March 29, 2016
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?”
“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
By Gene Goldman, with Morgan P.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A true Mason, Brother Morgan continues to pay his dues to his first lodge to this very day.
July 30, 2014
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
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
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
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.
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.
August 5, 2013
History of the Grand Lodge of California
Eugene Goldman, past Master (2)
You know, or should know, that Masonry in its modern Speculative form began with the organization of the first
Grand Lodge and of the Grand Lodge system in London, England, in 1717.
It is also important to be aware that the earliest known record of an American Lodge is dated at 1730, only thirteen years after the constituting of the Mother Grand Lodge. In parallel with the evolution of the USA, Masonry moved from East to West. From England to New England, across the fruited plains, majestic mountains and beautiful deserts, to the Golden Coast in the West pioneers, travelers and seekers of all description sojourned, and settled.
The history of the Grand Lodge of California is inseparable from the history of the State of California. Those same brave pioneers who came west in search of wealth, fame, and opportunity came to bring their beloved fraternity, and all that it entails, with them. In some cases, bringing Masonry to “The New Frontier” was their primary purpose.
Grand Masters of Eastern jurisdictions issued Charters to western-bound sojourners, giving them the right to work as Lodges in the Wild West, under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Grand Lodge.
Other Grand Masters issued Dispensations, giving groups of Masons who found themselves in this Masonic wilderness the right to meet and organize as Masonic Lodges.
In 1849, the Grand Master of Louisiana gave a grant, similar to a dispensation, to a group that eventually became The Pacific Lodge at Benicia, and later was chartered as Benicia Lodge #5. The Lodge building they built was the first in California, and is still standing. In it are the first jewels used by the Lodge, made of tin and cut from cans of food. In the Lodge room, on the altar, is another relic from 1850, their Holy Bible.
The Grand Lodge of Connecticut issued a Charter to Connecticut Lodge No. 76 on January 31st, 1849. When the Grand Lodge of California was formed in 1850, it became Tehama Lodge #3.
In 1849, gold was discovered near Sutter’s Mill. Word quickly moved eastward, and men accordingly began to move west. Such a long, difficult and dangerous journey is not to be undertaken lightly, or alone. Men seeking their fortunes knew that to go it alone was an invitation to disaster. Accordingly, they banded together into traveling parties, and sought ways to fulfill the need for fraternalism and mutual assistance. Some had long been Masons, others joined Masonic Lodges, and together, as Brethren, they made their way West.
It is unsurprising; therefore, that many prominent leaders in this new frontier were members of our fraternity. With the number of Masons, and the prominence the Craft played in their lives and the lives of others, the obvious action was to create a Grand Lodge of Masons in California.
As early as March of 1850, Masons in California attempted to form a Grand Lodge. That attempt failed, but the following month saw success. Invitations were issued to all the Masonic Lodges known to be in California, and all past Grand Officers of other jurisdictions known to be living here, to send delegates to a convention. At this convention, a new Grand Lodge was to be formed. On April 17th, 1850, in Sacramento three Chartered Lodges presented credentials, and three Lodges under dispensation sent delegates.
The year 1850 was a busy year for the Grand Master of Illinois. He issued dispensations for two Lodges in California. The first, Laveley Lodge in Marysville later became Marysville Lodge #9, and still later changed it’s name to Corinthian Lodge #9. The second Illinois Lodge in California, Pacific Lodge, near Oroville, held it’s meetings at a place called Long’s Bar. Formed in 1850, it faded from the scene, and it’s members were allowed to affiliate with California Lodges.
The day following the formation of the Grand Lodge of California, the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin issued a Charter to Lafayette Lodge # 29, in Nevada City. While technically a breach of courtesy for one Grand Lodge to issue a Charter to a Lodge in the area of another jurisdiction, this was done in all innocence. Communications and transportation were not then what they are today. In addition, they did not have the Internet to make things as speedy as we know them. In 1851, a fire destroyed the Charter, and the Lodge was immediately re Chartered as Nevada Lodge #13. It remains so known to this day.
The oldest recorded California Lodge is California Lodge # 1, which was chartered by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia as California Lodge # 13.
The vault of Western Star Lodge #2, in Shasta City, California, contains many valuable relics, memorializing its move from Benton City, near Chico, in 1851. Others show the number 98, which was issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10, 1848, when it was first Chartered.
The Grand Lodge of California, in April of 1850, thereby consisted of three Chartered Lodges. Total membership in those Lodges was 103. An inauspicious beginning, perhaps, but it led to fantastic growth.
In September of 1850, the Republic of California became a State in the United States of America. Five Months earlier, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California was formed. Jonathan D. Stevenson of San Francisco became the first Grand Master. On April 19th, 1850, assisted by a full corps of officers, he opened the first session of the Grand Lodge of California in ample form.
Berryman Jennings Lodge was the forth Lodge Chartered in under the Grand Lodge of California. Sometimes known as Berryman Lodge, sometimes as Jennings Lodge, it was named for a distinguished Mason who eventually became the first Grand Master of Oregon. The Lodge was originally Chartered by the GL of Louisiana and transferred it’s Charter to California.
During the Cholera epidemic that swept the State, they went broke providing assistance to the infirmed.
Another dispensation issued by the Grand Master of Louisiana formed Davy Crockett Lodge #7. Ruben Clark was Master in 1851, and served the State of California as Architect and Builder of the State Capitol building in Sacramento. 1852 saw the name changed to San Francisco Lodge #7, as the Lodge moved from the jurisdiction of Louisiana to the Grand Lodge of California.
Mining has been, from the beginning, a major industry in California. Wherever a successful mine can be found, a town to support that mine will be nearby. Fascinating names were established for these towns and no less fascinating names for the Lodges Chartered therein. A few examples include: Rough and Ready at a camp by the same name in Nevada County; Indian Diggings Lodge in El Dorado County; Saint Mark ‘s Lodge at Fiddletown; Oro Fino, at a town by that name in Siskiyou County; Violet Lodge at Spanish Flat; Rising Sun Lodge at Brandy City; Mount Carmel Lodge at Red Dog, Nevada County. These and more, added color to the local landscape, and made Masonry a part of the community.
In addition to Lodges Chartered by other jurisdictions, there were eleven dispensations issued by Grand Masters from Eastern jurisdictions. A few eventually became Chartered Lodges. Others thrived for a time and then faded away. The rest just never manifested at all. In most cases, a dispensation would be issued for a Traveling Lodge, to a group of Masons headed west. These early California Masons would hold meetings when and where they could, and some held together long enough to take hold in a California community.
The Grand Master of Indiana issued a dispensation to form Sierra Nevada Lodge, in Grass Valley, in 1848. The Lodge eventually failed, and its members later formed Madison Lodge, which was chartered under the Grand Lodge of California.
Grants and dispensations were also authorized and issued by Grand Masters of New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida. None of these lasted very long, most never advanced beyond the Traveling Lodge stage.
From 103 members in three Chartered Lodges, the Grand Lodge of California grew. By November of 1850, Jennings Lodge No. 4 of Sacramento; Benicia Lodge No. 5; Sutter Lodge No. 6 of Sacramento; Davy Crockett No. 7 of San Francisco; Tuolumne Lodge No. 8 of Sonora; Marysville Lodge No. 9; San Jose Lodge No. 10; and Willamette Lodge No. 11 of Portland, Oregon, were chartered. The Grand Lodge of California had grown to 304 Masons; nearly tripling it’s size in members and quadrupling in Lodges in seven Months.
Human organizations tend to grow, change and shrink. By 1860, two Lodges had moved to the jurisdiction of Oregon, thirteen had surrendered their Charters; two had lost them for cause. Grand Lodge now consisted of 128 Lodges and 5055 members.
With a stabilizing population, the establishment of more cities, towns and communities, and the settlement of this wild new frontier winding down, more growth, changes and evolution inevitably follow.
Brother John Whicher, former Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California tells an interesting story of a characteristic mining camp in the early days of California.
“Of the numerous mining camps of early days, ” says Brother Whicher, “one only need be noted. The largest mining camp in California was Columbia, in Tuolumne County, known as the ‘Gem of the Southern Mines’.
Many of these Lodges no longer exist. Towns, particularly mining towns, were successful only as long as the mines they supported produced a profit.
Gold was discovered, and within one month the stampede from nearby camps resulted in a population of 6000 miners. Every week brought more treasure-hunters, and flush times counted 30,000 men madly digging in the hills thereabouts, 15,000 being in the city limits. By 1865, Columbia was dead. It contained forty saloons, a long street devoted to fandangos and hurdy-gurdies, four theaters, one Chinese theater with a stock company of forty native actors, three jewelry stores, a bull ring, 143 faro banks with a combined capital of $2,000,000, four hotels, two military companies, two hose companies, three express offices, four banks, four newspapers, two churches, a Sunday school, a division of the Sons of Temperance, and Columbia Lodge No. 28, of Masons. The principal bank was that of D. O. Mills, the steps leading to the building being of white Columbia marble, and the counters of mahogany. It contained huge gold scales with a capacity of $40,000 in dust and nuggets. The camp produced within a radius of three miles and shipped $125,000,000 in gold. The Masonic Lodge was a power in the work of maintaining order and decent government, but after the gold-fever and the mines had subsided, the membership fell to a low ebb, and in 1891 the old Lodge, established July, 1852, consolidated with Tuolumne Lodge No. 8, at the historic town of Sonora, where it still carries on. There are innumerable ghost cities on the Mother Lode, but Columbia was the gem of them all.”
During the formation of the Grand Lodge of California, several other Grand Lodges made significant contributions to our success. In 1989, we reciprocated. Out of our midst, a new Grand Lodge was formed – in America’s 50th state.
In a landmark decision at our Annual Communications in 1995, we recognized The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of California and Hawaii, Inc.
Grand Lodge is composed of Lodges
Lodges are composed of members
One EXTREMELY interesting Mason from California history:
Emperor Norton the First
•Highlights from the Emperor’s reign …
•1819 Born in London, England on February 14 to John and Sarah Norton
•1849 Arrived in San Francisco from South Africa with US $40,000
•1854 Lost the considerable fortune he had built up in real-estate speculation by trying to corner the rice market in San Francisco
•1859 September 17 – Issued the first of his now famous proclamations by proclaiming himself the Emperor of the United States
At the pre-emptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San Fransisco, California, declare and proclaim myself the Emperor of These United States. – September 17, 1859
Commanding that the Golden Gate bridge be built
“Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abdominal word ‘Frisco,’ which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor.” Penalty for noncompliance was $25.
Newspapers of the day printed his proclamations (and even made some up which were not from Norton!)
•Many of the “decrees” attributed to Norton I were fakes written in jest by newspaper editors at the time for amusement, or for political purposes.
•In order to pay his bills he issued paper notes, mostly in 50 cent denominations but some $5 and $10 notes exist. Today they are worth far more than the face value (if they can be found).
•He also lived off the kindness of his subjects, going withersoever he wished, holding court wherever his Imperial Highness happened to be.
•In someone’s back house
•Above a store
•In a Masonic Lodge building
In 1869 he abolished both the Democratic and Republican parties, – “Being desirous of allaying the dissension’s of party strife now existing within our realm, I do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby degree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten, nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree.” –San Francisco Herald, August 4, 1869
Another time he called upon the other leaders of the world to join him in forming a League of Nations where disputes between nations could be resolved peacefully.
Died January 8, on California St. On January 10, 1880
He was buried in the Masonic Cemetery. •The funeral cortege was two miles long – •Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were reported to have attended.
1934 Grave moved to Colma Cemetery.
During his daily patrol of the streets of San Francisco Norton made certain that all sidewalks were unobstructed. He reviewed the police to see that they were on duty. He checked on the progress of needed street repairs, inspected buildings under construction, and in general saw to it that all office city’s ordinances were enforced.
“During one of the typical anti-Chinese demonstrations so common at the time, the emperor gave the local populace a lesson in the practical application of civics – and prayer. Sensing the dangerously heated tone of one particular meeting, Norton is reported to have stood up before the group, bowed his head and begun reciting the Lord’s Prayer. within a few minutes the agitators retreated in shame without putting any of their threats into cruel action.”
2000 Annual Communication
•45 % of Lodges are South of Tehachapi
•29 Lodges in SanDiego countv
During our 150 year tenure as a Sovereign Grand Lodge, 845 Charters have been issued in California Masonry.
457 of them are no more. Some have moved to other jurisdictions, nearly 300 Lodges have become extinct and some have consolidated.
Freemasonry in the Grand Lodge of California, notwithstanding, has still survived. At the 2000 Annual Communications, there were 90,914 Masons in 388 Constituent Lodges, which can be found in every city and in or near most of the smaller towns in the state. The age of the average California Mason in 2000 was 80 years.
Eugene Goldman, past Master (2)
May 9, 2011
First off, let me say that I have always enjoyed attending meetings. Whether my own lodge, visiting another lodge nearby, visiting a Prince Hall lodge, or when traveling on business or pleasure, I have never been disappointed in a decision to go to lodge and enjoy the company of my brethren for a few hours. I have made friends and met some great individuals all across the country.
Usually, when traveling, I make it a point to find out if there is any Masonic activity in the area while I will be there. Sure, the dinners are not the sort of food I would order in a restaurant, but the company can’t be beat. The evening’s entertainment isn’t near as lavish as the latest Hollywood release or Broadway Theatrical , but the seats are usually comfortable, the atmosphere is warm and inviting and the cost is always very affordable.
One of the most important reasons I attend when I can is that every time I see a Degree, two things happen. First, I am returned to the time and place where I took my own degrees, even if only for a moment. Secondly, I learn or re-learn some critically important lessons. I am reminded of my beliefs, of the wonderful symbolism of our degrees and of the many moral and ethical lessons contained therein.
In my service as an officer and Master of two lodges, I have had the incredible opportunity to assist in the initiation, passing and raising of many Masons. Some I hardly knew. Some were long-time friends already. Some became friends. I initiated my father-in-law and initiated, passed and raised my own father – what a complete joy and honor!
I heartedly recommend that every Mason attend lodge when he can. Nothing like it.
However (if you know me, you know there HAD to be a “however” somewhere nearby),
There are some masons who equate attending lodge with being a mason. They seem to believe (and express verbally) that a mason is somehow less of a mason or failing his lodge when he does not attend. Not an officer or when one has a part to play or something to present, but all the time, everyone.
Yes, as I describe above, I get a lot out of attending. I wish I could be in lodge every night. But I have a family that needs me, a living to make, my health to consider and other demands on my time, attention and energy. In my degrees, I clearly remember being told about my duties. As Master, I have similarly advised candidates during their degrees about their duties. The first, and most important duty a mason should observe is to his Great Creator. Duty to one’s country should come next. One’s neighbor has the next claim on a mason’s kind offices, followed by his own family and those he supports. Every mason has a duty to himself as well. In the ceremonies, the candidate is advised that only after these more important duties are met should one look to his service to the lodge and the fraternity.
This order makes a lot of sense to me, and is strictly in keeping with everything else we teach and believe.
Let’s look at a few examples, to put all this in context.
Which duty is taking preference when a mason should be resting up for or from a difficult day, goes to lodge and comes home exhausted?
When a mason is looking for work, who is being served while he takes time from his job search and money for gasoline to go to lodge?
There are more examples, but let’s proceed with these two for now.
I remember a lesson from a brother, who lived in Los Angeles. He described the following.
“I get up at 5:00 in the morning. I get ready for work, grab a breakfast I can eat on the run and drive an hour to an hour and a half to work. At work, I put in a ten-hour day, then drive two to two and a half hours home. If it is a Lodge night, I have to shower and change clothes, grab a sandwich to eat in the car and drive thirty to forty five minutes, maybe more, to lodge. Most lodge meetings run until 10:30 or 11:00, then I have to drive another half hour home. If you expect me to do all that very often, you are going to have to make it worth my while. Stale sandwiches and cold spaghetti, followed by boring talk about bills, or poorly-conducted ritual just isn’t going to cut it.
Give me a reason to come to lodge.”
What’s the answer?
I have heard some brothers (like the ones mentioned above) who blame poor attendance on the members who don’t show up. Maybe the lodge management team deserves some credit for attendance. I firmly believe that it is a rather simple mathematical equation. This is true for Stated Meetings, degrees, recognition nights, special and social events and even fund-raisers.
If a lodge wants a lot of members to attend meetings, the lodge should have the kind of meetings that a lot of members want to attend. Interestingly, the same applies to increasing membership. If a lodge wants to attract members, they should be a lodge that is attractive to the kind of members they want to have.
It is simple, but by no means easy. It takes work, requires effort, demands sacrifice and risk. In practical terms, it may involve doing some things differently, and doing some new things. Here are some questions to consider.
- What are the stated meetings like?
- How much time and energy goes into planning an event or a meeting?
- Is the family included?
- Are wives invited and provided with something to do while the members are in the private part of the meeting?
- Does the meeting consist of anything more than the secretary reading minutes, a few notifications and bills, maybe a ballot?
- Is there Masonic Education?
- Are the committees encouraged to make their presentations in the dining room, to include the wives and families?
- Is the menu the same as the last twenty meetings?
- Is everyone wearing the same thing to every meeting?
May 3, 2011
The Hiram Award is the single highest honor a California Mason may receive. It cannot be sought or applied for, but is awarded at the request of the individual’s Lodge, and bestowed by the Grand Lodge of California. The District Inspector makes the award presentation on behalf of the Grand Master.
The Hiram Award is an award presented to a Master Mason who has served the Lodge and the Masonic Fraternity with devotion over and above the ordinary. It is the highest honor (other than being Master of the Lodge) that can be bestowed on a member of a Masonic Lodge. The Hiram Award is not given for service as Master or any elected or appointed office or committee. The recipient is recognized by his brethren in Masonry for his service to the fraternity, because of his efforts to support one or more Masons, a Lodge or Lodges, a District, the Grand Lodge or the fraternity as a whole. It is a singular distinction, and indicates the esteem, respect and admiration of the members. A California Masonic Lodge may bestow a maximum of one Hyram Award each year.
I was invested with this distinguished recognition in 2004 and am grateful to the brethren of my lodge for this honor. Considering the brethren who have been so recognized before me, I did not, and to this day do not, feel deserving. Interestingly, I have never yet met a recipient of the Hiram Award who does – and I have met many.
Here is the text of the Inspector’s presentation:
Worshipful Master, Brethren, Friends and especially our Honoree.
It is an honor and privilege for me to have a part in presentation of the Hiram Award to our Honored Brother. While a good Mason does not work for the benefit of Honors or rewards, I am very happy that XXX Lodge Lodge has seen fit to nominate such a true and trusty friend and deserving mason to receive this award.
While we are all here to honor our distinguished brother by presenting him with the prestigious Hiram Award, there are probably some in our audience this evening who are unaware of the background of the Hiram Award. You may also wonder who Hiram was and what Hiram means to Masons.
Hiram is a biblical name meaning “Most Noble”. In the Holy Writings, 1st. Kings, Chapter 7, we read that King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram Abiff out of Tyre. Abiff is a Hebrew expression for father, a term of respect. Therefore, Hiram Abiff translated means “Most Noble Father”.
We also read that Hiram Abiff worked for King Solomon in the erection of King Solomon’s Temple, not only casting the metallic ornaments for the temple, but also as a master architect of the work.
According to legend, over 150,000 workmen were employed in the building of the temple which took approximately seven years to complete. To those workmen who labored faithfully on the project was promised the status of Master Mason upon completion.
But some time before the Temple’s completion, some of the workmen became dissatisfied and demanded the promotions which they had been promised, and conspired to extort them form Hiram Abiff.
In spite of their violent threats, Hiram steadfastly refused to yield to their demands. Reminding them of their obligation to King Solomon and his God, he resolutely insisted that they honor the contracts by which he and they were bound. Three of them, more brutal than the rest, conspired to attack Master Hiram to force the concession they were demanding; but he, being faithful to his trust, was more adamant in his refusal, and they in their wrath slew him in the unfinished Temple.
That, essentially is the legend of Hiram Abiff which has become in Masonry one of the most impressive ritualistic dramas of all time. The real importance of the story of Hiram Abiff is that it still stirs men to serve the truth, by steadfastly maintaining the necessity of those noble aspirations, even to apparent defeat in death.
The first award of this kind was presented to Brother Andrew Miller, P.M. of San Pedro Lodge No. 332 in 1932.
In February 1977, Galt Lodge No. 257 selected a worthy brother to be the honored guest for the evening, and presented him with and award called “King Solomon Award”. It was then suggested that the name be changed to the “Hiram Award”.
This was brought to the attention of the Grand Master, Kermit Jacobson, who felt it would be good for Freemasonry to promote this type of award, and the Hiram Award of today was accepted in the Grand Lodge of California in 1978.
The Hiram Award is the highest honor which can be bestowed upon a member who has unselfishly given of his time, talents and energy for the betterment of his Lodge and freemasonry. The Hiram Award is intended for the brother who, year after year displays his devotion to the Lodge and our beloved fraternity without asking for anything in return.
The real warmth and pleasure of being chosen for this special honor is most satisfying, because it comes directly from the Brethren and friends he has accumulated within his own community. The Hiram Award is simply the official recognition of a Brother by his own Lodge for his devoted service to the Lodge and to our Masonic principles in general. His is a labor of love for the fraternity. The true and steady hand of assistance which is that living cement that binds our Fraternity into a true Brotherhood.
I can think of no other name for this award that would mean as much as “Hiram”. We believe that the recipient of this award tonight is indeed worthy of the name, and is a Mason justly deserving of the Hiram Award.
While this Hiram Award Certificate is coming from Grand Lodge of California, it is this Lodge that has made the selection of the honoree. Therefore, on behalf of the Most Worshipful YYY, Grand Master of Masons in California, I am happy to deliver this Hiram Award Certificate to the Master of XXX Lodge for presentation to our Brother.
April 18, 2011
The History of Masonry before the Establishment Of The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free And Accepted Masons Of California
Tradition vs. History
In each of our post-Degree lectures, two terms are commonly used. “Masonic Tradition” and “History”. They are specifically used because it is important to distinguish between what we know have recorded and what we believe.
A sharp demarcation occurs On St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1717. Remember that date. From then forward, what we have is History. Before it, we have Masonic Tradition.
Whence Came We?
There are scant few historical facts regarding our earliest beginnings. There are, however, many popular romantic notions, some with bigger followings than others. So-called “Secret Societies” and fraternal Brotherhoods have existed from the first formation of society. These organizations used ceremonies, symbols, emblems, private modes of recognition, promises or obligations and the concept of fraternalism or Brotherhood. Whenever and however Freemasonry was born, it employed these same, already-tested means of imparting its teachings and forming its bonds.
It is an undeniable fact that about 1390, an unknown Brother in England wrote a beautiful and lengthy manuscript, which described in some detail a fraternal society that we today know as Freemasonry. Even at that time, more than 600 years past, our Noble Craft was older than anyone could remember.
Freemasonry (or rather that philosophy that is at the heart of Freemasonry) has really existed from Time Immemorial.
When the Regis Manuscript was written, what existed was Operative Masonry. Our ancient Brethren worked with stone and mortar, building great buildings. They were called “Masons”, and those who were most proficient in their craft were called “Freemasons”, being free to work their craft withersoever they might travel. These “Freemasons” designed, coordinated and built the great Cathedrals and other stately edifices throughout Europe.
These massive undertakings often required years to complete, and the Freemasons that were employed in the construction organized Lodges to facilitate the every-day business necessary to allow them to do their Great Work. These Lodges normally met in rooms within the building. Each Lodge was governed by a Master and his Wardens, a Secretary maintained the books and records, a Treasurer oversaw the funds, a charity fund assisted the members provided relief for Freemasons and their families when in need. The Lodge met regularly, initiated members, and conducted its business.
The great artists of the Middle Ages did not work in oils, or pastels. They worked in marble, stone, and mortar. Their canvasses were not made of parchment, but of hillsides and valleys. The beauty of, and in, their work stands to this day as testimony to their skill, their genius and their knowledge of the arts and sciences, particularly Architecture, Mechanics and Geometry. They did not come by this expertise easily, or quickly.
From as early as the age of ten, young boys were selected for their physical, mental and moral attributes, and Apprenticed to a Master of the Work. They would begin learning the skills and philosophies of the Craft, and if they showed sufficient promise, their names were entered in the records of the Lodge, making them Entered Apprentices. For seven years or more, the Master was Teacher, Mentor, Father, Taskmaster, Supporter, Guide and Friend to the young apprentice. The apprentice learned, at the hands of the Master, how to select stones for form and beauty, work the stone into an Ashler and place it strategically in the edifice to become wall, arch, pillar, column, floor, roof, window, sculpture or decoration. At the end of their apprenticeship, once the skills had been mastered, the youth would be tested. His proficiency would be proven by presenting a “Master’s piece” to other Masters. If judged worthy, he would be accepted as a Fellow of the Craft.
When a building was finally completed, most Masons had to find other employment, or another building to build within the community. They were not permitted to move about. Freemasons were free to relocate, and would set up a new Lodge to facilitate building a new building.
This was Operative Masonry, and it existed for generations until Euclid’s Geometry was rediscovered and published, thereby revealing many of the Freemasons’ secret methods. The Reformation came, the Gothic style of Architecture went, laws changed, society underwent upheaval, and the Craft dwindled in number. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Craft had shrunk so, that only a few, widely scattered, lightly populated, Lodges remained.
Until the sixteenth century, in order to become a Freemason, a man had to be a worker in the building trades, an Operative Mason. In an effort to protect the guild, these Freemasons began to accept members who had other reasons to join their Lodges – curiosity, interest in customs, symbolism, or just wanted to associate with these Freemasons. Because these nonOperative Freemasons had never proven themselves with a Master’s piece, but had just been accepted as members without actually working as a Mason, they were called Accepted Masons. Because their work was more with the moral and symbolic teachings than the physical ones, they were alternatively called Speculative Masons. Gradually, by the end of the eighteenth century, there were more Speculative or Accepted Masons than Operative ones in Freemasons’ Lodges.
History takes over from Masonic Tradition on St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1717. In the back of a tavern in London, four or more old Lodges of London and Westminster met. They organized a Grand Lodge, and on the same day selected their first Grand Master, Anthony Sayer. Within a few short years, what had once been an Operative trade guild had become a Speculative fraternity. The two Degrees of Operative Masonry became the three Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Old manuscripts and writings were collected and collated and the first Book of Constitutions was written. This newly formed Grand Lodge began issuing Charters to constituent Lodges all over the world, including the thirteen colonies here. This is the beginning of Speculative Freemasonry, as it exists today.
Other Grand Lodges were formed in Scotland and Ireland and in 1751 a second Grand Lodge was organized in England
In 1730, a Lodge was issued a Charter in Philadelphia. Others in the Americas followed. Provincial Grand Masters were appointed by these Grand Lodges in order to oversee these Lodges so far from home.
In 1776, a war was fought in the Americas, as a result of which all controls from England, and elsewhere, were severed. The several American Grand Lodges had become Sovereign and Independent, beholden to no one. There was much discussion of forming a single National Grand Lodge, with Brother George Washington as Grand Master. Brother Washington’s recommendations and the collective wisdom of the Craft prevailed, and the plan was abandoned. As a result, at present, there are 51 Sovereign and Independent mainstream Grand Lodges in the USA.
In March of 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other free Black men were initiated into Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution. On September 29, 1784, a Warrant was issued to form African Lodge No. 1 in Boston, which eventually gave birth to Prince Hall Masonry. Today there are 39 Prince Hall Grand Lodges in the USA, and 32 of them have formed fraternal Amity with the mainstream Grand Lodges in their areas.
We know that the Masonry we belong to today did not just explode into existence in 1717. We also know that Adam and Eve were not members of our fraternity. Just as a man must go through several stages before he is a man, and just as a building must do the same, our fraternity learned, grew, developed, changed and evolved, adapting itself to the changing world around it, from before anyone can remember to the Grand and Noble Craft we have today. It was built by good men who sincerely wanted to belong to something greater than themselves. We, as the Speculative Freemasons of today, owe it to them to be aware of our humble beginnings, that our future will be even more glorious. We owe it to the principles upon which our superstructure is erected, Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Faith, Hope, Charity, Tolerance, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, to learn, grow, develop, change and evolve – like our beloved Craft.
BY BRO. DUDLEY WRIGHT, ENGLAND
THE BUILDER, August 1920
Although the Antient Charges forbid the admission or initiation of women into the Order of Free and Accepted Masons, there are known instances where as the result of accident or sometimes design the rule has been broken and women have been duly initiated. The most prominent instance is that of the Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger, or, as she afterwards became, on marriage, the Hon. Mrs. Aldworth, who is referred to sometimes, though erroneously, as the “only woman who over obtained the honour of initiation into the sublime mysteries of Freemasonry.”
The Hon. Elizabeth St. Leger was a daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile, a resident of Cork. Her father was a very zealous Freemason and, as was the custom in his time — the early part of the eighteenth century – held an occasional lodge in his own house, when he was assisted by members of his own family and any brethren in the immediate neighbourhood and visitors to Doneraile House. This lodge was duly warranted and held the number 150 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
The story runs that one evening previous to the initiation of a gentleman named Coppinger, Miss St. Leger hid herself in the room adjoining the one used as a lodgeroom. This room was at that time undergoing some alterations and Miss St. Leger is said to have removed a brick from the partition with her scissors and through the aperture thus created witnessed the ceremony of initiation. What she saw appears to have disturbed her so thoroughly that she at once determined upon making her escape, but failed to elude the vigilance of the tyler, who, armed with a sword stood barring her exit. Her shrieks alarmed the members of the lodge, who came rushing to the spot, when they learned that she had witnessed the whole of the ceremony which had just been enacted. After a considerable discussion and yielding to the entreaties of her brother it was decided to admit her into the Order and she was duly initiated, and, in course of time, became the Master of the lodge.
According to Milliken, the Irish Masonic historian, she was initiated in Lodge No. 95, which still meets at Cork, but there is no record extant of her reception into the Order. It is, however, on record that she was a subscriber to the Irish Book of Constitutions, which appeared in 1744 and that she frequently attended, wearing her Masonic regalia, entertainments that were given under Masonic auspices for the benefit of the poor and distressed. She afterwards married Mr. Richard Aldworth of Newmarket and when she died she was accorded the honour of a Masonic burial. She was cousin to General Antony St. Leger, of Park Hill, near Doncaster, who, in 1776, instituted the celebrated Doncaster St. Leger races and stakes.
The Papal Bulls against Freemasonry
Although the Roman Catholic opposition to freemasonry is common knowledge, it should be known also that there were originally a great many Roman Catholic freemasons in all the countries where freemasonry flourished, among them being priests and high dignitaries of the Church, a condition which held good for many years (indeed, all through the eighteenth century in some countries), even after Pope Clement XII in 1738 and Benedict XIV in 1751 had issued their Bulls denouncing freemasonry.
In Liége, Belgium (to cite an instance given by Count Goblet d’Alviella), the Roman Catholic Bishop Velbrück, who ruled his ecclesiastical Principality from 1772 to 1784, was a devoted freemason, as were many of his canons and officials. One of these, the Rev. Canon de Geloes, was founder and first Master of La Parfaite Intelligence, at Liége, which was first a French and later a Belgian lodge, while another, the Rev. Canon Nicolas Devaux, was Master of another Liége lodge, La Parfaite Égalité; other instances could be given. It is to be assumed that it was the comparative inattention paid to the Bulls in some quarters that led to a whole series of Papal edicts, beginning in 1821, confirming and renewing them.
The Roman Catholic objections to freemasonry are not difficult to understand, even though we, as freemasons, do not acknowledge their soundness. A pamphlet, Freemasonry (revised edition, 1935), published by the Catholic Truth Society, after describing Anglo-Saxon freemasons as “inoffensive and well-meaning people” and admitting that freemasonry is “beneficial to the country, or at any rate quite harmless,” then makes quite clear that the solemn oath of secrecy is one of the “two main grounds of objection,” the other and apparently more serious one being that freemasonry ” tends to undermine belief in Catholic Christianity by substituting for it what is practically a rival religion based on deistic or naturalistic principles.”
In reply it should be said that Freemasonry is not claimed to be a religion. It is a system of morality, of philosophy. A candidate for its privileges is entitled to hold what religious principles and beliefs he pleases; the Craft will not belittle them and will respect their holder as long as he brings into freemasonry just one all-essential part of his code-a belief in the “Glorious Architect of heaven and earth.” Freemasonry calls upon its members to practise the sacred duties of morality, and offers itself, as the Ancient Charges tell us, as “the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.”
Aims and Relationships of the Craft
In this connection we may well give extracts from (but cannot reproduce entire) The Aims and Relations of the Craft, first issued by the English Grand Lodge in 1938 and since fully subscribed to by the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland: The first condition of admission into, and membership of, the Order is a belief in the Supreme Being; The Bible, the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in the Lodges.
Every Candidate is required to take his Obligation on that book or on the Volume that is held by his particular creed to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it; While the individual freemason has the right to hold his own opinion with regard to public affairs, neither in any lodge nor in his capacity as a freemason, may he discuss or advance his views on theological or political questions; The Grand Lodge has always consistently refused to express any opinion on questions of foreign or domestic State policy either at home or abroad, and it will not allow its name to be associated with any action, however humanitarian it may appear to be, which infringes this policy; The Grand Lodge refuses to have any relations with, or to regard as freemasons, any Bodies, styling themselves Freemasons, which do not adhere to these principles. In 1929 the Grand Lodge of England issued Basic principles for Grand Lodge Recognition; this foreshadowed the greater part of the above declaration and laid down that any Grand Lodge asking to be recognized by the English jurisdiction shall strictly observe the principles of the Ancient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the Craft; its membership and that of its individual Lodges shall be composed exclusively of men; there shall be no masonic intercourse with mixed Lodges or with bodies that admit women to membership; the three Great Lights of Freemasonry (the V.S.L., the Square, and the Compasses) shall always be exhibited when it or its subordinate Lodges are at work.
April 14, 2011
Many years ago, I was active in a few Masonic forums on the internet. I got an email from a Brother in the mid-west.
His dad’s best friend was living out here. He was a life member of a lodge back “home” in the mid-west, but never joined one here. Anyway, the man’s doctor advises him to make his final arrangements sooner rather than later. He really wants a Masonic funeral, so he calls a member of the lodge near his house.
The member – meaning well but doing the opposite – tells him all about the problems and issues involved with this sort of thing. This secretary has to call the Grand Secretary, who has to write to the Grand Secretary, who has to call the secretary of his home lodge, who has to do the research… it might take a month or two to sort it all out. he was very sorry, but he didn’t see how everything could get done, verifying his membership and everything, in time.
As far as the process and protocols were concerned, he was correct.The member said it could take a month or more, probably two. The doctor said he might have a couple weeks, more likely one.
The old man gets on the phone to the dad and starts crying. He is a 50 year member in his lodge and can’t even get a Masonic funeral.
That’s when the son contacted me, asking if there was ANYTHING I could do. Thankfully, I know a few people here and there, and don’t mind causing a stir. I got the Inspector for that lodge’s district on the phone (prepared to go higher if needed, but a good start) and explained the situation. My friend, the Inspector just about blew up! I won’t repeat his comments, mainly because I don’t think the terms of service here will allow such language. Did I mention that the Inspector is a very religious man? 🙂
When he calmed down, he asked me if he could call me back. I don’t know what he and the Master of that lodge talked about, but when he called back he told me that the funeral arrangements were completed – with the member’s deepest apologies.
The man got his Masonic funeral. I was both angry and sad when the son contacted me. I was relieved and redeemed when it was over.I saw two lessons-learned here. One, the member was willing to deprive this dying man of his last wish, because the paperwork and red tape was going to take too long.Two, happily, the inspector put Brotherly Love, Justice Charity, Relief and just plain old humanity ahead of the red tape.
Turned out the man was in good standing. But what would have happened if he wasn’t? Was the sky going to open up and spit lightening? Was the entire free world going to be placed in desperate peril? Or would someone have to say “Woops” and life go on?
Happily, I am a member of a fraternity in which the vast majority of members really do care – about each other and about everyone else. The events described here do happen sometimes, but whenever the tape gets too red, another Mason is always around to sort it out.
I remain happy to be a Mason.