March 1, 2019

Visit to a Country Lodge

Posted in Freemasonry at 1:07 pm by GeneGoldman


Visit to a Country Lodge (author unknown)
“Where were you last evening, Teddy?”
“Went down to the country.”
“Well you missed the meeting of your life. The Grand Master was here, we had an orchestra, the lodge room was beautifully decorated with palms and cut flowers and the banquet that followed was a peach. You surely missed it, Teddy.”
“I attended a meeting of a country lodge that night.”
“Wouldn’t some of those country Masons open their eyes if they could see a blow-out like the one we had last night?”
“Yes, I guess they would, but they made me open my eyes at their meeting all right.”
“In the first place it was held in the village schoolhouse, a two story brick building erected by this Masonic Lodge and given rent free to the county for school purposes all except the large hall on the second floor.”
“I was told about the meeting the day before and expressed my desire to attend, and the Master took me down to the butcher shop and told Chris Johnson, the butcher, what I wanted and requested him to get two more of the boys and examine me. Chris told me to come back after supper, and when I did there were exactly nine of the local members present, and they made a function of the examination and used up three hours asking me from how many wives King Solomon had to where the Master hung his hat.”
“They enjoyed themselves fine and I had a time that still seems like a bad dream to me. But from the moment that examination was over my standing in the village changed. I was the guest of the town and treated like a prince.”
“Next day, the farmers commenced coming in at daylight and at eleven o’clock the back fence of the court house was hitched full of gray mares, each with a colt at their heels, and the schoolhouse fence were full of farmers in their Sunday clothes each one whittling a stick and talking ‘Masonary’.”
“At noon the real function of the day came in the shape of a dinner served by the wives of the Masons in the lodge room. I expected a luncheon, but I found a feast instead! Whole hams, whole turkeys with the stuffing sticking out and running over the plate, armfuls of celery, gallons and gallons of gravy, and right in front of me a whole roasted pig with an apple in its mouth, and do you know, that pig looked like he was glad he had died to grace so noble a feast.”
“Honestly, the tables had to stand cross-legged to keep from falling down with their load, and when we got up a little child gathered up over a pint of buttons from under the table. Every night when I go to sleep I see that pig on that plate and a nice old lady that kept handing me glasses of boiled custard at that feed.”
“Well, I won’t make you hungry telling you about it. Enough to say that we ate and talked until four o’clock in the after- noon and I never had such a time in my life. They made me make a speech and I told all the stories that I had heard in the theaters this winter till the Master said I ought to travel with a show.”
“Then the women cleared up the place while we men went out and sat on the fence and smoked like furnaces.”
“At six o’clock the lodge was opened and although the Master wore a slouch hat, and although there was not a dress suit in the room and although the Senior Warden ( who was a farmer) had his favorite fox hound sitting solemnly beside his chair, I have never seen a more beautiful opening ceremony or a better rendered degree. It was the third and when the one candidate had finished the degree and listened to the lecture, I thought the work was over. But I was mistaken. The Master finished all the work in the ritual when he added something like this:”
“Jim, you are now a Mason. I fear that it will be many years before you know what that means. There is not a man in this room, Jim, that hasn’t watched you grow up from a little shaver in a calico dress to manhood. There is not a man in this room who did not watch you all through school, and although you have thought all through life that you had no father, I want to tell you that you had a hundred.”
“Your father belonged to this lodge, Jim,-was Master of it and although you can hardly remember him, every man in this room followed him to his grave and every one of us knows that his life was as spotless and square as a man’s life can be and, Jim, while we don’t know much about heaven, our innermost souls cry out the truthfulness of the life to come, and we know that somewhere in that great beyond your father is looking down on you and me this minute and is glad, and will watch your career as a man and a Mason with renewed confidence and hope. He and we will watch you from now on, Jim.” “He knew when you got into the habit of playing ten-cent limit with the gang down at the hotel and it hurt him and it hurt us.”
“All your future life, Jim, try to remember that he is looking down at you, and when there comes up a question of right and wrong to decide, try to think what he would like to have you do, and remember you have the honor of this old lodge to sustain now- the lodge that your father loved and was Master of. Of course you are a man now, Jim, but when you were a boy, a very little boy, your daddy used to take you in his arms and pray God that He would guide you in the path that you have started in tonight and partly for your daddy’s sake, partly for God’s sake, partly for the sake of the honor of this old lodge, but mostly for your own sake, Jim. I beg you never to take a step that will make us regret what we have done tonight.”
“Jim was in tears and I will admit that I was sniffing some myself when the old man got through. Somehow I had forgotten that he did not have on a tuxedo suit, somehow the fact that he had on a slouch hat instead of a plug, slipped out of my mind, and all that I remember and realize was that he was a true Mason.
“And now, my brethren, What came you here to do? When you joined our mystic circle, Had you a purpose in your heart To be of service to your fellow man, And perform your allotted part? Or came you out of curiosity Or motives personal in view? Tell me, brother of the square, What came you here to do? Have you failed to grasp the meaning Of the symbols of our chart? Have you failed to learned to subdue your passions And make improvements in your art? Do you always, always uphold the trusts On which we firmly stand, Teaching the Fatherhood of God And the Brotherhood of Man? Have you willing to Aid the brother When life surges were fierce and wild? Have you offered cheer and comfort To the Mason’s widow, wife and child? If you have done so, my brother, You are a Mason good and true, And can give a correct answer What came you here to do? “

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A Living Mason

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:06 pm by GeneGoldman


One of my favorites:

——-

“A Living Mason,”

author unknown

His name is John. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes.

This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He was at the top of his class. Kind of esoteric and very, very bright. He became a Mason recently while attending college. After moving to his new town, he finds down the street from his new apartment is a well dressed, very conservative Lodge. One day John decides to go there after work. He walks in with shoes, jeans, his work shirt, and longer hair.

The Lodge has already started and so John starts looking for a seat. The Lodge is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now the Brethren are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. John gets closer and closer and closer to the East and, when he realizes there are no seats, he squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this Lodge before!) By now the Brethren are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

About this time, the Secretary realizes that from way at the back of the Lodge, a Past Master is slowly making his way toward John. Now the Past Master is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A good man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves that you can’t blame him for what he’s going to do.

How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid in the Lodge? It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The
Lodge is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The Secretary can’t
even continue with the “Minutes” until the Past Master does what he has to do. And now the Lodge watches as this elderly man drops his cane on the floor. With
great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to John and welcomes him so he won’t be alone.

When the Secretary gains control, he say’s, “What I’m about to say, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget. Be careful how you live. You may be the only Mason some people will ever meet.”

November 27, 2018

Tribute to a dear friend

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:24 am by GeneGoldman


From the California Freemason magazine, November/December 2018

http://www.cafreemason-digital.com/cafreemason/nov_dec_2018/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1443834#articleId1443834

BEYOND WORDS

In the early 1780s, Austrian poet Joseph Franz Ratschky wrote an essay lauding the virtues of Masonry for the development of young men. In it, he insists that no organization is designed better for “either improving the heart or perfecting it,” “continuously developing the propensity for good,” and “through friendly exchange with fellows… transforming cold, insensitive self-love into universal, warm, brotherly love.” In his experiences with brothers, he saw that the path to self-betterment – that great aim of Masonry – was forged not only through the fraternity’s symbols and degrees, but through its friendships.

Scholar Heather Morrison, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the State University of New York, New Paltz, expands on this, writing of the fraternity during the Enlightenment: “The powerful draw of Freemasonry was due in no small part to this idea that the brotherhood saw into a man’s soul and celebrated all the hidden things that made him good. Outside the lodge, propriety isolated men. Within the association, however, sincere affection and trust between brothers took its place.” In the safety of the Masonic lodge, men had a rare opportunity to open themselves up to others. The relationships they made helped them develop into a “feeling, moral man in society.” Simply put, friends bring out the best in us. In Masonry, this is uniquely true.

Part of this comes from being exposed to new points of view. As every initiate learns in the first degree, one of Freemasonry’s remarkable abilities is to “conciliate true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” Perpetual distance is all too easy to come by: Left to our own devices, research shows that we tend to become friends either with people we see a lot – those who live near us and work with us – or people who are similar to us. That’s an awfully small pool. But Masonry dismantles the silos we usually build around ourselves. This is one of the many ways the fraternity was groundbreaking 300 years ago and remains so important today.

“Masonry presents us with opportunities for relationships that would never have happened otherwise,” says Gene Goldman, past master of Amity Lodge No. 442 and Black Mountain Lodge No. 445 in San Diego. And, he is quick to add, it cements those relationships with the degree experience. “I’ve known people who are pilots. Once they perform their first solo landing, they understand something no one else could understand about every other pilot. Going through the initiatic experience of Masonry is that moment. That bond is something you could never in a million years communicate with words.”

Many of Goldman’s close friends are men he wouldn’t otherwise have met or formed a bond with if it weren’t for Masonry. He became close with one brother, Leonardo Ilog, when a group from Black Mountain Lodge decided to check out the local “swap meet,” an open-air flea market in San Diego. Other brothers came and went from week to week, but Ilog and Goldman never missed it. They started carpooling, then grabbing lunch. Their texts each week evolved from formal (“Should I pick you up at 8:00 at the Park-n-Ride?”) to familiar (“The usual?”) to their own shorthand (“?” and “!”).

They were a classic odd couple. Goldman, a software developer and technical writer, is an extrovert who can be counted upon for frank discussion; some of his brothers have suggested the title “grand troublemaker.” Ilog, a retired Navy cook from the Philippines, is soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and averse to conflict. But as they wandered together past the booths at the swap meet – Goldman looking for tech gadgets, Ilog for kitchen knives – and over many drives and lunches, they began to open up about their lives, and to lean on each other.

“There’s no way that we would have met or formed that kind of relationship if it hadn’t been for Masonry,” Goldman says. “We didn’t move in the same circles. We didn’t have the same friends. We didn’t have the same interests, for the most part. He’s not into technology. I cook badly.” He laughs.

Their friendship evolved like their text messages. Goldman helped Ilog pick out a new cellphone. Ilog presented Goldman with a good kitchen knife. When Goldman and his wife went out of town for the weekend, they asked Ilog to swing by the house to check on their teenage daughters. When Ilog’s daughter got married, the Goldmans attended and helped celebrate. When Goldman was laid off from work years ago, Ilog was the first to call and offer support.

Ilog, who is 72, has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, forcing their weekly outings to end. “But our great friendship will remain forever part of my life,” Goldman says. “I’m thankful that Masonry brought us together.”

August 16, 2017

Henry

Posted in Freemasonry at 1:19 pm by GeneGoldman


HENRY

By Robert E. Winterton, Sr., 33

Personal caring, one Brother to another, is what makes us a fraternity-and a family.

He was short, heavy, and frowned a lot Some said he was a troll, others characterized him as a leprechaun. He was irascible, irritating, and sometimes loud. He had a penchant for complaining and finding fault. He boasted of having “taken a demit” every time the Scottish Rite raised its dues over the past 50 years, but he never explained how he managed to remain a member in order to exercise his proclivity for demitting. He once cast a vote against a dues increase, only to offer (during new business) personally to pay $15,000 to pave the Lodge parking lot. He wasn’t stingy; he just enjoyed complaining. For 50 years, he was successful at getting under the skin of just about every Master.
Then Henry was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease worked quickly Soon, the Lodge was in charge of his care, a 24-hour-a-day duty almost immediately. Henry lost weight, mobility, and comprehension. In a matter of months, he became a child of three. Delivered to the Lodge one evening too late for a formal dinner and informed of his tardiness, he stood in the doorway weeping like a child who had missed a birthday party. The tables and chairs had already been stacked and put away by the stewards.
Henry still stood at the door, his shoulders heaving with each breath.

Wasn’t someone going to do something? Are we a fraternity? And if so, what does that mean? Are we a family, or do we just go through the motions? Do we stand for anything real, or do we just mouth the words? The ghost of Masonry Past stood silent witness to the events and was ready to cast judgment.

“Get a plate of food-quick!” someone said. It was the Master’s voice, The Senior Warden, a young man, covered the length of the dining room in seven or eight running strides. Reaching Henry, he nearly shouted, “How are you, Henry? Are you hungry? It’s good to see you. Let’s go eat!”

By the time Henry’s shuffling steps delivered him to the table, he was smiling like a kid at his first Big League ball game. Almost instantly, a plate of steaming food was placed on a sparkling tablecloth, a napkin was tucked in his collar, and someone was saying, “The coffee is hot, Henry. Be careful.” Then, all the officers of Lodge, some in full tuxedos, others with their sleeves rolled up, seated themselves around Henry’s table. An old Past Master approached the table, “What’s going on here, boys?” Surprisingly, the answer came from the youngest one at the table, a junior Steward in his late 20s, “He’s our Brother, and he’s not going to eat alone”
Well, maybe it does work! Maybe we mean what we say. Maybe we really are a family of Brothers bearing some responsibility for each other. Little events like this one will determine the truth of the matter, not the words of a catechism.

Robert E. Waterton, Sr. was raised in El Cajon Valley Lodge No. 576 in 1972 (Master in 1988), became a 32( Mason, Valley of San Diego, in 1984, K..: C.: C.: H.:. in 1991, and 33( 1.: G.: H.: in 1995, A member of the Grand Lodge of California’s Speaker’s Panel since 1987, he was Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of California 1989-90, and Chairman, Grand Lodge Education Group, 1991-92. Presently, Personal Representative, Valley of San Diego, he is also a member of the York Rite Bodies, Al Bahr Shrine Temple, ONES., Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem, So. California Research Lodge, Scottish Rite Research Society, Joseph L. Shell Daylight Lodge No. 837, The Philalethes Society, The Royal Order of Scotland The Robert the Bruce Association, York Rite College, and National Sojournes/Heroes of ’76.

July 20, 2017

What’s really important?

Posted in Freemasonry at 2:32 pm by GeneGoldman


I was traveling on business, and since I had a free evening, I decided that it would be nice to visit a lodge while I was there. I made arrangements with the Secretary, and when I arrived he greeted me, looked at my dues card, and invited me to have a seat. He told me that they might open lodge a little late. The Master was coming from work, and he was delayed a little, but on his way.

No problem, I settled into one of those darned theater seats, and waited. After a bit, this guy walks in, with a three-day growth of unshaven beard, dressed in a t-shirt, cut-offs and flip-flops. He shakes a few hands on the way in, and hurriedly approaches the Masters’ Station. No one seemed fazed, but I was a little puzzled.

The guy puts on the Master’s apron, jewel and hat, picks up the gavel and starts to open the meeting. I had to admit that the meeting was so well conducted that I almost forgot about the way he was dressed.

After we closed, the Secretary came up to me and apologised for not letting me know that the Master was an under-cover cop, and usually came to lodge directly from his assignment (whatever it was), and they never knew what he would look like. But he was such a great leader, and such an inspiration to the members at how he lived and breathed Masonry, that they just didn’t care what he was wearing.

After all, we tell ourselves that it is the *internal* and NOT the *external* characteristics that mattered, right? I guess that lodge did more than pay lip service to that. They lived it. They figured out what was really important.

March 29, 2016

Applied Masonry (The Bonds of Brotherhood)

Posted in Freemasonry, Uncategorized at 12:29 pm by GeneGoldman


A true story, told to Brother Gene Goldman

Chuck was a young Black man, when he was raised in a Prince Hall Lodge in New York City.  He learned his lessons well, but always wondered if others really did.  As a young Black man, especially living in New York City, he had seen some incidents of people treating others badly.  Were Prince Hall Masons unique?  Did New York (Caucasian) Masons really believe in the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of G-d.

Chuck fell in love with, and married, a beautiful white woman.  On their honeymoon, they were traveling in the Deep South, in a motor home.  Deep in the middle of a VERY rural town, they ran out of gas.  Stranded on the side of the road, with no gas station, or house, in sight, Chuck started to worry.  So did his wife.  A Black man, with a White woman, stranded by the side of the road in the deep, rural, South.

Remembering the lessons taught him, and being in real distress, Chuck began giving the Distress sign he was taught to the few passing motorists, hoping to come to the attention of a Prince Hall Brother, or anyone, who might be able to help him.  Time went by, and evening was beginning to set in.

A station wagon approached, and Chuck started giving the sign.  Much to his alarm, and that of his wife, the station wagon was occupied by three White men, and there were white sheets (could they be robes?) in the back.

Now, Chuck was worried.  VERY worried.

“You a Mason, boy?”, the driver asked, in that wonderful southern way.

“Yes sir, I am.” Chuck replied carefully.

“Got a problem?”

“Yes sir.  We ran out of gas, and it seems like miles to a station..  We are not from around here, just traveling through.” (Obviously!)  “Could you direct me to a gas station?”

One of the passengers said “It is twenty miles to the nearest station.  Long walk.”  The other asked, “You got a gas can, boy?”

“Yes sir.”

“Get it.  And get in.”

Chuck got the gas can, and he and his wife got in the car, scared out of their whits.  Were they being helped, or were they going to be lynched?  Happily, the driver took them to a station.  They filled the can, and the driver asked the owner of the station if they could borrow another.  The station owner looked at Chuck.  And at his wife.

“You want me to lend a gas can to them?”

“Nope.  I want you to lend it to me.”

“Well, in that case, ok.”

They filled the second can, returned to the motor home, and emptied the cans into the tank.  “Even two gas cans worth of gas wouldn’t go very far in this thing”, Chuck worried.

The station wagon followed Chuck and his wife to the station, made sure that they had no trouble filling up and returning the can, and drove off to their meeting, their white sheets (robes?) undisturbed in the back of the station wagon.

Chuck never again wondered if the lessons taught in Masonry were lost on anyone.

March 13, 2015

Brother Morgan’s Masonic Journey

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , at 2:29 pm by GeneGoldman


By Gene Goldman, with Morgan P.

Forward

This is the true story about my friend, and dear Brother Mason. We will call him Morgan. Morgan was a college student when this story started, while a member of the U. S. Army ROTC. Morgan was, and still is, a follower of Wicca (a religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature). As a Wiccan, Morgan believes in a Supreme Being and strives every day to maintain a good relationship with Deity.

Entered Apprentice

In October of 1993, Morgan applied for the Degrees of Masonry to a Lodge in the town where he was attending college. As is the requirement in that Masonic jurisdiction, he was elected by a unanimous ballot. Two months later, in December of 1993, he was Initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason in that Lodge (we will call it his First Lodge). In February of 1994, after passing a suitable proficiency, now Brother Morgan was notified that he would be passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft on the 5th of March, 1994. So far, our Brother’s progress in Masonry is no different than any other Mason who has gone that way before.

Nor should it have been. Brother Morgan applied of his own free will and accord, met all the requirements, was found Worthy and Well Qualified, and came Well Recommended. On that basis he was Initiated an Entered Apprentice Mason.

Drama

On the eve of his Second Degree, on the 4th of March, 1994, Brother Morgan was notified that he would not be taking his degree the next day. He spoke with the Master of the Lodge, who advised him that it was only a temporary delay. Then, the Master started asking questions about Morgan’s beliefs. Brother Morgan had answered those same questions before, while being investigated prior to being elected, and in a more abbreviated form during his Entered Apprentice Degree, a mere two months earlier. As Wicca is not as well known as many other religions, he happily confirmed that he did, and does believe in a Higher Power.
Brother Morgan graduated from University in May of 1994, and at about that time he was directed to apply to do courtesy work at home. No particular reason was given.

Brother Morgan was very busy with post-graduation matters until early in 1995, when he applied to do courtesy work. The Master of his lodge reported to the lodge that Brother Morgan had told him he was a “tree worshiper” and “non-believer in a Supreme Being”. Because of that lack of understanding of Wicca, the Master informed Brother Morgan that he would not be allowed to advance in Masonry.

To Aid and Assist

During this time, there was a very active Masonic community that frequented the Masonic forum on a site called CompuServe. Several of us (yes, dear reader, I was active in the forum) were past Masters, many were not, but one was far more well-known that any of the rest. At the time, Allen E. Roberts was the most prolific living Masonic author. His works are still available on Amazon, as well as any Masonic supply house. Brother Allen was also a gifted educator, and one of the most respected Masons in the US. He was also a dear friend, and we who knew him deeply miss his gentle nature and truly Masonic character. Brother Allen was a true Gentleman. Safely rest, my dear Brother.

In 1995, Brother Morgan joined the forum, seeking advice about his options. A half dozen (or so) of the forum members (including myself) offered Brother Morgan advice, and even more offered their sympathetic support. One of the more useful pieces of information was the name and address of grievance committee chairman in his jurisdiction. But some of us did something more. We began privately discussing (what we saw as) this injustice, and the unanimous feeling was that we should do something. Brother Allen announced that we WERE going to do something, and while he kept the details to himself, he began making phone calls. An unconfirmed rumor has it that he offered to write a book about how religious bigotry has no place in Masonry. And that he considered Brother Morgans experience an excellent case study.

While we were discussing potential strategies, and Brother Allen was also making his phone calls, Brother Morgan contacted the Grand Lodge Grievance Committee. While Brother Morgan was beginning his active duty service to our country (at MP school), the committee requested a written explanation of his Wiccan beliefs. He provided one, and included an FAQ from the Pagan Student Union at a local university, along with related excerpts from the US Army Chaplain’s Handbooks.

The Grievance Committee deliberated for a considerable period, and finally, in 1996, they recommended to the Grand Master that Brother Morgan be approved to advance in Masonry. Happily, the Grand Master agreed, and instructed the lodge to strike any record of the objection.

Good News

Because Brother Morgan was now living in Washington DC (still serving our country), he asked a local lodge for assistance with the courtesy work. That lodge was unable to assist, but a nearby lodge provided the assistance, Passed him to the Degree of Fellowcraft in June of 1996, and Raised him to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason a month later, in July of 1996. It took Brother Morgan over three years to do what most US Masons do in three or four months. Later, Brother Morgan affiliated with a third DC lodge.

Meanwhile, Back Home

In April of 1997, Brother Morgan made a trip back to his first lodge in order to attend a special annual meeting, but was informed that if he showed up, the Master would cancel that special meeting and name Brother Morgan as the reason, now asserting that Brother Morgan made false statements to the Grand Lodge Grievance Committee.

Brother Morgan moved to Massachusetts in April of 1997. He affiliated with a lodge there and was appointed Chaplain in September of 1998. He was elected Junior Warden of his new lodge for the 1999 term.
Still serving in defense of our country, Brother Morgan was deployed to Bosnia in 2000, and continued into 2001. Returning to his new lodge in the fall of 2001, he was promptly elected Senior Warden. The following Masonic year, in 2002, Brother Morgan was installed Worshipful Master of his lodge.

Years Later

After a number of years, Brother Morgan received a political email from an officer of his first lodge, using the lodge email list (including their Grand Master and Grand Secretary), with the lodge address as the sender. Brother Morgan replied to the email, saying that he believed political email under the banner of a Masonic lodge was inappropriate. This generated a response from the individual who Initiated Brother Morgan as an Entered Apprentice Mason years earlier, saying never to contact him again as Brother Morgan was “not a true mason” and had lied.

Sigh

Footnote

A true Mason, Brother Morgan continues to pay his dues to his first lodge to this very day.

July 30, 2014

Visiting vs. Masonry

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , at 7:59 am by GeneGoldman


Visiting other lodges, particularly in different jurisdictions, is wonderful, and I have made it a point to do so whenever opportunity presents itself. But visiting is NOT what Masonry is about and a Mason who never visits a lodge other than his own is NO LESS a Mason than one who has visited thousands.
I find it sad, beyond words, when men who say they have received the Three Degrees of Masonry only think of it in terms of who can visit where. Sad because it seems they have completely missed the whole point.

Masonry is (designed to be) an Initiatic experience, that helps highlight the importance of Morality and Ethics in every aspect of a Mason’s life. What part of that has anything to do with visiting another lodge?

I know many fine, distinguished Masons, from Entered Apprentices to past and present Grand Masters. And we all know of countless more throughout history.
Not one has EVER distinguished himself by visiting another lodge. They ALL have distinguished themselves because of the moral and ethical character they have borne, and how they exemplified their character throughout their lives – in and out of Masonry. You don’t have to visit another lodge – or even sit in your own – to do that, and visiting a lodge (or sitting in your own) does not frequently even give you an opportunity to do that.

My advice to those who say they are Masons but get their underwear all in a twist about who can visit where is to go back to those Three Degrees you received and really study them. Really understand how much of those Degrees are about visiting and how much is about morals and ethics. Maybe that will help.

May 22, 2014

The One That Got Away

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:14 pm by GeneGoldman


The One That Got Away

By Brother Gene Goldman, pm2

He came to this country, and learned some English along the way, from SouthEast Asia, as a teenager. When he was a young adult he applied for membership in my lodge. I was serving as Master at the time. One of his investigators mentioned that he didn’t seem to know much about the fraternity, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Not an unusual situation, so I planned to assign him one of our more thorough coaches, to make sure he was taught properly. I never considered the cultural aspects at play.
Imagine the situation here. We had two candidates that night. He was the second, so he waited in the lobby with our Tyler, a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant (who looked every inch the part). Of course, our Brother Gunny had his Tyler’s Sword prominently displayed, as is the custom. Our young friend seemed to take special note of the big brute of a Marine with the sword who stood watch over him.
The Stewards and Marshall came out to take the first candidate into the preparation room. Visualize this: our friend is being guarded by a Marine with a sword. Out come two more big guys with spears (actually, they are ceremonial staffs, but they do look deadly) and a guy with a billy club (we call it a Baton, but you get the picture). The three armed guys take the first candidate into the preparation room. The big Marine, and his sword stayed with our friend, like he was guarding him.
The Tyler said he never heard a peep and did not see how, but when they came back out to get our friend, he was nowhere to be found.

This is a true story, and happened while I was serving my Lodge as Master. As Master, I blame myself. I should have taken this young man aside and talked about the symbolic nature of our ceremonies. About how everything has a meaning, and that at no time would he ever be in any danger or even be made uncomfortable. I should have told him that all these symbols are presented strictly for their moral and ethical implications and none should be taken at face value. They should be appreciated for their personal meaning. I should also have shown him around the Lodge Room before we opened that evening.
I should have done these and other things, but I didn’t. And it haunts me to this day. So, every opportunity I get, I share the symbolic nature of our ceremonies, and how they are intended to create a transformational experience that will bring the individual from who he is to who he wants to become in a moral and ethical context. I have adapted the Lodge Walkabout guide I found to use with applicants. It takes only a few minutes and allows them to feel much more comfortable.

Especially with a candidate who is less familiar with us and what we do.

May 19, 2014

Symbolism in Masonry

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , at 11:04 am by GeneGoldman


BWMasterCarpet

Symbolism in Masonry

By Eugene Goldman, past Master

Masonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.  Have you heard that before?

 

What is a symbol?

From the dictionary:

Main Entry: 1sym·bol

Pronunciation: ‘sim-b&l

Function: noun

Etymology: in sense 1, from Late Latin symbolum, from Late Greek symbolon, from Greek, token, sign; in other senses from Latin symbolum token, sign, symbol, from Greek symbolon, literally, token of identity verified by comparing its other half, from symballein to throw together, compare, from syn- + ballein to throw.

Date: 15th century

1: an authoritative summary of faith or doctrine: CREED

2: something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance; especially: a visible sign of something invisible <the lion is a symbol of courage>

3: an arbitrary or conventional sign used in writing or printing relating to a particular field to represent operations, quantities, elements, relations, or qualities

4: an object or act representing something in the unconscious mind that has been repressed <phallic symbols>

5: an act, sound, or object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response

Within the context of Masonry, definitions 2 and 5 are most applicable.  A symbol is something that we can all see, hear, feel or otherwise sense that serves to remind us of something more personal within ourselves, and about which we may have stronger feelings.

The symbols in Masonry represent the morality, the ethics, and the values we (as Masons and as individuals) hold dear.  They remind us to observe and practice them.  They remind us to keep them important in our lives.  More than that, the symbols inspire us to reach new heights, strike out in new directions and set new goals.  All in a Masonic – that is MORAL – context.

There are many ways to consider an object.  Two of the most used in Masonry are literally and symbolically.

Let me take the Letter “G” as an example.  In one of our lectures, we pay respects to the letter in the East.  A literal consideration would be that we are respecting the letter, or the physical object mounted on the wall.  This, of course, is nonsense.  The seventh letter of the English alphabet is not deserving of our particular notice, as a letter.

However, a *symbolic* consideration (and the one that actually describes what happens in the Masonry that exists in the real world) is that we are paying respect to what that letter *represents* – Our Divine Creator.  This respect, we pay *through* the symbol.  Everyone is able to agree that the letter *represents* Him, even (particularly?) when we do not agree on what He looks like, what Name He is best known by, or how best to worship Him.  Because we use a symbol, instead of a literal, we do not have to agree on the details.

Similarly, when considering the many references to His Holy Word in our ritual, we use them symbolically (in most cases), not literally. Yes, there are some *historical* references, and those, I submit, are literal.  The ones about King Solomon’s Temple, in particular.   However, the rest are strictly symbolic.  Equally applicable to Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Wiccan, Buddhist and anyone I have inadvertently omitted.  For example, those references to the individual’s own Holy Writings.  In that same manner, references to anything in our laws, rules and regulations are necessarily literal,, uniform and specific.

There is a sharp and noticeable distinction, an obvious point of demarcation, between what is fact and what is fiction in our ritual.  Throughout our Degrees, certain terms are used.  When someone says, “Sacred History teaches us”, or “The great Jewish Historian Josephus informs us” or a similar term, the lecturer is about to refer to an item of historical or religious fact.  What he is about to describe is the way it was, or what happened.

But whenever he says “Masonic Tradition informs us”, you can bet that what you are about to hear is an allegory, a fable, completely fictional.  It is a symbolic teaching and not a historical lesson.

An illustration of this would be that it would make no difference in what we teach if the letter “G” was replaced with “A” for Architect, “D” for Deity (as done in some jurisdictions), or (as is most common outside the USA) there were no letter within the Square and Compass at all, and we simply symbolized our devotion to The Most High by the representation of His Holy Word atop the altar.  The lesson would not change.  However, our law is very clear.  The letter “G” cannot be replaced with an “A”, nor with a “D”, an “H”, a “J” nor a “K”.   It cannot be removed.  It cannot be lower case.

Fortunately, because ritual does not affect law, and law does not affect ritual, the possible contradictions that might arise from this do not occur.  Our ritual is what it is, and exists to instruct our minds and inspire our spirits.  Our law is what it is, and exists to bind our behavior and regulate our actions.

It would make no difference to the fabric of our nation if it turned out that George Washington’s dad never owned a Cheery Tree.  The allegory would hold, even if it were based in fiction.

Similarly, it would make no difference to Masonry if Hyram Abiff were not in fact slain, but lived to complete the Temple, got a performance bonus from Solomon, retired on a nice pension and spent his twilight years touring the world in his motor home.  The lessons taught would be no less valid.  We would be no less Masonic.

In fact, it is most likely that the legend of the Third Degree is fiction.  Scripture does not record a murder during the building of the Temple.  Such an act would almost have to have been recorded, particularly the murder of one in so important a position as “Architect of the Work”.  Even if a murder had been committed and somehow gone unrecorded, the body would not – COULD not – have been reduced to ashes.  Cremation did not exist, and Jewish law specifically forbids it anyway.  Nor could the body have been buried “near the Sanctum Sanctorum”.  Jewish law required that cadavers be buried without the gates of the city, and the Temple was Hallowed Ground.

The point here is that it doesn’t matter if the Legend is based on fact or fiction.  It is allegory.  It’s basis doesn’t affect it’s validity in our Craft.

A symbol, when properly used, has greater value when it’s exact definition is personal, individually-determined, and most meaningful to the one considering it.  Like words (which are in themselves symbols), symbols mean different things to different individuals, in different contexts.  Where there is general agreement, there is also communication.  Ideas, particularly moral and ethical ones, can be communicated much more effectively, in my experience, when they are symbolically represented.

Masonry uses symbols – of that there is no question.

What do we *DO* with them?  Besides “illustrate moral and ethical principles”, I mean.

I am coming to understand that Masonry does define the symbols it uses (most of them, anyway).  But the definitions are only in the most general terms.  The Plumb signifies that we should ever remember to walk uprightly.  The VoSL that we should always look to our Divine Creator, and His Teachings (as given to us in His Holy Word) for guidance and support in all our undertakings.  The beehive that we should be industrious, and so on.

Nowhere that I can find, in any of the symbols or teachings in Masonry, is there more than the most general definition.  What does it mean to “walk uprightly”?  Which Holy Book should we use to learn about, what Name should we use to refer to The Great Architect?  What form should our industry take?

All these, and other, questions are left for the individual to determine for himself, in the context of his life, as he finds best.

There are no instructions and no judgments.

Does patriotism mean voting for or against this issue?  Is it my duty as a neighbor to advise the folks next door that their back-yard target practice is bothering the neighbors, or is it my duty to call the cops and have them restore the peace and good order of the neighborhood?  Does Brotherly Love mean that I should loan my friend the money, or is it better to help him find a job?  Should I draw a card or stand pat?

Masonry stands mute on all these, and similar issues.  All Masonry does, really, is remind us that we are to find ways of causing true friendships to exist among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.  Masonry encourages us to practice Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Faith, Hope, Charity, Respect, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.  It does this, largely, by presenting us with symbols, inspirational reminders, of these ideas.

However, HOW we are to do those things are left up to us.  How we will interpret the symbols is our decision.  What actions we will undertake, or not, is left to our own election.

 Consider the rainbow.

Everyone sees something different when looking at a rainbow

  • A physicist sees a practical demonstration of the refraction of light across the visible spectrum.
  • An Old Testament scholar sees a reminder of the covenant G-d made with Noah.
  • A New Testament scholar sees a reminder of the fulfillment of the promise of a Deliverer.
  • A child sees pretty colors.
  • A storyteller sees a leprechaun protecting his pot of gold.
  • An artist sees brilliant hues and gorgeous transitions.
  • A meteorologist sees the end of a long rain.

All of them are looking at the same rainbow.  It is objectively measurable.  Everyone sees the same thing.  We all agree what we are seeing, hearing, etc.  We agree on the shape, color, size, location and so on.  The rainbow as an object does not vary.  The interpretations men make of it, when seeing it as a symbol, however, will.

Masonry shows us rainbows, and asks us to consider what they mean, what we see in them.  Different people will see different things in the same rainbow.

A red light will mean different things in different contexts to different people.

  • A photographer see it as a signal that a developments process is under way.
  • An actor sees it as an indication which camera is currently on.
  • A cop sees it as a means of traffic control.
  • A machine operator sees it as a signal that power is on.
  • A vice cop sees it as an indication that prostitution is happening.
  • A kid sees it as a sign that a holiday is approaching.

It would be kind of silly for a traffic cop to write a ticket for someone who drives past a brothel without stopping.  But that is exactly what happens when someone tries to impose *their* interpretations on

Having said that, it IS important to remember that the *law* (as distinct from the meanings of the symbols) is clear that when someone operates a motor vehicle, he agrees to abide by the rules.  Among those rules is one about stopping at intersections where a red light is displayed.  Failure to stop may mean being cited for an offense, or even that physical harm may come to someone.  These would not be good things – so we drivers enter into a social contract to abide by the rule, or suffer the penalties.

But abiding by a rule, and agreeing with an interpretation of a symbol are COMPLETELY separate matters.  No contradictions, no interaction.

A red light means whatever it means to the individual.  The law requires that we stop under certain conditions.  Neither has any effect on the other.  Neither subordinates it’s importance to the

other.  Separate and distinct.

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 THE NUMBER THREE

The number Three is one of the most important numbers in Masonic symbolism.

I would like to address just one (for now) aspect of it’s meaning.

In the lecture of the Second Degree, we say that Masonry is divided into Two sections – Operative and Speculative.  I would submit that in adopting a symbolic approach to teaching, and the inclusion of so many symbols into our Craft, it is really Three parts (like the 24” gauge).  Operative, Speculative and Applied.

The Operative Masonry provides us with our history (real or symbolic), the Speculative gives us the impetus to discover and develop our own interpretations of the symbols, and the Applied pushes us forward, out into the real world, to make our contributions to it.  We make those contributions not only out of our G-d given talents, but out of the added value of our Masonry – Veiled in Allegory and Illustrated by Symbols.

 The Blind Men and the Elephant

A fable that owes much to the Jataka tale “The RedBud Tree,” this is a nineteenth-century verse that presents the same moral.  [From John Godfrey Saxe, “Poems” (Boston, 1852).]

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

 

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me!  but the Elephant

Is very like a wall!”

 

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho! what have we here

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a spear!

 

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a snake!”

 

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,

And felt about the knee.

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he;

“Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a tree!”

 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear

Said, “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a fan!

 

The sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than, seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a rope!”

 

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong.

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong.

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