October 18, 2019

Examining the Visitor

Posted in Freemasonry at 9:11 am by GeneGoldman

When someone requests admission as a visitor to a lodge in my jurisdiction, he may do so if he meets one (or more) of three criteria.

Someone who has sat in a Tiled lodge with the visitor may vouch for him. We call this “Avouchment”. The Brother vouching for the visitor is placing his personal imprimatur on the visit. This is a frequent occurrence when some member of our lodge has a buddy who is also a Mason.

The visitor may produce some official correspondence or communication from an authoritative source (such as our Grand Master) directing his admission. This rarely happens and is usually something very official.

The third criterion is the topic at hand. We call it “Due Examination”. I have been to lodges where this is more of an interrogation than anything else. I have also been to lodges where this is a very informal welcoming of a new friend and exchange of pertinent information. When we have a visitor who cannot be vouched for, and is not part of any official delegation, the Master appoints an Examination Committee (of three members, usually one with a lot of experience and one who is new to the process). The committee is charged to *satisfy themselves*, severally, that the visitor is a Master Mason in good standing, in a lodge chartered by a Grand Lodge that we recognise (called Amity).

On my first time on an investigating committee for a visiting Brother, the (potential) visitor was a rather old Brother who hadn’t been in a lodge room in decades. He never served as an officer, and his memory was never great, and now was failing as he advanced in years. The examination was very different from others I have done. We took a conversational tone and just got to know this Brother and try to make him comfortable, while also completing OUR mission.
He was very anxious about this visit, having flown for the first time half way across the country to be there. But he was overjoyed that he had made it in time for the meeting. It was very important to him that he be there that evening.
You see, the meeting was to confer the Entered Apprentice Degree on a very special candidate. And the candidate had no idea the visitor was going to be there.
Could you imagine turning away this visitor because he couldn’t remember some oath he was never taught to memorize in the first place? Or because he really didn’t remember much about his degrees? What would we have gained from subjecting him to a grueling interrogation? And some individuals (who claim to be Masons) boast about how they would do so!
Fortunately, we have a little card the committee takes in the examination room with the oath printed on it – and we coached him when he couldn’t make out the words.The newly obligated Entered Apprentice almost fainted when the hoodwink was removed and the visitor was standing there with the rest of us, welcoming his grandson as a Brother Mason.
It was a great evening.

June 4, 2019

Grand Oration on Tolerance

Posted in Freemasonry at 2:22 pm by GeneGoldman

R:.W:. S. Gilbert Weisman, W:. Grand Orator Grand Oration, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Florida F&AM 2014-2015


Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master, Elected and Appointed Grand Lodge Officers, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Distinguished East, Guests, Ladies, and my Brothers all:

First I would like to thank M.W. James W. Ford, a friend and Brother of many years, for allowing me the opportunity to serve the Grand Lodge of Florida as your W. Grand Orator. I pray that I am worthy of this great honor.

In today’s world, with all of its complexities, diversities, and current political atmosphere, both here and abroad, “tolerance” is without a doubt a positive trait to not only have, but a trait to vigorously attempt to instill in others- especially a Brother Mason. Tolerance, by definition, is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, and nationality, differ from one’s own.

In the very beginning of Masonic Ritual in the early 1700s, G-d was treated in Christian terms. In English and American Freemasonry, Christian references were removed from the ritual to enable men of different faiths to take part without compromising their own beliefs. This is Practical Tolerance.

This Practical Tolerance is one of our Fraternity’s great strengths – because it enables men of all faiths to meet in ordinary friendship, and, without interfering in the way each Brother practices his religion, it shows how much they really have in common.

So why then, are some Lodges less tolerant than others? Why, knowingly, are Brothers, the ones with their own agenda, allowed by the officers and members to continually render improper prayers at dinners, meeting after meeting? Is it because all who are in attendance are of like mind, and no one will care? Please understand, my Brothers, I’m not referring to the Brother who makes an accidental slip, or who unintentionally errs.

I agree with the learned Brothers who say that “no big deal should be made out of it.” But, for all to be totally silent, time after time, is to condone it.

The Masonic Information Center, in December 1993, and revised in September 1998, produced a sheet entitled “Freemasonry and Religion.” I’m sure that many of you have read it. To quote paragraph 5, Freemasonry Compared With Religion, it states: “Freemasonry lacks the basic elements of religion: It has no dogma or theology, no wish or means to enforce religious orthodoxy. It offers no sacraments. It does not claim to lead to salvation by works, by secret knowledge, or by any other means. The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with modes of recognition, not with the means of salvation.”

You could also define tolerance as freedom from bigotry. Have you ever heard a close friend or Brother routinely make anti-Semitic comments, use the N-word in casual conversation, or tease someone about his surname?

And you stand there in silence, thinking, “What can I say in response to that?” Or laugh along uncomfortably. Or perhaps, frustrated or angry, you walk away without saying anything, thinking later, “I should have said something.”

That would have been the time to speak up. It is morally correct to encourage people to take a stand against everyday bigotry, apathy, and ignorance. It has no place in our society, our Fraternity, our schools, our places of worship, or our individual neighborhoods.

The United States of America is the great “melting pot,” a rich blend of cultural traditions from around the world. Many American families can trace their histories to immigrant ancestors who traveled great distances, enduring risk and hardship to make a home where they would be guaranteed basic freedoms. And for many American families – freedom came with a price. Their parents and grandparents were deprived of the basic rights we value or murdered for the way in which they believed in the Grand Architect of the Universe.

American Society was founded on freedom from religious persecution, and on tolerance of differences in beliefs and cultural heritage. The differences, or diversities, that emanate from people all over the world enrich our culture and bring new ideas and energy.

Today, more than ever, our kids interact with people of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures. Classrooms are increasingly diverse, as are our Blue Lodges, reflecting the communities where families live and work.

Most of you welcome the fact that we live in an increasingly diverse society, while some may feel more hesitant, especially if they have not had much exposure to people different from themselves. Many kids today are way ahead of their parents regarding exposure to cultural differences. Their circle of friends, their schoolmates, and their athletic teams are much more varied than those of even a generation ago.

Still, parents should help their kids prepare to live, learn, and work in communities that will become even more diverse – assuming that they choose to do so. Teaching tolerance is important, not just because it is part of our American heritage, but because the person who learns to be open to differences -will have more opportunities in education, in business, and in many other aspects of life.

In short, your children, and their children’s success depend on it. Success in today’s world- and tomorrows- depends on being able to understand, appreciate, and work with others of any race, color, or creed.

But, does tolerance mean that all behaviors have to be accepted? No, of course not. Behaviors that disrespect or hurt others, like being mean or bullying, or behaviors that break social rules, like lying or stealing, should not be tolerated. Tolerance is about accepting people for who they are- not about accepting bad behavior. Tolerance also means treating others the way that you would like to be treated.

Be aware of the way you talk about people who are different from yourself. Don’t make jokes that perpetuate stereotypes. They may seem like harmless fun, but they’ll surely undo attitudes of tolerance and respect. And, my Brothers and guests, sometimes it hurts.

Did you ever attempt to question and learn about holiday and religious celebrations that are not part of your own tradition? When you encourage a tolerant attitude in others and talk about their values, your listeners, especially Brother Masons – those “who can best work and best agree,” are more likely than not to follow your lead.

Political freedom, religious tolerance, personal integrity; Freemasonry – it may not be for everyone.

As it points out in the 8° of the Scottish Rite’s Morals & Dogma: “To comfort misfortune, to popularize knowledge, to teach whatever is true and pure in religion and philosophy, to accustom men to respect order and the proprieties of life, to point out the ways of genuine happiness, to prepare for that fortunate period, when all the factions of the Human Family, united by the bonds of Toleration and Fraternity, shall be but one household- these are the labors that may well excite zeal and even enthusiasm.”

As Pope Francis pointed out in his New Year’s Day Service on January 1, 2014: “We are all children of one Heavenly Father, we belong to the same Human Family, and we share a common destiny. This brings a responsibility for each to work, so that the world becomes a Community of Brothers who respect each other, accept each other in one’s diversity, and take care of one another.” He could just as well be speaking to a body of Freemasons.

Do you think that the word “tolerance” might be synonymous with the words “Mutual Respect?” Isn’t it just beautiful that we, as Masons, can gather together as Brothers, and witness and observe the sincere religious beliefs of each other, and do so in the true spirit of Brotherhood?

Oh, I realize that there may be some who have disdain for our beliefs, by their bigotry and prejudices. What they have yet to learn is that where there is no freedom, there can be no Masonic Lodge, and where there is bigotry, there can be no Freemasonry. Those concepts are incompatible. Our true strength is not measured by our numbers, but by our unity.

We are all Brothers – Christians, Moslems, and Jews. Yes! We are all Brothers, that was the Great Architect’s plan. It’s not our pins and rings that make us Masons. It’s the display of how we act and how we affect other people. And that, my Brothers and friends, is what stimulates the growth and stability of our Lodges.

As a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Utah, Attorney Dallin H. Oaks said on September 11, 2011: “Tolerance is defined as a friendly and fair attitude toward unfamiliar opinions and practices, or toward the persons who hold or practice them.” As modern transportation and communication have brought all of us into closer proximity to different people and different ideas, we have greater need for tolerance.

We experience such differences in TV and the Internet, through travel, and often in personal interactions in our neighborhoods and the marketplace. We are definitely challenged. We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance for one another, regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Tolerance and truth are a two-sided coin.

Tolerance, or respect, is one side of the coin, but truth is always on the other side. You cannot possess the coin of tolerance, without being conscious of both sides.

Freemasonry has always been in the forefront of supporting freedom of thought, expression, creativity, and religious beliefs. The following typifies the Masonic commitment to Freedom of Religion: Jasper Ridley, in his book “The Freemasons,” quoted from Anderson’s Constitutions (1723) in his section on religion, and then concluded that, “This opened the Freemason’s Lodge to anyone who believed in G-d,” or the ‘Great Architect of the Universe’ (as he is called in Anderson’s Constitution).

Roman Catholics were not excluded. Although they could not be Members of Parliament, Army Officers, or hold any public position in the state; they would be welcome in a Freemason’s Lodge. Jews were also welcome, though they were at first a little reluctant to join. Jews had been admitted, perhaps as early as 1724, but certainly by 1732.”

There may be, and probably are, times in life when situations develop that make compromise necessary; but when principles of right and wrong are involved, compromise is not a viable option.

A few notable quotes from well-informed sources, if I may? The Reverend Ralph Sockman, 1889-1970, former Senior Pastor of the United Methodist Church in New York City, said, “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”

Author Brigitte Gabriel, born and raised in Lebanon, in her book entitled ‘Because They Hate,’ stated that, “Without understanding the past, you will never understand the present, and will have no idea how to plan for the future.”

The Kabbalah notes that, “Change occurs when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.”

And our learned Brother, M.W. Benjamin Franklin, once said, “The doorstep to the Temple of Wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.” Remember, my Brothers, friends, and guests, “People of character do not allow their opinions to be silenced.”

The meaning of prejudice is apparent in the word itself. It signifies what it says, “to prejudge,” to make a decision beforehand. Bro. Leonard Wenz wrote an article in the Square & Compass, in March, 1970, pointing out that English Sociologist, Dr. Samuel Lowery, writing a book on this subject, affirms as Freud does, that prejudice is a mild form of paranoia, of the persecution mania, and is caused by the projection of stored-up resentments against some object other than that which caused them.

Dr. Lowery added, “Individuals then, must have a scapegoat on which they can release these tensions. It is usually a group, a race, or a religion, and usually there is little realization of the fact. It can go as deep as the sub-conscious.” He points out that if children were taught to regard prejudice as socially undesirable, and evidence of an unbalanced mind, they would logically seek other outlets for their hidden aggression. However, he concluded, “Prejudice is never reasoned into anyone; therefore, it cannot be reasoned out.”

In conclusion, and for a brief moment, let me take you back to the year 1938, November. In Nazi Germany, Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass, did not happen in a vacuum. No one intervened, and it paved the way for ‘unimaginable evil’ – aided by the local police, the very people you would expect to protect you.

The same is true for any form of abuse, bullying, humiliation, and terrorizing. We witness it every day, whether it’s in another country, on the playground, in the workplace, or in the privacy of a home. It starts in small ways and then escalates.

Holocaust survivor, Marie Silverman’s prayer that was offered in memory of Kristallnacht says it all – “Compassionate G-d, bless the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the world.” Thank you and may G-d bless you.

R:.W:. S. Gilbert Weisman, W:. Grand Orator 2014-2015

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? “

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



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


Posted in Freemasonry at 1:19 pm by GeneGoldman


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.


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.


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.



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.

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