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.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Would You Do As Grand Master #2

Now here is an erudite Brother with a reply. He is even putting the finishing touches on a book!! I won't spill the beans and tell you what it is all about. The Wayfaring Man has a blog that always has me leaving with something I didn't know before, some new knowledge. His historical perspective is outstanding and he has proven himself to be a man of letters. I urge everyone to visit The Wayfaring Man's Blog at Audi, Vide, Tace In the meantime, Al Gore, watch out!!!
Masonic Global Warming Denied
--Wayfaring Man

The question the Good Squire puts to us is:
how to save Mainstream American Freemasonry from extinction

which assumes that we are indeed headed toward annihilation, or worse, irrelevance. I am not willing to accept this hypothesis and I do not see us headed toward extinction. At least not now. Masonic extinction, or an "Ice Age" of cultural misgivings in Masonry which could give rise to extinction, since 1717 only comes in two forms if history is any guide.

The first is extinction by political fiat. Franco, Hitler, Stalin, and Khomeini, to name a few of Masonry's detractors in the last 75 years, have extinguished our Order by simple decree. At the stroke of a pen, and with the concomitant cock of a pistol, Masonry became outlawry and every Mason -Caput gerat lupinum - a Wolf's Head. Yet even under the iron- shod heel of the most savage repression, did Masonry's flame go completely dark? Iran still holds some Masons yet, thirty years after the revolution, and although they cannot meet legally, they are still in quiet touch with one another. So too, living Masons emerged from the concentration camps in April 1945, and Masonry was never completely dead under the Nazi regime, a far more formidable apparatus than even the most repressive "Grand Lodge Tyranny" imagined by today's critics.

Other than repressive dictators, the other great wave of "climate change" that imperiled our Craft was the Anti-Masonry hysteria of the 1826-35. On one level less hazardous to life and limb, it can be seen as infinitely more dangerous in terms of its potential lethality to the Craft itself because where totalitarianism enkindled the bolder Masonic spirits to soldier on, the calumny of Anti-Masonry undermined the commitment of individual Masons to continue at all, and lodges nationwhide closed their doors, some of them forever. Had it not been for the political corruption of some prominent Anti-Mason political candidates, the gloss of Anti-Masonry may have gleamed just long enough to erase Freemasonry from the United States for good. And although purely speculation, had that occurred, would the UGLE and the European lodges have been able to withstand similar assaults if North American Masonry had succumbed? Thankfully, we will never know.

In contrast to these two greatly unfavorable climates, the woes of today's Masonry, and the shrill cries of its critics ring hollow indeed. Are there problems in Masonry? Of course.
Are we teetering on the brink of a total collapse? Certainly not.

The decline in membership that we witness today is the result of the end of the membership boom of the last century, and as such, it is totally understandable. Masonry responded to swollen rolls by expanding in those heady post-war years - new buildings, increased public visibility, more, better, bigger: the American way. But those days are over, and a leaner, more agile Masonry is required today.

Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble no longer.

Your new Grand Master should make a sharp turn in Masonry - a U-turn, to be precise - turning the Craft back in upon itself. 100 years ago, the Craft was more insular, less visible, less hyped, and less public than it is today, and it was that way for many reasons, some of them philosophical, but some of them quite practical: there simply weren't enough Masons to have a drill team, a clown squad and 30 minature cars. It's time to look to the English model, quiet, small, but still very much alive, to see us through until the next seasonal change is upon us.

Thus, I argue that a simple downsizing is what Masonry requires today - not because the polar icecaps are melting and the deluge is coming - but because this is normal seasonal change, and prudence requires that we dress accordingly.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Would You Do As Grand Master #1

When I sent out all the invitations for essays on this subject I got back quite a few replies that said "I have to think about that for awhile so don't expect to receive anything from me right away". That was OK as I had said I would do the first essay and y'all could feed off that. So I have been taking my sweet time myself being not quite finished with mine.

But the subject hit a nerve with Silence Dogood who blogs at The Middle Chamber. He was back in a flash with a very good essay. The core of Silence's message is for Grand Lodge not to be a burden but an enabler. Don't be a hindrance, be a helper. That certainly resonates with me and something I have preached myself. We have Lodges all over the country failing. More Lodges today are going under than banks. So I hope everyone takes Silence's message to heart. And we will start with his essay and I and the others will feed off that!

I would like to thank Silence Dogood very much for his participation in what I hope will be a learning experience for all of us and meeting of minds that will produce some really good ideas and thoughts for consideration. And I recommend that anyone reading this also visit the excellent blog of Silence Dogood, The Middle Chamber.


What Would I Do As Grand Master?

When Brother Squire sent me a request for the following scenario, I just couldn’t resist giving my opinions.

“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? Perhaps you like things just the way they are. You don't want to do anything different. If so make a case for standing pat or for trying some new (or old) ideas. It's your call. You are now in the hot seat. Tell us with that power and influence what you would do.”

So here it goes, if I was Grand Master:

First and foremost, I would eliminate all Grand Lodge programs placing a burden on the local lodges. In my jurisdiction, this is primarily the SDChIP program. I would stop asking lodges to fund and run these events so that their focus could be on what the lodge needs to do to improve and grow. Also, any other pet programs that have been haphazardly enforced on the local lodges would be removed to further reduce the strain.

One of the primary issues in my jurisdiction is the funding of the Grand Lodge. I would examine the Grand Lodge budget and make it public to all Masons in the jurisdiction. In addition, I would make a budget proposal that would cut out all unnecessary Grand Lodge spending and present that to the Masons in the jurisdiction to get their feedback. Finally, as part of fixing the budget, per capita dues would be adjusted to a lower rate to accommodate the new pork-free budget. Once again, this would reduce the financial strain on local lodges.

One addition to my Grand Lodge’s budget would be the professional design and maintenance of a website for the jurisdiction. The website would be created through a professional firm and would be a great way to make the Grand Lodge more visible and connect Masons in my state.

My last major measure of reform for my Grand Lodge would be to review the by-laws item by item and remove any by-laws that restrict the ability for local lodges to conduct business. One such regulation is the requirement that multiple lodges meeting in the same town must meet in the same building. This sort of regulation is ridiculous and simply restricts the ability of lodges to conduct business in their best interest.

After reforming the Grand Lodge and placing the power of the jurisdiction back in the hands of the local lodges, I would move forward with assisting lodges in building the organization. Lodges would be required to submit a report explaining the health of their lodge in the following categories: education, fellowship, ritual, attendance, membership, finance, and charitable pursuits. These would be reviewed by the principle Grand Lodge officers and District Masters (who would be appointed based on an interview process). Once the perceived weaknesses of each lodge are identified, the District Master would meet with the officers of each lodge to discuss an improvement plan. This plan would be submitted to the Grand Lodge for the record. The effectiveness of this plan would be evaluated on a semi-annual basis through District Master visits and a progress report would be submitted to the Grand Lodge in the same time frame.

The Grand Lodge would assist in these endeavors by implementing certain programs. The first would be developing a Masonic Lecturer circuit with Brothers from the jurisdiction. The Grand Lodge would help put together a list of lecturers in the jurisdiction and assist in scheduling there appearances. The goal would be to have the lodges host a guest lecturer at least twice a year. Also, teams would be assembled to administer lodges of instruction. Each lodge would be visited by one of these teams once a year to learn how to do ritual to standard and the lodge would be evaluated on its performance of ritual.

I believe that these steps would help to move Masonry forward. By removing unpopular Grand Lodge programs, the local lodges can focus on their own individual pursuits. By down-sizing the Grand Lodge budget and giving the savings back to the lodges, the local lodges will have more financial resources to accomplish their goals. Also, introducing greater transparency to Grand Lodge finance will improve relations between the Grand Lodge and members of the fraternity. The addition of a professional Grand Lodge website will move the jurisdiction into the 21st century and keep it from becoming obsolete. The reform of the Grand Lodge by-laws will remove silly policies which inhibit the ability of lodges to conduct their business and give them greater freedom to move forward with their improvements. By making the Grand Lodge an assistant in lodge improvement, lodges may develop plans specifically tailored for their situation. Lodge improvement is not a one size fits all plan and the Grand Lodge should respect that.

Changing the Grand Lodge from a regulatory body to an enabling body will help local lodges improve and that is where Masonry happens. If the local lodges can prosper, then the jurisdiction will as well.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The People Who Make A Difference In Your Life

Brother David Lettelier sent me this. I thought it profound enough to post here. We as Masons do not have to be festooned with medals or a Grand Lodge Officer to make a difference in someone else's life. The average Joe six pack Mason does a hell of a lot of good and is strong support for those around him and with whom he comes in contact. Be proud to be just a Mason.

The following is the philosophy of some unkown author. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the following straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize..

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with .


The lesson : The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

Thursday, October 2, 2008