Friday, December 26, 2008

The Temple and its Sacred Altars

The Most Excellent Master, or Sixth Degree in the American York Rite, celebrates the Completion of King Solomon's Temple.  Four things are set in place in this degree.  The cap-stone is placed into one of the principal arches of the Temple, completing the building. The ark is safely seated within the Holy of Holies, and, after King Solomon offers the dedicatory prayer, fire descends upon the Altar of Sacrifice and the Shekhinah also appears. The lecture of the degree talks to us specifically about building our own inner or spiritual Temple, and draws our attention back to the progress we have made in the preceeding degrees.

Let us review the various Degrees and observe how the Altar of Freemasonry represents the various Altars of King Solomon's Temple as we progress through the degrees.

We are taught that Entered Apprentice Masons hold their meetings on the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple. The ground floor is the Courtyard, where the Altar of Sacrifice is located. It was upon this Altar that the Sacred Fire from Heaven descended and consumed the Sacrifice at the dedication of Solomon's Temple.  Once burning, the Fire from the Altar of Sacrifice is never extinguished.  It is carried into the Holy Place and used to light the Lampstand and its coals are used to kindle the Incense Altar, and is carried by the priests in censers whenever the Tabernacle must be moved.  It is the manifest presence of that Eternal Flame which never goes out, the Aur Ein Sof (Light Without End) of the Kabbalists, universally depicted over the Master's Chair in Freemasonry as the letter G.

Fellow Craft Masons hold their meetings in the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple.  In the Middle Chamber we find the Incense Altar, where incense burns both day and night before the veil, and prayers ascend like smoke up over the veil into the Sanctum Sanctorum or Holy of Holies.  We also find the Seven-branched Lampstand here, and the Table of Shew-bread which are symbolized by the Wages of a Fellowcraft Masons, corn(wheat), wine and oil, and which, in the Temple, provided sustenance for the priests.

Master Masons hold their meetings in the Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies.  Here we find an "Altar" called the Ark of the Covenant, which is a small chest or coffer, made of Acacia wood, and overlaid inside and outside with gold, into which were placed the tablets of the Law (both the broken and the unbroken sets), a pot of Manna, and Aaron's Rod which budded and blossomed with almonds.  A copy of the Torah was also kept within the Holy of Holies, next to or possibly upon the Ark.  The Jewish High Priest, standing before this Ark, or Altar, would offer prayer for his own sins and the sins of his people, and this was also where, according to Masonic legend, Hiram Abiff offered his prayers each day during the building of the Temple.

Upon the lid of the Ark (called the Mercy Seat) rested two additional Cherubim, made of the same piece of beaten gold as the Mercy Seat, facing inward, with their wings covering over and supporting the Ark.  The Holy Writings describe the Cherubim as having four faces, those of a Lion, an Ox, a Man and an Eagle, with one face towards each direction. These same creatures were also depicted on the standards of the four principal tribes of Israel, as described in the Royal Arch, or Seventh Degree, and when the Israelites were traveling in the wilderness for forty years, in their Encampment, it was these very same four tribes, Judah, Ephraim, Rueben, and Dan, who respectively camped directly to the East, West, South, and North of the Tabernacle.

Through a study of the Volume of Sacred Law, particularly Leviticus chapter 16, and also of the Talmud, we may learn a great deal about the ceremonies in which the High Priest engaged. He would enter the Holy of Holies on only one day of the year, Yom Kippur, and upon entering, he would pass beneath the Wings of the Cherubim. The Cherubim referred to are the large ones which stretched from one wall of this chamber to the other, touching the tips of their wings together in the midst of the room, as described in the Royal Master, or Eighth Degree.  After entering, the High Priest would place a golden censer filled with coals and incense upon the floor before the Ark of the Covenant, and retreat outside the room, where he would offer a prayer before the vail with hands uplifted before YHWH.  It was on this occasion, during this prayer, that he was permitted to speak aloud the Great and Sacred Name of Deity, and upon offering this prayer, the Shekhinah or Divine Presence would descend and rest above the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  He would then re-enter the Holy of Holies, and indirectly behold the Shekhinah through the hazy cloud of smoke which had emanated from the his Golden Censer and filled the room. This smoke was so thick that he was required to use his hands to block the smoke from entering his nostrils.  As also described in the Royal Master degree, as well as in the Sacred Writings, the Bath-Kol (Literally, "Daughter of Voice," in Hebrew), or Voice of God Unseen issued forth from between the wings of the Cherubim and was heard by the High Priest.

You've probably heard the analogy that our body is a Temple, a house for the Spirit of God to dwell in, or that we are to construct "a spiritual building, pure and spotless, fit for the habitation of him who dwelleth only with the good."

What follows is speculative, and is intended to stimulate your own thoughts on this subject:  I want to compare the events of the Most Excellent Master degree to both the physical and spiritual aspects of the human body and see if the completion of the Temple can be represented there in the same manner.  I will begin by suggesting that our Heart (or possibly, our Heart and Stomach) represents the Altar of Sacrifice.  Physically, the heart is the center of our body's blood system, and blood is the primary ritual element of the sacrifices which were performed in the Temple.  The blood from the sacrificial animals was placed upon the horns of the Altar of Sacrifice, and was also carried into the Holy Place and placed upon the horns of the Incense Altar.  Scriptures frequently relate Fire to the heart.  Psalm 39:3, for example, reads "My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue."  Jeremiah 20:8-9 reads "For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But [his word] was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay."  Luke 24:32 says, "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"

As I mentioned, some of the blood was carried in to the Incense Altar, and the Psalm also said, "then spake I with my tongue."  Our throat has an Incense Altar within it, consisting of the tongue and also the larynx, or voicebox, by which we create speech and offer prayers. The throat is also where air enters our body, like the smoke ascending up from the incense altar and over the vail.  If our voice sends forth the prayer, and afterwards we pass through the vail into the Sanctum Sanctorum of our head where we stand in waiting for an answer to our prayer, would not the daughter of voice, the Bath-Kol, be that still small voice (see 1 Kings 19:11-13) of God, speaking directly to our mind. Would not the greater Cherubim reaching across the room be the eyes, whose optic nerves, like wings, meet in the middle of the Holy of Holies, and would not the lesser Cherubim upon the Ark, be our ears, whose canals lead inward, covering over and supporting the mercy seat?  The Bath-Kol is the Voice of God which issues forth from between the wings of these Cherubim and enters our thoughts as divine inspiration.  Perhaps the smoke of our Golden censer, is the temporary closing of our eyes and ears to outside sensory distractions so that we can listen for the Bath-Kol.  Perhaps, like the High Priest, we may invoke the True Word (not the Royal Arch Word, but that which it represents), and summon the Shekhinah to appear in our Holy of Holies to give us direction.  This direction is not identical to our own thoughts, but is added unto them, mixing with them.  Neither is it identical to that wisdom which descended to rest upon Solomon in the Past Master, or Fifth Degree, represented by King Solomon's Crown or the Top Hat of the Master.  But before we are to hear the Bath-Kol, we must ensure that the building is Completed, that the Keystone is set into the Principal Arch of the Temple, that the Ark is Safely Seated, and that there is a Fire burning upon the Altar of our Heart.  Remember, the Fire upon the Altar of our Heart should be continually burning, and the Incense should be offered both day and night, but the Shekhinah is only manifest when invoked by use of the Great and Sacred Name.

So, what do the Keystone and the Principal Arch represent in our bodily Temple?  How can we prepare our inner Temple for this event?   And, why must this event transpire before we are permitted to travel into foreign countries, or to go into that undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns, the privilege finally bestowed upon the craftsmen at the dedication of the Temple?

Please divert all comments on this article to the copy posted on the Reames Chapter #28 R.A.M. Website.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can a Non-Christian Feel Comfortable as a Knight Templar

"Can a non-Christian feel comfortable as a member of the Knights Templar?"

I struggled with this question for a long time.  I couldn't get enough straight and frank answers out of members.  So, finally I decided that I probably wouldn't join, and that I would read the ritual to determine if my decision was correct for me. I read the 1971 edition of the ritual put out by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U.S.A. (It wasn't hard to obtain a copy.)

Disclaimer: I'm not saying I'm not a Christian, but my beliefs about Jesus are extremely far off the beaten path. Also, I apologize in advance if I have offended or made uncomfortable any Knight Templar by writing this post.

So, below I will outline the aspects of the first two Orders: The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, and The Mediterranean Pass and Order of Malta, that I would flag as religiously "sensitive" and which might even be considered offensive to some people.

I believe all of these points need to be considered by non-Christians who are considering joining the Order, (and in my experience, the Sir Knights I have met are more than happy to admit non-Christians if they are willing to defend the Christian faith) and I hope that posting my findings here makes it so others won't find it necessary to go to the extreme that I have by reading the ritual in order to determine whether they would feel comfortable in the Order.

I will endeavor to do this without revealing any R.C. or Malta secrets.  I haven't examined the Order of the Temple yet in the same way, but I intend to do so soon and will post my findings at that time.


The Red Cross is almost fully acceptable from a Non-Christian point of view.  It continues the setting and symbols which were already present in Royal Arch Masonry. The only offense I detect is a line contained in the Lecture, which reads, "As Judaism was a preparation for Christianity, so let the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross be a preparation for the Christian Order of the Temple." This line, in my reading of it, diminishes Judaism to a footnote or stepping stone upon which to build something greater. This is not a good thing to say or think, since Judaism is a wide-spread, living religion, even today, and even has many adherants among the Craft.

There is one other line that might be slightly offensive to those who self-identify as Pagans, "The Illustrious Order of the Red Cross is not a Pagan rite nor is it a mere social observance. It is an Order founded upon Truth, and is a proper preparation for the solemnities of the Order of the Temple."


The Meditarranean Pass or Knight of St. Paul and the Order of Malta present many challenges to the non-Christian Mason. I will attempt to enumerate them here:

  • Several references are made to "fallen man" or man's sinful nature.
  • Prayers are offered to "Immanuel."
  • Several references are made to "Jesus Christ, our Lord"
  • The candidate is made to take on the identity of St. Paul at least in allegory, for a short period.
  • The New Testament is the only book prescribed to be open on the Altar.
  • Without going into specifics, the Obligation would require a Knight of Malta to treat another Knight who has been unfaithful to his Knights of Malta Obligation in ways that I would consider contradictory to his prior obligation as a Royal Arch Mason. In other words, there is a possibility that upholding the Malta obligation would cause someone to violate their Royal Arch obligation.
  • Candidate is encouraged to wear a certain Cross continually.
  • Phrases such as "My Lord and My God" and "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" are used in reference to Jesus.
  • The officers repeatedly speak of their belief in the resurrection and ascension of "our Saviour" in reference to Jesus.
  • The candidate is asked, "My brother, is it still your wish to join our Order, and fight against all opposers of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?"
  • There is a very mild form of flaggelation used in order to create empathy with Jesus's own suffering.
  • The candidate is asked, "My Brother, do you believe that the Savior died on the Cross for the remission of sin?"
  • The Prior says, "in the name of our Holy Religion," implying that all present are of the same religion, and that it is "Holy."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Lesser Lights as Archetypes

I've been doing quite a bit of study about Masonic Officers today, including the Symbolic Lodge, the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Cryptic Masons, and the Commandery of Knights Templar.  My study of the Commandery was particularly difficult to undertake since I am not a member of that order, and had to rely on intense study of various writings to glean the names, duties, and positions of the officers.

I've come up with a theory, or a method of comprehending the officers in all these orders.

My theory is that there are only three archetypal officers, represented by the three principal officers:  The Worshipful Master, Senior, and Junior Wardens.

We are told that anciently, Master Mason Lodges consisted of three members only and held their meetings in the Holy of Holies.  In modern Lodges, it is typically deemed impossible to open with only three officers, and in my jurisdiction, at least, it is constitutionally prohibited.  We need at least five to form a quorum to open for business. Nonetheless, there probably was a time in the history of the craft when a lodge of three only would have opened.  I have tried to envision how this would work, and with the help of the other York Rite bodies, the Council of Cryptic Masons, in particular, I believe I see how this would have been done.

I have named the archetypal purpose of the three officers: "Master," "Guardian," and "Guide."

In a Symbolic Lodge, each of the principal officers has many of their duties delegated to subordinate officers:

The Worshipful Master fulfills the "Master" archetype.  His duty is delegated to the Lecturer or Orator, as well as the Chaplain, the Secretary, and the Treasurer.   I would like to call attention to the letter "G" displayed above the Master's chair in most lodges.  This letter should symbolize the source for him to receive instruction and orders that he conveys to the brethren so that they may perform their labor.  The Master gives the Apron to each new Entered Apprentice, presents us with Working Tools and teaches us their uses, and gives us Masonic instruction as we progress.

The Senior Warden fulfills the "Guardian" archetype.  His duty is delegated to the Junior Deacon or Inner Guard and the Tyler.  He is the officer which the Master consults with during the process of "purging the Lodge," a procedure which ensures that only Masons of the appropriate rank are present prior to opening.  In the Council of Cryptic Masons, the officer seated in the West is actually called the "Captain of the Guard" and when the Master issues orders for the room to be secured, the orders pass through the Captain of the Guard to the "Steward" (who functions exactly like the Junior Deacon or Inner Guard and is stationed at the same place, inside the door.)  This process of relaying instructions more clearly demonstrates the delegation which I am sure at one time was also present in the Symbolic Degrees (and may be still present in some jurisdictions.)

The Junior Warden fulfills the "Guide" archetype.  His duty is delegated to the Senior Deacon and to the Stewards or Junior Deacon (whichever of these officers is responsible for preparing candidates and bringing them to the door of the Lodge, in your particular jurisdiction.)   In the Council of Cryptic Masons, the officer seated in the South is called the "Conductor of the Council" and his duties are equivalent to those of the Senior Deacon, including that of opening and closing the VSL.  He may be assisted by a Marshal in some jurisdictions.  I will point out that the VSL is a symbol that we are specifically told should be the "guide" of our faith.  It is therefore a fitting symbol to be in the care of the officer whose duty it is to be our Guide.  In the Symbolic Lodge, the Junior Warden rarely acts as a guide directly, but he is the one who gives us directions from the Master, calls the craft from Labor to Refreshment and superintends us under his immediate care.  It is important to note the distinction between the "Master" and the "Guide" archetype.  The Master gives us instructions for our labors.  But the Guide actually walks with us on our journey, and often speaks in our behalf, and can often give an answer "for us" even if we "have it not."

Now, with this understanding, you should be able to think about how a Lodge would have opened with only three officers:

The "Master" would ask the "Guardian" to secure and purge the lodge, and then quiz him as to the particulars of the Master Mason degree, and as to the duties of the officers.  The Master would then issue the Order to open Lodge.  The "Guardian" would inform the "Guide" of the Master's intention, and the "Guide" would call upon the other craftsmen (if any) to look to the East.  The "Master" would lead them in the secret work, after which, the battery would be given.  Finally, the "Master" would offer prayer, after which he would declare the Lodge opened, and ask the "Guide" to attend the altar and display the Lights.  The "Master" would proceed with business, keeping a thorough record of all transactions.

To close Lodge, the "Master" would quiz the "Guardian"as to the duties of the officers, and then issue the Order to close Lodge.  The "Guardian" would inform the "Guide" of the Master's intention, and the "Guide" would call upon the other craftsmen (if any) to look to the East.  The "Master" would lead them in the secret work, after which, the battery would be given.  Finally, the "Master" would offer prayer, after which he would declare the Lodge closed, and ask the "Guide" to attend the altar and close the Lights.

In Royal Arch, Cryptic Masons, and Knights Templar, the executive powers of the Principal Officers is consolidated into a governing Council which is seated in the East, while many physical duties of these officers are delegated to others:

In the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Excellent  High Priest delegates some of his executive and instructive administrative duties to the King and Scribe, who all fulfill the "Master" archetype together (with the Treasurer and Secretary.)  The Captain of the Host, the Royal Arch Captain, the Three Masters of the Veils, and the Sentinel are delegates of the "Guardian" archetype, while the Principal Sojourner is a delegate of the "Guide" archetype.

In the Council of Royal and Select Masters (or Cryptic Masons), the Illustrious Master and Deputy Master fulfill the "Master" archetype together.  The Principal Conductor of the Work still fulfills aspects of the "Guide" archetype by proclaiming the time for refreshment and labor, but most of the "Guide" duties are delegated to the Conductor of the Council (and sometimes to a Marshal).  The Captain of the Guard, the Steward, and Sentinel are delegates of the "Guardian" archetype.

In the Commandery of Knights Templar, the Eminent Commander, the Generalissimo, and the Captain General form the administrative operations of the "Master" archetype together.   The Prelate forms an additional layer of the "Master" archetype and is said to "preside over the Royal Arch Council" which equates him to the Excellent High Priest of the Chapter.  The duties of the "Senior Warden" and "Junior Warden" correspond with those of Cryptic Masonry's "Captain of the Guard" ("Guardian" archetype) and "Conductor of the Council" ("Guide" archetype), and in following the Excellent High Priest analogy, they would correlate with the positions of King and Scribe in the Royal Arch.  The Warder, the Guards, and the Sentinel are also extensions of the "Guardian" archetype.  I'm not aware enough of the duties of the Standard Bearer and Sword Bearer to comment on how they correlate to these archetypes.

As a closing thought, the Master, Guardian, and Guide archetypes might extend far beyond the structure of Masonry into other realms.  They can be found in nearly every fairytale or fantasy story, as well as in theology and religion:  A Christian Mason, for example, might find that these archetypes can be applied to the Father (Master), Son (Guard), and Holy Ghost (Guide).

I hope you found this subject interesting!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Discreet Master Song

These funerary verses are found in the manual of the Antient & Primitive Rite, as published by the Grand College of Rites:


Brother, thou hast gone before us,

To the sphere whence none return.

Still fond memory shadows o'er us,

Kind remembrance of thy form.


As we mingle with emotion,

In our solemn, mystic rites,

Thy freed spirit's calm devotion

Rises where pure love invites.


When on bended knee each brother

Lifts his soul to God above,

Oft may memory's shadow hover,

To refresh each soul with love.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 5 Posts in the Blogging Quarries

I need to apologize, because the "Last Seven Days" results on the Top Ranked Posts at King Solomon's Lodge have been broken for the last week or more. I accidentally had them programmed to show results OLDER than 7 days instead of within the last 7 days. Which was dramatically different (but at the time I initially added the results, made no difference, since we only had a little bit of voting data.)

The new improved and actually working results are now online:

Top 5 Masonic Posts in the Last Seven Days

At the time of my writing this, Prince Hall Recognition in Ontario is in the lead. 'Tis well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Masonic Clipart

Ok, so I went a little crazy and stayed up all night drawing more Masonic Emblems:

(See the Full Collection Here)

The Order of Knight Masons (Top Left)
The Order of the Red Branch of Eri (Bottom Left, part of Allied Masonic Degrees)
Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests (Center)
The Red Cross of Constantine (Top Right)
York Rite Sovereign College (Bottom Right)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thumbs Down to Thumbs Down

By the irresponsible actions of a few voters, I have been forced to implement a new policy for Thumbs Down votes on When you attempt to vote down a post you will now be greeted by this warning:

By voting against this post you are expressing that it is not a topic of Masonic interest. If you disagree with the post, you should instead not vote at all. Repeated violations to this guidline will be grounds to drop your voting privilege. Are you sure you want to vote down this post?

In order to make this policy consistent, all Thumbs Down votes previous to this policy being in place have been nullified. The idea of Voting on KSL was to help improve the flow of Masonic content and be able to recognize excellent content, not to insult our fellow bloggers and Masons.

This policy will be strictly enforced. Thus, there should be no negative numbers for any Masonic-related post. If there is, it will be investigated and dealt with accordingly.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Announcing Post Voting

I'm proud to announce that now supports post voting. You can vote on your favorite posts, and vote down any posts you feel are counter-productive to the aggregator.

This data is saved even after the post scrolls off the bottom of the feed, so in the future, I may implement "all time highest ranked articles" or "best article in the last 30 days" or other things like that. This will allow us to help the creme of the crop rise to the top so that new users will find the best Masonic content possible.

Now, go vote!

P.S. You ARE allowed to vote your own posts. Please do so to help indicate when you feel you've written something particularly snazzy. #

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Followup - European Concept Royal Arch

Instead of doing a follow-up on our EC Royal Arch Meeting, which has already been done elsewhere online, I want to make a follow up post to the comments which were made on my last post on the subject.

We got mixed response online. The most recent anonymous commentor wrote the following:

I am an Oregon Mason and I can say that there is a small but very vocal clique here that is trying to insist that a tuxedo is the minimum required dress for attending lodge. This appears to be their playground.

Not only is this impractical and expensive, but I believe it steers away from what our Masonry should be about - meetings of men, not contests to see who can outdo the other in finery.

As far as I am concerned, as long as a brother Mason has it in his heart, his fashion choices are his own business.

I want to respond to this at length:

To the most recent Anonymous,

Dear Brother, I am familiar with the "small but very vocal clique" of which you speak. For the record, I'd like to say that I am not part of it. I believe that a man should be able to attend Lodge in whatever clothing he is able to, provided that he tries to present himself in as clean and well dressed a way as is possible. I welcome those who take the time to attend Lodge even after a hard day of work and are unable to take the time to travel home, change, and return before Lodge begins. To me it is more important that they appear at Lodge than that they tend to such minor details. I believe, however, that the Worshipful Master of a Lodge should have the ability to specify what he expects out of his group of officers, particularly the Wardens, and that they should do what they can to comply with the Master's plan for the year.

I will step up and say that I, personally, am the primary instigator of this European Concept Royal Arch endeavor which we are trying to establish in Roseburg. Without my zeal and personal efforts in planning, the prospect of having Royal Arch Masonry in Roseburg would not, at this time, be anywhere on the radar. There have been attempts to revive it in the past, which have thus far failed. I was not involved in those attempts, as I was not a member of York Rite at the time they were made. Most (but not all) of the people involved in this endeavor were likewise not involved in the previous attempt.

What we are working on is a very specific undertaking and is not intended to reflect any policy recommendation on how Masonry as a whole, or in general, works in this area or throughout the state. Many of the ideas actually came from a Brother Master Mason, who is looking forward to joining the Chapter in the near future, and expressed his ideas to me. I agreed with his ideas, and brought them before the Companions that I have been working with, and we eventually found that the principles of Norwood Chapter in Alberta very nearly corresponded to what we had in mind, so we decided to follow their example. At the first planning meeting we had, I am happy to report that ten of us made a successful effort in meeting the proposed dress code, and that the nominated Excellent High Priest (Larry Stokes, who was nominated that evening) has since expressed to me his satisfaction in the dress code and th compliance these Companions have made to it.

I will also say that there were some, perhaps three Companions, in attendance at our May planning meeting who would not have been present at all if our goal was not E.C. They are participating in this because the E.C. is motivational, and they aren't seeking Dual Membership just to have Dual Membership. They want Dual Membership so that they can participate in both an E.C. Chapter and their existing Chapter.

We are a fairly diverse group of Masons, some young, some old, and have come together for the purpose of eventually working the degrees of Capitular Masonry which we love, according to these European Concept principles, which we find personally inspiring. We have in this endeavor Companions from Salem, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, and Medford, and we do not therefore represent any clique, particularly not any previously existing clique with an agenda. This is a new and young endeavor which we are looking forward to. Those who are complaining here online have simply not come forward and expressed any interest in Royal Arch in Roseburg, and apparently did not respond to the invitation that was sent out on the Oregon York Rite E-Mail Newsletter. Why would we undercut our own ideas in order to accommodate those who won't even take the time to come and participate with us, or talk with us?

We WANT to do something different. We want to have an interesting program, and make it into a more interesting organization. We believe that this will not only help our own enjoyment, but help the organization to be attractive to others so that it will grow. Many Masonic organizations around the state and around the country are failing in their membership goals. Yes, failing. Our numbers are steadily declining. In Grants Pass York Rite bodies we have had more members pass away, or dropped for NPD than we have had new Exaltations. Maintaining the status quo, and not doing anything different, is going to solve the problem! Those who are refusing to support any change whatsoever are putting a death sentence on the Fraternity. We need change. Now, not all change is good. Some changes will help, and others will not. But those who have the guts to try to effect change are at least trying to do something!

So I have two main things I would like to express here:

1. We are not an existing clique who has made this Royal Arch endeavor into our "playground."
Please, don't confuse us with anyone else. We are our own group.

2. I am worried that the comments received on the previous post about E.C. Royal Arch reflect a trend in Masonry where a Lodge, Chapter, or other body is not allowed to have unique "character." Why do some feel the need to enforce in Masonry an attitude of maintaining the lower-common-denominator rather than building upon the interests of the brethren? Should not a local organization be able to have its own style, its own agenda, its own goals?

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Path

Hot on the heels of some wonderful prose by Traveling Man, I have decided to share a poem I wrote back in April. It has some layers to it that need to be peeled away. This is one where I pretty much let the pen do the writing for me. Now, without further adieu,

The Path, by Jeff Day.
(April 30, 2008)

Three ears wane in the old fountain, where twenty fish to feed.
   A quail to quell the sounding bell, high in the upper plane.
Fifteen priests from diverse lands convene to hear the plea
   of a young lad beckoning to free the restless tree.

Ages have expired since it last did take a breath.
   Twelve holy fruits it bore, and twelve leaves formed its dress.
"My mother and my father both have eaten from this tree.
   Why then dost thou fear it; why keepest it from me?"
"Our ruling is immaculate," the Aged Ones proclaimed,
   "but those who've followed after us have not held it esteemed."

Beasts of pain bearing angel-bane walk on the fire scorched path.
   They fight the light in brilliant might, with condemnation, wrath.

"To you we grant the power now to make our wishes so;
   to sow the ancient seed so that these fruits may forward go.
Pluck from off the tender lofty branch a glist'ning pod!
   So sweet, so dear, partake, young man, and make of thee a God."
"But if I do as thou hast said, of twelve fruits, one I'd taste,
   and one eternal fate I'd choose. Eleven shall I waste?"

Ten vultures loom o'er certain doom, as permeates the ring.
   Below, five row against the flow while others work in vain.
'Til harvest season next year round the tree shall stand depleted,
   for twelve were needed, twelve were found. One round completed.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

I'm glad Masons aren't Bigots.

... usually. *sigh*

I've been having a stressful day. I've been ill for a couple days, but on top of that, I feel like my last post got tarred and feathered, not by any of my Masonic brethren, but by some anonymous drive-by bigot. Well, at least he did the tarring. The feathers came first with a well meaning Mormon chap whom may turn out to be a friend once I get to know him. The thing that is sad to me is that when this kind of thing happens, my regular readers, whose opinions I actually want to hear, probably get turned off by it, and don't want to jump into the line of fire. I don't blame you. I would almost revoke the post or delete the comments if that sort of thing weren't against my personal blogging principles.

Masonry is personal, deep, and can be religious (although it is not a religion), and to each brother unique and profound meanings may be discovered. While the Lodge isn't generally the place to promote these discoveries, there is benefit in sharing them in a forum such as online, when appropriate, as long as we aren't trying to say our idea is the only correct one. I believe I see what my Christian brothers find in the fraternity, and I would love to hear details about what Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Native American, and various types of Pagan brethren find in it. It is a joy to me to see a brother taking the symbols and applying them, and finding greater depth. Moreover, many of the ideas any brother finds may apply, perhaps with some minor adjustments, to my own belief system as well.

Among our Brethren, generally, we have a good respect for one another. I know I feel loved and accepted among my brethren in spite of my odd beliefs. Not all of them know exactly how odd they are, but those that have had discussions with me and do know some of my ideas still treat me with dignity, and never make belittling remarks. Well, usually. There can be a joke now and then, but such is made in good fun, and not meant as an attack, and I don't take it as such.

Why do these anonymous buggers have to come and ruin my day by thrashing on Mormonism and post links to anti-Mormon propaganda when I am clearly not their target? I don't even agree with such basic things as Mormon theology or scriptural canon. You're attacking the wrong guy, you anonymous a$$#@!%s -- but alas, that's not the point! WHY are you attacking anyone? It's rude. It isn't righteous. It makes you look like fools, and it couldn't possibly be helping any religious agenda of your own. You are just trying to pick a fight and be a nuisance. Well, guess what: If that's all your agenda is about then you don't matter at all. You're small, like an ant. I can squish you with my mental power alone.

Brethren, thank you for being with me as I rant.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Masonry as Divine Ascension

As some of you may know, I don't fit into a particular religious model very well. Some of my beliefs are rooted in Mormonism; early Mormonism to be specific. I want to share part of my view of Masonry as it pertains to my personal religious beliefs, but before I do so, it becomes necessary to explain in brief my take on the connection between Masonry and Mormonism:

Many are familiar with the fact that Joseph Smith borrowed certain elements of Masonic ritual when forming the Mormon Temple ceremonies. This type of borrowing was not a new thing, but had happened both before and after that time, in the formation of such fraternal groups as the Grange, Elks, Woodmen, Foresters, Buffaloes, etc., and even some Masonically sponsored groups like DeMolay. Typically it was individual Masons themselves doing this borrowing, and since they were only borrowing the language, structure, and trappings of the degree work, they did not violate their obligations by revealing any of the secrets which they had been obligated not to reveal. Unlike some of the others, I believe Joseph also had some divine inspiration in what he did which, combined with the faith of his followers, made the result "Celestial" in character. But unfortunately, the Church has, since that time, corrupted their ceremonies in many ways, and diminished the amount of teaching they do pertaining to its symbolism and significance. I therefore believe that, unfortunately, the rituals of today's Freemasonry are more effective than the Mormon Temple rituals from a spiritual, transformative point of view. But if it were still 1877, I might say the opposite.

The "degree" given in the Temple (although they do not use that term in this sense) is called the Endowment, and in the words of Brigham Young:

Let me give you a definition in brief. Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.

I believe that this description applies to certain parts of Freemasonry, as well. I see the Degrees as a map of our individual life, death, and ascension back to a very literal "Celestial Lodge Above" which is so often mentioned in our rituals.

The D-G> and PS> of the EA, FC, and MM Degrees are deeply symbolic beyond what is taught in the ritual. And they are reiterated in another, perhaps more ancient form by the three Masters of the Veil in the Royal Arch Degree. I believe they are expressive of the more pure and ancient form of Worship.

The Mormon conception of this ascension includes the idea that man takes on the attributes of, and eventually becomes a God. But the God that he becomes is not like the God described by the popular denominations of the day. Mormonism - historically - tends not to shy away from the anthropomorphism of God, but rather embrace it fully, for it teaches that God was once a mortal man on another world who walked this path before us, and ascended degree by degree to reach His high station in the heavens, finally becoming the Father of the human family upon this earth, whose spirits He, Adam, and his wife Eve had borne out in the celestial world.

Adam and Eve are thus, from my Masonic perspective, easily seen as the first and original Masons. Was Adam not the first to wear an Apron? The first to build an altar with stone? The first to make a covenant or obligation with His God? (Preston and Anderson traced Freemasonry to Adam, while Mackey doesn't acknowledge the meaningfulness of this, see "Freemasonry, History of" in Mackey's Encylopedia of Freemasonry) I believe the fact that we are trying to improve ourselves, and become better men in Masonry by following in the steps of our original Grand Master is enough to say that Masonry originates with Adam.

(See also "Primitive Freemasonry", in Mackey's Encylopedia, where the subject of Antediluvian Masonry is discussed in depth.)

Angels or Demons

The "Radtcliffes" have recently made it a point to up the esoteric ante on the Masonic blogosphere. I will play this game, too.

A friend and Brother of mine deals in Auras for the purpose of identifying problems and healing people spiritually. He came up with the theory that certain Masonic gestures are actually opening (and he believes, subsequently closing) the Aura so that you are more susceptible to what is about to occur.

I'm not usually one who deals with Auras explicitly, but I took a fancy to this idea when I heard it. Upon more deliberate consideration, I think I believe it does a bit more than only this. I would propose the following possibility, but as always, each Masons beliefs are his own, and so your mileage may vary with the following:

When kneeling at the altar of Masonry in the Entered Apprentice Degree we have our aura opened for the first time in this particular way. After doing so, we are directed to the Lights and next receive a secret grip or token, and also a secret word, which, we are strangely told, is the name of the token - as if the token is a person.

I believe that these names could be specific angelic or demonic names of spiritual entities that we are allowing into our bodies, to perform their spiritual work.

In turn, it is possible that the other work that we magically attach at this juncture, the hand gestures, signs, grips, and the name or word itself, could allow us to control or direct this spiritual entity, maybe not only in ourselves, but in others who have received it, creating a sort of hive mind (beehive anyone?), or spiritual energy pool, or egregore, if we learn how to work it properly.

Thus, the True Words are names of these spiritual beings, whereas the Pass-Words are merely words used to gain admission, holding no power in and of themselves, for they have no signs attached, but have been adopted for reasons perhaps akin to those given us in the rituals themselves.

As Master Masons, we are professing to be searching for "the WORD" or in other words, the true, ineffable name of God, and if we do proceed to receive it, after opening our aura properly, we would be able to become possessed by the actual spirit of deity, becoming some sort of Avatar for God, or for a particular God. (This is actually the first time I have thought this through to its conclusion, and I must say, wow!)

At the opening of Lodge we all open our auras to the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master, in particular, and they reciprocate to us; or, in another sense, we are all opening them to each other, becoming one so that we can proceed in Unity. For this reason, it is particularly important that no contention exist amongst brethren in a Lodge room. If you have contention with a Brother who is present, you should voluntarily remove yourself from the room until you have solved the problem so that the ebb and flow of spiritual energy may be undisturbed by your ill feelings.

As I mentioned above, I do not believe that we actually close the Aura. I think we open it, and it heals naturally with time. But I have heard of other ceremonies where the Aura is deliberately closed, so I believe it may be possible to do so, it just isn't part of the Masonic practice in my estimation.

So, for those taking a tally, I believe the EA, FC, MM, Past Master, and Royal Arch Degrees each allow us to become possessed with one of these sojourning spirits, the Most Excellent Master probably does not; and the Mark almost certainly does not, it being derived from the FC.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Google's new branding and favicon - "Little G"

For those of you who use Google, you may have noticed today that their favicon changed. That's the little icon that appears in the location bar and on the tabs where a Google site is opened.

Why am I posting about it here on my Masonic blog? Because anyone who is observant enough to notice such a small change really ought to study the history and symbolism of Freemasonry, they would find it fascinating! In fact, Masons have used the "Big G" as part of their Logo for quite a while, as pictured here.

Does Google's change to the little G represent a sign of humility, a stepping away from territory that clearly has belonged to us Masons since before Sergey Brin and Larry Page even had grandparents, or does the little G represent a new, modern trend that we should take notice of and follow along with, as well?

Well, what do you think? I kind of like it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Response to "Adventures in Skirt Masonry"

Our Brother over at Masonic Minute made a post last night about what he termed "Skirt Masonry" (referring to the appendant bodies which admit women, not to women Masons, Co-Masonry or anything of that sort.) He wrote:
"Some hold these organizations in very low regard. They may even have wives who are members, but they are “Blue Nose” Masons who see no real reason for the existence of Skirt Masonry. Blue Nose Masons have no humility and are usually in bad marriages with nasty wives. Of course, I am painting with a broad brush. I don’t think there are any nasty Masonic wives out there at all. But you get the idea."
With all due respect, I feel that this brother has gotten it all wrong. My wife explained this to me at a prior date, so I have to give her credit for these thoughts, but allow me to explain:

To begin, we must talk a bout the men.

There are a certain number of men to whom Masonry appeals, for all of the ostensibly "right" (or perfect) reasons. The life-changing and transformative experience of initiation, the spiritual insights the ritual provides, the juvenile if not genuine thrill of being part of a secret society, the philosophical discussions we might have with other members, etc. Sure, there are other reasons as well which are just as valid, but most of them could be fulfilled by some other type of worthy organization, such as church or rotary. But Masonry offers this unique thing, which we as Masons, generally have an affection towards.

In its boom days Masonry appealed to about 50% of the men in my community. I would say that Masonry served them well, and they got what they wanted out of it, but it was a convenient match, not because it was right for them but because everyone else was doing it and it was prime entertainment and fellowship. Of such a large number it undoubtedly richly appealed to some of the men, and it was those men who rose to positions of high esteem in Masonry and became well known for their fraternal endeavors. But today, we have a different picture. I would venture a guess that Masonry today appeals in that "perfect" way to about 60% of its members. And only half of those are daring enough to admit it, because the other 40% aren't really interested in the esoteric/occult interpretations of such like myself. Part of this is generational. We still have people left over from the last membership boom, who got something good out of Masonry in spite of it not being a perfect match.

Lets pretend. I live in a city of roughly 20,000 people. Approximately 10,000 of those should be men. Of those, we have about 200 Masons, at least 200 who are on our Trestleboard mailing list - I haven't consulted the Secretary for exact numbers. Of those 200, about 40 are active in some organization and about 20 are regularly active in Blue Lodge. Of those 20, I will be generous and assume that 10 have that "perfect match." This is 10 out of 10,000, or 0.1%. Now, that isn't a fair number for what I'm going to say, but it gives us some perspective. There are good men out there who would make a perfect match to the fraternity whom we just have not located yet. I will be generous and assume that 5% of all men are perfect matches to Masonry. That means that if we reach our intended audience we should have 500 Masons in this city.

Now lets talk about women. As pointed out above, there are approximately 50% men and 50% women out there. So if we were trying to get women interested in something akin to Masonry in some significant way, and setting aside the inherent differences between the male and female mind, we could presume that the same amount of women would be a perfect match. So there would be 500 women in this city interested in such things.

Now lets talk about men and women. Men and women get paired up in marriage or a relationship because of several reasons, lets use "love" and "common interests" as two possibilities. We will presume that the mysterious love outweighs other reasons. So lets say "common interests" only explains 20% of the marriage/partner relationships out there. Since the appendant organizations usually accept at least the wife, widow, mother, daughter, or sister of a Mason, lets simplify this by saying that each Mason has exactly 4 close female relatives (most probably do not have this many) and lets designate their potential interest levels as:

wife/widow - 20% (common interests)
mother - 30% (she was the genetic reason you're interested)
daughter - 50% (she may genetically inherit your interests)
sister - 50% (she had the same parents and is just as likely as you to be interested)

This adds up to 150% or 1.5 potential women joining an organization per man. Right? Wrong.

There are 10,000 women in the community. Of those, we have already determined that only 500 would be interested in these things. But if each man only has a family relation to four women, that means 500 men * 4 = 2000 women we are actually in contact with, and even then only if we have already reached out to all eligible men in the community. Out of those 2000, women if we just play the numbers straight and take that 5% who are perfect matches we get 100 women, but again that is only if all eligible women in the sub-community have been reached. In reality, the number of men is 200. 200 * 4 = 800. 5% of 800 is 40. But that's counting people who are inactive. 40 men out of the 200 we have are actually active, that's a 20% activity level. If only 20% of the women are active that makes 8 women. Granted, women may be more likely to be active than men, especially the stay-at-home generation who want to get out and do something social, so perhaps twice as likely. That would be 16 women. That is where we might stand today. Do my numbers reflect your own? 16 women active in OES or Amaranth compared to 40 men active in Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, York Rite, or Shrine. Remember not to count those traveling from outside of the city population - If you want to do that, add up the populations of all the cities that feed into your organizations and run them over again.

Now lets look at something else. In Masonry we currently have a generational gap in most places. There is a thin area which currently consists of the people approximately ages 30 to 50. We have some younger people like myself who are starting to come into the Fraternity, and we have a lot of our beloved old-timers. The numbers may look different than they really are, because a number of the old-timers are too old to actively attend lodge any more, and so the younger among us get more representation than we really have by the books. Fortunately, Masonry is founded on universal, enduring principles which provides a bridge between the generations, and young men like myself have no problem chumming around with the older Masons. The women, however, have a significant problem. They have, at least in my community, made ladies formal dresses part of the routine, and these dresses have nothing whatsoever to do with the younger generation. My wife would look good in the skirt pictured at the right, and while she may be slightly shy about wearing something like that in public, she would do it. She wouldn't be caught dead, on the other hand, in Grandma's formal. In fact, while guys don't mind dressing up in Tuxedos -- we think it is cool for whatever various and sundry reasons. The group of ladies who like to dress up in formals does not intersect very well with the ladies who are interested in esoteric studies.

My wife, Susie, is very interested in esoteric studies. Our Council of Allied Masonic Degrees holds open meetings (no ritual) over dinner for about four out of five meetings and the ladies attend with us. Susie enjoys the AMD meetings because she gets to hear about Masonry, whether it is from a historical lecture which someone gives, or from reading the publications which AMD puts out. One of the brethren there even slips her her own copy of Miscellanea each year when it comes out, against my own more prudent judgment.

But Susie is not interested in OES or Amaranth. They are unappealing. They are clubs for her grandma. She has more in common with the young lady pictures at the top of this post than with the members of OES or Amaranth. At least she could talk about fashion with such girls without the talk being obsolete (not that she wants to talk about fashion! - she does not.)

Since Susie and I married, my father-in-law has also become a Mason, and even Susie's mom finds the ladies organizations unappealing for similar reasons, and she's been known to study an esoteric subject or two as well.

My message here is that OES and Amaranth have completely missed the boat. Arising during the heyday membership boom of Masonry, they have systematically eliminated the other four hundred and sixty women in today's community who might be interested in what a Masonic related group should have to offer, and they have further alienated some of those who actually are eligible.

It isn't that OES and Amaranth are bad organizations. The math simply does not work. Men cannot expect their ladies to be interested in such things, when it is so rare an interest to hold to begin with. Men should not be running or making rules for OES and Amaranth. The ladies should have ran them from the beginning and operated directly in parallel to Masonry, bringing in other various women from the community with whom they could fellowship and pursue their interests. This solution would fail for a Masonic appendant body because the Masons involved should not be hanging around with a bunch of random young women who are interested in what they do, instead of their own wives who are not. However, if the women's organizations were treated this way, the SINGLE Masons and older DeMolays may find such an organization to be a useful breeding ground, to find eligible ladies of common interests that they may wish to marry. But it creates a terribly contrived system if someone has to phase out of it upon becoming married. That's like being forced to choose between Masonry and your Spouse. Brethren, which would you choose? (Which one yells at or complains to you more often? Just kidding. The Past Masters probably do.) We shouldn't expect our ladies to make a similar choice.

What do I propose? Two things:

#1 - Eliminate all ritual from OES and Amaranth entirely. Make it a ladies social club for relatives of Masons and let them do the socialite things that they like to do.

#2 - Facilitate the creation of a ladies ritual with some real symbolic meat to it. Finance it, advertise it, get the ladies started, and do not allow men to attend it. Make it a true Parallel to Masonry, but not Masonry. Allow it to be organized and operated by women. This need not be limited to one organization. Let a few be created, and may the best one survive. They may even end up forming a men's social group some day to go along with it, for those men who they are married to who want to go down to the bar and watch football, but wouldn't be interested in Masonry.

Brethren, look at it this way: Honestly, which would you rather hang out with, Ms. Schoolgirl from the top of the post, or the Worthy Matron pictured at the right? The young ladies who are interested in esoteric studies feel the same way, well, maybe not... but almost.

(Ok, so that isn't really a Worthy Matron to the right. It's the Queen of England. I didn't want to insult any of the fine ladies who are part of OES or Amaranth by submitting them personally to this comparison.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

European Concept Royal Arch

Greetings Brethren and Companions,

This upcoming Tuesday, the 27th of May, 2008, will be a historic day for Freemasonry in Oregon and possible the United States. (Well, maybe I'm being a little too hopeful.) A group of Royal Arch Masons will be gathering in Roseburg, Oregon for the purpose of forming a European Concept Royal Arch Chapter, to be named Meridian Chapter. The business of the evening will include an explanation of the Concept, the conducting of an interest survey the answers of which will be passed along to the proposed High Priest once nominated, the actual nomination of the three Principal Officers for the Chapter, and the signing of a petition to request dispensation from The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Oregon to form our Chapter. There will also be a musical performance and a lecture on Officialism and the Festive Board drawn from the writings of Dr. Albert Gallatin Mackey.

Here are the principles that are going to be used as the "filter" to find Companions suitable for this endeavor. Any who aren't willing to uphold these principles will not be considered for this particular project.

The Seven Guiding Principles of Meridian Royal Arch Masons:
  1. Arts and Education - The creativity and productivity of each member in the liberal arts and sciences should be earnestly cultivated. Masonic education should be part of every function. If there is not an original presentation available for a particular event, a reading may be taken from the vast array of literature pertaining to Royal Arch Masonry or Freemasonry in general.

  2. Ritual Excellence - In the performance of ritual, nothing short of excellence will be acceptable. The work should not only be memorized, but also be artfully delivered by those performing it. This will take a while to achieve, but sufficient time will be dedicated to work towards the accomplishment of this goal until it is achieved. Members will need to demonstrate their proficiency in the ritual work, and candidates will need to demonstrate their proficiency in the lecture and obligation of each degree before proceeding to the next.

  3. The Festive Board - At every event there should be just as much emphasis placed on the festive board as there is on the business, ritual, and education of our companions. Whether it is a potluck, a banquet, or a visit to a local restaurant, the Festive Board will be conducted with dignity, and members will be expected to attend and participate in the good food and fellowship.

  4. Masonic Relevance - We must ensure that all Chapter functions are relevant to Masonry. There will be no fund raisers except those which provide some legitimate and valuable form of Masonic advancement. Every effort should be directed toward helping individual members improve themselves in Masonry.

  5. Elegance of Dress - Our clothing is an outward symbol and reminder of our devotion to the highest standards of Masonic excellence, and the same amount of care and dignity should be given for our dress in Chapter as for a wedding, funeral, or other significant life event. The red chapter blazer will only be permitted to be worn by visiting District Deputies, Grand Officers, and Past Grand Officers. Everyone else (except current candidates or special guests) will be expected to wear a tuxedo, with a black jacket, red tie, and red vest or red cummerbund. The Sentinel will enforce this dress code under direction of the Excellent High Priest. New members should be directed prior to Exaltation or Affiliation as to where they may obtain these items for a modest price. This standard of dress should be maintained at all Meridian Chapter functions unless otherwise specified by the High Priest.

  6. Ambiance and Initiatic Focus - Ambiance helps open the heart and soul to receive what Masonry has to offer. Just as our dress should be elegant, our meeting locations should also be as pleasant as possible. We may not always have the best locations, but we should do what we can to make them comfortable and enjoyable. Freedom from unnecessary noise and interruption, the provision of music during refreshment, and appropriate candle-light (if permitted by the venue), are examples of good ambiance.

  7. Selectivity and Exclusivity - A European Concept body is a big commitment, and isn't suitable for everyone. We are dedicated to bringing in only those who are amicable towards these principles, and we will cheerfully recommend anyone wishing to become a Royal Arch Mason to a neighboring Chapter if they are not interested in meeting our strict requirements. We are trying to provide a unique, focused experience for those who are interested in it, and at the same time, project a positive image for both Royal Arch Masonry and Freemasonry in general. We are not desperate for membership, and never will be. If there aren't at least 12 Royal Arch Masons committed to these principles, then this Chapter should not exist. Once constituted, we must guard the west gate of this very unique Chapter so that these principles do not get subverted. We are trying to complement the existing programs, not compete with them, and to show this, many of our members will remain active in their existing Chapters.

I'm looking forward to hearing input from my online Brethren about this, and I will be posting a follow up to tell how the meeting went.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Violation of Masonic Law

Reading the recent post at Audi, Vide, Tace has raised some interesting questions in my mind concerning how Masonic law applies to people who hold Dual Membership between Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

In the post, a Mason from Kentucky holding dual membership in a New York Lodge was charged with visiting a clandestine body when he attended a PHA meeting in Iraq.

In the eyes of Kentucky (or at least one individual from Kentucky) their rules of recognition supersede the rules of the Grand Lodge of New York, when the Mason concerned is outside the territory of both Grand Lodges, and presumably even within the territory of the GL of New York. I think on the surface it would seem somewhat reasonable to expect the Brother to hold the most conservative practice between the two sets of constitutions and edicts from the Grand Lodges. However, upon deeper consideration, I see a grave problem:

In my state it is a violation of Masonic law to intentionally deviate from the ritual adopted by the Grand Lodge. If I held dual membership between states, I would likely be a member of a Lodge under a Grand Lodge whose rules also include some similar stipulation. If I were then assisting in opening, closing, or degree conferral at my "new Lodge" I would undoubtedly be deviating from the ritual as specified by my home GL, in order to accommodate the ritual put out by the second GL. The most conservative interpretation of the law, where I would not be in violation of either rule would require me to abstain from all ritual entirely. Obviously, this would not be acceptable. The real answer is that when in the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge, do the ritual as that Grand Lodge does. It is so obvious what the correct interpretation is in the case of ritual, why is visitation any different?

In my Masonic obligations I promised (I paraphrase, here) to uphold the laws and rules of the Lodge of which I am a member, and also to support the constitution and edicts of the Grand Lodge under whose jurisdiction I reside, so far as they come to my knowledge. This is a curious situation indeed. It means that I am to uphold the laws of my Lodge (or Lodges? It's left ambiguous in the case of plural membership), but more explicitly, that I am to support the constitution--not of the Grand Lodge from whom my Lodge received its charter--but rather, the one under whose jurisdiction I reside. This would seem to imply that as I move from place to place, I am obligated to the rules of the (regular) Grand Lodge in that area, and explicitly not to the rules of any other Grand Lodge -- unless the laws of the Lodge of which I am a member require me to do so.

I am aware that in other jurisdictions the obligation has a slightly different connotation in relation to which Grand Lodge is given allegiance.

Moving to a different imaginary example, what if Speculative Lodge #1 was in an area that didn't recognize PHA, and John Q. Mason, who was raised in Speculative Lodge #1, received dual membership in Example Lodge #2 which made him an officer, and Example Lodge #2 had an annual visitation, mandatory for officers, to their "sister Lodge", PHA Lodge #3. Would John Q. Mason be neglecting his duties as an officer of Example Lodge #2 if he did not attend PHA Lodge #3 with his brethren? Further, what if he received a summons to appear at PHA Lodge #3?

"In Ancient times no Master could be absent from the lodge, especially when warned to appear at it, without incurring a severe censure."

I think it is most important, that when we are put in a situation where we may pass judgment on another brother, that we do not wrong him out of the value of his Masonic membership by making harsh judgments. The American York Rite has, in fact, more than one degree where the legend involves this very lesson of not being too hasty or quick to judge, which we would do well to take to heart.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Dilemma of Politics

Brethren, I seek advice.

As many of you may know, I run In order to help support the site, I have advertising on the site in the form of Google AdSense. Usually these advertisements are for things such as Masonic regalia, jewelry, or books, and many of them are actually helpful to visitors since they are on-topic. Today I went online to see what articles were listed, and I was confronted with a political advertisement for a presidential candidate. This was not an innocuous three line text ad, either, but a full block animated graphical advertisement. It doesn't matter to me which candidate or party, but rather the fact that a political advertisement is being propagated onto the website at all, when I view our brotherhood as a great place of unity between members of various political parties and religions. I am distressed, and I don't know what to do. Part of me says it is free speech, and if they pay for an ad, they should be able to show it there. Part of me says its a conflict of interest, or it may drive away certain visitors. It probably won't be there forever. Must I resort to turning off advertisements during election years? On the other hand, maybe my Brethren have enough understanding and tolerance to "put up with" the ad, even if it doesn't suit their fancy. I seek advice, my Brethren. If you were in this situation, what would you do?

Monday, January 28, 2008

How the Degrees Came to Exist

In this article I am presenting a very complicated subject, but it shall be put forth as simply as possible. Each degree deserves multiple chapters in a book, but will only get here a brief description. Masonic Lodges originally worked a Two-Degree system:

The Entered Apprentice degree is the most obvious. It is the foundation of our Masonic journey, and while its lecture contains allusions to Solomon's Temple, its other content is almost entirely "operative." It obligates us, teaches us to behave in a proper manner, and gives us secrets whereby to recognize one another. In its simplicity, it represents the pure Masonry of time immemorial, having received very little amendment.

The Fellowcraft Degree is the original reward for being able to demonstrate quality Masonic work. The medieval guilds also used the name "Journeyman" for Fellowcrafts. They (originally) could begin to travel, work, and receive wages for their labors. We see in the Fellowcraft degree, the introduction of a complex system of symbolism, the birth of speculative Masonry, which most of all exhorts us to study the various arts an sciences and to make our life a well-spent one.

The Mark Man, or first section of York Rite's fourth degree, "Mark Master Mason" has elements which were originally taught to Fellowcraft Masons, including selecting a distinctive mark and learning to mark your work accordingly, and how to receiving the wages of an operative Fellowcraft Mason. Its lessons, from an operative point of view, seem particularly suited towards how to get along while working with a large groups of other Masons.

Lodges originally consisted of a number of Apprentices and Fellowcrafts, presided over by an elected Master. The positions of Master and the two Wardens were originally able to be held by Fellowcraft Masons, and the Mark Master, or second section of York Rite's "Mark Master Mason" degree probably at one time constituted the ceremonies given to a Fellowcraft upon becoming the Master of a Fellowcraft Lodge. The "Installation Ceremony" of a Worshipful Master was probably also used at this time, and is essentially a set of oaths and an investment with various items pertaining to the government and operation of the Lodge.

The first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, and the Master Mason Degree was probably developed somewhere close to this time as a way of making the process of becoming Master of a Lodge more meaningful, beautiful and instructive. The ceremonies of Installation were probably moved from bing given with the Mark Master to the Master Mason. Eventually, probably owing to the growing membership in lodges, it was determined that the Master Mason Degree be given to all worthy brethren, rather than only one a year who was being installed. At this time, the Installation Ceremony itself became divorced from the Master Mason degree. The Installation ceremony is still used for annual installations in Blue Lodge, and has also developed into the fifth, or "Past Master" degree of York Rite.

But, at this time, the Master Mason Degree included the communication of the true Master's word. Soon, for some mysterious reason, the Hiramic Legend was introduced, and the concept of the Loss of the word, and its subsequent Recovery, was placed into the degree. My speculation is that this may have reflected genuine feelings of the loss and recovery of traditions relating to the reasoning behind many (particularly Irish) masons banding together to form the Antients Grand Lodge of England.

Upon the union of 1813, the recovery of the word was removed from the degree (it being already gone in the work of the "Moderns") , and the ceremony explaining its recovery was moved into what would become the Royal Arch Degree. The part of the degree which remained became the Master Mason Degree, being in essentially the same form as we know it today.

The Irish masons conferred a degree called Excellent Master as a preparation for the Royal Arch. This was a veil-working ceremony involving blue, purple, scarlet, and white veils and an allegory of the return from the Babylonian Captivity, which has been incorporated into the Royal Arch Degree itself as it is worked in the USA.

Meanwhile, Masonry had also traveled to France, and many degrees both spurious and valuable had arisen. Two of these eventually found their way to the United States as side-degrees of the Scottish Rite. They were Royal Master and Select Master. They were recognized to bee particularly applicable to explanation of the York Rite's Royal Arch Degree, and so the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite had no argument with letting these degrees become organized independently and become a fixture within the York Rite system. (However, the Supreme Council technically still possesses the authority to confer them if they choose to do so.)

Thomas Smith Webb later adopted the Most Excellent Master Degree to fill a remaining gap in the legend by celebrating the completion of the Temple. There is a rumor that he authored the degree wholecloth, but documented evidence exists that a degree of this name was being conferred around the time Brother Webb was born, and the various elements of which this degree consist certainly predate the degree itself within Masonry. This degree fits chronologically between the Master Mason and Royal Arch Degree.

In summary:
  • 1° Entered Apprentice - Remains Intact.
  • 2° Fellow Craft - Today it is missing pieces.
  • 3° Master Mason - Today it is missing pieces.
  • 4a° Mark Man - Completes the Fellowcraft Degree.
  • 4b° Mark Master - Is itself an older type of "Master Mason" Degree.
  • 5° Past Master - Installation was probably the oldest form of the Master Mason Degree.
  • 6° Most Excellent Master - Adopted into this sequence by T.S.Webb.
  • 7° Royal Arch Mason - Completes the Master Mason Degree.
  • 8° Royal Master - Developed in France.
  • 9° Select Master - Developed in France.
You will observe that it is only the 6, 8, and 9° that do not have a claim to be part of Ancient Craft Masonry, as defined in the 1813 Articles of Union, "that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more, viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch."

These other "degrees" are merely portions or different versions of the authentic three degrees which have become fragmented into pieces. It is unclear, however, which parts, if any, of the Royal Arch Degree constitute the "Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch" (the original conclusion ofo the Master Maso Degre, beyond the short exaltation ceremony itself.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Masonic Logos - Updated

Today seems to have been a very interesting day in terms of logos, as Brother M.M.M. over at The North Eastern Corner has also updated his logo. Meanwhile, I was busy updating my high resolution Masonic Logos. There are now .eps versions of each one available for download, and the Knights Templar Cross and Crown logo has been significantly improved.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Aprons in all their Varieties

Ben and I have been having quite a back and forth about Aprons, and I'm glad to see so many others join in. Here are some pictures out of a book from 1866. Our laps are pointed, not round, and our corner tucks in not at the center of the top, but on the opposite side, making a right triangle.

Master Masons wear their apron in the ordinary fashion, but I notice this same book depicts a blue bordered apron with the all seeing eye on the flap for the Master Mason. Like I said before, thats what our officers aprons look like, except that they also have the emblem of the particular office embroidered on the front.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

AMD: X - Knight of Constantinople

If you haven't done so yet, read my Introduction to the Allied Masonic Degrees, to which this post is a follow-up.

This Degree shows the way in which Emperor Constantine taught a lesson in humility and equality to the arrogant nobles of his time.

Aside from the Red Branch of Eri (awarded to AMD brethren in recognition of their service) this is the only Chivalric Order under control of AMD. Brethren of this order are addressed “Sir Knight.”

This ceremony reinforces in a very strong manner the great moral lesson taught by the Level, one of the principal Working Tools of the Symbolic Lodge’s Fellowcraft Degree.

This post concludes my original series on the Degrees controlled by the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees in the USA. If you haven't done so yet, go back to the beginning and read the whole series. I will be doing follow up posts on a few related topics in the near future.

A Masonic Funeral

Today I had my first experience at a Masonic Funeral. There have been a few other opportunities since I've been a Mason, but I never seemed to be around at the time they came up. This one was held at our Lodge room for brother Bob Dove.

I learned a few new things about Masonic practice. First, at a Funeral, none of the officers wear their usual Aprons, and every brother in attendance instead wears a white apron only, also lapel pins and other emblems of the craft were subtly discouraged (although permitted), to help emphasize the important symbols at the Funeral: The white lambskin apron, and the sprig of Acacia, and to show deference and honor to the deceased.

At first I was a little surprised by this, but then I found beauty in it, as it sets the "Lodge of Sorrow" apart from our regular Lodge meetings. Ironically, this coincides with Brother Ben Rowe's blog article for Today, which is partially in response to a comment I left on another post of his. I guess Ben and I seem to be playing like a tennis match, hitting the ball back and forth.

I took the opportunity to wear my original Lambskin apron, which I received as an Apprentice, and which has been tucked away in the closet since that time. It is typical for Brethren in Oregon to wear their original Apron only during their EA, FC, and MM degrees, then save it "to be placed upon the coffin which encloses their lifeless remains." We are not forbidden to wear it again, but the Lodge provides a stack of white linen aprons in the Tyler's room, which are for use during our regular meetings. I made the decision a while back that I wanted to wear my lambskin one instead of the linen because it would mean more to me. But, alas! It was too late, or so I thought, for I had become an officer, and one day I will wear a Past Masters apron, never again to wear the plain white Apron. But now I found a chance, in this Lodge of Sorrow, so I wore my lambskin Apron. I like to think that my Apron appreciated it too, as it got to say goodbye to one of its dear friends, and get a preview of what will some day be its own ultimate destiny. (I don't believe that my apron can really see and think, just for the record.)

In closing, Brother Dove was a good man and Mason. I did not know him as well as I should have liked to, but he has always been there in the Lodge, setting a good example of friendship and helpfulness. He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ingredients of a Masonic Degree

There are a lot of places to learn about Masonic ritual. One can experience it first hand (which is the recommended course, in my opinion), or read an exposure of the ritual either in print or on the Internet. Sometimes people are curious what is involved, but don't want to read something so shady to find out. Well, this is the right place! Here's an overview of what a Masonic Degree entails, without spoiling the experience or giving away any secrets. I will give an outline first, then details.
  1. Prologue

  2. Preparation
  3. Reception
  4. Circumambulation and Scripture Reading
  5. Approaching the Altar
  6. Obligation
  7. Instruction
  8. Apron
  9. Working Tools
  10. Return and Revestment

  11. Drama
  12. Lecture
  13. Charge
This list of events constitutes the degree proper. There are also opening and closing ceremonies that bookend the degree, with the potential for Lodge business to be conducted either after the opening ceremonies or before the closing ceremonies. Now for the details:

1. Prologue

In the Three Symbolic Degrees, the Prologue is found in the Entered Apprentice Degree and consists of a series of questions propounded to the candidate who has been patiently waiting during the opening ceremonies. These questions establish the man's eligibility to proceed with the degree. In York Rite's Chapter and Council the Prologue of a Degree sometimes takes on a dramatic character of its own, serving a purpose similar to "Act I" of a three-act play.

2. Preparation

The candidate is changed into certain symbolic clothing and/or given some basic instructions. He is then led to the door of the Lodge where he knocks to gain admission.

3. Reception

After some questions at the door to establish the purpose of the alarm, and the qualifications of the candidate, he is admitted and "received" into the Lodge by a symbolic act accompanied by a short explanation of this symbolism, which varies in each degree.

4. Circumambulation and Scripture Reading

Depending on the degree, and particularly in the Entered Apprentice Degree, an additional prayer may be offered at this point (in addition to the one at opening.) Next, the candidate is led clockwise around the Lodge a certain number of times, while a passage of Scripture is recited appropriate to the degree being conferred.

5. Approaching the Altar

After more questions with the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master, the candidate is conducted to the altar where he will receive his obligation.

6. Obligation

This is the heart of the degree. It is what makes the man a Mason. The candidate is informed that his Masonic obligation can never conflict with his duty to God, to his country, his neighbor or himself. He is also given the opportunity to "back out" at this point, if unwilling to proceed. Once he proceeds, he takes the full obligation, which varies in each degree.

7. Instruction

Now that he is obligated, the Brother learns the secrets pertaining to the degree to which he has just attained. These secrets are much discussed elsewhere, and I can only say with propriety that they typically consist of a password, a grip ("secret handshake") and a couple of signs. His knowledge of these signs is then demonstrated to the Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master.

8. Apron

The candidate is given an Apron and/or taught how to wear his existing one, according to his particular degree. A short history or explanation of the symbolism of the Apron is given.

9. Working Tools

Now that he is wearing his Apron properly, the Brother is ready to be presented with the Working Tools of the degree. These are regular builder's tools with which the world is already acquainted, but they are presented with an explanation of their moral symbolism. For example, the plumb-line teaches us to walk uprightly before God and man.

10. Return and Revestment

The Brother is conducted out of the Lodge, where he changes back into his ordinary clothing (continuing to wear the Apron, however, as taught in the degree) and he is returned to the Lodge room.

11. Drama

The drama varies greatly with each degree. For the Entered Apprentice, it is nothing more than a short admonition from the Master (we're talking two sentences.) For the Fellow-craft the Drama is integrated with the Lecture itself (which will be explained next). For the Master Mason Degree, and many of the York Rite Degrees, it is an elaborate and beautiful performance in which the Candidate takes an active role (with his conductor guiding him and sometimes speaking on his behalf.) The drama section of the degree is often done in costume with great effect. If the obligation (although short in duration) is the main course of the Degree, the drama is like a fine dessert, without which the meal would be incomplete.

12. Lecture

The lecture recounts the ceremonies of the degree which have been performed, endeavoring to explain some of their meaning and inspiring contemplation upon the rites and symbols by the candidate. It often contains a commentary of philosophical and moral value, along with additional historic material pertaining to the degree. These Lectures can range from a half hour to an hour long and are, today, memorized word-for-word (quite an impressive feat!) A portion of this lecture includes a Question and Answer examination about what the candidate has passed through and a test of his knowledge of the passwords, grips, and so forth. This portion of the lecture becomes the Candidate's duty to learn and present before the Lodge before he may be advanced to the next degree.

13. Charge

The charge is a short statement given to the Mason outlining the particular type of moral behavior and refinements of character expected by a Brother of this degree. (A historical side note: After reading The New Masonic Trestle-board, a product of the National Masonic Convention of 1843 held in Baltimore, I believe all the charges used in the USA were written wholly by brother Thomas Smith Webb, which accounts for the slightly different ring to their vocabulary as compared to the rest of the degree work and lectures.)

I hope this post has been enjoyable. I'm also curious how accurately it reflects the order of the degree work as it is conducted by other Masons around the world.