forgotten the little things that build pride and attract membership, that’s the foundation and the beginnings of your lodge. I don’t care if a lodge was founded in 1797 or 1997 it has a unique story of brotherhood and leadership that needs to be celebrated both within the walls of our temples and in the local community. That is why I would dedicate October as a month that all lodges celebrate their founding and telling the story of how they came to be, both within a tyled meeting and the community at large.

Encouragement of Younger Brothers Involvement @ Grand Lodge: A common theme that we get in our fraternity is why we aren’t attracting good men anymore, one of the factors in my mind is that Freemasonry in America has become an aging institution that isn’t putting it’s best and brightest and younger members forward, instead we rely on retired lawyers, judges, and doctors to be our face. While that brings a sense of stability, it isn’t doing much to attract men in their 20’s and 30’s. We need to celebrate our younger members, their professional achievements and have them be actively involved @ the Grand Lodge level. I am not saying that after a guy is raised slap a DDGM badge on him, but there are plenty of ways to encourage involvement at all levels, without being a Past Master, this can encourage something other than the old grey hairs we see in our local newspaper.

Community Work with Other Masonic Organizations: To help build relationships and ease tension I would work with The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas in a joint Community Outreach program to positively impact a community hit by disaster (hurricane, draught, etc). This would be a partnership between two non-profit organizations with one common goal, the relief of our common man. This would hopefully lead to both sides of the aging organizations to realize that they are not in competition with each other for membership and start to heal scars that were brought by the past. We have already recognized each other; why not work together in the areas that we have commonality.

These are the initiatives that I would feel would help our Fraternity, would it solve “Masonic World Hunger”? No, but giving brothers and candidates a choice in their Masonic experience is a key component, along with showcasing younger brothers and having a positive impact on the community beyond raising small amounts of money, but giving time and labor can have a lasting impression.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Understanding Prince Hall Freemasonry

On December 8, 2008 the Deputy Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, Michael T. Anderson, appeared on the radio podcast Masonic Central and I had the honor of helping to interview him. This was an exposure of Prince Hall right from the horse’s mouth to an audience of mainly Mainstream Masonry from all over.

This show has a blog or chat board that allows those logged on not only to listen to the interview but also to post questions or carry on a conversation with others logged in. There were questions but what got my attention were some of the comments. “We are farther apart than I thought we were”, said one. “He’s preaching”, another blurted out. It’s not that these comments were disrespectful because they were not. It was the chasm of understanding that still needed to be overcome that sunk in.

Most Mainstreamers do not understand the closeness of Prince Hall to Christianity and why prayers to Jesus are allowed in Lodge. They have “sanitized” their Freemasonry and put up a wall of separation between spirituality and Masonry. To understand why Prince Hall operates as it does you need to go back into Black history.

Black people whether slave or free were not allowed to go down to the park and hang around or sit around and talk at the General Store, or attend the town BBQ and Fair or meet at the Grange or have a picnic together. Blacks were not allowed to congregate on their own lest they be a threat to White society and later during segregation Blacks were only allowed to assemble in non White areas which unless you owned property amounted to nowhere - nowhere but the one place where Blacks were permitted to assemble in large numbers, the Black Church.

So if you were a Black man and you wanted to meet a woman, you met her at the church. If you wanted men friends you met them there also. If you were looking for a tutor or some knowledge in an area you went to the church. If you wanted to inquire about Freemasonry you did so at the church. And in later years you most often met the Black politician running for office in your area at the church.

From the Black church flowed everything, not because that is the way Blacks chose it but because that is the way it was forced upon them. Consequently 99% of all Black Masons came from the church. The church was the one area where you got to know strangers. 150 to 200 years ago all Blacks were Christians and mainly churched in just a few different denominations. So every Mason coming from the same religion and the same few churches made the Lodge a gathering of church men expressing their spirituality and their Masonry together.

In the Black community everything became intertwined. Areas of life living were not segregated into little boxes of isolation. Freemasons were very active in the community in Black politics, community action and charity. Politicians and community activists were active in the church and often came to disseminate their message from the church pulpit. Many male church members were Freemasons and brought their religion with them into the Lodge since everyone else there was of the same persuasion. The Black community has never accepted the “Separation of Church and State” Doctrine. Prince Hall Freemasonry is not secular but religious. The Black political world, the religious world and the Masonic world were some of the same people with different hats on, the same people who went around and around in an interconnected circle. There was no wall of separation. Since many Black Lodges were not well heeled most met at the church. The Black church on certain nights became the Black Lodge building.

Now times have changed. You see many Blacks in denominations previously unheard of such as Roman Catholicism. You see some Black people in different religions other than Christianity, such as Islam. Prince Hall isn’t exclusively Christian. It admits men of all religions and will obligate them on the Sacred Volume of Law that pertains to their religion. And today you will find a small mix of others in the Prince Hall system who do not feel uncomfortable at all because Prince Hall only allows the expression of one’s faith not the proselytizing or conformity to any religious dogma.

But we are talking about association not the practice of Freemasonry. We are talking how men act and behave as they gather in the Lodge feeling close to each other. They act out their traditions, they way they were raised, especially when all present feel exactly the same. But that is not the same as practicing and teaching what Freemasonry is all about.

It is the failure of Mainstream Masonry to take any responsibility for the traditions of the Black community and the way Black Freemasonry developed that is the problem today. It is the failure of Mainstream Masonry to take any responsibility for a duly chartered branch of Masonry that always practiced regular Freemasonry and observed the Landmarks to be declared Clandestine for over 200 years. It is the failure of Mainstream Masonry to take any responsibility for creating a monopoly in each state by the American Doctrine of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction thereby deliberately blocking Black Freemasonry and then today to say that Prince Hall would be recognized only if it wasn’t a separate Grand Lodge. It is the failure of Mainstream Masonry to take any responsibility because today it says that only solution is a merger whereby Mainstream would dominate and change Prince Hall when for 200 years Prince Hall has sought inclusion within Mainstream Masonry.

All these considerations and issues aside Prince Hall Freemasonry vehemently denies that it is injecting Christianity into the practice of its Freemasonry. What it is saying is that Masonry is scripture based and that the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the playing out of the legend of Hiram Abiff are all Biblically based and therefore to study and connect those scriptures to the knowledge a Freemason needs to learn adds understanding and meaning to the whole process.

There is no proselytizing of Christianity or any particular Christian denomination in the Prince Hall Lodge room. Nor are other religions prohibited from joining and being raised on their Volume of The Sacred Law.

What a Prince Hall Mason would say is that connecting scripture from which the story of Freemasonry originates is putting into context the whole story, the whole meaning of the teachings and virtues of the fraternity. It is not injecting religion into the Lodge room it is making the philosophy of Freemasonry complete.

In many Mainstream Lodges upon being raised the Lodge presents a “Masonic Bible” to a new Master Mason. Some Mainstream jurisdictions even have ritual that goes with the presentation. This “Masonic Bible” is merely the King James Version with scriptural references to the ritual of Freemasonry or a Masonic concordance. All that Prince Hall is doing is alluding to these scriptural references (that Mainstream agrees are there) and pulling out the full Biblical story. From King Solomon’s Temple to Jeptha Judge of Israel to Hiram King of Tyre and Hiram Abiff these stories are all in the Bible. By knowing the full story and all that preceded and followed it within a Masonic scriptural reference a Mason is provided a rounding out of knowledge so that the whole story of King Solomon’s Temple can be seen in its full context.

When I do Bible readings for my church my Pastor asks me to read beforehand for my own edification the whole chapter from whence the reading comes so that I will understand the whole context of the story and the point being made.

If you have had a chance to listen to the podcast on Masonic Central with Brother Anderson you will notice that I asked Brother Anderson to explain what and why The Book of Ruth is taught to every Prince Hall Mason. Not only do we learn that a testimony in Israel was when a man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor but also it is there we meet Boaz. The full story of Boaz has a very definite moral teaching and every Prince Hall Mason knows the connection of Boaz to Jesus. Boaz was from the house of Jesse and this lineage produced David that went on to give us Jesus.

What we are talking about here is Faith not religion:

“The covering of a Lodge is the clouded canopy or starry decked heaven, where all good Masons hope at last to arrive by the aid of a ladder, called Jacob’s Ladder, having three principal rounds denominated Faith, Hope and Charity;”

IT’S FAITH NOT RELIGION that permeates the Lodge.

Prince Hall Masons would say that the story of the Building of King Solomon’s Temple is taken out of context unless the scriptural references are pursued and tied in to allow the full meaning to blossom. Most of these scriptural references in the Blue Lodge are Old Testament, which is not a direct tie to Christianity.

So Prince Hall Masons looking at Mainstream Masonry would say it is practicing Masonry out of context and without the scriptural story it is secular Masonry, neutered so as not to offend and so bland so to be politically correct. Prince Hall Masons would point out that there is no Constitutional right not to be offended and that they will maintain their position of wishing any and all a Merry Christmas along with continuing to teach Freemasonry as a scripturally based philosophy.

Perhaps this is too harsh an assessment or you might think an exaggeration. But the constant criticism of Mainstream Masonry leveled at Prince Hall without researching the facts of the situation and the history behind traditions which is available to anyone who would take the time to search and investigate, only spreads disharmony, discord and disunity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

On The Radio, RW Michael T. Anderson

Deputy Grand Master, Michael T. Anderson of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas appeared on the Masonic radio show Masonic Central Sunday 12/07/08. It was an opportunity for Prince Hall Masonry to become more well known and hopefully better understood.

"Masonry is moving towards what its true meaning is - you don't judge a Mason by his outward appearance but by his inward character", said Brother Anderson.

He went on to explain how he got involved with Freemasonnry and the influence his mentor "Pap" Anderson had on his Masonic development. The great emphasis that he places on knowledge was something that Pap instilled in him. One of the fine examples he used was the application of the 24 inch guage to daily life.

Brother Anderson also spoke about what the Masonic Order really stands for, the importance of community, Prince Hall's close identity with Christianity, and the greatness of the sitting Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis and the signing of the compact of recognition with Mainstream Masonry in Texas.

All this and more are available for you to listen to, preserved in podcast form, merely by logging onto

Masonic Central

Friday, December 5, 2008

A 26/11 Survivor Story From the Front Lines of Mumbai/Bombay India

My friend in India is a Freemason and when he came to Massachusetts we went to Lodge together. I sent him an E-Mail inquiring of his well being after the terrorist violence and killings broke out and this is what he sent me back (ALL NAMES WITHHELD FOR PRIVACY).

Yes by God's grace we are OK. I live in South Bombay, at Churchgate, and all of the action was within 2 kilometers from my house. The Taj, Trident (Oberoi) and Nariman house is south of me. The CST (Victoria Terminus) and Cama hospital is east of me. And the Metro Cinema and Bombay Hospital are bang on the street behind my house to my north. All within walking distances.

The Freemason's hall is just 2 blocks away from the CST terminus where the first shots were fired at about 10.30 pm. Many of the brethren living in the suburbs commute by train to CST and then walk to the Hall. There was a Provincial Grand Lodge of Ireland in India meeting going on, and they were at the banquet table when the commotion occurred just outside. At first they thought it must be some fire-crackers, but there were people running about on the road outside. So, they sent one of our Hall orderlies out to see what was happening, and he came back to report that there was some gang war and shooting going on outside - which was an impossible thing in south Bombay. And within minutes, all mobile phones started ringing with people calling from home to let those who were inside know of what was going on, as it started coming on all the TV channels. Meanwhile, many pedestrians, escaping from the shooting at CST got into the foyer of the Freemason's hall for shelter. And then, the dinner was ended fast and the brethren started dispersing very cautiously. Later, I am told, every one reached home safely. This was on the very first day, (Wednesday) when no one yet knew what was happening. Returning by train was impossible. But many of the brethren got lifts or shared taxis to reach home.

Then on Friday we had our Scottish District Grand Lodge installation which was postponed as the "War" was in full swing. On Saturday, we had our District Grand Conclave (Order of the Secret Monitor) installation meeting which was also postponed. By Saturday, the action at all fronts was over, but yet Bombay had a deserted look, and nobody would have come for the meeting anyway. Besides, till about noon, mo one knew when this carnage would be over. Let's see - tomorrow (Monday) all will be back to normal - hopefully. Except that everyone would be going home early after Office. No late-nights for a long time, I presume. Otherwise, Bombay is alive and awake till well past midnight.

And Brother Fred, thank you for your concern.

With Fraternal regards,

He followed that up today with a message he received from one of his friends. This is bone chilling.

Dear friends,
First, I wanted to thank you all for the incredible concern and support that you'll have given me over the past few days which have been among the most emotionally and psychologically draining of my life.

By the grace of God my father was rescued from the Oberoi on Friday with two (minor) bullet wounds and is now speedily recovering. He did however lose the two best friends he was dining with that fateful night (who are like godfathers to me). We also lost a lot of other friends and colleagues and have watched our beloved city reduced to a war zone and brought to its knees.

On Wednesday night, my father and his two friends arrived at the Indian restaurant on the first floor of the Oberoi Hotel for dinner at about 10pm. They had barely sat down when they heard gun shots in the lobby of the hotel. The terrorists, armed with AK-47s, grenades and plastic explosives, had entered the hotel and were executing everybody sitting in the ground floor restaurant. Realizing the situation, the staff of the restaurant my father was in asked them to quickly exit through the kitchen.

As the guests tried to rush into the kitchen, one terrorist burst into the restaurant and began to shoot anyone that remained in the restaurant. At this point my father was in the kitchen and along with his two friends rushed to the fire exit. They had barely descended a few steps when they were trapped from both ends by terrorists.

The terrorists then rounded up anyone alive (about 20 people) and made them climb the service staircase to the 18th floor. On reaching the 18th floor landing they made the people line up against a wall. One terrorist then positioned himself on the staircase going up from the landing and the other on the staircase going down from the landing. Then, in a scene right out of the Holocaust, they simultaneously opened fire on the people. My father was towards the center of the line with his two friends on either side. Out of reflex, or presence of mind, he ducked as soon as the firing began. One bullet grazed his neck, and he fell to the floor as his two friends and several other bodies piled on top of him. The terrorists then pumped another series of bullets into the heap of bodies to finish the job. This time a bullet hit my father in the back hip.

Bent almost in double, crushed by the weight of the bodies above him, and suffocating in the torrent of blood rushing down on him from the various bodies my father held on for ten minutes while the terrorists left the area. When he finally had the courage to wiggle his arms he found that there were four other survivors in the room. They communicated to each other by touch as they were too afraid to make a sound.

My father moved just enough to allow himself room to breathe and then lay still. The survivors passed over twelve hours lying still in the heap of bodies too afraid to move. They constantly heard gunfire and hand grenades going off in the other parts of the hotel. They feared that any noise would bring the terrorists back.

After approximately twelve hours, the terrorists returned with a camera and flashlight and joked and laughed as they filmed what they thought was a pile of dead bodies. They then moved to the landing below where they set up explosives. On their departing, my father decided that it was too risky to remain where they were due to the explosives. Along with the other three survivors he climbed the rest of the stairwell, where they discovered a large HVAC plant room in which they decided to take shelter. They passed the rest of the siege hiding in this room trying to get the attention of the outside world by waving a makeshift flag out of the window. They drank sips of dirty water from the Air Conditioning unit to survive.

Finally on Friday morning they were spotted by a commando rescue team that was storming the building and were evacuated to safety and taken to the hospital.

This is just one of the countless horror stories that unfolded in those two days. There are many stories of entire families being wiped out while eating their dinner, or young kids losing both parents, or pregnant women being shot while pleading for their lives, or hostages being beaten to death with the butt of a rifle so that their faces were unrecognizable. The terrorists attacked on every level.

They killed middle class workers when they shot up the railway station, they killed the elite in the hotels, they killed tourists and kids as they ate in a café, and they killed the sick and dying when they stormed three hospitals. They shot people in the roads, in stations, in hotels, and even entered an apartment building. They killed Indians, Americans, Britons, Israelis, and several other nationalities. They killed men, women, children, policemen, firemen, doctors, patients. This was systematic, cold-blooded, slaughter.

We have lost a lot of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Every person who lives in South Mumbai has a story about how either they or someone they love either died or had a narrow escape. The true extent of the horror will only make itself clear over the next few days.

Mumbai is a proud city and we pride ourselves on bouncing back from any adversity. We survive and prosper despite all the difficulties placed on us. We are no strangers to terror and have had to pick up the pieces and move on after several attacks. This time however, the sheer scale and audacity brought the city to its knees. The openness of our society, the bustling hoards in our train stations, the vibrancy of our news media, and the thousands of tourists, diplomats, and business leaders packing our hotels was used against us to devastating effect.

In the end one tries to make sense of all this. Barack Obama said about the killers of 9/11: "My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction."

Unfortunately, this is becoming an all familiar scene in today's world. While I cannot understand, I recognize again and again the hatred, anger, and desperation of the terrorists and the cold blooded, targeted, ruthlessness of those that dispatch them. They respect nothing but their own twisted beliefs and to achieve them have declared war on an entire way of life. India now finds itself as a major front of this global war.

How do we fight such hate? How do we inject humanity into such monstrosity? How do we convince those who think they kill in god's name that no God would condone such barbarity? How do we maintain our own values and humanity when faced with such hate and provocation?

Over the next week as we say goodbye to those we lost and help those that survive, Mumbai and India will ask themselves these questions. I hope the rest of the world does too.

Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers.

"Just as certain world religions say that people who do not believe in a personal God outside themselves are atheists, we say that a person who does not believe in himself is an atheist. Not believing in the splendor of one's own soul is what we call atheism."
- Swami Vivekananda

Monday, December 1, 2008

Masonic Traveler's Tracing Boards

Tracing Board #1

Tracing Board #2

#3 Tracing Board

Now I hope you will read Masonic Traveler's essay below on what he would do as Grand Master. A gifted person's work should be appreciated!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #8

This week's Guest Editorial Essay is written by one of the most respected Masonic Bloggers on the Internet. Masonic Traveler not only operates a blog but also a Masonic Information Site and a Radio Podcast Program with Brother Dean Kennedy from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
From the mundane to the deepest thought, from the everyday workings to the most in depth esoteric thought Masonic Traveler blog has it all including some beautiful artwork some of which the author has created himself. To view The Masonic Traveler Blog click here
Masonic Information is just chock full of all that you were afraid to ask and wanted to know. You can access that site by clicking Freemason Information.
But the Pièce de résistance is Masonic Central, the radio podcast. Here we go from the written word to the spoken, from the visual to - "Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears." From Stephen Dafoe to Brent Morris, Tom Jackson, Bob Davis, Chris Hodapp and other notables, this radio program has booked some of the most well known Masonic men of letters and knowledge and experience. If you have not had the pleasure of listening to this show click on Masonic Central.
Today Masonic Traveler answers the question put to him. As you can see he is neither a traditionalist or a reformer - he is both and a more thoughtful insight would be hard to find.
You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term. As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth?

Neglectfully, I have been late in responding to Br. Fred’s offer to post my reply to his question of “If I were elected Grand Master…” on the Beehive. I have to admit that it is a daunting question that have had a hard time to formulate an answer to, but to wit I will endeavor to do as best I can on this eve before the holiday.

Taking the helm of such a massive ship, as is the California Grand Lodge, I would first endeavor to take in as much as I could with such a large membership. From the ports of San Diego to the tall Trees of Eureka, Masonic lodges dot the state from top to bottom and side to side, with an almost inconceivable member role, the Masonic lodge membership is as diversified as the state is. Both rural farmer and urban executive practice the gentle craft and span an age gap from 18 to 100. Needless to say, it is diverse.

Even with extending the term of service from 1 year to 5 years would not be conceivable to meet every brothers need, but then that should not be the mandate. The Lodge and Grand Lodge system are intact and function well, and I would not dare to reorient a machine already operating in balance. I would, however, endeavor to leverage into place certain elements to augment our present state. Each of these ideas is just that, ideas, and would undoubtedly require a sizable amount of expenditure of both time and money.

Increased communication to membership and public:

In this notion, I envision a class of inspectors that are regional representatives to attend and participate in the communities of their region. This would include Chamber of Commerce meetings, Community Councils, and other diversified meetings where the community interest is at stake. Further, to be a part of and participate with other Fraternal and social networks (including Rotary, Elks, American Legion, etc.) including mixed discipline Freemasonry and other esoteric groups. The idea behind this being to broaden the reach of the fraternity to groups not generally associated to our Society.

Increase of Masonic Education to include publication and dissertation:

Promote internal publication and thought by sponsoring leadership programs, religious tolerance and diversity discussions, and philosophical debate. This is not in a manner to preach but to raise awareness of the membership to these aspects of life that each in part contribute to our whole. Part of this would be an increase in Masonic education generated by the contemporary field of discussion. This would be communicated out to the membership electronically (via the web) and by mail outs in a greater frequency than every quarter. The reasoning is that with increased activity would come increased interest and the more and diverse programs open to Masons the more and increased participation that they will receive.

Broader programs to expand the public perception:

This item would include more open houses, public lectures, and other symposia. The goal and purpose of these are to put into the public mind the broad reach of Masonic ideology and its interest. This dove tails with the 2nd point to broaden education. If we want to me Masons we need to work on the foundation of society, to build it up so that it retains strength as is it carries the weight of time upon it. These programs would include co-sponsorships by lodges and area lodges (regions) and would serve to tie us again into the community. They could be as simple as allowing groups to make use of our lodge rooms or social halls at no charge or at minimal cost, or outright sponsorship to events that fit set criteria. this measure re-opens the lodge room to the public as a place of community rather than as a place of dark windows and selective hours of operation.

Make each of the above “Best in Class”:

Given that California is such a large state it needs to operate all of the above as a “Best in Class” operation. What that means is that it requires time, energy, effort, and money to sufficiently research and implement these items. No doubt that will cause some to recoil, but higher dues and higher per-capitas to facilitate it. This Fraternity is worth paying more for, and so instead of a one time pay requirement, augment it to allow dues to be broken into monthly, quarterly, twice yearly, or annual to make them as flexible to the consumer (the member) as possible.

The focus of my tenure would be to build programs that would produce results long after my departure and improve the common perception of the membership. One year is so often seen as to short a time for one man to implement anything for a group that meets monthly, so there must be the component of increased time to get to it all. Further, without funding, then no program is possible and very little advancement can be made that relies exclusively on the shoulders of men who are working pro-bono. This is not to belittle the efforts of every man in the past who has dedicated himself tirelessly to one program or another. In the reality we live in today none of us can dedicate 30-40 hours weekly to organize, research, or implement programs like these, and as Master builders, we should know the benefits of paying the wages of quality work. We must not be afraid to loosen the purse strings and invest in our future.

In short, this is what my dream of a 5 year term as Grand Master would be. Is it a reality to be manifested, who can say? It is fun to entertain the idea and I appreciate Br. Fred for giving me the bully pulpit on the Beehive to commit the ideas into words.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #7

Well Connecticut has signed in. The Tao of Masonry is a very interesting Masonic Site. It's author writes that he is:

Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism; Grand Sovereign Pontiff and Secret Exposuer; Ambassador to Zeta-Reticula; Crop Circle Planning & Zoning Commissioner; Aluminum Foil Beanie Fitting and Training Consultant; Team Osiris Obelisk Siting and Surveying; Manager, Dulces/Denver Airport Massage & Day Spa; Cydonia Vacation Resort Concierge; Past Master, Friendship #33.3 AM & FM, Area 51, Atlantis

Definetly not your usaul Masonic pabulum site. I never go away from The Tao of Masonry without reading something personal about the author's involvement with his Lodge of Grand Lodge. It reminds me at times of a good diary. Most wholesome reading and I urge all of who come upon this site to vist The Tao of Masonry by clicking here.

Queen for a Day

Or rather, Grand Master for a year or five.

Fred Billiken Milliken over on The Beehive has been feeling a bit lazy uninspired, and so he asked a few of his fellow bloggers to write a small essay, with this topic in mind:

You are Grand Master of an American jurisdiction which has just changed its by-laws to give the Grand Master a five year term. As the first GM to serve five years what proposals, policies and changes would you make to insure the survival of your jurisdiction and promote healthy growth?

Personally, my first thought as to what I would do if I were the GM in Connecticut would be to curl up into a fetal position and hope that it's all a bad dream.

Of course, I'm sure that some other members of the Craft would have the same reaction to my being a GM, too.

That said, the topic itself begs the question that things need to be changed. My own question is "Why?"

I have a small manufacturing business. For those of you who don't know what it's like to own your own business, it's a very expensive and demanding hobby. Small manufacturing is a fast-paced and tension-inducing business environment. For perspective, pull a hair out of your head, and look at it (you older guys pull a hair out of your neighbor's head, since you probably can't spare many of your own). That hair is about 5/1,000's of an inch in diameter. We typically hold tolerances that are one tenth of that. Imagine knowing that all day, when someone says that they are "off by a hair," it literally means the difference between a paycheck, or a pretty but expensive paperweight.

Priorities change daily, and often hourly. And just when you think it's almost figured out, a machine will break down, and you'll discover that a spare part is a week away because it's coming from Japan or Germany. Or a key employee comes down with a bad flu and is out for a few days. Or a long-time customer makes a frantic call because their inventory system screwed up and they need you to ship in that order early - the order that you haven't started yet because the material is late. Or expensive parts for a new customer come back from an outside supplier, who processed them the wrong way because they used an obsolete work order. Or you send a package via overnight priority shipping, and the plane has mechanical difficulties, and in transferring the cargo, they lose it. Or. . . well, you get the idea.

You see, my life is already frenetic and fast paced, so sometimes I take comfort in knowing that the Craft will change slowly. Yes, I am often frustrated when what I see are good ideas take forever to be talked over, rehashed, and committeefied to death - who isn't? But I can't help but think that if changes in the Craft happened as quickly as they do in my business, I'd quickly become burnt out - as would most of my brothers. One of the hardest thing for the more progressive minded brothers is to find that balance between the traditions and customs, and the ability to make things work at a pace more appropriate to what we are accustomed to in daily life.

We frequently joke that changes in Masonry happen with glacial speed, and truly, it often seems as if some lodges are still in the 19th, let alone the 20th century. But when we think about what we would like to change, are we really thinking about things, or are we thinking about the people involved? As Grand Master, I'd have the power to change things - regulations (some of them, since certain actions still require a Grand Lodge vote), projects, programs are all things. But what about the people, the members of the Craft themselves?

No powers of legislation in the world will change people who don't want to, or see the need to change, themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I would try to change, and that is the idea that the Grand Lodge is somehow a separate entity from the rest of the Craft. As I wrote after our last Grand Lodge Semi-Annual session, it often seems to me that most lodge members are wrapped up in their own lodges and forget - or ignore - that they (i.e., we) are all part of a larger organization. The feedback that I've been hearing for the last several years is something like "We don't want Grand Lodge making up all sorts of new rules and interfering with our business - we've been doing just fine, thank you." Yet, at the same time, I also hear the Craft saying "Why aren't things as good as they were back when I joined? Ritual isn't as good, the programs aren't as good, and even the food is salty."

For example, when we first introduced a ritual certification for incoming Masters, you would have thought that the Grand Lodge was asking members to cut off a pound of flesh (not that most of us couldn't afford it). "I'm a Past Master, I already know how to open a lodge, dammit!" But upon being told that they weren't following the book, one would then hear how this or that lodge has their own "customs andtraditions" with regard to their ritual practice. "We've always done it this way," is what they say when you point out that they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Lodges that are shy on membership try to soldier along, and yet they have no idea what's happening in a lodge a town or two away because they don't bother attending the district meetings. They could easily forge alliances for help with degree work, dinners, or other programs - yet they ignore the resources available to them, and as a result, fail to keep, let alone attract new members, and their lodge as a whole suffers for it.

I don't know what I would change about that because I'm not sure how such problems originate. But with several years in which to work, I would make that my most important priority. An organization is only as strong as the commitment of its members; if the membership fails to recognize - or worse, intentionally denies - that they are part of a much larger group, then the organization as a whole will fail to thrive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grand Session Mass Raising

They come from all over, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo and all points noth, south est and west. It is Grand Lodge Winter Session with a mas raising Friday night and Grand Lodge business all day Saturday.

Unless you are Prince Hall you probably have not seen a mass raising. It is a sight to behold. Last year we raised 81 new Master Masons at winter Grand Session and this year 65. The firt section of the third degree is given in mass. Your first clue as to things are starting to roll is outside the Grand Lodge Room you hear 65 voices singing in unison.



This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Ev'ry where I go
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

All in my house
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, all in my house
I'm going to let it shine
All in my house
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
I'm not going to make it shine
I'm just going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Oh, out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Out in the dark
I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

65 Brothers knock and are admitted, hoodwinked each with a hand on the shoulder of the one in front - they are all hooked up. They are received, circumambulate, receive their obligation , then light and explanation all together in mass. When they move and march they sing. Other songs are brought forth.

To see 65 or 81 Brothers all kneeling around an altar is quite a sight to behold. But the best is yet to come. After marching out in song they come back for the next section.

The three gates are set up and groups of five go through. When the first five is done with the South Gate it moves to the West Gate while another five hit the South Gate. Then the first group moves to the East Gate, the second group to the West gate and a new group starts at the South Gate.

When all have gone through the gates one is looking at 65 Brothers all laying supine on the Grand Lodge Floor. That view sent goose pimples up my back. The Deputy Grnd Master then gives the legend of Hiram Abiff.

Then all are raised. The first year I was there the Grand Master raised every single Brother. This year all Masters and Past Masters assisted in the raising. I raised one of my own Lodge Brothers as did our Master.

Last year I gave the charge afterwards, this year I did not. But just to be there is a thrilling experience.

And at the same time as our mass raising was taking place there was also a smaller version being performed in Germany. Through the magic of high tech, Germany's raising was beamed to us and projected onto the wall of the Grand Lodge while our raising was beamed to them and they displayed what we were doing similarly, all taking place at the same time. Last year we did the same thing but with Korea.

The new Master Masons will receive the third degree lectures at their home Lodge. But most of them are back to participate in the Grand Session business the next day on Saturday.

It is quite inspiring to fellowship with Brothers, both old and new, from all over the state and to touch base with some distant acquaintances from years past. All in all I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Essays Reveal A Good Cross Section

So Far we have posted essays on "What Would You Do As Grandmaster?" from South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts/Texas, Ohio, Kansas and South Dakota. We are waiting on additional essays from three more states - Georgia, Connecticut and California. So far the essays represent a good cross section of America and reveal the myriad of problems besetting those Grand Lodges. Some areas are doing well and some not so well. But what is even more interesting to me is a keener sense of what American Freemasonry is all about and how its unique flavor weaves into the regional social fabric of our nation.

I am looking forward to the three remaining essays from very busy Brothers. In the meantime we will go to other things while we wait.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #6

Having just returned from my Prince Hall Grand Lodge Session, I want to emphasize that this series pertains to Mainstream Masonry although Prince Hall is welcome to use any of the ideas that all the Brothers here have put forth.

Well it looks like it's my turn although I warn you some more great essays are on the way. I want to thank all who have participated in this venture and to thank all you who have visited The Beehive. May we have many more enjoyable times together in Brotherhood.

Wor. Frederic L. Milliken
aka Squire Bentley

My very first act as Grand Master would be to separate the Grand Lodge from the Shrine, the Grotto and all other Side or Appendant Bodies except for Scottish Rite and York Rite. Because Freemasonry is dying and becoming irrelevant, drastic, immediate action is required to preserve what we have. Many Brothers have commented on the fact that Freemasonry is better off as its numbers diminish. It is not. However, it will become stronger if it downsizes within itself thereby concentrating on the core message of what is most important that the Craft wishes to transmit and stand for. Right now Freemasonry is competing with itself and quite frankly the same Brothers cannot be everything.

Freemasonry must reduce itself to a philosophical society which is mainly concerned with its members. The core message which drives the Craft is the philosophy for which it stands. Everything else is complimentary. The philosophy is the meat and the potatoes and the vegetable and salad are side dishes complimenting the meat. We need to as a society stop trying to be all things to all people and stop trying to cover all bases and be what we were originally formed to be. We are going to pare the Craft down to just its essentials. Isn’t that what a good businessman does in a time of economic depression? You might be surprised that we may with this approach attract more members at a cheaper overhead.

Next it is vitally important that Freemasonry have a mission to interact with society. It has a mission for itself but it has been totally lacking for a mission on how to be of purpose to society as well as itself. What has been tried is to try to buy friends and recognition by doling out goodies to the general public. Thus has Freemasonry in many Jurisdictions pursued The Shrine Model and turned itself into a Service Club. My second act as Grand Master would be to abolish all Grand Lodge Charities except one that followed through on a Grand Lodge Societal Mission. If local Lodges wanted to perform community action programs and public charity that would be up to them. But I would not impose any Grand Lodge charities on local Lodges.

There is a reason we no longer get the prominent, powerful, professional men to join our Fraternity. Freemasonry came out of the Enlightenment and as such in an era of civil government Monarchy and Roman Catholic Church monopoly, in other words a time of Totalitarianism and religious intolerance. Freemasonry bucked the trend of the day. It pushed democratic government, separation of church and state, free public schools and religious freedom. It was societal relevant and hence attracted many movers and shakers within the community. Quite frankly, today we have nothing that we can find common cause with the profane.

In looking over the civil issues of the day I find two that are heads above any other. They are Health and Education. Freemasonry does much in the health field already, too much. So my connection to society and my societal mission would be in the education field, so important in developing good citizens and prospective Masons. I would set up a state Education/Library/Research Center open to the public and offer courses in mathematics and history. I would provide a large library and many computers and high tech audio/visual aids as well as instructors. In essence this would be a school and research center available for the public and the Craft. We are in the Information Age and I would want my Grand Lodge to be a leader in that field. It harks back to Freemasons of centuries ago who worked so hard for education and free public schools.

Next, as you might have gathered from my drift so far, we are headed for extinction. What is killing many Lodges is, that as their membership dwindles, they still are faced with the enormous costs of maintaining an old, drafty, antiquated building. The reason Freemasonry does not grow in many Lodges is that every cent that they take in goes to maintaining that building and no money is left over for Masonic programs, to help subsidize the practice of Freemasonry.

Therefore my next act as Grand Master is to require that all Lodges within a twenty five mile radius meet in one building. That would require many Lodges to sell their building and merge into another already in operation or many Lodges to divest themselves of property and build a brand new building for many Lodges. Brand new buildings are more efficient, up to code and less costly to operate. Ten Lodges that met in a building could all pay rent thereby sharing the costs. Local Lodges through jealousy and stupid pride will most often refuse to take this step by themselves. As Grand Master I would force them to do so for their own good. This is called practicing economies to scale which any good businessman would do in a time of economic downturn.

Lodges in rural areas would get a special Grand Lodge subsidy to upgrade their building or build a new one.

To meet the demands and choices of the 21st century my Grand Lodge would need to get much more in tune and in practice with the use of computers and the Internet. If you saw what Obama did in the last presidential election you can appreciate what full use of the Internet can yield. I would immediately upgrade my jurisdictions computer hardware with the most modern system available including running a Grand Lodge Server from which all local Lodges could connect. I would create a Grand Lodge position of Communications Director with a full staff to support him. Some of the areas I would charge my Communications Director to work on would be:

1) A software program of accounting standard for all Lodges with capability of filing all Grand Lodge reports electronically.
2) A Grand Lodge website of unique distinction
3) A Grand Lodge Masonic Forum and Discussion Board
4) Ability to tap into GL Library, new Instruction Center and Research Society
5) A Grand Lodge radio show – a podcast from the Grand Lodge with interviews of Masons of the day with call in participation.
6) A Grand Lodge Cable TV show
7) A grand Lodge movie production dealing with many different subjects. One for those inquiring about membership and others on the history of The Grand Lodge and still others on current events and ceremonies. DVDs and CDs would be available for a nominal cost.
8) Power Point and DVD presentations on the degrees to supplement Lodge education programs.
9) A quarterly Grand Lodge magazine geared to philosophical and esoteric Masonic thought rather than meet and greet photographs.

Next I would streamline the participation of Grand Lodge members in the decision making process of their Grand Lodge. Twelve Hundred members coming to Grand Session and trying to legislate and vote on proposals in one weekend with everybody wanting a say is totally unwieldy and frankly managed chaos. I would immediately institute a Masonic Legislature whereby many members would be represented by one legislator. Thus a body of fewer than one hundred legislators representing all the members of a jurisdiction could gather to debate and vote on Grand Lodge business and proposals. This would not do away with Grand Lodge Session but would rather allow the Grand Session to devote more time to planning, addresses, workshops and inspiration rather than hours and hours of haggling. Think about it. Can you imagine all 300 million Americans showing up in Washington one weekend to vote on our nation’s future? So why let it happen in Freemasonry?

My next ruling would be to allow all Lodge business under $2000 in cost to be conducted outside a tyled meeting by the Three Principal Officers and whoever else they would like to include. The Lodge has voted on and put their trust in their Master and Wardens and I am sure that they can be trusted to make decisions of the Lodge in the small day to day minutia that comes before it rather than take up Lodge time with trivial pursuit. Thus we would eliminate the mundane from our meetings and could then hold meetings of great dining, great Masonic education with great Masonic speakers and great fellowship. I would allow and suggest that all Lodges in my jurisdiction go from a twice monthly or a monthly meeting to a quarterly meeting with an additional quarterly meeting for degree work. Thus I would be ruling that there would be a four month minimum between each degree.

I would charge each District Deputy to form District Degree Teams for each degree with representation from all the District Lodges whereby each degree (four months apart) would be performed on all the candidates for that degree from every Lodge in the District on the same night at the same place. In addition I would form a state degree team and offer the Grand Lodge for a giant raising if desired.

I would form a Research Society for my Grand Lodge and I would charge each District Deputy to form District esoteric/research/study groups that meet separately from Lodge meetings.

I would allow liquor served at Masonic buildings to be a local Lodge decision but never disallowing it as Grand Master. I would, again acting on economies to scale, arrange at reasonable cost for all Lodges, insurance bargained for at group rates including all. This insurance would include liquor liability insurance so that Lodges could rent out their facilities for public functions. I would also change the Grand Lodge ruling that stipulates that the Grand Lodge owns a local Lodge’s building. From now a local Lodge owns its own building set up under whatever tax structure they deem to be in their best advantage. The only provision in the by-laws would be a requirement that in the event of sale or foreclosure that Grand Lodge have the first right of refusal.

As Grand Master I would outlaw all fund raisers. Lodges within my Jurisdiction must charge enough in dues to cover all their expenses.

I would mandate a District Lodge of Instruction for all candidates run by the District Deputy to insure that all candidates receive the proper instruction at the start of their Masonic journey. I would empower a District Board of Questioners and a State Speakers Bureau with Grand Lodge paying speakers a stipend and travel money so that local Lodges could afford them.

All this I would do because Freemasonry is dying. It has lost its focus. It has lost its sense of mission and bonding with society. It has lost its capability to put on good degrees all the time. It has lost its commitment to Masonic knowledge and philosophical thought. It has become populated by a Brotherhood more interested in the social then in the virtues and the no nothing leaders of our Craft are leading us down a path of ruin. Once again our youth is filled with many seekers, searching for adding meaning and purpose to their lives. That purpose and meaning is right here in Freemasonry if we operate it correctly. But if we just give lip service to the great body of esoteric thought and the Masonic way of life that is there for the study we will lose them to another organization that is what it says it is. We don’t need to help everybody who isn’t a Mason while we starve ourselves. We don’t need to become a glorified Lions Club or as Stephen Dafoe said, “Rotary with Regalia”. We don’t need to market Freemasonry. All we need to do is practice Freemasonry and offer those seekers a good product, exactly what they are searching for.

To enter that path of redemption now is the time to get creative. Now is the time to think outside the box. Now is the time for radical action.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #5

Now here is another essay in the series from Freemason from the Freestate. I don't know whether he is a traditionalist or a reformer as Silence Dogood reminds us - the lines seem to get blurred as we all, having the betterment of the Craft as our goal, seek answers. I can tell you one thing though, this Brother is very, very knowledgable but as such he doesn't try to trumpet himself as one who has the only true path. As he says on his blog:

"My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers."

Thus I have dragged him to this scene as almost a reluctant participant. Freemason from the Freestate is a Blog you don't want to miss and I urge you to follow the link there HERE. There you will meet a Brother who likes to ask questions and wax philosophically.

What would I do, if I was Grand Master with a five year term, to save Freemasonry? Save it from what? Extinction? Itself? I've been putting off an answer to this question, and even now am in the flight of fight mode, with flight winning out. I have a few reasons for this:

1. my own ignorance. I don't know the day to day politics that a GM must face, internally and externally, or the legal constraints.
2. From my point of view as a seat warmer in my lodge, part of a Grand Lodge that looks to me like it's going in the right direction, that there aren't a lot of criticisms I have to level. I am blessed in this.
3. Finally, I have a tendency to wordiness and this is a blog, not a book.

What do I mean when I say “Save Freemasonry?”

The obvious answer is that the fraternity is dying, literally and figuratively. We all look back to times when Freemasonry was so important that the dominant national political, religious and professional men of all nations belonged to it, or opposed it passionately. Enough so to form the first third party in the U.S. to oppose it. Presidents, Kings, Bishops, Lawyers, Butchers, Bakers and Indian Chiefs were members We covered the globe.

Now our average age is what, one hundred? Or is it ninety five? Who was the last president, and how long ago? Who the last king? We sing in praise of famous men, but more of them are dead men than living ones.

So, one form of saving is replacing declining numbers. Retention of members is another, possibly more urgent one. If we nurture the men we have, new men will be attracted. Both require more of the Craft than it seems to be providing. I am going to limit my discussion to just a couple of ideas that I think could turn on our existing members and bring a breath of fresh air for new candidates. And in the same way, save Freemasonry from itself.

It is too easy to be complacent. To be a comfortable seat warmer in a happy lodge of fellow thinkers. Harmony being very important, we may not want to cause each other to think too much, and gee, it's fun to play around at meetings. Freemasonry isn't a social club, or a drinking club, or a religion or a political party. It partakes of all of these, but is more. As a five year term Grand Master it would be my job and intention to promulgate programs that would nurture men in their quest for betterment, and drag along those who just want fun.

The two areas that I would work on are interdependent. They are Unity (harmony perhaps?) and education. Education will be fostered by unity and Unity is dependent on education. Education has been the main purpose of our Gentle Craft since time immemorial. (No I ain't going to define that!)

Year One:

Bring the Grand Line to the same place educationally. Educationally from a Masonic point of view, and, being Grand Master, from my possibly subjective point of view. We would all need to know what's actually going on not just in our Grand Jurisdiction, or even the world, but what's going on down the street. There's Prince Hall Masons doing good work down there, and Women working in gloves and aprons in many areas as well. And why are there schismatic Grand Lodges forming, and should anything be done about them. Who are the Other People who call themselves Masons?

At the same time, I need to be looking to relationships with these OtherPeople who call themselves Masons, right down the street, or in another state or country. Why are those Swedes unique, and what about the French? And how many different Prince Hall Groups are there? And can anything be done to normalize relations there, when these groups don't accept each other? I need to develop working relationships with Grand Masters from these Other disciplines, if I am to save Freemasonry.

And this is a risk in itself. Remember what happened to the Grand Lodge of Washington when it tried on its own to recognize Prince Hall Masonry? Shunned by the rest of the American Masonic universe. Small Grand Lodges may not be able to handle this, especially if there are a lot of interstate dual memberships. And it needs to be moved into.

Year two:

In the second year, I need to start educating the line officers in my constituent lodges (notice looking for unity is encouraging education.) in the same way my Grand Line was educated. The Grand Inspectors and Grand Lecturers need to take the lead in this.

What about ritual? Ritual needs to recapitulate reality to be valid. We're about changing our reality, and some other things may change as well. Not for the first time. Learning that there are many Other Masons out there doing these rituals should spur us on to perfecting them, and what we learn from this other education can only embroider our ritual with greater meaning.

At this time, in need to be working on unification inside my Grand Jurisdiction. There are many lodges too small to fiscally or physically maintain their spaces, and even large ones don't have the young guys to do some of the grunt work. We need to look at unification in this area: mergers and shared spaces.

When two lodges merge, there is a whole new educational challenge: to make them truly one. Not forget the history, but learn each others' and pass it down, but not to hold onto their separate identities so that brotherhood is blocked. It will take two (or more) Worshipful Masters and lines of officers who are of exceptional good will to make this happen properly. As far as shared space is concerned, most of our facilities have many empty evenings and days. Why rent to outsiders when we can rent to brothers, and everyone wins?

It will be the job of my Grand Inspectors to make recommendations about these changes, and facilitate them.

Year Three:

The year of subduing our passions. There are going to be ruffled feelings and incompletions that need ironing out. Interjurisdictional talks are going to ruffle more than a few within and without the Grand Lodge. The passions that divide the African American Masonic Community alone are going to be monumental to work through, and it isn't my business to do it! But good will and good intentions can bring good honorable men together. And working with female Masons is going to ruffle feathers all over. Even asking these questions will stir passions. This is a year of consolidation and subduing of passions.

Year four:

We need during this year to move to convince our counterparts of the need for change. Only by persuasion, and love unfeigned can this hope to succeed. I will work during this time to expand participation in the Scottish Rite. I say this because the lessons and tenets of this organization are so progressive that men of good will can only benefit by them. This is a tool that needs to be used.

Many of the brothers in this order are among the leaders in our Craft and in our Community. They need to be brought to bear. The Scottish Rite has justifiably been called the University of Freemasonry, and it is too much ignored.

Year Five:

This is the year of community relations. This is where the new brethren (perhaps embracing sisters) will come from. I believe that the openness that Freemasonry has displayed recently may not be good for encouraging new membership. That mystery is attractive. That presenting ourselves as a charitable institution is neither profitable nor correct. We shouldn't stop our charitable work, but we need to stop the flashing light shows when we do it. Subtlety won members in the past, and will win more in the future.

Freemasonry needs to let the community know we're here, and have real accomplishments to display to it. Not just giving bears to sick kids, but showing that men and women of good will can find unity in diversity and a common cause, even if we don't go to the same clubhouse. Because I'm not saying that all of the various Masonic bodies should be merged, but rather that they should and must be united.

Unity of purpose. Unity of practice. Unity of humanity. That is what will save Freemasonry.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #4

Here is Palmetto Bug in our fourth essay in this series. You might have noticed we are proceeding this way: Reformer > Traditionalist > Reformer > Traditionalist. Palmetto Bug comes to us from the Traditionalist School. His reasoning is sound and his logic solid. He writes from his experiences as we all seem to do. For now those experiences seem more or less confined to South Carolina and from what I hear its excellent Grand Lodge. Not all of us are as lucky as Palmetto Bug in experiencing an almost always joyful Masonic journey. But Palmetto Bug seems to have and I invite all who read this to visit his excellent Blog: The Masonic Line and to converse with this Brother for whom I have developed a high respect.

I am the Grand Master

At Squire Bentley’s urging, I have found myself magically elected to the position of Grand Master of Masons in my Grand Jurisdiction – in my imagination, of course. Following a recent imaginary change to my Grand Jurisdiction’s Constitution, I am the first to have been elected to serve a five year term. What am I going to do with all of this new responsibility and authority that now rests upon my shoulders? I will attempt to share my vision with the reader, though I doubt I’ll be able to exhibit the eloquence of that the Wayfaring Man displayed when he recently responded to this invitation from Squire Bentley.

First, I am going to make a list of the top three issues that threaten the harmony and stability of my Jurisdiction. I will then prioritize those issues. I am already a firm believer that problems must be tackled in order of priority and that all issues cannot be tackled all at once. Pick your priority target, concentrate on it, and do not be distracted by other issues of lower priority. I will not develop this list in a vacuum. I will solicit the thoughts of others and will even obligate some funds to conduct a survey which is similar to what the military often calls a Unit Climate Survey. This survey will allow the rank and file Masons to provide feedback anonymously.

Since I am currently just an imaginary Grand Master, I have no idea as to what the priorities will be, but - for the sake of discussion – let us say that a couple are as follows: 1) Financial troubles of subordinate Lodges. 2) Lack of attendance. By examining these two possible priorities, I will attempt to illustrate my method of addressing major issues.

1) Financial Troubles:

I strongly suspect that some of the subordinate Lodges are struggling to make ends meet. Heck, I KNOW some Lodges are struggling – I just don’t know how many. This I do know, however: financially stable Lodges are required to ensure the financial stability of the Grand Lodge. Struggling Lodges must be offered some help in finding ways to remain solvent. Here is how I will attempt to do this.

First, I will canvas the Grand Jurisdiction in search of our financial experts. I will then look for the “movers and shakers” in the Lodges that are already on a solid financial foundations. These men will be placed on a Committee – possibly even on several separate teams. For the sake of this article, I’ll call this the Financial Think Tank. I will ask the Think Tank to brainstorm and come up with ideas.

Its first task will be to make sure that the Grand Lodge is not placing an undue financial burden on the Lodges. In conjunction with the existing Grand Lodge Finance Committee, it will examine the Grand Lodge budget and develop a long-range and realistic financial vision for the Grand Lodge. Based on the Tank’s recommendations, the appropriate edicts will be issued or appropriate legislation will be proposed in order to ensure that the Grand Lodge is functioning on a balanced, realistic budget.

Its second mission will be to come up with ideas for the subordinate Lodges. I will instruct the Think Tank to remember that one solution will not fit all Lodges. In the meantime, I will attempt to determine which of the Lodges are having trouble making ends meet. The District Deputy Grand Masters, by way of official visits, already have a requirement to check Lodges’ books to ensure they are in order. This will be one of the methods used to compile a list of financially shaky Lodges.

Struggling Lodges will then be offered the services of the Financial Think Tank. I suspect the Think Tank may suggest some painful solutions – such as the merging of Lodges. The struggling Lodges will not have to accept the Think Tank’s suggestions as I have no intention of ruling with an iron fist. If they reject the recommendations and then fail – well, so be it. I’m sorry. I cannot micromanage the subordinate Lodges in this area. All I can do is offer to help by providing the services of the brightest and most successful of the Jurisdiction.

2) Attendance:

This issue should have an easy answer - education and good fellowship. Again, I will not tackle this in a vacuum. I will reach out to those Lodges that do not have an attendance problem and use them to pass on their ideas to those Lodges that do. The Lodges with poor attendance may reject the ideas and, if they do, they’re on their own to figure out another solution. I believe that poor attendance and financial troubles go hand-in-hand. Hopefully the Lodges will take heed before having to turn in their charters.

Here are some things on my personal agenda while I am an imaginary Grand Master:

1) I will oppose any notion of relaxing standards of admission - no one day classes, no plain English ritual, no advertising campaigns, and no abolishment of proficiency requirements. Thus far, this is not a real problem in my Jurisdiction but I want to make sure we don’t follow down the same misguided path that some other Grand Jurisdictions are currently travelling. To help with this area, I will endeavor to compile some guidelines that pertain to the investigation of petitioners. All of the subordinate Lodges should be on the same sheet of music in this area. I will also make sure the Shrine understands this policy and make sure it understands that it is not to interfere in the process of investigating petitioners or in the learning of proficiency by those moving through the degrees.

2) Up to this point, there has never been a charity program mandated by my Grand Lodge and I will fight against any proposals for the adoption of such. The only charity program that should be managed at the Grand Lodge level is the one that pertains to the relief of distressed Master Masons, their widows, and orphans. That program is already in place and I will seek to make sure it remains on a sound financial footing.

3) Proper ritual and degree work will be enforced. My DDGMs will be my eyes and ears in this area. If a Mason is not well schooled in this area, he will not be a DDGM.

4) Masonic education at every Lodge meeting, minus communications during which degrees are being conferred, will be strongly encouraged. I will attempt to adopt the practice of the Grand Lodge of Texas by tasking the Grand Senior Warden and his Education Committee to develop a suggested monthly education schedule for the subordinate Lodges.

5) I will promote the development or adoption of systems, including computer software, that help Lodges – especially the Lodge Secretaries and Treasurers – to take care of the administrative and financial record keeping involved in this Fraternity.

6) Lodge websites will be encouraged and I will promote the development and creation of a system that allows the Grand Lodge to host the websites of the subordinate Lodges – at no cost to those Lodges. Technical advice will be made available to the Lodge webmasters.

7) As already mentioned, I will use the knowledge and expertise of the whole Craft – not just men with nice Masonic titles behind their names – when approaching any challenge. There is a wealth and diversity of knowledge and experience represented in the membership. I would be shortsighted not to take advantage of that resource. If we need computer system advice, I will call for the IT types. If we need budget insight, I will call for the CPAs. If the pipes are leaking in the Grand Lodge building, I will call for the plumbers.

I firmly believe that the state of Freemasonry in my Grand Jurisdiction is healthy. It is not perfect but it is healthy. I believe that the Craft is, when looking at the overall picture, doing rather well. The Fraternity has been in this State for more than two and a half centuries and she has weathered some very tough times in the past – including the schism between the Ancients and Moderns as well at the anti-Masonic fever. When I take a look back at those dark times, I see that these are good days and they’re only getting better. Though I don’t measure the success of Freemasonry by the number of men on her rolls, the downward trend in membership numbers is slowing. Lodges that were near death are shaking off the lethargy and getting a fire under their collective butts.

It will be my job to help struggling Lodges by placing the collective intelligence and experience of the Jurisdiction at their disposal. As I have already alluded – healthy Lodges equal a healthy Grand Lodge. If the subordinate Lodges are vibrant then any problems at the Grand Lodge level will fade away and become only a memory. I will always remember – however – that I can only guide, suggest, and lead by example. I cannot and will not force Lodges into any new direction – even if it be for their own good.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Would You Do As Grandmaster #3

Now here is a Brother who is a reformer, a strong reformer. Keep in mind as you read these essays that the perspective of the authors often are reflected in the circumstances through which the Brother has had to endure. Many reformers have been cruelly dealt with by Freemasonry. I have not the story behind the story about 2 BOWL CAIN. But I can tell he has been treated unfairly along the way and has risen anew in a different vein. I thank him very much for his contribution and urge all who read this to visit his excellent blog at:

I want to thank Brother Squire for allowing me the opportunity to express myself as to how and what I would do affect Freemasonry. I believe in keeping it simple. My total approach is strictly for the Blue Lodge and making it a special place for Masons to meet and become enlightened. I want the Master Mason to gather all that has been scattered, and that is Freemasonic Light, unencumbered by recognition and control of what is acceptable as real Masonic Light. All of the rites and rituals have value to all masons, and the Blue Lodge should be the Clearing House of all Masonic Light. I want the Lodges to feel Sovereign in their direction and what Light they want to disperse amongst their members. A sense of Universal acceptance amongst all who call themselves Masons, and take it seriously, is what I want to accomplish. The more we are exposed to the differences within the Craft and its history, the better we will be at understanding the Crafts original purpose and hopefully the rediscovering of the Spirit which swept across this small planet spreading Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
So Mote It Be.

1. Elections for every Grand Line Officer. They must present a platform on which they will run for office. Their platforms will be made available on line and sent to all lodges so the membership may know what their potential leaders would do for the craft. No platform, no name on ballot. No appointments to Grand Line and no progression. If you turn out to be a lame duck officer, you may be voted out of line.
2. No York or Scottish Rite bodies. The rituals and lessons will be performed by degree teams of devoted brethren. These Rites will be available to Past Master’s only, and not for titles or rank, but strictly for educational purposes. Then these Past Master’s will be given material for further Light to spread back to the Blue Lodge.
3. Shrine de-affiliated with Freemasonry. Choose: be Shriner or a Freemason.
4. Ban on all one day classes. Minimum of 8 months between degrees. Pieces of Architecture will be presented by every candidate as well as other demanding requirements for progression through the 3 degrees. Architectures will be papers written by the candidate to be read at an open lodge and then discussed by the brethren.
5. Ban on all books with the words Idiots or Dummies in it. We are a class organization and want to remain that way. My jurisdiction is not for the Dummies or Idiots crowd. Anytime a Masonic want to be author relates to Historical Masonic writers material and hard work as “CRAP” will automatically be removed without a trial. My jurisdiction will breed class, not crass.
6. No selling of Indulgences.
7. Every Lodge will have to perform at least 2 table lodges a year. If a Lodge needs help, zealous brethren will help out.
8. Local Lodges do not handle Masonic funerals anymore. A district funeral team will be set up and those zealous brothers will handle Masonic funerals when requested.
9. District Deputies must have a finance background to be able to “really” audit Lodges and Temple company books. A stop needs to be put on shady record keeping within the temples and the inspectors must be properly trained on what to look for.
10. 5 year reprieve on per capita. Every lodge or Temple Company must submit how that money is being spent on the upkeep of ones temple, especially Historical edifices. The Grand Lodge will donate to the Charitable Foundations put in place to run these facilities.
11. 5 year ban on all territorial/jurisdiction divisional codes. Allow and promote inter-visitation between ALL Freemasonic bodies within ones territory. Go and visit these other lodges, invite them to your lodge. Spread Universal Brotherhood of All Mankind. At the end of the 5 years, study to see what the positives and negatives were by spreading this type of Universal Freemasonry.
12. A college of rites for all blue lodge masons to be made available for further Light. Freemasonry has a long history of the formation and working of many rites, and all rites should be available for all masons to study and learn
13. No more parading in aprons, collars and polo shirts. If a lodge wants to parade locally, all in business attire and the WM can wear his Tile/Top Hat. That is it.
14. All Lodges must institute a Chamber of Reflection and Cave Investigations for all potential candidates.
15. Petition signees will have more responsibility on the labor and dedication that their petitioner shows. It will be handled on the Lodge level, but members will be held accountable for trying to bring in “lazy” masons.
16. 5 year ban on “National” charities. The Lodge needs to be active locally with actual labor, not just writing checks to some charity. Labor and works perfects the ashlar. We should become THE local charity. i.e. the temple company.
17. All EA’s must do Labor in the temple for the Lodge. That is what they do. Labor.
18. Freemasonry is a volunteer organization, no payment to any members for services as an officer.
19. A temple committee will be assigned to check the age of the temples around and how may the Grand Lodge help with the upkeep. The destruction of our Temples must stop. Also, the Grand Lodge will not interfere with Temple Companies running their Temples and impede their progress in saving their buildings. Their responsibility will be to detect fraudulent behavior only. Create a committee to help drive revenue to the bigger facilities. Also, make sure the Temple Companies are properly insured so no claims of fraud may be levied against them.